Pathfinder Second Edition is hitting the shelves and its nearly 640-page Core Rulebook has a lot to offer. Paizo’s Pathfinder 2E is much of the same familiar Pathfinder that we all know and love. But, much has also changed in the last decade, since the 3.5-era launch of Pathfinder. And, Pathfinder 2E brings the franchise into modernity with fresh ideas, logical core developments, and clever new game mechanics. These changes are woven throughout the new edition and you won’t make it past the Introduction chapter without stumbling across many of the immediate improvements.
Goblins. The first, most anticipated change is the addition of goblins to the core fold of playable ancestries – the second immediately noticeable revision. “Goblins are a short, scrappy, energetic people who have spent millennia maligned and feared.” Ever since the 2014 publishing of Pathfinder: Goblins, I have been swept with the hype. Without a moment of hesitation, I can say that Paizo has cultivated one of the most interesting and entertaining personifications of the goblin entity the fantasy world has ever seen. The blend of stylized art and lore that has evolved over the years is something to be proud of and, I am ecstatic to see goblins join the party as a core playable ancestry.
It is also notable that Paizo has created a sort of built-in niche ancestry and class combo with the goblin ancestry and the alchemist class. This allows players that are curious about playing goblins for the first time to have a well-defined path for character creation, instead of forcing goblins on the scene with little direction. Although, it is important to note that the well-developed goblin ancestry and the retooled character advancement mechanics bodes well for a number of goblin-class combinations and players are free to explore the wide Pathfinder universe creating characters of their liking.
Ancestries. Races are out, ancestries are in. The change seems somewhat forced in the era of political correctness. However, it is a fairly logical change when you boil it down. We are really discussing species of playable peoples or humanoids and, not really different races. Old habits die hard, and it will be difficult to knock the word “race” off the tabletop – a word that has persisted in RPGs for over a generation at the very least. But, it seems to fit when you say things like, “goblins and elves do not share a common ancestry,” out loud and, it is certainly a progressive change that I can get used to.
Character advancement. Character advancement follows a modular mechanic consisting of a series of skills and feats. A player gains a number of skills, class feats, ancestry feats, and general feats at the start of the game and at certain levels as she advances. This system places character development in the hands of the player. Players can evolve more traditional “purebred” characters that fit squarely within a defined class, theme, and background. Or, players can customize mix-and-matched characters taking a little from here and a little from there building the character that they want to play.
User-friendly encounters. Pathfinder 2E has built-in tools to take some headache away from the GM. For instance, the Core Rulebook includes a Treasure by Level table. Additionally, there is a more streamlined action mechanic and an easy to decipher difficulty class rating system. Also, encounters use a budget system to build hostile encounters for the party ranging from trivial to extreme in difficulty rating. Quick tools such as these grant the GM a little more ease which frees her up from page-flipping and many hours of prep work, which can bog down gameplay and slow action – I call this dull zone of RPGs the “party-pooping” moments. There are also some fun extras, like Hero Points (get-out-of-jail-free cards) earned through heroic deeds and spent to re-roll checks or avoid death.
Action economy. Players of Pathfinder 2E will see a streamlining of their turn action economy during the “encounter” phase. The clutter of various action types of Pathfinder have now been replaced with a more user-friendly three-action turn system for everyone involved in the encounter round – this includes players and GM-controlled hostiles. “When it’s your turn to act, you can use single actions, short activities, reactions, and free actions.” Basic actions, such as crawl, ready, stand, and strike, take one action from your three-action pool. While, “activities usually take longer and require multiple actions, which must be spent in succession.” For example, Sudden Charge is an activity that combines both the Stride and Strike actions to generate this 2-action activity combo.
If you want to learn more, Paizo has posted a number of in-depth quality discussions about the game on YouTube. You can also check out the official online rules here. Feel free to drop in on some live play. You can join The Glass Cannon as they play Silent Tide on YouTube, as well as their live performances in Indianapolis during Gen Con. Also, Geek & Sundry hosts a weekly Knights of Everflame Tuesdays at 4 p.m. Pacific. And, Paizo’s very own Oblivion Oath airs Thursdays at noon Pacific. Also, Dragons & Things live on Twitch at 6 p.m. Pacific every Friday. So there are many quality outfits streaming live games to give you a flavor of 2E.
I am excited about the new RPG opportunities Pathfinder 2E presents to the gaming community. New mechanics and progressive ideas are always refreshing for the hobby in general. Paizo has already backed the Core Rulebook’s release with a 360-page Bestiary containing over 400 monsters, part 1 of a 6-part Adventure Path, Adventure Path #145: Hellknight Hill (Age of Ashes 1 of 6) (shout out to the Starfinder Hellknights!) for your first-level Second Edition characters, a FREE Age of Ashes Player’s Guide, a first-level stand alone adventure, The Fall of Plaguestone, and several game accessories. And, there is no doubt that there is more to come. What an exciting year for Paizo.