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Pathfinder 2 Playtest: Erik Mona on Why You Should Try Pathfinder 2nd Edition

The playtest for Pathfinder 2nd edition is now live. Not surprisingly, nerds have questions. Luckily, Erik Mona–Publisher at Paizo–ushered me and Davery into a secret chamber where we sat around a table and talked shop.

While the audio didn’t survive the experience, we transcribed the conversation and have posted it below, edited slightly for clarity.

Why You Should Try Pathfinder 2nd Edition Playtest

Erik Mona, Publisher of the Pathfinder RPG.

Davery: Erik, thanks so much. I was wondering since you are moving Pathfinder 2nd edition, what kind of stories are you looking to tell with the game? Are you hoping to do a classic high fantasy or maybe a narrative, story-driven, or a more game-focused design?

Erik: That’s an interesting question. We haven’t changed the rules of the game for second edition to change the narratives that people are doing with Pathfinder particularly. I don’t think the things that need tuning up with Pathfinder are how people are implementing different styles of narrative. I think one of the values of Pathfinder is a flexibility to use it to make whatever kind of narrative that the player wants.

What we’re trying to do is make the game easier for people to understand, easier for people to play, and to speed things up at the table a little bit, while still allowing a huge depth of a character customization options and tactical interest on the table.

Really, I don’t look at Pathfinder 2 as a fundamental shift in the way a Pathfinder game’s story would change. In fact, one of the things that we’re seeing a lot as we’ve taken the game and demoed it in a lot of different cons, is that the people who have played it have said, “Oh, that really feels a lot like Pathfinder,” so, the goal isn’t to make the game feel different in terms of story.

It is meant to feel different in terms of those moments where you’re just like, “Wait, what kind of action is this? Is this a swift action or an immediate… ” And then they’d have to look everything up.

A good example for Pathfinder 1 is a lot of character classes have pools, like a ki pool or a panache pool for a swashbuckler. But they all work slightly differently, because everything was invented over the course of five years, and what we’ve done now is we’ve said, “Okay. If there’s a pool, it’s going to work the same way for each of the classes.”

The goal of Pathfinder 2nd is to make it so you have to learn something once instead of having to learn similar things seven times.

Clave: If Pathfinder 2nd Edition feels a lot like Pathfinder 1st Edition, then why 2nd Edition? Why should we play 2nd Edition? Why not just stick with 1st?

The Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest adventure, Doomsday Dawn.

Erik: Well, I mean I think we’ve been doing this for 10 years. So, I can answer the question sort of on a personal level, or on a staff level if you will, which is that of the 40-some hardcover books that Paizo has produced in the last decade, the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is the one that had about the least amount of time put into it. It’s the first one we did.

At the time we were creating the Core Rulebook, we didn’t really know if it was going to last a year or two, right? So it was just meant to convert the 3.5 rules in a way that would be publishable and that people could buy in store so we could continue, again, to tell the same kind of stories we wanted to tell.

Since then, we’ve learned a lot about how to make books, how to make rules, and as time has gone by and as Pathfinder has been more about making cool characters with archetypes and coming up with neat traits and things that are sort of uniquely Pathfinder. So, fidelity just to 3.5 D&D rules from 2004 or whatever is no longer the main thing. People don’t associate Pathfinder with being 100% compatible with 3.5 anymore, at least most people don’t.

Pathfinder has become its own thing, really starting with the Advanced Player’s Guide and the introduction of archetypes and the six new classes. If Pathfinder is going to be its own thing, then it should be the best incarnation of that thing rather than being a better incarnation of some other thing.

Davery: That makes sense. Is there some part of Pathfinder’s design that specifically makes it stand out and really be, “Oh, this is how you know it’s a Pathfinder game.” Because this is just a real shallow example: the 3d6 attributes…that’s old school. That’s D&D, and you could argue it’s not even necessary for Pathfinder. You can just have a +3, +1, -2 as your strength.

Erik: Right, right.

Davery: But we stick with it. I assume you stick with it the same reason a lot of us stick with it, because we’re familiar.

Erik: Yeah. I think there’s some truth to that. One of the things that’s interesting about the Pathfinder playtest, which in addition to the Doomsday Dawn Adventure, is a free monster book that we put out.

And in that monster book, we actually don’t include the stats, to be just a strength +4, dex +2 because really, that’s all you need to run the character. Those numbers are derived from the higher numbers that generally come from the dice-rolling mechanic, which in and of itself is something a lot of people don’t use anymore. A lot of people want characters that start from a baseline, which is what we have in the second edition. For many, that  is seen as a more egalitarian, more modern approach to making characters.

Now, many of us have been playing our whole life, so it’s like, “I don’t want to give up the 3d6 method” or the 4d6, drop the low one. So, that kind of stuff we’re going to keep in the game for nostalgia’s sake.

Clave: Everybody knows it is 4d6, you drop the lowest one. It’s canon.

Erik: Of course, of course. There are some things that we’re going to keep in because they make us comfortable. And then there’s some things that we pushed even out of some of our own comfort zones, and that is what the playtest is all about. So, if we push too far, people will say, “Uh… there are elements of this that make it feel like it’s not Pathfinder” or, and this is a really important one, “I feel like because of this change in the rules that you guys have made, I can’t tell the same kind of story that I wanted to tell,” or “I can’t build the same type of character that I wanted to build.”

Now, obviously you’re going from an ecosystem of 40+ classes to one of 12, so you’re not going to be able to build every first edition character right out of the gate. But the goal is to have a super-flexible system, and I think that the new rules allow for even more flexibility and more choices.

Download the FREE Pathfinder playtest materials.

There is more interview:

Click here for Part 2Erik Mona on What Makes Pathfinder Pathfinder and for

Part 3Erik Mona on What Makes Paizo Paizo and

Will Golarion Suffer a Cataclysmic Event?

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