Pathfinder Playtest – Rules Deep Dive and First Errata
Before I get into today’s topics I want to talk about the first errata that was released for the playtest a week or so after Gen Con. By the time the majority of these articles are going to be published, the playtest will have gone through a lot of changes. Hopefully, we’ll be able to catch up and stay fairly current with the playtest material after a few weeks, but for now, let’s reflect a bit on the first few changes Paizo put out.
Considering the first pieces of errata made their debut a few days after Gen Con is nothing but a good sign. If Paizo wants to have any chance to have their system in a polished state they need a steady and consistent line of communication with their community. Getting updates so early after the initial release of the playtest shows that they are indeed actively working on the system and trying to keep the community informed and invested with their changes. As for the changes themselves, there’s nothing mind blowing. They seem to be some housekeeping changes and clear oversights that they’re able to confidently say they messed up on. With the main changes being some spells that classes should have gotten, some extra skills they should have received, they polish up the playtest as written without rocking the boat too much. I think this was a good move as they need to give players a little time to really sink their teeth into the new rules and mechanics.
The Bulk of the Issue
As our group dove deeper into the rules, we started going through rules for equipment and the items a character can purchase for their adventures. While I understand that no one likes keeping track of how much they’re carrying and if they’re over encumbered in a tabletop RPG, I don’t think that’s something that Pathfinder 2 needs to fix. As human beings existing in the real world it’s easy to understand that you can only carry a given amount of weight before it becomes too heavy for you. Taking this out and replacing it with an arbitrary replacement for weight called bulk is far more confusing that it should be. This is exactly the situation that I feel bulk has placed us in for the Pathfinder Playtest. Bulk over simplifies the weight of items making them either light bulk or an arbitrary unit of heavy things. On top of that, containers such as backpacks or sacks don’t explain if they reduce the amount of bulk of items or simply are able to hold the amount given. Meaning they’re relatively useless as written or can recursively hold infinite copies of themselves making infinite storage. (We get into this quite a bit in our exploration of the rules.)
While not every group used the weight and encumbrance rules in Pathfinder first edition, there was nothing inherently wrong with them. People understand weight. It’s how we measure things in the real world. Taking a concept like this and trying to simplify will not make anyone who doesn’t want to track that sort of thing suddenly want to keep track of it. The only thing I find that bulk accomplishes is make those who do want to track weight have to learn a convoluted and confusing weight system.
Having looked through the playtest rulebook a few times, there’s an important issue I’d like to talk about. When fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons was released the tabletop gaming community heard the term ‘Bounded Accuracy’ thrown around a whole lot. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, it basically is the concept that by reducing the range of numbers within a system, the system allows lower leveled enemies and challenges to remain relevant longer and prevent the numbers from getting to high overall. Now you might be saying ‘Tabletop Traveler, what does this have to do with Pathfinder? Even in the playtest the numbers get super high. They scale off of level now so they’re always going up!’. This by level scaling is actually the point I want to touch on.
At first glance, having everything scale directly off your level seems simple. Your numbers are always going up so you feel like you’re getting stronger and the calculation is intuitive so you’re able to keep track of where your numbers come from. The problem begins to arise when you begin to look at how these numbers compare to enemies of your level. A level 1 enemy has (I believe, don’t hurt me if I’m wrong) an average of 15 armor class. A level 1 character making an attack with their strongest ability modifier should add +5 (4 from ability scores and 1 from proficiency). This means that a character needs a 10 or higher to hit their opponent and only critically hits on a 20. This seems par for the course for a tabletop RPG. However, with how the numbers scale, within a few levels, these same enemies will be drastically easier to hit and have a drastically harder time hitting a player.
Some would argue that this isn’t a problem and that characters should get strong enough to wade through the goblins and kobolds they encounter at low level. That’s how Pathfinder is supposed to feel. However, I feel as though problems arise when a level 15 wizard can stand in a crowd of level 1 goblins wearing absolutely nothing, and have an armor class of 26 or higher. This means the goblins with a +5 to hit modifier have no chance of hitting the wizard. Even with flanking and other bonuses it’s still possible for more Dex heavy characters to not have any trouble when they have their armor on.
My final point with this longwinded number exercise is that as it currently stands, I feel the Pathfinder Playtest suffers from bounded accuracy in a different regards. Opposed to the entire system being bound to smaller numbers so it all meshes together, it effectively does the opposite. Every level is extremely bounded by the type of enemies a group can encounter and have an easy or difficult time dealing with. Average creatures a few levels higher will give them a significantly harder time and low level creatures will be a cake walk. This isn’t an inherent problem but the degree to which it’s handled in the playtest is excessive. My final critique of this aspect of the system would be I feel that scaling per level is too much. Even half level would open the system up a little more allowing more numbers to mesh well with one another while still allowing a sense of growth and scaling. This is no small change overall, but I feel that Paizo should definitely address this issue as it currently stands.
If you agree or disagree with any of these opinions we want to hear about it. Reply to us on Social Media and start a dialogue, or join our Discord (hyper link discord link here please). Just remember to keep it civil. These are just opinions and we’re not trying to personally attack anyone with them. Also, this playtest can only get better if we reply to Paizo, so please go to http://paizo.com/pathfinderplaytest and make sure your voice is heard if you’re participating in the playtest.