Tabletop Traveler: Pathfinder Playtest – First Impressions

One of the first big things we’re going to cover on this blog is the newly released playtest of Pathfinder’s second edition. I was able to pick up the playtest book at Gen Con this year and immediately began skimming it and have delved deeper into it since. I was also able to play a one shot at Gen Con and get some hands-on experience with the new system. A few days ago, I got to sit down with the Starcalled Studios team as we’re gearing up to start a new campaign using the playtest rules. I have a lot of opinions on the playtest and they’ve evolved and changed as time has passed. I also know a lot of the Starcalled team have good view points on the matter as well, so I’m going to do my best to include their views here too. For this series of articles I’m going to use a title that reflects some of the milestones we experience going through the playtest. I will do my best to write up our opinions as they appear, and keep them true to what we were feeling at the time. What stands out to me already is how some of our opinions have changed as we learn more and more about the system. So without further ado, let’s get into some first impressions!

Hands on at Gen Con

Looking at the playtest book’s cover and flipping through the pages for the first time I saw a lot of things that were familiar, as well as a lot of new things. First of all, in true Paizo fashion, we have a beautiful cover and plenty of gorgeous artwork spread throughout the playtest. Some of the pieces were recycled from old covers and material, but I can hardly fault Paizo since this is indeed a playtest. It would be silly to expect all new art. I’m frankly surprised at the amount of new art in general. The majority of the book is indeed the rules to the playtest itself, though. My first impression of the book itself was very positive. The order of the chapters made sense, and the newly created blocks for powers, actions, and spells were easily readable. It honestly reminded me of powers from 4e, which, in my opinion, are extremely easy to read and digest.

As I started reading through the playtest I was loving what I saw. I of course jumped to some of my old favorite things about Pathfinder to make sure they did them justice. I fell in love with the three action turn action economy. I felt its simplicity would be nothing but a boon for the system. The way spells functioned with heightening seemed straightforward and a great way to make them more effective over time. Scaling cantrips were also a welcome addition to Pathfinder as they were to 5e, allowing magic users to do what they do best all the time. Overall, my first impressions of the playtest flipping through were glowing in what little time I had to look over it during the craziness that was Gen Con.

On the last day of Gen Con I was able to sit down and actually play a session of the playtest. As is tradition with any Paizo event I made my way to the Sagamore Ballroom in the Indiana Convention Center and found where I had to go for my game in the sea of players and tables. After I had my group and the GM handed us the pre-mades I was lucky enough to have first pick. I asked the table if anyone cared if I tried the alchemist. They all were fine with that, so I happily pulled out Fumbus the Goblin alchemist, excited to try the new race and new core class. The adventure we played through was simple enough. There were a couple of combats with some minotaurs and some harpies. In addition, there was the usual build-up to the conflict and exploration period of the adventure to let us see how that played with the playtest rules.

Post Gen Con Examination

I immediately had all of my praise for the action economy confirmed. I personally love the simplicity of just being able to do three things but explore the complexity of the different options one has using said actions. The alchemist felt fun enough, being able to dish out some serious damage with alchemists fire when I choose to use that resource. The other players all got to exhibit some neat parts of their characters as well. The fighter in particular was decimating a good portion of the enemies we were up against. Our cleric was key to wiping out some foes with well-placed fireballs (the pre-made character’s domain spell).

There were a few things that stood out to me that gave me pause for concern. Certain status effects felt very difficult to overcome and made certain characters skip a turn in what often turned out to be two or three round combats, effectively taking them out of most of the action. Also, a lot of the numbers felt very similar. I think the majority of our characters had the same AC of 22 with the fighter being the only one to have 24. Finally, resonance was something that perplexed me a little, especially as the alchemist. Resonance limits your ability to use magical items (including potions and alchemical items). This extra requirement of having to expend a resource to use things like healing potions felt a little strange to me, but I didn’t think too much about it since we were just in a one shot. My first impression of it wasn’t quite as worrisome as it would come to be in a deeper dive.

In the end, I had generally positive opinions as my first impression of the playtest. I began reading into the bard class as that’s what I wanted to play for our new campaign using the system. I found a couple of hiccups there (we’ll get into that next time) but in general, nothing that wasn’t easily waved off as ,”It’s a playtest. Overlooking something that small is fine. They’ll catch it.” In our next post we’re going to explore a slightly deeper dive into the system, where as a party the Starcalled Studios team builds our characters and finds some interesting nuances to the system that are buried beneath the surface.

If you want follow along with the playtest sessions we stream them on twitch and post them after wards on YouTube, like below. 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. 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 and make sure your voice is heard if you’re participating in the playtest!


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