Tabletop Traveler – Pathfinder Playtest – Character Creation and Resonance
New System, New Characters
Sitting down with the Starcalled Studios team I was excited to dive into the Pathfinder Playtest and pick the brains of my friends on how they thought the new system would work. We began our session by figuring out who our characters were and how we all knew each other. After we had established this, we dove into character creation together. For the purposes of this, you as the reader should be aware of what we were building so you can follow our thought process a little easier. It’ll also help you know the parts of the playtest we didn’t look at, so if we got something wrong because we weren’t looking somewhere important, you’ll know. I was building a halfling bard. Ashley was going Dwarf Paladin. Andrea went Elf Druid. JP was a half elf cleric. Finally, Rachael was a human wizard. Overall we were fairly standard characters, at least I’d like to think. Let’s get into our thoughts as we went through the process.
As a team I think we all agreed there were a lot of things that were convenient about character creation. The flow of ancestry to background to class allowed for quick but deep character creation to occur, with each choice feeling meaningful. The extra free ability score upgrades and class ability score upgrade were also nice, as they helped make it possible to vary builds while still pushing you towards a decent build for your class. One big criticism that came up during this was the negative ability score modifiers from certain ancestries. The example we picked out was Dwarf. Due to character creation restrictions, there was no way someone could ever play a dwarf sorcerer who is as effective as a human or elf sorcerer. Getting an 18 in charisma was impossible due to them getting a negative from their ancestry. Now this is how it’s always been in Pathfinder, so it’s more of a personal preference than a criticism. We were just hoping for a little consideration here to allow for some creative race/class combos without sacrificing effectiveness.
After we got through the basics and had our stat arrays we started diving into class abilities. For the most part we were pretty happy with these, though we noticed that there were a couple of typos here and there. Nothing terrible as this is what we expected from a playtest. There was also some confusion with the signature skills and trained skills you receive at level 1. This would come into play more with our deeper rules, as we examined what the skill bonuses actually mean within the system. In general we were all excited to see what cool things we could do and what we would get at later levels. A lot of time was spent at this point clarifying rules and looking up some of the keywords and rules to understand how abilities function. Overall, one of my biggest criticisms for some of the class specific powers is that they bothered to lump them with the other powers and spells and sort them alphabetically then have page references in the class descriptions. This led to a lot of flipping back and forth to understand what our characters were actually able to do. Organization is a big factor in learning systems and I personally was not a fan of how the playtest book was organized.
The final part of this session was getting into our equipment and purchasing our armor and weapons. After that was done we got to what else we could buy which is where we ran into some of the bigger issues, we as a group, have with the system. The first minor issue is the transition to the silver standard. Going from gold to silver is an interesting choice. I understand the reasoning to do it, which I believe was to make copper pieces matter a bit more. However, I don’t think it actually adds anything to the game. No one really cared that coppers didn’t matter and the game gains nothing other than added confusion from the switch. The larger issue we stumbled upon took up most of the remainder of our session as we all had very strong feelings about it. That issue was resonance.
Just Not Resonating
According to the playtest rules, resonance governs a character’s ability to use magic items. A character has a number of resonance points equal to their charisma bonus plus their level. Resonance must be invested during daily preparations for certain magical items to function. Resonance must also be used when a consumable magic item is used. Now, I believe that resonance was introduced to prevent some of the magic item combos and spamming that occurred in the first edition pathfinder. Wands of cure light wounds are a major culprit as it often eliminated the need for a healer in a party. This is something that I personally don’t see a problem with, but I can understand why it could be in other people’s minds.
Now there are a few key things with resonance that we weren’t fans of. The first, and probably most notable, is that we don’t think resonance should matter for consumables. From a story stand point and even a balance standpoint, being limited in the number of consumables you can use in a day makes 0 sense. You are already limited by the action economy of the game and the actual economy of the game. Why should I have to spend a resonance point to use an item I already spent gold on? Why should a wizard only be able to fire 3 charges from a wand that has 10 charges on it? Why should the potion of healing I pour down my dying fighter’s throat not take effect because he’s already using a flaming long sword?
The second major issue we had with resonance was the fact that it was linked to charisma and only charisma. From my understanding of what charisma is supposed to represent in the game and what resonance is within the game I don’t see a logical correlation between the two, especially when you examine how characters with low resonance are affected by this. By tying resonance to charisma you automatically shoe horn bards into being able to cast more spells with a wand than a wizard can. You make fighters have to choose between being able to drink a healing potion and wearing that new magic armor they bought. Thematically the team thought that this felt off. Looking at resonance I naturally draw a lot of parallels to 5e’s attunement mechanic. I just think they went overboard in how much they restricted magic items.
While there were other issues that came up in our read through, they were all minor in comparison to resonance. The team and I definitely feel that it’s something that needs to be addressed before this system is going to start gaining any ground. For our first big sit down we didn’t get into any actual game play. We’d have another sit down after this before we did where there are a few other things that don’t make sense to our group. I’ll talk about that in the next Pathfinder Playtest update as well as the first round of errata that was released for the playtest and what I feel that means for the system.
If you want follow along with the playtest sessions we stream them on twitch and post them after wards on YouTube. 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 http://paizo.com/pathfinderplaytest and make sure your voice is heard if you’re participating in the playtest.