Guidance – Gibbering Mouth: Rattling about Erratas

Welcome to Guidance, Private Sanctuary’s source for tips and techniques for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, written by Everyman Gamer Alexander Augunas. Today, we’re going to be talking about errata.

Well, the weekend has come and gone and as is typical for the Pathfinder Community around this time of year, a major shakeup has occurred: errata season!

Erratas are interesting beast because most of the time, someone is unhappy. This time it was a lot of someones. But I’m getting ahead of myself; I’ve never actually talked about errata, so that’s what I’m going to do today in today’s installment of Guidance!

What is an Errata?

If you don’t follow the Pathfinder community, there’s a chance that you don’t know what an Errata is. Basically, an Errata is when a game designer goes and makes a chance to something after a product has been printed. Erratas are basically the pen and paper version of video game “patches,” and they’re often met with similar results: joy, anger, and confusion. One other important note about erratas as they pertain to Paizo is that typically, erratas only happen when Paizo orders a new edition of a print book. What this means is that as Paizo starts to run out of copies of, say, Ultimate Equipment, the designers get together and discuss any changes that they feel need to be made to the book in question. They rewrite the rules, submit them to editing, and when the book finally runs out and they go and order the next edition, they submit the new print order with the latest edition of the book’s contents and an errata is born.

It’s important to note that with Paizo specifically, Erratas aren’t the same thing as FAQs. An FAQ is a “Frequently Asked Question” in regards to a bit of rules design. In essence, the two have similar purposes: they change and/or clarify the way you play the game. The major difference is that an FAQ doesn’t include a change to the written rules of the game; it merely clarifies a rule that has already been written. In rare circumstances the PDT might issue an FAQ that includes an errata, which typically includes something like this: “Rule X should actually say Y. This will be reflected in the next printing of the book.”

Alignment of Errata

I am going to state this simply: whenever an errata happens, especially if an errata makes an option less powerful or desirable, the Pathfinder community EXPLODES. Like, violently so. In the words of my favorite On Call GM, “My NaCl levels were dangerously low, but luckily a Paizo errata just went out so I got my needs met simply by reading the forums.”

So why do people get so upset about errata? Are they a bad thing, or not?

Well, us tabletop game designers have a saying, “Everything thinks they’re a game designer because everyone plays games and there’s no college degree required.” Often that comes off as pretty pretentious, but there’s a strong bit of truth to it when we start to talk about errata in particular. You see, the simple truth of the matter is that players want things that make them strong and cool, and they typically don’t care whether its balanced or not. Some players look at errata and say, “Meh, that makes sense even fi I liked it,” while other people look at errata and say, “WTF! NO TAKE-BACKSIES!” There’s sort of this thought process that if it made it to print, it should stay in existence no matter how bad it is for the game. However, going hog-wild isn’t good for the game either. That’s what 3.5 did, and most GMs and players generally agree that power creep is a bad thing. (Ah, power creep, THERE’S a topic I could devote a whole other article to!)

Now, I want to take a quick minute to go over some of the more common, subtle reasons that things can be errata’d. Bare with me, please.

  1. Something throws off “the math:” I joke with my friends that our game should be called Mathfinder all the time, but it really is true. There’s a lot of “underneath the hood” mathematical assumptions built into the system, especially where magic bonuses are considered. Items that throw off that math are problematic, because something as small as a +1 is still a 5% increase mathematically. This is likely one of the major reasons that the jingasa of the fortunate soldier was nerfed from being a luck bonus to a deflection bonus; having a low-cost source of AC that stacks with all others REALLY throws off your AC as compared to your wealth by level. For instance, the ring of protection’s bonus value goes from 2,000 gp at +1 to 8,000 gp at +2. If you were to buy a jingasa instead of getting a better ring, you get the same bonus plus crit protection for 1,000 gp less. That’s a perfect example of power creep.
  2. Something is better than an existing option. One of the easiest ways to generate power creep is to have one option invalidate another by increasing its power unintentionally. A great example of this is the vivisectionist alchemist, which basically does the same damage as a core rogue, but also has discoveries and extracts. Its also not a great example for this purpose because the vivisectionist alchemist was never nerfed via errata, so a better example might be the staff of the master, which arguably invalidated MANY metamagic rods.
  3. Something plain-old doesn’t work right. Sometimes things have vague language and need to be adjusted so they’ll work properly. Errata is great at this, and this is usually the one time that people celebrate errata. Great examples include the soundstriker bard and the jaunt boots.

Should We Change How We Do Errata?

I want to close off by answering a common question I’ve seen on the forums lately: should we change how the PDT handles errata? Specially, the poster seemed frustrated that there’s typically a big errata or two every year. Before I answer that question, I have a counter question: how?

The PDT is made up of five guys. They have to work on producing three books with 256 pages in them per year. Those pages are among the most content-heavy products Paizo puts out, and they usually include lots of numbers and new rules systems, and sometimes a playtest or two. So how, exactly, would we change the process from their current cycle? I don’t think hiring a team just to handle errata is a great idea; there’s no money in errata, really, and that seems like a REALLY boring job. Besides, do we want someone who wasn’t the original designers fiddling with rules they didn’t personally write or review? That seems like a recipe for disaster to me. And honestly, most books don’t get an errata more often than every two years or so, because most books (sans Core Rulebook) don’t run out of their printing more often than once every two years. I think that’s a good rate, personally, but since my bookshelf is getting awfully fill of Paizo products, we need to start expecting “run out” dates to happen more often. That’s nothing malicious; its just a fact of the business.

So, should we change how the PDT handles errata? Personally, I don’t think we can, and I don’t think we want’d to.

As for what I think about the Ultimate Equipment errata? Some things surprised me. Most didn’t. I think the jingasa got hit a bit unfairly hard, but I also think that its price wasn’t adjusted because changing up the look tables is bound to be a pain in the ass, especially for wondrous items. Is the jingasa unusable? Well, I certainly would never use it now, but I didn’t use it before the nerf either aside from theorycrafting builds that cheesed the fate’s favored trait.

And that’s basically what I think: this was a temporary measure to deal with the true OP culprit: fate’s favored. I would be expecting that trait to get nerfed whenever the Ultimate Campaign errata happens.

That’s all I have to say about erratas! Want to talk about erratas or just cry about them? I welcome you to salinate the comments section below with your thoughts on the topic, or our forums. I’ll have a new Iconic Design for you on Friday, and if you’re heading out to Seattle for PaizoCon, don’t think twice about stopping over to the PFS Ballroom to say hi to me! Cheers!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas has been playing roleplaying games since 2007, which isn’t nearly as long as 90% of his colleagues. Alexander is an active freelancer for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and is best known as the author of the Pact Magic Unbound series by Radiance House. Alex is the owner of Everyman Gaming, LLC and is often stylized as the Everyman Gamer in honor of Guidance’s original home. Alex also cohosts the Private Sanctuary Podcast, along with fellow blogger Anthony Li, and you can follow their exploits on Facebook in the 3.5 Private Sanctuary Group, or on Alex’s Twitter, @AlJAug.

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC. If you like Alex's writing and are interested in supporting him while getting professional-quality material for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game while doing so, check out the Everyman Gaming, LLC catalog, which is listed under Rogue Genius Games at the following locations: http://drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/6101/Rogue-Genius-Games/subcategory/19574_25289/Everyman-Gaming-Catalog

1 Comment

  1. Jesse Butz Reply to Jesse

    I am sitting down at PFS tonight just to handle the bookwork of updating my characters based on errata changes. Mostly to have another set of eyes making sure I don’t miss anything.

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