Hello, Know Directioneers! It’s me, Alexander Augunas the Everyman Gamer. James and I are back from GenCon, alive, and have rested a bit since. Obviously, the big news on everyone’s lips is the new Pathfinder Second Edition, and every Tabletop RPG group under the sun has been giving their thoughts on it. I also wanted to give my opinions on Pathfinder Second Edition, and I had a nicely written analysis article written and ready to go. But then, on Sunday August 11th, something happened that made me throw out my entire article and completely rewrite it.
Are you ready? Here we go!
A Brief Anecdote
I’ve been gaming since 2007, and I started playing d20 games at the same time as Julia, a close friend of mine. The best way to describe Julia’s relationship with a tabletop RPG’s rules was that she preferred to keep a healthy distance between herself and them. We joined a gaming group that included a bunch of people who knew 3.5’s archaic rules better than us (the most knowledgeable being Justin, now her husband), and like many people who pick up 3.5 or Pathfinder First Edition, we just let our experts show us how to do basically everything until we picked it up on our own. Because that’s basically how you learned to play the 3.5 Engine; hope someone taught it to you so you could teach it to someone else.
By the time Pathfinder First Edition ended, Julia knew a lot about how to play the game. In one of my home campaigns, she was a 10th level cleric of Athena with 2 mythic tiers, and she knew how to play that character flawlessly to the point where I had her fight a corrupted clone of herself—same level and abilities—and she won. (She took a gamble on using hold person; my NPC rolled a natural 1 and she coup de graced it. An awesome moment at our table!) In another, she’s playing a dwarf ranger who uses teamwork feats alongside her arcanist husband (played by her actual husband). She’s also playing Carrion Crown, and went off to play a bunch of other World of Darkness games. But through it all, she never professed any interest in GMing Pathfinder; she was always worried that she didn’t know the game well enough or that there were too many rules for her to know.
Now, two months ago our gaming group was meeting for our bimonthly game when Julia joked about starting an Actual Play Podcast. I told her she should give it a try if she felt she should do it, and that comment immediately set Julia on doing Perram-levels of research regarding the tools she would need and how she would deliver the content. Great stuff. But then the conversation of, “What will we play?” came around. I suggested Pathfinder Second Edition without really knowing what the game would be like simply because there would be a market for podcasts for a new edition. She was interested and said she would pick up the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook when it came out. This was about a month ago in early July.
Jump forward to yesterday, August 11th 2019. Everyone in my group has a copy of the Pathfinder Second Edition Core Rulebook, and we’re meeting up to build our characters for this Actual Play Podcast. I have my copy, as well as my laptop. I have to do paperwork for my job before I can start working on my character, so I tell my friends that I’m available as a character building consult if they need my help but otherwise I need to get my paperwork done first. I sit down and … no one asks for my help. Because Julia grabs the nearest person and begins going through the ABCs of character design with them. She says stuff like, “Building a character is super easy, you just follow these chapters and the list tells you exactly what to do.” Julia is answering all the questions, she has a good idea of how character building works and generally knows where to find information. I ask her if she had read any guides or watched any podcasts on the topic; she says, “Nope, I just followed the book’s Introduction on how to make a character and made my own beforehand.”
Let me be perfectly clear—Julia is a brilliant woman. She is extremely skilled and not once have I ever thought she couldn’t handle learning to play a roleplaying game. What impressed me was that she had literally gotten the book on August 2nd; just a week prior to the session. So during that time she bought the book, read over its first couple chapters, used it to build a character, and felt confident enough in her understanding of how to do so that she was able to teach other new people how to do the same. To me, this is a sign of an exceptionally well-written book. The typical new gamer, regardless of gender, couldn’t do what Julia did in just one or two readings of the Pathfinder First Edition Core Rulebook. Making a character was tough. The books didn’t really tell you where to go or how to do it, or even what steps to do it in. Julia is a brilliant woman, and what I saw in Pathfinder Section Edition is that information in the Introduction and Ancestry/Background/Class chapters is clearly presented in a way that allowed Julia to be brilliant. All too often I hear that game rules are presented in a way that makes new players feel dumb and incompetent, and that is clearly not the case with Pathfinder Second Edition.
There are a lot of things I love about Pathfinder Second Edition—the new action economy is great, alchemical items are neat and distinct, and I actually find myself enjoying how simple TEML is. There are one or two things I dislike about Pathfinder Second Edition—I think that the new layout is space inefficient, and I think that class feats have a few too many categories to them. Some classes are also WAY more dependent on adding new feats than others. For example, if I want to add a new alchemist research field, I basically need to add about six alchemist feats alongside it because there simply aren’t enough alchemist feats without prerequisites. Overall I find that the things I don’t like are things that can be fixed by adding more content, and the things I do like make the game feel great. But more than anything else, I think that the game being friendly enough to new GMs that a person with a strong gaming background but no GMing experience can pick up the book, practice with it for a bit, and immediately start teaching other people is amazing. It is literally the best endorsement that anyone can give a new game, that it’s easy enough to play that anyone can teach it to anyone else.
And that’s my review! I’m looking forward to getting some character ideas together and presenting them to all of you. I think there’s a lot of fun you can have with the new system and I’m excited to start throwing them your way. If you have any requests for next week’s Iconic Design, please let me know in the comments below or in the Know Direction Discord. If you’re curious about my friend Julia’s Actual Play, I’ll be talking about it more as we get closer. Right now it’s in the early stages and we just have our character concepts together. But I am excited about it and am looking forward to showing the world the wacky group of roleplayers that got me hooked to Tabletop RPGs!
Catch you later!
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.