Hello, and welcome to a special review of Pathfinder Second Edition. With most of the Know Direction team at Gen Con 2019, gluttonously consuming second edition in all its glory, most of our blogs are on hiatus. I, Randal, writer of Groundbreaking and Terraforming, am here to fill that void with a chapter by chapter review of the new core rulebook. This review is intended to simply be my take on the material as I read it, as first thoughts and impressions, and not a hard comparison of changes from first edition.
Chapter 3 – Classes (part 4)
My one true (be)love(d class). I prefer wizards over all other classes. Something about the magic and spells that just keeps pulling me back. I did move to arcanists, though, and haven’t played a true wizard in years, but with updated specialists (no more opposition schools), bonded items, and now theses (Improved Familiar Attunement, Metamagical Experimentation, Spell Binding, and Spell Substitution), the wizard is looking to have some swagger again. Use of arcane bond and focus points has a touch of arcanist in it, but the Spell Substitution thesis looks to make wizards more arcanist-like by way of preparing different spells with a short rest. Wizards previously had few options that defined them, making their feat choices a big part of their feel … but now I think they are going to have the full package of core choices and feat selection. I really want to build a universalist that uses lots of metamagic to stress that mechanic. I (and I am not alone) hope somebody brings back words of power *makes note to self*.
Animal Companions and Familiars
I like how animal companions and familiars are written up. They still feel like they did in 1e, as far as role and flavor are concerned. The rules feel simplified, but also codified in a way that looks to be more consistent across classes and archetypes moving forward. The variety of choices for animal companions seemed fitting for a core book, and I suspect we will be seeing this list expand greatly. That they categorized the animals instead of picking specifics was great, and the inclusion of velociraptors kinda has me itching to build a dinosaur handler! It should also be a pretty simple task to create your own animal companions using these as templates (and reading the Bestiary for stats and actions). Reading the entries that only list stat modifiers reminded me that we really should look at moving beyond having stat attributes *and* stat bonuses for our PCs. Just use the bonus already. The evolution of companions from young to mature and then nimble or savage is a nice progression and combines well with the options for specialization to ensure that you can play many characters with animal companions and not worry about duplication.
The simplicity of Familiars is great. While it seems like they may have lost some functionality with this change, nothing earth shattering is jumping out at me. Pick your Tiny animal, apply these changes, choose two abilities each day. Super. Simple. Fun. Also, not having a wide array of random abilities to be forgotten during most of your adventuring is a perk. Maybe it is just me, but it always seems like familiars are forgotten 90% of the time, that 10% usually being when a bad guy decides to target it.
I know this unified archetype system is going to create some tension among the player base, but I think it is an elegant way to encompass all 3 of the 1e solutions to class variety (archetypes, hybrid classes, and prestige classes). Archetypes are definitely one of the things that made Pathfinder not just DnD 3.75. It set the game apart, gave it new legs, and really let it grow. In many ways, it made the Prestige class obsolete, and in some cases even multiclassing. The hybrid classes were a nice attempt at revisiting the various classes and roles and reinventing them. I stopped playing wizard after the arcanist was invented, switched to hunter instead of ranger, and used slayer whenever I felt the itch to assassinate things.
The relationship between the new class mechanic and archetype mechanic seems transparent, and I think for good reason. With a majority of your class choices as feats instead of paths or built-in, it opens up the room for mixing and matching your classes better with archetypes. Making archetypes and multi-classes and prestige classes all the same mechanic is going to lower the barrier of entry into this part of character building that many new and experienced players have shied away from; be it lack of understanding, confusion about mechanics, or simply not wanting to track all of the changes. It will be easier now than ever before to play a mixed class.
The modularization of classes and archetypes is going to open up so much design space that your head might spin. It will also be easier to work in said space. Where you previously needed to figure out if your new idea was a feat tree, an archetype, a prestige class, or a new base class … now they are all feats grouped together with a name … and you have an archetype.
Tune in tomorrow for Chapters 4 & 5 – Skills & Feats!