Randal Reads Pathfinder 2e: Ch 4 & 5 – Skills & Feats

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.

Note: The next chapters are two of the smallest in the book. While they are integral to the game, and will get a lot of use by every player with every character made and every game played, there really wasn’t a lot for me to say. So much of these chapters is simple crunch in how each skill, action, and feat operates that I decided to combine them into a single post. Also, the examples are all from Skills.

Chapter 4 – Skills

The skills section is pretty much as I expected. Basic info on what skills are and how to read them. Notes on how they can be improved with the proficiency system. While I really like the proficiency system, I have a friend that is a player in my games that is already bummed about the lack of ability to mix, match, and dabble in a lot of skills. Notes from the future: Untrained Improvisation should help. I feel like there is more explanation of DCs and difficulties and armor checks than in previous editions, but it could just be that I haven’t read them in that long. There is one table every GM will need to memorize.

I was happy to see the amount of effort they put into highlighting the downtime usage of skills, by way of earning income, crafting, and other activities. I feel like they were explained well (with good uses of sidebars), and as such they will get more use than they previously did (ignoring that downtime was tacked onto 1e). I haven’t decided yet it Recall Knowledge is going to be a sticking point or not with 1e players. What was once just a part of starting an encounter “I Knowledge (X) to see if I know something” is now one of your precious actions. As a GM I like that it will bring a sense of urgency to combat that wasn’t there before, but I am wondering if the larger player base is going to dislike the shift. Personally, I think my group is mostly just going to need reminders that it is an action (I think we forgot in every game in the Playtest).

Skills highlighted the magic of one of the mechanics that was codified in this edition. Critical Success, Success, Failure, and Critical Failure. Simple, elegant, duh. Moving grappling to Athletics seems to be a nice change, but I haven’t played as a character that did any grappling yet so I don’t know how much of an improvement it is, other than there seems to be a lot fewer rules surrounding it (which is good!). Falling sidebar: much more deadly than 1e! Crafting seems simpler and more elegant than before, allowing you to spend the full price to quickly make something instead of a longer time for half price, and reusing the Earned Income table means one less table to reference/learn/memorize!

I feel like the skill actions were a solid set of options to provide meaningful choices at the table. The sidebars seemed to be a better use of space than some other chapters, Being Stealthy and Common Lore Subcategories are going to get a lot of use. The list of sample tasks for many of the skills was simply brilliant, for players and GMs, old and new. The table for Cimb and Swim Distance almost snuck by me, but I am glad it is there.

Chapter 5 – Feats

A few of the feats seemed to be nods to players that might be upset at some of the rules changes brought about by 2e. Automatic Knowledge lets you Recall Knowledge as a free action once per round. Or is it once per day? The table shows it as once per day while the feat itself lists it as one for round. Answers! Inquiring minds (and rabid fans) demand answers! (The answer is once per round, per our very own Luis Loza).

Some feats were expected, such as Additional Lore and Adopted Ancestry (just two examples stuck in my head because I am staring at that page) while others were things I didn’t know I needed like Bonded Animal and Titan Wrestler. Many things that were part of skill usage previously have become feats, such as Trick Magic Item. My vote for most taken feats: Adopted Ancestry, Alchemical Crafting, Battle Medicine, Experienced Tracker, Fast Recovery, Magical Crafting … a bunch of the “Quick X” feats … I can’t really narrow it down. There are a lot of good options to fit so many different builds.

I am glad that they went out of their way to provide at least one feat of higher than 1st level for each skill. The change to having skill feats separate from class feats, while possibly controversial, is key to getting play from these feats. Many of them are niche or more flavor than mechanical and would be ignored for more combat options on the daily were it not for the division of feats. I am personally looking forward to exploring the feat options presented here, as well as seeing what gets added (and adding some myself).

Tune in tomorrow for Chapter 6 – Equipment

Randal Meyer

As a lover of crunch (rules and numbers), Randal is always tinkering with rules options. His love of magic users has led him to always fuss with the mechanics of magic and magic items. Years of GMing on the fly have given him endless ideas and content from which to draw on for adventures (ideas, plots, NPCs). When not working, gaming, or playing with his kids, Randal is likely working on improving Sage (his Discord bot for immersive play-by-post gaming that you can see in action on Know Direction's Discord in the Know Direction Societous PFS channels) over at https://www.patreon.com/rpgsage!