Review: Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons!

Hello, and welcome to d20diaries!

A new series of Dungeons & Dragons books aimed at children is scheduled to launch next week and we are absolutely thrilled to be in possession of advance copies of these delightful new books, which we’re going to share with you today!

The Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide series is written by Jim Zub, Stacy King, and Andrew Wheeler. The series begins with two simultaneous releases on July 16th, 2019: ‘Monsters and Creatures’ and ‘Warriors and Weapons.’ There are two more books in development that are scheduled to be released in Fall 2019 (Dungeons & Tombs: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and Spring 2020 (Wizards & Spells: A Young Adventurer’s Guide) and, if they’re popular enough, there may be more beyond that in the future. The D&D Young Adventurer’s Guide series is intended for middle-grade readers (ages 8-12) and meant to inspire these young readers to read, write, create, imagine, and of course, play D&D. The American cover price for each of the books is $12.99, with the Canadian cover price $17.50. Each book is 105 pages long.

Young Advendturer's Guide

Before we take an in depth look at each of the books individually, let’s talk first impressions…

These books look and feel great! They have high quality hard covers, sturdy glossy pages, tons of unique full colour art, and a design aesthetic that’s in line with the adult D&D releases. These books feel like they’re a part of the Dungeons & Dragons line — which is absolutely awesome! It makes my kids feel like these books are just as important as the rest of our D&D books, which in turn makes them feel included and a part of the hobby.

Taken on their own, the Young Adventurer’s Guides have a nice layout, easy to read text, beautiful art, and are well organized. They’re approachable, interesting, engaging, and clearly written for kids, but, at the same time, the books don’t talk down to the reader. These books are written with care, and meant to provide younger audiences an easy to understand introduction to the world of roleplaying games and storytelling, as well as inspire them to make the world and stories their own.

Young Adventurers Guides

I have two children, a seven year old girl and an eight year old boy, making them on the young end of the intended audience for these books. Both of my kids have very good reading comprehension for their age. That said, both of my kids thoroughly enjoyed these books. My son had no problem reading the books and seemed to understand everything he read. My daughter, understandably, had more trouble, having to sound out a tricky word or two with each flip of the page, and often asking for definitions of words. Despite this, she was fully engaged with reading the books, and never got frustrated. As is typical with many fantasy books, the trickiest words are fictional names of characters and places. While many kids will stumble over these words once or twice before internalizing them, just as many will skip over them and move on. My son didn’t come across any content that he found inappropriate or too mature for him, while my daughter came across a few creatures she decided were a little ‘too spooky’ for her right now, so she skipped those pages and continued on enjoying the rest of the book. Considering the age and reading abilities of my kids, I think these books are well suited to the middle-grade reader level they’re advertised as. My kids loved them, and they definitely have room to grow with the books. We haven’t had them long and already my kids have read and re-read them more than a few times. They’ve already started utilizing information they picked up from the books in their play, storytelling, roleplaying, and gaming. These are the sort of books my kids get a ton of use out of, coming back to them often, and using different sections for inspiration at different times.

It’s important to note that these books are NOT a replacement for the D&D Player’s Handbook or the Monster Manual. The Young Adventurer’s Guides do NOT contain game mechanics or rules. They lay out the major concepts, roles, gear, and monsters in a way that is easy to understand, approachable, and engaging. They’re meant to inspire creativity, without overwhelming readers with rules. I highly recommend this series for for any kids who love adventure, fantasy, horror, monsters, roleplaying, storytelling, or who have exposure to RPGs.


Monsters & CreaturesMonsters & Creatures: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated guide to the many beasts of Dungeons & Dragons. Featuring one-of-a-kind entries for some of its most memorable monsters, and over 60 brand new illustrations, this book is sure to ignite the imagination of young readers. This book begins with a short, one page introduction which gives the book some context and explains the books ‘Danger Levels,’ which is a 0-5 point scale meant to show how tough a creature is. Although similar to Challenge Ratings in D&D, these numbers are NOT equivalent. Beginning at 0, which denotes a creature that is essentially harmless, moving on to 1, which is an acceptable challenge for low-level or beginning adventurers, and ending at 5, which is a difficult challenge for high level heroes. There is one Danger Level higher than this: EPIC, which denotes a creature so powerful only the most legendary heroes could hope to triumph over it.

Monsters & Creatures - Inside Cover

The creatures in this book are sorted by the regions they call home, beginning with underground creatures, which are found in ‘Caverns & Dark Places,’ moving up onto the surface with ‘Forests, Mountains, & Other Terrain’ dwelling creatures (which also includes a special sub-chapter on giants of all kinds). Following this is ‘Moors, Bogs, and Boneyards,’ a chapter which primarily focuses on undead creatures with a special sub-chapter on vampires, and ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways,’ which is packed full of aquatic creatures. Finally, airborne monsters can be found in ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky,’ which also contains a special sub-chapter on dragons. Each monster profile contains information on the size of each beast, its danger level, and tips for how to survive an encounter with one. There’s also lore, special abilities and powers, typical tactics, and a handy list of do’s and don’ts for dealing with these beasts. Finally, new art! This book is packed full of it!

Monsters & Creatures also features encounters, which are short, one page stories that introduce a famous D&D character, place them in a perilous situation involving one of the described creatures, and then ends, leaving each opening scene with a cliffhanger ending. Following this is questions that ask the reader what they think the characters should do next, what would happen in response to those actions, and what the characters should do afterwards. These encounters are meant to guide kids to roleplay their own endings to exciting stories, and question the ramifications of their actions. This problem-solving is a great way to introduce kids to RPGs as both a player and DM.

The book ends with a short chapter on how to use monsters to tell stories, and important questions to contemplate for kids who decide to make stories or engage in RPGs on their own. Things like, ‘who are your characters,’ ‘where does your story take place,’ ‘how do things change as the story proceeds,’ and so on. Finally, there’s a short blurb about Dungeons & Dragons, and how to get into the game.

So what creatures, exactly, are featured in Monsters & Creatures? Plenty! ‘Caverns & Dark Places’ includes the beholder, bugbear, carrion crawler, flumph, goblin, mind flayer, myconid, and the legendary Demogorgon. ‘Forests, Mountains & Other Terrain’ includes the centaur, displacer beast, owlbear, sprite, treant, unicorn, hill giant, stone giant, frost giant, fire giant, cloud giant, storm giant, and the legendary fire giant Duke Zalto. ‘Moors, Bogs & Boneyards’ includes the banshee, skeleton, vampire lord, vampire spawn, and the legendary vampire Count Strahd Von Zarovich. ‘Oceans, Lakes & Waterways’ includes the aboleth, dragon turtle, and merrow. ‘Mountain Peaks & Open Sky’ includes the griffon, pegasus, white dragon, green dragon, black dragon, blue dragon, red dragon, and the legendary Tiamat, Queen of Evil Dragons! Encounters are included for the frost giant, green dragon, myconid, skeleton, and unicorn. My son most enjoyed reading about unicorns, flumphs, blue dragons, and vampires. My daughter most enjoyed reading about the beholder, flumph, dragon turtle, dragons, and Tiamat. My daughter also came across a few creatures that she decided, either from the art or after reading the first few sentences, were ‘too spooky’ for her. She promptly skipped those monsters and moved on with the book. The monsters she skipped were the carrion crawler (she’s afraid of bugs), the aboleth (she thought it looked creepy), and the mind flayer (it had a giant brain behind it and she was pretty sure she didn’t want to know why).

The verdict:

As an adult reader, I was pleasantly surprised with the array of creatures featured in this book. There’s a lot of iconic monsters in here, a ton of fantasy staples, and some quirky creatures that most kids will be discovering for the first time. Some of the choices were a bit gutsy for a kids book — the mind flayer and demogorgon, for example — but I’m thrilled to see them included. I’m pleased to see that not all of the monsters are evil creatures, there’s plenty that can be befriended or negotiated with.  The information included in the monster entries is absolutely wonderful. There’s integral information, great advice, and enough engaging descriptions to get my kids interested and curious. The encounters were a definite highlight of the book, as was the beautiful new artwork found throughout. The book is high-quality and sturdy, which is important since our copy is sure to take a beating. I’m far from the intended audience for this book, but I really enjoyed reading it. Even more than that, I loved sharing this book with my kids. I loved watching them discover and wonder over the creatures inside. Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.

My daughter: “I loved this book. It was fun to read and the pictures were beautiful! I give it two thumbs up! I think I will read it again and again. I really loved the flumph! It was the best creature in the book. That’s what I think.”

My son: “I think that I love this book. All kinds of kids should read it. I think most would love it, too! Especially if they already like D&D and RPGs and things. I think that it is fun and I’m going to read it a lot!”

“Monsters & Creatures is a refreshing new take on the world and lore of D&D, sure to delight young readers, spark their imagination, and inspire them to tell stories of their own. Cover to cover it’s great fun.”

Warriors & Weapons


Warriors & Weapons: A Young Adventurer’s Guide is an illustrated introductory guide to the many kinds of warriors you can create in Dungeons & Dragons, along with the weapons, armour, and adventuring gear that they’ll make use of. Featuring one-of-a-kind content and over sixty new illustrations, this book gives young adventurers the information and inspiration they need to create their own characters.

Warriors & Weapons begins with a quick introduction that makes it clear that this book is meant to help the reader and their friends make characters of their own. The rest of the book is divided into three major sections: fantasy races, character classes, and equipment. There’s a large array of fantasy races covered in this book — most I expected to see included, but a few were surprises that I knew of but didn’t expect to make the cut. Each race is covered in two side-by-side pages. It starts with new art and a few questions that can help kids figure out if they’ll like playing that race. You’ll also find information on their age, size, attributes, and a few paragraphs about the race and how they act or fit into the world. The races included in this book are human, dwarf, elf, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, halfling, dragonborn, kenku, tabaxi, tiefling, and tortle.

Gnome

Warriors & Weapons is a book about warriors. It should come as no surprise then, that not all of the character classes are covered in this book. The martial classes are included. That means there are six classes covered in the chapter on classes: barbarian, fighter, monk, paladin, ranger, and rogue. Each class entry contains a few questions that can help kids figure out if they would enjoy making a character of that class, information on the class, its major low level abilities, and the weapons, armour, and gear they’re capable of using. Many also include information on the various archetypes, paths, and specializations available to those classes. After each class entry is a two page spread that takes a look at a famous example of that character class. These ‘legendary heroes’ include Wulfgar the Warhammer, Bruenor Battlehammer, Whey-Shu, Redclay, Minsc the Mighty, and Shandie Freefoot. The class section also includes a little flowchart that can tell kids what class they’re most like, and a short section on character backgrounds, attire, details, inspiration, and flaws.

The Equipment section takes a quick look at weapons (swords, polearms, other melee weapons, ranged weapons, and special weapons), armour (light, medium, heavy, and shields), survival gear, adventuring gear, tools, and some special packs for more specialized endeavours (burglar’s pack, dungeoneer’s pack, explorer’s pack, and vampire hunter’s pack). All of the weapon and armour entries talk about the pros and cons of utilizing items of that types, and showcases a few popular versions. The other equipment entries talk about the purpose of different kinds of gear, being prepared for your adventures, and why selecting the right equipment for your character is important. Finally, this section also contains a quick monster entry about the terrifying… rust monster!

Survival Gear

The book ends with a few comments about how you can use your characters to tell stories of your own, and a quick blurb about Dungeons & Dragons and how to get involved in the game. Most of the information on these back few pages is the same as that contained at the end of Monsters & Creatures.

The verdict: 

My kids both adored this book. They love flipping through the races and classes, answering the questions, and making up characters. My daughter particularly enjoys the flowchart that helps you pick out the class you’re most like, and has spent a lot of time making up her own quizzes to determine our race and class. She often sits down beside me, flips open her book, and announces, “Mama! Pick a race!” I cannot stress enough how much she enjoys using this book to make characters and character concepts. My son really enjoys reading about the legendary heroes, with both of my kids agreeing Minsc the Mighty and his hamster Boo are the coolest characters in the book. (I’m pretty sure Boo the hamster would win in a popularity contest between the two of them around here, haha). When it comes down to it, I think they enjoy the sections on races and classes more than the section on equipment. Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.

My daughter: “I loved this book! Especially the little chart! It’s so much fun! It was a great book and I give it two thumbs up!”

My son: “Warriors & Weapons was pretty much as good as Monsters & Creatures, but I liked Monsters & Creatures better. I love how it lets you make your own characters with races and classes. The legendary characters were the coolest part. Especially Whey-Shu and Boo.”

“Warriors & Weapons is, without a doubt, a book that has sparked my kid’s imaginations. It’s inspired them to create characters, make stories, and share their ideas with the people around them. With a few flips of the page they imagine themselves heroes. And what could be better than that? This book is sure to have a place on my kids’ bookshelves for years to come.”


My family and I had an absolute blast with these books. Monsters & Creatures and Warriors & Weapons have both been read a lot by my kids, and I expect them to continue to see heavy use in the future. My kids have already decided they would each like their own copies, so they’re saving up their money to pick up an extra copy of each book. We’re very excited to hear there’s more Young Adventurer’s Guides on the horizon, and will definitely be picking up a copy (or two) of Dungeons & Tombs and Wizards & Spells when they come out.

We’d like to give a special thanks to Penguin Randomhouse Canada for sending us advance copies for review.

Thanks for stopping by d20diaries! We’ll chat again soon.

Jessica

 

Chronicle of Legends

Pathfinder Player Companion - Chronicle of Legends
Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends

Hello adventurers! Today we’re taking a peek between the covers of Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends! This delightful softcover book from Paizo Inc. is packed with new character options for all character classes, themed as though they were based on legends plucked from the Pathfinder Chronicles. It contains character traits and magic items that could become more powerful over time, new talents, spells, and feats, two new prestige classes, new capstone abilities for nearly all of the classes, and more. In addition, Chronicle of Legends is the final Pathfinder Player Companion being released for Pathfinder First Edition –– a fact both sad and exciting!

Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends is a soft cover book that is 32 pages in length. As a book in the Player Companion line, it’s aimed at players, which means that you won’t find a ton of world lore or secrets inside. Instead you’ll find character options –– things like feats, traits, spells, and more. Chronicle of Legends was developed by Eleanor Ferron and Luis Loza. Contributing authors include Calder CaDavid, Vanessa Hoskins, Mike Kimmel, Isabelle Lee, Matt Morris, Mikhail Rekun, and Michael Sayre. The cover features dynamic art by David Alvarez which depicts Oloch (the iconic warpriest), Quinn (the iconic inquisitor), Shardra (the iconic shaman), and Kolo (Shardra’s tuatara familiar), all combatting a stone colossus. Interior artists include Nathanael James, Michele Giorgi, Alyssa McCarthy, and Beatrice Pelagatti.

The front inside cover features some fun references to past seasons of the Pathfinder Society, as well as it’s future. After this is the table of contents, the rules index, and the introduction, which contains five new exemplar traits, as well as a heroic figure that represents each of them. Exemplar traits are stronger than regular traits and are each tied to a single category of traits (combat, faith, magic, regional, or social). Each allows you to take more traits from their linked category, and gets stronger for each one. I rather liked the exemplar traits, particularly ‘Faith Unshakeable and Unassailable’, which grants you a bonus on Will saves against charms, compulsions, and fear effects, and ‘Traveler of a Hundred Lands’ which allows you to select extra skills as class skills.

Introduction - Illustration by Nathanael James
Illustration by Nathanael James. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Moving on from the introduction we come to our first chapter: Chronicles of Heroes! This section contains four pages of new character options. It starts with four new banners usable by cavaliers and samurai (I particularly like the ‘knave standard’ which can help out your shifty companions). There’s three new gunslinger deeds (check out ‘thundering shot’!) and four new swashbuckler deeds (check out ‘hilt hammer’ and ‘dodging dance’). After this there are six new ninja tricks which are all really cool. My kids adore ‘spiritual companion’ which can allow your ninja to get an improved familiar from a short list of very interesting options. ‘All the stars in the sky’ will be a great choice for shuriken users, but it’s ‘false face’ that turned out to be my favourite. This little gem allows you to change shape as long as you have some ki. Finally, there’s some talents in this chapter: five for slayers and seven for vigilantes. My favourite was definitely ‘leap and bound,’ a vigilante talent that lets you pull off some fun mid-air attacks and tricks.

Ritualist - Illustration by Alyssa McCarthy
A ritualist. Illustrated by Alyssa McCarthy. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

Up next? Chronicles of Prestige! This section contains fourteen feats for characters who have levels in a prestige class from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. They’re all useful and sure to enhance the classes they’re intended for. Following this is two new prestige classes: esoteric knight and ritualist. Esoteric knight is similar to eldritch knight, but for kineticists and psychic spellcasters. Ritualist is accessible to spellcasters of all kinds, and makes it’s user incredibly proficient at performing rituals. Definitely a niche prestige class, but a ton of fun if you’re interested in rituals.

Chronicles of Magic is two pages of new spells and a ritual. There are four new spells –– realm retribution, rival’s ward, greater song of discord, and uncanny reminder. All are high level spells, clocking in at level 6, 8, and 9 depending on the spell and spellcasting class. But, it’s the ritual, egoist’s militia, that turned out to be my favourite. Definitely give it a read if you’ve got the chance.

The next section –– Chronicles of Expertise –– is my husband’s favourite part of this book. These four pages are all about magic tricks! Like equipment tricks, magic tricks allow PCs to get some extra utility out of their abilities. In this case, magic spells. Each spell has five or six special ways you can use it –– presuming you have the feat ‘magic trick’ for the appropriate spell and the necessary skills or feats. The spells that have magic tricks are daylight, fireball, mage hand, obscuring mist, prestidigitation, shield, and unseen servant. Although they’re all really cool, my favourites are the tricks for mage hand and shield.

The nest two sections –– Chronicles of Legacy and Chronicles of Collection –– are all about magical gear. Chronicles of Legacy showcases nine new legacy items, which are unique magical items that grow in power and gain new abilities as their bearers level up or accomplish goals. Although they’re intended to be given out by GMs, not purchased, they do have rules for pricing legacy items included in a sidebar. I enjoyed a lot of these items, but the bracers of antiquity and trailblazer’s boots turned out to be my favourites. Chronicles of Collection presents two feats –– collector’s boon and improved collector’s boon –– that allow PCs to make use of magical equipment sets. Equipment sets are a collection of magical items that, when worn together, become more powerful and unlock new abilities. There are eight equipment sets in this book, each focused on a different theme and featuring magical items already released in other books. For example, the Archmage’s Vestments is great for spellcasters and consists of greater caster’s shield, magician’s hat, ring of counterspells, robe of the archmagi, and staff of power. PCs can only make use of one equipment set at a time. The other equipment sets are Aroden’s Array, Beastmaster’s Will, Besmara’s Bounty, Dread Demoniac Armor, Irori’s Meditation, Pharasma’s Command, and Urgathoa’s Gluttony. Each is powerful in it’s own way, but they are very niche, so not all characters will want to attempt to make use of them. My personal favourite? Beastmaster’s Will, although I admit it’s far from the most powerful option. Haha.

Dwarf Capstone - Chronicle of LegendsWhich brings us to my favourite part of the book: Chronicles of Paragons! I love options. You know what else I love? Reaching 20th level and getting an awesome ability! But, what’s better than achieving your capstone powers? Having a choice of capstone power. This chapter presents an alternative capstone ability for nearly every base class in Pathfinder First Edition. Alchemists and witches instead have a new grand discovery and grand hex to add to their options. In addition, there’s a dozen other capstones, which can be taken by any character that meets the prerequisites. Examples of this include arch-familiar, which grants your familiar higher intelligence and a selection of spell-like abilities of your choice; deep magics, which grants spellcasters an array of new spells known; or old dog, new tricks, which grants you a quartet of new combat feats. I really enjoyed all the universal capstone abilities.  That’s not to say I didn’t like the class-specific capstone abilities –– because I did! –– but it’s the universal ones that caught my interest most, particularly for their versatility and universal appeal. So what were my favourite class-specific capstones? Tough, tough, tough call! Probably ‘proxy,’ the cleric capstone which grants you an additional domain and all of its benefits, and ‘huntmaster,’ the hunter capstone which grants you a second animal companion.

And that’s it! The end of Pathfinder Player Companion: Chronicle of Legends! This book is packed full of cool new character options for all classes that are memorable and unique. Theres literally something for everyone in this book –– quite a few somethings! –– and I would honestly be shocked if someone found this book not worth the investment. I absolutely adored it, and am pleased to see that the Pathfinder Player Companion line went out with a bang.

Arcane Archer - Illustration by Alyssa Michele Giorgi
An arcane archer. Illustration by Michele Giorgi. Art courtesy of Paizo Inc.

…But wait! There’s more! Last month on Paizo’s blog Luis Loza shared two extra character options written for Chronicle of Legends that they couldn’t fit into the book. Two archetypes for prestige classes! ‘Deadeye devotee’ is an arcane archer prestige archetype that allows divine worshippers of Erastil to enter the prestige class and gain some unique new abilities, while ‘thought thief’ is an arcane trickster prestige archetype for psychic spellcasters. Both prestige archetypes are available on Paizo’s blog for free. Thanks, Luis!

Thanks for checking out d20diaries! I hope that taking a peek at what’s inside this Player’s Companion helped you decide if this is the right book for you. There’s plenty  of great books out there (and I know I’m not the only one who can’t afford them all!).

Shop smart!

Jessica

 

Iconics Past and Present

PaizoCon and it’s wonderful livestream hosted by Know Direction has got me thinking about the future. The future of Pathfinder as it transitions into Second Edition, the future of Starfinder, as it continues to grow and expand, and the future of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, which just launched its revamped and redesigned Core Set. The changes are big and exciting and, after seeing some of the spoilers and sneak peels that have been streamed, I think the future’s looking bright! At the end of this weekend we’ll be posting some of our favourite news to come out of PaizoCon, but until then, we wanted to take a peek at something iconic. The Iconics.

The Iconic characters of Pathfinder have undergone a makeover, as each core iconic has been redesigned for the launch of Pathfinder Second Edition this August. Illustrated and designed by Wayne Reynolds, many of the characters we know and love look a little (or a lot!) different, but are still recognizable as themselves. Today we’re taking a quick peek at the Iconic character designs we’re used to, alongside their new artwork. All art is courtesy of Paizo Inc.

For more information on the Iconic character designs and the work that went into them, check out the Iconic Evolution video series on youtube, starring Erik Mona and Wayne Reynolds. Wayne is an absolute delight to see on the screen.

You can also check out the Iconic Encounters short fiction on Paizo’s blog, starring each of the Iconic characters. Written by James L. Sutter, and with accompanying art by a variety of artists, they’re short, sweet, and well worth the read.

Enjoy!

Amiri, the Iconic Barbarian

Lem, the Iconic Bard

Kyra, the Iconic Cleric

Lini, the Iconic Druid

Valeros, the Iconic Fighter

Sajan, the Iconic Monk

Seelah, Iconic Paladin (note: paladin is now a subclass of the Champion class, which allows for multiple good-aligned paladins)

Harsk, the Iconic Ranger

Merisiel, the Iconic Rogue

Seoni, the Iconic Sorcerer

Ezren, the Iconic Wizard

And finally, Fumbus! The new Iconic Alchemist!

Which Iconic’s changes do you like most? Let us know in the comments! I’m a fan of Harsk, Sajan, Seelah, and Seoni, myself. And I love that they punched up the colours to make everyone more vibrant! Although, my daughter would like everyone to know she likes the original Amiri better, since she looks “too scrawny” now. My daughter really likes Amiri.

Looking good, Pathfinder!

 

Starfinder Playtest Comes to a Close

Well, that’s it! Today’s the day! The Starfinder Character Operations Manual Playtest officially comes to a close. It’s time to put down the dice and wave goodbye to the biohacker, the vanguard, and the witchwarper.

I don’t know about you, but my family had a blast testing out these classes. My husband created a brakim vanguard that he really enjoyed, I fell in love with the biohacker class, and both of my kids adored the witchwarper! Sure, the classes had some flaws. Vanguard, for example, had no abilities it could use with its ‘entropy points’ at first level, and I personally found the witchwarper’s ‘infinite worlds’ ability underpowered. But all of those things we discovered, complained about, praised, and gave feedback for will now be used by the folks over at Paizo to shake up these classes, and make some improvements. I can’t wait to see what they become!

The Starfinder Character Operations Manual will release in late 2019 and will contain not only these three new classes, but new character options of all kinds! That’s right! Abilities, feats, spells, and everything in between. It’s going to be awesome!

Got any stories to share about your experience with the Starfinder Playtest? I’d love to hear it!

Jessica

New Classes Come to Starfinder!

This past Wednesday it was announced on Paizo’s Twitch stream that the Starfinder Roleplaying Game would welcome new classes to its ranks and you, the fans, would get to take them for a test drive. Playtesting new classes is nothing new to Paizo. Even if we don’t count the massive Pathfinder Second Edition Playtest that’s occurring as we speak, they’ve still done plenty in the past. Playtesting new classes gives developers a chance to see how their creations work in the hands of players, how players can exploit them, and what weaknesses they’ve found. It also lets them discover if any abilities don’t work they way they were intended to, or were too under or over powered. All in all, it leads to more balanced, polished classes.

So what exactly is this playtest?

In late 2019 Paizo will release the Starfinder Operations Manual, a hardcover sourcebook packed full of new character options. This book will introduce three new classes, and its these classes that you’ll get to test out.

“This is our first opportunity to add new classes to Starfinder since the game’s release in August 2017, and we need your help to do it! Try out these new classes in Starfinder Society scenarios, Starfinder Adventure Paths, or your own adventures. Then tell us what you and your friends thought of the experience. Paizo needs your feedback to make the classes in the Character Operations Manual the best they can be,” said Starfinder Creative Director Robert G. McCreary.

To get your hands on the playtest head over to StarfinderPlaytest.com, download the free Character Operations Manual Playtest PDF and give it a read. Roll up some new characters and try them out. You can play them in Starfinder Adventure Paths or in home-brew campaigns. Want to play the in Starfinder Society organized play? Go for it!  It’ll work much like pregenerated characters do during the playtest. For full details check out Paizo’s blog post on the topic: here.

StaWhen you’ve had a chance to try them out, head back to StarfinderPlaytest.com and fill out some surveys on your experience. You can also give them your feedback on the the Character Operations Manual Playtest forums, on Paizo’s website. While Paizo wants to focus on actual play feedback, they are interested in hearing all ideas about the classes. Let’s be sure to give them some constructive criticism guys. And some compliments of course! The playtest will run until January 16, 2019, and the feedback surveys will be available throughout the playtest.

So what are these classes?

First up we have the biohacker! This class is the one that my son is the most excited for! The biohacker is a scientist who can run off of either Intelligence (because they’re incredibly smart and analytical)  or Wisdom (because they’re instinctive and impulsive). Biohackers can create injections which they can inject into allies to grant them benefits, or enemies to hinder them. These can be used as a consumable melee weapon (literally injecting someone with a syringe) or loaded into an injection weapon. Injection weapons shot at your allies don’t harm them if you don’t want them to. In addition, each biohacker selects a type of science as their main field of study. There’s a lot to choose from, and each gives you some nifty new types of injections you can create. Biohackers also have a medical scanner, can make injections with their science skills instead of Mysticism, and can learn ‘theorems,’ which are a wide array of special abilities that fit the scientist theme. This class looks like a lot of fun to play! I think it’s going to be the first one I playtest, actually.

Up next? The vanguard! This is definitely an interesting class. They’re a melee based character who can channel entropic forces to make their blows either crush or dissolve the enemy. This can be done through unarmed strikes, or through their melee weapons or shields. Yes! Shields are finally being introduced to Starfinder! Awesome! Similar to solarians and their ‘attunement,’ vanguards function off of a varying number of ‘entropy points’ which begin at 0 each battle and can rise through various methods. These entropy points can also increase your AC. Vanguards also get to choose an ‘aspect’ of entropy to focus on, which gives them different abilities as they level up from other vanguards. As they level up they gain ways to make themselves more durable in combat, or to further enhance their entropic strikes. They also gain a variety of abilities chosen from a large list that are known as ‘disciplines.’

Finally, there’s the witchwarper. This is a charisma-based spellcaster which uses alternate dimensions to power their magic. Cool! Basically, they can alter the world around them by drawing upon other realities. At low levels this power can make a small region into difficult terrain (thematically described depending upon the type of terrain), which at higher levels the area is larger, and the effects more powerful. You can also alter reality to cancel enemy’s critical hits, or allow you to reroll, and learn new skills. Witchwarpers also get to learn ‘paradigm shifts,’ which are unique new ways that you can alter reality. There’s a lot of options here, which is awesome to see. Their spell list includes a really nice array of spells, as well as some brand new ones, which are included in the playtest.

All in all the classes look wonderfully unique and inventive. They have a great array of abilities and options which are sure to make them just as adaptable as the current Starfinder Classes. I’m very intrigued! Definitely looking forward to seeing how they function in play!

Want to learn more? Download your own copy of the Character Operations Manual Playtest PDF on Paizo’s website right now! You can also tune into Paizo’s twitch channel on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. PST for ‘Starfinder Wednesday.’ This week is sure to be a great show!

Let us know what you think of the new Starfinder classes in the comments below!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some playtesting to do!

Jessica

Factions Forever! New Starfinder Classes!

Hello and welcome!

This week brings us some exciting news in the world of Starfinder and Pathfinder. We’ve talked a lot about the changes coming to the Pathfinder Society when Pathfinder Second Edition gets released next year. Paizo has released multiple blog posts and surveys on the subject, and has some threads on their message boards where you can put forth your ideas and opinions. Which is great! Your opinions can help shape the future of the Pathfinder Society. This week brings us to the last of these blog posts.

So what did they talk about?

Lots!

GrandLodgeSymbol
Sigil of the Open Road, the symbol of the Pathfinder Society.

Although, most of the information amounted to a sort of… we’re changing this, but we haven’t quite decided how. A fair point when the rules for Pathfinder Second Edition are still in flux.

Fame and Prestige will likely follow Starfinders lead and be called Reputation and Fame. In addition, you’ll be allowed to earn fame in multiple factions if you so choose. Another nice improvement inspired by Starfinder Society play. ‘Prestige’, whatever it comes to be called, will also be more useful. You’ll be able to acquire special boons — some general and some faction specific — for your characters.

How we gain access to magical items is also going to change. Likely, this will involve item rarity and item level, but the details will depend on how Pathfinder 2 shakes out.

Infamy, much like that used in the Starfinder Society, is also going to be introduced.

One of my favourite changes? Schools. Nearly all Pathfinders undergo training at the Grand Lodge and specialize in one of three schools: Scrolls, Spells, or Swords. Scrolls is taught by Kreighton Shane and focuses on learning and diplomacy. Spells is taught by Sorrina Westyr and focuses on magical prowess. Swords is taught by Marcos Farabellus and focuses on martial might and physical fitness. Deciding which of the schools your character favours most is now going to be a choice you can make at character creation. For what? Well, they’re not sure yet. We’ll have to wait and see.

Which brings us to the most exciting aspect of this week’s Pathfinder Society changes: factions. Factions are getting a major shake-up! Some factions will be retired as their goals have been accomplished. Some will find their stories come to a close during Season 10. Others will remain but have changes of leadership. So what’s changing exactly? Unknown! That’s why they’d like your input! They’ve compiled a list of general concepts for factions and want you to let them know which ones you like best. Got an idea for another major character motivation for Pathfinders? Share them! Also, they want to know your opinions on which faction leaders should stay an go. Help them out by heading over to their survey and filling it out: Faction Survey.


In other news, Starfinder Wednesday put out another awesome episode. And this one dropped a BOMB! Starfinder will soon be putting out a playtest for NEW CLASSES!

SO EXCITING!

Want more details?

So do I! More information will be coming out on the Paizo Blog on Monday, December 3rd. Be sure to check it out! I know I will!

Jessica


UPDATE: For more information check out my blog post: New Classes Come to Starfinder! or visit Paizo’s website: StarfinderPlaytest.com

Pathfinder Playtest – Review

Welcome back to d20diaries!

Wow, finding the time to fully read the new Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook took longer than I expected! Well, not to read it, so much as to digest it. Understand it. Plenty of rules are different, so I had to really focus. Considering that I normally find time to read while overseeing screaming, bickering, playing, laughing, children of various ages (hey, moods change quick!), finding quiet time to get some reading done was more than a little difficult.

That said, I’m a quick reader. I finished it in about two days, then spent some time crafting characters in order to try out the creation process. Before I can take the time to teach my husband and kids how to play, I need to be able to explain it. Properly. Haha. After that I helped my family through the creation process, read through Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn (the first adventure we would be trying out), and we got to work playing.

It’s been a whirlwind! But a fun one.

And then I got sick. Still am.

LAME. Haha.

So whats on the agenda for today?

Today we’re going to take a look at Pathfinder Playtest. Not in depth — this isn’t a replacement for the rulebook. After all, the rulebook’s a free download. It’s my impressions, thoughts, and experiences. Things I’ve discovered, and even some questions I’ve got. Got an opinion of your own? Or an answer to a question I have? Let me know! This game system is brand new and we’re all learning together. Once you’ve had a chance to try out Pathfinder Playtest, be sure to head over to Paizo’s website and give them some feedback. They’re running surveys right now, and have forums up for you to share broader comments.

Ready? Let’s begin!

Pathfinder Playtest RulebookPathfinder Playtest is a new set of rules and gameplay for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. It’s intended to streamline the game, while retaining its robust character creation options. Running combat, monsters, and characters should go smoother. Learning the rules from scratch should be easier. Levelling up should be simpler. The book and rules are supposed to be user friendly — even for those who don’t know how to play d20 games.

In theory.

Pathfinder Playtest features gorgeous cover art by Wayne Reynolds which showcases Seoni (the iconic sorceress), Valeros (the iconic fighter), and Fumbus (the iconic alchemist) battling a white dragon! Wait! Fumbus who? Fumbus the goblin alchemist. Thats right! Not only are goblins a core race, but alchemist is a base class. Both are available options to try out in the playtest.

Open the covers (or flip to the next page on the pdf) and you’ll find an introduction by the Paizo staff, followed by the overview. This is where you’ll learn what the heck a d20 game is and how to play. There’s also an overview of the basic terms used in the game, including a few that are new, an explanation of the modes of play, and a list of what you’ll need to play. This section was easy to understand, even for a layman, although not as easy as I expected. It’s a difficult read for my children, for example, and my son (who is more than capable of reading chapter books aimed at pre-teens, published adventures for d20 games, and other Pathfinder products) would definitely get bored and flip past a few pages. Would my teenage/adult siblings read it all the way through? …Tough to say. Probably not. It’s more likely they’d give it a skim and see how it goes. So… sort of an easy read. An easy read for this genre and its audience, I suppose.

Many of the terms in this chapter will be familiar to those of you who have played d20 games before, but even experienced gamers need to give this section a thorough read. Calculations for some of the familiar statistics are different, and there are some very important brand new game mechanics that are explained here. Be sure to pay extra attention to the types of actions, the modes of play, and proficiencies. We won’t get into them in too much detail right now, but for those of you who are curious, these three aspects form a huge part of the game.

There are three modes of play in Pathfinder Playtest. Encounter mode is what you enter when your every moment matters. This is used during a battle, for traps, ambushes, hazards, and anything else similar. You play encounter mode in rounds which are six seconds long, and encounter mode ends when the danger has passed. This is a huge part of the game and the rules. But, it’s not all there is to the Playtest. Exploration mode is used for any situation where you’re not in immediate danger, but you’re not entirely safe, either. This includes exploring a town, ruin, forest, or even a hallway between encounters. It’s what you’re playing in when you’re not fighting something. It’s more than just walking, or a segue between the ‘exciting stuff.’ Exploration mode has its own rules, and has proved quite fun around my house so far. Finally, there’s downtime mode, which is what you use when you’re completely safe.

There are three major kinds of actions in Pathfinder Playtest. Actions, free actions, and reactions. Pretty much all the game is based around this. Nearly every feat, ability, and spell that has a non-passive effect has a symbol beside it right near the top showing what it costs to use. Free actions are free, obviously, Reactions can be taken once per turn, even on your opponents turns, as long as its triggering conditions are met. An example of this is an attack of opportunity (which only fighters can utilize right away!), but there are plenty others for different classes and characters. Lastly, there’s actions. Everything takes actions. Moving, attacking, special attacks, spells and such. Most spells take two actions to cast, although some take one or three. Each turn during encounter mode you’re allowed three actions, and most things you can imagine take one. Walking forward, drawing a sword, and swinging it? Three actions total. Attacking, attacking, and attacking a third time? Three actions. And totally allowed (each successive attack in a round takes a cumulative -5 penalty).  Lastly, there’s proficiencies. Yes, this includes armours and weapons. But in the Playtest proficiencies also replace your base attack bonus, base saving throws, and skill ranks. If you’re trained in something you add your level to the rolls you make with it. If you’re untrained you add your level subtract two. If you’re an expert you add your level plus one, master is your level plus two and if you’re legendary you add your level plus three. For example, if you’re trained in athletics you roll a d20, add your proficiency modifier (your level), your strength modifier, and any other item or extra modifiers you have. Expert in your weapon? Add the expert proficiency (your level plus one), your ability modifier (strength for melee, dexterity for ranged), and any other bonuses from your items. Master at reflex saves? Add your level plus two, plus your Dexterity modifier, anything else special you might have and off you go.

Got it? Good! If not, read the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook!

After this we get into the fun stuff. Character Creation. The Playtest has a great step-by-step guide to making your characters. In short, you come up with a concept. Then you pick and apply their ancestry (race), background, and class. Each of these will increase some of your ability scores, but you also gain four increases to apply as you see fit. Once you’ve finalized your ability scores, select your trained skills and do some simple math to make it all come together. Spend your coin (150 sp), pick your spells (if you’re a caster) and fill in all your finishing details. Done. Relatively simple. The levelling up process is also simple, as well.

After this there’s an easy to follow example of how you make your ability scores. As I previously mentioned, ancestry, background, class, and your personal preference all play a part. So how does it work?

For starters, you need to know how much to increase an ability score. Increases are referred to as an ‘ability boost’. If the score you’re increasing is under 18 you increase it by 2 points. If it’s over 18 you increase it by 1 point. At character creation, you cannot make a character with over 18 in any one ability score, so all of your boosts will be increasing your ability scores by +2.

When you create a character all of your ability scores start at 10. Now you pick your ancestry. Most will give you two ability boosts that are applied to a specific ability, one ability boost that you can apply as you see fit (called ‘free’), and one flaw (which is a -2 in a specific score). For example, dwarves get ability boosts to Constitution, Wisdom, and Free. They also suffer an ability flaw to Charisma. Humans are different from most races in that they receive no flaw, and no specific ability boosts. Instead they get two free ability boosts, which can be applied at your whim.

Now that you know what to increase you apply it. However, there is a limitation. During each step that you apply your ability boosts, you must apply each to a different ability. In our previous example with dwarves, that means you’re getting +2 Con, +2 Wis, -2 Cha and a +2 to be added to any other ability score (Str, Dex, or Int). The next time you apply your ability scores you can increase any scores you want, but again, only one time each in that phase.

Backgrounds grant an ability boost in a single specific ability score chosen from a selection of two, and then grant a free ability boost. For example, acrobats get an ability boost to either Strength or Dexterity, and then a second ability boost that is free. Meanwhile, a barkeep gets an ability boost to either Constitution or Charisma, and then a second ability boost that is free. (This is not all that a background grants you, just the part that applies to ability scores). As mentioned before, during this step, each ability can only be boosted once. So, our example dwarf could apply the barkeep ability boosts to Constitution, and Strength, but couldn’t apply it to Constitution twice.

Classes offer a single specific ability boost to that classs’ key ability score. Alchemist’s increase Intelligence, bards increase Charisma, and so on. Some classes, like the fighter, can choose one of two ability scores to be their key ability score (in the case of fighters this is a choice between Strength and Dexterity).

Lastly (or second last if you choose to apply these before your class), you get four free ability boosts. You can assign these however you want — although each ability score can only be boosted once in this phase. Essentially this means that four different ability scores will increase by +2.

And that’s the ability score creation process. It’s quite simple when you get the hang of it, and can create a diverse array of balanced characters. There’s also a random generation method offered, for those of you who prefer to roll out your stats, but the characters they create will not come out as powerful as those created with the standard method. Still, it’s nice that its there.

After this we get into the chapter on ancestries and backgrounds. There are six major ancestries you can choose: dwarf, elf, gnome, goblin, halfling, and human. Those of you looking to be half-elves or half-orcs will select ‘human’ as your ancestry, and then choose a heritage feat which allows you to be either of those two ‘half-breed’ races.  This method opens up a unique design space which has potential for an interesting take on some uncommon races when the full game releases next year.

Each ancestry grants you some ability boosts and flaws (as already noted). It also grants you some hit points (which you will only receive at first level), your speed, size, and languages. Some of them also grant you a vision type, or a single special ability. That’s it. You won’t be getting a ton of racial abilities built into your ancestry. I know, I know. This seems like you get so much less. In a way, at low level, you do get less. But, as you level up you also get more out of your race. You see, each ancestry has a list of feats to choose from that only members of that ancestry can select. This is where you’ll find a lot of familiar ‘racial’ abilities like weapon familiarity, ancestral hatred, stonecunning, sure-footed, and other such features that would have once been found under ones race. There’s plenty of new ones, as well. You start the game with one ancestry feat of your choice, and gain more as you level up. This allows you to make your ancestry work for your character as an individual. After all, not all elves are the same.

After I got over the initial shock of seeing ‘how little’ each race gave me, I gave the different ancestry feats a read and, in the end, decided I like this method. It’s adaptable, easy to use, and enjoyable. I found it worked well during character creation. I particularly enjoyed the gnome ancestry feats, so be sure to give them a read!

Pathfinder Playtest Doomsday DawnNext up is backgrounds. These represent the things your character did before becoming an adventurer. In addition to the ability boosts mentioned previously, each background grants you one skill feat and training in a single Lore skill tied to that background. What’s a lore? A lore is like a very specific knowledge skill. You can have lore in pretty much anything, as long as it has a very narrow focus. Examples include Vampire Lore, Desna Lore, Circus Lore, and Farming Lore. During downtime, lore skills can also be used to make an income. There are a lot of backgrounds up for offer in the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook (nineteen!) and you can expect to see a whole lot more in the future. Each adventure path will offer new backgrounds that will tie your characters to the story. The Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn is the first example of this, and provides a further six backgrounds to choose from. The Playtest Rulebook backgrounds include: acolyte, acrobat, animal whisperer, barkeep, blacksmith, criminal, entertainer, farmhand, gladiator, hunter, labourer, merchant, noble, nomad, sailor, scholar, scout, street urchin, and warrior. Although all of the backgrounds are equally ‘good,’ I particularly like the entertainer and the nomad, while my daughter enjoys the animal whisperer, and my son enjoys the warrior.

Past the Background we get to a short section on selecting languages. Players with very high intelligence scores will be surprised to find they don’t get as many languages as in Pathfinder First Edition, with an intelligence over 14 now granting a single bonus language!

Up next is the chapter on Classes. The classes available for the playtest include Alchemist, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, and Wizard. Despite these being familiar to you, each class has plenty of new features, and offers a lot of adaptability. In addition to hp, special abilities and a selection of class feats you can choose from in order to tailor your class to your character, each class also gives you proficiencies in saving throws, perception, and in various weapons, armour and shields. It also gives you a number of skills you can choose to be trained in. Spellcasters get spells, characters get abilities and so on. Now, you really need to read the classes to get a feel for them, so we’re not going to take too close of a look at them. What I will say is that each class we’ve tested in my house has turned out to be a lot of fun. My favourites include Bard (who can use some of their performances an unlimited number of times per day!), Sorcerer (whose spell list and type of magic is determined by their bloodline), and Paladin (who are just plain awesome!). My children particularly enjoyed the druid.

Next up is Skills. This chapter goes over each of the skills, how to calculate their modifiers, and what they can be used for. This is also where you’ll find the rules for crafting, performing and lore. Even experienced players need to give this chapter a read, as there are some changes to the skills. For example, grabbing, grappling and shoving are all tied to your Athletics skill. Yeah. Neat. Skills definitely do more for you now, than they used to. Also, anyone can make attempt any skill check. Obviously, they won’t all be as good at it, but the potential is there, which is nice. That said, some skills have uses that can only be used by characters trained in that skill, which is a nice feature.

After skills we get to the chapter on feats. Now, this section doesn’t have all the feats available in the book. Ancestry feats can be found under ancestries. Instead, it contains all the general, and skill feats available. This chapter is particularly important, because you will gain a LOT of feats.  Beginning characters start with two (at minimum!). One from your ancestry, and one from your background. Most classes grant at least one other feat (sometimes a class feat, sometimes a general or skill feat, and sometimes both). This is a wonderful surprise, which allows customization in a simple way.

After feats you’ll find Equipment. Pathfinder Playtest uses silver as the core coin (instead of gold) which means that the price of gear will be different than what you’re used to. There’s also been some changes to the armour, weapons, and weight systems — all for the better in my opinion! Definitely give the information at the start of this chapter a read before trying to spend your coin! Haha.

Past equipment you get into spells. This begins with a lot of important information about magic, spells, and how they work. Definitely don’t skip this part! Haha. There are four major spell lists: Arcane, Divine, Occult, and Primal. I’m fond of all of them. In addition, you’ll find tenth level spells. After the spell lists are spell descriptions. Amongst these spells you’ll also find a lot of class abilities that are cantrips, or run off of spell points. This includes domain powers, and bardic compositions (among others). Although I understand the purpose of including them here (in alphabetical order alongside the spells), it made it hard to make class choices. For example, if I’m looking for all the bardic compositions (which are a type of cantrip) I have to search through the entire chapter and read the spell traits to find them. There is no compiled list of bardic compositions and, as they are not class spells, they don’t appear on any of the Spell Lists. It’s a giant pain in the butt. Haha. I sincerely hope they find a better way to sort this in the future, cause all that sifting sucks. Not only that, it’s a drain on your time.

I also found (after a lot of jumping between chapters to hunt them down) that a lot of the domain powers weren’t as good as they used to be. Which is unfortunate. I’d gladly trade my cleric of Desna’s domain power from the Playtest with pretty much any other Domain power from First Edition. An unfortunate outcome! Still, it will take more playtesting to determine if it all balances out in the end.

Past this we come to a short chapter on how to level up your characters. In addition, you’ll find the rules for multiclassing and archetypes here. The system for this is very easy to understand, and allows for a lot of cool character concepts. Essentially, you can choose to take archetype or multiclass feats in place of your class feat at any given level — presuming you meet the feat requirements. There’s a bit more to it than that, of course, but not by much. It’s a simple, elegant way to handle multi classing and archetypes without causing characters to fall behind the powers of their peers. I really like it. Definitely give it a read!

Later in the chapter you’ll find the rules for animal companions, familiars, and gods. The rules in all of these categories were fun and easy to use, particularly the rules for familiars. We got ours created in only a few minutes! Wonderful! Of course, I did have questions. It’s specifically pointed out that you can only have one animal companion. But, this is not specified under familiars. Does this mean you can potentially have more than one? My son chose a gnome ancestry feat which granted him a familiar, and then later earned a vine leshy familiar from being a plant druid. Does this mean he gets both? I’ve yet to find a definitive answer, but if you’ve read an official answer somewhere, (or know the page its on that I’ve missed) let me know! I’d love to read the ruling. Another problem with familiars turned out to be damage. Although it mentions the attack rolls they can make, it doesn’t say how much damage one does if it tries to attack. This came up on one of our first combat rounds in our first playtest when my son sent his vine leshy to attack. He hit! And… we had no damage. Haha. I decided that it would do 1 damage unless I found an official ruling that says otherwise. Know of one? Let me know! We’d love to see it!

After this comes a very important chapter entitled ‘Playing the Game.’ Reading it is mandatory. Haha. It’s around 35 pages long and includes all the rules you need to play as a player, as well as the conditions found in the game. Important stuff.

After that is another very important chapter called ‘Game Mastering.’ This chapter includes everything you need to know to run the game as a GM (in addition to the content for players). This chapter is shorter — at only around twenty pages — but its also denser and more complicated. Admittedly, I had to go back and reread parts a few times, particularly regarding exploration mode, downtime mode, hazards, and DCs. I expect I’ll have to reference both this chapter and the ‘Playing the Game’ chapter plenty over the next year, as I get a handle on the rules. In my opinion, the game is easier to learn to play and GM that Pathfinder First Edition was, so I’m pleased, even if reading these chapters caused me a few headaches.

After this we come to (pretty much) the last chapter. Treasure. This is where you’ll find information on wealth, treasure distribution, special nonmagical gear, alchemical items, runes, trinkets, and magic items. There’s a lot of fun stuff in here that you’re going to love reading. I highly recommend discovering these on your own. I will say that I particularly enjoyed the addition of snares, and that I expect to make a character who utilizes them in the near future. I also really like the rune system for making magical weapons and armour. Its very similar to the fusion system in Starfinder.

Past this is the appendices and then the book is over.

That’s it, that’s all! But, that’s not all that I have to say. There are a few things I’d like to mention before wrapping up.

First: Hero Points. I loved them. Each character starts each session with one hero point, and can earn up to one extra each session as a player (for doing something awesome for the group like bringing snacks, tracking gear, or hosting the game) and one extra as a character (for doing something awesome in character like saving someone’s life, being generous, expert teamwork, or accomplishing an important task in game). These points can be used to save yourself from death, reroll a d20, or take an extra action. They’re useful, awesome, and add a great new element to the game. (My daughter’s determined to be the loot-tracker from now on in order to earn that extra point!).

Second: Dying. During our first play session, my husband’s character died. Quickly. All things considered, from the moment he fell unconscious at Dying 1, only a single full round occurred before he died. Two ill-aimed splash damage brought him to Dying 2, and then to Dying 3 with the second instance, and on his turn he failed his first and only fortitude save against death, which brought him to Dying 4: Dead. This was WAY too fast. Sure, he could’ve used Hero Points to save himself. If he had any. He had already fallen unconscious two other times that session, and had used up all his Hero Points. And he wasn’t the only one. My daughter also fell unconscious once during the session, and my son nearly did. Ouch! I found not only did we fall unconscious quite a bit, but we died too QUICK. For a lot of players, a dead character is an end to fun. Especially if your chances for recovery were so brief.

Third: Identifying Magical Items: After you realize something is magical (or alchemical), it takes an HOUR to identify the object. An HOUR. This means, that if you’re the kind of group who doesn’t rest unless its necessary, you can go an entire adventure without knowing what any of your treasure does. In fact, when we played Doomsday Dawn in my house, we went the entire first adventure without knowing what anything did. That means we didn’t get any use out of any treasure. At all. That’s absurd! Now, there are some ways for your characters to shorten this time to ten minutes (or evens shorter at higher levels), which is more manageable. Heck, I even understand the intent. If it takes more time and effort to identify magical objects, that makes them more special. They’ve got an air of mystery about them. That’s cool. But, if it takes so long to identify a healing potion, that without someone specialized in identifying magical or alchemical objects, the group can’t even figure out its a healing potion during their adventure, than what good is it? Now, I know plenty of players like to stop a LOT when they play. Maybe you’re even one of them. The group that gets loot or takes a few wounds and says, ‘We should head back and recover!’ or ‘We should go sell what we’ve found and come back!’ That’s fine. You won’t be hampered by this. But, I’m not that kind of player. Neither are my family or my friends. We very often take on entire missions until we HAVE to rest, due to our wounds. Or we HAVE to recover our spells. Or we’ve spent the whole day and our characters are actually sleepy. This is particularly true in Pathfinder Society missions, which very often occur in a single day on a timeline. This system strikes me as very problematic, unless you specifically ensure your groups always have a way to shorten it. But, why force a group to do so? That’s going to replace another skill or class feat they could have taken. It just… Reading the rules for identifying magical objects didn’t sit right with me. Then we made our characters, brought them to playtest, and it turned out to be both a problem and a handicap. An unfortunate occurrence which we’ve given feedback on.

Fourth: Resonance. This is your character’s natural ability to activate and utilize magical objects. You have a number of resonance equal to your level plus your Charisma modifier. You can invest resonance ahead of time in an object that grants a long-term effect, or spend resonance on the fly to activate a magical object upon use. It’s meant to help replace gear slots (head, hand, and so on). Kind of cool, right? Sure. Until you start counting it out. Want to wear a magical cloak? Cool, 1 point. Want to drink a potion? Cool one point! Wait! One point? What if you only start with one point? What if you’re dying and you have no points? A friend can’t even shove a potion in your mouth to save you?Sort of. When you’re out of points you can attempt to overspend resonance you don’t have in order to activate the magical object anyway. This is a flat check with a DC equal to 10 + the number of points you’ve overspent (including any times you’ve tried and failed). If you pass the magic works, and if you fail it doesn’t (and you can’t attempt to activate that item again until the next day). If you critically fail (roll a 1) you can’t attempt to invest any other magical items at all that day. Ouch! Resonance is of particular interest to alchemists, who need to infuse their alchemical items with resonance in order to craft them. Okay, I can see that, I guess. Particularly for potions and such. Luckily, alchemist’s get to base their resonance off of their Intelligence, instead of their Charisma. But why should the alchemist have to spend resonance to make an acid flask when a wizard can cast cantrip and deal comparable damage at will? Yeah, I get WHY. There’s plenty of justifications. It’s an item, they’re not spell casters, so on and such. But… I don’t know. Both resonance, and the alchemist’s reliance on it is one of those new rules that I read, and just didn’t sit right. So far in playtests around my house it’s been a bit of a problem. Our alchemist was out of resonance within the first fight and had to rely on overspending resonance the entire rest of the adventure. She didn’t critically fail, thank goodness, but if she had, her character would have been completely shut down. She literally would have had to punch people with her gauntlet (a bad idea with her low strength and poor AC) or throw a rock at them (another bad idea). And if a whole character can be shut down so easily (at low levels, at least), that’s probably a problem. Similarly, our dwarf started with no resonance at all. Feeding him a potion in order to save his life was a fifty-fifty chance the first time, with the odds getting worse from there. Considering how quickly he died when he fell unconscious, that’s brutal. Ugh. Now, that said, I haven’t play tested the game enough yet, to make a final decision on resonance. Maybe it’s better with other classes. Maybe it’s less trouble at higher levels. Maybe this is meant to show that magic items are rare and special, tying it into the length of time that it takes to identify them. Maybe we’re not meant to really use something like a healing potion at low level. Maybe other groups didn’t have trouble at all. But so far, it’s been trouble for our groups. I hope that’s not the case in the future. I’d be particularly interested to see how resonance has worked out for you. If you’ve got an experience to share let me know!

Fifth: Initiative. You don’t have one. Instead you initiative is based on your perception modifier. Occasionally, if your character is doing something specific, you can roll a different skill in its place. For example, if you’re swimming your GM might rule you can use Athletics as initiative this time, or stealth if you’re in hiding. And so on. I loved this.

Overall, I really enjoyed the Pathfinder Playtest so far. I like the changes they’ve made to the game system, character creation, and treasure. I like it a lot, actually. That said, I have some questions which need clarifying, and we did run into trouble. We felt it took too long to identify magical items. We felt resonance was too limiting — especially for alchemists. And we felt the that dying turned into dead way too fast. It’s a good game, and we’re going to play it a lot more over the next year so that we can turn our feedback in to Paizo and they can make this next edition the best that it can be.

At the moment, do I think it’s better than Pathfinder First Edition? …I don’t think I can answer that. It’s new, and going to take some getting used to. Meanwhile, I’ve been playing Pathfinder since before it was Pathfinder. It’s nostalgic and homey. You know? I think it would be unfair to compare the two in that manner until I completely get the hang of the new rules. That said, I can answer a similar question. When it comes down to it, I like Pathfinder better than Starfinder. But do I like Pathfinder Playtest better than Starfinder? …No. Not yet. Maybe one day. But, at the moment, the Drift’s got more sway over me.

Well, that’s all for today. I hope you enjoyed this short look at the Pathfinder Playtest, and my opinions on it. I’d really love to hear your opinions and experiences with the Playtest rules, so if you’ve given it a try be sure to leave a comment. If you haven’t downloaded the free PDFs for the Pathfinder Playtest I highly recommend you head on over to Paizo’s website and do so. It’s free! There’s not much you’ve got to lose. Haha. Those of you hoping to get physical copies can find them here: Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Deluxe Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Adventure: Doomsday Dawn, Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack.

Until next time,
Jessica

Playtest