Preparing for Adventure

For Valentine’s Day my seven-year old son received the D&D Starter Set. He was pretty proud of this turn of events, as it marked the very first d20 product he has ever personally owned. He has some hand-me-down books, of course. And he reads my books all the time, but this one? This one was HIS.

We opened it up and he ogled the beautiful blue dice it came with, ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the swirling colours. He owns a good deal of dice, but this set is one of his favourite. They look great, and they’re really easy to read. We pulled out the Starter Set Rulebook and the adventure it came with, flipping through both to look at the pictures. And then he got to the loose papers.

“What are these, Mom? Boss stats or something?”

I explained they were pre-generated characters.

“Why would I need those?”

“They’re for new players, dear. So you can just open the box, grab a character, and play.”

He looked at me like he’d been insulted. “I think I can handle making my own.”

I laughed. “You’ve never played D&D before.”

Another look like he’d been insulted. “I’ll learn.”

He settled into his bed and read through the little booklets and soon came to three realizations. First: Most of the information in the books was stuff he already knew. Second: There was no information on how to make his own characters. And third: I would DM for him. It was just more fun that way.

I pulled down our D&D Player’s Handbook and opened it up. We settled onto the couch together but, as my son soon pointed out, he could do it himself. Not long afterwards he announced. “I’m going to be an really old dragonborn rogue named Old Sorewing. His clan was destroyed, but he saved all the kids from the clan and brought them with him to Neverwinter. That’s the city that the adventure starts in, Mom. His old clan was called the Dogbone Fliers. But he made the dragonborn whelps his new clan. They are called the Fishgut Clan, cause they survive on fish they scavenge from the ocean. They live in the sewers, and abandoned buildings and stuff. And Old Sorewing robs and steals to support his whelps. He’s their leader, you know. But, one day he paid a guy named Gundren Rockseeker with fake coins — that’s the guy who hires us in the adventure by the way. And he got caught. And Gundren said that if Old Sorewing didn’t do a job for him he would send the cops after his whelps! And Old Sorewing doesn’t want that! His Clan is his flaw. So he is going to do a job for Gundren. Now find me a character sheet, Mom. And write all that down for me.”

“And here I thought you could do it yourself,” I replied.

MOM,” my son huffed. “Fine. Get me a pencil, too. And an eraser! I will need one of those.”

A few minutes later we were settled at the table, working on his character sheet. My son was surprised at how quick and easy making a character was. He’s used to playing Pathfinder, so in comparison making a D&D character is easy. Sure enough, he stuck with his plan. He made an old dragonborn with white scales who was graying in places. He has a white dragon as his draconic ancestry and can breathe out a cone of cold. He wears fake wings on his back, and a fake tail (to make him look like a real scary dragon!). He chose the criminal background, and took the gear packages that came with his class and background. Old Sorewing is incredibly smart, charismatic, and dextrous, with Strength and Constitution both tied for his lowest stats. He’s trained in Deception, Intimidation, Perception, Persuasion, Sleight of Hand, and Stealth. He fights with a rapier and a shortbow. My son filled in his sheet, draw a picture of his character, and explained his background, flaws, and traits again, so I could write it all down for him.

“Is that it?” he asked.

“Yup, that’s all.”

“That was easy. I like that. But I also kind of don’t. There weren’t many… choices. To make me different from other rogues.”

“Dear, I promise you, Old Sorewing is very different from other rogues. He’s going to be great.”

“Yeah, but only cause of his story and stuff. Don’t I get a feat at least?”

“Nope. No feats. Although you can choose to take one at higher levels instead of increasing an ability score, if you want. You don’t need to worry about that now, though. In a few levels you’ll get to make some more choices for your rogue. That’ll make you feel more unique.”

“Well, alright…” he said, still uneasy with how easy it had been.

“You do have one more job, though, dear,” I pointed out. “Convince your father and sister to make their own characters.”

My son grinned and was off. Convincing my daughter to make a new character is the easiest thing in the world.

“Hey, come make a — ” my son started. But before he had even finished his sentence my daughter cut him off.

She raced to the table shouting, “I heard! I want to make a goblin named Zig who is a bard and wants to help people! I’ll shout, ‘ZIG HELP!’ all the time!” She laughed and leaned over to whisper to me. “I got that idea from the character Zig from that Pathfinder Society Scenario we are playing, Mom. Zig is the BEST!” (Zig is from PFS #10-06: Treason’s Chains)

I laughed and whispered. “I know. We’re all playing it together, remember? But goblins aren’t a playable race in D&D.”

“Well, fine. I’ll be a gnome then. Now get the dice!”

My daughter had a ton of fun making her new character. In the end she decided to make a Forest Gnome Bard Entertainer. Charisma was her best stat, with Dexterity, Constitution, and Intelligence all a close second. Her Wisdom was low, and her Strength was even worse. She chose to be proficient in the mandolin, harmonica, piano, and flute. For skills she chose Animal Handling (of course!), Acrobatics, Performance, Nature, and Survival. For cantrips she selected dancing lights and message (along with minor illusion, which she gets for being a forest gnome). Her first level spells were animal friendship, feather fall, healing word, and speak with animals. She loves the idea of the ritual spells! From there she started filling out her background. She decided that Zig was trained by the fey as a bard and is the youngest bard in gnomish history. She has a pet rabbit named Ziggy, that she loves very much. In fact, the rabbit is the only family she has. What happened to the rest? Tragedy, of course! One day when she was very young, Zig’s grandfather was attacked by a werewolf and barely escaped with his life! Unfortunately, he became a werewolf the next full moon and ate everyone in her whole family! Zig only escaped with the help of her fairy friends! To this day, Zig is terrified of lycanthropes of all kinds (a trait she shares with my daughter).

“But, all that sad stuff is a secret, Mom!” my daughter explained, “Because she doesn’t want to talk about it!”

Fair.

With a bit more work, my daughter decided that Zig loved animals more than anything. She sings songs about animals, in the hopes she can make her audience love them as much as she does. She also sings to animals, which is one of her favourite things to do. If an animal is in danger, Zig will selflessly hurl herself in the way (“Zig save!”) and if she finds out an animal is abused she’ll sneak back later to free it (“Zig free!”). And, of course, Zig loves to help. In fact, she even tries to help when she’s horrible at it. (“Zig help!”).

“I am SO EXCITED!” my daughter shrieked as we finished up her character.

“Me too,” I replied. “She’s going to be a lot of fun.”

My husband was next. He whipped up a half-elf paladin of Kord named Argo Grey. Raised by the priests at the church of Kord in Neverwinter, Argo had a thorough education, but always had a hard time focusing. He was constantly daydreaming of adventure and glory. Although pious, Argo wasn’t meant for book learning. He was meant for sports! He became a competitive athlete, but to this day he needs to stop and reference his holy book whenever he’s asked to recite a prayer or perform a ceremony. As the only half-elf in the church, Argo covered his ears with a bandana, to hide his heritage as a way to better fit in with his peers. It became habit, and he still passes himself off as a human whenever possible. Tying his character into the upcoming adventure, he decided that Argo was once mentored by Sildar Hallwinter, a man who was acting as a guard for Gundren.

Strength, Constitution, and Charisma are all Argo’s highest ability scores, with Dexterity a distant second, average Wisdom, and poor Intelligence. He fights with a longsword and javelins, and wears sturdy chain mail and a shield. He chose the acolyte background, and ended up proficient in Athletics, Insight, Medicine, Perception, Persuasion, and Religion. Like my son, my husband was a little disheartened at the lack of extra options at level one. Although he likes the simplicity and ease with which you can create characters, he also likes making decisions. There wasn’t all that much to fiddle with at level one. Still, he was excited to give Argo a whirl, and looks forward to selecting a fighting style and sacred oath at later levels.

Which left me. Shockingly we had no major arcane caster, which is a role I never get to fill at home, so I decided immediately to take the opportunity to make one. I was going to make a sorceress, but frankly, as a fan of the many different bloodlines available in Pathfinder, having only two options for sorcerer bloodlines wasn’t cutting it for me. Wizards are always fun, but I decided to make a Warlock. It’s not something I’ve made before and I enjoy playing a creepy weirdo now and then. And her race? Dwarf, obviously! It’s one of my favourite races.

I created a hill dwarf named Eldeth, who was once a soldier in the dwarven infantry. She was tasked with escorting a eccentric sage to an old ruin underground. While there she discovered a beautiful green orb, which she felt compelled to claim for her own. Unfortunately, her unit was attacked by duergar and taken captive. While imprisoned, Eldeth had strange visions. Her fellows believed she was going mad. In her dreams the orb was speaking to her, and in one particularly lucid fever dream she accepted its aid. Only it wasn’t a dream. Eldeth had been bound to the orb and it’s fiendish master. In exchange she was granted the power to escape. She returned to her people much changed. She was deathly pale, with dark black veins around her eyes, inner arms, and over her heart. Her irises had turned black, as had her once vibrant hair. They called her Eldeth Darkvein, sole survivor of the Stonton Massacre, and though they were happy she returned home, she made them uneasy. She couldn’t spar with her fellow soldiers — she was too violent. And when she bled her blood came out a thick black ooze. It wasn’t long before she was ‘honourably’ discharged, and went on ‘vacation’ to the surface. Her clan was relieved, but Eldeth had lost her purpose. All she had left was the orb, and her fiendish master, which whispered dark thoughts to her. She hated and loved it, which terrified her. Recently a dwarf she used to know, Gundren Rockseeker, offered her some simple guard work, escorting a caravan from Neverwinter to the tiny town of Phandalin, which she accepted. Few folks would give her work these days, and she needed the coin.

Constitution is Eldeth’s highest ability score, with Strength and Charisma a close second. Her Dexterity is fair, her Intelligence is average, but she’s weak-willed, with a poor Wisdom score. She’s a warlock with a fiendish patron, and the Soldier background. She gained proficiency with Arcana, Athletics, Intimidation, and Investigation, and chose to fight armoured and with her trusty battleaxe. For cantrips she selected eldritch blast (of course!) and prestidigitation. For first level spells she chose hellish rebuke and comprehend languages. Eldeth is power hungry, dour, and intimidating. Traumatized by her time as a prisoner of the duergar, Eldeth is paranoid everyone is out to get her, and terrified of being imprisoned or enslaved. She hopes to one day discover the identity of the demon she accidentally bound herself to, but hasn’t had any luck yet. When she thinks no one is looking she talks to her orb, holding it close and whispering gently.

With all our characters ready to go we sifted through our minis and each picked one out. We were ready to begin the adventure from the D&D Starter Set: Lost Mine of Phandalin. Or rather, everyone was ready but me. I still had to read the adventure.

Thanks for joining us today! Tune in later this week for a review on the contents of the D&D Starter Set, and a campaign update on our first session playing Lost Mine of Phandelver!

Jessica

 

Sunburst Games

Earlier this week I mentioned that I was working on a special project with my brother called Realms of Atrothia by Sunburst Games. Today, I’m thrilled to bring you more information!

Sunburst-Games-LogoSunburst Games is an independent Tabletop RPG company focused on Pathfinder Compatible content for the next generation. It’s founder is a bold, enthusiastic guy near and dear to my heart: my brother, Kris Leonard. In addition to independent work, Kris is a Freelance Author who has written two Pathfinder Society Scenarios: #6-13: Of Kirin and Kraken, and #9-10: Signs in Senghor, and has contributed to the newly released Pathfinder Campaign Setting: Construct Handbook. He’s a bombastic GM, a rules guru, and a creator of exciting content and original adventures. Sunburst Games is proud to have him as our Founder and Lead Developer!

OUR STORY

Sunburst Games began with a simple vision: Continue a legacy. For over 35 years, Tabletop RPGs have inspired us to be something more than ourselves, to be heroes, villains, and sometimes even a little bit of both. They have forged friendships, made unforgettable memories, and even allowed the most timid among us to feel the freedom of being an outspoken, confident bard, or an unrelenting barbarian. Sunburst Games is proud to continue on this legacy, inspiring a whole new generation with limitless imagination.

OUR VISION

Sunburst Games was established to ensure the legacy of d20 compatible RPGs, such as the 1st edition of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game can continue on for years to come. We aim to create original, exciting, and inspired products of only the highest quality, with stunning artwork, well-balanced character options, and unforgettable stories. Our first product, Realms of Atrothia: Legacy Races Revisited, will be available as a digital (.pdf) download! After this we’ll be releasing  Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion which will be both a digital (.pdf) and a hard cover release. (Kickstarter on NOW!) With a successful launch, Sunburst Games will also release additional products to the line, including Realms of Atrothia: Bestiary, Realms of Atrothia: NPC Codex, and the first official full length Realms of Atrothia Campaign: Legacies of Corberus, an original adventure taking Players from 1st to 25th level!

OUR TEAM

Sunburst Games is more than a person. It’s a team. So when Kris wanted someone to help breathe life into his creations, and to enrich his world, he called me. And who am I? Well, we’ve talked about that before. Perhaps, ‘why would he call me’ is a better question.  Short answer: he’s seen my work. I agreed to do some freelance work for Sunburst Games without hesitation, because I knew it would be something special. Something great. Something I’d be proud to be a part of.

And I am.

But that’s not all! We’ve teamed up with the amazing artist Rigrena, to bring the Realms of Atrothia to life!

Rigrena’s interest for games began when she made her first D&D character at the age of 10, which affected her artistic journey and inspired her to become a digital artist and an illustrator. Following her passions for gaming and art, she has been working in the gaming industry as a concept and 2D artist for almost 6 years. Thanks to her vibrant personality she brings a unique flair to the art she creates. Her work is absolutely gorgeous. You can follow Rigrena on Art Station, DeviantArt, and Twitter.

As for Sunburst Games? Check us out at sunburstgames.com or support us on Patreon!

Be sure to join us later this week when I share details on Sunburst Games current projects: Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion, and Realms of Atrothia: Legacy Races Revisited.

See you then!

Jessica


UPDATE: Realms of Atrothia: Legacy Races Revisited is now available!! You can pick it up from these fine sources:

Help Realms of Atrothia: Primary Expansion a reality by supporting their Kickstarter!


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Enjoy this sneak peek of some of the amazing art featured in Realms of Atrothia by the wonderful artist Rigrena!

 

Holiday Wish List!

The holidays are on their way! For many of us that means its time to buy the people around you gifts. But, what do you buy for those d20 gamers on your list? Well, read on! We’re sharing our top picks for gift giving!

First off: books! More specifically: new books that those gamers in your life probably don’t have yet. Our favourites?

Next up? Minis! Perfect for your favourite GM!

Also a perfect gift for the GMs in your life? Maps.

Finally? Accessories! Here’s our favourite awesome d20 related products!

But wait! Got young ones? So do I! Here’s my favourite d20 products to pick up for your kids!

We hope you enjoyed our top picks for holiday gift giving!

All the best, everyone!

Jessica

 

Snow, Colds, and Falling Behind

Do you ever have those weeks when you feel totally and completely busy, but by the time the week’s over and someone asks you what you’ve done you realize there’s nothing much to say?

That’s me this week. Heck, that’s me this month. The past two months, even.

I’m constantly busy with… nothing. Stuff. Just everyday life. It’s normal for most people, I suppose. And totally fine. Just hectic! (Yes, it deserved that exclamation point!).

Winter’s here to stay. It’s cold, but not really cold. There’s snow, but it’s not really snowy. It’s a strange sort of in between. It’s cold enough that everyone in my house needs to wear full winter gear, but it’s also much warmer than it should be. We’ll get way colder yet this winter. We’ve got a bit of snow, but not a enough to make snowmen or go tobogganing (that’s sledding to those of you outside Canada).

With the cold came colds. My son’s been slowly fighting off a sickness for over two weeks. He finally took a sick day for it, and went back to school just the other day. And of course he came home sick again already. Poor thing. My daughter’s getting sick now, too. Not surprising, of course. But, unfortunate. Luckily it’s not a horrible cold. They’re not nauseous or anything. It’s just one of those lingering ones where you just have a sore throat, cough, sniffly nose, and a some mild fatigue. THAT. That’s what they’re trying to power through. For weeks.

My kids are getting excited for Christmas. They’re practising a ton of songs for their Winter Concert at school, which means I get to hear them sing and dance each day. My daughter’s particularly excited. She loves to sing. They’ve also made their wish lists, and decided who they’re going to ask for what gifts. Top of their list? A bunk bed and a Nintendo Switch. Also, my son wants to raise two hundred dollars to donate to help save the Piping Plovers (adorable little shore birds) of the Great Lakes. I’ve told him he needs to set his goals a little lower there, but he’s a dreamer. My little environmentalist. I guess I need to ask for a winning lottery ticket for Christmas. Haha.

We’ve got swimming lessons once a week to squish in amongst chores and trips to the laundromat. My kids adore swimming, but they’re about as graceful as a moose. They get the job done, but it does not look pretty. Haha. My daughter’s particularly adorable to watch. Even when she sinks and is clearly the worst swimmer in her class she’s got this humungous grin on her face. She’s just so damned happy to be there. She’s got such a great attitude.

In other news, I’m about to have two fewer kids on my hands. My sister-in-law is off on a trip with her sister to Egypt — she’s obsessed with Egyptology — which means my brother took some time off to spend with his kids and I find myself without them for two weeks. What the heck am I going to do with myself when my own kids are at school? I’ll be ALONE. That’s like… unheard of! It’s also awesome! I’m so behind on everything it’s my well-deserved chance to catch up. I’ve got chores to do, errands to run, a blog *cough cough* to pay some much deserved attention to, the rules to Traveller to learn, hundreds of surveys sitting in my inbox, and campaigns to prep and GM. Perhaps most importantly I have a ton of work to do on a special project I’m working on with my brother.

Special project? How intriguing!

Yes! It is!

It’s called Realms of Atrothia, and you can expect to hear more about that in the very near future!

In similar (but not quite related news), the call for Wayfinder Issue #19 submissions ended on Halloween, and both myself and my children submitted articles for consideration. Wayfinder is a free fanzine you can download on Paizo’s website. Issue #19 is going to be a Starfinder issue that focuses on Absalom Station! My kids each put together an Alien Archive entry, while I wrote a ‘Weal or Woe’ article, and two new Themes. Although I’m nervous, my kids are literally bouncing with excitement. They can’t wait to hear if their submissions will be accepted. Unfortunately, they have a bit longer to wait. Authors won’t be informed until early December if their creations will be used. Yes, that’s at least two more weeks of hearing “Mom, do we know yet?”, “Mom, how much longer do I have to wait?”, “Mom, how much longer NOW?”, and “What’s taking so long?”

Man, I hope they both get in. I can imagine the tears if only one of their articles gets accepted. I’m sure if their articles get accepted and mine don’t I’ll never hear the end of it. Haha. That’s alright. I’m sure my pride in them would far surpass my personal disappointment. I hope.

Wish us luck! (And best of luck to any of you who submitted an article to Wayfinder!)

On the Pathfinder Playtest front I have to admit, I am playtested out! Thankfully no more rules updates are coming. But, I honestly just want to go back to the warm comfort of regular Pathfinder for a while. Preferably a long while. Unfortunately, that’s not in the cards, as I’m still involved in a play by post run of Doomsday Dawn and another of the Pathfinder Society Playtest Scenarios. Oh, well. C’est la vie! I’ll enjoy the experience while I still can.

You know what I AM enjoying? Starfinder Wednesdays on Paizo’s Twitch Channel! If you’re not watching them you really should!

All the best everyone!

Jessica

LEGO my Starship!

Well, it took about a week, but Paizo’s website is finally up and running properly. Oh. Actually, it’s down again. Haha. Well, it was up for a day, at least. (You can do it, Paizo!).

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Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Coloring Book, with art by Todd James.

It was strange, having my play-by-posts out of reach for so long. But, I got plenty of others things done. I got by house in order, helped my Mom move, and got my kids prepared for the new school year (which starts in another week and a half). I saw my youngest brother for his birthday. He asked for books and some socks, so I picked him up Naruto socks, Akasuki socks, and two books I thought he’d like: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (which is also an awesome movie, by the way), and the first three books in The Legend of Drizzt series (Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn) by R. A. Salvatore. Drizzt’s origins are actually my favourite books he’s in, and my brother’s never read them. (Blasphemy! Haha). I think he’ll really like them. While we were shopping I found an awesome Dungeons & Dragons Adventures Coloring Book which I was super tempted to pick up for my kids (but didn’t). Maybe I’ll buy it for one of them for Christmas in a few months. Haha.

My daughter and I finished creating our newest Pathfinder Society characters, Croak and Sereia, whom we won race boons for, and my husband and son are about halfway done theirs. My daughter completed creating her second character for the Pathfinder Playtest adventure Doomsday Dawn, and I’ve just started mine. I got a lot of reading done, and have a few extra blog posts underway already. Be on the lookout for posts about Starfinder: Pact Worlds (I know, I’m slow, haha) and Pathfinder Player Companion: Blood of the Sea in the coming days.

I never have time for video games anymore, but with my play-by-posts down my kids and I started playing one of my very favourite video games of all time: Chrono Cross for the PlayStation. I was a kid when I played it the first time, and it literally blew my mind. Twist after twist I was just… Stunned. It’s got time travel, alternate dimensions, death, life, fate, a ton of NPCs you can get to join your party (many of which you meet well before you can convince them to join you), and (perhaps the coolest part) halfway through the game, after rallying friends and allies to help you defeat the villain, you have an epic confrontation which culminates with the villain using a magical ritual to swap your minds around. Your mind goes into his body and his goes into yours. All of a sudden those friends and allies are hanging around with the villain, trying to fight you. And you? Well, at least you don’t have to worry about fighting all those minions of the villain anymore. Cause they’re yours now. Sort of. Haha. So, if all your good friends are doing the work of the bad guy now, and they think they’re still doing good, but you and the other villains are working to stop them, are they still good guys? As a kid, I was amazed. Haha. Anyway, I started the game, which made my kids want to try, so we each started our own file. They’ve already reached the first big twist in the game, and were so shocked. They concocted a whole lot of crazy theories in an effort to figure out what’s going on. It’s adorable to watch. It’s been fun. I definitely owe fellow play-by-poster PaleDim a shout out for getting the music from Chrono Cross stuck in my head the other day. (Thanks!)

My husband and kids have been watching Voltron since it launched on Netflix quite a while ago, so they took the opportunity to delve into the newest season. One of the episodes was absolutely hilarious. The characters play a mock version of Dungeons and Dragons called ‘Monsters and Mana’ which is just a blast. I particularly like the GMs in campaign twists, and that one of the characters just kept playing a paladin no matter how many times he died. The other characters kept pointing out that he was a paladin in real life, so maybe he should try something else, but he thought that was absurd. There’s nothing better than a paladin, after all! My kids, my husband and I were laughing so hard. If you ever get a chance to watch Voltron Season 6: Episode 3: Monsters and Mana you should definitely take it! (It’s from the remake on Netflix, in case that needed clarifying, not the original show from when my husband was a kid, haha.)

Recently my husband suggested we build our own starships out of LEGO for use in Starfinder starship battles , which we all thought was an awesome idea. I’ve always loved playing with LEGO, but I wouldn’t say I’m great at it. I’m more of a ‘follow the directions’ or ‘build a square house’ kind of girl. But, I took to the challenge with aplomb! Turns out I did a pretty good job! My kids made some really nice ones. But, my husband turned out to be the LEGO Master of the house. Most of our ships came out way too big, but we had a lot of fun.

Well, it’s time for me to sign off now. I’m at the local laundromat and my laundry’s almost done. I’ll leave you with some pictures of our wonderful LEGO starships!

Until next time!

Jessica

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Ch-ch-ch-CHANGES! (August News)

Well, it’s official! Season Nine: Year of Factions’ Favour has come to an end, and the Pathfinder Society has launched Season 10: Year of the Ten. Faction Cards have been updated, and the newest edition of the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide has been released. If you don’t have the newly updated versions of these documents then I highly recommend you head on over to Paizo’s website and give them a download. They’re free.

In other news, Gameday VII is underway. This means that my family is enjoying the chance to play in a bunch of new Pathfinder Society Scenarios online via play-by-post. There is a HUGE number of games scheduled to start now. That includes playing in the Pathfinder Society, Pathfinder Society Core, Pathfinder Society Adventure Card Game, Pathfinder Society Playtest and the Starfinder Society! In addition, they’re running the Pathfinder Society Scenario #8-99: Solstice Scar Special and Starfinder Society: #1-99: Scoured Stars Invasion Special as we speak. More games are slated to start in October. That’s also when Pathfinder Society Scenario #9-00: Assault on Absalom Special will run. Although it’s likely too late to join any of August’s games, there’s still plenty of time to sign up for October’s. That said, many games are full already, so I wouldn’t dawdle much longer if you want to get into a game! Haha.

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First Seeker Jadnura. Art by Graey Erb for Starfinder.

For those of you who don’t know, the Scoured Stars Invasion special also brought with it the introduction of a new faction: Second Seekers (Jadnura). Who the heck is Jadnura? Jadnura is the First Seeker who led the Starfinders into the Scoured Stars system. That’s right. He’s the kasatha who got everyone stuck and lost in an event now known as the Scoured Stars Incident. So why would you still follow this guy when Luwazi Elsebo is the current First Seeker? For starters, it lets you make a character who was a loyal Starfinder before the advent of the Scoured Stars Incident. You can be the guy left behind, whose still loyal to a leader no longer present. Second? Well, the special is called the Scoured Stars Invasion, and it’s main purpose is to enter the Scoured Stars System and rescue as many lost agents as you can. I suppose some might call that a spoiler, but honestly, it’s obviously the point of the scenario right from the first few sentences of playing. Why else go there? Want more details? I can’t give them to you! Haha. I’m currently playing this scenario for Gameday VII and don’t know how it ends. If you want more information (and some spoilers) feel free to check out Paizo’s blog post on First Seeker Jadnura here.

GrandLodgeSymbol
The Sigil of the Open Road, logo of the Pathfinder Society.

So what the heck is Season Ten: Year of the Ten all about, anyway? Judging by the title, something to do with the Decemvirate. But what? It’s been hinted that it has something to do with the infamous Grandmaster Torch, and that some of the Decemvirate might find their anonymity threatened and their mysteries unveiled. Interestingly, most of the missions this season will revolve around the Hao Jin Tapestry. For those of you who don’t know, the Hao Jin Tapestry is a literal tapestry that leads to a demiplane which contains mysteries, relics, ruins and other places collected by the wizard Hao Jin. This object was acquired by the Pathfinder Society way back in Season Three and has been a source of tons of adventures. It’s also been harnessed by the Pathfinders in order to allow their agents to travel the world quickly and efficiently. This season the Hao Jin Tapestry is beginning to unravel and, if we can’t fix it, it’ll dump everything inside it into the Astral Plane. An unfortunate event for not only the Pathfinder Society, but also all the people and creatures who still live inside the demiplane itself. Unfortunately, you can bet that fixing it won’t be as easy as just casting mending. I’m sure there’s plenty of adventure involved! There’s a few other things that have been revealed to be a part of this season. There’s plenty of relics related to the lich Tar Baphon that will be surfacing. There’s also a demon who wants to utilize the Worldwound’s collapse to launch his apotheosis into full demon lord. Pretty nifty! I think I’m most excited for the missions involving Grandmaster Torch, but hey, I’m biased! I’m also excited to learn more about Tar Baphon. I love a good (BAD) lich!

Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook
Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook

There’s a few more exciting things going on around my house right now. My daughter’s begun work on creating her second Pathfinder Playtest character so that we can continue with our Doomsday Dawn Playtest. She’s decided to make a gnome fighter who wields an absurdly large sword. She’s very excited to be the melee character for a change.

My family and I entered a contest a week or so ago. Hosted by the overly generous Hmm on Paizo’s message boards, she was going to give away all the boons necessary to create a mermaid in PFS play. There were a few ways to enter — for yourself with a mermaid character concept, for a group of friends with a team created from the other boons she was giving away, or by nominating someone else who you thought deserved to win. Now, when we play in the Pathfinder Society, the question my kids ask me most often is:

“Mom, why can’t I be any race I want?”

Unfortunately, at the ages of six and seven, the idea of holding out for race boons is absurd. Haha. The follow up question I most often get after any explanation I can concoct is:

“Yeah. But WHY?”

So, as soon as I read the contest I told my family about it. My kids were jumping up and down in joy. They spend that night brainstorming, and spent the next day planning their characters while I madly tried to keep up with them. And then we got to the end. They were ready! Sort of. For bonus points you could also write a song.

….yup. A song.

Not my forte. My son wanted to add jokes into the song, and my daughter wanted it to have a lot of animal sounds (since we were nearly all animal people of one kind or another).

It was… hard. Haha.

But, in the end we handed in our entry with pride. So what was it?

My family and I wanted to make a quartet of characters who are (and were) universally considered outcasts among their people and Golarion at large. They’re weird, and different. But what’s strange for one culture isn’t strange for others, and it’s those very oddities that the others embraced and connected with. After all, who cares if the vanara has unnaturally large eyes, if he’s hanging out with a grippli? These guys are friends, companions, and (in many ways) family. They don’t have the same interests, and they don’t always get along. But, hey? What family does?

My daughter made an energetic poisonous grippli, my son made an eco-conscious vanara with a stumpy tail who has hair growth issues, my husband made a ratfolk who chews on everything (including magical objects), and I made an overly adventurous aquatic elf whose curiosity got her abandoned on the surface. Together, these quirky characters would do… stuff!

Just the other day the winners were announced. There were a ton of great ones. And some of the songs were awesome! Hmm ended up giving out boons to winners of each category, which is incredibly generous! We won in the ‘buddies’ category, and my kids have been hard at work ever since, plotting out their character mechanics. We were lucky enough that a fellow play-by-poster offered to run us through our group’s first PFS scenario together, so once everyone is ready and formatted for online play we’ll be starting Heroes for Highdelve! My daughter got to work first and is almost done. She’s thrilled!

We’ll post more about these lovable weirdos once they’re ready for a game. One thing’s for certain: they’re going to be the most eccentric group of characters we’ve ever made! (And that’s saying something…)

Now it’s time to say goodbye,

Or, more accurately: ‘Now it’s time to get to work on my next article.’

Season 10, here we come!

Jessica

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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