Tuesday, February 2, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 28: Pathfinder (2nd Ed)

 New Year, New Character 

 Day 28 

 Pathfinder (2nd Edition) 

Pathfinder (2nd Ed) is the latest version of not only the best selling Pathfinder RPG, but the now venerable D20 system. Pathfinder has an interesting history, being an almost rebellious response to the then upcoming 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It was extremely successful, particularly for a roleplaying not put out by Wizards of the Coast. But what really attracted me to the game were the top notch modules and adventures. Especially their Adventure Paths.

The desire for "pre-written campaigns" has been around for a while, but few companies have ever done them justice. Sure, there were plenty of antecedents for what Paizo did with Pathfinder--Call of Cthulhu had such epics as Masks of Nyarlathotep and Beyond the Mountains of Madness. Even Dungeons & Dragons had boxed sets like Night Below, but few companies put out the sheer volume that Paizo did for Pathfinder, or provide anything resembling the quality and support they offered. 

Of course, I've only played a few of these, with most of my Pathfinder games being strictly "homebrew." And that was fine, as the D20 system, for all its flaws, was still a solid system for running a variety of game types. But, over the years, the game had dozens of supplements, new classes, new prestige classes, and all the other stuff that clogged up the game, and it was time for a break. 

The second edition is supposed to be a faster, cleaner experience, while still keeping the options that the players have grown used to. To this day, I haven't had a chance to actually play the 2nd Ed, and a lot of my assumptions are based on my experiences with the 1st. So, this will be another "learning the system" post.


Perhaps unsurprising, Pathfinder (2nd) shares more than a little with Starfinder, another Paizo game that is based on a refinement of Pathfinder (1st). Based on a brief overview, it appears to be entirely decision based, guiding the player through a series of steps to create their characters. Characters have the classic six Abilities, with the key part of them being the Modifier they provide. This Modifier is added to other parts of the character--Skills, Base Attach Bonus (combat skill), Saving Throws, etc.--to give a final value for these traits. These are then added to a D20 roll against various Difficulties to resolve most actions. 

In addition to their base Abilities, characters are also defined by their Ancestry and Class, each giving various modifiers and special abilities.  

Step 1--Concept

As a decision driven Character Creation game, Concept is key to creating a Pathfinder character. As such, I turn to the Universal NPC Emulator to give me a rough idea of what character I'm going to try and make. 

Inquisitive Herald who wants to Shepherd the Populace

Sounds like a Bard to me! He's probably good aligned, and focused on uncovering mysteries and helping to solve internal problems for folks. So, "adventures" focused around him would be more like hunting down killers or uncovering conspiracies.  Since I went Halfling with my AD&D, I decide to go Gnome for this one. I toss a coin and decide that this character will be male. Flipping forward, I see that there are various Heritages a gnome can choose from. I decide on a whim to go with Fey-touched, which will give him a cantrip he can cast at will.  There's also various deities I can choose from, but I skip this part for now. For his name, I pick one off of the provided "Sample Name List" and go with Trig.

Step 2--Abilities

Pathfinder has six Abilities--Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. These are rated on a scale of 3-18, and begin with a value of 10. 

Step 3--Ancestry

I think I misunderstood, as I already picked an Ancestry in Step 1. Regardless, this is where I apply its modifiers. Being a Gnome will determine Trigs Size (Small), Speed (25 Feet), Languages (Common, Gnomish, & Sylvan) and base Hit Points (8). It will also grant Ability boosts and penalties, plus other tweaks.  

Gnomes get Ability boost to Constitution, Charisma, and one Free. They have a penalty to Strength.  Each boost adds 2 to the Ability, while the penalty reduces it by 2. I decide to increase his Intelligence with his Free boost. 

Gnomes also start with Low-Light Vision. As a Fey-Touched Gnome, I can pick one cantrip from the "primal spell list." I decide to go with Prestidigitation, which allows Trig to do a variety of minor magical tricks. 

Finally, I need to pick an Ancestry Feat. I go ahead and  get Fey-Fellowship, which gives Trig a +2 to Perception checks and Saving Throws against the Fey. 

Step 4--Background

Background is what your character did before becoming an adventurer. It provides two Ability boosts, as well as training in two skills and a feat. 

I decide to go with Detective. This gives him a +2 to either Wisdom or Intelligence, and I choose Wisdom. Backgrounds also give a free Ability boost, which I put into Charisma. As a Detective, Trig also gets the Society Skill, the Underworld Lore Skill, and the Streetwise Feat. 

Step 5--Class

As I decided earlier, Trig will be a Bard. All I need to note now is that Charisma is his key Ability, giving him an additional +2. 

Step 6--Determine Ability Scores

I now have 4 more Ability boosts to round out Trig. His 16 Charisma is good for a Bard, but could be better. But, he's less a Bard than a Detective, so I decide to spend these points in his Intelligence and Wisdom, bringing both to 14. 

Step 7--Record Class Details

Now I go back to Bard section and work all the details that come with it. As a Bard, trig gets 8 additional hit points, which are added to his Ancestry, for a total of 16. He also starts with initial Proficiencies as either an Expert (+5) or Trained (+3). Trig is an Expert in Perception and Will Saving Throws, and Trained in Fortitude and Reflex. He is also Trained in Perform and Occultism, and is Trained is additional Skills equal to 4 + his Intelligence Modifier, or 6. I pick Deception, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Medicine, Stealth, and Religion. I also start with 5 cantrips and 2 1st level Occult Spells. I already have Prestidigitation from my Ancestry, so I pick Daze, Detect Magic, Light, Read Aura, and Tanglefoot for his Cantrips, and Charm and Color Spray for his 1st. 

I finally pick Enigma as Trig's muse, giving him the spell True Strike and the Bardic Lore feat. 

Step 8--Equipment

First level characters begin with 15 gold pieces to buy their gear. Rather than picking each piece, I go with the premade "Bard" kit, which gives me studded leather armor, a dagger, rapier, sling with 20 bullets, adventurer's pack, bandolier, instrument (harp), and a sheath. This leaves Trig with 8 gold pieces and 2 silver pieces. 

Step 9--Calculate Modifiers

This is where you calculate all your various Modifiers to Saving Throws and Skills and the like. I was actually doing this throughout creation.

Step 10--Finishing Details

I need to pick some details for Trig, like his Alignment. I go Lawful Good. I decide to go with Irori for his deity, based on his Muse. I set his age to 25 and need to pick his Gender and Pronouns--he/him. He also starts with 1 Her Point.

Final Thoughts

I feel like I might owe Traveler: The New Era an apology. This was probably the most confusing and annoying character creation I've done so far. I might just be because I've been so trained in earlier editions of D20, but making Trig was a constant exercise in futility. Worse, I know I made bad decisions.

When I write the posts for this series, I'm writing as I do it. So, for example, if I say "I picked up a d10 and get a" I am literally writing that down and stop on "a." I then pick up a d10, roll it, and note its result. Only after I have written the result do I go and look up on the chart what that means. I do this partly to help understand what I'm doing and why, but also to keep me "honest." I didn't roll the 5 because I wanted that result, I rolled the 5 because I rolled a 5. 

So, with Trig, I picked things that seemed appropriate or sounded cool, but were "wrong." For example, his Fey-Touched Ancestry gives him Prestidigitation, which he could have gotten just for being a Bard. Useful for a Rogue or a Ranger or the like, but pointless for his Class. Similarly, going with the Detective Background gave him the Streetwise feat. This allows him to use Society in place of Diplomacy for certain checks, but I was going to want to have Diplomacy anyway, so this is of little use to Trig. If I was making Trig for a proper game, I would have made significant changes. But I kept him "as is" for learning purposes. 

Perhaps Pathfinder assumes the players have completed a solid reading of the text prior to starting Character Creation, and a certain degree of System Mastery is expected. Other games take this view, such as Mutants & Masterminds or GURPS. But even those you can start fairly cold and end up with a....tolerable character. Pathfinder seems to have a number of traps for the unwary player. Which, to be fair, is also part of the legacy of D20. 

Here's the final sheet: 

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