New Editions and the Inevitable Questions that Follow
I’ve been intending to come back here and start up on a new series of Torg Eternity posts, but naturally, things have gotten directly in my way. And while I have all manner of things to discuss with that game, especially now that I have my Cargo Box in hand.
Sadly, there’s been a recent bit of news that has started hitting the feeds, and I felt enough inspiration to sit down and talk about it.
On March 6th, Paizo announced that they would be ending the Pathfinder line within the next two years, replacing it with a new edition that will supersede it. This will be a wholly new ruleset, specifically not backwards compatible*, and there are no plans to continue support for the extant Pathfinder rules.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Wizards of the Coast undertook a similar move when they decided to scuttle Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition / 3.5 for the sake of of the newly hyped 4th Edition D&D, and it was the sudden announcement – coupled with the licensing nonsense that required third party publishers to pay out beforehand to be able to adequately support the new edition – that caused Paizo to break away from their position as a dedicated licensee of WotC and become the de facto preservationists of the 3rd Edition rules canon.
It goes without saying that this was a gamble that has paid off for them.
A cursory examination of the proposed rules changes confirms some of the whispers that have been circulating since the debut of the new Starfinder core book** that the new game was to serve as a test bed for new revisions. What stands out to me is that the base structure of time has been seriously monkeyed with, from distinctions on whether a given situation falls within an Encounter, Exploration or Downtime. (Without going too deeply into this, it can be broken into Combat, Non-Combat, and Between Adventures. It’s not a bad idea to actually codify this, but it seems like it’s pulling from somewhere else entirely. Or it’s trying to put way more emphasis on optional rules from things like Complete Campaign.)
Similarly, Combat Rounds are structured in a completely new and curious manner, where the Actions are simplified (?) down from the existing Full Round and Standard Actions to a sort of Action Economy. Characters have a pool of Actions that they can undertake, in different combinations, and these can approximate the flow of combat as it exists in the current rules. Devoting extra Actions to a given thing (such as a spell) seems to allow it to be more effective, and there’s the implication that this will apply to Combat Actions as well. (In this way, it seems similar to how FFG handles combat in Edge of the Empire, oddly.)
On a surface level, none of this is particularly bad. I can admit that.
But I’m still stuck with the basic “If it ain’t broke…” mentality. There was a reason that they were able to expand their company in the wake of what was supposed to be an industry switch to 4th Edition D&D. For good or for ill, this is a hobby filled with the stereotypical grognards. Change is not well received when you have a group of people who dedicate themselves to a product for the sake of long years of enjoyment. Go onto any discussion group, and one of the first things that will jump out is the number of old players that speak fondly of their game that ran for the course of years. Combine that with the sheer outlay of cash required (in all seriousness, my personal collection would ballpark at over $3,000… and I’m not as dedicated as some…), there’s a reason why the announcement of a new system is met with antipathy.
I mean, a deeper dive into the forums will turn up the weirder groups that have chosen to stick with one of the older editions, be it BECMI, AD&D 1st, 2nd or the questionable Spells & Powers era of things. There’s a reason the OSR guys have tried to stake out their own niche of things; people will tend to go back to their original experience.
So, where does this leave me, specifically?
My first inclination is to draw a line in the sand and declare that I’m not going to be pulled in by the hype or the promises. I’ve put down enough cash that I can justify the refusal to be brought into a new edition, no matter what the actual experience ends out being. And someone, somewhere is going to salvage the Pathfinder basics to carry on in an uninterrupted manner. And after all, I have managed to avoid being drawn into the wave that is 5e D&D.
But the truth is probably that I’ll begrudgingly pick up the new edition at some point after it comes out. There’s a reason that I have titled this blog the way that I have. I collect RPG books, and this is likely to be another eventual addition to the stacks, even as I’m trying to avoid admitting such things. (And who knows? Maybe I’ll actually get a core of 5e D&D one of these days.)
Right now, however, I feel that there are too many unknowns with the newly announced edition, and Paizo’s track record in recent products hasn’t been exactly great. They talk of “Playtest Editions,” but their tendency is to pay very little attention to the feedback that is generated, forging ahead with their original ideas unaltered.*** (And lest we forget, they didn’t even bother with a playtest of the recent Shifter class, and it turned out to be a bit of a joke. It’s only made worse with the new errata, theoretically brought in from forum feedback, that arguably makes a lousy class even worse.)
Nothing will be released, in terms of actual playtest material, until Gen Con 2018. Until then, I assume there will be the predictable amounts of forum debates, wild speculation and unbridled optimism. For my part, I’m going to be maintaining the same sort of casual disinterest that I save for other game’s edition changes.
At least this way, there’s plenty of room to impress me. And a lot of work needed to be able to disappoint me.
*This is an interesting bit. In theory, the rules are seriously overhauled, with regards to the way combat and sich flows, but extant stat blocks are going to be almost entirely the same. The vibe that I’m getting is that specific mechanics are going to be altered in ways that can’t precisely be shifted over, but the numbers are going to be comparable.
In theory, this is how Pathfinder relates to D&D 3.5, but that falls apart when you look too closely. Having played a campaign through the shift from 3.5 to Pathfinder, I can with some authority that the characters were radically changed, in terms of power and ability.
And while I picked up Pathfinder with the intention to convert between editions, I know full well that all of my old D&D books have scarcely moved from their shelves since I got up and running with Pathfinder.
**In case you’re unfamiliar with this, it’s an odd sci-fi game that was brought out at the last Gen Con. Generally, it’s being sold as an updated Pathfinder, but In Space. Goblins, Dragons, etc. I’ve skimmed through the new rules, but as yet, I haven’t actually managed to throw dice for it.
***To be fair to Paizo, it’s not like they’re alone on this. Given the vast gulf between what D&D 5e was announced to be and what it ended up being… along with the feedback that was routinely ignored, it’s fair to say that Wizards of the Coast will continue to hold the record on generally ignoring criticism in light of their own agendas.