Mar 10, 2023
Many of you might be wondering “Why Pathfinder 2nd Edition?” or “What does Pathfinder 2nd Edition have to offer?” “What makes it stand out from other systems.” Pathfinder 2nd Edition is a very accessible and modern system...
Many of you might be wondering “Why Pathfinder 2nd Edition?” or “What does Pathfinder 2nd Edition have to offer?” “What makes it stand out from other systems.” Pathfinder 2nd Edition is a very accessible and modern system. It serves as a middle ground between the calculation-filled world of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition or Pathfinder 1st Edition, but gives far more meat for both players and GMs to chew on compared to Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.
I won’t lie to you and say that Pathfinder 2nd Edition’s math is super simple, because at the end of the day that is subjective. It does not use a be all end all super easy to understand term like “Advantage” or “Disadvantage” to make combat modifiers easy either. With all that being said, the formula that you’ll be working with 99.9999% of the time is: class level + proficiency bonus + ability modifier + item modifier + miscellaneous bonuses. Let’s break that down.
Your class level is, well, your class level. It is how experienced and developed your character is in the class that you’ve selected. This number isn’t cut in half, it isn’t some weird calculation based on level, it is just straight up your level. You also don’t need to worry about your Character Level and Class Level differing. They’re one and the same in this edition.
As you progress through the game and level up you will get access to certain proficiency bonuses. These are Untrained (+0), Trained (level + 2), Expert (level + 4), Master (level + 6), and Legendary (level + 8). If you are untrained in something, then you do not add your level, but certain feats can allow you to add an incremental bonus based on your level to untrained skills.
Ability Modifiers work the same they do in any other Dungeons & Dragons-like game and is based off of your ability score. Below are the equivalences.
And so on.
Item modifiers most often come from weapons, armour, and other items, as the name implies. A common way to get this bonus is through Pathfinder 2nd Edition’s Rune System which is a far simpler version of Pathfinder 1st Edition’s (and D&D 3.5’s) Magic Weapon and Armour system. Runes provide a weapon with up to a +3 item bonus to attack rolls, a +3d6 item bonus to damage rolls, and Property Runes provide various other effects. Armour can benefit from this as well, gaining up to a +3 item bonus to AC, +3 item bonus to all saves, and like armour, various other effects depending on the kind of Property Runes you put on your armour.
Lastly, miscellaneous bonuses are anything else and usually these are bonuses or negatives that provide a +/ - (plus or minus) 1 to a stat. Sometimes this can be as high as +/- 2, and rarely will you see numbers higher than that. This is where I feel combat really shines because with proper teamwork and strategy, you can widdle away an opponent’s AC or boost your own ability to hit them to the point where instead of needing to roll a 14 on the d20, you just have to roll a 10. You can find more info on these modifiers here.
The Action Economy
Some of you who are new to TTRPGs might be wondering what an Action Economy is. Well, most TTRPGs run on a turn based system. An action economy is the number of actions you can perform within a turn. Some TTRPGs have one action, some have two, most D&D style games have specific actions which are the famous Standard Action, Move Action, Swift Action, and Free Action. This is the way the original Pathfinder ran things as well as 3.5 and 5e D&D. Pathfinder 2nd Edition on the other hand uses three general actions, free actions, and a reaction. What can you do with these general actions? Anything that requires any sort of time to do.
General Actions are the most used action in the game. Most abilities will have a special symbol beside them to indicate how many actions they require to perform. For example, casting most spells takes two actions, so because our action economy is composed of three actions, we can only cast these types of spells once per turn. If an ability takes one action to use, then you can use it three times in a round unless stated otherwise. So, you could attack three times, move three times, do a combination of the two, perform other actions, etc.
Free actions are things that take very little or no time, like talking to your teammates in a concise fashion. You have an unlimited amount of free actions during and outside of your turn, however, if there is a trigger correlating to your free action and multiple free actions have that trigger, you can only use one of your free actions for that trigger.
Your single reaction is used as a response to something. This might be a bonus on a save, an attack triggered by someone moving, that sort of thing. They’re always in response to something happening to or near you. You get one reaction per round, so use it wisely.
Pathfinder 2nd Edition’s use of feats, with class feats, skill feats, general feats, and ancestry feats, makes for a very modular character creation process. The feat system is integral to Pathfinder 2nd Edition’s identity and is very much the bread and butter of the system. Feats grant new abilities, powerups, spells, options in combat, options outside of combat, and rarely are they a small numerical bonus to a stat.
Pathfinder 2nd Edition also uses feats to introduce multiclassing, which in this system is more akin to a piece meal setup where you can take specific feats to gain another class’s abilities. This is taken even further with the introduction of the Advanced Player’s Guide which provides 40 new archetypes and functions identically to how multiclassing works. Together, archetypes and multiclassing provide a near limitless amount of customization. No longer do you need to multiclass into Druid or Ranger to get the ability to have an animal companion, just take Beastmaster. Have a familiar but want to go more in depth with its abilities without being a familiar focused wizard? There’s an archetype for that. Want to be a summoning focused spellcaster who commands their summons like a military leader? You can do that. Do you want to have magical healing but don’t want to be as religious as a Cleric or Champion or cursed like an Oracle? You can do that. There are nearly endless possibilities. (There's a lot of depth to feats and it can be quite confusing, so I'll be going over those in more depth at a later date.)
Ancestries, Not Races
Instead of races, Pathfinder 2nd Edition has “Ancestries.” These Ancestries are incredibly customizable. Each ancestry gains a bonus to certain stats and most gain a negative as well. As of the 4th printing of the rulebook you can instead choose to have two free +2s with no negatives.
Each Ancestry also has a selection of Heritages which provide various benefits and help your character feel truly unique. You are no longer just a “Halfling” you are a “Nomadic Halfling,” or an “Irongut Goblin.”
Lastly are feats. These usually provide you with small abilities that can help you in very specific but interesting situations, like being able to communicate with any animal that has a burrow speed or singing so horribly that you disorient your enemies.
These options make it so that you can have an entire party of Goblins or Halflings or Kobolds and every single player will feel unique despite their shared ancestry.
Classes are just as customizable as races not only because of the aforementioned multiclass or archetype systems, but also because of how much variety you have with your feats. A friend and I both wanted to make druids for one game, and originally we were worried that there would be overlap, but then we started talking about our builds and feat choices and we realised how different our characters were. He wanted to make what amounted to the God of Thunder Thor while I wanted to make something similar to Beast Boy with the ability to shapeshift into countless different forms depending on the situation. Even our spell choice turned out to be vastly different since I armed myself with other shapeshifting spells in case my Wild Shape wore off mid combat or if for whatever reason I needed to change into a different form while he obviously went for anything that he could tie to storms, lightning, thunder, or magnetism.
This is all possible because of the way classes work with a simple frame that governs your proficiency progression and one or two abilities that all members of your class get (sometimes these are customizable as well) and then you have your arsenal of feats to select which is where you really shape your build.
Pathfinder 2e is an incredibly fluid and customizable system, but it can be intimidating at first. If you’re looking for a system with enough complexities to keep it interesting, but is also easy to get into then this is definitely the game for you.