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Modular: Pathfinder 2nd Edition Announced – Never Say Never

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Pathfinder_PlaytestrulebookYesterday, Paizo announced an upcoming playtest for a 2nd Edition of Pathfinder. Wow.

For years, Paizo officials have said that there would never be a second edition. I suspect that all evidence of those statements have been scoured from the Internet. A quick search didn’t find any. There might have been qualifiers along the way, such as ‘unless the demand is too great’ or some such. But I remember the message as ‘We won’t do a 2nd Edition.” With the inference, ‘Making you buy all of your stuff over again.’

I thought that they might be adhering to that pledge when they put out Starfinder, a science fiction RPG. That seemed like a smart approach if they couldn’t update the original Pathfinder.

But I believe that events conspired against them. The best thing that ever happened to Pathfinder was 4th Edition D&D (granted – it was the impetus for Pathfinder). The worst thing that ever happened to Pathfinder was 5th Edition D&D.

5th Edition have been a critical and popular success. Products have been well received, one after another, and third-party support is reminiscent of the old 3rd Edition Open Gaming License Days.

Meanwhile, Pathfinder has run into the problem encountered by every lasting RPG – bloat. The need to continue developing new products for players and GMs to purchase results in an ever-increasing attempt to add to the rules and options of the game. And Rules and Options bloat are an inevitable result.

Pathfinder_PlaytestadventureThere are many who argue, “If you don’t like all those options, just ignore them.” But that’s not how most people feel. I remember being criticized when I decided to run a Core Rulebook-only Play by Post (PbP) on the Paizo forums. I didn’t want to deal with the myriad of character options. This annoyed some people. Obviously, they didn’t play in that PbP. And as I’ve written elsewhere, I think that bloat cheapens the game system as well as imbalances it.

But a system needs to keep adding product to keep the company afloat. I get it.

You’ve got a cycle where a company needs to keep providing new product to both make money and keep gamers interested in the system. But over time, the result becomes rules and option bloat and an unbalanced RPG. So a the slate is wiped clean with introduction of a new edition, which allows for a slew of new products to sell and buy and a whole new run of options and classes.

With 5th Edition doing so well (whereas 4th Edition was a failure), Paizo has to fight to retain all those players who left D&D for Pathfinder, while continuing to attract new players.

Earlier this week, I read a comment from the head of one of the largest third-party providers, who said that 5th Edition is outselling Pathfinder two-to-one. That’s a big deal.

Though I’m currently playing the new Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed of, Pathfinder has been my system of choice for most of the past decade and I just ran the Beginner’s Box (a GREAT product and devoid of bloat!) a few months ago. And I’ve got a bookshelf of Pathfinder stuff.

There’s NO WAY I’m going to start over buying new books for a 2nd Edition. Not surprisingly, Paizo indicates it won’t be that big a deal to convert from 1st to 2nd Edition.

While many of the rules of the game have changed, much of what made Pathfinder great has remained the same. The story of the game is unchanged, and in many cases, you can simply replace the old rules with their new counterpart without having to alter anything else about the adventure. As for individual rules, like your favorite spell or monster, most can be added with a simple conversion, changing a few numbers and rebalancing some of the mechanics.

We shall see.

I espoused the virtues of Pathfinder in this post, and I think that Paizo is an excellent company. To me, this move to 2nd Edition seems unfortunate but necessary. I think it’s a reality of the RPG environment they find themselves in, with declining sales, rules and option bloat with the current edition and the popularity of 5th Edition with consumers and third-party providers.

I hope Pathfinder 2nd Edition improves the game and that it remains a viable RPG – alternatives to D&D are a good thing. But I think ‘Never say Never’ is a time-tested axiom in the RPG world.


Bob Byrne’s ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate  from March 10, 2014 through March 20, 2017 (making an occasional return appearance!). He also organized Black Gate’s award-nominated ‘Discovering Robert E. Howard’ series.

He is a member of the Praed Street Irregulars, founded www.SolarPons.com (the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’) and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IVV and VI.

8 Comments »

  1. This is surprising. They’ve got one heck of an uphill battle this time.

    The biggest shock I’ve had seen with 5th edition is the amount of new people playing it. I feel like I’ve seen a lot more comments across the internet of people saying it is their first RPG.

    Despite its popularity Pathfinder is still just another game and D&D is a household name.

    5th editions simplified rule set and emphasis on role playing vs min maxing (over 3.5 anyway) is what has allowed it to appeal to a wider audience.

    Comment by Glenn - March 7, 2018 4:50 pm

  2. I’d also heard that they’d said they’d never do a new edition, but never heard it from anyone at Paizo directly. Starfinder seemed like a way to expand without a 2nd edition, and the Pathfinder Unchained supplement seemed like a way to get some alternative Pathfinder rulesets out for play without doing a whole new system.

    In the Pathfinder Playtest FAQ on their website, the third FAQ is about this, and it claims they never said they wouldn’t do a second edition.

    I am looking forward to seeing what they get together. I do find it interesting that they have a Pathfinder Playtest flip mat as a product. They couldn’t have created an adventure based on an existing Flip Mat? Will the Flip Mats be changed somehow? Plus, selling printed books of the playtest clearly targets hardcore Pathfinder players with discretionary income … but a pretty significant waste of money.

    Still undecided on how I feel about this. I’m sure the end product will be high quality – pretty much everything they produce is high quality – but a lot of how I ultimate feel on it will likely depend on how backward-compatible it is with my existing Pathfinder library.

    Comment by Andrew Zimmerman Jones - March 7, 2018 5:11 pm

  3. If I still had a regular Monday morning column here at Black Gate, I would bet it that Paizo HAS said in the past (and more than once) that there would be no 2nd Edition.

    OR something very similar, such as “We have no plans for a new edition,” We don’t believe in changing our core ruleset” or some such.

    Their categorical denial could be rooted in trying to utilize semantics, like Bill Clinton did during his impeachment process.

    Through their statements in the past, Paizo created a very strong impression or belief among their customer base that there would not be a 2nd Edition of Pathfinder.

    That’s my statement. No semantics.

    And I’m less inclined to turn my RPG efforts back to Paizo now.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 8, 2018 8:14 am

  4. Well, in a couple of D&D 5E round-table videos with Mike Mearls (co-lead designer of 5E), Matt Mercer, Matt Colville, and Adam Koebel, Mearls hinted at a 6th edition sometime in the future, using language like “if we do a 6th edition. . .” and “when we do a 6th edition. . .” Maybe that’s a given since RPG companies have to release product to pay the bills, but it does put me on edge as I look at my shelf of 5E books, most of which I haven’t had the time to read yet.

    I’d love for 5E to stick around as long as 1E and 2E (about 10 years) if not longer. That would give us 6 years or so before a new edition.

    Comment by NOLAbert - March 8, 2018 4:52 pm

  5. On Erik Tenkar’s (Tenkar’s Tavern) Fb page, someone did an interesting breakdown on “rpg market share,” arguing that, overall, ALL rpg profits are rising — that industry dollars overall are rising — and therefore Pathfinder and all other companies are continuing to grow their profits. I don’t know. I’m not an economist. But the commentator leverages this as an argument to dispel any sense of “desperation” people are sniffing out in the Pathfinder 2e announcement.

    At the same time, though, right now the third party market Byrne alludes to is selling at Garycon all Pathfinder products at $5 a pound. It could be true that Pathfinder is just fine, but it also appears true that it is not doing well for its third party providers.

    Comment by Gabe Dybing - March 9, 2018 1:05 pm

  6. $5 a pound!?!?!?!?

    (Reminds himself he’s playing 2d20 Conan now and shouldn’t ask his Black Gate boss to pick up a bunch of PF stuff to be paid back for later)

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 9, 2018 2:55 pm

  7. John’s at Garycon??? Man, I should have gone this year! I would’ve had at least one friend this time!

    Comment by Gabe Dybing - March 9, 2018 6:36 pm

  8. From a post I wrote last year about picking Pathfinder:

    ‘Paizo has consistently said that there will not be a second edition. They’ve held firm, resisting the siren song of a new edition resulting in all new books for players to buy. ‘

    I don’t think many of us just pulled this out of thin air. It came from Paizo. Wish I could find evidence of it.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 13, 2018 9:14 am


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