Paizo will be releasing a new version of the Pathfinder roleplaying game on Thursday, August 1, putting an end to a long development and playtesting phase. The release date coincides with this year’s Gen Con in Indianapolis, where we expect a lot of celebration and excitement for the shiny new edition. But should you buy it right away or wait?
Originally, Pathfinder spun out of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 Edition. Many D&D players felt betrayed by the direction of the 4th edition of the venerable game, and rather than migrating their games to the new Wizards of the Coast product, they opted to go with a streamlined and tweaked version of the rules they already knew and loved.
But Pathfinder’s success wasn’t just based on 4th Edition’s failure. The product itself was incredibly high quality, with an interesting original setting and a Core Rulebook that bundled the traditional Players Guide and Dungeon Master’s Guide into a single volume. The tweaks at the time were welcomed by many DMs and players frustrated by some of the quirks in the 3.5 edition of D&D. Pathfinder was a strong product on its own and didn’t need to lean on D&D for recognition for long.
Years later, when Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition came along, Pathfinder already had a massive number of supplemental books on the market. Many players flocked to 5th Edition due to its simplification and return to classic D&D form. Pathfinder was crunchy, complex game bloated by splat books of every variety. The new edition of D&D was an answer to the bloat.
It’s no surprise that Paizo wanted to press the reset button on their system and start anew. They’ve taken a full step back and will be releasing a new series of 2e books, beginning with a new core rulebook, a bestiary, a world setting book, and of course an adventure path. You can expect a full line of supplemental books to release after, giving Paizo the chance to once again challenge D&D 5e, which is (somewhat ironically) being criticized for its simplicity. Pathfinder 2e offers a great way for gamers to migrate to a new, more complex system that isn’t already bloated by years of splat books.
Which Edition of Pathfinder Should You Buy?
If you’re a Pathfinder player, then you’ve probably already made up your mind about the new second edition based on feedback from the playtest community. There are too many pros and cons to go into (with good points on both sides of the argument), but at the end of the day, if you’re perfectly happy to continue playing first edition, then you certainly shouldn’t rush to order the new book.
But if you want to play a product that is being actively supported with new rulebooks and official adventure paths, then you’re on borrowed time if you stick with 1e. Dungeon masters who create their own content and adventures won’t feel this pressure, however. After all, there are thousands of players out there actively using decades-old versions of Dungeons & Dragons. If it works for you, why switch?
If you’re an active player who table hops, it’s just a matter of time before you fall into a Pathfinder 2e game. So grabbing a copy of the Core Rulebook to familiarize yourself with the game may not be a bad idea. The book itself is filled with gorgeous art and you can tell that Paizo has worked hard to streamline the game and reduce the amount of confusion that comes from learning a complex roleplaying game.
Finally, if you are a budget player, then you really can’t beat the prices of used first edition books. The used book market will likely be flooded with old Pathfinder books for at least a few years. It’ll be a great time to pick up some of the splat books that you missed out on the first time around.
Overall, the release of Pathfinder 2e is a huge step forward for Paizo – even more so than the release of Starfinder. Pathfinder has moved well beyond the shadow of Dungeons & Dragons and has spawned its own line of novels and video games. New editions of roleplaying games are as inevitable as death and taxes, and while there has been some vocal grandstanding against some of the choices Paizo made for second edition, there has also been just as much vocal praise. In a nutshell, Pathfinder 2e won’t fall flat like D&D 4e. But whether it will convert the masses remains to be seen.