On the premier episode of 20 Minute Tabletop, John and Stevie take a bite size look at Pathfinder Second Edition. Learn what you need to play, how to get started, the mechanics to the game, and what they like best about the game. Listen to it below or find it on your favorite podcast player.

See podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/20mintabletop for listening options.


Important Timestamps

01:18 - First Impressions
02:00 - Getting Started
05:54 - Play Mechanics
17:16 - Enjoyment of the Game
18:49 - Length of Play
19:50 - What You Need to Play
23:07 - Final Impression


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John Welcome to 20 Minute Tabletop, a podcast sharing the love of all things tabletop gaming, in bite size pieces. I'm your host, John Wickee, here today with my cohost Stevie.

Stevie Today we're going to step into a world of fantasy. So grab your great axe and bow, your wizard hat and potion bottles, call your animal companion to your side, and join us to talk about Pathfinder Second Edition.

John Pathfinder is first in a line of many tabletop roleplaying games, or TTRPGs as they're commonly called, that we plan to play and share with you. Pathfinder is created by Paizo, and the opening paragraph in their Core Rulebook is a great description of what Pathfinder is.
"Pathfinder is a fantasy tabletop roleplaying game where you and a group of friends gather to tell a tale of brave heroes and cunning villains in a world filled with terrifying monsters and amazing treasures. More importantly, Pathfinder is a game where your character's choices determine how the story unfolds."


John So, let's start with our first impressions.
The best way to put my first impression is familiar but new. Having played the first edition of Pathfinder, which was also my first TTRPG, I can feel a lot of the similarities in things, but I love the new mechanics.

Stevie my first experience with playing Pathfinder was with you, John, being our GM and playing with the kids. It was pretty easy to learn, especially with the pre-generated character sheets.

John Yeah, I've gotten to play a handful of times and one extended adventure, but the majority of my time has been GMing, or running the games, which is fun because I get to experience so many of parts of the system.
I could talk all day about this, but this is our first impressions and we only have 20 minutes.


Stevie So, how do we get started?

John Well, you know, that's kinda an interesting thing. There's a lot of different parts, moving parts of a TTRPG, but there's you know some easy ways to get started here.
Many TTRPGs have a decent barrier to entry, however Paizo is great about offering ways to lessen that burden. One of my first and favorite things is all rules for free on 2e.aonprd.com. The rulebooks have a lot of value in the reading and presentation, but they're not necessary to play. You can get everything for free from their site on all the rules, all the monsters. Everything is right there.

Stevie You can also find pregen characters. They have iconics for every class and you can get those sheets from paizo.com. They even offer level 1 and level 5 versions for whatever type of game you're going to try and some even have level 3 sheets.

John Yeah, I love the iconics. They even have their own lore and a lot of them have just backstory from just all of, through all of Pathfinder 1e and now 2e. And that's great but that's a whole other conversation, a whole other episode.
Another great place is the Beginner Box and free adventures. So the Beginner Box gives you everything you need to start playing. I'm sure that's something we can do a future episode on, all alone on its own.

Stevie Definitely.

John It's got a simplified ruleset, which character sheets, and a small adventure with maps and a story to go with it.
But with that they also release a free adventure every year as a part of FreeRPG Day. We actually went out this year and got the last one, Fistful of Flowers, which is an adventure of just leshies, which I love a leshy character.

Stevie I'm excited for that one.
Some other great tools, there is Pathbuilder 2e, that makes it really easy to create your own character. Um, we've used this, myself and my fellow players for the games we're playing with John. Which is really cool because you can use pieces from all of the Paizo sourcebooks and they even offer two of the BattleZoo books and it walks you through every single thing you need to decide on at every level. So it actually makes it really easy because no one has to sit there and do the math for you. You can just say "Oh, I need to choose this thing. I need to choose that thing."

John Yeah, and it's really easy to share the character sheet. So like you guys can send them to me to go "Hey how is this ideal? How does this look?" And it's kinda very easy for me to then double check that you have everything you need. And then kind of, as a GM, I like to try and make myself familiar with, you know, your characters so that way it takes some of the burden off of you to know what are your abilities, what special things can you do. And I can look over them, and then like if I remember it one time out of ten and you remember it one time out of ten then, you know, we're getting it part of the time.

Stevie Another thing I really like is the PF2.tools hub. I have a spell casting character and I was able to go and create a reference sheet for myself of the spells I knew and print it off. And that was really helpful in game because I don't have to constantly remember "oh, these are the other spells I can sub in my spell slots." I just have a list, it tells me what they do, it tells me their range, and so at the beginning of my day when I need to switch those out it makes it really quick and easy because I have a list right there and they generate all the rules that go with that spell.

John The community is really great.
It does have a learning curve, but if you just start with the rules you need first and you can kinda go from there and that's where the Beginner Box is great because it does a little pre-trimming of the rules down for you to kinda get you started.

Stevie Right, and then as you run into other things you can say "hey, just so you know..." And mean that's the benefit of a good GM, is they know those rules and when you do finally run across that incident or that event they'll fill you in and say "hey, just so you know at this point this is the rule that comes into play." So you're not bombarding your players with too much information to start with. You're able to start them with the basics and then step them up and add those rules on as needed.


John So let's talk about some of those mechanics.
My favorite thing about roleplaying games is that they're a collaborative storytelling process. It makes a great experience. In Pathfinder, the base way to play is one person acts as the GM, that we kinda talked about, and sets the scene and presents challenges. And then the other players take the roles of the characters and interact with this world. It may mean you're fighting a monster, or solving a puzzle, gathering information to solve a mystery, or talking your way out of trouble. I mean, I don't think you guys do that too often but it is always an option.

Stevie Yeah, right.

John When you roll the dice sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don't but the story and the world continues from that point. The GM is there to evolve that world and help the players tell a story of their adventures. And that's what I love about it. 'cause it's... it is not "I'm presenting a challenge to you" it is "we're gonna tell a story together."

Stevie Yeah and I think if you get a good group of friends at the table and people who are really invested, you can come up with some really good stories and we've had that happen in both of our games that we're currently running. We've had some really funny moments come through. We've had some drama. We've definitely had mystery and monsters. But I definitely think part of the value in that is having, first of all a good GM, who is very comfortable going "ok here's the setup. go for it." And then also just who's at your table, you know. When we play with the kids it's very different. They didn't really understand the roleplaying part to start with but now that they understand it, it's becoming more of a story and less of a "well let me do this action."

John Yeah, and they get a lot of, you know, what do they want to do. And they're, they're building that roleplaying part of it and I think that's a whole other episode too of using RPGs for kids. Using that "what do you want to do" and how do we frame that out and you know you can tell me what you want to say. It doesn't, you don't have to have all the right words. You don't have to be that smooth talker. Your character is a smooth talker. You tell me you want to try and convince them? Great. You roll for it.
One of the cool things that's, you know, a little more unique about Pathfinder 2e that I enjoy is the three action economy. There's a couple different layers to the playing of when you're exploring this versus when you get into like combat or you get into these encounter modes. And that happens you have three actions you can do. So you don't have to worry about this concept of "well, I can move and I can do a standard action" which is a very Pathfinder thing, "but also I want to have a free action but I'm gonna do a full round action to do this" or "I'm gonna have this bonus action." You have three actions. You can do three things. Most things take one of those actions. Some spells take two or three. But then you can choose what you're going to do. That's one of the improvements I love over 1e. When I play in my 1e game, you just stand where you are and attack. You don't move. You don't need to. I'm gonna full attack. I'm going to do as many attacks as possible and that's what I'll do for my turn. This brings in those other things that you want to do. So you can choose to attack with an action, and you can use all three to attack but they get harder and harder to hit. But then you can say "You know what, no, I'm gonna try and intimidate that person and I'm gonna try and give them a condition that's gonna make their things worse" or "I'm gonna try and jump through their spot. I'm gonna move."

Stevie I really like, uh, knowledge checks as one of my actions, especially with my wizard because that character has a high intelligence. So knowing things about the creatures we're up against is often times one of her strengths. So I lik e the knowledge checks because I can use one action for that but it still leaves me enough to use a spell if needed. But is also gives myself and my team my other players information about how we can possibly put this creature at a disadvantage.

John Exactly. And, and knowing those things can change the combat a little bit by knowing, I don't have to make a mistake and find out they're not gonna to be vulnerable to fire. I'm not gonna waste that spell slot or I'm gonna find out they are very vulnerable to cold, so let's use that instead. And then you have those third actions so like you said you use that action to do a knowledge check. You can use that action to aid each other, to make that other person have a better chance and it's... it's freedom of you tell me how you're going to aid them and you can roll whatever roll you want.

Stevie Or, you know, if you're in one of our games, you can use that third action to shove your friend in front of you towards the monster.

John Yes, yes. Speaking of your games, you also do have a lot of people getting poisoned around you. I'm just saying.

Stevie It's not my fault. I'm not the killer.

John Yet.

Stevie Yet.
I kill the monsters. I don't kill the NPCs... usually.

John And so, yeah, the three actions is kinda one of the coolest mechanics I think they have there.
We talked about character creation which also, you know, is amazing. So we talked about how Pathbuilder 2e makes it very easy to build but I love mechanics that are also story. And that's part of what the character builder does. You pick a background. So everybody was something before they were an adventurer. But when you pick what they were, that gives you mechanical differences. It gives you a lore in a knowledge. So if you're a bartender, guess what, you're gonna have known something. You might have like a lore alcohol and you'll have boosts to some of your stats and you'll have extra things. No matter what you pick, it changes. And a lot of them are very flexible so that you can pick this background and it doesn't matter that you're picking this background that I can't pick this one because it won't help my character. Almost all of them will help your character in one way or another.

Stevie I really enjoy that as well and as I've been creating my characters, I like telling stories, um, both in game and out of game. But I really like that that gives you another jumping off point for your character and what they're about and why they're here. So in addition to adding to the mechanics it also adds some richness to your character, some dimensionality before you even do anything. And we have a variety of backgrounds and as we are in game finding out things about our different characters, a lot of times those backgrounds are coming into play. So you may not think it gives a lot of flavor to start with, but things come up and it really does.

John Yeah and it's cool because we play with a lot of new players, so it's a lot of fun to see people progress as they're going along and when you have these things you're making choices, it helps you flesh out your character a little more and help you find the character behind your sheet. And kinda find that background and how they're gonna interact with things and so like those choices make a difference of yeah it makes a choice so they know these extra languages. Great but then that becomes part of their backstory of why do they know all these languages, and it gives you these prompts to build your character out to kinda build that roleplaying to build that fun. And I think the more, the more you do with a character to me always makes a lot more investment in that character and kinda adds to what I like to do and escape into RPGs. And I love that.

Stevie Yeah, I definitely agree with the escapism idea because I... I'm hooked on both my characters like when I'm finally with them, I'm gonna be a little sad. 'Cause it's like when you read a book and you get very attached to the main character or a character in the story, except this time, you're that character. You're deciding what they're gonna do, what they're gonna say, how they're gonna react to something. And I've become very invested in both of my characters as we've played. While I have other awesome ideas that I'm excited for in another game I definitely know that the day that we're finished and they either are killed or we level them out and they're done is gonna be rough because I've spent so much time investing in not just they're skills and their abilities but ok, why do you have this skill, why is this the skill you picked up, why did you choose this ability? And again, mechanics like your background help inform that.

John And that's actually another thing that's great. With Pathfinder there's a rule for almost anything. So, when you want to do something, you can look up the rule for it. The GM might already know all those rules. And if not, you look it up together, and find out the rule is. So when you want to do something, it's less arbitrary. It is already been thought out and balanced so that way it's a fairness at that level. When you want to do something, if you want to try and long jump across a ditch? There's rules for how far you can make it based on your roll and what's realistic and what's not. And so there's always a way to help build what that's gonna be.

Stevie Yeah, and from the games that you GM for us, we can definitely say we've pushed some of those rules and we have run up against some really obscure out-of-the-box thinking, shout out to our players and my teamamtes, because they come up with some really unique solutions sometimes. Uh, myself included. Because you don't know how we're gonna come at this problem. For example, the one night you said "hey there's a bar fight, what are you gonna do?" And one of our characters is like "I'm gonna go try and break it up" and I remembered I had smoke sticks and the ability to cast ghost sounds. So I made a fake fire and, you know, you had to go figure out "well, is anyone going to notice this? Are they gonna break up the fight thinking there's a fire in the bar or are they gonna keep fighting?" And we really kinda pushed the boundaries but every time, I mean correct me if I'm wrong, you've run up against "hey, this, use this mechanic to figure that out" and if there isn't there an exact mechanic, there's always one that's "close enough".

John Exactly. And there's just a chart of like base level DC. So, you're at this level, here's you know something that's approriate for level character to do, here's the base DC to use. And then you can adjust it from there if you think something is harder and easier, but you're not, as a GM I don't feel pressure to try to find the right number and the right value to use and am I gonna make it too hard or too easy. There's always these guidance to start there and when you do something really crazy like that, I use the bases as my starting point and kinda go from there. But the really most important thing is, there's always this "rule of fun" to take precedence. And that's "yeah, you can do it. I'm gonna allow it, under these circumstances and let's try it." It helps because then it helps build people's creativity because this is what I want to do. Great is that something physically hard? Then I'll probably make you do athletics. If it's something where you gotta be really slick and jumping around, ok, maybe acrobatics. But honestly, I let you guys talk me into what do you want to use? And it's something that I've, you know, had influence from other games and listening to other podcasts about, you know, what do you want to do? How do you want to do this? If you make the good enough justification, rule of fun says "yeah, you can use that skill for that." "Sure, you can roll knowledge nature for initiative because you were looking at the plants at the time the monster jumped out at you. Sure whatever." You know it's... it's about having fun and allowing people that leeway to kinda do what they want to do.

Stevie Yeah and I think the rule of fun is important because especially early on with new players, that's how you're gonna engage them. If, especially if they're a little leary or not quite sure what Pathfinder or an RPG is, that rule of fun is really gonna help and sometimes even having one experienced player at the table can help, that they can be a psuedo leader to be like "ok, what do you guys want to do?" and kinda help them with options until they get comfortable. Versus, you know, experienced players that may be a lot easier to start a game. But a lot of people this may be their first time and I think that rule of fun really is a big deal in those situations because that's what's gonna get them into the game get them enjoying it and so on.

John And that kinda comes into play, like the game master, or GM, is a pivotal part of that east to start and to get going, but you don't have to know everything. You gotta have a little bit of confidence and know the basics and then just run with it. Like I said, look it up, make it up as you go along, and guess what? If you get it wrong and in between sessions and over the week you figure out the right rule, you state at the beginning "ok we did it this way last time but this is the right rule so this is what we're gonna do going forward." Or you set your own standard and say "From now on, this is what we're gonna use and it's now our house rule." You don't have to be experienced to play. You can just try it and go with it.


Stevie We've talked a lot about it already, but uh, enjoyment of the game... how much do you like Pathfinder 2e, John?

John I... I guess you could say I... I love it. You know, just a little bit. A lot.
The fun stories that come out of these games, you know, the kids always want to know what happened the night before in our game. Like, when they know we have game night, that's one of the first things they would ask in the morning, is "What happened?" They love these stories. I like it because it allows me to stretch my creativity and practice some funny voices, that you may hear every once and a while. It also gives me an outlet to kinda explore yourself through roleplaying. I think that's one of the best things about roleplaying games in general, is you can explore yourself, give confidence in who you are, who you want to be. You can be somebody different in the game and that's ok. Heck, that's the idea. Your character doesn't need to be you. It can be someone you want to be or it can just be somebody you think would be fun to play. It gives you outlet for that.

Stevie I really get into the stories. Like I said, I love a good story. I enjoy being a story teller. And we recently finished up an adventure path called Fall of Plaguestone, which we'll be talking about in a few episodes, and myself and the other players in that game really got into the storyline and we were all very invested in proceeding towards the end, without giving too much away. I don't want to give anyone spoilers. But there's... that one has a bit of a mystery to it and we were all very invested in solving that, and resolving the issue in that adventure path. We were very invested in the NPCs, in the conflict, and the resolution of that conflict. Um, even if it was very explosive and bloody but, you know, things happen.


John So a lot of times for games, you know, we're talking about "how long does it take to play?"
This is a tough one for RPGs because it can be anything you want to be. So, we generally run shorter sessions around an hour, an hour and half with the kids.

Stevie A lot of that has to do with their attention span, but it also gives them a couple of events to occur before they kinda also start getting tired.

John Yeah, and you know, it keeps their attention, they have fun and then they get to move on. But it's great because you can break it into any chunks you want. When we play our grown up games, those are often, you know, two to three hours. Many other people play much longer sessions. It can be as long and or as short as you want. The beauty is the story doesn't have to stop there. You can run a one shot that you run in that two hours then it's done and gone with but we're running campaigns that have gone, you know, two years now. I think the hardest time for length of play is not having enough time to play as often as we want to. There's a lot more campaigns I'd love to do.

Stevie Life. Schedule conflicts. Raising children. Having to like, go to our jobs. All those things that get in the way.


John One thing, reminder is you can start out simple and grow. Take the rules in and use what you need. Just start with those base rules. Ignore what you don't like. Use what you do like. Use the rule of fun. There's even out there you can find different rulesets that people use of their, their common house rules of things that they do to make things the way they like and I have some that other games I've played in I've brought into ours, regards to Hero Points and how some of those things work and what you can use them for.

Stevie As far as dice go, you can start with a base set. They're usually really easy and pretty cheap to find. Or you can use a dice roller app on your phone. You really don't need a lot to get going.

John Yeah, you can do things everything in the theater of the mind and describe what's going on, describe where the things are in relation to each other and just kinda keep that in your heads. You can draw maps on a grid. And even there, you can start with a, you know, you can get a laminated one on Amazon. You can even just print off grid paper or have grid paper. I may have run some games for work when I went to go visit New York and I may have literally printed off grid paper so that I could tape it together and then draw out the maps on it when we played. Or you can get full detailed maps, 3-D terrain elements, put up actual physical walls and little barrels. You can go as big or as little as you want to.

Stevie And that's all up to you. You know, we've slowly been acquiring terrain elements as we go. The kids love playing with the terrain elements because it gives them something to see but our adult games are all online. And sometimes it's theater of the mind where John will describe what we can see, what's going on, give us an idea of where we are. And sometimes it's, you know, a digital map that we can see on our computer screen. Again you can start up with nothing. You just need your imagination.

John For our kids, we all 3-D miniatures of our characters, of what they want to use. And some of them are painted and some of them are not. Some of them we're gonna eventually try and paint, because that's a whole part of what you can do with RPGs. Other time we have flat, standup images that we can use, that you can print off or I have some really nice ones called Skinny Minis, that are hard plastic around them. And sometimes we just put a flat marker down to designate something. It can be anything you need it to be. You can build it up as you go along. Playing online, where you can use Foundry or Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, all these tools for online map making and yeah, when they go off the rails, you have to sometimes to theater of the mind because you don't have a map for random place they decide they want to go stop and go shop at.
So yeah, you can learn more about Pathfinder 2e on paizo.com their official website and as I said aonprd.com is their official site for all the rules and all the monsters and everything that kinda goes with that.

Stevie Can you spell that one out?

John Yes. P A I Z O dot com.

Stevie And aon?

John Aon. A O N P R D dot com.

Stevie Thank you.

John I'd also like to call out that Paizo Employees unionized in 2021 under the United Paizo Workers union, making them the first unions of it's kind in tabletop roleplaying games industry in the US. And I honestly think that's really cool. And I think it's a great step forward to helping all those in the industry.

Stevie Agreed. Especially because they employ so many, uh, contractors and independent artists for their products.

John And some of them are just so talented and it's, you know, this will only help them get really paid what they're worth and what they deserve. And that can only help the whole industry as a whole.


Stevie Ok, so I think it's about time to wrap up? So, uh, final impression?

John I'd like to say, you know, my final impression it just, it gives you a framework to play how you want. And telling a story is rewarding and a fun way to bond.

Stevie I really love the creativity that you have. I love to play. And I will gladly join more games but I'm not as great at the fun voices like John is. But I've definitely enjoyed a community play day or one shot or you know even another campaign. Not that I'm self promoing but I do love playing Pathfinder.

John That's probably, you know, let's wrap it up. I'm your host, John Wickee and you can find me on Twitter as john_wickee that's W I C K E E.

Stevie And I'm Stevie. And you can find me on Instagram and other social media at disneygeekmom. D I S N E Y G E E K M O M. I am not affiliated with the mouse house.

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John 20 Minute Tabletop is a Morkor Studios production.
Theme song by Arthur Rowan. Morkor art by Sita Duncan.
Do you want more tabletop gaming fun? Subscribe to 20 Minute Tabletop on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts. Find more at our website 20mintabletop.com, that is the numbers 2 0 m i n tabletop.com or connect with us on twitter and instagram @20mintabletop, thats at 2 0 m i n tabletop.
Thank you and roll with fortune.

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