Ten years ago, in the wake of the release of Dungeons & Dragons: 4th Edition by Wizards of the Coast (WotC) and the abandonment of the wildly successful Open Gaming License (OGL), a relatively small publishing company started a revolution in paper and pencil roleplaying. Paizo not only dedicated itself to continuing the legacy it had created as a 3rd-party production house during the days of D&D 3.5, it stepped out on its own to create Pathfinder, a roleplaying game that rivals its big brother in popularity. Now, Paizo has announced its 2nd edition and the follow-up to one of the most ambitious projects in roleplaying gaming history.
In 2008, Paizo took the unprecedented step of breaking completely away from moving forward as a 3rd-party producer of Dungeons & Dragons products to build its own game. The break with the past wasn’t the game itself, but both the reliance on the beloved 3.5 Edition rules set and the enormously successful crowdsourcing effort it took in playtesting the game. During the entire life of Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition (including its immediate successor 3.5), Wizards allowed 3rd-party producers to utilize much of the base rule set under its “Open Gaming License.” This license was strict, but allowed a huge number of smaller publishing companies to use the “D20” logo and the Dungeons & Dragons name to sell their products. Problems arose early in the OGL’s life when it was discovered that WotC could exempt its own material from use by other publishers at will. As 4th Edition came around, WotC (now owned by toy giant Hasbro) decided to do away with the OGL moving forward. This did not, as Paizo and several other major second-tier publishing houses realized, cancel the OGL from 3rd and 3.5. Firms were still able to use the information and rules set that fans enjoyed. A hole in the industry was being created and Paizo jumped in with both feet.
Building their own game based on the D20 system would have been a fairly mundane undertaking. What was different this time was two-fold: first, the Pathfinder system was an extension of D&D 3.5, capitalizing on its highs and working to fix the lows. Second, the rules system would be written in-house, but playtested in public. 40,000 people took part in the Pathfinder open playtest. They released – for free – electronic copies of the initial books and printed limited runs for sale at conventions and through game stores. The solicited direct response from players, even offering and exclusive playtest adventure. The response was overwhelming and shaped not only the base game, but its future.
Now, after 10 hugely successful years creating fantasy roleplaying stories that rival the gorilla in the room itself, Paizo has launched the crowd-sourced playtest for its 2nd Edition. Downloadable files of the new Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook, Pathfinder Playtest Adventure, and Pathfinder Playtest Flip-Mat Multi-Pack will be available on Paizo’s website starting August 2, 2018. Hard copies may be pre-ordered beginning on March 20th in limited numbers or purchased at the Paizo booth during this year’s GenCon in Indianapolis. Details on the changes are set to be released as the playtest opening date approaches, but one that caught many eyes in particular is a wording change that may alter the way players create and perceive their characters’ history. The long-used term “race” to refer to a character’s origins will now be change to “ancestry,” removing the stigma associated with the word. This may also allow for distinct changes in how characters from different parts of the Pathfinder worlds interact with each other and the people they encounter along their adventures. Included in the initial release is an additional promise that roleplaying art workhorse, Wayne Reynolds, will continue to provide the iconic Pathfinder art he has perfected over the past decade.
Details on the announcement along with an FAQ can be found at http://paizo.com/pathfinderplaytest