Pathfinder Unchained Review: Chapter 2

The review continues!  I have just this very moment finished reading the Chapter 2 which is entitled Skills and Options, a play on the old second edition brown rulebook that really began to open up old school to new school rules.  In reality the chapter covers 4 new skill related systems and expands on Crafting, Profession and offers an additional variant for multi-classing.  There is good and bad in this chapter so let us take a look, first at the four skill system variants that they offer up.

Skill System Options

Background Skills

The team at Paizo argue that the nature of the way that the game works (targeted action/adventure in the main) generally means that players rarely invest heavily in skills that would be considered background type skills unless it has a tangible benefit for them in the game.  I agree wholeheartedly with them as I have been running Pathfinder for five years now and I have had precisely 1 player take a Profession skill when it meant nothing to take it.  For example, all of the players in my Skull’s and Shackles campaign has Profession(Sailor) and that is largely because they need it as a lot of time is spent on ship.  But only one player has bothered with the skill prior to that anomaly.

Pathfinder Unchained
This is shaping up to being a great addition to the library

This system is a clever way of forcing players to consider the character background by giving extra skill points that may only be spent on background skills.  They detail in the description what the background skills are and even create two new skills that go along with it (Artistry and Lore).  They even spend a few pages expanding out the different kind of things that background skills can be used for in game.  This system in my opinion is a brilliant system that I almost entirely like.  In fact, should I undertake another game of Pathfinder in the future I will be sure to implement this system in combination with one of the other systems mentioned in this book.  I am not too taken by the Artistry and Lore skill though, that may take a little bit of a reread at the time to see if I want to include it.

Consolidated Skills

This system is one that I thought I would like.  It takes the existing skill system and reduces it to 12 skills by combining similar or like skills into a single skill.  Reduced skill complexity was what was in my mind and I was all for it, until I read it.

This does reduce the skills to 12, simply by adding those skills into one broader skill and then adding what it did as a sub-clause to that skill.  Then once you have read all the sub-clauses you have to deal with the math of how to reduce the number of skill points you start with and get at each level, eliminate a whole heap of Feats and do some Math or eliminate some traits and then…  Well you get my drift, I hope.  A system that is designed to reduce the number of skills that ups complexity?  Wow, well done.  Whoever wrote it has a great career ahead in politics, or the Government or anywhere that deals with driving people insane.

By the way, if the Australian sarcasm has not hit you yet, this system sucks.

Grouped Skills

I read this in the intro to the chapter and I thought, “What is the difference between grouped and consolidated?”  The answer is quite simple, I found after reading it, usability.  This system does not replace the skills like the consolidation method but it groups the skills into like skill “groups”.  The groups are Natural, Perceptive, Physical, Scholarly, Social and Thieving.  Each starting character gets to choose at least one group of skills that they are “trained” in and at least one skill (not necessarily in a trained group) that they are specialised in.  The number of groups and specialties depend on the number of skill points that you would receive if you were using the normal skill system and is also modified by intelligence.

There are no skill ranks in this system and the bonus that you add to a skill when using it is based on your class level.  You may add none, half or the full amount of your class level dependent on the combination of grouping and speciality that you have, and the class skill bonus, traits and other bonuses.  I think the team at Paizo realised that this may be a system that people might be keen on because they even include a sidebar on how to use it with say Background skills method (or the other crappy version which will no longer be mentioned).  This isa very elegant system that works very well and is one that I am very tempted to use in conjunction with the background skills in the future.

Skill Unlocks

This technically is not a new skill system.  It is in fact an addition to the existing skill system and has been designed with the rebuild of the rogue that I mentioned in the previous review of this book.  This system unlocks “extra” cool little abilities and modifiers at the 5, 10, 15 and 20 skill rank mark.  They list them all neatly for each skill and they are really cool, nifty unlocks.  Prior to spelling the unlocks out there is a discussion on who should have access to the unlocks.  Should it be a rogue only thing or could some characters access it via a Feat that they provide (this allows access but not as powerful as a rogue) or should it be open season and everyone get them?

I am very much on the side of keeping these restricted to the rogue class.  These abilities really turn them into a fantastic source of tools for the rogue and may attract more players to the class.  There is a minor increase of complexity because you have to factor the unlocks in but what they bring to the table far outweighs that increase and it is something I would love to see active in my games.

Options

Crafting Skill Expansion

They group the alternate expansion rules for crafting and professions in the same section but they have different rules for each so I am going to separate them and deal with them individually.  The crafting system really does extrapolate out the process of making an item.  The reasoning behind this is to make crafting more appealing in game to do and a little more involved so the player can role play around it and interact with the main portion of society rather than just evil mages and dungeon inhabitants.  I thought I was going to hate this but was pleasantly surprised that at the end I was thinking that I really should stat up some crafters for my campaigns for the players to interact with.

You see, there is a sense of realism included in the crafting section here.  It extrapolates out the materials that you use, the help you get and the bartering process around it all.  This will require bookwork and extra rolls but it is much better than the “I want to craft a crossbow!” “Make a roll and lose 2 gold” “I rolled a twenty – yay I made a crossbow” interaction that crafting pretty much previously was.  In the new system you can go hunting for better materials and make contacts in the crafting communities and I can see this whole system perhaps opening up Pathfinder to a different type of gamer if it gets promoted and exposure.  I thoroughly enjoyed this so thanks Paizo!

Profession Skill Expansion

This expansion is a little less magical than the crafting expansion but it does put a more robust system in place to that which was previously covered.  My problem with this system has to do with inconsistencies on running a business.  The idea behind some of this is that some players may want to run businesses and I can totally see the appeal to some types of players to do this.  The supposition that I really dislike here is that if you stay and run the business then it takes you 100% of your time – OK, I am with you there.  But if you want to reduce the time needed then you can hire assistants.  Each assistant reduces the time you need to be there by 25%?  Why 25%?  Why can’t a character have one person run it 100% of the time?  It makes no sense at all.  None whatsoever.

Otherwise the system is serviceable and takes a look at not just a store that you run but even if you just want to pick up a day or two work here and there.  There is a list of all the profession skill specialties in the core rule book and why they would be employed if they were travellers.  Some of the descriptions in these were a bit iffy as well but in the longer run it should be the up to the GM to determine if there is a market for you where you lay your head for an evening.

Variant Multi-classing

The final four pages of the book describes a variant multi-classing option.  I have to be honest with you, I am finding hard to say anything nice about this system at all.  First and foremost the player chooses a second class to be trained in at 1st level.  From the looks of it, though it is not explicitly stated, the secondary class levels up each time your primary class does.  You get nowhere near the same benefits that you would if you were using the normal rules and the class features are added very gradually.

I really have trouble describing this system because I really cannot see an intent for it.  I can not for the life of me see why someone would want to multi-class in this fashion which is so odd.  If this system is introduced in a campaign there is no reason not to do it because if even one character takes it they will be better than you at no cost at the same level you are as a pure character.  It forces players to take skills in other classes and the build of powers is hugely slowed but still, WHY?  I continue to read the book and have blotted these four pages from my memory.  Maybe they were four pages short for the book?

Conclusion

This chapter meets up with the words in the introduction.  Stuff that I may love and hate.  The good thing about this chapter is that it contains some stuff that I really like, and there is even stuff I thought I would not like that surprised me.  So far the overall flow of this book has been pretty good and I am looking forward to getting into the next chapter “3. Gameplay” to see what surprises may be in store for me!  Thanks for reading and keep rolling!

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