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Pathfinder: The State of Core

July 21, 2015

Almost six months ago Paizo released a new ‘mode’ for players in its Organized Play program. This Core Campaign, as it was called, only allowed the resources of the Core Rulebook of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This new mode of play did a couple of things for Paizo’s Organized Play program.

First, it allowed new players to join and not be overwhelmed and needing all of the options of the Classic Campaign. New players keep Organized Play fresh with new perspectives and, of course, money. As some veteran players leave because they are bored or for greener pastures with other RPG systems, new players inevitably make the switch to the Classic Campaign and buy new source materials (books, PDFs, etc.) to use for their characters.

Secondly, it allows veteran players to replay scenarios and modules that they have already completed for credit once more. With the Core Campaign’s limitations on player options, veteran players seem to also use this opportunity for a challenge. Since many of the more recent scenarios are created to challenge those playing in the Classic Campaign (who have options galore), Core characters are challenged even more.

As a proponent of the Core Campaign, we have been building a consistent player base in town that consists of both veteran and new players. Before the Core Campaign came along, it seemed harder to get players to come but ever since the release of Core, the growth that we have had at our FLGS has been consistent. It has been good to our players as it has allowed organizers to form cohesive story lines from modules and scenarios instead of the popular question asked every week “Have you played this yet?” The smattering of scenarios fractures the multiple story lines into tiny bits and the majority of the time players do not recognize them. The Core Campaign takes care of that.

With Core being new (sort of), we wanted to know what players were thinking and doing. We wanted to know what classes and races players preferred, what attributes, skills and feats were most important to them and what piece of equipment is a must-have. With almost sixty responses and an eighty-percent completion rate, we found out what players were trying to do; survive and adapt.

Before we listed the survey, we thought that players, as in the Classic Campaign, would want to have the highest damage capabilities to finish off any threats as quickly as possible. While that is somewhat true, players have seemed to gravitate towards surviving since the potential for ending encounters quickly is much lower and versatility because you do not know what other characters will be at your table while adventuring. Here is the key data that we culled from our survey:

  • Classes Played: 33% Clerics (25% Wizards)
  • Races Played: 50% Humans (Equal Mixture of Other Races, except Half-Elf)
  • Most Important Attribute: 25% Constitution (Intelligence, Dexterity)
  • Most Important Feat: Toughness (Power Attack)
  • Most Important Skill: Perception (Diplomacy and Spellcraft)
  • Most Important Equipment: Cloak of Resistance (Wand of Cure Light Wounds and Alchemist’s Fire)

Judging from this data, we found that players are definitely trying to survive as long as they can, which makes sense because Organized Play does not operate like home games where you can usually swap out characters due to death. Clerics heal with spells and channeled energy while providing, most times, versatility within the party, depending on their deity’s domains. Wizards were close behind due to the versatility provided by their spell books. Players want more hit points, denoted by their choice of higher constitution scores and the Toughness feat. Perception was, by far, the most important skill, keeping enemies from getting the drop on players. Humans were the most popular choice for race. This is most likely due to their bonus feat and extra skill points, giving something extra over and beyond regular class abilities. The market for cloaks of resistance is strong as they provide the only real boost to a character’s saves, while wands of cure light wounds provide an extra healing element easily available to parties and alchemist’s fire is an effective tool to deal with those dreadful swarms. Survivability and versatility is the name of this game.

So what kind of character are players shying away from? A half-elf monk with a higher wisdom score! All three of those elements of a character like this were at the bottom of their respective categories. Half-elves are versatile with some of the abilities of elves and humans, but their bonus feat is Skill Focus, thus limiting the versatility otherwise enjoyed by humans. Monks need help from feats and archetypes which are not available in the Core Campaign. They lack several key components best left for discussion elsewhere (like here – Pathfinder Unchained: Monk). And players just thought that wisdom was not as important, comparatively, as the other attributes.

We have looked at what the Core Campaign is, what it is accomplishing and what players think is important in the campaign. So, in conclusion, we offer two pre-generated characters on the opposite ends of the spectrum; one made to be the perfect character to play and the other taking the least desirable traits and making something happen. Here they are:

  • Annastias the Beloved – Seemingly loved by everyone she meets, the tough, raven-haired beauty Annastias joined the clergy of Sarenrae and then the Pathfinder Society under the tutelage of her cousin. Driven by her thirst for knowledge and the preservation of ancient history, she routinely travels Golarion in hopes to find some obscure lore that the Sapphire Sage, Amenopheus, hinted at finding.
  • Grilayne Ashenoak – An outsider of sorts, Grilayne tries to rally others to his causes. Whether the cause may be calling for the town to present its taxes to the nearby temple of Abadar or for the local magistrate to end a bloody feud, it seems as though he is never welcomed in any civilized stronghold. Practicing a rigorous and unforgiving set of daily disciplines, he uses the ideals of Abadar as a basis for his beliefs. Now, as a member of the Pathfinder Society, he has decided to bring civilization to the heathens of the world, wherever they may be.
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  1. July 28, 2015 at 9:23 pm

    An interesting article, great work on collecting the information and putting together some conclusions based on the data.

    Have you considered making the data itself public? It would be great to be able to delve a little deeper into the exact figures.

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