Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Is Pathfinder Really That Bad?

Recently my gaming group had to take a hiatus for me to catch up on paperwork, which seems the bane of all teachers in today's age. It's even worse in my field of special education, but hey -- it pays the bills. So anyway, my group has largely dissolved back into the woodwork of the school. All that is but for a die-hard crew of 5 that continues to come to my room to game until I leave each day about 430 or 500. Sure they play Pathfinder, and not OSRIC, 1e, or Hackmaster, but they are still gaming hard with little sign of letting up or stopping. They have inspired me to say the least.

So , now that I'm fairly caught up with my work overload and have my new behavioral class under control I'm starting to talk about the idea of starting up the club once or twice a week again. I figure I can manage that. Well the Pathfinder guys are pumped about it; and I have to admit, if I had to choose six gamers to support in the club five of them would be the Pathfinder group. They just, well, deserve it.

I have a hard time reaching out to the others that claim to love to game and even those who like OSRIC and old school gaming. But haven't cracked a rulebook once in the last 5 weeks.

So what's the problem you ask? Well, the die hards want to game, yeah you guessed it: Pathfinder.

Now, I like Pathfinder as a game. I like it better than 4e and as much if not more than 3.5. Paizo's support is amazing, better than WoTC by far in terms of quality product and relations with their customer base. But I just have a few old grognardy issues with the game.

My problems with PF:

First is multiclassing. I hate the multiclassing concept in PF. I mean come on, you have a fighter trucking around in the woods hacking baddies and he earns enough xp's to advanced to second level, so he ... takes a level as a WIZARD! For ciminy's sake! How the heck do you figure that? It just stretches my belief too far. It makes no sense whatsoever. Not to mention the 4th level pc who is a 1st level cleric, 1st level wizard, 1st level ranger, 1st level paladin. Give me a frickin' break.

Okay so no big problem here. Simply disallow multiclassing. I can live with that. The game can live with that and we are all good.

Secondly, prestige classes. Same issue as multiclassing, sort of. Classes like prestige classes really out to be carefully roleplayed and I do mean carefully. Even IF you allow them they should NOT be easy to acquire.

So cut them out too. Lots of 3.5 GMs disallowed them too. No big prob there either.

Thirdly, and the real killer. Feats. I despise feats. If there was ever a power game mechanic besides 4e powers it has to be feats. What exactly are they anyway? As you advance in level in any level based rpg you gain power by being able to do more stuff. Otherwise there is not much point to a level based system. If the game has this built in why do we need feats? Why? I'll tell you why: POWERGAMING. Yes, every game suffers to one point or another by powergaming, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. Nor should the system have a built in power gaming mechanic. Loopholes are fine, even rules or mechanics errors in the ruleset. These things have always existed and will be discussion for rules lawyers long after we're gone. But to write in a power gaming mechanic is to me anathema. I don't like it and hate it even more than multiclassing or prestige classes.

And the trouble with this is that you CAN'T get rid of it. It's built into the system. All classes are balanced by distribution of feats, especially at first level. And races and classes like humans and fighters are balanced by being able to acquire more feats. If you start jacking with feats in Pathfinder you're jacking with a core part of the system. I'm not saying it can't be done, but it seems to be a bigger headache than I'm willing to put up with.

So, what do I do for the die hard PF players who want me to GM again? I'm not sure. But every time I mention Hackmaster they shake in their junior high tennis shoes. Heh heh ... This could be fun.


Anonymous said...

There's really not a lot of reason to 'dip' like you're describing in PF, and certainly not a level of wizard for a fighter. Other systems, sure, but not really with PF. It might be something weird your players are doing, but even then, you're saying they're having fun incorrectly? That's not 'grognardy'. That's a problem with you, not them.

Anonymous said...

3.5 had all of the problems you listed as well. I also believe you do not adequately grasp the concept of the class system in dungeons and dragons.

A fighter does not learn magic by beating up wolves, nor does he learn how to be a better fighter. Wolves are animals, they do not use stances or proper technique or wear armor. XP is a meta system, and characters are assumed to train or be instructed between sessions when they level. Remember, one does not level immediately.

Class is a meta construct designed to explain to us, out of character, how a character operates behind the curtain. Be they a single class, a base and 'advanced' class, or a hybrid of multiple base classes.

Let us take for example the fictional character Sir Matthew Lockwood, a dashing 6'9" knight in shining armor. He weilds a longsword in two hands as his chosen weapon, follows a code of chivalry, and wears chain and surcoat. He is ordained a paladin by the Church of Ragnar, who also favors the long sword as his weapon. He is honest and forthright, and aside from his skill at arms, he calls upon powers beyond ordinary man.

What class is he?

You might say Paladin, and that would be an obvious choice. He has the title, and fits their code and methods.

What about a Fighter mixed with Favored Soul? He's still a longsword and chain warrior with powers beyond mortal man. Being honest and forthright isn't a class restriction here, but it isn't precluded either.

How about a Sorceror Abjurant Champion, wearing mithril chain? He's still using a sword and maille, has his magic, and personality quirks.

Of the three options above, how do you, in character, pick out which class he is? You can't.

And you shouldn't.

However, we as players need to know this so that we know what exactly Sir Lockwood can do.

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