Coming to Terms With Pathfinder I

Okay, so here we are full circle again. Allow me to recap the past couple of weeks with you:
  • I am frustrated with my group. They continue to infight, make stupid mistakes, and die left and right. Nothing I do seem to make any difference. The group is over 14 players strong (most 13-16 years old) and we are playing twice a week.
  • In my effort to resolve the issue I delve deeper into the Pathfinder system to find answers
  • What I discover bothers me. I get the distinct idea that in this version of d20 PC power has continued to rise, and yet the rules seem to foster a "take it easy approach". This frustrates me. But I can't help but wonder if my old school style GMing (even tho' we are playing PF) has led to over 35 PC deaths in the past 7 month period.
  • First assuming that it is the game that is the problem I decide to quit Pathfinder. I feel like taking their focus on power down a notch by gaming with an old school system will help them learn that good playing is what will help them survive--not power.
  • We begin with Labyrinth Lord, though I allow a student GM to continue the groups Pathfinder game once a week.
  • In considering LL vs my favorite expression of a rules system--Swords & Wizardry I come to realize the kind of game I really want to play. I don't know if its S&W interpretations of the rules per se, but Matt Finch's tone and writing and spirit truly inspire me. Truthfully they always have, but in his writings I find my greatest inspiration as a GM. So I really decide it is the ultimate freedom offered by a 0e clone/simulacra that I desire as a GM. I want the freedom that offers, and I love Matt Finch's dark Swords & Sorcery tone in much of his work; as well as his solid old school ethos.
  • I announced I would no longer GM pathfinder and immediately was dealing with a lot of hate from players that really could only see playing Pathfinder and wanted nothing to do with old school games, and worse dissed them heavily and insulted me personally for suggesting we try them. That was hard for me.
  • So I realized that I am only seeing half of the issue. My players also have desires. Now, granted my current players are young players. They are all new to the game and so have little experience with one system let alone multiple systems. They also are very in love with the system we started with this year Pathfinder. I decide I need to see things from their point of view for awhile.
  • I start playing as a PC in the PF game while continuing my LL system (strongly influenced by S&W). This is a good experience for me, and more than a little fun. I realize several things. 1) Players are worried about staying alive 2) anything that helps you attain #1 is worth having in a PCs eyes. 3) Given a chance players will almost always go for power--failing that a really "cool" concept 4) our groups are really too big, players have to wait a long time to act or shout out to be heard, lots of them have little chance to contribute, and play is generally chaotic.
  • I found in my Labyrinth Lord game that players acted pretty much the same and that it was likely due to the size and dynamics of the group instead of my GMing style or the game we were playing.
  • I also started a second S&W/LL campaign at home with my own children and one of their cousins.This game went brilliantly. But there were only 4 of them and they really tried to work together. This confirmed for me that the group size and dynamics are critical to success. I have runs groups of this age for the last 5 or 6 years, and never have I had trouble like I am having this year--and Pathfinder is the biggest variable so far. But I have had one other group have success with PF (last year) at least to 3rd and 4th level.
  • So begins my analysis of the systems I am most likely to play, and I realize several things. 1) D&D is very distinct from d20 2) player options and "power-ups" have been creeping into the game since AD&D and have just grown exponentially from there 3) The goal is to try to find a game that offers GMs as much freedom as possible and players the most options possible.
  • My initial feeling is that a good, solid skill system that fits in with a flexible and lite core system is probably the best system to look for. So I am initially drawn to two games I really love--Castles & Crusades and Adventures Dark & Deep, but I also spend some time with Hackmaster and GURPS.
  • Hackmaster is now so different from both d20 and the original D&D that, though I like lots of what they do I decide not to pursue that very far. GURPS I spend some time looking at simply because it is likely the best skills based system out there (bold statement I know, but it is what it is : )
  • With this out of the way and some conclusions drawn, I return to Pathfinder to reanalyze the system  in light of what I learned so far.


Drance said…
You know, to let you into some of my own analysis-paralysis, I've recently been afflicted with a desire to find a game that I am comfortable not using ANY house rules. I think that in order to do that, the game cannot be any derivation of D&D. That's why I've been exploring British Old School games, especially Advanced Fighting Fantasy. My theory is that if I move totally away from D&D and its many offspring, that urge to house rule will go away.

But you know, all of these feelings can shift with the wind at any time ;-)

Good luck to us both!

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