Friday, February 24, 2012

Coming to Terms With Pathfinder II

Page by Page ... Well almost. The idea here is to take a look at the PF rules and bring up things that bother me. This is not a rant session--it is a way for me to talk with myself, and perhaps others who are interested about issues I have with Pathfinder. Perhaps I can work them out and find a way for me to be comfortable with the system that all of my current club players prefer.

Overall Feelings
  • I don't like slickness in my RPG. I'm an old school guy and loved the black & white art, the archaisms, the stilted speech, the historical rootedness of the game and the like. But this is a cosmetic issue at best, but it does matter to me. Not likely this will change much, as it started with 2e and just kept on getting slicker. And in fact with the dwindling market share for gaming books overall I don;t think it makes much sense to go slick--keep costs down and content high.
  • I do like splat books however. And all of the systems since 2e are splat heavy--PF too. That makes me happy.
  • I like gaming subscriptions and PF has that in spades, but I do wish they still had a magazine like Dragons. But I don't hold that against them.
  • The company is aces as gaming companies go, great community at Paizo, and Jason Buhlman is awesome.
  • It's d20--which I'm actually okay with. Because d20 is so lite, intuitive and logical it fits perfect into a rules lite approach. Unfortunately that's where the rules lite ends for PF.
  • The fact that it's d20 makes me sad in that its not D&D. d20 has a decidedly different feel from D&D, and though you can opt out of a lot of the other rules it does play a bit differently. For awhile I really thought that any game is played pretty much the same way depending on the players involved. But if that was the case, none of this would have come up for me. Don't know what to say about this. It's more about me letting go of something I love (D&D mechanics) to embrace a new way of doing things. I can see how d20 might be more efficient, but it feels a little different and that's something I'm just not quite comfortable with yet--even though I can handle it overall.
Details
  • Chapter 1 Getting Started
    • No real problems here. Except I prefer a standard ability generation to 3d6--no big deal
  • Chapter 2 Races
    • Standard starting races--Good
    • Racial ability bonuses are a little high for me, but overall I can live with them. Truth to tell those hefty ability bonuses should make cheating on ability generation less of a problem; and it can steer racial choice as well.
  • Chapter 3 Classes
    • Single XP table, don't like that--it genericizes the classes some
    • Also don't like optional XP advancement. This is a product of a broken XP award system (see below), but sends the wrong message to players that there is an easy, medium and difficult way to game. May have seemed like a good idea at the time, but it sets the wrong tone for the game.
    • I do NOT like advancing ability scores. I don't think this should be automatic, other than by age, special circumstances or magic.
    • Absolutely HATE the multiclassing rules--could go into that more here, but suffice it to say that it makes no sense whatsoever in a class based system. Favored class as the only motivation to stay in your class is weak at best an seems a product of the multiclassing rules.
    • Lack of racial restrictions make no sense. Elvish Barbarians? Dwarf Wizards?
    • All classes are souped up in power--don't really like that.
    • Barbarian is less barbarian like than previous definitions of the class--Rage rules are no good. Should not be able to affiliate with spellcasters. No payoff for commensurate abilities.
    • Bard--I have never liked single class Bards.
    • I like the Cleric domains--well done. I hate Channel energy however. Stupid power just designed to up damage taking capacity of an adventuring party. Bring back turn undead and spells to heal.
    • Pathfinder Gods and mythos rock!
    • Druid is iffy for me too. The only Druid I have ever really liked is the AD&D + UA Druid. This one is okay, but meh. And all Druids should be true neutral, balance is integral to their ethos. Otherwise you are just a nature priest. To me this seems indicative of the misunderstanding later designers show about the original intent of the classes.
    • Fighters are fine.
    • Monks are pretty good. Monk is a hard class to define. I really like the AD&D monk best, but the interpretation here isn't bad.
    • Pallies are good. I like the idea of giving the Pallie more abilities like the old Druid had. Good work here.
    • Rangers are okay. They don't feel woodsy enough--but this has been a complaint of mine since they were first introduced into the game. I don't like the idea of a Ranger as a woodsy fighter. I think more of a scout or woodsman or forester. Fighting should be secondary to them. Can't fault the Ranger here for that as all Rangers seem to suffer from this stigma. Except maybe for C&C Rangers, I like them.
    • Rogue is a class I liked when 2e introduced it. Thief was always a little too narrow for me. That being said I really don;t like the whole talent notion of Rogues here. I mean it's okay, but not the direction I would have gone.
    • I hate sorcerers! Magic in AD&D should be Vancian in nature and driven by spellbooks if it is arcane in nature. Sorry, not a favorite class for me.
    • Wizards and their schools are awesome. We have a basic repeat of 2e Wizards here and that is good with me.
    • Overall the classes feel templated to me. They are all sort of designed to balance moreso than in the past; and I think that is completely unnecessary. And each and every class has some sort of special ability they gain as they advance. Also unnecessary to me. A customized skill system would be better. We don't need nifty new powers every level. It isn't very hard core in my opinion, and feeds into powergaming.
  • Chapter 4 Skills
    • Overall the system for skills is good. but in my opinion it makes the mistake 2e made in giving too many. I do like that skill ranks are limited to overall level, but that doesn't preclude a PC having as much as a +8 on a given skill at first level. Rare, but possible. Too high if you ask me. And skill points every level is also a bit of a stretch for me.
  • Chapter 5 Feats
    • Are entirely unnecessary if you ask me. Not only do we get power ups almost every level we also get feats. As a method or character customization they have potential, but not in the number which PF awards.
    • A PC at level 11 for instance is going to have 6 feats! And humans are going to have 7. A human fighter will have 13!! In addition to all their class abilities.
    • Let's face the music, high level class based Fantasy RPGs top out pretty quick. It becomes hard to challenge a PC after a certain point. Adding more power is not the answer to this dilemma.
  • Chapter 6 Equipment
    • Lots to say here mainly about how the combat rules add a level of complexity that I really don;t think is needed. This is where my biggest beef is with PF--that and power creep. But it is really hard to just play streamlined combat without simply ignoring all of the combat rules. I suppose one could do this, and with a better controlled group of players I might be able to work something out in this regard.
    • I can't say I don't like the rules here, they all make some degree of sense; and are at least as good as most other RPG combat rules. There's just so many that are assumed to be part of the game that combat can slow things down, and become a cumbersome rule-look-up session.
    • PF has made some improvements on 3.5 however, where combat was even more cumbersome--especially with CMB and CMD--which is a good idea, but if everything is so complex why only simplify grappling?
    • My ultimate opinion on this is it ALL needs to be optional--NOT a part of the core system.
    • The actual equipment, money and the like is just fine though. Nothing special to turn my crank however.
  • Chapter 7 Additional Rules
    • 9 point Alignment system--good.
    • Ages, sizes, and such should be in the PC section--but no big deal. However, they miss a huge opportunity in offering actual PC background tables and information. That might mitigate some of the need for all the power based customization all over the place.
    • The rest of the rules here, encumbrance and miscellaneous stuff I can live with. I never used much of this stuff in AD&D, so the deets here don't shake me much--but it is nice to see it.
  • Chapter 8 Combat
    • Sigh
    • What can I say? this is where the recent d20 systems lose all of their potential elegance.
    • d20 combat can be so quick--quicker than D&D ever was. But now? Well, PF is better than 3.5 and it aint as bad as 4e, but still. I hate PF combat rules. When players will let me run it fast and loose all goes well, but all we need is a couple of rules lawyers and you almost _have_ to have the rules. It isn't taken well when I wing it, or make GM calls outside of the RAW either. So I'm almost forced--moreso with every session--of incorporating more and more rules into PF combat.
    • I do have some problems with specific rules, like Attacks of Opportunity, and negative Con to death, nonlethal damage and maybe one or two others I'm not too familiar with. But whatever, additional combat rules, get so technical that you could go one way as well as another.
    • Creating such a detailed system for combat is a huge bugaboo, because you are essentially trying to write a computer program to simulate actual melee or ranged combat. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson learned long ago that this is a subject fraught with differences of opinions and difficulties. D&D took the approach that abstract was better and left it at that. d20 has generally gone in the other direction. Though to be fair, 2e really started the ball rolling with its options books.
    • Sigh--if I could rewrite PF combat I would prolly have lots less problems with the system. Just do it d20 man and leave the deets up to the players.
  • Chapter 9 Magic
    • Pretty good coverage of the main factors affecting spells without becoming burdensome
    • Like the counterspelling, but I might tweak the results info
  • Chapter 10 Spells
    • I know I'm in the minority here, but I like spell descriptions separated by level.
  • Chapter 11 Prestige Classes
    • Puhleeeeze ...
    • I find no use for these beyond flavorful additions for GM use
    • These are PC developments that should be confined to specific campaigns and GM/Player creation. I definitely do NOT think they should be a part of a core system
  • Chapter 12 Gamemastering
    • This is where I went before and became very displeased with PF
    • Encounter design is broken
    • XP design is wrong
      • XP should be focused on the purpose of the game, which would include treasure, exploration, roleplaying, overcoming and/or negotiating with monsters/pcs, traps and the like. When you wrap XP into an encounter level or challenge rating you miss this element of flexible encounter creation and adaptation. It also constricts play and purpose within the game. Bad, bad, BAD idea.
    • Treasure value and worth is a good rule of thumb, but it should be made clear that this will vary greatly based on campaign type, to which only two sentences is afforded on pg 400.
    • There are some other good hints here, but I find them distasteful to my style of GMing, and can't help but wonder if others do too. I suppose a GM can simply ignore all this, but since this is the only real chapter on GMing, you would expect the heart of running a game to be here--the heart of the system, but instead it is a slanted approach to game play that turns me off somewhat.
    • Alternative races list should be out; not mentioned in the core game. This is a topic for later splat books.
  • Chapter 13 Environment
    • Good basic info on mundane stuff
    • Traps section is not bad, but suffers from lack of detail. Need better description than just a name. This might have been better used in a splatbook with more room--but this isn't really bad.
    • I don't really like CR ratings for environmental factors, but I suppose it is useful for some who desire to keep things carefully balanced.
    • Need MUCH more info on planes, but the basic stuff is here. Splat book material really.
  • Chapter 14 NPCs
    • Good useful info
  • Chapter 15 Magic Items
    • Overall I'm impressed with this chapter--the descriptions are decent
  • Appendices
    • Special Abilities
      • Good info: like the diseases, and poisons.
    • Conditions
      • Not a fan of mechanically driven conditions, but I suppose it allows for consistency
    • Inspiring Reading
      • Not a bad list--a new take on Appendix N
    • Game Aids
      • Like the heads up about their subscription lines
    • Player Character Sheet
      • You already know I hate the PF PC sheet
    • Index
      • Not bad, not bad at all--but far from complete

2 comments:

ADD Grognard said...

Ok, gotta share some linkage to help your adventures in Pathfinder:

Magazine-1? How about 2:

http://paizo.com/store/byCompany/r/ritePublishing/pathfinderRPG/pathways

+

http://paizo.com/store/downloads/paizoFansUnited

PLUS-They are free :)

I don't know if you had looked into this but it might help:

http://paizo.com/pathfinderSociety

And this has got some very exciting ideas:

http://www.amazon.com/Pathfinder-Campaign-Setting-Distant-Worlds/dp/1601254032/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1330216842&sr=8-1

I'm thinking of waiting on the Inner Sea ramp up till I see where they go with these new locations. Eox and Akiton in particular.

And this got a big round of applause at GenCon (I got the links to the videos of Erik and Lisa somewhere if you would like to hear everything going on with Pathfinder this year):

http://www.amazon.com/Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-Runelords-Anniversary/dp/1601254369/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330216898&sr=1-2

This is a complete re-write of the series with additional material and 'pawns' being released for it.

And last but not least:

http://www.amazon.com/Pathfinder-Roleplaying-Game-Bestiary-Box/dp/1601254245/ref=pd_sim_b_2

At about a dime apiece this was a no-brainer for me-already pre-ordered-after seeing the quality of the ones in the PBB.

I hope something here puts a smile on your face and a bit of cheer in your day. These items have certainly helped me lately :)

Chris said...

Hey ADDGrognard! Thanks for the heads up on the magazines, I didn't know about those.

Yeah, we're using the Inner Sea Guide now in the club. It's a great piece of work actually. Very nicely put together and well written.