Friday, February 17, 2012

Do I Really Need All These Numbers?

Yeah, I'm pretty open about my gaming angst. I figure I might as well be honest, and not strike some sort of false pose about my gaming. But as you likely have already figured out if you follow my little blog--I have a hard time making up my mind. I haven't really mentioned this in my increasingly long "about me" page, so I figure a bit of explanation is in order.

There is personality test called the Meyer's Briggs personality type indicator and I've taken it dozen's of times in at least three different forms. I've even paid to take an official one from a career counselor. And I test the same every time, very strongly INTP. Now I won't go into details about this (you can look it up if you want), but suffice it to say that INTPs revel in analysis of all sorts. A strength of their personality is in being able to clearly see all sides of a given issue. But this strength can also be a weakness in that they can have an incredibly hard time deciding on things. They are very literally plagued by the potential that there is no real right decision--all decisions can be justified, at least in theory. Hence just one of their difficulties in making a definitive decision.

So I don't pretend my gaming journey is a lot like those of other peoples'. INTPs only make up about 1.5% of the population anyway. No, this is just one guys observations about how gaming affects me personally. So please remember this when considering my thoughts in light of your own gaming preferences.With that little caveat out the way, check out my 1st level Pathfinder character sheet:

Yep, three pages ...

And lots of numbers. I know that a PF character sheet is designed to help you calculate all your essential mechanics, and that accounts for all the numbers. I mean really you don't need all that crap. We certainly didn't need it when we were playing AD&D. I recall the majority of PCs we wrote up looked something like this:

And just to have fun, I had a fellow GM time me as I created this PC. 3 minutes, 41 seconds and some change. Wow--big difference there. Okay, that's not entirely fair--I have the AD&D core rules practically memorized from so much play long ago. I'm still having to look up all the PF calculations and modifiers and such. But still ...

Now, to be fair, after we had been playing AD&D for awhile we started getting into character booklets. Lots of background information and the like, extra info for character description, and as we advanced in level info for places of residence, strongholds and adventure histories. But that was all extra--nor really needed. So to thinking how concise could a PF character sheet really be? First I took a look at the PF box sheet PC record, and that was a dissapointment. Lots of info on there for beginning players--too much if you ask me. That left it up to me, and this is what I came up with:

Granted, this sheet really assumed that you know the way to calculate all your essential stats. And it still has saves on your sheet--which most AD&D character sheets I used never did.  the GM could look this info up, and it varied little from PC to PC. Not so in PF. Players need to keep track of their individual saves, BABs and other numbers. But all pretty much there on one sheet. You may have to look some things up when you make a PC, but isn't that what the books are for?

And yeah maybe when you advanced in level some, you will probably want a more detailed sheet. Then the PC sheet will be more like an AD&D sheet without all the little formulas cluttering up all that valuable space. For low level PCs this should be plenty.

So what's the point here? We I'm  really sure except I don't like my PF's PC sheet. And I'm wondering what the purpose for the crap that clutters most commercial PC sheets. And frankly AD&D is no exception. The old PC sheets you could buy from  were just as bad, and also indicative of the crapload of rules that had begun to clutter the game. Never liked those either--always made my own. What I've really begun to wonder is whether such sheets are a clue as to the nature of the game, and why really early games, and their associated clones like LL, S&W and others take pride that the PCs can be recorded on a single 3x5 card.

And if you ask me there is an important lesson to be learned from that. We don't really need all that crap. We can streamline so much of the game and in so doing foster a style play that is much more lite, fast and flexible. And as Stephen Chenault and the Troll Lords have pointed out, therefore more creative and driven by the participants' imaginations.


ADD Grognard said...

PLEASE don't yell at me if I have posed this question in the recent past (I just spent 2 hours trying to get this beast back up that I'm typing this on and it IS my 19th nervous breakdown).

Have you checked out the Pathfinder Beginner Box? It's still a decent price at Amazon and if you wanted some idea about what you would be getting yourself into you can download the character sheets and some extras for free from the Paizo site.

They did such a good job on this product. And since Sean K. Reynolds OK'd 3PP development for it I've decided to port some things I'm working on over to it and try doing a couple 'old school style' adventures for it. Never know, that dog might hunt :)

I do apologize for any redundancy in this comment. I'm just about mentally fried for the month and I have to get a ton done before March 1st.

Anyway, just a thought. And don't let it distract you from finding the right game balance. It just might serve as a bridge for you and the guys who are really into PF to find some common playing ground is what I was thinking.

Old Guy said...

I really like the "wealth" section of your ad&d character sheet. : )

90 gp (crossed out)
42 gp (crossed out)
4 gp

That's one of the things I remember most from my earliest gaming days. My characters were always broke.

Brendan said...

Wow, the number of slots in the magic items area on the official PF character sheet is off the hook. Says something about the expected power level!

I'm a big fan now of just using a plain sheet of paper or an index card and only writing down what is needed. The only place where you really need much detail on the character sheet is maybe spell or power effects so you don't always have to go to the book for them.

Hey ADD Grognard, I've heard a lot of good things about the Beginner Box, most specifically that it has simplified character creation somewhat. I'm curious, in what way is the chargen simplified?

Keith Davies said...

for what it's worth, about six or seven years ago (D&D 3.5 DMG II time, anyway, and I'm pretty sure my son was eight) I started doing my character sheets up using the 'monster format' from DMG II.

The character sheet commonly presented for D&D is more of a worksheet than anything. It eventually has all the information (including the intermediate values) but you rarely actually need that in play.

I got rid of it and things worked for me somewhat better, especially since it meant I had a single layout for PCs and NPCs and monsters.

Chris said...

Hey thanks ADD grognard--good to hear from you again. I know what it's like to be busy.

Yeah--the beginner's box has potential. I wish they had made the box not just for beginners but more for those who wanted to play lite all the time. I checked out the character sheet and was not really impressed. It was still 2 pages long and very much "worksheet" like as Keith mentioned.

Thanks again for stopping by everyone.

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