Friday, November 19, 2010

Return to the Temple of the Elemental Blogger

I'm case anyone noticed that I was gone to begin with. 

Quite a few changes in the real-life have caused a serious decline in my hobby life. Nothing serious of course, just life getting in the way of fun. But I'm back now and I'm gonna try to post a little more regularly. (As if once in 4 months in regular)

So I've been playing a lot of Pathfinder lately. And by "a lot", I mean once a week when I can make it. And I'm noticing things that I'm not really crazy about. 

Before I rant a little, let me preface by saying that the guys over at Paizo have done a really good job of picking up the ball that WOTC dropped when they went to 4th edition. Don't get me started on 4th Ed, that's another post all together. 

I like that they cleaned up a lot of the mess that was 3rd and 3.5 (rd?) edition and really ran with the ideas. They've come out with some good supplements like the  Advanced Players Guide and the Game Mastery Guide to expand on their already hernia-inducing core rule book. They have interesting new classes and they game itself flows fairly well...for a while.

And now begins the rant(ish) section...

My GM was running us through a series of modules designed specifically for Pathfinder called the Rise of the Runelords. It was a decent to good series of modules, but that wasn't the basis of my gripe. The real problem I have is that once our characters started hitting around 6th or 7th level, we started to really bog down in the crunchiness of the system. For those of you that don't know, crunchiness is the actual numbers and calculations of the game. We had a pretty standard group of 5 players and a GM and a fairly diverse group of characters: Rogue (me), Inquisitor, Summoner, Cleric and Bard. The problem really started to develop when people started buffing the party for an encounter or helping out once an encounter started. The bard would sing her inspirational songs that would grant bonuses to hit, damage, saves, skill checks etc. The cleric would do likewise. The inquisitor had buffs of his own. The rogue had situational bonuses and the summoner would well...summon. 

Seems fairly straight forward, until you start trying to remember all of the bonuses for each action that a player would take. It seemed like every attack would string on for 5 minutes of "Ok, I roll a 14, +2 for the bard song, +1 for my inquisitor judgment, +1 for Bless, +3 for the full moon, +1 for having a good nutritious breakfast and if it's tuesday and the ogre is wearing blue, I get another +1" and then there where the 'adjustments' "Oh, I forgot, the Summoner blew the horn of Molokoliki the rounds ago, so I get another +1 versus one legged monkeys and orcs with post traumatic stress disorder.", "oh wait, I also get +2 to damage against giant-kin because I'm wearing the Cloak of M. Night Shyamalan as long as I haven't revealed the twist ending to this campaign."

And of course, minutes later you could hear each an every player that had already gone swearing and muttering about how they forgot this bonus or this special ability.

Now, I like a little crunch in my game system. I like to play with number and see what effects they have on my character, but this can get out of hand very quickly. Like I said, we were in the 6th-7th level range. We hadn't even hit our stride yet and we were already bogged down in paperwork and stats. I think there is a fine line between Crunch and Cracked and they are tap dancing all over it.

As a result, we ended the campaign early and started new characters because we were all a little frustrated over how much record keeping there was for each individual encounter. It wouldn't have been bad if it was a set number of bonuses and special abilities, but it was very dynamic and changed with each encounter so there was no way to really anticipate what you would need to calculate.

I just see it as an inherent flaw in the system when players are second guessing continuing their character's careers because it has gotten to be too much of a burden. It removes too much playing and replaces it with work. I don't know about you, but when I play, I want to play...not work as an accountant.


  1. Well said. Even if PF is 3.75, 3.5 was bad enough already. If they'd thrown in a few more tables ... Egad.

  2. Welcome to my nightmare (and welcome back, by the way...*I* noticed you'd gone missing!).

    If you think 7th level is tough, can you imagine playing 15th level characters? It wasn't the beginning of my disenchantment with D20, but definitely the final nail when I found my DM absolutely refusing to run games at a certain level because the game had "become too complicated to keep track of" all the rules and minutiae.

    Part of my return to earlier editions was an interest in playing high level games with high level challenges/encounters...and earlier editions handled these things pretty well. It was only after playing them a bit I found they were better than the later editions at other levels as well.
    : )

  3. Welcome back!

    "The Cloak of M. Night Shyamalan" should totally be a cursed magic item. Maybe when bards wear it they initially get a +5 to their Performance rolls, then every time thereafter the bonus decreases by 1 until it becomes a penalty and just keeps going down into the negatives...

    At any rate, Pathfinder's "ooh shiny" effect and the fact that I do respect and admire Paizo has definitely tempted me on more than one occasion to check it out. But then I remember that it is, after all, still the d20 system. I am just so over systems that require me to keep track of tons of modifiers, exceptions, special conditions, and so forth.

  4. Our group in playing another Pathfinder adventure path, Kingmaker, and I'm playing a cleric. The biggest frustration for me was always having to remind the other players about the prayer or bless spell or other buff ups I just cast a couple of rounds ago. My solution? I don't cast them anymore. It's easier to save up my spell slots for casting cure spells after the fight or just buffing up myself. It works great.

  5. @Rongar

    This is exactly what my group and I decided to do back in 3rd edition. Stick with spells and abilities that damage, heal or give only your PC a bonus. We don't mess with the ones that require others to keep track of what you did. I even stick with this when I'm DMing. Nobody, including villains uses spells that require too much math or tracking. If you really want to use it, then you keep track of it.
    We've run games from 1st through 20th level with no issue by sticking to this rule.

  6. Even though Pathfinder is our default game, we've found this same issue in 4e, a lot. Then again 4e seems to be designed specifically for this type of game play. Still when I run 4e/Essentials I throw out/alter those abilities/powers.

  7. I noticed that my first adventure path ran into the problems you mention around level 9. My second adventure path ran into the problems a bit later. Must have been around level 12. Perhaps I'll manage to increase this limit next time around.

    Or I could use Labyrinth Lord for my next campaign. :)

  8. We just recently switched to Pathfinder from...drum roll please...2nd Ed. ADnD. Second item I purchased after the core rulebook was Hero Lab's Pathfinder character generation software. I found that because I was looking for something to help manage my campaigns and never saw anything I really felt would do the job. By the way I've been waiting for that type of software for a long, long time. Well, the same company makes a product called Realmworks which will finally do exactly what I want and which is now on my list next once all the players are familiar with the new rule set. I must say that as a new comer to Pathfinder but who needs to be geared up quickly to run/play a serous campaign I'd be swamped too without something powerful and fast like the above mentioned tools.

    1. Correction: Hero Lab is not the company. That is the product. Lone Wolf Design is the company. Sorry 'bout that.

    2. Development not Design! Sorry 'bout that too.


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