Fresh Starts in Gaming 1.0 - Pathfinder

NB: You may have seen this post in a very abbreviated and pretty snarky-sounding format before now. I apologize if I offended anyone's sensitivities, because there's plenty more of the article than one and fraction paragraphs!

Imagine my surprise when I let go of my need to play any specific subset of RPGs and let myself be open to playing whatever came along. I went to get an updated copy of the PDF of the Pathfinder Core rules only to find that they'd expanded the rules quite a bit while I wasn't looking. I remember seeing reference to the Advanced Races Guide, but there's a consolidated equipment book now, and one on gamemastering, and buried at the end of the otherwise underwhelming Ultimate Combat book were alternative rules for such radical and destabilizing concepts as armor reducing damage instead of keeping you from being hit in the first place, hit locations (or at least called shots), non-monolithic armor, and even the effects of wounds before reaching zero hit points.

Makes me wonder if there isn't going to arise a Pathfinder 2.0 at some point in the future where some of the oldest of D&D's sacred cows are finally led to the slaughterhouse for a nice kosher send-off.

Realizing that I'd fallen off the wagon, and was still looking at things with a pretty jaundiced view, I kept reading about the new rules in the various additions. While I am always a little put out by the strictures of class and level, the Pathfinder system does a pretty good job of keeping from feeling like you're as terribly hemmed in as some of the earlier rulesets did. Not only are there a dozen or more archetypes to choose from within each class that diversify the predefined powers and abilities associated with the class at different levels, but when coupled with multi-classing (which everyone assures me is "a dead end" and "not worth it" but sounds wonderful), traits and feats, you can get some pretty diverse characters out of the system without having to break that structure at all. The point-buy guy in me still thinks that there's a point buy system under the hood there somewhere, clamoring to get out, but it's far less imperative using this updated system than it was just using the Pathfinder Core, or any of the prior editions to which I ever had access. I honestly had a hard time coming up with a character concept that was all that difficult to fit into one of the hundreds of options now available.

So, given that a goodly chunk of the game is about the players and how you interact with the GM and the world, I can see myself getting used to this "new" - I know, not terribly new anymore - d20 variant. I'm worried that, like so many games (D&D 4e and GURPS 4e included), the rules are starting to become so large as to become unwieldy - Feats in particular are growing exponentially - and suspect there will come a time when a computer or other aid is required to effectively know what you're getting yourself into with your advancement decisions. I hope that that's all it is, however, and there isn't a repeat of the WotC debacle where every time you turned around there was a new feat that was just like another existing one, only better. That led to broad discontentment, as I recall, and I'd hate for that to be a universal feature of a popular and long-lived game.

I found any lingering doubts about the system fading into the distance (like they should) when I found new things to complain about! Just like a gamer, I know, to have to find fault. But they're minor, and they're setting dependent, and I think they're even talked about as being something that the DM needs to bolt onto his games if he wants them. I'm talking, of course, about guns/gunpowder, and the "eastern" character classes/archetypes and weapons. I'll admit it, I'm an old grognard about my fantasy gaming and I tend to prefer to keep two things out of it: location creep is one, and higher technology is another. Thankfully, those aspects are firmly in the optional material camp, at least when I decide to run my first game.

I came away impressed with the growth of the Pathfinder line. They seemed to have tackled a need that was present in every version of D&D I'd ever encountered (having skipped the 3.x era entirely) with some grace, I thought.

Now, the problem is getting into a game. I thought for sure picking a popular system like Pathfinder would make it easier to find a game to play in, but do you know - it's so popular that it's almost impossible to find an opening, because people swamp any game that comes along. At least it'll be easy to start my own game, once I've got all the interesting rules firmly under my belt.


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