I'm going to take the Barbaric, Villainous view on this (partly because I haven't yet) and ask why I should be paying for other people's mistakes?
I generally agree with helping my fellow citizen to improve her or his life, and don't see a problem with an organization dedicated to filling in the holes in sexual health education which (opinions inbound!) our failed public schooling system and occasionally awful parenting practices have left gaping. I'm also not against an organization providing medical, financial, and social support for those people/families who find themselves in an Unexpected Population Increase Event.
My main problem is for those organizations to be at all tied to government money (I'm a political extremist and a religious fanatic, too, if you care to indulge in attacks ad hominem). I feel that requiring a person to support social changes which their personal beliefs are opposed to is a Bad Thing, regardless of how archaic, idiotic, harmful, or backward those beliefs may or may not be (mine are).
I also know from personal experience and years of study that nobody wins an argument (I like the rhyme: "A man convinced against his will/is of the same opinion still"). We can each state our opinions and beliefs like reasonable people (which is a discussion), but on some (or even most) of the issues presented in a topic like this, most people's beliefs were formed through either personal experience or the guidance of someone they hugely loved and/or respected. Nothing said here is likely to apply strongly enough to change that; it would take an equally strong emotional event to change those types of opinions or beliefs. Not even a well-cited wikipedia entry has the power to change that (shocking, I know).
So, having stated my beliefs, I'll enjoy reading more in this thread, because I like other people's opinions, and because I don't watch enough TV to continually fill the Drama Meter in my life.
I GM with a little cheap laptop (just one step up from a netbook). I used to track everything in a Notepad file there; I have since upgraded to using the GameMastery Combat Pad, available here at Paizo. I only use that for initiative order and status effects the characters can see, because I keep it out in the open. I still use Notepad for HP counts and other status effects; I also keep a running total of the CRs of encounters, so I don't forget any XP at the end of the session.
I thought the basic changes to the classes and customization were good enough, until I read over the archetypes. My players love them; now they know they don't have to know the full intricacies of feats and character design to make a fighter who will be decent at, say, archery, or two-weapon fighting.
Bill Dunn wrote:
Yet, living in today's world, you still end up dead. Youths are armed with bourbon and sports cars (nod to Hitchcock), or automatics and SUVs. Food-borne ailments are reclassified to include inappropriate diet, and we still die from them. Overnutrition is as harmful to us as malnutrition was to them. And through it all, happiness is exactly as hard (or easy) to come by. If I was to be born in the 1400s, I would probably like life as much as I do now. I don't deny, however, that if I were to be transposed from now to then (or from then to now), I would probably be miserable. Sorry for that bit of derailment, but that's been sitting in my head for a while and just now chose to pop out.
Anyway, for the OP: I think a lot of what we look down upon in modern morality vs. 'historic' morality comes from our distance from the survival instinct. Many more things were fatal back then, and the success of each individual in a community was much more vital to the community at large, so you have an intense 'neighborhood' effect going on.
And as for in-game vs. 'historic' morality...I personally don't accept 'they're the wrong race' as a reason to kill someone. As GM, I'm always sure to portray the imminent need, or the dire consequence, as opposed to 'they're evil, go get'em.' A village who doesn't like orcs living nearby, and thus wants them dead, wouldn't even qualify as a gray area in my homebrews. A gray area would be more along the lines of: the village thinks the orc tribes are stealing livestock and killing outlying farmers...when the players investigate, violently, they discover halfway through that the orcs are not at all at fault. What to do with the rest?
So, in conclusion, I generally agree with you, but not for the exact same reasons.
On dump stats in general:
as a GM, when the players hand me a character sheet, they're telling me what they want to play. When I see a dumped CHA, it tells me one of two things: the player doesn't want to roleplay much (he's designed a one-trick pony; if it's not combat, he doesn't want to be involved) -OR- he wants to roleplay a character with weaknesses (usually indicated by telling me the reason the character's CHA is so low). Both of these are appropriate.
Being an evil GM, in both cases I'm occasionally going to make the player feel that character weakness they've designed; it's part of my job as a GM to acknowledge and highlight character details and uniqueness, especially glaring weaknesses or glorious strengths. A weak wizard is sometimes going to be asked to carry things, or pull things, or fight STR-drainers. A sluggish plate-clad paladin is going to have to give chase across rooftops, through crowds, or across water. A socially inept fighter or barbarian is going to have his opinion asked, or give a small dissertation, or convince someone of something.
(I like to drop in that one contentious counselor, who, after the party's face has blown away the Diplomacy DC's, mutters to the king, "Majesty, surely we should know the character of all the people we are sending to act in Your name. What does the brutish one in the back have to say?")
That being said, I generally introduce these things when a particular character's capability has been outshining everyone else for a while (especially after a long combat); it's time to remind them they have a weakness, and the other characters have strengths.
On the effects of CHA:
I can see the arguments on both sides concerning the strictly mechanical effectiveness of CHA as a stat. In particular, the comments about the large variety of character traits encompassed by the CHA stat, and it's strict lack of effect in combat situations for non CHA-based classes. Having thought about it a bit, I like the idea of moving Will saves to CHA only. Using WIS as your ability to perceive information and identify trends, the only Will saves I can think of right off that WIS easily applies to are illusions. The majority of other Will saves - enchantment, fear, etc. - seem to more cleanly fall under the purview of a 'force of personality' type of conflict: CHA.
On the other side of the fence, I don't want rules to adjudicate NPC reaction or interaction. Quantifying personality and effectiveness in communication (beyond the simple CHA attribute and related skills and mechanics) is just going to make my job as a GM harder, and make more opportunities for my players to abuse and 'game' the system - and I'm already weak on rules and numbers, as a GM.
For the NPC reaction rules crowd, they seem to not want to rely on 'GM fiat.' In any games I play which are not from a published source (APs, modules), everything is GM fiat. I just happened to fiat it before we sat down to play, and if it's not working out the way I wanted, you better believe I'm going to fiat it as we play. I see that as my primary purpose as a GM - guide the story along in a way that's enjoyable to the group as a whole, and for the most part as individuals, regardless of what my prepared materials (or even sometimes the rules) say.
Conversely, I wouldn't mind some bonus social systems I could drop into play. Sometimes I'm not on the top of my game mentally, and I love little minigame systems (knivesies, the rooftop chase, and harrow points, from Curse of the Crimson Throne), or other ways to put unexpected events into the players' hands (critical hit deck, hero/action points; my vote is still undecided on the plot twist cards). I feel it would be more appropriate, if such a social rules system was expressed, that rather than being The Standard by which all PFRPG social encounters are handled, it be put into play for a specific module, AP, or encounter. Then, as a GM, if I like how it went it will find its way into other things I do, without ever being cramping my style. Such a system would make a great 3PP book...
And, finally, just to write something outside of a spoiler block, if a character has a dumped CHA, but a player has no explanation, my general assumption is that the character is unnoticeable. That seems to give just enough of a social dig to the ultra-powerful character, without actually punishing it.
If I had to place poisons on the alignment chart, they'd probably be CN. Poisoning is a very underhanded thing to do, but the main reason paladins can't use it is their code, not any alignment restrictions. The code is not necessarily about rules-effectiveness, either, or even combat effectiveness. The most effective way to attack someone is when they are helpless, or otherwise not at all expecting your attack; killing a sleeping or disarmed foe is much more efficient than letting them defend themselves or be aware of your presence or intent.
I generally feel that the issue with poisons has more to do with implied social contract between honorable combatants than anything else; in the same way that if we were to step into a boxing ring, I'd expect there to be nothing in your gloves but your hands, and that you won't kick me, when a paladin draws steel there's an implied amount of sportsmanship involved, regardless of the nature of their foe. It's their rigid adherence to limitations like this which is a big part of the discipline, which in turn gives them more power than your run-of-the-mill combatant (I tend to think the fear immunity is more a result of mental control than direct divine blessing).
I come across this kind of thing quite a bit, since my players have a very high turnover rate (military life, hard to keep a group together); that, and these players rarely want an in-depth character experience. They're usually more concerned about the reward for defeating opponents (two very common questions are 'how much XP was that?' and 'how much XP do I need to level?').
I've found, in my switch to Pathfinder from generic 3.5, and in using Adventure Paths for material, that character traits are a lifesaver. They give nice little bonuses that any player would want, and also nice little hooks for me as a GM. I get to have my players detail how the trait specifically applies, or how it came about. As long as they've chosen two traits, I've got enough to run with.
I also like to include the players in the descriptive phase of things. I have too much fun with combat descriptions to let go there (so far), but non-combat interactions are up for grabs. For instance, in my current group we're running Curse of the Crimson Throne. The party is a dwarf fighter (crossbowman archetype), a human witch, and a half-orc cleric of Gorum. The witch got cornered by an angry mob (the player had a decent backstory about her getting run out of Cheliax for witchery, and one of the mob members recognized her). The half-orc had to do the talking, since he had the highest base charisma and nobody trained any social skills. Instead of just accepting 'I use Intimidate,' I made the player give me examples of what he was trying to say; having to switch from 'I'm big and hit hard' to 'I have to have a reason for what I do' has helped the character move from 'toon' (as an MMO term) to 'character'.
Anyway, to specifically address this thread, the dwarf has no name, and a charisma of 8 - I took this to mean he's completely unnoticeable. Every time we got around to this player's actions, he started with 'I shoot the guy;' we spent quite a bit of time explaining how suicidal that was, with three first-level characters up against a 20-person angry mob. So, instead, he turned to Intimidate rolls - not as 'aid another' actions, but more along the lines of Steve Carrell in 'Anchorman' shouting 'LOUD NOISES!' just to get attention (he rolled high enough that some mob members actually did point at him, and this made him happy), and his character was suddenly less of a 'toon' and more of a 'character' as well.
Now that I've wasted your time with that largely pointless (but fun for me) anecdote, the point is, if a player didn't bother writing in a lot of details, I like to use context clues from their actions or character sheets to fill in the details I need to satisfy my personal 'RP' itch. I usually preface it with a quick 'If you don't mind me speaking for your character for a moment,' the player usually doesn't mind. It's helped a few people who are moving from the MMO scene to begin to think in-character, or at least give them some parameters to work with for actual character involvement.
I felt about this the way I feel about 300: excellent visual design, and they had a chance to tell an interesting story, but put all their work in the visuals instead. Going into the movie with the expectation that it's a cross-genre '300' with strippers, I'd say that my biggest qualm was that I wish they'd use actresses who look like they could fight, rather than strippers. Not that I really minded, of course...and, given, the fight scenes were all mental representations of stripper-dancin' anyway.
Overall, then, I'd say it was OK, excellent visuals, but I'm glad I bought the popcorn and my friend bought the tickets; I might have gotten more of my money's worth. Splurging on the IMAX version was a bit much. ;)
Brown - My current favorite chef - both for the kookiness of Good Eats, and for the food science; if I know why I'm adding a particular ingredient, it's easier to change the recipe for my tastes. If I did cook more things, I'd be using his cookbook first.
Whedon - Meh. I really liked Firefly, a lot. I liked some Buffy (admittedly, mostly the episodes which were non-standard). I really liked Dr. Horrible as well. Pretty indifferent to everything else he's done. He's got a very, very strong fan base, which says something about his work. I'm not part of it, which says something else about it. Overall, he's introduced me to some of my favorite actors who don't get enough big roles; so I'll leave it at 'I can accept the physical existence of Joss Whedon.'
Burton - Hit or miss, but less so than Whedon. Admittedly, Burton doesn't have a large variety of creative visions, but he is uncannily good at getting those visions onto film. Few people do a better fairytale, even when it's twisted (of course, 'fairytale' isn't the appropriate mode for every story). If it's a new Burton movie, and it's supposed to be a fairytale, then I'll probably see it.
Elfman - Yes, always. No matter what. I'd watch a bad Burton movie written by Whedon at his worst if it has a good Elfman soundtrack.
X-Men - Always liked them more than anything DC ever put out; though to be honest, the huge and tangled web that is backstory for most long-running comic-type heroes keeps me away from long-term enjoyment. Same goes for Spidey. I think maybe DC did Watchmen - I really liked that one when I borrowed it from a friend...but that statement alone should reveal the true status of my comics/graphic novels knowledge (it's as deep as an MTV show).
Given that any direction but 'in' leads toward freedom, yes, your first strike cannot miss...but after that, you have to strike the same area repeatedly to make any progress; otherwise, you're just causing ulcers. Having seen videos of a stomach in action from the inside, this is not at all easy. I'd even agree with the 50% miss chance...but I would apply it to all races. If the character insisted on opening his or her eyes while in combat with an active stomach lining, I'd ask about acid protection, followed by fortitude saves to avoid blindness (I'd worry about the permanency of the blindness after the fight was over, and we knew whether the adventurer even survived to deal with blindness).
On the other hand, none of that is in the rules, so...definitely a GM thing.
Most of the games I've GM'ed have been a method of escape from moral/ethical relativism (I've only seriously GM'ed since joining the US Navy). It's common procedure for me and my players to be unsure of who is giving us orders, or to severely dislike some of the people in charge but still be required to follow their direction, even to our own deaths. Combine that with the general infatuation modern American culture seems to have for cheering for the villains, and it's nice to have a setting where you're not always required to stop and ask the question 'is it OK to kill the monster?'
When I want that question in my games, I use non-monstrous races. Realistically, gnomes and to some extent elves are the most alien of the races present in Golarion, but they are generally given the benefit of the doubt, while orcs and goblins - who are identifiably native - are unquestionably shunned. Most 'monstrous' races qualify as 'monstrous' because of the way they reliably and predictably act; you just can't get along with orcs or goblins, even if you are an orc or a goblin.
I'm not trying to invalidate moral relativism as a playstyle at all - just to explain how it fits into our games.
I doubled the size of my group just by having the existing pregenerated PDFs printed out and on the table. I keep copies of all the level 1's on hand at all times, to help fill a new table; then when they hit level 2, I demand the player think up a bit of backstory, and copy the stat block into a full character sheet; it's a great introduction to the game.
I'd also like the middle and higher levels for reference as a GM; I've pretty much always been the only GM around, so I get nervous about handing out enough or too much treasure, or if my players are anywhere near a standard power curve (yes, rule #1, everyone is having fun, but keeping in line with the curve lets me use more preprinted material). Some classes (druid) I just don't like, so it's hard for me to imagine what they would want as reward. Having a set of sample characters near each level block would really help me as a GM design adventures and assign non-random rewards.
I would specifically request that all character decisions be made at each point; if someone needs a pregen, it's likely because they don't understand the options and choices yet, so it's OK to have them already decided. If the player doesn't like exactly what's on the pregen sheet...well, copy to a character sheet and work the math until they're happy. Along the same lines, I'd prefer non-optimized builds, and a little more emphasis on character traits (Harsk's teacup instead of stein, for example); this way, I wouldn't have to worry about rebalancing any purchased modules or APs, and my non-RPers could get an idea of what it means to start in on a character's actual character, instead of just statistics (although picking two character traits goes a long way).
And finally, to finish my wall-of-text, I can understand where the petition/vote argument is coming from...but he quoted a Paizo employee saying they are ready to dedicate resources to this, if there is support. Dissenting voices are the core of internet forum life, but honestly, guys, this is a petition. And I've signed it!
I got my first chance to play with the Critical Hit deck just this weekend. I gave each player a choice between damage or a card, and they chose the card every time; it's more interesting to physically handle things, rather than just rolling extra damage (or doing simple multiplication). Playing first-level characters (started Curse of the Crimson Throne), the effects were a lot of fun to fit into the combat descriptions.
In fact, that deck was fun enough that I'm now getting the Fumble and Condition decks...
I've loved every Planet Stories book I've received so far. The only thing I don't like is how many I missed before I subscribed...hard to balance all these great books with other, less necessary purchases (food, rent, that kind of silly thing). I'm just as excited about whatever comes out next as I am about filling out all the books I've missed!
Every really good villain has the 'Evil Hands' which are so much like the way you play concert piano; combine with 'Crazy Eyes' like Lon Cheney, and you can loom over (or up at, if your foes have the misfortune of being larger than you) anybody you want. ;)
I would love to see RotRL republished, even if it was just a single hardcover reprint. Having anything extra added is even more bonus, as is re-editing. I try to limit my purchases each month, because I'm a chronic collector and all of Paizo's stuff looks so good together, but I'd make a $100-$130 (depending on extra content) pre-purchase of RotRL the minute it became available. I have all the PDFs, but am now in a position to collect hard copies...and they're mostly used for RotRL. :P
It goes missing every time they make a draft...
While it would be very handy to have all the 'X as a Character' entries in one book, and I do so thoroughly enjoy giving my money to Paizo, as was pointed out this may not be the best option for Paizo to print. Since nearly everything non-Golarion is open content, this is a great candidate for third-party publishers; I feel the best format would probably be a web page rather than hard copy, so it can be updated with any other stat blocks that get added on later in the plethora of products Paizo publishes.
There is at least some market for it; I had a couple 4e players tell me they really liked the huge variety of races and classes available in 4e. In addition, most of the old AD&D gamers I play with ask to play a monster race first thing (or a specific sub-variant core race, such as a flying elf).
Laying uncharted beneath all this type of discussion is the idea of racial levels as transformation (I really, really loved this about Malhavoc Press' Arcana Evolved). Whenever a player tells me he wants to play as a vampire (or a werewolf, or a ninja weretiger), rather than slapping him with the template and making his new favorite character disappear until the rest of the party catches up, I write up a 6-8 level progression describing his long, slow transformation. This also gives me an excuse to play with the abilities quite a bit (making the vampire neutral but still undead, and keeping the ninja weretiger from becoming an NPC during transformation like it says in the template description). Finally, the other players are a little less miffed about the increase in supernatural powers, because they've been leveling up the whole time and the transformed player's class levels haven't moved (they also enjoy when I take advantage of new tactical weaknesses, like pitting the vampire against a cult of multiclass clerics; once they began brandishing holy symbols, the vampire couldn't melee any of them and had to rely on his 'less-powerful' friends to take them out).
In short, good idea for someone else to print.
First and foremost, the quality of work Paizo puts out. A lot of care and detail go into their books; there are rarely sections that leave me feeling like one person wrote the outline and another person forced themselves to come back and fill it in, no matter what. Also, the Adventure Paths (once I began to buy them) are extremely impressive, especially from the DM side of things, but I didn't get them until I had already switched.
Second but still important, I'm a collector. I already had over 100 OGL PDF books, and I didn't want to invalidate their use (although I'd still be running 3.5 games even if I went to 4e for my primary system). As it turns out, the above paragraph invalidates most of the WotC books, as the options presented between the Core rulebook and the APG are enough to outdo the vast majority of player splat books.
Thirdly, and quite personal, I developed a strong dislike for WotC as a company. I still play 4E, but comparing what I got for buying three 4e books to three PFRPG books, I was much more satisfied that Paizo wasn't screwing me over for money. WotC pulled some of the juiciest classes from their first PHB, and added in some of the 'cool' factor to replace it; tiefling warlock, you're part demon and you shoot lasers out of your hands, yeah! much better than a silly ol' gnome bard! Although, having seen some of the other PHB's, I can appreciate the way they reorganized it. What really put the nail in the coffin on 4e was WotC pulling their PDFs - 3.5 and 4e. That meant, with my extra-mobile military lifestyle, if I wanted to play I'd have to carry them around (vice just having them on a netbook). So if I do have a beef, it's against WotC and not 4e.
Finally, Paizo got big bonus points with me by legitimately including Monte Cook's name in the Core rulebook credits. Anything Monte works on, I buy. I'm getting to feel the same way about the Paizo crew now.
Jason Nelson wrote:
I'd have to agree that the Ray Harryhausen version of Jason and the Argonauts trumps most other 'Greek myth' movies as a gamer movie. It features party roles, teamwork in combat, NPC's who switch sides, a great cast of monsters with a variety of vulnerabilities...just so many ways it matches with a campaign. While both Clash of the Titans are decent movies (I favor the Harryhausen one, obviously), Jason and the Argonauts just has a better tabletop feel, and thus I would consider it more essential to a gamer's movie list.
There are three reasons I fudge:
1) New players. We just spent four hours learning how to make a character, and what his stats are, and worked out a backstory. OK, first fight, my goblin ranger gets a lucky crit, you're dead. Now let's find another four hours some other day. In the meantime, watch everyone else play. Aren't you having fun?
2) Bad design. Usually on my part; due to my circumstances, I generally run large groups (6 to 8 players), and at least half of them are new (maybe not their first session, but their first character or campaign). I try to design for this disparity, but it's very difficult and I get it wrong. I can't always see this coming, and I don't want to hold up eight people while I figure up some new stat blocks. So, things change as the fight goes on. Some of those things are dice rolls.
3) Drama. Sometimes a player who ususally plays pretty straightforward (not much RP, making tactical instead of in-character decisions, etc.) gets a really great idea for a character. Someone who usually writes icons on their character sheet hands in three pages, hand-written, of backstory. I'm not going to kill that character on accident; I accept that, in my position as a DM, I'm going to spend the same amount of time and care killing that character as he did birthing it.
That being said, the fudging is part of the contract. We don't gather to play an advanced or complicated board game; we gather for social interaction, emotional release, and cooperative creative enjoyment. Sometimes that includes me as the DM being sure there's worthy content for our precious four to eight hours. Generally speaking, I try my hardest to roll with my players' punches. As a DM, I love to adapt the campaign to what happens; but I prefer the randomness come more from the players than the dice.
Other times, my brain is fried from a long day (or week) at work, and my creative side is pretty much dead. All I've got left is what I had written down (or what was published). I'm not going to end our precious four-hour session in the first hour because the dice rolled poorly.
And it's not that I don't understand the other side of it. When stated explicity in the player-DM contract, no-fudging can be fun as well. I ran a fairly short game from an online campaign; I hyped it up as being a serious dungeon, with deadly old-school challenges (it's a Monte Cook megadungeon). My players really wanted the gritty, dangerous feel, so we all agreed that I would pull no punches. For that game, that was how we had our fun.
I can understand where some of you are coming from, when you say 'all fudging is bad, why have dice at all if you're going to fudge?' I feel, as I'm sure you do, that my job as a DM is to make sure you're having fun playing (and thus I get to have fun as well). If that fun includes harsh, public die rolls, great! Otherwise, that fun might include inexpert players, a lazy DM, and a scarcity of play time - which I'm not going to risk on just a bad die roll. The fudging I generally do is not a breach of player trust or our player-DM contract; it's assurance that the game won't end too quickly, while at the same time be surprising and wonderful for everyone involved.
So, in short, both sometimes fudging and never fudging are correct.
I've read a lot of great 3rd party books, but the ones that actually get used in my campaigns are Malhavoc Press; mostly the Books of Might. Generally, the variant rules on early HP were much appreciated (but I was sure to include the limit on magical healing as well, which would probably hut more a higher levels). I would have loved to try the variant fighter options from Experimental Might II, but my second choice book(s) usually intervened:
The Iron Heroes books (originally under Malhavoc, I think they're now Fiery Dragon). I found that usually, while everyone else was picking full casters or mixed melee/casters, there was someone who didn't want to mess with magic. The Iron Heroes systems generally made them drool (especially since the token system gave them something to plan and manage the way the casters and semi-casters got to do with spells); to help them mix, I warned them that magic wouldn't work on them - no magic items, no magic healing, no buffs. They were OK with that.
Finally, Arcana Evolved; my players usually favored the Magister over the SRD Wizard. Excellent flexibility in casting, and the other class features had a great flavor (being able to choose what the Magister's staff was made of, for example). I personally loved the new races and alternate classes, but they weren't as popular with my players. In addition, the racial levels were great, especially with the ability to take racial levels and change races (I worked it into a slow, willing transformation into a vampire for one player, and he regrets that we don't play more often so he can watch it happen). So, specifically, Magister-style casting with a bigger spell list; it probably needs a few other tweaks to bring it alongside Pathfinder casters vice SRD casters.
From what I remember of the OGL blurbs in those books, most of the classes and spells and magic items were OGL. Don't have them handy, so I can't be certain.
I've dabbled with some others, but the best books that aren't on this list I heard of via Pathfinder Adventure Paths (namely, Tomes of Horror series, and the Advanced Bestiary). This thread is a little old, so I'm not even sure you're looking for this stuff any more...but a Magister-style caster or some Iron Heroes-style non-casters (or anti-casters) would be amazing alongside the other changes from Pathfinder Core and the APG.