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Pathfinder Society Member. 3,550 posts (8,449 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 30 aliases.


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Gorbacz wrote:
Yeah, WotC has, mostly thanks to M:tG, a relationship with brick'n'mortar stores that's pretty much pure love and fluffybuns - which is why they don't ever want to do anything that would remotely irk LGSes. Paizo went the opposite direction and decided to g%@ d#@n the torpedoes with direct sales, subs and PDFs for everything, resulting in a far less cordial relationship with stores. Time will tell who bet on the right horse.

At this point, I would have to say Paizo.

For all that Paizo may not have the close relationship with game stores that WotC does, they still have a decent working relationship with most of them. PFS still brings a lot of people into the actual stores, and their subscriptions are more broken down so that people will often buy books from lines they don't subscribe to from stores. In the end, Paizo may have tensions with brick and mortar game stores, but they do have a working relationship with them despite those tensions. As long as they keep communication channnels open and PFS remains strong, they will likely continue to have that working relationship.

In contrast, WotC has virtually zero internet presence, and that will definitely hurt them going forward. The needs of catering to the Magic crowd limits their ability to expand into what for D&D is a crucial area, as physical books are now just one part of publishing a tabletop RPG. The relationship that WotC has fostered and requires for Magic is going to be a major problem when it comes to supporting the D&D brand, which has already hurt WotC, and will only do so more and more in the future. They are in a tough spot where in order to keep both brands strong, they are going to have to accept that some things are going to have to change across the entire company, not just in the individual brands, making necessary changes much, much harder.

The biggest issue with the summoner, regardless of the archetype being used, is that the summon spells have been difficult to build around without creating issues at the table since 3.0 was first released. I would be less concerned about a specific creature, as those concerns will come and go throughout the various levels, and focus more on how it affects the speed of combat. Only allowing two sets of summons, one of which could be the eidolon, would be a good way to deal with this that doesn't specifically target the summoner directly, but rather deals with the challenges of relying on the summon spells. Also, instead of rolling each attack of each summoned creature individually, you might go with one set of rolls for the entire group of summoned creatures. It speeds up combat, and also makes it so that the downsides of having low + to hit, which is going to be fairly common for most summoned creatures, come up more often, as the misses will be less likely to be drowned out by the sheer number of attacks being attempted. The key is to apply the house rules to all casters who use the summon spells, or anything similar.

When it comes to specific creatures, terrain, tactics, and numbers are your friends. Use them all to the best advantage, and force the player to not rely on just one creature for an extended period of time. Let the player enjoy shredding through goblins right now, because soon enough, he'll face different foes that will require him to adjust his tactics to remain competitive.

The key to all of this is to not focus on the class or the current level when making what will be a long term decision, but on the underlying spells that are available in some form or another to every caster in the game. Neither the base summoner nor the master summoner are the only ones that brings these issues to the table, even they do tend to highlight them more than most other classes. Don't be afraid to explain that while the trigger for any changes is the experience with the master summoner archetype, the problem is more with the way that the summon spells work and interact with the rest of the game in general. By framing the problem in a broader context, it will hopefully be easier to get that player to see the larger problem and thus be more amenable to new house rules and a certain amount of self regulation.

thejeff wrote:
But his characterization of women and of relations between the genders is really painful sometimes.

For me at least, the characterizations of women weren't that much of an issue because most of them in the ones I read were also reasonably interesting and fleshed out characters at the same time that he was casting them in nontraditional roles; that was, and to a certain degree, still is, a bit of rarity. The only part that slightly irked me about this was that at least in the early books, the men did not get the same amount of attention, and often came off as a bit flat in comparison. If he had given all of his characters the same amount of development, I probably wouldn't even have noticed that aspect at all.

The part that really bugged me was that at least in the early books, he really played up the antagonism between the two genders to a point where it often got in the way of the rest of the story. That tension did need to be there, but that particular aspect would have been far better left as a background tension rather than the open battle that it often became. It was the way this particular part was handled that really kept me from getting into the books and caring about the rest of the story. If it had been handled with a more gentle and subtle touch, it could have been one of the centerpieces of the series instead of a near constant disruption.

I'm going to withdraw from consideration. I had some very good news today that resolves a long time real life goal, but it will limit free time for the near future.

I'll finish up Beru later today; had some real life concerns come up and take up my time and energy.

Zhangar wrote:
And I was furiously angry after it was done, because I realized that Jordan still had it in him to write stuff like that, and he chose to write meandering garbage instead.

That actually sums up my thoughts pretty well. The whole concept behind the story was solid and the world was really amazing, but when it came to the actual writing of the story itself, it just meandered way too much and left too many story hooks unresolved for far too long. I can see why a lot of people were willing to stick with it, but I gave up after book 1. The writing style just didn't pull me in and make me interested in finding out how the story would eventually end.

Lord Snow wrote:
You know all of these things from reading the series - the constant bickering between men and women is really annoying in it - but just from hearing the concept of channeling according to the born sex? It seems a bit far fetched to denounce a story on something as simple as that...

The concept isn't bad in and of itself, but the rambling aspect of the series as a whole really shows itself in a very negative way with this, and I really didn't like it as a primary focus. I didn't mind the idea at first, but there was just something about the way it was presented that made it wear very thin for me very quickly. Balance and the whole ying/yang thing is fine, and I didn't mind the part about male summoners being tainted to a point, but the whole rambling aspect of the series really dragged this aspect of the story out farther than it really needed to, and personally, I felt it would have been much better as something going on in the background that colored everything else without always having to be brought up as a primary focus.

Below is the basic character. Still needs to finish shopping and some finishing touches on background and personality, but should be complete enough to get the basic idea across.

Beru Clearbeard crunch:

Male gnome alchemist (mindchemist) 1/bard 2
Init +2; Senses low-light vision; Perception +9
AC 16, touch 13, flat-footed 14 (+3 armor, +2 Dex, +1 size)
hp 27 (3d8+3)
Fort +3, Ref +7, Will +4;
+2 bonus vs. [language-dependant], glyph, symbol or writing-related spells
+4 vs. bardic performance, language-dependent, and sonic
Speed 20 ft.
Melee dagger +2 (1d3/19-20) or
mwk scorpion whip +3 (1d3)

Ranged bomb +5 (1d6+2 Fire) or
darkwood flask thrower +5 (1d6/×3)

Special Attacks
bardic performance 8 rounds/day (countersong, distraction, fascinate [DC 13], inspire courage +1), bomb 3/day (1d6+2 fire, DC 12)

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 3rd; concentration +5)
1/day—arcane mark , comprehend languages , message, read magic

Bard Spells Known (CL 2nd; concentration +4)
1st (3/day)— chord of shards UM (DC 13), cure light wounds , grease
0 (at will)— detect magic , haunted fey aspect UC, light, message, prestidigitation

Alchemist (Mindchemist) Extracts Prepared (CL 1st; concentration +3)
1st—cure light wounds , reduce person (DC 13)
Str 11, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 12, Cha 15

Base Atk +1; CMB +0; CMD 12

Feats Brew Potion, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (flask thrower), Splash Weapon Mastery, Throw Anything

Traits brastlewark businessman, noble born - lebeda, quartermaster

Acrobatics +2 (-2 to jump),
Appraise +8, Bluff +3,
Craft (alchemy) +10 (+11 to create alchemical items),
Diplomacy +8,
Knowledge (local) +12,
Linguistics +8,
Perception +9,
Perform (comedy) +8,
Perform (oratory) +8,
Spellcraft +8

Auran, Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Goblin, Halfling, Shoanti, Sylvan, Terran, Varisian

SQ alchemy (alchemy crafting +1), bardic knowledge +1, cognatogen, magical linguist, versatile performance (oratory)

Gear mwk studded leather, dagger, darkwood flask thrower, mwk scorpion whip, sling bullets (10), handy haversack , alchemy crafting kit, travelling formula book, 279 gp, 9 sp
Special Abilities
Alchemy +1 (Su) +1 to Craft (Alchemy) to create alchemical items, can Id potions by touch.

Bardic Knowledge +1 (Ex) Add +1 to all knowledge skill checks.

Bardic Performance (standard action, 8 rounds/day) Your performances can create magical effects.

Bomb 1d6+2 (3/day, DC 12) (Su) Thrown Splash Weapon deals 1d6+2 fire damage.

Cognatogen (DC 12) (Su) At 1st level, a mindchemist learns how to create a cognatogen, as per the cognatogen discovery.

Low-Light Vision See twice as far as a human in low light, distinguishing color and detail.

Magical Linguist +1 effective level for [language-dependent], glyph, symbol, or writing-related spells. +2 save vs. these spells.

Throw Anything Proficient with improvised ranged weapons. +1 to hit with thrown splash weapons.

Versatile Performance (Oratory) +8 (Ex) You may substitute the final value of your Perform: Oratory skill for Diplomacy or Sense Motive checks

Beru was born into humble background, being a younger son of the village alchemist in a small village on the shores of Lake Reykal. After a brief stint of working in his father's shop, he was hired on by House Lebeda, where he quickly proved his worth as a liason between the house and the villagers in the area. and rose through the ranks quickly. When the decision was made to send people out to secure the Stolen Lands, House Lebeda put his name forward as one of their choices for who to send out.

Are you willing to allow Rapid Reload to apply to a flask thrower? Im working on a gnome alchemist/bard (mostly bard) combo using the quartermaster custom trait, and using a flask thrower to get his bombs and other thrown/splash weapons farther is part of the build.

Dotting. I have an idea that I will work up today.

hogarth wrote:

At the very least, I find there's a feedback between having a map and making interesting moves.

In a game with a map, I'm more likely to say "I take THIS ROUTE to go to THIS PLACE and attack THIS ENEMY". In a game without a map, I'm much more likely to say "I attack whichever enemy is close to me and injured" (which I could probably keep repeating mindlessly until the fight is over while surfing the internet on my smartphone, if I had a smartphone).

Which is one reason why I do think having a visual map is important for all but the simplest of scenes, even if the rules don't explicitly require one. The only part I tend to challenge is the need for a specific grid all the time.

Ascalaphus wrote:

@sunshadow: I think there's a feedback between the actual characters people play and the rules. If the rules don't support AoO melee builds, you're not going to see them. And then because you don't see those builds you don't miss the grid.

Does a given scene need a grid? That depends on the characters. If someone built a character around polearms and Combat Patrol, every significant combat needs a grid.

If the player built a greatsword warrior who just power-attacks as hard as he can, he doesn't need the grid all that much. In fact, against bigger enemies, going gridless might work to his advantage because the monsters get less AoOs.

I disagree. Every combat map/sketch in PF needs scale to make accurate measurements off of. Scale is not the same as a literal grid. Using a grid is just one way of establishing scale. Using a grid also tends to take more time to draw out. If the DM wants to sketch a quick encounter that will only last two, maybe three, rounds, the gains in time and story tension are going to be worth the lack of absolute precision all of the time to most people after a while as long as they can still make accurate enough estimates of where everything is. It will mean that one trick ponies that rely on 100% precision all of the time won't be seen, but those wouldn't last very long in any campaign I would be running or playing in anyway. AoO melee builds or AoE magic users are still perfectly playable as long as there is some kind of scale that can be used to make highly accurate estimates, players leave room in the build to allow for some inevitable corner cases (which would occur even if grids are being used all the time), and communication occurs between the players and the DM to address specific concerns. Also, 5' sqaures aren't always the scale I'm looking for as a DM; sometimes a scene requires a different scale to really have maximum impact. It helps me greatly when my players are capable of thinking tactically without always worrying about 100% precision of the scale and measurements being used.

A little flexibility and solid communication on both sides of the screen goes a long ways in letting players use all the tactics the rules provide while still keeping combat from bogging down a game because everyone is busy micromanaging every little detail of every single battle. Even most builds that rely on measurements can get by with an accuracy of 90% or better for most routine combats. It's only the really big battles where everyone is pulling out all the stops because significant campaign storylines are in play that 100% accuracy becomes important, and those can be prepared with a clear grid ahead of time without detracting from the flow of the game. In the end, I've found that a grid is nice, and occasionally necessary for big or complex battles, but the lack of a grid for simpler and/or smaller battles does not hurt the game much, as it produces gains in time and story tension that outmatch the usually slight loss in accuracy of measurements.

Ascalaphus wrote:

If we're playing gridless, I want advance warning because I won't be playing a character whose abilities depend on the grid, like:

  • Any kind of battlefield control caster, since you'll constantly be fighting about the size and shape of area control effects with regard to the scene/
  • Any kind of area attack character, like a fireball-wizard or an alchemist. The fuzziness about whether multiple enemies can be hit, or whether PCs can be avoided, will just suck the fun out of it.
  • Melee warrior types that try to do something "clever" like using reach attacks to control the area around them, herd enemies, try tricky teamwork to do pincer moves on the enemy and so forth.
  • Any build that relies on having a better movement rate than enemies, to outmaneuver them.
  • Any build that relies on sneaking around to gain a tactically advantageous position. Because distance to threats plays a major role in that, and with my issues with understanding descriptions, it just won't work.

The list is probably longer than that. Simply said, I'll feel like the only things I can play that will just work are things like:

  • Simple melee characters that just walk up to an enemy and hit it hard.
  • Tanky characters.
  • Archers specced to ignore all forms of cover so that it really doesn't matter where me or the enemy is in relation to any other terrain feature.
  • Single-target spell/hex casting that doesn't involve attack rolls.

That I would have to disagree on. There are a lot of scenes you don't need a grid for, and the ones that do need it are usually set scenes that can be prepared ahead of time. Grids are nice and helpful, but knowing exactly where one five foot square ends and the next begins is not an absolute requirement even for PF. As long as the sketch is reasonably consistent in the scale used, you can still make rough estimates that work 95% of the time. The grid just helps by making such calculations easier; it's not required.

I personally find that a map of some kind is necessary to play PF. I also feel, based on the few times I've played the earlier editions, that even in early D&D having some kind of visual representation is extremely helpful, even if not 100% required by the rules. I have bent that position occasionally when I have DM'ed pbp games where the scenes are both straight forward and short (as trying to do maps in a pbp is often a time consuming process for even the most basic of maps), but for the most part, having a visual aid of where characters and notable objects are in relation to each other brings more to the experience than it takes away.

I think a large part of the difficulty that has developed is that many have come to expect fully drawn maps on mats that have the squares preprinted to allow for precise measurement regardless of the scope of the encounter. This isn't always necessary, and can quickly bog the game down if it's seen as a requirement for every single combat. The scenes that require more detail can usually be anticipated and prepared for ahead of time; maps being created in the middle of a session simply need to provide enough of the basic information required to keep the scene moving forward without getting bogged down. The key to me is getting a basic layout where everyone can see it; the details and specifics can be done verbally in most cases without needing to visually represent every little aspect of the battlefield.

I suspect that a large part of why WotC is concerned about PDFs is that brick and mortar stores tend not to like them, and WotC relies far more on those stores than most publishers. Still, Paizo is showing that the two distribution methods can be balanced, even if the brick and mortar stores aren't ecstatic about it; WotC could do the same, but with Magic being tied so much to local tournaments and local support, they may not be as willing to upset their main bread and butter for their dominant product line.

Enevhar Aldarion wrote:
Even though they have the free Basic Rules available on their website, I think they will eventually release PDFs of the core books, but they want to sell the physical books too. After all, the DMG only came out back in December, so give them a few months to sell them. Personally, I am giving them til summer before I get more upset about legal PDFs not being available. That gives them at least six months to sell the books and convert them to PDFs or other e-book formats for sale.

Selling PDFs wouldn't cut that much into the sales of the physical books. Different people buy them for different reasons.

thejeff wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Not risks in terms of getting rid of or making drastic changes to their most successful characters.

That was specifically in terms of the early days.

Killing off Gwen Stacy and bringing in MJ was a pretty big deal in those early days that had a major impact on the Spiderman story. From what I've seen of the early X-Men books, they freely changed, killed, or wrote off multiple characters that didn't make their way back into the story until after the cartoon had started. They definitely did make risks with their big names and stuck with them in those early days. The goofiness didn't start immediately.

thejeff wrote:
Not risks in terms of getting rid of or making drastic changes to their most successful characters.

Steve Rogers is no longer Captain America.

Tony Stark is no longer Iron Man.

Thor is now an unknown female.

Peter Parker has no consistent storyline at this point and one major alternative to claim the name of Spiderman.

Ditto for Bruce Wayne and Batman. and Robin.

At least 3 Green Lanterns. and Flashs.

Superman and Wonder Woman have had their origins retconned to the point where most people stopped carrying about the precise one that DC wants to push at any given time.

The Fantastic 4 are now the Fantastic 3.

The X-Men in general are harder to follow than trying to trace a medieval family tree to its roots.

Admittedly, not all of these things have stuck or will stick, and many have been done multiple times, but enough have, even on the Marvel side, to disprove that statement easily.

thejeff wrote:
I don't think Marvel had more discipline in the early days. Characters didn't die and get replaced. In fact, they returned from the dead pretty frequently. Storylines were often little more than "What weird thing can happen this month?" DC's early days were too long ago for me to know much about them. Not at all impressed by what I've read of them. By the 70s, there was much silliness and little discipline. Think of the Superman of those days.

Marvel had enough discipline to establish both themselves and their characters in the face of Superman and DC, just like DC had the discipline to establish themselves and their characters. That is far more than can be said for either company today, though Marvel at least seems to be trying to change that recently. So yes, things were different initially than what they became in the 80s and 90s, where there was basically no discipline or focus at all.

thejeff wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
thejeff wrote:
Stopped being written mostly for kids.

Perhaps that was their biggest mistake. Kids in general have a much higher tolerance for what comic books have always been.

Regardless of the reason, there was a very real shift around that time that left both Marvel and DC largely running on a hamster wheel just trying to keep up with the changing times. Relying on established heroes and methods of story telling aren't going to get them off of that hamster wheel, now or ever.

I fundamentally don't agree with this. Or that it was all that different before.

So you think that Marvel and DC have always been this stagnant in terms of new character development and that they differentiated themselves from the competitors they faced in their early days by relying on the status quo? They couldn't have, otherwise we wouldn't be talking about them today. Any company their size had to take a fair number or risks, both calculated and otherwise, at some point in order to get there, more so given the limited nature of the market they serve.

You are basically arguing that neither company should even think about risking what they already have even though it's clear that what they currently have is a shrinking niche that is going to require a significant jolt to revive. I don't think that Marvel is in that mindset right now. They have already changed the character behind the three most recent successful heroes, significantly rewrote a fouth (the Hulk did not used to be that easy to control) and seem reasonably determined to stick to it. Especially given the reasonable success of the alternate Spiderman, their lack of ownership of the movie rights to Spiderman, and at least one semi-recent attempt to purge the number of X-Men, they seem to be willing to go out on a limb and back the changes up. More importantly, they have a large wave of public support to genuinely make it stick as long as the stories are good. They would be foolish not to at least try some risk.

thejeff wrote:
Stopped being written mostly for kids.

Perhaps that was their biggest mistake. Kids in general have a much higher tolerance for what comic books have always been.

Regardless of the reason, there was a very real shift around that time that left both Marvel and DC largely running on a hamster wheel just trying to keep up with the changing times. Relying on established heroes and methods of story telling aren't going to get them off of that hamster wheel, now or ever.

thejeff wrote:

That's only going to work if you can force them to do it and stick to it somehow.

You're relying on a discipline that the two companies have never had. Or ever aimed for.

What you'd really get is a reboot in a couple years to bring the old characters back.

Possibly, but people claimed that with the new Thor when it was first announced, and are quite likely to be proven wrong if they can pull off the reveal soon and well. You're right, it requires discipline that neither company has shown much interest in lately, but in the early days, they showed something of the discipline required, and we are having this conversation today because of it. Without that discipline in those early days, none of the now iconic heroes would likely have gained much traction and we would be talking of other things here. Simply feeding off the table scraps of yesterday, which is what both companies are doing right now, is not going to last forever, and discipline and focus in general is going to be needed to establish themselves as something more than the owners of yesterday's heroes.

Marvel is actually doing quite well on this front, so the upcoming relaunch will be interesting to see. If they go the route that DC did, and only do a partial reboot for a few of the characters while being unwilling to even glance at most of their sacred cows, they will have missed an opportunity to solidify the gains they have made through the movies. This is not to say that they should slay sacred cows for the sake of slaying sacred cows, but I really do hope that they at least took a long hard look at them before sparing them for reasons beyond not wanting to take a risk of any kind. Right now, they seem to have the management and the public support to take a certain amount of risk and do just fine without having to have nightmares of what life after Peter Parker might look like.

thejeff wrote:
LazarX wrote:
Lemmy wrote:
Why do we need to change old characters? If the new generation brings completely different characters, they are no longer the characters I love. If they have the same personality of their predecessors, what's the point of having a new generation?
You don't get it. It's not about you or what you love or hate. You're not the primary concern as you're reading comics already. It's about making them relevant to the younger generations.

The comics characters who have been the mainstays of the genre for 50 (and in some cases 80) years, finally need to be replaced for this generation? Despite being still more popular than any previous attempts to make relevant heroes?

I don't think so.

They need to change with the times. As they've done before and will continue to do. That requires more different writing and different approaches to the characters than either replacements or reboots.

Mind you, new versions have worked with less popular, less iconic second string characters. Ones who were actually losing their popularity, not just following the general drop in comics popularity.

I wouldn't exactly call being a mainstay of a genre that has been stagnant for most of the last three decades much of reason to automatically keep the old heroes around, especially if the goal is to diversify the types of people they have reading comics. Different writing and different approaches are not by themselves going to be enough in all cases. The idea of replacement must remain on the table even if it is not ultimately pursued immediately.

MMCJawa wrote:
From all I have seen, comic books are just a hard sell to a lot of people. I don't see how retiring known and popular characters somehow ENCOURAGES more people to buy into the medium

Directly, it wouldn't, but as a catalyst that would force Marvel and DC to actually get truly creative and come up with new characters, it could. I don't have a problem with the existing characters in and of themselves, just the general laziness it inspires when it comes to creating something newer to potentially strengthen the medium as a whole rather than relying the inertia of the fame of the existing heroes whose stories often are simply well known, not necessarily better written.

thejeff wrote:

I think the competition from other forms of entertainment is what's hurting comic sales. I don't think ditching their still top characters is going to fix that.

If Superman and Captain America aren't relevant anymore, why have they just had blockbuster movies? Why are they still top selling comics?

There's a difference between relevant and entertaining when it comes to comic book characters and that difference is a big reason why no new major heroes have really developed for a long time.

Entertainment has always been an important aspect of these characters, and continues to be, but they haven't always been pure entertainment. There was a pretty strict code of what was and was not acceptable to include in the comics because these characters were expected to exemplify what we could be and should aim to become, both as individuals and as a greater society. And, like it or hate it, it worked. Even into the late 60's, people bought into that whole idea and made some of the characters, like Captain America and Superman, almost national icons for a time.

By the 80's, though, that had pretty much ended; the code was gone, any sense of a unified message was gone, and comics were almost purely entertainment. While not entirely bad, the shift basically removed any need for the very few attempts at continuity that had been attempted in the past, making meaning that it was more practical to do what you do, which is to stick with a particular writer, not the characters directly. Comics still did reasonably well for a while because they did not yet have any major competition.

That has dramatically changed. Yes, the movies still do well, but most of the general public sees them as just another action flick, and not much more. Even among the comics, you see the splintering effect of alternate universes, alternate timelines, etc. to the point where the original core story is often all but lost as the focus became all about staying interesting and entertaining, which many of the side arcs that we still see today are, over telling an overarching story that really draws people in for the long haul.

For some people this is really great, but it's impact on overall relevance is not positive. They are now just another story that a few people will really, really like and everyone else pretty much reads or watches once and forgets it. There is virtually no long term draw or appeal to the character itself. You could replace the reel of any of the recent comic hero movies with any other decently written action or comic book movie, and most of the audience wouldn't have cared. There are a few that you couldn't only because of the quality of movie overall, the interaction between the individual actors, and other technical aspects of the movie, but rarely are the characters themselves the major draw for these movies. People didn't flock to Iron Man or Avengers because of Tony Stark; they did it because of Robert Downey, Jr.

New characters wouldn't be a silver bullet that automatically fixes these problems, nor would handing off the mask to someone else, but just sticking with the same old characters doesn't even attempt to fix the problem, so I fail to see why it is bad to even think about retiring them. It's not always going to be the best response upon further examination, but neither is refusing to even think about it.

phantom1592 wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
Let's face it; while Steve Rogers and Clark Kent made a very good Captain America and Superman for their time, everything about them is based on a time and an ethos that simply does not exist anymore....

which time was 'their' time? The 30's? 50's? 80's? 2000's?

Frankly that is one of the things that I find so depressing. That having a decent, morally upright champion of 'good' isnt' relevant anymore.

It pretends that the past was some rosy wonderland where 'good guys' could flourish... but lets be honest. WWII, Depressions, Civil Rights, Watergate, etc. etc, weren't 'good' times. Characters like these should inspire... and in THIS day and age, I argue they are more needed then ever.

Whether they are needed and whether they are likely to be embraced are two different conversations. The first one is usually pretty straight forward, but but the second is much harder to get consensus on in this country right now. Everyone wants that champion, but no one can agree on what who that champion should be and what precisely he should stand for. Trying to establish a universal champion and inspiring people in a way that both Captain America and Superman did just brings out all the special interest groups that are upset that the champion doesn't specifically champion their major concern, and so therefore, he cannot legitimately considered a champion of anything good.

thejeff wrote:
Sure, it would be great if they could reliably turn out new characters that hit those heights, but they can't. And there's no reason to think that getting rid of the mainstays would change that.

Simply continuing to rely on the existing characters isn't going to help them any though, as the mainstays aren't all they used to be. This thread alone has talked about 2 different Batmans, 3 different Robins, 2 different Spidermans (+ a fair number of variants on Peter Parker's base story), 2 or 3 Green Lanterns, 2 Captain Americas, 2 Thors, and there was recently an entire multipage thread on the different X-Men over the years. All of that is before you get into the movie versions of all of these and other comic book characters. Trying to talk about any of these as if there is a consistent core character and story anymore for any of them is already extremely difficult. And it's just going to keep getting hard to justify the claim as time goes on. There is already less demand that Batman has to be Bruce Wayne or that Spiderman has to be Peter Parker. Done right, retiring Peter Parker or Bruce Wayne permanently is entirely plausible in that environment, especially if they couple it with the reprinting of the classic stories that feature the retired character that allow current readers to experience both stories without having to worry about continuity questions.

Short of a radical and complete reboot for everyone and literally starting over from scratch, I just don't see them doing much with the existing characters other than continuing the slow slide into a smaller and smaller niche. The older characters won't simply disappear over night, but they can and will continue to lose relevance across the general population, especially given the shifts in ages and cultures our country is facing. Let's face it; while Steve Rogers and Clark Kent made a very good Captain America and Superman for their time, everything about them is based on a time and an ethos that simply does not exist anymore. And stories like Spiderman and Batman have the difficulty that never ending stories without any meaningful resolution tend to lose meaning over time. They may still be interesting on a purely entertainment level, but given how much competition these stories have today in the realm of being purely entertainment, that doesn't mean as much as it used to.

Matthew Downie wrote:

Peter gets rebooted / refreshed / resurrected constantly. Let's see - in recent times he's had his mind erased completely and overwritten by Dr Octopus. Before that, he had his past rewritten and his marriage erased by making a deal with a demon. Before that, he revealed his secret identity to the world and was given a new high-tech spider suit by Iron Man. Before that, I seem to remember something about him turning into a spider-monster and dying and being reborn? And before that he was a clone of himself. And before that he was attached to the Venom symbiote.

That's how comics stop characters going stale. Yes, some of the character events are pretty silly, but it means when they return to a the status quo (usually with a new variation, such as him having a job as a scientist instead of a photographer, getting a new girlfriend, or whatever) and enough time has passed that it seems interesting to have him fighting regular super-villains again.

The problem is that you can't rely on short term gimmicks forever. They stop the bleeding caused by boredom, but they don't really do much to help with growth because the loss of continuity drives just as many people away. And that is my biggest difficulty with how Marvel and DC have been approaching the problem; they either have to say to heck with continuity or hope enough time has passed since the last time they pulled out a particular villain that enough people have forgotten enough about that particular plot for it to be interesting again. They have largely forgotten how to create interesting new content that doesn't completely change or ignore the existing material and heroes. If they could show a capability to do that, I would be less worried about their use of silly side arcs, but when that kind of side arc becomes the norm, they stop trying to genuinely evolve and develop the character in ways that allow for changes to the character that don't seem entirely out of place.

thejeff wrote:
You're still assuming that Peter Parker needs new life breathed into him. Peter's doing just fine. You might not like him, but he's quite popular. Why are you so insistent that any fix to sales problems with other characters involve major changes to Peter Parker?

Because Peter Parker is not doing all that well overall, nor is Bruce Wayne, or Clark Kent. They are doing well compared to other characters, but that doesn't take much, and they have long since plateaued. Their movies, while still blockbusters, are very up and down, with some of them doing really well, and some of them being really bad. It's also notable that it was Iron Man and Guardians of the Galaxy that really got people outside the existing fanbase talking, not Spiderman or Batman. The fact that they have variant comic lines that are talked about just as much or more than the main comic (I've seen as many or more references to the alternate Spidermans in this thread than I have to the officially canon Spiderman), and, with DC at least, frequently push the original character off to the side/replace the original character in even the main line hurts your argument, rather than helping it. It shows that the base concept is still interesting, but that a lot of people are getting tired of the original characters and stories that have comparatively little to offer in terms of insights on the base concept.

The underlying problem both Marvel and DC have is that neither company has really produced a new major super hero in last two decades; the few random accidental ones, like Wolverine, are the exception rather than the rule, and even those have mostly been was putting out the right story at the right time to elevate existing heroes. They have the same problem that D&D novels have; the brightness of the bigger stars hides the fact that they really don't have much beyond the stars. Marvel actually has a chance to break this if the next string of movies succeeds (I suppose DC technically does too, but they are a bigger long shot), but even than, it's still relying on characters, villains, and plots that were developed a generation of writers ago. Unless they start cultivating writers that are capable of writing completely new material that people want to read, they are going to continue to have the same problem they do now, and eventually, it will catch up to them.

I don't think they need to change the big names immediately or without a good story to back it up, but both companies do need to be aware that the time is coming where they might need to make significant changes to their leading lineup and need to start planning accordingly. The big stars are starting to show their age, and will need to either be revamped (not just rebooted again), retired, or replaced sooner rather than later.

thejeff wrote:

I don't understand your argument. Are you saying they need to get rid of their top sellers so that people might pay attention to their other characters?

I'm saying that at this point, all options need to be left on the table, and that includes tampering with or retiring their big heroes if doing so has a reasonable chance of succeeding without being a short term gimmick. Clearly, the changes need to be thought out and executed well, but ideas like maybe Peter Parker doesn't have to be Spiderman all of his life need to be at least considered. If they can find a writer capable of breathing new life into Peter Parker while doing a genuine reboot, great; if they can find a writer that will be able to convince people that someone else can be Spiderman, than let Peter retire, and give the costume to someone else.

Ultimately, its about not just relying what has partially worked before and figuring out a more complete toolset that will allow them to keep characters fresh without having to worry about rebooting them constantly.

thejeff wrote:
If the big stars are selling well and the second string isn't, seems to me the problem is with the other characters. Change them up, not the ones that are selling.

If they aren't willing to make significant changes to the big titles, both companies may as well stop publishing anything not at least second string, since virtually no one will pay attention to them anyway, and accept that the room for growth for the second string characters is going to be limited at best and quite possibly nonexistent. Refusing to risk their big stars is not an option in this market, since not changing them and attempting yet another reboot is just as risky as attempting to retire them or significantly rewrite the character.

thejeff wrote:
Retiring the big stars of your franchise because some of your long term readers think they're played out is just a horribly bad business idea.

So is rehashing the same story over and over again. Yes, it will, and does work, for a few heroes, but if that's the only tool they have to keep selling comics, they are going to not sell many other comics aside from the big stars, and that will limit their ability to support the big stars. Again, I don't think that retirement is absolutely necessary in most cases, but advocating for just another reboot is equally problematic for the companies. They need to find something in between, and work their way towards making retirement a more plausible solution the next time they need to refresh the heroes.

thejeff wrote:

But Spiderman, Superman, and Batman are still among the best sellers. They hold down multiple titles each. They're profitable movie franchises. These are the popular heroes that everyone knows and that actually sell comics. Why drastically change them?

You may be bored with them. I may even be bored with them. That doesn't mean they have a problem.

Except that your post includes many things that will become problems sooner rather than later, and have long been problems for most of the rest of the super heroes out there. Multiple titles gets confusing for new readers of the comics, and there are so many versions of each of them most people wouldn't even bother counting them any more. They can get away with repeating the same choices they've made in the past for these few characters for a while still, but that really doesn't help the state of comics overall, and eventually it won't work for these heroes either.

I'm not saying that reboots are automatically a bad choice, but both Marvel and DC have to be willing to explore other options as well where appropriate. Reboots cannot be the only tool they use to keep things fresh if they want to sustain their business; they don't always work and can do a fair bit of harm if done incorrectly. They need to be willing to put some genuinely new characters out there, retire some of the old ones that it makes sense to (and yes, I firmly believe that Peter Parker is one of these; there's only so much of him I can take, and I reached my limit a long time ago; it's not even boredom at this point, it flat out annoyance; his story wears thin quickly), either permanently or by handing off the torch to a new generation, or completely and genuinely reboot most of the remainder. What I don't want to see is another soft reboot that doesn't really change the status quo and fails to create room for genuinely new stories.

thejeff wrote:

Or they could just try telling good stories with the existing characters and adding new ones as they go. Change in emphasis as needed without explicit reboots. Don't try to drive sales with giant cross-over events.


Maybe I'm looking at this too simply and the real problem is that their most popular characters have become too complicated and need to be gotten rid of or completely redone.

Those are the biggest issues I've seen with a lot of these character, especially the big solo ones like Spiderman, Superman, and Batman. They have already told so many stories from so many angles for over five decades now that coming up with new stories or new angles on old themes while retaining the same core character is getting harder and harder. Marvel actually has less of an issue precisely because it can do the crossovers and get more angles that way, not to mention that many of the heroes are part of groups and thus have far more built in storylines, but it still has the problem of getting overly complicated, as the X-Men lines of comics are showing these days.

Both companies are a point where most of the current top heroes need to either be retired or taken back to their very, very, very first issue ever produced and started over entirely in order for a reboot to really considered a reboot. It's risky either way, but the longer they hold off on doing either, the harder either option becomes. Their only other option is to do things like rewrite Thor as a female to try to respark some interest and hope it holds long enough for the rewrite to stick, which is equally risky. They don't really have a good option right now, so it will be interesting to see what Marvel ends up doing.

It's a tough difficulty that both Marvel and DC are facing. While aging existing characters is risky, they can't just keep rebooting the same hero over and over again either. That strategy worked for a few decades, but it's becoming less and less effective every time they do it, because they can do less and less of a full reboot each time they do it, dampening it's overall value to the new reader. The mixed success of DC's new launch shows that at this point, reboot don't have an inherent advantage over retiring the old characters and trying to establish new ones. Going forward, they are going to have to look at each character and find a mixture of solutions that work for that particular character. Some characters at this point could be aged and replaced with more ease than a reboot, others need to be genuinely rebooted, and taken all the way back to their original roots because they have been retconned so many times they have lost their original pull.

The thing that can be said with absolute certainty is that Marvel's approach and the results will be interesting to see.

DR 1/- is pretty powerful because it can be worked with many other abilities, skills, or gear to strengthen the overall build. By itself, it won't help against most level appropriate monsters, but there are lots of ways to boost it, and even without a boost, it helps the barbarian ignore the lower level minions that rely on numbers rather than strong single blows. It also does a good job of letting barbarians frequently ignore swarms, something that even at level 7 isn't always that easy to do. In the end, it doesn't do much by itself, but it can combined with a wide variety of things to have a much larger effect. It can serve as a base for rage powers that enhance it; it can work well as part of a larger defense strategy that includes AC as well; it works well with a strategy of getting as much HP as possible and simply wading through the minions to get to the boss. That is its real power; pretty much every barbarian build out there can find a way to take advantage of it and use it in conjunction with other abilities, skills, feats, or gear. Very few barbarians will be willing to completely ignore it and forget it entirely.

Charlie Brooks wrote:
If they're trying to mask verbal components, I call for a Bluff check. For somatic/material components, I call for a Sleight of Hand check. The roll would be opposed by an observer's Sense Motive or Spellcraft, whichever is higher.

That is more or less how I approach it.

There were spots where the execution of the story was good, unfortunately, there were far too many spots where it was still too far over the top for most people to really get into it. As a whole, it suffered tremendously from it's very poor execution; a few good spots and an overall plot that was actually fairly decent were not in the end generally enough to counteract all of the bad writing it had.

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I thoroughly hate people that say that that casting can never be hidden, and I thoroughly disagree with the RAW ruling on this. It shouldn't be easy, and it shouldn't be automatic, but it should be doable. All that saying it can't be done without specific class abilities does is make it so that most enchantment and illusion spells, as well as many other spells, can't be used in most of the situations they are most relevant, and that strikes me as being counterproductive. I get that they shouldn't be easy, but usually functionally impossible seems a bit over the top for me.

If a caster is willing to invest skill points in the the appropriate skill or silent or still metamagic feat, or asks for a custom feat, I have no problem giving them the opportunity to try to hide their casting. They still have a chance of failure and they have invested something into improving their chances of success that could have gone elsewhere.

I'm thinking about a gnomish bard with either the brigand or pioneer trait and a hobby of brewing. Will start working on a full writeup shortly.

How are you looking to handle the different leadership roles? Are you figuring on having PCs fill as many of them as possible, or having npcs fill in holes that the party can't/doesn't want to fill?

dotting. Need to think about which concept I have in my head that will work best.

Muad'Dib wrote:
All NPC's (GM or player created) belong to the GM. They are his/hers to do with as they need to further advance the story, provide drama, and are tools to grow the campaign.

That's true and not true at the same time. Even in the earliest of editions, there were npcs like familiars that belonged to a specific character and were part of what was used to measure that character's total power. These npcs have never truly belonged entirely to DM, and good DMs figured this out quickly. The line where DM control and player control has shifted dramatically over time, to the point where in PF, these types of npcs often are for all practical purposes, secondary PCs, but even in the most DM controlled system, the player still had significant say in the creation and running of these npcs.

Very few DMs, even in the early days where players were willing to give DMs a lot of control, could get away with telling a player trying to attract a rat familiar with a summon familiar spell that the PC was going to get an imp and like it, even if they were a lawful good wizard that had sworn his life to killing demons. Likewise, a PC going to look with a cohort with certain personality traits or skills would have good reason to balk if the DM tried to force one of three generic cohorts on the PC and none of the three choices even began to match what the PC was looking for.

The actual running of these npcs runs into similar issues; sure, a DM could run them anyway they wanted technically, and most good DMs could get away with the occasional plot twist that relied on the cohort betraying the party, but for the most part, these were npcs that were at the table because the PCs wanted them there and things generally go far more smoothly when the DM recognizes this, and either let the PCs control these npcs under normal circumstances or run them themselves in a similar manner than the PC would have except in rare instances where it genuinely helps the story for everyone at the table.

ElterAgo wrote:

If the GM decides my familiar is going to be lazy and obnoxious so every time I want it to do something I have to spend 10 minutes trying to talk it into following direction or every time we are in a social setting it insults people until we get thrown out (or in jail). Well guess what, I would be upset. The GM has turned an integral part of my character into a severe penalty that I can't do anything about.

If the GM occasionally says something like my beetle wants to get its carapace painted electric blue, that's great. Exactly the kind of thing I would do. Not a problem.

But if you aren't going to constantly mess with it/me, why do you need to bother making such a big deal about how only you control it and can do whatever you want?

This pretty much sums up my view. These are things that players often spend significant resources on to get and they are basing a fair bit of their character's overall effectiveness on these side characters, which makes them more than an npc. For those two reasons, as long as they are being played intelligently and as long as the player is treating them as actual characters with their own personalities, etc., and not mindless tools, a good DM should generally leave those things alone, aside from the occasional comment like the beetle wanting to get his carapace painted. I as a DM will always retain veto power over any side characters or summoned creatures a player might bring to the table and will have a say in the creation process of any such characters, but as long as they are played reasonably intelligently, they belong to the player to a sufficient degree that I treat them as secondary PCs, not npcs.

Now in different games or editions, I might be willing to set the bar differently based on how much the PC has invested in and relies on these secondary characters for their overall effectiveness, but for PF, these are all significant investments and choices that come with significant costs, and I am not going to penalize a player that chooses to accept those costs by further limiting the usefulness of their choices, nor as a player will I accept any further restrictions or DM interference without an equal reduction in cost or reliance on them when calculating my character's overall effectiveness.

Followers, family members, and other background related are a bit different in that a player is never going to be directly controlling these characters, so they are still quite firmly in the npc territory, and I will treat them accordingly. They are npcs that I will accept input from the player on, especially if I do anything that is unexpected, but they are still npcs, and mine to control. The players get some say in the creation process of these things, but how and when they come up in play is largely at my discretion as a DM, though the player can do things to influence these aspects with the appropriate role playing if they wish to have more influence on these aspects.

Jester David wrote:

But this isn't a case of "which is better". In this case Paizo really isn't much better. Both companies are sitting around waiting for gamers to discover them, relying on individual home groups and gamers to bring non-gamers into the fold.

No one really seems to have any idea of how to branch out beyond the established pool of gamers.

So it's really a question of whether either can figure out the solution, and if so, who does it first? Paizo has the organization and the ability to turn small successes into larger successes while WotC, if they chose to, could potentially throw more resources at it. I'd still bet on Paizo if I had to bet; they are already having at least minor success with novels and have a computer game in development, as well as the know how to take full advantage of any successes in those arenas. WotC, for all that it should have a very clear advantage, lacks both leadership and focus, which hurts them far more than Paizo's lack of name recognition hurts Paizo. Even when they do get a boost or a success, they can't/don't use it for anything, and it eventually fades away leaving them back where they started with no clear path of how to get beyond that starting point permanently.

Jester David wrote:
There's no real focus or attention on walking new players through the process

That's the one single thing that WotC's site has that Paizo's doesn't, and even that is often dealt with on Paizo's site via the advice section of the forums. While a place for formal guides like that would be nice, if that is the worst complaint made about the site, it's doing quite well. WotC's site, for all that is very pretty, falls far short of that bar; what is there tends to be decent enough, but there is far too much that isn't there and isn't even accessible from there.

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Jester David wrote:

But it's not the be-all-end-all.

The best potential improvement I've seen is the D&D website, with the basic rules as a free PDF and the new hyperlinked rules. So the start up cost for beginning to play is $0. Because when someone is curious about the game the first thing they're going to do Google it. And a few small tweaks like How-to-Play videos would help.
This is a way Paizo is lagging behind. Their website is... well, it hasn't majorly changed in ten years. It's not easy to navigate and is really more of a webstore than a site dedicated to a game.

The key is that nothing by itself is the ultimate solution, but rather an entire chain of smaller, more focused solutions, and that is what WotC had, and Paizo has today.

Paizo has the APs for the home crowd, organized play to get the local retailers involved, a number of product lines for the core rules, companion books, and accessories to augment both of the above, a license that lets 3rd party publishers get in on the process, and a strong online component to bring in that crowd. They all work together to strengthen each other and produce a result greater than the sum of its parts.

WotC, on the other hand, has a bunch of largely separate product lines that have little or no relation to each other which limits any success from bolstering all of the other areas of the brand. Unless they change this, a successful movie or video game or anything else that resonates in the main stream media isn't going to help them much. They also have virtually no online or electronic presence, hampering them further.
As for the second point, about all Paizo really needs to do a front page that would then direct people to the various things on the website, like the different forums, the store, and the online rules. That's a very minor gripe, though, and most people manage to navigate the site just fine without it. As for WotC's website, I've seen it and I'm not impressed. They actually make it harder to find most of the relevant stuff in the process of trying to make it easier, and the archives have been completely removed, reducing its usefulness for a lot of people. I'll take Paizo's website any day. It's not perfect, but it has far more information on it and once you figure out the basic setup, it's not that hard to navigate.

Jester David wrote:
I think D&D/PF players were about ready for a change. It's a good time for a new RPG.

I'll believe this when I see it happen in the marketplace and not just on forums. There is definitely a notable group of players that are ready for a change, but I'm not convinced that the OGL crowd is really that ready for a change. I think ACG is actually a good indicator of that; a lot of people didn't like the book, but still had enough faith overall in Paizo to buy it and continue to support the company and the system. I don't think an updated version of Pathfinder would be a autosuccess, but I don't think it's an autofailure either. A lot of people still clearly want a well written, actively supported OGL 3.x style game, and Paizo has proven themselves to be one of the better companies to provide that while being able to learn from their mistakes. They have had weak books in the past and gotten over them with virtually no residual impact. As long Unchained is noticeably better than the ACG and also shows signs that they learned from the ACG, most people will continue to have faith in them. After all, even with WotC, it wasn't until they had a string of really bad supplements at the end of 3.5 that people really started getting upset.

As for being a new system, this is a good time and a bad time. People looking for new entertainment is high, but so is skepticism and attention spans are inversely much shorter, meaning that sustaining interest is harder even if the initial launch is easier. Getting people interested and getting people invested are two different things, and it's the latter that really supports a brand. Unfortunately, that is also the step that is much harder in the current entertainment market. Paizo has done surprisingly well in this area, and it's a key part of their success. They may not get as many eyeballs as WotC does with a better known brand, but the eyeballs they do get are far more likely to stick around and put money behind the first glances. If I were a WotC executive, I would not be overly excited about the success of the launch, though I would be cautiously optimistic, until I saw numbers for repeat buyers, especially since they have far less product lines than Paizo, and thus, getting people to buy into that product line repeatedly is going to be far more important to them than it is for Paizo and any single line.

Jester David wrote:
I don't think any RPG has really managed to find a good way of continuing to be a presence.

Actually WotC did at one point during 3rd do exactly this and PF continues to do so using almost exactly the same model. Using organized play and third party publishers to truly invest others in the continued development and active support meant that WotC didn't have to spend all that much on marketing because others were doing it for them. Paizo is doing the same now by spending their marketing on cultivating a strong community within the real movers and shakers of the industry and player base.

The problem WotC had with 4th, and are likely to have with 5th, is that their focus on the individual DM vs a larger community. Encounters, for all that it did well, ended up being almost like extra large home games rather a true living campaign or organized play setting, which helped in some ways, but also limited its marketability, especially since it still had many of the limitations that organized play of any kind tend to have. It didn't really truly show off the system, and whatever they come up with for 5th along those lines won't either. An OGL of some kind would help with the third party publishers, but that's still an if, not a when, and even if they do put one out, 3PP's aren't going to just dive into it. Most of them already have a lot invested in Pathfinder, and will likely find the business climate of doing business with Paizo more comfortable than trying to work with WotC again on a permanent basis, at least initially.

Getting individual DMs who only run home games excited is good and important, but it's not the first or only step in a good marketing plan. Paizo doesn't succeed because they cater to the home games first or only; they succeed because the APs, which cater to the home games, and organized play, which pulls in leadership from around the community, support and feed off of each other, generating constant self advertising. They further strengthen this by maintaining strong ties with the indy publishing companies, bringing in even more leadership and active support. WotC had this with 3rd, did not with 4th, and will struggle to get this with 5th. It's not that 5th is bad; it's just that the system does not actively support such an ecosystem the way that 3rd/PF does and WotC doesn't seem to understand how they succeeded in the first place, and actually started losing a lot of their strength late in 3.5 when they started abandoning the OGL instead of working with the greater community to fix it.

Galnörag wrote:

I'm not sure I follow the logic around why the third place matters, the ratings are usually without comment to dollars spent, it is never clear if it was a close tie for first and a distant third, or a more even spacing, nor does it really speak to overall consumer spend. It isn't a zero sum game, just because a consumer spends $1 on a Hasbro product, it doesn't mean they didn't spend a different $1 on a Paizo product. For some consumers they have a limited budget, but others like myself bought both Paizo and Hasbro products this quarter. I bought the products from both lines that interested me. Now, not all consumers have this level of disposable income, but many of the older gamers who have played many generations of D&D do, and they may pick up the core rules for any number of reasons, nostalgia, curiosity, or seeing what they can apply to their own games (never mind actual intent to play).

Like others have said, a raising tide raises all boats, if Hasbro brings back, or brings new gamers to the market that is good for all games. Paizo is also well positioned with its miniature and gaming accessories lines to be system agnostic.

On a tangent, can Wizkids show up on the RPG list because their D&D/Pathfinder Battles lines are for an RPG? In which case, I think Wizkids will be a contender for 3rd place easy.

Consistently dropping below 3rd would be problematic since Paizo only has one consistent major competitor. 3rd gives room for the occasional bad period to leave a space for an indy publisher to sneak in with a particularly strong product every once in a while while showing that Paizo still has enough overall income to pay the bills. Consistently dropping below that would likely create difficulties that could start to impact future plans. That's why I drew that line where I did. As time goes on, that line could move, but for now, it seems like the most reasonable delineation.

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