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Pathfinder Society Member. 3,590 posts (8,517 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 30 aliases.


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thejeff wrote:
You do not close off character types by choosing to only play hypercompetent or competent characters.

That bolded part is to me the big key. The assertion that limiting yourself to merely hypercompetent concepts limits a lot of perfectly viable concepts is one I fully agree with, but most of the concepts one would actually consider using as a PC become perfectly acceptable when one adds that bolded part of your statement. A character doesn't have to be the absolute best in their chosen field, which a great many people on the boards tend to argue for, and that argument does have a lot of problems. Still, I also don't see many players making characters that completely suck in their primary focus either. Even in the old days when stats and abilities were a lot more restricted, most people still generally tried to play characters that had a reasonable chance of success in most typical scenarios. So it's a case of finding that sweet spot where the mechanics are balanced with and support the non-mechanics aspects of the character. Too much of either, and the character usually doesn't work too well for more than an adventure or two.

Aranna wrote:
I have definitely run into "pull your weight" people in conventions... a lot of them. In one game I had a magic item which enhanced my basic attacks but not my special attacks, so I was using a lot of basic attacks during the scenario. I swear these people were going to have an aneurysm. They were constantly trying to tell me what I was supposed to do next. Chill out and let me play my own character, please! One even had the temerity to say I was holding the team back... but I was running a higher DPR than any of them; and doing it with mostly basic attacks. I honestly don't see how any of these guys have any fun playing the game like it's some kind of SWAT exercise.

They were being stupid in that case because your character was obviously not being a problem, but that attitude is common in organized play for a reason. Far too often, someone using just basic attacks is genuinely holding the party back in an adventure that is written under the assumption that everyone is pretty much Superman. Part of this is the module writers, who in my experience tend to make combat either really easy or really hard, with virtually no middle ground experienced in the few years I played Living Greyhawk, and the nature of organized play itself. Characters that aren't at least partially optimized really do not work at all in organized play, and that's something a lot of people don't get and/or like. It's one of many reasons why now that my schedule has calmed down and I have other options, I tend to avoid organized play. It really is a setting where "roleplaying" has very little room as the DM pretty much has to follow the script and focus on the "rollplaying" aspect because that's the only part that carries over from session to session.

thejeff wrote:
LGTBQ prejudice is forced in because it's still controversial in the modern world and medieval attitudes are an justification, not a requirement.

I would say the prejudice isn't forced, but questions about it still remain very valid, and until we have a society in the real world that can successfully resolve those question without collapsing under it's own weight, which our own society is very much in the process of doing, the questions will remain valid. Simply making a world where those questions don't exist is not going to satisfy the majority of players out there. If it satisfies your own group, that's great, but don't expect it to be a widespread phenomenon.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
Assuming that we're talking about a general change? Maybe, though I'm not sure there's a lot of evidence for that. But we're not necessarily talking about a general change. The Ancient Greeks were fine with homosexual behavior despite being hideously intolerant in a lot of other ways. Ditto Japanese culture for much of their history.

And yet even the Greeks had noticeable hard limits on their acceptance of homosexuality; the modern day push for equality in the marriage arena would have been squashed fast and hard. And the point of being intolerant elsewhere is part of my point. There will always be some kind of flash point where tolerance no longer is considered necessary. This is true of any culture, real or fictional. If anything, fictional ones have more such points simply because those are the points that tend to be the focus of stories. Having a society be tolerant of LGBT (or any other specific matter) simply shifts the point of where the intolerance is going to lie.

Especially in a typical D&D world, developing communication and education enough to get the majority of the population tolerant of that one issue is going to be challenging enough; developing it to allow multiple such movements, such as what we have in the world today, would be nearly impossible, and yet, none of the individual movements in our world would have nearly the clout they do without the presence of the others providing background support. You can change the world to make it possible, but when even Eberron is already considered non-standard, and even Eberron level of development would struggle with the scope of what you would have to cover, you're basically looking at a representation of the modern world, taking the bad with the good.

thejeff wrote:
Beyond that, we're coming up with fantasy societies. Not quite "because dragons", but since you can create the gods in a PF world and decide how they influenced history & culture, it's pretty easy to arrive at any kind of culture you want. As long as you're within the broad outlines of human nature.

You can do that, but to me, it's the worst of both available approaches. The group is still stuck the real world headaches, but unless you, at the very least, an outline of detail of every god, culture, and the full history of the world before you even think about introducing that world into play, it's going to fall flat in the area of what players can do about it and it's ramifications if they so choose. Very few published worlds are that fleshed out, and far fewer custom worlds. To develop the sheer number of cultures even a small world would have in both the past and the present is not nearly as easy as you make it sound, especially when you start to consider the interactions between them. It can be done, but to do well and in a fashion that makes the entire exercise worth it it really difficult and holding it all together once the players get a hold of it and start to work within it is even harder.

The problem is basically the complexity of how each individual detail interacts with the rest of the world and controlling any ripple effects. For an example of this, look at 4E; the individual systems were great, but in none of the 4E games I played did they mesh well in actual play, and that is a large reason it struggled where 3.x/PF didn't. The individual pieces of PF aren't always that great, but they mesh well together and the end result is a system that can manage the stresses of multiple expectations for the system at least as well as any other D&D system that came before or after it. Building a world around a particular focus (in this case, LGBT issues) requires being prepared to tie pretty much every single detail of that world, no matter how mundane into that focus, and that is not something that even most veteran DMs that have been running since D&D first released would find easy or quick.

Deadmanwalking wrote:
But me? I'm not necessarily suggesting bringing a 'movement' into games at all, I'm suggesting having LGBT people exist in the setting with a minimum of prejudice. Again, this doesn't require a 'movement' or the setting to have changed at all (especially if the setting is either one I make up or one that already has such people).

If you are playing in a semi modern game, it doesn't require a lot of change or a big movement. The rest of the pieces that make it plausible in the game and possible in the real world are already in the background. If you are trying to play in a pseudo medieval world, like most D&D worlds, it does require something else to change as well. While it sounds simple in theory, getting society to a point where even a minimum of prejudice is possible takes a general shift in attitudes that is either caused by other events or changes or that change will be the trigger for other changes and events. It most likely means that the prejudice has simply shifted to something else, which could end up triggering someone else to insist that on that topic being made prejudice free, or it requires getting rid of prejudice completely; either way, the chances of there not being other very real changes in the fictional world are slim to none once you introduce even one real world issue into it. If you can convince the rest of the group to accept just that one change and not try to introduce others, I envy you. Every group I've been in has always had that one person that would take a move like that on the DM's part as license to do it themselves, just to see what havoc they can cause.

Qaianna wrote:
I won't even try to quote Deadmanwalking's post here, it'll probably cut off somewhere, but that's a solid point. There's no reason to assume that LGBT themes are considered usually 'wrong' or even 'overly weird' in a game world; that assumption in and of itself is its own agenda, if you think about it.

True, but my personal view is that if you are going to bring something like the LGBT movement into my game, and only that movement, I'm not interested. You get all the real world headaches that come with it and none of the, what is to me, interesting part of exploring it's full ramifications. Either leave it out entirely or be willing to accept that others may have other views on that or other similar matters that are not in complete agreement with your own that they would feel deserves the same amount of game time and focus as what you care about. I wouldn't automatically look for other points of view or issues to bring in to cause trouble, but I certainly wouldn't hold back if something else came up either, because the DM had already opened the door.

If one person decides that they can bring the real world into their game, everyone else at the table should have the same ability. Now, in most cases, that's not going to be a major issue because I doubt people will bring these kinds of topics up in a public game, and a private game is probably going to be amongst friends anyway, but it is a point to consider when considering how to present it and when that cannot be ignored. If one is willing to accept the risk of other real world issues leaking into the game, those topics can be a very enjoyable game, but the second it starts to clearly push one side over the other, and the entire group is not 100% behind that push, it needs to end immediately. If the entire group is okay with it, by all means, let loose and go to town; just don't be surprised if everyone else at the table does too and in ways that may not be entirely what you wanted or expected.

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thejeff wrote:
The "PCs go wipe out dungeon full of a humanoid tribe complete with families for no particular reason" trope in D&D/PF needs to die a quick death and be forgotten. And frankly, though I've seen it talked about on line, I haven't seen it in an actual game in decades.

It's mostly older groups that have the same players that have played together and not with much of anyone else for all of these decades, and may not have even moved to newer editions, but they are still out there, and the point remains valid. Even PF maintains it on an official level with drow and undead being automatically evil, with virtually no room given for being even merely neutral. And that is my biggest gripe with a lot of people who support these social causes. They ask a very specific question, basically demand the one answer they are looking for, and then don't care about any of the other fallout from that question and answer. I don't mind people asking the question, but people have to understand it's never as simple as one question and one answer. If people would understand that and act accordingly, I would have a lot less issue with all of the current social causes being pushed in our society.

Deadmanwalking wrote: Paladins persecuting people on any consistent basis for anything but truly awful behavior (or allying with truly terrible people and things) get to be ex-Paladins. Period.

Tell that to all the goblin villages that have been destroyed over the years by paladin PCs and the players that controlled them that simply assumed that the evil alignment was enough to wipe out entire villages of goblins or orcs or whatever else they found that radiated evil but were largely minding their own business. Virtually nobody stops to ask the goblins or orcs their views, so everyone assumes the paladin must be in the right. Not all that different from real life history where few bothered to ask the persecuted or defeated their opinion of the matter, and simply took the word of those who we now label persecutors but to themselves and their contemporaries were doing the best they could to make the world a better place. When more people started asking questions more and had regular communication with the groups historically persecuted, opinions changed pretty quickly.

If people want to make these kinds of arguments in why certain game elements need to change, they have be to willing to consider the full effect that those changes would logically have beyond the immediate topic. Our own world shows quite clearly that one question leads to another, and if encouraged the way that some people seem to in their games, would eventually force those on both sides of controversial issues into a position similar how in the real world increasingly anyone trying to claim to support or oppose anything on moral grounds risks alienating a lot of people who may well treat their arguments as very confrontational at best and flat out persecution at worst.

The problem that questioning specific issues while trying to retain the overall societal structure or relying on popular support has always had is that those tactics can get out of control very quickly, burning those who rely on them just as much as those who were the original targets. I would have considerable difficulty playing in a campaign that tried to cherry pick the precise consequences the DM desired while completely ignoring the presence of other, less pleasant side effects. Challenging society and making meaningful changes without causing a dozen unintended side effects can be done, but it's much easier with a long series of smaller actions; the larger any individual action or change is, the harder it is to control.

If the DM wanted to run in anything even remotely resembling the traditional D&D model and change something as massive as open social acceptance for the LGBT community, I would also expect them to be open to players wanting to play characters that challenged the very existence of the gods, claiming that divine magic wasn't actually any different from arcane magic and that the priests were simply brainwashing the populace to think that it was, and even the alignment system itself. I would not expect those challenges to automatically succeed, but trying to claim the absolute definitions of the alignments after already changing other large chunks of the assumed society and not accepting any gray area would not fly with me. I have no problems with stories that focus on change or that reflect current beliefs, but once you open that can of worms, you have to be willing to explore it all the way, whether you personally are comfortable with where other people take it or not.

thejeff wrote:

Are we just talking past each other?

I talk about slavery, torture and persecution of heretics and you come back with "paladins kill enemies in fights so they fall".

Not much difference between the two; just a a matter of opinion. Paladins attacking heretics is not to the paladin's view persecution, it's just their job. Obviously those viewed as heretics are likely to view it quite differently. A DM could easily combine the two phrases without the players having any notable recourse. Similarly, torture is quite prone to engender completely different opinions based on which side you are on, but both heretics and torture are reasonably common themes in D&D. Slavery isn't much better once you exclude the harshest, and clearly, evil forms of it; treating criminals or prisoners or war as slaves is another fairly common D&D and general fantasy trope.

The only real difference is what point of view to choose to look at it from. Traditionally, the game and real life society has looked at from the view of the person doing the action. Real life modern day society tends to look at it from the point of view of the person being acted against. People who want to bring that point of view into the game most certainly can, but it is going to yield far different campaigns and stories than traditional stories and points of view usually produce.

thejeff wrote:

Even leaving aside modern "controversial" issues, the bias of the day included some pretty heinous stuff - slavery, torture, persecution of heretics, etc. I don't have any problem playing in a setting with moral standards I don't agree with, but if you establish "what the Catholic Church does in year X" as the standard of Good in your setting and enforce that with the various (semi-)objective tools that PF gives, that's a little to close to endorsing it for me.

I don't mind playing evil. I don't mind playing bigoted people who think they're good or in a world that thinks they're good. I don't like it when the system says they're right about it.

So, you want to play in a setting where the Church is held up as the moral standard, but doesn't actually qualify. I'm fine with that. Even when the God the Church serves isn't actually good. But in a system like PF, where good is objective and measurable, there will be cracks in that system. If the Church is bad enough, those cracks will be obvious. Torturers and slavers who are high enough level will show up as Evil. Paladins of the Church who enforce evil laws will fall.

One effect of all this of course is that if God really is Good, then the Church will be more self-correcting, since it'll be harder to fall away from what He wants. Sadly, that wouldn't look much like the Church of the middle ages.

You're right; anything in game would look nothing like a specific historical example. It's the principle underneath that I'm after. Even where the alignments are supposedly these concrete, measurable things, applying absolute concepts to any given group or deity is still surprisingly difficult. Because if you really get down to it, large portions of every world ever published that have classically been considered good would have some difficulty or another using some of the definitions posted in this thread.

Good luck ever being a PC paladin and not losing all of your abilities by level 5 with all the blood you have on your hands. Other good aligned players wouldn't do that much better. If the line between murder and acceptable killing is truly as fine as some in this thread would have it, adventurers as a whole can never be good past level one and would almost always be evil by the time their levels hit the double digits.

And dwarven culture in particular is completely hosed, given the sheer number of enemies that would giddily use the kinds of arguments in the quoted post to destroy them without lifting a single blade.

Outsiders would have just as many problems. The supposedly good celestials that for years were known for their heavy use of the blade to deal with their foes would face the same problem as the dwarves. Lawful Evil outsiders would have similar difficulties remaining evil given the fine line between helping yourself and being a murderous hobo.

In the end, the whole conceit of concrete, measurable alignments has never actually much matched the reality of what occurs in an average campaign. While everyone talks of campaigns that really focus heavily in on the whole good vs evil concept, very few campaigns actually manage to do so for more than a few levels before morphing into some other story. One doesn't even have to turn to real life history for examples of absolutism fails, as that tendency to play in the gray area is already a huge part of the game, which makes focusing on issues that strike a nerve on the good vs evil paradox really difficult to really cover well.

For all that the big controversy that made the name well known focused on that aspect of the game, most campaigns are basically a bunch of battles strung together in some kind of story that ties them all together, with comparatively little thought given to moral implications for good or ill and the biggest concern being what new shinies are available at the end of the dungeon. The name is remarkably fitting for how most people play. It really is dungeons and dragons first and foremost, with roleplay and alignment slapped on for good measure. This is true of PF, and true of the original D&D. Just because people could, and still can, slap larger moral issues into that framework and make it work somewhat decently doesn't mean that the alignment system is actually robust enough for most parties to play that way.

LazarX wrote:

Considered "good" by whom? You forget who was setting the standard. The Roman Church, of course. The same Church condemmed the Believers as heresy, to the point of ordering a Crusade for their extermination. (Yes, Crusades weren't restricted to the Middle East) because they advocated living simple poor lives, in contrast to the bishops and certain monastic orders that were living the lap of luxury with the tribute they demanded from the lands they controled. The same agency pronouncing judgement over it's own actions, just might be considered by objective measurement, a tad biased, no? Charlemagne went to great lengths to avoid Pope Leto because he did not want his authority to be Emperor to be seen as derived from the papacy. Unfortunately he was outmaneuvered by the Pope who got to crown him anyway.

You're going to be very hard pressed to find judges who set the "standard" for "good" and "evil" that don't have ulterior axes to grind.

I understood who set the standard in that example perfectly. That example, and the bias behind it, was a very deliberate point; that bias is real but it doesn't eliminate the fact that most of Western Europe accepted it and the foundations of it from shortly after the fall of Rome to the Renaissance without serious questions, at least on the bigger issues. The fact that the standard was not 100% pure good on a truly objective level doesn't change the fact that for billions of people in that time frame, it was the accepted definition of "good" and was functionally what people followed as the standard for "good." The famous Pax Romana is a another prime example of something typically held up as a good thing, but in fact was enforced by instantly killing anyone who said as much as a word against Rome.

The point is, all of the definitions of what qualifies as "good" or any of the alignments in the absolute term that have shown up in this thread repeatedly are meaningless when applied an actual game where everybody, including outsiders that supposedly embody that perfect definition, brings a bias or concern to the scene that makes actually playing out that absolute definition functionally impossible. Hence, I am just as likely to walk away from a game that tries to claim that it's impossible to be good and militantly anti-(enter your cause here) at the same time as I am from one that relies entirely on historical views to portray that same cause. Neither extreme does well in any but the most specific of D&D campaigns that only certain groups will even be willing to consider. It's also not usually an issue for most groups in this system because D&D is understood to be an entertainment fantasy game first and foremost, and social commentary secondary if it's present at all. Other systems, especially ones that try to mimic modern day, would have that problem much more because of differing expectations.

I am glad that Paizo is showing awareness of the social issues of the day, but really, that trans orc is never even going to show up in the vast majority of campaigns as a trans orc. The party will either fight it and kill it, ignore it, or the DM will change the NPC to something that will provide a more interesting hook for more players. It's a nice gesture, but hardly as groundbreaking as some in this thread are treating it. A few references here or there are fine, but suddenly normalizing even entire cities or regions of the world to these issues would lose far more players than it would gain; it's simply too far of a leap too quickly given the traditional assumptions of pretty much every D&D world ever published.

Paladin of Baha-who? wrote:
Well, there's tradition, and then there's persecution. I can see a good deity saying that family and children and fertility and reproduction are the most important thing, so gay people should marry the opposite sex and have kids even if their hearts aren't in it, because of the importance of keeping society going with lots of children and maintaining the family line. But I can't see a good deity allowing gay people to be imprisoned, or tortured, or burned at the stake, because of who they love. It's just not possible. I also can't see a good deity allowing this of nearly anyone, for that matter.

The Catholic Church had its Crusades and was still considered good by the standards of the times. Ditto for Islam and Judaism at several points of their respective history. Not to mention pretty much every country/nation/empire that has ever existed. Is that level of persecution "Good" with a capital G? Probably not. But if the society as a whole considers it a good thing, or at least a necessary thing, it's not likely a god like Moradin would have great reason to intervene. Going by the standards you list, no deity, country, or group of any size could ever be considered to have a good alignment. Which could be a fair enough statement, but one just as far off of the traditional D&D standard as keeping things as historical as possible.

Jaelithe wrote:
I've never been much for the ordinary or the average. Frankly, I find most D&D/Pathfinder games wholly uninteresting, so ... to each their own.

I understand the feeling. I'll play in Golarion and with all the assumptions people make about what is typical, but my own world is most definitely not in that mold. Religion, and most of the resulting issues, simply doesn't come up much because the time frame I am currently working on has most of the gods dead and/or too weak to care too much about the world directly. In my world, a player wanting to push a particular issue not commonly shared with a larger community would simply be treated as weird (a title they would already have simply from being an adventurer) and be treated accordingly (which usually means apathy unless it's a personal issue for that specific NPC). If they tried the above example of climbing the minaret in my world, they would be either be killed instantly or no one would notice, and it wouldn't matter when in the campaign they did it. Quiet and dedicated action over time is far more likely to produce results than any single act or proclamation, and this is true of anything the player may want to change in the world. If that proclamation came after 15 levels of quiet advocacy, it might have an impact, but the proclamation itself would mean nothing outside of a greater context.

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Tormsskull wrote:
But, when you want to say that the religion of the area is anti-gay, that religion (or more specifically, the deity) is of a good alignment, and the deity doesn't punish his/her clerics for allowing the anti-gay activities, then you've lost me.

A lawful good god that focuses on tradition and society rather the individual, someone like Moradin, could absolutely be played that way. Wouldn't have to be the only way, but I could definitely see a lot more resistance to any of movements that have shaken up society in the last several decades from that church without at all challenging their claim to being good. Just because they don't focus on specific concerns on the individual level doesn't make them not good.

One big, big, big problem I have with equating not supporting those causes with not being good is that good can be interpreted in different ways. Our current society is definitely in chaotic good category, focusing on individual freedom and liberty in the immediate here and now rather than a focus on long term success of the family or society as a whole, so that colors our perceptions of what qualifies as good heavily, but it doesn't remove the validity of of the other interpretations out there.

thejeff wrote:
One thread of this discussion has been about quasi-historical campaigns. Thus real-world religions.

To me, a full discussion on real world religions or history would have to include the impact of readily available magic that D&D has, so quasi-historical is the most I've ever encountered and consider myself likely to encounter in this system. In other systems, I could see some of your larger concerns being potentially more relevant, but this system forces both real history and real religion to bend considerably to fit with the worlds that have been developed within it. One will at most see shadows of both as the presence of the other fantasy races, lack of technology, and the presence of magic monkey wrench a great deal of the reasons and assumptions behind both, especially in matters of warfare and social attitudes.

Morzadian wrote:

The subtypes work in any campaign.

And the subtypes are put in place so the Eidolon will fit into a fantasy worlds mythology not just for reasons pertaining to game balance.

Except where they really don't, which could potentially be just as many worlds as the ones that they do. Especially with the focus on outsider subtypes, my personal world is not a good fit with the new setup, as outsiders, regardless of alignment, are heavily discouraged by the remaining gods, while the old one worked perfectly given the long history of war and conflict in the world that only just recently ended. I play in another game under another DM where the same basic issues would come up if we were playing PF instead of 3.5; the old system would actually fit reasonably well while the new one would create massive headaches for player wanting to use it roleplaying wise. In Golarion through PFS play, the new one probably makes more sense, but Golarion in home games has plenty of room for the old interpretation as well.

My personal inclination is to allow either, but the choice must be made at 1st level; that way, a player could use whichever one fit their concept better, and the choice also impacts the roleplaying aspect of how the rest of the world reacts to them. Even then, I would probably allow all subtypes to be of any of the base forms and possibly ease up on the alignment restrictions. Even with expanding subtype options, the new way is not inherently any better at explaining the eidolons than the old way; they both have strengths and they both have weaknesses. Hopefully, we ever see another version of summoner again, it will find a middle ground that allows both interpretations equally well rather than absolutely forcing one over the other.

Create Mr. Pitt wrote:

The new action economy system cannot work within the RAW. Too much of the game, classes, and rules are based on the swift/standard action economy. There needs to be a ton of house ruling to import this into PF as it stands unless you want to decimate a ton of class options.

Of course, then everyone can just argue about the appropriate house rules to determine if the true purpose of a new action economy system is a smoother more interesting tactical game or just to nerf casting classes.

The point is importing this system into PF RAW is impossible due to the number of ambiguities and questions which arise and the harm it does to a number of classes which depend on swift actions to make the class run adequately.

The big issue there is that the new action system was written as an optional experimental system, not a full system rewrite that was expected to work with all the pre-existing material. I'm sure if we see it printed officially again (which we very well might given the apparent positive reception it's been getting in this thread) that most of those issues would be ironed out. After all, it's mostly just a matter of taking the time to make the adjustments; for an experimental system, it wasn't really worth the time to go through every class and make necessary adjustments, but if we do see it again, it will have proven itself to be worth that effort.

There would still be classes that would lose and classes that would win, but most of the ambiguities present in this iteration would likely have been dealt with. The real question is whether people would like the official adjustments, and as the discussion that revolved around the magus shows, they will never likely get an unanamious agreement no matter what they do in that regard.

Create Mr. Pitt wrote:

Just a crazy thought, but would be possible to use this modularly based on class. Either certain classes are assigned either the new paradigm or the old; or they have the choice.

I don't think this causes too much chaos so long as one is locked in and it allow the player to choose his/her approach based on their build and interest.

I would probably do something like this. Pre-ACG classes would work reasonably well for the most part with the new system as there as been ample time for most people to shake them out and figure out how to adjust them without too much difficulty. The one exception I could think of would be the magus, and I would still probably run that under the new system as it's the only one that would likely require a massive amount of on the spot rulings, so it would be a good test case while still keeping the work load manageable. The ACG classes I would run with the old for two reasons; 1)they are still new enough that most people aren't yet fully comfortable enough with them to start making major changes to them, and 2)they very much seem to incorporate a different way of trying to resolve many of the same basic issues, especially with their reliance on swift actions, so I would want to let both possible solutions play out to see which one is the more effective in the long run and/or how to most effectively combine the two approaches into a single hybrid. While I don't personally like the heavy reliace on swift actions, I can understand why a lot of people reacted rather harshly to the idea of them just disappearing entirely in the blink of an eye. By letting some classes use the new and some use the old, it might give a better idea of if they are truly necessary, and if so, how and when they should be used to get maximum effectiveness and minimal hassle.

This sounds like an intriguing system. It sounds like it sacrifices extra actions like swift actions and some of the iterative attacks for combat speed and fluidity. My personal response if I were in a group that used this would be to adjust class abilities and feats that rely on swift attacks to the new system, but then I never really liked the explosion of swift actions to begin with. They always kind of felt like a bandaid trying to cover a gaping wound; they helped, but they didn't really solve the underlying problems of the base system. It will be interesting to see if this system gets any more support or formal development or if it remains an experimental system.

Steve Geddes wrote:
What I mean is the associations with the name of a product which differentiate it from a generic version, in the eyes of the public*. One of the reasons I think D&D has an undeniably strong brand is that it is regarded as the only example.

Name recognition by itself doesn't mean much in this case. What matters is WotC's ability to translate it to making money for them and not somebody else, and that is where they have generally fallen well short. Even with the successes in the other markets, they probably haven't seen that much of the profits. It's almost like there is two D&D brands. One is the formal brand controlled by WotC (and TSR before that), and one is the overarching fantasy generic brand that covers not only most tabletop games, but a fair number of different novel writers as well. The latter is extremely strong; the former has never done nearly as well. That's the factor that most of the comparisons to Marvel doesn't take into account. For most comics, there is virtually no gap between the popular usage of the brand and the actual formal brand. For D&D, that gap is huge.

WotC has virtually no control over and makes virtually no money off of the more generic version of the brand, and it's strong enough that they can't squash it either. That makes it harder for them to sell licenses to the formal brand. There's little incentive to pay for a license from WotC when one get most of the elements from other sources and put together something that is visibly indistinguishable from D&D, but legally and financially is very, very different. For the cost of what they would have paid for the license, many companies can mount an effective PR campaign to overcome the lack of name recognition, breaking even in the short run and ending up with an IP they have full control over in the long run. Add in a history of being a difficult business to partner with, and WotC has even less clout to sell formal licenses.

In the tabletop market, they could get away with writing licenses that don't give everything away if they took the time to build good relationships; the indy publishers can easily create sellable content at a low cost, so they can get away with more limited returns. With movies or video games, it's a different story; a lot more money can be made, but they also take a lot more money to create in the first place, which the licensee is going to expect to make back and then some in equally large proportions, so WotC isn't actually going to make that much more than if they spent the money directly on their own product.

Steve Geddes wrote:
People with no idea of what an RPG is have often heard of D&D - that's a remarkable thing and points to a hugely successful brand. Even moreso if (as you repeatedly claim) they haven't had any success in the last few years.

Heard of, but often can't even remotely define what it is; even most people who know it well can't agree on a common definition. It's all pretty much generic fantasy. Even if you take out the different rule sets, you get people picturing everything from Conan and Middle Earth, very low magic settings, to Forgotten Realms and similar high magic worlds, as well as everything in between, with many including steampunk and/or sci-fi elements in their understanding of the brand. That makes it hard to market anything under it, because people won't have enough of an idea of what it is to really know whether or not they should be interested enough to look at it again. The emergence of Game of Thrones and other successful novels turned movies or tv shows muddy the water even more. There is plenty to define what D&D was in the 80s, and even the 90s, but very little to define precisely what it is today, so name recognition is not as much of a help as you think it is.

As for your counterexample, Colgate may reformulate aspects of their toothbrushes, but the basic function and product is still the same. It still has a handle and bristles; people still use it to apply toothpaste to their teeth. Making it battery powered or changing the length of some of the bristles doesn't change the basic concept behind it. There is virtually no debate over what is or is not a toothbrush. Even amongst most rpgs, these kinds of debates are rare; you say Shadowrun or Vampire, and most people know almost exactly what you are talking about. Same for novels, movies, and games in general. The only time you really see these debates and see the base question of what is the brand really supposed to be is D&D and anything derived from it. It's not a difficulty unique to WotC, as Paizo has basically skirted around it by clearly defining their brand around their world, and the rules are there as a supplement, but WotC seems to be one of the few that can't solve it. New editions at this point mean nothing precisely because the brand already has so vague of a definition that nobody notices yet another layer of confusion.

Steve Geddes wrote:

What you havent established but just keep repeating as fact is that putting out a new edition of the RPG is symptomatic of a failure of the brand overall.

It's more that the same arguments of how the rpg doesn't matter and they are trying to branch out tend to get highlighted at the launch of new editions. The new editions themselves aren't really the issue; they just tend to highlight how much progress really hasn't been made in other areas since the last edition.

Steve Geddes wrote:
Drizzt, for one. As I said, it makes no sense to judge their branding a failure by first excluding all of the widely known, commercially successful products. However, you're the one making the claim. How about advancing some evidence beyond opinion and speculation about goals that you have no knowledge of?

Being inconsistent and being a failure are two different things. One or two amazing products surrounded by a sea of mediocrity very definitely makes the brand inconsistent. As for being a failure, at some level, it clearly is, or we wouldn't be having more or less the same conversation right after the release of 5E that people had after the release of 4E. At the same time it's equally clearly not a complete failure; it does still have Drizzt and 5E is very solid for what it was designed to do. What we ultimately get is a very muddy picture of mixed success. It will be very interesting to see what happens to the rpg if no successful movie or video game emerges from their current efforts. Any chance they might have had in truly competing in the TTRPG market will be even smaller and less appealing, making it more likely that the brand just basically gets shelved.

Steve Geddes wrote:

Again you're focussing on the (economically irrelevant) TTRPG market.

How has their release of computer games changed in the last couple of years that makes you think they've adopted an "upstart" demeanour? Their approach to comics? To novels? What would make a fan of Salvatore's books suddenly think "Gee, these guys are clearly desperate!"?

It may be less relevant than other markets, but the TTRPG is the one they currently have. The video game market is shaky, and the movie market is still a distant dream. Largely abandoning it before they have something to replace it with seems really, really stupid to me. A small, but consistent, income is better than no income at all. Clearly they don't care or think that their other plans will come through sooner rather than later and cover the gap. I guess we'll know in a year if the ultimate payoff was worth it.

Steve Geddes wrote:
I'm disputing your claim that D&D is not a strong, "consistent" brand outside of the TTRPG.

Than name any truly strong D&D product out there today that isn't Drizzt or the PHB. The two MMOs are decent, but have little or no impact on the greater MMO market. The rest of the novel line is anemic. The boardgames are good, but are competing in a crowded enough market that they haven't really made that much of a splash. Neverwinter Nights was the last true hit the D&D brand had and that's a good decade old. It's been present outside the TTRPG more or less consistently, something no other tabletop game can claim, that much is true, but the only consistency it's shown is being just enough to keep all the products going. This isn't a small feat or one to be put down, but it's not the same as the kind of consistent success that WotC clearly keeps trying to find.

We may not know their exact goals, but they are clearly well beyond what they have managed to accomplish in practice, otherwise they wouldn't be consistently and very visibly chasing the same elusive targets in the movie and video game markets for over two decades.

Steve Geddes wrote:
Speaking about the strength of WotC's business doesnt have to be seen through the prism of "who is better?"

The comparison does help highlight the difficulties that WotC faces vs the challenges that it's competitors face, though, in all markets. A direct comparison is not possible, but looking at the size of the gaps of where the different companies are vs where they want to be is a valid approach, and WotC is much, much farther from their goals than Paizo is from their goals. This isn't automatically a disaster because WotC is making gambles that, if they pay off, will close the gap very quickly, but that doesn't reduce the fact that they are fairly large gambles, complete with fairly large potential loss in the case of failure.

In the end, WotC is behaving more like the upstart trying to establish themselves in one big, bold stroke while Paizo is acting like the mature company that has the history to allow them make more, smaller gains. Considering the actual history of the two companies, WotC's actions don't make much sense if the brand was actually doing as well as fans often believe. It's far from a failure, but it's also far from the success that it's often touted to be. In contrast, Paizo has accomplished in the short time since releasing Pathfinder almost as much in terms of market saturation, and not just the tabletop market, as WotC has in over two decades of ownership. While this doesn't directly hamper WotC is any way, it does highlight the weaknesses in WotC's approach that they will have to overcome.

137ben wrote:
But the 5e PHB really doesn't..

Aside from the fact that it's one of the few products actually out there right now. Other than that, they have Drizzt and two decent, but far from spectacular, MMOs that no one ever really talks about. Yes, there are other novels and a few boardgames, but nothing else that would serve as a base for the brand. If this was the era of Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, or even the cartoon movie, I would agree with you; those could and did carry a lot more weight than the tabletop game. Nothing out today can come even close to pulling that off. Only Drizzt comes even close and he belongs as much or more to Salvatore as he does to WotC; if Salvatore decided to retire tomorrow, WotC would be hard pressed to stop him and would be at the exact same level as Paizo in regards to novels. Right now, it's a lot bigger risk because they are basically ignoring one of the few markets they have a solid advantage in while chasing markets they currently have little or no foothold in, let alone a competitive edge that would help them secure themselves more firmly. I can understand chasing other markets, but not ignoring the markets they already have, even if those markets are comparatively smaller.

At the moment, culturally, D&D remains a strong brand name, but business wise, it relies more on nostalgia than actual product, and that's a precarious place to be. Nostalgia is strong, as is a strong cultural presence and the current demand for fantasy, but these are all very unpredictable sources of growth, and WotC has nothing to fall back on. It's not a gamble certain to fail, but it's equally not certain to succeed, and with 4E's shortcomings in the very recent past, another perceived failure so soon will hurt them even more.

Paizo, for all that it lacks the name recognition, is in a far better place business wise. All of their products actively support each other, and they already have almost as much actual current product as WotC in most of the non-tabletop markets that everyone claims that WotC has such a strong advantage. They also have better working relationships with both the rest of the tabletop industry, and probably most everyone else they work with aside from the local game stores, and even there, they still have a solid enough relationship. They also have, in actual product, a far more diverse array of products, making them more resistant to less than stellar sales of a particular product.

MMCJawa wrote:
And I would still say comparisons with Marvel are valid. Marvel made a lot of dubious decisions in the past, and had severe financial issues. I think Marvel has done a good job of turning around their brand, and I think WoTC learned from their mistakes in the past regarding the 4E launch. The fact that I am encountering vastly lower levels of venom from the fan community about the transition compared to 4E lends credence I think to that idea

WotC could very easily turn it around, but they could just as easily regress yet again. The question was asked whether Paizo or WotC had chosen the better strategy, and the answer is definitely Paizo; it may not lead to as big of a payoff immediately, but it's a far more stable and predictable strategy business wise. That doesn't mean that WotC is automatically going to fail; it just means that they have a much tougher road to success. And you are correct that they have shown signs that they have learned at least a few lessons from the recent past. Whether it's enough and whether they have enough resources to do anything with what they have learned remain very big questions right now, though, so their chosen strategy remains very risky and with 5E being basically a place holder, WotC will have to be extremely proactive and very willing to spend money on all of the other projects in ways we haven't seen them do so at any point in the past. So far we haven't seen any signs of that, most notably in the distinct lack of any kind of serious digital presence, and if we don't by summer, they will have missed a crucial opportunity.

Steve Geddes wrote:

I guess if you exclude the successful products, they haven't had much success. However, I suspect WotC are using a different metric than you. No doubt Drizzt counts, in their eyes.

It's hard to see why they'd take the approach they seem to be adopting if they shared your view that D&D has failed as a "sustained, consistent" brand over the years.

Except that WotC clearly believes that it has failed as a sustained brand. There's a reason we already see 5E (and why 5E is designed the way it is) and that the novels outside of Drizzt are functionally not there as far as the bottom line is concerned. Even on the movie front, they have started a legal battle to get the license away from someone whose track record with the license is not what WotC and Hasbro were expecting. It's not because of any sustained success, but quite the opposite. Successful brands don't have to essentially hit the reboot button like WotC has had to consistently do throughout their ownership of the brand. To be fair, TSR had the same difficulties; they just chose a different way to try to solve them, with about the same amount of non-success. D&D has always been more successful on a cultural level than a business level.

It's not ignoring the successful products, it's also looking at the less than successful stuff at the same time, and more importantly, the ratio between the two groups. Successful brands have more successes than failures; D&D historically doesn't. The successes it has tend to make very big splashes, and there has been enough interest in the brand for someone, usually not the direct owner of the brand, to make a product that keeps the name alive, which is an admirable feat to be certain, but that's about it. WotC is still basically known to the business world as the maker of Magic, with very few people bothering to notice the small impact that D&D has in actual dollars. Active support for the brand as a whole has been sparse in terms of actual product historically, even with the core tabletop game, as many fans consider many, if not most, of the splat books for both 3rd and 4th edition to be worthless.

MMCJawa wrote:
in time to cash in favorably.

That is honestly the key and the part that WotC has never been able to pull off, at least for D&D. Whether it's exploiting their own success or someone else's, their entire ownership of the brand, including the core game, is filled with examples of a short burst of success followed by long periods of coasting on those successes. This doesn't diminish the successes, but it does limit the ability for the company to do much with those successes.

Guardians worked because it had the backing of a currently very strong franchise and the company that owns it had probably already committed to a sequel. Maybe WotC this time around has a war chest of money just waiting to fully support such projects for D&D, but so far we haven't seen them put any more effort into the brand than they have in the past. The fight to get the movie license back is not new, nor are the claims that all they need is one good movie. The announced video game, if it turns out to be any good, will help, but that's still probably not going to be seen until next year, which leaves a large gap of time that needs to be filled with something substantial, and if WotC has that something, they need to show it now, not later.

Steve Geddes wrote:

You only need a handful of big successes to be worthwhile. No matter what gamers think of Drizzt, his novels have made the mainstream bestseller lists what? A dozen times? More? How can that be judged "mediocre" success, even if other novels dont sell well - it's not like publishing a new author is particularly expensive.

Same with the computer game or movie "failures" - their artistic merit isnt relevant to commercial success.

Even as a commercial success, D&D as a brand is not all that large outside of the gaming community; it peaked a long time ago in terms of the wider market. Most of the commercial successes are almost a decade old, or older. Not much there to help them now.

As a brand, Drizzt and Baldur's Gate and a few other successes aside, there has been no sustained and consistent development of the brand under WotC, despite several decades of trying different methods of accomplishing the exact same goal that people have stated is WotC's intent this time around as well. From what I've seen of how WotC is approaching 5E, I'm not convinced that even a successful movie would really help the brand all that much in the long run right now. It's basically the same problem they have following the success of the core books for 5E. There's nothing ready to launch in that crucial period immediately after their initial success to feed it and keep it going.

They aren't going to be able to rely on outside help to give them a largely free boost this time around; they squandered most of that good will and community support a while ago, and it's not going to be cheap to get it back. One way or another, they are going to have to spend a fair amount of resources somewhere to somebody to get the level of sustained success that they keep striving for. Given that the amount of resources they have been willing to spend on what is still the keystone product of the brand, regardless of how WotC wants to change that going forward, I don't really see their overall pattern of a massive isolated success slowly fading away to lack of support changing.

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Galnörag wrote:
The games are hit and miss, the old SSR ones were great, and it was a real heyday for D&D games come again with Balder's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, and of course Torment, but there have been an equal sprinkling of turds, the activation pool of crashidence

The novels are more or less in the same boat. You have a handful of big successes in a field of mostly mediocre efforts. That's been the major problem that D&D has always had with licensing, regardless of who owned it. It seems like it has all of this potential, but consistently tapping into that is easier said than done, as has been demonstrated time and time again. One of the biggest hurdles has been that WotC at least (I don't really know much about this aspect when it comes to TSR) has never consistently funded the brand in a manner that would allow the brand managers to build off any successes they do get. That part does not seem to be changing with the release of 5E, so it's hard for be overly excited about their apparent plans; it's too much of the same things they've consistently done in the past with overall mediocre results.

thejeff wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
Danbala wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
I think WotC dont really care about "winning ICv2" because that represents gaining the lion's share of a trivial market. As such, I dont see that failing to provide for electronic...
Based on their actions, I think their concerns are (1) keeping costs to a minimum (the layoffs and the small staff); (2) making sure that their department is in the black -- even if its a small number (commitment to printing only the books that sell the most copies); and (3) demonstrating that the endeavor can produce valuable license arrangements.
I question their ability to do number 3 given number 1 and number 2. WotC is basically asking everyone else to take all the risks for their brand while they reap the rewards. For this to work, WotC is going to have to write a lot of licenses far closer to the original OGL than anything they had with 4E if they are going to get any takers.

I don't think he's talking 3pp gaming supplement license agreements, but video games and movies and things that actually bring in real money.

An OGL license, pretty much by definition, isn't going to produce valuable license arrangements.

Whatever the product ends up being, the licenses are going to have to be almost that open in order to get very many people willing to nibble and take the offer. With as little as WotC is interested in investing in the brand and their recent history of not being a very good business partner, the other party is going to end up shouldering most of the cost, and will almost certainly expect an equally large percentage of any reward, especially for something like a video game or movie.

The only way to successfully do number 3 is to ignore 1 & 2 in hopes for a big payday down the road. If WotC really wants to go down this road of outside licensing, they are basically going to have to write someone a free check in hopes that any success from that first product will somehow translate into people being willing to pay more for future licenses. There is no way for WotC to really grow the brand without spending or giving away a fair bit of money; the brand just isn't that strong outside the core game for other companies to accept the kind of licenses and working relationships that WotC has been in the habit of favoring in the last few years.

Danbala wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
I think WotC dont really care about "winning ICv2" because that represents gaining the lion's share of a trivial market. As such, I dont see that failing to provide for electronic...
Based on their actions, I think their concerns are (1) keeping costs to a minimum (the layoffs and the small staff); (2) making sure that their department is in the black -- even if its a small number (commitment to printing only the books that sell the most copies); and (3) demonstrating that the endeavor can produce valuable license arrangements.

I question their ability to do number 3 given number 1 and number 2. WotC is basically asking everyone else to take all the risks for their brand while they reap the rewards. For this to work, WotC is going to have to write a lot of licenses far closer to the original OGL than anything they had with 4E if they are going to get any takers.

The issue I see is the virtual lack of any kind of digital presence on WotC's part. Whether it be PDFs, e-books, or something else, they are going to need a lot more than the basic PDF going forward or they are going to lose a lot of their potential audience. Even DDI, for all of its problems, was better than their current status on that front.

Gorbacz wrote:
D&D is a big brand. Over in US and Canada, at least, D&D is synonymous with an entire hobby. But it's a big brand with a tiny target market, so what WotC is doing that's trying to take the big brand to new markets. That's very sensible, and likely also an indicator that the pnp RPG hobby is shrinking. Over 25 years of playing CCGs, board games, wargames and RPGs I've seen the first three hobbies explode in popularity, while the RPGs have their glory days long gone.

The problem that WotC has that Paizo doesn't is that WotC has to figure out how to reconcile the future with the past, not to mention juggle the needs of their other brands. The lack of e-books is a key example of this. In order to make significant progress, they have to find a way to reconcile their current distribution model with brick and mortar stores with the increasing need for having something digital at the same time. I don't mind the basic idea of what they are doing; I just don't see them having the capability to really do much better than they have in the past, which while has seen some successes has seen as many flops that limit the effectiveness of the successes.

Their core goal remains the same it has been the entire time they have owned the brand, which is to somehow tie all the different IPs and products out there right now together into something that would be recognizable as a single, easily identified brand to someone whose never heard of them before. The fact that they are still having to push the same basic goal two editions after acquiring the brand is not helpful to them. 5E's successful launch certainly helped, but the collapse of the deal for an online program hurt them, as will a limited amount of direct support. They aren't going backwards anymore, but going forward is still going to be a major challenge for them. They still have a lot of challenges that they created for themselves.

Steve Geddes wrote:
sunshadow21 wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
But is WotC really interested in D&D books in gaming stores? I doubt so, if they were, they would be putting out books at rate they did in 3e/4e times. I believe 5e is The Placeholder Edition, out there merely to keep the "product zero" alive so that WotC can license the hell out of it and have relatively easy income without all the hassle.
I'm inclined to agree with you, and that plan has problems. That was the plan with 4E as well, and look what came of it.

It really wasnt. In fact, the plan with 4E was pretty much the opposite:

They churned out a ton of books for 4E and simultaneously made it much harder for other companies to work as a licensee. They also tried to provide all the online stuff themselves, rather than outsourcing it. The boardgames and other products were generally produced by Wizards of the Coast themselves. The computer games werent licensed. Plus they continued to produce the miniatures in-house, in contrast to the 5E minis. They focussed on PDF releases rather than printed books.

The 5E strategy has almost nothing in common with the 4E strategy (which seems to have been based on the now thoroughly debunked idea that the public would just buy whatever had D&D on the cover).

Outside license or inside work, the effect is the same. They were trying to make the tabletop game one small part of the larger brand and failed. Relying on outside licenses instead of doing it in house won't really change the reasons the idea largely fell flat before. Their ability to support a larger D&D brand without alienating the stores that are key to supporting Magic is always going to be limited, and convincing others to support the brand when direct support is as limited as it has been so far for 5E is going to be a challenge.

I guess that while I don't think it's a bad idea, I'm not convinced they have the ability to pull it off. They have had two editions and multiple decades to get something going, and they haven't been able to sustain any kind of success in establishing the larger brand. This new edition, while a good edition, isn't going to help any, as it is very group dependent for house rules, and the lack of any digital resources is going to limit it's usefulness in the bigger plan even further. Any successful license could potentially overshadow the underlying brand, limiting it's usefulness; they already have that problem with Drizzt, where many readers of the novels don't really associate him with any brand other than Drizzt and Salvatore.

I'm not going to say it's impossible, but they will need to do a lot more than put out a solid, but largely placeholder, edition in hopes that investors and outside companies will rush to support a brand that they themselves are putting so little effort into. They don't need another flood of splat books, but they need something more than the very meager output we are seeing from them post core books.

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The difficulty with the summoner versus druid or wizard argument is that the summoner peaks almost immediately and never really has a down level, where the other original classes have very noticeable ups and downs. The summoner never reaches the same heights as either the druid or the wizard, but also never suffers similar downturns. Over the course of a campaign, the summoner will be at or perhaps even a bit under the overall power of a druid or wizard, but at the very early levels where most people get first impressions, it can definitely seem far more powerful when in reality it just reaches it's potential sooner than most classes before leveling off.

The key to managing the summoner is not to get caught up in what they can do at 1st or 2nd level, but what they are doing at 5-8th level, where most of the original classes really come into their own. These are common levels to see by mid campaign, and generally the summoner's early advantage will barely be seen at these levels. Even at the early levels, a few basic house rules, like limiting the number of active summons, and a variety of enemy tactics and terrain go a long way to reducing the problems they can cause at the table. They do require a bit of preparation and understanding to run effectively, both for the player and the DM, but it's not that much more than preparing for a druid or a wizard; it's just a bit different, which is where most people get caught off guard.

Gorbacz wrote:

But is WotC really interested in D&D books in gaming stores? I doubt so, if they were, they would be putting out books at rate they did in 3e/4e times. I believe 5e is The Placeholder Edition, out there merely to keep the "product zero" alive so that WotC can license the hell out of it and have relatively easy income without all the hassle.

Of course, at this point most retailers are overjoyed, because finally they have The Most Popular P'n'p RPG back on their shelves and the publisher isn't trying to work around them. But what will happen in a while, if D&D release schedule is pretty much "2 super adventures per year, zero splatbooks"?

I'm inclined to agree with you, and that plan has problems. That was the plan with 4E as well, and look what came of it. While they can't do much worse than they did with 4E, where they had no success, I have to question how far they are really going to get with the whole reliance on outside licensing, especially when they are showing very little interest in actively supporting their own product for the brand. Also, what happens when those licenses start encroaching on the retailers (which is bound to happen eventually if any outside licenses prove to be more successful than the base game)?

In the end, I just don't see the brand going very far in the hands of WotC/Hasbro. There's so many internal conflicts to overcome that any kind of success is likely to trigger an equally large conflict, meaning that, at best, they maintain their current position while the rest of the industry slowly passes them by. There are very few scenarios available to WotC that don't end up cannabalizing either the core tabletop rpg or Magic, and that is going to cause them major problems going forward. Outside licensing reduces some of them to some degree, but not all of them and none of them completely.

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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.

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