|Charlie Bell RPG Superstar 2013 Top 16|
I love game night. I thoroughly enjoy playing Pathfinder. BUT, the accounting, paperwork, and Core Rulebook make me long for April 15th because it comes but once a year and has simpler rules. Where's Pathfinder's version of H&R Block? If it wasn't so much fun to play, I'd happily give the game up.
I'm trying to come up with a document that I can share with people like myself; horribly frustrated newbies. As I'm updating my current character sheet, a few of my problems with Pathfinder occurred to me and got me started.
Post-it notes are your friend (unless you want to write in your book)
As a newby it is immensely frustrating for me to want to know how X works, look up X in the index, and then come game day run into a wall of "that's not how X works" because the index and text failed to tell me that I had to look in 2+ other pages to find the whole story.
Other than post-it note cross-reference additions to the book, how does a newby deal with this?
Don't be afraid to write little notes on your character sheet. For example, I write where my bonuses come from. "Su-protection" above the column for a bonus to my saves that my Cleric Domain gives me. Or, "Dragon book" next to the skill bonus a magical book found while adventuring gave me. "BAB+STR+Size+Magic" above my weapons attack bonus to tell me how it's calculated so that when my BAB goes up I remember it does to.
If your GM likes an uncluttered sheet, either negotiate the need you have for the notes OR keep "two sets of books"
To a newby, leveling is a complicated process in which you have to remember and take numerous factors into consideration. How can a newby deal with this?
Still haven't found a personal suggestion/fix for this one. How do I stop being the "Pathfinder toddler" who keeps asking "But why? ... but why? .... but why? ..." when trying to understand and make sense of things?
What newby problems have you come across either as a newby yourself or as a GM of newbies?
Can't say I can relate, but have you looked into the Beginner Box? If you don't have anyone around who already knows the rules well enough to help everyone through, it is supposed to be great. Easier organization, leveling done for you, basically all your problems solved. I've heard it is a great way to get more comfortable with the game without being confronted by quite so many walls of text.
The paranoia over getting every rule correct when it comes up was a problem for me. (I still regularly get them wrong, but I no longer care).
When confronted with a mildly obscure rule, we would reasonably often stop, page through books, listen to back-and-forths along the lines of "I thought there was something about..." and generally try and get it right. I think it's much better to recognise that 9 times out of 10 the correct ruling and the 'just make something up' ruling are functionally identical.
Our preferred method is to just say something, then look up the rule during a lull (like another player's turn) or between sessions. Presumably, we'll gradually learn the rules without having to get bogged down in minutiae.
I HIGHLY recommend buying HeroLab. It makes character creation, customizing and leveling a breeeeeze and a blast. Worth every penny.
Is your gaming group real strict about the rules? If not just play the rules as you understand them for now and in between sessions just add in what you've learned. I started with the Beginners Box and then graduated to the Core Rules. It was a great way to learn.
Don't sweat messing up a rule. Everyone on this board has implemented a rule incorrectly or left it out altogether. You invested a lot of $$ in the game, play it the way you and your group want to.
I also recommend running a few practice combats and challenges. Have a Fighter take on a Cleric, throw in some skill challenges or whatever you want to try out and roll it up.
I eventually learned to just improvise unknown rules while in the middle of sessions unless it was going to be critical to the plot, or to a PCs life or death. I still like to meticulously look up every detail between games though.
For levelling up, I learned to turn to Amiri's picture in the class section of the CRB. There's a quick little section on levelling up on the page before it that I found extremely helpful. Though by now I know the process off the top of my head.
HeroLab has tempted me. My GM isn't strict. As a group, we try to interpret the rules and agree as a group. And by we I mean mainly the experienced players.
Not sweating messing up the rules is something that I've been trying to do. It's like learning to drive manual transmission though; stalling and jarring.
Hero Lab. This will solve the leveling problems you are having as well as account for the bonuses... It even annotates conditional bonuses. Looking up rules, use the PRD, you can type in, say "grapple", and then select the one that comes up in the PRD to view the full text.
Regarding number three - does the "why" impact your enjoyment? Are you asking it because you need more narrative from your GM? Are you asking it because your wondering why higher ground equals a +2 and not a +3 or +1? If the former, an out of game conversation can solve that. If the latter, then we delve into a whole new realm of ga,e design and balance that in the end boils down to, because that's what the devs thought to be appropriate.
This sounds like its filled with hyperbole but let me try and make some suggestions to help with the issues your having.
Regarding tracking your bonuses for attack and damage (or anything else) this is why there's a character sheet. So you can easily keep track of things that will be different from other PCs. Amanda the sorceress is probably not going to have the same attack bonuses as Adam the fighter. So you make a character sheet (or print one out) with all your bonses laid out before the game. If you're using a longsword then before the game begins you should write in Longsword +4 attack (+1 Bab +2 STR mod +1 weapon focus) then you put in damage. Before the game you can look up your damage and find it does 1d8 damage plus str modifier so the total is 1d8+2
Saves and skills can be calculated the same way, allowing for easy and quick checking before you make the roll rather then scouring the rulebook. A little prepartion before the game makes the actual game go much smoother
Could you tell me where you're having to scour 2 or 3 pages for one thing that are in seperate chapters of the book? I dont recall anything like that
Leveling should be handled after or before the game, generally you dont want to do it during the game because it slows things down.
On top of that sometimes you dont need all the bonuses listed unless something in it is temporary like a spell. Just write down what your totals are, again Longsword +4 attack 1d8+2 dmg. Then if you cast say divine power on yourself it goes to +7 attack (+3 divine power) 1d8+2 dmg
Dont make it harder then you have to make it
I dont understand what you mean here. "But why?" what is this question always referring to?
My solution to running games for newbies is to slow down and keep things simple. People learn best by doing, so you let them play the game and you keep it slow without a ton of information. Eventually the newbie wraps their head around the mechanics to the point where they can be comfortable with it. At that time you add new, more advanced elements to your game.
The best thing a newbie can do is read the whole core book and ask questions. As a GM I believe the only stupid question is the one you already know the answer to
Sorry Windcaler for the hyberbole, I guess it's a sign of my current frustration.
One of the circumstances that caused me to look in 2 or 3 different places in the book was one of the things that inspired this post. In an attempt to better understand my character sheet, I am transferring it to a clean sheet, and in that process I am attempting to understand where my numbers come from. When it came to my weapon's damage, I looked up "damage" in the Core Rulebook index and was sent to page 179. Unfortunately that did not explain my +4 damage. Apparently you have to look in feats and/or magic weapon. To understand/calculate a weapon's damage you need to potentially look in 3 different places, and only 1 of those places is in the index under "damage."
Calculating bonuses can be a daunting task at first, thats why its best to figure this stuff out before the game. Again doing it during the game makes things harder for you and the group.
What your reffering to here are three different things that adjust your damage. Normally you have your base damage, determined by a die type so for a greatclub it would be 1d10. Then you add your strength modifier, if 18 it would be +4, if wielding it two handed your total increases to 1.5 of the norm meaning +6 str mod adjustment. Now you look at feats, there are only 2 feats that adjust weapon damage (off the top of my head) which are weapon specilization and greater weapon specialization, each adding +2 (so +4 total). Your last bonus is magic, your GM should have informed you that a +1 weapon adds +1 to hit and damage. This is one of the first rules you learn about magic weapons and it will stick fast
It sounds to me like you need to streamline your character sheet. So let me give you a potential resource. Go to http://plothook.net/ make yourself and account and use the pathfinder character sheets there. Once its completed print it out and you should have everything you need right there
I'm considering getting Hero Lab even though the price is pretty prohibitive. I've used PCGen up until now and I like it, but I'm starting to hit its limits and they're taking way too long (on the order of years) to release data sets for even the most high-profile sources. Furthermore, there are some things that are just plain difficult to write in when making custom data sets.
How difficult is it to make, e.g., custom feats or archetypes in Hero Lab and have it figure them into its calculations?
This is purely my opinion but I believe herolab is an uneeded tool. It lacks the flexibility that a regular character sheet grants you. For example in my game I grant all classes an additional 2 skill points per level to increase versatility in the group but herolab lacks the ability to make simple changes like these
As a program it cant adjust to the wide variety of games, it can only write a sheet for RAW. Thus, for me, its a worthless tool even if it was free and the price tag only adds another reason not to get it.
NOTE: It has been several months since I tried herolab so my information may be out of date now
Bummer. I was hoping it could, for example, support a custom 2 skill point per level trait to do what you describe.
Your information is out of date, you can add feats, additional skill points, bonuses to certian skills, etc. it is found in the personal tab under the permanent adjustments section.
Suggestion: Don't level on the fly.
Look, it's PFS. You know that you will level after three adventures, and after six, and so on.
So, go ahead and print out a second character sheet, and advance your character a level. Then do it again.
Not only will the process help you learn the game, but it's easier to do some evening when you have all the time in the world, instead of between games.
Suggestion: Create a shopping list.
It's PFS. You're going to get money to spend. Decide on 4-5 things you would like to have now. Write them down.
That way, there isn't as much agonizing about every item on the Chronicle sheet. If you know that you're saving for MW full plate, then it's a very simple process.
Is this better than MW full plate? If yes, buy it. If no, don't.
Finally, relax. We're playing a game. Nothing bad happens if you make a mistake. Mistakes are how we learn.
And remember, EVERYONE used to be where you are now. We all had to learn the rules, and to be honest, there are a lot of them. The good news is, there's a lot of proof that it can be done. But don't expect to learn everything by Wednesday, it takes time.
It's actually pretty straightforward to do this sort of stuff, provided you spend a little bit of time getting familiar with how to accomplish it. There's a healthy community of users developing custom material, as well as an ever-growing number of 3PPs adding all their own material into Hero Lab. So there are plenty of people actively adding custom feats, archetypes, classes, etc. And the vast majority of that custom content involves calculations that need to be integrated with everything else cleanly.
I can't speak to Windcaler's experiences with the product, but I'd be willing to bet he didn't spend much time asking questions on our support forums. In addition to the development team, the user community is extremely active on our forums and is constantly sharing coding tips/suggestions with new users who want to tailor Hero Lab to suit their house rules. I strongly recommend you post a few questions there and assess the feedback you receive so you can make your own informed decision.
You can also experiment freely with almost all of Hero Lab's customization capabilities while using the product in demo mode (i.e. without paying for it). So there's no financial risk at all. Take the product for a test drive. See for yourself if it can accommodate the tweaks you want, and ask some questions on our support forums to get quickly pointed in the right direction on how to tackle those tweaks. Then decide for yourself. :)
Hope this helps!
Honestly, I am not sure whether I could ever go back to actually using pen and paper. Downside is, God help me if my laptop crashes....
Hero Lab's very foundation is that it is highly customizable. The example you cite above as not possible has actually been available since we first released Pathfinder support years ago. All I can assume is that you didn't find the capability where you expected it to be and concluded it wasn't possible.
I encourage you to post questions on our support forums to find out how best to implement the customizations you want for your game. This should get you pointed in the right direction quickly and avoid any frustration that might result from not being able to immediately find the feature you're looking for.
Hope this helps!
First of all, don't worry about it. Many new players who have their own books can seem challenged by he sheer amount of information in there. Heck, as a DM, I can't remember the last time I let a player even LOOK in the books (I find it easier to provide the information they need, unless they're curious and want to start learning the actual rules).
Second, I prefer using the table of contents to the index. I know it sounds crazy, but the index can give you multiple page references for things. If you're looking up a weapon, just go to the ToC, look up "Weapons", and flip forward until you see what you're looking for. There are lots and LOTS of tables you can use.
Finally, you'll get better at streamlining the leveling process. At first it took me about 30 minutes. Now I can get it done in about 5. I often plot progression charts for characters when I make them, so things like Feat and Spell selection are already predetermined. Then there are small things like rolling Hit Dice and adding base attack and saving throw bonuses. Skills... bleh. I usually stick to maxing out as many skills as I have skill points, so those just all get a +1. I also keep a good inventory, with everything labeled with its appropriate bonuses. Feats I usually know well enough from having seem them, so they aren't so bad, but when I see class features and feats that are somewhat new, I usually just write down a short description (if a class feature gives a morale bonus to something, and NOBODY in the group can provide it, don't worry about the type bonus. Just write down +X. It saves time and headaches.).
Herolab is a great tool - in the initial post, I saw the question, "Where is the H&R Block for Pathfinder?" and I immediately thought, "Herolab."
A word of caution, though - Herolab is great, but it doesn't teach you the system. I'd make the analogy to teaching someone their multiplication tables with a calculator. Will they be able to multiply after? Sure. Will they know what multiplication is and why it works? Probably not.
If you don't care if you know where all those numbers come from, then Herolab is a fantastic tool. (It's also really good for double-checking handmade characters to be sure you didn't miss anything, and for trying out builds.)
(Please note: I'm not saying that using Herolab makes it impossible to learn how character building works - it just makes it unnecessary, so you have to force yourself to put in the effort to look and see where the numbers it's giving you come from.)
Have to also agree with the suggestion of hero lab. I'm a complete newbie to PnP and getting your head around the finer details of the character sheet, let alone anything else is a bit of a task. Tried out some of the other ones and I was a bit reluctant to try hero lab due to the price.
I needed my sheet asap though so went for it and don't regret it a bit. It's easy and not messy to make changes to things and it means if you have an idea for a character you can mess around and see how it looks without much hassle at all.
*points the gentlemen to Google Docs and other forms of cloud storage*
Thanks for posting. I appreciate the clarification. After I got off my lazy bum and researched a bit, it looks pretty straightforward to add custom material (and cleaner compared to PCGen's scripts, though I won't know until I try). The cost is still quite a bit, but it may be worth it.
Sorry to threadjack, folks. Hopefully the conversation was helpful to the OP.
You actually can edit pretty much everything, even make custom Feats/Skills/Spells, whatever. It has a fantastic editor in it's "Tools" menu. When all else fails you can make notations in the "Bio/Personal notes" box.
Great suggestion for ALL players, especially new ones. Bought them and use them all the time, they are great.
They are soon going to be available on the iPhone and Android I think/hope.
The System Operational Reference Digest for Pathfinder is a good condensed document of all the Pathfinder rules. I always have it open when I GM.
So my information is out of date, I thought that might have been the case, thus my note.
However I have to be a bit contrary here. When I tried hero lab customization was not in the program. You couldnt do it and yes I tried and yes i contacted your support forums to see if I had missed something. If thats changed then thats good, its a needed improvement to the program and was one of the primary reasons I didn't like it.
This still doesnt change the other problems I had with it. One of them being it doesnt teach people the game, it does all the work for them and new players will not learn why they get bonuses, when they get feats, how skills work, etc.
Then perhaps my biggest problem with the program is, I find it completely worthless. It doesnt do anything that the human mind and my books, pen and paper cant do (things Im already going to own before herolab). So, for me, its an expense that literally provides me with nothing in return. Now it has to be pointed out that my experience with roleplaying goes back years to when I was a kid learning how to run 2nd edition (this was 1986) so generally my mind soaks up the information in the books like a sponge. New players wont have that same experience and knowledge but then we go back to my last listed problem, it wont teach them the game so they can get into my position of not needing it.
So, from my point of view, a new player will likely find themselves reliant on the program till they grow complacent. If people want to use this program and accept its short comings Im totally fine with that, its their choice and their money. The problem is, you arent talking about its short comings at all
FYI, I think there's a free trial version of Hero Lab available, so you can play around with it and decide whether it's worth the price to you.
As far as rules mastery goes, though, I'd say the main thing is just to keep playing and you'll get better with more experience. Just do your best and have fun, and don't worry about getting little things wrong. It's okay. If you and the other folks at the table are all having fun, then everything's fine.
That's a very reasonable point of view. It is unquestionably good to know the mechanics of the game you are playing.
Another point of view that some players have: They just want to get playing. My players and I, probably like you and many others here, have played a dozen or more different tabletop games, including several different versions of the game that Pathfinder is based upon. The number crunchers and rules lawyers among us love digging into the rules, seeing how they tick, etc. The rest of the group, eh, they just want to get to the game. For them, character creation is more about the character's backstory, relationships, and other fluff than whether they have a +7 total melee modifier versus outsiders or a +8. If I can make their lives easier, I will.
For me, especially when GMing, I'm in both camps. I like exploring the mechanics of the game, and I get to try out a lot of mechanical options compared to my players, who only have the one character--but I'm not just an NPC player; I have a world to represent, a story to facilitate.
There's something to be said for a good tool. Good tools offer something that most definitely isn't worthless: time. It can be quite cumbersome making even three or four interesting NPC stat blocks per session by hand, and the process gets even more cumbersome at higher levels. Couple that with the occasional need to create an NPC on the fly. I'll take any tool I afford that will streamline the mechanical parts of that process and let me concentrate on personality and relationships and the non-character-based parts of GM preparation. I only have so many hours a week to spare, after all; gotta get paid so I can keep sending Paizo my money. : D
It's like programming. I can and will write, e.g., a Minecraft mod using notepad or vi, but I'd much rather use Eclipse. It saves me a lot of time and lets me concentrate on the fun stuff--writing and testing the code and enjoying the results. But if I'm in a low-level mood or need something done that the tool doesn't support, I can still do everything by hand and compile via command line.
And it also sounds to me as if perhaps the OP did not create his character himself. Or, if he did, he had such extensive help that it gimped his learning of the game.
The process of building the character usually informs the player of what a Base Attack Bonus is, how his Strength modifies his damage output, and where the basic damage rating for his weapon can be found.
I would suggest first and foremost, that the OP sit down, and create a character from scratch, by himself. It may seem daunting and take an hour or so, but it is essential learning that will make everything else easier down the line.
He mentioned accounting, and that sounds like PFS to me.
Advice still holds. There's no reason to ever look around and say "Well who could have guessed, I gained a level?!" It's going to happen eventually, might as well be ready.
DM Jeff wrote:
Here's a level-up cheat sheet I created for my more "casual" players: LEVEL UP
That's VERY helpful DM Jeff! I did notice your note about adding 3 to class skills, you may want to clarify that this only happens with the 1st rank put into that skill.
I really wish something like this would have been available when I started with 2nd Ed. I was soooo lost for soooo long...
And I would like to add another vote for Hero Labs while also suggesting that you may want to keep a notebook for a bit that expands on your character sheet info so you know what bonus comes from where just for sanity's sake. I do this when I run Maguses and Inquisitors to kepp track of the buffs.
I've used PCGen up until now and I like it, but I'm starting to hit its limits and they're taking way too long (on the order of years) to release data sets for even the most high-profile sources. Furthermore, there are some things that are just plain difficult to write in when making custom data sets.
One of the best things about a volunteer groups is that if something bugs you, you can join and help fix the problems. :)
I'll try the Hero Lab demo first. If their data entry interface is no easier to work with, I'll consider joining the cause, if for no other reason than I'd be spending the time tapping in PCGen data sets anyway, so I might as well contribute the labor. If their data entry interface is better, I may stick with Hero Lab, as it'd simply save me more time.
Hmm, ValkyrieStorm, it seems like you're struggling to extract the general from the specific.
For example, you mentioned looking up "damage". That's not a *bad* approach, but as you found, it doesn't really explain everything from the ground up.
I think part of the problem you're facing is that you are trying to understand the general rules based on the exceptions.
Pathfinder, and D&D before it, can be described as "the game of exceptions". There are general rules that "everybody" follows, then there are class abilities, feats, skills, and spells that basically say "except in this case".
Using the weapon damage example...
General: Every weapon deals the damage indicated for its size on the table in the book where it is described.
exception 1: if the wielder has high strength, that bonus is added
In my experience, Practice is one of the best ways to learn. Make some characters to see how their abilities combine. This is similar to Rkrause2's suggestion to plan your level-up changes when you have time to do it without pressure. Just make some additional characters, or take a look at the NPCs in the NPC Gallery.. de-construct them to see where their numbers come in. In almost every case, it is going to be a combinaion of Feats, Class Abilities, and/or Magic.
And, as noted, if you're having fun, don't sweat it. :)
I have players with 20+ years experience. Some of them are very good with the rules.. and some of them are awful with the rules. The ones who are awful with the rules tend to be good on story, though, and no one minds helping out with the rules. It is good that you want to "pull your own weight" in that department, but for many of us, we don't mind helping out the "rules challenged" players because we enjoy the group interaction - and that's the key.
I think it's a very good thing to learn the system by manually building. I build characters with notepad and a point-buy generator, and I've gotten very fast at it to the point where I don't feel like I need Herolab. I'm sure it makes it easier on some people, but to me it seems like extra cost to do something I already know how to do.
My post seems to have gone ignored, so I will restate what I said, more simply, for whatever it might be worth.
It sounds to me like the OP did not create his character himself, or at least did not do so alone. Everybody is offering him options for hand-holding, from applications that can figure it all out for him, to quick ways to use hyperlinks. Though hyperlinks are fun, and I use them too, I think the problem really is that somebody has already held his hand through this, and he has not learned the basics.
Like a learning guitarist who has done zero on the basics, the answer is not to hook him up with a copy of Rock Band and a PS3. The answer is to hand him a book on scales and chords and drill them into him.
OP, pick up the Core book, grab a character sheet, and start on page 1, creating a character from scratch. Doing so will familiarize you with how and where to find every bit of information you are looking for, and all the basic rules you seem not to understand. This will help you to memorize them at least partially, which will make life much easier, and keep you from being too dependent on outside fixes.
I agree with you 100%, learning this rule set is a little bit like learning math.You can sit there and have someone explain it to you repeatedly, and it can all make perfect sense, and you think you have a good grasp on it. But then you go to apply it and you get tripped up, mixed up, and straight up forget things.
The only way to truly learn it, to commit the knowledge to memory and have a solid base reference in your head, is to DO IT. You have to practice, sit down, start from scratch and build things using the rules. Choose 3 classes you like; build a level 1 character for each. Then sit down and level one of them up 2, then 3, then 4, then 5. For another one try "jumping" levels, level him straight to 5. For another one, try adding a couple levels of a different class to the mix.
This will help you see how many exceptions there really are, there are lots. It will also get you used to adjusting character sheets to show exceptions, there are no solid guide lines for this, you gotta figure out what works for you.
blahpers-- I just wanted to say that I was a user just like you. I had been exclusively using PCGen, and, as you, hit the reaches of its power. I "bit the bullet," which is a terrible euphemism because in actuality it was more like buying a tree that grows magical fruit. Hero Lab, is, in my experience, the best tool a GM can have to make character creation, equipping, and leveling a buh-reeze. The community is totally friendly, very open to new ideas, and takes suggestions seriously. If you are even riding the proverbial fence, I'd say fall off on the side of buying Hero Lab. Since I purchased it, I've never looked back, and I can only sing the praises of both the programmers and the overall community. If character creation, equipping, and leveling is your major problem Hero Lab is your answer.
Tried the demo. The UI is . . . interesting. Not bad, just different from what I'm used to.
My primary complaint is the output sheet. It seems like a silly complaint, but I don't care for the sheet's look and was hoping it had built-in support for something more like the standard Pathfinder sheet. PCGen's output sheets were a little better but difficult to modify if you aren't well-versed in XSLT. Also, when I rolled up a cleric (Law, Demon) 1/sorcerer (arcane) 1 as a test, it didn't print the description of a few of the abilities (Touch of Law was one) even though I believe I had all of the appropriate settings checked/unchecked in the output options.
For now, I'm not sure what to use.
Edit: I don't have the demo handy right now, but how difficult is it to add a custom magic item in Hero Lab? In PCGen it was really simple if they flagged the right properties for the item in question. Also, PCGen didn't support all of the various options in the magic item tables (e.g., use-activated, certain number of times per day).
blahpers, there are several custom sheets available through the community. I didn't really like the look of the HL original sheet either and I use one of the custom sheets you can find here. I particularly like both Armidale's and AncientOne's sheets. Give them a look, they are both very customizable, and have a look that is a lot closer to what you're probably used to with PCGen (though I'm not sure you'll actually be able to use custom sheets without buying the full program). Also, both of the creators specifically answered a request of mine to put in dual wielding statistics. That's the kind of helpful community I'm talking about.