Illustration by Wayne Reynolds


Design Tuesdays

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2011 is here at last, and with the start of the new year, we've got a new program that we are happy to unveil. Every Tuesday, you are going to see a blog from one of the members of the design team (that being Sean K Reynolds, Stephen Radney MacFarland, or myself), looking into the mechanics of the game and giving you tips, tricks, and tools to make your game run smoothly and easily.

I am hoping to use these blogs to present new and interesting rules and ideas to use at the game table, perhaps even a few serials, where we explore a concept or idea more deeply. For example, we might run a series of blogs that explore intelligent magic items and how they can be used in your game, giving you a host of samples, and presenting a few new abilities. Or, we might spend a few weeks looking at the rules for afflictions, and adding a couple of new curses, diseases, and poisons to use in your game. Now, I have a list of ideas for what we might use to fill up this space, but here at the outset, I thought it might be useful to ask you, the reader, what you want to see appear in this space. I'll leave the campaign-specific material and preview for the other days of the week—this space will be used exclusively to look at the rules of the game.

I want to hear what you want to see. Check out this thread on our messageboards and add your thoughts to the growing discussion. See you next week.

Jason Bulmahn
Lead Designer

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Tags: Design Tuesdays Dragons Monsters Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Wallpapers Wayne Reynolds Wizards
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I think Campaign Design, from the ground up, ala Dragon?(forget which issues) might also be fun to do as part of a blog, including new mechanics and expansion of stuff.

Shadow Lodge

James Jacobs wrote:
0gre wrote:
Map a Week was not new content, it was maps used in their adventures so no additional expense (unless there would be licensing issues). I get most of the Paizo maps it's not a big deal but I did enjoy then a LOT at the time.

Fair enough. But WotC also had several decades of maps backloged from old products to use for that feature. We only have a few years. I'd rather not "genericize" maps that are only a few years old.

Maybe in a decade I'll revisit this... ;-)

Hah, I might call you on that, I love my maps!

Mostly I'm just happy to see more blogging about the game. The D&D homepage (mothballed here) was one of my all-time favorite gaming resources from the time I got back into gaming around 2005 until 2007 when they shut down the site.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Spell-like abilities. It really annoys me how so many classes, monsters, and prestige classes grant spell-like abilities, but equivalent spell levels are never noted. I started a thread on this with a more thourough explanation of my gripe:

Spell-like ability woes

Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

Lots of good ideas that are all worthy of discussion. One that I'd like to see covered that's not mentioned is the difference between the Steal combat maneuver and the slight of hand skill. Are they just different ways to do the same thing? If there are differences in the results using one vs. the other, what are they? Can you use the maneuver out of combat also?


Generic Villain wrote:

Spell-like abilities. It really annoys me how so many classes, monsters, and prestige classes grant spell-like abilities, but equivalent spell levels are never noted. I started a thread on this with a more thourough explanation of my gripe:

Spell-like ability woes

I really think they should go back and fix it or just make them supernatural abilities. I need to FAQ that and start bumping it like I am doing with the counterspell vs no counterspell thread.

The Exchange

I'd love to see more variant rules and things that folks could adopt for homebrew. A great example of this is the Hero Point system in the APG. I'd like to see that sort of content which, for one reason or another, may never make the official cut for an upcoming book.


Any discussion of the game's baseline assumptions for high-level play would be nice. I'm GMing high levels these days, and you can never have too much advice, be too aware of essential spells, or be too expecting of the game's intent.

To that end, some tricks to spice- and speed-up high level combat would be great. Something more than "roll attack and damage dice at the same time", please! Ways to make hit points more dynamic without slowing down the game. Ways to ensure that your adventures tax all class types equally. Or... best of all, come at me with something surprising and wonderful that I haven't even thought of!

Class surgery for when archetypes just aren't cutting it.

I would love to see the Paizo designers simply discuss some popular rule overhauls, like E6 play (or maybe Virtual Feats) — some things that maybe ought never become canonical rules but that people have gotten behind anyway. What do the Paizo dev's think of that, what pitfalls do they see and what do they like, etc?

Functional mass combat rules. PF35's rules just whet my appetite, but IMO they were not usable. I spent too much time fighting them right out the gate when I tried to apply them to Mok's army in Runelords. If the official PF mass combat rules can't handle PF#4, something is amiss. I am eager to see the second draft.

On that note, maybe polish up the other rules plug-ins that have featured over time in Pathfinder. I would not mind a revisit of something like Keeping the Keep from PF3, perhaps updated for the new RPG and with the additional experience of hindsight, and expanded to fit in any ongoing campaign.

Looking forward to reading whatever you come up with!

Liberty's Edge

I would like to see a discussion of haggling, where there are places for it, where there aren't places for it, and by what mechanic the art of haggling would be realized.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
wraithstrike wrote:


I really think they should go back and fix it or just make them supernatural abilities. I need to FAQ that and start bumping it like I am doing with the counterspell vs no counterspell thread.

In the new Lords of Chaos book, the demoniac PrC grants several non-standard spell-like abilities, and makes a note of their equivalent spell levels. I was really glad to see that, and hope it becomes a new standard.

Alas, that still leaves us with tons of sorcerer bloodlines, cleric domains, wizard spell schools, and the like, that grant SLA without noting their levels. I almost wonder if it's become too big a problem to tackle, what with all the material that could be revised.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

To give support to some already mentioned issues:

  • "movement feats" in combat while mounted: flyby, hover, wingover, ride-by-attack etc.
  • stealth
  • stacking

    How about an NPC every couple months? Or would it even be possible to present some of the Paizo crew PCs, which you play in the various games you attend?

    Ruyan.

  • Dark Archive

    Lilith wrote:
    Covering hot topics that show up in the FAQ flags or messageboard topics would be neat too. :)

    Definitely. Sean's site has examples of why Infravision was removed or why decaying Drow items were teh ubersuq, and it would be neat to see some design philosophy behind some FAQ questions, providing not just an answer to the questionable tidbit, but the reason why the rule was placed just so, and how things might unexpectedly go t%*+ up if one were to house-rule differently.


    I would like to see added clarity to the crafting rules. On time restraints using special materials and overall kinks evolved within the process.


    Crestar wrote:
    I would like to see added clarity to the crafting rules. On time restraints using special materials and overall kinks evolved within the process.

    Or new craft rules entirely. They were the worst legacy inclusion in the book.

    Shadow Lodge

    Poisons... would be great to see an article talking about poisons. Some new poisons and maybe a feat or two on poison use. What do you tell players when they say "I want to collect that spider's poison".

    The Cutting Room Floor, It would be cool to see some of the stuff that got cut due to space or because it's not thematically aligned with the products. These wouldn't need to be polished, just the raw bits would be fun. At Paizocon 2009 I played in Jason Nelson's Legacy of Fire game where he ran the cut bits and it was a blast. Dropped feats, cut spells, forgotten archtypes, it would all be fun.


    Crowface wrote:


    Trap Design and Construction: I find the rules on designing and constructing traps to be a little vague or confusing.....As a GM I can eyeball things (kind of like monster advancement) but I had a wizard PC interested in being a trap builder but gave up on it because there was so much gray area.

    This, 1000x this. Traps are a major part of dungeon and encounter design, and clarification of the rules for them would be wonderful, ESPECIALLY for the PC side of things. I dont even care if pc-created traps have radically different rules, they need to be there. In 3.5, there were a couple trapsmith classes, and the ability to bring traps into combat on the fly or with a little preptime is wonderful.


    Evil Lincoln wrote:


    Or new craft rules entirely. They were the worst legacy inclusion in the book.

    +1, This was the one thing I was most disappointed that Pathfinder didn't change. Frankly the crafting rules have always sucked, and PF did NOTHING to improve them.


    Demigorgon 8 My Baby wrote:
    Evil Lincoln wrote:


    Or new craft rules entirely. They were the worst legacy inclusion in the book.

    +1, This was the one thing I was most disappointed that Pathfinder didn't change. Frankly the crafting rules have always sucked, and PF did NOTHING to improve them.

    They don't cost XP anymore...

    Liberty's Edge RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32, 2011 Top 16

    Kryzbyn wrote:
    Demigorgon 8 My Baby wrote:
    Evil Lincoln wrote:


    Or new craft rules entirely. They were the worst legacy inclusion in the book.

    +1, This was the one thing I was most disappointed that Pathfinder didn't change. Frankly the crafting rules have always sucked, and PF did NOTHING to improve them.
    They don't cost XP anymore...

    And they added options to craft without specific spell requirements, and to speed up crafting time, tied to a skill check.


    JoelF847 wrote:
    And they added options to craft without specific spell requirements, and to speed up crafting time, tied to a skill check.

    I think they're talking about the Craft skill, not magic item creation.

    Shadow Lodge

    Eh, craft skills are way down my list of interesting things I'd like to see Jason explore. The only time I ever deal with them is when I'm crafting poisons and that's a fairly recent thing. I suspect most home groups never use crafting, profession, or perform skills unless they directly relate to a class feature (Bards and now Alchemists).

    Liberty's Edge

    Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
    Jason Bulmahn wrote:
    Interesting ideas everyone, please keep them coming.

    OK, here's one for you (but on a more general topic):

    The Paizo blog has lots of amusing little (and sometimes large) articles. It will now have new rules tidbits. The site hosts an annual contest of user-submitted material that runs throughout the year. You have a section for original fiction. There's a ton of great art. You have several products that you regularly want to get the word out about in a line which is at least one of the most popular pen-and-paper RPGs in the world, and by one measure, THE most popular.

    All of this leads me back to an idea which I'm sure has been voiced before: You have all of the content that would traditionally make up and justify publishing a physical magazine.

    Now, I actually don't think that's a good idea on the face of it. There are a lot of reasons, but the core reason is the simplest: the era of the magazine is past (Kobold seems to have a small but core following, which is great, but I'm not sure how sustainable or scalable that model is these days). That said, a bi-monthly or quarterly book with articles, columns, sneak-peaks, fiction, rules, and Q&A would be one I'd subscribe to in a heartbeat (I just had to drop Setting because the cost was too variable, so this would really hit the spot). The key difference between the magazine model and the book subscription model is the reliance on advertising, and if there's very little or no advertising in the Paizo / Pathfinder Bi-Monthly Door Stop, then you don't have to worry about where your next meal is coming from as long as you have subscribers.

    Call it a magazine if you wish, but then the Adventure Paths are a magazine too, and they're doing just fine it seems.

    A side note, and I know that those who have been around for the "long haul" will know where this is going: incorporate stuff from the store blog too. That makes it less about Pathfinder and more about gaming, which expands your potential audience.


    Item creation in general. Specifically clearing up the must musts from the musts unless you want the +5 dc penalty.

    Dark Archive

    GRU wrote:
    Jason Bulmahn wrote:

    Every Tuesday, the blog will be used by the design team to investigate the rules of the game. While we have a host of interesting ideas and topics, we wanted to give you a chance to tell use what you would like to see explored in this weekly blog. Post your ideas here. Remember, this blog series will be looking at the rules of the game in a setting-neutral way. I look forward to seeing your ideas.

    Jason Bulmahn
    Lead Designer

    YESSSSS!

    Another 'YESSSS!' from me as well! What would I want to see? Pretty much all that was mentioned in the blog and then some, i.e. more stuff about intelligent magical items, unique/rare magical items with complete histories (tough to do with without any setting lore, though), more curses, MORE HAUNTS (yes, even on top of those that will be published in 'Haunting of Harrowstone'), more nasty diseases, more traps, more terrain effects (preferably written as part of encounters; for example, a combat that involves, say, a forest fire or a collapsing cavern, and presents some ways to use terrain to your advantage), nasty NPCs, previews of upcoming monsters (or monsters that didn't make the cut), previews of upcoming new mechanics...

    And this: some rule and monster variants; think Unearthed Arcana. For example, I might want to see a bit more "4E-ish" type of rules for running monsters, e.g. recharging abilities replacing spell-like abilities. Or NPCs that use a bit simpler, similar method. Also, new templates -- maybe even monster "themes", such as "Spawn of Pazuzu".


    Dire Mongoose wrote:
    JoelF847 wrote:
    And they added options to craft without specific spell requirements, and to speed up crafting time, tied to a skill check.
    I think they're talking about the Craft skill, not magic item creation.

    No, I'm talking about magic item creation. And I don't think making it easier to make magic items is the solution.

    The problem is they have all these formulas to make magic items, only they don't always work or make sense. So there solution was pick a magic item in the book that is most like it and guess from there.

    Unlike say character creation where I am given a very definitive guideline on what is and is not permissible; with magic items all of that is left up to the GM. Telling the GM to wing it when necessary is not a system, it's the default of any game situation without good rules.

    Dark Archive

    The "Cutting-Room Floor" stuff and alternate rules or house rules that usually became Unearthed Arcana of the various previous editions of the world's oldest RPG were always some of my favorite books, and even if editions changed much of that stuff can be carried over and used because it is all completely "outside the box" to begin with.

    I at first was +1 for Lillith's FAQ suggestion, but reading Jason's response about how this should be fun, and knowing my own frustration at how the FAQ-flagged items can become contentious and nasty and no fun whatsoever despite my desire to see these things put to bed forever leads me to suggest more "outside the box" type of stuff.

    So, alternate ways of dealing with bloodlines (or maybe bloodlines for non-sorcerers?), sub-races, more options for arcane bonded items (up to and including investing them with Intelligence?), that's the kind of stuff I would suggest that may be fun.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

    ok, after last night I am definitely chiming in on the rules for haggling and crafting!

    Dark Archive

    Posions:
    What happens if a creature or character with four attacks hits a target four times with poisened weapons (all poisons are the same). The rulebook states that posions stack but does not define how.

    When has the target to check if it is poisened or not?
    How and when are Durations and Saving Throws are affected due to the stacking poisons.

    Thanks


    I'd like to see Paizo's take of the Legendary weapons rules from 3e. To me, they tried to take something similar to the thread weapons of Earthdawn, and put it in 3e, they missed, the penalties far outstripped the benefits and made the entire effort a waste.

    A Paizo system that worked would be awesome. Magic items that grow with the user without having to have it constantly enchanted would be great and give us the ability to drop the magic item driven economy.


    Rather than giving us new rules, I'd like blogs that focus more on revealing what the design intent behind certain controversial rules (e.g. stealth, crafting) is.

    I also think it is worthwhile addressing the design intent behind certain spells or feats or skills or combos that are prone to abuse by powergamers is, including honest admissions if the answer is "it just never occurred to us that someone would do X" and some advice on how DMs should handle the situation.

    Finally, I echo what someone else said upthread about getting to the root of the assumptions behind the game, with an honest discussion of what powergaming and min-maxing can do to those assumptions, and how the game needs to be altered if that is the preferred playstyle.


    How "magic mart" is the world assumed to be? How easy should it be to find a particular item at a particular plus if you want/need it?

    How do item creation feats affect wealth by level? Do they make the item count effectively as half their value? If not, what is the point of taking the feats in a setting where magic items are easily purchased?

    What can be done to encourage players not to pour all their wealth into the big six items and use some of the more fun wondrous items, which seem to be horribly over priced for a situational bonus compared to constant bonuses from weapons cloaks metamagic rods etc.


    Following up on BigNorseWulf question;
    What would a no magicmart world look like? Which rules are necessary for that to be playable and "balanced" (It'd be nice to see something sound,I can houserule it but that would be an ad hoc mess:)


    Taking on a Iron Man type of low-magic conversion rule-set would be cool too.


    Given the spate of requests to add creatures from the Bestiary 2 to the summoning lists, perhaps a discussion of "how to build a balanced custom summoning list" would be useful.

    Shadow Lodge

    Jit wrote:

    Following up on BigNorseWulf question;

    What would a no magicmart world look like? Which rules are necessary for that to be playable and "balanced" (It'd be nice to see something sound,I can houserule it but that would be an ad hoc mess:)

    I'd say Monte Cook's Ptolus setting might give you a good idea of the economics.

    Sovereign Court

    Urath DM wrote:
    perhaps a discussion of "how to build a balanced custom summoning list" would be useful.

    That would be a fantastic Design Tuesday.


    Another thought.. how to "scale down" the rules in the Faction Guide to represent smaller factions with less scope, like local gangs or regional Guilds. What would such do to earning and spending Prestige? Things like that would be nice.


    cappadocius wrote:
    Urath DM wrote:
    perhaps a discussion of "how to build a balanced custom summoning list" would be useful.
    That would be a fantastic Design Tuesday.

    I would also like to see this. I feel that to often the summon monster

    lists read off as a little lacking in the monster department. A ruleset
    for building custom summon tables would be really useful. Maybe even a
    set of rules for building monsters to use as summons. That would make it
    easy to make an all infernal or all necromantic summon list.


    Some additional thoughts...

    - The assumed magic availability level... what are some benchmark items (like +1 weapons) ... at what level is a party assumed to get its first one.. and at what level is it assumed everyone should have at least one.

    Discussing altering the magic level would be good for a series of posts (as it could take a book all its own.. perhaps "Ultimate Worldbuilder"?) ...

    - What are the different varieties of "Low Magic"?

    - What does "low magic" do to monster CRs? How would you expect to need to adjust them? Does the effect become more significant as you go higher in level?

    - Achieving some "Low Magic" feel with minimual rule changes

    The GameMastery Guide separated settlement population numbers from size, and got away from determining the exact numbers of NPCs of each class. A post or two on "How to establish the level framework for your campaign world" might be nice.

    - What is the normal maximum NPC level overall
    - What levels are NPCs with Planar-scope, Global-scope, National-scope, Regional-scope, and City-scope assumed to be as a baseline?

    Finally, there are some variant rules in the 3.5 Unearthed Arcana, most of which are in the SRD. Exploring how some of those might fit into Pathfinder (many of which can be used "as-is") might be a good design post.. or at least why the desiners might feel a particular one is a bad fit.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
    Urath DM wrote:

    Discussing altering the magic level would be good for a series of posts (as it could take a book all its own.. perhaps "Ultimate Worldbuilder"?) ...

    - What are the different varieties of "Low Magic"?

    - What does "low magic" do to monster CRs? How would you expect to need to adjust them? Does the effect become more significant as you go higher in level?

    - Achieving some "Low Magic" feel with minimual rule changes

    I'd be thrilled to see this covered.

    Silver Crusade

    Urath DM wrote:

    Some additional thoughts...

    - The assumed magic availability level... what are some benchmark items (like +1 weapons) ... at what level is a party assumed to get its first one.. and at what level is it assumed everyone should have at least one.

    Discussing altering the magic level would be good for a series of posts (as it could take a book all its own.. perhaps "Ultimate Worldbuilder"?) ...

    - What are the different varieties of "Low Magic"?

    - What does "low magic" do to monster CRs? How would you expect to need to adjust them? Does the effect become more significant as you go higher in level?

    - Achieving some "Low Magic" feel with minimual rule changes
    Planar-scope, Global-scope, National-scope, Regional-scope, and City-scope assumed to be as a baseline?

    Absolutely. The CRB and GMG keep saying a GM can do this, but other than a general price in Wealth by level, no guideline is given on what exactly is appropriate at a given level, and what the effects of a lower magic game do to challenges.


    Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber


    • Easy, moderate and hard DCs/ACs for skill checks, attack rolls, and saving throws for every character level, as an improvisational aid.
    • Rules to combine animal companions, special mounts, familiars and monster cohorts in a balanced way.
    • As mentioned earlier, explanations of the intention behind various rules


    Shadewest wrote:
    Absolutely. The CRB and GMG keep saying a GM can do this, but other than a general price in Wealth by level, no guideline is given on what exactly is appropriate at a given level, and what the effects of a lower magic game do to challenges.

    This.

    And in general, on a related note: Players get lots of crunch all the time. GMs are often given some loose advice and expected to fill in the gaps. One of the best possible uses of a Design Blog is to actuall present some GM crunch; alternate wealth tables for low-magic games are a fine example.

    So, as a general request, I feel a design blog ought to be more focused on a GM audience. They're the ones who have to actively tinker, and need to know the intention of the rules. Exposing the intention of the rules is a common suggestion all the way up this thread.

    Dark Archive

    Has it been suggested that the "best" of the Design Tuesday material be complied at, hmmm, the end of each year and released as some sorta supplement whether a pdf or print (or both)?

    Sovereign Court

    Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

    I don't know if it's already been suggested, or if suggestions are even still accepted with the date of the last post prior to mine, but what about sign language? I know Drow Sign Language exists, but what about for the above-the-crust people?

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