Zalman's page

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Usual Suspect wrote:
Why can't our bosses understand how hard it is coordinating our schedules for RPG time!?!

Solved that one by organizing a game with my co-workers, calling it a "team-building exercise"!

wraithstrike wrote:
Robert Carter 58 wrote:

You are using semantics here. You say "the mechanics are the game". I would say "the story is the game". For you the mechanics seems to be the most important part. For me it is the least. I choose the mechanics that my players know, and it will be easiest to get them on board (is there where I would use "full stop?" Nah, I wouldn't use it.) Then I make the rules work to serve the story I want to tell.

The mechanics are the ruleset and that is the game, not the story.

Mechanics are vital to something being a "game" in general, whereas storytelling is not. But that's a very different thing from "the mechanics is the game". Mechanics may be necessary, but they are certainly not alone sufficient for something to be a game such as D&D/Pathfinder. For that, storytelling is also necessary. Otherwise, you're playing Risk, not D&D.

Fallacy of the Single Cause

One of my favorites (from another thread) -- You can't jump less distance than your modified Acrobatics roll, because

PRD wrote:
For a running jump, the result of your Acrobatics check indicates the distance traveled in the jump...

So anyone with a +16 Acrobatics check wanting to jump a 10' pit to land on a 5' wide platform is out of luck, since they magically fly past their target landing.

Also note that, RAW, jumping characters never land if they are "successful". So I guess they just float around forevermore.

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johnnythexxxiv wrote:
wading neck deep in lava

Heck, just keep one finger poking up out of the lava.

Hey folks, just chiming in, since Fluce bumped -- I've already got my fill of Pathfinder games at the moment, but am looking to play or DM an Old School game in the Portland area. Hit me up if any of y'all are interested in such a thing.

Also, I'll second the props for Guardian Games. :-)

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Lucy_Valentine wrote:
Basically, if you have teleport and long range scrying the "long desert journey" campaign is pretty much out. And as long as everyone knows that it doesn't have to be a problem. But if the GM is like "oh no, I statted out this entire desert because it had not occurred to me that you would bypass it with teleport! Now that you have decided to use the spell that is part of your class mechanics and hence something I tacitly approved when you chose the spell, I will punish you!" well, that's bad.

Yep, just so. And this is where GMs who play (the complete version of) Pathfinder need to give teleporters a reason to go into the desert, and not just through the desert. Otherwise, as noted previously, it's not the PC's story -- it's someone else's story.

It's really not hard to give the PCs reason to go into the desert. Here's a simple one: the BBEG casts misdirection and sends a underlying into the desert in disguise. The misdirection points to the underling, so the PCs go to the desert to find the BBEG, but only find the underling. Still in the desert, still having a desert adventure, and still one step closer to the BBEG, if they capture that underling.

I also urge folks to try giving up the "journey through the desert" for this party. If the party wants to Scrye-and-Fry, let them! The battles become scrye vs misdirection, teleport vs dimensional anchors, teleport chases. It's a much more investigation-based campaign, but it works just fine, and is loads of fun, and most importantly, it is that party's story.

Lucy_Valentine wrote:
Zalman wrote:
If your players expect Scrye to bypass all by-the-book limitations, or in general expect than any power available to them has a "reasonable chance of success" in every -- or even most -- cases ... I don't even know what to say about that, other than it's a perfect example of the new school of thought that I see as a social phenomenon. It also makes me shudder a bit, personally, which is a matter of taste, of course.

This is you taking something someone said and extrapolating it to an extreme they didn't. There is a significant difference between "I learned the scry spell and I expect it to solve all problems" and "I learned the scry spell and I expect it to be a useful addition to our toolset, somewhat proportionate with the cost and opportunity cost of acquiring it".

Scry doesn't have to work all the time. Nothing does! But if it's never any use because the GM hates scry, then they shouldn't have left the spell in in the first place.

Nah, the unreasonable extrapolation is from "the GM includes by-the-book printed limitations to scrying, instead of allowing it to work in every case" to "the GM hates Scrye".

Indeed, a BBEG who is threatened by high-level characters on a regular basis would hardly ever be subject to Scrye. Because they're Big, and Bad, and intelligent, and they take proper precautions against it. Just like your high-level PCs aren't subject to <insert any 5th-level magic that happens to be a big threat to them>. Because they've taken steps to actively defend against it. Likewise, PCs cannot reasonably expect a fireball to "sometimes" hurt a devil. It will literally never work. That doesn't mean fireball is useless, or that the GM hates it.

That doesn't mean Scrye never works -- it just means that it's unlikely to work against the BBEG in his own lair. That doesn't make it useless by a long shot. It doesn't even mean the PC's can't use it to find the lair -- it just means that have to be creative about it.

Marco Polaris wrote:
Like some other people, I generally start by learning what I can about the campaign's setting, and what other people are planning to play, so I can create a character that feels invested in the world and complements the group dynamic. From the setting I pull ideal options for race, class, background and motivations.

The most interesting part of this thread for me so far is that about half of the respondents talk about the campaign first, and the other half start with a more standalone character concept.

Obviously, either starting point can eventually include the other as well, and as a "campaign first" kind of player myself, I am curious about how the other half goes about it. For those of you that start with a character concept based on fighting style, preferred class, etc., do you ...

then seek a campaign where your character fits? or ...

find a way to wedge it into any campaign through creative backstory? or ...

already know what campaign you'll be playing in, and so that part's assumed for you? or ...

something else?

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Tacticslion, I thought you made some good points, though I no longer remember specifically which good points were yours :-)

Thanks davidvs, that's the first I heard such a suggestion (I admit I may have missed some posts in this thread?) Makes perfect sense to me.

davidvs wrote:
(c) The Pathfinder rules provide almost no guidance for how to subdivide or restrict those options to support a desired flavor of adventure.

I think it's even worse than that -- in either the wording of the rulebooks, or the Pathfinder culture, or both (I haven't figured it out yet), there is a strong undercurrent of forced inclusion, the idea that the "Pathfinder" world includes all flavors, and that "eliminating any player options" is weak or evil GMing. For Paizo to address the notion of "flavors" of Pathfinder would mean bucking that inertia. Still a darn good idea.

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sunshadow21 wrote:
magic being rare and mysterious is fine as a literary concept, but loses its luster quickly when a person is devoting an entire play session to being a wizard and nothing else

See, for me, that's exactly as it should be. It took a rare player that wanted to struggle through to become a powerful wizard ... just like a typical fantasy narrative suggests. It meant that in game, just like in fantasy literature, wizards were rare compared to fighters and thieves. Only the players who were seethingly patient and clever were ultimately rewarded with the terrible power of high-level magic.

Later, players came along and wanted to be wizards without any of the work, and they were gratified, so of course nowadays there's no reason to be anything else. Power with no effort -- that's what lacks all fun for me. Where's the challenge? Frankly, I'm glad to see folks realizing the folly of easy wizardry ... again.

Kolokotroni wrote:
I think you are missing the point many people are saying. I dont have a problem with what magic can do, so long as non-magic can do equally cool stuff. It has nothing to do with unrestricted magical power being a problem.

Oh, I get this part fully. I don't agree that it's a problem, but I get it. However, the conversation in this thread expanded to also include the notion of magic vs narrative, which is what my more recent posts have addressed. Essentially, I don't agree with the premise that spellcasters have any more narrative power than anyone else.

Kolokotroni wrote:
The whole 'well if you just dont let caster's spells work the way they expect its not a problem' is bs. If a wizard gets the scry spell, he should have a reasonable chance to use scry in the adventure. If he never gets to use it in a meaningful way because everyone knows they should line their homes with lead, you as a dm are being a jerk. You are explicately countering choices made by your players.

If your players expect Scrye to bypass all by-the-book limitations, or in general expect than any power available to them has a "reasonable chance of success" in every -- or even most -- cases ... I don't even know what to say about that, other than it's a perfect example of the new school of thought that I see as a social phenomenon. It also makes me shudder a bit, personally, which is a matter of taste, of course.

Orfamay Quest wrote:
I can only suggest that your observations differed strongly not only from mine, but also from the game designers'. They didn't write 2nd Edition, 3rd Edition, 3.5, and Pathfinder in a vacuum, but in response to market pressures, to make a game that would sell well (because it was more fun).

There are two issues being conflated here. The first is "why did this change". I agree 100% it was due to "market pressures".

The second issue is "what is the origin of the market pressures"? As both you and sunshadow21 suggest, it wasn't from complaints about the current system from players that had used it, but rather from new players who approached gaming with a different initial attitude. Of course game designers cater to the prevalent attitude, since attracting new players is key to a successful game publishing business.

New players, raised on different literature, and a different gaming culture, thought "less restrictions would be more fun", and Zeb, et. al. responded with a product that gave the public what it wanted. Reading this thread, it seems that same public is now complaining about the consequences of what they wrought.

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Charender wrote:
So what would you say about a level 6 spell like say Scrying can be defeated by a something that isn't even a spell.

Even better! And another good example of how magic acts in a believable fantasy narrative -- that is, it has limitations. And what self-respecting BBEG would spend years creating a lair, and not put a sheet of lead lining in the walls? Of course, if your players read every detail of a spell, and use it to their advantage, that's "good play". If a BBEG does the same thing it's called "DM Fiat". Makes no sense to me.

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Orfamay Quest wrote:
Most of these limitations were lifted in various house rules because they slowed the game down unfunly (no one used speed factors, for example) or because people thought it would be more fun (item crafting is fun, because you can actually play with all the cool trinkets listed).

That wasn't the way I saw it happen at all. I never once heard a single complaint about the limitations to wizards being unfun, or slowing the game down. I believe that was a social phenomenon that came later, and was perhaps retrofitted into history. Not the way it actually happened, from my observation.

Orfamay Quest wrote:
Basically, the game is more fun if magic is less restricted. That's one of the clear lessons of forty years of history. But this also suggests that if you're trying to restrict magic, most people will think you're making the game less fun.

Yep, that's the exact attitude I'm talking about. For me, and those I have gamed with, the opposite is true. In fact, we don't even think of it as "restrictions", because we never felt entitled to unrestricted power in the first place. Meanwhile, the newer school of player feels that "restrictions are less fun", but then this is the result -- and it doesn't sound like it turned out to be that much fun after all, based on the comments in this thread.

sunshadow21 wrote:
Not to mention extremely unsatisfactory to a great many players that wanted to enjoy using magic without being flimsier than a piece of paper.

Yes, that is exactly the phenomenon I'm talking about, and it is a social issue, not a narrative one. The narrative value of magic being difficult and dangerous to use is repeated in almost every fantasy story ever written, from Lord Dunsany to J.K. Rowling.

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Orfamay Quest wrote:

Because there are rules, or at least guidelines, about how new spells work. And the first guideline is to look at the existing spell list and make sure it's balanced.

Any spell that is better than teleport trap would therefore have to be at least seventh level and probably higher. Making it cover a substantially larger area, enough that you can't even teleport "near" the BBEG's stronghold, should be at least an 8th level spell.

There are some false assumptions here, the largest of which is that a spell to counter teleportation needs to be more powerful than teleport trap. Redirecting a teleport attempt is a much more powerful effect than, say, simply blocking a teleport attempt. Or a spell that blocks the scrying attempt that allowed the characters to teleport right into someone else's lair in the first place. Or a scrying misdirection, that leads to the characters' teleporting intentionally to the wrong location.

I could go on.

Bottom line is this: if a 5th-level spell is powerful enough to transport a party across the world to a specific location, then the "guidelines" for spell creation should allow for an equal-and-opposite effect by a spell of the same level.

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sunshadow21 wrote:
All you'd be doing is reintroducing the problems that led to them being removed in the first place, and you would still have people complaining about the magic system and it's unfair weight on the system. The only real difference is that different people prefer different solutions; the base problem was there from the very start.

I've played OD&D, and every version since then, and it's never been my experience that the expansion of supermagic that is evident in Pathfinder was based on any sort of problem or instability within the system. It was, rather, a social phenomenon based on the differing attitudes towards gaming espoused by an emerging generation of players. The rise of popular retro-clones demonstrates the early game's continued feasibility even today. Of note is that in early editions it was very, very difficult to keep a magic-user alive long enough to gain any real power. This was both good for game-balance and narratively sound.

I do agree that trying to retrofit that into Pathfinder is a lost cause, given those aforementioned attitudes prevalent in the game's playing populace.

Lucy_Valentine wrote:
Really, the only gaming approach where teleporting shouldn't work is some kind of hard-core simulation where there is way more anti-teleportation effect than there is in pathfinder. So, house rules. And that's not unreasonable as a notion, but the players shouldn't be surprised OOC to find out that their options are suddenly shut down.

It's not really house rules. New spells can be created by anyone, by the book (page 219 of the Core Rulebook), and why wouldn't a BBEG trying to secure a stronghold create all sorts of new anti-teleportation wards? Indeed, players shouldn't even be surprised in character.

Wonderful analysis here, by the way, as well as in the rest of this post.

sunshadow21 wrote:
D&D at its core has always to some degree been about system mastery and revolving around the magic system.

Can't really agree with you there. Yes, it's true to some extent in all versions of AD&D, but not nearly as much as in earlier editions as in later ones, and not true at all in OD&D, where there was hardly any "system" to master at all. D&D, by the way, was clearly created with S&S style stories in mind -- one only needs to look at Appendix N to see as much.

And then, all the things that curbed magic in the early versions of D&D have been eliminated in Pathfinder, 'cause, you know, it's not fair (or fun??) to players if they can't operate without restriction. I'm the opposite -- a game without restrictions on uber-powers is pointless, IM0, in fact, not a "game" at all.

Orfamay Quest wrote:
The problem here is that magic is sufficiently world-changing that it requires an extremely high degree of system mastery to design an adventure to be wizard-resistant. A high enough degree of system mastery that a lot of published Paizo modules don't manage to make that level, which suggests in turn that your average home GM is even less likely to be able to roll his own.

To be fair, the BBEG only needs as much system mastery to be wizard-resistant as the intruding wizard demonstrates. That is, it's a contest of system-mastery. And here I believe you have more correctly identified the real source of discontent with Pathfinder: it is a game based almost entirely on system mastery, to the point that the story must revolve around it. I don't disagree that this is a major problem (and why I prefer other games); I just don't think it's about magic per se.

Orfamay Quest wrote:
And, of course, the other problem with caster-martial imbalance is that if mostly-martial parties can only face mostly-martial BBEGs (or they'll get ROFLstomped), this eliminates another very powerful source of inspiration that motivates a lot of players, the Conan-style sword-sandal-and-sorcery adventure, where our mighty hero defeats the evil wizard by sheer talent and pluck, with a bit of flashy swordplay thrown in there. If Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser die instantly from a contingent spell as soon as they set foot in the bad guy's tower, that's an issue.

This is a very good point, and well-demonstrated. Pathfinder does not tell this particular story very well at all. But then, Pathfinder has never been much of an S&S game (or S,S&S as you call it :-)). It could be made more accommodating of that sort of storyline, at the expense of other, more superhero or anime-type stories. But then, others would complain it didn't support anime stories well. This is an inherent flavor tradeoff, rather than an indication of system failure. Fortunately, there are other games that do S&S much better.

Mathius wrote:

Zalman, I do give my BBEGs access to magic. Usually a level or two higher then the PCs. The do not auto win because they not only have to stop the PCs but to consider the rest of the world and whatever their goal is.

This has several ramifications under the current rules.
1. BBEG are always casters.
2. The game ends up feeling more like shadowrun.
3. A party of martials can not defeat the BBEG.

Problems with magic in general include.
1. Travel stories are not possible beyond a certain level. (This might not be bad)
2. It is harder to get PCs to engage the story when they can short cut it. In the game it makes no sense that they would not shortcut it.
3. Martial classes feel useless once the wizard points out. If I just spend you WBL on a bound outsider it will fight better then you.
4. Published adventures rarely account for what PC magic can do to them. If they do a party that lacks these resources will not be able to play.

Underground lairs with stone walls. Any druid can easily scout the whole place with a little help from an arcane caster.
Permanent alarm spells are not all over the place.
Penetrating the strong hold with magic is almost never discussed.
Teleport trap and dimensional lock see little use.
Even and at upper levels many foes can not deal with invisible creatures.

Matthias, good points. Still, I feel that most of these represent problems with the adventure, rather than problems with the system. It is true that some stories are impossible beyond a certain level -- that will always be the case with any system, and I don't see a problem with it. The stories about low-level characters are never the same stories as those about high-level characters. Travel stories, for example -- still perfectly possible, just not a "low-level" travel story. Travel through some other planes, for example.

Likewise, a party of martials does not have the same adventures that a party of spell-casters has. There's no reason for the BBEGs faced by a pure martial party to have access to magic. Just like a low-level adventure involves walking across the desert while a high-level adventure involves teleporting, so a martial adventure involves defeating the martial BBEG.

Tell the right story for your characters, and these problems go away. Published adventures may fail to be the right story for your group (not surprisingly). Tell your own.

DominusMegadeus wrote:
It's not like parties actually care about social norms and rules most of the time. I'm sure they'll love an high-level NPC playing morality police for the better part of their adventure, though.

I'm not sure I'd call it "morality police". If you cross a horribly powerful wizard, you pay the consequences. Simple, believable, and perfectly reasonable. Also, no different from any other legal consequence.

Auxmaulous wrote:
DM FIAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The other notion I find a bit odd is the idea that any social restrictions on magic are "contrived", as if the only reason for social restrictions on magic is a metagame construct. In a world full of magic, with the strong possibility of being dominated by magic at every turn, of course powerful social morays arise to deal with it. Anything that prevalent, and that powerful will -- as part of a natural course of social development -- be part and parcel of social norms and rules. Not "contrived" in any way.

Jack Vance's wizards adhered to a strict code of non-interference in politics, enforced by the most powerful of their ilk. I'm sure Vance wasn't thinking "I'll have to put that in for game balance". Vance wasn't playing a game, he was telling a story, and in a story, those sort of restrictions make perfect, non-contrived, common sense.

Lucy_Valentine wrote:
So the "smart" option that should be rewarded is to take camels in a slow walk across the desert, giving the BBEG more time to do whatever it is that they are up to, and then when you get there get horribly ambushed and die anyway because they had tons of time to prepare? How exactly does that fit with the notion that the PCs are the ones being scryed on?

No, that's not the point at all. The smart option in this case is to understand that BBEGs have just the same access to magic that PC's do. Not "superior", just the "same".

And this is why the horrible game-breaking power of "magic" simply isn't: because BBEGs use it too. And yes, that means a party will almost never get the drop on the BBEG. This is part of what makes them big and bad. The concept of "game-breaking" magic is a fallacy for this reason. It only "breaks the game" if the BBEGs don't get to use it.

Lucy_Valentine wrote:
Also - this is sort of an aside, but if the BBEG is smarter than the players and their characters, and has superior resources to the PCs, and has superior information to the PCs, then the BBEG losing the campaign is implausible. Given superiority in every way, the BBEG ought to win. So don't give the BBEG all that!

Right, not "superior", just equal.

As for getting PC's into the desert ...

Orfamay Quest wrote:
The game master role is actually called the "Storyteller" in some RPGs, and there is a strong tradition dating back to the 70s that the overall narrative is the responsibility of the GM, while the players are playing roles within the larger narrative.

I'm not sure where you get your idea of what the 70's entailed, but in every game I played in the 70's, and in ever game in the 40 years since then, D&D/Pathfinder has been a collaborative storytelling effort. The game master provides the world and the adversity, the PCs provide the storyline therein. I agree that if you assume the GM is the storyteller and PCs are there to play "in" the GM's story, then yeah, there is a problem. That's not what I consider the same game I play though.

Back to the point -- if you want your PCs to go into the desert, you have to provide a valid reason for those PCs. This has nothing at all whatsoever to do with whether or not they can teleport -- it has to do with whether or not they have an actual reason to do anything. That's the GM's job. So let the BBEG have some of this "world-breaking" magic too, throw some misdirections at them, let them teleport into the desert, etc. It's really not that hard to provide real reasons for the PCs.

Again, if the only reason you want to provide is "I have to pass through here to get there", then you are NOT telling the story of a teleporting party. Get rid of teleport, or GM for different characters in a different game, or -- best of all -- provide a different reason to go to the desert.

Tacticslion wrote:
The other option, of course, is to give both people cars.


Nicos wrote:
Well, If the DM have everything prepared (maps, stats, etc...) and the players teleport right in the worst place then the DM is not punishing anyone, and hte PC did not anything particularly smart.

Agreed, and it's not even "punishing" the PCs to assume that a super-intelligent adversary (read "smarter than the players sitting at the table") has already guessed your oh-so-smart plan, and has set up a trap specifically for it. This is a perfectly legitimate way to emulate super-intellect.

Of course, that all assumes again, still, that only the PCs have access to all this uber-powerful scrying and teleporting, and thus the bad guy wasn't actually informed of their plan ... for some reason.

Orfamay Quest wrote:
* The problem is that magic gives PCs power to bypass some types of narrative ...

The concept of "bypassing narrative" is another one that makes no sense at all to me. The PCs are the protagonists of the story. If they don't do it, it wasn't the "narrative" in the first place.

If a GM prepares and expects wilderness encounters between the known location of a BBEG and known party of PC teleporters, then the GM is trying to tell a story other than one the players are helping to create.

Kolokotroni wrote:
The point is not that magic cannot be countered. The point is that when it works it can do things mundane methods cant. Can you always teleport to the big bads lair? No. But you can teleport across the forest of despair to NEAR the bad guys lair, skilling 6 months of walking.

Not if you need to journey to even find the location of the lair. Which is what happens when bad guys use magic in pathfinder to prevent scrying. Your argument still assumes that the PCs have better access to magic than the BBEGs.

Kolokotroni wrote:
Everyone concedes that a gm can set things up to make the magic ineffective. But that doesnt balance classes.

You're missing the point. This isn't about making magic ineffective, it's about magic being just as effective for everyone. PC wizards have to contend with NPC wizards, and if the fight is even, that leaves the battle outcome up to the martials.

Kolokotroni wrote:
Thats like saying the raging barbarian doesnt do a lot of damage, I just have to make the enemy's ac so high he can only hit on a 20.

Um, no, it's like saying that if your PCs are running around with +20 bonuses to hit, then so should NPCs be enjoying +20 bonuses to AC, for all the same reasons. In your world it seems that only PCs get magic, and NPCs are stuck with martials ... or that you need "class balance" because your game involves PCs fighting each other? That's not the Pathfinder I know.

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Pathfinder is a magic-heavy world. All these examples of wizards doing whatever they please with no chance of failure ... that's not "DM fiat", that's DM laziness. In a world infested with magic, do you really think you'll be able to Teleport right to the BBEG's lair?? That wouldn't be a very Big, or very Bad evil guy, if you ask me. Sounds like you have players that are magically active, and bad guys that are magically inert -- just sitting around waiting to get killed in a dungeon somewhere. Why is it you allow PCs to scrye on BBEGs, but don't assume the reverse is happening with similar frequency? That the BBEGs aren't using just as much magic to find and kill PCs that use magic to find and kill them? If magic is so powerful, how come it can't be used by bad guys to prevent assassination with the same rate of success? Makes no sense!

Sure, if you play all your monsters as if they have no clue that powerful wizards exist, of course wizards will have an easy time of it. This isn't "tailoring" adventurers to casters, it's just providing verisimilitude in a magic-heavy world. In such an actual world, magic is defended against actively and ferociously ... of course.

It would be like constructing bank vaults out of wood, and then complaining that burglars are too powerful because they have dynamite and sledgehammers.

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Arbane the Terrible wrote:

As for the whole Caster Supremacy Argument, there are ways a fantasy RPG can rein in the spellcasters - the problem is that D&D 3.X used NONE of them except finite spell slots. D&D-style magic is, for the most part, fast, convenient, cheap, and safe. Heck, at least in AD&D, some spells could backfire badly. (Haste aged you, Polymorph could kill you, Teleport had a small risk of teleporting into solid rock...) So we're stuck with wizards with no limitations, and non-casters with no useful abilities because REEEEEAAAALISM.

So, if we actually want the snivelling peasants martial classes to stay relevant after level whatever, we have two unpalatable options:

1: Beat spellcasters with the nerfbat until they scream for mercy, then beat them some more.
2: Give up in the futile and wrongheaded pursuit of 'realism', and give martial classes the sort of abilities seen in Exalted, some of the whackier myths, or at least a high-budget kung-fu movie.

Realism applies to magic too. You can call it "nerfing", but it's really just getting rid of the insane lack of verisimilitude that 3.x magic introduced. Magic is the stuff of great power, and the idea that it can be wielded without care or possible consequence is, to me, the very height of unrealism. So in a sense, we can also solve the problem by adding more realism, rather than less, if only we can get past the idea that it's equivalent to "nerfing" the superpowers 3.x players have come to feel entitled to.

Kthulhu wrote:
People like different tlevels of simplification/complexity. Hell, Swords and Wizardry alone acknowledges this, there are three flavors - White Box, Core, and Complete. Its entirely possible for someone to want something simpler than Pathfinder, but more complicated than 1e. 5e falls into that rulws-medium category.
Adjule wrote:
The advantage of 5th edition is individual dependant.

Agreed, and I see my statement was too terse. I only meant that for me, 5e offers a lot more in terms of what I'm looking for than Pathfinder does, and OSR stuff still more. Others' preferences will of course vary.

bugleyman wrote:
Network effects?

bugleyman, I don't understand. As in, finding others to play with? I can certainly see where that would be a motivation for some. Not for me though.

Adjule wrote:
It's new, will have living support (instead of being a "dead system" like previous editions of D&D are now), and has the benefit of the D&D name. Of course, the 2nd point doesn't matter as much when it comes to the retroclones and OSR. At least, that is my guess, but I don't follow the OSR stuff so I don't know how often they get support.

OSR get tons of support, modules, etc., largely made possible by how interchangeable the content is between versions. There's even been a surge in natively generic content, designed to be applicable to any of the older systems. Of course, old-school thought also heavily encourages creation of your own content, so maybe people seeking simpler games (including 5e?) tend to go lighter on purchased extras.

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dariusu wrote:

The 3.5/Pathfinder core rules have become annoying over the years though. There are just too many different rules to resolve pretty similar situations. There are something like 11 different concentration checks in Pathfinder. We have to look this up almost every time it comes up. Same goes for grappling, dispel magic and most effect conditions.

The reduction in those type of rules in 5th Edition, while keeping most of the character creation options, and reducing the need to have a certain amount of magic items(and character wealth hence being tied directly to character level), is what is appealing about 5th Edition for my group.

I couldn't agree more. However, everything 5e improves in this regard is done even better by other versions of D&D. I can certainly see the reasons for moving away from Pathfinder, but now that retroclones and OSR is a thing, I don't see any advantage to 5e in particular.

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Rynjin wrote:

Simplicity, if nothing else.

"What's your character like."

"S%~! I dunno, let's just get going. His parents are dead, he hates monsters, and he likes getting paid. Let's get a move on."

Agreed, and to expand a bit: most people I've seen play murderhobos do so because they can't (or can't be bothered to) come up with a more interesting motivation for their character. It's not so much that being a murderhobo is inherently attractive for them, it just winds up being the "default motivation" for the lazy or unimaginative.

That said, I think getting rich is a fine motivation in itself, and when done well can divorce itself from the concepts of "greed" and "evil" just fine. I like to think of such characters as "treasure hunters" rather than "murderhobos".

I also think a large part of problem is that XP is typically rewarded only for overcoming encounters, which in turn often means killing or beating your opponent into submission. It used to be that XP was awarded for each gold piece recovered, a rule that was later eliminated presumably because it seemed to make greed the only viable motivating factor. Ironically though, that greed served to reduce the murder aspect: since XP was so much more plentiful from treasure than from killing, players were best off avoiding monsters whenever possible if they could get at the gold another way. Pathfinder murderhobos may be after gold in part, but most likely they'll be looking for XP with at least equal gusto, and thus be killing everything they can their swords on.

sunshadow21 wrote:
It's not expensive to those that already know they want it;

Just so. Even $100 would be a minimal expense considering how many hours of enjoyment you'll eventually derive from it. The rub, as you say, is that people don't yet know if they'll like it. To this end, it seems to me that free PDFs, even those with limited but playable content (demos more than teasers) are a good tool for selling books. I know that I personally am definitely inclined to buy a book much more readily after seeing a PDF of it. For me, PDFs are perfect advertisements, but would never replace the hardcopy.

Gregg Helmberger wrote:

What I do not want:

* A retro-clone; I played the old D&D when it was new and I am under no illusion that it was better than newer incarnations

This is curious to me, because several retro-clones appear to me to fit your listed criteria quite closely. It seems you noticed as much as well, which is presumably why you felt the need to explicitly exclude them.

That leaves me wondering what your other criteria are? What is it that 13th age offers (for you) that, say, Labyrinth Lord doesn't? That is -- in your own words -- what makes the advantages of 13th age less "illusory"? Specifying those other hidden criteria might help drive the discussion towards the best suggestions for you.

Excaliburproxy wrote:

I want to ask people how important is that lack of customization and complexity?

I have a weird argument. I kind of like pathfinder in part due to its complex gamey-ness. Other people still don't like that the reduction in complexity in 5e necessarily results in a decrease in player options.

As I noted in my first post, this decrease in complexity has bought 5e some pretty positive qualities, but it may not be the game for me or YOU for that matter.

I feel like most people want a really simple game, though (most people aren't me as it turns out). How much customization should be given up in the name of tractability? More importantly: how much customization should be given up to capture the majority of the market?

I am perhaps selfishly putting forth that Pathfinder should stay complex in future editions to differentiate itself from 5e and the world of retro-clones that multiply every day.

I don't accept the premise of your argument here, that less complexity necessarily equates to less customization. In Pathfinder, a rules-driven game, that is true enough, but other, simpler systems still allow for at least as much customization. The difference is just that the customization must originate in the player's imagination, rather than in the rulebooks. Rules are then created and fitted to the players needs. This is how the developers create new "customizations" that get introduced into any game, after all. It used to be that D&D stressed the player and DM involvement in this process. Maybe 5e is returning to that -- or maybe it's just hooking people in with simplicity before splatbooking that simplicity to death.

By the way, I totally get the fun of deriving customizations from tons and tons of rules. The feel of uncovering a previously undiscovered secret combination amongst stacks of arcane librams is definitely rewarding in its own right. Still, there are other routes to customization that work quite well also.

Disclaimer: I only skimmed the myriad posts arguing back and forth about which system is more complex and why. If I missed anyone addressing the point of complexity vs customization along the way, my apologies. Edit: I see Tranquilis, JoeJ, and PhelanArcetus touched on this subject

Malwing wrote:
Zalman wrote:
, a growing gap between those rules and fantasy archetype,

I don't get this one. I like that each campaign winds up being basically a different subgenre. I've GMed a western setting, Feudal Japan setting, Feudal-ish Japan with magical giant robots setting, horror setting, scifi setting, and space fantasy setting. The only linking factor is really that magic still existed and was prevalent.

The rules are divided enough where you can easily ban or include things based on what kind of technology level you want to flavor the world. Now unless you're playing virtual Lord of the Rings and you're players are going "Well Technology Guide is Paizo so I should be able to use laser guns.

Sure, my comment isn't about technology level in a campaign. It's about what I perceive as a trend towards "rules for rules sake", rather than rules whose origin is emulation of a fantasy (or sci-fi) archetype that exists in the human collective subconscious.

Of course, there are inevitably those players who do complain about any campaign setting that excludes any option available in any splat book, forever. That's a different issue (though also possibly related to what we mean by liking Pathfinder "as is".)

Hey Doug, we recently found a prospective game to play in that we're going to start this coming Sunday. I think this fills our gaming schedule, but I'm still "negotiating" with the wife :-) I'll shoot you an email to stay in touch, in any case.

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I suppose liking Pathfinder "as is" means also enjoying new material as it comes out? Or does it mean "given the current published material only"? If the latter is the case, I guess I've liked it as-is for some time, since I play with only the Core Rulebook.

If the former, not so much. For me, added complexity, added rules, a growing gap between those rules and fantasy archetype, and increasing focus on character abilities rather than player abilities change the tone of the game in ways that makes the experience much less fun for me. I find it unfortunate that Pathfinder continues this trend from its predecessor.

I love what Paizo has done for the gaming community though.

KarlBob wrote:
Zalman wrote:
"Living campaigns"/"Organized play" are the biggest reason why RAW vs. RAI matters. For all the good they've done for the hobby, and all the players they've enabled to find a game, they do severely curtail the former nigh-omnipotence of the individual GM. There's a good reason to do that (making the play experience as uniform as possible, at any PFS game anywhere in the world), but it only applies if you're trying to have a uniform experience in the first place.
My suggestion: If you want to restore the nigh-omnipotence of the GM, and ignore the raging RAW vs. RAI debates, run or play in a home campaign (or alternate between a home campaign and PFS). Let the GM's word be law again, and let the rules lawyers run their own game next week if the GM disagrees with their interpretations this week.

Agreed, this is the main advantage of RAW. And to be clear, I'm not complaining about it, merely pointing out that obsolete classes is part of the collateral damage caused by seeking that advantage. Me personally, I don't play PFS largely for this reason -- it feels exactly like a MMORPG to me. When I say RAW is antithetical to the original intent of RPGs, I'm not saying that it's wrong, or bad, only that it's counter to statements such as this one:

Tom Moldvay wrote:
In a sense, the D&D game has no rules, only rule suggestions. No rule is inviolate, particularly if a new or altered rule will encourage creativity and imagination.

RIP Tom!

sunshadow21 wrote:
To me as a DM, that's a good thing. As long as the expanded mechanics come with a clear message that I retain veto power over everything, I like having the rules cover most of the common tasks and abilities; that gives me more time to worry about everything else.

Interestingly, I see on these boards lots and lots of players who apparently feel that such veto power is abusive. Pathfinder players in particular (as a group, not necessarily individually) seem to be growing a feeling of entitlement to RAW, and arguing RAW. That trend seems to me to run counter to your goals. Hopefully you manage to avoid that in your actual gaming.

Lemmy wrote:
blahpers wrote:
If you want to play classes as flavorless stat blocks, be my guest. I've never claimed that was bad.
And if you want to have zero imagination for developing your character's personality and background beyond what the book tells you, be my guest. I've never claimed that was bad.

These two complaints are far from mutually exclusive. If you are the sort of player who places no value on a class's name or description, then you are playing that class as a "flavorless stat block". That doesn't mean you have to play the character without flavor; rather it means that that the character's class defines abilities only, while the character's personality comes from elsewhere.

I think this is an important distinction, because it raises the question: if class name and description are irrelevant, then why do we play a game with classes at all? Why not just build characters by selecting from a comprehensive list of abilities, a la Rolemaster? If we select classes only for their abilities, wouldn't it be even better to play a game that allowed you to pick and choose which abilities you wanted, instead of having to compromise by using a pre-selected "pack" of abilities?

In this sense, the fluff absolutely and 100% makes the class. As others have noted, you could simply swap around fluff and abilities and it would make no difference whatsoever. So what is it that makes it a "class" at all?

Class names and descriptions provide archetypes, and that for me is a huge difference. I prefer games like D&D and Pathfinder over games like Rolemaster precisely because of this difference. Archetypes are what brings me to that fantastic place in my mind that is populated by dreams, heroes, monsters, and myth. It's what makes the game fun.

Squiggit wrote:

It's true, but I don't think the latter option is necessarily a bad thing either. I know personally some of my most interesting characters have sprung from me looking at a book, finding a mechanic I like and building a character around it I otherwise wouldn't have had I started with the concept. Not purely most interesting from a mechanical perspective either, but characters that end up being roleplayed in a way that's outside the standard as well.

You're right that mileage may vary, but personally I find mechanics to be inspiring rather than restricting.

Good point, I've done this myself and had a blast. In a sense, each mechanic is a little story in itself, and this can indeed be inspiring -- though I often feel restricted by the same mechanic, shortly after being inspired by it ;-). Pathfinder source books are a treasure trove of little ideas like this, and I have at times been equally inspired to character creation by a particular magic item, spell description, or illustration. I wish that I encountered this sort of use of mechanics more often.

It may be interesting to note that when I am inspired by a mechanic in this fashion, it is always the idea (not necessarily the specific printed fluff) of the mechanic that inspires me (e.g. "flashing blades like a Cuisinart"), rather than the numbers (e.g. "5 attacks-per-round"). Of course, just my luck, I'm generally most inspired by the least effective mechanics.

A discussion of particular mechanics that inspired roleplaying quirks and character traits could be fun.

Lemmy wrote:

That's not exactly true. Despite what many grognards claim, IME, most players will often "I want to roleplay character concept X? How can I best do it?" and then pick their mechanics accordingly.

Mechanics are just a tool for them to fulfill their idea of the concept they want. Because of this, they'll often use the best mechanics available... Just like anyone with a modicum of common sense will always use the best tool for the job.

That doesn't mean they are favoring mechanics over concept, just that they want to best represent the concept they have in mind.

So long as the "concept" you're referring to is a character concept, and not itself a mechanic, then that's great! My experience with most players has been different.

Lemmy wrote:

And, BTW... When you say you don't believe for an instant that all the "silly" builds are created for concept rather than pure "video-game-like number-crunching", that is being condescending. You're claiming the builds you personally define as silly as always product of "roll playing" and minmanxing with no regard to character concept, and you also insinuate vidego-game players have no creativity.

That's just as dismissive as saying that everyone who likes Tolkien-inspired characters and settings are angry grognards with no creativity that can't role play anything that isn't stamped on the class' description.

Fair enough, I can only speak to my own experience. My apologies.

Lemmy wrote:

Imagine, if you will, that Fighters and Rogues had their class name and description switched around. They are exactly the same, but they got the fluff text of each other.

That would be restrictive to those who claim class is anything other than a mechanical construct... But it wouldn't hurt the role playing of anyone who chooses to ignore the "official" fluff text in favor of creating their own flavor.

In this aspect, those who see classes as nothing but mechanics are actually better at role playing than those that limit them to what's written on the book.

Absolutely, I would never suggest that fluff limit character concept either. It makes perfect sense to me that a "rogue" could include all sorts of different concepts, and still fit the skill set of the envisioned character. In a gaming paradigm where story drives mechanic, that advantage is enhanced further, by the simple expedient of keeping the mechanics more flexible.

DrDeth wrote:
Zalman wrote:

Hm, I don't mean to be condescending, nor am I suggesting that any particular build is more or less story-driven than another. I agree completely that any character can be mechanic-driven or story-driven.

I dont think you were condescending in any way, you make some good points.

Cool, glad to hear, thank you. Text-based communication is tricky sometimes. I definitely don't mean to offend anyone!

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Marcus Robert Hosler wrote:

Gandalf was an outsider with levels in fighter and druid, who ran around smoking pot and calling himself a wizard.

Aragon was a ring tampered meta-human ranger misanthrope.

Even Tolkien was full of special "nonsense" snowflakes.

This is a great example. Some players will try to build a "Gandalf", and in order to do so they will evaluate the character, and find the necessary mechanics to match it, coming up with an Aasimar Fighter/Druid, or whatever.

The opposite approach is the player that notices some Druid mechanic that, by the numbers, works really well with the Aasimar, "dips" into Fighter for an extra feat or two to make the mechanic work even better, and winds up by accident with a character that could be "Gandalf", though they have no actual interest in Gandalf, only in the Empowered Heightened Maximized Stone Entangle Attack (or whatever -- for the people who actually think I'm trying to quote some real optimization) they've created.

I've played with and GM'd for both sorts of players -- and for me, the first type brings the fun at the table to a whole new level. Your mileage may vary, though I suggest you try both (if you haven't) before deciding which is most awesome.

Lemmy wrote:
Zalman wrote:
Sure, different fantasy for different folks. Still, I'm not buying for an instant that all the silly builds are created for "fantasy story concept" rather than pure video-game-like number-crunching. If you're very very lucky, a character concept will be retroactively fitted onto the mechanic, but either way the game suffers horribly in my experience from such "characters".
I think you're being unfairly condescending. Playing a half-demon tengu zen archer is not any more (or less) story-driven than playing an elf wizard or dwarf fighter.

Hm, I don't mean to be condescending, nor am I suggesting that any particular build is more or less story-driven than another. I agree completely that any character can be mechanic-driven or story-driven.

Lemmy wrote:
If those classes become obsolete, that's because their mechanics are bad, not because players don't role play. I'd never play a Fighter or Rogue, but that doesn't stop me from role playing a armored warrior or backstabbing scoundrel, nor does it hamper my ability to do so.

Exactly this. Classes are obsoleted by "better mechanics". This is symptom of mechanic-driven games like Pathfinder. It's not a function of the particular class, it's how it will always be, no matter what, because Paizo will keep publishing new mechanics that intentionally obsolete existing ones. That's how products are sold, after all.

Your idea that the class name doesn't make the character is spot-on. My issue is with the reverse: the mechanic does not make the character, regardless of what name the class is. Alas, Pathfinder is all about the mechanic, which is exactly why it no longer "makes sense" to play a "fighter" or a "rogue". It's also why, in my experience, players come up with way cooler characters when mechanics follow story, instead of the other way around.

anlashok wrote:
Zalman wrote:
I just think Pathfinder fails in this regard, which in turn is why these discussions come up over and again. Even the whole concept of "RAW vs RAI" is antithetical to RPGs as they were originally designed and conceived.

RPG is equal parts R and G. To dismiss one of the two is "antithetical" is nonsense and smacks of silly "badwrongfun" mentalities.

Every time someone chooses to play a half-Tengu/half-Octopus Teifling-born Alchemist/Ninja/ZenArcher/Pugilist specializing in thrown voodoo dolls, mechanics are driving character concept, and fantasy suffers, in my opinion.

It's rare to feel justified in saying this but, your opinion is wrong. Divorcing mechanical nuance from roleplaying concepts is, frankly, trivial.

This is something that always struck me as a bit odd. Self-defined "purist" roleplayers tend to look down upon (arbitrarily defined) "weird" builds as "rollplaying" over "roleplaying" while simultaneously refusing to accept the idea that mechanical nuance and roleplaying nuance can't be disengaged.

It feels like it's literally the exact opposite of good roleplay to approach the concept from such an unimaginative and self constrained viewpoint, as those two things are quite literally antithetical to good roleplay.

You make some good points about "rollplay" vs "roleplay". That's not what I'm talking about at all though -- this thread is about why classes become "obsolete", and in my opinion it is because of the class-as-mechanic paradigm. This has nothing to do with how much role-playing is done with a character, that's a different issue -- and one on which I agree with you entirely (I am not the "purist" to which you refer).

Sure, RPGs are part "game". The question at hand is "what kind of game is it"? I prefer my "gaming" to happen during play, rather than during the character build, and I find that games where people have gamed the build invariably suffer during play because of it.

More to the point of this thread, the idea that someone may "roleplay" their optimized-by-the-numbers build well doesn't change the fact that the method of character creation detracts from the fantasy for me. Using mechanics to drive the build is the gaming paradigm that causes issues such as the one being discussed here. Pathfinder of course not only embraces "gaming the build", but to some extent or another demands it. It's part of the game, as you say.

What I said was "antithetical" is the idea of "RAW vs RAI". The very concept that we should use "Rules as Written" flies in the face of the original RPG concept that "all rules are only guidelines". That original concept is, IMO, what sets tabletop RPGs apart from video games, and when honored, prevents dilemmas such as the OP presents.

Lemmy wrote:

Not really... Maybe someone likes the fluff of a half-Tengu/half-Octopus Teifling-born Alchemist/Ninja/ZenArcher/Pugilist. No one will like every option in the game... But that doesn't mean that more exotic options are any less valid than the "classical" ones. In fact, a creature that bizarre is closer to the definition of "fantasy" than a slightly-different-from-humans race.

Some people will only enjoy are "Tolkien-ish" setting, while others enjoy Golarion-styled kitchen sink. Personally, I despise Tolkien elves. I think they are a bland, boring race of holier-than-thou mary sues.

Besides, choosing a class for its mechanics doesn't mean the player will put any less effort in his/her role play. I've adapted characters to mechanics before, because I thought those mechanics were fun, and then developed said character just as much as I would've done to any other.

There is no "standard" fantasy. Just different tastes.

Sure, different fantasy for different folks. Still, I'm not buying for an instant that all the silly builds are created for "fantasy story concept" rather than pure video-game-like number-crunching. If you're very very lucky, a character concept will be retroactively fitted onto the mechanic, but either way the game suffers horribly in my experience from such "characters".

Again, I blame Pathfinder for stressing mechanics in the first place. I'm not saying it's not stimulating -- I'm sure video games can be stimulating for similar reasons -- just not my cup of tea, and not what I consider the real value of tabletop RPGs.

Without that focus on mechanics-as-class, the "older melee classes" becoming obsolete would never be an issue, because creating a really cool warrior wouldn't be dependent on first having a really cool published warrior-mechanic. Rather, the character concept -- as conceived in the mind of the player -- would force a mechanic to be created, within the context of the character being, simply, a "fighter". Interestingly, this is how the published mechanics are generally created in the first place. In Pathfinder, we're trained to look for the cool mechanic, and derive character concept from it, and that paradigm creates all sorts of threads, like this one.

Lemmy wrote:
Zalman wrote:
If classes are nothing but their mechanics, then we have little more than a video game without the benefits of video. That's certainly another way to play as well, but not one I enjoy myself.

Keep in mind that there is a huge difference between "classes are just a collection of mechanics" and "characters are just a collection of mechanics"

We all enjoy flavorful characters and worlds. What some of us don't like is having flavor being dictated by game mechanics.

Mechanics should allow and enhance flavor, not limit it.

Agreed. I just think Pathfinder fails in this regard, which in turn is why these discussions come up over and again. Even the whole concept of "RAW vs RAI" is antithetical to RPGs as they were originally designed and conceived.

Every time someone chooses to play a half-Tengu/half-Octopus Teifling-born Alchemist/Ninja/ZenArcher/Pugilist specializing in thrown voodoo dolls, mechanics are driving character concept, and fantasy suffers, in my opinion. I would personally be completely turned off by a "fantasy" story that included a cast of "characters" as zoo-like as those in most Pathfinder games I've seen. For me, that's the relevant test.

blahpers wrote:
Marcus Robert Hosler wrote:
blahpers wrote:
...A class is more than just a bag-o'-mechanics...

Except it's not...

Anything you apply to a class comes from its mechanics. The descriptions are what the devs thought the mechanics convey. The name of the class is a reflection of its mechanics. Fore and foremost a class is its mechanics, everything else is secondary (as in drawn from those mechanics).
We'll just have to disagree here, unless the forum would like a reenactment of that one Monty Python sketch.

Hard to disagree with either of you here. "A class is more than just a bag-o'-mechanics" certainly describes what an RPG "class" should be, for me. The flavor (a.k.a. "fluff") is of primary importance to me, because that is what we use to create a fantasy world. And that's why I play.

If classes are nothing but their mechanics, then we have little more than a video game without the benefits of video. That's certainly another way to play as well, but not one I enjoy myself.

Pathfinder (in my view unfortunately) does subscribe to the class-as-mechanics paradigm, and as such departs from what a "class" really is. So sure, when discussing "Pathfinder classes", I can buy the class-as-mechanics claim. If we expand the notion of "class" to be more general, then not so much.

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