Why play Pathfinder?


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion


I played a lot of DnD 3.5 then "moved up" to 4.0 and hated it. I built a bard with as many out-of-combat skills and abilities as I could and he still sucked out of combat. He could only turn invisible if he blasted someone first. The point of turning invisible is to avoid being noticed. Blasting someone is just about the best way to get noticed.

So far I'm guessing my experience is similar to a lot of Pathfinder players. Instead of switching to Pathfinder or back to 3.5, though, our group took up Ars Magica.

For anyone who hasn't played ArM, it's heavy on role playing and very light on combat. You can go several sessions, months even, without getting in a fight. You can go a whole session wihout rolling a single die even. I love it. It's about the story and the characters and the consequences of your decisions. You can have objectives like learning to craft a walking tree as your home that tends to your garden, or exploring a mountain that has a strange magical aura.

My current character is an item crafter with lots of scrying spells and defensive wards but not a single offensive spell. He can teleport great distances, but ask him to hurt someone and he'll just look at you blankly. Eventually, his lack of offensive is going to catch up to him, even in Ars Magica, but I've played him once a week for four months and he has yet to take any damage.

I do miss combat though.

So here's what I'd like to know. Why should I play Pathfinder? Is it possible to have a role playing heavy campaign? How much can you move a game away from combat and still have core rules that support your play and characters that can behave effectively? Can you build a character who functions really well out of combat and can you play effectively with him?

Don't get me wrong, I want the combat. I just don't want to play one hack and slash encounter after another,

Thanks.

Dark Archive

TheDefector wrote:

I played a lot of DnD 3.5 then "moved up" to 4.0 and hated it. I built a bard with as many out-of-combat skills and abilities as I could and he still sucked out of combat. He could only turn invisible if he blasted someone first. The point of turning invisible is to avoid being noticed. Blasting someone is just about the best way to get noticed.

So far I'm guessing my experience is similar to a lot of Pathfinder players. Instead of switching to Pathfinder or back to 3.5, though, our group took up Ars Magica.

For anyone who hasn't played ArM, it's heavy on role playing and very light on combat. You can go several sessions, months even, without getting in a fight. You can go a whole session wihout rolling a single die even. I love it. It's about the story and the characters and the consequences of your decisions. You can have objectives like learning to craft a walking tree as your home that tends to your garden, or exploring a mountain that has a strange magical aura.

My current character is an item crafter with lots of scrying spells and defensive wards but not a single offensive spell. He can teleport great distances, but ask him to hurt someone and he'll just look at you blankly. Eventually, his lack of offensive is going to catch up to him, even in Ars Magica, but I've played him once a week for four months and he has yet to take any damage.

I do miss combat though.

So here's what I'd like to know. Why should I play Pathfinder? Is it possible to have a role playing heavy campaign? How much can you move a game away from combat and still have core rules that support your play and characters that can behave effectively? Can you build a character who functions really well out of combat and can you play effectively with him?

Don't get me wrong, I want the combat. I just don't want to play one hack and slash encounter after another,

Thanks.

Its a RPG, you can play it however you like. You can definitely make a character that does not have any real combat skills as long as the game your playing is is not going to be combat heavy and focus more on RP and problem solving type encounters you will be fine.

Not with that said most people here will laugh at you for wanting to do things other than have a combat beast who slays things. But hey its all about what you want to do in the game you're play. Play it as you like.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

You absolutely can play such a campaign with Pathfinder. As long as your group is all in agreement and the DM adjusts accordingly.

I recommend throwing out XP and leveling when the DM, or even the whole group, decides it is time. This will allow you to avoid the '1st to 20th in two weeks' problem that might wreck verisimilitude and allow you to explore your characters better without new abilities popping up all the time.

The DM should also aim low on encounter CR so that non-combat type characters aren't hopelessly outmatched. Heavy use of humanoid NPCs instead of monsters will help that.


The goal is not so much to make characters that are weak in combat, just to have a campaign that doesn't revolve around it. We're really enjoying Ars Magica for the palace intrigues and politics. I love the strategy involved in fighting too, though.

Sovereign Court

This thread doesn't belong under Pathfinder Society. Regardless, I'll answer.

Although Pathfinder is a lot more geared towards combat, it depends entirely on the campaign and the GM whether it holds combat or not. It might not be the ideal system to use in a non-combat environment, but still. If your group doesn't consist of rules lawyers I think you should be okay.

Experience system isn't necessary at all; when I began playing 3.5 our group almost immediately adapted to throw the combat XP out of the window and settle for a 300xp/lvl/session. Practically a level up every three sessions.

I personally like the technical elements of Pathfinder (and D&D 3.5). It's like building something out of LEGO.


TheDefector wrote:
The goal is not so much to make characters that are weak in combat, just to have a campaign that doesn't revolve around it. We're really enjoying Ars Magica for the palace intrigues and politics. I love the strategy involved in fighting too, though.

It is absolutely, 100% possible to achieve this. It's easiest in homebrew games, since PFS modules do tend to have a lot of combat built into them.

Basically, what you require is a skilled DM who can think on his/her feet and is willing to put in the time for a lot of planning. You can use the Pathfinder campaign setting, so there's plenty of source material to draw from. You will also require tablemates who enjoy a lot of roleplaying. If your ArM group is pretty solid, you can do it just fine this way.

Combat can even be custom tailored to your group. Redesign creatures to have lower hp, or lower attacks, if need be. You can change just about anything to suit the playing style.

Again, this really would only work with non-PFS games, but homebrew games using the Pathfinder system would be great for it. It does put a large burden on the DM, but as long as he/she is willing to put in the time and effort, it could definitely work. I know that I've been able to draw up homebrew games with very little combat, and the combat we did have was completely off the wall, with constant interruptions and skill checks during the combat.

As for playing PFS characters with very little combat capability, I've seen it done quite effectively. No one is loved quite so much as the person who joins the table with a skill list a mile long, custom made to help others succeed in their missions, or a devoted healer with tons of skill points. The healer in my at-home PFS game pretty much does nothing but channel and cast heal spells during combat, but outside of combat he's pretty much the group leader, and does a lot of the roleplaying. Our PFS group tends to downplay the combat, get through it at fast as we can, and get back to roleplaying. Again, you would need a good DM who can think on his/her feet, like mine does.


Deussu wrote:
Experience system isn't necessary at all; when I began playing 3.5 our group almost immediately adapted to throw the combat XP out of the window and settle for a 300xp/lvl/session. Practically a level up every three sessions.

My homebrew game did something similar. We went 4 or so sessions without a level, until someone said, "Hey, we just killed a couple dragons this session... we gonna level or what?" People seem pretty happy with it, since they're more in control of how their characters progress. And, since it's a homebrew game, it's less about rules and more about blowing off steam and having fun.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

Moved to non-PFS forum


I've played in 3.0 and 3.5 campaigns where we went weeks without a combat encounter. Sometimes we'd go entire sessions without doing a whole lot to forward the plot as such, but developing our characters and their connections to each other and the campaign through roleplay. I anticipate I'll be able to do the same with Pathfinder (haven't been playing it for very long, and that mostly in a pre-fab module so there's more combat than what I usually experience- it sort of gets on my nerves, actually, so I understand where you're coming from).

It's not about the system you use, most of the time. It's about the kind of group you're playing with and the style of game your GM is running. You can have the most RP-heavy game in the history of gaming slated, but if your group just wants to dungeon-crawl, it's not going to work, and vice versus.

Edit: It also helps to be flexible about the rules. I don't mean arbitrarily, but be willing to propose changes to your group that will move the game's style in the direction desired, like simplifying the XP system or ignoring movement rules to speed up combat. (My group did the latter- one combat encounter now takes ~10 min instead of 30, and people don't spend large chunks of time bored waiting for their turn.) If there are things you like about Ars Magica why not steal them and graft them into Pathfinder, at least in terms of flavor?

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Maps Subscriber

Pathfinder is close enough to D&D3.5 that is can do the same types of adventures as 3.5 could - so use your experience of D&D3.5 to determine whether Pathfinder could run the sort of games you would want.

Of course, then the question is, if you already have 3.5, what is the benefit of moving to Pathfinder? That is a whole otehr thread though :)

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

DigitalMage wrote:
Pathfinder is close enough to D&D3.5 that is can do the same types of adventures as 3.5 could - so use your experience of D&D3.5 to determine whether Pathfinder could run the sort of games you would want.

Personally, I find Pathfinder slightly harder to run more roleplaying intensive games in than 3.5e, largely due to the way they reduced the skills, one of the main non-combat elements of the game. But this is minor.

Overall, however, you can completely run a non-combat game in Pathfinder, just like you can in 3.5e. I've had entire sessions of my homebrew game without combat. Now, we don't avoid it entirely, since my group does also enjoy the combat, but Pathfinder is just a rules framework.

Now, there is of course the issue that there's little in the way of rules for nobility, etc. .... but does anyone actually need them? Furthermore, I'd recommend Expeditious Retreat Press's "A Magical Medieval Kingdom" for anyone playing Pathfinder or 3.5e who wants to have realistic feudalism in their games. You want roleplaying? That book is nothing but.

DigitalMage wrote:
Of course, then the question is, if you already have 3.5, what is the benefit of moving to Pathfinder? That is a whole otehr thread though :)

Actual in-print rules? New modules and gaming material? An actively supported game? It's your call what you need in your game, nobody can decide that for you.

If you have even half of the WoTC 3.5e books, you probably have material for a lifetime. The main problem will be a group to play it with. If you also have a group of people who desire to play 3.5e, then clearly that's what you should do.


TheDefector wrote:

I played a lot of DnD 3.5 [...]

Why should I play Pathfinder?

For the same reasons you played 3.5 D&D, I imagine. They're about the same.


Game mechanics have not so much impact on the choice of the campaign style (not much, but some).
In Pathfinder you have all the tools to play in that way.


Allow me to be a more dissenting voice in this group.

You can have a more plot-character-roleplaying driven game than normal. The game system does not easily facilitate this. This is no different than 3.5, or really any older version of d&d.

Level systems do not easily facilitate roleplaying. You have static limmits to how good you can be, for instance. Abilities grow at a roughly linear rate and everyone has roughly even growth. Personally, I find systems have a huge impact on the flavor of the roleplaying, and Pathfinder does not encourage a low-combat game.

You are currently testing out a combat light, rules heavy system with Ars Magica. The system is designed with overcoming non-combat challenges in mind. It will always be better than a system primarily focused on combat and tactical movement for non-combat interactions. You care currently enjoying Ars Magica's more freeform parts, and like 3.5, Pathfinder hard codes many of those things in favor of less fudgy combat.


I don't think so. You can choose classes social oriented (bard, rogue, monk, the warrior can be a cad archetype, etc).
There is not so much difference from level system and point system. I played some point based, and growing each character do everything, and roles mingle. Instead of a level, you take points. Where's the difference?
If you want combat to be less important character should be less narrow focused, multiclassed, light armored, etc.
If you create a paladin or warrior with 2 skill points level this will not help, of course.


AlecStorm wrote:

I don't think so. You can choose classes social oriented (bard, rogue, monk, the warrior can be a cad archetype, etc).

There is not so much difference from level system and point system. I played some point based, and growing each character do everything, and roles mingle. Instead of a level, you take points. Where's the difference?
If you want combat to be less important character should be less narrow focused, multiclassed, light armored, etc.
If you create a paladin or warrior with 2 skill points level this will not help, of course.

In my experience, the difference is huge, especially when you start at level 1 and work your way up. Thematically, you have to go with a character that justifies being only level 1 at the start. It breaks vermisalatude to have a character who is older, been doing something for a while, but is still only as good as your average 18 year old. Point buy allows you a wider variety of character concepts, because you can now play someone who is focused and dedicated to something without having every random mook be just as good.

Point buy also allows for more free form growth. You can play a non-combat game where none of the party ever gets amasing at combat relative to normal people. Try doing that in pathfinder, and you end up with lvl 8 diplomat character who are more skilled at combat than most adventurers who do it for a living, even if you use the commoner class.

Finally, many of the spells/abilities are designed specifically for combat situations. This isn't nearly as bad as what the OP described with his 4e bard, but quite obviously the magic system is designed for mostly combat situations. Free form out of combat spells are generally considered some of the most broken (image spells, prestidigitation, out of combat movement(teleport, fight)) because they are hard to adjucate. Compare this to a system like Ars Magica, where you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you can justify it with an entry level mage. It just takes some creativity.

I come from a gaming background of mostly homebrew. One of the big things with homebrew is realizing that the system you design, and the mechanics of it, vastly changes how players behave. D&D has a distinct combat focus, and it is very difficult to get players to focus outside of combat. I am definetely not convinced that that time is not better spent finding a system that is better suited for that play style.


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gbonehead wrote:
Personally, I find Pathfinder slightly harder to run more roleplaying intensive games in than 3.5e, largely due to the way they reduced the skills, one of the main non-combat elements of the game. But this is minor.

I actually had the opposite experience. Before the skill consolidation, my characters were either stuck maxing out on the stuff they "needed" to the detriment of the flavor skills, or I felt like the character could never have all the skills the character OUGHT to have due to things that are logically associated with each other requiring separate ranks (perception is probably the best example of this). Skill consolidation allows my characters to actually take character flavor skills to a much greater extent than before. More options is not necessarily better for RP when you are dealing with finite resources like skill points.


Mark Moreland wrote:
Moved to non-PFS forum

Thank you. Sorry for posting to the wrong forum.

I appreciate all the replies. Pathfinder seems much more like 3.5 than like current DnD. I'm thinking of taking my 4.0 books down to the store and swapping them for PF books.


Lilivati wrote:
If there are things you like about Ars Magica why not steal them and graft them into Pathfinder, at least in terms of flavor?

One thing I really like about Ars Magica is its open-endedness. There are clear rules about inventing spells, either on the fly or in the lab. So if you come to the end of a hallway, say, and find a locked door, you don't have to rely on spells you know to handle the situation, you can channel raw magic to invent a spell. You can also cast as many spells in a day as you want.

A magus with a high score in Intellego (perception) and Imaginem (sensory data) could scry through the door. An earth magus could manipulate or break the metal lock. A Herbam (vegetation) magus could warp the door so it opens. A Corpus (body) magus could teleport to the other side. And so on.

When I run adventures for my kids we play a very loose medley of DnD and ArM, so they can let their imaginations roam free for problem solving but still get lots of combat. That puts most of the onus on the DM and falls apart a bit in adult games where the players like to know going in what the specific rules are.


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Pathfinder Accessories Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Superscriber

You can play any kind of campaign with any rpg ruleset, really. However, a game with lots of rules about combat and less about non-combat will generally be better at running campaigns involving lots of combat than games without, in my opinion. I think the reverse is also true - you're finding with Ars Magica.

I wouldn't use pathfinder to run a combat-lite campaign, since there'd be minimal rules for the things I wanted to do and lots of rules I wouldn't need.


If I may, I'll throw my two cents into the conversation.

While I haven't really had any problems running a low-combat high-rp game since the earlier days of 2E (I had latched onto the Wilderness/City aspect of the EC in BECMI early on and ditched dungeons), I DO find that PF is much easier to have a skill and rp-based game on than 3.5 was (and certainly more than 4E). Mainly because of skill consolidation. I'm -still- finding new consolidations I've either forgotten, or didn't know about (Open Locks with Disable Device got me. Granted, half the problem is that we are still using a stack of printed 3.5 sheets, so that doesn't help any!) But not having to worry about Spot, Listen, Gather Information, Diplomacy, etc all as individual skills but as large groupings was the one chasm that was hard to cross.

Also, I've found it helpful to give out occasional skill points instead of actual treasure (a few thousand gp ~ 1 SkPt) since the combat remains low, but then the treasure they DO find is more oriented towards making sure the adventure doesn't scale around them poorly and boosting their self-research abilities. Minor rules variations that you can take or leave (the Paizo Police won't arrest you for it, honest!), but they've worked for me at least. A final note, logic vs RAW becomes heavily skewed on the logic side (imo) in a low combat game -- of course, that's optimal in my book anyways. =)


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Well, pathfinder is not as combat focused as 4E is, but it is still a pretty combat heavy ruleset. That said it has all the out of combat elements that 3.5 did, and possibly even a few more. It is definately possible to run the kind of campaign you want so long as everyone at the table makes the concious choice to do so. The game wont force you to, its more open then that, but it does maintain the inherent flexibility of the 3rd edition ruleset that allows for more creativity when not hitting things with sharp metal things (or while hitting things with sharp metal for that matter)


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

We have what has become a *very* political Pathfinder campaign. There were bursts of intense violence in the past, and doubtless will be again, but several sessions in a row of politics now, and lots more to come. (My PC is currently waiting to see if she, or her worst political rival, is about to be named Mayor. I literally woke up in the middle of the night last night wondering about this.)

A couple of observations:

The social skills rules are not all that well developed. If I were doing this again I'd probably borrow Shadowrun's Etiquette skills, reflecting that being diplomatic with nobles and being diplomatic with street thugs are not exactly the same skills set. And the GM will have to set her own target numbers--the rules don't give much help here (or rather, it will be a mess if you try to use them as they don't scale right with level).

A bit more love for the non-combat spells would help. Suggestion is a great political spell, but the Charm line do too much already with a 1st level spell leaving you nowhere to go until Dominate, which is *definitely* too much in a political game, and also too easy to detect. In general, there are relevant spells but they aren't vetted as well as the combat spells. (Watch out for Detect Thoughts. The Pathfinder version is killer.)

I agree with the posters who think PCs need more skill points. I recommend either +2 or +4 across the board. (We did this game with +2; I think next game will be +4.) Some people double, but this gives rogues too many and doesn't help the real problem classes enough. You will really reduce your chance of having good non-combat play if several character classes are prevented from contributing by lack of skills; also, flavor skills are suppressed if points are too scarce. (I wish my fighter had a Profession skill for soldiery: we keep wanting it.)

I also agree with pitching XP, which we always do, and tailoring advancement rates to what will work for your particular scenario. The game I'm describing has gone from 3rd to 10th in 2 years (game time) and that's almost incredibly fast--part of the political PC's problem is that she has to explain away her meteoric rise in ways that don't make her rivals suspect she's really a devil or something.

I think the rules set can definitely help or hinder your desire for a less combat-centric campaign. Compared to AM, all flavors of D&D will hinder a bit, but Pathfinder is, in my experience, about as good as they come. The at-will cantrips are great at making someone feel like a magician without making them powerful in combat, the reduced number of skills makes building a skill-based character easier (for me, anyway), and the rules have been cleaned up in various minor ways. Also there is quite a lot of support for the gameworld, which is important--you can't have a good non-combat game without a strong setting to support it.


I find the amount of role playing in game seems to increase if the character have more skills. This is just what I've noticed as a GM. A group with Rogue, Ranger, Bard, and Inquisitor seem to role play a lot more than a group with Wizard, Rogue, Cleric and Fighter. Same players just the role playing tends be more heavy with the skill heavy group.

Now this doesn't mean you can't role play a fighter just I think when you have lot of skills you tend to look at them a tool along with all you combat ability. When you play a fighter you are hammer and everything begins to look like a nail. It's just kind of the mentality that comes when you have tons of combat tools and little else.


I've yet to see a system for social skills that I or most of the other GMs I'm familiar with are willing to let meaningful outcomes hang off of (i.e., things like persuading a major foe that his invasion of your nation is ill-advised and that a white peace treaty should be signed immediately and implemented---not things like negotiating a small discount on armor repairs or chatting up a barmaid).

This isn't really a criticism of D&D/Pathfinder, but pretty much every system I've seen. We almost invariably find it aesthetically displeasing to let it all ride on a diplomacy/etiquette/etc die roll.

What I, and several other GMs I know do for social skills is this:
(it is pretty easily adapted to other systems as well)

Figure up what the range of social skills you're likely to see in game is. Maybe that's from -5 to +50 diplomacy.
Now break that into ranges...e.g. -5 to 0, 0 to 5, 5 to 15, etc.
Assign each range a real-world placeholder that is known to you and the people you game with. For instance, for a very high value you might assign Clinton or Reagan, for a very low value, assign someone with very little charisma or persuasiveness that is known to the group.
Determine what category the PC falls into when he attempts his diplomacy/persuasion/etc
Have them roleplay as normal. At decision points, consider what he has actually said and asked for, and who their reference person is (i.e., are they in Oscar the grouch's reference class or Bill Clinton's). Could their reference person do this easily? If so, go with it without a roll. If it is impossible, go that way without a roll. If it is dicey in your estimate, roll to see how good a day they're having. That's the basic system most of us are using, because we want to reward investment in such skills, but we loathe the very mention of diplomancy.

Liberty's Edge

Best Living Greyhawk module I ever played was a Core Special which was almost pure roleplaying: imagine your 10th-level PCs are insignificant specks being inducted into an evil cult's rituals to infiltrate the movement -- and "graduation party night" for the recruits is to cavort with CR20 demons who could incinerate you with a glance. Before the open gates of Hell.

What a blast.


Caineach wrote:
AlecStorm wrote:

I don't think so. You can choose classes social oriented (bard, rogue, monk, the warrior can be a cad archetype, etc).

There is not so much difference from level system and point system. I played some point based, and growing each character do everything, and roles mingle. Instead of a level, you take points. Where's the difference?
If you want combat to be less important character should be less narrow focused, multiclassed, light armored, etc.
If you create a paladin or warrior with 2 skill points level this will not help, of course.

In my experience, the difference is huge, especially when you start at level 1 and work your way up. Thematically, you have to go with a character that justifies being only level 1 at the start. It breaks vermisalatude to have a character who is older, been doing something for a while, but is still only as good as your average 18 year old. Point buy allows you a wider variety of character concepts, because you can now play someone who is focused and dedicated to something without having every random mook be just as good.

Point buy also allows for more free form growth. You can play a non-combat game where none of the party ever gets amasing at combat relative to normal people. Try doing that in pathfinder, and you end up with lvl 8 diplomat character who are more skilled at combat than most adventurers who do it for a living, even if you use the commoner class.

Finally, many of the spells/abilities are designed specifically for combat situations. This isn't nearly as bad as what the OP described with his 4e bard, but quite obviously the magic system is designed for mostly combat situations. Free form out of combat spells are generally considered some of the most broken (image spells, prestidigitation, out of combat movement(teleport, fight)) because they are hard to adjucate. Compare this to a system like Ars Magica, where you can pretty much do whatever you want as long as you can justify it with an entry level mage. It just takes some...

Pathfinder is a game for heroic characters. You can have a level based that is not focused on that. The question is, what gives you a level?

Or better, what is the average level of a commoner? PF is designed for heroic gameplay. A point based system always requires that player limit themself from putting all points in few abilities, or they will never fail a check, and often all character can do same thing after a certain number of points.


Steve Geddes wrote:
I wouldn't use pathfinder to run a combat-lite campaign, since there'd be minimal rules for the things I wanted to do and lots of rules I wouldn't need.

I guess what I've found is for the things I really care about, I don't need detailed/copious rules, so Pathfinder more than suffices. Free-form works pretty well with most of the groups I've played. (We tend to regard the rules for any activity in an RPG as more a framework than an absolute answer for what can happen or where the boundaries lie, though. So we may already be considered rules-lite to begin with.)

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I'm not going to say that you SHOULD play Pathfinder. All you need to know about the game is pretty much freely available online... the rules mechanics, and a lot about the Golarian world setting can show it's flavor by the stories in the Paizo blogs. Read the material and decide for yourself.

Pathfinder is not THE game for everyone, just as for a 10 year period, D&D was not the game for me. You need to search inside yourself to define what you're looking for in gaming, and maybe you're looking for a less structured more narrative system like White Wolf/Storyteller, or for a more number crunching exercise like HERO and GURPS, or more megaboomgun like RIFTS. Or for a game where classes are more equalized like D+D 4th Edition, Or something completely unstructured like Amber Diceless. Of if you want exceptionally grim Brit style there's Warhammer. If you prefer games where the word antediluvian makes a frequent appearance along with lots of horror, there's Call of Cthulhu.

There are a lot of choices out there. The Talislanta books were recently put up as free PDFS by the creator of the system at Talislanta.com.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
TheDefector wrote:

I played a lot of DnD 3.5 then "moved up" to 4.0 and hated it. I built a bard with as many out-of-combat skills and abilities as I could and he still sucked out of combat. He could only turn invisible if he blasted someone first. The point of turning invisible is to avoid being noticed. Blasting someone is just about the best way to get noticed.

So far I'm guessing my experience is similar to a lot of Pathfinder players. Instead of switching to Pathfinder or back to 3.5, though, our group took up Ars Magica.

For anyone who hasn't played ArM, it's heavy on role playing and very light on combat. You can go several sessions, months even, without getting in a fight. You can go a whole session wihout rolling a single die even. I love it. It's about the story and the characters and the consequences of your decisions. You can have objectives like learning to craft a walking tree as your home that tends to your garden, or exploring a mountain that has a strange magical aura.

My current character is an item crafter with lots of scrying spells and defensive wards but not a single offensive spell. He can teleport great distances, but ask him to hurt someone and he'll just look at you blankly. Eventually, his lack of offensive is going to catch up to him, even in Ars Magica, but I've played him once a week for four months and he has yet to take any damage.

I do miss combat though.

So here's what I'd like to know. Why should I play Pathfinder? Is it possible to have a role playing heavy campaign? How much can you move a game away from combat and still have core rules that support your play and characters that can behave effectively? Can you build a character who functions really well out of combat and can you play effectively with him?

Don't get me wrong, I want the combat. I just don't want to play one hack and slash encounter after another,

Thanks.

If you're totally lacking combat in Ars Magica, that's more due to the campaign you're running. I've gone over several published AM modules and while they're not the fight fests that D20 modules are, there's usually a fair amount of opportunity for conflict. And between Mages there's Certamen for resolving issues in nonlethal duels. By the way if something is pressed on your pacifist, even with his lack of combat formulaic spells, he should be able to whip up something with spontaneous magic.


AlecStorm wrote:

Pathfinder is a game for heroic characters. You can have a level based that is not focused on that. The question is, what gives you a level?

Or better, what is the average level of a commoner? PF is designed for heroic gameplay. A point based system always requires that player limit themself from putting all points in few abilities, or they will never fail a check, and often all character can do same thing after a certain number of points.

Pathfinder is designed for heroic characters. This limits the stories it can tell, to facilitate it telling other stories. This isn't a good or bad thing, but it is a limitation of the system, and a way in which the system affects the style of game and how players will approach it. In Pathfinder, your humble diplomat will know he can handle himself in a fight. It changes the story. You could reduce things and make them less heroic in a level based system, but no matter what you are still combing skill in your specialization with things outside of your specialization (HP, BAB, saves).

I have never seen a point buy system that forces players to not specialize, or that eventually allows non-specialists to compete with specialists. In every sytsem I have seen, either generalization or specialization is encouraged. I have yet to see one where players can easily max any skill, let alone one where they are not really focusing. There are often practical limits to where the system will let you get to in a reasonable time frame, like in Mech warrior where the XP requirement for going from a 5 to a 6 isn't really worth it, but that doesn't mea other people will buy that skill up to a 5 either.


TheDefector wrote:
Pathfinder seems much more like 3.5 than like current DnD.

Well, that's because they didn't want to go with 4e, for various reasons. One was that they thought that 3e wasn't done yet, not by a long shot. It did have problems, but they can be fixed without radically changing the game. So they made what is essentially another revision (much like 3.5e was a revision rather than a new edition) rather than a new edition or even a new game. They did fix a lot of things and introduced a lot of bigger changes, but the basic game remains the same.

I'd say it's about as good for combat-light games as 3e was (though I think some of the things they did helped somewhat):

It can totally be done! It depends on your players themselves, and also a bot on whether the rules will influence them to go more for combat. 3e/PF can do that, because the rules do emphasise combat and describe it in great detail. I found myself that this "it's there and it's very detailed" part can... - well, let's call it "brainwash" - people into putting more emphasis on combat, something that they won't do with other rules systems.

But if you're aware of it, and put a bit effort into not solving everything with combat, it can totally work.

Some ideas about doing it, and how Pathfinder's improvements over 3e help:

  • Get rid of XP. Altogether. The GM decides when you level-up. This works better now than in 3e because in Pathfinder, XP are no longer used as a currency/resource: Spells don't have XP components, magic items don't cost XP, and nothing can permanently, actually take away XP/levels.

    This effect will lessen the urge to fight just because fighting will net you XP. People often do that. Not necessarily to excess, not everyone will "go grinding" in a local orc territory, but even with less combat-happy players, the occasional "if we go the long way and kill those optional enemies, we'll level before the boss" does happen.

    In my opinion, getting rid of XP works even better than introducing heavy "roleplaying bonuses". I'm not too much a friend of RP bonus XP. Playing a character that is not a one-dimensional, shallow set of stats is a reward in itself. If someone only wants to min-max the hell out of the system, those RP bonuses won't change the guy.

  • Pathfinder's new skill system gives you more skill bang for your skill point buck. While the basic number of skill points the classes get haven't changed, a lot of skills were consolidated (like Hide and Move Silently being replaced by a single skill - Stealth), and a few were done away with altogether (and replaced with other mechanics - Concentration is no longer a skill, but simply a caster power check, i.e. caster level plus caster key ability bonus; and use rope is gone, if you need to tie someone up, you'll use grapple rules)

    That means the existing skill points will often be worth more.

    Also, the new favoured class mechanics will give you an extra HP or skill point whenever you take a level in your favoured class (which can be any class, and XP penalties for multiclassing are gone), so you can get more skill points than before.

  • The skill system in general has been streamlined. Different costs for cross-class is gone (you instead get a one-time bonus when you have ranks in a class skill), which makes multi-classing much less of a hassle and makes it a lot easier becoming good at a skill that is not on your class list.

  • Traits add some flavour. It's an optional system where you basically choose two (or another number, but the standard recommendation is two) traits, which not only flesh out your character background a bit and tie you to the campaign (there are campaign traits that will explain why you are part of the campaign), but also give you small bonuses (which are often extra class skills, so if you want to be a fighter with stealth as a class skill, traits let you do that and also provide a reason why you have that non-standard training)

  • A lot of classes get new and improved class abilities that tie into skill use and often have applications beyond combat!

    One of the biggest beneficiaries of this is, of course, the rogue. With the new rogue talents rogues get at every even level, you can not only get things that make your sneak attack better. There's also stuff that lets you use stealth at full speed without penalty, or disarm traps more quickly. Plus, trapfinding provides a level-dependant bonus on checks to notice and disarm traps now.

    Another very big improvement is bards. The changes in Pathfinder turn them into skill monkeys par excellence! Bardic knowledge is no longer some vaguely defined thing, but grants bonuses to knowledge checks (and with the loremaster ability, you can even take 20 on a few knowledge checks each day). Versatile performance lets you use Perform skills in place of other skills. A bard focussing on skill use (with a decent int bonus) will be a veritable font of knowledge and a professional in many areas.


  • Caineach wrote:
    AlecStorm wrote:

    Pathfinder is a game for heroic characters. You can have a level based that is not focused on that. The question is, what gives you a level?

    Or better, what is the average level of a commoner? PF is designed for heroic gameplay. A point based system always requires that player limit themself from putting all points in few abilities, or they will never fail a check, and often all character can do same thing after a certain number of points.

    Pathfinder is designed for heroic characters. This limits the stories it can tell, to facilitate it telling other stories. This isn't a good or bad thing, but it is a limitation of the system, and a way in which the system affects the style of game and how players will approach it. In Pathfinder, your humble diplomat will know he can handle himself in a fight. It changes the story. You could reduce things and make them less heroic in a level based system, but no matter what you are still combing skill in your specialization with things outside of your specialization (HP, BAB, saves).

    I have never seen a point buy system that forces players to not specialize, or that eventually allows non-specialists to compete with specialists. In every sytsem I have seen, either generalization or specialization is encouraged. I have yet to see one where players can easily max any skill, let alone one where they are not really focusing. There are often practical limits to where the system will let you get to in a reasonable time frame, like in Mech warrior where the XP requirement for going from a 5 to a 6 isn't really worth it, but that doesn't mea other people will buy that skill up to a 5 either.

    You said the same things I stated about PF. Yes, it's for heroic character, and yes, I still think it can be used for campaign not focused on combat. It's not meant to be played for non heroic campaign, doesn't matter if focused on combat or not.

    Skill based systems functions in two ways: 1) like gurps, you can spend a lot of points in few spell and none can resist it
    2) spending over a certain limit it's not worth it, and after a while everyone has more or less the same bonuses on the skills that are more useful, like stealth, diplomacy, a weapon, etc.

    In a level based system (or better, a class based one) characterization is more effective.


    AlecStorm wrote:

    Skill based systems functions in two ways: 1) like gurps, you can spend a lot of points in few spell and none can resist it

    2) spending over a certain limit it's not worth it, and after a while everyone has more or less the same bonuses on the skills that are more useful, like stealth, diplomacy, a weapon, etc.

    In a level based system (or better, a class based one) characterization is more effective.

    I have never seen any system that remotely approaches number 2. Players, IME, will come to practical maximums on completely different skill sets, with only minor overlap in areas where the party as a whole wants to focus and everyone needs, like stealth. I also see much slower growth in almost all point buy systems than level based systems.

    I have had the exact opposite experience with characterization as you describe. In point buy, I find players building characters with explanations for all of their abilities, and creating a story durring character creation. In level systems I see that too, but, especially class based systems, I also see much more cookie cutter characters with no characterization.


    So, the problem is that your GM wants you to explain the skill point expense in a skill system and not in a level based one?
    In PF you have to spend skill point and taking feats. Even acquire a level in one class need an explanation. If a character never fight or train in weapons shouldn't take a level in fighter class, for the same reason you described.
    This is all about intentions and style, not about rules.
    A player that take a power without a meaning in roleplay is not a good player, regardless he was playing a skill or level based.
    If someone play PF like this, don't blame the system but him / her.

    Speaking about the progression, I reiterate the point. It's the GM choice on how much give after each session. Every game gives some indications, but you have to adapt at your style. Too much XP or points? Too few? Change the amount. It's pretty easy.

    About system instead, I played some, and if characters have grown beyond a certain point then even the mage can spend few points to use a weapon in a decent way (if not a skill system class based). Why not? If you can take a skill at +6 bonus why don't take another at +2? You know that high level skill cost a lot, and at the same expense you can take a new skill at a good level. If not, you can bring your specialization at power play levels.
    So... where's the difference from the diplomat that can use weapon better than a commoner?
    The only real difference from PF and a system like that is HP value, because is designed for heroic campaigns. But level based does not mean necessarily that every level should give HP.


    AlecStorm wrote:

    About system instead, I played some, and if characters have grown beyond a certain point then even the mage can spend few points to use a weapon in a decent way (if not a skill system class based). Why not? If you can take a skill at +6 bonus why don't take another at +2? You know that high level skill cost a lot, and at the same expense you can take a new skill at a good level. If not, you can bring your specialization at power play levels.

    So... where's the difference from the diplomat that can use weapon better than a commoner?
    The only real difference from PF and a system like that is HP value, because is designed for heroic campaigns. But level based does not mean necessarily that every level should give HP.

    The difference is that in a level based system, the diplomat has no choice but to become better at combat. In the point based, your diplomat is choosing to become better at combat. He could also choose to become better at baking cakes. He also becomes excelent in his chosen proffession prior to gaining the skill in somthing else.


    This is a difference, but it's true for PF, not for every level based system. Also, is a false choice, because rules bring you to the choice (or you'll make a non convenient choice, and you will be penalized).
    TheDefector asked if PF could be used in a political campaign. Yes, you can use it. He didn't tell if it was non heroic, or whatever.
    Also, even if a level gives you some skill in weapon you are not obliged to use it.

    I play RPG since I was 11, so now it's 20 years, and I tryed a lot of games. First rule, choose the game that fit better with your campaign.
    Second, don't put rules over fun. That's all. If TheDefector enjoy his actual game is good, I don't tell him to change, I just answered his question. The rest of my posts are to answer to you that didn't agree.
    If someone says that during session sometimes they don't even use dices it's clear that theyr game style is not focused on rules, so don't change a lot the choice of the system.


    TheDefector wrote:
    Stuff and mentioned Ars Magica

    I LOVE ARS MAGICA!!!!

    Ars Magica is a great game and if you and your group are having fun with it then great.

    PF is also a great game. I will have to say that Ars is built more for a "combat light" game. PF can be run "combat light" but in my opinion would need some tweaking.

    One suggestion.

    I would allow a feat called Skilled.

    Basically it allows you to pick a skill and make that skill a class skill, additionally it gives a bonus skill point per character level.

    This will allow some of the less skilled classes; Fighter, Cleric, etc to focus on a few more skills.

    Also I would suggest running the game ranging in level from 3rd to 10/12th level.

    Starting at 3rd level gives everyone a good selection of abilities and options and I feel the mechanics seem to break down a bit once you hit the teens.

    Alternately another option that we tried once with 3.5 was a variation on leveling. Characters leveled as normal with experience points awarded by the DM based on story progression but additional experience was awarded as well. We called them character experience. This experience could not be used to level. It was spent as follows.

    100xp bought you an extra feat.
    50 bought you an extra class skill
    10 a skil point
    you could also use this Character experience to buy temp bonus.

    5 bought you a +1 on a d20 roll (max 25points for +5)
    50 bought you an emergency reroll of a an att/save/skill check etc...

    Just an idea


    Just two more pacentas:

    I've been playing D&D since 2nd edition and picked up Pathfinder after wrapping up a really, really long Arcana Evolved based Ptolus game that included perhaps dozens of sessions in which an initiative roll was never rolled and a highly combat-intensive Star Wars game (which isn't usually all that combat-intensive).

    A flexible game master with willing players can do whatever they want within the Pathfinder ruleset and have fun doing so. Leveling up is really a very subjective thing in the context of social-skills, etc. and, given in-game time, players who want to craft/kingdom build/what have you can do so.

    That said, combat will run smoother in Pathfinder than a lot of other systems. Those rules are there for whenever your characters need them.


    LazarX wrote:
    If you're totally lacking combat in Ars Magica, that's more due to the campaign you're running.

    True, we have played a more RP style, mostly because our group just got done a two-year D&D slashfest and we were ready to tone it down. My original question was really just to see what it was about Pathfinder that players liked so muh, and this thread has told me everything I wanted to know. Thanks to everyone who wrote something.

    BTW, my ArM character is a bit of an experiment to see how far I can go without any real combat skills. He could whip up somespontaneous magic which would let him fight mundanes but against any magus he's effectively weaponless. Spontaneous magic at his level would never penetrate their Parma Magica.


    After a fair amount of experince on both extreames of the combat level I'd say that the only thing you need to be cautious of is that everyone be on the same page. I think Pathfinder is hands down the best system I've ever played but it is still easy for on PC who misses his old hack and slash game to MAKE it a combat heavy game.

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