Can Pathfinder handle more narrative, cinematic games?


Advice


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I feel like Pathfinder is really unforgiving to DMs that like more abstract, narrative styles of play. This might or might not be true but I like to think it is. Maybe it's the fact that of the five Pathfinder games I've been in, all of them were played in a more realistic, detail-oriented kind of way, which I'm not usually a fan of. I like systems that don't let mechanics get in the way of rules or have to have rules for every single little thing. I've never cared about optimizing my character or doing lots of number crunching and shopping, or worrying about which magical items will best improve my character. But the people I game with do.

I'm going to run a Pathfinder adventure path very soon (Reign of Winter) for these same people, ie players that prefer detail-oriented, "realistic" kinds of games. I'm fairly well read on the rules but I certainly don't have them mastered, so I want to ask you folks: can Pathfinder handle games that aren't very mechanically crunchy? How much do I need to compromise between a GM that wants a more narrative game, and a group that wants a more crunchy, "realistic" kind of game?

Silver Crusade

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I dunno, personally I've never really thought that making a game narrative or cinematic had anything to do with the rules to be honest.


Elamdri wrote:
I dunno, personally I've never really thought that making a game narrative or cinematic had anything to do with the rules to be honest.

Wow, my experience couldn't be more different. Games like Fate feel much different, and have substantially different incentive structures, than games like Pathfinder or GURPS. Can you make a Pathfinder game narrative? Surely, but in some cases you'll be fighting the rules. Fate, on the other hand, does seem to really support any other play style.

Certainly the rules aren't the only thing, but to say that they don't have anything to do with the feel and style of a game is a bit of a stretch.


Neongelion wrote:
I'm going to run a Pathfinder adventure path very soon (Reign of Winter) for these same people, ie players that prefer detail-oriented, "realistic" kinds of games. I'm fairly well read on the rules but I certainly don't have them mastered, so I want to ask you folks: can Pathfinder handle games that aren't very mechanically crunchy? How much do I need to compromise between a GM that wants a more narrative game, and a group that wants a more crunchy, "realistic" kind of game?

I feel that there is a whole layer of complexity to the Pathfinder rules that could be readily cut away in the interest of a more narrative game, though trying to do that paring yourself until you have more experience with the system might be a mistake.

Here's as suggestion: Why don't you look at the Beginner Box for a "rules-lighter" version of Pathfinder? Some really shrewd choices about what complexity to discard have already been made, and the organization and clarity is miles ahead of the Core Rule Book. Just keep in mind the further you get in the adventure path, the more rules elements you'll have to import from the full game (which isn't a big deal 99% of the time).

Shadow Lodge

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I have played in a group that did pathfinder in a narrative style. and I am about to start another one (also reign of winter) Here are some things to consider:

A narrative game of pathfinder requires the full cooperation and trust of everyone. Sit down with your group and see how much control they are willing to let go of.

Keep maps to a minimum, use un-gridded or mini maps to show where they are, only use a grid in necessary. On that same note, assume positioning is what people want it to be, if some one says "I move to flank" let them flank. Same for area of effect, if the wizard says "I blow fireball so that it gets these guys and not my guys," let it work. Maybe say you'll miss one or two or whatever.

Maximize the rule of cool, tell them they can do things as long as they describe it well, award bonuses for such. Kind of like skill check bonuses for role play.

Use skills as little as possible. Let people know that you are doing so. If the fighter gives an elegant speech that should inspire the masses, don't make him screw it up because he rolled a 5.

Limit book access, the less books you use, the less rules you have to worry about.


bugleyman wrote:
Elamdri wrote:
I dunno, personally I've never really thought that making a game narrative or cinematic had anything to do with the rules to be honest.

Wow, my experience couldn't be more different. Games like Fate feel much different, and have substantially different incentive structures, than games like Pathfinder or GURPS. Can you make a Pathfinder game narrative? Surely, but in some cases you'd be fighting the rules to do so. Fate, on the other hand, does seem to really support any other play style.

Certainly the rules aren't the only thing, but to say that they don't have anything to do with the feel and style of a game is a bit of a stretch.

Heh, I've tried very hard to get people at my college into games like FATE Core or Savage Worlds, ie less on the rules, more on the action/narrative, but it seems everyone in the state of Rhode Island will either play Pathfinder or D&D 4th edition, with a minority playing Exalted or World of Darkness with a sprinkling of Shadowrun. That's not necessarily a bad thing---those games are the most popular on the market, after all---but man, sometimes I feel like I'm attacking entrenched WWI soldiers with a toothbrush.

Elamdri wrote:
I dunno, personally I've never really thought that making a game narrative or cinematic had anything to do with the rules to be honest.

I sort of agree. You can definitely as a GM set out to make your game more cinematic vs. realistic, but I feel the rules seem to have a bias for more rules-crunchy games and subtly encourages games to be that way, kind of like 4th Edition seems to subtly encourage more tactical-oriented battles.

Quote:
Here's as suggestion: Why don't you look at the Beginner Box for a "rules-lighter" version of Pathfinder? Some really shrewd choices about what complexity to discard have already been made, and the organization and clarity is miles ahead of the Core Rule Book. Just keep in mind the further you get in the path, the more rules elements you'll have to import from the full game (which isn't a big deal 99% of the time).

I wish I could do this :( I already suggested that but the group doesn't really like that solution, so I've decided to begin setting out some house rules. As it stands now the big house rule I have so far is: if no one knows the ruling on something, we're not going to start taking out our books and smart phones and spend 4-5 minutes to look up the rule like we usually do to try to figure out how to implement a rogue swinging off a chandelier and jump-kicking an orc. The only time is if a ruling will significantly alter the nature of the game, such as PC/major NPC death. Hopefully this will encourage the players to look things up in advance, or when its not their turn in combat.

And critical failures just really aren't appealing to me, so I've done away with that. If you roll a natural 1, you just automatically fail.


If you ignore enough of the rules and make up enough of your own...yes. However doing that in a balanced way is pretty hard. There are other games much better suited to narrative play.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Pathfinder, while not very simulationist, is highly codified. It is that kind of game. There are lots of rules. There are rules for the rules, and there are rules for those. It sounds kind of obnoxious but it supports a certain style of play, where people like the game to adjudicate things more then just relying on DM spur of the moment judgement. That said, there are ways to make pathfinder more narrative, but they usually involve introducing narrative elements from other systems to the game.

For instance the suggestion to look at the begginer box is a good one. It boils the rules down about as far as you can go without making a different game, but ofcourse its not going to take you though an AP.

For my game I like the idea of adding Fate Points to the game. I love the Dresden files RPG (and cosequently Fate). Have players come up with aspects and incorporate them into the game, along with Fate points that can be used like Pathfinder hero points, or in a narrative style to alter the 'scene'.


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Neongelion wrote:
I'm going to run a Pathfinder adventure path very soon (Reign of Winter) for these same people, ie players that prefer detail-oriented, "realistic" kinds of games. I'm fairly well read on the rules but I certainly don't have them mastered, so I want to ask you folks: can Pathfinder handle games that aren't very mechanically crunchy?

I think I'm missing something here. It almost sounds like your players like a mechanically crunchy game, so you're trying to trick them into a game that's not mechanically crunchy.


Games like Exalted and WoD that use what I call the "dot system" assuming those dots are still on the character sheets are better for what you want. In a game like Pathfinder a ruleslawyer(no meant in a bad way) will be questioning every rule you break.


wraithstrike wrote:
Games like Exalted and WoD that use what I call the "dot system" assuming those dots are still on the character sheets are better for what you want. In a game like Pathfinder a ruleslawyer(no meant in a bad way) will be questioning every rule you break.

The last thing I'd try to do is trick my gaming pals...usually :>

But in all seriousness I've made it very clear to them what kinds of games I like vs. what kind of games they like. I'm trying to reach a compromise, rather than go wholeheartedly in one direction or another.

Silver Crusade

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I guess can someone provide me an example of what they think is a rule in Pathfinder that is holding them back from having a more narrative game? Because I am wondering if perhaps we are meaning two different things.


Neongelion wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Games like Exalted and WoD that use what I call the "dot system" assuming those dots are still on the character sheets are better for what you want. In a game like Pathfinder a ruleslawyer(no meant in a bad way) will be questioning every rule you break.

The last thing I'd try to do is trick my gaming pals...usually :>

But in all seriousness I've made it very clear to them what kinds of games I like vs. what kind of games they like. I'm trying to reach a compromise, rather than go wholeheartedly in one direction or another.

So to be clear you want a game where you can say it happened without having to roll for it. As an example "I ran and then slid between the giant's legs, standing up on the other side before he could react."

In pathfinder that would be using acrobatics to tumble through his square, but with a giant's CMD that is not likely so the rules are in your way.

Is that an accurate example?


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Elamdri wrote:
I guess can someone provide me an example of what they think is a rule in Pathfinder that is holding them back from having a more narrative game? Because I am wondering if perhaps we are meaning two different things.

I can't speak for the OP here, only my own experience. I played AD&D, and 2nd edition beginning in the 80's, and we had a blast. Very creative, spur of the moment GM and players. -smacks her gums in preparation for storytellin' to the young 'uns-

There were no attacks of opportunity.

There were no codified combat maneuvers.

There were no move/standard/swift/full actions.

Basically, it was either your turn or it wasn't.

There were no feats.

There were no skills. (rogues and only rogues had a skillset for things like detecting traps or listening at doors. we called em thieves back in my day.)

When you wanted to do something like hoodwink a guard or an elaborate acrobatic manuever--

the answer was always the GM saying... it's difficult but possible. "What do you say?" (not make a diplomacy role) or "The walls are smooth so it'll be tough to run up and flip down behind him, You'll have to roll better than an 85 on the percentile dice" (We used percentile dice a lot in those days).

The answer wasn't-- you can't because you don't have the improved awesomeness feat, or you have a standard action but not two moves left, or, 30 mins of calculating positions on a grid and if you can get there thru unthreatened spaces, or show me that rule in a book...

For me the bonuses were... combat moved. There were never lulls of looking up rules, or getting out a sliderule to calculate diagonal movement.

And... it encouraged creativity. Players could and did try anything. We still had to *roll,* but the GM had a lot more leeway for deciding what that roll would have to be. And we still talk about some of our most epic successes and *fails* all these years later.

And... because the action was moving, and because you could try hairbrained schemes, everyone was engaged, everyone was riveted. Nobody was on their smartphone or ipad (ok, we didn't have those yet, fair point). Everybody was in the game.

A given for this type of game play, tho-- is there has to be a real trust of the GM's fairness. His decisions may not have been swiss precision from game to game, but they were reasonable odds, and they were fair. And he was just as eager to see what we'd pull out of our butts as we were.

~~~

Fast forward 30 years. I don't mind the tactical aspects of Pathfinder. But its a different game. Combats are long to calculate and rule check. And there's a lot less room for zany antics. (My class doesn't have that skill/feat/ability so don't even bother. -yawn- I fire another magic missile.)


To directly address the OP's situation, I would say first of all that the amount of accounting/bookkeeping a GM has increases severalfold, since you will also be juggling NPCs and monsters, and you will need to be the arbiter on hazy rule situations. My sense from the OP is that if you aren't happy with Pathfinder's crunchiness as a player, then you will much more unhappy as a GM.

While everything is a compromise, as the GM you bear a disproportionate share of the burden, and you and your players need to decide on a rules system bearing that in mind.

At the same time, I am guessing your players are not so much into the "crunchiness" of Pathfinder per se, but rather enjoy having the numerous class options, spells, and special abilities.

At the same time, the Beginner Box is not an elegant solution for the OP's desire to run Reign of Winter because it is limited to the first five levels. Your players would have no more ability to get more powerful and might sour over that (unless maybe you were to adopt a system like E6). You would need to not mind readjusting all of the encounters from the latter part of Volume 2 forward.

You'll know better than I do what will be the best compromise for your group. I strongly recommend looking at the various iterations of MicroLite20, which is compatible with d20 based adventures and strips down the d20 system much further than the Beginner Box did (think of D&D 3.5 with fewer stats, without feats, and with simplified spells) and can scale up into higher levels. It is a skeleton, and you can pick and choose whatever you want from the Core Rulebook on top of it. To illustrate, "MicroLite20 Purest Essence" adds the Druid, Paladin and other classes to the core 4. This requires getting under the hood, however.

In the end, an AP is a HUGE investment in time and effort on your part, and so whatever you all decide must be acceptable to YOU...


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Apocalypso wrote:

<snip>

When you wanted to do something like hoodwink a guard or an elaborate acrobatic manuever--

the answer was always the GM saying... it's difficult but possible. "What do you say?" (not make a diplomacy role) or "The walls are smooth so it'll be tough to run up and flip down behind him, You'll have to roll better than an 85 on the percentile dice" (We used percentile dice a lot in those days).

The answer wasn't-- you can't because you don't have the improved awesomeness feat, or you have a standard action but not two moves left, or, 30 mins of calculating positions on a grid and if you can get there thru unthreatened spaces, or show me that rule in a book...

For me the bonuses were... combat moved. There were never lulls of looking up rules, or getting out a sliderule to calculate diagonal movement.

And... it encouraged creativity. Players could and did try anything. We still had to *roll,* but the GM had a lot more leeway for deciding what that roll would have to be. And we still talk about some of our most epic successes and *fails* all these years later.

And... because the action was moving, and because you could try hairbrained schemes, everyone was engaged, everyone was riveted. Nobody was on their smartphone or ipad (ok, we didn't have those yet, fair point). Everybody was in the game.

A given for this type of game play, tho-- is there has to be a real trust of the GM's fairness. His decisions may not have been swiss precision from game to game, but they were reasonable odds, and they were fair. And he was just as eager to see what we'd pull out of our butts as we were.

~~~

Fast forward 30 years. I don't mind the tactical aspects of Pathfinder. But its a different game. Combats are long to calculate and rule check. And there's a lot less room for zany antics. (My class doesn't have that skill/feat/ability so don't even bother. -yawn- I fire another magic missile.)

You're touching on an interesting aspect of the current push for more narrative gaming as well as a trend in game development.

Pathfinder (and D&D) have a lot more rules for things that PCs can do. The rules are all set out to be more comprehensive, more codified and regular. This is part of a trend to take the rules more out of the hands of the DMs and into the hands of the players. Truth is, your ability to do cool things as a player in a rules-light (or lighter in the case of AD&D 1e and 2e) depends on your relationship with your DM and his willingness to play along. The experience of the game depended a fair amount on the DM's common sense and competence. More comprehensive rules in the hands of the players insulates them a little from poorer DMs because they are more able to harness the rules for themselves.

A lot of the push for narrative games now seems to fall into that general trend as well. While a good DM and group gives all players plenty of ways to drive events in the game world and do cool, cinematic stuff, what a lot of people want are rules and mechanics for those abilities so they can have them under their own authority and insulate themselves from limited DMs again. I think it's an open question whether more rules for narrative control and cinematic action will feel limiting once its in place like you feel 3e D&D/PF is limiting.


Elamdri wrote:
I guess can someone provide me an example of what they think is a rule in Pathfinder that is holding them back from having a more narrative game? Because I am wondering if perhaps we are meaning two different things.

How about the lack of any sort of control of probability (ala fate points or bennies, etc.). If you're the best (gunslinger | drive | ninja) ever, then failing miserably at your specialty because you rolled a 1 doesn't really fit most people's sense of a reasonable narrative. Star Wars wouldn't be the same if Luke had missed the shot on the Deathstar's thermal exhaust port.

It also isn't any one specific rule, but the volume of rules. More rules slow things down. Looking up exactly how spell XYZ works takes time. Stopping to look up how many size categories difference is required to move through someone's space without an acrobatics check takes time. The more codified the rules, the smaller the list of things you can even attempt without having the appropriate feat/class feature/edge. It's the difference between asking "Can I hit he giant in the eye and temporarily blind him?" and being told "you can try, roll it" or "only if you have feat XYZ." In a sense, narrative options are lost with every subsequent batch of new crunch.


I do like some structure and room for character growth. I can't get into Fate (which I consider very narrative) because it is just too free-form...it seems like it would quickly devolve into a game of trying to convince your GM that some aspect or another is relevant to the situation at hand. Why even have rules or dice if things are going to be that subjective?


Apocalypso wrote:
Elamdri wrote:
I guess can someone provide me an example of what they think is a rule in Pathfinder that is holding them back from having a more narrative game? Because I am wondering if perhaps we are meaning two different things.

I can't speak for the OP here, only my own experience. I played AD&D, and 2nd edition beginning in the 80's, and we had a blast. Very creative, spur of the moment GM and players. -smacks her gums in preparation for storytellin' to the young 'uns-

There were no attacks of opportunity.

Basically, it was either your turn or it wasn't.

There were no skills. (rogues and only rogues had a skillset for things like detecting traps or listening at doors. we called em thieves back in my day.)

And... it encouraged creativity. Players could and did try anything. We still had to *roll,* but the GM had a lot more leeway for deciding what that roll would have to be. And we still talk about some of our most epic successes and *fails* all these years later.

And... because the action was moving, and because you could try hairbrained...

But you are incorrect on Attack of opportunity, they existed and you lost your Dex when it happened because you are showing your back to foe.

They happened when you move past a foe or away from one. They were free attacks called Opportunity Attacks.

3.5 and PF limited them to once/rd (more with combat reflexes) and expanded when you can do them (but weakened them so keep Dex)


Starbuck_II wrote:
Apocalypso wrote:
Elamdri wrote:
I guess can someone provide me an example of what they think is a rule in Pathfinder that is holding them back from having a more narrative game? Because I am wondering if perhaps we are meaning two different things.

I can't speak for the OP here, only my own experience. I played AD&D, and 2nd edition beginning in the 80's, and we had a blast. Very creative, spur of the moment GM and players. -smacks her gums in preparation for storytellin' to the young 'uns-

There were no attacks of opportunity.

Basically, it was either your turn or it wasn't.

There were no skills. (rogues and only rogues had a skillset for things like detecting traps or listening at doors. we called em thieves back in my day.)

And... it encouraged creativity. Players could and did try anything. We still had to *roll,* but the GM had a lot more leeway for deciding what that roll would have to be. And we still talk about some of our most epic successes and *fails* all these years later.

And... because the action was moving, and because you could try hairbrained...

But you are incorrect on Attack of opportunity, they existed and you lost your Dex when it happened because you are showing your back to foe.

They happened when you move past a foe or away from one. They were free attacks called Opportunity Attacks.

3.5 and PF limited them to once/rd (more with combat reflexes) and expanded when you can do them (but weakened them so keep Dex)

Actually, there were no codified attacks of opportunity in 1st or 2nd edition rules. Many DMs (myself included) used them when it made sense, however. Elamdri was wrong about skills, however. In second edition, there were non-weapon proficiencies that were skills that a character could take. 1st edition did not have a skills system.


boldstar wrote:
1st edition did not have a skills system.

Actually it did, they were called "nonweapon proficiencies" and either came out with Unearthed Arcana or the Dungeoneer's & Wilderness Survival Guide (I don't recall which). Unearthed Arcana changed enough of the game that you could have called it version 1.5 at that point if anyone used version numbers back then.

Peet


To me the situation is one of "I have a hammer, and I'm having a hard time using it as a screwdriver. Can somebody help me make it a better screwdriver?" Granted, with enough effort and willingness to overlook areas of failure, almost any game may do any type of gaming, but after a certain point one really has to say "I really would be better off using a screwdriver for this job."

That said, I wouldn't want to use Pathfinder to address a premise through character choices. Nor would I use it to emulate a genre or source material, unless it would be that subset of source materials that agree with the world assumptions that the Pathfinder ruleset enforces. However I find it is perfect for the task of creating optimized characters and running then through scenarios where one tries to win the game. In other words I find the rules of Pathfinder work against narrative and most simulation situations, and are excellent for gamist scenarios.

It's interesting that the earlier editions of D&D were mentioned as being more flexible, since rules can work for or against a given gaming scenario. The advantage of basic D&D is that while the rules may not support a given type of gaming, there are fewer rules to work against it, making it easier to modify in a given direction. The disadvantage is that with so few rules, things outside the area of rules quickly devolve into a "mother may I" power dynamic. And if you get too much out of it's comfort zone one might as well be playing without rules.

The bottom line is that while system isn't the only thing that matters, it does matter. Rather than trying to rig a system to do what you want it may just be easier to find one that helps rather than hinders your goals.

Sovereign Court

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I think launching into unfamiliar territory with an AP is a bad idea. I would probably run a few one shots or modules first. You are going to need to find that common ground with the group. Find out what works for you and them. Your players might be game now to try your tastes but if they think its bad it wont end well. Better to find out if y'all taste is compatible or not than starting a long campaign. My two coppers.


First, completely off topic.

1E did have what are called attacks of opportunity.

1E DMG:pg 70 wrote:

"Breaking Off From Melee:

At such time as any creature decides, it can break off the engagement and flee the melee. To do so, however, allows the opponent a free attack or attack routine. This attack is calculated as if it were a rear attack upon a stunned opponent. When this attack is completed, the retiring/fleeing party may move away at full movement rate, and unless the opponent pursues and is able to move at a higher rate of speed, the melee is ended and the situation becomes one of encounter avoidance."

I'm not sure I ever knew about that back then because it was so well hidden! And that was the main problem of 1E, as I'm finding out, twenty years later! A lot of things were in there but it wasn't codified/organized well, which was a big part of what 2E tried to do.

It was the 1E Survival Guides that introduced Non Weapon Proficiencies, i.e. skills, into 1E with Oriental Adventures making them non optional. 2E then made them optional and in the core book.

Second, and on topic, I think that PF could be used to do this but as has been mentioned, one of the things that 3E did was give more "power" to the players in terms of having some things in their control. A LOT of 1E/2E was DM fiat or "Mother May I?" I knew some people who were going to run a 2E game and I would play in it if I trusted that DM. If not? No way! Again because 3E/4E gives me a bit more control over what my character can do by the rules.

I have actually been thinking about this recently and I think it could be done. However, a player either needs a concept to fall back on so they can say what their character can do as they see it. Without that, they can take feats and skills to back up what they see as their character's abilities. There might still be problems of "Mother May I" or "the feat says I can do *this*" but if the group is on the same page, the problems might be limited and worked out amicably.


I think my response needs some additions.

What I mean by only using the Core rulebook is that nearly everything else after can be made by the core classes, although not as well.

For example, a Magus is basically a fighter/wizard, or more generically a [martial][arcane] class. It could be done with a ranger/sorcerer or barbarian/bard in some ways. The Magus seems to be an old bladesinger class but for any race.

PF did a better job of not "front loading" classes such that you can dip one level into a class and get many of its abilities. However, it did it well enough that it's tough not to stay single classes for the benefits of all of its levels. And so I think the other classes have come about. They are limited but have more abilities than they would if done with core classes.

Going back to core rulebook only, then, allows for the ideas of the other books without getting into the details of it. The only "base" thing not in the core classes is a spontaneous divine caster. It's partially covered by the bard but not full spell list and certainly not abilities.

The tough part in all of this, though, IS the mixing of styles. If one person has a concept of an agile fighter and then is allowed to slide between two people, attacking as they go, that's great! But then the character with Acrobatics should be allowed to do that as well since that's what that skill measures.

Hopefully this helped!


It's easy to go more narratitive and cinematic. You just have to let the players know you will be play loose and fast with the rules system. Sometimes using rules or just going with the flow.

Running the game in this way though can drive a rules lawyer insane. Game systems were there are no rules for situation X leave the rules lawyer with nothing to argue. In pathfinder if you narrate through something that has a rule it makes the rules lawyer squirm. Thing is it's often not that important to roll for everything. As well you can narrate based on the players skills. No need for chance if you can take 10 and 20 to accomplish even when take 10 or 20 technically would be allowed.


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voska66 wrote:

It's easy to go more narratitive and cinematic. You just have to let the players know you will be play loose and fast with the rules system. Sometimes using rules or just going with the flow.

Running the game in this way though can drive a rules lawyer insane. Game systems were there are no rules for situation X leave the rules lawyer with nothing to argue. In pathfinder if you narrate through something that has a rule it makes the rules lawyer squirm. Thing is it's often not that important to roll for everything. As well you can narrate based on the players skills. No need for chance if you can take 10 and 20 to accomplish even when take 10 or 20 technically would be allowed.

It's not just a rules lawyer that's driven mad by playing loose and fast with the rules and being "cinematic" and "narrative" — it's any player who likes knowing how the world works.

If the DM just narrates things, ignoring the rules, the game mechanics, etc., then the events in the game are not predictable. It's just — whatever the DM happens to decide. In other words: if I attempt/perform action X, what happens? Pathfinder gives you the answer. That answer may be of the form "you succeed with X probability, fail with 1-X probability", but it's an answer which you can know.

With a "cinematic", "narrative" game — who knows what will happen! Maybe the DM happened to see a certain motive poster and that got his thoughts going in a certain direction. Maybe he ate a bad pizza and is not inclined to narrate in your favor. Who knows? Anything could affect his narration! You have no way to predict what will happen when your characters do things. Reality dissolves into chaos.

Don't get me wrong, if you like playing narrative/cinematic, that's cool. I'm not here to tell you it's badwrongfun (although, to be sure, Pathfinder's probably not the ideal system for it). I just object to the idea that it's only those pesky, stolid rules lawyers who could possibly ever object.


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In a short, to the point strapped for time format:
Yes. But It depends on the GM and the group.
Sometimes a gaming group tends to push the GM to use certain methods, this happens by accident.
Usually a Gm has an adopted or home-grown style, this is intentional.
Style+Group don't always mix well.

My style: Lots of descriptions and visuals, many attacks made in big sweeping narratives (where rules tend to get swept under the rug, even if it means more/less effective strategy for the gamers).

My Group: "Can I see the battle on a flip mat please? I need it to set up optimal flanking and spell areas".

Style + Group: Sweeping narrative takes massive hits as players tend to bog themselves down with generic words like "I make a full attack and then a 5ft step" or "I cast a fireball".

Sadly, the DM is usually the most imaginative one at the table (comes with the job). A good question to ask a mage to find out if he is imaginative is:
"What does your fireball look like?"
If the reply is "Um.... An explosion?" then he is likely not all that good at imagining up stuff, anyone with a sense for action would at least say "I send a little orb towards them that explodes with a WHOOOSH!".

How to make a campaign imaginative? Find the most rule-crunchy element in your game (that's usually the map) and try eliminating it.
Doing that will probably force the players to stop making boring moves like:
"I move oveeeerrr.... Here, and hit the ork with a sword with a standard action, oh and I use power attack."
And turn them into moves like:
"I sweep around the battlefield and smash the orks face with everything I've got!"

If you think you need the map then try imposing a narrative reward rule, such as:
Hint that you may give hero points to players who take care to describe their moves in a fun appropriate manner.
Make sure to give extra XP for roleplay encounters where the players actually roleplay, not just roll dice and hope for luck.
Give descriptions for anything and everything of interest to the party (and ad in a few non-interest descriptions, to throw them off balance). If the players later remember some of the details, make sure they get some fleetign reward for it.


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tsuruki wrote:

How to make a campaign imaginative? Find the most rule-crunchy element in your game (that's usually the map) and try eliminating it.

Doing that will probably force the players to stop making boring moves like:
"I move oveeeerrr.... Here, and hit the ork with a sword with a standard action, oh and I use power attack."
And turn them into moves like:
"I sweep around the battlefield and smash the orks face with everything I've got!"

But that's not actually any more imaginative. That's just as plain-vanilla as the second thing, except less specific (which for some reason is supposed to be better?). Your character is still taking the exact same action.

I've seen players who take the latter approach. The problem is that if you actually want to determine the results of the character's actions, using the game rules, you have to then translate the player's flowery description into actual game-mechanical terms. Sometimes it's like pulling teeth:

Player: I do <elaborate, idiosyncratic description of action>!
DM: ... uh... so... what does that actually... mean.
Player, sighing: I cast spell so-and-so on targets this-and-such.
DM: <now knowing what's going on, rolls some dice> Ok, the results are blah.

I guess the "cinematic", flowery-description style is great if you don't actually want to use the game rules to determine what the results of actions are. But then, why are you playing Pathfinder?


Jon Goranson wrote:

First, completely off topic.

1E did have what are called attacks of opportunity.

1E DMG:pg 70 wrote:

"Breaking Off From Melee:

At such time as any creature decides, it can break off the engagement and flee the melee. To do so, however, allows the opponent a free attack or attack routine. This attack is calculated as if it were a rear attack upon a stunned opponent. When this attack is completed, the retiring/fleeing party may move away at full movement rate, and unless the opponent pursues and is able to move at a higher rate of speed, the melee is ended and the situation becomes one of encounter avoidance."

I'm not sure I ever knew about that back then because it was so well hidden! And that was the main problem of 1E, as I'm finding out, twenty years later! A lot of things were in there but it wasn't codified/organized well, which was a big part of what 2E tried to do.

It was the 1E Survival Guides that introduced Non Weapon Proficiencies, i.e. skills, into 1E with Oriental Adventures making them non optional. 2E then made them optional and in the core book.

Second, and on topic, I think that PF could be used to do this but as has been mentioned, one of the things that 3E did was give more "power" to the players in terms of having some things in their control. A LOT of 1E/2E was DM fiat or "Mother May I?" I knew some people who were going to run a 2E game and I would play in it if I trusted that DM. If not? No way! Again because 3E/4E gives me a bit more control over what my character can do by the rules.

I have actually been thinking about this recently and I think it could be done. However, a player either needs a concept to fall back on so they can say what their character can do as they see it. Without that, they can take feats and skills to back up what they see as their character's abilities. There might still be problems of "Mother May I" or "the feat says I can do *this*" but if the group is on the same page, the problems might be limited and...

Huh... My bad. Played 1ed from 1978 on and never saw that. Good catch on that. As to skills, I do remember that now.


When I DM, I do my best to stick within the rules while also allowing for cinematic/narrative. For example:

· In most circumstances, I don't roll critical failures for players. A roll of a 1 is simply an automatic failure. However, three rounds of a 1 in a row might change that. Even though I believe that PCs should be heroic/above average/etc, even heroes are prone to screw ups.

· If a player wants to attempt a skill that they are likely to fail at because they min/max'd, I let them. Depending on what they say, sometimes I don't require a roll at all. Other times, depending on the NPC, I do, but modify it appropriately. Even someone who has a low CHA score can move someone with their words. I try not to get stuck on the idea that a low CHA/INT/WIS paints those characters into a corner.

· I try to narrate battles based on the results of the entire battle. I don't always remember to do it, but a nice cinematic summary, especially at the end of an intense round, is a great way to spice things up.

So what...Player B tells me that he attacks using a full round action, hits for 14 points, and then 5 foot steps. I tell him that as he slides to the right, he ducks under the nasty orc's wild swing (it missed that round) that left itself open for a nasty slice of Player B's longsword. The 14 points causes the orc to wobble, obviously stunned by the blow as he grabs his side and bellows at the player. Maybe I even give the orc a -2 on his next attack because he's close to death.

If a player is caught up in the bland description, it's my job as a DM to spice things up. It's my job to narrate and make the battle come to life. Sure, if a player steps up and adds some detail, great, but it's not something that I should expect.

I'd rather have a group full of players that say "I attack and hit for 10 points of damage" over a single player that says "I want to shoot an arrow at the giant's eye to blind it". Well, sure you do, but I'm not going to let that happen just because you want to it. Sure, I do want PCs to feel heroic, but not super heroic. There's a line that I, as DM, have to maintain. Now, declare that and roll a critical and I just might very well let it happen.

· I ask players for a bit of background on their character. One paragraph, three pages, whatever. Give me something and I'll incorporate it into the story. The more they flesh out their character, the more I have to go on and more I can weave them into the story to make them more invested. At the same time, it's my job to give NPCs personalities. I might not give them specific voices, but I do everything I can to make the important ones as real of an interaction as I can. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed.

IMHO, if someone says that Pathfinder isn't narrative or cinematic enough isn't trying hard enough. The more you know the rules, the more you will know how to bend them. The more you know how to bend the rules, the more "cinematic" and "narrative" you can be within the rule set. It's there, you just have to work at it.

Shadow Lodge

Can Pathfinder be played in a narrative style? Certainly.

Will you run into players that are expecting a rules-lawyer-y charop metagame that won't like it? Absolutely. Looking at the posts above as a sample, it's probably 50% of the PF player base.

You'll need to discover whether or not that type of player is common in your group.

You'll also want to decide what kinds of things you're going to allow via creativity and what things you'll only allow due to feats and class features. It could get sticky if you're not consistent about it.


bugleyman wrote:
Elamdri wrote:
I guess can someone provide me an example of what they think is a rule in Pathfinder that is holding them back from having a more narrative game? Because I am wondering if perhaps we are meaning two different things.

How about the lack of any sort of control of probability (ala fate points or bennies, etc.). If you're the best (gunslinger | drive | ninja) ever, then failing miserably at your specialty because you rolled a 1 doesn't really fit most people's sense of a reasonable narrative. Star Wars wouldn't be the same if Luke had missed the shot on the Deathstar's thermal exhaust port.

It also isn't any one specific rule, but the volume of rules. More rules slow things down. Looking up exactly how spell XYZ works takes time. Stopping to look up how many size categories difference is required to move through someone's space without an acrobatics check takes time. The more codified the rules, the smaller the list of things you can even attempt without having the appropriate feat/class feature/edge. It's the difference between asking "Can I hit he giant in the eye and temporarily blind him?" and being told "you can try, roll it" or "only if you have feat XYZ." In a sense, narrative options are lost with every subsequent batch of new crunch.

Actually, I've found that my Pathfinder games run much faster than the FATE games I play. Everyone in the FATE game takes forever, trying to come up with complications that fit aspects in the situation. Honestly, we spend more time trying to figure those out than we do actually playing the game. It's why I prefer Savage Worlds and Pathfinder to FATE. Although perhaps it is more due to the GM's inexperience than the system itself, but it can be frustrating when figuring out what aspect fits using a fate point keeps getting in the way of actually doing anything.

As for narrative run games in Pathfinder, I haven't had an issue with it. Especially for thinks like stunts and such in combat. Usually I tie those to either skills or combat maneuvers, that way it rewards those that train in said skills. If someone wants to swing on a chandelier, they can with Acrobatics and the guy that trained Acrobatics should be better at it than the guy that didn't. I don't let the rules get in the way. I simply use them to let players (and NPCs) do cool things.


Neongelion wrote:
Heh, I've tried very hard to get people at my college into games like FATE Core or Savage Worlds, ie less on the rules, more on the action/narrative, but it seems everyone in the state of Rhode Island will either play Pathfinder or D&D 4th edition, with a minority playing Exalted or World of Darkness with a sprinkling of Shadowrun. That's not necessarily a bad thing---those games are the most popular on the market, after all---but man, sometimes I feel like I'm attacking entrenched WWI soldiers with a toothbrush.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. You're unlikely to find a workable compromise that involves the least crunch tolerant person in the group behind the GM's screen. I suggest forum roleplaying. These tend, by necessity, to be extremely rules light or even entirely rules free.


Another old duffer here who played the early versions of the game.

The hobby is called ROLE playing not ROLL playing or RULE playing for a reason. Games however, come with an expectation, and one of the expectations of Pathfinder is the depth of the rules (and rules on rules, etc as someone previously said).

My view is that you would be better off playing a different system (like an early version of d&d or some of the other suggestions given) as this would come with less baggage and allow you a lot more scope for what you want to achieve. There almost certainly will be players who will want the tactical detail if you say that they are playing Pathfinder.

The other alternative is to greatly develop and enhance the pc character, background, story and non-combat elements, but you may also want to look at the social skill rules as, contrary to the combat rules, they are overly simplistic.

Good luck, have fun

G


Elamdri wrote:
I guess can someone provide me an example of what they think is a rule in Pathfinder that is holding them back from having a more narrative game? Because I am wondering if perhaps we are meaning two different things.

Just curious, have you played a game like FATE? or...

Burning Wheel
Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple
Apocalypse World
Dread
Trail of Cthulhu
Don't Rest Your Head
or something similar?

I agree with you, you can pretty much play any game using any system. Some work better than others, and a couple will have a tendency to break down, but by and large enough effort and skill on the GM's part the game is achieved.

That said, Spirit of the Century is a much easier game to mimic the Indiana Jones movie style than it would be with Harnmaster. A truly dedicated GM could probably do it with Harnmaster, but they're fighting an uphill battle.

On the other hand, Harnmaster would lend itself fairly naturally to the gritty realism of A Game of Thrones.

The rules within a RPG are a toolkit. If your toolkit doesn't have the exact right tool, you can grab something else and with additional effort, probably get it to work, but a different toolkit with more appropriate tools might do the job easier.

That said, system mastery on the GM's part goes a long ways in utilizing a toolkit. A GM who is an expert at a game can more easily modify it to suit different play styles.


Those who are remembering 2nd Edition without skills are failing to remember Major and Minor Skills. They were not as prevalent but they were there.

There are few things going on here.

Earlier editions did not have as many rules for combat maneuvers and such. After years of tables adjudicating this on a case by case basis designers (and players) wanted a more standardized system. This is one of the major points of 3.x. However because the rules handle the action. Narration is optional. The example of sliding through the giants legs and striking from behind listed earlier is handled by the rules, "I use acrobatics to avoid AOO and position myself here." The rules handle it however it is not described cinematically.

If you want to increase cinematic and narrative play just do it. It does not break the rules. Its about how you talk about how the rules work.

Even with the new rules there are still times people want to try something. If it is reasonable let them try. Judge on the fly how it should work and let it happen.

The biggest thing to do is to encourage narration and cinematic action. Make locations dynamic and epic. Narrate monster and NPC action with flare, use the environment. Integrate skill checks into actions as appropriate.

Alternatively you can use Action Points. Let them be for doing cool things, or out of the ordinary actions. Use them as a reward for people stepping up and pulling off cinematic actions.

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