Increasing System Mastery


Grand Lodge

Tl;Dr~Looking for ways to increase my system mastery. I'd appreciate anyone posting ways they've found help increase their mastery of the game.

Now on to the story. I've been playing Pathfinder, with mostly PFS but also a bit of home game and one shot experience. I have basically no table top experience pre-April 2013. I'm not exactly a helpless min-maxer, as I haven't applied some of the very powerful ideas I've seen on this forum or added to in PFS for sake of social contract and making sure I don't take over tables, but I do really enjoy the beauty of the Pathfinder system and would like to know what I can do within the rules, especially because I feel like the more I know, the more concepts I can enable well within the rules.

Previously to enable my mastery of a game I play frequently, Magic: the Gathering, I used the random card function on Gatherer approximately 100,000 times in order to increase my knowledge of the game, so if there is some sort of way to easily browse random parses of Pathfinder knowledge, that would be cool. I've browsed the basic sections of the d20pfsrd a bit, but was interested in seeing if there was a better or more visually pleasant way of browsing.

And if there are other ways people can recommend to improve system mastery, I'd be interested in those too. Thanks for taking the time to read this, and thank you in advance for those who help me out.

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Make characters. What i mean is, come up with a concept, and then try to make it. Look through books, see what options make sense. You will have to dig manually (random isnt going to work here), but you can also use the forums to your advantage. Hey I want to make a character that does x, what do you suggest? You will get a bunch of suggestions, look them up on the srd, think about what works with what, maybe try it out and make the character. Then when you are dont put it aside to use in the future (either as an npc or a future pc). Rinse and repeat. The more you do this the more your knowledge of the most complex part of the game (options for characters) will grow. And other people suggestions will be the 'random' push that lets you explore new options without going through everything page by page.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

My experience is that you don't really know a rule until you need to. You can read random rules and feats and spells all you want, but at least for me, a different part of my brain triggers when I go to use the knowledge.

So one way to increase your system mastery is to play a lot of different builds. The best way to do that is to GM - running a game means you'll have to play a variety of character types. Building and running NPCs will dramatically help you see how all the parts fit together.

If you want an exercise, pick a random feat or class feature and try to build a character that revolves around that choice. Especially if it is a "poor" or unintuitive choice.

Really the best way to build mastery is to play and run games. Also try some systems that are not Pathfinder; knowing at least the basics of some other systems can help you think outside the box.

Reading the "common wisdom" of the boards can both help and be a trap - a lot of the posters here have a lot of good knowledge; however, there is also a lot of theorycraft that really never sees actual play.

+1 to ryric. After a year of bumbling through a character about once/week, circumstances conspired such that I was thrust wildly unprepared into GM shoes. It was basically the best thing ever for my system mastery. Sure, I made some mistakes, I once added a ridiculous amount of bite attacks to a monster using natural attacks because it had a high BAB. But I got a lot of things right too, I learned a lot. I learned spells, grapple rules, I learned why you don't allow players to use psionics in 3.5. I also met my future wife during that game -true story.

Moral is; GM, good things will happen.

Dark Archive

You could run gladiator matches for other players or for teams where you control both sides. I think teams would be much more complecated but also much closer to how the game should be.played as it is.meant to be about a group working together, not solo play. Also throw in some.monsters every now and again instead of only other PC style characters.

+1 to awp832
Nothing will ramp up your mastery like GM'ing, it can definitely be like jumping into the deep end but worth it.

Yup. The best place to push system mastery is at the actual table. Play a little bit of everything. And when you think you've tried it all, GMing will put you to the real test.

Shadow Lodge

Another + for the GMing. I've learned quite a bit from just the few times I've GMed the last month and a half. Seeing a PC in your party kill the BBEG is way different perspective than having Your BBEG destroyed in 1 shot.

I'll +1 kolokotroni. GM-ing may be the best option, but unless you take the time to get through some builds/character concepts, you wont gain much knowledge.

A few GMs I know hate NPCs because of the complication of creating them, and stick to monster & such.

I'll be starting to GM my first game next month, and I've already got a stable of several dozen NPCs at all levels. Because I took the time to build them. Whithout knowledge of the system first, no mastery can be attained. You can gain that knowledge at a table, but it's much sparser.

As for "getting a chance to try stuff" that is a luxury few of us can afford. I try to in PFS, but that forces me to play pre-gens and not my mid-level theoretical builds.

Play characters other people make. One of the things we used to do was have someone else at the character make your character so you came into it cold, if you make the character you're likely to only pick things you really understand, if you play a character someone else generated there's a good chance it has setups and combo's you don't normally use. A slightly easier to pull off version of this is to control someone else's character in combat, do your own role playing but when it comes to fighting play switch characters with someone for a couple of sessions. It's handy for keeping absent characters in the game or just for getting to learn what the other people at the table are working with.

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

Do some GMing that involves NPCs that you have to play. Lately, the only way I've been able to play PF with my wife is do do our own campaign with just the two of us - so I had to jump into the GM role. It really does force you to struggle through knowing a lot of the rules, and doing it while needing to play some NPCs really beats it into your head what the PCs are dealing with.

My wife is playing a druid with an animal companion, and I realized that establishing how autonomous I was willing to let her bear be was very important, but difficult to nail down. All the party members have different degrees of dark/low-light/normal vision. They carry one torch into a dark dungeon... uggh. Stuff like that. Seems simple when I say it, but different when you have to decide and keep track, but keep it fun at the same time.

It also helps you be easier on other GMs when you're a player. You'll know what they're dealing with and take it in stride.

If you can't GM, look at NPCs/enemy's stat blocks and tactics, and theorize about how they may start a battle. Even low-level modules will have things like a rogue/sorcerer that will use obscuring mist or other battlefield altering effects. This really makes you become familiar with common spells and the rules that go with them. A really good example is knowing how things go down when someone is blinded or there is magical darkness.

Also - I try to skim through the Rules and Advice sections on the boards here and read through whatever looks relevant. Often I find things that make me read up on rules prior to a session and I'm always glad I did.

RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16

Reading random Advice/Rules Question topics may be an analogue to looking up random MTG cards.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

watch the forums, too (and try to participate)...

when someone posts a request for build advice:
- really think about how to accomplish what they're looking for,
- look up traits, feats, archetypes, and prestige classes to suit that build (those are your 'random cards')
- consider how those traits, feats, etc. work together (do they both require the same action preventing them from working at the same time? or, is there some extra benefit that makes them work even better together?)
- post your advice/build
- read what other people suggest and evaluate (privately, if you do it publicly you might across as an arrogant jerk) whether its better or worse than your suggestion (and why)
- honestly consider any mistakes or shortcomings that people point out in your advice/comments

Raymond is right, we call it arena. we build a concept we want to try say 4 or 5 of us. We sit down at the tabel and roll off the winner runs the first monster CR 1 we are all 1st level. We then keep going up a CR with the next player running the next CR we do this until we all die. No rest between fights. When we die we level up and rinse repeat. This will take a long time to go through the levels the more effective the builds are. This lets you run the monsters and your character and learn a lot fast. DM'in is not a bad way but you have so much on your plate you miss stuff. I was playing with a 4star gm the other night and another player was also a 4 star gm and the player gm was multiplying energy damage from his bow on a crit so take that for what you will. Now I'm sure I don't know all the rules, but also when I see optimization on here its usually nothing i haven't done myself takes a while though so good luck.

Grand Lodge

Thanks for all the advice guys. Unfortunately I only get to play Pathfinder twice a week at the moment, once at PFS where I GM fairly actively and once in a home game I am currently playing in. In the eventual next home game we run I will try to GM, but in the mean time I think I will try building characters. Is there any merit to building custom monsters as well?

I've been experimenting with custom monsters; I dont know how much value it has, since it is VERY hard to create something, much less something balanced/interesting. Though it might be worth statting some things out, merely to discover "Well, it looks like this template is a lot stringer than I though it was"... and more. Maybe some more experienced monster creators can weigh in.

Playing pathfinder solo helps increase mastery. Get a journal notebook, story cubes and a system like game master emulator.

System mastery is only a part of it. A significant portion of the game is social. This is harder to master. Magic the Gathering is strictly competitive, RPGs are cooperative.

Daw wrote:
System mastery is only a part of it. A significant portion of the game is social. This is harder to master. Magic the Gathering is strictly competitive, RPGs are cooperative.

True that social element is lacking in solo, yet there is something so therapeutic and rewarding from solo pf that is not present in the social game.

Additionally, the beauty of solo is that you need only yourself and motivation to get a game going. Its also a great way to world build and test many aspects of the system that otherwise would not get play.

ryric wrote:
Reading the "common wisdom" of the boards can both help and be a trap - a lot of the posters here have a lot of good knowledge; however, there is also a lot of theorycraft that really never sees actual play.

Going by "common wisdom" is most certainly a trap.

Researching rules to challenge/assert any given position is not. It does not matter if you are right or wrong. Simply making the effort to research the rules for any given dispute is going to increase your knowledge of the rules and leave you better prepared for the next dispute.

For tactics/strategy: expand your point of view. Tabletop wargames, chess, poker, game theory. The skills required to effectively use what is already written on your character sheet are not game specific and can be applied to real life.

Daw wrote:
System mastery is only a part of it. A significant portion of the game is social. This is harder to master. Magic the Gathering is strictly competitive, RPGs are cooperative.

MtG requires long term planning, the mental flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing circumstances, resource management, creativity.

All are skills that translate to Pathfinder.

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Once upon a time, I thought System Mastery was a Wizard archetype.

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