RP alternative to Pathfinder


Advice

Grand Lodge

I'm trying to find an alternative to PF that isn't so wargamy and emphasizes more role-play. My group and I are finding PF rules to be too grindy for our tastes and, since I'm going to be running the more gothic-horror themed Carrion Crown, I'm wondering if there's a good atmospheric alternative. We've been discussing the Savage Worlds and FATE system and that's about it.

Any other suggestions?


Savage Worlds would be my first goto,

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Dungeon World gives you xp for setting and achieving goals and playing to your character.


Are we talking high fantasy using simpler rules than Pathfinder rules? D&D 5e seems like the obvious choice but maybe I have the wrong assumptions in mind.


I'll throw Shadow of the Demonlord out there as a less rules heavy alternative (think 65% DnD and 35% Warhammer fantasy). I also find it easier to customize the rules there are (primarily since there arent so many) and its also pretty easy learn since its closely related to DnD.

Silver Crusade

Be forewarned, a lot of book 3, book 4, potentially book 5, and all of book 6 are full of combat slog. When I ran that AP, I also tried to focus more on the roleplay elements; true, it could have been the PF system that failed me, but I think that the books are just written in a way that implies a fairly heavy handed, combat oriented approach that chafes with a more subtle, atmospheric game. The only two books that really worked as I had hoped were the first two.

In any case, I'd recommend Dungeon world and D&D 5th Edition as well, but it also depends on how much you want to rewrite preexisting material.


It would require a lot more rewriting than some of the others, but I think Green Ronin's Fantasy Age is a great fantasy game that isn't too rules-crunchy.


Savage Worlds or 5th ed D&D are both good for rules-lite. But that doesn't necessarily mean you'll get more RP from a given adventure path.


I second fantasy age and D&D 5ed


Totally different approach, fitting for gothic-horror: World of Darkness game series, mostly likely the base book plus Mages, not the extensions for vampires, werewolves.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
AldantheRighteous wrote:

I'm trying to find an alternative to PF that isn't so wargamy and emphasizes more role-play. My group and I are finding PF rules to be too grindy for our tastes and, since I'm going to be running the more gothic-horror themed Carrion Crown, I'm wondering if there's a good atmospheric alternative. We've been discussing the Savage Worlds and FATE system and that's about it.

Any other suggestions?

World of Darkness, probably Vampire the Dark Ages if you want to keep the "fantasy" feeling, or even better DA: Inquisitor...

I would have suggested Ars Magica but the game is pretty heavy on rules as well.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd ed) is also a great alternative too.


World of Darkness definitely has the right atmosphere and the rules are really simple making conversion easy.

D&D 5e is probably best if you want something similar to Pathfinder, but simpler with minimal conversion required.

Pendragon could be an interesting option, it has roleplaying elements baked into the mechanics but the rules are simpler than Pathfinder.

GURPS is my favourite system and they have recently published the Dungeon Fantasy boxed set. GURPS also has mechanics that encourage roleplaying but the rules are complicated so you would need to weigh up whether you want to spend the time learning the rules and making the conversions.

I recently bought the FATE core book and it looks really easy, although I haven't run a game using it yet.

Dark Archive

The dragon age RP does 5e better than 5e and they have put out a generic system called Fantasy Age

5e turns everything into a hitpoint slog and class features purposefully dont synergize. If you want to play stand and hit the monster choose 5e. If you want functioning skills choose any other system.

Standard plug for Gurps/Fate if you already know the system.

I would go for Fantasty Age myself. The skill system has actual rules. Class ability can work together. The stunt system heavily rewards roleplay even in combat. You can easily make a competent character and it is setting agnostic. If you would like to maintain the sense of danger for carrion crown this is your best pathfinder alternative. You truly don't need magic gear for this system to function.

5th edition can't do anything except hit point slogs and scaling for the saves is moronic. as in 50/50 on a save you are proficient in at high level. The monster special snowflake rules make the whole thing worse. The advantage disadvantage system is terrible. Don;t get me wrong great idea. It would have been better if they had let it cancel out at a 1 to 1 ratio though. As it stands if an enemy has one buff that provides advantage and literally every other condition in the game giving disadvantage it doesnt matter they hit just like normal.

Bounded accuracy means the best combatant is hordes of archer at every level. Summoning spells have been moved to DM chooses what is summoned for no good reason. Caster martial disparity for noncombat plot elements is worse because rituals now make utility spells freely available with no investment. There is a huge dearth of usable material for the system online. As in the srd is barebones to the point of being unusable. as in you have one background. If you want to play the system in any way you have to go buy all the books and that is the only way to view the material.

Also how numerous skills work is split into the dmg and players handbook. If you want to know how to search for trap you need the dmg. Which is great since obviously no rogue will ever look for traps.

So option 1 Fantasy Age
Rules Lite
Stunt System promotes roleplay all day
Class features work together
Lower scaling for attacks

Option 2 5E
no srd
skills system schizophrenic
Class features purposefully dont work together.
Bounded accuracy makes joke of combat.
advantage disadvantage system
Terrible save system

Both
move while attacking
Not pathfinder
originally built for gridless system
Plenty of homebrew out for both.

If you and all your players have the books(players need all 3 core books) for 5e already its vaguely similar to playing dnd.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Society Subscriber

Exalted has the best world/backstory, and is definitely the most fun for the role-playing aspect. When you actually do get to combat, though, you better have a LOT of d10s.

The best thing about Exalted is that you get to make the EXACT character that you want to make, right from the start. He or she is not some baby level 1 version of the character you want to play. That’s what makes the game so perfect for role-playing. The game isn’t about grinding XP and gear, since you started the game able to overthrow a whole city by yourself, and you already have that world-breaking weapon that you would be drooling over for 20 levels or more in Pathfinder/D&D.

If you’ve never checked out Exalted before, it is amazing. Second Edition is more or less complete, with lots and lots of books available. Third edition is more elegant, and looks very promising, but so far there is only the core book. Onyx Path is speeding up the process now, but it will still be a couple of years before there are enough third editio books to really get a game rolling.


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Fallacy.

A system cannot make you roleplay, a system cannot prevent you from roleplaying. It is ENTIRELY on the group how it operates on that front. If you're finding PF 'short on roleplaying', it's not the system, it's you.

That said, the HERO System is ideal because it literally lets you do anything. Any character, any genre, any setting, anything. And you only ever NEED one book.


AldantheRighteous wrote:

I'm trying to find an alternative to PF that isn't so wargamy and emphasizes more role-play. My group and I are finding PF rules to be too grindy for our tastes and, since I'm going to be running the more gothic-horror themed Carrion Crown, I'm wondering if there's a good atmospheric alternative. We've been discussing the Savage Worlds and FATE system and that's about it.

Any other suggestions?

Many of these rules lite systems just have less rules so you are forced to make up more stuff for roleplay situations.

You might as well just MOD PF to be rules lite. Handwave a bunch of stuff. Invalidate build decisions by giving more weight to the number that shows up on the dice not what you could add to it. Ignore monster stats and just do the combat sections by feel.

Then for your roleplay part, either use the rules or just wing it.

The Exchange

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

13th Age might be what you're looking for. It'S similar enough that you don't have to learn a whole new System like with Fate, has a much more narrative approach and is build with gridless fight in mind.


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Zhayne wrote:

Fallacy.

A system cannot make you roleplay, a system cannot prevent you from roleplaying. It is ENTIRELY on the group how it operates on that front. If you're finding PF 'short on roleplaying', it's not the system, it's you.

That said, the HERO System is ideal because it literally lets you do anything. Any character, any genre, any setting, anything. And you only ever NEED one book.

Nobody is talking absolutes here, some systems encourage RP more than others. Pathfinder is short on RP for some groups because the rules are too crunchy and combat takes too long to resolve. The opening post is asking for other system options, declaring that the problem is the group not the system is unhelpful.


Rogar Valertis wrote:
AldantheRighteous wrote:

I'm trying to find an alternative to PF that isn't so wargamy and emphasizes more role-play. My group and I are finding PF rules to be too grindy for our tastes and, since I'm going to be running the more gothic-horror themed Carrion Crown, I'm wondering if there's a good atmospheric alternative. We've been discussing the Savage Worlds and FATE system and that's about it.

Any other suggestions?

World of Darkness, probably Vampire the Dark Ages if you want to keep the "fantasy" feeling, or even better DA: Inquisitor...

I would have suggested Ars Magica but the game is pretty heavy on rules as well.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd ed) is also a great alternative too.

Wait Warhammer for less combat? I've never played the RP warhammer but that surprises me.


You can go rules light and play an old school emulator or the original D&D basic set. It has combat rules and spells, so it can be just as non-roleplay-ey.

Pathfinder, just core book, just using rules you want is a pretty sweet spot for a gaming system. I've played since '80 and have seen all the versions. On the surface you might think it's grindy, but it's really just about giving your trope characters lots of choices to do whatever they want. Beyond that, it doesn't have many more rules than Basic did. It just spells out more scenarios in detail. Use them or leave them.

How much roleplay is in your game is going to depend on how you the DM set it up and how your players want to interact in it. No rules system is going to change that dynamic, so pick one that has fun options. For me that's Pathfinder.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
Wait Warhammer for less combat? I've never played the RP warhammer but that surprises me.

Warhammer 2e combat can kill you with a couple of bad rolls. If a handful of competent warriors show up you run.


avr wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Wait Warhammer for less combat? I've never played the RP warhammer but that surprises me.
Warhammer 2e combat can kill you with a couple of bad rolls. If a handful of competent warriors show up you run.

went for realism eh?


Combat in WHFRP is very grindy, but there is usually an awful lot less of it. As mentioned above you would need to ditch a lot of combat for CC.

The other issue with WHFRP is very slow recovery. You can literally have your character in bed for ten days doing nothing but getting better. Very realistic but bloody awful for a game.

Its 'classes' etc. would suit the setting very well though.

So it could be a good plan; it will not guarantee any better or more RP though. Thats down to the people playing, not the game they are playing.


Vidmaster7 wrote:
avr wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Wait Warhammer for less combat? I've never played the RP warhammer but that surprises me.
Warhammer 2e combat can kill you with a couple of bad rolls. If a handful of competent warriors show up you run.
went for realism eh?

More like went for occasional, crippling gore. You can spend several rounds slowly chipping away at each other and then kablooie, or the slow chipping down can work with relative safety.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber
Vidmaster7 wrote:
Rogar Valertis wrote:
AldantheRighteous wrote:

I'm trying to find an alternative to PF that isn't so wargamy and emphasizes more role-play. My group and I are finding PF rules to be too grindy for our tastes and, since I'm going to be running the more gothic-horror themed Carrion Crown, I'm wondering if there's a good atmospheric alternative. We've been discussing the Savage Worlds and FATE system and that's about it.

Any other suggestions?

World of Darkness, probably Vampire the Dark Ages if you want to keep the "fantasy" feeling, or even better DA: Inquisitor...

I would have suggested Ars Magica but the game is pretty heavy on rules as well.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd ed) is also a great alternative too.

Wait Warhammer for less combat? I've never played the RP warhammer but that surprises me.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. And yes, it has less emphasis on fighting than D&D games. 1st edition stuff brings back memories of the game roots as a "Renassaince meets punk era" game and rulewise I find it a bit dated. 2nd edition downplayed those early influences a bit but had rules that were up to par with the times (Green Ronin did the upgrade so to speak).

One classic example of how WHFRP works is the classic "The Enemy Within" saga. You can find it for free online revisited and improved (cause the last 2 books "Something Rotten in Kislev" and "Empire in Flames" were not up to par with the previous books in terms of quality, the revisited unoffical and improved version "Empire in Flames" is called "Empire at War" and it also works as a bridge between first and second edition of the game, check ity out, you won't be disappointed)


Exalted is more player focused and if your players are really creative it rewards that creativity.

In PF or D&D a player wants to give a speech to sway the king's mind about something. They roll dice even if they don't make any actual speech. If the player does give a speech there are no bonuses in the system to give the player for their extra work.

Exalted has guide lines for you as the GM to use when a player really gives you lots of detail about their actions. So if they do give a couple minute speech, you can give them more dice to roll for their roll.

You do need a lot of D10s as it is the only dice the game uses.


Exalted is a nice system, but it's all kinds of wrong for gothic horror given the sorts of stuff it's designed to play around with.

Warhammer Fantasy is interesting. It runs horror themes pretty well, mostly by being slower and more deadly than a game like PF. The speed can be an issue, though, but you can handwave a lot of the timescale stuff pretty easily.

Dungeon World is also pretty cool.

5e I'd stay away from. It presents itself as rules light and less combat oriented, but in practice it trims away from both ends and mostly leaves things bland. Instead of promoting roleplaying directly it just forces it by stripping away pretty much all sense of mechanical variety, if that makes sense.

FATE is interesting too. It's pretty much on the opposite end of Pathfinder, with only a scant handful of rules. It tries to incorporate roleplaying concepts right into chargen too, so it's worth a shot. On the downside I'd say there's a lot more pressure on the GM here, as the lack of guidelines can lead to balance issues and if a player isn't invested the system doesn't really have anything else to hold one's attention.

Boomerang Nebula wrote:
The opening post is asking for other system options, declaring that the problem is the group not the system is unhelpful.

Whether or not you think it's helpful it's an important point to make. The fact is regardless of what system you play how much you get out of it is a matter of how much you put in. You can play beer and pretzels FATE and you can use PF as a platform for the most artful of storytelling.

No system is going to magically make your RP better if you're struggling with your group.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
swoosh wrote:


Whether or not you think it's helpful it's an important point to make. The fact is regardless of what system you play how much you get out of it is a matter of how much you put in. You can play beer and pretzels FATE and you can use PF as a platform for the most artful of storytelling.

No system is going to magically make your RP better if you're struggling with your group.

Yeah, but Boomerang Nebula reacted to a post that said that the OP's question were completely wrong. Which is simply not true, because every systems lends to a certain playstyle, so to look for a system that fits your playstyle best is a perfectly valid approach.


FATE has few rules, true. However, they really are guidelines, meaning there is little hard data on how a game should be run. In fact, the first thing you need to do is decide WHICH rules you use for a game. And converting something like Carrion Crown... euh. Let's just start with there being no sensible options for choosing your race. The best one was having the Elf skill.

TL;DR: FATE is a brilliant game, but it's not easy to run or convert to.


D and D 5th edition. You have to try to lose fights which I have seen help groups. Also the books are written to encourage RP

Mutants and Masterminds. Very very versatile system capable of any setting, story, character, etc. Definitely has combat setup to enhance storytelling rather than interupt. I've played 2nd e which was fun but it had issues. I've heard 3rd e fixed those issues but can't confirm

Dark Archive

Gonna concur with the Savage World crew and say that it's the best RPG I've come across, and I've come across many.

I'd say that Fate is a bit -too- rules lite, and doesn't have enough gravity to hold its own molecules together. Dungeon World is slightly heavier, and has classes for just about anything you feel like playing, including vampires and giants, but some have problems with it's XP-for-fail system. (My advice on that is to not give XP for 6- and just double the end-of-session XP. Then no one falls behind, but that's just me.)


I've not played Savage World, what is it like?


WormysQueue wrote:
swoosh wrote:


Whether or not you think it's helpful it's an important point to make. The fact is regardless of what system you play how much you get out of it is a matter of how much you put in. You can play beer and pretzels FATE and you can use PF as a platform for the most artful of storytelling.

No system is going to magically make your RP better if you're struggling with your group.

Yeah, but Boomerang Nebula reacted to a post that said that the OP's question were completely wrong. Which is simply not true, because every systems lends to a certain playstyle, so to look for a system that fits your playstyle best is a perfectly valid approach.

Exactly, well said!


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Savage Worlds is the complete opposite of PF in terms of crunch. Abilities are defined by dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12), and the TN for success in many many situations is always a 4, so the higher your die, the better the chance for success you have. And modifiers are (almost) always added to your die roll, never the TN. And, unlike in PF, a +1 or +2 (or -1 or -2) to your die roll is *VERY* significant!

There's the usual 5 Abilities (Charisma is handled separately), and a minimum number of skills that cover most social and combat/action situations.

Also, instead of Hit Points, you take Wounds - more than 3 Wounds and you reach Incapacitation, which is the *chance* of death.

What I really like about SW is their magic system - there's only 50 spells *total* to choose from, but many of their "Powers" have multiple spells rolled into one. For example, Light/Obscure covers light, darkness, fog, etc. And Boost/Lower Trait can boost any "Ability" (Strength, Dexterity, etc.) of your comrades, as well as their skills (Fighting, etc.), *and* lower your foes' Ability and skills.

In addition, because of things called Trappings, the single power Bolt covers Lightning Bolt, Fireball, Cone of Cold, etc. And the single power Barrier includes all the "Wall of"'s in D&D.

I also *love* the fact that there's no AoO's, except when you *leave* an opponent you're already engaged with (so you can run right by someone, and as long as neither of you attacks the other, no AoO!).

In comparison, a starting-level PC in SW is probably more powerful than one in PF, but I've heard of games and characters which have had 16 or more "level ups", and aren't unbalanced (because each level up is smaller than in PF). There's no exponential growth of HP or wealth, either.

There's much more to the crunch of SW, such as how combat is handled, "Raises", the fact that (almost) every die can "Ace", etc., but those are the high points.

And I have to concur with Atlas2112, it's the best system I've ever come across!


I would just like to say that 5e is a rules heavy system. If you want to get away from PF crunch. 5e is not the way to go. It's rules heavy but they just didn't write some rules. It's the same kind of frame work as PF just easier for the players and much harder to GM.

I've never played Savage worlds but I've only heard good things about it from friends.


Oh, I forgot to mention the biggest selling point for SW to me - it's class-less! So you can piece together just about any kind of character you want.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Companion, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

It might be easier that converting a Pathfinder AP to come up with your own set of Pathfinder rules that fits what you want better. You could look at the Pathfinder Beginner Box for some ideas. It removes attacks of opportunity entirely, as well as armor check penalty, and shortens the list of skills. You would not be able to use the beginner box rules exactly as written, because they stop at level 5 (level 6 with a free downloadable addon), but it might give you some ideas. Also, you can look at Pathfinder Unchained to see if any optional rules from there will change the feel of the game the way you want.


SW does have a lot of opposed rolls, and sometimes annoyingly so

It is very narrative so should encourage more RP.

It is great for fast action pulp style games with guns a blazing

For fantasy it falls a bit flat; for horror and darkness it really isn't suitable at all


I'm going to second the recommendation for 13th Age. It's basically "Narrativist D&D" and is quick to pick up and play and it's also the sort of thing that will interfere constructively with something like Pathfinder, where the two games give you ideas of specific things or systems you can implement in the other game (icons & relationship dice, the one unique thing, "backgrounds instead of skills", the escalation dice, gridless combat, for example of things that can easily go from there to here.) It's also really quick to pick up and play (character creation takes 1-5 minutes.)

There's also very few books you'd need to play it (the Core book, "13 True Ways", and maybe a Bestiary) and the amount of improv involved in it is good practice for anybody, particularly in their development as a GM.


WormysQueue wrote:
13th Age might be what you're looking for. It'S similar enough that you don't have to learn a whole new System like with Fate, has a much more narrative approach and is build with gridless fight in mind.

Thirded.

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