Disappointment in direction game (and rpgs in general) are headed


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Now let me say, I've played lots of variations off of D&d, and really got into the older pathfinder. However, I've noticed a strong bias in recent years, across the board, and definitely affecting this playtest version, toward 'absolute balance', and I'm going to illustrate why that's a problem. Perhaps as background, I should point out that I personally have been dealing with a host of mental and physical difficulties all my life, and one of the things I have always loved about rpgs is that you can take a character with pretty significant drawbacks, and really make them shine, with a little work. The problem I see right now is that this game and others are trying to basically demand that all player characters be on essentially the same level playing field. It does not really allow for what I consider 'exceptional' characters, because no one is really 'unbalanced' enough to show that even characters with significant drawbacks are valuable in the right situation. I resent the ableist viewpoint that you shouldn't go to 'extremes' with a character. It's a personal shot against people like me who have limitations but find ways to adapt to them. It is, therefore, a significant disappointment that the game industry in general is making it very difficult, if not impossible, to play characters that could be very fun to play, but require more delicate 'work' to put in. What I've seen of this makes it really, really hard to get into the game, because it's all a participation medal situation, rather than a challenge to be overcome with strategy and teamwork. It's too easy, too fair. And that's largely where it's going to lose players like my group. Because it simply isn't enough of a challenge to be fun. Sorry. I simply can't enjoy or support limiting players from expressing their uniqueness with characters that have such extremes.


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I realized, while I was doing something else, that perhaps I'm not clear on something important to gaming in general. Honestly, I loved the fact that in the older pathfinder, diversity was celebrated, not only in racial and sexual diversity, but in disabilities. The drawbacks system was beautiful and useful. One thing I hate, though, is when people try to make everything more or less 'average'. Where character creation is an assembly line of prefab pieces. Where most characters really aren't all that different from each other in nature. I've never been able to be 'average' in real life, and I find it offensive to be told that I more or less have to be in role playing. And, honestly, what I view the 'goal' of role playing games is to get the sense that you've been dealt a really bad hand, yet you still find some way to overcome the challenge, probably not the way the dm imagined it, but because you came up with something totally off the wall that worked, no matter how bad the odds were. I also write stories, and one of my most riveting characters in those stories, in my opinion, is Vashk'al'Rhi'n. As a part of his 'backstory', when he was five, living among what amounted to a rebellion group against his people's leader, he'd been killed, reanimated as a corpsefolk, and turned against the Rhi'na'n, those he would consider 'his people', before his father and allies managed to overcome the leader, the Mayisna, and a debt owed by another person in the group to what amount to the fey ended up bringing Vashk back to life. The fact was, where he was moved to after that, everyone knew he'd been dead, and undead. The vast majority of the people in town hated and feared him. Which made it very powerful when he could prove himself merciful against his tormentors, when he ended up making it his life's work to protect people who he considers victims of society. He did this not because he was really capable, but because he could overcome his own weaknesses. And that, in my eyes, is what the game's about, proving ourselves to be more than our weaknesses. But when a game really doesn't give you much of a chance to have those weaknesses, it really steals away from the victories you have. So, yeah, I really don't enjoy this kind of 'balanced' game system. It's really scary to think that I hardly was able to force myself through the character creation process with this playtest one time. Much of my life I've spent hours creating random characters for fun. This system takes away that fun. I really can't say it any other way. It forces me to be 'average'.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Why not just house rule your own weaknesses then? I'm pretty sure that no GM would ever say you CAN'T be unoptimized. Start with crappier ability scores. What's really stopping you?

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Or roleplay the weaknesses. I can't see a reason why a character can't act like, say, an autistic person while not necessarily having lower Cha or Wis.

Heck, if I were somewhere on the AS spectrum I'd be more than glad to roleplay my disability while not necessarily being reminded of how does the society perceive me via minuses to stats.

The problem with drawbacks in RPGs is that there are exactly two kinds of way they are used:

1. People who intentionally weaken their characters, which is fine and dandy until it pulls all the other people at the table down and invites the "tell me, what was the advantage of you being crippled again?" question at which point things turn ugly.

2. People who minmax the drawbacks in order to power game - say, stacking many trivial weaknesses in order to get a powerful advantage. At which point the people with *actual* disabilities get that not exactly nice feeling of somebody using their challenge and tragedy in order to twink out their build.


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I still maintain that it's narratively satisfying that a character who is weak in one aspect is stronger in another, so I definitely agree with that portion of this thread.

If I roleplay a "dumb" brute, but the mechanics say I'm no different from an average intelligence brute, I do not feel the mechanics support telling a satisfying story. There will be constant pressure within the game to make me drop the "dumb" aspect of the character.

Telling people to simply roleplay the character without any sort of grounding in the rules is not an adequate answer, because at that point we can all go play FATE where everything is made up and the rules don't matter.

Now, this doesn't mean we have to go back to point buy stat dumping, because that negatively impacted the game for a lot of people who were tired of seeing stats dumped for purely mechanical reasons.

But I do believe there should be some kind of drawback system, which could take the form of special Backgrounds with slightly more impactful bonuses along with some penalties.

This would be great if there were the ability to take multiple backgrounds, especially.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

So if a *player* with an arguably low IQ rolls an Int 18 Wizard, do you tell them that they need to quit playing the character because they can't realistically roleplay the rules? Will your group constantly pressure them to drop the "smart" aspect of the character?


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"Balance" is not necessarily a pejorative. It makes controlling the game possible for GMs. If I didn't understand the CR or APL system, I would have to refuse every person that showed up at the last minute wanting to play or cancel every single session when people don't show up. Instead, I can just adjust the CR of the day's encounters and keep running the game.

The problem with PF2 is the obsessive need to nerf everything, iron out the classes to make everyone the same and move away from larger numbers. It's a different approach that appeals to the modern gamer, but not to me.

Thankfully, we have Pathfinder first edition and a lot of material to work with for several years, until something better comes along.


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it might also be worth it to consider actual real world mythology, which is one of the inspirations to the game. Consider, for example, Oedipus, whose name actually means pierced foot, and who was known to have damaged feet from how he'd been exposed. That did not, in any way, keep him from defeating the sphinx in the riddles, or keep him from his destiny of killing his father. Tyrisius, the blind seer, was blind long before the issue with killing fornicating snakes (twice even), that dealt with his gender change. He was also blind long before his heroism in the Trojan War. The fact is, forcing players to be 'average' is a very bad, and in fact, dangerous thing. Average is not good for teaching us much of anything. It's really the province of things like those shooter games, where you neither can nor should really customize your character. I don't play those, wouldn't want to, because I want to be a hero, and, for me, being a hero means that i have to overcome limitations. Which means I have to have limitations. Being average really makes that impossible, which means that I probably will be stopping my purchasing of new role playing products, since it's apparent that just about all of them are moving to this frightening level of 'averageness'. Trying to force me to be 'normal' or 'average' is an outright insult. And needs to be taken that way. Besides, that kind of character generation almost guarantees cookie-cutter characters, and that's never been fun.

The Exchange

Gorbacz wrote:
So if a *player* with an arguably low IQ rolls an Int 18 Wizard, do you tell them that they need to quit playing the character because they can't realistically roleplay the rules? Will your group constantly pressure them to drop the "smart" aspect of the character?

Surely it is not a fair inference to draw from the suggestion that if you want to play a stupid character that is mechanicaly nudged into having an ability score that makes them of average brightness the player will be encouraged to play them that way?

In fairness though if you want a dumb brute the playtest rules allow you to drop int, you just don’t get any bumps in other stats in exchange.

I am hopeful things will allow for some mechanical reflection for creative representation of inequality


They do still have the option for rolling your ability scores. And that can definitely lead to some characters with extreme weaknesses. With it being luck based, it really does mimic real people's abilities much better.

The other way of generating the scores is for people that do want their group to be balanced. If that's not what you want, then you don't have to play that way.

Who knows, maybe they will add a drawback system. This is the first playtest and they've said that it's got some limited content to try and test the core of the game rather than every detail. They completely forgot animal training for Pete's sake.

Definitely ask/petition for the drawback system to be included though, so they know it's desired. Just don't give up hope on the system because the very first pass doesn't have it.


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A main source of this problem is the incentive structure of the game. Pathfinder (and most all D&D variations) are primarily combat games. Just look at how much of each chapter has rules that deal primarily with combat, and how rare a page that has nothing about combat is. In combat, it's kill or be killed. There is no formal method of alternative options. Sure, opponents can sometimes run away, or maybe you can, but running away isn't a victory, it's just a reduced defeat. At it's core, the game doesn't tell you to set lower stakes.

With the stakes of combat being so high, disadvantage systems are always going to be very difficult to balance. In general, most players will avoid any crippling weakness that will actually get them killed. In other words, any disadvantage that directly slides them towards failing in combat is worthless ink. A few players will take them, but they will be very few and far between. The majority of players who take disadvantages will take the ones that they can cover up in some way. The result is that these disadvantages have very little impact on the game, which means they are largely wasted ink too. You have these two categories of disadvantages, 1) those that no one takes because they're too severe, and 2) those that everyone takes because they don't have a big impact.

There are OTHER roleplaying games. WatersLethe brought one up derisively. Fate has a lot of rules and is actually a very mechanic driven game. Another one that I would bring up that explores this topic in an interesting way is Burning Wheel. Disadvantages and Penalties in Burning Wheel can be pretty severe, but this isn't as bad as it is in D&D. In D&D, your disadvantages can get you killed, but in Burning Wheel it can be a lot easier to avoid death because the players and GM can set the stakes for a situation much lower. Instead of a battle being to the death, the players might have the objective "Hold the Bridge", and the enemy might have the objective "Capture the King". If the players win, but suffer some losses (wounds, injuries, etc), the enemy gets to extract some sort of consolation prize. If the enemy almost wins, perhaps a spy slips through in the chaos of battle.

There are literally hundreds of games that aren't D&D/PF. There are some interesting ways to go about solving issues like this, but they require significant modification to D&D/PF, or just switching game systems.


What "drawbacks" system in PF1? Was that some optional rule that came along years later? If so, it's always possible they'll add something in at a later date.

You could always sell down stats (in PB) or roll low ones (if rolling instead), but that's slightly different. As Zorae said, there's still the option of rolling and you do generally have one Flaw to your stats.

I'm not really sure how different the two systems are in this context.


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I think the original post refers to homogenisation, not forced to role-play ability scores and actual character Flaws.


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Drawbacks worked like traits, but were negative.

Taking one granted you an extra trait.

Some of them were laughably avoidable, while others made your character unplayable.

I always used them though, 3 traits and a drawback was my standard for characters. Plus Background Skills.


master_marshmallow wrote:

Drawbacks worked like traits, but were negative.

Taking one granted you an extra trait.

Some of them were laughably avoidable, while others made your character unplayable.

I always used them though, 3 traits and a drawback was my standard for characters. Plus Background Skills.

Where did they come in? Where they in the APG? Which I think is where traits came in. I don't remember them.

Looks like maybe Ultimate Campaign? Cool, if flawed, but definitely a late addition.


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thejeff wrote:
master_marshmallow wrote:

Drawbacks worked like traits, but were negative.

Taking one granted you an extra trait.

Some of them were laughably avoidable, while others made your character unplayable.

I always used them though, 3 traits and a drawback was my standard for characters. Plus Background Skills.

Where did they come in? Where they in the APG? Which I think is where traits came in. I don't remember them.

Looks like maybe Ultimate Campaign? Cool, if flawed, but definitely a late addition.

Flaws and Traits entered into 3rd Ed back with UA.

http://www.d20srd.org/indexes/variantBuildingCharacters.htm


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My own disability is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. And for sheer irony, the badly written Pathfinder Playtest rules for fatigue during exploration mode match the symptoms of CFS: if I moderately strain myself for 10 minutes, then I am stuck fatigued for the rest of the day. Everyone in Pathfinder 2nd Edition has my disability.

Gorbacz wrote:
Or roleplay the weaknesses. I can't see a reason why a character can't act like, say, an autistic person while not necessarily having lower Cha or Wis.

In my Iron Gods campaign the party finally acquired a great wealth of technological loot, which was illegal to sell under the rules of Technic League. I set up a trip to The Tarnished Halls, Numeria's biggest black market, as a side quest. First stop was the city of Hajoth Hakados, to find some underworld figure who could direct them to the Tarnished Halls.

And then the player of very social skald Kirii missed the game session due to illness. The party could safely operate without every party member on this non-combat quest, so we continued the game. And the result was humiliating.

The three remaining party members--nerd Boffin, brooding loner Elric Jones, and narcissistic glory-seeker Kheld--were not appropriate characters to deal with shadowy criminals. So I sent them to the local Pathfinder Society lodge. The feud between the Technic League and the Pathfinder Society had given the society good contact with The Tarnished Halls.

My wife as a player had the skills to gain the necessary information even with Boffin's low social skills. But she did not want to break character on Boffin. Furthermore, she was the main problem-solver in the party, but felt this time was the other two players' turn to solve this problem. Elric and Kheld found good conversations and common interests with colorful members of Pathfinder Society, yet never asked about the Tarnished Halls. My wife and I bit our tongues to see if they could handle the mission on their own. Nope.

They went to a disreputable tavern to find a blatantly obvious guide to the black market. Giacomo was obvious because he was incompetent. That caused more trouble, until Boffin returned to nerdy problem-solving mode in the appropriate setting, The Tarnished Halls themselves.

The question is, should have my wife broken character on Boffin to move the quest along smoothly?

Answering yes means that roleplayed weaknesses are to be discarded when they become troublesome. Weaknesses do become troublesome, that is the nature of weaknesses.

Irontruth wrote:
A main source of this problem is the incentive structure of the game. Pathfinder (and most all D&D variations) are primarily combat games. Just look at how much of each chapter has rules that deal primarily with combat, and how rare a page that has nothing about combat is. In combat, it's kill or be killed. There is no formal method of alternative options. Sure, opponents can sometimes run away, or maybe you can, but running away isn't a victory, it's just a reduced defeat. At it's core, the game doesn't tell you to set lower stakes.

I like to believe (pretend?) that the emphasis on combat in the rulebook is because a rule that could kill a character is a rule that will be debated at the table. Thus, those rules must be the clearest.

My players do have fun on non-combat quests. The players of Elric and Kheld forgot their mission during the visit to the Pathfinder Society in Hajoth Hakados, because they were having too much fun swapping stories and dissing the Technic League with the Pathfinder Society adventurers.

The Pathfinder playtest rules are short on options for friendly encounters. A simple loosening of the skill system to allow freeform skill checks ("I start to tell him about what I did in Scrapwall." "Make a Performance check." "12" "He listens intently.") would handle that. Rules for friendly situations don't need the rigor of rules for hostile situations. I also propose that the Lore skill gains the "Make Contacts" action where people with relevant lore can find common ground with people of similar background.


Tiona Daughtry wrote:

I want to be a hero, and, for me, being a hero means that i have to overcome limitations. Which means I have to have limitations. Being average really makes that impossible, which means that I probably will be stopping my purchasing of new role playing products, since it's apparent that just about all of them are moving to this frightening level of 'averageness'. Trying to force me to be 'normal' or 'average' is an outright insult. And needs to be taken that way. Besides, that kind of character generation almost guarantees cookie-cutter characters, and that's never been fun.

Can you describe the mechanics in PF1 that did allow you to do this? I am not overly familiar with PF1, but I played a lot of D&D 3.x.

I am suspecting that this feeling of all characters being average and balanced is another aspect of having the baseline for characters being raised. The +1/level being applied to all skills for free and all characters getting +1/level on their attack bonus (the fighter's BAB progression).

But I want to check with you and see if this is the mechanics change that is causing this feeling or not.


Mathmuse wrote:
I also propose that the Lore skill gains the "Make Contacts" action where people with relevant lore can find common ground with people of similar background.

My GM:s homebrew system allows any skill to be used as a contact skill and as a perception skill when it comes to people and situations relevant to them, respectively.

For example, in a science fantasy setting we were interested in breaking into the local Army HQ to find some information we needed. So, to find out more about the layout of the place, one of the more combat-oriented characters in the party used his "shoot" skill (ranged/melee are skills too in that system) to find the local lasgun shooting range, go out there, and chat up some off-duty military for needed info. :)


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My issue with trying to represent disabilities through mechanical penalties is that those penalties often represent the mentality of an able-bodied person experiencing a disabling set of circumstances for the first time. Having your vision impaired or taken away is a radically different experience than living for years with reduced vision or no vision. The same with many other disabilities that can be experienced at a later point in life. Saying that a character can't be strong if they are missing an arm or fast if they are missing a leg is something humans set out to disprove at every possible opportunity. Having long term disability represented through stat modifications is just not a very good way of making that character fun to play, and it is perfectly fine to assume that a Heroic character should be able to have a background that represents thriving through the experiences that shaped them in a manner that lets their vital playing attributes and statistics remain consistent with those necessary to face the challenges of being a Hero. The vast majority of disabilities are MUCH better represented by changing the way you role play the character, then they are by trying to mechanically define how that disability impacts your character.

The way you role play your character is a part of the experience. If your character has a phobia of drowning, you shouldn't need a penalty to your swim checks, you should be thinking about the lengths your character will go to avoid being submerged in water, and talk to your GM about how that idea will work in the game they are running, and how to handle situations where your character might end up in water involuntarily. The GM can always impose a circumstantial penalty when appropriate, and with the math being so tight, a -2 in specific situations is probably enough to make a character struggle without it becoming an insta-death or critical failure situation.


Mathmuse wrote:

I like to believe (pretend?) that the emphasis on combat in the rulebook is because a rule that could kill a character is a rule that will be debated at the table. Thus, those rules must be the clearest.

My players do have fun on non-combat quests. The players of Elric and Kheld forgot their mission during the visit to the Pathfinder Society in Hajoth Hakados, because they were having too much fun swapping stories and dissing the Technic League with the Pathfinder Society adventurers.

"Intent" for why there is so much rulebook real estate devoted to combat is something that is infinitely debatable, because we can't crack open the developers heads and find definitive proof. What we can do is look at what is in the text of the book. The majority of the game is devoted to either combat, or deriving stats that will later be used in combat.

A game is like a toolbox. If you want to tell a story about characters overcoming internal challenges, D&D/PF might not be the best toolbox to do it. It is possible to do, but it is going to require more effort and work to achieve a lesser result. It's like using a carpenter's toolbox to fix a car. Yes, you can probably do it if you know what you're doing, but it's going to be much more work than if you had a mechanic's toolbox.

Sovereign Court

Tiona Daughtry wrote:
I realized, while I was doing something else, that perhaps I'm not clear on something important to gaming in general. Honestly, I loved the fact that in the older pathfinder, diversity was celebrated, not only in racial and sexual diversity, but in disabilities. The drawbacks system was beautiful and useful. One thing I hate, though, is when people try to make everything more or less 'average'. Where character creation is an assembly line of prefab pieces. Where most characters really aren't all that different from each other in nature. I've never been able to be 'average' in real life, and I find it offensive to be told that I more or less have to be in role playing. And, honestly, what I view the 'goal' of role playing games is to get the sense that you've been dealt a really bad hand, yet you still find some way to overcome the challenge, probably not the way the dm imagined it, but because you came up with something totally off the wall that worked, no matter how bad the odds were. I also write stories, and one of my most riveting characters in those stories, in my opinion, is Vashk'al'Rhi'n. As a part of his 'backstory', when he was five, living among what amounted to a rebellion group against his people's leader, he'd been killed, reanimated as a corpsefolk, and turned against the Rhi'na'n, those he would consider 'his people', before his father and allies managed to overcome the leader, the Mayisna, and a debt owed by another person in the group to what amount to the fey ended up bringing Vashk back to life. The fact was, where he was moved to after that, everyone knew he'd been dead, and undead. The vast majority of the people in town hated and feared him. Which made it very powerful when he could prove himself merciful against his tormentors, when he ended up making it his life's work to protect people who he considers victims of society. He did this not because he was really capable, but because he could overcome his own weaknesses. And that, in my eyes, is what the game's about, proving...

Wasn't their drawback system in a later book? It seems to be


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part of this problem is that the way the rules are run, and how stat bonuses are derived and forced to be placed in specific spots, you really won't have much of any variety. I can't differentiate my character from anyone else's, in any meaningful way. Nothing is distinct enough to separate them from others. The extent of balancing is such that you can't make enough decisions about the character abilities to actually feel significantly 'you'. I honestly did attempt to create a character in this system, and found myself so stringently limited that I couldn't get any feel of that character being an individual at all. They are mostly a bunch of cardstock fill-ins. And that is inherently unplayable, because there is absolutely nothing to identify with. It is all 'prefab' assembly. You can only put things together a few different ways, really. And that is what I have an aversion to. I thoroughly enjoy playing a character that is distinct, and has interesting limitations. and not all of that can be strictly roleplayed. By taking those limitations, I'm stronger in other areas, which I should be. That's what being an individual is all about, and I am upset because this game is taking away that opportunity for individuality. It's disappointing, because i really don't have any hope that things will fix themselves. Everyone is focused on more or less being 'the same', and that is not fun or rewarding in the slightest.


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Dire Ursus wrote:
Why not just house rule your own weaknesses then? I'm pretty sure that no GM would ever say you CAN'T be unoptimized. Start with crappier ability scores. What's really stopping you?

Oberroni Fallacy, 10 yard penalty.

Just because the GM can fix it doesn't mean it wasn't broken in the first place.


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Tiona Daughtry wrote:

part of this problem is that the way the rules are run, and how stat bonuses are derived and forced to be placed in specific spots, you really won't have much of any variety. I can't differentiate my character from anyone else's, in any meaningful way. Nothing is distinct enough to separate them from others. The extent of balancing is such that you can't make enough decisions about the character abilities to actually feel significantly 'you'. I honestly did attempt to create a character in this system, and found myself so stringently limited that I couldn't get any feel of that character being an individual at all. They are mostly a bunch of cardstock fill-ins. And that is inherently unplayable, because there is absolutely nothing to identify with. It is all 'prefab' assembly. You can only put things together a few different ways, really. And that is what I have an aversion to. I thoroughly enjoy playing a character that is distinct, and has interesting limitations. and not all of that can be strictly roleplayed. By taking those limitations, I'm stronger in other areas, which I should be. That's what being an individual is all about, and I am upset because this game is taking away that opportunity for individuality. It's disappointing, because i really don't have any hope that things will fix themselves. Everyone is focused on more or less being 'the same', and that is not fun or rewarding in the slightest.

OK I'm game. I'll try this out. Let's see if I can spec out a couple of characters without screwing things up too much...

Both are going to be Halfling Bard with Scout background.

One is a reasonably optimized character focusing on wilderness skills and treasure hunting.

The other is someone who has had to deal with a mental disability such as autism or down's syndrome. He is somewhat shunned by society, but is a friendly, happy person who spends most of his time living in a little cottage several miles from a small village.

The treasure hunter character:

Ability scores:
Ancestry gives flaw in STR, boost in DEX and WIS. I put the free boost in CHA because Bard.
Background I put the specified boost in DEX and the free boost in CHA because Bard.
Class requires boost in CHA because Bard.
Free boosts went in STR, DEX, CON, and INT.

Final scores: STR 10; DEX 16; CON 12; INT 12; WIS 12; CHA 16.

Ancestry feat: Lucky Halfling because that is probably the most powerful ancestry feat available for Halflings. Arguably most powerful for any ancestry.

Skills: Gets 8 total. I chose Occultism and Performance because Bard; Nature, Survival, and Acrobatics because wilderness focus; and rounded things out with Diplomacy, Stealth, and Society for the treasure hunting.

Happy Hermit Bob:

Ability scores:
Ancestry gives flaw in STR, boost in DEX and WIS. I put the free boost in CON because of the abuse he likely got as a kid.
Background I put the specified boost in DEX and the free boost in STR because of the large amount of time that he would be spending outdoors.
Class requires boost in CHA because Bard.
Free boosts went in STR, DEX, CON, and CHA. CHA because he is a Bard and is described as being happy, friendly, and outgoing.

Final scores: STR 12; DEX 16; CON 14; INT 10; WIS 12; CHA 14.

Ancestry feat: Unfettered because of the training he got growing up having one kid hold him while another kid punches.

Skills: Gets 7 total. I also chose Occultism and Performance because Bard; and Nature, Survival, and Acrobatics because of the wilderness aspect. Rounding things out with Crafting and Medicine because of the self sufficient nature of the character.

Conclusion:
It is rather obnoxious that I can't get an INT score below 10, and even worse that I can't get a WIS score below 12. I could voluntarily drop either or both of those scores, but I wouldn't get any benefit to compensate. I couldn't increase DEX some more to account for the time Happy Hermit Bob spent running away from gangs of kids trying to beat on him for example.

With the same class and background, it is rather difficult to get significantly different starting ability scores. None of the scores are different by more than 2. A couple of them are identical. Choosing a different background and character theme would likely make a difference. If the optimized PC were a Scholar treasure hunter instead of a Scout treasure hunter and picked more of the mental abilities and skills then these two characters would feel a lot more different.


In the spirit of communication, breithauptclan, you may want to step away from associating certain conditions with "disability".

I get your point but your examples may draw an unwanted reaction.


How about a 'Background Archetype' kind of idea. For example:

Bullied - As you were growing up, the other children disliked you for some reason. You were always being chased, caught, and pummelled. You get an ability boost that can be put in either DEX or CON and a free ability flaw that can be put in any other ability score.

Now, the power gamers would point out that doing this completely removes the need for having ability scores determined by ancestry, background, and class and you can instead just pick your desired ability score array from a list. Which is a valid observation. And would be a reasonable variant rule to use.

But having to go through the process of gaining stats based on ancestry, background, and class helps a lot with the role playing part of character creation.


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Artificial 20 wrote:

In the spirit of communication, breithauptclan, you may want to step away from associating certain conditions with "disability".

I get your point but your examples may draw an unwanted reaction.

Fair enough.

Euphemisms always confuse me though. That is part of my own disability.

What euphemism would you suggest instead?


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breithauptclan wrote:
Artificial 20 wrote:

In the spirit of communication, breithauptclan, you may want to step away from associating certain conditions with "disability".

I get your point but your examples may draw an unwanted reaction.

Fair enough.

Euphemisms always confuse me though. That is part of my own disability.

What euphemism would you suggest instead?

Not "euphemisms". More that you're associating specific, generally complex mental conditions with simply having low stats.

Or perhaps my objection is different than Artificial 20's.


thejeff wrote:
breithauptclan wrote:
Artificial 20 wrote:

In the spirit of communication, breithauptclan, you may want to step away from associating certain conditions with "disability".

I get your point but your examples may draw an unwanted reaction.

Fair enough.

Euphemisms always confuse me though. That is part of my own disability.

What euphemism would you suggest instead?

Not "euphemisms". More that you're associating specific, generally complex mental conditions with simply having low stats.

Or perhaps my objection is different than Artificial 20's.

So now I need a euphemism for 'euphemism'.

Nevermind I don't feel like derailing this thread any more than it already is.


I just want to make sure I understand what you are saying...

1. From what I hear you are saying that you are unhappy that RPGs are not allowing you to play people who have disadvantages/disabilities.

I think that may be what some are addressing (As PF2e Playtest explicitly states that you can do this if one wants with their ability scores).

However, from what you describe it sounds as if you are stating something different.

2. It sounds that you are unhappy with the trend in RPGs to try to balance everyone out to similar levels. (Hence, like 4e where people claimed classes were very similar just with different names on the powers...or with 5e where everyone advances at the same rate of proficiency but NOT too high so everything can always be a threat...to the PF2e playtest where everyone advances the same with their bonuses per level overall).

It's not that people have disabilities per se, but that everyone seems on the surface to be equal to everyone else. It's the trend that no one is special and everyone is the same in ability?

That you prefer it when Martials get a better advancement in getting to hit creatures than wizards or other characters. That these Martials are not going to be world changing monsters with their magic.

That you prefer when Wizards gain a ton of spells and magic so, even if they are weak to begin with, the entire world shakes and trembles when they achieve high level.

Is this what you are referring to in regards to ability/disability?

Just trying to clarify.

I THINK the latter is what you are talking about.


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To get back to the OP, I feel like chiming in with a couple words of wisdom I learned from Video Game design.

Balance for Balance's Sake is NEVER a good idea. Ever.

Now, this does not mean I'm advocating for no balance whatsoever. On the contrary, a broken game needs fixing. What I am saying is that the overall goal of balancing a game is to make the unfun parts of the game fun, and to reduce the impact of the things that reduce everyone else's fun.

Your goal is to not make all characters equal or to force them to stay within this small box of tightly bound math. The goal of an RPG is to let everyone at the table have a good time.


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Lyricanna wrote:

To get back to the OP, I feel like chiming in with a couple words of wisdom I learned from Video Game design.

Balance for Balance's Sake is NEVER a good idea. Ever.

Now, this does not mean I'm advocating for no balance whatsoever. On the contrary, a broken game needs fixing. What I am saying is that the overall goal of balancing a game is to make the unfun parts of the game fun, and to reduce the impact of the things that reduce everyone else's fun.

Your goal is to not make all characters equal or to force them to stay within this small box of tightly bound math. The goal of an RPG is to let everyone at the table have a good time.

I agree completely. We are not playing a PVP video game where all the classes have to be 100% balanced against each other. All the classes need to have a valid point of contribution and you should need a representative of the core concepts of the major four (i.e. fighter, mage, cleric, rogue) to succeed. An all martial or all caster class while fun at times to get a different feel should not be as optimal as a mixed group of martials and casters. RPG's are cooperative games and you should require the talents of a variety of people to succeed at the group's goal.

I see the failure in this already with the nerfing of caster spells which has already brought significant defects in PF2 to the forefront. Battles are longer and more involved. The chances for multiple resources to be expended in a single encounter has increased, not decreased. The view of the cleric as a NEEDED healer instead of an option healer has generated a lot of feedback on the boards as have complaints of the resonance mechanic in general use. In most cases so far in PF2 battles I have run, either as part of the playtest or my own scenarios, the likelihood of the 15 minute work day has gone up, not down even though PC's have more hit points and access to crafting far sooner than PF1 for the vast majority of magic items. A lot more testing and reworking needs to be done to get PF2 to where it should be


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I will point out that the latter of the two options asked for clarification is probably more accurate. I do point out that oftentimes, taking a liability to allow more ability in other areas is in fact a very good idea, and makes a character more 'real'. The fact is, these characters are all so very heavily limited (like the class feats that when you choose one out of maybe three at one level, it flat out dictates your choices at higher levels, and you can't customize the character around it). When you are more or less obsessed with 'absolute numerical balance', it takes away the fact that this is, in fact, supposed to be a game about immersing yourself in another person and understanding them, and working with both their strengths and weaknesses. When all the characters are absolutely equal by the numbers, it's almost guaranteeing that there are really only 2-3 ways of approaching any given situation, and that more or less prevents players and characters from any true freedom of action. Having more variability encourages the creation of new tactics, focused around each group's strengths and weaknesses (and quirks).


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thejeff wrote:
breithauptclan wrote:
Artificial 20 wrote:

In the spirit of communication, breithauptclan, you may want to step away from associating certain conditions with "disability".

I get your point but your examples may draw an unwanted reaction.

Fair enough.

Euphemisms always confuse me though. That is part of my own disability.

What euphemism would you suggest instead?

Not "euphemisms". More that you're associating specific, generally complex mental conditions with simply having low stats.

Or perhaps my objection is different than Artificial 20's.

I don't have a personal objection. It was meant as gentle advice to avoid derails, not begin one.

To offer an example for contrast, in real life the world over women have longer lifespans than men. One could argue that "being alive" is one of, if not the, most important abilities of any person.

Yet saying "People with lifespan disabilities such as cancer patients and men", or "People with sprinting disabilities such as wheelchair users and women" may cause some people to take offence. "Disability" implies inferiority, rather than diversity. This is best not applied to qualities a person may hold as a positive part of their identity.

To try and be more constructive, autism can very loosely be represented as having stronger "hard" logical skills (e.g. in facts and maths) and weaker "soft" logical skills (e.g. social nuances). +2 INT and -2 CHA would be a way to represent autism as different, rather than inferior, much like if you insisted on gender dimorphism, -2 STR and +2 CON would represent lesser typical muscle mass and longer lifespan while possibly enduring childbirth as different, instead of just a -2 STR as inferior.

Short Version: Strive for diversity, not for inferiority.


For penalties and balance, keep it simple:

Reduce one ability by 2.

Increase one ability by 2. Chosen ability cannot be higher than 12 before increase.


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Edymnion wrote:
Dire Ursus wrote:
Why not just house rule your own weaknesses then? I'm pretty sure that no GM would ever say you CAN'T be unoptimized. Start with crappier ability scores. What's really stopping you?

Oberroni Fallacy, 10 yard penalty.

Just because the GM can fix it doesn't mean it wasn't broken in the first place.

You can't call something "broken" for failing at something it wasn't trying to do in the first place.


Again, if you want characters to feel more different from each other, use the rolling for stat method they included. It will give pretty wildly different ability scores and all sorts of room for characters feeling different.

I personally really like the new way of doing stats. It means there are far less suboptimal race/class combinations. And it makes me happy that I'm no longer being penalized for wanting to play certain character concepts. I've got a gnome Cleric with 18 wis. I could make a dwarf Wizard with 18 int or a Goblin barbarian with 18 str (and with no penalty to its weapon dice).


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Part of my problem is that I absolutely resent being more or less *forced* to be optimal (also, almost no game I'm in has used rolling in character generation since 2nd edition, for very good reason). I flat out wouldn't play 12-man trials and 4 man group dungeons in the video game I play (ESO) even if my having visual snow did not render me effectively blind in most group combat situations. I really, really can't help but be offended at being told that essentially you can only approach a situation more or less 2-3 ways at most...yeah. I role play in order to be able to, for example, talk to an enemy, discover that they're fighting us because they're starving, and offer food to change their minds. I want to be able to actually do things like remember I have remote viewing as a domain ability and see how the room is set up for what we've already figured out is the boss, so that when we enter the room, clever strategy gives us a total win before the guy gets a chance to react. The DMs, in fact, like us doing those, even if they upset the plots because they show creativity, and let us see things they've never thought of. Being forced to only have 2-3 options at all in a situation, yeah, not a role playing game at all. Not really.


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I like the new way of doing stats as well, but I think the game's math should not require that I do so in a specific manner in order to achieve moderate levels of success, which directly affects the amount of fun my players have.

I'd rather have the robust system that enables optimization and rewards it, but does not mandate it.


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I think I have figured out what the heart of the problem could be defined as. The focus of the game has shifted from 'role play' to 'roll play'. It is more about rules, mechanics, and absolute balance than it is about telling shared stories of outrageous exploits and wild dares. That is exemplified by the lack of distinction between characters of same race/class. I think, in the end, Paizo must make it clear whether they will be a 'role playing game' or a 'roll playing game'. And that, in fact, is what will decide people on whether they will play it or not. I don't play the latter, some people do. That's their choice, but I do have mine, and that is not to settle for just mechanics.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Tiona Daughtry wrote:

I think I have figured out what the heart of the problem could be defined as. The focus of the game has shifted from 'role play' to 'roll play'. It is more about rules, mechanics, and absolute balance than it is about telling shared stories of outrageous exploits and wild dares. That is exemplified by the lack of distinction between characters of same race/class. I think, in the end, Paizo must make it clear whether they will be a 'role playing game' or a 'roll playing game'. And that, in fact, is what will decide people on whether they will play it or not. I don't play the latter, some people do. That's their choice, but I do have mine, and that is not to settle for just mechanics.

News flash: D&D 3/3.5 and PF1 are some of the most rule-heavy systems out there, and the vast majority of the ruleset is a tactical wargame. The focus of D&D has been on "roll-play" since 2000, and since 1990s there have been dozen of RPG systems with light rulesets that encourage, reward and integrate role-playing far more than D&D ever did.

You can play a "role-playing" game using D&D rulesets, sure. But pretty much nothing in that ruleset helps you with that, and there's little to no difference between 3.5/PF1 and PF2 in this regard.


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The difference is whether the focus is on absolute mechanics, having rules for every single situation, or whether the focus is to lay a groundwork with reasonable precedent when someone does something unexpected. What I have seen, so far, is that this particular iteration of the game seems to be intended to strictly limit possible choices in situations, and largely that in response to their demand that PFS GMs follow the modules exactly no matter what group they end up with. What I have seen seems to indicate a 'you can't do that' implication to things that are outside of the rules. I, thankfully, in 3.5 and Pathfinder 1, have dms that recognize that the rules are only guidelines, must be adjusted when the situations call for it, and recognize that that those situations happen very often, in response to characters recognizing potential options that were not initially intended. It does seem, from what I've seen here, that there are a lot of things where you are more or less told you don't have a chance to do something 'unexpected'. That makes it a Roll playing game, rather than a role playing game, which acknowledges that just about anything is possible, whether it's likely or not is another thing. By largely trying to tell characters that you can really only do these specific options, it keeps you from adapting. And that is the difference I'm noting.


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Gamism superseded Simulationism for this edition.

It takes me out of the game knowing that it's a game first and a story/world second always.


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Gorbacz wrote:
News flash: D&D 3/3.5 and PF1 are some of the most rule-heavy systems out there, and the vast majority of the ruleset is a tactical wargame. The focus of D&D has been on "roll-play" since 2000, and since 1990s there have been dozen of RPG systems with light rulesets that encourage, reward and integrate role-playing far more than D&D ever did.

But the bounded accuracy of the Playtest system combined with the DC scale means that you have to build your character close to an optimal set of stats and abilities...all just to get a 50% chance of success at what you do.

D&D and PF have never been like this. Except maybe 4E?


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I play PF1 as gamist as they come, and dislike the majority of PF2. Whatever went wrong, it sure isn't because It's appealing to a very gamist style.

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