Jason Bulmahn: Design Musings: The Economics of Fantasy RPGs


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thorin001 wrote:
Transcripts are a thing. Just saying.

I transcribed 25 seconds of the video, time 13:58 to 14:23, and it filled 3 lines. I listened to that stretch 5 times to get most of the words right. That was only 1/60th of the 24-minute video. Transcribing is difficult.


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Jason Bulmahn posted another video today: Design Musings #2: Simplicity and Complexity in Games.


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I'm going to have to disagree with this one. I only feel I have a sense for a game after having it run full tilt, with all mechanics ready. In a sense, I only got in to Pathfinder because I knew full well that the Beginner Box was not the extent of the ruleset. I honestly didn't pick up the CRB because I was that interested in the game, rather I was feeling stifled and wanted a way to finish up the family vacation still entertained. If the CRB was at the level of the Beginner Box, I probably would have declared it to be not my kind of game, and ignored the expansions in favour of some board game with a ten page rule booklet and its own app to handle hidden criteria.

Heck, even when playing video games I'll read practically the entire wiki before deciding how casually/competitively I feel like playing.


graystone wrote:
This has been their MO for quite some time. Like the 'problem' with crane wing. Everyone knew the problem was with early access to the feat with MoMS but instead of fixing the actual issue, they 'fixed', and 'refixed' and 'refixed some more' the poor feat that was just sitting there and minding its own business NOT causing any problem when you used in as intended. So it seems the 'pathfinder way' to come down hard on the consequences of a problem while leaving the core issue alone.

They did that eventually :D


Mathmuse wrote:
I transcribed 25 seconds of the video, time 13:58 to 14:23, and it filled 3 lines. I listened to that stretch 5 times to get most of the words right. That was only 1/60th of the 24-minute video. Transcribing is difficult.

<---- This transcriber couldn't agree more.


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Doktor Weasel wrote:
rknop wrote:
Re: players keeping found magic items, I strongly suspect that ship has sailed and is not coming back.

Yeah, buying and selling magic is here to stay. And it really should be. It made no sense in pre-3rd ed that nobody would buy or sell magic items. If something nice or useful exists, people will buy and sell it. The world has magic, there's a market for it. So it will be for sale. The demand for Everburning Torches alone would probably be huge (a light source I only need to buy once, never blows out and won't burn down my house? Cheap at twice the price.)

rknop wrote:
(This also ties directly into the problem of people spamming low-level healing magic items rather than buying ones more suited to their level. A Cure Moderate Wounds potion is only a sensible purchase as an emergency in-combat recovery option. For general healing, Cure Light Wounds potions are so much more efficient per hit point that only somebody who hasn't taken a cursory look at the numbers would ever consider purchasing a Moderate potion... never mind a Serious potion. It's possible this ship has also sailed, as fixing this would require substantial changes to wealth by level, and would make things like dragons sitting on top of impressive-looking hoards impossible. The economics of all kinds of magic items in Pathfiner is completely broken, and things like resonance are just attempts to patch over some of the consequences without recognizing the true underlying problem.)
I'm not sure potions are really a big concern in this regard anyway. I know I always see them as emergency battlefield healing (or I suppose when you're in a situation with nobody that can use the wand). They're more expensive to heal with than wands are. A first level wand is less than half the price per hit-point healed than a potion (assuming an 18 wisdom, but even wis 10 will be cheaper than a potion). So wands are much better for healing between fights while potions are for combat when time is of the essence. The action cost in...

Found magic items is more fun IMHO and we actually houseruled this in 2009 or so right before PF landed with 3.5. We kept things from 3.5 we liked (feats, fort/ref/will, PrCs, multiclassing) and removed an aspect that I thoght broke the game.

That was a fun game, I put more loot in than a normal game a'la AD&D, players spent their gold on other things without feeling like they got punished for it and they found better items as I did not have to worry about them selling it to create some combo between the new bought items and some feat I had not thought of.

I think its past the point where GMs don't want to run Pathfinder because it has to much player agency. They want to play it but don't want to run it and that is a problem.

Letting players pick items+ feats+ PrCs etc etc etc is big problem IMHO. Let them build the PCs they want but remove the cheese of choose your own magic items (4E ha this problem as well).

As for claiming this is unpopular well look at 5E or the old D&Ds that were a magnitude more popular than Pathfinder. They created resonance which is a band aid solution to the real problem- cheap wands of CLW and letting PCs get items they want to easily.

Even IRL you can't buy anything you want, some items are unique or so rare they are almost never for sale (Tiger Tanks for example).

One way to deal with it is have some sort of optional rule where you include prices and put something like " If the GM wants to buy and sell items here is what you do" or "On some worlds they have a ro bust magic item market".


Mekkis wrote:
Vidmaster7 wrote:
I suppose not everyone is as tech savvy as the next.
Or that some people are tech savvy enough to make the informed decision that a company with a privacy record like Facebook is not to be trusted with their name, face and online footprint.

Lol like maybe your right Could be but that sounded just like a conspiracy theory.


Knight Magenta wrote:
graystone wrote:
This has been their MO for quite some time. Like the 'problem' with crane wing. Everyone knew the problem was with early access to the feat with MoMS but instead of fixing the actual issue, they 'fixed', and 'refixed' and 'refixed some more' the poor feat that was just sitting there and minding its own business NOT causing any problem when you used in as intended. So it seems the 'pathfinder way' to come down hard on the consequences of a problem while leaving the core issue alone.
They did that eventually :D

Sure... After there wasn't anything else to rechange with the feat... ;)

Mathmuse wrote:
Jason Bulmahn posted another video today: Design Musings #2: Simplicity and Complexity in Games.

I'll thank you for the link. It's nice to know at least kind forum goers will let us know videos are available. Now I just have to wait for someone to let me know what's on the video.

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

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Just as a heads up folks, these are wide ranging, looking at game design. The opinions in them are my own and are not necessarily related to any of my work at Paizo (which is why they are in my personal channel and not Paizos). If you are here for the playtest, they might give you insight to my mindset, but they should not be seen as some sort of "behind the scenes" or "secret reveals".

I'm just talking about games...


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magnuskn wrote:

Okay, let's make one thing clear: Jason was talking about a +50 bonus to Acrobatics, and how there are no opponents in Pathfinder which need those kind of bonuses.

That is categorically false in the first place. Every Great Wyrm dragon in the first bestiary has a CMD over 50, even the great wyrm white dragon (kinda sounds like a KKK title to me... ^^) with a 51. There are numerous monsters and AP bosses which have CMD's over 60.

So, yeah, bonus stacking to an absurd degree is problematic (and much moreso in Diplomacy than Acrobatics, IMHO), but also somewhat asked for by existing game design. And it comes at the cost of being less optimal at other things, which is how I personally like it.

I would posit that mortal beings should not be able to acrobatics-flip their way out of the claws of a Great Wyrm Dragon, and that speaks towards the benefits of proficiency gating as given in PF2 rather than the one-dimensionality of depending on just high numbers to do it, but that’s more about my play style, I suppose.


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BryonD wrote:


I'd offer an alternative assessment already posted here

The bottom line of that is that creating complicated challenges which the party solves together, recognizing each others strengths and weaknesses is fundamental to the enjoyment. And preventing characters from being significantly better than other characters might feel like a relief the first half dozen sessions or so, but over time the dwarf in clanky plate isn't going to pump his fist over sneak checks and the bard isn't going to be thrilled that the giant missed his arbitrarily high AC. That will be routine and it isn't what they built their character to do, so they won't hardly notice it, much less take heroic joy in it. But the rogue will feel more and more shortchanged when the day-to-day, bread and butter awesomness they are supposed to experience becomes things they are just a bit better than the completely anti-optimized character. Just as the dwarf won't get nearly the same joy of charging in toe to toe with that giant knowing that it is a real threat to others present and the dwarf's build is important. Instead, he will steadily realize the loss of being awesome, because everyone is pretty much awesome (ish). kinda. sorta. Well, at least compared to things that are not on the table because the game mathed them away....

My problem is that that only rarely plays out that way in our table games. Once in a while, the character with the overpowered social skills feels awesome averting a gang war, and everyone feels awesome with him, and the combat monster gets challenged to a duel to decide the fate of something important, and everyone is smiling knowingly, but the difference is that those are situations where someone gets to feel awesome at their 10 or 15 minutes, and then another situation arises where someone else is built to take point.

More often, the GM is bringing in creatures with a +20 to saves to stay upright against the spellcaster with the DC 30 spell saves, and my character with the 4 or 6 level spell progression (or worse, my 9-level spellcaster who isn’t as insanely optimized as the other character) faces the reality that it’s pointless to take any offensive spell ever, because the most I can get my saves to at the same level is about 10 points lower. That’s not a choice that lives for a single gaming momentum, it’s a choice that impacts every combat round. Same for the person who is drastically higher in attack and damage - at those bleeding edges, it’s not letting one person shine so much as dragging down everyone else who needs to be able to contribute, for a sustained amount of time.

It’s almost like those jokes about “kids who throw off the grading scale because the teacher won’t grade the class on a curve now.” That’s fine for real life, and if I were on a team that had hyper-specialized team mates to let us win something important, I’d shut up and take the win. However, because people come to the game to have fun and get a chance to contribute, having situations built into the game which mean that one or more people must take a back seat for extended periods of time (in cases of combat, for an hour or more) this is to me a pain point that something can be done with, that other games have dealt with and still let characters feel powerful at their specialization without making other characters incompatible at the same task in-game due to difficulty scale.


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ENHenry wrote:
magnuskn wrote:

Okay, let's make one thing clear: Jason was talking about a +50 bonus to Acrobatics, and how there are no opponents in Pathfinder which need those kind of bonuses.

That is categorically false in the first place. Every Great Wyrm dragon in the first bestiary has a CMD over 50, even the great wyrm white dragon (kinda sounds like a KKK title to me... ^^) with a 51. There are numerous monsters and AP bosses which have CMD's over 60.

So, yeah, bonus stacking to an absurd degree is problematic (and much moreso in Diplomacy than Acrobatics, IMHO), but also somewhat asked for by existing game design. And it comes at the cost of being less optimal at other things, which is how I personally like it.

I would posit that mortal beings should not be able to acrobatics-flip their way out of the claws of a Great Wyrm Dragon, and that speaks towards the benefits of proficiency gating as given in PF2 rather than the one-dimensionality of depending on just high numbers to do it, but that’s more about my play style, I suppose.

And I'd posit, if I cared about such pretense at realism, that roughly human sized beings made out of meat should be auto-killed by a Great Wyrm bite and probably by a good blow from a claw.

But they're not, because this is heroic fantasy and we want to be able to fight dragons.
I don't think we should impose hard realism limits on some aspects of the game and blatantly ignore them in others.


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ENHenry wrote:
I would posit that mortal beings should not be able to acrobatics-flip their way out of the claws of a Great Wyrm Dragon

There are mortal beings in this game that can beat a Great Wyrm Dragon to death with their bare hands. Allowing a character to avoid an AoO for moving past it (with the help of magic Acrobatics boosting equipment) doesn't seem particularly unrealistic.

Silver Crusade

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Zardnaar wrote:
Let them build the PCs they want but remove the cheese of choose your own magic items (4E ha this problem as well).

Magic Item errata were more frequent in 4e than Pathfinder, so issues with individual items didn't persist as long.


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ENHenry wrote:

My problem is that that only rarely plays out that way in our table games. Once in a while, the character with the overpowered social skills feels awesome averting a gang war, and everyone feels awesome with him, and the combat monster gets challenged to a duel to decide the fate of something important, and everyone is smiling knowingly, but the difference is that those are situations where someone gets to feel awesome at their 10 or 15 minutes, and then another situation arises where someone else is built to take point.

More often, the GM is bringing in creatures with a +20 to saves to stay upright against the spellcaster with the DC 30 spell saves, and my character with the 4 or 6 level spell progression (or worse, my 9-level spellcaster who isn’t as insanely optimized as the other character) faces the reality that it’s pointless to take any offensive spell ever, because the most I can get my saves to at the same level is about 10 points lower. That’s not a choice that lives for a single gaming momentum, it’s a choice that impacts every combat round. Same for the person who is drastically higher in attack and damage - at those bleeding edges, it’s not letting one person shine so much as dragging down everyone else who needs to be able to contribute, for a sustained amount of time.

It’s almost like those jokes about “kids who throw off the grading scale because the teacher won’t grade the class on a curve now.” That’s fine for real life, and if I were on a team that had hyper-specialized team mates to let us win something important, I’d shut up and take the win. However, because people come to the game to have fun and get a chance to contribute, having situations built into the game which mean that one or more people must take a back seat for extended periods of time (in cases of combat, for an hour or more) this is to me a pain point that something can be done with, that other games have dealt with and still let characters feel powerful at their specialization without making other characters incompatible at the same task in-game due to difficulty scale.

I find the things you left out of your reply the most interesting.

I mean, I'd be cool with changing the 2/3 casters into full casters. I didn't argue that idea. I know my wife, who is very happy with her character, would be even more happy with it as a full caster. If somebody had a reason for why 2/3 is better, I'd be willing to listen. But I'd be all for that fix. I've made it clear over and over I'm up for fixes.

But you didn't address a single one of the examples I gave.

And you didn't address the fact that you are (correctly) being critical of one bit of a game that was still one of the most successful games of all time, the wart here or there not withstanding. And you are standing that legacy up against a mechanic that is clearly driving away significant portion of the fan base. Where is the desire for inclusion? Or even just the desire to make the game economically viable?
Where is your response to my claim that after a dozen or so sessions you will find that the bard will stop being thrilled to be decent at things that are not key to archetype, whereas the wizard is still going to notice over and over that they are not shining like they used to.

I'm open to change. But the change needs to stand up to scrutiny. I only find responses about how terrible 1E was, and when flaws in this specific alternative are raised, the only replies are to point fingers at 1E.

Fine, let's fix 1E with a better 2E. But if 2E can't be defended on its own merits, then maybe it needs to be reevaluated. The fan base will not be forgiving in the medium term, much less the long term. So better to deal with it now.

Scarab Sages

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magnuskn wrote:

Okay, let's make one thing clear: Jason was talking about a +50 bonus to Acrobatics, and how there are no opponents in Pathfinder which need those kind of bonuses.

That is categorically false in the first place. Every Great Wyrm dragon in the first bestiary has a CMD over 50, even the great wyrm white dragon (kinda sounds like a KKK title to me... ^^) with a 51. There are numerous monsters and AP bosses which have CMD's over 60.

So, yeah, bonus stacking to an absurd degree is problematic (and much moreso in Diplomacy than Acrobatics, IMHO), but also somewhat asked for by existing game design. And it comes at the cost of being less optimal at other things, which is how I personally like it.

Sometimes I wonder how well these guys actually know the game.


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Jason Bulmahn wrote:

Just as a heads up folks, these are wide ranging, looking at game design. The opinions in them are my own and are not necessarily related to any of my work at Paizo (which is why they are in my personal channel and not Paizos). If you are here for the playtest, they might give you insight to my mindset, but they should not be seen as some sort of "behind the scenes" or "secret reveals".

I'm just talking about games...

Jason, I want to thank you for putting up those comments, and letting people understand where you are thinking about. Please keep on making those videos, and giving us an area where we can debate with you over game design. What I would suggest is setting up a page where this could be debated instead of Play Test.


Back to the fun here.

Adventures are equal to a gold rush in an area, so all prices should have a dramatic increase when they blow into town.

As to the skill bloat that is an easy fix. You get a Trait, A Feat, An Item, your Trained Bonus, your Ability Bonus and a Class bonus that may be in a book or a Splat book. No more stacking feats or class bonus to get a huge increase.


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Kringress wrote:
Adventures are equal to a gold rush in an area, so all prices should have a dramatic increase when they blow into town.

Cough.

That said I think you CAN mess with the actual price of things depending on circumstances.


MerlinCross wrote:
Kringress wrote:
Adventures are equal to a gold rush in an area, so all prices should have a dramatic increase when they blow into town.

Cough.

That said I think you CAN mess with the actual price of things depending on circumstances.

Yep I think that would happen

Paizo Employee Director of Game Design

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Kringress wrote:
Jason Bulmahn wrote:

Just as a heads up folks, these are wide ranging, looking at game design. The opinions in them are my own and are not necessarily related to any of my work at Paizo (which is why they are in my personal channel and not Paizos). If you are here for the playtest, they might give you insight to my mindset, but they should not be seen as some sort of "behind the scenes" or "secret reveals".

I'm just talking about games...

Jason, I want to thank you for putting up those comments, and letting people understand where you are thinking about. Please keep on making those videos, and giving us an area where we can debate with you over game design. What I would suggest is setting up a page where this could be debated instead of Play Test.

Yeah, I think I might need to move this to a more general part of the site so that folks dont get this confused with my more official posts and thoughts.

And yes, I do plan to release more. The third one went up yesterday.


Jason Bulmahn wrote:
And yes, I do plan to release more. The third one went up yesterday.

And for your linking convenience: Design Musing: Symmetry and Asymmetry in RPGs.

And an obligatory related Order of the Stick comic: What's Behind Door #2.

It is unusual how symmetry is refected in abstract games. In Nim the players have identical moves, but the slight asymmetry of who moves first determines a very strong winning strategy. Even making a Nim game with many counters and many piles does not diminish that difference.

In contrast, in dice-based games the randomness of the dice over several turns soon overwhelms any first-move advantage. They can become purely symmetrical.

The symmetry starts perfect in Rock-Paper-Scissors; hence, it is often used as a fair method of figuring out who goes first in a game where the first move gives an advantage.

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