Saturday night was the 42 Ale House’s D&D&D where the last D is, naturally, drinking. This was the second or third event of this type there, where people get together and try to form groups to play RPG’s, either long term or right on the spot. I heard about it from a guy on the bus named Russ. We got down there and there were about 25 people there in various states of nerdery and inebriation. The initial bit was a lecture on good play, both for a GM and players which was excellent. While the speaker was definitely in the ‘storyteller’ camp of RPG play where the system itself tries to ‘force’ drama via rules rather than have it just happen in play like with the OSR styles, it was worth hearing. There were a lot of good points made but the main thing for GM’s was ‘don’t waste time on boring stuff‘ and for players was ‘help the GM do some of his work for him.’
One example the speaker used that I had umbrage with was the thief picking a lock and failing over and over and over again and how that’s boring, which is certainly true if you are playing story type games. In FATE, players can succeed in anything at a cost (incurring a complication), but let’s face it, FATE was never really a rule system in the end, it’s just a bunch of people handwaving in storytime makebelieve land.
The contrast to this is in any OSR, each fail is 10 minutes of time / one turn. The player can opt to keep trying to open the lock over and over, but every game turn (10 minutes) is a wandering monster/event roll. The thief may get into the lock or not, OSR doesn’t care because it’s designed that that die roll and the character’s skill at picking locks determines what happens. In story games or ones where the threat (and I mean REAL threat, not just a 2 hour combat with stuff that can’t even hurt the characters because that’s how the module is balanced) doesn’t come from wandering monsters, it’s OK to let them pick the lock even if they fail, but in the OSR, each failure risks the entire party’s lives as SOMETHING will eventually wander in and do some killing or drain the party’s scant resources opening them up for being killed later. And if you are a Fighter in one of those parties where the thief is burning turn after turn on a lock, which means you are likely dead if there is any combat, you may just kill that thief yourself!
After the speaker,the GM’s pitched their games. Most were D&D 5E, one was Rifts (?!), another Numenera and the last one was a dude practicing for Iron GM running… fucking Pathfinder. The 5E games filled up instantly, and since we knew the iron GM dude a bit from Gen Con, we bit the bullet and played in his one-shot, totally off the cuff game. The group and the GM were good to play with, and did and said a lot of silly things (a few players were focusing on the final D a lot) however the system, as always, got in the way of PLAY and it was so fucking annoying I could barely stand it.
Here’s some stuff about it:
- Apparently, players have to start at level 4-6 for it to even be worthwhile to run for a Pathfinder GM. We had to make or were given 6 level characters all for a 3 hour pick up game.
- The character sheets were 4 pages long. The pregen I got, a simple fighter, had a page of all his ‘powers’ and 4-5 weapons, some magical. Of course, I didn’t read any of it because again–a 3 hour pick up game.
- Combat was, of course, the shittiest version of D20 combat there is, but at least the GM didn’t fuck shit up by using miniatures. As much as I hated this session of play from a system and rules perspective, I have to hand it to the GM that he didn’t bust out a stupid map and minis.
- No one was hit or damaged the entire session, in two fights, one being quite large. My character, a warforged fighter, had 56 hit points and 24 AC. I was never touched during the session. Remember, pathfinder is built to be a stroke-my-gaming-cock-to-my-leveled-up-character type of game, so no characters are ever meant to actually die.
- Generic monsters are were still lame and generic. The GM used the beastiary and everyone knew what everything was instantly as well as the mechanics to each. There was no sense of wonder at all because ‘oh that’s a vampire, it has X HD’ and ‘oh, a basilisk, 3HD right?” What’s more in pathfinder, a Basilisks blood CURES being turned to stone, so not only do players have the ability to save vs the stoning, their buddies that kill the Basilisk can just turn him back to flesh instantly. It’s not like the creature does much damage on a hit either, so why did we even have that encounter?
- Rolling the dice constantly for every goddamn perception/spot check is incredibly lame. As a GM, I want characters that are looking for stuff to find stuff so we can have an adventure happen. Spot ‘checks’ that will whittle down the number of characters that spot something should be special and not par for the course.
I’ve played Pathfinder maybe 8 sessions now, and once for an entire weekend solid so I’ve given it the good college try, but this is now too much. I’d like to say that Pathfinder feels like playing ‘old tech,’ like busting out your Sega 32X with all addons just to play DOOM when you could just fire up your PC and play far more easily and without all the bullshit cables everywhere. However, I play and really like the core design of some older games (namely Moldvay D&D), so it’s not that it’s old, it’s that Pathfinder is just a shit game. 13th Age, Basic (ones that don’t use THACO that is), 5E are simply better games.