11 October 2015

Why I don’t run Pathfinder.

As some of you may know, my first exposure to RPGs was in the 90s with a combination of the Holmes bluebook and the AD&D DMG. My brother and I didn’t play a whole lot of it, but we played some. I played some with a friend in middle school.
We also didn’t the same access to console games, unlike other children of the 90s.
The two of us, my brother and I, did play a possibly excessive amount of Risk, and when Magic: the Gathering came out, 1993, we weren’t playing it yet. We started playing it around the time Ice Age came out, 1995, but for our household it wasn’t until 1996 when Mirage came out, that we started playing in more heavily, when the Tempest block came out, 1997, we dove into it. 
As brothers, we were extremely competitive towards each other, which is great when playing a competitive game. For a fair amount of time my brother was better than me, but over all we were evenly matched. 
By this time, we had both had more exposure to console games, we even had a play station, and were playing the final fantasy series.
I started playing D&D more heavily when 3rd edition came out. I was in high school. I played it at school. Like a nerd. Back then I never ran into the weird problems I have run into running and playing Pathfinder. I still didn’t run into these problems when 3.5 came out and I ran a brief campaign during college. 
I had started playing MTG again with the Mirrodin block, 2001, with my friends, different friends from my school based D&D ones. I didn’t play at school because the school MTG culture was one of “oh noes I’m drawing the cards I want I must look through my deck” and other gross disregards for the rules of the game. Games have rules. I like to follow the rules of the game, that way when I change them I can explain why. In any case, I never found it satisfying to play MTG with people who don’t know, understand, or flat-out ignore the rules.
While this makes me sound like an insufferable rules-lawyering prick, I actually wasn’t. I simply chose not to play with people who didn’t play the way I wanted to. This carried over into playing with my friends. I had over the course of that period of time, made several decks that used once or twice and then never again, because my friends didn’t enjoy playing against them. I find fun to push the game, and figure out why certain design choices were made, which is one of the reasons I still to this day have a huge amount of scorn for the “stop the game I’m mana hosed let me dig through my deck some land,” and the “nuh uh, all lands gives you mana” type of players. The game did, and does, have cards that do that, on top of the fact that part of the game is luck and chance, and that those kinds of players strike me as poor losers, and probably winners. 

So, how does this relate to Pathfinder?

I am not a charoper, one of those people who do theorycrafting and other such things to optimize their characters for Pathfinder, or other table-top games. I used to be fairly into the theorycrating of paladin tanking and hunter dps in World of Warcraft. Not because I really wanted to, but because in order to do the stuff that was fun, raiding for me, you sort of needed to do some minimal research and experimentation. Even then, I did it to the point that I gained enough of an understanding that allowed me to do things that weren’t 100% optimal, in the eyes of the poorly informed or just plain stupid. Things like tanking heroic instances in DPS gear. Because ultimatly, games are about fun. This is why I would lambaste assholes with illusions of eliteness, especially when they were wrong. 
I don’t play table-top rpgs to scratch that itch. I could play WoW, or MTG, or find some other game. When I sit down to play an rpg, I want to things other than exclusively or heavily combat.
But with that being said, when playing, or running, a game like Pathfinder, which has an emphasis on combat, it really pisses me off when tactical, strategic, or logistical thinking is not rewarded or outright shunned. This is something that seems to plague portions of the Pathfinder community. They expect a “balanced” and “level appropriate” encounter, which means, they want to win, and even if they win if they didn’t win with the kind of ease they wanted, they complain. Those are actual complaints I have had from players when I was running.
Naturally, this is a problem with the people, not the game; I’ve had this same problem running ACKS and B/X. However, Pathfinder requires a lot investment of everyone involved to get it to work. Retuning encounters, rebalancing loot, repopulating dungeons, all of that demands more time. 
The point of this rambling is more of a reminder to myself why I don’t run it. If I don’t this, I’ll try to run it again. I enjoyed running PF when I first picked it, and I was enjoying running PF until have to scuttle my participation in that group, even with the one major problem player who was the root of all the complaints. I enjoy playing it, my wife is an excellent PF GM. I really enjoy making monsters and NPCs for it, just browse through the Pathfinder tag. 
But, it’s a game built on certain assumptions: you will have X plusses worth of bonuses to certain rolls at certain levels, a balanced encounter is one that won’t generally kill a player, and your character is a special hero. As such, without magical items, saving throw based attacks favor the caster, not the target, which is the opposite of everything prior to 3e. I did some math, and baring a huge disparity in caster stat to saving throw, at equal levels as levels go higher, casters will dominate because of save or suck.  
While I could houserule, or use some of the other variants, either published by Paizo or on the internet, the amount of work it requires me to alter PF counter these inbuilt assumptions is not worth it because I can take other games and add to them the parts I like about PF.

10 October 2015

In honor of the season a 5E race: the Skeleton

Skeletons: Sometimes a heroic mortal dies someplace tainted with evil, but instead of rising up as a truly evil or mindless undead minion of the dungeon they rise up in full possession of their memories and will, but sans their flesh and any spell-casting ability. This is but one of the ways a heroic Skeleton could come into being. Others include a botched resurrection or raise dead spell, or a once ordinary mortal rising out of their grave.

As a skeleton, you have the following racial traits.

Ability Score Increase. Your Dexterity and Constitution scores increase by 1.
Size. Despite being bereft of the fleshy prison of mortality your size as a skeleton is Medium.
Darkvision. The necromantic energies animating you grant to the ability to see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can’t discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.
Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
Brittle Bones. As a skeleton, you posses a vulnerability to bludgeoning attacks.
Resilence of the Damned. As member of the corporeal undead you have several immunities. You are immune to disease, poison, and exhaustion. You do not need to eat or breathe, but you can ingest food and drink if you wish. Instead of sleeping, you enter an inactive state for 4 hours each day. You do not dream in this state; you are fully aware of your surroundings and notice approaching enemies and other events as normal.
Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language of your choice, or whatever languages you spoke in life.

08 October 2015

Some Pendragon, BRP Mecha, and general mecha related musings: A repository

This is going to be a repository of my late night musings that relate to mecha RPG stuff, primarily BRP Mecha.

Shared privately  -  Sep 9, 2015
It just hit me what I can use OVA for.

A reboot of my Pendragon/Mecha game. The mecha stats are secondary to the fact that the PKs are knights that use mecha instead of horses, and it was way more anime than Pendragon. I mean I had a magical girl as a PK.

Doesn't mean Ill reboot that game though.

OVA is a weird game, and suppose that is because it's a generic game. I don't think that making a game medium focused is really a good idea. The idea that one game could give you the tools to do a very diverse medium, anime and/or manga, will never not be silly. I've discarded this idea. I might save it for an attempt of Gurrenvangelion, although I think BRP Mecha will be suitable for it.

Shared privately  -  Sep 16, 2015
Having thus far only played two games of Battletech I am seeing some inspiration from it in BRP Mecha. I could easily see porting over the 'mech sheet, weapons and equipment, and basically doing BRP Battletech. It wouldn't be a good fit for something like Macross, but I could definitely see myself running a redux of my Mecha Pendragon game on such a manner. 

Sep 16, 2015
And I just had an idea about Pendragon 4th edition's magic system relating to said Mecha Pendragon campaign.
The more I think about redoing Pendragon and Mecha, the more I think that bolting Battletech on top of BRP or Pendragon might do the job better than BRP Mecha. Or a hybridizing of things.

My vague idea of using the 4e Pendragon magic system is generally making magic hard to use outside of the mecha, represented by a very low cap on how many d20s used to generate magic, but getting a sizable number of d20s or a flat bonus when within the mecha. And only within certain mecha at that. I'm not in general a fan of 4e's magic, but it might work for this kind of game.

Shared privately  -  Sep 29, 2015
Sometimes I really do feel like I should attempt a partial reboot of my Pendragon/Mecha campaign but with more stompy robot actions by bolting on 'mech creation and stats over BRP mecha.

Sep 29, 2015
Things I've been thinking about porting over from battletech to BRP mecha:

Ablative armor
Fixed weapon damage
An oddly repetitive post from me, but I do like the idea of ablative rather than reductive or deflective armor, and the fixed weapon damage does work in Battletech, even if it might feel a bit boardgamey.

Shared privately  -  Oct 4, 2015
I think Cross Ange would make a terrible table-top RPG, but it might make a good MMO or CRPG. That assumes that someone wants to emulate the "bishojo riding transforming mecha that earn a living slaying interdimensional DRAGONs," and not the plot of the series.
If one did want to directly emulate the show, BRP Mecha seems like an excellent fit. If one doesn't, BRP Mecha is still probably a very good fit.

Shared privately  -  Oct 6, 2015
A possible rules-addenum to BRP Mecha: Calucate armor off of SIZ not Size Class, make it ablative rather than reductive, critical/special successes by-pass it to disable/destroy components, and damage done to unarmored sections are treated like critical/special successes.
And this is me just spitballing. It seems like a good idea.

Shared privately  -  Yesterday 4:00 PM
Strongly considering doing MechaPendragon in/after November as my next face-to-face game instead of Macross: Megaroad-01.

Yesterday 5:06 PM
It will be post-apocalyptic Great Pendragon Campaign with ancient mecha.

Depending on how much of the Revolution D100 play-test documents I have, I might do it d20 pendragon-style or d100.
Yesterday 5:33 PM
One of the cons of this conglomeration is that there is a lack of granularity between mecha, or at least the way I converted them, that removes one of the conceits of Pendragon, that knights aren't always using their warhorse.

Of course there is nothing stopping me from only using my conversions as a starting point, which is what I would do.

I do prefer the conceit of the GM is the one that stats up the mecha, not the players, as it matches up with player knights being unable to customize their horses beyond vagaries fueled by money.
 Ideas to get this conceit to work:
  1. Some kind of time limit on mecha operation time. Leaning towards a heat based limit like in Valvrave, Break Blade, or Battletech.
  2. Some kind of limit based on the physical or mental strain piloting a combat mech.
  3. Pack mecha being super strong, but super slow; combat mecha being much faster, but lacking in endurance; and riding mecha being faster, but unsuited to being in combat too much. Related in a way to #1, and basically making pack meca trucks, combat mecha some manner of combat vehicle, and riding mecha sexy sportcars.
  4. Just do away with the multiple mount conceit like I did in my first Pendragon mecha game.
Shared privately  -  9:30 PM
Another way it appears that BRP Mecha is borrowing from Battletech is that movement of your mecha accumulate tokens, I know it sounds weird, which are used to count modifiers to the various pertinent skill roles, i. e. the modifiers a 'mech gets to hit based on how much it and its target(s) moved during movement.
This is one of things that almost makes me regret picking up BRP Mecha in the first place, and not having played Battletech until very recently.