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.