After all, didn't I just finish saying that the 3 *slash* 3.5 edition of D&D was like an RPG albatross hanging around my neck?
Yes, but if someone were to put a crossbow to my cranium and force me to run a game right now, I'd probably fall back on Type 3 / 3.5 just 'cuz it's been my sole sustenance for the past twelve years.
Besides, there's a coupla things that actually make some sense in this version. At least in theory. Examples:
- Players seem to dig having more quantifiable things to do in the form of Skills and Feats.
- High rolls = good times in every possible situation.
- There are only three saving throw categories modified by character ability. None of them refer to avoiding peril at the hands of a phallic object.
- Armor classes go up not down. I.E. adios, THACO!
- Simple tactical modifiers for things like flanking, charging, attacks of opportunity or firing into a melee. I don't want a simulation of a medieval scrum, but, hey, a bit o' chrome is always nice.
- MINIS! MINIS! MINIS!
As for the conversational hot potato that is 4'th edition, I just wanna say that it's not for me. I haven't played it myself, but after listening to every Penny Arcade podcast of the game I know for sure that it's not for me. Honestly, it looks like a cool, innovative system but it's just far too removed from the game I grew up with.
Ergo, the concept of a cleaned-up 3.5 in the form of Pathfinder is still pretty attractive to me. 'Specially when it comes in such a lurvely box packed to the rafters with all kinds o' cool bitz.
So, after scoring a copy of this bad boy on a steal just before the holidays, I was chompin' at the bit to take 'er out for a spin. Last Saturday I assembled the League of Paper Champions together at Casa del Me to play out the introductory adventure included in the Game Master's Guide.
Cheryl has the least amount of fantasy RPG experience. She might not be totally acclimated to the sometimes-overwhelming appearance of a fully-loaded character sheet, but her keen tactical mind and a wealth of common sense has proved indispensable in the past. She's predisposed to playing elves and has gravitated towards Druids or Wizards in the past. She's much more interested in parleying and problem solving then chucking daggers and making goblin-kabobs but when her hand is forced, she's not to be trifled with.
Due to her recent experience in playing a stealthy character in Skyrim (who seems to be able to steal the pants off a guard commander at will), she agreed to play the elf Rogue Merisiel.
Dean is a veteran player who often gets stuck playing the Cleric just because no one else wants to play the Cleric. Even when forced to assume this role, Dean does a commendable job healing his compatriots and providing well-timed buffs. Since he probably grew up at the mercy of several sadistic DM's over the years, Dean has a tendency to be overly-cautious at times. But, as a great man once said, "When everyone's out to get you, paranoia is just good thinking."
Once again Dean got stuck with the last remaining character: a human fighter which he promptly re-dubbed Fred Manfredgensen. Listen carefully as he takes what might have been a thankless role, alters his own play-style to fit the character and instantly creates a dynamic and memorable session.
Mark is another experienced dungeon crawler. To counter-balance Dean's previous tendency to tip-toe, Mark is a lot more likely to swing a sword and ask questions later. As a result, he typically plays fighters who, for some reason, always ends up with less hit points then the party mage.
Here, Mark gets to play a Wizard (with the decidedly cool handle of Sel-Kun) and seems a bit tentative due to his comparative squishiness. Nevertheless, his character proves to be pretty effective in combat, which I believe was Mark's primary goal.
Sabina has a bit more spelunking under her belt then Cheryl, having participated in a side campaign run by another DM along with Dean, Mark and I. She doesn't seem particularly married to any specific character type, having portrayed Rogues and Fighter/Wizards in the past.
Of all the members of the League, I think she'd be the one most traumatized by playing olde skool D&D, since she has a habit of lobbying for free experience points and additional abilities at the start of the campaign just for coming up with an elaborate character backstory. This time out Sabina tried her darndest to play a "war-like" Cleric named Kaylan but she just kept sliding back into her natural role as diplomat and peace-maker.
WARNING #1: Since this is a play-through of the starter adventure included in the boxed set ("Black Fang's Dungeon"), the entire thing is one big spoiler! If you're a potential player, do not listen to this or you'll ruin all the surprises. If you're gonna DM it, feel free to listen with a pen and paper handy to help catalog my incessant fuck-ups.
WARNING #2: In the immoral words of Jerry Holkins: "This podcast features adults using adult language. You have been warned."
In which I give the players a quick orientation of the generally-well-laid-out Pathfinder character sheet. Everyone gets a chance to inventory their own abilities and equipment and then ponder the odds of successfully killing their fellow Leaguer in order to steal their shit.
In which Cheryl proves to be wily (not to mention stabby) with her Sneak Attacks, Dean discovers that he couldn't hit a cow in the ass with a shovel, Mark does his best impersonation of a certain Thunder God and Sabina revels in some neo-OD&D clerical blood-spillage.
Cheryl realizes that the best path may not be the most obvious one, Dean creates a new alignment called "Lawful Belligerent", Mark has no qualms about paying a hot goddess for her "boons" and Sabina wins the "World's Most Ironic Cleric of War" Award.
Meanwhile, I bring an Italian Goblin King to vivid life, moderate an impromptu debate about the comparative size of demi-human naughty bits and risk life and limb after failing to posses half the hutzpah of a Zak Smith.
Cheryl is rankled by her new nickname and mistakes "humility" for "humiliation", Mark magically manifests the hoariest of hoary D&D cliches and manages to resist the temptation to de-pantaloon, Dean does a little arachnid cranial surgery and Sabina just can't resist a quest for an obscure limited-edition toy.
On my side of the table, Shelob fails to confirm her crit and I realize to my horror that the group I've assembled consists of one narcissist, two crazy people and Rick Santorum.
Dean gets "raked" by the living-challenged, Mark tries to make a case for putting the fighter down like Old Yeller, the skellies feel the Wrath of Sabina and Cheryl makes the highlight reel.
The group spies the dungeon crawl equivalent of a dangling carrot, "Black Fang" makes a stunning entrance (proving that the locals weren't just being colorful), Dean does his best John Belushi / "Samurai Deli" impersonation, Sabina blesses her eclectic flock, Mark sticks his staff in a hornet's nest and, despite insisting that she's "dextrous", Cheryl gets slimed.
In which Deep Blue is tapped to calculate the group's "to hit" bonus. Sabina ends up resembling a certain flame-haired, steroid-ridden "comedian" and then dreams of cheese and evisceration. Mark pays the price for hitting a dragon in the 'nards with a Magic Missile but his mutant healing powers eventually kick in. Dean performs a timely surgical strike and then earns the dubious title of WORST PARAMEDICS EVAR. Cheryl stabs outside the box and earns the slightly-less-dubious title of LEAST INCOMPETENT FIRST-AIDER (EVAR).
Part Seven & Post-Game Analysis
In the final segment, Dean and Cheryl shake hands with the goblins while concealing knives behind their backs, Sabina enacts that old chestnut "physician heal thyself" and reveals that she's a War Priestess With A Heart Of Gold. After finding a certain pyromaniacal scroll, Mark does his best Beavis impersonation ("Heh, heh. FIRE!!! FIRE!!!").
We also give some post-game commentary about what we liked about the Pathfinder Beginner Box and what had us scratching our heads.