Monday, March 18, 2013

Pathfinder's Double Dipping

I still am not playing RPGs regularly, but I've got some plans in the works for the fall. At any rate, I was looking at Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 again because those are systems that people still play and seem to enjoy.

One of my problems, however, is the double dipping for conceptual material. Take, for example, Pathfinde's Oracle ( The Oracle is, more or less, Pathfinders' divine version of the Sorcerer. It is thematically akin to 4e's Invoker: a prophet, divinely touched by the gods for an often unknown purpose. But what really gets to me is the fact that they have spells in addition to a set of powers based on their chosen mystery.

Why does a class need one set of magical powers and then another set of power options? I mean, sure, some are spell-like and others are actual spells. But why do the gods need to grant these distinct types of power? Couldn't a Winter Oracle just use cold-based spells?

I'm not opposed to the concept of the Oracle's mystery (or the Wizard's specialty school, the Sorcerer's bloodline, the Cleric's Domains, etc.). What seems unecessary is that there are two mechanics for magical powers granted by the gods, and one of those is basically 'cast this one spell three times a day' or 'you can use this one spell for a number of rounds per day equal to your level'. Mechanically, it just seems redundant and it doesn't make use of the systems already in place.

How would I fix this? I think the concept is ok, but why not tie it into what we already have, like feats and domains? A winter oracle might gain feats like spell focus (Cold) or bonus spells from a winter, storm, cold, air, or death domain. Maybe oracle mysteries are enough to warrant their own concept, and a winter oracle could still choose from some class-specific powers, but why do they need to duplicate spells like this?

I'd rather see 9 new ice-based spells for the winter oracle, and a set of powers they get to choose from, like a power that grants them spell-focus (cold), a flat damage or attach bonus with cold-based spells, resistance to cold, additional spells (either with the cold descriptor or from a fixed small-list of appropriately themed spells), etc.

What's the difference? I guess part of it is active vs passive powers and the exponential rate of magic growth. Even my example of resistance to cold above seems slightly redundant, since Winter Oracles could simply be able to cast Endure Elements as an Orison (maybe self-only?) or Resist Element (Cold) as a first level spell. But the other element is just plain redundancy. If spells aren't gifts from the gods, then what are they? Maybe it makes for a less fantastic world, if spells are all priests and magicians and prophets get... I think I like that better though.

Ultimately, this is one reason why I might prefer playing 3.5 over pathfinder given the chance. All these spell-like powers just feel like lazy design. I'd rather have a clearer and modular spell system (along side feat or maneuver or whatever systems) than classes that keep gaining class features that duplicate established mechanics.

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