Tuesday, July 8, 2014

On Simpler Games

Sometimes, I've wondered what kind of person really prefers a simpler game with few character options? I think I've met two of those people in the past two days. One is my friend S. This is the third AD&D character I've seen him make. Since it was for a one-on-one game, I figured there'd be no problem bringing out all the crazy supposedly overpowered Skills & Powers nonsense. He chose a by-the-book Gnome Fighter/Illusionist. I even have the Wizard's Spell Compendium with me (4 volulmes) and he just took spells from the Player's Handbook. I suppose they were familiar options, and enough options for him.

Crazy thing is, the second person who might prefer a simpler game with fewer character options is me.

I've been toying with joining a Pathfinder group for a while now and had been finally leaning towards playing. The cons: they play on the weekend and I prefer weekend freedom for boozy brunch or travel, and its Pathfinder. But I was looking through character options, and I'm not sure I could be fucked to really go through and make a decent Pathfinder character with all the options. There must be hundreds of feats, dozens of prestige classes, plus skills and traits and racial features. I'm fine selecting from a their 19 base classes, each with at least a handful of archetypes (i.e. 2nd edition kits). And races, well, they've got the usual fantasy set plus some nice other options (too many though, also what the eff are half of them? Reminds me of wilden and shardminds). But dear Lord, each class also has a few different choices (cleric domains, wizard specialty schools, sorcerer bloodlines, etc.), some of which aren't just things that you choose once (say, and Oracle's Mystery) but then you also choose from a slate of powers within that choice, not to mention weapons and spells. Plus I'm me. I've been perusing the psionics section too.

My friend B. mentioned that he was irritated that feats weren't in the new Basic pdf, wondering what's going to distinguish one fighter from another... While I'm keen on having unique PCs at the table and all, the complete Pathfinder game just seems like too much to digest. I think fighters are a little broad/generic anyway, but let's ask what distinguishes each Paladin or Ranger: maybe each Paladin can be distinguished by roleplaying rather than some eldritch constellation of feats and power choices. A couple choices, yeah, that's cool. I can handle a feat or two, or some class feature that asks me to pick a power at each level. If there's a reasonable number.

Now, I guess sticking to the main pathfinder books wouldn't be terrible. It can't be much worse than 3.5 or 4e. Or I could just look up some char-op forums for Pathfinder and seeing which set of feats and other options they rank as the best and choosing among those. But just look at the massive list of feats (which only includes the open content, not the proprietary PF stuff). I think 3.5 or 4e didn't seem so bad because I was gradually introduced to the options, same for 2nd Edition.

But second edition, for all its kits and proficiencies... 2nd Edition kept its magic items in the DM book so it wasn't expected that players would create shopping lists of the cool items they wanted/needed for their build, and most character choices were made at first level (Race, Class, Kit). Maybe I'm old, but the options seemed more manageable as well. Sure it isn't clear what a Bladesinger is as a kit, but most kits you have an idea what they do just from the name: Amazon, Swashbuckler, Barbarian, Berserker, Cavalier... With so many feats and archetypes and class options and traits and racial options in the Pathfinder SRD, I find myself lost at sea.

All of this complaining said, I'm a true fan of character options. But I guess at the right level of granularity. I love that my friend S. was able to create a Gnome Fighter/Illusionist (2/2) in about half an hour and get a third of the way through Fighter's Challenge in one evening of play. Ok, ok, ok... it was a long evening: 7:30-12:30ish. But still. Because I've played 3.5, I'm sure I could whip up my Half-Efreet Wishmaster Sorcerer or a Half-Orc oracle of bones, or an Archdean of the Abjurer's Guild without too much trouble, but there's so many options I could never really look to find the best of them. There's something to be said for a set of rules where you can create a character with relative ease, and that gives me some hope for the 5th edition of D&D and games like 13th Age, and it's a definitely something grognards value with the older editions and retroclones like Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperboria or Adventurer, Conqueror, King. I think this is also why some people I know have a massive hard-on for Dungeon World and associated games powered by the apocalypse. But right now I'm running a little AD&D 2nd and that's fine by me too. And apparently my friend S. And that makes all the difference.

1 comment:

  1. If you're in town this summer I'd like to run dungeon world or even apocalypse world for you so you can see some of why I enjoy the powered by the apocalypse systems