Friday, September 14, 2012

More ramblings about using Pathfinder for Dark•Heritage

That right there is a reorganization of the material for the Rogue class in Pathfinder, with all the material, additional talents and archetypes that Pathfinder has put up on their "PRD" on a single page.  This, of course, was sparked by my "all rogue" game concept, discussed in the last post or two, and which is getting geared up to run online very shortly.  I'd like to do something similar for at least some of the other classes--fighter, ranger, barbarian, etc.  Classes that would feel more or less at home in DARK•HERITAGE anyway.

The archetypes concept is a great one.  I like it a ton, because it allows a great deal of flexibility, customization, and variability in class builds, without having to write completely new classes.  I'm reminded of Corey Reid's old Barsoom Tales game.  The conceit of that game, when it started at least, was that there was no magic on Barsoom.  Players had access to three classes; the fighter class, the rogue class, and the expert class.  Later, it turned out that both magic and psionics existed after all, but the players had to discover them before they could use them.  While this may sound extremely limiting to many D&D players, I've always thought the concept was really kinda brilliant.  And since I don't really like playing spellcasters, and don't like the way magic works in D&D very much anyway, that hasn't bothered me.

Anyway, the combination of those two thoughts has caused me to give a little bit more serious thought to how I'd adapt Pathfinder to work with the DARK•HERITAGE setting; a concept that I have only given minimal thought to before.  My earlier thought was to more or less replicate my 3.5 adjustments as much as possible; I'm now, honestly, thinking that that does not take account to the differences between Pathfinder and 3.5, which are really more thorough than I first thought.  So, let's get to it, shall we?

First, 3.5 was already way too fiddly for me.  Granted, my solution to that was to ignore a lot of the rules during play, and focus on a more "rulings" centered, GM has responsibility to adjudicate the game paradigm.  I like the detail provided for character definition, but during play, things like skill check DCs (or Saving Throw DCs in many cases) would be handwaved, things like encumbrance were completely ignored, combat was done without minis where possible, using narrative combat techniques (which somewhat crocks a few of the feats and class abilities that are heavily centered around tactical combat), CRs and XPs were fairly ad hoc, and roleplaying type activities were encouraged to be roleplayed rather than rolled as dice checks--to some extent.  In other words, I used the 3.5 rules, but largely played the game as if it was still B/X in most respects.  I don't have much use for all the rules of 3.5.

Of course, Pathfinder one-ups 3.5 in terms of rules.  By a fair margin.  A few things are certainly better.  I like character definition even more (see archetype discussion above).  I think the CMB/CMD simplifies all kinds of stuff that was difficult to remember and difficult to pull off correctly in 3.5 (although I sometimes handwaved that in 3.5 anyway.)  Everything is more rigid, and codified.  Granted, I can mostly run Pathfinder the way I ran 3.5... which is heavily based on the way I used to run B/X back in the day.  But to some extent, the rules bloat dampens my enthusiasm for doing so.  Not enough that I won't do it... but almost.  Frankly, the direction Trailblazer went as an improvement on 3.5 is much more my style than the direction Pathfinder went.

And I don't think the fact that Trailblazer and Pathfinder are essentially synonyms is an accident either.

I've complained before about how Pathfinder seems to increase the magic content of the game when my tendency would be to reduce it.  Most of the new classes (prior to the release of Ultimate Combat, at least) were magical classes.  But following Corey's lead, I can just exclude classes that don't work for my setting.  Since all of the Pathfinder classes, especially the original core classes, have all these archetype variations to choose from, making such restrictions isn't really very restrictive, in my opinion.  And heck; with the Use Magic Device skill and the Minor Magic, Major Magic, and even a Familiar rogue abilities to choose from, you can turn a rogue into the equivalent of an Occultist (from d20 Modern) which means that a Rogue really can do it all in a campaign.  But I don't need to be quite so restrictive, unless--like the game I've been talking about here--that's the whole conceit of the game.

Here's the class list that I can see as being appropriate for DARK•HERITAGE.  I prefer now to use magic as per the Occultist, i.e., characters with Use Magic Device are your spellcasters.  With the Magical Aptitude feat, and the Rogue abilities (if playing a rogue), you can make a pretty decent spellcaster for a low magic game that hits all of the high points on what you expect a sorcerous character to be like and be able to do.  With Incantations and scrolls or other magic devices granting access to potentially any spell in the game, you've got a lot of flexibility without having to do much customization and rules work to adapt spells, too.  So... no spellcasting classes really made the cut at all.  And some other classes failed for other reasons, namely that they're either flavorful in all the wrong ways (like the paladin or samurai) or full of supernatural abilities that really aren't what I'm interested in seeing replicated except in very odd cases (monk, ninja.)
  • Rogue - all archetypes are acceptable.
  • Fighter - all archetypes are acceptable.
  • Ranger - ranger's must take the skirmisher archetype, which replaces their spellcasting ability with pickable abilities instead.  They can also take other archetypes, although I would discourage shapeshifter except in very unusual circumstances.  I might have missed an archetype that built on the spellcasting (although I don't think so), and if so, that one can't be used either.
  • Barbarian - all archetypes are acceptable, but the titan mauler is a poor flavor fit.
  • Cavalier - all archetypes are acceptable, although frankly I was on the fence about allowing this class at all, since the "knightly orders" concept isn't really a very DARK•HERITAGE like concept.  If you pick the Beast Rider archetype, you better check with me before picking any mount.  You certainly are not going to be riding around on a tyrannosaur.  As cool as that is, there are not dinosaurs in DARK•HERITAGE.
  • Gunslinger - all archetypes are acceptable.
A couple of other notes.  The Survival skill should include the ability to make a track check, I think.  The Track feat is completely superfluous.  If you have access to it as a class feature, replace it with another feat choice, or with a choice from the Ranger skirmisher archetype's list of Hunter's Tricks.

There are also some other feats that I think are superfluous and you should be able to do them without having a feat.  I can't think of any others off the top of my head, but if you do end up picking such a feat, you can switch it out for something else.  Let's talk.

We'll use the slow progression method.  There will be an "informal" E6 or so--I won't actually literally incorporate the E6 tophat, but I don't really like lengthy campaigns, so the chances that you'll get above 6th level are miniscule anyway.  I'll also have NPCs be at that same order of magnitude of "power"--when I bother to stat them at all, of course.

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