Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pathfinder radio plays and... Starfinder!

While exploring the Paizo website, a necessity due to the last two posts I made (Borrowing from Paizo Part I and Part II) I discovered that they've been very busy with a lot of new projects.  I should reiterate once again, that there are a few things that I don't like about Paizo.  And I don't like those things a lot.  To wit:
  • Their adventures are very tedious, cliched, high fantasy "save the world from supernatural dark lord" linked dungeon-crawls. 
  • Paizo has been completely infested by SJWs—if not founded by them, frankly—and this has had a tremendously deleterious effect on the development of the "plots" of the adventures, on many details of the setting, and for that matter, on their behavior with regards to their customers overall.  Most of the time this is merely annoying background noise, but it does rise on more than one occasion to the level of being actively insulting and offensive.
  • The Pathfinder system is hopelessly bloated, Byzantine, and rigid.  3.5 was already a bad system with regards to those particular traits, but Pathfinder made them all worse.  Meanwhile, I've gone in completely the opposite direction; the OD&D fast and loose swashbuckling paradigm; very rules-lite and dependent on GM rulings rather than a hugely codified rule-set.
On the other hand, the Golarion setting somehow manages to take D&D cliches and make them feel like pulpy classics.  It's been very well done, and I mostly enjoy it when you correct for all of the latent SJWisms.  Paizo is also clearly a fan of old pulp stuff; they've deliberately incorporated elements from such non-D&D sources as Leigh Brackett, for instance, and Edgar Rice Burroughs, and more.  They also put a bunch of old pulp stories back in print as part of their Planet Stories line.

So it's fair to say that I've got mixed feelings about Paizo.  In fact, I think the worst of the SJWisms are actually from freelancers, although no doubt they are allowed to run free at Paizo rather than being given anti-SJW specs to work to.  I think that the real principles at Paizo are probably decent folks.  I'd disagree with them—strenuously—when it comes to a lot of questions, but I think that they don't care as much about that crap as maybe I do, and what can you do?  They're so steeped in it in the environment of Seattle or wherever exactly it is that they're located, that they aren't aware that they're in a social and political bubble.  It's just the ambient environment for them.

So, in spite of the very serious—terminal, even—flaws with Paizo, which eventually made it so that I drifted away from them, they still do a lot of stuff that I enjoy, and I do try to check in every so often and see what's going on.  So, I found some stuff recently that they had done that I quite like.  Some of it isn't even necessarily recent, but I just discovered it.

The first is that they've converted some of their Adventure Paths into radio plays.  They call this series Pathfinder Legends, and it's pretty nifty.  I had earlier said that novels based on the Adventure Paths might have been pretty fun, but we didn't get those, we got these instead.  And what the heck; it's a nice change of pace.  Pathfinder have already put out plenty of novels that are original anyway, and let's face it—novels are better when the plot isn't given to the writer by committee.

So far, two of the adventure paths are completely converted to radio plays: Rise of the Runelords (check out the links in the very first sentence for a quick summary) and Mummy's Mask.  Curse of the Crimson Throne is halfway done.  They are released as CDs and mp3s—one CD per module, so 6 per adventure path.  Now, I'm not such a Paizo fanboy (see complaints above) that I'd spend much money on something like this, no matter how much I think that the idea is pretty cool—but it turns out that they're on Spotify.  So... I don't have to!  While working today, I've listened to most of the first module of Rise of Runelords: Burnt Offerings, and it's a very capably done radio play as far as radio plays go.  I'll keep my eyes on this on Spotify as they continue to come out.  It's a lost form of entertainment in many ways, and it's been (so far) fun to see them.


Secondly, Paizo has announced Starfinder—a space opera version of Pathfinder.  Again; I expect that from a system standpoint it's not going to be what I want, since it's deliberately being developed to be compatible with Pathfinder—but given Paizo's record with space opera in general, and my own surging interest in the genre (which never was really all that low anyway—hazards of being the Star Wars generation, I suppose) I'm very curious to see what they do with it.

I quote, just a small portion, from their early promotional stuff online.  I've pruned a few bullet points that I personally wasn't as interested in, but otherwise this is quoted from Paizo's blog: 
  • It's set in Golarion's solar system, far in a possible future in which Golarion is missing—the gods say it's safe, but won't say what happened to it. In its former orbit is a massive space platform called Absalom Station.
  • History is obscured in the Starfinder setting, as an unknown amount of time has been mysteriously and completely wiped from everyone's memories and all known records—even those on the Outer Planes. This blank period between ancient and modern history is called the Gap, and while it effects the entire multiverse, the edges aren't all in the same place. For instance, one planet might remember back 300 years, while another remembers back 305—these inconsistencies are the primary references some Starfinders use to piece together the secret history of the universe.
  • There's faster than light travel in Starfinder, via a hyperspace dimension gifted by an ascended AI deity.
  • All the core Pathfinder races will still exist and be playable with the Core Rulebook, yet Starfinder's core races are different, and include humans, lashunta, ysoki (ratfolk), androids, kasatha, and two races not yet revealed.
  • In addition, there's going to be a heavy emphasis on introducing more alien player races. Where possible, you should be able to play the creatures you encounter.
  • There's still plenty of magic in the setting, but technology has become a dominant force. For instance, if you're playing an Iomedaean crusader, you might wear holy powered armor and carry a plasma cannon carved with magical runes.
  • Will continue Pathfinder's legacy of being as diverse and inclusive as possible.
Seriously; what is the point of that last bullet point?  See what I mean about SJW virtue signaling?  Sigh.  In an interview, SJW in chief James Sutter goes on and on about the androgynous androids and their "importance" because they represent the oppressed tranny movement.  See, if they'd made them androgynous without trying to make that connection, it would have made some sense.  After all, androids are artificial, so them not having a biological sex is reasonable.  But, I read that interview, so now I'll never be able to look at that stupid tranny android without thinking that it's obnoxious.

And that's just the beginning.  Don't think that there won't be vignettes in the coming Adventure Paths where you're expected to protect the poor, oppressed androids from white, male, space hayseeds and their micro-agressions.  Then it will cross over into being actively offensive and insulting.  They've already got tons of that crap in their regular adventure paths as it is.

Anyway, there's a bit more...
  • There will be seven core classes on release: the technomancer (magical hacker blending technology and magic), mechanic (engineer with a robot buddy), solarian (mystical melee combatant harnessing the cycles of the stars), soldier (heavy weapons specialist), envoy (diplomat and ally-booster), mystic (caster channeling strange energies to manipulate biological systems), and operative (stealthy skill specialist).
  • Star Wars is a decent comparison, tone-wise, but Starfinder will have more magic and moral ambiguity. Other inspirations include Firefly, Shadowrun, the Expanse series, and more—if we could do for space opera what Shadowrun did for 1980s cyberpunk, we'd be ecstatic.
Star Wars actually has a lot more moral ambiguity than many give it credit for.  Of course, to the SJW—and George Lucas is revealed as one—they probably don't really see this, because they have a perverted and corrupted view of morality, where they only believe that whatever the latest SJW cause du jour is is morality, and any action, no matter how immoral, is moral if it's in service to that cause.  Watch Star Wars again and it becomes very clear; even if you just watch the original cut Original Trilogy, but it's worse if you watch the Prequels.  The Jedi are not good guys.  Yoda and Obiwan are not heroes, nor do they encourage Luke to be heroic.  He's heroic in spite of them and because he ignores their advice, not because of it.  (Although he's a kind of forlorn, sad-sack beta-male type of hero.  Sigh.)  The Jedi are liars.  They're disloyal and untrustworthy.  They're easily manipulated, and think nothing of manipulating others.  They don't act in good faith.  They are passive when they should be standing up bravely for virtue, and active and interventionist when they should stand back and respect the freedom of others.  And yet, we're supposed to identify with this organization as the obvious "good guys?"  Uh, ... no.

Of course, it's possible that what Sutter means here is that you aren't forced to play the good guys.  I suspect what it means, though, is that Starfinder will embrace the nihilism that has completely ruined almost all of our entertainment.  The villains are made so sympathetic that they're more likable than the protagonists, and the heroes are made so flawed that they are completely unrelatable and we can't even root for them.  A very little bit of this goes a long way.  Originally, Magneto was an interesting villain, because you kinda thought maybe he had a point sometimes.  But then they went and made Professor X more morally reprehensible than Magneto, and all X-Men fans with healthy, functional psychological profiles were disgusted.

That said; I'd hardly be surprised to find that in the details of the actual adventures is where the SJWisms will really come out.  It's mostly that way with their Pathfinder stuff too.
  • Starfinder puts an even greater focus on exploration than Pathfinder, as the setting pushes many adventurers out toward a galaxy full of uncontacted worlds. While you can play whole adventures or campaigns on a single world if you want, the assumption is that the PCs are probably the crew of a starship.
  • Starship battles will be a significant element in the game, with their own combat system utilizing miniatures, but not as common as ordinary character-scale combat.
  • The plan is to produce a Starfinder Reference Document (like the PRD) and make it available for free online.
  • Starfinder will have an OGL-like compatibility license allowing for third-party products.
So, there you have it.  Because of my slowness, AD ASTRA has been scooped!  Well, whatever.  It's not like semi-magic fantasy space opera is a unique concept, of course (anyone remember DragonStar?), so I can keep doing what I planned to do all along with the setting.  But now I've got another potential source of inspiration to look to.  I admit to being quite curious as to exactly how they develop it.  It is, after all, basically an evolution of what is possibly my favorite Pathfinder book, Distant Worlds, so they'd have to really drop the ball to lose me right up front.

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