Friday, November 27, 2015

Taking a 10 and 20

D&D 4 and D&D 5 mostly did away with the concept of taking a 10 or 20 on a skill roll, yet this still lives on in the Pathfinder game. The concept of the "take a 20" mechanic is this:
If I spend so much time at the task that I iterate through every possible roll, I will at least roll a 20 once in those tries and succeed.
So you trade time for certain success. With taking a 10, you choose to take an average roll. You can check out the rules here on the d20 SRD. We have always had a couple problems with the entire take a ten or twenty mechanic, so here it goes.

Statistics 101

First off, assuming you will get a 20 in this period of time would have driven my statistics professor crazy. He would have come right back at me and said "you could roll 100 times, or even 200 times and you are never guaranteed a 20 in that sequence, the probability goes up, but it is never a certain thing." With taking a 10, there is no such thing as an 'average' roll on a single test. The average on one test is the roll, whatever that may be. Again, my statistics professor would have called BS on both these mechanics.

But Really, in Play...

I don't have the same problem my statistics professor has, because I know these rules are shortcuts to simplify and speed up play. Take a 10 though, yeah, I still have a problem with that since it feels so nonsensical.

First off, taking a 20, the real reason this bugs me is because D&D 3 and all variants accept the fact that you can retry all skills indefinitely. Forever. You can buffalo your way through any skill check by rolling again, and again, and again until the end of time. If you imagine this with a social skill check trying to convince a king to lend you his magic sword, it goes something like this:
"Can I have your magic sword, my king?"
"No."
"I need it to defeat the dragon, may I have it sire?"
"No."
"My chances of rescuing the princess would be greatly increased-"
"No."
"Can I?"
"No."
"Can I have it?"
"No."
"Can I?"
"No."
"Can-"
"No."
"Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I? Can I?"
"No."
"..."
"No."
"Can I?"
"Okay, take it."
Like any interaction with a three-year old, it assumes the DC you set for any task is merely an annoyance for the players to brute force their way past. We grew up with atomic "pass-fail" skill checks. If your thief blew his lockpicking roll, that was it, that lock could not be picked until the thief raised their lockpicking skill and knew some new tricks to try again. The concept of taking a 10 or a 20 to get automatic success felt alien at the time 3E was released, and truthfully, it still feels strange to us today.

Roleplaying, the Great Second Chance

Yes, there are certain times you should be able to make a second attempt. Let's say you are trying to make a persuasion roll and blow the first one. Normally, that should be it, the person refuses and you need to find another way. However, the player is clever and changes their tack with a second offer, roleplaying out a great 'other reason' why the person should go along with the plan. As a referee, I would allow a second check, but at a penalty since this person is already negatively inclined against this persuasion attempt, and second chances should be rare. But it was a great reason and fit within roleplaying, so it should be allowed for fairness. A third try? At that point you are begging, and I would disallow it, or put such a penalty on the attempt you would have to be a saint with a blessed d20 to succeed.

The king would give you a funny look though. Really?

But yes, great roleplaying should be the basis on which second tries are allowed. There is a limit, of course, but this feels right to me.

Pass-Fail Improv

Pass-fail tests. I love them. If players fail at something, they need to have backup plans or think of another way around, or use another skill. As a good referee, I am not going to tell them to pack up their character sheets, the adventure is over, goodbye and see you next week if the party can't pick a lock. There will be another way in, or the players may be clever enough to figure a way around it. Knock on the door. Climb on the roof. Smoke em out. Something. Just please be more creative than giving up and telling me you take a 20, because I won't let you. that one shot you had was the sole cumulative effort of all you knew, and that was the once shot you had. You rolled a 3 and blew it. Try something else.

As a DM, don't put your adventure in that situation either.

I find players are more creative, start buying backup skills, and become more involved when I use pass-fail tests with them. They understand that moment will not come again, and they make plans in case it fails. They can't sit there and burn time for automatic success, because that's not the way the world works. You can't take a chemistry test until you pass it.

In a movie, when a hero attempts to pick a lock and fails, that is usually never revisited again. The brute in the party kicks it down. The smart kid hacks the computer. Someone tries the window and finds it open. Someone asks, "Is there a back door?" Another character pulls out a welder. Dramatically, it feels right.

Everybody Wins but Nobody Cares

Somewhere, I believe rules like this slipped in because a dungeon master somewhere let his or her players bully them into making successive rolls until they caved in. The player, whoever it was, sat at the table believing that roleplaying was just like a videogame, and you could press that "use skill" button and roll the virtual dice in the CPU again and again until they succeeded.
Player: "What? Come on! I keep trying!"
DM (sighing): "Okay, roll again."
No. Seriously? Life isn't like that. you can't show up at the job interview the next day after they told you to get lost. Your skill roll at this one task was it, and your character gives up trying because it isn't possible. No matter how you feel as a player, you need to figure out another way forward. maybe you shouldn't have skimped on the skill, maybe the task was to tough, or maybe it was just bad luck. Regardless, in that game world, your character failed, and you as the invisible hand of the player must chart a new course and find a new way.

If you roleplay a second chance, I'll give you that. Don't expect it to be easy, and you better have a new angle to come at this problem, but I am fair and love creative play.

Death, the Great Exception

Death is always a great exception to the rule. If your party is fending off a goblin horde, and your thief is trying to pick that lock so everyone can escape, I will let you try again and again until you all fall to goblin blades or get that blasted door open. There may be increasing penalties as each attempt fails. This also feels right. I generally allow in-combat checks as long as there is a chance of grave danger ever present and threatening to strike every turn. In a movie, one character picks the lock while the rest hold off the horde, and everyone is screaming at the thief to get it open.

Out of combat, there is no pressure to succeed, and no life-or-death consequence (yes, even in the grand sense where the princess is behind the door and needs to be set free). With a constant and real threat, yes, I generally allow second chances, and really, this falls under the above "roleplaying" exception for second chances. You are under fire, and need to get the door open. Your character gets second chances because the pressure is on and the adrenaline is pumping. The danger of failure is real. You will succeed. Maybe.

It feels right. It feels dramatically correct and it also reflects real life experiences. Once the threat passes, the pressure is off, and whatever that last check was stands.

Another Exception, Skill-Ups

Let's say your thief fails and comes back to that same lock later with a higher skill level. Yes, I would allow a second check since you learned some new tricks. Or maybe a long amount of time passes, like weeks, then yes, a fresh try could be allowed. This is also being fair, while still staying strong on the pass-fail result of the original check.

This has Always Been How We Played

Really, this has always been how we played roleplaying games. We let the original skill check stand, fail or succeed. We only allowed second chances though creative roleplaying. Players always found another way around, or understood they needed great skills and redundancy of skills and plans to avoid being put in a bad situation by an unlucky skill check.

Taking a 20 felt so lazy to us. It felt like skills checks were inconveniences to play. To us, skill checks were play. Taking a 10 meant nothing, I mean, in what sense could you say "I do an average job" in the chaos of the universe and dungeon crawling where anything could happen?

Even when we play Pathfinder, we disallow taking a 10 or a 20. I would rather just DM fiat "no roll needed" for those simple tasks than to allow a buffalo-through assumption of videogame-inspired try-fail-repeats at my table. If a skill check is that simple, really, why roll? Yes, 3E and Pathfinder say "roll if failure is important and has consequences", but to us, every roll is important and has consequences - because any roll important enough to make at the table should be that important.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Adventurers and Only Adventuers

DarkgarX and I had a discussion and it started like this:

"It is funny how some superhero RPGs assume that the X-Men and the Avengers have the same motivations...."

Now with the old Marvel Superheroes RPG, it had this feeling, at least for us. Now, what is this feeling. I can sum it up by saying that this happens when a roleplaying game automatically puts you into a "default role" based on the fact you are a hero.

You see this with D&D and also Pathfinder, you are some sort of treasure hunter or other "adventurer" class that goes out and loots and kills for experience and profit. In most other games, these people would be called bandits, but I digress, the game has a feeling it puts you into a role just based on the fact you are playing it.

Factions and the world story are secondary, and these games typically don't want to put you in a specific world role because of their generic-fantasy roots, or it is just easier to assume by default those generated in the system belong to this generic adventurer class.

Traveller had the same feeling for us, that the game mustered you out of whatever service the tables put you in, gave you a starship, and said, "Go forth and adventure, space citizen!" And that is typically where our Traveller games ended because space is a huge place. I know it is up to the group to decide what they want the players to do, if they all still work for the scout service or whatever, but the game provides little direction to do so, and we were young, so we wondered what the point all was. Today, yes, we know more and can handle a universe-sized sandbox, but as kids, no, we weren't prepared.

Contrast this with Dragon Age, or even the Pirates of Legend games. In a setting-specific RPG, you have factions ready to join and be a part of, and those factions have missions ready and waiting. I would even put games like Gangbusters (more so) and Star Frontiers (less so) in this category, since those games have built-in worlds and factions a player can jump right into and get going.

Dragon Age is an interesting game, since it pulls so heavily from the lore of this world, and there are many factions to join up with or play against. It is a wonderful world, and very rich in detail and backgrounds, and I will say the world almost feels Star Wars: The Old Republic like in the factions and history. I would have wished Wizards did as good of a job with Faerun, but it often feels Wizards doesn't focus as much on lore and characters as they should. I feel there is always this invisible stalker hovering over Wizards and to some extent Paizo when it comes to lorebooks concerning powerful NPCs, and the tired trope that powerful NPCs make the world unfun. The D&D 4th Edition worldbooks were almost devoid of any personalities or powerful figures, and they felt sterile and useless for our group as a result.

Exactly the opposite feels true for me and my players, powerful NPCs make the world interesting and compelling. Give us a world full of great good guys and bad guys, and we will have adventures in it all day. What is Lord of the Rings without Gandalf?

Dragon Age also has a "goals and ties" system that attempts to give the players a reason to band together, so the default assumption of the adventurer class is still present in the game. They also have a fun-looking "player organizations" system that lets players create factions and run them, so there looks to be thought put into a sandbox-style game and crafting motivations within it beyond the 'kill for loot and XP" motivation of other games.

But back to the original thought. The adventurer class and the default roles of the hero. I find this to be a little less common in generic RPGs (such as GURPS, Legend, and others), since there is literally nothing else to do, so you need to come up with the factions yourself. You need to start by saying "let's spin up a party of ghost hunters" and use the rules to make that happen. With the D&D style games, you can get away with "let's spin up a hero and wait for the DM" sort of generic adventurer role, and things still can work.

I don't think it is a strength, in fact, I think this is one of the things that turns me off to the current incantations of D&D and Pathfinder, the assumed lack of a world and a faction. It isn't the game's fault, of course, because they are toolboxes, but there is something strangely un-generic about these traditional high-fantasy games that feels different than an entirely generic game.

Yes, you can make your own world, and make your own factions, and more power to you if you do. But you can get away without doing it and still have it work. With other generic games, creating a "generic hero" without knowing why is often a recipe for disaster. Fantasy does tend to be simpler in its motivations, so you can get away with designing to fill a role (tank, healer, DPS) and fit right in to any story by "wanting to help out."

It is interesting to compare this to a generic fantasy game such as Legend. With Legend, if you spin up a character, there feels like there is little or nothing to do without a story happening or factions in some sort of game world to motivate players to a call to action. Referee input is needed in order to get going. With the D&D variants, it somehow feels different, like you can start playing without a story and a faction and be fine. You could happily adventure for adventure's sake, and begin leveling up and gathering loot. This admittedly is a strength of the system, since the motivation for leveling is strong and built-in.

It also feels like a weakness of these systems, because by default there is no need for a strong motivation. It is the same "get in and level your guy" sort of motivation MMOs have, where you disconnect yourself from any care about the story or quest text, and play for getting to the next level. I suppose this is a legacy of "XP for monsters" and the hack-and-slash nature of that reward system. It is also interesting to note that if you remove the "XP for monsters" part of D&D and only award story XP for achieving goals, the motivation to level without background decreases a bit. You would still go out to get loot, but killing for XP is now not an option and players are pushed more towards story and not random violence for XP.

Motivations are fascinating things, and the reward systems in games can be setup to reward players who do setting-supporting activities (like Gangbusters). Other games try to walk a middle ground and support generic motivations, like D&D, but this also creates a paradox where you can advance by not supporting a faction or playing through a story. It is an interesting "not choice" for the game, and given a lack of a specific game world with specific story lines and factions, can create a generic adventurer class whose sole motivation is to level.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Level System

This one started over coffee. DarkgarX mentioned to me that once levels were put into the game, the dynamic of the game changes from story to advancement. The feeling goes from "what am I doing in the game world" to "how can I get points?"

Now, admittedly, this is a pretty negative view of level-based games, but it is an interesting "advancement dynamic" that I am sure is present in all games. Everyone wants to do well, and everyone wants to get levels or skill points in a non-level based system to get rewarded at the end of the night and advance their characters. So this pressure is present in any game system with an advancement system present.

But do levels change things?

Levels, the Elephant in the Room

I always found it funny that levels are the one thing you can't talk about in-game in-character, yet in D&D they control everything, from character power to spells to monster hit dice. My Pathfinder world design, Realms of Proteus, tries to do away with that and allows in-game characters to speak freely of their level and stats, so there is a fun bit of power and meta gaming going on there, but for the most part we use euphemisms, "seasons" or some other sort of relative explanation of power and strength.

But do levels change things? Is the primary focus on hit-points and levels a factor in making the game more mathematical and cut-throat?

In a pure story-based game, you have this outward focus on how your character fits into the current story and overall game world. Your stats can be increased, and the focus of improvement is to allow your character to better be able to influence the story. A higher persuasion skill lets you persuade more NPCs, and thus your influence over that story grows. You can think of story based games as a fight to control the ever-shifting narrative between the players and the referee-controlled NPCs.

Levels. Hit dice. Tactical combat. Damage per turn. Whiff rate. Condition spells. Attacks of opportunity. Advantage and disadvantage. Here we go with traditional D&D style level based games, and a whole host of hard mathematical statistics comes into play. Not only do you have to be good at controlling the narrative, you have to be able to know how this hard math works, and master the combat rules. Levels make this easier, but also complicate things as you go up.

Levels vs. Narrative

Do levels fight the narrative push and pull? They certainly distract from it a bit, because all of a sudden you are not purely worried about narrative influence, to do good and control the narrative, you need to master the combat system too. You need levels to get better at this system, because roleplaying matters little in raising combat power. You need XP to get better, and you need to defeatefoes and solve problems.

Note how D&D type games lump problem solving and combat in the same pile of XP. If you solve problems with roleplaying and get XP, you get better at controlling the narrative (roleplaying skills), but you also get better in combat. You could have a 20th level character who just got roleplaying XP in their career and never touched a weapon, yet this person would be a better fighter than 99% of the people on the planet. You could have the inverse, a combat-only barbarian who never spoke a word being a diplomatic master negotiator at the narrative-influencing social skills just because of their level.

I think it is this connection between the ability for a high-level character to influence the narrative and the "let's have combat for XP" part of the game that troubles me. In a purely story-driven narrative game without levels, all you are doing with advancement is ticking up the skills you want. If you just want to be a talker, all you buy are social skills. If you just want to be a fighter, you work on fighting skills. Levels remove that granularity and ability to specialize, now yes, there are more social style classes in the D&D style games, like bard or thief, but those classes typically force you into a skill-monkey role and take away your ability to excel at combat.

D&D's classes make those choices for you.

You want to fight? Be a fighter! You want to be a fighter who excels at narrative control and social situations? You are out of luck, roll a rogue or a bard. Yes, as a fighter you can put skill points and feats towards social abilities, but typically (Pathfinder is a good example), the more skill-point heavy and social-focused classes are going to have an easier time of buying these feats and skills.

In D&D, King Arthur is King Arthur because he can kill very well, not because he has the skills and social power over the kingdom's narrative that a king should have. There's a disconnect there, and a simplification that I feel makes pure-story based games focused on the narrative a better choice for pure roleplayers than D&D style games.

Levels vs. Storytelling

I have had pure roleplayers at my table who played D&D 3-5 because that's what our group played. I always felt bad for them because they could care less about this mess of combat rules and gaining levels, and they just wanted to have fun. We did a good job accommodating them, but the game we played (D&D 4) required an attention to builds and rules that I felt turned them off to the whole game. We had some that loved the battle chess aspect, and we still like this part of the game, but the combat and level rules felt like an artificial limitation put over the game for players who were more interested in narrative control than "kill for treasure and XP."

If your players are more concerned with mathematical concerns and tactical battles, D&D works better, and I will go as far to say that D&D 4 works the best for players who want a Warhammer style figure tactical combat experience. D&D 5 tries to bring the story back to the table, yet it still has the baggage of a tactical game based on resource management, and a level system that connects narrative control and combat ability into one lump sum of XP. D&D style systems also pre-choose your character's lifetime ability to perform narrative control and combat contributions from game #1 with your choice of class.

Yes, you can switch careers and multiclass in mid-stream, but King Arthur is not a bard nor a rogue.

Answers?

I don't feel there is a good answer for this in the modern D&D style games. Again, we are hit with the abstraction of the class and combat systems, and this limits our choices. Of course fighters are the ones with the swords that never think their way out of a situation. The game assumes "fighters fight" and gimps their skills and gives them the best damage output and choices in swinging swords. I would love to see a D&D system "off the rails" that let people be people, reward skills used, and got rid of the abstract class and level system entirely.

Yes, Legend, Runequest, and other games do this, and they do it well.

There is a choice here of how much control you feel you should have (as a player) over your control over what happens at the table. If I choose to be a social character, I don't want my choices limited to, "well, pick a social class and suck at combat for as long as you have that character." If for a couple sessions I want to improve combat skills, let me improve combat skills. If for some others, I want to be the master of parlay, let me do that and improve my social prowess.

This is not about being a "fan" of a game, I collect them all and love reading them, so count me in as a fan for them all, as my shelves will attest. What this is about is taking a look inside yourself and asking, "am I getting rewarded for the things I want to do at the table?" Does a game force you into a role that later on you may regret or limit your contributions? Yes, a good referee can adjust things and give chances for everyone to have fun, but if your game takes a turn for the political, can your combat-focused character adapt?

It is again about understanding what each game does best, and finding games that fit your view of gaming and how your contributions are rewarded. We have moved beyond the "network effect" where every game has to be a modern version of D&D, and we are moving into an era where games are designed around a almost niche "way it plays" and the reward and contribution systems are designed to fit that game. You see this in videogaming with indie gaming. The big-box games are always there like the Call of Duties and D&D games, but a huge market is developing for custom and unique experiences that are off the level system tracks and as diverse as the players in our hobby.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Mail Room: Pathfinder Occult Adventures

Today the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Occult Adventures book came, and it is a fun sort of super-hero themed expansion for Pathfinder, with the Hero lab module and the PDF. I could totally see making X-Men style characters with this book.

It is a strange direction for Pathfinder, but in a way, fitting. Pathfinder feels more about adventuring with heroes that don't fit the normal "fighter, mage, thief" roles and the game does it very well. This plays to a strength of the system, you can literally play through a module with one person playing a Professor X style psionic, another playing a Sherlock Holmes investigator, and a third person playing a Conan style barbarian and have it all work together. D&D 5 feels limited to the same roles we have seen before (simple, but then again familiar), and kudos to Paizo for pushing the edge and putting out books that break the hero mold and let us play something new.

The game is changing, and I can't really consider Pathfinder to be in the same game-space as D&D anymore. Both are dungeon games and focus on heroes battling evil, but how they go about it is vastly different. D&D gives you a simplified system with preset roles that we are all familiar with, the ranger, the paladin, and the mage. We choose a role and we make choices as we level, but in a simplified framework where our choices are guided. D&D 5 is a lot like Fantasy Age in that regard, where set heroes level up preset advancement paths.

Pathfinder is a superhero game with heroes that can mix anything and be anything. Sherlock Holmes the bare-fist-fighting monk? Sure. Merlin the barbarian? Let's do it. A Clint Eastwood style gunslinger cleric? Sure, why not. All in the same party together out saving the world, one bad guy at a time...or hordes of them all at once. The fun here is in the possibilities, and while you pay for it in complexity, the options and potential is endless.

Last Day for Hero Lab Pathfinder Module Sale!

Remember, the sale on Pathfinder modules for Hero Lab ends tomorrow, so if you have been waiting for a sale, this is your last chance to jump on these great deals.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Basic Fantasy: 4+4 Races and Classes

During the audio Podcast discussing Basic Fantasy, Chris Gonnerman mentioned his perfect version of a fantasy game was “four races, four classes, and that is it.” Of course, there are plenty of web supplements for the game that add races and classes, but Chris sticks with his original idea that “4+4” is all you need for a perfect fantasy game.

You can see where the inspiration for this comes from, the basic four character roles are covered: fighter, mage, thief, and cleric. No, you do not have infinite choice, as is normal with any modern role-playing game. With a lot of games, such as Pathfinder, you can be a bard, or a druid, a barbarian, or any other fantasy staple. Basic Fantasy supports that too, but elects to keep the core game simple with 4+4.

Infinite Choice is Good?

Is infinite choice desirable? If you run a grocery store, you will quickly figure out that offering customers infinite choice is a path to confusion and lower sales. You really only need so many choices when it comes to buying cornflakes. I mean, really, namebrand or generic is about all the choice I want to make here. With classes in a fantasy game, admittedly having more choice feels like a good thing because you want to have a rich and varied world with many different options for players to find a unique and satisfying role in the world. The same thing goes for races, you would feel, with more options feeling like a richer and more varied fantasy world.

There are times I feel when limiting race and class choices actually produce a more compelling world. I find my creativity is heightened when I have less choices and I have to become creative when making something unique. If all Basic Fantasy has our the 4+4 race and class choices, I have a world where humans, dwarves, elves, and halflings all have to coexist. There can be no other fantasy races beyond possibly monster races, so these four races will have a history together and you will find that you are starting to create a rich background in order to make this limited choice more unique.

There are times when you have infinite choice where if you have a race that fits a custom role you will tend to pigeonhole that race into that role. Let’s say in my world I had a custom race of “bear people” that lived in the North lands and where your stereotypical barbarian tribe race. With my custom bear race I just pigeonhole them into that role. Without the bear race, I will have to take one of the four races that I have available and create a tribe that acts in that role. I just want these people to be big, hairy barbarians so I don’t really need a race of bear people when I could just quickly modify one of the four and everything stays simple. I could get rid of the hairy part and just put a tribe of elves in this role, or leave them hairy and use dwarves. I start having to be creative with the limited choices I have, and yes it really is a flavor question, but it does highlight not having choices and having to make do with your creativity.

The same can be said for classes. In a world with just fighters, thieves, mages, and clerics – the conflicts and interactions between these four views of the world become simple. The mages, of course like magic and the arcane world. Clerics see the world differently, worshiping gods and the powers of the divine. Fighters and thieves fill the roles of law and chaos, respectively.

Less Means More

Without druids, there is no “cult of nature” making the world’s background a little simpler. Without bards, there are no ways of casting magic through song, making arcane science just a little bit simpler. The same can be said for barbarians, which are just angry fighters anyways, so the method in which military conflicts are handled in this world are simpler. You do lose some extremely flavorful classes, such as paladin, so there is a trade-off to limiting classes, especially when a lot of players expect to be able to play characters in these roles.

But there is a point to limiting choices in that the game really only needs to fill the four most important roles when it comes to dungeon exploration: the warrior, the guy who steals things, the healer, and the magic user. The game is about dungeon exploring and filling one of those four roles inside of a dungeon environment. The paladin, while an extremely popular and flavorful class choice, is a hybrid class that fills two of the four roles, and is less desirable when you are trying to give every player at the table a unique role to fill that does not cross over another player’s role. In order for the game to remain at its purest state, you need to make a choice between warrior or healer, and choose to do one of those roles in the game.

When Do You Want Choices?

In a more story-based game, I would say go for it and have lots of custom classes because ultimately the story is more important than putting a player in a predefined and strict role. In a more limited environment, such as a dungeon where you need to make important choices based on limited resources and defined character roles, I understand the design decision behind limiting classes so a player has to work hard at being effective in the role that they chose. A mage cannot fight, and there is no spell blade class, so you need to use magic highly effectively in order to survive in a dangerous environment when you are a mage. Again, this is a limitation, and it is forcing you as a player to become creative within your role to use the tools best to supply to you to overcome challenges and obstacles.

With infinite choice, of course I can settle right into a comfortable role where I can play my paladin, fight all day long, heal myself, and have most of the powers of the cleric while I swing my sword. I do not have to make choices based on if I want to fight more or if I want to do divine magic more with this character in this game. I can have it all, and I do not have to make that choice. This is why there are so many custom classes in games like Pathfinder, the game is trying to cater to a wide audience by supplying infinite choices so a player can come into the game and find a role that is custom crafted to their play style. When you have to make a hard choice about what you want to play, this is admittedly more difficult, and therefore less desirable when you’re trying to make a game that appeals to a wide audience.

Although with newer books, I feel Pathfinder has too many classes. Another day we will discuss that.

The Difficulty of Choice

That said, I do like games with limited choices in that if they provide compelling choices than I am attracted to the difficulty of having to make that choice. If the choices are meaningless, there is less of a reason to play. If any choice is good, I am also less interested. I like having to make a hard decision and live with it and do well within that role.

I also like that the game does support modeling it so a player that really, really wants to play a paladin or barred can play one of these classes. It is not the default way of playing, but it is supported because given today’s games you need to support these choices. The game does put limits on you, but is not so strict that it says you absolutely cannot play one of these classes. There is a little wiggle room, and that is more a strength of the system then it is a weakness. I do like thinking in the mode where the original for classes are the primary classes in the world, because of the simplification of player choices, and also the creativity that a referee has to work within in order to create a unique game world.