Monday, April 1, 2024

Dungeon Fantasy vs. Pathfinder 1e


The two fantasy games I have fighting it out on my most-played shelves are Pathfinder 1e and Dungeon Fantasy. 5E is off to the side, and I am waiting for Tales of the Valiant to drop. Unsurprisingly, the final two on my shelf are the games that give me the best character-building options.

Pathfinder 1e has a decade of options and choices.

Dungeon Fantasy has infinite choices.

A traditional class framework is where I begin in Dungeon Fantasy, a 250-point build that gives me the equivalent of a level 5-8 Pathfinder 1e character - the established hero. In Dungeon Fantasy, you aren't starting out as a level-one cannon fodder newbie. This leads to the game being less new-player friendly, but you start off pretty capable and the baseline established hero.

The excellent Delvers to Grow series of books for Dungeon Fantasy solves the complexity problem by creating lower-point starting builds. These are way less capable and will have a higher mortality rate, but the complexity is lower, and the things you start with are much less, so you can grasp game rules better without choice paralysis.

Pathfinder? I like the build system, and I loved the original 1e world before it turned into a modern steampunk setting, an overly safe and non-triggering space. The new world feels far too contemporary for me; the age of adventure is over, and we have moved into the 20th century. The 2010s version of Golarion is far superior to the 2020s, and it still feels like Conan - it is epic, whereas the Pathfinder 2E world feels like a tourist attraction with Harry Potter vibes. The new team just can't recapture the spark of the classic world, and they changed it so much that it lost the feeling of classic 1970s fantasy.

The 2E rules are better than 1e. They are just not my thing.

The 2E world is a YA novel.

I am slowly getting the feeling that what I will be doing is a GURPS-Finder campaign.

I like the rules I enjoy, and the character builds in Pathfinder 1e are good; in a GURPS-like system, they are great. My starting builds are just that, starting points. I can take them in any direction I want from there. If I wish my wizard's following 250 points to be all fighter abilities, so be it.

This is the "taking a character in a new direction" thing, which is why I love GURPS. With d20 level-based games, my story is done at level one - at least in progress. I can read the book, plan my path, and then go through the required number of dungeons to start up the level chart. I know where this character is going; it is a matter of time before the boxes are checked, and I have a level 9 sorcerer.

With GURPS, my sorcerer could get involved in a ton of roleplaying and court intrigue, and all of a sudden, I am spending my following 40 points on social abilities. And I am not "looking for a bard to do it" - I need to improve my character's abilities in those areas. This makes it much more solo-friendly since my character morphs into a set of powers, skills, and abilities I will need for what is happening now and whatever I encounter.

My character's advancement path is their history of adventure.

It's not some book's pre-planned path for me.

It is tough; I have a lot of Pathfinder 1e books, and I like to feel like I am using them. But I greatly appreciate the OG Golarion setting more than the Pathfinder 1e rules. Recolored through a GURPS lens, OG Golarion would rock. You don't have these level 20 superheroes running around sneezing on goblins and killing them without a worry. The artificial power inflation is gone, and everyone exists on a flatter power scale.

But these days, games with pre-planned character progression tracks are lame. This is the same feeling I had in the late 1980s when GURPS 3e killed AD&D and the heavily censored AD&D 2nd Edition. Everyone was playing GURPS after AD&D died.

GURPS, Battletech, and Vampire were three reasons TSR filed for bankruptcy.

The biggest was Magic: The Gathering.

You can also put Rifts and Shadowrun in that group somewhere.

D&D is not immune, nor was it ever.

The arguments against level systems and pre-planned level-based advancement are the same today as they were then. Today, people have given up on being creative and wanting to create their own characters and are content with "gaming the systems" that other people design for them.

Today's gamers? Breaking a game with an exploit is good character design.

Using GURPS to run Golarion is like "Pathfinder: The Movie" or an HBO series set in that world. A producer or director will first tamp the power level to make it realistic and believable. Those who play the game will sit in the theater and wonder where the teleport and wish spells went, and those would have never been even in the script since they would have ruined the movie. Magic will work differently, the fights will be more realistic, and everything will feel "off" to people watching the movie.

Game worlds and movie worlds are night and day.

GURPS is the game every setting ends up with. After everything goes out of print or is pulled from the shelves for licensing issues, GURPS will give the world a system to call home.

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