... now with 35% more arrogance!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Too Much Block

Since some forums are discussing the future of Pathfinder and whether it will continue to be popular or will even gain in popularity, it got me thinking about something. I don't have any Pathfinder books. This is because the stated purpose of Pathfinder -- to fill the void left by D&D 3e, for people who preferred 3e over other games -- doesn't appeal to me.  Even the example Pathfinder material I've seen on blogs and such, the class, monster and spell write-ups, turn me off. It's exactly the kind of game I don't want to play. And, despite the probably differences in gameplay between Pathfinder and D&D 4e, the latter shares the same bad features I can see in the Pathfinder sample material, so I don't want to play it, either. It's the information blocks. The kinds of information given in a monster or character stat block, a class info block, or a spell info block, the kind of precision implied by the details given for each write-up, is simply not what I want.

No surprise there. But what I was musing about was that many of the write-ups for retroclones or some TSR-era products share the same features, and this turns me off, too. Take a typical feature of new class write-ups for old school D&D: minimum ability scores. I don't like 'em and don't use 'em, but it's not just because of the benefits I think a no-minimums approach has; I actively dislike having to track that much information about a class. two or three class abilities, maybe one or two more at higher levels, and the save/to-hit/hit dice/XP information is about the limit of what I want, and most of the actual numbers (save, to-hit, hit dice, XP) I prefer to equate to one of the four core classes. So, I prefer something like "The Foo class saves and attacks like a cleric, but uses M-U hit dice and XP tables, and has the Bar and Baz abilities, plus SuperBar at 9th level."

Or take the typical spell. It's not just that I don't like to break down differences in verbal, somatic and material components on a spell-by-spell basis, or that I think anything other than ad hoc spell categories or "colleges" is too regimented, or that I don't really want range, area, and duration to vary by level for most spells, and certainly never all three stats at the same time for any spell. It's the sum of all that and the kind of nit-picky approach to handling spells in the game that turns me off.

I just don't want a game, or game material, that requires that amount of detail.


  1. Slightly related to the topic: what happened to Pathfinder that its future became uncertain?

    1. Basically, DnDNext. Some people are wondering whether Pathfinder will lose players to D&D, or whether Paizo will respond in some way.

    2. Oh, that. For a moment, I thought there was some recent controversy or change of leadership or a new edition or something.

      Anyhow, sales will obviously drop, at least for a short time while Next is fresh and everyone wants to see it. But then, Pathfinder has much more support, from Paizo and third party publishers alike.

      And as you already mentioned in the post, PF was created so that 3E-players can still get to use new shiny supplements. Next is not like 3E, so I believe their won't be much competition.

      As for the meat of the post, I mostly agree, although I don't have a problem with complex systems if they are coherent (Torchbearer is a neat example).

  2. That's always bugged me about 3e, too. All of those bulky stat blocks really don't end up playing that much differently than B/X or similar editions, they don't add anything to the game, it's just useless detail bogging everything down.

  3. I'm in complete agreement with you on not liking 3.5 or Pathfinder. Kinda bugged you'd lump 3.0 in there too, but that's more about my continued resentment of what Hasbro and the fans did to 3E than anything on your part (It's their fault I have to use that horrible term, "3.0", in the first place!). The stat block critique applies to 3.0 anyways, so in this case it does make sense

    I do like some of the spell complexity, though. It lends a rich flavor to the game and instantly gave me tons of great ideas when I first got into D&D (especially those material components!) Hell, I even like domains, even though I'll probably drop 'em

    I think you can keep a lot of the cool stuff in 3E without the large stat blocks. They're really more for people like me who enjoy getting their hands dirty customizing every foe, but we can infer most of that. HD = 5d6+5? No need to list the Con score, I can already tell it's either 12 or 13, and I mostly just need the bonus. To-hit and damage tell me the Strength, or Dex in some cases (AC and initiative help with the latter). Hell, we can just make initiative equal Dex and we'll only need one number! Skills are typically maxed out, so just tell me what they have. I don't even need a number for those. Just give me what I need to run it and I'll figure out the rest if I want to get under the hood (which I will, especially for animal companions). Granted, it's really cool for a beginner to see how everything works together, but that can be taught in a short article