Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Edition Strugges and more backstory

Well, now that I have a big cup of coffee in me it's time for another blog post. Read the first half of this here.

After I moved out west at 22, my old gaming group had a Pathfinder game going over MSN messenger for a few months. I found myself poring over the SRD, comparing each feat in minute detail. My fighter was only 1st level and I had 3 different feat 'builds' written up all the way to sixth. After a while, I started to get really wound up analyzing the differences between each feat. I just wanted to play the game and instead I was spending all my downtime giving myself anxiety, rearranging my feat progression. It was lame, unfun, and just distracted from the real questions. Things like "how the fuck will we survive this ratman-infested dungeon? What's the deal with those ancient markings?" etc.

My main gripe with 3.x is a problem which reaches its apex in Pathfinder: holy shit you have to make a lot of decisions during character creation. I found digging out my mechanics textbooks and explaining the workings of a differential easier than running my roommates through chargen in 2 hours. And they're playing rogues and rangers! Thank fuck no one wanted to play a Sorceror, god forbid an Oracle or Witch. Handing my players the feat list, I could see their faces slacken, daunted.

Gaining levels in Pathfinder is anticlimactic next to the decision-making and notation you do at first level. Racial abilities, feats, skill points, beginning class abilities - a huge range of choices. Yet your character's areas of expertise are now set: they'll be basically the same at 20th level. You'll still be a half-elf sorceror with the aberrant bloodline, just with a few extra abilities and more damage dice to throw. After spending so much time creating a PC, how can you help but feel that he's special? Feel that he's entitled to live?

When I first got into reading various OSR blogs, the term 'Retro-Clone' jumped out at me. I already love classic videogaming ('90s PC games and the SNES), so why not retro pen-and-paper games? Once I absorbed the core ideas it made perfect sense. I would much rather generate simple characters in 10 minutes and spend the rest of the night dungeoncrawling. If the characters manage to grow in the telling, we can give them special abilities later. Right now I just want to see what's behind the next door.

I'm too young to have played OD&D, 1st edition or B/X. I'm not interested in "nostalgia" or returning to my own roots - 2nd edition was all over the damn place. But damn do I hate 'splatbooks', sourcebooks, and mostly anything that doesn't say "core rules" on it. What I am interested in is playing a rules-light, fast-paced, easy to teach and learn version of the fantasy roleplaying game I know and love, which allows me to generate my own content easily. I'm interested in exercising my imagination. If I wanted someone else's imagination, I'd read a story or play a videogame.

To this end, I tracked down a copy of Labyrinth Lord a few weeks ago at my FLGS, and have been itching to play it with my Friday group. We're currently playing Warhammer Fantasy (read about it), but I'm prepping for the day the GM calls in sick and I can hit them with LL...


  1. one unfortunate downside to feats in my experience is they tend to dictate what your character can reasonably expect to do well/excel at. It kind of narrows your expectations for the character, especially if you have his future picks all planned out and ready to go.

    also, it seems like attempts to fix this problem are really just lists of even more feat options, perpetuating the problem.

    older edition style play is kind of nice for clearing away some of this clutter and just focusing on the stuff your character normally does without having to worry about 'staying competitive' through ability selections and so forth. I feel like this is what attracted me to e6 the most, and maybe taking it a step farther is even better.

    I definitely get where you're coming from with this. On the other hand, it highlights that maybe players and us in particular just overthink their feat selection too much. Taken as minor bonuses to differentiate/reward a developing class, they're a bit less of a mouthful. Of course this is only true if the GM in particular has the same approach. If all the GM's feat-capable opponents are optimized to kick your butt through twinked out feat choices, then characters are likely to feel cheated for taking weapon focus or anything similarly 'useless'


  2. Exactly! The old school approach is just one step beyond the magic of e6. Nice to see you're reading the site dude.