What I really want to talk about is Pathfinder. Yup, Paizo's little bun in the oven. In interests of full disclosure, I will toss out there that I own two hard copies of the beta playtest, as well as a copy of Chronicles, and a few scattered parts of two different adventure paths. I purchased these with my own money, and have the sore couch-back to prove it.
Firstly, having been an R&D/QA manager for a small company in northern California, I can sympathize with Paizo's position. Our company went out of business due to the patent holder for our most lucrative line of scaffolding gave us 3 months notice that he was selling the patent to one of our competitors. Why does this matter? Read on.
This matters, IMO because my job for the next 3 months became corporate espionage. I was paid to go to work, just to scour the web for other products that could fit into our manufacturing base.
To translate; I was tasked with finding someone else's good idea, stealing it, redesigning it slightly to avoid trademark/copyright/patent infringement, then shopping it to our manufacturers. Ironically, I also ended up training the guy who replaced me for $6 an hour less to boot. Sound familiar?
For all of you who are pissed at WotC for the horrid abortion that was the GSL, look no further than Paizo publishing. Hell, look no further than some of the awful third party products that assisted in the death spiral of 3.5. While some good products have come out of the mix, there have also been some that have made me ashamed to share the hobby. No naming names - you know who YOU are! Can you really blame WotC for wanting an airtight licensing agreement this time? While it was good to (some of) us, it must have been tough being the guy who championed it - now that it is being used as the proverbial broomstick of hindsight (emphasis on the HIND). Kinda like giving the neighbor's wife a handgun for Christmas, and having her shoot YOU with it eh?
So their generosity to the gaming world has come back to haunt them...As PFRPG has a fairly dedicated group of soon-to-be grognards (I wonder if they realize that!), and a messageboard that is mostly empty of 4E players. See, they all left when they got tired of being trash talked on their own boards...Ironic considering how "good" the moderation for the playtesting boards is.
Pathfinder is the result of the exact same process my soon to be unemployed ass went through. They found a product they were knowlegable with (d20 SRD), that was free, rewrote enough of it to be eligible for copyright and trademarking, and repackaged it for sale to folks who just can't live another day without gaming like it's 1998. And the end result is that you will now spend a bunch of money repurchasing a "re-imagined" version of the same one you already have been playing for 8 years - only now with a bunch of "fixes" playtested by a bunch of the samer folks responisble for breaking the damned game in the first place! The added incentive of a credit for their mostly schlock ideas has inspired a true nerd frenzy of stupidity. Don't believe me, go look for yourself!
This just...bothers me. It just feels dishonest to me. If I were to take ANY other product, change a few names, add new artwork, and re-sell it as my own product, would I be a genius? Or a douchebag? Evidently it depends on A. The product to be thefted & B. Whether I can get all the other thieves out there to back me up.
Anyway, as to the product itself. It's a reprinting of the same core books you have already likely bought twice now. The d20 SRD has been reformatted, with some flashy new formats, and new art from their herd of stock artists. We have the vaunted "Re-Envisioning" of the venerable(?) 3rd edition of D&D. Seeing the horrid monster that 3E has become, IT is a little like trying to use plastic surgery and high fashion to make grandma look like a totally fuckable 20-something again.
In that aspect, they have mixed success. They have re-tooled the classes in numerous ways, by making them different enough to be "new" and yet more complicated - yay. So now I not only have to re-learn all of the core stuff that is still MADDENINGLY similar to 3.5, yet juuuuust different enough to be a new beast. Great. Let's keep save or die because sometimes the DM just wants to say FUCK YOU to his players, right? After all, why should they have any fun? Then we have the big fundamental changes...Where they just polled the community to find out what they liked about 4E, then cherry-picked it in.
- Consolidated skills...check
- At will powers for spellcasters...check
- More HP at first level...check
- New takes on old classes/races...check
Considering how much hostility there is on their boards toward 4E in general, I am surprised that they integrated so many "controversial" and "Edgy" parts of it. Well, I guess that even if the baby is deformed, at least the incest part was fun :/
There are more, but I am getting ready for lunch - and I'm not your damned researcher. I came, I saw, and I went home halfway through the feature. It was too reminiscent of any Friday the 13th movie from vol.3 to about 8 or so. Same old crap, repackaged for a NEW and TRENDY audience that will hopefully forget for a few minutes that it actually IS the same pile of crap, because OMG! IT HAS MONTE COOK INVOLVED!!! Seriously, the only thing missing is a lengthy introduction about how "Uncle Gary" would have preferred it this way. I just ended up feeling like I slept on the couch for two nights for no good reason. At least 75% of the changes made are simply the integration of houserules WE have all spent years developing to offset the various problems I have seen at every table I have had the privilege of playing at since 1992.
Now...all is not woe and despair. If you are one of those oddballs that will never leave the comforting womb of 3rd edition, there are some goodies there. The whole Polymorph / shapechange thing has been fixed. The classes have been "balanced" a little better between themselves (No 4E there...lol.) and they have made significant changes to the classes themselves (though you'd be a fool to play a non spellcaster for the long haul - JUST LIKE BEFORE!!!). The feats have been reworked, with several being tossed completely. The wording of many spells have been repaired. I will refrain from pointing out how another newer RPG has already done all of this...oops!
So is this the future of gaming? Where game design comes down to who has the best cut/paste skills? Every time I chat with my friends who play PFRPG like it is the personal hobby game of jesus his-fucking-self, I can't help but remember growing up in the midwest, and driving by the amish...in their horse drawn buggys. Kind of a sad feeling.
So that's it. My thoughts about an overhyped product scavenged from the d20 SRD, in a blatant abuse of everything WotC was attempting when they pushed the OGL out into the world in the first place. If that's your bag, then you will find many more hours of fun still to be had rattling 3E's bones. If not, then try something else. d20 is not the end all game some tout it to be.
Comments? Insults? Random anger and bile? I don't moderate, or delete comments. This is my opinion, and you are welcome to disagree : ) Last thing, here are some silly pictures...look at them before you comment.