Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pathfinder Character Creation

Well, not many of my group were interested in playing an OSR game.

However, one of the players has been secretly planning a Pathfinder campaign world for lord knows how long (there were lots of player handouts) and offered to run it! I've never been a player in a Pathfinder game (although I have in 3.5) so I joined.

Last night we made characters. Hours of reading and choosing and I'm still not done I'm afraid. The DM had us roll 3d6, one swap, so the options were limited slightly by our stats, but still just way too many options. I had never read much of the player stuff in detail so a lot of it was new. I think I really like the character I wound up, but I'm not sure all of that agonizing was worth it.

The short version:

  1. On the way over to the game, I thought to myself, gee, I haven't played a cleric or a rogue in a long time.
  2. I roll up stats, cleric or rogue are very possible.
  3. I start really looking at the rogue and remember I don't find rogues very appealing in Pathfinder.
  4. So I look at the gunslinger. Guns are cool right? Wow that's a lot of rules. Workable, (I did read them all) but kind of fiddly. Not sure if I have a character concept here or if I just like guns.
  5. So I look at the cleric a bit, but then I remember how lame channeling feels compared to turning, and I also don't want to be the heal-monkey especially - and that seems to be the expectation of clerics as their melee has been downpowered compared to fighters, monks, etc.
  6. Shoot, I still haven't even chosen a  race. Well, I'm thinking sort of an outsider-wanderer (even though we are all going to be nobles in this game, but maybe I'm a bastard, heretic, or whatever). Sounds like a good opportunity for a half-elf! I don't think I have ever been a half-elf.
  7. Back to class. I look at the inquisitor. Here we go! Strong melee abilities, cool divine powers, cool powers for roleplaying with. Lots and lots of powers. Sigh. Also having some difficulty with my character concept. Hmmmm, the other players are an evil monk and an evil rogue. Better be something with a bit more flexibility.
  8. I like wizards, but wizards are kind of weird in this game. Hey! This is cool, Elves have an archetype called spellbinder. That just sounds cool. What does it do? Wait, I can swap out memorize spells for a favored spell? And it gets rid of arcane bond (familiar)? Familiars are very fiddly. I think we have a race and a class! I had become very dissatisfied with elves but DCC has renewed my enthusiasm for them.
  9. So I want to be a elven wizard searching for arcane secrets, ooh, there is a perfect subrace! I will be a dusk elf. Some of the other players scoff because I am trading off racial abilities in a non-optimal way ("you know you can just take the traits you want") but I like the description of the race, it fits for my concept, so fuck that.
  10. Now I need to choose a school . . . there are so many . . . shadow-illusionist! Love it.
  11. Okay, so I've chosen a race and a class. Crap. I still have to do skills, traits, languages, favored class bonuses, feats (as an aside, of all the feats that I hate, I hate metamagic the most), record everything, buy equipment, roll for hit points, figure out starting spells. And did I mention we are starting at level 3?
  12. Needless to say, I did not accomplish all of that last night.
Pathfinder character creation is way too complex. As I said, I like my character. I think it will be fun to play. I would rather have just rolled up an elf for a simpler game though and roleplayed the rest in.


Brendan said...

Now I see what you meant by that comment about charop being the point of the game for some players!

What are traits? I haven't read deeply enough into the Pathfinder supplementary material to have encountered them.

I kind of feel like part of the job of the referee using a system like this (which is really more of a toolbox) is to select a small subset of all the options. But I guess some players would hate that kind of limitation.

Josh D. said...

Yeah, with the amount of material out there at this point (four supplementary books with character options) there are a LOT of options. I could have made my life easier by saying something like "I will only work from the corebook" but I figured if I'm going to play the game I may as well play it.

I think a big problem with mainstream D&D be it 3e, 4e, or Pathfinder is that as you publish more and more materials the game continually expands. Players love this because they can endlessly customize their characters - as I have now dabbled in. It is hard for me at least to say no to that because it is for players a big appeal of the system. Plus anything "official" has a way of becoming canon pretty quickly.

As I discovered, it is very easy to succumb to the appeal of the wealth of options. After all of that agonizing and decision making, basically I am playing an Elf Illusionist. I don't think my character would be all that different mechanically if I had only used the corebook. For that matter, it wouldn't have been that different if I had been an elven illusionist in 2nd edition. Most of the options I chose for interesting flavor. Some players use that wealth of options to make their characters as powerful in combat as possible. Your results may vary.

For reference, my character made use of three books to create: the core rulebook, the Advanced Players Guide, and the Advanced Races Guide. I referenced in my quest but did not end up using anything from Ultimate Magic and Ultimate Combat.

Traits are actually not a big deal. At character creation you can pick two small perks. They are in the Advanced Players Guide. Basically, I took one that gave me a +1 on all fortitude saves, and one that improves my concentration checks to prevent spells from being disrupted.

Having now gone through that process I see a little more of the reluctance to let characters die in Pathfinder. That was a lot of work!

Brendan said...

Traits are actually not a big deal. At character creation you can pick two small perks. They are in the Advanced Players Guide. Basically, I took one that gave me a +1 on all fortitude saves, and one that improves my concentration checks to prevent spells from being disrupted.

Hmm. I thought this is what feats were for. Is there anything that you see justifying an additional subsystem?

Yeah, I think character creation complexity and lethality are inversely correlated in satisfying games.

Josh D. said...

Good question. The idea as I understand it is that traits are very minor bonuses - less than a feat theoretically.

Many of them are things like +1 on a skill check in fairly particular situation.

Also, they can only be taken at character creation.

So does that justify another subsystem? I don't know. I like traits better than feats though because 1) they are of minor impact mechanically; 2) they are all attached to background flavor.

Example, my feats:

Forlorn - Elves only, world weary Elf-ennui, get a plus 1 to fort saves.

Focused mind - peculiarities of upbringing has brought a clarity of focus and ability to ignore distractions. Bonus to concentration.

Now, one can just select them for bonuses, or like anything else, thinking about them as the background defining traits that they are intended to be.