Thinking about my Denver game of Pathfinder this weekend. Thinking about my character, what could I do to make him better, and things like that. And it occurs to me that one of the issues I have with Pathfinder is the escalation of target numbers. And what I prefer about 5th Edition. But just because I like the solution in one game does not mean I don’t like the other. It is a matter of preferences.
Here’s the thing about Pathfinder. After a certain level the target numbers get kind of crazy. Let’s say that an Easy task has a target number of 10, a Hard is 15, Difficult is 20 etc. Now those numbers make sense below a certain level. But currently my character is 10th level, and between skill points, ability modifiers, and magic items my most used skills are sitting at a base level of 16, which means he makes Hard stuff look Easy, Difficult is really only moderate etc. So what does the GM do in that situation? They either say that the players can perform pretty much every task he sets in their way with ease. Or they adjust the modifiers along with the players skill levels, but the draw back is that someone without that skill now has no chance of being able to get lucky. Which means that people are forced to specialize in skills, and then everyone in the party has to stay alive in order to address any difficulty, there is no room for a generalist. Which means that at any given point more than half of the party becomes on lookers instead of participants, and that is no fun.
The D&D 5E solution to this was to simplify things, and get away from the gradual escalation of skills. So that even the untrained characters have some chance at any given test. Which makes things easier for the GM, because they do not have to constantly adjust the difficulty levels.
But, and this is funny, you can do so much more with the Skills and Feats in Pathfinder than you can in D&D 5E. In that sense I prefer Pathfinder, as someone who spent a large number of years playing skill based systems like GURPS, Shadowrun and Savage Worlds I like Skill systems. Even though our GM doesn’t necessarily give us much chance to do so I like the idea that if we ran into a situation where we needed X skill that my character could step up.
See, I think that you either keep skills general like 5E, with a set target number. Or you go whole hog and have everything become a skill based system like a GURPS. Pathfinder is kind of an odd middle ground. But I could easily see how you could run a game with the system that played up the skills far more than we do.
You could easily see this as a critique of Pathfinder. And I certainly see that. But Pathfinder is a far more complex system than 5E. There is so much more that you can do with the system. It certainly is easier to adjust the monsters. And I really like the concepts behind magic item construction (of course there effectively are no rules for that in 5E.) So it is not a question of one being worse than the other, they are just different. It is just that certain solutions to problems work better for me in one system than another.