Being a better player: Rejoice in what we have #DND #RPG #Pathfinder

My first role playing book was the AD&D Player’s Handbook. It opened up a whole new world to me. And my life was never the same after that. And that was the edition I used until 2nd Edition came out. And then I used that system happily until I moved on to other games. I enjoyed plenty of other games. I adored Shadowrun 2nd Ed., loved GURPS and several of its world books, thought Cyberpunk and World of Darkness were interesting. I followed those up with Deadlands, 7th Sea, and Savage Worlds. And now my games of choice are D&D 5E and Pathfinder. I tried some others in there as well but not for any real extended period of time. My point is that I have tried and played a lot of games out there.

I think that I can safely say though that in playing these new (or new to me) games one thing really stands out to me. And it makes us all better players as a result. These games are all much better balanced than they once were.

Here is what I mean by being balanced. We used to joke about AD&D wizards, how incredibly fragile and almost useless they were. And how the crazy requirements of certain classes like the Paladin made them almost impossible to play honestly. Or the silly class paths you had to take to play things like Bards. And while I adored Shadowrun, in almost every style of campaign, there were only 2 styles of play that people used, all other archetypes were ignored.

I will have to subtract GURPS and Savage Worlds from this discussion because for the most part those systems do not have classes or archetypes for people to follow. Although GURPS especially favored a particular game style and was not very scalable for long term or high power games.

But the one thing I really like about D&D 5E and Pathfinder is that you can really play whatever you want, and not feel like you were dead meat out of the box or had to imitate Blanche duBois.

There are those who do not like certain classes. Or campaigns where certain races and classes are not available. But if you want to create a Gnome monk, or a Tiefling Paladin, or an Elven Barbarian you could. And that character would not be more or less effective in practical terms than any other choices you could make. Any of those would be perfectly playable in the current systems. You are no longer limited by the system, or the rules, only by the campaign style and the GM world restrictions.

What does this mean if you want to be a better player? Well, it means that your life is much easier. When my sons Gnome wizard died on Saturday he was able to construct a very effective Elven rogue assassin. And when he realized that in retrospect that he would prefer a different character type he was able to make a Dragonborn barbarian who will be able to really complement what is already in the party. You could not have done that with D&D 2E, or Shadowrun 2E. Because your effective character options were so limited in those games and editions.

I really think that we are in a bit of a golden age for players of role playing games. If you read my other articles, follow my directions, then your options are almost limitless. And that makes it much easier to be a better player. Because you are now only governed by your own skills and knowledge.

It occurs to me that I have no idea if people read this, or even care about them. So I’m going to go ahead and add a poll to this post. Answer it or not if you want to.



Thinking about systems and interpreting ideas. #Roleplaying

In pretty much all but the most dedicated D&D fantasy novels (and pictures and to some extent movies) no one wears armor. I admit that is a pet peeve of mine. But instead of complaining about that instead I want to talk about some different systems and whether one could get away with a melee fighter without armor.

In thinking about systems I have some what landed on the concept of skills and how they are handled in a given system. Because the more emphasis there is on Skills, over arbitrary things like levels or completely falling back on attributes, it seems it is easier to get away from the basic idea of a warrior in armor will crunch the one with no armor.

For example, on the one side of things, is D&D 5E. If you want to know if you can hit something or not get hit it is really just a matter of Armor Class versus Level. If you are low level, chances are you will not be able to hit a heavily armored opponent. Which is fine, it works, and is consistent. And bear in mind I am talking about hand to hand melee, not archers or magic. While you could construct a lightly armored fighter in 5E, chance are you would spend your lower levels running around and avoiding close combat.

Of all the other systems I am familiar with, the opposite is GURPS. This is a system where what you can do is pretty much all about your skills, when you get experience you improve your skills. There are no levels. But if you are a highly skilled fighter you can get away with light or no armor, as you can Parry, Dodge or Block your opponents attacks. This is probably why I think the GURPS Conan book is one of the best Fantasy systems out there as far as matching flavor to execution.

What got me to thinking about all this is I am re-reading the Wheel of Time series. And that is a high fantasy series, where very few people wear much beyond a breastplate. And you simply could not get away with trying to recreate that world with D&D. (On the other hand the GURPS magic system is so antithetical from the WoT series that you could not use that system at all.)

And then I have been watching an interesting series on History channel about blade smiths crafting weapons. And it occurred to me, comparing the katana and the crusader sword, that muc of the difference between the two was simple geography. Japan was not rich in Iron ore, and therefore it did not make economic sense to have people try to wear heavy metal suits of armor. Therefore the katana was all that was necessary against the types of armor available.

And I thought about creating a campaign in that type of land, where steel weapons and armor are just not common place due to lack of materials. Again I could maybe get away with this with GURPS. But I could not with D&D or Pathfinder, because the monsters and level issues would create vast gulfs. How are you supposed to survive a swipe of a dragon claw in D&D without heavy armor?

This all reminds me of when The Matrix first came out. And one of my friends was trying to figure out what system would best match up to the action in that film (Shadowrun BTW, it’s the only system I know of where a single character can perform multiple actions before anyone else goes.) The point being, while it is important to have a group of players with similar knowledge of a setting before starting a game, it is even more important to match the system with the setting.