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Author Topic: Pathfinder 1e Review, and War for The Crown Adventure Path  (Read 1200 times)

LiferGamer

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Pathfinder 1e Review, and War for The Crown Adventure Path
« on: July 01, 2020, 11:50:14 pm »
I actually had written this up a couple years ago, and was either going to polish it up into a script for my Youtube channel, or break it up into two reviews on RPG.net (ha!)

It may be amusing, or at least spark some discussion.

My lack of knowledge in the review is from Having transitioned from AD&D to RIFTS (briefly) to years of GURPS, I pretty much missed 3rd edition, and have only recently been playing 5e.  I yo-yoed between GURPS and Savage Worlds, before deciding to give Pathfinder a shot, specifically for the Strange Aeons adventure path.

Enough said:  Enjoy!
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I recently tried running one of the Pathfinder Adventure paths, [Strange Aeons, I cautiously recommend it] and after three very positive sessions, subscribed to the adventure paths.  What we found as a group, is that the adventures as written became rather repetitive, and the new one that came out was downright head-scratchingly bad in many ways.

To start, I want to say I don't mean this as an attack, or bashing.  I'm being as objective as I can.  We all run things through the filters of our own experience and built up biases.  In my 4X years on the planet, and 35 years of RPG time, I've built up both.

The folks at Paizo print books that are sturdy, reasonably well laid out, and if you'll forgive the nonsensical 'armor' and outfits, have talented artists.  They've taken the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd ruleset and finely polished it.  They seem to be responsive to the fans and have a good release schedule.  As far as I can tell, they aren't burying the game in needless splatbooks (that's print DLC for you young gamers) and stick to their core goals well.

Pathfinder isn't working for me personally, and therefore, for the group I was GMing.  I'll go into some detail afterwards; but my main issues are:

  • Feats and rules
  • Setting
  • Postmodernist Flavor
  • Choo-choo



Any GM worth the title would be able to deal with, or work around these… I hesitate to call them issues, but for brevity, it will have to do.

Feats

As best as I can tell, feats have two roles in the game, they are an attempt to make a class-based, level based system feel more free by having two given characters not be cookie-cutter copies of one another, and also to splice magic powers onto every class/race/monster.

Regarding character uniqueness:  This is unsatisfying and at times annoying from my perspective – take a look at for example, the Lethal Weapons movies.  If you were to stat out Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, they'd be remarkably similar on paper – Murtaugh probably has slightly lower stats but a higher level… its in how 'the character is played'.

On the other side, it tries to give remarkable abilities to all character classes – great for folks that like wuxia/anime/super hero playstyle, but at times feeling oddly out of place (like at low levels) and really only suits that playstyle.

Giving monsters (and villainous NPCs) feats that I have to look up separately and use threatened to slow the game down, so a lot of the fights I just skipped it – why should the 'trash mobs' have complicated mechanics?

Setting

This blends with the next point somewhat.

The setting seems a bit schizophrenic, and this is coming from someone that ran the World of Greyhawk for twenty years – you've got all kinds of cool ideas and cultures hodge-podged all over the place, with fur-clad barbarians rubbing shoulders with 11th century indo-pakistani adventurers and 18th century Europeans, as well as what seems to be a Byzantium that never fell (but should have).  I was not able to find any concise history or world 'who's who' that wasn't a commercial product, but I'll confess, I didn't dig too deep.

I'm one of those annoying gamers that has a limit on how much handwaving I can handle, when it comes to technology and culture and the like – probably because I'm a history nerd.  Societies develop the way they do for specific reasons, and there is a lot of well-thought out stuff in the setting, don't get me wrong – but some of it still doesn't work quite right for me.  You've got the trappings of the early industrial revolution spread out, but none of the industrial revolution…  

This is probably my weakest point, and I am expecting to be schooled somewhat.  I did want to provide more than "I didn't like it".

Postmodernism

You got your 21st century real-world in my medieval fantasy.  Some of it works, some of it doesn't.  Imagine the world of Pathfinder, (going back to the last point, I can't easily find the world name) a vast majority of the people live in what we would consider poverty, doing menial labor and living on subsistence level agriculture, one bad harvest and many would face starvation.  Take that picture and add the various monsters of the setting.  You've got orcs and goblin raids that would make real world Vikings and Apache sit back and go "Damn, dude", beings of immense size and power, creatures that can posses your neighbors and loved ones, or take their shape and mimic them!  

To my eyes, you've got the choice of living in the heartlands, at the whim of capricious superheroes and supervillains, or on the monster-riddled frontiers.  These are not conditions that spawn tolerant, open-minded people, and yet the setting is a complete Benington Ad, with anyone that doesn't like a certain group/culture/race CLEARLY an evil villain.

 This came into laser focus in the War for the Crown adventure path modules I got as part of my subscription.

We're heading into spoiler territory.  If you want to run or play these, turn back now.

The adventure path synopsis sounded like it had some promise… and then the eye-rolling starts as I'm reading the summary.  

For starters, for some reason in defiance of the game rules, there aren't a bunch of well-nigh immortal god kings running around, even though resurrection is a thing (and it's kind of addressed in this path) as is youth-restoring or age retarding magic.  This problem rears its head immersion-wise in every game that has such magic, so I'm not judging them too harshly… but basing your plot on a line of succession dispute sure calls it into focus.  

Basically, the king goes loony, offs himself and all the 'traitors' and the princess wants the throne, but the law doesn't allow it, so it's civil war!

Immediately I ask, what if the player characters are Lawful Good?  They'll want to rally for change working in the system, not tear it down.

Digging deeper, I find that one of the early villains is going to be the conservative general, who aims to start a war to bring the country together and take the throne.

Sprinkled throughout are so many modern ideas and super-progressive themes that really feel odd in what is at best a 15th century society.

I was reading one of the NPC descriptions, and found that here was an interesting, balanced character – a Lawful Neutral nobleman that could serve as either a noble adversary, or a firm ally once you win him over.  He's a widower with a young teenage daughter.  The art shows a handsome black man with a touch of grey in his beard, so at this point I'm working out a Captain Benjamin Sisko voice/delivery in my head as I continue to read…

Okerra makes a great potential romantic diversion during this adventure as well…(cut two paragrapghs) Though his first love was a woman, he is receptive to attention from any gender.

(Richard Pett, 2018, p. 59)

Mmmm ok.

Now, those of you that are about to start screaming but that's more INCLUSIVE, can I ask how offended you'd be if it was:

Okerra makes a great potential romantic diversion during this adventure as well… Though her first love was a woman, she is receptive to attention from men.

…or any other combination.  If you want it to really be inclusive, just have the first sentence there, the GM's will roll with it based on their group.

For what little we know about the character, this seems a little out of place.  There's tons of momentary whiplash in the books for me… very anachronistic ideas in an environment that doesn't seem like it would create them, the author's biases coming through VERY strong making it feel even more like we aren't just on a railroad adventure wise, but also in the conclusions we're supposed to draw.

Choo Choo

I've run one adventure path, have the part 6 of another, and am keeping my subscription long enough to get the whole of the current one, and I've got to say, haven't we progressed past everything being a thinly disguised dungeon crawl yet?

War for the Crown starts with your PCs attending the Exaltation Gala, as secret agents for one of the noble houses, AWESOME right?  Well…. The PCs are assigned to a particular noble, that will hand them off to the Princess, who is CLEARLY the ONLY correct choice to take the throne… and it does so by teleporting the party into a dungeon the first session.

This could have been an epic Machiavellian plot, with different PC's working for different noble houses, all with potentially viable claims on the throne, some real cloak-and-dagger roleplay… but instead it quickly becomes the same dungeon crawl/whack the big bad/head to the next dungeon/whack the big bad that points us to the bigger bad….

Even better, they don't even give you the information on the parties various 'houses' until a much later book in the set.



IF I want the old tropes, there are frankly settings that lend themselves to it much better.  I find it paradoxical that this path in particular that clearly is trying to be so progressive is stuck in the same-old-old.

Please feel free to comment below, and I am open to discussion.   This is an opinion piece.  It's not for me, and I tried to lay out why.
Your Forgotten Realms was my first The Last Jedi.

If the party is gonna die, they want to be riding and blasting/hacking away at a separate one of Tiamat's heads as she plummets towards earth with broken wings while Solars and Planars sing.

LiferGamer

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Pathfinder 1e Review, and War for The Crown Adventure Path
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2020, 07:57:47 pm »
I appreciate all the views but and wondering if there's any interest in me reviewing some of the other stuff on my shelf?
Your Forgotten Realms was my first The Last Jedi.

If the party is gonna die, they want to be riding and blasting/hacking away at a separate one of Tiamat's heads as she plummets towards earth with broken wings while Solars and Planars sing.

Hawkwing7423

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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2020, 10:32:59 pm »
I am interested in reviews of Pathfinder because I have some of the adventure paths.
My friend ran "Skull and Shackles" for a while, it was fun.
I ran "Curse of the Crimson Throne" for a while, and I found it decent.

It seems you liked Strange Aeons more?

LiferGamer

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« Reply #3 on: July 26, 2020, 11:15:07 pm »
Much more; but from my (limited) library of Pathfinder adventure paths, they're ALL linear dungeon crawl, kookie NPC, linear dungeon crawl, kookie NPC, rinse, repeat.  

That's from a small sample group - didn't get Skull and Shackles or Curse of the Crimson Throne.  (I had one of the subscriptions for a while).

As I said above in War for the Crown; you've got this really interesting set up, I was SO excited with the potential : each PC could be an agent of a different noble house working together out of necessity (for now!  mwah ha ha) and as dirty deals come together, or each house makes its case/burns its agent, or the PCs end up with more loyalty to each other or have to agree on a compromise candidate...

All flushed away one page later when its clear that the PCs job in the adventure path is to smash the Patriarchy and put the princess on the throne.

I'm in danger of repeating myself here, so...

STRANGE AEONS

Strange Aeons starts with... a dungeon crawl.  (shit)  But its a better disguised dungeon crawl.  You're all waking up in an asylum, amnesiacs that vaguely recognize the other PCs and have a sense of being pissed off at Count Lowls.  
(most unfortunately he immediately lost any 'dread villain' cred by the players pronouncing it Count LOLs.)

Getting out of the asylum, they get to the town, and deal with Call of Cthullu style cultists, a revanent that is hunting them because they killed an innocent man (!) and started to find out that they may not have been the nicest people around.  (I even had them originally as different classes, so NPCs were shocked that the halfling they feared as an assassin was now a healing cleric.)

...sadly, we didn't play much further - the specific combo of players broke up, and it was too clunky to insert other characters/they lost desire/I hated the system

I will say, the players that are still in the group (new campaign) sometimes joke when things get surreal "We've never left the asylum".  So it left a positive impression.

Again, in my limited experience with Pathfinder, and adventure paths, this was an interesting series, that used a trope that is overplayed in fiction (amnesia), but made it work in the game, and at times was genuinely spooky and touched real horror better than D&D derivatives usually can.
Your Forgotten Realms was my first The Last Jedi.

If the party is gonna die, they want to be riding and blasting/hacking away at a separate one of Tiamat's heads as she plummets towards earth with broken wings while Solars and Planars sing.

Hawkwing7423

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« Reply #4 on: July 27, 2020, 11:03:03 pm »
Skull and Shackles did not have too many dungeon crawls, as it was based on a pirate campaign. I think we had a full party wipe and moved on to a different campaign. :(

Curse of the Crimson Throne had some dungeon crawl and kooky NPC. It tried to be not totally linear though, as far as I can tell. We did not finish due to COVID and now playing a different campaign remotely.

Some of these books are really expensive now that they are out of print which is frustrating for me. PDFs just don't give me the same satisfaction.

Shrieking Banshee

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« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2020, 10:30:17 am »
Paizos claim to fame for their Adventure Paths is Kingmaker which is a freeform sandbox with a focus on Kingdom building.

Id say what their adventure paths have (when its good) is somekind of neat extra mechanic. Otherwise yeah they can be pretty bland at times.

Ghostmaker

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Pathfinder 1e Review, and War for The Crown Adventure Path
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2020, 11:37:02 am »
Rise of the Runelords was pretty straightforward but wasn't terrible.

Although to this day I am stunned that poor Karzoug had no resistance to negative energy effects. Sure, he had SR 24... which just meant my 18th level sorcerer with Spell Penetration needed a 4+ to beat it. I don't remember if he ate a prediction of failure from me (a REALLY nasty curse that even if you save against, you're still stuck with it for the combat unless you dispel it), but I remember nailing him with an enervation that knocked his caster level down to 16, which made him a bit more manageable even when he started trying to spam save-or-suck spells.

Hawkwing7423

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« Reply #7 on: August 12, 2020, 03:49:15 pm »
Nice, I have that one in the hardcover but haven't looked at it much.
My collecting bug has me trying to get these adventure paths, though some of them are getting very expensive in the secondary market.