And unlike some other candidates, I have played them all. Sadly, I’ve only played #6 and #4 once at Cons, but I have played (or ran) them all. Reminds me, I do want to get some Deadlands on…
4th Edition D&D released in 2008. Due to the Saga-like changes they made to it, and it had manged to throw out some of the stuff about v3.5 that annoyed me; I bought the core 3 books, and then a few others. Then, they came out with Essentials, kinda a mini-edition, and it added options to the classes we had already without invalidating them, so I got that stuff too.
But today (Jan 9th, 2012) Wizards of the Coast has announced 5th edition D&D, with Monte Cook at the helm. And I say fuck that. Monte Cook was responsible for most of the shit in v3.5 I didn’t like.
The playtest starts this spring (at DDXP), so that means that either Essentials was just a re-write that was easy to do while they were drafting 5th edition, or the drafted 5th edition was really rushed (since Monte Cook was hired back on). Either way, fuck that.
Oh, but this time we’re going to do an open playtest so you can have input on the game! Yeah, no. I have seen what the open playtest did to things in Pathfinder. While it looks neat, it still looks enough like v3.5 that I’ll never run it. The fighters got more linear (in particular due to getting the things that make it worth playing a fighter requires you to stay in the class even longer) and the wizards got more quadratic (and sorcerers, even worse, with extra free powers based on their bloodline).
There are very few and specific things that could make me even consider a 5th Edition D&D. Every single one of these things would have to be done to the system, and I don’t see that happening under Cook.
- HP = GONE. Wound tracking, health levels, condition tracks, anything but HP. HP are the things that make fights take too damn long!
- Levels = GONE. Organic character creations and the ability to actually build whatever kind of character you want with just the core book. No PHB 1, 2, 3, just to have access to all the character concepts of D&D.
- Multiple Books = The fuck GONE! Really. If you want any hope of me even looking at this edition, it had better be a complete game in one book.
- Spellcasting by Vancian or Daily Methods = GONE! It is time for power points or magic points for all spellcasting characters.
And well, as that would make the game look a lot like Savage Worlds, well, I don’t see that happening. But they need to do at least 3 and 4 for me to even look this time.
So again, fuck that Wizards. I will keep using my 4e books, my 4e Eberron, and the offline character builder, and to hell with your 5th edition. I might even just get rid of the essentials stuff, as why have it when I can’t put it (legally) in my offline character builder?
Less than a day after the announcements, and I already see people screaming for ‘the one true Pathfinder’ to replace D&D.
If Pathfinder ‘wins’ and D&D goes down as a game, it’s not that Paizo will be able to buy the rights and re-publish D&D ‘the right way’ like people keep hoping, it’s that there will be NO D&D RPG. As I have told many people, Hasbro did not really buy D&D for D&D, they bought it for Drizzit, and Elminister, and the like. They bought an Intellectual Property. The novel sales have always been a more reliable revenue stream than the RPG, as well as video game rights and now, Board Games. If D&D falls, outside of novels and video games, the only D&D on the tabletop you’ll see are more of those board games.
The poor sales response to Essentials has led to this in part, which comes in part from the edition war I see on every forum and hear in every game store. All these people complain about Hasbro laying WotC people off, but then keep trying to put D&D out of business. That’s like being sad for the Michigan Auto Industry when you’ve spent the last 20 years telling everyone to buy Toyota! And it’s either hypocritical, or the result of a huge intellectual disconnect.
If D&D was selling like it did before the edition wars, before Paizo essentially re-sold WotC’s v3.5 rules under a new name (which Paizo admits because they needed it in print to support their bread and butter, Adventure Paths), these layoffs would not happen. But when Hasbro shuts down D&D, if the upcoming edition (they will not admit to using Monte Cook in an attempt to go back to something more like 3ed edition but different enough to call it 5th) does not meet sales quotas, then D&D will become an IP used only for video games, novels, and board games. Hasbro will never sell the IP because to sell it would be selling Drizzit. Paizo could never afford the asking price.
And if that happens, Future Generations will never know D&D, only it’s clones and retro refits. And that would be sad for gaming to lose such a vital part of it’s history.
These layoffs come after WotC has announced earlier this year that they have brought back Monte Cook, one of the originators of 3rd Edition. Most people assume this is a Hail Mary play to regain ground in the edition wars by taking the design of 5th edition back to being similar to 3rd edition but with some of the fixes of 4th. But some like myself and others assume that this is not the case.
In the first place, we don’t honestly know what WoTC is hiring Monte for; it might be to do 5e, its true. If they had half a brain, they’d probably want to do that for strategic purposes. But I think the hopeful out there should dampen their good spirits: There’s no way that Monte Cook, even at his best, will produce an Old School D&D game. He won’t. He’s not an old-school guy.
Nor, Pathfinder-fanatics, will he produce another 3e. Because he can’t go back to what he did before. Neither WoTC nor his own ego would let him.
And this is truth. In part. It would be design and legal suicide to go back to the 3rd edition design after Hasbro stepped away from it (and the slow line suicide that was Ryan Dancey’s OGL, that allowed people to reprint and sell the rules to D&D legally) so, they can’t have him do that. And, no, they wouldn’t have him do that just to kill the RPG line and stick with novels and board games as I outlined above. If they wanted to do that, Hasbro could just cancel the RPG line. So the idea is to have some kind of D&D RPG.
What this means is that 5th edition will get even farther away from the roots of D&D than 4th did. While 4th is vastly different from 3rd edition, like 3rd edition was very different from 2nd which had it’s own lesser edition wars due to lack of the previous edition not being in print, 4th still however looks like D&D, and has all the familiar trappings. I fear though that Cook will make us something that might be called D&D, but looks nothing like the bloodline form which it came. Need I remind my readers of Monte Cook’s World of Darkness and how little it resembled its parent? As in, not at all.
If people can’t set the edition wars aside, I fear that is what the last gasp of D&D will be like. It will not be anything like D&D.
So, due to the interest of both my daughter and myself, I got a copy of the Pathfinder Beginner Box with the last of my birthday cash via Amazon and a $10 gift card via one of my online surveys.
First up, a full disclosure; while I never hated v3.5 as a system, it had a lot of faults, mostly in the ‘Quadratic Wizard, Linear Warrior’ kind of area. Ok, I never hated it as a player, or adapted to other less cumbersome games and genres. But attempting to run v3.5 D&D was an exercise in pain, in particular as the game introduced even more shit. While 4th Editon D&D took out a few things I liked, it also took out a LOT more I did not. And added some new stuff that I like. It did however forget some things from Star Wars Saga Edition (the testing ground for 4e) that I liked, in particular Talents (which used for martial classes instead of the powers format would have nipped a lot of the edition war in the bud, I think).
While Pathfinder tried to fix a lot of the issues with v3.5 (and in the end shares a lot with many peoples house rules) it still left some of the most glaring issues intact. However, it is still just as playable as v3.5 was. My major issue with the game, is that it seemed very much like the most underhanded way to publish a game ever, by using the work of someone else to do it. Ok, maybe not the most underhanded. However, I know enough people that do play it to at least give it a shot, now that there is a semi-cheap way to do it (that doesn’t involve a book that can be used to murder people).
So, while there is a very good review in detail at EN World, mine will focus on some other parts. Namely, the ‘does this actually introduce new players to the game’ and ‘how does it compare to other introductory game products.’
First up, does this actually introduce new players to Pathfinder? In short, mostly. It tries to get the most core concepts of a near 600 page book into 2 80-90 page book soft-covers. That is a very tall order. So, they choose to focus on the classic four classes (Fighter, Wizard, Cleric, Rogue) and the first 5 levels. They use a reduced list of feats and spells for the spell-casters. They also strip out attacks of opportunity and combat maneuvers (trip, bull rush, entangle, etc) entirely. While leaving out attacks of opportunity makes teaching the combat a lot easier, it however means that the rogue is now stupid overpowered as there is nothing stopping them from ALWAYS getting into a flank position with the fighter. I see this as being a problem when a player who started with a beginner box rogue starts playing the full game and takes his first hit for failing to
shift 5-foot step. Otherwise, the Box does manage to teach the core concepts in a very clear style.
I can’t help but notice that it looks nothing like the Pathfinder Core Rulebook to do this however. It looks a LOT like D&D 4th Edition actually. Or a Dragon Warrior video game manual from the 1980’s with much better artwork. Boxes everywhere! Maybe they should have called it the Pathfinder Beginner Boxes!
Now, as for how it compares to other introductory products, I will attempt to be fair. It doesn’t compare at all to, say, BRP or Savage World’s introductory products, because, well, those both teach the core game and are free. So, I have to compare it to other products that cost money to learn to play, and the closest thing is D&D Essentials. Compared to the new Red Box, the Pathfinder Beginner Box wins hands down just because the value is a lot more for your dollar, and it goes 2 levels higher. However, the Essentials line is actually better. If you get a copy of Heroes of the Fallen Lands and learn to play with that, you know about attacks of opportunity, bull rushes, all power structures, and the same four classes, but all the way to level 30. You also get two more races than in Pathfinder Beginner Box. The Box only has human, dwarf, and elf, while HotFL has Human, Elf, Eladrin, Dwarf, and Halfling. Does it come with all the ‘toys’ you need to run the game? No, but a new player doesn’t need all that (and the DM Kit for Essentials does have everything, even some monsters as included in adventures for the guy running it).
However, that is not to say I don’t like what I see in the Beginner Box. It reminds me more of the feeling of opening my first ever RPG Box set (the Original Red Box, and not that Abomination they released last year). Also, let’s face it, most d20 games I run (well, level based games, really) never get too far past 5th level anyway, so I could literally run this box set for a while and never need another Pathfinder book. If they kept releasing ‘Beginner Edition’ books for it, with other classes and the like, I’d consider buying them (if they were soft-cover and with the right price point).
So, at this point, I give it a solid, but not exceptional, 3/5.
When we get around to trying it, I’ll post the ‘Post Play’ review.
This is in fact NOT a critter from Resident Evil. Nor is it some kind of horrible elephant/deathclaw hybrid (but it gives me ideas for RPGs, that’s for sure).
This is in fact what a BEAR looks like when you shave it.
No images were forthcoming on what the guy(s) looked like who managed this feat. I imagine one was Ivan Drago.
Savage Worlds Deluxe vs Basic Role Playing Review
The format of this review will be a compare and contrast of the two different books. Why? Both are multi-genre one size fits most style RPGs. I have recently gotten into the idea after Savage Worlds won me over with its flexibility and general fun, but one thing it is not is realistic, even by a default no-powers setting. So, I looked to BRP, a more skills based and powers second (if at all) rule set. Between the two, I think I have books for most any game I will ever want to run now. I am also a bit tired of running in other peoples established IP (Star Wars, Forgotton Realms, WoD, etc). I’m not dropping them entirely, but I want to flex my creative muscles a bit more.
So, what does this mean to you, dear reader? Well, if you only have money (or time) for one or the other, I want to give you a good review so you can pick the one that fits your preferred play style best.
My experience with both games is decent. I have played Call of Cthulhu many times in the past, and ran it about 5. With my acquisition of BRP I might be adding a regular game of that, once I pick a genre and draft a setting. Savage Worlds (specifically their Necessary Evil setting) is one of my current games.
On to the review-
Rules Themes and Complexity-
On rules, Savage Worlds is just a little bit more complex than default BRP, but BRP has a lot of optional rules that can amp up the complexity quick. BRP has a nice checklist of the optional rules at the end of the book in the appendix, that makes it easy to track what ones you are using for a given game. Savage Worlds has what they call ‘Setting Rules’ as well, which are less about complexity and more about just changing the default rules for a specific genre feel.
The ‘theme’ of the Savage Worlds rules is default pulp heroics, and it shows in its rolling and skill system but also works well. It uses the standard gaming dice set, and as you get better at a skill or attribute, you use a bigger die. This makes it easier to hit the standard 4 target number (or the enemy Parry in melee combat). It has bennies as well, which you can turn in to re-roll or soak damage (more on that later). Each 4 over the target number is a ‘raise’ on the roll or attack. There are also few skills in Savage Worlds, less than 20 in total, which means the average group will rarely be left without a skill needed.
BRP uses d% for most rolls, using the other dice only for initial attribute generation (usual 3-18 range, but can go up to 21) and damage. There are no bennies, or re-rolls. What you see is what you get. It could be termed as more realistic in its default genre. It is however really easy to get an idea of how hard the task will be as everything is expressed in percent already. This is very intuitive to new players, and old ones who hate probability math. BRP is heavily skills based however, with skills being over half the character sheet. It does feel realistic in that regard.
Between the two base systems, I call it a tie. Each one can give a different feel, so it would depend on the game setting and theme which would be better.
For damage, BRP uses the standard Hit Points concept, although anything human or animal with much more than 21 HP is a rarity, and the average is usually 12. You get KOed at 2 or less HP, and die at 0. Armor reduces damage dealt directly. Savage worlds, on the other hand, uses damage vs. a toughness score. Meet or beat by 3 or less, and the target is ‘shaken’ which is kinda like a half-stunned effect. Beat toughness by 4 or more, and you cause a wound for each 4 over toughness. One wound takes out a standard NPC, 3 wounds for PCs and other important ‘Wild Cards.’ This usually results in quick but fun combats, except when the PCs do not have the firepower needed to beat the enemy toughness. Armor adds to toughness, making you harder to hurt. I prefer the Savage Worlds method over tracking HP, but at least you rarely deal with the, ‘Tons of HPs to slog through’ issue.
The last combat rule bit I want to compare is initiative. Personally, I think Savage Worlds wins this one hands down. It uses a standard set of playing cards with jokers left in. The higher the better, with ties resolved by suit. A Joker, on the other hand, has no number, you just go when you want, including interrupting another’s action. You also get a +2 to any rolls (including damage) during that turn. BRP on the other hand just goes in DEX score order by default, meaning that the PC with the highest DEX will always go before the other players. It is very fast and simple, but not very dramatic. There are optional rules for it in the book however.
As for rules content and crunch, BRP wins over Savage Worlds. Savage Worlds has enough example powers, equipment, and critters to get almost any game up and running, but the BRP rulebook has easily 2 or even 3 times as much example material in it.
As for experience, Savage Worlds has a simple system where you get 1-2 per session, maybe 3 for a really good one. Each 5 gives you an advance, where you can improve any one thing. It is a simple and elegant method of character growth. BRP has no experience what so ever, instead using a ‘skill check’ method, where if you use a skill in the course of a story, you put a check mark by it. When the story is over, you roll d% for each skill. Each skill you roll OVER the current %, you get to add 1d10 to. Therefore, the system sees only the stuff YOU DO improving, even if you never invested in it (all skills have a default value). There is no clear advantage between the two methods.
In this I mean, “How easy or hard is it to make up stuff on the fly not covered in the main book?” While BRP has a lot more rules in the larger book to avoid this problem, the mechanics and math behind Savage Worlds is pretty transparent, making it easy to make up stuff needed for it on the fly.
Each book assumes a default ‘normal human’ setting without powers. Each one has a robust system however for adding Magic, Psychic Powers, or Super Powers, to the game. Savage Worlds has Weird Science (fitting the pulp theme), where BRP has Mutations instead. However, the equipment section of BRP also has a section on customizing equipment which could be used in a weird science kind of way, if desired.
The layout of BRP is old school. It is black and white, lots of text, and simply but firmly bound. The book is easy to read and the pages do not smear easily. It also has a lot of old school style, mid-80’s black and white RPG style artwork.
Savage Worlds Deluxe is a full color hardcover. The artwork is much better than BRP, and serves well to give you ideas for what you can do with the book and the kinds of characters you can make.
Savage Worlds Deluxe is a semi-limited hardcover book run that costs $29.99. It comes in at about 160 pages. You need to be a bit more willing to write your own material for some genres, but it is easy to do so. Supplements are made both by Pinnacle (ranging from softback $20 books to hardcover settings at $40) and third parties under license. There are also TONS of fan conversions and settings out there.
BRP is about 400 pages hardcover at $44.95. It is more expensive, but they do indeed pack it full of stuff for you to use right out of the book for that price, and most of the supplements are softcover and about $20.
Each one is a good game, and I like both. What one you want to use will depend on your play style.