Monday, April 8, 2013

Alternate Rules: So. Many. Dogdamn. Options.

At a certain point in the life of a game, there are just too many options and subsystems (2e Skills and Powers anyone?). There is just too much crap in too many books for any single character to be able to use all or even a sizable chunk of it, even if they want to. Most game developers respond to this problem by burning everything down to the ground and creating a new edition of the rules and then proceed to start the process all over again. Because they are companies and like having all of our dollars, and also because they are jerkfaces.

In Pathfinder, one of the main ways you show your character's capabilities and specialties, aside from class choice, is with feats. You take feats that are cool or make your character better at whatever it is exactly that he does. Each character gets ten feats over twenty levels as a base. Most classes gain bonus feats related to whatever it is that they do and choose from a selection or get specific ones as a bonus at certain levels, or at least have the option to gain bonus feats through something like the rogue talents of the Rogue class. The Fighter is the big boy of the bonus feats, he gains eleven bonus combat feats over twenty levels, along with the ability to switch out some of those bonus combat feats for others at specified times similar to the way intuitive casters have the ability to switch out their known spells at certain levels. I think there is a lot of feat envy for the Fighter from people that play other classes, and I've never understood why. Oh, you have twenty-one feats? Cool. Are you hitting someone with something to try and injure them or outmaneuver them? No? Guess what, at least eleven of your feats are (more than likely) useless. Go sit in the corner quietly while I use Diplomacy, Skill Focus (Diplomacy), and Spell Focus (Enchantment/Charm) to resolve this non-combat encounter so we can finance building our fortress. Not going to lie, I'll probably be using them later when we have to kill a bunch of guys too. But don't worry, we're all still real fucking impressed with your twenty-one feats.

I have a strong affection for the Fighter, and I don't always buy the 'spellcasters are gods and combat classes are their bitches' mindset that most people seem to have, but depending on the build, a warrior class can potentially have a very narrow focus that can make them seem weaker when compared to full casters. But, you know, that's what the steal combat maneuver is for. Because now god doesn't have his spell component pouch and can't cast any spell with a material component. Unless he has an awesome CMD. Wizards are good at defending against combat maneuvers, right? Or unless he has the eschew materials feat, but who takes that? Ok, Sorcerers, fine. Whatever. All I know is that it took a 19th level Sorcerer to take out my 15th level Rankethlek Fighter Kethranmeer, and Kethranmeer didn't so much as fight Nakmander as he did weather the onslaught of spells in an attempt to break down the sorcerous shield protecting to ritual casters while Nakmander tried to, and succeeded in, reducing him to molten slag. How many finger of deaths and lighting bolts can a Wizard or Sorcerer with no magical gear take on the chin?

Do not underestimate a well designed Fighter, and casters, do not underestimate the damage a Fighter (or anyone really) can cause you by taking your spell component pouch or alchemy crafting kit (the Alchemist equivalent). Seriously, consider the ramifications of not having your spell component pouch. No fireball, no lightning bolt, no mage armor (though that should already be on), no hold person, no enlarge/reduce, no sleep, no summon monster spells, and so on. Most charm/dominate stuff is just verbal and somatic, but Fighters have lots of feats and taking Iron Will and Improved Iron Will is probably never a bad idea when you have a crap Will save. Unless you like getting mindfucked into destroying your allies. 

This wasn't supposed to be a lesson on how to properly play a martial or caster class, so I'll get back to my point, option overload. Looking at Pathfinder, we have all the core stuff involving combat, magic,  skills, and maneuvers along with subsystems for dueling, called shots, city building, performance combat, traits, martial arts styles, gear made from substandard materials, hero points (irrelevant for Hekinoe), spell duels, binding outsiders (irrelevant for Hekinoe), racial ability feats, modifying constructs, and so on. On top of this, my world has wonky magic rules, two series of feats involving weird bodily effects, guns, and psionics. Each of these subsystems and wonky rules systems has a bunch of feats associated with it. My question is, how are you supposed to take advantage of any of it while still trying to cover basics like Improved Initiative or Weapon, Spell, or Skill focus?

I've instituted a flaw system, which helps. But sometimes it is a huge buzzkill to take a fat penalty on saves or skill checks to be able to get that one feat you need, and sometimes it is dull to play a human or its equivalent, and sometimes you don't have an RP reason for a flaw. I'll straight up take a machete to a player's goals and dreams if those goals so much as give my oh so sacred background material a dirty look, but I dislike slapping someone down because rules. Unless those rules work the way they do to prevent a system from completely melting down.

Blah blah blah. Point, what I am considering doing is implementing a new rule that grants everyone a bonus feat at like every fourth level, simply so they can take advantage of more of the interesting subsystems and house rulings of our game. It would only grant five more feats over twenty levels, and I don't feel it would completely upend the balance. I'd give enemies the same bonus at every fourth level/hit die. I assume everyone would completely ignore my various house rule related feats and neat stuff like fighting styles and go for standard core material choices, but I'd feel better knowing the option was there for them to utilize that stuff without slowing down the development of the core concept of their characters. I guess this rule would be more for my peace of mind than for my players. I've heard one or two of them bitch about needing more feats, but never anything like they'd really like to take a feat from my campaign book, if it wouldn't completely screw up their character concept. 

I dunno. I'll think about it I guess. 

1 comment:

  1. I actually enjoy a lot of your house rules and think they are well thought out, but in this case, it is just hard to pick them when I feel there are other feats that benefit my character.

    Personally, I would have taken some Warped Flesh feats for Karl if magic worked the same way here as it did in Hekinoe. If we were somewhere magic fails, I would be taking the spell failure reduction tree and the feat called Shamanic training. It was why I took my character trait...

    I would also have taken the next level of Unarmored Combatant... But I am looking at all of the feats I would like, I don't know... seems like a hard choice at this point.

    Ah well, I guess what I am trying to say is, if you decided to go with more feats, I would use 'em.