Bringing the concepts of Fourthcore to Pathfinder is a thing I've been thinking about for a while now. What are the concepts of Fourthcore though? Some people aren't familiar with them.
- Difficult. The challenges in fourthcore adventures are designed to be especially difficult, requiring players to multitask, balance risk, adapt their strategies to complex and unpredictable scenarios, and decide on courses of action with incomplete information while under a pressing time limit.
- Deadly. Dungeoneers will die quickly and often, sometimes as a result of instant death and save or die effects. The consequences of failure are severe.
- Lucrative. The rewards found in fourthcore adventures are numberous, valuable, and very powerful.
- Over the Top. Fourthcore adventures are brought to life with extravagant threats and adventure sites that are both evocative and gruesome.
- Bleak. The world in which fourthcore adventures take place is grim, amoral, violent, and unhappy.
- Dungeon Centered. Nearly all fourthcore adventures are traditional dungeon delves in the spirit of the Tomb of Horrors, Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, and other classic tournament modules.
- Game Oriented. A fourthcore adventure emphasizes the players' struggle to "win" the module by overcoming the challenges presented to them by the Dungeon Master. Player skill takes center stage in many fourthcore encounters. Metagaming is encouraged.
My understanding is that fourthcore came about because some people felt that 4th Edition was too easy (a feeling I can understand). So they responded by coming up with a competitive concept that made the game murderous. One of the benefits of 4th Edition is easy character creation. I know that some people feel it is hard to make characters in 3.X editions of Dungeons and Dragons. They're wrong and dumb and should probably learn to play better. Character creation is not hard, choosing things is. 4th Edition removes distributing skill points, which does slightly reduce the time needed to deal with skills. However, you still have to make ability scores and choose race and class and feats. In addition, every class has to choose powers. So really, character creation takes longer in 4th Edition. What really reduces the time of character creation is the fact that Wizards has a character builder. That cuts down time significantly. But then, you can buy a Pathfinder or 3.5 license for Hero Builder, so the net overall result is that character creation in 4th Edition takes longer due to having the added difficulty of making choices between powers in addition to all the normal character creation trials and tribulations.
4th Edition does have an advantage in player durability though, and it's hard to get over that. It's not as big of a deal as you'd think though. 4th Edition characters are designed in 4th Edition. So 4th Edition monsters do more damage and have more hit points to give them a chance to possibly hurt 4th Edition characters (if they're out of healing surges and don't have a leader class with them). Pathfinder monsters are designed with Pathfinder characters in mind, so it kind of ends up being a moot point. However, the hostility of fourthcore is not intended to be coupled with the reduced hit points of the Pathfinder system.
So how would I modify Pathfinder to make Pathirdcore.X? First I'd alter character creation rules slightly. I'd have characters be built using 25 character points, epic fantasy level, rather than 20 like we normally use in my campaigns. I'd also allow players to choose races valued at up to 15 race points per the Advanced Race Guide. I'd also say that all characters gain maximum hit points every level and start them at level two, rather than one.
I'd have to modify rewards a bit as well, as there are differences in the design of gear in 4th Edition and Pathfinder. It's extremely important in both systems, but for different reasons. Anyway, first thing I'd do would be to remove the maximum of +10 worth of enchantments on magical gear. Additionally, I'd use something I've seen in some fourthcore adventures, enchantment rewards. The gist you find or are rewarded loot and it makes your weapon vorpal or flaming or something.
So how would I structure advancement? Fourthcore is designed to be competitive and reward both skilled and lucky players. I would base advancement on player performance. So if we're talking about a group of second level characters, one part of the reward for the scenario would be sufficient experience to hit level three. So 3000 experience. This would go to the player with the fewest deaths during the scenario. The one with the second fewest deaths would get 75% of the needed experience, so 2250, the third fewest would get 50%, and the one with the most deaths would get 25%. In future scenarios the experience rewarded would be based on the experience needed for the highest level character(s) to get to the next level. In situations of ties, it would default to the higher tier.
This brings up the issue of deaths. Since there's no desire to reroll characters in the middle of a scenario, death would not be permanent. If any character dies, regardless of the method, they return to life on the following round. However, this isn't a free special power. The first time you die, you are restored to life with 75% of your full hit points, the second time is 50%, the third time is 25%, and the fourth time it is 0 and stabilized, because 0 is better than negative thirty or complete bodily destruction. Every time you die after the fourth time, you gain a negative level in addition to being returned to life at 0 and stabilized. These negative levels are cumulative and last until the end of the next scenario.
So those are just a few of my thoughts on how I might fourthcore Pathfinder. I think fourthcore is an innovative and fun concept for a style of play. I'd really like to return to it at some point in the future.