Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nerves of Steel

I continue to think it best, despite my intense interest in the entire Pathfinder Roleplaying Game project that Paizo has launched, that I continue to avoid the open playtest boards as much as possible. Initially I did so because they were filled with dozens of people who either didn't read or didn't understand Paizo's mission statement for Pathfinder, namely backward compatibility with v.3.5. Seeing yet another person advocating the elimination of Vancian magic or alignment or some other fundamental aspect of D&D made me wonder why these guys weren't signing up for 4e and it just annoyed the heck out of me. But, being the biggest name in fantasy gaming since 1974, D&D has always attracted more than its share of players who didn't really like it in the first place and wanted to "fix" it in ways that shredded its very soul. Players like that have been around since I started playing in the late 70s and I suspect they'll always be around. That was only the first stage of my disillusionment, unfortunately. Nowadays the boards seem to be filled with a different kind of player who doesn't really like D&D. Whereas initially the complainers nibbled around the edges of things and lashed out in pretty inconsequential ways, now we have pamphleteers, zealots, and dime store philosophers who are all peddling their own theories about how to improve D&D and correct "problems" with its mechanics and play.

Now, don't get me wrong: as a dime store philosopher myself I have some sympathy with these guys. More to the point, the entire pulp fantasy D&D project is all about "fixing" D&D so that game play is more in tune with the early game's literary inspirations. The difference, though, is that I accept and acknowledge what I'm doing will make the game different from the current version of the game. Backward compatibility with v.3.5 is not my goal and indeed I recognized early on that v.3.5 is a terrible foundation for the kind of D&D I wish to create. So, yes, I have my own little agendas and theories and I intend to run with them as far as they'll take me, but I'm not playtesting the Pathfinder RPG here. I'm not trying to impose my vision of D&D on Pathfinder.

The guys at Paizo, especially Jason Buhlmann, have my utmost respect for being able to stomach all of this. I still think the open playtest is a brilliant idea and that, if they can maintain focus and herd the cats on their forums, the end result will be vastly better for it. If nothing else, it shows that Paizo is more like the kind of RPG company I want to support than WotC is. At the same time, I can't help but think that too many of the people who're posting to the boards lack basic comprehension skills about the purpose and scope of Pathfinder. Finding the golden comments and insights in the mounds of dross that litter those forums has got to be a thankless and nerve-wracking experience. My hats off to Paizo for doing it, because I certainly couldn't.


  1. You've hit on exactly why I can't read those forums either, despite really enjoying the materials Paizo is producing and wanting to help out with their Pathfinder project. I actually enjoy D&D.

    I recently ran a sessions using the new rules for the PCs, and doing no conversion on the Shackled City scenario I was using - the game ran smoothly and worked as Paizo intended. It was backwards compatible with no work on my part, and still presented a credible challenge to the PCs.

    I'm looking forward to seeing what you can do with the pulp D&D, though - my image of D&D is still rooted in the Poul Anderson, REH, Fritz Leiber, Lin Carter, etc. etc. ethos.

  2. Great blog! I also find the discussions in the Comments interesting as well.