Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pathfinder adventure path skill checks drive Roleplaying from the table

I have probably moaned about this in the past but I am really becoming disenchanted with pathfinder.   If you take the game at it's most basic you have something that allows you to play a multitude of characters that fit a variety of settings.  But when you start actually playing the adventure paths you are going to find this really hinders you.  Just mechanically the numbers don't work very well if you craft a character that is meant to be very deep and has skill which represent a background.

Taking skills and my experience in Kingmaker into account you really need to completely focus entirely on a very few skills if you hope to succeed.  I keep seeing target numbers of 25+ being thrown out by the DM.  With our level 6 characters we really have to have focused on a class skill or have some related stat that provides pluses here.  My cleric is very sporadic with his knowledge Religion skill which is maxed out.  I really would have set myself up for failure if I had put skill points elsewhere trying to present a background of skills for my character.  This is a problem for me. 

My Cleric has a background of someone who has traveled a bit.  I would like to have skills that represent basic knowledge of places and geography.    But under the pathfinder and therefore D&D system I really can't do that.  I need to drop my skill points in a small set of skills if any are going to succeed.  I don't want to use these skills for a one of knowledge check for some particular history but rather just a general customs knowledge and some broad navigation skills.   This is easy enough to tackle in a skill based game, but becomes a point of difficulty in a level based game like many of the traditional fantasy rpg's.

The difficulty becomes elevated when you get into a skills arms race situation like in D&D pathfinder.  character create characters with splashes of a class which allows them to perform as well as a character with the full class in a subset of skills.  Then you have the DM ramping up skill checks to challenge the party.  Throwing a splash of ranger for tracking on a rogue or bard is a common example of this.  The bard now gains a useful skill for their extra skill points and perhaps some extra combat power, so its a pretty big win for them.  Now you the DM have a more capable party to deal with and hit them with elevating challenges.

I think the Rolemaster system is the only one I have seen that really does a good job of tackling this problem.  Skills have en exponential coast so it just becomes unwise to skill up beyond a particular point.  Mathematically you are driven to diversify.

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