Awesome Things about 2009 (1/15): Pathfinder RPG

Today PeterMBall.com is a year old. This caught me a little off-guard when I went and looked at the archives, since it seems slightly inconceivable that I’ve only been posting to the website for a year instead of meandering around on livejournal (where, admittedly, this still blog runs a feed and much of the conversation happens). It got even worse when I realised that one of the first posts being made was “Horn has sold to Twelfth Planet Press,” which means we were one day shy of announcing Cold Cases a year exactly after Horn. Spooky. Between this moment of  nostalgia and the Americans celebrating Turkey Day and the vising 80-point-plan of awesomeness, I came up with the following:

Awesome Things about 2009 (1/15): Pathfinder RPG

Pathfinder_SpokesbearApprovedStick with me on this one, because there’s a lot of introspection involved in it making the list.

Okay, to start with, this is probably important to know: I’m a big ol’ geek and Roleplaying Games have been a part of my life for about two decades now. That said, there’s only really been three game releases over the last decade that I’ve actually been so excited about that I’ve actually tracked the development and promotional material (that’d be Dungeons and Dragons 3E, Mutants and Masterminds 2E, and Pathfinder). There was something really nice about being able to get in contact with my inner game-geek and anticipate for the first half of the year. Pathfinder had me excited about gaming in a way that 4E didn’t, right down to the point where I briefly managed to get a group together and run a few sessions. Over the years I’ve turned into a stoic grump, so experiencing any of the child-like joy that comes from anticipating things is a rare enough commodity that it’s worth celebrating. Outside of the aforementioned gaming products and the occasional fiction book, I think the last thing I really anticipated can be summed up as “the first season of New Who.”

Then, around the middle of the year, Pathfinder arrived (just in time for Gen Con Oz, yet, but that’ll get its own entry). And it was every bit as awesome as I’d been hoping. I then, promptly, didn’t run a damn thing using the rules.

This was extraordinarily weird for me. While I had my brief flurry of activity leading up to the games release, running a few sessions with the playtest rules, the actual final release will probably be one of the first gaming rule-sets I’ve learned as a player rather than a GM*. In this respect Pathfinder represents something of a shift in the relationship between me and gaming – there’s been a couple of times this year where I’ve stepped back and thought “man, I’m just not gaming as much as I used too,” but the truth is that I’m still involved in as many RPGs as I used to be (about three regular games) and I’ve added a weekly session of Bloodbowl on top. The difference is that I’m not longer running games, and for about fifteen years writing campaign notes and preparing adventures was what I did with my free time.

Not that I didn’t run anything this year – I started the year running CSI Arkham for the Call of Cthulhu peeps – but trust me when I say this was less prep time and just plain *less* GMing than I’ve done in a long while. It stole tiny little fragments of time, rather than the extended hour or so I’d used to spend fine-tuning a session and creating monster stats. Running a roleplaying campaign used to be one of those activities that defined my days, now they tend to be defined by writing instead**.

Still, Pathfinder promised me awesome, and Pathfinder delivered. And even if I don’t get a chance to run it, I’ll still be using the rules to kick evil’s arse, Cleric-Style, in my friend Adam’s campaign.

*Okay, yes, so it’s not entirely apt, given that I ran the d20 version of DnD that forms the basis of Pathfinder, not to mention releasing a bunch of d20 products using the system, but trust me when I say there’s enough differences between the two to make relearning the game as a player a delight. Hell, trust me when I say learning the game *entirely* as a player makes for a great change of pace.

**Not that any of this should be read as “Peter doesn’t want to run Pathfinder.” In an ideal world, I’d totally dig running through one of the pre-written adventure campaigns I’ve got lying around, but finding four or five people able to commit to a regular game gets rarer and rarer as you get older and most of the players I know have already got their regular sessions spoken for***.  

***Besides which, if I could find four players who wanted a regular game, odds are I’d still try and pitch a Mutants and Masterminds game first. ‘Cause there is an awful lot of Dungeons-and-Dragons-esque fantasy being played at the moment.

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