Just The Rules: Quick Recap

When I started this series, I’d intended to go through the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and trim it down to the bare mechanics, then build it back up with the elements as I wanted them. That got derailed almost immediately.

I figured I’d work through the source rule book as a start. Keep the rules in the chapter such as “how feats work”, but remove the actual feats. The first few decisions I made set me on an entirely different track.

Which obviously I’m okay with, but I can understand it could be confusing.

Game Decision Recap

Today is ‘Q Day’ in the A-Z Blog Challenge, but I’m more than 20 posts into the series because of days having multiple posts.

Basic Rules

These rules cover basics of the game and how it is constructed.

  • Ability Scores don’t exist. There may be other scores, but at this point no Strength, Dexterity, etc. Ability scores might come back later, but even so they are likely to not be the classic six.
  • Advancement is by level, rather than by point buy such as Hero System.
  • Basic Task Resolution is based on AGE System’s 3d6 rolls + stunts.
  • Classes exist, but not in the normal D&D way. Instead, a character gains paths as they gain levels, and the paths are interwoven in a fashion similar to that in Shadow of the Demon Lord.
    • The basic path is fairly generic by character type: warrior, magician, etc.
    • The expert path is more specific: cavalier, wizard, etc.
    • The master path is generally specialized, or exploring unusual abilities: paladin, necromancer, shadowdancer, etc.
    • The champion path is almost unique to each character, enhancing abilities gained in earlier paths. The other paths might be fairly well defined, this is likely to be a framework describing how to amplify other abilities.
  • Damage and Healing follows my ‘On Hit Points and Healing‘ rules, and a ‘roll the body’ approach to handling characters reduced to 0 hit points.
  • Effort (from Kevin Crawford’s game Godbound) will be used to limit actions. Many actions just take an… action (unit of game time), others require commitment of effort in varying degrees. If a character has no effort available, the character cannot use those abilities.
  • Facts (Godbound term) reminded me of Fate aspects. A character can have a number of aspects that define elements of the character and can be used for effect and compelled to grant or restore effort.
  • Feats are tiered and grant abilities based on the path granting the feat. Each path grants a feat slot at each odd path level (for instance, basic path levels 1, 3, 5, 7; these match character levels 1, 4, 7, 11).
  • Races grant some initial abilities at character creation, as in most D&D games. They also grant race-specific abilities (structurally much like feats) at even path levels. I do not yet know if these will be hardcoded by race, or selected as from a ‘racial mystery’.
  • Spells can be learned via path or feat. They cost effort, and spell level (power) limited by caster character level while complexity/obscurity limited by path. That is, basic are generic and not too complicated, master are specialized and complex.

Specific Rules

These rules cover how specific topics are modeled in game.

  • Divine Bloodlines like those in Birthright are expert paths and grant an ability at each path level.
  • Greater Divine Bloodlines are also available as master paths.

In fact, all bloodlines — divine, sorcerer, whatever — almost certainly work like this. I have not decided if the bloodlines will have specific abilities granted at each level (as sorcerer bloodlines in the base game) or if they will have a selection of abilities that may be chosen from at each level (like mysteries in the base game). The former is simpler because there are no decisions to make, the latter is at least a little richer because scions of the same bloodline will have similar abilities but perhaps not exactly the same.

  • Limiting Decisions is key. Many paths might allow a decision (see Expert Paths below) that will narrow down a path’s abilities.
    • Some of these choices may still have some variability. A path bloodline might limit the character to six bloodline powers but allow the character to choose the order they are gained.
  • Path Abilities are Tiered by level, not path. That is, a basic path ability is not necessarily weaker than an expert path ability, and might be roughly on par with a master path ability. Regardless of path,
    • Path abilities gained at level 1-4 should be more or less realistic.
    • Path abilities gained at level 5-8 should be larger than life.
    • Path abilities gained at level 9-12 should be superhuman.
    • Path abilities gained at level 13-16 should be superheroic.
    • Path abilities gained at level 17-20 should be legendary.
  • Feat Abilities are Tiered as described in the previous section, but based on the path that granted the feat slot, and are cumulative. That is, a character spends a single slot on a feat and gains all feat abilities up to the slot spent on the feat: it is not necessary to buy the feat multiple times to gain all tiers. A character may buy a feat once, then later spend a higher path slot to upgrade that feat and then refill the lower path slot with a new feat.
    • Feat abilities from basic slots should be more or less realistic.
    • Feat abilities from expert slots should be larger than life.
    • Feat abilities from master slots should be superhuman.
    • Feat abilities from champion slots should be superheroic.
  • Companions (i.e. creatures associated via path ability or feat) will automatically scale with the level of the character… at least enough to probably not die too easily. Depending on the nature of the companion and the resource (path or feat tier) granting the companion, the companion may gain other advancements.
    • A cohort (humanoid companion) will be the same level as the character, and will gain paths up to the tier below the one granting the ability. That is, a cohort gained via an expert feat will be the same level as the character and gain a basic path up to that level, and a cohort gained via a champion feat will be two levels lower than the character and gain a basic, expert, and master path up to that level. [Note: might still limit this to two levels lower.]
    • An animal companion (such as a mount) will be the same level as the character and gain evolutons (as an eidolon) at each level, up to the path/tier grating the companion. That is, basic path levels give 1-point evolutions, expert path levels give 2-point evolutions, and so on. A companion only gains the evolutions if the companion is of that tier.

Outstanding or Needing Refinement

The following rules have been explored a little but I’m not yet satisfied with them.

  • Basic Paths need development. I know they exist, but they’re longer than other paths and I don’t yet have a good grasp on what goes in them. Fairly generic, but as they get up to level 11 they can have some pretty big effect.
  • Items of Power should best avoid ‘numbers’. I hate items that just give a bonus.
  • Monetary Treasure is useful but not, in my opinion, exciting. Some treasures can have other applications, let’s see if something can be done with that.
  • Tiered Abilities are likely to be devised around Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Mythic Adventures and other books with mythic rules. Most of the base game abilities are pretty pedestrian. Many just give bonuses to checks or damage, many others stick to relatively mundane abilities. Higher-level play should pop and be pretty outrageous, and mythic abilities are a good source of ideas.
  • Classes and Archetypes are good fodder for paths. Most base classes look like they will make good expert paths, while it seems prestige classes might be a good source of master paths. These are not hard assignments (paladin looks like it could be made a slightly more generic ‘holy warrior’, while ‘paladin’ is a specialist in lawful good divine power), nor are they the only source of paths (all sorts of other specializations can fit here).
  • Expert Paths often have choices that should ideally settle the rest of the path abilities. Other abilities can be gained via feats or other paths.
    • Barbarians have totems that identify how rage works and what rage powers are gained.
    • Bards have colleges that identify the bardic performances and masterpieces gained.
    • Clerics have domains or churches (leaning toward the latter) that identify the channeling abilities gained.
    • Druids might have a circle (gathering of druids sharing a purpose) or pick their favored terrains (as the ranger ability).
    • Fighters are probably split up into more specific, purposeful paths.
    • Monks probably have orders or monasteries that determine the monk abilities gained. Or they might be just a sparkly case of fighter.
    • Paladins are probably a master path — often coming from cavalier expert path, or cleric, or holy warrior.
    • Rangers are likely to gain the bulk of their abilities via favored enemy and favored terrain choices, each of which gives abilities helpful in relevant situations (but also usable in others).
    • Rogue will probably be split up into different types of endeavor (burglar, mountebank, etc.)
    • Sorcerer is likely to change from ‘spell caster with a bloodline’ to ‘person with a bloodline who might know spells’. I see them being more about innate abilities than casting spells.
    • Wizard has a tradition that identifies how they use magic.

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