Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Suggested Read - Gibbering Mouth

 A brief post, but I really enjoyed the blog post at Gibbering Mouth by Alex Augunas (here). He reviews his recent experiences with Pathfinder 1 E and 2E, D&D 5E and Starfinder and talks about his experience with their strengths and weaknesses. He does a better job of expressing some of the issues, particularly with Starfinder (and its enormous setting strengths) than I have, and I find his discussion on PF2E a cogent analysis, one I have not quite seen as well as a GM, but which my players feel and likely would agree with from his analysis.

When I consider my time with Pathfinder 1E, for example, I am in total agreement....PF1E broke me in many ways as a GM, which is why I like PF2E so much more. I haven't yet reconciled my current new obsession with D&D 3.5 (and that game is still going strong!) beyond that D&D 3rd is a known quantity and that I am running it with careful consideration for all of its mechanical expectations at present. When that campaign hits level 12 I do sort of expect it to go off the rails....but also I recall how that was not really a thing I noticed (except for once when I experienced a CoDzilla first hand) until 3.5 was retired and Pathfinder 1E had risen to carry the torch. 

Still, PF2E is a lot of fun to play. I think my players are more in sync with it overall now, but I'd also suggest it's a hard game to play on autopilot....despite some trimming of the rules a bit, the game still is pervasive with the philosophy of system mastery and a casual player can easily find themselves spamming the quick and easy to understand stuff and miss out on interesting synergies and hidden options.

D&D 5E, meanwhile, is most definitely as Alex characterizes it: so easy it almost feels like you're missing something. I disagree on the skills, though. The complaint about definitions and their absence only makes sense if you are overly used to the rigor applied from 3rd edition onward to tightly defining what skills can do. If you are used to more holistic systems such as BRP/Call of Cthulhu and most other skill based RPGs of prior decades (GURPS excluded), a more generalized "eyeball and guesstimate the best approach" sort of attitude toward skills makes more sense.

His enthusiasm for Starfinder is infectious, though. It makes me really want to dive back in. His analysis on the problem with the game economy is intriguing, as I hadn't thought of the issue in this manner before (that the game drives players to spend their currency on constant upgrades at the expense of more tangential and fun rewards) but makes total sense. Still, just reading it makes me want to dive back in. I've had one really good Starfinder campaign two fun but failed ones, and a medley of one-offs that should have gone somewhere but didn't. I am thinking that the next time I try, everyone starts at level 5 to begin with to bypass the excruciating low level experience and I work on envisioning a stronger and more coherent space fantasy setting that I can riff from in a manner similar to the fantasy setting I find so easy.

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