Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rise of the Runelords from Paizo

I used to subscribe to Dragon and Dungeon when they were print magazines. When 4th edition was announced, there were problems for third party supporters. The OGL was being dropped in favor of a different license. In addition, although I don't think it was an issue at that time, WoTC own digital offering, for character generation especially, I think put a big block on any 3rd party player resources that might have come down the line.

Anyway, Paizo was starting their own stuff, in this case, Pathfinder. This is still using the 3.5 rule set as it was well before Pathfinder as an RPG was out.

I had left over issues from my subscriptions and allowed that to fall into the Pathfinder adventure path.

In the real world...

I've been working many hours of overtime but that was recently rewarded with a week off with no pay so that the company can post larger profits. Made me evaluate what's important to me and while I'm not putting running Dungeons and Dragons ahead of working, I'm not going to take work so serious from now on. This gives me opportunities to indulge my game master side.

Still, I will be working most Saturdays. It's not like the company said screw you and I decided I don't need that overtime, especially after having a week off, and decided to cut my nose off to spite my face.

So I find I'm able to work with a pregenerated adventure, especially if it's a pregenerated adventure path. I've already read the books multiple times so I'm pretty sure I'll have no problems running it. I also still have all my WoTC 3.5 books, so that'll be no problem either.

But why 3.5? I'm not some fanatic that thinks one edition is better than the other and that all other editions must be cast into the first.

For one, I like the fact that Paizo is supporting the setting. For me, WoTC dropped the ball here. Sure, we just got Neverwinter as a hardcover (way to screw that one up WoTC) and it's not a bad book but... it's a heroic campaign and it's set in a Forgotten Realms I don't like. That is a personal preference. I don't like what they did. To me, as a reader of the fiction line, right before 4th ed, they had done a lot of setup that would have made the Forgotten Realms an exciting place to adventure in. 

Sembia falling under control of the Shades? 

The Elf Kingdom starting to rise? 

Thay becoming an undead nightmare land?

Dragons on a rampage that destroyed or damaged many towns or lands? 

Now some might want to have some influence in those areas, and I agree, that would be great. But these are campaign changers that have made the world more unsteady. For the new setting, they took even bigger steps and allowed the players to partake in none of that . The fans of Eberron dodged a bullet here. 

So on one hand, I like how Paizo is treating the campaign setting. Hell, in the new adventure path, they use material that was introduced in the first adventure path.

Next, Paizo did some fun stuff with goblins and ogres. The Paizo goblins have a standard all of their own and their use of ogres, making them into inbreeds that resemble something out of the hills have eyes, works perfectly.

In terms of adventure structure, add in the 'missing' Revenge of the Giants stone giant adventure, and we have a nice call back to earlier editions. It's such a neat call back that WoTC has decided to do something similar. Only about three years behind the curb here. 

Next, well, I already own it. I'm familiar with 3.5. Sure, it can be a nightmare system when doing everything off the cuff or doing everything by hand, but I still own a ton of 3rd party material, all the official books, and the adventure path itself. I don't think I have to worry too much about my personal time being bogged down.

What about miniatures? While there is not a metal miniature for every encounter in Rise of the Runelords, I'm pretty sure we have more miniatures for this adventure path than we do for any WoTC adventure path. For me, this is baffling. When you run your own miniature division, how can you not tie the miniature production to the actual campaign material being written? I know that the miniatures have a long lead way, but it would not be impossible to provide details of what's coming on down the line. But to be fair, how can I expect WoTC to support the adventurers when they couldn’t' even support the core races in the Player's Handbook? "Dragonborn are hard to design!" Uh... you didn't know that they were going to be a core race and decided to put more elves, halflings, and dwarves as random figures in the set? Go WoTC! Ugh.

Last, and this is again, a matter of opinion, WoTC adventure writing lacks too much. For one, both the completed adventure paths they have, such as the printed one that started with the Keep on the Shadowfell or something, and ends with a brawl against Orcus, is using 'the old math'. Yeah, while there has been no .5 edition of 4e (which again I disagree with), the math of the monsters has dramatically changed and many other features have changed. Only post Essentials plays differently then only pre Essentials. The e-adventure, Scales of War, also lacked something. On one hand, I didn't want to print all that information out. On the other, it seemed more haphazard than any previous Adventure Path.

I was willing to forgive that because really, it was WoTC second effort at doing an adventure path after the printed one.

But... they're not doing any more.

WoTC has fallen into a pattern of not quite exclusive, but heavily focused Heroic tier support. This makes little sense as the platform of 4e was to include epic. Paizo at least acknowledges that high level play can be beyond any prewritten adventure and bows out at about 15th-17th level. WoTC decided to add another ten levels to the core and then promptly decided not to support said levels.

The recent campaign book, Neverwinter, is heroic. The recent boxed set Madness, is heroic. The Dungeon Master's Guide 3, which was supposed to cover epic, cancelled. The latest monster book, no epic foes.

Now this might not be an issue if characters gained levels in a manner similar to how they did in 1st and 2nd edition. It could take a damn long time, dozens of adventurers and many many gold pieces and magic items. In 3rd and 4th edition? A few adventurers will prop the characters right up there in levels. I guess after every three adventurers you're supposed to trash your campaign and absorb what WoTC is sellinng.

Now for those who have more free time than I do, this might not be a problem. 4th edition, to me, harkens back a bit to 2nd and 1st edition in that monsters are easier to craft. Encounters are easier to craft. Magic items, while sucking mightily in 4th edition, are almost optional and allow the players to focus on being the star and not the magic item.

And I'm not against 4e in terms of what was done with the system. I've played it and I've run it. I ran it when it first came out. I've run it at Game Day events. I've run it for different groups. I've played it numerous times.

Hell, maybe at the end of the day, I just miss a well-supported campaign setting that takes the old and standard and makes them new and exciting. Anyway, that's my thoughts for today. If anyone's interested in how the campaign goes, let me know and I'll see if I can post some post even plays here.