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Edition Peace

Pathfinder 2e was the opposite of what I wanted in many ways.

The biggest problem is probably that made a game less compatible with PF1e than 5e is. That’s right: it’s less difficult to run PF1e stuff in 5e than it is to run it in PF2e.

Ideally, I would’ve wanted them to go the other direction. An alternate “5e.PF” PHB, as different in focus as 5e as they wanted, more buildy, more fiddly, more options—but compatible with 5e adventures, and adventures in turn compatible with 5e’s core books.

They would’ve had to stick to bounded accuracy, sure, and I get that they didn’t want that, but outside of that they could’ve put in all the three-actions, multiple layers of ability bonus, feats upon feats upon feats cruft that they like to put in there.

Because when you think PF, what are the two things peeps love? The adventures, and the super fiddly buildy “Mathfinder” approach.

Offering both of those experiences separately would’ve been such a community-unifying gem. Run a PF party through CoS, or run a 5e party through Extinction Curse. Would’ve been simpler for 3PP too.

Programming nerds know what I’m talking about: how POSIX lets you have the userland from one Unix on the kernel of another. That’s not something you’d typically do, but you can do it, and, more commonly, you can stick to your own community, own userland most of the time but still be able to port over the occasional app that really catches your eye. Sort of like how Debian uses the Almquist shell from NetBSD.

PF1e was born out of a desire to remain compatible with 3.x, as a response to 4E. And then in response to 5e they decide to make something that’s incompatible with everything except itself. Talk about betting the farm! I don’t think the 4E comparison is fair — 4E was also notoriously incompatible with everything else, but at least PF2e is generously open source. (The OGL needs to close the product identity loop hole. It might as well be the MIT license with a gap this big. Kudos to Paizo for not taking advantage of that.)

Now 5e is releasing TCE to fulfill all the superfiddly building ultra-customizing dreams people have. Oh, man… I really wanted Paizo to do well. This is the team that ran The Duelist magazine, that ran Dungeon and Dragon magazine, that wrote legendary adventures for D&D, that spun off into its own company much beloved by fans and I might not have played much Pathfinder but I like the comics and novels that they make in their setting.

3.5 (and PF1) is my least favorite edition actually — I do like it well enough, but I’d rather play pretty much any other edition.

My faves are 5e > RC > Moldvay > 2e (with kits) > 4e.E > 4e > 0e/Holmes > PF2 > BECMI > 1e > 2e (vanilla) > 3.x.

For clones… Hmm, Dark Dungeons, probably, now that a lot of my other faves have been canceled. (OSR being OSR…)

Does it seem weird that I love RC & Moldvay but would rather play 4E than BECMI? BECMI is more similar to RC than 4E is, isn’t it?

That’s exactly why. Think of it the other way around—why would I wanna play BECMI when I have the RC?

(Or vice versa, of course, for those who prefer BECMI over RC.)

When 3e came out and they dropped the “advanced”, I was like “Yeees! Classic D&D is back!” but it turned out to be even more advanced than 2e had been and I could never get into it. I tried 4e a few times but I really got into D&D with Lab Lord and LotFP. I’ve read up on all the older editions because I can, uh… I can nerd out on the back history of things I get into. I have the RC in POD♥

I was playing OSR and I was running Fate Core so when 5e came out, that’s the style of game play I gravitated towards. Crawls & resource management & shenanigans & theater of the mind, and heavy emphasis on the traits, flaws, bonds and such. “My” 5e wasn’t a continuation of the 3e/4e branch as much as it was a streamlined OSR game.

5e out of the Starter Set, without feats and multiclassing, is simpler in many ways than most OSR games are. To me, the things that I liked from the OSR were all on the DM side: The blorby game play that made the dungeons feel so “real”. The wide-open unpredictability of location-based modules instead of the linearly written adventures from 90s games. The hard landscape to give decisions weight, instead of the on-the-fly weightlessness of improv-heavy games like Lady Blackbird.

After two years we did turn feats and multiclassing on. Just more variety, IDK. Not sure that was the correct decision. I still get overwhelmed by all the options on the players’ side and I have my ♥dorx help me helping the newer players.

My advice to new DMs is: get the Starter Set and maybe the Essentials Kit too. If you want more options for players then the PHB is an optional expansion book but don’t see it as “core”. Stay away from the WotC hard back adventure books and instead get some third party sandbox modules like Willow or Trilemma or make your own.

Separate Rant Written Way Later

…that I should merge with the above when I get spoons

My own least favorite edition is 3.x (and PF—which sucks because I like the company, the setting, the characters) but I’d rather play 0e, B/X, 1e, 2e, RC, or 5e over 4E. I was playing B/X (with some of the guys who would later go on to make Mörk Borg) during the tail end of 4E, before 5e came out (which is when I started my own group).

There’s a lot of things that’s neat and good with 4E. Clarity, balanced classes, interesting–albeit–long-winded fights, neat art and settings, retro vibes.

Some of the problems only apply to the early days of 4E and was addressed as the game evolved:

• A bad initial release and marketing campaign that was seen as disparaging older fans while simultaneously begging “the game will remain the same” • A fight against other editions and a push that “this is the game now” • A switch to digital that was plagued with problems due to a horrible tragedy • Broken monster math • All classes felt overly similar in their play patterns. Not 100% identical but too similar • Abilities that felt as if they were spells, like a fighter ability that makes all enemies take a step towards her • Weirdly flavored / templated abilites that felt like “hitting the play button on a canned action” as opposed to actually doing it

Other D&D (including late 4E): “I have this sword. I’m gonna chop ‘em with it!” Early 4E: “I am going to use this Reaping Strike ability.”

To me, that can feel cold and distant. The fact that the powers came on cards that you’d flip as you used them was actually good overall, but it exacerbated this problem greatly. I get a lot of pushback on this from people who had gotten over it and could easily “translate” the abilities into game action, like “I strike them reapingly” or however that would sound, IDK, because I never learned to do it. I can write novels and poems and lyrics but I can’t strike reapingly. 🤷🏻‍♀️

4E Essentials (the later edition) get a lot of hate from fans of the original release but it has classes that I actually want to play.

Another issue I get pushback on is that some 4E fans love the “mythicness” of the martial power source. Samson with the jawbone, Flex Mentallo… And that’s fine, I’m happy for them. I personally prefer where spells are explicitly marked as spells, as 5E’s “Hunter’s Mark” ability is or the eldritch knight’s “Shield” spell, and magic items are similarly special. Like, we all love Luke Skywalker but he didn’t solely rely on the martial power source. He also had ki (or whatever the midichlorian heck is going on).

And some other problems persisted throughout the game’s entire run:

• A skill challenge system that was poorly explained (some people were like “always say you’re in a skill challenge”, others were like “no, just roleplay out a scene and as they are doing checks in the scene, mark progress”) • A skill challenge system that has utterly broken math (throughout all three revisions, including the attempt in the Essentials Rules Compendium). The 5e version, “group checks”, also has problems, but fewer. • Unnatural language. 5e had a push towards using natural language, or language that looked like natural language, over the arcane shorthand. This is a double-edged sword since it also helped with the clarity of 4E. 5.24 is back-pedaling a bit here, with capitalizing rules terms and conditions. Not my preference, I liked the natlang approach. Helps with rules-hacking and glogging and mashing together stuff from various editions the way I like it. • Overwhelming in play with too many conditions and modifiers to juggle • Not suited for the type of sandbox play I like. There are 30 levels and huge steps between the levels. So most people built encounters just-in-time, just to fit the party’s current level and capabilities (and when you do that, the DM has a lot of responsibility for the outcome of those fights). I prefer making a world with graduated difficulty and set the player characters free in that world; if it’s too easy they won’t get much XP so they’ll see harder pastures, and if it’s too hard they die, so they’ll try to find a lagom horizon on their own. And, they can freely use resources like town militias, religious warriors, pit faction-v-faction etc (we just came off a long “PCs+lizardfolk vs human slavers” skirmish campaign in our game) • Killing the OGL!