Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Yet Another Open Question

     I'm somewhat polar by nature. If I love chocolate, I can't be caught liking vanilla. I'm a Led Zeppelin man, fuck the Beatles. That sort of thing. It's not a conscious choice, but to rise above it is. It is in that spirit that this question is asked.

Was d20 the Great Evil of its age? Since I've become enamored of the OSR, and freely available clones and other rpgs, my polarity has led me to fear and despise the d20 system. Reflex/Constitution/Will Saves? Horror! Ascending Armor Class? Blasphemy! Multi-class Druid/Thief?? Heresy! (Well, that part is pretty heretical.) Seriously, though, before the bloat and the power creep, right down at its core, is it that bad?

I know this query may cost me some serious OSR cred, and just when the blog is starting to pick up steam. But the question isn't over yet.

One thing that intrigues me about d20, and more specifically 3.x (gasp!), is E6 play. In a nutshell, characters top out at 6th level. The only gains after that are Feats, every 5,000 XP. It intrigues me because one of the features I want most in a game is a reasonable power curve. I detest the idea that the ogre you pissed yourself over at 3rd level is not even a joke anymore at 12th level. I'm all with characters becoming more capable and all, but some things should always be dangerous. The combination of capping hit points, while at the same time allowing characters to advance in specialty areas through Feats, seems like a good mix. Dare I say it, very swords and sorcery.

Ok, if any of you have made it this far without deleting your membership in the blog, let me ask one more question. The real question all of this has been building toward.

One of my more pragmatic issues with E6 is cost effectiveness. Whether it is gathering OOP 3.x stuff, or getting into Pathfinder, you're buying a whole game and using less than half. Sooo . . . what about using that new Pathfinder Starter Box? It supports levels 1-5. There would be zero issues with grabbing what's needed for 6th level from the SRD. Being aimed at beginners, it isn't choked with all the minutiae of the 500+ page brick that is Pathfinder Core. And, it includes everything needed to play, including monsters.

So, what do you think: Is the new PF Starter a viable choice for low-level, gritty swords and sorcery?


  1. First, I dislike d20. I like arcane subsystems.

    Second, I really like the idea of E6. In fact, I wonder if that isn't where WOTC is taking DnD5, what with them wanting monsters to be a threat accross a broader spectrum of levels.

  2. I haven't seen the Pathfinder Beginner Box in person, but the idea of playing it as a complete game is intriguing. Levels 1 through 5 with the core classes and simplified d20 rules sounds pretty good to me.

    I also like E6 but I really dislike the game design behind feats. A huge undifferentiated list of somewhat arbitrary abilities, modifiers, and game effects that you need to be familiar with in order to make informed choices about character creation. At least spells are graded by level (so you can learn then gradually) and can be rolled for without ending up with a really confusing character. So as much as I like the idea of E6 (and the simple execution), the fact that it rests on feats is problematic.

  3. I have to admit, I really like the *idea* of feats. The execution of the idea fails to inspire, though. The glut of those available is a problem. If I were to do this, I would definitely pare the list down. I can understand the lack of a regimented ordering of them. I think the prerequisite requirements fills the role by providing a certain structure to their acquisition. Brendan, you are absolutely correct about not being able to roll for them, and with the acquisition "tree" there is no way at all to ever randomly determine a character's feats. I'm not sure I see that as a huge problem, though, to be honest.

    I do think I can see one aspect of E6 in D&D Next, and that is the notion that not every level automatically increases HP, hit bonus, and some other things levelling traditionally provides. In E6 once a character hits 6th all further development is feats and skills, so the character is assumed to be more capable because he is better equipped with options to tackle problems and not simply better at beating problems into submission.

  4. I for one am definitely not a fan of the ascending armor class. Having just started getting back into OSR, I didn't even know what it was! I had a long hiatus there I guess...