Golf-Bag Syndrome

I realize that I’m in the minority here and it may have some roots in the fact that I’m more often the DM than a player so I skew towards being DM-sympathetic… but I think “golf-bag syndrome” is really an odd development.

This topic came up during Pathfinder last night as I was informed by one of my players of a rule I’d overlooked — that if you have sufficiently high +’s on your magic weapon you can ignore certain material/alignment restrictions for damage reduction. Which is interesting — but ultimately something I’m very tempted to house-rule out. And I hate house-ruling stuff. I like RAW, I defend RAW — but this bugs me.

But back to the Golf Bag. I see this kind of thinking crop up in ways I’d never imagine would happen. Like the example someone gave me a while back when I was discussing the “use-it-and-raise-it” skill system from Chaosium. People said, “yeah, but that leads to players carrying around nine different weapons and switching them out so that they can improve a bunch of different weapon skills.” Or the guy who carries around a cold iron sword, and a silver sword, and a good-aligned sword, and a lawful sword… so that he never meets a monster he can’t overcome their DR…

Now — I’m sure that for some people this behavior seems to make sense. But I don’t know that I could ever do this — or take it seriously if someone started doing it at my table… I mean, don’t get me wrong. I hate to say, “you’re doing it wrong” but for me this kind of behavior is “doing it wrong.” I appreciate what 4E did with changing DR so that mechanically, GBS wasn’t really as much of an issue anymore. But really, is it so bad that a monster might actually get to have an advantage in a fight from time to time?

Is it really bad that someone’s choice of weapon might be occasionally rewarded by being “the right weapon” instead of cheapening the experience by carrying around a Bag of Holding just for all your myriad swords of whatever? I realize that I’m facing this problem from a very “story” perspective — that a hero has a weapon and sometimes it is more (or less) effective in certain situations, but the hero doesn’t just “wait, hold on, I’ve got one of those” and abandon their trusty weapon just for a new one… But the idea of players doing this would drive me nuts. I could never do it in another DM’s game. I guess for me it is one of the rare, bridge too far situations that crop up in the conflict between treating the experience like a “game” or a “story” (quotes because I think those extremes are a little bit false but tend to be how people discuss the issue).

Of course, I’m weird. I admit it. I enjoy playing clerics and paladins — but in the current Carrion Crown campaign I’m playing in? I chose to play a monk — because choosing a paladin seemed way too “on-the-nose” and I really didn’t want to be that guy… yeah, I’m weird.

Alright, so, what do you think? Am I that weird? Does this bug you? Where does the fault lie?

Thanks for reading.


4 responses

  1. My question would be why you are tempted to house rule away the mechanic that was added to Pathfinder to combat the Golf Bag? The increasing pluses overcoming more defenses gives a good reason to keep the “trusty weapon” instead of ditching it for a more enemy appropriate weapon.

  2. Well, for me the reason would be that I see whole thing as moot anyway. I prefer the idea that Damage Reduction continue to be meaningful throughout the game’s lifespan, not just an onus on lower-level characters. DR is not such an overwhelming ability that it cripples the fighter or the barbarian when facing it — and so I’d prefer it continue to have bite.

    If the fighter is rocking that +3 Holy Longsword — then he beats DR/good and magic. But it shouldn’t just auto-count as Cold Iron as well. And that’s pretty much it.

  3. Heh, have your players face some nameless horror from the planes of chaos that can only be harmed/defeated by mundane weapons and see them squirm… of course don’t tell them their magical weaponry is pointless.

    OK, more to the point. I think encumbrance rules (which I also somewhat hate) were generated to counter GBS. Once a player feels they’re able to reasonably face any challenge because they’ve got just the right tool, some of the challenge of the encounter is lost to the game mechanics.

    However, in order to allow for both damage reduction/material immunity as well as prowess allowing for overcoming said challenge, consider the following bit of wisdom:

    To the amateur, every tool is a hammer.
    To the professional, only a hammer is a hammer.
    But to the master, every tool CAN be a hammer.

    There’s something to be said about being a master.

    I guess I don’t know where I fall on this issue. From a DM stance, I hate GBS as much as I hate being impotent as a player just because I don’t have the right tool at the time.

    Perhaps as a player the issue comes down to knowing when to flee… a useful skill a lot of players have lost because the rules are geared to offer challenges they’re expected to overcome.

  4. I’ve seen PF (as much as I like it) attempt to clean up a lot of issues that seem only to be a problem on a message board thread or in the head of a game designer. I’ve been playing 3E since day 1, often, and have never had a GBS issue. I think they were trying to solve an issue that sounded valid on paper but in practice rarely happens and as a result added some confusion and complexity.

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