Of course, the hot topic today is the announcement by WotC about a new edition of D&D. I thought about writing about this, but really, why? I play Pathfinder now and I really enjoy it. So I wanted to mention a couple of insights I’ve had about running Pathfinder that have made me extra happy as a GM and ask a question of my readers about introducing adventures.
First, I suppose that what I’m about to say isn’t so much an insight as it is a realization of something lost. When I was running the Kingmaker AP, I got really caught up in being sure that I had all the stats and monster notes and spell notes and NPC abilities PERFECT. I hated this. I realized that for the majority of encounters I needed a much more bare-bones set of stats to actually run the encounter. I knew this and it’s how I ran 3.5 but I struggled with letting myself off the hook for it not being perfect. Pathfinder has built a lot of character/combat options into the feats available now (even more than 3.5) and spellcasters are, of course, complex. But really, all I actually need to know is the basics and all those feats can get distilled down into a simple entry on the NPC sheet, “bad guy can do this — like this.”
I was driving myself nuts creating every single enemy like they were a fully fleshed out PC. I never did this in 3.5 and it worked fine, so why did I get all caught up in it in Pathfinder? Don’t know. But as I sat down over the weekend to stat out the villains for some encounters I had planned for my game, I went back to simpler stat blocks and more carefully thought out abilities and it was simple and refreshing and I was done in a fraction of the time this previously took. Gave me a new lease on life as the DM of that game. Whew.
I’ve also been thinking about the way I run “adventures” and “campaigns” with my players. I’ve been thinking about hooks. Thing is, my normal tendency is to throw out a few hooks, some subtle, some not so subtle, and let the players bite on one they decide they like and then spin the game from there. I usually have at least four planned adventures I can go to anytime the PCs need to make a decision. I’m also the type who won’t care if the PCs simply decide to wander off in a different direction if something catches their interest I hadn’t planned on. Why not? Let them live their lives, right? I do get annoyed when PCs decide to start something and then just abandon it midway or if they decide to wander completely aimlessly… I’ve never figured that one out. I like a little structure in my game even if it’s only a bare scaffold.
But of course, this doesn’t work for some gamers. Some players want a clear story and a fairly linear progression, some want a lot of structure but little in the way of linear progression (that is, a strong world/metastory but the ability to a variety of adventures inside it — I’m thinking mission-based games like Shadowrun or a military style game here). Some players are deeply offended if the GM tries to offer any structure at all. And I’ve been told by players on both ends of the spectrum that having a wide-open world, some possible backdrops to a “Campaign”, and a variety of hooks they can take or leave, can be overwhelming — because they don’t know what choice to make.
So what about you? I’d love to hear how you tend to DM, how you introduce hooks, offer up adventures, or take a hand in the adventures of PCs at your table? What works, what do you hate as players? I’m curious and I’d love to have some other insights outside of my normal play-style.
Thanks for reading.