Confronted by Choices… maybe?

So, I’m on my third PC for the current incarnation of the Carrion Crown campaign I’m playing in. I lost a ninja to a sneak attack (very embarrassing) and a paladin who fell under a dogpile of undead (less embarrassing – but since I failed to take ANY of them with me, a little embarrassing). And now I’m working up my third character – a halfling summoner.

And here’s the thing… I’m finding that I’m underwhelmed by choices. That is to say, I’m underwhelmed by character creation choices. I find that I’m sitting here, making my Summoner, and I have this cool concept of her as a person – and her relation to the order she’s in, etc. but as I put the character together mechanically, I find that I’m worn out by all the choice points. Especially because there don’t actually seem to be any particularly important choices… that is, if I want the character to remain mechanically effective. I’m not the type to uber-optimize but I do feel a responsibility to my fellow players not to just hare off and make oddball choices that I justify as “these are RP choices.” I’ll show enough personality in play that I’ve got my RP choices covered. But all kidding aside, I don’t really see myself making my character much different than the other summoners I’ve met. For example, I feel like I have to justify why I’m taking a biped base form instead of a quad. The Quad is simply superior – in basically every way – to the other base form options. And when looking at evolutions – well – some are clearly trap choices and some are just too good to pass up.

I have felt this way when making my ninja and my paladin as well. Yes I had a dozen choices for race, class, ninja powers, etc. But honestly, after some brief poking at the choices, the list narrows pretty quickly to a few “worthwhile” choices and the rest are left aside.

Who cares if I take Knowledge (Planes) or (Arcana)? Honestly, both are already covered in the party (all the knowledge skills are) so my summoner’s skills are redundant… not to mention that the summoner is a Charisma-primary class with no Charisma skills that work on people as class skills. Handle Animal and UMD are Charisma skills but…

Well, that last bit is just complaining – don’t listen to that – it highlights the problems of “skill lists” to some extent but those rules also have a lot of value and I don’t really want to jump into that conversation right now.

Suffice it to say, I guess my takeaway point is that no matter how many choices seemingly exist for characters – the number of worthwhile choices is considerably smaller (primarily based on the fact that too many modern games are just very straightforward math problems) and that the smaller list of choices is limited further by the fact that of the worthwhile choices, some of those are just “better” so the pool gets even smaller.

Maybe I’ve just made too many characters in a short span of time – I really should stop dying – but I have to wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way, I mean, all this water but nothing to drink (to badly paraphrase), right? Don’t think I’m too disillusioned. I still enjoy Pathfinder and I am still having fun with this game (dying can be surprisingly awesome if you let yourself enjoy it). I just find myself confronted by the fact that I can make a ridiculous amount of choices during character creation, but really, those choices are far more constrained than we are led to believe.

Chime in, tell me what you think. And thanks for reading.


6 responses

  1. I agree… I think that all the choices, in the end, just lead to munchkinism…

    One of my design goals for the classes in my Hubis ( was to give a FEW options for players to choose from for each class, but not over-burden them.

    I love that rolling up characters takes 5-10 minutes, the players get a few abilities from race and class that makes them unique and “shine,” and we’re on the ground rolling.

    1. I’ve really enjoyed your Hubris posts. It’s one of the reasons I like Savage Worlds, Dragon Age RPG, and Warhammer Fantasy 2nd Edition so much. They have “choices” but they are also well bound and well assembled to make characters interesting but not slaves to the math. Also, rolling up characters quickly is great. I mean, really, making my 5th level summoner took long enough I became bored with the process… that shouldn’t happen.

  2. You’re definitely not the only one. I’ve felt that way about Pathfinder for years. You have to do basic optimizing so that you can get your party through the rough spots. Still, I think that ends up being true for a lot of games that focus on the interaction between PC mechanics and encounter mechanics. If the game works as a series of puzzles in which the PCs use what’s on their skill sheet to beat a set of mechanics built to test what’s on their skill sheets, it’s going to make people skip less useful skills/abilities/attributes in favor of more commonly used ones.

    Are you guys playing the pre-made adventures? I generally find character creation more satisfying if I know the GM is building a scenario that will play off of our visions of our characters (and I find it more satisfying to run that kind of game, too,) but I know not everyone likes that kind of thing.

  3. I’m glad to hear some replies to let me know I’m not just crazy.

    We are playing the Carrion Crown AP, but our GM is willing to shape the adventure to make it fit us. I usually run games that are pretty homebrew – but I don’t mind using a pre-written adventure as a starting point.

  4. @Morrison- Thanks:)

    One thing would like to see is a rules-lite/variation for Pathfinder.

    I’m happy with Hubris, and thus far so are my players. I mean there is something to be said about a version of D&D that is 20 pages long (and that’s including 10 pages for spell descriptions).

    For Pathfinder I would do something like this:
    Get rid of all the modifiers for race, just make it a +2 to a chosen attribute. Give one ability/bonus that makes the class INTERESTING and not just a mechanical benefit.

    Give each class about 10 abilities to choose from and THAT’S IT… Make each one matter… Make it so if you choose to be a necromancer style cleric, it’s completely viable, but you’ll suffer in some other fashion.. Thus the choice matters… Same as if you are a cleric of healing.. You’ll be the players best friend, but you’re going to lack in another area.

    Skills- get rid of the damned skill list… except for Rogues/Thieves. Give a list of 20 skills. At level one a Rogue gets 8 skill points and one per level….

    Skills- let everyone try anything, but they have to roll under 1/2 attribute that makes sense to do it (if you want progression, let them add level or 1/2 level or something). If a rogue has a skill point in said ability (IE- Lockpicking), he/she gets to roll under full attribute…. but anyone can try anything….

    No feats… everything is rolled up in the 10-15 choices each class has.

    Saves- Instead of having ridiculous target numbers for F, R, and W saves (especially at higher levels), just have it be numbers that increase with level progression (plus Attribute Modifier) and then roll under to save. That way you and the player ALWAYS know what the TN is and there isn’t a pause to factor in what it is/should be (IE- A level 1 rogues Reflex save is 5+ Dex mod (we’ll say 3), equaling 8.. When he makes a Reflex save, he needs to roll an 8 or under.. As he gets higher level the base save will increase. Rolling a 20 is always a failure).

  5. One of the most interesting things about the DNDNext experiment going on right now is this “bounded accuracy” idea (at least for me). In a way, it really is a return to the maybe-not-intuitive but certainly useful approach old D&D took. I’m excited to see how it plays out. I’d also mention that the ideas you would like to see for PF lite (which is a great idea) are a large part of the reason I’ve enjoyed the Dragon Age RPG so much (and Warhammer Fantasy 2e). They offer some limited choices and successfully allow you to craft an interesting character while not having an endless array of “what nows?”

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