Friday, August 2, 2013

Pathfinder RPG Review: What’s a Good Dungeon Crawl Without Combat?

Okay, that may be on the verge of insulting to some people. The Pathfinder RPG is certainly much more than a hack and slash dungeon crawl. However, in reality, it evolved from that very thing. The Dungeons & Dragons rules have always kept their tactical combat rule set up front and center, which is fine. That’s the root of it in many cases. Even if you can get XP without going into combat, not having rules for that combat would almost be sacrilege. So, I begin my trek through the Combat chapter in the Pathfinder Core Book.

3x had a number of issues that slowed down combat. They brought in attacks of opportunity, five foot steps, grapple, etc. The addition of feats providing characters so many options, a round of combat could all but paralyze the gaming table as people sorted through their options and made decisions. I’ve been told more than once that Pathfinder cleaned up some of these rules and really streamlined combat. I am skeptical as to how much and there is no better way to tell than to dive right in.

Combat works in rounds where everyone rolls initiative and acts based on that initiative unless they are flat-footed or surprised. They may have to wait until the next round to act. Attack rolls and armor class are indistinguishable from Dungeons and Dragons 3x as far as I can tell. Damage is pretty much the same. I am still under the impression that earlier versions of the rule literally had us multiplying damage rather than rolling multiple times as I mentioned in a previous post. I really should go look that up. Meanwhile, I definitely prefer multiple rolls to a single roll multiplied.

I remember death being at -10 HP before. Now, I see it as a negative number equal to the character’s constitution score. I definitely prefer it this way, whoever came up with the idea first.

Aaaaand…next page takes us on to Attack of Opportunity. Okay, here’s the thing. They make sense in a realistic manner. Ruling them always gave me some issues, though. Who gets them how often and how often can someone be hit by one and etc. and so on? Argh. Let’s see if Pathfinder explains it in a bit more clear and concise manner.

So, let me get this right: moving out of a threatened square or taking actions that distract you from battle while in a threatened square are when someone can make an attack of opportunity against you. That’s a lot better than moving out of and into as I’ve heard it explained some times, makes it dangerous just to attack someone, more dangerous than it should be in an RPG anyhow. Okay so those two things open you up for an AoO. Got it. Typically, characters can make up to one attack of opportunity per a round, but they do not have to take this attack. The attack is at full attack bonus. They may take special abilities that give them more attacks of opportunity each round, meaning they can take them against multiple targets each round not that one attack of opportunity leads into three simultaneous attacks. These abilities would be Combat Reflexes, a feat, or something like it. Think I got it, but that does seem like a lot for my little brain to remember.

The picture on the next page…imported here for ease of reference….does help me understand it a bit better. Maybe it wasn’t entering the threatened square that I am remembering, but entering and then leaving the threatened square, or passing through it. That makes more sense.

I find it kind of interesting that they started talking about speed and move actions before breaking down the different types of actions. But, that’s okay. Seems about the same from what I can tell so far.

It comes right after this that we talk about the standard action, move action, full round action, swift action, immediate action, as well as the consideration of not an action and restricted activity. That seems like a lot. The book explains it as well as anyone can, I suppose:

“In a normal round, you can perform a standard action and a move action, or you can perform a full-round action. You can also perform one swift action and one or more free actions. You can always take a move action in place of a standard action.”

So, free actions can only be used in conjunction with a swift action? I think this list is a little bit over simplified even for all its complexity.

I like the charts that indicate what type of action it is and whether or not it would provoke and attack of opportunity. I suppose after you’ve played for awhile, these sorts of things start to sink in…like THAC0. I’m out of practice, though, so if I were to run a game, I would definitely need to start out with a cheat sheet.

After about five pages of further describing the different kinds of actions…wait a second. If they need that much explanation, isn’t it a little bit much. I’d like to believe some things should be self-explanatory, but what do I know?

Next up is injury and death. This and healing seem to be the same old rules I always played 3x with, so nothing new to familiarize myself with.

I never had a problem with movement and tactical speed. I know I have read this all before. I am trying to figure out why it takes us so much space to explain it. It is probably because we throw in more terrain rules along with rules for advantageous positions, flanking, squeezing, kneeling, etc. These are all things I know make since, but to get it right, I would need a cheat sheet for, at least for a little while.

When we start talking about size and how it matters in combat, I believe I have a flashback that reminds me why I like fighting and pitting my players against mostly humanoid threats. One, I know nothing more devious than a human. Two, oh my goodness, the extra numbers to consider.

I’m going to take a break and come back to Special Attacks, or what I consider combat maneuvers, a little later on.