Monday, March 21, 2011

My Pathfinder Lite

My first attempt with Swords & Wizardry was an extremely enjoyable experience but unfortunately short-lived due to a lack of players. However, it did give me ideas. First, it showed to me how important art and presentation are to new players today. With the “graphic assault” of electronic games, cartoons and comics, most people starting Table-Top RPGs want you to show them what an elf, dwarf or ogre is. Show, don’t tell. Of course, once seated at the table and playing this situation easily changes.
Well, while ruminating on the subject it came again to my attention how beautiful produced Pathfinder is (the same can be said of most Paizo books). I wish sometimes I had Pathfinder-level illustrations and S&W mechanics. Wishful thinking? You bet…
Anyway, I digress. The consequence of all this is that I started again to read Pathfinder, searching for ways to introduce it as a more rules-light (or rules-friendly) game. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that Pathfinder is a very rules-friendly game, but after running S&W and talking with the new players about the differences between those RPGs I was impressed by their reaction: they thought that Pathfinder was too complex and with unnecessary rules.
So, how to make a “Pathfinder Lite” game? I know that Paizo is working on a Starter Set product, but I doubt it will significantly change the game’s structure (which is fine by me, because what I intent do here is more radical and just to adjust the RPG to my gaming’ needs).
In short, I want to make a humbly “Lite” version of Pathfinder that can be easily be put before new players, with characters been built with minimal fuss and book consulting. Please, see this just as a small “hack” to the normal rules. I didn’t playtest it (and I’m afraid I won’t have time to do it for a good while due to my new job).
These rules are meant only for Levels 1-5 and as an introduction to Pathfinder. Because of that I removed what I believed to be more complex elements of the game: most racial traits, feats and skills (actually, feats are in a certain way “built” inside each class progression). I’m also using only the 4 classic iconic classes.

Pathfinder "Lite"

Races:
  • Use just the Ability Score modifiers (with the exceptions noted below), speed, size and vision traits of each race.
  • Each race has a +3 racial bonus to checks dealing with certain themes: dwarves (stonework, underground), elves (nature, history), gnomes (magic), half-elves (social tasks), half-orcs (physical tasks), halflings (stealth and thievery).
  • Half-elves’ Ability Score bonus is limited to Dexterity, Intelligence or Charisma.
  • Half-orcs’ Ability Score Bonus is limited to Strength or Constitution.
  • Humans gain a free reroll once per day a +1 racial bonus to all saving throws, to counterbalance their lack of special vision or a racial bonus.

Classes:
  • All classes retain their BAB, HD, armor and weapon proficiencies.
  • Remove skills.
  • Spellcasters keep their spells per day (and spells known) normally.
  • Each class has a fixed progression of benefits.
  • Note that I have increased the Ability Score increase. The idea here is to effectively improve the character’s power (and evade a possible “dead level”). Spellcasters don’t gain any class feature at the 2nd level, but their increasing spellcasting ability negates any chance of a “dead level”.

The Cleric

Level
Class Features
1
Channel Energy, Orisons, Domain Spells, Spells, Spontaneous Casting, Turn Undead (as the feat)
2

3
Selective Channeling (as the feat)
4
+2 bonus do Wisdom
5
Alignment Channel (as the feat)

  • Note that Clerics don’t gain Domain Granted Powers.

The Fighter

Level
Class Features
1
Weapon Focus (as the feat), Power Attack (as the feat)
2
Bravery, Cleave (as the feat)
3
Armor Training, Endurance (as the feat)
4
+2 bonus do Strength, Diehard (as the feat)
5
Weapon Training

  • This progression removes the Fighter’s versatility by assuming the classic concept of the heavily-armored fighting man.

The Rogue

Level
Class Features
1
Improved Initiative (as the feat), Sneak Attack, Trapfinding
2
Evasion, Fast Stealth (rogue talent)
3
Weapon Finesse (as the feat), Trap Sense +1
4
Uncanny Dodge, Trap Spotter (rogue talent), +2 bonus do Dexterity
5
Dodge

  • Again, this progression seeks to emulate the classical back-stabbing and dungeoneering thief.

The Wizard

Level
Class Features
1
Arcane Item, Cantrips, Scribe Scrolls, Spells, Combat Casting (as the feat)
2

3
Spell Focus (as the feat)
4
+2 bonus do Intelligence
5
Spell Mastery (as the feat), Spell Penetration (as the feat)

  • Note that wizards don’t gain Arcane Schools.
  • The Arcane \item trait is just a new name for the Arcane Bond (Item) option.

Ability and Class Checks:
  • Ability Score checks follow the normal rules.
  • The Skill system is removed. In its place, use this simple rule:

If the attempted task fits thematically with the character’s class
1d20 + Ability Score mod + Character Level + 3
If it doesn’t fit
1d20 + Ability Score mod
Tasks that require a Trained Skill check in the Core Rulebook can’t be attempted by characters of another class. Use your discretion as Gamemaster.

Experience and Level Progression:
  • Each character must survive a number of game sessions equal to their level to improve. Thus, after the first night of gaming, they reach 2nd level. After playing and surviving two more session, they reach 3rd level.
  • Feel free to adjudicate this system for smaller game sessions.
  • To reward good role-playing, ideas, actions participations grant to the player character one reroll. These reroll are cumulative and should be recorded on the character sheet until spent.