The latest series of articles I’ve written on the topic of D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder RPG campaigns I’ve run during the past few years has raised questions from both readers and myself as to why I’m devoting so much time to a game system, that’s seems, on the surface at least, ill suited for my gaming preferences and needs. This article is an attempt at finding at least some of the answers to these questions. Why D&D 3.5 or the retro-clone of that one, Pathfinder RPG? Why not something with less crunch and more storytelling freedom? There is no simple answer to this one.
I’ll start by listing some pro’s.
+ There’s a hell of a lot of history involved. D&D (The 1983 Mentzer Basic set) was the first game I owned and read thoroughly. The art in the books, and the feel of the text was captivating. The basic set really made me want to explore those dungeons, ruins and caves shock-full of strange monsters, deadly traps and glorious treasure. I was sad when the lovely cleric Aleena died. I both hated and loved that bastard Bargle, who’s still one of my favorite villains, right up there with Darth Vader, Khan, the Witch-King of Angmar, the White Witch and Megatron.
+ There’s an abundance of material available for every edition and version of the game, be it modules, campaign settings, extra rules, novels, or what have you. Granted, a lot of the material is shite, but the sheer volume pretty much guarantees that there’s bound to be some gems among the silt. There’s also something for everyone, and every gaming style imaginable. I’ve never been a big fan of so-called splatbooks, that is, supplements shock full of new powers, races, classes, magic items and such. The core books have always been all I’ve needed in this department. The campaign and adventure material, however, I’ve used extensively. There are a few reasons for this, the main one being it saves me a lot of prep-time when creating the actual content for game sessions.
+ D&D 3.5+ has a very large player base. Its relatively easy to get together a gaming group, be it for a longer-running campaign or some short pick-up games. Also, pretty much everyone is already familiar with the basic system, that is, rolling a d20, hit points, armor class, Vancian magic, experience, and all that. The basic premise is also quite familiar to most people, that is, a pseudo-medieval society with fantasy races such as dwarfs, elves, halflings, orcs and goblins, where you’re playing a hero or adventurer who’s career consists of fighting fantastic monsters and memorable villains, and exploring strange and dangerous places. There is also the communality aspect of the game. It’s “our thing”, a place to visit, talk about and explore.
+ The rules system, while far from perfect, does an adequate job of creating a sense of playing a game, where choices made, both during character creation, and in game tactics, has direct repercussions on what your character is actually able to do within the collective imagined space of a game session. I’m sure there are other game systems that provide the same, but so far, I haven’t managed to find “the perfect system”, which would cater to the particular needs of my game, and those of my players.
It seems I’ll have to make this article the first part of a series after all, even though I kind of decided to try and tackle this whole subject in one sitting. Next up, some of the cons (most of which I’ve already discussed in previous posts as relating to the games I’ve run).