Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sometimes One More Option Is One Too Many

"So where should we go for dinner?"

"Well, I could do Olive Garden or Macaroni Grill. We haven't had Tony Roma's for a while.  Oh, and there's Applebee's or Joe's Crab Shack.  I guess I could do Sweet Tomatoes as well.  Or there's Beanos or Denny's."

"Ummm... okay?"

Having options is a good thing but there does come a point when too much is just that.  As I alluded to last week, this is something that I tend to think the Pathfinder game suffers from.  Now don't get me wrong; I've enjoyed every Pathfinder session that I've played in and I'm really looking forward to get back to SpacerGal's homebrew campaign setting.  The really daunting thing about the system, especially for new players, is the sheer number of options that you have available to you when you are trying to build a character.

The core rulebook contains eleven different classes.  This is not too bad really as the choices run the typical gamut for fantasy from spell slingers to sword wielders and everything in between.  Where things start to get a little more complicated is when you bring in the Advanced Players Guide.  Six more basic classes to choose from and more than half dozen alternate class features to apply to each the original eleven classes.  Then throw in Ultimate Magic which only adds one new magic class but gives all the existing magic classes half dozen or more additional options and Ultimate Combat which does the same for the martial classes.

Now that is a ton of options which is great... unless you have no idea what you want to play and you are just trying to see what your options are.  Then you're looking at potentially having books worth of material to go through as you try to figure out what works best for you which can be kind of overwhelming, especially for new players.

So how do you deal with this glut of information that has been handed to you?  Well, as a player I'd suggest really thinking about what sounds like something you want to play and then asking the GM for their advice.  Which kind of a magic user would you enjoy exploring and which would fit best in their campaign?  The GM is also usually very familiar with the game system and can really help you fine tune your choice.

From the other side of the screen, I'd suggest the GM offer some guidance and maybe even limitations on the options available to players.  Setting these kinds of guidelines can also be helpful for laying out and shaping your story.  Maybe you're aiming for a low magic setting.  Take some of the magical classes off the books right from the start so you don't have to worry about fitting a wizard or sorcerer into the world you've created.  The same can be said for a more civilized setting.  How exactly would you fit a barbarian into that kind of game?  Admittedly that sounds like it could be an interesting twist but unless you were trying to focus on that character fitting into a completely different world you run the risk of either leaving that character our of the loop or leaving the rest of the characters hanging out to dry as you focus too much on that story.

Ultimately communication is the key to making sure that everyone buys in and has a good time with the game so ask the GM and if you need to put them on the spot.  Likewise as a GM don't be afraid to say "No" if someone is trying to pull something into your game that doesn't fit in.  You're all in this together so make sure that everyone is having a good time with it.  Until next time...

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