I love Pathfinder. I’ve been playing the game since the first playtest and, as you might know, I publish a fair few Pathfinder supplements through Raging Swan Press. That all said, it’s by no means a perfect system.
A rework of the 3.5 rules, Pathfinder is a more robust version of the game first released as Dungeons & Dragons 3.0. However, there are still some things I hate about Pathfinder.
In no particularly order…
This probably isn’t a surprise, but I’m not a big fan of the grapple rules. I think they are still confused and unclear. Even worse than that, they both often cause the game to normally screech to a halt and can immediately end encounters when one character is much better at grappling than the other. Enemy wizards are particularly vulnerable to grappling. While grapple’s encounter ending abilities aren’t a huge problem for me—there are many effects and abilities that can almost instantly end combats—the time it can take to resolve grapples sucks.
Channel energy turned up in 3rd Edition and replaced the turn undead ability. Initially I loved the concept. It helps the PCs adventure longer and enables the party cleric to do things in encounters that don’t feature undead. But, I’ve recently been thinking it could be so much more.
Essentially, channel energy lets a cleric spam healing (or damage) until he runs out of uses. It’s a bit of a blunt tool.
I like the way, the paladin’s lay on hands ability can also cure (at higher levels) various afflictions and conditions. It would be cool to modify channel energy to allow the cleric to spend uses of channel energy to cast various healing-type spells (the various restorations, remove disease etc.) I’d limit the available spells based on what level the cleric can usually cast. This would have the result of both reducing the amount of healing available to the party, while increasing the healing’s versatility. (For example, in a recent encounter in my Shattered Star campaign, the party’s explorations came to an abrupt halt when several of the spellcasters were deafened—the party’s cleric had no way of removing the deafness until she had rested and relearnt the relevant spell.
(If you are interested in this concept, let me know and I’ll work up some basic rules).
As I play the game more, I discover more and more examples of “woolly” wording. I get that English—like any language—is open to interpretation, but you’d think after the best part of 20 years 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder could have crushed any such odd language into dust.
I’ve previously blogged about freedom of movement but there are many other examples. (In fact, we discovered yet another one last night in the fighting underwater rules).
Woolly wordings are not ideal. They can lead to disputes, arguments and even broken games. (And while sometimes fun, discussions about rules and rulings waste precious game time).
As an aside, I think that as a rule system gets more robust and comprehensive, it reduces the GM’s ability (or desire) to make rulings. Of course, a GM can make any ruling he wants, but psychologically the more comprehensive the rules the more likely a GM is to want to stick to them.
In the good old days, GMs were expected to make ruling when the rules were unclear (or non-existent). Now, it seems, players are much more likely to argue the toss and to go look at message boards and so on in an attempt to prove they are “right”.
This might be related to Woolly Wordings, above. I couldn’t decide, and so I decided to separate it out.
Pathfinder is a game of rich complexity; that’s one of the things I like about it. Even just using the Core Rulebook (which is all you really need along with the Bestiary), it’s possible to make an almost unlimited number of interesting, mechanically different PCs. However, as we get to higher and higher levels the game gets more and more complex. We seem to spend more time looking stuff up than actually playing.
One of the things I like about 5e is its simplicity. I think, as much as possible a rule system should get out of the way and promote actual game play. There is clearly a sweet spot between too complex and too simple. For me—now—Basic D&D is too simple. I’m beginning to think high-level Pathfinder play may also be too complex for me.
What Do You Hate About Pathfinder?
So those are four things I hate about Pathfinder. What sends you into an incandescent rage about the game? Let me know, in the comments below.