Attacks of opportunity. Cover. Grapple. Three rules that can strike fear into the hearts of Pathfinder players and GMs alike and often result in a “spirited discussion.”
Pathfinder is a complicated game and rules disagreements are inevitable. Interpreting some rules can be tricky. Such interpretations can cause tempers to flair, particularly when a character’s life is on the line. It’s been my experience, though, that if a GM knows in advance what likely arguments (or “spirited discussions”) will emerge he can revise those particular rules so he can offer clear, quick and decisive rulings.
In no particular order, here are the top ten causes of arguments I’ve observed in Pathfinder games.
- Cover: Does the target have cover? How do we determine cover? Is it soft cover?
- Attacks of Opportunity: Did that action trigger an attack of opportunity? Did the PC’s movement provoke an attack? Given we often fight mobile battles this comes up a lot.
- Realism vs. Rules: This old chestnut normally rears its ugly head when a player wants to do something important and the rules are not to his liking.
- Spell Effects: Unless the spell is very basic – say magic missile for example – the player should have the spell description readily available. Even if his interpretation is correct, taking the time to confirm that fact if someone disagrees is wasted time.
- Unfair GM Tactics: I once played under a GM who liked to coup de grace fallen PCs even if the battle was still raging and the villain making the attack was under attack from other opponents. This caused a lot of bad feeling at the table. Monsters should always use appropriate combat tactics for their intelligence, objectives and tactical situation.
- Combat Manoeuvres: For some reason, bull rush, trip etc. still slows the game down. I know the process got simplified in Pathfinder, but it still causes us trouble. Don’t get me started on grapple.
- Squeezing: In natural caverns, squeezing or not is often a pain. If the GM has taken the time to draw the map accurately the cavern walls wanders through squares sometimes making it unclear what is a full square and what isn’t.
- Treasure Distribution: (Shockingly) players care about treasure and unless everyone gets their first choice item from the haul things can get heated. I still haven’t tied down a fair method of distributing treasure. One of my players likes to sell everything and then divide the amount of gold equally among the PCs. I’m not a fan of this method as it reduces the wonder of magic items to mere commodities.
- My Character Would Do That: I’ve touched on this before, but basically if you put the feelings of your pretend character above those of an actual person sitting at the table you need to reappraise your priorities (or leave).
- Alignment: It’s very rare two gamers agree completely on exactly what constitutes lawful good (or any alignment’s) behaviour. Most of these discussions can be fun, but they can really suck time out of the game. Given there is no right answer (except whatever the GM rules) there’s not much point discussing alignment at the table if you actually want to get any gaming done.
Help Fellow Gamers!
Do you play Pathfinder and end up arguing about different rules to the ones I’ve outlined above? Let us know what they are in the comments below and help other gamers avoid such flashpoints!