Monday, January 31, 2022

Pathfinder vs. Felltower - expectations & behaviors

So I've been playing the hell out of, and largely enjoying, Pathfinder: Kingmaker.

Pathfinder: Kingmaker (hereafter, Kingmaker) shares a lot of the CRPG behavior that I see bleed over into approaches to tabletop games.

So let's look at the example of Kingmaker vs. Felltower, in terms of what is expected and the behaviors that work. Some of these change if you're running a hardcore-mode Pathfinder game, but I'm not and I don't think that's the CRPG default.

Kingmaker: You really need to do certain things in order to maximize the benefits of them. You also benefit from completing everything. The goal is to maximize the benefit out of everything you encounter. There are tradeoffs - sometimes you'll get more XP and less loot by avoiding a fight, say - but in general, you try to do as much as you can. You clear maps, clear dungeons, make sure to fight everything you can and find every coin you can. You never have enough XP or enough money to do everything so you eke out everything from the smallest weed to the biggest suit of armor and sell them or use them.

Felltower: Doing everything is too much. There aren't enough gameable hours in a session. People do try to maximize every coin - we even have a player who spreadsheets out treasure and the sale value as we play in order to ensure they can make decisions to maximize everything. PCs hunt down foes that carry gear to sell it, and want to strip the corpses of everything to sell - and sell the corpses, whenever possible. Some of that is totally reasonable economic behavior in-game.

Kingmaker: Quest payments. You can usually get paid to do something profitable to you. It's rare you don't get a reward from doing things besides the doing of the thing. It's sometimes in extra XP, not just paying in cash and magic items or special items. Some special items are "collector" items and are worth extra for finding them, if you find the right person. So far, no one has demanded I give them what I find, even when they pay me to go find something.

Felltower: Almost no one will pay you to do things you profit from. No one has a burning need to have you clear the dungeon. Only a small handful of people are willing to pay extra for special items; in general, collectors don't exist. A 1,000 year old $20 gold coin is worth $20, just like a newly minted kingdom coin. Some items are only valuable to certain people, but even then, it's not a challenge to find them - you just sell them in town and the price is the price. No amount of roleplaying and "I find a collector!" matters. The number of people willing to pay above-face-value for items is tiny - less than five instances in 11 years of play. I've had about 11 years of players looking for quests and payment for doing things they already plan to do, and expect to get the most profit from.

Kingmaker: You win a lot of fights by saving and re-playing the fight. You rush the monster, you get waxed, you re-load, and then you move into the same room, only this time you've used just the right buffs, advanced just the right characters to certain spots, and so on. You can't easily break off a fight, so you just fight it out and then re-do it for better results. You can general piecemeal foes, too, taking them one group - fighting one part of a fort doesn't automatically cause everyone to pile into the fight. You can even kill half of a dungeon full of intelligent foes and leave for a week and come back . . . and the other half is just waiting.

Felltower: You can't do that. There is no save and re-playing anything. I get players who try to effectively do this - "trigger" an encounter, then retreat, and come back another time with just the right spells, equipment, and plan . . . and do it again when that doesn't work (see: The Draugr, the Six-fingered foes, Sakatha's tomb for most of the sessions, the giants . . . for example). That doesn't always work. Some monsters are stuck where they are, so you can do this. But many learn. They adapt. They adjust. Some of them take their loot and just leave. Oh, and you can't clear a group of foes one area at a time and stay just far enough from the others that you don't trigger them and activate a larger fight. Yet, naturally, the "come back later with a perfect plan" approach dominates.

There are more, of course, but I have other work to do tonight. It's funny how I essentially play out my CRPGs in exactly the way I don't want to play TTRPGs. I'd say ironic, except that I'm really approaching different games with different approaches. How you get the maximum fun out of CRPGs insn't how you get the maximum fun out of TTRPGs.

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