Personal: Life After Crunch Time

Gaming 150There wasn’t a Friday Fiction last week because a) my full-time job has been pretty demanding this past week and, b) any free time I had was devoted to putting the finishing touched on my Pathfinder game. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I wanted to do, and in the end making sure that the game was ready had to be my one big hobby project for most of the week.

If you’re not familiar with Pathfinder, it’s basically Dungeons and Dragons with some rules tweaks. D+D 3rd ed. was a very popular game, and when Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast/TSR decided to come out with a drastically revamped 4th ed., people balked. The new edition was more like a video game than a traditional table-top role-playing game; word around the table was that the powers that be wanted to make a rules system that could work through every type of gaming platform — tabletop, miniatures, video games. For some reason TSR decided to bail on the idea fairly early in, but 4th ed. was already a thing so….good job there, guys.

Pathfinder basically took the ball and ran with it, publishing a core rulebook that promised to make a lot of the problems with 3rd ed. (and there WERE problems) a bit more palatable while publishing new content including adventures and settings. I’m not sure where it sits on the popularity scale in general, but among my (admittedly small) circle of friends it is THE de facto fantasy RPG. You want medieval magical fantasy? You play Pathfinder.

I’m running a campaign that’s been going for a little over two years now, and the characters are getting fairly advanced — around 9th level or so. This means all the usual beginner’s stuff won’t represent much of a challenge for them; they can pretty much punch goblins and skeletons and the like without breaking a sweat. The demands of their abilities and the demands of the story means that the stakes have to be raised continuously — but not too much, or else you’ll end up with dead player characters before the story’s finished.

With my particular story the PCs have sailed across an ocean that’s been…corrupted by outside chaotic influences. As far as anyone knows, no one has been able to travel by ocean for over a hundred years, but they’ve managed it while sampling just some of the horrors that are out there in the open water. They’ve done this to get to an island where they believe a dimensional portal has been constructed, allowing demons and…other, more terrible things to enter into the world. One person in their group, a paladin named Alexander, had gone as part of a scouting party two months before and hasn’t been heard since. They have reason to believe he’s in a bad way.

On getting to the island, I wanted to give my players an immediate and memorable welcome — but this isn’t easy when you’re dealing with 9th-level players being backed by an entire squadron of paladins. Their entire purpose in life is to hunt down evil creatures and destroy them, and they have an astonishing array of abilities that lets them do just that. I needed to find a way to give the upcoming skirmish a proper scope while still making sure it’s challenging and fun for the players.

I’ve learned a few things after running the game I wrote last week; that it’s really OK to ‘fudge’ or simplify rolls that don’t directly involve player characters, that the less you have to worry about moving pieces the better, and accuracy will be trumped by great, exciting description every time. Pathfinder is a system that tries to construct rules geared towards a balanced, repeatable result. While that’s appreciated by a lot of people, I’m sure, the work it takes to get that result really disrupts game flow and can suck the life out of a game at the precise moment it should be at its most exciting — during combat. I’ll be working on other skirmishes of that scope (and bigger) as the players move closer to their objective. Hopefully they’ll get better as they go along.

In the meantime, the crush of deadlines has subsided for a time and I find myself with a bit more breathing room. I hope to put the time to good use; I’ll make sure that I write my blog entries a bit early so I can polish them a bit more before posting, and I’ll begin writing one short story and editing another. Here and there, as ideas come to me, I’ll be putting together the next Pathfinder session. I know that I have a good story in there, but I’m mostly concerned about being able to tell it in the best possible way.

Diet and exercise has gone about how they usually do — ups and downs. But it’s still at the forefront of my mind, and I’m trying to cook in as much as possible. There are a few more trips to the store before I’d feel comfortable cooking off the top of my head one lazy Sunday afternoon, but I’m getting there.

So, those are my goals for the week: consistent writing, eating in, some sort of exercise every day. What are yours?

One thought on “Personal: Life After Crunch Time

  1. You can even fudge with rolls that involve players … but only if it reinforces what the players are doing with regards to reinforcing their intent with their playing. Even still, it’s got to be done rarely or you undermine the players’ faith in the rules of the game and that’s like pulling bricks out of a Jenga stack. 🙂

    My goals this week are getting back to a consistent diet.

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