Thursday, January 4, 2018

Blogs Are Where the Good Stuff Is

 EDIT:  Also, need to say somewhere: I went to see The Shape of Water last night, and it was pretty alright.  Probably won't watch it ever again but it's Guillermo del Toro doing his Fairy Tale + Melodrama thing again so you probably know if you like that kind of thing by now.  8/10, solid stuff, a good case for making Fishman an RCC in your campaign.

Every other week I DM a game of Pathfinder, the more fancily-dressed close cousin of D&D Vers. 3.5.  This Sunday will see the fifth session of my friends playing a run-through of Maze of the Blue Medusa, which interrupted our ongoing Wilderness Sandbox-cum-Power Politics campaign, dubbed The Eastwylde.  I don't know how long we will be playing Maze--my original idea was to run it until the players discovered the Megadungeon's exitway, which as I had correctly guessed took three sessions.  I then gave them the option of going back to Eastwylde, but having just endured a near-TPK they were "hot" to get back into the thick of the module and defeat it.  So, the game remains Medusa Maze for the forseeable future.

I wouldn't be running Medusa Maze at all if I hadn't spent the last two years ensconced in the world of OSR (or DIY if you prefer) Blogdom: a world which holds, in the words of my once-favorite webcomics author, "a catacomb so deep there ain't no goodbyes."  A glance to the right at my list of linked blogs provides a sampler of the biggest and best among those I read but there's always more; more creativity popping off like fireworks in this community at a superior level of average quality and originality towards anything else.  No one has ever written a line for Paizo who was fit to wash Arnold K's socks, seriously--or if they had such talent they had to suppress it for corporately-mandated Ikea prose describing the Warmed-Over Lovecraft/Burroughs Do Final Fantasy that is the World of Golarion.

Which brings me colliding into the contradiction at the heart of this blog.  Why am I breaking my back and consequently flopping like a fish to give the tone and pitch of all this rad, mad OSR stuff to my Pathfinder game when I could just, uh.... play AD&D or OD&D or any of the inspired descendants like ACKS and LotP?  I've sounded out my friends on this and they are in fact down to play AD&D or even Three Brown Books if it's what I want; two years behind the screen has earned me the benefit of the doubt at least I guess.

As I've covered elsewhere, I think 3.5 has  certain virtues of its own that aren't to be taken lightly.   And as much as I'm not a fan of most of Pathfinder's "improvements," at its core it is still that game.  There's also the practical bit, that it is basically the game I've played for 17 years.  I know the environment/light rules, and the elevation/crouching/prone/one-half vs three-quarters cover rules, and the rules for grenadelike weapons and even what to do if you want your character to grab an opponent.  That's not nothin'!   A good crunchy combat system is maybe worth the tradeoff of each Player Character being a super-tough battleship of interlocking systems such that PC death becomes a rare calamity. 

But the fact remains all the interesting ideas are in that OSR/DIY orbit.  I mean, have you ever visited Paizo's official forum?  GitP?  The Gaming Den?  By and large dead zones of the imagination.  Efficient counsel if you come to them with a specific rules question, but like, where are the ideas?  Why doesn't 3.5 have a Zak S and False Patrick making some really off the wall shit?  What is so deadening when the PCs can cast light at will and magic missile  three times per day?  Malnourished hacks have managed to write adventures for Superman for 80 years with a better success rate than you'd think so the answer is definitely not "power level."

 One thing I am not is a causologist.  I just made that word up.  What I mean is I don't think the fact that there aren't (or I haven't seen) any really inspired dungeons or settings or whatever coming out for 3.5/Pathfinder right now means there must be some failing inherent to that system; the simplest explanation may be no one's done it yet because no one's tried or the right tryer has yet to come along.  Heck, I could be that tryer.  I won't, I've got other things to do; in theory though, I could.

For the last couple weeks my out-of-session "homework" as DM has simply been to translate Zak and Patrick's combined madness into the rote numbers of a Pathfinder-compatible dungeon: tweaking and making a few small changes (like in room 206 I added an earth floor with a multitude of mushrooms, and I heavily altered room 1.  That's it).  In lieu of doing a lot of creative heavy lifting I have given my fumbling graphite drawings a little more exercise.  I've discovered actually filling in the background with blackness (as you'd see wandering in dark corridors by torchlight) will elevate a rude sketch quite a bit.  I've largely backed away from a lot of the original module's lethality and acquiesced to Pathfinder's base assumption that everything  can be resisted/evaded with a successful saving throw.  Even if the danger's not as high the Maze is still a weird, wonderful place my players have enjoyed nosing around in.  And they haven't even met any of the Torne Sisters yet, each of whom I want to introduce with a BIG (14x11") cool drawing.

 Since I began writing this post I have forgotten what the point I was coming to actually was.  This happens A LOT and is a big reason I blog infrequently.  That means I probably already made the point I wanted to so let's leave off here.