Last Wednesday, I dropped in on the biweekly Pathfinder Society game at Quarterstaff Games. I’d been meaning to check out Paizo’s Pathfinder system, as well as give organized roleplaying another go. The one and only time I tried such a thing before was a couple years ago at Carnage, when Living Greyhawk was still going. When I didn’t get to actually play because the marshal couldn’t find enough people with sufficiently low level characters to put together a table including myself and the woman who had just signed up, it put me off the notion of organized play because of the strictures that accompany it. But, several years later with no regular roleplaying game of my own and an urge for some straight-up dungeon-bashing, this seemed like the time to give it another go.
While several gamers I know participate in the Wednesday Pathfinder Society game, there was still that unknown component, so I was apprehensive about who I would meet and what the play experience would be like.
Once everyone arrived and got sorted out — we had to wait for the GM who had prepared something, as the back-up hadn’t time this week — we got down to business. I played a template character, Kyra the cleric. Interestingly, at one point in the game, a couple players expressed astonishment the character lacked Knowledge (Religion); one of them surmised template characters were intentionally made poorly to spur people on to make their own.
The adventure was straightforward enough. The king of the river pirates wanted some adventurers to find his lost men, whom he’d sent off in search of a treasure vault. There were four or five encounters of different kinds: pirates, spiders and so forth. It was an entertaining run-around, in the parlance of Doctor Who fandom. It showed me there’s no substantial difference — at level one, anyway — between Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons, which really was the whole point of Paizo publishing the thing: sell a game system that satisfied everyone who was happy with the prior edition of Dungeons & Dragons and didn’t care for the fourth edition.
In the days of Dungeons & Dragons v3.5, I’d heard people say clerics got a lot of perks to make up for the other players expecting them to play medic the whole time. I don’t know if I saw that with my first level, allegedly poorly built template character. Part of it may be I didn’t really understand anything that wasn’t the really basic stuff, like attack bonuses and such. I need to spend some time with the Pathfinder core book to make a cleric of my own before Wednesday after next.
What really struck me about the session was the variety of players at the table. There were a couple people concerned with playing the game, as it were, down to the rules as written. The proof of that was the discussion they got into over some hypothetical combination or use of abilities that really didn’t enter into anything going on in the adventure, or the near future, given all the player characters at the table were only level one or two. Fortunately, most everyone else was there roll some dice and kill some baddies, so they countered the “we play the rules as written” mindset.
The GM, Neil, did a fine job. He’s the type who gives his NPCs distinctive voices, right down to a brash falsetto for the Lady Riverbane. That takes an amount of brass on Neil’s part for which I give him credit. Neil also kept things moving, which is key in a game like this. Part of that is because we’re under the gun of finishing up by the time the store closes, and the other part is the usual cat herding the GM has to do with a table full of people of varying temperaments and motivations.
All things considered, a Pathfinder game certainly scratches the itch to go dungeoncrawling, even if there isn’t a dungeon, per se. At once every two weeks, I can see it becoming a regular event for me, although I think that depends as much on how I come to understand and interact with the core players, the ones who are there every session, as whether the rewards of the game — leveling up, cooler powers — come quickly enough to keep me engaged.