As a permissive GM for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, I hear a lot of people throw this term casually around. I don’t really care much for it. Step aside from the implication of fat and body shaming, the assertion that someone knows when something they don’t own and didn’t create is done growing is stunning to me. I could go on but that wouldn’t be helpful…
Back from a recent convention, I heard this word a lot more than I expected and often referenced with a fifth edition of a certain game as “the cure”. I love the gaming community and I always want it to grow. But right now I love the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game a little bit more than the rest. It has finally reached a robustness that made me sink into the couch cushions and give a contented sigh. That said I have to say that my contentment also includes a library of hundreds of 3pp supplements. I understand that Pathfinder is growing in over-all systemic complexity. I understand that this is an issue when on-boarding a new player. I also know that with nearly 10 times the Paizo generated content I am just getting cozy. I also understand that Paizo makes the most money from new products. And while Adventure Path and Modules are great offerings, a game using medium or slow progression needs a bare handful of these a year. Rule books sell alramingly well. So as part of keeping people like me happy and Paizo fiscally sound, the Ruleset is going to grow.
BUT I also recognize that for the hobby to sustain and the player-base to grow, Organized Play is a very good thing. Organized Play requires a tighter rules-set to remain manageable for open tables and volunteer GMs. I recognize that not everyone wants the equivalent of college degree in referencing rules-sets and options. I recognize that with a face-lift and a few ribs removed an old friend is returning to us all in a graceful, slender package and she’s been watching like a very hungry hawk.
As I kick off my comfy seat and really come down to the issues here, I realize I could cry out that the lean hungry monster is coming back ONLY to one day to be “bloated” with a new cycle of rehashed rules sets and remind people that she just wants to knock Paizo off the mountain. But that wouldn’t be helpful. I could challenge someone to ask themselves if they are playing the right game, but in my heart I believe they are. So this also, would not be helpful.
So, I then speak to the wielder of “Bloatlash, sword of the minimalist gamer” with an honest entreaty: It is still your game too.
I have “lost” a lot of seats at my table due to these concerns and I wanted to layout some questions and reminders for you:
1) You don’t need to be optimal. – This more than anything is the simplest answer I can offer you. You are in control of your gaming experience. If you want to be a Core Rulebook wizard with mage armor and magic missile no one will stop you. You can ignore every Advanced or Ultimate that comes your way. If you don’t like the way it makes you feel then you probably need to ask yourself some other questions. Do the people I game with respect me? Do I really just want to be the most powerful person in the player character group? Do you feel you can’t afford new rules content? What really upsets you about new rules?
2) You don’t need to play with the same people tomorrow that you did today. – Sometimes it is a matter of chemistry. You can only control your own reaction to rules. If you find that your frustration with “Bloat” is in your home game and you have already tried embracing number 1 it may be that your group and you need a break-up. People you love dearly may be waiting to mainline new rules faster than they can even read them. That is THEIR way of playing the game and its as bad to disrespect them as it is to force you to play an ifrit magus. Are you in the right group?
3) You don’t need to play at home tables. – Organized Play does go a long way to limiting options and occasionally banning specific game mechanics. It can go a long way to minimizing the need to invest time in perusing the rulebooks. It also does not allow 3pp, which while making me sad, saves serious rules complexity. Some sites even give you the Paizo open play content for free which can help with monetary concerns. Is the Organized Play environment restricted enough for you?
4) You don’t need to play Organized events. – Clinton Boomer did an awesome breakdown of how to use Pathfinder in different ways including the E6 variant in which people level cap much lower at 6th level as an effort to capture grittier fantasy like Game of Thrones and the like. Have you ever considered or tried a variant game?
5) You don’t need to play under anyone. – You can GM. As GM you can limit the rules how you will and minimize the playable content. This might be the most dangerous recommendation I could give. Make sure you know your table and friends very well before you decide to put your limited play desires on their entire world. Are you willing to GM to get the rules containment you want?
The bottom-line is you don’t have to stay with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, but I would rather you did. I think there is plenty of room for your play-style and minimalist tendencies. I also respect you enough to tell you that you are not going to get a rules streamlined game at my table.
But I doubt you’d miss it.