FAL Commentary: Pathfinder RPG open playtest

As you could read here and all over the D&D websphere yesterday, Paizo is releasing a roleplaying game called the Pathfinder RPG in 2009. It will be based on the 3.5 version of the d20 SRD (found here), it will all be in one book, it will have high production values … and there will be a one year open playtest. Click here for the forums for feedback.
If for nothing else, this is the thing that is of most interest to me. Not because of the rules discussions, not because of the wild ideas, not because of the flamewars, but for the process. It’s going to be a whole year of input from the fans, and we get to see how such an open playtest works and what the result will be. We’ll be able to see if it fractures possible supporters into opposing camps, generates alternative rules out of the gate, or amounts to much ado about nothing. My take is that many will take part in the playtest and come away disappointed that their input didn’t shape the game more than in a general sense. Many will also be frustrated that the game isn’t changing enough, and others that it is changing too much. And it’s going to be fascinating to see how Paizo handles all this. They will be scrutinised every step of the way by harsh judges.

For Paizo, I think that the open playtest is not so much a process to hammer out the rules, but a way to conduct a one year marketing campaign and focus group test. They will introduce rules here and there and see how people react, and use that data as input to their business plan, while at the same time hone to rules to attract as many gamers as possible. Which is not necessarily the same as honing the rules to be the best game in town. Hopefully the two will coincide, but I’m not really sure about that. There are many things that people want to have fixed with 3.5 that other people don’t want anyone messing with. Finding the balance between the two will be a tough feat.

If anyone can do it, it’s Paizo.


FAL News: Paizo to release Pathfinder RPG

Paizo, known primarily for being the last company to publish Dragon and Dungeon under license from Wizards of the Coast, has made an interesting move in the light of the development of the Open Game License, and the changes to that strategy for Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition.

The short of it is that Paizo will release the Pathfinder RPG, which ties into their line of Pathfinder adventure paths. More information can be found here!

The key element of this move by Paizo is of course the fact that the Pathfinder RPG will be a direct competitor to D&D. Given the quality of Pazio’s past products, it will be very interesting to see how this influences WotC strategy. If Pathfinder becomes a relevant and sucessful alternative to the new D&D, and this in turn means that other publishers stay with the OGL instead of going to the new GSL, it might create an obstacle for WotC to rope in some players wanting to stay with 3.5 rather than adopt 4.0.

More on this tomorrow!


FAL Review: The Temple of the Troll God

Publisher Fast Forward Entertainment. Released Fall 2001. Format Softcover. Game system d20. Setting Green Races. Levels 4-7. Pages 48. Price $12.95.

Designer Timothy Brown.

Once in a lifetime, there comes a roleplaying product so grand in scope as to put all other competitors to shame. It shatters our conceptions of what a roleplaying game can be, and it shows us new ways of looking at our hobby. It is balanced, has innovative new rules or interesting takes on existing mechanics. It has a riveting plot which allows great freedom for the players’ PCs to get involved and change the outcome of the story.

The Temple of the Troll God is the anti-thesis of that product.

Released in fall 2001, this product hasn’t aged well. Heck, it got hit by a ghost’s aging touch the second it hit the shops. I know it’s very much too late to review this adventure now, but I do so for several reasons. First, I had already written a review years ago so I might as well use that again now that I’m launching FAL. Second, it will help you all to start figuring out what I like and what I don’t like.

The Temple of the Troll God is part of a trilogy (made up of Fortress of the Ogre Chieftain, Temple of the Troll God and Slave Pits of the Goblin King), but can be played by itself. It is set in the setting of the Green Races, on a world called Elara. The layout is simplistic, the maps are under average and the illustrations of low quality. The structure of the text is incredibly confusing and freely mixes text on the adventure, the rules and the “unique” setting. All in all it feels like a train off the rails; it lacks direction and is heading towards a train wreck.

A premise for the adventure doesn’t exist. There is no plot, no reason for why the PCs would be where they are, there is no logic to what’s going on or why anything happens. Somewhere among all this is a temple dedicated to a god worshiped by trolls, and this is where the PCs are going to … do something, I suppose. No one knows what, not even the DM.

These kinds of setups exist in other adventures as well, basically offering the DM a framework to use with his players’ PCs. I find many modules with that premise interesting, but The Temple of the Troll God was merely frustrating. It seems as if Brown wrote an adventure that was supposed to be both framework and a linear wilderness plus dungeon romp, but that half of the text got chewed up by a hard drive crash.

The execution of the rules is also a catastrophe, and there are many gigantic mistakes regarding monster stats and abilities. In addition to this, the writer consequently breaks the terms of the d20 license throughout the text. In addition to this, the amount of treasure placed in this adventure borders on the ludicrous.

What makes this offering so crushingly disappointing is the fact that several of the old AD&D guard were involved in its creation. I admired Timothy Browns work on Dark Sun, and always figured that Jim Ward had a lot going for him. But these illusions were backstabbed and disintegrated and then cast into the abyss. Temple of the Troll God feels like a quick hatchet job to cash in on the, at the time, very profitable d20 trend. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was revealed that the adventure was simply some discarded or even rejected notes from the AD&D era, dressed up in a tutu and brought to the prom, without Brown ever reading the third edition rules or the licenses attached to it.

Harsh? Yeah, maybe. I have read a rave review of this adventure on RPGnet, so there are people out there who disagree with my assessment. So should you buy it? Hell, yeah! If you can find it for a dollar, pick it up. There are several lessons to be learned from The Temple of the Troll God, and having it in your possession will give you new faith in the products offered for D&D and d20 today.