Sunday, October 27, 2013

Pathfinder is WAY Better as a Card Game

You may have read my post on my recent experience playing a Pathfinder Society (PFS) roleplaying game at local event. Well, my negative feelings towards the Pathfinder RPG (which is really just D&D 3.5 which I used to run/play all the time) do not extend to the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. I tried the card game yesterday and I'm actually excited for the next time I'll get to play. It's a really well designed game that lots of folks are raving about - and rightly so.

Now, it would be easy to say that these two games have only the Pathfinder fictional universe to connect them, but I think they have more in common than that. The RPG version has intentionally stripped out the pretense that you can "do anything you want" that helped sell previous generations of D&D. In the Pathfinder RPG, you're expected to buy into the GM's story and go along for the ride (it's just a ride I wanted off). This is also known as "participationism". In the PFS version, that means going from location to location trying to find the big villain of the adventure and then killing said villain. In the card game...you do exactly the same thing - but it's fun! There's no GM, no expectation (even on my part) to be in character or contribute to a story, the combats are quick, and you get to make meaningful choices throughout. Basically, everything that I didn't like about the Pathfinder RPG is absent or fixed in the card game (note: I actually like moving minis on a map, so that activity's absence didn't get mentioned).

There have been many recent games in a similar vein - cooperative adventure board games with character options, leveling, etc. I've played the new Mage Knight board game (very good), Descent, and the Lord of the Rings living card game, all of which are trying to scratch that same itch. But none of those hit on all the cylinders they needed to for me and the Pathfinder card game does.

Traditional RPGs have lost lots of players to video games over the years as the technology has advanced to the point were it can scratch the individual itches of tabletop roleplayers. Some were lost very early on to text based games, then to MUDs, then more to Bioware-type games, and then many, many more to MMOs. Now that board games are doing much the same thing, how many more players will traditional RPGs loose? Not that anyone has to choose, but often they do.