After the release of Dungeons and Dragons 4E many still wanted to stay with the 3.5 rules. Since Wizards of the Coast had released a version of these rules under the Open Gaming License (OGL), many companies decided to release their own games using the OGL. Pathfinder is one of the most, if not the most, popular of what I think of as the DnD 3.5 forks (like a fork in a piece of software). The rules are essentially the same as DnD 3.5 with some changes and additions. The class system has been reworked to allow greater customization. Now the company has licensed the Pathfinder brand to a company called Goblinworks to produce a Pathfinder MMORPG (More Here). The game will use the pathfinder name, attributes (same as DnD), core classes, and setting. The company has given quite a bit of detail on their plans for the MMORPG. I will summarize the highlights here.
Character stats and development differ considerably from those outlined in the Pathfinder pen and paper game. This has led some to question whether Pathfinder Online, is really Pathfinder. Or Has it just appropriated the name and setting? My question would be: Does it matter if the game is fun? Additionally, I do think a lot of the same abilities and terms will show up in the Online game, even if character development differs. To summarize, characters will be made up of 4 factors: Attributes, Skills, Merit Badges, and Abilities. I’ll describe each of those components as revealed so far below.
Attributes are essentially the same deal as in the pen and paper game, however here there is a saving throw for each attribute rather than just Will, Reflex, and Fortitude. Really though, other types of saving throws do exist in Pathfinder, they just aren’t on your character sheet. This is because these other saving throws are more rare and only used against certain monsters. I’m not sure if every attribute has some type of saving throw, since its been a while since I read the rules. However, I wouldn’t be surprised. Higher attribute levels also decrease the amount of training required to increase the level of skills it is associated with.
The skills system is meant to be similar to that used in Eve Online, and characters will advance in real-time. Basically, you chose which skill you want to train and that skill will train even when you are not online. I guess it assumes that your character will still be doing things even when you aren’t around. He’s just not going on adventures. So if you start playing with your buddies they will not be way ahead of you if you have to take a break for something in real life (heaven forbid …). To me it also lends a feel of continuity, your character doesn’t cease to exist just because you haven’t had the time to play for a month. The weird thing about skills here, compared to Eve Online, is that they don’t actually do anything. Skill levels instead act as prerequisites for Merit Badges and Abilities.
Merit Badges and Abilities
OK so skills do nothing in the game, and doing things in the game doesn’t give you skills. So what do you get for doing things in-game? You get Merit Badges, assuming you also have the prerequisite skill levels. And what do Merit Badges get you, Abilities. Abilities are roughly equivalent to Feats and Class Abilities in the pen and paper game. Class Levels will be a type of Merit Badge, to be received when certain requirements are met. Basically, if your character does things a member of a specific class would do, and levels up skills that class requires you gain a level in that class. So if you steal things, and increase abilities like pick pocket you will gain Rogue levels. Each of the classes in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook will be represented: Barbarians, Bards, Clerics, Druids, Fighters, Monks, Paladins, Rangers, Rogues and Sorcerors.
The info already presented makes a big deal about how the MMORPG will differentiate itself from World of Warcraft by having a sandbox world, rather than a Theme Park world. Whats the difference? In a theme park world there’s lots of stuff there for your character to do in the form of quests. In a sandbox world its more free form, and events are driven primarily by player interactions. In a theme park you can have little lasting effect on the world, while in a sandbox you can build the world. On the topic of building, such games often have complex crafting systems, that allow to create various items from raw materials. It is unclear if this will be a focus in Pathfinder Online, but given the direction they are taking it seems likely. Additionally, Goblinworks has stated that there will be a lot for players not interested in combat to do, so you would imagine they would have jobs of some kind. It is possible that crafting will be one activity for these players. In terms of development, a sandbox game has the advantage of requiring less work on the part of the developers. In terms of cost to the players, less intensive development may translate into lower cost of the game. There is also the disadvantage that players might feel they have nothing to do. It has been stated that there will be some theme park elements, so perhaps that will be enough to occupy such people. However, I can’t help but feel those players would be better off just playing World of Warcraft.
So far I’m in. It sounds like the current game design will decrease the level of grinding required, and allow you to just get together once in a while and play with your friends. It seems that’s what its all about focusing on interacting with other people, building a world and going on adventures. That is what has always appealed to me about pen and paper RPGs. Therefore, despite not using the same system as the Pathfinder pen and paper game the spirit is very much maintained. This assumes you aren’t a “munchkin” of course.