The Pathfinder Dilemma.

Three different worlds potentially in the works. But which system? Create my own? Open Game License content? Which system to govern how dice are rolled and when.

I find myself at a bit of a crossroads.

I like Pathfinder 2E. It’s a solid system, as many have pointed out. I think most of us are burned out on Dungeons & Dragons 5E at this point following the OGL debacle in January and the Kyle Brinks Apology Tour 2023. I realize most of this affects creators, but every GM/DM is a creator in some regards. We create material.

*Side note: Kyle, buddy, I know you don’t read my blog. But, if you ever did, I’d tell you to STOP TALKING TO YOUTUBERS! All you’re doing is digging the hole deeper, my friend. Your comments about “old white dudes need to be fleeing the hobby” and “Dark Sun is too problematic,” are just making a case for boycotting anything you ever do again. Just stop.

I backed off of 5E a while back because the official material was kind of a turn off, One D&D is coming, and I was getting burned out. I turned to the OSR, maybe rightfully so. That’s where I cut my teeth on gaming and there’s a lot of good product out there. (*Certain OSR creators’ attitudes leave a lot to be desired, though.) I got back into Dungeon Crawl Classics and Basic D&D again. I still have everything I need to run Pathfinder 2E.

I’ve got two fantasy campaign settings I want to develop and at third kind of brewing in the back of my mind. The catch has always been finding a system I like that doesn’t have a specific setting attached. Maybe I’m too picky, but if I want to publish an entire world project and get paid for it, I have to be picky.

It’s not the game system for Pathfinder 2E that I take issue with at all.

Pathfinder 2E is to D&D 5E what Pathfinder 1E is to D&D 3.5 and 4E. It fixes and streamlines all of the bugs in the system. PF2E is like ordering from the gourmet menu at an upscale restaurant. 5E is like McDonald’s- corporatized, generic, and somewhat bland in comparison.

I have a ton of 5E Third Party content that is absolutely brilliantly written. I collect monster supplements for just about any game like a fiend. I seriously have a hard time saying no to a new monster book. They’re like candy.

Hi, My name is Jeff. I admit I have an addiction to monster books.

The good news is all of that tasty 5E material does convert into PF2E fairly well. Pathfinder is a solid, well written system. My poor wallet is praying it doesn’t blossom into the massive library of titles that PF1E had. The completist in me couldn’t handle it. #OCDsucks. But the number of books is not my issue, either.

Unless something has changed, PF2E (paid) creators are limited to Golarion or generic fantasy.

With the OGL flap and the ORC License coming, this may all change. Golarion is a good campaign setting. (Tian Xia is coming. Droool…) Kingmaker is kinda the Birthright setting revival I always wanted for 5E. Here’s my thing- Golarion isn’t my campaign world.

I’ve had two or three D&D campaign worlds running around in my head for decades. (My mind is a crowded place sometimes.) The stuff I want to make- really write setting books, class adaptations, even fiction to sell do not fit in Golarion at all.

I’m not joking. I have one campaign setting in my notes that has changed game systems upwards of nine times? Yeesh. I didn’t realize how crazy it was. The thing fits into three different subgenres quite nicely, so it’s a tough call. The really sad part is, the campaign exists on paper and not, um… okay I haven’t run it yet. (*At least I’m living in my own basement. Ha!)

But could the above campaign fit into the Pathfinder 2E system? Absolutely. But, then I’d have to treat it as “generic fantasy” That means my map would go out the window along with a ton of lore, NPCs, and other staple concepts that make the game unique.

Not another game system…

Every game designer in the TTRPG sphere is faced with the same challenge. Use an existing (OGL, ORC License, etc) system, create a brand new system and test it, squish it under “generic,” OR fit it into an existing campaign world like Forgotten Realms. If you want to use Dungeon Crawl Classics for example, Goodman Games is easy to work with, their game is beautiful. However, if you want to use the DCC engine, you also have all of the hiccups and restrictions that come with the gods and magic rules, too.

None of my fantasy campaign campaign concepts directly overlay onto DCC, PF2E, or 5E campaign worlds as written. Not to mention all three systems are based on D&D rules. (I know, 5E.) Which means all three games, while different and unique, all have some of the same drawbacks when it comes to combat, vehicles, character advancement, classes, etc.

The TTRPG market is soon going to be absolutely flooded with new game systems and settings. Wizards of the Coast dug themselves a hole with the OGL. Several hundred people took note and began cranking out their own game including me.

I like to say there’s room for everybody.

Unfortunately, we’re dealing with a capitalist system. This means potentially dozens of Kickstarters, new systems to learn, and new worlds to explore. Money is a limited resource in our economy. While I love learning new games, I can’t afford to buy them all.

Needless to say, creating one’s own new game system might not be amazingly profitable right now. At least we’ll be able to license a new TTRPG world with little to no difficulty at all now as long as it uses a specific ruleset. So, where does that leave me and my three campaign worlds?

I’m thinking about putting my notes for the one world back on the shelf. Campaign B will fit into Cypher and Godforsaken covered a lot of ground necessary for that world that maybe I can do it. Campaign C is probably going to be “generic” fantasy or possibly 5E. At least it’s adaptable.

Thank you for stopping by and listening to me rant. LOL! I do appreciate you. So much to do. At least I’m more coherent today.

Author: Jeff Craigmile

I'm a tabletop role-playing game writer and designer from Des Moines, Iowa. I'm the father of four boys and human to three cats.

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