Do You Tarrasque?

TarrasqueI have never, as a player, been caught in a game with a Tarrasque. Have you? This creature is one of the most iconic creatures in all the bestiary books I have ever read. We have seen at least five different official versions over time and there is always one thing that can be said about the Tarrasque, and that is you just can’t keep it down. Ever. Period. Don’t mess with it because it will kill you.

The Tarrasque has always been an open topic of conversation at the D&D and Pathfinder tables. It is said if a GM ever tires of his current campaign the certain way to end it is to introduce a Tarrasque. But what are the origins of such a beast. When it got placed in the Pathfinder Bestiary I realized that the adorable little critter (not) was’t the Intellectual Property (IP) of Wizards of the Coast (WotC) as I had previously believed. I became curious as to the origins of such an iconic creature in the game so I went and looked at books (yes, the paper kind) and the internet to track some information down. Was there a high level adventure hiding somewhere that I could take advantage of debasing the myth that the Tarrasque was a simple rampaging creature full of wrath and destruction?

The legend of St. Martha is actually the source of the Tarrasque story and it stems from a book of legends called the “Golden Legend” which was penned in the mid 1200’s although more was added through the years. Over a thousand manuscripts of this book has survived as it was exceptionally popular in its time. The source of the story comes from France where there was a dragon like creature known as the Taresque who lived in and around the Nerluc area in Provence, France. The creature was laying waste to a wide swathe of territory and nothing seemed to be able to stop it.

The Taresque of legend was not the colossal magical beast of the D&D books. In fact it was said to have six short bear legs, an ox-like body covered by a turtle shell, a scaly scorpion tail and the head of a lion. It was said to burn anything it touched which was the way it was ruining the land. It is unclear if this was before or after it had been attacked by knights and catapults though so it may have been peaceful before it. Regardless, anything they fought with could not defeat the creature.

Enter our heroine, St. Martha. Understanding the damage the creature was causing, she sought out the creature in the hope that her faith in God would protect her and change the Tarasque to a creature of God. On finding the creature St Martha placated the creature with hymns and readings from the Christian book. The creature joined with St Martha who took it to the city to show the people there that the creature was not a threat. As she approached with the creature the people of the city rose up and attacked the beast in fear. The Taresque did not fight back in any way and the city folk killed the creature with their hatred.

After the destruction of the creature St Martha preached to the masses and converted them to christianity. Ashamed at what they had done to the Taresque the newly converted followers of christianity renamed their town to Tarascon in honour of the creature.

There are obviously quite a few differences between the Tarrasque of D&D or Pathfinder and the Taresque of St. Martha’s Legend. But the tale does offer an interesting insight into perhaps the way it could be used in a game. The Taresque of legend appears to have had little overt intelligence but it was aware enough to make choices and this is reflected in the statistics of the Tarrasque as found on the Pathfinder Reference Document (PRD) here. Obviously the creature would listen to reason and therefore had a good Wisdom again reflected in statistics. It does appear in the legend that the creature itself was not an angry rampager in its infancy and it was likely the intervention of man attacking it that caused it to rampage, so it was likely a Neutral creature reacting to being attacked, again reflected in the statistics.

Where the Tarrasque of the game differs though is basically on every other aspect. It is a colossal creature which is not reflected by the statistics. It looks different to the legend representation, it regenerates (even if it has been disintegrated!) and no known method has been found to kill it! In the statistics it truly does seem that this creature is something a GM uses when they have had enough! The only time I have ever used one was in a what if scenario with a mate of mine. It was “What if a Tarrasque met a Hekatonkheires Titan (Bestiary 3). By the way, the Titan won just by stunning the Tarrasque, beating it down to below 0 HP and then banishing it to another dimension.

Using the St. Martha legend you could handle the Tarrasque a different way though. Perhaps even using the same story line where the monstrous beast is simply found and attacked out of fear as your high level party approach the area. The Tarrasque retaliates out of anger for being threatened and disturbed and the players need to find a way to get through to the creature instead of finding a way to destroy the beast. This creature does not need to be the death of the party, in fact it could be a great ally in a time of need if they take the time to solve the beasts issue and the issue those that attacked it have.

I always find it interesting to look at the history of creatures. Find their folklore or legend origins and you will likely find a seed for an adventure. I have never heard of anyone (seriously) using a Tarrasque in a game yet it reappears edition after edition as this gigantic monstrosity. It generates a lot of discussion at the table and while I am sure there is a lot of visits to the Tarrasque page to check its statistics there are very few games that have ever employed one. I am keen to hear in the comments from those that have used one in a serious way or for those of you that have ideas on how else you could introduce the Tarrasque to your game. Let me know, and until next week, keep rolling!

Mark Knights is  39 year old guy living in a small rural town called Elliott in Tasmania, Australia.  I have been role playing since I was 11 years old playing the original versions of Dungeons and Dragons, MERP, Elric, Dragon Warriors and the like amongst other genre games.  I played D&D 2nd Edition through the 90′s but I ran Earthdawn for my fantasy setting and loved it as a GM.  When 3rd Edition came out for D&D I tried it but found it too heavy on rules.  I ignored the 3.5 edition of DnD in favour of Earthdawn (big mistake) as I thought it was just a money spinner.  When 4th Edition DnD came on my players and I gave it a red hot go but hated what it had dumbed the game down to be.  On a trip to Melbourne to buy some 4E stuff from a hobby store an old mate of mine pointed me at Pathfinder and in a Fantasy setting I have never looked back.

Review: Denizens of Avadnu

Denizens of Avadnu coverPotential is a powerful word.  It is used all the time and seen in the people around us.  We get a hint at what might be and we hope to see the potential realized.  Many times it isn’t and we are left wondering “what if?”  I can’t imagine what it must be like for companies that impress with their first gaming product but are never able to live up to the potential the gamers see who get their first book.  This week I’m looking at one of the best and most creative monster books for D&D/ Pathfinder I have seen.  I like it better than Privateer Press’ Monsternomicon, Necromancer Game’s Tome of Horrors, and Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary.  All three of those books are well worth owning and writing about. I am going with a lesser known book by a company that doesn’t seem to exist anymore and needs to be seen by more gamers instead of the more popular selections.

Denizens of Avadnu is a monster book written for 3.5 D&D.  It is the first product Inner Circle produced for their Violet Dawn setting.  While a great book I think it was a mistake to make the monster book first and not the setting first.  There was a PDF release of epic level monsters and I think some information on unique races to the world but I don’t recall they ever published the full setting.  The book was also a bit expensive I felt at the time.  It was priced at $40 for a 225 page full color hardcover book.  On their gaming site you can order the book for just $10.  You might be able to find it cheaper than that, but I do like giving money to the publishers especially small press ones like them.

Flipping through the book I am still amazed at the full color art and the overall look in this book.  It is beautifully done and still one of the best looking monster books.  That is just the beginning as the creativity is off the charts.  The monsters are all original and feel very different.  There is nothing in here that seems like a goblin or orc with a few changes.  There are no new devils or demons or other monsters like those that just build off of other creatures.  Each creature is given its own page.  This allows for a lot of good information and that is needed with these creatures.  The normal description and combat entries are there, but there is also information for adventure ideas using the creatures and specific information of the creature in their setting of Avandu.  Going through and just reading the Avandu sections really makes me want to see a full setting that brings together all of the  great little details offered in this book.

One of my favorite creatures in here is called the Dread Spire.  It is an aquatic creature rarely seen in places not thousands of feet below the surface of the oceans.  It resembles a huge tower with tentacles coming out from it and it is different and weird.  The book also has animals and vermin, though each is also given a unique twist.  I like that it introduces creatures that are non-Earth native but treats them like normal animals.

Denizens of Avandu is one of those books that even after almost ten years I find myself keeping my copy though multiple book purges and finding ways to use it.  It is great for those D&D players that think they have seen everything.  There are some really odd and cool creatures in here and being able to show the players amazing art of the creatures makes them that much better.

Chris Gath.  I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then.  In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6.  My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game.  On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out.  I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times.  Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.

Gen Con 2013 Wizard’s Booth

D&D NextBrowsing my Facebook feed a little earlier today I noticed a post by Margaret Weis noting that Wizards of the Coast was apparently not having a booth at Gen Con 2013 this year. That post was made on Wednesday this week and I was a little surprised I had not seen more commentary on the lack of a Wizards booth at the show.

I had seen an email from Gen Con earlier in the week that the exhibit hall map was released. So I headed over there and downloaded the map to take a look. Sure enough – no Wizard’s booth! Now the map does have a disclaimer the document is a living map and subject to change, but at this moment there is not a Wizards of the Coast booth listed on the map.

I did a little more looking and did find some info over on Gen Con’s forums where some others noted the lack of a Wizard’s booth. It seems they will be focusing their efforts on the playtest area instead of manning a booth. A tweet from Mike Mearls also backs this, stating their booth is the playtest area.

I think this is an interesting decision by Wizards to not have any presence in the exhibit hall. Granted they do not really have any product to sell this year. They are still amidst their D&D Next playtest, the only significant product they have been releasing has been reprints from older editions and PDFs of DriveThruRPG. But it still seems odd for a major company in the RPG industry to *not* have a booth at Gen Con.

Thinking back though, last year the booth at Gen Con was fairly unspectacular. So perhaps we should have seen it coming.

What do you think? The end of RPGs (I’m being facetious!)? A shift in major players in the RPG industry? Or simply saving money for a spectacular D&D Next rollout next year?

Do I Need D&D Next?

D&D NextD&D Next Playtest

When the D&D Next playtest first was released I was excited. Loyal readers of the blog know I skipped D&D 4e. My read through of the rules left me less than impressed and it went against the grain of what I thought D&D was in several ways. Reading play reports from other people seemed to confirm this. The era of D&D 4e was spent with me playing Pathfinder. I have no axe to grind against D&D 4e, I fully appreciate that many people enjoyed the system and anything that brings more people to RPGs in general is a good thing.

Back to the initial playtest release. I read the whole thing and I was quite enthused. It really seemed to get back to a rules-light feel. I was excited to get some playtests going. Scheduling issues got in the way about that time and soon the second iteration of the playtest was out. Terminology was starting to creep in that turned me off a bit to the direction things appeared to be heading. Healing sticks out to me as a big point of contention for me. There were certainly others.

As the playtests kept coming out I started to feel less and less like D&D Next was going to be for me. The complexity went up and it seemed to drift from what the first playtest was significantly. My eyes began to glaze over as I tried to read later iterations of the playtest.

The thing the D&D Next playtest taught me is that I wanted a rules-light ruleset. The first iteration if the playtest taught me that. This is what really led me to start looking at systems of the OSR variety.

DCC RPG Limited Edition CoverDungeon Crawl Classics RPG

First was Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. I bought DCC RPG because of the art. I stayed because of the craziness that is DCC RPG. I really enjoy DCC RPG because I think it throws those that are long time gamers off their game. The randomness makes us think again. We can’t assume things will work as expected. It makes things fresh, it makes things crazy.

And while I really like DCC RPG, I am not sure it is ready to be my default game. One, because my son who I tend to play RPGs with on the weekends is not that into it. He is not a big fan of the randomness, he wants his spells to work as he expects them. I get where he is coming from. I’ve cast magic missile as a wizard hundreds of times. DCC RPG makes magic missile fun again because I never know exactly how it is going to manifest itself in DCC RPG! But for my son, still new to RPGs, he wants magic missile to work the way the spell description says it will. He doesn’t need the randomness to that degree in his game.

OSR Rule Sets

That left me to finding a set that let me play a more traditional “D&D” game. This area is filled with excellent possibilities. Castles & Crusades, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, Basic Fantasy, Blueholmes, Swords and Wizardry, and more. All of these rule sets are light in nature and have a classic D&D feel. I am still making my way through them to find my default rule set, but all of them give me the feeling I had when I first read the D&D Next playtest.

D&D Next?

Several folks have said if I liked the first iteration of the playtest then to be patient as that will exist in the core form of D&D Next. But why wait? I don’t *need* D&D Next to get the feel I want from a D&D game. There are many excellent options out there already!

There is no need to wait another year to see what is released as the next version of D&D. Between the OSR rule sets I mentioned above there are already many rules that hit the feel I want and at a very reasonable price (sometimes free).

The basic D&D Next is going to have to compete against these already released products. Products that are already excellent and available. Even if I wanted to play the D&D brand name, I could easily grab the Moldvay PDF from RPGNow and use it. It is out now and hits the feel I want in a fantasy genre game. D&D Next is irrelevant to me. The first playtest packet showed me the feel that I wanted. It also made me realize I do not need to wait for D&D Next to be released to get that feel.

I will take another look when D&D Next is finally released. For now though, I already have enough OSR systems that hit the target for the game I want to play. I am not sure what niche D&D Next would fill for me.

D&D Original Edition Reprint

Original Edition ReprintNot 100% sure when this popped up on Wizard’s site, but it is there now. The Original Dungeons & Dragons RPG Premium Reprint. People were wondering if they would release this one. It appears the answer is yes.

It looks like the boxed set will include the following seven books:

  • Volume 1: Men & Magic
  • Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure
  • Volume 3: Underworld & Wilderness Adventures
  • Supplement I: Greyhawk
  • Supplement II: Blackmoor
  • Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry
  • Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes

The blurb on Wizard’s site says the books will have updated covers but the art inside will be the same.

The picture shows what appears to be a nice wooden box and also dice.

The price point appears to be $150 USD. Though that seems on the steep side to me, I am sorely tempted by this one.

Review: Adventure-A-Week

Adventure-A-Week LogoOver the past few weeks I had the opportunity to review some of the materials being put out by For those unfamiliar with the site, releases a new adventure for Pahfinder and D&D 3.5 every week. These are not short, one or two encounters, but full adventures to run with your group. The adventures are in color and include maps and full layout design.

What You Get

The site is subscription fee based, for $9.99 per month you will receive one adventure per week and gain access to the back catalog of adventures already released. The adventures are available in web format or PDF. They are beginning to release their products in print form as well. In addition adventures come with maps for the GM, Players, and ready for VTT use. Hero Lab files are included for users of that tool. The web formatted versions are extensively hyperlinked and compatible with tables to ease running games from your table.

The Review

For my review I requested two styles of adventure – a city based adventure and a good old fashioned dungeon crawl adventure. was readily able to provide me with a an example of each from their back catalog. My review is based on the PDF version of the adventures. For this review I am going to look at each of those adventures and then at the service as a whole. At the end we will touch on some of the other things has going on in the future.

To Catch A SerpentTo Catch A Serpent

To Catch A Serpent was the example of a city-based adventure I received. The adventure is a 10th level adventure for 4-6 PCs. The PCs find themselves in the city of Tawwa amidst a series of murders. Drawn into the investigation the PCs find themselves moving about the city gathering clues that eventually lead to the sewers under the city itself. Within the sewers they seek to find out who or what is responsible for the recent events in the city.

For the GM the adventure opens with an adventure background and then a summary to quickly advise the GM how the adventure is likely to proceed. Several adventure hooks are also provided to help get things underway for the GM and PCs.

Sometimes investigative adventures with 10th level PCs is difficult to pull off. 10th level spellcasters have a myriad of resources available to them to “shortcut” an investigation rather quickly. This adventure has a section to help the GM with that, offering several valuable tips on how to handle some of the more powerful investigative spells 10th level casters will have. I think it does so in a way that won’t make a caster feel cheated, the divination spells will still be useful, just not reveal the whole basis for the adventure up front. Very handy section for this adventure.

Stats for the creatures are provided in both Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 versions. The stat blocks are included at the end of the adventure and are quickly accessible by clicking the appropriate link in the PDF in the encounter area. Clicking the link takes the reader to the back of the PDF where the full stat block resides.

The adventure itself is an interesting romp through the city and under the city to ferret out the source of the problems for the city. The characters will get to encounter several interesting creatures along the way as well.

Alagoran's GemAlagoran’s Gem

Alagoran’s Gem was the sample of a good old fashioned dungeon crawl adventure. This one was written for 4-6 PCs at levels 3-5. This one is a C-series adventure which is written to capture the “old school” feel in dungeon crawl adventures. A link to a post on Old School gaming is included in the preface to set the tone for this adventure.

This adventure is sure to be fun for anyone who enjoys the deadliness of a Tomb of Horrors type adventure. Deadly traps, encounters and such that challenge both the player and character are par for the course for this adventure. I would almost feel guilty running a set of established Pathfinder or D&D 3.5 characters through this one due to the deadliness. It would make a great one-shot though for an afternoon of deadly fun!

This adventure also opens with an adventure background, synopsis and hooks to get your characters to the dungeon. The map for this adventure is in color and very well done showing the expanse of this dungeon adventure. There is a nice mix between traps and creature encounters throughout the adventure.

I will certainly be tucking this one aside as an adventure to run on the fly at a convention or a time when I have need of a one-shot adventure to torment my players with. Though very deadly, I really liked the feel of this adventure.

Adventuress Overall

Looking at the two adventures overall, they are put together in a way to make them easy to run with minimal prep. Information the GM needs is handily called out in colored text boxes with icons to designate whether the block is a trap, skill check, read-aloud text, and such. This makes overlooking a key point while running the adventure much less likely. Very handy if trying to run the adventure on minimal prep.

As noted above, these adventures are for use in both Pathfinder and D&D 3.5. There are some differences between these systems. In encounter descriptions there are links to both the 3.5 and PF version of the monster. The GM only needs to click it and they are sent to the correct system stat block. This helps cut down on the number of stat blocks in the encounter text itself which would become unwieldy if two systems worth of stat blocks were embedded in the encounter area itself.

The maps by Todd Gamble are of very good quality. Having a GM map, player map, and VTT map is very useful for the GM.

I did take a look at the web version of Crow’s Rest Island as well. It is extensively hyperlinked to help with moving around in the document. It also includes some sound files to play during the course of the game to add to the ambiance. It is an interesting way to present an adventure and having the choice between a web format and PDF is great for the GM.

Overall seems to be packed with value and a very regular release schedule. If you find yourself constantly looking for new and fresh adventures to run that your players have not already read or played, is well worth checking out.

They do offer Crow’s Rest Island as a free preview to check out before signing up for a subscription. If you are curious about the service, start there and also be sure to check out the FAQ on the site.

Adventure-A-Week Extras

In addition to their different lines of adventures being released on a weekly basis, they set this all against their own campaign world. This world is optional as the adventures can be dropped into other published settings or your own homebrew. But if you are kicking off a campaign and do not have a setting in mind, provides you with one as a backdrop for your game. is also accepting Adventure Submissions. The process and formatting requirements are detailed on their Submit my Adventure page. A possible way for aspiring adventure writers to get their start in the publishing world.

Rise of the Drow Kickstarter

Adventure-A-Week is also running a Kickstarter for their Rise of the Drow trilogy. This adventure is for both Pathfinder and D&D 3.5, just as the other modules part of Adventure-A-Week are for. The Kickstarter is to raise funds for a hardback book for these modules in full color and expanded content. They have well surpassed their initial goal and are charging through their stretch goals, adding content and art to the book with each goal. There are still 30 days left with this post, so plenty of time to check out this Kickstarter as well.

Mini Review: D&D Basic PDF

D&D Basic - MoldvayMost RPG fans are aware by now that Wizards of the Coast has started putting their PDF catalog up at or accessed via The latter option is the easiest to just browse the PDFs currently available. I believe they are going to continue putting product up on the site, so if you do not see your favorite product yet – just keep checking back.

In my other posts about D&D reprints, I have said if the Moldvay D&D Basic book was made available I would snatch it up without hesitation. While not quite a reprint, the PDF of the Moldvay rulebook for D&D Basic was one of the PDFs released. Once the server meltdown from the traffic to DriveThruRPG let up, I purchased the PDF that night and spent some time checking out the PDF.

Most are familiar with the D&D Basic set, so this mini-review is less about the content within and more on how does the PDF look and feel. I could not offer an unbiased review of the content, it is the D&D I started with and nostalgia would trump any objective review I could do. Moldvay D&D Basic is my D&D.

The PDF comes in at 7.9MB for my download. That makes it nice and portable, as well as quick to render on both the computer and older iPad model.

The PDF is extensively bookmarked. That makes navigating the PDF very easy. The text is also searchable as we have come to expect from PDFs.

I have seen several praise these PDFs for their scan quality. The scan quality is certainly decent and legible, but on my iPad and computer they do seem a little fuzzy. You can see the text start to break apart on zooming in. Even at 119% in Adobe Reader you can start to see some of the fuzziness creep in. Apparently still a huge improvement over the previously released PDFs and as far as scans go, quality scans. I am just not sure I would rave about their quality unless directly comparing them to the previously released PDF’s quality. Perfectly legible and usable though.

I paid $4.99 to pick up the D&D Basic rules in PDF. I think the price point was very fair for the product. Certainly a reasonable value for my money.

Overall I am quite pleased to have access to PDFs of the older D&D products. I am very happy to have a legal copy of the Moldvay D&D Basic Rules in electronic form that does not involve subscriptions or gimmicky software to access. I will certainly be picking up some more products in the future.

I think this is a great move by Wizards of the Coast and I am quite happy to see them step into the digital era of RPG publishing.

D&D PDFs at DriveThruRPG


It appears the news that leaked last week is indeed true. This morning several D&D PDFs from editions past showed up on’s site.

A quick glance through shows the old green covered campaign sourcebooks (the HRx series) are available. The Basic Rulebook from the 1981 release of D&D Basic is up there. In Search of the Unknown is available for free. Several fun ones to look through.

The PDFs are also available through the site as well. is a DriveThruRPG site, so your logon works at it too!

I have not had a chance yet to really do a close look, I am sure social media will be alive with commentary today on this move.


D&D 2nd Edition Reprints

PHBb 2nd ReprintAs seen on Tenkar’s Tavern this morning (seriously if you want up to date news on items in the OSR niche of the RPG world, you need to add Tenkar’s Tavern to your feed), the 2nd edition D&D reprints have popped up at Wizard’s site. The Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master’s Guide, and Monstrous Manual are all there, going for $49.95 per book. Looks like the currently advertised release date is 5/21/2013.


So far we’ve seen the 1st edition D&D reprints, the 3.5 D&D edition reprints and now the 2nd D&D edition reprints surface. It certainly seems Wizards is going through their back catalog and re-releasing older editions to the market. They likely have little choice but to do this. It is a relatively easy way for them to get some revenue while they are in this lull between editions. By announcing D&D Next so early for the sake of the playtest, they certainly have made a large dent in their 4e sales.

Reprints and Me

I’ve picked up the 1st edition reprints. I was most attracted by those when they were first announced, but then decided I did not want to pay that much. Not that the price was bad, it was more my frugal side than disagreement with their pricing. Amazon tempted me with their prices, but I resisted. Then at Gen Con I found a booth that was selling them for slightly less than one could get them at Amazon. I could not resist and picked all three of the 1e reprints up.

I wasn’t tempted at all by the 3.5 reprints. I have my 3.5 books still and Pathfinder fills any need for this era of gaming for me. I have picked them up at the local Barnes and Noble, but still did not feel the need to purchase them.

MM 2nd ReprintThe 2nd edition reprints falls into the same area as the 3.5 ones did with me. I still have my 2e books and do not really feel the need to replace them with the reprints. I am sure that many have their roots in 2e though and will feel compelled to pick them up.

There are two products if re-released in this manner I would purchase. The Rules Cyclopedia and a re-release of the Moldvay boxed set. Moldvay is what I cut my teeth on and I have somehow never picked up a Rules Cyclopedia. The local Half Price Books had one marked up to $50, but it was in horrible shape.

The Reprint Decision for Wizards

I understand why Wizards has chosen to release reprints. They need something to generate revenue while folks wait for D&D Next to come out. Given the amount of 4e books I see at the local Half Price Books, I suspect a lot of folks have been unloading their 4e books. I also suspect it is hard to sell a 4e book at the moment with the new version on the horizon. Selling reprints gives Wizards an easy way to generate some short term revenue while the playtest continues.

I do have to wonder if they further fracturing their market though with all of the previous editions coming back out to the market. I would suspect they are bound to lose sales to these older editions. Of course, maybe they folks they are selling these to would never have made the move to D&D Next, so they are just subsidizing D&D Next development with the dollars of gamers who likely would not have made the move to the new edition to begin with.

I do not have a horse in this race, so for me the reprints work out just great. I managed to get my 1e reprints for a great price and I have hope they will at least release a Rules Cyclopedia. With talks of some of the older module series coming back in print, I can use those with whichever system I am playing at the time. So it is a win situation for me. We’ll see if it is a win situation for Wizards of the Coast when D&D Next is released in 2014.

Feat Overload

Jigsaw PuzzleOver the weekend Keith Davies posted on G+ that between the Pathfinder Core Rulebook, Advanced Player’s Guide, Ultimate Magic, and Ultimate Combat there were 704 feats. Think about that for a moment. 704 feats.

How Many Feats?

I did a quick check over at and a quick check showed 650+ feats. I did not bother to see where our discrepancy was, even if the number had only been 500+ feats the number is a stunning amount of choices.

As Keith notes in his post, a character can only take so many feats over the course of the character’s career. Let’s take a 20th level human cleric. They can only make use of 1.7% of the available feats over the life of their character. You lose access to a feat if you do not play a human. If you play a 20th human fighter you can only make use of 3.4% of the available feats. Nevermind the fact that a lot of campaigns do not even reach 20th level.

I suspect those numbers go down quite a bit depending on the character. There are many feats that are assumed “basic” feats for a lot of character classes. If you want to play an archer type there are several assumed feats that come from the core rulebook an archer needs to have. This reduces the number of new feats the character can choose from other sources. The same applies for caster’s when you factor in metamagic feats and such they will want to pick up.

While we may have a plethora of feats to choose from, a list that seems to grow with every new product release, it does not change the fact the character cannot choose more feats. A typical character cannot gain access to 98.3% of the currently available feats. It does not matter whether a character is trying to add some roleplaying creativity or trying to make a stronger character – the majority of feats are going to be unavailable to a character due to limited slots.

More Options is Better, Right?

Many people will see this number of feats and say more options is always better. I do agree with the premise that more options for a character to choose from during the course of combat, roleplaying encounters or anything else can be a good thing.

However, I think as we see so many feats and mechanical options added to the game we actually limit a person’s options. By defining such specific areas of the game with feats dictating what you can or can’t do without it we have actually narrowed the scope of what a character can do. The GM loses his flexibility to let a player try creative things with his character as there is a greater chance a feat is required to accomplish that task.
Beyond this narrowing definition of what can and can’t be done by adding feats, there is the matter of option paralyzation. A person building a character today has 650+ feats to choose from. This is an overwhelming amount of options to choose from. Where do you see your character in 5 levels, 10 levels, or 15 levels? Making sure you follow the right feat chains early on is important to not hindering yourself later.

Creative Options, Not Mechanical Options

I want to see the option for creativity from players. I do not want to see a multitude of mechanical options that actually define specific areas of the game so much that it in turn limits player creativity.

We need to move the rules up a level and away from this near microscopic zoom on player’s actions. Abilities should be broader to cover more general areas of expertise. Mechanics should be broader and less defined to give more space to play in creatively. Let the player’s say they want to try some dazzling action and let the judge adjudicate how that will happen.

A good example of this blending of broad mechanic with creative play with open spaces in the rules is the Mighty Deed of Arms mechanic from Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. A warrior-type gets a “deed die” to roll along with their normal attack. The die scales upwards as the character levels. A character can declare a “special” action and if a result of 3 or higher comes up on the deed die the character can pull the action off to some degree.

This is a simple mechanic, gives a player some idea of how success will be determined, but does not restrict the player with needing narrowly focused feats to pull things off. Instead the judge and player use the dice roll to help determine the success. This mechanic probably replaces 100+ fighter type feats with one simple to use mechanic. Creativity is restored to the player to solve problems or do cool things during combat.

Find the System For You

I was a big 3.x D&D fan. The system really worked well for me and I feel it provided the framework I needed to run a fun game. Then the option books started coming, and coming, and coming. The system began to bog down for me. There were too many feats, too many builds, too many prestige classes. I started to feel constrained.

Then Pathfinder came along. I loved just having the core rulebook. My energy was back, it was like 3.x was before the ever churning supply of option books. But then Pathfinder started following the same path. More option books, more feats, more spells, more, more, more… It seems the time has come that Pathfinder has started to make me feel constrained again. It has become more about knowing the expanding ruleset than creating fun adventures and characters.

I am not here to change Pathfinder. There are a multitude of systems out there that do fit my changing style of play. I do not need to wage a campaign to change Pathfinder or any other system. I simply need to identify what type of mechanics frustrate me and look at any number of systems that seem a better fit for me. There are many such systems.