I Want to Run Pathfinder's Golarion with a Different System

The Sword Emperor

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Golarion hits my sweet spot for settings. The world - and its individual lands - are accessible with little or no background knowledge or cross-referencing, but there's enough depth that I could spend days poring through books for new ideas for monsters, NPCs, lands to explore, and dungeons to venture into.

So, what's the problem?
I don't like the Pathfinder system. It's great for players and DMs who enjoy strategic thinking, but I find the array of options overwhelming. I don't have the love for putting together its elaborate monstrosities, or even keeping in mind how to best take advantage of the spell list of a pre-made mid-level wizard NPC. Even sorting through feats for a reasonable list - it's too stressful for me.

So, my requirements are something like...
  • gives player characters the ability to develop various abilities during the course of play
  • provides significant support for both combat and non-combat situations
  • works well with high fantasy settings
  • flexible enough to translate concepts from Pathfinder/Golarion into it
  • accommodates on-the-fly DMing (i.e. "oh, this is a great place to introduce an evil cleric - I'll just take a few minutes to grab X, Y, and Z, and here we go, that'll do in a pinch")

I like how easy it was to run combat in D&D 4e: just take any given monster, look at its list of powers, and run it. You can even create NPC opponents with similar ease: just find two or three appropriate level powers. But... 4e is very much a combat-oriented game, and so - or so I hear - is 13th Age. I am looking for something more narrative.

I've toyed with running Exalted: I love the mechanics. It's flexible, gives players a ton of options for things to do both in- and out of combat, and I can even reskin some of the more exotic elements - like Numeria. However, the only readily-available templates in Exalted are the Solars (whose mechanics play on a scale of power far in excess of your "average" adventurer in Golarion) and Heroic Mortals (which are about right, but have extremely limited options - mechanically).

I've rejected many of the Old School Renaissance (OSR) games out-of-hand because player options for individuation tend to be limited (with the exception of classic spellcasting). My players will be looking for something on the order of Exalted Charms, Earthdawn's Talents, or the supernatural powers from Chronicles of Darkness. Also, I know that any rule system will have blanks for me to fill in, but many of the OSR games with which I am familiar tend to work better for DMs who already know how they want to fill in those blanks.

I'm toying with Earthdawn: I'm running a game of it right now. It takes a lot of the same premises as D&D, but attempts to rationalize them within the setting. I'm not sure how well I could port over those mechanics, and - even if I could - I'm just not sure yet how much I like ED.

I've been reluctant to just custom-build something off of FATE. I'm fine with modifying existing mechanics, but the base FATE game tends to be light on the crunch.

I've heard D&D 5e described as "bland", Fantasy Age as "okay", and Savage Worlds as "awkward", but I don't know enough about them to independently judge whether they'd support the kind of storytelling I'm angling for. So I'm pretty open to your thoughts there.

I've heard Fantasy Craft described as a more polished, tighter version of D&D 3.x/Pathfinder, but I haven't run it myself, and I am concerned about whether I would run into the same magic/feat overload I experience with other 3.x material. My initial read-through of the book was a major struggle, but that had a lot to do with how generic it felt: with an actual setting to which I could apply material, it might feel easier to read.

Although I haven't read GURPS Fantasy, I recognize GURPS as a very daunting system to approach: I'd likely get overloaded quickly.

Modiphius' Conan looks amazing: I love the talent trees, the combat is fun, and it has some support for non-combat stuff. But it's intentionally designed to make magic challenging to obtain and dangerous to use. In its own setting, this is fine (and even admirably faithful to the source material), but that runs into some obvious issues in a high fantasy setting like Golarion.

What are your thoughts?
 
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Alban

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Though I won't deny D&D 4e is very combat-oriented, I disagree you can't use it for other kind of games.
The way it handles non-combat abilities give you a lot of opportunities to make unique characters more easily than other D&D editions.

That wouldn't be my first choice, though. Mythras or Mongoose's Legend would be, I think, with the caveat that non-magical characters might not be an option for very high level play.
 

The Sword Emperor

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Though I won't deny D&D 4e is very combat-oriented, I disagree you can't use it for other kind of games.
The way it handles non-combat abilities give you a lot of opportunities to make unique characters more easily than other D&D editions.
In my experience, the non-combat options of D&D 4e are not robust enough to encourage the kind of game play experience I would go for. There are other games which better incentivize non-combat.

That wouldn't be my first choice, though. Mythras or Mongoose's Legend would be, I think, with the caveat that non-magical characters might not be an option for very high level play.
You'll want to elaborate on these. I don't know what they are.
 

Chris Tavares

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My first thought was Savage Worlds, actually. Let's see:

1) Gives player characters the ability to develop various abilities during the course of play

YES - Edges are the primary means for characters to differentiate each other. Powers (i.e. magic) can also be gained. However, the magic system is strongly geared towards combat magic and the powers are very generic. So in D&D you've got Eldritch Blast, Acid Arrow, Magic Missile, etc. etc. In Savage Worlds there's just the one power: Bolt, with various Trappings. Learn to use & love trappings!

2) Provides significant support for both combat and non-combat situations

YES - A solid skill system, plus systems like chase rules, dramatic tasks, and interludes.

3) Works well with high fantasy settings

YES - There are several what I would consider high fantasy settings available, plus the Fantasy Companion book which provides lots of options for this sort of thing.

4) Flexible enough to translate concepts from Pathfinder/Golarion into it

YES - At least IMHO. The important thing to remember is to convert the concept, not the mechanics.

5) Accomidates on-the-fly DMing

YES - NPC's can be trivially statted up. You don't need to go through a painstaking character creation process. You can go "Ok, this guy's got d6's for stats, a d10 strength, d10 fighting, Brawny edge, and a club. Let's go!"

Combats run very quickly once you get used to them. It's weird - it's the only game I've found where I think combats actually run faster if you're using a grid map, but they're by no means required. I ran one combat where we had six PC's, four friendly NPCs, and about 60 enemies. The combat was over in 20 minutes and everyone had a great time.

As far as other systems, I've read or played most of the others on your list except Exalted.

I really like 13th Age, but the idiosyncratic setup of the game's classes might make it difficult to convert over many Pathfinder characters.

GURPS looks intimidating, but once the GM sets lists of which skills, advantages, and disadvantages to take, it actually runs pretty easily. And if you don't care about NPC point totals you can, again, just give NPCs whatever stats you want. Note - you don't care about NPC point totals. :)

Fantasy Craft is well done, but it is massively crunch, in places I in particular didn't expect. If Pathfinder's too much for you, Fantasy Craft will be way over the top. It's good crunch, but it's a lot of it.

Earthdawn is great as a package, but I don't think the mechanics are anything special outside of the setting, and the magic items are specific to the way magic works in Barsaive, so you won't get the "rings on every finger and a golf-bag full of different magic weapons" that you get in D&D 3 / Pathfinder. Don't know if you consider this a plus or a minus.

Hope this helps.
 

Alban

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You'll want to elaborate on these. I don't know what they are.
Both are evolutions of RuneQuest, and the 5th and 6th published editions of the game under different names, because their respective publishers lost the RQ licence. As both games were designed by the same authors, they're very similar games.

The system is similar to those you can see in Chaosium games such as Call of Cthulhu. It's d100 based with a heavy focus on skills.
It's designed for Medieval Fantasy, though, and offers more detailed rules for melee combat and magic.

Legend has 4 magic systems, and Mythras 5. Both have Animism (summoning and binding of spirits), Theism (casting spells through a link with a divinity) and Sorcery (quite like D&D arcane magic, except spells are more flexible, and your skills define how potent they are).
Myhtras adds Mysticism (for Jedi, Paladins and other half-mage types).
Both also have a system for low-level magic (Common Magic for Legend, Folk Magic for Mythras), but Common Magic allows you to make your spells more potent.

As I said in the post above, it's not possible for non-magical characters to reach high level of power. In the end, a fighter with no magic will just be better at hitting or avoiding blows from his enemies than he were when he was a beginner.
 

Jürgen Hubert

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Although I haven't read GURPS Fantasy, I recognize GURPS as a very daunting system to approach: I'd likely get overloaded quickly.
In that case, I recommend that you get the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Powered by GURPS) that out to come out very soon (you could also get the "GURPS Dungeon Fantasy" PDFs this is based on, but the boxed set is probably the better overall starting point for someone new to the system). It's essentially a "condensed" version of GURPS refined for "dungeon fantasy" - i.e. D&Desque fantasy, which is what Pathfinder is ultimately based on. Quite a few people have used GURPS Dungeon Fantasy for D&Desque campaigns and campaign settings - including one person who ran the Jade Regent Adventure Path with it.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy comes with a bunch of ready-made "character templates", which map fairly well to assorted D&D and Pathfinder classes. You don't have to use them - instead you could simply custom-build your characters however you want - but if you want that D&D/Pathfinder flair they work pretty well.

So what else do you need for a GURPS campaign set in Golarion? Racial templates and monsters. Fortunately, there is an ongoing D&D/Pathfinder conversion effort which (as of this writing) has 50 racial templates and 210 converted creatures (and of course, further additions are always welcome). These ought to last for a while, and once you are familiar with the system you can add the really strange stuff (such as the technological artifacts of Numeria... for that, you will probably want GURPS Ultra-Tech).
 

dysjunct

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I will second the suggestion for Mythras or Legend. Solid system, tactical without the endless build optimizations of PF, easy to learn. Only breakdown is that it can be a deadly system, so if you want a high fantasy feel, use the options that give hero point type of stuff.
 

roko_joko

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5e is going to be the easiest to use with Golarion. I don't think it's bland. And you wouldn't be alone; other people want to do Golarion in 5e too. That seems like the obvious choice unless you have a more specific problem with it.

I don't think Savage Worlds is awkward. It's known for being low prep. Zadmar has 3.5/PF->SW conversions and also spell supplements (google it).
 
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