Thursday, February 16, 2017

Time of the Tarrasque: Sources Used

While I was developing the "Time of the Tarrasque" setting, I had to make some decisions about which Pathfinder sourcebooks to use for my new campaign. These choices affect which books the players are free to reference while creating, playing, and advancing their characters, and also affect which books I will be using as GM. Many of these decisions were informed by how familiar my players and I were with each book: how long I had owned the book, and how much (if any) of its content we had used in past games. This column will review those decisions. For this purpose, I have grouped sourcebooks into primary, secondary, and other sources, based on their level of usage in the campaign.

One house rule that I have in this campaign (and in almost every other RPG that I run) is that if I don't own a sourcebook, it's not allowed in my game. In order to properly judge how a given book might affect my campaign, I insist on having a copy that I can study at my own convenience. And while PDFs and the SRD are very convenient for ease of reference and portability, I vastly prefer print materials when reading any significant amount of text (such as when reviewing a new acquisition for potential use).

Primary Sources

These are the core books that the players and I can expect to use almost every session. 

Core Rulebook [CRB]: All races, classes, feats, equipment, and spells in this book are available to player characters. This is the one and only book that I expect each player (or player household) to possess their own copy of.

Advanced Player's Guide [APG]: All new classes in this book are available to player characters. Most other new material in this book is freely available as well, though APG spells are considered uncommon and thus less easy to find and learn than CRB spells. (See "Spells" on the campaign wiki's Character Creation page for my house rule about uncommon divine spells.)

Advanced Race Guide [ARG]: At the start of this campaign, only the core races are available as PCs. Most alternate racial traits and other race-specific options for those races are allowed; however, I have made a few cosmetic changes to some races (such as bonus languages) to better fit my world's history and geography, which I have noted on the campaign wiki. I may allow other races as PCs later in the campaign, if it fits the story to do so. Meanwhile, I will be using material from this book for NPCs of the non-core races. (Orcs, hobgoblins, and kobolds will all feature prominently in the campaign, for example.)

Bestiary: Players can use this book for reference for mounts, familiars, and summoned monsters. Otherwise it should be considered GM's-eyes-only unless I specifically say otherwise.

Secondary Sources

The players can expect these books to come into play on a more limited basis. 

Adventurer's Armory: Most equipment in this book is available, with GM permission. I will allow players to use the alchemical power components rules.

Animal Archive and Familiar Folio: These two books provide new options for familiars, animal companions, and mounts, which players can choose with GM permission. 

Bestiary 2 and Bestiary 3: In general, monsters from these two books are not as common as those from the first Bestiary, but there are exceptions. I reserve these books for my own use.

GameMastery Guide: Most of this book consists of advice for GMs on running the game, which will certainly inform my campaign. As for the crunchier bits, I have used the sections on the planes and settlements in designing the world, and will be making regular use of the NPC Gallery.

Ultimate Campaign: So far, we have only used this book for background traits and drawbacks, and (for a few players who were interested in using it) the background generation system. However, I plan to use the downtime rules on a trial basis when the opportunity arises, and I will allow PCs to use the retraining rules. The mass combat rules will likely see use at some point before the campaign ends.

Other Sources

I am reserving these books for my own use for now, for one or more of the following reasons:1) they are GM-specific sourcebooks, 2) I haven't decided how much of their content to use in the game, or 3) I want to limit the scope of character options until later in the campaign.

Advanced Bestiary (Green Ronin Publishing): This collection of templates will see occasional use in the campaign. 

Advanced Class Guide [ACG]: This is one of my most recent acquisitions (just a few months ago), so I have not yet had an opportunity to try out the new material in it. I found most of the new hybrid classes to be rather complicated for my tastes (requiring more text and/or bookkeeping than the older classes) so I am not currently using them. Also, many of the archetypes and feats in this book are designed to let a character gain the abilities of another class, making the end result feel very similar to a new hybrid class. On first read, this seems to go against the "niche protection" design philosophy behind much of the rest of the game system. I will need more time to study this material (mostly by seeing it in play at Pathfinder Society events) before I decide what, if anything, to allow. There are, however, a few spells, feats, and magic items that look like they'll be useful for this campaign even if I never introduce any hybrid classes.

Bestiary 4 and Bestiary 5: I haven't owned these two bestiaries as long as I have the first three, so naturally they feature less prominently in my plans for the game. In addition, these two books contain a selection of monsters that require the Mythic Adventures rules, and Bestiary 5 has several that require the psychic magic rules from Occult Adventures (see below about those sources).

Monster Codex and NPC Codex: I will use NPCs from these two books from time to time. 

Mythic Adventures: "Time of the Tarrasque" is meant to be an epic campaign, so I will almost certainly introduce these rules at some point. However, I don't intend to do so before the PCs have attained several levels. We need more time to get acquainted with the characters before they ascend, and I want to make sure everyone has mastered the core rules before adding this additional layer of complexity. 

Ultimate Combat and Ultimate Magic: Along with the ACG, these are my newest acquisitions, though I have owned all three in PDF ever since they were part of a Pathfinder Humble Bundle in early 2016. Between the PDFs and the Pathfinder SRD, I was familiar with bits and pieces of these two books before I owned them in print, and I do intend to use some of this material in "Time of the Tarrasque." However, I plan to put off implementing them for a while yet, just so that my players and I can keep the amount of information that we have to juggle to a more manageable level during the early phases of the campaign. The heroes might occasionally encounter a NPC who knows one or two feats or spells from these books, but those will be rare secrets that would require the PCs to do something special to gain access to them. I have no plans to ever allow firearms, gunslingers, ninja, or samurai, as they do not fit the world I've built. (I'm still undecided about magi, but they would be extremely rare at best.)

Ultimate Equipment: At the moment, I only own this book in PDF, but intend to acquire it in print eventually. I will be allowing new items from this book on a case-by-case basis (and already have for a few common items, like bandoliers, which should be easily available but only appear in this book). 

Sources Not Used

Finally, I own a few Pathfinder books that I don't expect to ever use in the course of this campaign.

Freeport: The City of Adventure (Green Ronin Publishing): This huge setting book includes a great deal of excellent content that can be used in any Pathfinder game. However, I just concluded a Freeport campaign this past fall, so am unlikely to use the new crunch from this book unless and until I run more adventures there.

Inner Sea World Guide: This book (which I only own in PDF) is very specific to the default setting of Golarion, so has very little that I would ever consider using for my campaign. (I also own a handful of Pathfinder Player Companions specific to Golarion, which likewise would have very limited usefulness for this campaign.)

Occult Adventures: I don't have any plans to introduce psychic magic into "Time of the Tarrasque," and (like the ACG) this book's new classes are a bit complicated for my taste, so I don't foresee using this book for the campaign.

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