Down to the nitty-gritty of it. To understand if my views are even valid to you, I will give you a brief rundown of the kind of player and Game Master I am. Generally I lean more toward the "role" play aspect of games rather than the "roll" play. Meaning I am less concerned over how awesome mechanically a character can be or how much damage he can put out per round. Instead, I am more interested in the character as a character. The idea of the game is to play someone in a fantasy setting who, like yourself, has a background before the adventure begins. They have hopes and dreams, families and friends. All of this is good for great story. I am bound to remember the story of how my character grew as a monk and a person on his journey of self exploration, rather than how much damage I could dish out. I take feats and skill to reflect the character rather than to be the best at one particular thing. In general, I like skills focused systems better than level based systems as they often more accurately show slow growth of a character. I just find the sudden bursts of improved power to be a bit much. As a general I like a more conservative magic system, and items that benefit the players strengths in obvious and not so obvious way. I enjoy monsters and challenges that make sense for the story, not just to challenge players mechanically. If an innkeeper has locks, I think about what he could afford and let that dictate the lock types and DC's same with traps and dungeons. As such, I have a table of very ingenuity players that, when asked to write personal backgrounds, they excel and are very good with story, so I let them direct the adventure path. I write worlds and stories personalized to my players, not adventure arcs and this seems to fit use nicely.
As such we have tried many systems, we have our favorites and others that we just don't want to play ever again. We do mainly find ourselves going back to Pathfinder RPG by Paizo, mainly since we all grew up with Dungeons & Dragons, but do not like 4th edition. The system is great but I feel that there are a few things that are negative about the system, when it comes to my style of gaming. Skill DC are of particular interest to me. They seem to just be unchanging as a whole. With just a few levels, average locks to a rogue are useless. If the owner of the locked object does not posses the money for good locks and spells to protect the object then it wont be much of a challenge. This is fine in the average situation, but in dungeons locks are on most doors and how much money did the past owner put into the once great keep? If there are traps who would have made them and again the expense that goes into them. Thinking of them as a DC that is hard for them to beat sometimes is not the best way to think of it. Just because you have a fire mage in the party doesn't mean that you should fight back with a fire proof monster, because it is hard it should be part of the story. I also don't care much for experience for kills systems, as it tends to promote reckless behavior and killing that is not always needed. Pathfinder is designed to be a kill for experience system, and it could be modified to meet a story/game experience using static numbers. I have played with a DM that did this and the story actually improved drastically, when players didn't mercilessly kill everything that was in sight. I also have issues with the idea of Hit Point. They seem a bit obscure and I prefer the use of the variant rules of "Wound/Vigor" and "Armor as DR" (both found in Ultimate Combat). I do find that one of Pathfinder's strongest points is the Archetypes and Classes they re-worked from the older D&D 3.5 rule set, to make they viable without the need to take prestige classes.
Pathfinder RPG Overall:
- Classes are well written with many alternative rule sets to support various types of players.
- The lore of the Pathfinder established world of Golarion has extensive lore with histories, kingdoms, heroes, and more.
- The magic system was rethought and expanded to includes many concepts, that are unique to this system adding a bit of charm not found anywhere else.
- The system is very easy to teach
- 3rd Level Spells become drastically more powerful in terms of damage, but instead become less useful for utility reasons. This is more of an arcane magic complaint as divine magic seems to be a bit more even across the board.
- Leveling is a bit faster than I would like even with the slower progression XP chart, you wont be spending 8 months to get to level 10, so it pushes the story a bit.
- After sometime your characters become almost too powerful, even if they have no magic items. They get to the point that after only a round they kill the giant monster that is 4 to five CR higher than then with little damage taken at all.
- Static Defenses, as you become better at fighting you become better at avoiding hits and learn how to take them. Some argue that this is what Hit Point represent but I just don't like that defense don't improve much after level 1 (monks excluded) and I think that Hit Points should instead be static or at least be harder to improve.
All that said, Pathfinder has served as a great system for my table's fantasy games and continues to impress us as a whole. I understand that all systems will have its pros and cons. I am just looking for one that fits us better as a whole.