So, obviously, I’ve been working in a lot of different game systems recently. With the 52-in-52 program, I’m developing the same game content for Pathfinder 1st ed, Pathfinder 2nd ed, Starfinder, and 5e.
It’s been a fascinating view of how the different game systems look at game elements that have the same name, but different functions.
For example, feats.
In Pathfinder 1e and Starfinder, feats are cross-character goodies that are generally designed to be optional, and sometimes tie into class design (such as for the fighter and soldier), but not always.
For Pathfinder 2e, feats are the quintessential character ability, and different kinds of feats are crucial to your ancestry, class, and any archetype you take.
For 5e, feats are entirely optional, and if taken come in place of ability score advancements. Each feat is more potent in many ways, but you can make a character with a single feat, or no feats, and no class depends on feats for any part of its core functions.
As an example, we’re going to take a PF1 teamwork feat, and present it (as a non-teamwork feat) in different versions, one for each of the four game systems.
Here’s the original, a PF1 Teamwork feat
Allied Spellcaster (Teamwork)
With the aid of an ally, you are skilled at piercing the protections of other creatures with your spells.
Prerequisite: Caster level 1st.
Benefit: Whenever you are adjacent to an ally who also has this feat, you receive a +2 competence bonus on level checks made to overcome spell resistance. If your ally has the same spell prepared (or known with a slot available if they are spontaneous spellcasters), this bonus increases to +4 and you receive a +1 bonus to the caster level for all level-dependent variables, such as duration, range, and effect.
Here’s a new PF1 version, that isn’t a teamwork feat
You can aid an allied spellcaster, adding your magic power to their own.
Prerequisite: Caster level 1st.
Benefit: Whenever you are adjacent to an ally who can cast spells, as a standard action you can expend a spell slot or prepared spell of 1st level or higher to attempt to boost their spellcasting ability. This requires a Spellcraft check, DC 10 + double the level of the spell slot expended. On a successful check, you increase their caster level for the next spell they cast before the beginning of your next round by an amount equal to the level of the spell or spell slot expended.
You can also take eldritch power from a willing adjacent spellcaster to boost the power of your own spells. The allied spellcaster must ready to grant you a spell slot or prepared spell of 1st level of 1st level or higher on your turn. If they do so, you make the same Spellcraft check as a swift action and, if successful, for the next spell you cast this round your caster level is increased by an amount equal to the spell level your ally expended.
*So, that plays with both action economy and resource management, but it lets you play the spellcaster who can work in a group without anyone else having to also have the feat in question.
Here’s the same spell for Starfinder.
You can aid an allied spellcaster, adding your magic power to their own.
Prerequisite: Caster level 1st.
Benefit: Whenever you are adjacent to an ally who can cast spells, as a standard action you can expend a spell slot of 1st level or higher to attempt to boost their spellcasting ability. This requires a Mysticism check, DC 10 + triple the level of the spell slot expended. On a successful check, you increase their caster level for the next spell they cast before the beginning of your next round by an amount equal to the level of the spell or spell slot expended. If the spell does damage and does not have a duration, area, or damage calculation based on level, you can instead grant +3 damage per level of spell you expended.
You can also take eldritch power from a willing adjacent spellcaster to boost the power of your own spells. The allied spellcaster takes a standard action to imbue you with energy by expending a spell slot of 1st level or higher on your turn. If they do so, on your turn you can make the same Mysticism check as part of the action to cast your next spell and, if successful, gain the benefits listed above. If you do not cast a spell within 1 round of being imbued, the additional spell energy is lost.
*That’s very similar, though it makes an adjustment for the fact that Starfinder doesn’t generally have damage affected by caster level and readied actions work differently caused us to make some adjustments.
Here’s a version for 5e.
Prerequisite: Caster level 1st or higher
You are skilled at magic manipulatipons. Increase your Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma score by 1.
You can cast a spell to boost the effectiveness of an allied spellcaster within 60 feet, rather than its normal effect. If allied spellcaster casts a spell of their own that is no more than one spell level higher on their next turn, they have advantage on any attack roll the spell requires, or one target of their choice has disadvantage on any saving throw the spell requires.
An ally can cast a spell to boost your effectiveness rather than the spell’s normal effect, giving you the same benefit on your next turn.
*Things in 5e are simpler. Like, way simpler. Advantage or disadvantage is 75% of how the game handles things. And they are pretty big bonuses (work out to about a +4 bonus on a d20), so it’s okay that this only applies to spells of a level close to the level you expend.
That said, weaker feats in 5e also give you a +1 to one ability score (since you gave up a +2 to get the feat), which applies here given how circumstantial this is.
Here’s the same feat for PF2
ALLIED SPELLCASTER FEAT 2
Prerequisites: Expert in Arcana, Nature, Occultism or Religion
You can use the aid reaction to assist an adjacent ally when they cast a spell. This requires a successful Arcana, Nature, Occultism or Religion check (you must be expert in the selected skill) with a DC of 20 + double the level of spell the ally is casting. You must expend a spell slot of 1st level or higher, and you gain a bonus to your skill check equal to the level of the spell expended. You grant the ally a +2 circumstance bonus to their attack roll, or a +1 bonus to the save DC of their spell.
An adjacent allied spellcaster can attempt to use the aid reaction when you cast a spell. This works the same way, except you must make the Arcana, Nature, Occultism or Religion check.
*Pf2 uses a universal proficiency system for everything, so a +2 bonus matters as much at 15th level as it does at 5th level. There’s already an aid action which might be usable if a spell required an attack roll, but it’s not clear how it would apply and it certainly won’t boost save DCs. This cut through that, and is a skill feat spellcasters might really appreciate.
Enjoy this look at one feat in four game systems? want to see more? You can back my Patreon to encourage me to do more of this kind of work, and you can subscribe to the 52-in-52 program to get entire game supplements, one a week for every week of 20020, that are done in four versions, one for each game system!
Since Wes is leaving Paizo for new adventures, I have concluded it’s Wes story time!
The very first “Ecology of” article I got to write for Dragon Magazine was “Ecology of the Mooncalf” in #340. It was also one of the very first article I wrote with Wes as my contact person (maybe the second one I’d done for him). Wes told me by email we “might” have room from a short narrative introduction at the beginning of the article.
So I wrote a super-short short story introduction. I sent in the article, which began with about 500 words of fiction.
Wes sent me a very polite email to let me know that the article was great, but the intro was, it turned out, too long to fit. Knowing what I know now about Wes, I can tell he was just trying to let me down gently.
But at the time? I just figured I needed to trim it.
So I sent him a 350 word version.
Ah, replied Wes, politely. No, the article and art has pretty much filled the page. We couldn’t even fit in a 100-word intro.
STILL not getting the hint, I sent a trimmed-down, 75 word version.
Realizing he was dealing with an idiot, Wes just flat told me there wasn’t room for anything more than 25-30 words.
I sent him a 28-word version and, rather than continue to try to drive home to me that the article would not open with fiction, Wes just put it as a caption over the article’s art.
“Tonight I witnessed a dread omen—something foul descending through the nighttime skies as through from the moon itself.
–Galiel the Astrologer, The Last Journal of Galiel”
Which I have come to realize, is MUCH more cool than the 500 word version.
Wes has a Patreon! Go support it. 🙂
D&D is just a *little* younger than me. It turned 40 this weekend, and I’m 43. But it has been around for all the years I needed it, and I cannot adequately explain how important that was for me. But I’ll try.
I was first introduced to D&D in the summer of 1982. I was staying at my uncle’s house in Tennessee, the year of the Knoxville World’s Fair, while my parents took a trip to Europe. My uncle had a library at least as vast as my parents’ (and mostly with *different* books), and among them was the 1979 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide. I was enrapt.
But that’s *all* the D&D he had, and he’d never played. I wanted to play, and he was willing to run a game, but he wanted me to “figure out how to play” so he could run it for me. There were lots of clues how D&D was supposed to work, but without a Player’s Handbook or Monster Manual, I saw there was a lot of information I needed to fill in before we could try anything.
So, I set to work. I created my own notes for classes, and weapons (which, I remember, included light sabers, space axes from the Lensman books, and the kligat throwing weapon from the Star Trek episode “Friday’s Child”). I have no idea how good the rules I cobbled together were – no copies survived leaving my uncle’s house that summer –but they were good enough for us to get a few games in. It is thus literally true that I was writing rules for RPGs before I had ever played one.
After that I only played at conventions for a few years, though I got all the D&D books I could lay my hands on. My mother initially worried that I would “bother” the RPG players at the cons, as I was 12-13, and they were mostly college age kids. As she tells the story, she took a GM aside at midnight one night and asked if I was a problem. “No,” he said, “his take on his character is interesting. Let him stay.” I was hooked. It was like reading the classic SF and pulp books I loved so much, but better. I survived on Tunnels and Trolls solo dungeons when I couldn’t get to a convention.
When I moved from the local elementary school to a middle school, my game books came with me. As a result, other kids into D&D (and T&T, and Star Fleet Battles, and Champions, and a slew of other games that were blossoming) would see me with my books, and ask if I played. I was a fat kid, an introvert, and socially awkward. Having some flag I could fly that made other kids come to me? Having a subject we could immediately discuss? Those were miracles that changed me. Roleplaying was my gang, and D&D were our colors.
High school was harsh for me, and I can honestly say I was miserable most of the time and considered suicide more than once. But RPGs let me explore ideas I was too afraid to discuss, helped me form a strong social support group, and let me make friends I am still playing with 25 and 30 years later. Nothing else came close to letting me deal with my pain, and learn something about bravery. And planning, math, history, grammar … I doubt there is any positive aspect of my personality I can’t trace back to D&D.
I met my wife through roleplaying, and discovered it was as useful for having something to talk to girls about as it was to make friends. (At least, for the most interesting girls!) In time I learned that my ideas were developed enough I could be paid for them, and a career was born. I strove to be worthy of Dragon Magazine, and later was hired by Wizards of the Coast, where I made more friends with folks I’d have never met if not for this game.
My career has gone many places since then, and now I find myself acting as freelance writer and developer, and small-time publisher in my own right. That has brought ANOTHER whole wave of awesome folks I never would have met otherwise.
D&D gave me hope and direction as a child, and saved my life as a teen. It introduced me to my wife, gave me a career, and put my wife through college. There have been many games that have taken up more of my time for specific periods over the years, and now I spend more time with pathfinder than my original love, but it all goes back to D&D.
Happy birthday to the Dungeons. Happy Birthday to the Dragons. You helped define my life. Thank you.
I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons, or things that are adaptations of D&D, for decades. It’s an awesome game, and when people act as if it somehow is as irrelevant as buggy whips, it ticks me off. Yes, some gamers have discovered they like other kinds of things more, and there are different games for them. Yes, there are things you can do with other RPGs you can’t do with D&D. But I can prove the reverse is also true.
The geek-arrogance of declaring “That thing is dead, and we should leave it behind” appalls me. People still play chess, even though there are things you can’t do with it, and its WAY older than D&D. I enjoy D&D. So do most of my friends. If we’re enjoying ourselves, and gathering for time with our friends, and getting out of the game what we want, who has the right to say our pastime is dull, stupid, or outdated?
I love that RPGs as a field continue to evolve and expand. I enjoy a lot of new, very not-D&D games as well. And I think real progress is made sometimes — my favorite version of D&D isn’t the fantasy rules for Chainmail. But if people enjoy that version of the game, I’m thrilled for them. I also would love to politely talk to them and see what it is they prefer about it — but that’s the game designer in me. 😀