Recently Paizo released its Q2 sales figures, which showed that Pathfinder was beating Dungeons and Dragons 4e in sales, which is a pretty big deal. More people are being drawn to the new old hotness and for good reason: it's a streamlined, well designed game that ironed out most of the problems inherent in 3.5. While 3rd edition still splits opinion, there's no doubt that Pathfinder rekindled people's love for the system. Enter the Peryton Fantasy Role-Playing Game, a creation by Peryton Publishing that seeks to take 3rd edition and trim the fat. Is the game a valiant champion or just another adventurer who's just run into a Gelatinous Cube?
The first thing that becomes apparent with PFRPG is that it's not just a carbon copy of 3.5. While the core OGL system that we know and sometimes love is there, there is a variety of creative differences. Classes have been cut down considerably to: Berserker, Fighter, Rogue, Mystic, Wizard and Templar. Sure there are a few familiar faces, but what about the new guys in the hood? The Berserker is a Barbarian for all intents and purposes and the Templar is a Paladin-Cleric cross breed. The most interesting is the Mystic, who is like a non-martial Monk with a thirst for knowledge. These guys shun armour in favour of dexterous combat and mind powers, becoming immune to all sorts of effects at higher levels.
Another change and a more 'indie' addition to the system are 'knacks', which are a more evolutionary version of skills. Instead of presenting you with pages of skills and feats, PFRPG has the knack system, where successful checks in the game can lead to new skills applied when levelling. Say your character had done a good few days research in the library and succeeded in finding the whereabouts of an ancient treasure, the DM would note down these checks and come up with a new knack for the player, such as 'Gather Information'. This freeform skills system works well, but it does require more book-keeping for the GM, which could be a pain. However, it makes the game quicker to get into and provides a more logical method of acquiring new skills.
The usual class abilities are present here, as well as all the spells a growing wizard could ever need. In addition, PFRPG has a cool alchemy system that lets players brew their own potions in a unique way. Alchemical mixtures are made from essence, oil and salt, of which the first two need to be harvested from plants and minerals. For instance, Black Moss contains Oil of Wisdom and Essence of Intelligence as well as a mundane salt. Using a solvent will extract one required aspect and render the other useless in the process. Putting an essence and an oil of the same type together will create a potion that gives a limited attribute bonus, but certain salts allow different oils and essences to be matched to create something completely new. It's a great little system that doesn't need pages of rules and lets players and the GM let their imaginations run wild with new concoctions.
Of course, the game wouldn't go anywhere if the rules weren't clear and fortunately the system is well-presented and easy to understand. The book contains everything needed to play, including a GM section, monsters and a run down on how to create adventures. Illustrations, although infrequent, are generally of high quality but there are some the stand out as fairly amateur.
Combat rules are kept relatively simple, tossing out much of the tactical crunch found in the original game in lieu of letting the GM decide what's best in a certain situation. Those who prefer a more tactical miniatures game may be put off by this, but if combat is sped up as a result of a) not having to flick through the book or, b) incessant rules-lawyers, then this more rules-lite approach can only be a good thing.
If you're looking for that 3rd edition vibe without most of the fiddly rules and a dose of indie inspiration then PFRPG is well worth picking up. It doesn't take huge leaps with the system, but the streamlined rules and versatile skills system make this a game that's easy to pick up and play.