It didn’t take me very long to desire a more tactical combat RPG system on the tabletop after having played D&D with my group for a while. Insert “have you tried not playing D&D” meme here. Having played a myriad of other RPGs to scratch that itch, I still kept feeling that options were way too limited. There was generally just one thing that a player would do every turn, unless you were some sort of magic user, in which case you were the swiss army knife. This is a big reason why I developed Pantheon. I love strategy, I dynamic decision making, and I love wargames. I have even designed my own. I took all of my own experience as a GM and as a player to make this tabletop RPG the go-to for combat.
- Pantheon Combat Was Designed As A Wargame
I could write an entire article as to this, and I probably will at some point. Random fun fact, Pantheon was originally designed as a game set in the Elder Scrolls universe.
But for now, we need to look at why being designed as a wargame base is important.
Wargames are designed to be balanced between different forces, and present players choices where skill (and luck) combine to pave the way to victory. Not just that, but a lot of other considerations are taken, like how to best use terrain to your advantage. Most of these are hard to come by in tabletops, so it’s welcome to see it here.
- Innovative Action Economy Makes Players Consider Their Actions
Action Points – everyone’s heard of them, a lot of games use them, but they don’t use them optimally. Most of them can be boiled down to this: “You can do 1 major action, or 2 minor actions, and a free action”. It doesn’t matter if you are a hardened warrior or a mystic from the noble classes, you move and act the exact same.
This isn’t the case for Pantheon. Every character, depending on how they’re built, has their own ‘pool’ of action points that they have access to. Because of how initiative works, you have to make a choice between how many your character uses every turn. If it runs out, it’s a sitting duck until the next initiative round.
- Enemy Boss Stages Make You Change Tactics
“I roll to attack” will not get you where you want to go in Pantheon. Sure, there are certain enemies for where this is a viable tactic, but not here. The variety of monsters, demons, and hybrids, all have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Boss enemies are where this is truly exemplified. The stage system changes how their abilities work and how they interact with the players. Perhaps their first stage they can fly and emit a poisonous cloud, and for their second stage they summon earth elementals. And once they are wounded, maybe they go into a frenzy, or reveal a weak point.
It’s a unique experience, and really makes boss fights feel epic rather than a slog of slowly reducing a giant creature’s HP down to zero.
- It Doesn’t Get Bogged Down In Complex Rules or HP Bloat
A lot of tabletop games can get bogged down in overcomplicated rules that don’t add much to the overall experience.As a GM, I’m not trying to spend 2 hours running a basic combat, trying to figure out what happens when you flank someone from the left versus the right, and what happens when have lost your ring finger and there is light rain falling on the battlefield. Some rules are better left to computer games that can calculate firing arcs or specific body hits for you.
Hp Bloat is also a real issue that I’ve seen across many RPGs. Pantheon doesn’t have this issue, because you are still human, albeit empowered by the gods themselves! This also drastically reduces the time spent on combat, and makes sure that players are kept on their toes.
- Players Can Lead Squads Into Battle
It’s one thing as a champion of the gods to fight against monstrous demons and mythological hybrids. You can fight with the best of them, but how are your skills in commanding a squad of troops into battle? This is an entirely different matter.
Skills like persuasion and leadership become even more important, as is your ability to maneuver.
Any ancient Mesopotamian RPG worth its salt has rules for empire building, and it’s hard to build an empire without an army. Your squad in your command will follow you to the gates of the underworld, and to the firmament of the sky.