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Archive for the ‘Pathfinder’ Category

I’m always churning on a handful of side projects but I went to Gencon with the goal of pitching a couple of my designs to publishers. I succeeded, got some great feedback, and outdid my own expectations. I’ll be recapping that experience over the next several days but before I get into that I want to put out my Gencon highlights.

Highlights

Wow

Really, wow – it was about as big as I expected, but there was such variety in what you could do and see and experience. I was overwhelmed from the moment I walked in the door, and disheartened when I realized there was no way to do all of it, especially with my busy schedule. There was just way too much to see.

Indianapolis is an amazing city – the current leadership has really gone out of their way to make this a place for those who visit, from the new airport to the way the area around the convention is clean and well planned. They rolled out fireworks (not for us but for the motocross people) and had a strong police presence wherever there was a crowd, so you felt safe. Really a great place to visit and they know how to handle large crowds.

I spent half my time at the con volunteering for Paizo. They make this little game called Pathfinder and released their Pathfinder Adventure Card Game at the convention. I demoed the game in the exhibition hall and in return they helped offset the cost for going. In retrospect, the free time to wander may have been worth not volunteering, but if you are short of funds this is a great way to get to a con. I also got some nifty swag out of the deal, met some great people, and had a lot of fun demoing what may have been one of the most popular demos at the convention (the game sold out the first day and we had a consistent line the entire time).

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

The Pathfinder Adventure Card Game

I only made it to a couple of non-work / non-volunteer events. Two of these were stellar. The Fantasy improv Roguish Skullduggery (by the Damsels of Dorkington) was hilarious but not for the sexually conservative or easily offended. The True Dungeons event (haunted house meets LARPing) was also a highlight. It helped that other players shared their Tokens with me but I would have loved the experience regardless.

Lowlights

Radisson Flood

Radisson Flood

I didn’t stay near the convention center. You really need to book a hotel 6-8 months (maybe earlier) to get anywhere near the convention center and my plans hadn’t firmed up at that point. I stayed at the Airport Radisson, thinking I could just do the airport shuttle as transport. Unfortunately theAairport Radisson isn’t anywhere near the airport. The city tore down and rebuilt the airport recently leaving the Radisson (and one another hotel that I understand is facing bankruptcy) alone in the middle of nowhere. The hotel must be suffering because of this and they had some hurdles. For instance a pipe broke and flooded their downstairs rooms, and then they were without water. They also had old advertisements that didn’t really apply to their current reality. Transportation by Taxi is really expensive, too (25-30$) each way to the convention center.

Advertised breakfast buffet versus actual breakfast buffet

Advertised breakfast buffet versus actual breakfast buffet

Luckily I found a great shuttle service called Personal Touch who had great rates and was staffed by very friendly, helpful folks. They saved me about 150$ in traveling costs over the con and made sure I got to all my events on time.

Convention food is worse at Gencon than any other con I’ve ever been to. The worse. Bar none. Pack snacks. Pack Healthy snacks.

Coffee is also terrible at the con but there are Starbucks waiting across just about every sky-bridge (each hotel adjoining the convention center seems to have them).

Always carry snacks and coffee with you

Always carry snacks and coffee with you

Wil Wheaton never called me once

For next time

Don’t expect to be able to buy all the new releases you are hearing about unless you line up outside the exhibition hall early to beat the rush to the booth you want on the first day. Most of the exhibitors explained that you could have pre-ordered stuff online for con pick-up, which is what I’ll be doing next year.

Bring cough drops. If your voice is wavering after long days of demo-ing  cough drops/throat lozenges work wonders.

Next time I vow to spend more time playing games and less time demoing them.

Pro Tip

If you wait till Sunday exhibitors who aren’t local can be bartered with for their goods. Truth is, they don’t really want to have to pay to ship all of their boxes back to whatever city they originated from.

I’ll leave you with this photo of a Dark Elf playing Lords of Waterdeep.  More about my games coming up.

Dark Elf plays Lords of Waterdeep

Dark Elf plays Lords of Waterdeep

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Here’s our best and worst of 2012 in RPGs. Enjoy and a have a happy New Year!

Tabletop RPGs

Best Adventure: Streets of Zobeck

Burglary, mad science, demons – really, it’s all covered in these 7 awesome adventures for the anti-hero.

midgard_zobeck_map

Best Setting: Midgard

Wolfgang Baur’s home campaign brought to life over the years but most substantially with this year’s RPG campaign guide of the same name. Seemingly inspired by old school campaign guides and real world mythology (Norse, fey) there’s great depth and world variety here especially with the pantheon (love how Midgard handles clerical domains), status rules, dragon kings, Leylines, unique takes on races – really, what isn’t there to love?

midgard_cover

Best Supplement: Gamemastery Chase Cards

Another great example of Paizo innovation, these cards help expand on something that’s normally poorly documented in RPG rules (surprising considering chases are common happenstance in play). These cards help make the chase scenes more dramatic, more  interesting for players, and easier for game masters to run. Well done.

Best Tabletop RPG Innovation: Google Hangouts

Networking and play seem to be growing online due to this not so recent tech – it will be interesting to see if this continues to grow or fatigue out.

Best RPG Kickstarter: Monte Cook’s Numenera

Funding new IP that traditional publishers would skirt past is exactly what Kickstarter is for, and Numenera is a perfect example of the fans and a creator coming together like peanut butter and chocolate. It blew past it’s initial 20k goal hitting half a mil and many stretch goals, and without Kickstarter fans may not have the chance to see this upcoming campaign setting in all its glory.

Best RPG Hobby Mashup: Crochet and RPGs

This:

crochet-Goblin

And this:

crochet_dwarf_beard

Quite possibly the best mashup of all time.

Best Beta: DnDNext

Love it or hate (and there’s many on both sides) Mike Mearls is certainly getting buzz aplenty and players invested in the latest iteration of the classic game.

Best RPG Craiglist Ad: The Infamous DnD Bachelor Party Ad

Requirements from the actual ad:

  • Dungeon Master experience in Dungeons and Dragons (preferably in 3rd or 3.5 Editions)
  • Must be able to provide a picture including the face and body…
  • It is preferable that cup size be at least C or greater.
  • If books are needed it must be stated ahead of time however it would be preferable if the DM had her own.

“I ensure you that nothing else is expect of you other than an exciting adventure.”- Uh huh. Catch the original here:

Board Games

Best Board game of the Year: Lords of Waterdeep

Finally an approachable Waterdeep, a Waterdeep even the geekiest among us can share with glee with friends who didn’t spend their adolescent nose deep in a Forgotten Realms module.  A simple, strategic and competitive game with high quality components and  great art that even your non-geek friends will like playing. Thank you WotC.

Lords_of_waterdeep_board_game

Biggest Board Game disappointment: The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul

All the  potential (a co-op game where you can play as Nazguls, I mean come on) and all the power and popularity of the biggest RPG franchise behind it. Sadly it seems more money was put into licensing than the game art, components, rule writing or into playtesting this awkward  co-op cube pulling experience – and it’s by no means the worse LOTR game ever printed.

pic1208956_md

part 2 coming shortly…

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Been a little busy with NaGADeMon but was finally able to catch up on Zub’s chronicles –  in this issue Valeros and his companions drag one captured cultist around while tracking the rest, encountering ghouls as they go.

I’ve been an advocate for this comic so far – however, the story momentum seems to be slowing down, and they need to fill it with more than just random encounters. As much I enjoy a good wandering monster, ones that aren’t seemingly tied to the story are a bit of a drag.

That said, there are some nice character moments with Merisiel (although diehard Pathfinder fans probably already know all about her background) and the DM inside of you fills with joy when you see that the book comes with an entire scenario. The Pauper’s Grave cemetery that the characters encounter  has an in depth history write up, boss, detached map and a fully fleshed out scenario.

Quiet Character moments with Merisiel

Summary – story is beginning to drag, but the DM supplements almost make up for it.

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I’m becoming hooked on the light hearted, full of fight and refreshingly fun fantasy Pathfinder comic book. We’re only on issue two and I’m already excited to see what battles our fighter types charge heedlessly into next issue.

Seoni and Ezren

Seoni and Ezren trade jabs

Besides lots of goblin fighting we get a glimpse of the first major antagonist in this issue (but no spoilers here). We have a full party now, too:

  • Valeros the rash fighter
  • Kyra (cleric/paladin, also rash but with different motivations)
  • Seoni – sorceress
  • Merisiel – Elf rogue
  • Ezren – wizard
  • Harsk – Dwarf ranger (your typical surly Dwarf so far)

I’m a big fan of Jim Zub’s writing, although I think he’s still struggling to find some of the characters voices (except maybe Valeros) and a few of the comic lines seem bit off timing wise (as if Zub and Huarat aren’t quite in sync for those panels). But the bits that work work really well – and the dialogue is what carries the comic. My favorite lines are from the rhyming, singing goblins.

Huarat really brings the facial expressions (although I’m not a big fan of the pathfinder elf eyes – are they supposed to be deer eyes?) and great fights. Outside of the action the world backdrop is beautiful and full of life, and the art is still holding up to what I’d invasion Pathfinder style would be like in comic book form.

Merisiel

Merisiel with her black doe-like eyes…

Finally, the book comes with in-depth character sheets and lots of background material to tease a DM, part of what I think makes this a solid innovative product for Paizo. I can’t imagine you not wanting to pick this up, whether you are a Pathfinder or a Comic fan.

Pathfinder #2 is now available at your local store, or online from Paizo or Dynamite.

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There’s a lot of innovation happening in RPGs, but it doesn’t seem to be led by Wizards.

DnD was an innovation itself (of the miniature tactical war gaming scene), and in its lifetime TSR has come up with so many new concepts that have become mainstream, from the Underdark and Drow, to dungeon deathtraps like Tomb of Horrors, to DragonLance and Kender, to Ravenloft. Wizards has created also added quite a bit, from Dragon born, Tieflings and Aasimir, Sorcerers, etc.

But decades of innovation has made DnD very involved. This is a problem with 4th edition, where the rules are too overwhelming. Unlike early editions that were fairly easy to pick up the game is no longer intuitive for new players, and there are so many class skills and special abilities that play requires hours of rulebook thumbing and magic items have lost their sense of power and wonder. It’s also all so very, very polished, almost to the point of feeling like it has lost its soul (aka Diablo III).

Old vs new

Old vs New

That’s why I loved DnDnext – picking up the original playtest harkened back to the days when rules where simple (if unbalanced) – at least up until the latest class updates. Listening in on the online rounds of complaints (mine in included) with the addition of the sorcerer and warlock classes, already the game is seemingly veering away from that hardcore whitebox feel that us veterans were drawn to.

Can you imagine DnDNext without a sorcerer? Without Dragonborn? I can. I happen to agree with Mxyzplk; we don’t need a wizard and a sorcerer and a warlock in the core rules, and I was never really onboard when these were brought into the game originally. But a whole generation was, so somewhere out there I suppose there is a hardcore sorcerer fanbase that would be up in arms if the class wasn’t a primary choice in DnDNext, even though I’m still having a hard time seeing how the class is anything other than a mage with a slightly altered casting mechanic.

But this is Wizard’s crutch. Their goal can’t really be to innovate, it has to be sustaining the current system, which means being stuck trying to appeal to their giant, existing, grumpy fanbase, which includes a generation who somehow think the sorcerer belongs, and others like me who somehow expect them to re-systemize a multiple-decades long stream of rules additions. To innovate, they would need to somehow crib their market and fanbase.

I still have hope – At GenCon Mike Mearls spoke to making the rules modular, having it look more like a classic version of DnD, and focusing on simplified rules and stripping down the mechanics to make way for adventure, exploration, and storytelling.

And of course there’s also all this other innovation to keep us fanboys happy. Paizo is doing an amazing job of wowing their customers (they don’t seem afraid to put out material that appeals to only small segments of their customers). Open Design has spawned a whole new type of sponsorship and Kobold. Shockingly, despite the downed economy, other custom rulesets continue to show up in the online/non-print space and other Kickstarter RPG products that target niches keep popping up left and right (see Aleph, or Homicidal Transients, or The Dwarven Adventurers Project, or the Random Dungeon Generator as a Dungeon Map). In many ways, RPG design and innovation has never been as strong, diverse and as pervasive as it is today – even though retail appears to be dying.

So what am I trying to say? Not sure, exactly.

Maybe I’m just nostalgic for the Whitebox – maybe I’m mis-interpreting my youthful days when everything seemed sunnier, simpler, and cheaper.

Maybe I also want new rules that “play fast, that disdain minutiae, that are easy for the GM and players to mutate on the fly, and that punish character mistakes with sudden death.”

Maybe what I want is a true fork, with a revised simple Whitebox hardcore DnD, separate from the evolving editions (coke vs coke classic, maybe)? Would that free up Wizards enough to keep core profits yet have innovation? Maybe they need to spin-off another Paizo for DnDnext?

Maybe what I want is something totally different, like a completely online / electronic version of the game built from sharing advancement in technology and standardized MMO parts, or a diceless version that uses cards only.

Steve Jackson Games is relaunching Ogre (Designer’s Edition) on Kickstarter – maybe I want to see Wizards do a similar Kickstarter edition vamp with Whitebox.

Maybe I should just stop whining and tackle some of the above projects myself.

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I recently picked this up and not only enjoyed the read but thought this was a great idea. This is a well written comic that also includes typical tabletop module sections like character sheets for the main characters, a map and detail on the town in the story (Sandpoint), adventure hooks for DMs, and encounters.

There are several cover variants with the interior art by freelancer Andrew Huerta who somehow manages to keep the art within the Pathfinder style (every character is carrying multiple unnecessary trinkets and weapons) and keeps the action panels crisp.

It’s written by Jim Zub who is a great choice for this sort of endeavor – if you haven’t read Skull Kickers you should pick it up (I found SkullKickers to a bit shallow and overly bloody in places but it’s probably the funnest fantasy themed type comic of the past few years).

The story isn’t anything you haven’t experienced before in RPG/Fantasy (at least so far) but the characterization and dialogue is off to a good start with this first issue and there’s promise of more characters to come. We’re introduced primarily in the beginning to a trio: Valeros (fighter + overly indulgent), Seoni (Sorcerer + overly mysterious) and Merisiel (Rogue + overly chaotic). Others (like a dwarf ranger) I expect will help round out the party but enter into the story a little late to get to know this issue.

What I like best about the title, however, is how Paizo is innovating in this space with a new product type. This is a mashup of comic and tabletop module. It likely only appeals to a sub-niche of their customers but they seem willing to build products for those smaller segments. Kudos to both Paizo and Dynamite for taking this risk.

I’m looking forward to following this series. Pick it up yourself from Paizo here or see some of the art (like the page below) on Dynamite’s site here.

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