Tag Archives: Pathfinder

“Please allow me to introduce myself…”

This is my first post for Stargazer’s World. Some readers may have seen my comments on Michael’s and Sunglar’s articles in the past. Like most of us I guess I have been playing RPGs since the early 1980s starting with D&D basic set (red box in my case). I am a long term advocate of Iron Crown’s Rolemaster system but I also love really simple d6 systems.

Michael suggested I use my first post as an opportunity to introduce myself but writing about yourself is hard. If you start listing stuff you have done or written then it sounds really egotistical and if you don’t then you end up with a rather blank resumé. So I will just say that I have done stuff and I will probably mention it in passing in my future posts. So that is quite enough about me and now I will move on to RPGs which is why you are here in the first place and is not something I feel awkward writing about.

This year’s #RPGaDAY has had a lot of questions about game design, from a physical product point of view, the quality of the writing, the quality of the page layout, the art and so on. One of the things I do do is I run a fanzine. This means I am writing and publishing stuff for other people to consume every single month. During #RPGaDAY it was really interesting to take a long and critical look at many of my favourite games to see how they measured up against games being released today. I reached the conclusion that great design can make a game look so good that you want to play it even if the actual rules are not really either new or engaging.

It helps to have great art but it is not essential. For some game systems art can make too many suggestions about how things should be. My orcs and goblins could be very different to yours. RPGs take place in the mind’s eye and you do not need a picture for everything. On the other hand if you are looking for a Star Wars RPG then you want to see pictures of X-wings and light sabres. There, having the right art makes you want those things, it sells the setting.

For me one of the best presented games I have ever seen is FATE. Ironically, I think FATE is a terrible game and not one bit of it appeals to me. Maybe I just don’t get it? Not everyone can like everything, after all.

So is good visual design important? I think it is if we want to encourage new players into the game or if you are looking to revive and out of fashion game. Good page and book layouts can make rules easy to navigate and make play at the table run faster. Great art can enthuse readers into wanting to run the game even as a one off to give it a go. If you litter your game with iconic images from a particular time people will buy into it. Imagine a ‘modern day’ RPG and it is littered with images of Chopper bikes and Atari games consoles and it screams 80s. That lends itself to cold war intrigue. Take the same rules and game mechanics and add some psychedelic designs and flared trousers and a red and white Gran Tourino and you are in for a Starsky and Hutch campaign. Show me helicopter gunships hovering over the jungle and I am up for a rolling up a Vietnam vet as a character.

An example of this StarFinder. Same old rules but new imagery, new looking books and you have PathFinder in space. Is it any good? That is a matter of personal choice. Does it look good? It sure does. Will people give it a go? Of course they will. Who doesn’t want to battle space pirates?

Do I want to play it? Not really but on the other hand where is that bright red Gran Tourino? That is a game I would be interested in seeing!

PDFs: Who Needs ‘Em?

Some time ago I was invited to a Pathfinder game run by a friend of a friend. I wasn’t certain how things would work out; I had attempted to join a game some time last year and my schedule didn’t permit me to play very often so I dropped out. The only copy of the rules I owned was a PDF of the Core Rulebook I purchased from Paizo before the ill-fated game. After speaking with the GM I knew I wanted to play an alchemist or a witch, so I went the extra mile and got a PDF of the Advanced Player’s Guide as well.

The game is going well. Thing is, it took me three sessions to make my character. I knew his name and his base attack bonus and things like that, but all the fiddly bits like feats and skill points were a bit up in the air. I also wasn’t as comfortable with combat as I should have been. Every time I threw a bomb I found myself checking the “Throw a Splash Weapon” section of the Core Rulebook.

Each time I did, I would reach for another player’s copy of the book.

PDFs of roleplaying games are everywhere. Thanks to sites like DriveThruRPG they are accessible and affordable alternatives to hard copies of the books, and it is possible to find things that are no longer on store shelves. I myself have a pretty hefty folder of them that I acquired during a year abroad, which satiated my RP needs at the time. There is no doubt they provide a great convenience.

Yet, at the risk of being a Luddite, they simply don’t work for me at the game table. For Pathfinder, they haven’t even worked too well for me away from the table. PDFs are great for getting an overview of a game, or learning the basics, but I don’t absorb the information the same way I do when I have a physical copy of the book in front of me. It’s not just a technology gap, either; I own a NOOK that I use often.

Why isn’t this working?

Trying to reference anything in a PDF is a pain. Scrolling is slow. The search function takes time, and doesn’t always get me where I want. I can page through a book quickly, and I’m skilled at using indices. I imagine a tablet would resolve several of my issues, but I can’t afford one right now, and even then you still have to zoom in to read text. The layout for most RPG books is much larger than your average paperback. All that zooming and scrolling distracts me from the experience of the book itself. On the other hand, the typical eReader displays all its text on one screen and requires only the click of a button to progress.

I can’t argue that PDFs have their place in gaming. I got my first PDF when Monte Cook’s Malhavoc Press was new and released the Book of Eldritch Might to an uncertain digital market. I’m glad to have the titles that I do. At the table, though, PDFs just can’t beat a good book. I recently picked up both the Core Rulebook and Advanced Player’s Guide for Pathfinder in paper form, and since then my comfort with the rules has improved. I sit down with the books in my spare time and I read them. I am spinning the starting threads of my own campaign that may or may not see play. All-in-all, I am having fun.

How about you? Are you on board with the digital revolution, or are you still holding a buggy whip like me?

Review: Kobold Quarterly #22

The cover of KQ #22, depicting a woman in plate armor with a glowing green sword astride a silver dragon Summer marches onward, scorching us with unrelenting heat. My only relief is the Summer 2012 issue of Kobold Quarterly. It has a pretty wicked cover of a dragon and its rider, and has “Preview: 13th Age” right there. Promising stuff. There is even a Castles & Crusades article, for the old school among you. Let’s see how it measures up.

Barbatos by Wes Schneider, art by Pat Loboyko and Callie Winter

Right out of the gate we have a very strong article about the Bearded Lord of Avernus, the uppermost layer of Golarion’s Hells. I am not well-versed in Golarion lore, so it is appropriate that Barbatos is the gatekeeper. Barbatos’s domains include Evil, Law, Magic, and Travel. Travel is what interests me most. His temples are animal graveyards, crossroads, stone circles, and unmarked graves. An interesting mix, to be sure, and it could offer up some excellent opportunities for side encounters during a campaign.

In my review of KQ’s previous issue, I said that when something mysterious is laid bare, it loses its allure. I don’t feel that happens in this article. We learn about Barbatos’s allegiances, rivalries, and some of his methods, but it does not delve too deeply into his history or his life in Avernus. More generally, it is not an ecology article. Much of the piece discusses Barbatos’s cults, haunts, and servitors (the utterly disgusting edavagors).

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