Monday, January 30, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #3

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #3: What kind of gamer are you? Rules Lawyer, Munchkin/Power Gamer, Lurker, Storyteller/Method Actor, or something else? (Search "types of gamer" for more ideas!) How does this affect the kinds of games you play? For example, maybe you prefer crunchy rules-heavy systems to more theatrical rules-light ones.

This one is a bit complicated to answer. I think the answer is "chameleon" gamer. I change my play style depending on the situation and the people at the table. I tend to be the "Storyteller/Method Actor" type most of the time. I like to really "get in to character" when I am roleplaying. If I am at a table of like-minded gamers I can really get into it. For example, I was playing in a playtest session for Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. My character was named Gareth, a Chaotic Evil Thief. I played him for two sessions. I really got into character and had a blast doing it. Most of the second session revolved around me and my maniac need to fulfill my dark god's will. It was awesome. Everyone at the table seemed to have a great time. However, when I am at a table of "Rules Lawyers" I tend to become a lawyer as well. I can also become the "Lurker" if I am overwhelmed by other "Storyteller/Method Actors" who are running away with the game.

I am not sure my play style really affects my choices in the games that I play. I tend to prefer rules-light systems, but I will happily play rules-heavy ones. I love playing Pathfinder, but I think my favorite system right now is Savage Worlds. SW is a fairly simple system, but it has a satisfying amount of crunch. PFRPG is a rules-heavy system. I have played Rolemaster before and enjoyed it. I also had fun with Amber Diceless Roleplaying. Fudge was also good fun, as was HERO. Before getting involved with Pathfinder I never thought I would want to learn another heavy system, and I had a hearty dislike for the system when I first started playing it (I was never a fan of D&D 3.x). I merely tolerated it in order to participate in the Pathfinder Society. However, it has grown on me over time. Now, I am a fan of the system. I would say that when it comes to games, I am an eclectic gamer.

[D&DNext/5e] The Mid-Life Crisis Edition

Now that it is 2012 it must be time for a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons. Apparently that is what WotC decided, anyway. I won't call D&D 4e an abysmal failure, but it seems that if WotC is dumping it after only one term in office (so to speak) there must be something wrong.

I make no secret that I don't like 4e. Don't get me wrong it is a fabulous game. Solid and well designed with tons of good ideas. It just isn't D&D to me. That is not the whole story of my dislike, but that is my biggest hangup. As someone who once-upon-a-time played World of Warcraft, I find that it has a definite "MMO-like" feel to it. I also don't like the focus on tactical combat and the way the battlemat is handled. (No, I don't like square fireballs. Had they used hexes rather than squares I would not have an issue.) Lots of people like the game. I have several friends that play and love it. It is just not my game. If you like it and want to play it, good. Please do so. Just don't flame me for criticizing your game. I don't have to like it. There is no reason to get "Internet Mad" about it.

... Sorry, I got defensive there for a second.... Right, nothing to see here. Let's move along, shall we.

It does surprise me that 4e didn't last longer. I have heard that the game isn't selling, but that is only anecdotal. I have seen no sales figures to back it up. So, I am not sure why WotC is scrapping it after only four years. It still surprises me that they are. After all, each of the other editions had a much longer shelf life. This indicates a problem in the profit department. Perhaps sales were flagging, perhaps players were leaving. I don't think WotC is going to say and I suppose ultimately it doesn't matter. They have announced the next edition. They are moving on, and so should we.

Will this be, to paraphrase Tolkien, "one edition to rule them all" as WotC says they are trying to make? Frankly, I hope so. I hope they succeed in their design goals, because that sounds like a cool game. One that I would love to play.

It also sounds like D&D is having a mid-life crisis. The design team wants to unify the players of all previous editions into one player-base. In order to do this the team played each edition of D&D in order to find the best parts of each edition and to find the commonalities between all of them. Basically they wanted to find the "core of D&D". This could be considered to be analogous to a person reaching middle-age and looking back at their youth, and then trying to recapture it. This might sound like a bad thing, but it doesn't have to be. I want D&D to get its 'mojo' back. (If indeed it ever lost it to begin with.)

I like the modular approach they are taking. I like that they are focusing on Player/DM interactions, i.e. roleplaying before dice rolls. I like that they are keeping the classic "Vancian" (memorize-fire-forget) magic system, but are also going to include ritual magic and other magical systems. I like that the battlemat is going to be an optional rules module; that what they are calling "theater of the mind" will be the default for combat. I definitely like that that they are focusing on PC Attribute scores; making them more important and deriving fewer things from them. E.g., saving throws are (at least in the playtests reported by Enworld.org) based directly off of the ability score modifiers.

I hope that WotC makes an edition which causes the Grognards to stop grumbling. It is a lofty goal. It will be difficult to achieve. I wish the design team success in this endeavor.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #2

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #2: What is it about gaming that you enjoy the most? Why do you game? Is
it the adrenaline rush, the social aspect, or something else?

There are a multitude of reasons why I game. The social aspect is important, but I am not sure if it is most important. However if it is not number one, it is definitely in the top five. I am most comfortable around other gamers. They understand my humor. We share a similar world view. Gamers tend to be outsiders. It is with other gamers that I feel most accepted and most welcome, like the gaming table is my place in the world.

The social aspect is not the only reason why I game. I like the shared fantasy. I like to use my imagination. Roleplaying stimulates my imagination. There is also an escapist component, but I am not necessarily escaping my normal life so much as flying to a different plane of existence for a while. I can be something much greater and more important for those few hours at the table. I like my life, but I still like to play 'make believe.' Gaming allows me to be anyone or anything.

I guess if I were pressed hard to choose one reason to be my number one it would be that gaming is my favorite idea of fun. I like to read gaming books. I like to play the characters. I like to GM for others. It is the most enjoyable pastime that I have ever found and the one that has been a part of my life the longest. It is not an adrenaline rush, it is an endorphin rush. The social and escapist aspects come into this, but this one also stands on its own like those other reasons. It is fun pure and simple.

Friday, January 27, 2012

[Reverb Gamers 2012 Master List] Question #1

One of the people in the local Savage Worlds community, Ron Blessing (http://ronblessing.blogspot.com/), is answering these on his blog. It looks like fun, so I am giving it a try. As as aside, Ron is a very cool guy and is amazingly fun to game with. He also podcasts. Check out http://thegamesthething.com/ and http://podcast.smilingjacksbarandgrill.com/. They are both excellent.

Atlas Games' "Reverb Gamers" group has published a list of questions. It is available from the Atlas Games site (http://www.atlas-games.com/pdf_storage/ReverbGamers2012MasterList.pdf).I am going to answer them, one at a time.

REVERB GAMERS 2012, #1: What was your first roleplaying experience? Who introduced you to it?
How did that introduction shape the gamer you've become?

My first roleplaying experience was the Frank Mentzer Red Box, also known as the Dungeons and Dragons Revised Basic Rules Set 1. (This is the box that WotC reused for the 4e Dungeons and Dragons Starter Set. Alas, my childhood has been stolen.) I played the game with my friend and next door neighbor Jason and his older brother Justin. Justin was the DM. They had received the game as a birthday present or something like that.

I don't remember the details of that first adventure, but I remember being fascinated and thrilled by the game. It really fired my imagination. I was hooked from the very first hit and thus was a gamer born. That is the biggest way that I was shaped by this introduction. There are other effects as well. The one that I am most aware of is my choices in RPGs. Fantasy gaming has always been my go-to genre. I like all sorts of RPGs but Fantasy RPGs are my bread-and-butter. When I think of roleplaying the first things I think of are swords, spells, castles, dungeons, and wandering monsters. These are the games that I gravitate towards. Another effect is that I tend to prefer the inclusion of different dice types. RPGs which only feature one die type are less interesting to me. I will still play and enjoy them, but always with the tiniest of hints of disappointment.

[PFRPG] In Which Driders Fly and Drow Warriors Die


Wednesday nights are PFS (Pathfinder Society - http://paizo.com/pathfinderSociety) night for me at my closest FLGS. I originally started playing PFRPG (The Pathfinder RPG) in 2010. My home group was having problems keeping a game going and I wanted to expand my circle of gamer friends. I realized right away that if I wanted to find a group in the area I would have to choose a game that is popular. As I understood the situation at the time, this left me with but a few choices. I figured my best choices were Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition or the newly released Pathfinder RPG. I had played some D&D Third Edition previously but had no experience with the latest edition. At the time I was disenchanted with complex systems. I had been running Castles & Crusades from Troll Lord Games (http://www.trolllord.com/) for a couple of years and was really interested in simple and/or 'rules light' systems. Needless to say learning and playing either PFRPG or D&D 4e was a move in the opposite direction from which I wanted to go. I ended up choosing Pathfinder because after reading the Player's Handbook for 4e I decided that the newest edition was not my idea of Dungeons & Dragons.

I played PFRPG with one short-lived group that summer which was looking for new players for an introductory game. We broke up do to scheduling concerns and lack of players, but it was very fun while it lasted. I played a Rogue who ended up taking over the Thieves Guild in a small town. It was a blast. I hope that I can play with that group again someday.

After the breakup I started looking again to find a gaming group. I was having difficulty until I found out about Tacticon, a local gaming convention held in September. I looked at the booklet and found a ton of Pathfinder games listed. They were all for this thing called "Pathfinder Society Organized Play." I went to the Paizo website and signed up for the society as was requested by the blurbs in the Tacticon booklet. I then registered for a bunch of PFRPG slots at the Con. There was a slot of HERO System and a couple of slots of playtesting for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. However, the other six slots were dedicated to PFRPG. It was the people that hooked me first. The Pathfinder players here in the Denver area are a good lot. They are a large group of mature, kind, helpful, and welcoming gamers. (As I have said before Denver has a great gamer community.) I decided to join the group and keep playing.

Later, as I played more the setting really started to grow on me. Golarion is a very complete and well written setting. Paizo has done a good job. They are committed to producing high quality materials. I can't say this enough. Paizo puts out some really high quality products and they are very responsive to their customers. This is one of the reasons why I continue to buy their products. The game itself is an outgrowth of D&D 3.5 and the OGL. At first I didn't like the rules (3.x always struck me as way too 'crunchy'). However, the more I play the game, the more comfortable I become with them. Now that I have been playing PFRPG for over a year now, I am comfortable with them to the point that I might as well call myself a fan...

Hi, my name is Doug and I freely admit to being a fan of Paizo's Pathfinder RPG.

I have another not-so-dirty secret to divulge. I have even just recently started GMing PF. That is really the point of this blog. (If you are still reading at this point, you have my gratitude.)

Wednesday night was PF night and I was the GM. The scenario I ran was Pathfinder Society Scenario #32: Drow of the Darklands Pyramid (http://paizo.com/products/btpy89ke?Pathfinder-Society-Scenario-32-Drow-of-the-Darklands-Pyramid). This was my second time running a PFS scenario and my second time running PFRPG ever. Both sessions have been high-level games. I guess I am a bit nuts because at higher levels of play the stat blocks for the monsters take up half a page each in the scenarios and I am a newbie GM when it comes to PF. Suffice it to say this is not the recommended way to begin your GMing career with Pathfinder.

I thought the game went well, all things considered. I asked the players afterwards how I did and the comments were positive. Also, after one encounter I asked if I was making it tough enough. One player said, and I quote, "That encounter was a bitch." One of my main worries is making things too easy on the players. It is not that I want to harm the PCs or kill them outright. I am not a "Killer GM." However, I do want to make them work for success. I worry that I don't think tactically enough to run the monsters well and by doing that turn a challenging adventure into a cakewalk. Apparently I did a  decent job this time, which is a load off my mind. I continue to worry, however, that I am short-changing my players a bit. I want to give them a rewarding and fun experience.


The scenario itself is really fun. I played through it several months ago. Obviously there are Drow and a couple of Driders and a pyramid, but that is all the spoiler that I am going to give. I really enjoyed running it. Unfortunately I ran out of time and had to hand-wave the final two encounters, but those are the breaks when you are time constrained. Everyone had fun which is the important part, but I need to work on time management a bit. Also, I started the game late because one of my players couldn't make the start time. I would have started without him, but we needed him to make a legal table.


I am really enjoying this game both as a player and as a GM. Pathfinder is not an easy game to master either as a player or as a GM. (To give you an idea, the core book is about 576 pages long, with no setting material included. That's right kiddies, it is all rules.) I decided to take the plunge into GMing this game because I have a great group of gamer buddies and I want to play with them more often. Now that I have been playing a while (and because Paizo does not allow replay of scenarios for credit) I sometimes have difficulty finding games to play in because I have already played the scenario. Thus I have done the only thing I could, I volunteered to GM for the Society. Maybe this makes me strange, but I like it. The high level scenarios are a challenge to run. The game itself is a challenge to run. I have enjoyed my first two experiences. I am scheduled to run a scenario next Wednesday and one the Wednesday after.Those are going to be low level scenarios, however. 


I love my gaming lifestyle.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

[Savage Worlds] Tuesday Night at the Kerberos Club


The fourth Tuesday of every month there is a Savage Worlds game at my closest FLGS. Living in the Denver area is a great thing if you are a gamer. There are several gaming stores and a vibrant gaming community in the area. I am quite lucky to be a part of it. So, here is the plug for Denver. If you roll the bones, chances are you will like it here. Denver is very gamer friendly. The scenery is great to boot.

So, Tuesday... Savage Worlds... Yeah, I am on topic, really.

There were six players including me at the table. The game was The Kerberos Club, a setting for Savage Worlds produced by Arc Dream Publishing (http://tinyurl.com/78psyon). The Kerberos Club is a supers game set in Victorian London. This was a "slot zero" game for GenghisCon (http://denvergamers.org/) which is happening in February, so I won't be giving too many spoilers. My pregen character was named Adam Frost. Frost is an American who wields the powers of cold. I must say that this game was a wonderfully fun romp through an alternate history where the American Civil War still rages and Victorian Restraint is the rule of the day.

I find that I am quite captivated by the setting. It is an interesting twist on the superhero genre. Supers games like Champions or Mutants & Masterminds tend to be very modern or futuristic in their settings. Using a historical setting for Kerberos Club gives the game a feeling of strangeness or alien-ness which adds flavor to the game. Rather than a modern setting where super powers can come to be ordinary and conventional, the archaic setting makes the supers feel out of place. That is really how it should be. Superheroes are outside the norm, so they should feel different and apart from normal society. In Kerberos Club they do. If you are a Savage Worlds fan this is definitely a book worth picking up. If you are not a SW fan, I have to ask you a question. That question is 'why not?'

I have only been playing Savage Worlds for a few months, since September 2011 to be exact. Every time I play it I kick myself for not trying it a year or two sooner. It is boatloads of fun. (It helps that there is an active and passionate SW community here in the Denver area.) SW is a generic system published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group (http://www.peginc.com/). It is based on the Deadlands RPG and the Great Rail Wars miniatures game. SW is cinematic. It lends itself to dramatically heroic actions. It can do gritty action, but it doesn't seem to lend itself well to realism. I guess many might say that it is more 'narrativist' than 'simulationist.' This is not to say that the game is not tactical. It is tactical. There are rules for mass combats and rules for chase scenes. It uses miniatures. Combat does require some thought and planning. (I am learning that the "Gang Up" rule is quite important.) So, it is tactical. It is just not tactical and 'simulationist' to the extent that Pathfinder RPG or D&D 4e are. I tend to not worry too much about labels for games. I don't care that Savage Worlds is more narrative. I just find it to be huge amounts of fun with tons of interesting support materials, including lots of content from third party publishers (like Arc Dream).

Do yourself a favor. Check out The Kerberos Club and check out Savage Worlds. I can't wait for my next chance to play.