Pathfinder Beginner Box: Actual Play

My son received the Pathfinder Beginner Box shortly before Christmas. Now, a little over a month later we have had time to play several sessions with it. With these sessions under our belt I wanted to post here at The Iron Tavern a little about the box from an actual play perspective.

As reviews and many forum threads across the Internet will attest to, the Pathfinder Beginner Box is simply a great product. With an easy to read Hero’s Handbook to get a player started, a GM’s Guide to help the budding new GM, dice, cardboard pawns and flipmat you have everything you need to get started in one box. If you are looking for an introduction to Pathfinder or are new to RPGs in general, the Pathfinder Beginner Box provides a very solid entry point to that audience.

I wanted the Beginner Box as a set of rules my son could easily read and make use of on his own. He is eight and I have introduced him to a house ruled down version of Pathfinder before, but the core rulebook was a bit big for him to read and grok the rules on his own. I thought the Beginner Box might simplify the game a bit and allow him to read the rule books on his own between sessions instead of having things told to him by me.

It succeeded very well at accomplishing that. He has been toting around the Hero’s Handbook and GM’s books nearly every day. He is usually looking at character options, studying spells and equipment or giving a thorough look over the monster section. He’s done mock battles between characters he has built and monsters that catch his interest. One day as he was getting out of the car he stopped, went back and covered the Hero’s Handbook up with a jacket, leaving his iPod Touch in plain view saying “I have to cover up the valuables.”

As for actual game play, we’ve also had a very good time with the sessions I have run so far for them. We started with Black Fang’s Dungeon, the adventure included in the book. It went very well and served as a good way to teach skill checks, traps and combat in small bite sized chunks. My son was playing a Dwarf Wizard and a GM controlled Merisiel and Kyra for some extra support.

Using a rather unique way around the final encounter the adventure ended as a success. The next session we played the free download adventure from the Paizo site for the Beginner Box. That went well, but he quickly complained it was too short! Part of that was simply due to choosing the most direct route up front.

The past two sessions were done with former Free RPG Day adventure, Hollow’s Last Hope. I just swapped in Sandpoint for the starting town as that is where the first sessions have taken place. It was an easy swap and both sessions of that were very popular with him.

Next weekend we will continue on with Crown of the Kobold King, also transplanted from Falcon’s Hollow to Sandpoint. I suspect it will go well also as so far the only complaint from my son has been the shorter free download adventure and that was only because it was short!

The game play has been excellent, the simplified Pathfinder rules have been easy for him to pickup and play. His younger sister joins us frequently to roll the dice and participate some as well. Her grasp of the rules is obviously more limited, but she has a great time hanging out with us as we play and does offer up ideas along the way (much to her brother’s chagrin!).

In addition to the great gaming we have had with me as GM, I strongly suspect he will be running his own adventure for me in the near future. He has hinted at it and seems to be eying the rulebooks from the GM slant. If this happens, fully expect an account of him running his first game!

Playing RPGs Online

photo by Kurainisei

Gaming has come a long way from the time when I started. Having grown up in a very rural area it was quite difficult finding a reliable group, much less one where we had a convenient location to play. Persistence paid off though and through many of my school years I had a group to play with despite the logistics.

Even today I still live in a rural area. I have a major city within thirty minutes, which helps, but it does mean hosting the game at my house is a rare opportunity. The difference between my youth and today (besides better modes of transportation) is that the opportunities for gaming online option exists.

Here at The Iron Tavern I have covered Play-by-Post gaming through a series of advice posts for a successful PbP game. This is still a great option for those that have scheduling issues. But as we all know, PbP gaming is slow, bordering on tedious. Luckily today we have even more options for online gaming.

Virtual Table Tops

Virtual Table Tops is certainly one of the game changers. Providing the ability for connected users to view a battle mat, move tokens and in many cases resolve combat via a series of clicks. Built in chat, frameworks for enhanced system support are features of many of them making gaming via the Internet much easier.

I’ve toyed with many of the VTTs out there and have played actual games on both TTopRPG and MapTool. Others such as Fantasy Grounds are nice VTTs as well, but I tend towards the free VTTs when possible as I find it lowers the cost of entry. Among the freely available ones I prefer MapTool for several reasons.

photo by benimoto

MapTool works on both Windows systems and Mac systems, which is a tremendous, plus for it. MapTool can be as easy or as complex as you want it. If you want easy, it can act as just a battle mat to move tokens on. Or you can use a framework for the system of your choice and use vision blocking and fog of war for a complete experience.

I have also used TTopRPG in actual gaming situations. It only runs on Windows but is pretty easy to get up and running. The macro system is simple, but easy to get the hang out. The lack of support for the Mac is the biggest thing that keeps me from investing my time into this VTT.

Voice Communications

There are several ways to handle voice chat over the Internet these days. The more popular options include Skype or Ventrilo. There are pros and cons to each. I like Ventrilo because it seems to consume fewer system resources. Skype seems more familiar to people. I have played with both. Despite my preference for Ventrilo, I have probably played more games over Skype.

Wizards of the Coast has a VTT in beta that has voice chat built in. I have heard good things about it, but I have not used it to comment on the quality of its voice chat. While I prefer a modular approach, there could be some advantage to having the voice chat built in to the VTT itself.

Video Communication

Some people prefer video for when they play. I tend towards just audio, though that is largely due to bandwidth constraints on my end than anything else. Skype has a video chat option, but you have to pay to do video conferencing with it.

Enter Google Plus with its Google Hangouts feature. This enables group video chat for up to ten people I believe if your bandwidth will support it.

Other Battlemat options

Some find the VTT option a little overwhelming or they do not want to deal with troubleshooting connections to the person hosting the server.

One that I hear mentioned frequently is Twiddla. Twiddla is a free online whiteboard that does have some interesting features. I played with adding an image to the whiteboard and adding some tokens and it seemed to work well. The advantage to this approach is that people connect to a shared whiteboard instance and do not need to connect to a server running VTT software at someone’s house. It makes for a lightweight solution.

Another option is to share Google Drawing document, which also allows you to place tokens on an image (i.e. of a map) in the Google Drawing document and allow people to move them as representations of their character.

Bringing it Together

As you can see there are a lot of pieces to gaming online. Using the applications mentioned above you can combine them in several different ways. You can go with a full on VTT and Skype with just voice. You can go with a VTT and Google Hangouts with video chat. Or you can go all Google Hangouts and maybe just share a Google Drawing or use Twiddla to meet your needs. There are a lot of choices out there now to meet your online gaming needs.

One other factor that comes to bear on your decision of what tool to use is your game system of choice. If you tend towards the more complex systems that lend themselves to the use of battlemats then a full on VTT might be the best option for you.

If you use a more rules light game where combat is less reliant on a battlemat, then simply using a Google Hangout with only voice or video might serve your need.

In any case, gamers today have much better opportunities to game today than we did just a couple of years ago. You are no longer limited to gaming with people within driving radius of you, but you have the whole world to find gamers to game with!

New Year, New Games

photo rights to canonsnapper

The folks over at Gnome Stew are hosting a New Year, New Game blog carnival as part of their 2012 New Year, New Game contest. This post is The Iron Tavern’s participation in their blog carnival.

New year, new game. Sometimes groups get in their groove and neglect checking out new games. I am extremely guilty of this. In fact, of the people in my local weekly gaming group, I am likely the one most guilty of not playing a lot of new games. I tend to get pretty focused on a system and not drift too much from that.

I always have good intentions of course. But with what limited gaming time I have, I try not to spread myself too thin or not want to give up a gaming night to another system that I would be learning from scratch. This results in me sticking with my game of choice at the moment.

Now over the course of 2011 I did get to play some games outside of my normal preference of the fantasy genre. The Kingmaker game I am running went on hiatus for a few months and this presented a great time for others in my group to run a few things. So we saw Supernatural run, Call of Cthulhu and a mini-arc Star Wars campaign. Okay, I admit, I’ve played Star Wars before, but the others were new to me. I had a good time playing the different games and I should make a more conscious effort of trying games outside of my norm more often.

Given the routine I get in, let’s look at some of the things that do get me interested in breaking that rut and trying something new.

The biggest thing? One-shots. Tell me the game is a one-shot and I am much more open to trying a game. The risk with a one-shot is minimal, if I don’t like it I only spent one evening on it and still managed to hang out with friends. If I do like it, then we can go from there and maybe work the game into rotation more frequently.

Next up is the excitement from the person proposing the new game and how good they do selling it. Want me to be interested in trying out a different game? Tell me how it is cool, what makes it unique? Do you seem excited when you tell me about it? The pitch for the new game is a big factor in how warm I am to trying it. Sell me on it.

Finally, I like for the person that will be running the game to know the rules pretty well. A lot of questions come up in one-shots. How does this work? I want to do this, what do I need to roll? What skill do I use? Do I want to roll high or low? Quick answers to these questions keep things moving quickly and keep things from getting bogged down during play.

I have been pretty spoiled by our de facto RPG expert in our group. He is very well versed in all things RPG and is an encyclopedia of rules knowledge of a myriad of systems. When he’s pitching a new game system I am much more apt to say yes.

Now that I have covered what gets me most interested in breaking my routine and trying a new game, let’s look at what I most want to try out in 2012. I have three games on that list. FiascoThe One Ring, and Dragon Age.

Fiasco interests me because I keep hearing great things about it on various social networks. It is also outside my norm from what I understand, yet it still intrigues me. My RPG expert in my group is familiar with it, now I just need to talk him into running it!

The One Ring is a game I have purchased and also have interest in either running or playing a small mini-campaign in. Followers of The Iron Tavern have seen me talk about the game before, but it looks like it does an excellent job of painting a Tolkien world through game mechanics. The combat system also looks interesting too me and quite different than many of the d20 systems I am used to.

And finally, Dragon Age has recently caught my eye. The artwork on the cover of the upcoming 3rd set is very impressive and I downloaded the Quickstart Guide as a result. It looks very promising and might be a viable option for remote play over Google Hangouts or Skype due to less dependence on a battlemat.

In closing, here’s to breaking out of your normal gaming routine to try something a little different in 2012!

Week In Review: 1/15/2012

image from Brendan Adkins

Welcome to another week in review at The Iron Tavern. I use these review posts to cover several items in one post that do not quite merit a post in and of itself.

Troll in the Corner

I recently became a contributing author over at Troll in the Corner. Ben had gone on a search for more authors to keep the content over there fresh and interesting. It looks like he has brought on a good crew and I am looking forward to see what the other new folk bring to the site. If you are interested you can catch my articles over there on Tuesdays.

Kingmaker Campaign

Things are going well in the Kingmaker campaign I am running. We missed this past week as one of our players could not make it and there was something that involved his character coming up that I did not want him to miss. Normally we would have gamed one player down, but circumstances and story dictated otherwise.

The group has faced their first major threat to their kingdom from another kingdom. The group was not real happy with the mass combat rules. I tried to let them know it was not a full mass combat system ahead of time so there would not be disappointment. We made it through, but I think their expectations were higher. Given the level of the characters when this occurs I think it might have been better to have the mass combat come earlier when the players would have been more content to lead armies than put themselves on the front lines.

If we can keep up our schedule for the next month and a half or so I suspect we will be wrapping the Kingmaker campaign up in early to mid-March. We shall see. It has been a fun campaign, but I will be looking forward to a chance to be a player again for a bit.

Open Design – Journeys West

I have been participating in the Journeys West project by the Open Design folks. So far I have been extremely pleased with my decision to participate in the project. Everything from the practice of pitching to the other patrons, to watching the others design and build and tweak to the Google Hangout opportunities with some of the others has made it a worthwhile experience.  I have made several pitches for various items so far and I think I have been making some improvements along the way. I look forward to what lies ahead for this Open Design project.

Timeless Adventures

Carl Bussler of Flagons and Dragons fame has been working on his self-publishing effort under the guise of Timeless Adventures. He’s tweeted a bit about it and been active on Google Plus as well. He has previewed various maps along they way and it looks like the project is going well.

I volunteered as a reader and hopeful play tester of the adventure. Those of us doing so received the first part of the module earlier this week and the final part arrived today. It looks very interesting and I am particularly interested to see how one mechanic works out.

I’ve started wrangling a play test group together. It is shaping up to be a remote session for those involved. At the moment I am leaning towards using Google Hangouts and sharing a Google Drawing document for combat encounters. I played with that setup earlier today and it seems promising and more lightweight than a full on MapTool session. Hopefully schedules will cooperate and we will get to see how that goes – both the adventure and the Google Hangouts and Drawing combination.

Gaming With Kids

As I have mentioned on the blog previously, my son received the Beginner Box for his birthday in December. We have had several sessions with that and he has been having a great time. He has also been studying the rule books on his own and seems to be retaining a lot of the information. He certainly reminds me of myself when I was only a year or so older than him and learning the D&D Basic Set.

We missed last weekend as I did not get an adventure prepared in time. I am all set for this weekend and will be playing Hollows Last Hope later today. He has been playing a Dwarven Wizard and his sister helps out as an Elven Cleric. We usually bring along one of the pregens as well. I let him choose which pregen to bring and he usually chooses either Merisiel or Valeros.

Weekly Wrap

And that is the week in review! I have certainly been keeping busy. Remember to watch for my Tuesday article at Troll in the Corner and keep an eye here for more!

New Version of D&D?

As everyone knows by now, Wizards of the Coast announced yesterday that they are indeed working on the next version of D&D (links to EN World, as the stunt NY Times pulled releasing the news early was playing dirty). This really does not come as a surprise to me, especially in light of recent events such as hiring Monte Cook and the feel of the Legends and Lore articles.

The Internet is abuzz with talk either on your favorite RPG forum, Facebook, Twitter or any number of other outlets. Several bloggers have written open letters to Wizards about what they would like to see and such as well. I feel I would be remiss if I did not at least put my two coppers in here at The Iron Tavern.

Regular readers will know that I tend towards the Pathfinder game for my fantasy gaming fix. I never really found 4e that attractive. Maybe I wrote it off too soon, but from the reading I did and the reading I still do there were just several parts of 4e that did not fit my wants in a fantasy RPG game. With that said, I have nothing against the people that do like to play 4e. I am glad there are plenty of games for people to enjoy and do not disparage one system over another.

This recent announcement of a new D&D version does have my interest, much more so than the release of 4e did. 4e was not the game for me, so seeing a rework of D&D as released by Wizards is welcome. Coupled with some of the talent they have on the design team, Monte Cook and Mike Mearls weighing in strongly in my opinion. I have also found myself agreeing more with the Legends and Lore articles than disagreeing with them, which I take to be a positive sign.

So at the very least they have my attention. While everyone that has played early iterations of the game are under NDAs to not talk about it, I do have some show stoppers in how likely I am to adopt the game that aren’t wholly related to the rules themselves.

First up, DDI. I do not like the concept of the DDI subscription with 4e and I would not like it with the next version either. Don’t get me wrong, I like electronically distributed content, but I like it to be in a form I can continue to use with a one time fee, not something I have to pay a monthly fee for continued access.

I want PDFs I can read on my iPad. PDFs allow me to read them when I am offline and I retain ownership of them should I not wish to pay a subscription. I like choices in character builders and I like character builders that I do not have to pay for on a monthly basis. Note that I did not say I don’t want to pay for a character builder, I just want to own it after I pay my money, not rent it.

So if 5e makes heavy use of DDI in the same manner 4e does I don’t see myself making any substantial moves to the new D&D version.

Another aspect that I have some concern about is the licensing of the next D&D version. I consider the GSL that 4e was released under subpar compared to the OGL that 3.x was released under. I really enjoyed the third party supplements that came out during that era of D&D. Was there content released that was not stellar during that era? Certainly. But there were some real gems out there. The more open license also allowed for better electronic tool support from third parties as well. I valued these things and the open license helped facilitate these things. A restrictive license with the new D&D version will likely also turn me away from the release.

Despite these reservations I am remaining cautiously optimistic about the next version of D&D. Hopefully good things come of it. If nothing else it will certainly be an interesting year watching how the next version of D&D evolves through play testing!

A Look Ahead – 2012

The Iron Tavern opened its doors in late August this year. While I still believe The Iron Tavern is still finding its niche, I have been very pleased with how the blog has progressed over the past few months. It has provided an outlet for me to post various thoughts, advice, reviews, and a small amount of fiction.

I wanted to take a few moments to look at the year 2011 in review and then look at where The Iron Tavern will head in 2012.

Popular Posts

What follows are the top five popular posts since The Iron Tavern opened earlier this year.

It appears that my early posts on game systems such as The One Ring by Cubicle 7 and Pathfinder articles that posted very quickly after initial release of the product in question were quite successful.

Referring Sites

I did modify this list slightly in that I removed Google as a referring site from the list below. The top three are not any real surprise. Facebook has been good to me, usually traffic from publisher sites when I post something about their product and they link to it from their Facebook page. The Paizo.com hits are typically from review links in their review section. Twitter reflects tweets I make announcing new posts here at The Iron Tavern.

  • Facebook
  • paizo.com
  • Twitter
  • ulisses-forum.de
  • tanelorn.net

Top Search Terms

The following are the top ten search terms that have been used to reach The Iron Tavern. The One Ring is a very popular term. Between the pre-review look at The One Ring, the unboxing and The One Ring review I get a lot of visitors through those terms. Merisiel and Valeros terms are typically landings on my Pathfinder Minis unboxing article.

  • the one ring rpg
  • merisiel
  • one ring rpg
  • the one ring rpg review
  • valeros
  • one ring “feat dice”
  • pathfinder miniatures
  • pathfinder battles
  • dice for the one ring
  • “the one ring” rpg

All in all, I am happy with how The Iron Tavern has done in the short time it has had its doors open. And that leads us to…

The Year Ahead – 2012

As I have noted, I have enjoyed my time putting up posts at The Iron Tavern and I am looking forward to the year ahead.

Early on I had intended to put out three blog posts per week. I did not quite hit that rate in 2011 and I am planning on scaling that back to two posts per week as my goal. I have been pursuing a freelancing goal a little harder recently and that has taken time from blog posts. I value this outlet though and realize a blog that is to be followed needs regular updates. I am sure there will be weeks that I exceed that rate, but my goal is two posts per week.

When The Iron Tavern opened its doors I posted that I would post commentary on gaming, fantasy RPG systems, product reviews for various systems. I also said I would post fiction covering The Iron Tavern and its occupants from the fictional slant. 2011 was pretty light from the fiction side of things. I plan to continue product reviews, commentary and such and I hope to increase some of the fiction pieces that hit the blog as well.

And finally, I put this blog up under a minimum of trappings. There are not a lot of graphics that adorn the site and I would like to pursue a masthead that represents The Iron Tavern and spices the site up a bit. I am not certain if this will be through some form of contest or whether I will commission some art at some point this year.

Here is to another successful year at The Iron Tavern in 2012! I hope you enjoy your stay!