Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paizo RPG Superstar Competition

Paizo is holding their annual RPG Superstar competition, and the first entry deadline is in early December. I was excited about working on an entry, but sadly I noticed the side-bar about auto-rejecting entries a bit too late. Oh well... my first entry will now remain a Web-published curiosity:
Gozreh’s Baresman
I thought it might be fun to look into how I created this item, so here you go:

My first thought was that I wanted to create a religious artifact, so I did some Web searches with the names of older religions and Zoroastrian history provided the "baresman" now known as a barsom. In reality, these are collections of rods with no binding. They are usually held or laid out in a receptacle where they naturally form a crescent. If one end of that bunch were gathered up into a circular group, it would look like a tear or drop of water. This made me think of the tear-drop shape of the water in Gozreh's holy symbol and how the tip could symbolize a wave when it crests on the ocean, bringing Gozreh's dual nature into play (wind and water, male and female).

From there, it was just a matter of finding an appropriate spell, and Aqueous Orb from the Advanced Player's Guide seemed to fit the bill. It's a ball of water, but it's collected up into a sphere and moved around as a weapon. Saying that this was accomplished via the power of air or wind made sense, and this again tied both natures into the one device. I chose human priests of Gozreh in Garund because they seem to me to be the ones most tied to this deity. They have the permanent Maelstrom to contend with along with a tropical environment and as a continent, they have the most open-ocean exposure of the Inner Sea region. Elves aren't as common in Garund, so human priests seemed an apt choice, and allowed for enough baresmans having been created for a few to fall into ruins or other locations that players would encounter one.

Of course, a magical/religious relic like this wouldn't be treated as a simple tool by the clergy, so I wrote it up as both a protective item for the temples and as a tool used for the consecration of newly built temples. This opened the door for the solution to my final problem: clerics don't get Aqueous Orb. Because this is such a special event, however, I'm allowing that Gozreh grants his high priests this otherwise only druidic (in terms of divine casters) spell for the purpose of item creation.

The rest of the mechanical details are covered in the Magic Item Creation rules from the basic book.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How roleplayers see Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is, perhaps, the best known play in the world. We all know many of the lines like: "What's in a name," "A plague o' both your houses!" But have you ever thought about how this play would have turned out, had Shakespeare been a roleplayer? Well, here you go:

If Shakespeare played White Wolf's World of Darkness

Actually, I think he would have written the play pretty much as-is, but the set design would have made it impossible to tell where the actors were standing. Also, he would have instructed them to read aloud the stage direction, "they fight" when Paris dies at Romeo's hands, instead of actually attacking each other. The initial Prologue would be several times longer, side-tracking into a small play within the play about Romeo's father.

If Shakespeare played Pathfinder

Most of the first act would be cut short, but the initial fight scene would take up most of the left-over time with choreography directions for the actors consuming twice the length of the original first act text. The balcony scene would be much shorter, amounting to a quick confirmation that both had lost their will saves, after which Romeo would have to fight several squads of guards as he made is way out of the Capulet estate. In tomb at the end, Romeo would have to fight off grave robbers and a risen corpse of Juliet's grandfather in addition to Paris. When Juliet arrives, she would be killed by a trap which she failed to search for.

If Shakespeare played Dungeons & Dragons

The dialogue would mostly be cut short. The fight scenes would take up most of the play, thought the balcony scene would still exist as a test of skill for Romeo who would demonstrate his ability to hide in shadows and climb. Sadly, Juliet's part would have to be cut for time.

If Shakespeare played GURPS

The play would proceed as expected, but Romeo would have a handgun that a mysterious, time-traveling stranger had handed him and Paris would have telekinetic powers. Their fight would last until a team of men in black showed up to contain Paris and lock him away deep under the Capulet estate where a secret facility keeps the rest of the play safe from the things best left unmentioned.

If Shakespeare played Hero System

The play would never start. He'd still be statting up guard and trying to figure out what Romeo's energy defense came out to.

If Shakespeare played Fudge

The entire play would be improvisational.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pathfinder has moved

It looks like the Pathfinder Wiki has moved from a Wikia-hosted thing to http://pathfinderwiki.com. I wish them the best of luck in the turbulent waters of self-hosting!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pathfinder: Building Out a New Shelf

My first shelf of gaming books was GURPS. I'd had gaming books before, but I started buying GURPS books and I couldn't stop. I still have a couple dozen of them in the basement, but GURPS 4th ed. kind of sunk my interest, not because it was bad, but because I had this shelf of books I didn't want to burn...

Then I got back into the first roleplaying game I'd ever played: Dungeons & Dragons. I'd started with 1st edition, and by the time I came back, it was 3.5. This was a new take on D&D and it had some interesting cohesion that drew one in and made buying dozens of books appealing. This I then did...

But they too introduced a 4th edition and sent me on my way, not wanting to burn several shelves of books.

And then there was Pathfinder. The I've told the story before, so I won't do it again, but what I would like to do is talk about the new shelf. First off, Paizo offers a very attractive deal on subscriptions. You buy a subscription to one of their product lines and you get each hard-copy book along with a downloadable PDF. You can also buy their books on Amazon, but don't expect that they're getting a fair cut from the big A.

So, here's how I recommend going about building a shelf for both the campaign world (Pathfinder Chronicles and the world of Golarion) and the core game itself:

Now you have a shelf. There are other things you can pick up, especially if you're interested in the Pathfinder Society organized gaming, but that's a whole other ball of wax.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pathfinder: On Golarion's Roads

I'm going to be running a new tabletop RPG campaign in 2011 titled, "On Golarion's Roads," using the Pathfinder RPG rules, which are widely referred to as "D&D 3.75."

The game is loosely based on The Wizard of Oz, with the PCs playing the part of Dorothy. The metaphor stops pretty early on, however, as there's no wicked witch or lollipop guild. Instead, the players will be sucked over from Earth and immediately dropped into the chaos of every day life in a world where magic and monsters are as common as fruit carts. The primary plot revolves around the attempt to return home, though presumably the characters will come to question this goal as they become more entrenched in Golarion.

One experiment I'm trying is the creation of my own Player's Guide. The guide for this game can be found at www.ajs.com/pathfinder along with all of the usual information on what books to get or Web resources to use. The Player's Guide was a real challenge, mostly because of the complexity of introducing the characters as level 1 NPC classes and then "upgrading" them to PC classes after the fact. Lots of decisions had to be made about traits, attributes and so forth, all of which assume the character grew up on Golarion and has always been the "heroic" type. I hope that this guide might actually end up being a useful resource to others who seek to implant characters from other worlds into Golarion, in the future.

Pathfinder and mktreasure

mktreasure, my random treasure generation for d20/3.5 Dungeons & Dragons is getting a makeover. I'm working on a new version that will handle Pathfinder. So far, the Pathfinder RPG SRD rules are pretty much the same as the regular d20 SRD. There are a few things that vary like all of the various energy resistance items are actually just "energy resistance" now rather than "fire" and "sonic" and so on. Also, there are many more types of armor (quilted, rosewood, etc.) than in the basic d20 rules. I'll fold all of that in and get a version that can crank out pure Pathfinder SRD treasure, but until then you can keep using the existing version which is fairly compatible. Just throw out anything that doesn't look right.

If you don't know mktreasure, the d20 SRD lays out the rules for generating random treasure hordes. At first it looks like just a series of tables, but it gets fairly complex, and there are some difficult edge cases that I had to solve for. In the end, it took several weeks of trying things out, checking against the rules, tweeking, and pulling my hair out over typos an inconsistencies. The end result? Here's a sample for a level 10 treasure horde:

coin: 0pp 1,196gp 0sp 0cp (1,196gp value)
gem: tiger eye turquoise (10gp)
gem: freshwater (irregular) pearl (9gp)
gem: obsidian (8gp)
gem: lapis lazuli (7gp)
gem: citrine (60gp)
ring of chameleon power (12,700gp)
divine scroll containing:
 1. tree shape (lvl 2, cast 3) (150gp) (150gp value)
protection from arrows 10/magic (potion) (300gp)

Friday, June 25, 2010

Geeky guild names for World of Warcraft

I was trying to think of some really geeky names that would do well as guild names. Have any good ideas? I was thinking:
  • Recursive Descent
  • UTF-25
  • RAID 5
  • Garbage Collection
  • Order N
  • Group Theory
  • Abstract Class
  • Instance Method
Some names that are fun just for having the tag under your name, like a vendor or quest mob:
  • Traveling Salesman
  • Venn Door
  • filename
  • options
  • Virtual Member
I think my favorites are Recursive Descent and Instance Method. Hard to choose...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why is World of Warcraft's technology so mixed?

World of Warcraft has a dizzying mix of technology levels. There are rocketships and iron swords; motorized roadways and stone monoliths. All of these mixed messages seem to indicate that, all at once, WoW is populated by high and low tech societies. Why is this?

The Magic Factor

It seems that WoW's magic may have something to do with this. Everything we've seen of Goblin or Gnomish engineering implies that it's heavily quirky, specialized and often dangerous. Is it possible that the magical nature of Azeroth simply doesn't let technology progress smoothly? Perhaps technology is held back from reaching its otherwise likely end-point by magic.

In fact, this is made to seem all the more likely for the fact that Goblins in Outland have managed to build a mostly functional rocket ship in a short time while here, on Azeroth, they've been toiling away for centuries only to come up with unreliable and dangerous teleportation and an electric shock device for reviving people whose hearts have stopped.

The only other conclusion would be that there's an active decision which has been made to hold back the growth of technology and I don't think it's very likely that the Gnomes and Goblins have agreed on that.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Saturnalia begins raiding

Those who followed the adventures of the Saturnalia guild way back and when will know that we're a tiny, social guild of real-world friends that typically can't field a full raid, even for 10-man content. Well, we have been gearing up in 5-man dungeons and now feel that we out-gear the early Wrath of the Lich King raids enough to take them on with just 7 of us.

Today, we went into Naxxaramas to take out Anub'Rekhan, the first boss of the spider wing. Just one problem: one of our group didn't show, so we were down to 6. With just 6 players, only two of whom had ever seen the boss before, we walked in and explained that we were all out of bubblegum.

After wiping a couple of times, we figured out the right balance of dps and swapped out main and off-tank and wiped the floor with the dear bug. The above screenshot was our reward. However, we decided not to move on, as the weekly raid was Flame Leviathan. Again, only two of us had ever seen the encounter outside of videos and we lost yet another person. So, down to 5 players we all learned the fight on the fly and promptly one-shotted it. If you look closely, you can see that far away look in Himalountain's eyes as he recalls the days of 3-manning the old world instances. Ah, the times we had... and will have again!

Aaron's Gaming Blog back in action!

Just to keep things separate, I'm going to keep gaming-related posts here, and everything else on Aaron's Essays. Expect to see updates, here, about the Saturnalia guild, World of Warcraft and the world of gaming in general.