Saturday, October 29, 2011

When Less is More - Where to Go From the Pathfinder Basic Box

As I make my way through the Pathfinder Basic Box, I find myself really excited about the potential this box holds.  Not just in bringing new blood into this hobby of ours (it should accomplish that fairly well) but in the presentation.

The Basic Box works as well as it does not just because it removes some of the more complicated rules from the Pathfinder Core Rules, but because of the way way it presents the rules it does use.  The rules are introduced gradually, with limited selection / choices / options and then gradually branching out.  Why couldn't this be done with a revision of the Core Rules?

The book is huge, and I'm sure it's a great value, but I think at this point, players would be best served by breaking it into it's component pieces.

A Tome of Heroes or such could be used to codify the rules most used by the players, with the first part  written and presented in the way of the PBB Hero's Handbook, introducing the rules, and later parts of the book building upon them.

The Gamemaster's Guide wold also build upon the presentation in the PBB, then move on to fuller options and more complications and some insights on how to leave out certain complications without collapsing the house of cards.  The Bestiary would be it's own book.

I've read the posts on the Paizo Boards that some fear that supporting the Pathfinder Basic Box will lead to a dumbing down of Pathfinder.  I'd love to play Pathfinder as written, if I had the time to learn the tomes of rules.  I no longer do.  Certainly not to the point that I could GM a game.

Presenting the Core Rules in a manner that rules are presented gradually, even modularly, would allow gamers like me to enjoy the Pathfinder Rules without be crushed under them.  Isn't the point of the Basic Box to get Pathfinder into the hands of more players?  Well, I humbly summit the above as a possible method to accomplish the goal of expanding the base.

Mini Review - Swords & Wizardry Core Rules - Mobi & epub Formats

If you read this blog you should already have an idea of what the Swords & Wizardry Core Rulebook is.  If not, the PDF link is on the left - it's a free download, enjoy.

This is a conversion of the PDF S&W Core Rulebook to Mobi (read "Kindle") and epub (read "just about every other e-book reader on the market").   So this isn't a review of the rules in question, it's a review of the conversion of the format.

Simply put - charts always suffer in the translation from PDF to any of the e-book formats.  The charts here are serviceable, but not on par with PDF / dead tree.  That being said, as a reference to look things up quickly at the gaming table without the need of lugging along a book, this is a great solution.

and then "POOF", it was gone from the RPGNow store.  i'm beginning to think I'm cursed or something... i need to grab the Pathfinder version before it goes too...

It's a Snowy October Day - Time to Be a Stay at Stay-at-Home Bum

Snow in NYC in October is extremely rare - maybe a few flurries, but little more.  At the moment they are calling for 6-10" of snow.  Holy Cow!

Still, it gives me time to read, and read I am.  I am going to forcibly stop myself from reading Designers & Dragons, as I feel it sucking me in and I'll never put it down.  Instead, I'm going to go back to reading my Pathfinder Beginner Box and hopefully get the next part of my review posted.

Feltothraxis has some ideas for the PBB, but I'm not sure if the voice has recovered fully yet.

Mini Review - Designers & Dragons (Historical Overview of RPGs)

Mongoose Publishing recently released Designers & Dragons on RPGNow.  I'm going to give you the "blurb" first, and then my impressions, as this is NOT an RPG, but a history of RPGs, and it requires a different approach to review.

From the blurb:

Compiled over many years from hundreds of interviews and research projects, this book is a history of the roleplaying game industry, and forms the most complete record of all the games, companies and talented individuals that have propelled roleplaying games to where they are today.

Rather than being a simple, linear history, this book takes a unique perspective on the roleplaying industry. Reflecting that it is the creation of thousands of talented individuals and scores of talented companies, this book instead devotes individual sections to describing the histories and products of almost 60 different companies that have published roleplaying games from 1974 to the present day. The companies are laid out in a chronology based on when each began publishing in the roleplaying field.

Alright, so now you know what it is.  Time for me to tell you how it is: absorbing as the best historical write-up I've ever read, and I was a history major in college.  Reading the history of TSR took me back in time to my own heyday of roleplaying.  I had a pretty good idea of the rise and fall of TSR, but this really filled in the gaps of my knowledge, both big and small.  TSR / D&D / WotC is only the beginning.

Here's the ToC:


TSR: 1973-1997 6

PART TWO: The First Wave 33
Flying Buffalo: 1970-Present 34
Games Workshop: 1975-Present 43
GDW: 1973-1996 53
Judges Guild: 1976-1983, 1999-2010 65
Fantasy Games Unlimited 1975-1991 71
Metagaming Concepts: 1975-1983 78
Chaosium: 1975-Present 82

PART THREE: The Second Wave 97
SPI: 1969-1982 98
Steve Jackson Games: 1980-Present 102
Task Force Games: 1978-1996 114
FASA: 1980-2001 119
Gamelords: 1980-1984 129
ICE: 1980-Present 133
Hero Games: 1981-Present 145
Palladium Books: 1981-Present 155
Yaquinto Publications: 1979-1983 164
Mayfair Games: 1980-Present 166
Bard Games: 1982-1990 172
Avalon Hill: 1958-1998 175
Columbia Games: 1972-Present 181
West End Games: 1974-2009 186
Pacesetter: 1984-1986

 PART FOUR: The Third Wave 200
SkyRealms Publishing: 1984-1988 201
Digest Group Publications: 1985-1993 203
R. Talsorian: 1985-Present 207
White Wolf: 1986-Present 215
Lion Rampant: 1987-1990 232
New Infinities Productions: 1986-1988 237
Creations Unlimited: 1986-1987 240
Pagan Publishing: 1990-Present 244
Atlas Games: 1990-Present 252
AEG: 1990-Present 262
Phage Press: 1991-2005 268
Dream Pod 9: 1985-Present 271

PART FIVE: The CCG Years 275
Wizards of the Coast: 1990-Present 276
Hogshead Publishing: 1994-2002 304
Kenzer & Company: 1994-Present 309
Last Unicorn Games: 1994-2000 314
Grey Ghost Press: 1995-Present 319
Holistic Design: 1992-2006 322
Pinnacle Entertainment Group: 1994-Present 325
Imperium Games: 1996-1998 330
Guardians of Order: 1997-2006 335
Eden Studios: 1997-Present 340
Fantasy Flight Games: 1995-Present 344
Margaret Weis Productions: 1998-Present 351
Green Knight Publishing: 1998-2003 356
Issaries: 1997-2004 359

PART SIX: The D20 Years 364
Necromancer Games: 2000-2009 365
Green Ronin Publishing: 2000-Present 369
Troll Lord Games: 2000-Present 378
Pelgrane Press: 1999-Present 383
Goodman Games: 2001-Present 386
Privateer Press: 2000-Present 392
Mongoose Publishing: 2001-Present 394
Adept Press: 2001-Present 403
Paizo Publishing: 2002-Present 412

Part Seven: The Indie Revolution? 419
Evil Hat Productions: 2001-Present 421
Cubicle 7 Entertainment: 2003-Present 427
Catalyst Game Labs: 2007-Present 433
Bibliography and Thanks 440
Special Thanks 442

I have games from just about every publisher on this list.  Holy crap, I think I have stuff from just about every publisher this book covers.  Right on thru Evil Hat, Cubicle 7 and Catalyst Games.

The writer's voice is very comfortable to read, the book is well laid out and the topics and insights (from my POV) are interesting as hell.  I'm sure all of this knowledge is available in thousands  of bits and pieces strewn about the internet, but it would take me years to track down most of this.  Author Shannon Appelcline has done it for me, and wrapped it up nicely on top of all that.

The only thing keeping me from giving Designers & Dragons my highest recommendation is the price of $29.99.  If you have the cash to spare and an interest in the history of the RPG industry, it is money well spent.  However, if your gaming budget is tight, this is probably a luxury you'll find yourself passing on.  That's a shame, because this is really a great read.

(edit - the PDF is neither Bookmarked nor Hyperlinked - coming in at 442 pages, it needs at least one or the other for easier navigation - still love it, but this omission is annoying)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Just a Wee Bit More DragonQuest

I am VERY happy with my acquisition of the DragonQuest Boxed set.  The box is a little shelf worn, but the books are still fresh and crisp and all the counters and chits have never been punched out.

I feel like I'll be learning a new language, although the Pathfinder Basic Box is going to be stealing my attention for now, DragonQuest will be delved into when my time free up ):)

My Thoughts On a Pathfinder Basic Box - Extended

I'm really loving my trip thru the Pathfinder Basic Box. It's not what I expected (I guess I was expecting something like the D&D 4e Starter Set - thank God it's nothing like it) and that is a good thing. It has a lot of punch and value for the money. But I want more ;)

I can see the point of a second box set being both cost prohibitive and possibly splinting the Pathfinder market, but there is still a way for Paizo to extend the life of the Basic Box without going to a 2nd box. Heck, they are doing it now with adventures and a Barbarian class write up on their site - PDFs.

An expansion to the Basic Box could be as simple as a $5 (or whatever price) PDF extending play to 9th level, including new feats, perhaps introducing Attacks of Opportunity, adding some classes as new options, maybe adding back some of the lower level spells (maybe 5 more per level). It would be written and presented in the same format at the Basic Box material.

This would be the "bridge" product to bring the Pathfinder game together, because the natural progression from Pathfinder Basic Box - Extended would be to the Core Pathfinder Rules. I'm not sure if the Basic Box quite gets you there on it's own.

I would also love to see a PDF / posting / whatnot on how to bring the Pathfinder Core Book(s) to more Basic Box complexity without causing the house of cards to come tumbling down.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Free Stuff For Halloween @ OneBookShelf

Time for some scary treats!  Click the banner above to go to DriveThruRPG and hunt around for the Jack-0-Lanterns.  Click on the Jack-0-Lanterns for some free swag.

To get you started, I'll point you to two:

Kobold Quarterly Issue #15 - Go to the "FAQ PAGE" and click the Jack-0-Lantern.  It will appear in your cart for $0

All Flesh Must Be Eaten - Revised - Click the Jack-0-Lantern at the bottom of the "HOME PAGE".  Enjoy ;)

There are thirteen freebies in total.  I know I haven't found them all.  Feel free to post the others you find in the comments below, and I'll add more as I find 'em.

(don't switch between the various OBS sites without checking out with your free purchase, or else the free purchase may end up in the second cart at regular price)

When Your Quest is Dragons, You Need DragonQuest!

Yep, i snagged myself a copy of the DragonQuest 3e rulebook on Ebay, and I should have a boxed set coming from Troll & Toad.  Really, why should I let Padre have all the fun?  heh

It is in many ways the exact opposite of the Pathfinder Beginner Box, but that's okay.  I probably won't have time to give DragonQuest a real look until after my wedding, but as that's in a week and a half.  I plan on lots of reading and relaxing after the wedding ;)

Thoughts on the Pathfinder Basic Box

I can't stop singing the praises of the Pathfinder Basic Box, but I do have one issue with it - where to go from here.

I know that when the group has outgrown the PBB, they are supposed to move on to the full Pathfinder Rules, but is that really the best or only route to take?

I don't know if it's in Paizo's plans, but I think an Advanced or Expert Boxed set would be a perfect follow up. Include advancement from 6th up to 10th level, add in some classes (Ranger, Druid, Bard and possibly Paladin), give me back my halfling and you have a complete game in 2 boxed sets.

Key phrase here is "Boxed Sets". Boxed sets can sit on the shelf of your Walmarts and Toys R' Us when RPG books won't. They can expand the market.

The boxed sets can offer a streamlined Pathfinder system that is compatible to the existing line. If the players want, they can always move on to the full rules for more options. Or they could stay with the streamlined system.

The streamlined approach and intuitive presentation of the rules in the Basic Box certainly have my attention. If my sinuses hold out, maybe Feltothraxis can take a look at the Pathfinder Basic Box. I suspect he'll enjoy it as much as I do ;)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Review - Pathfinder Basic Box - Part 1 - Hero's Handbook

It's only 64 pages long, but I am still looking at the Hero's Handbook from the Pathfinder Basic Box.  All the rules you need for the four basic classes (Fighter, Cleric, Rogue and Wizard) covering the first 5 levels of advancement.

As far as races, I don't mind the Gnome omission at all, but halflings are a fantasy staple, and I would have appreciated their presence.  We do get Dwarves, Elves and Humans (no half races either).  I'll just need to remind myself it is a Basic Box, and if you put the kitchen sink in the box, you lose the focus.

For no particular reason, I'm going to hit on spells next.  Perfectly done.  Really.  Spell icon tells you the school of the spell, range, duration and short paragraph detailing the effects.  10 spells per level, and all spells for a spell level fit on one side of one page.  Concise yet extremely complete and useful.  It could (should) be a model for other RPGs down the line.

Jumping back to character generation, I'm going to remark upon the need for the character to have at least a cumulative bonus of +3, or you don't have a stat above 13, you can reroll your character.  Using 4d6, I expect there will be a lot of rerolls.  I do understand the power level in Pathfinder is on the Spinal Tap Scale ("But this one goes to eleven!"), but coming from the OSR side of the hobby I needed to adjust my focus.

Did I mention the pages are full color?  Same quality paper as the Pathfinder Monthies?  That weapons and armor are accompanied by artwork depicting the item in question?  Heck, they might as well have put the armor and weapons on slightly elongated business cards.  I'm tempted to print those pages out from the PDF (I love Paizo and their PDFs) and cut out the items in question so I can hand them out to my players.  Of course, I  game online, so that might be an issue.  Still, the idea is valid.

K, more later.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

First Look - Pathfinder Beginner Box

I received my Pathfinder Beginner Box in the mail today and I think "Holy Shi!t" sums it up pretty well ;)  This is a box of gaming goodness.  Yes, I might be an OSR heretic for saying this, but Paizo has done the hobby on a whole a ton of good with this treasure chest.  This is an excellent starter for a person or group that is looking to get into RPGs.

First things first.  The box itself is nice and deep and sturdy.  Box alone blows away the D&D 4e Starter Set.  Then you open the box, and the components put the nail in the coffin of the 4e Start Set.  Paizo does it again.

64 page Hero's Handbook, 96 page GM's Guide, dice, over 80 full color pawns (stand-up cardboard cutouts with stands), 4 pregens, 4 blank character sheets and a large, markable battle map.  It's a heavy, complete box.

The layout of the books looks like everything is set up to help out starting players.  More importantly, you can level up to 5th level before needing to move on to the full game.

I'll need to spend some time with it before I can give a proper review, but color me impressed so far.

So, Does the OGL Not Cover Images of Creatures Covered By the OGL?

Apparently, the Rust Monster is in the OGL. It is also based on some cheap ass toy that EGG found in his travels, at least in appearance.

The Cease & Desist email that was this blog's topic yesterday was apparently in response to an illustration of a Rust Monster. According to the artist, it was his own piece of work: it wasn't traced or copied - apparently not even a homage.

So, if one draws a possible conclusion from this (requiring an "assumption" - and we all know where that can lead), WotC may be staking a claim that the OGL doesn't apply to images of elements that are covered by the OGL.

I really wish I knew the OGL better, but I'm not a publisher and I've only got one small article to my credit, so I'm hardly a writer, but if the OGL doesn't allow for visual interpretation of creatures described within, there's a whole lotta art that is in violation. The thing is, I don't think any of it would be in violation of copyright - but as my knowledge of such could fill a small shot glass, I'll leave such to those with more knowledge.

I do find the timing to be very curious.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is Wizards' Latest Cease and Desist an Introduction to D&D 5E?

(see http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2011/10/more-osric-players-guide-woes.html for details)

Why is WotC suddenly getting defensive about the OSR? There are hints that D&D 5E, when it comes about, is going to be more "old school" in feel, if not execution, but is that a reason to issue a Cease and Desist on artwork that has been making the rounds of the OSR for years? Better question is does this Cease & Desist apply to those that have used the art in question over the past years, or just the latest OSRIC Player's Guide? If the offending art is removed from the book, is the book now in compliance?

Yes, I'm full of questions today. I'm just trying to figure out why artwork that has been in use for years is now in violation of WotC's IP. I need to look at the offending artwork and see if it replicates any WotC / TSR artwork. I sincerely doubt it does, but I'm not a lawyer (and I thank the Lord for that - I coulda been ;)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Free RPG - Lost Roads of Lociam - Core Rulebook - Light

This was released on RPGNow about 2 months ago and somehow escaped by Spidey Senses.  Ah well, no one is perfect.

Lost Realms of Locaim is listed as using the Basic Roleplaying rules.  Looking the rules over, it certainly seems like a house ruled version of the rules, but I'd have to pull our my copy of BRP out of a storage box and look a bit closer at this to be sure.  I poked around the web a bit to get a definitive answer, but what answers I've found kinda skidded around the actual answer.

The setting itself has been developed over 20 years, and the 1st part of the game is heavy on fiction and timeline to give you a feel for the world.  106 pages is a nice size free look. (141 pages in the full sized book)

It's certainly worth giving a look, especially if you dig D100 systems.

Does Anyone Have Experience With the Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook?

Mongoose publishes the Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook based upon the solo game books of yore.  Any of this blog's readers know anything about it, good or bad?  I here it's a pretty simple stem, and I like simplicity, but I have there is still a little meat on the bones.

I can see there are a crapload of releases for it.  Any suggestions as to what to pick up if I decide to give this a peek?

Do I need experience with the solos to truly enjoy this?
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