Since this is my inaugural posting I feel the need to introduce myself somewhat. My name is Frank and I have been asked to be the table top nerd for the site. As you can tell if you had read the nerd clash that Josh and I had last week, I have a preference for analog versus digital. I play video games but collect and prefer board games and role playing games (RPGs). I have been playing board games for all my life and RPGs for about 20 years.
I got involved in RPGs when I was in university in New Zealand through the University of Auckland Roleplaying Group called A.M.E.R.I.C.A., do not ask me for what the acronym stands because I do not know and I doubt anyone there remembers either, and by playing Dungeon and Dragons (DnD) edition 3.5 with my friends in archaeology. I have played all aspects of the Whitewolf genre, DnD, Tribe 8, 7th Sea, Toon, Maids, Shadow Run, Star Wars D20, Cthulu, Pathfinder, and probably others that I do not remember at this time.
The main campaign I am currently partaking in is the Kingmaker Adventure Path in the Pathfinder system by Piazo. Pathfinder was created to be similar to DnD after the horrid edition 4 came out. Most people, myself included, got involved in DnD with edition 3.5. They had simplified it to run smoother and not require advance calculus to figure out your stats and your roll. Honestly, is there anyone out there that understood THACO and all that other stuff really? I have played earlier editions of DnD and I find them to be at best frustrating as hell and at worst monotonous. With 4th edition DnD tried to remake the wheel and ended up breaking it, again.
Piazo the created Pathfinder which I would say is more like DnD 3.5 mark 2. It uses the same D20 system that most will recognize; D20 refers to the ubiquitous 20 sided die that is the hallmark of most RPGs. In keeping with trying to streamline game play it kept the system used in 3.5 where dice rolls are hi goo and low bad; rolling a 20 on the die is an immediate success whereas rolling a 1 is a botch and all the numbers in between are adjusted by use of your stats. There is always an argument especially by the number maxing players that if their stat is so high that they should never fail to which I respond even a circus acrobat or Olympic gymnast can trip every once in a while so deal with it. Failure is a much of the game as success is and it is how you work with either that controls how the game progresses. Sounds like a good metaphor for life no?
The only other part that is more debated and argued over is the alignment system. Alignments refer to good vs. evil and chaotic vs. lawful and are always up to interpretation so here I will give you my interpretation using comic book examples we can all recognize. Lawful good would be Superman or Captain America; the paragons of virtue etc truth, justice blah blah blah. Lawful neutral I would say Batman; he lives by his own strict set of codes which supersede human laws and his own vices. Lawful Evil, Raz Agul; dictator, power hungry, megalomaniac, and power for powers sake no matter how they get it. Chaotic good refers to the rebellious good types like the Flash or Robin Hood. They fight against laws and oppression and authority and balk at any type control but they mean well. Chaotic neutral, well they just do whatever the hell they want. They could help you. They could rob you. They could put a pie in your face, you really never know. A good example of Chaotic Neutral would be Catwoman or Harley Quinn or pretty much anyone from Looney Toons. Chaotic Evil would be the Joker. As a friend of mines shirt says, being chaotic evil means never having to say you are sorry. They do not want power, they do not want money, as Alfred said in the Dark Knight, “Some people just want to watch the world burn.” The two alignments that are left one I consider the most generic and the other the hardest to truly maintain. Neutral good is your generic person who just does what is right. He is your generally good person. The true neutral on the other hand I rarely let someone play. This is the person who has no shift on the axis in any direction; think a fully centered, I have reached Nirvana, Zen monk. Why would they go out adventuring? Why would they do anything? Anything they do would take them away from neutrality. I find this alignment suited for an NPC (Non Personal Character) at best but that is just my opinion.
Now let us get to what you really need to have to play the game, the core rulebook, a set of dice, a player’s sheet, and an imagination. What is nice about Pathfinder is that they core rulebook is literally all you need as a player. It contains all the information about character creation, the basic races, the basic classes, some prestige classes, spells, equipment, magic items, and how to play the game. One book that covers the basics of 3 or 4 you would have needed in DnD. That does not mean that if you get into the game your collection will not grow, mine is about 30 different books now for Pathfinder alone. They each go into more depth, different details, more variations but they are not needed to play the game but they are nice.
The second thing was a D20 set of dice. The picture you see here is of the first dice set I ever had and still do. It was given to me by my DnD group in NZ almost 20 years ago. I have greatly expanded my collection but I still treasure this set. The reason for the expansion though is simple, the dice are all chaotic neutral. Sometimes they are great, I confirmed a critical, EPIC SUCCESS! However, a moment later when you need it most they keep rolling ones just to watch you suffer. Those dice then need to be shamed for a while until they see the error of their ways. All of the other shapes are for different types of rolls and damages. A dagger and a magic missile use D4s, a short sword a D6, a long sword a D8, a bastard sword a D10 etc.
Now for the last and most important item I mentioned; a character sheet and an imagination. You have to have a character concept and the sheet to put it on. For example, in our Kingmaker Campaign, I am playing an aasimar Warpriest named Zaigon. An aasimar is a human who somewhere in their bloodline has a touch of a good celestial blood, namely an angel. A Warpriest is a hybrid class that Piazo created that is a mix of Fighter and Cleric but is not a Paladin. The initial archetype that I had in mind for him was a King Arthur type of fighter; the valiant and noble hero and that is how he started. He was the Lawful Good standard bearer of the Church of Iomedea here to bring order to the wilderness. It has been a few years in game time and he has evolved quite differently from where he started. He went from being the idealistic young zealot to the grizzled somewhat bitter veteran who is now the ruler of this new land. Due to an incident which we may discuss later his alignment drastically changed, he had a falling out with his god and patron, the party nearly fractured, and all hell broke loose in the Kingdom. If this were Game of Thrones it would have been one hell of a season ending cliff hanger.
This brings me to my final point for today, how to make a game and campaign work. You can have all the items you need. All the books, the legions of minis as you see we are currently painting, everything, but what you really need is the right group of people. The game is really a chess match between the players and the GM or game master who runs the world. He is like the director and writer in this evolving story. He is the one that says what you can and cannot do and who often sees his great machinations thwarted by us players which total 5 of us and 6 is usually max if you want to keep some kind of control over the chaos. Less is ok and some even do one on one campaigns but I do not recommend more. It gets to be too much to handle and turns take way too long to do anything. Finally, within the 5 to 6 people make sure they are all people with whom you will want to spend time. My Kingmaker group all the players are all advanced players who each have been a GM at different times. We roleplay well, which is the talking and interacting parts with NPCs and each other when we are in character, and usually balance out well in combat. On the other hand, one bad character can destroy the dynamics of a whole game. We have one guy in the University group that we all avoid for various reasons but mostly because he destroys the dynamic of the game and makes it all unenjoyable and if it is not fun and relaxing why do it?