Monday, March 30, 2015

The Times They Are A Changin'

I'll do my best to keep this brief. Nearly two years ago, I set a specific schedule for myself on this blog. I made sure I would try my hardest to post something every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. While I would occasionally break that schedule, I tried to keep those instances few and far in between. 

However, I've had trouble keeping that schedule this year. My life has gotten a little more hectic and since I just got a new job, I don't see that changing anytime soon. Because of that, I'm going to be altering my posting schedule slightly. Instead of a MON/WED/FRI schedule, I'll only be making posts on Monday & Friday for the foreseeable future. 

I feel like this new schedule will make things easier on myself, allow me to make sure the two posts I do turn out are of a higher quality, and will work better with my new work schedule. I hope to return to the original schedule at some point, but for now, this is how it will be. I just wanted too give a head's up to everyone. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Halflings for Pathfinder Beginner Box

Recently, I've been toying with the idea of running an open table Pathfinder campaign at my FLGS. However, instead of using the full set of rules, I thought it would be easier to use the streamlined version found within the Beginner Box.

With that being said, I have a few additions and changes I'll be making to the content presented within the Hero's Handbook, mostly to give the players a few more options and make things easier. The first addition I want to make is a fourth race, which should be obvious based on the title of this post. 

I understand why Paizo decided to not add small races to the Beginner Box, especially when you consider some of the added layer of complication they add to the game with weapon and armor sizes. 

However, I feel like it's relatively easy to create a simplified version of the halfling for use with the Beginner Box rules. Here's my rough draft. 

Ability Scores: You add 2 to Dexterity and Charisma, and subtract 2 from your Strength score.

SpeedYou have a base speed of 20 feet (4 squares). When wearing medium or heavy armor, your speed is reduced to just 10 feet (2 squares). 

Small Size: You are a smaller size than other races. This grants you a +4 bonus on Stealth skill checks. However, you can't wield two-handed melee weapons. 

Fearless: You are incredibly brave, possessing a knack for staying cool in harrowing situations. You receive a +2 bonus on saving throws against fear effects.

Keen Senses: You are good at spotting details. You receive a +2 bonus on Perception skill checks. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Pathfinder Chronicles: Master of the Fallen Fortress, Part Two

Our Band of Adventures

  • Strider, a Kellid Ranger hailing from the rural nation of Nirmathas. He is a quiet individual, dealing death with his twin blades. 
  • Morrigan, a Half-Orc Witch born in the Hold of Belkzen. She has made a pact with a mysterious entity and wishes to learn more about it. 
  • Nonali, a Gnome Bard from the strange land of Numeria. She has a hunger for knowledge, wanting to know everything about everything. 
  • Pix, a Tiefling Alchemist of Varisian descent. He is a shrew potion merchant and something of a pyromaniac. 
  • Sarkeesh, a Vudrani Cavalier from the island kingdom of Jalmery. He used to be a criminal and hopes to redeem himself. 
  • Firarli, a Half-Elf Rogue born from the union of a Mordant Spire elf and Ulfen sailor. She was banished from her secretive home and hopes to learn more about the world. 

When we last left our heroes, the group had stumbled upon a gang of young troglodytes upon the upper floor of the Fallen Fortress. Having discovered the existence of the reptilian humanoids due to the footprints found earlier, the heroes were ready to fight. They made quick work of the inexperienced troglodytes, leaving one to question.

Although the language barrier made the interrogation difficult, the adventurers managed to learn the troglodytes were being led by a particularly strong specimen named Tulok. The captive also mentioned they captured a "fleshy" and have been keeping him upstairs. Having gained this information, the group dispatched with the captive and moved forward.

They entered the next room, which appeared to be filled with pools of water, broken shelves, and other miscellaneous debris. While the room appeared to be abandoned at first glance, the group discovered it to be the den of an infant shocker lizard. Although they were first hesitant towards the creature, Strider noticed it seemed rather happy to see them and managed to win the little reptilian over, deciding to keep him as his own. 

After exploring the rest of the floor (and setting off a javelin-based trap), the group's noise (specifically Pix's urge to use rather loud bombs) drew the attention of troglodytes from the upper floors, who ambushed them as they approached the stairs. A fight broke out and once again, the heroes were victorious. 

Once they defeated this group of troglodytes, the group made their way up the stairs, wondering what they'd find waiting for them. I'll give you a hint, it's probably going to be more troglodytes.

Tune in next time for the conclusion of the Pathfinder recruits' very first adventure!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gaming With Depression

Today, I want to talk about something a little more serious than normal topics on this blog. Something I've wanted to discuss for awhile, but always sat to the side for one reason or another. However, I feel like I'm ready to finally pull it off the shelf, blow off the dust that has collected atop it, and give it the spotlight it deserves.

However, before I begin, I feel like I need to confess something. The reason why I feel an urge to discuss this topic is because I have a personal stake in the matter. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with a depressive disorder. It's something I deal with on a day by day basis.

Like most people, I play tabletop games because I personally enjoy them. However, I also play them because they give me a chance to leave the problems that bother me in everyday life. I know that sounds stereotypical, but it's true.

Unfortunately, I occasionally can't achieve that when I sit down at the table. When I happen to be in a really bad depressive state, I can't enjoy the things I usually love. I try my hardest to force myself to have a good time, but it never works. I know I'm not alone in this regard, so I want to give people who might be feeling this right now some advice about the topic and for those who care about said person ways for you to help them in their time of need.

While the advice I'm going to give you might seem hard to accept, it really is probably the best thing you can do for yourself when you're in a depressive state. Don't force yourself to play if you don't feel up to it. Don't be afraid to take a step back from the table and take a short hiatus from gaming all together. That might sound like heresy, but honestly your mental health is more important than the game and should be your first priority. Return to the gaming table only when you personally feel up to it.

Now, you might not personally be suffering from depression, but you might have a friend who is. You've noticed a change in attitude and they just see to be a little different at the table, like they aren't having as much fun, even though they're smiling and laughing. You want to help, but you don't know how.

Honestly, the best thing you can do for your friend is to listen to them and be understanding of their situation. Allow them to express themselves to you, talk about how they're feeling, and don't judge them for it. Understand they're having a hard time and make it clear that you're there to give them a shoulder to lean on and will support them no matter what.

Also, be patient with them. Don't try to force them to feel better because that will most likely backfire. Just stand beside them and help them along their own path, letting them move at their own pace and speed.

I hope this advice helps someone who's experiencing this at the moment or knows someone who might be. Depression is a serious issue and is misunderstood by so many people. Sometimes, we all need a little help.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Creating Characters: Kyra Tarnruth the Half-Elf Bard

Last Thursday, I was hanging out at my FLGS and was invited to play in a D&D 5e campaign that would be happening within the store on those nights. Since I'm usually the guy sitting behind the screen, I thought, "Why not?"

Although 5e has 12 cool classes to choose from in the Player's Handbook, I knew from the moment I took my seat at the table that I was going to be playing a Bard. Yes, the class that has received so much ridicule over the years, but it has always been one of my favorites and I really wanted to give the latest iteration a whirl.

I also knew what kind of character I wanted to play. The character is a scholar and an explorer, traveling the Forgotten Realms, gathering knowledge for one reason or another.

I just needed to figure out what that character's race would be. At first, I was going to go with tiefling, but decided to go with something else. After some consideration, I finally opted to go with the half-elf.

Due to this group being made up of people new to the latest edition of D&D and new to each other, I decided to go with something simple and uncomplicated. With that in mind, I just focused on the simple questions a player should always ask when creating a D&D character: (1) Who are they? (2) What was their life before becoming an adventurer like? & (3) Why did they become an adventurer?

Here's what I came up with:

Kyra was born to a Neverwinter noblewoman who had an affair with an traveling elf sorcerer named Nym Tarnruth. Wanting to keep this affair a secret, Kyra's mother gave her father the newborn baby when he returned to the city nine months later, ordering him to take her with him. Although something of a free-spirit, Nym decided to do the right thing and raise his daughter, teaching her the secrets of the traveler. Kyra grew up on the road, wandering by her father's side, learning different tricks and skills at every town and city they stopped at. She loved learning about different things and the myriad of cultures that inhabited the lands of Faerun and fell in love with the wonders of music.

However, when she reached adulthood, something peculiar happened. While staying in a small village in the Silver Marches, Kyra woke up one morning to find her father gone without leaving a note about where he was going and why. Ever since, Kyra has continued traveling the Realms, looking for any trace of her father, falling in with a few different adventuring companies.

Not very ground-breaking, but I think she'll be pretty fun to play. I also decided to post her statistics s well, and I might come back and update them as she gains experience and levels up. That is, if I remember to do so.

Female Half-Elf Bard 1

Background: Sage
Ability Scores: STR 10, DEX 15, CON 12, INT 15, WIS 12, CHA 16

Hit Points: 9
Armor Class: 13
Speed: 30 ft. 

Skills: Acrobatics, Arcana, History, Investigation, Perception, Persuasion, Survival
Saving Throws: Dexterity, Charisma 
Languages: Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Elvish 

Attacks Short Sword +4 (1d6+2 Piercing), Quarterstaff +2 (1d6 [1d8] Bludgeoning), or Short Bow +4 (1d6 Piercing, 80 ft./ 320 ft. with disadvantage)

Character Features: Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, Bardic Inspiration d6 (3/Long Rest), Spellcasting 

Cantrips: Dancing Lights, Vicious Mockery 
Spells Known: (1ST) Charm Person, Detect Magic, Healing Word, Sleep
Spell Slots: (1ST) 2 

Equipment: Leather Armor, Short Sword, Quarterstaff, Short Bow, 20 Arrows, Lute, Backpack, Mess Kit, Tinderbox, 10 Torches, 10 Rations, Waterskin, 50 ft. of Hempen Rope, Bottle of Black Ink, Quill, Small Knife, Common Clothes, Gold-Colored Wood Whistle, 14 GP, 1 EP, 3 SP

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Pathfinder Chronicles: Master of the Fallen Fortress, Part One

Art by Tyler Walpole
Our Band of Adventurers
  • Strider, a Kellid Ranger hailing from the rural nation of Nirmathas. He is a quiet individual, dealing death with his twin blades. 
  • Morrigan, a Half-Orc Witch born in the Hold of Belkzen. She has made a pact with a mysterious entity and wishes to learn more about it. 
  • Nonali, a Gnome Bard from the strange land of Numeria. She has a hunger for knowledge, wanting to know everything about everything. 
  • Pix, a Tiefling Alchemist of Varisian descent. He wishes to travel the lands of the Inner Sea, making a name for himself as a potion merchant. He also happens to be something of a pyromaniac.
  • Sarkeesh, a Vudrani Cavalier from the island kingdom of Jalmeray. He used to be a criminal and hopes to redeem himself. 
  • Firarli, a Half-Elf Rogue born from the union of a Mordant Spire elf and Ulfen sailor. She was banished from her secretive home and hopes to learn more about the world. 

Our adventure begins on the 21st of Calistril, 4715 AR. The previous evening, each adventurer received a strange message from a nameless courtier, which said the following: "Meet me where it all began." The only clue to the message's origins was the the Glyph of the Open Road printed upon the parchment, the well-known symbol of the Pathfinder Society.

Following the clues and using the knowledge they've gained over three years studying under senior Pathfinders, our group of students found their way to the Merchant's Quarter of Absalom, standing before the dilapidated entrance of the Pig's Paunch, the tavern where the first Pathfinders met over 400 years ago and founded the faction. The group entered the establishment to find one of their teachers, a bombastic and broad-shouldered Chelaxian named Marcos Farabellus.

As soon as they had taken their seats at Farabellus' table and one of the servers had brought the group a round of drinks paid for by the Society's Master of Blades, the students learned why they were summoned here. Three years ago, each of them arrived in the City at the Center of the World for one reason or another and joined the Pathfinder Society. They have spent those past few years training and the Three Masters felt they were ready for their final test. This exam, known as the "Confirmation", is usually a solo endeavor uniquely crafted for each candidate to test their skills as adventurers and explores, making sure they are ready for the duties that come with being a full-fledged Pathfinders.

However, a situation has arisen that gives the Masters an opportunity to test these six greenhorns all at once. Recently, a small earthquake has opened a siege tower that was once sealed. Wishing to explore this new set of ruins, the Society sent a recently graduated agent named Balenor Forsend to investigate it. A few days have passed since he ventured out into the Cairnlands located outside the city walls and he hasn't reported back. Rather worried about Balenor's fate since he rarely reports back late, the Masters figured they could have the students explore the tower being referred to as the "Fallen Fortress" and find out what happened to Balenor. Success at this task means they will be brought into the fold as official Pathfinders and receive their wayfinders.

After accepting the test, the group headed out later that day since the trip would only take a few hours on foot (and even less on horseback). As they traveled furthered from the large metropolis, the surrounding hinterlands became choked with numerous ruins of towers and siege engines, relics of failed invasions of Absalom. While passing by these ruins, they were ambushed by a group of bandits. Although some of the Pathfinder recruits wished to fight these brigands demanding them to hand over their gold and rations, Pix the Alchemist managed to negotiate with them and avoid an unnecessary fight.

Eventually, the group arrived at the Fallen Fortress, seeing the collapsed wall and deciding to head into the darkness inside. Nonali, the group's bard decided to test something out, pulling out her harp and used the instrument to send a wave of sound into the shadowy chamber to see what lurked within, discovering numerous tiny, thin objects inside. Knowing this, Firarli the Rogue decided to be the first one to enter the chamber, but failed to notice the spider lurking above her and fell into its trap. Wishing to help their friend, the group rushed in killed the two large vermin who lived there.

Once they had finished killing the spiders, the group moved onto the next room, which appeared to be empty at first. However, they quickly noticed something was off about the center of the room. Upon investigation, they discovered a hastily covered entrance to a collapsed tunnel with reptilian footprints. They followed said footprints into the next chamber and up a spiraled flight of stairs. Waiting for them atop these stairs in the very next chamber was a group of young troglodytes, shocked by the appearance of the "fleshies", and grabbed their weapons to assault these intruders.

Will the party survive this encounter? Will they discover the fate of Balenor Forsend? Will they make it out of the Fallen Fortress alive? Tune in next time to find out!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pathfinder Musing: Fighter Revisions

Like the Rogue, I like the concept of the Fighter. I enjoy playing combat-focused characters, individuals who've spend many years either training to become masters at the art of fighting or happened to be students of the school of hard knocks. While I love playing spellcasters, sometimes its just fun to pick up a big sword and beat the ever-living shit out of something.

With that being said, Pathfinder's Fighter is lacking in a few mechanical departments. Don't get me wrong, Pathfinder's version of this class is much better than the 3rd Edition & 3.5 Edition one. However, it still needs a few tweaks here and there to make it the best around and make sure nothing can ever keep it down. 

My apologizes if you're now humming some Joe Esposito.

With mechanical tweaks in mind, I've created a few house rules to make the Fighter just a little better and I have a few more ideas I've not implemented yet but feel would be pretty cool.

The first change I made to the Fighter is to the number of skill ranks it receives each level. Originally, the Fighter received 2 + Intelligence modifier skill ranks per level. This was pitiful and usually meant players of the class had to be very picky with their choices, which also ended up making the class not as mechanically useful outside of combat. Now, within my games, the Fighter receives 4 + Intelligence modifier skill ranks per level. Archetypes that raise the Fighter's number of skill ranks still do this, but now they go to 6 instead of 4. 

I actually recommend doing this for every class that receives only 2 + Intelligence modifier skill ranks and doesn't have Intelligence as a primary ability score. It has worked wonders for my game.

The second alteration I made was to the Fighter's options when selecting certain combat feats. Whenever a Fighter selects a combat feat that requires him to select a specific weapon, he can select a weapon group listed on pg 56 of the Core Rulebook instead. I'll give an example. Let's say Valeros the Fighter grabs Weapon Focus at 1st level as one of his bonus feats. Normally, he'd have to select a specific weapon, like a longsword or a battleaxe. Now, he could select the heavy blades weapon group, receiving the benefits of the feat with every weapon belonging to that group. Anyone else can pick up these feats, but the Fighter gets more utility out of them. 

I have a few other changes I've been contemplating for awhile, but haven't implemented yet. The easiest to implement would be giving the Fighter an ability similar to the Brawler's Cunning ability, allowing them to treat an Intelligence score that's lower than 13 as if it were a 13 for the purpose of meeting certain feat prerequisites like Combat Expertise. 

The second change would be much more drastic, requiring me to actually rebuild the class to make it work. I've mentioned it before on this blow, but I'll go ahead and do it again: The Gritty Fighter. This version of the class would receive a pool of points similar to the Gunslinger and the Swashbuckler, possibly called "Prowess", they could spend to perform amazing deeds. As an example, a 1st level fighter would have three deeds to spend their prowess points on. These deeds could be one similar to the Cavalier's Challenge ability, one similar to the Gunslinger's Dodge deed, and one similar to the Swashbuckler's Derring-Do deed. Each of these deeds would cost 1 prowess point to use. This would help make the class much more interesting and give Fighter players some cool options during and outside of combat. I have some rough notes about implementing this idea, but I still need to give them a test and make some revisions before I post them for the world to see.

What about you? Do you have any house rules for the Pathfinder Fighter? What are they? I'd love to hear about them in the comments below. 

Monday, March 2, 2015

Rule of Three: Introducing New Players to Tabletop Games

Me teaching people to play Betrayal at House on the Hill.
Introducing new players to the wonderful world of tabletop games can be a difficult task at times. You want to help the hobby grow and be more diverse, but you're not sure how to exactly do that. Which games do I use to do this? Should I come on strong, or be more subtle? Will the people who I'm trying to bring into the fold even be interested in the games I've selected? These are all questions that can rear their ugly heads when attempting to do this. 

With that in mind, I thought I'd take some time and express some simple ticks that I've picked up over the years for introducing people to the hobby. While this particular Rule of Three will focus on board games specifically, you can use these tips for introducing people to roleplaying games as well. Maybe I'll approach roleplaying games specifically in a future post. 

#1. Utilize Simple, Gateway or Cooperative Games
When introducing new people to board games, resist the urge to pull down the big box 4x game that will take six to eight hours to play. The game might be really cool and have a great amount of strategic depth, but none of that will matter if the person you are trying to introduce to the game is overwhelmed by it and scared off. Instead, grab the games with simple rules that are easy to understand and grasp. Games like Ticket to Ride or Splendor are perfect for this because the rules are relatively easy to learn, the amount of choices you have to make are small, and don't overstay their welcome, 

Alternatively, you could also use a simple cooperative game as well, like Forbidden Island or Pandemic. The great thing about cooperative games is that you can say "learn as we play" and actually mean it because everyone is working together instead of trying to be the sole winner. Also, its likely the new player has never experienced a cooperative board game before, so you get to show them something cool and interesting about the hobby right from the get go. 

#2. Take the Player's Preferences Into Account
While you're pulling down the different games you're contemplating using to introduce particular people, you should also take into account that person's taste in genre and media. Maybe they're a big fantasy nut, so you might grab Small World instead of Settlers of Catan. What if they love kaiju movies? Well, time to pull out King of Tokyo or Rampage. Are they a Trekker? I guess it's a good thing you picked up Star Trek Catan a few years ago. 

The reasons for doing this are pretty obvious. People are generally more likely to be engaged in something they already find interesting, so using a board game with such a theme gives you a automatic hook for that particular person. 

#3. Try to Make the Experience Less Intimidating
When attempting to bring someone new into the gaming fold, do your best to make the situation as open and welcoming as possible. While it might not seem like it to us, this hobby can be a little intimidating, especially when you consider the sheer amount of games that exist out there and the perception that many people have about our community.

Make sure the situation has a relaxed mood, showing that everyone is hear to have a good time playing some cards and chucking some dice. Remind the new player its alright to ask questions about the game, and please be patient with them when they do so. Finally, make sure the more veteran players understand what your'e trying to do and exude friendliness as well.

Do you have your own tips or tricks for introducing new players to board games and gaming in general? What are they? Mention them in the comments below because I'd love to hear about them.