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GenCon 2014 – Part 3: Pathfinder, Pathfinder, and More Pathfinder

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

PathfinderAdvancedClassGuideEvery year, one of the most enjoyable booths to attend at GenCon is the Paizo booth. And I’m certainly not alone in that belief. Last year, the massive rush at Paizo to get copies of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game: Rise of the Runelords base set (more on this later) resulted in a line that snaked its away across a massive section of the Exhibit Hall. This year, they had to actually have a line out in the hallway to even be admitted into the booth, to avoid cluttering up the Exhibit Hall itself with all the desperate Pathfinder fans. And there were certainly a lot of great products to inspire a spending frenzy this year.

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game

The flagship product coming from Paizo Publishing is the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Pathfinder always has a ton of great releases coming out on an extremely aggressive schedule – a range of adventure modules, player companion supplements, campaign setting supplements, and so on – but here are some main hardcover rulebooks slated for the next few months that are of particular interest to anyone who plays Pathfinder.

Advanced Class Guide (Amazon, Paizo)

This new book provides details on 10 new hybrid classes, which are designed to meld together traits from two of the core and base classes from previous supplements. For example, the hunter is a hybrid of the ranger and druid, a martial character who is able to channel animal powers and bond more closely with their animal companion, but still wield spells. The bloodrager mixes the combat features of the barbarian with the mystical bloodlines of the sorcerer. The brawler is a fighter who gains several of the unarmed combat benefits of the monk, but without the spiritual aspects.

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GenCon 2014 – Part 2: Kickstarters of Future and Past

Monday, August 18th, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

DungeonDwellersTitleYesterday, I spent some time talking about some new games that are becoming available from smaller game publishers. Several of these had their origins in Kickstarters … and that’s becoming such a common thing that it’s worth devoting a single post just to Kickstarter-based games. This model by which fans can directly support their games that are under development is growing more and more popular among the GenCon crowd. It seems like most of the smaller, independent game companies have been going the Kickstarter route.

We’ll start with the new games and products that have already been successfully funded on Kickstarter:

Dungeon Dwellers - This is a cooperative dungeon crawl-themed card game, which I stumbled upon while trying to get across the Exhibit Hall on Sunday. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t have time to play a demo of the game, despite the fact that it looked like a lot of fun. Fortunately, their website has a number of videos showing how the game is played for those who are interested.

Incredible Expeditions: Quest for Atlantis – This steampunk exploration card game was so new that they didn’t even have copies to sell at GenCon because it was held up by U.S. Customs. (People who have backed games on Kickstarter have no doubt gained an amazing appreciation for how diligent our nation’s Customs officials are … at least when it comes to slowing down delivery of games.) They did, however, have demo copies and a great booth that drew a lot of attention and traffic to make use of those demos. The game can be played either cooperatively or competitively, as well, which I always consider to be a bonus. Again, their website has a great video talking about the game, though, so check it out.

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GenCon 2014 – Part 1: Boosting the Signal

Sunday, August 17th, 2014 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

ThunderscapeThis year marks my sixth year of attending GenCon to represent Black Gate, and one thing that I always enjoy is finding some more esoteric, outside-the-mainstream games to suggest to people.

I definitely have some solid booths I attend every year — Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Privateer Press, Cryptozoic, and so on — but those are generally games that people will hear of through normal advertising and marketing channels. If I can shed some light on a game that’s being overlooked or is just starting up, well, that’s the sort of thing that Black Gate was really built to do.

With that in mind, I’m going to start my GenCon coverage by discussing some of the less well-known games and publishers that I came across this year, but which have new and upcoming games that might be of interest. I’ll cover the big guys over the next few days, but I definitely want to get the word out on these as soon as possible.

A lot of these games are so new they aren’t even available for purchase online yet, but I’ll provide information as they become available.

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Runebound – The Sands of Al-Kalim

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Sands_dwarf

Forget garden gnomes: Those pesky dwarves get everywhere. Even the desert!

The Sands of Al-Kalim is one of the ‘big box’ expansions for Runebound. As opposed to the smaller, ‘card-only’ expansions, these come with a new board. You lay this board over the original game board and it completely changes the terrain. Islands, the frozen north: you get the idea. There are also other components that add to the mechanics, encounters, etc.

Not surprisingly, The Sands of Al-Kalim adds a desert/Ali Baba type of theme to the base game. There are several game play modifications (boy, does exhaustion become a factor!) such as choosing to move at day or night.

But one fundamental change is when you move onto a hex with an Adventure Counter. Now you have two additional options. You can roll the Story die or possibly undertake a Legendary Adventure.

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Art of the Genre: When an Old School Mind Learns How to Play D&D 5th Edition

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 | Posted by Scott Taylor

5E Players Handbook CI remember when I first played Basic D&D, then the first time I played AD&D, then 2nd Edition AD&D, and finally 3rd Edition D&D right around the turn of the millennia.  By the time 4th Edition came around, I no longer had a regular gaming group and didn’t care to reinvest my time, money, and shelf space in yet another iteration of Dungeons & Dragons.

Still, that didn’t stop me from continuing on with the hobby, from 3.5 to Pathfinder, and finally all the way back to my renewed love of the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons some time around 2010.  When I heard that Wizards of the Coast would be rolling out another edition of D&D in 2014, this one initially referred to as ‘Next’ and now 5th Edition, I wasn’t much into the idea of vesting time in it, but after having skipped over 4th EditionI did feel a need to at least see what the new concepts were about.

Thankfully, I’ve had a chance to first preview the content of the 5th Edition Starter Set box and finally the initial release of both the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook and the first campaign adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

In today’s Art of the Genre, I’ll be looking over the Player’s Handbook as my well-aged brain tries to grasp what WotC and 175,000 test gamers thought D&D should look like circa 2014.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: RPGing with a board — Runebound

Monday, August 4th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

RUnebound_BoardIt is very difficult to build a good RPG board game. The constraints of the medium make it hard to compare favorably with the actual pen and paper or PC/video game role playing experience.

By far, the best board/card game I’ve found that emulates the role-playing experience is the Pathfinder Rise of the Runelords Adventure Card Game. The adventures get more difficult, you level up and the gear gets better. You maintain your items, spells, and levels from scenario to scenario through an entire Adventure Path, rather than start over each game play session. I’m sure I’ll post on that excellent game in the future.

Another game that I enjoy (though not as much) is Runebound (2nd Edition) from Fantasy Flight Games. It’s not as slick as Wizards of the Coast’s Wrath of Ashardalon, and not as complex as Fantasy Flight’s Rune Wars. But it’s got an appeal for RPGers.

The large board is of thick stock and divided into hexes like old school D&D maps. You travel through different terrain to either enter towns or land on hexes with colored adventure counters. The four different colors represent difficulty levels, from easiest (green) on up through yellow, purple, and red, granting from one to four experience points per color category.

When a player lands on a counter, they select an adventure card of the appropriate color. It can be a challenge, an event, or an encounter. Usually, there’s a fight: sometimes with a skill test involved. You gain experience (and usually gold) from successfully meeting the adventure card.

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Taking Five Worlds Before Breakfast: The Pleasures of EVE Conquests

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

Eve Conquests-smallI have a real weakness for board games, and especially large-scale space strategy games. It’s one thing to punch that Pop-O-Matic bubble and move your little green marker around a Trouble board; it’s something else entirely to stealthily assemble an unstoppable fleet and launch them en masse towards the unsuspecting alien armada in orbit around Sirius. Ah, I get a thrill just thinking about it.

Sometimes a great space game will sneak up on me. It’s not my fault – I can barely keep up with all the fantasy books that show up at Barnes & Noble every week. I’ve totally given up on keeping track of new sci-fi board games.

This one snuck up on me at the Games Plus Spring Auction back in March. I’m sitting there in the front row, minding my own business, when the auctioneer suddenly hefts this big heavy box unto his shoulder, says something like “EVE Conquests, a strategy game set in the world of EVE Online. Opening bid: one dollar,” and starts the bidding.

So I blink a couple of times, and think, what the heck is this thing? I thought EVE Online was an online game? Oooooo, it looks cool, whatever it is. And heavy. Like it’s packed with beautiful starship miniatures and mounted boards and strange artifacts of alien civilizations… I want it. I shall bid on it.

Well, not for long I won’t. Twenty seconds after the bidding started, it moved well out of my price range and remained there for some time. Screw this, I thought. I can find a cheaper copy online. Famous last words.

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A Look at the Latest Incarnation: Dungeons & Dragons 5.0

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 | Posted by Jon Sprunk

D&D Monster Manual Fifth Edition-smallWith Wizards of the Coast gearing up to release their latest incarnation of Dungeons and Dragons, it took me back to 1978, when I first encountered the game.

I was eight years old, browsing a hobby shop in Ohio with my family, when I saw this blue box with a picture of a dragon sitting on a pile of gold and jewels on the front cover. A warrior and a wizard were preparing to attack. What was this???

I took a better look and then promptly asked my father to buy it for me. His first reaction was a bit negative, telling my brother (who now wanted the game, too) and me that Dungeons and Dragons was for college students and we wouldn’t understand it. But the more he explained the concept, the more I wanted to play. Finally, he agreed, and we went home with it.

Shortly afterward, we ran our very first D&D session. My brother and I were the players, and Dad was our first dungeon master. I remember I played a fighter named Brandon the Bold, and my brother played a magic-user. (No fancy titles like Wizard or Mage for us!)

Together, we delved into the crumbling catacombs under a sorcerer’s tower, where we encountered goblins, animated skeletons, and a clan of pirates operating out of the ruins. Much evil was conquered and a bit of treasure won, and finally we emerged from the catacombs victorious.

We were hooked.

It wasn’t long before I had recruited my friends and was DMing games for them. Over the next few years, I created new worlds, original dungeons, and complete campaign storylines with which to entertain my victims…. er, players. And it’s continued for more than thirty years to today.

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Game Changers

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014 | Posted by James Maliszewski

book4In previous posts, I may have mentioned that, as a kid, there were three roleplaying games that I liked – and played – above all others: Dungeons & Dragons, Traveller, and Call of Cthulhu. I played lots of other games, too, but these were the ones that most strongly captured my imagination. Because I played these three so much, I was also a voracious consumer of supplementary materials produced for them. Of course, being a young person, my funds were limited; I had to be judicious in what I purchased. Consequently, I tended to put a priority on items I deemed to have the most overall utility. This meant, in the case of AD&D for example, that I placed greater value on hardcover rulebooks than on adventure modules (though I still bought plenty of adventures over the years).

My appetite for such broadly “useful” supplements was practical, since my friends and I played RPGs a lot. We were young and well nigh addicted to this weird new form of game. During the summer months, we quite literally played all day long, from the time we got up until the time the sun set, taking brief breaks only to scarf down some food before returning to the table. I’d conservatively reckon that, in terms of raw hours of play, my friends and I had probably played more than had many of our elders who’d started roleplaying years before us. That’s the nature of youth, as we had the free time to indulge our boundless enthusiasm in a way that most people do not.

I hesitate to say that, because we played so much, we more quickly became jaded than did many of our peers, but it’s probably true nonetheless. We were constantly on the lookout for ways to take our campaigns in new directions, to stoke the flame of our RPG ardor. The first supplement that I remember achieving this was Book 4: Mercenary for GDW’s Traveller. My friends and I started playing Traveller with The Traveller Book, which was released in 1982. That book alone was enough to keep us busy for many, many months of science fiction adventure in the far future. However, we did eventually want more out Traveller and Mercenary fit the bill, providing us with new skills, equipment, and – most importantly – expanded rules for generating Army and Marine characters.

Mercenary changed the way we played Traveller forever. Previously, Merchants, Scouts, and Navy personnel were favored, because these careers were all space-based and thus what we considered to be the stuff of sci-fi. But Mercenary-generated characters were so much better than those generated using the original system. They had more (and better) skills, as well as lots of fun perks like advanced training and commendations. Our campaigns quickly shifted gears to focus on ground-pounding mercenaries involved in interstellar brush fire wars (which, as it turned out, was how nearly everyone else we knew played the game). Mercenary had a profound impact on us and extended the life of our ongoing Traveller campaign considerably.

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The New York Times on How Dungeons & Dragons Influenced a Generation of Writers

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 | Posted by John ONeill

AD&D Monster Manual-smallEthan Gilsdorf, a contributor for Gygax Magazine, wrote an intriguing feature for the Sunday New York Times last weekend. Interviewing several popular writers, Gilsdorf shows how profoundly Dungeons and Dragons, which turned 40 this year, has influenced the current generation of fantasy authors.

For certain writers, especially those raised in the 1970s and ’80s, all that time spent in basements has paid off. D&D helped jump-start their creative lives. As [Junot] Díaz said, “It’s been a formative narrative media for all sorts of writers.”

The league of ex-gamer writers also includes the “weird fiction” author China Miéville (The City & the City); Brent Hartinger (author of Geography Club, a novel about gay and bisexual teenagers); the sci-fi and young adult author Cory Doctorow; the poet and fiction writer Sherman Alexie; the comedian Stephen Colbert; George R. R. Martin, author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series (who still enjoys role-playing games)…

Mr. Díaz, who teaches writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said his first novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, was written “in honor of my gaming years.” Oscar, its protagonist, is “a role-playing-game fanatic…” Though Mr. Díaz never became a fantasy writer, he attributes his literary success, in part, to his “early years profoundly embedded and invested in fantastic narratives.” From D&D, he said, he “learned a lot of important essentials about storytelling, about giving the reader enough room to play.”

Read the complete article here.


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