Exploring Pathfinder‘s Age of Lost Omens

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

LostOmensWorldGuideWith the release of Pathfinder Second Edition at GenCon in August, Paizo set out to once again re-capture fire in a bottle. They’d done it once before, a decade ago, when they took the ruleset of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e, slapped it together with a ton of house rule modifications and other changes, and then rebranded it as the Pathfinder RPG. Here they were taking that very same Pathfinder RPG, which had itself grown wildly successful, and trying to create a new and compelling variant of that.

Having played a handful of the Pathfinder Second Edition games now, I’m finding quite a lot to like about it the system. But one of the things that drew me so powerfully to Pathfinder First Edition was when I got my hands on the Inner Sea World Guide. While the rules were great, the dynamic nature of the setting, with the rich diversity of nations and storytelling options, was what really engrossed me.

And clearly I’m not alone, because one of the first releases that Paizo planned to follow-up the release of Pathfinder Second Edition was the Lost Omens World Guide (Paizo, Amazon). The default setting for Pathfinder (both editions) is the Age of Lost Omens on the world of Golarian, and thus the name of the guide. This re-introduces the core of the Pathfinder setting, while at the same time introducing a quick infusion of new character creation and advancement options to supplement the basic rules.

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Pathfinder Second Edition

Saturday, August 31st, 2019 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Pathfinder2EAs has been the case for the last few years, this year’s big Gen Con release was from the folks at Paizo. Two years ago we got the release of Starfinder. Last year was the release of the Pathfinder Playtest. And this year the Pathfinder Playtest reaches its fruition with the release of Pathfinder Second Edition, released into the wild at the beginning of August.

The gamer fanatics that we are here at Black Gate, we’ve been interested in this since Pathfinder Second Edition was first announced.  Last fall, I covered the Pathfinder Playtest, and most of the basic game mechanics introduced in the playtest stayed constant in the Second Edition release, even if some of the specifics changed.

The pacing is one of the best aspects of Pathfinder Second Edition. The action economy of having three actions each turn, and different tasks taking different numbers of those actions, helps keep players and the gamemaster moving smoothly through the turns. Each character can track their most common actions, based upon their character build, so that they can easily keep track of their options in the action economy.

The character design in Pathfinder Second Edition is around accumulating feats – ancestry & heritage feats, class feats, general feats, and skill feats – that allow for a wide range of diversity. Some of these feats also unlock uncommon task types, which players without those feats aren’t able to access. This keeps the distinctive customization that has really become the hallmark of the Pathfinder RPG over the last decade.

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Starfinder Update: Space Fantasy in the Future of Pathfinder

Tuesday, April 30th, 2019 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

StarfinderBeginnerBoxFor the last couple of years, one of my favorite games has been the science fantasy RPG Starfinder from Paizo, the makers of the Pathfinder RPG. Starfinder has all the magic and adventure of Pathfinder, co-mingled with high technology and a wild space setting. The best way to describe the feel of the adventures is a mix of Dungeons & Dragons with Guardians of the Galaxy.

The game has expanded at a steady pace over the last couple of years. Two Alien Archive supplements have been released, with a third slated for a GenCon release in August. They’ve released the Pact Worlds setting book and an Armory supplement, and a Character Operations Manual focusing on increased player options is coming in October 2019. They’ve also just announced a collaboration with WizKids to produce a Starfinder Battles series of prepainted miniatures.

The setting focuses on the solar system that once housed the planet of Golarion, the main Pathfinder setting, but Golarion itself no longer exists. In its place is Absalom Station, a giant space station that houses the Soulstone and is a hub of travel for shifts traveling through the Drift, the mysterious dimension that allows for rapid travel across vast distances of space. Among many other things, Absalom Station is the headquarters of the Starfinder Society, a group of explorers and adventurers who travel throughout the Pact Worlds and beyond into the Vast to discover new worlds and civilizations, occasionally running afoul of the undead Corpse Fleet or other threats, from space pirates to alien menaces like the vicious Swarm.

For those who haven’t yet explored the setting, and are looking for a guided introduction, the new Starfinder Beginner Box offers a great springboard to get into the game. It comes with a streamlined rule set, some cards that help provide rule and condition reminders, pregenerated characters, a variety of cardboard pawns representing characters and creatures, a gridded map for play, and an introductory adventure module.

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Pathfinder Playtest Update

Saturday, September 29th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

PathfinderPlaytestSince Gen Con 2018, the Pathfinder Playtest has been in full swing, testing the new rule system that will form the basis for Pathfinder Second Edition, slated to release at Gen Con 2019. The game looks to streamline the system, and create a more coherent play experience across the diverse options that players of Pathfinder have available.

Participating in the Playtest

The major materials – the Pathfinder Playtest Rulebook and the Doomsday Dawn adventure book, as well as supplements like the Playtest Bestiary and pregenerated characters – are all available for free download from Paizo.com, so that anyone can participate in the playtest experience. Feedback is provided through the messageboards on the Paizo forum and also by entering survey data when you’ve run someone through an adventure or scenario.

In addition to the download of the Rulebook, you should also download the Rulebook Update sheet. This is updated regularly – every couple of weeks so far – and includes ongoing modifications to the rules, which are to be incorporated immediately. The biggest change was a pretty comprehensive revamp of the Death & Dying rules, although they’ve since gone in and modified some of the classes a bit, added an additional healing option for the Medicine skill, and made other changes as needed.

The Doomsday Dawn adventure book has a series of 7 adventures that are linked together in a campaign style, set over a period of ten years, but you don’t always play the same characters. The adventures begin at first level and then skip levels as you proceed. The characters you play at first level show up in subsequent adventures, at higher levels, but in between you play with some different characters, with some adventures focusing more on outdoor adventures or healing characters. The goal is that playing through the entire adventure, you’ll have an opportunity to test out lots of different play styles and aspects of the game.

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Modular: Pathfinder Planar Adventures

Sunday, July 29th, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Planar_AdventuresFor as long as it has existed, Dungeons & Dragons (and its spin-off game, Pathfinder) have not been about a single world, but a multiverse of different worlds and dimensions. The entities that exist within these realms can be good or evil, or sometimes merely strange and exotic. But regardless of their precise nature, they are distinctly other than us, because these different realms and dimensions are governed by rules different than event he fantasy rules that govern the main adventuring worlds.

As Pathfinder First Edition begins slowing down its cycle of new rules releases, paving the way for the upcoming Pathfinder Playtest starting at GenCon and, ultimately, the release of Pathfinder Second Edition at GenCon 2019, it’s good to see that their final First Edition hardcover rulebook release, Planar Adventures  (PaizoAmazon), provides a mix of setting material that will be broadly applicable to any game set within the multiverse that contains the Pathfinder world of Golarion.

Following a general tradition within Pathfinder rulebooks, the first chapter focuses on characters. There are a dozen new planar-related archetypes, such as the Azatariel (Swashbuckler champions of Elysium), the Gloomblade (a Shadow Plane-influenced Fighter), and Progenitors (Druids with powerful bonds to the First World of the fey). Character options include new feats, spells, and magical items related to travel throughout the planes.

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Origins Game Fair: Pathfinder Society Organized Play

Saturday, June 23rd, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

PathfinderPlaytestEarlier this week, I spoke briefly about attending my first Origins Game Fair event in Columbus, OH, over last weekend, and about the Origins Awards they handed out for best game products of the year. But I wasn’t there for the awards, of course. I was there for the games themselves.

Origins gave the one of the first real opportunities in the wild to see the upcoming Pathfinder Playtest in action. (It has previously been available at GaryCon, PaizoCon, and the UK Games Expo.) We have previously discussed the announcement by Paizo to release a public playtest at GenCon 2018 for their Second Edition, which will then release at GenCon 2019. Unfortunately for me, those events were fairly consistently sold out, and busy enough they didn’t want too many loiterers around the table to slow down the game for those actually playing. The tables were in a fairly accessible location, though, and the people playing seemed to be really enjoying themselves, but my attempt to get a glance at the character sheets were consistently thwarted. (I am signed up in one of the first Playtest slots at GenCon, though, so that I can provide feedback at that point.)

I’ve been following Paizo’s releases about the Pathfinder Playtest on their blog with interest, though, and was able to have a discussion with Paizo’s John Compton and Tonya Woldridge, to get some answers to the questions I had about how this would all play out … so to speak. John and Tonya are focused on the Pathfinder Society (and Starfinder Society) Organized Play program, so that’s where we spent the majority of our conversation. But before getting into the Organized Play questions, I wondered what to expect from a story-based perspective: Will Pathfinder Playtest (or Pathfinder 2nd Edition) come with a realm-shattering storyline?

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Old School Role Playing, and Pathfinder by the Pound: Gary Con 2018 Report, Part I

Monday, March 12th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Gary Con 2018 Black Gate report-small

My favorite gaming convention is Gary Con, founded in Gary Gygax’s home town of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in 2009, the year after he passed away. I attended many of the early Gary Cons, but regrettably have missed the last few years. I’d heard the convention had outgrown the local lodge and was now being held in a much larger venue a few minutes outside town, the Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, and I was very curious to see just how big it has become. So I packed up my car on Saturday morning and made the 90-minute drive north from St. Charles, Illinois, to Lake Geneva.

How much has it grown? A lot. Just a few years ago Gary Con was a few hundred gamers who gathered to remember Gary and celebrate all that he brought to gaming. But on Saturday morning I walked into a sprawling modern gaming convention, with thousands of folks happily throwing down dice in multiple buildings and numerous gaming rooms. I’m delighted to report that, while it had gotten much grander, Gary Con has lost none of its friendly atmosphere — or its focus on the kind of old-school role playing pioneered by Gygax.

The highlight of the con for me is always the Exhibit Hall, which has always felt more like an intimate gathering of friends than just a place to hawk wares. In past years I’ve met many some of the most creative minds in the OSR (“Old School Revival”) community there, including Jeffrey Talanian, author of the Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea RPG, Daniel Proctor, creator of Labyrinth Lord, Stephen Chenault, creator of Castle & Crusades, and Jon Hershberger, co-founder of Black Blade Publishing (OSRIC). Every year I also take the opportunity to meet up with friends such as Dave Kenzer and Jolly Blackburn of KenzerCo.

The tiny Exhibit Hall has grown enormously since I’d last attended, however. In fact, there were over 50 exhibitors spread across two halls, including Frog God Games, Goodman Games, Kobold Press, Northwind Adventures, Troll Lord Games, Hammered Game Tables, Inner City Games Designs, Pacesetter Games, Total Party Kill Games, and many more. Truly an old-school role player’s paradise!

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Modular: Pathfinder 2nd Edition Announced – Never Say Never

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Pathfinder_PlaytestrulebookYesterday, Paizo announced an upcoming playtest for a 2nd Edition of Pathfinder. Wow.

For years, Paizo officials have said that there would never be a second edition. I suspect that all evidence of those statements have been scoured from the Internet. A quick search didn’t find any. There might have been qualifiers along the way, such as ‘unless the demand is too great’ or some such. But I remember the message as ‘We won’t do a 2nd Edition.” With the inference, ‘Making you buy all of your stuff over again.’

I thought that they might be adhering to that pledge when they put out Starfinder, a science fiction RPG. That seemed like a smart approach if they couldn’t update the original Pathfinder.

But I believe that events conspired against them. The best thing that ever happened to Pathfinder was 4th Edition D&D (granted – it was the impetus for Pathfinder). The worst thing that ever happened to Pathfinder was 5th Edition D&D.

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Modular: Picking Pathfinder

Monday, September 11th, 2017 | Posted by Bob Byrne

I’m curPatfhinder_Corerently running a Swords & Wizardry (S&W) campaign for a few friends. I wrote here about why I chose S&W instead of my preferred system, Pathfinder. In fact, that post served as the genesis for this Black Gate feature,  Modular. But now, I’m going to look at some of the strengths of Pathfinder and why, when this S&W campaign is done, I’m going to transition the group to a Pathfinder adventure.

So, though I had both played and run Pathfinder, I chose S&W for reasons I talked about in that prior post. I wanted a more story-driven, less mechanics-based system. Also, because two-thirds of the party was new to pen and paper RPGing, I wanted something lighter in the rules department. And there’s no comparison between the two in that regard. The S&W Core Rules comes in at just over 140 pages. The Pathfinder Core Rulebook is almost 600!

Now, I explained in that first post that while I was still reading RPG products, I had stopped playing during 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons (D&D): there simply hadn’t been time for it.

But I wanted to get back into playing, and the choice seemed to be between Pathfinder and the newly released 4th Edition. Now, I had only ever played D&D, going back to 1st Edition. I mean, it was synonymous with role playing games and 4th Edition was the natural choice. But as I researched both systems, Pathfinder clearly seemed to be the way to go.

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New Treasures: Pathfinder Tales: Through The Gate in the Sea by Howard Andrew Jones

Friday, February 17th, 2017 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder Tales Through The Gate in the Sea-smallHoward Andrew Jones’ fourth Pathfinder Tales novel, Through the Gate in the Sea, will be released in trade paperback by Tor Books next week. I made the long journey to his wind-swept writing tower to get the skinny for Black Gate readers. Here’s what he told me, in tiny script written on yak hide, lowered down on a long rope.

I love the lizardman. Everyone’s favorite lizardman Jekka is a point-of-view character this time. And there’s a pirate captain, Ensara. He’s not as bad as he thinks he is, but he’s not as good as you’d like him to be. He gets caught in the middle of things, and he has to choose between helping Mirian and Jekka, and staying with his crew. He’s down on his luck, and gets hired by a sorceress to hunt down Mirian and get these magical artifacts. I really enjoyed writing Ensara’s chapters.

It’s got a little bit of a hard boiled tone. While I was writing it, I was reading a lot of Chandler and Ricard Stark and Wade Miller. It’s got the usual journeying through weird places. If I’m reading a fantasy novel, give me interesting people in interesting places! There’s a chance to find an lost city through a magical portal in the middle of the ocean, and if they do, Jekka and his people will have a place to live.

But the devil-worshiping empire of Cheliax hasn’t forgotten its defeat at Mirian’s hands. On the other side of the portal are all these powerful artifacts. And an ancient, undead child-king wants the one that’s kept the lost lizardfolk city safe for centuries.

Whatever, man. You had me at Lizardman POV character. Through The Gate in the Sea will be published by Tor Books on February 21, 2017. It is 352 pages, priced at $14.99 in trade paperback and $9.99 for the digital edition.


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