A Renaissance for Vegas Game Day – August 17

Gamers try Fantasy Flight Games Ingenious Board Game at Vegas Game Day

Spontaneous Board Gaming at Vegas Game Day: Ingenious from FFG

Several months had passed since I last attended a Vegas Game Day at the Emergency Arts Building here in Las Vegas. On the whole, compared to my first time at a Vegas Game Day, attendance in the early half of 2013 has been down, but on August 17, I saw promising signs of a Vegas Game Day Renaissance. While the morning session had four of the /usr/tech/lib’s six tables reserved for games, there were so many new faces that impromptu board game action spread over to one of the remaining tables.

However back in 2012, Vegas Game Day would typically have all of its available tables booked with a variety of role-playing and board games. At the time Vegas Game Day was also serving as a meeting place for volunteers for the now-defunct Las Vegas gaming convention Neoncon. For VGD organizer Perry Snow, ensuring the right coverage of scheduled games is just one of many challenges in providing gamers a great place to play and meet other like-minded gamers. He also creates and updates the day’s schedule on Warhorn, besides designing and updating the brochure each month which describes the day’s offerings. Snow also spends time monitoring the group’s Meetup page, welcoming newcomers, answering questions, and steering gamers towards others with similar interests. Helping others is a major part of Snow’s regular workday as a programmer analyst, which sees the fan of the Citadels Card Game and the Cortex Plus (Drama) RPG system troubleshooting user problems with computer applications. As someone who has spent most of his life in front of a computer screen, it is the social aspect which Snow enjoys most about Vegas Game Day, meeting and sharing with other gamers in real time.

As Snow tells it, in the past a Vegas Game Day might even be followed by pick-up games at an organizer’s house. If a newcomer gelled with his or her table or party, he or she might be welcomed to come play later or in a home campaign. While there is still that possibility now, Snow is unable to provide it himself, having become married and the father of two. As for the right number of games offered at the tables, Snow admits it can be difficult. In the past he had a dedicated board gamer who could be counted on to bring his own games or play in games scheduled by others. However after three months of little to no turnout for the board game sessions, the player lost interest. For RPGs and would-be GMs, it can be even more draining. The GM can spend hour upon hour prepping an adventure only to not get enough players to play.

Such was the case on August 17 when the morning session of Shadowrun was scrapped due to low player turnout. In part this seems due to Vegas Game Day coinciding with Gen Con, but it’s not the first time that Shadowrun’s been cancelled recently. For now the steady sessions and mainstays seem to be Savage Worlds and Pathfinder Society, but the influx of new players may see some changes to future Vegas Game Day offerings.

Savage Worlds: The Land of Ugh!

Savage Worlds uber-fan Jerrod “Savage Daddy” Gunning has done it again! Taking inspiration from Wingnut Games’ Land of Og RPG, Gunning ran a caveman-themed Savage Worlds session with delightful results. Most significantly our characters’ vocabularies were very limited. At the beginning of the session we made a Smarts roll to determine our vocabularies and took turns drawing words out of a hat. I rolled a 3 and had “No”, “You”, and “Cave” for the rest of the game. We also knew our character’s own names; mine was Frock. True to form, rather than just using poker chips or some other token as Bennies, Gunning provided us with rocks to use to get re-rolls and as rewards for good role-playing.

Five real rocks used as Bennies on top of Savage Worlds Ugh Caveman character sheet

Real Rocks for Bennies Only Add to the Immersion in Savage Worlds: Land of Ugh!

The actual adventure was simple and straightforward. Our caveman chieftain commanded us to go out and gather food and to also look for a rival tribe in the area. Unfortunately for us, to understand this required successful Smarts rolls and a decent amount of role-playing. After knocking a little sense into the less intelligent we set out and came upon some velociraptors. An excellent opportunity to use the Finger-Counting skill! Success! I counted out the number of raptors as three on my thick fingers as my main rival, Urr, moved in to attack. Other players had failed their Notice rolls and blundered about. I may have tried to encourage my fellow cavemen, using my words: “You cave! You cave!” I certainly attacked and brained one, “Frock cave you!” Urr claimed another and our pea-brained ally Grog found some fermented mangos and tossed one down another’s throat. I began to eat the brains of one of the raptors, hoping it would allow me to gain some smarts and received a Benny for my efforts.

“You’re not afraid of the mango.”

Grog handed out fermented mangos, which the rest of us promptly began to eat and successfully passed our Vigor rolls to avoid intoxication, even as we failed to understand Grog’s animated warnings. Around this point, I also used my Pictogram skill to draw a lewd depiction of a velociraptor … riding Urr (which would be far too obscene to show here). To even look at the drawing, Urr’s player had to make a successful Smarts roll, which he did. “You cave! You cave!” I suggestively taunted Urr. Among his responses to me was “Idiosyncratic.” Gunning had peppered the commonplace words like “You”, “Me”, “Rock”, and “Bang” with “Idiosyncratic” and “Perspicacious”. Yes, Savage Worlds of Ugh! was both funny and fun.

The T-Rex Battle

Gamers play Savage Worlds Caveman adventure at Vegas Game Day

Savage Worlds Indeed! Players get Primitive at Vegas Game Day

The climax of our adventure soon arrived in the form of a “big hairy” battling some other primitive cave people. Apparently their vocabularies were as horrible as ours because the beast turned out to be a Tyranosaurus Rex. Supposedly they were a more advanced tribe as well, using spears with sharp rocks attached. Frock had the Arrogant hindrance and paid little heed as those who made their Smarts rolls realized and tried to explain the better weaponry. It was all in vain anyways because Frock rushed off to show the T-Rex who was boss, racing against Urr to make it there. That left Urr’s brother Gurr to try to use the new technology, while Grog began pulling back a tree to use as a catapult to launch mangos (or maybe even rocks) at the terrible lizard.

“Frock you!” I cried as I struck at the T-Rex with my Trademark Club doing 1d6 + 1d10 + 2 points of damage, which actually did no damage because of the T-Rex’s 22 toughness. At some point I wised up and made a successful Cavewise roll to notice that the others attacking the dinosaur weren’t of our tribe. “You no Frock cave!” I bellowed as I brained one after another. Two significant things happened in the meantime, the first being Urr climbing up the T-Rex and Grappling it around the neck. How he wrestled the great beast! Grog abandoned his catapult attacks and made his own contribution, grabbing palm fronds and waving them around. Grog only had “Big” and “No” in his vocabulary and it wasn’t quite clear who he was cheering on, but we did get a bonus for his cheerleading. The attack bonus later turned into a Spirit check when Grog upped the ante and did a cartwheel and the splits revealing bruised, overripe mangos he had stashed down into his loincloth. Gagging at the sight, we managed to fight on and I would love to report here that Frock did the dino in. Being quite Arrogant, Frock thinks he did. It’s possible, though unlikely, that Urr actually managed to choke out a T-Rex.

crude pictogram of dinosaur with blurred crotch held by stick figure cavemen

Another Pictogram (Blurred for Decency)

Having dispatched the dinosaur (and the rival tribe), we needed to communicate the need to return to our cave which resulted in another round of Pictograms. This time most of the group seemed to understand the message and we returned home triumphantly, bearing the full T-Rex (after some successful skill checks). Another highlight of the game was hearing Jerrod Gunning instruct another player, who was trying to get somewhere, “Give me a die up there by Pace. It’s probably a d4 since you’re Obese.” Fun times indeed.

Pathfinder Society Scenario 04-18: The Veteran’s Vault

Pathfinder Miniatures on Flipmat in Pathfinder Adventure The Veteran's Vault

The Veteran’s Vault Holds Many Dangers and Affords Much Combat

When a Level 3 Fighter named Asir Al-Nimr adventures with three first-level characters deep into PSS 04-18 The Veteran’s Vault, the greatest challenge, it turns out, is maneuvering around in the sewers in Full Plate +1. However while I wouldn’t say the challenge was welcome, all of the combats would have been over quickly if I didn’t have to manouever the slow-moving Asir into position first. As my ninth Pathfinder Society Scenario completed, I can say that The Veteran’s Vault is a little atypical in its lack of dedicated skill challenges, instead being a pretty straightforward combat-heavy dungeon (or sewer) crawl. As such, it lacked the compelling narrative of A Silent Tide or the exploration and mystery of Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment, but it should please combat-oriented groups. I was definitely pleased to survive the sewers and dispense Abadar’s justice to enemies left and right with very few scratches on my armor to show. Asir did trigger a trap that did 12 points of damage, which would have felled any of the first-level characters, but the party’s Oracle quickly healed him back to full.

Hero Lab

Earlier in the morning I downloaded Hero Lab from Lone Wolf Development, clicked around in it for 10 minutes, and then purchased a license for $29.99. Offering support from systems ranging from Savage Worlds to World of Darkness to Shadowrun, Hero Lab more importantly has extensive Pathfinder character generation files. Several months ago I had tried to create a new Level 1 Cleric on the fly by hand 10 minutes before an adventure was to begin, but found it too challenging. While Hero Lab has been a little quirky in the two hours or so that I’ve used it, it has worked charmingly well. I inputted Asir Al-Nimr and was pleased to see almost all of my character validate in Hero Lab. Even more pleasing for me was that Hero Lab caught a few of my skills that I had listed as higher than they were and took into account my Armor Check penalty for my magical Full Plate.

Screenshot of Hero Lab Application showing Pathfinder Society character

Validation is a Breeze with Hero Lab – A Screenshot of the Program Showing Asir Al-Nimr in All His Glory

Having earned 9 Experience Points, Asir leveled at the end of The Veteran’s Vault and is now a Level 4 Fighter. I eagerly entered Hero Lab and spent my new Skill Points and chose Desperate Battler from the list of Feats. The Feat provides a +1 bonus to attack and damage rolls provided no ally is within 10 feet, which tends to describe the first few rounds of any of Asir’s battles. By the third or fourth round so far, Asir might be moving over to help any comrades who are engaged, having already dispatched his own foe(s). While I could add this new Feat into Hero Lab, I haven’t been able to add Furious Focus in yet. The feat, which offsets the penalty to hit from my extra-damage dealing Power Attack, comes from the Advanced Player’s Guide, which is not included in Hero Lab’s core Pathfinder files. At this point, I can live with the missing feat compared to the $9.99 cost of downloading the Advanced Player’s Guide.

Once I finished tinkering with Asir, I set out to create that Level 1 Pathfinder Society Cleric that had eluded me thus far and ended up making two! Now that Asir Al-Nimr is 4th Level he will be tackling adventures for 4th-5th level characters, which frees me up to also adventure at the lowest levels with my new PCs. I think that the $29.99 for Hero Lab is a true testament to how much I have enjoyed Paizo’s Pathfinder Society organized play, as well as a commitment to further adventures in the world of Golarion. And while I have GM’d a Pathfinder Society Scenario for my home group of players, I have only ever played the game at Vegas Game Days, so I look forward to many more of those as well.

Vegas Game Day – January 19

On January 19 Vegas Game Day began its new schedule now falling on the third Saturday of every month and running from 9:00 AM until 7:00 PM at the /usr/tech library in the Emergency Arts building. Jerrod “Savage Daddy” Gunning ran a packed table of Savage Worlds My Little Pony in the morning slot while games of Shadowrun and Settlers of Catan took place. Jerry Grayson brought out his Hirst Arts sci-fi set for his game of Colonial Marines using Fuzion rules, but I didn’t get to experience the 3D terrain directly as I had signed up for Pathfinder Society and Starcraft on Warhorn.net.

GM Jerry Grayson with 3D Hirst Arts plaster science fiction corridors at Vegas Game Day for a game of Colonial Marines

The Elaborate 3D Hirst Arts Sci-Fi Corridors of Colonial Marines GM Jerry Grayson

Pathfinder Society: PSS 04-01 Rise of the Goblin Guild

Properly supported by a cleric, I was like a god myself as I strode through the passageways under the city of Magnimar. Each hit of my great sword splattered goblin guts and heads. Pathfinder isn’t like World of Warcraft or D&D 4E where fighters get a taunt mechanic; instead I always have to verbally taunt the creatures into trying to attack me. While I wasn’t exactly tanking, I did attract the enemies’ attention. I shrugged off blow after blow and the damage I did take was healed by the wand of cure light wounds I had loaned to our party’s cleric. The five of us overcame all the obstacles that GM Ethan Cline threw at us with only one character ever down and dying, in part because we had chosen to play down on Rise of the Goblin Guild.

Pathfinder Society Players Cluster Around a GM at Vegas Game Day

The Downfall of the Goblin Guild: Indignant Pathfinder Society Members

Playing Up or Down

Many Pathfinder Society modules are multi-tiered, capable of being played up or down. Rise of the Goblin Guild is for adventurers 1-2 in level and 4-5. Our group spent a good chunk of time debating playing up or down at the start of the game. If we played it for levels 4-5, there would be more treasure at the end of the adventure, but the opponents would also be much tougher. Since I only have my second level fighter Asir Al-Nimr, I voted to play down. Consequently, besides the Level 3 Wizard or Sorcerer, even at 2nd Level I was much stronger than the Level 1 PCs of the other players. Veteran players inform me that ideally a Pathfinder Society player should have a different character every four levels to make the most of PFS advancement and leveling. With a level 12, 8, 4, and 1 a player can play any PFS adventure.

Leaping into the “Hidden” Trap

The game also accidentally became an example of role-players deliberately ignoring out of game knowledge during a player’s movement on the square grid. As a player’s miniature was moved up by a different player, the GM announced that he had triggered a trap in a particular square. The player pointed out that he was not moving up that far and instead completed his action in a different square, which the GM accepted. Now we all knew where the trap was and I planned on entering it once my turn came up.

I had already mentally planned my route through that particular square to get up close to the enemy, I reasoned. Also as a GM, I would hate for the trap to be ignored or negated. However I made this decision at a full 20 Hit Points. If the game were very close or I was down to 4 HP with no healing available would I be so cavalier? Not only could I lose my character to permanent death, but I could arouse the real life ire of my fellow players by spoiling the mission or causing a Total Party Kill. I don’t know that I would enter the square in those circumstances.

As it was, the decision was taken out of my hands by the actions of our party’s rogue, who maneuvered into the square, falling victim to the trap. Had he forgotten that it was there or was he falling on the sword as I had planned to do? I really don’t know, but there was at least one angry sigh at the table at the rogue’s actions. It ended up not mattering much, but he acted with integrity, meeting with both approbation and disapproval.

Pathfinder Miniatures, Pawns, and other miniatures on gridded map with dry erase borders for game of Pathfinder Society

A Mixture of Pathfinder Miniatures and Pawns Take To the Gridded Sewers of Magnimar

Same Pathfinder Society, Different Day

In PSS 00-01 Silent Tide I encountered the wet slippery world of the Puddles, an evocatively-named slum of Absalom, the central city of the Pathfinder Society where so many Pathfinder Society adventures take place. But aside from the Puddles, the world setting of Golarion begins to blend together in PFS modules. We were in the kingdom of Varisia for this module, but it didn’t feel any different than Absalom. One of the rewards I’ve received in my five adventures thus far is a boon from the Chelish Embassy of Absalom granting me “one free use of the divination spell from a Cleric of Asmodeus.” The catch is that I have to be in Cheliax’s capital Egorian to use it. It’s a great concept and incentive to go on PFS modules that will take me to Egorian, but will Egorian really be all that different? But back to Varisia. What is Varisia? How is it different than any other setting? Rise of the Goblin Guild provides little idea so I turned to the Pathfinder Campaign Setting World Guide: The Inner Sea which is one of many Pathfinder books available at the /usr/tech library thanks to Paizo’s donation. It turns out that Varisia is more of a frontier sort of region, but even the Varisian entries in the guide were the stuff of generic fantasy.

The Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment offered a great deal of flavor owing more to its setting in a temple of the peace-loving god Korada than anything Tian-related. The Tian seem to be Chinese analogues in the world of Golarion, but in the five adventures I’ve played in so far, Paizo has stopped short of creating any meaningful differences between ethnicities and nationalities around the Inner Sea. Aside from the S&M-practitioning Cheliax faction, Pathfinder plays it safe and boring with a conglomeration world akin to many areas in D&D’s Forgotten Realms and World of Warcraft’s Azeroth.

The joy of cultural differences and subtle thematic nuances fade when compared to the sheer glory of a master-worked great sword though. I dispatched goblin after goblin with the clock ticking down and finally managed the killing blow on the weakened big boss. With the end of the mission, Asir Al-Nimr is just one adventure away from Level 3.

Starcraft: Lost Detail, Once More

The last time I played the Starcraft video game was maybe back in 1998, but many of the game’s details are hard to forget. I knew I didn’t want to play a scummy Protoss or Zerg. In the RPG there are also Mutates, which I quickly dismissed. I’m Terran all the way. I repeated “Fire it up!” to myself a number of times during the quick character generation, but instead of a flamethrower-wielding Firebat, rolled a basic Marine, Private Mark Robbins.The Alternity rules from 2000 were quick, dirty, and random. I diced for some basic stats, got three skills (Rifle, Intimidate, and Brawl), and then even diced for weapons and gear! I wound up with a nasty radiation weapon, the Fusion Rifle, plus a Stun Ray Pistol, CNC Power Armor, and a Combat Shield.

GM Kris Anderson filled me in on my background story. I was a conscript who had been twice-imprisoned if not more. I had escaped human prison and been on the run when recaptured by Protoss bounty hunters, escaped again, and then been captured yet again by a different Protoss. I awoke with my gear shackled in the hold of a drop ship and was furious as the other PCs and my captor telepathically messaged me. The purpose of my captivity became clear: the assassination of the prisoner General Wayne Havelin within the walls of the prison on the frosty planet below. Think of Hoth from Empire Strikes Back and you have Daloth.

Stacraft RPG GM behind GM's screen at Vegas Game Day with two RPG players

Starcraft GM Kris Anderson Checks His Notes Before Things Get Brutal

Unlike most other RPGs at Vegas Game Days, the Starcraft game had continuity and was picking up the action for the two other players in the party, a Terran Spectre and a Protoss Dark Templar. As we were about to begin we were joined by a fourth player who quickly rolled a four-armed Mutate who looked more like a Zerg than anything remotely human. Like the other two PCs, he also had major psionic abilities including telepathy and we eventually encountered him in his native habitat, burrowing in the snow.

Quadrupedal mechanical Starcraft Protoss suit for Dragoon

A Deadly Protoss Dragoon

We also quickly met a Protoss guard patrol and my Fusion Rifle was soon irradiating the crap out of them. Having taken my combat drugs, my Dexterity shot up to 20, which in turn boosted my Rifle skill to 21. I needed to roll less than this on a d20 to hit. Scratch one Protoss Zealot. The Fusion Rifle was less effective on the quadrupedal Dragoons and our GM had me making Intelligence check after Intelligence check each time I continued to shoot at one with my Fusion Rifle. The rest of the party all had crazy psychic powers including tornado creation, clouds of darkness, and maybe something like a red insect swarm of rage that would devour the Protoss units. The Protoss had their revenge when a second patrol showed up and got the drop on us. Armored suits exploded. I went flying through the air when a ball of plasma struck me from behind. PCs were killed, including Pvt. Robbins The two original PCs had alien artifacts though, rare amulets that could restore a person to life, but those too were soon exhausted in the furious firefight. Finally our Dark Templar actually used a Reverse Time ability to jump back a minute or two and we fought the battle again, this time with everyone surviving.

The second melee was no cakewalk though. Private Robbins had lost his armor, his Fusion Rifle rounds, and his sanity. I decided he’d had enough and was freaking out. I cowered under the smoldering remnants of one of the armored suits for several turns and then made a break for it, channeling Bill Paxton from Aliens. It was freezing and he’d had enough. My party members thought otherwise and successfully attacked me, knocking me out for quite a while.

Starcraft RPG player rolls dice with graph paper map of prison world in foreground

Stay Frosty: GM’s Map of the Prison’s Locale with Plateaus and Frozen Lake

After coming to, we headed towards the base, climbing a plateau and spotting more guard patrols and the base’s considerable defenses. We would need a clever plan of attack to get inside the prison.

The Ignored Voice of Pvt. Robbins

I thought I had some clever plans of attack, even if one was a major cliche:

  • When I suggested our Dark Protoss and other Terran pose as bounty hunters and turn me, the escaped prisoner, in to the prison all I got were blank looks, before the other party members went back to talking about how hard it would be to get into the prison. It worked in Star Wars, but maybe it wasn’t being creative enough.
  • What if, I proposed, our Dark Protoss dressed up in the Zealot’s yellow power armor, pretending to be one of the Zealots returning from patrol? This was shot down.
  • I had another suggestion. Maybe the Dark Protoss could use his Mind Control power to take control of a Zealot and then have the Zealot punch in the code to enter the underground prison. Yes, his Mind Control would lapse once the Zealot was out of sight in the entrance tunnel below us, but the stealthy Spectre could drop in behind him and dispatch him with a quick strike. No, this too was ruled out.
  • There was a huge orbital turret near the prison landing pad. Maybe the Dark Templar could teleport into or onto it and we could use it to target and destroy the Protoss units guarding the prison. Of my suggestions, this one actually was infeasible because such turrets are unmanned and automatic.

Now as I was suggesting these, I did find success with one listener: the GM. The GM actually had the other players make an Intelligence check or a Perception check or some other sort of check to listen to my ideas. There was even a bounty hunter ship on the landing pad tarmac! As trite as it would be, posing as bounty hunters probably would work. But I failed my real life Charisma check and the other players went back to their own discussion.

Ignoring Out of Game Knowledge Again

There was another plan that I had to simply ignore because it was based on out of game knowledge. While the four-armed Mutate was being rolled, I noticed that he had gotten a Feign Death ability. We could also infiltrate the prison by having the bounty hunters turn in the mutate’s corpse. Or the mutant could be left with the dead Protoss patrols and possibly be brought into the prison to be dissected and studied. Of course, while I knew this, my character did not, but it didn’t stop me from awkwardly hypothesizing about one of us playing dead. Sadly even this went ignored and unheeded.

In the end we had to leave the mission hanging because it was time to vacate the building in real life. The GM invited us new players to continue the adventure in the group’s regular campaign. While I was frustrated at not being able to assassinate the general or convince the party to go along with my plans, I had a blast playing a new game and meeting other gamers.

Vegas Game Day December 8

The final Vegas Game Day of 2012 drew a slightly smaller crowd than normal to the Emergency Arts Building near Fremont Street Experience on December 8. Starting in the new year, Vegas Game Day will be moving to the third Saturday of every month and will also be starting earlier, running from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. As a morning person, I welcome the change. The area isn’t the best either, so it will make for a safer walk to my car.

Savage Worlds: Flight of the Living Dead

Back in November, Jerrod Gunning ran a session of Savage Worlds: Jem that saw the iconic cartoon band from the 1980s bringing a defector in from the cold using their deep cover as a rock band to perform the CIA’s dirty work. Or so I gathered, because I was playing Hellas at the time. Since playing in his My Little Pony and Scooby Doo Savage Worlds games, Gunning has started his own website, sincitysavages.org where he provides other Savage Worlds fans insights into his own devious mash-ups, adventures, and rules concoctions.

Gunning promised to kill us all in Flight of the Living Dead, his zombie apocalypse adventure set high in the skies on Savage Air Flight 69 from Chicago to Las Vegas. Once we had run through his six prepared PCs we could take on the roles of the flight crew and experience their dismemberment. As usual Jerrod Gunning does insane prep for his adventures and I browsed through Sly Stallone’s picture and Morgan Freeman’s, before choosing the character of Anthony White, Chicago Metropolitan PD. White had the Disadvantage of being Arrogant which suited me just fine. His illustration is actor Anthony Anderson from Law and Order. Fortunately I have been slowly making my way through the police procedural series and am stuck somewhere in 2002 and so hadn’t encountered Anderson yet. Playing Morgan Freeman would have been like playing God, but playing the heavy Anderson seemed within my reach, especially since I have no idea of how he sounds or what he acts like.

RPG character card for PC Anthony White for Savage Worlds zombie game

Gunning Provides Players with Airline Ticket Character Sheet, Plastic Bullet Bennies, Dice, & More

Joining me on SA69 were Air Marshal John Brickman (Sylvester Stallone) and the cowardly architect Timothy Treymore (Jason Statham playing against type). Brickman, who had the advantage of being armed with a Glock, almost immediately got himself into some Mile High Club shenanigans with a stewardess with a very high Aced Flirt or Seduction roll. In Savage Worlds, if you max a die roll you keep rolling until you stopped and Brickman rolled very well. For those of us keeping our body parts to ourselves (for the time being), things got complicated during our in-flight viewing of The Dark Knight Rises. An old lady started to have a seizure or fit and soon was biting into another passenger. While the architect booked it because of his Yellow disadvantage, I asserted some command presence, or at least tried to. I also tried to work in a Snakes on a Plane reference, but for the life of me, couldn’t manage it.

Three gamers playing Savage Worlds at Vegas Game Day with signs

Flight of the Living Dead: Gunning Entertains Perry Snow and Casey Spicer

The old lady and I tussled. Brickman showed up and I returned to my seat. Then things got chaotic as others started to turn. The architect knew that they were zombies, but Brickman and I played it dumb at first. He ended that when he pistol whipped one to death. I was like “Whoa, whoa! Not me, that wasn’t me! That was the Air Marshal,” before whispering to him “Haven’t you ever heard of a civil suit?” Introductions were made and the situation continued to deteriorate until it was hard to disbelieve the evidence before my eyes. I wasted a couple zombies, starting with the one who clawed me.

R.I.P. Anthony White

My weapon of choice was a fire extinguisher. I never sprayed it at the zombies, instead caving their heads and torsos in with it. I must have killed two or three as I made Vigor roll after Vigor roll. We didn’t talk about it at the table, but we all knew it was only a matter of time before Anthony White turned. Perry Snow as Brickman began referring to me as “Chicago” as we did battle with the undead. A zombie’s head exploded, in Gunning’s words, “like a bag of salsa in a microwave.” As I became Fatigued I started feeling it in real life, letting my role play grow more and more exhausted, trying to find a drink in the upstairs lounge to cool off as the fever wracked my body while Brickman conferred with our pilot. We hit turbulence and somehow White clung to life and a seat. Brickman shot more. I found some inner strength and took another two out. There were references to Diamond Shaft and Tango and Cash as we fought on. I spoke my last words to Brickman as he took aim at a zombie with his Glock, “Make every one count.” Then I succumbed, dying.

Two PCs and GM for Savage Worlds playing role-playing game at Vegas Game Day

Jerrod Gunning Throttles a Phantom Zombie

In undeath, Anthony White truly was a monster. The architect Treymore came out of the cargo hold, where he’d been hiding and fighting off a zombie by himself for most of the game. Somehow there was a pitchfork aboard the plane and the architect wielded it against White as Brickman shot at his former short term partner, having abandoned his first method of execution. Originally Brickman was trying to go for the “ironic mercy killing” by clubbing me with my own fire extinguisher saying, “White, you were a good man. I wouldn’t want you coming back.” Instead, the other PCs fought against my character, now an NPC, round after round, but still White refused to go down. Brickman was missing easy shots. Plastic bullets used as Bennies were flying off the table. Eventually it happened and there was possibly another bag of salsa description as White fell.

Carrying On in White’s Footsteps

With Morgan Freeman still out for me as a possible PC choice, I had to select from between the Scarlett Johansson bail bondswoman and the social media happy blogger Jason Vaughn played by Ashton Kutcher. Since I like to play assholes the choice was pretty easy.

Ashton Kutcher as Jason Vaughn in Savage Worlds

Replacement PC, Coward, and All Around Douche: Jason Vaughn

Vaughn spent most of the flight cowering in the bathroom tweeting to his followers about the unfolding drama and getting the scoop on the architect by posting his Nikon Coolpix footage while the architect’s smart phone content was still uploading. Treymore tweeted at me. I tweeted @treymore. I cowered. I failed Fear checks to get out of there. I decided my SIM card was getting full and dashed for it. Just then, with tears in his eyes, a flight attendant rushed to the emergency exit and opened it. WHOOSH! We all made a series of checks to avoid getting sucked out as zombies and hapless passengers flew past and joined the despondent attendant in his plummet. Then unbelievably we were landing at McCarran. We had survived! Well, most of us anyways.

Pathfinder Society Silken Caravan No Go

For the evening session I was scheduled on Warhorn to play PSS 00-03 Murder on the Silken Caravan. While waiting for the afternoon Pathfinder Society session to end and get our third and fourth players, I started to pick Venture Captain Chris Clay’s brain on what sort of equipment I might buy and how to otherwise improve my fighter Asir. I ended up getting a Wayfinder and a good deal of advice from Clay and the other player. The Wayfinder provides magical light, serves as a non-magical compass, and can also house ioun stone, provided I live long enough to acquire one. I learned that my skills were off by a good deal (much to my benefit) and went back through and reconfigured them. After an hour of this and BSing, Clay apologized and called the game off because Murder on the Silken Caravan is a long and involved adventure and we wouldn’t be able to finish it in the remaining three hours before the hard deadline of midnight at the Emergency Arts Building.

Nonstop Flights from Chicago to Las Vegas

Meanwhile Jerrod Gunning had been running the second session of Flight of the Living Dead with the same basic structure and events. Brickman was taken as a PC again and blasting away at zombies as well as hitting the Morgan Freeman character, a retired Vietnam vet and airline pilot with a prosthetic leg. The passengers seemed to be just as dangerous as the zombies as I sat in on the session and listened as Gunning described their stampede. I left with a feeling of hope that Las Vegas would be protected from the brainless zombie menace thanks to the PCs’ heroics and made my way safely home through the drunk tourists on Fremont Street.

Vegas Game Day – November 10

Normally playing tabletop RPGs for me is just about having a good time and isn’t about escapism, but it was nice on Saturday November 10 to be able to get into playing two different characters and not have to think too much about real life while at Vegas Game Day.

Hellas: The Keeper of Souls

Greek Sci-Fi Hellas Hoplite in armor with shield and spearAs far as I know, I have only played one other RPG with its creator GMing (Tunnels and Trolls with Ken St. Andre), so getting to play the Greek space odyssey Hellas with creator Jerry Grayson in charge promised to be good. Since interviewing Jerry back in May, Hellas successfully underwent a Kickstarter campaign to bring out the second edition of its rules. Joining me at the table was Jerry’s wife, Renee, and first time roleplayer Jack Weill. Jack took Iolaus, the re-occuring protagonist within the Hellas rulebook’s fictional stories. With Renee playing the Amazoran Niobe quickshooter, I took the warriorly dispenser of justice, Leander the Bold.

Leander is also a Myrmidon, a literal ant warrior made up of a teeming colony of ants. I put my Myrmidon abilities to use as the three of us were hosted by a rich merchant at a symposium, by splitting part of my body off to eavesdrop on our dying host and his Nymphas major domo, trying to gain further details on our adventure. Basically the old man’s son had fallen head over heels in love with a criminal woman and had even been spent to Hellas’ version of Alcatraz with her. Our mission was to rescue him from this prison world of Olinos, this Keeper of Souls. I agreed, but having looked over my sheet, pointed out that I had sent many of the criminals to die on Olinos myself and that surely I would be recognized.

The details of how we would get away from the inescapable prison planet were always pretty hazy to me, even as our supply ship dropped down and we abandoned all of our weapons and equipment to better blend in with the world’s prisoner inhabitants. We traded some fish sticks and fish shakes for information, learning that King Forbus was nearing apotheosis and would soon be leading his followers in their escape from this world and it seemed like the merchant’s son would be with him, so we headed into the main city to where some sort of contest was about to begin in an amphitheater.

Moving into the crowded prison city’s amphitheater, I decided to invoke one of Leander’s Disadvantages. I knew I might blow the mission or be killed, but it seemed worth the risk (and in my opinion it’s better to invoke a Disadvantage before the GM can do it to you). Leander was indeed recognized by one of the criminals he put away and we began to fight over his dagger using my skill at Greek wrestling or pankreation as it is known in Hellas. Meanwhile my comrades located our quarry as well as his malicious lover. I took some damage as I continue to choke out the criminal and there was a warning shot from a laser pistol as I was now beginning to interfere with the ceremonies, but I didn’t stop, until I was pulled away from him, my new dagger in hand.

Ligers, Oh My!

While Iolaus heroically offered himself as a substitute for the merchant’s son, I competed with the claim that I wanted a spot on the leaving spacecraft. Meanwhile our Amazoran approached the son on the sidelines, trying an entirely different tact of wooing him over to her. I tried to surreptitiously slip Iolaus my newly-acquired dagger because I looked his sheet over and saw that he was good at Melee, meanwhile I was very good at Pankreation. Even as the criminal kingpin was announcing what we would face I received a glorious visit from the god Apollon himself! Jerry Grayson really knows how to stroke an ego! Apollon praised me (quite deservedly I might add) and promised me glory on the battlefield. We were herded into the amphitheater and then the beasts were unleashed: two enormous ligers!

I had a hard time subduing my Napoleon Dynamite impulses at this point, but Iolaus knew what to do, ripping one open from gullet to gut with one heroic sweep of the dagger I had loaned him. Iolaus is bad ass. I struggled with my own liger, but the next turn using a Teamwork card played by Iolaus, we made short work of the other as well, earning us a place in the Big Boss’s pleasure suite. I felt like Boba Fett in Jabba’s Palace as toothless prison hags flocked to us. Iolaus pressed Forbus for a spear and the boss took one from his henchman, Bolgo, who began grumbling. From the comfort of the skybox we watched as the killing of the mimes and clowns began. We also learned more of the villains’ plans, but then I set out to get myself a new spear in the company of Bolgo.

Player Jack Weill listens to GM and Hellas Creator Jerry Grayson at Vegas Game Day

Hellas Creator and GM Jerry Grayson Explaining NPC Action to PC Jack Weill

We invaded a potter’s crappy hovel and Bolgo started threatening the poor wretch. Something gave way in my crunchy insect heart and I retorted to Bolgo, “Here’s your spear!” and really gave it to him hard, possibly spending some Hero Points to try to finish him off, but not quite killing him. I fended off his return blows and then finished him, swearing the potter to secrecy and rejoining the others in the pleasure suite where we conferred, after I’d explained away the missing Bolgo.

While I normally wouldn’t make such a choice due to fears of splitting the party or because I actually want my character to live, Leander turned to his companions and made it clear that there was no way he was going to allow the criminals to escape their just sentences, even if that was not part of the mission. I would remain behind if need be. Fortunately we all agreed and Forbus took the decision out of our hands of when to ambush him when Jerry played a card himself. Jerry took his inspiration for the Hellas cards from the TORG RPG’s destiny altering cards and played one which brought Bolgo back to life. He wasn’t dead after all.

There was a heroic melee and firefight that saw Forbus beheaded and Bolgo using a Hero Point to run away vowing to return in the future as an NPC as Jerry decided that he liked Bolgo. Iolaus, Leander, and Niobe acquitted themselves well as heroes and the criminals were left safely on Olinos to eat fish sticks, while we got to reunite the father and son. For Jack Weill, our first time role-player, it was “fun”. He normally plays strategy board games like Risk and Axis & Allies, but seemed to have an easy time understanding what was expected of him and said that he would do it again. I would too. As much as I enjoy the two Hellas one shot adventures I’ve been on, I would love to play in a Hellas campaign and accumulate glory and fame myself and work towards apotheosis.

Pathfinder Society: The Brutal Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment

We had a full table for Pathfinder Society as we sought to explore the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment, devoted to the god Korada. One of the catches is that the temple is inside a tapestry, so the Society would be transporting us there on a mission of peaceful exploration with four parts to it. As we explored the serene temple, attuning our chakras, humming mantras, and playing with our glass balls, something seemed slightly amiss. We were exposed to a special ritual testing the purity of one’s soul, the Kiss of Korada. The turtle statue could either bestow enlightenment or sever a finger for those with impure souls. I nearly clubbed our party’s paladin when he leapt in line in front of me for the test, but he received no effect (a foreshadowing of his soul’s weakness, as it became clear later). From my previous encounter with Apollon in Hellas earlier, was it really too much to think I would get a vision from Korada too? I was disappointed when I only felt pain, though I did begin to see swirls of lights and feel tingling. My party members seemed non-plussed by both my bravery and my Kiss of Korada.

Maybe I hadn’t fully succeeded because of the negative energy I had brought with me from the Prime Material Plane as I became increasingly rude with some of the temple’s priests, questioning whether they knew that they existed within a tapestry or not. What I’m sure of is that 90 minutes into the adventure I was suddenly failing a Will save and stabbing myself with a pointy piece of wood for 13 damage. So much for exploration! Life wasn’t worth living any more and I was determined to end it, but fortunately I was Level 2 and not dying from my initial impalement. There was a “Wait a minute,” from our GM, and then some close party members were given the chance to try to interrupt my suicide attempt, but I had a hard time not chuckling as another and possibly a second also became despondent. Someone hit me with Sleep or Chromatic Spray though so I was out of it and didn’t have to worry about how the party eventually overcame this sudden pit of despair.

Venture Captain Chris Clay with 5 Pathfinder Society Members at Vegas Game Day November 10

Venture Captain Chris Clay Works from a PDF of the Adventure on a Tablet

As I recovered, the culmination of the adventure began as some of the other PCs came up with a plan to sneak into the high priest’s chambers. There was some Invisibility involved as well, but things went from bad to worse pretty quickly as our stealthy invisible ranger discovered that he was quite visible to Korada’s Chosen, who began shouting at the hapless ranger and the rest of the party, ordering our expulsion from the temple, as our party threw it into chaos. Having prevented the desecration of Abadar’s temple in Abasolm, I wasn’t about to desecrate the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment and headed to the library to check on a possible source of the poison that we had all been exposed to for the last several days in the tapestry.

Essentially what happened next is that one slightly manageable encounter rolled over into a separate encounter, creating a near TPK. The Level 1 Ranger was the first to go, getting knocked out an hour and a half before we finished and remaining that way. While one party member distracted most of the NPCs, others went to finish the last of our quests at the temple. I would not break and enter and stayed in a hallway to help hinder the temple guards. Then there was the paladin who tried to teleport away. When the chips were down, our paladin fled. There was quite a commotion then as some of us tried to wrap our minds around the full health paladin fleeing. Maybe there was a little swearing directed at the sneaky paladin. Half of our healing was quitting the fight when we knew we already had at least one PC down! I don’t know how it got fixed, but we managed to tether Captain America to his post, but I am still shaking my head about it.

Miniatures on Dry Erase Map of Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment for Pathfinder Society

Miniatures Spread Throughout the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment

Is it any wonder he failed Korada’s Kiss? Even with the paladin’s help and healing, for several rounds we were down to 2 injured PCs on the board with the rest of us unconscious. I was gone for the second longest as the temple’s aasimar guards didn’t care to argue the finer points of Korada’s enlightenment with me. They started attacking me and then I was Cleaving into two of them, downing one of them and severely injuring the other. “Tend to your comrade, I will not strike. I give you my word of honor,” I offered to them, but they knocked the crap out of me instead. So much for peace-loving.

I will say that the game was so close that every bad roll on the villains’ part resulted in a sigh of relief. Once our faithful cleric started rolling 5s and 6s on his healing channeling rolls we were cheering and hollering. Finally I could get up again and finally our odd Strength rogue with the polearm could get up as well. Time became the critical factor as we were rushing against the real world midnight closing of the Emergency Arts Building, which hosts Vegas Game Day. Finally we managed to overcome the evil and hurriedly packed up to leave. Phew.

The Published Adventure vs. Our Experience

Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment PDF Cover from PaizoAfter reflecting on our party’s near death experience on the drive home and trying to unwind from the tense adventure, I was dying to know some of the temple’s secrets that had eluded us despite successfully completing the adventure. Like all of the Pathfinder Society adventures, PSS 03-21 The Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment, is available for purchase and download as a PDF straight from Paizo, so I ponied up the $3.99 to see what we had missed. Had GM Chris Clay screwed us over? Were my suspicions about the nature of the poison correct? Had I really failed Korada’s Kiss or could I have ever succeeded?

The answers, it turns out, are like peeking behind the curtain at the real Wizard of Oz. Whatever I had imagined was grander and more exciting. As usual, our GM had presented exactly what was there, which was fairly humbug and humdrum. More than anything else, what this Pathfinder Society module highlighted was how important the mixture of Skills and Factions are to an adventure. Our 6 PCs represented only 3 Factions between us and none of our Faction-specific missions helped in exploring and uncovering the mystery at work in the temple. Likewise, the adventure makes repeated use of certain skills, skills which we mostly lacked to begin with or did poorly on when checking them. Consequently we were in the dark about most of the facts of the adventure until it was over.

I actually take some comfort in the fact that Pathfinder Society adventures are so rigid that it is possible to miss many important details in them. It means that every choice of a Feat is an important one that could potentially be rewarding. It also emphasizes the need for smart tactical decisions and thorough role play, while reassuring me that nobody is being singled out by the rules to be penalized for not playing how the GM thinks we should be playing. Though in the case of cowardly paladins, I might welcome some GM intervention.

Vegas Game Day – October 13

Savage Worlds Scooby-Doo

Another Vegas Game Day, another afternoon of playing Savage Worlds, but this time it was Scooby-Doo and it was a straight up version of the animated series. Other players showed up over time with a Shaggy and a Velma taking their roles first. I wasn’t feeling too good on my Scooby voice so I was relieved when his role was taken by the other guy at the table and I wound up with Fred, which ended up working out perfectly. Fred had the Disadvantage of being Overconfident and also following red herrings, which felt like a good match for me. Plus I’d be the de facto leader of the team.

Fred standup character card for RPG of Scooby-Doo with Scooby Snacks treats in foreground and Mansions of Madness board game tile

GM Jerrod Gunning Goes the Extra Mile: Character Cards, Edible Bennies, and a Haunted Mansion

The Headless Ghost of Col. Sanders

We were on our way to Shaggy’s family reunion in our Mystery Machine van when a strange figure appeared and I easily avoided hitting him with a good Driving roll. We followed him into a Southern plantation mansion and up the stairs past the painting of Colonel Sanders who was pointing down in the painting. Up in the study though we received the first fright of many: the young man had aged rapidly to an old man in his 80s. He claimed to be the realtor, Mr. Hannigan, and we drove him over to the mansion’s owner’s house. Miss Green had inherited the home, but was now selling it. Just as she was telling us more we heard the squeal of tires; the Mystery Machine had been stolen by Mr. Hanigan! Arriving back at the mansion, we encountered his skeleton in the study! Zoinks!

Savage Worlds GM Jerrod Gunning explains a game concept to Scooby-Doo players at Vegas Game Day.

GM Jerrod Gunning Checking Notes for His Savage Worlds Scooby-Doo Game

Frightened Velma lost her glasses in her own vomit, Fred took a paper clue out of Scooby’s mouth and tore it up, and many investigations were made. There was a large meal for Shaggy and Scooby in the old kitchen which had a surprisingly modern fridge, and we eventually met up with the headless ghost of Col. Sanders who tried to scare us off by lobbing his head at us, which saw Shaggy and Velma fleeing, while Scooby and I stood our ground. Velma later Noticed the track wire for the head and the mini projector for the “ghost”.

The adventure culminated with us building a trap to catch the culprit. From some dice rolls we had 15 possible steps in our trap. We were using Mansions of Madness board game tiles for the layout of the game with paper stand-ups of the characters and the van. These helped when we worked out how Scooby and Shaggy would dress up as Union soldiers to lure the ghost while Velma would project a horde of angry escaped slaves to chase the Confederate ghost down the stairs into our elaborate Rube Goldberg trap. The trap started with ketchup and vomit to make the stairs slippery, multiple tripwires, Hanigan’s skull knocking into the “ghost”, a pressure plate releasing a mousetrap that would in turn release a counterweight driving the lawnmower forward to cut a wire, causing the egg beater to move a fan to stoke a candle to inflate a balloon to raise a board to knock over a lamp and eventually ensnare the ghost in a rug. While this was possibly our GM’s favorite point, I wanted to get to the inevitable unmasking. We could use many of our skills and I burned through four Bennies to get re-rolls on my dice. Gunning had thoughtfully gotten us sweet Keebler Scooby Snacks for the Bennies, but my luck was out and I barely contributed anything. Our Scooby-Doo player, Steve, chowed down on his Scooby Snacks as well and also spent the last third or half of the game playing Shaggy too, supplying great voices for them. He role-played both for the lure and the chase was on. When the villain rolled against the trap though, he rolled snake eyes so we easily captured him.

Mansions of Madness board tiles used for Savage Worlds gam of Scooby-Doo

Board Game Tiles from Mansions of Madness Used as a Game Map for Scooby-Doo

Not surprisingly the villain was Mr. Hannigan who was searching for the buried treasure in the house and had concocted an elaborate scheme to drive away any interlopers. We had also failed to locate the treasure with the clue “Soldiers march in single file” which was referencing one of the columns in front of the house, specifically the one that Col. Sanders’ portrait was pointing to. Within we found stacks of Confederate bills and all had a laugh at Hannigan’s hijinks. True to form, Gunning had even considered including outlying characters Scrappy Doo and Scooby-Dum in the game’s session, but didn’t have the time to include them or guest stars like the Harlem Globe Trotters or the Monkees. He had considered having KISS show up, but wants to save that for a more music-oriented adventure where Scooby and the gang are traveling to a concert.

Pathfinder Society – Silent Tide

Partway through PSS 00-01 I found out that I was going through the original Pathfinder Society adventure that started it all and would be the most familiar adventure to most Pathfinder players. While it makes no efforts to introduce a ton of thematic information as PFS 03-11 In Service to Lore does, Silent Tide proved to be a very strong adventure. It helped that we only had two other PCs, the cleric Logar whom I had adventured with before, the Wizard Maladorian Veld, and the NPC rogue Merisiel. She had joined our party because there were only 3 PCs, but if there had been only 2 PCs we would have been unable to play. I have to hand it to GM, Venture Captain Chris Clay, for the way he managed Merisiel because I can quickly resent an NPC foisted upon the party. Merisiel was helpful without being intrusive. The focus remained on the PCs and while there was no PC to PC role-playing going on, I was able to interact in character more with the NPCs than I have been in past games due to the small party size.

Pulled Along by the Silent Tide

While having only three PCs helped in wading into Silent Tide, the adventure is so solidly written by Michael Kortes that only the most jaded of gamers could dismiss its plot. After some opening narration about sloshing through the rain in one of Absalom’s slums (aptly named the Puddles), we came upon the man we were tasked to find, Yargos Gil, but he was chained to three others and being pushed off a cliff by six or so tattooed would-be toughs. This pissed me off. They fell into the waters below to drown, the last one desperately clinging to the cliff edge, but we had the gang of thugs between us. As we battled the gang, the last captive’s strength ran out and they fell. I was hooked.

Dry erase board with miniatures for Pathfinder Society and gaming supplies at Vegas Game Day

Captives Being Drowned and Rescued in Pathfinder Society – Silent Tide

After some serious ass-kicking we managed to save the captives from their watery grave and the rest of the adventure unfolded across at least four more encounters. Without spoiling too much, one encounter does involve problem and puzzle solving. It seemed better suited for our Wizard and Cleric (and Rogue) to deal with so I chilled out a bit, but when a riddle was revealed, I was riveted and worked on solving it and then went on to help with another of the tasks too.

The penultimate encounter saw us arriving at a temple or cathedral.
Me: Whose temple is it?
GM: Abadar.
Me: Abadar, who’s Abadar? Wait, that’s my god!

I was incensed. These undead Black Eschelon bastards were defiling the temple of Abadar? Not on Asir Al-Nimr’s watch! If the surviving member of the temple clergy, the defenseless, injured acolyte, would have Sensed Motive on me she would have found that I was eyeing her as a potential target for not defending the temple more fervently and with her life. As great as my zeal was on such hallowed ground, the last third of the encounter devolved into an odd quagmire of ranged combat for which Asir Al-Nimr was not even equipped and fortunately before I had to start climbing the huge organ pipes, our GM announced we had defeated the menace.

Gaming mat with picture drawn of Absalom granary for Pathfinder adventure Silent Tide with miniatures

Further into Silent Tide We Battled the Undead in a Granary

Their leader remained as well as our real mission objective, retrieving an important item from him. He was cowering in his kennel with his human guards and a canine companion out front named Marrow Chomper. A mighty slice from my greatsword later and Marrow Chomper was dying on the ground, forget the element of surprise! I cut down his master a few turns later after battering down a door that I kind of initially struggled to open and Silent Tide was over. Boasting isn’t really in Asir Al-Nimr’s character, but I do have to say that I was carving the bad guys to little pieces, pulverizing the undead into dust. It may have helped that they mostly had less than 8 hit points to begin with, but retooling Asir was a big part of it too.

Asir Al-Nimr Born Again

Before the game I asked Chris Clay to look over my character with me because I had amassed 873 gold in my two previous adventures and in Pathfinder Society games you are allowed to reconfigure your character before 2nd level. We ended up dropping Asir’s Shield Focus and instead I took up Power Attack. I switched Weapon Focus from Longsword to the Greatsword and purchased a Master-Worked Greatsword and a Master-Worked Breastplate. My AC dropped one from 19 to 18 and my movement dropped from 6 squares to 4, but now I was hitting with +8 on regular attacks doing 2d6+6 damage with the two-handed Greatsword and Power Attacks at +7 for 2d6+9 damage. As a result, I was putting down enemies left and right throughout Silent Tide (besides rolling fairly well).

A Level 2 Fighter Takes the Field

Having completed three PFS adventures, I leveled up! The Fighter section in the Pathfinder Core Rulebook is literally 2 pages long. Besides getting a bonus to Fear saves, I got a small bump in Fortitude and could select an additional Feat. I snatched up Cleave to be able to possibly hit multiple opponents and gained 6 HP plus my Constitution bonus for a total of 8 more HP. I’m really looking forward to my next Pathfinder Society game.

Vegas Game Day – September 8

Having missed the last several Vegas Game Days, I was pleased to attend the session on September 8 and be able to pick up where I had left off with my Pathfinder Society character Asir Al-Nimr. I also was eager to play in another Savage Worlds session with GM Jerrod Gunning, but this time instead of My Little Ponies, I thought I might get the chance to play as Brainy Smurf and practiced my Brainy voice on the drive down to the /usr/lib tech library near Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas.

Pathfinder Society PFS 00-02: Hydra’s Fang Incident

As one of my fellow Pathfinder Society tablemates dryly observed, perhaps there might be an incident involving the pirate ship, the Hydra’s Fang, for us to deal with in this PFS adventure. First though I had to pick a faction, something I had planned to do at the end of the In Service to Lore adventures once I’d been exposed to all of the factions through the series of introductory adventures (which I had yet to complete). However I was ready and quickly announced my intention to serve Osirion. In Pathfinder Society games, there are ten factions who have varying goals for each adventure. Completing your faction’s additional mission objectives earns you Prestige within the faction and also helps to determine the story arcs that Paizo writes for the Pathfinder Society. Even though Asir Al-Nimr is a warrior, he is a relic hunter and wishes to see Osirion restored to its former glory.

Pathfinder Society Players and GM Use MapTool Software to Represent Characters at Vegas Games Day

Pathfinder Society GM Perry Snow Using MapTool to Run Hydra’s Fang Incident

After a brief mission briefing from a lieutenant of a faction, we were on our way and then spent the next three and a half hours embroiled in one melee after another. In all we battled through four encounters with no puzzle-solving or creative problem solving to deal with in the Hydra’s Fang Incident, nor any involved skill checks for that matter. This was quite a change from PFS 03-11 In Service to Lore which was combat-light, but none of my five fellow players were complaining. Though one of our two Monks was Dying at one point, we successfully bested the evil DuMoire and his incompetent half-elven henchman with few scars to remember the battles.

Survival vs. Winning

This second game of Pathfinder Society confirmed for me that Pathfinder Society is more about surviving each encounter than actually accomplishing any goals, objectives, or “winning”. Even had I and my fellow Osirion agent not recovered the brass key from our foe, we still would have gained experience and gold and unlocked access to treasures assuming we defeated the various foes thrown at us in the four encounters. I rolled an astonishing four 1’s to attack throughout the four hour adventure and also spent four rounds asleep due to a Sleep spell so I slightly appeciated the fact that Asir Al-Nimr had to merely limp along through the encounter and soak up enemy attacks and survive to be one step closer to Level 2. Though Pathfinder can be brutal, if you have enough companions there’s no need to pull your own weight and you can just phone in your action for the turn, which can lead to loss of engagement with the game. This is further compounded by the fact that any extra actions or loot you try to take during an encounter will not carry over to any further adventures, which serves to reduce party arguments over treasure while also reducing motivation for some players or their characters.

Shedding Light on an Unusual Methodology

Though I had played with our Pathfinder GM before as a PC in his Hellas adventure and alongside him as a Pony in the Savage Worlds My Little Pony, I had never seen his setup until Saturday’s Vegas Game Day. Perry Snow had an elaborate rig set up alongside us and overhead with a projector hooked up to his laptop. He projected maps of our encounters down onto the tabletop using the MapTool software. A key feature of the software that Snow used was its control over environmental lighting and corresponding line of sight issues. Several times during the adventure the lack of lighting created problems for us and we had to either make light or choose different targets and actions. Consequently I think we valued our party’s Sorceror more because of his spell equivalent to Dancing Lights and our party’s non-humans probably relished their infrared vision or low light vision.

Pathfinder Society players listen attentively to GM with elaborate rig above projecting image of playing map

PFS Members Listen Attentively Beneath Elaborate Rig Projecting Map Down From Above

While I sometimes overlook lighting entirely both as a GM and a player, I thought it was interesting to see how much can be made out of a very small facet of gameplay. I have encountered issues with illumination and vision in the past, but I have never had a GM who cared about Encumbrance for any game system. At the end of the day, the matter of vision was a very minor one and only influenced a few play decisions for us, but it illustrates just how much focusing on a minor aspect can flavor a game. It could be converting currency from one nation’s gold coins to another, actually having to ration food and water for survival (as in Dark Sun games of yore), or dealing with nuances in spellcasting and having the right components or room to make the right gestures, but they all add detail and flavor. They also stand out though because the trend seems to be towards bigger, bolder storytelling and not trudging through minutiae. For me the bigger issue for the MapTool projection system was my preference for the tactile involvement of moving my miniature on the table, but I’m glad to have the chance to be exposed to different playing styles.

Projected Image of Ship in Hydra's Fang Incident Pathfinder Society Mission Using MapTool

Projected Map of the Hydra’s Fang Packing a Lot of Foes for PCs to Battle

Smurf-Pocalypse Now… Or Not

In Character Name Tags for Undead Smurfs Meet Camp Crystal Lake Counselors for Savage Worlds

Selection of Camp Counselor Name Tags for Savage Worlds

I was scheduled on Warhorn to play Jerrod Gunning’s Smurf-Zombie mashup game using the Savage Worlds rules, but I turned out to be the only player. It also turns out tha I would not have been playing Brainy Smurf, Papa Smurf, or even Smurfette because the PCs for Gunning’s abandoned adventure were to be camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake which had become overrun with zombie Smurfs. As I waited to see if another player might be joining us, I selected one of the jock camp counselors to play, Lawrence Taylor. Gunning has always provided in-character name tags for his PCs to use and had run a game of Ghostbusters earlier using Savage Worlds rules in which the PCs encountered both Elvis and Michael Jackson’s ghost.

When no other player came by, Gunning and I created an archetypical character for me in the Savage Worlds RPG rules. Basically I expained that I wanted to create a generic character that was both competent and an obnoxious jerk. We came up with a character who had a high Dexterity, high Toughness, and a lot of skill in Fighting. I took the Vengeful and Overconfident disadvantages to ensure that I would plunge ahead into conflict and that I would take offense to any perceived slight. After some discussion I also took the Outsider disadvantage instead of the Quirk disadvantage to represent that I wanted to play a total chauvinist pig with a vein of racism. The Outsider disadvantage would represent the hostility I might meet depending on the culture or group with which I might be interacting.

Three Savage Worlds Players Plus GM Getting Animated Over RPG of Ghostbusters at Vegas Game Day

Savage Worlds Ghostbusters Getting Excited Earlier at the Vegas Game Day

Role-Playing the Rash, Brash Douche and Being “That” Guy

While Asir Al-Nimr is, in theory, a cunning fighter, why do I want to play so many reckless warrior PCs? The most attractive sort of class for me has always been an intellectual and manipulative magic user, but I think I’m choosing warriors for these public play situations because I have so little to lose. There has been little continuity and I’m not invested in the tough idiots I end up playing. I’m also attracted to playing a character so unlike myself, characters that act first and ask questions later and who insult and mock the villains and NPCs they meet. What do I have to lose? In fact, I may even want to play these characters in such a dangerous manner because I would find some poetic justice in their deaths. I even have some interest in dying just to have another aspect of gameplay to write about, if I’m being honest.

Going along with that, the other thing I’ve realized about my public play choices for characters and role-play is just how willing I am to be “that” guy at the table. The guy who ignores gaming conventions about disarming traps or party order. Part of it is my frustration at how damn pedantic and nerdy we can get as gamers, spending twenty minutes on something that should take five minutes at most. I’m totally willing to be the guy to open the chest or to open the door (and hopefully move on with the plot, assuming that there is one). In both Pathfinder Society games so far I have disarmed the traps simply by being exposed to them, but I’ve had so little to lose. Asir Al-Nimr, as it turns out, is also quite tough, nimble, and lucky. While I do think I’ll become more cautious as I gain levels and treasure, my impression is also that there’s not a lot my GMs can do to dissuade me. In a home campaign, the GM could have a series of deadly traps which would eventually kill my character, but in the public play setting adventures should be balanced in theory. It’s not like I open trapped chests when I am down to 3 HP; I do have some sense. Plus I think GMs love to see a trap go off. I know I do.