Last week I spoke with Erik Mona over at Paizo Publishing about getting a crack at the new Pathfinder Beginner Box set. After watching the Youtube video of Erik slamming down that heavy box of goodies and pulling out stuff like rabbits from a hat, I could not resist. I am a hard core RPG Dungeon Master hailing from the old school days of Greyhawk, Dragonlance, and the Forgotten Realms. Why would I be interested in a beginner box set? My son is 9 years old and try as he might, he has yet to master the complexities of D&D 3.5 or the Pathfinder Role-Playing game.
We bought him the Pathfinder Core Rules book for his birthday. He was so excited to start playing with his friends. When they finally sat down they were so confused by the rules that they needed my help with every little detail.
I would love to help them, but one of the best experiences in my life was opening those brand new RPG books as a child, and not understanding a thing. The mystery that all those charts and skills (in those days proficiencies) held behind closed doors would slowly come to light as the years went on and we advanced in our games.
I wanted my son to have a similar experience, but since the Pathfinder Core Rules book is such a large book it is fairly daunting for a 9 year old. After watching him in frustration I finally gave in and helped him figure out how to roll up a druid.
In the old days as children we would dig aimlessly through the 1st edition PHB & DMG, right around age 9 as I recall. Soon after, TSR came out with the D&D Red Box which was aimed toward a younger audience and was a great relief to us kids. When I found out that Paizo was releasing a new beginner box set I knew it was time to get to work on a new product review. I would experience this review through the eyes of my son.
Last night the box set arrived. When my son found out he could hardly stand the anticipation! We tore open the cardboard shipping box to get at the glossy colorful contents inside.
This box had everything! One by one all of the goodies started popping out (perhaps this was a box of holding!!).
Pathfinder Beginner Box (contents):
- A 64-page Hero's Handbook, detailing character creation, spells, equipment, and general rules for playing the game
- A 96-page Game Master's Guide packed with adventures, monsters, magical treasures, and advice on how to narrate the game and control the challenges faced by the heroes
- A complete set of 7 high-impact polyhedral dice
- More than 80 full-color pawns depicting tons of heroes, monsters, and even a fearsome black dragon
- Four pregenerated character sheets to throw you right into the action
- Four blank character sheets to record the statistics and deeds of your custom-made hero
- A durable, reusable, double-sided Flip-Mat play surface that works with any kind of marker
We cleared everything off the dining room table and started setting things up. We spread out all the goodies as if we were in the middle of a session. I was very impressed with the detail that Paizo has put into their product. Everything was in full color glossy and there were TONS of illustrations throughout the books. This is eye candy for kids and is great for the imagination. I give two thumbs up to whoever in the creative department said "These books will be for kids, we need LOADS of illos!"
Next off, the miniature cardboard tokens are ingenious. I love being able to pop them in and out of the stands as needed. I currently have over 10 plastic boxes of miniatures. If I take them all to a gaming session I have to load my hiking pack up well over my head just to fit them all. If I had these cardboard tokens it would make my life a lot easier. These tokens bring to mind the Dragonlance Tales of the Lance box set from TSR... they had little cardboard cut outs that you could use instead of miniatures. GREAT for kids!
The cardboard glossy flip map is fun as well, but since it's so stiff it tends to bow up when you're playing and the cardboard minis with their plastic stands aren't heavy enough to hold it down. I'm sure it won't be long before my son asks to use my Chessex Battlemat and pens for his gaming sessions!
The pre-generated character sheets are exactly what I need to finally convince my wife she needs to play role-playing games. In the past she would spend an entire week rolling up and creating a character. By the time she was done writing down every single spell and ability she no longer wanted to risk having the character killed in combat. Bonk! The sound of me hitting myself in the forehead... Ugh... NOW, I can simply hand her a pre-generated character sheet and say "Look honey, sit down... our son is now the game master and my fighter will tank. Don't you worry about your precious wizard. No harm will come to him."
Finally, Paizo has simplified the rules and placed them in two books. The Game Master's Guide contains a complete adventure which goes hand in hand with the battlemat. The book also gives you the basics on how to run a game. The Hero's Handbook is the equivalent of the Player's Handbook and contains simple instructions for players on the different races and classes as well as spells and abilities.
After my son and I went through everything he was super excited to play, but would have to wait until morning to invite his friends over...
Today my son woke up bright and early as his friends were arriving. They would finally have a chance to play the new Pathfinder Beginner Box! My interview with him and his friends through the eyes of 9-10 year olds is forthcoming. Check back to NERD TREK and sign up for our email list to get the dirt straight from the mouths of the next generation of gamers!