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Pathfinder Beginner Box – Kids GMing for Parents or “How I got my wife to play RPGs!”

I know, you are all wringing your hands waiting for the first installment of the Pathfinder Beginner Box through the eyes of my son and his friends.  I swear to you it is coming so please don’t locate me using Google Earth and pound on my door and windows like the mob of angry zombies that attacked while waiting for my latest SKYRIM article!  If you missed that article you can jump back and read my son’s reactions to the Pathfinder Beginner Box here!

This article will still whet your taste buds in preparation for additional Pathfinder articles to come.  This is the story of Kids GMing for Parents or how I got my wife to play role-playing games!

My son Justice has been very excited about role-playing games ever since he saw some friends and I gather around the table with small painted miniatures, funny yet colorful looking dice, and beautiful model scenery and maps.  From the age of 5 he was asking me when he would have the chance to play.  I told him that his time would come, he just needed to wait a few more years until he could understand the basics.  That time finally came, and for the past three nights, Justice has sat behind the GM screen running Pathfinder games! (Actually he paces around the room with the adventure module in hand!)

I’ll start at the beginning.  During Justice’s first game with his friends he was GM.  My wife was in the kitchen baking up one of her delicious concoctions (she really should start her own bakery) and overheard the entire adventure.  Her post-adventure comment to me: “I like the way they play!”  “How do you mean?” I said.  “The players say what they want to do and Justice lets them do it!”  My wife let loose a devilish grin revealing a starved role-player hiding inside.  Although I always encourage exploration and pushing the limits in my games there are limitations to characters abilities. For example a plain old fighter doesn’t know how to use a magic wand without a special skill and that’s just how it is… or is it?  The old seers who crafted the first couple editions of AD&D always prefaced the Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters guide with something important and meaningful.  I think Zeb Cook’s preface to the AD&D 2nd edition Dungeon Master’s guide sums up how I feel about RPGs and the way they are meant to be played:

Let’s assume that since you’re reading this, your are, or plan to be, a Dungeon Master.  By now, you should be familiar with the rules in the Player’s Handbook. You’ve probably already noticed things you like or things you would have done differently. If you have, congratulations. You’ve got the spirit every Dungeon Master needs. As you go through this rule book, I encourage you to continue to make these choices.

Choice is what the AD&D game is all about. We’ve tried to offer you what we think are the best choices for your AD&D campaign, but each of us has different likes and dislikes. The game that I enjoy may be quite different from your own campaign. But it is not for me to say what is right or wrong for your game. True, I and everyone working on the AD&D game have had to make fundamental decisions, but we’ve tried to avoid being dogmatic and inflexible. The AD&D game is yours, it’s mine, it’s every player’s game.

So is there an “official” AD&D game? Yes, but only when there needs to be. Although I don’t have a crystal ball, it’s likely that tournaments and other official events will use all of the core rules in these books. Optional rules may or may not be used, but it’s fair to say that all players need to know about them even if they don’t have them memorized. The Player’s Handbook and the Dungeon Master Guide give you what you’re expectedto know, but that doesn’t mean the game begins and ends there. Your game will go in directions not yet explored and your players will try things others think strange. Sometimes these strange things will work; sometimes they won’t. Just accept this, be ready for it, and enjoy it.

Take the time to have fun with the AD&D rules. Add, create, expand, and extrapolate. Don’t just let the game sit there, and don’t become a rules lawyer worrying about each piddly little detail. If you can’t figure out the answer, MAKE IT UP! And whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of believing these rules are complete. They are not. You cannot sit back and let the rule book do everything for you. Take the time and effort to become not just a good DM, but a brilliant one.

At conventions, in letters, and over the phone I’m often asked for the instant answer to a fine point of the game rules. More often than not, I come back with a question—what do you feel is right? And the people asking the questions discover that not only can they create an answer, but that their answer is as good as anyone else’s. The rules are only guidelines.

At the beginning of the first Dungeon Master Guide, Gary Gygax stressed that each of us, working from a common base, would make the AD&D game grow in a variety of different directions. That is more true today than ever. Don’t be afraid of experimentation, but do be careful. As a Dungeon Master, you have great power, and “with great power comes great responsibility.” Use it wisely.

David “Zeb” Cook
(Preface to the AD&D 2nd edition Dungeon Masters Guide)
2/9/1989

Notice the bold underlined text above?  “The rules are only guidelines.”  I realized with great sadness that this ethos had begun to slip away from me as time had gone by.  Players who constantly reference their PHB, rule lawyers, and perfectionism have pushed me away from all that I hold dear in the game.  The freedom to do whatever you want?  I want my fantasy back!

So, coming back to my wife and I talking… she had mentioned that the kids were doing whatever they wanted in the game.  If they didn’t understand a rule they threw it away or made up their own.  In the end they had an AMAZING time!  My wife had such a great time listening to them play I realized this was my chance.  The chance to finally convince my wife she needs to play role-playing games.  (If you ever get this chance don’t let it slip away, they come only once a decade!)  How was I to get the entire family involved in a way which would promote healthy exploration and complete and utter freedom and creativity?  Ah ha!  Instead of my experienced hand and mind behind the GM screen I would let Justice run the game.  My wife and I would play a couple characters in the Pathfinder Beginner Box and run through the dungeon.

In the past my wife would take a week just rolling up a character.  She spent hours writing every detail down with perfect penmanship and absolute purpose.  By the time she was done she didn’t want to play her character lest she die! Realizing this I grabbed the pre-made characters that come with the Pathfinder Beginner Box, golden!  I asked her if she wanted the female cleric that looked like a man or the slender and attractive elvish rogue.  She of course went with the rogue.  I handed her the sheet, we put our 2 dimensional cardboard avatars upon the flipmat and Justice opened his adventure module.  He read the intro to the adventure which I won’t display here since I hate spoilers as much as you do!  We were whisked away into a fantasy world just like that!  No need to spend hours rolling up characters or arguing over mundane details (this is NOT a mundane detail MICHAEL!! sorry, random Office Space reference…)  

Oh yes, my choice?  I went with the warrior.  I prefer to play wizards, but I knew since our party numbered only two that I would have to play the tank.  Plus, if my wife died in the first adventure she may never try playing again.  This was one of the most purposeful adventures I had ever been on!  The fate of my family’s ability to play role-playing games hung in a precarious balance.  We were attempting to take on an adventure meant for 4 players with only 2 and my son GMing.  I hoped he would go easy, at least on my wife.

Our first encounter with a couple goblins went brilliantly!  My wife used stealth to sneak up behind the first goblin and slayed him with a sneak attack outright.  That put a smile on her face!  I charged into battle swinging my trusty longsword prepared to decapitate the last goblin.. and missed!  The goblin attacked me and rolled high, he hit.  Next my wife attacked and hit again, rolling another high damage roll and killed the other goblin as well.  I stood there looking like a big dumb brute.  “Uh, nice work beautiful.  Perhaps I should relinquish party leadership to you seeing as you best me at both combat and skill.”  She gladly accepted (what wife doesn’t like having power over her husband’s player character?) and we moved into the next room.

Justice thoroughly enjoyed playing the role of GM and although he has a ways to go, he reminds me of myself at his age.  Except this time, the parents are encouraging the child to get lost in a fantasy world.  Throughout the adventure he made mistakes and said “Whoops, oh no!  I messed up!”  I gave him my sagely wisdom that I have learned from years of GMing.  “Son, don’t tell the players when you mess up.  Trust me, they will never ever know.  Plus, there are no mistakes- there are just chances to use your imagination!”  He smiled and nodded and we kept playing.

We have played 2 short sessions since that initial game.  Now we keep our Pathfinder Beginner Box game sitting on the coffee table.  Now each night instead of sneaking off to work on my website or watching Star Trek- the Next Generation, we spend time as a family adventuring through a dungeon while my son GMs!

When Justice walks upstairs he sees my towering bookshelves lined with the entire Forgotten Realms catalog from 1st edition, all of 2nd, and every book (save 1) from Forgotten Realms 3.5.  I also have the healthy beginning of a Pathfinder RPG library (the core books and Advanced Players book).  Oh yeah, don’t forget all the old issues of Dragon magazine dating back as far as the late 70’s all missing covers!  😛  I try to imagine having access to such a library at his age and I just can’t do it.  Is it overwhelming?  Exciting?  In time I’m sure he will pull a few of the old RPG tomes off that shelf, dust them off, and ask “Dad, what’s ADVANCED Dungeons & Dragons?”  I will smile proudly and sit him down to roll up a character while I try my hand at DMing for HIM!

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Pathfinder Beginner Box

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!

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Pathfinder Minis! Paizo & Wizkids announce new partnership

WizKids and Paizo have announced a new range of pre-painted fantasy miniatures based on the Pathfinder RPG.

Quoted from the official announcement:

Paizo and WizKids Launch Pathfinder Pre-Painted Minis
by: Jerome  |  Published: May 25th, 2011

Beginner Box Release Resurrects Pre-Painted Plastic Fantasy Miniatures

May 25, 2011 (REDMOND, Wash.) – Paizo Publishing and WizKids Games announce a new partnership whereby WizKids Games will produce a special set of pre-painted plastic miniatures for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box, an introductory boxed set slated to release in October 2011.

“We’re excited to bring the Pathfinder property to life via 3-D pre-painted fantasy miniatures” said Lax Chandra, President of WizKids Games, “Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG has emerged as a leader in the RPG category and we are looking forward to working with their great brand.”

“WizKids essentially created the pre-painted plastic miniatures category, and they’ve only gotten better in the years since,” said Paizo CEO Lisa Stevens. “We are thrilled to work with WizKids to bring our iconic characters to tabletops all over the world.”

Pathfinder RPG Beginner Box pre-painted fantasy miniatures will be available at paizo.com and through WizKids distribution partners worldwide starting in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Are these prepainted plastic miniatures included in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Beginner Box?
A: The Beginner Box includes more than 80 full-color pawns, but it does not include any prepainted plastic miniatures. This set is a separate product designed to complement the Beginner Box or stand on its own.

Q: Are the miniatures in this set randomized?
A: It’s a fixed set of miniatures. The exact list of minis will be announced soon.

Q: How much will this set cost?
A: The exact price will be announced soon. Expect the price to be comparable to similar WizKids miniatures boxed sets.

Q: Will this set be part of Paizo’s Pathfinder Roleplaying Game subscription?
A: This set is produced by WizKids under license from Paizo, and is not part of any Paizo subscription.

Q: How does this affect the Pathfinder Miniatures line from Reaper Miniatures?
A: Reaper Miniatures has been producing unpainted metal Pathfinder Miniatures since Fall 2009, and they will continue to do so.

Q: Do these miniatures use Reaper’s sculpts?
A: These miniatures use all-new sculpts by WizKids.

ABOUT PAIZO PUBLISHING

Paizo Publishing®, LLC is a leading publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, board games, and novels. Paizo’s Pathfinder® Roleplaying Game, the result of the largest open playtest in the history of tabletop gaming, is one of the best-selling tabletop RPGs in today’s market. Pathfinder Adventure Path is the most popular and best-selling monthly product in the tabletop RPG industry. Paizo.com is the leading online hobby retail store, offering tens of thousands of products from a variety of publishers to customers all over the world. In the nine years since its founding, Paizo Publishing has received more than forty major awards and has grown to become one of the most influential companies in the hobby games industry.

ABOUT WIZKIDS GAMES

A wholly owned subsidiary of the National Entertainment Collectibles Association Inc. (NECA), WizKids/NECA is a New Jersey-based game developer and publisher dedicated to creating games driven by imagination. The HeroClix brand is the most successful collectible miniatures games on the market today, with over 250 million miniature game figures sold worldwide. For additional information, visit www.wizkidsgames.com.