Chad Perrin: SOB

13 August 2009

P-Day

Filed under: Geek,RPG,Writing — Tags: , , , , , , — apotheon @ 09:03

This is part of my RPG series of entries here at SOB. See the inaugural entry in the series for more details.

I found the way Paizo named today “P-Day” on the front page of the site amusing. The people at Paizo are, of course, referring to the fact that today is the official release date for the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.

Here’s a screenshot of the relevant announcements at the top of the main page of paizo.com:

In case of difficulty reading (it should be clear, but I know I sometimes get visitors using Lynx or something like that), the smaller text in the topmost paragraph says:

The PDF for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook is now available for purchase and download. We are experiencing a lot of traffic today, and the messageboards are disabled to help keep the site running smoothly. Anyone who can wait until Friday or later to get their PDF is encouraged to do so.

Since we already have one hardcopy of the book, with another expected to arrive by mail any moment now, I’ll probably wait a couple days. Apparently, Paizo didn’t expect the kind of traffic hammering its servers as people download the PDF in record numbers, if the company had to actually shut down the forum temporarily to cope with it.

PRPG has been the number one bestseller in RPG books for a while at Amazon. I sent an email asking for details about how amazon calculates its bestsellers, but haven’t heard back. Color me curious.

I rather suspect that the $9.99 introductory price for the PRPG PDF will introduce a metric assload of players to the game that might otherwise have given it a pass. $50 might seem like a pretty hefty price to invest in one shot, even if it is a pretty good deal for the money, so those hesitant to fork over the full price for the hardback CRB might be a lot more willing to pay a fifth that for the PDF to evaluate it before paying for the tangible product. Of course, since the SigO and I have been using the playtest PDFs for a while and have quite a few other Paizo products (so we know the production quality first-hand), we knew we’d like what we got when we pre├Ârdered two copies of the CRB (plus the “complimentary” PDF that comes with the book we ordered directly from Paizo).

Toward the end of the P-Day: The Invasion of Gen Con! post in the Paizo Store Blog, more stuff is announced:

  • Pathfinder RPG Reference Document — the PRPG version of the D&D SRD, containing the OGL material from PRPG

  • Pathfinder RPG Conversion Guide — “that will show you the best ways to use your existing 3.5 library with the new Pathfinder RPG rules.”

  • Pathfinder RPG Bestiary Preview — the Bestiary will be PRPG’s version of the Monster Manual, of course

  • Updated Character Traits — a system of “mini-feats” used to help flavor a character and define its background

  • . . . and other stuff. That’s just most of the freebies; there’s a crapload of other announcements of recently, currently, and soon-to-be released books.

The release of the PRD on the same day as the release of the CRB itself is a nice symptom of one of the things I like so much about Paizo as a game company: it really seems to get the open content development model the OGL facilitates, whereas the executives and managers at WotC/Hasbro seemed to have their heads up their fourth points of contact on the whole matter even before they basically started trying to “undo” the release of D&D under the terms of the OGL.

10 August 2009

Pathfinder Conversions and Reviews

Filed under: Geek,RPG — Tags: , , , — apotheon @ 10:07

This is part of my RPG series of entries here at SOB. See the inaugural entry in the series for more details.

I’ve been getting a little attention here for my early review of PRPG, PPR: Pathfinder RPG (First Impressions). For instance:

At the official Paizo Blog, Lead Designer Jason Buhlman posted The Reviews are Coming In!. In addition to mentioning both my review and a Pen and Paper Games review of the new Pathfinder RPG, he also provides an embedded YouTube video review from “Game Geeks”. For those who want the actual YouTube page for the video, it’s located at the following URL:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdBv_9Eiq-o

He also mentioned that there’ll be a free PDF conversion guide for people who want to convert characters from D&D 3.5 to Pathfinder RPG. Before anyone complains that you shouldn’t have to convert characters for something that’s supposed to be “compatible” with D&D 3.5, I suggest you check out my previous ramble on the subject: What does “compatibility” mean for Pathfinder?

I don’t know what they’ll say about experience point totals, considering that experience points for advancement have been somewhat altered between D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder RPG. I know what I did when converting characters during the playtest period, though, and what I’ll be doing if necessary in the future: I’ll use the pfconv utility I wrote specifically for this purpose. You can get a copy of the current form of this Ruby script for yourself, or you can use the Web interface for it:

pfconv – Web Interface

It turns out that the experience point advancement table, called Table 3-1: Character Advancement and Level-Dependent Bonuses, has not changed between the playtest versions and the release version for Pathfinder RPG, so if you have an old copy of the script it’ll still work. I have, however, changed the license under which I’m distributing it from the Public Distribution License (now deprecated) to the Open Works License. For the vast majority of users who download the script, this won’t really affect you — and it shouldn’t affect you at all if you just use the Web interface.

Once I see what’s in the free conversion guide PDF, I may automate more stuff via pfconv options (if there’s more to automate, of course). In the meantime, I don’t really see a lot of conversion guidance needed other than for experience points. The rest can be handled by just basically doing a mid-campaign rebuild. I actually like having the excuse to do a mid-campaign rebuild here, anyway, as it allows me to tighten up the character concept a bit. It’s fun, and helps with character development, at least as long as I don’t violate continuity by throwing away capabilities that my character has been using all along.

At any rate, the pfconv script is still there, and still useful for converting XP totals between 3.5 and PRPG without changes. You’re set for the official Pathfinder RPG release date (or whenever you get your hands on the book).

5 August 2009

PPR: Pathfinder RPG (First Impressions)

Filed under: Geek,Review,RPG — Tags: , , , , , , — apotheon @ 11:35

This is part of my RPG series of entries here at SOB. See the inaugural entry in the series for more details.

Book Review from the Pocket Pistol: Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook from Paizo Publishing (Roughly 575 Pages)

My FLGS put its copies of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game on its shelves today, eight full days before the official release date. I know this because they called me and told me they had my reserved copy, so I could come pick it up any time. Well, technically, I guess this is my SigO‘s copy, since the next one we get is via a subscription in my name, and being charged to my card.

This is going to be a longer Pocket Pistol Review than usual. Bear with me — I’ve been eagerly anticipating this thing for a while now.

Physical Presence

This thing — at 576 pages — is a fucking tome. You could probably kill a rhinoceros with this thing, in a single well-placed blow to the head. It’s over four pounds of gaming goodness.

It measures up to Paizo’s usual production quality. The pages are lightly textured semi-glossy, with vibrant color. Its binding appears to be sewn through the fold of the page signatures, against a durable folded synthetic weave fabric backing. The hardcover is thick and the cover is well-glossed, probably quite spill-resistant. Opening it up greeted me with the smell of freshly printed paper. This beast of a book is built to last.

Artwork

One place where Paizo skimps sometimes is in artwork — not by getting low quality art (mostly, it’s fantastic), but by reusing art between products. This is not an exception. I keep recognizing art in it from my Adventure Path subscription. Some of the new art isn’t quite up to the same standards of elegance as some of what’s being duplicated from other products, unfortunately.

I found a couple of the illustrations disappointing, especially the illustrations in the section on races near the beginning of the book. The Alpha and Beta test versions had roughly the same setup for the race illustrations as in this official release version, right down to the genders chosen for each race. The poses are similar, too, though they don’t strike me as being conscious attempts to copy the original poses. Unfortunately, it’s not the same art, and both the SigO and I had the same reaction; it’s not as good.

One of the things we both tend to look for in RPG book art, particularly in illustrations from the character creation section of the book, is pictures that make us think “I want to play that!” The race illustrations in the test versions did an excellent job of that. The new race illustrations in the hardcover, however, don’t really do that.

Flavor Content

Chapter Start Pages:

At the beginning of every chapter is a lavish illustration of an epic scene of iconic fantasy fare, with a short column of narrative fiction that explains some of what might be going on in the image. Of the five of them I read, one was less than stellar.

Getting Started:

Chapter 1 seems to be pretty well written, though I only read it in snatches and pieces. I was particularly struck by the fact that the example of play didn’t include any “move four squares” talk — didn’t, in fact, imply that miniatures were present for the hypothetical example game at all — which I think is a definite win. It also provided some good references to an in-character justification for how and why the game played out according to the rules the way it did. It’s a small thing, but I liked it.

Game Content

I have only skimmed the book as a whole, and read a few choice parts in depth, so don’t expect an exhaustive review here. I’ll hit some points that really jumped out at me.

Races:

Paizo has completely changed the way Half-Orcs are handled now. They’re more like the other hybrid race — the Half-Elves — in that now they’re more versatile, and less easy to pin down to a particular stereotype.

Classes:

Wizard School powers and Sorcerer Bloodlines have been tamed and toned down slightly.

Feats:

There are some new feats in here, including one or two that I’m definitely going to have to house-rule. Disappointingly, one of them actually reads quite a lot like a 4E power, giving the character who possesses it a mystifying ability to do something that seems illogical, without any explanation for why or how. I speak of the Deafening Critical, which allows you to permanently deafen an enemy when you get a critical hit unless the enemy makes a Fortitude save. Some of the other Critical Focus Feats may also have similar problems, but I was skimming this section and only paused on this one example because it caught my eye.

I’ll keep the Feat in my games, but I’ll say it only applies to one ear at a time, because it’s caused by actually doing physical harm to the ear in question (or where appropriate perhaps allowing an effect like cupping a hand and nailing someone in the side of the head, over the ear, which in the real world can burst an eardrum). If you get hit in the ear with a sword, I suppose you could easily lose your hearing permanently in that ear, so it makes sense — but complete and permanent deafness in both ears seems ludicrous to me (and maybe a bit overpowered, at least in campaigns where healing magic isn’t cheap and plentiful).

Prestige Classes:

The Pathfinder Prestige Class, as far as I know originally printed in the Pathfinder Chronicles Campaign Setting book (we have a copy here), has been updated for PRPG and included along with the same lineup of Prestige Classes that were in D&D 3.5’s DMG. A few Prestige Classes from the DMG are missing, though — probably for a combination of reasons of space (the book’s already HUGE) and lameness (some of those original Prestige Classes are far underpowered, and some others were just poorly conceived). The missing classes include:

  • Archmage
  • Blackguard
  • Dwarven Defender
  • Hierophant
  • Horizon Walker
  • Red Wizard
  • Thaumaturgist

Of course, the fact that Red Wizards of Thay are particular to the Forgotten Realms, and not released under terms of the OGL, is why the Red Wizard is not included here.

Environment:

The Environment chapter appears at a glance to be fairly comprehensive, covering a wide range of subjects in enough depth to be useful without laying it on thickly enough to make this chapter too large:

  • planar cosmology
  • siege engine modifiers
  • survival checks
  • terrain hazards
  • traps
  • urban adventuring
Creating NPCs:

Yes, there’s a whole chapter about creating NPCs.

Stat Presentation:

Throughout the book, stat blocks appear to be well-formatted and clearly marked so there’s no wondering where one ends and the next begins — an obvious improvement over some stat block presentation in D&D 3.5 core books. Tables are clear and feel spacious, despite the compact typeface, matching the quality of those in the 3.5 core books, but have a somehow more elegant feel to them.

Price:

It’s a $50 book. It has about as many pages as the 3.5 PHB and DMG put together, and costs $10 less, so it’s a slightly better value in terms of the quantity of content, as measured in a number of dollars. Meanwhile, the 4E DMG is almost 100 pages shorter than the 3.5 DMG, and the 4E core books cost $5 more each than the 3.5 versions, so you’re looking at getting almost 100 more pages of content for about $20 less than 4E. I’m not complaining about the 4E price — if you like 4E, that’s probably about right, taking inflation since the 3.5 publication date of 2003 into account. I’m just pointing out that the staggering $50 price for a single game book (about normal for a programming text) is actually kind of a steal, all things considered.

That’s cover price. Expect it to be cheaper at Amazon, if you’re inclined to do your shopping there.

Overall Reaction:

I’m elated. I didn’t bother going into detail about a lot of things that are essentially the same as in the Alpha and Beta test versions, and like I said, I haven’t really read through it in depth — I mostly skimmed so far. It’s day one; don’t expect me to have read all 576 pages with painstaking care.

It may already be time to check your FLGS for copies of this book, if you didn’t have them reserved or ordered in advance. I suspect the game store we used here (the same place I get my comic books) just opened up the box and stuck them on the shelves immediately when they were “supposed to” wait until the 13th, but I don’t know exactly what kind of agreements they may or may not have with distributors.

Damn, this book is huge. I’ll have to make room on a shelf. I guess that’ll be easy, though, when I pull the D&D 3.5 core books and stick them in the “we don’t really use these any longer” area currently reserved for D&D 3E core books.

The minor disapointments I mentioned only got mentioned because they’re disappointments, and they’re exceptions to the rule. No game book is perfect, of course, but this one is damned close so far.

I give it five bullets out of five.

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All original content Copyright Chad Perrin: Distributed under the terms of the Open Works License