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.

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.

4 August 2009

Paizo News: Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook Sold Out!

Filed under: Geek,RPG — Tags: , , , , — apotheon @ 02:06

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

I got an email from Paizo today. I’m including the main text of the email here, but you can skip to the end to get the executive summary if you’re lazy or have a short attention span.

Subject: “Paizo News: Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook Sold Out!”

The Golem’s Got It!

Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook Sold Out! All Preordered Copies Now in Distribution Channel, New Print Run to Arrive in Early November

Ten days before the launch of their much-anticipated Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook, Paizo Publishing today announced that the first print run of the book has sold out, with all preordered copies on their way to stores for an August 13 release. With preorders more than five times greater than for any previous product in Paizo’s seven-year history, orders for the Core Rulebook continue to mount even as the company speeds to produce another print run. Paizo.com has retained enough copies to handle all paizo.com subscriptions and pre-orders. Customers who have not already placed a pre-order with paizo.com or their game or book retailer are encouraged to seek out a copy immediately following the book’s retail release, as supplies are expected to run out well before the arrival of a second print run in early November.

“We thought we had printed enough to last us at least until the end of this year, but skyrocketing demand from our customers and distributors has us reprinting already,” Lisa Stevens, CEO of Paizo said. “We have a healthy amount heading to Gen Con, but we think even those will go fast, so don’t delay in picking up your copy!”

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook is the first release in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game line of hardcover tabletop RPG rulebooks. Clocking in at a whopping 576 pages and at a weight of more than four pounds, this $49.99 rulebook is the newest incarnation of the 3.5 version of the world’s best-selling roleplaying game. Playtested by more than 50,000 players over the last year, the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook is the most hotly anticipated tabletop RPG release of 2009. A massive electronic download file ($9.99) will remain available at paizo.com.

“The phenomenal support of the constantly growing community of Pathfinder RPG players has been a staggering sight to behold,” said Paizo Publisher Erik Mona. “To sell out a hugely ambitious print run before the release date just goes to show what an immense audience this game will enjoy in the years to come.”

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook can be found wherever gaming products are sold or can be purchased directly from Paizo Publishing http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/v5748btpy88yj&source=mailing via paizo.com.

Executive Summary

The book hasn’t even been released yet and, aside from extra copies friendly local gaming stores may have ordered to stock their shelves and the copies Paizo plans to take to GenCon this month, they’re all sold out. There’ll be more available in November, apparently, after the second print run — but for now, if you want to get a copy of the book for yourself, you basically need to show up at your FLGS on 13 August and buy any copies they have on the shelves, show up at GenCon and be one of the first people in line at the Paizo booth, or go back in time and order one (or ask your FLGS to order it for you, as I suggested in Pathfinder RPG Preorder: It’s time to reserve a copy.)

This is Good News (for me)

I hoped it would be popular. The more popular the game, the more likely it is to have more books available for it in the future — and I definitely want more books for Pathfinder RPG. Still, this is surprising news. I didn’t think the first print run would be spoken for before the first book even shipped.

Luckily for me and the SigO, we reserved a copy at our FLGS and signed up for the Pathfinder RPG subscription (get core game materials as often as they’re published, cancellable at any time) in time to get two copies of the game. We should have both of them on 13 August, the very day the game’s officially released, including the PDF of the core book we get with the subscription.

If you don’t get a copy this month, you should probably pre├Ârder a copy from the second printing as soon as the option becomes available, if you want one. Otherwise — maybe that’ll sell out right away, too, and you’ll miss it again. In the meantime, you can at least order a PDF for about $10.

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