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Gaming Updates – Neverwinter, Pathfinder, posted by CJ Ovalle

I’d been running a Pathfinder game for one of my gaming circles, which I mentioned back in November 2010. We finished the first module in Paizo’s Serpent’s Skull Adventure Path a couple of months ago, and I think in general a good time was had by all- the players seemed to consider it a success. (I think for me, the standout session was when they snuck to the top of a tower and rained chaos on invading cannibal villagers below.) One of the players has since moved, but we’re going to try to use the wonders of technology to bring her in when the game resumes. I used Obsidian Portal for some of the game, and I quite like it. One of the players kept great adventure logs there.

The 4E game that I was in with the rest of that gaming group died; it was replaced by a Pathfinder Kingmaker game for a short while, but alas, that game also faded. It wasn’t too much of a surprise, but it’s a pity. The other longer more established 4E Dark Sun game is wrapping up. For each of those games, we’re trying to figure out what to do next. I think the first group is going to do a Neverwinter game- the new Neverwinter Campaign Sourcebook is out (more on that later). The second group, we’re still trying to decide. Pathfinder, 4E, Dresden, Savage Worlds, RIFTS, AGE- lots of interesting options.

Time, of course, is always the issue for all of us. The games aren’t weekly- the long-term game is every two weeks, and the others are even more sporadic. Work, kids, school, other hobbies- all of those things factor in to when we can get together, for all of us. There’s rarely a game where everyone is there. And really, that’s okay. That’s the way we have to roll*, and it ends up working out. I’ve been incredibly busy with an ALA copyright project, work, and school, so I’ve certainly had to be the one to miss sometimes. A few things help:

  • Commitment and persistence from the DM.
  • Interaction outside of the game- if not in person, forums, chat, or similar.
  • Someone taking and sharing notes (ESPECIALLY for those sporadic games).

So, the Neverwinter Campaign Setting has been released. In my opinion, it’s a pretty good book. I was a fan of Forgotten Realms, and I think this book did a good job in bringing in the FR flavor- even more than the 4E Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting did, in my opinion. It’s got great story, and the mechanics are also solid. There are several interesting new themes, new options for races, new themes, and a new gish class, the Bladesinger. I think it has the potential to be a quite interesting addition to a 4E game.

One thing that WotC and 4E have been very weak in, in my opinion, is adventures. One huge advantage that Paizo has is the Adventure Path series. Each AP can last a hero’s entire career. WotC doesn’t have anything near as all-encompassing, and that hurts. When time is the most scarce resource, anything that saves time is a must. Pregenerated modules save time. The fact that a lot of adventure content is unavailable- particularly the Encounters sessions that are exclusive to game stores- is kind of frustrating. Dungeon adventures haven’t really done it for me. Even the ones that are supposed to offer an overall storyline have been erratic. They’re rarely released on time, and they don’t really have the cohesion of the APs. Plus, you can only play the first part of Scales of War so many times…

On the Paizo front, Ultimate Magic, Ultimate Combat, the Inner Sea Primer, Inner Sea Magic, and the Inner Sea World Guide are all terrific. Paizo’s done a great job. Pathfinder has done very, very well in sales, reportedly surpassing WotC. Liz Danforth over at Library Journal has flat-out stated that the torch has passed. I think that for traditional fantasy role-playing, that might be correct. I like them both, but Paizo really is something special. I believe that WotC has been very odd in its D&D offerings, with board games, optional collectible cards, confusing lines, out-of-print books, and uneven digital forays. I think Paizo’s had a few missteps- I don’t know what the heck is going on with that Pathfinder Society position, and some of the public copyright assertions from employees aren’t really correct (which to be fair, is common)- but those are relatively tiny, tiny quibbles. Their books have been great, and their designers and developers are really approachable. I’ve even had the chance to chat with many of the Paizo folk, and they’re all great. I’ve had a chance to interact a bit with some folks at WotC, but they tend to be a lot less public. There are probably good reasons for that, but it doesn’t help. Another thing Paizo has going for it is the great third-party support, largely due to their use of the OGL.

To be clear, though, I’m still playing both.

I’ve been doing a bit with Wolfgang Baur’s Open Design, when I have time. I’ve had the chance to contribute a bit to the Midgard Campaign Setting, which has been a fascinating process, and I shilled for the new planar project, Dark Roads and Golden Hells, on RPGCountdown. ;) To shill again, I think it’s fair to say that in some ways the book will be a successor to Plansecape- among others, it’s got Colin McComb and Wolfgang Baur as participants. So check it out. ^_^ Open Design’s got a lot of good stuff out. Adam Daigle’s and Mike Welham’s Book of Drakes is their most recent must-have, and I’m not just saying that because Daigle hooked me up with an awesome Kobold patch.

*This might be a word joke. I haven’t decided yet.

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