Archive for March, 2012

So what is it about me and minis? I just can seem to get enough of them. Honestly they are like crack to me; it’s like the proverbial monkey on my back. They have the ability to suck out the rational part of my brain, turning me into some shambling zombie dropping cash like rotted body parts as I gobble up bits of pre-painted plastic. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief when WOTC cancelled their minis line. Finally, I could stop sneaking around my wife, discarding the purchase evidence outside of the home and slowly incorporating new minis into my existing horde without arousing suspicion. Then Paizo announces that they are putting out a line of minis and I could feel the cold sweat begin to trickle down my back. I fought it pretty hard this time, but of course I had a relapse and purchased a couple of boxes. I will give you an example of the insanity. The last box I bought the owner gave a price that was more expensive than the last the store I bought them in but I bought them anyways because I hear they are sold out and this was the last box he had, like I was worried he might not sell them to me if I complained.

The Pathfinder Battles minis are pretty frickin sweat I have to admit. They use a harder plastic than WOTC’s minis and the paint jobs are top notch. On average, I would have to say they are of better quality than the stuff that WOTC has put out. Sometimes I have this feeling that Paizo kind of watches what WOTC does, looks at the complaints and mistakes, and then make a better product. I first had this thought after looking through the Paizo beginner box and comparing it to the re-imagined red box that WOTC put out, as well as their general response to their customers.

As I mentioned in my previous post I am gearing up for a big showdown in my home game this weekend. The Evil GM and his crew worked up quite a brouhaha for me to unleash on my players (I am twirling my imaginary Imperial moustache just thinking about it). I was pondering what mini’s I should use for the encounter as I was opening my latest purchase, since it is an important one I won’t be lazy and use tokens, when I had a flash of inspiration as this bad-ass Ettin popped out. I was like “yah this guy needs to be there”. I got one of them in a previous case as well so they will be assuming the role of the Human Outlaws in the encounter.

I have to tell you that not all the Pathfinder Battles minis are winners. Take the human rogue who appears to be doing his best impression of a 1950’s movie vampire a la Bela Lugosi.

I vant to stab you in the back!

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I am gearing up for the end of the campaign arc throwdown, a donnybrook if you will, where the players are finally going to get the chance to give the big bad guys that have plagued for them for the better part of the heroic tier some comeuppance.  This is all happening slightly earlier than I envisioned as the characters are only 8th level and not om the verge of the paragon tier like I had planned, but it flows better this way. I have also grown a little weary of the story line and this will free me up to explore some other things a little more sandboxy for the remainder of the tier. I had my players vote on what to do next and they decided on continuing the campaign into the paragon tier which I have mixed feelings about. Part of me wanted to try something new, either a new system or a new 4th edition mini-campaign. I am not sure I have the stomach or the constitution for a 1-30 level campaign, which is why I had been toying with the idea of mini-campaigns. I guess we will see, although I am kind of excited to experience the different tiers of play. I have been looking at possibly transitioning into the updated revenge of the giants adventures that WOTC just put out as a way of reducing the strain on my limited creativity. What I find a little amusing is that my players seem to want more of an open world role-playing experience but they struggle in driving that processes so I think I am going to apply a little pressure after this campaign arc.

It is in the context of prepping for this hopefully epic battle that I wanted to share an example of how awesome the blogging and gaming community can be despite the penchant for hate file bile to permeate its interactions*. The Evil GM had originally re-tooled one of the major bad dudes of the campaign that I posted on my site into a serious curb-stomping mofo that I was practically giddy with anticipation about unleashing on my players. When the time had finally arrived to further flesh out the battle I dropped him a line and wondered if he might help me add other monsters/villains to make it a truly epic contest. I don’t think encounter design is necessarily my strength as a DM so I was hoping for a little friendly advice. I am always concerned around big or challenging fights with this group because I am not always confident in their ability to handle things when it gets a little freaky. Plus if you have ever checked out his sight not only does he design pretty cool monsters but he pairs them like a master sommelier picking wine for a tasting menu.

I was really blown away by his response as I found myself on a skype conference call in a “war meeting” with his crew analyzing my player characters strengths and weakness, debating which monsters to include as fillers, and spit-balling tactics to employ. He is also going to shoot me another one of his creations to fill out the role of the other big bad dude (the dread emperor of Netheril) that will also be in on the action. Needless to say I was pretty amazed by the effort, collegial nature, and kindness that he and his friends showed to someone they don’t know and have never met. So if you have not done so yet please check his site out it as he has some pretty awesome stuff over there.

*note to reader the Middle Aged DM is not immune to this, see his rather dickish and unkind review of Living  Divine

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Freak Show

I read an article by Chris Perkins the other day and it got me to thinking, which is not always a helpful or fruitful endeavor, about racial choices in D&D and the glass menagerie that is the modern adventuring party. The article is about the abundant racial choices in the game and options for handling the “traveling freak show” in your campaign. Given that he is the godfather of DM’s, his style is to work the player’s choices into the campaign rather than limit available races.  

My initial thoughts when reading the article was that the reason you get the “traveling freak show” is more based on character optimization and stat bumps than an individual’s desire to play a unique and interesting race. I am not saying the later doesn’t occur or that a rich an interesting character can’t be developed after class optimization, nor am I saying that there is anything wrong with this. Remember, different strokes for different folks. It has just been my experience through running several campaigns and my forays into public play that the overriding reason for racial choice comes down to the stat bumps that are most optimal for the class.

I am not a big fan of the racial stat bumps in 4th edition, as from my perspective they limit choice by pushing you towards certain races based on your desired class. The Evil GM has written a bit about this. I know I know I know what you’re going to say, “But Mr. Middle Aged DM nobody has a friggin gun to your head forcing you to play a dragonborn paladin”. While this is true at least in most cases, you should join me for a character creation session some time; it just plain sucks not having the most optimized stats you can given how integral they are for everything your character does. I mean this isn’t the old days when it didn’t really matter because there is no way your optimizing 3d6, unless you rolled them on your own (my 11 year-old self’s preferred method of grifting).

 I can understand some of the logic behind these racial stat bumps in reflecting the attributes/qualities that are considered iconic to a race and making them feel more archetypal i.e. the dwarven fighter junk punching you with his war hammer. But what if I want to play a dwarven wizard or a dwarven thief because I have a cool idea and want to play against type or because I happen to like both dwarves and wizards? I just feel like I gimping my character. I have to deal with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy in my real life I don’t need to recapitulate that in my fantasy gaming life.   

I have seen some interesting solutions or ideas put out there, such as The Evil GM’s and a forum post that suggested having class choice determine stat modifiers. I also wonder if we really need stat modifiers anymore. Couldn’t you just build the game math around not needing them and have racial features focus on other archetypal defining qualities. Don’t even get me started on negative racial modifiers…..

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