Monthly Archives: September 2014

My new Pathfinder character

“They don’t advertise for killers in the Pathfinder Society Bulletin*. That was my profession.”

-Rikk Drekhard, Construct Hunter


As you know, I had a horrible experience at the Pathfinder special event at Pacificon.  One of the reasons for this was that the big upcoming “things” for this year’s Pathfinder (“the Year of the Sky Key”) plot lines is Constructs.

Constructs have Hardness, which reduces or negates damage against them.  They are also immune to illusions.

This makes them a gnome’s worst nightmare.  With low Strength they will have difficulty doing enough damage to overcome Hardness, and most of their natural abilities (and spell affinities) are illusion-based.

The Gnome community is in for a hard year.

But I have come up with a new hero who will rise to the challenge and defend the gnomish community against the scourge of constructs.

Rikk Drekhard – Gnome Ranger Construct-Hunter

ABILITIES        FEATS                                                            FAVORED FOE

STR:  10             Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Firearms)          Constructs

DEX:  16

CON:  14            TRAITS

INT:  14              Imposing Scion

WIS:  12             Never Stop Shooting

CHA:  11


*Oh wait, yes they do.  All the time.  In fact, pretty much nothing BUT killers.  I was thinking of stuff out of that new supplement “Knitting Patterns of Golarian”, on sale now for only $39.99.  It has those cool new rules for allowing vorpal knitting needles for level 1 characters.  A must-have!

Big Bad Con fills up

Registration went live for Big Bad Con this evening and I was ready and waiting.

Unfortunately, when the event went live and my browser attempted to refresh to reflect this fact, my computer locked up.  It took me about 5 minutes to unfreeze and get back to the site, and by then EVERY SINGLE GAME I had planned on signing up for was full!  Sadness!

On the other hand, both of my games also filled up, as did both of Sophie’s games (gladness!) AND we still have plenty of good Games on Demand to get to.

So congratulations to Sean Nittner and the staff of Big Bad Con – the event is more popular than ever!

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Fijit Immortalized



I mentioned a couple of posts back that I attended a Pathfinder function “Legacy of the Stone Lords” with my gnome illusionist, and was stunningly ineffective and unhappy.

Well, to commemorate this horrible, horrible roleplaying experience, Sophie talked to Rae Wood, who was doing character illustrations at the convention, and comissioned a picture of a bored gnome illusionist!  I recently got the electronic version of the piece, and should get the actual print in a few days.



You can find more of Rae Wood’s wonderful work at her website.

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Victory! (Sort of… maybe…)

I contacted “Forge of Empires” regarding the rapey-named characters that I had complained about, and was informed that their accounts had been deactivated.

However, the accounts still show on the server – which sort of defeats the purpose of the whole exercise.  I mean, if the names are still there, how are players to tell the difference between them and actual, active accounts?

So the back-and-forth continues.

No action yet

Another day, and Boyd the Rapist and the other players with rapey names are still active in Forge of Empires as far as I can tell.  Despite moderator claims that the players were being “dealt with” I have yet to see any sort of tangible result.

This is starting to piss me off.

I wrote to Innos Games this morning and reported the problem, and the mods who have supposedly been “handling” it.  We’ll see if that gets any sort of response.

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As almost everyone who follows activities in the gaming world knows, there have been some major issues regarding women in gaming raging throughout the community.  I recently ran smack up against the issue.

I play a browser game called “Forge of Empires“,  Its one of those city building games with an element of military development and a bit of PVP but mostly you just build your city, develop new technologies, trade with other players, and collect your taxes.

Recently, I happened to notice another player in the game with the name of “Boyd the Rapist”.  Players of PVP games will be familiar with the use of the term “rapist” (or “raper” or etc.) as describing a player who typically attacks other players in PVP.  It’s EXACTLY the sort of term that is in common usage in the gaming community but shouldn’t be.  It is a vile word, depicting a vile activity and it has no place in a civilized and inclusive gaming community.

Checking with the Forge of Empires website for their rules, I found the following (bold mine)

2. Communication

Insulting other users and the use of language in an abusive/offensive context is forbidden.
We do not accept profiles, player names, guild names or any other publications that the Administration finds to be illegal, insulting, threatening, abusive, real-life-aggressive, sexual, politically extreme, religiously fanatic, racist, playing down the use of illegal drugs or promoting the use of said substances or in any way inappropriate.
It is forbidden to post links to outside sites in the profile or on any other medium.
Spamming other players with in-game mails is abusive and will not be tolerated.


  • It is forbidden to advertise competitors’ games, post inappropriate content or links to such, post links to moneymaking sites or links to other games.

  • It is allowed to refer to a player as a noob and to criticize their way of playing using appropriate language.

  • It is against the rules to impersonate any staff member or suggest acquaintances with them in order to force any kind of behavior.

  • Racist, illegal, discriminatory or inappropriate names or wording will lead to an immediate game ban.

  • Using any profanity, insulting language, or being abusive towards any staff member in the support system is forbidden.

  • spamming the same message repeatedly in the chat room is not permitted as it is poor chat etiquette.

  • We ask players to not use account names that include whole email addresses or full names, for player safety.

  • Encouraging other players to break rules is forbidden.

The above seemed to indicate (not just suggest, but in fact state explicitly) that names including references to rape would result in immediate banning.  So I filed a complaint ticket about Boyd the Rapist, and was assured that the issue was being handled.

Days went past, and Boyd the Rapist did not disappear.

So I wrote again.  And this time, because I was curious, I did a search of player names for terms like “rape”, and “rapist”.  And I found that on the particular server I was on there were no less than six.  I checked a different server and found two more.

I reported all of them.  And I thought to myself “if there are so many of these players in the game, and it is so easy for me to find them with even a very brief search, this company is NOT taking the idea of rapey names being inappropriate seriously.”

And this is part of the problem.

Don’t get me wrong – compared to real life death and rape threats against Anita Sarkeesian this is a pretty minor thing.  But in my opinion, it’s the small stuff that we ignore or pass off as “harmless” that leads to the major stuff.  Using rape as a game term is beyond disrespectful, it is nothing short of threatening and abusive.  And not only to those who have suffered the terror and degradation of an actual rape.  To use the term is to demean everyone, and to accept its use makes the gaming community look small, misogynistic, and cruel.  This is not something we ever should have stood for, but particularly in light of recent events it is not something we can, or should, put up with or pass off now.

You can contact InnoGames here.  Please, if you have a moment, write to them and ask them – as politely as possible – to update the wording of their policy to 

  • Racist, sexist, illegal, discriminatory or inappropriate names or wording will lead to an immediate game ban.

and to enforce their own rules with regard to players using “rapey” names.

It’s time we started having zero tolerance for this sort of crap.  It’s time we stood up and called “bullshit” on misogyny in the  gaming world.

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A Little Better Every Day

A nice article by Sophie on geekdom in general.

Pathfinder Society – I Try Organized Play


This year for the first time I decided to jump in and try Pathfinder Society Organized Play.  I had never tried joining an organized play group before, and had several preconceptions about what the experience would be like.  Normally Pathfinder is not a go-to system for me (I am not in love with any D20 incarnations because I find them cumbersome, clunky, and filled with far too many things you CAN’T do than things you can).  But Pathfinder Society is HUGE at Pacificon.  We ran perhaps 35 games in Roleplaying this year at Pacificon (not counting the D&D 5.0 special events).  Pathfinder Society ran 110 table events during the convention – three times the regular roleplaying.  And I admit that my hesitations with the system notwithstanding, I had been wanting to try Pathfinder for awhile – too many people I knew played it and liked it for me to simply dismiss it out of hand as just another D20 game.

So I decided to take the plunge.  Initially, Sophie was not planning to attend Pacificon, so I thought I would sign up with PFS games all weekend to really immerse myself.  In the end Sophie decided to go, so I wound up playing in three PFS games.


Before I get into my experience with the Pathfinder Society, a few statements are in order.  First, this would not only be my first experience with PFS, but my first experience with Pathfinder and my first encounter with D20 since D&D 3.5 (and one game of 4.0).  So – newb.  I did not have access to the vast majority of Pathfinder books when creating my character.  And in a departure from what I usually play (fighter types) I decided to play a gnome sorcerer specializing in illusions.  In addition events at the convention, many of which had little to do with PFS had put me in a pretty grumpy and intolerant mood by Monday morning, and I may be judging games from that day with a certain bias because of that.  I will try to keep the bias out of my discussion below.


My very first encounter with Pathfinder Society was with a very nice woman who helped me to drop the PFS games that I needed to drop because of scheduling conflicts with games I wanted to get into with Sophie.  She was quite helpful and pleasant, and I felt an immediate rapport with her.  Looking around the Pathfinder room, I saw several groups chatting amicably and really the whole place looked like any open gaming area I have ever seen at a convention.  The nice lady expressed some mild disappointment that I was dropping some of my games, but was pleased that I was still in some and we chatted for a few minutes about the Society.  Then I went on my way and felt pretty good about PFS.  I was looking forward to my first game.

PATHFINDER SOCIETY SCENARIO #6-00:  “Legacy of the Stone Lords”

There I was in my very first PFS game.  Not only that, but the game was a special – a game that contributed to the ongoing Pathfinder Society storyline.  There were 15 tables, with parties ranging from 1st level all the way up to 11th, all playing the same event at the same time.  I found my table and sat down.  The GM looked over my character, and seemed really impressed by my 18 DC Color Spray spell (my big gun for the character).  We got our briefing from a PFS person using a bullhorn, and off we went.

For me, personally, the scenario was a disaster.

I don’t want to give away spoilers but there are a few scenario-specific things I need to mention because I think the scenario was flawed.  Don’t read them if you don’t want mild spoilers.

It turned out that the upcoming year for Pathfinder is going to be the Year of the Clockwork or some such thing.  As you might guess, because of this there were many clockwork constructs featured in the scenario.  As you might also guess, clockwork constructs are completely and totally immune to illusion.  This made me completely and totally useless in the vast majority of the encounters of the scenario.  Of the four encounters I was potentially useful in two involved things dropping from the ceiling onto my head, in once case screwing up my magic by being in my threat zone, and in one case simply bludgeoning me into near-death before my first action on turn one.  Of the two remaining encounters which involved things that I COULD affect, I was very effective in one, taking down 2/3 of the opposition with a single spell, and in the other one the fighter types all got in my way and by the time I maneuvered around them the GM called the combat due to time constraints after one round so I never got a spell off.  So my contribution to the whole of the 4-hour adventure was a single spell.  I was effective for exactly one round of the entire scenario.  And I wasn’t the only one affected.  We had two bards in the party, and they also suffered because their chosen first level spell did not affect the vast majority of the opponents.

There were two players at the table who gave me constant shit about my character.  At first I thought this was just a little good-natured ribbing, which was fine.  But it continued well on past the second hour of the game, and I eventually got sick of it.  I eventually had to threaten to walk out on the game before the shit subsided, and I was very annoyed and angry by this time.  This could easily have spoiled my mood for the game, and probably would have if it wasn’t for the fact that the GM was unprepared, inexperienced, and just plain did not run a good game, so by two hours in my mood was already spoiled.  By the time the game was running for half an hour I could tell that he had not familiarized himself sufficiently with the scenario and had to keep looking at the game notes, flipping through electronic versions of the books, and even going to some of the PFS officials on a couple of occasions for clarifications.  He also did nothing whatsoever to stop other players from giving me shit for two plus hours.

Finally, I got to see firsthand the results of six years of power creep on level 1 characters.  The player next to me was Paizo’s dream child – someone who had purchased virtually every Pathfinder supplement ever made in one form or another*.  His character wound up being our frontline fighter, not because he was a frontline figther (he wasn’t – he was a clerical type) but because he had minmaxed the character so much that it was better than either our monk or our ranger (he was probably better than both of them put together).

All in all I found this session to be horrible, and it was one of the low points of my entire weekend.  My character was useless, I took shit for half the game, and I discovered that my character was gimped compared to many PFS characters because I hadn’t dropped $1,000 or so on books.  I also learned that going to a PFS event, even a special scenario event like this one, doesn’t mean you will get a decent GM or a decent game.  Finally, I learned that Pathfinder, like almost any cash cow game that has been going for years, has accumulated a massive amount of supplemental material that sticks to the games like barnacles on a ship, slowing things down, causing confusion, and generally being inconvenient and ultimately destructive.

I was livid when I walked away from that game.  I was 99% ready to just throw in the towel and cancel my other two Pathfinder Society games.  But the two games were “We Be Goblins” and “We Be Goblins II”, which roleplaying lore and comments from people who had played in them were considered to be incredibly fun.  They were also two games I had talked Sophie into playing with me, and I really wanted to game with Sophie.


The following events took place on Monday morning and Monday afternoon of the convention respectively.  People tend to be tired and low energy on Monday.  In addition, between playing  in the above game and Monday morning I had played in one game so bad that it came close to  “Legacy of the Stone Lords” as the single worst event of the convention for me.  In short, since “Legacy of the Stone Lords” I had not particularly enjoyed my roleplaying experience at the convention and I was crabby.


Both of these games suffered from exactly the same problems, so I am going to cover them as a set.  The first problem that they both suffered from was that as before the GMs were not sufficiently familiar with the material and otherwise underprepared.  One GM forgot to bring the pregen characters for the game.  One GM brought a bunch of pregens that weren’t canon and unsuitable for PFS play.  Both of them spent far too much time flipping through the scenario booklet, organizing their notes, reorganizing their notes, losing pages, finding pages, and looking up references.  One of the two was rather sullen and grumpy about it, while the other was earnest and really tried to make the best of things (and I give props for that!) but in the end both games faltered due to lack of preparation, which slowed the tempo of the games almost to a standstill.

The second problem was that neither GM knew how to say “Yes!” to players.  Both games are all about goblin shenanigans.  Both games contain contests that goblin PCs have to win in order to get stuff.  Goblins are dirty little creepy bastards.  And yet neither GM seemed particularly interested in PC ideas for cheating at the contests, instead treating them as straight up challenge rolls that you either succeeded at or failed at.  The goal seemed to be “get through the encounters in sequence by the numbers.”

This left both scenarios feeling linear, lackluster, and often tedious – in short the exact opposite of what was promised by the premise.

I had a miserable time in the first game (where I wound up playing a non-canon sorcerer, and discovered I was once again useless…  and eventually dead) and an unenjoyable time in the second game (where I wound up playing a fighter and was actually useful, though frustrated in my attempts to take the scenario even a little bit off the giant rails it was riding on).

Overall, in terms of the actual games I played in, I rate the experience as quite poor.  The major special event was perfect to make my character useless, I got shit on by other players my first time playing, the GMs that I played with were all unprepared to run the games they were supposed to be running, and none of them seemed capable of thinking outside the text of the written scenarios.



I found many of the people I met involved with the Pathfinder Society to be quite personable and helpful.  I met some really nice people there – folks who love the RPG hobby just like I do, who want to encourage others to try a system they love, and are enthusiastic and friendly.  With the one rather obvious exception I felt welcomed and accepted in the PFS.

It’s clear that Paizo loves the PFS too.  There were various giveaways and prizes for every event, which was quite fun.  One kid at my table won a free copy of the rules, which I thought was very nice.

So in general, while I didn’t much care for any of the games I got into, I thought the organization itself was welcoming, friendly, and fun.

As for Pathfinder, the game system – well, I honestly don’t know.  I knew from the beginning that the system was crunchier than I prefer, but I also recognize that the difficulties which the DMs had in their games, and other factors, did not allow the system to be properly showcased in a good light.  There were several things to dislike (for example the system seems to be very picky about what you can do depending on what square you happen to be standing in) but I never got a feel for what makes the system exciting and fun.

It is likely that I will try another Pathfinder event sometime, if only because I had such a bad experience in terms of the games I played in but such a good experience with most of the people that I feel I owe the nice people a second chance.  But this time I will try to look up the DMs ahead of time and avoid those who do not have a solid, extensive rating with PFS.





*One of the pieces of advice that he gave me to fix my 1st level character was to buy a certain book because it had a certain magical item listed in it.  The book, he admitted, would be entirely useless to me – save for the fact that it had in it that particular magical item.

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Pacificon and Convention Games in General

I went to Pacificon this past weekend, and I thought I would briefly share my experience.

  1. I was RPG coordinator, which was good because I got in free and had half my room comped, and bad because I had to spend most of Friday and Saturday at the RPG registration desk (which is boring and involves doing nothing for long periods of time).  I enjoy being on the staff of conventions, and am always pleased when I can help the convention out by assisting con-goers.  I like helping to solve problems, round up players for games that are running short, and in general making sure that the GMs have what they need and their games run smoothly.
  2. The food prices at the hotel are ridiculous.  Nobody should ever have to pay $50.00 for two hamburgers.
  3. That said, the hotel itself is nice.
  4. Convention staff was courteous, funny, competent, and made the infrastructure of the convention both easily accessible and almost entirely unnoticeable, which is no mean feat.

I got into six games over the course of the convention, including three events run by the Pathfinder Society.  All of them were D20 based.  This is a rare thing for me because D20 is usually not a go-to system for me.  But that was the way things shook out and those were the games that looked most interesting to me, so I took the plunge.

One of the games was really, really good.

One of the games was hot and cold.

Four of the games were horrible.

I’m going to deal with Pathfinder Society in a separate post, because I think they deserve some special treatment and it was a unique experience for me (I have never before done any sort of organized society play).  But I would like to talk for just a moment about what made the good game good, and what made the bad games bad.

1)  GMs need to learn to say “yes” to their players.  The single biggest failing I saw in the bad games was GMs being so focused on their plots that they did not allow players any agency.  We became, in essence, mere die rolling machines that were not even given leeway in what dice we rolled, when we rolled them, or why.  In the best game I played in, the GM was completely comfortable letting us go where we wanted to go and do what we wanted to do.  There was still some constraint from the scenario, of course, but when a player came up with a good idea that seemed completely within the rules and the spirit of the game, but which the GM had never thought of, the GM was quick to say “yes!”

2)  You can have a play without the set, but not without a play.  In two of the bad games I played in, the GM had gone to great lengths to bring miniatures, maps, etc.  One of the GMs had BOXES full of terrain, and another had boxes full of minis.  The problem was that they both spent so much time on the props that they didn’t have time to do the basic work.  In one of the games I got a half-finished character with no skills and no actual place within the scenario.  I had a really nice mini for the character, but nothing to do with it.  In another game I got a photocopy of a character sheet originally filled out by hand and then written over almost to the point of total illegibility.  Moreover, the character was clearly from a different incarnation of the game system than the one we were running, and had a different name and background, and different equipment and weapons, than what was appropriate for the scenario.  In several of the games I played in, it was clear from the beginning of the game that the GMs were not familiar with the scenario and had come underprepared.  One GM had not brought the pregens for the scenario at all, and one had brought a bunch of incorrect pregens.  The GM of my good game had some minis (and had even picked out both male and female minis for each PC, which I thought was particularly cool) and a map, but that wasn’t the focus of the scenario,  The map and the minis were there for one purpose – to give the players a better visual idea of who was where so that the action could proceed smoothly.  They supported the scenario, rather than the scenario supporting them.

3)  Listen at least as much as you talk – in one game the GM was charming, witty, funny…  and spent way too much time talking about the background and history of the scenario – to the point where we had to cut several scenes, AND the climactic fight scene against the big bad had to be cut short after only two rounds because we ran out of time.  I was left staring at a table full of beautiful minis poised for an epic battle, only to be scooped up off the table, put back in their boxes and whisked away.  This was for a seven-hour game!  In the best game of the weekend the GM really listened to the players, was supportive of creative ideas even when they threw a monkeywrench into things, and was totally willing to let them take center stage in the game.  Which is how it should be.

4)  If you are going to do pregen characters for your pregen scenario, make sure all your pregen characters have a chance to shine.  As mentioned above, I had one character that the GM hadn’t even finished, and who had absolutely no part to play in the scenario up until the big fight scene at the end (which, as also mentioned above, never happened).  In another game I had a character who was an expert escape artist and master of stealth – which would have been great had their actually been any opportunity to use stealth in the scenario.  Instead we had a four-hour game that was largely a single straight-up firefight with nowhere to sneak or flank or infiltrate.  The good GM had characters that were sufficiently different that they didn’t feel like cookie cutter cut-outs of one another, and were versatile enough that they could branch out, try things, and be successful because there was no “single way” to solve a problem.

5)  If you are NOT going to have pregen characters, you had better be flexible with your scenario,  In one game I played in, it turned out that fully 80% of the encounters were ones where I was completely useless (either traps that a different party member had to deal with or creatures that were entirely immune to my magic).   In the best game, all the characters had something to do each scene.

To sum up, your focus as a GM should be on your players, first and foremost.  Not the trappings, not the minis, not the terrain or the cool props or long and venerable history leading up to the adventure – the players.  The very first, most important thing you should have is a scenario where the players have important decisions to make that actually affect the outcome, and where characters are not being dragged along like railroad cars behind the plot.  This is not to say that the other stuff can’t be important or wonderful to have – I love a good game that is visually exciting with props and terrain and minis.  But the props and terrain and minis com AFTER the good plot, not BEFORE the good plot, and they certainly aren’t the focus of the plot.  If you have a story to tell, write it down and submit it to a fanzine.  Some railroading is understandable given that you are running a game in a specific time frame, but you MUST leave at least a small sandbox for players to run around in – otherwise they aren’t playing a game, they’re watching a TV show.

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