Still Alive

Despite the silence, I am still alive.

I’ve moved to my new apartment in Tampere, and am currently working on a laptop with no compatible mouse; a touchpad that is introducing me to a whole new spectrum of hatred, like a rainbow; Windows Vista, for which my hat know no limit; and a barely functional WLAN. It may take some time before I’m up and running at full power again.

Pathfinder Society has now officially kicked off in Finland, starting with the modules 03 Murder on the Silken Caravan and 02 Hydra’s Fang Incident, run last Sunday. Much fun was had, and the next games are already scheduled. For my part, I will endeavour to kick off the campaign up here in Tampere. Hopefully I can find other volunteer DMs so I don’t have to eat every module and can get some play time for my Chelaxian fighter, Adhemar of Senara.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a network of RPG bloggers called, imaginatively enough, RPG Bloggers. Some of you may have noticed to link appear off to the right.

It’s been an interesting an rewarding experience. The readership numbers have doubled on days when I don’t post and even quadrupled on days when I do. Additionally, I’ve found loads of new and interesting blogs to read.

A Brief Update

I am finally moving at the end of this week. Last night was my final session in the Shackled City campaign of the Wednesday Game, one of the games I have to leave behind.

It was a great game, and involved my PC, Kílt Bucchert, fast-talking a behir he lured to the group into eating our kuo-toa enemies and knocking out their dwarf leader so we could tie him up and drag him to Cauldron for our reward.

Then, Kílt moved to the party’s tobacco plantation out in the countryside, to chain smoke, gather some more gnoll skulls for the fence posts, and play three-dragon ante with Gillok, the gate guard.

Well, the group’s been going on strong since 1988. With any luck, they’ll still be around when I get back in a few years.

Meanwhile, let’s look at a few new developments.

The gormless moron writing John McCain’s campaign blog disses D&D players:

It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.

What elevates this remark into the realm of true idiocy is that this is the second time he did it. Other people learn from their mistakes.

In other news, the first four Pathfinder Society adventure modules became available on Monday. I’m running “Murder on the Silken Caravan” on Sunday, before hitting the road and going to Tampere for good, thereby officially kicking off the Finnish PFS activity. I’ve also tentatively agreed to run PFS at Tracon IV, come February. Hopefully, I won’t be the only Pathfinder DM present. We’ve got a good pool of gamers and DMs in the Helsinki region, and I will seek to spread the word up north.

Incidentally, Falenthorpe, which long served us as the forum for our Finnish Living Greyhawk games, now also encompasses Pathfinder Society.

Also, Efemeros #1 came out. I’ve spoken about it before. It is a Finnish RPG article collection, with four articles on running games and developing adventures and campaigns from Sami Koponen, Wille Ruotsalainen and Eero Tuovinen. It’s a most nifty thing. I was one of the peer reviewers for the product.

Oops, They Did It Again

RPGA, the arm of Wizards of the Coast’s marketing department that handles their organized play campaigns like Living Forgotten Realms and Living Greyhawk, redid its members’ site a couple of days back.

The RPGA members’ site is the place where you log in to order RPGA events and then later report them. It’s also where you download the modules for your events.

Now, it’s been combined with the DCI members’ site. They’re the guys who run D&D Miniatures leagues and Magic: the Gathering leagues, and so forth.

And in the grand tradition of WotC’s online widgets, it doesn’t work. I went through a frustrating thirty minutes trying to delete some sessions that never ran and one I’d scheduled accidentally for the year 2022. Mind you, some of these sessions had already been reported and (I thought) removed ages ago. Also, here we have two threads on the LFR forum about problems reporting Living Forgotten Realms events.

Personally, I’m almost happy that Living Greyhawk is ending and I’m moving to Tampere, and I will no longer have reason to access it. I’m about this close to downloading everything that’s available and just removing it from my bookmarks for good.

Now… this weekend is the weekend of Gen Con Indy. When Living Forgotten Realms is officially kicking off.

I don’t know how many people they have with the responsibility of reporting every table, but I wouldn’t want to be them right now. Even though I do so enjoy screaming in righteous wrath.

Well done, WotC. Yet another successful launch.

This could’ve been averted, too. For one thing, whoever is responsible for the website should’ve been replaced long ago. There is not a single aspect of it that’s not an abomination, from the terrible front page with its occasionally functional Java and that horrible ad video with the crappy metal soundtrack to the forums, vacillating between unmoderated anarchy and a police-state of jackbooted power-trippers, with hours of downtime every day and the chat running on software that was old when the Red Box was young and a server that predates the invention of the dice pool.

Also, the LFR system requires the Game Master to report everything – not only the players’ RPGA numbers, but also treasure bundles, character information and story consequences. They’ve done this before, actually, on the Legacy of the Green Regent, Mark of Heroes and Xen’drik Expeditions campaigns. It sucked each and every time.

Living Greyhawk differs in this. We have an interesting an innovative way to track character advancement. We use this stuff called paper. You may have heard of it, though it’s a fairly new thing, only been around for about five thousand years.

There may be a reason it’s still in widespread use.

And if there are story consequences, we use e-mail. Online, we reported the players’ RPGA numbers and that’s it. Same web form for every module, nothing fancy, no glitches, so simple a moron could use it.

The system worked pretty well for eight years. Large-scale electronic tracking has been an abject failure for about four years, now. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of neophilia – let’s face it, new gadgets are fun – but the rest of us are getting a bit uncomfortable and weirded out by how they’re slobbering all over this one. It’s slowly moving into the realm of some sort of electronic pygmalionism.

Guys, it does not work! It never will work! It sucks!

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

ENnie and Diana Jones Awards Presented

I talked about these a while back. It’s Gen Con time, and that means award ceremonies. The Diana Jones Award ceremony was held on Wednesday, while the ENnies were given out last night. Neither website has yet been updated, which I suppose is understandable, in a way. If I was there with 20,000 other gamers having fun, I wouldn’t bother with stuff like that, either.

However, there are other sources for this data. Like Wolfgang Baur’s LiveJournal, where we get the Diana Jones results.

The 2008 Diana Jones Award was a tie, between Wolfgang Baur’s Open Design and Jason Morningstar’s roleplaying game Grey Ranks.

Congratulations to the winners!

Hmm. Arkenstone stocks Grey Ranks. It must be mine!

Then there’s the big event, the ENnies. Results available on the EN World front page (for the time being, at least). There’s a lot, so I won’t reproduce it all here.

I will, however, point out that Paizo won gold for Best Cover Art, Best Adventure, Best Setting, Best Adversary Product, Best Aid or Accessory, Best Web Enhancement or Free Product, and Best Publisher. Silver for Best Interior Art. My other favourite, Green Ronin‘s Pirate’s Guide to Freeport got gold for Best Cartography and silver for Best Setting.

It’s more or less as I expected, actually. I just wished Seven Days to the Grave would have performed better. It’s a smashing adventure, and one of the things it rightfully smashes is the hoary old fallacy that plagues aren’t a danger in D&D, with all those clerics running around.

Ah, well. Congratulations to Paizo, Green Ronin, White Wolf, Pelgrane Press, Kenzer & Co, Fat Dragon Games, Malhavoc Press, Goodman Games, Pinnacle Entertainment Group, Exile Games Studio, Lone Wolf Development, and hey, even Wizards of the Coast. I loved Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress.

Also, congratulations to DungeonMastering.com and FlamesRising.com for Best Fan Products!

Pathfinder RPG Beta Is Out!

Yesterday, Paizo released the beta playtest edition of their Pathfinder RPG. You can either download it for free or buy the softcover edition. The download also comes with a sixty-page web enhancement with about 100 spells and 80 magic items that they couldn’t fit in the rulebook. Which has 410 pages.

I haven’t yet had more than a cursory glance through the rules, but they look good. Only slight changes from the Alpha Edition, it seems, which would indicate they’re getting it right – no drastic changes needed. I can’t wait for the final version.

There has been dismay expressed in certain circles that the Pathfinder rules are not, in fact, a sublime, intricate, elegant system that takes their consciousness to a higher level of existence.

It’s still in playtest, people. Give it time.

Seriously, though, the rules aren’t the main draw event here. The rules are good, though, make no mistake. They’re far better than the 3.5 system, too.

The main draw here, the reason I will most likely switch over to Pathfinder RPG once the final rules come out, is that Paizo Publishing is currently releasing consistently the best, most inspired, and coolest fantasy RPG material out there. Classic Monsters Revisited, Burnt Offerings, Seven Days to the Grave, The Skinsaw Murders, The Hook Mountain Massacre, Pathfinder Campaign Setting... their product catalogue is just oozing awesome.

This is not to say that other companies, like Green Ronin, White Wolf or Mongoose Publishing, aren’t releasing good stuff – they are. I love Freeport to bits, Exalted rocks and Conan is mighty. Paizo is just releasing more.

Really, if the rules are the main thing in a game for you, you’re looking in the wrong place. In fact, I’ve got just the game for you…

Pathfinder Society, GSL, News

And as promised, Paizo Publishing placed the new Pathfinder Society Organised Play documents online on Friday. I am only reporting this now, because, well, see the last post.

I’m still digesting the data, but it looks a lot like Living Greyhawk. Biggest changes are nixing the use of experience points – level-ups are counted from the number of modules you’ve played and there’s no item creation at all. Season 0 will be still using the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 rules, and the campaign will be making the switch to Pathfinder RPG once the final version comes out at Gen Con Indy 2009. I think Nicolas Logue or Joshua Frost stated somewhere that the first year’s modules will be enough to take a character to level 12 if he plays them all. This would be a lot faster than what we’re used to in Living Greyhawk, where I’ve been playing Xaylen Ambedor for four years and he’s still only level 11. Then, he’s not my only character.

The modules will be up on Monday, and will cost $3.99. In real money, this is roughly €2.70. Still cheaper than pretty much any other gaming product out there, and if you’re still hesitating, rule that the players must bring snacks. There.

In a move that surprised everyone, Wizards of the Coast has admitted they may have made a few slight judgment errors in drafting the abomination that is the current Game System Licence, and will be revising it.

Amusingly, there was a guy at Ropecon who explained to me at length how the GSL was actually meant to be unusable by anyone with a property of any value, so they could get rid of the direct competition.

It’s still possible that he was right, though. Only time will tell if the next version of the GSL will be actually worth anything, or just terribly, terribly wrong in a different fashion.

(Via Geek Revised and Living Dice.)

Ropecon!

Well, Ropecon is over. I have returned.

Now, having slept (after having been awake for roughly 36 hours – I awoke in my bed with no memory of having gone to sleep and discovered I had apparently used my blanket as a pillow), eaten (having subsisted the weekend on a standard con diet of caffeine, fat, sugar and shit and last eaten on Sunday morning), shaved (the con stubble becomes conspicuous on day three, usually), and showered (not actually a habit I broke for the con), I am ready to give my report.

The con began on Friday, grey and rainy. Clad in my kilt, with a sporran that would become uncomfortably cramped and burdened with loot as the con progressed, I made my way to Dipoli. (Yeah, I know I’ve worn it before. I like that kilt.)

Got in through the staff entrance, got my con bracelet, my badges (one for GM and one for programming), and set up the Living Greyhawk HQ in the fireplace room, where tables had been allocated to us.

That’s a thing about running organised play – there’s a crapload of paperwork and you need to keep it all somewhere. For Living Greyhawk, we had blank character sheets, Master Item Logsheets, Magic Item Creation Sheets, our very own Ahlissan Serious Crime Record Sheets (A largely superfluous document in that it has only ever been handed out on one occasion, to a bunch of really annoying pre-teen players at Ropecon 2006. However, I have a soft spot for a paper that states your character will face mutilation if caught by the law.), RPGA membership applications (I ordered a stack before Ropecon, but it never arrived. That was Ropecon 2007.), and game reporting forms.

It was the last year of Living Greyhawk at the con, and we had, I think, twelve tables of scheduled games. My first one was NAE7-04 Unyielding, which I ran on Friday before hitting the guest of honour speeches of Chris Pramas and Greg Stolze. I got my Pirates Guide to Freeport and Godlike books signed, yay!

Pramas spoke about RPG publishing in the USA. I came in late so I missed the beginning, but what I remember foremost is that Fantasy Flight Games has contracted Green Ronin to do two Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play products. One of them is going to be about organisations in the Empire with (I think) nine chapters. Each chapter will have a player’s section of the organisation and a Game Master’s section, with the player’s section being what the player gets to read when he joins up and the GM’s section giving them the real dirt on the situation.

I’d bet any amount that one of them will be a respectable knightly order or something else really cool on the player’s section, but is actually a front for the Ruinous Powers on the GM’s bit. Hilarity ensues.

I don’t remember what the other product was, sorry.

Stolze talked about Reign, the ransom model, and his games. Interesting stuff.

I also spent a great deal of time socialising and saying hi to old friends. Indeed, on Saturday, I spent a few hours in meetups with Risingshadow.net and RPG.net‘s Finnpack (complete with a token Swede, cd).

Great fun was had. I also cunningly utilised the Risingshadow.net meet to dispose of some literature I wanted to get rid of from eating up shelf space. A lot of translated Salvatore, some Conan anthologies I had in duplicate, ten books of the godawful Battle Royale manga, a crapload of Eddings, an inferior Neverwhere translation, and eight Shannara novels just went away, never to trouble me again. I even got some money for them.

That money was then put to good use in getting me some con t-shirts, the Dark Passions sourcebook for CthulhuTech, GURPS: Castle Falkenstein, GURPS: Castle Falkenstein – The Ottoman Empire, and a small Cthulhu figurine I can use for a Black Mass, or something (a religious ceremony whose name also describes the guest of honour). I’d say what I think of the books, except I seem to have inadvertently packed them away to boxes that were taken to Tampere this morning. Never pack when tired, kids.

On Saturday, I also spent a good hour manning the badge machine at the Espoo Science Fiction and Fantasy Club booth. Funniest badges of the con.

On Saturday evening, I did a presentation with Sampo Haarlaa on the organised play campaigns – where they came from, what’s happening now, and what’s in the future. Sampo played the straight man and Living Forgotten Realms advocate. I did the comic foil thing, in addition to briefing the audience on Pathfinder Society. I updated the audience on the changes to the Forgotten Realms by taking an overhead transparent of the Faerûn map and then doing a “draw and tell” number.

“Here’s Halruaa. It’s roughly the size of Poland. It exploded, and Chult is now an island.” *furious scrawling*

It was fun. It’s also gratifying to notice that the audience was more interested in Pathfinder Society than Living Forgotten Realms. After the show, I had a long discussion about Pathfinder in the bar with Sampo and a local forum regular. Can’t wait to actually get to play some.

After this, I hit the Sauron as a Statesman presentation, by Jaakko Koivula. It was stuffed in Room 26, which had room for about half the people who eventually showed up. There were people sitting on the windowsills. We ran out of oxygen about 30 minutes into the presentation, and it’s a good thing Koivula got done with lecturing about Pierre Bourdieu around that point and went into the applying Bourdieu to D&D.

I would disagree that the spell create food and water fucks up the economy, though, even if it gave you sides of beef and BBQ sauce instead of the Matrix-style protein porridge that it does. It’s a third-level spell, thus requiring a fifth-level caster. According to the DMG rules on NPC level distribution in a population centre, they’re too rare for it to matter on any significant scale. If every cleric of sufficient level in a city pooled all their available spells slots into creating food and water, they could maybe run a medium-size soup kitchen.

While I popped off to bed in the wee hours of the first night, the second night I didn’t sleep at all. Ropecon stays open around the clock, and things tend to get really weird. Listening in on the Troubleshooter radio can be great fun.

Questions that were answered in the night of Ropecon: yes, there are rocking chairs in the women’s bathroom.

Questions that remained unanswered: whether the penis was, in fact, between the boobs.

The greatest awesomeness, though, was on the Friday night, when we were treated to the performance of five brown-robed monks slowly walking in formation through Dipoli, chanting “Pie Iesu domine, dona eis requiem” and beating themselves on the head with D&D 4th Edition rulebooks.

Sunday was tired and comatose. I ran NAE7-05 Trail of the Serpent to a bunch of Greyhawk regulars, got my DM loot (Denizens of Freeport, some dungeon tiles and a little box of rocks). Then I went home, inadvertently packed all my loot away to be sent to Tampere and woke up some ten hours later.

And next year I’ll do it all over again!

Ropecon Draws Nigh

It’s now about 38 hours before the doors of Ropecon 2008 open.

Me, I feel like I’m running out of time. There are still niggling details of my presentation that need to be ironed out, there’s transportation to figure out, and material to print. Loads of material to print. One ink cartridge already gave up the ghost and the second is well on its way toward the office supply heaven.

Sampo and I will be doing our presentation about organised play campaigns, primarily Living Greyhawk, Living Forgotten Realms and Pathfinder Society, at 21:00 on Saturday, in the Klondyke room. It will either be a spectacular failure or really funny and informative. Whichever occurs, it ought to be worth checking out.

I’ll be running games on Friday and Sunday. On Friday, I think I’ll be offering the Living Greyhawk Naerie regional NAE7-04 Unyielding, written by myself, and on Sunday, the regional NAE7-05 Trail of the Serpent, by Sampo Haarlaa. There are also eleven other scheduled tables of Living Greyhawk running at the con – the last tables of Living Greyhawk Ropecon will see. Next year, it’ll be Pathfinder Society. If you wish to play these, you’ll want to do it now.

The rest of the time, I’ll be checking out the speeches, presentations and panel discussions, meeting with the regulars from a bunch of different chatrooms and forums, and probably sitting at ESC’s table, which should be located in the lobby.

If someone wishes to say hi, I should be readily identifiable by a pair of badges saying “NiTessine”. Also, likely a kilt, but there can be any amount of those present.

There’s a crapload of other interesting stuff to see this year, such as Chris Pramas’ and Greg Stolze’s speeches and presentations, Guy Windsor’s Realities of Steel lecture and swordfight presentation, Ville Vuorela’s Stalker presentation, Kaj Sotala speaking about nanotechnology, and this curiosity called “Sauron as a Statesman”, which examines familiar fantasy settings from the point of view of modern social sciences, pondering what a create food and water spell does to a barter economy or what happens to law enforcement when a level 40 barbarian engages in some civil disobedience.

Well, 37 hours now.

I’ll see you there.