Some Recent Events – Eclipse Phase, Market Fluctuations

A couple of days ago, Catalyst Game Labs released their brand new RPG, Eclipse Phase, on PDF. It’s a post-apocalyptic transhumanist science fiction horror RPG. I’d only seen a single PDF preview and didn’t try and find out anything more before going and buying it sight unseen. While it did help that the PDF preview was the character sheet of a sentient octopus, what really motivated me was that it was released under a Creative Commons licence, making the PDF legal to distribute to all and sundry. This kind of behaviour is worth encouraging, and the PDF only costs $15.

While some speculated that the licence would eat into their sales, they jumped immediately to the second place of the Hottest Item list at RPG Now, and are still there. I’m now waiting for the hardcover to come out so I can buy that, too. Eclipse Phase is one of the prettiest games I’ve seen, and the setting pushes all the right buttons to make my inner science fiction fan squeal with delight. Reading through it, I see the influence of Alastair Reynolds and Terminator, of Ghost in the Shell and Peter F. Hamilton, of Delta Green and even Edgar Rice Burroughs.

A longer review may be forthcoming in the future, when I can find the time to make sense of the rules (I hate reading rules but I don’t like to play rules-light games – the tragedy of my being). At this point, I declare the setting to be magnificent.

For those waiting for the next WotC screwup, the wait is over – and didn’t even have to wait long after the last one. They just unveiled their Gleemax 2.0 (they’re not calling it that, but it’s obvious that they’re going for the same thing). I haven’t gone through all the features, and probably won’t, but I can tell you that they managed to make their forums actually worse. They are unnavigable, annoying to read, and generally look like hell. In addition, the transition mangled my username and ate my message inbox. Well, at least Paizo no longer has the crappiest RPG forum layout on the net.

There have been new rumblings from Sinister Adventures. Their mega-adventure Razor Coast may be forthcoming after all, and should be out in October. There will also be new waves of Indulgences, one for Razor Coast and another for Ebon Shroud, the horror module Nicolas Logue and Richard Pett are crafting together. Their names on the cover together are enough to give me nightmares. I’ll review these new waves of Indulgences when they’re done, like I did the last two.

ICv2 has released a list of the Top 5 most sold RPGs in the second quarter of 2009. While the list is not definitive, it does probably bear a strong resemblance to the actual situation. If nothing else, I’d be really surprised if Dungeons & Dragons really wasn’t the most sold – it’s been that for some thirty-odd years, with the possible exception of a single month in 1992, when it was allegedly outsold by Vampire: the Masquerade. The rest of the list is far more interesting. When I first came to the scene, the top RPGs were D&D, Vampire: the Masquerade, GURPS, and some Palladium game, probably Rifts. Now, that’s in the past. Dark Heresy has knocked Vampire (in the guise of World of Darkness) from the second spot, GURPS is nowhere to be seen, and Palladium Press continues to surprise me by not being bankrupt. Instead, there’s Green Ronin’s Song of Ice and Fire, which I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a copy of, and Catalyst’s Shadowrun.

For some interesting data about how it works out in Finland, here’s our local game store chain’s list of the fifteen most sold RPG items in the last 30 days. As you can see, the top spot is occupied by Pathfinder RPG, which jumped there on the release day. The Finnish items on the list are number two, Ikuisuuden laakso, which is that penguin RPG I’ve been talking about; #4, Itran kaupunki, which I just reviewed; #9, Efemeros 2: Ryövärien maa, a sourcebook for the excellent Finnish fantasy RPG Praedor; and #15, the 22nd issue of Roolipelaaja, the local RPG magazine that I occasionally write for. The list does also reflect ICv2’s list in that there are three items of D&D and two of Dark Heresy and World of Darkness each. No Song of Ice and Fire or Shadowrun, though.

Review: The City of Itra

It’s time to review some obscure crap again.

Recently, a Finnish association called The Society for Nordic Roleplaying released two roleplaying games. The first was Ikuisuuden laakso (The Valley of Eternity), an RPG about penguins with a light, traditional system and a cool idea. I reviewed this for Roolipelaaja and gave it four stars out of five. It’s a nifty game, and I like it.

The other one is Itran kaupunki (The City of Itra), a translation of the Norwegian roleplaying game Itras by. To my knowledge, it is not available in English. Then, I’m not sure the English-speaking world is missing out all that much.

Honestly, I’m at bit of a loss about what I can say about it, but I’d already gone and told some people I’m reviewing it, so I can’t back out. Itran kaupunki bills itself as a surrealist RPG, and is set in a 1920’s-style city ruled by a spider goddess named Nindra, where everything can happen and often does.

Incidentally, Nindra was the name of a totalitarian and xenophobic nation in my old homebrew setting. The name doesn’t really bring up any fond memories. The city kinda reminds me of Planescape’s Sigil, except it’s not as interesting, cool, or well written.

Ville Vuorela of Burger Games blogged thusly about the game:

Inevitably, I think the concept is shit, the layout is shit, the system is shit and the illustrations scrape the bottom of the shit barrel. It just proves that weird does not equal cool.

While I would not go that far,  I don’t entirely disagree, either. There are some layout problems, and headers are occasionally placed at the end of a page, with the paragraph they’re supposed to head starting on the next. The art is, in a word, ugly.

The concept isn’t bad, but the execution is lacking. The idea of a city where the laws of causality are more like suggestions, talking apes live in the central park and there’s a society of anarchists called the Churchillians, who look like this and smoke cigars made from atmospheric frost is cool. There’s a terrorist organisation called the futurists, a society of thrill-seeking aristocrats who delve into the catacombs to fight monsters and a village of unemployed Egyptian ka spirits. This is great stuff – and then it all sorta stops at the idea level. None of the concepts are fleshed out enough and a lot of the ideas just aren’t very interesting.

I am not too fond of the system, either – if it can be called that, since it’s one of those new-fangled narrativist thingies. It’s based on two decks of cards. The first is the Action Deck, which contains eight cards and is used when the outcome of an action is in doubt and dramatically relevant. The cards describe different degrees of success or failure and are then interpreted according to the situation. The second deck is the Chance Deck, which is unlimited in size and contains weird stuff across the board. Each player and the GM can draw one card from the deck per session and interpret it. These are stuff like “An object begins to talk”, or “Your arch enemy awakens and affects the situation somehow. You don’t have an arch enemy, you say? Well, now you do.”

While I don’t much care for storygame systems like this, I can forgive them. However, there’s one problem – there are no cards. The game is just the book, 132 pages long. There are some pages that I think I’m supposed to photocopy and cut or something with the Action Deck card texts and a selection of sample Chance Deck cards. However, their dimensions are ass. They’re more like long, thin slips of paper than cards, which makes them slightly unwieldy. It wouldn’t have been difficult to fit the texts in playing card-sized boxes and maybe include graphics for the card backs. Another minus is that these aren’t provided as PDFs on the game’s website (Hint, hint – I know you’re reading this, Juhana. And while you’re at it, an Ikuisuuden laakso character sheet would be cool, too.).

The characters do not really exist on the mechanical level except in terms of their Dramatic Qualities, which are features of the player character that can dramatically affect the flow of the story and come up in the game. The examples range from “cold-blooded” to having a wound in one’s chest that leads into Limbo, where things made of dream-stuff occasionally leak out. Theoretically, Dramatic Qualities can be anything, up to and including godhood. There’s no real balance issue here, since you’d have to be some kind of a moron to try and powergame a narrativist system in this way. The GM can always veto ideas that are too bad to live, though.

Another thing I dislike about the game is the tone of the writing. I think something probably got lost in translation, because I find it rather flat and a Norwegian gamer I met described it as exciting. The translator also apparently did not know that “tachyon” is a real word and is translated as “takioni”. Considering I know this from Star Trek and Watchmen, there really should have been at least one proofreader who could have caught it. However, there is one thing that comes through from the original, which is the constant underlining that yes, this is your game to do with as you will! This includes instructions to black out sections of the city gazetteer that I do not like, to staple notes to the pages, and even a couple of blank pages for my own notes in the middle of the book.

Yes, I fucking know this game is mine. I paid €20 for it, and I’m starting to feel it was too much.

The game contains a lot of GMing advice, campaign seeds and ideas on using the material in the game. I did not get a lot out of it. Finally, there’s a starter adventure, “The Reincarnation Machine”, which I feel has an uninteresting idea and a flawed structure that runs on rails, fuelled by a god in the machine. It ends with the header “Characters”, after which there are none.

Final Grade: Fish.

RPG Carnival: Suggestions for Convention GMs

It’s been a while since I took part in the RPG Blog Carnival. Now, the current one is on the theme of conventions, Ren faires and carnivals, hosted by Chgowiz at Chgowiz’s Old Guy RPG Blog.

Now, as some of you know, we had Ropecon in Finland at the turn of the month, and I was the RPG admin, or the Master of Game Masters, as I like to call myself. In practice, this meant staffing the GM info desk and working out table schedules for the Game Masters who’d signed up to run games.

Prior to this, I’d been running games at Ropecon since 2005. Mostly, I’ve run Living Greyhawk, plus Pathfinder Society at Tracon last winter. It’s been quite a few sessions, and I’ve learned quite a few things about how to prepare for running at a convention, what to expect, and what you can and cannot do in a con game. Some of these may strike you as obvious, but I have seen GMs who could have used each and every one of these pieces of advice.

First, always have pre-made player characters. Even if you’re running Living Forgotten Realms or Pathfinder Society or some other organised play campaign that will continue beyond that one session (most con games being one-shots), have pre-made characters available. Few people come to a convention to roll up PCs. In fact, were I to run something that isn’t an organised play campaign, I wouldn’t even have character creation as an option. I want to run my game, make it good, and then be on my way to do something else.

Second, write up a decent description of your game. Nobody will sign up for a game that’s only billed as “D&D 3.5” without any information as to the actual content. You want to grab your players’ attention with it. Tell them what the game is like, not about what your ruleset is (though it is a good idea to mention that, too – I would be most unhappy if I found myself at a 4E table by accident). This should also get you the kind of players you want – the people playing RPGs at conventions are a myriad bunch, and the wrong sort of player in the wrong sort of game can lead to disaster. A Nordic-style immersionist in a Living Greyhawk table or a hack & slashy D&D player in a World of Darkness game are unlikely to lead to good gaming.

There’s also always the risk that one of your players will be a maladjusted social misfit who embodies every negative gamer stereotype, smells of cat piss and tries to rules lawyer your game despite not actually knowing the rules. Accept this risk. In the end, there is little you can do to prevent it. If the cat piss man wants to come, he will come. They seem to be most attracted to mainstream RPGs like World of Darkness stuff (especially Vampire: the Masquerade) and whatever is the current edition of Dungeons & Dragons.

It’s a good idea to playtest your scenario beforehand, if possible. In the case of organised play scenarios, at least have played it before the con. While playtesting isn’t viable or meaningful for some types of games (character-driven revolving door games, for instance, may not benefit a lot), it is for most, and if you can, do it. Playtesting makes games better.

Length is an issue. The standard convention game is four hours long. Living Greyhawk, Pathfinder Society and Living Forgotten Realms all stick to this, with varying degrees of faithfulness, and for Ropecon, you get a free one-day ticket for four hours of GMing and a full weekend for eight hours. This is not to say that all games should be four hours in length, but it’s the standard, which is good to keep in mind. Especially for longer games, you’ll want to make sure the game is really, truly worth the time.

At conventions, the players’ time is more valuable than usually, because there’s a con going on and there will be interesting programming or other games that they will miss because they’re playing your game. Make sure it’s worth it. This means that you should preferably not be falling asleep behind the GM screen and be neither drunk, hangover, nor high. Be on time, and stick to the schedule. If you’ve announced a four-hour game, try and keep to it, especially if the table schedule is tight and there’s another GM taking over right after you’ve wrapped up.

Then there’s the question of what kinds of games you can run at conventions. The con environment is often noisy and playing areas tend to be open, with lots of people. It’s disruptive and distracting. This means that horror may be difficult to run well. It’s a good idea to ask for a peaceful area from the con organisers if you need something atmospheric, but it’s rare you can get anything approaching ideal conditions. Tracon’s soundproof rooms last winter were lovely, though. That said, the guy who generated the most positive feedback at Ropecon this year ran Call of Cthulhu.

One-shots work generally well. Since con game rarely continues beyond that session, you can run stuff like Tomb of Horrors or Paranoia, no problem. Player versus player games tend to work best at cons as well.

Comedy games and lighthearted stuff is good for a con game. For multi-day cons, this is especially true after the first day. Sleep deprivation, caffeine overdose and sugar high make everything funny.

Conventions are also ideal for running that weird-ass art game translated from an obscure Polish dialect that you always wanted to run but your regular gaming group wants nothing to do with. Personally, I’m contemplating writing up a Godlike game for next Tracon to run along with Pathfinder Society. It may also be that I have listened to a lot of Sabaton lately. Seriously, cons are excellent for running the obscure stuff. Write a good enough description and players will sign up for anything. Except maybe FATAL or RaHoWa. A convention game of World of Synnibarr or Spawn of Fashan would probably be unreasonably popular, though.

Finally, any convention worth attending will want feedback on what was good and what was bad. Fill up a feedback form or send them some by e-mail after the convention, because without constructive criticism, it is hard to know what needs improving.

Four New Pathfinder Classes?

The data thus far is pretty hazy, but there’s a preliminary report on the Paizo boards (whose forum software, for the record, I hate with the heat of a thousand suns) that 2010 will see the Pathfinder Advanced Player’s Handbook, which would include four new base classes, described as cavalier, oracle, summoner and some type of alchemy class. The summoner’s concept, as far as I can tell, would be to build a customised monster of their own instead of spamming summon monster like the immediate fear goes.

Also, at this point, even the names are still subject to change.

There was also the interesting tidbit that the playtest will be open. In addition, there’s a quotation from the CEO Lisa Stevens to the effect that there will be three Pathfinder RPG rulebook releases per year, one of those a bestiary of some kind. Pathfinder RPG Bestiary II is slated for May 2010. The Advanced PHB would come out at Gen Con 2010.

The summoner sounds interesting. Hard to say anything about the rest, except that the oracle sounds a bit strange. Foretelling the future doesn’t sound like a job for a PC or even really viable in a D&D-style RPG, unless you want your campaign to look like Ticket to Ride. Well, they can probably figure something out.

The cavalier is another on I’m curious about, since I really dislike the concept of a PC class that’s tied to a creature that won’t fit in a dungeon. For this reason, I am very  happy about the paladin’s divine bond in the new Pathfinder RPG. Now, the paladin can boost his sword instead of getting a pokémount. Then, if they were smart enough to change that, I doubt they’ll revisit the problem with another class. It could also be a relative of the knight from 3.5’s Player’s Handbook II, which is another class I dislike. It is also tied to its steed, and its core gimmick, the knight’s challenge, is an aggro control mechanic lifted from MMO’s that I feel has no place in a tabletop roleplaying game. Some sort of noble warrior who’s not married to his horse would be cool, though.

Of course, this is all based on some forum posts and may even turn out to be someone pulling a prank.

Well, we shall see. At least in a public playtest, I am able to get my voice heard, and I’m already running a pair of Pathfinder Adventure Paths (Rise of the Runelords and Legacy of Fire). The next sessions of both campaigns will include conversions to Pathfinder RPG, from 3.5 and the beta, respectively. I’ve been playing Star Wars Saga, running Pathfinder RPG Beta and both playing and running Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 all summer, and almost no session has gone by without me confusing rules from one game with another.

Award News – Bleargh

The results of both the ENnies and the Diana Jones Awards are now in.

The Diana Jones people haven’t yet updated their website, though. According to Robin D. Laws, it went to Dominion.

The ENnies, this year, featured a lesson on why the popular vote doesn’t work when one of the contestants is orders of magnitude larger than all the others combined. WotC sweeped nearly all categories it was nominated for just by being better known, including the Fan’s Choice for Best Publisher, which is beyond ridiculous. Their marketing has featured outright lies (At D&D Experience 2007, the official line was that 4E is not in the works. At Gen Con…), promised products have never materialised (The online game table is now over a year late and still not in sight.), their website is a travesty, the first draft of the GSL was a direct attack against the open gaming movement, and their policy on PDFs has less connection to the real world than the D&D economic system.

I would also contest the Product of the Year going to Player’s Handbook, which is only a third of a game and despite being laid out for eight-year-olds with lots of white space and a ridiculously huge typeface still doesn’t contain enough empty margins to write in all the errata.

Best Aid or Accessory to D&D Insider? A user-hostile collection of occasionally functional applications and features that never were? Are you kidding me?

Howl of the Carrion King, at least, won the Best Adventure it deserved – and it really is a splendid module. Still, WotC’s King of the Trollhaunt Warrens, which nobody seems to have even heard of, nabbed second place apparently just by being 4E. Seriously, I can’t even find reviews for it outside of Amazon.com, and even there the most positive one of the three states that “The module is similar to all WOTC and TSR adventures and has little to no role-playing. This adventure is basically fight after fight.”

Silver. Over Purge the Unclean or Barrow Grounds. My ass.

Then there’s Best Monster Book, with Monster Manual, a collection of stats and occasionally questionable art choices beating Creatures Anathema, a book chock-full of flavour, great ideas and adventure hooks. It also contains the following: “The most infamous of Attack Squigs is the Ravenous Face-Biter, appropriately named for the way in which it tries to bite the faces off of its enemies, ravenously. Other less well known, but no less vicious, varieties include the Drooling Snapjaw and the Pig-eyed Gouger.” It’s got orks! It’s got the eldar! It’s got ‘nids! And it got beaten by the adorable dire puppy!

Another serious issue is that the Best Free Product category pitted freebie quickstart rules – marketing materials, essentially – against genuinely free games, and then one of the damn things was actually allowed to win. The D&D retroclone game Swords & Wizardry got silver, at least, but in my view, and the view of quite a few others in the blogosphere, there were only two nominees there that should have been eligible in the first place. The other was Trial & Terror: Supernatural Victims Unit.

Dark Heresy received a well-deserved Best Production Values award. I mean, you can say what you will about recycling art, glorious though it be, but that book, as a physical object, is one of the finest items in my game collection. I accidentally dropped it a while back, and the pages tore away from the covers. I pushed them back in, and they stuck. In normal use, you wouldn’t know anything had happened. That’s quality. I can’t say how it stacks up with the competition (except that CthulhuTech is also a very pretty book, though I understand that an early print run was somehow faulty), but it is not a misplaced victory.

Also, Best Setting went to Paizo’s Pathfinder Campaign Setting, which really is one of my favourite fantasy settings, nowadays. It combines elements of classic pulp fantasy and horror literature with Dungeons & Dragons to great effect and manages to create a kitchen sink setting with a distinct feel of its own instead of just a mishmash.

In other news, WotC has announced that in 2010 they shall be revisiting Dark Sun for 4E. I shall politely refrain from posting my thoughts on this.

Pathfinder Updates, Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play 3E

Well, the game is now really out, and sometime last night a lot of cool goodies hit the internet.

First of all, the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook’s PDF is now available. It’s not free, but at $10, it just as well might be. Add to that my subscriber discount, and my copy cost me less than the pint of cider I drank last night.

And really, the only thing cheaper than that is free, and it’s the Pathfinder RPF Reference Document. Less spiffy Wayne Reynolds art, but it’s the entire game. Including the XP charts, this time.

Since it’s a 576-page book, we can excuse a few errors sneaking in. Paizo is good at fixing them, though, and an errata document is downloadable from the My Downloads page at Paizo. You’ll need to log in to get it, though.

While you’re there, pick up the 3.5-to-PFRPG conversion guide and the Pathfinder Bestiary preview document. There’s also a free player’s guide for the Council of Thieves campaign.

Unfortunately, it seems their website is under heavy traffic at the moment and the download personaliser is down for the count. You can still get the errata and the updated traits document, though. The forums are also out of order at the moment to reduce the server’s workload. It’s not great, but it is preferable to the entire site going down, like WotC’s when 4E was announced…

Additionally, Adamant Entertainment released their PFRPG-compatible Tome of Secrets. That one went on my wishlist.

With all the brouhaha about Pathfinder RPG, I nearly missed another interesting announcement: Fantasy Flight Games is producing a third edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play. It seems like Arkham Horror and WFRP 2E had a child. Apparently it comes in a box, has four rulebooks, 30 custom dice and around 300 cards. And it costs $100.

While Fantasy Flight Games makes quality games (both my favourite board games, Arkham Horror and the twelve-hour galaxy conquest extravaganza Twilight Imperium, are theirs), I must confess that I am suspicious. This might be the awesomest thing ever, or it might be total crap and a blatant cash grab. I have no hope for backwards compatibility.

Whichever it is, I’m waiting for the reviews, because my wallet doesn’t stretch that far just out of curiosity.

Actually, it might be a good move for FFG to put the rulebooks up online as free downloads. You’ll still need to buy the whole set for the dice and the cards, so there’s no loss, and customers don’t need to buy a pig in a poke. They’ve done this with their board games, to good effect.

I Can Has Pathfinder

After an eighteen-month wait, two public playtest versions and a lot of anticipation, the Pathfinder RPG was finally released today.

I’ve got my copy, all 576 hardbound pages of it. It’s a huge tome. It’s got a good heft to it. It’s the kind of rulebook that is used to clobber unruly players into submission. HERO System’s FRED’s got nothing on the PFRPG.

Here it is, in all its beauty.

FINALLY!

(The bottle is a Hungarian demi-sec sparkling wine that I sabred open with the knife. It originally cost me €3 and was bought for the express purpose of practicing sabrage. I figured that now was as good a time as any to test it out, and it went quite beautifully, except for the part where I had to drink the bottle alone. After smashing  the neck of the bottle, you can’t really cork it anymore. Today’s Lesson: good sparkling wine does not cost €3.)

I’ve spent most of the day updating my Pathfinder Society characters to the new system and making some preliminary conversions of other people’s characters. Here’s my current character, the dwarf ranger Absalom Dzhownz, and my secondary, the as-of-yet-unplayed gnome barbarian (and future bard) Ennio Magnifico. There’s also Aliandra, Xirien and Crosis, whose character sheets had been left with me. In my excitement, I converted them, too.

It was interesting to note that rangers gained medium armour proficiency, while clerics lost heavy armour. Spiked chains no longer have reach. All heavy and medium armours have had their armour bonus boosted by one. In the weapons table, there’s a new column for special keywords like “trip”, “disarm”, or “brace”, which is very handy.

Overall, my initial impression is very positive. I may do a full review at some point, or I may not. In the end, it’s still a book of rules and I don’t have the patience or the determination to read it all.

In related news, it seems Paizo has struck a deal with the other major “D&D in all but name” manufacturer, Reaper Miniatures. Reaper will be making a line of Pathfinder miniatures, which ought to be all sorts of awesome.

Today is a good day.

WotC’s Releases Fan Site Kit to Widespread Ridicule

I am trying to find something to say about WotC’s fan site kit and its terms of use, but I’m drawing a blank. Everything has already been said, by other bloggers such as mxyzplk at Geek Related or d7 at The Seven-Sided Die, or by me in one of the previous instances they did something like this.

Their kit is a small collection of images, mostly of the covers of their products, and some very confusing terms of service. There’s a lot of suspicious content that I am unable to decipher, but it does appear to forbid you from posting modules and web applications on your fan site.

Which sorta makes sense. They’re the two things WotC has repeatedly screwed up with in recent times, so they wouldn’t want a freebie someone knocked off on their lunch break to make them look bad. That’s what their marketing and legal departments are for.

My memory fails as to how long ago this thing was first announced, but I am tempted to say late 2007, and no later than when the GSL came out in June 2008. Over a year in the works and this is the result. Hooray.

The nice thing about it all is that you don’t need to use it. The kit doesn’t contain anything special and certainly nothing worth the fear, uncertainty and doubt of their legalese.

It all just rubs me the wrong way philosophically. A major part of roleplaying games is the creation of your own material. That’s a significant part of their attraction and the thing that really sets roleplaying games apart from board games and computer games. This runs counter to that, and at the worst is a direct attack against the very core of the hobby, at the least yet another illustration that the market leader Does Not Get It.

A Compilation of News

There have been all kinds of new things happening that I meant to blog  about in the last couple of weeks and then didn’t because I didn’t have the time or the energy. Now is the time to take back some of that. Some of these probably are no longer exactly news, but they’re still Relevant to My Interests, and this is my blog, dammit!

First of all,  RPG Geek finally opened. It’s like BoardGame Geek, except RPGs. This means there’s all sorts of nifty features and stuff you can do with it that I haven’t yet had time to explore. However, there’s one reason above all that I think this is awesome. Behold. I can keep a listing of my RPG library online for bragging rights.

I’m currently in Espoo and their listings are still incomplete, so I haven’t been able to put up my entire collection. I’m going  back to Tampere, where my bookshelves lie, on Sunday. Then I can start really working on it. Meanwhile, if someone  could enter the Paizo product catalogue into the database, I’d be grateful. I’ll probably have to do the Finnish RPGs myself.

On the Pathfinder side of things, the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play 2.0 came out during Ropecon. It’s an update of the campaign rules to PFRPG rules and will become live on the 13th when the game comes out. However, I wouldn’t print it quite yet – it’s been suggested that 2.1 is on its way, now that the ravening hordes of fans have had a chance to pick the 2.0 apart for errors.

Overall, though, I like it. The changing of faction feats into traits is welcome, and they’re all more or less fixed, too. Once the game comes out, I can start converting my dwarf ranger, Absalom Dzhownz, into PFRPG… Need my books for that, too, though, since now they’re allowing all sorts of things from the Pathfinder Chronicles books.

Also, it seems the release date didn’t really hold. Someone leaked, and now there’s a five-star first impressions review online at Chad Perrin: SOB. Interestingly, Pathfinder RPG was sold out on the strength of pre-orders alone. While this does include the copies bought by game stores and we’re unlikely to be left bereft of our rulebooks, it’s still pretty cool. They haven’t released numbers, but Erik Mona has stated that they don’t consider a printing of 10,000 copies “hugely ambitious” as this printing has been described, so I’m guessing 15,000 to 20,000 copies at the very least.

Moving on, the Diana Jones Award shortlist has been released. It’s nice to see jeepform nominated. The Vi åker jeep guys have visited Ropecon several times and their games have proven popular. Not quite my cup of tea, but far moreso than D&D 4E, which is so very excellent that if they ever lose their trophy, they can torch a PHB and make a new one.

There was also ENnies voting, but that closed already (I can understand that someone might think the 4E PHB is worth reading instead of using as a doorstop, but what the hell is King of the Trollhaunt Warrens doing there?). You can still vote for next year’s judges, though.

Ropecon Is Done

Ropecon 2009 is over. I worked on the convention for some seven months, and for the last two weeks or so, it consumed most of my waking hours. It’s been quite a bit of work – and my job is probably the easiest in the Conitea.

Though the con was held from Friday to Sunday, it started for me a week previously, with an eight-hour session of scheduling all the RPG sessions and posting them online. Then there were a few badge-making events where we made the convention badges for the 600 or so con workers, program organisers and game masters, plus a few funny ones for sale.

I spent Wednesday in Tallinn with the guest of honour team and our guest of honour Suzi Yee and her husband Joseph Browning, of Expeditious Retreat Press. I got on the trip because a member of the team suffered a sudden attack of gainful employment and could not attend. The trip included hitting a booze store in the harbour. I rarely go to Tallinn,  so I’d never seen it before, and it was a bit of a culture shock even to me. It was this huge warehouse filled entirely with cheap alcohol, apparently catering mostly to Finns.

I think I now understand what white guilt feels like (since Finland never colonised anyone and indeed, was a target of Swedish crusades, I never bothered with that particular bit of Western self-flagellation). We’ve turned Estonia into a colonial possession.

We ate at Olde Hansa, a medieval-themed restaurant in Tallinn’s old city, housed in a building from somewhere around the 13th century. If you’re ever in Tallinn, you owe it to yourself to check it out. It’s fairly expensive, but it’s well worth it. We feasted like kings.

The Tallinn trip was a good way to relax before the con. All my stress just melted away, and I slept well for the first time in two weeks. On Thursday, at the pre-con party, I was all ready to get the con started. I was ready, my paperwork was in order and I could take whatever the con could throw at me.

And, you know, when the con finally started on Friday, I pretty much did. There were a couple of things that went pear-shaped, but with my team we averted all major crises, fixed most minor ones and generally managed to keep the game masters happy. There were no loose ends after the con and only a few last-minute cancellations. We managed to find tables for all impromptu game masters and new games.

While it wasn’t perfect, it was good. Next year, I can make it better. Unfortunately, I had no time to play or run any games myself and only got to see one presentation. It was Joonas Katko’s presentation about historical assassinations, which was entertaining and informative.

Overall, we had 61 GMs running about 150 games, plus the offerings of the demo game room. We’ll see if we can up those numbers next year.

There were a lot of new Finnish RPG releases at the convention. Strangely, while the amount of games run at the con has declined steadily over the years, new RPGs are released at an increasing pace. This time, we got the Praedor supplement Efemeros 2: Ryövärien maa (The Land of Bandits), Ironspine’s E.N.O.C. – Operaatio Eisenberg, a translation of the Norwegian surrealist RPG Itran kaupunki (The City of Itra), and Juhana Pettersson’s penguin RPG Ikuisuuden laakso (The Valley of Eternity), and the card-based pirate RPG Hounds of the Sea from Myrrysmiehet.

I haven’t yet had much time to familiarise myself with most of them, but thus far, I can give some tentative review scores:

  • Efemeros #2: Ryövärien maa: *****
  • Ikuisuuden laakso: ****
  • E.N.O.C. – Operaatio Eisenberg: ***
  • Itran kaupunki: Fish

Though the con has closed its doors, Dipoli has been cleaned up, the logistics team has stored away all the water guns and the printers and the signposts, the GoH dinner has been eaten and even the hangovers from the post-con party have come and gone, the con is not yet over for me. While I’ve dealt with most of my post-con workload, such as the mailing of prizes to some contest winners who were not present at the awards ceremonies, there’s still a lot of feedback to wade through, and then write up a detailed account of how this all really works and what needs improvement. It’s been an incredibly rewarding process and I will gladly sacrifice my free time and regular meals for Ropecon in 2010 as well.

Maybe I can return to a semblance of update schedule on this blog, too.