Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Here's to everyone who has enjoyed our blog, tell your friends, let's make Epic! the RPG Blog...EPIC!!

Happy New Year to all, may 2012 find you healthier, wealthier and happier than you've ever been.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Paper Mini Madness

OK, I got another great find from the Earthdawn website...

FREE 2.5D and 3D paper minis that you have to SEE to BELIEVE.


The inspiration for that website came from encouragement of cardboard-warriors, which has lots of fan created paper minis....which of course run the gamut from decent to amazing. They also have monthly contests for the Hoard.

EDIT: Also check out this one that I found on cardboard warriors...

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year and Upcoming Gaming Events

Well the New Year is coming up and that means a whole slew of conventions heading to San Diego.

January 29th - Gam3rCon Gameday IT'S COMPLETELY FREE!

Condor 19 - San Diego's long running sci-fi convention with a full gaming roster

Anime Conji is 2 weeks after ConDor.

Kingdom Con III Let's make this one AWESOME!!!! with a capital EPIC! Since Epic the RPG Blog will be celebrating its one year anniversary at Kingdom Con.

After Kingdom Con it's time for Gaslight Gathering 2 in May

Remember you can always check out the Convention Calendar for links to these great SD Conventions and to find out more information on dates.

Traveller Free Trader Map

I used created a Map for the Free Trader Type A I'll be using in the "No One can Hear you Scream" scenario. I'll be printing this on 24"x36" and reusing it for various scenarios, so it's not super detailed as far as room numbers. It's designed to look like an image off a hand held computer unit. I also modified it, so the "crew commons actually has an area to eat at, and there's a head in the passenger's area...(I know there's not one in the main crew area....shhhhh. I also added a cargo elevator in the cargo hold, cuz I never figured out how they actually get cargo into a Free Trader. I made the hull double skinned as well. (note, there are access hatches to the outside in the engine room, but for some reason, they aren't airlocked...I know what I would do with a few grand if I were a Captain. Low Berths are modified to show coffin type sleeper units, rather than whatever the circles represented.

Feel Free to use this for your own TRAVELLER games. Obviously you can't sell it since it Belongs to the  TRAVELLER owners, not me.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Quick Review - Seeker of Secrets


Another quick review of a book I quite enjoy:

Pathfinder Chronicles: Seekers of Secrets—A Guide to the Pathfinder Society (PFRPG)

Pathfinder Chronicles: Seekers of Secrets—A Guide to the Pathfinder Society (PFRPG)

At long last, the gates of the Grand Lodge have been thrown open, offering an inside glimpse of the Pathfinder Society! Packed with information about the most famous group of explorers on Golarion, this 64-page sourcebook is a must for any campaign that involves the Society, whether as employers or rivals.

    Inside, you’ll find:
  • How to join the Pathfinder Society, and the rights and responsibilities of Society members
  • The origin and secrets histories of the Pathfinder Society
  • A detailed gazetteer covering the Pathfinder Society’s reception and activities in every nation of the Inner Sea Region
  • Detailed maps and descriptions of the Grand Lodge of Absalom and the Society’s newest lodge in Magnimar, plus profiles of 15 high-ranking and notorious Pathfinders
  • Thirteen new kinds of mystical ioun stones, three new variants for each type, and rules on how to implant these bizarre magic items into living flesh
  • Rules for the mysterious compasses known as wayfinders, and how their ancient magic interacts with ioun stones
  • Three new Pathfinder prestige classes, along with sample characters for each
  • New feats and spells to help characters uncover ancient secrets—and protect their own!
This book is fully legal for play in Pathfinder Society Organized Play, Paizo’s massive world-wide organized play campaign. To learn more about Pathfinder Society Organized Play, visit!
By Tim Hitchcock, Erik Mona, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor
ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-178-7
Seeker of Secrets
Pathfinder Chronicles, produced by Paizo Inc, for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. This is one of the 64 page perfect bound Pathfinder Chronicles book.

This was the first of the Pathfinder Society guides that was required for Pathfinder Society gamemasters; it has since been usurped by the Pathfinder Society Field Guide.

This book gives lots of fluff, lots of background information, for running or playing in a Pathfinder Society campaign. The book is broken into 3 chapters. The first 24 pages cover "Welcome to the Pathfinder Society", this is mostly background information, with some crunch thrown in, in the form of 3 feats and 6 spells. The background information covers everything from joining the Society, duties, and training; to how the society operates and is seen around the world of Golarion. A Bit of Crunchy fluff is the 15 important figures of the Pathfinder Society scattered throughout the book, from Venture-Captains to the Master of Swords. The last bit of the chapter is the 402 year timeline.

The second chapter, "Where Secrets Sleep", primarily concerns itself with the different lodges around Golarion. The map of the Grand Lodge in Absalom is particularly gorgeous, as well as Heidmarch manor. While this chapter contains lots of information, it's definitely directed toward Pathfinder Society GMs. 

This 3rd and final chapter is "Tools of the Trade" This is the crunchy chapter, this is where the book introduces a few mundane items, and some magic items; but most importantly it expands the Ioun Stone entry, bringing several new cuts, and qualities to the stone, in addition they now interact with Wayfinders (See Inner Sea World Guide), to create additional effects. The last part of the chapter deals with Common Pathfinder Society prestige classes, three of them, the Pathfinder Delver, Pathfinder Savant and the Student of War. The Pathfinder Delver is a hybrid rogue/bard without the spells; or spell advancement, this is a real shame as the Prestige Class would have been much more enticing had it had a partial spell progression, since it also had no sneak attack it takes away far too much to be of real use. The Pathfinder Savant is a very good PrC, designed for PFS play, as it is a 7 level PrC, and you can enter it at 6th, meaning you can proceed to the final level of the PrC in PFS play. The class gives up a level  of spellcasting, not too bad, as the class grants lots of UMD based bonuses, and the ability to add non-class spells to your spell list is a great boon. The caster requirements only require the ability to cast 2nd level spells, so  it's easy to enter with a variety of classes, any can qualify though paladins and rangers won't be able to proceed to max PrC level. The final PrC is the Student of War. The Student of War Prestige class is for the intelligent melee combatant. It gives up the standard class powers for 4+int skills, and some decent powers, not optimized for PFS as you can only make 7th level, and the 2 best abilities are at 8th and 10th. 
Cost/Value: The standard $19.99 price that all the 64 page Pathfinder Campaign Setting/Chronicles books cost. This particular one is valuable to people playing in a Pathfinder Society game. I know I'll b eusing it for my PFS characters to enhance my Wayfinder. IF you're playing a Pathfinder Society Game, this can be an invaluable resource; even though much has been updated by Pathfinder Society Field Guide (also an invaluable resource).  90% overall rating.

OK so this wasn't as quick a review as I thought it was going to be...but, still a good book.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gam3rCon Gamesday in January

I was contacted by Chris Zerniak about running a game at a new Gam3rCon Gamesday at the 10th Ave theatre on Saturday, January 29th. From 12pm-9pm and it's going to be free from what Chris told me. Sounds like a fun day game!

I'll most likely be running a TRAVELLER  adventure called "No one can hear you scream"

Gaming Inspiration - Pulp

Doing Pulp games sometimes requires inspiration from other sources. Especially Pulp Sci-fi, so here are some cool ideas that never came to fruition in the real world. One of the great things about playing a pulp game is creating scenarios with future tech in a retro scene. Checking out the old Popular Science mags on google is a good source, as is looking at old National Geographics magazines (either on the disks you can get at the store, or in the reference section of your library.) I remember going to the library and actually looking at the original article of the discovery of Macchu Picchu...amazing to read the articles and imagine how exciting that was in 1912...

Here's some other cool inspiration:

Cool Rail Zeppelin from 1929.


Neat 3D concept bikes.

Retro Futurism

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Quick Review - Pathfinder Campaign Setting - Inner Sea Magic

Inner Sea Magic

A World of Magic!
From the tortured sands of the Mana Wastes, where magic is as likely to tear you apart as it is to not work at all, to the perpetually frozen northern nation of Irrisen where the winter witches rule, magic is a part of life in the Inner Sea region. Whether it is wielded by benevolent clerics to keep their allies fighting the good fight or unleashed by wizards in the form of scorching blasts of fire, magic can be the difference between life or death. Or, as in so many cases, the cause of life or death.
    Inner Sea Magic explores the role of magic within this vast and varied region. Within this 64-page book, you will find:
  • A who’s-who of powerful and famous spellcasters from throughout the Inner Sea region
  • Details on four types of magical schools—arcane academies, spellcaster’s guilds, monasteries, and secret societies—along with rules for joining and studying with such organizations
  • Rules for several types of specialized or variant magic, including the chaotic power of primal magic, the secrets of shadowcasting, the traditions of Thassilonian sin magic, and the wonders of Varisian tattoo magic
  • Two new oracle mysteries (the primal-magic wielding spellscar mystery and the sinister Outer Rifts mystery)
  • More than a dozen new archetypes for all sorts of spellcasters, including the black-blooded oracle, the Razmiran priest, the shadowcaster wizard, the tattooed sorcerer, and the winter witch
  • Two new prestige classes—the cyphermage and the divine scion
  • Dozens of new spells, from Aroden’s spellward to zone of foul flames!
Inner Sea Magic is intended for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and the Pathfinder campaign setting, but can easily be used in any fantasy game setting.
by Jesse Benner, Jason Nelson, Sean K Reynolds, Owen K.C. Stephens, and Russ Taylor
ISBN-13: 978-1-60125-360-6

Quick Look: Published by Paizo Publishing for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.The book is broken into 5 sections, Magic of the Inner Sea, Variant Magic, Magic Schools, Spellcasters of the Inner Sea and Spells. As one of Paizo's standard Campaign Setting books, this one is a cool 64 pages, only 2 pages of wasted space, the index and OGL, on the first and last page respectively.

The first section starts out slow, but don't let this deter you, it primarily covers the areas and their magic, then covers the most well-known casters in the region, from Eando Kline to Baba Yaga.

The Variant magic section is pretty good, it covers the False Divine Magic of the Razmiran; The Fleshwarping magic primarily practiced by the drow; Primal Magic is the equivalent of the old Wild Magic, though primal magic is a more fitting name to me. Next comes the Riffle Scrolls featured in the Prince of Wolves book. Shadowcasting makes its appearance in Pathfinder as series of 4 feats. Tattoo magic as flaunted by its iconic representative, Seoni, the first part of this is the Inscribe magical tattoo feat and three magical tattoo magic items. The last of the covered magics is the Thassilonian Magic, the sin based magic of the Rune Lords.

Schools of Magic: A Bunch of new organizations based around the different schools of magic. Mechanically the schools don't make you different, but thematically, there are lots of Role-play interactions, and solid rewards that the schools offer.

Spellcasters of the Inner Sea: This is the meat of the product. With a nice amount of archetypes, many of which I feel should have been in Ultimate Magic instead of some of the weaker archetypes in that book.
This book also contains two prestige classes; The Cyphermage and Divine Scion, both solid Prestige Classes.  Archetypes include:
Black Blooded Oracle (oracle) An archetype that revolves around the blood, which is a curse and a boon.
Chelish Diva (bard) This is my favorite of the book, as it takes the Cheliax love of opera and brings it into a fun, flavorful archeytpe, that gains medium and heavy armor proficiency at 5 and 11 in addition to two diva specific performances.
Crypt Breaker (alchemist): An Osirion based alchemist with powers specialized for tomb robbing, and combating the common tomb foes, undead and constructs. And trap finding, which replaces brew potion, making this a great PFS Alchemist.
Dawnflower Dervish (bard):  Another Dawnflower Dervish archetype, this one being for bards. I personally have no problem with same named archeytpes for different classes. So if you want to play a Sarenrae worshiping bard, that twirls across the battlefield...this is she. (Note: this would make a nice Bladesinger for elves as well.
First Worlder (summoner): Another of my favorites, this archetype brings a couple of neat changes; fey based summon nature's ally, and a fey eidolon!
Hidden Priest (cleric): A priest that hides divine magic under the guise of arcane magic to escape persecution.
Mendevian Priest (cleric): This cleric class is designed to combat demons at the Worldwound, with heavy armor and tactical feats, it's a group oriented archetype.
Nimrathi Irregular (ranger): A ranger that is focused on stealth magic at the cost of heavier armor. The archetype also grants access to a single druidic spell per day.
Oenopion Researcher (alchemist) An alchemist with a slight twist on their mutagens, plus some later acid resistance.
Primalist (wizard): This is a gimme addition to the already fun alternate of primal magic. It makes them better overall, especially when it comes to primal effects.
Razmiran Priest (sorceror): The true power behind the false god. Much needed archetype for GMs using Razmiran false priests.
Shadowcaster (wizard): Another good addition to the new variant spell casters. Bonus spells and the ability to create more powerful shadow magic make this archetype solid.
Spire Defender (magus): The new class that's lacking archetypes, this one unfortunately falls short, removing the armors from his normal abilities, however he gains the normal abilities if he burns the feat or multiclasses (bit later for medium/heavy), but gains combat expertise and dodge as bonus feats, which might make it worthwhile for certain feat heavy concepts.
Sword of Valor (paladin): An Iomedae themed archetype, with initiative bonuses, the ability to grant temp HP with a channel, and the awesome ability to cause their opponent to surrender (under suggestion) after a smite evil.
Tattoed Sorcerer (sorcerer): Seoni and her ever familiar Varisian Tattoes, as probably the most pictured Iconic, this is an obvious arcehtype. It has some cool abilities, but at the cost of bloodline powers.
Tempest Druid (druid...duh): This is a storm based druid archetype, complete with trident. No animal companion, but lots of nice alternate abilities.
Vampire Hunter (inquisitor): As monster hunters to begin with, this archetype shouldn't be a surprise (and could easily be converted into a Lycan Hunter also). Abilities include, sun strike, giving a weapon sunlight damage bonuses, which even affect oozes and fungus based creatures.
Varisian Pilgrim (cleric): A wandering cleric, as traveler is a popular domain this becomes a no-brainer for those who love the travel domain, but want to worship another god. As a Varisian, they gain the ability to perform a Harrowing at 8th level.
Winter Witch (witch): This is the conversion for the Irrisen witches, as seen in Elaine Cunningham's Winter Witch novel. More powerful with ice magic, and lacking the ability to cast fire magic, these witches are pretty formidable opponents for either players or GMs.

Spells: The final section of this book is the spells. What magic book could be released without new spells? Well not this one. My personal favorite is the Bladed Dash spell (and greater version), which allows an 30 foot move with an attack on the way (greater allows attacks on every creature passed).

What magic book could be made with magic items? Um, this one, not a single magic item to be had. Guess we'll have to wait for Ultimate Equipment.

Artwork: Gorgeous artwork as usual. The cover is by Alex Aparin, gorgeous colors, though the perspective lines are off.

Usefulness? Must have if you play in Golarion. Many useful options if you play Pathfinder Society as well.

Cost: $19.99 for print version. $13.99 for the PDF version.

Value:  EPIC! at $20, it's almost worth more than Ultimate Magic in my opinion. This is the kind of book I want to see more of. As archetypes are the best thing in Paizo's Pathfinder conversion, I want more more more. I would have liked to see some magic items, but, I'm impressed enough by the rest of the book, that it would have been icing on an already delicious cake. I'd give it a 98%.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Woot, Boys on Vacation

Tomorrow is the first weekday off from school for the boys, so we're going to be playing some WarLands or Battlegrounds tomorrow, or both perhaps???

I'll also be working on my RPG Superstar entry!!! I have some interesting ideas this year....

We Shall See....

Saturday, December 17, 2011

PFS fun

So the epic Crew made our way to Game Empire to play in a Pathfinder Society event. Fun was had by all, and we survived our 3rd full foray, thus advancing to 2nd level...woot.  We played

PSS #3-07: Echoes of the Overwatched (Lvl 1-5) (Pathfinder Society - Pathfinder RPG)
By James F. Mackenzie. When a Pathfinder agent working in the famed Blakros Museum in Absalom falls victim to a terrible, ancient evil, if falls to the PCs to hunt down the released terror before it can retrieve a relic of the mad astronomer Ralzeros the Overwatched. A Pathfinder Society Scenario designed for Levels 1–5.

So 2nd level:
Kolslag the Chelaxian Hungry Ghost Monk of the Sacred Mountain
Xirius the Osirion Half-Elf Wolf Shaman
Aril the Taldan Elven Rogue

We had a blast, and several close calls, with both Xirius and Aril both unconscious at different parts of the adventure. Kolslag was nearly pulped as well. But in the end, we completed the overall mission, and Kolslag completed part of his mission, not knowing quite what he was looking for...(lack of appraise skill...)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

RPG NEWS! Pathfinder Bestiary Box

So one of the coolest things I enjoyed about the Beginner Box is the pawns. But in May, Paizo will be releasing the the Bestiary Box. 250 new pawns!! This I'm excited about, especially for the $34.95 price tag. so less than 15 cents per pawn. That's a great value.

original article: ICV2  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday Shopping

So I'm doing holiday shopping now for the boys,

What can I say there's so much out there and what should you buy for that special gamer?

There are so many options out there, it really depends on what you're looking for, read reviews, and best of all know your gamer. If they love new gaming systems, perhaps Dresden Files is what they're looking for, I got that last year with my XMas bonus.

For our first year as a blog, we were introduced to many new games, from Battlegrounds and Munchkin, to the Doctor Who RPG and Dystopian Wars. It's been a fun 2011, rough on paper but fun regardless.

For Family Board Game Fun, Kill Doctor Lucky is great, but Munchkin is good too.  Super Dungeon Explore is a fun game for families of experienced it definitely needs experienced assembly.

For your Pathfinder gamemasters, well the Bestiary 3 is being released! What says holiday like monsters??? Well lots of things I'm sure...but, not to gamers!!! If you have the budget there's also the Complete Tome of Horrors for PFRPG, pricey but....over 800 monsters!!

If you have games you'd recommend just add a comment and why...

Links will be added later this week...deadlines....

Monday, December 12, 2011

Season's Beatings...

Here's a fun holiday Season's Greeting from the goblins at Paizo 2007....

(Sung to the tune of Jingle Bells)

Sneaking through your yard,
Going through your stuff,
Hope you didn't like your dog; we got a little rough!
Tied him to a stump,
Lit the stump on fire,
Maybe you'll wake up in time to put out puppy's pyre!

Now we're in your house,
It's fancied up so nice!
With shiny things set all about, there's lots to break and slice!
Hear's a stocking full,
And there's a gift-wrapped toy,
For a bit we stand agog-there's so much to destroy!


In a pile, Goblin style!
What could be more fun?
Breaking toys for girls and boys,
Until we're finally done!

When you wake, hearts will break;
Because we've had our way!
This is great! Let's celebrate!
A Goblin Holiday!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Holiday Break means more games!

With the boys holiday break coming, we're going to have more time to play some games so we can get more reviews out the door!

Amongst those games we're going to play are:
WarLands (Got the new PDF of the rulebook to try out)
Quao (we've played it twice, once more to get a good review of the hilarity)
Battleground (we've had it for a while, but haven't had a chance to play yet.)

Martians!!! Review

Tonight I'm reviewing Martians!!! from Twilight Creations, Inc.

This is a fun game, though like Zombies, it can drag out a little bit, but if everyone is on their toes, it can be played quickly. One great thing about Martians is the ability to play in either Non-cooperative or Cooperative modes. Playing in Coop mode is great for family game night. Get together to take down the mother ship and save your town from this Big Eyed Small Mouthed MARTIANS!!!

What you get...

30 Map Tiles, 40 Event Deck Cards, 30 Martian Deck Cards, 100 martian minis (3 different poses!), 6 player minis, 2 dice, lots of life and bullet tokens. This game is for 2-6 players.

What is the scenario?

Well you're smack dab in the middle of a Martian invasion, you need to locate the stuff needed to eradicate a Martian Mothership, namely fuel, fertilizer and of course dynamite. You need to find the Mothership, which is probably in one of those crop circles out on a farm!! The only problem is the streets are crawling with Martians!!!  Fight your way to the ship.  The game plays very similar to Zombies which I got to play at Pair-a-Dice's Halloween bash.

You start by drawing a random map tile and placing it in a legal location on the board, this is where you need to be careful to not run out of spaces in the coop board, since you might not be able to place all the farms where the motherships can be, 4 farm tiles, 4 crop circle tokens, only one of which is a mother if you can't place that last tile, you can lose that way. After tile placement, you roll a die to see how many squares you can move, you fight each martian you come across while moving by rolling 4+ when you're attacking one of those aliens, if you roll too low, you'll need to use your precious bullets to add to your score, otherwise you'll lose a life. Event cards can easily help turn the tide, with extra turns, bonuses or my favorite, the fellow in robes, saying "This is not the human you are looking for." which can negate a Martian Card. If you move across a map tile with an Alien icon in the center you must draw a martian card; some of which can be downright brutal, such as the We Come in Peace card, which causes ALL players to lose one life token.

All in all it's a fun game, that takes around an hour to play.

Artwork: Using the same art style that Zombies uses, the game has nice full color artwork, which definitely let's you feel you're in the game.

Humor: You're fighting Martians, and some of the cards draw on the pop-culture references we're all familiar with, making this a fun game to enjoy while you play it.

Cost $29.99 Value: I think that considering you get 106 plastic minis, 40 tiles, and 70 cards; that this is a decently priced game and worth the value.

Replay: We haven't gotten to play this a lot, so I'm not sure what the total replay value will be, I know that with two play modes it will easily be more playable than a normal non-coop game.

Family Rating 13+ Some of the cards have some pretty graphic pix on them, including a shotgun hole though a Martian's head....

Overall Rating: Epic!!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


So Chris Pramas posted a link to a UK Games Company, with a cool British vs. Zulu 28mm scale game, it appears it's based upon a historical battle. Rorke's Drift. Now this is my first introduction to Warlord's minis.  It appears they have huge amounts of historical 28mm minis. Check it out if you like historicals.


Note: I'm in the process of uploading all previous interviews to YouTube. Once they're on YouTube, the quality will be better, since for some reason, the blogspot video is pretty weak.

Having trouble getting the videos uploaded, please stand by...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pathfinder Online...

A weekly update from Goblinworks, future producers of Pathfinder Online. (Sign up for the email newsletter!!)

Goblinworks Blog
A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with a Single Step

posted by Ryan Dancey on Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Hello and welcome! This is the first in a series of essays we'll be writing about the development of Pathfinder Online. We currently plan to post new blogs every two weeks on Wednesday, so keep an eye on this page for commentary on the project as it unfolds. You can also find us interacting with the community in the Pathfinder Online section of the Paizo messageboards.

My name is Ryan Dancey and I'm the CEO of Goblinworks, the company we have created to develop and publish the Pathfinder Online MMO. The staff and management of Goblinworks is separate from Paizo Publishing, although Lisa Stevens is both the CEO of Paizo and the COO of Goblinworks. We think that's the best arrangement to ensure a smooth integration of Paizo's role as owner and licensor of the Pathfinder world, and Goblinworks' role as developer and publisher of the MMO. Lisa and I are joined by CTO Mark Kalmes, who has a long history of being an engineering lead in the MMO field. He worked on City of Heroes at Cryptic Studios, and was the Software Director for the World of Darkness MMO project at CCP.

An Audacious Plan

When I first approached Lisa about a Pathfinder MMO, I presented a plan roughly on par with the kind of development that had been the norm in the industry for the past 5 years: a $50+ million budget, a 3 to 5 year timeline, and a development staff of 50 to 75 people.

One of Paizo's strengths is that they work very efficiently, and spend money when and where it counts the most. So Lisa took one look at that plan and challenged me to think outside the box. "Rather than telling me how to do it the way everyone else is doing it," she said, "tell me how to do it for the smallest budget possible while still achieving our goals." Those goals are to produce a game with the same high-quality standards for design, art, storytelling, and community involvement that Paizo has instilled into their Pathfinder products.

Since I live for challenges like that, I spent weeks re-engineering the plan, making it leaner and more efficient, and thus making it take less and less time, and cost less and less money. In the end, we arrived at what I consider to be a revolutionary approach, which I'm going to share with you today.

The Middleware Advantage
Until recently, every MMO was built from the ground up—every significant system was created by that MMO's developers. The clients, the servers, and all the "glue" that makes an MMO work had to be created, integrated and maintained by the development team. This is expensive. It requires a lot of time. And it's risky—you're making a bet that your team can solve a lot of problems of security, privacy, scale, and exploit protection in the face of a growing community that has become expert at attacking these kinds of systems.

But there has been a recent sea-change in the market. Now it is possible to license middleware—the software that does many of these key functions—from companies that have battle-tested it in released games. The burden has been lifted from the shoulders of the game design teams, allowing them to focus on what they do best: create innovative and engaging game designs populated by interesting and visually stunning landscapes, characters, buildings and creatures. Thanks to middleware, it's now possible to create a working internal prototype of an MMO in a matter of months.

We are negotiating with several middleware vendors, and once we've finalized things, we'll be talking more about the capabilities of specific software and how it will be used in Pathfinder Online. But all of the options we're considering will give us state-of-the-art technology without the high upfront cost for design and development, or the ongoing cost of maintenance and upgrades.

Sandbox vs. Theme Park

We've already told you that we're making a sandbox MMO with theme park elements. That's another key to our strategy. One of the challenges standard theme park MMOs face is that they have to do two things before they can be released: They have to build a complete multiplayer virtual world, and then they have to populate it with a massive amount of playable content—the theme park.

In most MMO development plans, that theme park content is where the budget is spent. Creating the assets for the graphics and sounds—and whatever custom programming is needed to make those assets do what the designers want—and then designing the levels to present the challenges that the designers have imagined soaks up lots of time. And that theme park content has to be extensively tested to ensure that it works as designed, adding further development time. And time, in the MMO business, is money, in the form of salaries and overhead. (The ultimate expression of the theme park process is coming very soon in the form of Star Wars: The Old Republic, from EA/Bioware. I have been told by people I trust within the industry that this project's budget has exceeded $300 million. It is the Avatar of this generation of MMOs.)

The result of this time/cost function is that theme park MMOs must attract a huge number of players on release so that they can recoup those huge overhead costs as fast as possible. This creates a feedback loop that dooms many MMO developers: they need a big launch so that they can start covering their costs, so they have to create enough content to satisfy a huge initial spike of players, but making that content costs even more money. It's very easy to get into a trap where the cost to make the content you need to pay for your design is more than you can generate in revenue from that design. This is why many MMOs never see the light of day.

This was the first critical point where our plan diverged from the norm. Sandbox MMOs have a different time/cost function. Their primary need is a robust virtual world that can challenge and engage the audience. Making a sandbox game means focusing on the creation of the multiplayer virtual world. By positioning Pathfinder Online as a sandbox with theme park elements, we can focus primarily on the content needed for players to interact with each other and avoid having to develop a huge amount of theme park content prior to launch.

Focusing on the sandbox doesn't just save time and money, though—we think it's an ideal way to explore the Pathfinder world. In a sense, Paizo's own Pathfinder lines actually combine sandbox elements (by way of the Pathfinder Campaign Setting line) with theme park elements (via the Pathfinder Adventure Path and Pathfinder Module lines). Though the sandbox will be our initial focus, the Pathfinder brand is known for great stories and adventures, and over time, we'll add lots of opportunities for theme-park style adventure into the fabric of the world to give depth and richness to the Pathfinder Online experience.

Big Things Come in Small Packages

The second critical issue with theme park MMOs is that it's very difficult to entertain a crowd of theme park enthusiasts who have completed all the theme park content... and theme park enthusiasts can blast through content in no time. If new content isn't ready when players have finished the old content, they'll flee to another MMO (many will go back to World of Warcraft). The result is the "spike & crash" pattern we've seen with every major fantasy theme park MMO released in the past five years. Companies are then in the position where they no longer have enough customers to cover the cost of the enormous infrastructure they've built up for the launch. This is why many MMOs don't have long-term success.

Lisa's challenge to figure out how to make the game on a lean budget led me to the realization that the last thing we want is a huge spike of players followed by a rapid decline. What we want instead is a slow, steady growth of players—the same kind of growth that EVE Online has experienced almost every year since its launch. Since Goblinworks won't have to pay off a huge theme park mortgage, our focus will instead be on making our virtual world as engaging as possible and sustaining that virtual world as the population grows over years of time.

But a sandbox needs a critical mass of players to interact with each other, or they may as well be playing a solo game. One part of the design that helps determine the amount of interaction is the density of the world—how big is it and how many characters are in that space?

We believe that we've solved that equation in a surprising way, which led us to what we think is a revolutionary plan.

At launch, and for the first seven months following, we will cap new paying players at 4,500 per month. Four thousand five hundred new paying players monthly. We expect to keep only about 25% of those players on a long-term basis, so after we factor in attrition of each month's signups, we end up with 16,500 paying players at the end of that seven-month period.

Making a game that starts with 4,500 players and grows to 16,500 players is much, much easier and vastly less expensive than making a game designed to accommodate a million players on day one. We'll be able to focus on a relatively small part of the world at first, expanding it only as we need to.

After the first seven months, we'll raise the limit on new paying players to 12,000 per month. That will remain our goal for the next couple years of Pathfinder Online's life cycle. Factoring in attrition, by the end of the game's third year of operation, we expect to have about 120,000 paying players. For many MMOs, that number would be considered a failure, but because of our lean development strategy, achieving that number of paying customers will mean success for Pathfinder Online.

How to Get In Early

A question some of you are likely asking is "how do I get to be one of the first 4,500 people in at launch?" We're going to have several ways to get into the queue to play Pathfinder Online, and many of them will be based on being an active and contributing member of the global Pathfinder community. Over the next several months, we'll be telling you how you can help us make the game successful and earn yourself a place near the front of the line. (And if you haven't already done so, please sign up for our newsletter using the form on the front page!)

We're also going to be actively reaching out to organized guilds and inviting them in as groups to pre-seed our sandbox with organizations that will help create the political, economic, military and territorial structure that Pathfinder Online will need to be successful. And of course, there will be ways for folks who want to get in without a lot of hassle to do so as well.

(We know people are apprehensive about the "first mover advantage," where the earliest adopters are able to hold all the power, and we want to assure everyone that we're going to avoid that problem. The world of Pathfinder Online is not going to be dominated by the characters and groups who are the first to explore the world. Players who enter the game later will have similar opportunities to carve their kingdoms out of the wilderness.)

Pathfinder Online: Coming Soon!

And when we say "coming soon," we mean "real soon."

We're leveraging middleware to reduce cost, development time and risk. We're making a sandbox-focused game with a launch target of 4,500 players on a slow but steady growth plan. We have access to Paizo's huge library of Pathfinder content—which gives us all the lore, factions, history, monsters, plots, and NPCs that we'll need. Because of these factors, I was able to rise to Lisa's challenge to create an efficient business plan that meets all of our goals. And one of the best parts of it is that it means our development plan is much shorter than traditional theme park MMOs require. Once we've begun full production, we'll be sharing milestones with the community so you'll be able to track our progress from start to release. We think you'll be delighted at the speed of the development process.

Spread the news: there's a whole new way to make MMOs affordably and in a reasonable timeframe.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Great Anime.....Samurai 7

OK So, we love certain types of anime in our house, and Samurai 7, based upon Akira Kurasawa's Seven Samurai, is one of our all-time favorites. This great series is now on NetFlix streaming...

As a general Synopsis, it's the same tragic story of seven samurai who band to gether to save a village from bandits, however in this case, it's the future, and the bandits are giant mecha...

It's a visually stunning masterpiece, which Akira Kurasawa actually had a hand in creating.

If you haven't seen it, check it out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review - Book of Beasts – Monsters of the River Nations

This is a review I did last year before the Blog took off, so here's a re-print of it for the blog:

Book of Beasts-Monsters of the River Nations

Disclaimer: This is a review of material provided to me free of charge for the purpose of review. 

Produced by Jon Brazer Enterprises, available from Paizo as a PDF for $5.00

First Glance:
From a quick perusal, it looks very promising. Nice artwork, bold trade dress, and 20 unique monsters and 7 additional pages of material.

In Depth:
Many low CR monsters, from the stumble fish to the Night Caller and Mature Piranha. Though my favorite of the new monsters is the Giant Fly Trap, I’ve always had a soft spot for nature fighting back. The Dire Fly Trap is even more vicious. Those are my favorites, there are a few of the monsters I’m not as convinced with. The Addanc has a strange name, which is an odd crocodile/beaver aberration. I’m not a fan of the Hatethrall Demon since it’s a disembodied head is strange for a demon, and the Hydrus has a new Combat maneuver, which doesn’t have an explanation, in addition it’s a bit of an undercon at ½ CR. The other monsters are all well-crafted creatures.

In addition to being a monster book, it is a resource book for the River Nations campaign setting (not to be confused with the River Kingdoms of Golarion.)
To this end, the first appendix is Konrad the Bandit King and his Cursed Brethren, the second is Grammy Beshic, an ancient gnome with a dark secret. The Grammy Beshic entry includes three adventure hooks.
New gambling games and a new drug, Kobold Krack, though it’s primarily something particularly vicious GM might use with some kobold barbarians.
The best part of any Monster book is the templates. The Book of Beasts introduces 5 new templates; drunk, enraged, fey-touched, hungry and river-born. Though I would probably not use the drunk template, since it only emulates the sickness of being drunk, not the rage side.
8 new diseases grace the final appendix of the book, not only bringing such common maladies such as Influenza, Bird Flu, and the Common cold into Pathfinder; but also Faire Fever (fantasy version of Con Crud); Dryad Pox (my fave), Mountain Air Plague, Owlbear Filth, and River Sickness. The only problem is they’re only stat blocks, with no fluff.

In Conclusion:
A strong book, with something useful for almost any campaign, it’s not perfect, but I do recommend it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thoughts on Gamemaster Fiat, Hit Points and Challenges

So there are typically two camps of thought on Gamemaster fiat, (fudging dice rolls to the uninitiated). To the hard-core player who likes the rolls to always be what the rolls are, GM fiat is a bad thing. I'm typically of the other camp, the camp that believes that role-playing is about entertainment. If the players get slaughtered due to a couple of lucky (unlucky for them) rolls that cause massive criticals in the first encounter; then the story isn't fulfilled, casualties due to stupid play I generally don't fudge though, as that reinforces bad play. (Such as charging off after a kobold into an unexplored hallway, and running face-first into a gelatinous cube.)

I won't pull punches in important battles, but random encounters will never kill one of my parties (sans stupid play). I will also not keep adding HPs to big bad end guys just so they can speak their monologue. Pathfinder characters tend to kill even BBEGs pretty quickly. Now, I do make sure my BBEGs have lots of HPs or High ACs, max HP per level is one way I control HPs of a boss, no random dice rolls. I use the following HPs in my games of Pathfinder:

Weak or Henchmen enemies have 1 or 2 HP/HD (plus Con bonuses) 10-15%of Max)
Standard have 3-4 HP/HD (35-50% of Max)
Mini-Bosses have 5-9 HP/HD (75% of max)
Bosses have max HP plus usually toughness, as they're meant to be a threat, and to stay around. Adding additional HP or AC with one shot items (potions, scrolls, etc)

With playing with younger players, character death can be especially traumatic, but, it can also be VERY memorable, everyone remembers their first character death, just make sure your players are ready for it.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A thought about Free MMORPGS

So, the MMORPG market has changed over the last few years with the free to play model taking over.

With the F2P model, they look to nickel and dime you, having locked down areas, classes, races and certain content which can only be unlocked with spending a "little" cash. Now, for the casual gamer who just plays occasionally, this lets you spend $20 when you want to, rather than spending $12-15/month. I have gotten the boys turbine points for DDO as presents. Some of the games give you monthly points while you're a paying player, which is good to open up stuff when you need to turn it off for a bit...say to try out a new game...

More and more games are going for the F2P model, most recent ones that I'm aware of are Age of Conan (Mature game) and City of Heroes-Freedom. Lord of the Rings Online has been free for awhile, DDO was one of the first big name games to transfer, as was Champions Online. EverQuest 2 has been F2P for a while as well.

I really like the games that you can earn points in game, such as Lord of the Rings.

If Star Wars The Old Republic was a F2P game I would totally be buying it, but with things as they are looks like I'll just play my F2P titles for awhile...In fact, I just downloaded Age of Conan today.

OMG IT'S OVER 4000!!

Hey we're over 4000 hits now, thanks for your support and understanding when there's nothing new, and I'm just rambling. This is after all a family based blog, and since schools in, we don't have quite as much time for games during the week...that being said, We do have two reviews I'll be posting in the next few weeks, the first is with Matt Rivaldi, owner of Wiggitybang Games, and the second is with Ron Kent, owner of At Ease Games. In addition to the Interviews, I'll have my Store Spotlight of At Ease Games up. We're going to be playing and reviewing the new Warlands PDF Core rules. The boys will be reviewing Killer Bunnies.

I'm looking at doing full video reviews, so I've been setting up for that, unfortunately I don't have an incredible camera, but we'll have to make due.


Happy December, it's almost 2012, I'll have to do some post-apocalyptic reviews soon.... =D