The Saving Throw
The Ballad of Gen Con August 21st, 2009
with Gaming Paper

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Last week I was at Gen Con Indy for the first two days of the show. It was a lot of fun, but also somewhat tiring. I needed a couple more days to see everything at a slower pace, but alas, I could not have everything that I wanted. Plus, I had already spent a good deal of money in just two days.

The winner of our Pathfinder Trivia contest and the winner of an autographed copy of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook is Matthew N. Matthew, check your email for your notifications. Keep watching this space for more contests in the future.

Gaming Store Shout Out of the Column -- I often find myself buying products online or at big bookstores, but I have recently been trying to buy stuff at a small, local comic book and hobby store, The Zone Comics in Louisville, KY. Send me an email with your favorite local gaming store, and just maybe they will get featured here in the Saving Throw.

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Tabletop Gaming News

The Ballad of Gen Con, Verse 1

   There was a lot of new product releases at Gen Con this year, including the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook from Paizo Publishing, Fantasy Craft from Crafty Games, Geist: The Sin Eaters from White Wolf Publishing, and Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition from Catalyst Games. Without a doubt, Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook was the most anticipated new release, with the line to purchase it on the first morning of Gen Con wrapping around the Paizo booth and out into the halls. Fantasy Craft might have been the big surprise of the show, however, having nearly sold out by the end of the second day (only 12 copies were left with an hour and a half to go).

Several big announcements were made at Gen Con, with Wizards of the Coast announcing that Dark Sun would be returning in 2010 as the third campaign setting converted to the 4E rules. Paizo publishing also detailed some of their upcoming Pathfinder releases. Perhaps most importantly, I learned that Parmelk the Frost Warden can go five rounds, toe-to-toe, with a goblin minion and come out the winner. Yes that +9 bonus on melee attacks did not do me any good.

Sitting down with Bill Slavicsek from Wizards of the Coast I learned that sales of 4E books are doing well, despite the economy. I also learned that the Dungeons & Dragons Insider will be getting more tools in the future including the much touted Gaming Table, which contrary to previous reports is not dead, but will be released "when it is ready". The upcoming Dungeon Master's Guide 2 will feature more skill challenge choices and depth for the Dungeon Master, and will also feature a large section devoted to the return of Sigil, designed as a base of operations for Paragon-level player characters.

Revenge of the Giants will be the first super adventure for 4E, weighing in at 160 pages. This adventure will take player characters from 12th to 18th level. It will feature loads of earth, fire and frost giants and a primordial pulling the strings. Another upcoming release is Draconomicon - Metallic Dragons. Many changes have come to the metallic dragons, foremost being that like angels, metallic dragons are not necessarily good guys anymore. This change, among others is one of many that Bill pointed out as an attempt to mix things up a bit and return a sense of wonder to the Dungeons & Dragons game.

Continuing the Powers series of books, Primal Power will feature expanded options for the barbarian and other classes that use the primal power source. The big release in the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures line is the Monster Manual: Legendary Evils featuring several visible large minis including the remora, but more importantly the beholder. Featuring a clear base, the beholder is sure to be highly sought after, and in fact the limited number available at Gen Con each day were quickly grabbed by fans. Monster Manual - Savage Encounters, another large release, will follow in November, while the Player's Handbook Heroes Series 3 will be released in September.

As previously mentioned, the Dungeon & Dragons Insider tools will continue to be updated and expanded, but other benefits for subscribers will continue to be expanded, such previews of upcoming content in source books, exclusive content like the Assassin class and early previews of power sources such as the Shadow Power source used by the Assassin class.

Wizards of the Coast has declared this year the year of the 2s, with the release of the Player's Handbook 2, Monster Manual 2, Adventurer's Vault 2 and Dragon Master's Guide 2 for 4E, while next year will be the year of the 3s. Player's Handbook 3 is scheduled for release in March 2010 with Monster Manual 3 following in June and Dungeon Master's Guide 3 in September.

EA was showcasing Warhammer Online, Dante's Inferno and Dragon Age. Warhammer Online was quick to remind me why I do not play MMORPGs. Dante's Inferno reminded me a lot of God of War. I played Dragon Age for about fifteen minutes and came away feeling like the game is a medieval Fallout 3, with more blood. The game seemed very polished and a blast to play, although the blood is a bit overboard, in my opinion.

Exile Games debuted Mysteries of the Hollow Earth at Gen Con. Hollow Earth Expedition uses the pulp adventure system, and feels a lot like a King Kong movie. The gaming system is focused on roleplaying more than combat, and rewards players for taking advantage of their character's flaw by awarding style points. The pulp adventure system is designed to be played with or without dice, although some actions can use up to 14 dice, so flipping 14 coins just to decide whether or not you succeed on an action can be a bit tedious. Overall, the product felt well thought out and smooth.

One thing I noticed about a lot of new gaming products, the illustrations in the books have improved by leaps and bounds. Most noticeable of late are Wizards of the Coast's 4E releases, but also White Wolf's products, Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook and the 4E releases from Goodman Games. Another new entry into the pen-n-paper fray, Alpha Omega, lives up to this billing as well, and even sold out at Gen Con this year. The game is a futuristic RPG providing an alternative for those wanting to break away from medieval fantasy play or the Star Wars universe.

Upper Deck was once again throwing out huge amounts of cash and prizes in their World of Warcraft TCG and Miniatures games. I sat down with Dan and Margo to get caught up on what Upper Deck has planned for these two lines. This winter, Upper Deck will release the Naxxramas Raid Deck as well as the Scourgewar Booster Pack. The Scourgewar Booster Pack brings the Wrath of the Lich King MMO expansion fully into the world of the TCG. In February, the class decks will be released, one deck for each of the classes for both the Horde and the Alliance factions. Dan said that these class decks have been one of the most requested additions to the World of Warcraft TCG.

On the World of Warcraft Miniatures front the Spoils of War expansion is the next set due out. Margo pointed out that the World of Warcraft miniatures game is aimed more at casual kitchen tabletop gamers, and allows players to play as the Horde, Alliance or Monsters faction. While official organized play allows for only one on one faction play, the rules do allow for three players to play at once. The World of Warcraft miniatures game also features action and equipment cards. I inquired as to whether or not Upper Deck planned any cross-over between the TCG cards and miniatures cards, and was told that it was not really feasible. However, it seemed that cross-over products have been discussed, and might very well make an appearance in the future. Souls of Vengeance, the upcoming expansion for the World of Warcraft miniatures game will fully incorporate the Wrath of the Lich King MMO expansion into the miniatures line.

Finally, Upper Deck was giving a sneak peak at their new Marvel licensed TCG. This new game is set to debut in February, and will be tied directly to the recently released and upcoming movies, not the comics. While heroes will be on a set team, the villains will work individually against the heroes. The card sets will also feature location cards taken straight from the movies that the different sides will battle to control.

Obviously there was lot more to be seen at Gen Con. Next time we will discuss the Dragon Age Pen-N-Paper game, Fantasy Craft and Crafty Games other titles, a few other things I saw, more of Parmelk the Frost Warden of Poor Attack Rolls and delving into the very outer layers of Pathfinder.


Gaming Paper - A Mini Review

   At 30 inches wide and 12 feet long, Gaming Paper comes on a roll, similar to wrapping paper. One side is slick and shiny, while the other side is more papery. Both sides are printed with one-inch squares, or rather, the squares show through on the non-slick side. As one my expect, the slick side is somewhat resistant to pencil lead, although not so much as to make it unuseable. Likewise, the slick side is more prone to smudging when erased. A good eraser eliminates this concern.

With the dark blue lines marking the edges of the one-inch squares, pencil lead can easily disappear especially under direct light. Of course, using a marker makes the paper limited to just two uses (front and back) although realistically twice is all that gamers will make use of a cut section. The makers of Gaming Paper recommend the use of markers. This of course means one can not make mistakes when using the paper. Like all rolls of paper, Gaming Paper is sometimes prone to rolling up on itself, especially if the slick side is down. Of course, this can easily be rectified with some tape or four heavy objects on the corners, although this can somewhat limit the amount of space available for designing the encounter or dungeon area.

Gaming Paper comes in really handing for creating a dungeon or even open area in a hurry, but there is one thing Gaming Paper cannot do, and that is make a sloppy map maker into a neat map maker, as demonstrated by the dungeon I made for my son and daughter to play through. Along with its versatility, Gaming Paper is also rather cheap at $4 per roll. Or one can buy 4 rolls at $16 with reduced shipping of $8 versus the $4 shipping per roll if bought individually.



The first verse of the the Ballad of Gen Con has been sung. And now you know why I never play a Bard in any game. Next time we will finish up the Ballad of Gen Con and a review or two.

Martin "Never a Bard" Drury

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