The Saving Throw
The Ballad of Gen Con, Verse 2 September 7th, 2009
And we find the path as well

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I have been slowly making my way through the massive amount of products I picked up at Gen Con last month. Some of the products have been a pleasant surprise, while some have been more or less what I had expected, and one has even been a bit frustrating. But more on that at a later date. This time we have the second verse of the Ballad of Gen Con as well as our review of the much heralded and much anticipated Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.

Just before Gen Con I got a PDF copy of Crafty Games' Fantasy Craft. We will have a review of that next time, but along with that upcoming review we will be interviewing Patrick Kapera from Crafty Games at a later date. Feel free to send in your questions about Fantasy Craft, Spy Craft, or Crafty Games' other upcoming titles such as Mist Born RPG and Looking Glass Wars RPG.

Gaming Tip of the Column - Do not forget racial modifiers! Seems easy enough to remember, but in my first Pathfinder RPG game using the final version of the rules, I saw three different players forget their racial modifiers.

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This Week's Features

Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook September 7th, 2009
Revised 3.5 Edition Rules for the Win

Tabletop Gaming News

The Ballad of Gen Con, Verse 2

    A few months ago, Green Ronin, EA and BioWare announced that Green Ronin would be developing a pen and paper RPG version of BioWare's upcoming PC, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 RPG, Dragon Age: Origins. While the pen and paper game was not being demoed at Gen Con, I did get a chance to sit down with Chris Pramas from Green Ronin to discuss the game. The pen and paper game shares its name with the video game, and the flavor of the world, but beyond that there are some significant differences. Green Ronin's version will use a complete different mechanic than the video game. According to Chris, BioWare ruled that out immediately because of the complex math that is crunched behind the scenes in the video game. Instead the game will use an ability roll system, featuring eight different ability scores. Challenges will be met by rolling 3d6 and applying the appropriate ability modifier.

The main parts of the Dragon Age RPG will be released in box sets, the first of which will release in late October or early November and cover levels 1-5. While the timing of the release is basically set to coincide with the release of the video game, however, according to Chris, there is no set requirement on which one launches first. If the pen and paper game is ready first, it will be released first. If it is not, it will not be. Currently, three other box sets are planned for the Dragon Age RPG. Set number two, due out in summer of 2010 will cover levels 6-10. Box set number 3 will cover levels 11-15, and the final box set will cover levels 16-20. Each box set will include Game Master and Player manuals and a short adventure. Other adventures, to be published between the box sets, are also planned. Each box set will retail for $29.95.

The first box set is designed to introduce new players to the world of table top role-playing games. It will include a 64-page Player's Guide with a background on Thedas and the nation of Ferelden, a complete guide to character creation, rules for character classes and talents, a primer on magic, and the basic game rules. It also includes a 64-page Gamemaster's Guide with advice on the art of game mastering, advanced game rules, and an introductory adventure that plunges the characters right into the world of Dragon Age. The last to items in the box will be a poster map of the nation of Ferelden and three six-sided dice.

Of course, Dragon Age is not the only product Green Ronin has in the works. New titles, such as Super Villain Handbook (for Mutants and Masterminds), Lost Island (for Freeport) and continuing releases for the Song of Fire and Ice series are in the works. Green Ronin is also working on a sequel to 100 Best Hobby Games covering the 100 best family games.

Back on the video game front, I spent some time with Sony Online Entertainment. SOE is apparently on a quest to turn the entire world into an online Trading Card Game, as Free Realms TCG joined a line-up of Legend of Norrath and Star Wars Galaxies TCG. Unfortunately the demo servers had went belly up while I was there, so I was unable to see the similarities and differences between this newest entry in SOE's hand of card games and their current line-up.

Fantasy Flight Games had arguably the largest booth of any vendor at Gen Con this year. With a series of new games releasing, including Rogue Trader, Battlestar Galactica: Pegasus Expansion, and Warhammer: Chaos in the Old World, Fantasy Flight had quite a bit of traffic coming and going from their booth. Directly behind Fantasy Flight Games was Catalyst Game Labs featuring the 20th anniversary of Shadowrun and 25th anniversary of Battletech. Judging by the number of people moving between these two booths both companies had a successful Gen Con.

Moving on from there, I visited the Fat Dragon Games booth. FDG produces a lot of nice PDF products. They recently started producing 3D paper models of terrain with Dragonshire and 3D Dungeon Master Screens with dice chutes in the towers (one for the players to see, one for them not to see) and different shelves for storing minis, dice, and other accessories. These products are well designed, and relatively cheap, especially when compared to products like Dwarven Forge's dungeon sets, but the cost of card stock paper, ink, and optional backings can raise the price considerably. Of course, if you break a piece, you can always reprint it and rebuild it.

Another product I demoed was the TCG, Spoils. Spoils is billed as the "best trading card game ever"; a bold claim that is not quite backed up. There are two things in particular that hinder Spoils. The first of these is the art work. The cards are pretty, but some of them are for mature audiences only. Another claim is the gameplay is more streamlined than other TCGs, but Spoils introduces a new speed concept that while making the game more realistic, also requires that players keep track of one additional stat for their cards. Despite these drawbacks, Spoils' concepts of factions based on human failings does make for a more contemporary gaming experience than what one finds in typical, fantasy based TCGs.

Perhaps one of the biggest surprises of Gen Con was Fantasy Craft by Crafty Games. Fantasy Craft uses the Master Craft rules system but is essentially compatible with d20 rules. The big differences is that Fantasy Craft splits everything about player characters, non-player characters, and monsters up into individual pieces that you can choose to use, or not use, as you see fit. This increased number of options obviously allows for a lot more variety in characters, but at the same time might overwhelm some gamers. Later this month I will have a full review of Fantasy Craft as well as an opportunity for you to ask any questions you have about Crafty Games' upcoming products.

Another title I saw briefly was Alpha/Omega, a futuristic game setting. Unfortunately I did not get to spend much time with it, but what I did see has piqued my interest.

I wrapped up my visit to Gen Con with a visit with Jason Bulmahn, Designer of the Pathfinder RPG. Jason had several bits of news to share, such as the fact that Paizo plans to publish only 3 products per year in the Pathfinder RPG line, excluding adventures. Jason explained that they understand gamers have a limited amount of money and so they want to give them the most bank for their buck, so most products will be priced in the $30-$40 range. After the Bestiary, releasing next month, Jason said that Paizo wants to focus on products that provide new and unique options for gamers. He also mentioned that a compilation of monsters presented in the previously released line of Pathfinder Chronicles adventures is extremely likely, bringing them up-to-date with the Pathfinder rules.

I finished my time at the Paizo booth by playing the short Pathfinder Delve they had setup. While I did not get to play for long, it was readily apparent that Paizo's claim that Pathfinder will be easy to understand for anyone familiar with the 3rd Edition or 3.5 Edition of "the world's most popular RPG" is accurate.



Again we finish up another edition of Saving Throw. Next time I will have a review of Crafty Games' Fantasy Craft as well as a few other products. I am currently working on getting some other contests lined up as well, so hopefully we will have an opportunity for you to read something as well.

Martin "Slipped on a Dryer Sheet" Drury

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