Our first sponsor profile is a doozy, thanks to a fantastic effort by volunteer Hannah Tracy: a company profile, discussion of the game the sponsor is donating, and suggestions for how to use it on the day and as part of the ongoing collection. Thanks Hannah! You’ve set the bar for the rest of this series.
The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pathfinder is a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) with a swords-and-sorcery heroic fantasy setting. The full game can be played with 2 to 5 players, and is easily adapted for more. One player is the Game Master (GM), who tells the story and plays as any monsters or other non-player characters – basically the incidental characters and antagonists of the tale. The other players play as a party of protagonists made up of various races and classes of adventurers (think Lord of the Rings: human ranger, elven archer etc). Play time for a single short adventure usually takes a few hours; if playing a campaign it could be many hours over multiple meetings.
Anyone can play Pathfinder: male, female, old, young, or anywhere in between. While many think of RPGs as male-dominated, and it’s true that male players are not in short supply, Pathfinder is full of people of all races, occupations, genders, cultural backgrounds, employment statuses and any other demographic variable you can think of. Contrary to stereotypes about gamers, playing tabletop RPGs is a highly social activity, which provides a pathway to social connection for shy folks, but is also a great venue for existing relationships: my boyfriend and I are one of four couples who play together in our group.
In a typical game of Pathfinder, the GM will take the characters through a story either of their own creation or written by game designers. (Even if the story is not original, the storytelling has to be, with GMs learning to speak in front of a group on the fly, and even express character in the way they tell the story.) The characters are usually given a goal: find a magical item, save someone from imprisonment etc. They are then free to explore and seek a solution to their quest. As in any good story they will face obstacles – traps, difficult terrain, monsters, and other foes. How they handle these obstacles is up to the players; they will need to work together using each character’s strengths to overcome the obstacles.
Of course, whether they will succeed in any task depends on how the dice roll. Pathfinder uses a number of multi-sided dice to determine outcomes. If a task is harder, you have to roll a higher number to complete it, but the more skilled your character is in that task, the higher you are able to roll. Whether or not players complete or survive a quest depends on a mixture of teamwork, creativity, and chance. Pathfinder (and all RPGs) use books, stories, math, and problem-solving skills to let players live out wild adventures in foreign and fantastic lands without ever leaving the living room or library.
Pathfinder at PAX East 2014
This year’s donation from Paizo
Paizo is donating copies of their Beginner Box for International Games Day. The Beginner Box includes all the things you will need to start a game of Pathfinder:
- 64-page Hero’s Handbook, detailing character creation, spells, equipment, and general rules for playing the game.
- 96-page Game Master’s Guide packed with adventures, monsters, magical treasures, and advice on how to narrate the game and control the challenges faced by the heroes.
- A complete set of 7 high-impact polyhedral dice.
- More than 80 full-color pawns depicting tons of heroes, monsters, and even a fearsome black dragon.
- Four pre-generated character sheets to throw you right into the action.
- Four blank character sheets to record the statistics and deeds of your custom-made hero.
- A durable, reusable, double-sided Flip-Mat play surface that works with any kind of marker. (This is one of my favorite things in the box.)
Plus there are a number of free PDFs which can be downloaded to complement and expand the box, including instructions for bridging the gap between the Beginner Box and the full game.
Using the donation on IGD
IGD would be a great day to get people who have never played an RPG to try it. The Beginner Box is designed to be played with five people and to take about four hours to play, with individual scenarios taking as little as one hour. The Box has been crafted so that a group of teens who have never played an RPG before can become familiar and start playing within about fifteen minutes.
With the Beginner Box’s pre generated characters you could jump right into a prewritten adventure. You might also ask around the library and see if there are any experienced players who would be interested in GMing. You could see if there is a local Pathfinder group that might be interested in coming and running sessions. Check out Paizo’s Gamer Connection thread or the Pathfinder Society Grand Lodge to find a Pathfinder group in your area. If you want to familiarize yourself with some of the rules before getting your Beginner Box, check out the Pathfinder Reference Document, which publishes a reference version of the base rules of the game for free online.
Using the donation in general
Paizo themselves have some thoughts on this topic, so we’ll let them speak for themselves:
Young people today, coming to libraries, are looking for different paths to learning. Pathfinder leads young people to a study of medieval history, mythic archetypes, probability, and game design. The majority of players are male, and this is an important way to get guys to read. As opposed to many video games, Pathfinder, as a tabletop game, encourages players to interact face-to-face. It is a game of goal achievement that rewards strategy and clear prioritisation, moving from small goals to big goals. Cooperative behavior is essential to excelling at Pathfinder.
On top of this, Pathfinder is made by lovers of the written word – and it shows. Paizo publish their own Pathfinder Tales series of fantasy novels set in their game world of Golarion, meaning it is possible for your patrons to step from the pages of the book into the same world in their game, and vice versa.
Not only that, but Paizo includes a list of books that inspired the Pathfinder RPG rules in the Core Rulebook (p. 568, and reproduced at the end of this article). A display of these books would be a good way both to spread interest in the game and to introduce gamers to some books they may not have read before.
Paizo Publishing has a history with imaginative play going back before the company even began. Lisa Stevens, founder and owner of Paizo, has in fact had a hand in the creation of three major game companies: Lion Rampant (and its merger with White Wolf), Wizards of the Coast, and Paizo.
Stevens created Paizo in 2002 to produce the official magazines of iconic tabletop RPG Dungeons & Dragons – called, aptly enough, Dragon and Dungeon – as well as other gaming magazines such as Star Wars Insider after Hasbro (owners of Wizards of the Coast) outsourced publication of the magazines. The magazines, which had been declining in sales, were revitalised by the innovative approaches taken by Paizo’s editorial staff (many of whom had worked on the magazines at Wizards), including the development of the “Adventure Path” – a series of linked adventures that when played in sequence told a sweeping saga, taking characters from humble beginnings to worldspanning exploits.
In 2008, Wizards of the Coast announced a new Fourth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons, and crucially a new, more restrictive license. Previously the game had been published under an Open Gaming License, which functions something like a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike license for the rules material (though only for the rules; it also allows people to protect original work such as characters, artwork, story and so on). This allowed people to publish and share their own imaginative additions to the base rules of the game provided they credited everyone whose rules material they incorporated into the new work (which obviously included Wizards of the Coast).
Paizo decided to stick with the Revised Third Edition ruleset (known as D&D 3.5) and use it as a base for their own Pathfinder RPG. The creators, headed by Jason Bulmahn and Erik Mona, wanted to make a system that would be compatible with the materials that players had been purchasing for years under 3.5, while fixing bugs and tightening up play. In 2009 they launched the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and have not looked back. Since then, Paizo has created a rich world and continued its tradition of publishing Adventure Paths which can be purchased to play using the Pathfinder rules.
Besides their open-source approach allowing other imaginations a seat at the Pathfinder table, Paizo has made a commitment to inclusion in their community, and diversity and balanced representation in their stories, whether printed prose or in-game. The official style guide for Paizo’s writers requires that they aim for a balance of genders, orientations, and races in their stories as well as a balance of character roles and abilities. Thus it is not unheard of for a defenseless innocent to be male and both his captor and his rescuer to be female – as well as the other way around and every permutation thereof. Villains come in all sorts, but are evil not because of their gender, species, skin colour, or other arbitrary elements of identity, but because of their evil deeds; similarly, the game’s iconic heroes (frequently represented characters from each class) have a range of characteristics, personalities, and looks. This extends to the illustrations of game characters, with clothing styles ranging from heavily armored paladins and fully clothed wizards to martial artists and sorcerers wearing relatively little – with no gender singled out for more of either, and the clothing choices being based on what’s practical for (and expressive of) their character. This all leads to better, more interesting storytelling.
Another fun aspect Paizo brings to the roleplaying world is the system of organized play known as the Pathfinder Society, named after both the game itself (obviously) and an in-world society of explorers and adventurers. When you join the Society you get a Pathfinder Number which is used to identify your characters; you can then take your characters to any Society event anywhere in the world and play and gain experience, gold, and items. Each Society adventure can be played in a single session and while there are some storylines that continue, it is possible to miss a session or two and still jump back in when you can. Great for the girl on the go – or really anyone who has a job, family, and other things that can get in the way of gaming and make it hard to commit to a standard campaign.
So get excited for some amazing adventures and be ready to be blown away by the creativity and teamwork that can come out of a great game of Pathfinder!
Inspiring Reading – from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook
Barker, Clive: The Hellhound Heart
Brackett, Leigh: The Sword of Rhiannon, Skaith series, et al
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: Pellucidar, Mars, and Venus series
Campbell, Ramsey: Trye the Swordsman series, et al
Dunsany, Lord: The King of Elfland’s Daughter, et al
Farmer, Philip Jose: World of Tiers series, et al
Carter, Lin: ed. The Year’s Best Fantasy, Flashing Swords
Feist, Raymond: Riftwar saga, et al
Gygax, Gary: Gord the Rogue series, et al
Kuttner, Henry: Elak of Atlantis, The Dark World
Homer: The Odyssey
Howard: Robert E.: Conan series, et al
Hugo, Victor: Les Miserables
King, Stephen: Dark Tower series
Leiber, Fritz: Fafhrd and Gray Mouser series, et al
Lovecraft, H.P.: Cthulhu Mythos tales, et al
Machen, Arthur: “The White People”, et al
Martin, George RR: Song of Ice and Fire series
Merritt, A: The Ship of Ishtar, The Moon Pool, et al
Mieville, China: Bas-Lag series
Moorcock, MIchael: Elric series, et al
Moore, C.L.: Black God’s Kiss
Offutt, Andrew J: ed. Swords Against Darkness
One Thousand and One Nights
Poe, Edgar Allen: “The Fall of the House of Usher” et al
Saberhagen, Fred: Changeling Earth, et al
Saunders, Charles: Imaro series, et al
Shakespeare, William: Macbeth, et al
Simmons, Dan: Hyperion series, The Terror, et al
Smith, Clark Ashton: Averoigne and Zothique tales, et al
Stoker, Bram: Dracula, Lair of the White Worm, et al
Tolkien, JRR: Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit
Vance, Jack: Dying Earth series, et al
Wagner, Karl Edward: Kane series, ed. Echoes of Valor
Wells, HG: The Time Machine, et al
Wellman, Manly Wade: John the Balladeer series, et al
Zelazny, Roger: Amber series, et al