Interview with Duncan Davis of Sherwood Games

To start off, tell us about yourself and your history in gaming.

Hello everyone! My name is Duncan Davis and I am a game designer. During the day, I am a Ph. D. Chemical Engineer at North Carolina State University. I work with polymer origami. I am the second of five children and have been playing games like Bridge, Magic the Gathering, and Acquire since I was six years old. I grew up in Rhode Island – the smallest state with the biggest imagination!

Describe Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart is a fast-paced role selection robot building game. Seize control of the Coal Heart and siphon the health of your enemies. Will you stand as the last unbroken champion, or will you fall to the wayside with the rest of the junkyard?

What other games helped inspire Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart?

Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart was inspired by the main mechanic in the game Puerto Rico. It is a role selection, resource management game about building your own little agricultural island nation. I thought that its role selection mechanic would make for a very different feeling fighting game. Role selection means each turn, you get to pick a role that lets everyone do something but for being the one that picked it, you get a perk. I knew I wanted the combatants to upgrade and improve over the course of the game, so robots made perfect sense. Using the expectations inherent in a Robot game, the mechanics of Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart are easy to understand and play wonderfully.

What aspects of Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart do you believe cause it to stand out from other role selection games on the tabletop game market?

Robots stands out from other role selection games because there is a high level of player interaction and the ability to directly impact other players. Most role selection games fall into the Euro game category, but Robots feels more like a hybrid between Euro and American games.

If Robots: Battle for the Coal Heart proves to be successful, are there any expansions you would like to release?

We have an expansion for Robots (pending its success). In the expansion, a bigger threat is looming over the world and the Robots must team up to defeat the newest threat. It transforms the game into a co-op game with various villains for the players to fight against. It adds new parts to each robot and an alternate Coal Heart! The playtesting for the expansion has been quite fun!

Geek Girls Gaming – Girls at the Table

In case you were somehow buried under a rock, you might not have noticed that over the last few years women in general, and geekdom in particular, are starting to be more vocal about their interests and their expectations of being accepted at the gaming table.  Well, they have.

Whether that table is at a convention or at your FLGS or in the back of the comic book store, women are becoming more vocal about their pastimes.  From Pros like Clare Grant and Felecia Day to Cosplayers to Gamer Girls, women seem much less willing to hide their enjoyment of all things geeky.

What does this mean for gaming?  It means you are going to see even more women playing in the Pathfinder Scenario Society, even more women at your FLGS picking up dice and looking at books, and even more women at cons cosplaying for a couple hours and then sitting down to play Magic: the Gathering.

Surprisingly, I’ve actually heard the question (recently)…so how should we treat women at the table?  The obvious answer: just like you treat the guys at your gaming table.  Well, okay, to play on a stereotype, maybe you don’t make quite as many, “Can I hit on the barmaid?” jokes.   However, if you are like most gaming groups, you treat each other with respect and you enjoy the game.  You play the characters, you roll the dice, you drink the Dew and go home.  That doesn’t change when a girl (or more than one) joins your gaming group.

Our regular gaming group is a pretty evenly split, 6 guys and 4 girls.  The GM role typically floats between two of the guys and one of the girls.

So what kind of expectations do we have at the table?

  • You are playing a character, not yourself. Try to remember that your character is not you… no modern politics unless you are playing a modern game.  Even then, try to keep it from disrupting the game.
  • No “Lone Wolves”; no backstabbing. These are big for us because we are such a large gaming group.  Play characters that want to be with others. If you are evil, have a reason to be with the good characters and not steal from them or kill them.
  • Keep it in character.  Sometimes disagreements form between characters.  We encourage folks to keep it there and to make it clear when it is character vs personal driven.
  • Play nice with each other.  Keep real life out of the game. Sometimes we get stressed and we use games as a release. The thing we need to remember is not to take out our stress on our fellow characters.
  • Other rules: take turns, share information, and don’t touch someone else’s dice

All of these expectations are the same if it’s a guy or a girl at the table, we don’t really differentiate.

And just for a visual. This came out in May of this year.

Dungeon Run Girl Gamer Comic

And this article recently came out in Time.

The Rise of Fangirls at Comic Con

So the next time a girl sits down at the table, be nice, welcome her to the group and to slightly misquote Wil Wheaton – “Girls play games! Get used to it.”

The Reaping Stone Deluxe Adventure

The Reaping Stone Deluxe Adventure

From: TPK Games

Reviewed by: Tera Fulbright

The Reaping Stone Deluxe Adventure is a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible Adventure from TPK Games.

TPK (Total Party Kill) Games lives up to its name in this Deluxe Adventure. Taking advantage of having a Pathfinder gaming group, I ran the party through the first couple of encounters in this adventure to see how it played out. As a DM, I had to pull my punches to keep from killing the party in the first session. While there are positive aspects to the adventure, the overall TPK (no pun intended) chance seemed extremely high.

From the Website:

“‘The Reaping Stone’ is a deluxe 200-page adventure that will take your characters down a dark path, from 1st level to at least 5th level, as prequel for the upcoming Bleeding Hollow deluxe adventure.

‘The Reaping Stone’ is as brutal as Rappan Athuk and as challenging and engaging as any published Adventure Path, with a good dose of old-school carnage binding the lot together.”

The setup for this game is absolutely inventive, even if it does start in a tavern. Characters are sent to investigate a cult and find themselves infected by a “vile” disease. From the outset, the game sets a high standard for survivability.

At second level, it is challenging for characters to make the save required to avoid the initial impact of the disease. Nearly all of my players became infected immediately. While this did give an immediate reason for the players and their characters to become involved in the campaign, it also immediately handicapped them depending on their CON stat. Indeed, the next encounter again targets CON, which puts already weak characters at further risk.

The adventure then leads the characters into a dungeon of twists and turns where they face challenge after challenge from new creatures like the Effluvium Jelly to a swarm of rats.

I do like that TPK Games include a “scaling the encounter” block in case you are playing with a smaller group. The adventure assumes six PC’s starting at second level. This did come in handy as I realized that the encounters as written were more than the four PC’s could handle.

From the Synopsis:

“Some years ago, Azrenar, a cleric of Maramaga, Scythe-mother and Queen of Rot, petitions the king of Maerh-Varza to build a great temple to the ancient goddess. In great fury, the king seeks to put the offensive cleric and his followers to the sword and nearly succeeds. His followers’ dead bodies line the roads to Maerh-Varza and the cleric Azrenar curses the king, declaring bloody vengeance.

Now channeling the power of the Reaping Stone, Azrenar has created a deadly supernatural disease, one capable of animating those who die of the horrible wasting disease. Will the spurned cleric turn Maerh-Varza into a zombie-infested metropolis or will the players find the cure in time?”

As the adventure continues, the characters are faced with challenges from haunts and ghosts to zombies and vampires.

There were things I liked about the design of the adventure. As I mentioned, I liked the “scaling” options. I also liked the “morale” aspect of the encounters which helps guide the DM in the personality of the enemy NPC’s. In addition, knowing the deadliness of the adventure, the encounter treasures are prepped with cure potions and other healing.

The encounters are described well, with an immense amount of detail. The author, Tom Phillips, is clearly well-versed in horror. He paints a picture of a dark and depressing world with NPC’s and encounters.

From page 107:

“These ancient crumbling ruins are obviously haunted. Softly whispering shadow-shapes dance at the corner of your vision as the empty streets and crumbling buildings seem to almost vibrate with a tangible malign presence.”

But all of the incredibly vivid and descriptive details get lost in the seemingly never-ending dungeon crawl aspect of the adventure.

Many of the challenges seem to be set two to three levels above the PC’s. Where this becomes a problem is when the PC’s are using a lot of resources on lower level encounters, leaving them with limited options when faced with a stronger enemy.

As the adventure continues, the NPC’s gain power significantly faster than the PC’s do. At one point, it appears as though the PC’s will face an NPC three to five levels above theirs, and this is after facing several equal or slightly higher encounters.

In Conclusion…

From page 5:

“It is a dangerous adventure that could mean the death of one or more player characters and will take extra precaution or resourcefulness to navigate it successfully. The word “Reaping” in the title of this adventure is also a serious hint: players should proceed with extreme caution.”

I think TPK Games calls the adventure correctly as dangerous. The adventure as written could easily kill a party of PC’s that are not extremely resourceful and careful. It is written to be challenging and deadly.

That being said, I still think the adventure is a bit overpowered for the expressed level of PC’s. Even with six PC’s, DM’s may find themselves scaling the adventure back if they do not wish to kill the party early on.

For more details on TPK Games and their new deluxe adventure “The Reaping Stone” check them out at their website http://www.tpkgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 11

Product Summary

The Reaping Stone Deluxe Adventure

From: TPK Games

Type of Game: Adventure Module

Lead Designer: Tom Phillips

Cover Design: Brian Berg

Additional Art by: Dusan Kostic, Christopher Stoll, and various public domain images

Number of Pages: 204

Game Components Included: Book

Retail Price: $24.99

Number of Players: 6

Website: www.tpkgames.com

Reviewed by: Tera Fulbright

40 years of D&D through the eyes of authors

Dungeons and Dragons celebrates forty years this year.

I started playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in high school. We would gather at a friend’s house around lunchtime, order pizza, and play until dark. My first character was a druid, who used a silver sickle and immediately used it to tell an overly friendly character to back off.

As an author, I frequently write about my characters, whether it’s backstory, or little stories, or adventures. At the same time, D&D has introduced me to a wider world of science fiction and fantasy literature and I like to think has helped improved my writing.

I was curious about how D&D had influenced some of my other writer friends who happened to be roleplayers.

Jaym Gates is the Communications Director for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association (SFWA), a freelance publicist, editor, and author.

Misty Massey is the author of Mad Kestrel and numerous short stories.

Gail Z. Martin is the author of the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga, The Chronicles of the Necromancer series, and the Fallen Kings Cycle.

Laura Haywood-Cory is an Associate Editor at Baen Books.

1) What was your first introduction to D&D? (And When?)

Jaym Gates (JG): My first knowledge of it was when I was a kid. I grew up in one of those scary right-wing, super-Christian environments that believed D&D was Satan’s tool, and we had several books explaining why it was so awful. Read those cover-to-cover and came to the conclusion that it was quite awesome.

Misty Massey (MM): When I was 15, my mother went off to a professional convention and brought me back a book she thought I’d like: the first edition Player’s Handbook. I had no one to play with at the time, but I read that book cover to cover, over and over. By the time I found a group, I could quote it to you.

Gail Martin (GM): Friends in high school would get together on a Saturday and play all day. Classic D&D.

Laura Haywood-Cory (LHC): My first introduction to D&D was in high school, 1985, and it was AD&D. The same boyfriend who introduced me to Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni books offered to be Dungeon Master for an AD&D game with me, his twin brother, and a friend of theirs. I was the only female in the game. My character was an elven magic user, and our first adventure was the Temple of Elemental Evil.

2) How long have you been playing D&D?

MM: 1979. Junior year of high school. I finally found a group to play with. Two of the folks were in my class, and the DM was the older sister of one of my friends. We got together on Saturday nights and played in their den. We all had characters of good alignments, so I learned a great deal about working together to bring about a desired outcome. I played with them until I went off to college, where I put a note on the cafeteria bulletin board asking for a group to let me join. Dangerous, I know, but I was lucky enough to again find another gaming group. This one was much different from my hometown friends. There were evil characters and plots against other members of the party and thievery…it was AWESOME.

GM: My husband had been playing D&D with his cousins before we got married. Afterwards, we played with them until we 1) had kids, and 2) moved away. Sadly, that kind of spare time just hasn’t been available between kids, writing the books, and running a business, but I have every intention of organizing all the games at the nursing home when I’m finally old enough to be carted off there!

LHC: I played D&D for all of my senior year of high school and for a year or so in college. Then, some friends, including my future husband, corrupted me to the dark side of points-based character generation RPG systems instead of random roll-based character gen, and I quickly converted to HERO System/Champions. I’ve dabbled in D&D a few times since; played in a 2nd ed D&D game long enough to know what THAC0 means, and played in a D&D 3.5 game for a bit. So while I’ve moved on from D&D proper, playing tabletop RPGs has stuck with me — I’ll be 46 next month and am looking forward to getting back into a Fantasy Hero game that’s been on hiatus for a few weeks.

3) What is your favorite type of character to play?

JG: Fighter/tank/armored behemoth, which is great until the GM is pissed at you for drowning one of his NPCs and zaps your fully-armored self with lightning…while you’re standing in a pool of water. I love being the damage-absorbing sort who kind of hangs back until the big battles and then just mows through foes.

MM: Thieves. (Yes, I know, they’re called Rogues now. I don’t care. *grin*) I love trying to be sneaky and sly, especially because I’m not at all like that in real life.

GM: Warrior/mage.

LHC: My favorite type of D&D character to play is some sort of magic user or healer.

4) What challenges have you faced playing D&D?

JG: My RPG life is cursed. I can schedule 20 board/card game nights a month and get all of them, but schedule one RPG and every single participant has something happen to them.

MM: I’ve been lucky. Only once did I ever run into gender discrimination with gaming. Between receiving my book and finding my first group, I attempted to join a group of guys at my high school. The first time I went to a game session, I’d already prepped a character — a fighter/cleric who wore armor and carried a mace. They laughed and told me girls couldn’t fight. They were okay with me being a cleric, because I could heal them, but they didn’t want to let me do anything else. I took my books and went home immediately because I wasn’t going to stick around with a bunch of jerks. It wouldn’t have been any fun. And the whole point of gaming is to have fun!

GM: More orcs than I can count.

LHC: I haven’t had a lot of issues from fellow gamers. Especially when I was first getting into it, female gamers were such a rarity that we were given warm welcomes and made to feel at home, and the other players were good at helping me understand the rules, even if I never did become a master at min-maxing. There was sometimes a little bit of “Oh, you’re only here because your boyfriend is playing,” but once they realized that no, I was playing the game because I wanted to be playing the game, then I was treated as just another part of the group.

The main challenge I had, and it’s specifically linked to D&D since there weren’t many other RPG systems out in the mid ’80s, was that my mother was convinced that D&D was a tool of Satan and that I was going to burn in Hell if I didn’t quit playing. For this I squarely blame Patricia Pulling and her group BADD (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons), a book by one Jerry Johnston called The Edge of Evil: The Rise of Satanism in North America, and Rona Jaffe’s novel, Mazes & Monsters, that got adapted into the Tom Hanks movie and led to people all over the country internalizing the stereotype that gamers are freakish loners who get lost in steam tunnels and take the game way too seriously.

  tom hanks

It’s my fervent hope that this issue primarily affected those of us who are Gen X gamers; thankfully the “Satanic panic” of the ’80s and early ’90s has faded, and role-playing games don’t seem to get that knee-jerk “Evil! Bad!” reaction that they once did. But I was a teenager and young adult right smack in the middle of the Satanic Panic, and my mom fell for it, hard. For example, our copy of Johnston’s book had the section on D&D highlighted, dog-eared, and underlined, and it was very clearly aimed at me, since neither of my siblings played RPGs.

It was actually helpful for me, then, to move to playing Champions in college; when my mom would call me up and ask if I was “still playing that ‘evil D&D,'” I could tell her in all honesty that no, I was no longer playing D&D.

That said, when I had to move home for a year after college, I left all of my gaming books, dice, and character sheets with a friend, until I could get my own apartment.

5) What’s your favorite D&D memory? 

JG: My first actual D&D game was at Gen Con, and not only was it all pros, it was That Special Kind of Pro, with a fairly straight-laced GM. We were told that we’d be playing characters that matched the players’ genders. Right off, Peter’s rogue was a cross-dresser always sneaking off to check his makeup, Ari’s wizard was trying to defeat monsters with puns, and my character entered every delicate situation with “I try to hit them over the head with my giant sword.” The GM was chugging whiskey within moments.

Or, within that same game, the look on the DM’s face when I stuck his kobold NPC headfirst into the water to see if it was booby-trapped. “Why would you DO that?” Needless to say, that’s when he fried me with lightning.

MM: There are so many! This is the first one that comes to mind: I’d been playing a neutral evil half-orc/half-gnome cleric/assassin named Kestrel (no relation to the pirate!)  She’d fallen in love with a shipbuilder (NPC, which meant he was being played by my RL husband, the DM) in the town the group was adventuring in, but he didn’t want a lover who moved around all the time, so he’d broken things off with me and agreed to marry the daughter of a local landowner instead. I was so angry and heartbroken, I hatched a plan to make sure the wedding never happened. I inveigled myself into the daughter’s household, convinced her we were friends, then murdered her and burned the house down.

No, it wasn’t nice at all (evil, remember?), but you should have seen everyone else’s faces when I pulled it off. Glorious. And yes, I eventually won back the man of my heart. But that’s another story.

GM: I think my favorite memory is having been so immersed in the story and the action that I kind of “woke up” six hours or so later with absolutely no idea of how much time had elapsed, feeling as if the adventure had been real.

LHC: A favorite memory comes from an Oriental Adventures campaign; I was playing a wu-jen (a sort of magic user). I forget what happened but I started laughing and couldn’t stop, and one of the other players, in character, asked mine what was so funny. I looked down my nose at him and said, “The things which amuse the wu-jen are far beyond your comprehension,” at which point the rest of the group cracked up, too. It’s a “you had to be there” moment, but it’s stuck with me after all this time. 🙂 

6) What do you think you learned from D&D that you might not have picked up otherwise?

JG: I’m not sure it was D&D-specific, but a game is what you make it. D&D is THE heroic fantasy cliche, but you can make something absolutely unique out of it if you have the right people.

MM: I learned how to work with a team and how to blend my ideas with those of others to make a perfect plan. I learned that sometimes you get a better result by trusting your buddies than you would alone (although sometimes it’s a good idea to ditch them all and take the treasure for yourself, too.) I learned that it’s okay to stand my ground and fight for what I believe, even if I lose and have to go along with the group anyway.

Most of all, I learned that you never, ever assume that the groaning sailors shambling all over the deck are zombies. Sometimes they’re just under a spell.

GM: I really got a sense for the teamwork needed in a quest adventure, which translated both to fiction and to real life. I also learned just how creative people can be in inventing stories to amaze and amuse, and how inventive folks who don’t always consider themselves to be “creative” (i.e. engineers, math majors, programmers, etc. as opposed to artists, writers, etc.) really are and how they need to give themselves credit for that! And I get the gaming references in pop culture!

This video goes rather well with the topic, Natural Twenty by the Blibbering Humdingers

http://youtu.be/THv9k5ol5g4

And Mickey Mason’s “Best Game Ever”

http://youtu.be/M60zW_Mfm58

LHC: One thing that D&D taught me is that I’m much more interested in collaborative efforts than competitive ones; it’s why I used to not like convention or tournament-style gaming. It always felt too much like I was competing against the other players–because I was. To this day, I’m very much a fan of collaborative games over competitive ones like Monopoly or Risk. And in real life, I’d much rather work on something as a team, rather than trying to be a general barking orders and having people say “How high?” when I shout “Jump!” So what I’m saying is that I’d make a lousy drill sergeant. 🙂

In conclusion: gaming is fun, and learning teamwork is good. Play on!

Interview with Christina Stiles

First and foremost, tell us a little about yourself, your gaming experience and your writing experience?

I’ve been gaming since I was 12, and I’m in my 40s now. I started with the Basic Set of Dungeons & Dragons. My brother had purchased the game and needed a victim…ah, player. I was immediately hooked—even though most of my characters died horrendous deaths—and I spent way too much time thinking about my characters and the plots going on with them while I was in school. In fact, I’m not really sure how I graduated high school with honors, as my head was definitely NOT in my schoolwork!

I’ve played all the versions of D&D since (though not 4e so much), and I branched out into other games over the years: RIFTS, Savage Worlds, MAGE, Call of Cthulhu, D20 Modern, Traveller, Castles & Crusades, Pathfinder and many others. I admit that I’m mostly a tabletop RPG gamer. I don’t play boardgames, and I’ve only played a few card games. In the future, I intend to branch out to try the things I’ve been missing. I was sitting at Mysticon this past month, hearing people talk about so many different games that I haven’t tried, and I decided then and there that I really should see what else is out there and broaden my gaming experiences.

In terms of writing, I got my first gaming piece published in DUNGEON #61, “Jigsaw,” which I co-authored with Dan DeFazio. I actually started working with Dan after I had sent a letter to him and his co-author about how much I enjoyed their “Is There an Elf in the House?” adventure in an earlier issue. We hit it off well through snail mail, and that was how it all began. It would be years later, when the Open Gaming License came out, that I turned seriously to pursuing more writing. I wrote for the D20 System during its heyday, and I was lost as a freelancer when 4e came out—it just did not click with me. I then turned to writing for White Wolf Studios and Troll Lord Games. I got into writing for Pathfinder through several Kobold Press patron projects. I’ve kept very busy with Pathfinder for the last few years, and it is the game I play the most.

Tell us a little about your other work?

I mostly write games and edit them. I have had two short stories published, and I’ll be working on more fiction this year—some with the NYT bestselling author Faith Hunter. I’ve got a nonfiction book on introducing women to tabletop gaming in the works, and it’s on IndieGoGo right now: Medusa’s Guide for Gamer Girls (it ends March 19th). I’ve had a lot of women from the gaming industry sign on to write something for the project. I’m very excited about this! Just some of the ladies joining me include: Jodi Black, Filamena Young, Amber Scott, Amanda Hamon, Carinn Seabolt, Lillian Cohen-Moore, Jen Page, Ree Sosebee, and many others. I have male contributors, as well.

You do a lot of work for other groups (Green Ronin, Paizo, etc).  How does that differ from your own works?

I’m occasionally much sillier with my own works. For instance, I’ve published the gingerbread golem monster under my Christina Stiles Presents company. I laugh just thinking about that monster! But, mainly, there isn’t much difference. It’s just a matter of my own works being things that I’m passionate about getting out in the world. When I work for others, I’m generally writing something that they have outlined or have a specific vision for.

Describe Medusa for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

I’ve done several women-and-gaming panels at conventions over the years, and this book is aimed at explaining tabletop RPGs to the curious, and it seeks to offer ways to make gaming, a generally male-dominated hobby, more welcoming to women. Plus, we talk about how women can break into the gaming industry, and we talk about ways to introduce kids to gaming.

What made you focus on Gaming for Girls?

Honestly, the lack of seeing very many women gaming at the cons and game stores that I’ve played at. I have SO MUCH FUN with this hobby, and I want other women to join the fun. If they’ve tried the hobby and soon dropped it because they weren’t treated well by the males at the table, I want them to know that they don’t have to deal with people who want to exclude them or treat them as sex objects rather than as fellow gamers. I’ve gamed with way too many excellent male gamers who have been nothing but inclusive and appropriate; such groups are, in fact, more often the norm in my experience. Yet, I hear lots of horror stories about how women have been treated. As a teenager, I had a bad experience gaming with a 30-something GM who behaved extremely inappropriately toward me, in that he was hitting on me. I believe I was 13 at the time. His behavior turned me away from gaming with those other than my family and friends for a long time.

What are you most proud of in this work?

The book is really in concept stage at this point. That said, I’m most proud at this moment that so many people have reached out to me to become a part of the book. Lots of folks—both men and women—it seems, are just as passionate as I am about the subject.

What made you bring in such a variety of other contributors (comic book authors,fans, etc)?

Mainly, I wanted the reader to see how many of us women are out there. Not only are we gamers, we are professionals in the field or have been gaming for a long time. I don’t think women gamers realize that there are women out there contributing to the hobby, and I wanted girls to have some role models. I hope we inspire some ladies to consider entering the industry in a capacity that matches their talents.

What advice do you have for girls who want to game?

The biggest advice I have is this: There are groups out there that are very inclusive of all gamers, so don’t believe that a few bad experiences with sexist gamers are indicative of the hobby; find an accepting group—they really do exist!

Additionally, if you will be at Congregate and want to learn how to play a roleplaying game, come out and game with me. I’ll be there running a few things—possibly Rogue Mage and Pathfinder.

Geek Girls Gaming Review: Paizo NPC codex

Pathfinder NPC Codex

From: Paizo

Reviewed by: Tera Fulbright

Pathfinder NPC Codex is a supplement from Paizo.

Pathfinder’s Pathfinder NPC Codex has been out for a while, since October 2012.  However, I wanted to review it both traditionally, but also with an eye toward Geek Girls Gaming.  As a note, I am currently running a Pathfinder Game as well as playing in one.

Overall, I find the NPC Codex is very useful for random NPC’s who actually need combat statistics.

From the back cover:

“Inside this tome, you’ll find hundreds of ready-made stat blocks for nonplayer characters of every level, from a lowly forest poacher to the most majestic knight or ancient spellcaster. Whether you’re planning out future adventures or throwing together encounters right at the table, this book does the work so you can focus on playing the game.”

Pathfinder’s Pathfinder NPC Codex lists over 300 NPCs, including at least one for every level of every class in the core rule book.  Overall, there were 94 female NPCs, 105 male NPCs and even one transgendered NPC.   In addition to NPCs for all the classes, the codex includes a handful of NPCs with prestige classes as well.  Overall the NPC male/female split is fairly even.

The codex itself is simply organized.  Chapters are divided by Core Classes, Prestige Classes, NPC Classes and Iconics, and each class within a chapter has several levels of NPCs.  In addition, the appendices at the back of the book include some very useful information, including animal companion stats (adjusted for PC level) and a listing of sample encounter groups.

The one major flaw I found was the lack of spellbooks for wizards. While they did include spells prepared, it does still mean a GM has to build an actual spellbook if his players need it for treasure.

I did like that the NPCs all had gear listed, which does make for easy treasure generation when using one of these NPCs in a combat.

From the back cover:

“Tons of flavorful names and backgrounds to give characters personality, plus ideas for using them in both combat and roleplaying situations.”

As a GM who struggles with naming NPCs, being able to open the book and tell players that they are meeting “Gorgu Stonesplitter” or “Telkineel Orbast” also known as “AlleyCat” is incredibly useful.  There are backgrounds included, and while the backgrounds are simple, they are still creative.  I especially enjoyed the background of Passago, which a clever reader will recognize as homage to Shakespeare’s Prospero from the tempest.

The tips and hints about the characters make them easy to bring to life both in combat and in role-playing situations.  Most characters have one or two lines describing how they think or their backgrounds or goals.

In conclusion, this could be a very useful supplement for GMs who do not simply run modules or whose players often take the “red herrings.”   It would also be useful for GMs who need the ability to create interesting and memorable characters that the PCs can actually fight.

I do think if Paizo expands the Codex series to include new classes, it would be well-received by fans of the original.

For more details on Paizo and their new Supplement “Pathfinder NPC Codex” check them out at their website http://www.paizo.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 13

Product Summary

Pathfinder NPC Codex

From: Paizo

Type of Game: Supplement

Lead Designer: Jason Bulmahn

Designers: Stephen Radney-MacFarland and Sean K Reynolds

Contributing Authors: Authors: Jesse Benner, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, Alex Greenshields, Rob McCreary, Mark Moreland, Jason Nelson, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Patrick Renie, Sean K Reynolds, and Russ Taylor

Cover Art by: Wayne Reynolds

Additional Art by: Joewie Aderes, Eric Belisle, Branko Bistrovic, Christopher Burdett, Victor Perez Corbella, Josh Corpuz,Alberto DalLago, Simon Eckert, Steve Ellis, Jason Engle, Nadia Enis, Jorge Fares, Gonzalo Flores, Mariusz Gandzel, Fabio Gorla, Grafit, Paul Guzenko, Mauricio Herrera, Jon Hodgson, Andrew Hou, Lake Hurwitz, Ivan Kashubo, Nicholas Kay, Tim Kings-Lynne, Melanie Maier,Damien Mammoliti, Diana Martinez, Kate Maximovich, Jim Nelson, Miroslav Petrov, Roberto Pitturru, Emiliano Pretrozzi, Scott Purdy,Maichol Quinto, Jason Rainville, Jean-Baptiste Reynaud, Wayne Reynolds, Denman Rooke, Kostia Schleger, Lydia Schuchmann, Chris Seaman, Kyushik Shin, Bryan Sola, Dean Spencer, Florian Stitz, Allison Theus, Tyler Walpole, and Eva Widermann

Number of Pages: 320

Game Components Included: Book

Retail Price: $39.99

Item Number: PZO1124

ISBN: 978-1-60125-467-2

Email: customer.service@paizo.com

Website: www.paizo.com

Reviewed by: Tera Fulbright

Geek Girls Gaming – Crossplaying Characters

I couldn’t decide what to write about in the first column of Geek Girls Gaming…I wanted it to be explosive and exciting, but at the same time I wanted to provide some relevant good content for readers.

I thought about talking about that whole Fake Geek Girl thing and how it relates to gaming, but I think that’s an entire series of its own posts.

Then I thought about reviewing Pathfinders new NPC Codex, which is fantastic…but I can’t really do it justice yet since I haven’t finished reading all the NPC’s.

So then I thought, ‘what about resources?’   There are a lot of us Geek Girls gaming and where (other than here) can we go for ideas, voices and choices?  But then that didn’t feel much like a real blog…

What I ultimately decided to take on was what our gaming group calls “crossplaying,” or girls playing guy characters (and vice-versa).  But since, currently, our gaming group only has girls’ playing guys…that is the direction we’ll take today.

Crossplay is technically defined as a cosplay (costuming in character) in which the person dresses up as a character of a different gender.   We’ve appropriated the term for our gaming group because we have several female players who will occasionally play a male character.

Since I don’t actually crossplay myself, I solicited the opinions of a few girl gamers that I know who do cross play.   I asked them the following questions:

1) What do you think are the challenges playing a guy character at the table?

2) What suggestions would you have for GM’s to make your experience more enjoyable when playing a guy character?

3) What tips do you have for other girls who want to play guys to make the character more “real”?

 

Here’s what they said, (my emphasis in bold):

From DC McQueen.

“1)    There are always challenges to playing a character well, no matter if same sex or crossplay. Playing a crossplay character of a different gender, I would argue, carries similar challenges to just playing any character well. Gender is a social construct, a set of boundaries set for certain genders appearance and roles. This is outside of sex assignment or sexual identity. When playing a character of a different gender, the biggest challenge is to make that character complete and not a stereotype of what you might think a man or woman might be like. A huge benefit is to be able to explore a different point of view, step into someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective. Other challenges may include other players forgetting that you are playing the opposite gender, or otherwise not taking it as seriously as you. I’ve never experienced a GM disliking crossplay, but that could also be a roadblock in game.

As for being a woman playing a man, personally, I find it rewarding to connect with my masculine side and easy to step into a masculine perspective shaped by appearance of the character and his history and his desires. This could be a big challenge for some, but I would encourage all women who game to try it. Playing any gender is still playing a living breathing personality, exploring that is the adventure.

2)      I would ask the DM simply to treat my character as he would if a man was playing him. There’s no difference to my character who is a man and me when we’re gaming. The frame of gender and sexual identity does weigh heavily on how people interact with others, but as a man playing a woman, I would simply ask that my character be tested as any other character would. Nothing else to be made more comfortable than anyone else at the table.

3)      If you want your character to be “real” then forget gender. Who IS your character? What are their motivations? What are their opinions and attitudes? This could be affected by their gender, or how their gender is treated in their society, or their status in that society. Does your character defy gender roles? If so, that’s a constant stress on your character, to either change or fit in or to try to revolutionize the way people think.
Men and Woman are very similar with individual differences. Think of playing a man like you would play a woman (as a woman playing a woman), just be a person, or a personality. Layer that core of truth with the trappings of gender and desire/ambition, status, hormones or what have you. We’re all people with differences. Crossplay, I think, opens one up more to really emphasizing with other genders and other perspectives. Not to mention creates some seriously strong bonds with your own characters. :)”

 

From “Chibizel”:

“Well, honestly, it’s just like playing girls.  If you’re thinking, “Oh it’s a guy. I gotta act all different and dude-like,” you’re seriously over thinking it.

A person’s gender is an intrinsic part of themselves, and their self-identity.  Thought patterns, brain chemicals, the way neural connections are made differ between men and women.  But, this doesn’t mean you approach the rp differently than for a character of your own gender.  You’re not playing a character and also a guy, you’re playing that character.  Being a guy is just a part of them, like being right or left handed, or having a preference for eggplant.

Mostly, focus on who the character is.  Since being male is part of that, the cross-gender roleplay should just follow on its own without having to stretch or constantly remember.  If you’re staying in character to him, then he (probably) won’t skip around and sing without you having to remember to not skip around and sing.  (Though I did once play a sarcastic goofball who did exactly that for a cheap laugh.)

Keep in mind, though, the culture the character comes from and the societal norms he has been raised to.  My night elf, for example, raised in a moon-worshipping matriarchal theocracy, can be “softer” than the hard-bitten mercenary leader.”

 

So really when it comes down to it, the basic consensus is to try to keep gender out of consideration when you are playing the character.  As a player, you want to focus your role-playing on the character as a person or personality.

As for the GM’s, treat the player as their character.  Try to remember that they are playing a male character and don’t have interactions with guys that would normally take place with other female characters.  No bartender flirting, for example, unless they swing that way…  Hmmm, there’s another post!

Before I sign off, I did want to flag one cool website…

http://www.gamingaswomen.com/ – This site comes recommended by Jodi Black (of Beautiful Brains, Books and Games).   The site describes itself as “a collection of thoughts on womanhood and (mostly) analog gaming.”   Topics range from gender roles to game design to advice and education.   Check it out!

So, that’s it for Post 1.  Let me know your thoughts and, again, if you have any suggestions on topics you’d like to see us take on, drop me a note.