Receiving playtest feedback: Unpub and more

I have three stories about receiving game feedback to share today: Two Unpubs and one blind playtest.

Unpub 3 in Delaware: Chaos & Alchemy


I learned last week, to my surprise, that my first game, Chaos & Alchemy, was available to try at Unpub 3 this past January in Delaware. As you may know, Game Salute is in the process of getting ready to publish Chaos & Alchemy, and they were apparently at Unpub 3 with games in tow, including mine. I had no idea it had been available there until this past week, when John Moller, the Unpub coordinator, mentioned that he had some feedback forms from Chaos & Alchemy from that event. How cool!

Chaos and alchemy001 chaos and alchemy002

There were only two forms, but the players seemed to get the game easily and to have a good time with it. My favorite was the place on the second form where the player mentioned liking the game, and listed “Random / dice games” as his/her least favorite type of games. If you hate random/dice games and you still enjoyed Chaos & Alchemy (which is very random and uses lots of dice), then it’s a good game. ūüôā

Blind playtest feedback: Alchemy Bazaar

I’m not going into a lot of detail on this one, but I sent a copy of Alchemy Bazaar to a friend in Florida for blind playtesting. That is, I sent a copy of the game with the rules and all of the components and asked my friend to try it with a group, without me providing any input beyond the rules as written.

Poster 2

There’s no easy way to put this; it didn’t go well. When I’ve taught the game in person, it’s been a big hit all around. But the blind playtest just didn’t work, and it was almost entirely because of the rules. Lesson learned: I need to get much, much better at writing rules. I’m working hard on this, and I’m confident that I’ll get the rules to where they need to be. If I have any blog readers who are interested in giving my updated rules a read-through and providing feedback, let me know in the comments! I’d love the extra set of eyes on the rules.

Unpub Mini Enchanted Grounds: Alchemy Bazaar

The most fun bit of playtest feedback I’ve gotten recently at Unpub Mini Enchanted Grounds, which was an event this past Saturday at my friendly local game store. I was basically the organizer of the event, as well as a demonstrator of a game. We had six games going at a time: five designers who were there for the whole six hours, and a pair of designers who traded off the first six hours and the last six hours (so, a total of seven games).

Things started off a bit slowly, and I played the role of host, talking to people who came into the store and shepherding them to games that they would likely enjoy based on their preferences. Eventually I got to start demoing Alchemy Bazaar, and had the chance to run a total of three games.

Alchemy Bazaar in action at Unpub Mini. Note the game board for my super-rough game Everest in the foreground.

Alchemy Bazaar in action at Unpub Mini. Note the game board for my super-rough game Everest in the foreground.

Two of those games were won by a guy who had first tried the game the week before at Tabletop Game Day. He liked it so much that he came back this week and played it twice more. Definitely a good sign!

The feedback forms from this event were very positive. One of the games ran a bit longer than I would have liked, and that was reflected in one of the feedback forms, but that’s fine; I can tweak the length easily enough.

Unpub Mini was a rousing success for all involved, I think. Lots of players came through the store to play lots of games. Some, like Mighty Heroes and the Monster Zone, were very polished in terms of production values and will soon be on Kickstarter. Others, like my own Alchemy Bazaar, were in earlier prototype stages, but still complete games. I didn’t get a chance to actually play any of the other games, but I at least got to talk to the designers and learn how the games work.

Frankly, I’m just happy to have met some other local board game designers! I think we’ll be getting together again in the not-too-distant future.

Dealing with feedback

Through this process, I’ve learned some lessons about productively dealing with playtest feedback. The positive feedback is useful because it tells you what elements of the game are working, so that you can be careful not to change those too much. The negative feedback is even more useful because it tells you where you need to focus your efforts. I’ll admit that I took the negative feedback hard and was feeling pretty down, but I eventually buckled down and fixed what was broken (or at least worked hard to fix it; I don’t know how fixed it is yet).

So, through it all I think I’m continuing to grow as a game designer. That’s the hope, anyway!

Michael Iachini, the OnlineDM

Clay Crucible Games

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Fiasco – first play session and review

My RPG career has consisted mostly of Dungeons and Dragons Fourth Edition, a game I love. However, I’m always interested in discovering new and exciting things. Having heard great stuff about Fiasco on the Jennisodes podcast and elsewhere, I decided I should check the game out. I paid my twelve bucks for a PDF of the game just before leaving for my cruise vacation a couple of weeks ago and then read the game for the first time while aboard the ship.

Game overview

Fiasco is a story game with no game master. The game begins with four six-sided dice for each player – two white and two black (although we used gold and purple in our game). All of the dice are rolled into a central pile, and then the players take turns choosing dice to let them pick from lists of Relationships, Objects, Locations and Needs for the characters that they’re creating on the fly. These lists come in Playsets, four of which come with the base game: Suburbia, Small Southern Town, Antarctica and Wild West.

At the end of this setup, each character will have some sort of relationship with the characters on either side of them, and each of those relationships will have a Detail associated with it (object, location or need). All the dice go back into the central pool, and the Scenes begin, with players taking turns.

When it’s your turn for a Scene, you can either Establish or Resolve. If you establish the scene, you describe what’s going on with your character in the scene and perhaps describe some conflict that the character will be working through in that scene. The players then role-play this scene at the table, bringing in the elements from the setup (relationships and details) as they go. At some point in the scene, the other players will decide whether the scene is going to end well for the main character, in which case they’ll give the player a white die from the central pile, or poorly, in which case they’ll give the player a black die. They’ll then play out the positive or negative outcome of the scene, and then the player will give their die to someone else (whoever they want).

If the player decides to Resolve the scene, then the other players decide what the scene will consist of, and the player in the spotlight will decide whether the outcome is positive or negative. They’ll take the appropriate die, play out the consequences, then give the die away.

After each character has had two Scenes, we get to the Tilt. Everyone rolls whatever dice they’ve collected so far (an average of two per player, but you could have anywhere from zero to six dice) and nets their white total against black. The highest net white total and the highest net black total will each get to pick an element from a Tilt Table: Crazy crap that will happen to the characters in the second half of the game.

The game then tells you to take a break and get a snack, talking about the game so far and where it’s headed. I like this rule!

You then move on to Act Two: two more scenes per character, working mostly the same as Act One. The differences are the Tilt elements, of course, but also the fact that the player who gets a black or white die based on their character’s outcome then keeps it instead of giving it away.

At the end of the game (two scenes per character in Act One, then the Tilt, then two more scenes per character in Act Two), each player again rolls their dice and nets white against black. The closer to zero your total, the worse the Aftermath for your character. You then take turns narrating what happens to your character after the movie is over, based on their Aftermath. A high white total or high black total will be a good ending for the character; low numbers are usually death or even a fate worse than death.

Our experience

Seven people showed up for games over the weekend, and Fiasco is not designed for more than five. So, three people who weren’t that interested in role playing decided to play Lords of Waterdeep while four of us sat down for Fiasco.

After I explained how the game worked, we passed around the play sets and decided on Wild West. A note here: Definitely print out the play sets with two pages on each sheet of paper. It’s plenty big enough to read, and then you only have four pages (one each for Relationships, Objects, Locations and Needs) instead of eight pages cluttering up the table during the Setup.

The ultimate layout for our Fiasco game. Tilts are in the middle of the table

My character’s relationships were Gamblers on one side and Criminal/Detective on the other, so it became clear that I was an outlaw. I decided to call him Pecos Pete.

The Detective to my left was Detective Stanton, a half-Chinese man from Chicago who was in Last Chance, Arizona – our made-up setting. Detective Stanton and Pecos Pete shared a Need to get away from an honest woman, ruined.

Stanton’s other relationship was Professional/Client, and we had established that Stanton was the professional detective. His client was the town sheriff, Sheriff McGinty, who had hired him to come to Last Chance to hunt down Pecos Pete. This relationship shared a location – the White Star Chinese Laundry.

Sherriff McGinty was a bit of a dirty cop, however, since his other relationship of Sheriff/Deputy was tied to a Need to get rich through fraud and trickery. He was working with his deputy to ultimately trick Detective Stanton into helping them defraud Pecos Pete out of his gambling winnings.

The deputy’s name was Roscoe, and he was trying to get rich along with the sheriff, but he was also a gambling associate of Pecos Pete. The two of us (I was Pete, remember) shared an object: A doctor’s black bag with and a jar of acid. Hm.

Act One saw the arrival of Detective Stanton in Last Chance and his first interactions with the gambling Pete and Roscoe, ending with him getting invited to a high-stakes after-hours game. We also saw the sheriff and his deputy, Roscoe, have a falling out after the sheriff learned that Roscoe was double-crossing and working with Pete to rob Stanton.

Stanton, meanwhile, ended up coming to the high-stakes game in disguise as Ling Wei, a Chinaman from the laundry who fancied himself a card player (but really had no skill). It was also established that the honest woman, ruined, that Pecos Pete and Detective Stanton shared a need to get away from was named Ruth. She had followed Pete from Chicago to Last Chance years before, and she had once been a lover of Detective Stanton’s.

Stanton closed out Act One with a jump ahead to a scene where he was standing over Ruth’s dead body in the laundry, hands bloodied. Deputy Roscoe came into the room, aiming to rob the detective, but instead stumbling upon the murder scene. Unfortunately for Roscoe, the Sheriff was also following Stanton, who managed to pin the crime on Roscoe. Poor Roscoe ended up in jail, awaiting trial for a murder he didn’t commit.

The Tilts introduced for Act Two were Innocence: Collateral Damage and Something Precious on Fire.

We began Act Two by establishing that Sheriff McGinty was going to try to get Pecos Pete to rob a government stagecoach for him, thus getting rich through fraud and trickery. Roscoe escaped from jail and switched Pete’s jar of acid with his sack of whiskey (I guess whiskey comes in sacks in Last Chance), without Pete’s knowledge. Stanton got stinking drunk after the murder of Ruth and decided to come and kill Pete, which failed miserably.

The sheriff hired some of his posse to act as snipers at the stagecoach robbery, killing Pete once he had taken out the driver and guard. Poor Roscoe came on the scene disguised as the sheriff – not knowing that the posse assassins were secretly associates of Pecos Pete and were planning to kill the sheriff on sight. Blam – dead deputy.

Pete managed to get onto the stagecoach and tried to use his acid to take out the driver, but since it was actually whiskey it ended up igniting thanks to a nearby lantern, engulfing the whole stagecoach in flames.

In the aftermath, things went badly for everyone. Pete ended up dead, having gotten only ashes of burned money for his trouble and then dying by acid when he tried to drown his sorrows in whiskey. Stanton ended up captured by Indians and tortured for years. The sheriff ended up dead, I believe self-inflicted, and Roscoe of course died in the final scene thanks to the double-crossing assassins and a poorly chosen disguise.

The review

Fiasco is an interesting game, and great for people who really love role playing. I think I had expectations that were a little too high, though. Our group isn’t great at role playing, so we struggled a bit. We still had fun and came up with a rollicking tale, but we had our awkward moments.

The whole game took us less than two hours to play, which was good. We kept our scenes short, and even had a few scenes that didn’t really involve role playing, just narration. This worked out well.

I was surprised to learn that my friends strongly preferred wackier play sets. I was expecting that we would start with Suburbia or Small Southern Town, but Suburbia wasn’t even considered. They preferred the zany settings. This was fine with me, but I wasn’t expecting it.

Overall, I’d say that I’m glad I bought and played Fiasco. I don’t think it’s going to be a game that’s in heavy rotation at my tables, since my friends seem to prefer killing monsters and taking their stuff rather than getting deeply involved in role playing. That’s okay with me, too, but it’s fun to play a game like Fiasco every now and then. I’d definitely give it another go sometime.

-Michael the OnlineDM

Madness at Gardmore Abbey – MapTool campaign file

At long last, I have finished putting together my complete MapTool campaign file for the Madness at Gardmore Abbey adventure. Huzzah! You can download it right here.

I’m pretty sure this is the largest MapTool campaign file I’ve built to date¬†(around 33 MB), and I’m quite happy with it. It has all of the maps, all of the monsters, all of the Deck of Many Things tokens, all of the traps. I’ve got a template token for PCs and a template token for monsters.

The campaign file consists of eight maps with encounters from the adventure, plus a ninth map that’s a holding pen for NPCs, the Deck tokens and some background stuff for the campaign (library token, templates). The maps are labeled according to the encounter numbers that are included on the map. For instance, the map named 01-04 Village has the encounter maps that take place in the outer part of Gardmore Village (Encounter 1: Main Gate; Encounter 3: Double Talk; Encounter 4: Ruined Garrison; plus the overland map of the abbey and the map of Winterhaven).

Because of the number of maps that are in this adventure, I’ve included Wolph42’s Bag of Tricks macros – specifically the Teleport Pads. To use these, you’ll need to click the “Back of Tricks Macros” button in the Campaign pane and then the Initialize Pads button. Once you’ve done that, you can drag tokens around the various maps by dragging them to the teleport pad corresponding to the map where you want them to go. The 01-04 Village map has the portals to every other map.

I hope that folks find this campaign file to be useful. I know that I’ve had a lot of fun with Madness at Gardmore Abbey so far, and I’m looking forward to running the rest of the adventure!

– Michael the OnlineDM

Dragons and tentacles and flying sleds – oh my!

I don’t write about my long-running Friday night War of the Burning Sky online game nearly enough. It’s time to correct that.

Spoilers ahead for EN World’s War of the Burning Sky campaign – specifically, the end of Adventure Six.

This past Friday night, I gathered via MapTool and Skype with my group for our regular D&D game. The party was at 18th level, and they found themselves high up  in a castle with a raging firestorm above it (which they had held back with a magic item). The top level of this castle contained a rift to a fiery plane. They were here in search of a powerful magical torch.

“Katy, bar the door!”

During the last session, the party had fought a legion of fiery undead soldiers and explored the rest of the top level of this castle, which was reachable only via a hydraulic lift. As this session began, they had finished most of their exploration, when they heard the lift start to rise. The wizard/swordmage decided to cast Arcane Lock on the elevator door. It takes 10 minutes to cast. Uh oh!

So, I began by asking everyone what they were doing while the wizard/swordmage was casting her ritual. Some were standing guard near her, while others were loading treasure and people into this magical flying sled they had discovered. At this point, a little halfling NPC who had seemed rather dumb for the whole adventure popped into the room through a wall and started animating a dragon skeleton. And wouldn’t you know it, the whole “dumb little halfling” look was an illusion; the creature revealed itself to be a tentacled monster called Deception (a trillith).

Let’s roll initiative!

The fight began with most of the party in or near the cart in the room with the Dark Pyre, while a couple of them were through the banquet hall and down the hallway leading to the elevator doors. The animated dragon and the tentacle monster rather neatly cut the party in half.

Now, keep in mind that most of the party was entirely out of healing surges at this point, with no significant daily powers left. Their goal was escdape: Use the magical flying sled to burst through a window-wall in the Dark Pyre room and fly to safety, all before whatever ba guys were in the elevator made it to the top.

Our brave dwarf fighter threw himself at the dragon to try to keep it at bay to give the cut-off characters a chance to get to the sled. Unfortunately, the tentacle monster phased through some walls and started dominating the swordmage.

I used the house-ruled version of Dominated in this game that I’ve been playing with for a few weeks (with great results in my opinion:

OnlineDM’s Domination

  • When a character becomes dominated (save ends), it immediately takes an at-will action of the dominator’s choice (including a charge, a move, dropping to the ground – or of course an at-will attack power).
  • The character is dazed. On its turn, it gets to take one action of its own choice, just as with a normal daze.
  • Whenever the character fails its end-of-turn saving throw against the domination, it immediate takes an at-will action of the dominator’s choice.
  • If the domination is not “save ends”, then the dominated character immediately takes the at-will action and then is just dazed until the domination wears off.
This way, the dominated character still gets to do some good stuff on their own turn, but they’re also potentially wrecking their allies at the same time (which, you know, is fun). It worked out really well, in my opinion.

“I teleport out the window!”

Anyway, after some near-blinding of the bad guys, the party made its way to the cart, with the dragon and Deception hot on their heels. The dragon’s breath weapon then tried to dominate a whole bunch of folks, including our genasi pyromancer. As a free action, he used a power that would remove him from play and let him reappear within 10 squares at the beginning of his turn – still dominated. He reappeared OUTSIDE the big window that the sled was going to smash through; this left him 100 feet off the ground, above an invading, hostile army.

He used his one action (since he was dazed, thanks to my domination) to swap in Feather Fall, which saved him from death, but put him on the giant bear skull sculpture above the castle entrance. Some of the army members were eladrin, who teleported up onto the skull with him. The pyromancer quickly surrendered, realizing he was in a bad spot.

Meanwhile, back up in the castle, the party expended tremendous effort to get the warlock’s hell hound pet out of the clutches of the tentacled Deception and into the sled. The swordmage/wizard Thunderwaved the monsters away and the dwarf rushed out of the cart, hauled the hound onto his shoulders (burning himself in the process) and rushed back in.

Our warlock hit the gas on the magical flying sled and smashed through the window-wall. Whee!

Someone asked, “Hey, does smashing through the wall cause rubble to fall down on the eladrin who’ve captured our pyromancer?”

Excellent idea! The rubble hit the pyromancer as well, and the sled spiraled down to a stop next to the captive. Some fast talking by the swordmage convinced the eladrin to hand over the badly-wounded genasi.

“Not without my wyvern!”

Only one problem remained: The party had left the dwarf’s wyvern mount tied up outside the castle when they came in, and poor Wendy was now trapped in a cage by the army. I decided this army was cruel, so I had a half-orc deal a killing blow to the wyvern, right in plain sight.

The PCs asked if they could fly the sled so that it would smash into the half-orc – oh heck yes! The evil soldier went flying off the edge of the cliff on which the castle was situated, plummeting to his death 1,000 feet below.


With the dragon in pursuit, it seemed clear that it was time to take off and fly away… but our fighter couldn’t just leave his poor mount’s corpse to the evil invaders, so he grabbed onto the cage.

“Where did that thing come from?”

No problem! But now the sled was flying at half speed, and the dragon was gaining on them. To make matters worse, it turned out that the tentacle monster had used a power when the sled was back in the castle that let him invisibly teleport into their midst on the sled, leaving an illusory duplicate of himself behind. And now that the sled was flying away with a huge cage full of wyvern body dangling behind it, a bunch of tentacles came out of nowhere and started grabbing the party.

Our swordmage decided to turn once again to Thunderwave, shoving the tentacled beast out of the sled – but oh crap, that thing can fly!

There was only one thing to do, with the tentacled Deception bearing down and the dragon coming on from a distance: Our fighter tossed the wyvern cage at Deception, sending the thing plummeting to its doom.

No longer weighed down by the cage, the sled was able to fly away (with our warlock keeping her pet outside of the sled itself so that it didn’t burn the whole party to death), seeking safety, an extended rest, and a level up to 19.

Whew! Have I mentioned that my players are awesome? Thanks everyone!

-Michael the OnlineDM

Madness at Gardmore Abbey: Session Four

Past sessions: Session One, Session Two, Session Three

This is the recap of my fourth session running the Madness at Gardmore Abbey adventure via MapTool and Skype for my family group. As always, SPOILERS AHEAD.

Sora the dragonborn swordmage (played by my wife), Homer the elf hunter (played by my brother in law) and Stasi the half-elf warpriest of Pelor (played by my sister in law) found themselves in the Temple of Bahamut on Dragon’s Roost, having just finished an extended rest under the protection of Sir Oakley. Upon their waking, Sir Oakley offered the party a mysterious object he had found hidden in a niche on the altar to Bahamut: An ivory plate that the party immediately recognized as a second card from the Deck of Many Things, to go along with the Key card they had found earlier.

This card had an engraving of three women – one young, one middle-aged, and one old (with a pair of scissors). Stasi was able to figure out that this represented the Fates. (Note that I’m running the game online and therefore am not handing out the physical cards; I like that the players get to puzzle out what some of the cards represent based on a description that I provide rather than getting to read the names on the cards.) Stasi agreed to carry this card with the other for the time being.

Having escorted Sir Oakley to the Abbey and having helped him defeat the enemies in the Temple itself, the adventurers agreed to help him find the three missing relics that would be necessary for him to perform the needed cleansing rituals. He didn’t know where these relics were, but he knew that they must be somewhere within the grounds of Gardmore Abbey. Sir Oakley ultimately agreed to accompany the group on their search (with a three-PC party, it’s nice to have a companion character along to help with the scaling of battles).

The group decided to start by searching the catacombs. Stasi the warpriest was itching to blast the heck out of some undead creatures (which have been rare in the Essentials adventures to this point). Coming down the stairs, they heard prayers ahead. Homer the hunter stayed back on the stairs while Stasi and Sora accompanied Sir Oakley down to investigate. They found a bunch of humans in armor praying around an altar of Bahamut.

Thus began Encounter 23: Altar of Glory. I’ll say right here that I totally screwed this up, because this was supposed to be the first encounter where my party was to meet The Others – the rival adventuring party. Oops. I forgot all about that, and I hadn’t prepared The Others in MapTool yet anyway. Major oversight on my part, but I have an idea of how I’ll fix this.

My other oversight is that I once again forgot to have the cards from the Deck do anything in combat, but that’s in part because combat was a little weird in starting. This encounter began with a skill challenge for the party to figure out what was going on with these knights praying in the catacombs. Sir Oakley joined in the prayers at the urging of the PCs. A religion check from the warpriest showed that the lead knight was making up some of the prayers as he went along, and the other knights were following his lead. They also noticed that the knights had their scabbards loosened and kept their hands close to their weapons, as though they were expecting a fight. However, they failed to recall any history of the Abbey that might be helpful in understanding the situation, and they twice failed to notice that the knights weren’t casting shadows.

Thus, the skill challenge was failed, and the knights attacked with a surprise round. It soon became clear that these weren’t actual knights – they were pale reavers disguised in the forms they once held in life. I loved describing the first attack, as one of the minions disappeared into a wall, reappeared next to a PC, and then reached for his sword, which somehow transformed into a long mane of hair as the reaver’s true form was revealed.

The fight was challenging with the surprise round and the good initiative roll from the lead reaver, but our warpriest finally got to Smite Undead on the lead reaver, and the group kept him pinned in a corner for much of the fight while they beat up his friends and later focused on him. Some surges were spent, but none were actually drained by the reavers themselves.

Examining the room showed that the altar to Bahamut could infuse a weapon with the one-time ability to deal fire damage, which Homer the hunter was all over. Sir Oakley helped him with the prayers, and the dragon heads on the altar came to life and bathed Homer’s bow in flames, which then died down, leaving the bow warm to the touch. This came in handy in the next fight.

One sarcophagus in this room had been pried open, and the skeleton within was missing its skull. Corruption emanated from this coffin, and the party was able to figure out that the corruption could only be cleansed if the skull could be returned. No skull was to be found in this room, however.

Onward to the east, then! The stone doors opened smoothly enough, revealing a room with a badly damaged ceiling. Roots from above had grown through the ceiling, creating a tangle that extended most of the way to the floor, stopping six feet above the ground. Stasi’s Sun’s Glow showed a good portion of the room, and the party could hear some shuffling footsteps in a far corner and a very faint sound of movement coming from another corner of the room near the ceiling (up in the roots). After Stasi and Sora moved into the room, the light revealed a mummy coming toward them

Encounter 25: Memorial Chamber was under way. Homer won initiative but delayed, staying back in the Altar of Glory chamber. The mummy moved toward the doorway and cursed Stasi, so that she would take necrotic damage every time she tried to hurt the mummy (a brutal but cool ability). Sora figured out that she could yank on the roots in order to bring the fragile ceiling down on the mummy, which worked like a charm (I decided that DC16 Strength would be for a minor action check and DC12 would be for a standard action). That mummy struggled for the next three rounds to free its legs from the rubble (immobilized, save ends).

Knowing that they had heard other movement in the chamber, the party was cautious about moving farther in. Too bad for them, then, when a swarm of rot scarab beetles stealthily crawled through the roots on the ceiling without attracting attention and then rained down onto Sora’s head. This was a wonderfully disgusting moment, leaving Sora the swordmage inside the swarm. Homer eventually jumped into initiative at the end of the round, after Sir Oakley told him that the mummy would catch fire if hit with fire, using Bahamut’s blessing from the previous chamber to light that mummy up.

At the beginning of round two, I remembered that I wanted to use the Deck of Many Things, and I decided later that I actually kind of prefer having the Deck manifest its power after the first round of battle. It feels artificial for the Deck to know exactly when combat is breaking out and to show up immediately; I like the idea that it responds to the stress of actual combat and then manifests.

In this case, the image of the Key appeared next to Stasi as a big glowing light. A minor action Arcana check revealed that someone standing in the Key square could use a move action to teleport 5 squares; pretty cool stuff!

Round two is also when the Flameskull revealed itself from behind a mosaic-covered wall on the far side of the room and dropped a fireball that enveloped three of the PCs plus the mummy and the scarab swarm. Uh oh! The new threat caused some major concern.

Eventually, Sir Oakley ended up charging into the chamber largely to get away from the swarm’s aura and to go after the Flameskull (and because I wanted to make the combat more dynamic than a chokepoint between two rooms). He was left to his own devices for a while as the PCs finished off the mummy and the swarm. Finally, the PCs came to help, rescuing Sir Oakley from unconsciousness and destroying the Flameskull.

When the Flameskull was defeated, the skull’s fires went out, leaving behind a normal skull. The PCs immediately thought – aha, perhaps this is the missing skull from the earlier sarcophagus. Indeed it was, and Stasi the warpriest returned it to its rightful place and used some healing magic to cleanse the corruption – in the process gaining Bahamut’s blessing and the one-time ability to breathe fire.

The Memorial Chamber was revealed to have a secret door to the north (the Perception check beat a 19, but not a 23), which led to a small room with three long-dead knights of Bahamut beneath a mural depicting the Platinum Dragon as a dracolich. Sir Oakley was able to explain that this was a private practice of some worshippers of Bahamut, and that it represented adherents steeling themselves to face death rather than worshipping undeath. Some searching of this secret chapel revealed two other doors leading to other chambers, three topazes that had been taken from the temple, and the fact that these knights evidently closed themselves in this room and starved to death rather than leaving. Interesting stuff. Having Oakley along at this point has been helpful.

From here, the party decided to go through the door on the west part of the north wall of the Memorial Chamber, which revealed a short hallway, beyond which was a room with a fountain – and a couple of skeletons.

Encounter 24: Font of Divine Health began with two skeletal tomb guardians arising and attacking. I once again had Sir Oakley get himself in the middle of things in order to create some movement. A blazing skeleton popped out from a niche to light Stasi on fire.

In round two, the Fates revealed themselves. The new card from the Deck manifested adjacent to Stasi, who boldly stepped into the light and understood that if she were hit by an attack while in the Fates’ square, she could force a re-roll of that attack with a -2 penalty. This power appealed greatly to Homer, the great chicken of the party, who camped in that square for several rounds.

Meanwhile, the tomb guardians were slicing and dicing all over the place, making effectively four attacks per round (a fun mechanic). Some skeletal minons revealed themselves, providing a flank for the guardians. All the while, the blazing skeleton kept burning things from a distance.

The fight ended with Stasi using a daily power, then finishing the final foe in a blaze of holy might. At this point, the mosaic of the head of Bahamut inlaid in the floor glowed brightly, and the whole party regained some free hit points. It was soon discovered that drinking from the fountain in this room would also regain some free hit points, plus grant some necrotic resistance. Good times; I love these alternate, short-term rewards.

Here we stopped for the night, with Homer and Stasi suggesting an extended rest in the secret chamber and Sir Oakley adamant that they must press on and find the holy relics. I hope they do press on; they’re not in severe shape just yet (Oakley is the lowest on surges by far). If they decide to rest in the secret chapel, so be it. It’s possible that their entrance has guaranteed that it will not remain secret indefinitely…

-Michael the OnlineDM

OnlineDM1 on Twitter

Next session: Session five

Madness at Gardmore Abbey: Session Two

Earlier sessions: Session One

My party of three recovered from their run-in with giant spiders in the feygrove of Gardmore Abbey and continued making their way toward the orc village. Before long, they came upon a spring populated by a number of eladrin warriors. The leader of the eladrin ordered his soldiers to surround the party, which they did via teleportation. The leader demanded to know who they PCs were and what business they had here.

Homer the elf hunter (played by my brother-in-law) quickly explained that the PCs had been sent by Lord Padraig of Winterhaven to scout the orc threat, and they meant the eladrin no harm. Deciding that enemies of the orcs couldn’t be all bad, the eladrin leader introduced himself as Berrian Velfarren and invited the party to come to the spring to join him in a glass of high-quality feywine.

Berrian explained that he had come to the region of Gardmore Abbey in search of his father, but that the trail had gone cold. Making matters worse, his sister Analastra had gone off on her own and hadn’t reported back yet. Berrian said that he would appreciate help in locating her, which the party agreed to do. Berrian explained that he planned to stay by the spring, trying to understand more about its magical properties.

Stasi the half-elf warpriest (played by my sister-in-law) talked to Berrian and examined the fountain and determined that drinking from it could give visions of the history of the region. Only Homer the hunter was brave enough to take a sip, and he experienced a vision of a valorous knight of Bahamut defending himself against an onrushing horde of ten orcs, slaying them all in swift order and emerging victorious. This vision of heroism left Homer with the ability to get some extra minor actions in a future battle.

The party then left the Font of Ioun and moved toward the orc village, eventually coming upon the sounds of struggle in the woods ahead. An eladrin woman was fleeing from a pair of displacer beasts, and the beasts caught up to her and knocked her to the ground, unconscious, as the PCs entered the grove. A dire stirge emerged from a nearby ruined bell tower, and the party moved to attack. Thus began Encounter 11: Bell Tower.

Since there are only three PCs in my party, scaling the battles down is always a little bit tricky. I decided to let this one be a challenge, and I only removed one dire stirge instead of removing a displacer beast (or a displacer beast AND a dire stirge). All I can say is wow, displacer beasts sure are annoying to fight! Rolling a 17 or 19 on the attack die and finding out that you missed is a major bummer.

I scaled things a little bit on the fly. I had a stirge go after a bloodied displacer beast. I had a surge die when it was knocked down to about 10 hit points, and I did something similar with one of the displacer beasts. I was planning on having the other displacer beast flee when it was badly bloodied, but the PCs REALLY wanted to kill that thing (it did eventually escape with 9 hit points). The battle ended with Stasi unconscious (but stable) and Homer only on his feat because he got a 20 on a death save. Whew!

After the battle, the PCs were able to revive Analastra, the fallen eladrin. She thanked them, but was clearly embarrassed to have needed their help. She asked them to come with her to meet her brother, whom the PCs revealed they had already met.

Berrian was grateful to see his sister again, and thanked the party by asking what he could do for them. They mentioned that they wanted information about the orcs, and Berrian obliged by telling them what he knew. He also let the party rest in his grove while his soldiers stood guard and Analastra regained her strength (an extended rest – they needed it!).

In the morning, Analastra escorted the party to the garden hedge maze that marked the end of the feygrove, from which point the party could see much of the orc village for themselves. They also noted the wizard’s tower, and the fact that the keep seemed to be the headquarters for the orcs, based on the foot traffic in and out.

As the adventurers made their way back through the feygrove to head back to Winterhaven, Berrian gave Sora the dragonborn swordmage (played by my wife, and the only PC to have made it through the displacer beast encounter without falling unconscious) with a Giantslayer Broadsword +2. Yay for Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium (the first time I’ve actually used the book).

Back in Winterhaven, the party settled in at Wrafton’s Inn and sent word to Lord Padraig that they were back and ready to report. Padraig came to see them in the inn, and they showed him the map of the orc village they had created with their notes about the strength of the orc troops. I asked the party if they were telling Padraig about the eladrin the feygrove, and they said no.

Padraig expressed dismay at the size of the orc force and said that he would need allies in order to chase off the orcs. Still no mention of the eladrin. He asked about the wooded area on the map. Still mention of the eladrin.


Padraig did at least note that the wizard’s tower the party had seen would probably be of interest to Valthrun the Prescient. He also paid the party some gold as a reward for their scouting report.

After Padraig left, the party was approached by a paladin in full-on shiny armor with the device of Bahamut prominently displayed. He introduced himself as Sir Oakley and said that he had heard that the party had been to Gardmore Abbey. He explained that he was a direct descendant of Gardrin the Hammer, founder of the Abbey, and that he wanted to cleanse the Abbey of evil and set it as a beacon of good in the world before he died. ¬†Also, he knew of a secret stair that would lead straight to the top of Dragon’s Roost, bypassing the orcs. He asked the heroes to help him, and they readily agreed.

They stopped off to talk with Valthrun before leaving town the next day, and he was excited to hear about the tower. He’d been researching the Abbey in the week the party had been gone, and he asked them to be on the lookout for a book bound in white dragon scales, which his research indicated had been owned by the last wizard to use the tower before the fall of Gardmore Abbey.

Thus ends session two. I hadn’t put together the encounters on Dragon’s Roost in MapTool yet, so we had to cut things a little bit short. We should be able to play again before the end of 2012.

Next session: Session three

Madness at Gardmore Abbey: Session One

At Christmas 2010, my wife’s brother and his wife came to visit us for a couple of weeks. During that time, I introduced them to Dungeons and Dragons, and they were hooked right away.

We started off with a Living Forgotten Realms module I had run at my friendly local game store, and they wanted to know what came next. So, I spent the next day crafting an LFR-style adventure that was the sequel (I really should post about my LURU 2-3 sequel one of these days – Deeper Into the Crypts). I ran it that night, and they loved it. I ran them through two or three more adventures that week before they had to go home. Good times.

Once they were back in Texas, they wanted to keep playing. No problem – MapTool to the rescue! I had heard such good things about Reavers of Harkenwold that I decided to run them through it next, followed by Cairn of the Winter King.

Now that we’re on the standard post-Essentials adventure path, I figured I might as well go with the next adventure: Madness at Gardmore Abbey. I got the box months ago, read through the first two books, and started building monsters in MapTool. Once we figured out when we’d actually be able to play again, I re-read the books, formatted the maps from WotC to fit to a 50 pixel grid, and put a few more monsters together. I randomly determined the positions of the cards from the Deck of Many Things and all of the consequences of those positions. And now, off we go!


Session one began with the party in Fallcrest, relaxing after their voyage to the Cairn of the Winter King. A messenger from Winterhaven rode to town, seeking the adventurers whose reputation was growing as problem solvers. Her name was Elaine (though no one asked). She knew the party by name: Sora the dragonborn swordmage (played by my wife), Homer the drow hunter (played by my wife’s brother) and Stasi the half-elf warpriest (played by my sister-in-law). The messenger explained that Lord Padraig of Winterhaven had a bit of an orc problem that needed solving, and his regular troops weren’t up to the task. He’d heard good things about the adventurers, and decided to send the messenger to hire them.

Being the easygoing, “Where’s the next fight?” group that they are, they eagerly agreed to travel with Elaine to Winterhaven. Lord Padraig had arranged for the party to be put up at Wrafton’s Inn at no charge during their time helping the town. They tried to catch a whiff of rumor about the orcs from the patrons who were there in the early afternoon (Rond Kelfem, Valthrun the Prescient, a few peasants and of course Salvana Wrafton), but their Streetwise was lousy. So, they waited for Padraig to show up.

The Lord came to the Inn around dinner time, and waved for Salvana to bring him his regular mug of ale. He bowed slightly to the party with a few words of flattery and asked to sit with them. He explained the orc problem and what he wanted the group to do (the Scout the Abbey quest from page 8 of book 2). Again, they readily agreed.

After Padraig left, the group tried to pick up some more information, which they got from Valthrun and Eilian the Old at a corner table. They learned about the sacking of Gardmore Abbey 150 years prior and the orcs who lived there ever since. Eilian had seen the ruins as a boy, but never ventured too close. Valthrun expressed interest in the grounds – surely there must be some intriguing mysteries within. He asked the party to let him know if they found anything mysterious.

And with that, they set off to Gardmore Abbey. After three days’ travel, they arrived at the place where a path left the King’s Road to head up to the wall around the abbey’s hill. Their keen eyes spotted some orcs manning (well, orcing) the guard towers by the main gate, so they decided to head south, where trees could be seen on the opposite side of the wall. Finding a gap in the wall, they decided to head on through.

At this point, I decided they needed a fight, so I tossed them into encounter 9 against the spiders (even though they weren’t coming at the Feygrove via the village). The three of them fought off five deathjump spiders without trouble.

During a short rest after the battle, the adventurers noticed an armor-clad skeleton tangled up in some webs in the trees. Armor might mean treasure, so they climbed up and cut the body down. They were able to figure out that this was the body of a paladin of Bahamut, and in addition to a faint magic aura from the paladin’s sword, they also discovered a thin plate of ivory, about the size of the palm of a hand, blank on one side, and with an etched image of key on the other side (which I described as being similar to scrimshaw). Stasi, the Arcana-trained warpriest, was able to figure out that this was a card from the Deck of Many Things, a legendary artifact known as a force for chaos in the universe. She was also able to determine what effect the Key card would have in battle. Intrigued, she decided to hang onto the card.

And thus ends session one. I’m excited about how things have gone so far. It didn’t take much encouragement for my group to decide to check out the Abbey, and now they’ve found one of the cards of the Deck of Many Things. They’re in the Abbey to scout the orcs, but have taken a circuitous route to get there – and that’s okay! Madness at Gardmore Abbey allows for a lot of freedom, which I appreciate.

Now I need to put some more encounters together – I only have 1 through 14 done!

Next session: Session two

Pathfinder session #2: Fun but fiddly

Last night was the second session in the ongoing Pathfinder campaign I was fortunate enough to be invited to join. As a player who knows D&D 4th Edition well but who’s still learning Pathfinder, it continues to be an enlightening experience.

The GM for the game is awesome, and he’s the reason I jumped at the chance to play (it’s not like I have an overabundance of free time – I’m running a lot of games right now!). We’re playing the Rise of the Runelords campaign path, which everyone tells me is a great adventure (and I agree so far). My character is definitely a real character – Father Beren, a gypsy cleric of Desna (goddess of luck and travel). Kind of a grim hippie. He’s developed in part because of my thinking and writing about a back story and in part because of awesome work by the GM to mention how various things in the game affect him (seeing horrible creatures and places devoted to the god opposed to Desna is repulsive to Beren).

The other players are fun, too – two of them in particular. One is a pensive traveler from afar (a druid with a cat companion) and another is a dwarf with terrible luck who decided to toss his crossbow in the fire at the inn because he was so frustrated with it. Our awesome GM played out a scene the next day where the dwarf went to a weapon merchant to buy a new crossbow. He first swapped a magic dagger for a magical repeating crossbow, but he does not yet have the right feat to use such a crossbow. So, the dwarf asked if the merchant had any regular crossbows for sale. Sure enough, the merchant had just gotten one in the night before… and he pulls out this fire-blackened crossbow that the innkeeper had apparently rescued from the fire after some crazed dwarf had tried to burn it. Classic.

I’m obviously having lots of fun, but it’s due to the other people around the table. What about the system itself so far?

Well, Pathfinder is way more fiddly than 4th Edition. It’s more simulationist while 4e is more gamist. And so far, I think I like my games to be more gamist. The crossbow-wielding dwarf has had such a hard time hitting monsters in part because he’s always shooting into melee, which imposes a steep penalty on the attack until he can take a feat to get around that problem.

Another PC grappled an enemy at one point, which led to a lot of rule lookups. Making and sustaining the grapple wasn’t too complicated (the PC made an attack using her Combat Maneuver Bonus – CMB – against the target’s Combat Maneuver Defense – CMD), but once the monster was grappled we had to do a bunch of searching for the changes to the monster’s attacks and defenses, and oh yeah, there’s a dexterity penalty, so that’s an extra penalty to defenses… or wait, was that already included? Sigh.

I also miss power cards from 4e. I’m not used to using books at the table, but in Pathfinder you have to constantly refer to various books to look up your spells. I suppose you could print them all out on a few pages, but you have a lot more spell choices in Pathfinder. It’s a good thing and a bad thing.

I’ll admit that I’m kind of digging Vancian magic in certain ways. My cleric currently gets:

  • Three first-level spells per day
  • A domain spell
  • Four different orisons (minor at-will spells in 4e parlance)
  • The ability to channel positive energy seven times a day (minor healing or undead fighting)
  • The ability to call on the luck of Desna five times a day (a great ability)

It’s kind of cool to be able to choose those three spells and the domain spell each day, plus occasionally tweaking my orisons. For instance, we encountered a temple to an evil god in which was a small basin of horribly unholy water. Beren wanted to destroy it, but he didn’t have Make Holy Water prepared. So, the next day he prayed to Desna for that spell and came back to start destroying the water. That’s some nice flexibility to have.

I’m also getting used to the fact that I don’t have at-will powers like a 4e cleric exactly. On his turn Beren will either attack something with my starknife or he’ll cast a spell to make his team more effective; not both. I don’t mind playing a support class, because Beren is a pretty great supporter.

I do think that the change to Fortitude, Reflex and Will as defenses in 4e rather than saving throws makes things easier to follow (it’s fiddly to figure out the DC of a saving throw against various abilities), though it leads to interesting situation where ongoing poison, for instance, requires a Fortitude saving throw each turn until you fight it off. Honestly, the 4e saving throw (get a 10 or better on a d20) is a lot simpler and easier to use, though less simulationist. I’m okay with that.

I’m looking forward to continuing to learn Pathfinder and playing with my awesome fellow players and GM. I’m having fun, and I’m reserving judgment on the game until I’ve been playing it for many months and feel like I have some measure of system mastery as I do with 4e. But so far, I think I’m learning that I’m fine with more abstract game mechanics if they make the game go smoothly, and I think 4e does a pretty good job with that.

My players are awesome

I don’t spend enough time writing about my Friday night game. I’m OnlineDM after all, and this is my long-running online game. We’ve just passed our one-year anniversary of playing together. How cool is that?

Anyway, we weren’t able to play for the past two weeks (it felt like forever) because I had other plans on a Friday night and then I had to work late the next week. So this week we got the band back together – six of the seven players were able to make it (though one had to drop out about 40 minutes before the end of the session).

I had done a fair amount of prep work for this session over the past couple of weeks, and then realized in the 30 minutes before we started that there was a whole aspect of tonight’s session that I hadn’t prepared for. I threw that stuff together partly in the few minutes before game time and partly on the fly during the game, and it worked out just fine.

We’re running the War of the Burning Sky campaign saga from EN World. We’re currently in the fourth adventure (spoilers follow). The party had recently helped a noble win a war against his own king who was trying to destroy him. Tonight, the party traveled with the noble to the king’s capitol to talk about peace. They were wary but went along to protect the noble against any funny business.

The peace accords were celebrated with festivities – jousting, food, games, spelldueling, fireworks, etc. These would ultimately be followed by some treachery and combat. I had prepared the treachery and combat. I hadn’t prepared the jousting and spelldueling, so I threw those together quickly.

For the jousting, I drew a quick jousting ring (wood for the border, dirt for the center of an ellipse) and used an existing knight monster with a lance as the opponent. For the spelldueling, I took advantage of my new quick monster creation tool (what a lifesaver!) and whipped up an opponent. While the party talked amongst themselves later, I whipped up a second opponent, based on the first. It worked out great.

The party began with the fighter entering the joust. I ran the first round as an event that started on horseback and finished on foot. That was a mistake – the on-foot part was boring and dragged way too long. When I ran a second round later, I changed the rules so that becoming unhorsed would end the joust (which I ruled would happen when someone took a total of 25 or more damage). That worked much better (even though the fighter lost that round). I think the adventure is supposed to include detailed rules for jousting, but I couldn’t find them.

After the first round of the joust, the party explored the festival. They ran into a halfling cook arguing with a man who clearly didn’t appreciate how special the halfling’s food was. They calmed the halfling down, and he revealed that he was Randas, head cook in the king’s castle, and he was royally pissed at being told to clear out of the castle and cook outside at the festival. Rylos the cleric calmed him down and enjoyed an absolutely amazing bowl of soup. Randas became a favorite, at least of Rylos.

A shell game in an alley followed, in which our sharp-eyed elf seeker was able to follow the coin quite easily. Then we moved on to spelldueling in which the wizard/swordmage and the warlock in the party both vanquished their first-round foes. The other PCs cheered them on.

The good-natured thief in the party joined a game of horseshoes and taught the old man running the game how it was done, earning a round of beers for his skill.

Coming back by the halfling cook’s stall, the party found it empty with some guards clearing it out. The guards didn’t know where the cook was, so the party went on a mission to find him. They tried to talk their way into the castle to talk to the guard captain about the missing halfling, but utterly failed, insulting the head gate guard (Merrick) in the process. They tried again later, with the plan being that the thief would sneak in if necessary, and a better bribe got them the access they wanted. The guard captain told them that the cook had been disturbing the peace and had been locked up for the night to make sure he didn’t cause trouble. The PCs were satisfied with this and left.

Back at the spelldueling area, the warlock and wizard/swordmage had faced off against one another with the hybrid coming out on top. She then faced another spellduelist for the championship and lost in awesome fashion. The hybrid opened up an Arcane Gate leading out of the arena and tried to push the spellduelist through it with Thunderwave. She missed, spent an action point, cast another Thunderwave… and missed again. Whereupon the spellduelist walked around her (opportunity attack missed) and cast a spell that pushed the hybrid through her own Arcane Gate and out of the arena, thus costing her the duel. I felt a little bad that she lost in that way, but it was actually a really cool finish to a cool battle.

Some fireworks soon distracted the PCs; the alchemist who was setting them off asked for help in getting more supplies, as his normal alchemy supply houses had been shut down for a special project for the king for the past three days.

A “test your strength” hammer game proved irresistable for the dwarf fighter, who completely missed the target with his first swing (a natural 1) but shoved the cleric out of the way to take another turn, winning a stuffed polar bear toy that he soon gave to a small child (too sweet!).

While the party watched the action at the hammer event, a dwarf emerged from the crowd to surreptitiously pass on information about some fishy goings-on at the castle. They shared the information with their noble patron, who asked them to investigate. He was on his way to a royal banquet.

Here’s where things went off the rails. Rather than investigating by following the suspicious trail into the castle via the sewers, the party decided to go investigate the closed-up alchemist shops. Improvising completely, I had them go to the alchemy district where the shops were all closed up. They broke into a shop and ultimately found some ledgers that documented big deliveries to the king… for ingredients that could be combined to make a poison that would cause insane, murderous rage.

Uh oh. Time to run back to the castle, where the banquet was in progress. They debated whether to fight through the front gate guards or sneak in through the sewers before finally realizing that they were invited guests and just needed to talk their way in. Easy enough.

The dwarf fighter had grabbed some powder back at the alchemy shop that he believed was flash-bang powder, but knowing nothing about Arcana he wasn’t really sure. He was so excited to burst into the banquet hall and throw down the powder that I just ignored any possible resistance from the guards in the hallway and had him toss down the powder…

Which turned out to be stink powder, enveloping the group in a nasty stink bomb. Feeling that there was no way I could top this with a mere combat, I decided to call it a night at this point.

So, in the end, we had no real fights (just some jousts and spellduels) but all kinds of fun adventures and some advancement of the plot. My players were awesome and creative, getting into the role playing and character interaction and… well, I just can’t say enough good things about them. They clearly had a good time, and I had a blast. I’m really excited about next week’s game!

My first Pathfinder game

Well, it’s official – I’m a Pathfinder player!

No, I haven’t abandoned Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition; that’s still my main game. But I was invited to join an ongoing Pathfinder campaign run by a guy who I know to be a fantastic game master, so I took it as an opportunity to learn a new game.

I’m playing Beren, a human cleric of Desna, the goddess of luck and travel. The way the character came together was sort of funny. I was invited to join a game in a campaign world I knew nothing about. I read through the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and thought that cleric would be a good class for me to play. In looking at the various domains, I liked the luck and travel features of Desna and thought one of her clerics would provide some fun role playing opportunities (she’s very free spirited), so I rolled one up.

Then the GM provided the campaign guide (Rise of the Runelords) and it turns out that there’s a race of humans called the Varisians who are basically gypsies and who commonly worship Desna. Well, that’s an easy fit! So, Beren is a gypsy (although he’s somewhat adrift from his people and has been assimilating into non-Varisian society for several years).

It also turned out that the first session started with a dedication of a new temple of Desna in the town of Sandpoint, so my cleric was very well received. Hey, go with the flow.

The game itself was fun. We fought off a bunch of goblins attacking the town, became known as heroes, went on a boar hunt, got appointed as temporary town guards, and are currently investigating a glassworks that’s been invaded by goblins.

The role playing has been great. We’re all still getting to know our own characters, let alone one another’s, so it’s a slow process, but coming along nicely. The GM continues to be awesome, really bringing the NPCs to life. We made a lot of progress in the adventure itself, with four separate combat encounters already down and the plot beginning to unfold.

Combat is similar in a lot of ways to D&D4e, though there are certainly differences I need to keep in mind. I’ve accidentally cheated at least a couple of times by forgetting that every other diagonal square that you move in Pathfinder costs an extra square of movement. I’ve had to get used to the fact that the cleric’s most useful activities typically replace an attack (doing some healing, making someone’s next attack better) whereas in 4th Edition those things tend to be in addition to making an attack. I’ve gotten the feeling that I’ve probably screwed something up in making the character (he only has 8 hit points at first level, and the other characters seem to have a lot more), but I’m still having fun with him.

So far, I think I’d say I enjoy 4e as a game a bit better, but playing with a great GM is worth it for any system. Pathfinder is kind of fiddly compared to 4e, but it’s more “realistic”. I’ll definitely give it a nice, long try and I’ll have fun doing it. But so far if I had to pick just one game to play, I’d lean toward 4e. We’ll see how my opinion evolves as I get a better understanding of the Pathfinder system and more games under my belt.