First, let me say that unlike a lot of the blogs I post, this is not informative, but cathartic. You’re not going to become a better gamer from reading this post. It’s not a review of something cool coming out. This is something I need to write down, and I want to see what other people have to say about it.
I’m going to be real here, for a minute. Gaming as a kid was a source of fun, certainly, but also a source of great stress for me growing up.
I started gaming with some neighborhood friend’s when I was eight years old. I was hooked when my assassin won the friendship of a pet cat that changed into a panther three times a day (from Palace of the Silver Princess). I was excited to climb into my parent’s car to tell them about it. I was shocked when they frowned and said, “That game is satanic.”
It was 1985. This was both the height of gaming’s popularity, but also the height of the various Dungeons and Dragons Controversies which centered largely around the belief that it was intrinsically involved with devil-worship. Jack Chick published “Dark Dungeons” (viewable here,) which captures what many people though at the time. Most probably didn’t give it any thought at all, but just accepted it because their neighbor or minister said it was satanic, or they saw something on 60 Minutes about it.
Really, why or how that came to be perceived that way is irrelevant. The fact was, my folks seemed to believe, even if halfheartedly, that it was true. Strangely, they didn’t entirely keep me from pursuing it. They just didn’t like it. I struggled with that as a kid. Being really into something, and knowing that my parents, who I loved very much, thoroughly disapproved of it left me with a bit of a pit in my stomach sometimes. I’m almost certain they thought it was just another phase; a passing interest that would come and go just like other interests had in the past. They investigated it a little bit, and nothing obviously harmful seemed to come from it. But even into college, they discouraged me. To this day, I hesitate mentioning gaming to them, despite the 30 years that have passed since that first game.
I have children of my own now. While I showed my daughter the game when she was younger, she didn’t embrace it, and I didn’t push her to. My son, however, asked about it and pursued it, and recently asked to play “my game” and so, a few weeks ago, I decided to let him give it a try.
Perhaps because of my history, I’ve felt strange about children playing games… Felt strange in a way that shocked me… gnawed at me. I went to SCARAB a few years ago, and saw a group of children (ages 8-11) playing a ‘kids track’ series of games based on the Warriors by Erin Hunter. I’m not sure if it was the time of the day (the kids would have been playing for probably 4-6 hours by then) or the windowless room they played in, or just my history, but I felt bad for them. Sick almost. It felt wrong to have kids inside rolling dice and imagining adventures rather than outside and acting them out, if not living them. I recalled, however, that as a kid, I would have killed to have the chance to go to a gaming convention, and probably would have loved something that spoke to fiction that I loved and was familiar with. I went again to SCARAB earlier this year, saw a similar table with similar kids, and despite the obvious joy I saw on their faces, I felt uneasy.
With that as a backdrop, I began making a character with you 5 year-old son, using pictures from the book and summaries of character roles to allow him to make his choices. We used 5th Edition D&D which is classic and streamlined enough not to overwhelm him with choices. He went with a rogue, based on a picture of strong but secretive agent of some sort in a tavern early in the book. I ran through some feats, summarizing them and he picked one I wouldn’t have, but which turned out to actually be very good. I pulled something out of my head and we started playing.
I put a single ally, a priest, in his party and described them as old friends that had grown up together in their small town, and had decided to go off to check the ruins of a castle nearby, chasing rumors of gold and jewels said to have been lost beneath the old keep.
We fought some goblins, which he was a little timid about, but when he saw he could gain the upper hand, attacked with gusto. He tended to enjoy the idea of being unseen more than anything else, and greedily captured as much gold as he could before a mob of goblins chased him and his friend out of the dungeon.
I have a vast collection of Dwarven Forge, and so we were able to do this right. The encounters were three dimensional and all details were present, including a swiveling secret door. When we wrapped up, he begged me to continue, obviously having fun.
As a young boy who grew up into a man with reservations about D&D, especially as it related to his children, I felt mixed emotions as he pressed me to continue. In many ways, when I first became a father, I hoped to create my own little gaming group and share with my children all the things I had done and still hope to do. This moment was a realization of something I had contemplated for decades. It was an indescribable feeling (I can’t put it into writing… but numerous emotions, not all positive, tugged at me).
We played on. I finally crafted a final confrontation with the evil wizard commanding the goblins, adding an NPC fighter to balance out the small party my son was guiding. As the wizard stood to challenge the party and call forth zombies to march against them, my son surprised me.
“What do you want, thief? Say, before I destroy you.”
“I’m here to join you.”
“Hubba-wha?! You want to join me?”
“Well, then your first task is to slay your friends! HAHAHAHA!”
“Okay, I kill them.”
“Yeah, I kill them.”
“Uh…. okay, you chase after them, and they curse you as they flee the dungeon.”
“And, uh… you become a menace to the surrounding countryside, raiding and pillaging with your goblin companions, building the power and influence of the wizard you now serve.”
So… My son appears to either be a sociopath, or has the makings of a great game master some day.
He has pressed to play again, and we have revisited it but sometimes it becomes more about the setting and figures than about the game itself. He remains young for the game. But I still feel that hesitation, and want to hear what other parents have felt or how they have acted in introducing their children to games.
Monte Cook has kickstarted No Thank You, Evil as a starter RPG for families, and maybe something like that would be better suited (though it sounds like my boy needs a game called, “More Evil, Please” from his last game). There are a variety of second and third generation gamers that are introducing the next generation to the hobby, and various products that support that goal. Maybe I need to just get over it and let him play.
In the end, I think that exposure is good, but moderation is essential. This will start as an occasional thing and we’ll see where it goes as he gets a little older. The only thing I know is that I won’t be passing on to him condemnation of his interests, whether they be this or something else that I don’t fully understand, but instead will seek understanding myself and encourage him to be who he wants to be.
This week we conclude our examinations of the new classes and from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.
We are finally examining the new Unchained Summoner, one of the least changed classes. The summoner itself is basically unchanged except for the revamped spell list. Spells that were obviously out of place in the old version have been placed at higher levels, balancing the class out versus others of a comparable power level. The biggest change has been to the eidolon itself. Players now choose a template, such as angel or devil, that dictates its base form and gives a sort of cohesion to the eidolon and tie it to a game world better than some random smattering of evolution points. This template comes with several free evolutions, resistances and even class abilities (ex. agathions gain lay on hands at the summoner’s 8th level) in addition to the evolutions that eidolons already receive. Roleplay-wise, this is one thing that needed to be done.
The downside to this rebuild? Nothing. Or it should be if players did not want the older version. The new version fixes all the kinks and problems, such as the spell list and randomized eidolon parts, of the old version, but with the older version still around may mean the unchained version will stay in lower numbers for a long while.
The Unchained Summoner receives a grade of B+ because even though it sets everything right from the old version, players will still want the broken, over-powered version that appeared in the Advanced Player’s Guide. It receives the great marks from balance and role-play, but low on desirability.
Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a somewhat different type of build. We went with a build that uses the eidolon not as a tool of the summoner but more of a main character and the summoner taking the support role. We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on his name) and progression to level 8.
*** Loris of Almas ***
One of the most promising young orators and diplomats to come out of Andoran, Loris has long had dreams of becoming a great statesman. He was shocked to find that he had been chosen, some say by Talmandor himself, to become the liason of an avoral by the name of Gramann. Charged with presenting Golarion to Gramann, he has been trying to get his plumed obligation to see and understand the good and the evil of the world.
- Level 1 – Extra Evolution, Summon Good Monster
- Level 2 –
- Level 3 – Combat Advice
- Level 4 – +1 Charisma
- Level 5 – Extra Evolution
- Level 6 –
- Level 7 – Battle Cry
- Level 8 – +1 Charisma
Check out the other reviews of Unchained Classes:
This week we continue to examine the new classes and options from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.
We will examine the new Unchained Rogue today, probably the best revision to a class in Pathfinder Unchained. The new version takes the old version and adds several new features. The Unchained Rogue automatically gets the Weapon Finesse feat, finesse training with allows you to add dexterity modifier to damage with a single weapon, debilitating injuries (penalties or bonuses) to sneak attacks and rogue’s edge. The rogue’s edge is part of Pathfinder Unchained’s skill unlocks system which adds abilities according to how many ranks of a specific skill you have (Five ranks of Stealth reduces the penalty from sniping by 10). In Pathfinder Organized Play, this is special to the Unchained Rogue; no other classes are allowed to have this. By adding these four things the Unchained version of the rogue is so much better.
The only possible downside to the new rogue is the continued lack of armor class boosters. But for those who have played or are playing a rogue, those are not problems for you and you know how to overcome that with flanking and stealth. Honestly, it is not really a problem.
The Unchained Rogue has been made revised and upgraded beyond what many were expecting. With all of the new changes the rogue gets a grade of A+; all of the additions have made this class more attractive to play while keeping the versatility and abilities of the rogue that players are accustomed to.
Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a different type of build. We went with a build that uses a finessable two-handed weapon and combat maneuvers (trip or disarm). We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on her name) and progression to level 8.
*** Alyssa Denaria ***
Playing the role of the young, naive girl like an expert, Alyssa is able to accomplish many more things that if she was a hulking brute for the Pathfinder Society and the Exchange. Her subtle and lithe movements are calculated and she draws on her Varisian heritage to become an expert in reading the Harrow cards, a master of the beautiful dance and a wielder of a deadly bladed scarf.
- Level 1 – Combat Expertise, Improved Trip (or Disarm)
- Level 2 – Combat Trick (Agile Maneuvers)
- Level 3 – Piranha Strike
- Level 4 – Trap Spotter, +1 Strength
- Level 5 – Rogue’s Edge (Escape Artist), Twist Away
- Level 6 – Surprise Attacks
- Level 7 – Extra Talent (Pressure Points)
- Level 8 – Distracting Attack, +1 Intelligence
Are you happy with the new changes to the rogue? Let us know!
This week we will continue to examine the revamped classes and new options from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.
Today, we will examine the new Unchained Monk, one of the best revisions to a class in Pathfinder Unchained. The most outstanding revision is to the flurry of blows. It is now an additional attack at the monk’s highest base attack bonus as part of the full-attack action. It is much simpler to calculate than the older version. This version of the monk has a FULL base attack bonus and a higher hit die, making it more formidable and increasing its survivability in combat. Some of the higher level abilities (abundant step, etc.) that were part of the old version of the monk are now part of the selection of ki powers and not automatically given, adding some versatility to the class. There is a vast selection of ki powers, bonus feats and style strikes to push the versatility to the next level. Style strikes are new and they are abilities used during an unarmed attack during a flurry of blows that add an effect if the attack hits. There are elbow smashes, flying kicks and foot stomps and more that give some really interesting bonuses when attacking.
A continual issue with the monk is the lack of armor class. Even though a monk can add the wisdom modifier in with the dexterity modifier, it still is behind any other class that calls itself a front line unit. Of course to offset this you will need to supplement with rings, amulets, bracers, potions or even wands to obtain a decent armor class. The Will save will also need to be supplemented since the monk now has slow progression for that save (but not Fortitude or Reflex).
The Unchained Monk has been revised and upgraded beyond expectations to make the monk more viable and fun to play. So with all of the new changes the monk gets a grade of A-, with the only bad marks coming from the continual lack of a high armor class and a low Will save.
Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to show how much power the new version of monk actually has. We went with more strength than finesse and with the full base attack bonus, we were able to pick up some abilities sooner than as a regular monk.
How much power can this monk put out? At level 1, flurry of blows yields 2 attacks with the seven branch sword, a two-handed weapon. At level 3, flurry of blows + ki attack yields 3 attacks with the sword. At level 5, flurry of blows + haste + ki attack would be a total of 5 attacks (1. leg sweep style strike (unarmed damage); 2. if trip successful, triggers AoO attack with the sword thanks to Vicious Stomp; 3. flurry attack with sword; 4. haste attack with sword; 5. ki attack with sword.) At level 7, it could be 7 attacks (Greater Trip gives another AoO during the initial trip and the monk gets iterative attacks at level 6). When you reach level 8, you could probably solely use unarmed strikes (1d10+10+1d6 elemental fury) instead of using the sword. We included haste into the level 5+ attack scenarios because that should be available to the monk.
We (as always) provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on his name, Power Attack is already factored in) and progression to level 8.
*** Tamagon the Youngerman ***
When not inspecting the latest artifact brought to the Grand Lodge or teaching fighting techniques to his fellow Pathfinders, Tamagon dedicates his service in the Society to doing good in Absalom and beyond. Each one of the short L-shaped blades on his seven branch sword has a sin (of the Seven Deadly Sins) etched on it. His goal is to stop an instance of each sin every week, which he denotes by tying a ribbon on the corresponding blade.
- Level 1 – Combat Reflexes, Power Attack
- Level 2 – Improved Grapple
- Level 3 – Vicious Stomp
- Level 4 – Quiggong Power (Feather Step), +1 Intelligence
- Level 5 – Style Strike (Leg Sweep), Combat Expertise
- Level 6 – Improved Trip, Elemental Fury
- Level 7 – Greater Trip
- Level 8 – Abundant Step, +1 Strength
What do you think about the changes to the monk? Would you give them the same grade? Why or why not?
Check out our previous review of the Unchained Barbarian HERE.
I got a chance to play an intriguing card game over the weekend called Citadels from Fantasy Flight. It is a fairly balanced blend of strategy and randomness that I look for in board/card games. The goals is to build a diverse city as quickly as possible, while assuming different roles each turn that provide different abilities to give you advantages over the other players. Some roles like Bishop, Merchant, Warlord, and King give you extra income based on what districts you already have built in your city. Assassin allows you to choose a role that cannot act that round (murder!), thief allows you to steal the gold from a particular role, architect allows you to build multiple districts in a round, and draw more cards, etc.
The interesting mechanic is how these roles are chosen. Each round, the roles act in the same order, and whoever chose King the last round, picks first for the next round. One role is randomly removed and not available that turn. Once the current King chooses whatever role they want for the next round, they pass the cards to the next player. Once it gets all the way around to the last player, they can choose either the last card, OR the one that was randomly set aside by the king. Players can use logic, and what roles were available when they chose their role to try and figure out what others chose, but there is always a bit of mystery about who chose what. When the thief or assassin announce their targets, they chose ROLE targets, not player targets, making it quite entertaining to conceal your role, while still gaining a tactical advantage in building your city faster than the other players. More information can be found at this intro site.
I would certainly recommend picking this one up. We were playing with 7, but can be played with between 2-7. I would think this game would be better with more players rather than less to increase the amount of available roles and intrigue. If it is out of stock at your FLGS, take heart! According to the Fantasy Flight site, it looks like a restock is on the slow boat from China.