Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kingmaker

No, not that Kingmaker. I'm talking about the latest adventure path produced by Paizo for their Pathfinder RPG, about which I was informed this morning thanks to an email sent to me by the company. As everyone knows, I wish Paizo well. I'm very fond of many of the guys and gals who work there, particularly Erik Mona, who shares my love of all things pulp. Likewise, I'm forever in Paizo's debt for the Planet Stories line, of which I am a proud subscriber.

At the same time, I'm no fan of the Adventure Path concept, for reasons I hope I don't have to explain. I think the Pathfinder RPG is a very impressive piece of work, but it's not my cup of tea and I'm only slightly more likely to play it than I am to play D&D IV -- and that's not saying very much. However, "Kingmaker" intrigues me, I must admit. Here's part of what the email I received said:
We're very proud of Kingmaker, as it marks a new kind of Adventure Path for us. As always, there's an underlying story—this one involving a secret villain and a bandit lord and trolls and barbarians and missing villages and superstitious kobolds and drunk thugs and so much more—but how that story unfolds is going to be left in large part up to the players. In each of the six Kingmaker volumes, you'll find several quests for the PCs to complete. And don't be surprised if players make up their own quests as they explore the land!

Not only are we tackling a more nonlinear "sandbox" approach to adventure construction (which means that it's very likely your PCs will work through this adventure in a completely unique order), but as the Kingmaker Adventure Path unfolds, your PCs will settle towns, gather followers, raise nations, and fight wars. By the end of Kingmaker, chances are good that one of your PCs will, indeed, be king or queen of his or her own nation!

That sounds very much like something I'd enjoy, especially since each of the six volumes that make up the adventure path will include additional support for sandbox play, including "a new system to establish, develop, and expand a living fantasy community" and "streamlined rules to resolve mass combat."

I have absolutely no idea how easily these rules could be adapted to my preferred versions of D&D nor do I know if any of the volumes' other content would be of use to me. The free, dowloadable Players Guide to the series definitely piques my interest and the hex motif to the layout hits my nostalgia right between the eyes, so I am sorely tempted by this -- but I am also wary. I don't play Pathfinder nor am I likely to do so. I appreciate the virtues of its campaign setting and the way that the Paizo folks have managed to honor D&D's past while at the same time forging ahead with their own vision of things. Is that enough to convince me to plunk down $19.99 for each of the six issues of the adventure path? I really don't know, but this is the first product written for a contemporary rules set that I've considered buying in quite some time, so I may well succumb to temptation.

Anyone else know any more that might help me decide?

39 comments:

  1. I'm a happy Paizo subscriber - enjoying the APs as fodder for future games in the absence of a monthly Dragon and Dungeon. Some issues have fallen flat, but some have been uncommonly good. The first 6 really are instant classics and may eventually have me run the Runelords as an AP despite my preference towards sandboxy play.

    For Kingmaker - if it appeals to you, you could do worse than subscribe for that AP (dropping each issue down to 13.99 or so) and if you don't like it after the first one arrives just cancel. Cosmo / custserv will hook you up.

    Even if you never play it, the ideas might lead your home game into interesting directions!

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  2. Tim Shorts has volunteered to be our canary-in-the-mineshaft on this one. ;)

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  3. Pathfinder... I'd play the system if it had a motivated GM, but I wouldn't run it in a million years. That having been said, I am very intrigued by this. Wilderness, bandits, sandbox, nation-building... they couldn't have hit more of my favorite concepts if they tried. I must... resist...!

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  4. I want to believe, but at the end of the day all AP lead to a predetermined outcome, you can read the product descriptions of the other books and like all AP the third (fourth, fifth, and sixth) adventure is set so despite the claim of openness it sure doesn’t look like it will support players going off the rails. The first issue looks intriguing as a good wilderness style exploration, but “One and Done” might be my motto on this one.

    I actually have been enjoying the sandbox “Chaos Scar” adventures over at WOTC. All have been short, sight based, alignment free, plot light adventures, with only the loosest connections. No need to play them in any order, or visit every area, just a wilderness area with a bunch of short dungeons each adding a little bit of background, but nothing to force the players hand and no elaborate background, no overarching plot, just a valley filled with ruins and monsters.

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  5. $120 is an awful lot of money to spend on an if and a maybe. I spend that much on OSR products in a year and end up with a hell of a lot more than just 6 items. I'm curious, but not THAT curious. :)

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  6. Actually, of all the 3.5 variants system, I think I like Pathfiner the best: It's OGL, has a lot of on-line support and is very modular. That said, I'm not too excited by such things as adventure paths and prestige classes but they're an easy fix--don't use I'm.

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  7. The quality is uniformly high on these products, and even though I have a better chance of attending a furry con than playing an adventure path, I wish Paizo well. I've taken two strongholds out of the books (the Stone Giant stronghold by Wolfgang Baur and another mountain stronghold by Nick Logue) and adapted them, so I enjoy having the material out there. I'm very interested if the new adventure path is promoting a "true" sandbox or not, but either way I expect it will be a quality product.

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  8. I'll let you know when I get mine shortly from subscription.

    Personally its a great departure from the usual adventure paths. Here your exploring, and setting yourself up as your own rulerof the land you explore.

    If there was every one set that be worth your time, this is it. Might I suggest you pop over to piazo and check out their blog feature and do more reading on kingmaker for whats up there on it?

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  9. C'mon, roll the dice. How bad can the result be? >:)

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  10. "C'mon, roll the dice. How bad can the result be? >:)"

    I'd like to listen and search for traps, please. Also ESP. Just plain smart gaming.

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  11. I too like Paizo and many of the people involved with the company but to me Kingmaker seems no more or less interesting than anything else I've seen lately. Well ok, not being a D&D fan I suppose it is less interesting to me than say X-Plorers would be.

    Its definitely nice copy and makes it sound intriguing but my gut tells me it will be the same old thing often run the same old way.

    Let me know how it turns out for, as always, I'm hoping I'm wrong.

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  12. Is it just me did the guy on page 7used to be in the Village People?

    If nothing else, the Players' Guide is pretty neat with the build-a-town map at the end. Kind of a analogue Sim City.

    James, I think ideas and rules from this series could jell well with your continuing campaign as your players rise in level. Maybe check into the later issues of it.

    We're all still waiting for that rules-lite, Old School game, Paizo.

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  13. I'd love to give it to you. We talk about it at least once a week and I think about it pretty much daily at this point.

    I appreciate you guys taking a look at Kingmaker, even if you'll need to modify it a bit to fit your chosen system.

    We will do our best to make sure you are not disappointed.

    --Erik

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  14. Anybody know what level the starting pc's are supposed to be?
    I skimmed the free doc but dinna see anything. I may mash this with Morgansfort in a campaign i'm starting with new players.

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  15. I'd decide by reading your review. Oh, wait...,

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  16. I want to believe, but at the end of the day all AP lead to a predetermined outcome

    @sevenbastard - of course they could have setup with a predetermined end. But there are ways to present a series of products and still be a sandbox.

    For example they could be focusing on different lands in each product. Trying to detail a sandbox setting hex by hex can be quite time consuming.

    They could have a timeline of future events that occur if the PCs do nothing. That will require additonal detail that take up some page count.

    Plus some events may be plotted that PCs have no reasonable chance of foiling before they occur. For example the natural death of a ruler, or a barbarian invasion from beyond the frontier. All of these are fodder for additional detail and for adventures for PCs.

    This current series will be interesting and I am looking forward to what Tim Shorts has the say.

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  17. Rob,

    Like I said, "I want to believe". If your predictions are right I’ll buy it. If not please write it and I’ll buy it from you, because that is exactly what I want.

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  18. It's interesting that WotC come out with a new Gamma World and a 1983 edition of D&D4, while Paizo release a hex-crawl sandbox campaign. It certainly seems like both are trying to appeal to the old-school community, whether it be through nostalgia or play style.

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  19. As I said on the ENW thread, I've decided to go ahead and order Kingmaker #1 as a test purchase. I'm not likely to use it with Pathfinder so I'll be seeing how readily it converts to other systems - either Labyrinth Lord for online play or D&D 4e for tabletop play seem likeliest. Another factor for me is playing time - I only run at most about 20 tabletop sessions a year, and something that takes 45+ sessions to complete is probably too long for me. Likewise PBEM or (to a lesser extent) chatroom gaming is quite slow.

    The idea of running this via chatroom on Dragonsfoot using Labyrinth Lord/LL AEC seems very appealing though. :)

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  20. The mass combat rules, world-building guidelines and sandbox-nature of this do interest me, but I'll probably hold off in the hopes that this comes out in a compiled tome, like Paizo's Shackled City.

    If this were not a Pathfinder product I'd jump all over it but Pathfinder is far too rules-heavy for me.

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  21. @sevenbastard Appreciate the vote of confidence. I have some ideas on the topic but still figuring out the right mix of elements to make it work for OD&D and the style of gaming most of the OSR likes. But it on the list.

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  22. I prefer to roll my own and I build and play in my own sandboxes. I don't see any fun in DMing another's story and what about that cross-pollicatiin when everyone reads the same gaming materialsand DMs recycle the same old module maps?

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  23. My phone/connection lost my comment so I'll just post this:
    The new Hammerfast product for 4E has a hex map. Mike Mearls should be blamed for this.

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  24. I actually started back onto playing D&D with Paizo's adventure path materials. I've been running the first one "Rise of the Runelords" now for a couple years, in combination with the first adventure path modules from WotC for 3e (Sunless Citadel, Forge of Fury).

    Currently, my regular Monday group's rules-set of choice is Pathfinder: we started with 3.x, briefly tried 4e (the players recoiled with a "ooo that milk's sour" look on their faces), and now we're playing with the PFRPG rules, and having a lot of fun).

    My Wednesday night group has embraced 4e and we've been playing that for a good long time now (about a year, maybe). I've just started up a "parents n kids" Friday night group that's using 4e because it encapsulates encounters and does stock PC character management so darned well with the software.

    I'm not at all against OSR gaming: I rather like the idea. But I'm having great fun doing what I'm doing with PFRPG and 4e, and we'll move on to something else if that stops being fun.

    Part of the attraction of PFRPG (with Paizo's adventure path campaigns) and 4e is the compressed and efficient prep time required -- I have little doubt that this lets me play on Wednesdays and GM on Mondays and Fridays and get good fun out of all three nights. If prepping were more time consuming, then the time I spend playing, I'd have to spend prepping, and I've discovered over the years that I far prefer to be at the table and not noodling in the corner with pads of graph paper and piles of books. My memory of playing older versions of the game is that prep-time requirements were higher: I don't have the time, or, frankly the imagination to make it all up myself: the adventure paths provide me with a firm skeleton upon which I can layer clay, and this is great for me.

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  25. I want to want to buy the Paizo material, because the quality of the product is so high. Unfortunately, for an Old School guy like me, too much of it is taken up with feats/skills/spells etc - things I just don't need. So I've had to finally make my peace with the fact that Paizo makes awesome stuff that I don't need for the game I play.

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  26. S'mon, it is very easy to convert from Pathfinder to Labyrinth Lord, although as Matt suggests, you end up cutting a lot out.

    I've no experience of converting to D&D4, but I've played a 4e conversion of Rise of the Runelords, and the GM gave me the impression that it does require more work, although that was before the encounter/monster builder tool was released, which I'm sure makes things easier.

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  27. "C'mon, roll the dice. How bad can the result be? >:)"

    I'd like to listen and search for traps, please. Also ESP. Just plain smart gaming.


    A superb and illustrative couplet: well-played, both of you.

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  28. $120 is an awful lot of money to spend on an if and a maybe.

    Indeed it is, which is why I'm not likely to take the plunge. I can get quite a lot more gaming product that I know I'll use for that price. Heck, I could hunt down mint copies of out of print stuff from the old days for less than that.

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  29. Might I suggest you pop over to piazo and check out their blog feature and do more reading on kingmaker for whats up there on it?

    I have been, which is why I remain intrigued, despite my gut instincts telling me I shouldn't be.

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  30. James, I think ideas and rules from this series could jell well with your continuing campaign as your players rise in level. Maybe check into the later issues of it.

    That might be the best approach, honestly. The thing is Paizo is one of those companies I so want to support (and I do through my Planet Stories subscription), but I can't quite bring myself to do it in this case. There's too much about the adventure path formula that makes me twitchy and I don't play Pathfinder.

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  31. I'd love to give it to you. We talk about it at least once a week and I think about it pretty much daily at this point.

    That's encouraging. I'd dearly love to see Paizo produce a proper old school RPG one of these days. You've definitely got the talent and insight to do it properly and it'd be the kind of product I could wholeheartedly endorse.

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  32. It certainly seems like both are trying to appeal to the old-school community, whether it be through nostalgia or play style.

    In the case of Paizo, I know guys like Erik Mona and James Jacobs at least have been keen to stretch the format of the Pathfinder adventures to give us something more in line with old school sensibilities, so it's not some Johnny-come-lately nostalgia grab.

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  33. If this were not a Pathfinder product I'd jump all over it but Pathfinder is far too rules-heavy for me.

    That's my feeling somewhat as well. The other factor is that I suspect the rules material I'm interested in will be fairly small, while the rest of these six issues will continue tons of stuff I just won't use.

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  34. Part of the attraction of PFRPG (with Paizo's adventure path campaigns) and 4e is the compressed and efficient prep time required

    I hear this a lot but I admit to finding it odd. I run a weekly OD&D game and don't find it at all stressful in terms of prep time and I'm not devoting hours to planning each session. In fact, as my players can attest, most of my sessions are run rather haphazardly, with me rolling up the contents of rooms as the characters discover them.

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  35. Having flipped through the first pdf already, I can say it would be easy to convert the ideas to an older game. On the other hand, you probably already know how to do an exploration by hex adventure. If you wanted to run the adventure proper it wouldn't take too much effort to convert. You have stats for bandits, kobolds, and owlbears, right?

    I run pathfinder, but I actually plan on stealing ideas from this to use in an online Houses of the Blooded game. I think you could borrow a lot from the first couple volumes. My suggestion is browse through the books when they get to the local game store and see if it has enough for you to be interested. Or if you know you want to check it out, subscribe now and get print + pdf of the first few volumes at a discount.

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  36. [i]but I'll probably hold off in the hopes that this comes out in a compiled tome, like Paizo's Shackled City.[/i]

    Sadly chris you'll be disappointed. I think at piazo they said their running at or slightly above capacity and a complied book isnt in the cards. Even if it was, you'd still be waiting years as Rise of the Rune Lords would be first up as its OOP....

    As for the efficent and compressed prep time, its all in your familiarity and confort zone. If you have been playing old school, OGL, 4e or pathfinder enough you know what your doing. I've heard from some DM's that could run 3.x with little or no prep struggling with 4e, becuase its just a different dynamic then one is use to.

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  37. @james On prep time: different strokes for different GMs, obviously. I admit to a certain amount of paralysis without a fleshed out plot hanger to mount clothes on, and/or a set of reasonably easy to use balancing tools to construct encounters. This may mean that my GM skills are lacking, but I choose to look at it this way: the tools (crutches) perhaps work to elevate the game at my table enough to ensure a higher average level of enjoyment for all of us, and in the end, that's all I really care about. But I do recognize that old-school gaming in the hands of people with wads of experience and the joyfullness to improvise well can be quite powerful.

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  38. I dont know about the whole Kingmaker, but I just read through the first installment, and its pretty good, and probably worth the price to pick up this one.

    It gets you started pretty good at the outpost and exploring and a bunch of encounters, plus the main plot, which is pretty decent.

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  39. We are playing the first adventure in the series and it is an absolute blast.

    Put aside your prejudices and just pick it up... This is sparking ideas and possibilities for many campaigns to come and I can absolutely see the tools here used in those.

    That aside, the adventure is just good fun. This is what gaming should be.

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