Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Black & Blue Box Bash

This last weekend I ran the Pathfinder Beginner Box Bash at Legends up at Vallco in Cupertino and it was a blast!
Although most of my RPG crews already have most of the books and play regular weekly games, I recommend this box to anyone.

First, perhaps the breakdown from "the Golem's mouth"

So yeah. All sorts of goodness in one box that costs less than the core book itself. And for those of you too lazy to watch the vid, here's a breakdown of the enclosed:

"Hero's Handbook:" Basically a shorthand style handbook for the players, with a cool "choose your own adventure" style setup at the beginning for those who cant wait to get rolling. Everything you need to roll a level one toon and buy gear with a some note son how combat & skill checks work.
For Experienced Pathfinders: Great quick reference for some more basic gear and mechanics. Lots of "shiny" inside. One customer said it reminded him of the old video game "Strategy guides" and that was enough alone to sell him on the box.

"Game Master's Guide:" A little thicker than the "Hero's" book, but understandably as it has all then bare bolts on how to run a game, make a game, a mini-bestiary in the back (all the monsters that have representation on the cut-outs below), and the main scenario to get players started on the road to Pathfinder table top gaming.
For Experienced Pathfinders: This little guy is a great quick-cheat book for forgetful GM's like myself, as well as it doubles as the scenario booklet and will probably stand up to more abuse than the usual one shot folio.

Double Sided Battle Map!: On one side, standard 1x1 square grid with generic yellow/tan mottled backdrop on which you can draw anything. I actually managed to fit all four scenarios for the bash on the one mat with the exception of a long pathway. I "dropped" one row from the map and it worked fine. The other side has the entire map for the "in box" scenario dungeon and I know I will definitely use it in the future as "generic dungeon X." You know how there are basically 5 different underground layouts in most MMO's? Yeah, like that. Also, as a total layout, I really like it's rooms, fixtures and dimensions. I know I could probably run it a few times without my group knowing it was the same map if they didn't have it sitting there in front of them. It is a stiff laminate board/paper/stock so it might not last as long as some "better" vinyl mats, BUT, I used a dry erase marker on it and it took fabulously and erased without a trace. I haven't used wet erase on it yet but it is designed to use "any marker."

Set of Dice: red, plastic, tumbled set of dice includes 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d"double-ot," 1d12 & 1d20. Hey, who doesn't like more/new dice? Need I say more?

Blank & Pre-Generated Character Sheets: The fighter Valeros, the rogue Merisiel, the wizard Erzen, and the cleric Kyra. Whom most of us might be familiar with from the majority of the art work or even the Society Pre-gens. Though they are not "built well" for many power gamers standards they are built CORRECTLY, as in according to Society rules and with some balance and flavor. They have cool breakdowns ON the character sheet to help explain everything to a new player so it can be decoded for noobies. Then, if they so desire, the blanks can be used to create their own characters in a simpler form than the standard PC Sheet, allowing a smooth transition into "classic" Char sheet layouts later.

Cardboard Cut-Out Miniature Token Sheets: As I have not yet fully committed to miniatures and play-mats, BUT HAVE decided to invest in some in the near future, these little guys are great for players like me who have not yet gone "whole hog" into the 3D representation but do enjoy having it as the 3 pages include male & female selections of every combination of dwarf, human, elf, fighter, rogue, wizard & cleric. THEN, it has a variety of creature's straight out of the "GMH" above, with enough of each to run the "in box" adventure. They're not just chinsy paper pieces that you have to fold the feet back & forth, these are sturdy, almost 16th of an inch thick, stock with more than enough plastic slot bases to stand them all up without having a cool breeze knock them over.

And of course, some standard propaganda for other Pathfinder products for those who wish to expand their game, as well as a "start-up" sheet that sits just below the dice, the pawn bases, & the battle mat, that breaks down exactly how to proceed no matter who opens the box and how many people are present.

So what? Who cares? Is it worth my time? My short answer, yes. Lets break it down a little further.
How much would I pay for that battle mat alone? 10-20 dollars. a set of dice, even cheap one's. peice meal, 5-15 dollars. cardboard miniature cut outs with plastic bases, "out of nowhere number if one were to buy the stock, print them out, cut them out, go to an arts & crafts store and buy the plastic bases scenario" $5 min?
Even if you are like me and already have a bunch of the books and are playing 3 games a week or more JUST in Pathfinder rule set, that's a $20 - $40 value on those items alone.
AND, if you're anything like me and are constantly pushing table top RPG's onto everyone you meet, having a more "board gamey" version to get people started with makes fantastic sense as opposed to scaring them with a dozen $30ish tomes and countless scribbled upon print-outs. Or, as described above, having short cheat books + a module for quick & easy gaming can get some SERIOUS use.
But WAIT, there's MORE. If you head to Paizo's page for the product they have FREE, yes FREE downloads to expand your experience once you've finished devouring everything in the box. Stuff for the "Heroes" in the form of leveling and gear (what every player wants) and a second adventure plus more in depth "tricks of the trade" for the GM's.
What's that worth in dollars would you say? Well, if we're paying by the page for sections of the Core, Bestiary & the GMG . . . . lets say, $15 of the Core, $3 of the Bestiary and $3 of the GMG, that totals to $21 of the "normal" publishing.
Les' tally that all up shall we? $41-$61 worth of goodness? So how much does it actually cost as that much awesome all packed into one box, usually like $100 bucks right? "Well I'm cheap so I want it for $50!" No worries dude, guess what . . .
I don't remember which pod cast this was from, but one of the gents I chatted with while running the Box last weekend said he had actually HEARD a Paizo designer say, "when they were developing The Box, the designer wanted ALL THIS and it NEEDED to be UNDER $35." So of course, it retails $34.99
WHAT!?!? That's crazy, I know! Even a low-bidding cynic like me can appreciate that kind of deal.

Yay, woo, neat stuff, but how about the CONTENT? Well, I'm glad you asked. Fun! Of course, WHO you play with is a factor, and I will be honest, one of the games I ran we had a young gentleman who I felt was . . . less than thrilled to be at the table, however, he admitted to having a good time after it was all said and done, so I hope he was not JUST being polite.
From day one I have found the pre-gens entertaining with their back stories. They are stereotypical in their classes but have enough little quirks that it HELPS a player slip into those characters and find the fun in them, while experiencing staples of the genre first hand. In this case, archetypes = good.
The adventure itself is a small hoot. There is equal opportunity for crafty dungeoners or hack & slashers. Some magic and some mundane plus a diverse yet mostly familiar crew of creepies inhabit this particular complex with simple yet creative encounters.
Overall I think even the most novice GM's could find ways to weave the overall scenario into most games, and of course, should this BE your first game, there are guidelines all over on how to make this the first of many or even seek out full blown Pathfinder Society play.

Woo, I think I'm fairly winded now. Not much else I can recall to expound upon further, so I hope this suffices. Oh, of course, most important of all, ENJOY!

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