Friday, August 31, 2012

PAX Prime Day One: Photoramble

by Angie

We've been so very busy with working on Story Realms, traveling to game conventions (like Gencon and now Pax Prime), and now launching the Kickstarter project for Story Realms that we haven't been blogging near as much as we'd like to. So tonight I'm just going to put up some photos from the day and say whatever comes to mind while it's still fresh.

So here's a quick look at the first day of Pax, with some late night rambling commentary!

Tabletop Signage for Story Realms Demos

We're here at the Penny Arcade Expo with our publisher Game Salute to show off the latest and greatest in games, including our own upcoming game, Story Realms. The art director for Story Realms, Dann May, made this awesome tabletop stand poster which I absolutely love for a couple reasons. First off, it makes our games easy to find! At Gencon, we didn't have anything on the table to indicate which games were happening where, at it seemed like people were always ending up int he worng place and having to move around. With this guy on the table, there's no question that an adventure in Storm Hollow is about to happen! Secondly, this is one of my favorite pieces of art for the game so far. It conveys so much about our world... here's this big scary giant who can reach in and rip the ROOF right off a cottage and snatch away an unsuspecting person, but at the same time he's kinda silly looking. Scary and silly, with a goofy nose and a menacing snarl. That's a tough combo to pull off, but it's just right for a storybook villain. In folk and fairy tales, the villain need to have a touch of something scary to them since they often serve as cautionary tales, and are creatures worth talking about for generations. However, when you tell a bedtime story to a kid, the last thing you want to do is to REALLY scare them, so this villain is a little silly too. His name is Blunderbore, and he's a got a big nose... but that's not all. His nose is SO big he can fold right up into it and disappear into the shadows. I personally think that's kind of a cool trick, and when you explain a villain doing something so preposterous as folding up into his nose, you can't help but get a smile from an eager young listener... but disappearing into nowhere and stepping through shadows, that some serious scare there... it's the back and forth of bright colors and exaggerated features, with the concepts behind it that makes Blunderbore into a great villain in my opinion. And the name.....Blunderbore.... names say a lot about a character. Is this guy blundering around, or is he boring right through the walls to grab up his target. Who knows, and that's the fun. The other thing I really like about this image is that it looks like he is reaching right out! I love the way the characters in the game art invite the players to step right into the world with them. Dann has done a fantastic job of using hands and perspective to really drive home the idea that YOU are part of the adventure. Combined with the callout "Storm Hollow needs you" I feel like this call to adventure is a great sign to have at our table!

Me standing next to the first Story Realms banner... wow!

When we started designing Story Realms, I never expected that I would be traveling around to game conventions and seeing the characters and world I helped create decorating a booth! I can't explain how cooll it was to see for the first time, a banner taller than me full of these ideas we just thought up in my game room. Very surreal. This is my Hollywood moment folks, my own personal red carpet :)

Erik and Jonathan (writers for GeekDad) catching up with Julian and Randy

One phenominon I had heard about time and time again from game conventions was this concept of Con BFF's... people you meet at a con and just click with, end up pal'ing around together playing games, then don't see again until the next con. The first convention of any size I've ever went to was Gamestorm back in March of this year, and while there we met a couple of really cool guys who we chatted and played games with. Running into Erik and Jonathan again was really cool, and made me feel like I "knew" some people in a giant crowded room full of strangers. It was a good feeling, and I'm happy about the budding friendships I've been picking up at the conventions we've been traveling to. Really, meeting people is one of the best parts, whether it's being able to connect with social media buddies from twitter or sharing rides with a fellow game designer working your booth, its been really cool to get to know some other gamers outside my normal circle and one of the things I'm starting to look forward to the most at upcoming events.

Best part of demoing Story realms, watching people really ENJOY a game I helped create

It's getting late and I should sleep, so I'll wrap up with my aboslute best thing about going to game conventions... getting to watch people learn to play and really get into the experience of Story Realms. Every single time we sit down to demo the game I have a moment of anxiety... what if they don't like it?? What if the game somehow ISN'T as funa s we think it is. Time and time again I've sweated through those first couple minutes of a demo only to find myself laughing along with the players as someone comes up with a really creative use for an everyday item, or attempts some grandious stunt that is over the top fun. One of the things I'm most proud of in Story Realms is the way it brings together groups of people laughing and sharing a story, it's such a simple but meaningful thing, and for me the absolute highlight of my convention going experience.

Thanks for reading my rambling thoughts as I scroll through some pictures from the today I'll be back tomorrow with a whole new batch of stories to tell as I take my 6 year old daughter Katie to a game convention for the first time- that's right PAX, Katie's in the house!! This should be awesome, I have no idea what to expect, but it sounds like an adventure!

***By the way, as I mentioned above... we launched the Kickstarter campaign for Story Realms this morning! We're trying to turn our dream into a reality, and we need your help! Please take a moment to check out our Kickstarter page, and if you'e so inspired pledge with us, share with your friends, or give us a shout-out on whatever social media networks you're a part of. We can't do this without you! Thanks!!!!!***


Monday, August 6, 2012

The Red Edge, Part 1: Lucia Calderon

An unorthodox group of assassins for your Pathfinder game

By Randy

Plot hook. Drawn in. Locate BBEG (that's "Big Bad Evil Guy"). Kill him. Profit.

That's a summation of many fantasy roleplaying adventures. Sure, there are often investigations and following clues, roleplaying encounters get NPCs to help the player characters, exploration of mythic places and such. But often, the plot can be summed up as above. Which is not necessarily a bad thing thing, but it can get stale. Which is why I like to throw a wrench in things sometimes.

What if the villain is someone who you don't want to kill or capture? What if the identity of that person is such that acting against them in any way will bring serious repercussions? This was what I was thinking when I designed this little band of baddies. At least, one in particular. This group would be a fun group to encounter in your Pathfinder game.

The Red Edge is a small group of assassins with a highly unusual membership: an eight year old girl, a teenage stableboy and his stablemaster father. But, as you can expect, their identities are more complex than this. With the help of some alien technology (from the starfaring race, the Mi-Go), a couple of aging criminals both found a way to be young again, and a way to ply their trade with far more secrecy and effectiveness.

The first member, and primary assassin of the group is Lucia Calderon. It's hard to believe she is anything but a typical eight year old girl. The truth is that her father, Valter Calderon, is in possession of her. Valter "the Barber" Calderon had been an enforcer for a crime family in Ustalav, and, when a rival family killed his employer, he fled and eventually made it to Magnimar. There he plied his trade as a barber while he got a feel for the town and learned more about its underworld. During this time, he met two important people: his wife, Maggie, and his business partner, Malkin Pederson.

Valter had learned that the assassin's trade in Magnimar was a little too regulated for his tastes. There is a guild there that specializes in assassination and is run by an elf referred to as "The Arranger". Valter had no desire to throw in his lot with another organization that very well could meet the same fate as the family he previously worked for, and he did not want to end up dead from another's mistakes. He found a like-minded person in con artist Malkin Pederson, and the two became fast allies. And shortly after, he and Maggie had a baby daughter, Lucia.

Valter, ever a cautious man, wanted to create a bit of a buffer between his work and his family life, so he relocated his family to a river town called Perdition about half a day away, where Malkin was from. Malkin himself stayed behind in Magnimar, quietly arranging contact killings, which Valter (primarily) would perform. This arrangement persisted for about six years, after which time a near run-in with The Arranger's people caused Malkin to come back to Perdition.

It is not entirely clear what happened next. Malkin disappeared for a couple weeks. Then one day, a teenage boy came to visit Valter Calderon. He explained that he was actually Malkin, but that a device he found in the swamps allowed him to take this younger body. Valter, a ruthless and cruel man, devised a plan. With Malkin's help, they disappeared into the swamps with Lucia, his daughter. A story was concosted that Valter had died protecting Lucia from a marauding beast, and he was never seen again.

In the weeks that passed, Malkin (now called Telveren Wainwright) and his "father" established a stable in Perdition. To all eyes, they seem like a typical father and son. Maggie Calderon, however, eventually grew aware that something was not right with Lucia. When asked about the matter, Lucia revealed herself as Valter, and made it clear that should Maggie ever betray that secret that Lucia would never come back.

With their new bodies, Valter and Malkin are more active than ever. Malkin continues to be the face of the group, and they have adopted a new name, The Red Edge. They still perform the majority of their work in Magnimar, and are more cautious about keeping secrets. Valter is a far more effective assassin in his new body, as few would expect a pretty braid-haired girl to suddenly produce a razor and go for their throat. Here are Pathfinder stats for her; look for a second part soon detailing Telveren Wainwright (aka Malkin Pederson) and his "father".

Lucia Caldron (Valter Calderon)
Female Human Child Rogue 8
Lawful Evil Small Humanoid (Human)
Init +5 ; Senses Perception +14
AC 23 , touch 18 , flat-footed 23 ( +5 armor, +2 deflection, +5 Dex, Size +1)
HP 70 (8d8+8+2)
Fort +5 , Ref +11 , Will +5
Defensive Abilities Evasion, Improved Uncanny Dodge
Speed 30 ft
Melee +1 Wounding Razor +14/+9 1d4+1 (+1 Bleed) /19-20 /x2 ) [+1 to hit/damage when 10’ or more away from ally]
Ranged Shuriken +12/+7 (1d2 /x2 )
Space 5 ft; Reach 5 ft
Special Attacks Sneak Attack +4d6
Before Combat Lucia will do her best to either hide, or to pass herself off as being lost and in need of help.
During Combat If at all possible, Lucia will begin combat in a position where she can surprise an opponent and use the Underhanded rogue talent. After the surprise round, she will make use of the Feint action and flanking to deliver sneak attacks.
Morale Lucia will flee if she feels a combat is going badly, or enemies have a high likelihood of capturing her.  She will protect her identity as much as possible, though.  If there are other people in earshot, she will scream for help.
Base Statistics
Str 10, Dex 20, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 16, Cha 16
Base Attack +5 ; CMB +6; CMD 22
Feats Skill Focus: Bluff , Quick Draw , Weapon Focus: War Razor , Desperate Battler , Weapon Finesse, Defensive Combat Training
Skills Bluff +16 (+20), Profession: Barber +14, Intimidate +14, Stealth +20, Sense Motive +14, Perception +14, Heal +13, Sleight of Hand +16, Disable Device +14, Climb +11, Knowledge: Local +14, Escape Artist +14, Acrobatics +11
Languages Varisian, Chelish, Halfling, Ustalav
Treasure +1 Wounding Razor, Bag of Holding, Ring of Protection +2, Trackless Boots
Venicaan Medic (+2 to treat poison/disease, Heal is class skill)
Nonchalant Thuggery (+4 trait bonus on Bluff checks to keep others from noticing your aggressive actions)
Rogue Talents
Underhanded (Ex)
Benefit: A rogue with this talent gains a +4 circumstance bonus on all Sleight of Hand checks made to conceal a weapon. Furthermore, if she makes a sneak attack during the surprise round using a concealed weapon that her opponent didn’t know about, she does not have to roll sneak attack damage, and the sneak attack deals maximum damage. A rogue can only use the underhanded talent a number of times per day equal to her Charisma modifier (minimum 0).
Bleeding Attack (Ex)
Benefit: A rogue with this ability can cause living opponents to bleed by hitting them with a sneak attack. This attack causes the target to take 1 additional point of damage each round for each die of the rogue's sneak attack (e.g., 4d6 equals 4 points of bleed). Bleeding creatures take that amount of damage every round at the start of each of their turns. The bleeding can be stopped by a DC 15 Heal check or the application of any effect that heals hit point damage.
Fast Getaway (Ex)
Benefit: After successfully making a sneak attack or Sleight of Hand check, a rogue with this talent can spend a move action to take the withdraw action. She can move no more than her speed during this movement.
Combat Trick: Defensive Combat Training feat
Fast Stealth (5th talent from human alternate favored class bonus, levels 1-6)
Benefit: This ability allows a rogue to move at full speed using the Stealth skill without penalty.

In and of herself, she is a very formidable foe. But also consider the players are most likely to encounter her in a town or city setting. If she is unable to dispatch them quickly, she will cry out for help. Anyone responding is going to assume that she is nothing more than she seems, and that anyone outright attacking her  is the lowest sort of villain possible. If things go in her favor, this could easily lead to an angry mob pursuing the PCs, imprisonment, exile and any number of bad things. Lucia is crafty, calculating and manipulative. Use her this way in your campaign and you'll have a villain whose identity will chill your players to the core, and who they will remember for a long time afterward.

Note: All game rule information here can be found at D20 PFSRD


Do you have any favorite unorthodox villains? Tell us about them!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The most memorable RPG adventure yet...

by Angie

Tonight I got to experience a moment I have been waiting and hoping for since becoming a parent, but didn't expect to happen for quite a few years down the road. My 6 year old daughter Katie ran an RPG adventure of her own design for me and my husband!!! Her very first adventure, and she did REALLY good. I am so proud of her style, creativity, attention to detail, voice acting, on-the-fly problem solving, descriptive language use, world building, and storytelling skills! She has always loved stories and had a very imaginitve mind, but seeing it all come together so well was quite amazing.

 We played through a 3 scene adventure in the regular Story Realms style, and Katie tried very hard to use the full system of Story Realms to run her adventure. In the Story Challenge, she stated the goals for the players, and told us how to reach them on the progress bar. She had us describe what we want to do an make skill roles. She gave amazing scene and character descriptions. During the action challenge (the most mechanical part of the game) she set out the progress tracker and again told us our goal and how to reach it. She pulled out the disaster tracker and told us about the monsters goal and what would happen if they reached it. She got out the threat tracker and explained to us how threatening the encounter was, and what would move it up and down. It was a very clear execution of our resolution system for Story Realms, and I was very impressed because while young kids (age 5 and up) can play Story Realms, it take quite a bit of skill to be the Storyteller, and I was just so pleased to see her do it and to comprehend what the trackers were for enough to be able to use them as a core part of the challenge. She did all this with the bare minimum help from us, we weren't leading her through any of it!

My favorite part was when the Queen of Summer Fields was helping to equip us for our quest to go recapture the dark creatures that had escaped their prison and were rampaging around and causing destruction. In this room she described, there were several types of weapons. I asked about the dagger and Katie says in her very eloquent sounding Queen voice "That's the Dagger of Hope, it will bring light to you on your darkest hour" I was so suprised and awed by the great description and had to pick it, half because she made it sound really cool and half because I couldn't WAIT to see what she had in mind to do with it.. When would my darkest hour fall, and how could I not bring hope to light the way?? The sentiment was beautiful, and I couldn't help think "This was made up by Katie when she is only 6, what kind of amazing ideas does this girl have in store??"

I'm biased for sure, but I also think that Katie is a natural storyteller with an amazing gift for weaving together dramatic tension, humourous moments, elegant descriptions, interesting personalities, and most of all paying attention to her players and incorporating their ideas. I can't wait to play her next adventure. I am so glad I got to experience this with her tonight, and that shared memory of her first RPG adventure will be one the three of us cherish for a long time to come.

 There are so many benefits of this type of experience: imagination and creativity development, positive social skill building, paracosmic play, problem solving, creative writing, public speaking, and story structuring, and as a parent who is also a teacher I can't hep but think it's really cool to see our family having so much fun playing together, while also providing an opportunity for all of us to develop and refine these valuable skills. Win-win! Roleplaying games has been a big part of my life for many years, I even met my husband Randy though a roleplaying group in college. I look forward to enjoying many more adventures my children bring to life, as long as they're running games, I'll play!

I can't wait to experience all the stories they decide to tell!

To wrap up, I'm really happy because I had a fun gaming experience with my daughter and husband that I'm not likely to forget anytime soon. That 1 hour and 23 minutes was some very meaningful interaction because we were bought into Katie's world and worked together to bring her story to life, and make it OUR story. She was so proud of herself throughout it all, and all of her hard work and careful consideration in planing was really obvious.

I HIGHLY recommend trying out a rules-light or story-driven roleplaying game with your kids. Play a few times with them to get the general rules down, then if they are interested turn them loose to guide you through an adventure.... you'll be glad you did! Don't worry about getting the rules just right, focus on fun and enjoy the glimpse into the world of your child's imagination!

Have you played a RPG ran by your kids? I'd love to hear about it, and how you felt afterwards! Leave a message in the comments below and lets celebrate our kids' leap into the wonderful world of RPGs together!