The Penny Arcade Expo is well known for being the destination for fans from across the globe to gather and play the latest in console, PC, and mobile games. However, it is also a place where collectible card games, board games, and pen and paper RPGs have as much a place and purpose as their digital counterparts.
I explored the section of the convention floor that is dedicated to these hobbies, which is basically a convention in itself. It was there I came across a Dungeons and Dragons inspired game entitled Pathfinder. I will admit that I am about as far from an experienced Dungeons and Dragons player as they come -- just ask my friend who has attempted (and failed) on several occasions to be my Dungeon Master. Although the game can be simple enough to learn the basics, I found myself simply not understanding some of the details and (sometimes) other arduous mechanics of the game. Once I laid my eyes on Pathfinder, I decided that I would give it one more shot. How would I fair in this new world of adventure and heroics? Thankfully, due to the assistance of several other players and a very understanding DM, I believe I held my own.
For those not familiar with traditional pen and paper role-playing games, the game is based almost entirely on the players involved carrying the story and becoming a part of the tale. Players will get as much excitement and entertainment from the game as they are willing to put into it. So with six other adventurers, some seasoned warriors and others still wet behind the ears, we began our quest. The tools that we would have at our disposal were simply dice, a pencil, paper, and an imagination. The game is based around numbers, where each player will roll for almost every action that they would like to perform. The higher the number the better chance that the player will be able to complete that action. Whether it is attacking an oncoming rat infestation or trying to pick a lock, everything is dependent on the roll of the dice.
For my first official quest as a member of the Pathfinder Society, I chose to play as a female Gunslinger named Clara. Fortunately, for me, the statistics and information on my character was already pre-made, so I was simply tasked with naming my hero and beginning the journey. As players become more accustomed to the game, time and careful planning will go into fine-tuning every ability and attack that the Pathfinder will acquire.
With our quest underway, I referred to the supplied documentation to become more familiar with the terminology and jargon of the game. For beginners of Pathfinder, the aptly named Pathfinder "Beginner Box" will be the best place to start playing. For more quests and pre-made characters not included in the beginner set, fans will be able to access the game publisher's website to download a pdf file of various adventures and job classes. Another aspect I found appealing was how players can join the Pathfinder Society, where games can be recorded on the website, and each player earns prestige enabling the player to purchase gear and weapons that can be carried over to other quests. It is a multiplayer aspect which rewards players for keeping the same character and completing games. It was a good feeling to receive my Pathfinder Society membership card and officially be welcomed into the exclusive organization.
Our quest took us to different locations, where we battled with smaller enemies at first such as rats and smaller beasts. However, further into our journey we would have to work together as a team to overcome several different objectives in the same battle. Whether it was attempting to retrieve precious information from a crate that was hanging delicately high above an almost bottomless hole, or defending from an attack of imps and ogres, our team of fighters -- composed of rogues and clerics -- tackled any problem in our way.
After several hours of play, our adventure came to an end, and I was forced to bid farewell to my fellow travelers, brothers, and sisters in battle who overcame the odds and in the process made the world a little safer. Thankfully, my quest has only begun. While I am still at PAX East, I have a few more encounters to assist in. At a convention with massive screens, flashing lights, and endless traffic of people, it was amazing to just sit at a table with other gamers and simply play a game.
If you would like to become a Pathfinder and join in the fun, check out http://www.paizo.com/pathfinder or visit your local game or hobby shop.