Pathfinder Beginner Box Bash
On Saturday, Oct 29th, I attended Paizo’s Pathfinder Beginner Box Bash (try saying that ten times fast) at Card Kingdom in Seattle. There were other release parties at various game stores around the country, and even a few internationally, but because Seattle is home to Paizo, we were graced with the presence of many of Paizo’s staff, including head publisher Erik Mona.
It was an all-day affair, starting with a series of one-hour demo games run by Paizo staff and local GMs, many of them part of the Pathfinder Society. I played in a game that happened to have a player completely new to tabletop role playing, which is what the Beginner Box is for. Playing with someone completely new to the game was a real eye-opener. It’s easy to take for granted that everyone is familiar the rules of classic role-playing games, and I saw first-hand how new people could be overwhelmed by the lingo. I’ve only been playing for a couple years myself, and I’ve already become used to most of the terms.
Gamers can be an insular bunch, and sometimes we don’t realize how intimidating something is, especially when everyone else you know has tried it before and knows what they’re doing. A friend of mine who has ample experience in other role-playing games is going to be in a campaign I’m running soon. He found it more confusing than he expected to make a character on his own from the rules in the Pathfinder core book. Again, I was surprised; I don’t consider the game to be difficult now that I’ve played it for a while. I consider the 3.5 system to be a great blend of combat strategy and role playing, and the Pathfinder rules to be clear and simple.
It’s a bit of a catch-22, though; until you’re familiar with the rules, they don’t necessarily make a lot of sense. This is similar to a lot of my favorite card and board games, but it’s a bit more abstract and math-heavy with role-playing, and for that reason may be harder for new people to assimilate. All this came to light during the game with our new role-player.
Before playing the demo game, I hadn’t realized quite how condensed the rules are; most of the non-basic combat maneuvers are stripped out, such as grappling, attacks of opportunity, and so forth. At first this felt like dumbing down the rules, but it actually cleared the way to get right to the basics. When only focusing on basic strategy such as attacking, casting spells, and flanking, it was much easier to focus on the plot and the role playing, and still get a feel for what combat looks like.
The Beginner Box forces the players to focus on the absolute core of tabletop role playing without overwhelming them with complicated strategy. At the same time, this isn’t old school gaming; the combat system is still there, it’s just simplified for quicker learning. Running the game is made easier as well, trimmed down to its essential elements by the seasoned veterans at Paizo. Rookie GMs can’t appreciate how many decades of knowledge and experience it took to render the art of GMing into a well reasoned philosophy of gaming. They, fortunately, get to skip a lot of the experimentation our tabletop
founders went through, and enjoy their venerable gaming wisdom straight out of the box.
After the hour-long one-shot games, there was a brief Q&A with the games creators, some explanation about the game’s components, and a little behind the scenes info about creating the Beginner Box. We also got to see a sneak preview of the Beginner Box Minis, a nice set of prepainted figures based on the pregenerated, ready-to-play characters that come in the Beginner Box. These figures are available for US$12.99.
I have to say, I hope this trend of game release parties continues. Paizo’s Beginner Box Bash was a blast, and I can’t wait to try out the box set with a few of my unsuspecting nongaming friends. These are my first impressions from a brief playthrough, but be sure to check back for my complete review of the Pathfinder Beginner Box US$34.99.
Images via Paizo.