Tag Archives: RPGs

Track Your Treasure

Ah, killing people and taking their stuff.  It’s great fun, but in this era of Christmas Tree Syndrome it’s hard to keep up with all that loot!

The GM tells you about some stuff when you loot your dead opponents – and a lot of details are held till later (magic, street value). Sometimes no one writes it down, and that item is lost forever.  Sometimes multiple people write it down and you have a conflict later on. Sometimes when you go back and ask the GM “OK so was that morningstar magic?” he responds “what morningstar? You mean two or three sessions ago? I have no idea.”

For our Pathfinder games, I developed a solution.  (It’ll work for any game though.) It’s an easy to use Excel spreadsheet that you use to log treasure, distribute treasure, and handle selloffs and money splitting. So I’m sharing it with you! (cc-attribution-sharealike).

The Geek Related Treasure Distribution Spreadsheet

It has an instructions tab, but here’s how it works.  When you get loot you log it on the Party Treasure tab with who you got it from and when thus:

partytreasure

Then any time someone claims an item, you cut and paste it to the Distributed Treasure tab and add who got it and when thus:

distributedtreasure

 

And you never have to worry again! It makes organizing distributions easy, and selling off unwanted loot and splitting the profits. Money is handled slightly differently on the Coinage tab thus:

coinage

It has a couple formulas but it’s not fancy, mainly it’s just a well thought out format that is a) really fast to enter when you’re in the middle of a game and b) efficient to do distributions and sell-offs. Now the GM has some context to help him remember that maybe-magic morningstar (Oh, the dead cultists right after the temple to Torag, right…), you know who got a piece of loot, and most importantly no valuable treasure just goes missing. We often do a big selloff at the end of a session when someone’s had to hurry off – now they can just go look and see how much money they got out of it.

And it’s entertaining to review late in a campaign. It’s like a historical record of things that happened.  (We gave two snake corpses to a mole-man?  Oh yeah, I remember that…).  It’s amazing how big the spreadsheet gets, when we get finished with an Adventure Path we look back and there’s four-hundred-odd entries… Add extra tabs for other stuff you need to track (like I added a tab to track army food and stores for Wrath of the Righteous, or caravan food and stores for Jade Regent). Your party will love you for it! Once we started doing this we got hooked and now every single campaign has a big ol’ treasure spreadsheet at the end of it.

It works best if you put it in a Dropbox so everyone in the group can view/edit it from their computers and phones and stuff. Enjoy!  Feel free and ask questions about its use after you’ve given it a look.

 

Why Paizo Still Has An Edge Over WotC

Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition is out – and it’s pretty good!  I hated Fourth Edition and, like many folks, defected to Paizo’s 3e-derived branch called Pathfinder and Paizo rose to the top of the sales charts for a long period. But now with a viable product, good community engagement, and the nostalgia factor (Drizzle the elf! Space hamsters!) WotC is back in the game.  Will Paizo just fade away, only beloved by a fringe of the old guard?  No, and here’s why.

Let me preface this by saying these are “big boy” reasons, not game system details – how many hit points a bard gets is very meaningful to some ultrageeks but is not relevant to market position. If you wanted to hear something about 5e gnomes vs Pathfinder gnomes, please go play and let the grownups talk for a minute. With that preamble, here are the three major edges Paizo has over WotC and why those will help them maintain their market position.

1. The subscription model. Paizo’s subscription model of selling is like printing money. You’ve heard how comics subscriptions are basically the single largest factor in keeping comics and comic stores afloat right? Well, same effect applies with Pathfinder subscriptions.  The convenience wrenches the money right out of me and many other customers automatically without requiring us to re-make purchasing decisions each month (and to be at the mercy of stores just happening to stock products we want). It’s the same reason why WoW always made huge bank and that model became very compelling to video game producers. Paizo keeps quiet about how much of a big deal this is, probably deliberately so folks like WotC don’t get the memo. But from a business point of view, this is probably the single biggest innovation and leverage point they have from a revenue model perspective. And it’s a big one. I work in software, where we desperately try to get people into subscription models – maintenance, SaaS, etc. because it’s so financially productive.

2. The iconics. With their iconic characters – an idea enhanced from 3e D&D – Paizo doesn’t just have a game system, they have intellectual property. They have then used those iconics to fuel their comics, audio dramas, card games, mini-figs – and I wouldn’t be surprised to see movies or TV in the future. I thought it would be a no-brainer for WotC to have a strong stable of iconic characters in 5e but they completely didn’t for reasons that elude me. Sure, they have some older recognizable characters from their campaign settings – Elminster, Drizz’t, the Dragonlance characters – but they’re not capitalizing on them. One big reason why the D&D movies sucked was that both the good guys and the bad guys were just new made-up generic folks.  “I have purple lips and am evil!” Screw you. Call me when you make Strahd or  Bargle or Vecna or someone the bad guy. Hasbro is supposed to be “branding” geniuses, but even Paizo’s unique visual take on goblins generates stuffed animals and cute comic spinoffs and miniatures while with the 5e launch WotC’s critter of choice, kobolds, has pretty much zero sizzle and visual styling. [Normal] People relate to characters way more than setting way more than rules. Companies work very hard to get good commonalities to use to push customers across product boundaries inside brands, and that’s a great way to do it that WotC doesn’t seem to have an answer for, making it much harder to really capitalize on cross-media opportunities.

3. The adventures. “It’s the adventures, stupid.” Why do people have such nostalgia-love for the old days of Basic D&D/1e AD&D? Do they go back and talk about their love for weapon speed factors and to-hit tables? No, they talk about THE ADVENTURES. Temple of Elemental Evil, Ravenloft, Scourge of the Slavelords, Isle of Dread… These were the shared experiences people had and what they find compelling about the hobby.  Adventuring is the entire point of all the rules and setting content, it’s the actual activity of the game. WotC gets this enough to keep revisiting those classic adventures every edition (Now – Return to the Return to the Keep of the Elemental Hill Giants!) but not enough to actually put out frequent and compelling adventure content themselves except for a smattering of mostly indifferent products. In 3e, the Open Gaming License covered this gap and new adventures are what propelled third party companies like Green Ronin and Atlas Games into the larger businesses they are today. In 4e, they kicked off with a couple and then slid into nowhere and now with 5e, they managed to get two out – but frankly, they’re not all that good, and again, it’s a matter of amount.  Paizo gets out an Adventure Path chapter per month, every 6 months it’s a new one, there’s previous ones where if you want to do gothic horror or Arabian Nights or whatever there’s something to scratch that itch – WotC’s just planning to retread the same old properties, at a plodding pace. And as they are still farting around on licensing, third parties aren’t filling that gap as avidly as they could be. That is leaving player engagement on the table and providing fewer shared experiences to build the nostalgia that’d drive their sales in the future, especially in other media.

So though 5e is a fine game – I’m not sure that as part of the overall package, Paizo has a lot to worry about.  Sure, Hasbro can pump in marketing dollars and get things into bookstores, but a) do they care enough about a small line to do so, as opposed to making more Iron Man doodads, and b) can they really successfully capitalize on multiple product lines and the D&D IP? You’d think that’s where they would be Vikings, but so far early results don’t show a lot of spark there. Anyone that’s listened to Paizo employees talk about behind-the-scenes stuff at Gen Con/PaizoCon seminars (all available on various podcasts) know that they are very smart, squared away professionals who tightly manage their own work, freelancers, licensed products, everything. They’re a well-tuned machine producing huge amounts of product across various channels and product types – Hasbro/WotC could probably do the same – but they don’t seem to be. So sure, brand recognition and deep pockets and being a decent game product will help push 5e into the limelight, but their execution isn’t crisp enough to push Paizo out, is my prediction.

Wrath of the Righteous Chapter One, The Worldwound Incursion – Fifth Session

Areelu Vorlesh

Areelu Vorlesh

Fifth Session (14 page pdf) – We thwart the Forces of Evil ™ and destroy their captive wardstone bit, hurling the demonic forces back – for a time.  And we all experience THE QUICKENING!!!

We continue to sweep and clear the Gray Garrison. Many tieflings and cultists meet their end.  “It is thus that the fields of Justice are nourished with the blood of our enemies!” claims the session scribe.

We do get to fight a peryton, which is cool. And a goat-demon.  We hear from prisoners that there’s a minotaur around, leading to the following fun quotes:

“Minotaurs are bad news too,” shares Antonius. “I read a comic back in camp that says they’re more than a little… rapey.” Everyone shuffles uncomfortably at that thought.

Then a bit later,

From up above the minotaur howls.
Trystan tells Rogoff [his mongrelman henchman], “You go first!”
Rogoff looks dubious. “For what it’s worth, boss, I read the same comic book  about minotaurs that Antonius did. And you guys normally go in first – I’m not sure I feel  comfortable about this arrangement.”

For some reason the baddie, Jeslyn, spread all her defenders out into conveniently small packages leading to her, so we kill each group easily and then attack her solo.  Solo casters – why do they even try?  I run over and put her in a grapple and then convert it to the figure four leg lock and then it’s all over. It’s what I do with all solo casters – they just can’t do anything about it.

And then the shit really hits the fan.  Irabeth destroys the last fragment of Kenabres’ Wardstone with a rod of cancellation.  It explodes, it kills every demon in the zip code, we hallucinate for a while. Areelu Vorlesh gates in and sics six babau demons on us.  But we are powered-up with all kinds of special abilities and also she gets blown back through the gate. The baubaus attack and start gating in more babaus. This is quite a fight and we emerge victorious!  I club-dance and we gain… a Mythic Tier!

For those not familiar with it, Mythic Adventures is a cool new Paizo system that, instead of adding levels like Epic, adds a layer of being a kinda demigod type on top of our normal levels. So now we get weird superpowers!  (Go see our character sheets by level on the campaign page for more.)

Wrath of the Righteous Chapter One, The Worldwound Incursion – Fourth Session

Fantasy Janitors At Work

Fantasy Janitors At Work

Fourth Session (16 page pdf) – We continue to hit demon cultist hardpoints in the ruins of Kenabres with the help of mongrelmen and lesbian paladins.

This session is mainly fight after fight with tieflings, dretches, and various other evil varmints of various description. That part wasn’t all that exciting. (Ironically fights in Pathfinder, while supposed to be scenes of high action like in a movie, are sometimes boring… Like Peter Jackson and Michael Bay are managing to do with their big action scenes.) The interesting things that came up were:

Mongrelman rangers! We got a squad of mongrelman helpers and they were very helpful. We named them, and everyone ran one. Antonius had some soul-searching to do though – the faith of Irori advocates physical and mental perfection but mongrelmen are the ultimate in mutated – it just kinda bothered him.

Janitorial work!  So we find a ruined shrine to Iomedae in the Grey Garrison and it’s pretty clear we “should” clean it up. Will all the monsters just go into stasis for a couple hours while we do so? Well sure, no problem. This will come up again, by the way. We are told we get a “devotion point” for that, a fact that Chris and I try to erase from our brains – we’ve had about enough of Pathfinder APs giving us something-or-other points and driving our party-mates into fits of bizarre behavior (like gift-buying in Jade Regent) because they see a new rules system than needs manipulation.  If we’re going to start getting Divine Janitor Points for clearing poo from every shrine we enter I’d rather the mechanics be obscured from me.

But, we level and get some phat lewt.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Fourth Session

Captain Scarbelly

Captain Scarbelly

Fourth Session (16 page pdf) – “Family, Worship, and Business” – Sam and Serpent’s egg is coming along nicely while Sindawe and Hatshepsut visit an orc bar and get more than they bargained for. Finally, they protect some Cyphermages while negotiating with orcish pirates.  Just another day in the life!

After they spizzle the weasel-mast, the PCs head into Riddleport on various errands, none of which really bear mentioning in polite company. Luckily there’s no polite company here!  They try to deal with other pirate captains, procure biker-gang outfits for their crew, visit Serpent’s eggs… You know, normal weekend stuff.

And then Sindawe and Hapshetsut must prove their worth to a bar full of orcs. The Happy Fellow is a bar from a Freeport supplement, where orcs fight each other for spots beneath iron teats drooling “blood grog.” Captain Scarbelly and his crew are straight out of the Freeport books too.

If you want to make a “skill challenge” not boring, have it be to beat back orcs while trying to stay under a blood-grog nipple. It all ends successfully (which is to say in sex and violence).

Then in a weird turn they have agreed to escort the Cyphermages, who are pretty much shut-ins now because their two former leaders have tried to destroy the city in weird cult activity, on a field trip. While they’re doing this one Cyphermage and the ship’s cook sneak off into an alleyway. Ever alert for treachery, they send the mentally challenged crewman “Dum Dum” to spy on them (No, I don’t know why they picked him). When he returns, this was the exchange.

Dum Dum enters the alley cautiously, disappearing into the fog. He quickly returns explaining, “Billy is just helping that fancyboy go to the bathroom.” They wriggle uncomfortably at this news.

Captain Scarbelly and his orcs show up due to Sindawe and Hapshetsut’s brave performance the night before. The two captains parley for a while to their mutual profit. Then we end with…

Captain Scarbelly seems intelligent for an orc. The two discuss pirating business a bit  more before Scarbelly announces he has to go. Sindawe hands him a gift: a Mordant Spire elf mask.  Scarbelly admires the mask then says, “I need to find a prostitute.” He marches off.

 

The Mexicans Are Coming

Thought I’d share a little tidbit from a Paizo forum thread I started asking about Hispanic or Latino analogues in Golarion.  I’ve run through most of the other Golarion ethnicities and I’m hankering to play a member of La Raza Cósmica! James Jacobs says there’s not really anything now, but there will be – “That’s the plan.”  Most speculation as to where that’ll come from is on Arcadia, though he doesn’t say that out loud.

Why, I think I’ll get one of these Han Cholo rings in preparation!

Wrath of the Righteous Chapter One, The Worldwound Incursion – Third Session

Ruined Kenabres

Ruined Kenabres

Third Session (17 page pdf) – It’s all Mogadishu style combat in the streets of Kenabres as we try to get back to base. We fight cultists and cavaliers and carrion-eaters and cosplayers.

We kick off with a more in-character discussion of the captive Uziel’s fate.  In the wake of last session, Chris and I spoke and agreed to try to push the group to do better on discussing that stuff really in character and not meta, so we spurred that to set the tone a little.

And finally we emerge into a totally destroyed Kenabres. Not just mostly messed up, like “there are small pockets of survivors, occasionally.” We meet up with refugees and cultists alike.

One of the more stand-out encounters was with a cavalier who was getting set to immolate a bunch of librarians, I guess to show he was all about switching to the winning side now that his insect overlords were in charge. Our train of prisoners and wounded now way outstrips our actual party.

But then in one of those low-level shockers, Calathe gets murdered!  Some junk cultists with scythes that we see way ahead of time and set an ambush for nearly do me in and definitely do her in; a crit at that level is a coffin-nail pounder. Then Tim takes over Horgus Gwerm, who is also summarily murdered by the same group of cultists! Tim plays a librarian for the rest of the session; we discuss how that perhaps “looters” are welcome to it since everyone’s dead really.

OK, so, crap, we are down to like 4 real PCs (Matt didn’t come today), a librarian, two corpses, two cripples, and six captives. We go from place to place trying to find friendlies and fail. We get to Anevia’s house and some invisible caster orc guy attacks. We kill him readily but then get confused; his picture showed all this armor and a big three-horned helmet and a ranseur but then his stats are that he is a sorcerer and has no armor. We decided that he was a cosplayer and that the armor was plaster and fake, just done so the other orcs wouldn’t pick on him for being a big pussy or something.

Finally we meet some surviving defenders including Anevia’s wife, Irabeth the orcish paladin. The GM explains that they’re chicks, and married, and one’s a LG paladin, etc.  Then like somewhat later, Chris says something like “Hey guys… I think she may be a lesbian,” in the tone of “I am just realizing this.” This causes some bafflement and hilarity; he’s tried to explain what he meant several times but we block it out because it’s more entertaining to mentally picture seeing two women talk about being married and having a bystander say “Wait a minute… I think that one lady is a lesbian.” I’m sure he’ll chime in here to defend his honor but my fingers are already in my ears.

They arrange to raise Calanthe from the dead as long as we go hit three cultist hard points; since that’s what we were planning to do anyway that’s fine. I also got lippy with Irabeth, the GM kinda kept rolling on us with “well you’re not actual official Crusaders, just trainees, maybe you can’t decide to execute evil prisoners…” She started to hem and haw about swearing us in as Crusaders and that maybe some grand poobah needed to do it and I told her in no uncertain terms that we’d already killed more cultists than most Crusaders, and that we were six of the something like nine total non-crippled paladin types in the Goddamned county overrun with demons.  She relented, and now we’re Crusaders!