Hey, I’m Cecil and welcome back to the Role Play Primer.
This week is all about where to begin with the different systems available. Keep in mind that this series will draw greatly on my own experiences with RPGs and will no doubt contain some of my biases, but I shall endeavour to be as objective as possible, but absolute objection isn’t why you’re here reading my series.
Most Role Play systems out there will have a beginner box of sorts, which contains a thinned down and simplified version of the rules, some pre-made characters, and a small adventure for the Game Master to run. If you’re joining a group of people that already play, then you don’t have to worry about being a GM for a while, however, if you are all a new group of players, one of you will have to take up the important mantle of being GM. The GM is one of the most important aspects of the game, they are all the monsters you will fight, the people you will talk to, from the humble merchant selling you basic gear, to the mastermind villain of the whole story and the arbiter of the rules. Outside of the beginner box, they are also the person who writes the story and plans out where the adventures will take you. One thing to make clear from the outset, the GM is not in competition with the rest of the players, it’s there job to provide interesting story and challenges for the players to face, not kill everyone at every opportunity. There will come times when player characters (PCs) will die, but this is not your objective.
So once you’ve figure out who is going to GM your games, next is to decide what game to play (although you can decide what game you play before GM is chosen, this might change who wants to do the job). I’m going to give an overview of some of the starter sets or beginner boxes I’ve encountered over the years, over the coming weeks. This week will be about the Pathfinder Beginner Box, next week I will go over the various Dungeons and Dragons boxes available, and the week after Ill cover other ones I have encountered that aren’t quite so in-depth.
Pathfinder Beginner box
The Pathfinder Beginner Box is the most recent starter set that I have purchased, and I would argue that it is also the best quality. Included in the box is the following: A 64 Page Players Guide, a 96 Page Game Master’s Guide, a complete set of polyhedral dice (which most systems will require, this includes a D4, D6, D8, D10, D12, D20 and a D%), over 80 cardboard ‘Pawns’ to represent characters and monsters, a double sided laminated mat with a dungeon printed on one side and a grid on the other which allows you to draw out your own dungeons, 4 Pre-Generated Character Sheets and 4 Blank Character sheets to make your own characters using the Player’s Guide.
So quite a lot is included as you can tell. The RRP of the Beginner box is $35, so in the uk that means you should be able to pick it up for between £20-25, depending where you look. Remember to always check out your friendly local gaming store (FLGS) to help support them, and if you don’t have one nearby, many of them have websites and will ship country-wide, so try to use amazon as only a last resort.
The Dice in this box are of a good quality, and I have included them in my general dice bag, that I use for most games. It makes it easier if everyone has their own set of dice, but one will do when you are just starting. Though if you do want to buy some dice alongside the box, to have a set for the GM and a set for the Players, then the brand I recommend is Chessex. They come in a huge array of colours, are of good quality, and cost about £7-8 depending where you get them.
One of my favourite things about this box is the inclusion of both pre-genned characters and blank sheets, allowing you to have examples of the different types of characters, or even allowing you to play with 8 players plus the GM, although this is not recommended, these games tend to work best with 4-6 players, but if there is a lot of you and you fancy a challenge, then nothing is stopping you, just note that it will involve a lot of waiting around for the each person to take their turn in combat.
The Hero’s Handbook contains all the rules that you will need to play, how you go about doing things like making attacks, and also instructions on how to create a character using the beginner boxes limited version of the ruleset. Keep in mind, these beginner rules are about 350 pages shorter than the full core rulebook, but the Beginner Box does include a transition guide to assist in making the jump to the full rules.
The Game Master’s guide is your source for the story, the enemies you will fight and the treasures you will find. The first section of this guide is the included introductory adventure, which is actually pretty good, it has combat, puzzles and traps. All that is missing is intrigue in town, but that’s a more complicated concept for the new player/GM, so I understand why it was omitted. After this, the guide presents a rough introduction into how to design your own dungeon and adventure, with a few little story hooks and tips to give you a jump start. It also includes some examples of magical items, weapons and armor beyond the strength of mere steel, potions and scrolls containing great magics and all manner of adventuring equipment. Lastly it includes details of things that might affect combat abilities, for example conditions like sickness and blinded, but also things such as cover and flanking, which enable a richer combat experience.
Lastly we have the map and the Pawns. The Pawns are a really good concept and aid in keeping costs down, they are basically cardboard cutouts with art of the characters and enemies, and a selection of bases to place them into. These are all scaled to the mat that’s included in the box. One side of the mat is the small cave system used for the intro adventure included in the GM guide, and the other side is just a grid, most markers will work with it, but i recommend wet erase. The GM guide includes an example map that you can use that fits perfectly onto this flip mat, which is a terribly useful thing with at least a modicum of forethought.
I think that just about covers everything, if you have any questions, feel free to drop them my way and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.
Next week I’ll be talking about the Dungeons and Dragons box sets. So until then, Safe Travels, and may you always roll well.