PaizoCon 2015: A Newbie’s Perspective

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PaizoCon-welcomeNot only am I a PaizoCon newbie, but I’m a Pathfinder Adventure Card Game newbie as well. PaizoCon was the perfect introduction to both the game and the company. The best thing about PaizoCon is that it’s a relatively small convention where you get to spend time interacting with the staff and game creators.

After hearing so much glowing praise about Pathfinder ACG from our own Jonathan Liu and about PaizoCon from our own Ryan Hiller, I knew I had to go to the convention and check out the game. After getting registered, I quickly scoured the events and found all of the ACG sessions I wanted along with a few other panels.

PaizoCon uses a lottery system for getting in to some of the most popular and limited attendee events and then an event sign-up and trading system for most of the others. As a newbie, it was a little confusing figuring out the system. That being said, there was only one event I wanted to sign up for that was full by the time I got to it.

As the con approached, and I learned more about some of the basics of Pathfinder ACG, I realized that I’d need a class deck if I wanted to play through all of the Wrath of the Righteous adventure scenarios that they would have at PaizoCon. After spending some time thinking about how I usually play games–a magic-wielding archer in Skyrim immediately came to mind–I spent about an hour researching all of the available classes and characters before settling on Arabundi, a ranger who is skilled at ranged weapons but can also do some divine spell-casting.

I took my lunch break to head down to a local game shop near my office, Gamma Ray Games, to pick up my ranger class deck. I hadn’t even known about the store’s existence until then, and I’m glad I found a local shop I could support and hopefully play at sometime in the near future. I finished my lunch break by building my very first class deck.

I also downloaded and printed out a character sheet to bring with me. I have to say that I am astonished at how much material Paizo makes available through their website. It is really appreciated when a company goes above and beyond to support the fans. It’s no wonder that Pathfinder continues to outsell D&D.

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Register with Ezren. Photo by Will James.

With my newly created character ready to go, I headed to the first day of PaizoCon on Friday and checked in. I got there right around 7:30 AM and was pleasantly surprised that there were no lines and no crowds. I walked right up, showed my ID and was handed an enormous purple swag bag, a copy of Wayfinder magazine, and sent on my merry way.

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SO MUCH SWAG. Photo by Will James.

I can say, hands down, without a doubt, that this was the best swag bag I’ve ever received at a convention. There were two Pathfinder Battles booster packs, a loose single, a deck of Pathfinder Cards, a Pathfinder ACG class deck (I got the bard deck but swapped it for a rogue deck since Ryan and his son both got the same one), a Pathfinder Tales novel, a Pathfinder comic book, and a poster. There was also an envelope containing my badge and my event tickets. The tickets were used to gain entry to the limited space events you pre-registered for to ensure access. The value of all the swag was more than the ticket price!

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The Paizo store. Photo by Will James.

I had purposely left my morning open with my first event not scheduled until noon so that I could check everything out before getting into gaming. I walked around to get the layout of all the different rooms and then headed to check out the store. There was a great selection of Pathfinder stuff along with accessories like dice and dice bags. Unlike a lot of conventions, nothing was marked up and overpriced. Although I didn’t buy anything, if there was something I wanted or needed, I would not have felt like I was getting ripped off buying at the convention.

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Day 1 and Day 2. Photo by Will James.

In the same area as the store was the Reaper paint-and-take station. I’ve never done any miniature painting but have always wanted to. There is always a line at the paint-and-take at Emerald City Comic Con so I always skip it. There were only a handful of people painting their minis because it was early in the day, so I grabbed a ranger who I thought looked like Arabundi and sat down to give it a go. I spent a lot of time, but with some tips from the Reaper folks, I was able to get all of the base colors down that I wanted.

Mini in hand, I headed off to the Pathfinder ACG demo room to get a quick game in to familiarize myself with the rules a bit more before jumping into the organized play. Not only was it fun to get a quick 30-minute game in before beginning the first adventure of Wrath, but I also got a deck upgrade for playing.

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Let the Season of the Righteous begin. Photo by Will James.

I went to the main hall and walked over to the ACG tables where I was quickly greeted by Tanis O’Connor. O’Connor is one of the designers for Pathfinder ACG as well as the upcoming Apocrypha. I am still, days later, blown away by how available and friendly the creators and staff at Paizo are with fans. She quickly helped me and several other players find a GM and get set up at a table to begin the Season of the Righteous. There were four players at our table, two guys that had played before extensively and another guy who, like me, was playing for his first time.

Although we were only slated to play for a two-hour block, we ended up playing for five hours with a short break in the middle. We managed to get through the first four scenarios of the first adventure path. With a skill upgrade, a power upgrade, a card upgrade, and a bunch of deck upgrades, I called it a day and headed home.

I couldn’t attend Saturday as we had some family fun planned (we went and visited Pigs Peace Sanctuary,) but I woke up early on Sunday and headed back to PaizoCon. I headed straight for the Pathfinder ACG tables again and asked if there were any tables getting ready to play Scenario E. Unfortunately, there were not, but there were two available volunteers who set up the game and were willing to play with me. Although nobody died, we ended up losing the scenario by a single card!

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My first ACG setup. Photo by Will James.

To give back a little, I decided to try my hand at setting up the game. It was a lot easier than I thought it would be and only took a few minutes to get everything ready to restart the scenario. With some much better luck, and a much-needed fighter added to our party, we were able to successfully complete the adventure. I walked away with another skill upgrade, some cool loot, and a die bump. The biggest downside is now having to wait over a month before continuing with the next scenario! I may need to make another character and find some OP.

Next up I met up with Ryan and his son to do a delve before my next scheduled event. It was great to meet another GeekDad writer in person. Unfortunately, the delve before ours was running over, and I was only able to play for about ten minutes before having to leave (at which point I jumped onto a huge slimy monster with oil and alchemist’s fire and was swallowed whole instead of going out in my planned blaze of glory).

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Ranzak dead. No loots for me. Photo by Will James.

I headed upstairs to my next event, which was the absolute highlight of PaizoCon. I got to play Goblins Take the Shackles with Tanis O’Connor and Lisa Stevens, CEO of Paizo. I, along with three other fans, joined O’Connor and Stevens to play a round of Pathfinder ACG with a twist–we were all goblins! Ranzak was made available as a playable character last year for Free RPG day, and we got a sneak peek at the character that will be available this year–Ekkie. Ekkie isn’t available yet, but will be soon. Stevens and O’Connor were both very much in character and made this an absolute blast. To see the CEO of a company not only playing the game but embracing it (she was dancing around, throwing her cards down, and shouting in goblin-ese) was a blast. I can only imagine what it must be like to work with people this fun, creative, and passionate about what they do.

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My Arabundi. Photo by Will James.

I then headed back down to the Reaper paint-and-take to finish up my mini. I met and was assisted by the very talented Erin. She does commissions of mini painting, and her skill is breath-taking. She gave me some tips for doing washes and highlights. I’m pretty happy with how my first miniature painting came out. So much so that I’m considering picking up this great Learn to Paint Kit that Reaper offers.

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Screenshots of the iPad game. Left photo by Will James. Right photo by Ryan Hiller.

My next stop before heading to my final event was the Obsidian Entertainment booth. I got a demo from and spoke with Nathan Davis, the producer on the Pathfinder ACG iPad game. Walking away from PaizoCon, this is the thing I am the most excited about in the near future. It will give many people, including me, the ability to fully explore the depths of the game without having to have the entire base set or a regular gaming group. The game is nearing the end of development and, while it has everything you would expect, it also has some things that will be new to this version of the game to add more flavor and depth to the characters and locations. From what I saw, this is going to be one of the best quality mobile versions of a tabletop game out there. I can’t wait to get my hands on it, and I’m sure there will be at least one review of it here on GeekDad when it comes out.

The last event I attended at PaizoCon was Auntie Lisa’s Story Hour. A group of about 30 fans all sat in a room and listened intently as Lisa Stevens told us all about her history in gaming and answered audience questions. Stevens has been in the gaming industry for almost 30 years. She started on Ars Magica, helped create Vampire: The Masquerade, helped create Magic: The Gathering at Wizards of the Coast, helped with the TSR purchase by Wizards, was instrumental in the Magic pro tours and Wizards’ stores, helped with Dungeons & Dragons third edition, and was finally let go by Hasbro when they acquired Wizards. Despite being set from the sale, she then went off to create Paizo because she loves gaming and wanted to keep playing and making great games.

She shared with us that Pathfinder and its adventure paths was a re-working of a plan Stevens came up with for D&D to ensure it would be successful for Wizards. The folks at Wizard didn’t like the plan and tossed it, and now Pathfinder has been outselling D&D for several years. It shouldn’t be a surprise that a longtime fan and player of D&D knew what fans wanted and set out to give it to them.

One of the most interesting things she mentioned was that they designed Vampire–a broody game about monsters trying to find their humanity–to be more accessible to women. I hadn’t thought about it until she mentioned it, but, looking back, my old D&D group had one female who played, and she was the girlfriend of one of the guys. Yet when we did LARP Vampire in college, at least a third of our group were females.

And in case you were curious, Greyhawk was Stevens’ campaign setting of choice. I’ve always had a soft spot for Forgotten Realms though I really enjoyed Spelljammer so what do I know.

I will definitely be coming back to PaizoCon next year. I haven’t enjoyed myself at a convention this much in a very long time. If you’re in Seattle running, or planning to start, some Pathfinder ACG organized play, let me know. I’d love to start playing more regularly, and Arabundi is ready for more adventure!

Note: I was given a press badge to PaizoCon but all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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