I recently had the good fortune to attend Paizocon, held here in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve always wanted to attend a gaming convention, but until now never made time to do so. Which is insane, because there are half a dozen awesome conventions in Seattle every year. For its part, Paizocon is small. I think there were five rooms being used by the con. But there was still a lot of cool stuff to see and do, which I’m sure I’ll be mentioning in at least a couple upcoming posts. But first I’d like to talk about something a little more personal.
My outlook on tabletop gaming has changed a lot in the last year, largely influenced by blogs such as Hack & Slash and Untimately. I’ve started to see the many ways in which my fundamental assumptions about RPGs have been wrong. It wasn’t so long ago when I fully embraced everything Pathfinder had to offer, but as I’ve experimented and learned, I’ve become much more critical. Among other things, I’ve dropped half of the skills from my games, and even concluded that the entire skills system is too fundamentally flawed to be salvaged. I’ve have always maintained, and continue to hold, a great deal of respect for Paizo as a company. I think they’ve made a lot of good decisions in how they’ve chosen to handle the 3.5 property. But I knew even before I left for the convention that I didn’t fit into the Paizo community as well as I would have when I first bought the tickets.
There were times when I felt as though I was visiting an alien culture. I spent several minutes talking with a representative of Louis Porter Jr. Design. A very friendly fellow who was absolutely flabbergasted by my aversion to using skill rolls unnecessarily. I was likewise baffled by my inability to express the benefits to him–though I like to think that if we’d had a longer time to talk we might have come to an understanding. Unfortunately his booth was rather busy. I did end up purchasing his supplements “Dangers and Discoveries,” and “Debatable Actions: The Non-Combat Resolution Sourcebook.” Both of which I hope to learn from.
This was typical of many of my interactions at the con. I briefly sat in on a few smaller workshops while waiting for things I was more interested in to start, and was often frustrated by the assumptions made there. Obviously the official rules were used, as one would expect at an official function. But, as an example, one speaker made an off hand comment about how it is highly undesirable to run a game where the players are using characters of vastly different levels. I wanted to point out that some of my best games have been run with characters that have large level gaps between them. Though I didn’t, because it would have been rude to interrupt a lecture.
I don’t want to paint a terrible picture of Paizocon. I did very much enjoy my time there. Some of the seminars I attended were incredibly informative. In particular the two I attended dealing with terrain building. Sean Reynolds taught me more in two hours than I think I could have learned in two months of watching YouTube videos. I even met a number of other attendees with whom I had some very pleasant conversations about Pathfinder’s mechanics, their failings, and alternative choices. None the less, the whole experience has left me wondering where I fit within the Pathfinder community.
This has never been a question which really bothered me before. I do my own thing, and I do it my own way, and that’s what keeps me passionate about my work. I don’t have any intention of changing that outlook, but I wonder if I should change how I describe myself. In particular the fact that Papers & Pencils is often billed as a Pathfinder blog. It’s true, I play Pathfinder, it’s the system I’m most familiar with, and many of my views are informed by years of playing it and D&D 3.5. But I’ve never bothered to read up on Golarion, or participate in the Pathfinder Society. I think I have a grand total of 3 posts on the Paizo.com forums. I don’t think I even have a very wide readership amongst Pathfinder players. Most of the websites which link to me are, amusingly, OSR blogs. As are most of my biggest influences.
So where, exactly, does that put me? I play Pathfinder, and love the game for all the things it does well. But, I approach gaming the same way I approach everything else: with a critical eye. I believe that if it’s worth my attention, then it’s worth my criticism as well. I’ve been heavily influenced by people who reject the new-school ideologies of the game that I play, and other Pathfinder players feel cut off from my writing because of that. So when a person asks me what my website is about, what can I honestly tell them? What is an apt description of this blog?
This is Papers and Pencils. I like games, and I write about them. You probably won’t agree with what I write, and that’s okay with me.