Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pathfinder MMO Announcement

Here was my honest response when I read the announcement at EN World that Pathfinder was announcing an MMO: I winced.

Not that I don't think Pathfinder is great, but rather because I do.  Making an MMO is hard, expensive, and usually fails in one way or another.  I worry that any resources spent on the MMO (and yes, I know a different company is going to be doing the actual coding and artwork, but there will assuredly be some impact on Paizo's operations) will be resources not spent on the Pathfinder game itself.  I worry in particular about what the impact of a failure in this space would be for Paizo's financial position, and thus the future of Pathfinder.

D&D Online had a much better known property and Hasbro/WotC money behind it.  It's currently a free-to-play and never made the big splash that WotC was hoping.  Warhammer online sank like a stone soon after launch.  WoW perpetually eats everyone's lunch, etc., etc.

I realize that gaming companies feel like they need to embrace the online world in order to survive.  They're right, but I think they often think this means 'make a video game'.  I wish instead they would invest more effort in facilitating online play of their existing games.  WotC's Online Tabletop has been at 'real soon now' status for some time.  Existing 3rd party projects lack publisher support.  Meanwhile, ConstantCon shows that there is both demand and a real possibility of success for facilitating online play.

MMOs, because of their shared setting and scripted interactions, can never really match the creativity and satisfaction of a good tabletop game.  The need to keep mechanics simple enough to be resolved by an algorithm instead of a live GM limits the challenges and situations that can be offered.  New ideas mean new code, which means a limited number of ideas can make it into each release.  I'm still convinced that making a professional online product that facilitated chat-based (or VoIP-based) play with shared maps, built-in rule/monster reference and a supported forum for finding gaming groups would keep a lot more gamers active in tabletop RPGs than trying to make a slightly different take on automated D&D.

On Gnomes

I have a weird confession: I like gnomes.  Not in a way that would be classifiable in the DSM-V, but as a PC race.

The first gnome PC that I remember playing was a 2e Thief created for a game a friend of mine ran during the 7th grade.  We played during a free-form elective class that we took that was ostensibly a chess club; eventually, someone had the idea to talk the teacher into letting us play AD&D instead (on the grounds that it 'used math').  Possibly as a result, I've never really learned to play chess properly.  Further gnomes followed, most of them thieves, illusionists, or (once 3e rolled around) wizards and rogues.

I think this is relatively uncommon.  Dwarves and elves have always been popular, I think, and humans are kept in play thanks to a wide variety of fantasy archetypes and wish fulfillment vehicles.  Even halflings have their constituency, consisting of Tolkien lovers, rogue/thief min/maxers, and recovering kender addicts.

But gnomes?  Gnomes seem to consistently get the short end of the stick, both from players and from the various keepers of D&D lore.  As the latest in a long series of insults to gnomes and their boosters, WotC has seen fit to make some significant changes to gnome lore, turning them into essentially sneaky junior eladrin.

This is a very strange circle to have come for a race that started out as junior dwarves.  No other standard race has undergone anything like the level of transmogrification seen by gnomes over the years.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rebuilding and... re-something-ing

I've not posted here in years, but I've started playing in some PbP games again and browsing through some new RPG offerings. They'll be something new here eventually, with less of a focus on WFRP (though the name will stay the same).