A First Foray Into the World of Tabletop RPG’s

This week I had an entirely new and exciting experience. While I have some experience exploring castles and fighting giant spiders in other (read: digital) worlds, I can now say I’ve done it in the Dungeons & Dragons world, or, to be specific, the Pathfinder world. After a recent lecture on RPG’s in our Analog Gaming class sparked some interest in the genre, some classmates and I, all of varying levels of experience with Pathfinder, managed to put together an interesting cast of characters for a one-shot campaign.

In case you’re not familiar with RPG’s, Pathfinder is an adaptation of the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 system. This system defines a variety of rules and thematic elements for role-playing, such as the abilities and culture of each race (eg. Elf, Orc) and class (eg. Wizard, Rogue), statistics of creatures you might encounter, basic rules for how to roll dice to perform actions, and much more. Each player creates a character with a variety of skills and stats (eg. Strength, Wisdom), as well as personality, and then the team sets of on a campaign. A campaign is a story of sorts that is mediated by a Game Master, or GM. The GM narrates a scenario, throughout which the players can make choices about which actions they take, usually accompanied by a dice roll to determine how successful the action is. This entire scenario can take place in the minds of the players and with notes on paper, but in the Pathfinder set we were using there was a grid to draw maps and player statuettes to track movement, which I found really helped visualize the story.

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My character sheet for Kyra the cleric, outlining the basics needed for our campaign.

Since each player had either no or little experience with Pathfinder, and since we wanted to save a little time, we decided to work with pre-set characters and modify them slightly (eg. rolling our own stats, choosing alignments). We settled on playing the 4 core classes, fighter, wizard, rogue, and cleric, so that we’d have a well balanced team, which was especially important in our combat heavy campaign. Since we didn’t spend much time with the character creation process, the nuances of our characters emerged as we battled through our mission.

I was completely enthralled with the whole experience, and took photographic note of the whole story in order to preserve it here. If you’re more interested in my opinion of the game and reflection on the experience than the story, you can keep scrolling to the last section (titled The Experience).

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Resource Review: Dice Tower

Any good librarian wants help inform people about the resources they can use to help navigate their interests, and so this post aims to shed some light on a popular tabletop game resource, Dice Tower. If haven’t heard of Dice Tower before, or are new to games, in general, I hope this review helps you decide whether it’s a useful resource for you.

Dice Tower’s most popular episode, showcasing the diverse review styles of main video review hosts Tom Vasel, Zee Garcia, and Sam Healey.

The Dice Tower, founded by Tom Vasel, is a group of game enthusiasts, and some professionals, who create reviews and news shows for the gaming community. Their main show is The Dice Tower podcast, but they have expanded into other podcasts as well as videos. All can be found on the Dice Tower Home page, though their videos are also neatly organized on their Youtube channel. They also have a community on BoardGameGeek for members to access their material and have discussions in forums. Like most popular game resources all their content is free to access. The majority of their content concerns board games and non-collectible card games, including both strategy and party games, though there are some limited shows about collectible card games, RPG’s, and war games. Dice Tower is mainly a site for hobbyists, by hobbyists, but some podcasts and video series are hosted by game designers, distributors, etc. There is also some content targeted directly to newcomers in the games community. Therefore, a wide variety of perspectives within the gaming community are covered. These perspectives often come in the form of game reviews, and top ten lists of games in certain categories, as well as some gaming community news. While some reviews begin with brief walkthroughs, this is mainly just to give a context to the review, not to discuss specific rules or strategies. It is therefore recommended not as tool for learning specific games, but a tool to discover new games which you may have interest in.

Dice Tower’s shows are very light-hearted and entertaining, but with lots of informative discussion of the merits and pitfalls of certain games. The wide differences in opinions between many of their reviewers provide a variety of insights into the games, and good consideration of how personal preference & personality play a role in the perceived quality of games. This can help gamers, new and old, to help explore what type of gamer they identify with, and thus what type of games they’ll be interested in. The wide variety of games discussed on the show also help with this self-discovery. If you are interested within a certain category, mechanic, or even time period of games, you can explore recommended games of that type in Dice Tower’s top 10 list compilations. Specific podcasts or specific topics, however, may be a little difficult to find on the Dice Tower website, which can be a bit difficult to navigate, doesn’t provide in-depth descriptions of the content of each podcast or video series, and is only searchable by specific games. It is much easier to search the Dice Tower youtube channel for topics of interest. While very informative, the podcasts and videos can run a little long, and the Dice Tower website does not give any detailed text explanations or reviews of games, which may be a disadvantage to people who prefer textual information. However it does compile some brief descriptors for each game, as well as a link to the BoardGameGeek page for each game, which has much more information, though in a less entertaining style than Dice Tower.

One of Dice Tower’s episodes for new gamer’s, which helps promote a more approachable space.

Overall, Dice Tower is a fun resource with lots of educational potential. It may not be the best resource for brand new gamers, as it is highly steeped in the language and interest topics of the gaming community that may feel intimidating. However, it provides introductory materials to help make discussions more inclusive, and is a good entry point for anyone who wants to start learning more about games and the gaming community.

If you want to learn more about Dice Tower, then their Introductory podcast is a great place to start.