Pathfinder – A World of Possibility

For the second in my series on analog games, I could not possibly look at anything other than one of my favourite analog game pass times: Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). To be more particular, I will be examining a session played of Pathfinder, a remastering of D&D 3.5 published by Paizo. This session was played with a number of other students participating in the Analog Games class and I was a player rather than my frequent role of Dungeon Master. We are playing through a published adventure called “The Rise of the Runelords” and this session represents a very early start to our adventures.

To begin, some explanation seems necessary. Originally created by Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax in 1974, D&D is a pen and paper roleplaying game. You create a character using the rules of the game and some creative thinking and then roleplay that character through adventures that are overseen and dictated by a referee (known as the Dungeon Master). The mechanics of the game ground events in random chance (reflected by the rolling of dice) and by the rules of the world (magic works in a certain way, weapons do a certain amount of damage). As the adventure progresses, your character develops both in terms of personal power and in terms of personal growth. This manifests through improved equipment from dungeon delving, improved powers through levelling up, and improved insight based on information gathered during play.

I love the game and I have a lot of background with it since high school. It isn’t a perfect game. Aaron Trammel (links to articles below) has some interesting things to say about the way it attempts to quantify the world with maps and charts and the problematic representations of women that have existed throughout the games history. Despite this, D&D remains a powerful game to me because it very much can be whatever you want it to be. All rules can be altered and all stories are possible. The point, the wonder, and the power of D&D is that it lets you tell literally any story you can imagine and to do so cooperatively with your friends.

In terms of library programming, D&D involves a lot of rules if you are going to adhere strictly to the mechanics laid out in rulebooks. If you are willing to be more flexible and accommodating, however, a world of programming possibilities open up in the library. You can role-play events from famous books and then provide call numbers to them so that interested players can seek them out. You can convey information by putting players in the “Dewey Decimal Dungeon” and using the creatures they encounter on various floors to teach the meaning of library call numbers. Alternatively, you can simply host a weekly game to give patrons a chance to have fun, get to know each other, and become more comfortable in the library space. The possibilities around so diverse a game as D&D are limitless.

For my play session, I created a Gnome Magus (a sort of battle mage) named the Great Griswald. An avid chef, he is on the hunt for unconventional ingredients to diversify his strange recipes and turn a profit. He lived in a nearby gnomish village until it was destroyed by giants and he harbors great resentment towards such creatures since. I enjoy playing eccentric and unconventional characters and Griswald accommodates this preference nicely. At the same time, his tragic past and hunt for ingredients gives me a clear idea of what motivates him and why he is willing to put himself into danger over the course of the campaign.

For our opening session we all arrived to the town of Sandpoint to attend an autumn equinox festival. The town was full of happy folk celebrating the completion of a cathedral to the goddess Desna, a goddess of luck. Myself and the other players engaged in some light antics; one player tried to pickpocket another and ended up with a bowl of Griswald’s disgusting stew thrown in their face. As evening fell, however, trouble arrived in the form of goblins who attacked the populace and attempted to kidnap a nobleman. Springing into action, our band of heroes battled back the creatures and freed the nobleman from his precarious situation. We ended the session with whispers of a mysterious human who orchestrated the attack on the town.

As you can see, D&D shares much in common with fantasy fiction. Given the programming options inherent into the game and how much fun it has brought me over the years, I heartily recommend it to anyone who is interested in giving it a try and can find a supportive game group to help them get started.

See the following to learn more about Pathfinder and Paizo: http://paizo.com/pathfinder

For some interesting scholarship on D&D see the following:

http://analoggamestudies.org/2014/08/from-where-do-dungeons-come/

http://analoggamestudies.org/2014/10/constructing-the-female-body-in-role-playing-games/

For some mood music, listen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-HyYklN55U

 

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