Cosplay Notes: Bombshell Batwoman

bombshell batwoman cosplay

This year's Momocon marked my first full year of cosplaying and the debut of some new costumes, including Bombshell Batwoman. Zatanna was my gateway drug into comics, but Batwoman was the second comic I ever really got into. I feel like Batwoman is not as well known as other members of the Bat Family such as Batman, Batgirl, Robin or Nightwing.  One person actually called me Batgirl while I was at the convention a few weeks ago.  Regardless, she is a strong, kickass, take no crap from anyone kind of heroine.  

The Breakdown:

Dress: originally from Forever 21
I removed the gold buttons originally on the dress and added red trim, red buttons and hand sewn felt letters and bat symbols. When I first modified the dress back in December the Bombshell Batwoman figure was not released and I didn't have a reference photo for the front of the dress. About a week before the con I had to make some adjustments to the front to get it accurate. 

Shoes: Converse Hightops
Wig: Hestia - Epic Cosplay Wigs
Bat: Sports Authority
The bat was originally solid black, but had a wood texture so I added some acrylic paint to make it look like a natural pine wood and used micron pen to add the calligraphy
Socks: Spencers' Gifts
Gloves: Eddies' Trick Shop
Baseball Hat: already owned
I just added bat ears constructed from black craft foam and hand sewed a felt bat symbol

The Process 

bombshell batwoman

Dark Souls Retrospective

Bloodborne, the latest action-RPG developed by From Software, is the talk of the town these days. And why not? It’s brilliant. It’s dark, bloody, challenging, mysterious, and has the sort of chilling gothic atmosphere the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow games could only hope to aspire to. But Bloodborne is just the latest in a series of bad-ass dark fantasy games that began in 2009 with the awkwardly-titled Demon’s Souls, a game that blew away critics and gamers alike with its moody atmosphere, unforgiving difficulty, and satisfying combat mechanics. Demon’s Souls’ incredible success is interesting because the game sort of popped up out of the blue; I only heard about it months after it had already been released and its semi-sequel, Dark Souls, was on the way. I never did get the chance to play through Demon’s Souls, but after all the overwhelmingly positive word-of-mouth, I knew I had to give Dark Souls a shot when it came out.

That ended up taking a lot longer to get to than I had planned. The latter years of the PS3 saw a lot of really fantastic action-RPGs: Skyrim, Dragon’s Dogma, and the tragically underappreciated Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. Somehow or another I ended up playing through all of those gems long before I got around to playing Dark Souls. I was a little late to the party.

But what a party it was. Having just finished my first playthrough of the game less than two days ago, I can say with all honesty that Dark Souls is one of the most fulfilling video game experiences I’ve ever had. It compares favorably with the likes of Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy Tactics, and Shadow of the Colossus in terms of having the most emotional impact on me in all my years as a gamer.

The Capra Demon and the Joy of a Trial by Fire

Dark Souls’ epic and brutal bosses are the thing of legend, but out of them all, it was this early-game, barely-larger-than-human opponent that became my archenemy. The Capra Demon doesn’t look that scary in theory- just a humanoid demon with a thin tail, a horned goat skull-looking head, and a pair of big-ass sabers (okay, that’s actually pretty scary). It’s the fight itself that makes him so ridiculous; you’re stuck in a rectangular room that is far more narrow than it looks, with a stairwell to nowhere taking up a good bit of room and these little alcoves on your right that are just perfect for accidentally getting yourself stuck on… and then there are the dogs. A pair of vile-looking plague dogs are hanging out with the Capra Demon, and they serve as perfect little distractions, nipping at you to interrupt your attacks or drawing your attention just long enough for ol’ Capra to squash you. The battle seemed at first like an exercise in frustration, because so much seems stacked against the player, especially compared to the relatively straightforward bosses I had faced thus far. But this would prove to be one of my first examples with how this game teaches you to handle seemingly overwhelming situations. Eventually, I fell into a rhythm of running into the boss room, killing the dogs, and using that seemingly-useless stairwell to lead the Capra Demon around the room. I found openings, learned when I should block and when I should dodge, and most importantly, calmed the hell down and stopped getting so intimidated by the situation. When Capra finally fell, the sense of accomplishment was incredible.

Solaire of Astora and the Power of Caring

“Praise the Sun!” Even people only vaguely aware of Dark Souls probably recognize this reference to the glorious Solaire of Astora, one of the very few friendly blokes you stumble across in your trek across Lordran. I first saw Solaire standing on a balcony, quietly staring into the sun. With his silly bucket-shaped helmet and colorful sun-patterned tabard, Solaire doesn’t look like the coolest guy, and his neverending tirade about how amazing the sun is can come off as the rantings of a madman, but there’s a lot more to Solaire than meets the eye. He’s one of the first NPC characters that can actively aid you, being summoned as a “Phantom” to help you take on certain bosses, provided you’re currently in Human mode. Dark Souls’ feeling of isolation and loneliness can be overwhelming at times, and that works marvelously with the stark atmosphere of the setting, but it’s nice to get a little break from that every once in a while- and a dash of “jolly co-operation” from Solaire or one of the other friendly Phantoms can prove a very welcome change of pace. Besides, he’s just a kind of weird, lovable guy- an odd duck, for sure, but in a good way. I got attached to Solaire, and every time I bumped into him or saw his summon sign glowing outside of a boss door, I couldn’t help but smile. Aside from being a useful ally, Solaire is, like almost every person you meet in Lordran, destined to lose his mind and turn hostile unless you take steps to help him. I won’t lie- when I heard that Solaire would eventually get his brain invaded by an evil parasite and try to murder me, I dropped everything I was doing in the game and immediately set about the incredibly obtuse task of preventing this sour fate. It took hours of work, but when I finally found Solaire sitting in a dimly-lit tunnel, grimly questioning his own choices in life but very much not possessed or trying to kill me, it warmed my heart. And then, in the final moments of the game, I summoned him to help me battle the game’s final boss- and, with his help, with both of us hovering near death, we prevailed. On my first try. After a game chock full of fighting bosses dozens of times before finally squeaking by with the win, I had defeated the very final boss on my first ever crack at it… all thanks to Solaire.

Sif, the Great Grey Wolf and Tugging of the Heartstrings

Ornstein and Smough

I like animals. I like wolves. They’ve got a sort of nobility about them- in fiction, anyway- that makes it hard to reconcile when I have to fight and kill them in a video game. I’ve always been a little squeamish about fighting animals anyway, even in Pathfinder; in my group, it usually ends with the party going well out of their way to either befriend or run off the animals, even when killing them would have been so much easier. Dark Souls knows this. It also knows how to hit you where it hurts- by making you care, and then forcing you to do the exact thing you don’t want to do. Deep in the heavily wooded Darkroot Garden, I walked through a fog door to find an enormous grave, and upon approaching it, found myself being attacked by the grave’s guardian- the giant wolf Sif, who picks up its long-dead master’s sword in its mouth and sets about kicking your ass all over the graveyard. It’s a very winnable fight, and on my first few tries, I found myself worrying less about the fact that this was just a loyal animal companion trying to protect its master the only way it knew how and more just trying not to die. But then I got Sif’s health low, and the great wolf started to whimper and limp around, and I actually backed off. I didn’t want to hurt it. But Sif doesn’t give you a choice in the matter; to honor its master, it won’t stop until one of you is dead. I remember actually thinking, “Stop! I don’t want to hurt you anymore!” Thing is, Sif has to die; the wolf is protecting a ring that you have to have in order to enter the Abyss and slay the Four Kings, and if you don’t kill those big ghostly bastards, you’ll never open the door to the final area and finish the game. It was perhaps the most bittersweet moment in my gaming history- when I finally slew Sif, the usual feeling of satisfaction you get from beating a boss in this game was replaced with regret, and I had to turn the game off afterwards to reflect on what had just happened. There aren’t a lot of games that can play on your emotions like that.

Painted World of Ariamis

The Painted World of Ariamis and the Surprising Satisfaction of Mercy

When battling Sif, the player has no option. You can’t beat Dark Souls without killing that wolf. Action-RPGs like this are inherently violent, and as a player, you get used to the idea that you’ll have to fight and kill almost everything you meet in these games. Boy, was I surprised when I was sucked into a magical painting and fought my way to the end of the gloomy, snow-covered ruins within. Awaiting me through the boss door was an eerily beautiful giant girl with a furry tail and a huge scythe. Boss music starts to play, though the girl did not make any move against me. I moved forward cautiously, and a “Talk” option appeared. The boss, Crossbreed Priscilla, calmly pleaded with me to leave peacefully and leave her alone. She even informed me that there was an exit just beyond that I could use to leave the painted world, should I choose. A more unkind game- boy, does it feel weird saying that about Dark Souls- would tempt you to head toward that exit, only for the boss to attack you from behind and force you into another battle. But Priscilla just stayed where she was and let me go. We didn’t have to fight at all, and we didn’t. As I reappeared on the outside of the painting, I couldn’t help but feel as if the game was paying me back for making me kill Sif. Of course, the player can choose to fight and kill Priscilla- from what I hear, you get a nice weapon out of it- but I didn’t care about that. I was just happy that, for once, I was given the opportunity to show mercy, and I took it. That felt nice.

The Lord of Cinder and the how everything came full circle

The final battle of Dark Souls is, true to form, a somber, quiet affair. Rather than the sort of bombastic orchestral swells most games tack onto their final boss fights, Gwyn, the Lord of Cinder, is accompanied by a quiet, sorrowful tune. Instead of some enormous abomination or over-designed angelic or demonic being, Gwyn is just a man- a big, buff, epically-bearded man with a big-ass sword, sure, but just a man. It’s a refreshingly straightforward duel against an opponent whose powers are very similar to your own, and when I finally took Gwyn down (on my first try, as I mentioned in the Solaire bit), I found myself nodding respectfully. My final hours in Dark Souls found me a far different player than the panicking newbie who struggled against the Capra Demon months before. I had become calm, calculating, and finally had a grasp on some of the game’s more arcane concepts; defeating Gwyn was like the game’s way of handing me a diploma. I had graduated. The ending- the one I chose, anyway- was incredibly brief, and even more cryptic than the rest of the game, as my character “linked the fire,” ensuring that the Age of Fire would continue on in Gwyn’s absence; and, it appeared, by doing so, my character was consumed in flames. The whole sequence was maybe thirty seconds long- and after the credits rolled, the game simply rolled me over right back into the beginning of the game again, for a New Game Plus- allowing me to replay through the game with all (or most) of my gear and experience in exchange for drastically strengthened enemies. And you know what? I kind of can’t wait to do just that.

So yeah, Dark Souls. It’s not just a magnificent game from a mechanical standpoint, it has a rare ability to wrangle emotional responses from me in a way most triple-A titles just can’t. Other games are too often loud, overblown, and painfully amateurish in their attempts to get me to care (though those exact things can also prove endearing- see Bayonetta for a master class in just that). Dark Souls is smart. It’s subtle. It’s frustrating, sometimes, but when it’s firing on all cylinders- and that’s most of the time- it’s one of the finest gaming experiences of its generation, and then some.

Images courtesy of Dark Souls Wiki

Bizarro-Wuxtry Comics & Stuff

A few weeks ago Budd and I made a daytrip out to Athens, GA. Athens is an eclectic college town that centers around the University of Georgia. When people ask me where I’m from I generally tell them that I’m from Athens. Which is technically true! ( I was born there, have always lived about an hour or less away from the town, I have family in the area, and it’s where I attended college.)

For me one of the best parts of Athens is it’s one and only comic shop: “Bizarro Wuxtry”. The “ordinary” Wuxtry downstairs is chock full of vinyls and CDs, which is great in its own right, but the real gold mine for us is “Bizarro Wuxtry,” its neighbor upstairs, a haven for comics, magazines, and collectibles.

The sign on the door says "Sorry we're open." 

The sign on the door says "Sorry we're open." 

It’s a charmingly messy gold mine of nerdy treasures ( like your cool uncle’s basement.) My one recommendation is to not go in there looking for something in particular. Just browse at your leisure and see what hidden gems you’ll stumble upon.  

Wuxtry  (33).jpg
"Ordinary" Wuxtry Records located downstairs.

"Ordinary" Wuxtry Records located downstairs.

Because magnetic letters! 

Because magnetic letters! 

The store is full of  old-school and classic toys, collectibles, and board games

The store is full of  old-school and classic toys, collectibles, and board games

Some groovy Zatanna figures. 

Some groovy Zatanna figures. 

Back issues after back issues after back issues after back issues....

Back issues after back issues after back issues after back issues....

R2D2 & pumpkin curtains.

R2D2 & pumpkin curtains.

bizarro wuxtry comics
bizarro wuxtry comics
bizarro wuxtry comics
bizarro wuxtry comics batman

Atlanta Conventions 2015

atlcon

It’s no secret that Atlanta is a nerdy city, and with convention season just around the corner we rounded up a master list of conventions coming up this year. So sit back, grab a fizzy beverage and start marking your calendar because it’s going to be a busy year.

*Due to the extremely nerdy nature of Atlanta we've excluded a few conventions

Atlanta Sci-Fi & Fantasy Expo (Feb 21-22)

http://www.atlantascifiexpo.com/

This free two day event is a celebration of pop culture creators and fans. It will be held at the North DeKalb Mall and includes panels, gaming tournaments, workshops, a dealers area and even live entertainment.

anachrocon

Anachrocon (Feb 27 - Mar 1)

http://www.anachrocon.com/

Anachrocon is generally known as Atlanta’s “steampunk” convention, but it also celebrates historical reenacting, alternate history, sciences, horror, etiquette & indulgence, fashion, fabrication, history, literature & media. Each year the con has a new general theme, with 2015’s being The 18th Century: Rococo & Revolution. Get ready to lace up your corsets and dawn your top hats folks.

Cardboard Con (March 7)

http://www.cardboardcon.com/

It is exactly what you think it is, Cardboard Con is the first and only sci fi-fantasy convention focusing on the art of cardboard costuming. It’s also the most affordable con (attendance is free!) Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes, because it’s a traveling convention that lasts only 5 hours and spans several convention hotels.

Joelanta & The Great Atlanta Toy Convention (March 13-15)

http://www.joelanta.org/

GI Joe and toy collectors gather round, Joelanta is a must on your con route. While the non-profit con revolves around toy collecting and pop culture, it also features specials guests, toy dioramas,events, and costuming. All proceeds from the convention are donated to The Cody Lane Foundation.

sukoshicon

Sukoshi Con (March 20-22)

http://sukoshicon.com/atlanta_index.html

Sukoshi Con is not a single anime convention, but a brand of conventions in the Southeast. It aims to be a “Social Anime Convention” that focuses on interacting with fellow fans.

Taiga Con (Apr 3 - 5)

http://taigacon.com/

2015 will be the first year this new anime con graces Atlanta. There will be the normal events going on: events, special guests, dealers, and cosplay. Since this is Taiga’s first year around, they made the membership cost very affordable at $25 if you pre-register.

Furry Weekend Atlanta (April 9-12)

http://www.furryweekend.com/

Furry Weekend Atlanta is the 5th largest furry convention and has a new theme every year. This year’s theme is “Shangri-La--The Forgotten Orient.” Prepare you fursuits, kimonos, and qipao ladies and gents. FWA also donates to a charity every year, with Conservator’s Center Inc. being the charity of choice for the last few years.

221B Con (Apr 10 - 12)

http://221bcon.com/

Lovers of the world’s most famous fictional detective will find a lot to love at this convention, whether you’re a neophyte who learned to love Sherlock thanks to Cumberbatch or a long-time reader of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels. This one’s a must if you love mystery fiction.

JordanCon (April 17-19)

http://jordancon.org/

Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series is one of the most popular fantasy series out there, but there’s room at this con for all fans of the genre. The Art Show should be spectacular.

Ren Fest (Apr 18 - Jun 7)

http://www.garenfest.com/

While Ren Fest isn’t technically a convention, it’s an event should be included (plus giant turkey legs and costumes.)

shatterdome

Shatterdome Atlanta (June 13-14)

http://www.shatterdomeatl.org

Another new fan-run convention, Shatterdome focuses on the recent Pacific Rim franchise (which we love.) Be sure to bring your drift compatible partner!

Treklanta (Apr 24 - 26)

http://www.trektrax.org/

Previously known as Trek Trax, Treklanta began as a Trekkie convention. Last year it expanded it’s fandom to include Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Firefly, Babylon 5 and other space operas. A few highlights of the con are the MIss Klingon Empire Beauty Pageant & Independent Star Trek Fan Film Awards.

worldhorrorcon

World Horror Convention (May 7-10)

http://www.whc2015.org/

This one’s been around for a long time. There’s a pretty great lineup of guests for this one, including Bob Eggleton, who has been painting covers for Godzilla books, comics, and magazines for decades! Oh, and Charlaine Harris (of Sookie Stackhouse fame) will be there, too.

TimeGate (May 22 - 24)

http://timegatecon.org/

This sci-fi conventions revolves around Doctor Who, & British media and culture. 2015 marks the 10th anniversary of TimeGate.

Game-O-Rama (May 21-25)

http://game-o-rama.com/

This convention dedicated to all things tabletop- RPGs, board games, wargames, etc.-

Momocon (May 28 - 31)

http://www.momocon.com/

Momocon is the fastest growing anime convention in Atlanta. What started out as a free 2 day convention created by Georgia Tech’s anime fan club, it is grown into a 4 day event that attracts oktaus, comic book loves, and gamers alike. We never miss Momocon.

Sci-Fi Summer Con (June 13-14)

http://sfscon.tripod.com/

This con is on the small and inexpensive side with sci-fi, fantasy, horror, comics and gaming themes.

gameroomexpo

Southern-Fried Gameroom Expo (June 19-21)

http://www.southernfriedgameroomexpo.com/

SFGE is a celebration of old school arcade games, pinball machines and home gamerooms. Games like are available to play. Last year at Momocon, SFGE provided a fantastic assortment of arcade games for the gameroom.

DragonCon (Sept. 4 - 7)

http://dragoncon.org/

Everyone knows about Dragoncon, and for good reason. It’s the biggest sci-fi/fantasy con in Atlanta and attracts attendees from around the world.

Anime Weekend Atlanta (Sept. 24 - 27)

http://awa-con.com/

AWA is a popular 4-day con that celebrates anime, manga, cosplay, and Japanese culture.

SIEGE (Oct 1-4)

http://www.siegecon.net/SIEGE2014/

SIEGE is a con centered around the gaming industry, professionals and amateurs alike. If you’re one of the many game design students out there looking to make some connections in the industry or just pick up some pointers from the seminars, this one should be on your radar.

monsterama

Monsterama (Oct 2 - 4)

http://monsteramacon.com/

What do you get when you combine Dracula, Swamp Thing and Godzilla? Monsteramaa, a con focused on the fantastic in film, literature, and art.

Walker Stalker Convention (Oct 30 - Nov 1)

http://www.walkerstalkercon.com/atlanta/

Confession time: we’re not really the biggest fans of Walking Dead. It might not be for us, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of the last several years… and now it has its own convention, spawned from the Walker Stalker podcast. If you love zombies, you need to check this one out.

CONjuration (Nov 13 - 15)

http://www.conjurationcon.com/

2014 was CONjuration’s first magical year. A fan-run con, it aims to create a environment for fans of Harry Potter, LOTR, Hobbit, Supernatural & other magical literature & movies.

ACC, Atlanta Comic Con

http://www.atlantacomicconvention.com/

ACC is a one-day show held four times a year here in Atlanta. It’s a smaller con, but it’s a great place to hunt down that one rare issue that has been eluding you for ages. The free totes and t-shirts are always great, too. Don’t show up to this one broke!

Wizard World Atlanta

http://www.wizardworld.com/home-atlanta.html

Wizard World is one of the biggest and most well-known nerd conventions in America, and its Atlanta incarnation is the convention we probably want to hit up the most this year. The celebrity guest lineup is top-notch!


 Cover photo by coka_koehler 

How to Come Up With and Run a One-Shot on Short Notice

one shot

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is as follows: create and run a Pathfinder session adventure for a group that includes at least one brand-new player and can be completed in a single four-to-five-hour session. The catch? You have less than one week to put the whole thing together.

One week of prep time for a Pathfinder session might not sound too rough to those of you out there who have an abundance of free time to spend on such things, but for those of us who work full-time, write, blog, and still attempt to wrestle some sort of social life into that maelstrom, it can be a real challenge. So, what’s the right way to tackle this sort of scenario? I was recently put into such a situation, and attempted to rise to the challenge. Let’s look at some of the possible methods for putting together a one-shot adventure on short notice.

Option #1

The first option is the easiest: run a module! There are tons of great pre-written adventures out there, regardless of the RPG you’re playing. Since my game of choice is Pathfinder, that gives us a large number of modules to choose from, many of which are pretty brilliant. The only complicating factor there is that little clause about being able to complete it in a single session- and most modules, though designed to be fairly brief, will still last two or three sessions, realistically. A one-shot should probably have no more than three combat encounters, as those tend to be the most time-consuming and rule-intensive events in most games. Some modules feature large dungeons with fifteen to twenty encounters therein- sometimes more than that. In my experience, I’ve found that modules make for great mini-campaigns, but not particularly great one-shots.

Now, modules aren’t the only type of pre-written adventures you can rely on; Pathfinder Society Scenarios are designed specifically to be completed in a single session. They tend to be light on role-play, however, like Pathfinder Society in general- don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean there’s no room at all for inter-character dialogue and interacting with NPCs, but in general Pathfinder Society Scenarios tend to feel a little… flat, in my experience. They also assume that all player characters are a part of the Pathfinder Society, a network of adventurers that pretty much just get hired to do all kinds of work across Pathfinder’s default campaign setting, Golarion. It’s fun if you really love combat, but Society tends to cater toward the power-gamery side of things. The Scenarios are cheap, though, at about four bucks a pop to download… but let’s assume that we don’t have any interest in spending money on something pre-made.

Option #2

That leads to our second option: homebrewing an adventure. Now we’re cookin’- homebrew is, in my opinion, where the true strength of the RPG lies. So we’re going to press on without the aid of modules or pre-fab adventures (mostly), and try our damnedest to put together something that is not only fun, but won’t overwhelm a newbie and can be completed in four-to-five hours.

 

Homebrew Process

Here’s the process I went through, step-by-step:

1. Pick a theme.

What kind of theme will the adventure have? Gothic horror? High-seas adventure? Urban intrigue? A good-ol’ fashion dungeon crawl? Pick one and stick with it. I always like a bit of a horror element in my adventures, so I decided to try to put together a dark, mysterious adventure that begins with the player characters being left stranded in an isolated location swarming with hostiles.

2. Pick a good monster or two- especially if they have synergy.

This is where a site like The Daily Bestiary comes in handy. You can come up with a great adventure hook on the spot if you have the right monster to center it on. My personal suggestion is to pick a monster that has some kind of association with another creature, so that you can easily come up with a variety of encounters- nobody wants to just fight the same thing over and over again. For instance, for my one-shot, I looked through some of the low-CR monsters and found the Akata- an unusual, blue, lion-shaped extraplanar creature with head-tentacles and a particularly nasty (and interesting) ability; they can infect other creatures with parasites that transform them into “void zombies,” giving them a nasty extended tongue attack. It’s not only a dangerous power for any monster to have, it opens up a ton of doors for you as the GM! No longer must you struggle to figure out why all these neat monsters you’ve picked out are hanging out together. That’s synergy, baby! If I’m planning a one-shot with about three encounters, I’m already pretty much covered with just the Akata and a couple of void zombies. The template can even be applied to non-human creatures, for extra deviousness.

3. Keep the location reined in!

In a full-length campaign, traveling long distances and exploring a variety of environments is part of the thrill. In a one-shot, however, you don’t have time to move the players around a bunch of different locations, so my strategy of choice is to pick a single location- a lonely mansion in the woods, an underground cavern, a boat out on the high seas- and roll with it. Flesh this location out as best you can, keeping it relatively small but interesting- no “plain, rectangular room with 10’ ceilings and two doors” like you might find in any average dungeon. For my one-shot, I start the players off in a wrecked vehicle, give them free reign to explore the surrounding wilderness, with the only safe haven nearby being a quiet, seemingly-abandoned mansion on a looming hill nearby.

Tips & Tricks

  • Mine modules for maps, locations, and encounter ideas ahead of time. These things are written by industry professionals who (usually) know what they’re doing. Even if I’m not running a module, I’ll sometimes poke my nose into one that covers the same level range as the one-shot I’m running and see if there are any fun bits to swipe and alter to fit my needs.

  • Consider pre-making your players’ character sheets for them. Pre-generated characters are a love it or hate it sort of thing, but they can save a load of time when you’re in a pinch- creating a character sheet can take upwards of an hour, especially if you’re working with a new player, so anything that saves some time is worth looking at. If I’m making pre-gens, I’ll ask the players ahead of time what race and class they’re interested in playing, and make all of the mechanical decisions (stats, equipment, etc.) before allowing them to fill in all the “flavor”- the name, gender, personality, and backstory for themselves.

  • For new players, keep the game as exciting and fast-paced as you can, while allowing them ample time to roleplay and make decisions. I wouldn’t recommend a slow-paced dungeon crawl for a first-time player, as a long sequence of exploring rooms that might not have anything of note in them can be boring, and packing every chamber with enemies to fight is both too time-consuming and too video-gamey. Showing new players what makes tabletop gaming great is important- so focus on what makes it special: imagination, improvisation, and unpredictability. Keep things loose and fun.

  • When you’re not running any games, if an idea for an adventure hook hits you, jot it down! I keep a folder in Evernote where I record all my ideas for future games, mostly one-shots or module-length mini-campaigns. In a pinch, you can grab one of those ideas and run with it.

The next time you have some buddies asking you to run a game for them on short notice, keep this stuff in mind. There’s no need to panic! Running a game on short notice doesn’t have to be stressful. And, really, the whole point of RPGs is to have fun- so if at any point you feel as if you aren’t doing that, change your direction!

Or you could just play Monopoly instead, I suppose… ;)

5 Awesome Pathfinder Races You (Probably) Haven't Played

Everybody’s played as the usual fantasy tropes: humans, dwarves, elves, half-orcs, and their ilk. You might have even played as some of the better-known alternative races, like tieflings, aasimar, fetchlings, tengu, or catfolk. In my travels, there are a few races I haven’t seen much of- races that deserve a little love. This post will highlight a few such lesser-known Pathfinder races available for play (depending, of course, on what sort of adventure your GM is running) and what, in my humble opinion, makes them worth taking a look at.


samsaran

Samsarans are blue-skinned, clear-blooded humanoids who continually reincarnate, retaining the memories of their past lives as waking dreams and vague impressions. While their racial abilities are interesting enough as it is (with special resistances to death effects and a smattering of spell-like abilities), the true appeal of Samsarans lies in the roleplaying opportunities they present. Being able to access memories from lifetimes long past makes creating a backstory for any Samsaran character a fine excuse to flex your writing muscles. For instance: a samsaran monk who becomes the lone practitioner of a forbidden and long-dead martial arts style, taught entirely by her own memories of being the style’s last grand master in an incarnation hundreds of years ago, slowly learning each new technique as she delves deeper and deeper into her embedded spirit-memories… There’s also a cool Archetype for Oracles (the Reincarnated Oracle, of course) available only to Samsarans that practically writes itself as the story of a character whose quest to uncover the truth of their Mystery spans multiple lifetimes.

2. Strix

strix

Just look at the picture. You already know what makes Strix stand out: they have wings. They don’t have to cast a spell or burn a bunch of Feats (I’m looking at you, aasimar) to fly; it’s built-in to their racial abilities. Some GMs consider flying characters to be their bane, and for good reason; you can’t restrict someone who can fly around all willy-nilly to just any old pedestrian method of travel, meaning Strix characters are particularly tough to railroad. In a dungeon-crawling adventure, those wings won’t do much good, but when it comes time to tackle the evil wizard camping out on the top floor of his enormous arcane tower, well… why doesn’t the Strix just fly up there and shank ‘im? Well, it’s time to get creative, GMs. Strix have a cool look (like dark elves, but with wings!), but the bad blood between them and humans makes for a fascinating RP opportunity- things are a little more hostile than the usual “Oh, sorry, this bar doesn’t serve half-orcs!” business attached to other races that supposedly bear some social stigma. Golarion, Paizo’s campaign setting, has Strix attached to a singular location, but there’s no reason why you can’t come up with your own, vastly-different habitat for Strix in your own games.

3. Vishkanya

viskanya

Elegant, seductive, and possessing an alien beauty that’s almost human, Vishkanya might be written off as “too much like elves” by some. But who says your campaign setting even has to have elves in it? If you decide to give our long-eared pals a break, Vishkanya make a very cool, very flavorful alternative, particularly if your campaign setting has a more Asian theme. With their poisonous bodily fluids, flexible bodies, and seductive nature makes Vishkanya perfect spies and saboteurs. Want an example of a somewhat more unconventional Vishkanya, though? I once played a Vishkanya Paladin (of a homebrewed, benevolent winged serpent deity) who treated her poisonous blood as a holy weapon, “anointing” her scimitar with it and enhancing its power with her “divine henna” tattoos.

4. Suli

suli

Suli are the humanoid spawn of jann, a type of genie. This makes them kin to other elemental-blooded races like Ifrits, Sylphs, Undines, and Oreads, but what makes Suli interesting is that they embody all four elements. Their coolest racial ability is their Elemental Assault, which allows them to conjure up elemental energy into their fists to fire-punch (or ice-punch, or lightning-punch, etc.) enemies right in their damn faces. This makes them a natural fit for the Monk class. The alternate racial trait Energy Strike swaps out Elemental Assault and their all-round energy resistances for one of four very cool powers that focus on a single element- including the ability to walk on water by freezing it beneath your feet! That is just too damn cool.

5. Android

androids

Some of you out there are probably groaning: “Keep your sci-fi out of my fantasy!” While I won’t open the sci-fi-versus-fantasy can of worms today, I can say that Androids are one of the most interesting new races to come out of Pathfinder’s Inner Sea Bestiary. They’re also getting a little bit of exposure as of late thanks to Paizo’s most recent Adventure Path, Iron Gods, which has a distintive sci-fi theme and even pictures an iconic Android character on the cover of the first volume. With a number of fitting immunities and penalties thanks to their bionic nature, Androids are another one of those races that open up all kinds of doors for their backstories, and their difficulty in understanding and processing emotions is just begging for some great roleplay. Also: Nanite Surge is a very, very neat ability.


All art belongs to Paizo Publishing.