Greetings, Pathfinder

Marhaba, wa salam alaykum (welcome, and peace be upon you).

This is the homepage of the UAE lodge of the Pathfinder Society. Our games are listed on the Warhorn game management site and publicised on our Facebook group. We highly recommend you join both.

New to roleplaying or to Pathfinder? Don’t worry. Our gamesmasters will help you find your feet. We recommend you play one of the wide selection of pre-made characters to begin with, so you can concentrate on learning the ropes.

But if you’ve played a few times and want to make your own character – or you’re familiar enough with the game – you’ll want the free Pathfinder Society Guide to Organised Play and access to the Pathfinder rules – several local retailers stock the Pathfinder Core Rulebook in print, or you can buy a PDF or print copy  directly from Pathfinder publishers Paizo.

Then create a free Pathfinder Society account with Paizo, get your membership card – and remember to bring it with you to PFS events, so we can properly record your characters’ trials and tribulations.

If you want to learn a little more about the world of Golarion – the setting for Pathfinder Society games – check out our brief overview.

Our UAE lodge officers are:

Venture-Captain: Andy Staples

Venture-Lieutenants: Tarek Fadel, Diego Lopez Feliciano

UAE lodge in the press

Shreeja Ravindranathan’s article in Gulf News’ Friday magazine.

The lodge featured heavily in an April 7 feature article on roleplaying in the UAE by Gulf News’ Friday magazine reporter Shreeja Ravindranathan, who joined us to play a session.

I loved the fact that Sheerja wanted to play with us (and, earlier, with LARPers in Abu Dhabi) before writing about the hobby.

Although I’ve written about gaming in newspapers before, it was a delight to see our hobby through fresh eyes.

It’s a great article from someone who spent enough time talking with us and playing with us to understand the appeal of the hobby.

(It’s taken me a couple of weeks to post about his because it came out as the Middle East Film & Comic Con was in full flow, and all my focus was on that.)

In memoriam: Waine Ross

It is with great sadness I inform the lodge of the death last night of gamesmaster Waine Ross.

Waine Ross and family

Waine was a good friend to the Pathfinder Society, and a personal friend of many of our members. He ran only one session for us, but it was one of our earliest – he ran Crypt of the Everflame at an Abu Dhabi minicon in 2014. He returned home to his beloved Louisiana in 2015.

But he did a great deal to publicise Pathfinder Society and to encourage new players (and old players new to the UAE) to join. He loved the idea of Pathfinder Society’s open, public games, even though he favoured Dungeons & Dragons for his own games.

In addition to his passion for gaming, Waine was a passionate futurist; he was a firm believer in the technological singularity, and saw technology as a way to solve mankind’ s ills.

He was proud of both his service as a United States Marine and his Native American heritage – he used to point out his tribe, with fewer than 1,000 members left, was one of the smallest ethnic groups in the world.

Waine leaves a wife, Cheryl, and three daughters.

Rest in peace.

The future of the UAE Pathfinder Society lodge

The UAE lodge is back and rolling for initiative – almost.

It’s been a year since we ran regular public games. There are a few reasons for that. One is lack of GMs – our small pool of dedicated GMs eventually became exhausted, and most found their work lives demanding more time. Most were also playing in my home campaign.

But there have also been changes within the lodge itself. First, we lost one of our Venture-Lieutenants, and most recently our founding Venture-Captain (VC) and good friend Mike left the UAE to return to the US.

We now have new lodge volunteer officers. I (Andy Staples) have stepped up from my role as Venture-Lieutenant for Dubai to become Venture-Captain for the UAE. We have two new Venture-Lieutenants (VLs), experienced PFS GMs Tarek Fadel and Diego Lopez Feliciano.

We also have a new top-level structure for PFS worldwide, with a new Organised Play Coordinator, Tonya Woldridge, at Paizo HQ, and a new level of Regional Venture-Captains. There’s a new level of local volunteers as well, the Venture-Agents – more on their role later.

So much for the changes. What are the plans?

We intend to focus the activities of the UAE lodge on gaming in our three dedicated gaming shops – Battlezone and Geeky Lizard in Dubai, and Back to Games in Abu Dhabi. We want to present both organised Pathfinder Society RPG and Adventure Card Game sessions.

As of the time of writing, we’re exploring the best ways of doing that with the proprietors. We intend to spend a little while – hopefully just a couple of weeks – getting the logistics right. We know we can’t simultaneously launch game-shop sessions in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, so our plan is to get the Dubai sessions running, then turn our attention to Back to Games in Abu Dhabi in January.

But one thing I know for sure is that we need your help. We can kick-start the activities in shops. We need help to sustain them. We need more GMs. And we need people to co-ordinate activities in the shops.

We don’t expect GMs to pop out of nowhere, but as the volunteer officers and or small pool of regular GMs run store sessions, we’ll be looking for GM volunteers.

And we’ll be looking for Venture-Agents. A Venture-Agent is the person responsible for coordinating games in a particular shop. We’ll need three of them, one for each shop. A Venture-Agent should be aged 18 or over, have experience playing and running PFS, keep records of games run, and be available for short monthly meetings with the VC and VLs. In return for doing this, a Venture-Agent gets free access to all PFS scenarios.

If you’re interested in GMing, or becoming a Venture-Agent, please email me at andy.staples@gmail.com.

But what of the out-of-store sessions, on which we built a regular community in Dubai?

These will still take place, but less frequently. Once we have established in-store games, we intend to run dedicated PFS game days at least four times a year. With established PFS sessions in game stores, we hope we will be able to draw sufficient players to run multi-table special adventures, with multiple GMs and multiple player parties all cooperating to reach one goal.

And we will continue to run Pathfinder Society events at Gulf Roleplaying Community minicons, and at the Middle East Film & Comic Con.

Still not enough? If you want more PFS, we’ll help you set up your own group, running for your friends in the comfort of your own home. We’ll guide you through the recording and reporting process that allows your players to bring their characters to play at any PFS game, run by any GM, anywhere.

The Year of the Serpent begins

Across in the US of A, GenCon is in full flow, and as usual that makes the end of one season for the Pathfinder Society and the start of another.

And so Season 6, the Year of the Sky Key, ends and we begin Season 7, the Year of the Serpent.

With it comes the annual update to the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organised Play – and this year the most notable change is the title. Guide to Organised Play no longer: it is now the Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Guide.

Please make sure you have the new guide as we move into the new season.

The State of the Lodge

With Venture-Captain Mike away, I’m taking it upon myself to review the year. Our first State of the Lodge address.

And what a year it’s been. Twelve months ago there was no UAE lodge. Now we have up to 20 regular players , with others dropping in now and again. We’ve got at least half a dozen rock-solid GMs ready to run at the drop of a hat. We’ve introduced people to roleplaying, we’ve even had people take their first seat behind the GM screen.

With rare exceptions at certain high feasts and holy days, we’ve run at least one table a week since May, often more. We’ve learnt summer is our rush time, when most home campaigns are on hiatus for the holidays and stray gamers look to us for their fix.

More than that, we’ve become friends. This first year of the UAE lodge, I’ve not only gamed more than I have in many years, I’ve met people who have enriched my life. I’ve become closer to people I knew a little before, and I’ve met some wonderful new people.

That spirit of friendship shines through at our tables. It has touched me deeply when I’ve had players sell their character’s goods to help collect the fee to raise a fallen colleague. Explore, report, co-operate – and it brings a little warmth to my ice-cold GM’s heart to see the level of co-operation common in this lodge. I feel proud to be a part of it – even if my part is often the merciless bit.

We started fairly slowly. I recall Mike running the first PFS game, at Change Initiative on January 16. Three players – myself, Jo and a visitor passing through the Emirates – made a legal table with an NPC. Mike ran the Confirmation so well that I’ve stolen his ideas every time I’ve run that scenario.

We had occasional sessions in February, March and April , but it wasn’t really until June that things picked up in Dubai. By that time we’d moved out of people’s living rooms and made our home at the Bean Machine coffee shop. That opened tables up as people who’d perhaps been a little reluctant to take on the role of GM in other people’s houses willingly – and ably – stepped up to the plate.

And then Ramadan. There seemed to be a game every other night. No one could get enough.

If I can pinpoint a point at which the Dubai PFS community became a living, breathing entity that could sustain itself without constant nurture from the VOs, it was the move to Bean Machine, which coincided with several stalwarts volunteering to GM. We haven’t looked back since (except now, because a review of the year without looking back would be very short).

Gaming in public, alongside the Geeky Lizard Card and wargamers gave us visibility as well. People walking past asked what we were doing. Card and wargamers decided to give it a try; some of them have become regulars.
We haven’t looked back. There have been games at GRC minicons, in 5-star hotels, occasional games at people’s houses, but most weekends there’s at least one table at Bean Machine – usually more.

We’ve even gained some notoriety in the global PFS community for running a couple of games in the desert.

There are ways we can improve. I need to contact Kinokuniya to see about running games there. We’ve yet to find the formula to generate in Abu Dhabi the vibrancy that infuses the Dubai community. We need to get the Adventure Card Game up and running. These are tasks for the coming year.

But the vibrancy is certainly there in Dubai. We have the GMs, we have the players, we have the venues.

And now, it seems, we have the arsenal. Over the months we’ve been running PFS, Kinokuniya’s stock has gone from a Core Rulebook or two and a Bestiary to a stack of Core Rulebooks, every hardback you can shake a stick at, Map-Packs, Flip-Mats, softcovers: Adventure Paths, Player Companions and Campaign Settings. They have both versions of the Adventure Card Game, and a stack of boosters as well. Have they noticed people have been buying Pathfinder product as soon as it appears on the shelves? I can’t help but feel we are in large part responsible for that.

Head up to Comicave at Dubai Outlet Mall, and you’ll even find Pathfinder Battles minis. Sadly, despite a lot of promise before their opening, they ended up with no RPG rules on their shelves, or gaming tables. Perhaps that will come.
I’m not going to name names for fear I’d miss someone out, but to our GMs, thank you. Without your efforts prepping, printing , presenting and running damn good games, we wouldn’t have a lodge to speak of. To our players, thank you: you are a joy to run games for, and to play with.

Pathfinders, the state of the lodge is strong.

The Dice Must Flow: PFS in the Desert

The GRC desert camp. Panorama by Omar Ismail.

We’ve talked about it for a couple of years, and we finally did it: the Gulf Roleplaying Community‘s great desert gaming session.

Co-ordinating a desert trip for a score of people is a non-trivial exercise. The hero of the trip was Mohammed N. Al Khan, an experienced desert driver, who not only went on recce missions to find a suitable location, both isolated and accessible to novice sand drivers, but provided a lot of the equipment.

Mo and I combined the gaming trip with a camp for family and friends beforehand, so we were in the desert for three days, with Mo making numerous trips between the roadside mosque where those without SUVs could park, and the campsite 7km as the crow flies into the desert near Margham, Dubai. The ground distance was considerably longer, as straight lines and sand dunes aren’t compatible. A more relevant measure is that the camp was about 40 minutes’ drive into the desert.

The camp site in the morning mist, before the GRC arrived.

The camp site in the morning mist, before the GRC arrived.

All the necessary supplies had to be driven in: shelter, food, water, firewood, tables and chairs, even ice for the cool boxes. The journeys did give us a chance to ssee some of the desert wildlife – dhabis (Arabian gazelles) and even a glimpse of a desert hare, an animal so reclusive that even Mo, who’s been camping in the desert since childhood, had never seen one before.

A small herd of dhabis (Arabian gazelles) spotted on the way to the campsite

A small herd of dhabis (Arabian gazelles) spotted on the way to the campsite

We set up Mo’s bulky canvas marquee for the family camp, and it remained our base throughout the gaming event. The GRC assembled at the mosque in the early afternoon, and I ran family back home while Mo led a small convoy of SUVs to the camp. Only one driver got stuck in the sand and had to be towed out.

We’d underestimated the length of time it would take to get people to the camp and settled in, and it wasn’t until nearly sundown that Mo could get back to the mosque to pick me up. That meant my first PFS game, 1-39 The Citadel of Flame, was run after sunset, rather than during the afternoon as I’d planned. That presented some unexpected challenges – cold temperatures, darkness and, more problematic, heavy evening dewfall, which left character sheets soggy and caused ink on flip-maps and combat pad to run. Still, we managed, and although the players – Mohammed Al Khan, Tarek Fadel, Jerome Devie and Matt Wilson – didn’t gain both possible prestige points, their characters survived the tier 4-5 challenges.

Andy Staples running Citadel of Flame. Note the head light and the camel blanket worn as a poncho. Photo by Jerome Devie.

Andy Staples running Citadel of Flame. Note the head light and the camel blanket worn as a poncho. Photo by Jerome Devie.

The following morning, after a hearty breakfast, most of the GRC struck camp and headed back to civilisation. But the bitter-enders still had another game to play. Even though I was getting tired and tried to wriggle out of running #3 Murder on the Silken Caravan, my players simply wouldn’t let me – and I’m glad they didn’t,  as it proved extremely enjoyable, and highly appropriate for the desert.

But Mo’s duties as guide left him tied up in the morning, when I’d planned to run the game, and it was noon before he made it back to camp. This left us facing a game in the early afternoon sun. In the end, we set the game up outdoors – largely because I desperately wanted the photo of us playing in the lone and level sands, then dropped as much of the marquee walls as we could to clear the stuffy heat and moved inside for the shade.

Murder on the Silken Caravan. Andy (Barwickian) GMing for Wendy Farmer, Mohammed N. Al Khan, Jerome Devie and Tarek Fadel.

Murder on the Silken Caravan. Andy Staples GMing for Wendy Farmer, Mohammed N. Al Khan, Jerome Devie and Tarek Fadel.

Andy sets up his tripod for the shot. Photo by Jerome Devie.

Andy sets up his tripod for the shot while Mohammed Al Khan and Wendy Farmer wait for the game to start. Photo by Jerome Devie.

Even inside the marquee, there were unanticipated problems – the breeze which cooled us also blew pawns off the maps. Fortunately, my portable GM kit contains Blu-Tack.

Andy  GMing Murder on the Silken Caravan. Photo by Jerome Devie.

Andy GMing Murder on the Silken Caravan. Photo by Jerome Devie.

Mohammed Al Khan prepares to battle desert raiders in a sandstorm. Photo by Jerome Devie.

Mohammed Al Khan prepares to battle desert raiders in a sandstorm as Tarek Fadel rolls his dice. Photo by Jerome Devie.

Jerome makes his move. Photo by Wendy Farmer.

Jerome Devie makes his move. Photo by Wendy Farmer.

By the time we finished the scenario (I’m pleased to report the players achieved all objectives on this one, and earned their 2 prestige points), light was fading, and we struck camp as the sun set on an amazing weekend. Playing Pathfinder Society in the desert has to rank as one of the craziest things we’ve done, but also one of the most enjoyable. I hope we’ll do it again soon. Next time I’ll remember to apply sun block.

Camp Location

Season 6 Q&A on the Paizo blog

New factions, new classes, new technology. Season 6 brings a lot of potential changes to the campaign.

PFS developer John Compton has some rulings and clarifications on the Paizo blog.

Season 6 guide applies from August 14

Paizo has just released the Season 6 edition of the Pathfinder Society Guide to Organised Play, and it comes into effect from this coming Thursay, August 14. They’ve also updated the Additional Resources document to account for the Advanced Class Guide, which released on Thursday, and several other new publications.

This means our games on Friday will be run under Season 6 rules. Notable changes are the new factions, which have migrated from nation-based to ideal-based factions. It’s assumed that existing characters will migrate with their current factions (so Cheliax faction characters will become Dark Archive characters and so on). Each existing character will get one free faction change durig the course of Season 6 (changing faction normally costs prestige; rules for faction changes are on page 17 of the Season 6 guide).

Everyone please read up on your new factions. As with Season 5, there are no specific faction missions in any given adventure – you’re expected to know your faction’s overall goals and look for opportunities to further them. Doing so may earn you special boons on your chronicle sheets.

It also means that new aasimar or tiefling characters will not be allowed, but kitsune, nagaji and wayang are. Remember, you still need to bring a copy of the Advanced Race Guide (in print or PDF) to play these non-core races.

Annual faction reports

With season six around the corner, and factions changing their focus, new faction goals have been announced on Paizo’s Pathfinder Society blog.

These goals are:

  • Dark Archive (formerly Cheliax): Establish the Dark Archive’s reputation with the Grand Lodge, and seek out skilled mentors to train the faction’s curators.
  • The Exchange (formerly Qadira & Scarnzi): Develop trade routes and contacts in western Garund.
  • Grand Lodge: Follow up on recent developments in the Mwangi Expanse.
  • Liberty’s Edge (formerly Andoran): Fight corruption and tyranny wherever it appears.
  • Scarab Sages (formerly Osirion): Explore the Jeweled Sages’ sanctum and seek lost relics of the order.
  • Silver Crusade: Serve as soldiers of peace by redeeming criminals, delivering aid to the afflicted, and handling the aftermath of the Mendevian crusade.
  • Sovereign Court (formerly Taldor): Build alliances with nobles across the Inner Sea region.

In addition, the various faction leaders have submitted their annual reports, covering the events of Season 5 and their aims and advice heading into Season 6. I strongly recommend reading the reports from the leader of your faction(s).

Reach weapons

UPDATE: A new (as of January 2015) FAQ entry from Paizo indicates Reach weapons do reach the second diagonal. This means the diagram below is now wrong. See the FAQ entry here.

Most small and medium creatures (which includes pretty much all PCs) threaten the squares they occupy and the squares immediately around them. This determines whether they can make a melee attack on a target, flank and provoke attacks of opportunity.

Characters can buy some weapons, such as paricularly long polearms, that are longer than usual. However, these reach weapons do not threaten the squares immediately around their wielder, but the squares 10 feet away (see Core Rulebook p145, or the PRD here).

Reach weapons available in the Core Rulebook are the longspear, the glaive, the guisarme , the ranseur and the whip.

This can cause some confusion because of the way Pathfinder calculates diagonal distance in 5-foot squares (the first diagonal square is work 5 feet, the second 10 feet).

Some GMs disregard this, and say reach weapons threaten the far corners, even though they’re technically 15 feet away (this was a rule in the 3.5 edition of the game Pathfinder is based on).

I favour the strict interpretaton of the Pathfinder rules, that reach weapons do not threaten the “far” corners (see this post by Paizo Creative Director James Jacobs).

This has an effect on the reach-weapon user’s attacks of opportunity and potential targets. It’s possible to attack someone with a reach weapon without being threatened by them, if you’re clever (and they stay still): move into a corner square, and stop. You’re not threatened. Next turn, take a 5-foot step to stand next to them, and attack. They still aren’t threatening you (they’ll need to step back to do so).

But you can’t simply use a regular move action to dash in and attack a reach-weapon user along his diagonals without provoking an attack of opportunity, because you’ll still cross the 10-foot threashold on your way in (see this post from Pathfinder co-designer Sean K Reynolds).

Here’s a diagram showing how it all works. The cloaked charatcer in the middle has a reach weapon and is surrounded by enemies:

Reach weapons threat zoneIf you have a reach weapon, you should ask the GM which interpretation of the rules they apply – and let them know you’re using a reach weapon!