Category Archives: General

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 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

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).

Catch a falling star…

My print copy of Numeria: Land of Falling Stars arrived in the post today, well in time for the start of Season 6.

The hook for Numeria is that it’s the site of an ancient spaceship wreck. There are fiercely anti-tech barbarians, the Technic League (who attempt to keep the alien technology to themselves), robots and, yes, laser-wielding Gunslingers.

Sweet.

Season 6 is approaching

PFS co-ordinator Mike Brock has revealed some of the details of the upcoming PFS Season 6: The Year of the Sky Key. The new season will start at GenCon Indy in mid-August – remember, you’ll need to download new Guides to Organised Play when we enter the new season.

Being a new lodge, starting in the middle of Season 5, we haven’t really caught up with seasonal play yet, but each season does have an overall theme – and what your characters do in games can affect the storyline. Some players may have noticed many of the the Season 5 adventures revolve around the Pathfinder Society’s attempts to explore a newly found Dwarven Sky Citadel, and to send troops to aid the Mendevian Crusade against the demon-plagued Worldwound.

Season 6, as far as we can tell, will be focusing on some of the science fantasy elements of Golarion.

Alongside that, Mike and PFS developer John Compton have explained how your faction actions affect the overall plot of the seasonal campaigns, and what some factions can look forward to in the coming season. The Piazo blog post Faction Evolution explains the basics. Faction Evolution II takes a look at Cheliax and Andoran factions,  Faction Evolution III focuses on Osirian and Taldor factions, and Faction Evolution IV looks at the Scarnzi and Qadira factions.

Post-con thoughts

The GRC’s summer minicon in Abu Dhabi was a huge success, and in some ways I wish we’d organised more PFS during it. Waine ran an entire module, Crypt of the Everflame, for six players, though, which saw each of them rise a level (though I screwed up advising him on XP, prestige point and gold gains, believing he’s only run the first part of the module – next task: email corrected chronicle sheets to each player).

More PFS sessons were on Saturday morning. My 5-08 Confirmation table was significantly oversubscribed, so Jerome stepped up to run 4-18 The Veteran’s Vault.

As well as recruiting several new PFS players, the weekend saw a good deal of levelling up. As a pretty new lodge, we’re still eyeing Tier 1-5 scenarios, but we now have several level 3 characters.

The appetite for PFS games continues to amaze and delight me. I’m a little concerned we won’t keep up with demand, but as we enter the holiday season, one of our regular GM’s has left town for the summer, but another GM has stepped into the breach.

The end of the school term this summer also co-incides with the start of Ramadan, which may require us to reschedule our regular afternoon games to the evenings, after Iftar. Whether or not our Bean Machine gets a daytime serving licence, I won’t be able to smoke outside the mall before sunset…

Hollow’s Last Hope isn’t PFS-compatible

We’ve had a couple of GMs suggest running the Paizo module Hollow’s Last Hope as a Pathfinder Society game – possibly because it’s a free scenario, it was produced by Paizo, so it’s got to be PFS compatible, right?

Unforunately, no, it isn’t. Hollow’s Last Hope was written for the 3.5 rules system, before Pathfinder was published. While most of the Season 0 PFS scenarios (also written for 3.5) have been adapted for Pathfinder, none of the other modules have.

If you’d like to run modules or adventure paths that are not specifically written for Pathfinder Society, check the PFS Additional Resources document for any specific changes you may need to make. If the module you’re interested in isn’t in the Additional Resources document, it isn’t legal for PFS.

Another clue is that PFS-compatible modules include a link to their Chronicle Sheet in their product description.