Monday, January 4, 2016

2015 Gaming Year in Review Part I: Green Ronin & Paizo

As 2015 goes away I thought I'd look at the highs and lows of the year, followed by some predictions.....and in 2015 for tabletop gaming there were more than a few!

HIGH: Green Ronin finally released Fantasy AGE and completed Dragon AGE.

...long in coming, this was a book everyone was waiting for, literally, for years. The first Dragon AGE boxed set released in 2010, and fans had been waiting very patiently for five years to see a playable "generic" edition as well as the completed Dragon AGE set, letting you at last run campaigns all the way to level 20. Fantasy AGE was so well received it blew through it's first print run and had to get an entire second print run to meet demand.

The high point was only offset by the low point....

LOW: Green Ronin's Mystery Setting Announcement Was...???

In January Green Ronin released a news piece about the first Fantasy AGE setting, suggesting it would be talked about for a long time to come. I provided my own biased suggestions for what sort of setting would be worthy of such monumental impact. As it turns out, Green Ronin actually only announced two settings this year: a Blue Rose Kickstarter and the Titansgrave "Ashes of Valkhana" book that was the initial companion campaign to the Fantasy AGE rulebook. Neither of these were worthy of the implied shock and awe that Chris Pramas implied, although I suppose one could imagine (based on the announcements written about it) that they had the strongly inclusive Blue Rose RPG in mind. The problem, of course, is that not that many people were all that excited about Blue Rose; it's a setting which has it's fans, and they are happy....but for the rest of us, it was more of a "okay, cool, so what's the shock and awe setting?" moment. And Titansgrave is, while fun, not even remotely newsworthy unless you have some weird fascination for Wesley Crusher.

....So, no setting announced worthy of the hype, unfortunately.

HIGH: Pathfinder keeps chugging along

We received the really cool Bestiary 5 this year, the complex and dense Occult Adventures (which was something I was very intrigued about but my group has found to be relatively difficult to actually get in to), even more interesting but impenetrable Pathfinder Unchained, and lots of other stuff. Pathfinder is holding its base, which is good since there are enough people to keep it going. This demonstrates that the market has room for a range of complexity in fantasy gaming: from ultra simple OSR games to the mid-tier D&D 5E to the top-of-the-heap Pathfinder.

LOW: Goblinworks and Pathfinder Online

I saw an end-of-year announcement from Lisa Stevens that Goblinworks had found a mystery backer willing to foot the bill for the completion of the game (or something to that effect). This could be good news, because the big deal in 2015 was that they had to lay off almost all staff and go into maintenance mode for the title, as they admitted they had fallen short of about 75% of their necessary funding to complete the game. Pathfinder Online remains a perplexing title for's a game, and there may be a niche market for the kind of game it is, but it's not a Pathfinder game in the sense that most people would think of it, and not something Pathfinder fans like myself would be interested in. That, coupled with horrible animations, a current playable version that feels like a crude alpha build, and the general suck level of the Unity engine means that any backer stepping up will hopefully have the oomph to completely revise this project....but I suspect that's not its ultimate destiny.

PREDICTIONS: I expect Green Ronin to announce more content for Fantasy AGE in 2016, hopefully an "advanced set" with more player content and a GM's book and/or more robust bestiary. My worry is that we'll see more Blue Rose and Titansgrave and not much else. My dark fear is that this is Green Ronin and we won't see any of the desired content for another year or two....but I think that's a bit unfounded; the only real delay they experience is with licensed properties.

For Pathfinder I will be surprised if we don't see an announcement by close of 2017 that involves a possible rules expansion, but I doubt we'll see a "Pathfinder 2.0" under discussion. The 3.X engine it is built on is a contentious beast to redesign, as WotC itself has learned, twice. If Pathfinder Unchained was an effort at illustrating future directions for Pathfinder, then I suspect the road to 2.0 will be steep and treacherous.

Goblinworks meanwhile will probably be gone before close of year, unless this new mysterious backer is actually some real publisher with some teeth....but in the state the Pathfinder Online game is in I see no way it can survive 12 more months without serious cash and a new direction. Still.....a game like Alganon Online continues to exist (and on Steam, too!), so I could be wrong. My wife and I were playing it years ago before our son was born and marveling at the hidden promise buried beneath mounds of suck....although in Alganon's defense it's still more polished and playable than Pathfiner Online.

NEXT! Kickstarters And Stuff

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