April 2019 Player Profile: Patrick Brennan of Cosmic Crit!

We got the chance to sit down with Boston native son and Starfinder GM Patrick Brennan last week at PAX East!

OK, first the rundown: who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Patrick Brennan, and I am a Librarian by day, and Gamemaster most of the rest of the time. I have been playing TTRPGs like a lot of people since High School, and over the last few years have been using them as a way to reconnect with old friends, and make new ones. When I heard about Paizo’s Starfinder I started a podcast with my current online gaming group of friends, many of whom I have known since college, and we call it “Cosmic Crit“. We are playing through the awesome Adventure Paths that Paizo has put out, and we finished up Dead Suns recently and just started Against the Aeon Throne. GMing on the podcast inspired my to get into Organized Play, both at my local gaming stores and online, and most recently at PAX East 2019.

The folks at Paizo have taken a shine to Cosmic Crit, as we are the most popular unofficial Starfinder podcast our there. They have been kind enough to allow me to write some of the backmatter for Against the Aeon Throne and Dawn of Flame and I was pretty excited that I got to announce this year that I wrote an Adventure Path volume for Attack of the Swarm, which the next AP coming after Dawn of Flame. It’s scheduled to be released in August of this year.

A Starfinder AP! Tell us more about that! How was it working with your developer at Paizo? Had you ever written something like that before?

My AP volume is called “The Fate of the Fifth” and it sees the players facing off against the unknowable alien legion known as “The Swarm,” which is a hive-mind collection of insect-like creatures from across the reaches of Starfinder. My book is part war story, part horror-show as the players have to navigate off their planet whilst it’s being invaded by The Swarm, and try and survive long enough to escape the advancing armies of bugs!

Working with Paizo and Starfinder developer Jason Keeley has been a dream. I have been playing Adventure Path content in Pathfinder for over seven years, and at no point in that time did I ever believe that I would be able to contribute something to this amazing universe. It’s funny in retrospect because I do have an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing, have been writing homebrew content most of my life, and have been deeply invested in Starfinder since before its release…so I was actually really well situated last year to dive into the writing process and help kick off the 5th Starfinder AP.

What was it about Starfinder that inspired you so much – versus something like Pathfinder or D&D?

I have been a huge fan of fantasy action since reading the Hobbit in middle school, and then Lord of the Rings after that while playing homebrewed 3.5 Dungeons & Dragons with a group of adult Librarians in rural North Carolina, which explains a great deal of my origin story. But to be honest my greatest loves in geekdom are Star Wars, Star Trek and other sci-fi universes. We’re talking Mass Effect, Firefly, Blade Runner, Dune, these are like cat-nip to me. Starship Troopers? Sign me up! I loved the huge space battles, the alien cultures, and the in some of them the mix of mystic magic powers and high-tech robots.

So when Starfinder was announced I was super excited, and I made the podcast because I was worried nobody else would. I wanted to make a show that I would listen to, and help bring in new players to the system. I was really impressed with the Glass Cannon Podcast and what they were able to do weekly with Pathfinder and said to myself “I wanted to portray Starfinder in a similar reverent fashion.”

Much of Organized Play locally is done in-person at gaming stores, whereas much of Cosmic Crit takes place on Roll20. Tell me about some of the differences of IRL v. Online gaming.

Well gaming online was a necessity for our podcast because the players and I are stretched out across multiple times zones and four different states. Technology has caught up and allows us to play with virtual tabletops like Roll20 and use great online VoIP audio services to connect. We have even played with cameras so it is like we are in the same room. I wanted to let people know that even if they don’t have a game store near them, or their friends have moved away (like many of mine have) that you can still get a great gaming group going on a regular basis.

That being said, I also love being able to go into Warhorn and look and see what tables are playing what in my local gaming stores. I also play Pathfinder at an IRL tabletop with friends, and that table has been gaming together for over eight years. I think that online games usually move a little quicker, but I love the drawn out and relaxed pace of playing in person with people. If I had to choose only one I would be hard pressed as they are both fun and freeing in their own ways. It is nice being able to play in your pajamas while relaxing in your own home and playing Starfinder.

Clearly the online gaming format has been a success for you as well as Cosmic Crit fans – so much so that you’re doing an online convention soon! Tell us more about that.

Yeah, when we started our online lodge for Starfinder Society we had an impromptu convention, “CRITTERCON”, where we had fans and GMs from all over the world play SFS together. We streamed SFS #1-09: Live Exploration Extreme! [written by John Compton] via Twitch and had a great time raising money for charity. This year we are upping the stakes with our second convention “CRITTERCON 2,” as we are gaming all weekend long Friday April 26th through Sunday the 28th, we are streaming much of that time and connecting gaming groups together. We also have official support from Paizo, so players can donate money to our charity “Doctors Without Borders” and get natural 20’s and rerolls while making sure your dollars are going to a great cause.

We are super excited to have authors of SFS scenarios running charity tables, we will have dozens of boons to raffle of, and we will be running the convention Interactive Special SFS #1-99: The Scoured Stars Invasion [written by Mikko Kallio] on Saturday. If people want to sign up for games right now they can join our Discord and make an account on our Warhorn schedule to see what tables and games are out there. We fully expect hundreds gamers, streamers and viewers over the weekend, both new to Starfinder as well as veterans, so everyone is welcome to join up!

OK, last question – convention season is almost upon us. Where can we find you and other members of Cosmic Crit this summer?

So I myself am hoping to make it out to non-Boston centered gaming conventions this year, namely Gen Con or PAX unplugged. Gen Con will be right before my AP volume is published, so I feel like I should show my face and apologize for all the murder PCs beforehand. But we will have our players Drew and Rebecca more than likely meeting up with fans at DragonCon in Atlanta, GA. This year will be our first official representation at PaizoCon as well, as our player Tyler will be there gaming, giving out free swag and meeting fans. It is a big year for us on the podcast, having launched on Patreon and announcing new fun partnerships and associations, so we are trying to get to as many conventions as possible.

CosmicCrit

Organized Play: PAX East 2019 Preview

The Penny Arcade Expo – East (PAX East) is one of Boston’s largest conventions and hosts vendors and players interested in tabletop, arcade, and video gaming. New games are available to demo, old console games are available for nostalgia, and anything you could ever want in terms of gaming and gaming accessories is for sale.

What We’re Offering

We’ll have six concurrent demo tables of Pathfinder, Starfinder, and Pathfinder 2e Playtest. Just walk up to HQ, give your name, and start playing! Games will last approximately 45 minutes and start every 15 minutes (giving our volunteer GMs a much-needed 15 minute break to stretch and prepare for the next session).

Where to Find Us

We will be located in the tabletop gaming area, which is past the Expo Floor. If you’re standing facing the tabletop gaming area with your back to the Expo Floor, we will be in the back-left corner.

Extras

If you haven’t ordered your T-Shirt yet, we’ll have order forms with us. There is also a charity raffle to benefit Boston Children’s Hospital.

PAX EAST

 

Special Preview: Games with Terrain

So often in Organized Play games, we use Flip-Mats, hand-draw maps (for colorful, reusable maps, I suggest using wrapping paper with a 1″ grid on the back!), and “theater of the mind.”

Metro Boston GM Eric Nielsen takes things one step further: he brings his amazing collection of 3-D terrain tiles from Dwarven Forge to the table, and all you have to do is show up to be a part of this amazingly immersive experience.

terrain

Eric will be bringing his terrain set-up to Adventure Pub in Arlington on March 16th and March 30th. The sign-up links are below:

PFS #4-18: The Veteran’s Vault (3/16/19 from 2pm-6pm)

While many Pathfinders meet unfortunate fates in their ongoing explorations of the dangerous world of Golarion, some retire with decades’ worth of treasure in their coffers, and their lives still intact. When one such Pathfinder approaches the Grand Lodge with the hidden location of her treasure vault, it falls upon a new generation of Pathfinders to retrieve from within a valuable keepsake. That they can keep anything other than the ex-Pathfinder’s locket makes the assignment all the sweeter.

PFS #8-22: Wrath of the Fleshwarped Queen (3/30/19 from 2pm-6pm)

When members of the Shoanti Axe Clan saw fire shooting up into the sky over Varisia’s Caliphak Mountains, they rushed to investigate. They found a pair of doors inscribed with runes from ancient Thassilon, along with clear signs that the doors had recently been opened. In recognition of the Axe Clan’s expanding alliances, the Shoanti offered both the Society and a priest of Soralyon from Riddleport the opportunity to explore the ruin and neutralize its dangers. Now that the priest has vanished within the complex, the PCs must uncover the ruin’s history before the Shoanti lose faith in them and take matters into their own hands.

Here’s some more examples of Eric’s amazing builds:

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March 2019 Player Profile: +1 Pen of Smiting!

Editor’s Note: I was so excited when +1 Pen of Smiting agreed to be featured in this month’s Player Profile. I met Pen when they were a player at my SFS #1-08: Sanctuary of Drowned Delight table at Arisia 2019. We were all blown away by Pen’s ability to quickly capture the moment in adorable little drawings. Check out our interview, below!

How would you describe your style as an artist?

Messy, silly, sloppy, but pure. Somewhere between Cathy Lee Guisewite and Sandra Boynton, aspiring to shake hands with Phil Foglio.

What are some of your favorite games?

Does Pictionary count? (Editor’s note: YES!) Board games I like include Scythe, The Red Dragon Inn, and Splendor. RPGs include Dungeons & Dragons 5e, Pathfinder, and Monster of the Week. I don’t play online games anymore as I have children and want to keep them.

Are there any particular characters you like drawing more than others?

I like charismatic characters who live larger-than-life, have sharp wits and/or sick senses of humor. Obviously I’m projecting 😀

What got you into drawing art for RPGs?

I love drawing at my own table, when a group of friends are all cracking up or shouting over make-believe heroics or awesome fumbles, capturing the moment when a character gets to shine. Last summer, I was in-between contracts and, frustrated, wanted to tap into the things that made me smile. Not being in a campaign myself, I decided to invite myself to other people’s gaming tables–virtually, anyway–and draw THEIR heroes. I haven’t figured out a way to stop since.

(It is also a way to give back to a creator who is sending their hard work out into the abyss–I know how THAT feels!–so my cartoons were one way to show them and their fans that someone is listening. It can be a way to introduce new listeners to fun content and also a fun way to say “Thanks!”)

How can we follow you and your art?

At a safe distance, preferably. Online I can be found at:

Twitter: twitter.com/PenOfSmiting
Instagram: instagram.com/penofsmiting
Tumblr: www.tumblr.com/blog/penofsmiting

and especially at
Patreon: patreon.com/penofsmiting
Ko-Fi: ko-fi.com/L4L0CIOW

Supporting my art lets me do more, do it better and do it for YOU.

If players want to commission some art, what’s the best way to reach you?

Smoke signals are cool, but email is most effective at penofsmiting@gmail.com

Editor’s Note:

Here’s some of the amazing, on-the-fly art Pen did during our game at Arisia!

Arisia Art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February 2019 Play Profile: Kevin Baumann

Kevin Baumann

Let’s start with the basics: who are you, and what’s your role within the organized play community?

I’m Kevin, an avid dice collector and gamer. I’ve been playing RPGs since 1981 and I am a Venture-Lieutenant in the Boston – North Shore Lodge. I mostly run PFS at the Hobby Bunker location in Malden, but I show up to other locations from time to time.

You oversaw demos at Gen Con last year (2018) – this was just after the Pathfinder Playtest was released. What are demos, and how do they differ from regular Organized Play at Gen Con?

Last year I was the department head for the quests and demos at Gen Con and it was a blast. Demos are very different than the normal Organized Play sessions in several ways.

First, they are geared so that anyone can just sit down and play. There is no need to know the rules, have a character, or anything like that. Players just sit down, grab a pre-generated character, and play – no ticket needed.

Second, demos often get brand new players, players who have no experience with Organized Play. It’s often not a regular PFS player comes to the demo tables. PFS players already know rules, character generation, and they will play the scenarios or quests that are offered during the convention and can usually be found playing regular Organized Play in the Sagamore Ballroom. The GMs that are chosen to run demos need to be good at explaining everything from “What is a role playing game?” to the rules of how everything works because people will ask.

Third, the demos (but not quests) are located in the Vendor/Expo Hall instead of the Sagamore Ballroom. It’s easily two football fields wide and ten fields long – it’s probably bigger, but that’s how I see it. They have about 10,000 people that go in there daily. The rush when the doors open is something to be seen for sure.

Speaking of Pathfinder Second Edition, what are you most looking forward to about it?

Getting in at the beginning. Like most, I have some concerns, but I am excited to see how the new edition plays out. Who doesn’t like the new action economy – three actions, easy!

How is the Boston North Shore Lodge going to support 2e when it’s released? What about players who want to continue playing 1st edition?

We will be running Second Edition as the scenarios come out and we will fully support 1st Edition, both in regular play and core. We will pretty much run what the players want. We are looking into running sanctioned Adventure Paths (APs) and modules as well.

What are you looking forward to for 2019 for both your lodge and organized play in general?

For the North Shore Lodge, I’d like to have more total games run and more locations. The tougher part for us is, other than Hobby Bunker, it’s not as easy to get to some of the locations via public transportation, and that can be an issue for getting some of the more transit-reliant players to our venues.

For Organized Play overall, more players! There is a huge player base in the Boston area, and I hope everyone continues to play both 1st and 2nd Edition Pathfinder as well as Starfinder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 2019 Player Profile: Carol Pandolph

carol

What’s something interesting that people probably don’t know about you?

That I’m kind of a real-life bard. I play the flute for and am an alto in a church choir (St. Mary’s in Winchester).

What are your top three favorite characters you’ve played and why?

Top three? That’s like choosing your three favorite children!

The first, is my Rise of the Runelords rogue, Aleya Shadowsong, otherwise known as the Blue Shadow, a rogue who got her start as a cat burglar with a taste for the finer thing in other rich people’s lives and would leave a calling card of a piece of sheer dark blue fabric. Then one day, she broke in to the house of a government official in Magnamar and found he was a member of the Skinsaw cult. She decided to head to Sandpoint for the time being (her get away wasn’t totally clean).

The second, was a ranger I played years ago in a home-brew D&D campaign who I am bringing into PFS, Brennia D’Villeir. That adventure was crazy with far more role playing and running for our lives than actual fighting.

Finally, the third is my very long-time bard character, Taryn Emanteril Leafblade. I’ve been playing her on and off since college…. over 25 years and have enough material to fill a trilogy, which I have been writing.

One honorable mention….Tessa Heartsong, my -01 PFS bard character. How can you not love a character that blew up the ghosts in the Wardens of Sulfur Gulch with just a wand of cure moderate wounds and ends up with Jala Spirit-Eye as a prize at the end among other interesting adventures?

You’re known for painting minis – were you always this artistic or was it something you learned as an adult?

When I was about four years old, I told my mother that I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I went to college and got my degree in art education but with a focus in graphic design for my electives. When I graduated, graphic design ended up being my chosen profession and still is today. As for minis, I fell into the hobby around fifteen years ago when I was bored on a Saturday afternoon, so I pulled out a mini I had and some cheap hobby paints and painted it up. I knew nothing about painting minis, although I did have a background in ceramics, which has several techniques which overlap. I realized I enjoyed the hobby and started going to painting events and learning more about how to actually do it, including things like priming (my first one was metal and not primed and has somehow survived intact).

What inspires the characters you paint?

These days I do so much painting of characters that I or someone else is playing, so the character dictates the color scheme. However, there are times where I will look at the mini and the color scheme comes to mind immediately, sometimes it develops over time as I work on it. Of course, the internet is a fantastic resource for color schemes, and I have resorted to going there, especially if I want to paint up a monster so it looks like something out of the Monster Manual.

The most interesting times are when the painted mini inspires a character before I’ve created one. The Blue Shadow was one of these characters.

What is the favorite mini you’ve painted and why is it your favorite?

Picking a favorite mini is like picking a favorite character…. that said, I have three. The first comes from Reaper’s anniversary line from last year, the Grim Reaper. I love this one because of the deep red color scheme, and it has my favorite base I have ever created for a mini. In the large division, I love my large Reaper Cthulhu because of its sea-based color scheme which was inspired by iridescent fish. Finally, the Reaper Nativity set I had just completed due to just how happy I am with the quality of the painting of it.

How can people see your art?

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

Facebook: The Muse’s Touch Miniature Painting

Twitter: @Muses_Touch

Instagram: muses_touch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Tips for Brand New Players

Are you a novice with Pathfinder, Starfinder, or another roleplaying/tabletop game?  Perhaps you’ve seen us at a venue where we play, and you were unsure how to join?  Do you wish you knew more about what we’re doing?  We’ve got you covered with these simple tips to secure your seat at our next game.


Ask Questions

From our point of view, it’s never awkward or inconvenient for you to ask questions.  We’re all there because we love to play!  We can’t think of any fan who isn’t eager to take a moment to explain what is going on.  If you really don’t want to interrupt the game, you can always ask someone at the venue.  We typically play in game stores and cafes; so whoever is behind the counter will be able to answer your questions or point you to someone who can.  We also have a number of designated organizers–we call them Venture-Officers–who are meant to be resources for you.  If you don’t know who your local Venture-Officer is, contact us.  We’ll help you get started.


Relax

It’s common for new players to be anxious about the number of rules and options available in roleplaying games.  For example, Pathfinder has forty-something hardcover rule books published for it, Starfinder has four–and both have many more in queue on the release schedule.  However, it’s widely acknowledged among players that nobody can know all the rules.  No player should ever look down on another for not knowing a rule or being unaware of something.  (And if you encounter this, let us know!  We’re not keen on that kind of behavior.)  The more you play, the more facile you’ll become with the system.  In no time at all, you’ll be the one helping out novice gamers.


Observe

We have a few hundred gamers who frequent Organized Play events in and around the area.  Check us out!  Decide what you like about us and what aspects of gameplay suit you.  Ultimately, it’s your time; make sure it’s spent doing something you enjoy!

Each game table also has a different personality to it.  You’re welcome to pick and choose games based on any number of factors that appeal to your sensibilities and level of comfort.  We have boisterous gamers.  We have quieter venues.  We have adventures that range the gamut of sci-fi and fantasy.  Some play out more like a dinner party while others closely resemble Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.  If you’re not sure which is for you, try a few.  If you want more information about a particular group, venue, or adventure, you can always ask.


Be Creative

One of the coolest aspects of roleplaying games is the myriad available options.  These games are meant to excite your imagination.  If you want to go on adventures as a gallant Robin-Hood-style hero, the Dread Pirate Roberts, or Barf from the movie Spaceballs, chances are you can do it–or come up with a pretty close approximation.


Have fun!

You don’t have to be the best or smartest or strongest player at the table to have fun.  Find what you enjoy, and do it.


Have you discovered some tips or strategies that work for you?  Share them with us!  We love to hear from you.