Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The RPG Table Tent at Work and Play

     Well, it wasn't all getting frustrated and aggravated by Kalus (which I apparently misspelled anyway) at DCV '12 in West Allis, WI.  There was lots of fun to be had both as a player and a judge.  Sure, there was the familiar problem that seems to come with any RPG system that allows for a great deal of variance in building a character – things that your character do are "broken" and "pure cheese" (largely because they are powers/tactics that the person making the accusation wouldn't use), but everything that their characters do (which may be more unbalanced in terms of game mechanics) is just responsible character construction.  But I have long ago discovered that letting people make their characters the way they want and play up to those strengths (and maybe even cheat a little) is more conducive to a good time than having a confrontation over it.  Besides, as a GM/judge, I have no problem stepping up the challenge with some added minions – that would have killed the most broken party of PCs I have ever seen without breaking a sweat – or a thematically cool device (the negative energy cannon, and I think it needs to make it into a mod).  I do know that I'm not allowed to kill PCs with the added things, but if there was never any threat of character death to begin with, then I don't think I've violated the spirit of the game.
     But I took the opportunity during the convention to snap some shots (with the godawful camera built into the phone) of the table tent in action.  I'm also going to add some shots from a previous convention and two taken here just to round things out.  Anyway, my hope is that this acts as a nice companion piece to the post about table tents and also to the one about the problem player at the convention.  Mostly pictures today, people.  Hope you enjoy them.
This is one of the two pictures taken from home (and this was taken with an actual camera, so almost all of the others look much worse than this).  Kiara is my Arcane Monk (Wizard with evasion).  I've updated her tent with the less obviously stolen image, the right Armor Class (though she did an entire combat at 36), her faction, the symbol of her homeland, height, weight, and hair and eye color.  Kiara is my second favorite PFS character, right behind Daenaris, my 12th level Horizon Walker.  She saw play a couple of times at DCV.


This is the table tent for Hal "the Headache", a halfling slinger who fought from atop a wolf.  The character was almost as dangerous as the archer, and not just because he could move a good distance each round and still take all of his attacks.  Hal also didn't rely on a variety of energy damage, just did something like d6+18 damage per sling stone.  Hal was played by Rick Starzinski.  I don't know if the picture does justice to just how small this table tent was (like a 3"x5" index card torn in half, then folded), but it was still largely effective.

This is the standard fill-it-in-yourself COWS Gamers table tent, created by Brad Ruby.  They are freely available at the two COWS conventions (CodCon and Stuffed COWS).  Sporting one is an easy way for someone to identify you as a Chicago area player.  This one belongs to Tod Hurlbert (who likely listed his RPGA number instead of Paizo/PFS number).  This tent conveys a lot of information and Tod has fantastically clear handwriting.  We had a really odd party when I played with Friar 'Bug', but those Fighter levels didn't put him on the front line.  That ended up being the job of my Arcane Monk (think Wizard with evasion).

This is Heidi Deville-Clarke's table tent for Emestra.  It is a folded index card.  But it conveys the character's name, deity, race, and class.  It also does not take up an inordinate amount of space.  Emestra was part of the same party as 'Friar Bug', but had worse luck in terms of her lot in our one tough fight. 

Anthony (Tony) is a character from a 'family' where each PC's first name starts with the next letter of the alphabet.  I immediately – and I hope good-naturedly – wondered aloud why the player (Jeremy Feist) hadn't gone with something more fantasy like Andreas, Anders, or Anton.  This table tent had the character's name, the equipment that can identify him (many GM's will ask what kind of armor and/or weapon the character has in order for the NPCs to make informed attacks).  In my mind, Tony had a Southside (of Chicago) accent and would start every conversation with the phrase, "Let me tell you something, my friend"  –  but only in my mind.

This unfortunately blurry photo is of Keith Korzeniowski's character, Numak.  This table tent is just as last minute as the rest from the Saturday morning session of Tide of Morning, but instead of listing equipment, Keith kept it simple and just went with character name, race, class, and then player name (clearly different because it is beneath the line, something I think this group of players has incorporated into their tents).

Want simple?  Ingrid Sakrison's tent for Lirryn Holt (I consistently pronounced this as though the first syllable was stressed, and that was wrong) just lists PC name and player name.

As we can see in the background of this photo the source of all the table tents, multicolor spiral-bound index cards.  For Arath, Rick adds the Yellow Sign.

Another full-on blurry photo, but this is the real life table tent for Faragone Tymne (played by Brad Ruby).  The modified, electronic version can be seen here.  This was Faragone's last session, and it was good to be able to play with him again (as Faragone and Kiara – my Arcane Monk – started about the same time and were made to compliment one another).

Frank Naughton's table tent for Niruuk, a half-orc Barbarian/Sorcerer.  This is a prime example of the last minute table tent, but it let me know who (by sight) was playing Niruuk.  This was at the table with Kalus, but Niruuk was good at combat and Frank was a good guy with which to game.

This is my table tent for Jenissa Halvarek, my weredragon (or, by the rules, Synthesist).  You may notice that I don't put my name on my table tents, but I have started adding my Pathfinder Society number.  So, I included character name, race, class (actually, archetype), nationality, primary skill, AC (both with and without the eidolon), her faction symbol (though I made it red), her deity's unholy symbol, her region's symbol, height, weight, and hair & eye color.  I also have an image for her, though it is kind of dark and not especially clear when viewed from more than a few feet away.  In the background of this picture (directly above the picture of Jenissa) is the table tent for Kalus, which is just the standard fill-it-in-yourself available from Paizo.

The ultimate in minimalism, Jack Schierer's tent for Wilbur is 100% character name.  But it did its job just as well as any of the more involved ones.  Jack was one of the players at the session of The Ghenett Manor Gauntlet, where Kalus was a constant hindrance.  Both, however, were in danger of becoming sponges. 
Here is my table tent for Bellarius D'Nassi, who got some quick upgrades to make him ready for a dangerous challenge.  Hence the need to write in his alternate ACs (he spend most of the mod at 23, as he needed to wield his weapon in both hands to overcome damage reduction).  But for one bright shining moment, he had an AC of 32.  Bellarius is not a particularly strong character in terms of what he can do (he can fight a little, he can cast a few spells, and he can channel positive energy to heal people or injure undead and evil outsiders), but he looked like a Greek God when compared to Kalus.

Tim Bailey's table tent uses the same symbol for the Osirion faction that I use on my tracking sheet for Hymibi Jymbo.  Like I noted the first time I wrote about the table tent, there are players who include only one in-game stat: Charisma.  Still, I like the style of Khalfani Lisimba's tent.  As our arcane caster, Khalfani was quite helpful in The Ghenett Manor.  He was equally effective beating on things as a Barbarian. 


Not a table tent.  This was the first combat from the Pathfinder mod where Kalus abandoned the party.  This picture was taken, amazingly enough, as Kalus was moving his character (that is his hand on the miniature) out of combat and into an entirely different encounter.  The rest of the party was left to fight the combat by themselves, though it is very likely that Kalus would not have been able to do much other than provide flank or act as another target.  Frank (Niruuk) was stuck next to Kalus in the previous session, and he didn't make that mistake twice.  If you haven't read the previous post, then this may seem a little out of place.

This is a table tent from an LFR (D&D 4E) table.  Clearly, Brian Klement likes his table tents to be a little more like mine than the last minute ones.  Of course, this really resembles the old Dragonfire Signs tents more than anything, save that it is in color and it can be written upon.

From the same LFR table, we have Chez McDoodle's Entourage.  I'm sure this has some meaning, but I just liked the fun spirit behind it.  Also in the picture is the useful effects type of tent, in this case noting that all the player characters have a +1 Power Bonus to Attack and +3 to Damage.

Unfortunately blurry, Watto Watto's card is all kinds of awesome.  You have the picture, the pun (Murder, Inc. for the Crow-like Kenku), the slogan, and the miscellaneous information needed to identify the character and player.

Another effects tent.  I don't really know 4E rules, but that +7 Psychic Damage seems a little high.  On the other hand, nobody at the table is going to feign ignorance as to the ongoing effect.  In the background is the front of the Chez McDoodle tent.

This is actually from CodCon '12.  There is a dangerous combat going on (it all looks so stagnant in photos), but in the upper right hand corner the effects card for the Bardic Performance can be seen.  It is a good way to be reminded that you have a better chance to hit and do more damage.

Not everyone believes in the table tent.  While I and the player to my left had table tents mine is pretty obvious (if facing the other players and not the camera) and the other is mostly obscured by the Coke can.  The rest of the table felt no need for them.  Don't remember is this was from Stuffed COWS '11 or CodCon '12.

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