After taking account of comments here and on the Paizo messageboards, I have adapted my simulation programs to allow for purposive attribute scores, feats and races, and re-analyzed the survival data for a smaller sample of more carefully designed fighters. In this second round of analyses Gruumsh the Bastard doesn’t acquit himself well, but neither do some of the PCs who went against him. This post reports on the updated analyses.

Update (3rd July 2012): In editing my code to incorporate some minor changes, I noticed that I didn’t actually pit 100,000 fighters against 100,000 randomly-generated orcs – I pitted 100,000 fighters against Gruumsh, who only has 6 hit points. Against a full range of Orcs one gets very different results – I will report on this today (3rd July 2012). This post has been edited to remove references to 100,000 randomly-generated orcs.


Previous analyses of survival in Pathfinder have relied on randomly generated ability scores assigned in order, and have not incorporated feats, race, fighting styles or weapon types. In this post the analyses are updated to allow for a range of basic feats, four races, purposive rather than completely random assignment of ability scores, and three types of fighter: strong, fast and tough. Survival is compared against Gruumsh again, and results analyzed for insights into possible character creation decisions.


A sample of 100,000 randomly generated fighters were pitted in battle against Gruumsh, who is still not ferocious. The fighters were generated so as to fall into three types, defined by ability scores, armour and weapon types, and feat choices:

  • Strong fighters: strength was determined randomly from a uniform distribution between 13 and 18, and the fighters were equipped with scale mail and a two-handed sword. Human fighters had three feats: power attack, weapon focus and desperate battler. Humans placed their +2 ability score bonus in strength. Non-human fighters dropped power attack
  • Fast fighters: dexterity was determined randomly from a uniform distribution between 13 and 18, and the fighters were equipped with studded leather armour, a heavy wooden shield and a rapier. Human fighters had three feats: improved initiative, dodge and weapon finesse. Non-humans dropped weapon finesse, and humans put their +2 bonus into dexterity.
  • Tough fighters: constitution was determined randomly from a uniform distribution between 13 and 18, and the fighters were equipped with chain shirt, wooden shield and longsword. Human fighters had three feats: toughness, shield focus and weapon focus. Non-humans dropped toughness (because two of the races already had +2 constitution), and humans put their +2 bonus into constitution.

All other physical stats were generated with 3d6, but scores below 9 were reset to 9. Mental stats were generated using 3d6 in order, but nobody cares if their meat shield has read Shakespeare, so the details aren’t reported here. The hapless 100,000 were then thrown against Gruumsh, with the promise that anyone who survived would get to meet Salma Hayek. Needless to say, I lied: for unknown reasons, Hayek only dates bards. All fighters with power attack were assumed to be using it for every strike, and you would too if you met Gruumsh.


After incorporating racial bonuses and feats, and assigning ability scores purposively rather than randomly, overall survival increased significantly: only 20% of the newly trained fighters died. However, variation in survival was significant and depended heavily on race and fighting style. Table 1 shows the mortality rates by race and fighter types.

Table 1: Mortality Rates by Race and Fighter Type
Race Strong Fast Tough
Human 17.1 26.5 0
Dwarf 11.1 21.8 1.1
Elven Ponce 27.3 46.9 16.4
Halfling Loser 21.2 45.3 8.3

From Table 1 it is clear that elves and halflings are not good fighters, and Dwarves are excellent in this particular role. The small difference in mortality between humans and dwarves is probably due to the reduced number of feats that dwarves have relative to humans. In fact, once feats and purposive ability score selection are included in character development, constitution becomes an extremely important score: 0% of fighters with constitution bonuses above 3 died. This is probably because CON bonuses of 3 or more guarantee a fighter cannot be killed in a single blow by an Orc (maximum damage 12) and the increased damage and hit stats of these fighters mean the orc will not survive to deliver a second blow. This is indisputably a good thing.

It is clear from table 1 that the least successful form of fighter is the fast fighter, and indeed some perverse results obtain. Figure 1 shows the mortality rate by dexterity score: mortality increases with increasing dexterity in this dataset. This is probably because higher dexterity scores are more likely in the “fast fighter” choice, and amongst halflings, both of which deliver less damage than other races and class types.

Figure 1: Mortality by dexterity score

A similar perverse result is visible with armour class. Figure 2 shows the relationship between mortality and armour class, which is positive.

Figure 2: Mortality by Armour Class

Again, it is likely that the highest armour class values are only achieved by halflings (who have size bonuses), and higher AC is associated with lower damage and attack values. Note that fast fighters have very high initiative values (up to +9!) but these don’t seem to say the battle: for fighters who start with a minimum of 8 hit points, starting the battle first is less important than being able to hit your opponent and do massive amounts of damage.


Dexterity is useless, and a fighting style based on light armour and fast weapons is a waste of time. As a result, weapon finesse is the ultimate wasted feat: it could have been used to get 3 more hit points, which for a first level fighter guarantees that one strike from an Orc will not be fatal. After incorporating feats, the best option for a first level fighter is to choose toughness, shield focus and weapon focus, and pour as many points as possible into constitution. 17 hit points, chain armour and a shield at first level are vastly more useful than a fancy fighting style and a leather skirt!

I mentioned previously that I think I have stumbled upon a Japanese Grognard, who I shall call Mr. 123, and it occurred to me recently that I could try and ask him some questions about his attitude towards gaming, his opinion of old school, etc. I’ve noticed that the people I play with here, though generally willing to try new games, are completely uninterested in D&D 4e, though some have made a major divergence into Pathfinder. Mr. 123 recently ran a game using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, and is a big fan of Warhammer 2nd Edition (which is pretty old school, I think). So he probably has opinions on games and gaming connected with the period of the games. He’s playing WFRP 3rd edition with me, but this could just be because he’s willing to tolerate new rules in order to play Warhammer rather than GM it.

If I give Mr. 123 an interview, the basic questions I would ask would be:

  • The usual demographics
  • His gaming history
  • What sort of games he likes and dislikes
  • Whether he prefers games from a particular generation and, if so, whether this applies to Japanese as well as Western games
  • If he knows anything about the OSR, and if there is an equivalent thing in Japanese games

But I would like to find out if any OSR gamers reading this might be interested in asking additional questions, and if so what sorts of stuff they would like to know. Please let me know in comments!

In a related note, there is usually a Pathfinder adventure at my local monthly gaming convention, run by a Mr. S. This local gaming convention has been running for 25 years, and the most recent event was the 60th meeting (in earlier years it was much less regular than now). I discovered recently that Mr. S has been running this convention continuously for the last 25 years! Beppu has a population of 123000, so I think this is a pretty good achievement – let alone that it’s run by just one person. I wonder if Mr. S is also a grognard, despite his Pathfinder-y-ness? And I wonder if a survey of the local convention gamers might be a good idea…?

Last night I had the pleasure of running my first ever Warhammer 3 session at my local FLGS. Because my local FLGS is run by a Japanese man in Japan, I naturally had to run the session in Japanese. This obviously raises a lot of challenges, including:

  • Explaining the rules
  • Helping players use cards in a language they don’t understand
  • Choosing language for a whole bunch of things I am completely unfamiliar with

So, here is a brief description of how I handled this stuff.

Brash Young Fools indeed!

The group Our group of Brash Young Fools is shown in the picture, from left to right – Mr. 123, Mr. Shuto, Mr. Ringtail (the shop owner) and Mr. Kaede. Mr. 123 has previously GMd Warhammer 2, using the Japanese version, so is very familiar with a lot of the world, and Mr. Ringtail is a big fan of warhammer wargames, which have been translated, so he’s familiar with the world too. Both Mr. Kaede and Mr. Shuto have played in Warhammer campaigns at least once, so the background didn’t have to be explained so much. The characters they played were:

  • Mr. 123: A 14 year old Initiate, called Suzette (a girl, related to the adventure he ran for me)
  • Mr. Shuto: An apprentice wizard
  • Mr. Ringtail: A thief
  • Mr. Kaede: A soldier

It should be pretty obvious that these characters weren’t chosen randomly – I selected them to give maximum exposure to the rules, maybe not such a wise plan, since it meant a lot more language-related work (and rules-learning). We played on level 2 of the FLGS, and we were running a kind of introductory hack-and-slash that was going to run into a reason to play the adventure from the adventure book, An Eye for an Eye. I’ll give a game report separately. The language problem Unlike pathfinder, which involves a lot of transliterations and has an online wiki from which I can learn all the language I need, the tradition in warhammer is to give often quite prosaic Japanese translations to all the details. With so many careers, actions and talents at hand, this makes for some translation difficulties. The attributes, careers and skills are covered partially by Warhammer 2, which gives these translations (even bone-picker is translated!) However, the action cards and all the specific language of the progress meter, dice etc. I had to cobble together. I also had to find a way to explain all this. I bought the Japanese version of Warhammer 2 but it only arrived on the day of the game, so instead I had to make a lot of headway on preparatory work myself. I approached this in the haphazard way I approach all my Japanese language tasks, and basically it went like this:

  • I scanned in the reckless side of the action cards the players would be using, and inserted them into a word document with translations along the same structure on the same page (you can see an example in the photo).
  • I cobbled together language from the pathfinder wiki[1], and using JDIC and the only Japanese RPG I know, Double Cross 3, which meant that some of the work I did was a little off-beam, and some of the words I found unusual or archaic
  • I assumed that my players would be able to read some basic sentences, so we could work out the details of the differences between red and green cards as we went (this only created a problem once)
  • I did some pre-translation work for the players to read on my blog, with an example, here and here
  • All the key language I used I put into tables of words to distribute on the day (which I then only made one copy of, because I’m stupid)

Based on this, I was able to give an explanation of the basic rules when we started, and leave the players to muddle through the cards without making too many suggestions. For the soldier and the thief it was pretty much plain sailing, but for the wizard and initiate it was harder, especially since I don’t know the spell rules very well and they aren’t … um… clear in the original document. Game flow Things were a bit slow at first, primarily because it took some time for people to work out what to do, and I had to check the odd rule (particularly about magic). The first opportunity at a skill check – getting a “dirty woman of unclear profession” to leave the thief alone after he was responsible for driving away her, ah, business associate – ended in disaster because Mr. Ringtail didn’t want to test out his guile skill; but then Mr. Kaede took on the leadership skill very well and constructed a skill check to influence their informant which he was well able to stunt – I added a few fortune dice to his roll, and everyone immediately became aware of the role-playing benefits of the dice system. They used this well later on, with the thief mimicking an animal, the wizard using a cantrip to confuse matters, and the soldier hiding ready to ambush the goblin they were luring. This was a great stunt, and also enabled me to use the fortune pool in the party sheet well. So in terms of grasping the broad concepts, the players caught on well. Mr. Kaede’s use of his soldier’s reckless cleave was good, and he grasped the details pretty quickly, as did Mr. 123, though sorting through all his Initiate’s cards was a bit of a challenge. The main challenges to flow came from establishing how to use magic, which seemed to involve a lot of different types of check with very little clarity about the order. I revised that today and will give the players a brief list of what they have to do to help with that. Otherwise, we managed to fit in all of the following in 4 hours:

  • rules explanation
  • adventure introduction
  • one incidental encounter with the woman of dubious profession
  • one social challenge to get information
  • one physical challenge, using a progress tracker to pursue a goblin scout (resolved well, at night, by the elven thief with the help of everyone else) followed by a brief and bloody end for the poor greenskin
  • two combats, the first an ambush outside the goblin lair, and the second a vicious bashing fest inside

So even though things went quite slowly in individual encounter moments, overall the adventure fitted in quite a bit of material, and some really good role-playing opportunities. The players have taken home their action card explanation sheets, which they can study, and I’m going to forbid them from spending their advances on new actions or talents until they’re more familiar with the basics (and I have more time to translate cards!!!) Kaede san’s soldier certainly needs some more wounds anyway. Some final observations As I’ve noted before, Warhammer’s blend of dark fantasy and European realism seems to really appeal to the Japanese RPG sentiment, and everyone really got into the grotty winter world of Bogenhafen. They also seemed to appreciate the role-playing opportunities in the dice, which is good. We’re meeting again in two weeks. A few other notes:

  • The probabilities can be a  bit skewy. My goblin underlings concentrated fire equally on the soldier and the mage, and over 4 or 5 rounds they nearly killed the soldier but the mage was unharmed. That’s weird!
  • The rules are vague in places and sometimes I’m not sure whether I’m house-ruling well
  • I can’t tell how challenging an adventure will be, which is a problem I’m not used to. I need more experience with dice pools, but even then the unique mechanics of Warhammer 3 mean it will take some time before I know what’s going on
  • This game is cool! The dice give a lot of role-playing opportunities and the rules have liberated Warhammer from the two grinding problems that made Warhammer 2 so hard to enjoy: the inability of beginning PCs to actually do anything, and the intense, grinding tedium of the battles.

I think my players agree with most of that, and are getting into the gaming quickly. I’ve got a feeling that the warhammer 3 system may be very well designed to encourage the type of GMing and gaming I prefer – loose adherence to rules, stunting of actions, descriptive content and encouragement of diversity in outcomes from individual rolls. It also has the kind of death spirals and critical-heavy combat system I like, without bogging it down in detail (as far as I can tell). I think it may also have resolved the issue of henchmen vs. main enemies. Both D&D 4 and Feng Shui have a system of henchmen (“mooks”) and main enemies, but the henchmen serve only to bog down and slow the game, rather than to add quickly-overcome challenges. In this session, at least, the henchmen were both a threat and easily killed, which is what henchmen should be. Game report to come. — fn1:The pathfinder wiki is useful because like most translations of foreign RPGs into Japanese it puts the English names next to important Japanese phrases (for things like skills and feats), so it makes it really easy to find the right word for the concept I’m looking for. I know Pathfinder well, so I know for example the difference between “proficient” and “specialised” and I can be confident that the translations in the wiki will be useful for me. Then I get around the problem of millions of kanji I don’t know very simply using rikaichan, which has to be the most useful software ever invented[2]. You wave your mouse over a word and it gives you the reading and the English translation, so then you can type it yourself. fn2: This has to be an example of the benefits of whatever licensing procedure is being used by the firefox team. I don’t like firefox much, but until someone comes up with a version of rikaichan for safari or chrome, I am only ever going to use firefox. This, I think, is why Windows is ubiquitous – for years the only functional spreadsheet was excel for windows, so windows spread through the corporate world regardless of its inherent crappiness. Excel is the best there is, and that’s all Microsoft needed.

Reader’s note: this is another account of the second session of our Pathfinder adventure by one of the players, Kuma-san. A guest-post, as it were.


帰宅した時間が時間(午前三時)だっただけに、昼頃まで眠っていたワタクシ。それからもそもそ起き出して、不要な本を処分するその足で髪の毛を 切りに行こうと思っていたら。
何事やあらんと出てみれば、祖母からの急用で再び大分へ送迎することになったわけでして………これは已む無しと、髪の毛の処理は翌日に回して、 祖母の急用と本の売却を行うのみに留まった日中でした。



いつぞや、ゲームのお店リングテイルさんで行ったTRPGの第二回目を行うべく、今度は馬と相方の両儀さんのご好意で、自宅を開放して楽しませ ていただくことになったわけでして。


やがてあれほど分厚かった蒸気はウソのように晴れたものの、目の前に見えてきたのは大きな幅を有する川であり、対岸には幌馬車を中心としたノー ムたちのキャラバンが野営地を張っていた。


この大砲を前に、力押しは自殺行為だと色々な作戦を練るが、結果、浅瀬を夜陰に紛れて通過した後で、大きく二手に分かれて陽動組と突入組に分かれての野 営地襲撃ということに。
人数でいうならPCの倍は居るノームたちだったが、バードとクレリックが壁となって引き付けている間に、問答無用の火力を誇るレンジャーの弓矢 がノームたちをばたばたと射倒し、ソーサラーの呪文《グリース》で無力化されていく。


そして語り出すノーム・リーダー。なんでも十年前まであの温泉施設のオーナーは彼であり、現オーナーとのギャンブルに敗れて手放す羽目になった のだとか。


その代わりに、温泉妖精が入っていたと思しき「妖精封じの大鍋」を如何にもそれっぽく隠し部屋に配置し、鰯の頭も信心から〜の例えの通りに、効 能素晴しい温泉施設として客を集めていたのだった。

ノーム・リーダーにしても温泉妖精の欠けた温泉施設を取り戻したところで、大きな価値にならないと肩を落として何処かに去っていった。結果、 オーナー不在となった温泉施設の建物や権利証は、PCたちの手に帰することになったのであったとさ。

最後の報酬が温泉付きの、土地建物丸ごとどーん! というのは予想外だったけれど、それに面食らっている私達を見て、きょとんとしている faustusnotesが妙に印象的でしたね。

When last we left our heroes, they were recovering from a horror ambush, in which gnomish guns almost beat them. However, having prevailed (and left one gnome permanently enveloped in a shroud of high-speed comedy stories, in response to which he could only ever laugh, laugh, laugh…) the characters were soon ready to push on down the valley towards the camp of the Gnomish thieves.

After another hour’s walk the characters emerged from the constantly-enveloping mist, and before them could see the valley stretching down to the green lowlands. They walked for another hour through the greening valley, until they came to a wider river valley. A river flowed before them, and on the far side lay the gnomish camp, a group of caravans arranged in a circle. The only way across the camp lay upriver, in a ford mercifully protected from the view of the camp by a copse of trees. After a little discussion, the characters decided to cross at the ford and wait until nightfall to investigate the camp more closely. They settled down to wait in the copse of trees until dusk.

At dusk Myuta the ranger crept forward to investigate the camp. He was greeted by a scene of anger and confusion. A group of gnomes stood around an empty pot in the middle of the camp, and an older gnome – obviously the leader – was hitting one of the watching gnomes on the head while ranting about his useless followers. Listening carefully, Myuta realised that the open pot was the prison for the Onsen fairy, and it had been delivered empty by the ring-leader’s thieves to his camp. The onsen fairy was missing! Myuta also learnt that this gnomish leader had gambled away the title to the onsen resort 10 years ago and, having finally made his fortune in the cities to the south, had embarked on a quest to regain by foul play the onsen fairy he had lost fairly all those years ago – now, when his health was looking less reliable, and perhaps he might have need of a captured sprite to lengthen his life. But the fairy was not in its cage. The leader’s followers assured him that they had followed his instructions to the secret room to the letter, and that there was no evidence it could be anywhere else. All were mystified, until the leader decided: Simple enough, we shall move to the resort in force and take the entire building, then search it from top to bottom.

Myuta returned to his group, and they hatched a plan. They had noticed that one of the caravans was topped by a very large version of a gnomish steam rifle, the discharge from which would be considerably worse than they had experienced so far. Any attack needed to avoid this weapon. First they tried casting light spells onto pieces of wood and throwing them into the river, to lure a few guards down to the river and kill them ahead. Unfortunately the river was infested with glowfish, which seeing the glowing bark pieces began themselves to glow, and the guard atop the caravan, looking through the scope of his steam gun, concluded the event was simply glowfish breeding. No one responded to the lure. So the characters moved up to the camp, and prepared an attack from multiple angles. They waited until morning, when the wind blows down the valley from the mountains and draws mist from the mountains with it. Yurianusu the sorcerer cast a fog cloud spell, and three of the characters drew close to the camp under cover of the fog, while the remainder drew up near the caravan with the steam gun, and prepared to sneak in.

Unfortunately, Myuta the ranger loosed an arrow early. This arrow flew into a cooking pot, bounced into a metal helmet, and then sailed through the air to strike a gnomish music box, which sprang open and began playing its annoying, inane music. Everyone in the camp woke, and battle was joined. The Barbarian charged straight to the steam gun, and Myuta began cutting down enemies with his bow while the remainder of the group attempt to prevent the gnomes from concentrating their attacks. Yurianusu used grease spells to keep gnomes from charging forward, and Isoda fought to keep the gnomes from overwhelming the barbarian. Once the barbarian had felled the gnome on the steam gun, and Yurianusu’s grease spell had caused a gnome to fall into the fire, then set the flammable grease alight, and Myuta had killed a gnome or two with his arrows, the leader stepped out of the shadows and called a halt to the battle.

So, the gnomes withdrew and the characters spoke to the leader. He explained his situation to them and told them he would withdraw from the battle, leaving them with the pot in which the onsen fairy had been stored. In exchange they would not follow him or fight him further, and would not reveal who he was to the onsen resort owner. Since his efforts had all come to nought so far, further attempts to pursue the fairy now would be a waste of time. He would withdraw peacefully, and in exchange the characters could keep the stupid pot.

The charactes agreed – in truth they had been starting to feel a little pressed in the battle, and unless the barbarian upped her slay-rate, someone was going to die. They took the pot and retired from the scene, lugging it back uphill to the onsen resort.

When they returned they went to find the owner of the onsen, to ask him why he had offered to pay them to recover a missing fairy that was never in the stolen pot. He wasn’t in his office, however, and even a cursory search could reveal that he had fled, taking his basic belongings and a lot of money with him. Further investigation revealed the title deed to the onsen – now easily forged into the names of the characters – and buried in some documents, about 10 years ago, a sale of “sundry goods” to a rich Southern landowner which netted a very significant amount of money, not at all consistent with such a lowly title.

The onsen resort owner had sold the fairy almost as soon as he took possession of the resort, and in the 10 years since the sale had been trading in the healing reputation of his spa without ever, actually, having anything magical or special to offer his customers.

The characters’ employer, obviously clearly vexed at such duplicity, began tearing apart the office in rage. The characters, of course, set their eyes on that property title, and the home of a certain now very-long-lived Southern landowner…

Reader note: this is a game report by one of my players, posted here for the Japanese players. It’s vastly superior than anything I could have written. It also contains pictures. Enjoy!



行ったゲームは Pathfinder RPG。言わずとも知れたD&D3.5の流れを組む、色々と面白どころ満載のシステム でありんす。

今日のテーム は。。。小さくて危ないひとだ!

場所は、別府駅近くのリングテイルさ ん。
参加者はflashy.san、リングテイルの店長さん、shiga、”の人、馬、ワタクシの合計六人。ワタクシと馬はPathfinderを プレイするのは初めてで、店長さんに到ってはTRPG自体が初めてという初心者満載、夢満載。
日本語でGMがんばるよ! と気合い十分のflashy.sanの音頭で楽しみました。



石つぶてを散弾銃のように発射する、凶悪な飛び道具で武装したノーム部隊に襲われた温泉施設テルマエ・ロマエ(笑)にて、とりあえずは襲撃を退 けたPCたち。
この温泉妖精の魔力で、普通の温泉に過ぎないお湯を、万病の癒しを可能にする優れものの温泉へと変えていたのだという。これを知った裕福だけど 傲慢な老人は、PCたちに温泉妖精の奪還を依頼(命じ)するのでありまして。
届く視界は僅かに20フィート(約6メートル)ほど。しかも場所によっては高熱の蒸気が噴出し、間欠泉すらあるかも知れないという危険地帯を、 レンジャーの足跡追跡だけを頼りに、逃げたノーム部隊の跡を追いかけていく。


何しろ視界は利かないし、主戦力たるバーサーカーは蒸気と魔法と奇襲によってノックアウトされ、ソーサラーの必中呪文《グリース》もあまり効果 を与えられない。
それでも何とかノーム部隊を削っていくものの、ノーム・ソーサラーの呪文によって「霧の中から更に大軍がやってくる」ような幻聴を聞かされ、 バーサーカーとクレリックがまともに混乱したことで更に長期戦の様相を呈し始めてしまう。

NPCの演技も気合いが入ってましたし、視界を遮る”温泉の噴気”や”石つぶての散弾銃”というギミックを、最大限に活用して印象づけた flashy.sanの手腕はお見事でした。




くま 「だが断る」
くま 「そんな史上最●の『両手に花』は、ワタクシには重過ぎます!」


As I mentioned in my previous post, I (slightly foolishly) offered to DM a group of 5 players, in Japanese. The game was last night, so here are a few notes.

We played at my friendly local gaming store (FLGS), upon which at some point I need to blog. The owner only has experience of warhammer games, and in fact the FLGS (called Ringtail, with a website here) stocks largely only warhammer and citadel miniatures. It’s the only store in Kyushu that stocks them, as far as he knows! Warhammer war-gamers are so rare that once a month the store owner visits Kitakyushu to play with a foreign (British?) chap. This chap also asked him to order in Warhammer Fantasy Role-play version 3, and he ordered an extra copy which he is willing to buy for himself to play, but which he would need me to DM (it’s in English). I advised him that he should try role-playing before buying a 10000 yen book from his own stock, so he agreed to a trial pathfinder game.

So we had five players, names and PC classes described, along with an outline of the adventure, here. We played upstairs in the wargaming room of the ring-tail store, at a long table big enough for about 10 people. As ever, Shiga-san brought his huge stock of miniatures, dice, multiple printed copies of the pathfinder rules, etc. – it took up half the room! As ever, Furudera san ate continuously. This time the group, which consisted of 6 people including me, contained two women – Furudera san and Era san, who was playing for the first time in a year because she has taken time off gaming since having a baby, which is less than a year old.

So my first note here is about the gender dynamics. I have never played in a group constituted entirely from within role-playing circles which had two women in it. I’ve managed to shoe-horn friends into a group with two women, but I’ve never met two women simply through the circles of gaming. It’s interesting that in supposedly sexist Japan this happens the first time I ever game here; and even more interesting given one of these women is a new mother, and shoe-horned her husband into child-minding their less-than-year-old child on a Saturday night so she could game. I’ve previously mentioned that I think maybe Japanese nerd culture is more gender-balanced than in the west, and this is further evidence in support of this tentative theory.

Also, further evidence that something interesting is going on in the gender politics of Japanese nerddom is the strange use of pronouns. Kuma-san, a man, refers to himself as “watakushi,” which is extremely formal language only usually used by women outside of Shinto ceremony; Era san refers to herself as “washi,” which is a pronoun typically used by older men. There’s some kind of gender bending going on here, and I think there must be some kind of gender politics that is particular to the nerd scene. There’s gotta be anthropological value in this…

This week, in addition to Shiga-san’s massive horde of stuff, we had lots of snacks. The Japanese role-player’s snack horde includes:

  • black pepper chips
  • “thin flavour” salted chips
  • orange juice
  • coke
  • oolong tea (a necessity for all Japanese women, who take it continuously)
  • potato croquettes
  • fried chicken
  • popcorn
  • pocari SWEAT, a type of rehydration drink that is really rather delicious

plus Furudera san’s infinite supply of food, which includes such mysteriousnesses as bread she eats crust-first, without toppings, and fresh spring rolls, and TWO full flasks of coffee. The room where we played was another “shoes off” room, of course.

Subsequent to the game, reading the social networking sites of the participants, there seemed to be some agreement about what was “surprising” or unusual about the game. Some players were expecting a different experience because the game was being GMd by a foreigner, but they seem to have been largely disappointed. However, it appears that they aren’t used to the following:

  • fighting in only a bath towel
  • extensive use of terrain for the ambush
  • describing their characters’ appearance at the outset (this didn’t seem to be a problem for them, though)
  • the DM employing voice and actions for the NPCs

Japanese people being generally extremely shy and diffident, I’m not surprised by the last two points – shy role-players tend to avoid this stuff where possible, and certainly Japanese people tend to be quite shy and retiring. I’m not actually a big fan of fussing around with terrain, so I hope they don’t think that’s part of my style – I only put it in because of the ambush.

These differences aside, from my point of view I really have to say that very little about DMing the group was different. I still occasionally had to pressure people to make decisions, they interacted in very similar ways to Western players (bar the politeness, of course), and they seemed to employ the rules and respond to the situation in just the same way. The only difference I really observed that there was less of a tendency for a single player to dominate the discussion, which is consistent with Japanese group interactions generally. Oh, and Furudera san and Shiga san played “scissors, paper, stone” (janken) to determine who should play the bard. There’s your moment of Japanese uniqueness right there…

Language-wise, a lot of interactions passed me by, but the core of it made sense, so everything flowed okay, and nobody seemed fussed when I had to look up words or check them, or correct myself or be corrected. No-one seemed to lose interest at any point and it didn’t interfere with the flow much. There were a few moments where I said words in English by mistake and people just kind of got it; or when I thought a word would be an English transliteration but wasn’t (like “rage”). The next day, Era san commented on how Japanese players of pathfinder don’t understand the meaning of the transliterated spells, and when they are translated the words and effects make more sense. That’s interesting, because it maybe means that the gamers here are using a book of several hundred spells which largely just sound like gobbledigook. And certainly when Furudera san said “hijius rafuta” it took me several attempts to work out that she meant “hideous laughter.” But we manage. Today, Era san looked up “Pathfinder” in her Japanese dictionary and was confused, because the Japanese translation sounds like “pioneer” in the sense of “settler” and she can’t understand why a role-playing game would be called “coloniser.” This language issue is interesting.

But at its core, the game flows the same, and feels the same. That, in itself, is fascinating to me.

Last night I DMd my first session of Pathfinder in Japanese. It was mostly successful, and I’ll be putting up my thoughts about the DMing in a separate post. This is a brief report of the session.

The adventure took place in an Onsen (hot spring) resort in the Steam Mountains. This resort is blessed with healing onsen, soaking in which can remove many mundane and supernatural diseases. The party have been hired to escort an old, rich man to the onsen, and the events of this adventure happen in early Autumn after he has already spent some weeks soaking in the rejuvenating waters of the resort.

The PCs are:

  • Akuni, human female bard (played by Furudera san)
  • Yurianusu, male elven sorcerer (played by Kuma san)
  • Isoda, female human cleric (played by Shiga san)
  • Nomai, female half-orc barbarian (played by Era san)
  • Myuta, male half-elf Ranger (played by Miyao san)

All PCs were 4th level.

The onsen resort is set in a small bowl-shaped valley deep in the Steam Mountains, many days’ walk from civilisation. A narrow valley to the south of the resort heads down to civilisation, and to the East is a second, even narrower valley constantly shrouded in steam from many onsens and volcanic fissures which run the length of the valley. The bowl-shaped valley of the resort itself is also misty, but not to the same extent as the Eastern valley, which is almost impenetrably murky. To the North and West, mountains shrouded in eery forest loom above the resort. For some reason in the Steam Mountains fireflies emerge in Autumn, so the night the adventure started was the night of the firefly festival, when all the patrons of the onsen gather on its western balcony to watch the fireflies dancing in the mist. The characters also gathered, except for Nomai, who was taking the opportunity of peace and quiet to bathe in the staff hot spring, from which she is otherwise banned on account of her race; and Myuta, who was required to be on guard and was standing in an inner garden keeping an eye on comings and goings.

So it was that when the resort’s two guards died noisily in the Eastern garden, only Nomai and Myuta were able to respond quickly. Myuta immediately dashed to their employer’s side and Nomai, grabbing a bath towel and her dagger, dashed to the garden. She was followed by Akuni and Isoda, while Yurianusu (who had been chasing fireflies for spell components) doubled around the resort’s outer wall to come at the garden gate from the rear. Nomai, entering the garden, was immediately struck with a full blast from a Gnome Steam Rifle, but could see nothing of the source. Only when Akuni arrived did anyone see what was happening – two gnomes were guarding the gate to the Eastern garden, and the two resort guards lay murdered by an open doorway leading into the staff area of the resort. As the characters entered the garden, the other gnome unleashed a burst of fire from his rifle, and the first gnome dashed away. Yurianusu, however, cast grease behind both of them, and the first gnome slipped over. The second fled in terror with the characters in pursuit. The Barbarian soon caught the gnome and overbore him, stabbing him into submission, then dragged him back. Meanwhile, Isoda, Myuta and Yurianusu subdued the other gnome, and they hung both from the gate while they tried to determine what had happened.

Investigating the room the guards had been “defending,” our intrepid heroes discovered the owner of the resort, crying about the end of his business. The gnomes had broken into the room, opened a secret door and taken something from inside a small volcanic pool that the room contained. The resort owner revealed that this spring had housed a special cage in which was held an imprisoned onsen sprite. This sprite grants the onsen waters their special powers, and without it the waters of the onsen are simply hot water. Without it, the man’s business is ruined – and by extension, the PCs’ employer’s health. And indeed, their employer, realising this, demanded that they recover the onsen sprite.

There followed a brief scene in which the PCs “persuaded” other guests and the boss into paying them money for their mission. They then “persuaded” the gnomes to tell them a little more about their mission. The gnomes quickly told them that:

  • they had come up the valley with two other gnomes to steal the sprite
  • their employer had told them about the secret door
  • their employer was waiting for the return of the sprite in a camp at the base of the narrow, steamy valley, which provided perfect cover to come stealthily to the resort
  • there was an ambush set halfway down the valley, in case they were followed

Knowing this, the characters set off down the valley, with Myuta’s tracking enabling them to identify when they were near the ambush site. Unfortunately visibility in the valley was only 20′, so though they knew where the ambush was, they could not spring the trap easily. Instead they blundered into an area in front of a jumbled pile of huge rocks, and 3 gnomes atop the rocks opened fire on them with steam rifles. Battle was joined.

Myuta the ranger took cover behind the only available rocks, while cleric, bard and barbarian charged forward to try and gain the relative safety of the larger rocks beneath the gnomes themselves. Akuni threw a tanglefoot bag, which failed to take effect; Isoda cast bless, while the barbarian charged around the rocks to try and climb up the far side and attack the gnomes. Unfortunately the gnome sorcerer behind the rocks was ready, and knocked her out with a color spray spell. Then a fighter charged out from the cover of the rocks to engage the Cleric, while the gnomes set furiously about gunning down the sorcerer, Yurianusu, who cast grease on the rock to no avail. Another gnome appeared from nowhere and surprise attacked Akuni the Bard, but missed; Yurianusu cast sleep on that gnome, and Myuta moved around the large rock to take on the sorcerer, who Isoda the cleric also now tried to attack. Yurianusu’s grease spells on the rock did not make the gnome riflemen fall, so he switched to using sleep, which did work: one fell off the rear and died, while the other slid forward from the rock and landed in the tangle foot bag, so that he hung, upside down and snoring, from the front of the rock.

The barbarian now recovered from her unconsciousness and laid into the fighter with a vengeance, but the sorcerer used ghost sound to trick her and the cleric into thinking that a new squad of gnome soldiers was approaching. With typical berserk single-mindedness, Nomai paid this little heed; but Isoda was fully suprised by it and distracted for a full round. The gnome sorcerer also attempted hideous laughter, which manifested as a phantasm of a strange-looking face which the viewer must surely be amused by; fortunately his target’s were all able to resist the lure of the funny face, until Myuta shot the gnome through the neck and put paid to further ensorcelments. Akuni then repeated this trick, casting hideous laughter on the gnome fighter. Akuni’s hideous laughter manifests as funny stories yelled into the ear of the victim; to all around the victim they sound for all the world like taped songs played at extremely high fast forward speed; but to the target they are heard as multiple fascinating, amusing stories which he is compelled to hear and be entertained by. Unfortunately for the fighter, Akuni’s magic was very powerful, and the spell became for him a curse that will never go away – wherever he goes the fighter will forevermore be laughing and accompanied always by the sound of songs in fast forward[1].

Thus the battle came to an end and, it being 11:30 pm on a Saturday night, and the remainder of the adventure will be played out at the next session. Thus endeth the report of the strange doings of the Steam Mountains.

fn1: saving throw fumble by me. Sorry, Mr. Gnome.

Note for my English readers: I’m now using this blog for communication with my Japanese players, just as I did for my English ones, so there will be occasional Japanese posts. In some cases I will also put English with them, in some cases not. My apologies if this causes your browser to render the site very very ugly.





  • スチームメプィットがのがれて、使用者を攻撃する
  • 散弾銃が使用者の変に爆発して、使用者は3d4ダメージを受ける
  • 散弾銃が爆発して、使用者の周りの10フィート以内の人が皆1d4ダメージを受ける



  • 価格:250gp
  • ダメージ(S):1d6+1
  • クリテェカル:19-20/x3
  • 射程単位:30′
  • 重量:5ポイント
  • タイプ:殴打
  • 弾薬:20発
  • 特別な攻撃:30‘x10’円錐形、中の相手は3d4ダメージを受ける(反応セーヴで半分)、反応セーヴが足りなかったら、怯え状態になる。セーヴ難易度は使用者の攻撃ロールである。


Because Gnomes are small, their normal weapons are unable to do significant damage. Because their own strength cannot be depended upon to achieve a good effect, they use mechanical weapons to increase the damage they do. But even normal mechanical advantage can be insufficient, so they often combine mundane engineering with conjuring to produce devices that can be used for various strange weapon effects.

This Gnome Steam Rifle is an example of a type of ranged weapon ideally suited to Gnome sorcerers and rogues. A small steam mephit is trapped inside the rifle, which uses a block of pre-fragmented stone or ceramic as its ammunition. The Steam Mephit hurls pieces of this pre-fragmented cartridge from the gun. Before using the gun, the ammunition needs to be pre-fragmented and shaped, which is easy for gnomes to do with their advanced stone-working skills; but it can also be bought from gnome weapons dealers. Reloading an ammunition case takes 1 round, but gnome rogues who use this weapon are automatically able to load the ammunition case as a free action.

The rifle also has a secondary effect. At any time, the user can choose as a standard action to fire all the remaining ammunition in a single cone-shaped burst. Everyone within the area of effect of the burst takes significant damage and is at risk of becoming shaken. This action uses all remaining ammunition.

The rifle also comes with a risk of backfiring. Anytime a 1 is rolled on an attack, one of the following may occur:

  • The Steam Mephit escapes and attacks the user
  • The gun explodes back on the user, dealing 3d4 damage (no save)
  • The gun explodes outward, causing 1d4 damage on all within 10′ of the gun

In order to use this gun, an exotic weapon proficiency is required. To learn the proficiency, one must seek out and pay an appropriate fee to a Gnome trainer.


  • Price: 250gp
  • Damage: 1d6+1
  • Critical: 19-20/x3
  • Range: 30′
  • Encumbrance: 5 points
  • Type: Crushing
  • Ammunition: 20 shots
  • Special attack: 30’x 10′ cone. Those within the cone take 3d4 damage (reflex save for half). Those who fail a reflex save are also shaken. Save DC is determined by the user’s attack roll.

Picture: The picture is the Sonification Rifle by Vladislaus Dantes.

This scene demands evil gnome sprite thieves

I’m DMing a Pathfinder session in Japanese tomorrow night, for 5 people, 3 of whom I’ve previously met and 1 of whom is a raw beginner from my FLGS. I kind of arranged this tentatively before I met the gaming group 2 weeks ago, so I’m in a bit of overload here. It’s a trial adventure for the guy who hasn’t played before – if he likes it, we’re going to switch to Warhammer 3rd Edition, because he’s got a copy in shop but can’t play it himself. But first I want to be sure that he can enjoy role-playing. His previous experience is with wargaming, so it may not be his cup of tea.

It’s a bit of a worry because some of my players’ Japanese is extremely hard to understand, and I’m running the group. But I think it’ll be okay, I’ll manage somehow. If I’ve bitten off more than I can chew then I’ll just have an extra beer…

I’m setting the adventure in some mountains, in a generic fantasy world with an oriental/Japanese feeling, at an onsen (hot spring) resort. The characters are guarding an old man who is there for the healing properties of the hot springs, but a group of thieves steal the onsen sprite, the fairy that gives the onsen it’s special powers. Hijinks will follow. I set it up this way so that I could have a valley full of steam from the onsen, where I can set an ambush. I also set it up this way because the area where I live – steamy Beppu – is full of onsen and famous for the views of the nearby mountains wreathed in steam. So I can tie it into a world that everyone here likes. And after the slaughter, the PCs get to soak it off in a hot spring.

Thinking about this while myself soaking in my local onsen this afternoon, it occurred to me that I could come up with a cosmology for this region of my fantasy world, in which the hot springs are not consequences of volcanic activity, but arise because the area of mountains is close to a conjunction of the elemental planes of earth, fire and water. This would explain the steam mephits hiding in a cave near the resort, and it would also explain the role of magical sprites in giving onsen magic powers – ordinary fairies corrupted by the influence of the elemental planes infiltrate the hot springs and give them special powers.

Gygaxian naturalism, it’s what I’m all about.

Anyway, while I was looking at the Japanese pathfinder wiki, I had to look up Steam Mephits (“Suchimu Mephitto”), and I discovered that the Japanese translation of D&D’s term “outsider” is raihosha[1], which my inestimably valuable Firefox add-on, rikaichan, tells me means “visitor, caller, client.” If my business gets off the ground, I’m going to have a great deal of fun every time I deal with a “client,” thinking of them as being like the “Senior Partners” from Angel.

Fun Times…

fn1: I cannot for the life of me understand why this class of monsters gets a Japanese name, as do all the states that a PC can be in (shaken, etc.) but the spells and classes don’t. What capricious logic drove this process!!!?