Now that Gen Con is over, and I only have to finish plans for Pax Prime and get ready for my trip to Dragon*Con in Atlanta next week, I am finally able to get back on track with our series of international Pathfinder Society blogs. This time, we go to some of the most remote Pathfinder Society play in the world down in Australia. I have a great fondness in my heart for Australians. I was able to have a drink with several of the Australian Venture-Captains and Lieutenants when they came up for PaizoCon in July. Wes Nicholson always brings me Tim Tams when he and I are at the same convention, and at Gen Con last week, he brought me beer. And, I have met Matt Goodall (RPG Superstar) at both PaizoCon and Gen Con, and was able to share some war stories with him. So, I reached out to all three Venture-Captains in Australia and below is what they had to say about Pathfinder Society scene in there.
Before we get to those three reports, I wanted to announce that a fourth Venture-Captain has been added to Australia. Daniel Flood will be overseeing coordination of Pathfinder Society in Brisbane. Welcome aboard Daniel! I look forward to watching you facilitate growth of Pathfinder Society from the amazing level it currently is, to the awesome level I know it can reach.
First, we start on the west coast in Perth with Callum Prior.
My name is Callum (buzzby on the boards), I'm currently Venture-Captain for Western Australia. I'm a Community Development Officer for one of the largest local governments in the state. I previously spent about a decade as a self-employed music and tour manager and prior to that I worked as a butler to the Governor (Her Majesty's representative, not the American-style governor. Rule Britannia!).
Western Australia alone takes up a third of the country, coming in at 20 times larger than England and more than 3-1/2 times bigger than Texas, but our whole state only has a population of 1.7 million. We're spread pretty thin in terms of population centers. Our side of the country, in particular, suffers from what we like to call the "tyranny of distance."
The next closest Venture-Captain is a leisurely 3,438 km away in Melbourne. We have one gaming store in the metropolitan area and we don't have access to a dedicated RPG convention.
Back in the heady days of late 2011 I started email contact with Melbourne Venture-Captain Stephen White, who at the time had jurisdiction over the whole of Australia. With my home gaming group only able to meet up two or three times a year due to the perils of real life, I was keen to see if Pathfinder Society might be a reasonable alternative. Sadly we weren't able to locate any locally reported events and I went back to playing knifey-spoony and looking for ways to support Stephen over here.
However, several weeks later, Stephen sent me an email pointing to Mike's call out for volunteers in new regions. I submitted my application and here I am.
We don't have a strong history of organied play over here and with just the one gaming store, a lot of my work is building partnerships with other (not always gaming) groups and seeking opportunities outside of the normal gaming hot spots.
A great recent example of this is RFLAN, a local LAN event that runs four times a year and routinely sells out to a capacity 450 gamers. I've been working with them to have a presence at their events, the first of which we ran last month starting off with a modest single table. They've kindly offered us even more at the next event, enough for five tables, and it's something I hope to build into a quarterly Pathfinder convention.
We've also been able to attend a number of local pop culture conventions—WAICON (anime), Swancon (science fiction), and GenghisCon (speculative fiction and gaming)—all for the first time. Feedback from all of these have been very positive, and I'm quite excited at what we'll be able to bring to those events next year.
Most recently I was able to appoint Chris Chisolm as my Venture-Lieutenant. Chris will be caretaking our metro events while I make a start establishing groups in some of our regional areas.
So, starting from nothing scant months ago we now have 88 players registered on Warhorn, hit 100 subscribers to our email newsletter, run weekly events at a number of different venues, have attended all the major pop culture conventions bar one (we'll get you next year, Supanova!) and are starting to see our first starred GMs.
Venture-Captain, Western Australia
Now we move 3,438km (or 2,136 miles) to the east for Pathfinder Society in Melbourne.
I'm Stephen White, previously Venture-Captain, Australia—more recently demoted to Venture-Captain, Melbourne. Though that's all cool, because I realized going in that one person can't possibly oversee a region as vast as Australia, I'm very grateful for the work Al, Callum, and many others are doing in other cities throughout the country.
I'm a long-time gaymer, having purchased the 1981 Basic Box with birthday money as a teenager, and played every edition (minus one) of the game since, including GMing the original Adventure Path (Dragonlance) through two editions.
When I moved from Adelaide to Melbourne, I nervously attended my first gaming convention, and discovered a thriving community of players. I enjoyed Living Greyhawk and Living Arcanis and an occasional Eberron game (I'm the VC who loves non-core races!) for 5 years, meeting some great friends along the way. When those campaigns wound down due to edition changes, I was concerned for the future of our local gaming scene. Being a long-time collector of Dragon and Dungeon magazines, I followed Paizo's transition to Pathfinder with great interest, buying a copy of the Pathfinder RPG Beta for each of my homegroup players and GMing Runelords and Crimson Throne.
A strong perception I had growing up in Adelaide during the '80s was that all of the big RPG conventions, events, and promotions seemed to be focused on the USA or perhaps Europe. RPG products cost twice the cover price in Australia due to international shipping and the weak Aussie dollar. Being an island nation isolates us—travel to even our closest neighboring countries requires costly overseas flights.
Some of the barriers to participating as a single international RPG community have reduced in recent years, such as the growth of Internet communications, PDF downloads, a stronger Aussie dollar reducing the cost of imported books, and more competitive airline industry making flights more affordable. Aussies now participate more frequently and equally in many fields internationally, and nothing represents this more in our hobby than our very own Matthew Goodall winning RPG Superstar 2010, and more recently authoring Pathfinder Adventure Path #57: Tempest Rising (Skull & Shackles).
It is very much this sense of wanting Australians to participate in RPG events on equal terms that, when Paizo released Hollow's Last Hope, motivated me to download and run my first public Pathfinder gameday in Melbourne—Free RPG Day 2007. That was 5 years ago now, and I've GMed Pathfinder modules at Free RPG Day events every year since.
The other reason I became a Pathfinder GM was in appreciation of all those who ran tables of Living Greyhawk, Living Arcanis, or Eberron for me at Melbourne conventions. You may not have realised it at the time, but I learned a lot from you all, and your efforts inspired me to be where I am writing this blog post today. GMing Pathfinder is my way of giving back to the community that supported my enjoyment of the game for all those years, and I hope in return I may inspire others to do likewise.
So it was that I started GMing Pathfinder Society scenarios right from Season 0's beginning, starting with my home group, who then became my GM team at Melbourne's three annual games conventions, Arcanacon, Conquest, and Unicon. With the help of GMs across the country, we descended on Brisbane, bringing Pathfinder Society to Gen ConOz and then PaizoConOz for the last 3 years.
Since becoming Venture-Captain, I realized that GMing Pathfinder at four conventions per year wasn't enough—we also need to run public gamedays at our local game stores. The Geelong guys were a step ahead of me, already hosting Pathfinder every Thursday night. I discovered a new Good Games store had recently opened at Blackburn, so I thought that would be the perfect place to start my own local group. We've been running Pathfinder Society tables at Blackburn every Sunday for nearly 2 years now, and we're also starting to host games in the Melbourne CBD. Players can sign up to play Pathfinder Society in and around Melbourne on our Warhorn page, though Pathfinder Society events are also being scheduled in cities across Australia—check out Paizo's event calendar for upcoming gamedays.
And can I just say WOW, Sydney?! The Pathfinder Society growth experienced in Sydney has been phenomenal, and raises a community building challenge for us all to aspire toward, including my own Melbourne region.
Despite our country's size (roughly the size of continental USA), Australia has a population of only 22 million, compared to USA's 313 million. Australian cities are therefore quite isolated from one another—the "tyranny of distance." To put this into perspective, Melbourne and Sydney are a day's drive apart; Melbourne to Brisbane is 2-day's drive; and I'm told driving from Melbourne to Perth requires 3 full days driving across nothing but featureless desert, which no sane person would even attempt.
Nonetheless, a few of us do travel to each others conventions from time to time, and it's always great to meet players from other regions. We're currently aware of Pathfinder Society gamedays in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Geelong, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, Rockhampton, Sydney, Tasmania, and Woolongong. If you're playing Pathfinder anywhere in Australia, we'd love to hear about it and keep in touch.
The single message I most want to leave you with is that anyone can advertise and host a local Pathfinder Society gameday—that's exactly how I and many others started. Everyone benefits from a growing community. Sharing and rotating GM duty encourages more play opportunities, and meeting local players can open homegame opportunities such as Adventure Paths.
When I attended my first games convention, it was because I had no one local to game with. Now I'm gaming every Saturday and Sunday, every week of the year, and have made many good friendships in the process.
Make your own opportunities happen!
Stephen White (DarkWhite)
PS: To Do List: Create a Pathfinder Society druid concept that credibly supports a kangaroo animal companion in Golarion :/
Finally, we move a "day's drive" from Melbolurne to Syndney.
Currently, Australia has three Venture-Captains: Stephen White (aka DarkWhite) in Melbourne; Callum Prior (aka buzzby) in Perth; and myself, Alistair Rigg (aka The Spider) in Sydney.
I have been building up the Pathfinder Society scene here since late 2009 and was appointed Venture-Captain in October 2011, shortly after the call for regional Australian Venture-Captains. I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in my hometown of Kendal, in the northwest of the UK, with the Red Box back in 1982. A fanatic of Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone's Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, I was originally confused that, in D&D, I wasn't constrained by a short list of possible actions. It wasn't until I attended a local game day, in which I rolled up a 1st-level fighter, joined a band of higher-level heroes seeking to assault Castle Ravenloft, and was finally struck dead by the horrific keening of a groaning spirit, that I truly grasped how to play, and was completely and utterly hooked.
I migrated to Sydney in 1997 where I continued to play and GM by helping to start several gaming groups through my workplace and a local game store. We played through 2nd to 4th Edition, but settled on Pathfinder as our system of choice. We became involved with Pathfinder Society when we attended Gen Con Oz 2009 in Brisbane. There, we drank beer with Jason Bulmahn, and became friends with other Pathfinder players and GMs who remain active in the Australian Pathfinder Society to this day. Back in Sydney, I immediately started organizing Pathfinder Society game days. I started organizing Society conventions when Gen Con Oz 2010 was cancelled. As we had already booked our flights and accommodation, we needed an alternative and so Stephen White, Richard Adamson, John Deague, and I organized PaizoCon Oz. The event was a great success, and having learned a little of what was required, resolved to get involved with the convention scene in Sydney.
Australia is a big country. It's roughly the size of continental USA but with a total population of just under 23 million, most of whom are located in cities along the eastern seaboard. Australia is therefore characterized by urban populations separated by huge spaces of open country and desert. This "tyranny of distance" shapes our efforts in building the Pathfinder Society in Australia, forcing each Venture-Captain to develop in relative isolation from each other. I'm separated from Steve's region by around 600 miles, and from Cal's region by around 2,500 miles! It also means that, geographically speaking, our areas are quite large. Sydney's urban area is in a coastal basin, which is bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Blue Mountains to the west, the Hawkesbury River to the north, and the Royal National Park to the south. Sydney's urban area is around 650 square miles and has a population of around 4.6 million. This is my core region.
My outer region, however, comprises the state of New South Wales, which contains the Australian Capital Territory. Apart from Sydney, the other major cities in this area are Canberra, Newcastle, and Wollongong. This outer region is so vast that it would be impossible for me to personally manage events across it on anything but an occasional basis and so self-managing groups are vital. Currently, by far the strongest of these is in Australia's capital city of Canberra, ably managed by Wes Nicholson, Sean Wellsmore, and Steven Coling through a roleplaying society based at the Australian National University. They run game days every other week, have a convention calendar that runs throughout the year, and are going from strength to strength. A new group has also recently started in Wollongong. Jesper Bjelke and Sibel Yilmaz are running a monthly game day at Good Games Wollongong and have forged links with the University of Wollongong's Guild Gaming Society who have just run their first convention, Gong-Con. Most of their players are new to Pathfinder Society, only just finished taking their First Steps.
In my core region of Sydney, there are 5 game days each month. Although the stores that have space for games are happy to host us, and for which we're very grateful, we do all of the organizing and running ourselves. On the first Saturday, Neil Mansell runs six sessions at Unlimited Hobbies in Blacktown along with his GMs, Adam Mansell, Brendan Missio, and James Bonham. On the second Saturday, Ben Kemp and Tony Calder runs four sessions through the long-running Blacktown Games Day at Blacktown North Public School. On the third Saturday, Luke Parry, Brad Kirkwood, and Adam Luchjenbroers run three sessions at Good Games Sydney, and Brendan Missio and David Zammit run games at Tin Soldier Penrith. On the last Saturday of the month, Tris Sullivan and Seb Mullins run two sessions at Good Games Burwood. More game days are in the works as well, and we hope to have sessions up and running in Miranda and Newcastle soon.
Sydney's convention scene is also well developed with six conventions per year. The next major Pathfinder Convention is one of my own, the Spring Shadowmoot, which will be named Risen Rune in honour of the new season, running over the Labour Day long weekend, September 28th to October 1st. There are around 60 sessions scheduled, including all the latest scenarios from Season Three, the first scenarios for Season Four, the Season Four multi-table special, sanctioned modules, and Australia's first public offering of the Eyes of the Ten arc.
Currently, our community centers around our Facebook page. Here we launch our events and discuss Pathfinder Society play in the region, so please "Like" the page to link up with us and keep up to date on what's happening.
I'd like to say a big thank you to all of the Sydney region's Pathfinder Society event organizers and GMs, for all their hard work and willingness to give up their time to entertain people. I've already shouted out some of these people in the above but there are many others, including enthusiastic players, too many to mention, who are helping to drive the hobby forward here in Sydney. My Venture-Lieutenant, Martin Blake, currently on secondment with the Colorado Chapter, is likely to make the move permanent and seek a Venture Officer role there. Although he was involved in organizing events here in Sydney for just a short time before he was relocated, his advice and enthusiasm will be missed. I'd like to take this opportunity, therefore, to welcome my new VL, Dave Metcalfe (aka Metz), to the role. Metz has been my adviser and co-organizer over the last year or so, and was very active in a previous organized play campaign. He'll be a key player in developing the Society here in the future, and I am thankful to have him as part of my team.
There have been several highlights in the local scene since I was appointed Venture-Captain. In October 2011, I organized my first Sydney convention, Shadow Lodge, and, at 31 sessions, it immediately became the biggest Pathfinder Society event that had run in the region. In December 2011, we ran five tables of Blood Under Absalom and had by far the largest number of sessions for any game on offer at MacquarieCon, another of Sydney's long-running roleplaying conventions. In April, our second Shadow Lodge convention, Ruby Phoenix, was even bigger! We had 60 players filling 375 seats over 64 sessions, which made Ruby Phoenix the largest Pathfinder gathering in the southern hemisphere to date!
The resurrection of the organized play scene in Canberra is also exciting in that it offers more options for more players across the greater region. Wes Nicholson and his team are organizing the relaunch of Spring Revel Downunder, which will be running over two weekends on Sep 28–Oct 1 and Oct 5–8. The successful inception of Society play in Wollongong as a completely new location is also very encouraging.
Over the course of 2012, we're aiming to start game days at a number of other new locations. And we'll of course continue to grow our offerings at conventions in Sydney and Canberra to support our growing player base. We're also working on a website that will unite the event calendars from across the region and act as a launchpad to our various online locations of interest, such as our Facebook page and Warhorn sites.
Ultimately, the true highlight of the Pathfinder Society is through the like-minded people you meet. It is probably this aspect that I find most satisfying and which gives me the greatest sense of achievement. The Sydney Pathfinder Society is developing strongly, with a great many new friendships forming as a result, and I'm excited to be able to help facilitate and promote it.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of the Venture-Captains and Lieutenants, coordinators, players, and GMs for making Australia an amazing area for Pathfinder Society. Keep up the awesome work all!
Pathfinder Society Campaign Coordinator