Hello, all! It’s your friendly neighborhood Pathfinder Adventure Card Game venture-captain again! Today, I want to tell you about an exciting new development for PACG online play: we can now play in two different “virtual tabletop” formats: Tabletop Simulator (a paid app for playing a variety of card and board games online) and a free-to-use, custom-built interface at acg.orgplayonline.com!
Paizo does not receive any revenue from these options, so we’re asking that at least one person at the virtual table own physical copies of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game Core Set and the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path.
First, let’s discuss Tabletop Simulator. I’d like to start by noting that Paizo has not made any agreements with Berserk Games, the creators of Tabletop Simulator. What they HAVE done is given the online VO corps permission to direct players to Tabletop Simulator as a viable social distancing-approved alternative to playing the card game in person. In order to play, you’ll need to download Tabletop Simulator from the Steam games library—a license for Tabletop Simulator goes for about $20 USD—then visit the Workshop page.
There have been other implementations of the PACG posted on the Workshop in the past, such as the highly scripted version created by Steam user waterfoul, and I would recommend you check out several to determine which you prefer. However, the one I’m going to point you to today is one that I have built out over the past few months, appropriately titled Pathfinder Adventure Card Society (Sanctioned Implementation).
This implementation has very little scripted functionality built in. The functions it has are meant to make it easier to deal with things like building decks and cleaning up the game at the end of a scenario. It includes all the cards from the Core Set and Curse of the Crimson Throne, the standalone adventure A Night at Bloodthorne Manor, and the Adventurer’s Packs that were described on a blog a few months ago with which to build out your character’s deck.
I have created a Google doc with lots of instructions on how to get started, so I won’t get into all that here. Instead, I’ll show a few screenshots of what you’ll see in-game, and discuss a few useful features—as well as a few important limitations—of playing in this format.
- Location setup is quick. Once you place your locations on the board, just click the Build Locations button, and the game will pull random cards from the vault (the piles on the left of the game board) in the right numbers based on the location size you specify.
- Rolling dice is intuitive. No need to write up macros or learn some complicated dice-rolling language. There are infinite bags of each type of standard dice along the top of the table. Grab a set for yourself. When you’re ready to roll them, I recommend highlighting all the dice before you toss them (by clicking and dragging a box around them). Pick them all up and toss them (lightly) across the table, and let the game’s physics engine do the work for you! If you highlighted the dice, after the roll, you can just mouse over any of the dice and the game will tell you the total! You can also just highlight dice and hit the ‘r’ button, but I’ll admit it’s not quite as satisfying as tossing the dice a bit.
- It’s easy to upgrade and save your character. When you finish a scenario and are ready to use one of your hero points for a feat on your character card, all you have to do is open the Decals menu (it’s a button along the left side of the screen that looks like a square stamper with a handle), choose the checkmark stamp, and drop it right onto your character card. If you make a mistake, just click the stamp you placed again with the Decal tool, and it will disappear and you can try again.
- Cleanup at the end of the scenario is quick. Once players have chosen any deck upgrades they want, just drop any unused cards onto the game board and click Clean Up Board. The game will sort all the cards back into the correct decks in the vault.
The three colored buttons (Build Hourglass, Build Locations, and Clean Up Board) make life so much easier.
- Only the newest cards are available. At the moment, we haven’t imported any of the older Adventure Path boxes (such as Rise of the Runelords or Skull and Shackles), so you’re limited to scenarios that use the Core Set and Curse of the Crimson Throne cards. However, there are a lot of scenarios for just those sets, including the storybooks that come with those boxes, Pathfinder Adventure Card Society season 6, the standalone adventure A Night at Bloodthorne Manor, and the short goblin-themed adventure We Be Heroes? So don’t worry about running out of options too quickly!
- Finding a game can be difficult. There are a few different ways for players to join a game that you’re hosting, but sometimes they’re not incredibly intuitive. When you create a multiplayer table, make sure to give it a descriptive name AND a password. Players can use the Join button to find your game and join it. You can also invite players to your game’s lobby through the Steam Friends interface, but they will still need to know the password for your game.
- You can’t easily import an existing character. At the moment, there’s no easy way to pull in an existing character deck, so if you’re playing with a new box runner, be sure to have your full deck list ready before the game starts so that you can quickly build your deck from the cards in the supply (along the left side of the table). You’ll also need to check off any feats that your character already possesses.
- It’s easy to mess things up. Because the scripting that I’ve built is so light, it also means there is very little error checking. For example, if you click Build Locations twice, the game doesn’t know that you already built the locations, so you get double the number of cards you’re supposed to have in each location. Please be cautious when using features like these.
Please try out the Tabletop Simulator implementation if it interests you. You can email suggestions, bug reports, or other feedback to me at email@example.com.
Next up is a free interface that was originally built to play using play-by-post on the forums; it has recently been upgraded to be more useful for real-time gaming. If you’re not yet familiar with acg.orgplayonline.com, go check it out, make yourself an account, and create a character profile.
This interface is less of a virtual tabletop in that it doesn’t use any visual representations of cards. Instead, sections of the webpage provide all the needed information for a scenario, and then information on each location that’s been added to the table. In order for a player to explore the next card in a location for their character, they would click on the little “binoculars” button on that location to bring up a modal box showing the text of the top card. There are options to acquire, banish, or move cards. The best thing about this interface is that it costs players and box runners nothing to use (though we still expect at least one person at the table to own the Core Set and Curse of the Crimson Throne)!
- Automatic location building. Like the Tabletop Simulator implementation, once you’ve set up the game and added the needed locations, it’s a single click to build them all out: just go to Game Setup → Build Locations, and the site will find the correct cards from our database and add them to the locations.
- Access to any card. Unlike Tabletop Simulator, the database that this site was built around includes essentially every card ever created for PACG. This means you can run games from any Adventure Path box and any PACS season!
- Realtime and asynchronous play options. In Tabletop Simulator, the box runner is hosting the game’s table in real time, so if the host isn’t present, the game isn’t either. Here, everything happening is held in a dedicated database, so players can jump in and take a turn whenever it’s convenient for them. If your group has trouble finding a single multi-hour stretch to all be online, you can run your game over multiple days, using a text-based messaging system like Discord or Slack to let players know when it’s their turn.
- Clunky interface. As the person who wrote most of the code for this site, I am the first to admit that I am not a professional software engineer. (We do now have one working on the site, and he has made incredible improvements to it in just a few months!) The site isn’t well-suited to a phone-size screen, and hitting the wrong button can cause major problems. For these reasons, I recommend that you leave any functions other than examining and exploring cards on your own turn to the box runner. Bug reports can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- No character deck tracking. Though we hope to add it eventually, at the moment players must keep track of their character decks through some other method. (Using your own physical cards are an option, of course; you can also try a community-built Google Sheets character tracker built by several community members—here’s one of the most recent versions; many players have made their own modifications/versions of it. There are detailed instructions on how to use sheets like this on the Flaxseed On Deck Play-by-Post Lodge page.)
That’s a lot of information for one blog. PaizoCon Online is going to test these systems in ways that they’ve never been tested before, so there will be some growing pains. I hope you can see, however, the hard work and love that the VO corps have put into making this game as enjoyable an experience online as it is in real life, and I look forward to seeing all of you signed up for games at PaizoCon Online, May 26–31!
Tyler “Cartmanbeck” Beck
Online ACG Venture-Captain
PACG Online Play in Real Time
Friday, May 8, 2020