RPGBOT.Podcast Bonus Episode - PAX West 2021 Retrospective
Last Updated: July 6th, 2021
Tyler, Random, and Randall spent the weekend at PAX West 2021 and saw a lot of neat and spicy stuff. They’re sharing their thoughts with you on the event. To all the fans of RPGBOT.net we talked to, thanks for the great comments and feedback. Thanks to all the listeners of The RPGBOT.Podcast.
And special thanks to ReedPop for hosting a great holiday weekend here in Seattle.
The RPGBOT.Podcast is produced in collaboration with The Leisure Illuminati.
Stuff Referenced in this Episode
- Alexandria RPG Library – Nonprofit lending library dedicated to tabletop RPGs
- Catalyst Games – Battletech and Shadowun
- Child’s Play – Charity raising money for children’s hospitals in the US and Canada
- D&D Stat Trackers (affiliate link) – Paper DM screen “hangers” for tracking monster/players stats, initiative, etc.
- Metallic Monsters – Metal miniatures
- True Dungeon – Live-action dungeon
Randall St. Romain II 00:23
Welcome to the RPG bot dot podcast. I’m Randall James, your unconventional convention goer. And with me is Tyler.
Randall St. Romain II 00:30
Random Powell 00:32
Randall St. Romain II 00:33
Awesome, awesome. So we’ve just spent the past three days at PAX West, and we wanted to talk a little bit about it tell you our experiences. I think the idea I was going to kick off here. So this was actually my first convention, ever. I’ve been to a lot of technical conferences, but I’ve never been to something that was just supposed to be fun. And it was, it was great. Yeah, top top view, I think my favorite thing that I’d never seen or participated with before is the idea of having like the video game library, or the board game library, or the tabletop ruleset library, like that was an amazing experience to be able to go and just say, you can try any of these things. And actually, you know, I think we did play quite a few games. I got to look at quite a few books. So I thought that was great.
Yeah, there was a lot of stuff that was really good. I mean, obviously, it’s still COVID time, so things are a little weird. It was a little lighter than PAX West usually is. But they managed things really well. Everyone was really responsible about wearing masks and everything, which was great. And yeah, like Randall said, the open play tabletop games and the open play video games were really awesome. And the… the Alexandria RPG Library, which I was unfamiliar with until we found it. That was really cool. We got some good pictures and got to crack open some very interesting books.
Random Powell 01:54
And also just some very weird books looking at you Teenage Ninja Turtles, cyberpunk post-apocalypse book. That was wonderful.
You have multiple Equestria books, which I didn’t know was a thing.
Yeah, the the My Little Pony official RPG.
For those at home, I’m shaking my head.
Random Powell 02:16
People will put rules to kind of anything and sometimes, some of them are actually really good. I haven’t looked at the My Little Pony one specifically, but I’ve definitely seen some rule sets for things. They’re like, man, you have a cult following. So I see why somebody made a rule set out of you and Oh, so it’s actually surprisingly playable. Alright.
Dungeons the Dragoning 7th edition 40k. We should we should do an episode about that one sometime.
Random Powell 02:45
Ah, let’s see. What else did we see? So, Wizards of the Coast and Paizo and Reaper all kinds of staples at PAX West. Like, there will always be a Reaper paint and take thing and there will be organized play for D&D and for Pathfinder. They weren’t there this year, which that made me sad. I understand why. I totally understand why because COVID and such. I think wizards did a digital play weekend over the same weekend to make up for it. But I was still a little sad.
Random Powell 03:18
It’s interesting to see I mean, really, there weren’t many big names there. Just sort of in general, the sort of the only big exhibitor Booth was Bandai Namco. And that was really the biggest. I mean, you didn’t have your Blizzard, your EA you’re Wizards of the Coast, your… really kind of any of these staples of PAX West that usually set up, you know, the really big, like, expansive, lots of time and effort put into it booths. You know, I remember, several years ago, I went in with the coast had up a magic area that was like a little cardboard building within like, practically a maze that you walked through with all of the stuff that they had in it. And just none of that, and I really think… I mean, I mean, we talked about this some. It seems like a lot of places just didn’t expect PAX to happen this year. And so a lot of the exhibitors who showed up were the people who could put something together on like a month notice. And, so it was great to see a lot of these smaller places have a chance to represent themselves. And it also kind of meant that you were spoiled for choice for getting to pick up some traditional gaming paraphernalia. There were several places selling board games, dice, and lots of people putting out their products for tabletop games, which is actually really cool to see. You know, things like little hangers for your DM screen so that you can have monster sets hanging in and players can see initiative order. Things like unique dice made of odd materials and, you know, that sort of thing. And I think, Tyler, you had a good look at some really interesting models. Yeah.
Yeah. Oh my gosh, I’m forgetting the name, but we’ll… we’ll do a plug for them on a later episode. There’s a local print shop based in Fremont, which is a neighborhood of Seattle, doing metal miniatures and their sculpts are just absolutely gorgeous. Like very eye catching as you walk past the booth, like they’ve got big monsters, they’ve got little monsters. I really wanted to gnoll that they had out on the table right at the front of the booth, that thing was gorgeous. And yeah, like, like Random said, lots of cool stuff to see there. Lots of good dice. Norse Foundry was there Chessex, Level-Up Dice. A few of the local tabletop game shops where they’re selling games. Catalyst had a booth and considering my recent blog post on trying to figure out how Shadowrun worked, that was well timed. So we get to have a good long conversation with some people from catalyst about how to get into the game. And I’m, I’m really excited to talk to them some more.
Randall St. Romain II 06:36
Yeah. What was the what was the line they gave about whether to choose, like their fifth edition or sixth story? Sixth World?
Yeah, that was really good. We were talking to a couple of their people. And Shadowrun split right now between the fifth edition and sixth edition, like the community is split. And the pitch that they gave me was like, if you play tabletop RPGs, if you’re… if you’re comfortable with like Pathfinder level of crunch, then fifth edition is a great system. But if that’s too crunchy for you, if you’re more comfortable with like, 5e level of crunch, then sixth edition Shadowrun is a good fit. So good systems, different niches, but you still get to have cybernetic arms and punch wizards.
Randall St. Romain II 07:18
Which is the most important part. Yeah, we did leave, in fact, with the six world core rulebook, so maybe we’ll talk about that in a future day too. We saw a lot of interesting panels. One of the panels I think we all went to we all enjoyed was a conversation about on what is the phrase that they use? Applied game mastering. Applied DMing. with this idea that and this is it’s interesting to me, I heard Random talking about this on episode zero, the first episode, and in that episode, he talked about like, yeah, we can use tabletop gaming, to help kids learn to communicate to help folks learn to grow within themselves, and to really enable people to blossom, kind of at any age. And I heard that I’m like, that’s a great idea. Right? You should write that down. And there we go. And it’s like, there’s a whole convention hall of people there to talk about doing exactly this. And like, ah, somebody’s got their first, which is really good news, because that means they’ve been doing good in the world for a long time while we’ve been doing a podcast.
Random Powell 08:12
So it’s, I mean, it’s, you know, it’s funny that you talk about that, because, I mean, I so… back when I was introducing myself for this podcast that I did talk about the the summer camp class that I help, or the summer camp that I helped run by putting on a class. And yeah, I have been really interested in this stuff for like, six, seven years at this point, that I was first building this class and looking into this, and I have friends from that camp who are in the community of using tabletop games therapeutically. And so I’ve had some exposure to this and seeing, you know, a roomful of 100 people be interested in learning more about this was fantastic. And one of the things that they sort of touched on tangentially while they were mostly focusing on, like therapeutic benefits of this was just setting a goal for a session, and then carrying on, you know, even if the session doesn’t seem like a traditional success. From an RPG perspective, you know, maybe we haven’t moved more than 10 feet in four hours, but there’s been good progress towards the goal of that, then that’s still a success. And, you know, one of the things that I really harp on is gamification as a concept, which, you know, how do we take the concepts that make and then the mechanics that make games interesting and apply that to real world stuff, so If I’m trying to run a session where yeah, I’m, you know, I’m trying to teach people to think about how do I build engagement for whatever I’m trying to do by using game concepts. And, you know, if I see that people are getting those wheels turning, even if they’re not really advancing the plot of the story that I’m trying to tell that I’m going to feel great about that. And it was really good to see them talking about that, too.
Randall St. Romain II 10:30
Yeah, to kind of lay out the panel. So one of the folks on the panel worked at a children’s hospital. And the goal is basically you have sick children, sometimes they aren’t familiar with the game, you want to try to get them in just so they can socialize and spend some time having fun, not thinking about the ordeal that they’re going through. Sometimes, you have a kid who has been there and desperately wants to be there. And so working with them, and giving them an opportunity to have some fun and to express themselves and to be around other kids and just be a kid in a moment where otherwise that’s very difficult. Another was a school teacher, I believe Middle School, that was talking about the the same idea, like applying it in this space. One was at the university level, working with university students who, you know, let’s provide a venue, let’s provide an avenue for these folks to explore themselves that aren’t, you know, going at night, going out at night and partying and like all of the classic tropes that folks think of that you do in college, like, what if tabletop was another opportunity in another community that you could be a part of? And yeah, but but the general idea, you know, I want to hammer home what Random was saying even more, you know, sure, the goal in the game might be to get to the BBEG and take them down. But sometimes you as a DM, your goal is actually to grow your players. And so if… if everybody spends a great time in that quiet person, who normally has a hard time expressing themselves, is able to really get out there and advocate for what they want to do in the game, if what they want to do in the game is wander around and pick mushrooms, but they’re advocating for it. That’s a win, and you should come up with something to do with those mushrooms, it’s going to be great. Yeah, I really appreciated hearing that panel. And it, of course inspires you, it gives you thoughts, you think about all the ways, you know, game of gamification, video games we’ve seen I feel like for the past decade has grown and grown and grown. I don’t know if anybody has gotten it completely right. But honestly, tabletop might be an easier win when it comes to gamification for the purpose of advancing the people around you, growing the people around you.
I think that’s definitely true. I… I personally have grown a lot from tabletop role playing games, which is one of the reasons I care about them so much. So knowing that there are there are people out there who are way smarter and way better educated than I am working on using using tabletop games for… for more than just entertainment. Like, that’s very reassuring. And it’s very exciting to see them all succeed in that. And, yeah, the… I think it’s going to grow more as a therapeutic tool as a developmental tool. Like we’re gonna start seeing more tabletop gaming clubs, and like, elementary schools and middle schools and high schools. And like, maybe that just maybe that just becomes a thing like, Oh, yeah, every school has an after school tabletop club, like, Hey, you want to work on some stuff, you go… go join the club, and you’re gonna develop some good skills.
Randall St. Romain II 13:25
Yeah, you say that. So I have friends that live in Virginia. And then my oldest son is actually going into middle school and they do have like D&D club at school that they can go afterwards and do. And exactly that thinking like, how this is the opportunity. How can I squeeze this in without ruining everyone’s fun? 100% something that comes to mind.
I’m super jealous. I wish we would have had that when I was a kid. Yeah, my… my daughter just asked me last week if I would teach her to play Dungeons and Dragons, and I have, I’ve been riding that high for a week straight now. So I’m looking forward to using that to like, Hey, we’re gonna really use this to help teach you to read and help you be good at math and all these things. Like she’s about to start kindergarten. So the timing is really good, man. Yeah, I’m very excited.
Oh, awesome. Nice. Nice.
Random Powell 14:18
One other thing that I wanted to touch on and sort of more in our wheelhouse. So there was a company called True Dungeon that put on something sort of like, what if an escape room and D&D 3.5 had a baby, and that baby loved shuffleboard? And I will say that, that was probably, I mean, so I’ve done several escape rooms at this point. That was probably the most fun I’ve had doing it. We will maybe dedicate at least some of an later episode to talking about some of the rules and the mechanics and the optimization, but I would say If you ever have a chance to do that, and you are someone who listens to this podcast on purpose, go do it. It is a ton of fun.
It really is.
Randall St. Romain II 15:09
Yeah, I would definitely echo that. Go do it. Make sure somebody is a healer because you’re thinking that’s not going to be that important. Right? Ho…
Yeah. Yeah, they really made the cleric matter. Yeah.
Randall St. Romain II 15:23
But yeah, it was good. And then I think maybe it could be worth touching on. So one of the booths that was there something I was unfamiliar with, but I think everybody else that was with us new was Child’s Play charity.
Yeah, child’s plays a really big charity in the gaming community. They raise money for hospitals and do stuff like therapeutic gaming for children. Wizards of the Coast has been a huge sponsor of theirs for years and years and years. They have been at every Pax that I have been to at least great organization, if you need somewhere to send some money and feel good. childsplay is a great place for it.
Awesome, awesome. Awesome. Yeah, it was really cool to hear their mission and see like, I mean, they had cool gear. So it’s was already put it mirch you’d be proud to buy even if it wasn’t doing something good. And all the better because you know, you’re actually doing something good in the world. So yeah, my first Pax experience and I’d say overall, it was positive would go again. Same here.
Random Powell 16:28
Absolutely. Yeah. Did very different than previous years, but I had a great time. Especially getting to see you guys in person and looking forward to the next one.
Randall St. Romain II 16:38
Absolutely. All right. Thanks, folks. This has been a special episode. You’ll find us back on regular fead, or in your regular feed coming soon.