Ephemeral Games and Ambiguous Rights at Pause Button

Pause Button is an online publication about technology and culture published by the Milieux Institute at Concordia University in Montreal. The digital magazine aspires to produce high quality writing about technology and culture in a Canadian context, taking advantage of the connections and resources available within Milieux’s various research clusters.

For their fifth issue, Who’s User Experience?, I contributed a short article about the rights of players to own the games in their digital libraries. Entitled Ephemeral Games and Ambiguous Rights, I use the infamous Nostalrius World of Warcraft server as a case study to explore the limits of DRM and how players are negotiating ownership within online marketplaces. I’ve included a short excerpt of my piece below:

Since the advent of digital marketplaces, however, the idea of ownership has become somewhat enigmatic. Although new technologies offer us unprecedented access to game assets and algorithms – something that was nearly unheard of in the hard plastic days – sprawling End User License Agreements (EULA) and stringent Digital Rights Management (DRM) software are contesting and restricting our ownership. Browsing through a games library on Blizzard or Steam feels more like surfing the web than sifting through a collection. Every title has gained an amorphous quality, changing constantly through iterative patches and updates. In many ways we’ve relinquished control over the games we have purchased, as developers can add or subtract content on a whim. This raises a troubling question: do we even own the games that we play?

This issue also features great articles by Maggie MacDonald, Hilary Bergen, Nathalie Duponsel, and Nora Lamontagne. Be sure to check it out!

The Elephant in the Room: Feat Taxes in Pathfinder (Second Printing)

Earlier in the year, my brother and I published an updated and expanded version of our Pathfinder feat tree. Entitled The Elephant in the Room: Feat Taxes in Pathfinder, the document featured a re-imagined version of the entire feat section found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook. We had hoped to create an expansive resource for fans of the original blog post.

However, the document had its fair share of grammatical errors and rules ambiguities. In order to correct and clarify these mistakes we’ve released a new version of The Elephant in the Room, which also includes a single heavily-requested rule change. A full list of updates can be found below:


Rules Changes

  • Weapon Proficiency now grants proficiency in Fighter Weapon Groups, not just single weapons.

Clarifications

  • Risky Strike now includes text for off-hand and two-handed weapons.
  • Whirling Cleave and Powerful Stride have been reworded to emphasize that the 5-foot steps they provide are free.
  • The full verbiage for Finesse Weapons, specifically the description for Agile weapons, was cut off in the original printing. It should be present in this document.
  • Hamstring‘s interaction with certain monster types (oozes, elementals, flying creatures) has been clarified and reworded.
  • Savage Charge now explicitly applies to all Vital Strike feats.
  • Deft Maneuvers and Powerful Maneuvers are now properly classified as Combat Feats on the feat table.

Miscellaneous

  • About a million spelling and layout mistakes have been corrected.
  • The cover has been updated to emerald green to differentiate printings.

One of the more popular requests we’ve received for this rule-set is a more condensed errata. Essentially, “what does this rule-set change from the Core game?” Luckily, the community has stepped up and created a shared Google Doc that does just that. I will be suggesting changes to that document over the next 24 hours, sourced from the above list, so it is fully up-to-date.

Barring the discovery of some catastrophic mistake, this will be the final iteration of The Elephant in the Room. It’s been a lot of fun putting together these rules, but my brother and I would like to shift our focus away from the rule-set in favour of other projects. Plus, I’m not quite sure if there is an appetite for additional changes to the document anyways.

As always, we hope you enjoy the The Elephant in the Room! Let us know if you’re using the rules in your campaign and how you feel about them. We’re also going to be creating a short run of print editions (via the Asquith Press) for friends-and-family use, so I may post some photos of the finished product once they’re ready.

The Elephant in the Room: Feat Taxes in Pathfinder (Full Rules Document)

In September of 2012, my brother and I released a blog post discussing the issue of feat taxes in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Although the post was intended to be a one-off thought experiment based on our experiences building characters for organized play, it gained an inexplicable amount of traction on Reddit, Facebook, and the official Paizo forums. It is responsible for 90% of the traffic on this website, recently celebrated its 100th comment, and has been used for countless Pathfinder home campaigns.

In response to the continued interest expressed by the Pathfinder community, we’ve decided to publish an updated and expanded version of our feat tree. This document, titled The Elephant in the Room after the original blog post, includes a reimagined version of the entire feat section found in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook.

We’re publishing the revised rules both here and on the newly redesigned Hearth & Blade website. Hearth & Blade was largely inspired by these feat tax rules, albeit adjusted for the P6 rule set, and the document provides a good idea of what our upcoming core rulebook will look like when it is finished.

More than anything, however, we hope that this document continues to spur interesting and lively discussion of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, just as the original blog post did.