Thursday, June 6, 2013


     I love puppies. They’re energetic, enthusiastic, and adorable. In their eager rush to experience new things they sometimes put their nose where it shouldn’t be. They might get bit, they might not. But either way they learn from the experience. A Pathfinder Puppy (or just Puppy) is a term that Jeremy and I came up with to describe enthusiastic gamers who are new to Pathfinder. Puppies are eager to learning the game and excited about experiencing the world. The choices they make, whether in character creation or in tactical combat, aren't always optimal and are frequently dangerous mechanics-wise. But that's the nature of learning. Puppy, in my mind, isn't meant to be a negative term, rather just another player archetype seen at tables (alongside the Power Gamer, Rules Lawyer, and Diva, etc.).
     I feel like some people are hesitant to let Puppies into their games. But we were all Puppies once. We weren’t always seasoned veterans and the gaming table is not an exclusive club. At one point or another we had to learn the game starting with the basics and someone let us into their group. I was the Puppy at the table in Jeremy's 3.5 homebrew years ago. And since then we’ve managed to have a Puppy at about every table we’ve sat at. But why all this concern about having a new player at the table? Because I think that having a Puppy at the table benefits everyone.
     Playing with a Puppy affects your game in a number of different ways. Perhaps the most noticeable, is the way it can change the pace of the sessions.
GM: Okay, I need you all to roll Will Saves
Other Players: Nineteen. Fourteen. Three!
Puppy: Thirty-Seven?
GM: What?!
Puppy: Will Saves. I roll a d20 and add Four plus my Wisdom Score right?
GM: No. You add your Wisdom Modifier.
Puppy: What’s the difference?
     This kind of rule terminology mix up, while simple and easily addressed, can be a common occurrence at a Puppy’s table and can significantly slow down the pacing of a session. For some, this slow down can break immersion and cause irritation. But I think the tradeoff is more than worth any perceived detriment. As a veteran player of RPGs, I sometimes find myself looking at the gam through jaded lenses. I’ll look at a character and first see a stat block instead of a story. A GM describes a monster and my brain immediately goes to thinking up ways to bypass its DR rather than thinking about how my character would react. Having a Puppy at the table allows players like me to experience the game anew, through the fresh perspective of a virgin player. And before you know it, that Puppy will have evolved into a rules savvy roleplayer, ready to jump into adventure.
     So the next time you get the opportunity to welcome a greenhorn to your group, if there’s space, do it. You just might be surprised at how good an idea it turned out to be.

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