PAX Unplugged has come and gone, with a return to Philadelphia with what felt like numbers nearly that of my visit in 2019. Last year was a great trip too, especially getting to see people after so long and playing Leverage, but it was nice to get that little bit closer to the first PAX I experienced. Vaccinations and masks were still required, but that didn’t stop everyone from exploring new games, playing ones they love dear, and meeting new people while visiting with friends far and wide! Philadelphia is a beautiful city and sometimes exploring its streets will make you feel like you’ve entered a bit of a fantasy with its marvelous architecture or perhaps something more thrilling…
Not So Final
I had heard about Final Girl the board game and The Final Girl the tabletop rpg last PAX, while seeing some marketing over the last year for both. It was my aim to make sure I got a better understanding of the differences. The board game let’s you play through a specific horror flick while The Final Girl lets you improv a horror movie of your own design. While both sound found it was the latter I wanted to try, and as luck would have it friends I was eager to see wanted to play with Games On Demand. I remind all to check out Games On Demand when at a PAX event; I especially appreciate their use of Safety Tools. It’s easy to get into a game, especially when registering for your group proves difficult. Just get in line and when time comes, declare your desire. That’s what we did!
When you play The Final Girl ttrpg you’re improving a scenario and playing through the main characters of that horror/slasher movie. You can read more here, but quickly it’s a situation you decide upon or roll randomly like we did: the antichrist has risen. We checked with everyone and all were okay with it from a safety tool perspective. We created a number of typical trope characters and slowly they were killed off. Our friend Chris established a young woman was having a quinceanera and no one came. Thus her rage and power came alive! The old man Gus who hung out in his chair at the gas station survived quite long while the jaded waitress Tanya (my vote for Final Girl) died quickly. However, it was the gloomy cheerleader who lived long enough to become the first disciple of this slasher villain! I laughed so hard it was difficult to breathe at times. If you like quick pick up games or doing some improv, I highly suggest you check it out. Now I need to try the board game!
Arkenforge: Craft Your Own World
In the expo hall I visited Arkenforge! Unfortunately due to another convention being held (for Social Studies teachers) the access into the expo hall wasn’t as easy as normal. Not every set of doors could be entered through. That’s okay, but I feel like it inhibited some booths getting as much traffic. Arkenforge was one of them, farther afield than those front door booths. It’s a real shame because their map making software is phenomenal, including making animated maps to import into your virtual tabletops like Foundry!
Mike and Nick met me at the booth, showing me how easy the software was to use and live updates happening on screen. There were print outs of maps they’d made as well. They’ve got fantasy and sci-fi! Trees that dance in the wind and fire that dances in the fireplace! You can tie in audio and even have it react to touch screen input! There’s a free trial on their site and if you decide to purchase you can decide to get the application and then what content you want. Someone excitedly came up and bought in fully to all content while I was there. He was excited and you will be too, whether your games are in person or virtual!
Horror and Humor with Gehenna Gaming
You want games? We've got games!
Stop by for Rivals, American Psycho, And the #SCP "extreme" board game Escape from Site 19, plus all the horror TTRPGs you need!
See you at camp, #PAXUnplugged ! pic.twitter.com/RYDVhIWIt9
— Gehenna Gaming (@GehennaGaming) December 4, 2022
You all know I love me some Gehenna Gaming, where we played our MonsterHearts 2 seriesof Gehenna Valley back in 2020 and into 2021 on their twitch. I was excited to play more Vampire there and met a whole new set of gamers including Clay aka VampireHimbo. He had tremendous energy for being new to RPGs. Really our entire group vastly enjoyed playing with our GM Henry, who introduced a few new fledglings to the nights of Los Angeles. The improv was great, hilarious, and dreadfully dangerous. I played a Malkavian! I never have before. Jay, who quickly decided Rainbow Brite was a better name, really enjoyed speaking their mind. While sometimes it was to their detriment, at least you know how they felt about things and also possibly learned something beyond mundane perceptions. The improv back and forth with Clay was great and I’m glad to see he’s digging deeper into V5 and the World of Darkness. It was at PAX Unplugged in 2019 I first played V5 and got to witness a Setite (I mean Ministry) vampire putting drugs into pancake batter for a group of monks and watching chaos unfold. It’s just always a great time with Gehenna Gaming!
Ask Me About Jesse Jerdak
Going by Camp Gehenna I picked up my Jesse Jerdak pin (see above). You may remember him from my PRIDE article. While he’s a straight cis dude, he’s not narrow. And while a tall, strong, incredibly friendly guy you could tell he was sad not being able to join all the fun at PAX Unplugged. Now, I don’t know all the details going on in Jesse’s life and I don’t need to, but I’ll say this. As a big guy myself sometimes I find people just assume – and yes I acknowledge my privileged position with my upbringing and career – things are fine. There’s not as much checking in as some might do for the others. And that’s okay but sometimes there’s other things going on and knowing others are thinking of you is a powerful thing. It’s all in perspective, let alone FOMO is real. Others turning the idea of t-shirts or pin merch like you’re a cult from a joke into reality? Yeah, that’s priceless. That’s what Ravnos and Ellie did over at Gehenna gaming. Why? Cause Jesse’s a cool guy, supporting good people, and a great personality he brings online and I hope we continue to applaud and support such folks. The way people go at him or his wife for defending safety tools or forward-thinking rpg philosophy is baffling to me. The pins are no joke though. I mean, it’s funny as heck but tremendously heartwarming. Next year we’ll need bomber jackets. Check out the Brieholder instructional video he put together!
If you follow me on twitter, then you saw I attended Dragonlance Live with Jasmine Bhullar leading a group of would-be heroes that include a delightful kender played by Erika Ishii, dwarven friends (practically siblings) played by Johnny Stanton as a sorcerer and Anjali Bhimani as a cleric of a pufferfish (Habbakuk), Gabe Hicks as a devoted knightly elven father, and brand new to D&D Maggie Robertson as a catfolk meemaw. Yes, she had a class but you’ll have to watch to find out what it was! You may be familiar with Maggie as the voice of Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil: Village. Everyone was amazing. The raw power of Erika Ishii as a kender was joyous. Dragonlance is near and dear to my heart, so I knew I couldn’t miss it let alone the star power with Jasmine and this cast. The set up in the main theatre was really nice. I appreciate all the lore woven in. While yes, catfolk weren’t part of the War of the Lance I’m all for gaming groups making changes and allowing in those special details that help make their game the imaginative fun they want. Anjali’s voice for her dwarf was absolutely hilarious, and the strategy Johnny brought to the board game they also showcased was entertaining. The chemistry was great and I’m excited to get my copy of Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen. I need to watch Jasmine GM more!
Thank you so much @Wizards_DnD for sponsoring us for this game of Dragonlance. I had a blast and I hope everyone enjoyed our foray into Ansalon. Thank you for enabling our chaos. pic.twitter.com/amhrR2a1tW
— ThatBronzeGirl (@ThatBronzeGirl) December 3, 2022
PAX Unplugged was thrilling for many reasons, but how we ended was tremendously entertaining. I mentioned Games on Demand earlier. Well, they put together a Mega MonsterHearts 2 game! 12 teenaged monsters all at one school, trapped during a blizzard. Okay, well it was 13 monsters with 1 mortal but she was a bit of a monster herself, which is the point. She’d flirt and then be so cold! Yes, she Katy Perry’d a lot. Anyway, the amazing talents of Natalie, Zoe, and Glitch came together as 3 MCs with the advisement of Brian Liberge to give us 3 classrooms to move between for homeroom and then some classes. We wanted to get to lunch but in true MonsterHearts style, we didn’t get there. We were too busy fighting frost giants and sealing a magical portal in one of the characters, like you do. Running a game for 5 PCs can be chaotic, but they pulled it off with tremendous applause. We did backstories all together. We used note paper to pass texts between tables. We took a couple small breaks so the MCs could confer. It was wonderful and I really hope they do it again! Trust me, you want to play for all that CW, supernatural-high-school goodness. I was definitely feeling the Wednesday show so I played an Infernal who drew power from a dark patron named Lilith, mother of magic and monsters! She da best!
I saw old friends and new friends. I met gamers of many years and brand new ones. I met social studies teachers who were glad to be gaming. I look forward to seeing how this family continues to grow with care and consideration for all. Much love #PAXUnplugged and thank you! pic.twitter.com/WWi9EhY7HF
— Rob Pontious ➡️PaxUnplugged (@silentinfinity) December 5, 2022
I’m so very thankful for the organizers, enforcers, vendors, guest speakers, and many gamers of PAX Unplugged. I look forward to next year already and hope to see it continue to grow with care and love for the “found family” that we often seek. The LGBTQIA+ representation is astounding and well supported. Philadelphia is a wonderful host city with beautiful architecture, great people, and more than a few nice restaurants to hit too! If you’ve any questions about it, you can find a plethora of information on their site or reddit but feel free to ask me too! Check out The Final Girl, Games on Demand, Gehenna Gaming, and all the cool people mentioned herein as I’m sure you’ll enjoy the awesome they bring to this community!
I wasn’t quite sure what to name my article series when I first started but the idea of showcasing or discussing things that make me excited, that I find new and interesting, or maybe I’m otherwise passionate about seemed to fit with the idea of Investing In something like the Pathfinder 2E mechanic. To use some magic items you have to give that little bit of yourself, which helps make these things even better. I like the metaphor of the community growing and being strengthened in the same way!
I also want to hear what you’re Investing In! Leave me a comment below about what games, modules, systems, products, people, live streams, etc you enjoy! You can also hit me up on social media as silentinfinity. I want to hear what excites you and what you’re passionate about. There’s so much wonderful content, people, groups (I could go on) in this community of ours that the more we invest in and share, the better it becomes!