Sawbuck Gamer

Knights Of Pen And Paper

Lord Of The Cha-Ching

Knights Of Pen And Paper remakes the tabletop role-playing experience, down to the medieval usury.

By Drew Toal • November 20, 2012

Something is indeed lost in translating a pen-and-paper role-playing experience to a video game. It’s not just the lack of a voluminous, dog-eared monster manual or velour pouches of many-sided dice. The main shortcoming of video game RPGs, as I see it, is the lack of spontaneous creativity. You have no dungeon master calling audibles to counter your increasingly powerful and consonant-heavy dark elf assassin, and there’s no personal element to the authorship of the quest.

Knights Of Pen And Paper recreates not just the tabletop game itself, but the experience of playing that game. You control both the players (like Nerd, The Warrior; Mr. John, The Paladin; Pizza Guy, The Rogue), and the dungeon master responsible for creating the quest. As you choose missions, the party is transported out of the living room to a more appropriate fantasy setting, where you face bats, rats, cyclopean slimes, and plenty of other experience-bleeding offenses to nature.

The conceit is amusing, and Knights Of Pen And Paper does offer a character-building grind that will appeal to the masochists among us, but it all feels a little cynical.

My main gripe has to do with this fantasy world’s horrendous economic inflation. It’s like Milton Friedman mated with a chaotic-evil dwarven thief. Generally, the party gets between $1 and $5 per successful fight. The first weapon and armor upgrades for each character costs about $70. That price would be acceptable, if steep, except that you only have about a 40% chance of successfully forging the weapon (the percentage goes up as you improve the blacksmith’s skill). So you can drop this coin and have nothing to show for it, theoretically forever. Price gouging is no fun, but—surprise!—the game allows you to purchase in-game gold with real money, a bit of skulduggery tantamount to bribing a dungeon master with donuts.

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  • Aurora Boreanaz

    A game where you play players (and a GM) playing a game that “allows” you to buy in-game-game gold with real cash?  What a great deal!  How about upgrading the playing venue, furniture, clothing and food for the players and GM for real cash money as well?  I don’t want my virtual players to go hungry while my virtual-virtual characters roll around in their piles of gold!

  • Everlasting_Godstabber

    For the record I played through the campaign without purchasing any gold or grinding for cash. Buy stuff is definitely expensive relative to whty you earn.

    • http://twitter.com/HttpLovecraft Http Lovecraft

      If you’ve completed the campaign, tell me if I’m doing something wrong: I was playing and having fun (without paying extra) until about level 12, now every fight is a slog and I’m barely holding on in fights.  Am I supposed to rest after every battle?  Should I be stacking tons of +dmg items?  Is a tank, healer, and 3dps the right way to stack the party?

      • Everlasting_Godstabber

        I got to the point where fights were not too difficult, but it all depended on having plenty of skills to skip monsters’ turns: Rogue w/ Concussion Blow, Mage w/ Freeze, Druid w/ Hypnotize (especially important). There is also something you can buy from the shop to increase the duration of skills by  a turn, which I think was pretty essential. Of course this strategy also makes fights pretty much the same.

        There was a point where I basically ignored the main quest and just went around to wherever I could handle the monsters and did whatever quests were available (sometimes having to heal one or more times before completing the quest)

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Django-Zeaman/782182159 Django Zeaman

        Focus on items and skill boosts that increase your HP and MP regeneration…then it’s easy-peasy.

  • BarbleBapkins

    An RPG that put equal emphasis on the story, progression, etc. of a group of tabletop gamers AND their characters, and have the two “worlds” as it were impact each other would be an interesting idea. Its kind of a shame that this game seems to… not be that.

    And these kind of “micro-transaction as only means of progress” games are by far my least favorite development of recent years, especially since they seem to have absolutely dominated the mobile market..

    • Bad Horse

      I’m fine with it if you give me the damn game for free. If I see those microtransactions in a paid game, that is ultimate fail.

      • Sleverin

         Exactly.  Come on guys, we bought the frickin game so we could play the full version, not so you could give us magic beans in exchange for real money.  I thought by looking at the article card and title that we would in fact be bribing the GM with in game treats and stuff to affect the actual in game gameplay…that would be great actually…a sort of “Whodunnit” game where you have to outthink and maneuver around a computer AI in bribing the GM to give you sweet gear and such but keeping all the food and bars of gold….er Toblerone hidden.  Hmm…I should pitch this, it’s brilliant gold!

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      If somebody made a really fully-formed, solid game equivalent to the Community D&D episode, that could be pretty amazing. I imagine it would actually have elements that played out in the game world, but it could be similar to the episode of that show in that the two worlds would impact each other, and you would be genuinely invested in the outcome of both.

  • kippkate

    Boooooo, it’s been iphone games forever!

    (Pre-emptive apologies, as I am drunk, this is my first comment on this site, and I check sawbuck gamer more than the average bear. I am not even a sawbuck gamer, I am a broke gamer)

  • James Bunting

    Fricken’ boo. We need to bad together and collectively booooooo this crap so that developers do not see this as a viable way to make money. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Django-Zeaman/782182159 Django Zeaman

    I finished the game and found it much like Bill McNeal, highly…adequate.

    If the fighting were a little more interesting it might have even been good. The DM sitting at a table bit was fun, but ultimately the game mechanic didn’t quite tickle my dopamine releasers.