Monday, October 27, 2014

Kickstarters: Current and Ongoing and Those I've passed

There are so many Kickstarters out there these days, that I'm pretty comfortable missing months at a time and not looking into the various things going on because I figure at any time, there will be more that are ongoing.


Another problem is lateness. The Tome of Horrors miniatures, officially licensed from +Frog God Games , is late and the communication has been bad. Others like Alien Assimilation are late but communication has been good and you get to see the work as it's coming.


Another problem is cash. With a new car, the funds have been tight. Anything that has too high a buy in is pretty much dead in the water to me. For example, Basius 2 looks awesome but man, the shipping and handling, and the fact that it's in British pounds? Nope.


I was fortunate in that a few of the Kickstarters I backed were awesome enough to give me a refund. Needed it too for things like down payment on the new car and various other assorted bills that tend to just pile up.


The last problem I'll mention, is stuff I know is coming. While who knows when Center Stage is going to be done, I'm pretty sure +Reaper Miniatures is going to be delivering Bones II real soon. I'm a backer of that and well, I haven't finished everything in the fist Kickstarter so I imagine I'll be buried in that strange Bones material soon.


On the other hand, I did put in  for a book on miniature painting that comes with a few figures from Figone, the Figopedia.The guy doing it is a fantastic painter and if he can get some of that information into my small brain? That would be awesome. Even if not though, a few miniatures and some awesomely painted miniatures to peruse? Win!


Red Box Games by has done several Kickstarters. I had a bad experience, as everyone did, with the first one, but the second one was great. Picked up a lot of monsters. I skipped the others as they're character driven and his scale is more 'realistic' which means they look fantastic, but generally don't fit even with his other work by Reaper. However, his latest one may get bandits and as I've mentioned before, I'm not impressed with the current crop of bandit miniatures out there.


Dungeonmorph Dice? Awesome. Not too bad price wise either. I've got my eye on it.


Ancient Ruins II is a series of bases but man, between CoolMiniOrNot's recent bases and my old Happy Seppuku bases, I don't know. Prices aren't bad and I do like helping the 'little guy' so I'm going to try to get some money together for him. I've ordered from him in the past so I'm pretty sure it's going to be another quick turn around.




Strangely enough, I haven't backed a lot of role playing products lately. Between Pathfinder and 5th edition, I'm pretty set in terms of campaign setting and adventurers.


Not only that, but for whatever reason, the RPG ones tend to be just as bad if not often worse then the miniature ones in terms of dropping communication or just failing to deliver. Not saying they're all like that but man, when I look over the list of stuff I haven't backed and check on it to see if it's available now because it sounded interesting?


Throne of Night is way behind on some of it's deliveries, but it's had some stuff out?


The Reliquary looked to be a book of magic items. Looked pretty cool. Looked like something I could pick up when it was done. Wow. Still not done. Ugly stuff.


The Grand Temple of Jin: It sounded awesome but I had enough of mega-dungeons at that time. Still ongoing. Argh!


Southlands, now this one I'm 99.9% sure it's going to be out relatively on time. It hit when the funds were at an ultra low point though so as much as I wanted to, it had to go to the wayside. Their only behind one of the stretch goals for the previous KS I backed from them.


Anyone else backing anything awesome that the world needs to know about?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Rat Queens: Volume One: Sass and Sorcery

When it comes to comics, the field is dominated by super hero titles. At least in America. The good news though, is that there are a lot of independent publishers, well, how about the non-BIG TWO (Marvel and DC) that dip their toe into other waters quite often.


Among those publications, I've heard good things about a fantasy comic called Rat Queens. Seeing that Amazon had the first volume, Sass and Sorcery that collects issues 1-5 with some bonus material for $6.38 (almost 40% off!). Looking over my edition, it must be doing okay because this is a second printing. Good for Image.  I added that to a recent order of some Pathfinder gaming material.


It does not disappoint. It's like the authors are long term Dungeons and Dragons players.


We have the following characters:


Betty: A smidgen (Halfling/hobbit) rogue
Dee: Cleric of a giant flying squid.
Hannah: Elf magic user.
Violet: Dwarf fighter.


The action takes place in a city that houses a fair number of mercenary groups that don't necessarily get along. The story starts with a bar brawl that's broken out into the streets of the city Palisade, getting the five 'gangs' arrested: Rat Queens, Peaches, Four Daves, Brother Ponies, and Obsidian Darkness. Their penance is various low key missions that the city doesn't want to expend its own forces on ranging from clearing out goblins to 'clean the shitters at the winding pass barracks.'


Oh, and there's swearing. Adult language! For the most part it comes off as adults speaking which is well done. There's also a lot of 'slice of life' bits that fit into the overall story but I suspect in more standard comics would've been cut.


The story includes a few 'random' battles and an overarching theme that's to be continued as the readers are introduced to various individuals from the different groups. By not having the book focus entirely on the heroes, the Rat Queens, the author allows the setting to be large enough to throw multiple plot hooks into the air that can be continued one at a time until they become the main stories.


For anyone who role plays games like Pathfinder or Dungeons and Dragons, it's almost like a quick how to manual.


Kurtis J. Wiebe is the author here and he does a nice job of handling the characters like you'd suspect such characters would act. The interesting thing to me, is if you changed all of the female characters to men, you wouldn't have to change that much dialog or well, anything else.


That's great because to me, it means the author focused on making the characters interesting as opposed to making them 'women' if you will. Maybe that didn't come out right, this being the internet and all, but I'll take strong characters over characters put up in a specific gender role any day of the week.


Roc Upchurch, whose Deviant Art page is here, does the art including the covers and since there is no colorist listed, I have to think he does that as well. Great job all around. If you like the cover for example, you'll enjoy the interior art. The interesting thing to me, is that Roc isn't afraid of showing the characters taking a beating. There is horrific violence inflicted on them, but he doesn't flinch from showing it.


Mind you the long term ramifications of such violence are minimized as there is magical healing about but to show it in the first place? Usually violence against women is minimized despite all of the 'women in the refrigerator' we see in super hero comics.


I hope that after the graphic novel collection for volume two comes out the price will go down a little. Compared to volume one's low price it's almost double. Ah, the internet spoils me with its variety in shopping terms.


If there are any Pathfinder gurus out there, you should try to license this comic out. The art is already there and a quick book of NPC's and quick maps is always a welcome addition to the game.


For fantasy comic fans and comic fans, this is a solid volume and very affordable with some great art and a story that wraps up the main plot while continuing to advance the story of the characters.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Kingmaker: Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition Second Session


I continue my bastardization of running the Mines adventure that comes with the Dungeons and Dragons starter box set mixed in with the Kngmaker Pathfinder adventure path that takes place in the River Kingdoms.

This week's adventurers included:

Gerak: Thief halfling: The player is using an old prepaint from the Dungeons and Dragons miniature line.

Kantos: Dragonborn Fighter: The player is using an old prepaint from the D&D line. He's lucky that my friend, Tom, whose house we're playing at, has a ton of these. Tom was quite the collector back in the day.

Amun Ramas: Druid: Using a metal Reaper cleric with an Ankh staff to represent his Osiron (Egyptian) character. I painted this for him a few campaigns ago but thanks to the Army Painter dip I used, it's still in great shape. That stuff keeps a nice hard shell around the figure.

Erdan: Elf Monk. Using a prepainted figure from the batch, but that prepaint is not an elf. I just finished painting an actual elf monk from Stonehaven, but the gloss coat I threw on it to protect it hadn't dried yet so I'll bring that over next week. Note, there aren't a lot of figures that fit this race and class combination. I think that Reaper has one and that's about it. Too bad I'm personally not a fan of either sculp but you take what you can get.

Erik, who is playing the elf monk, was running late so the group decided to do a little exploring and to hunt down Tuskgutter, one of the side quests in the adventure. This would be one of the things that set the tone for the game in that monsters look like they have a lot of hit points but that tends to be countered with poor Armor Class values.

The group killed the giant boar and make their way back to the encampment as Eric had arrived at that time. With their elf monk in hand, they made their way down to the bandit hideout, which they knew its location from capturing a bandit in an attack against the outpost. On the way, the encampment leader, Olog, asked the party to check in on the hermit who provides the outpost with potions.

The party had an encounter with some wild hogs, rolled off the random encounter table, but after fighting Tuskgutter, I didn't want to fight out another combat with pigs so I ruled that the party made short work of them and that they continued on their way.

Meeting the eccentric potion maker, they did him a little favor, gathering some various berries, during which time I described a few of the local bits of fauna and flora to give the players more information on the River Kingdoms region. The eccentric old man offered them 25% off potions but hey, when they looked at information on Potions of Vitality, no actual prices. I ruled that if a potion of healing for 2d4+2 was 50 gold, that Vitality, which does a lot more, was 100 gold.

Looking real forward to that Dungeon Master's Guide. The current download also didn't have prices, not does the starter adventure.

A few set encounters on the way to the bandits included some kobolds that were resting in a field of radishes, and a huge trap door spider, both of which the party made relatively short work out of. One of the players got a little too enthusiastic in his cleaning of the trap door's spider lair by using his dragon breath on the lair and set aflame the webbing and some paperwork that was down there.

Ooops for him. It's like when players smash open a chest with potions. If you insist on doing things the violent way...

I had an NPC cleric join the party while they were fighting the bandits. I figured that they were short one character so it shouldn't be that big of an issue. The fight was run with generic bandits and a bandit captain and the players did fairly well although the dice sometimes turned against them.

The party returned to the outpost and encountered a few more travellers who'd either come here due to visions, a priest looking for an ancient temple, or because they were here to 'officially' fight bandits from the home kingdom.

I had the druid of the party have a vision of the White Elk, a herald of 'Old Deadeye', a farmer's god of battle so to say. The White Elk showed the druid where the ancient temple was and the party managed to clear out the cursed individual there who was a maddened Polar Bar (aka Cave Bar variant from the Monster Manual.)

The party made enough XP to get up to third level.

In terms of the original starter adventure, the I switched out the Forgotten Realms city for Pitax, a city of scum and corruption in the River Kingdoms, and the party will probably head there after fighting against the 'Stag Lord', the main antagonists of the first chapter of Kingmaker.

While using the 5th edition Monster Manual, not a fan of it in some instances. In many ways, 3rd edition brought animals into a meaner place with the various 'Dire' versions of things. There's no template for that in 5th edition that I saw but I was able to use various animals like the giant spider and polar bear to make up for most of the things I needed. Running kobolds and bandits also proved easy.

Another quirk of 5th edition? And it could be I'm missing it, no masterwork items. I could have introduced them to the game but m'eh. I'll live with those not being available.

The relatively low armor class of the characters, the highest being the dragonborn fighter with a shield and his armor, was 18. Everyone else tends to be in the 14-15 range.

Still haven't handed out any inspiration. Think I'm going to have to ask the players to write the various bits that they get inspiration for and use it for reference or something. The Dragonborn player described his handling of Tuskgutter well and I probably should have given him a point for that. But to be honest, I'm not feeling the love for this mechanic. It seems very limited, especially if you can't have more than one at a time.

Maybe I'll offer to give them a point if they write up campaign session recaps? Not sure. How's everyone else handling it?

In terms of props, I used the old map tile set Ancient Forest. Let me say that I'm thankful Paizo figured out a better way to store and keep those tile sets? The new one, Forest Trails for example, the new forest pack and it comes in its own holder and has a miniature version of itself on the back. This allows you to see which tiles go with which set and allows you to keep them together without having to rubber band the package? Fantastic work there! It's an actual evolution of a product.

Compared to the flip mats, the tiles are still a pain in the ass. The flip mats, you bust out the mat and slap it down. These you still have to assemble. Mind you, I like a little variety so I have both but in terms of easy of use? Yeah, the flip mats take the cake here. I have the old one by Gale Force 9, but as we're playing at a friend's house, I'm not carrying my whole library over there every week.

Note for those who might be interested in the Pathfinder setting in this region, Paizo offers for free, a Player's Guide that's supposed to allow players a bit of customization to fit in the region here: http://paizo.com/products/btpy8dqh?Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-Kingmaker-Players-Guide

In terms of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition itself, I'm actually kind of disappointed and okay with it at the same time. The dearth of support coming from WoTC, especially in terms of content that would keep me interested in coming back to the site, is amazing in this digital day and age.

On the other hand, the game system, from a few plays so far, seems a lot easier to wing. It seems a lot more compatible with the material that's already available. Good for me, bad for WoTC. I wasn't impressed with their previous hardcover adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen and am seriously thinking about cancelling my preorder for The Rise of Tiamat.  If I can run any of the hundreds of older bits I have, if not completely free range it, my need for actual new product drops pretty close to zero.

How's everyone else finding the system? My players haven't complained about the lack of fiddy bits like Prestige Classes or Feats, which is surprising in it's own one as one of the guys is a master of manipulating game systems. To see him 'cool' with the relatively limited amount of options in the Player's Handbook is interesting.

I still need to find my old make your own game master screen and put together a few of the rules on combat, although we didn't run into any show stoppers this session.

Next week I imagine that the players will take on the Stag Lord and then move back into the starter adventure so I'm curious to see how that goes. They may be a little more powerful but I doubt they'll be much higher.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Elric The Ruby Throne


Huge fan of Michael Moorcock's creation Elric over here. I've read the old comics when they were published by First and Dark Horse. I had read the books long before that.

This volume, which is a slim hardcover that goes for $10.01 on Amazon, slipped by me until another fantasy fan showed his own copy arriving. Didn't take long and I had ordered my own.

This volume covers the point we're introduced to Elric till the time he summons Arioch. I'd say what, a third of the book?

The story is familiar since I've read the novel and the old comics, but it's different as well. I don't know if that's because the author and artist took some liberties with the material or I'm senile. The good new though, is that even the material I don't remember being here, fits in well with the overall theme and arc of the character of Elric.

Now one of the things I like about this version? It really puts a new spin on things for me. The artists, Robin Recht and Didier Poli are fantastic. While I'm not sold on all of the character designs, the overall graphic design and choices made in the book are fantastic and powerful.

For example, let's start with the Ruby Throne. I'm probably not alone when I say I've always thought of the Ruby Throne as being, well, a throne made of one solid ruby or something of that nature. Here, the artist creates a massive throne of which the chair portion is the smallest. The throne is the type that could not physically be moved so large is it. I can see a question to break off a part of the throne for use in a spell component or ritual but actually stealing the whole thing?

At the end, when Elric summons Arioch, who appears in this instances as a child, he does so with numerous blades surrounding him. This gives Arioch a 'anima flare' if you will that fits in well with the character and his name as the Prince of Swords.

There's also the common cruelty of live in the empire. For example, Doctor Jest here looks like he could be from a certain mercenary faction in Warmachine with his artificial limbs that are dissecting prisoners. Elric's fiance feeds him blood and souls in order to empower him, because he is a sickly creature. It's far more graphic then I recall but it fits with the theme of a demon worshipping society.

There are other little bits that don't match my memory. For example, when Elric leads his kinsmen against a raiding party, when some seek to escape, Elric summons the demonic depths of the sea to handle them. This leaves him weakened at which point he is dragged by one of the raiders over the ship and his evil cousin has opportunity to save him. I recall it being his cousin who pushed him.

Minor things and they don't effect the story at all.

This book is perfect for any fantasy fan who wants to have some fantastic art work. The story is short enough that it leaves you wanting the second book, which is also available for pre-order. Hope I remember that one!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

I'm Back In The Saddle Again (5e Setup and Play Report)

What's that old group Aerosmith sing about? Something about being Back In The Saddle Again?

That would be how I feel in my return to being a Dungeon Master after many moons. For years I've been pulling in overtime that's crazy. Or at least crazy for me. The last year and a half has calmed down tremendously but then I happen to discover my love for alcohol and spreading my time into BYOB resteraunts and hanging with a different crowd.

In that instance it wasn't that I didn't play, I just was honest enough to admit that if a couple of the work amigos called up and said, "Tequila at Garcia's?", I was probably not going to be at the game.

The guys I play with though, are a stable group and didn't mind. The former Game Master who was running the Thousand Thrones campaign though, needed a break and I decided, "Well, most of the people I drink with have left the company or been fired so might as well take a swing at it."

This happened around the time 5th edition had just come out with the Player's Handbook. I won't harp too much on how disappointing it is in terms of the amount of gaming material save to wag a finger at #GaleForce9 for failing to have a Dungeon Master screen out and WoTC inability to have a FEW starting adventurers out.

The good news though? I don't think it's that difficult to do on the fly conversions. Mind you, if there is an 'official' monster, I go with it. If there is a 'CR' appropriate monster, I'll reskin it and throw it in there.

But what to run? I didn't like Hoard of the Dragon Queen. It felt very incomplete and very much an adventure for Game Masters that wanted to do a lot of customization., Pathfinder on the other hand, has a ton of adventurers. I had found Thornkeep at Half Priced books a while ago, and as a backer of the Emerald Spire, thought that I might just mix and match between the two and have a bit of a dungeon crawl.

But here's the thing, I had heard good things about the starter adventure in the basic set. When I ordered it for like $12, it was an afterthought and I didn't pay much attention to it. I broke it out again and reading it over, there was a lot of stuff in there that I did like.

The Emerald Spire and Thornkeep are both in the Paizo setting, in the portion of the world known as the River Kingdoms. I have the full adventure path as well as Guide to the River Kingdoms and the more recent People of the River. So I decided I'd mix a few parts of the starter adventure, some of the introduction bits from Stolen Land, and see where it went.

My group consist of the following:

Kontos: A dragonborn fighter. If I was in 'prick' Game Master mode, I would have shot down the dragonborn right away. Maybe I'm old but I just don't like them. They're also not native to the Pathfinder setting. On the other hand, a handful of dragonborn could be native to the setting and with all of the other strangeness in the campaign, shouldn't be a big deal. For this player though, the dragonborn hit the spot. He's one of those whose tired to death of the dwarf, elf, halfling, human dynamic and was happy to see something that catered to him.

Amun Ramas: A human druid. The player did a lot of research into the setting and this character hails from the Egyptian style of the setting.

Gerak: Halfling thief that serves Amun Ramas. Apparently in the Egyptian style kingdom, halflings are good luck. The players are good friends so I didn't see this being a problem.

Erden Nail: An elf monk. Good luck to this guy. While his armor class isn't that terrible, the hit points are bad and while I love the concept of an unarmed fighter kicking ass and taking names, it's been my experience that monks get the beat down with the short end of the stick.

Damaia: A tiefling warlock. Has an academic background but hasn't decided where she's from.

The guy playing Amun Ramas decided the whole Pathfinder society bit was a nice touch in terms of forming a group and even put together a charter. That saved me the hassle of trying to come up with a reason of adventurers to gather together and allowed the group to gel fairly quickly.

I decided I'd set the Lost Mine of Phandelver in the River Kingdoms. It's a pretty lawless region and all sorts of keeps, villages, and towns rise and fall so a lost mine fits right in. They were on the road heading to an outpost to meet up with a fellow Pathfinder member who had some information for them.

When I ran the goblin ambush, I decided to pull out the old map from Keep on the Shadowfell. While that was the first adventure for 4th edition, I've used that roadside map that also includes an ambush, although in that one by kobolds, over and over again. It's really paid for itself in that aspect.

One of the things I love about Pathfinder? It's depiction of the goblins. The difference in physical appearance, the comical, yet dangerous nature of the creatures. Their unique weapons and little chants and slogans.

Now I own numerous metal miniatures that first came out from Crocodile Games and later by Reaper but since I was transporting these, I figured that the recent goblins from the 'feed' pack that Paizo put out would suffice.

I also knew I would be having some bandits at some point. I was very disappointed by the types of bandits out there. After asking around, I decided to go with some Games Workshop Empire Freebooters or Empire Militia. Say where you will about the evil empire of gaming, but those Empire figures in plastic have a ton of configurability and customization and being lightly armored? They make perfect bandits for any fantasy setting, including one with guns as these can be configured with them.

I had an old spree for eight figures. I used +vallejocolors vallejo color primers, leather brown and plate mail metal and then a few washes and some basing and they were good to go. Bonus that since they were plastic, they were unlikely to be damaged and would reduce the amount of weight I was carrying.

I hoped that the guy's house we were playing at would have whatever else we needed. While I don't have to have miniatures out on the field, I find that it helps things.

One of the things I hope to have ready for next week is a Dire Wolf I put together from Avatars of War. It's a fantastic looking figure but fits together terribly so I'll be throwing a lot of green stuff at it. The druid shape changes into it.

Combat was a little different for me. There were a few cases of flipping through the rules to look up things like disengage. We've all been playing for years so we're used to the last two editions of the five foot step rule but that appears gone. We were also looking for rules on a charge, but those werent' there. I also didn't take into account the advantage rule for the goblins who had surprise on most of the characters.

I went with the predetermined damage. Even so, when a gobo hits for five points a crack it's a telling blow. Especially since most of the characters have hit points ranging from 12-9.

The fight put a bit of a hurt on the group but they decided to follow the trail of the goblins back to their lair. More fighting and the characters got a hefty beat down and won because I ruled that some wolves that the party befriended earlier turned on the goblins who treated them poorly.

The characters then made their way to Oleg's Trading Post, from the Stolen Land Kingmaker adventure. Here they were asked for their help in dealing with the bandits.

I had wanted to pull out the Bandit Outpost, which is what the trading post looks like, but out of all the flip mats I have from Paizo, that was not one of them. I hand drew it out on a standard Cheesex map and the old wet erase markers.

Here's where I got to sit back for about a half hour. The players went into vast elaborate methods that they might use to get the drop on the bandits and different tactics they could engage in and different ways they could maximize their battle.

Way overkill on the players part, but that's part of the fun for them but then they didn't quite make it as easy as they could have as they changed some of the standard setup and this slightly tipped the bandits off but I allowed the players surprise anyway and they quickly killed three of the four and captured the last one who spilled his guts to the group.

And that's where we left it. The group is currently at second level, about half way to third, which I imagine they'll make pretty easily next week. I honestly don't see why WoTC didn't just default to 4th level with how easy they made it to bounce up in levels in those first few levels.

Overall it ran pretty well.

I gave the goblins a lot of the 'Pathfinder' charm. When I first introduced them, I didn't even call them goblins just described their oversized skulls and wide grinning maws filled with yellow stained curved teeth sitting below maddened red eyes and their rags and remanents of clothing as they carried weapons that appeared to be made from cast offs of other weapons and discarded bits of iron.

For the bandits, I described them as hard men, some old, with various problems ranging from missing teeth or a patch over an eye, to weathered skin and dirt covering everything. Not a glamorous life by far.

There were a few areas I could have handled things quicker. I hate looking in the rule book during game play but for somethings I'm just too used to the way the system used to work.

I also didn't hand out any Inspiration. I knew off the top of the game that would be a problem because I knew there was no way I was going to remember what to award it for. The players shrugged it off as none of them were sure what the best way to point out when they'd done something was either but I'm going to think about it this week and see what strikes.

For other Dungeon Master's out there, what do you do? Do you have a sheet with each character's traits that can award inspiration and then give them a point according to that?

I'm still looking for my blank Game Master Screen so I can put some notes in it. Maybe when the official one is supposed to come out the company which is reknown for being late will have it out on time. Maybe the properties of weapons and some other things that came up in combat a few times.

The players have a ton of options ahead of them. Their friend, I'm using the dwarf Gundren Rockseeker as a member of the Pathfinder society, hasn't been found yet, but the players will discover clues to where he's at.

They also have a lot of bandits they can kill. One of the things I like about the Kingmaker adventure path is that it's very open and there are several 'quests' that the players can take at Oleg's Trading post. I'll also throw a few hints that they can do the adventure path if they want to or after finding Gundren and clearing out the bandits, move on to the Emerald Spire region proper.

For other people playing, how much do you customize the adventure? Do you pull a lot of sources or with the dearth of official material, just wing it? Using older adventuers? I think that with the low scaling of skills and armor class, that it'd actually be fairly easy to run older adventuers in this edition.

For maps and miniatures, is anyone using them or going back to the abstract? I use minis and maps for a few reasons. One is I like them on the table. Two is that occassionally you get the problem scenario where its not clear where things and people are. Three is you get people who think that they can teleport from one area to another and having an actual map prevents that miscommunication from happening. Mind you, it can be difficult to do maps if you don't have the funds to buy them or the skill to draw them and it can potentially ruin the 'wonder' of a scene but I find I'd rather have them then not have them.

Anyone run into any snags in running or playing so far?



Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Thousand Thrones: Ended

So after many months, we finished the Thousand Thrones.

It broke down to an encounter with an ancient hag trying to use one of our allies as a 'power source' to take over the world.

Half of us attacked the hag, who had a force field around her. The other half attempted to awaken our friend.

It was the ones who awoke our friend who wound up winning the fight.

The biggest problem we had at the end was that the last section was a 'Dungeon Crawl' and well, Warhammer isn't Dungeons and Dragons. One of the traps managed to almost kill everyone. A few random rolls that hit the damage reroll can quickly bypass toughness and armor points to bring down someone who has, say 19 wounds to say 2.

A big part of the 'problem' our group had was just not being prepared for that whole crawl. We lacked a priest and had no healer and no healing potions or poultices or anything of that nature. We also had a lot of bad rolls in some areas.

Overall though, the GM did a great job of keeping us moving through the whole thing. Could the adventure have been far more upfront about what the end goals were? Sure. Was it worth playing in? Yup.

So next up is a quick game called Ninja Burger. I've never played that one before. After that I'm taking my 5th edition Player's Handbook and Monster Manual and doing some on the fly conversions for Emerald Spire and Thornhold as well as some River Kingdoms bits that I have for the Pathfinder setting and see how that goes for a while.

I am disappointed though that the Dungeon Master's Guide has been pushed back. And that WoTC is licensing things off to Gale Force 9. Not that I think that there's anything wrong with the quality of GF9's products. I have a ton of their 4th edition stuff including the big box of Dungeon Master things as well as a lot of their miniatures.

It's just GF9 is not a timely company. I'm hoping we get that DMG screen before 2015 for example.

Anyway, that was many months of campaigning and we bought the GM a cake from Sam's Club with the cover of the product on it. It was great and less than $20 for a half sheet which easily feed like six of us so I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to reward their GM with a quick thank you that's affordable and gives the group some tasty treats.

Anyone else make it through the Thousand Thrones? Any specific quips or memories? Would you recommend it for someone else?

In looking at Pathfinder, any specific things to watch for while doing my on the fly conversions? Mind you I'm reading everything ahead of time and have already started taking notes. The low armor classes and other bits in the Monster Manual have stuck out in their simple stat blocks versus the Pathfinder ones.

Any River Kingdoms resources outside of Thornhold and Emerald Spire I should be aware of? I already have the people and the gazetteer books on the River Folk as well as the old King Maker adventure path so I think I'm pretty well covered.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition: The Meta-Support

I've been playing in a Warhammer Fantasy RPG now for many moons. Long enough for Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition to hit the shelves. A few of the players didn't buy it, but were soon swayed by those who had purchased it.

Rule wise, it hits some of the things I like but not all of them. For example, my group had a very short discussion about the benefits of random rolling character bits, like stats and hit points and almost unanimously went with point buy and fixed hit points.

In terms of gaming, I've been reading Hoard of the Dragon Queen, it's the first 'separate' adventure for the new edition. I know that the basic set has it's own adventure mind you but I figured I'd start with something that Wizards of the Coast has been promoting on their home site.

Bad news is I'm not too thrilled with it. It's a little too open and feels incomplete to me. Others have less kind things to say about it on such regular locals as RPG.net.

My dislike of the only print adventure, only 'official' print adventure, has me wondering about the 'meta-support' if you will.

First off, there appears to be no OGL or even GSL. Mind you, that hasn't stopped some like Goodman Games from offering 3rd party support and Necromancer Games has decided to disregard waiting for a license and has already run a Kickstarter to fund some support for the game. Honestly wish that Necromancer Games had the conviction of their legal ground when they had the license to do Tegal Manor mind you but what can you do? The past is the past.

Now the other thing, is back 'in the day', Dungeon and Dragon magazine acted as useful tools in order to bring hype, previews and all sorts of other fun things to the game. I know that during the transition from 2nd to 3rd they were very handy to have and even had things like the game stats for Bahamut and Tiamat.

More importantly, it also acted as a monthly source of adventurers.

Now Wizards of the Coast, in my opinion, has always been weak about supporting its games with print adventurers. 3rd edition had the OGL and SRD and all sorts of other things that meant Wizards of the Coast didn't necessarily have to put those resources in place. But when they killed the print version of the magazines and then when 4th edition didn't engage a lot of 3rd party interest due to its restriction license, WoTC did NOT step up the published adventurers. Sure Dungeon magazine continued its online support but WoTC did weird things in that era.

So you'd think with a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons coming out, that we'd see some new incarnation of either magazine? Something that might allow Game Masters, who at this point don't have the Dungeon Master's Guide or the Monster Manual, some quick adventures.

No such luck.

This to me is a failure on Wizards of the Coast part.

I remember when 3rd edition came out. There was a conversion document. It was a nifty little thing. Wasn't perfect by any means mind you but it was handy.

Anything like that on the WoTC home site? Nope.

Failure again.

Mind you, it's not like WoTC didn't KNOW they were coming out with a new edition for oh, say the past year.

But what about miniature support? While the new game doesn't require miniatures, Wizards of the Coast is doing some new Dungeons and Dragons miniatures thanks to Wiz Kids help. Something like Icons of the Realms?

And it's possible my own internet skillz are failing me here because I can't find a listing of what those miniatures actually are. I see a brief product synopsis on the WoTC site, but in the past, they'd have a gallery of what the miniatures actually were. I GET that it's a Wiz Kids product but sending people to another company's website is stupid.

And even the Wiz Kids website is terrible. Maybe I'm missing it but there are supposed to be like 44 figures (50 counting the non-random pack) and I count 24 images including the non-random pack and a picture of the booster pack. Argh!

Fail!

One of the things this set is supposed to do, is support the adventure.

If so, it doesn't do a fantastic job of it.

This being the first miniature pack of the game, you need to have miniatures available for players to pick from. So with a LOT of ground to cover, because the Player's Handbook is jammed with race and class options, every pick for a miniature should be important.

Eight of the miniatures are 'invisible', see through plastic. Out of 44 miniatures, eight of them are duplicates to be 'cool'.

Imagine that you're a game company. You pay people money to illustrate characters in a setting book.  Say one of them is Langdedrosa Cyanwrath, a halfdragon, blue, champion of the bad guys.  A named character that makes several appearances in the adventure. You have a great illustration of him in the book. Perfect for making into a miniature right?

Nope. They have a 'generic' half red dragon. So you PAID someone to make miniatures that should probably have some type of visual reference and for the adventure itself you PAID someone else to make numerous illustrations that you don't bother using for the miniatures that the game is supposed to be supporting?

Okay, but at least all of the 'core' races are supported right? It's not like 4th edition, where again, Wizards of the Coast KNEW they were introducing dragonborn to the core rules and we have a few Dragonborn miniatures to select from right? They're not going to have to reprint an old dragonborn that looks nothing like the current version of the race right?

Wrong! You may get an invisible gnome that's a copy of the visible gnome, but ain't one dragonborn in the whole pack. And yeah, any of you drow players who aren't doing the whole two scimitars thing aren't going to find anything useful either.

It's like the guys making Dungeons and Dragons want to push the 'standards' of the game by including different things like tielflings and dragonborn but then FAIL to support it.

You want to make some fixed packs? Since the Dungeon Master is probably the one whose going to be buying a lot of these, how about, oh, I don't know, some kobolds, cultists, and ambush drakes? A pack for those times when you need 'em? To me, the whole thing is like Wizards of the Coast going, "Yeah, let's tap into that Star Wars and Star Trek market with this Attack Wing stuff but throw a bone to the miniature players of the role playing game".

To me, they're essentially saying, "Yeah, go buy the Reaper Legendary Encounters line and we'll blame the lack of sales on a soft market or something." For those who can paint, the Reaper Bones, while not prepainted, offer an even better value.

In terms of 'support', on one hand, WoTC has a supplement online with all the monster stats. They need this because you know, those stats aren't in the book.

On the other hand, if you're not going to support the game with miniatures, despite having a miniature set dedicated to it, perhaps, like Fiery Dragon and other companies have done, there can be some counters made? A nice little download for either stand up or lay flat counters since in many cases you already have the art made?

While miniature mapping isn't required, some like it in order to simply keep marching order straight and area of effects straight. When you buy the product, you don't get large resolution sized files that you can print out and use for your game. I've seen some people buy them directly from the artists and make their own maps that way.

I have no problem with an artists supporting themselves through secondary use of their work, but maybe, just maybe mind you, Wizards of the Coast, and Paizo and other companies for that matter, can pay the map makers a little more and get scale sized maps that the people trying to support the companies can then download for their own games? Just putting it out there.

Another venue of what I'd consider failure on the part of Wizards of the Coast is the lack of a PDF product. "Hey, we're sorry we abandoned PDF years ago and stomped off like children who didn't like the way the game was being played. We're back and have a ton of old material for you to buy. Oh, you'd like to support the new material or want it for reference? Uh... no see, we have this digital thing that is not ready yet even though, you know again, we've had something like a year or more to have a product launch..."

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that these elements will "doooom..." the new Player's Handbook. Sales have been very brisk in various online stores and it'll have its moment in the sun. I've never argued against that. I've argued that due to the lack of official product that initially sales will be awesome and may even be some sell throughs of the first printing.

But long term I don't think WoTC is going to be able to compete.

Let me boil down my "you fail" list for Wizards of the Coast.

1. Miniatures that don't actually support EITHER the player's options from the core rulebook or the adventurer that they were designed to, you know, support.

2. Lack of adventures.

3. Lack of Dragon/Dungeon magazines as marketing tools.

4. Actual digital tools that people can use.

5. Conversion documents.

6. OGL/GLS/something official to let third party companies know what they can do. Mind you, Necromancer Games and Goodman have already given WoTC the finger on this one so maybe it'll be irrelevant in the future.

7. PDF support.

8. Adventure Support with full scale maps that people can use in their home games.

9. Better website. When you're sending readers from your website to Wiz Kids website, you fail. Get a gallery up and some real information.

10. Price. Still think that $50 bones for three books is too high a buy in.Sure Amazon and other methods of acquiring the books can reduce that but that slaps the whole "play in your friendly local store" in the face.

I'll be curious to see where 5th edition is this time next year because once the shine wears off, if WoTC isn't firing on at least a few of those cylinders, people have a TON of options out there including supporting companies that, you know, DO fire on those cylinders.

How about other games out there? Everyone happy with how WoTC is handling the Dungeons and Dragons line outside of the rules? Any of these points strike home or are all these just minor things? Let me know what you think!