Showing posts with label Pathfinder. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pathfinder. Show all posts

Monday, July 7, 2014

Deep Magic by Kobold Press: Round 1: Fight!

Deep Magic is a lengthy PDF that I've recently acquired. It's way too long and detailed to do it any sort of justice in one review unless the review itself was product length and that would just bore the crap out of any readers and me writing that review.

The PDF weights in at a mighty 378 pages. Mind you that does count the cover, rear cover, several pages of thanks from the Kickstarter, and other 'standard' things like table of contents. The art is full color and there is a lot of solid art in it. I've heard good things about the print version having full color, which is great because another book I own by Kobold Press physically looks to have had full color art that was turned black and white for the print version and to be honest, it was done poorly and took value away from the print product.


For me, magic is always a fun thing. Well, not always. There can be TOO much supplement suffering. But when I see something like this and read the background of it, funded from a Kickstarter by Kobold Press, it reminds me of 'the good times'.

I remember reading the original Tome of Magic and the Complete Wizard's Handbook and thinking they were filled with awesome options. I remember before that, Ed Greenwood's always excellent Pages From The Magics, and the old FR4 The Magister, magic items and spells and all sorts of other awesome things.

This product brings a lot of those good feelings back.

It's firmly a Pathfinder book mind you. I'm sure that someone with more time and effort could easily point out what might need to be dropped and changed for say, 3.5 or even 3.0, and some will yank some of the back ground text out for any campaign that uses magic but that will not be me! At least not today.

In terms of 'Appendix N' style inspiration, things that make me want to use it right away or steal it for another game, I didn't have to look past Chapter 1: New Magic Options. These are various schools, sub-schools and other options for magic using characters that often include spell books which lists out several new spells, which are in turn detailed in Chapter 2.

Of the ones that really perked my interested though? Fool's Summoining. From the book, "This little-known but horribly dangerous subschool of conjuration and transmutation magic draws upon a group of creatures called the Listeners. These creatures infest ordinary summoned creatures with a template that makes them more powerful. In essence, these Listeners pervert summoned creatures’ biology. Sometimes, affected summoned creatures go insane."

There are more details and information on how there are game mechanic and descriptive changes to various spells. This reminded me heavily of an old Dragon article detailing basic Dungeons and Dragons magic of all things. I believe that old example used an elf whose magic missiles were actual like green arrows to represent the nature bond that the elf had. It was well done then, and it's a fantastic example of seeing some of the professionals of the industry say, "Yeah, change the mechanics in minor ways to make things cool and interesting and intriguing again."

Another one I liked? Living Spellbooks. Sure, we have Stormbringer, and the homage Black Razor as intelligent blades, and intelligent magic items in general are not unknown, but the authors do a nice job of bringing out why Living Spellbooks are cool and why you should include them.

The last thing that really popped out to me? Vril Magic. If your familiar with old school Rolemaster, one of the first companions introduced 'Arcane Magic'. I know that sounds stupid to someone whose only played Dungeons and Dragons, but wait, hear me out!

Rolemaster magic was broken into three types: Channelling (from the gods), Essence (from the weaves of magic), and Mentalism (from the self). Arcane magic was more 'raw' and more powerful but almost more difficult to control and was very popular.

In various Hellboy and B.R.P.D. books, Vril is that ancient power that the prehumans used to fight against those ancient and terrible evils that currently infest the world. It's also used as power for a suit of armor during World War 2 in the Sledgehammer comic. Fantastic stuff in the setting Mike Mignola.

Anway, Vril in this incarnation, is 'raw' and more 'primitive' or 'primal' magic. There are feats and other things that make the caster more distinct and unique and it does a good job of it and I can easily see using it for players looking for methods to fight 'that damn ancient evil' because despite how overplayed and sometimes boring that can be, the quest to bring to light old magics in and of itself can be fun.

I hope to get back to this book soon but I still have a ton of other things I'd like to ramble about. The one thing I won't be throwing my two cents in, at least on the blog here, is the whole 'controversy' on the new 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. I've seen two major bones of contention and well, others have gone over them in depth and in detail and at the end of the day, it's not my thing.

It brings to mind an old saying by Conan. Something like "Civilized men are more discourteous than savages because they know they can be impolite without having their skulls split, as a general thing.." Yup in a nutshell.

Deep Magic is available from for $24.99 in PDF format.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

And a Fifth Horseman Shall Appear and his name shall be Next

I'm going to admit it right up front, I haven't been paying much attention to what's going on with Dungeons and Dragons. When they dropped 4th edition and dropped Dungeon and dropped Dragon, neither of which I'd been subscribing to for a while, I pretty much lost interest.

But lo and behold, the internets are ablaze with the new information about 5th edition. The obvious news? It'll be at Gen Con, or at least, one of the books will. That strikes me as odd since AFAIK, the books are not printed in the United States and any changes that need to be made aren't going to get incorporated into the later books anyway. Live by the China, die by the China.

In addition, the price point for the core set is too high. Mind you, let me be clear, that's my opinion. I also don't think it will hurt initial sales at all. I think that there is every possibility of a sell through at Gen Con. Right now Amazon has the Player's Handbook for just under $30 bones. That's $10 more, at Amazon, than 4th edition.

For those that find that too expensive, there's even a starter box set that's under $13 right now. There are supposed to be some online rules to complement that which allow some further play than just the boxed set itself.

Let me be clear. It's not that I think these are bad values mind you. For $150, if you're only getting the core three books, you can probably get many moons of game play from.

But well, that $150 can buy a tablet. It can buy a few board games. It can buy dozens of supplements for free rule sets of the OSR that are readily available right now.

Mind you, some will point out that Amazon discount brings that down to $90 if you get them all at a heavy discount. But that's now. What happens if Amazon tells Hasbro they want more money like Amazon has done with a different publisher and cuts their deep discounts out? Companies need to stop pricing their books to account for the Amazon discount if they don't want to be beholden to Amazon's pricing.


It's not that it's a bad price, I just think it's a bad price for the core books for Dungeons and Dragons. Pathfinder has a core book that is the Player's Handbook and Dungeon Master's Guide combined. If $100 for two books is great value, what does that put the Pathfinder system at? Awesome value?

In addition, there is some weirdness going on. Let's look at the adventurers. For many people, the adventurers of a system are what a system lives and dies by. People talk about great campaigns for decades after the games have been run. It doesn't matter what system either. Talk about Warhammer and people will instantly pipe up with The Enemy Within and their favorite parts of that, or even smaller adventurers like The Three Feathers. Others will mention things like the Orient Express for Call of Cthulhu.

Both third and fourth edition didn't necessarily have a lot of great adventures in that vein. Wizards of the Coast has a real weakness when it comes to doing adventure paths. When they lost Paizo, the former caretakers of the print magazines Dungeon and Dragon, they lost the ability to do well regarded adventure paths, which for better or worse, are a standard for Dungeons and Dragons or D&D like games these days.

But the new edition has some starting adventures. In this instance, done by Kobold Press, a company that has supported Pathfinder, 3rd edition and even 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons. The first I believe is Hoard of the Dragon Queen, but that strange Amazon pricing comes through as this book is over $25 dollars and only has an 11% discount. Are you going to pay almost as much for a single adventure as you are a core book, with discount?

Strangely enough, despite being done by a third party and published by Wizards of the Coast, indications seem to be that any OGL will not be immediate.

That makes me wonder why then they picked Kobold Press. Let me be clear. It's not that Kobold Press is a bad publisher. They have a wide range of products and a wide range of materials ranging across different editions.

But not everything has gone smoothly.

Take their recent book Deep Magic for example, is a weighty tome available in hardcover and PDF. But right after it came out, there was an addendium. That's not a good sign.

Or how about some of the material that's currently late for their Kickstarter projects? For example, if you backed their adventure anthology, Midgard Tales,  you've been waiting for Freeing Nethus for over a year.

If you backed the kickstarter for the miniatures for the Midgard setting, those were due either a year ago, or just under a year ago.

And Wizards of the Coast chooses them?

I'm sure that they'll pull through and that the various issues that Kobold Press is having with those different aspects are aberrants and of course, not standard practice, but if you've been waiting for either of those and you see their name associated with the new D&D that may not give you the warm fuzzies.

I think that not supporting an OGL right off the bat is potentially disastrous for Wizards of the Coast in terms of longevity of Dungeons and Dragons. Mind you, if they have their character creation software so heavily integrated, it might not matter anyway as that more than the limited third party support 4th edition received, keep players I know from buying material that wasn't in the software.

Why buy Goodman Games or other material that you would have to manually tally when everything else was so fairly well done within the system itself?

If you're a new player and you see Dungeons and Dragons and limited support only through Wizards of the Coast, and you see Paizo and Pathfinder and you see dozens of publishers being actively supported by Paizo, on the companies home page and receiving high praise from many of the people who make Paizo the community it currently is, which company are you going to buy from?

Mind you, there are some people who dropped buying things from Wizards of the Coast when WoTC stopped printing physical copies of Dungeons and Dragons magazines. There are some that stopped when WoTC pulled down the PDF's. There are some who stopped when WoTC dumped 4e and went with Essentials editions. There are some who stopped when WoTC took their character generation from a downloaded software to an online only software.

Here's the thing. Many of those players are NEVER coming back. Either they've fond something that met their fantasy need, ranging from Pathfinder or 13th Age for 'new school' players, or any one of the many OSR products already out and fairly compatible with the hundreds of 1st and 2nd edition products already out in the wild.

Me? I've got the boxed set and Player's Handbook preordered. I'm not a 'D&D' player do or die or anything like that. Those reading the blog on a regular basis know I'm a player in a Warhammer 2nd edition fantasy campaign. And if you look at that, an old system that's not supported and was replaced by Fantasy Flight Games with weird dice and an expensive core book, you might see some potential futures for a new edition of Dungeons and Dragons that doesn't' take into account that not only are they not the only fish in the pond in terms of what people can spend their money, and more importantly, their time on, their not the only Dungeons and Dragons game that people can spend their money and time on.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Parsantium city at the crossroads Richard Green

Parsantium: city at the crossroads is written by +Richard Green for the Pathfinder system. The PDF runs $11.99, the print book, in black and white, runs $19.99, and the combo pack of PDF and print runs for $22.99 The book weighs in at a meaty 178 pages in PDF terms.

The cover boasts an excellent look at the city in the background while in the foreground various inhabitants from different parts of the world look out on the dock ward. In terms of book break down, we then get a blank page, followed by a title page, followed by a credits page, which even lists what is product id and what is closed content.

Much of the book is devoted to the city and its background. All of the art and proper names are closed off and in terms of game mechanics, the book comes up a short which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.

After the credits, we get a single page table of contents that does an excellent job of breaking down the book into broad chapters. Of more use to those who want pinpoint accuracy on where anything is, after the meat of the book, is an eight page index. It's a fantastic resource if you have the physical copy and does a better job of pointing out where things are then the electronic bookmarks.

The two page introduction does a nice job of bringing the reasons how Parsantium came to be from a homegrown city in a campaign of the author to a full rpg product. It's a nice break down and more information can be found on the Parsantium blog.

The full color map of the city by Johnathan Roberts, maps featured several times on +Fantastic Maps,  is two pages of awesome. I would love to have a larger fold out of the map. Something along the lines of one of the old Waterdeep maps from back in the day. The colors are nice and crisp and show a city divided by it's waterway and an island in the middle of said river. Bad thing? The map is cut in half of course, and part of that is the text and the island in the middle. It's not a huge problem or anything but it is another reason I'd like a separate big ass map.

The city is designed to allow a variety of cultures by having a feel similar to say, Byzantium. It's also an old fantasy city so it has a wide range of races that fit into its borders, outside of the different human ethnicities. We have the following major ethnicities:

Bathuran: Roman/Greek influence.
Sampurans: Heavily influenced by India.
Aqhrani: Heavily influenced by the Middle East and bravely goes with a pantheon of one god.
Tiangaons: Heavily influenced by China including it's own 'Silk Road'

In terms of other cities like it in fantasy games? Maybe the old GURPS book Tredroy, which is available for a laughable $2.99 from Steve Jackson Games Warehouse 23 website. The only bad thing is it's been decades since I've run Tredroy, the City of Three Laws, so there will be no comparison outside of this mention.

Despite its length, the book has some weaknesses. The biggest of these would be lack of art. There are so many different cultures and characters referenced in this weighty text, that illustrations of the various characters, sigils, symbols, and say, house icons, would only benefit the material.

The good news is that the two column layout doesn't suffer from that lack of break up because the author doesn't ram every inch of space with text. There are also no annoying back ground images behind the text. Things that look awesome and premium in print products like some of the Forgotten Realms products look horrific in electronic medium. The author avoids that problem here by keeping it clean and simple with a nice border on the top of the page and chapter identification and page number at the bottom.

The other potential problem is game mechanics. An order of wizards, the Esoteric Order of the Blue Lotus, is noted as being founded so that the magics of all these different cultures can be studied and collated so that knowledge isn't lost. Having so many different opportunities to bring unique magics to the Pathfinder system, which easily supports numerous alternative classes, should have allowed many bits of crunch to shine through.

Nope. Not happening. Most of the 'game' mechanics fall into noting the class and level of the NPCs. For example, among the members of the evil Brotherhood of Spite, Posy is described in game mechanic terms thusly: (CE female gnome rogue 5/assassin 2).

So in a city of multiple cultures with some places designed specifically to catalog those, we get nothing. No prestige classes, no magic items, no spells, no monsters, no templates or other crunchy bits. Heck, I think the deepest crunch we get are the various character backgrounds, which are extremely light on crunch, being more like Kits from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition, where there's a small bonus, often to a specific set of skills, and role playing and background information.

On one hand, that's great for people who have a heavily customized mod of the Pathfinder or d20 system going and want to create their own game mechanics. It's also great for people who don't actually play Pathfinder and instead play say, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons 2nd edition or some other variant or OSR game. While the multi-class bit isn't going to transfer over seamlessly, the lack of game mechanics means more information on the city and its inhabitants is in the material.

The naming conventions are a little off to me. For example, in honor of the old Byzantium history, we have the 'Axe Bearing Guard', a group of elite warriors who protect the emperor. If these guys aren't based directly on the Varangian Guard I'd be shocked. So why not just call them that? Is Varangian so entwined with gaming that people who instantly know them? But not too far after them we have Janissaries, who were another historical fighting force and they're called, yeah, Janissaries. Either fake names for everyone or no one! Nah, it's not that serious, just struck me as odd to go all generic with one and kept that very specific name for the other.

The eleven wards of the city cover a lot of ground. We have not only the standards of the dock ward and poor ward, but also a 'floating' ward and a 'hidden ward' that allow for a bit of variety that can be missing from some cities. The variety of wards allow for clustering of different cultures and ethnicities so you can find things like gnolls and half orcs with no difficult in the city.

In terms of playability, for Game Master's willing to roll up their sleeves, the book has you covered. There are numerous factions in the modern city. The history of the city lends itself to numerous adventurers in and of itself. For example, the city was only recently controlled by hobgoblins. There are ideas for routing growing bands of various humanoids or for retrieving treasures taken from the city during those looting days. This doesn't count the gnolls of centaurs that are raiders either.

The city is built atop numerous old ruins which are built atop numerous old caverns. The ruins are perfect for those who want the standard dungeon crawl.

There are hidden cults and evil gods with deceptions within deceptions. This includes nods to the old favorite, the serpent people if you want to get some of that 'Mythos' flavor up in there.

In terms of the past, many who are exiled are maimed when they are forced out, such as by being blinded. Those who survive and thrive in exile? They might wait a long time before coming to take revenge on the city and do so with some magical peepers after all that time.

Now note, I said Game Master's willing to roll up their sleeves right? While there are all sorts of adventure seeds and ideas strewn about the book, actual gaming material is again, scarce. Some of the material might have been better off being cut to provide a brief adventure or something along those lines to get players immediately into the game. Being that it's a Pathfinder book though, any adventure with maps and game mechanics would eat up a lot of room due to the difference in size between an OSR and a 3.5 stat block.

Having said that, there are numerous random encounters tables and some locations, that would be better with maps, that easily lend themselves out to adventure with a minimum of effort. For example, there are teams of gladiators that fight in a large arena. There are were rats in the sewers. There is a fallen guild of paladins that did not thrive in the city and so raid and attack boats. The adventure seeds are then but will require the Game Master to fully stat out everything if he's using the numerous NPCs from the book.

Those going a 'softer' route and wanting to just grab their Monster Manual still have a lot of options. In terms of low level foes we have the standard goblins, hobgoblins and those can be worked up to gnolls, centaurs and minotaurs. At different spectrums, due to the different grave sites, there are undead and possibly wild summoned creatures from the various spellcasters about. There is also a large body of water that the city utilizes so all manner of creatures can be found within those murky depths.

Parsantium needs some polish. While it has massive potential, the dearth of art and game mechanics make it more of a fixed upper than run straight out of the box. If we ever see a 'deluxe' edition I'd love to see more art, maps and closer illustrations of the city with the locations called out in the various ward descriptions.

For those already running it, what resources are you using for game mechanics? Have you busted out some standards in Pathfinder or switched over to a favorite OSR book? Due to the wealth of political opportunities here, I can easily see this being a solid fit for the Adventurer Conqueror King System but given how many game stats I have for things like gnolls via 4th edition and it's many monster entries for the same monster, I can see myself using that and it's 'quest' awards for XP to make characters rise in level fairly standard while exploring ruins, guarding caravans, and fighting epic rakashas.

For those reading this review, I haven't hit a 'regular' game review in a while. Are there some things you'd like me to hit more in the future if I do more? Hit less? Provide more examples of material from the book? More links to outside material like the Varangian for example?

If you think anyone else would want to read, please +1 and share along the old circles.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Heroes of the Jade Oath (Pathfinder version) arrives!

I mentioned ordering Heroes of the Jade Oath for Pathfinder the other day from +DriveThruRPG  by +Andrew Betts Rite Publishing. I immediately received the PDF, which while I've downloaded, I haven't done more than page through.

Today the physical hardcopy has arrived. That's some damn fast service. Faster than I get from some normal game stores.

Physical copy has non-glossy pages. Construction seems pretty solid. Cover is nice with that great art by Wayne Reynolds.

Heroes of the Jade Oath is still on sale for 30% off on both the physical copy, which gets you the PDF, and just the PDF copy.

Hopefully I'll have time to do more than just keep it on the shelf.

Has anyone been using it in their campaign? Are there any huge differences between this and the Arcana Evolved version? I picked it up to mine for ideas. While I enjoy the core of Dungeons and Dragons, and Pathfinder, I also enjoy seeing alternative takes on things.

If you have any stores, resource links, or other cool bits for Heroes of the Jade Oath, lay 'em on me.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ultimate Combat

This is just me poking some fun at Ultimate Combat. Recently in a Shackled City game which my friend Tom is running, my barbarian King was killed by a trap. Part of the actual problem was the bonuses when raged and when using a two handed weapon. My math skills were not putting all of the bonuses to their highest numbers.


So after King died and our NPC expert trapfinder died, one of my friends who is a maestro of making characters crafted for me a ninja. But no trapfinding skills. Still, it did inspire me to flip through Ultimate Combat myself.

Personally I think Wayne Reynolds is one of the better artists we have in the industry but this cover is terrible.

The samurai on the right facing his enemies, the yeti or what have you on the left semi-facing their enemies and the core fighter thinks that this is an episode of You Think You Can Dance just standing there in the middle of the page making the action too dense and adding nothing of value to it. Who is he looking at? His blades aren't in position to actual strike anything. Worse still, he has the flailing arms thing going on.

We all appreciated Wayne making Orcus have short stubby arms. I mean sure he was the demon prince of the undead but not only was he in the first 4e Monster Manual and therefore a punk, he also had short fat arms.

Fire giants also have this horrible genetic curse. Terrible. It's why their always so pissed off. Imagine never being able to wipe your backside with your stubby little arms? Anger management isn't going to do the trick.

Seriously man. Wayne needs to take one of those little sticky pads, write no backwards flailing arms on it, and then move on.

I also challenge Paizo, if you ever reprint Ultimate Combat, take the fighter out of the center of the picture. You'll have a stronger illustration with a moment of tense potential conflict instead of some moron busting his movies in between two warring forces.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Freeport Versus Kickstarter

Green Ronin has been around for over a decade at this point. Their initial module setting, Freeport, was one of the first adventurers for the SRD back in the day. Now they're working on a massive update to the book on Kickstarter.

One might think that with their longevity in the game and their plethora of products, that funding would have been easily hit and made right? Apparently not. I'm not saying that it won't fund. There is still time. But let's look at some reasons why they might be having difficulty.

1. No Pathfinder brand loyalty. This may sound like heresy as Green Ronin, as I mentioned, was one of the first companies to get on the SRD bandwagon in a HUGE way. They made settings, class books, race books, and a ton of other goods including cross promotions with Paradigm Press and others. But when 3.5 died, they didn't jump on the Pathfinder band wagon. They had something like d20 age or d20 forever branding so that they wouldn't have to update their catalog. Sounds a lot like Necromancer Games before they came around ala Frog God Games. Having said that, you have no build in Pathfinder base.

Oh sure, we can get into the whole, "It's all the same!" arguments that happened with 3.0 and 3.5 and with 3.5 to Pathfinder, but if you didn't go and do the branding, getting the Pathfinder crowd to automatically leap into the frey isn't something that's going to happen easily or overnight. Am I saying that Green Ronin has zero Pathfinder products? Don't know to be honest. When I think of Green Ronin, d20 gaming isn't what I think of. Instead, we have Game of Thrones, Dragon Age, Mutants and Masterminds, and the DC comic game.

2. Goal is Too High. For a company that hasn't been backing Pathfinder since the start, and isn't using one of its licensed settings, the minimal goal here seems high. I'm not saying it's not needed for what they want to do. But when you're setting a higher bar than one of the most popular OSR projects, Dwimmermount, managed to achieve at the start of the Kickstarter craze, you might be overstepping realistic expectations.

3. Eastern Front Miniatures. This one is just a casual observation. Eastern Front as a few successful Kickstarters under their belt. But those projects are late and some of the backers are vocal about it. This may not have been the best partner for Green Ronin.

4. Pirates are played out. Well, can pirates ever really be played out? Probably not. However, there hasn't been a really popular pirate movie like the old pirates of a certain Caribbean for a while AND more importantly, people just shelled out a lot of cash for a Frog God Games pirate, in part, based project. That one had trouble funding too. Also for a similar sized product. Also for premium product. And that was by a company that has been doing Pathfinder fans right for a while now.

5. Kickstarter Sucks. Well, not really. But a lot of people are getting weary of the continued lateness of Kickstarter projects and are taking their money to actual stores and buying things. Or just downloading illegal PDFs. You know those damn kids today and their internets. When I do my next Kickstarter update, I'll actually have a few that have fallen off the list but most will not. As Kickstarter continues to evolve, people will continue to decide where their money goes in a manner that reflects not only companies, but product types as well.

I hope Green Ronin is able to pull this one off not necessarily for Freeport, but I would love to see them do compilations of their various Races, Classes, and other material that never got compiled thanks to the d20 meltdown, into hardcovers for Pathfinder.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Random Observations on 4e

Over on, there's some talk about Paizo Pathfinder and WoTC 4e.

Here's what I posted there and my take on it.

Why 4e 'failed'? Well, it failed WoTC that's for sure. For anyone else it would probably have been like Nirvana but here's my 'gamer' theories.

1. Reputation. Firings every X-Mas. Taking down the DDI and claiming about 6 different reasons why but boiling it down to "thieves in the temple!", calling your consumers thieves on the PDF front and taking your toys and going home with them. Minor things but...

2. PDF Consumption. While we can say that the DDI takes the place of PDF that's not quite true. After WoTC sold out of PHB2 they claimed to have suffered damages by PDF files that were released into the wild that were legally bought and cancelled that line of revenue NEVER to replace it directly.

3. Adventure Support. There was one print adventure path and it was not viewed well. There was Dungeon online and it's one adventure path... also not viewed well. In print adventurers, especially towards the tail end?

4. OGL. While Paizo is the big dog, they've done a lot of enhance the OGL and have been very friendly towards 3rd party publishers. This includes putting their products on the front page of their own web site and talking them up. WoTC took interest in the GLS out back and shot it in the face. When Necromancer Games goes, "I will support 4e or nothing at all" and it turns out to be nothing at all? You know WoTC done fucked up.

5. Setting Support: That solution they had of fire and forget wasn't going to make a lot of people happy.

6. Setting Support 2: Trashing the Forgotten Realms YET AGAIN did nothing to help convince older players that may be coming back that this is what was needed.

7. Rule Mastery Failure. The first printings of the first few books are compatible with later books but there are a ton of errata's and updates and the monster math changed greatly from the original MM to MM2 to MM3. People felt robbed. It's been a while but I also believe there was some flubbing with the new introductory boxed set with the Larry Elmore cover of classic days.

8. Essentials or "Which way am I walking?" Initially announced the changing of product lines to smaller books that lasted for about ten seconds.

9. Release Schedule Panic: People like some steady releases and like to know when they're coming out. Cancelling books left and right and reshuffling them looks like something a small third party company would do, not the leader of the pack.

10. Novel/Tie in Support. The comics weren't bad but not huge sellers. Their book selection has bounced a bit and while there were a few series set after the Spellplauge, it was nothing like it was when it was at its peak.

11. Dungeon and Dragon Utility = m'eh: When they took the DDI off the download, I still had like two months on it. I was NOT impressed with it as it lost a lot of utility it used to have. I understand that came back but in the meanwhile, for a while Dragon and Dungeon were simply put, not good values in and of themselves. The adventurers were okay, the format kept changing, the focus keept changing, the magazines had articles late, and hey by the way, for "your convenience" we've gotten rid of the compiled issue and you have to download articles individual one by one. I think they've back pedaled on that one too.

12. DDI Misses: I went to an interview with the guys doing the DDI before 4e launched. You can read about it on EN World from back in the day. But there were a ton of things that were supposed to be there at ground zero that I think are only NOW starting to pop up like the VTT.

13. Miniature Mishaps: Hey, we're going to introduce two brand new races to the game and make almost all the miniatures for at least one of them super hard to get. Sure, you can sub for them but really, is that what the consumer wants to do? What? They don't want to pay inflated prices for repaints? What? They're not happy with the massive drop in quality that accompanied several price increases? They want to know why the adventurers never have miniatures to go with them and that those miniatures come out months or years later? Foolish mortals! It's hard keeping communication lines open in a big company. We have no idea what games are being written or what core races are in the book.

14. Holding back material to boost further sales. In the 3.5 era, the PHB2 was a massive seller. MM2 and others... not quite so much. In order to boost sales of future core books, Gnomes, barbarians, frost giants, and a host of other material was deliberately split from the 'normal' core material and put into future volumes. Nothing like forcing people to pay for a few monsters more eh? Anyone remember the old 1st edition Monster Manual where you had Orcus and Asmoedus? Dispather and Demogorgon? Stop holding back the goodies dudes.

WoTC as a company has been handicapped in competitng in what is a niche industry. Their main benefits are useless when the main competition has access to all the same resources as you. Wayne Reynods? Monte Cook? Other fan favorites? Being the people who saved D&D only gets you so far when you showcase that hey, you're not a niche industry provider, you're a corporate entity that must met X, Y, and Z goals and your lengths gone to to protect your IP are hurting you among the people in the niche fandom. You know, the very same people you're trying to sell to? Yeah, them!

But again, those are gut shots from a fan, nothing more.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

To The Edge of the World by Wolfgang Baur

One of my friends has been running the Shackled City with no break for many moons and done so through several essential TPKs. I told him that I saw an adventure that I could get for review purposes but I wanted to actually play it. I’ve already read it a few times and I like the idea that “To the Edge of the World” is high in scope in terms of not killing rats and other low level vermin that players have to traditionally slough through.  Should have played it last week but work was beating me down mightily with overtime and with all the Kickstarters I’ve been supporting, I had no space to say no.
However, with the days of Turkey Slaughter upon us, I’ve managed to reread the adventure. One  “To The Edge of the World” by Wolfgang Baur.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. I already told the players to expect a one shot with some second levels characters to give Tom a break. They were okay with that although they were a little disappointed in the level as we’ve already got past that in Tom’s Shackled City.
In terms of layout and appearance, the book is great looking. This is bad for a PDF. Great looking full color cover, full bleed yellow background pages. Anyone want to print this out for me for reference? No? Okay, I’ll keep using my Toshiba Thrive Tablet to read it but man, it isn’t easy. The tablet is great for some reference work but not necessarily for reading full on. One reason I was hoping that 13” Excite Tablet was coming out….
So fancy borders, full color interior art, full color interior maps… yeah, it’s a fantastic looking piece.  In terms of PDF, it has a nice section in its bookmarks and is easy to navigate around. Great art, solid maps, and if this was a print product, it would earn some oohs and ahhs for its appearance. As a PDF that I’d like to print out? Not so much.
While that’s an annoying problem that I can overcome, what’s no quite so easy to do are the numerous references to other works.  We hit page four for example, and get a reference to Midgard Campaign Setting and then another one for Journeys to the West. Neither one of those is vital mind you and this is a campaign specific adventure so I can see those being included.
Looking at a potential encounter on page five though, we have seaweed leshy with like three monster stats and a reference to Bestiary 3 and right above that, a reference to Bestiary 2. These stats, in my opinion, are not enough to run the encounters. In addition, there aren't even full descriptions of the monsters.
That might be okay for something like a goblin or an orc. For a reefclaw? No. If you cannot run the adventure without outside references you are doing it wrong. That’s my opinion. In a PDF especially, there is no need to reduce the amount of pages if it would’ve taken extra room for it. Some might go, “What about the file size?” To which I’d point out the elaborate graphics and full color illustrations. There’s also a reference to the Midgard Bestiary. So… something like five extra books to get all the references here? Disappointing.
I’m still going to run it but will have to make sure to have all those game stats printed out or haul around several big books and well, as I don’t even own the Midgard Campaign, Journeys to the West or Midgard Bestiary,  that would be even more problematic.
I’ll post a playtest report. With my group and their foreknowledge that it’s just a one off, I suspect that it’ll be a fun romp. Someone may say, "Man, you just spent all that time talking about the problems and think its going to be fun to run?" For me, I know my friends. These are all people I've gamed with for years. Not having the full stats and descriptions is annoying but since i have most of the material thanks to the recent Paizo sale and have it the Bestiaries in hardcover anyway, I'm just thinking of how muc MORE annoying it would be for other people who don't have that material.
Anyone else read this one yet? Playtest reports?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Harsh Lessons of DMing: Level Balance

My friend Tom Wright is running several of my friends and I through the Shackled City using Pathfinder as the rule engine. He's got some rules and notes and is fairly consistent in the way he runs. It's one of his greatest strengths.

However, he had a vision about how the game was going to work this time. He was going to incorporate various ends and odd bits of our characters backgrounds into the game. To accomplish this and still run the campaign, he decided to use the slow advancement table.

One of the great things about roleplaying games is the ability to modify things so that they work the way you want. However, if you are going to do that in a manner that keeps the pace with a prewritten adventure, you need to verify that your doing the right thing.

At the end of the first adventure, we were too low level to handle the big bad who wiped out a few members of the party and the rest of us managed to retreat. How did that happen? No side quests. When the xp goal was changed without bringing in additional xp, the end result has to be characters that are lower level.

After that, he decided he was going to use the medium or normal level of advancement. He's very good about listening to player feedback in terms of it not being 'his' game but 'our' game. But he also decided that new characters would start a level lower than the standard characters. Does anyone see any potential problems here?

So when we got to the big bad in the next adventure... yeah, essentially another TPK.

Take the time to read through the adventurers. Take the time to review the character sheets. Review not only their abilities that are level based, but also their choice of 'fiddy' bits like feats and spells. Make sure that if there are encounters coming up that rely on magic items or silver items or something of that nature, that if the party doesn't already own them, they can own them. Make some routes of escape.

Mind you, in a freestyle campaign where you let the first level party know, "Over here are rumored to be dragons and giants" and they go there anyway, well, I'm old school enough to say kill away. But if you're running an adventure and it says, "Party should be level X when they reach area Y" and they get blitzed by the baddies? Well, was party level X? Did party have level X equipment?

In some games, its easier to tell when players are min-maxed then others. Try to keep onto of it and don't wait till the last minute to find out that the party didn't have a wand of cure light wounds and that the party didn't have a method of deciphering that ancient script. DMing can be a great thing but it also often requires some homework. Do that homework!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Death's Heretic by James Sutter

Death's Heretic as a novel, would make a great Gumshoe adopted Lorefinder Adventure. It's a tale about a man who comes from a nation of atheists that serves the god of death.

Note that here, the setting is using this country of atheists not as not believing in deities. They know that these entities exist. They know that the outer planes are real. They know that they have souls. However, they do not believe in giving themselves over in worship or accepting that aid in return.

That's just a touch of background on the main character. Before I move onto some of the other elements, I'm going to put the big flashing warning notice on. If you wish to avoid spoilers, read no further.

The main thrust of the book is Salim Ghadafar's quest to discover what happened to a missing soul. There are several red herrings and much exploration of the planes in the setting. There are several characters that come under investigation that interplay with Salim.

In looking at a more investigative style adventure, it's important to have a wide selection of non-player characters in your library. By having these NPCs build up before hand, you can use them as a buffer in terms not only of time, but in setting up future adventure seeds. These individuals may be offended by the manner in which they are questioned. They may see the players as potential future allies, henchemen or catspawns to be used at a later date. By providing some interesting encounters for the characters to navigate through that don't necessarily rely on combat, the Dungeon Master is setting the stage for future use if he ever needs it.

In terms of exploration,most fantasy game settings have some type of belief system that physically exist. There is often a real heaven and a real hell. These places might be able to provide a quick shot of exploration and investigation. It allows the Dungeon Master to showcase some of the unique beings and inhabitants of the setting. In this case, Salim's quest takes him to a Limbo state where he meets the pure chaotic inhabitants that run that particular aslyum. This is in addition to his association with a Marut, an agent of law, and his middle man, the black angel on the cover. These elements bring the setting to light.

One of the better written books in the Pathfinder series, Death's Heretic manages to be done in one and provides some interesting ideas for how a soul could be yanked in the first place and how someone would go about finding it again.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Winter Witch by Elaine Cunningham

Winter Witch is a fantasy novel by Elaine Cunningham set in the Pathfinder setting. It's a done in one that introduces new characters and provides some brief exploration of the setting. I'm going to hit real quick on a few things.

First, damn am I old. A paperback that runs $9.99 eh? A fantasy paperback that runs $9.99 eh? Ah well, at Amazon it's part of their 3 for 4 bit so that's not too bad. No kindle version eh? Let me get this straight, a relatively new line of fiction that is not taking advantage of every possible revenue stream and on the Paizo site, charging $6.99? Sure, it's available in PDF and you get an ePub version with it. I'm using a 3rd party app on my Toshiba Tablet to read it in ePub version. I bought my e-copy as part of a 2 for 3 deal so once again, I'm not feeling too bad but at this point, I would never pay that much for a ebook. Cheap? Stupid? Whatever. I'm the customer. I could've bought it at Half-Price for $2.50 not that long ago but I'm getting more and more into e-books.

Two, when the main character joins a caravan. He doesn't do so as a guard, but rather as a passenger. That was slightly different. What make the scene stand out to me though, was the caravan master asking him if he was worried about being killed and all his possessions taken. The caravan 'people' are the stand ins for the Gypsies of the setting so yeah, that's possible, but it struck me as something I personally haven't worked into any of my own games and something that could easily be a quick encounter.

Such a scenario could occur in a few ways. There is the unassuming method where the party is just hiring on as guards for the caravan and then once away from civilization, they get ambushed by the people they've been paid to protect.

Another scenario could occur if a relative of a former guard comes by the characters and hires them to investigate the caravan. Now the players have a reason and a potential payoff at the end of it. The players could even have a relative who is also an adventurer whose disappeared the last time this caravan went off and now have to find out what actually happened.

Another option may be that the caravan isn't actually doing the dirty work themselves. They are hiring adventurers and taking them down a path that leads to a very dangerous encounter and the caravan master sends scouts ahead that inform the monsters of what the players can do and where they're at and recommends some strategy to them based on how the players act and what they do up to that point.

The last thing (for this post!) that I thought was interesting was the Nolanders. Different tribes of barbarians get rid of the undesirables by banishing them to dark and dangerous places. So what happens when these murderers, betrayers, and most vile of the vile get together? It's like a Warhammer Marauder tribe with cannibalism and raiding becoming the norm. I thought for a second it was a weird spelling on Northlander because of where one of the characters comes from, but nope, it's No Lander and wherever they go, it makes it a no-man's land. A great bit when you want to throw real savages at the players.

Winter Witch has some good stuff to it and gives some nice details to the Pathfinder setting. Worth a read if it's in your comfortable purchase price zone.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Paizo and Open Design versus Wizards of the Coast: Round one: Monsters

For some, when it comes to game mechanics, less is more. For example, when looking at 3rd edition, on one hand, one of the things many people say it did right, was make things more universal. While there are benefits to having one method of creating an NPC that will match up with a player, and of having standards for lowering and raising monsters, either based on hit dice or giving then levels, the problem almost becomes that you are no longer player Dungeons and Dragons.

Because you know what other systems use such a methodology? GURPS, Hero, Mutants and Masterminds, and I'm sure many others. But in Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition, the player creation aspect is so highly specialized and customized that for the Game Master, to honestly use it all the time, can be nightmarish. This isn't to say that many Dungeon Master's don't love to tweak or design or create. In some venues, this is WHY they are Dungeon Master's. In other's, because they are Dungeon's Masters and not playing, they get to tweak that part of the game like a player gets to do so with their character.

Each player though, generally only controls one character. If a Dungeon Master is making highly unique and customized characters and monsters each game, even if his enjoyment is high, his prep time is going to be huge. And taking up large chunks of prep time is never seen as a good thing.

So 4th edition went back to the drawing board on the monster side, and in terms of how monsters work, I think they largely succeeded. Oh, they screwed up the damage dealt and hit points possessed, but those aspects are able to be tweaked fairly right away. The presentation, the building, the roles, these things are shorter and sweater.

Yet in terms of Monster Manuals, after the third one, WoTC went back to the drawing board to tweak monsters because of the tweaks they did to the players in the relaunch of the Essentials line. It was another case of, "We're not going to reprint the core book because that's unnecessary, but here, have a book that fills the exact same role, including takes on all the old stuff, but is not actually a reprint." They followed up that Monster Vault boxed set with another monster product that failed to go epic but was well received due to the amount of information each monster had. It was almost like world building through the monsters. Very well done and very well received.

In terms of making monsters more, Open Design has their own Ecologies compiled from Kobold Quarterly. Paizo, while publishing Dragons and Dungeons, printed a compendium of Ecologies. Currently Paizo has a line of products that revisits monsters and expands them. The focus isn't on the game mechanics, its on making the monsters more useful to the Game Master by expanding information on where they live, how they live, why they act the way they do.

This was a fairly regular feature back in the day for Dragon magazine. Wulfgang's Ecology of the Ghoul is still one of my favorites from 2nd edition.

4th edition may have had some, but I honestly cannot recall Dragon online having any great impact on how I look at monsters. It's focus has been weak. There was a brief time when they created a new feature called Creature Incarnations. It featured a variety of monsters pulled from one monster.  You can see one free article of it here. Its not bad in my opinion but...

I've mentioned before that Dragon Magazine used to be a fantastic resource for Dungeon Masters and players and I feel its become a little more than a preview and feedback machine. Back in 'my day' we had The Dragon's Beastiary and Ecology articles. When Dragon was feeling real generous and wanted to make the reader feel he got a huge bonus, we'd get a Creature Catalog, almost like a miniature sized Monster Manual.

If Dragon continued to support and publish the Incarnation articles, that would be one thing. You could say that they went in that direction. In the years, and its got to be going on something like four years, so over forty eight issues,  there are less than twenty articles that fall in the heading according to a search on the article compendium.

When other companies are publishing books, in what is supposed to be a depressed buying market, especially for what are niche products, products that focus on the background and organization, and methodology, not on new game stats, if Wizards of the Coast is serious about learning from its past efforts, this is one of the directions they need to embrace.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Rise of the Runelords from Paizo

I used to subscribe to Dragon and Dungeon when they were print magazines. When 4th edition was announced, there were problems for third party supporters. The OGL was being dropped in favor of a different license. In addition, although I don't think it was an issue at that time, WoTC own digital offering, for character generation especially, I think put a big block on any 3rd party player resources that might have come down the line.

Anyway, Paizo was starting their own stuff, in this case, Pathfinder. This is still using the 3.5 rule set as it was well before Pathfinder as an RPG was out.

I had left over issues from my subscriptions and allowed that to fall into the Pathfinder adventure path.

In the real world...

I've been working many hours of overtime but that was recently rewarded with a week off with no pay so that the company can post larger profits. Made me evaluate what's important to me and while I'm not putting running Dungeons and Dragons ahead of working, I'm not going to take work so serious from now on. This gives me opportunities to indulge my game master side.

Still, I will be working most Saturdays. It's not like the company said screw you and I decided I don't need that overtime, especially after having a week off, and decided to cut my nose off to spite my face.

So I find I'm able to work with a pregenerated adventure, especially if it's a pregenerated adventure path. I've already read the books multiple times so I'm pretty sure I'll have no problems running it. I also still have all my WoTC 3.5 books, so that'll be no problem either.

But why 3.5? I'm not some fanatic that thinks one edition is better than the other and that all other editions must be cast into the first.

For one, I like the fact that Paizo is supporting the setting. For me, WoTC dropped the ball here. Sure, we just got Neverwinter as a hardcover (way to screw that one up WoTC) and it's not a bad book but... it's a heroic campaign and it's set in a Forgotten Realms I don't like. That is a personal preference. I don't like what they did. To me, as a reader of the fiction line, right before 4th ed, they had done a lot of setup that would have made the Forgotten Realms an exciting place to adventure in. 

Sembia falling under control of the Shades? 

The Elf Kingdom starting to rise? 

Thay becoming an undead nightmare land?

Dragons on a rampage that destroyed or damaged many towns or lands? 

Now some might want to have some influence in those areas, and I agree, that would be great. But these are campaign changers that have made the world more unsteady. For the new setting, they took even bigger steps and allowed the players to partake in none of that . The fans of Eberron dodged a bullet here. 

So on one hand, I like how Paizo is treating the campaign setting. Hell, in the new adventure path, they use material that was introduced in the first adventure path.

Next, Paizo did some fun stuff with goblins and ogres. The Paizo goblins have a standard all of their own and their use of ogres, making them into inbreeds that resemble something out of the hills have eyes, works perfectly.

In terms of adventure structure, add in the 'missing' Revenge of the Giants stone giant adventure, and we have a nice call back to earlier editions. It's such a neat call back that WoTC has decided to do something similar. Only about three years behind the curb here. 

Next, well, I already own it. I'm familiar with 3.5. Sure, it can be a nightmare system when doing everything off the cuff or doing everything by hand, but I still own a ton of 3rd party material, all the official books, and the adventure path itself. I don't think I have to worry too much about my personal time being bogged down.

What about miniatures? While there is not a metal miniature for every encounter in Rise of the Runelords, I'm pretty sure we have more miniatures for this adventure path than we do for any WoTC adventure path. For me, this is baffling. When you run your own miniature division, how can you not tie the miniature production to the actual campaign material being written? I know that the miniatures have a long lead way, but it would not be impossible to provide details of what's coming on down the line. But to be fair, how can I expect WoTC to support the adventurers when they couldn’t' even support the core races in the Player's Handbook? "Dragonborn are hard to design!" Uh... you didn't know that they were going to be a core race and decided to put more elves, halflings, and dwarves as random figures in the set? Go WoTC! Ugh.

Last, and this is again, a matter of opinion, WoTC adventure writing lacks too much. For one, both the completed adventure paths they have, such as the printed one that started with the Keep on the Shadowfell or something, and ends with a brawl against Orcus, is using 'the old math'. Yeah, while there has been no .5 edition of 4e (which again I disagree with), the math of the monsters has dramatically changed and many other features have changed. Only post Essentials plays differently then only pre Essentials. The e-adventure, Scales of War, also lacked something. On one hand, I didn't want to print all that information out. On the other, it seemed more haphazard than any previous Adventure Path.

I was willing to forgive that because really, it was WoTC second effort at doing an adventure path after the printed one.

But... they're not doing any more.

WoTC has fallen into a pattern of not quite exclusive, but heavily focused Heroic tier support. This makes little sense as the platform of 4e was to include epic. Paizo at least acknowledges that high level play can be beyond any prewritten adventure and bows out at about 15th-17th level. WoTC decided to add another ten levels to the core and then promptly decided not to support said levels.

The recent campaign book, Neverwinter, is heroic. The recent boxed set Madness, is heroic. The Dungeon Master's Guide 3, which was supposed to cover epic, cancelled. The latest monster book, no epic foes.

Now this might not be an issue if characters gained levels in a manner similar to how they did in 1st and 2nd edition. It could take a damn long time, dozens of adventurers and many many gold pieces and magic items. In 3rd and 4th edition? A few adventurers will prop the characters right up there in levels. I guess after every three adventurers you're supposed to trash your campaign and absorb what WoTC is sellinng.

Now for those who have more free time than I do, this might not be a problem. 4th edition, to me, harkens back a bit to 2nd and 1st edition in that monsters are easier to craft. Encounters are easier to craft. Magic items, while sucking mightily in 4th edition, are almost optional and allow the players to focus on being the star and not the magic item.

And I'm not against 4e in terms of what was done with the system. I've played it and I've run it. I ran it when it first came out. I've run it at Game Day events. I've run it for different groups. I've played it numerous times.

Hell, maybe at the end of the day, I just miss a well-supported campaign setting that takes the old and standard and makes them new and exciting. Anyway, that's my thoughts for today. If anyone's interested in how the campaign goes, let me know and I'll see if I can post some post even plays here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gen Con 2011: The remaining loot!

Fantasy Flight Games had prepainted figures for their Cadewallon board game. These figures are based on Confrontation miniatures for the same faction. They're okay, lacking some of the subtle and superb sculpting of the original metals but it's ten figures for $30. And there were two separate boxes so yeah, both of those were bought. I keep hearing gamers talk about non-random figures. If you're one of them and haven't bought these because, "they're not what I want specifically", well, you've just proven why non-random probably will never work. At $3 a fig, it's a good deal.

OSR! Yeah, I stopped by the OSR both. Spoke very briefly with Suzie and Joe. They used to live, or at least hang out, in the Chicagoland area and head out to Games Plus! I kept hearing good things about Vornheim so bought it. Hate that cover though. Also hate the format in terms of its size. Realms of Crawling Chaos... well, it's meant for Labyrinth Lord, but really, I just bought it because it's 'Love craftian Dark Fantasy.' Last was Lesserton and Mor. This is a city sourcebook that I keep hearing good things about.  Also for Labyrinth Lord. Note that I didn't buy Joe and Suzie's monster book because I bought the Pathfinder version, also by them, that was not in the OSR both but in the Paizo booth.

I mentioned that for running the six games (one Dr. Who, two Laundry, and three Primeval, which was supposed to be four but John spared me that), I received credit for Cubile 7 products. So what did I get with that? 100 Fantasy Adventure Seeds, 100 Horror Adventure Seeds,  two Rite Publishing Presents books, The Breaking of Forstor Nagar and The Gift, Curse of the Golden Spear Part 1. My last purchase was Dragon Lines, Guardians of the Forbidden City, a BRP (same as Chaosium's Cthulhu core system).

The first two were because I enjoy generic or all purpose books. The next two were because I like Pathfinder and I like adventurers. The last... it sounded cool. I could have picked up some other stuff but I was trying to make the credit equal the amount I was spending and it worked out well.

This Gen Con was probably the first where I spend absolutely more money on miniatures and related things (such as maps), then I did books. No comparission. The Gale Force 9 Both, as well as the Savage Mojo Maps and others, along with the Coolminiornot and Warstore purchases, easily blew past the few RPG books I did buy. Hell, I might have spent as much on comics this year.

Speaking of comics, I noted before that there were a lot of third party vendors there. People who are not publishers in and of themselves or are not selling RPGs or gaming products. I mentioned Half Priced books, as well as various clothing and jewelery manufacturing, but probably didn't mention the card sellers and buyers, or the massive comic stand there. They were selling some Omnibus editions, done up for Marvel, for half price and if I had space, and more importantly more money, yeah, there would have been a lot more purchases going on there.

Anyway, the changing face of Gen Con continues to provide me with things to think about and ponderings of smacking up some of the amigos to go next year.

Tomorrow it's back to the dreaded work and then taking the madre back to the doctor. Ugh and double ugh. Worse part is that I'll probably have to stop at Games Plus to pick up some primer, as I didn't buy any while at the convention, because I still try and throw business their way when I can. Ugh again! Ugh I say!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gen Con 2011: Day 3 or the Day of Wallet Bloodletting

No games to run today so I brought out my check list and wandered the hallway. I made two trips as I convinced myself to buy some goods that I probably didn't need and weren't on my list but on well.

Wyrd Miniatures: Pupper Wars. It's a board game with goofy looking puppet miniatures and I'm hoping it's a big hit with my g/f. If not, I've spent a lot of money on a group of tokens that will go into the closet. I also bought the Dead Justice limited edition convention set. If nothing else more undead are always handy to have.

Coolminiornot: I picked up the preorder special edition dwarf berserkers regiment for Avatars of War as well as a painting DVD, Miniature Painting Secrets with Jennifer Haley. I was going to buy another fig but it was $40 for a medium sized figure due to its limited edition status so that sucker went back to the shelf.

Dark Age miniature gaming. I don't play the game, but one of the factions has some fantastic monsters in it. This was another unplanned purchase but the big resin brood howler, broodhound pack (2 of 'em), and mandible are mine.

Tablemaster: They have various base flocking material and if you bought the whole set it was fairly inexpensive so that's what I did. Another unplanned miniature purchase.

Mouse Guard boxed set. I'm hoping I can talk the g/f into some rpging if it involves some cute, battle axe using mice. Don't know how that'll roll as she wasn't tricked into it with other games, but she does enjoy some card games. By the way, the guys here had great bags, regular bags with good handles that you can use at your local grocery store.Archai I believe, same people who do the Artesia book.

Burning Wheel Gold and Bloodstained Stars: The guys doing this are right next to the Artesia both. When I first came there, I asked for Burning Wheel, but was on the Mouse Guard side. So pick up some graphic novels because Archai is running a fantastic deal there (bought the Cycle of Air and got the Cycle of Earth free for Okko) but then went to buy Burning Wheel Gold and Mouse Guard and couldn't get Mouse guard because that was the guys I just bought the graphic novels from. Argh! But nonetheless, cool bags. Bloodstained Stars and the graphic novels were unintended purchases. I'll have to check online as there's supposed to be another Okko novel and the books look fantastic.

Masks and Eureka: Both sounded like good all purpose gaming supplements. The former was on my shopping list, the later not but in for a penny...

Cthulhu Gloom: Speaking of card games my g/f likes... She's a big fan of Gloom so I'm blaming her for this purchase.

Maps of Mystery: I picked up the three for Deep Vistas and received a free adventure with it. Unplanned purchase but I'm a sucker for maps and miniatures as may be coming out here...

Gamemastery Map Pack, extra dimensional spaces and Swallowed whole, along with Faiths of Balance, Faiths of Purity, and Malevolent & Benign, a Pathfinder Bestiary. I didn't buy the extra dimensional spaces when it first came out because I wasn't tuned into the use for it despite something similar in say, Wheel of Time. However, after beating Dungeon Siege III... well, suffice it to say I'm at least a little motivated to have the map pack. Also received a free convention exclusive miniature that will probably be available on the website by Monday if it isn't already. All unplanned purchases.

Kings of War: I went there to see if they had Mhorgoth the Necromancer. I like the figure. The faceless necromancer with energy shooting out of his hands and playing about in front of him. So I did pick him up from my check list but... Abyssal Dwarves... I picked up an 'army deal' with a huge boxed set and the lord's war conclave and received a box of 20 undead as a bonus. Mantic will get my business again.

Dungeonmorph Cards and Font by Inkwell Press I believe. I wanted to buy the dice but they were not available so I gave him my information so that I'm on the list when it comes out.

That's the stuff I've got in front of me. When I get home tomorrow I'll open the other bags. Mostly Gale Force 9 products I'm 99.9% sure as well as stuff I bought with my store credit at Cubicle 7.

General notes...

There was at least one booth that only took cash. The guys who make the high end RPG dice and have done so for Cthulhu as well as the Pathfinder adventures. Listen, it's the year 2011. Most of the places I made purchases were using phones to run the credit cards. There is absolutely no reason NOT to be able to accept credit cards.

Year of the Smart Phone. Okay, not necessarily the year of, but man, at least the Gen Con of. I've had my phone over two years. It's a first generation G1. I keep wanting to upgrade but the data package is killing me. While there were lots of people with cameras, I think most pictures posted online have come from the phones.

Tablets... not so much, but still in presence. Interesting enough, it looks to be a mix of both the ever popular iPad's and well, everything else. Got my hands of a Kindle and man, that sucker is light compared to a tablet, it's also easy to read, and holds a charge very well. I'm very interested now in the kindle if only I hadn't spent all of that money already... argh...

Costumers... I'm not one to judge in terms of quality, effort, etc... but some general notes, as I've already said. Some of these fans are punishing themselves tremendously in the name of fun and I salute that. The humidity here is some of the worst I can recall in my time here. It's also hot but I'm from Chicago and it's hotter back home. Next, and this is for the women, the time to be pulling your skirt or tattered tassels or whatever, down below your ass is when you first put it on. It's not every five feet of the convention hall as you realize that darn it, gravity is not going to pull that sheer material past your ass. If you're going to show your ass off, go ahead. Just don't put together an outfit that you constantly have to be messing with. It can't be fun to do so and its gotta be annoying.

Dealer: No problems. Usually I have a smart ass or two that loses a sale or has me get in their face and ask them to repeat that but seriously, all dealers were awesome this year. All friendly, willing to talk, etc... The only real problem? Not enough people on check out, or in general, not enough people manning the booths. They were so busy running demos that when customers were ready to check out they had to halt the demo, run the bill, and then get back to the customer.

Technology: This should probably be filled under the year of the smart phone bit but... wi-fi is everywhere. Hotels have it, the food courts have it, the posh restaurants have it, etc... and with that, comes a freedom for charging people for internet access. I can't tell you the exact number of dealer who did NOT pay for internet access this year because the prices were stupidly high, but it's like how hotels used to charge for access to Wi-Fi. Get with the times or go home I guess is the message. Or something along those lines maybe?

Author's Alley and Paint Exhibit: Both of these were actually IN the dealer's hall. It was kind of neat and there were a lot of great pieces of art. If I owned a house or had someplace to display the art, yeah, that would have been me spending even more money I don't have.

The only thing that I am personally bummed about is the lack of my own inner circle amigos. One of them died in April of cancer. The others don't leave the state and pay to play. In the past they've come out for the dealer's hall, but as the tickets for just all around purposes are $48 a day, they are not driving 200 miles for that. It's always fun to hang out with your crew and shoot the breeze and see what other people you know think about things. Maybe next year I can talk a few of them into coming out for the whole convention and try the paint and take and the free movies and pick up games, etc... probably not. As much of a home body as I am, they are far far worse.

Anyway, that's enough rambling. It's time to read some Okko!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross

I tend to enjoy fiction based around a pre-existing setting. Things like gaming novels ranging from the Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance to computer gaming novels ranging from Diablo and Halo, to well, novels that follow off of movies, like Star Wars. They generally fall under the old 'popcorn' reading. Light and sometimes informative and expanding the setting sometimes.

So when Borders was going out of business, I picked up Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross.  It's not the first paperback I've seen at $9.99, but it is one of the few fantasy ones. A trend I'm not looking forward to seeing continue mind you.

Dave has two heroes here, Varian Jeggare and Radovan. The former a half-elf wizard-noble, the later a thug tielfling. The two have a boss-bodyguard relationship that has many elements of friendship and evolves as the book continues.

The book is fair. It could be that I'm not that familiar with the Pathfinder setting yet, and there are no 'big' style characters here. No armored fighters, no 'wizardrly' spellcasters, etc... but another thing could be the use of second person. Varian talks about "and you and you and you" and that style of writing really pulls me out of the book. It's essentially addressing the reader and for me, serves no good purpose. I've seen it work well in a handful of times and this isn't one of them for me.

The one thing that did work for me though, is Varian is searching for one of his fellow Pathfinders. These individuals seek out lost or forgotten knowledge and bring it to light. When they find the pathfinder, she has passed. They bury her. It's an actual nice scene where the dead person is honored, the mood is sombre and serious, and things get back to the action.

In role playing games, often the role of death itself is overlooked in the hunt for bigger, badder treasures. But it doesn't have to be. Are there certain roles that religion plays? Do people prefer burial? Are members of the national military service buried somewhere else?

Adding little details like that doesn't require a lot of time and adds a different book end to the game.