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ORE Bundle of Holding

This week’s Bundle of Holding is all ORE all the time – for one low price get Wild Talents, GODLIKE, Better Angels, and a bunch of other stuff.

2014 ENnie Nominees Are Here

The “Gamer Oscars,” the ENnie awards, are given out each year at Gen Con. And the nominees for this year are… Well, go read the link for all of them, I’m just going to chime in with the parts I have an opinion on. My picks are…

Best Adventure

  • Razor Coast: Heart of the Razor - Frog God Games. Because I helped proof it, because it’s good, because I’m running it in my pirate campaign, because it had an epic journey to finally come to life.  Though I really like that there’s a Dreamlands campaign (The Sense of the Sleight-of-Hand Man) in the running.

Best Aid/Accessory

  • I’m not big into trinkets. I’m also not sure how to reasonably judge some dice against cards against an advice book. Pass.

Best Art, Interior

Best Art, Cover

  • Razor Coast - Frog God Games immediately over Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Mythic Adventures - Paizo Publishing. For my money Wayne Reynolds is the Larry Elmore of the 2010′s. He’s basically competing against himself here and the Mythic cover is a little too busy; the Razor Coast cover is classic.

Best Blog

  • Haven’t read any of them except for Gnome Stew which I don’t get a lot out of.  After a quick read I like the feel of The Other Side the best.

Best Cartography

  • Hmm, no opinion.  The fact that there is a Map of the Flanaess is bad ass but it’s not the quality of some of these others. And I love Razor Coast but its maps are not its high point (they tend to be pretty but have some problems in play).

Best Electronic Book

Best Family Game

  • I have no context on any of these.

Best Free Product

Best Game

  • I don’t know.  I mean, it was originally the battle of titans - 13th Age vs Fate Core System vs Numenera. Huge sales, huge buzz. But I have to say, after getting 13th Age and Numenera – I read them, and that was it.  If someone was running a Numenera game I might play.  Not sure about 13th Age. And I have very much not enjoyed the FATE games I’ve played in.  So none?  Sad I know, and it’s not because they are small or bad games. Just none of them interest me. I’ll give Numenera the edge just because I’d play it if asked and might not play the other two if asked.

Best Miniatures Product

  • Pathfinder Battles: Wrath of the Righteous - WizKids Games/NECA. The Pathfinder minis are just beautiful.  I really don’t need any more but I can’t resist buying a brick every time they have a new set because they push the bar forward on sculpts, paints, and weird materials each time.

Best Monster/Adversary

Best Podcast

  • Hmm, I listen to a lot of podcasts but haven’t heard of these.  No RPPR or Fear the Boot?  Come on now! I’ll try out All Games Considered and Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff.

Best Production Values

  • Numenera Corebook - Monte Cook Games, LLC. Can’t say anything against the production here, it’s first-rate.

Best RPG Related Product

  • As opposed to “Aids and Accessories?” Trinket category 2, pass.

Best Rules

  • I’m not in love with any of these. 13th Age and Fate Core System leave me mostly cold. Hillfolk is supposed to be all groundbreaking but I found Hamlet’s Hit Points to be pedantic and plodding as hell so I haven’t ventured it.  Shaintar: Legends Arise - “more stuff for Savage Worlds” is fine but I have a hard time pegging a “Best Rules” on it.  Makes me wish I’ve read tremulus because maybe I could vote for it here.

Best Setting

  • Razor Coast - Frog God Games, because I love pirates, followed by Numenera Corebook - Monte Cook Games, LLC, because it’s artsy and unusual if a little less accessible.

Best Supplement

Best Software

  • Realm Works - Lone Wolf Development and Roll20 - The Orr Group LLC. Gaming software’s come a long way since back in the day! I’m more likely to use Realm Works than Roll20 just because I’m a in-real-life guy.

Best Writing

  • Hmm, Numenera is the only one of these I’ve read so I can’t really judge.

Best Website

  • Why the hell is The Escapist nominated every year? It’s infrequently updated, a mass of 404s and “this is shut down now” – I go look at it every year when it’s nominated and try to figure out what I’m missing. Blog? No post in 3 months.  Forum? Shut down. Podcast? Dead 5 years. Escapist Interviews? 404.  What am I missing, because a casual survey indicates this is an old ass abandoned site?
  • Tabletop Audio is pretty and a cool idea. RPG Geek is a good reference site.  See Page XX is engaging, I read it once every 6 months or so, but it’s pretty tightly scoped so one every 6 months is enough.

Product of the Year

  • I assume Fate Core System is going to win just because squee, FATE. Or maybe Numenera on the basis of being the only game that’s not retreading well-trod ground.  Another Cthulhu game? We have enough, seriously. Razor Coast is the one out of all of them I plan to play…

All in all, not a year I’m super excited about. I got a couple fun things, which are mostly not on this list… I do like looking at the lists to see what I may have overlooked that could be good. I need to read tremulus sometime and see if it overcomes the “storygame effect” (entertaining to play – once). How about you, were any of these super winners in your mind?

Awesome Ship Kickstarter

Since I am running a long pirate campaign that’s headed to the Razor Coast, I was jazzed to come across this ship and terrain Kickstarter – with various ships including a 60′ barque (La Belle), 90′ sloop-of-war (HMS Drake), and a 130′ frigate (HMS Surprise).  It’s a chunk of change but… I had to do it! Go check it out if you plan on some naval action in your game.

D&D 5e Basic Rules First Thoughts

The “free version” of the new fifth edition D&D rules are out – 110 pages of pdf, available at Wizards of the Coast.

My initial reaction is that I like it.  Background: I’ve played D&D from the original BECMI “Red Box” Basic through 1e AD&D, 2e, 3e, 3.5e, hated 4e, play Pathfinder. (Plus many other games of course).

Things I think it does right:

1. As a free PDF, it will really help draw in new/casual players. Game stores can have a couple copies laying around. You can forward a copy to a friend who has expressed interest in the game. It’s not as nice for future in-play as the free hyperlinked SRD approach of Pathfinder, but it’ll be very accessible to new players.

2. The three pillars of adventure are listed as exploration, social interaction, and combat.  They list combat last and try hard in this PDF at least to not give it primary billing, which may result in less pure hack and slash than in the future. The Combat section itself is only 9 pages! (Obviously there’s rules affecting combat everywhere else, but that was nice.)

3. Clear call-outs to GM discretion.  GM describes, you say what you want to do, GM narrates the results. That gives me hope that we won’t see the return of the rules that cater to the over-legalistic players, which leads us to…

4. Light rules.  Now, we’ll see how much of this is because of the short format and how much they’ll run over this once the PHB is out, but this is pleasingly not all legalistic and rules heavy.  There’s already people fretting over the “Rules of Hidden Club” as they have in past editions, even though the Basic rules say clearly “you know, GM discretion whether you can sneak up on someone, man.”  The spell descriptions take a couple steps back towards being sane in length, with type, casting time, range, components, and duration being the only “required fields.” I’ve written before on the relative sizes and bloat across the editions – using the Knock spell, this one is 132 words, shorter than 3.5e’s 206 words but longer than BECMI’s 122. Replacing 100 bonuses with advantage/disadvantage – seems fun, we’ll see how it works out (I imagine smart min-maxers will find a way to have enough advantage that it’ll always cancel out any disadvantage).

5. Inclusivity.  They totally even one-up Paizo on this, by openly saying in the Sex section “You don’t need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon’s image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character’s sexual orientation is yours to decide.” It’s just a short statement saying “Yes, you all can play too, and play characters like that if you want.” If backed up with art and more diverse characters in stories, then maybe we’ll get more women, people of color, people of differing sexualities, etc. into gaming, which I think is fine and dandy.

6. Hits the high points that made D&D such a classic in the first place.  It doesn’t try to sell “some new thing we made up just for this edition” like Dragonborn, it is the big 4 classes and big 4 races. Not sure of the need for the subraces, especially the dwarven ones (“the hillbillies and the mountainbillies are fighting again,” said no one ever), but perhaps that’s more included just to show that it’s possible.

The negatives:

1. The art. First of all, there’s not any.  It’s not that we’re “entitled” to it and sure, “it’s free what do you expect” – but this is being put out to try to be a thread to draw people into the game, and it would benefit from a freaking cover with a picture on it. We all know that blog posts, articles, etc. of all descriptions convert readers a lot more when there’s media in them. Same goes for when you forward a PDF to an RPG-curious friend. Second of all, the one piece is in the back and it’s from the Basic set cover; I’ve seen some of the other cover art online. What’s with the art style, it all looks like you’re viewing it through static? It’s not like the pop-off-the-shelf Elmore stylized colors of the 1980s, and it looks like every other damn fantasy cover out there.  I think they’d be better served going a little more of a modern direction on it, some anime influence, at least some more vivid colors and lines.

2. They jacked with the PDF so you can’t cut and paste out of it.  Really, Wizards? That just makes me *want* to pull it up an Acrobat and fix that little problem and re-disseminate it.  I had to retype in even the small quotes in this review. Weak. [Edit: Apparently you can cut and paste out of the "printer friendly" version. Thanks waxeagle.]

But other than that, I like where they’re going with it.  If only there will be restraint such that the rules stay light (more content is fine – having more classes is great, having more rules for everyone to keep in mind and follow isn’t) then I’ll be tempted to use it because I am so tired of spending hours rules-wrangling on Pathfinder.

Link

D&D Basic Rules Are Out

If you didn’t know, the free D&D Basic rules are out today and can be downloaded from Wizards’ site.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Eighteenth Session

Eighteenth Session (9 page pdf) – “Capture of the Black Bunyip” – The crew of the Araska finds out that Morgan Baumann has set an ambush for them. “What’s the plan?” “Let’s get ‘em!” It’s touch and go and many a gold Infamy Point coin is spent. Who leaves the crew on this very special episode of Reavers on the Seas of Fate?

All right, we’re back on board the Teeth of Araska and they’ve finally located who they came here to find, Captain Baumann, and gotten rid of pesky Flying Azlanti Death-Ray Lenses that stood in their way.

Most of the guys have read various naval fiction so I like throwing in some realism; they had to get started by towing the ship with the ship’s boats out of the cove. The Black Bunyip has laid a trap, as well, which in classic adventurer fashion they deliberately run right into!

Lacking any other options, Sindawe declares, “We’ll ram and kill them all in hand to  hand!” The pirates cheer, because that’s the way they roll.

The fight is brutal but in hand until a rogue dispel magic removes Samaritha’s domination of Daphne the sorceress. She snatches up the fallen Gareb’s dragon staff (he found it some damn place, it’s worth a fortune) and turns into a blue dragon and turns on the Araskans.

They manage to fell Baumann and drive off the dragon for now, at the cost of many Infamy Points. Sindawe cuts off her thumbs, an idea he got from when they found the thumbless Mase Venjum in the Araska’s brig originally.

JJ [the disturbingly anatomically correct sea-homunculus] approaches the officers and says, “Hey, hey. You know why thumbless people can’t  betray you?”

A concerned Sindawe replies, “No. Why?”

JJ hunches over and talks in a stage whisper, “Hey, do you know who’s going to betray  the captain?” He looks around conspiratorially and says, “This guy!” He begins poking his own chest, but keeps his thumbs hidden indicating that they have been cut off. The conspirator is crestfallen to realize that he can’t identify himself as “this guy.” This amuses the command staff greatly.

Those that survive, level! Ooh, level 7!  They all writhed in glee. (Remember we started in 2009, so it’s a little more than a level a year.)

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Three, Seventeenth Session

Seventeenth Session (11 page pdf) – “Kill All Vampires!” – The vampire crypt keeps the pirates occupied for a while, and finally they finish up at the Sun Temple Colony and set out to hunt down Morgan Baumann.

The PCs are trying for a by-the-numbers disposal of staked vampires and retrieval of loads of loot, but Lil being enchanted nearly puts a huge wrinkle in that; they recover very quickly though.

But luck catches up with them on one of the five crypts; those find/remove traps rolls are always just waiting for you to fail them. They escape the crypt as it fills up with water and a stone slab seals it off…  Oh, but that’s not good enough, time to go back in!  That’s when the going gets rough.

Tommy leaps the stone slab with Sindawe and Serpent close behind. All of them clear the chamber before the slab closes the way. It grinds shut and the sound of water filling the crypt can be heard through the stone.

Wogan says, “I have a Chime of Opening and Water Breathing. Let’s get you guys back in the game!”

Serpent comments that most of the Azlanti race’s enemies were water breathers.

Tommy announces, “That’s fiendish… they trap their enemies down below to starve but give them the water necessary to survive.” They cooperatively spin a tale of some hapless skum caught by the trap, perfectly comfortable but slowly dying. Good times.

They stake the last vampire but overnight Tommy and Lil are a little distracted while on guard duty and some blood ooze thing I found in some book recovers it. Once they get down there again he’s alive, which really, really freaked them out. But then all those God-touched cultists they’re dragging around with them got real lucky (five, hits, two crits) and laid 35d8 damage worth of searing light on the guy!

After that, it’s all done but the partying. They got a metric ton of loot out of it too, so they were happy, and then they traded a lot of it for cool Azlanti magitech doodads (including a walk-in freezer for the ship).