Tag Archives: RPG

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, Second Session

Samaritha the Serpentfolk

Samaritha the Serpentfolk

Second Session (18 page pdf) – “A Birth and a Death in Riddleport” – Samaritha finally comes to term serpentfolk style and the crew entertain themselves by fighting in Zincher’s arena, but then they find one of their long-time crewmates murdered!

That’s right – Samaritha, Serpent’s wife, who got pregnant back at the end of Season Two, finally gives birth!  Well… Lays an egg, really, she is a serpentfolk. I think Golarion serpentfolk are supposed to do live birth but I’ve admixed the Freeport serpentfolk in instead and they definitely do the egg thing. Quite the milestone! So the first half of the session basically revolves around that. I’m really happy our campaign is in-character roleplay enough that a PC getting married and having a baby is absorbing for all the players.

Clegg Zincher

Clegg Zincher

And how better to celebrate than violence. But it’s not even the PCs’ violence! No, instead they get to watch Mase and Gareb, two of their crewmen, fight fish-men in the arena. They lose, but live through it.

Then they hatch a “clever” plan to hand off their captive Ulfen to the orcs, so that they don’t garner White Estrid’s revenge should she track them down. They wisely decide not to provoke the monkey that comes along for the ride – last time they provoked a monkey in Riddleport someone came close to losing a nose. Word to the wise. (It’s kinda like Costa Rica in that way.)

And then – beloved crewman and second mate Little Mike’s body is found on the streets of Riddleport. BAM! Downbeat and cliffhanger for next time.

 

Reavers on the Seas of Fate – Season Four, First Session

Riddleport Harbor

Riddleport Harbor

Welcome to the start of Season Four of our epic Reavers on the Seas of Fate Pathfinder campaign! We’re exactly three and a half years in. In Season One, “Shadows in Riddleport,” our PCs went to Riddleport, became aspiring pirates, and became embroiled in a cultist plot to destroy the city.  In Season Two, “Eros and Thanatos,” they got their own pirate ship and confronted all manner of supernatural menace of both Shadow and Cthulhu types. In Season Three, “Et In Arcadia Ego,” they  head out to sunken Azlant in the Arcadian Ocean and face off against the elves of the Mordant Spire and the degenerate inhabitants of the lost Sun Temple Colony.

And now we begin Season Four – “Family Matters.” In which our pirate crew returns to Riddleport but finds an old enemy has not forgotten them, and then heads to darkest Nidal to help Wogan’s sister.

First Session (22 page pdf) – “There’s No Place Like Home” – the PCs return to Riddleport at long last! Time to dispose of booty, buy goodies, and drink much booze while re-acclimating to life on land.

Their first order of business is to hand over the thumbless, captive pirate captain Morgan Baumann to the Overlord, which they manage to do with a startling lack of decorum even for them.

Gaston pulls the hood off to reveal that Morgan Baumann has worked the gag out of  place. She spits an unhealthy glob at Gaston.
The man wipes at his face, then tells her, “Keep your hands off my ships.”
Her reply is, “Keep your hands off little boys!”
Gaston taunts her, “I didn’t figure you would go down so easy.”
She replies, “I thought the same about you!”
Unhappy with losing the verbal exchange, Gaston commands, “Take her away.”

I improvised that whole dialogue, I was proud. Then it’s cop-killing jokes and a return to the Golden Goblin in Riddleport, where the whole campaign started. Saul Vancaskerkin, one-handed crime lord, always slaps Sindawe on the cheek in that Italian-mobster way; he hates it.  I love that. They rove all over getting caught up on city life.  Not only are they higher level but also they have learned not to wander the streets of Riddleport alone, so they are no longer the second most dangerous thing in a given alleyway. At least the command crew is; now they have to run after their hapless crew members who are all getting robbed and tricked into fighting in the arena and the like.

Entire game sessions that are all the PCs entertaining themselves with NPC interactions and going places are great.  I was told once that if we weren’t rolling combat dice then “we weren’t playing D&D.” To that person I wisely reply “suck it.” REAL ROLEPLAYING BABY!

This episode is all about getting various balls rolling and threads started, and it’ll escalate steadily over the next five sessions until it’s a holocaust that would make the most seasoned hack-and-slashers quail. But for now… It’s a moment of relative peace back in civilization.

D&D 5e PHB Readthrough, Chapter 5: Equipment

tenfootpoleWelcome to the next in the series of my D&D Fifth Edition PHB readthrough and review. I know there’s been a little time gap, I had some bidness to attend to.

The equipment chapter kicks off with the basic monetary system and starting gold.  The electrum piece (worth 1/2 a gold piece) has returned from the sands of time. Ah, nostalgia, I remember you fondly.

Then they talk about selling treasure.  Undamaged gear is worth 50% of the list price, but monster gear is usually junk.  Then they finally breach the 3.e/Pathfinder bugbear, magic items – magic items are expensive and rare and selling anything but the most common is problematic, let alone buying them.  This is happy and leads me to believe that the “magic item economy,” which resulted in “Christmas tree syndrome,” one of the least delightful things about mid-range D&D editions, has been swept away.

Armor is somewhat simplified and has the interesting design decision that light armors allow full Dex bonus to AC, medium half, and heavy none. On the one hand that compensates nicely for different approaches, on the other hand it tends towards “everyone has AC 16-18, period.”

Weapons are simpler than in some editions, more complex than in others. They have one damage rating that is a die and type (e.g. 1d8 bludgeoning) – never any “1d4+1″ or the like. Then they have some keyword-properties like the kids are into nowadays that indicate special uses – heavy, two-handed, reach, finesse, light, etc. Finesse weapons use DEX for both attack and damage in this edition, making the uber-strength fighter a less automatic choice.  There’s no such thing as a masterwork weapon but you can silver one for 100gp.

Then they have other gear. You know, cook pots, paper, and the ever-popular ten foot pole. This is mostly “like every list ever.” There’s a couple points of interest, like “Basic Poison” that requires a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or take 1d4 points of damage. And a potion of healing – at 50 gp – that will heal 1d4+2 hit points. So they don’t conflate healing with the hit dice thing (like 4e did with healing surges). I’m not sure how I feel about that, seems like “heal a Hit Die” is pretty smoov, but whatever. There’s sub-tables for barrels and ships and stuff.

The Tools are interesting. They claim that tools “help you do something you couldn’t otherwise do” – but mechanically they just let you add your proficiency bonus.  So if you’re a fighter, you can try to pick a lock without a proficiency or tools and just up and make the Dex check. But if you have the skill proficiency *and* the tools, you can add your proficiency bonus.

A final cool part is the lifestyle expenses.  I remember this from Living campaigns back in the 1990s. Basically there’s a listed cost for living at certain social levels – from Wretched to Aristocratic.  They kinda wuss out and have no mechanical hook to those except to say “Well you know if you’re po’ then nobles won’t like you but thieves might.”

Similarly to the “magic items aren’t bought and sold like cattle,” even getting spells cast for hire is noted to be difficult – you can get a common level 1 or 2 spell in a major city for 10-50 gp but past that it’s DM fiat and quests, baby.

Then there’s two semi wasted pages on “trinkets” – a new character gets one!  Roll 1d100, you have “a single caltrop made from bone.” Seems gimmicky to me but I get that they’re trying to provoke some kind of “you are a real and unique person” roleplaying using it so that’s fine.

All in all I like where they’re going!  Next time, Customization Options!

Jim Shipman and Outlaw Press, Ripping You Off Since 2009

menagerieWell, our old friend James (Jim) Shipman of Outlaw Press, who happily steals other publishers’ products, art, etc. is back with yet another scam.  You can read about all his Tunnels & Trolls thievery in these old articles. And he’s back at it, as seen in Bleeding Cool News, stealing someone’s products again, a “Monster Menagerie” product from a small publisher, and he boldly states there’s more to come in an email to the artist that complained.

Our lovely IP laws only exist to protect Disney and other large corporate interests.  Everyone talks about “class action lawsuits!” and the like but you’re talking about huge money and mobilization to try to get whatever $200 is in the accounts of some scumbag in Lawrenceville, IL. You can rip off the little guy blatantly and mercilessly. Resign yourselves to it.  This has been going on for 5 years now.

The only real defense is for all of you to go after his Internet footprint – if you’re an affected publisher or artist send a DMCA takedown notice to his ISP/Web hosts; everyone is welcome to complain to the abuse line at anywhere he uses for email, Web, DNS, etc. At least that could drive him to prefer whatever other petty crime he commits back in Illinois. See the back issues for various emails (currently Jimship2@frontier.com), eBay seller IDs, and IP addresses he uses (4.59.106.0-255 is popular, which is Level3 in the Little Egypt region of Illinois) – and be aware he likes to post fake comments to sites claiming to be from other companies, vandalize Wikipedia entries, etc. He currently conducts his online sales from http://www.outlawpressinc.com via PayPal as op_publishing@yahoo.com. A WHOIS gives what appears to be his parents’ address in Lawrenceville, IL.

Feng Shui 2 Kickstarter Live!

Feng Shui, by Robin Laws, one of the coolest games in RPG history.  Well, it’s coming back, and you can get in on the Kickstarter!  Which is like 300% funded after being live for an hour.  Give up on collecting boots from goblins and be a real action movie hero, Chow Yun Fat style (or someone else for you kids nowadays).

Mike Mearls Decides He Values Hookers’ Lives After All

Here on Geek Related, I dish out the shame when it’s due but also the props when they are due.  In D&D 4e, the “kid-proofed” version of the Rust Monster prompted me to write the ever-popular article Mike Mearls Strangles Realism In D&D Like It’s An Unruly Hooker. Go read it to find out why.

But today in Forbes, there’s a preview of the new fifth edition rust monster.  And you’ll be happy to know it’s 100% hooker safe.

MONSTER-MANUAL-Rust-Monster-1471x1940Well, OK, maybe 90% hooker safe.  In earlier editions, if the weapon rusted, bam, that was it.  Your +5 Holy Avenger is so much brown dust. Here you get the progressive -1’s before it’s destroyed.  So it’s definitely nerfed from some other incarnations of the Rust Monster. But that’s still a far sight better than 4e’s “oh, you can always just get it back afterwards” approach. I imagine there will be some way to fix a rusted weapon – there’s not a spell for it yet, but I imagine the second level make whole spell will return eventually. But that’s fair enough.

I’m not quite done with digesting 5e yet, but it’s clear the game has at least come back into the general design space we expect from Dungeons & Dragons.  So let me clearly say “Thanks, Mike Mearls!” I, and I think I speak for a good batch of other gamers here, appreciate that you could see that a good portion of the critique of 4e wasn’t just “grognards that hate change” or “trolling for kicks on the Internet” but was the thoughts of real gamers who honestly wanted to help improve the game. Well done, and thanks for listening.

[Edit: Well, I missed the fact it was "nonmagical weapons" only.  5 shots to get rid of nonmagical only is still pretty crappy and nerfed.  It's not as psychotically anti-simulation as the 4e version but - sorry Mike, demoted to "beating" (still better than "strangling").]

D&D 5e PHB Readthrough, Chapter 4: Personality and Background

4 personality types farsideTwenty pages of actual roleplaying-related information in a Dungeons & Dragons Player’s Handbook?  What’s the world coming to?

Welcome to the next in the series of my D&D Fifth Edition PHB readthrough and review. We ground through all the classes last time; now, a lighter chapter.

In many earlier editions of D&D, the extent to which personality and background were covered could be described as:

1. A sentence or two telling you to “make one up”

2. The alignment section – “What else do you need?” Maybe religion and height, weight, and hair color, if you consider those “personality.”

I think both 2e (“alignment only”) and 3e (half a page saying “make  up a personality and background and maybe have some tattoos or something”) could be fairly described in this way.

Now, don’t get too excited, hardcore immersionists – since this is D&D, we have to hook rules to this stuff, don’t expect 20 pages explaining the actual art of creating a realistic character or anything.

So first we have a page of name, sex, height/weight, distinguishing marks and scars, just like your PC’s eventual rap sheet. In a move towards inclusivity, in the Sex section they mention that you can be something other than simple M or F, and/or be gay or whatever.

This couple sentences has caused a good bit of squabbling online.  I’ll just say:

1. This is a good thing. Back in the 2e days you couldn’t be black or gay in D&D, so this is a pretty big change. (I joke… Kinda.)

2. If you don’t think this is a good thing, STFU. I am not looking to host a comment war from the anti-gay/woman/tranny/whatever contingent (or the “I’m not anti, I just don’t understand why…” contingent). Comments below in that vein will be deleted, period. Go talk about it somewhere else if you need to.

Alignment is back to the normal alignments from every edition except 4e, with independent law/neutral/chaos and good/neutral/evil axes.  I wish it said out loud “alignment is a [descriptive] tool, not a [prescriptive] straitjacket” like it does in 2e; the best they do is to note that “individuals may vary.” I assume the arguments about “you’re not playing your alignment!” will continue for another decade.

Languages!  You can learn them.  Apparently druid language and thieves’ cant are back, but not, blessedly, alignment languages.

Now to personality.  Besides a couple sentences with some guidance about what makes a good personality trait, you choose Ideals (things you believe), Bonds (relationships), and Flaws (personal problems). Well, one of each at least. The Backgrounds that are to come suggest some of each of these.  Borrowed from modern indie games is the concept of Inspiration; basically you can get a free “use this to get advantage on a roll” token (limit one at a time) for acting according to  your ideals, bonds, or flaws. This is a pretty tentative step – you only pick one of each and it’s up to the DM whether it’s really ever going to come up or not – but I think it’s a healthy, positive step to helping people build characters that are more than a collection of kill points.

Next we have backgrounds, which are mainly bundles of proficiencies, languages, equipment, and suggested characteristics. For example, “Acolyte” or “Entertainer” or “Soldier” or “Urchin.” Or you can “Customize” one (kinda like make up your own, but more oddly worded).

An Aside On Proficiencies

Basically “Proficiency” usually just means “you can add your proficiency bonus to the roll” in 5e, so you don’t have to have skills to try something – but having a skill makes you better at it, and a toolkit lets you do something you couldn’t do otherwise. Many things you’d think of as trained skills aren’t actual skills – if you want to be a woodcarver, you don’t get proficiency in woodcarving, you get proficiency in a woodcarving toolset (though  you can use it without the proficiency, you just don’t get to add your bonus).

This is a little confusing because they don’t have a “Skills” or “Proficiencies” chapter – they just mention all this in passing in various other places. The definitive list of 18 skills finally shows up later in Chapter 7. Proficiencies in armor, weapons,  and tools are explained in Chapter 5 (wearing armor you’re not proficient in gets you disadvantage on attacks and STR/DEX checks and you can’t cast spells in it – yes, if your wizard is proficient in plate you can cast in it fine; weapons and tools just lack your proficiency bonus), and saving throws are explained in Chapter 7 as well.

Anyway, for example, the Urchin background grants proficiency in Slight of Hand, Stealth, Disguise kit, Thieves’ tools, and some gear.  You also get a single special “Feature,” in this case ability to move twice as fast while travelling in the city. Suggested personality traits include”I ask a lot of questions” and “I don’t like to bathe,” suggested Ideals include “Respect” and “Retribution,” suggested Bonds include “I’ll fight to defend my home” and “I owe a debt I can never repay,” and suggested Flaws include “I’ll run away if outnumbered” and “I’d rather kill someone in their sleep than fight fair.”

Oddly, the Ideals get tagged with alignment ties – “Respect” is good while “Retribution” is evil – but other things don’t (“Kill someone in their sleep?”) I wish they hadn’t done that, especially because these all are on random tables for if you want to roll.  If you’re LG and roll “Retribution” what do you do?  I’d expect you’d come up with a LG-complaint version of its “eat the rich” concept, but the alignment tag raises unanswered questions of “So can I not take that, or what…?”  My advice is to ignore that alignment tag on the Ideals.

In conclusion, this is a good chapter and really helps raise the bar on roleplaying in D&D.  My only meaningful concern is that they don’t explain clearly enough that all this – alignment, but the rest too – is all helpful description of a real , complex fictional person and not something a character “must do” – there will be an unlimited number of arguments over “You’re not playing your Urchin right/Lawful Good right/retribution right/etc.”, just because that’s how many clueless gamers have done it over the last 40 years. Recently in 4e we saw this with the roles – “You can’t be a Striker and do X!” I think they should have learned from history and couched this a little better, just so people have to put up with 20% fewer twerps in their future.