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News and Notes

April 30, 2012 Comments off

It’s been an eventful week over at WotC. The playtest of DnDnext is officially rolling out on May 24th. This news comes on the heels of Monte Cook’s decision to leave the design team. I’m very interested to see what the boys come up with, but fear the almost inevitable nerd-rage war that will ensue. WotC has been a bit more open about their design process and goals than in previous editions, and hopefully this playtest period will provide them with valuable feedback to help make DnDnext be the best it can be.

While we’re waiting, why not check out our review of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG featured prominently on the game’s core rulebook page! I’m in the process of writing my own 0-Level character funnel. We’ll playtest it, send it over to Goodman Games for review, and if it’s passes muster, we might just release it for gamers eager to put their 0-Level peasants to the test! It’s likely that this wizard’s tower from the very talented HB Kerr will feature prominently.

GeekOut 2012 will soon be upon us! If you live in the Asheville area and love games, comics, anime, and awesome geeky stuff, check out the schedule and come on down! The event is free and there will be plenty of panels, events and tabletop gaming. If you haven’t registered for your game yet, get on over to warhorn and sign up!

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Categories: 5e, Adventure, DCCRPG, DnD, News, Reviews Tags: ,

ARRrrrpg – Pirate Campaign 2

April 23, 2012 2 comments

Our 4e pirate campaign fizzled after a few sessions. Mostly because of the announcement of 5e and the group discovering the wonders of Pathfinder Society play. Our precious few hours of gaming a week became dedicated to learning about Pathfinder, and the fun of organized play. And yet, we felt like we had unfinished business in the Pirate department.

Luckily, Paizo has seen fit to release an adventure path with a pirate theme! Everybody wins. So your trusty Skylanders embark on a new pirate voyage to archipelago known as The Shackles! The adventure path is called Skull & Shackles and we’re in the process of rolling up our crew now! We’ve had a great time with society adventures, but long for building a cohesive party around a cohesive storyline. That can be pretty difficult in any kind of living/organized campaign. We’ll let you know about our experiences as the adventure path plays out.

I’m rolling up a Ranger with the Falconer archetype from Ultimate Combat. Being that this is a pirate campaign, my “falcon” will be a mangy grey parrot named Blackbeak. Ahoy, mateys!

Have you ever tried a Pirate Campaign? How’d it go? Let us know in the comments!

Portal Under the Stars – DCCRPG Play Report

April 17, 2012 Comments off

I was one of the fortunate few that picked up this adventure for free on Free RPG day. The DCC adventure starter now sells for $5 on rpgnow (The Doug Kovacs maps alone are pretty much worth the price), but I’ve been waiting to break this out for about a year. Since pouring over the PDF of the Core Rulebook I was eager to GM a game and put these new rules to the test. We only had two other players for this initial run, but being veteran players, we decided to have them roll up four 1st level characters each. Not exactly a textbook example, but it was fun to roll up a bunch of guys and see how many would survive.

The party was made up of the following: A dwarven miner, a dwarven rat-catcher, two farmers, an outlaw, an astrologer, an herbalist, and a jester. From there we leveled them up and ended up with one cleric, one wizard, two thieves, two dwarves (of course) and two fighters. Not a bad mix. Character generation was pretty quick, even leveling up didn’t take very long at all. They rolled their paltry amount of gold and copper coins, bought what they could, and then set off to the Portal.

I don’t want to reveal any spoilers about the adventure, but it was filled with pretty deadly traps and some fairly challenging combat. I think the mortality rate would have been higher for 12-16 o-level characters than it was for 8 1st-level characters, but even with that, 3 adventurers (including the cleric! doh!) met their end before the adventure was over. One of the warriors rolled really well on his hit points and ended up with 17 on first level (+2 Stamina bonus per level). Unfortunately that means he was always up front, and ended up dying before it was all over. The most mediocre guys survived just fine. I think one big lesson we learned from this was if you like a character, don’t have him go through the door first. Also, if you’ve got farm animals, see if you can convince them to go down the hallway in front of you; Better the chicken or donkey get blown up than your cleric.

I hope to run this at least once more before running it at GeekOut 2012. If you’re near the Asheville area and want to give DCCRPG a try, sign up at warhorn for my 10 AM or 6 PM game. Slots are going to go quick, and once they’re gone, they’re gone. Some friends will be running some Pathfinder Society scenarios, and there should be a bunch of great stuff going on, and it is completely free to attend. RPG tables will be at one of the ballrooms in the Renaissance Hotel downtown (swanky!), so come by and roll up some Zero level peasants for a chance at becoming an adventurer about which bards will sing endless epics! Or at least you’ll have some good DCCRPG war stories.

Categories: Adventure, DCCRPG, News, RPGs Tags: , ,

TMNT: Retro review

April 16, 2012 2 comments

The other night, a few of the Skyland Games crew had a chance to dust off an old classic from the gaming shelf. There were a lot of options: Car Wars, Mutants and Masterminds, Mekton Z, and TMNT amongst others. Eventually we’ll get to them all, but we decided to give Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ago. As kids who grew up steeped in 80s culture, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles hold a special place in our hearts, as they were pretty much unavoidable from about 1987 to 1990.

Like a lot of older RPGs, character generation is a bit of a mini-game in and of itself. Also like older RPGs, game-balance is for the weak. Not all characters are created equal. This became readily apparent as we rolled up our dudes. You start out by rolling percentile dice to see what kind of animal origin you have. From there you roll up a mutation reason, and starting money for gear. Scott rolled up a raccoon scavenger with about $3000 worth of scavenged stuff. Pretty cool, certainly playable, and a fairly “realistic” background. My turn: Alligator assassin created by private industry! I escaped with $80,000 worth of stuff. After arming my guy with all the guns I could feasibly carry, I asked our GM what cars were available so we would have some mode of transport. Maybe like an A-team van, or something? “For $60,000 you can get a DeLorean…” SOLD. So while Scott’s guy was a scrappy ruffian, mine was a trained assassin, tons of guns, and his getaway car from his captors was a DeLorean. Wow. Somebody rolled high on the percentile tables.

The adventure was something that Steve, our intrepid GM, took from the headlines of our local newspaper. Recently the UNCA mascot dog, Rocky I, went missing. In our game he was a half-mutated bulldog man who ran a counterfeiting ring. In real life, he came back to his owner unscathed. In our game, after taking a few pot-shots at us with his revolver, he got mowed down by my assassin’s MAC-10.

The majority of our little session was sneaking around a warehouse trying to track down Rocky’s counterfeiting operation, and then mowing him down. We used skills based on percentile dice rolls, which I thought were pretty cool. The actual layout of the book is pretty atrocious, even for 1985 standards. Not only are tables and charts hard to read in the book, some of the layout is counter-intuitive. For instance, the skills section looks like a glossary layout, but you have to go through the entire entry to figure out what your base score is in any skill. When you level, you would have to go to each skill entry and see by how much each skill has arbitrarily increased. I did like the alignment system, in that there is no true-neutral. The true-neutral alignment never sat quite right with me. Neutral-Good, sure, Neutral-Evil, yeah, but to always be middle of the road? It doesn’t seem practical. Alignments in Palladium’s games are Principled, Scrupulous, Unprincipled, Anarchist, Miscreant, Aberrant, and Diabolic. That’s a pretty cool spectrum.

Overall, we had a really fun time with it. The system is a bit clunky, and Palladium is not known for their attention to detail at the editing desk, but if you’ve got a love for some mutants and don’t mind slogging through some weird mechanics, it can be a really fun time. If all else fails, just roll up characters all night, and let the dice fall where they may!

Categories: Lore, Retro, Reviews, RPGs Tags: ,

We won D&D

April 13, 2012 3 comments

I forgot to mention we totally killed Tiamat the other day. I got a little too excited about DCCRPG. I’ve been playing the Scales of War 4e adventure path for about two years now, and on Monday we completed it. PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD. The last module was an assault on Tiamat’s fortress, complete with slaying pregnant brood mother dragons on our quest to confront her in her scrying chamber.

At this point we had been through 20 levels together. We started at 10th, and playing consistently almost every week, it still took us more than two years to reach level 30. After the final battle we talked about all the characters and climactic and memorable battles we had throughout the campaign. Unfortunately, I felt the actual battle with Tiamat wasn’t one of them. This was no fault of our excellent DM, but mostly the fault of epic play being ridiculous. By the time we reached 30th level, we were so powerful it was pretty much impossible to threaten us. Many of us had chosen powers that would allow us to come back if we were dropped to zero hit-points. I don’t think any of us had to use them. Ever.

Don’t get me wrong, we had some great times. Honestly, I probably built it up too much in my head. Despite that, there are some questions that remain: Previously, Bahamut, the Platinum Dragon, Lord of Justice and everything Good, had been slain. Luckily, we were traveling with this girl, that happened to be his phylactery/horcrux, so we were able to resurrect Bahamut. What prevents Tiamat from having something similar, and furthermore, wouldn’t she need to come back to preserve the balance? There was a bit of box text explaining how greed had been extinguished from the world, but if that was true, wouldn’t the world turn in to some hippy-dippy commune? I mean, a lot of greed is bad, but it can be a motivator, and is certainly an agent of change. It seemed a bit anti-climactic, at what should have been the most climactic event ever. Also, there was this big concern when Bahamut was slain that the balance of power was all out of wack. No mention of that when we defeated the Queen of Darkness. At the same time, how do you wrap up a muli-year campaign and make it a satisfying ending? Here is what I would have done:

“With the final head taking it’s last shuddering breath, the massive five-headed form of the Goddess of Greed collapses. In a shimmer of black fire, the huge carcass burned away to reveal the crumpled form of a bruised and bloodied raven-haired woman. In a shimmer of radiance, Bahamut, in the form of a wizened old man in white robes steps through one of the scrying portals. He smiles kindly at the heroes as he stoops to pick up the battered form of Tiamat. ‘Dear, dear sister. We can finally be together again.’

In a blinding prismatic flash of color, the forms merge and grow into a dragon that looks as if it was made of starlight, it’s skin a swirling mass of ever-shifting colors. ‘I am Io, the beginning, the end, the all. You have done well in reuniting my spirit. I shall guard the balance of creation henceforth. If you wish, you may join me at my side as my exarchs. Thank you for what you have done. You have earned a well deserved rest. However, there is much to be done to maintain the balance. Will you join me?”

Bam. Epic.

Categories: 4e, Adventure, DnD, Epic Tags: ,

Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG – Shows WotC how to blend new and old

April 8, 2012 8 comments

From the DCC RPG, Illustration by Jeff Easley

DCCRPG successfully combines old and new RPG mechanics into an aweseome new system. Inspired by previous versions of DnD and more specifically, Appendix N from the AD&D Dungeon Master’s Guide, Goodman Games has done a masterful job of taking inspiration from the old, while blazing new ground. Are you listening, WotC?

I’ve been anticipating this game’s release since the beta of it came out this past summer. I was very happy to discover the link to the PDF of the Core Book waiting for me in my inbox on Friday. I’ve had a preorder on this book since sometime in October, and recently upped the ante to the gold-foil cover. Apparently there is a secret message on the front, but I haven’t been able to spot it yet. Hopefully I’ll be able to once the final book is in my hands.

Judging from the PDF, this will be my favorite RPG gamebook of all time. It is absolutely filled to the brim with old school style black and white art from incredible artists, some familiar, some legendary, some new to me, all inspiring. But it’s not only the art that is inspiring, it’s the intriguing way Goodman Games has combined nostalgia with compelling new game mechanics.

For instance, there are only four classes and four playable races. However, harkening back to the truly old school, if you’re an Elf, that is your race and your class. The same goes for Dwarves and Halflings. The four classes are (you guessed it) Warrior, Cleric, Thief, and Wizard. When it comes down to it, aren’t all other classes just shades of the almighty four?

In a nod to more recent editions, AC is ascending, starting with 10, and there are 3 saves (the familiar) Reflex, Fortitude, and Will. The stats are a bit different however. Players are encouraged to roll them 3d6 in order from top to bottom (hardcore old school!). They are Strength, Agility, Stamina, Personality, Intelligence, and Luck. Most of function as you might imagine, but Luck plays a very interesting role indeed.

Luck can be spent throughout the game to modify roles. Miss an agility check to jump a chasm by 2? Burn two luck points and you make it. Theives and Halflings regenerate luck at a rate of one point per day, other classes can use it, but once it’s gone, it’s gone. GMs can award luck points at their whim to show favor from the gods. At the time of character creation, a 1d30 (you read that right) is rolled to determine what else the luck stat’s modifier affects. I rolled up two characters, and for one he added his luck mod to his saves, the other used double the luck mod to modify rolls on the crit/fumble table.

This brings us to another nod to the old school: TABLES! There are tables for a whole lot of different things in DCCRPG. Some may bemoan having to look something up all the time, but to me it gets to the heart of role-playing: sitting around a table with a bunch of friends surrounded by books, snacks, paper, and dice. Oh, and did I mention the dice? When I was a wee lad being introduced to dungeons and dragons in the late 80s, the first thing that really intrigued me were all these crazy looking dice! DCCRPG is bringing the magic back, using d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24, and d30 dice! The precision set I got in anticipation of the release of the game I wasn’t really pleased with, but they’ll get the job done.

DCCRPG is bringing the magic back to role-playing games (OH MAGIC! I didn’t even talk about how awesome wizards and clerics are!). If you’re becoming bored with the systems you’ve played in the past, or want to rekindle the feeling you had when you first discovered role-playing games, pick yourself up a copy. We’ll have a play review up as soon as we can get together for a delve!

Categories: 5e, Adventure, DCCRPG, DnD, News, Reviews, RPGs, Tips

Critically Delicious

April 5, 2012 Comments off

As you may have read, we are kinda fond of Kickstarter at Skyland Games. We’ve individually helped to fund a bunch of stuff, mostly game or geek-related. I’ve done 6 myself… some playing cards, some comic books and some game-related. My most recent Kickstarter was Dice Candies. In my experience, there’s two things gamers really like to do: eat and buy dice. You can never have enough snacks and you can never have enough dice. Dice Candies blends these two together by creating chocolate (or sugar) polyhedral dice.

At our regular Wednesday night Pathfinder game, I told everyone we had a special surprise but we had to wait for everyone to show up. When I took out the silver pack and the candies, everyone commented how cool they were and what a great idea it was. I asked everyone to roll a d20 and whoever got highest would get their choice of die to consume. Of course, the d20 went first, followed by the d12 and so on down the line until the low roller chose the d4 (he’s a… unique… person so it’s not surprising he’d take the d4 to be different). We offered the host’s wife the d6, but she declined. I think even if it was chocolate, it may have been too geeky for her.

For some reason, even though I followed the updates pretty closely, I got it in my head that the dice were hollow. I was pleasantly surprised that they were quite solid. And very tasty. I told everyone that they were made of cacao, and there were some jokes at my expense related to a Portlandia skit, but we all enjoyed them very much. At $7.99 MSRP they’re definitely for special occasions and would make great gifts. After the Kickstarter, it seems like he’s going to be continuing to produce (and expand?) his product, so I’m sure this won’t be the last we see of these delicious treats. Check out his website for ordering information.

Categories: Dice, kickstarter, News, Reviews, Tips Tags: ,