Archive for June, 2015

Star Wars Age of Rebellion: Desperate Allies Review

June 30, 2015 Comments off

swa31-book-leftI picked up Desperate Allies on Free RPG day at our Friendly Local Gaming Store (which was a blast!) as well as the Force and Destiny Beginner Box. I’ll wait to review F&D after I run it once or twice, but I’ve now had time to read over the Sourcebook for Diplomats and have a few thoughts I’d like to share.

First off, let’s get to what this book adds to the game. The new races are Caamasi (weird fuzzy bird-like species from a world nearly annihilated by the empire), Neimoidians (Trade Federation! Boo!), and Gossam (silhouette-0 bug looking guys). The Caamasi have an interesting ability, in that they can (once per session) create a Memnis or perfectly recall certain events that can be shared with other Caamasi or a force-sensitive character. That has some cool story implications, and could be really fun for either an investigation or negotiation mission. The text for the Neimoidians pretty much says good luck playing one, since most have bad memories of the Trade Federation during the clone wars. Seems like a strange choice for a rebel, but if you’re looking for a challenge, you could go this route. No great special ability to speak of: start with a rank in deception or negotiation. The Gossam could be cool, since they are silhouette 0. They also start with a rank in deception.

swa31-mission-briefing-artThis book adds the standard 3 specializations to Diplomat. From the core Age book we have Ambassador, Agitator, and Quartermaster. This book details the Advocate, Analyst, and Propagandist. Something that jumped out at me about these options are they seem to play 2nd fiddle to a main “face” character. Several of the talents from the Advocate’s tree in particular modify another character’s roll. All Diplomats start with their choice of Charm, Deception, Knowledge (Core Worlds), Knowledge (Lore), Knowledge (Outer Rim), Knowledge (Xenology), Leadership, and Negotiation.

Advocate adds Coercion, another Deception, another Negotiation, and Vigilance. This is definitely the bad cop, in a good-cop bad-cop style deal. This spec is mostly about seeing through deceptions while crafting your own. I don’t feel like this would be the strongest choice, unless your campaign was mostly diplomatic missions. I think these skills have their place, but this is Star Wars! This spec just doesn’t do much for me.

Analyst has the most initial appeal to me. To the main skills, Analyst adds Computers, Knowledge (Education), Knowledge (Warfare) and Perception. The consumate skill-monkey and researcher, this could make a really fun droid character to play. If you wanted to be a bit more well-rounded, you could buy in to the recruit spec from the core book and hold your own in a fight. The analyst is likely the character with their face buried in a terminal during a firefight that your more martial characters are buying time for. Seems like a great addition to any rebel cell.

Propagandist has some interesting possibilities. To the core skills add another Charm, another Deception, Knowledge (Warfare) and Perception. They have a talent called Positive Spin which increases Duty by 1 per rank, allowing the party to “advance” more quickly in the ranks of the rebels. Towards the bottom of the tree there are interesting talents to influence NPCs. Bad Press allows you to make a Deception check once a session to decrease the wound threshold of members of an organization. Seems like if that organization was, I don’t know, THE EMPIRE that could be a bit over-powered. I’m sure its up the to the GM’s discretion, but wow. The illustration has a little floating camera droid I thought sure there would be stats for, but I haven’t been able to find any, if they are in the book.

no-time-to-panicThere are a couple of signature abilities for diplomats that this book provides. One is Diplomatic Solution which allows you to spend 2 destiny points and make a daunting charm check to turn a combat encounter into a social encounter instead. I think this is pretty clever, and definitely fits the flavor of the class. The other is Unmatched Insight which allows you to know background information of people you are negotiating with, that could be used as leverage.

In the equipment section there are a few blaster pistols,  bunch of great new non-lethal grenades (sonic, data-purge, and nightmare), and a whole section on Protocol Droid NPCs, much like Astromechs were in the Ace book. There are a number of interesting melee weapon additions, mostly stealthy in nature like needle gloves, a sword cane and a stealth vibroknife. Also, the armor section has some interesting entries in the Flare Jacket that allows once per encounter to trigger charges that can stagger foes (or really anyone) within short range, as well as a holographic suit that can be used for very quick costume changes, and the hauling harness (think Ripley’s cargo loader) that increases encumbrance capacity by 6, but also upgrades combat checks *twice*. Some other interesting additions include an ascension pistol (dedicated grappling-gun), security sweeper for surveillance devices, and a sound dampener that adds two setback dice to checks made to detect noise from the area in which it is used.

Included in the vehicle section are some luxury land speeders, as well as the J-Type diplomatic barge maybe better known as the Naboo cruiser, as well the the precursor to the more famous Lambda, the Kappa-class shuttle. There are a few interesting starship modifications, but the one that really piqued my interest was the holonet pirate array. This allows you to either communicate or monitor communications through the heavily restricted Imperial Holonet. Lots of cool adventure ideas came to mind once I read over the full description.

table-of-contentsThe last section details diplomatic mission ideas. A lot of these remind me of certain Clone Wars episodes: Maintaining Relations, Insurrection and the Empire, Diplomatic teams. At first I thought that diplomatic missions would be pretty dry, but when you think about it, so many parts of Star Wars have to do with diplomatic negotiations, and making sure they proceed without a hitch. There are lots of great adventure seeds for different Diplomat specs and different motivations or duties. There are a few full multi-scene adventures that could be used as a quick outline for a session or two. Some of the most fun I’ve ever had in an RPG is when the party has a home base. In Edge, you are encourage to make your ship your home and place of refuge. In Age, you are encouraged to build a rebel base. This book talks about not only creating a base, but adding upgrades to it like medical facilities, hangers, an armory, training facilities, command and control. You could make this like base management from X-COM. Finally the book wraps up with a few campaign ideas revolving around diplomatic missions, and mentions awarding diplomat characters with non-material awards like contacts, honors, and favors from NPCs to be called in at a later date.

Overall at first blush I thought this book was not going to be the strongest choice. I have to admit diplomat did not hold a lot of interest for me when I first reviewed the core book. After reading this I have a new appreciate for the nuance that could go into a diplomatic character, and the wide variety of missions that could come out of this material. This is a great addition to the Age of Rebellion game, and I would highly recommend it.


Pathfinder Unchained: Summoner

June 15, 2015 Comments off

This week we conclude our examinations of the new classes and from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.

We are finally examining the new Unchained Summoner, one of the least changed classes. The summoner itself is basically unchanged except for the revamped spell list. Spells that were obviously out of place in the old version have been placed at higher levels, balancing the class out versus others of a comparable power level. The biggest change has been to the eidolon itself. Players now choose a template, such as angel or devil, that dictates its base form and gives a sort of cohesion to the eidolon and tie it to a game world better than some random smattering of evolution points. This template comes with several free evolutions, resistances and even class abilities (ex. agathions gain lay on hands at the summoner’s 8th level) in addition to the evolutions that eidolons already receive. Roleplay-wise, this is one thing that needed to be done.

The downside to this rebuild? Nothing. Or it should be if players did not want the older version. The new version fixes all the kinks and problems, such as the spell list and randomized eidolon parts, of the old version, but with the older version still around may mean the unchained version will stay in lower numbers for a long while.

The Unchained Summoner receives a grade of B+ because even though it sets everything right from the old version, players will still want the broken, over-powered version that appeared in the Advanced Player’s Guide. It receives the great marks from balance and role-play, but low on desirability.

Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a somewhat different type of build. We went with a build that uses the eidolon not as a tool of the summoner but more of a main character and the summoner taking the support role. We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on his name) and progression to level 8.

*** Loris of Almas ***

One of the most promising young orators and diplomats to come out of Andoran, Loris has long had dreams of becoming a great statesman. He was shocked to find that he had been chosen, some say by Talmandor himself, to become the liason of an avoral by the name of Gramann. Charged with presenting Golarion to Gramann, he has been trying to get his plumed obligation to see and understand the good and the evil of the world.

  • Level 1 – Extra Evolution, Summon Good Monster
  • Level 2 –
  • Level 3 – Combat Advice
  • Level 4 – +1 Charisma
  • Level 5 – Extra Evolution
  • Level 6 –
  • Level 7 – Battle Cry
  • Level 8 – +1 Charisma

Check out the other reviews of Unchained Classes:

Pathfinder Unchained: Rogue

June 12, 2015 5 comments

This week we continue to examine the new classes and options from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.

We will examine the new Unchained Rogue today, probably the best revision to a class in Pathfinder Unchained. The new version takes the old version and adds several new features. The Unchained Rogue automatically gets the Weapon Finesse feat, finesse training with allows you to add dexterity modifier to damage with a single weapon, debilitating injuries (penalties or bonuses) to sneak attacks and rogue’s edge. The rogue’s edge is part of Pathfinder Unchained’s skill unlocks system which adds abilities according to how many ranks of a specific skill you have (Five ranks of Stealth reduces the penalty from sniping by 10). In Pathfinder Organized Play, this is special to the Unchained Rogue; no other classes are allowed to have this. By adding these four things the Unchained version of the rogue is so much better.

The only possible downside to the new rogue is the continued lack of armor class boosters. But for those who have played or are playing a rogue, those are not problems for you and you know how to overcome that with flanking and stealth. Honestly, it is not really a problem.

The Unchained Rogue has been made revised and upgraded beyond what many were expecting. With all of the new changes the rogue gets a grade of A+; all of the additions have made this class more attractive to play while keeping the versatility and abilities of the rogue that players are accustomed to.
Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a different type of build. We went with a build that uses a finessable two-handed weapon and combat maneuvers (trip or disarm). We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on her name) and progression to level 8.

*** Alyssa Denaria ***

Playing the role of the young, naive girl like an expert, Alyssa is able to accomplish many more things that if she was a hulking brute for the Pathfinder Society and the Exchange. Her subtle and lithe movements are calculated and she draws on her Varisian heritage to become an expert in reading the Harrow cards, a master of the beautiful dance and a wielder of a deadly bladed scarf.

  • Level 1 – Combat Expertise, Improved Trip (or Disarm)
  • Level 2 – Combat Trick (Agile Maneuvers)
  • Level 3 – Piranha Strike
  • Level 4 – Trap Spotter, +1 Strength
  • Level 5 – Rogue’s Edge (Escape Artist), Twist Away
  • Level 6 – Surprise Attacks
  • Level 7 – Extra Talent (Pressure Points)
  • Level 8 – Distracting Attack, +1 Intelligence

Are you happy with the new changes to the rogue? Let us know!

And have you seen our reviews of the Unchained Barbarian and the Unchained Monk? Which of the classes (so far) have piqued your interest?

Pathfinder Unchained: Monk

June 10, 2015 2 comments

This week we will continue to examine the revamped classes and new options from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.

Today, we will examine the new Unchained Monk, one of the best revisions to a class in Pathfinder Unchained. The most outstanding revision is to the flurry of blows. It is now an additional attack at the monk’s highest base attack bonus as part of the full-attack action. It is much simpler to calculate than the older version. This version of the monk has a FULL base attack bonus and a higher hit die, making it more formidable and increasing its survivability in combat. Some of the higher level abilities (abundant step, etc.) that were part of the old version of the monk are now part of the selection of ki powers and not automatically given, adding some versatility to the class. There is a vast selection of ki powers, bonus feats and style strikes to push the versatility to the next level. Style strikes are new and they are abilities used during an unarmed attack during a flurry of blows that add an effect if the attack hits. There are elbow smashes, flying kicks and foot stomps and more that give some really interesting bonuses when attacking.

A continual issue with the monk is the lack of armor class. Even though a monk can add the wisdom modifier in with the dexterity modifier, it still is behind any other class that calls itself a front line unit. Of course to offset this you will need to supplement with rings, amulets, bracers, potions or even wands to obtain a decent armor class. The Will save will also need to be supplemented since the monk now has slow progression for that save (but not Fortitude or Reflex).

The Unchained Monk has been revised and upgraded beyond expectations to make the monk more viable and fun to play. So with all of the new changes the monk gets a grade of A-, with the only bad marks coming from the continual lack of a high armor class and a low Will save.

Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to show how much power the new version of monk actually has. We went with more strength than finesse and with the full base attack bonus, we were able to pick up some abilities sooner than as a regular monk.

How much power can this monk put out? At level 1, flurry of blows yields 2 attacks with the seven branch sword, a two-handed weapon. At level 3, flurry of blows + ki attack yields 3 attacks with the sword. At level 5, flurry of blows + haste + ki attack would be a total of 5 attacks (1. leg sweep style strike (unarmed damage); 2. if trip successful, triggers AoO attack with the sword thanks to Vicious Stomp; 3. flurry attack with sword; 4. haste attack with sword; 5. ki attack with sword.) At level 7, it could be 7 attacks (Greater Trip gives another AoO during the initial trip and the monk gets iterative attacks at level 6). When you reach level 8, you could probably solely use unarmed strikes (1d10+10+1d6 elemental fury) instead of using the sword. We included haste into the level 5+ attack scenarios because that should be available to the monk.

We (as always) provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on his name, Power Attack is already factored in) and progression to level 8.

*** Tamagon the Youngerman ***

When not inspecting the latest artifact brought to the Grand Lodge or teaching fighting techniques to his fellow Pathfinders, Tamagon dedicates his service in the Society to doing good in Absalom and beyond. Each one of the short L-shaped blades on his seven branch sword has a sin (of the Seven Deadly Sins) etched on it. His goal is to stop an instance of each sin every week, which he denotes by tying a ribbon on the corresponding blade.

  • Level 1 – Combat Reflexes, Power Attack
  • Level 2 – Improved Grapple
  • Level 3 – Vicious Stomp
  • Level 4 – Quiggong Power (Feather Step), +1 Intelligence
  • Level 5 – Style Strike (Leg Sweep), Combat Expertise
  • Level 6 – Improved Trip, Elemental Fury
  • Level 7 – Greater Trip
  • Level 8 – Abundant Step, +1 Strength

What do you think about the changes to the monk? Would you give them the same grade? Why or why not?

Check out our previous review of the Unchained Barbarian HERE.

Pathfinder Unchained: Barbarian

June 8, 2015 5 comments

This week we will examine the revamped classes and new options from Pathfinder Unchained for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game. This book takes four classes (barbarian, monk, rogue, summoner) and tries to address the problems of their previous edition versions and fix them. There are some clear cut winners and losers while some are change with only mediocre results.

Today, we will examine the new Unchained Barbarian, one of the mediocre ones. The biggest change to the barbarian is its rage ability. The new version of rage takes out the attribute bonuses, simplifying the need for players to have to recalculate everything associated with strength and constitution, including extra hit points, and replaces it with a version that gives static bonuses to attack and damage and grants temporary hit points. By getting rid of the increased hit points through the constitution boost and givng temporary hit points instead, the risk of death when a barbarian comes out of rage is eliminated. While the temporary hit points may be the best thing to happen to barbarians since Conan, having increased strength replaced by the static bonuses (attack and damage) leaves them unable to show off said strength while in a rage (breaking down doors, etc.) and less of a bonus when wielding two-handed weapons. That is where this rage loses.

Unchained also adds a plethora of new rage powers for the barbarian. Stances, activated during rage with a move action, are new rage powers that give abilities that last over the course of a rage and not just once a rage (or even a day). Stances look like variations of the D&D 4th Edition Essentials fighter class who had stances instead of powers. Some of the stances are good and scale nicely over levels and some just do nothing for the barbarian. Examples are powerful stance which adds increasing damage over level progression but others like accurate stance just do not give much of a relevant boost. Of course, some of these stances are the beginning of rage power chains that gets more powerful at higher levels.

Overall, the Unchained Barbarian tackles the disadvantages of the original barbarian, but opens up new problems created by the new rage power and stance powers to get a grade of C+ (which may be higher than any grade any barbarian has ever gotten).

Since Unchained is different than the original, we decided to go with a non-tradtional race and direction. Instead of a half-orc with a greataxe, we have a tengu with two swords in a more finesse type of build than a hard hitting smasher. We provided some background information, a level 1 character sheet (click the link on his name) and progression (feats and rage powers) to level 8.

** Cawsus Blackfeather **

Hailing from the far, far east, Cawsus joined the Pathfinder Society after being rescued by field agents there. He wields a traditional pair of daisho with deadly efficiency but often leaves himself open when he ‘loses’ himself in battle. Although a little flighty, Cawsus considers himself one of the best swordsmen and uses his abilities to protect his fellow Pathfinders.

Level 1 – Two Weapon Fighting
Level 2 – Powerful Stance
Level 3 – Power Attack
Level 4 – Knockback, +1 Dexterity
Level 5 – Tengu Wings
Level 6 – Ground Breaker
Level 7 – Improved Two Weapon Fighting
Level 8 – Crippling Blow, +1 Constitution

What do you think? Did they ‘fix’ the barbarian? What other issues do you think need to be fixed? And come back next week for Pathfinder Unchained: Monk as we take a look the new monk.

Citadels Review

June 2, 2015 Comments off

citidels.pngI got a chance to play an intriguing card game over the weekend called Citadels from Fantasy Flight. It is a fairly balanced blend of strategy and randomness that I look for in board/card games. The goals is to build a diverse city as quickly as possible, while assuming different roles each turn that provide different abilities to give you advantages over the other players. Some roles like Bishop, Merchant, Warlord, and King give you extra income based on what districts you already have built in your city. Assassin allows you to choose a role that cannot act that round (murder!), thief allows you to steal the gold from a particular role, architect allows you to build multiple districts in a round, and draw more cards, etc.

The interesting mechanic is how these roles are chosen. Each round, the roles act in the same order, and whoever chose King the last round, picks first for the next round. One role is randomly removed and not available that turn. Once the current King chooses whatever role they want for the next round, they pass the cards to the next player. Once it gets all the way around to the last player, they can choose either the last card, OR the one that was randomly set aside by the king. Players can use logic, and what roles were available when they chose their role to try and figure out what others chose, but there is always a bit of mystery about who chose what. When the thief or assassin announce their targets, they chose ROLE targets, not player targets, making it quite entertaining to conceal your role, while still gaining a tactical advantage in building your city faster than the other players. More information can be found at this intro site.

character-fanI would certainly recommend picking this one up. We were playing with 7, but can be played with between 2-7. I would think this game would be better with more players rather than less to increase the amount of available roles and intrigue. If it is out of stock at your FLGS, take heart! According to the Fantasy Flight site, it looks like a restock is on the slow boat from China.


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