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Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes – Review

May 26, 2018 Comments off

The latest 5E D&D book hit Friendly Local Gaming Stores this week: Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes. I purchased this book thinking it would be essentially a supplementary monster manual along the lines of the classic Fiend Folio. In fact, this book follows the format provided in Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

The first section details classic D&D struggles of Demons vs. Devils, Elves vs. Drow, Dwarves vs. Duergar, Githyanki vs. Githzerai, and… Halflings vs. Gnomes?! Not really, but they wanted to include some new material for the little guys so they threw them together at the end. The second section is a more traditional bestiary with monster stat blocks, as well as stats for NPCs that the DM could use to illustrate the struggles detailed in the first half. There are brief sidebars representing personal notes from Mordenkainen about different sections of the book. Unlike the fun disclaimer in Volo’s or the entertaining condescending disdain in Xanathar’s, the sidebars here add little if anything. This is disappointing as a similar format was followed in one of my favorite 4E supplements, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and those side bars added really cool details and perspective.

There is a great deal of background information and flavor text detailing the various struggles illustrated in the first half of the book. This may provide excellent context for classic rivals like demons vs. devils or elves vs. drow and reasons behind these struggles. There is also quite a bit of detail associated with the pantheon of gods for each race including alignment, province (what they are known for) as well as suggested domains and common holy symbols. Each section spends some time on world-specific variants of races (Gully Dwarves in Dragonlance, cannibal Halflings in Dark Sun), but usually without stats to make them anything more than window dressing.

Peppered throughout the first section are a few player options and sub-races with traits and tables to help provide more character details for PCs, especially if you like playing Tieflings or Elves. Tieflings gain 8 optional sub-races to demonstrate allegiance or infernal origins associated with a particular layer of the nine hells (Asmodeus being the default described in the Player’s Handbook). New elven options include four distinct eladrin variants that correspond with the seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter), as well as a Sea Elf and the goth cousins from the Shadowfell, the Shadar-Kai. The Dwarven section provides the Duergar as a playable race. Githzerai and Githyanki traits and tables are provided as PC options as well. While additional halfling personality/ideal/bond/flaw tables are provided, the only new sub-race in the last chapter of the first section are deep gnomes (aka svirfneblin).

The bestiary second half of the book includes some fantastic dual-page artwork, as well as helpful indexes that sort creatures by type, CR, as well as typical environment.

This book is for DMs looking for inspiration using some of the classic D&D struggles detailed over the 40 years of monster manuals of every edition. It is also for players who may be looking for a particular sub-race they miss from a previous edition or more background details and inspiration for new characters. Should you buy it? Maybe. This one isn’t as essential as Xanathar’s as it isn’t as great a value for the money from a player options perspective. As a DM, if you already own the adventure Into the Abyss, there will be a significant amount of repeated stat blocks as all the demon lords are repeated here. If you’ve always wondered what the story was behind why demons and devils fight, or the origins of the elven diaspora, this is the book for you.

Categories: 5e, Books, Characters, DnD, News, Reviews, RPGs, WOTC

Fully Operational Review – Star Wars Age of Rebellion

April 8, 2018 Comments off

The latest sourcebook for Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Age of Rebellion is Fully Operational. This sourcebook expands the options available for the Engineer career, and adds three new species, three new specialization options, as well as some interesting crafting options to the FFG Star Wars system.

As always, the career sourcebooks follow the familiar format of three sections: player options, gear/vehicles, and finally additional mechanics and systems for GM and PC use. Both Edge and Age have some overlap when it comes to careers and specializations that make sense for PCs in both lines. We’ve seen this show up in the past with FFG repeating certain species and specializations that could apply to careers in either line. One could almost understand if FFG wanted to copy and paste from the excellent Edge sourcebook for technicians Special Modifications. In this case, they resisted that temptation, and this book is a better value for it.

When reviewing this book, I immediately grabbed my copy of Special Modifications to see if there was any overlap, and I had to do a bit of a double-take: in the new Age book one of the new specializations is Droid Specialist, but in the Edge book it is Droid Tech. The trees have some similar skills, but some unique ones as well. This was a refreshing change from seeing careers like Heavy being copied whole-cloth between lines. It could also allow for some interesting multi-classing giving a PC an opportunity to stack lots of ranks of talents like Machine Mender and Hidden Storage, while also providing new talents in this book like Design Flaw (add 1 advantage per rank when attacking droids at personal scale) and Repair Patch Specialization (heal an additional wound per rank when using an emergency repair patch). Similarly, the crafting section focuses on facility and ship/vehicle crafting and doesn’t go over the gear/droid/cybernetics of the other book. What surprised me the most was how much of this book did not retread what had been established by Special Modifications.

Three new species are detailed in this book. The Bith on the cover (made famous as the band members in Mos Eisley cantina), Kaminoans (genetic engineers of the clones from the Clone Wars), and Skakoans, often synonymous with the Techno Union.

The Bith, while cool and recognizable from the original trilogy, don’t seem to make the best choice for an engineer. The have a one in brawn and a three in presence, and a two for everything else including Intellect. They start with a rank in perception and have sensitive hearing, but none of that predisposes them to make great engineers. They seem like a better fit for the Colonist-Performer specialization.

Kaminoans are a natural fit for this book, starting with a three in Intellect, a rank in Medicine, a rank of the Researcher talent, and most humorously trait called Expressionless. This results in a setback die for Charm checks and provides a setback die for others making social skill checks targeting Kaminoans. This really evokes Obi Wan’s experience when meeting them in the prequels, and would be fun to role-play.

Skakoans may be the least recognizable of the three, and as methane-breathers like the Gand, can pose environmental challenges other PCs may not face. Interestingly, this is the first species that start the game with a type of armor. They require a specialized pressure suit that provides +2 soak and 3 hard points. They start with a three in Intellect and a rank in Knowledge (Education) and Mechanics, but with only 80 XP. As an Engineer you were going to train those up anyway, so not a bad trade really.

The three new specializations include Droid Specialist, Sapper, and Shipwright. While the Droid Tech in Special Modifications focuses on building and commanding a droid army, the Droid Specialist can build them up, or break them down. In addition to the core Engineer skills of Athletics, Computers, Knowledge (Education), Mechanics, Perception, Piloting (Space), Ranged (Light) and Vigilance, this spec adds another Computers, Cool, another Mechanics, and Melee. These skills paired with the talents in the tree make this PC brainy, but pretty good in a fight at range or up close and personal.

The Sapper seems like it would be quite close to the saboteur, and much like the droid specs above they have some similarities, but are not identical at all. The Sapper focuses on construction as well as destruction, specifically of facilities and emplacements. In addition to the core skills, Sapper adds another Athletics, Knowledge (Warfare), another Mechanics, and Survival. One interesting new talent on the tree is Improvised Defenses. This allows the PC to make an average Survival check to create cover for up to four characters for the rest of the encounter.

Shipwright is quite the unique specialization. At first blush you would think it would be similar to Rigger in the Ace book or Modder in the Technician book, but it shares very few talents with either. Shipwright adds Gunnery, another Knowledge (Education), another Mechanics and another Piloting (Space) to the Engineer core skills making it the most laser-focused engineer specialization. Some talents you would expect are here like Solid Repairs, but also Dockyard Expertise which reduces time and cost of repairs by 25% per rank. Also Push the Specs which increases the top speed of the ship with an average Knowledge (Education) check. Creative Design allows a PC to apply a number of advantage equal to ranks in the talent to a crafting check, while allowing the GM to apply an equal number of threat.

The signature abilities include The Harder They Fall and Unmatched Ingenuity. The Harder They Fall allows once per session, a PC to spend two destiny points and make a hard mechanics check that if successful, automatically critically hit vehicles, droids or structures whenever they suffer wounds or hull trauma. This seems quite overpowered, but most of the signature abilities are. Unmatched Ingenuity allows once per session a PC to spend two destiny points and make a hard mechanics check to add one item quality to a weapon or item they are holding or operating. They can spend a triumph to add an additional quality, and advantage to increase the value of the quality if applicable.

The weapons section is pretty excellent for what is one of the more brainy and less combat-focused careers, but as one might expect from a career that includes both saboteur and sapper, the explosives are the highlight. Grenade additions include both Incendiary and Cryoban, as well as explosive compounds and devices for taking out structures and emplacements. My favorite is Flex-5 Detonite Tape that consists of a bulky roll of tape for breaching doors or lightly armored objects. This section also includes stats for Bardium charges, Detonite (think c-4), Fuel-Air Bombs, and Shaped charges. Not only are there stats for one charge, but how they stack when using multiple charges.

Gear section highlights include the Model 40 Repulsor Hoist and modular base structures. For a mere 3 encumbrance and 550 credits you can get a set of 6 repulsors to help hoist a disabled vehicle for field repairs or towing up to a silhouette 4 up to two meters high. Modular base structures allow you to build a quick and inexpensive command center, barracks, and hangar/motor pool. This could be a fun adventure session in itself!

The vehicle section has some cool engineer-focused transports and construction vehicles. Among these are stats for a silhouette 7 mobile space dock that would serve as an interesting adventure locale to get ship repairs, or defend from imperial attack. New vehicle weapons include stats for a tow cable launcher, ion torpedoes, and a termite torpedo which would likely be quite the headache for a PC ship targeted by such a weapon.

The last section includes some interesting ideas for using the Mechanics skill, as well as spending advantage, threat, triumph and despairs on engineering-focused checks. There is a fairly substantial section on making repair and construction efforts in different settings and environments like an active battlefield, desert/tundra, high-atmosphere, a firefight, forest/jungle, underwater, etc. Next is a section dedicated to converting civilian vehicles and facilities to military applications. This would certainly inspire at least a session or two of game materials. Finally, the most substantial section is dedicated to crafting ships and vehicles. This follows the same format as droids, weapons, and cybernetics from Special Modifications and goes into quite a bit of detail about different aspects such as frames, engines, and hulls. Each of these have their own template tables and advantage/threat, triumph/despair result suggestions. This may prove challenging to get an entire table of PCs to get excited about during a session unless the adventure or campaign is focused on building out new ships and bases for the rebels.

To wrap up the last section there are a few campaign ideas focused on a shipyard, a battle station, and combat engineering. Yet again FFG Star Wars is proving to be consistently high quality and worth purchasing. Unlike other RPGs that run out of quality material before they run out of supplements, FFG Star Wars seems to be getting even better and more refined the more books they produce. This is one of the better sourcebooks in the Age line, and I imagine using several ideas from it in future adventures.

Categories: Books, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

How NOT to run a kickstarter: the cautionary tale of Top Secret NWO

April 1, 2018 2 comments

Let this be a lesson to those of us who back RPG Kickstarters: If the publisher won’t release a PDF before sending the document to the printers, they have something to hide. For those unfamiliar with Top Secret: New World Order, this was a kickstarter launched last summer to serve as an update to the venerable Top Secret system published by TSR in the 80s. This new version of the system was created by the original administrator himself: Merle Rasmussen, and thanks to a trademark lapse on the part of WotC and Hasbro, was created by the new TSR games. The new TSR also published the now defunct Gygax magazine, which had its own trouble, but that is beyond the scope of this post.

This project started with a lot of promise and a fair amount of polish that inspired confidence. Things started to get shaky once the initial (and overly-ambitious) estimated delivery window lapsed. This in itself, is almost more common than kickstarters delivering on time (or in very rare cases, early) so was not cause for alarm. What disturbed many backers was the reluctance by the publisher to release a PDF before sending it to the printer. As many backers (several superbackers: backers that have supported more than 25 projects with pledges of at least $10 in the past year) pleaded in comments on the project and subsequent updates to allow us a look at the PDF before sending it to the printer. Several of us cited instances in which backers  help proof read the project to make sure the final product was the best it could be, and the benefits of free labor by big fans for a better game.

Sadly, these repeated requests were denied by the publisher. The sole (flimsy) excuse was to preserve the “unboxing experience.” Imagine people who are so passionate about a project you’ve created not only are they willing to throw money at you, but also provide free labor to help make your dream the best it can be. Why would you turn those people down? To add insult to injury, the publisher posted an UNBOXING VIDEO of an advanced copy of the game. So… release the PDF? Pubisher’s response: No. Because… reasons.

Well let me tell you my “unboxing experience” was ruined by discovering several typos and errors in just a passing review of the core rules. First example: ICON, the secret organization of spies the PCs work for – foil stamped on the special edition of the rulebook – International Clandestine Operations Network. Open the book, page 7, just after the table of contents: ICON – International COVERT oprerations network. This is just the first of several examples.

As you can imagine, I cannot recommend purchasing this system or supporting this publisher in any way until these issues are addressed. I hope they learned their painful lesson, I’m just sad to see how much it will likely cost them.

If you would like to see a kickstarter properly run, check out Mutant Crawl Classics. The exact opposite of this story is what Goodman Games has done with MCC. Initially, MCC was developed and edited by people very familiar with Dungeon Crawl Classics. This was advertised as a stand-alone system, not an add-on for DCC and attracted a lot of fans of post-apocalyptic systems like Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha. When Goodman Games released the PDF months before they sent it to the printers, there were issues: missing descriptions, assumptions made from familiarity with DCC, and slight typos and clarifications that were needed. Rather than pressing forward with the print schedule, and likely Gen Con release, Goodman Games implemented changes, updated the PDF, and sent a much better product to print (albeit 6 months later than expected). The result: a much better product received by enthusiastic fans ready to play with clear rules.

If you are ever so lucky to come up with an idea that people want to not only donate money, but proof reading to help make your product the best it can be: take them up on it.

Categories: Books, kickstarter, MCC, News, Reviews, RPGs

Star Wars – Dawn of Rebellion review

March 3, 2018 Comments off

The recently released Dawn of Rebellion is the first Era Sourcebook for the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG line. Unlike previous books, this is the first to bridge all three lines of Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny. This comes out just as the Rebels TV show is coming to an end. For fans of both the Rebels animated series and the Rogue One movie, this book is full of stats for both characters and vehicles seen in each.

This book is a bit thicker than most specialization books, but about on par with Lords of Nal Hutta and Suns of Fortune weighing in at 144 pages. There are four chapters broken down into Worlds in Revolt, Organizations, Player Options and Game Master Support.

Worlds in Revolt features several systems that play an important role in the era including Alderaan, Atollon, Dathomir, The Death Star, Jedha, Lothal, and smaller sections on other places just called Other Worlds. Each system has the familiar fact sheet and picture of the planet featured in other releases, followed by a longer description of points of interest as well as key NPCs and a modular encounter that would work nicely as a mini-session in each system.

Often RPG books can be broken down in a crunch:fluff ratio, meaning how much of the book is stats and numbers compared to flavor text that helps bring the world alive, without providing those numbers that mechanically affect the game. This book leans towards the fluff-heavy, but details a satisfying amount of gear, creatures, NPCs and vehicles to keep the crunch crowd happy. The organizations section in particular features a lot of information on the Empire, Rebellion and Independent Organizations like The Broken Horn Syndicate (Vizago’s smugglers from Rebels), The Free Ryloth Movement, and the Protectors of Concord Dawn. Each has a few key NPCs detailed and some background information. Each main character of the Rebels TV show is statted out, as well as Shore Troopers, Death Troopers, Agent Callus, the Inquisitors, Vader and Thrawn. From the Independent Organizations you get stats for Fenn Rau, Azmorigan, Hondo Ohnaka, Ketsu Onyo and Lando Calrissian (previously statted out in Jewel of Yavin). This section gives you plenty of key characters to interact with if you want to start a party that runs in parallel to the events of Rebels or Rogue One. This seems to fly in the face of the wisdom expressed in previous books about shying away from key figures, since it is a pretty big galaxy after all. I think it is pretty cool to provide the stats for folks, since people try and make them up in the FFG forums anyway, and can add some gravity to your session. Hopefully, Vader won’t cut through your party like he did those rebels at the end of Rogue One.

The Player Options section introduces six new universal specializations that can be purchased for 10x the amount of specializations the PC currently has in XP. The book suggests this can add depth to a PCs past if chosen at the beginning of character creation, or could be a big reveal of a hidden past if chosen later. Either seems like a really compelling option to me, and I hope they come out with more of these in subsequent Era books. Those included in this are: Padawan Survivor (Kanan), Force Adherent (Chirrut), Imperial Academy Cadet (Han, Wedge, Sabine), Pirate (Hondo), Retired Clone Trooper (Rex), and Ship Captain (Hera). These trees include 4 bonus career skills (with the exception of Padawan which grants Force Rating 1 unless your PC already has it) and feature associated talents that can provide depth to your PC.

There are also four new species options from Rogue One: The loud-mouthed amphibian-like Dabatan, the Wookie/Wampa-like Gigorans, heavy-browed simian Iakaru (door gunner in the U-wing), and insecto-mammalian Tognaths (Saw’s lieutenant on Jedha).

The weapons section includes stats for Chirrut’s lightbow, Baze’s repeating cannon, and the Shore Trooper’s E-22 (linked 1 heavy rifle), and Death Trooper variant E-11D and DLT-19D Heavy blaster rifles.

The vehicles detailed include the AT-ACT, Occupier Assault Tank (Jedha), Delta-Class Shuttle (Krennic), TIE Striker and U-Wing. The U-Wing stats I found and used from FFG forums for my Rogue Two adventure were very close to the published stats. Also included are Arquittens-class Imperial cruiser and the hammer-head class corvettes use in Rebels and Rogue One, as well as the Ghost and both Phantom shuttles. There are also stats for the Death Star, which are so huge as to be nearly useless, but it does have a stat block.

The GM Support section includes a really nice idea about crafting a campaign like a season of a TV show, and even provides a roadmap for primary and secondary plots focusing on different characters as well as an overall story arc. We are attempting to do much this same thing with our own gaming group while sharing GMing duties. We’ve each contributed NPCs and planted story seeds that other GMs can choose to advance or go in a different direction. We’re only about 3 sessions in, but so far it has been really rewarding to not only share the GMing duties and responsibilities, but build our own corner of the galaxy together.

This section of the book provides the framework for either one GM to craft an entire season, or perhaps allow for a group to round-robin GM. This system has always provided a wealth of GMing resources and tips but this section of this book in particular goes above and beyond. It also discusses developing antagonists – villains that surpass a typical “big bad” at the end of an adventure and provide a long-lasting true nemesis. It also mentions antagonists don’t have to be evil to oppose the party such as Saw Gerrera, Fenn Rau and Cham Syndulla.The final part of the GM section deals with building a Rebel Cell campaign. This provides several ideas and seeds that can help groups write their own versions of Rebels or Rogue One.

Overall, this book is a great resource for those of us that watch the new movies or TV shows and start statting things we see out in our heads. It provides a ton of background information on this particular era of Star Wars and will be a great book for both players and GMs alike. I hope this is just the beginning and FFG is able to release a Knights of the Old Republic, Clone Wars, and possibly Force Awakens era books as well.

Categories: Books, News, Reviews, RPGs, Star Wars

Alternate DCC XP system

February 12, 2018 Comments off

Recently I signed up to run my first Road Crew games of 2018 for MACE West (I’ll be running Blades Against Death and co-Judging Inferno Road), and it got me thinking of years past. Back in 2013 there were a lot fewer modules and it took some salesmanship to recruit players and get them in to DCC. Back then, I had a few players show up consistently every week while most would only be there for some weeks and not others. At the time, I would have the PCs level up when I ran out of adventures for that level. Keeping track of XP seemed a bit nebulous using the rules as written:

“Each encounter is worth from 0 to 4 XP, and those XP are not earned merely by killing monsters, disarming traps, looting treasure, or completing a quest. Rather, successfully surviving encounters earns the characters XP in DCC RPG. A typical encounter is worth 2 XP, and the system scales from 0 to 4 depending on difficulty.”

This system is certainly my preference over D&D or Pathfinder experience systems, but still seems a bit nebulous for my taste. I really enjoyed the Pathfinder Society (organized play) XP system, in which PCs gain a level every 3 adventures. For DCC I would suggest the following modifications, which are really just an extrapolation of the classic optional rule:

“…consider allowing any 0-level characters that survive their first adventure to automatically advance to 1st-level and 10 XP.”

Why not use this type of system for every level? Rather than leveling every session, I would suggest 1 earned XP for each adventure survived, with the next level being the number of new experience to achieve it. This table should make more sense:

Level

New XP for next level

Total XP for next level

0

1

1

1

2

3

2

3

6

3

4

10

4

5

15

5

6

21

This allows for a more traditional XP curve (rather than 3xp = 1 level like in PFS) while reducing book keeping to a minimum. This also allows PCs to “catch up” if they join the campaign late or have a PC die early on. I feel this provides a reasonable advancement table, without requiring much record keeping on the part of the Judge or the players. Next time I run a long-running drop-in/drop-out sort of DCC campaign this will certainly be the way I manage XP and advancement.

Legacy of Dragonholt review

January 30, 2018 Comments off

Legacy of Dragonholt by Fantasy Flight Games is a bit unique in what has become a crowded RPG and board game space. This new boxed-set is part choose-your-own-adventure, part RPG, and part board game.

This game is set in the FFG fantasy world of Terrinoth, for which the first Genesys sourcebook has been announced. It is pretty recognizable as the traditional Tolkien-inspired fantasy world filled with elves, orcs, gnomes, and humans, with a few exceptions like catfolk as a PC race. Their are fairly typical class options: bard, knight, thief, sage, wildlander, apothecary, and brawler.

This game could serve as an excellent introduction to RPGs for younger players and is certainly something an entire family could enjoy. The character creation process is mechanically light, in that you choose associated skills based on your race and class choices. Much like the Tales from the Loop age mechanic, the more skills you choose, the less stamina you have. This allows you to build a character that is skilled but fragile, or oafish but tough.

Beyond that, you’re encourage to add as much background, personality, and description for your character as you like, but those elements just inform your decisions on the choices presented to you. This game is very narrative-heavy, but role-play light. For those more familiar with running traditional RPG adventures, it is essentially endless box text. This kind of structure can be great for new or younger players, but may frustrate experienced gamers if you don’t know what to expect.

Playing this with my wife was quite entertaining, as we took turns reading and making choices. For multiplayer games you each get a token that you flip once you’ve made a choice to make sure every one gets a chance to gain both the risks and rewards of actions taken during the adventure. Some actions only affect the “active” player, while other actions may affect the entire group.

I could see this being quite entertaining as a solitaire game, as it is essentially a choose-your-own-adventure style game book with the best props and maps I’ve ever seen for the genre. I haven’t tried a six player game, but I could see how it could be a bit dull only making a choice every sixth time one is presented. That being said, we only completed the introductory adventure so far, and the map of town has numbered sections that may allow a bit more agency in future adventures.

All in all, this is a really interesting product that appeals to me as I’m a fan of gamebooks, choose-your-own-adventures, RPGs, and board games. It is a great fit for a game night in which everyone feels like a rules-light RPG, but no one wants to (or hasn’t had time to prepare to) GM. If that sounds good to you, I recommend picking this up. There are several adventures included, and depending on the character you build and the choices you make, there is a fair amount of replay value. Still on the fence? Download the PDFs of the rulebook, character creation guide, and sample characters from the product support page. May you choose wisely and have a grand adventure!

Categories: Adventure, Board, Books, Games, Reviews, RPGs

Genesys Review

December 26, 2017 2 comments

gns01_book_shadow

I spent some time over the holidays digesting the new Genesys Core Rulebook from Fantasy Flight games. As an avid fan of the Star Wars system that basically uses the same core mechanics, I figured I would enjoy FFG’s adaptations of those same concepts to other settings. The short version is, I was right! This will be my go-to system for creating unique settings, or adapting popular worlds (and IPs!) that either don’t have an RPG of their own, or the licensed RPG leaves a lot to be desired.

In my experience, other one-system-fits-all RPGs like Savage Worlds, FATE, or GURPS were OK, but failed to be really satisfying. Since you have to be able to do everything, they tend not to do anything exceedingly well.

gns01_upgradediceGenesys uses the narrative dice system from their Star Wars line with very few modifications. While the symbols on the dice are different (and some could argue more clear) if you have the Star Wars dice you can certainly use those, and do not have to buy new dice. The terminology is the same: Success/Failure, Advantage/Threat, Triumph/Despair, Boost/Ability/Proficiency dice, Setback/Difficulty/Challenge dice etc. The one omission being the Force die. Destiny points are called Story points in Genesys, and you start out with a static pool of one point per PC in the player pool, one point in the GM pool. I personally will likely house-rule this and include a roll of the force die to see whether the winds of fate are blowing for or against the PCs. Having a larger pool of destiny/fate/story points is more fun in my opinion.

This book packs a lot of great material in its 256 pages, for a very reasonable MSRP of $39.95. The system has certainly benefited from years of refinements in designing an entire shelf worth of Star Wars supplements. Sections of it read like a design guide for creating balanced skills, talents, species, and items. It offers insights in to the design process and provides a pretty elegant way to design a skill tree that feels both familiar, yet provides the tools and guidance to customize your setting.

Included are some basic profession archetypes like Laborer, Intellectual, and Aristocrat which could be adapted to any of the outlines of included settings like Fantasy, Steampunk, Space Opera, Sci-Fi, Modern and Weird War. All of the included settings have brief sections on possible species/races, items and adversaries. While not being exhaustive, they certainly cover the main tropes for each genre that provide the blueprint to allow endless expansion.

One section that got a significant overall is Social Encounters. Star Wars was moving in this direction with a lot of the more recent sourcebooks for socially-focused characters, but Genesys takes it a few steps further. As part of a social encounter (and potentially during combat using social skills!) PCs and NPCs can trade verbal barbs that actually cause strain damage equal to uncancelled successes similar to typical combat checks. An opponent is defeated once you exceed their strain threshold. All PCs and Nemesis NPCs have a Strength, Flaw, Desire, Fear, and Motivation that can be learned or accidentally revealed during the course of the encounter to the advantage of their opponent in future rounds. I think the key to successfully running these will be to allow the story to drive the mechanics rather than the other way around. PCs will still need to be fairly clever and creative in their social maneuverings, but the dice and motivations may be a fun way to represent or even inspire the ebb and flow of these encounters.

gns01_magic.jpgThere are also a few optional rule sets that make more sense in some settings than others. The vehicle rules/combat are very similar to Star Wars with very few additions. I did notice an additional range band added beyond extreme: Strategic range. This could be used in a variety of settings, but is defined by not being able to see each other with the naked eye, but only through some other means: sensors, spyglasses, radar etc. The magic rules are fairly unique and will be a pretty big departure for those used to playing wizards in D&D or similar systems. Spells are defined in broad strokes, allowing PCs to flavor them as they like, or as would be appropriate for their character. Examples include Attack, Augment, Barrier, Conjure, Curse, Dispel, Heal and Utility. Spells are divided into three main skills: Arcana, Divine, and Primal. Casters can also add special effects by increasing the number of difficulty dice. Turn a fire bolt into a fireball by adding the Blast quality and one difficulty die. Empower an attack to do damage equal to twice the characteristic linked to the skill for two extra difficulty dice. Bigger, badder spell? Harder to cast. Very elegant.

My only complaints are mostly aesthetic, which is a first for FFG RPGs. I knew going in we weren’t going to have the incredible art that drives the Star Wars universe, but the original art we do get are basically just sketches. I get its a toolkit/blueprint but not only does it look rough, it is much more sparse. At least give us a lot of it if its going to take a quarter of the time. Beyond that, the headings and subheads are in a very compact all-caps font in two shades of blue. Gross. Ideally, the various setting-specific books will have their own layout and design team, because this book is below par.

That being said, I would highly recommend picking this one up in print or PDF! One benefit of not being under the yoke of the Disney/Star Wars license is modern digital formats! For an example of what can be built using the system, check out the Fallout theme over at d20 radio.

Categories: Uncategorized

DnDonations 4 – White Plume Mountain

December 6, 2017 Comments off

It is that most special time of year again: Dungeons & Donations! Our intrepid FLGS The Wyvern’s Tale is hosting a 24-hour marathon D&D session as a benefit for Extra Life that supports Children’s Miracle Network hospitals that will stream live on Twitch starting this Friday at 6pm EST! Just like in years past audience members can make donations that affect the game either to the players benefit (boons) or detriment (banes). The more you donate, the more dramatic the boon or bane!

New this year will be an assortment of raffles, prizes and auctions including a mini figure painting commission, the 2017 Gongfarmers Almanac, a hand-painted wooden shield, and some particularly weird items like a CD by David Hasselhoff, signed by David Hasselhoff. It is going to be a fantastically entertaining time!

Players will be adventuring through the classic White Plume Mountain converted to fifth edition from the awesome Tales from the Yawning Portal. Organizers are hoping to surpass last year’s awesome total of $3,275 raised, with every cent going to benefit Children’s Miracle Network. Be sure and tune in to twitch.tv this Friday, and watch your donations help or hinder the party. If you want to make the journey to the store and play in the game, details are here. Either way you’ll be helping out an awesome cause. Donate here. For the children!

Categories: 5e, holiday, Kids, News

DCC Enter The Dagon Review

September 27, 2017 Comments off

I’m running out of superlatives when it comes to DCC modules, but Harley keeps out-doing himself. This module weighs in at a monster 36 pages, and includes color photos from the tournaments at Gen Con in 2015 and 2016 that bore the same name. Enter the Dagon is much more than a typical DCC Tournament, it is an incredibly detailed 5th level adventure that centers around a spell duel tournament. Included are a page of streamlined spell duel rules that exclude some of the more fiddly bits from the DCC book like the momentum die, while maintaining cool elements like counter spells. It even provides some suggestions for Counterspell Families for what spells can counter others.

The adventure also details a timeline of events and duels, as well as a separate appendix of awesome Kovacs art of the other wizard contenders and their retainers. This adventure combines some of my favorite of Harley’s adventure mechanics: somewhat of a sandbox non-linear feel like Fate’s Fell Hand, and some time restrictions/pressure like Bride of the Black Manse. The time restrictions aren’t as literal as in Bride, but it does give the Judge a solid timeline of events to keep the adventure moving if their is a lull in the action.

Like most 5th level DCC adventures, this one would require significant preparation on the part of the Judge, and would not likely work well for a typical convention slot. This easily has at least two sessions if not three of material. One of the best features of the adventure is the centerfold map of the island. It shows the different towers of the wizard combatants and other areas of interest, but doesn’t provide any spoilers so should definitely be shared with the players to give them a sense of the environs. The wizard combats have awesome portraits that you will likely want to copy and print out like I did for Intrigue at the Court of Chaos. Having these awesome visuals really brings this adventure to life!

For fans of “The Band” in its many forms, this adventure shows the all-lady band meeting Hugh’s band on the island, reuniting them! The last two pages shows both bands, with the ladies getting a colorful cosmic background, while the actual band members remain in black and white (besides color kitten knees, and everyone loves color kitten knees).

Even if you’re not a DCC superfan or an adventure collector like myself, this is one to own. Highly recommended!

The centerfold map in progress, along with the meeting of the bands underneath!

Categories: Adventure, DCCRPG, Reviews, RPGs

Scarefest 2017 Preview – One month away!

September 21, 2017 Comments off

It is that time of year again: The air starts to get a bit cooler, the trees on the mountaintops begin to turn crimson, gold, and umber. Scarefest is upon us! This year looks bigger and more awesome than ever with an appropriately excellent theme of a Spooky Carnival. I’m sure given the box office success of IT there won’t be any creepy clowns there, right? Right?! The line up of RPGs and sponsors is better than ever too!

It is great to see the incredible Pathfinder Society schedule of games still going strong as well as more deep and diverse selection of other RPGs: D&D, Dread, Dungeon Crawl Classics, WEG Ghostbusters, Savage Worlds, Star Wars, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Savage Kingdoms, Call of Cthulhu and more! Most of the game sessions feature spooky/scary scenarios that are on theme for the event.

Just announced today: Well Played Board Game Café is hosting the board game area! It will be great to have the newcomer to the Asheville gaming scene providing their expertise for all things board games!

This year there are custom dice celebrating not only this year, but years one and two as well. We all know you can never have enough dice. Tickets are still available, but lodging might be hard to come by on the Montreat conference center campus itself. If you are planning on attending, but haven’t secured your accommodations, be sure and reach out to the event staff.

I’ve got adventures to write and pre-gens to … generate. See you in mountains!

Scarefest 2015 – no filter

Categories: Board, Cons, Dice, News, Roleplaying, RPGs