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Review: Ultimate Psionics

March 10, 2014 Comments off

psionicsOne of the Kickstarters that I had been waiting for excitedly and impatiently was Ultimate Psionics by Dreamscarred Press.  The original Kickstarter back in 2012 was to combine Dreamscarred’s Psionics Unleashed and Psionics Expanded into a single hardcover.  With all of the stretch goals achieved, the book grew even larger with more content that took this book to a level that I was not expecting.  I purposely did not partake in the forums or even read the previous editions because I wanted to be introduced to psionics for the Pathfinder Role-Playing Game in a bold and fresh way.  Psionics have always intrigued me and I backed this one without hesitation.  And I am glad I did.

The content of this book is very informative and provides options for anything that a player may want to play.  The races, classes, skills, feats and powers run from the very simple to the more complex to be used easily by both beginners and experienced players alike.  Advanced options, such as archetypes, alternate racial traits and prestige classes, fit seamlessly with original and psionic character concepts.  Psionic weapons, armors and other items in the equipment chapter provide a few new options for any character, psionic or not.

The only drawback I could see is if you are not prepared for a psionics campaign.  Specifically targeting a player could lead to problems, but on the other hand there has to be ways to counter psionics.  A GM will need to be able to balance that effectively.

Let me just finally say that Ultimate Psionics is a beautiful book.  I was unable to get the full-color version of the book, but the art inside is top notch.  Dreamscarred did a great job with their artist pool and the gorgeous Wayne Reynolds cover ties it all together.

My recommendation?  Buy this book for your Pathfinder campaign.  Do it.

It was during the D&D 4th Edition Encounters season that introduced the Player’s Handbook 3 and I created the infamous Banglor Granitehide, dwarf battlemind.  It was during this time that I met the rest of the Skyland Games fellas.  After the end of the season we decided to keep our adventures going and create a campaign where each of us played a dwarf.  Sort of a bit of nostalgia for me; now back to Banglor.

Banglor Granitehide was a tough son-of-a-dwarf and I longed to convert him into Pathfinder, but there was no real way to do that, until now.  During his adventures in 4th Edition, he was basically untouchable as a battlemind (except for falls from ladders and beholder’s death rays) and even received an Elan body.  Keeping all that in mind I set about re-creating Banglor for Pathfinder.

I decided to go with the Elan race, but take the ‘failed transformation’ alternate trait to signify his origins as a dwarf.  I then chose to go with the Aberrant archetype of the Aegis class to give him the incredible resiliance he was known for.  Finally, I decided to level him to where he could take the Warmind prestige class, which closely matched the Paragon Tier he achieved in 4th Edition.  His character sheets are below; the first is just regular and relaxed, the second is focused and armored up.  I did this all by hand and I only found 2 mistakes (Will save is 1 too high and I think the Power Points are off).  I cannot wait until the Hero Lab files are released!

BanglorGranitehide BanglorGranitehideArmored

DABDA Do, DABDA Don’t

April 15, 2013 2 comments

Players give ‘life’ to their characters with traits that are usually extensions of themselves in some way.  Even while playing games such as Dungeon Crawl Classics or Traveler which uses a prolific amount of random character generation tables, players cannot help give personalities to their characters.  Other games, such as Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder, use a more detailed character generation system that allows more customization in which players put much more of themselves into their characters.  This results in players becoming attached to their characters and factors such as naming their character, customizing options and achieving higher levels contribute more to this attachment.  But we all know what inevitably comes to any character – death.

I used the widely-known Elisabeth Kubler-Ross 5 Step Model, also known under the acronym DABDA, as a basis to help explain player behavior when character death occurs.  Although Kubler-Ross initially applied these principles to those suffering from terminal illnesses, we can easily modify the principles for this article.  It is wise to remember that some players will not experience every step and if they do, it may be only briefly (as in seconds; think of any console game where you re-spawn).

1.       Denial – “Wait, what just happened?  No way!” 

In this first stage, players may deny that their character even died.  As a defense mechanism, some distance themselves from other players around them by becoming extremely quiet or sulking. 

2.       Anger – “That’s not fair!  That’s bull!” 

This stage usually manifests as a brooding anger instead of as an outburst.  Sometimes you may witness a player outburst, but that is usually not in a public setting such as a convention or at your local game store.

3.       Bargaining – “What if I do this, will that save him?”

Players hope to delay, postpone or reverse their characters’ deaths by reviewing what happened to get them killed.  Negotiations with the higher powers (game masters, judges and sometimes deities) are conducted thoroughly and this is usually where the resident ‘rules lawyer’ shines.

4.       Depression – “I sure do miss Rangaar, but who cares?”

At this stage, players actually grieve for their character.  They tend to reminisce about achievements, comedic exploits and general good feelings that this particular character gave to that game world.  Players usually do not dwell too long at this stage as they usually move quickly to the last stage.

5.       Acceptance – “I’m dead.  Can I roll up another character?”

In the last stage, players finally accept the loss of their character and move on.  They either need to re-spawn, get raised or roll up another character because ‘life’ goes on.

Many Sheets or One? The Character Builder Conundrum

September 14, 2012 5 comments

I’ve had the pleasure of participating in quite a few campaigns in the last 3 or 4 years. Some of which spanned 10-20 character levels. In 4e and increasingly in Pathfinder, the easiest way to level up your character was to open up the character builder, hit the “level up” button, and choose the appropriate options for your character and print it out. I think 4e was a worse offender in this arena, but often the character sheets were between 5-10 pages per PC. On Herolab for Pathfinder, if you’ve got an animal companion or heaven forbid a spellbook, the characters can easily get in to this range as well. My main problem with this is every time you level up, your printing again. If not, you have a game table filled with laptops and all the distractions they can bring.

For the Pirate campaign, I wanted to stop the madness. I printed out a Pathfinder Character sheet, double-sided, that I would use for the duration of that character’s existence. It’s easy on first level. Just run down the requirements for your given race/class combo, buy your gear and start rolling! As the levels progress, things get more complicated. You start getting more bonuses from magical loot you’ve found, or through feats and increasing your ability scores, and a standard character sheet can become a jumbled mess. My character in the pirate campaign is a elven ranger/rogue, and I have about worn a hole in both the ammunition spot on the sheet for my arrows, and the hit point area for when he takes damage.

Overall, I am really enjoying just having the one character sheet. I have kept notes on it from previous sessions, and it just feels more authentic to how I feel like a veteran character sheet should look. That being said, I had one session last week in which I forgot my sheet. I borrowed Steve’s laptop and did my best to recreate him in herolab as quickly as possible. It was wonderful to see all the options that applied to my character all laid out in front of me, allowing me to carefully way my decisions and draw from several source books worth of material quickly and easily. At the end of the process I printed him out: four pages. It would have taken me a lot longer to open all my books to the appropriate pages, evaluate the options, and add them to my existing stats. Even making a first level character with only Pathfinder books, a character sheet and a pencil can take hours if you consider all the possible archetypes and race/class combinations. It would have ground the session to a halt.

So what is the answer? Is one way better than the other? I suppose it comes down to personal preference. For me, I play role-playing games as an escape. I enjoy pouring over the books, and the art in those books. I like finding new things in them like a wizard discovering knowledge in a tome of ancient lore. I suppose it just comes down to personal preference: ease of use and a fair amount of waste, or piles of books and maybe missing out on the best option for your character while your sheet gets dingy with eraser marks and quickly scrawled notes. It all comes down to how you want to roll. How do you role/roll? One sheet or many?

Categories: 4e, DnD, Lore, Pathfinder, Pirates, Tips

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!

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: ,

Check out our Free Downloads!

March 20, 2012 Comments off

Because who doesn’t love free stuff? I’ve compiled a list of all the free downloads we’ve offered since starting this crazy blog about 6 months ago. You’ll find some 4e holiday adventures, a massive combat resolution system, and a pretty awesome fumble chart for when you roll a one in a 4e skill challenge.

Soon you’ll be able to download our One Page Dungeon for the One Page Dungeon Contest.

The Free Downloads page will live at the top of our blog, just next to the ‘Contact Us’ tab. Enjoy!

Categories: 4e, Adventure, DnD, Tips

Delving Dungeons Doesn’t Disappoint

March 14, 2012 Comments off

It’s the oldest and most iconic form of fantasy RPG adventure. A bunch of adventurers of varied skills and backgrounds stumble across a hidden cave, or an entrance to an ancient tomb. Traps and foul creatures stand vigil over gleaming piles of treasure, long forgotten.

I’m prepping for tonight’s Pathfinder Society game. Tonight, I’m GMing one of the PFS intro scenarios, which are free, and pretty awesome. The second one in the series “To Delve the Dungeon Deep,” is about as classic as a dungeon crawl can be. I won’t spoil it for those who have yet to play it (including the guys tonight!), but this little delve has got it all; traps, mysterious lairs and runes, creatures, and plenty of options for PCs to make choices. Which way? Attack or parlay? Poke it with a stick or run screaming?

Recently, I adapted The Lost City for 4e. A classic D&D module, it proved to be one of the most fun 4e experiences I’ve ever had. My sincere hope is that DnDnext or 5e gets back to the classic feel of exploration and mystery. 4e as written seemed to get bogged down on the numbers side of things, (making sure encounters were balanced, treasure parcels were level appropriate, etc.) and lost some of the magic that came from not knowing what was behind the next door (let alone if the door was trapped!).

If you don’t have access to any old D&D adventures (I’m talking late 70s, early 80s) I recommend downloading Part 2 of the PFS intro scenarios. Heck, you might as well download them all. Even if you don’t play Pathfinder, the style of this delve can inspire a GM for any system. Things to consider: What is the history of the location of the delve? Who used to live there? Who calls it home now? What did the previous inhabitants leave behind? What have the new denizens added? Try and tie them all together with a cohesive theme, a goal for the adventurers (perhaps the classic MacGuffin?), and you will have at least one awesome night of gaming ahead of you! If it has been a long time since you’ve explored a forgotten place with a group of adventurers, grab a torch and a ten foot pole and conquer the unknown!