Archive for the ‘Dice’ Category

Review: Legend of the Five Rings Beginner Box

August 28, 2018 Comments off


First, a little history…

Legend of the Five Rings is role playing set in Rokugan, which is similar to Japan during the Tokugawa shogunate, but with fantasy elements.  The setting features noble samurai,  wise monks and mysterious shugenja (priests)  that wield swords, fists, and spiritual powers (respectively) to obtain honor and fame in the honor-bound feudal setting.  Each character derives from a powerful clan (Crane, Crab, Lion, Phoenix, Dragon, Scorpion, and Unicorn) each with  their own motivations and agendas.

The game got its start in 1995 with AEG, which released a role playing game along with a collectible card game that was fairly popular at the time (and which persisted until 2015).   Fantasy Flight has acquired the rights to this rich setting, and launched things last year at Gen Con with an oriental styled parade from the street through Gen Con itself, gathering quite a crowd.

Here’s a fleeting picture I snapped at the time:


2017 Rokugan Parade

Fantasy Flight is doing some pretty impressive stuff with the property, including kicking off the new card game (which is about a year old, and I’ve heard good things, but haven’t played). But more importantly for Skyland Games readers, they have been working on a new version of the RPG rules which have been in beta testing for some time now.  You can download those beta test rules HERE.  However, smart money might just guide you to pick up the Beginner box which just came out.  I did, and I’d say on the whole it was worth it, unless you’re sure sure sure you want to play and can’t wait for the final rules to be released next year (TBD as of this article).

The Beginner Box: Contents

The L5R Beginner Box is an attractive set, coming with maps of the larger region, maps of a medium sized city / village, and a map of a large castle not actually featured in the boxed set itself (but available for some online content I’ll discuss later).


It also features a full set of Legend of the Rings dice, which are unique to the system. As with FFG’s Star Wars beginner boxes, the dice are about a $13 dollar value, which begins to justify the total MSRP of $39.95

The game includes an adventure that presumes no knowledge of the rules or how to play, and teaches both game master and players how to play as the game continues.  While theoretically that would allow you to start playing almost immediately, in reality the GM is going to need to read through the entire booklet to grasp the concepts before sitting down to run.

Without giving anything away, the adventure “The Topaz Championship” is a coming-of-age ceremony for persons of the samurai caste, which includes in this case a Phoneix clan shugenja, a Dragon clan Monk, a Crane clan Courtier and a Lion clan warrior.  The adventurers find themselves travelling together and form an unlikely bond when strange events occur that unite them in a common purpose.

The adventure itself is not the strongest adventure out there, but does unfold the concepts nicely and provides a way to ease into more and more of the rules as you play.  It starts with introducing setting and role playing concepts, then evolves into skill challenges, then non-lethal combat, then lethal combat.  Each character booklet presented to each player gives a skeletal version of the rules, indications of what the symbols on the dice mean, and what various actions can be taken.  A small more detailed rules-lite version of the full rules is also in the box, which allows for more nuanced play outside of the extra-lite rules in the adventure itself.

The Rules

The Beginner box gives us a good idea, if not a perfect idea, of what the game will look like upon release.  First I should note that, though the system holds similarities to the Genesys game that is the framework for many future releases from FFG, it is not that system, which to me was a bit of a disappointment.  While I have no desire to return the the days of d20 where everything was a d20 system and rules became painfully bland, there is some lack of utility in being similar to but different than a new standard from the same company.  Presumably, the rules presented are tied deeply into the concepts of the whole setting in a way to will prove meaningful enough to justify a new play format.

First, players have stats that derive from the Five Rings, (as set out by Musashi in 1645).  Fire = Passion; Earth = Discipline; Water = Adaptability; Air = Precision; Void = Spirituality

These are your core abilities, rather than agility, strength, etc.  The characters also have skills, ranging from law, to martial arts, to courtesy.  Many of the skills are not what you would call your standard fantasy adventure game skills.

Making a check requires rolling black ring dice, in addition to white skill dice.  One for each point you have in the ring or in the skill.


You may keep as many dice as you have values in the ring you are using.  The versatility of the system is that it allows you to often parlay the way you are approaching something to make it something you are good at. For instance, if you want to knock someone down, you needn’t use Fire + Unarmed Combat (charging at them), you could instead nimbly dodge their blows, striking only with precision (Air+Unarmed Combat) or use their own momentum to throw them off balance (Water+Unarmed Combat).  Some approaches are more effective than others.

Dice have four results:

  • Success:  You need enough of these to reach your target number set by the GM
  • Exploding Successes: You count this as a success and then roll the die again, opting to keep this next roll as part of the first, or dropping it.  These subsequent rolls can go on into infinity and aren’t counted against you as part of your ring limit.
  • Opportunity: This works, as far as I can tell, like advantage in Genesys or FFG Star Wars, but perhaps with more restrictions depending on the type of ring you were using.  Rules are skeletal here, and may be expanded on in the main book.
  • Strife: This is emotion or stress that causes you to lose your cool.

Unlike those other systems, there are no difficulty, challenge or setback dice.  Also, strife appears along with positive dice results (like success, exploding success, and opportunity) thereby baiting the player to take those results.

Strife isn’t the end of the world, but if it surpasses your Discipline result, you can become compromised, which precludes the character from using results that have strife on them (which really cuts your opportunities).  That character can try to handle their situation until they regain composure, or they can become “unmasked” and clear their strife, usually with some loss of honor from their unseemly behavior.

Pros & Cons:

The game seems to have some potential, but as a new player to this version of the game, getting used to the idea of justifying your ring choice presented a little bit of a stumbling block.  With some more play, I’m confident that the game will feel more natural. In some ways it encourages roleplaying the type of character you are to fit your actions, and rewards creativity.

Dice in these games are always an issue.  Many of my players immediately splurged on the dice app available on Google Play and Apple.  These apps help to solve the problem of keeping track of what you previously rolled when you get a good run of exploding successes and start to run out of dice.  With a game at this point in development, everyone would have to own a beginner box to have dice of their own, and that’s not going to happen.  So it’s either pass those dice or get an app (for now).

The setting itself is unique, and as a student of Asian culture, I love a lot of the details, though these might be a little cumbersome for the unintitiated.  I’m unaware if any fantasy history has carried forward over the past 23 years.  People have loved this setting for decades and might not want to let that history go… like this guy:

The game is more serious than a lot of other fantasy settings, as it deals primarily with the conflict between desire and duty.  As such, L5R is likely to be a subtle game, and is really going to be the best fit with experienced gamers, or players that are naturally more serious and have a flair for the dramatic and the setting itself.  Beer and pretzel gamers are probably less likely to enjoy the subtlety of the concepts and the balance required in the game play.

In the past, I’ve always found the game a little tricky to prepare.  The characters are almost by definition at odds where their houses are concerned, vying for influence in Rokugan, and that’s going to make things a little tense and maybe a little uncooperative.  For that reason, it’s not going to be the game for everyone and it may be hard to prepare an adventure yourself with a party so divided.  Fortunately, one can usually fall back on duty to guide the party to a common goal, even if they can’t agree on how to get there.

Fantasy flight has released a free downloadable adventure and additional characters, which I have heard good things about.  The map of the castle in the beginner box is for that adventure, and the characters are set to proceed with unifying purpose which originates in the beginner box, making it worth the quick playthrough.

Total beginner box playthrough time is going to take from 4 to 8 hours.  No word on how long the expansion material will take. This play time will be greatly enhanced by the GM reading the optional expansive rules book in the box and understanding those concepts before sitting down to play.

TLDR:  The Legend of the Five Rings Beginner Box teaches a subtle nuanced game to fans of the genre with minimal impact on players and GM alike, and is worth the price of admission for players who can’t wait for the full rules coming out in the months to come.



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

Wiz Dice – Series II Alchemic Oddities review

September 5, 2016 2 comments


My wife approached my desk holding the mail, shaking the noisy manila bubble-wrap mailer incredulously. “What is this?”

As a man who may or may not own too many dice, I replied, “I think you know.”

IMG_0646It was a bag of 105 dice in the amazing vibrant and uncommon colors that make up the “Alchemic Oddities” series of dice that I’ve had my eye on ever since Wiz Dice had a naming contest for the new colors. I’ve purchased a few bulk dice collections in the past like the Chessex Pound o Dice, and the first Wiz Dice collection of 100+ “random” dice. The Chessex dice had some really interesting dice, but were mostly just factory mistakes, some of which were d6s that were missing numbers and there was only one complete set of the same color. Not bad if you want a ton of random dice, but not great if you are looking for sets. I had seen other people’s accounts of ordering from Wiz Dice and receiving tons of complete sets with only a few odd dice out. I was pleased to have a similar experience in that first set and now own just about every typical color of opaque dice, as well as some interesting marble-like and translucent colors.

IMG_0647This most recent set has very unique colors with  fan-suggested names like Dwarven Brandy, Faerie Fire, Boiled Bile, and Abyssal Mist. With this second set, I received 105 dice or 15 complete 7-dice sets for $26.34 shipped. That comes out to about $1.75 a set, and they are some of the coolest sparkly, marbled, vibrant colors I have ever seen. If you want specific colors, you can order individual sets at $7+shipping, or just let them pick for you and “roll the dice.” There is something for everyone in this set from oranges, neon yellow, pink, black sparkly, translucent grey, and a gorgeous marbled dark green they call Basilisk Blood.

IMG_0648If you want a lot of unique awesome dice and you aren’t picky about colors, this is an awesome value. Highly recommended for people like me who can never have enough dice.


Categories: Dice, Reviews

The Need for Speed: The Advantages of Fast-Paced Play in Your Favorite RPG

October 5, 2014 2 comments

combatThe best kind of compliment you can get is one that you hear by way of a third party.  Our FLGS owner from the Wyvern’s Tale advised a player from my Asheville Comic Expo D&D 5th Edition Demo of the beginner’s box came in and said, “Scott runs the fastest game of D&D I’ve ever seen!”  Granted, that might not always be a compliment, but I’ll take what I can get.

A few years ago, however, the Skyland gang was at SCARAB and got to play the Pathfinder Society Special Blood Under Absalom.  It was an 8 hour game they were going to squeeze into 4 hours (which we finished in 6), at least that’s what I heard and that’s what it felt like.  It was the fastest game of D&D I ever played, and it was EXHILARATING.  When your turn came around, you had damn well be ready to take your action with dice in hand, and as soon as your turn was over, you’d better figure out what you were doing next.  Players who couldn’t keep up with that pace got passed over until they could, and a few turns were missed as people ‘assessed the situation’.  I’ve never before seen such frenetic action, but have aspired to bring that to many games since.


Too many times have I played D&D/Pathfinder/whatever and it goes something like this:

GM: Your character is bull-rushed into the water by the troll.  Make a Fortitude save.

Player 1: (rolls) Does a 6 save?  I have the Iron Constitution feat, does that apply?

Player 2: Yes, it does.

Player 3: No that’s just for poison.

GM: (flips pages for 5 minutes) No, it doesn’t in this case.  Make an upside down underwater grapple check to break the hold.

Player 1: How do I do that?

GM: (flips pages for 12 minutes) uh… Roll a strength check

Player 1: (Looks up from smartphone) What were we doing?

TO HELL WITH THAT.  THIS IS AWFUL. That sort of game play is just the sort of thing that kills off fans of RPG gaming.

Now, I should point out that I’m walking dangerously close to being a hypocrite here.  I enjoy the technical aspects of the game when they create interesting nuance to game play.  When the rules can be applied in a way that makes the game more interesting, I enjoy seeing them unfold.  However, many times this is not the case.  It’s rules-mongering for its own sake.  It slows play, makes everyone lose interest and a feel for the action, and creates migraines.

Instead of that, we should strive as GM’s and as gamers alike is for a fast paced game that reflects that action of the scene and keeps the dynamic tempo of the action consistent with the game itself.  The faster the action, the less likely the players are to get distracted, the more you’ll get accomplished, and the more fun everyone will have.


Fast play can be tough.  Some games are just too rooted in the tactical to be hastened to a point where you might call them ‘fast’ but here are a few tips to make things jump:

1) KNOW YOUR RULES: Even complex rules usually come down to a dice roll or two under the best of circumstances.  If you know a creature uses energy drain and grapple attacks, print out the flowchart or rule you need and be ready to apply it.  SRD links or bookmarks on various apps or programs can make this incredibly easy.

2) HAVE YOUR RULES TEAM ON STANDBY: I have been fortunate to play most of my life with great rules guys.  If someone asks a question that isn’t known, one presents his belief while the other looks it up.  Meanwhile, the GM does what he can while that conclusion is reached or quickly makes a judgment call and moves on.  Complete indecision is resolved with tip #3.

3) THE TALISMAN RULE:  The old Talisman Board Game used to have a fantastic rule when you couldn’t figure out what the answer to a rules question was:

Phrase your rules question for a yes or no answer.

Roll 1d6

1-3 Yes

4-6 No

  You can always default to this, figuring out things on the backend if need be.  Usually, these rules calls aren’t life or death situations.  If they turn out to be, maybe make it one of the few exceptions to the fast play rule and do the research, or better yet, let the GM err on the side of Player success.  Who is going to be upset that the player prevailed?  If it’s the GM, then you are definitely doing it wrong.

4) ROLL TOGETHER: Players and GM’s alike are superstitious and don’t like to do this, but both player and GM should always be rolling their damage dice with their to hit dice whenever possible.  It seems like it wouldn’t save much time, but frankly, you’d be amazed how much time it seems to save, if only because it guarantees that those dice are out and in hand with the first toss, instead of having to fish around for a few extra d4’s because your magic missile just got an extra die because of that last level.  Multiple attacks can be resolved together with sets of colored dice, but colors need to be consistent. Don’t forget to throw in dice for miss-chance, hit location, or whatever other special modifier you need to account for.

5) PLAYER READINESS: This encompasses several things.  When I was younger, I used to make a player with a casting class look up the spell description and have it ready every time they cast a spell, or deemed them to be ‘fumbling with spell components’ until it was ready and they came ‘off delay’. (I am so old, it was actually just added to the casting time for the spell; grognards you know what I’m talking about).  Frankly, I wish I still did this, even though it guarantees I’m remembered as a complete bastard.

A faster game should push players to do this more anyway, and apps like ufisk and Lone Wolf’s Hero Lab can allow you to look up or print out spell descriptions, respectively, with great ease.  I prefer paper to electronics, as a smart phone or tablet can easily become a quick check of an email which turns into watching a five minute video of a cat playing the piano.  Nothing bugs me more than trying to move the action along or having a good RP moment, only to find out that the player involved or that was close to the action was mentally checked out for something unrelated to the game. Paper doesn’t do that.

In the end, a player should know how their abilities work as much as a GM should. Losing a turn or a forced delay allows a GM to keep the action flowing, often without major player detriment, and nudges lazy players into line at the same time.

6) SHAME POINT!:   Players who can’t seem to get their act together (playing on phone, don’t have dice ready, don’t know how their abilities function, etc) are deserving of retribution for ruining everyone’s good time.  Dungeon Bastard uses Shame Points in his World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl (which is amazing and plays fast and is incredibly fun) and even with no actual penalty for a shame point, it’s enough of a poke to get people on task.  Technically, if you roll under the number of shame points you have, you have to leave the game (I keep a broken office chair about 20 feet from the table in the unventilated garage for just such an occasion.  They can shout their actions into the room if need be….)

We also enjoy use of the “Eshleman Hat’ as a shaming device for someone who takes too long of a turn (relating to a friend who once took a turn that lasted one hour… I shit you not).

These things are fun, but also bring attention to a player’s lollygagging in a playful and generally inoffensive way.  Another tool for your toolbox.

7) JUST ROLL THE DAMN DICE!: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone fret about a rule that might arise before they have determined whether or not the action succeeded.  Get your players to throw those dice as soon as the action has been declared (and you do the same).  Half the time, you’re going to see that the tough rules call was irrelevant because the attack didn’t connect in the first place.

8) HAVE AN INITIATIVE MONKEY:  Sometimes running the combat can be tough while also tracking initiative.  If you have someone you can rely on (and that’s a big if) have them keep the pace going.  When they call out initiative, have them also call out the next player “On Deck” which will help to focus the player coming up.  Having a good initiative monkey is key, as a bad one will actually hurt you more than doing it yourself.  Another alternative is to use a board that everyone can see, or clothespins on your game screen with each player’s or characters name written on it, along with monster pins of a different color.  Names actually work better here, because people always respond to their name, whereas character names get ignored sometimes.  This is doubly true at conventions.

9) LIMIT RETCONS:  Players will worry you to death and stop the continuous flow of action by saying, “oh, I wanted to move here after I attacked” etc. etc.  A good house rule is that any action can continue to be modified or changed until someone rolls a die.  Then, an irreversible determination of luck has occurred and all actions are locked in. Apply this to yourself as well, if possible.  Sometimes, as a GM, you’ll have a lot more to keep track of, and so it is (mildly) forgivable.

10) KEEP UP THE RHYTHM:  As GM, all these other things are useless unless you can keep the action flying fast and furious.  You need to push to make each turn seem dynamic, and that includes non-combat rounds if at all possible.  Have a way to move around your table if not in initiative.  If someone takes an action, jump on that, but then move to the next person, tell them what they’re seeing and ask them what they do in response to that. Even if it’s nothing, ask them if they have a sword/blaster/torch out, where they are positioned, or maybe even make them roll a die and when they give you the number, laugh manically and move on to the next person.  Keep them reacting to what you’re doing.

11) ERR BOLDLY:  Key to this whole process is making sure your players are not watching you read.  Nothing is more action chilling than watching someone read a book. Do your best with the guidelines listed above, but as Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going to err, err boldly.”  Try to err on the side of the players, and they will love you for it.  But keep the action moving, toss the dice, and get the action back into the player’s hands.

Fast play isn’t always what the doctor ordered for every game, but most games benefit from the application of dynamic action.  Others that don’t (Vampire, Call of Cthulhu, etc) will still have their moments where you’ll want to apply these techniques, and even then you’ll want to bring intensity of a different sort to those games.  But that’s another article for another time.

Try before you buy – Board games on iOS

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Recently I’ve picked up a few games for the iPhone that started out as more traditional board or card games. A lot of them are great versions of the originals, with the added bonus of always being in your pocket, and allowing online games with friends who may not be able to make game night. They also tend to be a fraction of the cost of the physical board game.

hive.pngOne of my favorites is Hive. I bought this first as a physical board game at the recommendation of the Wyvern’s Tale. Essentially it is like a game of chess, in which different bugs move in different ways, and the object is to completely surround the opposing player’s bee. This is one of those easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master games, and has won a ton of awards. It quickly became one of my favorite games, and the quality of the physical tiles is fantastic. They have a nice weight and are clearly built to last. Not sure if you’re crazy about the concept? At a list price of $32, that can be a lot for something you may or may not like. Why not try it out first? The $2 iOS version will teach you all the rules through a tutorial, has two player local or online play, as well as play against various difficulties of AI. If it becomes one of your favorites, you can always pick up a copy at your friendly local gaming store!

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 10.25.43 AMAnother one I tried out at a recent board game night was Fluxx. This is another seemingly simple game, that can great pretty crazy pretty quickly. The main goal is to collect “keepers” that match whatever the current goal card has on it. Keepers can be physical things, or concepts such as cookies, pizza, love, dreams, music, the brain, the rocket. The goals combine these like “Hearts and Minds” which requires both the brain and love, or “Dreamland” which requires both dreams and sleep. It’s kind of weird starting out, but you quickly get the hang of it. Other cards allow you to draw or discard more cards, or affect other player’s hands to try and get the keepers you need to win! There are a ton of expansions for Fluxx, The physical deck lists for $16, but if you’re not sure, the iOS version will only set you back $3.

QuarriorsScreen shot 2014-07-21 at 10.26.00 AM is a dice and card game that requires a little more screen real estate than most, so is iPad only. I’ve had my eye on this at the game store for some weeks, but never pulled the trigger. I *do* love dice games, but I didn’t know if I would like this one or, (more importantly) if my wife would like it as she is often my co-player. At a list price of $70, I really wanted to be sure. In Quarriors you start out by rolling dice to give you Quddity, a type of currency you use during your turn to summon your minions or capture other dice that are available on the cards dealt for the game. The cards are either other minion or spells which boost or augment minions, quiddity, or how many dice you draw from your bag. Overall I think it is enjoyable, but not something everyone would be in to. Is it worth $70? I don’t know. Is it worth $4? Absolutely!

Screen shot 2014-07-21 at 10.26.20 AMI’ve heard some very good things about the iOS adaptation of Lords of Waterdeep, but haven’t picked that one up as of yet. Next time you are on the fence about a board game, try before you buy! There may be an excellent mobile version out there already!

Categories: Board, Card, Dice, Reviews, Technology, Tips

Dice, and FASA, and Vikings. OH MY!

January 14, 2014 Comments off

DCCdiceA new year has brought a new horde of awesome RPG kickstarters! Here are a few the Skyland crew are keeping their eyes on, and a few bonus mini-reviews at the end.

First up, DICE! One of the chief complaints about DCCRPG is that it uses weird dice. Personally, weird dice was one of the first things that attracted me to D&D back in the 80s, and having new weird dice brings back all those feelings of mystery and intrigue of discovering the game for the first time. They are expensive, however. d14s, d16s, d5s, d7s and such aren’t produced in numbers that make them cost effective they way “standard” rpg dice are. There has also been a chorus of DCC fans who want a set of official Goodman Games dice to go with DCCRPG, or dare I say it, a beginner box-set? While a DCC red box is still just a dream, affordable funky dice can be yours, thanks to the Impact Miniatures 14-dice set kickstarter! There are tons of options to this kickstarter that allow you to get just the dice you want, and not have to buy in at a higher level just to get what you were looking for. Their “picks” system is confusing to some, but I’ll put it in terms RPG nerds can understand. Its a point-buy system. You buy a certain number of “picks” (points), then spend them on the stuff you want, just like building a character, but instead of a gnome illusionist, you end up with a pile of funky dice! The guys at impact have had success with kickstarter before for both minis and dice, so I have every confidence this project will go well. I’m really looking forward to having my DCC dice bag full of DCC dice!


Next up, Earthdawn from FASA! Yes, THAT FASA. Probably best known for battletech/mechwarrior, shadowrun, and maybe Crimson Skies, FASA is back with a new edition of Earthdawn. I never personally played the original, but fans seem pretty passionate about the setting, and I’ve heard it mentioned many times when people are adapting a setting to a new RPG system. From what I’ve read it sounds like a “post-apocalyptic emerging from a dark-age” kind of setting, which reminds me (possible inspired the latter?) of Numenera. Dusting off a classic can have mixed results (see Traveller review) but I wish these guys the best. In a time when massive conglomerates are buying up the rights brands/settings we knew from years past, its nice to see a team battle back and reclaim a franchise.

Lastly, I have been a big fan of d20monkey almost from day one, and the man behind the comic is involved in designing the logo and graphic work for Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone. The most recent project of Tracy Barnett, creator of several successful kickstarter RPGs like School Daze and One Shot, Iron Edda is a heavily viking-inspired setting using the FATE core system. It looks pretty intensely awesome. I’ve been looking for an excuse to get more into the FATE system anyway, and this might just be the ticket. Dwarves laying waste to the land in massive metal constructs? Undead giants? Ragnarok? Yep. Sign me up.

warnboneBonus: Super mini-reviews!

Book report: I just finished reading Hard Magic, the first book in the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia. In short, it’s a noir-type alternate history where average people have super powers or magic. Like x-men in the 1930s. Highly recommended. Check out a sample here.

iOS RPG: Cthulhu Saves the World. This has been out for over a year and a half on iOS, and probably longer on other platforms, but I just downloaded it the other day, and am loving it. I haven’t had this much fun with an old school RPG since Chronotrigger. It is a really good time! Bravo Zeboyd games!

Edge of the Empire – Star Wars RPG Review

August 5, 2013 Comments off

coverI recently picked up the Core Rulebook for Edge of the Empire, just minutes before a game session being held at our Friendly Local Gaming Store, the Wyvern’s Tale. I wasn’t completely new to the rules, having picked up the beginner game a few months ago. I had really enjoyed running the beginner game for some friends, and so I had high hopes for the big book. It did not disappoint.

Weighing in at 448 pages, the book contains everything you need to run an Edge of the Empire game, other than the dice (more on that later). It is filled with rich full-color illustrations and is very nicely laid out with relevant sidebars and examples for different aspects of the game.

Edge of the Empire focuses on worlds around the “outer rim” of known space. The character careers and specializations reflect this Space-Opera meets Wild-west sort of feel. Each career has 3 specializations. When combined with the different race options, there is a huge variety of character options in this book. Careers include: Bounty Hunter, Colonist, Explorer, Hired Gun, Smuggler, and Technician. Each have three specializations which allow access to skill-trees that reflect that specialization. For instance, the three specializations for Technician are Mechanic, Outlaw Tech, and Slicer. A mechanic is mostly going to focus on skills that keep ships operating smoothly, An outlaw tech focuses on improving and modifying equipment and droids, sometimes with less-than-legal components! A slicer is unmatched in computer skills and accessing systems to gain advantages through information, or control over those systems. That is a LOT of variation in one career!

The system itself is a unique balance of rules-light improv, and rules-heavy tables and mechanics. My favorite aspect of both the combat and skill system is that it isn’t as simple as hit or miss. When you roll a check you assemble a dice pool. The dice pool is made up of positive dice from your skill and proficiency dice, as well as boost dice that represent any factors that may be in your favor, and the negative dice made up from difficulty dice, challenge dice, and setback dice representing everything that is working against the action you are trying to accomplish. For a very difficult task, you add more negative dice to the dice pool. Rather than just being numbers on the dice, there are several symbols that can come up. On the positive dice you have symbols representing successes, advantages, and triumphs. On the negative dice you have symbols for failure, threat, and despair. For an action to succeed, you need to roll more successes than failures, but here is where it gets interesting: whether or not you succeed you can create an advantage or a setback. For instance, if you try and shoot a storm-trooper with your blaster, you may not roll enough more successes than you do failures, meaning your shot missed. However, if you roll more advantages than you do threats, your shot has had some advantageous effect. What that is is up to you and the GM to make up. Maybe your shot hits a coolant pipe near the storm-trooper, reducing their visibility which makes it harder for them to attack you! Mechanically this adds negative dice to their die pool on the next attack, but you decide the flavor to make the action awesome! Conversely, you may get enough successes to hit, but you may also generate a threat. This could be shooting the storm-trooper in the chest, but the force of the hit backing his body into an alarm button on the wall! Your imagination is the limit, just like what every good RPG should strive to be.

diceShip to ship combat is done in much the same way, and in my experience moves quickly and is action-packed. There is a conversion table for regular dice (d6, d8 and d12) but looking up all of those and figuring out which is cancelling what would bog down the action to the point where the dice really become worth it. There is also an application for the dice for iOS, Android, and Kindle, for $5.00, but if your interest is piqued, I would recommend the Beginner Game, which includes a set of dice, a two-sided map, character and baddy markers, and an excellent adventure that throws you in to the action right away. I’m looking forward to running this for the guys, hopefully for many sessions to come!


– Many players will be familiar with a lot of the “feel” and details if they are Star Wars fans

– Narrative action system combines the best of mechanics and improv for a cinematic, fast-paced combat

– Tons of options for characters and backstories


– Custom and expensive dice

– High buy-in between the Core Book (MSRP $59.95) and dice (MSRP $14.95)

– No PDF version of the book

More Kickstarters!

June 14, 2013 Comments off

Just in time for Free RPG Day, here are some great Kickstarter projects that I have been watching:


  • Dogs Playing D&D Posters – This poster is a parody of Dogs Playing Poker and would make a great addition to your gaming space.


  • OVA: The Anime Role-Playing Game – This one ends soon and is going to be great. Get in on this one!
  • Mekton Zero – I loved Mekton through Mekton Zeta by R. Talsorian Games, but this one is going to be less mecha mechanic wargaming and more role-playing.  After Robotech, this was my mecha go-to RPG.
  • Deep Magic: A Tome of New Spells – A supplement for Pathfinder made by Kobold Press.  The stretch goals on this one are fantastic.  I highly recommend this one!
  • Kaosball – Arena sports boxed game!
  • The Red Dragon Inn 4 – The fourth installment of this highly addictive card game.
  • WarGods of Olympus – Mythological boxed game.  It looks very cool.  Stretch goals include additional game pieces!
  • Whisper & Venom: RPG Adventure Boxed Set – An entire set of everything needed to play this multi-system adventure,



Check out Monday’s article:  Eyes of Lamashtu – Cooperative Summoning

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: ,

Story Cubes – Game Night Carnival!

March 27, 2012 2 comments

Rory’s Story Cubes is a very VERY free form game. This is a great one for all ages, and has several added bonus uses. There are nine cubes (six-sided dice) with random, but interesting images on them. These include a pyramid, the moon, a keyhole, fire, an arrow, a footprint, etc. The basic concept is to roll the dice, and make up a story with the images presented.

You can play this any number of ways. My wife and I tried rolling them all at the same time and taking turns selecting a result to describe the next piece of the story. Another way to play is taking turns rolling one die at a time, and making up there story as you go along. Since there are an odd number of dice, whoever started with less got to choose the title of the story. Our stories tended to be a bit ridiculous, but that’s mostly because we really enjoy cracking each other up, usually sporting terrible British accents. Don’t judge.

We had a great time with this game, and heartily recommend it if you feel like doing something with no rules to speak of. This is also the reason it is a great game to play with young children who tend to make up the rules as they go along anyway, regardless of the game. It’s a great creative activity to flex your improv muscles in your brain. Which brings us to bonus uses: The obvious one being that these can cure writer’s block. Aspiring novelist? Stuck on a scene? Roll! Oh, what’s that? Your hero boarded a plane that was hit by a shooting star which catapulted him to the moon where he discovered the moon-pyramids that was inhabited solely by space-turtles? Fantastic!

If you’re a brave and talented Dungeon Master, the other excellent bonus use for these dice is to use them to improv during an RPG session. As detailed by the illustrious Dread Gazebo, Story Cubes can be an excellent addition to your dice bag, either in the dungeon design process, or during play if your player’s veer off-course (surely, they would never do that!) you can throw them a curve ball. This is a new twist on the old adage of DMs rolling dice behind the screen, making stuff up; sometimes the roll matters but sometimes the DM is just buying time, thinking of what to do next. Now you’ve got something to help you wing it!

Story cubes is also an app on iOS. While $2 is certainly more cost effective and portable, I feel the $9.99 MSRP is worth it to have the dice in hand. I’m unaware of an android app for this, but if one of our readers knows of one, feel free to set the record straight in the comments!

This post is part of the monthly Game Night Blog Carnival started by Roving Band of Misfits. Why not check out their review this month of Carcassone Castle!