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NPC CODEX REVIEW!

November 22, 2012 3 comments

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Happy Thanksgiving, Gamers!

Today, let us be thankful for the friends we have through gaming, and also thankful for Paizo for knowing what we need before we realize we need it. The NPC CODEX came out yesterday and I’ve been pouring over it in those brief hours, realizing just how much easier my life just got as a GM.

The Codex features a build at every level for every core character class (Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorceror, and Wizard), NPC class (adept, aristocrat, commoner, expert, and warrior) and for the core Prestige classes (Arcane Archer, Arcane Trickster, Assassin, Dragon Disciple, Duelist, Eldritch Knight, Loremaster, Mystic Theurge, Pathfinder Chronicler, and Shadowdancer). I also has builds of the iconics up to level 15, which is good for the Pathfinder Society Player looking to jump into a game with a pregen.

The builds are each unique, with awesome artwork that brings each stat block to life in a way that makes me want to play half of these characters more than a few of my own.

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Each character totes level appropriate equipment, comes with a memorized spell list, buffs factored in from equipment and spells likely to be precast. This is a nice touch for me, as I always have a lot of hesitation regarding magical equipment for improvised enemies.

The names attached to each character in the codex is more of a descriptor or role: Wandering Mercenary or Death Master. Complimenting that role is a familiar Before Combat / During Combat section offering some strategies in how the NPC might be used. Occasionally they throw in a sample backstory or personality detail to add life to a concept, which is a nice touch. Seeing how Paizo has built these NPC’s has expanded my mind in how I might incorporate different class features to accomplish a theme for a character. It’s impressive and is well worth a look.

This book has some value for the PF Society player, but is more useful for the home game GM. Throwing in a few thugs or thematically appropriate bad guys (Halfling Cannibals? Elven Barbarians?) is made much easier. As my home game prepares to invade a school of Necromancers, the availability of several grim and ghoulish clerics, mages, fighters and rogues is perfectly timed.

What it lacks? I had hoped to see some of the Advanced Players Guide classes in here, but that awaits for a sequel. Generally there is only build per class per level, so there aren’t multiple 1st level cleric builds, for instance. The book, quite rightly, guides you to deconstruct or add to each class to bring it in line with what you need, however. In line with that, they have stat blocks with the various animal companions at different break points in the back of the book, which remains a useful tool for rangers and druids who want the animal companion ready to go.

I’m sure sales will determine whether or not a sequel does come out for this, but my feeling is this is a good book to have on the shelf for the player who likes to seek inspiration and enjoys seeing some different ways to get there, or for the GM that finds his party goes straight off the published adventure and into an unexpected brawl not even contemplated by the GM ( i.e. every GM ever).
Just pull this off the shelf and your ready to go!

Q-Workshop – Deluxe Dice for Added Flavor

December 14, 2011 2 comments

If you’ve played any pencil and paper role-playing game for a fair amount of time, you likely own your own set of dice. The variety available from companies like Chessex, Koplow, and GameScience are staggering. Q-workshop is a Polish dice company that specializes in dice that have a very unique look.

Beyond just looking great, these dice can help you get in to your character. For instance, the dwarven set is covered in axes and hammers. Stereotypically, a dwarf is on the front lines, swinging one of these iconic weapons. When the dice hit the table, and my damage die has my weapon on it, it makes me feel more connected with my character. Q-workshop has sets for just about any type of character. Elven sets, Runic sets, and a set covered in dragons (probably most appropriate for the DM)! There are several sets for specific games, like Deadlands, Munchkin, and Pathfinder.

I love dice. One of my earliest memories of D&D is wondering what the crazy-shaped dice were for. It was part of the attraction to the game for me. I personally own the Dwarven and Steampunk sets. Since showing them to my gamer friends, they picked up the Runic and Earthdawn sets. They are certainly more expensive than your average set of dice, and some of the designs are difficult to actually read the number. Be sure and consider the color combination as well, as some are easier to read than others, depending on the design.

If you are tired of your old dice and are looking for something really special, check out Q-Workshop!

Categories: Dice, DnD, Pathfinder, Reviews, RPGs Tags: , ,

Pathfinder Society – Organized can be awesome!

December 12, 2011 10 comments

I played Pathfinder for the first time on Saturday, and had a blast. Scott, (the Skyland Games guy who brought you Fog of War and his distaste for fire giants) called me up and let me know that one of our Friendly Local Game Stores was hosting a Pathfinder organized play night. My previous experience with organized play was Living Forgotten Realms which I personally didn’t really enjoy, but a lot of people in the gaming community are raving about the Pathfinder beginner box, so I decided I’d see what this was all about.

The short review of it is that it was excellent, do yourself a favor and seek out the nearest game.

For the long review read on: It was a first level adventure, and we had a party of five Pathfinders. In organized play, the PCs are part of the Pathfinder Society, which to me, seemed a bit like a bounty hunter organization. The reason the party is thrown together is they are charged with a mission by a venture-captain. The captain charges the group with a task, and gives them some information to track down an artifact. Boiler-plate RPG adventure so far. However, in Pathfinder organized play, when you create your PC you also choose one of ten factions. Factions tend to be from different geographic locations and kingdoms, and have their own motivations. At the beginning of the adventure, we were each handed a faction mission that we had to try and achieve during play. Doing so gains your PC prestige, which unlocks boons and bonuses as the season progresses.

The idea of each faction having its own mission within the mission provided a lot of interesting moments, and encouraged role-playing and engagement in the scenario. For example, I was playing the pre-generated scimitar-weilding cleric Kyra. We encountered an abandoned logging outpost and were immediately set upon by beast-men. I started carving them up, when Scott’s character, a halfling paladin from a different faction then mine, told me to spare them as they were acting against there will and were innocent loggers changed by a dark ritual. Of course, that was a lot to get out in the middle of a fight, so by that time I had one cut open at my feet. Being the cleric, I spent a turn stabilizing and healing him before jumping back in the fray.

My faction’s mission was to plant a note in the evil druid’s lair to make other druid enclaves turn against this one, once the note was found. Not as involved as Scott’s but it earned me some Prestige points. Almost every PC in our party was part of a different faction, so we were all looking for different opportunities during the session. It really added a lot to it.

Beyond that, it was my first time playing Pathfinder or 3.5, and some of the rules were nuanced in ways I couldn’t have anticipated coming from DnD 4e, but a lot of the skills translate easily. I’m one of those that missed out on 3rd edition entirely, growing up playing basic DnD, then AD&D 2E, then picking it back up when 4th edition came out. Granted, it was 1st level play, so combat was fairly simple, quick and deadly, but if Saturday night was any indication, I’ll be playing a lot more Pathfinder in the future. Go find a game! You’ll be glad you did.

Fourthcore Alphabet – Brutally Delicious

November 17, 2011 1 comment

The Fourthcore Alphabet softcover from Save versus Death arrived at my door today. At first I was concerned because its been raining here in the mountains of North Carolina, and the packaging from Lulu did not look exactly water-tight. Much to my delight, the book was shrink-wrapped to another piece of cardboard inside the box (save vs. water damage… SAVED!).

This book is very similar to one of my favorites released by Goodman Games, The Dungeon Alphabet. Both are full of inspiring ideas for dungeon/encounter design, on handy tables that you can use to randomize the dungeon you’re creating or just read down them for the perfect idea. The Fourthcore Alphabet is decidedly darker and more deadly, which makes sense if you’re familiar with the aesthetics behind fourthcore. To put it succintly for the uninitiated, fourthcore challenges the assertion that 4e characters are nigh impossible to kill. While it generally follows 4e rules, you’ll find a fourthcore encounter or dungeon to be a lot more deadly and macabre.

I’ve been a big fan of the fourthcore genre since I first heard about it from Brian Patterson of D20Monkey, back in February of this year. His review of Revenge of the Iron Lich really made me think of 4e in a whole new light. Once I read RotIL, I was hungry for more. I don’t think its a coincidence that Brian was asked to do the art for the Fourthcore Alphabet.

Lets get to the good stuff. The book weighs in at 65 pages, 8.5″x11″, full-color cover and back, black and white inside, and it is full to the brim with deadly inspirations. Awesome titles like H is for Hellscapes and V is for Violence provide instant inspiration for Dungeon Master Writer’s Block. Several of the pages actually reference other pages in the book. For instance, on I is for Idols, if you roll a 6, “Piles of trapped (49) coins and magic items surround this idol.” This prompts the Dungeon Master to turn to page 49 and roll up whatever deadly traps await under the treasure around the idol. Awesome! Some of the tables have 20 entries so can be randomized on a 1d20, some have 39 entries and can be randomized by rolling 2d20 and adding the result! Sersa could have easily stopped at 20 for each, and I would have felt I got a good value, but with a lot of the tables being 2d20, or having multiple columns or variables to describe a single feature, the possibilities are nearly endless.

O is for Overlords! courtesy of SVD press

Now the not so great stuff. One of the big selling points for me on this book was that I knew Brian Patterson was working on the artwork. At first I thought it was just the cover, which is decidedly awesome. It turns out he did little sketches for each page. (Sorry for the crappy scan.) Which is cool, but not overly inspiring. I was looking for more sweeping art or at least a full page black and white or two. Maybe that was out of the budget for this project, and by supporting this one, future books may have expanded art budgets. One benefit of launching this project as kickstarter instead of a publish-on-demand service like lulu is that you can raise some money to pay for lots of awesome artwork. As I flip thru the pages of Goodman’s alphabet, I’m greeted by two page spreads of dungeoneers encountering the obstacles being described. In fourthcore, I get a sketch up in the corner. Cool, but not hugely inspiring.

O is for Oozes - courtesy of Goodman Games

Overall, its a solid buy. Especially if your 4e players have become a little to comfortable in their healing surges, and wimpy 5 ongoing damage. This book has it where it counts most, dark and deadly inspiration. I can’t wait to see what Sersa Victory comes up with next!

Game Science Dice – 12 piece set – Review

November 9, 2011 1 comment

The 12-piece set, in sapphire blue

I purchased the GameScience Precision 12 piece dice set with one goal in mind. I wanted the funky shaped dice for Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG beta. The DCC RPG beta merits its own review which will come at a later date (spoiler alert: I pre-ordered my copy, release date Feb. 2012). There was plenty of discussion on the forums about the weird d3, d5, d7, d14, d16, d24 and d30 as being unnecessary and raising the buy-in to play in this new system. I’m not going to rehash the debate here, but my first attraction to D&D when I was a kid was the crazy shaped dice that looked nothing like the regular six-siders I was used to in other games. The idea of shapes that were “too weird” even for RPG fans just made me want them more.

Not that I don’t understand the other side of the story. Especially after they arrived.

I did a bit of research on Zocchi dice in general, and watched the videos from GenCon from a few years ago. I was sold. I love dice in general, and figured I might as well own a Cadillac set of dice with edges so precise they could almost hurt your hand if picked up carelessly. One thing you should be aware of, and something that was not made at all clear on their site, while these dice aren’t tumble-sanded and rounded off unevenly, they do have pretty significant plastic nubs or craters where the die is cut off from the mold. According to Mr. Zocchi that doesn’t matter as the uniform edges give you equal access to all surfaces of the dice. Which may be true, but damned if they aren’t ugly.

Big dings or nubbins

A regular 7-piece RPG set will run you $6.25 + $4 shipping, uninked. If, like me, you want the 12-piece set, shipped and inked, you’re looking at $37. Thats a lot of money for dice to not be 100% satisfied. That being said, the dice do have a vivid sapphire-blue color to them, and they certainly have a unique feel. One unadvertised feature was that the d14 also has days of the week on it. They are uninked, and a bit hard to read unless you’re in really good light, but if you needed to randomize which day of the week it is, you’ve got your die. Something that surprised me was the difference in color between the two d10s. The rest of the set is a deep, rich blue, but the tens d10 is a bit more of a sky blue. I could understand the difference in color if they were numbered the same, as we often rolled two regular d10s back in the day and just called which color die was the 10s place before a roll was thrown; but since its specially numbered as the tens place already, why the difference in color? Maybe I’m just getting a bit nit-picky, but at $37, can you blame me? The other thing I didn’t really like is that the d24 is essentially a d6, with 4 sides on each side of the d6. Its strange that they didn’t raise center vertex on each side to give them a more uniform shape, rather than 6 sides with 4 sides on each. Its kind of hard to describe unless you hold one in your hand and give it a roll.

All and all I do enjoy the set. It seems to me that for the money, the manufacturer should take a bit more care about the size of the spurs left on the die before they leave the factory, but if that were to drive up the price any further, no one would be them. Buyer beware.

Sky blue on the left, Sapphire on the right

Kamakura Review

October 28, 2011 Comments off

Kamakura is a card game by Dyad games based on clans of feudal Japan. It was launched as a kickstarter back in May. Dyad has a really slick tutorial video about how to play, and how to use the special powers of the different warriors you have at your disposal.

A fast action card game, based in feudal Japan

The purpose of the game is to capture the territories of rival clans while defending your own. We played with all four clans as a free-for-all. You can play one on one or with teams. The game played really quickly and there was a surprising amount of combinations of warriors and weapons that made for fast and exciting play.

Dyad had a little trouble with the initial printing. When I received my deck the cards stuck together and caused a bit of tearing on the corners. To Dyad’s credit, they immediately responded to the problem and offered to replace any defective deck. It wasn’t really a deal-breaker for me, as the cards have an antique look to them anyway.

As of this date, it looks like getting your hands on a copy could be difficult if you weren’t in on the kickstarter. Last I read, they were researching other printing companies as they were disappointed in the final quality of the decks they received from the manufacturer. The game itself is really fun, and really fast. It has a high replay value, as the combinations of warriors, weapons, and arrow barrages make no two games identical.

Playing with four players and one deck required a lot of reshuffling. In fact, once everyone has 8 cards of the initial hand, there are only 4 cards left! That being said, cards are discarded rapidly as all weapons and the losing soldier are discarded in any battle. I have had a blast with this game, and the guys I was playing with agreed, Kamakura is a winner! Keep an eye on their site and try to snag a copy!

Categories: Card, kickstarter, Reviews Tags: , ,