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Promotional Note – Snarky Witch

And just to help run traffic her way I wanted to bring up a feed for another blog… The Snarky Witch.

I rarely promote anyone, but there is a personal connection here. And so I am doing it.

Enjoy.

 

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Game Review #50 Shadowrun – Universal Brotherhood (S)

Universal Brotherhood

Hey there readers.

So this is my fiftieth review and I thought I would jump in to a game supplement that has been a really powerful piece of work for me.

For those who are wondering about the updates to the blog, the next resource page is coming, but it is going to take a bit longer to assemble everything.

So on to the review.

The Universal Brotherhood is a supplement for Shadowrun that, when I first encountered it was so totally unique that I had to read through it several times. The publication is divided into two booklets. One is game information, the other is made to look sort of like a printout of a file. Now then this was first released back in 1990, so BBS locations were all over the place, file sharing was getting rolling, and the 80’s had been full of unique horror movies that were strange enough to make you go… hmmm, I wonder what would happen if I…

Now then I have to say that horror gaming had already been in place for quite a while. I mean Call of Cthulhu or even the original Ravenloft (yeah it did not get a full setting or box set until 1990 so I have to mention the original module) had been pulling at people for a long time already. But this, this was something new.

The Shadowrun setting has, since its inception been a fairly dark place. With stories that can be morally ambiguous or where your street hardened Shadow Runners are that lone bit of light that might just make the world a little better, for a moment or two. But the plotline that started with Universal Brotherhood actually brought out a force that you just had to call evil. It gave you something that you could fight against without worrying if you were the bad guy… or did it.

So in the Universal Brotherhood book you get a reveal about a group of spirits that inhabit hosts. They convert their hosts, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, into monstrosities that only want to make more of themselves. To add to the alien nature of the spirits they are all based on insects. Flies, ants, wasps, and so on. To add to the moral issue, the spirits are organizing in such a way that they are using a self help/empowerment kind of group that specializes in people off the street who have nothing left in the world, and individuals who have been rejected by society at large. And in the areas they operate, there actually is an increase in the quality of life for the downtrodden, and the desperate.

In the supplement itself as I said there is a book of game data, and a book that is a printout like document. The game data is almost all crunch. Everything from who, and where, with stats and so on, and maps to help you get to what you need to get to. The printout though, that starts out with a quick intro and then you get the equivalent of the download of the notes of a reporter. Everything he was doing when the Universal Brotherhood was brought to his attention as maybe being more than it seemed. And it ends with notes about a data haven in the Seattle area blowing up. It is that second book that really gave me the best feeling ever for what horror gaming could be. Never knowing who you could trust, or how far you could go before you might get stomped by the big bad. Who could be anyone, anywhere, and so many of the power players in the setting thought nothing of The UB… so how do you take something on that is world wide and supported by so many forces… it seems so untouchable…

Now then I have been involved in games before where there is a big bad. Sometimes it tries to look like a good guy, and usually fails miserably. Or maybe its bad and does not care. But this… I mean in Call of Cthulhu you risk your life, your mind, and maybe your soul. In Ravenloft you risk becoming the darkness. In this, you are not just risking yourself. You are learning about the impact of a force that can take away everything you love and make it a part of itself. You have no idea where it is hidden, and it is most frequently hidden in plain site. And if you are not careful, it can take you too. Shadowrun was dark before this, but in some ways this felt like that last candle had gone out. You were no longer in the shadows, now you were in the deep darkness.

I have used this game supplement in two other games I have run. As a framework to try and establish something other than the Universal Brotherhood. I have also ran it once with players in the Shadowrun setting. The material itself is hard to translate to other systems, but the mood and the feel that it sets up can be translated beautifully.

So what do I think of this by the numbers?

Overall Fluff 5/5 – Most of the art in the books looks like grainy photos taken at night by someone without a steady cam. The fluff text that sets up story elements is something that draws you in like only great fiction can. And even in the crunch there is fluff that adds enough detail that you might feel like you can feel them watching.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – The weakest part of this supplement. It is first edition Shadowrun and the rules there were… hard to work with at times. The added rules make sense, but using them is a challenge unless you were great with the rules to begin with. Later editions of Shadowrun will make things easier, and you can translate it well enough. But on its own the rules are only so so.

Overall Mod 4/5 – Ok so its first edition Shadowrun like I said. You need to mod some of it just to get by. And translating the rules to another engine is just not something you want to do. However modding it to later editions of Shadowrun is not too hard at all. And the story can be modded any way you want so it can fit into your campaign. Also you can use some of the presented materials in a way that allows your players to get a whiff of something being up long before you put them through their paces with this beastie.

Overall Fun 5/5 – I love this adventure. I love what it does for the Shadowrun setting, and I can imagine few things in the history of Shadowrun that have had such a lasting impact on the setting.

Total Score 17/20 – I think I have really said all I need to say.

So thats my assessment. But as always, think for yourself, and make your own choice about if its any good for you or not.

Now gimme the dice. I need to see how many magicians it takes to level a building…

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Evil classes, no really…

evil

Morning all

So I encountered something while digging through some of my materials for a previous article that got me wondering about what really makes a class evil when you are playing a class based game like D&D or Pathfinder.

So I started looking and you know there are classes like the Thief or Assassin that many will jump in and say “Ohhh they steal and kill so they have to be evil.” Hate to break it to you but really so does everyone in a role playing game. You kill monsters or whomever has been designated the ‘bad guy’ and then you steal all their stuff. Does not mater what your class is. So Thief and Assassin cannot really be said to be any more inherently evil than a Mage or Fighter.

So what about a Cleric to an evil god? Well yeah that is likely to be evil, but I am trying to trace things around a whole class… there is no way that anything in the class can be really good. It may look like it on first glance but if you really look at it, it is far from good.

Now then if you go all the way back to Dragon Magazine #39 you are going to find a great example in my opinion…

Dragon_magazine_39

… the Anti Paladin. More poisonous than an assassin, needing to commit evil deeds to keep their powers and the deeds really seem like they scale to getting darker as they go up in level. Originally designed as an NPC class because they are seriously over powered even for 1st Edition AD&D, you know that people out there had to play them. Just… yeah lets go dark team!

Now then what about Necromancers? I know a ton of people who just go “Ewwwww undead, you have to be evil.” But there is another side of that too. In the AD&D 2nd edition setting of Jakandor …

Jakandor IOD

… a culture was introduced that was pretty much run by necromancers. And their undead were created to give the people a work force to maintain structures and farms and the like. They also called the spirits of the dead to act as councilors for family members, and teachers so that knowledge and wisdom was not lost and so that no family felt like they had been cheated with time with their favorite family members. All in all that sounds like a pretty good guy thing to be doing with undead to me, so I cannot say that the Necromancer class is inherently evil.

There is a class though that got me thinking about this in the first place. It was originally published in Rolemaster Companion IV.

Rolemaster compaion4

Now then the name of this class is going to possibly raise some issues so I have added a link to the name for the classic and religious definitions so that if anyone has any issues you can see how far this class is from the original meaning of the name… Houri.

Now then as published in the RM Companion IV book the description of the character class does not sound too bad… “A Houri is a semi spell user of the realms of Arms and Mentalism who specializes in the seduction and manipulation of members of the opposite sex. Normally female Houri are alluring to most humaniod men, while male Houri are alluring to most humaniod women. However racial hatred will make this less likely in certain cases (e.g., Orc hate Elves, so an Elven Houri would have a hard time seducing an Orc). The Houri is a variant profession of Bard. (Rolemaster Companion IV page 6, 1990 Iron Crown Enterprises)

Ok so that does not sound too bad at all does it. I mean spies seduce, musicians enthrall, whats the big deal. Its the spell lists John, its the spell lists. So in Rolemaster games when you have a class that uses spells, they get a certain number of spell lists right off the bat. Those lists go from level one to fifty and as you go up in level you unlock more spells to use on that list. On page 60 of the book the class appears in they start listing the spell lists. The fist one is Kisses… ok so that is part of seduction at times, but the very first kiss is the Kiss of Pain. Yeah, first thing you learn as a Houri is to cause harm. Ok so the second list Influences, hits 2nd level with Quarrels, you start other people fighting, and when you hit fifth you get a spell to cause Impotence… yeah… Ok ok so its a little dark in here but just like a Thief or Assassin you could use that for good too… maybe not as straight forward to do it, but it is possible. The biggest challenge is that most of Influences revolves around mind control. Singularly or in groups. Then you get to this spell list and it all sort of crumbles. At least for me. Page 67… Pleasures. So what is the problem here. More than half the spells on this list cause addiction. And more than half of those can do so to groups as large as a small city. And the addiction is to a spell that causes physical pleasure. Sure you have to get up there a bit before you can impact a city… but being able to cast a spell that affects 100 people… that is no small thing, and you dont have to get that high to have that level of impact.

So other than the fact that addiction is not a great thing what am I seeing in this that is an evil thing? Ok so lets combine mind control and addiction. Now lets remember that this is a class so you can teach it to others, even the addicts. Are you starting to see this. If you have an evil necromancer sure they can raise legions of the undead. But you take out the necromancer and you have ended it. An antiPaladin you have the same thing. They are nasty one on one but no real long term issue. Ok so now lets start out with one Houri, they are mind controlling and addicting everyone around them and teaching the mind controlled ones to be Houri like they are so they can go addict more people who will all come back to the first Houri because their spells are bigger and stronger. Do you see how big that mess can get. And even if the first Houri is taken out, the addiction remains.

The other element of this that I would call evil is the choice of the name Houri for the class. I have to hope that they did not do it on purpose. Because truth be told there is a lot of disrespect and insult happening by putting things together that way.

So tell me, do you think there are other classes that are evil by nature?

Now gimme the dice, I need to role up a good guy.

 

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Taking a break

Hey all

I have a ton of ideas and just zero motivation this week. So the blog post is to be skipped so I can just have some fried brain time and maybe an extra nap.

Hope everyone is having fun gaming out there and I hope to be back to it next week.

 

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Game Review #49 – Mekton Zeta

Happy weekend to ya readers

So today’s review is going back to a publisher that I have loved for a long time, and the mecha game that they came up with ages ago that still rocks. Mekton Zeta.

untitled

So back in the early 80’s (1984) R Talsorian … (yeah they have been around that long… what you think the Cyberpunk 2020 game they are turning into Cyberpunk 2077 and the new tabletop RPG Cyberpunk Red that was just premiered at Gen Con was something that was newer? Get some history in ya) … came up with an RPG to bring together all the things they had seen in Gundam (started 1979), Macross [aka Robotech] (started 1982) and other anime that have young people piloting giant robots into wars that are epic in scale in space.

The original Mekton products stacked up into several books but the main ones were Mekton, Mekton II, and Roadstriker.

In 1994 the books needed an update and so we got Mekton Zeta. The source of this review.

So much like the way the publisher set up things for Cyberpunk, character backgrounds, point based builds, and a simple game mechanic that used only d10 and d6 dice, they used the same structure for Mekton. The combat system was set up to be a little simpler than the infamous FNFF (Friday Night Fire Fight) system that was used in Cyberpunk, but if you wanted the added detail you could add it in with no problem at all since the overall mechanic was the same for the game engine.

One of the things that made Mekton so much fun is that the mechs themselves are in scale to their human counterparts. In a manner much like how Palladium used Mega Damage to scale their Robotech (1986) game up for large mecha, Mekton just added a scale factor. If you are not at the right scale or above you cannot affect your target. And the level of detail that they put into mech building made it feel more like you were taking in all the detail needed to build a mech in Battletech (1984).

Now then while the main mechanics of mech building in Mekton have stayed relatively the same from Mekton to Mekton Zeta, the detail level increased immensely. Allowing you to refine your builds over and over again so you can get that anime feeling you always wanted.

And of course your characters have the same sort of advantages. The background generation system become more and more in-depth as the generations increased. And sometime in-between Mekton and Mekton Zeta they even added a primary world and story that influenced character backgrounds.

Now then if you got all thrilled thinking this main book also has the materials for doing transforming mecha like the Valkyrie you are going to be a little disappointed. Just like how they added that mechanic in Roadstriker for the original game they added it into the Mekton Zeta Plus added book. Which also added more things like alien origins for characters, psychic powers and a few other things to tweak mechs and characters. All positive adds I have to say from a personal perspective. But that is not to say that mecha are not awesome in the main book alone.

One of the things that the whole set up gives me is the feel overall of what might happen if you took Macross and mixed it with Gundam. The game engine plays quick and easy. And as with most games building a character is the hardest part of the game. But the level of detail you can put into that character is awesome. I love the fact that you can randomly role  up a geek character who also happened to be in bomb disposal for the police and spent some time in deep space… and it makes SENSE! Ok so character creation is actually the second hardest thing in the game… building custom mechs are the hardest. But they give you enough material to play with in the main book that you can get all sorts of standard mechs into play and then mod the crud out of them to help you learn how to build one and then build your own dream machine later. Actually you never have to build a custom mech, you can just use published ones if you like. I however enjoy building the mechs just to see what I can come up with. So I am a bit biased on the positive side there.

I will say that the one thing the game struggles with is how to tie it all together in the world they have created. If you have previously published books like Mekton Empire it becomes kind of obvious, or if you happen to get Starblade Battalion and some of the other Mekton Zeta books you get the full serving of how the world works. But in the core book its is really much easier if you just take the mechs provided and build your own world. They try, they really do, but it is just not something that comes together easily for someone new to the product.

So what do I think of this by the numbers?

Overall Fluff 4/5 – The art and story elements are all top notch anime. If they tied the story parts together better for a more complete and playable world I would not hesitate to put this at a 5/5. There are even some custom blowouts of technical parts to help you get an idea about construction of some of the parts. Not many but enough to whet your appetite.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – Ok so the reason I cant give this a 5/5 is because of the layout of the crunch more than anything. R Talsorian learned a lot from their previous publications and tried to add foot notes and guide points to help you find the rules they were talking about but they had a number of editing errors that took you to the wrong point or wrong rule. Not a fatal flaw by any means but distracting and a little frustrating if you are in hurry.

Overall Mod 5/5 – Ok so this is one of those places where R Talsorian shines. You can mod the ever living snot out of this game (and yes no mater what you think snot does live forever). You can quite quickly tie it into Cyberpunk. If you are a fan of Fuzion (the combination of R Talsorian’s Interlock system and the Hero system) you can steal things from their Votoms and Bubble Gum Crisis books, and if you are a fan of CyberFang (the home brew [Published in White Wolf magazine] combination of the original World of Darkness and Cyberpunk 2020 you can use that as a translator to bring vampires and werewolves into your mech game. I cant recommend trying to bring in mages though… its suuuuper hard to get that to cross over… strangely changelings come over fairly smootly and make for some rather offbeat mech pilots.

Overall Fun 4/5 – Ok so the faster a game plays, and the easier the rules the more fun I can have with it. However I also need to find folks willing to play in the system. And that is where this one hits a bump in the road. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been able to get a group together for this game engine. Even though I have had a ton of players for Cyberpunk, Robotech, and Battletech. I dont know why it is so hard to get players together for this game… but I pity all the folks who have passed on it.

Total Score 17/20 – So overall this game gets a pretty high score. Even with the bumps I mention and the low number of times I have had the chance to play. I have to rate this high and say I would play it again in a heartbeat. I even have a couple of custom mechs and characters ready to go.

Ok so that is my overall view of this one. As always think for your self. Check it out, see if you like it and if not tell me I am off my rocker and should just shut it. I will of course say you are totally entitled to your thoughts and I would prefer you to just chill and then go about my day, but whatever it takes ya know. 🙂

All right so that is it… and yeah this one is early again. My moms birthday is tomorrow. Gotta make sure I have time for her on her special day.

So gimme the dice, I need to find out just how disconnected a background I can create for a 12 year old character… seriously, it can get strange…

Play on and play hard folks.

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Game Review #48 – Role Master – Character Law

Been a while since I did a game review so here is one of the classics.

Rolemaster-classic-character-law

Ages ago I did a review on the Middle Earth Role Playing game, by Iron Crown Enterprises, which was a derivative of the Rolemaster rpg. The most recent edition of Rolemaster that I have been able to find is shown in the picture above. Considering that I.C.E. was bought out, changed hands and its properties are now in the hands of another company, Guild Companion Publications, it can be a little hard to remember that the whole game engine started out as a way to add critical hit tables to D&D.

Rolemaster has a long history as both being an exceptional game, and being a system that should have been called Rule Master. The first one is very much deserved, and the second one, I can see that being used to  deter new players or to make sure they want to play and are not just there to rubberneck.

As to the history itself there have been a number of editions of Rolemaster. As you can see in the images below.

However while multiple editions have been created the core mechanics have stayed the same.

One of the reasons the game has had a reputation as being Rule Master is because of the arrangement of the rules overall. I mean if you take a look at one of the rare occasions when a box set was issued you can see a little bit of the problem…

Rolemaster boxed set

Character Law covers character generation, but you need Spell Law to see how the magic system really works and you need Arms and Claw Law to fight effectively. Top that off with the fact that it will take a new player several hours on average to create a character it can seem really daunting. I mean just look at this character sheet.

rolemaster sheet

 

There is a lot of information to take in there. And it looks kind of intimidating for someone who has never seen it before. However once you figure it out it is not all that bad. Remember I said that a first time through could take a player several hours, well the second time through should take a thirty minutes tops. Unless of course its been years since you played then you would need to give yourself a chance to go over it all again.

This review is focusing on Character Law. So diving into it…

This is one of the first games I played that your background and growing up really had an impact on what your character developed into. You roll up your stats and then start assigning points from race, background, apprenticeship, and career into their appropriate slots on the sheet. And guess what, they all use the same kinds of slots so it makes it easy to keep track of. All of the combined factors end up giving you a percentage score for actions and then there you go. Percentages all over the place. You even end up starting with a kit of gear and a bonus of some kind that might be an item or a skill boost, or with some backgrounds a combination of that and other things.

Over the years there have individuals that have set up spreadsheets and even Java programs to handle character generation to take the process down to however long it takes you to make a decision.

One of the things that I loved in the first edition of this game was that the designers had comments in the skills section to say that, yeah you can have more skills, mechanic stays the same, add whatever you want. And that attitude lead to players and GMs reaching out and letting them know that they had created spells, skills and all sorts of other things that worked their way into Rolemaster Companion books. As time went on a lot of that material ended up going into new editions of the main three books. So they were always about evolving the game.

Now then even though your characters roll for stats, and then you assign skill points this is a level based system. So you get your profession and then you rock that to get your build. Now the one thing that I have not seen replicated in other game engines that use levels is the fact that spells are treated like a skill. So does that mean that your bare bones fighter can cast spells? Yesssssss in-deedy. It is not as easy for them to get spells as it is for a wizard. And their spell list options are much more limited. But yeah, your big bad burly barbarian thug, can cast spells if you dedicate the points to it. Can your wizard learn to use a sword or sneak like a thief? Yuuuup. Again due to their profession they will have to put more points into it to rank up, but you can totally do it. Truth be told, until D&D 3.0 I thought that this was going to be the ultimate in the idea of multi-classing.

So before I ramble in every direction possible let me put a score to this

Overall Fluff 1/5 – The only fluff here is a little sketch art and whatever background you bring for your characters. The game engine is world agnostic so you need to invent cultures for the races and reasons for the backgrounds unless you buy an added world.

Overall Crunch 5/5 – The rules are solid. It is different enough that it takes a little time to get it down but it is not that much really. Add all this stuff up and then roll under that number. Get a critical hit and roll a 66 or really high. Annnnnd you are done.

Overall Mod 4/5 – The vein of ‘of course we didnt create everything, so do what ya need to’ is still in the game engine. Depending on the flavor you want to bring to the game you will either have to mod or can mod anything your heart desires. So your character can really be what you want it to be.

Overall Fun 3/5 – Ok so putting this at a 3/5 may seem a little off considering how much I like it. But this is for this one book. Ok so by itself it is only a third of the game engine. You can have a blast with it creating very unique and well structured characters. But until you add the other two books for the core you are going no where else. You cant even define your characters starting spells.

Total Score 13/20 – Not the best score ever by any means. And the amount of fun I have talking about this game may make you think that I messed this up. But with the low fluff and needing the other two books to really have the best levels of fun that you can, it really makes sense. Well to me anyways.

Ok so thats it for now. Play hard, play often and have fun.

So gimme the dice, I need to get a random background for a half ogre thief with odious personal habits like eating mice when dining with royalty.

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Battle of Wits – How would you do it?

Hey there readers

So in going over some older materials I ran into some concepts in gaming that I think it might be fun to see more of. AKA the battle of wits, damaging repartee, the verbal @#$%& slap that puts your foe so far down that their reputation, or maybe even their health is destroyed by the power of your words.

Now then wayyyy back in Dragon Magazine #60 ….

..there was a character class published called the Jester. It was updated and changed for D&D 3.5 in the Dragon Compendium…

Dragoncompendium

…however the class was changed it still had one goal. And that was to act much like a Bard, but with a focus on wit and antics that could be distracting. Some of their special abilities could actually turn their words into weapons (so to speak) and cause the jokes and barbs they tossed to cause physical damage or require saving throws.

Now then Hero Games actually published something along a similar vein in their Adventurers Club Quarterly Magazine #27.

Adventurers-Club-Issue-27-The-Hero-Games-Quarterly

An article on the power or Repartee. How to build powers that represent the use of words in high society to damage reputations and destroy a persons self confidence. Using the model though it is easy to see tons of ways to modify this into a power that causes physical damage too.

Now then I also know that games like Toon and Tales from the Floating Vagabond have elements like this. But those games are set to be very comedic in tone. They are intended to be light hearted and make everything feel like a joke if at all possible.

What I am interested in knowing dear readers is how you would put something like this into a more serious game? The potential antics of the Jester from D&D can be comedic, but the words can also have an insidious impact. Jokes can kill. Is this the moment someone grabs the gaming materials at hand and makes a Jester for Joker and an urban Ranger/Monk for Batman and things get out of hand? Maybe.

With the Hero Games materials they built up a framework so that your repartee can drain the will of others, or destroy reputations, with a few well placed words. They even show you how to use a power add on called Damage Shield to help create a character that is always ready, or just witty enough, to always have a comeback on hand. The immediate impact seems more mature and more serious. But it can still easily be taken for comedy.

I do like the Hero Games version because you can take that model down to a level where you can use it to simulate the power of bullying on someone else. If you drain someone low enough in regards to a stat like Ego, or Intelligence, you may have the chance to kill someone. Or if you put it as physical damage with a delayed effect that would be when someone hears everything and goes home and hurts themselves.

I dont want to make this a completely dark post by focusing on the power of words and quips to hurt. Because the opposite is also true. Words can invigorate. A few well chosen words can inspire, heal hearts, and give someone the opportunity to go home and make things better for someone else.

And any of these, when played seriously can also be played for laughs. Both by the players and in the game worlds they are in. So really we need to look for a mechanic that is very versatile. Something that can have both positive and negative impacts. Something that can heal or harm depending on the words you choose. Something that can be very serious and yet can also be played for comedy. It is also going to need to be something that is not just offensive. I mean how many times have you seen something go down where one person tosses an insult or a quip and another just completely turns it around and so the person tossing the insult has it slapped back into them like some form of verbal Judo. Or maybe you can see a situation where a number of people team up and lay on insult after insult or complement after compliment and things just build and build. We should really take into account how to defend against it too… I mean I know some folks who are just not fast enough on the uptake to understand a joke. I also know people to whom social standing means nothing. Would they be immune?

So what I am asking readers is how would you do it? Would you set up a class? Maybe make it a feat? Would you build a power point structure? Would you make it a standard skill in the game engine you use so that everyone could have it? Can you get magic or tech armor to stop it?

I had a couple of ideas for modern versions… like having Snopes on your phone so you can say “Lets fact check that should we?” and get an immediate bonus to counter. Being so far outside a culture that the comments dont mater. And a few others.

So tell me… how would you do it?

 

Now gimme the dice I need to roll up a comeback…

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This weeks blog not brought to you by anything…

Thats right… just not feelin it this week.

And thats ok 😛

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many dice you need to use to make a comfy pillow… I am guessing a lot.

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Game Review #46 – Pathfinder 1st Edition (G)

Hello Readers

Well this is one I have been holding off on for a while now. The reason is that I really love this game and I did not want to be gushing all over it without being able to give a balanced review.

Pathfinder

Pathfinder by Piazo Publishing did not start out as its own role-playing game, but was originally a setting of sorts for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 by WOTC (Wizards of the Coast) that was presented in Dungeon Magazine’s Adventure Path materials when the magazine was being published by Piazo.

The sordid history regarding WOTC canceling their open licence for 3.5 and canceling contracts for things like the publication of Dragon Magazine by third parties that resulted in Piazo creating D&D 3.75 (aka Pathfinder) is not something I will go into here. There have been enough internet rants and flame wars on the topic over the years to satisfy anyone but the most hardcore troll. Whats done is done, and the end result was Pathfinder. I am also not going to go into my opinion regarding some of their more recent (last four years) products and publication methods. This is also something that has been argued to death in many places and I dont want to waste my time with it. I would rather just enjoy the original game and talk about it. So here goes…

The short form of what makes it different from D&D 3.5 was that it took all the elements of 3.5 and improved on them either slightly or greatly. Some of the things that they improved slightly were things like the overall power progression for every class. They balanced them out and upped the power level overall a little in regards to things like Feats so that everyone could feel more heroic. They made skill progression a little more instinctive (less futzing around with class non class) and rewarding for taking class skills. In regards to combat they did one really big thing that helped the game flow a TON and that was to remove the uniqueness of the different combat maneuvers (each having their own method of resolution) like tripping, or charging, and merging them into a combat stat called Combat Maneuver (Bonus or Defense CMB or CMD). Feats and bonus’ for specific maneuvers were added or subtracted from that value. And they made the math just as simple as Armor Class or Base To Hit. It seriously saves a lot of time and effort if you are playing with people who want to do more than just hit things.

Overall magic remained mostly the same, save for making magic items. They ditched the XP cost for making magic items and made it more challenging skill wise.

Overall they increased the flexibility of the system.

When it came to the publication itself the initial book was basically the equivalent of the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master Guide in one publication that was big enough that you could beat someone bloody with. The interior art was so good that it would become a challenge for other publishers to meet. I mean really, monks and druids are rare in my games so I have to figure they are fairly uncommon in other groups too.. but look at this halfling druid and human monk…

Seriously does that not look inspiring? These are straight from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Artists are credited there. But seriously does that not make it look cool to be a druid? Or a monk?

And the basics they gave for the setting were enough to titillate a bit but not enough to lock you into any setting specifics other than suggested deities.

Now then what was really interesting was that they had set up Pathfinder so you could grab most anything from D&D 3.5, including their own Adventure Path settings and just run with it. Pathfinder characters would be a bit more powerful, but scaling was easy too when it came to the monsters, so you could just tweak things a bit and get up and running.

Now then I did encounter a number of people who for various reasons did not want to move their campaigns and such over to Pathfinder when D&D 3.5 had the plug pulled. And even though it was a bit frustrating to have something superior on hand to use I always tried to keep myself in check since I had a similar reaction when AD&D 2nd edition came out. It can be hard to let go of something you like and have invested in.

Another thing that I have enjoyed about Pathfinder is teaching the game. With the games layout, art, and presentation I have successfully taught more than one player who was completely new to role-playing games to create a character and be under way in less than two hours. I have had similar success with groups who are mixed being new to games or just new to Pathfinder. Being that easy to teach, and D&D 3.0/3.5 easy to mod, the game is solid and quick to work with.

Now then I said I was not going to go into the later publications but I do have to say that there was something about their publication model from day one that irked me. Shortly after they published their first Bestiary, they published a small press booklet titled the Adventurer’s Armory. Everything in that book came out again in the larger book the Advanced Players Guide. This pattern has meant that if you were on the ball and hot for everything that came out to supplement your game, you would end up buying the same information two or more times. While this does not directly affect the quality and the coolness of the original game book it does impact long term play-ability and affordability. And I have to mention this so that completely new players have a heads up, and can look for the books that have the most content and do not end up paying multiple times.

Ok so I have ranted and rambled lets see what I see by the numbers…

Overall Fluff 5/5 – Ok so there is little back story, and little follow through in setting up a world in the core book. However the style, the art, the look of the overall publication. This, this is just… dang…

Overall Crunch 4/5 – There is a lot of good stuff in the rules. They are well laid out and easy to follow. If you are coming from D&D 3.0 or 3.5 it should take you all of fifteen minutes to convert over. I have taught new players with this book in under two hours. And that is new to gaming. Not just new to the game. There is a bit of editing error… but for that I am only going to take away a point. It is more aesthetically displeasing that really screwing with your enjoyment and how well you can understand things.

Overall Mod 5/5 – It was made to be modded. I have used D&D Basic modules, AD&D both editions and 3.0/3.5 materials and modded them to Pathfinder with little effort. So the modding goes all ways.

Overall Fun 4/5 – Ok so this may seem a little short on score, but I have to say my overall fun was marred badly by their publication tactics and an overall deterioration of quality the further you get from the original product. When the rules first came out it was a 5/5, no questions asked. But with current eyes and experience I cant feel justified scoring it that high.

Total Score 18/20 – Ok so this score is pretty high. It really is worth it though I think. There are a lot of things that could be considered small flaws. And the follow though on future publications is a little… spotty… however I think in the end this really is the right score.

Ok so that is it for this week.

Play hard, play well, and have fun

Now gimme the dice I need to know how many hit dice my random hit die roller can generate.

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Seasonal pains

Howdy readers…

No serious post this week. Tis the start of allergy season and I am not focusing well so I would likely ramble more than usual. Just putting this in place so that folks know the blog is alive, just covered in Kleenex this week…

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