What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Friday, February 28, 2014

Too Much D&D


A deceptive title... I know.

It was a day or two ago, I participated in an interesting thread about the various incarnations of D&D and the various retro-clones and various OSR re-interpretations available now and on all our respective gaming shelves.  Of course, it's not the first time someone as issued statements like 'we have all the clones we need' or 'do we really need another OSR game that is basically doing the same thing many others have already done'.

It's a question that many OSR publishers and hobbyists have already asked.  But this isn't what made the thread interesting.  What made it interesting was what we do have on our shelves, why, and how we use these resources.

For instance, my goto game is Castles & Crusades.  I stumbled upon C&C in 2006 and picked up the pair of books (the Players Handbook and Monsters & Treasures) just a few months of the M&T's first printing.  Fortunately, I picked up the 2nd printing of the PHB because the first printing was just awful and likely would have deterred me from the game entirely.  I was led to it when I was looking for a miniature-less alternative to D&D 3.5.  Why?  Beacause miniature-centric combat Feats ticked me off (among other things).

Castles & Crusades was not a clone of AD&D but borrowed heavily from it and updated the mechanics to be consistent with d20 as an OGL title.  Many others began to follow.  Some of the design philosophy served to be as close as possible to the original D&D games, which has seen many permutations itself.  When I first became involved with Brave Halfling Publishing, I was finally exposed to the Swords & Wizardry White Box.  In many ways, this truly was a great tribute to the OCE, 6th printing that OD&D received.  The booklets were all assembled by hand and done with care.  The box cover itself was pretty slick with artwork by Mark Allen.  Here's a great picture of it alongside the OD&D box and the White Collector's Box for C&C (itself a tribute):

From 'Strange Stones'

John Adams provided me a copy of the box set but it wasn't until 'Swords & Wizardry' became affiliated with Frog God Games that I really started to take notice.  With one massive Kickstarter, the Swords & Wizardry Complete got the treatment it rightly deserved since, the game more or less positioned itself as baseline for other OSR related projects.  Under the care of Frog God Games, it has thrived but remains deceptively simple to use with a growing array of resources.  Resources like the 'Tome of Horrors Complete' and the sizable 'Monstrosities' book.  'Rapan Athuk' and 'The Black Monastery' for S&W grace the shelves alongside them.  It was about a year ago that I made the decision to begin adapted Arcana Creations work for S&W as well at C&C.

Of course, I have much more (of the same).  While I liked what Goblinoid Games had done with Labyrinth Lord, it never took hold for me.  I am happy to take stuff made for it and adapt it to my games(C&C) and 'Barrowmaze I & II' are perfect examples of this.  I do have some older Labyrinth Lord PDFs from when it was first produced.  On the other hand, I embraced the Lamentations of the Flame Princess RPG due to the high production value that James Raggi brought to the 'Rules and Magic' hardcover along with 'Carcosa' and 'Isle of the Unknown'.  The DCC RPG was also it's own beast and I couldn't pass up the chance to pick up the gold foil collector's edition of the rulebook though I haven't bought anything else for the game since.

Naturally, my shelves are full of D&D books.  I have the Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert D&D sets, the BECMI books as well as the D&D Cyclopedia, 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D books.  The Adventures Dark & Deep: A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore became a great companion to my AD&D Volumes.  Of course, I also have some D&D 3.5 books which I've trimmed down to 9 official releases.  While there were great third party efforts which took me away from 3rd Edition, I couldn't quite part with all the book.  Despite its flaws, there were a great many features which are great.  Besides, 3rd Edition also brought about the OGL which made all these other games possible in the d20 era.  For those curious, my 'top 9' 3rd Edition releases by Wizards of the Coast:

  • Players Handbook (3.5)
  • Dungeon Masters Guide (3.5)
  • Monster Manual  (3.5)
  • Deities & Demigods
  • Manual of the Planes
  • Spell Compendium
  • Magic Item Compendium
  • Unearthed Arcana
  • Rules Compendium
I still find it ridiculous that they decided a compendium was needed for the Rules but, with all the bloody books they put out and various clarifications, it made sense.

I never embraced Pathfinder and sold my Core Rulebook with a few months of owning it.  With 3.5, there was little enough I was getting out of Pathfinder and, given that the book risked giving be carpal tunnel syndrome every time I picked the book up to consult something, I decided I could do without it.  Given that Paizo is going the way of Wizards of the Coast with a machine of book and supplement additions to the Pathfinder library, I am glad I got out when I did.  One thing I thing I truly disliked about the Pathfinder organization was the decision to cram so much in the one book EXCEPT creatures.  The Bestiary that came out afterwards was a comparatively small volume and I could help observe that transplanting the magic items from the Core Rulebook to be put along with the Bestiary would have resulted in two books of similar page counts.  This would have become a nice two-book paradigm the way that Castles & Crusades started (given that it went for years before the Castle Keepers Guide was produced).

As for 4th Edition, it was something of a disaster.  The system itself has some potential and I did give it a fair shake and like most systems, who runs the game and who you game with make a huge difference on your enjoyment of it.  The biggest problem with 4th Edition is how they took a second stab at producing it... allowing clarifications to seep in the revisions but trying not to create a new and premature edition to a game that was failing to gain a gaming foothold that the company had wanted.  With Pathfinder gaining many adherents, the existing 4th Edition fanbase became split.  The chips were down and it could very well be that the success of 4th Edition (or lack thereof) was one of the factors behind the reprinting of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Edition rulebooks and adventures.  Even the OD&D material was re-released in a beautiful wooden box set (something I still desire to add to my shelf just for the sake of having it).

Now, with public playtesting over, we have what is referred to as 'D&D Next' or 5th Edition on the horizon prepared to hit this summer.  Will it be a hit, or will it fall short of the mark.  Time will certainly tell but with so many D&D type games available, it will be interesting to see how things will change in the years to come.

One thing for sure, there won't be any lack of D&D type games.  ;)

M

SALE! Wilderlands! Final Day!

At the start of this month, I posted up a sale notice on my Blog for a 'Wilderness of High Fantasy Bundle'.  You can find the details of that, HERE.

Today is the final day that I'm offering this up and after which, it will resume becoming a permanent fixture on my gaming shelf.  As I stated then (and will re-state now), I will be happy if I sell these books either way.

After today, I am taking the offer off the table but I already am looking at a new and different bundle for the month of March.

Happy Gaming!

M

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Memories of Nin-Gonost

In yesterday's post entitled 'Mazes & Migraines', I mentioned these magnetic floor tiles I had from a game that failed to use in my effort to streamline my dungeoneering experience for my players -- especially where mapping was concerned.  For the life of me, I couldn't remember the name of the game which had tremendous potential so I had to look into it and dig it out from my closet when I got home.  The name of the game was Nin-Gonost.

Nin-Gonost was an ambitious project, one that I may have mentioned before in my blog or in a couple of posts dating back a few two or three years.  The game itself seems to have been released in 2004-2005.  The set came fully loaded and included a bunch of magnetic floor and wall tiles, 14 unpainted pewter miniatures (4 heroes and 10 orcs) along with some pewter coffins and doors, a crapload of dice (these are 6-sided but non-standard), a brush, some paints, rulebook, character cards, and a wooden carrying case.  The title of the game was elvish for 'Fortress of Tears'.


I came across the game pretty much by accident.  Every year, (arguably) the largest FLGS in Montreal has a clearance sale in the summer.  Games, books, and a variety of gaming odds and ends gets 'dumped' on a couple of large tables with clearance-level pricing.  A few years back (I'd say 2010 give or take a year), I came across an open blister pack that contained these plastic dungeon-floor tiles which could be combined in a variety of ways to create the floor areas you needed with the added bonus of having small magnets along the edges to enable you to keep these sections together.  The blister pack was complete, but there were just a few sections in the pack.  Having never heard of this product before, I approached one of the staff who explained that it was part of a game that came out but never took off.  Fortunately, he had the case pretty much forgotten up on a self that the store had as a demo.  The case was complete and we negotiated a price.  I can't recall the exact price I paid for it but it was FAR LESS than what the game originally sold for.  I think this was one of the major stumbling blocks of the project -- at $150, it was a steep entry price regardless of the quality of materials.  I probably ended up paying one-third of that price knowing full well that the tiles and wall sections were potentially gaming gold as far as I was concerned.  The rest of it was pure bonus.


Looking through the book, and the dice, I couldn't help be understand another reason why the game may have not done as well as it could have.  There are 25 different dice in the kit, but none of these are standard though they do look nice.  Some are are 'dual dice'... some are 'fate dice' ... and some are 'accuracy dice'.  Depending on the color of the dice, the values range from -1 to 10.  The book had simple rules as well as rules for advanced play and while certain things seemed awesome, other things seemed needlessly complicated with the included dice system.  Admittedly, the way the fate die could work for or against you was pretty cool and potentially deadly.  The book also contained a variety of scenarios and dungeon configurations.  The wall pieces were also necessary as line of sight was also important to the game.  All in all, interesting enough but despite having all I need to play (and who knows, maybe one day I will), this box represented resources only for me.

That said, my on and off attempts at actually running a game in my campaign has been hit or miss due to schedule constraints and Nin-Gonost was largely left alone.  The last time I pulled out the box was about a year-and-a-half ago when I pulled out the paints to give to someone else (I didn't like them) and the orc miniatures which I actually painted (three of which can be seen below).


I never used the dungeon and wall tiles for the purpose I had originally intended but I think I finally need to get about doing it.  At the same time, being a boring grey color, I think I might actually touched them up with some shading before I use them for the first time.


Sadly, the game is no-more and the company collapsed.  There is a thread (not too long) that gives you an idea of the circumstances of the rise and fall of the company that produced this game over HERE.  I am happy to have gotten the set and the one blister pack when I did and occasionally, I even search for more.  I certainly have plenty for my needs of course, at least for now and until I cave and 'upgrade' to Dungeon Forge'.  But before I even think about that, I need to figure out if this is something I and my players will enjoy the next time we venture into some sort of Dungeon Crawl.

M

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mazes & Migraines

Well, yesterdays 'Codex Nordica' Kickstarter was a great success.  Not Reaper-level bones kind of success but a success none-the-less with just over $22,000 raised compared to the initial $4000 objective.  With the kind of swag, books, and modules and with some of the faithful online to exchange messages back and forth wishing to witness the final hours of this crowdfunding effort, there was the usual kind of banter.

Some were relative new comers to the game and had questions like, 'What other books would you recommend', or 'What modules should I get'...  When these sort of questions come up, I usually answer with 2-3 of my favorites depending on what sort of thing they are looking for.  When I thought about it further, and given the current modules I am running now in my campaign, I have come to dislike one key aspect of the classic dungeon crawl... Mapping.

As a PC gamer playing something like the old PC classics like 'Eye of the Beholder', 'Bard's Tale', and 'Wizardry', I remember painstakingly mapping the various mazes and dungeons on graph paper.  Hell, my original Wizardry game came with a graph pad for that very purpose!  And I enjoyed it.  I was also annoyed and challenged when I ended up walking through teleporters or stepped on a spot that randomly spun me in around.

It was a rare treat to find myself as a player in a classic D&D or AD&D campaign but those few times that I was, I can honestly say that we didn't do dungeon crawls.  I started at the beginnings of the Second Edition era of the game so I never played in any of the old classics.  Usually, what was played was homebrew kind of stuff.and not published adventures.  Years later, when I would find myself on the opposite side of a DM's screen again, I was playing in a 3.x game which meant, battle grids were all the rage, maps seemed to be smaller with fewer rooms, but this was offset by encounters that would take forever (even if we weren't discussing issues of grapple and other feats and rulings).  Thankfully I came to C&C shortly thereafter to leave some of those nightmares behind me.  In truth, it wasn't so much of the system, but some the fellow players we had to endure.

On the other hand, there were all the various times that I ran something and my style has shifted to better adapt myself to the players I had to contend with.  I have tried several methods and have avoided certain situations.  For instance, I am loathe to run any sort of megadungeon if only because of a level of complexity that I just don't want to deal with when it comes to the map itself.  When it came to dungeons, I have in the past:

  • Describe precisely the layout, exits, and other various dimensions citing cardinal directions to leave the player to come up with their own map.  This only works if you keep things simple.  Hallways and rooms only use right angles which means that all chambers (large or small) will be rectangular.  To keep things simple any exits to and from a room should be 'centered' on that wall whenever possible.  If you do this and take your time to narrate all of this, then the players can make their own maps.
  • Do the map myself and have it passed back and forth with me adding new features to the map as they are uncovered.
  • Print off a map before hand (done with Dundjinni) and have it double up as the battle map but covering (or having it cut in sections) the non-visible parts until the area is explored.
  • Narrate and be lenient allowing people to note features of a given room and allow them to back track by saying, I want to go back to the room with the whatever or simply title the rooms and have the players note them with placeholder names like 'library' or 'atrium'

I find none of these situations adequate as they each have their problems.  The first solution is very precise way to go about it without having to draw the map for the players themselves.  It is certainly to lengthen the time to play and, likely not very enjoyable.  The second one is a common one that many people do but, when I run a game, I find it tiresome to have to stop what I was doing to draw a map before I can go on with my narrative.  The third was cool when I tried it but it is time consuming and can eat up ink or toner, and paper for something you may not readily use again.  Also covering up what hasn't been seen is a pain and cutting it up before hand has it's own issues.  The last method is what I call the lazy way and it only really works in the smallest of dungeons.


Obviously it isn't and shouldn't be the end of the world.  Some ways work better for some people and it really depends on the nature of your group.  Tiles are an excellent way around this issue as you can build as you go along and then, that is that.  Nice tiles (like Dwarven Forge) are visually appealing and work nicely with miniatures.  Of course, there are much less expensive options like cardstock.  A vinyl mat is a good solution BUT not practical for large complexes plus, having to erase and redraw can be a pain.  The advantage here would be to plan you map to fit and work from one end (entry) to the other.  Unfortunately, multiple levels can make this problematic as well.

So, what's the solution?  I honestly don't know but it probably depends on you and your players.

Right now, I am running 'A3 - The Wicked Cauldron' which features a ziggurat.  I really dislike the maps as I find certain things about them are unclear.  The first couple of levels (the top of the ziggurat)  are small and I went with basic description.  No mapping was needed but, the lower and larger levels do need a bit more and it resulted me in drawing the map for the players (and contending with a source map I wasn't happy with).  For one larger encounter, this resulted in action happening in two sections of the level which necessitated drawing part of the level on the battle grid (vinyl chessex gridmap).  While it took a bit of doing thanks to the party almost killing itself as it split off in combat to have both halves end up in their own respective encounters, it also became very clear that my present group of players preferred this level of detail done ahead of time for them.

Taking this into account, I think I will do one of two things for the next game.

Knowing what the party is likely to explore next, I think I will simply give the player the map.  It will be unmarked as it is unexplored with no indications of secret passages.  However, the will clearly see what appears to be available.  This map will be in 'chunks' or quadrants and will only be given to them as they reach and begin explore that section of the map.  That way, they won't have a fun picture till they have gone everywhere.

The other thing I could do is pull out a set of plastic tiles (with magnets) that I got from an old game that basically failed.  The tiles bond together and I can just remake the area the party finds themselves in  I don't know how well this will work but if it works well, I may have try more along these lines.

Of course, it also occurs to me that others may have better ideas. How do you handle your mapping woes?

M

Monday, February 24, 2014

Last Codex Nordica Update

Ok... I promise this is the last one folks. 

All stretch goals have been busted save one that was added a short while ago.  It's a simple mug.  Anyone who pledges $69 or more get this as well:


To be clear, this is not restricted to the $69 level and up.  If you've pledged at $49 (as an example), have have a $20 add-on, you are ALSO entitled to this.  The same went with the wooden board game (if you pledge a total of $125 or higher you get it and not just if you pledge at that level).

It's been a great success and this day, a fantastic end to a solid campaign.

I don't know if the last goal will be reached but we have 6 hours left and are sitting at $19,316 at the time of this posting.

An early and well deserved congrats to Troll Lord Games, and my sincere apologies for my enthusiasm of this project.

If you want to pledge or modify your pledge... you can find the campaign HERE.

Happy Gaming!

M

Codex Nordica: More Good News!

Just a clarification on all those pledge levels for the Kickstarter.  You may have noticed that stretch goal for a wooden game set.

I have received word that, even if you pledge lower BUT (with add-ons) you match the $125 level, you will also get a full wooden set of the Tafl game if we hit $18,000.

That means it is really easy to get in on this possible bonus if you have already pledged at that awesome $99 level (I talked about it HERE).  Add-on a book (I recommend Rune Lore to keep in theme) and well, tip a dollar more if you have to.

With just over 10 hours left, time is running out.  You can pledge HERE.

Spread the news!

M

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Thinking of Getting Into Castles & Crusades?

Readers of my blog will already know that Troll Lord Games is running a Kickstarter for their latest project.  It's the 'Codex Nordica' and it looks like it will be a great gaming addition -- not only for Castles & Crusades but for other similar FRPGs as well.

Well, a new pledge level was added a few days ago and, noticing it, I though I'd pass the news along.

It's a $99 pledge level and, with current stretch goals beaten, a nice amount of value for the dollar.  For your pledge, you get the following:

  • Digital and Print copy of Codex Nordica
  • Exclusive Adventure by Brian Young plus another 4 bonus adventures modules.
  • Name in the book
  • Viking Long House from Fat Dragon Games
  • Poster of the World of Vikings
  • Set of C&C Dice
  • Players Handbook Hardcover and PDF
  • Monsters & Treasure Hardcover and PDF
  • Character Reference Sheets (15 heavy card stock and PDF)
  • Character Record Chronicles (3 Folios)
  • After Winters Dark Campaign Setting (Print and PDF)
  • Odin’s Runes (set of 24 wooden runes)
  • Bonus PDF Adventure
Quite a bit for 3 hardbacks, a campaign folio (think of the classic Greyhawk Folio), 5 print modules and another in PDF (3 of which are of your choosing -- same goes for the PDF).  Add in wooden runes, dice, character reference sheets and folios and this package serves as an EXCELLENT way to get into C&C.

With the growing page count, the Codex Nordica isn't going to carry a MSRP of $20 anymore... it will probably be closer the $25 to $28 page count.  So, the value of the three hardbacks alone would be a minimum of $75 and if you consider the average price of their recent adventure modules which go for $7 each (assuming 24 pages), you have another $30-$35 value added in.  This puts us over the $99 pledge level.  You still have to factor in the wooden runes, dice, After Winters Dark (which alone retails for $20 though currently on sale for $10), the awesome poster and possible OTHER stretch goals left to attain.

At 300 backers (we are 29 away right now), everyone at $49 level and up get a bonus set of dice from Crystal Caste.  Those who pledge at $69 and higher get a wooden cask to hold the dice.

At $18,000  (we are at $15,764 right now), Troll Lord Games will produce the 'Kings Table' game (aka Tafl or Henefatafl) which was played by the Norse.  The pledge level determines the form you will get (PDF / Paper and wooden pieces / Wooden board and pieces) but a physical copy of the game starts at the $69 level.  You have to go all out to get an all-wooden set (meaning $125).

At that higher level, you don't automatically get the PHB and M&T books but you do get one hardback of your choice (excluding the CKG for reasons of low stock) instead of one of the extra adventure modules.  You also get an additional copy of the Codex in leather.

What makes this better is the bonus that, if you happen to reside in the States, it looks like they are covering shipping as well (this is NOT the case for International backers so please be aware of this). 

So, if you have been thinking of getting into C&C, this new pledge level might be a great way to do it.  Then again, if you already have many of the books, a lower pledge level does open up the possibility to add-on something that you may want or need.

Time is running out though with just over 30 hours left to the campaign.  If interested in pledging, you can check our the Kickstarter effort HERE.

Happy Gaming!

M

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Codex Nordica Q&A

With less than a week to go, the Kickstarter campaign for 'Codex Nordica' is already a great success.  Castles & Crusades fans seem eager for this book and last year's 'Codex Celtarm' was very well received.  I had a chance to ask Steve Chenault of Troll Lord Games a few questions about the project and the fundraising efforts.

Me: For those of us who play C&C but haven't committed to this book and missed out on the last one, could you tell us what this book brings to the gaming table for players and game masters alike?

Steve: Codex Nordica brings the Vikings home! This book is chock full of information on the myths and practices of the Norseman…how they lived and what they believed. But what’s really cool about it is that Brian wove those myths into a gaming fabric. In Nordica, there is the whole outline of the myths with new spells woven into a new class, the Seidkona, which ties into the Odin’s Runes stretch level we hit some weeks ago. He’s also put in a score of new monsters direct from the Viking myths.

This book isn’t just a simple regurgitation of the Viking myths. That’s been done again and again. The joy here, in the Codex Nordica, is that the game is woven together with the myths so that you walk away with a really authentic Viking, in sound, belief, in their mannerism. Nordica does exactly what I hoped it would, it makes role playing Vikings feel….Viking.

Me: Some gamers, myself included, have made mention that these books are a bit reminiscent of TSR's old Historical Reference series of sourcebooks published in their Second Edition era.  In many other ways, the 'Codex Celtarum' is very different as well.  Are you following a similar approach with the 'Codex Nordica' and did the old Historical Reference books influence this work at all?

Steve: No these books came from an idea I had back in 2001 that tied in with my own Codex of Erde (soon to be Codex of Aihrde). In Aihrde there is a fixed mythos, however, part of that mythos is that the various peoples call the gods by different names, the Greeks might call him Zeus, but the Northmen might call him Odin. In Aihrde I stay away from making that concept concrete however, leaving up to the end user, because I know how much gamers like to tinker.

So the idea came to me to create a line of books that explore the history and myths of various peoples, bring out their concepts of sorcery and magic, monsters and so forth and so on so that the users could take what they needed and use in Aihrde or in their own homebrew.

It tied in nicely with my historical background (I have an MA in History and was working on my PhD in those long ago days). But the series fell apart for various reasons and sat quiet for some time.

Until Peter Bradley, our main artist, introduced me to Brian Young, and he already had written such a book on the Celts, I though, well holy stars, this is a done deal.

Me: Steve, If my memory serves correctly, you have studied history extensively and have earned both a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in History.  Are there periods in history you prefer and have any of your studies been an influence on these projects?

Steve: My area of study was Europe, 1870-1921, specifically the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This structure spans some 600 years of European history, surviving through a long series of social and cultural changes, largely intact. When you read about the Habsburgs, the ruling family, you can’t help but pick up a deep sense of history, of time.

That more than anything has influenced the direction our products take. This is one reason I was delighted when I read Young’s first manuscript and he had the history of the peoples already in the book. You can’t separate the belief in something from the culture that spawned that belief. If you do, it becomes a hollow echo of what it was and is never as true as you want it to be.

Me: There are a lot of things being offered in this Kickstarter with more added as stretch goals continued to be met.  The $49 level is, by far, the most popular option.  The book, multiple modules, a poster was great for starters but the wooden runes represent a VERY nice touch.  Yet the stretch goal at $18,000 may well be the crown jewel of these stretch goal rewards -- the 'Kings Table' game (aka Hnefatafl).  Could you tell us a bit more about that game?

Steve:Davis has wanted to shift us into board games for years and we actually started putting this game together last year, but it was derailed for one reason or the other. But when we were discussing the kickstarter last month it seemed the absolutely perfect time to get this out, the funding would be there, Peter has made the pieces and we have good contacts in that field. It all just seemed to fall together.

It is a stretch on this, not sure we’ll make it, but if we do it’ll be a real shift for TLG, as big as the upcoming Storytellers Thesaurus.

Me: While a great success, the funding seems to have slowed past the $12,000 mark.  You've made a call to the fans and backers for suggestions as to what else could be offered and what other types of tiers could be created.  How has the response been the response so far?

Steve: I would say the responses that were posted were great. Its really easy to get caught up on our end, focused on this or that. Especially me and Tim. We are very, very book oriented and we sometimes don’t think beyond the leather and paper. Having other people jump in helps shake us out of our rut!

Me: Recently, you've mentioned a desire to continue doing several other books much like what was done with the Celts and the Norse.  Is there one in particular you would like to tackle next?

Steve: Codex Germania is already on my desk waiting for a slot at the editors. Brian has begun work on the Codex Slavica…that’s not the right title. So yes, we have more coming.

Me: For those gamers who may not be regular Castles & Crusades fans but do play other similar games, would 'Codex Nordica' be hard to adapt?

Steve: Not at all. C&C is based on the OGL and Dungeons & Dragons. I can’t image any problems with adapting this material to that game or Pathfinder. I think if you moved it to AD&D you would have to change the AC of the monsters, but that is it.

Me: Is there anything else you would like to share with the readers with 'Codex Nordica'?

Steve: I have to say I’m more excited about this series than anything else we’ve done recently…well except for the Codex of Aihrde…as it combines two of my favorite things, gaming and history. If we could figure out how to include smokes and beer I’d be over the top.

Not only do these books establish these myths as perfect gaming tools, but they flesh it out with the story behind them, making a really exceptional book.

And there you have it folks... With only four days to go to pledge, the crowd funding campaign is already a success but some added funds all around will ensure that more rewards are won.  If interested in pledging, you can check our the Kickstarter effort HERE.  If you have checked it out but were on the fence about it, there is also a new pledge level that is great to also step into the C&C game ... the Codex, a Player's Handbook, a Monster & Treasure book, dice, pencil, character record folios and character reference sheets on top of all the bonus stretch goals for $99 (plus whatever stuff I missed mentioning from the $49 level).

Happy Gaming!

M

Monday, February 17, 2014

Weekend R&R: Warhammer - Visions (Issue 1)

For those who know me or have followed my blog for a while, the news that I have been into the miniatures aspect of the gaming hobby not all that long ago compared to my involvement in RPGs.  I only started painting my miniatures about a year-and-a-half ago.  In the five or so years that preceded that, my involvement with miniatures was strictly the pre-painted kind, courtesy of the Wizards of the Coast 'Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures'.  I started using miniatures simply to facilitate the visualization of combat for a couple of the new players I had in my regular game.  I grew to like it and the thing that motivated me to start painting my own was because of the incredible value made possible with the first Reaper Kickstarter.

But knowing little and figuring that I needed the practice, advice from a wargamer who painted his own armies and the convenient proximity of a Games Workshop store from where I worked, led me to pick up a beginner painting kit.  I wrote about the finished goblins HERE.  I was proud of those goblins but with my Reaper order due to arrive several months later, I didn't have much to paint.  I got myself invested a bit more in Games Workshop products, their line of paints, their line of 40k miniatures (Dark Angel in particular), and White Dwarf of course.

I was no stranger to White Dwarf and, at one point, had a handful of issues from the late 80's.  There was content that wasn't exclusive to Games Workshop products but this sort of things was sparse.  Of course, the magazine (still running in double digit issue numbers at the time) is nothing like what we have seen in the past year.  Since I was getting into a lot of things that were Games Workshop related, I picked up a subscription for a year.

White Dwarf helped me get up to speed with all sort of things Games Workshop was doing, the 40k universe, excellent previews and paint jobs of models, as well as paint techniques for specific models they sell.  For a novice, there was a lot the magazine offered me.  Unfortunately, a few months later, with the availability of video tutorials and painting guides on the internet and just getting a bunch of painting done, I found the magazines less useful.

While I enjoyed building up my Dark Angels army, I really didn't care all that much about a lot of the other stuff that GW was pimping.  The ads... so many ads.  Well, the magazine is an in-house product which means it pretty much is an entire ad.  I couldn't care about things like Battle Reports and what new fiction books were coming out, and aside from the pictures and the Paint Splatter series of articles, I was less and less inclined to give the magazine a complete read through.  I am also not the type of person to hold on to their magazines long term either.  I let the subscription lapse.

A month later, I hear that they've changed up the format of the magazine.  White Dwarf was now a much smaller release but it was now a weekly one (for $4 an issue).  It is a showcase of new products and has a lot of things you would expect from the magazine.  Price is significantly lower too.  What was interesting to me was to hear about the new 'Visions' magazine.

Warhammer: Visions is a new monthly magazine which is, essentially, a pictorial.  Nothing more and nothing less.  It's a nice magazine in the sense that the pictures of models have always been stunning in the magazine and, with the first issue having a lot of content (pictures) which were essentially recycled, it has gotten a LOT of flack.  The magazine has not been well received and been termed as a terrible cash grab.  Actually, I have a tendency to agree with the notion that 'cash grab' is synonymous with 'Games Workshop' these days.  Size is an odd one since it is both smaller than the old White Dwarf (a bit bigger than your 6x9) but with a larger page count (over 230).  Text is minimal and can be best described as 'captions' for the pictures (in three languages).  It's also $12.


Gone are the ads, prices, and new product listings.  No more letters... no more long winded editorials.  The single, most-useless feature in the new Visions is the Battle Report.  Pictures which have a bit of text setting the stage for the particular shot seem unnecessary even though some of the pictures are nice.

What I like about Visions and Why:

I have always liked the photography and models showcased in the recent White Dwarf magazine but in the last 12 months, I am less interested in what Games Workshop has to offer since, what led me them in the first place was the painting aspect of the hobby.  I liked the painting articles which show me how I can go about getting a particular look on a model.  I liked stuff like the kit bash which showed modified models.  Most importantly, I liked the photographs because it gave me a large sampling of inspiration and examples.  Warhammer: Visions *had* all of this and pretty much nothing else.  The smaller format is convenient for me and, with it's increased page count, I can see me putting this on my bookshelves the way the some people do with National Geographic.  Yes, it's very light on text but I can honestly say that I'm not looking for the articles in this one.  I agree that this sort of magazine won't be for everyone and, if they continue recycle their content from, what is now a weekly production of White Dwarf, I wouldn't mind that either because the chances that I pick up one of those are EXTREMELY slim. As a side note, I should also point out that the many examples of duplication of material in the first issue was not one I had to put up with because my previous subscription to White Dwarf lapsed an issue before they that particular spread.

Is it perfect?  No, but it's got potential.  The one thing that would clearly put this magazine over the top for me (given the $12 price point) would be some Master Class level painting guides and tips.  The existing Paint Splatter is great for people starting to paint or looking for some ideas.  However, as soon as you get an assortment of models done under your belt, some of these basic tutorials are just less useful (though still nice to have).  My own painting has advanced considerably since I started and I continue to hone my techniques.  I am now able to flip through Visions at all the various pictures and be able to tell you was sort techniques and tricks were done to achieve many of the results on display.  If they were to include some 'next level' stuff, I would be really happy to continue buying the new Visions product.

The point is, some people buy Games Workshop for other things than the Warhammer games.  They might like a couple of models for their own fantasy games, or maybe they like or are used to using their paints.  And, while one of the biggest complaints is that there are so many pictures available on the internet for free (well, aside from paying for the access), I don't go out of my way to look at random miniatures online.  Generally, if I am painting something specific, I may look up other pictures to see what other painters have done with the same model.  Visions will continue to give me a broad selection of stuff that I might not be inclined to paint at first glance but these same pictures may inspire me to work on something else or go about painting a model in a different manner.

At the end of the day, it's clear that Warhammer: Visions won't be for everyone.  It's recent and relatively sour impressions it has received might mean that it will be short-lived and that would be a shame.  I genuinely think that people who like Visions won't be the sort that will buy into the weekly White Dwarf release.  I don't think that White Dwarf fans will think highly of Visions either.  But coming strictly as a painter, Visions generally took the best part of the former and dumped the rest.

M

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Valhalla, I am coming!

Go to: http://kck.st/1ff7dSJ for more info!

I also wrote about it HERE.

M

Hold The Heathen Hammer High


Less than two weeks to go for Troll Lord Games' Codex Nordica Kickstarter.  I've already written a bit about it HERE and here is where the fund raising campaign now stands.

The project is fully funded and a number of stretch goals have already been unlocked.  Mostly, this means the possibility of extra swag for you hard won money.

$10 pledge gets you the PDF for a book which will carry a MSRP of at least $19.95.  When this sucker hits RPGNow, it will likely carry a price of $13.95 -- not too shabby.

$30 pledge gets you the PDF and the hardcover.  Admittedly, not as great as other pledge levels but great option if you want both and don't care for extras OR trying to save a bit of cash.

$49 pledge is a nice little gem since you benefit from the stretch goals at this level.  Hardcover, PDF, an exclusive adventure, a beautiful poster of the nine worlds, and a PDF terrain set of a Viking Longhouse by Fat Dragon Games (if you like paper modeling).  However, because of the stretch goals unlocked this level and higher gets an additional two adventure modules as well as a set of wooden runes (24 rune set presumably based on the Elder Futhark).  At $49, we are looking at some decent value here.


There are more stretch goals to be unlocked though.  The one in progress (about $1500 away short of the goal at the point this was written) would represent a third additional adventure module at the $49 level.

What about the higher levels?

Well, if you don't have a Player's handbook, you can get in on the $69 pledge level which has all the benefits of the $49 level but adds a PHB -- a $10 saving considering the regular PHB price.

However, the crown of the Kickstarter is a slightly steeper $125 level.  Same benefits as the $49 level but with a couple of differences.  One is that there is an extra copy of the Codex Nordica which happens to be leather bound.  As you can in the picture below, the Codex Celtarum had a similar option and the book looks great (though the picture really doesn't do it justice).  The other difference, should the present stretch goal be met, is that instead of gaining an additional third adventure module, you get a hardcover book of your choice (the CKG is prohibited from this selection).


What excites me is the prospect of what has been hinted.


I have read somewhere that one of the stretch goals could be a printed copy of the Storyteller's Thesaurus -- a book I would *love* to have on my bookshelf.  I wrote a review about it HERE.

However, there is word about a producing a game that vikings played.  I'm hoping they mean Hnefatafl because that would be awesome!
 

By the sounds of it, this would be an $18,000 stretch goal which means we still need $7500 to hit it.

The Vikings oft-times struggled against harsher conditions and odds.  They seldom faltered.

Hold the Heathen Hammer High!

M

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tools of the Miniature Painter: Instant Mold

Once in a while, creative types who want to modify their miniatures they are assembling and painting, it's only a matter of time before they use 'Green Stuff'.  These are great to smooth out seems of a model that you are assembling or maybe just to do some minor repairing.  Sometimes you want to do something different like using a bit from a different model but you only have the one.  Trying to find one one ebay isn't always guaranteed to work and sculpting one from scratch might just be out of the question.  In times like these, you may want to create a mold in order to make multiple copies -- at least until 3D scanning and printing becomes a lot more commonplace.

Sure, you can always create a press mold using some Green Stuff.  One the mold is created (and the Green Stuff is fully cured), with a dab of oil you can use fresh Green Stuff to press into the mold to create some copies.  This presents with only a couple of issues.  First, you end up using a lot of green stuff and, once the press mold is created, you obviously can't re-purpose this Green Stuff.  This isn't a problem is you see yourself making multiple copies of something but if you aren't, you could be using a fair bit of it and it could be costly overtime if you are creating multiple, different molds.  This links to the second point -- Green Stuff while not overly expense, isn't cheap either (I can't reinforce the need to shop around here).

A year or so ago, I came across 'Instant Mold' and I finally had a chance to try it and test it out some.  The stuff is pretty amazing and offers several advantages over using Green Stuff to create press molds:

  • It's cheap.  I bought my pack for about $12 - $14 at my FLGS
  • It's quick.  It takes minutes to create a press mold from something.
  • It doesn't stick.  It doesn't stick to surfaces (the original item or the copy you are making)
  • It is reusable.  That's right.  Once done you can re-use the material to create new molds 
I'm doing a model commission and to do this, I am modifying it as well.  This needed some bits but the ones I had weren't spares. It was high time to put Instant Mold to the test.

The package contained six small bars of the stuff and the feel was something akin to a plastic.  How to use them was simple enough.  Boil some water and drop some in for two minutes.  The heat is what makes the material malleable and it hardens up again when cool.  While you wait, you may want to start thinking about getting the Green Stuff ready and whatever piece you need to create the press mold from.  Keep in mind to use implements to pull the Instant Mold out of the water since the water will still be hot.

When it's out of the water, you can quickly shape the piece to confirm to the dimensions you need to create the mold from.  You may want a rigid box to put in or maybe a flat glass surface to apply on.  Taking the piece you want to mold (assuming it's a surface you need and nothing more), you press the piece into the material firmly as to ensure that details are captured.  You want to apply steady pressure when initially pressing down.  Once done, you don't need to keep any pressure on it.  Simply let the material cool and harden a bit before removing the piece.  No more than a minute or two is needed for this.  Once the original is removed, allow it to cool and harden a bit longer (another few minutes) before attempting to use the press mold.

With the mold ready, it's an easy enough matter to spread green stuff into the mold.  Let it set and you can then pry it out again without the need of any oils or vaseline.

But what about whole objects?

It's still possible to do and the best way to go about it is to use enough material to fold over a bit and effectively sealing it.  Once that is done and it has hardened some, you will need to cut it back out along a seem to leave you with two halves.  You can use these halves to even copy an entire model though pieces like bits would be a bit more practical IMO.

When you are done and satisfied with your copies, simply put the pieces in boiling water for another couple minutes to reuse and reshape in order to create a new mold.

Well worth the investment given the re-usability of the stuff.  Finding Instant Mold could be a bit tricky but well worth the hunt.  CoolMiniOrNot has it online HERE and I saw some through a third party retailer on Amazon, HERE.


M

Friday, February 7, 2014

How to use Chaotic Shiny's Tavern Cards


About a year ago, Hannah Lipsky had a project she launched on Kickstarter.  The goal was to create a full deck of playing cards that could also serve to randomly generate a tavern.  The Kickstarter struggled a bit but did manage to get the necessary funds to go ahead and create the project.  Now, the backers of the project have started receiving their rewards.

The cards are of a nice quality and showcase 55 different pieces of artwork (56 if you count the back of the cards) but does not come in a box.  This shouldn't be news to anyone who backed it, Hannah was very upfront about everything throughout the campaign and the months that followed as the project progressed.  The one thing that the deck didn't include is instructions on some of the ways to go about using the deck.  Aside from just a regular deck of cards that is.

To be honest, there is no one 'correct' way to go about doing so and, chances are, if you backed the project, you probably already have an idea.

Card Breakdown:

Each card have common features about them.  Obviously the suit and number of the card -- Aces through King in Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, and Spades plus the Jokers.  Each care has a descriptor (an adjective) on the left hand side of the card and an object (a noun) on the right side.  The top of the card had a word or two to indicate some sort of feature for the in.


The suits of the cards also represent something.  Hearts corresponds to drinks, Clubs corresponds to events, Spades corresponds to amenities, and Diamonds are miscellaneous.  Furthermore, the court cards (aka face cards) represent characters.  Aces are special cards.  Jokers for that matter are equally special but are each representative of special characters.



How to Use Them:

Some of the better ways to use the card if you are prepping ahead of time is to deal out a series of cards.  My suggestion is to keep drawing until you have at least one of each suit.  This means you will have a minimum of four cards to play with though the odds are you'll have anywhere between 4 and 8 cards.

Doing so right now, I pulled 8 -- 3 diamonds, 3 spades, one club, and one heart.  It only takes two cards to come up with a name and using the first two, we have the 'Charming Wyvern'.  Looking at the spread, I know that the Charming Wyvern has some stables, is known for it's lavish meals (breakfast AND dinner), as well as it's wine.  It certainly sounds like a classy establishment.  Of note this particular evening, there is a noble woman in the company of a young man likely enjoying each others company but the evening is cut short when a minor brawl breaks out due to the results of some unwise bet.

And there you have it.  There is no 'set way' to use the cards but it's important to see one of each suit make an appearance in the spread to make sure you have a variety of elements to pull from.

If you need to use the deck of cards during the course of the game, it might actually be easier to separate the cards in their respective suits before hand.  That say, if you need to draw upon a particular aspect of a tavern, it will be readily available as opposed to continuously draw till you find one that works.

I imagine that, once things settle down, these will become readily available at DriveThruCards at Chaotic Shiny's store front HERE.  I don't have a price since it isn't listed yet but, judging by the Kickstarter, it will probably cost you around $12 give-or-take.  As soon as I find out they are available, I will let you folks know.  I think these turned out to be pretty cool.


Haunted Highlands Books Update

Got word back a bit earlier today that some of those issue I had pointed out (notably with the Player's Guide) have been corrected.  Updated versions of the PDF are now available if you already have them.

Haven't read either of my reviews yet?

You can find my review for the Player's Guide to the Haunted Highlands HERE.

You can find my review for the Castle Keeper's Guide to the Haunted Highlands HERE.

Didn't back but are interested in the PDFs?  You can by them HERE.

Lastly, feel a bit bummed about missing out on TLG's last Kickstarter?  There is a new one going on right now over HERE.

M

Weekend R&R: Castle Keeper's Guide to the Haunted Highlands (C&C)

Last summer, Troll Lord Games launched a Kickstarter to promote the Haunted Highlands, an adventure setting for the Castles & Crusades RPG.  The brainchild of Casey Christofferson, the Haunted Highlands started off as a series of adventure modules published a few years for C&C, these have been pulled together along with an accessory called the Black Libram to from a portion of the two books to come out of this Kickstarter.  These are the Player's Guide to the Haunted Highlands and the Castle Keeper's Guide to the Haunted Highlands.



The Castle Keeper's Guide to the Haunted Highlands

The Return to the Haunted Highlands Kickstarter was TLG's most successful fundraising campaign to date and this book is the jewel of this project.  Years ago, as the original modules were being released, there was talk about expanded the setting introduced through Chritofferson's writings.  When TLG published the Eastmark Gazetteer and the After Winters Dark folios, fans clamored for a Haunted Highlands folio.  Admittedly, I also thought it would have been a great idea at the time.  Then, the conversation turned to the idea of a Haunted Highlands boxed set, much like those classic setting boxed sets published by TSR in days long past.  Box sets are cool after all.  Somehow, the Highlands got put aside as other projects demanded a greater measure of attention until (pretty much) the Kickstarter itself -- the goal of which was to, as many felt, give the Haunted Highlands the treatment it deserved.

If I were to describe this book to others, it's a wonderful beast of a book.  The Haunted Highlands is a gritter setting than some people may be accustomed to and what started off as a micro-setting being pieced together by the release of adventure modules has evolved into something greater.  The Haunted Highlands also gave way to the Free City of Eskadia (I review it HERE) which is now part of a larger whole.  The book is complete with a gazetteer component, a section of deities and fiends, previously published adventures DB1 - DB6 which have been updated and expanded, the addition of three more adventures (DB7 - DB9), and a bestiary section.  This mammoth book is 400 pages!

The first section, the gazetteer, gives a nice overview of the setting but remains true to the concept of what a gazetteer should be -- entries are numerous but short and concise.  However, between these entries and the supplied, a clear enough picture is presented and, given that the majority of the book is an assembled collection of 9 adventures, many things covered in the gazetteer will be visited in the adventures as well.  This will certainly help to create a lasting impression upon the players participating and playing through the campaign.  Of course, in a land of myth and magic where gods and demons vie for influence, a good fantasy setting would be incomplete if this was ignored.  These really help add flavor to the setting and provides further inspiration to draw from when painting a narrative for the players to immerse themselves in.

The second, and by far, the largest section is the collection of adventures for the Haunted Highlands.  It is important to note that most of this material can be used as needed, or which ever path the players dare to tread.  There is nothing that forces the players to start and go on advancing through the modules one at a time starting off at DB1 through DB9.  In the first of these, goes on to describe the areas in DB1 as:
... not listed under a level of difficulty for their use.  The areas of adventure detailed herein may be considered to be fluid and every-changing based on your style of play, thus handicapping them with level adjustments would proved foolish at best.
It continues to state:
Certainly a hydra's lair may prove too difficult for low level characters, but may be though of as "just right" for higher level play.  Likewise, a warren of goblins may be considered too easy a challenge for higher level adventuring hands, but just right for low level parties looking to cut their teeth on high adventure.
In other words, the material is truly an assortment and much of it can be described in a similar way and it feels much more open ended than other published adventures.

On the subject of the adventuring material presented, the only thing I wish that could have been added in is some sort of mass-combat rules to go along with the large combat scenarios which started to be presented from DB4 and onward.  When DB4: Dro Mandras was first published, the module had alluded to the 'Tides of Battle' system for Mass Combat.  Fields of Battle was published sometime afterwards and a condensed version of the rules appeared in the Castle Keeper's Guide.  I would have loved to see the inclusion of the condensed rules in either this volume or the Player's Guide to the Haunted Highland.  Of course, the present book is already 400 pages...

The completely new content serves to broaden and link up other previously mentioned material but follow the same kind of format previously established.  All in all, the 9 adventures along with the gazetteer really shines in this manner of presentation.  To make the book complete, the last section is a sizable addition of another 70 pages of monsters for the C&C game.  Of course, some of these are not entirely new having been previously published in the original six Haunted Highlands adventures but it's always nice to have these all in one place.  Some of these creatures will also be familiar outside of C&C as many are conversions of the creatures made available through Necromancer Games' Tome of Horrors.

Compared to the Player's Guide, this book seems to have gotten the lion's share of attention where this project was concerned.  There are, simply put, fewer problems as far as layout out and editing is concerned though these are still present.  One thing is certain, I found them less intrusive over all.  Any of these issues here may be more a layout issue than an editing one.  An example of a layout issue can be found on the map spread on pages 234 - 235 of the book -- the header on the top of page 235 is obscured which leads me to believe it should not have been there.

Overall, I highly recommend this book and value it far more than the player's guide.  The player's guide, though nice, isn't strictly necessary to enjoy the Haunted Highlands.  The Castle Keeper's Guide to the Haunted Highlands is, on the other hand, a great way to kick off a new campaign in a slightly different setting that has a strong, swords and sorcery vibe to it.  Take a trip down the Bowbe's Roadhouse and have yourself a pint... new adventures await for you!

As I mentioned before, the MSRP for the book, once released will be $40.00 but, if you prefer or like the idea of a digital alternative, consider the PDF available HERE for $27.99.

M

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Weekend R&R: Player's Guide to the Haunted Highlands (C&C)

Last summer, Troll Lord Games launched a Kickstarter to promote the Haunted Highlands, an adventure setting for the Castles & Crusades RPG.  The brainchild of Casey Christofferson, the Haunted Highlands started off as a series of adventure modules published a few years for C&C, these have been pulled together along with an accessory called the Black Libram to from a portion of the two books to come out of this Kickstarter.  These are the Player's Guide to the Haunted Highlands and the Castle Keeper's Guide to the Haunted Highlands.


The Player's Guide to the Haunted Highlands

The book is a modest, 112 page book which basically gives an overview of the new races, new classes, and variants available in the setting as well as basic information about the Highlands.  In fact the first 28 pages is dedicated to the setting and the system specific 'crunch' doesn't begin to happen doesn't start before page 36.

The remainder of the book is clearly divided into 4 chapters though a 5th would have been warranted (and may possibly have been intended).  These are 'Creating the Character', 'Races of Karbosk', 'Character Classes', and 'Dual Classing'.

The first chapter after the overview is on 'Creating the Character' but this a bit of a misnomer.  Sure, it starts off by telling the would-be player to select their class, roll their attributes, and so on but most of the content of this chapter is devoted to an explanation of the attributes, the Siege Engine mechanic and how attribute checks, saving throws, and then how combat works.  The chapter goes so far to go into situational modifiers, combat maneuvers, and even other odds and ends such as Spell Resistance and Turning Undead.  This isn't a bad thing but none of this content is new; it's lifted straight out of the C&C PHB.  When I first heard that this material was going to be in the book, I had hoped that the Player's Guide would be 'self-sufficient' after a fashion.  I supposed it could be if you restricted yourself to the new races and classes there were in this book only.  That would also mean restricting yourself to the new spells listed here too.  However, given what's actually available to play in this book, the inclusion of this material doesn't make much sense, but who knows.

On the subject of races and classes, the second chapter covers what you need to play Orcs, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Dark Dwarves (the Zvarguth), and Meshkuri.  Given the typical nature of these races in your typical game, these may be atypical of the sort players would find themselves playing.  More often than not, I imagine it's the person who is running the game that tends to veto such an idea.  The Highlands are a bit darker and certainly harsher so these selections may not be so odd given the setting.  Variety is always interesting and most C&C fans will find these a welcome or at least interesting addition to the game.

Chapter 3 is all about new classes though in this section, two of the classes were previously published.  The first of these is the Conjurer which originally appeared in DB6 -Dwellers in the Dark.  Since these modules were being reprinted together in the CK Guide to the Haunted Highlands, it only makes sense to put it here.  The second of these is the Necromancer which appeared in the Black Libram of Natarus.  It's worth noting that the entirety of this accessory (now out of print) can be found in the pages of these two new Haunted Highland books.  Also included is a different and tougher Assassin class, a Witch class, as well as other class variants. 

Of interest to many C&C players who have their roots in older editions of D&D will be the rules provided for Dual Class characters.  In principal, the rules supplied are almost adequate though I find myself disagreeing with a couple of points.  Simply put and as I understand it, it's broken.

EDIT - I should point out that this is only my opinion and the following examples I provide are a bit extreme to illustrate a point given my understanding ... By no means does this mean it's unusable and I'm sure it would be fine in regular play.

Take what the author outlines for Base-to-Hit progression for example.  The argument is that you don't 'forget' how to fight and improvement and training in an on-going thing.  Any new BtH bonus acquired in the new class is gained as a result.  At first glance, this might make sense.  However, suppose a high level Fighter (say 10th) decides to become a Bard.  Once his apprenticeship is done with, he can begin advancing in his new class.  Keep in mind that the apprenticeship is half the requirement to reach level two in the new class.  If the average XP needed for the party is about 250,000 to reach level 11, the player who changed class to a Bard who decides to focus on advancing this class only can advance to level 9 as a Bard and effectively be a 19th level character when the rest of the party is 11th.  His BtH would be a 18 compared to the 11 of an 11th level fighter.

The other issue is nothing definite is given on the subject of Hit Dice and hit points except that you advance in the new class normally.  Does this mean that, after rolling 10d10 for hitpoints for those 10 levels of fighter taken, you would then keep on rolling d10 for every level of Bard taken (since you roll up to and including level 10 of any given class)?  Compare 19d10 vs the 11d10 of that simply 11th level fighter who has the same amount of XP.

It's problematic though it could easily be fixed.  Since other class abilities and skills are constrained by the class level itself (and not total level), the same MUST be done with the BtH bonus.  Total HD also need to be limited -- only 10 dice worth can be rolled up for HP and any HP gained after 10 HD is determined by the class the character advanced in.  I suppose that's the easiest way to fix it though Dual Classing in general is far from elegant in a variable XP/Class system.

Sadly, the book's organization becomes a bit muddled after the Dual Classing.  Chapter 4 seemingly continues into magic which, once again, is a repeat of material found in the PHB followed by new spells and a small section on sacrificial magic which were both originally found in the Black Libram.

It really seems like this last magic section should have been it's own chapter but somehow, it got lost in the editing and layout process.  On the subject of editing, along with some of the other things I have seen in this book, it does feel that it was rushed in parts of it.  In the first few pages when I stopped to examine a passage, I found a number of little issues.  I think some of these have to do with the parts of the text that were ported (copied and pasted) into the present book.  In passages that exist in the PHB, I have seen words 'thrust together' because of missing spaces in this book.  On the same page, I've seen another example of sentence starting off with the first word going uncapitalized.  These are very minor things but, it does give me pause to see several example of this on a single page of text that already exists in another book.  For those curious, please take a good look at the numbered page 41 of the book.  It is entirely possible that some of these 'space' issues are due to the program used for the layout of the book, or perhaps it was a slightly older version of the text that was used here.

Overall, I like the book and the companion CK book that comes with it (to be reviewed tomorrow, time permitting) looks to be great.  The book is far from perfect but perhaps it was the fact that a lot of the text in this book was seen before which led to a bit more complacency with regards to the integrity of the book.  Being the responsible sort that I am, I will attempt to point a few of these things out to the powers that be.  It hasn't gone to press yet so maybe a few of these things can be tweaked and the PDF updated.

For those wanting to grab a copy, it is available now (warts and all) at RPGNow over HERE.  It is priced as a MSRP of  $13.99 (cover price for the hardback will be $19.99 when available).

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

SALE - Wilderlands of High Fantasy Bundle

Here's the deal folks.  About once or twice a year, I try and clear some room from my bookshelves selecting a few items here and there that I see about offering up for sale.  The money that comes in helps with the bills as well as fund aspects of a new project or other expenses that Arcana Creations incurs.

I've decided to dig a bit deeper and I have a bundle set up that almost pains me to part with.  Then again, it also pains me that I am just not using the stuff despite how excellent these truly are.  So, for a LIMITED TIME only, I have decided to offer up for sale as a bundle the following:
  • Wilderlands of High Fantasy (d20) box set
  • City State of the Invincible Overlord (d20) hardcover
  • Players Guide to the Wilderlands (d20) softcover
  • Caverns of Thracia (d20) softcover
  • JG1 - Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor (d20) softcover
  • JG2 - Citadel of Fire (d20) softcover
  • JG3 - Dark Tower (d20) softcover
The first four items were published by Necromancer Games and out of print and highly prized / sought after.  The last three were published by Goodman Games.  All items are in FANTASTIC condition.

Interested? I am asking $225.00 USD for the lot.  This includes shipping to anywhere in Canada or the continental United States.  If living abroad and you are genuinely interested, please contact me and we will examine the possibility.  Payments will be Paypal only for this.  I can be reached at:

patbellavance (at) sympatico (dot) ca

Feel free to ask me questions and know that payment and address confirmation will be handled subsequently.

One last but IMPORTANT detail.  As indicated, this is a LIMITED time offer.  As much as I would be happy to sell these, part of me would be equally happy to hold on to these.  This offer will EXPIRE on February 28th, 2014 at midnight (EST) where it will be rescinded.  Anyone who knows the value and quality of these books won't blame me for that, I am sure.  ;)

M

Monday, February 3, 2014

SOS - Gateway Boardgames

Originally published on Sound on Sight:

Gaming can mean different things for different people and some are more inclined to engage in these activities than others.  The rise in popularity of video games led them to grow beyond the boundaries of an arcade to our very homes through our computers and our video game consoles.  We are, by our very nature, social beings and much of our gaming habits involve playing with other people as either teammates or opponents.  But before the prominence and accessibility to video games, we still found ways to play games and amuse ourselves.  Some of us may have been inclined to leave the concept of a board game behind us, thinking them nothing more than the likes of Sorry, Battleship, or Checkers.  Or, worse yet, you are a gamer and already know the reality of things but friends will be quick to remind you why they don’t play such games anymore after that one terrible experience with Monopoly that lasted for hours.

Board games are very much alive and well despite the digital generation we are currently a part of.  There are vast numbers of games available and many of them are easy to learn, simple to play, and offer a rewarding way to spend time with friends or family which doesn't involve sitting in front of a television screen or computer monitor.  It might be that you need to find the ‘right type’ of game to ease the ‘non-gamer’ into playing something not overly complex and long.  Maybe you just want to try and get that significant other to try and share one of your interests instead of having them run away screaming.

What you need in this situation is a ‘Gateway Game’.

The term is shamelessly inspired by the idea of a ‘gateway drug’…  In other words, these are games that ease you into a gaming culture where you might become more open to at least understand the passion that some gamers have and hopefully share some great and fun experiences with them.  While I would recommend any of these games as starting points, these games are also different enough from each other.  It’s worth comparing these and picking one that is better suited to the people you have in mind for the game.


Ticket to Ride
Designer: Alan R Moon
Publisher: Days of Wonder

Ticket to Ride is a deceptively simple game to play where the goal is to build railroad connections between cities as determined by tickets each player attempts to complete.  Each player starts off with 45 train pieces which are used to construct their railroads.  On any given turn, a player can draw train cards (required to build railroads), construct railroads by claiming routes, or draw more destination tickets.  Claiming routes and completing destination objectives are the two ways to score points in the game and end game is triggered when one player has nearly exhausted their supply or train pieces (less than 3).  Any destination tickets which are not completed count against your total and the player with the highest total wins.

You can play the game with anywhere between 2 and 5 players and a full game shouldn't last much longer than 45 minutes or so.  Because of the game is fairly light on rules, it’s easy to teach new players how to play and have everyone comfortable with the game play within a couple of turns.  It’s also a game that a lot of people keep coming back to time and time again and it’s popularity has spawned numerous spin offs and expansions.

Settlers of Catan
Designer: Klaus Teuber
Publisher: Mayfair Games (North America)

Settlers of Catan was originally published in the mid-90’s and helped bring about the demand for a new generation of boardgames in North America.  The game’s focus is trade as a variety of resources are needed by the players to settle the island of Catan.  As each player’s settlement grows, so those the number of victory points they have.  The first player to reach 10 victory points is the winner.

The resources in the game consist of Grain, Lumber, Brick, Wool, and Ore and the things you build each have different resource needs.  Distribution of these resources are dependent on where a player has their settlements and the luck of the dice.  The key to success in Settlers of Catan is very much reliant on a planing and trade with other players.

The original game can play up to 3 or 4 players but an expansion has been released to increase the player amount up to 6.  Game play is simple and shouldn't last much more than 60 to 90 minutes.  Many different expansions have also been created for this game and Settlers of Catan is generally considered to be a classic game with tournaments being held on a regular basis.

Kill Doctor Lucky
Designer: James Ernest
Publisher: Titanic Games

Kill Doctor Lucky was originally published by a small company called ‘Cheap Ass Games’ in the mid-90s but quickly grew to popularity due to its quirky and humorous nature.  Some fans of the game will jokingly describe this game as sort of a prequel to ‘Clue’ since the goal of the game is, as the name implies, to kill Doctor Lucky.  Each player wanders around the mansion hoping to corner the poor Doctor alone in order to pull off the perfect crime.  If the player succeeds without being thwarted, they win the game.

The Titanic Games version is a large and colorful update to the game and is the only version presently available on the market.  The game can be player between 3 and 7 players within about 45 minutes.

Shadows Over Camelot
Designer: Serge Laget & Bruno Cathala
Publisher: Days of Wonder

Shadows Over Camelot is an Arthurian themed board game with one notable difference compared to most other games.  This game is co-operative.  In this game, you work together to complete a variety of quests in order to try and beat a game which is designed to defeat you.

Each player takes their turn and each turn goes through two distinct phases.  The first phase is the progression of evil which will either be drawing a black card, losing a hit point, or putting down a siege engine outside of Camelot.  Afterwards comes the second phase which is the progression of good.  In this phase, you can move to a quest, work to complete a quest, play a special card, or if still in Camelot, fight off siege engines or collect resource cards.  Quests that are completed will mean you get white swords to place on the round table and failed ones means black swords are placed on the table instead.  Too many black swords on the table or too many siege engines outside Camelot means the game is lost.

Shadows over Camelot is an enjoyable though challenging game and, to make things more challenging, there is a possibility that one of the players is also a traitor that will be undermining efforts to collectively win the game.

At first glance, the game may seem a bit abstract as far as a traditional game board is concerned.  The game functions more with cards with the board serving as trackers for the progress of the game.  Like other Days of Wonder games (like Ticket to Ride for example), the game is simple enough to pick up within a couple of turns.  However the game has enough depth to keep fans of the game playing for years.  The game plays 3 to 7 players and normally will run about no more than 90 minutes.

Citadels
Designer: Bruno Faidutti
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Citadels is not a board game — it is a card game but a fantastic one set to the theme of medieval fantasy.  The goal is to build the greatest city before others beat you to it.  The game takes place in two phases, the character selection phase and the action phase.

The characters you play in the game will be one of eight… they are the Assassin, the Thief, the Magician, the King, the Bishop, the Merchant, the Architect, and the Warlord.  Each have their own special abilities and who is playing who is determined anew each game turn.  The selection of characters is done in secret but the play order of the characters never changes.  The assassin for example always goes first.

Each player takes their turn based on the character they are playing and, in their turn, they can use the special character ability and do what they need to do in order to build districts to their city.  The first player to reach 8 districts wins the game.  You can play the game between 30 and 60 minutes with 2 to 8 players.


All these games are accessible to new players and no game will last more than a couple hours with the average game being about an hour.  Obviously, those who decide to pick one of these games up to try with some friends are encouraged to go through the rules carefully first in order to minimize and confusion when teaching the game to others.

Happy Gaming!