Friday, June 23, 2017

D&D 5E: Cretean Warlord

And for the last stat block of the Cretean Army:

Cretean Warlord
Elite Generals
(Level 15 Champion Fighter)
CR 8 (3,900 XP)
LN medium humanoid (human)
Initiative +0
AC 21 (plate and shield)
HP 122 (15D10+30)
Speed 30 feet
Multiattack – the warlord may make three melee or three ranged attacks each round.
Melee Attack long sword +11 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D8+6 slashing damage and critical on a 18-20.
Ranged Attack long bow +9 attack (ranged 120/600, one target) 1D8+2 piercing damage and critical on a 18-20.
STR 20 (+5), DEX 14 (+2), CON 14 (+2), INT 12 (+1), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 16 (+3)
Saves: STR +10, CON +7
Languages: Cretean, Middle Tongue, Eastron
Senses: Passive Perception 16
Skills: Athletics +13, Perception +6
Second Wind – regain 1D10+15 hit points once/battle.
Action Surge- the commander may gain one extra action once per combat.
Archer – gain +2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons.
Defender – gain +1 to Armor Class when wearing armor.
Indomitable – may re-roll one save twice during the battle (between long rests).

Gear – long sword +1, long bow, 20 arrows, quiver, plate mail, shield.

Warlords of Cretea are determined men who are utterly confident in the righteousness of their path to unifying the city states of their land. Premiere soldiers, the Cretean warlord is a knight without peer, a brutal combatant and a charismatic statesman when in times of peace. Usually each city-state has between one and three prominent warlords vying for militant domination of the region, working their legions to gain a superior edge against their rivals.

Prominent Sample warlord: General Aktion, leader of the expatriate forces of Turkes, is a strong-willed warlord with grand aspirations to unite Cretea under his banner. He first seeks to expunge the colonial Hyrkanians of Sandesteron, and has gone against the will of his people and leader in Turkes, after being told of a vision by the Oracle Pharisia that he was destined to unite his kingdom after she revealed to him that he was a direct blood descendant of the lost Cretean state of Pericus. He is an underhanded warlord in that no ally is to vile for his purposes, and he has even worked with drow and cultists of Ravanos to secure his planned claim on the Hyrkanian Province.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Short Film Reviews: Things I Learned from Watching The Mummy and Transformers: The Last Knight

...that just because I have the cash and opportunity to take the family to see these movies, doesn't mean I should. Both of these should rightfully have been $1 specials. Sigh!!!

SPOILER ALERT (not that these movies are good enough for anyone to care)

The Mummy has so many things wrong with it, but equally fascinating is how many things it could have gotten right. The best part of the movie was thinking about all the interesting ways that the story could have gone, if only they had better screen writers and weren't married to Tom Cruise and the Dark Universe concept.

This movie's problems can boil down to so many specific and obvious issues: Tom Cruise plays an unlikeable jerk. The Mummy as a woman is cool but efforts at her back story are so painfully simplistic. Iraq instead of, you know, Egypt for the location of the Mummy. Convenient plot luck to insure things happen. A total lack of understanding of what the audience wants from this film (it caters neither to the original black-and-white film nor to the Branden Frasier fans). Too much time spent on Prodigium and Dr. Jekyll, who was admittedly a high point in the film when Mr. Hyde comes out (even though it raises lots of questions about what Prodigium or whatever the organization's name is considers a viable "leader" for their obscure cause against/for/whatever evil and monster hunting).

Compared to the Transformers, The Mummy was at least not headache inducing, and you could follow the plot, as thin as it was. In the course of watching this movie though you will see what happens when a film series tries too hard to try and emulate (without understanding) the Marvel Movie effect. D+

What my son thought of it: He loved this movie, he liked Nick (Cruise's character), and he loved the concept at the end in which Nick gains the power of Set. He spent a lot of time after the movie explaining to me the kinds of monsters he can turn in to (Slender Man and Killer Croc are the top two right now). He was riveted to his seat the whole movie. Bathroom breaks = 0. The film was short enough for a kid, and Cruise's annoying juvenile behavior was more appealing to a kid. I'll check back with my son when he turns 14 in a few years.

Transformers: The Last Knight was actually the best King Arthur movie of the year (heh) but was once again a literal grand clusterfuck of incoherence, spectacle and madness that actually makes all prior four films look sensible by comparison. Slices of a good film about the actual Transformers are jammed in between long sequences involving insanely stupid or bizarre and often useless plot bits, annoying human characters necessary to get the full sympathy of all family members in the audience, and frequent guest stars by series favorites from prior movies for no particular reason that I could discern other than "because Michael Bay can."

It annoys me so much when there are this moments when the film appears to actually be about the Transformers in all their incoherent sci-fi-fantasy-woo-woo glory and then....shaky cam jets explode and black ops dudes start running around. Oh god it's painful.

My favorite moment, though, was when Megatron decides to blow up Anthony Hopkins, knocking him into a hole where he lies, without any of the primary cast particularly concerned for him other than the bizarre Cogman who is (near as I can tell) there just "because Michael Bay Can." Cogman is simultaneously am amusing high point of the movie and a physical manifestation of the definiton of "needless excess." But I digress.....for no reason I can discern, the thought of Megatron targeting Hopkins specifically amused me a great deal.

I accepted long ago that the actual Transformers comics and cartoons I grew up with were fantastically, gloriously incoherent....but they had their own internal logic. I have no clue where this series is going now, but can safely say it is diving deep into their future movie plans with plenty of little bits floating about to suggest we should expect Unicron in a future film, and if they don't make a movie about Bumblebee in World War II and other eras I will be shocked (yes, that is probably going to be a thing).

My wife was very annoyed that we got some Grimlock/Dinobot love early on in the movie but they completely disappeared by the time we got to the grand finale. While she was worrying about that I was mulling over how the moon-sized Cybertron wasn't wreaking havoc with Earth's gravity by its mere presence (antigrav magic I guess?) and also finding great amusement in the fact that one of it's pieces somehow took out the pyramids, which anyone who survived watching the second movie will recall is the source of the Magic Sun Energy Sucker Device Thingy that the "Fallen" made for Reasons that make less and less sense with each subsequent movie.

Also, this movie if anything shows that the human protagonists all have enormous luck at not being killed in the presence of transformers, falling from great heights, crashing in ospreys, or functioning at 21,000 feet up in an intense firefight.

I like to imagine my 13 year old self (who was obsessed with Transformers) would have fully understood this movie and loved it. But I don't know......I was always a fan of the Transformers. I was never that exited when Buster Witwicky or the other humans showed up to provide the human element to the stories, such as they were.

Try imagining this movie with a different director, aimed at a 2 hour run time (or less!) with a focus on some sort of effort at coherent plot and storytelling. Just imagine! D-

What my son thought of it: I think if someone sliced this up into just the cool bits with robots he, too, would be happy. As it is he was practically shooting from his seat with excitement....when robots were on screen. Bathroom break = 1. This movie was too frickin' long for the kid crowd, but the film was packed. I was near an aisle seat and got to watch a literal, absolute never-ending stream of dads taking their children to the bathroom the whole film.

Monday, June 19, 2017

D&D 5E: Cretean Commander

You might notice that these stat blocks are each a progression....

Cretean Commander
Elite Spatha Units
(Level 10 Champion Fighter)
CR 5 (1,800 XP)
LN medium humanoid (human)
Initiative +0
AC 21 (plate and shield)
HP 75 (10D10+20)
Speed 30 feet
Multiattack – the commander may make three melee or three ranged attacks each round.
Melee Attack long sword +8 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D8+4 damage and critical on a 19-20.
Ranged Attack long bow +8 attack (ranged 150/600, one target) 1D8+2 damage and critical on a 19-20.
STR 18 (+4), DEX 14 (+2), CON 14 (+2),
INT 12 (+1), WIS 12 (+1), CHA 14 (+2)
Saves: STR +8, CON +6
Languages: Cretean, Middle Tongue, Eastron
Senses: Passive Perception 15
Skills: Athletics +10, Perception +5
Second Wind – regain 1D10+10 hit points once/battle.
Action Surge- the commander may gain one extra action once per combat.
Archer – gain +2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons.
Defender – fain +1 to Armor Class when wearing armor.
Gear – long sword, long bow, 20 arrows, quiver, plate mail, shield.

The commanders of Cretea are the elite soldiers who have struggled their way up the ranks. Specializing in the spatha, the Cretean sword, the commanding elite will usually command from the rear and then charge in once the troops have broken the enemy lines. They are given special prominence in the military culture of Cretean city-states, and are permitted to take on multiple wives as well as an award of land. All commanders are trained in horsemanship in combat.

Commanders as elite units practice almost exclusively with the Hyrkanian long bow and have rejected further training with the spear and shield fighting style of the frontline hoplite unites. Despite being a foreign weapon, the sturdy design of the Hyrkanian bow was so impressive that it was formally adopted as a principle ranged weapon of the Cretean elite over a century ago, when the Hyrkanians were granted the provincial territory of Sandesteron for their colonies.

Friday, June 16, 2017

OpenQuest 2017 Edition (totally awesome art snob edition!)

I admit, I've been harsh on the art in previous editions of OpenQuest. But with the latest release, the OpenQuest 2017 edition, all that has changed; the art in this edition is great! The artists are Jon Hodgson (cover) and Jeshields does the interior art, which is a wide range of color pieces that are highly evocative of the swords & sorcery genre, and all excellent pieces. A big emphasis on evocative characters is evident, which helps convey the interesting range of PCs and NPCs you can generate with these rules.

 A key issue with RPG art, I have found, is that it needs to hit the right chord to get general acceptance from that is stylistically or tonally off, or which contains amateur elements (such as problems with anatomy) that detract from the style rather than add to it, can make a game an incredibly hard sell. The art in OpenQuest 2017 edition feels both old school and is very stylish. An easy sell, in other words.

The game itself is derived from the Mongoose Runequest OGL, and is at this point the only contemporary edition of the D100 system to realistically hold title as rightful successor to Magic World and BRP. Mythras, of course, stands on its own as a more complex iteration of the same games, with similar DNA.....but seriously, one of the top appeals of Magic World (to me) was it's ease of access and ability to achieve the same feel and style of the BRP system without the extra complexity that Mythras offers. OpenQuest also accomplishes this, while also still feeling very Old School in a 1982 kinda way (just sans Glorantha).

I'll write more on this soon....I liked the look of the new OpenQuest enough to purchase physical copies of both this book and I also snagged a copy of it's sister system, the SF RPG River of Heaven in for good measure. That one is also gorgeous, by the way. I've really been craving some BRP-style gaming recently, and it is possible that at last I may fully embrace OpenQuest as my system of choice.

D&D 5E: Cretean Veteran Spatha Units

Cretean Veteran Soldier
Standard Spatha Units
(Level 6 Champion Fighter)
CR 3 (700 XP)
LN medium humanoid (human)
Initiative +2
AC 19 (splint mail and shield)
HP 51 (6D10+18)
Speed 30 feet
Multiattack – the veteran may make two melee or two ranged attacks each round.
Melee Attack long sword +8 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D8+4 damage and critical on a 19-20.
Ranged Attack long bow +8 attack (range 150/600, one target) 1D8+2 damage and critical on a 19-20.
STR 18 (+4), DEX 14 (+2), CON 16 (+3),
INT 10 (0), WIS 11 (0), CHA 13 (+1)
Saves: STR +7, CON +6
Languages: Cretean, Eastron or Middle Tongue
Senses: Passive Perception 13
Skills: Athletics +10, Perception +3
Second Wind – regain 1D10+6 hit points once/battle.
Action Surge- the veteran may gain one extra action once per combat.
Archer – gain +2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons.

Gear – long sword, long bow, 20 arrows, quiver, splint mail, shield.
Veteran Cretean soldiers are usually in elite positions of authority, leading the common troops on the frontline. They have placed aside their experience with the spear to take up the Cretean spatha, a long sword reserved for officers and nobility. Most veterans have survived many major conflicts and become more the wiser for the experience, but not all veterans gain rank and authority; some remain content to be grunts in the frontlines right up to their day of death or (unlikely) retirement.

Veterans are usually given bow training as well with the Hyrkanian long bow, which was adopted a little over a century ago as a weapon of elite soldiers and nobility. They still drill with the spear however, as a way to bond with the front line soldiers they fight beside.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

D&D 5E: Cretean Foot Soldiers

Now for some NPC stat blocks in 5E that were from my recent Cretean Lingusia campaign:

Cretean Foot Soldier
Hoplite Units
(Level 2 Fighter)
CR 1/2 (100 XP)
LN medium humanoid (human)
Initiative +2
AC 16 (studded leather and shield)
HP 15 (2D10+4)
Speed 30 feet
Melee Attack spear  +5 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D6+3 piercing damage.
Melee Attack short sword +5 attack (reach 5 ft, one target) 1D6+3 piercing damage.
Ranged Attack spear +6 attack (ranged 20/60, one target) 1D6+2 piercing damage.
STR 16 (+3), DEX 14 (+2), CON 15 (+2),
INT 9 (-1), WIS 11 (0), CHA 13 (+1)
Saves: STR +5, CON +4
Languages: Cretean
Senses: Passive Perception 10
Skills: Athletics +5
Second Wind – regain 1D10+2 hit points once/battle.
Action Surge- the soldier may gain one extra action once per combat.
Archer – gain +2 to attack rolls with ranged weapons.

Gear – 6 spears, shield, short sword, studded leather.


Cretean foot soldiers are spear-and-shield troops designed to fight on the frontlines of the Cretean militaries which protect and fight for the city-states of their land. Most foot soldiers have been drilled in combat from an age of 12 and are around 16-18 years of age when they first experience real combat. If a soldier is thrust into close combat or uses all of his spears (he carries 6) then he will fall back on his gladius (short sword) for close combat skirmishes. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Super Cool, Super Cute Pocket Editions of Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide and Advanced Player's Guide

Last time I talked about this, the Pathfinder Core Rules and Bestiary 1 had been released as incredibly convenient soft-cover pocket editions, about half the size of the originals, but with the exact same format, content and everything....just shrunk down in a portable package. Since then, the Advanced Player's Guide and Gamemastery Guide have arrived in ultra cute pocket format. I sincerely hope these are popular enough to see still more Pathfinder hard covers reduced to portable digest formats....I want the entire series in this style, even if I never do get around to playing the game again (that said, I feel a real desire to field test these babies....!)

One thing that happened between last year and this year was I went to a new opthamalogist, who updated my contact lenses with a much more accurate prescription. The prior year my former doctor (who since retired) believed, I think, in the idea of stressing the eyes a bit to force them to focus. The new doctor, may she rule in awesomeness, seemed more interested in giving me lenses that let me do basic life functions like "see" and "read."

As a result, the value of these portable tomes skyrocketed. I have zero issues reading these books now with my semi-naked be-contacted eyes where before I needed to break out a pair of reading glasses and squint a bit. The readability is just fine (so long as your eyes can handle it) and the fact that I can now port around twice the rules for half the weight makes the future of Pathfinder as a viable system for me to run that much more a reality. Yes, PDFs exist, but I am speaking to the crowd that needs physical books to properly enjoy a gaming know who you are. back to reacquainting myself with two venerable Pathfinder tomes, now with 50% of the paper and gloss!

Anthem (E3 Reveal)

I think this is the only thing I've seen out of E3 so far to really grab my attention:

If actual gamers were like the scripted duo in this game when grouping, I'd group a lot more often (or turn on the mike). Alas, it's usually a lot less pleasant/coherent.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Assassin's Creed: Origins

After the last couple entries in the series and a two year break, I think this is exactly the shot in the arm Assassin's Creed needs:

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Men Tell No Tales

I missed a Pirates movie somewhere along the line (I guess #4 came out when I was hard pressed to find time to go to the theater) but it appears to have had no impact on my experience watching "Dead Men Tell No Tales." Now sure, you can (at least in the past) watch some film franchises (James Bond, for ex) and enjoy them without worrying about continuity. But Dead Men Tell No Tales had a plot and characters predicated on the prior four films and I still found it worked as a more or less stand alone film. (Note: I like the Spanish title above: La Venganza De Salazar)

Now, don't think I liked this movie too much. I can't say it wasn't was.....but the movie was more fun for my son, who at five and a half knows more about pirates thanks to Disney and his dad than most kids his age probably do. And for a general audience this film was probably a great Summer flick, no doubt about that.....heck, barring a couple English officers being skewered here and there, a pretty big chunk of this movie is pure family fun.

But! And there is always a but when you're on film five of a franchise like's still not a great movie. At best it demonstrates that you can milk a lot out of the premise of a Disney ride if you do it right, and keep on doing it, to the point where it becomes almost an unwitting parody of itself.

At one point, I felt like I needed a score card to keep track of just how many ghostly, magical ships were floating about....there seemed to be more of them than there were regular, normal pirate ships in this movie. And when a normal ship did appear, it was almost certain to meet doom at the hands of some ghostly ship thirty seconds later.

The film is visually spectacular, though.....just don't assume anything about the plot (that there is much of one, for example) and roll with it and you'll find it a pleasant enough experience. But wait a bit and when you're at the fridge one evening a bunch of odd questions will come to mind about this movie (assuming you think much more of it at all)....such as (spoilers ahead):

1. What was the purposes of the witch held captive by the English? Was she really just a foil for Barbossa to learn what he needed, and later there to tell the English soldiers where to go? Why were they so intent on hanging the main female protagonist as a witch, when they had an actual, real witch in their custody anyway? Was this something from movie #4 that would have made more sense to me, but for missing context?

2. Was Depp ever sober in this movie? Is Jack Sparrow nothing more than a timeless maguffin designed to make things happen on screen through his unwitting, drunken antics? Do I really need to ask these questions? When the main character revelation/story moment goes to a secondary character like Barbossa, it suggests worlds about the purpose/relationship of the principle protagonist of the prior films.....Sparrow is just here to "induce" action, or maybe "motion" is a better word. He serves no other purpose anymore.

3. When the shining moment of the film is an end cameo by the good actors from prior films, and you realize in that moment you just watched a passable film with no discernable characters of any screen presence to root kinda feels like you've been had, doesn't it?

4. Was it just me, or did the whole "Salazar and his crew are ashen ghost pirate-hunters because their ship sailed in to the Devil's Triangle that looks a whole lot like some big cove, but hey we need some excuse for more ghosts to run around this time so roll with it" sequence seem a bit.....blah? Some sequences in this film felt strongly like they had concocted a scene to film first and worked out the plot bits later. Like, I am willing to bet somewhere they started with "We need ghosts in this movie. Hey, what if they looked like they were partially made of ash smoke for a cool effect? Someone work out a story bit to explain it later, for now FX get to work on this look."

Yes, it felt like how many video games are made: a dozen or so locations and a ton of assets are produced, and somewhere along the way the studio hires a script writer to try and makes sense of it all.

5. That whole wedding sequence with Sparrow and his "bride" felt like someone realized that they hadn't had a decent laugh recently so hastily found a way to shoehorn one in.

6. How many more piratical or nautical phrases remain for them to exploit as movie titles before they run out?

....Okay look, this was a passable, almost essentially okay movie for what it is: a fifth film to a Disney franchise based on a ride. Plus my kid loved it....but I know I'm not totally off base; my wife liked Salazar as the villain but even she felt it was a bit "meh" and she's incredibly forgiving of these movies normally.

Still, that they have gotten this far and the movie is at least watchable is kind of amazing. I'll call it a solid C and move on.