Monday, August 31, 2015

Dungeons & Dragons: The Hipster Edition

I lived in Seattle for a decade so this was hysterical:

Fantasy AGE: Pelayo the level 10 warrior vs. that orc with a pie -- round two

So a few years later Pelayo, a seasoned wandering hedge knight from a foreign land, is passing by the Dungeon of Gavarask the Pie Lord, and he decides he's hungry. He enters, finds the room with the orc with the pie whom he graciously let live some years ago. While Pelayo has been adventuring, exploring and leveling up, the orc has been....baking and eating pies. He's still that same orc, basically.

For reference, here's Pelayo at level 10:

Pelayo The Hedge Knight
Human male warrior (outcast wanderer); Level 10; XP 22,000
Health 114; Defense 16 (17 when running mounted); AR 7 (heavy mail +1; AP -3); Speed 12 (9 armored)

2 Accuracy (Focuses: brawling, bows)
0 Communication (Focus: animal handling)
4 Constitution (focus: stamina)
2 Dexterity (Focus: riding)
6 Fighting (Focuses: axes, heavy blades, lances)
1 Intelligence (Focus: military lore)
3 Perception (Focuses: seeing, searching, tracking)
4 Strength (Focus: intimidation)
1 Willpower

Languages: common
Weapon and Armor Skills: brawling weapons, axes, bows, spears, heavy blades, lances, light blades, armor training (novice)
Warrior Talents: Archery (novice), mounted combat style (journeyman), weapon and shield (master), Expert Strike
Specialization: Knight (master)
Stunt Bonuses: Dual Strike (3 SP), Taunt (1 SP), Threaten (1 SP), Defensive Stance (1 SP)

Equipment: backpack, clothes, water skin, magic heavy mail +1(AR 7+1, -3 AP), throwing axe (1D6+6 damage), magic battle axe +2 damage (2D6+6 damage; +1 with a mounted charge), long bow (1D6+6 damage), quiver with 20 arrows, heavy lance (2D6+5 damage; +1D6 with mounted charge), and a medium shield (+2 bonus; additional +1 for talent)

Goals: seek out fortune, slay the ogre king who killed father, become a prince among men
Ties: owes money to the crime lord Bossadan of Aelghast

The orc, for reference, is this guy: 30 health, defense 10, AR 5 from his pie-baking chainmail apron, with a maul that has a +4 to hit and deals 2D6+4 damage.

On round one the door flies open and Pelayo announces, "I'm back, pie orc. Give me your pie!" He still has no stealth, so pie orc has been quietly setting the pie down and bringing up his maul, which also doubles for a baker's rolling pin.

Initiative is rolled: Pelayo gets 16 and the orc gets 8! It's looking like a bad day for the baker.

When Pelayo was last here he was carrying a torch and shield when he entered the room. This time the player has declared he's got the torch on the ground and the shield and axe ready. The GM rules that this is low light conditions...the torch is on the ground, in the hall, and the warrior has to charge in front of his light source, partially obscuring the nocturnal orc in shadow. This will mean a -1 penalty to attack rolls, not much at this stage in the knight's life.

Pelayo takes a major charge action immediately, for +1 to his attack. He Rolls to attack, at 3D6 + 6 for fighting, +2 for axe focus and -1 for low light conditions. He declares an expert strike as well, boldly adding +3 to damage for -3 to attack. His total attack roll then is 4, 4, and 5 for the stunt die (doubles make stunts!) for a total of 17...orc is hit, and hard!

With 5 SPs Pelayo goes for the gusto and spends all 5 points on a lethal strike for +2D6 damage. He rolls 4D6+6 for damage then +3 more for the expert strike, totalling 25 points. The or's armor soaks 5 so the orc takes 20 points. His health is now 10.

The orc hasn't quite caught on that Pelayo has moved up in skill and talent, so he goes for a strike at the warrior, doing an All Out Attack (+1 damage, -1 defense). He rolls, totalling a 4, 3 and 3 on the stunt die...doubles for him as well with 3 SPs, but only if he hits! His total is 14 however...and Pelayo's defense is 16. A miss!

Pelayo laughs and retaliates with an All Out Attack as well as another expert attack, then makes a Press the Attack minor action should the orc try to flee. He rolls to hit, getting 2, 5 and 2 on the stunt die. His attack total is only 13 but he still hits. With doubles and 2 SPs he can pull off a little stunt: he'll opt for a disarm; he prefers to keep the orc alive and making pies in the future. The damage dealt is 12 this time, so the orc takes 7 points dropping him to 3 health. On a contested attack roll for the disarm Pelayo rolls 17 and the orc gets a measly 10....he's disarmed! The maul flies 7 yards away.

The GM decides the orc makes a quick intelligence check (difficulty 11) to see if he realizes how outclassed he is. He rolls a 10 with no intelligence modifiers....nope! The orc scurries over to his dropped weapon to pick it up; Pelayo is hot on his heels thanks to the Press the Attack action he took.

The orc moved (minor action) and rearmed himself (minor action) so his turn is done. Poor orc.

Next round Pelayo opts for a normal attack, no specials, rolling a miserable 1, 1 and 2 on the stunt die. He has a base attack modifier of 7 however in low light, so he still got an doubles and 2 SPs. So even with a miserable roll Pelayo hits.*

When you deal what would otherwise be a killing blow in FAGE you can instead knock out an opponent. Pelayo opts for this: he spends his 2 SPs on mighty blow, dealing +1D6 damage to his attack. He rolls and deals 17 damage to the orc, who takes 12 of it and is technically killed....but because Pelayo pulled his punch, the orc is instead reduced to 1 health and unconscious.

In FAGE characters who hit zero health aren't actually dead...yet. They die when remaining at 0 health for 2+constitution rounds. For Pelayo he has 6 rounds before dying if reduced to zero health. For monsters this rule only applies to major NPCs....and alas, pie orc is a minor NPC.

Still, Pelayo likes pies, and so he's only rendered the orc unconscious. He triumphantly takes his pie and moves on to greener pastures.


Combat is still a process of multiple blows for foes of lower level, but the risk is the higher level opponent. FAGE is a system in which not getting hit is a viable strategy, and wearing armor for protection dramatically extends your lifespan. Pelayo at level 10 could probably face of against one major threat in the book's list of adversaries and live to tell the tale easily enough....but I still wouldn't pit him against a dragon or similar dire threat.

Stunts continue to impress and baffle. As characters advance they unlock new stunts specific to their class or reduced cost on other stunts. Stunts, of course, require rolling doubles to take effect.....and the stunt die tells you the number of points to spend. It still feels like this mechanic could benefit from a resource players can spend to force them on occasion, but I admit, in my various sample fights they tended to pop a lot, often to great effect.

Despite cleaning the orc's clock, I suspect Pelayo at level 10 would still find a half-dozen orcs more of a threat. The higher level characters in Fantasy AGE are not quite the combat monsters seen in D&D. Although, that said, if Pelayo has a Defense of 16, and the average orc rolls a 14-15 at best, then they need to roll above the average to have a shot at hitting him. Pelayo's odds of surviving against 6 or even 12 orcs are definitely higher than they were a few levels earlier. If he had an enormous 20 defense then the orcs would have to roll a 16 or better on the dice to have any shot of hitting him....this has an interesting side effect, though, as to get 16 on 3D6 you have to roll one of the following:
6,6,6 any orc that does land a blow is also going to get stunts to pull off. At this stage, it makes more sense to pump SPs into bonus damage than anything else, since hitting a second time with lighting strike is less likely to succeed.

Because extra attacks are prompted by stunts, most damage is dealt through increasing your initial hit in various ways. This has the effect of making any fight longer but more interesting, since things in the game all tend to hit pretty hard....but good armor can really go a long way toward keeping you alive. The orc, for example, if he had managed to strike a blow would have dealt 2D6+4 damage for an average of 11 points, but on any given attack it is likely Pelayo would have suffered only 4 actual damage to his health. Fatigue and bruising, basically. This concept (high health) is very much like D&D's high hit point totals in that sense.

*FAGE doesn't seem to have a fumble mechanic that I can find, and it doesn't need a crit mechanic with the stunt system in place. Unless I'm missing something, it is possible to have no chance of Pelayo here, for example, cannot miss the orc at all unless the orc takes extreme defensive measures.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Atakan Jackal Men for Runequest 6

Say whaaaaaat? Yes, I have been motivated to work out some new Runequest 6 content after being invited to play and/or run RQ6. Verrrrry excited!!! Since I'm statting out Atakans, it's not a far cry to imagine I'm using Pergerron as the setting....

Atakans in Runequest 6

STR 3D6+3 (14), CON 2D6+6 (13), SIZ 2D6+6 (13), DEX 3D6+3 (14), INT 2D6+6 (13), POW 3D6 (11), CHA 3D6 (11)
APs 3     DMG +1D2          MPs 11 Move 8 SR 13     Armor: scale (AP 4 penalty 5)and hoplite shield
Roll        Loc.                    AP/HP
1-3          left leg                  4/6
4-6          right leg                4/6
7-9          Abdomen             4/7
10-12     Chest                     4/8
13-15     left arm                 4/5
16-18     right arm               4/5
19-20     head                      4/6
Combat Style: Atakan Hoplite (spear, 1H swords, shields, javelins, bite) 55%
Skills: Athletics 55%, Brawn 50%, Endurance 58%, Evade 45%, Perception 45%, Survival 45%, Unarmed 50%, Willpower 40%
Attack                   Damage               Size/Reach     Combat Effects        AP/HP
Bite                        1D4+1D2              S/M                grip, impale               natural
Scimitar                 1D8+1D2              M/M               bleed                           6/10
Hoplite shield       1D4+1D2               H/S                  bash, stun loc.            6/15
Javelins (4)           1D8+1+1D2           H/10/20/50     impale, pin shield M   3/8        

Scent: Atakans have a keen sense of smell which grants them advantage to detect the nature and approximate location of any target within 60 feet that could emit an odor (including invisible creatures or objects) on a successful perception check (contested if the target is specifically obscuring his or her scent).
Hardy Desert Dwellers: Atakans are used to roughing it in harsh desert climates, and gain a 20% bonus on any Survival checks in dry desert conditions due to thirst or heat exhaustion. Atakans can go for up to one week without water before experiencing dehydration effects.

Atakans are tall jackal-headed men who have the bodies of humans but the heads of jackals. They are not related to jackalweres, which are a cursed race infected with abyssal taint….the atakans are an ancient race which claims to predate human and elvenkind’s existence in the mortal realm. In Pergerron atakans dwell mostly in the wastelands outside of the human city-states of Anansis, and many atakans dwell in the Vumaskan lands to the east. They are suitable as a player-character racial option. The stats presented here are for an atakan commoner of no special skill who is a bit hardier as a physical laborer.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Fantasy AGE: Looking at a level 10 warrior

Upgrading Pelayo to Level 10

After testing out combat with a level 1 warrior and an orc, I thought it would be interesting to scale up the warrior to level 10 to see how he fares with some serious experience under his belt. Is a Fantasy AGE warrior significantly better at killing orcs at level 10, or just better at taking lots of damage? Let's find out!

As characters advance in level in FAGE they gain their constitution+1D6 in additional health. For Pelayo that means by level 10 he reaches 114 health. After level 10 they only gain constitution for health.

As characters level up they also gain an advancement. These advancements are spent on abilities, and when you get enough the ability increases a point. Abilities from 1-5 cost 1 advancement. For 6-8 you spend 2, and from 9-12 you spend 3 advancements. Even level advancements must be spent on primary abilities (determined by class) and odd advancements are spent on secondary abilities. You also get a focus at each level, with a similar spending requirement for primary/secondary abiliites.

All of the above is on top of the class ability you gain at each level. Level 4 is significant in that you pick a specialization path: a focused warrior type. The book has 4 specializations for each class, and the warrior options are guardian, berserker, knight and mage hunter. I settle on knight for Pelayo as it's novice level involves a reduced cost for taunting (a stunt option), lance skills and some better mounted combat abilities as it progresses.

The basic rule book doesn't talk about starting with higher level characters,  but I'm going to be nice and let Pelayo acquire an uncommon and a rare magic item: a rare magic battle axe (+2 damage), and a suit of magic heavy chain (uncommon +1 defense).

When I apply it all, I get a level 10 Pelayo who looks like this:

Pelayo The Hedge Knight
Human male warrior (outcast wanderer); Level 10; XP 22,000
Health 114; Defense 16 (17 when running mounted); AR 7 (heavy mail +1; AP -3); Speed 12 (9 armored)

2 Accuracy (Focuses: brawling, bows)  
0 Communication (Focus: animal handling)
4 Constitution (focus: stamina)
2 Dexterity (Focus: riding)
6 Fighting (Focuses: axes, heavy blades, lances)
1 Intelligence (Focus: military lore)
3 Perception (Focuses: seeing, searching, tracking)
4 Strength (Focus: intimidation)
1 Willpower

Languages: common
Weapon and Armor Skills: brawling weapons, axes, bows, spears, heavy blades, lances, light blades, armor training (novice)
Warrior Talents: Archery (novice), mounted combat style (journeyman), weapon and shield (master), Expert Strike
Specialization: Knight (master)
Stunt Bonuses: Dual Strike (3 SP), Taunt (1 SP), Threaten (1 SP), Defensive Stance (1 SP)

Equipment: backpack, clothes, water skin, magic heavy mail +1(AR 7+1, -3 AP), throwing axe (1D6+6 damage), magic battle axe +2 damage (2D6+6 damage; +1 with a mounted charge), long bow (1D6+6 damage), quiver with 20 arrows, heavy lance (2D6+5 damage; +1D6 with mounted charge), and a medium shield (+2 bonus; additional +1 for talent)

Goals: seek out fortune, slay the ogre king who killed father, become a prince among men
Ties: owes money to the crime lord Bossadan of Aelghast

So Pelayo at level 10 can attack with a 3D6+8 roll to hit with fighting 6 and focus in axes --that will hit anything in the book with an average result of 18-19-- and dealing a base damage of 2D6+6. FAGE does not do multiple attacks per round unless you spend SPs to gain extra attacks through a stunt. Since Pelayo didn't do much to increase dexterity, his only bonus to defense is from a magic suit of heavy chain armor, the best armor he can wear until he improves is armor training skill. As a result, his Defense from level 1 to level 10 went from 14 to 16 thanks also to a talent bonus for sword and board fighting at master level. Luckily his armor rating went from 4 to 7. I'm assuming he retains his medium shield as well; shields remain something you can be proficient in but I don't see any focus for them....shield bonuses come from talents.

At level ten warriors do get expert strike. This is basically power attack: the warrior can get up to -3 to hit but gain up to +3 to damage using this ability. 

At this level, if Pelayo walked into a small room and found an orc with a pie he would probably finish off the orc in 2-3 rounds unless he rolled doubles and got stunt points. If that happened it would be over much, much more quickly. 

A few additional comments: you get several levels where you can either get a new talent at novice level or upgrade an existing talent. It looked to me like upgrading made more sense; stay focused, essentially. However you could definitely make a very "broad spectrum skill" character with a lot of novice level talent across all sorts of stuff in FAGE relatively easily.

You could also try to game certain stats to maximize defense, damage or attacks. I aimed for a more robust fighting score, improved strength, and ignored dexterity. However, I had a total of 5 advancement points to spend on primary abilities for a warrior by level 10, so I could have thrown them all in to Dexterity, ignoring the rest, and gotten it to 6 by level 10, giving him a Defense (with shield and talent bonuses) of 20, which is actually really good. This could be a viable strategy....his initial fighting score was a 4 to begin with, and his strength 2, so he'd have an attack modifier of +6 with axes and a 2D6+4 with his magical battleaxe for damage. The loss of 2 damage and 2 hit bonuses is traded off with a gain of 4 in defense. 

Ultimately, this demonstrates that there are a lot of ways to build a fighter in Fantasy AGE, and that I've only just scratched the surface on "high damage" types vs. high defense. Pelayo as he stands is a decent damage dealer with some mounted combat skills that make him formidable outdoors, and an ability to hold his own in melee combat. Given how tough orcs are at level 1, it's hard to imagine how he lived long enough to make it to level 10, but a judicious dedication to traveling in the company of other mercenary adventurers would play an important role in success.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Fantasy AGE: Pelayo the Warrior vs. an Orc

I've got a habit of stress-testing low level characters in what some might call an unfair manner (just ask my players) so this time around we're going to check out the basics of Fantasy AGE combat by taking our fighter rolled up in the last blog (Pelayo) and pitting him against a single orc. With a pie. Also, a rusty maul so he's not gonna give the pie up easily.

Pelayo's stats for reference:

Human male warrior (outcast wanderer)
Health 36; Defense 14; AR 4 (leather); Speed 12

1 Accuracy (focus: brawling)
0 Communication
4 Constitution (focus: stamina)
2 Dexterity (Focus: riding)
4 Fighting
1 Intelligence
1 Perception
2 Strength
0 Willpower

Languages: common
Weapon and Armor Skills: brawling weapons, axes, bows, spears
Warrior Talents: Archery (novice), weapon and shield (novice)

Equipment: backpack, clothes, water skin, heavy leather armor (AR 4), throwing axe (1D6+2+strength damage), battle axe (2D6+strength damage), long bow (1D6+3+perception damage), quiver with 20 arrows, and a medium shield (+2 bonus)

Goals: seek out fortune, slay the ogre king who killed father, become a prince among men
Ties: owes money to the crime lord Bossadan of Aelghast

The orc is on page 111 of the Fantasy AGE rulebook. He's a tough hombre, and can deal 2D6+3 damage with his battle axe. He's got 30 health, Defense 10 and AR 5.

Setup: assuming the orc lives in a small room of about ten feet by ten feet, standing in the middle with his pie, then when Pelayo kicks the door down the orc is not all that shocked since Pelayo has no stealth talent whatsoever.

FAGE uses static initiative (as most games after 2000 are prone to doing), and you figure initiative by rolling 3D6+dexterity. For the orc that's a straight 3D6, but for Pelayo that's 3D6+2. Everyone rolls for initiative and we get 8 for the orc and 15 for Pelayo. score! Pelayo goes first.

The FAGE action economy is simple: you can do one major and one minor action in a round, or two minor actions (and no major). Moving (walking) is a minor action but running is a major action. Regular and full attacks are generally major actions but conditional attacks (such as prepare or press the attack) are not. As it happens, readying a weapon is a minor action....the player would argue that he's been walking around the dungeon with axe and shield ready, but the GM wants to know how he can see the player calls for a minor ready action to drop the torch and ready his axe; the GM will be nice and assume the shield was already readied.

For his follow-up action it seems prudent to wait (prepare action) and strike if the orc approaches....walking up to him now will leave Pelayo open to retaliation by the orc. The prepare action lets you prep a major action (for the cost of a minor, apparently) that triggers by the end of the round or just before someone else's later action. Okay then.

The orc goes. He readies his mace and the GM makes a quick difficulty 11 intelligence test to see if he's smart enough to wait for Pelayo to close or if he moves over to the warrior. We roll a 15! The orc stands firm, maul in hand.

Next round Pelayo loses patience and closes the gap with a charge for a +1 to his damage. Because a prepare action triggers by the start of your next round the orc can still strike! He must do so prior to Pelayo executing his attack, so the orc makes an attack roll: he rolls 3D6, gets +2 for his fighting score, another +2 for his focus on bludgeoning weapons, for a +4 total modifier. He rolls a 14 for a total of 18...much better than Pelayo's Defense of 14! Worse yet, he rolled doubles for a 5 and 5....a stunt triggers! The stunt die shows a 5, so that means the orc gets 5 stunt points. The GM elects that the orc spends 2 points to attempt a disarm and another 3 for a lighting attack (a second attack). These are two of 15 options in FAGE.

First the orc and Pelayo make opposed attack rolls for the disarm. The orc rolls 3D6+4 for 15 and Pelayo gets 3D6+4 (thank goodness for that high fighting score) for 19. He does not lose his axe!

Second the orc makes his second lightning strike, getting a total of 16, another hit. Even if he had rolled doubles a second attack triggered by a stunt does not lead to more possible stunts. He has now landed two hits on Pelayo and rolls 2D6+3 twice for damage, getting 7 and 7 damage on each...kinda low. Pelayo can soak 4 AR from each so he takes only 6 health damage total, dropping from 36 health to 30.

Now it's Pelayo's turn. He strikes, rolling 3D6 and adding his fighting score (no focus unfortunately) getting 18 total...well over the orc's defense. He rolls 2D6+2 for damage, dealing 12 points (with the charge bonus) against the orc's health of 30 and AR of 5, dropping him to 23 health after armor.

Now it's the orc's turn (remember, his earlier attack was from a ready stance provoked by Pelayo's impatience). The orc does an All-Out Attack to get a +1 to damage and a -1 to Defense. He rolls a total of 15, hitting Pelayo and also rolling double 4's, but a stunt die of 3. He burns all 3 SPs in another lightning attack, rolling a total of 17 for his follow-up attack and dealing two blows totalling 11 and 13 damage each! Pelayo takes 16 damage....ouch. Pelayo now has 14 health.

Starting the third round Pelayo tries for an All-Out Attack as well hoping to get lucky. He rolls to hit and gets a middling 10, which still hits the orc's reduced defense of 9, but good news! He rolled double ones and a stunt die of 4. He spends 2 on a mighty blow to add +1D6 damage to the attack and another 2 to try and disarm the orc. The damage total is now 15, so 10 points get through to reduce the orc to 14 health.

The disarm is a contested attack roll: Pelayo gets 18 and this time the orc rolls a total of 9....he's disarmed! The stunt indicates that the weapon is knocked 1D6+strength distance in yards away. The player rolls 4 yards. The orc panics!

Pelayo still has a minor action so he decides to Press The Attack, which means if the orc moves away from him he follows immediately; this minor action requires an adjacent target that you've already injured...the orc fits the bill.

The orc's turn is up for round three: he does indeed run over to grab his maul, using a minor move action to move 4 yards, then another minor move to ready his dropped weapon.

On round four Pelayo has a decided advantage since the orc lost an attack opportunity rearming himself. Pelayo pushes for another All Out Attack, rolling a normal 11 to hit but dealing 12 damage. The orc is now down to 7 health....

The orc retaliates, making a normal attack, rolling a 16 and connecting once more with Pelayo's 13 Defense (reduced due to All Out Attack). He rolls 11 damage, of which 7 gets through to drop Pelayo to 7 health....they are both equally battered and bloody it would seem.

Pelayo makes one more push to slay the orc before he perishes first: he rolls another All Out Attack for a hit total of 12, still enough to hit the orc. He deals 13 more damage, dealing 6 points after armor. The orc has 1 health!

The player still has a minor action and asks the GM if he can make a threatening "Yield!" noise at the orc. The GM assents, figuring this is a contested roll...orc's willpower (1) vs. Pelayo's strength (for intimidation) of 2. The orc rolls 15...not bad! Miraculously Pelayo rolls 16 so might makes right. The orc relents, dropping the pie before Pelayo and running off.

Interestingly, stunt points work for social and exploration encounters, too. Pelayo's roll was actually two 6's with the stunt die being a 6, so he technically has 6 SPs to spend on a social stunt. The GM has granted success to Pelayo already, but with his SPs he could have probably swayed a crowd of orcs to hand over their pies.

If that last roll the orc made had been an attack instead, it could have connected and the orc may well have dealt 11 damage, enough to kill lucky Pelayo, eh?


Level 1 fights are hard. One orc is enough to kill one warrior 50% of the time. Keep this in mind when designing adventures for FAGE....the system is not built to assume low level PCs are combat monsters at this stage in life.

Health totals are sufficiently high that no one is likely to drop in less than 2-3 blows. I can see how being ganged up on by several foes could be a quick death.

Getting stunts is easier than it looks as a chance of doubles on three dice isn't bad....but if you get unlucky for a stretch I can see this being a source of intense frustration for some; it seems to me a trigger mechanic, some sort of "hero point" system which lets you force a stunt every now and then would be both useful and help swing balance to the players in terms of who suffers most for stunts. Unless monsters don't prompt stunts, and I've just missed that factoid.

Pelayo at level 20

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Character Creation in Fantasy AGE: rolling up a level 1 warrior

Character Creation in Fantasy AGE

I haven't done a walk-through on character generation in a game system for a while, so time to visit one of the newer games out there: Fantasy AGE!

Character creation in Fantasy AGE is similar to Dragon AGE, so if you've played the latter before (presumably in it's three boxed sets) then you'll see a lot of similarities....they are about 95% compatible, with just a few new tweaks to the FAGE edition of the AGE System.

The rules describe character creation as a nine-step process starting with a concept: My concept will be a warrior named Pelayo who wanted to be a mage but didn't have the aptitude for it. I'll let the devil flesh itself out in the details as we roll along....

Step 2 is to determine the nine abilities in FAGE. You can buy with points, assign numbers or roll, referencing a chart for the results. I'm going to roll. Since FAGE uses a numerical range from -2 to 4 for initial character stats the 3D6 roll you make for character generation is designed to give you some random scores along this spread. After rolling for Pelayo I get the following results:

0 Accuracy
1 Communication
3 Constitution
2 Dexterity
3 Fighting
1 Intelligence
1 Perception
2 Strength
0 Willpower

Pelayo has no bad stats, but judging from his intelligence and willpower I can see why he flunked as a mage....

Step 3 has us choose a race. Pelayo is human, so let's see what FAGE gives them: you get to add 1 to fighting, pick a focus from either constitution (swimming) or dexterity (riding) (I'll go with the latter as slightly more useful), a speed score of 10+Dex (so 12), the common language and two benefits on the "human benefits table." Everyone in FAGE has a benefits table, letting you gain a bit of a random selection to your racial type. For Pelayo I roll twice and get +1 constitution and focus in accuracy (brawling).

Step 4 determines our social class and background. Pelayo could come from riches....right? I roll 1D6 to determine and get....1. So Pelayo is an Outsider, a barbarian sort of guy from "somewhere else." Not a local. Although I can now choose background I decide to roll instead, getting a 6: a wanderer. Okay, makes sense.....from the focus options I pick constitution (stamina) since it sounds like it fits well with the hearty travels of a man with no home.

Pelayo's stats now look like this:

1 Accuracy (focus: brawling)
0 Communication
4 Constitution (focus: stamina)
2 Dexterity (Focus: riding)
4 Fighting
1 Intelligence
1 Perception
2 Strength
0 Willpower
12 Speed
Languages: common

Next up is Step 5: the class. There are three classes in Fantasy Age: the mage (spell caster), rogue (expert type) and warrior (hits things hard). Level 1 in FAGE is designed to be a "learner's level" so you don't start stacking complexity on to the class until later on (level 4 is where you can pick a specialization, for example). Classes in FAGE are otherwise very similar to D&D classes, in that they determine starting health, weapon and armor choices as well as key abilities.

Pelayo is destined to be a warrior, so the choice here is easy. Note that there are no specific multiclassing mechanics in FAGE. If you want to make a sword-wielding mage, for an example, then you'll likely want to pick mage and then specialize in "sword mage" at level 4.

As a warrior Pelayo gets a range of primary and secondary abilities, as well as 30+constitution+1D6 for health; I rolled a 2 so Pelayo starts with 36 health. He gets brawling weapons group for proficiency and three others: I pick axes, bows and spears because that sounds about like what an outsider wanderer would know how to use.

For his level 1 abilities Pelayo can pick two novice level talents and gains novice in armor training automatically. For his two novice talents I pick weapon and shield style and archery style: shields, axes and bows is my thought. Note that the class description lists what you can pick....but you really need to look up the talents in their section as each has requisite requirements that you need to meet. For this reason an initial choice mine (two handed style) was ruled out because Pelayo's strength is 2 and he would need 3 for that talent.

Step 6 takes us to equipment, but before I go there I want to read up on what my two talents mean. As a novice in Archery Pelayo gets a +1 to damage against close targets (within 6 yards). For weapon and shield he gets the full shield defense bonus as a novice.

On to equipment! It's always interesting to see how a game handles equipment, because you can quickly tell what the game's style and focus is by the way gear is distributed. Some games stick to the "write it down or you don't have it" formula along with a concrete cost you pay for goods. Some games dispense with the cost, moving to a flexible (but annoying) wealth mechanic in which gear is a thing...a prop....but not necessarily a focus. Then there are games that treat gear like an effect or a cosmetic thing....I hate that system. Blegh! FAGE, thankfully, is type 1: you do pick your starting gear, but then you get some coin to spend: 15+3D6 silver pieces for an outsider like Pelayo, who ends up with 21 SP.

Pelayo also gets to pick from a selection of starting gear, getting a backpack, clothes, water skin, heavy leather armor, three weapons, and a medium shield. For the weapons I consult the list and pick out a battle axe, throwing axe and long bow with a quiver of 20 arrows. So...with all that gear I guess the SP is pocket change since I don't know what he'd buy with it right now...maybe some rope, which costs 2 SP for 20 yards of the stuff.

Worth noting that anyone can fight with any weapon, but if you're not trained in it you deal half damage and get a -2 penalty to hit.

Step 7 in character creation is to calculate defense. Defense keeps you alive, and is equal to 10+dexterity+any shield bonus (+2 for medium). For Pelayo his defense is 14. Note that no armor value is being added; armor itself has an AR (armor rating) which is subtracted from damage taken.

Step 8 is to pick a name (done!) and Step 9 is to choose goals and character ties. It is suggested that each character have three goals that relate to why he is adventuring, and the ties are effectively what everyone in the group has in common that gets them working together. Since Pelayo is (for now) a solo adventurer I'll provide a basic tie that can work across a spectrum.

Pelayo's stats now look like this:

Human male warrior (outcast wanderer)
Health 36; Defense 14; AR 4 (leather); Speed 12

1 Accuracy (focus: brawling)
0 Communication
4 Constitution (focus: stamina)
2 Dexterity (Focus: riding)
4 Fighting
1 Intelligence
1 Perception
2 Strength
0 Willpower

Languages: common
Weapon and Armor Skills: brawling weapons, axes, bows, spears
Warrior Talents: Archery (novice), weapon and shield (novice)

Equipment: backpack, clothes, water skin, heavy leather armor (AR 4), throwing axe (1D6+2+strength damage), battle axe (2D6+strength damage), long bow (1D6+3+perception damage), quiver with 20 arrows, and a medium shield (+2 bonus)

Goals: seek out fortune, slay the ogre king who killed father, become a prince among men
Ties: owes money to the crime lord Bossadan of Aelghast

Pelayo is now ready to adventure! It's a very clean, concise stat-block. I like.


Combat: combat and most ability tests in FAGE are based on 3D6 rolls plus the relevant ability modifier; one of your dice is going to be odd colored and is the Stunt Die. When you roll doubles then a stunt kicks in, and the stunt die gives you stunt points (SPs) to spend on various options. For Pelayo, he'll be using fighting to attack with his melee weapons and accuracy for his bows. There's a big list in the book of which focuses apply to which abilities.

Ability Tests: An average test in FAGE is 11 or better. On a 3D6 that means you tend to roll 10-11, so the ability modifier will likely sway your direction of success. Furthermore, the adventurer gets a +2 bonus to the check when it relates to his focus. So Pelayo in our example could make a riding check at 3D6+4 for hid dexterity plus focus. It would behoove him to get a focus in axes and bows, soon.

Next: fight! Pelayo knows an orc in a room with a pie who's just asking for it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fantasy AGE capsule review

If you've been waiting for your pre-orders like I have, then know that they will be arriving soon. My FLGS got my copy of Dragon AGE in and it's a really amazing looking, a coffee table art book sort of deal, the kind you leave around so people can ooh and ahh at it.

Fantasy Age is slimmer and more utilitarian, but it also looks very playable, and is also gorgeously laid out. Alas, my copy is a 1st printing and has the "interlligence" printing error on the character sheet.....but that's okay, they've got one here that's spelled right. If you don't mind the typo there's a form-fillable version here as well.

Fantasy AGE is hitting at the right time. The market is ripe for mechanically easier game systems that still have some meat on them....people like systems that offer interesting choices but don't require excessive rigor. Fantasy AGE also caters to a slightly different sort of fantasy from D&D, while still being very familiar.

Characters start with nine ability scores with a -/+ modifier from -2 to +4. You have six core races to pick from as well (human, elf, dwarf, gnome, hafling and orc). FAGE adds social class and background rules designed to support a wide array of settings as well; you figure out your social class and then an appropriate background (i.e. merchant, pirate, soldier, performer) out of 24 available choices.

After that, you've got your class. There are three classes in FAGE: mage, rogue and warrior. Each one provides rules through level 20, along with optional specializations (such as mage hunter, assassin or berserker), of which there are twelve. You can also get a focus for a really good ability score. Talents (FAGE's skills) round out the character options. Mages can also gain access to spell arcana, of which there are twelve (each arcana encompasses a handful of spells related to the arcana type).

The gamemaster section includes about 20 pages on how to run the game, 7 pages on magic items, and a bestiary section with fourteen adversaries provided. It's missing a conventional monster/animal wolves, for example, but does provide some good starting points for GMs. While a Fantasy AGE campaign isn't as likely to be focused on the slaughter of monsters as D&D tends to be, you'll probably find yourself wanting to pick up the AGE monster supplements on* or cribbing beasts from Dragon AGE until a more robust bestiary is released. Also worth noting is the Midgard Bestiary has an AGE edition*. Those resources ought to hold us over until a proper Bestiary is released.

Wrapping up the book is a short section on world building and a setting/adventure location to get you started. All told, for 144 pages it's a nice, compact set of rules with plenty of meat. If you can sustain yourself on the meager adversary offerings you'll be okay --for a while.

I haven't seen the Titansgrave module yet but expect to have it soon (ordered it via the FLGS). I do happen to have all of the AGE System PDFs Green Ronin offers, and for the price they are worth it if you are in to the system.

Five things Fantasy AGE does really well:

1. The stunt system. It's a dynamic combat mechanic that is only rivalled by Runequest 6's combat system.

2. Lot's of flexible character design features. You can make a lot of interesting characters in this system, but it remains focused and easy to roll up new PCs. While it has only three classes, the dozen specializations, numerous backgrounds and talents/focus rules make for a wide range of character options.

3. Emphasis on the fantasy tale vs. just monster killing/dungeon crawling. To be fair, D&D 5E (for example) provides lots of tools to do all sorts of cool stuff, but then limits the bulk of it's XP system to slaying things. FAGE provides a more well-rounded experience as part of its core design.

4. Ease of play. It's all about six sided dice, and the game has some very clean math in my experience.

5. Gorgeous, readable book! This is harder to achieve than it sounds, but Green Ronin really knows how to produce a nice looking, easily accessible tome.

Some downsides:

1. The "interlligence" typo is indicative of a few such editorial gaffs. On the plus side maybe the already-planned second printing will fix these issues.

2. It really needs more adversaries as well as more conventional beasties statted out in the core, or in a bestiary hopefully out yesterday. But with the PDF and Dragon AGE resources out there you can make do for now.

3. This is still definitely a "basic book" in the sense that it gives you enough to run with the game (a lot more than the D&D Basic Rules, to contrast) but after a year of using these rules I bet I'd start wishing for some follow-up material. I am confident Green Ronin has plans, though.

EDIT: I've bounced around a lot on what system(s) to use for my Sarvaelen (Watchers of the Sullen Vigil) thinking Fantasy Age might be the best fit....hmmmmm!

*All of the old AGE System documents are directly compatible with Dragon AGE but need minor conversion to Fantasy AGE, which uses some slightly different ability score names, and the combat skills (formerly dexterity in DA) is now split between accuracy and fighting scores. Abilities and attacks seem to mesh fine, however. Hopefully Green Ronin will think about releasing Fantasy AGE -compatible editions of these prior works that require no effort at conversion.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back! On the vagaries of game stores in different cities

I took a few days off and made a vacation of it....and have more or less triumphantly returned; we did a bit of "off roading" --kinda sorta unintentionally-- and my car may have suffered a bit for it. Will be having a mechanic check it out soon.

While road-tripping across the southwest I returned to an old haunt: Tucson, AZ. My wife and I decided to check out the game shop spectrum in Tucson to see how it compared to Albuquerque. Albuquerque has one real game shop, one comic shop that also stocks games and provides some table space, and a third shop that is a bit hard to quantify....I'd describe it as a "relic store" of old games and old comics that doesn't seem to offer much in the way of contemporary offerings.

Anyway, Tucson showed three game shops in town according to Google, one of which we'd visited on our last trip down. As we set about visiting the other two (both on Broadway) we discovered THREE MORE game stores, two of them also on Broadway and another on Speedway. We hit four of them in a row. Talk about a shocker!

Most of the game shops were what I'd describe as fairly standard affairs: lots of Magic, Warhammer, Hordes/Iron Kingdoms minis, the obligatory Pathfinder and D&D selection. Each one had some eccentricities however. I was surprised to find a lot of Palladium and Dungeon Crawl Classics stocked on game shelves, for example. One of them had a Nobilis book I didn't know existed. FFG's titles were well represented in general as well, although nothing unusual there. All of the shops had a bustling crowd of gamers and table space. I think Magic might have had Friday tournaments going. Each one of these stores was about equivalent to the best store in Albuquerque in terms of stock available.

And then there was Isle of Games. This store had stuff I didn't know was in print. It had Kickstarter games I didn't know had been released. It had Everything. EVERYTHING. If you're having trouble finding things like Feng Shui 2, Shadows of Esteren, the latest Savage Worlds books, Reaper Bones minis (actually half the stores in Tucson stocked this). and much more....Isle of Games has it. I snagged the latest Dungeon Crawl Classics book (Against the Atomic Overlord) and boxed set (Peril on the Purple Planet) there as well as Feng Shui 2, but I was really tempted to get Shadows of Esteren and Legends of the Wulin, as well as a dozen other books I can't even remember the names of now and had never seen before or knew existed in print form. I mean: they had OSR books on the shelf. OSR!!!!

The fellow behind the counter says they will do mail order, so if you've got something obscure you can't find anywhere else, check them out.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Primeval Thule Closing in on Zero Hour - new stuff unlocked + General Kickstarter Update

Primeval Thule for D&D 5E is about a day away from closing as of writing, and the PDFs of the GM's Companion, Player's Companion and Adventure Anthology have transformed into print add-ons. This naturally shoved me deeper into the hole because if I'm already getting the main book, GM screen and map I might as well get the whole enchilada. I mean....between Frog God and Sasquatch Studios, this will make for a well-rounded year of 5E products regardless of WotC's schedule.

I bailed on the Mythos Kickstarter but I don't feel bad about it; Troll Lord is very good at getting their product out and available for purchase and I will be more than ready for it when they show up. At this point the only thing I'm really missing is my name in the KS credits of the book. Either way, that's money I can funnel in to Primeval Thule, a setting I find rather cool for a system I actually run 1-2 times a week.

Still hanging on with Enascentia. I sort of feel like it's worth it; the style and direction of the Italian fantasy RPG powered by Savage Worlds is just too impressive, and the parties involved diverse enough (and blooded) such that it seems like it's both a sure bet and the sort of book that one will want and have a hard time finding if you don't back it otherwise.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Harried in Hillsfar for D&D 5E

WotC has provided a link via Dragon+ issue 3 to this module, which is 5 mini-scenarios linked together for a level 1-2 chain of adventures. You can download it here without having to mess with Dragon+, however!

Dragon+ issue 3 wasn't as bad as the prior two issues, but the bar has been set really, really low so I can't say I'd recommend messing with it just yet. But the module link was cool, so check it out.

Resident Evil 2 Remake, more on Cypher System, DT&T update and Quests of Doom 2 for 5E!

Fun stuff happened while I was in a borderline coma! Best news I encountered was that Capcom, maker of Resident Evil, will be doing a remake of Resident Evil 2, which was the game that transformed the franchise from "spooky mansion adventure with zombies and monsters" to full-blown zombie holocaust event. From that I gather the remake will (probably) be in similar style to the Resident Evil 1 remake....a faithful rendering of the original, with a cleanup on graphics and controls.....but it's possible they may intend to make it more modern; who knows. I think Capcom has fully gotten the message that Resident Evil 6 for all it's glorious action stuff, was not really the direction RE fans want, so hopefully they won't try to "remake" RE2 in that mold.

I'm thinking the video was specifically for the American crowd, as it doesn't mention Biohazard as a title once.

Quests of Doom 2 for 5E

Speaking of Awesome Stuff, Frog God Games Necromancer Games is producing Quests of Doom 2 for D&D 5th edition! The book contains formal conversions of some of the One Night Stand modules and others. Six new scenarios, all mid-level (5ish), and they are doing a special "preorder" program rather than a Kickstarter, which I rather appreciate. If you'd like 5E versions of these modules, or just don't own them previously (tip: they're worth owning) now's the time.

The modules featured in QoD2 are: The Spire of Iron and Crystal, The Mire of Mourning, Death in the Painted Canyons, Jungle Ruins of Madaro-Shanti, MCMLXXV (yes, really!), and Grimmsgate. Yes, two former Kickstarter specials of S&W Complete are in there! Cool. There also two dozen new monster stat blocks in the back. Even if you're into parting out modules, there's a lot here to cannibalize. Plus, the PDF is out now.

DT&T Update

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls is now in print and it looks like the shipping process is starting. Still got another week or so before the hard covers are finished, unfortunately (for me, at least). Ken has some great photo montages of the process. Interesting stuff!

As soon as I do have my copy: I'm dropping The Dungeon of the Bear on one of my groups. Soon......

Cypher System Update

I did get some decent time to read Cypher System while I was recovering. I really like it. I can't honestly explain why The Strange and Numenera didn't grab me, but Cypher System, by stripping away the settings lets the reader focus on learning the rules and thinking about how to use it. This method works really well for me; I may spend too much time trying to decipher the multiverse of the Strange or the infinity of Numenera, and in the process lose focus on the rules themselves. But with Cypher System, I'm already thinking about my dystopian quasi-Appleseed inspired future SF setting, or a straight hardcore fantasy setting built entirely from the book's own sample material. Good stuff.

I think my only reservation at this point is the fact that Cypher System is a "diceless GM" system...the GM never rolls. If you've ever had one or more players in your group where getting them to do anything (even a simple defense roll) leads to weird decision paralysis....this might make you itch a bit!

Jokes aside, Cypher System is making me both want to run and play it. It does something that multigenre systems have a hard time doing: it provides a wealth of setting-specific flavor for each of its identified genres, and a design process for characters that is very consistent and easy for the GM to control and the players to grasp. Savage Worlds pulls this off, too, but chiefly by keeping its core conceits to a certain style...but that style defaults to "competent, specialized heroes with some really interesting descriptors, types and foci." I say the last three because once I grokked the significance of the concept and how it's fundamental to character design the system really came to life. In other systems you can say "I'll play a Rugged Space Marine who Talks to Machines," and with some time and effort you can make that happen or get close. In Cypher System you have a defined descriptor (rugged), type (space marine--warrior), and focus (talks to machines) ready to choose from among dozens of others. It's really cool, and more importantly to me it's really fun.

 I've only got two* other games right now that I both want to run and play: D&D 5E and Savage Worlds. And Savage Worlds should be worried, because Cypher System looks like some mean competition.

*C&C and S&W Complete are games I want to both run and play as well, but I sort of group them in with D&D.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Auctions, Auctions, Auctions

Remember Mt. Zogon and Slice of Death? I Miss Dave's stuff, he was
THE BEST!!!!!!

I've had a low post count for a few days....missed both game groups....and since Wednesday last week have been deathly ill with something weird, flu-like and severely fever inducing. I finally turned around a bit on Saturday and here I am at 5 in the morning feeling weirdly okay and engaging in a bit of manic Ebay fun. If you're interested, check out my auctions here. A lot more are timed to start at 8:30 PM (MST) and will be real 7-day auctions. I'll probably post even more after some sleep.

While lying around near death I realized I had a lot of crap. A LOT of it. And a lot of stuff I knew I had bought because the store owner of location X was selling something for a song that I couldn't resist, knowing it was going for big bucks on Ebay. At last, after a lengthy absence, I realized it was time to do a bit more Ebay selling. Yay for iphone cameras.

A few notes about what I am getting rid of:

I have a lot of Traveller editions, but the one I will use to play is not the pristine Deluxe Traveller up for sale. Also, Interstellar Wars, which I have never read or used and never will, although it looks interesting.

I have a lot of Runequest stuff, but the Runequest I have fond nostalgia for is actually RQ3, the version that I really got in to; I only ran about 8 games in RQ2 (that I can recall).

I love Mutant Epoch, but after a couple years of collecting it I still can't muster up the requisite energy to plow through even one of the massive sourcebooks. My future post-apoc plans all revolve around Savage Worlds, Mutant Year Zero or Cypher System right now (emulating a hybridization of Fallout and Appleseed). Mutant Epoch is very cool but surprisingly demanding for an OSR-hybrid title. The books deserve a more dedicated soul's attention.

I'm ditching Shadowrun auction-style. I have finally accepted that liking the CRPGs does not mean I will like the paper and pencil version. Really it's the same issue I have with Mutant Epoch: too much content, not enough time left on the planet to figure it all out (damn you D&D 5E for taking up 90% of my gaming time.

I have some odd strays lying around....Planescape, for example. They've actually been waiting in a "send to Ebay" pile for ages. Also, stuff like Tomb of Abysthor (which is perfect condition, but I have the Frog God revision) and Red Hand of Doom (which is very popular as 3rd edition modules go, and somehow I found a pristine copy languishing on a back shelf in a local store, the owner of whom hasn't actually heard about the internet yet).

And then there's Blood & Smoke, which is a cool book but putting it on Ebay is my way of facing reality: I'm never gonna run it or really even properly finish reading it (I think I got 75% through before I was distracted) because I just don't grokk to the White Wolf/Onyx methodology on gaming, and my wife, who left the WoD and LARPing behind ages ago will never look back, so it might as well go to a home that can appreciate it properly.

More eventually!

UPDATE: I have 40 listings up now. Mutant Epoch went first....go figure! RQ2 went next. I have probably 2-3 more boxes of another 50-100 listings I'll eventually get up, including both old and new games, and a few more surprises.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

D&D 5E Magic Item: Force Bow

Force Bow
Any bow or crossbow, uncommon (+1), rare (+2), very rare (+3); requires attunement.

The Force Bow is enchanted to fire endlessly replenishing magical arrows made of force. Each arrow generates the moment the archer grasps the bowstring or prepares to fire, creating an arrow or bolt of pure force. The weapon's ammunition deals force damage on impact (not piercing) and disappears one round after the damage is dealt.

The original Force Bow was crafted by elven spell-archers in the old Saric Empire as weapons of great destruction with an infinite payload. The arrows, while made of force, can still sustain additional enchantments from spells and effects (such as fire) and will also burn brightly --like a sparkler-- if magical or ordinary torch fire is applied, adding 1D10 damage if ignited and fired within one round.

"It was as if the elves rained hell down upon the forces of the Enkanneth in those days, and ne'er once did they want for an arrow to fire."--Old Elven Tale of the Silver Coast

"He's shooting frickin' lightsabers man!" -- anahcronistic proverb from actual game play

Monday, August 10, 2015

Fantastic Four Movie Review: better than a SyFy special?

Fantastic Four was a perfectly watchable, ordinary film of no specific or great intention. It was better than prior FF films (imo), and certainly better than a SyFy movie special, but when you hold it up to Ant-Man or Age of Ultron it was lacking. The film's new take on its iconic characters was great...for 1998. If this film had been released 16 years ago I suspect it would have done well, but in today's landscape of superhero movies you really can't bring your B-game to the table.

Spoilers ahead!

The film focuses on a new re-imagining of the Fantastic Four origin story, this time involving dimensional travel. It makes the cardinal error of tying everything too tightly together, so now Victor Von Doom is part of the research team of young geniuses that includes the rest of the FF team prior to their transformation. In some ways the character of Doom is actually more interesting, but fails to live up to the icon we all have known from the comics. His ultimate role is to make his transformation into super-villain and give the FF team a reason to come together and save the world.

The FF themselves aren't a bad bunch for the actors chosen. The new black Human Torch is handled very well and in fact I rather like the way they did it, introducing the elder Franklin Richards (notice name drop nod to Franklin, Reed and Sue's son in the comics) as Johnny's natural father with Sue Storm as the adopted daughter. Reg Cathey's role as Franklin is pivotal to this film; he has a decent weight to his role and his acting elevates those around him. Elsewhere, Ben Grimm is Reed Richard's childhood backup and henchman, supporting him in his mad scientist schemes. Doom, meanwhile, is the fifth wheel rogue, who is surprisingly non-villainous in his pre-transformation stage of life. They all come together as part of the Baxter Institute's young genius team, put on a project to create a teleportation device that shifts between dimensions.

Ultimately the experiment to make a working teleporter succeeds and in a moment of drunken glory the crew use the device so they can be the first men to set foot in another dimension. This, as one would expect, leads to a transformation and disaster, as the results of the experiment change all of them into the superheroes they are destined to be and leaves Doom stranded and presumably dead in an alien dimension.

Queue a not-Shield group identified (I think) as Mitra in the film, which sweeps the transformed teens off to Area 57, Area 51's east-coast cousin. After a very toothless "evil government is evil" phase the team is moved forward a year, trained and working as government agents....all save for Reed Richards, who made good his escape. He's eventually brought back in to the fold, though; the research must continue and the Baxter Institute, now an exclusive government contractor, is building a new teleporter.

Ultimately Reed Richards complies, the teleporter is fixed, and a team of crack agents travel back to the other dimension, where they do not suffer the same fate that affected the FF. They do find Doom, however, somehow still alive thanks to whatever vaguely-hinted-at alien super-mind seems to be in the other dimension. Doom arrives back on earth and proceeds to start killing everyone with his crazy telekinetics that he's never had in the comics. His goal? Short out the device, creating a black hole that sort of seems to suck the matter from Earth back to the Planet Zero he now considers home.

The finale is what gives the FF their chance to shine as they work to stop Doom's mad scheme, escape Planet Zero, and ultimately gain some ground as a real super-group, now provided all the funding and resources they need to continue working for the government, but on their own terms.

There's nothing fundamentally wrong with this movie in and of itself. Really, there isn't. If you aren't deeply invested in the canonical comic version of the FF and you have never seen a Marvel or X-Men film then this movie will come off as pretty decent, I suspect.


We do live in a world where the Marvel Cineverse and X-Men films exist, along with other stellar superhero films like Batman and Man of Steel (yes I loved that one). In this universe, the new FF film can't hold a candle. It's limited character arcs, loose interpretation of the comic canon, over-reliance on tying everything in the plot together into one related arc and general lack of a sense of greater purpose make it a substandard film by comparison. Put another way: the bar has been set too high for FF to succeed.

Four cool things in the Fantastic Four:

1. Every one of the FF is presented as a genius with a scientific mindset. Even Johnny Storm is a smart dude (unlike in the comics), as is Sue Storm and Ben Grimm. It's probably off-putting to the average moviegoer, but this really is a film about nerds.

2. The Johnny Storm-is-black conversion was handled very well and actually feels more interesting than the classic Johnny Storm take. The introduction of his dad, Franklin Storm, presents a character I wish existed in the comics at some point.

3. Miles Teller portraying Reed Richards did a surprisingly good job of making a leading character who was somehow a geeky science nerd, and who wasn't really a "popular male actor" trussed up to look like one.

4. The FX were great for all of the characters involved.

Five Terrible things in the Fantastic Four:

1. Victor Von Doom is once again given short shrift as a character taken out of context from the comics. What is it about removing him from Latveria, and why do the screenwriters think that they have to tie him in so closely to the FF origin?

2. The film ties everything too closely together. The entire story-arc is an origin story, and we've seen handily how Marvel can wrap an origin story into a more complex tale (Ant-Man) or dispense with it in thirty seconds (Hulk). Doom didn't need to be part of the team. Sue and Franklin didn't need to be at the science fair discovering Reed Richards. Richards didn't need to be singularly obsessed with making a teleporter....he could have had a range. The movie is almost Oroborous-like in devouring itself, right up until the final act.

3. The whole black hole dimensional portal thing was a manufactured threat and while Doom, when he surfaces as a full super-villain was impressively ominous, his real function was only to provide an excuse for the film to wrap up. The threat itself, while full of cool FX, was still a head-sctratcher as to what the ultimate goal was. Yes, the goal is stated as "we must destroy your world to protect ours" but elaborations such as: Why must you do this? What's the "green substance" on Planet Zero and is it alive?  How did Doom survive and what happened to him in that year? --and many other questions are all left unanswered. A Marvel film would have shown us why there was a threat, not told us, and also given us much better lead-up to understand the villain's motivations.

4. Doom does not have telekinetics. He has a metal suit with power blasts. He is scarred, but he MADE HIS SUIT. He is an evil genius. Is this so hard to do on film?

5. Sue Storm with her black eyeliner looks like a younger version of the washed-out methodone-addicted character that ends up as Tobias Fumke's girlfriend in Arrested Development Season 4. Go watch that on Netflix, you'll see what I mean. Once seen it cannot be unseen!

Overall I give it a C+ for being watchable but way behind the curve on the current state of superhero films and the minimum standards for the genre in film. There's a really good analysis of where this movie goes wrong right here, which is very insightful and I heartily agree with as well. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Cypher System, Wrath of the Gods and Occult Adventures

Long week, but somehow still got some posts out. I'm backing too many Kickstarters....I really shouldn't be backing any in my opinion; if a product isn't going to be commercially available for sale on release, then I probably don't need it. It's a tough position to take, but truth is, being a backer is an unpleasant experience most of the time, even when you really respect and trust the producers of product. If I stick with any of the projects I've looked at recently it will probably be the one I'm most likely to use in actual game play: Primeval Thule for 5E.

This week copies of Pathfinder: Occult Adventures, FFG's End of the World: Wrath of the Gods RPG and the Cypher System RPG showed up.

The Cypher System RPG looks about like I wanted it to....a version of the rules that strips out the settings previously presented as Numenera and The Strange, letting me explore what I want to do with it on my own terms. I have high hopes this could be a new universal multi-genre system I will like, will let you know as I explore it in depth.

Wrath of the Gods looks cool, but unlike it's predecessor about Zombies, it appears to be slightly anemic....or over-ambitious is maybe a better way to look at it. That said, the core conceit of short, down-to-earth explorations of end time scenarios remains intact and well done. for those interested, it includes a Norse Ragnarok campaign, Christian End Times campaign and Cthulhhu Stars Are Right end times game....that's gotta be a first, having those two back to back! Each end time event includes a "it's happening right now" campaign followed by an aftermath event (Ragnarok has no aftermath, however). There's one other campaign as well, a "When Nature gets sick of us" campaign with a before and after that reminds me of a Tim Lebbon book I once read.

Pathfinder Occult Adventures looks meaty and interesting, but I continue to be conflicted with the game as D&D 5E's mechanical elegance and ease of access continues to keep me busy doing all sorts of other stuff in the same conceptual space. My desire to revisit Pathfinder is conditional to getting my players interested in it again....and we're just having too much fun with 5E to care. This will probably get read once eventually and stuck on the shelf with all the other neglected Pathfinder books. I fear Pathfinder's days may well be numbered, but I haven't given up all hope the system will have future life --yet.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

EGG's Marmorial Tomb Campaign Kickstarter

I am very tempted to back this one. Gorgeous maps by Benoist, legacy of one of the earliest dungeon delves in D&D history with an interesting backstory on how it all came to be as a location to run store patrons through, accruing thousands of hits over the years. Read/watch it all here.

We'll see how I feel as it gets closer to September 2nd. It looks like it could be well worth having, but I've already descended into madness with backing three other we'll see.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

New index on the Chirak Campaign Setting

I finally cleaned up my index pages and also made a new one with all actual entries related to the Realms of Chirak campaign setting posted on the blog of the same name to date. Find it here!

D&D 5E Conversions: The Vishkanya Poison Maidens

Back! This time with a new Pathfinder to 5E conversion of one of my favorite humanoids from Bestiary 3:

Vishkanya (poison maidens)
CR 1/2 (100 XP)
N medium humanoid
Initiative +3
AC 15 (leather armor)
HP 6 (1D8+2)
Special Vishkanya roll advantage on saves against poison effects
Resistance poison damage
Speed 30 feet
Multiattack – vishkanya may make one attack with a dagger and shuriken or two attacks with shuriken.
Melee Attack – Kukri Dagger +5 to hit (reach 5 feet, one target), 1D4+3 piercing damage and make a DC 12 Constitution save or become poisoned for one minute.
Ranged Attack – Shuriken +5 to hit (reach 20/60 feet, one target), 1D2+3 piercing damage and make a DC 12 Constitution save or become poisoned for one minute.
STR 13 (+1), DEX 17 (+3), CON 14 (+2), INT 8 (-1), WIS 10 (0), CHA 12 (+1)
Languages: common, Vishkanya
Senses: darkvision, Perception +2 (passive 12)
Skills: Deception +3, Stealth +5
Sneak Attack: the vishkanya deals an additional 1D6 damage on any attack for which it has advantage.
Poison Use: vishkanya roll on advantage when preparing poisons for use and do not accidentally poison themselves when using or applying poisons.
Toxic Venom: Vishkanya emit a toxin through their blood and saliva that affects most other creatures on contact with the poisoned condition. The vishkanya can apply this effect to their weapons as a bonus action during combat by licking their blade or dipping it in vishkanya blood. The poison is a Constitution based saving throw to avoid gaining the poisoned condition for one minute. Vishkanya can emit enough toxin to do this a number of times per day equal to their Constitution modifier before requiring a long rest to regenerate more toxin.

Vishkanya are tall and thin humanoids who can pass for human at a glance, but their skin is made up of fine scales, their tongues are forked and they have pupil-less eyes. Vishkanya can secret a toxin through their blood and saliva which can sicken those who come in to contact with it, and have a reputation for being deadly to the touch (though this is a myth propagated by their cultural affinity for poisons).

Mythological vishkanya were described as poison maidens and female, but as a fantasy race vishkanya could also include males.

Vishkanya Player Characters: Vishkanya can be suitable races for player characters, gaining +1 Dexterity, +1 Charisma and -1 Wisdom (they are described as being graceful and elegant but irrational beings). They gain darkvision, racial proficiency in stealth, advantage on saves vs. poison, resistance against poison damage, the poison use ability described above, and toxic venom. Sneak attack is not a racial trait but reflects the training of typical vishkanya assassins as described above. Vishkanya begin play with the common tongue and their native language.

Conversion Source: Pathfinder Bestiary 3 (SRD version here)

Monday, August 3, 2015

Enascentia Kickstarter - high fantasy from Italy for Savage Worlds

Enascentia has some amazing art....evocative of Anima, a really stellar European RPG because some of the artists are the same, but this time it's Savage Worlds powered, so the rules will make sense! (I kid slightly; Anima does make sense, but it takes a bit of work to figure that game out).

Anyway, the Kickstarter is ongoing. Since I've recently lost my ability to maintain common sense* on these things, I want to spread the word and hope that you, too, will back. It's closing on August 23rd, and the Regular GM level is about $71 US plus $19 shipping to get the hard cover GM and Player's books.

These books exist and are a thing in Italy, so we're looking at a translated edition in the US. I'm going to hedge on the side of optimism and hope that this all goes well for the planned December 2015 release date, because it really does look Too Cool not to get.

From the main page, here's what the two books contain:

  • 10 detailed new races, provided with complete history, habitats in the 4 different continents, and a couple famous characters for each of them
  • 6 new Skills, including create poisons, create potions, and magical inscription 
  • 8 new Hindrances, for either newly generated characters and already existing ones
  • 45 new Edges, including 23 professional ones made to fit the ten Tribes.
  • 15 potions
  • 20 poisons and custom rules to apply them
  • 14 magical tattoos
  • 52 new powers
  • 60 ways to customize and create your own magical items and weapons
  • 10 powerful artifacts
  • 5 ready to play character sheets and a customizable blank one

  • The lore and hidden history of Enascentia: all the information a player should discover playing rather than just reading.
  • The Lost Tribes: creatures of myth belonging to lost ages.
  • Geography: everything you need to know about the 4 known continents
  • More than a hundred ready to use NPCs and sixteen templates to build your own
  • Guidelines for building adventures, the Plot Point Campaign "The Awakening" and 4 Savage Tales.
  • 50 brand new monsters, provided with stats, background information, and habitats.

*I have no idea what happened. I did so well for so long, and suddenly I'm backing three Kickstarters. WTF.