Sunday, July 20, 2014

Thoughts on 5E

I downloaded the PDF of the free 5th Edition rules of Dungeons and Dragons and had a gander. I had played a Ravenloft adventure of D&D Next at the UK Games Expo and it felt like a solid alternative implementation of D&D 3.X with lower numerical ranges and fewer, but more complex feats.

The Starter Set that's out looks pretty... plain. 2 small booklets that - if it had been a bit more fancy with bits you could use after you have the 3 Core books I might've parted with the £10. However 5E is not revolutionary enough to persuade me to part with any bucks unless I get into a game. This is what I said about 4E though, and resulted in me buying 0 books from that range.

Thoughts on the free PDF though are:-
  • No feats are included as of version 0.1?! I've not followed the crunch enough  but don't you need those to generate characters?
  • I like that they've brought back references to Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Ravenloft and I guess Forgotten Realms. If they resurrect some of the old campaigns that might persuade me to buy the core books and settings.
  • I also don't mind that Realms is the default setting now, as it makes them less likely to screw over Greyhawk/Ravenloft/any other setting I actually give two hoots about in the way 4E already seems to have done with the Realms, so much so that they've had to do a massive retcon for 5E already.
  • I like the character sheets and the backgrounds  - it actually encourages roleplaying as opposed to min/maxing and reminds me of 2E's kits, as opposed to prestige classes in 3E which were too crunchy and high-level play to be of much use initially.
  • Paragraphs on allowing you to play transgendered and non-heterosexual characters has been hailed as a triumph for political correctness, wonderfulness and equality on Now, being politically incorrect I don't see the big deal - I tend to avoid such issues in gaming, since I play for fun and escapism and these issues smack of too much real life. I am happy to play with all and sundry and I would have said its always been your game - so including these aspects has always been a DM/player call. I should also ask the indelicate question - wouldn't most transgender roleplayers simply prefer to play as the gender they identify as and not be treated differently? Sexuality on the other hand is no big deal either in RPGs since it only crops up infrequently in most D&D games.
  • I'm not so keen that tieflings are still a core race, as opposed to a race introduced in a setting where they make sense, such as Planescape or wherever. Obviously half-demon types with horns and tales don't strike me as being suitably generic enough to fit into any generic medieval campaign setting. I hope Dragonborn and Teleporting-Not-Elves don't make it into the core PHB, while gnomes, bards and such like do.
The artwork is pretty generic looking, though not as terrible CGI as some of the 3E/4E covers I saw. For me my favourite cover is the original 2E PHB, back when they were comfortable that core D&D's roots was in western medieval Europe and the art reflected it. Compared to games like Esteren and LotFP the artwork is far too safe and politically correct.

Friday, July 18, 2014

More Games

Some more new games now stored at Casa Kerrigan include:-

The Green Ronin Edition
Need to work out the system.
A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying/Game of Thrones D20: I've got the expensive D20 version and the new Green Ronin D6 system. I'm not sure which to run but I have a yen to run a short one-off in the Game of Thrones universe. The default setting for both games is 10 years before the books/TV show, though I'd also be tempted to run something in the Dunk & Egg era, which feels a little more 'pulpy' and 'high adventure' than the Song of Ice and Fire series.

The Night's Watch would be the most typical "adventuring party" setup for a one-off although the minor house playstyle idea might work for a mini-campaign. The D20 game has a couple of downloadable adventures and ASoIFRPG comes with a pretty long adventure detailing the adventures of House Whatever. Most likely I'd use a Northern House, or a Riverlands House.

Am I alone in thinking
"Lovely art, lousy font"?
To be honest I couldn't imagine running a massive campaign of this game as I'd feel too beholden to the source material. It's the same reason Dragonlance stopped being my D&D campaign of choice - there's too much 'canon' to beholden too, and I'm too OCD to canon.

That said the D20 House adventures and Peril in Kings Landing could make a diverting series of adventures and creative players could easily make enough material for House Whatever.

7th Sea: I was a little late to this party as for some reason it is out of print while Legend of the Five Rings, its oriental cousin, is still around but I've finally managed to track down the 2 rulebooks for this game, and have pdfs of pretty much every supplement. Ever.

7th Sea is a swashbuckling game I feel I should have loved playing but never got into the right game. Pirates, musketeers, magic and intrigue - along with a heroic combat system allowing your hero to wade through expendable NPCs - this should've been a shoe-in.

7th Sea - why is this game
out of print?
I played a few mini-campaigns I never really enjoyed but I put that more down to the DM not advising character generation (i.e. telling where the adventure will be set, and which common languages are advisable) or the players being dicks. One time I played a pirate in a campaign involving Avalonian politics. So my ability to kick my sword into my hand from the floor of a ship didn't become relevant and I was generic muscle for the noble PCs. Another time I played an Avalonian nobleman in a campaign based in Castille. One player even deliberately insisted the party plot in languages she knew my PC didn't speak, and I couldn't interact with the NPCs.

So again, one I'd love to run, but more to play in.

I got 7th Sea from Noble Knight along with a ton of free RPG Day goodies, including some RPG Grip Mat samples - which are great for holding miniatures in place, but apparently one cannot draw on with water soluble marker.

Another downside is the sample mats are too small  for any
serious RPG carnage. Good job I got 2!

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Two New RPGs From Brom

Last month I popped over to the UK Games Expo in Birmingham for the weekend. I'd recommend it to anyone - it's a huge convention with the largest trade hall in the UK. I picked up a couple of games:-

LotFP has nice artwork too - much nicer
than the generic D&D/Pathfinder art
Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a Weird Fantasy Roleplaying game that uses a system similar to the old OD&D (original Dungeons & Dragons) with some of the later innovations of D&D (ascending armour classes etc.). Character classes are very tightly focused (only fighters get better at fighting, only specialists get skill improvements), elves, dwarves and halflings are classes to themselves. I have some reservations - for instance dwarves seem to stacks of hit points but no combat skills.

The Weirdness is in the adventure material, and the often graphic artwork, and they are typically set in a form of the real world in the 17th century. James of LotFP does a very strange thing at conventions - Pay What You Want. You can buy any books he has an give him whatever you want. If you give him above a certain threshold he'll even send you a forthcoming module when it is done.

I threw down £50 and bought the core rulebook hardback, Carcosa, Isle of the Unknown, F**K for Satan (yes really!), the Monolith Outside of Space and Time and the God That Crawls. They're weird. There's been a lot of criticism for some of the adventures from various quarters (one of them features a gigantic alien mind controlling phallus), but James is clearly not someone who wants to filter his imaginations for political correctness, nor does he hold with the idea of "fairness" in adventures. There's no bestiary - monsters and spells are unique and introduced in scenarios. For example one wizard has a 1st level spell allowing time travel.

This was always a contention of mine when I used to write roleplaying games. Scenarios, particularly those in living campaigns, have to be playtested and the encounters balanced using some sort of pre-determined equations. I once had to make the walls of an enemy city manned with only 2 archers in order to fit the Encounter Level of a ranged encounter. The author of the Free RPG Day Pathfinder module apparently had to apologise for a particularly dangerous encounter where a bad guy's abilities made him near unbeatable if the DM wanted to play by the rules. It makes it boring if you know the only encounters your DM throws at you will be "fair". Some of the parts of LotFP adventures are not "fair". Player characters can get mangled without a saving throw just by following the plot. As it says in the rule book, there's a reason the average mook doesn't become an adventurer. You cannot expect what you face to always be within your power-level, and running away is always an option. Even if it does rip that IV Drip of experience and treasure of your living camapign.

That said I envisage running LotFP for a lot of hilarious one-offs. I would not drop them randomly into an ongoing campaign without planning - most of these modules will not leave your PCs unaffected. You can get the rules for free here, and the 2013 Free RPG Adventure Better Than Any Man is a huge scenario that highlights the weird fantasy aspect. Well worth the downloads.

Fear the stones of Esteren!
The other game I picked up was a French game, Shadows of Esteren. It is a completely different beast of an RPG yet still has overlaps with the Weird Fantasy. It is very much a new-school roleplaying game set in a Celtic-like set of kingdoms known as the Tri-Kazael. It describes itself as part Dark Ages Cthulhu and part Ravenloft - with a very gothic feel.

Part of the fear comes from the isolation of the communities in Tri-Kazael, who live in fear of the Feondas (or enemy). These are unique abominations of plant, animal or even humanity - basically mutations of the natural order and each Feondas has the potential to be a unique horror that could terrify player characters.

In terms of magic the PCs can wield there are the Demorthèn (the druids, the old faith of the Tri-Kazael who still hold considerable influence), the Church of the One - a new faith whose miraculous powers are often more powerful than the dweomers of the Demorthèn and the steampunk-like Magientists, who combine magic with science through the use of a mysterious substance known as the Flux.

The game itself is gorgeous and you can download the first book as a PDF for free here. I played it twice at the Expo, one 4 hour game and one 2 hour demo at the desk (great game, but they cleaned up my Pepsi can in the time it took for me to buy the game). I was sold and bought the uber-bundle of all the rule books, the CD and some player aids/DM screen.

It's a multimedia project, there is a point-and-click adventure game in the works, as well as a boardgame which I've help Kickstart, and some music CDs - though I did not yet get my CD (or PDF copies of the books) as part of the bundle.

I've an idea for a really spooky convention scenario for this - called The Sentinel. I might run this at the Nationals.