Monthly Archives: June 2012

Review – Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide (OGL)

   Earlier this month Paizo released a anticipated sourcebook, the Pathfinder RPG: Advanced Race Guide. The book not only offers hundreds of options to play more than 30 already defined races, but also contains a system to create entirely new races if we want.

   I’m really a big fan of using exotic creatures in my games, both as a  player and as a game master, and I like to show that they are not only different is statistics: they have an unique view of the world, their own customs, religions, history and many more things that makes them different. so when I first heard about that Advanced Race Guide is under development I was very interested. Now I’m happy to say, this book really delivers!

The content

   The slightly more than 250 pages of the Advanced Race Guide are divided into four chapters and several appendixes, but I think it’s easier to divide the book into two major parts. The first part is chapters 1-3, as these are dealing with already established races, while chapter 4 contains the Race Builder if you want something unique.

   For the known races we receive a good number of options, including alternate racial traits, racial archetypes, feats, equipment, magic items, spells, and favored class options. Of course, Core Races get much more to choose from than the Featured or Uncommon races, but even the most obscure species have something interesting. For example Core Races each have 3-4 racial archetypes, Featured Races each get 2, while uncommon races get only a single archetype.

By the way, the races in the book are divided into three groups :

– Core Races (Chapter 1.) – Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, Halfings, and Humans

Featured Races (Chapter 2.) – Aasimar, Catfolk, Dhampirs, Drow, Fetchlings, Goblins, Hobgoblins, Ifrits, Kobolds, Orcs, Oreads, Ratfolk, Sylphs, Tengus, Tieflings, and Undines

Uncommon Races (Chapter 3.) – Changelings, Duergar, Gillmen, Gripplis, Kitsune, Mefolk, Nagaji, Samsarans, Strix, Sulis, Svirfneblin, Vanaras, Vishkanyas and Wayangs

   With the help of the guide you may play characters which are really playing with their race own strengths or stereotypes, including stone-bonded dwarves, pyromaniac goblins, tricky kitsune and elementalist suli. Thankfully, many of the options are not only usable for a specific race (like many of the archetypes, items and spells), while others are practically useless for almost anybody outside of the connected race.

   I also want to say a few words about the Race Builder, which was extensively tested by players all around the world. Well, in my opinion the Race Builder in itself is a real gem, and I’m really happy that it was made! Basically it’s a finely balanced point based system, where you may buy racial qualities and traits with Race Points (RP), and the final cost determines the relative strength of the race. Since RP values are presented for the already available races you may compare your own creation if it is relatively equal with the Core Races (around 10 RP), but of course you may create much powerful races if you want. Certain abilities are only available for these more powerful species, if they are advanced (11-20 RP) or monstrous (20+ RP) races.

   As a comparison, the core races are between 8 and 11 RP, and most of the other playable races in the book falls between 6 and 15 RP. They also provided some examples for the use of the Race Builder, including an alternate, no racial hit-dice version for Centaurs and Gargoyles, as well as several new races.

Final words

   After reading the book my head is buzzing with character ideas, which clearly means that Advanced Race Guide is filled flavorful, interesting and playable concepts all around from flying slyph druids to ratfolk alchemists experimenting on diseases. And then we also have the very flexible Race Builder, so if your campaign world is filled with light-sensitive four-armed giant badger-men, here you go! So all I can say, that Advanced Race Guide is clearly deserves 5/5 points from me.

If you are interested in Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Race Guide (as you should, really), it is available on Paizo‘s own store on this link.

Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros

Review – In The Company of Lurkers (PFRPG)

  Earlier this week Rite Publishing introduced a new playable race to the Pathfinder roleplaying game with the release of the In The Company of Lurkers sourcebook. I think these secretive creatures could provide interesting character options both for players and NPC-s.

   The lurkers is a race which was created by an accident from gnomes and cloakers, and they posses abilities from both races. They are masters in spying, information gathering and manipulation and  their natural abilities (racial traits) offer great support for this role.

   In this tightly packed 16-page supplement we receive every bit of information we need about lurkers, including their background (history, relations, society), their game statistics (racial traits, favored class options) as well as character options (feats, archetypes)

The content

    On the first three pages we receive answers for all the basic questions regarding the lurker race. What’s their origin? How they look? What kind of society and relations they maintain? Everything is here with enough detail. They seems to be a small race overall, with most likely no more than several thousand members. While most of these half-cloaker half-gnomes like to keep a low profile and often disguise themselves others are real thrill-seekers, and much more open.

   After that we receive those informations and statisctics which are needed to run a lurker character. There are many abilities to mention here : their small size, skill bonuses,  darkvision, their tail (usable as weapon) and their unique scream. I think their fearful scream is their most powerful trait, but it still doesn’t seems too overpowered. Alternate racial traits and favored class options (including 3rd party classes) are also provided for more character customization.

   We also receive some feats to improve upon the lurker’s racial traits and they may even fly if they want. The only feat I don’t like is the Racial Exemplar, as possibly providing two more options to scream is a bit overkill for the cost of a single feat, especially if we are speaking about a high charisma character (sorcerer or bard)

   The sourcebook also contains three new archetypes : dirty trickster (bard), night haunt (inquisitor) and kithmourn lurker (shadow assassin), but since I don’t know the shadow assassin class from Super Genius Games I could only praise the other two. The dirty trickster is an ultimate spy, who can erase memories, fake evidences and perform many more interesting tricks. It’s repertoire include one seemingly overpowered ability : survive anything what would kill her at high levels (17+), once per day,  which is empowered with further effects to ensure her survival.

   The night haunt on the other hand is something like the fantasy RPG version of the Batman, with full BAB, shadow lines, and an information network (connected telephatically) and a cohort. The class alse receive two new inqusitions : one to demoralize foes, and one to use dimension door in the shadows. Overall I think it’s an interesting and very viable concept for an inquisitor who hunt wrong-doers in the shadows of the night.

Final words

   After reading the supplement, I think In The Company of Lurkers offers an interesting new race, and also some new options in the form of archetypes for non-lurker characters. I guess that if your campaign is not taking place in Questhaven the lurkers could be more suitable as NPC-s than players, but encountering them in a world where the are completely unheard of could be an interesting twist. As a final score I give 4,5/5 points.

For those who are interested in the In The Company of Lurkers supplement, it’s avaialble on DriveThruRPG on this link.

Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros

Review – FotTS: Smiles-Under-the-Bed (PFRPG)

   On this week Rite Publishing released another expansion for their Faces of Tarnished Souk NPC series for PathfinderFotTS: Smiles-Under-the-Bed. As always, the supplement contains a high level character with her extensive statistics and background information, so we could readily use it in our campaigns.

   The current character is a cat-like nightmare, called Smiles-Under-the-Bed, who is actually a CR 19 “Female advanced apex predator dream eater laughing beast nightmare greymalkin” if we looking at her statistics. Wow, even writing it down is very long!

   Practically Smiles-Under-The-Bed is a very dangerous and evil predator, hunting for dreams. While she is intelligent and have a secret agenda too the players most likely only meet her in combat encounters – if she attacks somebody when the risk seems to be smaller than the reward. This, combined with the distrustful nature of the beast makes her harder to integrate into a campaign than many others of the series – if you want more than a fight against a fear based nightmarish monster.

   If we looking at the game statistics then we must recognize the many flavorful abilities Smiles-Under-the-Bed has. It’s easy to make a memorable and terrific encounter with the NPC, but I guess that the number of abilities could be lower, s more then one page of special abilities – not counting  the spell-like abilities – seems too complex, and hard to manage for the Game Master. But individually they are great, so maybe as a Game Master you should pick which options do you want to use during an encounter beforehand.

   Of course, there is place for complex characters like this in any adventure, but I feel that it’s unlikely that Smiles-Under-the-Bed will be a central NPC in many campaigns. But of course, this is only my opinion, as others may draw more inspiration from the character as I do. In this regards all of the other NPC-s in the series I can think of have a much greater potential to justify their complexness.

Final words

    All in all Smiles-Under-the-Bed is an interesting NPC, who potentially could be used to create some dreadful moments in your campaign. Still, I feel that I’ve seen better and a bit deeper characters in this series, with more ways to include tem into an adventure.  Considering this, as a final score I give it 4/5 points.

If you are interested in the Faces of Tarnished Souk: Smiles-Under-the-Bed (PFRPG) supplement, it’s available on DriveThruRPG on this link.

Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros

Review – Pirates of Legend

   Mongoose Publishing recently released a new addition to their successful Legend RPG, bringing players to the high seas of the Caribbean. The new sourcebook is titled as Pirates of Legend, and it’s enable us to play in the golden age of piracy.

   Pirates of Legend is the second sourcebook for the game which deals with a particular historical setting, and as with Vikings of Legend the developers produced a very good and complete work. From ship-to-ship combat (including boarding and vaporizing) to how officers affect the overall performance of the crew, or how to maintain your ship’s seaworthiness you may find every little information you may need to run a sea based campaign.

The content

   The supplement is divided into nine chapters, plus includes a short introduction and an index in the back of the book. As you may guess the first chapters are dealing with player characters, as there are a few things which are different from the basic Legend rules.

  There are little changes with the basics of the character generation: some firearms skills were added, as well as a new Mariner background and some new Professions. On the other hand a pirate character has a Reputation and some Vices which sets them apart from “normal” characters.

   Both Reputation and Vices add much rewarding roleplaying opportunities and favor to the game. For example, a character with high Reputation is feared on the seas and has a higher chance to be elected as a captain, while if you roleplay your Vices then you may improve your characters faster.

   The third chapter is dealing with equipment and currency, but since there is nothing surprising here, so we could move along. Of course, it contains everything we need from muskets to peg legs.

   The next and fourth chapter is about Crews and Sworn Companions and therefore a very important part of the book. I don’t want to spoil all details, but I think it’s maybe the best things in the supplement that officials could improve the crew’s performance (skills, morale and healing) based on their own skills. So if you put the right men into right positions that really matters here! On the other hand, if you are a captain or officer it’s increase your own Reputation.

   Ships and the sea is the fifth chapter, and include the different ship types plus rules for regular maintenance and modifications. The characters also gain their starting ship here. (spoiler: it’s a sloop) I think that it’s a good thing that the basic ship statistics and rules are simple, but you may turn a ship unique and more fitting for your group easily if you want.

   The next chapter includes many vital tables for the game about Piracy and plunder. So you can find random encounter and plunder tables, as well a table for weather on these pages. At least it’s make the work of the Game Master much easier!

   The seventh and eight chapters are dealing with the “everyday life” of the pirates: combat, ports and trade. Combat includes ship combat, boarding actions, duels and everything else what is essential for any pirate campaign. And in the ports the players may sell their loot and rest, if the law is not after them there. Or they may even pillage the port itself!

   The last chapter is about pirate campaigns from the classic historical to cinematic or even more exotic pirate campaigns involving fantasy or mythological elements.

Final words

   I think that Pirates of Legend excellently provides everything we could ask for to run a sea-based Legend campaign, with memorable battles, plunder and trade, so what else could we want? So naturally, I give it 5/5 points.

If you are interested in Pirates of Legend, please check DriveThruRPG here.

Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros

Review – 101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban (PFRPG)

On this week Rite Publishing released a new supplement for Pathfinder, titled as 101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban. From now on the players have a chance to run into various monsters in the middle of the city, most of them disguised as something else.

   The book focuses on the members of on branch of the Fold, a criminal organization entirely made up of monsters who fear or hate humanoids. This of course means that if the players run into some of their operations they will be very surprised!

   The Fold is originally designed for Rite Publishing‘s campaign setting, Questhaven, a city with a population roughly numbering 700,000 people. This means that the organization is also large, featuring many very powerful members (CR 15 or above), what you may scale down if you need a smaller organization.

   The supplement contains not less than 101 unique NPC-s and some random tables, but sadly no entirely detailed encounters. Thankfully the most probable ways to meet the character/monster in question as well as suggestions to raise or lower the CR by 2 is also included.

   Speaking about the monsters, we receive a really extensive collection from CR 1/2 up to CR 23, featuring undead, outsiders, constructs a big number of classic monsters from India (rakshasa, naga etc.) and others. All of them has a place in the organization, a detailed personality with his/her own goals (often conflicting with other Fold members) and connections. Some of the creatures have unique and interesting statistics and abilities, turning them into a bigger challenge, while others are just “normal” members of their race.

   The book also contain some random encounter tables based on party level, so it’s entirely possible that the players run into some criminal operation on the way. This could possibly lead into a whole campaign against the Fold, as the players reach higher and higher level members within the organization.

    I think the supplement could be used in two ways : you either include the Fold in your campaign setting, or you use some of the NPC monsters as a member of another organization. I guess that a cloaker or evil pseudodragon spy, a medusa poisoner or a rakshasa manipulator could be a surprising addition to an otherwise mundane criminal organization.

Final words

   101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban is an interesting addition to the game, but it’s use may be narrow thanks to the unique content. It would be great if we could get at least a few really detailed encounters in addition to the creatures, but what we receive is really good. So in the end I give it 4/5 points.

For those, who would like to get 101 Not So Random Encounters: Urban (PFRPG) I recommend DriveTruRPG as usual. (link)

Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros

D&D Next Playtest 1st – before the adventure

   As you surely already know, the D&D Next playtest officially began, and the playtest material is (more or less) available for download from Wizards. And what’s even better, it doesn’t have an NDA attached, so we are free to discuss our thoughts and experiences!

   For my part I plan to present multiple articles about D&D Next as our group is going trough the test. Now we are in the “pre-adventure” state: we already read the rules and I had some sample combat encounters with one of the players to get used to the rules.

   So what is in the playtest package? It contains five sample characters (2 different cleric and 1-1 from the other three basic classes), a “how-to-play” and a DM Guidelines file filled with rules and suggestions, a short bestiary and a sample adventure Caves of Chaos. I must say, it’s a  very complete package for a playtest! For now I put the adventure aside, and speak strictly about the rules and the general feel.

The feel

   First I must note that I’m mainly a D&D 3.x player if we speaking about earlier editions, and while I’m also tried Ad&D and 4E I’m a biased toward 3.x. I also like if a game has some old-school feel, but it’s also fresh (as the new Wayfarers RPG), and I like to have many options to personalize my character.

  So, after saying all of this, for me D&D Next feels like one part old-school, one part 4E and one part new but not in a way I really like. And it’s also feels somewhat rigid to me, but I guess it’s partly because it’s a limited playtest package, and not the full rules.

The rules

   Generally speaking most of the rules have some resemblance to earlier editions (checks, HP/HD, Combat etc.), but there are some big changes. I have to say that in most cases I don’t like the decisions the designers made, but as we are at the beginning steps now anything can change for the final version.

   There is a greater emphasis on abilities on D&D Next than in any earlier edition, which in practice means that ability modifiers almost directly take the place of skills and saves. A character could have some fixed bonuses for several skills based on class/background/theme, but it seems that other than that the scores are fixed.

   Many players I know like the new advantage/disadvantage system, but I’m not one of them. I agree that the old modifiers system could get complicated, but the new system have a new problem: there are no levels of positive or negative circumstances.

   For example: you bribe a guard, that’s give you advantage to convince him. You decide to double the bribe and he has another reason to follow your request? Same check! So it’s a case of oversimplification.

    I also don’t like the healing rules, as it has a 4E feel to me, where healing is easy. Basically an 8 hour rest is equal with full healing and you may regain a lot of hit points during the day too. Some of the abilities/spells are currently seems unbalanced (like the Ray of Frost cantrip with no save), but these could change.

The characters

   It seems that characters now have a bigger emphasis on combat than on anything else, but maybe I’m wrong on this one. It seems that every new level for any class means new combat abilities or spells, but few thing which could be useful outside a fight. Oh, and there is no attack bonus increase in the first 3 levels.

  Also, I guess they kept the modular approach of the 4E D&D, and they maybe even improved upon it. For now it seems a character is defined by his race, class, background and theme, and he receive every ability and skill based on these choices. I guess this makes character generation easier, but also more rigid than spending skill points and choosing feats.

  My biggest concern that it seems that skills won’t improve with level, so a 3rd level rogue has the exact same chance to open a lock (except if he use his advantage to anything, twice per day ability) as a 1st level rogue, but at least he is reliably much better in backstabbing. Meh.

   Based on the sample characters Spellcasting seems improved, as a mix of Vancian magic and at-will spells. It’s rumored that even on high levels the characters have much less access to high level spells than before, but they gain more low level options. What I really like is the new version for clerical magic, as it’s a good mix between spontaneous casting and memorizing.

Final words

   Currently I think that D&D Next seems acceptable, but there is nothing to make it to my choice for a fantasy RPG for a campaign.

After the first read, somehow I feel there is no focus, and there is no particular area which would make it outstanding for a group of players or for a particular playstyle. This could make it ideal for those groups who play different styles on occasion, but don’t want to use multiple rule systems/editions, but if your group has a well defined style/mood etc., then I’m not sure that it will be appealing enough to you.

But of course, anything could change until the final release.

  On this week we will start the Caves of Chaos with my players, so in my next article I will talk about our actual play experience and the bestiary and monster stat blocks.

Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros

Jet Li packs a punch for the Age of Wushu MMO

   I recently received an announcement, that Jet Li signed a contract to be the face of the free to play martial arts MMO, called Age of Wushu, produced by Snail Games.

   As you may guess I instantly looked after the game, as I wanted to know if it’s anything interesting, or just another of the hundreds of mediocre MMO games running around. For the first look it’s seems promising, but of course without actually playing the game I cannot be sure, so we will see.

   Thankfully we already know a lots of things about the game, as Snail Games provided a preview on the Age of Wushu website. The game will be based on classical martial art novels and middle age China (so no fantasy elements included), and will feature 8 distinct schools for the player characters.

   Apart from fighting the characters are able to preform acrobatic feats (running up on walls etc.) and learn a great number  of skills from the “classic” Blacksmith and Fisherman to the less common Chess Player and Fortune Teller. All of the professions provide an income and some form of unique reward to the player.

An early build of the English version of the game will be presented on the E3, and if you are interested you may take a look at the official website too.

If you would like to see the official announcement, please check below the  image.

Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros

Li Will Endorse, Be Spokesperson, Make Appearances for Snail Games’ MMO, Worldwide

LOS ANGELES — June 4, 2012 — International action film star Jet Li has signed a two year contract to promote Age of Wushu, already a popular MMORPG with more than 20 million users in China alone. Snail Games is debuting an early build of its North American version this week at E3.

As the new face of the martial arts MMO, Li will make appearances, be featured in a TV commercial and endorse the game, which features the martial arts style for which he first became famous.

Li began his training in Wushu at the age of eight. Multiple times a national champion in China, he often competed against adults twice or three times his age.  After retiring from competition in martial arts at age 19, Li won great acclaim as an actor. He starred in many critically acclaimed Chinese martial arts epic films.

Li’s first role in a Hollywood film was as a villain in Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) with Danny Glover and Mel Gibson.  He soon advanced from martial arts film star to Hollywood action films.  Li stared in Unleashed (2005) with Morgan Freeman, The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) with Jackie Chan, and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008) with Brendan Fraser.

In 2010, Li starred in The Expendables (2010) with Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis.  Lionsgate recently brought the same team together to do Expendables II, adding actors Chuck Norris, Jean Claude Van Damme and Liam Hemsworth.  That film, now in post production, is due in theatres this August.

When playing Age of Wushu, MMO gamers will be able to guide their characters in the martial arts style of Wuxia fiction, not only delivering kicks, punches, balances, jumps, sweeps and throws but also move around the world with superhuman speed and perform gravity-defying moves including water-gliding, running vertically along walls and flying across rooftops. 

About Snail Games USA. Based in Los Angeles, Calif., Snail Games USA is the North American division of Snail Games (Suzhou Snail Electronic Co., Ltd.), a leading developer of MMOs and virtual world experiences in China. Snail Games USA is committed to delivering the highest-quality interactive experiences to gamers.
Official WebsiteFacebook | @snailgames

About Suzhou Snail Digital Technology Co., Ltd. Named one of the “Top 10 Chinese game developers,” Snail Games is a leading developer of MMO and interactive online games in China. Founded in October 2000, Snail Games’ growing library of titles includes 5 Street, Age of Armor, Voyage Century and Heroes of Gaia. Snail Game’s wildly popular titles are currently sold and distributed worldwide.
Official Website

Forsooth!, the Ultimate Shakespeare RPG is coming !

   Spoiled Flush Games recently announced their first self-published game, Forsooth!, the Ultimate Shakespeare RPG, which is coming in this June. What made me interested in the product apart from the theme, that it’s don’t have a dedicated Game Master, and every player controls multiple characters.

   An earlier version of the game won the GameChef 2011 competition, and that’s version is available on the publisher’s site for free. After reading through that version I think it’s somewhat closer to acting and storytelling than most role-playing games.  Also, it’s feature no dice rolling at all for conflict resolution, so it’s maybe not for everyone, but it’s an interesting way to play for sure.

If you are interested in Forsooth! you may take a look at the Spoiled Flush Games website for more information. You may also find out more about their other projects – card and boardgames designed for various publishers.

Below you may find the official announcement.

Zoltán “Cain” Mészáros

BOSTON, Mass., May 31, 2012 — Hear ye, hear ye! Spoiled Flush Games today announced their first self-published game: Forsooth!, an RPG of Shakespearean proportions. A greatly expanded update of the Game Chef 2011-winning game of the same name, Forsooth! challenges players to improvise one of the bard’s greatest lost work for the amusement of their friends. It will be available in paperback, pdf, and ebook on June 22.

In Forsooth! players must use their wits, their hammiest acting, and some tactically deployed asides and soliloquies to win applause from their friends. They will swear solemn vows, and be challenged to either stick with them, or tear them asunder in dramatic fashion. And they’ll control multiple characters, making the game a true smorgasbord for roleplaying aficionados. The game plays in a single session, with no game master and no need for advance preparations. New features for this expanded version include:

– Improved gameplay, with new mechanics like Motivations, Themes and Destinies
– A Cliff Notes variant that packs a full play’s worth of action into half the time.
– Cycle rules allowing you to create sequels to your favorite plays, for a multi-session campaign experience
– Strange and deranged Fifth Folio plays, complete with pre-made casts you can pick up and play
– And, as the Bard once wrote, “Much, much more!”*

Pricing will be announced soon. In the meantime, keep your eye on for previews!

*Seriously, it was in Merchant of Venice. Yes, we are taking it completely out of context.

About Spoiled Flush Games

Spoiled Flush Games is a two-man game design studio that creates a wide variety of different kinds of games, from roleplaying games to intense board games to light-hearted party games. Designers Kevin Spak and Sam Liberty have been quoted in the Boston Globe, and the New England news magazine TV show Chronicle, and will be presenting at TEDxBoston on June 22. Their first board game, Cosmic Pizza is due out this year from Cambridge Game Factory.