Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October Horror Movie Challenge: Witchfinder General (1968)

This poster is pretty awesome.
Let's kick off the month with a cult classic from across the pond.

Witchfinder General is a British horror film set during the English Civil War. Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price), an opportunistic individual, tours the land offering his services as a 'witchfinder'. Aided by the incredibly sadistic John Stearne (Robert Russel), Hopkins tortures people suspected of witchcraft, charging the local magistrate for their work & leveraging the occasional sexual favor from those desperate to see their loved ones found innocent of such heinous crimes.

After executing a priest and taking advantage of his niece Sarah (Hilary Dwyer), the villainous pair incur the wrath of the girl's fiance Richard Marshall (Ian Ogilvy). Filled with a need for justice (or vengeance), Marshall pursues Hopkins and Stearne with the sole intent of killing them. Will he succeed, or will he fall victim to the Witchfinder General's cruel judgement?

While certain elements of the film haven't particularly aged well (like the abrupt scene transitions that rear their heads later in the film, or some of the more stilted cinematography), Witchfinder General possesses this blunt cruelty that remains effective to this day. The scenes where those suspected to be witches are tortured are haunting, with the lack of music and the refusal to sugar-coat anything only amplifying that.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't talk about the performances. Vincent Price is simply perfect as the dastardly Hopkins, possessing this menacing charisma that draws you in, but repulses you at the same time. Price felt like this was one of his best performances, and I have to agree with him. The other actors do a fine job as well. Russel really brings the horrible Stearne to life & you can't help but feel for Dwyer's Sarah. The only weak spot, at least for me, was Ogilvy's Marshall. While he delivers a solid performances, I felt some of his more emotional scenes fell a little flat (except the last scene, which was excellent).

Witchfinder General is an interesting relic of its time. Although it definitely shows its age in certain areas, I think its definitely worth a watch, especially if you enjoy films like The Blood of Satan's Claw or The Wicker Man (the original with Christopher Lee, not the hilariously awful remake with Nicholas Cage). If those aren't your cup of tea, you might want to skip this one.

Monday, September 29, 2014

31 Days of Horror

Tomorrow is the last day of September, which means October is right around the corner. This is my favorite time of the year (mostly because Halloween is my favorite holiday), so I thought I'd do something a little special.

Starting Wednesday, I'll be taking the October Horror Movie Challenge. As the name implies, I'll be watching a different horror movie every day next month, posting a short review of said film here afterwords. You'll probably see me talk about the classics, but expect to see some more obscure & weird films as well.

Also, I'll be posting quasi-reviews for horror-themed games that you can play throughout the month. While I know a few that I'll have to talk about (Arkham Horror, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Last Night on Earth, etc.), I'd love to see some recommendations from you guys as well.

Finally, I'll probably post some advice for running horror-themed sessions & new monsters that you can use to terrorize your players (mostly for Pathfinder, but I might switch things up here and there).

I have a feeling this is going to be a blast. Hopefully, you guys & gals will enjoy it too.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Five Moons RPG: Fund it Now!

If you're familiar with Pathfinder, you're probably familiar with Sean K. Reynolds as well. He's worked on many different gaming products and is known to be a little abrasive at times (especially when it comes to rules arguments). However, he's a pretty good designer and he's worked on a lot of cool things. 

Recently, he launched a kickstarter for a new game that he's working on: The Five Moons Roleplaying Game. On the product's page, Reynolds says the following: 
"Do you spend more time creating a character than actually playing that character? Does the minmaxer in your group hog the spotlight instead of being a team player? Do you think spellcasters are too good compared to fighters and rogues? Does your character's dependence on magic items feel like a "Christmas tree"? It's time to reboot your playing experience
With Five Moons RPG, you can play a character that's fun and successful without having to focus on combat math. You can choose skills that make your character well-rounded -- without making you vulnerable. You can wear magic items that are fun and flavorful instead of just being a source of pluses. You can defeat opponents using diplomacy or intimidation, and not just with one all-or-nothing roll.
This is a game that mixes old-school simplicity with the customizability of a modern RPG.
Although Pathfinder will remain my fantasy game of choice, this could easily find its way into the back-up fantasy game slot with 5th Edition. If you're looking  for a streamlined fantasy game, but 5th Edition isn't wetting your whistle (I'm going to regret saying that), you might want to back Five Moons. It has the possibility of fulfilling that need.

Currently, Five Moons has earned $15,557 of its $25,000 goal. Since the kickstarter just started, I have no doubts it'll actually reach its goal. However, don't let that stop you from supporting this effort and helping Reynolds' bring this to the public.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

5e Musings: Aasimar Racial Traits

I've always felt bad for the Aasimar. When compared to their fiendish cousin the Tiefling, the Aasimars always seem to get the short end of the racial stick. I believe they were basically written out of 4th Edition (as far as I'm aware, anyway), and I don't believe they've made an appearance in 5th Edition yet.

With that in mind, I wanted to give these celestial planetouched some love. Using the Tiefling as a guideline, I've created racial traits for a 5th Edition version of the Aasimar. Although I'm still uncertain about certain elements of these traits, I thought I'd post it anyway and let others try it out (and possibly give me some feedback).

Ability Score Increase: Your Wisdom score increases by 1, and your Charisma score increases by 2.

Age: Aasimars mature at the same rate as humans but live a few years longer.

Alignment: Aasimars might not have an innate tendency towards good, but many of them answer the call. Good or not, a righteous nature inclines many aasimars towards a lawful alignment.

Size: Aasimars are about the same size and build as humans. Your size is Medium.

Speed: Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision: Thanks to your celestial heritage, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of your as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Heavenly Resistance: You have resistance to radiant damage.

Celestial Legacy: You know the thaumaturgy cantrip. Once you reach 3rd level, you can cast the heavenly rebuke* spell once per day as a 2nd level spell. Once you reach 5th level, you can also cast the daylight spell once per day. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for these spells.

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Celestial.

*Heavenly Rebuke is simply a reskinned Hellish Rebuke, dealing radiant damage instead of fire damage.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Three Replacement Games

When asking someone who doesn't identify as a "gamer" to name a board game, you will most likely hear one of the following answers: Monopoly, Scrabble, & Clue. Although seen as classics, there are numerous games that offer similar experiences and happen to be a lot more enjoyable to play. I feel the following three games are great "replacements" for the classics.

#1. Lords of Vegas
Lords of Vegas completely replaces Monopoly in my mind. Published by Mayfair Games, the players take on the role of powerful developers in Las Vegas. You start with nothing but empty parking lots, but you quickly start building bigger and better casinos along "The Strip", earning money and victory points along the way. However, you better be ready to gamble because those little Mom & Pop shops you've built won't be as profitable later in the game. Are you willing to risk it all to become a Lord of Vegas? The game offers a similar experience to Monopoly, allowing you to claim areas of the board to build different things & manage money. However, I feel Lords of Vegas' rules are much tighter and it really sticks to its theme.

#2. Word on the Street

I almost went with Bananagrams as my Scrabble replacement, but I feel like Word on the Street from Out of the Box Publishing is the better choice. When setting up the game, seventeen letter tiles (all the consonants in the Alphabet besides J, Q, X, and Z) are placed in a strip down the center of the of the game board. On each turn, one player (or team) is presented with a category and that player has thirty seconds to come up with an answer in that category and move the letters in that word towards their side of the street. The first player to claim eight letters wins. The reason why I like Word on the Street better than Scrabble is because I like how you can work in teams, everyone uses the same pool of tiles on the board, and its much quicker. 

#3. Mystery of the Abby
While I still enjoy playing Clue from time to time, I feel like Mystery of the Abbey from Days of Wonder (one of my favorite game publishers by the way) offers a much more enjoyable experience. Mystery of the Abbey is a deduction game where a monk has been murdered in a Medieval French abbey. Players maneuver their way through the Abbey examining clues and questioning each other to find out who is the culprit. While the game possesses similar elements to Clue, Mystery of the Abbey offers a little more depth due to you having to figure out the different traits of the killer (is he fat or skinny? bearded or clean-shaven? Benedictine or Templar?) and the game looks great. If you love deduction games, this is definitely a must buy. 

What about you? What games would you use as replacements for Monopoly, Scrabble, & Clue? Leave your replacements in the comments below. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

5e Musings: Ability Checks & Effort

I've been re-reading Numenera recently, preparing myself to run it at an upcoming convention. While looking through the book, I found myself really thinking about one specific mechanic: effort.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Numenera, I'll elaborate. Each character possesses three stats (Speed, Intellect, & Might) with a pool of points associated with it. Players can choose to apply effort when making a stat check, expending a point from the appropriate pool to reduce the difficulty of the check.

I really like this mechanic. Its relatively simple and represents the growing fatigue of a character rather well. I'd love to see more games utilize similar mechanics. With that in mind, I thought I'd create a version of this rule for 5th Edition. Since requiring players to lower ability scores is not very feasible, I've created two different versions.

Like the Numenera version, this application lowers the DC of the ability check. However, the player expends their character's hit points to do so. Since hit points also represent a character's stamina, I think its works as a resource pool for this. Unfortunately, I haven't decided on the actual cost for apply effort yet. My gut wants me to make the cost 2 for -2 DC, but I might keep that in flux until I discover a nice balance. The second, and easier to implement, application allows the player applying effort to receive advantage on the ability check. However, they will receive disadvantage on the next ability check to represent lingering fatigue.

While I prefer the hit point expenditure of the first application, I like the simplicity of the second one a little more. Maybe I can combine the two, allowing players to spend 2 hit points to receive advantage on the check (cutting out the additional math). I might give all three versions a test run at the table, see which one I prefer. Feel free to do the same and leave constructive criticism in the comments below.

Friday, September 12, 2014

A Saturday Night at the Hideaway

Sorry for the past few days of silence. I had all my wisdom teeth removed Monday and I've spent the last few days relaxing, eating A LOT of yogurt, and sleeping. I had planned to post this on Monday or Wednesday, but that obviously didn't happen. Since I'm feeling better today, I thought I'd go ahead and do it today.

Now, on with the show.

On a regular basis, my friends and I make the incredibly short trek (well, for most of us anyway) to our local FLGS (Halflings Hideaway Games). Usually, this is due to me running the next session of one of my campaigns. However, due to the collapse of my recent Pathfinder game, the past few Saturdays have mostly consisted of my group playing random board or card games into the wee hours of the night. This time was no different.

Blurry Cellphone Images for the Win!
When we arrived, one of the store's owners was playing Cover Your Assets with her child and two other customers (one of which happened to share the same name as me. Some confusion ensued). Once they were finished, we quickly gathered a few people and played a game of 7 Wonders. Although I have a few friends who are absolutely in love with this game, I had never played it before. While it took a few rounds to really get the hang of it, 7 Wonders was a lot of fun and possessed a great amount of depth. No wonder it won the Spiel des Jahres in 2011.

Afterwords, my group decided to make the drive to Pizza Hut to get some late lunch. Since we had a fun time playing with him and wanted to repay him for teaching us how to play 7 Wonders, we brought the other Cody along. While eating eating some pizza and cheesesticks (except Scott, who likes to be the odd man out and get pasta for some reason. Weirdo), we chatted about comic book movies and gaming. You know, as you do. 

David & Scott look excited to be building train routes!

Once we returned to the shop, we cracked out Other Cody's copy of Ticket to Ride. Neither David or Scott had played it before, so I was excited to introduce them to joy of the building trains across North America (its more interesting than it sounds). Due to the streamlined nature of the rules, both of them seemed to grasp it rather fast and had fun. That's two more people converted to the Ticket to Ride fandom. 

After taking a quick break to player a few shorter games (like Kittens in a Blender and Sushi Go!), we finished off the night with one final game of 7 Wonders. Unlike the first game, we decided to use some of the expansions. Now that we all knew the rules, the game moved at a much quicker pace. 

Lee pointing out another player's leader.
All in all, it was a pretty fun night.