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. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Literary Origins of Science Fiction in Fantasy Settings

I guess I should explain why there isn't a normal post today. Well, I decided to take the post I scheduled for today and move it back to October (I'll explain why later). Because of that, I really don't have anything to talk about and don't feel like slapping something together.

Thankfully, I found something that I'd like to share with you guys. Yesterday, Owen K.C. Stephens posted this little piece on Paizo's blog. Inspired by the release of the Iron Gods Adventure Path (which blends science fiction tropes with their fantasy setting of Golarion), the blog post traces the literary routes of this particular brand of genre blending.

While its a short piece, I found it to be an interesting read. I've always liked blending genres in my games, and I love celebrating the literary routes of our hobby. If you have some spare time, give it a quick read. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

5e Musings: Skill Specializations

Like previous editions, 5e possesses a list of skills that players can choose to help further define their character's specific training and areas of expertise. The list is rather short, only possessing 18 broad skills with multiple applications. While I personally prefer shorter skill lists like this, I understand why others would want a more detailed one.

With that in mind, I started to toy with ways to create a nice middle ground between these two camps. After some serious brainstorming, a light bulb popped on inside my head: why not create a way for characters to specialize within certain areas of their skills?

Keeping with the spirit of 5e, the rules for this should remain relatively simple. During character creation, players may choose to expend one of their skill proficiencies to gain a specialization in another skill they are proficient with. The specialization is created by the player from scratch, with the Dungeon Master possessing the ability to veto any specialization she feels doesn't fit the nature of the game's setting.

When making an ability check that deals with on of the character's specializations, they receive advantage for that roll. My reasoning for this is that a specialization represents you possessing an advantage with a certain aspect of a skill. Thankfully, 5e has the advantage/disadvantage mechanic and it feels like a natural fit. If you'd prefer another kind of benefit, you could reward a flat +2 bonus or double the character's proficiency bonus. Either would probably work fine.

Here's an example of how this house rule would work. Let's say you're trying to create an elf ranger who has sharp hearing. You decide to expend one of your skill proficiencies to give him "Hearing" as a specialization associated with Perception. While he can make Wisdom (Perception) checks as normal, he is especially adept at hearing things and receives advantage when doing so.

I feel like this'll be an interesting compromise, allowing those who want more detail to have that while letting those who prefer the more broader skill list to ignore it. Yes, those who choose to select specializations will get advantage, but only in specific situations. The next time I run 5e, I'll probably be implementing this rule and seeing how it works. Feel free to use it as well.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Happy Labor Day!

What game should you play on Labor Day? One where you
herd sheep, chop down wood, & build settlements of course!
Labor Day is a strange holiday. Held on the first Monday of September in the United States, Labor Day is supposed to be a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. However, most use it as an opportunity to have one last hoorah before the school year really kicks into full gear and the summer season ends.

With that in mind, I'd like to wish everyone a happy Labor Day. Hopefully you can get together with some friends, play some games, cook some great BBQ, and maybe indulge in some alcohol (responsibly, of course). 

My personal celebration pretty much consisted of me traveling down to my FLGS, playing some Catan & Betrayal at House on the Hill, and finishing off the day with some delicious ribs and a glass of hard cider. Definitely a good day in my book. 

Have fun and be safe, everyone! See you all on Wednesday for something a little more normal. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Who is in the Tavern?: Fund it Now!

At some point during almost every campaign, the players have entered some random tavern during their travels and asked a simple question:

"Who's in here?"

Catloaf Games hopes to offer a solution to that situation with the Kickstarter they just launched. Who is in the Tavern? wishes to present GMs with two decks of cards, filled with numerous illustrated NPCs with fleshed out personalities and statistics. If you need a quick NPC, just pull a card and have fun.

If you'd like to fun this project, click HERE. If you do choose to fund Who is in the Tavern?, you might be able to get some of your very own characters into the deck! I don't know about you, but that's a pretty cool perk for something like this.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Metamorphosis of Magic: The Gathering

Since its no secret that I love card games, it should come as no surprise that I'm a Magic: The Gathering fan (at least, a casual one). While I don't enter tournaments or keep up with the game as vigorously as some people I know, I enjoying building different decks and playing matches with friends & family. 

Wizards of the Coast made an announcement about the game today, an announcement that promises some big changes to the game and its release structure. Due to some problems associated with the current release format, Wizards plans to change the three-set block format to a two-set block one, be doing away with the Core blocks, and modifying how long a block is available for Standard play. While these changes won't affect casual players like myself, it will probably have major ramifications for those who regularly participate in competitions. 

If you'd like to read the full article, click HERE. Although this is just an opinion, and things could change after this new direction comes into play, I feel like this will be good for the brand. It should be much easier to manage blocks containing two different sets, allow them to explore new ideas and worlds more often, and keep the game feeling fresh.

What about you? How do you feel about this major change to Magic? Are you excited, or nervous? Leave your answers in the comments below. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Pathfinder House Rules: Minions

Art by Ralph Horsely
It's no secret that I'm not the biggest fan of 4th Edition. While the system is alright and I wouldn't object to playing it, 4e just isn't my cup of tea. With that being said, there are a few ideas introduced with this edition that I genuinely like.

For example, I love the concept of minions. For those of you unfamiliar with 4e, I'll elaborate. Minions are a type of creature that die after one successful attack. While they aren't much on their own, they can be a real bitch in numbers and offer a good way to recreate those iconic scenes of a ragtag group of heroes battling a horde of creatures without slaughtering the PCs. 

Since I think the concept is a good one, I figured I should make a version for my fantasy game of choice: Pathfinder. There are a few ways you could handle a port of this mechanic, which the most obvious being the reduction of certain creature's HP to 1 and calling it a day. However, I'd like to take a different route that's a little more creative than that. 

With that in mind, I created the following template that Game Masters can add to existing NPC stat blocks, hopefully keeping the rules simple and keeping the spirit of the original mechanic alive. Keep in mind this just a rough draft that still needs to be playtested. However, feel free to give it a try at your gaming table and leave some feedback in the comments below.

"Minion" is an inherited template that can be added to any living, corporeal humanoid with an Intelligence score of 4 or more. A minion creature retains the base creature's statistics and special abilities except as noted below. 

CR: Same as the base creature's, but -2. 

Type: The creature's type remains the same, gaining the Minion sub-type. Do not recalculate HD, BAB, or saves. 

Hit Dice: While the creature retains the same number of HD, they only receive a single hit point per HD, ignoring the creature's Constitution modifier. 

Defenses: The creature gains the following defensive ability. 

Evasive (Ex): If the creature makes a successful Reflex saving throw against an attack that normally deals half damage on a successful save, the creature takes no damage instead. A helpless minion does not gain the benefits of this ability. 

Skills: A minion receives no skills. 

Feats: A minion receives no feats. 

Goblin Minion (CR 1/6)
XP 65
Goblin Minion Warrior 1 
NE Small Humanoid (Goblinoid) 
Init +2; Senses Darkvision 60 ft.; Perception -1
AC 16, Touch 13, Flat-Footed 14 (+2 Armor, +2 Dex, +1 Shield, +1 Size)
HP 1 (1d10)
Fort +3, Ref +2, Will -1
Defensive Abilities Evasive 
Speed 30 ft. 
Melee Short Sword +2 (1d4/19-20)
Ranged Short Bow +4 (1d4/x3) 
Str 11, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 9, Cha 6
Base Atk +1; CMB +0; CMD 12 
Feats -
Skills Ride +6, Stealth +10; Racial Modifiers +4 Ride, +4 Stealth
Languages Goblin
Gear Leather Armor, Light Wooden Shield, Short Sword, Short Bow with 20 Arrows, Other Treasure