Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Weapon - The Chain Sword

Art by Wayne Reynolds
Sometimes, you just have to throw the concept of reality out the window so you can embrace things that are simply badass.

This is one of those times.

Ever since I laid eyes on a Warhammer 40k miniature for the first time, I've been fascinated by the concept of the chainsaw sword. Don't get me wrong, I know the idea is silly and a little stupid. Chainsaws are not pratical weapons, but the idea of wielding a sword that works like one seems utterly metal to me. Its a concept so ludicrous that it somehow makes a mental 360 and becomes awesome.

With that in mind, I thought I'd create statistics for the chainsword for Pathfinder. This is simply a rough draft and I'd love to get others thoughts and opinions on it. Also, feel free to use this in your games. I'd love to see the look on a group of PC's faces when they're attacked by a band of orcs wielding these suckers. I have a feeling it'd be glorious.

The chainsword is a mechanical monstrosity that possesses the general shape of a sword with a serrated blade resting at the center. The element that makes the chainsword unique is that it possesses an engine inside the hilt that can be turned on as a move action, causing the blade to spin at a rapid rate for 1 minute. While the blade is spinning, the chainsword deals an extra +2 points of damage. Additionally, when the wielder lands a critical hit with a chainsword, he may choose to deal normal damage and rend the opponent instead (Pathfinder RPG Bestiary pg. 303). The engine requires 1 gallon of oil to work. A full engine allows the chainsword to be turned on twice.

Exotic Weapon
Dmg (S)
Dmg (M)
1,500 gp
12 lbs.
See Text

Monday, July 28, 2014

D&D 5th Edition: Playtest Impressions

Map From Lost Mines of Phandelver
Due to some odd scheduling and three of my players being absent for one reason or another, I finally managed to run my first session of Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. Since I only had three players, I decided to take my own advice and create three 2nd level characters (a high elf wizard, a hill dwarf fighter, and a human rogue) and ran the first portion of the Lost Mines of Phandelver with a few modifications.

Knowing we wouldn't have very much time to play (we spent too much time eating dinner at Pizza Hut and the FLGS closes at midnight on Fridays & Saturdays), I decided to rework the opening to the adventure. Instead of meeting their dwarven patron in town of Phandalin, the group was hired to find the missing Gundra Rockseeker (female dwarves are underrepresented within fantasy, so I thought this might be an interesting change). After searching the countryside, they picked up her trail and followed it to the Cragnaw Hideout. The group killed some goblins, distracted some wolves, and used a sack of ball bearings to help them escape with Gundra.

First things first, the system was both familiar and simple. While it possesses many of the iconic elements that I associate with Dungeons & Dragons, it managed to compile them into a new set of rules that were much easier to implement at the table. The players also seemed to grasped the system pretty well, only struggling with things like magic and the like (which didn't take very long to figure out).

Advantage/Disadvantage really helped with the simplification of the game. Instead of juggling a lot of different modifiers at once, having players roll two d20s and keeping either the highest or lowest result depending on the circumstance really made handing out bonuses & penalties much easier and it was an easy rule to remember. I will say that it took me a minute or two to figure out what kinds of situations should provoke Advantage/Disadvantage, but I do like that its mostly left up to the GM and allows for a lot more innovation at the table.

However, there were a few concepts that I wasn't too fond of. For example, I'm really not a fan of the implementation of hit dice as healing surges. While I understand the concept behind the mechanic and it did help our group (which lacked a healer), I feel it could have been done better. For future seasons, I might use a house rule where a player can either choose to take a set amount of healing (probably half the hid die), or roll the die with the chance of receiving more healing (or getting screwed).

Also, I'm not sure if I like the new magic system. I guess I find the separation of spell slots ultimately pointless. They could have achieved the same concept by implementing a single spell slot progression, requiring you to spend more spell slots to cast the more powerful versions of the different spells. This just feels like something that was kept because of "legacy".

With that being said, I can honestly say that I had fun running 5th Edition and would probably do so again (which a few house rules here and there). Like I said before, I probably won't unseat Pathfinder as my go-to system for fantasy games, I could definitely see it as my backup system. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Lovecraftian Bestiary

I'm getting ready to leave for a gaming session (finally getting the chance to run Fifth Edition), so I unfortunately don't have the time for a normal length post. However, I wanted to share something anyway. I found this on Tumblr the other day, thought it was pretty cool, and figured others might find it interesting as well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Running Pathfinder for Smaller Groups

Pathfinder, like its close cousin Dungeons & Dragons, is a fantasy roleplaying game where a group of players gather around a table to have numerous adventures within an imaginary fantasy world of either the Game Master's creation or a publish setting created by someone else. Ideally, this group contains four to five players who fill the four, classic roles (Arcane Spellcaster, Divine Spellcaster, Expert, & Martial).

Occasionally, this idea is not met and the group only has two or three players. At first glance, this might make running the game a little harder. However, its relatively easy to adapt the game to smaller group, especially if you follow a few simple tips. 

First, I suggest allowing the group to begin at a higher level. As a general rule of thumb, I would make the level they start at equal to the number of players missing from the game. For example, I would have a three-player group begin at 2nd level (1st level +1 missing player). While I'd be starting the group at a higher level, I'd probably create and run adventures meant for a four-player group one or two levels lower than them (Example: For a three-player group at 2nd level, I'd use a 1st level adventure). This would help make the characters a little tougher, but still allow the adventures to be challenging. 

Secondly, I'd probably make sure each character began the game with a potion of cure light wounds (especially if no one in the group wanted to play a healer). The reason for this should probably be obvious: to give them easy access to healing abilities. With that in mind, I'd suggest making healing potions readily available, or have a character invest in a wand at some point. 

Finally, I'd probably advise the group to create a group of characters that would work well together and help cover any weaknesses they might possess due to the absence of a fourth player. For example, they could create a group consisting of a Druid with a bear companion, a Wizard, and a Bard. The druid's bear companion could take the missing martial role while the bard buffing the rest of the group with his spells and performances. You could also go the Bard/Paladin/Wizard route, having the Paladin be both the martial character and the healer thanks to his lay on hands ability. 

While there are a few other ways to handle smaller groups within Pathfinder, these three tips are the first ones that came to mind. Hopefully these help the GMs running campaigns for smaller groups. If any has any more tips they'd give for running games for smaller groups, go ahead and leave them in the comments below. I'd love to hear them. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

5E Player's Handbook Art Preview

Art by Daren Bader
Boing Boing has posted a preview of some of the art from the upcoming 5th Edition version of the Player's Handbook. While some people might be put off by the fact that one or two of the pictures still feature the "Dungeon Punk" aesthetic that was popular during 3E and 4E (I personally like the style, but to each their own), most of the pieces have a more classic feel to them, especially the above piece by Daren Bader. Check out the preview and see for yourself!

Having Fun With Shadowrun: Creating a Character

This is going to be good...
Last Saturday, another customer at Haflings' Hideaway (my local FLGS) approached my friend David and I, asking if we'd like to join a bi-weekly Shadowrun 5th Edition game that he was starting up. Since both of us have been rather eager to play the game (especially David after he played it on Free RPG Day), we both gave an outstanding "Yes."

Because I'm usually the one sitting behind the screen, taking on the role of the GM, I very rarely get to be just a player. Because of that, I try to make the characters that I tend to play a little unique and different from the usual fair. I want to play something interesting and memorable those few times I get to step out from behind the GM screen. So, I've been brainstorming a new Runner for the past day or so.

Originally, I was going to create either an ork or troll street samurai who lived by a warrior's code and became a Runner to track down the individual who killed his mentor. However, after flipping through the Core Rulebook and reading some of the negative qualities that a character can purchase, an idea popped into my head. 

Instead of playing an ork or troll, I decided the character's metatype would be human and his name is Jax Walker. Wanting to have a reason for Jax being a Runner, I decided he was a career criminal who just spent the last five years in jail after a job when a failed job. Having been released, Jax was drawn back into the life because he couldn't find a normal job and he desperately needed the money. Why is he so desperate for cash, you ask? Well, it's pretty simple: he's a single father. 

While reading the Qualities section of the Character Creation chapter, I noticed that one of the negative qualities that a character can purchase is called "Dependents". As the name implies, the quality represents a NPC that is dependent on the Runner, the exact relationship between the NPC and the Runner being based on how many points you spend on the quality. If you spend 9 points, the NPC is a close family member. When I read that, the little idea light bulb appeared over my head and I ran with it. 

Before he went to prison, Jax Walker had a fling with a girl from his old neighborhood, which resulted with him becoming the father of a little girl named Skylar. The mother died during childbirth and Skylar was raised by Jax's parents until he was released five years later. Now free, Jax tried to stay on the straight and narrow path, wanting to be a good father and role model for his daughter. However, due to being a convict, that was much harder than he suspected. So, he's fallen back on the one thing he knows he can do. However, he's trying desperately keep his life as a Runner secret from his family, not wanting Skylar to know about this. 

I'm really excited to play this character. I've never played a character who's a parent and I think it's going to be interesting to play one within a game like Shadowrun. Also, I've tried seeding a few hooks that the GM can use as he likes. This is going to be really fun. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Playing With Faith

I've made it no secret that I really enjoy playing clerics. While part of that is that I actually like playing support characters, the main reason is that I find playing characters who have decided to dedicate their lives to a specific deity for one reason or another interesting and offer a lot of potential for different kinds of adventures dealing with religion and faith.

Because I love playing these kinds of characters, it saddens me whenever I see someone who is playing a one-dimensional cleric who's squandering so much potential. With that in mind, I thought I'd post a few pieces of advice that I feel will help those players who want to make more interesting cleric characters.

When you first decide to make a cleric, you should ask yourself a very simple question about your character: "Why has this character decided to join the clergy and serve this specific deity?" In many ways, the answer to this question will act as the foundation for your character, determining how they will most likely act within the game and their opinions on their faith.

For example, let's say you're creating a cleric dedicated to Sarenrae, the goddess of the sun, healing, honesty, and redemption. Wanting to play up the redemption part, you decide your character spent most of his youth as part of a street gang and eventually ended up in prison due to his actions. During his time in jail, the character was introduced to the Sarenite faith and felt the goddess' redeeming light. Once he was released, he decided to spend the rest of his life preaching the teachings of the Dawnflower and helping those who he views as "lost souls" find their way to the right path. Knowing this is how your character came to worship Sarenrae, you're character will probably be more willing to forgive those others would see as irredeemable and might be more merciful than other agents of the faith.

Keeping that in mind, the next two questions you should probably ask about your character are "What religious beliefs are most important to your cleric?" and "Does your cleric question any of the religion's beliefs?" Unless the cleric's a complete zealot, they'll probably favor certain beliefs over others and find certain ideas either questionable or downright objectionable. Answering these questions will help you figure out how your cleric interprets their religion's scriptures and teachings, most likely leading you to figure out how they'd probably fit in with the other agents of their faith and how they might express said beliefs.

Continuing to use our Sarenite example from above, we can probably figure out that he greatly favor's the redemption aspects of the faith and most likely follows the healing and honestly sections of Sarenrae's portfolio too. However, he might question the popular belief that certain creatures (like evil outsiders or intelligent undead) are utterly irredeemable and should be destroyed on sight. He'd probably espouse that almost everyone deserves a second chance, even those who you might believe don't deserve it. His view of Sarenrae would be much more loving and forgiving then some members of the flock's perception of the Dawnflower.

Finally, you might ask one additional question: "What is your cleric's current relationship with the church?" The main reason you should ask this question is that it'll give the Game Master something to work with and possibly explain why you're going on adventures in the first place. While most clerics will probably be on good terms with their church, it can be interesting to play a character who's working relationship with the leaders of the faith is a little more strained or downright hostile.

Because our above Sarenite disagrees with a rather popular belief within Sarenrae's faith, his relationship with the church might be a little rocky depending on how strongly he observes this alternate beliefs and how often he preaches it. Due to this rocky relationship, the leaders might have sent him on a quest with the hopes that he'd be too busy adventuring to preach or maybe seeing how the world really works might change his opinions. If things get worse, he might be labeled a heretic and some really interesting things could happen within the campaign and for the character.

Like any character, clerics are as interesting as you make them. As you have to do is ask yourself a few questions and seize upon the opportunities laid out before you.