Sunday, May 29, 2016

Find Your Path to the Stars - Paizo Announces New Roleplaying Game

Looks like Paizo still has some surprises up their sleeve. Yesterday, Creative Director James L. Sutter published a blog announcing something completely unexpected. Next August, Paizo will be releasing a brand new roleplaying game.

The Starfinder Roleplaying Game will be based upon upon the Pathfinder rules, but designed with the science fantasy sub-genre in mind. It'll be backward compatible, but ultimately a stand-alone product. The rulebook will contain numerous new races, classes, equipment, and other elements suited for the far-future version of their Golarion campaign setting. Sutter described the default setting as follows:
"Starfinder is set in Golarion's solar system, but far in a possible future - one in which the gods have mysteriously spirited Golarion away to an unknown location, and refuse to answer questions about it. In its place, the cultures of that world have evolved and spread throughout the solar system, especially to a vast space platform called Absalom Station. Gifted access to a hyperspace dimension by an ascended AI deity, the residents of the system suddenly find themselves with the ability to travel faster than light, and the race is on to explore and colonize potentially millions of worlds. But there are horrors out there in the darkness..."
The Starfinder RPG Core Rulebook will be released in 2017 at Gen Con. Furthermore, a monthly Adventure Path will support this new product, offering quality adventures along with interesting rules and setting expansions. However, Starfinder will be released under the OGL, meaning third-party support will be possible.

Strangely, Paizo has also announced they will not be hosting a full public playtest for Starfinder. The reason given is that it would be very difficult with something of this sheer scale. That being said, they will bring in key community members to give input over the next few months.

Personally, I find myself cautiously optimistic about this product. The words "science fantasy" immediately warm the cockles' of my heart and I'm curious to see what they'll do with the mechanics. However, I'm also nervous that Paizo might be going down the same troubled road that TSR did, splitting their customer base in two. I'm also worried about mechanical bloat, but that's really nothing new with d20 games.

How about you, dear readers? Are you excited for Starfinder? Are you cautious like myself? Do you think this is a Harbringer of the End Times? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

5e Musings - The Bard College of the Mountebank

Not all bards are connoisseurs of stories. There are a handful use their abilities for a much more nefarious purpose: deceiving the foolish individuals that inhabit the lands in order to gain fame, glory, or great wealth.

When you join the College of the Mountebank at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with disguise kits, forgery kits, and one gaming set of your choice.

Also at 3rd level, you learn enhance your carefully woven deceptions with just the right word or phrase. When making an ability check to deceive or persuade a character, you may spend a bonus action to expend one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and adding the number rolled to your roll. You can choose to use this feature after you make your roll, but before the DM determines whether the ability check succeeds or fails.

At 6th level, you develop a mystical knack for disguising yourself, allowing you to assume a variety of unique masks to enhance your deceptive acts. As an action, you can magically change your appearance. You decide what you look like, such as your height, weight, distinctive features, etc. However, you cannot change your size and your statistics remain the same.

This change lasts 1 hour or until you use this ability again. You revert to your true form if you are knocked unconscious or killed. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (a minimum of once). You regain all uses of this ability after you finish a long rest.

Starting at 14th level, you can empower your spells to make them harder to resist. When a creature within 60 feet of you makes a saving throw against an enchantment or illusion spell you've cast, you can use your reaction to expend a Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and subtracting the number rolled from the creature's roll. You can choose to use this feature after the creature makes its roll, but before the DM determines whether the ability check succeeds or fails.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Beyond the Hylian Wall - Races

Several weeks ago, I presented a concept for a Legend of Zelda campaign using the Beyond the Wall rules. Today, I thought I'd post a VERY rough draft of the races that players can eventually use once they discover them within the world.

These races are based upon the suggested rules for non-human characters presented in Appendix II - Optional Rules on pg. 24-25 of Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures - Core Rules. Currently, I have yet to actually test any of these at the table. Feel free to offer suggestions or alternatives in the comments.

The Gorons are a humanoid, rock-eating race that dwell in the mountains scattered throughout the land that used to be Hyrule. They are physically imposing creatures, possessing a height and size almost double that of an average human, and develop rocky growths on their backs as they age. Most Goron clans have a friendly, brotherly culture that is fire and passion. Gorons receive the following traits: 
Goron Vision - Gorons may see in any light. So long as their surroundings are not pitch black, they can see as well as humans in full daylight.  
Strength of Stone - Gorons have an endurance far beyond the other races, and therefore have hit dice of one greater die type than their class would suggest. For example, a goron rogue has d10 hit dice instead of the usual d8.  
Clumsy - Gorons are not the most graceful individuals. Gorons may never have a Dexterity score higher than 10.

The Kokiri are a cautious and secretive race native to Kokiri Forest. They are a child-like people, looking like a human adolescent with slight, pointed ears. The Kokiri are generally seen as a peaceful people who hold great reverence for nature, especially the forests of Hyrule. Kokiri are a very rare sight in the world, with most humans believing them to be only a myth. Kokiri receive the following traits: 
Unaging - The Kokiri maintain their youth for their entire, long lives. Some Kokiri believe they will live forever as long as they remain in their forest home. They automatically resist all forms of non-magical disease and poison and cannot die from natural causes.  
Small Stature - Being small hurts in a fight. Kokiri may never have a Strength score higher than 10, and may only use weapons which do 1d4 or 1d6 damage. 

The Zora are an aquatic race who inhabit the lakes and rivers of Hyrule. They are generally covered in silver scales, giving them a pale blue sheen from a distance. Instead of hair, a large number of Zora have rear-hanging caudal extensions of their heads shaped like a dolphin's tail and large fins upon their arms and legs. They are a very territorial race, fiercely protecting the waterways they call home.
Amphibious - Zoras possess the ability to exist both within the waves and on land. Zoras can breathe both water and air.  
Child of the Water - Zoras are at their best when in the water, allowing them to show off their natural grace and skill. Zoras receive a +2 bonus to Strength and Dexterity ability score checks while fully submerged in water.  
Water Dependent - A Zora's body requires regular submersion in fresh or salt water, growing weaker when they do not. Zoras who spend more than 1 day without fully submerging themselves in water suffer a -1 penalty to all ability score checks. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

5e Musings - New Race: Goblins

Art by Steve Prescott
Goblins are a race of diminutive creatures that are incredibly destructive and vicious. Most other races view them as the humanoid equivalent to cockroaches, lurking upon the fringes of society, scavenging to survive, and being very problematic in large numbers.

Most goblins spend the entirety of extremely short lives among their own tribe, but a small few have decided to venture forth into the larger world, driven by their disturbing curiosity and thirst for power. The majority of these meet untimely ends, but a small few manage to survive, with a tiny handful falling in with strangely accepting groups of adventurers.

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age: Goblins mature much faster than humans, reaching adulthood around age 12. They age noticeably faster and rarely live longer than 40 years.

Alignment: The majority of goblins tend to be greedy, capricious, and downright cruel. Most goblins tend to lean towards Chaotic or Neutral Evil.

Size: Goblins are roughly 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall and average 40 pounds. Your size is Small.

Speed: Goblins are small, but surprisingly quick. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision: Because of your race's tendency to inhabit dark caves and underground tunnels, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you 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.

Stealthy: You gain proficiency in the Stealth skill.

Nimble Escape: Goblins are quick and sneaky creatures. You can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of your turns.

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Beyond the Hylian Wall - A Legend of Zelda Campaign Concept

I dare you to look at this picture and not have that
familiar theme pop into your head.
The Legend of Zelda franchise holds a very special, nostalgic place in my geeky heart. During my childhood, I spent countless hours sitting right in front of my television with a controller held tightly in my hands, exploring the realms of Hyrule while saving Princess Zelda from that porcine asshole Ganon. Although I've had my problems with certain entries (*cough*Skyword Sword*cough*), I still consider myself a fan and will always give the latest entry a shot, wanting to feel that same sense of adventure once again.

Recently, I've had a peculiar itch to run a mini-campaign based upon the franchise using the excellent Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

The campaign would exist in a version of Hyrule where Ganondorf defeats the Hero of Time in the final battle at the end of Ocarina of Time, takes the remaining pieces of the Tri-Force from Link and Zelda, and uses the power of the completed Tri-Force to transform himself into the Demon King Ganon.

Now possessing immense power, Ganon begins to terrorize the land, leaving utter destruction in his wake and crushing any form of resistance he can find underneath the heel of his massive boot.

In a desperate move to save what little remained of the kingdom of Hyrule, the Seven Sages use their combined power to seal Ganon and the completed Tri-Force in another plane of existence. Although they succeed at banishing the Demon King from the world, the kingdom is beyond repair.

The campaign would pick up after a century has passed, with the current inhabitants existing in a Dark Age. The Kingdom of Hyrule is no more, the once mighty city is now a crumbling ruin and the royal family has all but vanished. The few bastions of civilization that managed to rebuild themselves after Ganon's reign of terror exist as independent powers with travel between them being incredibly rare. Very few people have ventured forth beyond the towering walls that keep them safe from the dangerous creatures lurking within the surrounding wilderness.

Those of you who are familiar with the Legend of Zelda Timeline will recognize this as a slightly altered version of the "Fallen Hero" Timeline. I feel using this series of events will lead to a version of the world that better fits the structure of a role-playing game. This version of the Timeline has no new Hero, suggesting Ganon succeeding at defeating Link threw off the cycle. Thankfully, this leaves space for the party to take Link's role with relative ease.

Players will create characters as described in the Core Rules of Beyond the Wall. At first, the only available race will be Human. The characters would all be residents of a small town who choose to leave for one reason or another (probably not under their own volition). Later in the campaign, the players would come into contact with the other Zelda races, "unlocking" them as racial options for new or replacement characters. I'm thinking the unlockable races will be Gorons, Kokiri, and Zoras. Possibly Deku Shrubs and Gerudo as well.

The focus of the campaign would be a simple one. The players would explore the fallen realm of Hyrule, delving into the depths of the crumbling dungeons and temples of the past. They'd also learn Ganon's presence is slowly leaking back into the world, possibly heralding his return. The party would then have to discover a way to keep him sealed away, possibly discovering the reason why the Hero was never reborn.

Since I will probably not have a chance to use this concept for the foreseeable future due to a project I've been working on (which I hope to reveal very soon), I thought I'd jot down my thoughts so someone else can use them if they feel inclined to do so.I might post the mechanics for the four races that players can unlock if anybody is interested. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

In Memory of a Fallen Gamer

R.I.P. Logan. You will be missed.
Nearly two weeks ago, I received a message that felt like a vicious punch to the gut. I learned that a close friend of mine by the name of Logan Masterson had passed away the previous afternoon.

My initial reaction to this horrific news was to not believe it. Part of me hoped this was some kind of morbid April Fool's Joke, that he'd show up at our FLGS the following Monday, revealing this dark ruse for what it was. Unfortunately, deep down inside, I knew this wasn't a joke...

I only knew Logan for about a year, but I quickly grew to care about him. He was easily one of my favorite people to game with. Name the game and he'd give it a try, and he was down for just about anything as long as it would lead to an amazing story in the end. Same was true when he took the seat behind the Game Master's screen. 

He also helped me through some pretty tough times this past year. He helped me deal with that mental asshole known by most as Depression and encouraged me to not give up on my own creative endeavors. I'll greatly miss the times we'd spent in his garage or office, talking about numerous geeky topics (mostly comics, gaming, and music), simply enjoying our break from the hectic nature of the outside world. 

Knowing I'll never see my friend again is still a concept I find incredibly hard to accept. I'll never make the trek up to our new FLGS to see Pepper, the orange car he named after the Marvel character Pepper Potts, sitting outside with him standing under the tailgate rolling up a cigarette again. I'll never get the chance to run Mage: The Ascension for him, which was his favorite game and he believed that I'd do a fantastic job with. I'll never get to talk to him about our gaming projects and so much more. 

Most importantly, I'll never get to tell him how much I cared about him and thank him for being apart of my life. I just hope I left as big of an impression on him as he did on me and I hope this post does an adequate job at honoring his memory. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Breaking Point

You can only put so much pressure on something
before it finally breaks...
Last Monday, an incident occurred with one of the players in my Savage Worlds campaign. One player, who I'll be calling "Harry" for the purposes of this post, has been a thorn in my side since the campaign began. He made every session a frustrating experience & I dreaded seeing his face each time I sat down at the table. The only reason he lasted as long as he did was the fact that he came as a packaged deal with another player who's presence I actually enjoy.

That marginal toleration came to a breaking point last Monday, and I unfortunately broke. Harry, being his annoying self, slapped an NPC who almost sacrificed herself to save his character, actually slapping the wound she gained performing this action (magic can be a dick like that). I swear I stared at Harry flabbergasted for a solid five minutes, trying to figure out why he'd do such a thing.

Turns out, his reasoning was rather stupid. His justification for the action was the NPC, a 35 year old witch & mother to one of the player's characters, was the party's only ride back into town. This character used a magical shortcut to save his character (a 10 year old middle school student), and he felt the best way to respond to that was to slap the wound she received as hard as possible. Shortly thereafter, he went into a misogynistic diatribe before calling me dumb for not understanding his actions.

That's when the metaphorical chain shattered, and a few different paths to handling the situation presented themselves. The first path was the emotional path, the to that would have felt good, but would have caused more problems than it solved. This path would most likely involve some choice words & a punch. The second path was the less cathartic path, but much more level-headed in nature. This path would involve me remaining calm and informing Harry that he is no longer welcome at my table.

Thankfully, I went down the latter path.

Now, I'll admit this caused me to lose an additional player, but yesterday's session felt so much better. I was no longer having to deal with Harry's shenanigans, letting me focus on the other players so I could make sure they were having a fun time. I'll miss playing with Harry's friend, but I'm okay with making that sacrifice for the health of the group & the campaign.

I'm sure I'm not the only GM who's had an experience like this. We've all had a really problematic player, one that slowly kills all the enjoyment you derive from the game like some humanoid tumor. While some will cut that tumor out as soon as possible, others (like myself) tend to let it fester for far too long, bottling up that frustration until the cork finally pops off. The quick flood of negative emotions is usually what causes someone to punch the offending player or flip a poor, undeserving table.

The key to not doing that is learning how to quickly barricade those explosive emotions, and letting them out in a more focused stream that's more productive. This usually manifests as either you leaving the table to calm down, probably ending the session prematurely if needed, or removing the problem player if things cannot be reconciled. I'm not going to lie, there will be repercussions for these actions (like losing another player who chooses to stand beside your own, personal Harry), but they are easier to manage than the ones resulting from a player punch or a table flip.

Have you ever experienced something like this? Have you ever had a player that was so problematic that you were eventually pushed past your breaking point? How did you handle it, and do you have any tips for those who might have to deal with it in the future? Leave your answers in the comments below.