Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Art by Eva Widermann
Happy [insert specific holiday you celebrate here] everyone!

Like most of you, I'm going to be rather busy next week celebrating Christmas with my friends and family (which are kind of the same thing for me, but that's not the point). So, to make my life a little easier, I'm going on a short hiatus from Dungeons Deep & Caverns Old.

While I might post something on Christmas day (depending on the amount of free time I have), my hiatus will end on January 1st (this blog's one year anniversary). So, until then, I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

D&D Next to be Released Next Summer

Today, Wizards of the Coast announced the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons will be hitting store shelves next summer. This news matches what most people have been speculating for awhile now, and this date was most likely chosen to allow a Gen Con release. The official announcement states: 
Wizards of the Coast today announced that the highly-anticipated new rules system for Dungeons & Dragons will release in summer 2014. After nearly two years of an open public playtest and more than 175,000 playtest participants, the rules are complete. Players will be immersed in rich storytelling experiences across multiple gaming platforms as they face off against the most fearsome monster of all time. 
"Just like a perfectly balanced party, Wizards has worked cohesively with fans, designers and partners to create the next generation of D&D," said Nathan Stewart, Brand Director for Dungeons & Dragons. "We whole-heartedly thank all of the play test participants, whose feedback has proven instrumental in shaping the future of Dungeons & Dragons." 
While I personally lost interest in D&D Next during the playtest, I will most likely give the core rulebooks read when they are released to see if the final product changes my opinion. I'm also curious about this "multiple gaming platforms" point. Does this mean Wizards will continue with the subscription-based DDI model, or does that mean D&D Next will be released in connection with other games that belong to the D&D brand? I wish they would be a little more specific.

Since I really don't have that much of a horse in this race, my biggest concern right now is if they are going to change the name or not. I stand by my belief that D&D Next is a idiotic name and reminds me of the stupid naming processes of the 90's (the only way it could have been worse is if they called it "D&D Extreme" instead). I just wish they'd call it 5th Edition and leave it at that.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Pathfinder Society: First Impressions & Brainstorming Characters

Pathfinder Season 5 Logo
As I mentioned on Monday, I played my first session of Pathfinder Society last Saturday. I've been wanting to try out Organized Play for awhile now, mostly to give me a chance to actually to play the game instead of just running it.

The group consisted of five players, with at least two of us being new to Society play. Like the other new player, I decided to use one of the pregenerated characters (Valeros, Pathfinder's iconic fighter) the organizers had brought with them. Our party consisted of my human fighter, a human cleric, a halfling bard, a half-orc barbarian, and a half-orc brawler and the scenario we played was The Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment, an adventure from Season 3 of Pathfinder Society. While the scenario had a slower pace than I expected from a Organized Play scenario and it took a few minutes for the party to get on the same wavelength play-wise, it was great to be able to play again and I definitely will play more Society in the future.

However, I don't want to continue using a pregenerated character (even though I do like Valeros a lot). So, I'll have to make my own character, but I'm not entirely sure who that character might be. Thankfully, I have a few ideas floating around I head.

The first idea is for a Paladin character belonging to the Taldor Faction. The character would be the youngest son of a Taldan noble family who chose to dedicate his life to the faith of Abadar, the god of law and wealth. He joined the Pathfinder Society with the hope of bringing new-found glory to his beloved homeland. The second idea is for a Bard character belonging to the Andoran Faction, with a story similar to Valeros'. He grew up on a small, Andoren farm, hearing stories about brave adventurers throughout his childhood. Just before he reached adulthood, the Bard ran away from home and made the sojourn to the nearest Pathfinder Lodge. The final idea is a Wizard belonging to the Grand Lodge Faction who grew up in Absalom and attended the famous Arcanamirium and joined the Pathfinder Society with the hope of learning ancient secrets lost due to the passage of time.

Due to the nature of Pathfinder Society, I want to keep these characters' concepts rather simple where I can easily encompass the goal-based aspect of Society but still have some freedom roleplaying them. Also, I know I can have as many Pathfinder Society characters as I want, but I want to focus on one for the moment. Most likely, I'll either go with the Bard or the Wizard. This is mostly to get all my thoughts in order. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Three Suns Unlimited: First Impressions

Source: Three Suns Unlimited's Facebook Page
Recently, a gaming store called Three Suns Unlimited opened up in my area. This is something of a godsend since the closest FLGS ("Friendly Local Gaming Store") was a few towns over and me being a broke person made that trip a very unattractive action. So, since I had some free time on Saturday, I decided to give Three Suns Unlimited a visit.

The first thing I noticed when I entered the establishment was the large gaming area. There were rows upon rows of tables and a large shelf filled with numerous board games. They even had an area with a couch and television for people to play video games. Since the store's mission (as stated on their website) is to "[provide] a safe, fun environment for the community" and they seem to have a number of gaming events throughout the week, this is definitely a good thing. When I walked into the store, they actually had a Magic tournament going on and there were a few tables where two Pathfinder Society games were being set up (One of which I played in. Quick Thoughts so I Don't Digress From the Point of This Post: While the scenario's had a slow pace at times, I had a blast and will most likely return).

The store also had a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere. I've heard so many stories about people who've gone into a gaming store and had a horrible time because the owners of the employees made them feel unwelcome. Thankfully, that's not the case for Three Suns Unlimited. The owners seemed to be very nice and seem to really care about the hobby and their costumers.

Honestly, I only really have one complaint about Three Suns Unlimited. This is most likely due to the fact that they just opened, but the store seem to be lacking a little in the product department. While they had some cool stuff, I just wish they had more of it.

However, I believing the welcoming atmosphere, the regular gaming events, and the large gaming area make up for that complaint. I will definitely be going back whenever I get the free time and supporting this store as best as I can. If you're ever in the Longview, Texas area, I suggest stopping by Three Suns Unlimited and giving it a look.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Movie Review: The Hobbit-The Desolation of Smaug

I really miss artistic and interesting movie posters
((Based on the name of this blog, it should be obvious that I'm pretty found of The Hobbit. Due to that fondness and the connections between this property and the hobby, I thought I'd post my review of the movie here instead of my other blog, A Place For My Thoughts.))

The second in a trilogy of movies base off the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug continues the adventure of Bilbo Baggins, the mighty wizard Gandalf, and his thirteen dwarven companions who hope to reclaim the ancient kingdom of Erebor from the deadly dragon Smaug. 

While I enjoyed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, I felt it suffered due to sluggish pacing and I had issues with the film's tone at times. So, when walking into the theater this afternoon, I hoped The Desolation of Smaug would do what any good sequel should: keep what worked about the first movie, but improve on what didn't. 

I feel like The Desolation of Smaug acheived that...for the most part, anyway. 

As with An Unexpected Journey and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug is visually stunning. Like the previous films, you really feel like Middle-Earth is a real place that you wish you could explore for yourself. Each settlement looks stunning and most of the costumes and special effects are interesting to look at. 

Likewise, the action scenes are incredibly entertaining. Action scenes can be some of the most boring and uninspired scenes in a film when handled poorly. Thankfully, The Desolation of Smaug does a good job with keeping the fights interesting and imaginative. How can you not love an action scene where a group of dwarves have to fight off a group of orcs while riding down a river in a couple of wood elf barrels? 

The acting is great as well. Ian McKellen, as usual, does a fantastic job as Gandalf the Grey and Martin Freeman performance as Bilbo Baggins is great. Both actors capture the essence of the characters while giving excellent performances. Benedict Cumberbatch was simply amazing as the voice of Smaug. You can simple tell how much fun he was having playing the role. While I still have trouble remember which dwarf is which, the actors give solid performances. The only actor I had any real problems with is Orlando Blum. I don't think he's a terrible actor, I just never find his performances all that interesting, and his performance as Legolas in this movie doesn't change that. 

However, like its predecessor, The Desolation of Smaug is by no means a perfect film. While its not as sluggish as An Unexpected Journey, the film's pacing is still a little too slow at times for its own good. Most likely, the pacing issues are due to the film trying to extend a single book into three movies, which cause some scenes to feel a little padded at times.

I also have mixed feelings about some of the things they added to the story. For example, a female elf named Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and the aforementioned Legolas were added to the movie. While I actually kind of like Tauriel and her relationship with Kili, I wonder if their inclusion in the film was all that necessary. 

With that being said, I still enjoyed The Desolation of Smaug. While it could be better pacing wise and I wonder if certain elements should have been excluded from the final product without harming the film too much, the film is still a fun fantasy movie and I have no problem giving it a recommendation. 

Final Verdict: See it if you enjoy the fantasy genre, liked the previous films in the series, and have a soft spot for action/adventure movies. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fantasy Art Thursday: The Caves of Chaos by Micheal Komarck

((Click Here for More of Michael Komarck's Artwork))
Like most, I first encountered this gorgeous piece of art in the Player's Handbook II supplement for the 3.5 edition of Dungeons & Dragons. At the time, I was only vaguely familiar with the Caves of Chaos and The Keep on the Borderlands, but this image made me want to run that classic adventure and explore this famous adventure location.

The sheer amount of detail that Komarck put into this picture is just amazing and it just screams "Classic Dungeons & Dragons." You have a party of adventurers (a fighter, a rogue, and a wizard) standing on top of a giant rock, looking at this massive mountainside dominated by numerous caves and ruins just begging to be explored. Just looks at it makes me want to be one of those adventurers, delving into the Caves of Chaos, fighting vicious monsters and finding lost artifacts and treasures. 

This is easily one of my favorite pieces of D&D art because it perfectly captures the spirit of the game: you are a group of ragtag adventurers who explore these ancient places filled to the brim with danger and mystery. The fact that its a beautiful piece of art doesn't hurt either. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Heroes of Sandpoint: Strange Happenings at the Old Light

Art by Eva Widermann
Our Cast of Characters
  • Alfgeir Stannisson, an Ulfen Cleric of Gorum who has traveled from the Lands of the Linnorm Kings, hoping to become a great hero like his ancestors. 
  • Fiona of Sandpoint, a Varisian Rogue who has spent most of her life on the streets of the coastal town, doing whatever she can to survive. 
  • Jon Silverbow, an Elf Ranger who hails from the Mierani Forest of northern Varisia who has a deep hatred for goblinoids. 
  • Ongar, a Half-Orc Paladin who has dedicated his life to the goddess Sarenrae and hopes to spread her redeeming light wherever he goes. 
  • Tywin, a Half-Elf Sorcerer from the shadowy realm of Nidal who has traveled far and wide in search of vengeance against someone who has wronged him.
When we last left our heroes, they had just defeated the ghast Baltazar and his ghoulish followers who had taken up residence underneath the Sandpoint Boneyard, using the surrounding graves as an easily accessible food source. The town priest, Father Zantus, thanked the adventurers for taking care of the problem and gave them their promised reward. 

Since then, two weeks have passed and the adventurers have started to notice the word of their good deeds has started to spread throughout the town and more people seem to be taking note of their presence. One of those people just so happened to be Belor Hemlock, a man of Shoanti descent and the town's sheriff, who just so happened to have a job that would be perfect for our heroes. 

Recently, a brand new narcotic has been circulating within Sandpoint's criminal underground. This black, liquid-based hallucinogen called "Bliss" or "Liquid Bliss" usually causes its users to enter a comma-like state where they fill nothing but pleasure. However, some users have a violent reaction. While those who have the second reaction are a very small minority, Hemlock wants to put an end to this drug before that number starts to grow. 

While he believes a local group of Varisian con artists and thugs called the Sczarni are the ones selling the drug, his evidence is less than concrete and he fears that sending his men after the gang might spark a war between the two groups and put the town in danger. However, if a group of independent adventurers were to confront the group, the sheriff could claim "plausible deniability." 

After being promised a handsome reward if putting a stop to this Liquid Bliss, the party gathered there things and made their way to the Fatman's Feedbag, a tavern located near Sandpoint's docks known to be a favorite hangout of the Sczarni. Once inside the tavern, Jon approached a group of surly individuals, hoping to gather information. However, it all went south rather quickly and a rather vicious bar fight ensued. Once two of the thugs were subdued (with one of them having their face slammed into the bar), the fight was interrupted by the secret owner of the establishment and the leader of Sandpoint's Sczarni, Jubrayl Vhiski.

Wanting his establishment to remain intact, Vhiski put an end to the fight and approached the characters, wanting to know why they were there in the first place. After a lengthy discussion, Vhiski confessed to selling the drug, but not its production. The adventurers made a deal with the Varisian where he would tell them who was supplying him with the drug and they would keep his name out of their investigation. He informed the adventurers that a strange group of individuals who had taken up residence underneath the ruins near the edge of town called the "Old Light" are his suppliers.

With this new piece of information, the characters left the Fatman's Feedbag and traveled to the Old Light. Once they arrived, half of the party decided to enter the ruins while the other half remained outside, laying in wait to see if the group would make an appearance. The party exploring the Old Light discovered a hidden door in the floor leading to a subterranean set of chambers, which they decided to explore. As they descended underground, the other half of the party spotted a group of cloaked figures heading towards the ruin. Guessing they were apart of the group Vhiski mentioned, the heroes ambushed the group and managed to subdue them.

While searching the cloaked individuals, the heroes discovered they were all wearing crude medallions that depicted a three eyed jackal. Alfgeir, using his religious knowledge, identified the medallion as a holy symbol dedicated to the demonic goddess Lamashtu, meaning the group was most likely a cult dedicated to the Mother of Monsters. Fearing their companions might be walking right into the lion's den, the group stripped the cultists of their robes and jackal masks, slipping them on so they can sneak in without a problem.

Thankfully, the adventurers managed to catch up to their companions before they had delved to deeply into the dungeon and informed them of their findings. Knowing there were probably more cultists in the ruins, the party decided to tread carefully and those wearing the cloaks and masks (Alfgeir, Ongar, and Tywin) decided to act as if they captured the others as sacrificial offerings. However, that plan backfired when they entered the main worship chamber and the other cultists tried to force them to drink the black liquid they called the "Waters of Lamashtu."

After taking out the cultists, the found the leader of the group, a tiefling witch named Mahga and her gnoll bodyguards. The tiefling, with a maniacal cackle, told the heroes her diabolical plan. The black liquid wasn't a drug at all, but a vial potion that would mutate those who had ingested it into horrific monsters after she finished a ritual. Not wanting this to happen, the characters quickly engaged the witch priestess. While the fight was long and hard, the adventurers managed to defeat Mahga and her gnolls, preventing her from completing the ritual.

((If you'd like to read  re-cap for the 1st and 2nd session, click here and here)) 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fantasy Fiction Tuesday: A Princess of Mars (1917)

((Fantasy Fiction Tuesday is a weekly series where I talk about a fantasy comic, novel, or short story that I like and how one can mine it for ideas to use in a roleplaying game. These will not be reviews, but merely short pieces about the piece of fiction))

Originally published as a serial story in The All-Story under the title "Under the Moons of Mars", A Princess of Mars is a science fantasy novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

The book follows Civil War veteran John Cater who is mysteriously transported to the planet of Mars (called "Barsoom" by its inhabitants), a dying world dominated by a harsh desert environment inhabited by green, six-limbed giants called Tharks, human-like Red Martians who populate a loose network of city-states, and more alien creatures.

While on Mars, Carter falls in with a tribe of Tharks led by the mighty Tars Tarkas eventually earns the respect of the Green Martians. However, when the Tharks capture the Red Martian princess Dejah Thoris, Carter rescues her and promises to return her to the city-state of Helium. Doing so quickly embroils him in the political affairs of the Green and Red Martians and the tense situation between Helium and the city-state of Zodanga.

Like most people my age, my first exposure to John Carter and his adventures on Mars was the 2012 Disney movie John Carter. While I stand by my opinion that whoever decided to change the movie's name from John Carter of Mars to the more bland John Carter is an idiot, I found the movie to be a decent adventure film and I definitely enjoyed myself and wanted to read the source material as well. So, I went out to my local book store and purchased A Princess of Mars.

While Burroughs' writing style took some getting used to and certain elements definitely showed their age (like the obvious racism), I found the book to be a fun adventure story with a really cool setting. So cool in fact that I'd love to run a campaign set on Barsoom. Thankfully, the movie makes it incredibly easy to introduce the concept to the players if they're not familiar with the material and their are a few ways you can achieve this.

The easiest way to run a Barsoom-influenced campaign would be to use the Mars setting for Savage Worlds by Adamant Entertainment. While its not a direct adaptation of Burroughs' Mars, the inspiration is rather obvious and it'll still work. You could also use the planet of Akiton in the Pathfinder Campaign Setting if you wanted to use the Pathfinder rules. If you're not a fan of Savage Worlds or Pathfinder and wouldn't mind doing a little more work, I believe a modified Stars Without Numbers would be a good fit for the setting as well. I'd probably change the available technology a little and I'd have to create a few new alien species (such as the Tharks), but that shouldn't be too hard.

If you didn't want to do a full on Barsoomian campaign, you could also introduce some Barsoomian creatures into your game and give the setting some "weird" elements. For example, you could throw some Barsoomian creatures (like banths or thoats) into the desert regions of your setting. Also, you could make the Tharks the native desert race.

Question Time: Have you read A Princess of Mars? If so, what did you think of it? Did you like it, or did you dislike it? How would you use different Barsoomian elements in your campaigns? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Power-Gaming: Reasonable Optimizing VS Gaming the System

A useful chart from Dice of Doom
I have always had a complicated relationship with character optimization and power-gaming.

On one hand, I understand why people optimize their characters. Roleplaying games are games, and players want their characters to be mechanically good. For example, a player building a warrior who specializes in two-handed weapons will most likely choose options that compliment that choice.

However, I think the problem with character optimization is when a player takes it to an extreme level and "games the system". I'll elaborate for those of you who might not understand what I'm talking about. Players "game the system" by manipulating or breaking the rules to achieve a desired outcome.

I believe their is a fine line between character optimization and "gaming the system", one that is so fine that many people can't see it. Many people have trouble separating the two and see anyone who chooses to optimize their character as a "dirty power-gamer." I actually used to be one of these people.

However, there is a different between the two camps. That different is based on how the optimization affects the game and the group's enjoyment of said game. If the optimization doesn't negatively affect the game or the other player's enjoyment, then you shouldn't worry about it too much. However, if the optimization is ruining the game and the other players are not having fun or getting annoyed by it, you might want to step in and put a stop to it.

Character optimization is perfectly fine when it remains reasonable. If the character chooses options that enhance a character's ability to perform certain actions, but remains logical and doesn't try to utilize loop holes or weird rules present in the system to achieve a rather powerful outcome, then its fine.

Question Time: What are your opinions on character optimization? Do you like it, or do you hate it? What do you believe is the line between reasonable character optimization and gaming the system? How do you handle situations where a character is ruining a game by gaming the system?

Friday, December 6, 2013

Banning Game Materials

Earlier today, I was surfing the Paizo forums and I found this thread about banning certain game materials from their home games. Reading through the thread and seeing what things people ban from their games got me thinking.

Why do we ban certain things from our games?

Generally, there seems to be two major reasons why someone bans something from their games: Mechanical Reasons and Flavor Reasons.

Sometimes, a game master will ban an options they feel is mechanically unbalanced or fear will screw up the mechanics of the game in some way. This tends to be the reason most people ban the Summoner class. Because of the class' complexity, its relatively easy to create an eidolon that is either horribly useless or broken if you don't know what you're doing or rather overpowered if you do know what you're doing.

Others ban certain materials and options due to their flavor and how it might not match the game master's current campaign setting. This seems to be the reason why most people ban the Gunslinger, the Ninja, the Samurai, and certain races. For example, some game masters ban the Gunslinger because they believe firearms have no place in fantasy worlds or blackpowder weaponry just doesn't fit the setting they are using.

Personally, I have a softer view on banning certain materials from my game. I generally allow pretty much anything that is presented in the Core Rulebook unless noted otherwise (I wouldn't allow players to play gnomes if they don't exist in the campaign world, for example). However, if they want to use something from a supplementary source (whether it be from Paizo or a 3rd party publisher), they have to present the material to me and let me look at it first. I will usually allow them to have the option, but if I believe its broken, overpowered, or clashes with the setting, I'll say no and give my reasons for rejecting it. This method has worked for my group so far.

Question Time: Do you ban certain materials from your games? If so, why? Is it due to the mechanics, or is it for flavor reasons? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Advanced Bestiary Kickstarter: Funding Reached With 3 Days to Go!

Art By Shawn Sharp
The Advanced Bestiary Kickstarter which Green Ronin Publishing launched back in November has managed to reach its $20,000 goal with just three days to spare. Due to my love of the original supplement, I'm really excited about this and I'm glad they were able to achieve at least two of their stretch goals (a new cover for the book and 16 pages of new content). Personally, I hope they will receive enough to reach at least the third stretch goal (a full color release). However, since they'd need to receive $4,770 in just three days, I won't be holding my breath.

If you want to get in on the action before its too late, click on the following link. The Advanced Bestiary was one of the best third party supplements for 3rd Edition and I'm glad its being updated for Pathfinder. The different templates allow you to create some really interesting encounters (such as a swarm of tooth fairies from the Bestiary 4) and allows you to breathe new life (mechanically speaking) into some classic monsters. Even though the project has already reached its goal, don't stop donating. Maybe we can reach that third or maybe forth stretch goal (all new color art).

((SOURCE: "This Bestiary is Advanced" Blog Article on Paizo.Com by Chris Pramas. Click here to read the article.))

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Melnibonean Elves

Recently, I've been reading Michael Moorcock's The Weird of the White Wolf, a novella collecting four short stories staring the antihero Elric of Melnibone. This is actually the first work of Moorcock's I've ever read and I'm enjoying it so far.

However, as I read the novella, I find myself wanting to flavor the elves in my D&D/Pathfinder campaigns after the Melniboneans. While I'm sure I'm not the first person to have this idea, I still feel like its a cool idea and I think it gives the rather boring elves an interesting take. However, I might change a few things to make the race a little more "player friendly".

So, here's my take on Melnibonean Elves.

Long ago, the elves were once a nomadic race who traveled across the different planes of existence with their draconic companions. For reasons that remain unknown to their descendants, these primordial elves decided to remain on the Material Plane instead of continuing their travels and settled on a small island off the coast of a large continent. Within a few centuries, the small settlements that dotted the island banded together and the first elven kingdom was forged.

Due to their natural command of magic and dragon allies, this small kingdom quickly became a mighty empire and the elves held dominion over most of the known world. Most of the "lesser races" bowed down to their new overlords. However, there were a few who tried to fight back and were ultimately decimated by the empire's superior forces and the few remaining survivors were forced into submission. The Empire of the Elves remained in power for thousands of years.

Sadly, as time passed, the elves slowly grew callous and apathetic to the happenings of the outside world. As the race slowly withdrew back to its ancestral homeland and gave into to its own excesses, their powerful empire began to crumble. All that remains of that once great civilization is their original island kingdom.

Now, the elves are a rare sight outside of their island kingdom and their unique appearance makes them easily stand out in most crowds. The elves are generally taller than humans and possess a graceful, fragile physique that is accentuated by their long, pointed ears. They have slanted eyes that are usually crimson in color and they typically wear their hair long. All elves are albino, possessing snow white skin and hair.

Due to the nature of their culture, the elves can be uncaring at best and downright cruel at worse. Elves tend to focus on themselves first and foremost and have a bad habit of looking down on the "lesser races" (almost every race that isn't an elf), seeing them as less sophisticated and not worthy of respect. A lot of people like to compare the elves to cats, seeing how both creatures can be so uncaring and occasionally derive pleasure from the suffering of others.

Most elves found outside their island kingdom are either adventurers seeking a life of excitement and new experiences or the rare diplomat sent to bargain with the nobles of lesser kingdoms. These elves tend to be belong to the Fighter, the Magus, the Rogue, the Sorcerer, and the Wizard classes. When multiclassing, elves generally choose a class with the ability to cast arcane spells if they possess levels in a non spellcasting class.

((I left some stuff, like the name of their island kingdom and the continent, vague so others could adapt these elves to their own campaign worlds without a lot of effort. Also, with the exception of the preferred classes part, I tried to remain agnostic with the rules so you can adapt them to your rules system of choice.))

Monday, December 2, 2013

Clerics, Miracles, & Prayers

My opinions on divine magic have always been mixed. While I love and enjoy playing Clerics and believe the class should have some supernatural abilities to represent their connection to the divine, I've never liked the implementation of divine magic. I've also never liked how the Cleric's spellcasting ability was tied to Wisdom, thinking Charisma fits the whole "praying for your spells everyday" idea a lot better. 

However, I think I've found an interesting alternative in the new retroclone Fantastic Heroes & Witchery. The game presents a divine class called the "Friar", which takes the place of the traditional Cleric class. Unlike its predecessor, the Friar does not receive spells. Instead, the class prays for help from their deity. The player rolls a d6 and adds their Wisdom modifier. Any result above 1 is successful, but each additional prayer during the same day raises the DC by 1. A successful prayer allows a Friar to do one of the following: 
  • Blessings. Beneficiary is granted a +4 bonus for a single particular task (one die roll), or the next saving throw against a particular threat or creature, within one day. 
  • Counter Prayer. Cancels sound associated magical effects (e.g. harpy songs) within 30 feet, so long as the Friar loudly prays. 
  • Dispel Charm. Dispels a mind affecting spell or effect if the Friar rolls 1d10 plus their level vs. 10 plus the caster's level (or creature's HD). 
  • Encouragement. All allies within 30 feet get a +1 bonus to attack rolls and saving throws vs. fear for a duration of 1 round per Friar level. At 9th level, the bonus increases to +2.
  • Exorcism. Expels a malignant spirit from an unwilling host (use a Turn Undead roll, but after 30 minutes of loud prayers). 
  • Guidance. Answers a question with a short vision, a few words, a coincidental sign, etc. 
  • Healing Touch. Cures 2 hp/level, or grants a new Con save (plus Friar's level) to cure a disease. 
  • Sanctuary. No creature can attack the Friar so long as he prays silently during that combat. Common creatures get no save, but supernatural foes get a Charisma save. 
  • Turn Undead. Repels or even utterly destroys undead and sometimes demonic creatures. 
I really love this mechanic and I wonder if I can work it into a project that I've been toying around with for the past year or so. The project has a class similar to the Cleric called the Acolyte, and I believe implementing this prayer system would make the class more unique. However, I might streamline the ability somewhat. Instead of basing it around a random roll, I think I might allow the Acolyte to use this ability a number of times per day equal to their level plus their Charisma modifier (the game only has four attributes). Also, I might toy with the idea where Acolytes might receive a few special prayer abilities based on their chosen deity. 

Old School Thoughts and Decisions to Make

Art by Erol Otus
It's been almost three weeks since I last ran my Heroes of Sandpoint campaign. Thanksgiving really screwed with the scheduling there and one of my players keeps wanting to change the date on me or canceling. Because of that, my mind has been elsewhere, thinking about other games that I could be running until the Pathfinder game gets back on schedule.

I have a few ideas for a Mutants & Masterminds game and Numenera could fix this science fantasy itch I've had for awhile. However, I really don't feel like dealing with M&M's crunch right now and I'm not sure if I can sell my player's on Numenera. So, after thinking long and hard, an idea popped into my head: Why not give a retroclone a try? 

I've been interested in running one of the clones for awhile now, but something has always held me back. This might be the perfect time to fix that. However, I should decide which clone do I want to use? While there are a lot of great clones out there, I think I've narrowed it down to two candidates: Sword & Wizardry or Lamentations of the Flame Princess. 

I love the simplicity of Sword & Wizardry, how it presents a few alternate rules that you can utilize within the rulebook (such as Ascending AC), and the rulebook is free to download. However, I love the weird elements present in Lamentations of the Flame Princess, how the rules handle the cleric class, and the d6 skill system. Also, it doesn't hurt that you can download a free copy of Rules & Magic as well (sadly, since its art free, it causes some of the page design to be weird). 

Most likely, I think I'll end up going with Sword & Wizardry in the end. While they are both great games, I think I prefer the overall rules in S&W a little bit better. If I go with S&W, I will most likely use the Ascending AC variant (along with "To Hit" Bonuses) due to my player's familiarity with newer editions of D&D. I think I'll also use the "Save or Die at 0 HP" house rule so the characters have a slightly better chance at survival. 

Now, I just need to create an adventure and see if my available players are interested. Wish me luck.