Wednesday, June 25, 2014

New Race: Firbolg

Art by Steve Prescott
Firbolgs are a race of reclusive giants with a deep affinity for nature. Their society is clan-based, with family being of the utmost importance. Although firbolgs tend to be relatively nonviolent, they will do anything to protect their family and those they consider to be as "close as blood." Most firbolgs practice a religion that is a mixture of animism and ancestor worship, believing that everything is connected in a spiritual sense and individuals should respect that connection or possibly upset the fragile balance that exists within nature.

Firbolgs resemble large humans, standing over seven feet tall and possessing wide, compact bodies that give them a burly appearance. Most firbolgs tend to have long manes of hair with males sporting equally long, thick beards. Their attire tends to be rather simple and possesses more earthy tones, such as brown an green. Firbolgs care more about application and utility than anything else. 

+2 Strength, +2 Wisdom, -2 Dexterity: Firbolgs are both strong and wise, but relatively clumsy due to their size. 

Firbolg: Firbolgs are humanoids with the giant subtype.

Medium: Firbolgs are Medium creatures and have no bonuses or penalties due to their size. 

Slow and Steady: Firbolgs have a base speed of 20 feet, but their speed is never modified by armor or encumbrance. 

Low-Light Vision: Firbolgs can see twice as far as a race with normal vision in conditions of dim light. 

Powerful Build: The physical stature of firbolgs lets them function in many ways as if they were one size category larger. Whenever a firbolg is subject to a size modifier or special size modifier for a Combat Maneuver Bonus or Combat Maneuver Defense (such as during grapple checks, bull rush attempts, and trip attempts), the firbolg is treated as one size larger if doing so is advantageous to him. 

A firbolg is also considered to be one size larger when determining whether a creature's special attacks based on size (such as grab or swallow whole) can affect him. 

A firbolg can use weapons designed for a creature one size larger without penalty. However, his space and reach remain those of a creature of his actual size. The benefits of this racial trait stack with the effects of powers, abilities, and spells that change the subject's size category. 

Bond to the Land: Firbolgs gain a +2 dodge bonus to AC when in a specific terrain type selected from the ranger's list of favored terrains. This choice is made at character creation, and cannot be changed. 

Stability: Firbolgs receive a +4 racial bonus to their CMD when resisting bull rush or trip attempts while standing on the ground. 

Survivalist: Firbolgs receive a +2 racial bonus on Perception and Survival skill checks. 

Languages: Firbolgs begin play speaking Common and Giant. Firbolgs with high Intelligence scores can choose from: Elven, Gnome, Goblin, and Sylvan. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Free RPG Day 2014: A Very Short Recap

Some of the cool stuff I managed to snag at my FLGS.
The 8th Annual Free RPG Day was this past Saturday. For the longest time, I was unable to actually experience this event in person due to East Texas being something of a roleplaying wasteland with the nearest FLGS being somewhere in Dallas. Thankfully, since Halflings' Hideaway opened in my hometown a few months ago, I was able to participate in the event and picked up a handful of cool products. 

A certain, handsome fellow running a very brutal superhero game.
Although there were nine game demos taking place throughout the day, I only participated in two of them due to me having to run my own Pathfinder game that evening. I managed to play a very comedic session of Cosmic Patrol and ran the Valiant Universe RPG. Since both games were created Catalyst Game Labs, they use very similar systems that were relatively easy to grok and had some cool ideas. I especially loved how both games used plot points, giving the players a way to effect the flow of the story, causing both good and bad things to happen (especially when multi-armed robots are concerned). While I probably wouldn't use either game for long campaigns, I might use them for one-shot sessions or micro-campaigns. 

I also got a chance to see some other games played, like Castles & Crusades and Shadowrun. I've read the 5th edition version of the latter's rules and was uncertain because I don't feel like investing into another rules heavy game like Mutants & Masterminds or Pathfinder. However, after seeing the game first hand and seeing how much fun the players were having, I'm more willing to give the new edition a try. 

All in all, I had a blast at Free RPG Day and I definitely can't wait for next year. I really want to use the Risen from the Sands and The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children in the near future. Hell, I might even try my hand at running a session of Battletech or Shadowrun using the quick-start rules. 

What about you guys and gals? Did you enjoy this year's Free RPG Day? Did you get some cool stuff and have some fun sessions? 

Friday, June 20, 2014

A Very Special Message for Free RPG Day

((Click HERE to check out the event's website and find a participating store near you))
This probably isn't much of a surprise to anyone who would be reading this blog, but this Saturday happens to be Free RPG Day. Established in 2007, Free RPG Day is an annual event where participating game retailers receive a number of quick-start rules for different game systems, adventure modules, and other RPG-related merchandise from numerous publishers to give away for free. The reason behind this is to expand the hobby and acts as promotional material for the companies in question.

For those of you who happen to be in the East Texas area this Saturday (specifically Gilmer), you should drop by Halflings Hideaway and pick up some free stuff and possibly purchase something else to support the store.

Halflings Hideaway, specifically, will actually be having a number of demos throughout the day using some of the materials being offered for free. Yours truly will actually be running a demo for the Valiant Universe RPG from Catalyst Game Labs. If you're interested in seeing the schedule, I've got you covered. From 12 to 3, there will be demos for 13th Age and Cosmic Patrol. From 3 to 6, there will be demos for Lamentations of the Flame Princess (which you'll have to prove you're 18 to play), Shadowrun, & Valiant. From 6 to 9, there will be demos for Pathfinder and Dungeon Crawl Classics. Finally, from 9 to 12, there will be demos for Castles & Crusades and Mage: The Acension.

I hope everyone has a fun time this weekend, gets some cool stuff (both for free and stuff you've purchased), and have fun playing some good games.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Alternate Pathfinder Point Buy System

I've always struggled with the choice whether to use the tried-and-true "Roll 4d6, Drop Lowest" method of ability score generation or the "point buy" method. I like the random elements of the former, but I also like the balance and control the latter offer. I usually end up using the random method because it tends to be faster and I've never been too fond of the way Pathfinder's point buy works.

Recently, I've been toying with a point buy system for Pathfinder that will hopefully be faster and easier to use. When using this system, each ability starts with a score of 10. The player receives a pool of points they can spend to raise these scores. They may also lower their scores to gain more points to spend. This is done on a 1 for 1 basis. No score may be raised above an 18 or lowered below a 7. The number of points is based on the power level of the campaign, as depicted on the following table:
Campaign Type
Low Fantasy
Standard Fantasy
High Fantasy
Epic Fantasy

Personally, I've always felt that point buy systems that use a 1 for 1 price scheme are much easier to use than point buy systems that give each score a specific price (i.e., a 14 costs 5 points, 15 costs 7 points, etc.).  This method also allows you to use the system without having a specific table because you just have to use some basic addition and subtraction (Exp: spent 6 points, raise a score by 6 points).

I'm also thinking about adding a optional variant for this system called "Focus & Flaw". Before spending your points, you designate one of your abilities as your "focus" and another as your "flaw". The focus ability is one that you are particularly adept in, while the flaw ability is one that you are particularly weak in. Instead of starting with scores of 10, the focus ability starts with a score of 12 and the flaw ability starts with a score of 8. This would mean it would cost less points to raise your focus ability, but it would cost more to do the same for your flaw ability.

While I do enjoy randomly generating ability scores, I might just use this method for my next Pathfinder campaign (probably with the Focus & Flaw variant as well).

Monday, June 16, 2014

Game of Thrones Reviews: "The Children"

Tyrion looks pretty cool with that Lannister crossbow.
While Jon Snow attempts to negotiate with Mance Rayder, an unexpected force from south of the Wall arrives and changes everything. Meanwhile in Meereen, Daenerys faces the harsh reality of her situation and realizes how little control she has over her dragons. Beyond the Wall, Bran finally arrives at the Weirwood and learns more about his destiny. Finally, Tyrion learns the truth about his situation and Arya decides to leave her old life behind. 

"The Children" is a very somber episode, bringing a number of dangling plot threads to a close while setting up things to come in the following seasons. While this wasn't my favorite season finale, "The Children" was definitely a solid ending and has left me wanting more. 

If I had to pick out my favorite moments from the episode, it would have to be Tyrion's confrontation with Tywin after being released from his cell and Brienne's brawl with Sandor Clegane. Both scenes were excellent, each actor giving it their all and giving great performances. Also, the fight scene between Brienne and the Hound was particularly brutal and pretty tense for what it was. Its sad to know we won't be seeing Tywinn or Sandor anymore. They will definitely be missed. 

Although I enjoyed the episode, I do have a few quibbles with it. First of all, I find it hard to buy that Tywinn had no idea that Jaime and Cersei were lovers, especially after his comment about wanting Jaime to sire children with the name Lannister. I was also a little underwhelmed by the Child of the Forest. She seemed to normal to me. I guess I was expecting something more sylvan and feyish. 

While not the best finale of the series, "The Children" is a solid episode. The somber tone meshes well with many of the scenes, and the creation of new plot threads leaves the viewer wanting more. It was a nice cap to the season. 

Card Wars: First Impressions

It's time to decide who will be the Dweeb and who will be the Cool Guy.
In my opinion, Adventure Time is one of the best television shows of the past four years. I absolutely love its sense of humor, its interesting characters, and its surprisingly well written stories.  I've seen almost every episode, have read most of the comics (which are excellent by the way and you should definitely check them out), and I've played some of the video games (which are less excellent).

Now that you know that crucial bit of context, it shouldn't be any surprise that I've been dying to try out Card Wars. Published by Cryptozoic Entertainment, Card Wars is a collectible card game based on the game Finn and Jake played in the third season episode of the same name.Unfortunately, since I'm kind of broke at the moment, I haven't had the chance to pick up one of the collector's packs.

While visiting my FLGS this past Saturday, I finally got the chance to try the game out using the BMO vs Lady Rainicorn Collector's Pack. Since I enjoy talking about these experiences and I figure there are others who might want to know how good the game is, I thought I'd give my first impressions of it.

Card Wars' rules are very simple and easy to learn. Before starting the game, you choose one of the two decks packaged with the specific collector's pack you purchased, place four larger cards called "lanes" before you, and receive 25 hit points. On your turn, you draw one card and receive two "moves". These moves are spent to either play the different types of cards (Buildings, Creatures, and Spells) or spent to draw an additional card. When playing Creatures, you place them onto one of the open lanes set before you.

Card Wars' Set-Up. Sorry for the somewhat blurry image. Blame my phone.
After spending all your available moves and playing the cards you wish to play, you enter the Combat Phase. During this phase, each Creature you control attacks the lane directly across from it. If there is another creature there, they fight and deal damage to each other. If the lane is empty, the damage is dealt directly to the opposing player instead. Like with most games, the player who manages to drop their opponent down to 0 hit points wins.

At first glance, Card Wars appears to be a very simplistic game. However, there is a surprising amount of depth hidden within the rules. Throughout each deck, there are a number of Creatures that possess unique abilities that activate once they've been "flooped", which is this games version of tapping. Combining these with your Buildings and Spells offers a nice bit of strategy without making the game complicated. I definitely tip my hat to Cryptozoic for finding a nice balance in that department.

While I loved the rules, there were a few things about the game that rubbed me the wrong way. I personally wasn't too fond of the little chips used to track damage dealt to Creatures. They were annoying to add and remove to the cards and I feel like you could easily use differently sized dice to achieve this. I also was a little disappointed that a lot of the creatures were recycled with only minor changes in art. This game is supposed to be based on Adventure Time, a world where almost anything can happen. I just feel they could have been a little more creative than that.

However, those are mostly nitpicks and I'm sure the second complaint will be fixed as more expansions for the game get released. Card Wars is a fun card game that's simple to learn, but has enough depth to allow some cool strategies to be formed and gives the game some definite longevity. I'm definitely going to pick up one of the collector's packs as soon as possible.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Things Everyone Should Steal From Dungeon World

Dungeon World is a fantasy roleplaying game that uses a modified version of the Powered by the Apocalypse engine. The game's mission statement is to invoke a style generally associated with older editions of Dungeons & Dragons while utilizing a more modern set of rules. Although I fell in love with this game after playing it last July at a party, I haven't had the chance to play it very much since.

However, don't let that lead you to believe the PDF is just sitting on my computer collecting digital dust. While I'm not playing or running Dungeon World at the moment, there are two rules that I believe would be excellent house rules for my current Pathfinder game. These rules are rather simple and can be lifted straight from Dungeon World with relatively little change whatsoever. Because of that, I believe everyone should give these rules a look and think about stealing them as well.

Like most people, I find encumbrance rules incredibly frustrating and hate keeping up with all the mundane equipment my character might be carrying. Thankfully, Dungeon World offers a very nice solution to this problem: adventuring gear. This single item replaces the more specific mundane equipment by abstracting things. The item possesses five "uses" that you can spend to pull out any piece of mundane adventuring equipment that you need. This is a very simple fix to the encumbrance problem because it allows you to ignore the numerous mundane items and only keep track of the significant ones. You just have to keep up with how many uses you have left and you can "replace" your adventuring gear when you return to civilization. 

Hirelings can be something of a hassle for those of us who run systems that happen to be a little heavy on the rules. However, Dungeon World's method for handling the situation is really cool and makes creating hirelings on the fly incredibly easy. Each hireling consists of three parts: skills, cost, and loyalty. A hireling's skills enhance their employers skills, the cost is how much the employer is paying the NPC, and loyalty determines how dedicated they are and how much they are willing to do for the character before complaining or quitting. Due to the abstraction, these hirelings are incredibly easy to create on the fly and have very little bookkeeping associated with them. 

For those of you who've played Dungeon World, what rules would you steal to use in other games? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Fantasy Art Thursday: "Legend of Zelda" by Nicolas Rix

((Click HERE to check out the artist's DeviantArt page))
The Legend of Zelda series has been apart of my life since I was a little kid and I received Ocarina of Time for one of my birthdays. I've seen Link travel across the land of Hyrule and save Princess Zelda from the vile Ganon again and again, but I've never grown tired of it. In honor of E3 and the glimpses we've received of the next title in the series, I thought I'd post a piece of art that I feel captures the feeling and spirit of one of my favorite series.

The above piece by Nicolas Rix, simply titled "Legend of Zelda", captures the sense of adventure and wonder that's infused into each and every game perfectly. We have our young hero, armed with only a simple sword and shield, cautiously approaching the dark entrance of an ancient temple emblazoned with the legendary Tri-Force. Just looking at this picture, seeing Link ready to face whatever lurks within the darkness of this forgotten place, makes me want to grab my controller and join him on his adventure. Even if I have to listen to Navi's annoying demands for me to listen to her.

Question Time: Do you enjoy The Legend of Zelda series? Which is your favorite game? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Simple Critical Hit Chart

Monday, I posted a simplified critical fumble chart for Pathfinder. Since I want to be fair, I thought I'd create a simplified critical hit chart as well. This table is something of a rough draft that I believe still needs a little work to get it to the right place. However, I thought I'd let people see it anyway to get everyone's opinion on the subject.

When a player makes an attack roll and the result falls within their weapon's critical threat range, they must immediately make an additional roll to "confirm" the critical hit. If this second roll would hit the opponent, the player rolls a d% and consults the following table to see what happens:
The character receives the normal benefits of a critical hit
The character receives the normal benefits of a critical hit and the opponent receives one of the following conditions for 1 round:  dazzled, deafened, entangled, shaken, or sickened.
The character receives the normal benefits of a critical hit, but receives an additional attack against their opponent at their highest attack bonus for free.

Like the previous chart, I tried to keep this one easy to remember and hopefully simple to use at the table. The normal critical has the widest target, with the free attack (which might be a little too good for those who really care about balance) having the smallest. For those of you who might want to use a different kind of dice for this, you can use the d12 variant I posted with the critical fumble chart with this one as well.

Download RuneQuest Essentials for Free

The good people at Design Mechanism have created a "basic" version of the 6th edition of RuneQuest titled "RuneQuest Essentials". Luckily, they've decided to release this 203 page PDF as a free download (though donations are appreciated) on their website and DriveThruRPG (under a "Pay What You Want" deal).

Design Mechanism has stated the reason for doing this is to give people who've never played RuneQuest a chance to give it a shot before shelling out the $50 for the full game. I think this was an excellent decision, giving those who'd like to test drive the game a chance to do so without having to resort to piracy. More and more companies seem to be jumping onto this bandwagon and I feel like that's definitely a good thing.

What do you think? Will you be giving RuneQuest a try because of this?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Fantasy Fiction Tuesday: Thieves' World (1979)

This cover is all kinds of awesome
I've always had a soft spot in my heart for anthologies, especially those of the fantasy and horror variety. I love the idea of getting multiple stories for the price of one, even if some of those stories are probably going to be utter crap. I also appreciate anthologies where the stories happen to share a setting and a handful of characters.

With that in mind, you can probably see why I love Thieves' World so much. 

Published in 1979, Thieves' World is a fantasy anthology set in the fictional city of Sanctuary, a wretched hive of scum and villainy located at the edge of the powerful Rankan Empire. Its a place where danger lurks around every corner and you have to be willing to lie, steal, and cheat if you want to survive. Each short story within this anthology also happens to be written by the top science fiction and fantasy writers at the time: Poul Anderson, Robert Asprin, Lynn Abbey, Marion Zimmer Bradley, John Brunner, Joe Haldeman, Andrew J. Offut, and Christine DeWees.

I think it would be an understatement if I said I absolutely adored this anthology. Very rarely do I find a book and almost immediately fall in love with it after only reading the first few pages. While not every story within the collection is pure gold (I wasn't all that fond of Haldeman's "Blood Brothers"), most of the stories present their own, unique flavor and give us a different look at the city of Sanctuary and the world its located in.

For example, "The Face of Chaos" by Abbey and "The Gate of the Flying Knives" by Anderson give us a glimpse of the religious conflict happening between two different pantheons of deities and its possible affects on the city's citizens. "Shadowspawn" by Offut and "The Price of Doing Business" by Asprin reveals some of Sanctuary's underworld while "Myrtis" by DeWees shows just how important the city's Street of Red Lanterns and its brothels are to Sanctuary and keeping it running smoothly. Each story helps create an interesting world that feels alive and makes you want to learn more.

The share characters are also fantastic. We have Enas Yorl, a magician who changes his shape involuntarily because he lost a duel to another long ago; Lythande the Star-Browed, a mysterious individual who is just as skilled with a sword as he is with the magical arts; Cappen Varra, a minstrel and the only honest man in Sanctuary; Shadowspawn, a young thief who seems to get himself into big trouble; Myrtis, the madame of Aphrodisia House who never seems to age. Each character is interesting and helps add to the varied tapestry that represents the citizens of Sanctuary.

Thieves' World is easily one of the best books that I've read in a very long time. I love how it balances the grim reality of Sanctuary and its elements of dark fantasy with fun adventures that would be right at home in a Sword & Sorcery tale. Heck, Thieves' World is the thing that inspired me to make my current campaign an urban one and I'll probably be stealing a few ideas from it.

This is one of those books that I will probably recommend to everyone who loves fantasy, especially those who like dark fantasy and the grim settings. You are doing yourself a disservice if you don't track down this book and give it a read.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Game of Thrones Reviews: "The Watchers on the Wall"

Looks like someone kicked his albino puppy again...
Mance Rayder and his horde of Wildlings have finally arrived at the Wall and begin their siege. Jon Snow and the brothers of the Night's Watch must defend Castle Black, even if that means they'll die doing it. Will they stand, or will they fall? 

While I do enjoy the Night's Watch subplot, I was still rather nervous about "The Watchers on the Wall." I wondered if the subplot actually had enough weight to it to maintain an entire episode by itself. Thankfully, my worries were proved unfounded. 

Although "The Watchers on the Wall" is not my favorite episode this season (either "The Lion and the Rose" or "The Laws of Gods and Men" holds that title), I definitely enjoyed it. Because it focused on a single subplot instead of multiple ones, its pacing was excellent. There really wasn't a single moment that overstayed its welcome and the story flowed very well. 

The episode was also filled with numerous, little scenes that were pretty great. For example, I really liked the scene where Grenn and a few Night's Watch brothers preparing to fight the giant. They know they're probably going to die, but they simply recite their oath and stand strong. The episode also managed to make me feel bad for Ygritte, which is a major accomplishment if you know my feelings about her (i.e. I really dislike her in the books, but begrudgingly tolerated her in the show because I believe Rose Leslie gives the character's a slight charm I felt she lacked on the page). 

Although its not one of the best episodes this season, it's definitely a solid one and rather enjoyable for what it is. The pacing was excellent, the action well done, and had some nice story beats.

Simple Critical Fumble Chart

Art by Todd Mauldin
Critical fumbles. Some people love them, some people hate them. Personally, I feel like they can be entertaining if handled correctly. However, there's the problem. How do you handle a critical fumble?

The most common answers to this question seem to be either A) just ignore them and treat them as a normal miss, or B) utilize a critical fumble chart that has numerous different results that are rolled randomly. Since Option A has already been taken off the table, I guess we're left with Option B. While I like the idea of critical fumble charts, I feel like the numerous specific actions presented on said chart has the potential to add an additional level of complexity to combat that's ultimately unnecessary.

However, I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Maybe I could create a simplified critical fumble chart, one with only a small handful of results that are relatively broad and can apply to multiple situations. With that in mind, I think I'm going to use the following house rule in my Secrets of Magnimar Pathfinder Campaign:

Whenever a character's attack roll results in a natural 1, they must make an additional attack roll against their opponent. If that attack roll would fail to hit the opponent, they have critically fumbled their attack and must roll a d% and consult the following table to see what happens.  

d% Results
01-50 The character simply misses and suffers no ill effect.
51-80 The character misses and suffers a setback of some sort. The character is treated as if they were dazed. They can spend a move action to fix this.
81-100 The character misses, but leaves themselves open to retaliation. Their opponent receives a free attack of opportunity against them.

Unlike traditional critical fumble charts, this one only has three basic results to keep things simple. Also, I tried to give the results a percentage that would favor the players, hence why a simple miss has the biggest range of result and the free attack of opportunity has the smallest.

I might add an additional result or two in the near future, just to give this chart a little more variety. Maybe have a result where the character misses and gives the opponent the chance to move a very short distance away from the character for free. Also, I might change the dice used to determine the critical fumble result from a d% to a d12, mostly to give the d12 more love. If I do that, the results will be 1 to 6 for the first entry, 7 to 10 for the second entry, and 11 to 12 for the final entry.

Friday, June 6, 2014

D&D 5th Edition Image Leaked

Source: HERE
Yesterday, Mike Mearls leaked an image from the upcoming Player's Handbook for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons on his Twitter account with the following Tweet:
"It is so hard trying to keep straight what's been revealed and what's secret. Made this handy reminder."
The image gives us a glimpse at the official layout for the Player's Handbook, what one of the d% tables will look like, and the first page of the Warlock section. I have to say, I really like how the layout looks nice, but will not make the book actually hard to read. I also like the image they've chosen to represent the Warlock. It helps to separate the class from the Sorcerer and the Wizard. So far, so good.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Utilizing & Subverting Clichés

Artist Unknown
Clichés have a bad reputation. Many see their use as the epitome of creative laziness that should be criticized whenever one rears its ugly head. However, I believe clichés can be a useful tool is handled well.

Clichés offer us concepts that are easy to understand and relate to. Its the reason why they're clichés in the first place. However, the trick is to actually use the cliché as a starting point to build something more interesting and unique instead of a replacement for actual storytelling.

For example, we could utilize the classic "dragon kidnaps the princess" cliché for a future adventure. However, we'll try to expand upon it to make a more interesting story. The most obvious way to do this would be to ask why the dragon kidnapped the princess in the first place. Was it because he enjoys the taste of royal flesh? Does he want a slave? Or is he actually in love with her? It could be any of those, or none of them.

You can also subvert the cliché to create something different. Using the previous example, you could subvert the story and say the dragon actually didn't kidnap the princess at all. Actually, the princess fell in love with the dragon while it was in a human form and she ran away with it. The king just thinks she was kidnapped. You could also change the princess into a prince or maybe the PCs are hired by a gold dragon to save one of her wyrmlings who was kidnapped by the king of a nearby kingdom, but some magical barrier surrounding said kingdom keeps the dragon from intervening directly.

However, you should be cautious when subverting a cliché because it can become a new kind of cliché all together. Thankfully, the trick to handling a subversion is almost exactly the same to using a cliché. Just use it as a starting point to something more.

Using clichés isn't the problem. Using them badly is.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Game of Thrones Reviews: "The Mountain and The Viper"

Two men enter, one man leaves! I'm sorry, I just can't get beyond Thunderdome...

The episode opens with unexpected visitors arrive in Mole's Town, causing tensions to rise at the Wall. Meanwhile, Littlefinger's motives are questioned, Daenerys learns about the secret that Jorah's been hiding since the moment he met her, and Ramsay tries to prove himself to his father. Finally, Tyrion's fate is decided when the Mountain and the Viper fight to the death. 

"The Mountain and the Viper" is one of the episodes that everyone's been waiting for. Those of us who have read the books or at least know where the story goes have been waiting to see Oberyn Martell clash with Gregor Clegane. The fight itself was fantastic, with excellent choreography, a great performance by Pedro Pascal, and an ending that will feel like a punch to the gut. 

I just wish the rest of the episode was as good. 

Don't get me wrong, "The Mountain and the Viper" is by no means a bad episode. Each segment by itself was decent, especially the interrogation of Baelish with Sansa revealing the "truth" about him. However, I feel like they didn't connect very well as a whole and created a very scattered episode. Its not the worse episode, but it could have been much better. 

"The Mountain and the Viper" is an episode that suffers from a scattered narrative that doesn't lead to a satisfying whole. Thankfully, the ending segment is fantastic and makes it worth it.

Dungeon Crawl Classics: First Impressions

That monster has a face that even a mother
couldn't love.
One game that I've been wanting to play for a very long time is Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics. For those of you who might not be familiar with this gem of a game, I'll do my best to elaborate. Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC for short) is a "neo-clone" that's heavily influenced by the sword & sorcery works of the past.

Last weekend, while visiting our local FLGS, a friend and I were given the opportunity try out DCC by playing "Sailors on the Starless Sea". Seeing as both of us have been dying play this game, we eagerly jumped at the chance and quickly generated our starting characters.

Since this something I've been looking forward for a very long time, I thought I'd give my initial impressions of the system and answer the obvious question: Did the game live up to my expectations, or did it unfortunately fall short?

The session began with the five or so players creating our characters. Unlike most games where you create one 1st level character, Dungeon Crawl Classics has you create four 0 level characters as part of a "funnel". These characters are generally pretty weak and most of them will be killed (gruesomely too). However, if one or two of them managed to survive the peril, they will gain enough experience (10 XP) to take their 1st class level. I ended up with Bunda the Elven Forester, Emumen the Farmer, Guhic the Grave Digger, and Tulgoth the Elven Navigator. Blame the random charts at the back of the book for those names.

At its most basic level, DCC utilizes a heavily modified version of the d20 system. Like Pathfinder, players roll a d20 and add a modifier or two when attempting certain tasks. If the final result is equal to or greater than a target number assigned to the task by the GM, the character succeeds. Those who are familiar with the simple mechanic should understand how to play DCC.

However, Dungeon Crawl Classics isn't just a simplified d20 system with a new coat of paint. The designers have added a few new rules that help create a unique experience while playing. For example, the game utilizes randomized critical hit/critical fumble charts and a magic system that requires a die roll instead of using the traditional Vancian system. While I'm somewhat neutral on the critical charts, I adore the magic system and love how dangerous and flavorful it is.

The adventure wasn't half that bad either. Although it started on a cliche note (a group of characters approaching a ruined keep to fight the forces of evil), it quickly departed that when we encountered parasitic plant monsters, wells that acted as gates to different dimensions, a subterranean sea that happened to be the home of a tentacled monster, and savage cult of beastmen performing profane rituals to their vile god. Over two thirds of our party met their untimely demise throughout the adventure and the few that managed to survive barely made it out alive. The entire group had a blast.

Although I don't seem myself abandoning Pathfinder for DCC in the near future, I'd play it again in a heartbeat and wouldn't mind running a mini-campaign or two of it in the near future. I love the Sword & Sorcery feel that it fosters and I already have an idea for a post-apocalyptic fantasy game that DCC might be the perfect fit for. I applaud Goodman Games for making such an enjoyable game. 

Our group creating characters. I'm the one with the awesome pokeball dice bag.
If you're interested in giving Dungeon Crawl Classics a look, you can find information for it HERE.