Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Weapon - The Chain Sword

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

This is one of those times.

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

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

The chainsword is a mechanical monstrosity that possesses the general shape of a sword with a serrated blade resting at the center. The element that makes the chainsword unique is that it possesses an engine inside the hilt that can be turned on as a move action, causing the blade to spin at a rapid rate for 1 minute. While the blade is spinning, the chainsword deals an extra die of damage. The engine requires 1 gallon of oil to work. A full engine allows the chainsword to be turned on twice.

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

D&D 5th Edition: Playtest Impressions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Lovecraftian Bestiary

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

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Running Pathfinder for Smaller Groups

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 21, 2014

5E Player's Handbook Art Preview

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

Having Fun With Shadowrun: Creating a Character

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Playing With Faith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Importance of Inclusiveness

Over a week ago, Wizards of the Coast released the D&D Basic Rules, a free PDF presenting the most basic version of the new edition's rules. Like with every edition of the game, there are some who love it, some who hate it, and a few who either fall somewhere in between those two extremes or feel completely indifferent. Although I've already given my own impressions of the new edition (HERE), there's a specific piece of text found within the PDF that seems to be getting a lot of attention that I'd like to talk about for just a moment.

In Chapter 4, which talks about developing your character's background and personality, the following paragraph from the section entitled "Sex" can be found:
"You don't need to be confined to binary notions of sex and gender. The elf god Corellon Larethian is often seen as androgynous or hermaphroditic, for example, and some elves in the multiverse are made in Corellon's image. You could also play a female character who presents herself as a man, a man who feels trapped in a female body, or a bearded female dwarf who hates being mistaken for a male. Likewise, your character's sexual orientation is for you to decide.
While the above paragraph isn't perfect and a few people have pointed out how the language targeting transgender characters in particular is a little problematic because it perpetrates the use of a "single story", many gamers (like myself) have praised the paragraph because it represents a more inclusive attitude and a step in the right direction for Wizards of the Coast.

Of course, there are some individuals who feel like this really isn't that big of a deal, wondering why its so important to point this stuff out within a game that's about adventurers exploring ancient ruins to retrieve lost treasures. Because this is such an important topic to me, I thought I'd try to explain why I believe the inclusive attitude present within the above paragraph is important.

Its no secret that people like to see themselves represented within their media. This representation gives us a stronger sense of self, an affirmation of identity, and gives us something we can relate to within the narrative. For those of us who belong to groups or communities that are often ignored within mainstream media, representation is of special importance. It helps show that we are no different from everyone else, that we are not abnormal or something to be feared, that we are just like you and deserve the same amount of representation as you.

Making roleplaying games more inclusive is good because it helps people who tend to be excluded or ignored feel welcome. They can look at this simple paragraph and see their identity matters, just like the everyone else's. Paizo figured this out and has been pretty inclusive since the first volume of the Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path (which included a paladin NPC who happened to be gay and in a loving relationship). People have cried foul in the past, claiming this level of inclusiveness doesn't fit a setting based on the Middle Ages. However, if we were to follow that logic, we'd have to severely limit the roles for women within the setting as well due to their treatment during the time. Also, its a game about having a fun time adventuring in a fantastical world. I think its okay to have some anachronisms.

Although its just a simple, little paragraph within a single chapter, the paragraph is a good sign that shows WoTC is at least trying to be inclusive and make the game a much more welcoming product. I think that's a pretty good thing.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Cantina Effect

Art by Andy MacDonald
For the most part, I've always been a GM who likes to see his players happy. Generally, when one of my players approaches me with a character concept, I usually like to approve it and do whatever I can to help them bring it to life. However, occasionally a player will approach me with the desire to play a character belonging to a race outside the normal choices. Part of me is completely fine with that, but another part of me fears that allowing this weird race might open a can of worms that has everyone else asking to play a weird race, resulting in the Cantina Effect taking place.

I guess I should define my terms. I'll just assume most of you have seen Star Wars. Remember how the Mos Eisley Cantina was populated by so many different alien species? Well, the "Cantina Effect" refers to a fantasy or science fiction setting that has so many sentient races that a scene like the one at the Cantina would probably be extremely common throughout the world or galaxy.

Since I'm someone who enjoys having a lot of options available to me, I see the appeal of having a myriad of different races available to the players. Also, it gives the players a chance to shake up the status quo by playing something other than a dwarf or an elf. However, a part of me worries that allowing the more weird races to become much more common within the setting might actually devalue the race and rob them of some of its uniqueness.

When presented with this situation, I'd probably approach it with moderation. I'd allow the races to exist within the setting, but either make them rarities or drop them into regions that are distant to the campaign's current location. I'd also give the player a head's up that playing the race might earn them some weird reactions from locals and they might be treated a little differently (the player running a grippli swashbuckler in my Secrets of Magnimar campaign is experiencing this right now).

However, I think one could also use the Cantina Effect to help define the unusual nature of a certain location within the campaign setting. Planescape's city of Sigil is a perfect example of this. Sigil is an strange metropolis found on the otherworldly dimension known as the Outlands and is known by many throughout the multiverse as the "City of Doors" due to numerous portals found throughout it that lead to other worlds. Because of this, numerous strange and peculiar creatures call Sigil home.

A good GM can use this to his or her advantage, especially if their player's characters are new arrivals to the city. They can embrace the weird elements inherent to a city that exists as a hub for a myriad of different dimensions, fostering a sense of wonder and amazement within their players, leaving a lasting impression on them. This is what that scene in the Mos Eisley Cantina did for Star Wars, and you can do the same by properly utilizing the Cantina Effect.

How would you handle this situation? Would you give into the Cantina Effect, do everything to resist it, or fall somewhere in between like myself?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Initial Impressions of D&D 5th Edition

Click HERE to check out the Basic Rules.
Last Friday, Wizards of the Coast finally released the D&D Basic Rules, a free 110-page PDF containing the most basic iteration of the rules for the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Like most people, I wasted no time and downloaded it within seconds of learning about it. For the past week or so, I've been reading through the rules, gathering my thoughts about them.

Here are some of my initial impressions towards the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Since these are only based on my reading of the rules and not actual game play, these might change after I get some time at the table with them. 

First things first, I like how this iteration places a greater importance on the character's ability scores and the implementation of the "proficiency bonus". Whenever you want to do something with a significant chance of failure, whether its attack an opponent or making a saving throw, you simply make the appropriate ability check. When performing an ability check that your character possesses a "proficiency" with, you add a modifier determined by your character's level. Instead of having a myriad of different bonuses, you mostly have one single bonus that is used for a lot of different things. I personally think that was an excellent design decision and should make things a lot easier at the table. 

The decision to include the "advantage/disadvantage" mechanic was a brilliant one as well. Unlike other editions of the game where advantages and disadvantages give you different sized modifiers, advantage/disadvantage in 5th Edition has the player roll two d20s. Depending on whether they have advantage or disadvantage, the player uses the higher or lower result from the two dice. I feel like this rule will make throwing advantages and disadvantages at players much easier from the DM's standpoint and hopefully won't slow down the game because it doesn't add any additional math to the mix like the previous iterations. 

While this might be a minor thing to most people, but I love that personality and background has its own specific chapter that is actually the same length as the chapter on combat (I actually counted the pages to be sure). The chapter talks about personality traits, bonds, ideals, and flaws you're character might have and the backgrounds they might possess. Its a minor thing, but for someone who really cares about the roleplaying side of things, this is a nice addition that I really appreciate. 

However, there are a couple of things about the PDF that I'm not too fond of. For example, I really don't like the numerous references to the Forgotten Realms within the text (especially within the Human section of the race chapter). While I have nothing against the setting itself, I would prefer these rules be as setting neutral as possible and only reference other settings sparingly. Also, I wish there were a few more options presented withing the document. This is most likely change when the Player's Handbook has been released and WoTC updates the PDF to include a few more choices found within that book, it makes me a little less likely to run the game until that happens. 

With that being said, I'm definitely liking what I'm seeing so far. While I probably won't be abandoning Pathfinder for 5th Edition anytime soon, I could definitely see this becoming my back-up fantasy system for those occasions when I don't feel like using something as rules-intensive as Pathfinder. 

WoTC has definitely got my approval for the time being. Let's hope they can keep this up.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Revised Fighter

Art by  Wayne Reynolds
The Fighter, like the Rogue and the Monk, seems to receive a decent amount of hate among the Pathfinder community. While the class' access to numerous bonus feats allows players to customize it to their liking, I would be lying if I said it couldn't benefit from some additional rules love.

Recently, I've been toying around with a few house rules that I hope might make the Fighter a little better at its specific niche in the game (i.e. beating the shit out of the bad guys). Some of these changes are rather minor, but others are more significant.

The first minor change was to the fighter's class skills and the number of skill ranks it receives each level. I've always felt the class' skill list was a little lacking, so I revised it to look something like this: Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Handle Animal (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (Dungeoneering) (Int), Knowledge (Engineering) (Int), Perception (Wis), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), Survival (Wis), and Swim (Str). I've also given the class 4 + Intelligence modifier skill ranks instead of the original amount. I decided to do this so the Fighter could have a few more skill ranks to play around with.

The second minor change was replacing the bonus feat they receive at 1st level with the Combat Expertise feat. Although this might be a strange change, but I'll try to explain my reasoning for it. One of my goals for these house rules was to open new options for the class without forcing it to be dependent on high ability scores. Since almost all of the Improved [Insert Combat Maneuver Here] feats require Combat Expertise (which requires the fighter to have a 13 Intelligence), I feel like giving the class the feat for free at 1st level makes taking those feats at later levels much easier.

Now, I guess I should talk about the bigger changes I made to the Fighter. These two changes (which are honestly more additions than actual changes, but that's digressing from the point) were made with the hope of strengthening the class on two different fronts. The first addition to the class was giving it a good Will Save progression. Fighters tend to really hurt in the Will save department and I like the idea of the class being physically and mentally strong. This also helps the Bravery ability really shine.

The second addition was a new ability they receive at 1st level called "Fighter's Challenge". As a move action, the fighter can challenge a single opponent he can see. The Fighter receives a +1 bonus on Intimidate, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival checks against that opponent, a +1 bonus on weapon attack and damage rolls against it, and +1 bonus to combat maneuver checks and his Combat Maneuver Defense against that opponent. These bonuses remain in effect until either the opponent is dead or the fighter challenges a new opponent.

At 5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th levels, the fighter's bonuses against a challenged opponent increase by +1. In addition, at each such interval, the fighter is able to maintain these bonuses against an additional challenged opponent at the same time. The fighter may lose this connection to a challenged opponent as a free action (allowing him to challenge another opponent in its place). At 10th level, the fighter can challenge an opponent as a move or swift action.

I've always liked the idea of the Fighter being able to "challenge" opponents to gain some kind of benefits. This ability is loosely based on the Slayer's Favored Target ability, re-flavored to better fit the Fighter's needs. I also think it will give the Fighter some more options to take within combat and will make things more interesting.

Currently, these changes are untested and I still need to see how they work at the table. I hope these changes and additions will make the Fighter a little better and more interesting to play. What do you guys and gals think?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fantasy Fiction Tuesday: My Favorite Authors

I'm going to try something a little bit different today. Usually, I look at a specific piece of fantasy fiction with this series, giving my own two cents about it. Instead, I thought it would be fun to talk about a handful of authors that I particularly enjoy for one reason or another. I'll also be adding a few of their works that I believe are decent entry points to their bodies of work. Finally, I've decided to list them in alphabetical order with no significance beyond that.

I was introduced to Neil Gaiman through his work on The Sandman, a British-American comic published by DC Comics under their "Vertigo" imprint from 1989 to 1996. That series is easily one of the best pieces of sequential art that I have ever read and I've been a fan of Gaiman's ever since. Gaiman has this ability to balance the fantastical with the horrific and humorous, sprinkling in allusions to the works of Shakespeare, fairy tales, and mythology. Honestly, I don't believe I've disliked a single thing he's ever done. I've liked some more than others, but I can't remember hating anything he's made yet. Those looking to check out Gaiman's works should probably pick up the first trade of The Sandman, called "Preludes & Nocturnes." Its where I started. Both American Gods (an urban fantasy story about the conflict between the deities of mythology and the new "American" deities) and Stardust (a modern fairy tale about a young boy who promises to retrieve a fallen star to impress the girl he loves) are great places to start as well. 

Robert E. Howard is probably one of the most influential fantasy authors who ever lived. He created what many perceive as the quintessential Sword & Sorcery protagonist, Conan the Barbarian, and inspired similar creations over the years. Whenever I think about great adventure stories, I tend to think about Howard's works and I always want my adventures for D&D and Pathfinder to feel like a good Howard story. While most people seem to only know him for his Sword & Sorcery works, he could also write a mean Horror and Western story. While its not consider one of his best stories, I feel like "A Witch Shall Be Born" is a decent introduction to Howard's works, with "Red Nails" and "Beyond the Black River" being good follow-ups. "The Black Stone" and "Pigeons from Hell" are great if you're looking to check out his horror works, and "Red Shadows" or "Wings in the Night" do a decent job introducing Howard's other character Solomon Kane (the character I actually prefer over Conan). 

I know its strange for me to talk about H.P. Lovecraft in a segment called "Fantasy Fiction Tuesday", but here me out. Like Howard, Lovecraft was an incredibly influential writer within the horror genre, creating the Cthulhu Mythos and inspiring numerous writers over the years. However, you'd have to be blind to not see his fingerprints on certain corners of the fantasy genre. The numerous alien creatures that have found their way into fantasy game bestiaries over the years should be a testament to that. While his writing ability is somewhat antiquated by today's standards, the cosmic dread he infused into his stories is still effective to this day. For Lovecraft neophytes, I suggest starting with either "The Outsider", "The Call of Cthulhu", or "Dagon". 

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that I'm a late comer to the Moorcock bandwagon. I read The Weird of the White Wolf last year and I've grown to love Moorcock's writing and his anti-hero Elric of Melniborne. I love how his Elric stories offer interesting advenures while subverting some of the stereotypes associated with the Sword & Sorcery genre. I also enjoy how he finally helped me understand the cosmic interpretation of alignments and how his stories are connected across an entire multiverse. I love how interesting he makes both the big and small details. Since it collects the first Elric stories, I think The Weird of the White Wolf is a great introduction to him. If you can track down the Corum stories as well, those are a great read as well. 

While these are probably the ones I feel the most influenced by, they aren't the only authors I enjoy. I'd also list Clark Ashton Smith, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jim Butcher, Stephen King, and a few others. What about you? What authors do you count among your favorites? 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Big News From PaizoCon 2014

What happens at PaizoCon, stays on the internet...forever...
Another PaizoCon (Paizo's annual fan convention) has come and gone. Since I'm a broke bastard that lives nearly 1,898 miles away from Washington, I couldn't attend the con. Thankfully, people who actually made it to the con have been posting updates about the big announcements throughout the weekend. Here are a few that I felt were of particular note: 
  • In Spring 2015, Paizo will be releasing a supplement entitled Pathfinder Unchained. It's being described as the book where the designers have been "unchained" and can do whatever they want, giving a big middle finger to things like backwards compatibility. For example, the book will include a more powerful Rogue, a Summoner that isn't broken beyond belief, and a Monk possessing a full attack bonus. 
  • The Pathfinder RPG Strategy Guide, a small supplement for new players to show them how to play the game, has had its release date pushed to later in the year so they can make sure the book is what they want it to be. It'll also have a layout closer to the two manuals packaged with the Beginner Box
  • We've received more information about the upcoming Monster Codex. The book will present new rules for unique variations of standard creatures, including new archetypes for them and new options. Like the NPC Codex, each creature in the Monster Codex will receives numerous stat blocks for GMs to utilize. 
  • The next expansion for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, Skull & Shackles, will be released next month. The expansion will be introducing a few new card types: support cards (like ships) and guns. A lot of the mechanics in the set will be focused on keeping your equipment and other stuff in good shape. The expansion after Skull & Shackles will be based on Wrath of the Righteous and introduce mythic cards. They also revealed some information about the organized play events for the card game, with the first season using the Skull & Shackles expansion.
  • They revealed what the adventure path after Iron Gods will be: Giant Slayer. The adventure path will take place in the Hold of Belkzen and will, as the name implies, focus on killing giants. Looks like they're returning to a more traditional concept after something as gonzo as Iron Gods.
  • A Munchkin Deluxe version of Pathfinder Munchkin is apparently on its way. 
  • Syrinscape will be putting together an app you can download for your tablet or smartphone that will allow you to play some cool music and sounds during your game sessions. They will also be offering one month of service for free. 
  • More information about the Advanced Class Guide was revealed, like archetypes, spells, magical items, and the like. 
  • The last six issues of Dynamite's Pathfinder comic and the Goblins miniseries will be getting the hardcover treatment, with new stories by Paizo employees appearing in the Goblins one. 
  • They revealed more information about the Pathfinder mini-mates, announcing there will be 12 mini-mate promo figurines available only at GenCon. The full line releases in October. 
  • The next Pathfinder Battles miniature set, titled "Lost Coast", will be released in November. 
  • Finally, Ryan Dancey announced that Pathfinder Online is still on target for the third quarter. 
While almost all of the announcements peak at least a little interest in me, I think I'm most excited for Pathfinder Unchained. Although some fear that its another inevitable sign that Paizo's gearing up for a 2nd Edition of Pathfinder (which many people seem to view as an omen of the coming apocalypse), I feel like it'll be more like Paizo's version of 3.5's Unearthed Arcana. I'm totally fine with that and I want the book in my hands right now. I'm also pretty excited for the Monster Codex because it will make session prep a lot easier, which is always a plus in my book. 

What about you guys and gals? Do any of the announcements made at PaizoCon have you excited? If so, which ones? 

Friday, July 4, 2014

D&D Basic Rules Are Here!

The Basic Rules Logo
It's finally here! The basic rules for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons was released as a free PDF yesterday. The current document is 110 pages long and contains the rules for character creation, playing the game, and magic.

If you'd like to give the rules a look, click HERE. For those of you who've read the PDF, what do you think? While I haven't read the document in its entirety, I like some of the stuff I'm seeing so far.