What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Immortal Figures: Gods of Olympus

Monday, December 15, 2014

Jenga!

Jenga is a great little game and something of a metaphor for my gaming, painting, and publishing ventures.  Oh... and this blog too come to think of it.  I diligently get started and build it up and, invariably, stuff happens and everything collapses. The thing is, Jenga is fun and like everything else I mentioned here, I keep doing it because I want to. It's easy to get into the habit of doing things but somehow it's just as easy to get caught up with something else and which causes good habits and practices to slip.

My last post was over six weeks ago and I ended off with a note that I still had a bunch of stuff to get done before the end of the year.  Somehow, I still have a lot of THOSE things left to do but things have actually been moving forward once more.  So, what have I been up to in my hours outside of my regular 9-5 gig?

I'm excited to say that I've been helping John Adams at Brave Halfling Publishing with what some people view as a disastrous Kickstarter.  This is a real shame.  He's no thief or conman as some of his detractors would have you believe.  He's a good guy who had all the right intentions but, as the saying goes, the roads are paved with them.  I count John as a good friend but many problems turned a very positive campaign experience into a sour one for many backers.  He's made mistakes and the biggest ones were underestimating the work load required to get this done while mainly doing it alone.  As a backer myself, I haven't seen much beyond the first set of releases (I write about the HERE) but, once I had them in hand, I was pleased at the final quality of the product.  As for the help I have been providing, it's mainly editing and layout work.  A few weeks ago, I was provided with an Appendix N scenario by Michael Curtis which I understand is destined to get into the hands of backers which has been turned in at the start of the month.  I am working on another longer Appendix N scenario but can't really go into the details for that.  It is my understanding that it's the last one that needs editing and layout work done though and I hope with this one out of the way, whatever is missing or outstanding all gets consolidated and settled once and for all.  The last time we spoke, he also mentioned something about the boxes and I think this will also please backers once everything that needs to go out, goes out.

That said, I've really enjoyed doing the little bit of layout and editing work for the DCC material that Brave Halfling has put together.  If anything can be learned from this experience, doing all this stuff alone was a mistake.  It's a mistake that John has made a few times and one I've made myself in trying to get stuff out.  This is why we have committed to help each other out a lot more in the immediate future.

As far as my painting projects are concerned -- I have been working on and off on a pain-in-the-ass commission to do a custom paint job on Primus Cybertron.

I hate it and frankly it kills a lot of my motivation to paint.  I'm doing it as a favor and basically, the money I'm getting for the project pays for materials and nothing more.  I have already spent countless of hours in previous months working on this cursed thing.  I needed a huge break and so, I'm happily painting again.  I've started a project which will end up being a X-Mas present to my niece.  It's a Unicorn and Ranger diorama that I'm making on a 40mm base.  I'll be doing a painting guide for it in the coming days (only 10 days till Christmas after all!).


And finally, I've gotten my latest / newest Castles & Crusades printings of the Players Handbook and Monsters & Treasure book.  They do look quite nice in their leatherette covers and look even better when you start flipping through the pages. There will be another attempt to get a game going though, it might also be Call of Cthulhu that might be explored in 2015.  The idea was presented for me to run another small fantasy campaign but before I could get too excited, I learned that the players in question wanted to give 5th Edition a try.  Not the the kind of thing I was hoping for with the new C&C books in hand.


All fine games though -- each with respective strengths and weaknesses.  Well, that's it for tonight.  I will leave by mentioning two kickstarters that deserve a mention with a proven track record for delivery,

The first is another Kickstarter by Troll Lord Games for their campaign setting.  It has already smashed the basic funding goals and with three weeks to go, plenty of time to get more goals met including a the color ones.  It's a solid setting that I grew to love since I first came across it.  The main book (Codex), is also stat-less and a great consideration if C&C just isn't your cup of tea.

You can check it out HERE.

The other Kickstarter of note is the second issue of Heroic by Zenith Comics.  The first one was published and has made it into the hands of backers.  It's a great superhero story and even pledging a $1 will get you a digital copy of issue 1.  If you like it, you can upgrade your pledge to get issue 2 ... or even a physical copy of the first issue to accompany the second issue.  If signed copies are your thing, that too can be done.  It's a great comic and the initial story is to be spread out in a six-issue story arc.  Having funded and successfully delivered issue 1, the process for the second issue is well-in-hand and much less of a risk for those of us who got burned on other Kickstarter projects.

If this looks interesting, you best hurry, as there are 6 days left and $2400 is still needed for this to fund.  You can check it out HERE.

M

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

October Over Already?

In one way, there isn't much to post about but depending on how you look at it, there is plenty to post about.  I've suspended my gaming campaign for a few months now and I've seldom have had a time to do some more painting.  My campaign was put on hold since the beginning of April and things have been steadily busy since.  I went to GenCon and the Montreal ComicCon and both of those events where a bit less than a month apart!  Thankfully, I have still been gaming the past few months and I'm currently playing in a D&D 5th Edition game which has been keeping that gaming itch at bay along with the occasional X-Wing Miniatures game.


October however was to be a return to the head of my gaming table as I agreed to run a session for a few friends.  One was a good friend in a much older campaign I ran when I lived in Ottawa; he came in for the weekend to spend time with us and play in a new campaign.  Another was someone who I introduced to the game and plays a character in the previous campaign I ran.  I had never played with the other two players and one of them had never played in a pen and paper RPG before either.  Normally, this wouldn't have been an issue and things started off great.  I was in fine form and all players were engaged and excited.  Since we had a couple of new players, we took the time to create characters and I put them through a tough encounter for the benefit of learning some of the mechanics of the game and combat (playing Castles & Crusades).

While the game got off to a great start, disaster soon followed.

I won't go into the exact details of what happened save to say that substances such as alcohol were involved.  Don't get me wrong -- I enjoy a nice drink now and then, and will frequently enjoy one when I am running a game at my home.  I allow my regular players the same courtesy.  Unfortunately, this wasn't my regular group and a line, or rather a limit (in terms of consumption), was crossed.  When that happened, the game and my attempts to tell a tale fell flat.

Overall, we still had a good time but it wasn't what any of us had planned.  Fortunately, none of us were completely strangers so the evening wasn't exactly a waste.  I will chalk this one up to another 'lesson learned' and see if we can attempt again the game that was originally planned.

My weekend wasn't all 'gloom' though and perhaps there was another reason why there was so much celebrating this past weekend -- my official engagement to my significant other.  I proposed the evening prior to the game and she accepted.

This means that I will continue being busy for the next few months as things are shaping up for a July wedding -- right before GenCon.  Both of us are looking to go back this year and we look forward to it.

That said, I do need to get back to some overdue projects and my writing.  I still have a bunch of things to finish up before the year is through and with just a couple of months left, there is a LOT that needs to be done.



M

Monday, October 6, 2014

When Gremlins Attack: 5th Edition's Monster Manual

Well, I think the Gremlins have had enough of being excluded in any official D&D product.  The last time I saw these critters in prints was back in 2nd Edition AD&D.  Like many creatures initially, they were nowhere to be found in 3rd Edition and I doubt they were in 4th Edition.  Necromancer Games gave us the Gremlin in their Tome of Horrors books (don't ask me which one) which may have appeased these mischievous spirits but NO MORE.  I think not being put in the 5th Edition Monster Manual when the Flumph had was the last straw.

Today I received my second Monster Manual from Amazon.  You see, there was a glue problems (as in excessive) that resulting in a few pages being stuck together.  Not a huge deal I suppose but two pages in particular refused to be separated and, upon examination, a good chuck of the corner of one the two pages was missing (torn off).  Being somewhat 'book proud', I decided to try out the return and exchange feature which Amazon provides...



Wait... what?  Yes.  I bought these off Amazon.  I really do like supporting my local game store and often do.  I can't begin to calculate how much I have spent at the store over the years but at $58.00 a book (plus taxes), that 50% off offer from Amazon was hard to pass up.  While I like 5th Edition, it is unlikely that I will ever run a game.  I will play and I am happy that WOTC went the direction they did with the rules but Castles & Crusades meets my needs quite nicely.  At almost $60 per book for something I may consult or use only once in a while, I don't feel guilty about getting the best bang for my buck.

At any rate, the first book came promptly and I received it last Wednesday.  I put in the order for an exchange that same night and it shipped at the end of the week.  I arrive home to find the package and what could best be described as a printing disaster.

Frankly I don't know how this got through.  I figure with the quantities they were mass printing that errors can happen.  However, product control seems to be UTTER CRAP.  I can understand the little hiccup with the first copy I received.  The second was completely unwarranted in my opinion.  I tried to capture the glory of the disaster.  Forgive the bad lighting:




Now, the thing is the gutter near the top of all these pages at the start of the book is uncut and the pages are not separated.  The pages were misaligned when it was assembled.  The bottom of these pages are cut well beyond where they were supposed to be cut -- almost cutting the bottom page numbers so were talking at least a good 1/4 inch off.  Pages in the back of the book suffer similar problems.  Not visible in these pictures are the terrible paste job on the black sheet to the cover -- off center and crooked.

So... I go back to Amazon and because this is the second time this happens to me with this specific book, they will not automatically exchange this.  They present to me two options:

Either I accept a full Refund and I keep it and get refunded 30% back of the purchase price.

I'm not happy about this.  I suppose I could have gotten the refund and then turn around and try ordering it again (because $29 plus taxes is way better than $58 plus taxes).  Fortunately, I hadn't had a chance to return my first defective copy.  It's not a perfect solution but, what the hell.  I am returning the second copy and holding the first.  A defective copy is a defective copy and in both cases, it was a manufacturing issue.  With a hobby knife, I separate the two pages and survey the actual 'unseen' damage.  The good news is that no text or art was actually harmed.  Unfortunately, there is still some stickiness to the glue that didn't already screw up the page.  And there is that tear.  I take a good look and decide where I am going to make my 'cuts'.  I take some scissors and completely cut out the corner from two pages -- a clean 45 degree angel removing the torn part and excess glue.  It looks kind of weird but in some ways, since the art and text were not touched, I'll count myself lucky.  Even more fortunate?  They refunded me 50% and not 30%.

$14.70 for the new Monster Manual with a couple of page corners cut out?  I guess I can live with that...

M

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Weekend R&R: Appendix N Adventure Toolkits


Well, this has been a long time coming.  I got some of the Appendix N Toolkit material at GenCon when I had the pleasure to meet up with my friend John.  Full disclosure here: I have worked with John Adams (Brave Halfling Publishing) and Arcana Creations came about a lot with his encouragement and support.  Over the years, I have supported John when I could and when called upon.  I am also a backer of the Appendix N Adventure Toolkit Kickstarter but have NOT received any preferential treatment compared to other backers.  Have backed many a project, I can sympathize with my fellow backers but unlock other Kickstarters, John has not completely fallen off the face of the earth.  On that note, I'm glad that Dwimmermount has gotten sorted out (I have received my copy) but I am very disappointed and the utter failure of both Myth and Magic kickstarters which I enthusiastically backed.

I know that some people have been getting their stuff in the preceding months before I got something and it was only the fact that I met up with John that he was kind enough to bring a couple of samples to me as well as some other goodies that have been previously published (in some cases) ages ago.  What I got certainly does not reflect the totality of what is due to me (as a backer) or other backers in the $20 and above category.  However, what I did get will were samples from the retail version of the Appendix N Adventures Toolkit #1 that made it in some stores about a year ago and the Kickstarter version which was shipped (still shipping?) to backers.  It struck me that, comparing the two version and allowing for a glance at the quality would be a neat thing to do.

The Appendix N Adventure Toolkit series was a brilliantly conceived idea and concept.  Short adventures, card stock handouts, and detachable map cover in a digest format.  I believe that adventure modules, especially today, should be convenient, inexpensive, and practically disposable.  Of course, not everyone shares my opinion but I figure that once you run a published adventure for your regular group, the odds that you do so again are likely to be slim.  The digest format is a hit for many though certainly not the norm.  This in part explains the visible size different between the two products as some distributors and stores dislike digest sized products and prefer a larger / fuller sized product which will often carry a larger sticker price.  Pricing is the second hurdle for these kind of products.  A store will typically make for itself only 40% of a cover price which means a $10 sale will likely yield a $4 for the store.  When Brave Halfling Publishing released number one of the retail edition, it had the appearance of a full-sized product that would be inline with many other similar gaming products down your local game store.


When you open up the retail version, you have a two sets of interiors which are stapled together which fold up to be digest sized modules.  You also have two card stock covers with maps on the inside (in the photo above, the one for the Ruins of Ramat is open to reveal the map) as well as card stock hand outs (illustrations).  At first glance, the 'cover page' and 'back page' are simply part of the packaging though the cover is printed on the type of paper stock that conceivably turn it into a small poster and the interior side of the back has 'add-on' material to give the buyer a better bang for his buck.  At a MSRP of $12.95, you basically are paying $6.50 per adventure for a nice quality product and will net a retail store just enough to consider carrying it given the success of Goodman Game's DCC RPG.


In comparison, the first Kickstarter release of the Appendix N Adventure Toolkit line is limited to just the Ruins of Ramat adventure.  The Vile Worm would have been the second release from the Kickstarter and I have not seen this yet.  However it is safe to say that the contents are almost identical to the one included in the retail bundle.  By comparing the the two versions of the Ramat adventure, you quickly find a couple of differences.  First and foremost, there are two different versions of the Ruins of Ramat in the Kickstarter version compared to the single version included in retail.  One is a level zero adventure and the other is a level three adventure.  The hand outs in the Kickstarter version seem to have a couple more illustrations for Ramat than the retail version (it has two for Ramat and two for the Vile Worm) does but there illustrations are a bit smaller to fit two per digest sized page as opposed to a full sized (letter sized) page.  The Kickstarter version also has an add-on on the back cover page which is different than the one included in retail.  Oddly though, I expected to see two add-ons and not just one for this first release.  I don't know if it was an oversight but given that it was also released as a PDF and made available to backers, it's not something I would lose sleep over.  Like the retail version, the quality is top-notch from Brave Halfling Publishing, a great little hobby publisher.

What about the adventures themselves?  Ironically, I very familiar with both adventures.  The Vile Worm was used and converted to Swords & Wizardry by Arcana Creations and is available HERE.  The Ruins of Ramat has a more colorful history and has had changes done over the years by Brave Halfling Publishing depending on the system it was converted for.  Arcana Creations has done a Castles & Crusades version (available HERE) as well as a Swords & Wizardy version of the adventure (over HERE).  This version of Ramat and my versions of Ramat do differ fundamentally -- mine is spread out over two levels as opposed to a single version.

The adventures are both, short and meant for single-session play.  These are easily inserted into an existing campaign or a great launch point for a new one.  They are also solid adventures to do some game demos, if you are into that sort of thing, at your local game store.  These are very 'standard meat and potatoes' style of fantasy dungeoneering.

As Brave Halfling Publishing continues to struggle in meeting its obligations to its backers, it is one Kickstarter campaign that is still trying to make good on its commitments and continues to be open in terms of communications.  As a friend, I have an idea of some of the challenges that he has been met with over the past couple of years and I do wish him and BHP all the best as it continues to forge ahead.  I, like many of my fellow backers, would love to see he rest of the line in print glory and I think the line has tremendous potential despite all the setbacks.  Alas, this is one of the consequences of being one of the small guys in our hobby.  Did he underestimate certain things?  Absolutely.  Did he bite off more than he could chew?  Undoubtedly.  Does he regret the problems and is he trying to correct this?  Without a doubt.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Amazing Adventures Kickstarter Final Call!

Ok folks,

I haven't gone on and on about this Kickstarter -- I try to avoid that kind of thing.  However, for those that might be interested, Amazing Adventures is down to the last 24 hours. 

What is it?  It's a Pulp RPG which is basically done in the Castles & Crusades framework.  It runs fast and easy just like C&C and is completely compatible with it.  More importantly, it works REALLY well.

There are pledge levels that run as low as $25 if you are just looking at the core rulebook (hardcover).  At $45 you can get both the core rulebook and the monster book (both in hardcover) or at $50, the core rule book and and companion book which promises to be just as big.  The campaign is just over $6000 away (from the time of writing) to change the companion from a softback to a hardback.

However, it is the $99 level which promises to deliver the best bang for your buck.  All three books plus a set of Amazing Adventure Record sheets and stretch goals which include:

  • 2 Player's books which essentially condensed versions of the rulebook that include all the character creation / class stuff to play.
  • An extra copy of the Amazing Adventures core rule book in digest (perfect bound softcover) format.
  • An 'Book of Shadows' digest book which includes all the spells and psionic material from the core book.
  • We are presently less that $250 away from getting the Temple of the Red God 'trilogy' of modules.  Originally published as a single module, this includes the second and third modules in the story (note that this stretch goal reward is open to $45 and up).
Decent value... a great game... what more could you ask for?  But hurry, time is running out.

You can find the Kickstarter HERE.

M

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Achievement Unlocked: Attended Gen Con!


I got back from my first trip to Gen Con just over a month ago and between recovering from that and the Montreal Comic Con I attended a week and a half ago, I am both poor and impoverished.  You know what?  I wouldn't change a thing. My significant other and I are looking at doing it again next near and, with some of the lessons we both learned, aim to have an even better time next year.

There were a lot of highlights for me and there are MANY reasons why some people go back year after year.  Naturally, the games were fun and the workshops I did were pretty cool.  One of my 'regrets' was booking to much of my time to doing various events and workshops.  Some of these things went into the early evening which, frankly deprived me of some great off-grid gaming.  Lesson One learned -- keep my evenings free.  I also went top heavy on some of the workshops in part because some of the events I wanted to do ended up filling up very quickly when tickets for events opened up.  With over 12,000 events before registration started, I was not fully prepared for all my selections beforehand.   Sure, it sounds obvious, but the problem really stemmed from trying to organizing certain events with the people we were traveling to Gen Con with.  So, Lesson Two learned -- 'reserve stuff' in advance and focus on KEY events only.  Those you don't get in on, well tough ... having open spaces in your schedule is not a problem as you can always get 'generic tickets' to do other things even up to and during the convention itself.


Frankly, the biggest thing for me was meeting up with some people that I've had corresponded online and perhaps spoken on the phone a few times over the past few years.  Meeting up with some friends is, for me, the best thing about this thing and I have to say that the venue and city was fantastic.  Very friendly and open to having thousands of people descend upon their fair city.



So, what exactly did I do down there?  There were certainly a lot of things but some highlights (in no particular order) were:

Playing through True Dungeon.  I had fun with that and my friends and I did the 'puzzle oriented' one.  I think the combat oriented one might have been more fun but it was cool nonetheless.  It wasn't a perfect experience -- you don't always get to pick who your adventuring companions so unless you have enough friends who have bought tickets to go through the event, you will be meeting some new folks.  My only criticism would be the cost of the event itself.  It seems a bit steep but you do get to keep a bunch of tokens which could be used at your gaming table.



Workshops.  As mentioned, I did a few.  I did a Scalemail bag (mostly finished), a chainmail workshop (not even close to being done), some leather bracers, and I participated in a foam weapon workshop to fill up some time.  I liked most of the workshops but the I figured the foam weapon would be something more than just a 'foam club'.  The Scalemail just needs to be finished up but the other bit of chainmail I was doing will be for a larger project.  The wife also did the leather item and foam weapon workshop with me and did some chainmail in a different workshop for a stuffed monkey.  As it turns out, she REALLY likes doing chainmail and I may get her some more for her to do.  Or maybe I'll get here to finish up my chain.  ;)


The Meatgrinder.  In previous years, this was the Tower of Gygax and I had a BLAST.  I ended up playing three characters during the session and my first character ended up with the distinction of being the 'quickest kill'.  When I came in, the game had already started and I was given a Half-Orc barbarian-like Fighter.  Can't remember the level but it was probably between 2nd and 4th..  At any rate, I came in... move towards an offensive Kobold and yelled at it like a good barbarian should.  That caught it's attention and the attention of another 13 or so of his friends.  Then I realized all of them had bows.  Then I realized I had no armor on.  11 of 14 hit.  The character effectively lasted a single round.  One word: FANTASTIC!  My subsequent characters were thieves.  They did a lot better.  ;)


Speed Paint Contest.  I love painting but I recognize that I could be 'faster' at it.  I figured the best way to practice was to participate in one of these.  Technically speaking, I probably finished last since part of the base wasn't painted.  The figure itself wasn't finished but the base coating was pretty much done.  I guess it wasn't so bad after 45 minutes.  I only had one gripe about this competition though -- we were all supposed to be on an equal footing.  Same miniature... paints... and brushes.  I did one of the last speed paint competitions of the weekend and, not realizing that the brushes on the table were the ones we were going to use, I was dismayed at the terrible condition of the brushes at my spot at the table.  A previous painter did quite a bit of 'work' on the brushes making them very difficult to work with.  Honestly, I wasted time trying to 'fix' the bristles and bring them to a workable point for my work.  Stupid rookie mistake I guess but hardly fair IMO.  I'm not saying that better brushes would have won the day for me but that time was precious minutes lost.  The other thing I admit that I am less than accustomed to is mixing some of my paints.  I got accustomed to having so many colors and shades at my disposal with the Citadel paint line that I seldom mix much.  This also happened to be the first time I worked with Reaper paints too.  I did like their paints but the consistency did through me off at first.  Good experience though and it's an exercise I aim to repeat.



Hanging out with TLG.  An informal meeting of the Castles & Crusades Society and the Knights of the Crusade was held at a local pub.  It was a fantastic way to end Saturday and share a few drinks with the Trolls at Gen Con this year!  A necessary disclaimer: I got the following pic from the Jason Vey's page but I was the one behind the camera.  You can see some of my stuff in the background behind the crew on the ground.  That's my swag bag, and my red foam weapon lying there as I did my best to take a decent pic of Steve, Tyler, Todd, Tim, and Jason.  :)



Aside from all that, I had supper with my friend John from Brave Halfling Publishing who came up to Indianapolis just to get together with me and Marisol.  After years of emails and phone conversations, it was finally great to see John in person.

Besides gaming, it's about the people and friends you meet and get together with.  Our hobby is a social thing after all.

M

Reference Games

This is something of a follow-up from a recent post -- you can read it HERE.  It occurred to me that, while there will be material and different games that I will never be run, I do refer to these books on and off again.  I suppose this could compound the problem if trying to cut down in size for one's own gaming collection but, it's an important consideration nonetheless.

I've already mentioned that I play Castles & Crusades.  Actually, I've made that admission numerous times on my blog.  I have run classic AD&D modules in it and I have taken and used everything from rules, to monsters, and items and spells time and time again.  I also have used specific supplements for my C&C game -- most noteworthy being the historical reference supplements that TSR put out for AD&D Second Edition (the green splat books).  I have also sourced other material such as the Empire of the Petal Throne and various bits from Role Aids and Judges Guild stuff.  Just tons of it really.

I use a lot of this material and take other bits of it in consideration when I do something connected to Swords & Wizardry as well since, for me, it's sort of a no-frills baseline.  On the other hand, I don't do anything at all with the DCC RPG.  I have it because it's just cool.  ;)

Beyond all this stuff, and by extension, Amazing Adventures (currently running as a Kickstarter right now for the new printing and additional books over HERE), is also great resource material for my favorite 'go-to' FRPG.  Lots of great stuff and this game has the best rules for Firearms compatible for C&C (and other D&D type games) that I have seen.  That said, I doubt I'll have my part of adventurers encounter an Nazi soldier firing an MP-40 at them any time in the near future.  Or... maybe I will... I mean if some of those classic TSR adventures has laser guns, why the hell not!  ;)

Beyond that, I have other games with 'support material'.

I have a couple of generic d6 RPG books and I use Star Wars d6 by WEG as my support / reference for it.  For Call of Cthulhu, I have Chaosium's Basic Core Book as well as a previous edition of Stormbringer and Rolemaster.  I have Cortex Core and the original Serenity RPG and the Hackers Guide (for Cortex Plus) along with the Marvel Supers RPG they put out.  I have a bunch of Savage Worlds stuff which includes some Beasts and Barbarians stuff to go along with the Fantasy, Horror, and Supers companion.

Frankly far too much stuff the more I look and I think some of this support material could stand to be thinned in the near future too.  However, it does justify owning a heck of a lot more than a handful of books.  Or maybe I just love excusing my collecting habit.  ;)

M

Monday, September 22, 2014

Amazing Adventures Q&A

With a week left in the campaign, the Amazing Adventures Kickstarter has already met it's funding goal and funds are still being amassed to grow the line through a variety of stretch goals.  Now, Amazing Adventures isn't a new game but it is one that is getting a bit more of a polish with expanded content and a couple other support books to go along with it.  You can read my original review of it, HERE.  I thought it was a well put together book and game and had high hopes for it as a fan.  With the campaign still-ongoing, the writer of the game, Jason Vey was able to take some time and answer a few questions and the game and fundraising campaign.


ME: Amazing Adventures isn't a new game but many people may still not know what it is. Could you sum up for the readers what it is and why they might want to check it out?

JASON: Amazing Adventures is an RPG that's designed to emulate any kind of pulp gaming you want. Whether it's Lovecraftian Horror, Chandleresque hard-boiled noir, Howardian adventure, or the cases of Doc Savage or the Shadow. Whether you're into lost temples, the shadows of the city, Asian secret societies, or lost temples in the jungle, Amazing Adventures can handle it. It's a toolkit game that's set up for you to play in the world of your favorite gritty literary pulp or the high action lighthearted Saturday Morning Serials of the 50s. It's very open, fast-playing and fun. I think the biggest selling point of the game is its flexibility in genre. Pulp encompasses so many types of storytelling, and with the right group of players, AA can handle it all and do it easy.

ME: This game was originally released a couple of years back but this was far from being your fist project. Can you tell us a bit about Elf Lair Games and some of the work you've done in the industry before Amazing Adventures?

JASON: Elf Lair Games was kind of a lark. Spellcraft & Swordplay came about sort of by accident--I was trying to do some scholarship around the original D&D rules and before I knew it I had a game half-written. I decided to finish it and throw it out there on lulu and it's actually gained some followers and has sold pretty well, all things considered. I actually started in the industry writing for Palladium books and my first full gaming book was a sourcebook for Nightbane called Shadows of Light. After that I moved on to write for Eden Studios and have done three sourcebooks for All Flesh Must Be Eaten as well as contributed to a few other publications. I've written for Misfit Studios, Iron Crown, Cubicle 7 (contributing writer to a Doctor Who sourcebook), and a few other small press companies before Troll Lord. My first work for TLG was actually an adventure module for StarSIEGE called "Another Fine Mess." Since then I've done everything for AA, and was a contributor to the Castle Keeper's Guide for C&C.

ME: Having worked on and played various game systems, were there any influences on Amazing Adventures that you would like to share?

JASON: Honestly, it was just my love of pulp and Castles and Crusades that got it started. Most of Amazing Adventures came out of my house rules for my home C&C game at the time. I did end up drawing some open content from the Conan RPG and from an older d20 game called Forbidden Kingdoms, which so far as I'm aware was the first pulp d20 effort and was pretty cool at the time, too.

ME: Amazing Adventures is a level-based which focuses on character archetypes as opposed to skill-based game. Given the overall ease and success in running this sort of game in a system such as Savage Worlds, what would you characterize as advantages of gaming with Amazing Adventures as opposed to one of the other games available?

JASON: First of all, I will NEVER, EVER claim to be in competition with Savage Worlds. I love Savage Worlds and Shane Hensley is an amazing guy. There is room for a lot of games in our industry, so I'm never out to compare or challenge Savage Worlds with Amazing Adventures. I wouldn't say you should pick mine instead of someone else's. Why not play both? But what makes Amazing Adventures work is the SIEGE engine. The way the SIEGE engine scales, it's incremental like a point buy game, only it does the point buy for you. What I mean is, in a lot of class and level systems you hit, say, level four, and suddenly get a ton of new powers you never had before. In the SIEGE engine, you get a little something every level, so it feels more like a natural growth of a character. When you do get new abilities, it actually feels like a new short story from your favorite pulp character where they can do something you haven't seen them do before. Not to mention, the SIEGE engine is a clean system that gets the hell out of your way and lets you get on with telling great stories. 

ME: Amazing Adventures largely builds upon Castles & Crusades and the Siege Engine mechanic. What would you say to some that just look at Amazing Adventures and think it's a non-Fantasy variant of C&C with the serial numbers filed off?

JASON: I didn't file the serial numbers off. Amazing Adventures IS a pulp variant of Castles & Crusades without elves, dwarves and the like. In fact, it has been designed for maximum compatibility with C&C, and the new printing will be that way even more so.

ME: With Amazing Adventures being similar to C&C which, in turn, is similar to classic D&D and other derivatives, it makes it a great an easy platform to play and convert some classic TSR-era modules. Are there any favorites that you've heard people using, that you've used yourself, or would want to in the near future?

JASON: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks is so pulp it's not even funny. You were talking about filing off the serial numbers--in a lot of pulp stories, you've got a hero in a dungeon crawl, just with guns. Ravenloft (the original I6) is another one that would work great as a Gothic horror module with AA. How about Temple of the Frog? How cool is the idea of battling that cult with your two-fisted action heroes? Yeah, a lot of classic D&D modules work really well with pulp. The key is in how you present it. If you tell your characters they're fighting orcs, it kills the mood. But if you describe them as slimy, foul-smelling degenerate beast-men with watery yellow eyes and prominent tusks, that's setting a mood. 

ME: For those of us who may have already invested in the first printing of the game, what is the appeal to doing so again with the second printing? There was talk about new and expanded content in the book beyond errata and clarifications. Can you give us an idea of what new stuff readers can expect from this?

JASON: I've done a complete cover-to-cover re-edit and revision of the game. A few character classes have gotten a facelift--the Pugilist is the most altered, along the lines of what the Trolls did with the Barbarian and Illusionist in C&C. Classes like the Gadgeteer that may have been a bit confusing have been clarified. The bestiary has been reduced, but the monsters were replaced with a rogue's gallery of various kinds of human enemies from Thule cultists to mob enforcers, and a few iconic monsters like vampires, mummies, zombies and werewolves have been kept. The GM section has been expanded overall, with a lot more information on how to use the rules, how to run pulp games and general GMing tips. Thanks to our first stretch goal, there will be a whole section on designing and using secret societies in your game, along with a bunch of sample secret societies from the Hellfire Club to the Illuminati. I've also created some NPCs and so-called "iconic" characters for the game. The second print is going to have an overall and pretty noticeable facelift that I think people will really dig. 

ME: There are a couple other books listed as rewards in the Kickstarter – a Manual of Monsters and a Companion book. The Manual of Monsters is described at collecting various creatures found in the Monsters & Treasure and Classic Monsters books for C&C which are 'slightly altered' as well as some new ones. With the kind of overlap that we might be seeing for fans of C&C, were there any concerns in making this it's own separate book as opposed to just adding a Bestiary section in the Companion book?

JASON: Well we've pulled the bestiary from Amazing Adventures, as I said, and are adding a TON of monsters from other sources, some of which have never been collected together in one place. I've picked only those monsters that are suited to pulp and we're giving them minor tweaks for the genre. I was aware, however, that there might be concerns about this, and that's why I'm including over two dozen brand new monsters that you have never seen in any other C&C book. Can you still use your other C&C monster books? Totally--please do! But we want AA to have its own identity and that's why we're collecting the monsters we are, and I'm adding all those new ones so you get something new for your purchase. 

ME: On the subject of the Companion book, could you give us an idea of the sort of material players and gamemasters could expect to find within it?

JASON: The kitchen sink. That sounds funny but really...new character classes. Mystic locales. Live action rules. Expanded vehicle rules with more vehicles. More guns, equipment and gear. Ways to think outside the box with existing classes like using the Gadgeteer to play a supers game. New, Lovecraftian-style magic that's tied to sanity. Rules for sub-genres of pulp from Steampunk to weird west to horror to planetary romance to modern pulp to sword and sorcery and more. I am hoping the companion will help set Amazing Adventures up as a lot of people's "go to" game. 

ME: The campaign quickly hit its primary funding goal of bringing this new printing to a hardcover format and there are a couple of other stretch goals promising to bring two more books in hardcover format should they be met. One of these is a monster book and the other is a companion book which expands the game further. Unfortunately the campaign has appears to have stalled with $9000 to go until the third book hits the hardcover goal. Additional incentive goals don't seem to be yielding as much success as it could. Do you have any thoughts or concerns about this that you would like to share?

JASON: I'm really not sure what the reason for the stall is. If I did, I'd do whatever it took (within my power) to get it un-stuck and make that $21K level happen. I SO appreciate all the support we've gotten so far, but yeah, it's a bummer in some ways. I sincerely hope it picks up in the last week or so, because hitting that final stretch goal would really be a dream come true for me. I'd be able to look at my career as a game designer and say, "Man, that one time, I really was successful with an effort."

ME: The fundraising campaign has various pledge levels with the most popular one being the $99 pledge which gets copies of the Core Rule Book, Monster Manual, and Companion along with Character Reference Sheets and whatever stretch goals are also met. So far, these include a digest copy of the core book, 2 player books, and the Spell book. About an equal number of backers are spread out on the lower pledge levels which only include one or two of the main books. With a week to go, do you think you'll be able to sway some of those backers to upgrading their pledges? What do you think it will take to make that happen?

JASON: Honestly, I have no idea. Again, if I knew how to get more folks to pledge and folks at lower levels to up their pledges, I'd do it in a New York minute. But Kickstarter is a mystery. You never can predict what's going to be successful and what's not. By many benchmarks, the AA kickstarter has been successful. It'll likely at least hit the hardcover bestiary level. Still, it would be nice to see it take its place among TLG's other more successful KS efforts. This is only the second one that's happened for one of my books (the first being Eden Studios' Band of Zombies).

ME: Having designed and run the game, have you had a chance to be just a player in Amazing Adventures? What would be your favorite character class from the lot listed in the core book?

JASON: I have, during my playtest. When I write a game I rarely run my own playtest sessions. I prefer to play and have someone else in my group run. The reason is, I know how it's all supposed to work so I'm more prone to overlook and miss mistakes, where if someone else is running it, they will stop and say, "Hey, dude, this doesn't make sense. How is it supposed to work?" and I know something needs to be clarified or fixed. As for my favorite character, one of the iconics in the group, Natalya "The Fox" Abramova, was my playtest character. She's a multiclassed Mentalist/Hooligan who is an up-and-coming Hollywood Starlet who moonlights as a high-class cat burglar. 

ME: While Amazing Adventures is essentially a 'love-letter' to the Pulp genre, Pulp covers a lot of ground and the game seems flexible enough to meet most needs. Is there a particular sub-genre of Pulp that you particular like or find inspiration with? An author or particular book or movie? Something else?

JASON: Robert E. Howard has been one of my favorite writers ever since I was about 12. I love everything of his, from his Conan Yarns to Solomon Kane, El Borak, Kull, Dark Agnes, his Western stories, and all his work. I also adore Edgar Rice Burroughs and planetary romance in general. Of course, Star Wars, which is very much pulp translated to the screen--my earliest memory at the age of 3 years old was seeing Star Wars in the theater, so I've been poised for geekdom my whole life.
ME: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to the readers?

JASON: Just that I really hope you'll buy in and support the Kickstarter. I have had nothing but positive feedback about the game, it's got a pretty vocal group of fans, and I'm looking to keep expanding it and building on the support for the game in the future. I am very proud of Amazing Adventures and consider it the best thing I've done in the 14 or 15 years I've been writing in the industry. I really think you'll find it worth the price to support the Kickstarter. Thank you for taking the time to read, and for those who have already supported by pledging or just sharing the link (http://bit.ly/amazingrpg) I can't express my gratitude enough.


So there you have it.  If you are the least bit curious, I highly recommend checking out the Kickstarter Campaign HERE for more information and to pledge.

Thanks for reading!

M

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Too Much Game?

No... not too much gaming.  Rather too many games.

Over the years, I have acquired much in terms of gaming.  Like many of my fellow geeks and gamers, I am a collector at heart.  I love pen and paper RPGs and have ever since I started playing AD&D back in the day. This was years before d20, the OGL, and the SRD did a lot of damage and killed off or forced many a gaming system away from sight and I found myself fascinated with other systems and, any time I tried something or was playing a bit of another game, I picked up the core books at the very least.

There were times that the collection grew... and other times were it shrank but my fascination with various systems remained.

Over the past couple of years, I've sold a lot but still have shelves of gaming material that I was determined to keep.  As I try and cull the collection, opportunities to pick up new or older interesting things keep on happening.

One thing is clear though, given where I am in my life and the few instances of spare time which I devote to a few hobbies and past times, I will never be able to play all that I have and nor do I have the inclination to.

I arbitrarily decided that I need no more than 12 systems on my shelf (make that shelves).

Sounds simple enough right?  A top 12 list with the theoretical notion that I can have / run a different game each month in a given year.

Actually it isn't and I don't have a list yet.  I've found a way to 'broaden' my list somewhat too thanks to the exception.

Example:  Castles & Crusades is on the list but I quickly made the rationale that other versions of D&D and even a couple of retro-clones and even Amazing Adventures can be lumped together in a D&D-type category to support C&C since I tend to use that stuff pretty interchangeably (or can if I wanted to).

So, that's a lot of stuff.

Then there are all the other games I have.  Some don't take up much shelf space since it may only be comprised of a book or two but I have many that qualify.  Some stuff is pretty damn cool even if I will never play or run that particular game.

Take Rolemaster for instance.  I have had exactly one opportunity to play about 15-20 years back and it was a fantastic experience and I had a lot of fun.  I haven't played since but I came across the Avalon Hill Deluxe Box Set about 5 years ago (second hand) and picked it up without hesitation.  I'm fairly certain I will never have an opportunity like that again (though you never know) and I'm certain I won't run it.  However, I like it.  I've looked through the books in the set countless times and I am fond of the original system (the Basic system that powers Call of Cthulhu and other Chaosium games) which is part of the reason I hold on to it I suppose.

Despite the nightmarish character creation stuff, I have a copy of Rifts (Ultimate), the newer Robotech books, and the TMNT game books by Palladium.  I've played this stuff on and off though I expect I won't be playing them again.

Middle Earth Role Playing is probably the worst offender.  It was one of the first games outside of AD&D / D&D that I played.  I got a box set and traded it a few years later.  When Role Master Express came out, I tracked down a copies of some of the old MERP books again but they remain unplayed.

Generally speaking, I have stopped buying new games but I still managed to pick up a few titles at Gen Con because... well... it was Gen Con.  ;)

I'm still thinking about trying to create a top 12 list.  If it gets created, it may even push me to do another large culling from my gaming collection.  But a top 12 is hard.

Would any of you have a similar issue in creating this kind of list?

M

Monday, September 1, 2014

#RPGaDAY -- Catch Up (Days 25-31)


And here's the last of it.  There's a reason why I've avoided monthly challenges and it's largely to do with that fact that I don't have the time and energy to blog every day.  Or rather, if I did, I would need to learn to be a LOT more concise in my posts.  Thanks for reading and following nonetheless.  ;)

25. Favorite RPG no one else wants to play
26. Coolest Character Sheet
27. Game you'd like to see a new / improved edition of
28. Scariest game you've played
29. Most memorable encounter
30. Rarest RPG owned
31. Favorite RPG of all time

Hmm... looking at these questions gives me the impression that I've answered some of this stuff before.  Sure, the questions are EXACTLY the same but still.  My favorite RPG that no one else wants to play would be Call of Cthulhu which is the same answer I gave on question 6 which was phrased as 'Favorite RPG never get to play'.  It's hard to run a successful CoC game since a lot of it has to do with atmosphere for the experience itself.  I really hope to finally run a game (since I never will play this game) later this year when I get the new books.

Coolest character sheet would be *my* character sheet at any given time.  Because it's mine and it's where I record my character.  ;)

On a more serious note, a game that I would like to see a new or improved edition of... This one is a tough one.  Just got it with Dungeons & Dragons.  I guess I would have to say some sort of improved / streamlined (lighter) version of Role Master.  I never played Role Master proper but I was introduced to Middle Earth Roleplaying which was a bit like Role Master Light.  Still plenty of tables but less than the standard RM game from what I understand.  A few years ago, there was something called Role Master Express.  It reminded me of MERP and I rather miss RMX which was discontinued a few years back.

Scariest game of all time?  Running my first public / store demo game I think.  Actual game play... I don't run scary games and I was fascinated and loved every minute of the CoC games I did play a couple decades ago.

The Rarest RPG owned.  Hmm.  As far as games themselves, I don't think I have anything that rare.  I have come across an interesting item now and then for sure.  I guess my second printing of the Deities & Demigods hardcover (complete with Cthulhu and Melnibonean mythos) would fit the bill for rarest item of value.

Lastly, my favorite RPG of all time would be the same sort of answers I gave for favorite system and system likely to be playing in 20 years time.  It will be D&D in one form or another or a variant like C&C.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

#RPGaDAY -- Catch Up (Days 18-24)

And my quest continues... at least I got more than half done before the last day...  Here's a few more rest of it:

18. Favorite game system
19. Favorite published adventure
20. Will still play in 20 years
21. Favorite Licensed RPG
22. Best secondhand RPG purchase
23. Coolest looking RPG product/book
24. Most complicated RPG owned

My favorite game system is some sort of flavor of D&D and, for the past 8 years or so, it's been Castles & Crusades.  Why C&C?  Frankly because it retains that 'old school' feel but does away with how certain things were done in favor for the newer d20-inspired unified mechanic.  It's just more streamlined when it comes to the rules but retains its compatibility if I choose to run a classic AD&D module with a very minimum of fuss.  I like that and I will tap into my 1st, 2nd, and classic D&D sources for my C&C games as a result.  Of course, the new D&D has gotten my attention.  ;)

My favorite published adventure, for nostalgic reasons, has to be the Mines of Bloodstone for AD&D.  It was a very high level adventure which could, if things go badly, result in the party going toe to toe with Orcus, Demonprince of the Undead.  It was awesome and bordering on the ridiculous because of the epic level nature of the adventure.  However, the valley of Bloodstone became the focus of the first campaign I ran (in Forgotten Realms) for about five years.

As to what I will still play in 20 years... it will be some sort of D&D based game.  If Troll Lord Games continues to do well, it may still be C&C or maybe Wizards of the Coast will ultimately win me over with a future edition of D&D.  However, I like my dungeons, my dragons, and me level-based archetypal fantasy game play.

On the other hand, my favorite licensed RPG has got to be the ORIGINAL d6 version of Star Wars.  The d6 system (as I have mentioned before) was always a favorite of mine and was also were I sought refuge when I needed to take a break from AD&D.  The d6 Star Wars RPG (2nd Edition) will always be the pinnacle of that system.

My favorite (or best) secondhand purchase is a bit of a tricky one.  I have bought much over the years and really, it comes down to a couple of choices, not just one.  The first that came to mind was the Rune Quest 3rd Edition Deluxe boxed set published by Avalon Hill.  I got it for relatively cheap compared to what I have normally seen it go for and the contents were in very nice shape.  However, the moment I thought about that, I thought back to my Tekumel: Empire of Petal Throne book.  This one item isn't nearly as collectible as other versions (it is the one-volume 'pink' book published in the late 80's) but seeing that there doesn't seem to be much Tekumel out there, I think it's awesome that I was able to find a near mint copy of it.

As for the Coolest looking product / book.  Hands done I have to give it up to pretty to Lamentations of the Flame Princess and the Rules & Magic book they put out.  Frankly all of the LoFP hardcover books are beautiful -- I love Carcossa and the Isle of the Unknown but as good as those were, I really think James Raggi raised the bar on quality with this book.  I can't way to see the second volume (which I will have to order because I missed the Indigogo campaign) when it becomes available.

The most complicated RPG owned... well I've mentioned Palladium before so Rifts immediately comes to mine as far as character generation is concerned.  However, I will nominate 'Fantasy Wargaming' instead.  It isn't necessarily complicated but it isn't really complete either.  You need to put in work to figure out how exactly to run a game with it.  It remains fascinating to look through though.

And with that, I say till tomorrow where I will COMPLETE this blogging exercise.  ;)

M

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Condensed Comparision: D&D5 and C&C


Many similarities exist in the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons and Castles & Crusades.  A more detailed review can be found HERE.  However, if you looking for some quick answers, go no further.  Bear in mind that these are some larger differences aside from a bunch of the bells and whistles you might see in either game when looking at some specifics and is there to give an idea for the purposes of comparison.

Ability Score Generation: An array of stats number between 3-18 for both.  Ability modifiers from -4 to +3 (18-19 Strength) in C&C.  Ability modifiers from -5 to -4 (18-19 Strength) in D&D.  Modifiers during character creation will allow some of these initial numbers to change.

Races: Seven in C&C compared to nine in D&D (the extra ones being the Dragonborn and the Tiefling). 

Classes: Thirteen in C&C compared to twelve in D&D but some of the classes in D&D have subclasses or paths that you select to further differentiate a character.  For instance, the Rogue in D&D will become either a Thief, an Assassin, or an Arcane Trickster.

Skills: No specific skills in C&C aside from specific skill-like abilities found within certain classes.  There are 18 skills in D&D which are broad and generic where-in classes are allowed to pick a limited number of them (typically 2-4 skills).

Task Resolution / Save Mechanic: C&C breaks down as a d20 + Ability Mod + Level (if applicable) + Prime (a +6 bonus if applicable).  D&D breaks down as a d20 + Ability Mod + Proficiency bonus (if applicable).  The Proficiency bonus in D&D starts at +2 but will increase as the characters go up in level (they reach +6 at level 17). The attributes that these proficiency bonuses correspond to are determine by the class.  The Prime bonus in C&C works out as a +6 applied to two to three attributes but only one of which is determined by class -- the remainder are chosen upon character creation.

Attacking: Mechanics are largely the same but there is no 'To Hit Bonus' in D&D ... this is also covered by the Proficiency bonus when wielding weapons the character is proficient in.

Advantage/Disadvantage: Uniquely to D&D in this case, this mechanic largely replaces the need of multiple bonuses and penalties applied due to a variety of circumstances.  Cuts down on 'the numbers game' significantly and speeds up play.

Level Advancement: Much quicker in D&D in order to make the lower levels 'less painful' and get to a gaming 'sweet spot' (defined as level 5 and up) quicker.  Unified Experience Point Progress in D&D unlike C&C which is staggered from class to class.  It also takes a lot longer to progress in level with C&C.

Personality/Background: In D&D, an emphasis is made to define Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws which can be used to allow for 'Inspiration' granted from the GM which functions like an Advantage in a given situation.  All games encourage this sort of things but don't necessarily actively work it it as a mechanic.

Feats/Advantages: In D&D, Feats are now optional and function a bit differently from some of the ones seen in older editions.  Advantages were introduced in C&C in the Castle Keeps Guide and are also completely optional.

Death: In D&D, if brought down below zero hit points, a series of saves vs Death need to be made to stabilize.  In C&C, it is possible to go below zero hit points but death occurs at -10.

Magic: In the new D&D, spells have been streamlined and bumped up a bit and spellcasters are generally more versatile compared to the more traditional spell list found in C&C and classic D&D games.

Mutliclassing: Both systems offer multiclassing but D&D's version tends to be cleaner because the experience tables are unified where-as C&C's are not (see Level Advancement).

Ability Score Increases: D&D has frequent ability score increases.  From when you create a character to when you start leveling up, a character's stats will change frequently during their adventuring career.  Generally speaking, there is no 'automatic ability increase' mechanic found in C&C.

M

Weekend R&R: D&D 5th Edition and C&C

Well, it's safe to say that Wizards of the Coast has a solid success on its hands with the release the new Player's Handbook for the 5th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons.  Many people seem to really like the new ruleset and, I know of people were were not at all impressed with the Basic Set were won over by the contents of the PHB.  Simply put, D&D5 is a great system and had it come along when I was ready to toss in the towel with 3.x Edition back in 2006, I would probably be still playing D&D to this day.

Before going further... if you are just looking for a quick comparison, you can find that HERE.  Otherwise, read on.

Back in 2006, when I just about had it with the endless Feats, rules discussions, necessity of miniatures and combats that seemed to take forever, I started looking across the internet for a rules-hack or house rules for D&D that stripped things like Feats and made miniatures optional.  For some reason, on of the searches led me to discover a game called Castles & Crusades.  Intrigued and encouraged by some of the things I saw, I took a chance and ordered a copy of the C&C books through Amazon (the PHB and M&T).  My package was delivered a few days later and I haven't really looked back.  C&C allowed me to continue playing the type of D&D that I've known before 3rd Edition but also embraced some of the modern conveniences brought about such as a unified task resolution system (the d20) and other things like ascending Armor Class.  There were no Feats... no endless list of skills... and best of all, Miniatures were hardly mentioned at all.  It was a streamlined and fast paced style of D&D.

Here we are 8 years later and Wizards of the Coast has finally given me what I had originally searched for.  The new edition of D&D clearly embraces much of what has been found in the various retroclones and simulacrum style games.  Quite a lot of work has gone into the new game and a very open playtesting was done to help create this edition.  It is no coincidence that the build up to this new edition also saw the reprints of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Edition material as well as a premium boxed reprint of the OD&D rules.  Even if these reprints has nothing to do with the idea of fostering good-will among the old D&D fans, it was certainly a way to keep things rolling given the disaster the 4th Edition ended up being.

The Fifth Edition is much more streamlined and gives the feel of a rules light game which puts it in a similar playing field that Castles & Crusades occupied for the better part of a decade.  There are certainly commonalities between the two as well as enough differences to set themselves apart from each other.

Character Generation & Classes

Character generation in both games are very similar.  An array of stats are generated (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha) by rolling 3d6.  Ability modifiers are a bit scaled up in D&D5 compared to C&C but this is a very minor difference.  An 18 stat in C&C would yield a +3 bonus while D&D5 would yield a +4 for the same score.  As a character advances, D&D5 presents opportunities for ability scores to increase.

EDIT - 5th Edition actually does 4d6 and drop the lowest unless you are using the given array of stats or the point buy system.  I've personally been using 4d6 and drop the lowest for just over 20 years now as a house rule and I'm sure I'm not the only one.  Guess it looks like D&D has finally caught up.  ;)

Both games are reliant on a level based system that centers on various archetypes available for play.  In other words, it's a class based system as opposed to a skill based one.  The classes themselves also retain a strong familiarity to those ever popular archetypes so you will immediately recognize the rogue, wizard, fighter, and cleric in either game.

However, looking at a particular class side by side, a neutral observer would immediately notice that a D&D5 character class seems to offer 'more'.  The truth here is yes and no.  While leveling up in the new edition almost guarantees you a change and/or class feature of some kind, most are in line with the sort of things you would expect to find for these archetypes.  There is more which is 'the same' that what is 'different' if you look at the broad picture.  These aren't overpowered when you start making a critical comparison though attempts were made to make classes more interesting as well as address some decades old issues.  The Fighter for instance has a lot more given to it in order to stay relevant and interesting.

A couple of classes have also had a Hit Die bump ... notably the Rogue and the Wizard (and Sorcerer and Warlock).  The Rogue class now sports a handy d8 and the everyone's favorite Arcane spellcaster, a d6.  This, in addition to the ability score bumps and higher than classic D&D modifiers, have many an old school player want to cry foul and make claims that these are the first stages of power imbalance.  I've read that these things make characters harder to kill because they have more hitpoints at the outset.  More difficult to kill?  Hardly.  The first encounter in a recent D&D5 campaign that started almost killed the Druid.  The poor Druid got in the way of a boar.  There may have been a critical involved -- I don't remember.  But what I do remember is that the first encounter had the group (most haven't tried 5th Edition yet) have a taste of the Death Saving Throws.  Given the circumstances, help wasn't immediately available which meant the player had to roll all the required die rolls in order to self-stabilize.  He was lucky.  Combined with the Instant Kill rolls, Death could visit the adventuring party often.  As for the higher stats and hit points argument, well, everybody and everything has that edge so that edge is effectively neutralized.

If anything, this little boost will give starting characters a small marginal chance to see second level.

One of the nice things is the attempt to diversify the basic classes allowing them to specialize or choose a particular path.  Citing the Rogue again, at 3rd level, they can become a 'Thief', and 'Assassin', and an 'Arcane Trickster'.  Each class offers some sort of specialization in a similar manner.  While this is interesting and some fans have been raving about this, it isn't all that revolutionary.  Castles & Crusades has a base of 13 archetypes to choose from and its Rogue and Assassin are just set up as different classes.  The recent 'Black Box' set introduced a 'Thief' class and many other supplements have come out with different classes to choose from.  However, when you look at something like the Cleric in D&D5, you will find that a Cleric will choose a Domain (in line with their god or religion).  Once again, nothing new here but it does show a very deliberate and elegant way or organizing the class options.  In the end, an Assassin or a Thief is a Rogue and a Cleric who worships Life and another that celebrates War are still just Clerics.


Advancement is another interesting aspect in the new edition of Dungeons & Dragons.  We've already mentioned the ability score increases and covered that there is typically a 'gain' of sorts on most level-ups.  One of the NICEST things in the new edition are the experience point advancement tables.  For years, I have encountered many who decry and lament about the slow progression and lack of survivability of 1st and 2nd level play.  People who like D&D (or C&C) seem to enjoy 4th level and higher as it gives them more hitpoints and the characters are simply more competent.  I mean, who hasn't played a Wizard with the major character goal to reach level 5 to be able to cast a Fireball spell.  In the new D&D, you will still need to get to 5th level to case it but only 6,500 experience will be required to attain this.  Compare this to the 20,800 required in C&C.  Advancement is much swifter in D&D than older editions and other games like C&C.  The first few levels are faster still compared to earning later levels and the reason for this is to reflect what is described as 'four tiers' of advancement.  The first tier, for example, covers levels 1 though 4 and really represents the time spent as a 'novice'.  This is much shorter than the time spent in other tiers and this is a good thing.  I know that there will be those that don't like this method at all and prefer the tried method of a slow and gradual advancement but I believe that, the rapid initial advancement coupled with the frequent 'rewards' for leveling up just reinforces why a class-based leveling mechanic is still as successful as it is after four decades of play.

Game Mechanics

Once again, many similarities between the new Dungeons & Dragons and Castles & Crusades and more than one might have expected.

Like in Castles & Crusades, saves are directly tied in to Abilities.  Gone are the Fortitude, Reflex, and Will saves.  You save with a relevant ability score as dictated by the DM.  Dragon breathes fire in your general direction?  A Dexterity save will do nicely.  A contest of the minds?  How about an Intelligence save.  As simple as that.  For fans of C&C that keep on insisting that the Siege Mechanic is a great way to emulate and attempt various stunts and maneuvers, well the good news is there is nothing to prevent you from doing the same in the new D&D.  Things are just a little different though but work equally well.

In C&C, your primary abilities essentially grant a +6 modifier to saves, skill, and ability checks to the associated ability stores.  In D&D, there is something called a proficiency bonus.  The proficiency bonus works a bit different and starts at +2.  This will increase as the character advances to levels to a +6 at 17th level.  This proficiency check applies to skill associated with the stat, saving throws, and your ability to fight with weapons you are proficient in.  This last bit is very interesting since they've essentially eliminated a 'Base to Hit' bonus which previous editions of the game relied on and C&C still does.  As first, some might take issue with the fact that a Wizard could be as proficient as hitting someone with a staff as a Fighter would but a Fighter has other abilities to draw on with a Wizard would not.  More importantly, a character trying to use a weapon they are NOT proficient in will never get better no matter how high level a character they become.  In other editions, a penalty would have been -4 applied to the attack roll but, in time, a character effectively nullifies this anyway.  It seems a much simpler solution.  The other thing about this proficiency bonus is that it applies SPECIFICALLY to skills one is proficient with and not an ability.  If you have an Athletics skill, then a proficiency bonus could be applied when trying to climb a wall or swim against a strong current.  If you don't have Athletics, then you don't get the proficiency bonus even if you have Strength as one of your key attributes.  C&C differentiates this a bit by added level to skills or competencies associated with an archetype.  Theoretically, you would roll your d20, add your prime bonus (if applicable), add your level (if applicable), and your ability mod.  In D&D you roll d20, add your proficiency bonus, and then your ability mod.  The result is D&D in this case proves to be LESS of a numbers game than C&C is.  Given how D&D shaped up with the advent of 3rd Edition, this is a really good thing to see.

It should also be pointed out that while neither system is really a skill based one, there are skills to be fond in both games.  C&C largely eliminates the need for them in virtue of the Siege system where that +6 associated bonus plus level modifier is a substitute for these unnamed skills.  There is no skill list though some classes have skill-like abilities tied to them.  Dungeons & Dragons *was* a game that had a much more pronounced focus on an itemized skill list but it has been seriously curtailed in this new addition.  They seem more broad than they had been previously and fewer in number.  This should take away the number of skill checks in a given game and, once again, there is less playing with numbers since you don't actually ever put points in a skill.

In a further attempt to simplify matters, one of the best new features of D&D is the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic.  Like the previous editions of D&D, C&C has a bunch of numbers for situational modifiers.  Castles & Crusades is a simple enough game but there are some for elevation in combat, concealment, and the like.  Being a rules like game, a person running a C&C game will reference these numbers from behind their GM Screen, quickly consult the book, or simply pull out the numbers from memory or pull it out of their asses as needed to keep the game flowing.  Easy enough but there are situations were multiple bonuses and penalties start flying around the table in the heat of combat.  Thankfully C&C has kept these numbers to a minimum, but D&D5 has managed to mostly eliminate the need altogether.  Party finds themselves in an advantageous situation?  They roll an extra d20 and take the best roll.  If they find themselves in a disadvantageous situation?  The roll an extra d20 and take the worst roll.  If advantages and disadvantages appear for a given situation, they all cancel each other out no matter how many there are.  Period.

As for combat itself -- they run much the same way they always did.  Armor Class, Hit Points, Attack rolls are still all the same.  Combat seems a bit more simplified in the new edition of D&D and both games run reasonably smooth and fast now.

The Rest of It

The rest of the new edition is just a lot of little refinements.  The spellcasters got a couple of tweaks so that their magic is still decidedly Vancian but with a bit more flexibility thrown in.  There is an emphasis on creating background in the new edition of D&D which is something I always supported in my C&C and older D&D games.  In this case, playing to a character's background (Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws) can grant you 'Inspiration' which can give you an Advantage for a particular roll.  Multiclassing works well enough since all classes advance at the same rate (unlike C&C) and Feats are COMPLETELY optional to the point that even if they are used in a game, it is possible to have a character never take them.  Spells have also been streamlined while retaining their roots but increasing the versatility of some of them which adds to a spell casters versatility.

Frankly there is a whole lot of stuff to like in this new edition of D&D if you are familiar with various older incarnations of the game, or if you happen to play a game like Castles & Crusades, Labyrinth Lord, or even Swords & Wizardry.  Hardcore Pathfinder fans may be a bit disappointed as will the FEW 4th Edition fans since, upon initial examination, some of the hardcore min/maxing will have been nerfed in this version of the game.

But what if, like me, you are already playing something like C&C?  Well as I started off by saying, had this game come out in 2006, things would be a different story.  I'm very happy with C&C and will continue with it as my main game.  However, I would happily join in and play a 5th Edition D&D game and continue to support the game as well.  The differences between the two as far as my enjoyment goes are too little for me to be even concerned about it.  Some things that the new edition of D&D brings are certainly worthwhile.  My top three picks would be experience point advancement, the advantage/disadvantage mechanic, and the proficiency system.  The two things I didn't care for are very minor in comparison: I like the reduced skill list but I think it would have needed to be reduced further (if not eliminated) or balanced out a bit more.  In this latter example, there are 4 physical skills (none associated with Constitution) compared to 14 mental skills.  The other thing I didn't care for were how they presented the sample backgrounds with tables for traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws.  I like the suggestions but when categorized in the manner they are, a new player may not know where to start.  On the other hand, making them tables you can roll on was kind of neat and a great way to get some NPCs fleshed out in a hurry.

If anything, I would likely be tempted to borrow things for my C&C game.  The Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic would be extremely easy to port in and taking a crack at modifying the Experience Point Progression tables for the classes would be a great way to port in two of my three favorite features.


Friday, August 29, 2014

#RPGaDAY -- Catch Up (Days 14-17)

The proper 4 days these took place was during GenCon with this year being my first time attending.  I had a blast.

14. Best convention purchase.
15. Favorite convention game.
16. Game you wished you owned.
17. Funniest game you've played.

Best convention purchase... well I think each one is just about one of the best at the point of purchase.  At the recent Gen Con, I was very happy to get my copies of the Achtung Cthulhu books as well as the limited hardback print of the Masks of Nyarlathotep for Call of Cthulhu.  I was very pleased to have picked up the 10th anniversary C&C 'Black Box' -- signed and numbered.  Then there was the fez.  Now that I think about it, I have to give it up to the fez.

Favorite convention game?  Well, here's a confession: I really haven't had a chance to go to many gaming conventions.  The only ones I have been exposed to were TINY and, even then, I spent my time running a game or demo as opposed to playing and enjoying my time at the show.  That isn't to say that I didn't have fun but I don't have much to draw from either.  That said, my recent trip to Indianapolis did give me a chance to play in the 'Meat Grinder' which was formerly better known as the Tower of Gygax.  I had a blast trying to survive.

Game I wished I owned?  Well, most stuff that comes out that I want, I will buy.  In past years, I have also tracked down other things I've wanted in the past so it isn't really an issue. BUT... Milton Bradley's "Hero Quest" with all the add-ons would make me a VERY happy camper.

Funniest game I've played... there have been many (both ran and played in).  Sometimes they end up funny because of sheer exhaustion and silliness of it all.  Recently, my less than 1 round survival in the aforementioned Meat Grinder had me laugh.  Quickest death ever.  ;)

M

#RPGaDAY -- Catch Up (Days 10-13)

Wow.  Near the end of the month and my attempts to catch up have failed thus far.  I need to step it up a notch.  ;)

10. Favorite tie-in novel / Game Fiction
11. Weirdest RPG owned
12. Old RPG you still play / read
13. Most memorable character death

You know... the first RPG tie-ins I read were the Dragonlance Chronicles and Legends trilogies.  I devoured those books and I read them as I got started in the hobby.  They were a lot of fun and, like many other Dragonlance fans, I retain a soft spot for them.  That said, Dragonlance was not a setting that I ever spent a lot of time gaming in.

As for the weirdest RPG owned -- that's a tough one.  In many ways, most RPGs are at least a little weird.  If I had to choose one, I think it would be the TMNT RPG by Palladium.  The concept is a bit off the wall albeit fun.

Old RPG that I still play and read ... various classic iterations of D&D though mostly the B/X (Moldvay) era D&D.

Most memorable character death... while I didn't spend a lot of time gaming in the Dragonlance setting, the few times I did (and one campaign in particular) stands out for more.  I had an elven thief who developed a nemesis-type relationship with a particular villain.  It came down to a showdown where I decided to sacrifice my character in order to END the life of the villain.  The DM's look on his face was priceless -- he just couldn't believe that I would be willing to kill off a character I really enjoyed and adored in order to finish off the villain.  But it was done, and that particular story arc came to an abrupt halt by dying a heroic death.

M