Wednesday, 25 December 2013

It's the teachers I feel sorry for

Raistlin and Drizzt are now listed on baby name sites.  Hopefully Miraxacalas never gets that kind of fan base.

Monday, 23 December 2013

Mini-review: "Monster Pamphlet #1" by Arlin Ortiz

There's something pleasingly earnest about Arlin Ortiz's Monster Pamphlet #1.  As the name suggests, it's a five-page booklet of monster concepts for your role-playing campaign.  Arlin intended the product to be "system agnostic", but his presentation harks back to the way that joke monsters were written up in TSR's The Dragon magazine, with descriptive notions of speed, armour, intelligence and size followed by a couple of paragraphs of text and a signature "Special Ability".

Arlin's illustrations are the main part of the Monster Pamphlet and it's at this point that I have to admit to not knowing enough about art to say much more than, "I like it".  (OK, I do have an idea about the origin of the colour palette, but it's hardly obscure.)  But my short-comings here shouldn't be a criticism of this product.  It does a good job of passing some interesting ideas, if not ones that can be used in any campaign.

It's definitely worth a look!  Arlin has been good enough to share a low-res version of his work.  If you like what you see, he's only asking $1 for the full glory of the Monster Pamphlet #1.

I think I have a gaming hang-over.

Yesterday I played Eclipse very badly, scarcely remembering the rules let alone any of the game's strategy or tactics. The game also stretched out to five hours, a point that I wouldn't raise except for the fact that it took quite a lot longer to complete thanks to the number of complaints about the amount of time it was taking. You've probably been there, reader, and if you haven't – I envy you.

After a break to relocate, play recommenced with Race for the Galaxy. Historically, I've been pretty bad at Race. However, thanks to an obvious starting hand I mustered a good second-place finish, just a point or two behind the winner. As there was a bit more disruption among the available players – errands had to be run and there was no agreement about what serious game to play next – we then settled in for King of Tokyo with the expansion pack in play and the Panda-kai banned by mutual consent. I mustered a last-to-fall with my Kraken, with the winner only coming through by the skin of his teeth.

We finally settled in to play Avalon Hill's 1997 Princess Ryan's Star Marines, largely because most of us hadn't played it and therefore had nothing against it. Also it promised a 90 minute game, which seemed like a good idea as the time pushed towards midnight. Unfortunately, the people who had played it were trying to remember the game from ten years ago and the rules had a bad habit of ending up at the end of the table with the worst vision, leading to a number of early rules mistakes such as “<” being read as “greater than”.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Why is there treasure in dungeons?

Some answers through the ages:

Gygax (funhouse) "A wizard did it."
Gygax (naturalistic) "The treasure was cached by ancient civilizations far superior to those that exist today."
Holmes: "The dungeon is a sentient being and secretes loot as a lure for adventurers in the same way that it spawns monsters to kill them."
Moldvay: "It's fun!"
Mentzer: "What Tom said."
D. Cook: "The focus groups and playtesters agreed that this was a fun part of First Edition that we should carry forward into a new era of the game. But, of course, it's optional!"
M. Cook, Tweet, and Williams: "It's necessary to give the party a certain amount of equipment in order to protect game balance. This game is balanced. Honest."
Heinsoo: "I agree with Johnathan, Monte and Skip - except my game is balanced and theirs wasn't."
Reynolds: "Your feedback doesn't have anything to do with actual play or having fun. Discussion closed."

(No reviews today, I'm gaming.)

Saturday, 21 December 2013

Review: “Dry Spell” by Darrin Drader

Darrin Drader's last offering in the “Original Adventures” series of D&D 3.5 modules was the forgettable Matters of Vengeance. I presume that Wizards of the Coast also found it forgiveable or had already made an agreement to receive further work from Mr. Drader. Dry Spell is aimed at four 3rd-level adventurers and is strictly core material, so it can easily be run using the Pathfinder RPG.  Although it's no longer a freebie, $0.99 is all you'll pay for Dry Spell.

Review: “Frozen Whispers” by James Jacobs

James Jacobs was already associate editor on Paizo's run of Dragon Magazine when he contributed to Wizards' free “Original Adventures” series for D&D 3.5. I understand that he's gone on to play a more prominent role in Paizo's “Adventure Path” development, so it was with no small amount of interest that I cracked open Frozen Whispers. Although this module showcases material from outside of the core books, the module does not require anything more than the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual to run. Although here is a rules clash between what is presented in Frozen Whispers and the Pathfinder game, I don't think it poses a serious conversion problem.  Frozen Whispers is not currently available for purchase.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Review: “War of Dragons” by Robert Wiese

It's another module from the “Original Adventures” series, put out by Wizards of the Coast to support D&D 3.5. This is War of Dragons, for 18th-level adventurers, written by Robert Wiese. No books outside the core three are required, although Wiese does recommend turning to the Draconomicon for advice on dragon tactics. This module can be run using Pathfinder but will require a small amount of conversion.  Although the module isn't free any more, the charge is $0.99 for a copy of War of Dragons.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

D&D Next launch announced

Wizards have issued a press release with the details.  You heard it here last.

Talk of "multiple gaming platforms" is a strong hint about the direction in which Hasbro want to take the brand.  Good luck to them.

Review: “Lochfell's Secret” by Eric Haddock

Wizards of the Coast put out free monthly “Original Adventures” to support D&D 3.5. This review covers the seventh of that series, Eric Haddock's Lochfell's Secret, recommended for 15th-level adventurers. Like the Original Adventures that I've reviewed so far, this module only requires the core rules (PHB, DMG, and MM) and is compatible with Pathfinder (using the Core Rules and Bestiary). Lochfell's Secret also showcases some non-core WotC content, providing the full mechanics but only short descriptions. The missing details shouldn't substantially affect the enjoyment of the adventure and it's actually a good opportunity for the DM to improvise.  The work is no longer available for free, but for $0.99 you can get a copy of Lochfell's Secret.

Review: “Matters of Vengeance” by Darrin Drader

Darrin Drader's Matters of Vengeance was the sixth in Wizards of the Coast's Original Adventures series, and aims to entertain a party of four 15th-level adventurers. The module makes use of some material outside of the core books, but all of the relevant information is reprinted so the DM doesn't need more than the Player's Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monster Manual for D&D 3.0, or the Core Rules and Bestiary for Pathfinder.  While once available for free, you'll have to shell out $0.99 to get a copy of Matters of Vengeance.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Review: “Sheep's Clothing” by Robert Wiese

I was very pleased to see Robert Wiese's name on this module. Reviewing his Wreck Ashore was a pleasure. This time out, Wiese aims to challenge a party of four 11th-level characters but he includes scaling notes for higher- and lower-level adventurers. Sheep's Clothing is intended for D&D 3.5, which means that it's compatible with Pathfinder. No more than the core rules (PHB, DMG, & MM, or, CR & Bestiary) are required.  It's no longer possible to get this module for free, but there is a $0.99 re-release of Sheep's Clothing.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Boxed text in modules

I should be honest.  Shortly before writing my review of Hasken's Manor, I skimmed the blog headlines and read Courtney's post "On the Definitive Inadequacy of Boxed Text".  That partly explains why I took Brocius and Jindra to task for their lousy use of the device, but I might have done so anyway.

Review: "Hasken's Manor" by Scott Brocius and Mark A. Jindra

Hasken's Manor is a short adventure for D&D 3.5 and is fairly compatible with Pathfinder. The module is recommended for a party of four 7th-level characters and has notes for scaling its difficulty for higher- or lower-level parties. It requires the core rules (PHB, DMG and MM, or Core Rules and Bestiary).  Those who recall Scott Brocius' role in the old feature, The Mind's Eye, will be unsurprised to hear that psionics make an appearance in Hasken's Manor. For 3.5, the Expanded Psionics Handbook would an obvious choice (especially as most of its content is in the D20 SRD), but Pathfinder players may not feel comfortable using the equivalent material because it was published by Dreamscarred Press rather than Paizo. Thankfully, core-only equivalents are provided for those who want them.  While this module no longer available as a free download, there's a $0.99 re-release of Hasken's Manor.

Review: "Bad Moon Waning" by Stan!

If I could have "fair use"d the maps, I would have.
Now that I have a better handle on the order of the Original Adventures series, it's time to move on to Bad Moon Waning by Stan!. This module was designed for a party of four 10th-level characters, but has some notes on altering the difficulty for use with 8th or 11th level groups. For a short module, this sort of customisation is probably more for the benefit of the DM than an expression of “change the world to fit the PCs” mentality. Bad Moon Waning requires just the core rules for D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder.  Although no longer available as a free release, if you're prepared to pay $0.99 you can still get a copy of Bad Moon Waning.

Monday, 16 December 2013

Review: “The Eye of the Sun” by Eric Cagle

The Eye of the Sun was the second of the free “Original Adventures” series that was released by Wizards of the Coast in support of D&D 3.5, not the fourth as you might have inferred from prior reviews on this blog. The module was designed for a party of four 4th-level characters and requires just the core rules for D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder.  Although this module is no longer available for free, you can pick up The Eye of the Sun for $0.99.

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Review: "Wreck Ashore" by Robert Wiese

This review covers the third of the free “Original Adventures” series that Wizards of the Coast distributed to support D&D 3.5. Robert Wiese's Wreck Ashore is designed for four 1st-level characters and requires the three core D&D 3.5 rulebooks or their equivalent in the Pathfinder RPG (Core Rulebook and Bestiary).  WotC have issued a re-release through DriveThruRPG, for $0.99.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

How to help your Game Master (*): a few points

*: Or Referee, Judge, etc.

The internet has no shortage of advice for people running role-playing games.  However, it's far less common to see advice to the players on how to make life easier for the person behind the screen. 

Review: "Force of Nature” by Mark A. Jindra

This review covers the second of the free “Original Adventures” series that Wizards of the Coast distributed to support D&D 3.5. Mark A. Jindra's Force of Nature is intended for four 18th-level characters, and requires the three D&D core rulebooks (Player's Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide, and Monster Manual) or the Pathfinder Core Rules and Bestiary. Jindra also recommends having four additional supplements on hand.  Although this module was originally free, the re-release on DriveThruRPG costs $0.99.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Review: “The Burning Plague” by Miguel Duran

To support D&D 3.5, Wizards of the Coast released a free series of short “Original Adventures” through their website.  The series was launched in early 2004 with Miguel Duran's The Burning Plague, designed to be playable with just the Player's Handbook and suitable for four to six 1st-level adventurers.  It's since been re-released through DriveThruRPG and can be purchased for $0.99.