Sunday, 30 January 2011

RPG Review: Bestiary 2

Review: Pathfinder Bestiary 2

Continuing in the tradition started with the very first Monster Manual published for D&D, Paizo are releasing a series of books containing monsters ready stated for you to throw at your unwitting players.

As a GM, you are either going to love or hate these types of books. While it does give you the ease of having monsters ready to go without the need to spend half your prep time creating them, it does mean that any player with enough money to be buying the system books and a good memory, are likely to know the capabilities of every monster you throw at them. Personally I find the time saving aspects outweigh any problems about player knowledge, especially when you remind players about the difference between player and character knowledge.

Anyway, that's an aside, onto the contents of the book.

90% of the creatures in the book get a full page, with more advance creatures getting a double page spread. Only a few have to share a page, but they tend to be basic animals. Each has a full colour illustration, as well as a compressive stat block and a description. The descriptions can be a bit lacking when the creatures abilities take up most of the page, but that is kept to a minimum by common abilities being referenced at the back rather than being printed at every instance.

The creatures range from CR 1/2 to CR 23, with a good mix of the interesting and bizarre. As well as OGL creatures missing from the first book, there are more creatures from myth, folklore, and out of copyright fictional creatures such as the Jabberwock and creatures from the Cthulhu Mythos. Introduced in this book are creatures that inhabit the other planes of existence to balance out the Devils and Demons that are more commonly encountered. Also included are an interesting selection of Fey types, when you want to annoy your PCs without just dropping a Pit Fiend on their heads.

Some of the creatures also have stats for use as familiars or animal companions. Coupled with introducing 4 new elementally aligned PC races, you have a host of new options for your characters.

The appendix contains all the relevant rules you need to run the creatures, including some interesting templates that can be thrown on monsters on the fly to tweak their abilities. That should keep your PCs on their toes!

Overall, another well produced book my Paizo. The creatures don't feel like B-list fillers, with many new and interesting ones in amongst old favourites.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Dave's D&D Musings

For my next review I'll be looking at Pathfinder: Beastiary 2, however before that I thought I'd muse on Dungeons and Dragons, and my angle on it.

Unusually, I didn't start role playing with D&D. My first game was Shadowrun, and perhaps that's why my perceptions are rather different to others. In fact, to date, I don't own a core D&D book.

I knew of D&D, and even played 1 session, but my initial perceptions were not overly favourable. The class system felt way too controlling after coming from an open game like Shadowrun, and the fact that my rogue couldn't seem to hit anything, and when he did never managed to do more than 2 points of damage, kinda put me off! So, I was playing Shadowrun and Legend of the Five Rings, with a bit of old World of Darkness.

I got a better look at D&D when 3rd Edition was released, but I never really had an opportunity to play in a decent game, so my perceptions were coloured by what I could read about it. It bemused me that Spot, Listen and Search were different skills. Surely just because I'm a rogue does not mean my eyesight is amazing, but I have poor hearing. Why do I have to kill things to get XP? I have these social skills, why can't I just ask them to give me the gold rather than killing them.

It was oddities like that, that stopped me persuing D&D any further. I was quite happy with the other games I was playing, and branching out into more oWoD and looking forward to Exalted. D&D just wasn't a game that inspired me.

It wasn't until my 3rd year at Uni did I take an opportunity to play in a D&D campaign. Starting off during a pause in my Exalted campaign this was my first good look at D&D 3.5 from a player's point of view.

If this was a fictional story, this would be the point where I changed my mind and became the world's biggest D&D fan. I'm sorry to say that didn't happen. But, I got a much better appreciation for it than before. Sure, most of my issues with the system still existed, and given the stupid number of books that were around I wasn't about to go and buy into it, but I was willing to give associated systems ago.

So, when it was released I got Arcana Evolved, and I was ok with the Iron Kingdoms RPG being D20 based.

When 4th Edition was announced, I wasn't taken with what I saw, but Pathfinder, for some reason, I didn't mind. It has fixed some of the odd things (finally a Perception skill) and with so many less books to worry about, I was willing to buy into it. All in all, I've been very happy with the books so far, and am even trying to convert Iron Kingdoms to Pathfinder.

Perhaps I have a problem when the setting doesn't grab me. None of the existing settings for D&D have really held my interest. However Arcana Evolved and Iron Kingdoms both have interesting settings behind them. Hell, I've got RPGs that I might never run, simply because I love the setting.

So, that's my little bit of musing.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Book Review: The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

I'm sure many of you will be familiar with the film The Princess Bride. For those of you that aren't, its a cult fantasy film mixing comedy and action to great effect.

For some reason last week, I decided I wanted to read the book. Don't ask me why, but working in a library can cause these sudden book reading urges to happen.

If you didn't already know, the books author, William Goldman, used as a framing device the idea that he didn't actually write the book, instead abridged it from a much older, longer work by S Morgenstern. What I didn't realise was quite how much he kept this pretence up. The copy I read was the 25th Anniversary edition which includes a long forward by Goldman (all fake) and an eighty page appendix dealing with his none existent problems with the Morgenstern estate over royalties and the rights to publish a squeal.

While this doesn't detract from the book, I did find it highly unnecessary. As a framing device, the idea that he was abridging the book, and inserting commentary on sections he'd cut, was fine, and worked will within the novel. Why we needed all this extra personal fiction is beyond me.

Anyway, on to the story itself. If you have seen the film, you will be familiar with the story and the novel doesn't throw any surprises at you, and it wouldn't, as Goldman wrote the screenplay for the film. But the sections that didn't make it into the film give you more depth and background to the characters. You learn why the six fingered man killed Inigo's father and about Fezzik's early life. You see Buttercup and Weasly's relationship when they were younger, and Humperdinks character is given a much needed background boost.

Along with Goldman's "commentry" and the "original" text you also get a bit more of a feel for the world. I'd always thought that it was set in a fantasy world, however turns out to be more pseudo historical that fantasy. But with names like The Cliffs of Insanity and Rodents of Unnatural Size, its not hard to see how I might have come to my flawed conclusion.

In many ways, the translation from book to film is one of the best I've seen, but perhaps that's because I've come at it from seeing the film first. Scenes in the book play out nearly identically on the film, and any cuts or condensing is handled well.

Whether you've seen the film or not, I strongly recommend reading The Princess Bride. Just skip all the author's rubbish before and after. You'll be doing yourself a favour.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

40K Tau, The Start

I've made a productive start to the Tau, by clearing the table and sorting out a light with a daylight bulb!

Here is a pic of the army as it stands.

12x Kroot mainly finished, just some highlights and basing to do.
12x Firewarriors, undercoated with some block colouring done on some
3x Stealth Suit, painted just need the bases finishing
3x Crisis Suits the most complete has some basic colouring done.
1x Broadside, just under coated.

I do also have a sniper unit, but that won't be fielded in the 1000pts army, so has been left on the shelf.

Being added to this will be a Pathfinder unit, another Firewarrior unit and a Devilfish. Exact loadouts of the Crisis suits are still being tweaked, plus I'm not going to give everything away, my opponants are likely to read this. :)

Last time at 750pts, I did well against the 'Nids, suffered against the Raven Guard when I lost my heavy support, and was taken apart by the Blood Angels when they got into close combat.

I failed to use the Kroot effectively, sticking them in cover at the back. Sure they had an excellent cover save, but they didn't get to shoot anything until near the end of each game. Solution, deploy them more sensibly and also use them to assault if the opportunity arises.

Against the Blood Angels, I was thrown then they deployed off table and deep striking everything. Next time I won't be caught off guard by that.

Enough talking, time to paint something!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

40K Tau

My current war gaming project is to expand my 40K Tau army from its existing 750pts up to 1000pts ready for some games at the beginning of May.

Some of the 750pts is painted, but most is only base coated, so I now have 3 months to get it all finished.

Lets hope I do better this time.

The upgrades to the army are ordered and on-route, so I should really dig my painting table out again so I can actually do some painting!

The trouble is, winter is a terrible time to want to paint. The weather outside isn't good for undercoating, the natural light is weak, and vanishes half way through the afternoon, and artificial light just doesn't do as good a job. I'm going to have to buy a daylight bulb, and it seems they actually do energy saving versions of them these days! Hombase Link I know where I'll be popping on Saturday!

Keep an eye out for pictures as I work on them.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

RPG Review: Blood of Martyrs

Dark Heresy: Blood of Martyrs Review

Blood of Martyrs is the first in a series of 4 source books planned to be released this year for Dark Heresy that rather than focus purely on a single class, focus on an aspect of the setting.

The first chapter provides more information about the Ecclesiarchy, including the history of its formation, as well as more information about the Imperial Creed and key tenents. There are also write ups of key Ecclesiarchy members in the Calaxis sector, Ecclesiarchy interests and Calaxis Saints, for use in your games, but these can quite easily transplanted if your campaign takes place elsewhere.
This section does a good job of putting more meat on the religious themes of the setting, although a lot of it can be summed up as "Burn the Heretic".

Chapter 2 is where the character options start. Included are 2 new home worlds for starting characters (Shrine World and Famulous Protege) as well as background packages and 6 alternate ranks to add a bit more religious fervour to your existing characters. The most interesting part is perhaps the new Cell Directives, that gives an Acolyte Cell some new skills and talents options if they are all willing to buy into the directive.
Nothing in this section is particularly game breaking, but does add some more interesting alternatives for very faith orientated characters. While most of the alternate ranks require the Cleric class, a few can be taken by other classes. Perhaps the most important reason to take one of the alternate ranks is that most give access to Faith Talents. The Cell Directives are an interesting addition allowing players access to perhaps normally unobtainable skills and talents without the need of an elite advance or alternate rank. They won't suit all campaigns, but I'll certainly be interested to see more Directives in later books.

Perhaps the most popular section, Chapter 3 details the Sisters of Battle. Included is more information about the milliant order, as well as the none milliant orders. Of course there is a much expanded character creation section than in the Inquisitor's Handbook, including 6 alternate ranks.
This section provides a much needed expansion and revision of the rules provided in the Inquisitor's Handbook. Not only are Sisters of Battle viable character options, but it provides enough information that an entire campaign could be ran. Due to the starting equipment and power level, a Sister of Battle is a little too powerful for most campaigns, and should only be allowed with care.

Chapter 4 covers an expanded Faith talent selection, including reworking those that were previously presented in the Inquisitor's Handbook. These talents provide characters powerful gifts powered by their Fate points. Separated into 3 trees; Emperor's Sign (protection and warding), Emperor's Mercy (healing body, mind and soul) and Emperor's Wrath (damaging the unfaithful); they can provide a cleric with some interesting support options.
With their focus on heretics and demons, not all of these talents will be suitable for every campaign and at high levels provide some very powerful effects. Never-the-less, they are a nice inclusion, and gives players who want a more divine manifestation of their faith something to spend their XP on.

Chapter 5 provides some more equipment, including the Sisters of Battle signature weapons and armour. There are also some NPC write-ups for Servitors and Retainers as well as some basic blessings for Clerics to perform. Rounding out the section are some descriptions of holy relics found in the Calixian Sector for use in your games.
It would be nice to have rules for creating your own Servitors, rather than having to depend on the limited selection presented here, however its better than nothing. Perhaps in a future book. The relics are an interesting addition, but are really only useful as plot hooks, their powers are not suitable for general play.

The last chapter (6 for those that need help counting) provides the GM with information on including faith and the Ecclesiarchy in their games, both as a background and as the main focus of the game.

Overall, the quality of the book, both physically and content wise is excellent. While being a full colour hardback book means you are going to be spending more that normal on a sourcebook, the art work is certainly worth it. This is not a must buy source book for every campaign. It is very much suited for those that have a strong faith and religion component, or if you are playing a cleric and would like more character options. I eagerly look forward to the next release in this series (Demon hunters and Grey Knights).

An attempt at a start

So, what has made me decide to take the drastic action of starting a blog you may ask?

Well, at the start of the year, I decided I had too much gaming stuff. Now I had a couple of ways of dealing with it. The mature adult way would be to carefully look over all my stuff, and get rid of anything I'm not likely to use. However, I'm not that mature, and instead decided that I would justify my gaming purchases by writing reviews of them!

Add to that, a large number of uncompleted gaming projects, I thought, what the hell, I'll create a blog and post up all the crap I'm doing, in a hope people will read it and give me support/motivation to continue.

So this is my opening post. I hope anyone reading this will find it interesting, informative and something else starting with i.