No, a new Buffy RPG didn't come out. This is the one that came out...holy crap...eleven years ago, from Eden Studios. This is not an old review, though. Yes, this is a brand new review of an eleven year old RPG that I got when it was brand new.
Because it's badass, and you can still get copies for cover price on Amazon even though it's out of print. You can also get the PDF for $20 at RPGNow. (Disclaimer: That last one was an Affiliate link.)
A couple of years ago, I became a big fan of The Dresden Files, in turn turning my wife into a fan of The Dresden Files. I own the RPG (though I have never ran it), but when Evil Hat announced a cooperative card game, I was intrigued.
I was so intrigued, in fact, that I spent almost as much as I'm pledging on the Kickstarter in order to have the Print and Play core game printed up to try it out.
Greater Than Games is doing one of the ballsiest things you can do...they are killing their cash cow while it's still HOT. They insist they always had a plan, and this is the grand finale of that plan: A final expansion in which the heroic characters of the Sentinels of the Multiverse will join forces with some of their fiercest foes to battle an epic Galactus/Darkseid/Thanos-like entity that wants to eradicate the multiverse.
I am a huge fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse. It is, simply put, the greatest card game I've ever played and I have logged hundreds of games and hundreds of hours. For those who are unfamiliar, you have a number of hero decks (generally 3-5), a villain deck (or a team, more on that later) and an environment deck. Then it's (generally) a slugfest until either the heroes fall or the villain does (some villains and environment decks introduce alternate win or lose conditions). The game has continued to grow, with multiple boxed expansions (gritty street-level, mystic and cosmic themed), new variants (two boxed sets introduced the concept of taking on teams of villains) and numerous single-deck expansion packs, as well as promo cards that provided variant heroes and villains to play with. The game is completely co-op, with the villain decks essentially being "automated". There's even an amazing video game version on Steam, Android and iOS devices.
Details about the gameplay in this expansion are still scarce, but it's known that multiple Environments will be used, as well as a Mission Deck. I freely admit, I have a ton of confidence in these guys to deliver, as I have yet to regret a purchase for this card game.
It is worth noting that the larger Sentinels line will still continue with their miniatures/skirmish game Sentinel Tactics (which I also enjoy, but rarely get to play) and the upcoming Sentinels of the Multiverse RPG (which I intend to get due to my love of the universe).
Heck, you can even get an ultimate collector's box in this Kickstarter that promises to hold every official card they have released (even sleeved!).
Highest recommendation for one of the greatest games I have ever played, from a company with an impeccable track record. I would love to see that million dollar stretch goal shattered.
AGAINST THE AXIS - WORLD WAR II ERA PLAY IN STARK CITY
My friends over at Fainting Goat Games are hard at work on Against the Axis, an ICONS World War II book that is now also getting Savage Worlds and SUPERS! support. They have even joined forces with Heroic Publishing to tie in with several of their Golden Age style characters.
The ICONS manuscript is complete, and this is a full blown sourcebook that ties in with the Stark City setting released a few years ago, not simply an adventure (of which ICONS has seen several of).
Pinnacle's own Clint Black (who was the man behind one of my favorite campaigns of all time, Necessary Evil) is signed on to write a stretch goal book if it gets that far, but right now the campaign is struggling. Fainting Goat is a good company with great quality and reliability, and the ICONS manuscript is complete, so there is very low risk in backing this one, which still needs just under two grand to hit its funding goal in a week.
It's that time of year again...a New Year and a time to look back on my past year in gaming. I reviewed a ton in the first half of the year, then spent the second half of the year doing way more writing than reviewing. But I did still hit on six products that filled me with a particular joy, so here we go.
The rules, as arbitrarily decided by me: 1) One game per publisher. 2) My primary exposure to the game must have been in from December 1st of last year to November 30th of this year. 3) I must not have been involved of the production of the product (but you should totally check out Savage Tales of Horror, ya'll).
1) I have never had a bad game of this. We've busted it out repeatedly, and had a blast each time, including the time Otis just spent the whole game mauling us.
2) The game is lite enough that you can run multiple characters to ensure you have a full spread of counselors, even if you only have two or three players.
3) The game is just full of slasher movie tropes, clearly crafted by fans of the genre, for fans of the genre.
4) Every character in the game, from Counselor to Otis to the campers and the cameos just screams that they walked out of an 80s Friday the 13th knock-off. From the little girl that keeps you from a little late night action, to the a-hole cops that can interfere with you, the brave lifeguard counselor who runs to stop Otis when he appears nearby to the little psycho girl who is going to grow up and live in a horror movie of her own someday...just a great cast of characters.
5) The Finale System (8 unique finales, depending on where on the board you initiate it at) provides ample uncertainty as to how the game will end and what you have to do to stop Otis. It may turn out that Otis was never there at all, and it was just an imposter, or Otis may aim to take you with him as he goes. We still have not played all of them, but the finales are arguably the the strongest part of an already great game.
6) For a simple roll and move game, the interaction between counselors, Otis, random placement of objectives, the 8 finales and the sizable card decks just overflowing with horror tropes ensures that there is a lot of replayability, and five expansions were unlocked with the Kickstarter and are still coming.
1) Do you know a lot of other RPGs about playing a members of a rock band who are trying to make it in a harsh and unforgiving industry (as opposed to members of a rock band who fight crime and/or monsters)?
2) Lots and lots and lots of random tables, which obviously draws my attention.
3) Short and sweet. Whole thing comes in well under 50 pages, but provides a full game with no big, gaping holes.
4) The premise is "rock band", but the drama is on the personal events that surround the group in their pursuit of the big dream, essentially making it about a band who is trying to succeed in spite of themselves, especially as Hope (the game's big in-game currency) is stolen from player to player.
5) Brand new layout from the original version released by Flying Mice Games adds an additional visual flair, while still maintaining the indie charm that a game like this requires.
6) Player versus player with no player elimination, great for a change of pace if your group is one that likes to butt heads every now and then, but are capable of doing so without hurt feelings.
1) Random tables for every aspect of your character, plus Interesting Things and even how you learn your new Paths. Have I mentioned that I love random tables?
2) Evocative art that constantly reinforces the slightly grimy, slightly "off" feel of everything about the setting, from character Ancestries to monsters.
3) The setting is at once a broad strokes kitchen sink, while also having a very distinctive feel and tone to it. While not a true "horror" game, it is definitely "weird", as everything just feels a touch "off".
4) Definitely a change of pace from high powered heroics of modern fantasy games, harkening back to older games with more "expendable" characters, combined with newer design concepts (such as unified subsystems, the Fortune mechanic and so on).
5) The Paths are fantastic, allowing you to guide your character through the career paths of their choice. You can even willingly become, say, a Warrior at level 1, turn Thief at level 3 and transform into a Magus at level 7, hitting three of the four major "multiclass" points. Obviously, certain combinations of Ancestries and Paths will mesh better together, but none are forbidden.
6) Shadow of the Demon Lord was one of my favorite purchases of the last year. Not least because of all the cool stretch goals I got in the Kickstarter, but the corebook itself as proven to be worth it, both reading and in play.
1) Great introductory set for what can otherwise be a confusing system to get your heads around. The handy charts breaking down the dice symbols on each character folio made running and playing the game very smooth.
2) As is to be expected with both Star Wars and Fantasy Flight Games, the production values are top notch and intentionally evoke the darker mysticism of the Star Wars universe.
3) The included adventure not only provides multiple encounters, but multiple ways to resolve those encounters as well. One of the PCs in the game I ran was a top flight negotiator, and he managed to talk his way through half the adventure, whereas the other PC would certainly have had to fight.
4) The system, once you get the dice symbols down, is both simple and flexible. Struggling to explain some of the "Yes, but..." and "No, but..." results can be a problem, but in a pinch you can always hand out Boost and Setback dice to keep it moving.
5) The Force system is great in that it can force "Conflict" without automatically turning you to the Dark Side. Essentially, it randomizes your concentration and emotions (based on your Force Rating), providing actual incentive to tap into darker feelings to use The Force.
6) It convinced me to not only buy the Force and Destiny rulebook, but Age of the Rebellion and Edge of the Empire as well.
1) Available in ICONS, Fate and Supers! versions, each villain archetype has a set of sample stats for the system in question.
2) If you have the Field Guide to Superheroes, it has an appendix that discusses how to tweak those archetypes into villains.
3) The focus is on who the villains are, not what they can do. The ability to shoot bolts of energy from their eyes should define a good villain less than that they are a white supremacist who is using that power to "cleanse the genepool".
4) Multiple examples are provided for each archetype to draw a mental connection between the character types and actual villains you have actually read about.
5) Each entry breaks down not only the abilities that the archetype is likely to have, but the qualities they are likely to have, as well as the stories you can tell with them. This is useful to drive home the fact that there is more than one way to make an Assassin, or a Mastermind or a Cult Leader.
6) This book is at least as useful to me as a writer as it is for me as a GM. Honestly, even if you're running a supers RPG that this book hasn't been released for, it's still a valuable resource. It's that good.
And now, for the part you have all been waiting for...The Birthday Blog Giveaway! The blog turned six years old today, and we have prizes! Send me an email to "tommybrownell(a)gmail(dot)com" with the subject "Birthday Blog Giveaway" and send me your choices for prizes in order of preference. The prizes are:
- Two (2) PDF copies of AMP: Year One.
- One (1) PDF copy of High Strung.
- One (1) PDF copy of the Victims of the Demon Lord Starter's Guide.
- One (1) PDF Copy of The Super Villain Handbook (ICONS, FATE or SUPERS!, your choice)
- One (1) Print Copy of The Super Villain Handbook (ICONS)
- One (1) Print Copy of The Super Villain Handbook (FATE)
- One (1) Print Copy of The Super Villain Handbook (SUPERS!)
- One (1) set of Laser Cut Wood and 3D Printed Gaming Terrain by Daft Concepts
For the Print Prizes and the gaming terrain, I can only ship them to the continental US, sorry. All entries are required by 11:59 Central time on 1/14, after which I will select winners! I do require a valid email address to provide to publishers for the digital rewards, and valid US mailing addresses for the physical rewards!
Good luck, thank you to the publishers for the prize support, and thank you to everyone who is still reading!
So we have started East Texas University, and I am probably going to post my ETU stuff up here on the blog, for those interested. With this campaign, I went the route of having the group "cast" their characters with actors and such.
I'll try to keep up with at least rudimentary actual plays as well.
Russ "Bad Moon" Rison (three time State Champion Quarterback) had his season - and dreams of being a Texas Longhorn - ended when he tore up his knee his Senior year. His cannon arm and football mind, combined with an intense rehab schedule, left him in prime position for a scholarship from the ETU Ravens, especially when his old Wide Receiver "Racin'" Mason Holmes transferred from Texas University after being cut from the Longhorns for disciplinary reasons.
"Bad Moon" and "Racin'" Mason are dead set on leading ETU to its best football years ever...even if players keep mysteriously disappearing.
Used Pick with slick tires (-1 to Driving)
Becka Nicole Lane, Just a Girl, Trying to Make Her Way in the World
Becka came to ETU mostly because it was affordable. Here for her teaching degree, she gets pulled along into wacky adventures by her roommate Brandi, who is a Pinebox native and Bad Moon's biggest fan. Becka and Brandi are a liiiittle on the scatterbrained side, though Becka takes life and college a little more serious than Brandi does. Becka hasn't talked much about her life before ETU, but her sweet appearance seems to hide a harder edge.
Used Midsized Car with an engine that slips (-10 to top speed)
Jonathan T. Wolfwood, aka Europe, The Vampire of Pennsylvania
Jonathan T. Wolfwood, Anthropology Major and son of the East Coast Wolfwoods, has come to ETU to get out from under the thumb of his overprotective parents (yeah, right). While he is genuinely curious about the mysteries of the world, he is quick to rationalize anything out of the ordinary, even when the supernatural is staring him in the face. "Racin'" Mason and "Bad Moon" Rison are convinced he's a homosexual European vampire, but they don't care, as long as he can kick a football (which he can't, and has no interest in doing).
Mason Holmes could have been a huge college star if he had kept his head on straight, but his freshman year at Texas University ended with him kicked off the football team for disciplinary issues, and him transferring to ETU, where his former High School Quarterback "Bad Moon" Rison was about to start school. Mason...isn't the brightest tool in the shed, laser focused on football above all else, and his views towards women are a bit...suspect...but he is loyal to a fault.
Brandi Jo Miller, Becka's Roommate and Bad Moon's Girlfriend (Maybe)
Brandi is Pinebox born and bred, and has a huge crush on "Bad Moon" Rison. They had Chemistry class together and she once accidentally caused Bad Moon to fail a test, because she let him cheat off of her notes, which were kind of bad. She has decided that her and Becka will be besties, and her and Bad Moon are totally going to be a thing, to the point that she's considering trying out for the Ravens Cheer Squad.
Star Wars is kind of a big deal. I tend to be kinda ambivalent, though I love the idea of Star Wars. I own (and have played) Star Wars d6 2nd Edition, d20 and Saga Edition, and have enjoyed the former and the latter. As a belated birthday present, I received the Star Wars Force and Destiny Beginner Game, which I ran for my 11 year old son and one of my longtime gamer buddies.
The Darkmoor RPG is a zany, over the top, video game inspired RPG that pulls from all kinds of pop culture elements. You define your race and class, and even have to provide all of your own drawings (actually talent hopefully not needed). You beat the cash out of enemies, level up in glowing bursts of light, and create hyper awesome special moves. Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams, of Triple Ace Games, has agreed to write a minisupplement for the game, and you can download an Introductory Guide that gives you a better idea of how the game works. The project is already funded, though not by a comfortable margin, with four days left to go, and you can pick up digital, softcover or hardcover rewards.
With five days left to go, Rippers Resurrected has demolished its funding goal and all but one of their stretch goals - a print compilation of the adventures unlocked as stretch goals, which will be given free to backers of the print levels. Rippers Resurrected as a sequel to the Rippers setting/plot point campaign (which is included as one of the stretch goals) in which Victorian monster hunters find and defeat monsters and "rip" their body parts and special abilities and add them to their bodies to gain an edge against the monsters...all while trying not to lose their grip on humanity. Pinnacle has a stellar track record on Kickstarter fulfillment, and the PDFs are set for delivery before Halloween so you can run Rippers for your group if you like. You can also add Savage Tales of Horror to your pledge, including my Deadlands adventure in vol. 2!
Hot on the heels of the fulfillment of the Apocalypse Prevention Inc. 2nd Edition Kickstarter, Eloy Lasanta is overhauling Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade into a slightly less "crunchy" and more cinematic RPG. I have made no bones about what a fan of the first edition I am, and I was both nervous and intrigued by this upcoming 2nd edition. Dispensing with the d20-based Dynamic Gaming System, the 2nd edition will use the Chakra System, a d10 die pool system. Another huge improvement is supposed to be a system for making enemies up on the fly, very useful for a game such as The Ninja Crusade that leans heavily on PC-like foes over a bestiary. The Ninja Crusade still needs over $3,000 to hit their funding goal, but they have 19 days left to hit it. Third Eye Games has a sterling track record for Kickstarter fulfillment as well, so you can pledge with confidence.
In the Halloween spirit, Rafael Chandler - one of the sickest, most twisted RPG authors I know, and I mean that as a compliment - has offered seemingly everything in his back catalog (aside from SlaughterGrid, it seems) as Pay What You Want (including nothing) through Halloween. I, personally, recommend Pandemonio, which is his revision of his Dread and Spite RPGs, but you really don't have anything to lose by taste-testing any of his stuff, do you? And if you like what you read, go back and "buy" the PDFs. That's kinda how Pay What You Want works.
So, a little over a year ago, I talked my friends into humoring me and giving Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition a try. They knew I had been staunchly anti-D&D for years and I don't think they took me seriously. Since I don't know how to do anything small, I set out to run The Hoard of the Dragon Queen for the group.
We are now closing in on the end of The Rise of Tiamat and the entire Tyranny of Dragons campaign. As appealing as Princes of the Apocalypse and Out of the Abyss look, odds are good that we are playing something other than D&D when this is finished, but we haven't decided for sure yet (and I am probably running at least a short campaign for my son).
So, I thought I would blog about my experiences as a DM for the last year. I have ran Rules Cyclopedia D&D, AD&D 2e (a LOT) and D&D 3/.5. I have read all kinds of books up and down the D&D lineage, including 4th Edition. I grew bothered by the rigidity of the 2e rules (though I loved the settings) and the insane amount of math and modifiers for 3rd edition (this being a huge part of the reason why I have never indulged in Pathfinder).
The backwards compatibility is amazing. I have managed to pull items and monsters from Labyrinth Lord, 2nd Edition and 3rd Edition with only minor modifications and drop them into my 5e games with no fuss. This means that my available content was loads larger than the five books in the initial wave. I have peppered the campaign with magic items from the 2e Encyclopedia Magica and the 3e Book of Vile Darkness, and used Small Niche Games' Inn of Lost Heroes as a side trek in Hoard of the Dragon Queen to hugely dramatic effect. Huge win on 5e's part.
Critical hits are bland. Doubling your dice roll and adding modifiers was too boring for us. We agreed to double damage after modifiers, and I added a critical hit chart I found online. This had led to great moments, like powerful enemies mortally wounded and bleeding out, and even one PC losing their hand in a fight. Everyone agreed that this was an improvement over Rules as Written.
Despite simplifying things, it can still be easy to get lost in the Action, Reaction, Bonus action cycle. No one at the table gets too bent out of shape about anything, so if there's confusion, we just kinda roll with it and I look up the actual rule after the fact. This particularly comes into play when extra attacks are involved. Still better than trying to track a Fighter's 3 attacks every 2 rounds.
Advantage/Disadvantage in place of the various fiddly modifiers is absolutely brilliant and I love it. Simplifying +/- into "Roll 2d20 and take the highest/lowest"? Wonderful. And yes, it IS still possible for players to whiff a roll with Advantage, as one player in my game has rolled double 1s more than once while rolling with Advantage.
The math for Challenge Ratings and the like is absolutely and gloriously borked. I learned very quickly that CR 5 may well mean that the beast will get smoked by a single level 5 Barbarian, while a couple of CR 1 guys may absolutely shred a group of level 4 characters. I *like* this. This makes the world feel more "real" and less like a well-balanced game, and causes level 12 characters to go "Let's see if we can sneak around that ogre" instead of "Just one ogre? Let's bag him".
When the DMG came out, we added in Proficiency Dice (a die you roll instead of flat bonuses, that scales up as you level up). Coming from Savage Worlds, it made my group feel more comfortable with the mechanics. It also helped the whiff factor early on. Now that they are on to d10s as Proficiency Dice, though, I feel like it's a touch overpowered. Not sure I would use it in another game.
We also added Hero Points, which are a number of points you can get per level that allow you to add a d6 to your die roll. Similar to Savage Worlds bennies, these were also met with universal approval. I would keep them in the future, but I think I might add the "scaling effect" of Proficiency Dice. Roll a d10 to try to make a Saving Throw still has a ton of risk, but also has enough reward to make you seriously consider it.
Speaking of the DMG: Their Horror/Madness rules are frightening, and nearly led to a TPK in Ravenloft when most of the party was disabled by them (one PC was paralyzed with fear, while another was driven to rage and left attacking the closest thing to him...which was party members more than once).
Legendary Actions are extra actions that certain monsters can take in a fight, giving them multiple actions on a round. Not only does this make certain monsters (looking at you, dragons) absolutely terrifying, but it also largely prevents a group of PCs versus a monster from turning into a one sided gang up curb stomp when the monster is attacking multiple times around (and then getting multiple attacks on a round). Throw in Lair actions and the PCs have had to earn their victories.
Attunement is another great feature. Essentially, some magic items (namely really powerful ones) require Attunement. You can only attune to three items at a time. This prevents PCs from having loads and loads of items. The number of items our group owns has crept up through the campaign, but they are also level 15 now, and I have tried to keep magic items a little more rare but a little more powerful.
I ditched the requirement for Spell Scrolls that state that the spell must be on your class' spell list and allow anyone to use the scroll...but if they fail, they risk the Scroll Mishaps table. I like my magic being just a bit more dangerous, what can I say?
Combat isn't as fast as Savage Worlds, but it's not horribly slow. Much better than I remembered 3rd Edition being by a long shot. Even with the PCs at level 14-15, everything tends to run pretty quickly. I did give everyone index cards so they could write down the details of their spells and abilities for easy reference. That helps.
I did think they needed Mass Combat Rules, so I ripped off the Savage Worlds/Army of Darkness Combat Rules. When they actually released Mass Combat Rules, I still preferred mine...but I love the Savage Worlds Mass Combat rules.
God, I love the release schedule. So glad they aren't just flooding the market with books. A few adventure books, followed by a bunch of stuff released for free online? That's aces in my book.
The Tyranny of Dragons campaign has been fun, and I have found it terribly easy to add my own flourishes to it (including adding in involvement from the Drow, a Lord of Hell and a side trek to Ravenloft). Are there parts that weren't detailed very well? Well, yes. But I have been GMing over 20 years. I can fill in a few blanks here and there. We have had epic moments, I have nearly driven one player to tears with story twists, and we have laughed hysterically at some of the events that have occurred. I call that a success, folks.
My initial reactions to the 5e Player's Handbook were very positive. This is why I cancelled my planned 13th Age game and ran 5e instead. A year later, nearing the end of a campaign that was fairly broadly panned online (for both being a "railroad" and for being "too open", somehow), we have had a blast, and I feel very secure in calling this my favorite version of D&D ever made, even if I'm not willing to call it my favorite RPG.
Great job, Wizards. I was looking for something to scratch that "D&D itch", and I found it. Keep up the good work.