Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Savage Worlds Characters Are All The Same: The Novice Advances

Last week, we met our team of intrepid characters, all of them at their initial character sheets. Personally, I didn't think the five of them looked that much alike at all. I mean, they have some similarities, sure, but their overall function is each very different.

This week, we're taking the five guys to the cusp of Seasoned, meaning three more Advances apiece.

DON'T HIT ME

1st: Strength d6 - And now one of his major weaknesses is compensated for. This raises his damage to d6+d4 with his rapier, which doesn't suck. But there's another reason he beefed up...
2nd: Acrobat - +2 to nimbleness based Agility rolls AND +1 to Parry, giving him an effective Parry of 9. He now only fears marksmen, large groups and lucky strikes.
3nd: First Strike - And now he gets a free attack when someone move in on him, helping him try to kill them before they can kill him.


DON'T HIT ME

Agility d8
Smarts d8
Spirit d6
Strength d6
Vigor d4

Fighting d8
Guts d6
Intimidation d6
Investigation d6
Notice d6
Taunt d6
Throwing d6

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6"
Parry: 6
Toughness: 3

Hindrances
Small (-1 Toughness)
Loyal
Bad Luck (1 less bennie per session)

Edges
Acrobat (+2 to nimbleness based Agility rolls, +1 to Parry)
Danger Sense (Free Notice roll at -2 to avoid attack)
First Strike (free attack when opponent gets into range)
Quick (redraw an initiatve card less than 5)
Strong Willed (+2 to Taunt/Intimidate)

Rapier (+1 Parry, for a 8), Damage d6+d4, Buckler Shield (+1 Parry, for an 9), Throwing Knife Damage d6+d4

HULK SMASH

1st: Fleet-Footed - This bumps his Pace up two and gives him a d10 running die...meaning that he can close in and inflict damage much faster.
2nd: Vigor d10 - Bringing his Vigor even with his Strength, this also gives him a base Toughness of 8, with his armor making it a 10.
3rd: Fighting d8 - Yes, it's beginning to infringe on DON'T HIT ME's schtick, but there are some combat tactics that HULK SMASH could use that do not exist at d6 Fighting. This raises his Parry to 6.

HULK SMASH
Agility d6
Smarts d4
Spirit d4
Strength d10
Vigor d10

Climbing d4
Fighting d6
Guts d8
Intimidate d8
Survival d4
Tracking d4

Charisma: -4
Pace: 8"
Parry: 6
Toughness: 8

Hindrances
Ugly
Overconfident
Mean

Edges
Berserk (Smarts roll upon being wounded, or go Berkserk, +2 Fighting/Strength rolls, -2 Parry, +2 Toughness, rolls of 1 hit random adjacent target)
Brawny (+1 Toughness)
Fleet-Footed (Pace +2, d10 Running die)

Great Axe (Armor Piercing 1, Parry -1 for 4), Damage d10+d10, Chain Hauberk (Armor +2, for Toughness 9)

SNIPER

1st: Dark Fighting - I'm swiping this from Shaintar, and tweaking it a bit. It halves penalties for Fighting or Shooting in darkness, but has a Fighting d8 requirement. That doesn't make sense to me, given the Shooting part, so I'm replacing that with a Shooting d8 requirement.
2nd: Spirit d6 - He's learning to toughen up a little bit as he adventures, getting a little less skittish. This is also building towards something.
3rd: Tracking d8 - Tracking and Sniping is becoming his primary purpose in the party, you see.

SNIPER
Agility d8
Smarts d6
Spirit d6
Strength d6
Vigor d6

Climbing d4
Fighting d4
Notice d6
Riding d4
Shooting d10
Stealth d8
Throwing d6
Tracking d8

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6
Parry: 4
Toughness: 5

Hindrances
Cautious
Wanted
Yellow

Edges
Alertness
Dark Fighting (Halves penalties for Shooting in the dark)
Steady Hands (removes unstable platform penalties)
Trademark Weapon (longbow, +1 to Shooting rolls)

Longbow 2d6 damage, Leather armor (+1 for Toughness 6)

MR. WIZARD

1st: Power Points - You can only take it once per rank, so be sure to take it. Especially since that once per rank is meant to apply to Legendary as well.
2nd: Wizard - This reduces the Power Points used by 1 for every raise on the Spellcasting roll.
3rd: Agility d8 - This is helping to set up his dual role as the "thief-mage" of the group, in D&D parlance.

MR. WIZARD
Agility d8
Smarts d8
Spirit d6
Strength d4
Vigor d6

Charisma: +2
Pace: 4
Parry: 4
Toughness: 5
Power Points: 15

Gambling d6
Guts d6
Knowledge (Arcana) d8
Lockpicking d4
Notice d4
Persuasion d6
Shooting: d4
Spellcasting d6
Streetwise d4

Hindrances
Bad Eyes
Lame
Poverty

Edges
Arcane Background: (Magic)
Attractive
Connections
Power Points (+5 Power Points)
Wizard (use 1 less Power Point per raise on Spellcasting roll)

Powers
Boost/Lower Trait
Deflection
Detect/Conceal Arcana

Crossbow, nice clothes (fraying around the edges), cane

FEARLESS LEADER

1st: Common Bond - And now he can share his bennies freely.
2nd: Command - And now his hirelings get +1 to become unShaken.
3rd: Smarts d8 - There's more leadership stuff he's going to need that'll require this.

FEARLESS LEADER
Agility d4
Smarts d8
Spirit d8
Strength d6
Vigor d6

Charisma: +4
Pace: 6
Parry: 4
Toughness: 5

Fighting d4
Guts d8
Intimidation d8
Knowledge (Battle) d6
Persuasion d8
Streetwise d8
Survival d4

Hindrances
Code of Honor
Doubting Thomas
Stubborn

Edges
Charismatic
Command (+1 to his troops for Shaken rolls)
Common Bond (share bennies with other Wild Cards)
Lucky
Noble

Shortsword d6+d6, Plate (+3 Armor for 8 Toughness), Hirelings



THOUGHTS

I don't think they look that much alike, even with HULK SMASH having to beef up his fighting. They all still function very differently. I did have to reach a bit, especially with HULK SMASH, as there wasn't a lot of support for his sheer brutality at Novice rank. Most of the Fantasy Companion Edges start at Seasoned, and Background Edges like Fast Healer are, well, Background Edges.

There are a couple of Edges I'm working towards with other characters that are going to be expensive due to poor planning on my part...but that happens sometimes. One thing is that Savage Worlds isn't NEARLY as crippling in that regard as d20 is, making it much easier shift character focus as you go than D&D 3rd edition.

One thing is obvious (and I knew this), in the beginning it is much better to take a d4 in several skills than to just beef up a couple, because it's much cheaper to beef up existing skills in play. Were this an actual game, I'd be more than willing to let the players make a "free swap" somewhere after a session or two, because sometimes a character just doesn't work out like you'd hope.

Look for the four Seasoned Advances sometime next week.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tommy's Take on War of the Dead: Chapter Two Week Six

With War of the Dead Chapter 2 at Week 6, we're at (kinda) the halfway point to the chapter. Last week, the PCs made it to the city of Sanctuary, to find a true war brewing between multiple factions...and it was, in my opinion, one of the strongest installments yet.

Does the trend continue this week?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tommy's Take on Trucker - Open Road Adventures

When I saw Trucker, the concept jumped out at me as being incredibly, incredibly awesome: It's truckers, on the road, doing jobs...and having to deal with all manner of evil monstrosities along the way.

The cover image is a trucker, in a truck, with a freaky monster on top of it, presumably trying to get in. The trade dress on the book harkens to the classic sci-fi game Traveller (which I have no prior experience with, but I recognize the imagery).

Trucker is only $3.49, but does require two decks of cards, several coins, 100 poker chips (red and black, specifically) and twenty red and black 10-sided dice. Basically, if you think Savage Worlds is a bit fiddly or gimmicky, you might want to stay away from Trucker.

To their credit, not only is the 40 page book indexed, but it also has imbedded page references all over the book...if a term pops up that you're not sure of, it is almost guaranteed that there is a page reference RIGHT THERE.

One interesting bit is that the game is apparently playable solo, as well as with a group. I'm not 100% sure it falls under the classic "role-playing game" category, but I'm honestly not concerned with that part.

You don't have "character creation", you "set-up the truckers", with the dealer being the person with the biggest key chain. Every player winds up with four cards, one from each suit and one each ranked Ace through 4. These are used for the Truckers' abilities: Grace, might, sense and will. Diamonds and hearts combine to make up "Pluck", while clubs and spades make "Luck".

With the essentials in place, you flesh out the Trucker with things like their CB Handle, base, route, carge, trucking line, etc.

Once the truckers are set, the Dealer sets up the contract by rolling a d10 and dealing out that many cards, setting the length of the contract. Players get cards called "tires" that they use along with the "wheel" (which is each leg of the contract, flipped over at the beginning of each round) to make Threats and Snags, and everybody has to toss coins from their starting funds into the center of the table to "ante up".

Everyone essentially makes their own challenges, with the caveat that stronger challenges equal greater payouts.

Threats and Snags are handled completely differently, from set-up to resolution. Threats are made by combining cards of multiple suits (at least one from each), adding the two highest together for a total and rolling 1d10 and adding your relevant abilities to it to beat the score. Snags are made from a single suit and you use your ability as a die pool, trying to beat the snag total. If you lose, you lose coins to the "Lockbox" in the center of the table...if you have no coins, you lose your chips. If you have no chips, you're out.

Once everyone has taken a turn, the Truckers play a hand of cards, with the winner getting cards to use as "spare tires" to give them more options for making threats and snags with in the next round.

Once the contract deck has been completed, the job is over and people can trade in their completed threats and snags for coins.

Once everyone has decided that a whole stretch has been completed (kind of like a story arc versus an adventure), the players can get "promotions", increasing their Abilities or Starting Funds.

A big list of trucker lingo is present, as well as Ten-Codes (like 10-4 "message received and understood").

The book also includes about 15 sample threats and about a dozen snags.

Some of the threats include aliens, werewolves, vampires, boogeymen and goblins. The all also have four levels of "fx", which are special abilities that you can kick in to make them scarier/more dangerous.

Snags include mechanical failures, road hazards and illness, with fx effects as well. Generally, snags are mundane stuff and threats are supernatural. A character sheet is included, as well as an index (as mentioned).

CONCLUSIONS

Man...that concept sounds great, doesn't it?

In practice...I don't know. There's so much game specific terminology that I'm not used to with an RPG, that it makes the rulebook hard to read and comprehend. The threat encounters don't even require defeating the threats...just a round of combat and then it's the next player's turn to deal with their threat or snag...and then everyone's at the roadhouse playing poker.

I could see it being a fun board/card-ish game for a break from the regular RPG game, and it could be pretty amusing once you get the hang of all of the little rules and stuff. Given the blank pages in the PDF, a full on rules summary (in plain english and not posted on a dart board) would have been extremely welcome.

Be aware: This is not a typical roleplaying game, by any stretch, but it does have potential for some humorous fun, especially with the right soundtrack on in the background.

Recommended if you dig the non-traditional indie games, as the potential is there, and the price isn't exactly prohibitive.

Tommy's Take on Arrowflight 2nd Edition

I have no prior experience with Arrowflight, no preconceived notions, anything...in fact, I'm only vaguely sure I've heard of it before. The second edition was released late this summer, and it's been sitting in my review queue for a bit.

The PDF is fully bookmarked, but is black and white and not very high-end production-wise. At $19.95, it seems a bit pricey, but it is 203 pages and seems to cover a lot of ground, as apparently several of the rules sections from 1st edition sourcebooks got rolled into it.

INTRODUCTION

This is pretty standard stuff, intro to roleplaying, etc.

We also get a brief overview of the setting as well. Nothing bad, nothing good, it is what it is. We do also get the cliff's notes version of the main game mechanic: Take a Stat and a Skill, add them together, that's your target number. Roll 2d6 and get equal to it or less than it to succeed.

CHARACTER CREATION

Eight races are included in the rulebook, featuring your standard fantasy fare as well as cool stuff (to me) like intelligent apes.

Characters have 8 Primary Stats: Agility, Dexterity, Intelligence, Perception, Strength, Willpower, Mana and Spirit. Characters are built on a point buy, using a 30 point budget capped by racial maximums.

Then it gets really cool, in my opinion, because you get the Lifeline, which is a randomly rolled Lifepath that further modifies your characters, such as giving them the basic skills they wound up with from their upbringing.

You get another 30 points to further flesh out your skills, so you aren't just limited to the Lifeline.

After that, you finish out the character with some Derived Stats, take a Destiny point (which lets you modify your die rolls. Use it selfishly or in an evil manner, and it doesn't come back. Use it heroically and you may earn an additional one), and take your starting gold to buy up your initial gear.

Every race gets a page, with images and background, their stat caps and any special abilities. In addition to the humans, elves, dwarves, orcs and earthfolk (kinda like halflings), we get Montaka (apes), Shal'taka (lizard people) and faeries.

LIFELINE

The Lifeline Tables include Social Status, Apprenticeship, Environment and the like. For instance, a character from the Wetlands gets a free point in Swimming, Natural Sciences, Lore and Survival.

You can get an inheritance that can let you start off with land, an heirloom weapon and so on. Good stuff...I like me some random tables.

SKILLS

Skills have a handy table for ranks, with Professional landing at Rank 4 and 8+ being Legendary. Character Advancement is included right here as well, and Stats are made far more expensive than Skills, so get used to your Stats and be prepared to advance skills.

The Skill List is a little larger than I like, but this is a decidedly skill-based system...with about twenty skills being combat skills (though they are generally very specific - such as elven unarmed technique, etc.).

PERSONALITY

This is actually an Advantages/Disadvantages system...with assets such as Charimsma, Insight and Quick being bought with Liabilities like Enemy, Frail and Ugly. Behaviour Tags are personality quirks like Driven, Petty and Optimistic.

It's a simple system, but has a ton of choices built in.

QUICK START TEMPLATES

These are 13 occupational templates to use as your base for making your characters, making sure you hit the recommended skills for occupations like Combat Mage, Monk and Pistolier. Very handy if you're looking at the skill list and not really sure what you need.

THE ART OF COMBAT

Combat is fairly important in this game, as you probably noticed from the previous comment about the combat skills. This chapter starts with a discussion about knights and armor, freeing them from most of the agility type penalties, as well as providing a nine point Knight's code.

Where the chapter gets really meaty, though, is in the explanations of the Combat Skills, most of which give you bonuses at various levels. For instance, dwarves can - among other things - learn a battle cry that rattles their enemies for the round, possibly giving them an opening. Gladiators can use anything from the sun to dirt in the eyes to temporarily blinf an opponent, while Sharpshooters can learn ricochet shots.

SYSTEM

Here, we get the game system in more detail, but the basic mechanic is straight forward, as mentioned: The player sets their own target number by combining their skill and stat and trying to roll that number or less. Options are included for the GM making something more or less difficult, applied as a bonus or penalty to the target number, for those situations in which the basic mechanic doesn't show the proper weight of the situation.

In an Opposed Check, both sides roll and the person that got the higher margin of success wins out. Rolling a 2 is a Critical Success, rolling a 12 is a Critical Failure.

Fear has a basic chart that you use, with the nice rule that a Critical Success on a Fear check basically makes the character immune to that type of Fear check. You can either roll on the Fear chart or use the margin of failure.

The "insanity" table isn't the most appropriately named, but has a ton of interesting results: You can become shellshocked, have a creative burst that compels you to make a work of art (taking 1d6 days), you can become compelled to wear fancy clothes, lose control of your bladder, develop hallucinations or become an alcoholic.

COMBAT

Combat is interesting, as the margin of success between attack and defense is multiplied to the weapon's rating and applied as damage to the defender. Rather than Hit Points, damage is applied as Wounds, if the damage went above and beyond the defender's SHRUG stat, with 7 levels of damage (with 7 being death).

Special rules are given for using blackpowder weapons in bad weather, as well as reloading them. Using weaker weapons to parry stronger ones can lead to them being shattered, using similar rules to the ones for characters sustaining damage.

Arrow-fodder (or "mook" rules) are given, a simplified version of the damage system, allowing PCs to wipe out less important opponents. Mass combat seems like it might not work as smoothly as the rest, with units abstracted into "characters".

And, of course, we have to have fire/falling/drowning rules.

VEHICLE COMBAT

Vehicle combat in fantasy games? Yes...Arrowflight has a variety of vehicles that can be used, including airships and automatons. There is a Vehicle Damage chart like the Wound chart for characters, and a helpful list of vehicles is provided as well...three pages, with two columns worth, in fact.

MAGIC & DIVINITY

Magic is performed by manipulating Mana, and if a wizard dies, his spell effects fade away. Spells themselves are created from a list of modifiers, though several sample effects are included.

ARCANE THEORIES

Here, each Arcane Theory is laid out, with modifiers and sample spells. Combat magic is both offensive and defensive, letting you inflict damage or toss up barriers in defense. Divination allows you to see the future/past/etc., like usual, but it also has some combat applications, allowing you to affect your opponents and allies. Elemental magic pretty much does what you would think, while Glamours allow you to do things like jack with your opponents' senses, change shape, control animals, etc, being the purview of faeries. Healing heals, Illusory magic brings about illusions, and Necromancy has all kinds of cool effects: It can raise the dead and it can bring the dead to peace. Primal magic has interesting effects involving plants and animals, and is all very nature based, Summoning lets you - um - summong people and Folk Magic lets you do very minor effects.

Additionally, rules are present for performing sacrificers in order to harness the mana of the victims, as well as creating familiars.

LAB MAGICKS

These include rules (and examples) for making disposable magic items like potions through Alchemy, as well as Enchantment rules for making new magic items. Runecraft (often used by dwarves) is present, as is making non-magical mechanical items.

Everything is a list of modifiers that set the difficulty, the time to create and the cost. I assume that the difficulties here work the same as Spell difficulties, acting as penalties to the target number. An example of actually making the rolls on an item would have been helpful.

CHAOS

This is an unusual study of magic that compliments the other Theories (kind of). It allows you to take damage and boost your MANA for a spell, but it also tears a whole in  the "Web of Life", reminiscent of Defilers from the Dark Sun setting. Any mage can use this, for better or for worse, and the deeper you go into calling Chaos, the worse the effects get across the board.

PRIESTLY VIRTUES

We have magic and we have science...now we have the power of Prayer. The Devotion skill and SPIRIT stat work together to set the Target Number, with failure possibly equaling damage from the deity refusing the prayer! However, a truly devout priest can gain bonuses to their prayers, helping to alleviate the chances of failure here.

Several sample prayers are included, with the tables for making your own, falling under Communion, Healing, Protection and Wrath.

RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD

Here, we cover the seven major religions of the world, along with their subsects. The Church of Marg stands out as kind of a "Chaos" cult, and its followers are generally to be feared. Every church is broken down with subsects of note, with some (like the Elementalist Church) broken up into several subsects.

In a nice change of pace from most fantasy games, there are very few race-specific religions, as even ones like Nyeh O'Deain, which is primarily a dwarven religion, has notable non-dwarven followers.

DEITIES, SAINTS & HOLY PLACES

Deities are not to be messed with, no stats to be whittled down in combat or anything. Every deity is given a name (with pronunciation), appearance, symbol, what they embody, their persona, who worships them, invocations and the lessons they tend to impart.

There is an "impersonal and distant" Creator, as well as The Dark Moon (which sometimes eclipses Mun (moon) and Rai (the sun)). Tothas is an old elf who gathers the dead after battle and takes them to the Underworld, while The Gatekeeper is a corpse that comes to life to demand a toll from those looking to pass into the Underworld.

There are dozens of deities and saints for your characters to worship, or just to use as flavor in the campaign.

WORLD OVERVIEW

This tells how Marg came to the world, how dwarves acquired rune magic and how an elf named Rellian died a martyr, hiss message of compassion spreading across the land.

GEOGRAPHY

Here we get into the world, with the empires and nations within.

Each nation gets a paragraph or so, with a "motif" that kinda summarizes the "feel" of the land, such as Harkilon being a cross between the Mayans and the bronze-age egyptians.

Places like the D'Junn Empire have unique dynamics such as a warrior class of elves ruling over (and protecting) humans, and Zeah, which a xenophobic land of elves, earthfolk and faeries that is currently free from any of the effects of Chaos.

Obviously, there is room for expansion, and there's not even a "starter" area that is given greater detail, which is disappointing, and means that GMs will be taking outlines and building from the ground up, essentially.

BESTIARY

Not only is this full of monster stats, but stats for using several of the creatures as PCs is here as well...(with a warning that you should never use giants as PCs).

Goblins, Trolls, Cyclops, Gorgons, Minotaurs and more are here under Non-Player Races, so if the eight choices given early in the book aren't enough, the playable choices more than double.

Animals include chimeras, unicorns, manticores, dragon-bats, gryphons and giant cave spiders...but nothing playable as a PC, so you know.

Carnivorous plants are treated less as monsters and more like traps, with target numbers and damage ratings. The Drop-Trap Tree, for instance, has trap doors in its roots that drop open and suck victims in to digest them.

Dragon-kind includes basilisks and thunder lizards (yes, the T-Rex), as well as nine varieties of greater dragons, with multiple stat blocks that they all share, based off of age categories. By the time they hit "Ancient", you REALLY don't wannt to screw with them.

Supernatural creatures begins with ghosts and werepeople, which tend to be too varied to truly lock up in a single stat-block. Undead are treated as templates, essentially, so you can turn a goblin into a mummy if you feel like it, for instance. Nearly a dozen types of undead are present, from old standards like zombies and ghouls to The Damned, which are guys that are now an undead/demonic hybrid.

Thirteen demons are also here, from succubi to the tempters, who show up offering you your heart's desire. Shades and spectres, commonly classified as undead in fantasy games, are demons here, and Dark Lords are the towering, bat-winged demonic types in this setting.

Only four Angelic races are present, but my favorite has to be gargoyles, who are reformed demons that watch over holy places...I dunno, I think that's one of the coolest twists on an old standard that I have ever seen.

For as light as the geography section is, the bestiary is amazingly comprehensive.

EQUIPMENT

Normally appearing earlier in corebooks, this is the big list of equipment. The currency listing, followed by prices for common equipment and services. There's not a lot of art on the weapons, but there are a LOT of weapons. Magic items get a cursory treatment here, while a handful of "equipment packages", with prices, are listed for the purpose of quick purchasing.

GM SECTION

This is a pretty straight forward GM section, nothing you haven't read in a dozen other books...except for providing an alternate game mechanic, instead of using 2d6 versus a stat+skill target number, you roll the stat as a die pool, using the skill as the target number...(although this makes unskilled checks impossible, by my count).

Nothing to get excited about here, but it is also kept pretty short.

ARROWFLIGHT SCENARIO GENERATOR

Yes...random tables for scenario generation. People reading my reviews know how much I love these. This is a series of tables to roll from, with terms to plug into a randomly rolled sample plot skeletons.

Example:

Tribal Woman, a family friend of one of the party, invites the party to [a] laboratory to participate in a festival of ale. The festival is disrupted by cursed priests and wild animals.

Well, alright then. Other than the laboratories part, I could see it working for a simple session.

APPENDIX

This is an extensive listing of the common animals of the world, covering all kinds of animals from bears and dogs to jellyfish. Creatures that can typically be purchased have costs associated with them here as well.

Seriously...crabs and songbirds are included here.

INDEX

An impressive index is present as well...between this, the bookmarks and the search feature, the PDF should be easy to use. For the print version, the index will be a huge boon.

A character sheet, vehicle sheet, mount sheet and spell/prayer sheet are listed, along with a world map.

CONCLUSION

I love reviewing RPGs.

I probably would have overlooked Arrowflight 2e completely, and that would have sucked.

Simple, yet robust is something that came to mind throughout the book. There is a LOT of ground covered here, but the world is probably not for a newbie GM, considering the light approach to detail it was given in this book. Character options are available like crazy, and the extensive bestiary is very awesome as well.

I still think the price is probably a bit high for a PDF, but not excessively so. I've seen books that are 100 pages larger that don't feel like they cover as much ground. If you're looking for a fantasy game, Arrowflight 2nd Edition seems to do a lot of work with a little lifting.

Simple, yet robust.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tommy's Black Friday/Cyber Monday RPG Buyer's Guide

I'm not telling you EVERYTHING for sale out there...I'm just telling you about the awesome stuff out there that I think you should take advantage of:

Arc Dream is running a big sale for another week, including Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor and the Monsters and Other Childish Things Pocket Edition, which are collectively only $21 - in print. Dreadful Secrets is an AMAZING book, and if you've been curious about ORE (at least the Monsters version), then jump on this. Dreadful Secrets is high on my "wanna try" queue.

Third Eye Games is offered deep discounts on the PDFs of Wu Xing and Apocalypse Prevention Inc. These are two of the best RPG corebooks I saw this year, and $10 is a steal.

Gun Metal Games is offering a half-off sale, and I urge you to take advantage of this and get Interface Zero for Savage Worlds while this offer is in effect. A tremendous cyberpunk setting and only $8 this weekend.

Reality Blurs has two standout products that I must mention alongside their regular sales items, namely Iron Dynasty and Realms of Cthulhu. You can get their PDFs deeply discounted at RPGnow, through the links I have provided, or you can visit their website and find great print deals as well.

Daring Entertainment, makers of one of the best and most ambitious Savage Worlds products I have had the pleasure of reading, is unleashing a War of the Dead Holiday bundle, featuring Chapters One and Two, plus The Paper Dead. And if you already have one or more of those products, they are all being reduced by the bundle amount for your buying pleasure.

Adamant Entertainment is offering all of their PDFs for only $1, so if you've wanted to check out ICONS, now is the time (and take advantage of the great stuff by Misfit Studios, Radioactive Ape Designs and Vigilance Press as well), plus I DEFINITELY recommend getting Thrilling Tales for Savage Worlds.

Silver Gryphon Games is also running a sale, you should be able to get their Wellstone City setting, a Savage Worlds Sin City-ish set-up, for $1.50 and all of their Wellstone adventures (as well as non-Wellstone adventures like the Pine Ridge Horror) for only $1!

UPDATE: Divine Madness Press has Fight! The Fighting Game RPG on sale for $9 right now, and it is a great treatment of the fighting game genre. Well worth it if you've ever thought about mixing fighting games and RPGs.

Savage Mojo has slashed prices on their awesome Shanghai Vampocalypse, as well as their newest entry in their Suzerain setting, Caladon Falls. I haven't read Caladon Falls, but Vampocalypse is a GREAT high-stakes Savage Worlds setting.

Spectrum Games has also cut Slasher Flick and Cartoon Action Hour Season 2 to $9.99 each, both of which are highly recommended, as Cynthia Celeste Miller is a master of genre emulation.

Also, from now until January 5th, you can get 20% off of the following PDFs:

Weird War II Player's Guide [Pinnacle Entertainment]
Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade [Third Eye Games]
Martial Cultures: the Daikort Pack [Chaotic Shiney Productions]
Fuzzy Heroes (2nd Edition) [Inner City Games]
Book of Alignment (OGL/Pathfinder) [Emerald Press]

All you have to do is use the coupon code Holiday2010BPCX at checkout.

Enjoy!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Savage Worlds Characters Are All The Same: Meet the Cast

DON'T HIT ME

Agility d8
Smarts d8
Spirit d6
Strength d4
Vigor d4

Fighting d8
Guts d6
Intimidation d6
Investigation d6
Notice d6
Taunt d6
Throwing d6

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6"
Parry: 6
Toughness: 3

Hindrances
Small (-1 Toughness)
Loyal
Bad Luck (1 less bennie per session)

Edges
Danger Sense (Free Notice roll at -2 to avoid attack)
Quick (redraw an initiatve card less than 5)
Strong Willed (+2 to Taunt/Intimidate)

Rapier (+1 Parry, for a 7), Damage d6+d4, Buckler Shield (+1 Parry, for an 8), Throwing Knife Damage d6+d4

DON'T HIT ME is an agile fighter who relies on not getting hit. With his rapier and shield, his Parry is an 8, and he needs every bit of that because he's running on fewer bennies than the rest of his team. Notice that he is Quick, which gives him the chance to react faster than most, and his bonuses are high enough that in some situations he'll be willing to take the penalties and Trick or Taunt before attacking, Shaking the opponent if he scores a high enough result (meaning that his damage only has to beat his opponent's Toughness and not get a raise). He can also use his Tricks to set higher parry allies up for HULK SMASH to land a crushing blow. In other cases, he will split up his Taunt and Attack over two rounds, banking on getting his +2 from Taunt while his opponent is still Shaken.

In a pinch, he keeps a throwing knife on hand to whack a guy with from a short distance, but that is definitely not his focus.

HULK SMASH
Agility d6
Smarts d4
Spirit d4
Strength d10
Vigor d8

Climbing d4
Fighting d6
Guts d8
Intimidate d8
Survival d4
Tracking d4

Charisma: -4
Pace: 6"
Parry: 5
Toughness: 7

Hindrances
Ugly
Overconfident
Mean

Edges
Berserk (Smarts roll upon being wounded, or go Berkserk, +2 Fighting/Strength rolls, -2 Parry, +2 Toughness, rolls of 1 hit random adjacent target)
Brawny (+1 Toughness)

Great Axe (Armor Piercing 1, Parry -1 for 4), Damage d10+d10, Chain Hauberk (Armor +2, for Toughness 9)

HULK SMASH is mean and  unlikeable, and the other guys keep him around because his unBerserk Toughness is a 9 and he deals out d10+d10 damage. Working in tandem with DON'T HIT ME and even MR. WIZARD and FEARLESS LEADER, HULK SMASH can crush guys who have their defenses softened before he even gets there. His biggest weaknesses are his vulnerability to Tricks and his Fighting...his Parry is actually a plus for him, because he WANTS that first hit to slip past his defenses: as his Toughness rises alongside his Strength and Fighting rolls. He will most likely need to spend bennies to become unShaken, due to his low Spirit, so hopefully he's prepared to earn some with his Hindrances. He has no ranged ability, nor does he want any.

SNIPER
Agility d8
Smarts d6
Spirit d4
Strength d6
Vigor d6

Climbing d4
Fighting d4
Notice d6
Riding d4
Shooting d10
Stealth d8
Throwing d6
Tracking d6

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6
Parry: 4
Toughness: 5

Hindrances
Cautious
Wanted
Yellow

Edges
Alertness
Steady Hands
Trademark Weapon (longbow)

Longbow 2d6 damage, Leather armor (+1 for Toughness 6)

SNIPER has a (Minor) criminal past, and he's the opposite of HULK SMASH personality-wise, refusing to rush headlong into battle. Instead, he will get anywhere he can out of immediate danger and fire away with his longbow, which has been handed down in his family for years. He can even peg a target from horseback or while riding on a wagon. He can make a token effort at defending himself in melee, but not much more than that. Moreso than the rest of of the crew, he just doesn't want to be seen if he can avoid it.

MR. WIZARD
Agility d6
Smarts d8
Spirit d6
Strength d4
Vigor d6

Charisma: +2
Pace: 4
Parry: 4
Toughness: 5

Gambling d6
Guts d6
Knowledge (Arcana) d8
Lockpicking d4
Notice d4
Persuasion d6
Shooting: d4
Spellcasting d6
Streetwise d4

Hindrances
Bad Eyes
Lame
Poverty

Edges
Arcane Background: (Magic)
Attractive
Connections

Powers
Boost/Lower Trait
Deflection
Detect/Conceal Arcana

Crossbow, nice clothes (fraying around the edges), cane

I went off of the Archetype reservation a bit of MR. WIZARD, intending to make a doddering old man with magic powers, when I felt compelled to instead making a rogue-ish, middle-aged man with a gambling habit and the inability to hold onto his coin. He's nominally the adviser to FEARLESS LEADER, a dapper gentleman who is incredibly put together from a distance, but you see that he's frayed a bit around the edges as you get closer. Bordering a bit on pathetic, his eyes are failing but he refuses to admit it. He is still a Magic User, but all of his magic is incredibly subtle (as it needs to be, considering FEARLESS LEADER doesn't truck in this supernatural nonsense). He keeps a crossbow on hand to zap at people in a pinch, but he commonly works in a support role come Combat time, helping out with Tricks as well as bolstering his allies Traits as needed. His specially designed cane was a gift from FEARLESS LEADER, helping to steady the crossbow to avoid penalties. I was going to also make him an Alcoholic (Minor Habit), but that would have clashed with the Attractive. He's also the guy on the team that Knows People in low places. So, yeah, he's no Gandalf/Elminster/Merlin...sorry.

FEARLESS LEADER
Agility d4
Smarts d6
Spirit d8
Strength d6
Vigor d6

Charisma: +4
Pace: 6
Parry: 4
Toughness: 5

Fighting d4
Guts d8
Intimidation d8
Knowledge (Battle) d6
Persuasion d8
Streetwise d8
Survival d4

Hindrances
Code of Honor
Doubting Thomas
Stubborn

Edges
Charismatic
Lucky
Noble

Shortsword d6+d6, Plate (+3 Armor for 8 Toughness), Hirelings

FEARLESS LEADER is armored up and ready to go. He's a so-so fighter at best, but he has a small handful of hirelings to do his fighting for him. He's Lucky, giving him an extra bennie to toss around, but right now, that's just planning for the future. He's also, essentially, the Face Man of the team...his Charisma bonus working alongside his Persuasion skills to end fights before they can begin, when possible. However, he does insist that it's his way or the highway. Note, also, the Knowledge (Battle): It's not in play much right NOW...but yeah. He spreads his money around to keep the rest of the team where they need to be to keep him alive.

So, there's the cast. The setting assumption is a low-magic fantasy setting (Mr. Wizard almost got an archaic gun instead of a crossbow), all of the character are human, etc. I will MOSTLY be sticking to the Explorer's Edition, perhaps with a little Fantasy Companion, as I level these guys up, but I do reserve the right to pluck Edges from other books if I choose.

The next article will bring them through to Seasoned, adding three Advances apiece.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tommy's Take on ARRGH! Thar Be Zombies

As a long-time Eden fan, it was great to see them get new product out the door in the form of Arrgh! Thar Be Zombies for All Flesh Must Be Eaten.

The question is, is it the resurrection of a once strong line...or its last gasp?

Arrgh! Thar Be Zombies had been in development for quite a while now (I honestly don't remember when)...but the source material feels like an artifact of its time. That is, Pirates were still pretty hot back when the buzz was first building about this...but I don't know if the buzz is still there, at least until Johnny Depp makes another Pirates movie (and it is coming soon enough).

AtbZ's is 160 pages in black and white, $25 for print and $17.50 for PDF. For the production values, it's probably a good deal for the print, less so for the PDF. The book marks are...not impressive, though searchability and copy and paste are enabled.

AHOY MATEY

Pretty standard opening chapter for an AFMBE genre book, with an extensive bibliography and glossary of pirate-speak. We also get an impressive timeline, running from 1492 through 1722, hitting every major recorded event in historical piracy in order to give you a good perspective on the non-zombified source material.

The timeline and glossary really elevate this section above and beyond the normal opening chapter. A very nice addition to the book.

YE PIRATES AND PRIVATEERS

This is the basic pirating chapter and we get a more in-depth history of the pirates, as well as some discussion on the various motivations for being a pirate (some seeking adventure while others were making political statements)...and, of course, greed. The book also plugs Enter the Zombie for fun with Asian pirates.

In a section on disease, we get disease rules for Unisystem, covering dysentery, malaria, scurvy, smallpox, syphilis, typhoid and tuberculosis...full mechanics for each, including contracting the diseases, their effects on your PC and curing the diseases.

As is typical in roleplaying books, slavery gets mentioned but not focused on, just a nod to the existence of slavery in the era.

We also get a version of the 8 Articles of Piracy, with the caveat that they do change from ship to ship, but this is common enough that it can be used as a jumping off point for most ships. We also get the pirate punishments, such as keel haulin', walkin' the plank, hangin' and so on.

A new character type, the Silver Screen Swashbuckler, is presented, for those wanting a more cinematic approach to their piracy (without going full blown Cinematic Unisystem, which I would totally do if I were truly wanting a cinematic pirate game).

We get a discussion on how some Qualities and Drawbacks have changed, complete with a new table for Resources, fitting the age. New Qualities and Drawbacks are present as well, such as Berserker (a full on berserker rage), Light Sleeper and Internal Compass. We also get some fairly in depth rules for alcohol in there. New Drawbacks include Landlubber (for those who aren't comfortable at sea) and One Eye ('cause it's a pirate game).

Several new skills are present, as well as dueling rules, which are kind of cool, including a variety of maneuvers that one can use.

Zombies get several new Aspects as well, including Billy Bones, which basically turns them into skeletons instead. From The Ashes means the zombie will return, with the power level dependent on when they come back.

Some very nice mechanics that should make this a draw for many All Flesh GMs, as several of those Aspects could be used in any game, as well as many of the Qualities.

TH' TOOLS O' THE TRADE

THe equipment chapter starts off with tables for English, French and British currency, the ones you are most likely to deal with in a historical piracy game. Several pieces of equipment are listed, many of which I believe have appeared before, but with Piracy era pricing now.

Additionally, appropriate armor and weapons for the age are present, including cannons and flintlocks.

Not surprisingly, ships themselves are covered including - in a nice touch - ghost ships, complete with aspects. With a little work, and in some cases none at all, most of the Zombie Aspects can be applied to ghost ships!

A discussion is made on life on the high seas, such as press gangs where people were forced onto ships, and mutiny...but I'm not 100% sure why those wound up in the equipment chapter. There is a small Mutiny Point mechanic for those wanting to track the captain's loss over his men.

The chapter ends with several pages on ship to ship combat, including tables for when the ship's toughness gives way, maneuvers for ships and boarding rules.

The ghost ship rules are especially cool, in my opinion, The rest is largely functional, but not inspiring.

VODOU

The state goal of this chapter is to try to combine historical and cinematic vodou. It uses Miracles as a base (like most All Flesh metaphysics do), and seems to include most of the Loa. I'm not terribly up on my Vodou, but I did notice that Shango is missing (he's one of the few that comes to mind for me when I'm thinking of Vodou Loa).

Several new Miracles are present, many of which could be used in a non-Vodou set-up with minor reskinning, if that, such as Speak True - which forces a person to tell the truth and suddenly makes me want to play an Inspired Lawyer in a Witchcraft game.

Rituals are also present, including Samedi's ritual for making zombies, which should be a bad idea in such a game.

Again, several mechanics that can be lifted and used not only in a non-Pirate game, but in any Witchcraft game that supports Miracles.

VOODOO QUEEN OF THE SHROUDED ISLES

Here, we get the first of the Deadworlds in the book.

It all starts with two seamen who are tortured under belief that they are pirates and a mother begging to the Petro Loa for vengeance, sparking a zombie plague.

There are a few ways that this can go, with some adventure seeds that put the PCs up against the Voodoo Queen, an immortal female pirate and oodles of zombies with the hopes of setting the world right again. There is even an option for letting the PCs play as the men that started this mess: now zombies on a blood-red ship.

It's a cool little setting and I do like the hook of having the PCs as zombies from the ship that tortured the sons that started all of this.

THE BLACK FLEET

This one is a straight forward race for a crystal skull against the Black Fleet, which borrow some imagery from the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

Like with the previous setting, this Deadworld also allows for a Zombie option, with the PCs playing a ship from the Black Fleet that has been dispatched in its own direction.

ISLANDs IN A DARK SEA

This is, essentially, an AFMBEd Spelljammer with serial numbers filed off and, I must say, that's awesome. Galileo creates ships that run off of personal essence and can fly up into the "Dark Sea", which you and I know as outer space...which is threatened by some nasty buggers called the Necronians. You basically have carte blanche to add whatever you like here, with a saurian race included and even a set of cyborg zombies that the PCs can cross paths with (and who look more than a little like the borg).

Seriously, I think this is the coolest Deadworld I've seen in an All Flesh book and jumps my opinion on the book up several notches.

PIECES OF EIGHT

These are a pair of non-Eurocentric Deadworlds that provide a framework to be built on by the ZM, featuring Asian piracy and Aztec piracy, as well as some mini plot seeds (literally, as one involves a hostile tree).

We do get an EXTENSIVE index at the end.

CONCLUSIONS

On one hand, I dunno, something about the AFMBE layout and set-up feels...dated. Eden has GORGEOUS production values on their licensed products, less so on their in-house stuff. On the other hand, you are also generally paying at least $15 less for their in-house stuff...

Given the lack of features (including usable bookmarks - these are not), the PDF is incredibly overpriced at $17.50...however, the print book at $25 could well be worth it, as there is a LOT that can be mined for other All Flesh games in here, presumable a credit to Daniel Davis.

If this is the new beginning for Eden Studios and All Flesh Must Be Eaten, and not a last gasp, then they could do a LOT worse than give Mr. Davis more work in this line.

It is worth noting that this book heavily references other All Flesh books, including Enter the Zombie (which any ZM should already own, anyway, as far as I'm concerned and Atlas of the Walking Dead).

A must-buy for All Flesh GMs, due to the sheer amount of plunderable material, if nothing else.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tommy's Take on the Field Guide to Superheroes! Vol. 1 (ICONS)

The ICONS Field Guide To Super Heroes is an interesting product by Vigilance Press. Normally known for their wonderful World War II stuff, this is a stark change of pace from your typical supers supplement: It's a book of HEROES...not JUST pre-made heroes, but an examination of hero archetypes for players to use as inspiration. It seems that it will ultimately be a four volume series, with this holding the first ten.

The first volume is $7.95, full color and contains 10 archetypes...it also runs 75 pages. The version I have lacks both a table of contents and bookmarks, and seems to lack searchability since I punched several of the archetypes into the search bar and got no results.

First up, we get a classic goodie in the Alien Hero. Dan Houser provides all of the art, and we essentially get 20 character shots as we get a nameless Alien Hero (who mixes some features of a Skrull, the Martian Manhunter in his "true" form and a completely different coloration) as well as a fleshed out sample Alien Hero (the golden skinned Matrix). Every entry gets handled this way.

The first entry cites example Alien Heroes from the comics (such as the aforementioned Martian Manhunter), as well as Challenges and Qualities common to the character type, plus typical powers. Abilities, Specialties and even a tip on making up an all Alien Hero team (citing Guardians of the Galaxy, which I'm reasonably sure has never had an all Alien line-up due to the presence of at least one earthling on each team).

Matrix gets a completely fleshed out character sheet including three pages of background and plot seeds. He's an alien hiding among humans as a mutant, and gets a new power (detailed in this book) called Adaptation - meaning he gets the power that helps him the most against his opponent, but has no control over what power it is.

The Android gets a very nice treatment, with a focus on how Androids can always be rebuilt, after all, and so Android heroes tend to be selfless.

We get the Android hero Victor - who a sidebar does acknowledge is incredibly stacked - who gets rebuilt after every destruction more powerful than the last time.

The Animal Hero gets a very light treatment despite ackowledging that there are two types: Powerless heroes with gadgets and empowered "totem" heroes.

The Eagle's entry boasts what amounts to a utility belt power, and is a bit of an American symbol with wings.

The Armored Wonder covers your Iron Man types, complete with a patriotic sample named...The Patriot (not to be confused with Norman osborn's Iron Patriot). In fact, in a nice twist, The Patriot is a female inside the suit of armor.

The Astronaut is the Adam Strange type Astronaut, and includes Moonshot, who as a brainy, gal-next-door type...just in space.

Avatars are Gods, or close to it. Here we get our Thors as well as New Gods like Orion. The sample here is the Greek Prometheus, cursed with Immortality and fighting as a hero, inspired by the superheroes in the world.

I take issue with the Comic Relief entry, namely with the samples: The art makes me think of Speedball, who isn't listed, and cites Squirrel Girl (Who has defeated DOOM - okay, maybe I'm overthinking this) and Elongated Man (I admit I'm not familiar with his earlier stuff, but in all of the recent stuff I've read, he's FAR more capable than Comic Relief)...I would have accepted Slapstick or Plastic Man, though. Wundermaus has, among his qualities, the humorous "voiced by Samuel L. Jackson".

The Creepy Hero kinda confuses me as well...I guess I'm just not seeing Nightcrawler and Spider-Man as "creepy". We get the Fabulous Frog Girl as our iconic here.

The Dark Avengers entry looks pretty great, other than the questionable addition of Nightwing there among the samples. Again, not an example I would use. It is noted that Dark Avengers tend to not have Powers, and tend to clock in at 6s on at least a couple of abilities. Our sample here is an interesting character called Veil, a dual-gun weilding arab woman.

Finally, we get the Defender, which are heroes who - er - defend...usually specific tracts of land.

The book concludes with a 9 page Lexicon of important names and terms from the setting each of the sample characters belong to, the Worlds of Wonder setting.

CONCLUSIONS

At 75 Pages, bookmarks at least would have been great. I like the book, but I don't love it. Honestly, a bunch of hero write-ups as samples are a good idea, but where this book should shine is on the making the archetype stuff...and that's generally a page or two versus a four or so page NPC write-up (none of whom just jump out at me like some of the NPCs in other Vigilance Press products). I won't judge the setting yet, as we're only getting glimpses...but yeah, you can't hang much on that part of the book yet, because there's still (presumably) so much to uncover. I can't even get too excited about the story seeds, because most of those really seem like they will only work with players actually playing the sample heroes, and wouldn't work as well with the samples in an NPC role (though there are exceptions).

Other than a few questionable examples, I generally enjoyed all of the archetype stuff however, and there is some great advice on building and playing each type of hero.

Honestly, I think I would give this a stronger recommendation if the archtype material and the sample heroes/setting material had been seperated and sold in seperate products...as it is, the archetype material is really, really good while the whole idea of laying out the world in characters' backstories over four volumes is...not the way I would have gone.

Recommended, but not a strong recommendation.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Just A DBloC Update

Just some bullet points to hit:

- It is so fun watching WWE now that Angelus cares about it. Especially since I don't mind Cena, who is one of Angelus' favorites.

- We have shattered my previous traffic record, thanks in part to DBloC and thanks in part to the Leverage RPG review being the most read post I've ever had.

- I played the MWAHAHAHA! card game by White Wolf this weekend with Russ...it's not bad, but they made EVERYTHING way too wordy. A little brevity (and clarity) would have gone a long way.

- I am currently way too busy for the amount of compensation I am getting...and it's not even like I'm working towards anything right now, because I'm not...just treading water. Something's gotta change somewhere.

- There is no defending the new Buffy reboot...especially when the series is still ongoing in comic book format.

- Check out my wife's blog over on the Blog List...Faith got to try out a communication device today, which we will hopefully get approved for, and she will hopefully benefit from.

- The Walking Dead hopefully put to rest any concerns that it was too "slow" after last night's episode...it all kinda went to pot. Still some stuff that doesn't quite click, but overall it's great.

- Anyway, nothing big today, because I am very, very busy and way, way behind...just keeping up with DBloC.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tommy's Take on DOOM (ICONS)

DOOM is the first ICONS release by Misfit Studios, and a conversion of the book by the same name which was released under the Mutants & Masterminds Superlink license.

First, a disclaimer: I did serve as a playtester on the book...which really just means I got to see it in play before I reviewed it, instead of just reading it.
DOOM by Misfit Studios, featuring
the Four Horsemen

It is nominally a villain book for ICONS, but it has a very specific focus to it: DOOM is an conspiracy/organization/cult that is not married to a specific setting. In fact, in my one go with the ICONS rules in play, I combined it with the ION Guard book...(the magic focus of DOOM makes them absolutely frightening adversaries for ION Guards).

First up, we get a Metahuman Threat Scale, meant to be an eye-balling guide to baddies, ranked from Alpha to Omega, with Alpha being the weakest and Omega the scariest. As well, there are notations that further defined the threats, such as "-P" meaning the threat is psychic or "-E" meaning extraterrestrial.

WHAT IS DOOM?

This is a two page background on the DOOM organizaation, an occult organization worshipping the "Lost Ones", who are very Lovecraftian in nature. It is noted that the Lost Ones should probably never be battled directly, as they are INSANELY powerful.

DOOM PERSONNEL

This is chock full of villainous game stats.

We get a section on the Counil of Nine that rules DOOM, but no concrete information at all, as GM is expected to design their own Council of Nine, if they choose to allow the PCs to confront them directly, whether built from scratch or drawn from the magical villains already in the setting.

We then get a selection of mooks, starting with rank and file cultists, then the assassin-like Daggers, the spellcasting Sorcerers and the Imps - people who have been...changed...by the dark powers of DOOM.

Next up as the very powerful lieutenants of the Council of Nine, known as the Doomsayers. We get eight of them, and they are an interesting bunch. Each entry gets a background, stats and three "Capers" you can use as inspiration for your own adventures.

Up first is the Immortal known as Acolyte. He is immortal in the Highlander sense, complete with the whole head-hunting power game. He is a powerful spellcaster and the leader of the Doomsayers, constantly looking for magical shortcuts in order to foul-up the other Immortals.

Bone is a veteran of the Iraq war who has been changed by an expirimental nerve gas that caused his bones to errupt from his body. Now he's capable of removing bones from his body and hurling them at his foes.

DOOM's Cerberus is a three-headed dog-man, and because of the three heads, you never know what you're getting, personality wise.

Chain is based off of the D&D Kytons, or "chain devils", which I have been a big fan of for years. He's not as big of a believer in the cause...just taking advantage of the opportunity to do death and destruction.

Deadman and Switch are an inseperable duo, with Switch possessing people's bodies and Deadman...er...taking stuff from people's bodies. Kinda like the old Marvel character Terror Inc., Deadman can rip off body parts and attach them to himself, using any powers that they have.

Fallen Angel is kind of a riff on Marvel's Archangel, being a winged mutant hero who has been twisted by DOOM.

Hellfire is a half demon flame wielder, and the only female on the team.

Nether is a Batman/Shroud like hero who has fallen under the sway of a very specific spell by Acolyte.

Last is Speed Demon, a meek man who cut a deal with demons...he is now host to a fast moviing clawed demon.

Next, we get the incredibly powerful Riders of the Apocalypse, who are the Four Horsemen of Death, War, Famine and Pestilence. They are only loosely under the control of DOOM, and each one should be an impressive challenge.

DOOM IN YOUR GAME

This is a series of "capers" that you can use for inspiration for inserting DOOM as an organization into your game, such as DOOM attacking the mystical heroes and villains of your setting and taking their magic items, or trying to awaken something that may or may not be Cthulhu.

The individual capers are more inspiring than the "DOOM in your game" capers, but some folks will probably still find these to be helpful.

NEW POWERS

Three new powers are included: Conjure, for summoning creatures; Power Boost for, well, boosting powers; and Weaken, which drains one of the six ability scores.

Weaken definitely harkens back to DOOM's M&M roots, and Conjure includes some benchmarks to use to determine appropriate summoned minions for the rank.

MYSTIC DEVICES

Soul Stones are evil little baubles that wizards can use to drain people's life and power their magic with, while the Pendants of Barzani can summon Barzani Demons (which are tied heavily into the DOOM organization) as well as control those of Barzani blood.

NEW CREATURES

First, we get three Templates that can be added to characters. Barzani Hybrids are a template that can be used to make people half-demon.

The Immortal template is much more involved, and is a pretty decent reproduction of Highlander Immortals. Every ten or so Immortals that an Immortal kills provides a full +1 bonus to an Ability, Power or Specialty. This might be a bit too "gamey" for ICONS, your mileage may vary...if so, you can always drop the Immortals and just give Acolyte "normal" Immortality.

Imps are people who have been imbued with dark power to serve DOOM, though they wind up less intelligent in the process.

Next, we get a slew of new monsters and creatures related to DOOM, such as the basic Barzani Demon and Demon Mounts, Chain Devils and Hellhounds. Additionally, a large listing of giant insects are present, for when Pestilence needs to unleash a plague of them.

Again, you can see some of the roots of the d20/D&D here just a little bit, especially with the Chain Devils.

DOOMSPIRE

This is the Super-Secret Headquarters of DOOM, which sits in a Hell dimension and has several powers of its own, from basic defenses to a self-generating supply of food for the inhabitants. Additionally, stats are given for the golem servants inside of it.

CONCLUSION

I'm not a huge Highlander fan, so I'm not sure I'm sold on the Immortals...but I really like the Doomsayers and the Riders of the Apocalypse, as well as many of the monsters such as the Chain Devils and Barzani Demons. Those guys alone would make it worth it for me. You could base a whole campaign *just* around these guys if you wanted to...heck, that's what I'm doing. I could see some folks chafing a bit at some of the new (to ICONS) concepts applied here, however, such as templates (I, personally, have no issue with them).

A great addition to the ICONS line, in my view, with some awesome villains that can be dropped into most any semi-(at least) serious series.

About Last Night...

Me and my wonderful son, as Faith watches on from her
high chair.
So I didn't get a blog post in last night before midnight, but I'll try to have a second one up later today.

I think I had a good reason, as it was my son Angelus' birthday...he's turned the ripe old age of seven. We had a Star Wars theme kinda going on, as you can see by the birthday cake which was made by my very good friend Kenny (and topped with Star Wars Galactic Heroes).
Note the Force Lighting icing, Cad Bane, Anakin, the clone trooper
and Aurra Sing.

I saw one of my friends that I hadn't seen in about a year (also named Tommy) and my good buddy Russ came over as well.

Angelus was pleased with all of his gifts (most of which bore a Star Wars theme, especially those from us). He is hard at work on the original Lego Star Wars, as I picked up a refurbished XBox Friday night and said Star Wars game, so he FINALLY gets a chance to play it.

Angelus is flyin' a helicopter while Faith watches on.
Today is officially his birthday...it just makes it easier to have the parties on Saturdays sometimes. Anyway, sorry to disappoint you if you expected a game review or even the Savage Worlds stat article...more important things got in the way...=)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tommy's Take on War of the Dead: Chapter Two Week Five

The next installment of War of the Dead gets ready to drop on Monday, and I have once more been kindly given said installment to give you pre-release review.

To summarize: Week 5 just ratchets up the tension incredibly, introducing a new status quo (as much as this genre has one of those), a new enemy and a very foreboding presence. The "War of the Dead" begins to truly live up to its name and starts to shift from "survival horror" to "apocalyptic epic". Shame on you if you haven't signed on yet.

I'm sure spoilers will abound, so look for the review after the jump.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Free PDF Minimaker!

Before Savage Worlds, I never liked to use miniatures in my games at all.

After Savage Worlds, I found myself using them quite a bit...between extra HeroClix and Mage Knight pieces and what have come to be known in Savage Worlds vernacular as Figure Flats - cardboard stand-ups folded up and used on the battlemat.

Affordable, printable figure flats are awesome, and there are several sets out there, usually keyed to a given setting. Precis Intermedia Games, while not making minis for Savage Worlds, has a whole line of game-neutral but genre-specific figures called Disposable Heroes. They have Statix, which are your standard sets of figure flats, and Customizables, which allow you to print the figures you want, print whole sheets of a given piece, etc. They even released a set that allows you to upload your own images and print out your customized sets.

Why am I telling you all of this? Because that last thing always sounded like the coolest thing I'd never tried...and now Silvervine Games, makers of the Silvervine RPG, have released a free PDF Minimaker. There are two PDFs...one of 1" minis and one for 2" minis, and they function very simply: click on the logo on the on the figure flats and insert any image on your computer. You can place the image on the backside and it will flip it for you...the only thing it won't do is "mirror" the images...and then you print off your minis.

It's not QUITE as versatile as the PIG Build Your Own sets (especially if you want to print off an army), but it's a great set-up in a pinch. While the Minimaker IS on RPGnow, for some reason the file I downloaded off of there would not let me insert my own images...however, the one straight off of their website worked great, so go to their Downloads page and scroll down to access both versions of the Minimaker.

I seriously need to get my printer working again.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Tommy's Take on On Her Majesty's Arcane Service

Note: This review is actually several months old, but a) I'm getting CRUSHED under paying work, which is why I haven't started the Savage Worlds series and b) I eventually want all of my reviews available on this blog if possible anyway.

On Her Majesty’s Arcane Service is a new RPG released by Clash Bowley and Flying Mice Games, based off of his Blood Games II setting. Rather than the more modern horror approach of Blood Games II, On Her Majesty’s Arcane Service is more of a historical horror game, set specifically in 16th century England. I have both the PDF and a the POD version of the game. The PDF is available from RPGnow.com for $10, and the POD version is available from Lulu for $22.71. 


PDF vs POD
The PDF is full color and bookmarked. Clash has filled his RPG with clipart, but the vibrant colors of the PDF make much of the art stand out in a very good way. The art doesn’t look as impressive in the black and white tones of the POD version. As well, the formatting clearly wasn’t designed with POD in mind, as part of the back cover blurb is covered by the UPC code. Just speaking aesthetically, unless you have a hatred for PDFs, I would recommend the PDF over the hardcopy, as the PDF just looks better, top to bottom.


Table of Contents
We do get a Table of Contents, with chapter headings. Always a good sign. I can get around a lack of index in RPG books, but when they don’t even bother with a table of contents, that’s just annoying.


Introduction
Before I begin breaking down the chapters, I do want to comment here: I love Clash’s layout. He does a single column of text on the pages, and on the side he has little headings relating to the subject matter. I loved that in Blood Games II and that continues here. Anyway, the introduction begins with the history of this earth, up through the 16th century. It begins by talking about Homo Sapiens being hunted and stalked by Vampires, Lycanthropes and Demons. Enoch is sent to earth bequeaths both civilization and magic to humans. Humans beat back the darkness, but Demons find new ways to counter the advancements of humans and return in force. The battle has waged back and forth, slowing the advancement of humans. It is now the 16th century, Elizabeth has just become queen, and forced Catholics to the fringes.
Dr. John Dee, at the orders of Queen Elizabeth, has headed up Her Majesty’s Arcane Service, a secret force designed to protect England from mystical attack. Dee is a devoutly religious man, guided by angels to find his agents, PC and NPC alike.


The game is designed with a pretty clear focus, spelled out as the book discusses PCs. Namely, PCs are assumed to be agents of Dee’s, and assumed to be some denomination of Christian (any other religions need some work by the GM and player to make sense).


A section follows on group set-up, with PCs being Path (magical) characters or Non-Path (non magical) characters. What follows is a paragraph on each character type, and their typical role in the party, from Hunters and Templars to completely unskilled parties. Blood Games II included a similar section and it is a helpful read.


Creating Your Association
The group begins by creating their own branch of Her Majesty’s Arcane Service. The GM can decide how much starting “capital” the organization has, or they can roll 1d20 on the included chart. From there, you determine what kind of organization this is, once again determined by random roll or selection, and including entries such as Witch Hunters, a trading company, military, government diplomats or even simply an extended family. The book provides a helpful, short description of each entry.


Now, the group selects their home base, and a two page chart follows showing various entries, and their cost depending on their placement (broken down to “In London and out of London”). These range from palaces to working farms to derelict castles to pubs, warships and even pocket universes! A very nice selection covering all “levels” of games.
The group next needs to fund Areas of Interest, defined as Guards and Security, Espionage, Warships, Transport, Medical, Arcane Library, Training, Cartography, Mercenaries, Artificers and Device Development, and Logistics and Maintenance. This section expands on each entry, detailing costs of pikemen, details on tomes and libraries, costs of mercenaries and more. The chapter ends with a helpful worksheet designed to keep the numbers straight.
I like this system, but the downside seems to be that it is geared towards something of an in-group “game” where each side haggles for what they think is appropriate. As I often GM for only one or two players at a time, a lot of that would be lost. A little crunchier than, say, the Angel RPG organization rules, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.


Creating A Character
Character creation is handled via a Lifepath system. You start at 10 years old and age through Apprentice and Journeyman stages before seeking out professional life. Come up with a basic, short concept and decide if you are making a Path character or a Non-Path character. You have two choices for character generation: Point Buy, which gives you 44 points for physical attributes (Strength, Coordination, Agility and Endurance) and 180 points for mental attributes (Intelligence, IQ, Magic, Lifestyle and Charisma), or a random roll method in which you use 2d6 for your physical attributes and percentile die for your mental. Next, take four “Mother’s Milk” skill ranks – that is, skills you would have had before the age of 10. Find an Apprenticeship that suits you. If you meet the prerequisites for it, you’re fine…if not, you can make a waiver roll on a d20 to bypass those requirements. This grants you 9 skill ranks/attribute increases. Next comes Journeyman, which is handled the same way. From this point on, you can decide if you want to take a Path or not. If so, that opens up new skill and attribute opportunities, as well as special abilities. Then, you begin selecting professions. You take one increase per year spent in the profession with an additional increase for every six years in the profession, and you can change at any time. This persists until the character is “aged” appropriately. Every two years in the profession, you have an opportunity for advancement, which can increase your Lifestyle. For finishing touches, add 7 levels of Traits, which can be taken from a sample list, or defined by you. One example from the Traits section featured a character using his 2 ranks of “Goad” on a guard. You calculate your Constitution score from your physical attributes, select starting gear and you’re finished.


The chapter continues with a brief note on die mechanics. The Starpool system which powers On Her Majesty’s Arcane Service uses a d20 die pool with every roll under the target number counting as a success. Also, like BGII before it, a character only advances once a year, and is assumed to have approximately one major adventure a year.


I do love Lifepath systems. I generally find them to be much fun. I am a tad different in that I largely prefer a slightly more random element to my lifepaths, but I have long thought that the Starpool lifepath system to be a very solid system.
After the outline of character creation mentioned above, the book goes into much deeper detail, including discussion of Deterioration, which becomes a reality as characters enter their mid 30s.


Next we get a listing of Apprenticeships. Each listing has Prerequisites, Waiver Rolls, Lifestyle and Skills Available. You can take an apprenticeship as a Thief, Warrior, Hunter (not to be confused with the magical character type), Priest and more. From there is the listing of Journeyman entries, which has the same detail and includes being a Thug, Soldier, Sailor, Trapper, Squire and more. Finally, we get listings of professions, such as Pirate, Artist, Explorer, Engineer, Priest, Lord, Spy and much more.


A sample character, Sir Edmund Teague, is created for our perusal. Teague is a point buy soldier turned Esotericist.


Character Options
Half-Angels are just as they sound, but with a twist: While not born of a union between humans and angels, they are born of a lineage in which an angel has previously bred, and they have a latent gene which has activated. Half-Angels are always twins, one with light coloring ad wings and one with dark coloring and wings. Normal humans are incapable of perceiving Half-Angels for what they are. As in BGII, Half-Angels are so rare that if there are two in a party, the book STRONGLY recommends that they are twins. Half-Angels can fly, heal, make flaming weapons, and communicate telepathically. Once they have declared allegiance to the light or dark, they gain access to a few more powers, such as Auras of Light or Darkness, or emitting pure Awe or Menace.


Immortals have a destiny that MUST be fulfilled before they can die. Once they die their “first death” they become trapped 
in that form for the rest of their existence. They can’t even learn new skills, though they can “forget” ranks of skills and reassign those ranks to new skills. Only when they accomplish what they were fated to accomplish can death take them.


Changelings come in two varieties: fairies who have been left in the place of human babies, and human babies who have grown up in Faery. Fairy Changelings can access some oof the more magical Paths of Power, while Human Changelings are just like humans, physically, except they always exude just a bit of that fairy magic on them. They can learn some fairy magic, but can never take a Path of Power.


Hunters are kind of like the setting’s answer to Slayers, except gender neutral. They are humans enhanced by magic to fight the darkness, and are capable of low-end wire-fu type combat.


The Esotericists are scholars devoted to learning the secrets of the supernatural world, and combine all manner of mystical, scientific and religious study to that purpose. They can cast spells, create relics and have magical Grimoires that house their knowledge.


The Magus are followers of the Archangels, and the ones that imbue Hunters with their power. Each Magus follows a single Archangel, who grants them power over the areas that the Archangel lords over.
Templars are Holy Warriors. Once called, their creation also releases a Demon from Hell. The Templar knows its name and some of its personality, and is tasked with sending it back. Templars are also granted a small selection of Miracles they can use on their adversaries.


The Savant is basically a magical scientist, using logic to master mysticism. Savants can create Wards, read Astrological charts, Commune with spirits, create dimensional pockets, and more.


A Warlock’s main schtick is summoning spirits. They can call them, anchor them and even clothe the spirits in flesh. Warlocks have a very bad reputation, but aren’t inherently evil.


Cunning Folk use “folk magic” to achieve their ends, but neither they, nor their targets, realize that they aren’t actually using magic, but merely reinforcing their target’s belief in the desired effect.


Minstrels are similar to the classic Bards from Dungeons & Dragon, using their music to achieve effects bordering (and sometimes crossing that border) on magical. They can boost or lower a listener’s attributes, and even affect their memories.


The book shifts to normal humans and how they view the types of magic that they are even aware of. As well, it provides for an otherwise unpowered human to have developed some manner of “gift” from their contact with the supernatural: a talent that isn’t normal and can’t really be controlled.


OHMAS Skills and Traits


Skills give you extra dice to roll when attempting a task. If you are riding a horse and have Riding +3, you roll 4 dice (you always get one) and try to roll under your target number. For every five levels in a skill that you have, that’s a Level of Mastery, and that grants you a reroll if you fail. Simple and effective.


The skill list itself takes up four and a half pages, and that’s a bit larger than I tend to like for a skill list. However, the less than crippling penalties for not having a skill makes that slightly less annoying.
Next, we cover traits, which I went over above. Just short descriptors to flesh out the characters.
Finally, we get a look at unarmed fighting styles…specifically, Boxing, Brawling and Wrestling.


Religion
This chapter plunges headlong into the Seven Sacraments of the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Unction, Matrimony, Holy Orders and Penance, as well as a fairly detailed description of each. Then the book moves into the differences between the Roman Church and Church of England. This section also touches on Calvinists and Puritans.
The chapter rounds out with Tests of Faith for confronting Demons and Vampires and the like, Tests of Will for the less devout to fend off Demonic Influences and rules for Possessions.


Adventure Generator
Yes! I love adventure generators! This one is pretty straightforward. Get a d20 and roll on the tables, or move through them picking for inspiration. You start with a rumor, move to a place, a table for finding out what is behind the rumor, how much the association stands to gain from the adventure and “sweeteners”. Then the book helpfully provides a list of adventures made with the generator.
Finally, there are bounties which can be tacked onto the adventures and up the PCs overall standard of living.


Non-Player Characters
Another fine chapter after my own heart: Need to generate an NPC and don’t want to put a ton of work into it? A series of tables that let you roll up on NPC, including quick rolls for attributes, personality hook, skill levels and more. As well, the book also provides a handy list of pre-made mercs, thugs and mooks to be used, hired and dealt with as need be.


Magic
We get a quick overview of how Magic works in BGII, namely using a characters MAG points as placeholders for magic effects. The chapter explicitly points out that no Magic is permanent, even magic used to empower items. Magi and Minstrels use MAG points differently, using them up in a session, with them returning at the next one. This chapter includes the Laws of Correspondence, the rules which govern the use of magic in the setting.
The chapter concludes with a list of very common spells, common spells, uncommon spells and rare spells.


Starpool Dice Mechanic
An in-depth chapter detailing just how the dice mechanic works, from basic d20 rolls to Quality of Success (every ten points of success is an additional level of Quality of Success). As well, the book provides a fairly common sense guideline of what attributes a given action should fall under.
Initiative is handled like everything else: Roll a d20 and lowest roll is best. However, you can move up or down the initiative chain by adding or subtracting resolution dice. That is, if you roll a 10 and want to move faster, you can give up one of the dice you will roll for your action and drop to a 7 on the initiative chart. If you are convinced you can succeed and don’t need to go quickly, you can add an additional die to your action but move your initiative to a 13. Armor modifies the target number to hit someone, and combat has a bit of a death spiral where you take penalties as you lose Constitution points to damage.


In combat, Levels of Mastery grant you additional attacks, whether or not you succeed on the initial attack. This chapter also discusses Healing, magical and otherwise, as well as bits like splitting dice pools for actions (pretty much as simple as it sounds).


Creatures and the Spirit World
This is pretty much the bestiary of the book. It begins with a discussion of the Spirit World, the inhabitants therein and how to enter the Spirit World. The Spirit World presented here is a lot like the Astral Plane in a good deal of other sources, with the silver cord tethering the traveler to their body. It also details spirits crossing over into the physical world, such as by following the severed string of a now deceased traveler in the Spirit World.
A large list of spirit creatures are present, from the fire-based salamanders, to hags, demons, nymphs, ghosts, devils (these are the fallen angels of Christian lore) and djinn (and much more). The book then moves into other creatures like zombies, lycanthropes, and even skeptics, normal people whose skepticism can disrupt magical powers. One glaring omission is vampires, who are mentioned at the beginning of the book as being enemies of humankind, and from whom the whole Blood Games title comes from.
Next is a detailed discussion of fairies, all of whom are born the same and later grow into a different kind of fairy depending on how they live their lives. A few, like elves, can pass for human and live among humans, often in leadership roles. Other fairies include ogres, trolls and redcaps on the darker end, and brownies and piskies on the nicer end.


Weapons and Equipment
Pretty much what you expect: A sprawling list of weapons, armor and equipment available in 16th century England. The neatest part is the discussion of the importance of equipment, such as how important clothing was to 16th century England. 
While there is no chapter break here, I’m sure there was probably meant to be one, but we move into the counties of England. Very helpfully done, this lays out the 39 counties of England with about a paragraph on each and a URL for a map of each county. This ends with an overview of the counties, which should probably have gone first.


Government and Politics
This provides some insight into the political structure of England in the 16th century, discussing Parliament, courtiers, nobles and so forth. The chapter then moves to a less generalized discussion, talking about the people of Elizabeth’s court from the Queen herself, and including Lord Robert Dudley, Mary, Queen of Scots, Sir Walter Raleigh, Dr. John Dee and even William Shakespeare.


Game Mastering
One of the first things this chapter points out is that the second the game begins, history has been changed, so if the PCs wind up altering things, let it go. Good advice. No plot immunity for you, William Shakespeare! From there it touches on things like Flashbacks, Foreshadowing and different kinds of play, including Generational Play where the PCs play different branches of their family tree, perhaps battling an adversary throughout different eras.


Appendix A: Optional Rules
This gets into optional rules like Plot Points (which can make an action an automatic success or failure), Troupe Play (everyone has multiple characters) including different types of Troupe Play (Mission Impossible style has the group leader selecting the participants for each mission, for instance).
Lastly, the book ends with an index, a character sheet, a character creation worksheet (for tracking advancements in the lifepath) and personal information sheets.


Overall
First, again, unless you hate PDFs, buy the PDFs. The art looks MUCH better. As for the game itself? I’m not a huge fan of the “alternate history England” thing (although its pretty much only alternate due to the presence of monsters and the PCs). For me, I think I would prefer Blood Games II and the more modern approach. However, OHMAS clocks in at over twenty pages more than BGII and still feels more tightly written. The Association rules and the Adventure Generator are great additions, as is the fairy material. The absence of vampires seems odd, but if you have Blood Games II they should plug right in with no problems. Clash once more does an amazing job for what is pretty much a one man operation. All of the various character types feel unique against one another, even if aspects of their mechanics work the same (such as Magi and Minstrels burning pools of Magic points each session).
If you like horror games (specifically, heroes fighting the darkness) games, and you especially like historical games, drop the 10-spot on the PDF. If you are living outside the US, then that’s pretty much the only option unless Lulu has stopped killing people on shipping. Very strong recommendation.