D&D 5e and PDFs

D&D 5e PDFsI have been buying the D&D 5e products as they have been released. I have been very pleasantly surprised with the system since I started reading the Basic Rules. The Starter Set seemed very nice (though lack of cardstock covers was a stupid decision) as well. I already had the Player’s Handbook on pre-order and ordered Hoard of the Dragon Queen shortly after starting my read of the PHB.

Rules wise D&D 5e looks like it will be fun to run and play. It seems a nice mixture of some older school though with some newer mechanics. The things I don’t like about it are often called out as optional (Dragonborn, Tieflings, and feats – I am looking at you). And that is what led me to order Hoard of the Dragon Queen.

I am looking to run a weekend family game (plus some close friends) and was trying to decide between the Starter Set adventure and Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Both look like fun to run, so I am still a little in the undecided camp. But, this post isn’t about that – I just wanted to be clear up front that so far I am very impressed with 5e and supporting material.

Except for one thing. I need PDFs!

Mearls on PDFs

PDFs and 5e is of course a frequent question from folks. All the major game systems have PDFs of the rules. Just in games I play – Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, etc, etc – all have PDFs of the rules. Most, if not all, have PDFs of the adventures available for them as well. We’ve had this option for years.

Now we know Wizards isn’t entirely afraid of PDFs anymore. Just look at http://www.dndclassics.com/ Lots of PDFs available for versious D&D versions and supplements through the years. Awesome stuff!

So why no PDFs for 5e yet?

Well – between the recent EN World interview and Tome Show interview with Mike Mearls we can piece together some of what is going on. Let’s look at each point (summarized by me, but feel free to read or listen to the actual interviews at the links above).

There has been no official announcement on PDF support. It sound like Wizards is interested in some form of electronic distribution, but haven’t decided what will work best. So they are playing it safe and possibly watching how things evolve.

Eh – sort of makes sense. But the lack of official announcement or being very forthcoming with what is going on is actually causing some of the bad rap Wizards is getting out there in the community. Talk to us. Let us know what is coming. Folks are making decisions now – PDF support factors in for some people.

They want to avoid people feeling cheated because the bought the PDF of something, but then find out they have to pay for Dungeonscape content.

Hey! That’s why you make official announcements and let people know what is up. Tell people – here is a PDF version, but be aware we have this cool new tool coming where you will need to buy content in it as well. So if you want the cool new tool you might want to hold off on buying the PDF. But for those who don’t care about the new electronic tool, here are the PDFs.

So much of Wizards bad feelings on the 5e release has been the lack of communication. Which has left people guessing and something thinking the worst. Communicate! It would solve the PDF vs. electronic tool purchase decision for a lot of folks.

They don’t want to cause undo competition with Dungeonscape, the electronic tool coming for 5e by the end of this year. So rather than harming the Dungeonscape initiative Wizards is holding off on anything that might compete with that electronic product.

I only know what I have read online about Dungeonscape. Again – folks are pretty vague about this. But some info did trickle out from Gen Con and here is what I have to say to this. Dungeonscape sounds more like Hero Lab for Pathfinder than a PDF replacement. It can handle character generation, let me add some custom items, and walk me through several rules based things. But it doesn’t sound like a PDF replacement, just a character generator/campaign management tool. It sounds neat, but not the PDF format I desire.

Again – up front communication would solve the competition issue I think. I suspect it would become clear these aren’t really identical products. Or at least with enough official info we could determine which path we wanted to take as a consumer.

I will have more on Dungeonscape in a minute on what if it is the PDF replacement, but read on.

Wizards wants to figure out a way to provide a stripped down utilitarian format PDF type electronic distribution, because that is what people want.

What!? If this is the thought I think Wizards is way out of touch with what us folks that like PDF versions of products expect. I don’t want a stripped down utilitarian version. I want art, I want maps, I want tables, I want bookmarked PDFs, and hyperlinks between sections. I like layers in adventure PDFs, because that helps me with online games. By no means do I want a stripped down utilitarian PDF.

I understand there is a group of folks that want ePub format. I don’t really fall into that camp as I find the PDF format extremely versatile, multi-platform, easy to use with cloud storage, etc, etc. But I don’t even think the ePub folks want a stripped down version, they just want a fully featured electronic format that is actually useful.

There is some note of splitting a PDF or electronic pieces – i.e. just the fighter, just the spells. Uh – no, I don’t want this either. I don’t want to buy my electronic document via microtransactions. I want the whole thing.

dungeonscape_logoDungeonscape

A lot of attention is going towards Dungeonscape as the answer for electronic distribution. First, from what I have read I am skeptical it is going to actually be in a position to replace PDFs. It sounds much, much more like a character generation tool and/or campaign management tool. Cool stuff to be sure (I love Hero Lab for Pathfinder, but it doesn’t replace PDFs of Pathfinder products – they are different tools).

But let’s say Dungeonscape does let me read the rulebook from page 1 to the end. And that it can handle adventures (because, really – I want a PDF of Hoard of the Dragon Queen which I am getting to…).

This is a no deal for me. I simply don’t trust a 3rd party for a niche hobby to be a long lived company. I certainly hope they stick around while the edition is supported, but I am thinking longer term. Small companies just don’t have the resources to keep up as easily as someone like Adobe who makes my PDF reader.

Supposedly you can use Dungeonscape offline which several have said is good enough. But what if my iPad crashes and Trapdoor Technologies is no longer around? Did they let me make backups of my data files? Or do I need to redownload them from their servers (ooops, they shut them down for 6e). Or say iOS jumps in version, will their app still work? I have apps that are still supported that need to release updates to work with the new iOS versions. How about web browser updates? There are just way too many things that I can’t get from a 3rd party who may or may not exist in 5 years.

Meanwhile PDFs are a standard. There are multiple companies that make readers for PDFs. Big companies. If the PDF standard gets passed to the wayside for something better, I can count on some company to build in a tool to save existing files in the new format. A pain to be sure, but an option. And given the predominance of the PDF format I can simply trust that I can access or convert my PDF files in some form or fashion for many, many years to come – regardless of what happens to Paizo or Wizards as companies.

Hoard of the Dragon QueenWhy I want a PDF

A lot of people want a PDF version of the PHB. And I am in that camp. But this post is more about a PDF of Hoard of the Dragon Queen. So much of my adventure prep these days is done from PDF. I can put the file in my Google Drive and access it from any computer I use regularly, my iPad and even my phone. This is extremely convenient for me. I do a lot of game prep away from home. Having the adventure (and rules) in electronic format is a huge plus for me.

As I noted earlier, a large number of companies already give me this ability. So here is how I use the PDF for game prep.

First, just a general read through of the adventure while at lunch, while waiting for an appointment, etc. This need is pretty easily met in nearly any electronic form, but I prefer PDF for the supportability and lifespan of PDFs as opposed to 3rd party proprietary software that I must use to read the material.

Second, I extract the maps out of the PDF for use in online play via Roll20 or something similar. Paizo used layers on their maps so I actually ended up with player ready versions of the maps in mere moments. Super cool. Without a PDF I am left with the cumbersome option of scanning actual book pages. While I can do this, it takes a lot longer manipulating the scanner and rescanning the ones I inevitably mess up by not having the book straight, etc.

Third, if so motivated I can capture images of NPCs or generate handouts for the players. This is especially true for online games. This again is much more difficult without a PDF version of the adventure. My prep time increases and it is a hindrance to online play. And a lot of my gaming happens online these days.

Maps for Sale

To be fair, in regards to Hoard of the Dragon Queen the maps are for sale by the cartographer in digital form. At quick glance it looks like it would cost $18.50 to purchase all of the maps from the adventure. That could solve my online map issue. I do question spending $18.50 on maps and still not having a PDF version I can use anywhere and still not having an easy way to handle handouts, or NPC pics though. I also have no guarantee future cartographers for future adventures will do the same thing.

Summary

These are the reasons why I want a PDF of the rules and adventures. The face of gaming has changed over the years and more and more of us rely on PDFs for game prep – both for face-to-face games and online games. The other big player in the gamespace provides PDFs for all of their supplements. So to woo some of those folks away, Wizards will need to provide similar materials to help support the way we prep for games.

I like what I have seen of 5e so far. It looks like a solid system. I am just getting frustrated as I prep this adventure with no electronic support. I get even more frustrated when I see Wizard’s representatives trying to tell me what I really want is a stripped down, utilitarian electronic format of the rules or adventure. No – I want the PDF – my game prep is centered around having such tools at my disposal and I feel safer in my “investment” of a PDF than a proprietary 3rd party software app for a niche industry.

Episode 21: Getting the Gang Back Together

dcc_rpg_cover_smallGetting the Gang Back Together’ is the 21st episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

The seasoned adventurers return to the Great City from their respective journeys. Meeting at the Temple of the Moon the group makes plans for their next steps. The group seeks to make deals with the Thieve’s Guild and meet up with an old friend as they do so. With an arrangement in place, the crew seeks to gather the final component to bring Emirikol back from the dead.

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Episode-21.mp3

Credits

Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.

 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness CoverThe 1980’s saw a lot of the odd and weird. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was an underground comic that sadly was made into a kids cartoon. That really altered people’s perception of the property and was probably the death of the RPG. I found quotes online that suggest the sales of the game plummeted after the cartoon came out yet the supplements kept coming out for many years.

People enjoy the cartoons and movies to various degrees but I always concentrated more on the comic. I never read them all but the general feel and theme is how we did our TMNT games. The most important part of the title that I think got lost in the other mediums is “and Other Strangeness.”

The game does a great job of giving a lot of options for mutant animals. It has an old school method of random determination and that can be part of the fun. Not all the animals are created equally so the random determination helps this. The way the character was mutated also leads to how the character skills and starting equipment are determined. These are randomly generated and some are better than others. There is a large chance of becoming a ninja. That is one of the flaws in the character generation but it had a simple fix for us. There is another Palladium game book called Ninjas and Superspies that has a great variety of hand to hand martial art options. When someone rolled the Ninja option we just had them pick or the GM pick a different style of martial art. This really helped make the characters feel and fight differently.

The comic was darker than the cartoon and that was what really made the game shine. It was built more based on the comic and that was fun. There was plenty of silliness and mutant animal death in our games. Most of the characters were experiments of some organization. Which on the table on happened 40% of the time, but for us it created a much more interesting backstory then accidently walking into some oozy mutagen.

The game of course is not perfect. The combat system can be a mess with when to dodge or parry, the physical prowess attribute being way too powerful as it applies to so much in combat, and all in all just too many dice rolls that slowed the game down. The skill system is not any better. It is a flat percentage system which is not that bad. But there are just way too many skills and many of the additional books just kept adding skills to the game.

Of the additional books I found After the Bomb to be the most useful. It gave us a setting that was filled with conflict and helped explain why there were so many mutant animals around. For character creation it had a better mutant background table and offered a wider variety of options that fit the setting. Pairing that with Road Hogs that explored the western USA in the After the Bomb setting is a must. These books offer some great adventure ideas and lots of little setting pieces.

TMNT is back in the spot light with the new movie in theaters. I have not seen it but anything that gives an excuse to talk about an old game no one probably plays anymore is a good thing. I like the idea of playing it again but the system is very old school and not always in the good way. It is clunky at times so a new system that keeps the randomness of character generation would be great.

Anyone else ever play the game? I don’t know if people would have even kept the books after all this time. Most of the books I have for it now I found at half priced book store recently.

Moneyball

Knight versus DragonBilly Bean traded for Jon Lester to give the A’s a chance to win the World Series. Over the past few years the Athletics using Billy Bean’s system had been divisional winners but just had not been able to win it all. Billy Bean is one of the first general managers in Major League Baseball to use a different approach to building a team now called Sabermetrics. It is a possible revolutionary approach to assembling a team. Not everyone is convinced it will work but it very interesting to see a new approach to a sport that is too attached to its past.

What the hell does that have to do with RPGs? A similar new approach has been happening in gaming and unlike Baseball it does not help the game. We used to call it power gamers and munchkins and now they call themselves optimizers. It’s still the same people that want to break the games and think they can win it. It is nothing new but the internet has allowed it to grow and be overly represented. It has become a plague on the house of gaming. I read threads on boards about people that restrict what others in the group can play just because it is not powerful enough. If you don’t have at least an 18 in your prime attribute then you best go game at a different table. You are not welcome here. These might be extreme examples but they both appeared in different places online within the past week.

When it first happened in 3e D&D it was actually something interesting. People were being creative and finding rules exploits. But now the creativity is gone. People just go on line and copy other people’s work. It takes no skill and no game mastery to be able to do it. It is so common place that people might think it is acceptable. Characters are created not a build. They are more than just trying to be great at one thing and useless at everything else. The worst thing about it is how boring the characters are. It seems that gone are the days RPG players enjoyed a challenge. Now they just want to break the system and have an easy time walking through everything. It’s like turning on god mode in a video game.

One reason I dislike it is that it turns the game into an adversarial relationship between PCs and DMs. It tries to make the game into something that can be won. The thing is that the DM can never lose. He controls everything that is not the PCs. He controls the environment, the monsters, the allies, the food, and water – everything. It is easy to kill off PCs with that kind of ability. It doesn’t matter what type of damage or magic the PCs control. The rules allow the DM to counter and negate it all if he so chooses. The DM doesn’t even have to be creative about it. He can just create an NPC using the same rules exploits of the PCs and just make it a level or two higher or add in a couple more NPCs. This type of power gaming and one upping is silly and stupid and needs to end.

I’ve heard some gamers say they can’t help themselves like a moth drown to a flame. It always reminded me of that old joke. A man walks into his doctor’s office and says “My Arm hurts when I do this” and then proceeds to move his arm in a very unnatural and unorthodox way. The doctor replies “Then stop doing that!” It really is that simple.

A new aspect has grown out of this and that is the Game Designer Monday Morning Quarterback. It is people analyzing to death the rules and criticizing them. This is mostly without even playing the game. If one has to use excel to show that two different attack options are unequal over the course of a thousand rolls then I really think you are missing the point of the game. If it takes that much effort to show that some things are not equal then maybe they are equal enough. Besides – when has the game become making the most optimized choices at all times. The best gaming stories always involve failure and characters going up against a real challenge. Gaming stories that become “I did 500 points of damage in the surprise round killing the BBEG” are uninteresting and the only thing worse would be having that type of player at the table.

One other aspect of gaming I am seeing is the idea that some sub-par choices are traps. I think this comes from the Magic the Gathering and other similar games in which the game designers there purposefully make cards that are not as good. I can understand that mindset in competitive games. But in games with a DM no character will be useless. That’s the huge advantage of RPGs over video games. The DM gets to tailor the game to the table and find ways to challenge characters no matter what they are.

It makes me wonder about the underlying cause to all of this. Are people that afraid to create a character that is not great mechanically? Are people worried that not doing as much damage as the other players at the table is going to make them not enjoy the game? What kind of insecurities have lead us done this path? It would be a great psych paper but other than that it just seems that people probably don’t know why they have to be this way.

Chris Gath.  I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then.  In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6.  My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game.  On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out.  I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times.  Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.

DCC Actual Play Podcast Meta

DCC RPG Rulebook Cover w-HeadphonesAs I finish the final mixing of audio for Episode #21 of the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Actual Play podcast I felt the need for a “meta” post. This covers some of the behind the scenes thoughts that happen in the campaign that don’t get recorded and get discussed in our community group.

Regular listeners know the group put their high level characters on a bit of a hiatus and picked up some lower level guys in the town of Cillimar. Some stayed in the town, others went back to the Great City and some went off into the mountains to seek keys to unlock great power.

The high level characters at the time had just come off a beating at the tower of Leotah. She had laid a gauntlet of sorts for them as a defensive measure. A measure that took its toll on the characters who ran it (Episode #15 if you are curious).

It was around this time they decided to get some downtime in Cillimar and take some new characters, lower level characters out for a spin. The next several podcast releases focused on those new lower level characters. A good time was had, but after awhile the players began to miss their higher level characters.

There was much discussion in our private community group and the decision was made to return to the high level characters. There were several plot hooks that were unanswered and as the time passed (real time) with the lower level group, the gang wanted to make a return to the Great City.

We’ve experimented a lot in this campaign with introducing new characters. I piloted a ‘cut-scene funnel’, i.e. running a funnel adventure with a whole new set of characters who could later join the main group as replacements. The trial in Cillimar was another such experiment.

With the decision made to go back to the main, high level characters I believe we have reached the closing phases of the campaign as a whole. There are several major plot elements to resolve, some of which continue to unfold in the as of yet released episodes.

In either case, the soon to be released Episode #21 marks the return to the characters affectionately known as Satan’s Glee Club.

Excuses, Excuses, Excuses…

Wow! Time really slips by in the summer! If you don’t stay right on top of things you’ve gone two weeks without a blog post or actual play release! I fully blame summer and the long hours of daylight for these problems. Oh – and a computer crash that took up way too much of my time over the past week (between troubleshooting and restoring).

The computer is up and running again. I have all my data as the majority of it is on cloud services and the rest in a Time Machine backup. Which while was a little flaky, was recoverable. So where does that leave things?

DCC RPG Actual Play

On the Actual Play front, I hope to finish the rough edits and polish on an episode early this week and get Episode #21 out by Wednesday for Thursday. The group had been rather schizophrenic in regards to which set of characters they wanted to play. Episode #21 finds them back with the high level guys and beginning the conclusion of the campaign. This topic likely warrants a more in-depth post prior to the release of the episode, we will see if I get that done.

Iron Tavern Press

Despite the most recent release being Zedkiel’s Chapel things are progressing very well for Iron Tavern Press. The edits are done on the next release (working title Calamity Mine), artwork is rolling in for it, and the first set of maps almost complete. Layout needs finished, one more proofing and editing pass and it should be out. Hopefully no later than the end of August.

A piece rolled in over the weekend from another writer for Iron Tavern Press as well. It is an awesome adventure and particularly happy to have this writer on board for this project. I’m going sit on the name of the author for just a bit – you know – to build some suspense and mystery over what is to become Pocket-Sized Encounter #6.

Once the 6th release is out the plans for Iron Tavern Press is to branch out from the PSE line and into DCC RPG. I already have a writer that has nearly completed the first adventure in this line. Playtesting is done and it is back with the author for some revisions based on the playtest.

Mapping

Picked up another set of freelance work over the weekend with a publisher I have worked with before. Looks to be an awesome project and a chance to try out a different mapping look for me.

Gaming

Through all of this I have still been gaming! The DCC game continues as it races towards its climax. Due to scheduling issues in August I will be running another Barrowmaze mini-delve for two weeks. I have the hook for that all prepped and ready to go. Should be a fun romp through the dungeon!

And my local group has been playing Pathfinder with some old-school modules. Keep on the Borderlands has made an appearance, as well as Tomb of the Lizard King, and Night’s Dark Terror.

Back to Work

So there it is! Despite a lack of visible output things have been busy behind the scenes!

A Look At 5e So Far…

DND_5e_LogoPerhaps the only thing on the net to rival all the talk of Johnny Football is conversations on 5e D&D. They have a lot in common with people speculating on if they are good or bad without a game being played. At least in the case of Johnny Football we have tape of him in college. With 5e we just have previous editions. But with the new game of D&D just like the NFL the rules are changed in ways that make it tough to judge them before the first snap or die is rolled.

When looking at 5e D&D I do so through my own eyes. I am not going to talk about or be concerned with it the Starter Set does its job to allow new gamers to understand and be attracted to the game. I am also not interested in the started adventure except to say it should have included Aleena and Bargle in it. I also will not look at every aspect of the new game that is out. There are some things that just don’t interest me to write about. I do hope to get everything correct but it is always possible I get a rule wrong as this is a new game.

I don’t like the way it is being released with little nuggets at a time and lack of solid information. I am not sure it will help the game. Gamers will be taking what little info they have and making guesses about the rest. These guesses will become assumptions that will be harder to disprove and we all know few people ever fully read the rules to correct themselves. There will be a lot if inaccurate information that Wizards will have to overcome.

The game is D&D so it is of no surprise that the six attributes remain the same. It is interesting to see random attribute generation is back and encouraged. I was never a fan of that but then point buy came along and showed me there is something worse. I think it will be challenging for players of previous editions to accept that these lower attributes in this game are going to be adequate. To aid in that I think Wizards should have gotten rid of the numbers and just left the modifiers. Having a 14 in an attribute doesn’t mean much and the 14 is never used. The game uses the modifiers one has to look up on a chart to get. They should have gotten rid of that chart and those numbers and just left the modifier. This is not a new idea True 20 did it and it worked great there.

The proficiency bonus is going to be interesting. With everyone having the same bonus it means that characters that want to do something everyone can do better than them like fighters with weapons of rogues with certain skills will have to get those extra bonuses in the class. I like the idea of the proficiency bonus has the same number being added to saves, skills, and attacks. I hope we see more uses in the game that takes advantage of this system.

I like the idea of a few core races and with many of them having sub races. It should make things a little easier than having every sub race be its own race entry. Of course this could make tons of sub races happen and there could be an issue with should something be a race or a subrace. There will be a Dragonborn race at some point and I would prefer it being a subrace to each class that some of them change into a Dragonborn like in the 3e book that had them. I liked that a lot better than a race of humanoid dragons when we already have kobolds in the game.

With classes I can see a similar problem. What makes a Sorcerer so different that it will be its own class separate from the Wizard? With also the Warlock and Bard class all arcane spellcasters there will need to be more mechanical differences to make them stand out.   Even the Druid could be made an archetype of the Cleric or the Paladin a version of the Fighter or Cleric. Most of the D&D games continually had too many classes and options that were not well thought out. I do like the options that can be built upon to help shape the characters. I hope we see many options that used to be feats become part of the archetype system. I also like that the game moves in some way away from the Vancian magic. The versatility of the spells is also a nice improvement. Spells that can be cast at a higher spell level is also a good addition. It will hopefully keep the spell lists smaller and I cannot wait to see some creativity in the higher spell slot system. It can be used for better things then just rolling more dice.

The advantage and disadvantage system is a great addition, though it is going to matter on less than fifty percent of those rolls. People have done the math on line of course but even if it does affect less than half the rolls that use it. It will be easier to remember to roll a second d20 than to add all those damned small bonuses that plagued some of the earlier games.

Magical items look pretty good so far. I hope to see wands and staffs that have spells that can be used by anyone. If people want to weaken casters open up spell casting to all characters just don’t make them as good at it. I do like that the charged items regain random charges each day. When they run out of charges though the chance of the items destruction needs to be greater than five percent. I would like to see some items that have the possibility of losing charges per day do there is no guarantee. Say an item that gets back a d6-3 charges per day. Items that have to attune with the owner are also interesting. Hopefully a person can only attune with a few items at once. I am also hoping cursed items have the ability to attune with their owner taking up an attunement slot but still being useful in some way. The best cursed items are the ones that have a negative that does not completely overshadow their positive.

August will be a good month to learn more. Cleveland plays four preseason games that month and we should see Johnny Football some in each of those games. For D&D the Player’s Handbook comes out and it will fill in a lot of blanks and hopefully end much of the speculation.

Chris Gath.  I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then.  In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6.  My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game.  On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out.  I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times.  Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.

RPGs as Reading Material

Stack of BooksI’m not sure if these two game lines bring much comparison these days as they are separated by a decade or so between their heydays. Also, this is a very specific aspect for both games I’m comparing and how I use them. It very well may not apply to all gamers and fans of these games. I am also happy to sneak the occasional World of Darkness writings onto my friend’s old school focused blog.

Old, or now referred to as Classic (like Coke I guess), World of Darkness consisted of a number of intertwined games. The Vampire books would reference Werewolf stuff occasionally and the Mage books would talk about Vampires and there was a feeling they might all work in the same world but not really. The rule sets were close enough to make it seem that way, but honestly I never saw it work well at the gaming table. While it was not as fun to play the game that used it all, it was enjoyable to me to read about them.

I like to read the classic World of Darkness books, and their meta-plot made it even better. For a game the meta-plot, a plot that advanced in the world and was occasionally updated in some of the supplements, did not always work well. Sometimes in the game we ran, actions prevented the next wave of the meta-plot to work well or at all. Especially when we killed important NPCs that were supposed to do things later in the plot. But again it made them fun to read.

I don’t have a large collection of old World of Darkness books anymore. I kept my Changeling books because I love me some Changeling and some of the historical books and lines for other games like Dark Ages Vampire and the Sorcerer’s Crusade. They are also fun to read at times, though not as enjoyable as the other modern day lines were. Plus when those product lines ended White Wolf published books that gave different ways for the games to end.  I really enjoyed reading through those if only one or two were something that I would ever use.

I never got to play a lot of World of Darkness but the books were fun stories and ideas to read. Now that seems to be what I am using the Pathfinder setting of Golarian for. We have had campaigns set there but only for adventure paths so far. While the current game is Pathfinder RPG it is in my home brew world so the setting books are not of much use. But they are fun to read. The countries are very different and offer lots of interesting inspiration. The books that delve into the setting offer some great detail and rich history. It is really my main use for them these days. I enjoy reading the Adventure Paths that I have and then reading the setting books surrounding those APs and imagine how great they would be to enhance the campaigns.

Not all the books in either line were great reads. I tend to enjoy the story and setting ones a lot more than the rule oriented books. I do really enjoy the monsters revisited line of books. That was one of the more brilliant ideas for a series of simple books I have come across. I just picked up the Mystery Monsters one today and it doesn’t just present new takes on some monsters but also presents a great new way to use monsters that I had not seem in fantasy games.

This whole idea came today when I bought a small pile of Pathfinder books at a used book store. I then went home and read them or the ones that seemed the most interesting. I used to do that with the old World of Darkness books buy them knowing the most use I would get out of them was to read them. I’m sure some ideas from all these books slip into my games and characters but rarely anymore do I directly reference them.

So, am I crazy? Do other people just buy RPG books to read more then to use in a game? What games books do you find the most enjoyable to read?

Chris Gath.  I’ve been gaming since 1980 playing all kinds of games since then.  In the past year I’ve run Pathfinder, Dungeon Crawl Classic, Paranoia, and Mini d6.  My current campaign is mini d6 and we are using that for a modern supernatural conspiracy investigative game.  On some forums I’m known as Crothian and I’ve written a few hundred reviews though I took a sabbatical from reviewing for a few years as it burnt me out.  I was also an judge for the Gen Con awards (ENnies) six times.  Jeff, the owner of this blog, is one of my players and a good friend.

Review: The God-Seed Awakens

The God-Seed Awakens CoverAuthor:  Paul Wolfe
Publisher:  Mystic Bull Games
Art: Doug Kovacs (cover), David Fisher, Jason Sholtis, Mario Torres, Jr.
Price: PDF $8.99 or Print $15.00 – RPG Now
Pages: 53

The Basics

The God-Seed Awakens is the newest adventure from Mystic Bull Games, written by Paul Wolfe for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG system. The adventure is intended for four to six 3rd level characters.

The cover is graced with the wonderful artwork of Doug Kovacs. The interior has pieces from David Fisher, Jason Sholtis, and Mario Torres, Jr. This review is based on both the Print and PDF versions of the adventure.

A living seed has found its way here from a distant world. A seed from a world-spanning tree where its roots made their way deep to the underworld and branches to the sky above. With the growth of the world-tree unstopped it managed to breach the confines of reality and find ways to other worlds. Two of the creatures from the seed have begun to raise forces from this world to further their own interests.

The backdrop of this adventure is an area around Mount Welwood. A judge can easily drop this area into their existing campaign world or download a hex-map from the Mystic Bull website for new campaigns. Several rumors (including a rumor table!) and hooks are included in the adventure to help a judge spur the characters to action!

In addition to the adventure a full patron write-up is included, new spells, new magic items, and many new monsters.

The artwork is liberally spread throughout the adventure. When one faces lots of new creatures, the accompanying artwork is a very useful tool for the judge to help describe the creatures to their players.

The included maps are clean and cover the cave system within Mount Welwood and the Seed of the Worldbreaker.

My Thoughts

Mystic Bull Games went all out with the cover on this one! Awesome art by Doug Kovacs. I saw the original to this one at Gary Con when Doug had it with him. It looked great then and it looks great on the actual printed module. The beast on the front with the eyes and mouth of a starfield is an excellent touch. And something about the cultists on the ledge really appeals to me.

As I noted earlier in the review, the module has a good amount of art throughout. While helping avoid any “walls of text” the art is a boon to judges in describing the new creatures the characters will encounter in this module. A definite plus.

The module hits the DCC “feel” by having a dimension traveling tree spreading its seed to other worlds. Couple the very premise with the vast array of atypical creatures and a DCC judge is sure to keep his players on their toes. The beauty of it all is the hooks start with things such as glowing spiders, raggedly dressed people preaching of a new god, and such. Then the characters will find themselves at odds with the creatures of the god-seed. I really like the more “typical” setup that really leads to anything but “typical”!

I also like that a full patron write-up is included for Shaloth. My players have the tendency to pick patrons from various modules I run. Some only have the patron and no write-up to go with them. The full write-up for Shaloth would be of great aid should a character choose this patron. Or if I wanted to borrow it for my campaign even without running the module.

Wrap Up

The God-Seed Awakens is great add to the DCC judge’s bag of tricks. With the ease of dropping it into an existing campaign and the plethora of items to borrow for an existing campaign the latest release from Mystic Bull Games is sure to find some use.

Episode 20: Regrouping

dcc_rpg_cover_smallRegrouping’ is the twentieth episode of a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG actual play podcast. Additional information can be found at http://irontavern.com/podcast.

Session Synopsis

With near devastating casualties on the last folks the party sent to Castle Whiterock it is time to recruit some new ones for another push into the castle. Regrouping in Cillamar the group sets out again to root the monks out of the ruins. A perilous climb up the tower high above the ruins grants the party egress into the castle via a different route. That path is not without hazard however…

 

Download Link: http://irontavern.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Episode-20.mp3

Credits

Intro and outro music is ‘Wrecking Ball’ from 137 from http://music.mevio.com.