Oct 23, 2009

Kobold Love - Or why I stopped worrying, and learned to love the magazine.

Greetings minions, casual readers, and all others.  Happy friday and all that. Today, we are going to do something a little different. That’s right! You are going to witness Donny the DM take up the reviewer stick and try beating some sense out of a REAL hapless product!

After much consideration, I chose to take up an offer from the good folks at Kobold Quarterly. For the bargain basement price of one free .PDF copy of KQ 11 (fall ’09) I have taken the plunge and read a gaming magazine that is NOT the long lamented Dungeon or Dragon magazines.  I've heard a lot about this magazine, but have not yet had a chance to actually READ one.  That ended yesterday, and is continuing through an alarmingly large part of today.  While the newest incarnations of the beloved duo of D&D nerds the world round's replacements ARE useful (as a 4E player), the old school Paizo and prior magazines really raised a high bar in terms of look, feel, and content. I’ve missed them, I’ve missed them dearly. I’ll admit I never used 98% of what I saw in their pages, but rather – I basked in the possibilities that each of their content or ad plastered pages represented. Remember drooling over the Reaper miniatures ads? Or wishing you had just $100 bucks to take up the wargames west low price challenge? I mention this because that’s exactly how I felt reading this issue – nostalgic!

This was (needless to say) a pleasant way to begin my reading of this magazine. After skimming through just the first dozen pages, it becomes readily apparent that this product aims to sit square astride the massive OGL content of third edition, as well as the rapidly evolving fourth edition. We have a long list of articles and features (as well as those wonderful ads) that was fun to read even if it wasn’t MY game per se.

I’ll leave it to you to decide if there were any stinkers I glossed over, but I will tell you this, the micro-ruleset on torture was fabulous! Writer Hank Woon has brought the warm and fuzzies on, by giving us a workable,  set of rules regarding torture and interrogation!

Having lived through the exact example he gives in the opening flavor-shot, I can attest that the grittier elements of the game often get overlooked from a rules perspective. Good role-playing requires a robust platform to be placed upon. Nothing breaks immersion quite as badly as crashing headlong into a clumsy fix or a clearly broken subsystem. Most of my readers will cringe a little, remembering the terror, when I add that they tried to dramatically grapple during an interlude. Having a dramatic moment ruined by the rules sucks.

Here we have a system written by someone who obviously enjoyed The Book of Vile Darkness as much as I did. These however, as much simpler in implementation – as well as having utility with both 3E, 3.5, and Pathfinder. I can already see that it will likely work in my 4E games with only a very small amount of compromise!

While this was (obviously) my favorite article of the bunch, I also enjoyed the articles regarding:

Alternate takes on dwarves – as a race, that I found to be just plain fun to read.
Advice for running a lycanthropic character.
Weapon porn supreme!
Wishes and Miracles.

And even more! Gosh, is it just me, or am I getting schillish? Hmmm….better tamp down that nerd-tastic feeling, and bring up my gripes. In my humble opinion, it seemed a little short. Another 18 pages (making it an even 100) would have felt better. Also, the art. It varied wildly, in both style and quality. Remember all of those lavish full color spreads from the olden days of Paizo yore? Well, they are going to remain there. They have been replaced with many smaller ½ and ¼ page MOSTLY black and whites, though I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful ½ page color shot that headlines “A broken mind – sanity and mental disorders". Overall these are still just minor quibbles of one spoiled by full color gaming books methinks.

With annual subscriptions for print & PDF at 36 bucks a year, or PDF only for 16, I cant help but mention that this would be a valuable addition to whatever fantasy game you run, even alongside your DDI toolset. I give this product my personal recommendation, and will be keeping tabs on this magazine as it no doubt continues to grow.

Go here - Kobold Quarterly - Learn more.

DISCLAIMER: Just to make sure we are all on the same page, no compensation was made to me besides a review copy of the PDF. I have no business ties with KQ, or any of their affiliates. I own my brain, and only plug products I have not only personally reviewed, but have enjoyed. If you have any specific questions regarding my “review” or any opinions I have brought up, please feel free to comment below.

Oct 20, 2009

Game update - The fortress of bitter leaves

This weekend will mark the return of the 4E game I have been running now for the last year or so. The party has made their way through the castle courtyard, and dispatched the demons guarding the keep entrance. Then they dealt with the Drow assassins lurking in the foyer, and as we left off, are looking up the winding stone staircase, wondering what the intermittent flashes of multicolored light are all about.

This session will mark the end encounter of this particular branch of the story tree. The Eladrin Lord of the castle is still in residence, having used his own body and soul to power the ritual that keeps the army of Drow and Demons trapped in a stitch of time. Unfortunately, a rather clever succubus named Eloria has spent enough time here to piece together a rough idea of what is going on.

Despite his madness, Lord Bitterleaf is plagued by sent visions of his wife and children that are causing him to lose focus on the ritual itself, weakening the bonds and allowing the temptress to send even more vivid and detailed visions...the center cannot hold, and at this rate, she will have broken him in a very short period of time.

So we will have a hybrid combat / skill challenge for the keep, and the soul of it's master. Failure will mean the unleashing of a lost Demon army that will rage across the feywild. Hmmmm....sounds like fun! :)

So...I'm thinking of having an endless stream of mooks pouring in from several small planar portals - similar to There's a RITE way (which was a BLAST!). The Succubus will be the BBEG for the encounter, and will need just 10 more rounds of continuous concentration to finally break her victim.

I'll have to give this some more thought, before I draft a test version of the SC. Any thoughts or ideas from the peanut gallery?

Oct 9, 2009

I have a dream...to have a...dream?

Good afternoon, folks and happy friday :)

I wanted to share something with you, and try a little crowdsourcing - or is it still just plain old social networking? Bah - anyway, My wife and I have decided that our village of 120,000 souls needs a gaming store. Not just ANY gaming store, but one run by myself. There have been a few before, one was too heavily leveraged on comic books and associated merch, another was too heavily invested in Warhammer products. I feel that I can learn from their mistakes, and make it worthwhile - all while living my geek dream of bringing the awesomeness of gaming to the masses.

As such, I wanted to ask for your thoughts, feelings, links, and anything else you can possibly spare the time to provide. This project has actually been in the works for a few months now, and as the newest clients of the Solano Business Development Center, we have begun the arduous process of putting plan to paper, and money where our mouths are.

What say you? I rightly brag to my friends here that I am part of one of the most intelligent and insightful communities this side of MIT. Wanna be able to brag too - or learn a little so you can do it yourself?

I plan on making the evolution of this project something I update on a fairly (Hah!) regular basis. Anything would be helpful. As of this particular moment, we are pegging our opening day at about a year out. There are SO many things to do...I will admit that it's a little daunting.

One of the things I am looking to leverage is synergies. As such, I am specifically looking for other similar businesses that have been able to make partnerships and such work - i.e. A gaming store in Minnesota that I visited a little over a decade ago was a smallish retail spot between a subway and a starbucks. The gaming store (whose name escapes me now) had worked out a deal, in which a monthly membership from them netted the card-holder a 10% discount in-store, and a 5% discount at it's neighbors.

I understand that many feel that the brick-and-mortar business model is slowly dying, but I disagree. I think we are seeing more of a survival of the fittest scenario, and as such I want to enter the market as lean and mean as I can get.

Thank you in advance for your support, advice, or insults. I intend to learn from them all :)

Whew...that all said, any of you play Alpha-omega yet? What were your thoughts?

Oct 6, 2009

Open Question to my readers.

I'm curious. If you were taking a one-way flight into your own personal sunset, and could have unlimited gaming SUPPLIES, but only take one actual game - what would it be?

As contrived as it is, lets go a little deeper. Lets assume that you will have access to the entire product line - as it is. Also, lets assume you will have the optimum number of players for whatever game it is.

What would it be?

I'll accept a two-way tie if you just can't decide.

In other news...Dear god - it's an actual holiday!

Oct 5, 2009

Showing you some FUNNY!

I don't really have anything to say today. Got to have a blast playing Magic this weekend :)

Other than that, making the final tweaks to my 4E hybrid character this week, so I can play him for real this weekend. Still screwing around with the Monster Builder as well. I promised points of light that I'd show them mine - so that's coming as well. Until then, have fun and be excellent to each other :)

A courage strains after the corpse.

Oct 2, 2009

Hybrid characters, too much of a good thing.

Two weeks ago, I dropped out of my 3E Age of Worms campaign and joined a 4E game as a player. Having never PLAYED 4E before, I was ecstatic. FINALLY! A chance to see things from the other side of the screen!

Immediately, I was inundated with choice. I can't express that enough, so for some perspective, we'll bring in Webster's guns.

Main Entry: in·un·date
Pronunciation: \ˈi-(ˌ)nən-ˌdāt\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): in·un·dat·ed; in·un·dat·ing
Etymology: Latin inundatus, past participle of inundare, from in- + unda wave — more at water
Date: 1590
1 : to cover with a flood : overflow2 : overwhelm phone calls

Even this word doesn't quite say it all. I can only assume (asses and all) that I am not alone in this. What to play? I tried to chhose based on role...okay - a striker. Eventually, I decided to concentrate less on role than what I was comfortable driving around. I tried to narrow it down further, with little success. Finally, after creating no less than 6 complete characters, I settled on three. A half-elven monk, A dwarven hybrid sorceror/Rogue, and a Minotaur hybrid Fighter/Cleric. After my rather forgiving DM and group allowed me to swap back and forth a bit, I think I will stick with the minotaur.

One thing that I noticed when going through the myriad of choices an 11th level hybrid character has, I found myself wondering if it is possible to have TOO many choices. While the hybrid multiclass mechanic is lightyears ahead of the previous edition's mechanic - mostly in level appropriate choices for powers and abilities - I found that it was ridiculously easy to still make very poor power combination choices. I also noticed that the temptation to try and become a swiss army knife was quite difficult to fight.

In combat, and also during RP, things worked out reasonably well - 24 STR and a +3 Greataxe tend to smooth out most of the rough spots :-) After a "test drive" through the first few encounters of the King of the trollhaunt warrens adventure, I am finding that I am thoroughly enjoying myself - and am being thoroughly humbled by losing my DM screen for quick reference.

Any of you out there buried by the cubic-ape-assload of choices at Chargen? Create a character good for little more than bad running jokes? Please tell me I'm not alone :-)