Monthly Archives: July 2014

Obatron Productions brings a new volume and a new era to the periodical dedicated to Savage Worlds fans. GMs in particular will find a lot of great material to supplement and enhance their campaigns.

“This issue of Savage Insider marks the debut of Volume 2, now published by Obatron Productions. We’re passionate about Savage Worlds and want to share that with you. Originally envisioned as a 48-page issue, our new format garnered an overwhelming response, allowing us to increase the size by more than 50%. The theme is Rebirth and Reinvention, and it is threaded throughout all the pieces, which can be used across genres.”

Now that the ENnies voting booth is closed (and thanks to everyone for your support and votes), back to the broader panoply of products for Picks. Some very cool stuff continued to come out during that period of time, including this highly-anticipated expansion to the popular Green Ronin licensed product line, Dragon Age RPG, Set 3.

“Set 3 completes the core rules of the game, providing everything players need to take their characters from level 11 to 20. They will love new specializations like the chevalier, force mage, and shadow, plus new spells, talents, and backgrounds…”

Today’s a day of Sean-related news, but since that’s my name on the masthead, I’m going to be OK with that.

Tomorrow at 7pm Central time, the ENnie Awards Voting Booth will close. At that time, hopefully, your votes will be counted with the others cast from around the world. The ENnie officials will tally them up, then prepare the Silver and Gold Awards for each recipient, to be announced at Gen Con “Friday, August 15 at 8 p.m. in the Union Station Grand Hall at Gen Con Indy (cocktail reception begins at 6:30 p.m.).”

I would consider it a personal favor if you would consider the following in your voting choices –

Best Aid/Accessory – Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management

From my friends at Engine Publishing

 

Best Art, Interior; Best Setting; Product of the Year – Deadlands Noir

Pinnacle Entertainment, my brothers and sisters in every way that matters.

Best Electronic Book – Shaintar: Legends Unleashed

From Humbly Grateful Yours Truly

Best Family Game – Camp Myth

From my dear friend, Eloy Lasanta and his Third Eye Games house.

Best Game; Best Setting; Best Writing; Product of the Year – tremulus

From Sean Preston’s Reality Blurs, without whom Shaintar would be nowhere near as wonderful.

Best Podcast – All Games Considered

Because they’ve always been so incredibly supportive, and because they helped me find Carinn

Best Rules – Shaintar: Legends Arise

This one would mean more than I can ever express, for so many reasons.

 

Best Website – Fate SRD

Because the guy who put it together, Randy Oest, is a fantastic GM who gave me a real introduction to the game that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

 

And please don’t forget to vote for my friend, Kurt Wiegel, to once again be an ENnie Judge!

As well, Evil Beagle Games would greatly appreciate your vote for Fan Favorite Publisher.

Thank you for indulging this particularly personal Sean’s Pick of the Day.

Big News at Evil Beagle Games!

I am extremely pleased and excited to announce that Ross Watson (Accursed, Warhammer 40K Roleplay, Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, etc.) is now a partner in and the Managing Director of Evil Beagle Games. He’s been a dear friend and colleague for a decade and a half, and now he’s in charge of getting my ducks in a row and making us a real and productive publishing house.

Carinn Seabolt (already a Founder) steps up as our Editor-in-Chief, making sure all said ducks are correct and on target. As well, she’s making sure we stay on the right side of inclusivity and history as a company dedicated to quality and fun for everyone.

I am, of course, a Founder and now the newly-named CVO (Chief Visionary Officer). This is a perfect title for me, since the dream and vision of Evil Beagle Games is my dream and vision, and keeps me in a high-level role to help steer the company. At the same time, it takes me out of the day-to-day management stuff that – let’s be real, here – I am utterly terrible doing.

Ross has been at the head of some of the most important projects in gaming, and he’s also consulted with companies across the entertainment spectrum. He knows his stuff, loves Shaintar, and has some exceptionally cool ideas to add to the mix. We’ve already gotten off to a great start, and the long-awaited Kickstarter materials are now in full-development mode toward release (we’ve got some great announcement coming about those soon). We’re already able to see a future where other great talents in the industry can look at the Beagle as a house for their ideas.

Thanks to everyone for your continued belief in and support of Evil Beagle Games. The next few days, weeks, and months are going to be a very exciting time for us all.

~ Sean Patrick Fannon

We’re winding down to the last couple of days to vote for your favorite products and publishers for the ENnies, so here’s another spotlight product on DriveThruRPG.

Iron Kingdoms Full Metal Fantasy Roleplaying Game: Kings, Nations, and Gods is up for Best Production Values, which is no surprise in light of how Privateer Press rolls.

This one is a Judges Choice Award for the ENnies, from Cubicle 7. It’s also part of the Christmas in July Sale. The developer, Ken Spencer, tells it best –

“It’s alternate history pulpy retro-sci-fi space opera planetary romance. It’s throttled up rocket packs burning radium on the long blast to the farthest reaches of the Solar System. It’s hunting thunder lizards in the upland jungles of Venus. It’s battling Ancient Martian killing machines piloted by the Deutsche Marskorps across the baking red deserts of Mars. It’s exploring the deadly skies of Jupiter under the constant threat of Europan disintegration. It’s RAY gun wielding heroes bulls-eyeing mutants in the blasted ruins of Io”

Presenting – Rocket Age!

Unfortunately, the day and night got away with me thanks to other pulls on my time, so this won’t be quite as lengthy as Part 1…

I wrote mostly about the character creation process in Part 1, though I did touch on some of the things I feel may be the most important new developments in the game.

Particularly, I’m thinking of the Background stuff and how it works with the Inspiration system. This is something that actively encourages and incentivizes roleplay, a component that’s not been seen in D&D to this degree in… well, ever, as far as I can recall.

More importantly, the Inspiration system genuinely seems to encourage that in-character roleplay and decision making right there during the combat scenes! I can’t really express just how giddy this makes me. Sure, you can just wade in and tactically master the situation as the numbers dictate (as with many games), but you’re going to have to pull out that sacrifice play or that expertly-delivered speech that indicates why the bastard in front of you has to face justice (based on your Background information) if you want to gain the Advantage.

The Advantage/Disadvantage system is another piece of awesome, at least so far as I’ve seen in our first game. It boils a lot of situational things down to a final decision on the Game Master’s part as to whether or not you have:

  • Advantage, in which case you get to roll twice and take the better result, or
  • Disadvantage, in which case you must roll twice and take the worse result.

This boils out a lot of the fiddly bits of “+2 from this circumstance, but -3 from that circumstance… oh, but you get +1 when you…”

Instead, you might jump off a ledge down onto your opponent (Advantage), who has a table between the two of you (Disadvantage; Advantage cancelled). You decide to use the the rafters above for an Acrobatic maneuver, regaining the Advantage (with a good roll, that is). So you wind up with the better of two d20 rolls because you got creative.

This. This is what this game has needed for a long, long time. A simple, effective way to handle all the interesting and creative situations and ideas that come into play when storytelling meets action.

This is what I’ve needed for D&D to be fun for me.

From what I experienced last night, this approach goes a long way towards making life a lot easier on the GM as well. A character will have some specific hard bonuses from their character’s stats (and items, eventually), but so much of the “this-but-that-and-also” of previous editions (and, yes, other games) is very elegantly folded into a more narrative adaptation of the surrounding and prevailing conditions, as well as the descriptive approach to action a player might take when leaping into battle or creatively casting a spell.

Ross, by the way, proved extraordinarily adept at using that system to buckle Morgan’s swash all over the map. The rest of us caught on as the game progressed, in large part thanks to his initial headlong dive into things and Darryl‘s quick adaptation to the flow.

There are still Hit Points; like Alignment, I don’t think it can really be D&D without Hit Points. New characters start with a decent number, and much better access to AC than I recall from previous editions. You’ve got some decent survivability built in right at the start; Ross proved, however, that you could still get very close to dead if you get in the way of too many blows or arrows.

Healing and recuperating seemed fine; decent access to getting your “Second Wind” or otherwise between-battle recovery without too much cheese.

Combat rounds run pretty much as you’d expect on the very basic level, but there was a much more natural flow and far less sense of restriction from what I grasped. You can move pretty much at any point in your round, at least as Darryl explained; I played based on his instruction, not reading the Combat section, so if we were “getting it wrong,” apologies to all.

But if we were getting it wrong, I’m glad we didn’t play “right,” because that flow made a lot of sense to me.

Roll initiative. On your turn, describe what you’re doing. You’ve got a Move Action in there, and you can Attack. There’s Bonus Action stuff that I think accounts for things like drawing a weapon and such, but I’d need to either read through or play some more to be sure.

There wasn’t all that mess from the old Attacks of Opportunity; just some circumstances that made basic sense as to when someone might get a free swing at you. However, since anyone (apparently) could declare that their action was to Withdraw, you didn’t have the AOO “traps” to be sprung in the same old (and often annoying) way. From what I could deduce, no one is going to be able to pull that chain-fighting, threaten every living thing within the room with AOO nonsense I ran into years ago.

There’s more to say, but I gotta get to bed. You can bet on a Part 3, I think; maybe after I’ve read some more of the freebie doc, or maybe not until we’ve played our second session.

However, I do want to say that there’s another foundational idea that really stuck with me. It goes straight to my ability to call on my Animal Handling skill to creatively address issues with a pissed off wolf in a combat where we managed to take out his master.

Rulings Over Rules.

The new D&D strongly urges the GM to use common sense and play with the basic mechanics of d20+whatever Skill applies (you’ll add your Ability mod and a Proficiency bonus, if you’ve got any training) to address just about every single kind of challenge you can imagine. Rather than go digging for specific rules for figuring out how I calm a distraught wolf down rather than just bashing his head in, Darryl and I both felt very comfortable and confident in just having me roll vs a reasonable target number.

(My only Natural 20 of the night resulted in a much more reasonable wolf and an end to that combat).

At the same time, when Andrea wanted to help me use Medicine to try and revive the wolf’s master (we needed information about where our dwarven employer was), she rolled against a base TN. Success would have given me Advantage (roll twice, keep best).

Clean, fast, and enjoyable.

Honestly, I went in expecting to be underwhelmed.

Now I am looking forward to the next session with some genuine anticipation, and I am definitely planning to pick up the core stuff.

~SPF

FATE is hot in the ENnie Nominations this year, and the FATE System Toolkit is up for Best Supplement.

“Learn how to hack the skill system to better suit your terraforming campaign. Get ideas on how to create races and societies for your woodland elves, subterranean aliens, or afterlife police force. Customize our magic starters to create your own system, and use our gadget starters to bring your gear to life (only not literally).”

I had fun. I really did.

It’s been not-quite a couple of hours since I played my first session of Dungeons & Dragons, which most of us are calling the Fifth Edition, though that’s not what it’s being called on any covers I’ve seen.

I was invited to join Ain’t It Cool News’ Darryl Mott‘s new bi-weekly campaign, run right out of the new free PDF the folks at WotC are calling the Basic Rules. The game is part of the Gamer’s Tavern Game Table program, which my roommate and Evil Beagle Games partner, Ross Watson, is also a key part of. With Darryl running, Ross and I were joined by Darryl’s long-time friend (and killer-clever artist with Roll20 drawing tools) Gary Dowling and D20 Girls Project stalwart Andrea Perez.

(The Grumpy Celt was also supposed to be on board tonight, but technical difficulties kept him away from the virtual table; hopefully, next time…)

It was Andrea’s first time ever playing D&D, which created a much more interesting framework from which to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the design of the new rules. She played a female dwarven Cleric (defaulting to Moradin until she has more grounding) named Beliane.

Gary also stepped up with a dwarf, this one a male Fighter named Magni (long “I”).

Ross invoked some grand Old School nostalgia by re-interpreting the icon from the Moldvay edition, Morgan Ironwolf. He even posted in the classic Jeff Dee illustration –

A human Fighter of decidedly swash-bucklery orientation.

I rolled up one of the odder male elves you might meet in D&D, a brute ex-smith-turned-Cleric of Selune named Jovis Ironweaver.

Darryl and I recorded the character creation process the night before, which I understand he’s going to post as part of the whole podcast experience for this. It was a very easy and surprisingly interesting experience. You only have four races (Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, Human) and four classes (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard). The presentations are tight, and the process is very walk-through and relatively uncomplicated. You get some choices to make things a bit more interesting, though most are fairly binary; high elf or wood elf in your Elf racial selection, for example.

Selecting a Cleric, I was able to grok the basics relatively quickly, though I can see how a brand-new-to-gaming player might have a bit too much going on to fully grok what’s happening with spells. I can know this many, prep that many, but only cast two of… what can I cast, now? I mean, yes, careful reading will get you there, but the never-before player is going to have some chewing to do.

I also think it would have been better to provide at least two Domains to choose from in this presentation. Pointing out that Domains are a key way for Clerics to be interestingly different, and then only giving the single option of Life Domain (sweet though it is), is a bit too much of a tease in my opinion.

Nonetheless, I liked how Jovis turned out, and I felt like I got to play with him a bit in the construction. I really appreciated the simplified approach to Equipment; Darryl offered me the shopping cart approach, but I was not remotely interested, and I had enough interesting options from the “Column A/Column B” approach to make it quick and satisfying.

What really twists 5th Edition character creation is the integrated concept of Backgrounds. Yes, there’ve been attempts at this before, but now we have a fully layered-in system that’s easy and fun. You can really add a lot of backstory to your character with this stuff – which gives you things like Personality TraitsBonds, and Flaws, which all ties into the “boost economy” mechanic of Inspiration. Savage Worlds fans will see this as the Bennies concept applied to D&D, and it’s a nice, simple idea that does something very remarkable to the Dungeons & Dragons game.

It directly incentivizes roleplaying, in and out of combat. You really want to play up your Personality Traits, your Flaws, and such, because having Inspiration means getting that re-roll you need at that critical juncture. You can also give your Inspiration to others when they need it, which is a huge step towards teamwork and support.

The game itself saw us getting more and more into the use of Inspiration as we all – including Darryl – began to truly grasp its impact.

(We also saw the first House Rule come up, as Darryl decided to go against the “on/off” nature of Inspiration – you have it, or you don’t, and no “stacking” – and allow multiple iterations of Inspiration to be added like points.)

Truly, it was the Background stuff that really brought the whole character creation process to life for me. The Basics give you five choices – Acolyte (temple devotee), Criminal, Folk Hero, Sage, and Soldier. Though each has easily detected leanings, there’s no reason you can’t play a former Criminal who becomes a Cleric, or a Soldier who goes on to study as a Wizard.

I chose Folk Hero as I got more of a sense of what an 18 Strength elf might be like, which led to the whole smith thing, as well as my decision to take the Chaotic Good concept of defending the weak against tyrants to some interesting places.

(Two dwarves, and my elf is the only actual blacksmith in the group. There’s a Tools concept that is also charming and intriguing, something that steps out of the normal Skills/Proficiencies arena and acts independent of it. Essentially, this is where Crafting evolved into something much simpler, I think.)

Speaking of Alignment – it’s there, and once again they present the Evil Alignments while seriously discouraging folks from playing them. Darryl’s interpretation is that they are more RP-guiding than hard-wired spirituality, and that’s a fair view. I can accept that it’s never going to be D&D unless there are alignments…

Character rolled up, initial spells prepared and cantrips (constantly-available minor spells, which honestly rocks) chosen, I was ready to play tonight.

However, it’s damned late and I need sleep, so some actual play impressions will have to wait until tomorrow.

I will say, once again, that I had fun.

I am trying to figure out why I am so surprised to write those words.