Saturday, September 21, 2013

Warhammer Online Shutting Down

A virtual fistbump to all the players of Warhammer Online who found out this week that their game is shutting down in December. I never got into the game beyond the demo but I love Warhammer and I know exactly how you feel. I hate to see any online game that has a following fold up like this. Last year it was CoH, this year it's Warhammer - who will it be next year?

 Massively summary:

Dev Thoughts (lots of cool stuff in here):

Friday, September 20, 2013

Overreaction Friday

Fun Stuff:

  • Temple of Elemental Evil is free at DTRPG/RPGNow/ for a week or so. Check here or log into your site of choice to get it.
  • This week was the 30th anniversary of the D&D cartoon. WOTC article here. I had mixed emotions about it as I was 14 when it came out and it was clearly written for younger kids. The visuals of the monsters were cool, especially Tiamat, but listening to Ralph from Happy Days flip into panic mode multiple times every episode made it hard to watch. I did pick up the DVD a few years ago just to have it but it's not a humongous part of my 80's D&D memories.  

New Stuff

The final D&D Next packet is out and I'm still digesting it. They have added new races, changed expertise dice to flat bonuses, and added skills back into the game. Oh, and the Bard is in too.

There are numerous and significant changes to every class - it looks to me like any existing characters of medium levels and up will require a rebuild. I suppose that's part of the "playtest" aspect but I thought we were closer to the final form than this.

Multiclassing is in.It's pretty much 3E style with minimum ability scores required for each class. Spellcasting looks a little messy right now as they attempt to solve the multi-classed spell-casting progression problem - there's a table specifically for figuring spells per day - but it looks to me like if I take 5th level fighter/5th level M-U I'm still only throwing spells as a 5th level M-U - the fighter levels still add nothing. A Ranger though, would add half levels, meaning a 5/5 M-U/Ranger would have spells per day as a 7th level caster, which is potentially a little better, but it's still capped by individual class level limits as far as what spells you can throw, so that character wouldn't be tossing any 4th level M-U or Ranger spells Confusing? I agree. It also means that this is another thing they have to consider when adding new spellcasting classes to the game and how this would interact with any alternative mechanics. I hope this gets better over the next year.

There will be updates to this packet! Both the Druid and the Paladin mention a future update to this packet.

Dragonborn do get their breath weapon (basically an encounter power) and it goes up in damage as they level - interesting.

Warforged look pretty strong - no need to eat, drink, or breathe, +1 AC, Stat bonuses are +1 to Str and Con. I can see a lot of metal barbarians in the future.

Drow get their classic spell abilities as they level up rather than all at once. Makes sense to me - assuming you're allowing them as PC's in the first place.

Skills are not like any previous edition of D&D so let me summarize:

  • There is a fixed list of less than 20 skills but it looks like it would be trivial to expand this if desired
  • Skills are just a more specific ability check - "Make a Stealth check" is just a d20 + dex bonus
  • Each class grants "Proficiency" in certain skills (some fixed, some variable) and Proficiency gives a bonus on that kind of skill check. This bonus starts at a +1 and goes all the way up to +6 as the character levels up from 1-20. 
  • Since it's a bonus -and not a ridiculous one - that means a fighter and a rogue can both make stealth checks but the rogue will have a +1 (at low level) that the fighter would not, unless he picked up the proficiency somehow, like with the "Stealthy" feat.
  • Craft type skills have been rolled into "Tool Proficencies" so if you're proficient with blacksmiths tool you can make stuff and with thieves' tools you can open locks, etc. 
  • Some classes have a further thing called "Expertise" which gives them a flat +5 bonus to checks on a number of skill and/or tool proficiencies.
I like this approach in general, though I'm not sure about the tool thing. 

Expertise looks pretty powerful too as Rogues get it at level 1 and Bards get it at level 3 - that means while everyone else is running around with a +1/+2 proficiency bonus (on top of stat bonuses) the Rogue or Bard will have a +5 on top of that. It definitely keeps the thief's niche safe as picking any lock or sneaking past anything with a decent perception ability is going to take an "expertised" thief at low levels. At higher levels other characters can handle the routine stuff pretty easily but I would still want the expert thief for the truly difficult stuff. 

I think this is pretty useable in play though as it basically creates three tiers of character when it comes to resolving individual tasks:

  • "Well I have a decent stat bonus, I can try it" - There's a chance
  • "I am proficient in that" (and have a decent stat bonus, hopefully)- I should be able to make it
  • "I have expertise in that" - No sweat
Beyond these long term considerations you also have the situational modifier of advantage/disadvantage coming into play as well. I think that's pretty flexible and easy to run in play. 

There's a big article about it here where they explain the thinking behind this approach and I mostly agree with it. There's some Q&A stuff here too.

Hopefully we will get a chance to update our characters and play it this weekend. More next week.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Coming Attractions: Wrath of the Righteous

I've been reading a lot of Pathfinder lately. What sparked the resurgence of interest there just as we're digging into Next? Well, this:

Here's the blurb:
For more than a hundred years, the demon-infested Worldwound has warred against humanity, its Abyssal armies clashing with crusaders, barbarians, mercenaries, and heroes along the border of lost Sarkoris. But when one of the magical wardstones that helps hedge the demons into their savage realm is sabotaged, the crusader city of Kenabres is attacked and devastated by the demonic hordes. Can a small band of heroes destined for mythic greatness survive long enough to hold back the forces of chaos and evil until help arrives, or will they become the latest in a long line of victims slaughtered by Deskari, the demon lord of the Locust Host?

This is the new adventure path that just kicked off last month. I'm on the Paizo email list and when I saw the description I realized I was probably going to need to look into it. I have a player that typically plays a paladin and has mostly played paladins in the 25 years (wow that's a bigger number than I realized before) that I have known him. He likes being the heavily armored stand-up good guy fighting the good fight. He goes off in another direction occasionally but if I'm starting a new fantasy campaign I can pretty much count on him to play a knight/paladin type character, regardless of system. This new AP is pretty much "Knights and Paladins Throw Down With Demons to Save the World!" and it has him written all over it. Because this exists, I must run it for him.

Seeing that this was coming I went ahead and dove into Pathfinder, both the rules and the Inner Sea setting. I already was familiar with the rules having had the core book for a while and having run the Apprentices through the Beginner Box a while back. I picked up the Advanced Players Guide which adds some classes and feats and stuff because it looked like the most generally useful addition to the core game. My main focus though was the setting.

I really have not paid much attention to the setting for Pathfinder. I need another fantasy game setting like I need another set of fantasy roleplaying rules, so my general rule has been to ignore new settings and focus on the ones I already have. In the last month I've added Numenera and the Inner Sea World Guide and various other supplements so clearly I'm not paying attention to my own rules about these things either.

I haven't finished the big book yet but so far, wow, it is very good. It's very much made to game in, not just read about, and much like the Rome book I posted about yesterday it strikes a great balance between detail and brevity. Two of Paizo's founders were long time fans of Greyhawk and there are a lot of touches in this world that I recognize. Also, "Realm of the Mammoth Lords" - damn I'm ready to throw dice just reading that. So I do like the world, more than I expected to.

Yep, there's a smaller setting book on the Worldwound too and I went ahead and read it as well. It's somewhere between post-apocalyptic and "let's invade hell" turned backwards - the Abyss has invaded the world instead. There's some similarity to the Chaos Wastes in Warhammer Fantasy too. I plan to use quite a bit of that kind of flavoring.

So at this point I've refreshed myself on the rules, read most of the general setting, read the regional setting book, gotten to play a little bit, and read the first adventure. Am I still keen on doing this? Oh yeah, it's happening. This is very much the "crusade" adventure path where the good guys take on un-debatable Big Evil for the fate of the world - there's a lot of black and white with just a little gray.

They're also using the rules from the new "Mythic Campaigns" book which I have not read. Apparently it is comparable to the stuff from epic level play but instead of having to wait until you hit level 20 to start down that track, you can add in "mythic" abilities alongside the normal leveling path, representing divine will, fate, destiny, whatever. It is a power increase of some kind but it does seem appropriate for this set of adventures so I'm willing to give it a try as there are mythic monsters too.

Oh, also, on top of all that, this is the first AP that is specifically planned to take characters all the way from 1 to 20. Most of the others end up somewhere in the teens - this one is the full ride. Add in the mythic stuff and this should be a pretty good test of how Pathfinder circa 2013 handles high powered play.

Practical Considerations:

  • We still have the scheduling issue. Finding a day where people can play regularly has been a problem. I've tried to solve this by setting two goals: I want Steve (the player this is meant for) to be able to play, so I'm working around his schedule first. Second, I want the Apprentices to be able to play in this one with the grown-ups. I typically run separate games for the kids and the adults - this is the crossover game. So it's looking like this will be a weekend game, on the weekends we don't play our ongoing 4E campaign.
  • Players: Well I have the one, and at least one of the Apprentices should be available. Now I have to see if the rest of the grown-up crew can make it or if I can find some new players. I'm also willing to allow them to run multiple characters to make this happen. So we're probably looking at 3-6 players to make this work. 
  • Juggling other campaigns: It's a challenge. I finally had to set a schedule for the 4E game to give us a reasonable chance to stay on track. - more on that in another post. Having that predictability does mean that I can set some times for other games and not worry about favoring one over another . Assuming we carry on with 4E Next, and Pathfinder that means I'm running three campaigns just for D&D type fantasy! I've often said I'd like to have 3 campaigns going most of the time: one fantasy, one sci-fi and one supers, and I have it half right! One plan was to run next on a weeknight when the kids are here but so far homework has interfered with that and kept it to weekends only. That may just have to do for now. It's going to be hard to squeeze in any supers time for a while though. If I can do some Marvel or M&M also on an alternating schedule then that means I'm only running twice a week and that should be manageable.
  • I had also talked at one point about starting a game up at the LGS because I feel like I could manage a weeknight game and it would be a nice way to find more local players. One of my players asked me about burnout and that's a consideration but if I'm running in different systems with different groups of players I don't think that's as much of an issue.  

So while I'm still solving those problems I don't see anything insurmountable and the campaign binder (and cover) is under construction and I'm looking at what I can do with HeroLab and PCGen and other online tools. Schedule-wise I think it's going to boil down to four regularly-running games: 
  • 4E Impiltur - twice a month
  • Pathfinder Wrath of the Righteous - twice a month 
  • D&D Next - a few times a month on different days (easier since everyone involved lives here)
  • Super-something once or twice a month, because I want to.
Anyway this Pathfinder thing should kick off fairly soon. More to come on that. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Weird Wars Rome


This book brings together three things I really like: Savage Worlds, the Weird Wars series of supplements for that game, and ancient Rome. This is the product of a kickstarter that closed out at the end of August 2013 and yes I was a backer.

  • Savage Worlds has been around for over ten years now. The rules have been printed several times but there's never really been a drastic change in "edition", nothing comparable to the edition changes we've seen with D&D over the years. It's right at the top of the systems I like the most but have played the least, having run several short campaigns but nothing longer than six months or so. I run it when I can and I follow the game pretty closely as there's a lot of interesting stuff, both from Pinnacle and from the multitude of third party publishers for the system. There is almost always something interesting in the works.
  • Weird Wars started out as a d20 game set in World War 2 back during the early 2000's d20 boom. I had many of the books for that one (since sold off) and I ran a few episodes of it. The material in it was pretty solid and the mechanics were fine but it never really felt like something that needed the full 20-level zero to hero to demigod progression. At the time I thought it would have been better as a GURPS campaign and that's still not a bad idea. Since then it has been reborn as ongoing set of releases for Savage Worlds, beginning with Tour of Darkness - Weird Wars Vietnam back in the early days of SW. Since then we have seen a new Weird War Two book as well and now we have Rome.
  • Ancient Rome is something I've been interested in for a long time. I took latin as my foreign language in high school and took plenty of ancient history classes in college. I consider it an "area of interest" and pick up new books on it whenever one catches my eye. I also think it has great potential for a fantasy campaign with a slightly different flavor than D&D.


This is a single volume about 100 pages long, with PDF, softcover, and hardcover versions all coming out of the project. About half of it is for players and about half is for GM's. It's very pretty, with full color throughout, a parchment look to the page ground, and plenty of art.

Let me say up front that this is not a general resource for either the republic or the empire. This is very much focused on the military of Rome, the legions, and the military history of Rome. If you want a more general resource for gaming, the GURPS Imperial Rome better covers that angle. If you want a military focus though, this is probably the best single resource for that kind of game that I have found.

There is a character creation section that covers things like ranks and titles, there is coverage of Roman military equipment, and some setting rules covering things like sieges in Roman times and naval battles with galleys. This is plenty of material to make a member of the legion and get a good feel for what he's about. These sections give you the "who" and the "what" of Rome. Note that there is no way to start the game with magical powers - no arcane backgrounds, no holy stuff - you may be able to do some pretty cool things but you are not a wizard or a cleric in the D&D sense.

There is a section on both the history of Rome, from rise to fall, and the regions covered by the Romans at some point, typically province by province. This takes less than 20 pages but it is solid and is plenty to get a player up to speed on "Rome". For this section in particular, I like the balance of breadth vs. depth. If you want more, there are lots and lots of books out there on this subject. This is the "why" and the "where" of Rome. I should also note that all of this is real history - none of the weird stuff is in here yet. That comes in the GM section.

Then comes the "War Master's Section" and we have a rundown of the general weirdness, some mechanics, a guide to running a military campaign, a random adventure generator, two adventures (kind of a mini-capping), and a bestiary. Again, this is about half of the book and it is packed with useful material. Call this the "how" of a Roman campaign.


So how would a Weird Wars Rome campaign play? Now I haven't run this yet but here's how it looks to me: It's a militarized Call of Cthulu where you don't always lose. To expand:

  • The assumed beginning is that you are new or lightly experienced members of the Roman army 
  • As you carry out your duties and fight some battles you become aware that there are some strange things going on
  • Sooner or later you confront this strangeness directly and (hopefully) overcome it

Upon confronting the weirdness you could of course die or be injured, but you might also go mad (there are insanity/trauma rules) and you might be inducted into one of the secret societies that fight the weirdness to preserve humanity, expanding the options beyond straight-up military campaigns. This is where the magical powers can enter the campaign as these groups can teach the characters some new tricks. There is also some discussion around a campaign that spans the range of Roman history, playing a series of mini-campaigns with descendants of earlier characters fighting the secret war across the centuries which is a cool idea.

Now is this a campaign you run for ten years and everyone has characters retired to keeps and temples? Maybe not. It is certainly conducive to an intermittent and episodic mission-style campaign with no set end point. I think you could run it with a gradual progression up the ranks approach and end up with the characters in positions of power where they can take on a bigger role in both the nation and the ongoing war.

I have a vague concept in my head right now where over time the weirdness becomes more known and the emperor creates "Legio XIII" to deal with the problem on a larger scale - it's still a secret, but this 13th legion's leaders know what's going on and the unit is sent in to deal with problems that are on the verge of getting out of hand. This would add the fun of keeping the secret a secret on a bigger scale, potential rivalries with other legions who resent this other unit joining in, and some political fun as nobles and others scheme around the fringes.

To enhance the flavor of a Roman RPG there are a lot of tools available:

  • Use Roman numerals as much as possible. They're easy to learn and easy to read.  There are dice numbered this way and that adds more to the game's flavor than you might think.
  • Throw in a little latin, at least for titles and the names of the cities and provinces which are easily found in this book and a ton of other references as well.
  • There are plenty of Roman and other ancient miniatures available. This helps change up the look from a typical D&D game and Savage Worlds works well with mini's. There are supposed to be figure flats coming out for this specific game as well.
  • Ground it in history - pick an era, pick a region, and set your adventure in that specific time and place.  Use historical figures associated with your chosen setting. Even if your players aren't history buffs this makes the world feel more real just like it does for Faerun or Glorantha, and it has the advantage of being actual history - it might come in handy sometime other than at the game table.


  • This is unlikely to be a sandbox campaign, at least right out of the box. I can see ways to maybe run it that way but the game as presented is more like a superhero campaign: You are defenders of the status quo and when a threat to humanity or Rome arises you must deal with it.
  • This is a game with swords and magic but it is a pretty long ways from D&D in that you are not stating out with magical powers and you are not typically motivated to fight this fight for loot and XP's
  • On a power scale Savage Worlds is more cinematic than GURPS but less so than D&D 4th Edition so your characters should last for more than one fight and be able to do some cool things but you are not actually superheroes

One other note: like the other Weird Wars books Rome takes full advantage of Savage Worlds' designed ability to allow PC's to easily run their own NPC companions and fight larger battles in a session. The PC's may be accompanied by other legionnaires, auxilia, or helpless villagers caught in a bad situation. This can really enhance the feel of being in a larger scale military operation and should be a lot of fun with all of the colorful elements of a Roman force.


  • Having recently rewatched HBO's "Rome" with Lady Blacksteel it's a good source of inspiration as the two main characters are Roman soldiers in the late republic. If I ran this game I'd expect to see a lot of Titus Pullo and Lucius Vorenus in any characters I or my players made.
  • Gladiator - pretty obvious but this movie deals more with internal Roman politics while the game is more focused on weirdness in the provinces and the frontiers of the realm. At the very least though the music makes for a good background while playing.
  • Also having rewatched/introduced Apprentice Blaster to King Arthur, the Clive Owen version form a few years ago, I think it's a really strong source of inspiration for a campaign in Roman Britain. There are some interesting characters, you get a feel for the land, the opposition, and the overall situation, and there is plenty of room for weirdness. What might the "Woads" do when the Saxons invade besides call on Arthur? What if the Saxons have some more sinister influence than just conquest? What the heck is really going on at that villa in the middle of barbarian country? I can run an adventure based on this without almost no prep at all - it writes itself!

Next-to-final-thought: This is one of the few RPG's that would fit in well at a historical miniatures convention and I bet it would be a blast as you get a bunch of players who really know about these characters and this era get to dive in at a micro level and geek out, and then you get to throw zombies at them. I think it would be a blast.


This book solidly covers its promised subject and strikes a perfect-for-gaming balance between brevity and detail. If you play Savage Worlds and are interested in a Roman campaign it is definitely worth a look. If you do not play Savage Worlds I'd say it's less of an easy "yes" and may be more dependent on the price and your personal sensitivity to that. Much of the content on Roman history and military equipment could be picked up through other non-gaming sources but it is handy to have a single book that brings it all together if that's a type of campaign you are interested in trying. I, however, do play Savage Worlds and I feel that with this book, a rulebook, some cards and dice, and what's in my head I could run an enjoyable game for my friends or my kids or both and run it for quite some time.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

40K Friday - Special Monday Edition - Heights of Ridiculousness: Buy a Chapter!

I got this an email with this subject line yesterday:

The entire Ultramarines Chapter available to buy now!

Right. Inside is this picture:

Clicking through to the site yields this:

We proudly present our most ambitious collection ever! Nearly 1,200 Space Marine models representing the Ultramarines as deployed at the Battle of Orar's Sepulchre 888.M41. Marneus Calgar leads his entire chapter against the perfidious Eldar of the Iyanden and Alaitoc Craftworlds.

Here it is company by company:

That's quite a pile. Here's the summary:

Alongside the entire Chapter of Space Marines you'll also receive a signed copy of Codex: Space Marines; a signed copy of Insignium Astartes (the definitive guide to the heraldries and squad markings of the Ultramarines); a full Chapter organisation chart; a breakdown of the composition of each of the 10 companies; a signed art print of the Codex: Space Marines book cover; and a signed art print of Paul Dainton's painting of the Ultramarines assembled for battle.

This collection includes 1 box of Marneus Calgar and Honour Guard; 1 Chief Librarian Tigurius; 1 Chaplain Cassius; 1 Space Marine Captain in Terminator Armour; 1 Space Marine Terminator Chaplain; 1 Captain Sicarius; 1 box of Space Marine Masters of the Chapter; 1 Space Marine Captain: Lord Executioner; 1 Space Marine Captain: Master of the Marches; 1 Space Marine Captain: Master of the Rites; 1 Space Marine Captain: Master of Relics; 3 Space Marine Command Squads; 2 Space Marine Librarians; 1 Space Marine Librarian in Terminator Armour; 1 Space Marine Librarian with staff & book; 1 Space Marine Librarian with Force Sword and Bolt Pistol; 1 Space Marine Librarian with Force Axe and Plasma Pistol; 3 Space Marine Chaplains with Crozius and Power Fist; 3 Space Marine Chaplains with skull helmet; 1 Space Marine Chaplain with Crozius and Bolt Pistol; 1 Space Marine Chaplain with Crozius and Plasma Pistol; 1 Space Marine Chaplain with Jump Pack; 8 Space Marine Terminator Squads; 4 Space Marine Terminator Close Combat Squads; 4 Space Marine Vanguard Veteran Squads; 4 Space Marine Sternguard Veteran Squads; 39 Space Marine Tactical Squads; 47 Space Marine Rhinos; 4 Space Marine Drop Pods; 14 Space Marine Assault Squads; 14 Space Marine Devastator Squads; 12 Space Marine Centurion Devastator Squads; 4 Space Marine Razorbacks; 2 Space Marine Techmarines; 4 Space Marine Thunderfire Cannons; 7 Space Marine Dreadnoughts; 5 Space Marine Ironclad Dreadnoughts; 1 Space Marine Sergeant Chronus; 7 Space Marine Land Raiders; 3 Space Marine Land Raider Crusader/Redeemers; 7 Space Marine Stalker/Hunters; 2 Space Marine Vindicators; 5 Space Marine Predators; 3 Space Marine Whirlwinds; 3 Stormraven Gunships; 7 Space Marine Stormtalon Gunships; 13 Space Marine Bike Squads; 1 Space Marine Bike; 5 Space Marine Attack Bikes; 11 Space Marine Land Speeders; 1 Space Marine Sergeant Telion; 10 boxes of Space Marine Scouts; 4 boxes of Space Marine Scouts with Sniper Rifles; 5 Space Marine Land Speeder Storms; and 6 Space Marine Strikeforces.

I particularly like "47 Rhinos".I suspect this all is as much a promotional thing as it is anything else and if so congratulations GW and it is cool on some level.

Now I'm fine with capitalism and I'm sure there will be at least one person who will buy this but REALLY?! 
  • Money-wise there's a a car or a down payment on or a house or I can get 1200 space marine miniatures - tough choice! Is there a financing option? Just for fun I ran it through a loan calculator and if you financed it for 5 years at 15% you're looking at $278 a month. Think carefully before using those credit cards kids
  • Who would buy this much unassembled plastic at one go? I don't care if you make it a "club project"  it's going to take forever to build and paint all of this stuff. This is effectively a "lifetime subscription" to marines in Warhammer 40,000. Better pick a color scheme you really really like.
  • Storage space: forget about displaying it, where are you going to put all of those boxes while you're working on the thing? That's going to be a fairly big chunk of the garage, but hey it's priced like something that should go in the garage right?. Then once you build it all and paint it all you still have to store that.

All that said ... it would make a helluva Apocalypse army. Good luck transporting it though. Maybe you pay off the loan during the 5 years it takes to paint it all and then you're clear to buy a used minivan to carry it all around. 

Finally, if you're reading this and you do get one PUT UP A BLOG ABOUT IT! I'd love to follow along as someone tackles something like this. 

Motivational Monday