Friday, October 25, 2013

40K Fridays - Status Update

It's been really light around here when it comes to 40K specifically and miniatures in general. Weeknights are busy with homework, college research, homecoming stuff, Halloween prep, and all of the other routine things we all deal with. With the Pathfinder game kicking off I've been spending a lot of time catching up on 3 years of Pathfinder releases and that has squeezed my 40K reading/research time too. I have enough of a painting backlog that I decided to skip the second Reaper Bones kickstarter because even a year from now I expect to have unpainted armies - bleah.

So the Marine Codex is out - I haven't picked it up yet. It's probably going to happen this weekend and you can expect a report on it shortly after - maybe next Friday. Heck, it might even let me get the Crimson Fists on the table again.

Sisters of Battle are out as a digital-only codex now. I think it's cool that they are giving them some decent up-to-date rules support but they aren't getting new mini's and they aren't getting a print book - this is strictly a "maintenance release" to allow owners of existing armies to keep playing. It's not the best solution, but hey, it is better than they have handled this kind of thing in the past.

Finally these "codex supplements" (or the announcements/rumors of them at least) keep coming out faster than I can keep up with. Most of them are digital-only and at $39.99 for a digital "supplement" I am extremely reluctant to embrace this particular "future".  The print versions are $50 for 72 pages, and the special limited edition is a bargain at $100! Remember that this is on top of the $50 army codex that you need to use these specialized sub-armies. I'm sure they are aimed at the hardcore/long time player but man ... that's a lot of $$$ for rules and fluff to run one force. Love the concept, hate the pricing.

For the rest of this year we have the Tyranids, then next year we have Orks, Guard, and maybe Space Wolves early on - well we have 3 of those 4 armies in this house so that's positive movement for us.

More to come

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Gaming Fiction Review - Gauntlgrym

I started this one, set it aside for a few months, then picked it up again last week and read it fairly quickly. As of this volume there are about 20 books in the Drizzt saga depending on how you want to count the "Sellswords" trilogy where he only appears in the first book. There are 3 more in this particular series with 1 more (as part of "The Sundering") on the way so we're up to about 25 or so altogether. If you want to throw the Cleric Quintet into that (some characters show up in the Drizzt books) then we're up to about 30 novels in "Bob Salvatore's travels around the Realms". In my opinion, they're pretty good, around the top of "gaming fiction" as a genre. No, your kids aren't likely to be studying them in English or a Literature class but there are good stories and interesting characters here.

With all of those Dark Elf & Friends books out you're likely already either on board with them or not and I doubt this book will change your mind. If you don't like any of the earlier ones, you probably won't like this one and I wouldn't recommend starting with it anyway. If you do you probably read it a couple of years ago and are wondering why someone is just now posting a review. I'd label myself a casual fan - I get the books but not the day - or even the year - they come out. So I'm reviewing them at a casual pace and as that casual fan.

As an overview, this book continues the story of Drizzt and company though his companions are finally being thinned out by the passage of time. To me this is one of the great potential themes that the author has resisted until now: when you have an effectively immortal character who has non-immortal friends, what happens when time passes? How does it impact the character, a heroic figure in the setting, as his friends and family die off? There are a lot of interesting elements that could be layered on top of the original misfit/wanderer/outsider looking in themes of the early books. In the previous book in the series, The Ghost King, we finally started exploring these ideas and in this book it becomes a major theme and that's is 100% a good thing.

I won't get into spoilers too much here in case someone has not read the book but here are 3 things that stood out to me:

  • There is a lot of time passing quickly in this book. Decades pass between the beginning and the end and the timing of most of this story is just a few years before the 4E era of the Forgotten Realms. Timeline jumps are much easier when you're dealing with Elven and Dwarven lifespans.
  • The expected threat-of-the-book (pictured on the cover up there) takes a somewhat unexpected turn and despite the author's continuing preference for unique, signature weapons for many of his characters (see Drizzt, Athrogate, Cadderly, Jarlaxle, Artemis, Pwent, and others for examples) he manages to not bring it down to a simple confrontation between Drizzt and the expected signature villain. I thought the whole story was well done and the climax of the story was especially well handled.
  • There is a lot of dungeoneering in this book and it's a pleasant change from some of the cross-country stuff in earlier books. If you like dwarves they are a focus of this book, along with Thay and cultists of Asmodeus. The opposing forces in the book are an interesting and unusual mix of creatures too. The party Drizzt joins is an interesting mix as well and the pages fly by.
One thing I realized as I was wrapping up the read was that none of the main characters in this entire saga have children: Drizzt, Bruenor, Catti-Brie, Wulfgar, Regis, Jarlaxle, Artemis - none of them. In a lot of other settings and stories one way to handle the passage of time and mitigate the loss of favorite characters is to have their children grow to adulthood and begin having similar adventures. That's really not an option here. Why is that? I am not sure. Mr. Salvatore has children, so I know he's not against them in general. It's just odd that with all of the emphasis on home and family and friends and long term relationships that have their ups and downs that none of these characters appears to have produced offspring nor are they engaged in raising them beyond Bruenor's adopted humans in the first few books.I wonder if that will change down the road.

None of that changes the epic quality of the story - this is a tale that sets the stage for Neverwinter and the North in the 4E timeframe and it's a really good read, even moreso if you've read all of the others leading up to it.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Old School Champions Returns! - Adventurers Club #7

Not their strongest cover

We're back with AC #7 from the summer of 1986! Oddly enough #6 was winter of 1984 so there's a bit of a gap in there - even longer than the gap in my posts on these magazines! I let this go for a while because I hit a gap in my collection but I do like digging back into the older era of Champions. Besides, there have been some good comments in the past and there's not a ton of stuff online about them so let's fire them back up again.

Some RPG context for 1986: Champions is a big deal but Marvel Super Heroes came out in 1984 and DC Heroes came out in 1985 and are also big players. V&V is still seeing new adventures. TMNT and Heroes Unlimited are around and locally at least TMNT was briefly popular. In other games, AD&D is in the 1st edition but post-Unearthed Arcana phase, Runequest 3rd Edition is another big player, Traveller is still in its original edition, Twilight 2000 is still a newish thing. Mechwarrior, Traveller 2300, and Ghostbusters are all either out or coming out this same year.

Remember these? Whoa ... three ... pages of written material each month. That sounds like a tremendous beating to run if he ever had more than 3 players.
(Googled - nothing about it online that I can find)

Up Front: We get some discussion of the reasons behind the delays which is pretty frank: lack of funding and resources. Compare this with the obfuscation and carefully worded press releases we see so much of today even from smaller companies and it's pretty refreshing. This leads into the announcement of the partnership with Iron Crown, which means we're going to get content wasted on devoted to Middle Earth Role Playing as well. Oh boy.

Letters: One notable item we get some complaining about "lack of quality control" noting that there have been 3 revisions of the Champions book, 2 of Champions II, and that Champions III was full of typos and missing tables, all in a period of 3.5 years. Yes kids, this stuff went on well before the internet. In some ways it is better nowadays but I still see stuff like this even in modern products. I suspect the ease of electronic publishing is a double-edged sword. There's also a letter discussing heroes and killing citing Wolverine as one example with the response citing Captain America as a counter-example - again, it was going on before the Great Internet Debates.

Also notable: No trash-talking Foxbat letters this month. Perhaps we are now too big for those. There's a lot less silliness in general in this issue, from the ads to the articles to this. I kind of miss it.

That is an awesome back cover. I really like it.
The Meat:

  • There's a nice article on Presence that uses Captain America as a pretty strong example and adds some new wrinkles for using PRE in positive ways. One example is to buff allies against an enemy's presence attack. It's good stuff.
  • Errata for Lands of Mystery - I wonder if this is online anywhere? google - look, it's on Aaron Allston's page!
  • A couple of WW2 Axis-themed villains for Champions, Packmaster and Aslan - more on them later
  • Gadgets: The Phase Door for Champions and the Mercy Gun for Justice Inc.
  • Mr. Allston has a really nice little article on making Justice Inc. adventures more cinematic
  • There's an article for Danger International on acquiring equipment in the field. This seems to be the least-loved child of this era as even in the magazine there is limited support
  • Grand Tactical Champions - this is a rules-tinkering article by George MacDonald that I don't recall seeing in later rules updates. It attempts to make it easier to run bigger scale combats by modifying the normal Hero system using everything from scale changes to grouping NPC's into combined units to simplifying the damage into more of a scale of damage steps that is a little like M&M's damage system!
  • No reviews this issue!
Ah, old school maps

The big item this issue is "Raid on Blackgulch" - a Champions adventure by Andrew Robinson. Blackgulch is a chemical weapons testing and storage facility for the U.S. Army. The primary villain of the adventure, Phosgene, is a victim of an army weapons experiment. I think you can see where this is going. Aided by fellow villains Mercuria and Dr. Magnus (stats are provided for all three) he intends to steal the chemical weapons and use them against the army as his revenge. As noted in the adventure, this isn't a mystery to be solved. Instead "it's a chance for mayhem in an unpredictable environment."

This is a solid setup: there are hooks, background on the facility and program, maps of the facility, and a run-through of the villain's plan. The detailed map is keyed like a dungeon with notes on the purpose of each room, contents, stats for doors and walls, and any other defenses present.


The distinguishing characteristic of this facility is the chemical contents of some of the rooms and labs. There is a simple random system for determining the type of chemical that is "discovered" - likely through weapons fire - and how strong it is, how it affects characters, and the likelihood and size of possible explosions and fires if these things are violently impacted. This also includes things like nerve agents, welding torches, and fire extinguishers. If you have a character with a vulnerability or susceptibility to chemicals they are going to hate you for running this. Heh. The approach is similar to the Food Fight introductory scenario for Shadowrun, only more dangerous.

"Well surely my cautious and well-prepared players will take every step not to accidentally release some nerve gas or set themselves on fire. What could possibly go wrong?" Well Phosgene has an interesting power:

Yep, if he takes any body from fire then he explodes for 20d6. Note the vulnerability right next to it too. Now it looks like it only happens once per day but that's a pretty severe explosion and in the wrong room calculating the secondary explosions that result from this could take a lot of time, to the point I think I'd just go with "the Brick gets to make a Con check everyone else is unconscious" approach and go from there.

Dr. Magnus is an armored magnetic controller, ensuring someone can throw some of those metal containers (or fire extinguishers) at your heroes - or fling your battlesuit guy into them.

Mercuria is a fairly tough energy projector (35 Con!) who also happens to have a 6d6 NND explosion - that should be fun in close quarters.

Anyway, there's the rundown for Issue 7!


It's been 4 years of the same basic look around here. Change is good so I'm playing around with the look and layout of the blog. Things may move around, some other parts could use a clean-up, and others may be improved. Stay tuned for "Better"!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Scarred Lands News

Well this looks promising. My favorite campaign setting to emerge from the d20 era is finally getting a new home. Press release here. Short version: it's going to a company run by some ex-White-Wolfers which is who helped publish it originally. In the comments it looks like they're planning on taking their time before releasing anything for it (2015?!) but that might be better in the long run anyway. I'll have to keep my eye on this one.

Motivational Monday

I came late to Defenders but I ended up with quite a few of them in game. Their particular mix of powers was a lot of fun on a team and we ran a lot of teams. I'll go with Radiation as my favorite type and my poster child for that would be Mister Fission, described here.