Review: Waterdeep: Dragon Heist

Friday last week was the early release date for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, the latest Dungeons & Dragons hardcover adventure from Wizards of the Coast. (The official release is on September 18.) While previous 5th Edition D&D adventures have focused on the large-scale apocalyptic plots of dragons, giants and demons, Dragon Heist is much more small-scale and down-to-earth. Adventurers explore Waterdeep, the city of splendours, racing against underworld rivals to find a stash of 500 000 gold pieces. (In Waterdeep, gold coins are known as ‘dragons’.)

As well as being a much more localized adventure, Dragon Heist isn’t designed to be used a long campaign. Unlike previous 5th Edition hardcovers, Dragon Heist is only designed to progress player characters from first to fifth level. For this reason, I think Dragon Heist will serve well as a new introductory adventure – an alternative to Lost Mine of Phandelver or In Volo’s Wake. Those who are keen to continue on all the way to level twenty will be able to, with Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage dropping soon after, in November.

Because this adventure only spans levels one to five, WotC have been able to use the extra space to provide four different ways of running the adventure. Each version of the adventure is set in a different season and features different villains, so it has a lot of replay value.

I think this adventure also has a greater emphasis on roleplay and diplomacy than previous 5th Edition hardcovers – in fact, adventurers who try to fight their way through the adventure will probably find themselves in trouble with the law or being hunted down by one of the city’s underworld factions.

Early on in the adventure there is an opportunity for the party to begin running their own Waterdeep tavern, which I expect will be of interest to those players who enjoy the social side of D&D.

The five Sword Coast factions (as well as some local groups like Force Grey) are well integrated into the adventure. There are a lot of ways for adventurers pursue renown within their faction, and there are lots of opportunities for faction members to call in favors from their faction, particularly toward the end of the adventure.

I’m not planning to run this adventure as it is written straight away, but my Thursday night D&D group is currently not far from Waterdeep, and I’m looking forward to using some of the content from this book if they end up in the city of splendors. There’s one chapter where Volo gives an overview of each area of the city, and the adventure proper gives a lot of detail about the lairs of a number of Waterdeep operatives that adventurers could cross paths with. The bestiary provides stats for a lot of powerful non-player characters, presented like the superheroes and criminal masterminds of a renaissance city.


We’re playing through Waterdeep: Dragon Heist on our Twitch stream this season from 5pm Mondays US Eastern Standard Time. You can watch session zero here.

You can preorder a copy of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist via Amazon here.

Call of Cthulhu Goes Mobile

Call of Cthulhu is one of the definitive tabletop roleplaying games that portray H.P. Lovecraft’s stories full of madness, eldritch horrors, and ancient creatures called the Great Old Ones. The legacy of H.P. Lovecraft’s stories continue to inspire and terrify audiences with an upcoming video game, various tabletop board games, and plenty of movies, music, and tv shows that have drawn influence from the material. Mobile games have adapted several board games and various other adventure style games. MetaArcade’s Cthulhu Chronicles, partnered with Chaosium, Inc,  brings the classic stories from Lovecraft to life as Choose-Your-Own-Adventure (CYOA) tales. The game was featured at Gen Con with a massive screen demo, and I had a pleasant chat with MetaArcade about plans for this platform of storytelling.

First Cthulhu Campaign

The first Cthulhu Chronicles campaign contains nine stories; most are iconic Lovecraft stories brought into the CYOA genre with a few original pieces to bridge the narrative together into a cohesive experience. During the demo, I had the pleasure of playing Alone Against the Flames. The atmosphere, the aesthetic, and the gameplay were easy to pick up and learn. I quickly became immersed into the story and tried my best to escape but ultimately succumbed to a grisly fate. The game sports multiple different characters with different stats and each story has clues that act as a sort of achievement system. Some stories and sections are more accessible for certain characters than others, but the challenge to get them makes the experience all the more satisfying.

Fans Already In Love

During my interview with MetaArcade, I inquired about the overall reception the mobile app game has received. As of the time of this article, Cthulhu Chronicles is only available on the Apple App Store, but I was assured that an Android version would be made available in the coming months. But overall, the mobile app has received some considerable download numbers, with many fans in between the US and Japan being the bulk of interest. The Asian mobile environment is vibrant, with the US as a close second place, and the opportunities for both a CYOA adventure mobile platform and the love for Lovecraft’s suspenseful tales will undoubtedly improve once the app opens to the Android app marketplace.

Update: As for September 13, MetaArcade has released Cthulhu Chronicles on the Google Play App Store

Familiar Mechanics

Cthulhu Chronicles utilizes the Call of Cthulhu ruleset from Chaosium, Inc but with a streamlined integration and implementation of the iconic horror mystery game. The mobile game acts as a shell for the CYOA narrative along with the unseen game mechanics. Instead of a full-fledged character sheet, prospective players have three primary skills: Appearance, Athleticism, and Intelligence. During the game, players will have encounters and tests that can either open or restrict specific narrative paths. While the tabletop game utilizes a d100 percentile dice, the mobile version incorporates that three skills and the d100 roll through a spin wheel graphic interface. Players will still have the ability to choose specific directions for their adventure, but the addition of tests yield an opportunity to explore new pathways or at least attempt to study them.

Atmosphere and Mood

In Cthulhu Chronicles, players will have a feel of Lovecraft’s Arkham, with pictures and graphics taken from source material set in the turn of the 20th century (supplied from the Library of Congress) and a soundtrack that genuinely gives that Cthulhu vibe. The text, layout, and even color schemes help to immerse a player into the narrative without feeling like you’re playing a game at all. Even the spin wheel interface sports the lost language of the Great Old Ones.

Free to Play

Cthulhu Chronicles is free to download from the app store, with three free plays a day. In other words, you get three attempts with any of the nine stories available. If you wish to unlock unlimited plays, you can purchase tickets for each story. Given the large bundle packages, I was assured to me that this was not a one a done deal for Cthulhu Chronicles, but hopefully a sampling for more great content ahead. The game is expected to release a second campaign as well though there was no announcement date determined yet.  

Community Content

One of the unique features that MetaArcade is hoping to implement with Cthulhu Chronicles is a community content service, much like other marketplaces as such as the DMsGuild for D&D and the Storyteller’s Vault for White Wolf, this platform has the potential to grow and hopes to do so in the near future with a pilot program for content creation. MetaArcade hopes to expand into other genres, and adapt this opportunity beyond the Cthulhu mythos. Presently, the program has not been established, but prospective writers and creators can sign up to join the pilot program once it launches. There is no definitive date at the time of this article, as such a development may take several months but interested parties are encouraged to sign up to stay informed for any progress

Not Their First Rodeo

Cthulhu Chronicles is not MetaArcade’s first rodeo they have another mobile app that utilizes a game that somewhat resembles Dungeons & Dragons called Tunnels and Trolls. A very similar CYOA style dungeon crawl experience, though the shell is not as refined as Cthulhu Chronicles, though I found myself still enjoying the game with my short time with it. Again, this again showcases MetaArcade’s app platform can work with a variety of different genres in the future and I hope to see this developer’s name more often in future apps

Sample Screenshots of Cthulhu Chronicles

Additional Links

Top Upcoming Releases by Green Ronin Publishing

Green Ronin Publishing is a renowned roleplaying game company with a reputation for innovative quality games since 2000. Some of their notable roleplaying game products include Dragon Age, A Song of Fire and Ice Roleplaying, and Mutants & Masterminds. The Seattle-based publisher continues to be hard at work to produce expansions to their existing properties while broadening into new systems and projects. For example, a week before Gen Con 2018, Green Ronin launched their Expanse RPG Kickstarter campaign and highlighted the release of their new Modern Age system, the contemporary-to-futuristic successor to their Fantasy Age ruleset.

It’s been a month since Gen Con, but there are still plenty of projects Green Ronin has in development, soon-to-be-released, or recently completed. These are my top picks for most anticipated projects or products, but they encompass most of Green Ronin’s product offerings.

The Expanse Roleplaying Game

This upcoming game system brings James S.A. Corey’s award-winning science-fiction novels to your tabletop. Fans of the SyFy Channel series based on the same novel series can look forward to the same fast-paced action and intrigue-filled storytelling. Using the new Modern Age ruleset, the game offers unique features such as Fortune instead of Health, Interludes for those breaks between encounters, and of course, spaceship battles. You can snag a copy of the quickstart for The Expanse RPG here.

Modern AGE

Fancy some adventures during the Industrial Revolution? Or perhaps some urban fantasy noir game? Or maybe head into a dystopian future reminiscent of settings such as Blade Runner or Ghost in the Shell? The latest iteration and expansion to the Adventure Game Engine (AGE) now features a classless implementation through talents, focuses, and specializations. The iconic stunt system makes a return in this new high octane, fast-paced combat, a sleek new interface for a plethora of games and genres. The new system includes new mechanics for running chases, along with options to add magic and psychic powers to your games. The World of Lazurus will serve as the Modern Age‘s first campaign setting with a dystopian noir flair. Additionally, there are plans for a companion book be released sometime in late 2018 to 2019. You can take a glance at the new Modern Age ruleset with a quickstart PD here.

Dragon Age/Fantasy AGE

Fans of this video game turned tabletop game, as seen on Geek and Sundry’s Tabletop, inspired the Fantasy AGE ruleset but the folks at Green Ronin have been hard at work to produce new content for this beloved franchise. According to announcements and planned releases for both Dragon Age and Fantasy Age, longtime fans can expect several new supplements to arrive over the course of 2019. Notable products include a new “Faces of Thedas” supplement series, a rules compendium, and a campaign builders handbook. I will enjoy reading the campaign builder book, I love the AGE system and would not mind have some more ideas on crafting my campaign settings.

Mutants & Masterminds

The superhero inclined RPG system has received some cosmetic and linguistic updates in the latest edition. Green Ronin’s partnership with DC Comics produced iconic heroic stats for Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to name a few. At the Gen Con panel, designers announced a quickstarter’s guide to introducing new prospective players to the game, a Super Team handbook, and an “Astonishing Adventures” series as their modular adventure entry. Additionally, the game recently launched a new Basic Hero’s Handbook to present a streamlined presentation of their third edition rules, and a Rogues Gallery supplement, containing all of their iconic villains from M&M under one cover.  I have not personally played Mutants & Masterminds since their 2nd Edition book sometime back in the mid-2000s and would love to read up on the changes over the past decade. The system is quite adaptable and exemplifies one of the most authentic superhero RPGs with an ample blend of mechanics to narrative design.

Freeport: the City of Adventure

Green Ronin has partnered with Drowned Monkeys Games to create a computer roleplaying game (CRPG) based on the publisher’s original campaign setting of Freeport: the City of Adventure. According to Drowned Monkeys Games, the game will feature a virtual room hosted by a virtual gamemaster on a virtual table. The entire experience is akin to a full-fledged simulation that includes “dice rolls, playing with friends, painting miniatures, dioramas, character sheets, etc. are represented in the play space.” The game is slated for release during the holiday season of 2019.

Ork! The Roleplaying Game

Longtime Green Ronin fans will recall this familiar product, Ork! The Roleplaying Game was the company’s first product released over eighteen years ago. This casual, “beer-n-pretzel” roleplaying game is chock full of wild antics that will often leave your playgroup reeling in laughs. After years of no additional releases, the company has returned to their roots and announced before Gen Con a new standalone second edition printing. The updated book is currently still on preorder at the time of this article, but if you are looking for a fun, casual antic-inlined tabletop RPG, Ork is the right game for you.

Green Ronin is undoubtedly going to be busy the rest of 2018 and well into 2019. Dungeons & Dragons fans may recall the company’s previous entries which include Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and in the Critical Role: Tal’ Dorei Campaign Setting. For D&D fans looking for new roleplaying games, this is an excellent opportunity to expand your horizons with a trusted company with years of experience crafting quality games.

Additional Links

Big Updates to Encounter Roleplay!

Every Season on EncounterRoleplay is an opportunity for us to review the things you love most about the show, and make improvements to that experience for you. As I sit days before the new Season launches, I want to comprehensively note all of the changes that you can expect, and why we’re making them.

  •  More Shows than ever before.

This one’s a no brainer. We’re playing a wider variety of TTRPGs than we ever have before, and including non Actual-Play content such as interviews & character creation streams.

  • Higher production quality

We’ve made huge strides in our production quality for both live shows & podcast production, investing in a full scale studio & expanding upon our new infrastructure. We believe that we have one of the best looking and best sounding livestreams now!

  • All of our Shows are now uploaded as Podcasts

One central podcast feed will capture all of the Livestreams as Podcasts now. This is something we’ve been asked to do forever, and finally have the means to make this happen! If you’d like to support this cause, our Patreon covers the new costs & gives you week-early access to all of the podcasts.

  • Changes to Wild Magic Surges

As the channel expands & grows, we often implement changes to the Donation structure. Wild Magic Surges have been on the watch-list for a little while. They’re a major source of fun and a mainstay of what EncounterRoleplay’s shows are, but too many can slow down a game. Instead of increasing the cost of WMS, we’ve done the following:

  • Your Twitch & Patreon Subscription no longer gives you a Monthly WMS.
  • Instead, Subscriptions now count towards Viewer Decisions rather than new Followers.
  • Your $5 Patreon Subscription now gives you one week early access to the Podcast Livestream feed.

This immediately cuts out around 300 WMS per month, but still gives Twitch & Patreon subscriptions a meaning. We love the craziness of the Wild Magic, but we’ve heard the voices of those who believe it can get too much!

  • Character Artwork

The talented Nyvinter has created Character artwork for all of our shows, which will be displayed live on stream for all to see!

  • New Logo

She deserved a lick of paint, and Nyvinter has created a stunning new Logo for EncounterRoleplay.

  • Oh, also Leeroy Jenkins is a thing.

Because of course.

 

 

Playing Pathfinder Playtest

In March, Paizo announced the Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest. Now the playtest is well under way. Today I had a go at running the playtest adventure path, Doomsday Dawn, which is a Lovecraftian apocalyptic. It makes sense to mark the upheaval of a new edition with an apocalyptic adventure!

My biggest problem with the playtest material is that character generation is a huge obstacle. This is one thing that has put me of Pathfinder previously. However, this playtest material is at least more straightforward than Pathfinder 1st Edition. I just don’t think making a character requires that many numbers –that’s why I like Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition! I just want to get playing as quickly as possible.

The character generation problem could be solved by providing plenty of pregenerated character options (at least so that players can learn how characters work) or with a digital toolset. I found some pregens here, and two of my players opted to use a pregen. We found that the goblin alchemist was a lot of fun but the human paladin didn’t make sense. It’s kind of annoying having a character with a thievery proficiency whose code of conduct forbids them from stealing.

Another unhelpful obstacle to was the amount of details the dungeon master and players need to consider when making a check, a save or an attack. You shouldn’t need this many stats for a roleplaying game.

Those are my main gripes. I understand that Paizo will be trying to make Pathfinder more accessible to new players while also retaining what the existing Pathfinder community likes – which apparently includes lots of stats! There’s always going to be some barrier to entry in any community, because it’s the barrier that defines the community.

One thing I really like about the material is the feat system. You have opportunities to choose new feats at each level, making character advancement very flexible. Each ancestry and class provides feats that are available only to characters of that ancestry or class. More powerful feats only become available at certain levels. Some advanced  feats have simpler feats as prerequisites, so it works a bit like a skill tree in an MMORPG.

I’m impressed by the wide range of feats offered. It seems like Paizo are really trying to make sure the ruleset is comprehensive from the beginning. On top of the feats there are thirty-eight cleric domains. If the finished product contains all of these, it should mean you don’t need to carry around a mountain of splat books just to run a game.

As well as choosing feats as you level up, there are opportunities to improve your skill proficiencies. If you’re a spellcaster, your cantrips improve as you level up too.

Something that stands out to me is that a lot of flavor is built into the class rules. This is stuff that D&D 5E players would roleplay, but here it seems baked in a lot more. The way the bard’s feats are written, they sound like performances. A number of classes have taboos built in, based around their god or their totem. Some feats and spells also have particular alignment restrictions, making sure alignment matters.

In short, I would say that the playtest material is a lot of fun if you can get past the (still rather high) barrier to entry.


You can download the free Pathfinder playtest package from Paizo here.

You can also buy paper copies of the playtest books on Amazon or at your local store, while stock lasts.

Return to the Night with the new Vampire the Masquerade

Sometime in the early 2000’s, I entered into a world of darkness and terror, where monsters wore a human face and a great plot lurked underneath the pale moonlight. Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition by White Wolf Entertainment brings the nostalgia of the revolutionary vampire tabletop roleplaying game to the 21st century. Since its original publication in 1991, White Wolf has published games to tell captivating stories about the horrors of the night, touching on mature content compared to the fantasy roleplaying games of yore. 

What you need to know about Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition (V5):

  • Storyteller Roleplaying System: a dice pool of d10s with difficulty determined by the number of successful die results (a result of 6 or above). The dice pool is usually determined by combining the dots or value in an attribute stat and skill together.
  • Vampire has strong themes that parallel the real world, which may contain dark and mature undertones but in a safe environment.
  • Updated mechanics from previous editions that offer a streamlined entry for new and veteran fans, especially fans who haven’t played a game of Vampire in many years. I love the new Hunger dice mechanics.
  • The Second Crusade and the Gehenna War has caused many powerful vampires to be gone, with greater danger now for the Kindred than ever before in a continually changing world. The metaplot within Vampire sets the stage for new opportunities for unique narratives within playgroups.
  • Players have nine clans to choose during character creation which includes the original seven clans of the Camarilla, the Caitiff, and Thin-blooded.

At Gen Con 2018, I had the opportunity to sit down with White Wolf to discuss Vampire’s changes from its previous editions, what people should expect in the new edition, and White Wolf’s plans for the future (trust me, it’s good).

Mechanically, Vampire 5th Edition sports many new options to streamline gameplay and resolution into a robust system that emphasizes story and its progression. Sure obstacles still matter, but they are no longer a detriment for narrative advancement.

For returning and new fans of the franchise, 5th edition sports some refined concepts:

  • While the dice still uses pools of d10s, the difficulty is defined by the number of success. Successful results are determined by any die results of 6 or more. Criticals occur for each pair of die results with a 10, which count as two successes.
  • Winning at a cost is a new feature, where if the rolls possess some successes, but the test fails, a player can achieve their goal, but a situation worsens. A much more narrative focused option but one that adds stakes and tension.
  • Checks are single d10 rolls, attempting to achieve a target number of 6 or higher. Typically used to determine any Hunger gain for the vampire.
  • Taking Half is one of my favorite additions to the game. As a way to reduce the number of dice rolls, Storytellers can take half for SPCs (storyteller-played characters) for rolls in contests (such as combat for example). The Storyteller takes half the value of the final dice pool, rounded down, and treats that result as successes.
  • Predator Types are similar to D&D 5th Edition’s background, except focused on the way your vampire character hunts for their blood. There are additional boons and flaws acquired that grant some areas of specialization and narrative opportunities.
  • Vampire focuses on the group dynamics with coterie creation and relationship maps, which provide an excellent tool for players to reference the overall climate of their character plots, but also as an influential tool for Storytellers to assess where to tug for story beats.
  • Hunger and the Hunger dice mechanic is significantly streamlined compared to older iterations, criticals and failures create new story avenues and opportunities. A much more narrative implementation compared to the mechanical presentations from earlier editions.
  • Disciplines offer a suite of options based on the level of investment, choosing a new power each time the vampire gains a dot in it. Characters normally have an equal number of dots and discipline powers.

One of the novel additions to the game that I love is the introduction of the loresheets, which provide a context in a character’s background and establish them as a facet of the Vampire lore and metaplot. While players should consult with their Storytellers on what loresheets are allowed, they provide a fantastic way for players to engage with the setting. The physical print sports fifteen loresheets for players and Storytellers to utilize but the digital PDF includes additional loresheet that did not make the final cut.

Additionally, the core rulebook includes advance mechanics and systems that expand on the test mechanic, explores interpretations for combat, and includes new implementations with blood and hunger.

Fun Tip: While I was at Gen Con, Karim, the lead editor for Vampire, introduced me to a novel approach for incurring Hunger. Should the vampire accrue enough damage to fill their health boxes, they gain one Hunger die. Give it a try in your game.

Some of the upcoming ventures and products from White Wolf ahead:

  • The upcoming Anarch and Camarilla sourcebooks are expected to be released later in the Fall of 2018 and include additional lore information with some mechanical inclusions as well.
  • White Wolf has partnered with Onyx Path Publishing to bring the iconic Chicago by Night setting book to the V5 system.
  • A new Legacy-format board game called Vampire: the Masquerade Heritage will be released in SPIEL 2019. In the game, players build a vampiric bloodline with characters to complete historical missions and battle against other clans in a chronicle that spans 700 years.
  • The World of Darkness – the Documentary is set to be released on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon later in 2018. The documentary explores the history of White Wolf Entertainment, the impact Vampire had on pop culture and media, with interviews from many creators, fans, and artists who were inspired by this IP for over 25 years.
  • White Wolf has also partnered with Belladonna’s Cupboard for a Vampire: the Masquerade-themed makeup line.
  • Additionally, there will be new upcoming Vampire LARP events in the coming future including one in Austin, TX in November 2018 called The Night in Question. You can find other LARP events and support at World of Darkness’ community hub.

Vampire’s 25-year legacy lives on in the latest 5th Edition and is prompted with possibly the most ambitious media resurgence that would be akin to a Second Coming. The growth of the tabletop roleplaying hobby presents a substantial audience from Vampire’s initial release in 1991. The system is accessible, the setting is vibrant, and the story is still just as dark. It almost makes me hopeful to see a Kindred: the Embraced television series reboot. Time to grab your black chain jeans and leather shirts, it’s time to return to the Masquerade. 

Additional Links:

  • Purchase Vampire: the Masquerade (V5) here.
  • Learn more about Vampire: the Masquerade on the World of Darkness site.
  • Get a sneak peek at Vampire: the Masquerade Heritage board game.

Warhammer Fantasy RPG 4th Edition is everything I ever wanted

by Ex_Libris85   Twitch   Twitter 

 

The wait is over and Cubicle 7 has delivered. Through some kind of sorcery they have managed to bring Warhammer into the modern age and maintain the tone and feel of the old games.

 

Percentile Rolls

Back are the popular percentile system using D100s. In order to pass a simple skill test you have to roll equal to or below your skill level. So if you are using your Agility score of 45 to jump over an obstacle you must roll a 45 or below on a D100.

Success Levels (SL)

Previous called “degrees of success” in 2nd edition, this value has become of prime importance in calculating several important actions, such as attacks and damage. It measures the full amount of “10s” that you succeed or fail by on the dice to measure the effectiveness of your test. If your skill is 49 and you roll a 21, you have a SL of 2. If you roll again on that same skill and you roll a 95 you have a -4SL since that is a hard fail.

Combat

Gone is the “whiff” factor of 2e, where low skill players facing low skill enemies miss each other several rounds in a row. Now each attack in combat is an opposed roll between the participants. If an attacker rolls on Weapon Skill and gets a success of 2SL and you compare that to the defender who succeeds as well on a 3SL then the defender has won the round and takes no damage. This type of opposed roll comparing SLs also means that even if both parties miss, damage can still be dealt and there can be a winner of each round. While some people might have a problem with the logic of this, I am fine with it for two reasons: keeping the flow of the game swift and for the cinematic aspect of picturing the players in desperate sword fight where every move of the blade matters.

Careers

Careers make a comeback, expanding upon the much loved careers of 2e. Now instead of gaining advances on your stats through XP and moving onto an advanced career, each career has four levels and you can stay or advance as you wish. It also is a lot easier to completely change careers. Unhappy with your rat catcher and want to become a knight? You certainly can, with the GM’s permission of course. I personally would allow such a drastic advance as long as there is a good roleplaying reason for it.

Spells

Spell casting has been simplified, where instead of rolling D10s and seeing if you beat the power level of the spell’s description you now measure your Success Level on your Comprehend Languages (Magick) skill. If you know you can’t cast your spell like this you can make a Channeling Test to gather the winds of magic each turn and when your SLs match the casting number (CN) of the spell it then goes off.

Lore

The Old World of Warhammer makes its return, taking place before the “End Times” story arch and the disappointing Age of Sigmar. The rulebook focuses the attention on the social and political atmosphere of the Reikland, the capital province of the human kingdom of The Empire. This makes sense as both a limit of scope in describing the world of Warhammer to new players and as a diverse sandbox to immense players in as it provides cities, sewers, swamps, forests, rivers, mountains, farmlands, villages, and more in an area easily managed by a GM.

I imagine later they will expand upon this in future supplements but it is a good size toolbox to pull from.

 

Conclusion

Cubicle 7 have done a wonderful job with Warhammer 4e and any fan of Warhammer will be pleased. Jim Davis from WebDM sums up the new edition perfectly:

“I think it’s a worthy successor to the WFRP tradition and clearly draws inspiration from prior editions while improving upon those aspects of the game that were notorious problem areas. Everything I’ve read so far makes me want to play this game and see how it does in delivering that classic WFRP experience.” – Jim Davis

 

 

As an added bonus I have created a form fillable pdf character sheet for online use. Its a far cry from a Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds sheet with roll macros in it, but it will allow for shareable electronic character sheets.

 

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition pdf character sheet

 

 

 

Review: Wayfarer’s Guide to Eberron

Earlier this week (in a fairly confusing announcement!) Wizards of the Coast announced the release of some substantial playtest material for Dungeons & Dragons’ Eberron setting. You can purchase the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron for US$20 on DriveThruRPG or D&D Beyondbut remember this is playtest material. It’s unfinished and unofficial.

What is Eberron? I would describe the Eberron setting as noir magepunk set in a period of renaissance cold war with a focus on high adventure and cinematic action.

That seems like a lot of themes, but I think these themes are well integrated. In Eberron magic has been industrialised and is largely controlled by groups called Dragonmarked Houses, a lot like corporations. Magic is widespread, but most people only have access to low-level magic.

Wayfarer’s Guide provides an overview of the nations of Khorvaire, a continent where the borders have been recently redrawn in the wake of a world war. Questions have arisen about the rights of warforged (sentient constructs manufactured to fight in the war) and traditional ‘monsters’ like goblins and orcs. There’s an overview of each nation, with info about places to explore; local factions and their plots; and suggestions for creating characters from that region. There is also information about more distant lands and about Eberron’s cosmology. This world doesn’t fit into the standard Dungeons & Dragons multiverse – the planes seem to have a much more direct impact on the material world, and there’s a sense that Eberron is cut off from the wider multiverse.

This playtest material includes rules for four new player races: warforged, changelings, shifters and kalashtar. Some of these options seem a bit more complex and powerful than those in the Player’s Handbook. I think that’s okay given that Eberron isn’t the core setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Most new players will probably be making a character using the basic options in the Player’s Handbook. However, I would prefer that the rules for dragonmarks were more consistent. At the moment, there are three different ways that they can be applied, depending on character race. I’d like to see all the dragonmarks depicted as feats. In Eberron all player characters could get a feat at first level, which would also mean you could make a level 1 magewright character without having to choose a spellcasting class.

Wayfarer’s Guide includes a lot of new magic items: specialised arcane focuses, common items representing industrialised magic, items that can only be used by dragonmarked characters and augmentations for warforged. There are also lots of powerful magepunk maguffins, many of which would fit into the plot of a campaign’s big bads. There are also guidelines for manufacture of magic items, which could be used in other settings.

Wayfarer’s Guide ends with a strong section about the very vertical city of Sharn, which provides a good place to start off adventuring in Eberron. There are details about the levels of each district: who lives where, what kind of conflicts exist and what adventures may be in store. Three locations get more in-depth treatment, and each one could be used as a base for an adventuring party. One is a university where you could run a Harry-Potter-style coming-of-age campaign. This chapter also includes some tables for generating plot ideas and simple urban encounters (which could become side quests or plot hooks).

You can purchase the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron at DriveThruRPG here or at D&D Beyond here.

We also published this article earlier in the week to clarify the confusion about the Ravnica and Eberron setting announcements.

Ravnica & Eberron Announced – Tale of Two Settings

The long-awaited announcement for the Dungeons and Dragons settings came Monday morning (Pacific Time) on July 23rd was met with overall excitement from the D&D community though not without some hiccups. Wizards of the Coast released details on their collaboration with D&D and Magic: the Gathering to bring Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica with a release date on November 20th and that the Eberron setting will be making its triumphant return to the franchise as well. Eberron’s return starts with a digital PDF release of Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron on the DMsGuild marketplace by Keith Baker in collaboration with the creative team at Wizards of the Coast.

What you need to know about Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica:

  • Release Date: 20 November 2018
  • Price: $49.95 USD
  • Accessories include a Map Pack and a premium dice set featuring the Guilds of Ravnica
  • Ravnica is a plane of existence in Wizard of the Coast’s Magic the Gathering franchise, released originally in 2005 in Ravnica: City of Guilds, followed with a revisit in Return to Ravnica in 2012, with a planned third Ravnica return in Guilds of Ravnica to be released in October 2018 & spring 2019.
  • Ravnica is an ecumenopolis, a vast city that encompasses an entire planet. Like Coruscant in Star Wars
  • There are ten iconic guilds in Ravnica that serve unique functions in the daily life within the city, with their brand of rivalries and adversaries, all governed by an oath known as the Guildpact. Not every citizen is part of a guild, but their presence is felt throughout Ravnica.
  • The current price point suggests a product akin to Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide.

The news about Ravnica was unintentionally leaked on Amazon Brazil’s website site with product pages screenshotted across Reddit and later on other social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter sometime on Sunday, July 22nd. News and speculation on the authenticity of the screenshots & cover art were eventually confirmed by the cover artist later on. The story left many fans with a mixed reception.

There was even a poll on the r/Dndnext subreddit with close to half of voters displeased with the setting choice.

While Nathan Stewart, director of D&D, indicated that “fans of Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering have been asking for years about when these two amazing brands would play together.” Impressions from the Magic: the Gathering community seemed pleased with the official product news. Various MtG pundits were excited upon the leak on Sunday, with notable individuals such as Evan Erwin showcasing his excitement. The early leak only heightened the general anticipation for the Monday announcements from Wizards of the Coast.

The second setting announced was Eberron, a beloved setting created by Keith Baker for the Fantasy Setting Search in 2002. Content creators on the DMsGuild took note of a new setting category option titled “Eberron” early Monday morning almost 6 hours before any formal declaration. Wizards revealed an ebook product, Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, with a collaboration between the creative team and Keith Baker that would serve as a “living document” for feedback before any official product is released.

What you need to know about Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron:

 

  • Product Type: Digital PDF
  • Price: $19.99 USD
  • A 175-page book that encompasses playtest materials that include unique races, an overview of Khorvaire and the city of Sharn, dragonmarks, magic items, and a host of backgrounds to jumpstart players and DMs to their Eberron adventures
  • Iconic races: Shifters, Changelings, and Warforged make their 5th Edition debut from the mind of its creator, Keith Baker.
  • The release of Wayfinder grants DMsGuild content creators the ability to create and distribute content within the Eberron setting.
  • According to the Introduction by Keith Baker, this content is considered a playtest or a draft and therefore is not applicable for official Adventurer’s League use. If an official Eberron product is released, Wayfinders will complement the officially released material according to D&D creative lead, Mike Mearls. Mearls also commented that the product would eventually have a Print-on-Demand option for purchase later.

Initial confusion of the “official” status of Wayfinders as an official D&D resource left fans, and consumers concerned with their purchase of this playtest document.

Previous playtest documents by Wizards have been free in the past. When the official announcement was published, the lack of a playtest description on the official Twitter and Facebook posts felt misleading. At the time of this article, official Wizards staff have clarified that Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron is indeed a playtest document and the DMsGuild product includes this detail.

There is an “if” in front of the possibility for an Eberron print product with a clarification of additional content in THAT product with Wayfinder to complement it. You’re paying for two products, one that is not an official product that is labeled as a living playtest document (until otherwise), and then the probable (but not guaranteed) Eberron product.

Warning Signs?

Playtest documents for tabletop RPGs tend to change, as with the case of Wizard’s Unearthed Arcana column where some content was adjusted from player feedback. The practice to buy playtests seems to secure capital from dedicated die-hard fans possibly to ensure a quality product. The video game industry suffered backlash to Early Access business models for games due to extended production times and incomplete work with some games suffering from the inability to fulfill expectations. The practice has become unpopular, with many developers returning to traditional development timelines.

This Early Access practice has been seen with Paizo’s Pathfinder 2nd Edition playtest where prospective fans can purchase physical hardcover copies of the material. Paizo is a leading competitor for Wizards of the Coast on tabletop RPGs, though there are no sales figures to make any conclusions, the initial hype from the 2nd Edition announcement was met with enthusiasm.

Ultimately, Monday was supposedly Wizard of the Coast’s big day to shine and present their newest offerings. Instead, half of the surprise was leaked prematurely, and the other half was miscommunicated to the fans but before over a thousand copies were sold. One cannot help but feel somewhat entertained by the mishaps this Monday, the 23rd of July. Nonetheless, I am excited about the latest offerings and look forward to Ravnica and the future of Eberron.

Should You Play “City of Mist”? Yes.

City of Mist Website

City of Mist is a modern Mystery Pulp tabletop RPG made special by its two major concepts.

 

 

 

Rifts. You play as a Rift, a person with some an awakening story (Mythos) within them that seeks to perpetuate itself through you. The story gives you access to supernatural powers like the ability to manifest the elements or turn invisible. Why you are given access to these powers are the first mystery, leading into the second.

The Mist. The Mist is a force within the City that prevents non-Rifts from accepting, discovering or remembering Rift activity. In most cases the Mist simply distracts non-Rifts by attract their attention elsewhere, and in cases where this cannot be done memories can be erased. The events still happen but things like fire powers destroying a building would be credited to terrorists or a gas-line explosion. The Mist’s power seems almost limitless within the City and knowing of its existence often makes Rifts suspicious and questioning.

 

Mechanics.City of Mist uses a system familiar to other Powered by the Apocalypse games, but differentiates itself through the use of “Tags” familiar to those who have played FATE or Lady Blackbird. When asked to roll a “Move” you add together you beneficial tags and subtract your weakness tags, and then add that to a 2d6 roll. 7+ means partial success and 10+ a complete success. 6 and below triggers a move from the Master of Ceremonies (Game Master) which follow the same rules.

It is a very simple system, only slightly more complex than your typical PbtA game. But that small complexity really allows you to make a character your own. It focuses on Narrative and uses mechanics at important decision points to direct further flow of the narrative.

"Tags" refer to a series of Keywords. If a Tag sounds like it would be appropriate to a situation, then you add or subtract 1 to your bonus (based on if its helpful or harmful to the task). If I had the tag "Ninja" while attempting to swordfight on the top of a moving train, I could ask the MC if it applies. If it does I'd +1 to my bonus, along with any other tags that might apply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just look at these Character Sheets! So much character.

Moves. Basic Moves in PbtA are incredibly suggestive of the feel the game is attempting to emulate. In the case of City of Mist it leans heavily into solving mysteries via exciting action. Much like the comic book art style of the rules book, the rules really play into pulp-styled adventures.

 

 

 

While the mixture of PbtA and FATE allows for interesting gameplay, there are a handful of other mechanics that make City of Mist more than a mash-up.
Examples of Crew Themes. The City isn’t a pleasant place of peace and love I guess.

Crew Themes. Most TTRPGs are based on teamwork. City of Mist makes that all the more clear by making that part of the game. As a team, the players have a set of shared Tags that makes them, as a unit, more effective at particular adventures and encourages cohesion in concept.

Balancing Act. Maintaining a balance between your Mythos and your everyday life is a major theme of the game. If you become too much like your Mythos, you are overtaken by the story and do as it demands. If you neglect your Mythos and attempt to remain mundane you become a Sleeper like the rest of the City.

The Mist. As a narrative device I love the Mist. It allows adventures to be as wild and exciting as you want and then shift right back into the everyday life stuff that makes RPGs set in modern settings so compelling.

 

Example of a finished character sheet by Ex_Libris.

 

What You Need to Know About Geist 2e

Onyx Path Publishing are currently crowdfunding the Second Edition of Geist: The Sin-Eaters, and they’re well into their schedule of stretch goals. Here’s what you need to know:

Geist is about death and about exploring the memories of the dead: regrets and grief but also moments of hope and joy.

In the game, each player character is a ‘sin-eater’. A sin-eater is a dead person who has unfinished business and has been reanimated by a ghost or ‘geist’. Sin-eaters walk the boundary between life and death. They needs to put things right in their own life and in the world generally. If you are familiar with revenants from Dungeons & Dragons, sin-eaters are similar.

Geist has a focus on stories of the marginalised and questions about why the world is full of injustice, suffering and death. There’s a sense that sin-eaters are trying to absorb the suffering of others by intervening in the lives of the living or assisting the spirits of the dead. This might come from a sense that they caused pain and suffering for others when they were alive.

One of the strengths of this game is that it has interesting ways of connecting player characters to each other. The root and bloom mechanics also help connect the characters to the worlds of both the living and dead. Characters advance by having significant experiences, and by developing deeper synergy with their geist.

There are also rules for creating different kinds of sin-eater societies called ‘krewes’. Krewes provide a group of player characters with a shared purpose. Creating sin-eaters, geists and a krewe seems like a lot to do before getting started. If I was GMing this game I would want to introduce these elements one at a time.

I mentioned already that Geist has a focus on stories of marginalised people. While I’m all for that, Geist does come across to me as very ideological. I’m a card-carrying SJW, but I don’t like the idea of segregating our games along political lines. I hope people from a wide range of perspectives can give this game a shot. I hope that if there are people of different ideologies playing this game together there might be opportunities to develop empathy for each other in the real world.

Geist Second Edition is being funded on Kickstarter here until the end of July. A US$25 pledge will get you a PDF copy of the finished product as well as access to previews. For US$50 (plus shipping) you can also get a paper copy.

Channel your inner Han Solo with Evil Hat’s Scum and Villainy

Long since the days when renowned smuggler and scoundrel, Han Solo graced the silver screens in the first Star Wars movies, would pop culture be dazzled by the soon-to-be-iconic trope of the space cowboy. The trope would carry on into many films, television series, and books include such notables as Firefly, Dark Matter, the Expanse, Guardians of the Galaxy, and anime series like Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. The “space western” genre grew from the space opera scene and told stories of anti-heroes or heroes with attitude in a cruel, unforgiving universe. With Evil Hat Production’s open-game license of Blades in the Dark into the Forged in the Dark branding, we are presented with a unique space adventure known simply as Scum and Villainy. The title pays homage to a particular line from Star Wars: A New Hope from the late Alec Guinness’ Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Mos Eisley spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”

Fans of Blades in the Dark will find familiar mechanics.

  • Progress clocks make a return with new additions like “race against the clock” and faction clocks for those pesky rivals.  
  • The game structure remains the same but includes new mechanics for upkeep to maintain your ship. The ship takes center stage compared to the lair from Blades.
  • Dice rolls and resolution remain unchanged but with twelve new actions for all the space heist high jinks.

The new things in Scum and Villainy include:

  • Seven new playbooks (or classes) that resemble typical sci-fi tropes such as the mechanic, the muscle, the scoundrel, and pilots. Essentially, all the critical roles from Joss Whedon’s Firefly if you wanted to be specific.

    The crew of the Serenity, Firefly
  • Armor to reduce to nearly lethal consequences.
  • The Way is the mystical energy that acts like magical ley-lines across the galaxy. What’s a space opera without some supernatural force that no one can explain? Did I mention there are cults for it too?

    When mysticism meets the weird, Outlaw Star
  • What’s a crew without their main attraction, the ship? Unlike the crew’s lair in Blades, in Scum and Villainy, the ship is a character too and requires upkeep to stay functional for your band of scoundrels to make their heists.
  • Rules for science and the strange mystic forces that bind the universe together. Everything from advanced tech, to elusive precursor races, and even the mystical Way.
  • Androids and drones. Sadly, you cannot be an Urbot character, but maybe in a future installment?

    Who wants to this upcoming Star Wars movie?
  • Speaking of advanced technology, crafting has a more significant role as a downtime activity. In many sci-fi series, you will always find someone tinkering away on a new device or modifying an existing one.
  • Is there honor among thieves? In Scum and Villainy, there are some added suggestions for crafting your trust mechanics along with tips for those massive spaceship battles. 

    Space battles!

Pre-orders for hardcover copies of Scum and Villainy are already underway with an expected shipping date in early August around the time of GenCon. Due to Evil Hat Production’s PDF purchase policy (something several indie publishers have started the practice), anyone who pre-orders the rulebook gets immediate access to the digital PDF so you can start playing right away. I adore this practice, and if you’re interested in Blades in the Dark, you can read the Forged in the Dark SRD and start your adventures with your motley crew of scoundrels and heathens trying to make a name for yourselves.

Scum and Villainy Preorder Link: https://www.evilhat.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=79&products_id=336

Forged in the Dark SRD Link: https://bladesinthedark.com/