Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Rippin' on...Nightbane

After wasting everyone's time with another look at Street Fighter (what is it with that obscure game that fascinates them so much?), Zack and Steve are back with the funny. No company is a more inviting target for ridicule than Palladium, hence:



Monday, January 28, 2013

Gygax Magazine - Holy Shipping Costs, Batman!

I have a few rules I live by, I don't vote for any candidate just because he or she seems like someone who would be fun to have a drink with, I don't eat invertebrates and I don't buy anything which costs less than the shipping. With this in mind, I was quite excited about the release of Gygax Magazine this month. With some pretty high profile contributors like Cory Doctorow, James Ward, Rich Burlew and Lenard Lakofka, it looks to bring back the glory of the old Dragon Magazine. I dutifully started my online order for the first year of the new magazine...$35 for four issues, ok!...shipping to Canada, $49.40, yikes! It would be cheaper to get a PO Box in Great Falls, MT and take a drive down every three months. Sorry folks, that works out to over $21 per issue, too steep for me.


Update: There may be hope yet for international customers. Gygax Magazine is offering to hold, free of charge, a copy of the first issue for each international customer while they explore other options for shipping. If they can find a way to get the per issue shipping cost down to about $5 or less, I'm subscribing.

Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

So a bit of a warning first: I don't get out much. It was our seventh wedding anniversary  We had the baby sitter lined up and everything was a go. My wife wanted to do dinner and a movie since we had a hard remembering the last time we went out and did both. We looked at what's available and we both met up with a list of movies that we wanted to see.

My wife looked at my list (containing such films as the Hobbit and Skyfall) and said : NO. So I looked at hers. She's got the hots for Jason Statham so we considered going to Parker until my wife learned that Jennifer Lopez was in the movie and since she hates Jennifer Lopez so that was out.

Next on the list was Hansel & Gretel. It had almost universally terrible reviews but it was R rated which suggested there might be nudity to go along with the violence and there wasn't anything else we could agree upon. So with that background in mind we went to the theatre with very low expectations.

We saw it in the new UltraAVX theatre which is a fancy trick to get you to part with an extra 2 dollars on top of the already $3 3D fee. The screen is big, the sound loud and you get to pre pick your seats which I guess is a nice perk. Oh, and the seats were leather, recline, and the aisles were wider then a normal theatre (so you can recline without being in the person behind you's lap). Actually maybe it was worth the $2 after all.

The movie itself was dumb but fun. Aside from the obviously prochronistic weapons, the movie was pretty internally consistent. Sure it was also predictible in many spots but at least the movie winks at the cliches and just keeps going. The action is pretty good. The sets were probably the best thing about this movie. This film really nailed the whole Grim fairy tale feeling. They make use of the 3D a few times but it wasn't anything awesome. I'm still not sold on 3D in most movies. The film tries to have a sense of humor and most of its jokes hit home although there wasn't anything that had me ROFL.

There is lots of violence and gore, much of it over the top graphic although it could have been worse. The troll scene is played for laughs and worked quite well. My wife seemed to think it was among the funniest in the movie. There wasn't much in terms of sex. For the guys, you get a very brief boob shot and Gemma Arterton can really rock a pair of leather pants. For the ladies, Jeremy Renner strips down but my wife thought he needed to spend more time in the gym (bare chest).

So overall it was a fun movie with a nice D&D vibe to it.  You will enjoy the movie if you go in with low expectations and can turn your brain off for the 110 minute run time. We don't get out much so just about any night out is automatically really good.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Final mea culpa from Wizards of the Coast

It is hard to miss the news that Wizards of the Coast is once again allowing the sale of pdfs for older editions of D&D. Good for them. It never made much sense to remove the older editions from circulation. The move certainly didn't help D&D 4e, it generated a lot of ill will towards the company and cost them a modest, but still significant revenue stream. This represents the culmination of the Great Wizards of the Coast Apology tour that began with the reprint of the original AD&D core books. I can't say any of this really matters to me. I am probably never going back to old-school D&D unless age catches up with me and, in my dotage, I am rendered intellectually incapable of handling rules-heavy games like Pathfinder or RuneQuest. Nonetheless, I applaud WotC for coming to its senses.

Oh, and if you don't mind, how about a reprint of the Rules Cyclopedia, you know, just in case.


Update: DrivethruRPG is overloaded right now. I wonder why.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fortress America, f*#& yeah!

Back in the day when the lads and I would get together for a game, it was usually D&D, but sometimes when the urge to lay a beatdown on each other would take over, we would turn to Milton Bradley. Of course, the most popular MB game at the time was Axis and Allies and we played the heck out of that game (I always enjoyed the sheer desperation of playing the UK, not sure if that provides any insight into my psyche). We also tried Shogun a few times and one time, a buddy got his hands on Fortress America. It was only the one time. I played the US and got totally destroyed, but it was a blast. Since then, of course, Axis and Allies has been expanded to multiple versions and Shogun, later rereleased as Samurai Swords and later still as Ikusa has also been available. But I never again saw Fortress America, until today. I dropped in to my FLGS and what do I see, but a new edition of the game. Unlike A&A and Ikusa which are now published under the Avalon Hill branding, Fortress America is published by Fantasy Flight Games with all that implies (FFG quality, FFG pricing). Though I don't have much time for boardgames these days, I am sorely tempted to lay down my hard-earned coin on this piece of my misspent youth.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Muskets in RQ6 - crunching the numbers

The guys at The Design Machanism have released a pdf on introducing firearms into RuneQuest 6th Edition. I don't care much for modern or high-tech weapons in a quasi-medieval setting, but I like black powder weapons, so this free rules supplement is of interest to me. In it, they include a suggestion on how to make black powder firearms attractive to players, give them armour penetration. Interestingly, however, they don't indicate how much penetration is appropriate for each type of firearm. I don't know if this was an oversight or intentional, but if it's the latter, it's a brilliant idea because it allows DMs to decide for themselves how powerful guns are in their games. So, I took it upon myself to crunch the numbers. I wanted to compare a flintlock musket, a longbow and a heavy crossbow with the goal of making each one ideal under certain conditions. Now assuming a typical character with two actions per round, a musketeer will get off a single shot in 9 actions (four rounds of loading and one more action to fire). During that same time, a heavy crossbowman will get two shots and a longbowman will get three. A flintlock musket does 1D10 points of damage as does a heavy crossbow, while a longbow does 1D8 points. So assuming no armour penetration, the crossbow will always be superior to the musket and the longbow will be superior to both except against very heavily-armoured opponents.

I then compared each weapon assuming the musket had penetration of 1, 2 and 3 points. In all three cases, the longbow was still superior for lightly armoured opponents (AP 3 or less). That is good, it means the longbow is not rendered obsolete by the other weapons and it allowed me to concentrate on the musket vs. the crossbow.

Assuming one point of penetration, the average damage of the musket was 5.5/3.6/1.5/0.6 against opponents with AP of 0/3/6/8 respectively. At twice the rate of fire, the crossbow rendered 11/5.6/2/0.6 points of damage across the same range of APs. The crossbow is equal to or, in most cases, superior to the musket across the entire range, so obviously more penetration is called for. For two points of penetration, the following damage results were calculated:
musket - 5.5/4.5/2.1/1
and for three points of penetration, it was:
musket - 5.5/5.5/2.5/1.5

Comparing these results to those of the crossbow, which of course, are unchanged, we can see that in the latter case, the musket is equal to or better than the crossbow at most APs except for the most lightly-armoured and that is the range where the longbow is superior to both. However, for a penetration of two, we see a nice balance. The longbow is best for the low APs, the crossbow is a bit better than the musket in the middle range and the musket is best for the walking tanks.


Gold fever!

I am a geologist and I must confess, I got into it for the gold. I never found any, mind you, and I spend my time in a lab these days instead of the bush, but I still have a bit of gold fever. So you can imagine I found this story about an Australian prospector finding a gold nugget weighing an astonishing 177 oz. to be more than a little bit exciting. It's so...beautiful!


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Kickstarter and other non-related topics

As Rognar mentioned in the comments of his last post, the gaming world has been rather calm for the last while and there doesn't seem to be much to discuss. Pathfinder has taken a bit of backseat to other interests lately (although I swear, I thought our last gaming session was Saturday, not Friday). I've been doing tons of reading and have started playing Civ5 again.

We're in the middle of a campaign that I can't see ending for 6-12 months, I like my active character and I have a back-up decided upon and ready to go. I don't see any reason to spend hour messing around around with HeroLab since Paizo hasn't released any new splat books with any notable amount of Crunch lately. The Prestige class book had some great concepts but most of the classes were either mechanically weak or insufficiently different from things that already exist. I still flip through it from time to time looking for something that really appeals to me but nothing has so far.

Even Paizo's AP haven't really made me enthusiastic lately. I love pirates but Skulls and Shackles was a bit disappointing for me. I liked the first part but the rest just seemed a bit cliched. Cliches can be fun but you have to put unique twists on them and throw in some surprises. Most of the adventures seemed a bit too paint by number.

The current AP, Shattered Star seems a bit bland as well. The AP is about recovering the 6 pieces of an artifact. Each one is hidden in a different dungeon and each piece leads to the next. Now I have to admit that I haven't read this AP in great detail. I usually skim them to try to get a feel for the story and sometimes an Adventure Path's potential greatness fails to shine through unless you really dig into and think about how you can work the story and make it better. Maybe this is one of those. Maybe you just really have to like doing dungeons.

Over last summer a number of Kickstarter projects came up that interested me. The first was Slumbering Tsar by Frog God games. This is massive tome contains a site based adventure in 3 parts: the wilderness surrounding the city, the haunted City of Tsar itself, and lastly the huge temple of Orcus (basically a megadungeon). There is something of a meta plot but it unravels so slowly it is unlike the PCs could ever follow it but it really doesn't matter anyway. Each section gets progressively harder and is filled with nasty traps and some truly interesting monsters/encounters.

Next I threw too many bucks in for Rappan Athuk. Another megadungeons, this book chronicles the megadungeon and some of the wilderness around it. It has a very old school feel to it as encounter danger can vary quite a bit and PCs will have to wary they don't mess with something way beyond what they can handle.

Lastly I bought into the Reaper Kickstarter. At some point in the next couple months I have more minis coming to me than I will ever be able to paint. They were just so many, so cool, and so cheap I could not help myself but load up. perhaps Derobane and I will hold a painting party one day and everyone can come and share in my bounty.

There have been a couple notable Kickstarters lately as well. The first is the Pathfinder MMO. While I am something of a computergame junky and have played lots of MMORPGs in the past this one just doesn't appeal to me. MMOs rarely hold my attention for more than a few months (just like any other computer game) and since this game will not even be open to the beta testers for a couple years I just can't find any enthusiasm for it. I guess it comes down to the fact that I believe Paizo can make great RPG stuff and I support them. I haven't seen anything to make me think this game is going to be anything special and I don't see any reason to support it. Just because it is set in Golarion doesn't make that big of a deal to me and it just doesn't seem like a good deal. For Slumbering Tsar, I got a giant book and some swag. With Rappan Athuk, I got a giant book, lots of soft cover add-on dungeon levels and swag. And Reaper, I'm getting a metric crap ton of plastic minatures, some of which are freaking huge! What do I get for $100 with Pathfinder Online? 3 free months playing the beta and then I would have to pay. What? Pay for beta testing? I have beta tested many games and I've never once paid to Beta Test (ok, once for Star Wars Galaxy, but I'm still bitter about that and will pretend it didn't happen). I wish them well with this kickstarter (although it doesn't look like it is going to get funded) but it is just not for me.

The other kickstarter I've been following is Razor Coast. Now this is a book I've been following for years. I thought I'd done a post about it years ago but after digging through the archives, I can't seem to find it. The book itself has an interesting history. The author Nicolas Logue wrote great adventures, came up with osme great ideas on his own and decided to self publish. He posted a bunch of sneak previews, some great art, and started taking pre-orders. Then he vanished. The book sat in purgatory for a few years until some other authors got involved got what existed of the manuscript and continued its development. Now after more time has passed, Logue has reappeared and been forgiven, the book is now finished and is going to be published by Frog God Games (same publishers as Rappan Athuk and Slumbering Tsar). I have read the previews and  there it looks like there is lots of goodness here. I just wish the timing was different. Things are always a bit tighter in January but I love me a good adventure book and Logue is known for his awesome twisted adventures. I will probably bit the bullet and pledge closer to the end. The PDFs are nice (and cheaper) but they are harder to read in bed and its tough to beat the tactile experience of a real book, even if I just read it a couple times and then add it to my RPG bookshelf.

Wow, long post.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

More on gun control

The rhetoric on both sides of the gun control issue in the US is, not surprisingly, heating up to a pitch I do not recall seeing in recent memory. I don't think even the Columbine shooting generated this kind of momentum. Where it will ultimately lead is still an open question, of course. With shots like this coming from guns rights advocates, however, it looks like the pro-gun forces might just prevail.

To quote:

The position of pro-Second Amendment Americans is that gun ownership is part of the fundamental human right to self-defense, explicitly stated in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers due to an overarching political philosophy regarding the balance of power between the individual and the state.

The position of the anti-gun activists in the Obama administration is “guns are icky.”

The media consider them the intellectuals in this debate.


Some of the gun control proposals I have heard are quite extreme, not only exceeding the regulations of the Federal Assault Weapons Ban which expired in 2004, but even going beyond the legal restrictions in Canada and some other western countries. Admittedly, the most extreme proposals are being made by some liberal state senators in blue states and aren't likely to gain much traction at the federal level, but they do gain media attention far in excess of what is warranted. Inevitably this filters down to the voting public as something seriously being considered and there is a run on sales of AR-15s. Such is the perversity of this debate.

Now, personally, I tend to lean toward the gun rights side, but I'm not convinced by some of the arguments of the pro-gun lobby. The framers of the US Constitution may indeed have envisioned the right to bear arms as a necessary counterweight to power of the state, but the simple fact is, that balance does not exist anymore regardless of the Second Amendment. Semi-automatic rifles are highly-effective at slaughtering civilians and even give local police forces trouble, but against armoured fighting vehicles and Predator drones, they are useless. If the US government wishes to oppress its people and the US military is on side with that, civilian small arms are not going to make much of a difference.


Tuesday, January 08, 2013

My favourite things from the last year

The following is a list of the stuff I liked best from 2012. In some cases, the "thing" might be have been released earlier than 2012, but I only discovered it within the last year. Feel free to provide your own lists in the comments.

Favourite book: Anathem by Neil Stephenson. Awesome read, check out my review from back in August.

Favourite movie: The Avengers. Tough call, as I really enjoyed The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as well.

Favourite game: RuneQuest 6th edition. An odd choice I suppose, since my group plays Pathfinder almost exclusively, but I just think RQ6 is a better game.

Favourite intoxicant: Highland Park single malt scotch...ok, that's the same as 2011...2010...2009...

Favourite news event of 2012: the landing of the Curiosity mars rover. In a year of god-awful news, Curiosity was a beacon of light, a marvel of human ingenuity.

Favourite music: Carolus Rex by Sabaton. Following their usual trend of writing about military history, Sabaton turned their attention to their home country of Sweden. Carolus Rex covers the rise of the Swedish Empire in the 17th century under Gustavus Adolphus, the peak of its power under Charles XII, the devastating defeat against the Russians at the Battle of Poltava in 1709 and the eventual death of Charles XII in battle in 1718.

Favourite sports event of 2012: The Habs are tied for first in the league at the end of the year.


Monday, January 07, 2013

More of what I'm looking forward to in 2013

The most recent Pathfinder hardcovers from Paizo, Ultimate Equipment and NPC Codex, have not particularly interested me much and quite honestly, all of the rulebooks after Advanced Player's Guide have been pretty underwhelming. For this reason, I rarely look forward with much anticipation to whatever the next release will be. However, that could be about to change as Ultimate Campaign is due for release in April. It appears Ultimate Campaign will incorporate the excellent kingdom-building and mass combat rules first introduced in the Kingmaker AP. That, combined with the new rule systems for expanding the scope of the campaign such as story feats, makes this the first rulebook in some time that doesn't feel like more of the same.