Thursday, May 23, 2013

Way of the Wicked

Wow, posts 2 days in a row! This trend isn't going to continue.

Another great Adventure Path that I've read through over the last 6 months is Fire Mountain Games' Way of the Wicked. Yes, this is an evil adventure path. It removes some of the problems of an evil AP by making the default alignment Lawful Evil and giving the PCs a powerful patron to help keep them in line early on. It comes with lots of great options like a LE version of an Anti-paladin (although I hate that class descriptor), and an archetype for clerics that want to channel positive energy.

The first part starts with a jail break and assuming it is successful, the PCs soon meet their new patron and things take off from there. Part 2 has the PCs running their own dungeon and trying to keep out or kill off the damn heroes that keep invading.Parts 3 and 4 have the PCs gathering allies (there is a great henchman system - and the Leadership feat could be used in a way that does not break the game) and raising an army. Parts 5 and 6 are quite epic as the PCs reach 20 level making it quite a journey that takes place over a couple years.

The 6th book strongly reminds me of the sixth part of Kingmaker - lots of set pieces or 1 or 2 encounters - often against nearly epic opponents. Aside from the fact that this AP is sooo long (after the PCs hit level 12 or so we rarely get more then a couple encounters done per game night) it would be perfect for our group. We all love playing evil, there's a fairly straightforward plot (with only a handful of important on-going NPCs), lots of interesting fights, and just enough role--playing that we can ham it up between battles where we try to demonstrate our evil awesomeness. The trick would be too seriously trim down and combine the last 3 or 4 books books into something fun that makes sense.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Razor Coast

Our blog has been pretty slow lately. Its hard to say exactly what's behind it. I have lots of good ideas for posts but they never seem to get finished,or in many cases started.

This post (and several others if I get to them) are about adventures. I am always trying to get my hands on all of the cool new adventures come out for Pathfinder. Unfortunately I am not made of money so although I prefer the hard copies I'm often stuck with the pdf version. I love reading through them, looking at the cool art, looking for awesome ideas, trying to figure out how they would play out and if my group would enjoy them.

We've been playing Pathfinder Adventure paths for a while and we are used to fairly linear adventures with lots of fighting, a bit of roleplaying, and a few puzzles. We don't do well with complicated plots since after two weeks no one remembers what was going on, and too many NPCs just get confusing. The problem with this is that the adventures that are often the most enjoyable to read would probably play poorly with our group. I love the Curse of the Crimson Throne AP. The first three parts focus heavily on a home city, come with a wealth of interesting NPCs and there are a couple plots and subplots running. I can see how some groups could love this adventure. It is full of roleplaying opportunities and if you didn't want to rush through things you could expand on Korvosa a great deal and really make the environment come alive.

The first part of the Kingmaker AP was almost the opposite. It was largely a hex crawl. If was fun at first but  I think everyone was starting to get a bit bored with the concept by about the third book. My group seems to have a short attention span.

Last summer I sank some money into a couple Kickstarters. First was Slumbering Tsar and then Rappan Athuk. ST starts as a hex crawl, becomes an urban dungeon and finally turns into a not quite mega dungeon. RA is a pure Mega-dungeon. Both are well designed and have lots of cool encounters but next to nothing in terms of plot (ST has a minor plot but it comes up so infrequently, I can't seen any players every following it). I'm not really sure if anyone in my group would be interested in playing something that's so open ended. Something to think about.

Anyway, with all of that out of the way I'm finally coming to the heart of this post. After blowing my money on ST and RA I didn't have any left for Razor Coast. Now for people that have been following this product since it first came about, it has a long and complicated history. The brain child of Nick Logue who is responsible for some of the better (and gruesome) early Adventure Path parts. It was supposed to have a Hawaiian/Caribbean feel to it and have lots of pirates, undead pygmyies, and were-sharks. Lots of people thought it looked great and many people pre-ordered it. And then Nick Logue disappeared.

Actually he was teaching in England but he stopped visiting his website, answering email or posting on the Paizo message board so he might as well have vanished. People wanted updates and what they got in return was silence. This went on for a couple years before Lou Agresta contacted Nick, and started to work with him to get the product finished. Full details of what went on and the aftermath cane be found on the Paizo message boards but the short version is that the final work was done by a number of very talented writers and last year Frog God Games put up another Kickstarter, this time to get Razor Coast finally published in all of its full color splendor. The curse was finally lifted.

I have to say that this thing is a master piece. It is full of great ideas, interesting PCs, tons of plots and subplots, heroes, villains. Its got it all. It is also very daunting. This is not a work for beginner DMs. With most APs you could just pick up the book and muddle through (although this is obviously not the ideal way to run them), but not with this. You would have to have read it from cover to cover, understand the different plots, and have a good idea how it all comes together. There is an entire section of this massive book dedicated to helping the DM track everything that's going on. Which factions the PCs have fallen in with, their motivations, the attitude of a number of NPCs towards the PCs, which set piece encounters should be used next and why, important plot pieces to share with the PCs (rumors). You really do actually have to plot out the adventure while you are playing it so that you know which way the PCs might go and keep everything prepared. Razor coast would never be played the same way twice because there are so many options available to the PCs. They've also released a few extra Razor Coast books that include a few more options set piece adventures, player options, and naval warfare rules.

Would this be something I'd be willing to take on as DM? I don't really think so. I can see this as as being one of the best adventures out there but my group just loses too much momentum between sessions. This would play best with a group that plays at least on a weekly basis and a DM with lots of preparation time.

Final verdict: Very ambitious adventure for players level starting at level 7 and going until level 13. If it was done right it would be the stuff of legends - that campaign that gets talked about years or even decades after the fact. Done wrong and it would muddled confusing Paizo Adventure Path wannabe.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Review of Magic World

So I picked up Magic World by Chaosium, the latest iteration of fantasy role-playing for the d100 system. Though broadly similar to the other contenders, RuneQuest 6 by The Design Mechanism and Legend by Mongoose, Magic World, not surprisingly, more closely adheres to the Basic RolePlaying game system. Interestingly, it doesn't use the expanded magic system presented in The Magic Book, released in 2011, which updated the magic rules from older editions of Chaosium's RuneQuest for use with BRP. Rather, Magic World expands the sorcery rules from the basic BRP game. In other words, all magic in Magic World is sorcery. If The Magic Book is derived from RuneQuestMagic World seems more influenced by another old Chaosium game, Stormbringer. Though the darker aspects of Stormbringer and its later edition Elric! have been toned down in Magic World, the rules for summoning demons and elementals are there. If you can get your hands on the excellent Elric! supplement, The Bronze Grimoire, to incorporate its more detailed summoning and necromancy rules, Magic World would make an excellent ruleset to run a dark fantasy campaign.