Thursday, August 28, 2014

EROEI - the unseen enemy of the bright future

We Albertans are widely-derided within our own country for being insensitive to the environmental consequences of our oilsands development. It is true that we have an out-sized carbon footprint and there are many Albertans that would like to see better environmental stewardship. In fact, despite the ugly pictures of tailings ponds around Fort MacMurray, a lot of Alberta looks like this:

We have invested a lot of money in carbon sequestration, the process of capturing carbon during the burning of fossil fuels and burying it, typically in old oil reservoirs. Of course, the environmental groups disapprove of this approach, preferring the oil to stay in the ground and the energy production replaced by renewables. Well, it turns out the environmentalists may have it all wrong, a future of wind and solar is just not possible. The villain is EROEI, energy-returned-on-energy-invested.

A recent paper by John Morgan, a prominent Australian expert on energy storage technology, lays out the problem. In order for a power plant to be viable, it must return more energy over its operational lifespan than it requires to build it. Dr. Morgan calculated the minimum EROEI of 7:1, once maintenance and operational requirements are included. Anything below that and the project makes no sense. Under current conditions, that is, an energy grid with ample baseload supply from fossil fuel and/or nuclear plants, wind and concentrated solar power (CSP) comfortably surpass that minimum EROEI. Interestingly, photovoltaic solar doesn't even achieve the threshold now, so you might want to reconsider any plans to install solar panels on your roof.

Anyway, a future without fossil fuels would require extensive energy storage capacity for times when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining, a problem fossil fuels don't have since the energy is already stored in the fuel. There are two main ways of storing energy, batteries and pumped hydroelectric. Batteries are more mobile but are ten times more energy intensive to produce per unit of energy storage. In other words, batteries will have to become an order of magnitude more energy efficient just to achieve the current EROEI of pumped hydroelectric and, of course, batteries require lots of rare metals which have their own scarcity issues to deal with when considering massive scale up. So, the best case scenario assumes pumped hydro, which involves pumping water to a place of higher elevation, then releasing it to run turbines like a normal hydroelectric dam. Even with the assumption of using pumped hydro for energy storage, wind power falls well below the threshold and CSP is just marginally above (and even then, only in ideal conditions for solar power). Nothing short of a miraculous new technology unlike anything we are currently working on can turn the trend line on this. We simply cannot maintain our civilization without fossil fuels or a huge increase in nuclear power generation.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Strange, a first look

The Strange, the latest game from the game design superteam of Monte Cook and Bruce Cordell has been released and it is fantastic. Using the Cypher game system, first introduced in their previous game, Numenera, The Strange is the most recent imagining of the multi-genre role-playing game concept. Although it borrows much of its tone from the Dark Matter campaign setting for Alternity and d20 Modern, which Monte Cook developed in collaboration with Wolfgang Baur, The Strange really seems influenced by a much older game, TORG by West End Games.

The title of the game refers to an intergalactic transportation system originally created by a race of hyper-advanced aliens billions of years ago. Over the aeons, this technological marvel which we observe today as dark energy, decayed and became chaotic.  When humans or other sentient races interact with the Strange, pocket dimensions called recursions can form. Theses recursions often have different metaphysical foundations depending on the source of their creation. For example, fictional worlds based on the combined belief of large numbers of adherents can be formed, such as a world based on Greek mythology or a particularly popular work of fiction, such as the Cthulhu Mythos. Recursions based on these worlds would allow for whatever magic or alien science would be required to fully realize the details of such worlds. Sometimes these recursions pose a threat to earth and there are other things that reside in the Strange as well that are even more dangerous.

There are two major recursions detailed in the game, a magical fantasy realm of gods and heroes called Ardeyn and a weird science world of intrigue and alien technology called Ruk. Players can be natives of earth or either of these recursions and may travel among them. Numerous other smaller recursions are also described and gamemasters are free to create more using whatever fictional worlds inspire them. Admittedly, the results can get rather silly (i.e. one recursion is inhabited by puppets), but the possibilities are endless.


Giant Man: More from the Advanced Class Guide

Here is another Marvel Super Hero made from Pathfinder. Again this is something put together quickly so I'm sure you could tweak it to make it better or a bit more thematic. I know Giant Man doesn't use a huge sword but it works better in Pathfinder.

There were a few things that caught my eye back in my long Early Thoughts post on the ACG. Animal Soul allows you to cast many of the really great Druid buffs on yourself. The Primal Companion archetype for Hunter allows you to grant yourself a bunch of evolutions when your pet is dead/not available.

So with a swift action you can make yourself almost as tough as a Synthesist Summoner, and then use your standard action to drop Atavism or some other great Druid buff on yourself.  Sure the Teamwork feats become something of a waste but in most cases that's not a huge loss. Just leave yourself without an Animal Companion and you are very powerful.

Not game breaking by any means but could be fun.

Giant Man
Advanced Human Hunter (Primal Companion) 15
CN Huge humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +27
AC 32, touch 12, flat-footed 32 (+11 armor, -2 size, +9 natural, +4 untyped)
hp 303 (15d8+195)
Fort +27, Ref +16, Will +21
DR 10/lawful; Immune electricity, fire
Speed 20 ft.
Melee +4 falchion +30/+25/+20 (3d6+40/15-20)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 15th; concentration +17)
   At will—raise animal companion (neg level when cast)
Hunter (Primal Companion) Spells Known (CL 15th; concentration +22):
   5th (4/day)—death ward, fire snake{super}APG{/super} (DC 22), stoneskin, summon nature's ally v, whip of centipedes
   4th (5/day)—atavism{super}UM{/super} (DC 21), dispel magic, echolocation{super}UM{/super}, freedom of movement, summon nature's ally iv
   3rd (7/day)—darkvision, life bubble{super}APG{/super} (DC 20), quench, spit venom{super}UM{/super} (DC 20), summon nature's ally iii, water walk
   2nd (7/day)—aboleth's lung{super}ARG{/super} (DC 19), allfood{super}APG{/super} (DC 19), barkskin, lesser restoration, protection from energy, sickening strikes{super}ARG{/super} (DC 19), summon nature's ally ii
   1st (7/day)—cure light wounds, endure elements, entangle (DC 18), faerie fire, resist energy, snowball (DC 18), summon nature's ally i
   0 (at will)—create water, detect magic, know direction, light, purify food and drink (DC 17), read magic
Str 45, Dex 10, Con 32, Int 10, Wis 24, Cha 14
Base Atk +11; CMB +29; CMD 44
Feats Animal Soul, Armor Proficiency (Heavy), Back to Back[UC], Furious Focus[APG], Improved Back to Back[UC], Improved Critical (falchion), Improved Spell Sharing, Intercept Charge, Iron Will, Outflank[APG], Pack Attack[UC], Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Focus (falchion)
Skills Acrobatics -1, Appraise +2, Bluff +4, Climb +16, Diplomacy +4, Disguise +4, Escape Artist -1, Fly +10, Heal +9, Intimidate +4, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +20, Knowledge (geography) +20, Knowledge (nature) +20, Perception +27, Ride -1, Sense Motive +9, Stealth -9, Survival +27, Swim +16
Languages Common
SQ animal companion, greater empathic link, hunter tactics, improved empathic link, primal surge, primal transformation, raise animal companion, swift tracker, track +7, wild empathy +17, woodland stride
Other Gear +5 breastplate, +4 falchion, belt of physical might +4 (Str, Con), cloak of resistance +5, headband of inspired wisdom +6, 93,050 gp
Special Abilities
Animal Companion (Ex) If no current companion, summon nature's ally spells last 1 min/level but only 1 at a time.
Animal Companion Link (Ex) You have a link with your Animal Companion.
Animal Soul You can allow spls and eff that affect anim, anim comp and special mnts to affect you.
Back to Back +2 to AC vs flanking foes if adj to ally with this feat.
Damage Reduction (10/lawful) You have Damage Reduction against all except Lawful attacks.
Furious Focus If you are wielding a weapon in two hands, ignore the penalty for your first attack of each turn.
Greater Empathic Link (Su) Can communicate telepathically with animal companion in 1 mile.
Hunter Tactics (Ex) Animal companion also gains the bonus teamwork feats, but doesn't need to meet pre-reqs.
Immunity to Electricity You are immune to electricity damage.
Immunity to Fire You are immune to fire damage.
Improved Back to Back As a swift action when adj to flanked ally with this feat, gain +2 to AC against flanking foes.
Improved Empathic Link (10 mile) (Su) As the familiar ability, but as a swift action can see through companion's eyes (but not own).
Improved Spell Sharing Divide share spell dur evenly between you and companion. Can move apart w/o ending effect.
Intercept Charge When opp charges ally with feat, mv up to speed to get in way of charge.
Outflank Increase flank bonus by +2 if flanking ally has same feat. If you crit, ally gets an AoO.
Pack Attack Ally's attack allows you to take a 5-foot step
Power Attack -3/+6 You can subtract from your attack roll to add to your damage.
Primal Surge (Su) As a swift action, touch companion to grant it an extra evolution.
Primal Transformation (Animal Companion Dead, 15 minutes/day) (Su) As a swift action, activate eidolon evolutions on animal companion (or self if companion dies).
Raise Animal Companion (Sp) Can bring animal companions back to life, but incurs 1 negative level.
Share Spells with Companion (Ex) Can cast spells with a target of "you" on animal companion, as touch spells.
Speak With Master (Ex) You can communicate verbally with your familiar.
Swift Tracker (Ex) Tracking penalties when moving at normal speed or faster are reduced.
Track +7 Add the listed bonus to survival checks made to track.
Wild Empathy +17 (Ex) Improve the attitude of an animal, as if using Diplomacy.
Woodland Stride (Ex) Move through undergrowth at normal speed.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Way of the Wicked 25

There was much kingdom running this session but not much fighting. The Kingdom of Talingarde is slowly being corrupted. The villains have begun constructing their Cathedral to Asmodeus and they have seized church lands and redistributed them to the poor (or their friends).

The borderlands were successfully pacified by Herr Eisenmark and the decision was made that rather than rebuild the Watch Wall (for now at least) they would try and pacify the North as well.  The Frost Giant Queen offered to lead this expedition is Herr Eisenmark was put under her control. The PCs agreed and the campaign to pacify the north succeeded with minimal loses. The PCs have pacified the north which no other King has managed to do before them.

The Iraen barbarians were brought into the fold when the 9th Knot managed to track and kill the legendary Bandersnatch. Prophecy holds that when the beast was killed and the slayer appeared wearing its hide and soaked in its blood that their Destiny would be revealed. For now the Iraen were told to wait.

The warrior nuns of Saint Celeste were slaughtered as they waited in the wilderness for the Princess Belinda's return.

A secret police force has been established to root out the growing resistance. One town revolted openly. The crown removed its protection of the town and the Dragon Jaratheon was sent to raze it. Few survived the dragon's assault and unrest in the kingdom quieted.

The PCs were attacked by Demonic Marilith assassins while they were holding a council meeting. Security is going to be increased. When the Hadreon Signet was dipped in the blood it began grating immunity to Fire and Poison and allowing DR to be bypassed for all evil outsiders. Since this was deemed pretty awesome the PCs have decided to locate the next monster on the list: a Titan.

A half Titan Kraken was located and the PCs began preparation to assault it. We'll see how it goes next game session.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Disney Infinity 2.0 lineup

With the announcement of the Disney Infinity 2.0 Toy Box Pack, it seems the final lineup of characters for this edition of the game has been revealed. There will only be three playsets and all will be based on Marvel properties, namely The Avengers, Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. Also, the six playsets from the original game will not be forward compatible, although the characters from the previous edition will be playable in the DI2 toy box mode. We also have what appears to be the final list of toy-box-only characters for DI2. They are:

Merida (Brave)
Maleficent (Maleficent)
Tinkerbell (Peter Pan)
Stitch (Lilo and Stitch)
Aladdin (Aladdin)
Jasmine (Aladdin)
Hiro (Big Hero 6)
Baymax (Big Hero 6)

It boggles the mind to stop and think about how much more intellectual property Disney still has available for future editions of this game.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Advanced Class Guide: Captain America

I was actually surprised how easy this was to put together and it actually seems pretty close to the comic book character. One thing I'm not clear on if it Brawler's Fury actually counts as the Two-Weapon Fighting Feat line or not. If it does then this build is valid, if not, well the Brawler suddenly becomes much less attractive. While Steve Roger's Super Serum is permanent, this guy has to make a new one every time his wears off (2.5 hours).

A full round attack would start at +27, hit up to 6 times and do 2D6+31 19-20/x2. A Pummeling Charge would be devastating. HP are only a 154 when the Super Serum is in effect which isn't great but there are a few feats that can be easily swapped around. Saves are decent and has enough skill points to invest in some useful skills. Plus, throwing your shield and having bounce off 6 opponents before returning to your hand is just cool.

Not super optimized but could hold her own in combat. One of my first builds from the ACG that turned out surprisingly well.

Captain America
Human Brawler (Mutagenic Mauler, Shield Champion) 15
N Medium humanoid (human)
Init +4; Senses Perception +23
AC 35, touch 14, flat-footed 35 (+9 armor, +8 shield, +4 natural, +4 deflection)
hp 124 (15d10+30)
Fort +16, Ref +14, Will +17
Defensive Abilities fortification 25%
Speed 30 ft.
Melee  light shield bash +30/+25/+20 (2d6+17/19-20) and
   unarmed strike +23/+18/+13 (2d6+8)
Special Attacks brawler's flurry
Str 27, Dex 10, Con 14, Int 10, Wis 20, Cha 10
Base Atk +15; CMB +23; CMD 37
Feats Greater Shield Focus, Greater Weapon Focus (shield, light), Greater Weapon Specialization (shield, light), Improved Critical (shield, light), Improved Initiative, Improved Shield Bash, Improved Unarmed Strike, Iron Will, Power Attack, Pummeling Charge, Pummeling Style, Quick Draw, Shield Focus, Shield Master, Shield Slam, Weapon Focus (shield, light), Weapon Specialization (shield, light)
Skills Acrobatics +16, Intimidate +18, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +18, Knowledge (local) +18, Perception +23, Sense Motive +23
Languages Common
SQ champion's defense, close weapon mastery, knockout, mutagen, mutagen damage bonus, mutagen discoveries (greater mutagen, preserve organs), returning shield, throw shield, unarmed strike
Combat Gear mutagen (greater); Other Gear +5 chain shirt, +5 light wooden quickdraw shield, amulet of natural armor +4, belt of giant strength +6, cloak of resistance +5, headband of inspired wisdom +6, ring of protection +4, 8,547 gp
Special Abilities
Brawler's Flurry +13/+13/+8/+8/+3/+3 (Ex) Can make full attack & gain two-wep fighting, but only with unarmed strike, close, or monk wep.
Champion's Defense (1/day) (Ex) When reduced to 0 hp by wep att, attempt Fort save to absorb half dam with shield.
Close Weapon Mastery (Ex) Weapons of the close group deal dam as unarmed strike at -4 levels.
Fortification 25% You have a chance to negate critical hits on attacks.
Greater Mutagen (Su) The alchemist’s mutagen now grants a +4 natural armor bonus, a +6 alchemical bonus to one physical ability score (Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution), and a +4 alchemical bonus to a second physical ability score. The alchemist takes a –2 penalty on
Improved Shield Bash You still get your shield bonus while using Shield Bash.
Improved Unarmed Strike Unarmed strikes don't cause attacks of opportunity, and can be lethal.
Knockout (2/day, DC 25) (Ex) Declare before attack, if hit then foe is unconscious 1d6 rds (Fort neg), resave each rd.
Mutagen (DC 17) (Su) Mutagen adds +4 to a physical & -2 to a mental attribute, and +2 nat. armor for 150 min.
Mutagen Damage Bonus +3 (Su) When in mutagenic form, gain a bonus to melee damage.
Power Attack -4/+8 You can subtract from your attack roll to add to your damage.
Preserve Organs 25% The alchemist learns how to preserve and protect his vital organs, reducing the chance of a mortal wound. When a critical hit or sneak attack is scored on the alchemist, there is a 25% chance that the critical hit or sneak attack is negated and damag
Pummeling Charge When using Pummeling Style, make Pummeling Style atk at end of charge.
Pummeling Style As full-rd act, make normal full attack or flurry, adding all dmg together into 1 hit.
Quick Draw Draw weapon as a free action (or move if hidden weapon). Throw at full rate of attacks.
Returning Shield (Ex) Thrown shield ricochets off multiple surfaces (or foes) to return.
Shield Focus +1 Shield AC
Shield Master No off-hand penalties for shield bashes, add a shield's enhancement bonus to attack rolls.
Shield Slam Shield Bash attack gives a free bull rush on a hit.
Throw Shield (Ex) Gain the benefit of Far shot when throw shields. Can use certain maneuvers at range.
Unarmed Strike (2d6) Extra unarmed strike dam, no off-hand dam reduction and don't need free hands to att.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Advanced Class Guide: Early Thoughts

Well it's finally here. I bought the PDF on Thursday and tried to read through that but then gave in and bought the dead tree version yesterday from my FLGS. There is so much crunch in this book it is amazing. It has taken me two days to get through it although I'll happily admit that it will take months (or longer) to really play with all of the options. Herolab is updated with the product and I've just started testing things out.

There are lots of editing problems with this book. I don't usually have a great eye for detail so when even I notice lots of mistakes then there are lots of mistakes. Most of them are not critical like formatting mistakes or spelling mistakes but there were a couple instances where the crunch text is not logical (giving an ability at level 16 and then giving the upgrade at level 16, or incorrect entries in the level progression chart). For a book of this size with this much detail it is not surprising that a few mistakes slip through but there just seems to be more then usual (and some glaring ones like the cover).

Arcanist: At the beginning of the day fills their know spell slots from their spell book, can cast those spells as much as they want in any combination until their castings per level run out. grabs most of the flexibility from the wiz and the sorc. Has delayed casting like a sorc and gains exploits. Most of the exploits are pretty meh but there are a few really good ones like Counterspelling as an immediate action, Dimensional slide (short range teleport), or you can take a sorc bloodline and use points form the arcane reservoir to power it. The greater exploits upgrade these to be even better. I haven't built one in Herolab yet but seems really strong.

Bloodrager: Rather than nerf the strong bloodlines, they improved the weaker ones. The bloodrager is a very solid melee class comparable to the Barbarian for the top spot. The spell list is nearly perfect for the class. A well designed class.

Brawler: I had no interest in this class during the playtest but the final version has me intrigued. In the right kind of campaign this would be a great class to play. The brawler gets some very nice toys that might actually work (Knockout keyed to either str or dex), and is very flexible. Better than the base monk in pretty much every way imaginable. Built correctly this class can unload some pretty serious damage at high levels but suffers in the defense department. The brawler is unlikely to have great AC and has a poor will save. Both will be serious liabilities in most post level 10+ games.

Hunter: I really want to like this class but I am struggling to figure out how it holds its own compared to the druid. I tend to compare classes at levels 7 and 15. At 7, I think the Hunter is slightly superior but at 15 it's not even close and the druid is by far superior. I have to admit I'm not a huge fan of teamwork feats. Most are very situational and I tend to forget to apply the bonus. Again the hunter really doesn't have the defenses to survive high level melee combat. A great class for a lower level campaign.

Investigator: or as I like to call it - better than the rogue. A great class for a low combat campaign (not adventure paths), this class has options out the wazoo. Very effective at it's niche because of it's flexibility. Between this and the Slayer there is no reason for anyone to ever play a rogue again. Another well done class but not my cup of tea since we almost always play Adventure Paths.

Shaman: This is a class that is going to take a while for me to really get the feel for. It has taken me years to really appreciate what the Oracle brings to the table and I suspect this class is similar. My early sense is that it is a replacement for the Witch. The Shaman gets most of my favorite hexes (Flight is notable absent) and a bunch of extra Hexes from their spirits. Their spell list is surprisingly versatile and could cover the party healer role quite well although sadly Heal is listed as 7th level instead of 6th.

Skald: I still don't see this class as more than an archetype for Bards. There really isn't anything wrong with it but it just feels very niche. Although the Dawnflower Dervish is still a more effective battle bard this comes close in effectiveness. For a group with lots of melee type classes this guy would be great, otherwise not so much. Being able to give your party Pounce is pretty awesome I admit.

Slayer: I've been a big fan of this class. In my opinion it works best as an archer because like many other classes it isn't likely to hold up well in high level melee combat. The class borrows or mimics a lot of the Rangers crunch but uses the Rogue's fluff. In general I don't like Sneak attack since it is very situational and a nice thing about the Slayer is that it has Sneak attack but doesn't need it. Studied Target is a great mechanic and although not as strong as Favored Enemy, it is not dependent on the DM and you can use it when you like - no limits! Between that and full BAB, a Slayer should have no trouble hitting his foes.

Swashbuckler: While this wasn't the mobile fighter many people hoped for, I think they did a good job with the flavor for this class. Not a massive damage dealer, the swashbuckler can still survive in combat with Opportune Parry. Charmed Life should be able to boost his saves enough to survive although they are limited by use per day. My test PC looks ok but to really get a feel for the Panache mechanic. The swashbuckler definitely needs a wide critical range weapon to be effective.

Warpriest: There is so much to this class. Most of the blessings are rather meh but again many of the Desna blessing are superior (many are cribbed from the Domain powers). Too many powers are activated by Swift actions. The Warpriest has the same problem as the battle cleric - spending too many rounds buffing to be effective. I'm still on the fence with this class. The character is rolled up looks ok but didn't really stand out form what any other class can do. It's like a slightly more caster, less martially paladin with no alignment restrictions. I admit I have not set one up as an archer so its possible that I am missing something there but so far I think I prefer a melee Inquisitor to a melee Warpriest. And what is up with 2 skill ranks per level for a non - Int based class? Yuck.

Archetypes and Class Options: There are too many here to go through all of them but a few did stand out for me.

Blade Adept: This is a terrible archetype for the Arcanist unless you were going to use it as entry into Eldritch Knight in which case it is actually really good.
Blood Arcanist really steps on the Sorcerer's toes by getting a full Bloodline.
White Mage: Sure an Arcanist can now cast a few Cure Spells. Is it worth it? Not really.

GreenRager: stands out because it is so bad. At level 13 you can cast Summon Nature's Ally IV. Why would you summon a 5 HD monster? Admittedly you only give up a couple bloodline feats for this but it is still pretty bad.
Primalist is really good. You can take either your Bloodline power or two Barbarian rage powers. Flexibility at no cost!

Mutagenic Brawler: A mutagen with the usual awesomeness, adds bonus damage, and sensory and movement bonuses. All it costs is Martial Flexibility and the AC bonus.
Shield Champion: You are now Captain America. Looks cool, not sure its optimal.

Order of the Beast: Wait, isn't there already an Order of the Beast? Yes there is.
Daring Champion: A Cavalier who swashbuckles. You can get some massive damage bonuses with this combination. Loses the Mount.

Nature Fang: Druid trades most of his Naturey stuff and WildShape for a Slayers Studied Target and Sneak Attack (although it doesn't say he actually gets a Slayers sneak attack progression - if this is not an error this archetype sucks.)

Mutation Warrior: Trade Armor Training for Mutagen. This is pretty good except the levels where you get the mutagen discoveries are poorly aligned so no Greater Mutagen until 15 and no Grand until 19. Oh well, 50% fortification at level 11 is nothing to sneeze at.

Bolt Ace: A gunslinger with a Crossbow. Less damage then a full fledged Composite Longbow Archer, and without the annoyance of having your weapon explode in your face. These actually make Crossbows pretty damn good and you get many of the same tricks that Gunslingers do. Less unbalancing than the Slinger but still useful.

Primal Companion Hunter: An animal companion with Eidolon evolutions. Sweet! what's this? If the pet dies, the Hunter gets the Evolutions? Even better!

Sanctified Slayer: So this trades Judgement for the Slayer's Studied Target, Sneak Attack Progression and 4 Slayer Talents (although these come late)? Sign me up. Yes, I don't like Sneak Attack but I like it a lot more when I have Improved Invisibility on my spell list.

Eldritch Scion: A magus with all of his stuff based on Cha and doesn't need a spell book.

Kata Master: A swashbuckling Monk? Cool!!! Wait a minute, all of his new powers are based off Cha making this archetype the most MAD archetype ever!! Who designed this POS? Seriously unless you play in a campaign where you roll for stats and your boyfriend is the DM no one is ever going to play this.

Hooded Champion: You can be Robin Hood! A ranger who is a duelist and an archer. Will be tough to find enough feats to keep both styles effective.

Animist: This Shaman can remove negative status effects with a high diplomacy role as she talks the spirits away. That's awesome!

Fated Champion: This archetype for the Skald is pretty good. A bonus to Initiative, an improvement to the Rage song, and a very expensive re-roll ability.

Mysterious Avenger: You are now Zoro!
Picaroon: I was hoping to get a swashbuckler archetype that would also grant weapon training so you could use either a sword or a gun effectively. This one comes close but isn't quite what I wanted. Guess I'll have to make a gunslinger that takes Slashing Grace.

Champion of the Faith: A warpriest that can smite! Too bad it is still keyed to Cha and requires two uses of Fervor to activate.
Sacred Fist: A monk Warpriest! While perhaps not as awesome as it seems this could be a lot of fun. A monk with delayed Cleric casting. Divine Power + Righteous Might

Exploiter Wizard. Trades a school for many of the Arcanist's tricks. Worth it!

Most of the new feats are very niche. Many are so situational as to be next to useless. Some are rendered useless to most classes by inexplicably having combat Expertise as a prerequisite. Some are just terrible no matter what, but a few are quite good. Here are some of my favorites.

Amateur Swashbuckler: Take this and the Opportune Parry deed. Now the Barbarian with the Falchion can parry too!

Animal Soul: Now all of those nice Druid buffs that are animal only can be cast on you! Too bad about the Animal Companion or Mount requirement. Animal Growth, Atavism, Steel Jaw.

Blooded Arcane Strike: A must have for Bloodragers. No longer must you spend your Swift action every turn on Arcane Strike.

Disheartening Display: They are shaken after Dazzled, now they are frightened after this Feat. Great if you can Dazzling display as a Free or Swift Action.

Divine Protection: Divine Grace for non-paladins. 5 ranks in Knowledge religion, ability to cast a 2nd level divine spell and either have a blessing, domain, or mystery class feature. Pretty much a no-brainer feat for any Oracle or Cleric that didn't dump Charisma.

Expanded Preparation: An extra spell slot at your highest level - for Arcanists.

Gruesome Slaughter/Killing Flourish: great for melee Slayers.

Merciless Butcher: Coup de Gras as a swift action. Requires Dastardly Finish and Studied Target so its acquired a bit late to be useful for a Slayer but would be pretty sweet in the hands of a Vivisectionist if he is facing off against lots of stunned opponents.

Pummeling Style: No matter how you interpret this Feat it is great. It it just applies to actual punches as the flavor text suggests it is great for Brawlers and Monks. If it applies to all weapons as the crunch suggests then this feat is insanely over powered. Combine all hits in one round into one blow. If any of the hits are confirmed critical hits then then entire thing is a critical. Crazy!

Pummeling Charge: You can Charge and then end the charge with a Pummeling Strike. AWESOME! It's super Pounce.

Slashing Grace: Dex to Damage for one handed slashing weapons. Yay! Wait a minute. You can't use Weapon Finesse with these weapons so you are still SOL unless you are using the Elven Curve Blade or the Aldori Dueling Sword. Oddly, there is no feat in this book allowing Dex to Damage for Rapiers or light weapons. Apparently it is coming in the next big book. Oops.

Steadfast Personality: Charisma modifier to Will saves vs Mind-Affecting Effects. Sweet since it stacks with Divine Protection. Great for non-divine casters.

Twist Away: Requires Evasion. Allows you to make Reflex saves in the place of Fortitude saves but leaves you staggered for a turn. Still very useful if you have a hopeless Fort save.

I haven't had a chance to go over all of the spells or magic items in great detail yet but no spells really jumped at me as being must haves. There were a few magic items.

Boots of the Battle Herald: 30 rounds of Greater Heroism a day. Wow.

Various Rings that expand the Summon Monster list. Cool idea.

 Brass Spider: Remote Disable Device or a bonus if up close.

Cape of Daring Deeds: great for Swashbucklers

Well that's it for now. Back to HeroLab to see what other awesome things there are to find.

**I keep finding more stuff so there may be some stealth edits as I add or change things. Sacred Fist is not as awesome as I hoped.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Still more Marvel for Disney Infinity

The newest video announcement for Disney Infinity 2.0 reveals new details on improvements to the toybox mode, but that is not all that is revealed. At one point in the video, we see this:

That appears to be either Power Man (aka Victor Alvarez) or the younger version of Luke Cage from the Ultimate Spider-Man TV series. It's hard to decide which of these is more likely. Obviously Luke Cage is better known, but he is usually seen as older with some facial hair. Power Man, on the other hand, is not widely known, but does have a strong connection to Iron Fist, another less well-known character which has already been announced as being in DI2. Either way, what I really want to know is, will this be another playable character in the game? Disney has repeatedly done this, showing brief cameos of not yet announced characters in videos of other aspects of the game. Between the two excellent movie releases this year and all the upcoming stuff for DI2, I am on a serious Marvel high right now....and I'm not even a comic book guy.


Update: Upon further research, it seems the Luke Cage version from Ultimate Spider-Man is also named Power Man, so it's a safe bet, that is what this character will be called. Since we will have Spider-Man, Nova, Iron Fist and probably Power Man, can White Tiger be far behind?

Further update: Power Man (Luke Cage) and White Tiger (among others) will not be playable at this time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Duck is back!

Although it has been suspected for sometime, now it's official: Donald Duck is coming to Disney Infinity 2.0. That brings the current known characters to twenty-five:

The Avengers playset - Thor, Ironman, Black Widow, The Hulk and Hawkeye
The Spider-Man playset - Spider-Man, Venom, Nick Fury, Iron Fist and Nova
The Guardians of the Galaxy playset - Star-Lord, Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora
Marvel villains - Green Goblin, Loki and Ronan the Accuser
Toybox only - Merida, Maleficent, Tinkerbell, Stitch, Aladdin, Jasmine, Donald Duck

There is still over five weeks until the release date for DI2. We have been getting, on average, one new release announcement each week for the last month so hopefully there will be more forthcoming. Notably, we haven't heard anything about their plans for the Big Hero 6 franchise. Of course, they might hold that one back until they are closer to the release of the film.


Monday, August 11, 2014

Way of the Wicked 24

Cardinal Thorn is dead (well, really dead) and the Agathium is in the hands of our anti-heroes.

This session had a fair bit of roleplaying, lots of discussions and very little combat.

The decision was made to continue Thorn's plan. Tiadaora was sent to find find the 6th Knot (Cedric Malthus) who was supposed to be out raising an army. He was found and returned to the Agathium. Cedric is the flexible sort and after finding out that things had changed, he informed the 9th Knot that he expected a place on the ruling council and maybe a rich barony or something for all of his troubles. The 9th agreed and then returned to the army encampment and negotiated for both the larger army of murderers and cut-throats as well as the services of Herr Eisenmark, captain of the continent's finest mercenary army. They were not cheap but now paid for, they began to embark onto their transport craft and headed for Matharyn.

Next a visit was paid to Fire-Axe. He was saddened that his days in the sun were coming to an end but laid out his plan for his army's destruction. He asked that the PC's rescue him. The one caveat of his plan was that it was likely some of his elite warriors may escape the trap. There needed to be someone or someones to prevent them from breaking out. The PCs agreed to be there to stop them.

The mercenary army arrived and marched near Matharyn on their way to the fields of Tamberlyn. There the trap was set. The Fire-Axe marched his army into the trap where archers rained death upon the monsters, while Herr Eisenmark's elite cavalry assaulted form the rear. As predicted a number of monsters tried to break out but were met by the PCs who mowed them down with little difficulty. Sakkarot Fire-Axe's horde was no more bug the bugbear himself was rescued from a grim fate by the timely intervention of Tiadora who removed the genral from the battle in the final minutes.

Up to this point the PCs were a bit unsure what to do with Vastenus Barca, the traitor general that led the Knights of Allerian to their doom at Daveryn. Thorn had promised him the crown, but he rubbed the PCs the wrong way and they had a better candidate of the own (the now Cardinal Hellcrate, whom the PCs had added to the Liber Darius). The PCs had brought him along to see how he did in battle and were hoping that he suffer an accidental death. With the giants of Fire-Axe's horde being contained in rings of Blade Barriers and being snuffed out by Earthquakes and Implosion spells, the risk level was pretty low so one of the clerics "accidentally targeted Barcus with an Implosion and that was the end of the traitor.

Marching back to Matharyn at the head of their victorious army they were met by the Mayor Hubert Rowen and Leothyn Barca (the very old younger brother of the last Barcan king).  The city was surrendered to the PCs and Hellcrate made his claim to the throne. Leothyn Barca looked skeptical but said nothing.

A coronation was held that was extremely lavish as fitting of one representing the mighty Asmodeus. Duke Hadrian of Ghastenhall failed to attend the coronation and sent a delegate in his stead. The duke was informed that he had to attend and swear fealty. He sent a doppelganger in his place. The PCs discovered the trick, and disguised Gorbatch as the Duke and returned him to Ghastenhall. The real Duke emerged form hiding and congratulated his ambassador on the successful deceit only to have Gorbatch cleave him in two. As word got out that the Duke was dead, his mercenary guards fled looting as they went. The Duke's heir, his 14 year-old nephew was now the new duke and quickly swore fealty to the new King.

 A ruling council was formed, although a few members would only attend for urgent matters or that directly affected their sphere of influence. The ruling council consisted of the PCs (who make all of the real decisions), Leothyn Barca, Mayor Hubert, Cedric Malthus, Baroness Vanya, Queen Ellisif of the Frost Giants, Gaius Richter, and Mallory Hawthorn.

Only two month's into the reign, Herr Eisenmark has led a large expedition into the Borderlands to quell any remaining monster troops and to see what would be required to rebuild the Watch Wall the the PCs breached oh so long ago. There are no plans to build a new cathedral but there seems to be some thoughts of converting the Mitran temple into a temple devoted to Asmodeus. So far they are just in the early stages of trying to corrupt the Mitran church. With the High Cardinal missing along with some of the church's money, the PCs are trying to get Brother Thane nominated as the new High Cardinal.

And I think that covers everything. The Princess Belinda is missing and cannot be found. Their have been no sightings of her mother (an ancient wyrm silver dragon). The High Inquisitor Tyrath abandoned the capital when the PCs won at Tamberlyn and took whatever he could carry with him.

For now the PCs rule unopposed. At long last they are now the rulers of Talingarde. What will they do with their new found power? Can they keep it?

Friday, August 08, 2014

Aladdin joins Disney Infinity 2.0

The latest announcement from Disney Infinity 2.0 reveals the addition of Aladdin and Jasmine to the list of playable characters, although they will not be part of a playset. While not as awesome as all the Marvel goodies we've seen thus far, this announcement has certainly got my daughters excited. Jasmine will make a nice addition to the "Disney Fightin' Princesses" supers team they're building.


Thursday, August 07, 2014


Ugh, when it comes to gaming this is always the worst time of the year for me. There is lots of sweet stuff coming out for Gencon and the internet is alive with hints and previews. I am especially interested in the Paizo's Advanced Class Guide (ACG) this year. While most of the new classes seem rather meh, there seems to be lots of other crunch in the book that sounds pretty awesome.

So far it is looking like an optimizers dream in that it makes it easier to combine features from different classes without having to Dip. So far I've seen previews of things that make rogues and monks less bad and might actually make crossbows a viable weapon (in fact they might be awesome).

Of course these are just hints and previews and I have to wait at least one more week before I can buy the PDF. Usually the FLGS is slow to get product in so it might be even longer before I can get a hardcopy.

Oh the trials in my life...

Monday, August 04, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy

I went to see Guardians of the Galaxy last night and it was very enjoyable. Perhaps not as engaging as Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but GotG is a genuinely fun movie. It delivered a few good laughs, some exciting action sequences and first-rate performances. Best of all, it didn't resort to campiness, which a movie featuring a talking raccoon could have easily done. I give it my highest recommendation.

On a related note, during our recent US roadtrip, we did a fair bit of shopping and I noticed some of the Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise appearing in stores. I was unhappy to see a total absence of Gamora in any of it. Some products even had all four of the other characters featured, but no Gamora. As the father of two girls who do actually like comic book characters, I found this very frustrating. Disney should be better than this.


Sunday, August 03, 2014

A visit to the EMP Museum in Seattle

Seattle is a beautiful city. I visited it for the first time this past week. One highlight of the trip was a visit to the EMP Museum. This museum is dedicated to popular culture, notably rock music and fantasy/sci-fi/horror. In particular, the "Icons of Science Fiction" exhibit was awesome. Presented below are some of my pictures:
"You sold a reverberating carbonizer with mutate capacity to an unlicensed cephalopoid, Jeebs, you piece of shit!"

"No! Try not! Do...or do not. There is no try."

"It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity or remorse or fear. And it will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead."

I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't let you do that."

"Risk is our business. That's what this starship is all about. That's why we're aboard her."