Starfinder

Posted: June 22, 2017 in Pathfinder, Table Top Gaming
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If you have been paying any attention to table top role playing games this year, you have heard the buzz about Paizo Publishing’s new science fantasy game STARFINDER

STARFINDER updates the PATHFINDER rules and campaign setting. Giving the company the chance to fine-tune the now venerable game engine. It also advances the Golarion campaign setting several millennia into the future. It combines Tolkien with Guardians of the Galaxy, and it looks fun in a gonzo sort of way.

This week I was able to attend a STARFINDER preview event at a local Barnes and Noble. Paizo’s Erik Mona ran the event that featured a Q and A followed by a short demo where four lucky people were able to play a short demo. I was lucky enough to get to play n the demo, more about that later.

The Q and A covered a lot of stuff that had been revealed in various other sources like the Paizo blog and various podcast easily found with a quick search of the internet. Some things did stand out.

Most exciting to me as a GM the monster building systems will be a lot simpler, not requiring all the math and crunch, no adding class levels just for one feat, etc. This will be detailed in the upcoming ALIEN ARCHIVE hardcover due out in October. Plans to add Mecha/Giant Robots in a future book we’re also mentioned, PACIFIC RIM anyone? It sounds like a whole lot of other subsystems were made a bit less crunch heavy.

The highlight of the evening was getting to play in a short demo where four of the iconic characters board a derelict starship infested by goblins.

I played Navasi the iconic Envoy, and I got a decent feel for how lower level combat runs. On the whole it felt much smoother than PFRPG although to be fair it has been a while since I did a low level fight. The new hit, stamina and resolve point system ran very well creating an appropriate sense of peril as the game progressed.

Using the Evoy abilities flowed for the most part, hindered by my inability to roll above a 10 anytime it counted. Although not too effective on offense, those goblins wiped the floor and wall with me.  I was able to keep the Shirren Mystic in the fight by inspiration (I pep-talked him into more stamina points).

After a taste I’m even more excited for the game to arrive come August/September. I will share more thoughts then.

Fear-the-Walking-Dead

Anyone who has followed my blog at all knows I am a fan of the Zombie Apocalypse genre. AMC has just launched a companion  series The Walking Dead titled Fear the Walking Dead(FTWD). The series was created by Robert Kirkman, who created the comic book series that kicked off the franchise.
FTWD  moves the  timeline back to the beginning of the catastrophe when Rick Grimes is in a coma and moves the action to Los Angeles, California. The main characters are a blended family  consisting of a high school English  teacher and guidance  counselor and their children  from  previous  relationships.
The focus initially is on the everyday concerns of a blended family, with an undercurrent  of dread and tension as the evidence of what is to come slowly builds.
For all of the slow burn the cold open stats with Nick the oldest of the teen-aged character, and a drug addict  discovering a friend, now a zombie chowing down on another person in the shooting gallery. Fleeing in terror Nick runs straight into a car.
From this point we see a world where slowly the threads that hold society together start to fray. The narrative examines or at least teases all be it briefly some of these threads. Trust in the government  and mass media are looked at as the crisis builds with no indication given from those whose  duty it is to keep us safe, with information dribbling out via social media posts and videos posted online. Especially timely is the commentary on police violence as protests erupt after the police shoot a homeless man 50 times (presumably he was a walker). As the protest turns into a riot as police take down another zombie and riot police enter the area, and the pot that is the protest boils over, the perfect setting for a slowly growing zombie menace to go unnoticed.
So far the shows biggest strength is the ability to create that undercurrent of impending doom. The scoring of the show by Paul Haslinger helps convey that feeling better than just about anything, giving cues at just the right time to build tension better than any of the visual cues.
I’m looking forward to seeing the final unraveling  as the series approaches the  season finale and as the military comes into play. Will they be a bigger threat than the undead to the protagonists? Or will the military is evil trope as seen in DAY OF THE DEAD be sustained or be subverted? We have already seen some police acting less than  honorably  stockpiling water in their squad car. Will the army/national guard be any better?
I do have a couple of issues one minor the other more serious. The less serious is the one thing that I’ve  noticed that spoils the illusion   that Vancouver is Los Angeles, the acknowledge of palm trees. Having been to LA a few times, palm trees are every where, they are almost ubiquitous in the Southern California landscape.
My second issue, and one mentioned across all media is the fact that almost all the deaths of characters with actual lines have been African American characters. Intentional or not, it is very noticeable, and troubling.

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Two Necronomicons are better than one!

The latest edition to the old gaming shelf is Cthulhu Realms, a new deck building game from Tasty Minstrel Games. The game was designed by Darwin Kastle one of the designers of my favorite deck building game, Star Realms!
For those familiar with Star Realms some of the mechanics will be familiar. The goal of the game is to pummel your opponent to zero sanity, or have the most sanity when the cards for purchase have been exhausted.
Each player gets a starting deck of ten cards: followers, goons and initiates that allow you to purchase Lovecraftian horrors and locations to add to your deck in hopes of bringing on the end of all things.

The cards have different color, abilities and the like with lots of interplay between card types. Creating many different options for play and replay.Opening up many many strategies for victory. Monster hordes, evil books and iconic and creep location it is all here.

imageThe art on the cards is cartoony and wonderful. Some of jokes are subtle enough that it might take a couple of plays to notice them. Aside from the game play the cards are just fun to look at.

All in all I give this game high marks, deck builders are usually not my thing, but I think Cthulhu Realms may well dethrone Star Realms as my favorite, with deeper game play, but it never feels too heavy, or like I am playing solitaire, next to other people playing solitaire (my big complaint about Dominion) It is also has a reasonable price point of $20 its a bargain!

If you have been reading this blog you have been thrilled by the I Fought the Law story-line. Sadly the player of Sean Hastings has dropped out of the game. The group as a whole has moved forward and we have played a few more scenarios since the last session detailed on this blog. The solution to what happened in Sri Lanaka is this: as the game moves forward, someone will drop a line about Sri Lanka, then every one eles will simply comment. “Hey, we agreed we would never say a word about what happened in Sri Lanka”

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Our cast of characters:
Dylan Eldridge – Teenage Wiz kid
Professor  Ray King – Soldier of God
Tyrone Mayfield – Werewolf on the Rise

At the University of St Thomas-Adjunct Faculty Office Ray King Finds himself doing the end of the semester clean-up when the monsignor asks him to stop in and have a chat with a student who is having some trouble.  The student, Billy Wright is freshly back from Afghanistan, and insists no one else can understand why he is hold up in his dorm room.  Ray being a vet of the first Gulf War is able to convince Billy he might understand.

Billy hems and haws but tells a story that to most would be unbelievable story of he and his squads las night in-country and a horrible atrocity committed against an Afghan village,the slaughter of the community and the village elder calling down a curse of vengeance against he and his comrades, with his last breath. The vengeance comes in the form of an Ifrit that is working its way through his comrades, immolating each one of them, Billy knows it is just a matter of time. Ray knows what he needs to do, he starts making calls to Tyrone and Dylan.

Dylan is not answering his phone. Dylan and his friend George Marcone are at George’s fathers bowling alley/bar, Memory Lanes to hopefully meet some girls at the newly established Ladies Night promotion. The place is hopping a local disco tribute band is on tap for entertainment and Dylan and George are starting to make time with some female patrons when Dylan falls to the floor with a vision of the bartender bursting into flames as the song Disco Inferno plays.

Once on his feet he explains he is fine to the onlookers and notices a sign over the bar that says “Welcome back Nick!” A bartender with a military haircut is dutifully slinging drinks. Dylan goes for his phone, and returns Ray’s call as the opening bars of Disco Inferno play over the sound system. Dylan tells Ray to get to Memory Lanes ASAP, as a humanoid dower of flame erupts from thin air and the bartender is set a blaze. Dylan quick on his feet uses cold magics from his Winter Court heritage to fight the creature and save the bar before the whole place burns. The Ifrit warns Dylan not to stop him on his mission before exiting back into the Never-never.

EMS arrived as do Ray and Tyrone. Statements are given, nobody admits to seeing a anthropomorphic pillar of fire attacking the poor bartender. After comparing notes they round up Billy and head over to the Basilica hoping that it will offer some protection from the supernatural threat.

Billy is encourage to make use of his time at the church repenting and seriously consider turning him self in for war crimes. Billy eventually after some soul searching agrees to take responsibility and turn him self in to the the military police at Fort Snelling. Ray calls detective Baker to take him into official custody and do the transport.

On the road the Ifrit strikes, manifesting in the middle of the highway. The car slams into the the creature, it appears no worse for wear. Baker and Billy run for Tyrone’s bike while Ray faces off with the Ifrit. It warns Ray not to interfere, as he like Ray, serves the Almighty and is on a quest of holy vengeance. Ray exchanges blows with the creature but is taken out of the fight, leaving the Ifrit to attack Billy.

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The Ifrit belches fire that imomolates the young man and causes the bike  the crash. Dylan arrives intime to cool down the bike with his cold magic. The Ifrit moves
on, eventually Billy’s confession is passed up the line to his unit and the remaining memebers of the squad taken into custody.

Some of you may have noticed that this story is very similar to a subplot of one of the last couple of seasons of the HBO series True Blood. You are correct I am a thief only the urban fantasy series and foreign war and names have been changed. No appologies though, it felt right for the game. 

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Earlier this summer, I picked up a copy of Dead of Winter after playing it at a friends house. It is one of the best horror or zombie apocalypse games around.

The story of the game is that you control a number of survivors at a sanctuary from the hungry dead. You are trying to survive the winter that has set in, complete story and personal goals, as well as keep the people in your colony, healthy and fed. There is also a chance someone is a traitor who has a personal goal that is cross purposes with the group as a whole.

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Turn by turn players forage for supplies, shore up defenses and try to avoid being ate by zombies, getting frostbite or just getting injured in the environment by using their survivors’ special talents

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This is accomplished via a dice pool determined by the number of survivors controlled by the player at any given time. These dice are compared to a survivor’s skill and applied to an action.

Fighting or moving between locations an exposure die is used and it determines injury, frostbite, death by zombie attack, or making it out unscathed.

Adding to the fun are the crossroads cards that toss in randomness into every turn and could bring in good or bad fortune.

The game does an amazing job of simulating the best parts of zombie apocalypse stories. There is palpable tension that builds and builds until the final turn. It gets in your head a lot more than a game like Zombicide or Last Night On Earth. While fun, they don’t bring the drama or real feelings of dread that Dead of Winter does.

If you like the zombie apocalypse genre, or co-op games with a traitor mechanic it is well worth the price.

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wpid-20150808_123909.jpgIn 2013 I made my first visit to Los Angeles, It was a good trip for many reasons,  My first trip to Disneyland, lots of amazing vegan eats, and on a trip to Vroman’s bookstore I stumbled on my new favorite series: Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Ex-Heroes is a Zombie and Superheroes mash-up set in the ruins of Los Angeles. Unlike other Zombie Supers mash ups (I’m looking at you Marvel Zombies) this is amazing and fun from beginning to end. At the moment there are four books out, with the fifth due out early in 2016.

The zombies in universe are referred to as Exes, or Ex-humans, and they are legion by the present of the books. The Exs are Romero type shamblers, but they are not moaners, their teeth chatter and clack in a cacophony of terror.

The heroes are not globe trotters, or world shakers, they are city level heroes.  Think Batman Year One, Daredevil, Spiderman and the like. Most of them fit a classic super hero archetype. Stealth is The Cowl, St George The Cape, Zzzap who is a bit like and electric Human Torch that goes to eleven.

wpid-img_20150808_123823.jpgThe Chapters are divided into THEN and NOW. I really enjoyed this set-up allowing for a good deal of world building, origin stories and how the heroes were un able to stop the undead plague despite their best efforts, as well as telling the story of the present pickle, usually with something in the past informing the current situation.

The books tread into areas familiar to readers of Powers, and a few other comics that address the effects on ordinary people in a world of super beings. How do you cope when you fear your protectors can up and leave, or inadvertently destroy your infrastructure in a super powered fist fight. Clines plays with conventions, and tropes of both superhero and zombie genres involved, making the story feel very fresh.

Don’t let those bigger questions fool you the books are fast paced, and Clines write’s superhero fights better than anyone. All while conveying a definite sense of place, the land scape of LA to me felt like a character unto itself, to the point I knew where I was when traveling around LA from remembering passages in the text.

So any way, you know you love superheroes, and you know you love zombies, why note dive in!

The books:

Ex-Heroes

Ex-Patiots

Ex-Communication

Ex-Purgatory

And coming soon…

Ex-Isle

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So for my birthday I received the third book for the Dresden Files RPG: The PARANET PAPERS. The title refers to an online network that evolved from The Midwest Arcane in the Dresden-verse.

The contents feature a lot of information about the wider world of the Dresden Files, including other eras and several well fleshed out, areas to visit (just don’t violate that Sixth Law of Magic visiting the past).

Other sections update several entries from the OUR WORLD DFRPG source book. Mixed in with this are tips for creating plot device level entities and updates to Sponsored Magic and Thaumaturgy systems.

My only real complaint is the art in the book being a little inconsistent, and a stylistic departure from the first two books in the line.  This is only a minor complaint, the book is a solid addition to the Dresden Files RPG.