Posts Tagged ‘gaming’

Were-Watch 5: The Final Frontier

November 29, 2015

It’s here!

And I might just have to review this thing. I mean, actually review it and not just mock the freaking Animal entries.

As much fun as I’ve had doing that, mind.

But this Bestiary is… Well, it’s a beast. And I mean that in both a good and bad manner.

But then again, what would you expect from the fifth in a series? It isn’t surprising.

Though there were things in this that DID surprise me. One so amazing, so great, so utterly fantastic, that I literally need to save the best for last.

So let’s go! The rules are simple: I look at a Bestiary and I delve into its Animal entries, in terms of what would happen if we were silly enough to take a random Animal and apply the Lycanthrope template to it.

Because I am that silly. Let’s roll.

Bear, Polar and Dire Polar: Well, there’s already werebears. Gives something for your Frost Giants to turn into?

Cameroceras: Um, what? Deep sea werebeasts, maybe? Or an amusing target for Teratocephalos maybe? Like I said, this book is a mix of good and bad, and this creature is a little of both.

Digmaul: An amusing mix of a big cat and a stegosaurus, lycanthropes with tail attacks in hybrid form are always fun. For you. This thing is actually based on a “fearsome critter,” and as usual, Paizo takes a tall tale and turns it into the last thing you want chasing you…

Dinosaurs: Ceratosaurus, Plesiosaurus, Therizinoosaurus and Troodon. All except that third one make  superb shifters, and even that guy would be good if you went “Attack on Fucking Titan” again, and had to describe the beast that just one-shotted the Barbarian as “comical.”

Frog, Father and Goliath: Well hello. I thought we was done with ye. Both of these guys have a tongue they can use to grab people. And the Goliath, in true Paizo naming fashion, is merely Large. While I can definitely see an issue with Animals that are the same, but different… Hell, that’s why this subject exists. For the fun factor. Also, more Swallow Whole lycanthropes! We are not the hunters…

Megafauna: Good to see you again. Chalicotherium is another potential were-sloth, this  one Large. So, “the same, but different,” it is. Kaprosuchus is a were-crocodile, though it can ram creatures with its snout (…?). Moa is a flightless bird, basically a were-ostrich. Uintatherium is… another were-rhino, though this one can bite. Overall, nothing quite as magnificent as the original were-sloth but beggars can’t be choosers.

Whale, Blue and Narwhal: The same, but different. One’s got a tusk anyway.

Wolliped: What do you mean, this isn’t a Magical Beast? These eight-legged freaks remind me of those things from Star Wars. They can even spew at their enemies. Weird-ass bugger. Not even I’m sure this is a good idea.

And because I said I was saving the best for last, we return to “A” for…

Ape, Megaprimatus: Oh my Chtulhu.This is amazing. It’s basically King Kong, as Pathfinder monster. This thing can step to creatures larger than itself, can literally tear its enemies to pieces, and it has an inborn Bite attack. This thing is great on its own. A were-version is almost overkill. I’m really rethinking my “Christmas present,” because what I was planning on, it turns out, isn’t SRD, and this is.

It probably won’t be a Lycanthrope, but rather a demonstration of a concept I’ve toyed with for awhile.  Still, if you want were-Tyranosaurus versus were-Primatus, go ahead. I won’t stop you!

And there we have it. There’s a few “bonus episodes” I’m considering doing, from the “Shit’s too easy” tab of third-party books. Very good third-party books, but even the good ones can break the game in the wrong hands.

Like mine.

See you next time.

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The Were Watch 3: I don’t have a clever title.

March 18, 2015

I haven’t posted in awhile. I really ought to fix that. More importantly, I picked up some PDFs I need to review.

But for now, something that takes no real effort! On to the Were-Watch, seeing what abominations we can create with the Lycanthrope template in Pathfinder Bestiary 3!

Dinosaur: Open the door, get on the floor. The Iguanodon would be amusing, and maybe the Pachycephalosaurus… Though given what I had to go through to spell that and I’m not even sure I got it right? Yeah, no.

Herd Animal, Antelope/Elk: Sparse offerings in this Bestiary, eh?

Giant Gecko/Giant Chameleon: Heh. In particular, a Were-Chameleon would be funny as hell. It’s a werebeast that can hide in plain sight on you. Sad that the only reason these entires are so silly is because Bestiary 3 has such slim pickings.

Marsupial, Kangaroo/Thylacine: Like I was saying. Were-kangaroo, anyone? Your players will never respect you again. The Thylacine would be pretty scary though.

Megafauna: Because the last time went so well. Archelon gives us another were-turtle (you know, like the previous ones weren’t enough). Megalania is a poisonous lizard. Because we cannot have enough were-lizards. Unfortunately, though, nothing can top the were-sloth from last time.

Giant Owl/Great Horned Owl: Who? Not me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that were-ravens once existed and I somehow forgot about them…

Giant Porcupine: Hahaha. Oh, wow. And I thought the were-kangaroo was bad. These things would make disgusting werebeasts if they kept their quills. Make a were-porcupine grappler and your players will genuinely hate you.

Giant Skunk: I’m pretty sure nobody thought someone would genuinely consider this, consider using the Lycanthrope with every Animal in the Bestiaries. Well, I did! This is the “Your Players Will Hate You” edition of the Were-Watch!

Vulture/Giant Vulture: We have owls and eagles, so why not this?

… yeah this was disappointing. Fewer animals and fewer good candidates. I think it was this Bestiary I was thinking of when I considered this topic.

Ah well. They can’t all be winners.

Until next time. Beware of were-skunks.

Were-Watch 2: There Watch!

March 7, 2015

And we’re back. I couldn’t think of anything else to cover, and I had a lot of fun with the first post, so let’s go back, and have a look at Pathfinder Bestiary 2, and see what magical creatures we can summon up this time around!

Same rules as before: Animal type, should be Small or larger. I know what I said last time, but I realize that since there ARE Huge and Gargantuan Giants out there (and one could easily apply the Giant Creature template to any Humanoid anyway), might as well include those too.

As an aside, I dug up THE CREATURE CHRONICLE, which is a fairly nice blog, dedicated to updating creatures from prior editions (primarily 2e, 3e and 4e, but also some Alternity and other weird stuff) to Pathfinder. I found him in another search for Were-Lions, and dug up the Were-Raven. Damn, but I forgot these things existed. Anyway, I bring this up because the Raven is usually a Familiar monster, and, as a result, is way too gimpy to be used for the Lycanthrope. So he based them on the Eagle’s stats instead.

Just sayin’.

Badger, Dire Badger: Used to exist. They were primarily Dwarves, making them the most fun of the “stupid racial Lycanthrope” group in my book. They’re hilarious. A werebeast with a Burrow speed would be awful… for your players.

Bat, Mobat: An even scarier version of the Were-Bat, the Were-Mobat would be an adequate adversary… One that all too often is mistaken for a vampire. Keep your players guessing!

Dinosaur: More fun with dinos. The Allosaurus would be a good replacement for the T-Rex if a big enough Giant isn’t available. The Tylosaurus would be a nasty surprise if you want to make your players wish for a bigger boat.  Beyond that, kind of a weak offering. Not silly so much as… Eh.

Gar/Giant Gar: Werefish. It makes only minimal sense but it’s still pretty amusing. Plus, again, the tactic of grabbing the wizard and pulling her beneath the water is still a valid one for all aquatic life with grab attacks.

Camel: Some men see things as they are, and ask “Why?” I dream things that never should be and ask… “Is anyone actually gonna read these topics and find them useful?”

Ram: Dodge this! I actually think this would be neat. Were-ram! I’m not 100% sure if creatures lacking bite attacks work, but since the Curse of Lycanthropy is transferred through the bite, presumably they’d gain one? I don’t know. I exist to break things.

Hippopotamus/Behemoth: Don’t laugh. The hippo is among the deadliest land animals, with some of the strongest jaws on Earth. If you saw fit to laugh at a were-hippo, you would not be doing so for very long…

Megafauna: Now we get to the other reason I made this topic. It’s to explore these insane things. They appear to be the ancent ancestors to modern mammals. And they’re silly. Well, they’d be useful for settings that require them… But they’re also Animals. Meaning possible valid targets for Lycanthrope. In particular is the Glyptodon- Though we will return to were-turtles later- And the Megatherium, who would result in a WERE-SLOTH. That’s why I made this topic. For were-sloths!

Primate, Baboon: Like the great ape, only not quite as great, and with a shiny red ass. Why am I doing this again? Oh, right. For the laughs.

Manta Ray/Stingray: Yeah I got nothing. I’d almost rather use the Monstrous Lycanthrope template from the Advanced Bestiary to make a Were-Cloaker, instead of this…

Emperor Cobra/Giant Anacona: BEHOLD ONCE MORE, THE MIGHTY WERE-SNAKE! Because why not? Giant Anaconda because we don’t have enough giant werebeasts yet.

Giant Toad: BEHOLD ONCE MORE, THE MIGHTY WERE-FROG! Sometimes, I question my sanity. Other times, I realize one cannot question that which never existed.

Snapping Turtle/Giant Snapping Turtle: Between these and the Glyptodon, we’re getting about as far as we can with were-turtles. Well, almost. We’ll visit this again at least one more time, I think… The Giant Snapping Turtle would be a werebeast that can eat your party members. Okay. NOW, it’s Attack on Fucking Titan.

Whale/Giant Whale: I fear not even I think this is an especially good idea. And I’m trying to defend Were-Rams.

After going through two Bestiaries and looking only for Animals, I realize the truth of that age old saying: Just because you can, doesn’t mean that you should.

This doesn’t mean we’re done, however. I still got two more Bestiaries to sift through, with more amusing results.

Also, just like with werebeasts, expect this topic to change suddenly…

The Were-Watch

March 6, 2015

Some five years ago, I said something about my love of Gargoyles.

Still need to get to that. Why the hell are they Always Chaotic Evil, anyway…?

But for now, I think we’ll do something a little more recent for me: My newfound love of the Lycanthrope template.

For those of you unfamiliar, a brief history: When 3rd Edition Dungeons & Dragons launched in 2000, it brought with it a vast multitude of improvements. One of these improvements was the Template.

These would show up in creature books, and rather than being a creature themselves, they’re something you slap onto a creature, to change their attributes.

Some of these templates more or less make a new monster. Examples of this include the Half-Fiend and Half-Dragon templates.

Others simply helped eliminate a lot of duplicate entries from 2nd Edition D&D, like the Vampire and Lich template.

For a clue as to how influential Templates were to 3rd Edition, look no further than Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary, a book so beloved among fans that it was recently resurrected for Pathfinder. Either version contains no new monsters, simply new Templates… Over a hundred of them, to be precise. Paizo describes the current version as “force multiplier.”

They’re right.

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.

On the subject of eliminating extraneous monster entries, this streamlining includes the Lycanthrope template. Formerly, there were all these complex rules for who could and couldn’t catch Lycanthropy. In the beginning, only Humans could. I think if another humanoid succumbed to Lycanthropy, they died instead of becoming a werebeast.

The TSR designers must have realized this was dumb.

Unfortunately, their response was even dumber- the creation of werebeasts… unique to a particular race. The only two I remember right now are the Werefox, who were elves, and the Werebadger, who were Dwarves.

The Lycanthrope template fixes most of these problems: You take a creature with the Humanoid type (as in, something that is human or close to it, so elves, gnomes, dwarves, halflings, these all count too…), and a creature of the Animal type, do some jiggery pokery, and viola; You have a werebeast.

Despite the existence of this template, the Pathfinder Bestiaries still contain new Lycanthropes. Most of them are ones we’d want to have quick access to.

That isn’t what this post is about.

This is about finding animals you’d never want to use as Lycanthropes. The rejects. The trash.

Or the just plain weird.

What does this have to do with Gargoyles? It demonstrates the stupidity and weirdness at the center of WHY I LOVE THIS GAME.

So allow me to present the first ever edition of… The Were-Watch.

The rules are simple: It must be an Animal, and it should be any size that isn’t Tiny or Colossal. Tiny I suppose could be used by Small creatures, but Colossal could only be used by Humanoids who were already Gargantuan or Colossal themselves. We’re getting into some Attack on Titan shit with that, so yeah.

The other rule is, it should be an Animal that doesn’t have an associated Lycanthrope already. At least, not one I’m aware of.  Sharks are out, because of Creatures of Freeport, for example. Weretigers and werebears return in a later Bestiary… And aren’t weird enough for this series anyway.

Let’s start with Pathfinder Bestiary 1, to whet our appetites.

Ape/Dire Ape: We start with a fun one. So much fun that I’m amazed it doesn’t exist, and frankly, it probably does, somewhere. Given its utility for jungle environs, to say nothing of being evocative of the Conan-esque fantasy some fans grew up on, these guys aren’t actually a bad idea. Wereape. Get rekt, scrub. (As an aside, I attempted to check for Were-Apes on Google and got “were apes around with the dinosaurs,” which I of course read as “Were-Apes around with the dinosaurs;” a story I probably should write…)

Dire Bat: It turns out this exists. I’m gonna talk about it anyway. I know I read at least one D&D adventure that used Werebats. I’ve known many people whose favorite Batman: The Animated Series villain was Man-Bat. I’d be upset if this thing DIDN’T exist. They’re frigging scary, because the only thing worse than a werebeast is one that can fly…

Cat, Cheetah: It’s the cheese that goes crunch? I don’t know, could take these guys seriously, kind of a sub-equatorial answer to the Werewolf empires of old…

Cat, Leopard: Turns out this thing exists. Why, I could not tell you. Wait, no. It’s because of the desire for Adventure Paths to include new monsters as often as possible. This will result in weirdness. Weird is not necessarily bad, mind you.

Dinosaurs: Okay I’m sure these have to exist. … Nope, not according to Google. In particular, the Deinonychus is an amusing option, as is the Pteranodon. Triceratops is Huge, meaning your Giants can probably make use of him. T-Rex is here but he’s Gargantuan, limiting his use, outside of Giants. Still, Giants that are Dinosaur werebeasts is an amusing and terrifying thought. I mean, why the hell not? Lost World-styled locales, ancient empires of Dinosaur shifters! It’s the kind of shit I live for.

Dog/Riding Dog: Sure. Why not? The Dog stats say they can be used for Coyotes, Jackals and other such things, meaning we get a lot of our canine werebeasts right here. Amusing at any rate.

Dolphin/Orca: Sure. Why not? I remember reading some Cthulhu Mythos stories that held the Dolphins were some breed of servant to Cthulhu. Indeed, they’re not the happy, cheerful creatures New Agers like to think they are. The stat block mentions dolphins killing sharks with their snouts, so I imagine battles between Weredolphins and Weresharks. Keep your players off balance and they’ll never know what to expect.

Eagle/Giant Eagle: These don’t seem to exist either. Their utility to Native American folklore and a general concept of, you know, being a freaking EAGLE SHIFTER forces me to wonder why. I’m realizing this post is quickly becoming less “Ha ha, this is stupid!” and more “Wait, why doesn’t this exist?”

Electric Eel/Giant Moray Eel: I was afraid this existed but Eagles did not. Well, as it turns out, though I’ve found evidence people have made homebrew stuff involving were-eels, but nothing official. Thank Mima.  I’d need to reconsider this whole topic…

Elephant/Mastodon: Could be a good companion to were-dinosaurs. I mean, stampeding elephants are scary. Giants are scary. So, stampeding giants would be even scarier! … We think.

Giant Frog/Posion Frog: Okay. Now we get silly. I mean, Boggards and stuff already exist so why would you ever use these? because sometimes, silly is what you want. Also, much like with the were-dolphin, confusing the hell out of your players is what you want too.

Goblin Dog: Has anyone noticed this? The Goblin Dog has the Animal type. Goblins have the Humanoid type. This makes them good- if not necessarily ideal- candidates for Goblin Were-Goblin Dogs. They’d keep the Allergic Reaction ability, and generally would be absolutely horrifying low-level werebeasts.  … This game has been out since 2009. I can’t be the first person in six years to have noticed this, can I? Please, tell me I’m not…

Herd Animal, Aurochs/Bison: MESS WITH THE BULL AND YOU GET THE HORNS! Admitted, Minotaurs already exist, but hey. Could use both. Again, people are expecting wolves and rats. They’re not expecting Bison…

Horse/Pony: I don’t recommend it. I mean, sure, you always COULD, but at that point, why wouldn’t you just play Ponyfinder instead…?

Hyena/Dire Hyena: Though they’d have a decent amount of utility, I noticed something: For some bizarre reason, Gnolls have the Humanoid type, when they really ought to be a Monstrous Humanoid. This means you can have a Gnoll Were-Hyena. There’d be no way to tell when they shifted into Hybrid form. They’d look exactly the same! There could be generations of Gnoll tribes, suffering from Lycanthropy and nobody ever actually noticed! You have no idea how much I am laughing as I type this out. Seriously, that’s some funny shit.

Lion/Dire Lion: Frankly, I’m surprised this one doesn’t exist. I’m aware of one from Kobold Press, sure. But nothing from Paizo, it seems. Really, this one just makes too much sense, especially considering how many cultures revered lions. Also, who doesn’t like lion-men? I’m surprised at how many of these ideas I’m digging…

Monitor Lizard/Giant Frilled Lizard: Confession time. About seven years ago, when I was on Wizard’s own message boards for 3.5e, I was a Character Optimization (CharOpt for short) regular. I was the natural weapons master- one of them, anyway- and the old Soul Eater thread? That was mine. Anyway, later, someone did a thread on optimizing Lycanthropes, and listed the Monitor Lizard as one of the best options to play as. It’d be bloody hilarious to play as one. The looks on people’s faces… That whole episode is likely what most inspired this post. And to think, I’m still crazy, after all these years…

Octopus/Giant Octopus: Hehehe. This would look silly, until one grabs the party Wizard and drowns her. In particular, the Giant version’s eight tentacle attacks would be bad news for any young adventurer- Regardless of gender.

Rhinoceros/Wooly Rhinoceros: See Elephants above. Also, Rocksteady says “Hi.”

Roc: I was looking forward to this one, because it IS an Animal… But it’s Gargantuan. Eh. You know what? Attack on Fucking Titan it is. The true rulers of the Eagle empire were the Roc Lords! … Damn, that actually sounds like a good idea…

Constrictor Snake/Venomous Snake: More shades of Conan here. I don’t know. I kinda like this idea. Horrible servants of the Yuan-ti/Serpentfolk? Hmm…

Squid/Giant Squid: Octopi were a go, why not squids? Still no fun for either gender though…

Wolverine/Dire Wolverine: You got a problem, bub? Yeah I don’t know why you’d use this, except to make a lot of really bad jokes/pop culture refs.

Well… This was interesting. I was expecting more lulz but instead discovered actual good ideas here. I’m surprised, honestly.

Pleasantly so.

I may return to this topic soon.  Until then, take care, and beware of Werefrogs.

I love monsters. Cracked, not so much.

March 5, 2015

Okay, so. Found this recently: 15 Retarded Dungeons and Dragons Monsters.

And I thought I’d have a  look at it. Because I have a few issues with it.

First issue is the use of the term “retarded;” That’s just not a word I think needs to be used as a synonym for “dumb.”

Because D&D has some extremely dumb monsters. Even 3rd Edition did. Might have a look at some of those losers myself, someday.  For now, this thing.

15) Roving Mauler: An unfortunate beast from Tome of Magic. That book had its fair share of dumb, dumb, DUMB monsters (some of which I might return to), and the Roving Mauler… Isn’t actually the worst of them. No, that would be the Tooth Beast… In fact, it doesn’t really deserve a spot on this list. See, there’s a few entries on this list wherein I found myself saying “Does this guy know ANYTHING about mythology?” Apparently not, for if he did, he’d know that this thing is meant to be a representation of Buer, who is indeed a lion’s head with a wheel of feet surrounding it. I admit, typing that out, it does sound a bit silly, but mythology is, at times, silly. We’ll get back to that.

14) Gelatinous Cube: … Okay, I’ll give him this one. The Cube has been in D&D for decades now, and while he misrepresents how dangerous one is- if it manages to slide over you, it simply absorbs you and then begins to eat you- it’s a stupid creature. Amorphous life exists. It does not take the form of a cube. No creature takes the form of a cube. I will never use a Cube in my games, because I’ll accept a world where floating collections of eyestalks with no visible genitals or sphincters exist, but not one where, opposed to how any life evolves, a perfectly square ooze exists…

13) Knell Beatle: … Okay. I’ll give him this one…

12) Senmurv:  Seriously. How hard is  it to look things up on Wikipedia? I admit, the tropical bird feathers are a tad ridiculous, but this is more a result of shoddy art than the creature itself being dumb. This article over-analyzes art, and seems to care very little for the creatures themselves. Case in point…

11) Demilich. Has this guy even played D&D?  To sum up briefly: A Lich is a wizard who, in his desire for power and knowledge, has abandoned his mortality to become an undead monster. Think Skeletor, only minus the lisp and actually threatening. A Demilich is one who has existed for such a long time that it, in turn, abandons most of its body, leaving only its skull behind while its spirit walks the infinite planes in search of even more foul and forbidden lore. Anyone foolish enough to rouse the skull from its torpor will quickly discover that its spellcasting abilities are intact, and it can devour souls now as well. Far from “waiting for a party of heroes to smack it out of the air like a piñata,” this thing was, is, and likely always will be, one of the meanest, nastiest forms of “TPK-in-a-can” that exists in D&D.

10) Brain in a Jar: Again, another example of this guy either not reading the entry for the creature, or simply refusing to care, the Brain in a Jar is unlikely to be alone, and has a selection of psionic abilities to keep enemies at bay. Yes, you could probably just kick it over… If you can get close enough.

9) Digester: I’m not even going to try to defend this loser…

8) Moon Rats: What, you don’t think Moon Rats are awesome? It’s a rat that plots to overthrow civilization. I’m also pretty sure they don’t completely lose their intelligence in the day. Even if they do, they’re probably smart enough to work around this weakness. And they’re not really distinguishable from normal rats. Paranoia Fuel, man…

7) Ash Rats: Pretty sure I  don’t have the book these things are in, but they are not on fire, they are made of fire. Makes it a very different ball game, I’m afraid.

 6) Grell: I’m sorry. These things are fucking scary. Creepy as hell and more than capable of tearing a grown man apart, yes, D&D overdoes the whole “floating” thing, but you know. It’s magic. They don’t have to explain it…

5) Atropal: Again, this guy doesn’t seem to have played a lot of D&D. Or any RPG for that matter. An Atropal is a nascent godling, killed before it could even truly be born. It is not a mortal fetus (as an undead fetus would be unsettling, but probably harmless) but rather, the stillborn remains of a god. Even dead gods in D&D still have some kind of power. An undead god? It’s the kind of thing that keeps people awake at night…

4) Hippocampus: Intelligent sea creatures use them as underwater mounts. I admit the horse head is nonsensical, but someone might have been thinking of a Kelpie…

3) Porcupine Cactus: There are actual plants in our world that undergo reproduction by exploding. It’s not as stupid as it sounds. Though, I admit, this thing should have been a hazard, not a creature…

2) Anguillian: Yeah. I have no idea why these things use spears either… Otherwise, I think they’re pretty intimidating and I have no idea why they’re so high up on this list. Why, it’s almost like he looked through art and just picked the strangest-looking things he could find, and then made snarky, out of context commentary about them. My word, what could ever give me that impression?

1) Gelun: Oh. Right. I admit the concept is a bit bizarre, and yeah, while frozen, a Gelun is utterly helpless. That’s kind of the point. They’re meant to be pathetic. Creatures that once had a destiny elsewhere, who now cannot live in environments lower than a hundred degrees farenheit. They have some formidable powers, and are dangerous in groups, but for the most part, are just kind of sad. Not every monster is going to be as threatening as a Pit Fiend, or as intimidating as a dragon. Some are just going to be pitiful.

Overall… Yeah, it has some losers on it, but it didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of even MM1. I mean, the Ethereal Filcher? The Destrichan? No mention at all of the Bulette? I’d say I expect better from Cracked, but I really don’t.

I need to look into this topic myself someday soon.

 

A Beast A Day Keeps… Something, I don’t know…

March 4, 2015

This is  just a quicky,

While researching various creatures for Pathfinder, I kept finding The Daily Bestiary.  After the third or so time he came up in a Google search, I figured… what the hell. I’m updating again, people are apparently reading me again (And I thank you!) so why not?

This guy’s pretty neat. The main gimmick is, he diligently goes through the Pathfinder Bestiaries, in alphabetical order, and explains some details about the creature in question, then gives three adventure hooks.

For every monster.

Even ridiculous shit like the Immense Tortoise.

The thing I’ve discovered is, the best adventure hooks seem to always be stolen from a movie… But that’s not such a bad thing. If anything, it teaches us that ideas can come from anywhere. I probably will start making posts on what I call “gaming theory” or “shop” soon, and I’ll explain such things in due time.

He also once did some posts on the best 3.5e books for Pathfinder DMs. Yeah click on that and go to “next day” a few times to find them all. His list is obviously biased… But part of what convinced me I need to read this guy is, so many of the books he’s listed are some of my favorites. (Also I own over half of them. Many are exactly as good as he describes. Yes, even Serpent Kingdoms. Surprised me too.)

He’s pretty good, overall.

And he’s better at updating than I am, so there’s that.

The Bloodstone Disaster, Part 3: What’s my motivation?

March 1, 2015

I’d like to digress for a moment,to touch upon the plot of Bloodstone, and hopefully make clear where many of the issues lied.

From what I recall, the first part, “Bloodstone Pass,” begins with the party arriving in the titular area in the wake of a war that has left many homeless and penniless. Soon, the town is under attack by an army consisting of humans, orcs, giants and other nasty doings, and it’s up to the heroes to save the town. Eventually, they discover where the enemy is camped, and crush them, ending the threat, only to discover that Bloodstone’s real woes began when their mine had been overrun some time before…

In “The Mines of Bloodstone,” the group must enter the mines beneath the town, in order to restore them to production. What starts as a pretty standard cleaning operation quickly turns ugly, when it’s discovered that the Duergar- the dark dwarves were using a passage from the Underdark to overrun the mine. This leads the party deeper, into the massive underground world, including a giant temple, carved in the shape of the head of Orcus, the demon lord of the undead. Eventually, enough threats are stamped out, leading to the mines being restored, and Bloodstone becoming a regional power once more.

Enter “The Bloodstone Wars.” Here’s where my details get fuzzy. I know it involves the group coming under constant attack, for they have become the leaders of Bloodstone in a previous entry, The Grandfather of Assassins, whom they’ve thwarted before, has returned to put an end to their threat, and powerful enemies gather at their borders. Eventually, the heroes discover that the force behind all of the attacks was none other than Orcus himself.

Finally, in “The Throne of Bloodstone,” you must venture through enemy strongholds, fight for access to the Abyss, find Orcus’ home plane, steal the symbol of his power, the deadly Wand of Orcus, and, finally, defeat the dark god Tiamat, using her blood to destroy the Wand. WHY you’re doing any of this is beyond my understanding.

Along the way, there are all sorts of outlandish things: An entire fortress of assassins, massive dragons, cities filled with zombies, a treacherous cruise down the River Styx, mercury pools that summon demons… It’s all the lovely shit that makes me such a fan of RPGs in general, and Dungeons & Dragons in particular. Seriously, the Bloodstone Series has potential.

Which leads into my big problem with how Yoni ran things: All we ever got was a glimpse of this potential. We were being lead on what was effectively a room-by-room tour, with us craning our necks, desperate get a better view of what must surely be a fantastic place.

Instead, as I described previously, “We want to do this!” was met with denial, time and time again. Leading me into the final phases of Bloodstone. After a year of being railroaded, and trying to get Yoni to do a better job, only to find him pretty much unresponsive to criticism time and again, most of us were done, and just wanted to see where it all came tumbling down.

That wound up being “The Throne of Bloodstone.”

This adventure was designed to end campaigns: Deadly encounters, fiendish traps, an inability to heal once you reach the Abyss, and the Abyss itself being a maze of corridors, tunnels and dimensional portals, where the wrong turn meant an almost certain death… And there were almost nothing but wrong turns. Seriously, almost every major demon lord and dark god who was active at the time Bloodstone was printed could show up in this chapter.

It would take a Dungeon Master of great prowess to hammer this thing down into a workable adventure. We didn’t have a DM of great prowess. We had Yoni. He continued his strategy of trying to run the adventures as printed, just with minor changes for 4e stats, and while that worked to some extent in previous entries, it fell completely apart here. The adventure was just not designed to be run this way.

The most egregious event would have to be the fight at the Abyss portal. You were meant to fight an ancient Lich, an undead spellcaster of terrifying power. The problem is, there weren’t any 4e stats for a lich of that power level. Anyone who’s prepared a game for any edition of D&D knows that you can build almost anything, it just takes time and effort. Effort Yoni consistently refused to put in. Instead of building a Lich for us to fight, he attempted to use the highest level lich in print for 4th Edition.

This would be Vecna. Vecna is a god.

Yes, most gods in 4th Edition were statted at Level 35- of a maximum 30 levels- and their stats are usually quite bad. I don’t know how any party is supposed to defeat them. Hell, I don’t even know how most parties were meant to HIT them; Their defenses are too damn high. Vecna was nine levels above us at the time. He would have wiped us out. Yoni eventually lowered its stats by a bit, giving us a fighting chance. Well, it turned into what I termed “dice-rolling exercises,” where we’d spend an hour trying to whittle down the Solo monsters he kept throwing at us.

Oh right, forgot to explain this. See, 4th Edition is a game I generally liked. It was simple to run, fun, had some nice flavor, it just suffered from ludicrsly poor management from Wizards of the Coast. It also suffered from a tier system for monsters, where they were given ranks, such as Minion, Elite, Leader and Solo.

You know. Like in online games.

Solo monsters were meant to challenge an entire party by themselves, they were designed to be huge “boss monster” encounters that were a legitimate threat, the equal to four heroes of the same level as it.

Problem being, they didn’t work.

Most Solos, as designed, had no way of mitigating the absurd number of debuffs and status ailments a 4th Edition party could dish out. Over the last seven years, numerous people online have tried to rework the Solo rank into something that actually, you know, functions. While many of their experiments were interesting, I fear none were terribly successful, and it’s not their fault. The Solo is just that goddamned bad. I eventually stopped using them AS Solo encounters, instead using weaker Solos with some muscle for backup. It was effective, and my group didn’t at all mind. Besides, I’d already seen what would happen: The party would pop all of its stuns, holds, slows, and so on, and debuff the enemy into oblivion. Then, the Solo was often nothing more than a meat shield, and the party just had to chip away at it, like a giant Jawbreaker made out of hit points. That last line sums up most of Yoni’s combats for much of the campaign, not-Vecna fight included.

Eventually, we reached the end. Oh and what an ending it was.

The Bloodstone Disaster, Part 2: The War on Fun

February 28, 2015

A few weeks later, the game began in earnest. As my job often had me closing on Thursdays, I was present for only parts of H1, H2 and H3, not being able to consistently attend until H4, so my reports will be fragmentary.

But I think they’ll be enough. I’ll speak to the players who attended more of this, and see if I’m missing anything too important.

But for now, here’s what I know.

H1, “Bloodstone Pass,” like the others, was written for what I THINK was 1st Edition, but it kind of doesn’t matter. What matters is what it WASN’T written for, and that, obviously, was 4th Edition D&D.

This would require conversion.
Conversion requires effort.
Yoni did not put nearly enough effort into converting the adventures, and we’ll look into this in greater detail once we get to H4, but for now, the big problem with H1.

BattleSystem.

A mass combat system, designed for use in D&D, I know very little about it, save for the fact that module H1, “Bloodstone Pass,” required use of it. Many of the scenarios in question could only be meaningfully resolved through BattleSystem.

This is a problem, and became the first real sign of Yoni’s limitations as a DM.

A smart Dungeon Master would, say, cut out the mass battles completely, finding ways to scale them down to more personalized combats the characters are directly involved in.

A clever DM would find, or create, a system that simulated mass combat while streamlining the experience. Burns, one of my players and one present for this game, had at one point designed such a system.

Yoni did neither of these things. Instead, he first attempted to run BattleSystem under 4e, an endeavor which bored our players to tears. He then attempted to graft on a number of systems to 4e, in particular, a Warhammer Miniatures conversion… One he never bothered to read himself, and expected his players to explain it to him.

It’s a good thing I was working Thursday nights, because, had I been present, it’s around this time that I would have lead a mutiny.

You might be asking yourself, “Wait, why did he have to do ANY of these things? Why use mass combat at all, if the players weren’t feeling it, and the game couldn’t support it?”

And the answer is quite simple, really.

“Because that’s how the adventure was written.”

Yoni’s views on the Bloodstone Series were as follows: They were among the greatest adventures ever written, and, as a result, had to be treated as holy writ; as canon, in the strictest sense of the term, something to be read and pondered over, but never questioned and, Mima forbid, never altered in any meaningful way.

You’re probably already seeing where the logic in refusing to update modules written nearly 30 years and three editions ago might run into some snags. The way I understand it is, most sessions went more of less as follows.

Players: “We want to do this.”
Yoni: “You can’t.”
Players: “Why not?”
Yoni: “Because what’s actually next is this.”

And then, he would point to the book, and proceed to read off whatever “this” was, including things he probably ought not have been reading, as they were primarily DM-only material.

This meant that roughly nine of the eighteen months the campaign took to play out consisted of listening to Yoni droningly reading off canned exposition.

Anyone who ever made a joke about putting “Detect Boxed Text” on your spell list, I have now found the DM that made this choice worthwhile. Myself, I got a Ring of Dull Exposition, which had a constant Detect Boxed Text effect…

This however meant that we had very little agency- Our characters were who we were told they’d be. We did what the DM said we would do. We went places and wandered about on maps, all to a schedule Yoni had put into place before we’d even begun.

So, I suppose the real question is, if we were all so displeased, why did we keep attending? Partially because it was something to do, but also, because at least three of us, myself included, were waiting for the train wreck. We were waiting for the moment that it all went wrong.

That only happened when Yoni’s train reached its last stop, at the corner of Irony and Justice, that dread station known as Inevitability.

Opening the Eaves

February 26, 2015

My computer’s been down, see, so I haven’t had much to do. I have an Android tablet a friend so graciously (re) gifted to me at Christmas, and an iPad Mini purchased back in 2012 so I could play Pinball Arcade (I am dead fucking serious… You ever suffer from buyer’s guilt for three years straight…?), so I’ve not been completely despondent.

One of the things I’ve done was look through my old posts here at Long Exile Gaming.

I reviewed music, I made some commentary on gaming, I made impolitic statements about the giant robots in Pathfinder, I wrote apparently the only negative review of Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game on the entire internet (and probably should have written Green Races as positive to balance this out), and snarked to my heart’s content.

Yeah… we had a lot of fun here, didn’t we?

Why don’t we get back to that?

I can’t promise I’ll always have something to write about, and indeed, you can probably expect more Standard Apologies.

But I’m back. And I think we’ll lead off with the only thing you can lead off with: A sign of how much has changed in five short years…

Join me, won’t you?

Product Review – Book of the Damned Vol.2: Lords of Chaos

January 28, 2011

WTF!

THERE IS A GARGOYLE DEMON LORD!!!!!

ZOMG! FIVE STARS! RPG SUPPLEMENT OF 2010!

BEST.

BOOK.

EVER.

… Ahem, sorry about that. I still DO need to make that post on Gargoyles, don’t I? I know I do, I just can’t understand why I like them so damn much. But for now, things that actually matter.

Some time ago, Paizo Publishing released Book of the Damned: Princes of Darkness, a book detailing the Nine Hells in the Pathfinder setting of Golarion. I admit, this was a pure impulse buy, based almost solely upon finding a post on Paizo’s store blog that previewed Princes of Darkness, with an entry on Moloch. Who was described as an entity of pure hellfire, barely contained within a suit of rusting black armor.

Anyone who has EVER said that the Devils are boring? Can officially suck it.

So I picked it up, and yeah, it’s good. It’s great, in fact, as the other eight Princes are awesome too, the details on how Hell works are neat, and the new monsters? People, I’m not even running Pathfinder and I want to use some of these things. Simply put, if you run D&D, Pathfinder, whatever, if you’ve EVER loved Devils, get Princes of Darkness. It’s worth it.

Naturally, when a second Book of the Damned was announced, detailing the Abyss and its demons, I wanted it too. The Abyss is an environment as old as Dungeons & Dragons itself, with everyone having a favorite Demon Lord (Juiblex, in my case), and after seeing Paizo’s take on the Hells? Well, who wouldn’t want this book? Sadly, as Christmas was kind of bad, money-wise (well, everything-wise, but this is a WordPress blog, not a Livejournal…), I wasn’t able to get it until this week.

So, is it as good as the first volume? Not exactly, but only because the first was hard to top.

Written by James Jacobs, softcover, full color, 60-odd pages, $19.99 USD MSRP.

Everything that was in Volume 1 is present here: The fiction with its strange, difficult to read text (true low point of the book; no marks deducted, however), the beautiful, high-quality color art for the monsters, and more information in a lean 60 pages than Wizards of the Coast can pack into nearly 200.

That said, this thing is a little more scattered than the first. As the Nine Hells only have, well, nine layers, nine unique realms, that means only nine Princes. The Abyss, however, has more. A lot more. Infinitely more, or 657 more, depending on who you ask. So of course there are not 600 demon lords in this book. That would just be silly. And pretty useless, really.

But this does have well over 40. Obviously, since one of Golarion’s gods, Lamshutu, makes her home in the Abyss, she is detailed here, with two pages of info, which is more than any other single lord gets, most of them getting about half a page. There’s a lot in those half-pages, however.

I mean, you have your usual ones, you know, madness, pain, torture, apes, stuff like that. But then it gets weird. Things like Aldinach, the lord of scorpions, sand, and thirst, who is worshiped in the vast deserts of Golarion. She herself IS a massive scorpion, with claws of horribly sharp crystal. Then we have Flauros, lord of salamanders, fire and volcanoes, who appears as a massive reptilian monstrosity made from molten lava. Jezelda is the being worshiped by the werewolves as a god, though, sadly, her interest is only in werewolves. Still, that’s pretty cool. And yes, there is Xoveron, the lord of ruins, gluttony, and gargoyles, whose form is a gargoyle bearing four arms, four heads, and twenty horns. Bad ass. I am using this thing. Somehow. Some way.

But the one who stands out most in my mind is Nugral, the demon lord of the sun. Yes, you read that right: He’s an evil sun god. His worshipers do not fear the light of day, and bring a whole new meaning to the whole “Light is Not Good” trope…

Like I said: It’s weird. But that’s a good thing… Especially in dealing with demons.

Then we have a few demon lords fans of D&D will no doubt recognise. Pazuzu, Orcus, Kostiche and Dagon return, among others, all in styles similar to ones they used in 3.5e, and that’s not very strange. I mean, they are mythological figures and thus public domain.

But then we have ones I assumed were owned by Wizards: Juiblex. Socothbenoth. Possibly others. Now I know Paizo isn’t stupid (They’re not Fast Forward Entertainment, after all, dear GOD no), so there must be a reason they can use these things. Either way, I’m not unhappy to see them, I just thought it was strange.

One thing I would like to point out is that the Demon Lords section begins with a note on doing battle with them: Simply put, Pathfinder says “You can’t,” as they are effectively Demigods in power, well beyond the scope of the usual game. In light of Dungeon & Dragons 4th Edition’s heavy focus on battling Demon Lords or gods once you hit level 30, to say nothing of Paizo’s love of battling both, Demon Lords and Gods (as you fight one of each in the Paizo Adventure Paths published in Dungeon Magazine) this seems somewhat strange. I couldn’t tell you why they did this, but I suppose it does not matter. Just something I thought I’d mention.

From there, details on demonic cults, notes on various forms of demons and their roles, and several new types of demons… And in comparison to the section on demon lords, these chapters are pretty lean. I suppose after giving enough information for years of campaigns, one does not need to do much more, but again, it seems somewhat sparse.

Still, that’s A LOT of info to cram into 60 pages, and at $20, it’s a solid purchase, especially for Pathfinder players, and Abyss fans of any edition of D&D.

… AND IT HAS A GARGOYLE DEMON LORD! THAT IS FREAKING AWESOME!

… ahem, sorry…