Friday, November 29, 2013

End of days for Dungeon a Day *Updated*?

Update on a kickstarter winding down. I signed on for the original Dungeon a Day with Monte Cook but petered out at the first year renewal (87 bucks was a lot of money, having to screen capture every room for download a total pain, but I sure as heck wasn't paying extra for .pdfs). I think the dungeon could have used a few empty rooms as well. However, I always wonder about how it finished (Monte himself hit the silk about year two). As such I was quick to sign up for the renewed kickstarter (see prior post) when it appeared a year ago summer. After all a pledge level with all .pdfs was only $50, significantly less than what I payed for the yearly subscription model. Although it took a little time for the site to be up and running (I didn't get my login until October), once I was in I went and grabbed all the .pdfs I could lay my hands on. Posted a few comments on the forum, read a few other posts (mostly on the lack of posts) and forgot about it. When I got another note this September about my subscription running out, I logged on again grabbed everything I had missed the first pass and prepared to call it over. Tried the "renew here" button, as least to get price for renewal (Unfortunately Monte is still better than Hyrum Savage, so I was unlikely to pay $50 for another year), when the "renew here" page crashed I figured it was the end. However, here's where it gets weird on the day after expiration a kickstarter message goes out saying no one is expiring, everyone will be carried forward until the pathfinder update of the original dungeon is complete. So I log in again, the site accepts my login, but I can't access any of the the downloads (today I seem to be able to access the forums). I send a e-mail to complain, I receive no response. I read in the gaming news feeds that the guy who I am e-mailing has left Super Genius Games to found his own company. Based on the above I am declaring this kickstarter over (note that I am not very good at predicting the end of these, I seem to still have stuff dribbling from kickstarters over so long ago I had forgotten them [thanks for my subscription adventures Frog God]). What does this mean? well I will cease to worry about and won't hold my breath for another update. Am I disappointed in this kickstarter? No, not really, I got my $50 worth and I din't really need a Pathfinder conversion (I have no trouble converting to Pathfinder on the fly by substituting similar monsters from the pathfinder monster book and using those). I am a bit disappointed in Super Genius Games inability to keep their promises, and may not sign up for another kickstarter with them. I am bit concerned whether the departing individuals new company Rogue Genius Games will be more reliable. I also wonder if the split had anything to with the dungeonaday renewal. I suspect the onus of completing the promises of the kickstarter fall to Super Genius Games, but I am not holding my breath.

P.S. Both Super Genius's and Rogue Genius's websites are non-functional, but it appears that Rogue Genius is having a clearance sale on DriveThruRPG

P.P.S. I received a notice that my subscription was expiring December 31th, so it must have been active. Hyrum also sent a nice update to everyone saying that their subscriptions will be renewed again without further payment. However, since there has been no new content at my subscription level for month, I am not sure I'll worry about it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Numenera first pass (halfway) through

Numenera leaves me conflicted. I gave a pass to the kickstarter because Science Fiction isn't really my thing. However once the game hit the street, the buzz was that it was really Science Fantasy (more planescape than star wars) and had several unique and novel play features that sounded intriguing to me. Was going to buy the .pdf, but the local game store owner indicated he had some hardcover copies on order. Unfortunately the hardcover didn't make to the store I had requested them from until November, so I am bit behind the power curve. However, I am doing my best to get through the book, so I can give you a review. No actual play experience, never the less here are my comments based on my read through.

First impressions include gorgeous artwork, well written prose, a sidebar annotation layout which really very helpful. Owners of Monte Cook's previous masterwork Ptolus will recognize these features. The combat and skill system core mechanic is straight forward, roll a d20 try to beat a target number. I thought the idea of being able to spend effort to lower the target number was intriguing. The character creation system at first glance seems very free form and open. One starts one character by filling in the statement "I am an adjective noun who verbs". So far very good, similar to my favorite character generation system from Over the Edge (Pick three things your good at, one weakness, and one secret).

However, pursual of the subsequent chapters on characters begin the to reveal the dark secret lurking beneath the surface. It turns out there are only three permissible nouns: Glaive, Nano, or Jack (by the way, Monte, use of glaive in this fashion is almost as heinous as the movie's Krulls use of glaive to describe a six pointed psychic shuirekan. True polearmists know that a glaive is a long knife on a stick). There are only twelve permissible adjectives:  Charming, Clever, Graceful, Intelligent, Learned, Mystical/Mechanical (yea, I though that would be two different things but it is only one), Rugged, Stealthy, Strong, Strong willed, Swift, Tough.There are twenty verbs (which I won't bother to list) however no two members of the party are allowed to have the same verb. In balance the character creation is closer to 4e character class, theme than Over the edges free form.

Also surfacing in the character creation chapters is another concern for me, the system is a tri-stat system having only might, speed, and intellect. While tri-stat systems are not completely fatal (I have been playing Ultima Online for years, Skyrim is a more recent example), I find most of them have trouble dividing mechanics between only three stats so that one does not become significantly more important than others. Another source of trouble begins to appear in the equipment section, fixed weapon damage versus fixed armor class. Again a system which requires careful balance, it does look like it is reasonably under control, since both medium, and heavy weapons can get through heavy armor, but armor bonuses will quickly make a character vulnerable only to critical hits (this reliance on requiring critical hits to penetrate armor is what soured me on first edition Runequest).

Now we reach the chapter on rules of the game. I found this chapter the most difficult to read. Monte's narrative style is ill suited  to something that could be be explained "Old school" with a chart or table. He spends seven paragraphs explaining to make an attack you roll a d20 add or subtract the appropriate modifiers and compare it to the target number. He explains the mechanics of much of the standard stuff on climbing, healing, jumping etc. I like the guarding action which similar to a readied action in D&D but with a bit more flexibility. The defense roll instead of  the DM making an attack roll is kind of cute (However I like rolling dice as a DM). Unfortunately these next items is where it all falls apart. He makes the same mistake that soured me on the "The Fantasy Trip" more than 20 years ago, both  your initiative and chance to hit are based on speed. In the "The Fantasy Trip" this made speed archer the only viable character class. Oh sure you could try playing an armored fighter or spell caster, but you were going to get filled full arrows before you could do anything. Numenera does allow you to use might instead of speed for melee, so there is some hope for fighters. However,  Numenera compounds this with another couple errors. First as you take damage your ability fight back decreases, making hitting first even more important. Second all the fancy maneuvers such as "effort"  and "nano" are drawing from the same pool you are using for hit points. This results in making comeback options from a poor start close out real fast. Since I favor a "Heroic" style of play where players are are taking long shots to comeback from seeming overwhelming odds, I am putting the book down and slowly backing away. I had hoped for better, from the author of the books of Eldritch Might, one of my favorite 3.5e expantions. Many people do enjoy playing games with as badly flawed mechanics (Tunnels and Trolls, The Fantasy Trip, GURPS, [Champions had a slight different flaw with speed, but if you build a slow character you would never do anything but watch the speedy players mop the board]), but it is not my cup-of-tea. I may pick up the book again to pursue the campaign setting chapters and magic items (cyphers seem an interesting idea for one shot items), but right now I will leave it there.

P.S. I have not investigated this thoroughly, but it appears there are only six levels for each character class as well. C'mon Monte in this age of 80th level characters in on-line games, what were you thinking.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Beyonder slacker backer

So to avoid working on the review of Numenera which I picked up recently and planned to blog about, I have been off surfing the web. Looking for wilderness geomorphs I landed on the Talisman Island web site (happy 30th birthday talisman!). Although I think Talisman as a game is a bit "beer&pretzel"ly I love the Gary Chalk artwork of the first and second edition (I have everything from those except the timescape expansion). Gary has made a new card in honor of the 30th Birth which you can download from this page.

Clicking through I landed first at Robert Harris' (the author of talisman) and then the Fortress Ameritrash (love the name) website. Fortress Ameritrash had on it an ad for Beyonder which had some cool art world and said it was an RPG. Clicking on the ad lead me to the Flying Night Bear games web site, where it was reveled that Beyonder was an actual pen and paper game rather that the online MMG I had expected. Watching the kickstater video and looking at the awesome artwork on the website I decided this was something I wanted. Unfortunately, the kickstater ended Oct 6 I guessed I was ... but there's a link on the web site to the slacker backer page (really cool idea for you kickstarterers). I am now signed up at $50 for pdfs of the Rulebook and Bestiary. The features that sold me on Beyonder are: Cool artwork, someone's home campaign (I find home campaigns have more heart and soul invested in them, than the write for hire adventures many game companies rely on) and a shipping date not too far off. The cautions I worry about are a "mom and pop" operation and no prior track record of publishing anything. Stay tuned!

P.S. Now that the "afterglow" of the kill has worn off, it occurs to me that $25 a .pdf is a bit beyond my usual price point. Oh well! Hope its worth it.
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