Archive for March, 2014

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New Monster – Phantom Warrior

27 March, 2014

Betrayed!  I will be back!Phantom Warrior (CR +1)

The phantom warrior is an echo of a warrior’s spirit who left behind an unfinished task in life, they exist only to called back by strong emotion or magic to attempt to complete that last task in some fashion.

A phantom warrior rarely has an independent existence, they are usually tied to and item of event and are summoned by some trigger to appear in an attempt to complete their unfinished task. Their perception of their status as a spiritual echo is faint and they tend to perceive the world as it had been with the completion of the one task their overriding goal which can make interacting with them difficult.

A phantom warrior looks as a faded version of how they last appeared in life, and when incorporeal light will pass through them, complete with echoes of the equipment they were carrying.

Creating a Phantom warrior

Phantom warrior” is an acquired template that can be added to any living creature that has a Charisma score of at least 6 and can feel devotion to a cause. A phantom warrior retains all the base creature’s statistics and special abilities except as noted here. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tuesday Magic Item – Axe of the Arengo

25 March, 2014

A cutting debate“The Arengo has ordered this to be done and so it must be done,” stated the Masters of Arms of the Alliance of Qurent, his heavily gloved hands resting casually on the axe of his office.

“But it in not our fight, why should we send our young folk to fight?” objected the priest.

“It in not my choice either, but my oath is to serve, and serve I will.  You have my word that I will do my best to keep them alive.”

“It will have to do,” sighed the priest.  “I will come with you, you will need the service of a skilled physician and I serve the Arengo as well.”

“You will be welcome.”

Axe of the Arengo

These fine weapons are made as both symbols of authority as well as practical weapons, assigned to those who serve the Arengo directly as commanders or enforcers. They are made of dark metal and dark wood, made from trees grown in the lands ruled by the Arengo. The symbol of the Arengo is etched on one side and that of the office on the other.

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Review – Dragon Templates, Vols 1 -3 (for Pathfinder)

23 March, 2014

Dragon Templates, in three short volumes, by Ennead Games provide tools to customize that most iconic of fantasy creatures, the dragon.  So, how well do these works do so?

Each product opens with (the same) list of true dragon types in Pathfinder and how the templates and variants are to be applied.

Dragon Templates (and Variants), Volume 1 – A to H, has 23 templates ranging from a -1 to +3 Challenge Rating (CR).  The templates are light on detail, providing an introductory paragraph or two, a brief note on the physical changes that the template causes, and lastly the mechanics which sometime come with drawbacks.  While some of the ideas are interesting and solid, they are not well developed and the CR adjustments do not seem to always align with the powers granted.  The hybrid (half dragon/half something else) variant is especially sketchy but the albino, broken and glass templates have a considerable amount of potential.

Dragon Templates (and Variants), Volume 2 – I to O, has seven templates ranging from a -1 to +2 Challenge Rating (CR).  Like the first volume, they are more sketches than fully realized ideas and this is the weakest of the collections, with templates such as: insane, which beside being a poor model of insanity is essentially unplayable as every 1d4 rounds there is a one in six chance it will become defenseless (and this is a +1 CR?), kaleidoscope adds an unneeded random element to combat and nothing more (though it rated a +1 CR as well) and the masochistic template is a misuse of language at best (sadists enjoy inflicting pain, not masochists as this template implies) only the lazy and obsidian templates look salvageable.

Dragon Templates (and Variants), Volume 3 – P to Z, has 11 templates ranging from a -1 to +2 Challenge Rating (CR), with one with a variable CR bonus that could go to +4!  As the pattern established by the previous two volumes, the templates are unpolished but useable, just.  Some interesting ideas here, the stone imbued xenolith, the amusing yodeling and the astrologically tied zodiac templates.  But the quantum template will just drive everyone (including the GM) crazy, the temporal template gives out limited uses of 8th and 9th level time spells and splitter looks like a mathematical headache though it is a neat idea.  There are some useful pieces here and some dross to be sorted through.

If you use a lot of dragons in your campaign, or if you just want the ones that show up to be unique and interesting, these products will provide inspiration and a starting point for various unusual dragons but they are only a starting point, you will need to work out the finer details and balance them yourself.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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Review – once upon a time (fiction anthology)

19 March, 2014

once upon a timeOnce Upon a Time: New Fairy Tales is a lovely collection of new and retold tales from near and far, most are quite short but all are well written.  Some have happy endings, some do not, but all are full of wonder and magic, both of which we need more of in the world.  Each of the authors tells a little about their interaction (and often love) of such stories and about their inspiration for the piece they included, quite interesting and charming.  If you like fairy tale retold, this collection will be well worth your time.

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Tuesday Magic Item – Lost Legion’s Banner

18 March, 2014

Be brave when you fight beneath meIt had taken three years of hard campaigning, convincing the villages to cooperate and let some of their brave young people leave to join the slowly growing ranks of the liberators.  But today, today it was all worth it.

The Bandit Earl Comran the Knight-killer and his men drew up in their ragged ranks, assorted bandits, mercenaries and killers.  Across the field from them was the militia of the valley, blooded and determined but ill-equipped, united under the torn banner of the Knights of the Peak who had once defended these lands before their Order was betrayed and slaughtered by Camran.  The village minstrels struck up the march of the Knights of the Peak and joining the ranks of the militia were the phantoms of the Knights slaughtered by Camran, eager to redeem in death the Oath they could not keep in life.

Lost Legion’s Banner

These banners are damaged and battered, often with ancient bloodstains, it is only barely recognizable as the symbol of a once proud fighting force.  The shaft it is mounted on is equally worn though still serviceable.

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Rogue Island playtest 2 completed! Another step towards the Kickstarter

13 March, 2014

So, I am going to have a free short introductory adventure (titled Rogue Island) to introduce people to the Sea of Stars for my campaign setting kickstarter, but figured that it needed to be playtested.  So, I have run it for both of my regular groups and, as expected, they approached it totally differently, but both groups managed to avoid the potentially most dangerous encounter via negotiation, which pleased me.

Still needs a bit of polishing, a proper introduction and some maps (my bane!) but things are moving forward, slowly, but still moving.

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Tuesday Magic Item – Militia Spear

11 March, 2014

“Again the raiders come, but this time we are ready for them,” growled Old Edgar, his knuckles white, his grip was so tight on the spear.

“They are arrogant and it will be there undoing,” agreed Little Karl, barely old enough to join the militia, he was here to fight at his father’s side.

“Now!” shouted Jana the Blacksmith, the elected captain of the militia, as they charged the raiders, their spears ready.

Militia Spear

These simple spears are imbued with the strength and dedication of those who have used them to defend their homes and families.  They are often decorated with hand made flags or other tokens from their friends and family.

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Inspiration Viewing – Girls und Panzer

10 March, 2014

Girls und Panzer!So, because I simply could not resist, I purchased the Girls und Panzer: TV Collection [Blu-ray] and it was everything I had hoped it would be and more.  At its core, Girls und Panzer is a sports anime, a traditional genre of anime where a group of misfits come together and through hard word, team spirit and luck, manage to do well.  The hook here is that the sport is Sensha-do (the Way of the Tank) which involves all girls teams (as Sensha-do is designed to refine the qualities of young women -no really-) competing in World War Two-era tanks in elaborate matches.

The characters are engaging and cute, with almost no fan service, and the main characters given considerable depth surprising given the short length of the series (12-episodes) and how much of that is devoted to the Sensha-do matches.  The tank animation is occasionally obviously CGI but overall is quite fun and covers a variety of models (including some that were just prototypes or otherwise never saw combat) from most of the major nations that fielded tanks during the Second World War.

There are challenges, tactical choices and heroism, all the hallmark of warfare without the injury and blood (though the tanks get pretty messed up).  As such Sensho-do is a good model for conflict within a story (or game) without the losers being destroyed, indeed friendships are formed because our main characters are good sports and spirited competitors.   It would be fun to try a sport anime styled campaign with this as a model, perhaps with a scrappy dungeon exploration or magic team.

Highly recommended if any of the above appeals to your sense of fun.  (More information on Girls und Panzer from Wikipedia if you are interested.)

There is also a set of shorts that give a bit more information on the secondary characters involved, and actually has one episode that contains all of the fan service you are getting out of this series, and a bit more information on the ‘school ships’ which is pretty fascinating.  (OK, there is also the full goosefish song and dance which is a little fan-servicey.)  There is some fun stuff here but it is mostly fluff and probably only worth the price tag for Girls und Panzer completist (which I supose I must be as I have a copy *sigh*).  Girls und Panzer OVA Specials [Blu-ray].

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Follow Lei Feng’s example!

5 March, 2014

Today is Learn from Lei Feng Day in China.  Lei Feng being one of the secular saints of Chinese socialism and Maoism, a hard working young soldier who was killed in an accident at the age of 21, his diary was full of patriotic thoughts and love of his homeland."Follow Lei Feng's example; love the Party, love Socialism, love the people".

While there is considerable debate now if Lei Feng, as heroic striver for Socialist glory, truly existed, Lei Feng the soldier did and his use is propaganda has been impressive.  Even now, the Chinese Communist party exhorts his ideal and the term “living Lei Feng” (“Huó Léi Fēng”) has enter the Chinese language as a term for anyone who is seen as selfless or who goes out of their way to help others.

While I am not a Socialist, I have always found such propaganda idolizing the selflessness of the individual in service of the state fascinating (if slightly terrifying).  The Soviet use of Alexey Stakhanov and the Stakhanovite movement to boost labour productivity and dedication to the states goals followed a similar pattern.

It seems that there is a place for such propaganda in the background of many game worlds, to help reinforce the tone and ideals of the setting.

Notes: Poster image is from Wikimedia Commons and is used under fair use ideals.

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Tuesday Magic Item – Stonewall Shield

4 March, 2014

Strong as stoneOriginally fielded by the Onyx Dwarves, the use of the Stonewall shields reached their tactical apogee under the Diamond Dwarves and their General Irisa Diamondedge when her much smaller force trapped and annihilated the vanguard of the Navolian Military Order.  The sight of the final battle, now known as the Three Bloody Walls, is a lasting memorial to Dwarven bravery, Gemkine magic and the tactical focus of Irisa Diamondedge.

The victory was so complete that it was two generations before the Navolians again risked conflict with the Dwarven nations.

Stonewall Shield

These round shields rather than being faced with metal, have a thin layer of stone on their face with a metal boss and rim.  They are usually marked with the symbols or heraldic arms of one of the Dwarven families or merchant houses.

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