Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Alchemy Manual

Product– Pathfinder Player Companion Alchemy Manual

Producer-Paizo

Price-$13(PDF)

System-Pathfinder

TL; DR-Lot’s of alchemy types, but not much depth. 87%

 

Basics- Let’s Cook!  Alchemy Manual is a splat book in the truest sense.  This book moves at a rapid fire pace presenting over 10 different types of alchemy traditions in the Pathfinder world.  Each tradition gets two pages to introduce the story behind the alchemy type as well as a few potions or poisons that distinguish one from another.  In addition, numerous items, small additions to spells/alchemical items, and new ways to craft alchemical items are presented.

 

Mechanics or Crunch- First things first, alchemy has always been somewhat tricky in the 3.X systems.  You end up with things that are two broken for the rules or underpowered to uselessness.  This book tends to be closer to underpowered.  The items presented are on par with the standard alchemy items, but those items tend to be useless as the player has better options with spells or abilities.  The book does introduce some nice new feats and items, but those same items may not be the first thing a player will grab for when looking how to battle a problem.  Also, the book introduces several different types of alchemy.  That’s nice from a flavor standpoint, but no one type gets enough of a foundation to stand alone.  Each tends to get 3/4 of a page of items, so you left wanting more for each one. 3/5

 

Story of Fluff-While this is an item book, I was honestly impressed with the detail each type of alchemy was given in its presentation.  Readers learn a lot about several different types of alchemist in the Pathfinder world.  The stories do make for some rather interesting reading.  I enjoyed this far more then I enjoyed the mechanics of the book. 5/5

 

Execution-This is a Paizo book.  I have a tradition of giving them high marks, but that’s because the consistently know how to may a book look nice and be readable.  I’d like the text bigger, but I mostly read on an IPad, so the page is smaller than the print version.  Great art and a well done layout lead to excellent ease of reading. 5/5

 

Summary-Alchemy is always a touchy subject in Pathfinder and 3.X games.  To powerful and all the players use it.  To underpowered and it’s a waste of time to introduce it.  This book is an ok.  Honestly, it won’t change your opinion of alchemy.  It’s well done for the story aspect, but if you are deciding if you want to buy a mechanics supplement, you really have to ask yourself “Do I like alchemy already?”

Daily Punch 5-6-14 Selfless Mage Quality in Shadowrun 5e

Some people just help other…sometimes….

 

 

Selfless Mage

Cost: 10 karma

Some people just help others….I know its crazy, but they do…sometimes….I don’t understand it either.  When a character with this quality gives at least three dice to another character as a counter spell, the counter spell dice pool increases by two dice.  The character can do this as many times as possible to normally counter spell.

 

Thoughts?

Ring Side Report- Board Game Review of Eminent Domain

Game-Eminent Domain

Price-$40

Producer-Tasty Minstrel Games

Set-Up/Play/Clean-Up-1 Hour

TL;DR-Only a few faults make this game great instead of excellent. 87.5%

 

Basics- Compete for the Galaxy!  In Eminent Domain, players take the roles of different groups trying to conquer the most locations across the galaxy.  This is a deck building game with a twist.  Each turn players do three things in order.  First, they can play a card from their hand as an action.  These actions either build fighters, settle planets, produce resources, removes cards from your deck, or other things.  Then, players draw one card from the central board as their role.  This new card goes into the players deck, hence the deck building aspect.  These roles produce/sell resources for points, settle attack or settle planets for points, research advanced cards with new actions, or search for new planets.  Here is where things become interesting.  When the first player selects a role, all other players may follow that role doing the exact same thing as the lead player.  For an example, if the lead player searches for more planets, they draw a card from the center and play as many cards with the search for planets symbol as they can from their hand to draw planets to settle/conquer.  All other plays may play as many cards with search for planets symbols from their hands to draw planets off turn.  After role selection, then the lead player discards as many cards as they want and draws up to five cards.  Play continues until one or two of the role card stacks is empty.  Player with the most points wins the galaxy.

 

Mechanics-As I mentioned above, this is a deck building game.  I like those games, but this one has the novel twist of letting all players do the same action as the lead player.  Now, if you’re lucky/smart, you can take an action each turn instead of just waiting for your turn like in Dominion.  Also, the mechanics are very simple.  Play a card, draw a card and play cards that match symbols for more results, and discard/draw.  Easy as pie!  But, don’t let the simplicity of this game make you think that the game doesn’t have some depth to it. 5/5

 

Theme-This game has a decent theme, but I don’t think it oozes out of every pore.  The different ways to capture planets have diverse enough mechanics that you do feel you’re doing something different when you do them. The art brings you into the game universe as you play cards.  However, the game doesn’t really hammer you over the head with space conquest.  It’s very subtle. 3.5/5

 

Instructions-The games instructions are fairly well done, but an extra page or two would really help.  You can start playing this game in less than 10 minutes after opening the box for the first time without having played it before.  However, even I, an experienced player, still have to check board game geek if some things are allowed or intended.  The major issue has to do with symbols.  Advanced cards and planets have symbols on them.  Lots of people have questions if the advanced cards count as symbols for play.  Adding a discussion on that would have really knocked these instructions out of the park. 4.5/5

 

Execution- This is well put together game.  The game has nice plastic ships!   In fact they are exactly the same ships as Eclipse.  They are as awesome here as they were there.  The box is nice, and the main play board is well done.  I like the art and card quality.  What I would like would be a bit larger play board with spaces for the advanced cards, the points, and the ships.  A little bit more would have really made this game excellent. 4.5/5

 

Summary-This is an awesome game.  It’s a quick deck building game that is easy to learn and play.  This game gives me a 4X feel without the 4X time or rules depth.  This game won’t replace Twilight Imperium, but I promise you will play Eminent Domain far more often than that game!  This is another well done game from Tasty Minstrel Games.

Blurbs from the Booth-The monolith of DnD and holding our collective breath

This is a slow year for RPGs.  Last year around this time there was 13th age, Numenera, Star Wars new release, Firefly ect.  It was hard NOT to find top tens of whoever’s most anticipated RPGs of the year.  This year…it feels different.  I’ve seen lots of smaller products, which is great, but I haven’t seen the large releases that I would have expected this year.  Even the large producers haven’t been a loud this year.  Paizo recently announced new monster book, but didn’t use the standard fanfare I would have expected.  It’s almost like everybody is holding their breath and waiting for something…

Now, I kid.  We all know that coming out this year.  For those of your out there who may not be as informed or care, it is widely assumed that DnD Next is going to be released this year from Wizards of the Coast.  There have been signs from slips from Barns and Nobles to it being the 40th anniversary of DnD indicating that this year will be the year when the system will see a real release from the beta testing that has been going on for the past two years.  Thus, most companies are hesitant to release anything that might be even remotely controversial.  Products are being aimed at bases of each RPG and expanding already working systems like Run & Gun, the new Adventure Card Game, Advanced Classes Guide, The Strange, the new Star Wars RPG source book and others.  A few products such as O.L.D. and N.E.W. are coming out from ENPublishing, but what does a lack of new products mean for the industry?  Well I can think of two possible outcomes based on the health of an industry balanced on one larger company.

First, WotC could drive all the industry together toward a much more stable future.  Back when TSR existed, releases of DnD products would not only cause sales of DnD products to increase, but people in the stores would also buy tangential products.  Sales of all RPG products increased when DnD products were released.  When TSR ran into trouble, all RPG sales decreased.  Could a resurgence of the DnD brand bring back RPGs?  We do live in a golden age of geek, and having the flagship back would bring back a lot of people into the fold.  WotC is the current captain of DnD, but Paizo has given them a run for their RPG money.  That said, when you tell your non-geek friend you are playing an RPG, do you say you’re playing Pathfinder or do you say you’re playing DnD?  It took at least 20 years and a large cultural focus on video games for people to stop calling all video game consoles “Nintendos.”  How long will it take people to see the large spectrum of RPGs out in the market place?  Will they?  Can the once and future king take back its place as the industry leader and really fire up the place?

Second, WotC and DnD could fail leading to some interesting times for us all and a different industry going forth into the future. *In by best crotchety old man voice* Back in my day, there was really only one game console Atari!  We all played Atari.  There were some smaller companies, but who really cares.  There was only one company.  And, that’s a horrible idea… Recently the fabled E.T. graveyard was found.  E.T., while an awesome movie, is a horrible game.  Since it was a movie tie-in it was thought to be a sure bet for making money.  Thus, Atari bet the whole farm on this one product.  And it failed miserably.  It failed so miserably that the company went bankrupt.  It failed so miserably that the company had to bury thousands of unsold units in the desert.  It failed so miserably that the entire U.S. video game industry almost died until Nintendo and the N.E.S. came and rescued the industry a few years later and from a different continent and market!  Later, there were only TWO video game companies: Nintendo and Sega.  Sega, through a string of horrible business initiatives, failed and died as a console manufacturer leaving Nintendo alone in the market….just not for too long.

Could we see this with DnD?  Could DnD Next do SO badly that the industry shakes as a result?  Previously, Hasbro considered mothballing DnD much like my little pony or G.I. Joe.  WotC was barely able to prevent this fate for our much beloved game, but it’s something to keep in mind.  By the way, the recent G. I. Joe movie did so poorly in the marketplace that no new G. I. Joe toys are being produced.  That iconic American toy is currently being stored and possibly later a new rebranding will be released.  If that does happen, there will be a major time of upheaval as the industry shrinks.  Companies like Paizo, ENWorld, and Catalyst will survive, but much smaller companies with one person and his/her friends as freelances will undoubtedly not weather this storm.  If gods play games, men are the ones who suffer.  Then, who knows… maybe a new dawn as with after Sega came Xbox and Playstation.  Or it could be like model trains, a fun toy that doesn’t thrive today.

What do I think will happen?  Well, I like DnD Next.  Despite what problems I’ve had with WotC, I like that company.  I think the management of the company cares about not only their product, but the hobby in general.  But, that doesn’t preclude the industry from deciding that DnD next isn’t what they want.  I can only wish success on anyone at this point.  If WotC crashes like a capital ship in a cheesy Sci-Fi movie, remember two things.  The world changes and you might not like where it goes when it does.  And two, what happens to the place the ship crashes to?  Right now, no one is sure how healthy that ship is.  Paizo has all but confirmed its plans to stay the course and observe DnD Next from afar.  They are positioning themselves to either ride a wave of success or move out of the tsunami if the WotC ship crashes hard.  And no one can blame them for that!

Best of luck WotC at GenCon!  I’ll be there ready to play wishing you all the success I can.

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Undead Slayers Handbook

Product– Pathfinder Player Companion-Undead Slayer’s Handbook

System-Pathfinder

Price-$13(PDF), $20 print

Producer-Paizo

TL;DR-Great introduction and options for fighting undead. 97%

 

Basics– Time to fight the things that go bump in the night!  Undead Slayer’s Handbook gives a general overview of how to fight undead from the simple zombie to the most complex, scheming lich.  The book starts with different groups that slay undead and how they may help you.  After that, the book focus on fighting different kinds of undead giving feat, spells, items, traits, and class abilities that focus on killing each kind of horror.  Moving from the kinds of undead to kill, the book shifts to what kinds of people kill undead giving new class options and feats.  The book finishes in classic Pathfinder Player Companion style offering more spells, items, and a prestige class called the Soul Warden.

 

Mechanics or Crunch– The book provides lots of new options for those focusing on undead.  These all look well balanced as you get a large bang for your buck if you fight undead, but won’t really help you against the standard goblin.  My only complaint is the alchemical items.  The book provides several, varied alchemical items to fight undead, but these seem underpowered or far too expensive to use.  There are items that do significant damage, but you have to pay too much for them to the practical.  There are cheap items that are not that useful. 4.5/5

 

Story or Fluff– This book is full of story.  Lots of new traits provide stories on the background of an adventurer.  Also, each section gets almost a full page providing story and background for each monster or monster hunter.  It’s simply well done! 5/5

 

Execution-This is Paizo, so the layout is well done.  The art is great, but, it might be a bit more than some people can handle.  Since, undead tend to be pretty gory.  The centerfold is a beautiful haunted house that describes how to fight a haunt, while the front cover provides details on how to fight each type of undead.  In addition, the back cover gives information on how undead are viewed in different towns.  This book is a pleasure to read and look through. 5/5

 

Summary- Again, another solid effort by Paizo.  Undead are my favorite creatures to fight or throw at my players.  This book gives a solid introduction on how to fight the monsters to a new player, and to the older players out there, it provides enough new options to make it useful. 97%