Ring Side Report-Esper Genesis 5E Sci-fi – Core Manual

ProductEsper Genesis 5E Sci-fi – Core Manual

System-Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Producer– Alligator Alley Entertainment

Price– $ 24.95 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/240798/Esper-Genesis-5E-Scifi—Core-Manual?cPath=26435?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-5E IN SPACE!  92%

240798

Basics-Want some DnD 5e but also want some spaceships and don’t want the less serious nature of Starjammer?  Then Esper Genesis is the game for you. Hard space opera on the level of a Mass Effect with the crunch of the Forgotten Realms.  Let’s go into the pieces first and then my thoughts on it.

Base Mechanic-Can you play DnD 5e? Then you know this system.  That’s it. That’s not a bad or a good, it’s just the basic mechanics you know and you may love.

Classes-Like any system that bases itself on another base game there will be some reskins and some out of the box thinking taking the game in new directions.  You have a not-fighter and a not-rogue, and the DnD 5e system needs those to work, but you also have whole new classes and a different magic system relying on new abilities, due to a new material found in moons across the galaxy.  These new classes feel like combinations of clerics and wizards, and truly it’s not bad. It breaks fun new ground on the mechanics of the system.

Spaceship Dogfights-DnD is NOT a crunch heavy system that requires a battle map to play, so the spaceship part of the game can’t use that either.  Each player gets a role on the ship and can do different actions in a round from repairs to shields to killing people with lasers.  However, this is all done quickly via theater of the mind.

Those are the basics.  Let’s look at my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch-Honestly, this is the shining highlight of the book.  You have the cloned classes that you know were going to be there from the not-fighter to the not-rogue, but the changes in mechanics really help the players see a new universe of potential to the system.  I like what I see here. Now, this is a reskin and cut and paste of some DnD things from spells that have to be healing word and cure wounds, but it is different enough so you get new things for you to explore. Heck, you can’t even say this is just a combo of Starfinder and DnD5e, as the stuff feels fresh enough that it has its own feel distinct from either of those properties.  This isn’t just a hack job of reworked DnD 5e material, this is its own thing that stands strongly on its own two feet. 5/5

Theme or Fluff–  I like what I see here, but like any gourmet meal, I left wanting more.  There is a whole universe here to explore, but I felt like not enough time was spent on the world itself.  It’s some amazing stuff, even if it does take some strong references from the Mass Effect series with elements like humans fighting then joining a galactic UN, a mystery element that gives powers.  Now, this doesn’t make this game and its world derivative. The basic plot of “magic/science things give magic/science powers to people and now we deal with it” is a staple of the scifi and fantasy field, but what I don’t like is the limited amount of information on display.  I wasn’t so much as left wanting more as I was left not getting enough. I wasn’t full waiting for my next book, but was more often than not given enough story to start strong. The world is fun, but not flushed out enough. I’m down to play and read more. What is here does draw you in, but I feel I need another 30 or so pages to really know the world or universe, from bad guys to who the main races are.  That said, what is here is well done. I enjoy every piece of it, but just need more of it. 4.25/5

 

Execution–  PDF?  Yep! Hyperlinked?  Yep! Ok, all the things I want standard in a book!  The book is laid out well and typeset well, but the big issue I have is too many pages of double column text.  Even the best world book or rule manual is simply a guide book or math textbook, and those NEED to be broken up to keep the reader involved.  So I want more pictures to show me cool stuff of your world. Also, this is a third party product, so it has a limited budget. Many cool things are discussed like the monster manual in the back of the book, but I need pictures to see what you’re showing me.  I want to see what you got. Also, as a new world that is whole-cloth your own, you NEED a short adventure to tell me your pacing and story structure. I read this as standard action adventure scifi, but you might have meant this to be hard R space horror. Overall, it’s well done, but it’s missing a few pieces to make it excellent. 4.5/5

 

Summary– From my review, you might think I don’t like this, but this is an amazing rpg. It’s got scifi using the nuts and bolts of the DnD 5e system while not just becoming spelljammer.  It’s full of new flavor that is all its own and not just a copy paste from Star Wars. It’s got solid layout in a format I BEG the major RPG producers to do. All these things mean it is a solid game!  My issues are minor, such as wanting more story in the base book, even though the authors clearly indicate other books that have come out since this game was published to build out the world like trailers for coming attractions.  The execution of the book is good, but needs more pictures. I just want more in the book, but for a whole RPG from a small press RPG company, this is an amazing product. However, the inevitable comparison comes forward-Is this just Starfinder with 5e?  And the answer, I think, is no. This is more light scifi with no space wizardry and none of the more fantastical elements that make Starfinder science fantasy while this is science fiction. The systems stay very separate from one another, as Starfinder embraces the hard crunch of Pathfinder while Esper Genesis has its own mechanics  from 5e and modified as needed to give this the speed that 5e is famous for. With this book and the base DnD 5e book, you could make your own Starfinder game, but honestly, I’d use this book by itself to play an awesome game among the stars. If you are looking for your fast, fun, 5e scifi, look no further than this game! 92%

 

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Ring Side Report-Pathfinder Rulebook, 2nd ed

Product– Pathfinder Core Rulebook

System-Pathfinder

ProducerPaizo

Price– $60 here https://paizo.com/products/btq01y0k?Pathfinder-Core-Rulebook 

TL; DR-A solid mix of new good things, but some issues remain. 92%

 

Basics-It’s here!  Pathfinder 2nd ed is out in the wild!  Let’s dig into this thing! The basics from my previous review here:  Let’s look at the big changes.

Base Mechanic-The d20 system never really changes.  It’s still numbers + d20 vs other numbers.  Pathfinder 2nd Ed has the player add their ability modifier, their level, AND a modifier to the roll, depending on their level of proficiency.  The biggest change from the previous one is that the proficiency levels are now +2, +4, +6, or +8 instead of adding one to 4. Honestly, this feels like a change coming from 4th Edition DnD.  I know the heresy of that statement, but I like that mechanic.

Action Economy– Players still have the three actions per turn of the playtest with some spells or actions requiring additional actions to do.

Skills– If you are not trained it’s just a d20 + ability modifier.  If you are not trained, after about 4th level, it might not be useful to even roll.

Options–  This edition is labeled featfinder by its critics, but the designers use the word feat instead of options.  I’m ok with featfinder as I LOVE class options.

ITEM LEVELS!!!-Items HAVE LEVELS!  I love this as you know exactly what an item should cost, what kind of character should have this, and it means that some things such as alchemical items are going to be useful later as higher level options are available.

Character Advancement-  Characters now level at 1000 exp.  Monsters of your level give certain amounts of experience, and there are formulas for changing the experience points if you are fighting a creature of a higher or lower amount.

Those are the basics.  Let’s look at my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch-I really love this system.  Long ago, I toyed with the idea of making a 3.5/4e hybrid, and this is almost what I wanted.  I get the clean mechanics of the d20, but I add my level so leveling up made things matter.  I get the deep CRUNCH of 3.5/Pathfinder, but the ease of a 5e. I get cantrips that I can use all the time and not have a wizard firing crappy crossbows while still feeling like a wizard.  But it’s not perfect. Skills are kind of a big deal for me. I think the system kind of forgets about skills if you are untrained. I think a fighter could pick up some basics of magic from traveling with a wizard and I liked how previously untrained actions still added your level, just with a penalty.  Now you don’t add your level to untrained actions and that basically means you have silos where no untrained character can go. It’s a design choice that isn’t bad, but not one I love. Also, I really don’t like the new EXP system. Just keep creatures with different exp instead of having some crazy formula to figure out the exp!  It feels like a level of simplification that some players demanded but the rest of us hate. But overall, I really do like the simplicity of the system and the variety of options in this book. 4.75/5

Theme or Fluff-Everyone has their own idea of what “fantasy” should be.  Pathfinder has a niche of an almost industrial magic world where some elements of science are beginning to poke their timid heads out of the real magic with semi-magic, semi-chemistry potions and simple guns.  This new game nails that vibe. Also, this edition fixes a major problem others had before: alchemy. I love the idea of alchemy, but it’s always hard to add to a system Lots of RPGs add this in later due to fan demands.  But that system feels bolted on and not a core of the world, with alchemy basically being a new magic caster class but with a reskin. In Pathfinder 2e, with item levels, an alchemist makes alchemy items and the items are NOT spells.  They are their own special thing. I LOVE THIS! Pathfinder 2nd ed nails the Pathfinder theme even better than the original! 5/5

 

Execution–  PDF?  Check!  Hyperlinked?  NOPE! Come on Paizo!  This book is over 600 Pages!  Even random websites trading illegal PDFs have their stuff hyperlinked and for this size of document, it’s a major problem.  Also, I think 3.5 has the best layout for d20 systems in regard to class advancement and feats. However, in the new system the classes get a table of advancement for each level, but you have to read deep into each specific advancement to know what is really happening.  It’s less at a glance and results in slower leveling and progression. I LOVE table with the character level, short descriptions of mandatory class options, and saving throw bonuses, and even spells if needed. Now we get too many words that are not helping, and two tables that are seperate for magic and character options.  That is two too many! Nice concise tables would help this feel less wordy and less tiring to read. Next, feats for each class need a feat table with short, one sentence descriptions of each class option. This is going to take up space, but the current layout of listing several options and just making players read the possible rule in its entirety is too long and wordy.  Even if you keep the full feat description, adding these tables would make skimming for your next class option a breeze, but instead you end up reading lots of class options you do not care about. Reading about options you don’t care about is tiring! The rest of the book is fine, but those class sections could use some serious changes to make the material easier to read! Pathfinder 2nd ed charts its own territory, but it needs to learn from its roots for its readability.  4/5

 

Summary-My review of this system is not glowing, but I do love it.  The mechanics of 2nd edition Pathfinder are a mix of 3.5, Pathfinder, and 4th edition and 5th edition DnD.  Since I love all those games, I had no issues with all the best being blended together to make the best of everything.   I didn’t get EVERYTHING I wanted, but I got enough. I love the world, and the new mechanics of the new edition really emphasize the world.  The low point was the execution of the book. It feels way too wordy and made reading all the different classes a slog. The book isn’t bad by any stretch, but I feel that taking some clues on how other editions of RPGs work and displayed their information would really help here.  Now this might seem negative but overall I love this system. It’s easy to play, characters are made quickly, and I feel it’s going to be a fun system for a long time. Can’t wait to see what story I can tell with this system! 92%

Ring Side Report- 7th Sea Corebook

 

Product– 7th Sea

System-7th Sea 2nd Edition

Producer-Chaosium

Price– $18 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/185462/7th-Sea-Core-Rulebook-Second-Edition?src=hottest_filtered&filters=10101_0_0_0_0?affiliate_id=658618 

TL; DR-Great if you like story, bad if you need hard rules. 90%

 

Basics-It’s a Pirate’s life for me!  7th Sea is an RPG set in a world on the cusp of the age of exploration after a massive civil war in fantasy not-Europe.  Also key to this game is its unique approach to combat and mechanics. Let’s dive into this one.

Base mechanics and rounds-Each scene in the game is divided into action and dramatic scenes.  Action scenes are high octane events where characters fight to the death against other humans or monsters!  Dramatic scenes are slower time periods where players may try to sway the king in a debate or sail a ship across the sea.  But, unlike most games where you choose an action, know your dice, and roll to see if it happens, in both scenes, you say exactly what you want to do.  THEN the GM says what attributes and skill you must use. You then take a total of 10-sided dice equal to the sum of that attribute and skill and roll them.  This is where the game becomes interesting and extremely different. you can use one or more dice that add up to 10 and that counts as a raise. Each raise is one action you can do in the scene.  Then, the GM will describe the scene where the main goals are, side goals are, possible hazards, and if any timed events are. You can can do exactly what you said you were going to do each turn with the person with the most raises going once first and continuing until his or her raises equal another player.  If you want to do something you didn’t ask the GM to do at the start, it uses two raises. Want to hurt a guy? One raise does one damage. Want to rifle through the desk? One raise. It very simple and very fast. Base monsters and humans are part of brute squads that do damage equal to the number left in a brute squad with numbers ranging from 1 to 10 numbers per squad.  Named monsters and NPCs are treated just like characters and rolling dice just the same.

Advancement-Characters advance via completing story steps.  These are amazingly subjective, but that’s an integral part of this RPG.  Every story step is one advancement and different things like skills and advantages require different advancement costs.

Magic-It wouldn’t be fantasy if the game didn’t have magic.  Magic is an advantage you can take like any other, but the different flavors of magic color your use. Some are things that require a sacrifice.  Some require a code of conduct, and some require you to build up a pool of tokens that counter your ability to do things but hurt the enemy. It’s an interesting take on the use of magic, providing a diverse set of subsystems that don’t break the game in their implementation.

Mechanics or Crunch-Overall, 7th age plays quickly, but it’s VERY loose.  That’s its goal, but it’s so loose my players had major trouble with the game.  One player couldn’t comprehend that he could just see the hidden stuff by spending a raise.  Upon being told he already rolled he rolled again and asked what it meant. It’s a HARD shift for a murderhobo to join a story RPG.  I like it, but even I would like some more explanation to some of the more fluffy rules built into the system. Nothing here is bad, but it is a game that needs more than just a few quick half page explanations to show how it works. 4.25/5

Theme or Fluff-7th Sea is an amazing world.  It’s fully filled out and well developed.  It’s a place with lots of stories to tell as well as a lot of places to explore.  It’s got everything the age of exploration needs and all the fantasy that your average Pirates of the Carabean movie needs to tell epic high seas fantasies. 5/5

 

Execution–  PDF?  Check!  Hyperlinked?  CHECK! Great layout and ease of readability?  CHECK! What do I want? Well, honestly more. It’s a pretty short PDF and the fluff part of the story is well defined.  That fills my soul with happy. What isn’t well defined is how to play. It took me way too long to see that your raises were your initiative and how you spent them one to one.  I’ve read a few of these books, so I feel that’s a bit on this book. But then again, this is a solid paradigm shift. This ISN’T just reskinned DnD, so your traditional frame of reference if you came in as a solid d20 player isn’t as useful as you may think.  If you get used to thinking outside the box, you will be fine, but if you need hand holding like I do during my transition from DnD to story RPG, you might get lost a bit in this book’s flow. 4.25/5

 

Summary– 7th Sea is a fun story game with less crunch than I’m used to.  My wife loved it and gravitated to it easily. My other gaming friends couldn’t handle the story based shift.  That’s the major take away-if you want more baked in story, this is the game for you. If you need more solid crunch in your game, then maybe give this one a pass.  The book is solid, if you can handle the stuff it leaves out because it’s not important. If you need those pieces, then maybe just play DnD on a pirate ship. But if you can get into the flow of a story game and handle most of the game being hand-waved away because those parts are honestly not part of the story, this is a fantastic take on the pirate fantasy RPG.  90%

Ring Side Report- Shadowrun Sixth World Beginner Box Set

Product– Shadowrun Sixth World Beginner Box Set

System-Shadowrun 6th Edition

Producer-Catalyst

Price– $30

TL; DR-Strong start to the six edition.  95%%

Basics-What’s old is new again!  Shadowrun celebrates its 30th anniversary with its 6th edition. Let’s dive deep into the new edition and see if its wizzer or hot drek.

base mechanics-attribute + skill, roll that many six sided dice, count 5s and 6s for good, over half 1s is bad.  Same dice pool mechanics you know and love and most likely won’t ever change under the current Shadowrun development team.

So What changed?

Edge– Edge is one of the two MASSIVE differences in 6th Ed.  In 5th Edition, you rerolled dice or rolled extra dice at the start of a pool.  Now, edge is more an ala cart menu where a character choices to reroll extra dice, add successes, or even change the critical glitch range of an opponent.  You can only choose one option each round, but now edge begins to flow a lot more. Gear, items, and even differences in ability between you and your opponent will earn you up to two edge an ACTION.  That means some people with impressive defences being fired at by multiple opponents will earn edge each attack, not each round! So edge is gonna flow quickly.

Combat-Combat keeps the spirit of the previous edition but massive changes to how actions work and the nature of killing each other.  For actions, there are two types of actions: minor and major. Minor are smaller actions like moving while major are your spellcasting and attacking.  This ties into initiative. Initiative is still reaction and initiative plus a d6. A character gets two minor action to start and one more minor action for each d6 beyond the first.  This ties into multiple attacks. Four minor actions can be converted to one major action meaning if you have 3d6 or more dice for initiative, you can make two attacks a round.

In addition, initiative isn’t rerolled nor do we ever remove counts as we go through a round of initiative.  Initiative is just rolled once, play moves from high to low, and goes back to the high. Just like most other RPGs.

Killing People– The bread and butter of Shadowrun is shooting people, and this is still strong in 6th Ed.  When you want to kill somebody, you now compare the attackers attack value (determined by the range of the weapon) vs. the defence value of the target’s armor.  If someone has an advantage of four or more in this comparison, that character earns one edge. In addition, both people may earn edge based on situational modifiers such as darkness and abilities.  The target of the attack rolls a number of d6s equal to the reaction and intuition while the attacker rolls a number of d6s equal to their agility and firearm skill with both sides counting fives and sixes as successes.  The side with more wins with ties now going to the attacker. If the attacker wins, the difference in hits is added to the attackers weapon damage. A massive change is now the defender only rolls a number of dice equal to its body attribute with the five and sixes reducing damage as in 5th edition.  Since the defender doesn’t have many dice to reduce the damage, weapon damage is also reduced as well.

Magic– Magic is also revamped.  When you cast a magic spell, you no longer choose a threshold as thresholds are no longer part of the game.  You roll a number of d6s equal to your magic and spellcasting attribute. Each spell has a number of success needed to cast the spell and expressly indicates how a target avoids the damage.  It’s clearly written and I not

Skills-Skills are massively reduced with multiple skills being rolled into one skill

Ok, now let’s look at my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch-The crux of the game is the d6 rolling system, and that doesn’t change.  I love the reduced skills and faster flow of the game. The flow of edge is fun as it provides more player control over the game and less like subjective story candy.  The nature of magic and matrix actions also works well. The one thing I’m kind of iffy on is the nature of armor. Armor and weapons having a separate state is ok, but I don’t like that armor is divorced from reducing damage.  That feels off. But otherwise, the nature of quick play becomes central to the gunfight nature of the game. I’m optimistic about the nature of the full game’s mechanics. 4.75/5

Theme or Fluff-It’s Shadowrun.  You like corporate dystopia and Tolken fantasy, you’re going to like what 6th edition still is.  This is more awesome future fantasy in Shadowrun 6th edition. 5/5

Execution-The box set is well put together.  I like the layout of the books. The character sheets teach the game well to new players.  The biggest issue I have with the quick start rules is I would like a few more pages of explanation to some of the materials.  I discussed the materials with a few other Shadowrun GMs and those discussions really helped me solidify the rules. Most people will not have that luxury.  The full rules will clear up those issues, but for now, a few more pages would help tie the material together. In addition the art looks amazing, so that gets me ready for a whole new attitude to play.  If you want to see a full breakdown of the product check out my unboxing here:https://youtu.be/ruxgYe5usLw   4.5/5

Summary-I’m looking forward to this edition.  The changes look good and thought out, for the most part.  I think it’s gonna take me a few games to come around on the armor thing.  It’s not bad, but it is different. Good different? We’ll see. The rest looks like well done, modern game design streamlining the process and avoiding the random crap that really don’t make a game fun.  The physical product is amazing as well. Solid cardboard and writing help get me into this one. I just need more of it to really make my life as a gamer easier. That said, I’m in. I’m invested in the 6th edition of Shadowrun. 95%

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time

Product-Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time

Producer– Fun Forge

Price– $30.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Passport-Game-Studios-Professor-Citadel/dp/B06W56ZL3T/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2PIIRCWB14ZM3&keywords=professor+evil+and+the+citadel+of+time&qid=1557748520&s=gateway&sprefix=professor+evil+and+the%2Caps%2C153&sr=8-1

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 to 45 minutes (2-4 players)

Type- American

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Let’s steal the Declaration of Independence -FOR JUSTICE!  97%

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Basics- Saving relics in the knick of time!  In Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, players take the rolls of victorian themed heroes attempting to rescue items stolen across time by the evil PROFESSOR EVIL!  This game isn’t subtle, but it is fun! This is a completely cooperative game, so each turn has a phase where the players help the team and a phase where the players hurt the team.  During the phase where you help, you can are given three actions and a card action. The basic actions are move from room to room, deactivate traps, unlock doors, and rescue treasure.  You can do any action you want multiple times. Also during this phase you draw two card from a deck specific for your character and you can use these special abilities to really help the team as a separate action!  These powerful, specific cards vary a lot from having the ability to move the evil professor to turning off all the traps of one kind! The goal of this phase is to have all the traps off of all the types for a given treasure, be in the room with the item to save, and have an action left to save it.  However, after you take your turn, you roll three dice to hurt your team. These dice advance the professor around his house kicking heroes out of his house, locking doors, resetting traps, or move time forward on the different treasures or all of them at once! Once a good hasn’t been rescued before its time is up, the good it put in the safe room where no player may go!  However, all is not lost. As the game progresses, players unlock different global and personal abilities making it a much fairer fight! The goal of the game is to save four goods and return them to their own times before the dastardly professor can put four goods deep into his safe room.

board

Mechanics-This is a simple game, but that doesn’t make it any less fun.  The basic turn of do good/do bad is a quick, easy, and fun way to do cooperative games and isn’t going away anytime soon.  Those three actions and a card action get nearly surgical when you have to get to a treasure in time ramping up the tension and thought process in a fun way!  I love this game, but the dice based nature of the bad action is very random, as dice should be. But, this makes it a bit harder to plan. Not a bad, but a different, and you can get absolutely wrecked on a bad day.  Keep that bit in mind, and you will have a great time dealing with all your plans falling to pieces because the professor teleported into the room you NEEDED to be in the get that last treasure! 4.8/5

cards

Theme- This game delivers its theme very much in the show don’t tell way.  The characters and items all look like they belong to the same world, and the victorian/steampunk setting looks fun.  I would like a bit more background as I’m very much a story driven gamer. That said, you do feel like a gentleman/gentlewoman sneaking around the manor of a madman hiding and stealing his ill gotten gains from across time.  4.5/5

Instructions– The instructions are six pages, full of pictures, and well written.  When I cracked this box, I was playing in five minutes. That’s a great “opening box to playing” timeline!  I also didn’t have to consult Board Game Geek to figure out any obscure rules. It’s a simple game with efficient, well written rules.  5/5

items

Execution-Quality components, quality box, quality art, and FULL CARDS make this a fun game.  I like good quality cardboard, and this game delivers! This game is simply put together well.  5/5

Summary-Good co-op is a hard balance to find.  Good, simple co-op is a much harder balance to find, and this game delivers in droves!  It has good, simple mechanics, great art, quick to read rules, and great components. All these combine to make a fantastic gaming experience.  The only word of caution is if you expect a 10 hour brain burning eurogame experience, keep walking. This is a fun, fast game in the tradition of Pandemic, but using dice, which have their own punishing randomness at times.  If you’re looking for a great way to spend an hour with up to three buds, you can’t go wrong with this game. 97%