Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Modern Age

Product– Modern Age Basic Rulebook

System-Modern Age

Producer– Green Ronin Publishing

Price– $6.99  here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/243966/Modern-AGE-Basic-Rulebook?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Three games in one where every roll matters!  88%

Basics– Dragon Age in your modern age?  Modern Age Basic Rulebook is a stand alone game, applying the basics of the Fantasy Age system to a modern or near modern setting.  Let’s break this up into pieces.

Basic mechanics: Modern Age is Fantasy Age is Dragon Age.  All three of these use 3d6 + ability + focus to do anything.  Like all RPGs, it’s the basic idea of “roll dice, plus a number, to get a different number to win” idea.  Easy enough to pick up and play.

Abilities and focuses: Modern Age has a pretty simple number addition pool where you add an ability.  Ability is just like your base statistics in DnD.  These range from -2 to +4.  You also have focuses, which are basically like skills in DnD except that you get a flat +2 to the roll instead of different values.  Later you can specialize so you have a +3 instead of the +2.

Talents and Powers:  While abilities and focuses do give you some room to build some fun characters, it’s not enough to really differentiate your characters from the pack.  That is where talents come into play.  Talents are the feats of the system.  Talents provide a bonus that makes your character distinct.  Talents range from being rich and getting bonuses in buying things to being a bruiser who hits harder.  What makes these distinct from DnD feats is there are three levels of each talent.  As you level up you can take higher levels of each talent, making you more powerful in your given area.  This is how spells/powers/psychic abilities are handled as well.  You choose a magic school and that school functions pretty much like a talent providing you new options like making a light happen to casting fireballs.  This isn’t a Vancian magic or powers game as characters have a number of power points they can spend at will to do whatever powers they want as often as they can.

Stunt Points:  This is the bread and butter of the system.  The Age system itself isn’t completely novel as dice + numbers vs a different number isn’t anything new, but this system uses 3d6 with ONE die being a different color.  This different die is your stunt die.  If any dice show doubles and you succeed, you get to a number of stunt points equal to your stunt die value.  These points range from tripping people to better haggling in the market to adding power to your psychic blasts.  All dice rolls have a table of stunt points you can spend to make things interesting.  This differentiates the system from other roll + number systems, making it its own thing.

Game version:  Modern movies are really three different kinds of movies.  You have your ultra modern, gritty movies where one bullet kills someone.  You have fun pulp where you punch nazis with a satisfying SMACK.  You also have movies where one hero kills hundreds of monsters while only getting a single cut over his eye to make him look even more amazing.  Modern Age gives you rule tweaks to play in any of these settings by changing damage from weapons, hit points, and number of bad guys you throw at the hero.

Ok, that’s the basics of the game.  Let’s look at my thoughts at the game.

Mechanics or Crunch–  You can see the direct line from the Dragon Age video game to the Dragon Age game to Fantasy Age to Modern Age.  And that is a good thing!  I like the basic idea of powers, magic points, and mechanics of the Dragon Age video game, and Dragon Age the RPG system implemented that well. Those basic ideas go from Dragon Age to Fantasy Age and finally to Modern Age.  It’s a solid, simple to play system.  Stunt points and the fact that any roll can make them happen really makes this game pop.  Every roll matters. Something that happens in one roll might have big changes to the next as the points can change things in ways you might not have expected.  It’s a great touch to make this stick out from all the other roll vs numbers games out there.  My one minor gripe is I would like more powers in a character.  Characters don’t get a whole lot of powers to play with if they go that route.  If you are ok with a pretty simple system without an overabundance of options, this is a good one to jump into.  4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-This book is light on fluf, but that is decidedly on purpose.  Modern Age is a modern setting.  It’s just today.  You have today’s guns.  The only fantasy bit is magic powers, and that’s honestly optional.  The game references a comic setting as an option to play, but mostly it leaves the game up to you.  The three different versions of the game do help you set the game how you want to play.  Gritty, pulp, or cinematic are good options for a GM and players to decide how the world should be played.  It’s setting light, but that’s by design, which doesn’t hurt the goals of the book.  4/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YES!  Ok, we start solid.  Overall the book is well done.  The font and tables are not my favorite, but that’s a print issue as they are a bit cramped for my taste.  I also think laying out some items in a table for character advancement would help as opposed to telling me in text.  Those small issues annoyed me a bit, because I want to be able to glance over things quickly to get what I need to know quickly.  Aside from that, the book is well done.  The one thing that stuck out to me is the weapons page.  WEAPONS HAVE LABELS IN A PICTURE!  I can’t tell you how many RPGs I have read where they mention a weapon, and I have to google what they mean.  That’s a small thing that keeps me in this book as I speed read through the thing.  Reads quick, easy to navigate, and good art to boot make this a solid product.  4.75/5

Summary-I can’t wait for the next Dragon Age video game.  That system was solid.  This game is a grand child of that video game, and it’s got all the things I know and love from it.  The mechanics are simple and the fact that dice rolls have a chance to make something cool happen besides a critical keep things interesting.  The fact I can run three different games from one book makes this pretty versatile for the games I want to play.  The book was a quick read that got me playing fast.  What I don’t like as much is I would like a bit more about the basic setting, but the basic setting is today.  So, I could just look outside and see what it’s like.  Characters don’t get a ton of options, but that is something from Dragon Age as well.  It’s a solid game that makes every roll count, so give this one a try if you crave some modern day gunfights at your table!  88%

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Call to Adventure

Product-Call to Adventure

Producer– Brotherwise Games

Price– $30.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Brotherwise-Games-BGM018-Call-Adventure/dp/B07JN6XY6Z/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2N3XFUONODGO9&dchild=1&keywords=call+to+adventure+board+game&qid=1593728170&sprefix=call+to+adventure%2Caps%2C173&sr=8-1

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

Type- American

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Set Collection Your Own Adventure!  95%

Basics- Who will you be?  Call to Adventure is a character building game of set collection and dice rolling.  Each character at the start of the game will be given three cards: a background, a motivation, and a destiny.  The background and motivation cards have rune symbols representing traits that your character will use to attempt to adventure, as well as powers that your character can use each turn.  Each turn your character must choose either an adventure or trait from the tableau.  Traits are cards you just take, but adventures are events you must choose to encounter.  Each adventure has two traits associated with it.  You see if you have any matching traits on the cards you currently have, you add one of those trait’s runes to your “dice pool” (which is actually a rune pool) for each symbol your character has.  Then you choose on the adventure card if you will attempt the encounter on the bottom or the top section.  Each one has a different story AND different rewards/challenges.  You then take the three basic runes that either give one success, no success, or draw a hero/antihero (one time use card) as well as the runes you gathered before based on your current cards, and you may spend experience to add dark runes to the pool.  These either add one success or two success and make you more evil!  You then cast the runes (instead of rolling dice), and you count your successes.  If you succeed you gain the card and place it under your current one to show the challenge you overcame.  If you fail, you lose the card, but gain an experience.  Play continues until one player has three cards under their background, motivation, and destiny.  All other players get to finish the round and have one additional round to catch up and then you add all victory points from any cards you played and sets of icons you collected, and the player with the most destiny points is the winner!

Mechanics-This game sneaks up on you as you might only have nine turns if you are lucky!  It’s very quick, and it’s easy to forget that you are collecting sets of icons and points.  But, man is it fun!  It’s quick enough to not wear out its welcome, but it’s also deep enough that you will have to think a bit.  Experience is a great way to fix the luck of the dice issue, but dice/runes can absolutely ruin your fun here.  But even then, you will still not have a bad time as it’s not a long game and some traits are won by losing.  Overall, it’s a dice rolling and set collection game.  4.5/5

Theme- This is a solid story game.  When you are done, you will be amazed how well the story of your character emerges.  I FEEL like I am this person playing a year long campaign forging this hero in an RPG.  If you are a story gamer like me, YOU WILL LOVE THIS!  5/5

Instructions–  The rules here are good, but you will end up on BGG.  There are some corner cases where I have to check exactly what the game rules mean.  Even without board game geek, you can figure out enough to settle on house rules to get you playing.  The rules are written well enough that you will get running fast enough to play in about 10 minutes.  These are solid rules, but a few flaws keep them from being the gold standard. 4.5/5

Execution–  This is a fantastically executed game!  Check out all the pieces here: https://youtu.be/n0OI0_nS1e8   YOU CAST RUNES!  It feels like every druid fortune telling scene in a viking movie.  That right there is amazing.  The cards are excellent.  Everytime I teach this game players want to stare at the cards as the details are amazing and tell a story themselves.  The box is amazing.  It has great compartments to keep things organized.  Honestly, more games need to be built like this game!   5/5

Summary–  This is a game you will either LOVE or HATE.  If you want a 12 hour euro game where each move is planned six moves ahead, then this is not the game for you!  If you, like me, played eight games of RPGs at the BGG virtual con AND have two play by post games going at the same time, then I have a board game for you and for you to woo your RPG friends into.  It’s light enough to be a blast to play quickly, but deep enough for you to find a story to dig into with enough mechanics that you can enjoy your choices.  Like all dice games, you can be wrecked by the dice, and I would like a bit more in the rules to elaborate.  But, this game is a blast to play and one that any RPG gamer and board gamer needs in their collection. 95%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Oracle of War- The Night Land

Product– EB-01 The Night Land

System-DnD 5e

Producer– DMs Guild

Price– $4.99  here https://www.dmsguild.com/product/296403/EB01-The-Night-Land?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Standard start to something great.  93%

296403

Basics–  Eberron?  In MY 5e?  OH YES!  Let’s hope in and look at the new TWENTY adventure long story for Eberron The Oracle of War Storyline called The Night Land.  You start by rolling into the town of Salvation on the Mournland border, and like all poor hungry souls, it’s time to find a job!  What’s the job board got today?

Mechanics or Crunch– This adventure is pretty balanced for crunch.  It is the same formula you’ve grown to love or maybe be annoyed with in this first adventure by Shawn.  Three small quests with some time between to rest up.  The party does some crazy stuff, rests, repeat.  The players learn how to be their characters, get a bit of a challenge, and then 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff– Standard well done 1st level adventure!  Shawn does 1st level adventure well.  Small packages to not kill the party day one.  It has a bit of Eberron feel, but like most things, it will require the DM to amp up the world feel.  You do hang with some goblins, changelings, and some horrors of the mournlands, so you get a good intro of the horrible things that want to eat you!  You can get a bit bored as your party might recognize a formula when they start.  But its level one!  You’re off to run errands and kill low level monsters, not take on the Lord of Blades day one!  4.5/5

Execution–  PDF?  Yep!  Hyperlinked?  No, but it doesn’t really matter (I’d still like it though).  This product has THREE PDFs.  One is the adventure in glorious color with lots of pictures that you run through the home printer.  The second is a slimmed down black and white no frills product that you run through the home printer.  Third is a newspaper to throw the players!  That’s some awesome world world building!  In addition, the adventure organizers have FULL PAGE sheets the players get after the adventure.  The things they check off let them know some serious crap is up.  Heck, I as a GM who isn’t fully aware of the campaign knows some crap is up, so I’m buying in too.  I also like the authors’ use of the DMs Guild to full effect by putting lots of pictures in.  These are pictures I’ve seen before, but it’s a nice touch to the other pictures that they throw in.  I like the art deco style of everything.  It honestly makes me feel more like we are between wars and I know something bad is coming….   4.9/5

 

Summary-I like Eberron, and The Wife LOVES Eberron.  This adventure brought her back to 5e and weekly gaming at the store.  That’s the sales pitch that I can give.  Now, is it perfect?  No.  It’s 1st level fare.  Small tapas portions of adventures as your cleric might be able to roll out two cure wounds and a real bad round of two crits can completely wreck a party.  Is that a problem?  No.  This is fun.  I’ll equate this to my favorite above average hibachi restaurant.  I know exactly what the chef is going to do there, but guess what?  I’m going to show up and be happy I went! 93%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Adventurer’s Backpack 

Product– Adventurer’s Backpack 

System-Castles and Crusades

Producer– Troll Lord Games

Price– 19.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/234183/Castles–Crusades-The-Adventurers-Backpack?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– OPTIONS!  86%

 

Basics-It’s time for a solid player option book for CnC!  This book features TONS of new classes, spells, items, niche rules, and even a complete new magic system.  There is even a whole chapter dedicated to backpacks of tools each adventurer would need to do their job. How does it stack up?

Mechanics or Crunch– Ah old school… you provide us with gonzo options and allow the DM to do whatever they want.  The problem is, this is pretty rules-light for how some of the crunch works. A perfect example is the warrior priest.  That class has Cure Wounds which allows them to heal other characters. Awesome! I love it. But the rules don’t describe: do you roll once per day, or do you roll all hit points and then give them out as you want, or do you spend dice as you go?  I could hunt online and find the answer.  I don’t want to do that. I just decided and went with it. This is old school, so once the group decides, we roll with it. That’s the bad; the good is this book gives you new character classes, character options like spell casting rangers, paladins,and bards, lots of equipment options, spells, and all sorts of tools adventurers might need to fight evil.  It’s not perfect, but the flaws are all part of OSR rules’ light touch. The good is amazing and makes this worth the price. 3.75/5

Theme or Fluff–  I would not call this a fluff book, but I do think what is here is done well.  It mostly gives you ideas how the new things fit into the fantasy worlds of Castles and Crusades.  It’s world-agnostic in a decent way, so you could plug these into any fantasy world and have a fitting character.  I would like more, as I want to build out the world and campaign setting, but the book gives you enough that you can find the equivalent in your world and plug and play right away.  4.25/5

Execution–  PDF?  Yep! Hyperlinked?  YES! This book is well done.  It’s an old school game, but it’s modern design makes me happy.  It’s not perfect – I would like the font to be a bit larger, but this thing has all the things I think a modern book should have.  4.9/5

 

Summary-My summary of this book comes down to one very specific question-do you want more character options for CnC?  If yes, then get the book. It’s not perfect; I think things need another round of writing to fully explain what the writers wanted me to do in some spots, but if you can look past some small issues, you will enjoy this.  The fluff is decent. I want more, but it’s not bad. Just not the whole world laid bare. Physically, the book is done well. Links, layout, and text all work well. I’m glad this is in my collection, and I know my players are always happy to have this as a place to get spells, classes, and toys to help them put down evil.  86%

 

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Refractions of Glasston

Product– Refractions of Glasston

System-Call of Cthulhu, 7th ed

Producer– Taylor University PWR Press

Price– free! https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/297601/Refractions-of-Glasston?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– A grade 297601college work!  90%

 

 

Basics-All is not well in the midwest….In a small glass making town in Indiana, something ancient and evil is stirring.  Can our heroes learn the horrific secrets in time or will fail and end up consumed by the glass as well? Let’s break this down!

Mechanics or Crunch– This is mechanically well done for an intro adventure.  Honestly, the only major tool in the CoC toy box that isn’t on display is a chase scene.  There are fights, ancient, evil books, spells, investigation, and lots of social interaction.  If you play your cards right, don’t lose your head, and look everywhere (all the parts of a smart CoC investigator), you can put down something TRULY evil, and it will feel natural when you do it.  5/5

Theme or Fluff-Here things suffer a bit.  The story is decent once you are in.  However, it’s a big rough getting the different investigators together, into the town, and working together.  That’s a pretty rough start other than “YOU SEEM TRUSTWORTHY! LET’S INVESTIGATE HORRORS BEYOND HUMAN KEN TOGETHER!”  But once you are past that part of the story, it opens up well and you will have a blast. 4.5/5

Execution–  PDF?  Yep! Hyperlinked?  no…. For a first outing by this team, I like what’s here.  Need my links, but it’s not bad. There are rough spots like there is a character that they characters will need up with who plays a major role in advancing the story, but she’s not in the Dramatis personæ at the back of the adventure, so that’s a minor problem.  Aside from minor issues like that, the adventure is solid. The pregenerated characters have a mix of types that are fun, but their skills are thought out enough that they compliment the problems you see well. I would like for pulp options in the next adventure like how that is handled in the larger adventures Chaosium puts out, but again, that’s going beyond in development.  What’s here is relatively solid and reads well out of the box. 4/5

 

Summary-I majored in the hard sciences in college, so I never did anything as cool as write a CoC adventure for credit.  But, if this is the quality I can expect going forward, I think I really missed something awesome. This is a good intro adventure with a fun variety of toys to spring on and for the adventurers.  The story has a harder start, but once it’s going, it takes off. The execution is decent. It’s not perfect, but the issues are minor enough that the players won’t know if you think on your feet as a keeper.  Good layout and text make this easy enough to read. I did enjoy the line about completely reading the adventure before you start because that NEVER happens. Overall, this is a fantastic intro adventure I feel like I can spring on any group of new players and get an amazing CoC experience that will hook them for decades to come.  90%

Ring Side Report-Keeping It Classy: The Cleric

Product– Keeping it Classy: The Cleric

System-Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Producer– DMs Guild

Price– $ 5.95 https://www.dmsguild.com/product/290873/Keeping-It-Classy-The-Cleric?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Routinely amazing 93%

290873

Basics-Time for class options for my favorite class-the cleric!  How does this one stack up compared to the others?

Mechanics or Crunch–  This is a well done book with a few things that I would not have done myself.  The book has new cleric domains. That was a given, and these are well done mechanics.  Perhaps a few too many rely on playing with the channel ability, but I like them all. The book has new items.  Again, solid things I expected. The book also has a new race. This I am less a fan of. It’s well done, but I want all the races set out before I start a game.  That’s just preference. What I would like instead is more spells and feats. But, that’s again a personal preference. What is here is solid, but I would just like more.    4/5

Theme or Fluff–  The Keeping It Classy series keeps it classy here.  The race is well done. The domains feel right. The items have good fluff to make you feel them in the world.  I love what is in this book! 5/5

 

Execution–  PDF?  Yep! Hyperlinked?  Yep! Ok, all the things I want standard in a book written in 2019!  It uses public domain art well to break up the flow and makes the book easier to read, so this honestly is how I want books written out.  New art is nice, but for the price you can’t beat what is here! Text is well laid out. If you want solid design of a book, this is a good example to use.  5/5

 

Summary-The Keeping It Classy series is a precision machine that keeps spitting out precision product.  Think less McDonald’s machine and more Fine Dining expectations-the routine should be phenomenal.  And this is true. The book has good races, items, and class parts that if you want new options for your cleric, then this is worth your time.  I’m not as much a fan of new races as other DMs, but the race is well done. I’d just like more other “things” like feats and spells, especially for this spell casting class.  However, that boils down to the problem of me wanting more from this book, which means I like what’s here. This is as always a routinely amazing book from a routinely amazing team.  93%

Ring Side Report-Review of Mage Company’s Premium Card Sleeves with Throat Punch Games

 

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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%