Ring Side Report- Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen

Product– Dragonlance: Shadow of the Dragon Queen

System- DnD 5th Edition

Producer– Wizards of the Coast

Price– $36 here 

TL; DR– kind of fitting for what we have been seeing from WotC.  73%

Basics–  Time for the War of the Lance… again.  Learn the basics of the Dragonlance setting and play through the most famous adventure.

Mechanics or Crunch– This book adds a bit, but not much, in terms of game mechanics.  You get a bit of background on the setting’s most famous addition, the kender, and you also get rules for mass battles and sidekicks.  Overall, it’s not bad, but it’s not much.  For this world, I would expect more, especially given the crazy things that have happened with magic, moons, and divine magic.  What’s here is good, but there is not as much as I would hope.  4/5

Theme or Fluff– This is a let down.  There is a story that is decent, but it’s been done.  Why not modernize the setting or deal with the fallout of many of the books?  This just feels like a rehash of things or a reboot.  Couple that with the fact that the whole setting is given 20 pages of background and you get something that works, but it’s not a solid effort.  3/5

Execution-You can buy a decently made book.  But there is no PDF available, legally.  You can buy a computer version via DnD Beyond, but you must deal with DnD Beyond.  It’s got good layout and text, but those two things itself knock this down many pegs.  4/5

Summary– This book feels like many of the most recent setting books WotC is putting out.  There are a few pages of setting and then an adventure.  You have a GIANT world out there with lots of stuff and you get 20 pages.  I just feel this isn’t done well.  If you want to replay the war of the lance and you want 5e to do it, this will be your book.  If, like me, you wanted a solid introduction to the system and you wanted it to tie in to where the world is now, then this will not be your book.  73%

Ring Side Report- Quest Calendar

Product– Quest Calendar

System- Sundial games quest calendar

Producer– Sundial games

Price– $31 here https://2023-quest-calendar.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders?ref=SundialGames23 

TL; DR-five minutes of RPG EVERY DAY! 93%

Basics–  NO GM, NO PROBLEM!.  Quest Calendar is a desk calendar that has a simple story that you walk through each day with puzzles, combat, and a solid story to draw you in.  2022 had a fantasy, world hopping adventure, and this year 2023 is a universe spanning Sci-Fi epic.  let’s break it down!

Basics- Each day the calendar has a picture and a short story.  The back of each previous day gives rules for combat, discussions and short side quests with towns folk, or puzzles for you to solve based on the story.

Dice- It wouldn’t be a RPG without dice!  Each character has a bonus to hit, defense, damage dice, and hit points.  Combat is simple where you roll to hit and if you hit you deal damage.  Deal enough damage and the opponent is stunned.  Don’t hit or don’t do enough, you are attacked.  Depending on your defense, you take more or less damage.  Other checks are the same as if you roll a d20, add the statistic used in the check, a number between 0 and +3 typically, and compare to the rules.

Powers and characters- There are multiple characters to choose from each with their own backstory.  Each character has information from levels 1 to 6 as well as powers and abilities.  Powers and abilities range from one per page things, constant bonuses to actions, or powers that have a limited number of uses before you must rest.

Ok, now my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch– This adventure a day calendar honestly is like a daily Shadow of the Demon Lord game.  D20 + a number and compared to the results is a fantastically simple RPG that doesn’t get enough love.  You do not get crazy complex here, because you can’t have crazy options since its a simple mechanic.  But, it’s rolling dice everyday to have some fun and play through a story.  4.75/5

Theme or Fluff– This is a simple story that is executed well.  First, the bad- you can’t have a crazy branching RPG when it’s a linear object.  You’re playing through a story like Lord of the Rings, but you can’t really change what the fellowship does.  That’s the inherent limits of this medium.  That said, I loved the story of 2022 and can’t wait for 2023.  Sure, it’s simple fantasy, but sometimes I just want to be a guy on a world saving quest in bite sized pieces.  That’s what this is, and it is done well!  4.75/5

Execution– How much you love what is here will really depend on how much you spend.  30 gets you the calendar.  That’s a bit high for a calendar, and the calendar is a bit small.  It’s a desk calendar, so that’s a bit annoying and since it is small and thick, it can break the glue holding it easily.  But that’s the end of the negatives.  Solid art, easy to read, and a simple flow and layout make this a fun product.  I love the character books and layout of them.  I didn’t like the markers that the books came with, but they fixed that in the 2023 edition.  I also LOVE the tiny dice.  Those went right into my backpack at the end of the year when I got new ones.  And this year its metal tiny dice!  This product has a few small flaws, but it’s still something I love.  4.5/5

Summary– Will this be the greatest RPG you have ever played with branching story and complete autonomy with the most intricate character build options that you have ever seen?  Absolutely not, but the important this is it is not trying to be.  This is a short adventure every day that builds an interesting world and lets you play a quick game as a fun distraction while also being a calendar?  YES!  And its amazing at that goal.  I continue to hate small things because of being clumsy, but if that is the worst complaint I have with the calendar, then you need this now.  2022 is done, but you have plenty of time to get onto the ground floor of 2023.  I’ve bought myself and my wife calendars and I hope you have a fun adventure in space with me!  93%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Cults of Cthulhu

Product– Cults of Cthulhu

System- Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed

Producer– Chaosium

Price– $25 here https://www.chaosium.com/cults-of-cthulhu-pdf/ 

TL; DR– Solid Book of bad guys, set ups, and tools 100%

Basics–  Ia! Ia!  Cults of Cthulhu gives you… exactly what it says!  This book is a book of four different cults, adventures to go against each cult, and tools to build your own cthulhu cult.

Mechanics or Crunch–  This book is VERY much a Keeper’s book and not a players’ book, and that’s ok.  This book has new monsters and stats for them, variant spells, and tips for building your own cult.  I am honestly impressed by the depth of ideas for building a cult.  I play too many fantasy games where the idea of how a cult is financed doesn’t come up.  But here, how the money happens is a very important way to build your cult.  Even optional crunch for Pulp Cthulhu is presented!  Players will find nothing in this book, but Call of Cthulhu doesn’t really ever give players much more beyond the basic investigator book.  The crunch doesn’t disappoint in this one.  5/5

Theme or Fluff– Again, this is a Keeper book, but built in a fun, informative way to help the Keeper build a world.  Each of the four presented cults have real depth and personality with individual people and their goals presented.  My one minor negative is like most Cthulhu books, you really only get the 1920s as a playground.  It’s the most popular time for Call of Cthulhu, so I understand why, but I do seriously appreciate the one modern cult that is presented here.  Also, adventures!  There are four adventures against these four cults.  So even if you need a one shot, this book has you covered.  5/5

Execution– I don’t think Chaosium has ever disappointed me.  Hyperlinks, solid handouts, easy reading, separate files, pictures of monsters, and everything else makes this the whole nine yards.  Its 25 bucks as a PDF, which is a decent chunk for a PDF, but even if you just used this for four one-shots, that brings the price down to manageable levels of any other market adventure for CoC.  And it seems that Chaosium is listening and , while I love them, the handwritten notes are hard to read, Chaosium is making just nice plain text ones as well.  My one complaint is I want pregens for each of the adventures, but that is just begging for more on an already solid product.  5/5

Summary– Cthulhu is gonna be the main draw for a game called Call of Cthulhu, so why not have some humans doing bad things for him?  This book is a solid resource that, even if I just wanted some quick adventures and handouts, is well worth the price of admission.  If you want to build your own cults, then this is the book you might want to check out as well.  NOW DO YOG! 100%

Ring Side Report- Preview of The Golden Age of Khares

Product– The Golden Age of Khares

System- Low Fantasy Gaming

Producer– Moose Lodge Games

Price– Kickstarter now!  Check here!  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mooselodgegames/the-golden-age-of-khares 

TL; DR-Solid Bronze Age Fun.  93%

Basics–  Let’s go old school OLD SCHOOL!  The Golden Age of Khares is a bronze age gaming supplement for Low Fantasy Gaming, a hybrid system midway between DnD 5e and OSR games like DCCRPG.  This focuses on much older tech and sword and sorcery in a long lost era.

Mechanics or Crunch– How much you like this game depends on how much you like Low Fantasy Gaming.  I love DCC and DnD, so this is a solid addition to that niche!  You have new classes that fit the Conan-esc mold with bizarre monsters to make the world feel like an old 70s sword and sorcery movie or book.  There are also well done tables to help you randomly get treasure to players, to help you move the game along swiftly, and new areas to expand into like boxing and melee tournaments.  Lastly there are rules for massive dungeon creation for all kinds of fun dungeon crawling shenanigans.  That is decidedly old school.  Solid new crunch here for your Low Fantasy Game!  5/5

Theme or Fluff– How much you like this book again depends on something else-do you like the bronze age?  Not standard European fantasy, but more people long ago dealing with horrible monsters of antiquity and vast empires of slaves where it was just the might of your blade or the strength of your spells to uphold right?  Me?  I’m down for this.  I’m looking forward to making a random dungeon and throwing players into it.  I do want to know more about this world, but the creatures next goal is to make a world book to help fill in the fluff of the world. 4.5/5

Execution– My kickstarter preview edition is well done.  Solid art, solid layout, and solid tables all lead me to be able to read this quickly and move forward fast.  The simple book is free, so I love that.  The good book is $15 for google drive access, and the better book is $20.  Those are not bad prices for a supplement.  I would like to know if it’s hyperlinked, but as of now, I like everything I see here. 4.5/5

Summary– The best part of doing these reviews is learning new things.  I had no idea that Low Fantasy Gaming existed before this project.  It’s honestly a great system that will get its own review one day.  And then I learned about this project.  It has solid mechanics to add to Low Fantasy gaming.  It’s got solid new art, and it’s laid out well and starts to build a world that I can sink my teeth into.  I do want a bit more, but that problem comes because this is a small team.  And, it’s a good problem because when your project is solid enough to interest me I want more of it, that indicates that you got quality work here!  93%

Ring Side Report- Preview of the upcoming Alarian, Valor and Company RPG!

a new idea every day! 

Product– Alarian, Valor and Company

System- Alarian, Valor and Company

Price– Not out yet, but coming soon!  Check here!  https://subscribepage.io/VC  

TL; DR– DnD, Pathfinder, and Poker all mixed together! 87%

Basics–  And now for something completely different!  Today I have an upcoming Alarian RPG.  It’s on the horizon, but not completely finished yet.  Let’s look at the basics, and tell you what I think of the sneak peek I got.

Stats, skills and character building- Like most other RPGs, this one has a solid foundation for a few basic stats and skills based on each stat.  When you build a character you choose which stats advance faster than others with some having fast progression, advancing every other level, and some advancing every three levels.  Skills are a simple point investment as you level as well.  What is interesting are the traits.  Traits are similar to feats in DnD but they have stat requirements.  These traits look like the main way you build a character.  The basic builds so far either give you lots of stats and fewer skills and traits, while the other build lets you have more skills, slow stat gain, but lets you ignore some trait requirements.  This lets you build a character that is not bound by a class but can dip into anything you think might be fun.

Using your skills and cards-Here is where this RPG takes a big leap.  The game DOES NOT USE DICE!  Instead players draw from a 54 card deck with jokers being wild.  Players get 1 free card per test, then cards equal to their skill and half the associated statistic.  The goal is to draw a particular suit either determined by the DM, the situation, or the player deciding before getting cards.  Players attempt to get 1, 2, or 3 cards of the suit for a degree of success.

Combat- Combat is a mix of theater of the mind and tiles.  Characters get a move and a standard action, but a stat called focus allowes players extra attacks, moves, or even determines how many attacks of opportunity a character can get. Weapons have three interesting features.  First is simple damage to a character.  Second it costs a character focus as they get smacked around and cant focus as much to do extra things.  Lastly they cause poise loss meaning the defender’s armor won’t work as well as more attacks beat on that character.  These are all amazingly technical things, but the game takes a bit of a departure as the game then moves to side based combat as one side and all its players go then the other side goes.

Ok, on to my thoughts..

Mechanics or Crunch– This is a new system, and I am intrigued.  What I see is interesting enough to get me to kickstart it.  I love some things, such as the novel card mechanic.  Some things I don’t like as much.  I would either lean more technical with movement and combat or less and have just sides smash into each other.  The mix feels a bit off.  That might be a preference thing from years of DnD 5e as well as years of PF1.  Will it work?  I think so, but it’s a new mix that’s interesting to me.   4.5/5

Theme or Fluff– I like what’s here, but I will need more. “Yeah, Ed this is a preview!”, so the traits are not a complete list yet nor is the world fully built.  That said, what we have is an interesting mix.  I’m intrigued enough to want to see the full list.  And for a preliminary copy, the world guide is interesting enough to get me to bite.  Perfect?  No, but the hook is set.  4.5/5

Execution– More grading on a curve this week.  This is a prepublish, not complete book.  There is not fancy art on every other page, nor is there a PDF.  What is here is a few books and art assets.  Those honestly are impressive.  The words need another pass of polish as a few things are pretty redundant in the verbiage.  Also, some explanations seem a bit deep for how to play.  None of that is a game breaker by any means, but all are to be expected in a preview.  4/5

Summary– The most annoying thing for me as the alpha geek at my gaming store is other geeks who don’t want to try something new simply because they have not tried it before.  This is something new.  It’s solid-new that is well done.  It’s not perfect-new, but then again, I’m getting a sneak peek behind the curtain before it’s ready for prime time.  And what I’ve seen means I’ll come back at prime time when things are finalized.  There are small things at the core that are not my favorite, like group initiative and map combat at the same time, but possibly seeing the full suite of things will make me forget any misgivings.  As things stand, I wholeheartedly recommend you also check this out when the public gets a look at this.   87%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Heroes of Cerulea

Product-Heroes of Cerulea

System- Heroes of Cerulea

Producer– Bläckfisk Publishing

Price– Kickstarter now! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/blackfiskforlag/heroes-of-cerulea-pixelated-dungeon-crawl-tabletop-rpg?ref=user_menu 

TL; DR-Numenera and Zelda! 96%

Basics–  Time for some 8Bit DnD!  Heroes of Cerulea is as old school as you can get with a tabletop RPG that wants to be the 8 bit Zelda you remember.  There is a bad guy who did a bad thing that brok the magic gold thing and he needs to go down in four dungeons.  Yep, that’s the Legend of Zelda I remember!  Let’s break this down.

Dice and Rolls- Characters have exactly three stats: might, bravery, insight.  When you do a thing, you roll a number of four sided dice equal to the stat.  Ones and twos are bad, three is success with a cost like damage, and four is outright success.  If you roll two or more dice on an action, then you take the highest die. If you roll multiple fours, you get better degrees of success.  Might covers physical things like attacks.  Bravery is defense and physical things like climbing.  And insight is mental things like range attacks or talking.

Combat-  Combat is interesting as it’s VERY much like Numenera.  The characters say the things they will do.  I as the GM say the things the monsters do.  And ONLY the players roll dice.  Monster swings at you and you want to attack it back?  Roll bravery for the defense and might for the attack.  Bravery got a three?  You and the monster both take a hit.  Rolled two fours on the attack back and the monster took two hits killing the monster.

Ok, on to my thoughts..

Mechanics or Crunch– This is a very simple system, but that is not bad.  If you need character building that takes 10 hours and endless customization that requires a computer to optimize then maybe this isn’t the game for you.  The quickstart that the writers put out is honestly written on a trifold pamphlet-AND I LOVE IT!  It’s quick, simple, and fun.  Now, I need a bit more explanation to things, as does combat always happen at the same time or is there initiative?  That I hope is explained in the full game, but from what I have seen, I like what’s here.   4.5/5

Theme or Fluff– Mileage will vary with the theme in this one.  I’m getting older, and that’s not getting better.  My cell phone has more processing power then the original space shuttle.  My first games were The Legend of Zelda, so this simple world story of “bad guy did bad thing, get the gold thing from him” coupled with a retro art style and aesthetic makes me happy.  If you need your hero to have more than 8 bits of color and 10 total polygons, then this won’t hit that nostalgia for you.  That said, I love what’s here. 5/5

Execution– I’m going to grade on a curve here.  The publishers put  out a free(ish) pdf for everyone to check out.  You can pay what you want, but I threw them a buck, and honestly, it was VERY worth it.  It included a slick rules pamphlet, a slick GM pamphlet, a dungeon pamphlet, and a nice character sheet.  My players were building people in five minutes, and we played for two hours.  If the real rules are anything like this, I will be absolutely ecstatic.  5/5Summary– Some days you just want to play the classics, whatever that is to you.  Get that hit of nostalgia on graphics that are honestly not amazing and may not have held up, and simple stories that don’t delve crazy-deep into world-building or fleshing out every minor character.  This feels like that game.  It’s a simple game from a simpler time for me, and I love everything here.  You should check this out if you can.  Get some buds and play a fun adventure saving the princess and macguffin while killing the bad guy with a simple-to-master system, fun art direction and story, and solid production.  I’ve backed this thing, and I hope you do too!  96%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

Product-Spelljammer: Adventures in Space

System- Dungeons and Dragons

Producer– Wizards of the Coast

Price– $41 here https://www.amazon.com/stores/page/D890997E-DC03-45CB-BABE-5A760E103954?channel=dnd-site-jam&_encoding=UTF8&tag=wotc03-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=5e6ae51a65de0619af85a9a07edec25f&camp=1789&creative=9325 

TL; DR– Spaceships and Sorcerers! 76%

Basics–  TO THE SKY!  Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is the latest setting for DnD that really encompasses all the other settings.  Spelljammers are space ships that can travel between different systems and explore, so really the limits of this setting are the limits that you can steal and borrow from all the other DnD settings and your favorite fanfic of Star Trek.  Let’s get into this one.

Mechanics or Crunch– This is a good book with some new mechanics, but not a ton of information.  Overall space beyond a planet system is just empty and full of “air”, so you don’t need much.  The spelljammers are fun ships, but the DnD isn’t really set up to do ship battles well.  It’s not bad, but it’s simple and the system defaults to basic rules in the DMG for side combat for ship combat.  There are new races, but not a ton beyond that.  So if you want a lot of new crunch for your players, there isn’t that much here.  Ships get a good rundown, which is needed, but  don’t expect much as a player.  There are monsters of the cosmos, which are absolutely needed, but for each system you need to grab that world’s/setting’s books and get monsters from there.  This book adds decent materials for the GM, but not much for players. It doesn’t really expand the rules beyond the basics we’ve seen.  4/5

Theme or Fluff– I don’t hate the story here, but I’m left wanting more in a bad way.  This setting is all about space and boldly going to new worlds.  You do get the basics of that, but you don’t get a ton of new worlds beyond “Go grab your favorite other books and go there!”  Again, it’s not bad, but it feels too loose to be helpful.  I do think the adventure they give is awesome and will help GMs and players who are new to the setting get used to it.  That “fish out of water” adventure that is included is going to be your best introduction to this setting. That said, after reading this book, I need more to really know what this setting is.  4/5

Execution– Can’t buy a PDF, but when there was an update it came out as a PDF.  I can rent the book via DnD Beyond, but other than that, it’s physical only.  What is in the book is a solid ok.  Good spacing and text size and all the things I look for in a book, but it’s only in their proprietary app.  I want to own my book, so you either buy a physical book or rent DnD beyond.  And, while I love the adventure they give you, they don’t give you pregens at fifth level.  Just include the pregens!  I don’t want to make some for my players nor do some groups want to make some when the GM buys that book.  I want to play ASAP and that would massively help those groups.  It’s 2022 and you are behind the times.  I am not pleased.  3.5/5

Summary– Spelljammer is a fun setting and book that just needs more.  The mechanics here are ok, but there is not much for players and just enough for the GM to run a game beyond go to the DMG.  The story is fun, but there isn’t much beyond go look at other stuff.  The execution misses many marks that other companies are doing and it hurts my impression of the book.  If you want some classic space and sorcery, this will be a fun book.  If you don’t have an idea of what Spelljammer is then you still might not after reading this book.  76%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Down Darker Trails

Product-Down Darker Trails

System- Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed

Producer– Chaosium

Price– $44.99 here https://www.chaosium.com/down-darker-trails-hardcover/ 

TL; DR– Cowboys and Cthulhu! 97%

Basics–  What’s that ahead on the trail?  Down Darker Trails is a wild west source book for Call of Cthulhu.  This book has information for both the game master and players to build anything, from gunslingers to wild west cults serving dark gods all across the west.  Let’s look at the parts.

Mechanics or Crunch– This book is an interesting and well done mix of old and new.  Arguably there are LOTS of reskins of stuff we have seen before, but honestly, that’s what I need.  I need to know what the fire rate for guns in that time was and and the prices.  There are some major changes between 1880 and 1920, but the damage really doesn’t change that much in this game.  That said, this book adds a lot of new stuff, from spells to real life states for characters, to excellent new options for investigators/players.  I like everything that is here and it adds the right amount of depth and crunch for a game in this time.  5/5

Theme or Fluff– I like what’s here, but I have some minor issues.  I mentioned before that there is a lot of reskinning for the time.  That’s true and it’s true here too.  But, I don’t see anything crazy new here regarding the mythos.  It doesn’t invent a ton of new monsters or elder things.  Lovecraft didn’t do a ton out west, so thats part of it, but I would like to see more new in the story of the mythos.  That said, what is here is excellent.  Amazing history summaries, great write ups on persons of the time, solid respect to the cultures of the west and its people, and character options that will let a person who is new to the old west beyond Back to the Future III into the world of what really went on out there.  There is always more to be learned, but as a first pass into this world and the idea that a book can’t continue for forever, this is a great way to build mythos into the west and the west into the mythos.  4.5/5

Execution– Chaosium knows book publishing with the art, layout, readability, and book mechanics like hyperlinks and such all on point.  This book even has real pictures of people from the time to so you can see the real faces of the west.  Furthermore, since the real west was a lot more racist than the fun and wholly-pretend cowboy and Indians I played as a child, the book treats the indigenous peoples of the west with respect in art, writing, and design.  5/5

Summary– This is a phenomenal book.  I love Call of Cthulhu, and recently lots of my video games have been old west as well.  The pretend old west is fun, but the real west is far more entertaining and deep.  This book gives me the keeper/gm the tools I need to merge those loves and it gives my players the tools they need to jump right in as well.  I have some minor issues, but like all the products I love that quibble about it comes down to wanting more.  What I do have is a well done book with crunch and stories to build a fun western adventure and a book that easily revealed its secrets.  If you want cowboys in the mythos, then you need this book.  96%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Pathfinder Adventure Path #164: Hands of the Devil (Abomination Vaults 2 of 3)

Product-Pathfinder Adventure Path #164: Hands of the Devil (Abomination Vaults 2 of 3)

System- Pathfinder 2nd Ed

Producer– Paizo

Price– $24.99 here https://paizo.com/products/btq027jm?Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-164-Hands-of-the-Devil 

TL; DR-Another solid piece of the Abomination Vaults puzzle  100%

Basics–  How deep is the place?  Hands of the Devil dives deeper into the lighthouse from Ruins of Gauntlight.  Players meet new people, monsters, and horrors beyond time as they delve deeper into the lighthouse’s history and people.  Are your players willing to sell someone else to the devils?

Mechanics or Crunch– This is a dungeon crawler.  You kill monsters and find loot.  Monsters are fun and new but balanced at the same time.  Solid work from Paizo.  There are also new items and character options, so this book might not be for everyone, but it does try to have materials that everyone can enjoy. 5/5

Theme or Fluff– The first book of the adventure path was very much find stuff, kill stuff, and that was fun. This one has multiple factions and people all trying to one up each other.  It’s a welcome change of pace.  Your characters can still kill everyone and take their stuff, but there is MUCH more here than the first few levels for story and interaction.  This book also has players do a lot more in town, further strengthening the roleplaying aspect.  It’s a welcome change of pace.  5/5

Execution– Solid art, layout, text, story, hyperlinks, maps, and flow all make this a BREEZE to read.  Paizo knows good books and their adventure paths are where they really shine.  5/5

Summary– There isn’t much more to say than this is well done.  Solid fun fights, good story, and excellent execution all typify this one.  I like what’s here as the players can now decide if they want to talk to the monsters instead of just kill them.  They CAN just kill them, but it is still fun to see if the monsters now want to eat them or have my players just want to kill them.  This is a solid intro dungeon crawl for Pathfinder, and one I’m glad I’m running with my group.  100 %