Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Lover in the Ice

Product– Lover in the Ice

System– Delta Green

Producer– Arc Dream Publishing

Price– $4.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/184098/Delta-Green-Lover-in-the-Ice?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Good adventure, Hard NC-17 rating!  85%

Basics-Some things are best left unremembered.  In “Lover in the Ice”, a snow storm opens up a Delta Green storage facility, and “something” gets out.  Can you stop whatever got out from loving its way across Missouri in a blizzard?

 

Theme or Fluff-The story of “Lover in the Ice” is a solid one.  Players race around a medium sized town in the middle of a blizzard of the century.  It’s got some great scenes that feel real and a lot of little extra fill out the world details.  What I miss from most of Arc Dream’s work is intro paragraphs of box text. These set the scene for the players and really the GM to get you in the right headspace for each location.  I’m long enough in the tooth that I can cobble one together from the description, but this is something that needs to be part of each place you visit! Players do a breach, bang, and clear for several houses and locations, and a quick section detailing what each room looks like will really help my players and me.  It doesn’t make the story any less fun, but it does make me have to do more work. What here though is fun, but HOLY COW it’s hard R. KNOW THIS GOING IN! If your group is ok with that, then have at this one! 4.5 /5

 

Mechanics or Crunch-Overall, I like what’s here, but I think some things need to be filled out a bit more. There is a monster that can do some very horrible things to the players.  I’d like a bit more words on how the attack is done. I have an idea of how it works, but I’d like either a few extra checks or two phase method of attack to make it happen.  Otherwise the attack looks like its a one and done prospect. That’s a bit rough. Also Delta Green likes to just give the players information saying if you have HUMINT 30% you know X.  I prefer to make the players roll. This is at odds with the ideas Arc Dream has of not making trivial things rolls, but it’s more in line with player expectations. Players like touching dice and even if I say “you know X because of your HUMINT 30%”  It feels less fun to the guy/gal holding the dice. Overall, this is much more of a social/explore mission than a straight up fire fight. Don’t expect Fallujah level fights here! This is a contain the problem mission. The mechanics work well, but I had a few issues that I changed on the fly because its my game and I can.  I think you will do the same, but I think these changes should be a standard part of the scenario. 4.25 /5

Execution-I like the basic setup of this mission.  Now, let’s get petty! “Lover in the Ice” has a decent layout, but for the price, I kinda want a cover page, more art, and hyperlinks.  Its a PDF, but not hyperlinked, so I get slightly annoyed. It’s pretty short, so this is a good one shot. But, I’d like a bit more production value.  The monster gets a hand drawn picture, but never a nice, graphic picture I can throw to my players. The handouts I gave to my players are amazing and horrified a few of the players to stop reading!  But the adventure puts up a few red herrings along the way. There is a section where players can keep finding random crap. Nothing in the random crap box is useful except one item. That is fun to see all the different things in there and what other things Delta Green might have been up to!  I’d also like player maps of places without the marks that a GM has. These unmarked maps are VERY useful as something I can plunk down on the table instead of having to remake maps or just cover up points of interest. I like the general execution of this adventure, but I’d like a few more things to really knock it out of the park.  4.25 /5

Summary-I really love this adventure!  It’s got a solid storyline, good execution, and enough action to keep the players involved.  It is not without its faults. I’d like a bit more direction or changes to some of the rules, some extra writing, and some minor things added to the product.  None of the faults here absolutely breaks the game in any way. Honestly, if your group can stand Hellraiser and wants to try Delta Green, then this is a great intro game.  If your group cannot stand theme of body horror and rape, then give this one a hard pass.  Just like sushi, it can be done amazing, but if you can’t stand raw fish, pass and be polite.  Don’t force anybody to eat the sushi! But if you want to try this one, it’s a great day to save the world from some crazy horrors in the snow!  85%

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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Masks of Nyarlathotep

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Masks of Nyarlathotep

Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!

Product– Masks of Nyarlathotep

System– Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition

Producer– Chaosium

Price– $59.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/245820/Masks-of-Nyarlathotep–7th-Edition?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Ya, this is about as good as it’s gonna get!  98.3%

Basics-Where will you find the Dark God?  Masks of Nyarlathotep is one of the granddaddy scenarios for Call of Cthulhu occuring in almost every edition of Call of Cthulhu.  Starting in Peru as a backstory adventure or in New York when the main action starts, players find a world spanning cult where different groups worship and advance the goals of an ancient evil creature beyond the stars as they travel the globe.  Let’s dig into this GIANT tome.

Theme or Fluff-You might not like Call of Cthulhu or Chaosium, but you can never fault them for their research.  First the “main” book clocks in over 500 pages. The original edition of Masks was about 150 pages.  That was pretty big for something in the 80s, but HOLY COW! This book has some details that you might never thing to check.  When was the first plane the flew over the Andes? The book checks! What is the ethnic makeup of the different locations in 1920s?  The book checks! This book has lots of small details provided where you need them. The story has been repeated so many times before, but that doesn’t make it bad, because this is the people who told it before. You’re going to stop a bad thing across the world.  It feels like Indiana Jones pulp, but then again, it should. Indiana Jones is 1920s. You just have to choose how much Pulp you want in your Mythos Orange Juice. Whatever your desire, this book is an excellent resource for telling a world spanning mythose tale. 5/5

Mechanics or Crunch– I really like the Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition rules.  It’s light and clean. I’d like a bit more character advancement beyond your numbers increase, but overall, it works really well.  That’s the rules you get for this book. The people who wrote the rules I like wrote a story they know well. So, unsurprisingly, it’s done well.  Now, it’s not perfect. I’d like some more advice on some things, but that criticism goes to the heart of Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition. Some things are hand waved a bit too much for my taste like if I keep the ancient evil gold, how much does your credit rating go up?  A bit more advice in those aspects would help, but I don’t think it hurts the product too much. This version of Masks is like the advice given by Michelin Star chefs-simple, well produced ingredients prepared expertly make amazing products. 4.75/5

Execution-GAWDDAMN!  So, Masks of Nyarlathotep is a beast at the main book clocking in over 500 pages.  But for $60 for a PDF, that would put that at an average price point. (By the way, hyperlinked PDF because Chaosium, while they write about the past, is not stuck in it!)  But, IT DOES NOT STOP THERE! You get a handout PDF that is expertly crafted so you can hand that out to your players WITH MAPS! You get a file of NPC portraits that you can show off.  You get a PDF of a GM screen and a separate Keepers guide. HOLY COW! You took the time and made this thing amazing. Oh ya, new art, maps, and the layout is great too. That’s usually what I whine about, but those basics are covered so well that I barely felt the need to mention it.  Like normal, I skimmed the first section before my first game running it and was able to pull of a great game without having to memorize the giant section on Peru. Digging deeper pays off, but its written well enough that you can just jump in the command chair right away and get running.  That’s hard to pull off in a FIVE HUNDRED PAGE BOOK! I really want to emphasise that! I’ve had basic DnD scenarios not be able to pull that off in five pages, so kudos to the writers. The price is a bit steep for some new GMs, but if you can pull the trigger, then you will get exactly what you need to run games for at least a year, if not more.  This level of production is well worth the price. BONUS ROUND!!! PDFs should be free if you buy the book. That’s my bold stance. Chaosium agrees. If you buy the PDF from them and then go to buy the physical book from them, then you SUBTRACT THE PDF PRICE FROM THE BOOK! The physical price will be over $100 because it’s over 500 pages (AGAIN THAT’S A LOT!), but if you want a book that can break a shelf at your house, consider ordering form them since you get the PDF for free when you get the physical copy.  Also, I LOVE this strategy as maybe I only want one and not the other but might change my mind later. LISTEN OTHER COMPANIES, GO DO THIS! 5/5

Summary-Every DnD player explores the Tomb of Horrors.  It’s in almost every edition, it get reprinted, and it’s a rite of passage.  Sometimes that reuse of material is throw in a separate book and called good as a slapdash money grap when you don’t have anything better on the horizon.  Sometimes the product is nurtured, loved, and cared for till it matures like fine wine. That is exactly what happened here. The 7th edition Masks of Nyarlathotep is an phenomenal product that is well worth the considerable money you are putting into the product.  I love the writing, the mechanics, and the overall presence of this thing. It’s got some flaws, but those are minor issues that will not distract from the amazing product her. If you have the money and want to play some Call of Cthulhu, then this is your purchase!   98.3%

 

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Pathfinder 2.0 Playtest

Product– Pathfinder Playtest

System– Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Producer– Paizo

Price– Free! here http://www.paizo.com

TL; DR– Great Crunch, Decent Fluff, Horrible Layout. 89%

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Basics-Is this the 4th edition players wanted years ago?  Pathfinder Playtest is the newest playtest from Paizo.  It is an update to the 3.5 rules Pathfinder that is based on modern design design, Starfinder, 4e DnD, and other systems to make something new the players might want and the old vanguard will love.  Let’s check out a few of the key differences.

Basics of the D20 System-Pathfinder Playtest isn’t honestly that far removed from 3.5 DnD.  It’s still just d20 + ability modifier + ranks/proficiency/attack bonus + bonuses + penalties.  Thats 90+% of the game, and that hasn’t changed. What the big differences are in how the ranks/proficiency/attack bonus is calculated.  Level is now used to determine what your bonus/ranks are. During character generation your class, race, and background will tell you what skills you are trained in.  That uses your full level for a bonus. As you advance, you can become further trained gaining up to a +3 to your ranks/proficiency. This goes for attacks as you will be trained in some weapons and not others.  You take a -2 penalty to anything you are not trained in, be it weapons or skills. Modifiers are also cleaned up with most modifiers being called “conditional modifiers”. Just like the heart of the D20 system, you apply the biggest penalty and the biggest bonus.  That’s it! Attacks, spells, and skills all fit nicely in one package to the point that when you attempt an action that requires a skill, the attempt will be against a certain level, and the GM will decide if the activity is hard or easy to check a simple DC chart. VERY SLICK!  Defences is also figured out the same way as you can be proficient to various degrees in defending yourself.

Action Economy–  The second biggest change in my opinion is the action economy.  Characters get three actions per turn. One attack is free, but you can make two more attacks at a -5 and a -10 penalty, so a level one character can swing for the fences by attacking three times!  There are no longer any full round actions. Some spells require three actions, while raising a shield uses an action instead of a swift action. Every action has a nice stat block laying out what it does.  This feels very 4e DnD, but it feels like it’s more using the better parts of layout and design and avoiding oversimplification of 4e DnD system. Again, this is a great way to get all the over complicated pieces of that grew in Pathfinder into a much more simple system.

Feats or options-Starfinder provided lots of options for characters, so no two characters, even at level one, might be quite the same.  The Pathfinder Playtest goes further with that idea. When you build your character you choose a background and then several feats.  These feats are for your race and your class. As you advance you choose more feats for race and class, so you custom build your characters as a member of the race and as a member of the class.  So, while 3.5 grognards might think of feats as a sometimes thing that provides a bit of differentiation to your character, this modern design really focuses on options. Feat really just replaces the word option in this edition.

Mixed Shenanigans-There as also several other small changes to the game.  ITEMS STILL HAVE LEVELS! That always makes me happy as I know exactly when I should give each toy to the players, and quite honestly the best thing brought over from Starfinder.  Hero Points are a fun way characters get to control the world by providing rerolls, death saves, and extra actions in combat much like edge or luck in other systems. And, the list goes on, but most of these are smaller changes that you can dig deeper into.  These are not major ways Pathfinder changes, but do reward careful digging into the rules to see new options like throwing damage into a shield instead of your face or limiting magic item usage by a new statistic. It won’t keep you from enjoying the game, but all these small things don’t really break the game you might know and love.

Alright, let’s get to my thoughts on the system and book.

Theme or Fluff-Huh, this is a playtest book for a system, why is there fluff to this book?  I’m not complaining. Honestly, I’m impressed! It uses the base Golarian world, but does include fluff on the world and its people.  It’s not a ton, but it’s enough to get a game going. I like what’s here! What does and will always piss me right off is WHY DOES EVERY NEW EDITION OF A GAME HAVE TO CHANGE NAMES FOR BASIC SPELLS!?!  The basic healing spell in Pathfinder was cure BLANK wounds. Now, it’s heal. That’s just confuses players coming from previous editions as heal was a ultra-powerful spell. Nows is level 1 necessity for a cleric.  DnD 5e called their basic spell cure wounds, just do the same. Nobody owns those words! Good fluff, but some unnecessary changes. 4.9/5

Mechanics or Crunch– This really isn’t an edition change as it is a rules clean up toward a more modern game design.  People called the previous edition of the game Mathfinder, and now I am seeing the term Featfinder thrown around. Those are fair criticisms of the game, but I don’t think those are bad by any stretch.  Paizo uses the world feat here to mean option. This game gives you a lot more options! OSR games have one path for each character. More modern design likes options, so Pathfinder 2.0 uses Starfinder ideas to really give you more options per level so you don’t have a bunch of human fighters who are basically carbon copies.   The new skill system is good as we lost the overspecialized characters being the only ones who can play in any situation. Characters can still specialize, but if I didn’t spend 10 levels working on diplomacy, I can still talk to people without sounds completely stupid or being absolutely useless when we talk to anybody. I’m just slightly worse having at most an increased 25% chance of failure compared to most other characters by skill alone.  This involves more of the party and that is always a good thing! Action economy threw me for a loop. When I first skimmed the rules I missed that you get three actions a round, so actions like readying a shield really caught me off guard. Seeing that you get three actions a turn really makes that a much better option as well as being able to multiattack at first level with increasing penalties reminiscent of full attack in Starfinder. You can see lots of lessons learned from Starfinder in this game.  Magic is still magic, but the addition of spells taking more or less actions and all spells being able to be cast at higher levels for better effects really brings in some 5e and other RPG design ideas to Pathfinder. These are great additions to the system as now players can choose to just whip a small spell quickly or to really burn a whole turn gathering eldritch might to destroy their enemies. 4.75/5

Execution-Overall, this is a well laid out book.  First, Paizo PLEASE HYPERLINK! Heck, if you send me the PDF a day early and a coupon for a 10 piece of McNuggets, I’ll hyperlink your PDF for you!  This book is hundreds of pages full of new contect, so it’s a monster PDF. A hyperlink makes that not a pain to read and move through. Second, why did you change the layout to match the DnD Essential line for character development?  Do people fondly remember those books as a giant mush table that was hard to read but kind of looked like a broken comma delimited file? DON’T DO THAT! Aside from those major issues, the book isn’t bad. It reads well, and the new layouts for spells and actions look great.  It feels like 4e design layout principles, and if you didn’t love the mechanics of 4e, you have to agree the basic layout was well done. The book could use more art, but then again, it’s free and a playtest, so the fact it’s not 400 pages of word docs means this is way above what can be expected.  I would not buy the leather bound edition of PLAYTEST RULES(!!!) with recycled art, but for a basic softcover or PDF, this works well. 3.75/5

Summary-The kids are alright!  Honestly, if this is the new system as written, I’d be happy.  I like options! If you are an OSR guy/gal, then the number of options here will be a killer.  There will be quick builds, but the point of this version is if you want to do the thing, there is a way to build the thing!  Classes, races, and backgrounds all add to the crunch and fluff mix, and the options you have will help you customize your character to your heart’s content.  The basic math feels good. I like systems where I know how hard a skill will be at each level. It’s much less hand wave-y! The mix of attack, skill, saves, and defense do make life that much easier.  And that is where the rubber will meet the road for you. That is a clear carry over from 4e DnD. I LOVED 4e DnD. It wasn’t the d20 we knew and loved, but it tried. Low level characters could not do high level things.  Your growth as a character mattered much more than your starting abilities. If you think a level 1 dude should be able to hit the Demogorgon in the eye with only slight more difficulty than a level 20 guy, then this won’t be your version of DnD/Pathfinder.  I’m honestly down for the changes! The fluff here is good. It’s WAY more than you should expect for a playtest, but it’s a fun thing that they spent some time on. What NEEDS to change is the layout of classes and abilities. Please take that from 3.5. Give me columns that say what I gain each levels, what level I gain each different feat type at, and how many spells, if any, I can cast per day.  What you have here hurts me. Its text-file vomit that is hard to read. I can do it, but it makes life hard and reading not fun. If Paizo tightens up a few things, retools the class layouts, and builds a bit more theme in to the next book, I’d be down for the leather edition of the real rules! 89%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Wrath and Glory

Product– Wrath and Glory Warhammer 40K Roleplay Core Book

System– Wrath and Glory Warhammer 40K Roleplay

Producer– Ulisses Spiele

Price– $ 40.00 here https://www.gamenerdz.com/warhammer-40k-wrath-glory-rpg-starter-set-preorder?gclid=Cj0KCQjw77TbBRDtARIsAC4l83noBu-k1Ixh3su554S-3-k3nQS8VplfBm-A82w6EaBzdBMWaEWEzWIaAsxYEALw_wcB

TL; DR– In the Grim Dark Future there is only a surprisingly indie RPG!  93%

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Basics-For the God Emperor!  Wrath and Glory is a new RPG from Ulisses Spiele that covers the  world of 40K, a grim, gothic world of alien threats to mankind and the equally horrible men and women who fight the xeno threat while burning heretics by the score.  Let’s bust up how to play.

Core rules- Wrath and glory uses a modified d6 system like Shadowrun.  Every action taken by the character is done by adding up the character’s attribute plus their skill for that action and rolling that many six-sided dice.  One die is kept a separate color and is called the wrath dice, and is important later. Players then count all the dice that roll 4s and 5s for single successes.  Each 6 counts as two successes. Most tests require 3 successes to succeed, with some harder things requiring up to 11 almost impossible to get successes while easy things that always succeed might only require 1 success.  Players have access to a number of different pools to alter these rolls.

Icons and Exalted Icons-Each 4 and 5 counts as an icon.  This means successes, but it opens up design space.  Not only do sixes count as two success, but sixes also count as exalted icons.  All players share an icon pool that extra exalted icons can be shifted into or take from called glory.  Exalted icons provide extra dice on damage, making tests go fasters, getting better results, or moved into the glory pool. Glory give you extra dice, extra damage, increase critical hit severity, and mess with initiative.

Wrath-Wrath is the last pool players can play with.  Wrath allows players to reroll failures on a test, gain back shock (think stamina points from Starfinder), gain bonuses on some checks, and add elements to a scene.  This is the most powerful pool a player can use, so they only gain more points by role playing well, completing objectives, and some out of combat campaign goals.

Ruin-Ruin is the last pool that players can generate, but this is a GM toy.  Ruin operates like a combination of wrath and glory but for NPCs. Players generate ruin when the roll a 6 on the one separate wrath die.

Combat-Combat is interesting because combat has much more indie vibe to is.  Players take turns nominating characters then NPCs to act leading to a much more narrative structure.  Attacks work just like all other rolls with an attacker rolling attribute + skill vs. targets defence value.  On a success, the attacker rolls a number of dice equal to the exalted icons shifted from the attack or glory pool plus any from the weapon itself plus the weapons base damage value.  Success on the extra dice add to the base damage. If damage is equal to or lower then the targets resistance, then it takes some shock (again, it’s kind of like stamina points from Starfinder, they come back quickly on a quick rest but you can be knocked out when you lose them all).  If the damage if more than the resistance, you take wounds. When wounds equal your total, you’re dead! If you roll a 6 on the wrath die,not only does ruin generate, but you do critical hit damage.

In addition to the narrative structure of combat, players can spend glory to further mess with initiative.  Instead of nominating an NPC to go after a player, the players can spend glory to force another player to go after another player.  When the story demands awesome, the pools of player toys provide!

Also in combat are mobs of creatures.  It would not be Warhammer if you didn’t fight 40 orcs at a time!  When more then one unnamed creatures is present, they can fight as one giant mob with each extra creature beyond the first adding extra dice to the attack pool.

Psionics- Warhammer 40K doesn’t have magic, it’s got psionics or psykers!  Psionics fit in simply like any other skill roll. You make willpower + psychic mastery roll and need to hit a number of success based on the power to activate it.  In addition, each power also has a number of extra abilities called potency that can be activated if a character hit enough exalted icons.

Those are the major parts of the game.  Attribute + skill for rolls looking for 4s, 5s, and hopefully 6s to do cool stuff and move the story forward.  Let’s see what I think.

Theme or Fluff-Well done RPGs that introduce a new world fall into two major camps-story first or crunch first.  This game starts story first. Overall, it’s well done. I don’t know a lot about the imperium of mankind and the horrors of the warp, but I know there is A LOT.  This book CANNOT teach you all that you can learn about 40K. That is just impossible as there are entire youtube channels that release videos daily and still find 40K content to cover months later!  The book is more human centered, but later the book give lots of rules for non-human characters. It makes me want to know more about these xeno races. That’s not bad, but a bit more would make me feel like I could run a xeno game without needing other books.  However, as your first introduction to the world of Warhammer 40K, this is a great place to start from. 4.5/5

Mechanics or Crunch–   I really like the mechanics of this game.  Warhammer 40K is a game where you throw buckets of d6s at problems until they die.  This game uses the same mechanic, but slimmed down. Unlike the wargame, you do not compare defense values before rolling and checking charts to find what the numbers on the dice need to be to hit a creature.  This games uses a Shadowrun inspired d6 system that is amazingly slick. Shadowrun isn’t the perfect example, but its the system that comes to mind when I roll d6s and look for specific numbers. The comparison brakes down further when you add in glory, wrath, and ruin.  I love everything I see here as Wrath and Glory has carved out its own mechanics from other games. What’s more, the narrative nature of the game really draws you in. You can’t sit on the sideline waiting for your initiative. Every player has to be engaged to really survive as a team.  The tier system of character development and determining appropriate challenges will help the games running smoothly and let players know if that orc is just another nob loser to kill in a hit or a major problem that will kill the entire crew! Nothing here feels like it will just slow down the game.  I can’t say how much I love everything that I see here. 5/5

Execution-I like this book.  I was reading a PDF, so I can’t comment on if its hyperlinked, but it looks great.  It’s also over 400 pages so that’s amazing for the price. However, the one thing I wish the book had was more pictures.  I know enough 40K to hum a few bars, but I can’t keep up with the deep lore. I never got into the miniature game because models had to be accurate to play in a tournament, and I don’t know a bolter from a lascanon.  I’d like more pictures in the book to show me what all the weapons, armors, and toys are. Wanting more is a great place to leave your customers, and I can tell this one will have several more splat books. It’s a great book, but more fluff would help follow what all the action is about as well as break up the text in the book. 4.5/5

Summary-This game had a tall order to follow.  Wrath and Glory needed to deliver an RPG that let players throw a buckets of d6s, play quick, and let bloody glory for the god emperor rage across the galaxy.  And I think it does it! The system need more books to cover everything as ANY 40K RPG can’t be complete in one book. Just the 30+ years of lore means that any one book that is made can’t come close to explaining all of what is going on here.  But this tome does start the RPG at a good place. The mechanics are slick and play fast. The pools of different tokens make me feel like I have control of the action. The narrative nature of combat further brings in players to a visceral RPG where story comes first.  The fluf of the world feels good, and even a novice like myself feels like I’ve learned enough to at least start. The book is laid out well, but needs more pictures to help break up text and show not tell me more about the world. None of these complaints are game ending bad though.  I love what I’m seeing, and I just can’t wait for more! 93%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron

Product– Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron

System-DnD 5e

Producer– Wizards of the Coast

Price– $20 here http://www.dmsguild.com/product/247882/Wayfinders-Guide-to-Eberron-5e?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– A much needed update on nearly everyone’s favorite modern crazy setting.  88%

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Basics-Whose ready for some Dragonpunk?  Wayfinder’s guide to Eberron is a 5e update to Eberron from Keith Baker.  Eberron debuted in 3.5 DnD, received a 4e update, and this is the updated 5e version.  What Eberron is is hard to describe. It’s a post-magic war, Noir, fantasy, semi-modern sci-fi non-standard epic with sprinkles of Cthulhu mythos added in, with massive changes to the standard DnD world as magic is extremely common and every race doesn’t follow any of the normal conventions set before.  The book itself has one chapter setting the tone and feel of the world. After that is a chapter on the geography of the main continent followed by a chapter on the different races of Eberron. From there the book shifts to magic, focusing one chapter on Dragonmark houses (think magic family guilds with tattoos that appear under stress providing magic powers), and then new magic creation rules as well as items for the world.  The book wraps up by focusing on a major city of the world called Sharn, and finally providing additional resources like extra reading, a glossary, and pictures you can use for your game.

Theme or Fluff-I like the stuff in this book.  It is travel guide to the world of Eberron providing a much needed update for the most recent system of DnD.  Players get to learn about the world, and GMs get enough story seeds that they can set a story anywhere. The races feel fresh since that is a major point of Eberron, and the world is deep.  My major complaint is this book feels short. Under 3.5, whole books were written about each of the different countries, and here each place gets about a page. For a book published by Wizards of the Coast itself, I expect a bit more for a $20 PDF.  Nothing here is bad, but I expect a bit more from the main publisher. 4.5/5

Mechanics or Crunch-Wizards of the Coast put out a book, so they know their own system.  I love the new races and am glad to see the races specific to Eberron get a 5e DnD coat of paint.  I also can’t give enough praise and love to how Dragonmarks and magic item creation is handled. Dragonmarks are one of the core elements of the Eberron setting as these magic family businesses run large chunks of the world, at least by proxy.  Previous editions handled this by feats, but this one sets them up as races. You are born a Dragonmark, which feels thematically true, but I also like the crunch of how each Dragonmark is handled. Magic items are extremely common with an almost cellphone like network existing in Eberron, so magic item rules needed an update.  This book provides new item creation rules and providing costs for items. This is an update the system needed long ago as some DnD Adventurers’ League players are swimming in gold but have no real use for it. In Eberron, that gold has a place to go! 5/5

Execution– HOOOOLLLLYYYY COW!  Wizards of the Cost put out a PDF and its hyperlinked!? Overall, I like the flow in this book.  I don’t hate reading the book as it doesn’t hurt my eyes to scan or dive deeply into each topic.  The text is laid out well, font is good, and I like the art. Now, the art is very recycled, but the DMs Guild lets authors use art from previous editions, so I don’t hate it.  I would like a bit more from the mothership, but its is not bad. The book does feel short, and that short nature hurts it a bit. I could easily see expanding each country to two pages and adding in more art assets from other books.  This also kinds of makes me angry as your charging roughly full price compared to Chaosium and Paizo for a book that the fluff is already written for and your art is already written for. The art is already made, and you have the graphics sitting on a hard drive, so why not use them?  The maps are ok, but they are the most general ones from the setting, so you don’t even see the capital cities on them. This would also break up the text a bit more as multiple pages are two columns in a row. There is enough white space to not make reading boring, but I’d like more. 3.75/5

Summary-Eberron is an amazing setting that everyone should experience.  From how it flips the script of traditional RPG elements to its Noir setting of morally gray characters, it should be on every RPG player’s bucket list.  This book provides a great new update to the world, providing both DMs and players with a wealth of information. My main complaint is that I would like more.  For a $20 PDF, I would like a bit more, and some of the more I want are things that Wizards of the Coast already has like maps and art assets. Some are included in the back of the book, but putting them where they are mentioned in the book might help a bit more.  That said, you can’t really go wrong with this book. If you are tired of the same Tolkien inspired fantasy, then check out Eberron. This book will give you the 5e shot in the arm you’ve been looking for to start your own game. 88%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

Product– Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes

System-DnD 5e

Producer– Wizards of the Coast

Price– $33 here https://www.amazon.com/MORDENKAINENS-FOES-Accessory-Wizards-Team/dp/0786966246/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1531451731&sr=8-1&keywords=mordenkainen%27s+tome+of+foes

TL; DR-It’s not plagiarism if it’s from you!  83%%

8147MOLG+oL

Basics-It’s not Monster Manual II, IT’S MONSTER MANUAL II!  Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes builds out the world of Dungeons and Dragons, focusing less on any one particular world and more on the higher and lower planes.  It provides players with some new options, race options, and even story to build out the characters they want to be. DMs get new monsters, focusing on higher power, extra planar monsters as well as building the universe around the normal material plane players are used to.

Theme or Fluff-This book is by the same people who made the planes in the first place, so its top notch.  The story is amazing, not just for a monster manual, but for any book honestly. You get a ton of options to really make well rounded characters from backstory to new hooks to get the characters really involved in the world.  There are multiple versions of tieflings depending on your devil parents. Those little touches really draw you in. DMs get monsters that have story as well as world-building that will really make higher level play much more interesting.  This is a great resource for any DnD 5e player that wants some planar spice in their game or character. .5/5

Mechanics or Crunch-Again, this book was written by the people who made the system, so they know their math.  The monsters feel right. There are new monsters as well as old favorites. Get ready for heavy hitters though.  This book has low level monsters, but it brings a ton of big boys to the fray. If you need high level monsters, then this is the book for you.  5/5

Execution– Is there a PDF since this book came out in 2018?  Nope, well we’re down to at most ⅘. Then, this is where I get personally angry.  This book copy/pastes the high level monsters from Out of the Abyss. I’m not just talking monsters, but art and even whole written backgrounds for monsters.  We’re talking about ⅕ of the monsters from the book, and almost all the high level monsters. And that is where I draw the line. Need big monsters to make the fight happen?  Great! Use some but not all. The highest level monsters are all the demon princes/princesses of the abyss. NO DEVIL LORDS ARE IN THIS BOOK. That means the DnD team decided to phone in ⅕ of this book by just copying another book they put out a few years ago.  So even though the book’s layout is good, art is good, and event tables of contents and appendices are great, you get a crap rating because you want me to pay full price for phoning in effort. 2.5/5

Summary– I want to like this book.  It’s got a ton of great qualities.  Players and DMs both get excellent resources to use to build up their stories with new characters options and monsters.  And honestly, the book is put together well. I like what they did here with all the different end tables and even the layout of the monsters.  However, this book breaks two important rules for me. First, I can’t get a digital version without have to buy it separately through an app. I already have a number of apps, and when that company folds, I will lose my purchase.  So the lack of PDFs really hurts this book. Second, large parts of this book are just copies of an earlier book. So, why should I reward any company for just selling the same thing to me twice? This is a great book, IF you can get past the fact that if you already own Out of the Abyss, you are buying the monsters again.  If that doesn’t bother you, or you don’t own that book, then this is going to be a great book for your DnD collection, both as a player and as a DM. 83%

 

Blurbs from the Booth-A Tale of Three PDFS

I haven’t written about just my opinion of the gaming industry for a long time, and I have something I want to say.  Let’s get into it!  Today, I am telling the tale of three PDFs, what it says about me, what it says about the gaming industry, and what it says about what RPGs I will pay for going forward.

 

First, I want to talk about RuneQuest (https://www.chaosium.com/runequest-roleplaying-in-glorantha-pdf/) from Choasium.  This came out last month, and the build up was an email campaign and several release articles.  It wasn’t overwhelming, but it was enough to keep my interest as well as a Free RPG Day book I reviewed (https://throatpunchgames.com/2017/06/17/%E2%80%8Bring-side-report-rpg-review-of-runequest-free-rpg-day-product/ ).  I liked everything I saw, and at midnight, I got an email saying that I could buy it from both drivethruRPG.com and choasium.com, and if I bought from Choasium, I would get a gift certificate from Choasium toward additional products or the hardcover out later that year.  I demo Call of Cthulhu for Chaosium, and when I demo, I earn credits on their store.  I used those credits to buy their product, later I WILL buy the physical product, and my store players buy the product as well.

 

Today, Masks of Nyarlathotep launched (https://www.chaosium.com/masks/ ).  It’s MUCH more expensive for just the PDF which is essential a rerelease of an older module.  It’s updated of course, but I think I’m a super de dupper Game Designer (I make 10s of dollars off the RPG industry this year alone!), so If I really wanted to, I could could custom up everything, find the old resources… ya know what, let’s just buy the PDF and be lazy!  All joking aside, this product is slick.  Lots of resources, new updated things, books for the players, AND the same guarantee-buy now, get the cost of the PDF off the physical book!  It had the same build up as RuneQuest with an email campaign with some information and updates, but it might have gotten a slight boost as now Fantasy Flight is releases Egypt and Nyarlathotep themed products for their Call of Cthulhu lines as well.  But it was  the same deal as with RuneQuest, but this time I woke up at 3AM AND I didn’t have credits to burn.  NO thoughts or questions on if I should get this, but when and will this be my next campaign I run at the store?  This was bought with $60 of my own money because I felt like this was a good product from a company that cared.

 

Choasium makes me feel like they need me and want gamers like me.  I run monthly games at my store, games at cons, and even online for this company.  I feel like I work hard for them, and the reward me for being part of the team.  I put my time in for them, and they reward me with store credit and excellent product.  My only slight complaint was I wish I could use their credit offer on physical product from my local store, so I can support my local store like the Bits and Mortar program (http://www.bits-and-mortar.com/).  But, Chaosium gets upfront money from me and encourages me to basically buy physical product on layaway.  I give them some money now, and when physical product launches, I can use my credit on it to get it cheaper.  They sell books, have money to make books, and then get more money by selling me the physical book.  Win Win!

 

Those were two good PDFs, so how about a bad one?  Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes also launched last month.  I saw an announcement on Youtube from some people playing a game.  Yippy!  Who doesn’t love to watch other people game instead of game themselves!  That’s always fun….  And then I saw the release announcement, and I started a timer on my phone and started checking torrents.  I got to 18 hours before I saw my first torrent of the book.  I’m not saying I did anything illegal, but I did keep checking to see when it was out there.  Right now the fancy edition of the book is on amazon for $80 (https://www.amazon.com/Dungeons-Dragons-Mordenkainens-Alternate-Limited/dp/B07B88MCS5/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1530483510&sr=8-2&keywords=tomb+of+foes , don’t worry angry review is coming out tomorrow!).  Cool!  Can I just buy a PDF?  No, DnD has moved away from the PDF market (not really since their major cash cow is to just slapping their name on everything in the DM’s Guild and get money for NO work…)  because DnD Insider caused such a stir with physical stores feeling they were abandoned by an ever changing rule set and players who payed $10 a month basically getting the rules free anyway.  Ok, so its only physical books then?  NOPE!  I can buy a “license” for the content from DnD Beyond…for $33 (https://www.dndbeyond.com/marketplace/source/33 )!  Just what I need!  Another app to update, purchase stuff for, and keep checking!  YA!  If I buy a physical book do I get money off the digital?  NOPE!  If I buy a digital book, do I get money off a physical book?  NOPE! Heck even Pathfinder gives you a PDF if you buy the physical from them!  If I demo games for you guys, do I get credits to buy books?  NOPE, SCREW YOU ED!  WE ENDED THE STORE PROGRAM BECAUSE WE’RE NOW FUNDING A FORMER PORN STAR TO PLAY DND AND APPEAR AT CONS!  Because we’re a family company.  (Does Ed really care that she is a former porn star?  No, but I really want to point out this is the weirdest future!  Who saw that one coming?).  So now I have ABSOLUTELY ZERO REASON TO GAME IN A STORE OR CON, SUPPORT A STORE OR CON, OR ENTER A STORE OR CON TO BUY THE BOOKS SINCE AMAZON BEATS THE STORES AND CONS EVERY TIME!  Welp, guess what PDF Ed DIDN’T buy?  It’s Tome of Foes?  Why?  BECAUSE IT DOESN’T LEGALLY EXIST FOR SALE!  I don’t need some app to game.  I have a table.  DnD Beyond makes by blood boil even more because you log in with your twitch handle.  So WHY EVEN GO TO THE STORES!  You didn’t make the PDFs because it hurt stores, and now you’ve decided to absolutely screw the stores because why shop at them and why should I demo at them since I have to now PAY to run your games and you will not support me an any capacity…

 

What is the point of this angry rant?  I love gaming, and I love sharing my hobby with others.  I am a geekvangelist.  I go to community events and set up a table with RPGs to show off the game and how fun it is.  I organize at least 10 events and one day of con games each month, minimum.  I feel I’m part of any RPG group that will have me and will support me getting gaming out there as well as their product.  Wizards of the Coast just doesn’t care, and it makes me sad that 5e is its teeth set into the RPG industry.  Its a good system, but the people behind it just don’t care about the places it came from, the people who sell it at a local level, or even the hard work poured in by the people trying to make their game happen.  Is any company perfect?  No.  I love Chaosium, but their store support is a bit limited.  They support me on the back end, but not as much with me buying stuff at the store so they get money through the store.  Heck even Paizo now does an in store support by having some stores give away con certificates and every so many dollars spent that day in the store allows for rerolls and other things to help players and keep them gaming in the store.  But, this final book from WotC is the final straw that broke my camel back.  I used to be a local coordinator.  I made store events happen, run weekly games, worked hard with other coordinators to make sure con games happened across the state, and felt like I was part of a team.  Now, who the fuck cares?  WotC is going to have some pretty people pretend pay on YouTube next to an unboxing video of a barbie, hope Twitch says alive compared to Discored or a hundred other up en comers, and abandon everything I worked hard to keep going.  They don’t even support cons as now cons need to individual purchase adventures for DMs through the DMs guild so now every con makes their own adventures.  This has resulted in the Living Game or Adventurer’s League feeling more splintered than it has ever felt before.  But, DnD is what the gamers at my store want to play, and I make games happen.    So I make this pledge now, I will NOT purchase a DnD adventure that I am running for a public event.  If I am not supported in any way, then neither will I support them.

 

So this is the tale of how three PDFs altered my perception on gaming.  If I feel supported as a point man out in the wild for a game, then I will follow you to hell and back.  I’ll purchase, sit, and read RPGs late into the evening if I feel that the hard work of making gaming happen out in the world is something you care about.  If I feel you are just using a name you bought because a card game you owned made ALL THE MONEY, then I am not just another stream of revenue for you. I give up time with my family and friends to journey across the country and internet to find places where people who don’t know what they are missing are to introduce them to something I love.  If I feel you don’t care, then why the heck should I?  And if you don’t care about the things I care deeply about, then why should I try to support you in the things you are doing?

 

Thoughts?