Temple of the Spider – D&D 5e Adventure

Before you direct you attention to the post below can I be so bold as to interest you in a gaming Convention? This November in downtown Dayton, Ohio The RPG Academy will be hosting AcadeCon for their 6th year! Registration is now live and you’d be hard pressed to find a convention this intimate boasting as many special guests as they do, games designers, podcasters, bloggers you name it! Plus, tons of great Game Masters and great games to play. Now, onto the post!

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Eric Ausley, of Gamerstable Podcast fame, has a certain flavor when it comes to his tabletop creations. Spend any time listening to some of the excellent Gamerstable audio dramas and you can pick up on some of his typical machinations. He likes to surprise his players with a vast array of unique NPCs and villains, that range from flavorful to outright depraved. He also likes to add plenty of dark and slimey to his work. Weirdly though, he has a way of toeing the line between outright grossness that would turn someone off and genuinely interesting, despite that touch of madness. I’d be really interested in what a team up between Ausley and Robert Schwalb would look like. Temple of the Spider is all sorts of Eric Ausley.

Eric Ausley’s “pay what you want” adventure Temple of the Spider, recommended for players of 4th level and currently available on Drive Thru RPG, takes you to some mean streets in a town best known for its mining (and corruption by the sound of it). It’s a grungy town that is simply brimming with political and mercantile intrigue, numerous forces are at play and the common folk are terrified of running afoul of pretty much anyone in power. The PCs represent some options for certain powers trying to get back an important asset that was stolen from them, and your players will be in for a wild ride.

Everything in this module is well crafted and easy to parse. It contains deep dives on NPCs and their motivations and some grim villains as well. All of this leads to a truly shocking final battle that you should certainly enjoy throwing at your players. For me personally I really dig the style that Eric has gone with here.

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The adventure is written within a world of Eric’s own creation, Kaleteona, and what tidbits he lays out in this module it seems like a realm I’d like to explore more. I know it is the setting for his Tales of Valevictor games so it certainly holds interest for me. He has a plethora of new Character Backgrounds available here as well. That isn’t to say you couldn’t easily drop this into another setting. I am immediately considering what it would look like to run this adventure in the Cogs beneath the City of Towers, Sharn, now that we have some official Eberron content (a review on this is coming, I promise). Honestly the dirt and grim of the Cogs would suit this very nicely.

I’d suggest this adventure for a more mature audience, of course, but I’d certainly suggest it. Considering it comes with the “pay what you want” price tag you could technically grab it for free, but I typically pay something to the creators of these. You won’t regret your purchase!

-Melvs 

 

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Feeling Thankful

SPOILER ALERT: If you are one of the teens in my gaming group you may want to avoid reading this blog entry.

November is coming to a close, and the Thanksgiving holiday I celebrate every year has come and gone. Thanksgiving, despite any historical inaccuracies that may surround it, has some very wonderful concepts behind it. The idea of giving thanks for all your good fortunes is a lovely tradition, and I am a lucky person. Today I wanted to discuss a recent event specifically related to this gaming hobby I love so much that I am very thankful for.

A little over a week ago I was pining over what to do for the kids who show up to my gaming club this holiday season. I wanted to give them a pen and paper RPG themed gift. In the past I have purchased, and have had donated, D&D 5e Player’s Handbooks for some of the earlier members of the group. I have also used my Hirst Arts molds to make ornaments on one of my leaner years. This year I wanted to do something special and I landed on an idea that I wasn’t quite able to fund. That’s where some amazing people came into action.

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Seriously great group of kids

All I had to do was mention my idea, which was buying twenty copies of Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Core, Explorer’s Edition, Rulebook for Savage Worlds, and I immediately had people ready to assist me financially to buy this book for some kids they’ve never met. The only thing in common? A shared love of tabletop RPGs. It took less than half a day for me to amass more than enough to buy all twenty copies of the book.

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This is exactly the type of attitude I want to show the kids that our community has. Sometimes our fandom can catch a bad rap, we have a few bad actors too, but for the most part I have found that we are a wonderfully generous and inclusive group. Stuff like this highlights it all the more. It is my hope that as they grow, and age out of my club, they take such displays of generosity to heart (even if they never play the game again). Kindness, compassion, and generosity are things our world needs, more than ever these days it seems.

So again, thank you to those who donated. Thank you to those who donated beyond the amount I needed, even after I told you I no longer needed funds (those funds will be put to good use no worries)! If you missed the donation drive, because it lasted mere hours, and want to help out I’ve actually thought of something. This time it doesn’t cost a thing!

I want to include messages in the covers of each book, and I’m hoping you can help by writing these quotes. I want it to be something you love about gaming, or some good advice about it. Take your pick, write it in the comments and I’ll add my favorite 19 (because I’ve got to write at least one, yeah?) to the books. If you feel weird about writing it in the comments, hit me up with a Direct Message on Twitter @sharndm. Also, let me know how you want me to sign it on your behalf. Thanks everyone!

-Melvs

XANATHAR’S GUIDE TO EVERYTHING: A DEEPER DELVE

My initial “review” on Xanathar’s Guide to Everything was merely a “hot take” on the book, I wanted to ensure you all got some information right up front about the bare bones essentials of this important new product for 5e. I had always intended to present a more in depth review but then something even better came along. A good friend of mine wanted to try their hand at contributing to the site and this gave me the opportunity to share the wealth a bit by letting him borrow one of my copies for a time. I always love involving my friends’ voices to this site, gives people a chance to hear things from a different point of view than my own. So without further delay here is a deeper delve into Xanathar’s guide by none other than my friend Conzo! -Melvs

When I read through Volo’s Guide to Monsters, its contents primarily spoke to my DMing side. While it presented a variety of new PC races, the creature-specific lore made me want to introduce my players to entire societies I’d never considered before, and the stat blocks helped me spice up combat encounters. In order to restore the cosmic balance Wizards of the Coast is releasing Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, a 5th Edition supplement that’s much ado about the players.

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Like Volo’s, Xanathar’s Guide is justified with a little in-world setup: the infamous beholder crime lord Xanathar (featured on the cover) has documented all sorts of fantastical things in his life, and for some reason he’s sharing some of his records with the reader. This flavor manifests as goofy little jokes interjected by the many-eyed menace, which I could’ve done without. Luckily they’re restricted to the margins of the book. We’re here for rules text, after all.

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If you’ve already bought some of the supplements for 5E and you’ve been following the Unearthed Arcana site, most of the material in Xanathar’s Guide will be familiar to you. A few of the subclasses from Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and the spells added in Princes of the Apocalypse are reprinted here, just for any players who didn’t catch them the first time. However, the meat of this book comes from Unearthed Arcana, where Wizards of the Coast has been posting 5E test material for free since 2015 (side note: that’s a super-cool way to crowdsource your playtesting). In theory, a miserly player could forgo this book by searching through pages of complimentary pdfs, but Wizards has considered player feedback and made some significant changes to the classes. The most striking change in this regard was transforming the peace-loving Way of Tranquility monastic tradition into the paladin’s Oath of Redemption. When you buy Xanathar’s, you’re buying polish, balance, and some flavorful art.

The guide immediately jumps into the new subclasses, and even if you disregard the reprints it presents a cornucopia of options. While there is only one new arcane tradition for wizards, there are two to three brand-new subclasses for everyone else that expand on what it might mean to be a cleric or a fighter or whatever. For example, warlocks have been making pacts with dark and disturbing entities for ages, but what if you wish to deal with a force of good? Ask your doctor if the Celestial is right for you. What if your rogue prefers solving mysteries over stabbing people in the back? Check out the Inquisitive. Every class gets a boost of characterization, as well as mechanical diversity: players are getting all kinds of new ways to heal and defend, find a tactical upper-hand, or straight-up blast the bad guys (and that’s to say nothing of the new multiclassing opportunities). Personally I wasn’t ever interested in playing a ranger before, but the portal-finding, teleporting Horizon Walker and the invisible-to-darkvision Gloom Stalker have piqued my interest.

 

 

Of course, all the mages out there get some extra attention by way of an expanded spell list. Xanathar’s Guide includes 22 pages of spells, from cantrip to 9th level, bard to wizard. As previously mentioned, the elemental evocations and manipulations from Princes of the Apocalypse make an appearance, but Xanathar’s list includes necromantic attacks and beams of radiance, arcane transmutations and enchantments, and summoning rituals for hordes of demons and magic fortresses. A lot of this section was withheld from Unearthed Arcana testing, so its novelty is definitely one of the highlights of the book. I don’t want to spoil the specifics of any given spell, but I’ll tease you with a sentence of rules text that I found more entertaining than any of Xanathar’s quips: “If a target is killed by this damage, its head explodes, assuming it has one.”

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While players are getting a lot of rules to study and abuse, Xanathar’s Guide also has some optional characterization resources to support the storytelling side of D&D. As someone who’s played a “fighter who just likes to fight” before, I can say these tables of ideas are a great way to break past a writer’s block or start investing yourself in a character. Some of these tables are class-specific, like a barbarian’s superstition or that one awful performance a bard wishes she could forget. Some are background-specific explanations of why the character became a sailor or an acolyte. The table I found most interesting was a set of randomized life events, Adventures and Tragedies and Weird Stuff to be rolled more frequently depending on how old your character is. Maybe that Horizon Walker I was thinking about is an elderly man that’s been around the world before the campaign even begins.

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While most of the book is devoted to player materials, there are a handful of DM resources that are presented somewhat randomly. There’s clarifications on sleeping and flying, lists of simple magic items, the contents of each tool kit and sample DCs for using them, tips for designing rival NPCs and complicated traps, and an appendix about running a game with multiple DMs. There are also some very expansive tables for rolling random encounters, divided by environment and party level, that seem really useful. Whether it was the scattered presentation or the fact that I was still thinking about character creation, this information didn’t excite me, but it’s a resource I might take a second look at in the future.

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As I wrap up, I should mention that while I tried to note everything in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, I almost certainly did not. The supplement abounds with eclectic information worthy of a beholder’s library, and there are a few pages of information that didn’t make it into this review. That said, even if I never see those pages again, Xanathar’s Guide is a great supplement to the core rules of Fifth Edition D&D. If you’re a player, or you have a group of players, looking for ways to give your next adventuring party a zesty new flavor, this book should keep you entertained for many campaigns to come. Your current characters might even start taking foolhardy risks, just so they can be replaced by newer ones. Unless Melvin lets me keep one of his copies, I’ll be picking up my own after November 21.

-Conzo

AcadeCon 2017

The Kickstarter is winding down, and they are looking good to fund. I opted to write my post a little later than usual this year, and hopefully I can urge a few readers to join us at the coolest (not quite as little anymore) gaming convention out there! 

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AcadeCon is the realized dream of Michael, Caleb, and the whole RPG Academy Podcast crew. This year will mark the fifth such time the convention has been put on but 2015 was when they truly threw caution into the wind and put forth the first publicly open AcadeCon, held at the Hueston Lodge in Oxford, Ohio. I had the pleasure of attending and it was some of the best gaming time I’ve spent at a convention to date! There’s a deep love of gaming that bubbles within every attendee I’ve encountered at AcadeCon. In 2016 AcadeCon was growing, thus they moved things to a bigger venue, the Dayton Convention Center, in Dayton, Ohio where they will also host this year’s event. Sadly I was unable to attend AcadeCon 2016 due to the wedding of a friend, but by all accounts it was yet one more step up for the group.

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One of the hallmarks of any AcadeCon is the special guest list. RPG Creators, Authors, Podcasters, and Bloggers adorn this list. I can attest to playing beside some really cool people at AcadeCon 2015. It almost feels like a bit of a retreat for those in the industry at times. Instead of panel after panel they can play side by side with the people who love their games.

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Some of the other perks are possibly getting into a game with the You Too Can Cthulhu crew, back again for the third year running. This group really knows how to pull together some great Lovecraftian Horror for you to play, often corralling the players into secreted locations to really up the ambiance.  The Double Exposure Envoy program is joining AcadeCon this year, allowing con attendees to play brand new games. Every time you play a demo, you are entered into a drawing to possibly win that game. According to the Kickstarter continued plays net you more chances at the same game, or maybe you just try your hand at all of them.

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Honestly I could drone on all day, espousing the joys of gaming with this crowd, but you would be even better served just visiting the Kickstarter, helps get you closer to that pledge button anyway. I’m truly hoping to attend myself this year but more weddings seem to be in the way (I have one the weekend before and one the weekend after!) and I’d not miss these weddings for the world. However, I hope you get the chance to attend, I really do. You’ll not find better gaming anywhere in my opinion!

-Melvs

Game Enlightenment

Game Enlightenment is part two of a dual posting in honor of #TabletopDay, written by my wife and professional educator, Sarah Smith. To read part one, written by me, click here! -Melvs

Albert Einstein says, “Play is the highest form of research.” When I see quotes from Mr. Einstein, I always think that it might be slightly cliche to use them in my writing, but this just fit my perspective on gaming so well.

I truly believe that that through games we re-create ourselves. Through games we become able to do something we were never able to before. Tabletop games will always have a place in my classroom. Teaching through hobbies is a magical opportunity. I am honored to be a part of this community.

-Sarah Smith

Being a fourth grade teacher, I am constantly trying to find ways to appeal to the minds of learners. Today, more than ever, our learners yearn for new ways of thinking. So many of the strategies in teaching that have been used are timeless and will continue to be important. I will in no way negate the greatness of memorization, repeated exposure, pencil on paper, standard algorithm, or proper spelling and grammar. Yet, I find myself along with many of my colleagues, attempting to pull every learner’s mind into the crave of enlightenment.

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Playing games seems to be one way to inspire young learners. Board games, card, interactive sport games, and role playing games are proven ways that teach learners how things work. There are many strategies and skills that come from play. I want to address, that I also think unstructured play can be great for learners as well. Going outdoors and using imagination is simply amazing. But, in this piece I would like to stick to the “structured” form of play that I have had the pleasure of introducing in my classroom, and at a very recent dual school event. A few strategies, that I have experienced both for myself and observed with learners, include things like mental math, re-reading, problem solving, note taking, perseverance and collaboration. Ask any gamer, and the strategies would most likely go on and on. The skills that I have observed include interacting appropriately with others, using expansive language to communicate thoughts, goal setting and organization of materials. The increase in these strategies and skills have resulted in learners wanting to participate even in undesirable subjects. They experience increased reading and math levels. There is an obvious increase in classroom comradery, goal setting, and above all else FUN!

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I have used games in my classroom from teaching Kindergarten in an inner city charter school to my current fourth grade classroom in a rural community. In all of my years I have been able to use a variety of games to teach life and academic skills, and how to have fun while learning. Last night was our first Mother/Son game night, that I organized with a group of parents at my school. It was one of most invigorating events I have organized this year. Playing games is always enjoyable for me, but to share it with learners and parents was like watching your D20 land on a critical hit!

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The evening was a series of fun “carnival” like games in the gym, pizzas, snacks and conversations in the cafeteria, and (my biased favorite) tabletop games in the library. When you walked into the library it was a series of moms and their sons conversing with other moms and sons on goals and strategies of the games. Some of the most popular games were Forbidden Island, Machi Koro, SmashUp, King of Tokyo, Ticket to Ride, Chaos and Alchemy. There were of course some standards as well, Checkers, Candyland and Connect 4. My husband, Kevin Smith @sharndm and friend/colleague Shane Johnson @mrshanejohnson8 ran the room with ease. I have to say, I was super impressed with the amount of kids that were able to just pick up the goals of the games. Shane is the gifted instructor at our school, and I have seen him utilize his classroom for a way to use tabletop games to guide learning through multiple intelligence styles. Many of his students attended, and it was very obvious that they have made great strides in communication skills through tabletops. The evening ended in raffling off some games, a donated laptop computer, and lots of smiles. I drove home on cloud Valinor.

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I truly believe that that through games we re-create ourselves. Through games we become able to do something we were never able to before. Tabletop games will always have a place in my classroom. Teaching through hobbies is a magical opportunity. I am honored to be a part of this community.

-Sarah

Big Games, Small Learners

I can think of no finer subject on International Tabletop Day than stories of our younger generations being introduced to the joys of tabletop gaming! Many of you know that I spend at least one afternoon a month volunteering at my local library, teaching teenagers how to play, and run, Tabletop Roleplaying games. This isn’t a story about me though, I want to send up some accolades to the duel efforts of my wife, Sarah, and her co-worker Shane on their efforts to bring the joys of gaming to their students at Wright City West Elementary, here in Missouri, and find ways to encourage learning through these games as well.

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Just over a year ago Sarah began helping Shane develop a board-gaming curriculum in his Spectrum classes. See, Shane works with their district’s Gifted program. The only experience I have with children in such programs is having been in one myself. Many times these kids are incredibly bright, but may lack some of the social skills that make utilizing their gifts, in an effective manner, difficult. Shane has spent countless hours figuring out how collaborative board gaming, and even games where one needs to strategize against multiple opponents, into ways to develop social skills and analytical strategic reasoning. I think most of us realize, deep down, that tabletop gaming easily accomplishes these duel needs, and likely more. Personally I keep pestering Shane to write a piece for the blog with even more details surrounding his excellent program.

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Shane’s students love Machi Koro. Both the original & Bright Lights Big City

Sarah, being something of a board gaming guru herself, spent plenty of time introducing Shane to games she loves playing. Letting him know what she thought might be a good fit for his students. This wasn’t really enough for her though, she really wanted to devise a method to bring her love of gaming to the student en masse. She came upon an idea through her work with the Parent\Teacher committee that she helms as the teacher coordinator for the group. The last two years they had put on a successful Father\Daughter Dance but had never done anything for the mothers and the sons of their school. Sarah saw this as a perfect time to inject some gaming into the equation. She pitched the idea of a Mother\Son Game night, and the group took to the idea and I have to say, last night was a big success!

For a first time event, there was a large showing. Obviously games of all stripes were on the agenda, like the physical games in the gymnasium, but Shane and I ran a room with tables littered with board games for people to enjoy. One of the challenges we faced was the fact that the event was only going to last for two hours so we had to pick games we owned that would allow for multiple plays within that time frame. I ended up mostly helping introduce people to Gamewright’s Forbidden Island. I’m happy to say that both groups survived the sinking island and flew off to victory. Shane did a lot of floating around, assisting with multiple games and I spent a bit of time helping new players learn Iello’s King of Tokyo. Even got to help folks play a little of Michael Iachini’s Chaos and Alchemy (a game I was fortunate enough to playtest way back when!)

One of the best things about our board game room was hearing parents talk about how they had never known games like this existed. They expected the board game room to contain all the board games of their youth, and while we did provide games like Connect Four, Operation, Candyland, Sorry, etc., they typically wanted to try their hand at the new stuff. It is a testament to Sarah’s investment into this idea that many walked away intent on discovering more “games like this”. Especially because they could see how much their kids loved playing these new games. I sincerely hope we’ve created some burgeoning gamers out there!

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The library for the Mother\Son Game Night!

Sarah has told me she wants to build on this, make it more than just a thing done for Mother\Son night, she trying to think on ways to build it up! Perhaps dedicate a full Saturday to inviting the families of surrounding communities to play games at one of the school buildings. The thought is fanciful of course, lots of logistics involved there, but it’s certainly a wonderful idea I’d love to see come to fruition. If anyone has the drive to see it done, of course, it’s my wife.

I just can’t wait to see the different ways Sarah and Shane bring tabletop gaming into the lives of their students. I know Shane wants to learn more about tabletop role playing games next, he’s only dabbled, and I’m excited at the prospect of assisting him in that goal. I know through personal experience that kids and teens can learn a lot from games like Dungeons and Dragons, thorough my work at the library, social skills, reading\writing, and arithmetic. It’s all there, packaged in a fun way that encourages collaborative teamwork as well. I’m only an amateur in the field of “teaching” with these tools though, in the hands of experts like Shane and Sarah it could do some really cool things.

-Melvs

If you enjoyed this article you are going to love Sarah’s. She delves into what teaching through learning means for her. I urge you to check it out!

Fresh To War: Uboxing the Warmachine & Hordes New Releases for April 2017

*It’s a new month so it’s time for some new miniatures from Privateer Press! This time the faction of note is none other than Khador. Now, Nick is already our most learned member of the group when it comes to Warmachine\Hordes, so it is no surprise I tap him so often for these reviews. This time though, we are talking about his main faction. This leaves no other choice than to once again welcome Uncle Grumps to the page. Take it away bud!

What’s up, Jerks? Uncle Grumps here with another quick look at some new releases from Privateer Press. Today we’ll be focusing on the glorious Empire of Khador.

First up: Assault Kommander Strakhov & Kommandos

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Available as of 04/12/2017

MP $24.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

“Assault Kommander Oleg Strakhov has spent decades carving a bloody trail through the kingdoms of western Immoren, eliminating high-profile targets and destabilizing opposing forces with well-orchestrated strikes. Strakhov stands as a Khadoran legend. Those who tell of his deeds speak of him as more specter than man, an unseen force capable of accomplishing impossible tasks under cover of night and leaving no evidence of his passage.”

Strakhov 2 is Khador’s newest warcaster unit. Strakhov’s stats are similar to those of his previous incarnation. He’s gained a point of MAT and DEF but lost a point of ARM. Strakhov has also kept his Pathfinder ability, which allows him to ignore rough terrain, his immunity to fire and corrosion damage, and his ability to ignore gas/cloud effects thanks to his Alchemical Mask. The Assault Kommander has also picked up a few new tricks. He’s gained an ability called Tactical Flexibility which allows him to give his unit Reposition [5”], Stealth, or Overtake for one round. On top of all that, he can also Assault, letting him make a ranged attack as part of a charge. Strakhov is armed with two Trench Swords. These are magical, POW 11 melee weapons that come with Grievous Wounds and the Combo Strike ability. Combo Strike is a special attack that allows Strakhov to add the POW of his weapon twice to the damage roll. Strakhov’s ranged weapon is the Death Whisper Carbine, a range 8” POW 6 gun that halves the ARM of models hit thanks to Armor-Piercing.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the two Kommandos that make up Strakhov’s unit. Their stats are similar to their Kommander’s. The Kommandos have one point less in MAT and ARM, and 3 points less in DEF. They share the following abilities with Strakhov: Alchemical Mask, Immunity: Corrosion, Immunity: Fire, Assault, and Pathfinder. They also have the ability to create a 3” AoE smoke bomb as a special action. The Kommandos are armed with the same Death Whisper Carbines as the Kommander and Trench Swords. These melee weapons are POW 11 and have Brutal Charge which gives them + 2 to charge attack damage rolls. The fun continues on Strakov’s spell card. His first spell is Inviolable Resolve, a low cost upkeep that gives a friendly Faction model/unit +2 ARM and prevents affected models from being moved by pushes or slams. Next is an interesting little spell called Last Stand. This a low cost upkeep that gives a friendly Faction model/unit and additional die on its melee attack and melee damage rolls. The catch is that after the model makes a melee attack, it’s destroyed at the end of your turn. Next up is Lock the Target, a low cost, POW 10 offensive spell that prevents the targeted model from running, charging, slamming, or trampling. He also has Quicken, a moderately priced upkeep that give a friendly Faction model/unit +2 SPD and +2 DEF against ranged and magic attacks. Last but not least, we have Return Fire, a dirt-cheap spell that allows the affected friendly Faction model to make a basic melee or ranged attack after it is targeted by an enemy ranged attack. Strakov’s feat is called Mission Critical. It gives friendly Faction warrior models in Strakov’s control range +3 ARM, Tough, and Feign Death.

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I haven’t had a chance to get a game in with Strakov yet (Between the release of Persona 5 and the new season of Mystery Science Theater 3000, my free time is currently occupied.), so be advised that this article is going to be more Theory Machine-y than usual. Inviolable Resolve will work well with Iron Fang Pikemen, Man-o-War Shocktroopers, or any of Khador’s other stellar units. Last Stand gives you some interesting options. Keep in mind that the spell doesn’t have to be cast on warrior models. A Berserker with three focus and Last Stand sounds pretty nasty. Quicken will help you deliver your troops to the front line swiftly and, hopefully, in one piece. Return Fire seems like it will work best on a ‘jack or another hardy target. The free attack triggers after the attack on your model is resolved, so you need to survive if you want to tag the enemy back. Strakov looks like a lot of fun to play. He has to tools to ably support your army and his unit is capable of causing plenty of mayhem themselves. I can’t wait to get him on the table.

Next up: Greylord Forge Seer

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Available as of 04/12/2017

MP $24.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

“More than just craftsmen, Forge Seers also take to the battlefield alongside the warjacks they help create. These Greylords apply their knowledge of magic and mechanika to imbue the weapons of warjacks with the power needed to cut down unnatural foes who are more than flesh and steel. Clad in Man-O-War armor, Greylord Forge Seers charge into battle with the hiss of steam in their ears and the chill of winter at their fingertips.”

The Greylord Forge Seer is a monster of a model. In my opinion, it’s one of the better sculpts that Privateer has recently released. The Seer’s statline is what you would expect from a Man-o-War Greylord. He’s low SPD and DEF, high ARM, middling MAT, and eight damage boxes. The Seer brings a slew of useful abilities to the battlefield. He’s got Immunity: Cold and Battle Wizard as you’d expect from a high ranking member of the Greylord Convenant and the Repairable rule common to the Man-o-War models. The Seer is also a ‘Jack Marshal with a unique Drive called Dark Sigils. This Drive gives the Warjack under the Seer’s control the Magic and Blessed properties on its melee and ranged weapons. To top it all off, the Greylord Forge Seer has Magic Ability [7] and access to three spells. Empower gives a focus point to a friendly Warjack and gets rid of Disruption. Hoarfrost is low range, high damage AoE spell causes Stationary on a critical hit. Winter’s Wind gives a friendly model that’s immune to cold the Freezer ability. Freezer causes enemy models (without immunity to cold) that end their activation near the affected model to become Stationary. The Forge Seer is armed with a magical POW 14 Rune Weapon that freezes enemy models on critical hits. The Greylord Forge Seer is well worth the 4 points it costs to bring him to the table.

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It’s notable that the Greylord Forge Seer is the only model in the game to have both access to both ‘Jack Marshall and Empower. When you add in his Drive, the Seer is one of the most powerful ‘Jack Marshalls in the game. A ranged ‘jack with the Dark Sigils drive can be useful for taking out annoying incorporeal models like Pistol Wraiths. The Seer has no problems mixing it up in melee if his ‘jack gets totaled. His Battle Wizard ability can help him attack with Hoarfrost from unexpected angles or cover himself with Winter’s Wind to discourage enemies from leaving models to close to him. The Greylord Forge Seer seems like he’ll work great with Khador Warcasters who like to keep all their focus to themselves.

Lastly: The Khador Command Book

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Available as of 04/12/2017

MP – Softcover $34.99

MP – Hardcover $44.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

In the cold north of western Immoren lies the mighty Khadoran Empire, whose massive military epitomizes the national ideals of strength and resilience. This formidable force is led by powerful warcasters as unrelenting in battle as the bitter Khadoran winter and back by the most brutal and heavily armored warjacks ever to stride the battlefields of Immoren. With thundering ranks of bold imperial soldiers, howling madmen armed with ancient relics, and potent arcanists wielding forgotten and forbidden magic, the army of Khador marches with on singular goal: to carve out the greatest and most dominant empire the Iron Kingdoms has ever witnessed.

Forces of WARMACHINE: Khador Command provides the foundation you need to lead the empire’s conquest with:

  • • Complete rules and profiles for the proud warcasters and unstoppable warjacks of Khador, including two new warcasters and a new Man-O-War solo.
  • • Detailed history and background information, including an in-depth look at Khadoran warcasters and warjacks.
  • • A painting guide full of tips and inspiration to help you create an army as individual as you are.
  • • Two new theme forces that allow you to create specialized Khador armies with specific benefits.

FOR THE EMPRESS AND THE MOTHERLAND!

Like the others released before it, the Khador Command Book features the complete rules for the majority of the released models in the faction. It also contains additional info about the Khadoran military and the larger than life characters that wage war on the Empire’s behalf. The Command Book also includes an in-depth painting guide. There are guides for how to reproduce the studio paint scheme and for two fantastic variant schemes. I expected great things from the Khador Command Book and I wasn’t disappointed. I heartily recommend it to any true suns or daughters of the Motherland!

Looks like that’s all the time I’ve got for today. If you’ll excuse me, I have to return to the not too distant future. ‘Til next time, folks!

-Uncle Grumps

Understanding Character Attachment

 

Today we have a real treat. After reading my post regarding his research project, Tyler Beckett has graciously offered to expand upon the subject by offering a point of view from the researcher’s own mind. So please welcome Tyler’s debut on Melvin Smif’s Geekery!

Did you know that playing a taller avatar in a video game can trick you into driving a hard bargain? Did you know that players are more willing to help out women characters in video games, regardless of the gender of the player? That’s not the least bit rational, but it’s true. We are all affected by these tiny decisions that game designers make, and most of us don’t know or notice.

Video game research is well-funded when compared to tabletop research; it’s a bigger industry, and there’s more attention and money. So they get to explore all these connections, get to ask what exactly influences player decisions. For me that means I’m reading research about who plays WoW and why or how Dragon Age lets me sleep with my favorite characters, and I’m wondering how I can apply that to tabletop. Usually that’s enough.

But this time, folks, it is not, and I am here specifically to discover something about tabletop RPGs. Your usual host, Melvin Smif, was kind enough to talk about it in his own post, so if you haven’t already, go there to hear his thoughts. But the gist of this little article is this: I am conducting a research project into our amazing hobby, and I ask for your help.

Do players form strong bonds with their characters? To many of us, the answer may seem obvious. You spend hours playing and healing and leveling your kickass dragonborn fighter; how could you not? But I want to verify that it’s true for our community, and I want to go even further: do we form strong bonds with our characters even when they are dramatically different from us?

I am asking, specifically, about gender and sexuality. Do we become attached to our characters even when they are a different gender, or if they love people we would never love? Are we as attached to those characters as the ones that are more similar to us? Those are big questions, and like the rogue who thinks they probably know which vial is a potion and which is poison, I dislike uncertainty.

So let’s investigate. I have a survey here which will ask basic questions about your attachment and motivations in tabletop RPGs. Or if you’d rather, take this survey about times you’ve played characters with different genders and/or sexualities. Just one per person, please, and that will get us great research.

I started by discussing how subtle game design choices affect players, and I want to bring it back to that, because really that’s why this research is important. If video gamers are more likely to help female avatars than male, should tabletop games use more disguised succubus to trap us? If all video gamers, regardless of gender, frequently heal more when they have women avatars than when they have male avatars, should Wizards of the Coast and Paizo nerf women clerics? Those aren’t serious suggestions, intended more to point out how silly our own unconscious choices can be.

But what if game masters and game designers learn how to adapt to these quirks? What if, through this research, we learn that players can form attachment regardless of character identity, and we learn how that happens? Maybe our games could use these discoveries to enrich our experiences. Maybe they could incorporate the subtle mechanics so that when men play as women or lesbians play as bisexuals the differences help us become more attached, in much the same way we already love characters whose quirks are entirely different from our own.

It’s a big goal, and I don’t know for sure that I’ll pull it off. But I play tabletop, and if I’ve learned anything from those games, it’s how rewarding our adventures are when we take chances.

Tyler Beckett

Survey links:

https://t.co/s59nEApkTH

https://t.co/raNl8FSITG

Fresh To War: Uboxing the Warmachine & Hordes New Releases for February 2017

*Another month, another lineup of excellent miniatures from Privateer Press to showcase. This time hailing from those dark druidic denizens of the forest, the Circle of Orboros! As has become something of a monthly tradition I shall step aside and let Uncle Grumps chime in and tell you what’s what!*  – Melvs

What’s up, Jerks?  Uncle Grumps here again with another quick look at some new releases from Privateer Press.  Today we’ll be focusing on the Circle of Orboros.

First up is Una the Skyhunter

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Available as of 02/22/2017

MP $16.99

From Privateer Press’ website:

“During her time tending the far-flung griffon roosts of the Circle, Una developed an unparalleled affinity with the winged beasts and now employs them to cut down opponents without mercy. Having refined her arcane command over the elements, she is able to call upon the howling gales and updrafts of the highest mountain peaks to shape the flow of battle.”

Una the Skyhunter is the epic version of Una the Falconer, Circle’s character lesser warlock.  Through her transition to a full-fledged warlock, Una has kept her affinity for the flying Warbeasts of the Circle.  Una’s statline is fairly average for a Warlock with the exception of her lower that average MAT of 5.  She also boasts a Fury 7, 15 hitboxes, and 29 Warbeast points.  Una’s main weapon is her Wind Strike, a magical attack with decent range and POW.  Wind Strike has 3 attack types  you can chose from when making an attack.  Black Penny allows Una to ignore the penalty for attacking a target in melee, Snipe gives her attack +4 RNG, and Thunderbolt pushes models directly away from Una.  Wind Stike also has Reload [2] which allows Una to spend Fury to make up to 2 additional attacks.  (I don’t know how someone would go about reloading a magic staff but apparently it’s no problem for the Skyhunter).  Rounding out her weapons is Talonstrike, a magical, 2” reach melee weapon with a low POW.  Una’s abilities include Bird of Prey which gives griffon Warbeasts in her control range Flank with other griffon’s in her battlegroup and Hawker which gives Sprint to Warbeasts with Flight in her Command range.  Between the extra damage die from Flank and the movement shenanigans possible with Sprint, you’ll want to load up Una with as many griffon Warbeasts as possible.

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Una has access to four spells.  The first is Hand of Fate, a low cost upkeep that lets a Faction model/unit roll an additional die for attack and damage rolls and then discard the lowest.  Mirage grants a Faction model/unit Apparition, which allows a model to be placed 2” from its current location during the Control Phase.  Twister is a low cost offensive spell that creates a 3” AOE cloud effect for one round.  Finally, Wind Wall is a moderately priced spell that causes non-magical ranged attacks to automatically miss the caster and any models completely with 3” of the caster.  Additionally, models affected by Wind Wall cannot make ranged attacks.  Una’s feat, From on High, gives Faction models with Flight in her control range +2 SPD and prevents friendly light Warbeasts from being targeted by melee attacks for one turn.

Scarsfell, Rotterhorn, and Razorwing Griffons all shine with Una.  On her feat turn, these light Warbeasts can threaten huge parts of the board.  Including a Gorax Rager for its Primal animus will allow you to buff your Griffons to even more ridiculous levels.  Keep in mind that Una’s Warbeasts must be within 8” of her to benefit from Hawker.  This can leave her vulnerable to a counterattack if you aren’t careful with your placement.  Use Wind Wall to keep her safe from shooting and Twister to block line of sight.  Una the Skyhunter brings an interesting bag of tricks to the table.  She’ll have your opponents warily watching the skies for the whole game.

The next model we’ll be looking at is Kaya the Wildheart

72102-kaya-the-wildheart

Available as of 02/08/2017

MP $29.99

From Privateer’s website:

“Atop her moon-white wolf Laris, Kaya the Wildheart rides at the head of swift forces fighting with fang and claw. She and Laris operate as one, Kaya skewering foes with her spear while the great wolf’s jaws clamp down on exposed throats. Any pack of beasts under Kaya’s command strikes with stunning speed and power, rendering the opposition incapable of counterattack.”

Apparently, Kaya is no longer content to just use Laris as a “barknode” and has decided to ride the poor doggo around the battlefield.  Kaya 3 has the similar stats to her two previous incarnations.  She has lost a point of DEF and gained +2 ARM.  Kaya’s weapon of choice is Mistral, a moderately powerful magical spear with 2” reach.  She also has a moderately powerful mount attack courtesy of Laris.  Kaya has the Pathfinder ability which allows her to ignore movement penalties from rough terrain and Reposition [3”] which allows her to advance 3” at the end of an activation in which she didn’t run or fail a charge.  On top of all that, she has Field Marshall Reposition [3”] which gives all Warbeasts in her battlegroup Repostion.

Kaya 3 has four spells to work with.  The first is Blood Spiller, an inexpensive, moderately power offensive spell that allows Warbeasts in Kaya’s battlegroup to charge or slam the model hit without being forced.  Next we have Fog of War, a moderately expensive upkeep that gives concealment to all models in Kaya’s control range.  Note that this includes enemy models.  Soothing Song is a dirt cheap spell that allows Kaya to remove 1 point of fury from each living Warbeast in her control range.  Kaya can only cast Soothing Song once per activation.  Finally we have Synergy.  This spell gives models in Kaya’s battlegroup a cumulative +1 bonus to melee attack and damage rolls (limited to +3)for each other model in her battlegroup that hit an enemy with a melee attack while in her control range.  Kaya’s feat, Moon Shadow, gives friendly Faction models +2 DEF, lets them ignore free strikes, and allows them to move through enemy models for one round.

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Just like her other incarnations, Kaya 3 is a warlock that wants plenty of Warbeasts in her battlegroup.  Synergy is an extremely powerful spell.  A Warpwolf Stalker that has warped strength and has the Synergy bonus is effectively MAT 9 and hits at POW 21.  Fog of War can help your melee beasts get into combat without getting shot up.  Soothing Song allows Kaya to take more living Warbeasts and lets her push those Warbeasts harder without fear of frenzy checks.  Any Circle melee Warbeast is going to work well in a Kaya 3 list.  Consider bringing a Gorax Rager or a Feral Warpwolf for the always useful Primal animus.  A unit of Shifting Stones can help with fury management and help keep you Warbeasts in the fight.  Kaya only has 6 fury to work with so bringing a Druid Wilder for the free upkeep might be a good investment.  Kaya the Wildheart brings a powerful set of abilities to the battlefield and she stands ready to lead your beasts to victory!

The last release we’ll be looking at today is the Circle of Orboros Command Book

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Available as of 02/08/2017

MP – Softcover $31.99

MP – Hardcover $41.99

Like the other two Command books that have been released, the Circle book contains the rules for the majority of the released models in the faction.  This book also contains a plethora of useful information about how the enigmatic Circle is structured and how its members wage war.  The Command book includes two new Theme Forces: The Bones of Orboros which focuses on the construct Warbeasts of the Circle, and The Wild Hunt which grants bonuses for bringing Wolf Sworn models and units.  The back of the book contains guides for how to recreate the look of the studio Circle paint scheme and guides for two amazing variant schemes.  I’d recommend this book to anyone who plays Circle or even has a passing interest in the Faction.

That’s all I’ve got for today.  As always, feel free to post any comments or questions you might have.  ‘Til next time, folks!

-Uncle Grumps

Kickstart that Geek! Dragon Brew Boardgame

dragon-brew

I’m fortunate enough to be friends with one of the team that worked on the development of Dragon Brew, Toby T. Gee.  You may recognize Toby from his blog, Roll and Groove, an excellent read that delves into his twin loves of board gaming and music. If you already follow his work, you may have noticed he hasn’t been as active of late (a loss to us all) but I choose to believe it’s because he has been diligently working with the team behind Dragon Brew to bring it to fruition. Toby helped them edit the rules and rulebook and has joined the rest of the team in marketing it to the masses prior to and during its Kickstarter run. It’s because of this welcomed relationship that I was able to play one of the prototypes of Dragon brew, back in May of last year, at Geekway to the West 2016.

Dragon brew mixes two of my favorite things, board games and craft brewing. Add in the perfect fantasy setting and you have a recipe for good fun. Apparently in “Brumancia”, the fantasy setting for the game, years of bitter war and conflict have been replaced by a brewing competition. If only our world were so noble. As a worker placement game you choose a fantasy race, each with its own special forms of brewing prowess (perhaps they start with more resources, or more gold, etc.). All the players then proceed through a turn of the game, brewing their special beers that they will eventually put before a panel of judges to win victory points for the place earned at each competition. When I played the game I was informed it was still in development but what I played felt pretty polished, and I had a blast playing. The only thing missing in the equation was a nice cold brew to compliment my gameplay (though, if I recall it was like 8am… I mean, I’ve started earlier… but still).

beer-example

This is August Games’ first product on Kickstarter but they’ve long been ingrained in the board gaming industry as lovers, and promoters, of the hobby. The man at the helm is Daniel G. George who was one of the founders of the Board Games and Brew podcast. Together with Kate Blevins, Jeff Cornelius, and Tom Lathos they’ve been podcasting about board games and beer since the fall of 2014. Daniel came up with the concept for Dragon Brew while chilling on the beach with his wife and a few brews on a rare sojourn from their children (I totally understand this). Reading his Designers Blog (an excellent read for those interested in the process of building a board game), things apparently just clicked in his head.

“Why not have a game where you take ingredient cards and lay them to make your own beers with custom names?  I grabbed my note book and sketched out cards lining up to create beers. I always ask myself “WHY” when I think of a new mechanic.  Why would players want to do this? What is the goal of the game?  To win prizes at a beer festival of course!  Judges with personalities and unique preferences!”

The wort was mashed, all that remained was a little fermentation of the core engine behind the game, and now of course we are at the bottling stage…ok, enough brewing puns, it might leave a bitter taste (ok, not sorry).

So let’s get into the pricing for the game, shall we? August Games keeps it simple. There are only three options remaining that get you the game.

49-dollars

At $49.00 this is your best bet to get the game at a reduced price. From what I understand the retail price will likely jump to $65.00 post Kickstarter. So basically it’s a good time to buy.

65-dollars

As you can see, buying in at the future retail price now will get you some extra goodies. Signed stuff is always cool, plus I dig the art!

190-dollars

Getting four copies for $190.00 is a great way for your FLGS to get a head start on shelving the game for future sale. Let them know about it!

At this point the game is already 94% funded, and could very well fund before I hit the “post” button. Backers will get this game, especially considering they’ve also partnered with Quartermaster Logistics (the sister company to Cool Stuff Inc.) for backer reward fulfillment and warehousing. Let’s take a gander at a few of the stretch goals that, while not inevitable, are certainly the next step once this funds! Here are the first three.

I’m a huge fan of the third Stretch Goal. It’s always a lot of fun when a game can boast it’s own style of Meeple. So like its first two stretches, most of the goals focus on adding a variety of playable races to the game. There are already a lot to choose from but adding more sounds like a ton of fun, and likely something you’ll only be able to get as an expansion to the game later on. Another nod toward the solid move it would be to back during the Kickstarter.

in-the-box

What’s in the box you ask?

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As you can probably tell, I’m geeking out about this game. Get in there quick folks and get a copy. I’d love to see this game shoot through stretch goals! Take care folks!

-Melvs

P.S. With only a little more than one hundred tickets to Geekway to the West 2017 remaining, you might be able to corner Toby and I and force Toby to demo this lovely game for you!

LINKS: