Tag Archives: D&D

RPGaDAY Day 14, Favourite RPG Accessory

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In anticipation of this one i’ve been looking at my collection and generally trying to think of what actually qualifies as an RPG accessory. Off the top of my head I can only think of  couple of things that would genuinely count as an accessory and not a sourcebook.

The first is the DM Screen. This is a quintessential RPG product that dates back to at least 1st ed AD&D and possibly longer. I own a great many screens, for a variety of different games, some good, some bad. A screen isn’t the must have item that it used to be, some games don’t have official screens and others don’t even require the DM to pick up a dice, let alone hide their rolls, but they are still an important tool for the DM, providing easy access to tables and lists that save watching time searching through rulebooks. I’m a big fan of the DM screen.

After that, what else is there? Well there are player handouts, but they tend to come as part of an adventure than a stand alone accessory. Call of Cthulhu has some of the best examples, with Beyond the Mountains of Madness having it’s own accessory pack of handouts and with every single pre-written adventure coming with pages of letters and clues for you to photocopy for use in game. Call of Cthulhu also has packs of forms with such things as birth and death certificates and Sanatarium Admission forms, all designed to add a little depth to your game. Few games make as good a use of the handout as Call of Cthulhu but, used right, is another great tool that came really help make a game.

Lastly, at least from my own collection and off the top of my head, there are audio accessories. I covered these in a little in my article on atmosphere in gaming, but here bear mentioning again. Of all the various accessories these are probably my favourites because, used right, they can transform a game. Planescapes Mimir in the Planers primer to the Outlands is one outstanding example, as is the Ravenloft adventure A Light in the Belfry. Others might not like them as much as I do but I think that they can change the tone of a game if they are employed correctly.

Also falling into this category are the excellent sounds effects and soundboard tools produced by Battlebards. To me anything that draws the players into the world further and helps them suspend disbelief is a good thing and adding an audio element to the game is  simple and effective way to do that.

 

RPGaDAY Day 13, Favourite RPG Podcast

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This one is both easier and harder than most of the other days because I honestly don’t really listen to RPG Podcasts all that much. I’ve listened to a couple here and there, one or two review ones, individual Miskatonic University ones when there has been pertinent call of Cthulhu 7th edition information, the odd Shadowrun Critical Glitch episode and the official WoTC D&D Podcast. My general consumption of podcasts tends to be related to one of my other passions, Pro-Wrestling.

Of the limited RPG Podcasts I have listened to, my favourite has to be the official D&D one. First of all, it’s probably the best produced of the lot, which counts for a lot with me since I tend to listen during my commute to work and audio quality is important. Second, they tend to get a lot of guests on when have had an impact on D&D in the past and were involved with games and campaign settings that I love and I enjoy listening to stories of how they came into being.

Finally though, of all the D&D Podcasts I have listened to, the ones I like the best are the actual play ones. Most of these either come from conventions, like PAX or were recorded during the 5th ed playtest and what I like most about them is finding out how the creators of the game play. I find it really interesting that even those involved in the development of D&D play the same was as my home group. By this I don’t mean deep and involved roleplaying, or  through meaningful and heartfelt connections with their characters but through the stupid and idiotic plans that all players come up with.

It’s hard to explain or define why I find this important but I guess to me, as a perpetual DM, it gives me a little bit of validation that the work I put in elicits the same kind of play as those who are professionally involved in the industry. It shouldn’t be important, after all all that matters is that the people at my table have fun, but it still feels good. It also helps that it’s hysterically funny.

 

#RPGaDay Day 10, Favourite RPG Publisher

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record I might have said have said Monte Cook Games, because of Numenera, but that was until recently. As great as they are, they are’t EU friendly, especially on their Kickstarters and that bothers me as an EU resident. Unfortunately for me, the postage on Monte Cook Games items is just far too high, doubling the cost of a book and there isn’t a reasonable alternative that makes me willing to endorse them.

That leaves me in a bit of a bind, the only other companies I buy from with any regularity are Catalyst for Shadowrun and Fantasy Flight Games for the 40k rpgs and I haven’t bought from them in some time. I can’t say Catalyst are my favourite RPG publisher, their editing process is too lax and the quality of the writing is too varied for me to feel the need to rush out and buy their ware, which would be the best sign of them being my top publisher.

So, in line with the general theme of this blog, I think I’m going to have to go with something a little more old school and pick TSR. It’s not an original choice and, I’ll be honest, they did put out a whole load of weak products but, at the end of the day, they did some fantastic things as well.

Just to break it down why TSR are my favourite RPG publisher, well, first, they created Dragonlance, my absolute number 1 game world of all time. I’ve been reading Dragonlance for 25 years and if there is any one thing that really spurred me to get into the world of gaming it’s Dragonlance. As a kid I wanted to play through the Chronicles with mu own characters and, 25 years later, I’m still re-reading the novels and I’m preparing for a Dragonlance Campaign in 5th edition.

Second, and it’s weird that this is second, but they were the company that produced D&D, my absolute number 1 game of all time. It’s a bit cliche now to say that about D&D, most people think that they have moved on from D&D to other games and left it behind but, for me, nothing compares to good D&D, be it a long story based campaign or some good old fashioned dungeon crawling.

Above and beyond Dragonlance TSR are responsible for a couple of my other favourite settings of all time, being the amazing Planescape and the chilling Ravenloft. Planescape is one of the most inventive campaign settings i’ve ever had the pleasure to run and my complete collection is the pride of my games collection. Ravenloft has so many clever little elements and touches that it’s hard for someone to not find something they like there. For me the Ravenloft products of Castles Forlorn and The Nightmare Lands stand out as examples of what horror can be like, done right.

Sure TSR released some less than stellar items and there was some heavy bloat in virtually every line by the end but especially in the sheer number of campaign settings that they were churning out, but, in their heyday, they were a powerhouse that paved the way for all of the companies, games and worlds I love today. Without TSR there wouldn’t be an RPG hobby for me to enjoy and write about and for that alone they have to be my favourite company.

#RPGaDay 2015 Day 3- Favourite RPG of the last 12 Months

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So, my favourite New RPG of the last 12 months? Hmmmm, I don’t think I’ve picked up many that would constitute as new in the last 12 months, in fact I think it may just be Malifaux- Into the Breech and D&D 5th ed.

Both are great games, Malifaux is lavishly illustrated and really expands the twisted world of the setting. What I like about Malifaux is that it’s part horror, part Deadlands like steampunk and part dreamscape all rolled into one twisted but fascinating world. Add to that a system that is bespoke for the game and draws inspiration from the skirmish game and you end up with something quite special.

D&D 5th Edition Cover

In the end though, it’s always going to be D&D 5th ed for me. I love D&D, it’s my favourite RPG of all and the one I’ve spent the most time running and playing in my 20 some years in the hobby. With that said, I hated 4th edition with a passion, aside from a couple of modules like The Madness at Gardmore Abbey. D&D’s 4th edition changed the game into something I didn’t recognise as Dungeons and Dragons and, most importantly, changed the whole nature of the settings that used to be the core of D&D.

Fortunately 5th edition appears to have rectified this. The system is something closer to 3.5 which, despite its issues at high levels, is the definitive edition of the game as far as I’m concerned (let’s not make Pathfinder comparisons here) and at the same time it draws from the best parts of 1st, 2nd and 4th edition to make something really quite fun and simple and that feels like Dungeons and Dragons.

On top of that, and it was one of the things that excited me the most, 5th makes references to the settings that I love and grew up with. Dragonlance is mentioned under the Elf racial description and the Planescapes Great Wheel returns with the City of Doors, Sigil at it’s heart. Just reading these little references in the Players Handbook caused me a little twinge of nostalgia as I recalled epic moments when playing those settings and brought a smile to my face.

To me that’s why we play, it’s great to read a new game, to discover a new world and to realise how awesome it is. In the end, though, we roleplay to bring a smile to our faces and those of our family and friends and to make great memories and D&D always has and always will manage that a little bit better than any other game for me.

Lords of Waterdeep Review

Name: Lords of Waterdeep
Type: Board Game
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
Players: 2-5
Age: 10+
Playtime: 60 mins

Size: 28.4cm x 7.6cm x 39cm
Weight: 1700g
Price:  £33.00
Rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

Lords of Waterdeep, Front of Box

Lords of Waterdeep is a competitive resource acquisition and management board game published by Wizards of the Coast. It is set within the city of Waterdeep, City of Splendour, in the Forgotten Realms Campaign setting and revolves around the game of one-upmanship played by the hidden Lords of Waterdeep, the secretive hidden leaders of the City of Splendour.

I picked up this game on a bit of a whim actually, I was originally going to buy X-Com until one of my regular group mentioned that they were picking that up regardless and so I needed an alternative. My criteria was pretty simple, I wanted a good game that easily accommodated 5 or more players without breaking and Lords of Waterdeep seemed to meet those criteria while, as a bonus, being fairly cheap.

Lords of Waterdeep, side of box

Let’s start with the box, since it’s actually pretty unique. The box splits in two around the middle but the two halves are actually kept separate by an insert in the bottom half. This insert is gold coloured and decorated with swirling patterns and the overall effect is that the box looks like the kind of curiosity you might find in the home of one of the Lords of Waterdeep.

Inside the box is a customer made plastic insert that actually holds all of the components neatly and tightly to the extent that carrying the box vertically in a bag doesn’t cause the components to become dislodged. There is a guide in the rulebook as to the proper place for everything and the insert holds the board snugly to provide a lid of sorts to the rest of the contents. It’s a weird thing to dwell on but it’s very rare that this amount of thought goes into how the components will be stored and transported.

Lords of Waterdeep, components

Inside the box you get-

  • 27 x Wooden Meeple Agents (5 each of Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Red to match the factions and
  • 1 each of Cream and Pale Green)
  • 1 x Wooden First Player Token
  • 5 x Wooden Victory Point Counter Tokens
  • 100 x Wooden Adventured Cubes (25 each of Black, White, Orange and Purple for Rogues, Clerics, Fighters and Mages respectively)
  • 5 x Player Boards (1 each for the 5 factions)
  • 5 x 100 Victory Point Markers (1 for each faction in Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Red)
  • 12 x Lords of Waterdeep Cards
  • 50 x Intrigue Cards
  • 60 x Quest Cards
  • 24 x Building Tokens
  • 60 x Gold Tokens (split as 50 x 1 and 10 x 5 denominations)
  • 36 x Victory Point Tokens
  • 40 x Building Ownership Tokens (8 each of Blue, Green, Yellow, Black and Red to match each faction)
  • The Board
  • The Rulebook

The production values seem pretty high on everything included, the tokens are full colour, thick, card, the cards are full colour, thick, laminated, cardstock and the wooden tokens are all clean cut and brightly painted. I tend to find that the inclusion of wooden tokens makes a game feel like it has been designed with more care and attention to detail and that is very much the case here.

The art on the cards and relevant tokens is good and all in full colour with each of the more iconic people and places bearing a strong resemblance to the relevant characters. Choosing Waterdeep as the setting, rather than going with a generic customer made city, was a strong choice as the inclusion of iconic places and characters helps people feel more connected to the setting. I’m not really a Forgotten Realms fan, Dragonlance, Eberron and Planescape have always been my thing, but even I know the name Khelban Blackstaff and know of some of the legends of the City of Wonders.

The Board is A2 sixed and folds into A4 sized. It is a full colour representation of the city of Waterdeep with various buildings highlighted as being locations you can assign Agents to in the game and what the result of that action is. There is space for all of the various decks and discard piles and there are spaces marked around the outside to denote where buildings can be built.

The rules are short at 24 pages but the rules booklet still comes with a sewn binding, which I found surprising and just another sign of the high production values put into this game. All things said I was able to learn the game fairly quickly by reading the rules and playing a couple of turns and was able to teach 4 other people to play it inside of 10 minutes, despite having never properly played it. The rules tend to be intuitive and simple and the rulebook includes a nice section clarifying specifics from the cards, although I would argue that they should have simply made the cards clearer rather than adding the clarification to the rulebook.

Playing the game is pretty straight forward. Set up involves deciding on a faction and taking the board, checking how many Agents (the wooden Meeples) each player gets, based on the number of players, and handing them out, randomly assigning a Lord of Waterdeep and randomly assigning 2 quests and 2 intrigue cards to each player. Four Quests are placed face up on the board and the rest of the deck next to them, the intrigue cards are placed in the indicated space, three buildings are placed in Builders Square and the rest are stacked nearby. The player going first (decided by whoever most recently visited another city) takes the First Player Token and 4 Gold and then every other player clockwise takes 1 more gold than the last (so player 2 takes 5, 3 takes 6 etc.) Finally 3 Victory Point Tokens are placed on Turn spaces 2-8 on the board and 1 is placed on each of the buildings in Builders Square.

The game always lasts 8 phases and each phase is broken down into a number of turns. At the start of each phase the 3 Victory Point Tokens are taken off the relevant turn space on the board and 1 is placed on each of the 3 buildings in Builders Square and each building that has a restock is restocked.

Play continues until each player has assigned all of their Agents at which point the phase ends, Agents are cleared from the board and the next Phase starts, with the person in control of the First Player Token taking the first turn and assigning an Agent. After the last player assigns their last Agent on Phase 8 and they complete the action from that building, the game ends. Bonus Victory Points are awarded based on remaining Gold or Adventurers and according to the details on individual Lords of Waterdeep cards. The player with the most Victory Points after all bonuses have been added is the winner.

On their turn a player can-

Assign an Agent
Complete a Quest

Assigning an Agent involves a player taking 1 from their supply and placing it on a building on the map. Once the Agent is assigned the player takes the action detailed on the building, either collecting Adventurers, collecting gold, playing an Intrigue card, collecting a new Quest or some combination of all of the above.

Lords of Waterdeep, Quest Card

Each Quest card has a number of prerequisites that need to be met for a player to complete it. These are generally a number of adventurers of one or more types (shown by a number of coloured cubes on the card) but may also include an amount of Gold that needs to be spent (shown by a number of Gold Tokens on the card). If a player meets the prerequisites on any of the Quests they have, after assigning an Agent and taking the building action, they can complete a single quest and collect the reward.

Quest rewards are varied but generally involve a Victory Point amount and it is these that dictate the winner at the end of the game.  Each Quest is of a certain type, such as Piety or Skullduggery and this tends indicate the type of adventurers (so Clerics of Piety Quests) that you need to complete the Quest but also may be aligned with one or more players lord of Waterdeep.

That’s more or less it for how to play the game. The various buildings allow for different activities such as playing or acquiring Intrigue Cards (more on these in a minute)  but in principal the idea of the game is to hire Adventurers and acquire gold in order to complete quests and therefore earn Victory Points. The player with the most Victory Points at the end of the game wins.

Lords of Waterdeep, Lord of Waterdeep Card

Each Lord is a specific character and these are dealt randomly at the start of the game and are not revealed to the other players. Each Lord provides bonus Victory Points to either certain Quest types or based on the number of buildings you own, at the end of the game. It is therefore within your interest to try and acquire and complete quests that are aligned with your Lord’s bonus.

Lords of Waterdeep, Intrigue Cards

Players gets 2 Intrigue cards at the start of the game and can draw more by assigning Agents to certain Buildings. These are always kept facedown until played so only the owning player knows that they have. Intrigue cards represent the political manoeuvrings of your Lord to try and improve their position and allow you to do a variety of different things such as forcing a Mandatory Quest on an opponent, to reassigning an Agent to recruiting Adventurers.

If a player assigns an Agent to Builders Hall then they can buy one of the face up buildings immediately by paying the indicated Gold cost. When they do this they place it in one of the places indicated on the board and add a Building Ownership Token to the corner to reminds everyone who the owner is. These bought buildings are called Advanced Buildings and tend to have better rewards for assigning Agents to them than the Basic Buildings on the board. Each Advanced Building indicates what a player gets when they assign and Agent to it, such as Gold, Intrigue or Quest cards or Adventurers but they also indicate a bonus that the owner gets when someone else assigns an Agent to the Building, which is usually Gold or Adventurers.

I found Lords of Waterdeep a very simple game to learn and teach and a fun game to play. I’m a big fan of Euro style games that are competitive but have very few ways of directly attacking another player, making tactical use of your own resources and abilities all the more important. The specific number of turns means that the game will always last around an hour, unless players are particularly slow in taking their actions, and that’s also a good thing as most games that support more than 4 players tend to have playtimes of 2-3 hours.

The game has a surprising amount of tactical depth as your intentions vary based on who your Lord is and which buildings are available. The game can have interesting decision points when you have to decide whether to utilise a building owned by another player and therefore allow them to collect the owner bonus or whether to limit yourself. Likewise tactical use of Agents to deny other players from obtaining certain types of Adventurers, therefore limiting their ability to complete Quests is a valid choice and adds another element into your decision making process.

For a game I bought on a whim I’m pretty pleased with Lords of Waterdeep and it’s certainly a game I will continue to take to games nights.

At the time of writing there is one expansion available for Lords of Waterdeep.

Planescape- A Players Primer to the Outlands

Name: Players Guide to the Outlands
Type: Roleplaying aid
Publisher: TSR
System: AD&D 2nd Edition
Setting: Planescape
Format- Boxed set
Size: 28.5cm x 22.5cm x 1.7cm
Pages: 32
Price:  OUT OF PRINT (£11.99 retail)
Rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Players Primer to the Outlands, front of box

A Players Primer to the Outlands is a boxed accessory for the Planescape AD&D campaign setting published by TSR in 1995. The set comprises of a 32 page guidebook to the various Gate Towns in the Outlands, a poster map of the Outlands and Gate Towns and a 41 track CD that acts as an in game resource for player characters.

Players Primer to the Outlands Guide Cover

The Guidebook comprises the bulk of the information in this set and is written, as almost all of Planescape is, as an in game resource, complete with planer cant. The book has a page devoted to each of the 16 Gate Towns in the Outlands and then a further 24 locations described so as to help flesh the Plane out for DM’s and players alike. Additionally the book provides a brief overview of the Outlands, gives some information on Spell and Power keys and explains how magical effects are diminished as you move closer to the Spire at the center of the Plane.

The book is nice enough and very much in the style of the Planescape line of products. The cover art is a little disappointing as it is just a direct copy of the art from the front of the box, picturing the Mimir (pronounced mih-MEAR) but the art inside is all DiTerlizzi and if you like his work on other Planescape products then you won’t be disappointed.

Players Primer to the Outlands DiTerlizzi art

The CD is the unique part of the box. During this period TSR produced a line of CD based accessories for the various setting, including Ravenloft’s excellent Light in the Belfry, but this is probably the most unique because of it’s use as an in game resource. Every single Planescape party I have ever ran a game for has received the Mimir as an item and utilised it to learn a little more about the planes and it alway goes down well because it’s fun and interactive.

The CD has 41 tracks which cover a range of topics from each of the Gate Towns to interesting locals and even has both a malfunction track and a no information track for when the Mimir does have the information or has become corrupted. The tracks are all recorded as in game accounts from adventurers who have visited these places and is really well portrayed by the actors who capture the correct feel of each of the locations from the order of Automata to the insanity of Xaos. You can see a complete track listing here-

Players Primer to the Outlands Mimir Track List

 

Players Primer to the Outlands, Poster Map of Outlands

The poster map is A1 size and double sided. On one page is a map of the Outlands, with the Spire at the center, which shows the location of each of the Gate Towns and other locations of interest, such as the Caverns of Thought. The other side of the poster map is split into 4 smaller locations including Torch, the Mausoleum of Chronepsis, Bedlam  and Sheela Perytoyl’s Realm. To my mind this is the best map of the Outlands available in any of the Planescape products and a must for any collector of the setting.

Overall it’s a good box with some interesting and unique contents. The Mimir CD alone makes the set a worthwhile purchase is you can find it because it adds an extra level of depth to your campaigns.