Iron Tavern Reconstruction

Posting at The Iron Tavern will be a little slow this week. After seeing how the inaugural year went for the blog and being happy with the result I wanted a little more flexibility in my hosting option. With that in mind I am in the process of moving the blog from its current hosting provider to a new one.

Of course I have chosen an extremely busy time of year for me to tackle this! Between a series family medical issues, a death in the family, a writing project entering the playtest phase, and a few more pitches to hammer out in the coming week I could have chosen a period of better downtime to coordinate this move. But, the pricing deal I was waiting for on hosting came up over Black Friday and sales wait for no one!

Please bear with us over the next couple of days as I get the domain name transfer sorted out. I expect minimal downtime, though there might be a couple of hiccups in the early days of re-opening the tavern on the new host. I hope the new host gives The Iron Tavern a slightly more flexible platform as we move forward!

Advertisements

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving in the US as I sit here writing this. Lazy morning for the family as we have some excellent friends bringing us turkey and all the fixings this evening. I had several ideas for a Thanksgiving Day post, but the recent week has not cooperated due to family medical issues. Today’s impromptu post will have to suffice.

So let me thank the faithful readers of the blog for taking the time for continuing to read The Iron Tavern and sharing with your friends. All the comments, retweets, circle shares, and such are welcomed as the blog continues to grow.

I am thankful for the RPG hobby as a means to use my mind in creative ways and provide hours and hours of entertainment. It is often both a tool to “escape” some of the realities of the day-to-day while it is also a creative outlet for me. From writing posts on this blog, to writing RPG content, to planning and running games, these are all things that exercise areas of my mind and provide enjoyment.

A thanks also goes to the folks I game with – both my online group and my local group. Thanks for taking the time out of your nights to set aside a few hours to play the RPG games we enjoy. Thanks for being awesome players and GMs providing a great group of people to play with. And thanks for the friendly banter between games.

And finally, thanks to my family for understanding my desire to play these games, write RPG content and supporting my hobby. Though they might not always understand my fascination with RPGs, they do understand that it is a mental release for me.

Happy Thanksgiving from The Iron Tavern!

Mythic Adventures Playtest

Last Wednesday Paizo released the much anticipated Mythic Adventures playtest. The book is not due out until a Gen Con release in August 2013, but true to Paizo fashion they allow plenty of time for playtesting new rules.

I must preface the comments in this post as being based on a read through of the playtest document and not actual play. My comments are more an overview and overall impression of the new rules and less a dissection of what does and does not work at a finely detailed level. For people seeking to playtest the rules in their game, please read the announcement post and follow the directions there for a proper playtest.

Mythic Adventures will add significant power to your Pathfinder game through the additions of a mythic tier. Many D&D gamers are familiar with epic level rules that kick in beyond typical levels in D&D play. The mythic rules are a little different in that you could start a campaign with mythic powered at level 1 or your could apply them partially through a campaign or you could even apply them temporarily during your campaign.

I readily admit I have rarely had any interest in epic level play. I typically feel a D&D or Pathfinder character starts to become a little too superhero-ish in the mid-teens levels of play. It is fun for awhile, but mainly as a pinnacle of a character’s adventuring career. Playing extended campaigns at “epic” levels is not an area I have historically had a lot of interest in.

This is one of things about the Mythic Adventures rules that is really unique. They offer a way to apply these power boosts right at level 1. No need to play through 20 levels of play and then become “epic” or “mythic”. No need to build pre-gens at levels 20+ just to start there with “epic” or “mythic” level characters. I think the way Paizo has figured out a way to layer these mythic rules into play is quite significant.

I also like that for people like me, that don’t necessarily want to play a whole campaign at “mythic” levels can craft ways to add these rules in on a temporary basis. There are some examples of this in the playtest. A perfect way for players or GMs like me to make use of these rules without committing to an entire campaign at “mythic” levels.

Another tool for the GM is the option of only applying mythic rules to particularly noteworthy opponents or creatures. They could be applied to a human adversary or even an animal-like adversary if the GM saw fit.

There are a multitude of ways to use the mythic adventure rules in your game even if you do not want to commit to an entire campaign at that power level. Very flexible, much more flexible than I thought the rules would be.

The playtest is freely downloadable from Paizo for those that wish to see the details of the rules. So I am only going to hit some of the highlights without going into significant detail.

The mythic rules use ten tiers to scale the power level of the mythic character upwards. These tiers do not necessarily correlate to character (i.e. you could have a 10th level fighter that is only at the 2nd level mythic tier). Tiers are gained by lesser and greater trials.

Each mythic tier grants base mythic powers that are independent of the mythic path you choose. Base powers include things that make you more difficult to kill, flaws, mythic power itself, initiative bonuses, and more as you advance.

There are six main mythic paths a character can choose to apply to their character. Each is geared towards a specific genre of class. The mythic path is what more specializes your mythic power to your class abilities. The paths can include access to mythic flavored spells, feats, and such. Paths also include mythic abilities a player can choose as they advance tiers.

The playtest document also includes many examples of lesser trials mythic characters can choose from to gauge their advancement. The GM is welcome to create their own as well.

Tips on running a mythic game gets a chapter in the playtest document. These tips help show how versatile the system is. From running a game where only creatures can be mythic to temporary use of the rules to running a whole campaign with mythic characters and creatures.

Some example mythic magic items and monsters also get a couple of chapters in the playtest. Mythic magic items and monsters open up whole new realms of play to design in and craft clever challenges for your players.

The playtest document wraps up with a short adventure allowing a GM to tryout the playtest rules with their group. It also is another example of the flexibility of the rules for those GMs that only want to dabble in the mythic realms of power instead of running entire mythic campaigns.

The playtest document weighs in at 52 pages. The layout is excellent, even Paizo’s playtest documents ooze quality. There is some artwork peppered about in the document in the form of sketch art.

When I first heard about Mythic Adventures I was a little skeptical. But after reading through the playtest document I certainly admire the framework. It appears to be extremely flexible for GMs and players and has made itself readily usable by new campaigns and old campaigns already well under way. I am anxious to see how it evolves over time. It looks quite promising even at this early point in the playtest process.

Tales from the Sunken City

I have been running a Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG campaign online via Google+ Hangouts and Roll20. The game has been going since the first of August and we typically play for 2 to 2.5 hours on Tuesday nights. We have had a couple of canceled sessions due to crazy lives, but have had a pretty stable campaign overall.

I started the campaign with The Perils of the Sunken City from Purple Sorcerer Games, a 3rd party publisher for the DCC RPG system. Several of my players were familiar with the Goodman Games modules already out which was a factor in choosing to start with the Purple Sorcerer Games products.

I liked the initial setting because it included a decent sized, but financially poor city and a large area of swamps to the South of the city. The swamps were vast portions of the city reclaimed over the centuries as the city was forcefully migrated northward by nature. The setting also includes a “sending stone” which acts like a randomly teleporting stone. Prospective adventurers place their hands on the stone and they are transported to some location. I thought this would allow me to use a myriad of modules that might not otherwise link together well.

Essentially, the modules offered a starting point with enough detail to hit the ground running, but enough white space for me to shape it into anything the players or I wanted.

The first module went quite well with some overland exploration in the swamp followed by a rather lethal dungeon for the ending of the adventure. The Perils of the Sunken City served quite well for a 0-level funnel and really helped shaped the character development of those that survived.

With the group surviving their first foray into the Sunken City they returned as heroes to the little settlement just outside the city walls proper. The group took about three months of in-game time to determine their path forward (i.e. class) and spend their hard fought gold. Two of the players also selected their patron from an entity featured at the end of the module. I ended up doing a complete patron write-up for that patron which both players have been using.

From here I wanted to run The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk for the group. It made use of the same sending stone for a start and further reinforced my base of the Great City and the Sunken City in the swamps to the south. I blended the storylines a bit and offered a possible option for controlling the sending stones instead of submitting to its randomness via an item that would be found at the end of The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk.

It took us six session (2 hours each) to play through The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk. I am sure other groups have played through this faster. I tend not to steer players too much, so I let their investigations go and handle things on they fly when they take actions outside what might be outlined in a module. If they want to chat with someone they encounter, I am always happy to carry on that conversation instead of brushing it aside. I think that is a good thing as long as it helps get them information they desire. But it does add time to play through the module. In fact, though we are pretty much done with the module as written, they have a few things they still want to wrap up.

Choosing to start with the Purple Sorcerer Games Sunken City line has proven to be a good start for us. I feel like we have a solid set of characters now, some backgrounds and themes starting to show through and the start of a campaign world to play in. With the use of sending stones it will also be relatively easy to work in other adventures from other publishers as well. There is a whole area of exploration behind how the sending stones came to be and are they really limited to just taking you to portions of the swamp?

For those interested I do keep an Adventure Log at the Obsidian Portal site I use for this campaign. While I don’t post detailed session reports here, I do try to keep the adventure log updated. Feel free to check it out. I caution you that you will run into spoilers for The Perils of the Sunken City and The Ooze Pits of Jonas Gralk over there as you read about our group’s adventures.

Rolemaster: Taking a Stab

The post below is written by UbiquitousRat, a guest blogger for The Iron Tavern.

We’ve had two sessions playtesting the new Rolemaster so far. Each session has, quite deliberately, focused on the combat system. That’s not to say that the adventure is merely a vehicle for testing rules, because it isn’t… but that we’ve given the combat rules a pretty cool test drive. This article summarises what we’ve found out.

The new Rolemaster deserves these three words: Fast, Dangerous and Fun.

FAST

Firstly, once you get your head around the concepts that drive the combat rules, it plays pretty quickly. We were totally surprised by this.

Now, don’t get me wrong: Rolemaster is a detailed system which is modelling fantasy combat with a lot of options. It’s no abstract engine which hand-waves the details. That said, Rolemaster is relatively quick… quicker than D&D 4e, GURPS and Pathfinder.

Why is it quick? Easy: you are making a single dice roll on a table, looking it up and applying the result; if you Crit, you make a second roll. That’s actually less fiddly than the usual D&D-esque “roll to hit, roll to wound”. It’s consequently pretty slick and fast to administer.

DANGEROUS

Rolemaster combat is deadly. We’ve noticed (at low-level play) that you either get steadily chipped away at, incurring an increase in penalties to your actions from the low-level pain… or you take a Crit and really get hammered!

The players have been enjoying the fights much more than they did playing, for example, D&D 4e. The reasons are mixed but include the fact that, if you get lucky, you can smash a foe with a single Critical Hit… and get to hear the amusing epitaph that the Crit table generates. This adds laughter and detail to what, in other games, is often just a simple bit of extra maths. Rolemaster Crits add flavour… and danger!

Risky fights are more pleasurable than easy fights. One of the criticisms levelled at so many fantasy games at my table is the fact that, with modern cinematic effects, the foes really aren’t so much of a challenge. Rolemaster combat, being dangerous no matter what the foe is, ups the stakes… and thus ups the joy.

Three Ghouls against four Heroes is not much of a fight in many games. For our group of Level 1 heroes this was a major battle. Getting one character seriously injured and another hurt enough to have to seriously consider withdrawing is actually more fun than some might think.

Following their victory last session the players have decided to leave further investigation of the tomb they had discovered for a month or so… because, in Rolemaster, it takes time to heal your now three-fingered weapon hand, or your broken ribs. 

FUN

Rolemaster has injected a great deal of fun back into the fight scene. As a GM who finds it hard to juggle all the details of a combat scene, I appreciate the help that the system gives me.

From asking the players to declare their intentions BEFORE they roll Initiative, through structuring their actions through the 10-second round, to the imaginative and amusing Crit results… the system provides me with plenty of hooks for describing the action.

In fact, most of the time, the players are either describing their actions in loads more detail than they used to with other games… or I am reading them a tasty description from the Crit tables.

Pace, danger and description all boost the fun for our group. Rolemaster gives you this… once you let it. That’s so much better than when we were playing D&D.

CAVEATS

It would be remiss of me not to place some caveats on my comments because, like any game, Rolemaster is not for everyone.

If you like cinematic action with high-magical powers and amazing feats then, frankly, Rolemaster is not for you. This is a more grounded system, modelling a form of “fantasy realism” (if such things can exist). Being able to regularly hit with a weapon is a pretty neat skill, you know.

If you don’t like detailed rules and don’t care what the difference between a Spear and a Short Sword is then, really, Rolemaster isn’t for you either. This system makes using a Dagger a very different experience to being able to reach the foe with a Spear at 13’ and, consequently, not be at much risk from them.

If you don’t care if wearing a Breastplate and no arm or leg armour makes a difference then, again, you don’t need to use Rolemaster. It’s great wearing Plate armour… unless the enemy strikes a Crit to your arm where you have no protection. Rolemaster has this covered, but only if you want it. If it’s easier to just call it “Armour Class” then that’s fine, as far as it goes.

If you aren’t bothered about the tactics of combat then, again, Rolemaster is probably not worth the effort. This system encourages Spear users to rank up behind another friend and poke the bladed tip from over their shoulder. It’s a game which rewards covering your buddies with your large shield, not just yourself. Rolemaster provides encouragement for spell-casters to deliver non-flashy but highly useful stunning spells to their foes.

Frankly, if you’re just happy with “roll to hit, roll to wound, subtract Hit Points” then, really, Rolemaster is too much for your needs.

SURPRISED?

We were pleasantly surprised. In truth, having wrestled a little with the paradigm-shifting first combat in session one, we found ourselves really enjoying session two.

Rolemaster seems to require an assumption-smashing change of mindset if you’ve played other fantasy RPGs.  This is quite painful in some ways because change is always difficult for players. However, once the shift is made, and the players get the new regime, Rolemaster fights really take off.  After just one fight we were far more comfy with the rules and had far fewer look-ups in the books.

I was surprised and, I can tell you, also relieved. My players were not entirely sure about those huge Combat Charts when they first saw them… but now we’re pretty much enjoying the easy detail that they deliver.

Game on!

Bio

UbiquitousRat is a long-time roleplayer and gamesmaster who has a history with gaming going back to 1979. In 1994 he joined Games Workshop, spending 12 years in the gaming industry at the coal-face of tabletop wargaming. In 1998 he founded the Friday Night Roleplay group at his home in suburban Nottinghamshire, UK, and ever since has been the primary GM. The group was involved in the playtest of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd Edition and Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay, as well as giving air to the development of 6d6 RPG. The core five players are all looking forward to the new Rolemaster and everyone is excited to be sharing 

Review: Elminster’s Forgotten Realms

WotC and Me

I have not purchased a Wizards of the Coast product for several years. Recently they have found a way to get me to pry the dollars from my wallet to fork over to them. First it was the 1st Edition reprints. I actually wasn’t going to buy them, but while at Gen Con I found the trio of books at a price that bettered even Amazon’s price. I couldn’t resist.

Then Ed Greenwood’s Elminster’s Forgotten Realms book caught my attention. This book is an edition neutral book full of fluff written by Ed Greenwood about the Forgotten Realms. This book made my pre-order list at Amazon. I am not sure if I have ever actually pre-ordered a D&D book, even in my 3.x days.

The Book

Elminster’s Forgotten Realms is a hardcover book coming in at 192 pages. The book retails for $39.95. The book is described as providing an insight into the Forgotten Realms world from the creator of the setting, Ed Greenwood. The book is system-less in nature, so whether you play any number of D&D editions or have converted the Realms to another fantasy RPG system there should be something in this book for you.

Ed Greenwood wrote the book with cover art by Jesper Ejsing. Interior art comes from a variety of artists including Ed Greenwood, Wayne England, Tyler Jacobsoon, Beth Trott, and more.

The book has six major sections covering all matters of Realmslore. These sections do not include the foreword, introduction, or afterword.

First up we have Life in the Realms which covers an array of topics. A brief portion covers viewpoints on the Realms from a racial perspective. Along the way we learn common Realms terms for common expressions. This chapter continues with information on events and festivals, theater in the realms, medicine, illness and medicines, drugs, poisons, and current news and rumors.

The next chapter discusses Laws and Orders. This chapter is a discussion of class and nobility, justice, property law, trade laws, handling the guilty, who enforces the laws, pacts and alliances, and more information on the infamous Zhentarim.

The book takes a closer look at where people in the Realms live. Not as in region, but what are their actual homes like, the local Inns and Taverns, food, drinks, and even fashion.

Money drives any society and this is where the next chapter takes us. This chapter covers work, day jobs for adventurers, guilds, trade and merchant princes, coinage by region, trade goods, and information about the slave trade within the Realms.

The next chapter is the longest in the book, with a look at Gods and Followers. The early parts of the chapter address how people in the Realms worship, why evil is allowed to exist when good deities have a known presence, charity, temple income, and priesthoods of the Realms. The priesthoods section is the longest and covers many of the major deities within the Realms.

The final chapter is in regards to The Art, or magic within the Realms. The prevalence of magic is covered, information on bloodlines, alchemy, bardic magic, elven music, spellsong, and more.

Amidst all of the chapters are images of notes written by Ed Greenwood regarding the Realms and submitted to editors over the years. These are a very interesting look into how the Realms grew over time.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed my read through of this book. The book’s style is probably the closest I will ever get to sitting down at a table with Ed Greenwood in a tavern and listening to him spin his tales about the Realms. The tone of the book seemed very conversational to me.

The book is edition-less, so fans of 1e, 2e, 3.x, or 4e D&D who are fans of the Forgotten Realms are sure to find this a fun read. However, if you prefer books heavy on crunch, this may not be the book for you. There is not a single stat block, spell block, feat, or anything at all resembling a game statistic in the book. I find that a good thing, but if you buy books for crunch only, you will likely want to pass on this one.

The artwork in the book was decent and had its up and downs. Only a few pieces felt particular evocative to me. Art is such a subjective area of critique though, that I am sure there are others that feel differently from me. It wasn’t that the art was bad, just the majority of it did not strike a chord with me.

The primary highlight in this book for me were the pages that showed Ed Greenwood’s old notes. I could just imagine him with stacks of notes in his house that he typed up into some presentable format and sending them off. Over and over and over. The depth of the Realms and the campaigns Ed ran for his group just astound me.

One has to wonder why the Realms is steeped in such lore. The typed page from Ed on page 85 of the book provides insight for this I believe. The note for the page from Ed notes that for players that have read every book, module and more for D&D tend to turn the game into a wealth of metagame knowledge. He notes that drowning them in so much Realmslore that one cannot possible track it all the DM has brought things back into real roleplaying. I found that an interesting way to combat the metagame knowledge of players.

While I enjoyed the entire book, a couple of sections did stand out to me.  From the Laws and Orders chapter there is a section on becoming a noble in Waterdeep. It was an interesting section. The detailing of how the Phull and Zulpair rose to power in Waterdeep was particular insightful.

In the same chapter I also found The Secret History of the Zhentarim a good read. I have tended to use Zhentarim in several of my Forgotten Realms campaigns in the past making this section stand out to me. The included typed diagram from Ed in this section was wonderful!

The book is full of nuggets of information to help a DM run a Forgotten Realms campaign. Even if you do not run the Realms for your campaign, there are many ideas that can be stolen for your own world.

Summary

I had been looking forward to the release of this book. It did not let me down and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and getting an even better feel for the Realms as Ed Greenwood wrote it. If you are a Realms fan I highly recommend adding this book to your collection. From the conversational style, to the intricacies of the Realm the reader can learn about, it is a very strong offering from WotC for Realms fans!

DCC RPG – Ice Golem

Winter is Coming II

Last fall @twwombat ran the inaugural Winter is Coming blog festival. The Iron Tavern participated in the festival with The Linnorm Ice Throne, a powerful artifact for the Pathfinder system, and A Winter Chase, a winter time chase using the Pathfinder chase rules.

This year @MarkMeridith has continued the festival with Winter is Coming II over at dicemonkey.net. The Iron Tavern is once again participating with today’s post!

In the spirit of winter and the cold weather I post some example Ice Golems for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG system. Golems are highly customizable in DCC RPG, but these two examples should provide some basis for judges wanting to add some winter themed fun to their DCC RPG campaign.

Ice Golems

Golems are a popular guardian for powerful mages. Not needing sleep or food, golems offer several attractive options for a mage seeking to guard his workshop. In the winter wastes of the north, ice golems are a popular choice for the enterprising wizard. The cold environments easily sustain the golem’s ice flesh.

Crafting an ice golem is still a somewhat difficult task, requiring a mold to be made to freeze the water into the desired size and shape the mage desires. Once a mold has been made though, multiple ice golems can be crafted from the same mold and water for freezing is typically plentiful.

A mage can create varying sizes of ice golems. Depending on the mage’s talent an ice golem can be imbued with various special qualities. Rituals are used to create ice golems with special qualities. Mages of the north keep these rituals as guarded secrets.

Sample Golems

Ice Golem, Large: Init -2; Atk fist +8 melee (dmg 2d6+6) or icy breath; AC 13; HD 10d8+10; MV 20′; Act 1d20; SP icy breath, double damage from fire-based attacks; SV Fort +5, Ref +2, Will +4, AL N

Icy Breath: (cone, width 15’, length 15’, 6d6 dmg, DC 15 Fortitude for half damage)   An ice golem can use its icy breath attack every 1d5 rounds. Using the icy breath weapon consumes the ice golem’s action for that round. Targets caught in the breath weapon’s cone-like shape can attempt a Fortitude save for half damage.

An icy breath attack also has a chance to extinguish any open flames (torches, candles, etc). If an open flame is in the area of the attack there is a 60% chance the open flame will be extinguished.

Double Damage, Fire-based Attacks: An ice golem is especially susceptible to fire-based damage. Fire-based attacks do double their normal damage on a successful hit.

Ice Golem, Medium: Init -2; Atk fist +5 melee (dmg 1d10+4) or icy breath; AC 12; HD 5d8+5; MV 20′; Act 1d20; SP icy breath, double damage from fire-based attacks; SV Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +3, AL N

Icy Breath: (cone, width 5’, length 10’, 4d6 dmg, DC 13 Fortitude for half damage)   An ice golem can use its icy breath attack every 1d6 rounds. Using the icy breath weapon consumes the ice golem’s action for that round. Targets caught in the breath weapon’s cone-like shape can attempt a Fortitude save for half damage.

An icy breath attack also has a chance to extinguish any open flames (torches, candles, etc). If an open flame is in the area of the attack there is a 60% chance the open flame will be extinguished.

Double Damage, Fire-based Attacks: An ice golem is especially susceptible to fire-based damage. Fire-based attacks do double their normal damage on a successful hit.