Tag Archives: Pathfinder

Review — Midgard Tales by Kobold Press

MidgardI’ve recently discovered the joys of running roleplaying games on the Internet. It’s an easy way to get people together to have some fun. I am, however, a busy guy and I don’t always have time to come up with my own GM-made adventures. Luckily, I picked up Midgard Tales by Kobold Press at Gen Con this year.

Midgard Tales is a hardcover tome (or pdf) that contains 13 Pathfinder adventures spanning levels 1-11. All the adventures are (as the title suggests) written for the Midgard Campaign Setting , but they could all be easily ported over to nearly any fantasy setting with a minimum of effort. I should be clear that this isn’t a campaign; it is 13 separate adventures that you could connect (or not) as you see fit.

First, let’s talk about the usability. The adventures are presented in numbered level order (1-11) with the level number easy to spot in the upper corner. Finding an adventure is as easy as flipping and looking. Once you’ve selected  the adventure you need, things stay pretty simple. The adventures are presented in a straightforward manner, with a quick adventure overviews, ways to work the adventures into your game, and a clear delineation of what is for GMs and what is for players.  In some cases, I only had about a half-hour to prepare, but I was able to run the adventure like I had been preparing for weeks.

The adventures themselves run the gamut from straight-forward dungeon crawls to treks through fey-marked wilderness to intrigue at a masquerade ball. I appreciate the effort to make each game experience unique; my players get bored if they are just simply killing monsters and taking their stuff all the time.

As for presentation, the art helped capture the mood of the adventures. Good art helps me get in the right mindset to run a game session. The art is all black and white, but it goes well with the book’s “yellowed-paper” aesthetic. The maps are simple to follow and easy to recreate on a battle grid. As a guy who can barely draw a straight line, that’s a big help. I also like the thickness of the paper in the book. I’m willing to bet that this tome could take a little punishment.

To conclude, I want to give a special shout-out to Richard Pett, the author of the “Sorrow” adventure in Midgard Tales. My players absolutely loved this adventure and told me it was the best thing I’d run in a long time. So thanks for making me look good, sir!

I’ve now run a number of the adventures contained in the book, and have read through all of them. I am pleased with the purchase, and I highly recommend Midgard Tales.

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Review — Midgard Adventures: The Raven’s Call

RavensCall-231x300It’s not often that I make my players start at level one in a Pathfinder game. I have a couple of reasons:

  • First level characters never seem to have enough options.
  • They’re so…smooshy. It takes nothing but some unlucky die rolls to take them out.

In other words, it’s hard for first level characters to feel truly heroic. But, worse than that, they often feel ineffective!

When I got a copy of Midgard Adventures: The Raven’s Call, though, I got pretty excited. Finally! A chance for first level PCs to feel a bit of agency in a dangerous and deadly world!

Most of the time, published adventures are not really my bag. I’m not a big fan of dungeon crawls, and I really hate being constrained by adventure modules that (in my experience) are pretty linear. When I create my own adventures, I try to keep them as open-ended as possible; you never know what kind of monkey wrench the players will throw in your plans, so having a less linear approach generally helps me come up with things on the fly.

That’s why I was so surprised by The Raven’s Call! It wasn’t linear. In fact, it set up a fun sandbox for the players to adventure  in and gave them multiple possible motivations to move things in the right direction.

Here’s the premise of the module: A group of nasty raiders has taken over a town, displaced the townspeople (or imprisoned them in a barn), and begun consuming all the supplies. The players are motivated in some way (there are options in the book for creativity when it comes to said motivation), and it isn’t a hard leap for the adventurers to want to right the wrong.

Saving a village from a bunch of raiders might seem like a daunting task, but Wolfgang Baur’s design in the adventure really shines. With a bit of bravery, luck, and some well placed magical items, the PCs can be the heroes they were meant to be. With multiple ways to approach the adventure, there are many opportunities for characters with different skill sets to show off.

The various elements of the module are detailed enough to help the game master if the players get off the beaten path a little bit, but they’re not so detailed that the information gets lost in a morass of text. It was also really easy to fill in small details with some of my own information, which helped set the stage for further adventures.

The art and included maps were both very well done. The sketch of a trollkin on the final page of the adventure really stood out to me. I have to admit there were a few times when I’d be scrolling to that page to get some information, and I would find my eyes drawn to the sketch rather than the info I needed. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, though.

What victory looks like.

What victory looks like.

Overall, I’ve never been disappointed by the art in any Kobold Press release, and this adventure module continues that great tradition.

What’s the most rewarding thing about The Raven’s Call? The fact that my PCs really felt like they had “won.” The adventure was challenging enough that they felt a real sense of accomplishment when they rescued the village. At the end of the day, that kind of euphoria is part of the reason why we play RPGs.

Once again, Wolfgang Baur and Open Design have impressed me with what they bring to roleplaying games. If you are looking for a low-level adventure for your party, this is one I highly recommend!

You can pick up Midgard Adventures: The Raven’s Call at Paizo and DrivethruRPG

Notes from the adventure:

My session featured four players, each with varying degrees of familiarity with the Pathfinder RPG.

-An elf fighter
-An elven archer (like The Raven’s Call, the elven archer is a Kobold Press creation that I’ll review in another column)
-A gearforged wizard (gearforged are clockwork beings specific to the Midgard Campaign setting)
-A human paladin

Quotes from the players (both during the game and afterward)

“Being able to play a gearforged character let me indulge in my inner steampunkery, and that’s awesome!”

I want to ride the crab!”

I’m an elf; I’m not telling you my name.”

Let’s just set it on fire!”

I’m not eating any of their food.”

I really suck at climbing walls.”

“The D20 is a cruel and fickle mistress.”

“The setting is fun and not too terribly difficult, which is good for a core group of level one characters missing a dedicated healer. Best results with full five-member band.”

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New Year’s Eve Musings: Pathfinder Online

PfOIt’s New Year’s Eve, and I’m feeling a little bit melancholy. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m on a “working vacation,” or because I haven’t been sleeping well. Maybe I miss playing Minecraft and Halo 4. Maybe it’s because my baby has for over a week refused to do anything but scream when anyone but me or my wife tries to hold her. Maybe it’s the cloudy weather.

But, something has put a bit of a smile on my face. And it has to do with one of the articles I wrote in June. We Need A Better MMORPG.

A Better Class of MMO – I’ve wanted a sandbox-style MMO for a long time; a massively multiplayer game in which the players actually built things, created kingdoms, and controlled the economy whilst fighting back the hordes of evil monsters that threatened the land sounds like the best thing ever to me.

Enter Pathfinder Online.

Pathfinder Online seems to be the MMO I’ve been waiting for. You can build structures and kingdoms. You can help control the economy. You and your companions can take control of “hexes” within the game area. Within that area you could build watchtowers, inns, and even cities.

It has something for everyone as well. Maybe you just want to get a hammer and bash orcs in the face. If that’s how you want to play, then do it. If you want to instead wage corporate warfare on another player’s corporation, using assassination and undercutting his prices, you can do that to. Maybe you just want to harvest and build things… that’s there for you. I think this encourages players to work together and found thriving virtual cities. Thinking about it makes me really excited.

Really, there is so much from the initial post that is planned to be included in Pathfinder Online that I feel like my mind was completely read. Pathfinder is one of my favorite roleplaying systems, so I know that character options will be pretty balanced, but it’s the addition of all the other stuff that you can do in a tabletop environment that makes me wish this game was out right now.

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Hero Lab Review

Gamers and DMs are constantly looking for ways to make running and facilitating their games easier. As a DM, I love focusing more on plot than mechanics, so tools that can cut down on time spent building characters or looking up rules can be invaluable.

I’ve been using Hero Lab by Lonewolf Development for a couple months. I’ve bought the licenses for both Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition (the game I’m currently playing most) and Pathfinder (the game I want to be playing most), and both versions work with very little trouble (that I’ve seen so far.)

If you’ve ever built a character in a video game RPG like Skyrim, Neverwinter Nights, or Dragon Age, you’re basically ready to build characters in Hero Lab.

It’s really simple, and Hero Lab automatically figures out the feats and skills you can or can’t have, and descriptions for every skill, feat, power, spell, or piece of equipment are included. The interface is easy to understand, too.

I’ve always enjoyed building characters, and now I can build characters (even ones with house rules!!) in minutes rather than hours.

Obviously that’s great for players, but Hero Lab has some features that make a DMs job easier as well.

Need a random encounter? You can easily load monsters, minions, and other baddies and modify them as needed.

Having a hard time keeping track of combat? Hero Lab includes a “tactical console” in which you can import all the heroes in the game and all the monsters, roll initiative, and keep track of status effects, spells left, and damage. It’s made my life so much easier as a DM… combat tends to get bogged down quite a bit, so anything that can speed things up is great.

Price-wise, as a gamer on a budget, I think Hero Lab is a bit pricey. It’s $30 for the initial program (this includes a license for the supported game of your choice, I chose Mutants and Masterminds). You can buy licenses for other games, but be warned, they can get expensive. I’m trying to build up my Hero Lab Pathfinder collection, and the money spent can really start to add up quickly.

That said, I can’t imaging playing RPGs without it. You can grab Hero Lab here.

 

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Con Men: GenCon Day 3

I’m just going to get this out there and say it.

If you knew about Gen Con, and you didn’t go, you lose. Plain and simple. You lose.

Know what I did today? I hung out with Green Lantern. I sang my way into battle alongside a warhammer-swinging Paladin. I served with Captain Malcolm Reynolds and a sexy assassin aboard the mighty starship Artemis.
The day started early. John and I got up around 7 o’clock (after about 4 hours of sleep), and headed out to the Con. We walked nearly the entire length of the Indiana Convention Center to get to the JW Marriott hotel, where our first event was being held. Let me say that every gaming session that happens should be in a meeting room of a fancy hotel: comfortable seating, hard candy, ice water, big tables, pens/paper provided.

Anywho, the game was called “Dead End” and was built using Mutants & Masterminds/ DC Adventures. We got the opportunity to play as many of the members of the Justice League, but mostly all the players picked B and C-list heroes. Our team consisted of Green Lantern, Batman (played by John), Dr. Light, Plastic Man, and our only D-list hero, Booster Gold (played by me, because I think he’s hilarious).

The team had their work cut out for them. Lex Luthor, Clayface, Sinestro, Deathstroke, and Gorilla Grod had all teamed up to build a dimensional portal… but our terrible Justice League team managed to fight them and send them to jail… except for that slippery Lex Luthor… he jumped through the portal. On the other side… we found Marvel Zombies.

Hands down a great game. I wish I could remember the DM’s name because he did an amazing job. He was part of North Coast Gamers from Ohio. If you’re reading this, DM, email me. I would love to ask you some questions about your DMing style or just chat. And I will definitely look for your event next year.

Next up came some Pathfinder Society action. This one… was a little disappointing, I have to say. The DM was really, really tired. And we had a really loud, jerky power-gamer incarnate sitting at our table. The guy couldn’t relinquish control of anything.

Other than that awful, harassing person, the other people at the table seemed legitimately cool, and I mostly had a good time. I felt bad for the DM, though. He looked like he needed a nap. I wonder how many games he had to run that day.

Pathfinder Society is a lot of fun. I’m going to be looking for ways to play nearer to home. I’m pretty sure there is a group in Columbus that plays. I need to start leveling up my character!

Next came the movieMisfit Heights.It’s a zombie puppet musical that we went to see because we liked that Vampire Puppet show fromForgetting Sarah Marshall.I don’t consider myself much a film critic… but I was a little disappointed. It’s ultra-low budget, and you can really tell. The picture was OFTEN too dark to see. The singing wasn’t really great. The sound editing seemed a little off. It also seemed a little overly long. However, I did laugh out loud more than a few times, so I suppose it was certainly worth seeing. And it was free, so the price was hard to beat.

Finally, the highlight of my day. Artemis, a starship bridge simulator. I’m going to try my best to adequately describe to you how amazing I think this game is.

How it works: Artemis is basically a program that runs using a LAN or internet connection. 6 displays are linked together, and each display represents a different station on a starship: Helm, Tactical (John got to shoot the bad guys), Communications, Science, Engineering (this was my specialty for the evening), and the Captain.

The Captain has the job of overseeing all the stations and giving orders. He’s the macro-organizer of the ship, and you mostly have to depend on him to organize all the stations to work together. The guy who volunteered to be our Captain was pretty amazing. He seriously took to it instantly, and by the end, we were all calling him “sir” or “captain.” Pretty impressive.

The Helm steers the ship by controlling the maneuvering engines, the impulse engines, and the warp engines. Our Helmsman started off a little shaky, but by the end was controlling the ship like a pro.

The Comm officer monitors communications throughout the star system and relays them to the Captain. Our comm officer was played by a cosplayer dressed as Malcolm Reynolds. It was weird to have the Browncoat hero sitting in the comm, but he did a great job. Comm officers are also able to get enemies to surrender and can also taunt the baddies into attacking us rather than one of our allied ships or space stations.

The Science Officer is responsible for keeping tabs on approaching ships and scanning the many anomalies in the darkness of space. Our Science Officer was played by the girl hanging out with Malcolm Reynolds (wife, girlfriend?) who was dressed as a sexy assassin. She did a good job keeping tabs on the bad guys.

The Tactical Officer is responsible for shooting bad guys and defending the starship. John was our guy, and he was the king of setting off nukes in such a way as to kill 3-5 ships in one fell swoop. After learning how to manually control the lasers, he basically became the boss of killing bad guys. Seriously.

Represent.

Finally, my part the Engineer. I was the guy responsible for shunting power into various systems, making sure those same systems don’t overheat, and sending engineering teams to fix any damage to the ship. I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, but I think I did a pretty excellent job of Scotty-ing (I’m giving her all she’s got, Captain!!) my way through the game. By the end, I was a master of repairing shield damage and shunting enough power into John’s lasers to cut enemy warships into ribbons.

Basically, everyone should play Artemis. Now, I’m trying to figure out how to turn my shed into a starship bridge. I was so impressed with the game, I’m even considering getting an Engineer’s badge to show off my love for both the good ship Artemis and the lonely Engineering station.

After that, we headed to BW3s for some chicken wings, and we got to watch this woman at the bar have a terrible date.

All-in all, a pretty awesome day at the con.

Editor’s Note: John ended up remembering the DM’s name.

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