Friday, July 29, 2016

Sasquatch Game Studio Giving New Life to Alternity

Click HERE for the Official Announcement Article

Earlier this week, Sasquatch Game Studio announced they will be releasing a new science fiction role-playing game in 2017. The most intriguing aspect about this announcement is what it will be titled: Alternity.

Those with a keen memory will recognize this as the name of another science fiction role-playing game published by TSR in 1998. Following the company's acquisition by Wizards of the Coast, Alternity was discontinued in 2000. While certain elements of the game would later be used in d20 Modern, specifically the DarkMatter and Star*Drive campaign settings, Alternity itself has pretty much laid dormant for over a decade.

Until now.

This latest iteration of Alternity will not be a second edition, but a new role-playing game that simply draws inspiration from the original game. It will be a modular toolbox like the previous version, allowing Game Masters to mold the mechanics to fit the specific brand of science fiction they're trying to achieve. They even have the original designers, Bill Slavicsek and Richard Baker, working on this version.

I'll admit, Alternity was before my time. While I have managed to read the rules and thought the Control Die + Situation Die approach was pretty cool, I never actually used it for a campaign. However, I would love to see what Sasquatch Game Studio has in store for us with this new Alternity.

How about you? What are your thoughts on this announcement? Excited, cautious, or a little of both? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Four Questions of Character Creation

Everyone has their own process for creating a character. I'm not talking mechanically, but how they approach crafting the elements that make the character something more than a simple bundle of stats. Some like to write long, detailed backstories, while others prefer to start small and build upon that as they play the game. Some begin with a concept, but others like to be inspired by the mechanics.

There is no one true approach, each working better for different people.

That being said, I thought it might be nice to present my own preferred method for constructing a character's flluff. I like to call this method the "Four Questions". This little questionnaire helps me develop a handful of basic pillars I can use as a foundation for the character, allowing me to build upon it while playing said character. The Four Questions are:

Before delving into the more specific aspects of a character, you should figure out her most basic concept. Think of this as the elevator pitch for this imaginary person, capturing her most important elements in a simple sentence or two. It should be clear and precise, getting your point across in as few words as possible.

Your character didn't spring forth from thin air, fully formed and ready to explore ancient tombs in search of priceless treasure. They had to originate from somewhere in the campaign's setting, a location with a interesting atmosphere and culture that more than likely left a last mark upon the character.

Every character should have something important they are working towards, explaining why they've decided to become an adventurer in the first place. You have the classics, such as avenging the lost of a loved one or restoring the prestige of her long-tainted family's name. This goal can be literally anything, but should be something that will take many adventures to obtain and should be driving force for the character.

There has to be a reason why the character hasn't obtained their goal yet. Maybe she doesn't know the identity of the assassin who killed her loved one, just that he had an extra finger upon his right hand, or possibly the only way for her restore said prestige is to hunt down and kill the dragon her ancestor failed to slay many years ago. This is where you give the GM a very blatant hook to use within the campaign, something to draw them into the story the group is attempting to weave together, making the challenges just a little bit more personal.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Find Your Path to the Stars - Paizo Announces New Roleplaying Game

Looks like Paizo still has some surprises up their sleeve. Yesterday, Creative Director James L. Sutter published a blog announcing something completely unexpected. Next August, Paizo will be releasing a brand new roleplaying game.

The Starfinder Roleplaying Game will be based upon upon the Pathfinder rules, but designed with the science fantasy sub-genre in mind. It'll be backward compatible, but ultimately a stand-alone product. The rulebook will contain numerous new races, classes, equipment, and other elements suited for the far-future version of their Golarion campaign setting. Sutter described the default setting as follows:
"Starfinder is set in Golarion's solar system, but far in a possible future - one in which the gods have mysteriously spirited Golarion away to an unknown location, and refuse to answer questions about it. In its place, the cultures of that world have evolved and spread throughout the solar system, especially to a vast space platform called Absalom Station. Gifted access to a hyperspace dimension by an ascended AI deity, the residents of the system suddenly find themselves with the ability to travel faster than light, and the race is on to explore and colonize potentially millions of worlds. But there are horrors out there in the darkness..."
The Starfinder RPG Core Rulebook will be released in 2017 at Gen Con. Furthermore, a monthly Adventure Path will support this new product, offering quality adventures along with interesting rules and setting expansions. However, Starfinder will be released under the OGL, meaning third-party support will be possible.

Strangely, Paizo has also announced they will not be hosting a full public playtest for Starfinder. The reason given is that it would be very difficult with something of this sheer scale. That being said, they will bring in key community members to give input over the next few months.

Personally, I find myself cautiously optimistic about this product. The words "science fantasy" immediately warm the cockles' of my heart and I'm curious to see what they'll do with the mechanics. However, I'm also nervous that Paizo might be going down the same troubled road that TSR did, splitting their customer base in two. I'm also worried about mechanical bloat, but that's really nothing new with d20 games.

How about you, dear readers? Are you excited for Starfinder? Are you cautious like myself? Do you think this is a Harbringer of the End Times? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

5e Musings - The Bard College of the Mountebank

Not all bards are connoisseurs of stories. There are a handful use their abilities for a much more nefarious purpose: deceiving the foolish individuals that inhabit the lands in order to gain fame, glory, or great wealth.

When you join the College of the Mountebank at 3rd level, you gain proficiency with disguise kits, forgery kits, and one gaming set of your choice.

Also at 3rd level, you learn enhance your carefully woven deceptions with just the right word or phrase. When making an ability check to deceive or persuade a character, you may spend a bonus action to expend one of your uses of Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and adding the number rolled to your roll. You can choose to use this feature after you make your roll, but before the DM determines whether the ability check succeeds or fails.

At 6th level, you develop a mystical knack for disguising yourself, allowing you to assume a variety of unique masks to enhance your deceptive acts. As an action, you can magically change your appearance. You decide what you look like, such as your height, weight, distinctive features, etc. However, you cannot change your size and your statistics remain the same.

This change lasts 1 hour or until you use this ability again. You revert to your true form if you are knocked unconscious or killed. You can use this ability a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier (a minimum of once). You regain all uses of this ability after you finish a long rest.

Starting at 14th level, you can empower your spells to make them harder to resist. When a creature within 60 feet of you makes a saving throw against an enchantment or illusion spell you've cast, you can use your reaction to expend a Bardic Inspiration, rolling a Bardic Inspiration die and subtracting the number rolled from the creature's roll. You can choose to use this feature after the creature makes its roll, but before the DM determines whether the ability check succeeds or fails.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Beyond the Hylian Wall - Races

Several weeks ago, I presented a concept for a Legend of Zelda campaign using the Beyond the Wall rules. Today, I thought I'd post a VERY rough draft of the races that players can eventually use once they discover them within the world.

These races are based upon the suggested rules for non-human characters presented in Appendix II - Optional Rules on pg. 24-25 of Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures - Core Rules. Currently, I have yet to actually test any of these at the table. Feel free to offer suggestions or alternatives in the comments.

The Gorons are a humanoid, rock-eating race that dwell in the mountains scattered throughout the land that used to be Hyrule. They are physically imposing creatures, possessing a height and size almost double that of an average human, and develop rocky growths on their backs as they age. Most Goron clans have a friendly, brotherly culture that is fire and passion. Gorons receive the following traits: 
Goron Vision - Gorons may see in any light. So long as their surroundings are not pitch black, they can see as well as humans in full daylight.  
Strength of Stone - Gorons have an endurance far beyond the other races, and therefore have hit dice of one greater die type than their class would suggest. For example, a goron rogue has d10 hit dice instead of the usual d8.  
Clumsy - Gorons are not the most graceful individuals. Gorons may never have a Dexterity score higher than 10.

The Kokiri are a cautious and secretive race native to Kokiri Forest. They are a child-like people, looking like a human adolescent with slight, pointed ears. The Kokiri are generally seen as a peaceful people who hold great reverence for nature, especially the forests of Hyrule. Kokiri are a very rare sight in the world, with most humans believing them to be only a myth. Kokiri receive the following traits: 
Unaging - The Kokiri maintain their youth for their entire, long lives. Some Kokiri believe they will live forever as long as they remain in their forest home. They automatically resist all forms of non-magical disease and poison and cannot die from natural causes.  
Small Stature - Being small hurts in a fight. Kokiri may never have a Strength score higher than 10, and may only use weapons which do 1d4 or 1d6 damage. 

The Zora are an aquatic race who inhabit the lakes and rivers of Hyrule. They are generally covered in silver scales, giving them a pale blue sheen from a distance. Instead of hair, a large number of Zora have rear-hanging caudal extensions of their heads shaped like a dolphin's tail and large fins upon their arms and legs. They are a very territorial race, fiercely protecting the waterways they call home.
Amphibious - Zoras possess the ability to exist both within the waves and on land. Zoras can breathe both water and air.  
Child of the Water - Zoras are at their best when in the water, allowing them to show off their natural grace and skill. Zoras receive a +2 bonus to Strength and Dexterity ability score checks while fully submerged in water.  
Water Dependent - A Zora's body requires regular submersion in fresh or salt water, growing weaker when they do not. Zoras who spend more than 1 day without fully submerging themselves in water suffer a -1 penalty to all ability score checks. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

5e Musings - New Race: Goblins

Art by Steve Prescott
Goblins are a race of diminutive creatures that are incredibly destructive and vicious. Most other races view them as the humanoid equivalent to cockroaches, lurking upon the fringes of society, scavenging to survive, and being very problematic in large numbers.

Most goblins spend the entirety of extremely short lives among their own tribe, but a small few have decided to venture forth into the larger world, driven by their disturbing curiosity and thirst for power. The majority of these meet untimely ends, but a small few manage to survive, with a tiny handful falling in with strangely accepting groups of adventurers.

Ability Score Increase: Your Dexterity score increases by 2, and your Constitution score increases by 1.

Age: Goblins mature much faster than humans, reaching adulthood around age 12. They age noticeably faster and rarely live longer than 40 years.

Alignment: The majority of goblins tend to be greedy, capricious, and downright cruel. Most goblins tend to lean towards Chaotic or Neutral Evil.

Size: Goblins are roughly 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall and average 40 pounds. Your size is Small.

Speed: Goblins are small, but surprisingly quick. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.

Darkvision: Because of your race's tendency to inhabit dark caves and underground tunnels, you have superior vision in dark and dim conditions. You can see in dim light within 60 feet of you as if it were bright light, and in darkness as if it were dim light. You can't discern color in darkness, only shades of gray.

Stealthy: You gain proficiency in the Stealth skill.

Nimble Escape: Goblins are quick and sneaky creatures. You can take the Disengage or Hide action as a bonus action on each of your turns.

Languages: You can speak, read, and write Common and Goblin.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Beyond the Hylian Wall - A Legend of Zelda Campaign Concept

I dare you to look at this picture and not have that
familiar theme pop into your head.
The Legend of Zelda franchise holds a very special, nostalgic place in my geeky heart. During my childhood, I spent countless hours sitting right in front of my television with a controller held tightly in my hands, exploring the realms of Hyrule while saving Princess Zelda from that porcine asshole Ganon. Although I've had my problems with certain entries (*cough*Skyword Sword*cough*), I still consider myself a fan and will always give the latest entry a shot, wanting to feel that same sense of adventure once again.

Recently, I've had a peculiar itch to run a mini-campaign based upon the franchise using the excellent Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

The campaign would exist in a version of Hyrule where Ganondorf defeats the Hero of Time in the final battle at the end of Ocarina of Time, takes the remaining pieces of the Tri-Force from Link and Zelda, and uses the power of the completed Tri-Force to transform himself into the Demon King Ganon.

Now possessing immense power, Ganon begins to terrorize the land, leaving utter destruction in his wake and crushing any form of resistance he can find underneath the heel of his massive boot.

In a desperate move to save what little remained of the kingdom of Hyrule, the Seven Sages use their combined power to seal Ganon and the completed Tri-Force in another plane of existence. Although they succeed at banishing the Demon King from the world, the kingdom is beyond repair.

The campaign would pick up after a century has passed, with the current inhabitants existing in a Dark Age. The Kingdom of Hyrule is no more, the once mighty city is now a crumbling ruin and the royal family has all but vanished. The few bastions of civilization that managed to rebuild themselves after Ganon's reign of terror exist as independent powers with travel between them being incredibly rare. Very few people have ventured forth beyond the towering walls that keep them safe from the dangerous creatures lurking within the surrounding wilderness.

Those of you who are familiar with the Legend of Zelda Timeline will recognize this as a slightly altered version of the "Fallen Hero" Timeline. I feel using this series of events will lead to a version of the world that better fits the structure of a role-playing game. This version of the Timeline has no new Hero, suggesting Ganon succeeding at defeating Link threw off the cycle. Thankfully, this leaves space for the party to take Link's role with relative ease.

Players will create characters as described in the Core Rules of Beyond the Wall. At first, the only available race will be Human. The characters would all be residents of a small town who choose to leave for one reason or another (probably not under their own volition). Later in the campaign, the players would come into contact with the other Zelda races, "unlocking" them as racial options for new or replacement characters. I'm thinking the unlockable races will be Gorons, Kokiri, and Zoras. Possibly Deku Shrubs and Gerudo as well.

The focus of the campaign would be a simple one. The players would explore the fallen realm of Hyrule, delving into the depths of the crumbling dungeons and temples of the past. They'd also learn Ganon's presence is slowly leaking back into the world, possibly heralding his return. The party would then have to discover a way to keep him sealed away, possibly discovering the reason why the Hero was never reborn.

Since I will probably not have a chance to use this concept for the foreseeable future due to a project I've been working on (which I hope to reveal very soon), I thought I'd jot down my thoughts so someone else can use them if they feel inclined to do so.I might post the mechanics for the four races that players can unlock if anybody is interested.