Sunday, October 27, 2013

Numenera Campaign

Numenera is a science fantasy roleplaying game set in the far distant future created by Monte Cook. From a purely mechanical standpoint it's a very streamlined and straight forward system. It was designed to lessen the burden on Game Masters so they can spend more time on story and world crafting. As a soon to be Numenera Game Master, I really appreciate it.

For one thing, it's so easy to come up with obstacles on the fly. Everything that the PC encounter has a standardized difficulty level from 1 to 10 which applies to anything the player do to interact with it. Lets say that there is a level 3 metal door that the players need to get by. The target number the PC need to roll is always three times it's level, so for this example they need to roll a 9 or better for any action. It doesn't matter if they choice to pick the door's lock or bashing it down, their target remains 9. However, if a player has a skill or is carrying a applicable asset (such as ram or lock picks) the task becomes easier.

In Numenera, bonuses or penalties to actions are not common. Any skills or assets a player has usually drops the difficulty level specially for the action attempted, which in turn lowers the target number. Another way the player can drop an action's level is by applying effort. By choosing to exerting extra effort into a given task, a character makes it easier at the cost of points from their stat pools. For the full run down on Numenera stat system, check out this link:

Two other very interest features of Numenera are it's experience mechanics and character creation. Experience points are not handed out for killing monsters, instead they are earned through discovery and GM interventions. GM don't have to roll dice (unless they want to) so they use interventions to add complication to the narrative. The GM offers up a challenge to the player which will grant them 2 XP. However, if a player has unspent experience on hand they can choice to refuse it by paying 1 XP and forgoing the 2 XP bonus.     

Character Creation is very quick and painless compared to more complex systems such as Pathfinder or Shadowrun. In my experience, building a character in pathfidner or shadowrun takes about 30 minutes using Hero Lab, or an hour or longer by hand. There are so many options in systems it takes time to figure out all the specifics. In Numenera, it takes maybe half an hour by hand or considerably less time if you use the character create app or There are only three major choices you have to make and this sentence is a tool to guide you through the process :

_Name_ is a _Adjective_ (descriptor) _Noun_ (Class) who _Verb_ (Focus Ability)

All you have to do is fill in the blanks and they then pick a few options. This sentence is also a handy way of describing your character. It hits all the key points a gives a clear idea of your character is capable of.  

 Starting next week I'm going to be running a short Numenera Campain on called "The Forever Dream"The game is set in a very weird town, even by Ninth World standards. The town is called "Bless" to it's residents and by "Jellyvill" or "That wet and smelly village full of floating telepathic jellyfish" (they look like the above photo.) But to the players, it's just home sweet home. They have lived in Bless all their lives so jellyfish, the Forever Dream, and Divine Quests are just business as usual. The Sleeping Priests that run the town send them and other residents on Divine Quest, normally to gather Numenera, which they have to complete complete. One simply doesn't ignore the will of the Living God "Narcomedusae," the creator of The Forever Dream and giver of immortality. However, the player's next Divine Quest is something special. A mission of such vial importance that the fate of the entire town rest in their hands.

I have a full group of four players and our first game is on Friday, November 01 at 7:00PM. I'm planning on post session summaries on this blog. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

NekoCon 16 Next Week

After what seemed like an eternity, I'm back home and just in time for NekoCon 16. NekoCon is a yearly Anime Convention that just so happens to be very close to where I live. It's the best geeky Convention in the Hampton Roads Area and arguably the best Anime Convention in Virginia. As per there are 5: NekoCon, Ring of Fire Con, Shoboucon, Anime USA, and Anime Mid-Atlantic.  

Having lived in VA for some time now I've been to all these Convention at some point and in my humble option, NekoCon is the best. Anime USA is also really good but it's more of a "Washington DC" Convention, rather then a Virginia one.

NekoCon 16 is shaping up to be another amazing event. Great Cosplay opportunities, interesting panels, great guests, awesome anime shows/movies, and most importantly (to me anyway:) a tabletop gaming room with a ton of sessions planned. My favorite being the Organized Play Sessions being run by Pathfinder Society of Virginia Meetup Group.  Below a few events being held at NekoCon 16 that I'm planning on taking part in:

Panels and Workshops:                                                        Events:
Plus 2 Comedy                                                                    Saturday Night Dance: Cat Scratch Fever
Anime for Manly Men                                                        Art Show                                         
Anime – Whose Line Is It Anyways                                  Karaoke
Becoming a Video Game Writer                                        AMV Idol
Beyond D&D
Character Design                                                               Guests:
Borderlands Q&A                                                              Anthony Burch (Borderlands Writer)
Game Guy’s Game Show                                                  Ashly Burch (Voice Actress)     
Mass Effect as Applied to the Real World (18+)              John Swasey (Voice Actor)

Just FYI, here is the Pocket Schedule for NekoCon 16. Since my early arrive back home in VA was bit of a last minute surprise I probably won't be Cosplaying this year or taking part in any of the official NekoCon challenges this year. Which is fine, I'm very lucky to be attending this year...even if I have to pay the full cover change for not pre-registering.

I'm really looking forward to this Convention, happening 3 days next week starting Friday 01NOV13 and ending on Sunday 03NOV13. I will post photos and maybe a summery of the Convention shortly after the event. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Next D&D Druid, Part 2

For those of you who don't know, for almost a year Wizards of the Coast has conducted a semi-open play test for the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons, the project being creatively code named "D&D Next." This has been an ongoing process since May 24th 2012. As per the Wizard's website, the Playtest Package download released 19SEP13 on  is the one and marks the end of the public testing.

The final public package for D&D Next has been out for a month now and I think it's time to put out some more into on my favorite class. This post is primary just an updated version of "Next D&D Druid, that was written a few play test document ago. Changes have been made and now is the prefect time for an update.

  The Good                                The Bad                                               ...And The Ugly
  Wildshape at Level 2               Very Limited Wildshape                         No Animal Companions
                                                 Animal Forms                                       

  Cantrips - D&D 4.0                Druids are less Versatile, having            "Natures Endurance" (Poison/
  Style At Will "Weapon             to specialize by choosing a Druidic        Disease immunity) has been   
  -Like" Spells                           Circle                                                    Removed as a Default Ability  

  Evergreen- Slow Aging            Large Reduction of "Spell per Day"
                                                 Slots compared to D&D 3.0 and 3.5
                                                  No Summoning Spells

Quick Update: Since my last Druid post, "Wildshape" has moved to level 2 and "Druid Circe" to level 3. "Nature Endurance" has been removed and replaced with the Circle feature "Land's Endurance." This new ability work just like it's predecessor, providing the Druid with immunity to poisons and diseases. "Nature's Ward" was also moved to a Circle feature and "Healing Trance" was removed completely.

The Circle have been heavy adjusted. "Circle of the Oak" has be replaced by "Circle of the Land," which has different abilities..."Circle of the Moon" remains mostly the same.

This version of the play test ditches "Attack Bonus," "Spellcasting Bonus," and expertise dice of prior packages in favor of a catch all "Proficiency Bonus." It's a straight up level dependent bonus when you use or do almost anything your character is proficient. It looks like this:
                               1 to 2; +1                 7 to 10; +3             15 to 18; +5
                               3 to 6; +2                 11 to 14; +4           19 and 20; +6

This bonus applies to all skills and tools/kits checks your proficient  with; attack rolls with weapons your proficient with, and spells casts while using a focus.

Wildshape: The Druid's supernatural ability to change their physical forum to that of an animal they are familiar with has been the classes "signature ability" for many years. D&D 3.0/3.5 Druids gained the ability to shape change into medium sized animals once a day starting at level 4 and would become more powerful as the character takes druid levels. In 4.0 Druids had the opportunity to shape change but it wasn't automatically given. The player would have to choose to take Shape Changing daily powers.

This current incarnation of the Druid class can Wildshape at level two but are restricted on what animal form they can take. By default, the form progress goes like this:

2- Hound, 5- Steed, 7- Fish and Rodent, 9- Bird. 

To gain more shape shifting options a Druid has to "specialize in wildshaping" by selecting the Moon as their Druid Circle.   

Spell Casting: Basically, it's 3.5 Spell Casting with a few 4.0 traits. Daily Spell Slots are back and Druids once again have nine levels of spells at their disposable. The down side is that the actual number of spells that can be cast per day has be drastically reduced compared to 3.5. At the maximum level of 20, druids will only be able to cast 19 spells, divided between 9 spell levels, per day not counting Cantrips which are at will and free or Circle of the Land extra/bonus spells. This is a vast reduction compared to a D&D 3.5 Druid's 39 base spell slots, not counting 0 level or bonus spells granted by high spell casting ability score. 

The "Circle of the Land " is the Druid's spell casting specialization option. It gives the Druid an a free spell slots and added spells to the Druids spell list base on which of the seven lands they became a Druid in: Coast, Desert, Forest, Grasslands, Mountain, Swamp, or Tundra.

Circle of the Land: Originally, this was the Druid's extra spell casting option but it's received a substantial upgrade. In this incarnation, it has a lot more flexibility and a lot more options to players. A Druid that picks this Circle at level three gains a Land Type which grants one free specific spells at 3, 5, 7, and 9 based on their choice. For example, below are two of the seven choices available:

              FOREST:                                                          TUNDRA
              3- Augury, Barkskin                                           3- Augury, Spike Growth
              5- Call Lighting, Plant Growth                             5- Sleet Storm, Slow
              7- Divination, Freedom of movement                  7- Freedom of Movement, Ice Storm      
              9- Commune with Nature, Plant Door                 9- Commune with Nature, Cone of Cold
Also, they gain bonus spell lots and the following unity abilities: Land's Stride, Nature's Ward, Land's Endurance, and Beast Spells. I already spoke about "Land's Endurance,  Land Stride (A.K.A Woodland stride)  and Nature's Wards (A.K.A Resist nature's lure) work similarly to there 3.5 counterparts. "Beast Spells," allows Druids to cast spells in any forum, is very useful but it's too bad that you have to wait till level 20 to get it. My Pathfinder Druid can do that at level 5 by taking the Natural Spell Feat.

Circle of the Moon: This Circle has not changed much since my last post but there are a few differences. Right when a Druid selects this Circle they gain the ability "Moon Shapes" which heals hit points equal to your Druid level when reverting from a Wild Shape and gives the Druid a +2 to STR/|DEX while in Hound form. Last play test they give extra forms as soon as get a circle but this time around you have to wait level 6 to receive extra forums. here is the breakdown for your Circle fourms:

                       6- Cat and Bear (Battle Shapes)       14- Ancient Battle Shapes
                       10- Giant Battle Shapes                    16- Behemoth Shape

Lastly, at level 20 a Moon Circle member gets "Instinctive Wild Shape" which allows the druid to Wild Shape an unlimited times per day. Once again, Pathfinder already does this and they don't require a feat or any other specialization either. All Druids can Wild Shape at will it at level 20 by default.   

No Animal Allies: I covered this at length on my last post so I'll keep it short this time. In D&D 4th edition Wizard of the Coast moved away from summoning spells and player controlled companions for all classes. When first released there were absolutely no powers or abilities that dealt with summoning or companion creatures but they added in a splash of it with later 4.0 release. Unfortunately, it looks like D&D Next is also going down this road.

To me, it feels like the Druid Class is missing a core element without gaining really anything in return. In the Pathfinder RPG, Druids can choice to forgo a animal companion by selecting a Cleric domain as their "Nature's Bound." Sure they are giving up an animal ally but they are getting something almost as good in return.  

Overall: So far, I really don't like what I'm seeing with my favorite class. I'm not saying that D&D Next is bad, that too early to tell but this class really needs an over hull. D&D Next Druid is a striped down 3.5 model with a few 4.0 additions. They took away a lot of what makes a Druid awesome and they give us practically nothing new in return.  

If you have not already, I highly suggest signing up for the D&D Next Play Test.