Thursday, November 14, 2013

Pathfinder "Advanced Class Guide" Playtest

Breaking News! I just received in a email less then an hour ago about Paizo's upcoming "Pathfinder Roleplaying Game: Advanced Class Guide" They are releasing a Playtest document for this rulebook next Tuesday and Pathfinder Society members like myself are getting a first look at it. The Advanced Class Guide Playtest PDF will be available for download at starting on 19NOV13.

The rulebook is due out next August. This book contains 10 all new classes "hybrids" classes. Each one takes rules elements from two existing classes and blends them together to create a new concept. Below are the currently revealed list of hybrid classes. Check out Paizo's blog for the full details.

1- Arcanist: a mix of sorcerer and wizard
2- Bloodrager: a mix of barbarian and sorcerer
3- Hunter: a mix of druid and ranger
4- Shaman: a combination of oracle and witch
5- Slayer: a blending of ranger and rogue
6- Swashbuckler: a mix of gunslinger and fighter
7- Warpriest: mixing the cleric and fighter
8- The Investigator: blends together alchemist and the rogue (Revealed Today)
9- Unknown
10- Unknown

The best part is that the characters will be legal for  Pathfinder Society Organized Play 
I for one I'm very excited to see these new classes and probably will build a new Society Character or two using the new rules.

Next D&D Druid, Part 3

As per my last D&D Next post and This Page on Coast website, I thought that the Playtest Packet released on 19SEP13 was going to be the final one. To my surprise, a new playtest kit is out. I made this discovery by chance when I went to to re-download the documents again. The file is renamed "101413_DnD_Next_Public_Playtest" so it's a safe bet that it was released on 14OCT13.

I'm happy to report that in general, this revision of the Druid class is better then it's former D&D Next incarnations. It's still inferior compared to 3.5 and Pathfinder Druid in my humble option but it's nice to see that Wizards of the Coast is making notable progress. I'm confident that they will release a decent final product when the new edition of Dungeons & Dragon is published.

Below is "The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly" list from my last two druid previews. Overall, my main complains of the D&D Next class are still valid but there are some sufficient improvements.

  The Good                                The Bad                                               ...And The Ugly

 Wildshape at Level 2                Limited Wildshape Forms                    No Animal Companions
                                                   (Improved since last Packet) 
  "At Will" Cantrips                   Druid Circles                                        Natures Ward Removed
  (4th Ed Style At Will                (The Class is less Versatile,                  as a Standard Ability 
  Powers)                                    Forces Specialization)                         (Poison/Disease Immunity)    

  Evergreen                                "Spell per Day" Reduction
  (Slow Aging)                            (Compared to D&D 3.0/3.5)
  Beast Spell/Speech                   No Summoning Spells
  (Now Standard Abilities)

"Per Day" Limit Removed
 from Wildshape

Wildshape Retooled: Druids are no longer restricted to a set number of Wildshapes per day. Instead, Druids are able to Wildshape once after a long rest (8 hours) or a short rest (1 hour.)  At level 8 this improves to twice between rests. Effectively, a druid will have the opportunity to shift around 3 or so times a play session at level two depending on how many short rest the party takes. In my personal experience playing D&D 4.0 (which at a similar "Second Wind") and Numenera (which also uses a rest system) groups generally take two short rest a session.  

The other notable improvement over the previous playtest material is that WotC finally ditched the "unlocking forms" as a Druid levels mechanic. In the last playtest document, here is how the form progression worked:

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

This time around a Druid has access to all available forms as soon as they receive Wildshape. At level 2, Druids can now transform into a bat, a cat, a deer, a dog, a fish, a hawk, a horse, an owl, a raven, a snake, a toad, or a weasel. They can stay in these forums for 1 hour plus half there Druid level and they take on the stats and abilities of there new forums. The only way to gain more forums is to specialize in shape shifting by selecting "The Circle of the Moon" as there Druid Circle at level 3. 

These forums provide a Druid with a large amount of useful abilities and skill bonus/advantages but for the most part these forums won't help much in combat. Without the Moon Circle forums, shifting drops your hit points total to match the animal your transforming into. I admit this makes logical sense but it drastically reduces a Druids combat survivability. Also, the playtest PDF doesn't say anything about these basic forms scale up as a druid levels so this problem is only going to get worse over time.  

In short, Wildshape is not a combat ability anymore unless you pick "The Circle of the Moon." This circle adds combat orientated shape to a Druid's arsenal.

Moon Circle Changes:  Last playtest this Circle granted two "Battle Forum," bear and great cat, at level 3 and then give you ways to improve these forms. The abilities "Giant Battle Shapes," "Ancient Battle Shapes," and "Behemoth Shape" would greatly enhance the Druid's bear and great cat forms. Now, the Moon Circle just unlocks more increasing combat capable shapes over time. Sure, they give it a fancy name like "Monstrous Shapes" but it's essentially just grating two additional animals per tier:

Level 3 "Battle Wild Shape," Dire Wolf and Panther forms.  
Level 6 "Mauler Shapes," Brown Bear or Tiger.
Level 10 "Monstrous Shapes," Cave Bear or Triceratops.

As I said in "Wildshape Retooled," these animals are built for combat. They have a healthy amount of hit points, good STR score, and decent natural attack. The AC is still a little on the low side but that can't really be helped. Maybe there will be ways to shore up a Druid's defense while shifting down the line, such as the "Wild" armor enchant in Pathfinder. It's expensive, +3 enchant at 9,000 gp including masterwork armor and +1 enchant costs, but it's worth it. 

Beast Spell/Speech: These two abilities were formerly Circles abilities but now all Druids get them. Beast Speech is granted at level 7, allowing a Druid to talk normally while shifted. Beast Spell is earned at 20 and lets the Druid cast spells while Wildshaping. It may not seem like a big advancement in the grand scheme of things but it makes more sense. Wildshape is a core feature of the Druid class so it's great that all Druids can now benefit from these abilities regardless of which Circle they pick. 

Overall: This latest is definitely a step in the right direction. I've finnally found a local gaming group playing D&D Next so I'm really looking forward to actually playing the new Druid Class in the next few weeks.

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

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

NekoCon 16 Highlights and Photos

As per my post from last week, NekoCon took place Friday through Sunday at the Convention Center in Hampton VA. Unfortunately, due to work and other social commitments I was only able to go on Saturday. Spent almost the entire day a Nekocon and it was great. The Cosplayers were amazing, the gaming was good, and all of the events that I took part in were excellent.

For me, the highlight of the day were the Pathfinder Society games, the free Jonathan Coulton concert, and Cat Scratch Fever dance. For those of you who are unaware, Jonathan Coulton is a musician who writes and plays great geeky songs. He's probably most famous for writhing the amazing song "Still Alive" which played the video game Portal as the credits rolled. Jonathan has a large collection of songs, a few of my favorites are "Code Monkey," "My Future Self," and  "Skullcrusher Mountain."This was the first time that I've seen Jonathan in concert and he put on a great show.

In the Table Top gaming section,  Pathfinder Society of Virginia Meetup Group ran many Organized Play Sessions throughout the entire convention. I sat in  one game with my PFS Character Shamus, Scenario #35-02: The Wardstone Patrol. The setup was very straight forward. The Wardstones that protect the country of Mendev from the demon-infested Worldwound are weakening and as such, more demons are getting through the magical barriers. To handle this new development, Mendev is requiring all Pathfinders operating in the country to serve a brief tour of duty to reinforce line that guards the barrier.

As our required duty the group of Pathfinders were tasked with following a jaded veteran commander on his routine patrol of the boarder fortifications. Not wanting to spoil anything, the commander is kind of a jerk who doesn't help out in combat. Luckily, my group didn't need his help. Except for the first combat encounter which took three hours, we steamrolled past the demons with ease. The story for this scenario was very good. Thankfully, our group did well enough that we avoided the "big twist ending" which I assume would have been a challenging fight.

Lastly, below are some phones I took on my smart phone.

A Dalek and Weeping Angle From Doctor Who

The Two Unnamed Protagonist of "The Journey" for PS3

A Group of Full Metal Alchemist Cospalyers

Female Joker and Poison Ivy from the Batman

"V" from the Movie "V for Vendetta"

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Forever Deam: Session One

Preamble: I started a Numenera Campaign called "The Forever Dream" online. It is played using the site Roll20, for dice rolls and visual aids, and over Skype for voice chat. I have four players and we're going to be gaming weekly for the next two or three months. I'm intending for this to be a short campaign with the option to continue at some point in the future. Just FYI, the opening entry can be found HERE. Additional post can be found by clicked on "The Forever Dream" tag on this blog.

 As a reference point to readers, here are the group's characters:


The Session: We gamed for about three hours on Friday, 01NOV2013 starting at 2000 US eastern time. The entire group was present.

Adventure Summery: The story began with a small group of wayward adventurers from the theocracy community of Bless. They were sent into the massive and insanely dangerous forest swamp which surrounds their home town on an important "Divine Quest." The trade caravan that arrives twice a year like clockwork is a day late. Suiko's team was dispatched to investigate the trader's uncharacteristic tardiness.

The team left at the crack of dawn. The first leg of the journey was painfully uneventful. The party aimless searched the swamp for hours to no avail. Around midday the group finally caught a break. A large mechanical tread print was found in the mud. The group quickly deduced that it was most likely made by the caravan which happened to be an armored mechanical monstrosity built in worlds past. The tech savvy man named Orion who owned and operated "The Star-Crossed Trading Company" stubbornly maintains it's the safest way of transporting goods through the swamp. "Sure it's expansive," Orion would comment when asked about his caravan by non-Blessairens, " keep old Betty up and running but it's worth it. That psychedelic brew those cultist create in that death trap has made me a shin-thousandare!" 

Using his impressive feral-like taking skills, Lucien picked up the caravan's trail and led the group deeper into the swamp. After advancing for a few minutes, the party happened by a brutal sight. A group of 20 Laaks had attacked and were about to devourer one of Bless's most ionic inhabitants. The gravity defying telepathic floating Jellyfish known simply as "Nercos." This odd species is the creation of the Living God "Nercomadusa." There sole purpose is to serve Him and to assist His followers while in their moral shells. Having arrived just in the nick of time, the party rushed to the Jelly's aid. Mobius  used his psychic abilities to lift the Nerco out of harm's way while Moardeki electrocuted the swarm of small lizards by volleying a few electrically charged crossbow into the water. While doing very little himself, Suiko led the group to victory by issuing good advice to his comrades. 

With the Laaks fried, the party revived the Nerco and Mobius contact with it. Lacking the intelligence for direct commutation, the Jellyfish relayed it's story telepathically by sending emotions and flashes of memories. Some time after the group was deployed the Care Taker of the town released numerous Nercos into the swamp unprotected on a search. Although the Jelly didn't specify what they were searching for the group came to the logical conclusion that they are also combing the wilderness for the traders. After the short interaction the group continued onward with the Jelly in tow. Following at a safe distance.

About an hour later the group encountered a very strange and very curious pool of water. In the pool where humans, adhumans, and local wildlife loudly chatting away with each other. Upon closer inspection, it was discovered that something very weird was happening. The conversationalists were in fact just severed heads mounted on metal polls. Clearly not a natural phenomenon, Lucien approached the disembodied heads.With lighting fast speed, a metal tentacle surged from beneath the water and wraped around Lucien's leg. The creature emerged from the water, revealing it's true nature. The creature was clearly a robotic horror from built ages ago. It had a massive metal torso, two deadly sharp crab like pincher, and a mass of grey tentacles.

Grasping Lucien, the robot atempted to slam him against a conveniently located jagged rock but it failed. At the last possible second he slipped out of the hold, rolling to (relative) safety. Luckily for the party, the crudely programmed robot momentarily lost it's query which caused it's targeting software to glitch and execute a line of junk code. Abandoning it's primary function, the automation entered "kill everything that moves with reckless disregard to self preservation" mode. Also fortunately for the group, the creature was in disrepair. Suiko spotted a few weak spots on their fearsome attacker and pointed them out to the party. Exploring their adversary's vulnerabilities;Lucien, Mobius , and Moardeki eventually dismantled the rampaging device but at great cost. The harrowing battle left the entire party tired and wounded. They took a long rest and patched themselves up the best they could before continuing.

While scavenging useful components from the broken robot another Nercos appeared. It relayed to the group that there was a large building in the heart of the swamp and urged the party to go there. The group reluctantly agreed after the Jelly shared some memories of structure. The building execrated water from every orifice and was surrounded by hostile looking abhumans called Margr. But next to all that craziness was fresh caravan tracks. Having no other leads, the group marched forward...surely heading directly into harms way.

Conclusion: The session continued after this point but we stopped soon after. The adventure was not able to be completed within a single game session. However, finishing this write up as the party arrives at building at the heart of the swamp is a logical closing point.

I award the party 2 XP for the discovery/partial exploration of the structure and that was it.

Notes: First off, I apologize for whatever grammatical and spelling errors that exist in this post (or anywhere else in my blog.) Currently, I'm dong all my own proof reading and I'm not very good at it. Feel free to email or message me any mistakes and I'll to my best to fix them in a timely manor.
- This is a Home Brew Campaign takes place in an unknown location within the default Numenera World Settings.

- The Living God "NERCOMADUSA" and His "NERCO" servants are based on real Jellyfish.

- LAAK are found on page 243 of the Numenera Core Rule Book.

- The creature in the pool was a MESOMEME, found on page 246 of the Numenera Core Rule Book.

- When the MESOMEME grabbed Lucien, that was a GM INTRUSION. Found on page 88 of the Numenera Core Rule Book.

- MARGR are found on page 244 of the Numenera Core Rule Book