The Equalizer

October 1, 2014

theequalizerHad a chance to see The Equalizer today.  I remember watching the TV show back when, though I don’t recall a lot of details about it now, so I can’t say how well the movie follows the pattern of the series.

What I can say is that Denzel Washington is awesome, and the movie is both violent and bloody.  Much more bloody than I expected.  That doesn’t bother me much, but if you don’t really like blood and gore, you may not like The Equalizer.

The movie is a tad too long; they probably could have shaved a few minutes off the beginning of the movie and it wouldn’t have hurt the story one bit.  Also, when Denzel’s Robert McCall is dispatching Russian mobsters, he does so with a dispassion bordering on the psychopathic, which is a little off-setting for someone who’s supposed to be equalizing the odds for the little guy.  Chloe Grace Moretz has an underwhelming role of a Russian prostitute-victim whom McCall decides to help, and who basically disappears during the heart of the story.

Still, it’s an enjoyable, if bloody, action film that starts a little slow but soon gains momentum.  If you’re a fan of Denzel Washington or violent action movies, it’s easily worth the price of a matinee ticket.

Cheers.

Ran my first session of 5th Edition DnD

September 29, 2014

Saturday I had the opportunity to run a game of 5th Edition DnD.  Here’s what I took away from the session:

  • The game ran very intuitively.  The only time I had to stop and look something up was to reference specific spells or monster abilities.  Not once did I stop to make a rules check.
  • The game can be brutal, and yet not all that lethal.  It’s easy to knock PCs to 0 hit points (especially at lower levels), but the game makes it fairly easy to stabilize dying characters, so actual PC death is uncommon.  Three out of four PCs were reduced to 0 HP (some multiple times), but none died.
  • Character building is still more complicated than I’d like.  I only had two players, and each ran two PCS, so that probably slowed down character generation.
  • I did forget a few things, such as granting Advantage for a couple of surprise attacks by monsters.  We didn’t really use the grappling rules (which are easy and powerful), and I forgot all about the Dodge action.
  • I ran combat with “theater of the mind” instead of minis and a grid, and it worked just fine.  The thing is, if you prefer minis and grid, I think it’d work very well with that as well.
  • I suck at making dungeon crawls.  5th Edition was great (both of my players really liked the rule set), but my dungeon was a bit run-of-the-mill.  Lesson learned for next time. :)

Cheers.

The Colony

September 25, 2014

Sthecolonynowmeggedon type post-apocalypse movies seem to be on the rise lately.  An interesting addition is The Colony (Laurence Fishburne, Bill Paxton; nothing to do with the TV series).  The Earth has frozen over due to misguided attempts to regulate the planet’s rising temperatures.  The few remaining humans survive in subterranean ‘colonies’ where they can grow hydroponic food, though disease is a constant worry for them.  A nearby colony has fallen off the airwaves, so Colony 7 sends a team to find out what happened.  As you can guess, it ain’t pretty.

The Colony features the claustrophobic isolation common in horror movies like Alien or The Thing, but ultimately the movie is about what makes us human.  To be sure, there is a good amount of blood and intense violence, so probably not one for the kids.  Also, Laurence Fishburne and Bill Paxton are the two big names in the movie, but they aren’t really the leads.  The rest of the cast does a decent acting job, the story is predictable but tight, and the special effects aren’t quite big-budget, but considerably better than your typical Syfy channel special.

If you’re in the mood for a decent post-apocalypse movie it’s worth watching on Netflix (instant view) or similar service.  The Colony could also make an interesting setting for a short post-apoc RPG campaign or one-off game; instead of a desert wasteland (ala Road Warrior), you’ve got a frozen wasteland with a whole new set of challenges for the PCs to face.

Cheers!

Eviscera of the Cyborg Sorcerers

September 19, 2014

sorcerer

Need to jazz up your cyborg space sorcerers?  Here’s a quick reference for some funky implants and transplants, inspired by Space-Age Sorcery:

Eviscera of the Cyborg Sorcerers

Featuring:

  • Cranial implants
  • Cyber-tentacles
  • Hover torso
  • Beholder eyestalk transplantation
  • And the horrific consequences of transplant rejection!

It’s just a quick little guide to hopefully jumpstart your own twisted imagination.  With insane cybernetic space sorcerers, anything’s possible!

 

Z Nation

September 13, 2014

ZNationSyfy channel debuted a new zombie series yesterday, Z Nation.  It has an interesting premise: a group of survivors have to ‘escort’ someone who’s immune to the zombie virus across the apocalyptic U.S. to a laboratory 3000 miles away.  That should help give the show a little direction.

However, if you’re looking for something like Walking Dead, you’ll be disappointed.  First off, the production quality, while acceptable, doesn’t live up to Walking Dead’s level (think Syfy special zombie movie turned into a series).  The acting is passable…it gets the job done but won’t win any awards.  Also, my feel for the show is that it has a bit more camp than WD; there’s still drama, and survivors with mysterious backgrounds and all that, and the immune survivor is a convicted criminal who’s not too keen on saving humanity (a nice twist).  But the gut-wrenching drama and horror of Walking Dead isn’t there.

Personally, I enjoyed the first episode, but I’m not sure how well the premise will hold up over the long haul.  It was fun, and I’ll give it a chance, but the show may not be for everyone.  Cheers.

Legendary Monsters for Swords & Wizardry (or other old school games)

September 5, 2014

Inspired by legendary monsters from 5th Edition D&D:

smaug

 

A “legendary” monster has a number of Legend points equal to its Hit Dice.  One Legend point may be spent to take one discreet action immediately after a PC has completed his/her actions.  Specific examples include (but are not limited to):

  • Move
  • Attack
  • Cast a spell
  • Use a special ability
  • Use a magic item
  • Retrieve an item
  • Activate a device
  • Yell out for help/summon reinforcements

Note that not every big monster is a ‘legendary’ monster.  Such status should be reserved for special monsters, such as ancient dragons, vampire masters, named demons and devils and the like.

New Player’s Handbook

August 27, 2014

phbIf you’ve read the free basic PDFs for 5th Edition and didn’t like it, well there’s nothing in the new PHB that will change your mind.  It basically just adds a few new races, several new classes, and feats.

I do like the way feats are handled.  5th Edition feats are more robust, more like plugging in optional class abilities as compared to the relatively fiddly, minor tweaks granted by 3E/4E/PF feats.  Of course, you get far fewer feats in 5E than you do in previous iterations.

But if you can live without the extra bells-and-whistles (or just don’t like 5E) there’s no reason you need to pick up the PHB.

Cheers.

5e Basic DMG PDF

August 14, 2014

I gave the new Basic DMG PDF a quick look through.  It weighs in at about 60 pages, and contains a decent selection of monsters, some common NPCs (thankfully in a separate section, so they aren’t mixed in with the monsters) and a few magic items.  There’s also a few pages on building encounters, though no guidance on how much treasure to give.  Between the two PDFs you ought to be able to run a ‘basic’ game of 5e now.

One neat thing, certain powerful monsters can have Legendary actions and Lair actions.  These are additional actions the monster can take under certain circumstances.  For example, an Adult Red Dragon can make a wing attack after another character completes an action; likewise, the dragon can use special ‘Lair’ actions while in its lair, such as magma eruptions or clouds of noxious gas (while the game expresses this as an action taken by the dragon, it is perhaps better to think of them as environmental effects of the dragon’s preferred habitat).  This is a neat way to represent the awesome power of a powerful dragon, like Smaug.

According to the basic rules, characters can now ‘auto’ detect magic items, and determine how they work with just a short rest.  Definitely not happy about that, but it’s something easy to change with a house rule.

Some items require attunement to use (such as Gauntlets of Ogre Power, for example), and a character can only use 3 attuned items at a time.  This is a neat, simple way to limit the number of items a character can use, though I’m sure the full DMG will change it (when it’s released in a couple of months).

And for what’s it worth, the new version of the Player’s PDF just seems to add Forgotten Realms deities and factions.  There may be some other corrections and changes buried in the text, but I haven’t given it a thorough lookover.

New 5e PDF Downloads

August 14, 2014

You probably already know about this, but I need some blogging fodder, so here it is:  WotC released a second version of the Basic 5e D&D Player’s PDF, and a new Dungeon Master’s PDF.  You can get them both here.

Haven’t read them yet, but I probably will later today.  Cheers.

Pathfinder Sorcery & Super Science

August 12, 2014

I’ve had an opportunity to look over three of Paizo’s new campaign books that introduce science-fiction concepts to Pathfinder.  The books in question are: 1) The Numeria campaign guide, 2) People of the Stars and 3) the Technology Guide.  For the most part I think these books can be used with the Beginner Box with minimal work, so I’m not planning on doing a PFBB conversion for any of them.

The Numeria campaign setting introduces a new area of Golantha(sp?) where a giant space ship crashed eons ago, depositing advanced technology all over the place.  It’s a solid Sorcery & Super Science setting for those who want to play a science-fantasy flavored version of Pathfinder.  It offers up new sci-fi themed monsters (i.e. robots, cyborgs), rules for radiation, a mutant monster template that could probably be converted into a PC race fairly easily, and some interesting settings.  However, it lacks information on actual technological items and the adventure locations, while evocative, are not ready made for running adventures (I assume the Iron Gods adventure path will fill in the blanks).

People of the Stars is more suitable for running a Spelljammer version of Pathfinder, though it does provide rules for an Android player-character race.  It’s more fantasy-in-space than science-fantasy.

PFTechGuideThe most interesting book, to me at least, is the Technology Guide.  It provides the missing technological items for the Numeria setting, and provides additional rules for cybernetics, artificial intelligences and new feats, skill uses, archetypes and the Technomancer prestige class.  It’s also a great resource for running a straight-up post apocalyptic Gamma World-esque flavor of Pathfinder (in other words, the Omega Box project I’ve been working on since, well, forever), or even a Pathfinder flavored version of Shadow Run.  One thing I really like is that technology, while superficially similar to magic in many respects, still has its own niche.  Paizo didn’t take the easy path and just model all the tech off of existing spells or magic items.

Weapons

Most of the tech weapons are fairly inline with standard weapons, though they have additional concerns, such as requiring power to operate (also, timeworn items can glitch, though this is additional complexity I’d rather not deal with).  For example, a laser pistol does 1d8 fire damage.  It also has a few other twists to make it unique, but overall a laser pistol isn’t too much more powerful than a revolver or standard magic weapon.

Heavy weapons have more punch, and the Death Ray is just nasty, but for the most part you don’t have to worry too much about tech weapons outshining normal weapons.

Armor

As with weapons, armor is not significantly more protective than standard armor.  The main difference comes with special functions: Chameleon armor, for example, provides a Stealth bonus; HEV armor protects against radiation and toxins; Space Suits protect against vacuum; etc.  But you won’t find a suit of super-duper battle armor that grants a +12 AC bonus but only counts as light armor.  Again, everything fairly balanced inline with magical armor, but still with its own niche.

Pharmaceuticals

You might think pharmaceuticals would just be a high tech version of a potion, but again Paizo avoided just a copy-and-paste of potions.  Pharmaceuticals have unique roles, different from potions.  For example, you’ll find a drug that grants a Fast Healing effect, but you won’t find one that acts just like a potion of healing.

Cybernetics

Reading this section gave me flashbacks to Shadow Run, and with a bit of work you could create a workable fantasy-cyberpunk flavor of Pathfinder, if you’re so inclined.  Each implant takes up a specific body location and has an Implant value.  The total value of all implants cannot exceed the character’s Constitution score or their Intelligence score (reflecting both physical and mental limitations of the body’s ability to control cybernetics).  Also, implanting cybernetics is a fairly risky and arduous process that causes Constitution ability damage, so it’s not for the faint-hearted.

I think this section could be used to add an interesting Cyborg class/race option to a post-apoc version of the game, but it felt a bit too much like chrome-and-polish cyberpunk for my tastes.  But, YMMV.

 

So, for my purposes, there’s a lot of interesting information here for the Omega Box project.    The android race is an excellent addition, and I can use the cybernetic rules to work up a workable cyborg ‘race’ option.  I’m also thinking of ditching the random mutations and using the rather elegant Mutant monster template as the basis for mutant characters.  And there are plenty of useful technological artifacts that can be thrown into the game.

However, I think I’d like to stick with the ridiculously high-powered tech weapons from Omega World (Jonathan Tweet) rather than Pathfinder’s scaled-down, balanced weapons.  It just seems more appropriate for the beer-and-pretzel style game I want.  Also, the radiation rules seem more fiddly than I want to deal with, and the rules for timeworn technology need a lot of streamlining as well, IMO.

Cheers.


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