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Heroes, Villains and Swords and Sorcery

By : Chris Willhelm
This post is more of a theme background post.  As I know that at least a few of my players have been keeping up with this blog. It serves two purposes. One, I get to define the kind of game I am looking to run in, a more open format, and two, I get to define what a hero is or at least expected to be.

Sword and sorcery, at its core, is pulp, meaning the heroes are big damn heroes and the villains are big damn villains. The rest are mooks, as we have started calling them. The genre has themes that are prevalent in it that makes the stories so much fun. The themes should be looked at for an understanding, of what kind of characters will fit best in this world.

While Robert E Howard is the most known example of the genre, his works are not the end all be all to the genre. There are other authors and movies that have contributed to the genre. Just like most GM's, I have recently begun the genre immersion part of my campaign building. Reading, Google-ing, and watching movies that relate close to the genre. Plus, since I want it a bit darker, I have also looked at some of the base elements of horror, in fantasy settings. Here is my short list of movies, thus far, that have helped me put together some ideas. A mood lighting if you will:

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
In the Name of the King: Two Worlds
Conan the Barbarian (2011)
Conan the Barbarian
Conan the Destroyer
The Beastmaster
Solomon Kane
Fire and Ice
Willow
Dawn of the Dragon Slayer
Midnight Chronicles 
Krull
Deathstalker (1, 2, 3)
Dragonslayer (1981)
Legend

Themes

  • Good versus Evil - Its black and white when dealing with evil, but not so much when dealing with good. 
  • Heroes are not likely - at first you are a pig farmer in a terrible countryside until...
  • Heroes tend to keep it personal - ...Vong Guul Dark Sorcerer of Tir Nok and worshiper of the evil snake god shows up and kills your family. Now you will hunt him to the ends of the earth and once you kill him, peace falls over the land for a limited time.
  • Villains are big - Vong Guul was just a peon, the big threat shows himself and forcibly married your wife who thought you was dead. Next adventure please (sequels)
  • Counter Society - Society is bad m'kay. People of simple cultures tend to be better people. Cities make thieves and empires make villains.
  • There are exceptions - Sometime cities can produce a true hero after some altering event that causes him to question his country's motives.
  • Men are heroes women are scantily clad and sometimes heroes - Pretty straight forward there. Female heroes in S&S can be especially neat as they are often unexpected by male dominated culture and if seen in a supporting role they are almost always critical to the hero's success.
  • Heroes travel alone - Except they don't. Sure the story focuses on Cragnar of the Wildlands. But Cragnar is assisted by his best buddy (a ridiculously greedy thief), a "skilled" warrior (playfully mocked by Cragnar but a very skilled fighter in the classical sense), and usually some sort of extra that covers the healing arts and some random stuff. S&S sometimes feels like you can't play it up with a party at a table but really watch the movie and look for those support characters, they may not kill as much but they are always memorable.
  • Gods don't care - this is mainly because most of the original writers in the genre were atheists, but it can be refreshing to see. In games faith tends to be constant or at least in the background heavily and usually on the side of good, in S&S it'd different. They look at how too much faith leads to zealots and persecution. Faiths that are active are seen as evil, or too good to be true in some cases. Again unless its a barbaric ancient faith or druidism, that's the stuff of hero support characters.
  • Life never gets better - you do not get knighted, you get vast amounts of riches you waste on booze and good times. And if life does "get better" like becoming king it just sucks in a different way. Warrior kings almost always begrudge their position and feel limited by the structure of government that says the hero can not enter the field of combat.
  • Magic is scary and rare - Pretty straight forward here too, it is often used as a tool of villains. Most heroes use brains and brawn.
  • Prophecies! - It was foretold of your coming eons ago by a mad blind woman who would ritually burn herself for visions. And guess what happens, they are so vague they always conveniently come true. If you want a great example watch the In the Name of the King movies. If you don't, watch them anyways, both are pretty good. 
  • Heroes usually don't have jobs - lets face it most of them don't, or if they did before adventuring it's back to the humble beginnings thing again. They generally don't forge their own weapons or have trade skills like so many D&D characters. They have adventurer skills and some negotiation skills to try to pawn the golden idol they found in that temple for a new ax.
  • Weapons and armor are disposable - Throw your sword at that beast you can always get another.
  • Heroes have a reason to be heroes, even if that does not always make them "good guys" - Straight forward, nothing new here anti-heroes welcome so long as you can get along with your crew. no lone wolves.

Villains

Lets start with villains. They are going to be GM category only. In the past, I have been pretty open to people playing character loyal to the evil forces, at the start of the game. My problem with this is they never seem to break away, so I am not letting that happen this time. If, in character, you have a damn good reason to cross your friends to help evil that's one thing, but I do not want you to then start playing a kindhearted savage turned civilized man in 2 sessions, that now wants to make his people convert to his new faith in society or die. If you do I will attempt to make the party do my dirty work for me. If that fails, I will send heroes after you, until I have taught you the error of your ways. To quote my threat from Star Wars, if it gets out of control, flying space rancors with force powers.

Heroes/PC's

Pay attention to the themes of S&S. This is pulp play it up a bit, I will be letting bennies flow for heroism and brazen acts of courage (sometimes called stupidity). I have themed bennies to only be used to give an ally a bonus to encourage teamwork. Use them and narrate how you will help even if it a shout of encouragement. For example, I spend a bennie to let Murdock roll soak and the flavor is my character telling his to duck just in the nick of time. To keep the pulp theme, I will play up combat scenes and add environmental things to play with, but if I didn't say there was a tankard of ale, ask me. Maybe there is one, this game is going to be more about the fun of story telling with fast hard combat rather than rules brokering. That's part of the reason I went with Savage Worlds. 

My favorite characters from this table came from Legend of the Five Rings and I think that's because they made more well rounded characters with the 20 Questions presented in the book. So I provide these questions for my players to answer in a Google doc for me. I encourage this for GM's and players alike as it defines somethings about who your character is beyond numbers and as always because I think more personal, answer in character.

20 Questions for Asamon: The New Age

  1. Who are you? What lands do you hail from stranger?
  2. Who are your parents? Brothers and sisters?
  3. Why should I hire you? What skills have you?
  4. How will I recognize you when we meet? Do you have any peculiar mannerisms?
  5. Why do you travel these lands? What is your quest?
  6. Whom do you call brother/sister?
  7. What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?
  8. What do you think of civilized people? And of the tribesmen?
  9. What of your own place of birth, what do you think of them?
  10. What do you know of love?
  11. What of your family? Any children?
  12. Do you have any prejudices?
  13. What kind of companions do you travel with? Or rather what do you look for in companions who travel with you?
  14. What is your favorite and least favorite things?
  15. What is your greatest ambition? Would you give it up for another?
  16. What faith do you find comfort in?
  17. What is your worst fear?
  18. How do you feel about magic?
  19. Who were you before Chaos descended? Where were you when it happened? What have you been doing since?
  20. How will you die?

Savage Odyssey

By : Chris Willhelm
So this week has been pretty busy, I have a new schedule at work that has allowed me some more free time to pick up this blog again and gotten in some much needed reading. So let's start there:

Last week I talked about Gnome Stew's Odyssey book that goes into the theory craft behind campaign design. Great read if you haven't read it I do recommend it mainly for a seasoned GM. The book assumes you know a little bit about what your doing and that you are doing most of this stuff already at a subconscious level. So why read it you might ask well the book kind of answers that, if you understand why you do something it becomes easier to do and do well.

My group and I took the week off for PAX East, unfortunately I no longer live in Boston and the funds weren't there this year so instead I went back to campaign planning. I also read another book by Gnome Stew called Never Unprepared: The Complete Game Master's Guide to Session Prep, another really good read though admittedly this one was a little bit more limited on the information I found useful. The book is well written and it goes into great detail of how you should go about prepping for a session (and a bit into campaign), but most of it feels a bit more like it is geared to someone with less GM experience. Plus it doesn't help that I tend to be an improvisational GM (something I am not particularly proud of all the time). And lastly I read one final book that I will talk about in great detail later because it was by far the best one of the bunch for me, really I dont want some of my players who read this blog to go reading it as it might take away some of the fun things I learned.


Savage Odyssey

To prove my point about the organic nature behind the ideas discussed in the Odyssey book I am going to focus my blog post around the frame work provide by the book.

Campaign Concept:

GM: Me(Surprise....)
Players: Those listed in the last post, though things may change as they always seem to, but this time I am going to limit my table to 6 players.
Campaign/ One shots: Campaign, bigger and better than before

System: Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition
Setting: A world of my player's design, in the aftermath of an Elder God being released by the same player group but not the same PC's. The setting was originally for D&D 3.0 then converted to 3.5 then to Pathfinder RPG and now finally to Savage Worlds. The world is different than the last time they played I want it to have a familiar yet alien feel.
Central Story: Survival and rebuilding while discovering a new world.
Role the PC's will take: Unlikely heroes, sword and sorcery type heroes who while heroes do not gain much from their adventures in wealth fame or power.

The Pitch:

This is Asamon, after Chaos was released. He destroyed and reshaped much of the known world before the last group of PC's killed him. This lead to unknown consequences Chaos' body broke-down back into the blood like fluid and was absorbed into the earth. Since then things have not been the same, wild storms of magic, strange new monsters lurk in the dark and climate changes around the world. Technology has taken a skew. Steel has become much harder to produce and most steel items have been secured (taken) by the Legion of Steel. Most relics and magic items no longer work. Magic in general has become rare, it is believed that the New Gods have something to do with the decline of magic. Since the fall of Chaos social rule and small settlements became the norm, it is considered rude to question someone about who they were before the fall of Chaos. It is a chance to be reborn. It is also a time of loss many people are missing or presumed to be dead in the year following Chaos' Death. You have gathered with a group like minded people for a better chance at survival. The elder Cassius has taught everyone basic survival skills and lead you to your new home in the village. Here you have your chance to be a new person. Welcome to The New Age.

Rules and Supplements:

Savage Worlds Deluxe
Supplements: Horror Companion, Fantasy Companion, Beasts and Barbarians Golden Edition, Deadlands Reloaded (Ailin' hindrance only)
Supplements Not Allowed: Anything Supers related and anything not specifically mentioned in supplements unless reviewed and approved by the GM/Group.
House Rules: Savage World offers settings rules to help the feel of the game match the concept. So we are using the following Setting Rules
  • Situation Rules(SWD 80 as needed) Disease and Interludes will be used regularly
  • Born A Hero (SWD 94)
  • Fanatics(SWD 94, thematically used)
  • Jokers Wild (SWD 94)
  • Multiple Languages (SWD 94)
  • Savings(B&B 104)
  • After the Adventure Events (B&B 104)
  • Sanity (Horror 22)
  • Backlash Sanity Loss (Horror 20)
  • Chronological Phenomena (Horror 20)
  • Rituals (Horror 26)
  • Wards and Binds (Horror 30)
  • Limited Races(presented in SWD): Human, Elf, Dwarf, Touched (race builder with GM/group approval). All other races assume they are dead and/or not playable. World is predominately human will explain more later as to why (the disease basically).
There will be a disease that will be prevalent during the game, will go into that another time though when I have worked out the kinks.

Thats it for now, if you like the feel of this again try the book out, next week hopefully I can push through Summer in the Quite Year and get some more info out there for this game, also more details on the disease and heroic concepts I would want to see.

New Look and New Game Planning

By : Chris Willhelm

New Look

So I have been away a while but the big reason I decided to come back to the blog is because it is a great tool to help me plan my next game. While I usually talk openly to my audience in effect its more like a conversation with myself helping me find out more about my style as a GM. So with picking up the blog again I just recently updated the blog (before littering it all over with different groups for RPG Blogs and players).Here is the highlights reel:

Game Reviews: My reviews are pretty lose and based more on how my game plays the game, I try to be neutral about it but I know our play style infects my opinion. The links provided are some of the better game reviews I use before I even pick up a book, I use it more like a guide to help hone in my interest. Both pages have a bit of a different feel to them, but the more in sight you get the better prepared you are.

Tools: These are tools I have used in the past with some great effect. Really this is like a favorites list. I do a lot of online gaming so most of these tools are for that or feed into that kind of play, but they can be used for anything. Roll20 is awesome and even better if you become a member. Just watch video's on youtube about dynamic lighting that alone will sell you.

Other Links: For now this is just RPG Blog Alliance, but I will be adding more to it later. Its just a big catch all.

Social Media: I have a twitter now for the Drop Dice Blog and facebook will take you directly to my personal page. Also on each post I have added social media Icons.

New Game Planning

So since finishing my Remnants RPG's conclusion I have put some thought into something bigger, as a filler I am running a Star Wars game I have had in my back pocket to really build something bigger. I kind of went about it backwards, first looking for a good system thinking this would fix a lot of minor grips I have with other systems. So I began reading and digging in my library of game books, mostly looking at some of the indie games for something new or different but each system seemed a little clunky. I have always been of the mindset that game system fluff (or background/setting info) is just that fluff. It can be vary inspirational but rules is the heart of a game. So I changed my attack strategy and starting looking at more popular systems, ignoring Pathfinder because we have played that system pretty much since the launch with the same group. I am a bit burned out on the system to be honest, until Ultimate Campaign came out that is (game changer in many aspects check it out because it can be used system neutral). Beyond that my players have told me before that they like when I run a structured military/sci-fi game. So Remnants was perfect for that, but what next and what story. Remnants almost wrote itself because I was using something I had learned tooling around in forums on how to be a better GM.I used the game setting and fluffed it up even more, I had a plains princess being protected by ice tribe brothers and a greedy trades many. This was a great game, and it came to me I love anachronistic games - science fiction mixed with fantasy and maybe some weird sience in there because my player like that. So I looked at Numenera the logical move next, great system but I know my players three classes is a bit restrictive especially when my last game had six players attend regularly. So I went back to the system I was going to use before my players convinced me to run Remnants, Savage World's Deluxe Edition.

So back to youtube this time with a system in mind I found the Savage Worlds GM Hangouts moderated by Jerrod Gunning of Sin City Savages. If you have any interest in Savage World I recommend listening to his one shot of Kiss Meets the Phantom for a light hearted Savage World play-through via roll20. Beyond that if you play any system you can still benefit from listening to a good deal of the videos, they are a bit long but it doesn't feel like it they flow very well. If you want a great very serious version of sword and sorcery style play listen to Tower of the Ape from gamerstable.com. Do this after reading the rules though it will help show the flow of a game with the simple rules presented in Savage Worlds, things will start clicking. Plus its a great story.

To behonest the guys at the Savage Worlds GM Hangouts gave me a lot of good reference material that wasn't even coined or created by them. Gnome stew makes a book called Odyssey: The Complete Game Master’s Guide to Campaign Management while it is kind of a text book style read it has so much good info for even seasoned game masters. Another great tool that my players love even more than me is The Quiet Year. We are using a slightly modified version of the rules (minimal changes really) to create the setting for the adventure. Basically I started by telling them this would pick up in a game world we ran for about a year until they released the Elder God Chaos on the plane, now create the world after Chaos. We have made it through spring and the players have had a great time with it and its such a casual game. For reference here is our Journal up to Spring that is. This idea came directly from one of the Hangout and was mentioned by Scott W. I have my players asking to cancel my regular Star Wars game just to continue building but I have put it off because I want everyone there and schedules have been off lately. If you follow the Odyssey way to build a campaign this pretty much covers making the setting and frame work in a way that feels very organic.

So what kind of Savage Worlds Game are you planing? The kind my players want, I have a few stipulations in there but this time my players are building the world actively even before the start. My basic frame work is this:
  • I want sword and sorcery feel with bits of horror similar to the Conan comic books.
  • Steph wants more of a sandbox feel to the game, to "wing it more"
  • Murdock wants to have character development heavy story that has direct influence to the way the world works.
  • Jeremy wants to see more city based adventures and some dungeons since we have done a lot of land based games lately.
  • Tom wants a massive artifice and the remains of an infrastructure of a great civilization. Something that can hint at the human potential.
  • Nate wants more dungeons and climates that we dont normally use, to branch outside of temperate zone climate.
  • Brendan wants depth, depth of character and depth of story.

Since going through spring we have also added Weird Science to the mix. More details to come since this is already a pretty long post.

Expanded Vision/May the Force Be With You Part 2

By : Chris Willhelm
Since I have decided to return to writing again, I have also decided to expand on my original concept for this blog instead of simply just looking into finding a prefect game I am going to look at many aspects of gaming and RPG's in general. Exploring more than just black and white rules. More on that later for now a quick review.

As for my last blog before leaving I discussed Star Wars a story line I love and have played many versions of in the past, since then I started a Star Wars Edge of Empire game with some friends. The game system itself is a fairly well built incremental character build system (skill based rather than class based for advancement). We did leave the vision of the game for a more rounded character/game concept so I have no real harsh feelings against the system, but on the flip-side I have no real strong feelings for the system. Instead I will look for the things I have learned form the system. In all actuality I will probably play the system again some time later as more supplements and rule books come out for the system as I did with other Fantasy Flight Games.

The Fantasy Flight RPG Model:
Fantasy Flight has proven themselves to be board game designers with a flair for story driven RPG mechanics. The model they used to design the mechanics of the game is similar in some aspects to their other popular game Warhammer Fantasy, and to a lesser extent the Warhammer 40K series. They design books that focus more on relative power level of play, in Star Wars' case they start with relatively low powered characters looking to make it in a harsh imperially dominated game space. Though given that you play at the edge of the empire (to steal a phrase) you dont even need to include too many imperials or even law beyond that fact that you are breaking it pretty often. More often than not your problems are other fringe members of galactic society. Were we found a problem was one of my players desire to play a force user, while introduced in this book, it is not fully developed and actually led to limiting the character concept with the constrains of the system as officially released to this point .

Yes I know that the rebellion book includes more stuff for force-users and even Jedi, but releasing that book second is a bit well, underwhelming. Star Wars to even the most uneducated person is lightsabers, lets face it. When anyone thinks of Star Wars the first general thoughts go to force-users. Now this isn't really as bad of a issue as it sounds. It will be fixed I know, I can see the thought process because Fantasy Flight has done this before.

Warhamer 40K = Space Marines right? The first book they made was the Inquisition book, Dark Heresy. While fun lets face it if you have read the books the inquisition is kind of similar to playing as investigators in Call of Cthulhu, you will probably die or go crazy and then maybe kill your friends. They introduced Psycher's a very basic element to the Warhammer 40K lore, if you have they game books look at them again using only the Dark Heresy rule-set. They are terrible PC Killing machines, half the time I created a game where the characters would simply show up to investigate a anomaly or a cult and the psycher would go unfettered on his power roll and summon all sorts of nasty chaos spawn after that the game basically boiled down to Friday Night Chaos Beast Fight Club sponsored by the Imperial Pyscher. Every book they put out though refined and redefined what psychers could do, this seemed very annoying because it was like patch notes for a video game, nerf one thing make something else out of control. But just like patches they were evidence of the game designers looking to improve the game. With Only War's release psychers have become more than just plot killing monster they are playable, it just sucks that we had to wait so long for it.

It looks like this is the idea with the force, its so huge that to heavily define it in the first book could ruin the game. Instead they are building the other elements to act as a counter to the force-users to some degree. While I like the approach again its kind of off putting to say, hey no force-users in my game because the rules on them are "weird" (I have a similar problem with magic in some games). So for now we have returned to Saga's edition despite its failings in certain areas but we brought with us some of the great stuff from Edge.

Edge has the Edge on:
Edge of the empire has a neat system in place for obligations that places an in game mechanic and penalty for creating a real character with flaws and a built in system for consequence that the character is aware of. Now there is still good old fashion note taking and NPC revenge against the players but the system places strain on the characters each game (depending on dice rolls) involving their backgrounds. This means if I am out of ideas for the game or had a poor planning session in the week where I just couldn't think of anything I would roll my dice for obligations. Next thing I know I was writing an adventure where the ship my character's buried themselves in debt to the Empire for was destroyed by a mega-fauna stranding them on a planet and forcing them into more debt to just get off planet. This was an amazing game just from flaws. I am going to take that away from the system if nothing else.

Drugs, there has been a lot of drugs in this game. In fact it has been a major source of income for about half of it and lead to playing out some interesting NPCs. The system is designed for scoundrels, mone just happen to be less heroic, nothing wrong with that just a fact. Actually I should amend that statement they are heroic from an Imperial stand point, they are "relatively" upstanding imperial citizens trying to take down the nasty rebellion while starting their own in the shadows. I usually venture away from drug, sex, and rock and roll in my games becuase I like heroics, even when running an evil game I dont really bring it up much. But this game did allow me to break away from my norm and play with something I never really do. this had lead to double crosses, great RP moments where we had to describe what a Trandoshan looks like smiling and how a Hutt hits on someone after proving there are a great business partner.

All in all the game system was enjoyable but not fully developed for our particular campaign idea so we changed. I do plan on trying again sometime with more books but until then we play Saga's and gear up for Savage Worlds, but more on that later.
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Trying again

By : Chris Willhelm

So for anyone curious I have been out of it with some changes lately (the last year really). I created this blog to work to find something new or find another system for my group and I. If you are interested in what happened to me look up, I got my AA in Studio Art and this happens to be one of my exhibits. I also got a different job that took up a bunch of my free time until I got my newest schedule, so I am back now. this is going to be a relatively short coming back blog post.

Any ways even if I haven't been posting I have continued my search for the perfect match of games for my group. I did a little background write up about Star Wars, the group since my last write up did run a Star Wars Edge of the Empire by Fantasy Flight Games. The system seemed like a pretty good start but fell short when we added a fringe force-user to the mix. The system was not really designed for this and we shifted back into Saga's for simplicity and are continuing to play that story now.

This time around I am going to focus more on what works for our table, and blog about the creation of my next game. For a system we have decided on Savage Worlds, but more on that in a later post. For now just know I am back to posting and I look forward to talking about the process I am taking to create a new world.
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May the Force be with You Part 1

By : Chris Willhelm
A long long time ago in a game shop far far away... I started to play Star Wars. Initially d20, then moving on to Saga Edition. Today I would like to discuss Saga Edition as d20 edition is biased of the d20 rule set and doesnt have much deviation.

First off I am a huge Star Wars fan and I know way too much lore of the setting, but I think that only helps to enrich game play in this system. I have ran and played in multiple SWSE games. And I am often found online with SWTOR raiding with Video Game Loft as a Rattataki Sage named Raighan. If your on feel free to say hi or even join us. I think all of this though has tainted my views on Star Wars, in all I love the system because of the story. People are heroes with out having to kill everyone or conquer the known Galaxy. People play their characters with more inclination to act as their character would in each situation. In most games we have played we have made it a house rule that if you fall to the Dark Side you could actually continue playing. In the hands of a good role player this is actually a great tool and can allow for the players to creat thier own stories with trying to use Dun Möch or other forms of persuasion to encourage the others to join their cause for good or for evil (and in one very special campaign evil masked as good). The characters tend to feel more heroic than in a standard fantasy game. With that said lets get down to the nitty-gritty of this system.

What is Saga Edition?
So the good folks at Wizards of the Coast love there money just as much as any other game company you can think of (EA for example). They bought out TSR's Dungeons and Dragons in 1997 and three years later came out with the shining example of gaming D&D 3E. This introduced a new kind of d20 system that was easier for the players to understand and simplified a lot of in game actions (while complicating others, later slightly fixed in 3.5 and even further fixed in Pathfinder). This soon gave birth to Star Wars d20. Star Wars had a previous edition by West End Games before WOTC got a hold on the license and it was a pretty solid game using a d6 system (all hearsay as I have never played it long enough to get a solid opinion of the system). WOTC used there semi-generic rules from d20 system they initially built for D&D 3E, with some key changes like "Wounds/Vitality", "Armor as DR", "Defense" (biased on level rather than armor), and "Force Skills". This last one provided for the most problems as with any d20 system rolls are not particularly hard, you can argue with all the statistical graphs you want but everyone who has ever played d20 knows that when you make a character specialize you can make pretty gross numbers on those skill checks. This lead to all sorts of problems at our table then came along SWSE in 2007, but to be fair we did not give it a chance until it was out of print in 2010 due to many GM's being Old School Gamers (ie Never Change Systems Ever, no matter how bad of shape my books are in or how hard it is for my players to get copies of the books. They are the Hipsters of the gaming world). Once we tried it we found a great system, it was released before D&D 4E and you could see the elements form Saga Edition that were basically beta tested for D&D 4E. That said it is like the difference between civilized man and barbarian man. They are both similar but they have some harsh differences. Sagas used Talents, Feats, Skills, and Powers to help flesh out your character and your saves are now defenses. The person attacking you attacks your saves and armor (which is pretty much useless after a couple levels unless you are a trooper) gives DR. And then there is everyone favorite of the system Jedi, in d20 they were very powerful because of force skill in SWSE they have even out a bit to be more on par with non-force users.

What kind of characters?
So most people will tell you that the reason they want to play Star Wars is to be a Jedi or Sith or some other Force tradition. I am not most I love non-force users almost more than Force users in Star Wars. In Star wars force Traditions are always very strict in their ways meaning while characters can differ in attitudes the laws and fundamental they receive through training are the same. I have a GM who takes this into consideration with Dark Side Points (which can be given to non-force users and have special effects in game), this makes for a truly interesting game full of personal choices that are effected by your background. I think that this is the best way to play with Dark Side Points in the Campaign as they have more meaning than "killing is killing which is bad" unless that is your personal code. As far as the system goes, yes Jedi are in most cases more powerful than other classes, how ever they are not overly powerful when compared to other classes. They are actually very lacking as each class feels more specialized in SWSE. My personal favorite is the Trooper. As a fan of the lore and of all things Martial Arts and Waxia, I love Star Wars Martial Arts. In the lore they are forgotten combat styles surrounded in mystery Martial Artist of great skill are sometimes respected as much if not more than Jedi, some even become Jedi at some point in their lifetime. In SW d20 I will be the first to say Martial Arts was broken. You could reliably deal substantial damage and get your crit range down to 9-20 if built correctly. In SWSE that was fixed but it seems to have been fixed to almost too drastic of a way, while martial arts are still a cool rule set they seem to be very watered down with small modifier even for masters. Weapons are powerful and do lots of damage when compared to D&D. A light crossbow is 1d8, a blaster pistol is 2d6. This helps my problem with Hit Points at higher level. There is also a rule set for conditions during combat that if you take a certain amount of damage you can be moved down the track and eventually become enfeebled. This makes combat feel realistic, if you have ever been in a fight you know that the longer it goes the harder it becomes on both you and your opponent you have to hit hard while you can and move on. The Second Wind rule is in place allowing you to self heal and probably the best skill in the game is Heal because you can actually heal hit points, something Pathfinder RPG and D&D 3.5 do not do. Some of the most useful characters in a game have been the medic, but there is no need for for one to specialize as someone with the skill can do well with out the surgery feat (At least one person should have it though). One thing I love even more that the diverse classes is the very specialized prestige classes. In all games with prestige classes they act as a prestigious training to specialize into something that fits your character concept. A good deal of the classes seem to fit more with the lore and role playing than with your chosen fighting style (something D&D 3.5 is known for). So far the only real "Super Build" I have seen is the character that is a "Force Trickster" think Arcane Trickster but with the force. The most powerful and first to be abused power in the game in Mind Trick. After that some of the stealthy powers can be a bit hard to deal with and Fold Space (think Teleport) can be especially hard to work with as a DM. Luckily my players are big Star Wars Fans and realize that to survive in the Galaxy you cannot be a one trick pony. 

Overall System:
  • The rule set is very easy to understand for players familiar with d20, if not then it will take a little bit of work but is not hard to teach.
  • Classes are well balanced, with limited Power Builds
  • Skills have been filtered down and simplified
  • Lots of options between Species, Classes, Talents, Feats, and Skills. We once played an all Force-User campaign where we were from different disciplines and schools of study joined as a unified force against a new threat to the Galaxy. Very fun with Very different characters in terms of abilities, core values, and powers even.
  • Combat is very Tactical and is heavily suggested that you break out the map for this game.
Cons (Since this is a mainly positive review of SWSE):
  • The battle map is very essential for this game
  • It is out of print
  • Martial Arts took a hard hit this version, as well as regular unarmed combat (something that happens in every universe)
  • Not very many Fighting Style Specific Prestige Class (not a personal complaint but I can see where other players might not like this)
  • I dont like the Standard Character Sheet for this one, a pretty normal complaint from a gamer but this one is just bad. I like Mad-Irishman character sheets for my table they are a bit easier to read.
  • While your character does get higher in level you never get that demi-god feeling you get form D&D (again not a personal complaint but I can see where other players might not like this, for me its a pro actually)
  • Star Ship battles are a bit odd to get the hang of, just remember if you use the battle map space is three dimensional.
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Background Notes and Pathfinder RPG

By : Chris Willhelm

So I have given it some thought now, and I would like to assume that if you are here looking at this blog then you have some level of understanding of what an RPG is. As such, I will not post about past editions and I will try to stay with systems that are still in print or still available. This will include systems that are downloadable to the general public, through legitimate (and legal) venues. I am not condoning the illegal download of any published material.

Down to the nitty-gritty of it. To understand if my views are even valid to you, I will give you a brief rundown of the kind of player and Game Master I am. Generally I lean more toward the "role" play aspect of games rather than the "roll" play. Meaning I am less concerned over how awesome mechanically a character can be or how much damage he can put out per round. Instead, I am more interested in the character as a character. The idea of the game is to play someone in a fantasy setting who, like yourself, has a background before the adventure begins. They have hopes and dreams, families and friends. All of this is good for great story. I am bound to remember the story of how my character grew as a monk and a person on his journey of self exploration, rather than how much damage I could dish out. I take feats and skill to reflect the character rather than to be the best at one particular thing. In general, I like skills focused systems better than level based systems as they often more accurately show slow growth of a character. I just find the sudden bursts of improved power to be a bit much. As a general I like a more conservative magic system, and items that benefit the players strengths in obvious and not so obvious way. I enjoy monsters and challenges that make sense for the story, not just to challenge players mechanically. If an innkeeper has locks, I think about what he could afford and let that dictate the lock types and DC's same with traps and dungeons. As such, I have a table of very ingenuity players that, when asked to write personal backgrounds, they excel and are very good with story, so I let them direct the adventure path. I write worlds and stories personalized to my players, not adventure arcs and this seems to fit use nicely.

As such we have tried many systems, we have our favorites and others that we just don't want to play ever again. We do mainly find ourselves going back to Pathfinder RPG by Paizo, mainly since we all grew up with Dungeons & Dragons, but do not like 4th edition. The system is great but I feel that there are a few things that are negative about the system, when it comes to my style of gaming. Skill DC are of particular interest to me. They seem to just be unchanging as a whole. With just a few levels, average locks to a rogue are useless. If the owner of the locked object does not posses the money for good locks and spells to protect the object then it wont be much of a challenge. This is fine in the average situation, but in dungeons locks are on most doors and how much money did the past owner put into the once great keep? If there are traps  who would have made them and again the expense that goes into them. Thinking of them as a DC that is hard for them to beat sometimes is not the best way to think of it. Just because you have a fire mage in the party doesn't mean that you should fight back with a fire proof monster, because it is hard it should be part of the story. I also don't care much for experience for kills systems, as it tends to promote reckless behavior and killing that is not always needed. Pathfinder is designed to be a kill for experience system, and it could be modified to meet a story/game experience using static numbers. I have played with a DM that did this and the story actually improved drastically, when players didn't mercilessly kill everything that was in sight. I also have issues with the idea of Hit Point. They seem a bit obscure and I prefer the use of the variant rules of "Wound/Vigor" and "Armor as DR" (both found in Ultimate Combat). I do find that one of Pathfinder's strongest points is the Archetypes and Classes they re-worked from the older D&D 3.5 rule set, to make they viable without the need to take prestige classes.

Pathfinder RPG Overall:

Pros:

  • Classes are well written with many alternative rule sets to support various types of players.
  • The lore of the Pathfinder established world of Golarion has extensive lore with histories, kingdoms, heroes, and more.
  • The magic system was rethought and expanded to includes many concepts, that are unique to this system adding a bit of charm not found anywhere else.
  • The system is very easy to teach


Cons:

  • 3rd Level Spells become drastically more powerful in terms of damage, but instead become less useful for utility reasons. This is more of an arcane magic complaint as divine magic seems to be a bit more even across the board.
  • Leveling is a bit faster than I would like even with the slower progression XP chart, you wont be spending 8 months to get to level 10, so it pushes the story a bit.
  • After sometime your characters become almost too powerful, even if they have no magic items. They get to the point that after only a round they kill the giant monster that is 4 to five CR higher than then with little damage taken at all.
  • Static Defenses, as you become better at fighting you become better at avoiding hits and learn how to take them. Some argue that this is what Hit Point represent but I just don't like that defense don't improve much after level 1 (monks excluded) and I think that Hit Points should instead be static or at least be harder to improve.
All that said, Pathfinder has served as a great system for my table's fantasy games and continues to impress us as a whole. I understand that all systems will have its pros and cons. I am just looking for one that fits us better as a whole.

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