Monday, 11 May 2015

Let's take a look at the Elemental Evil Player's Companion

Wizards of the Coast continues to offer free goodies, this time in the form of the Elemental Evil Player's Companion, an expansion to the Player's  Handbook that ties in to their Elemental Evil campaign storyline.

First off, let's look at what WotC are currently doing with their newest iteration of the classic Temple of Elemental Evil, which is set to be the huge new marketing cross-over for the company. It's a great idea from a brand level - take all your assets: MMOs, videogames, boardgames, literature and the tabletop game, and create a storyline that encompasses them all. While I'll only ever probably play the classic game, it's great that the company is offering multiple ways to experience the story.

Elemental Evil is all about apocalyptic cults, each devoted to a prince of elemental evil led by a nihilistic and corrupt prophet. These funky customers are using devastation orbs, created from raw elemental power, to bring all kinds of devastating chaos to Faerûn. As if that wasn't bad enough, these barmy cults have decided to join forces are creating an underground dungeon temple dedicated to the mysterious Elder Elemental Eye. Shit's getting real, son.

The Elemental Evil Player's Companion is both an expansion to the Player's Handbook, offering up three new races, a sub-race and a bunch of new spells, while also being a supplement to Princes of the Apocalypse, the tabletop campaign at the core of the story.

New Races

Aarakocra: This is a race of birdfolk hailing from the Elemental Plane of Air, first appearing back in the Fiend Folio (AD&D 1e). The companion has some great flavour about their habitats, colonies and history.

In terms of traits, level 1 Aarakocras have flight (which means no medium or heavy armour), and talons that deals 1d4 unarmed strike damage. Suitable backgrounds include sage, hermit and outlander and they are likely to be rangers or fighters.

Deep Gnome: A sub-race, also known as the Svirfneblin, that appeared first in module D2 Shrine of Kuo-Toa and as a playable race in Unearthed Arcana. They have superior darkvision, gnome cunning (advantage on int, wis and cha saves against magic), stone camouflage (advantage on stealth checks to hide in rocky terrain) and the optional feat of Svirfneblin magic.

Genasi: By far the most interesting race presented in the book, the Genasi are a hangover from Planescape's Planewalker's Handbook which later became integrated into the Forgotten Realms. The Genasi are the offspring of mortals and genies, with the power of the elemental planes inherent within their blood. Unlike in 4e, where the Genasi were a single race, 5e has once again split them into subraces: Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Each has its own traits and personalities, although the Earth Genasi seems to have got the short end of the stick, with a couple of relatively lame abilities.

Goliath: One of the more recent races, showing up as a player character back in 3.5's Races of Stone, Goliaths are massive mountain beings that make natural warriors. Goliaths get a +2 strength increase, athletics proficiency and Goliath mainstay Stone's Endurance, which allows a once-per-day d12 reaction roll to reduce damage.

New Spells

To finish off the book, we get a bunch of spells for rangers, bards, warlocks, druids, sorcerers, and wizards - so no scrimping on the spells. Of course, all these spells are based on the elements, such as control flames, earth tremor and frostbite. I was particularly glad to see the return of this baby:

Abi-Dalzim’s Horrid Wilting
8th-level necromancy
Casting Time:
 1 action
 150 feet
 V, S, M (a bit of sponge)
 Instantaneous You draw the moisture from every creature in a 30-foot cube centered on a point you choose within range. Each creature in that area must make a Constitution saving
throw. Constructs and undead aren’t affected, and plants and water elementals make this saving throw  with disadvantage. A creature takes 10d8 necrotic damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one.


I guess you can't beat free, can you? Sure, you could see the EEPC as a way of drawing in players to buy into the Elemental Evil campaign, because it absolutely is, but I think it's a great little addition to the PB. Download it here.

Giants of Sundered Valley

The Giants of the Sundered Valley is the name given to the group of monolothic standing stones located at the base of the Sundered Valley, thought to have been created over 5,000 years ago by the mad mage D'rinoth Vorgant.

D'rinoth was an eccentric hermetic spell-user who lived in the Blackgnarl Woods close to Spire village at the foot of the valley. People who lived in the area recorded the mage's antics, from the time he turned the grass in the area bright pink to when he conjured a demon from the abyssal plane which proceeded to torment Spire with a series of dangerous pranks until some local champions slayed the creature. D'rinoth was, for the most part, quite harmless but the villagers of Spire were split on their opinion about him. Some thought that he was just a crazy kook who meant no harm, while others wanted him gone from the valley, believing him to be a danger to the village and to himself.

One day, a group of villagers who wanted the hermit gone decided to take matters into their own hands and journey the woods to find him and force him to leave. They took weapons and armour with them in case they had to put up a fight, but to their surprise D'rinoth agreed to leave, although quite reluctantly. You see, he was actually a timid man and highly emotional, so when the villagers knocked on his door, armed to the teeth, and told him to leave he just caved to their demands. Upset, he packed his things and left the valley to find pastures new, holing up in a new woods thirty miles away near Sungate city.

Two months after the mage had left, five giants made their way to the Sundered Valley and led an assault on Spire. At first, they demanded payment to prevent them from tearing the place up, but when the village noble, Ellera Windheart, couldn't pay they began to devour their livestock and threatened that if they couldn't come up with the coin they would start eating the children of the village. The villagers had no way of defending against the giants, as they were too strong for even their champions, so Ellera told the group who sent D'rinoth into exile to go and find him and ask him for help. They reluctantly agreed and set off to find him.

Eventually they came across the mage and explained the situation. He agreed to help them as long as they let him live in Blackgnarl woods again. They agreed and soon the mage returned to Spire, much to everyone's delight. He made his way to the giants, who were camping close by. He stepped into the centre of the camp and cast a spell that turned them all to stone. D'rinoth was proclaimed a hero and a feast was put on in his honour before he retired to his formed home in the woods.

500 years on and the spell is breaking. The magic is wearing off and the stone monuments are becoming flesh once more. Who will come to Spire's aid this time?

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Buy White Star, you Radfish

Dat hair
So, James M. Spahn has decided to fling Swords & Wizardy White Box into space and the results are pretty delicious. White Star is about to become The Next Big Thing in the OSR world, so you should probably buy it so you don't feel left out.

I want to write stuff for White Star, baby.

Actually, dwarvern grognard and serial podcaster +Erik Tenkar  has already gone and started filling his Tavern with White Star goodies. Gotta hand it to him - when he gets his hooks in something, he doesn't let go (hi, Far Away Land).

I digress. Buy this with your monies.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

New race: The Carriath


I wanted to play around with creating some new races that are a little far removed from the normal fantasy tropes. The first is the Carriath - a race created from words. I've statted them up for Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying, Swords & Wizardry White Box and Tunnels & Trolls.

In the Great Old Times, words held a more potent power, more akin to sorcery. Whenever a word was uttered that caused a strong emotional reaction, whether loving or hateful, the winds of time ushered these words into the cavern of Kallelia where the words slowly became tangible. These emotive words moulded into something physical, released from their abstract bondage and escaping into the mortal plane. They grew sentient and soon became a community.

This race of ‘word people’ came to be called Carraith - a people of great emotion who have the ability to bring great joy, sadness, fear or jealousy with just the words that they utter, masterfully crafting them into something as sharp as a dagger or as soft as silk.

Carraith believe that words are sacred and as such their society only uses words when necessary and does not waste any frivolously. Their elders are known as the finest wordsmiths in the world and are often worshipped as gods on earth, recieving offerings in the form of food and trinkets from the Carraith community.

Carriath in Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying

Suggested specialisms: Emotive Speaker (Ego), Mysterious Stranger (Ego), Linguistic Genius (Wits), Speak Languages (Wits), Lexomancer [able to create objects with words] (Wits)

Carriath in Swords & Wizardry White Box

Because of their way with words, Carriath have the capabilities of Magic-Users, giving them access to the Magic-User chart.

Character advancement: Carriath use the Magic-User character advancement chart.

Weapon/ Armour Restrictions:  As Magic-User

Speak Emotive Words: The Carriath use words to strike an emotional chord with others. They have a 1 in 6 chance to persuade another sentient being of the same level or lower to agree to their terms.

Languages: Carriath are intrinsically knowledgable of many languages. At first level, Carriaths are able to speak with all races.

Saving Throw: Carriath get +2 saving throws vs magic.

Carriath in Tunnels & Trolls

CON: X0.75
CHR: X1.5
DEX: X0.5
WIZ: X1.5
HT: X1
WT: X1

Carriath in T&T may only be rogues or wizards.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

International Dungeoneering League

Welcome, sports fans, to the International Dungeoneering League - the only place for heart-pounding action from the very best dungeons in the world. If you’re new to this exciting and somewhat bloody sport, then let me tell you a bit about it. You’ll be hooked in no time.

Dungeoneering is the most popular form of entertainment in Hyrentia and for good reason - it’s the most adrenaline-fueled, hazard-filled and deadly sport there is. The idea is that teams are sent into hand-crafted dungeons, stocked with vicious beasties, tricky traps and useful items. Teams score points for each hazard they overcome, as well as for performance. They also have to reach the exit in one piece, which doesn’t always happen. It’s a great sport.

Cities have sanctioned dungeons funded by sponsors and tax money, which are generally used for national and international competitions. On a more local level, amateurs are able to play in dungeons crafted from pub cellars or those owned by schools or other private establishments. Amateur dungeoneering tends to be less deadly but the prize money is much less than the big leagues.

The International Dungeoneering League is the body that oversees the professional dungeoneering game, where the dungeons are elaborate and the payouts large. Whereas an amateur dungeon might have a few dire rats and a rusted dart trap, the IDL puts on an incredible show full of complex traps and exotic monsters such as ogres and even dragons.

The World of Hyrentia

International Dungeoneering League takes place in the fictional fantasy world of Hyrentia, where the main past-time and most profitable game is dungeoneering. Entire economies are based on the sport - without it, cities would crumble and governments would topple. Dungeoneering is serious business in Hyrentia.

There are two continents in Hyrentia - Averdale and The Burning Lands. Averdale is by far the most populated and the place where dungeoneering has become a truly giant sport. The Burning Lands are mostly desert, but despite the desolation this is where the sport originated from. The people of the Burning Lands are dungeoneering puritans, still using the same arenas that were built over a thousand years ago by the founders of the sport. The Burning Lands tends to have a more extreme version of the sport and you will hear people in Averdale joke about ‘Burning Lands rules’, referring to the often impossible and deadly dungeons they are famous for.

Many different countries make up Hyrentia, each with their own race of people, teams and dungeoneering culture. For instance, the elves of Treelow have crafted dungeons from twisted trees and forest hazards, while the dwarves of Dimbar tend to get hideously drunk before a game as they believe it gives them magical powers (it doesn’t, but it takes a lot of grog to get a dwarf sloshed). The tinker goblins of Svennara have some of the most ingenious traps ever crafted and the centaurs of the Wild Plains breed exotic creatures such as hydras and manticores, with which they stock their dungeons. The pixies of Flow have built incredible dungeons the float in the sky, with moving platforms and long, long drops.

Playing the Game

So what does a game of International Dungeoneering League look like? Great question. Each player will create their own dungeoneer, tackle dungeons, fight monsters, overcome obstacles and get rich without getting decapitated. Players begin at amateur level and work their way up to the professional league through numerous gaming sessions.

A player will have one of four different roles:

  • The Hitter: these are the big guns. Huge builds and capable of taking a knocking as well as delivering one. Their main function is to keep dungeon threats away from the other team members.
  • The Sneaker: able to move quickly and stealthily, the sneaker is a master of finding and disabling traps, as well as remaining unseen. Sneakers generally take the lead in order to recon the path ahead.
  • The Patcher: When the going get tough, the Patcher is the one who is going to whip out the bandages and essentially make sure that everyone else doesn't cop it in the middle of a match.
  • The Thinker: These are generally academics and clever sorts who are in charge of figuring out tricky puzzles and riddles along with dungeon navigation.
Teams are made up of 4 to 6 players and it's common to have a team name. Some of the more famous teams are:
  • The Raging Harpies
  • The Forest Five
  • Grug’s Fine Team of Dwarves
  • Dragon Butchers
  • An Axe to Grind
Scoring Points

The aim of the game is to score as many points as possible. Points are gained through advancing through the dungeon, taking down monsters, overcoming traps, finding secrets and reaching the end room. Generally there will be two teams in a match and they will take consecutive turns in heading into the dungeon. The team who emerges with the most points wins (if they emerge at all). 

Dungeons can contain as many points as they want, but they must have at least 10 points to obtain. 

Types of Game
  • Classic: The most popular version of the sport - the classic is a 10+ point game with 4-6 player teams. The aim is to reach the end room with more points than the opposing team. Weapons, armour and magic are allowed in classic games. Team levels must be the same.
  • No Magic: The same as classic but magic is prohibited
  • Naked: No weapons and no armour. Magic is allowed
  • Time Trial: One team must reach the end room faster than the other.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Fabled Lands: Cities of Gold and Glory Review

Cities of Gold and Glory is the second entry into the Fabled Lands gamebook series, expanding the world into the green and pleasant land of Golnir, which is essentially Arthurian Britain, which suits me fine.

If you decide to create a new character in Cities of Gold you start at rank two and, as is to be expected in these books, you get your fleshy body flung across the beach after a gnarly shipwreck. Characters is Fabled Lands lose at oceans.

So here's me. I'm a warrior and I've arrived in Golnir to make my fortune thwacking anything that gets in my way and doing other warrior-ly things, like covering my pecks in baby oil and riding panthers. I don't have a name, not because I'm lazy but because I see this as some kind of amnesia play. No, I lie, it's totally because I'm lazy.

Despite my love for the series, Cities of Gold has the annoying habit of making it difficult to find quests. Back in Sokara I couldn't throw a cat without it hitting a quest-giver and soon I'd run out of cats and have to use weasels, which made me look ridiculous.

There are a few places to get quests - such as Castle Ravayne, which requires Charisma rolls to even get inside and speak to the baroness to acquire said quests. Boo! The other problem with some quests is that they can be random. I went off to find a dragon and had to keep on coming back in order to roll the right number to make the dragon appear. One the one hand, it makes the world feel a little bit more unpredictable. On the other, it means that you have the chance of being completely done in by other hazards instead of the one you're trying to get to.

Like the other books, you can do some extra-curricular activities, like investing money in the merchant's guild, buying town houses, getting a ship and boffing pirates, and becoming a devotee to certain gods. It's all tried-and-true Fabled Lands and one of the reasons these gamebooks are some of the best out there.

Cities of Gold is a good addition to the series, but falls down at making quests accessible. There are some cool characters, but none are particularly memorable. Still, I enjoy my time bombing around Golnir, killing highwaymen (and easy grind) and getting fat loot.