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My friend and I are playing through CotCT; my husband is DMing. This is the first time my friend (I'll call him Mork, because that's his character's name) has played D&D in about fifteen years.
So far, he's picked up everything very easily. He's playing a half-orc monk and really likes the range of abilities he has. He's a little reluctant to use ki points for fear of running out, but I think he's striking a good balance.
I, of course, have been playing 3.5 for a long time so I find the rules easy to adapt to. I love the more customized speciality wizards -- I'm playing an illusionist -- and the utility of the rogue (my second character) seems unchanged. I've always liked rogues.
The main issue Mork has is he keeps thinking "bull rush" should knock down your opponent. Something he'll figure out soon enough, I expect.
Will post more as we play more!
SPOILERS!!! Did I say that loudly enough?
I read Burnt Offerings on the plane ride back. It made the tedious delays and lost luggage more bearable. Herein are my impressions.
Background info to put my comments in perspective: I'm a DM. I wouldn't call myself either a munchkin or an IDRPer, but I would say I'm a bit of a powergamer. I run games to have fun, not to tell life-altering stories or as some kind of artistic effort. Like combat as well as roleplaying.
I'll go through the book from start to finish with my review.
1. COVER: Heavy, durable, shiny, beautiful. I got the super-special GenCon edition cover. It's pretty.
2. INSIDE COVER: Has a colour illustration of a symbol important to the campaign, the perfect size for holding up to show players when you say, "You see this symbol". Also the first page is nice.
3. CREDITS: James Jacobs in charge? Check. Rest of the Paizo crew on board? Check. (Including a special thanks to Mike McA). Cover Art by Wayne Reynolds? Check. Adventures by Baur, Jacobs, Mona, Pett, and Schneider? Check. This page alone would make me buy the adventure.
*Yes* I am also a fangirl. Might as well get that out of the way.
4. TABLE OF CONTENTS: This book has a lot. Foreword, adventure, city setting, history of the world, overview of the Pathfinder Society, bestiary, pregenerated characters, and a preview of the next issue. Consider my appetite whetted.
5. FOREWORD: By Mr. Jacobs. Includes the ten facts about goblins we've seen in the blog (which made me happy -- the ten facts rule) as well as an overview of what the Pathfinder line is going to be like and designer notes. Designer notes are included in sidebars throughout the module and basically say things like, "This is why we handled things this way" and "this is what you could do differently if you don't like this encounter." Very cool and helpful.
6. ADVENTURE: Very dark, very good. The backstory is kickass. The encounters seem like they'll be memorable. I won't go into too many details, but there is a lot of Peyton Place about Sandpoint. Everyone's got a secret, and many of them are nasty. I actually read the Sandpoint setting before the adventure, and the backstory made me go, "No! Really? Cool!".
There's a page and a half of backstory and then we dive into the adventure. More backstory is provided as needed, to clarify motivations and what have you. It's a nice balance, and I think it works.
There are a lot of NPCs who get locked up for extraordinary amounts of time, several who starve, and quite a few who go insane. Designer sidebars comment on the themes and how to lighten up the game if you don't want to go as far as Paizo did. I'll probably lighten up bits here and there, but overall the adventure isn't too gory. Some of the artwork gave me the shivers, though!
The adventure takes up about 50 pages.
-the layout. Text colors and fonts were clearly readable by me, but I don't have a problem with colors or patterns. The parchment background on some of the sidebars didn't seem too busy to me, but others may disagree. The conversational tone of some of the designer notes was refreshingly informal and made me chuckle in cases. ("Goblins should really carry spare dogslicers, but they don't think that far ahead, and occasionally end up standing in front of a hero without a weapon. Stupid little freaks.")
-thorough stat blocks. At one point a goblin has a potion of rage in his inventory, and the stat block notes changes that occur once the potion's duration expires.
-maps are attractive and easy to read.
-alternatives are often presented, and multiple plot hooks provided for different stages in the adventure. These are inserted into the flow of text as needed, not lumped together at the beginning.
-no player maps. Pull-out maps might have been too expensive and taken up too much space, so here's hoping for a free download like we sometimes get for Dungeon. This has probably been discussed already, but I'm lazy and missed it.
-occasional missing tags/confusing areas. I looked at the map of Thistletop about ten times and still can't find C25 or C26, though I inferred their location easily enough. And I can't figure out what the semicircle dotted line represents in the top left hand section of the Catacombs of Wrath. Does the tunnel dead-end under or above the jail? What's the dot mean?
7. SANDPOINT: This section is similar to the "City of Blank" features that occasionally appeared in Dungeon. The 14-page section contains an overview and stat block of the city, history (which contains spoilers, so the players can't read it), map, and keyed locations with descriptions of individuals.
-varied areas. The PCs have a choice of bars, inns, shopping malls, etc. Ok, there are no malls.
-large, attractive map.
8. THASSILON HISTORY: Very interesting and exciting. This 8 page section details the different Runelords, the defunct religions, the fall of Thassilon, and has sidebars detailing upcoming adventures. It was a lot of information, but I managed to retain it all. I didn't feel overwhelmed with the history.
9. OPENING MOVES: This 6-page section details the Pathfinder Society and gives further background information on the politics and history of the area. Lots of good material with which to involve the PCs. Two minor quibbles: one, the 'handwriting' font I found really hard to read, and two, no friendly sidebar on how specifically to involve the PCs. Which is cool, we're all creative people, that's why we're DMs. It seemed an odd exclusion, though, given the preponderance of sidebars in the rest of the book. Also this section was entirely in black-and-white for some reason.
10. BESTIARY: COOL! Goblin dogs, goblin snakes (they have a cool coil attack), giant geckos, sinspawn (advanceable shock troop-style monsters that aren't undead), attic whisperers (undead scary-kid monster), and the Sandpoint Devil (a riff on the Jersey Devil).
11. PREGEN CHARS: Already been discussed on the boards. I do think they're a little underpowered, but not cripplingly so. The art is beautiful. Also seem easy for beginners to play.
12. PREVIEWS: Just one page! And half is taken up by the OGL! Enough to whet my appetite without seeming like a huge advertisement.
Then an actual ad on the very last page. But that's ok, I can take it.
Minor quibble throughout: very small, occasional typos which made me laugh more than anything. Like "flower" instead of "flour".
Awesomeness throughout: Extremely high levels!
The above comes from this site: http://www.gamegrene.com/node/790 Just bringing it to people's attention! I'm getting a donation drive thingy going on another boards, I think it's a cool idea.
I like tailoring my games to the occasional holiday, much as Paizo does for its magazines. Yesterday I ran a special April Fool's session of my STAP game. My players were half-expecting something goofy (not that our games aren't always goofy) and I wanted to fulfil those expectations.
The party was down in the tunnel in Here There Be Monsters. Whilst exploring, they came upon a golem who shone a bright light at them. The characters fell unconscious. When they awoke, the NPCs were gone, and the PCs had switched bodies.
The prankster rogue/noble, who'd had a long-running rivalry with Avner, woke up in Avner's body.
The macho fighter/sorcerer woke up in Captain Amella's body.
The paranoid rogue who was the unwilling focus of Tavey's adoration woke up in Tavey's body.
And the clever necromancer woke up in the body of Avner's horse.
The rest of the session involved the party tracking down the golem, finding their real bodies, and switching back. But it was a double-fools adventure, and by the time they reached the end of the tunnel complex (which I'd inserted into the adventure), they realized it was the crashed spaceship from Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. They fought a few police robots, assisted a vegepygmy in rescuing his thorny, and overcame a sickly, terribly weakened froghemoth before reclaiming their bodies from an insane medical droid. With great relief they made their way out of the spaceship, everyone's soul in the proper body, and resumed their adventures.
It was pretty darn fun. Anyone else do something silly?
So my characters wash up on the Isle of Dread (or "Freedom Isle" as they've renamed it). They barely survived the t-rex ("freedom lizard") attack, but only barely. Being the sweet and kind-hearted DM that I am, I took pity on them that evening. Two terror birds ("freedom birds") came to feast on the t-rex, but were content to stay on the corpse and leave the camp farther down the beach alone.
Sadly, my players looked this particular freedom lizard in the mouth.
Roven, the character on watch, woke Vance, another character, up when he spotted the terror birds. Instead of letting the birds scavenge in peace, Vance got a brilliant idea. Why not capture a terr -- I mean, a freedom bird -- and use it to cart goods and perhaps eventually serve as a mount?
Despite Roven's doubts, Vance proceeded with part 2 of his plan. Waking Avner the spoiled noble up. Vance's reasoning: Avner has a horse, so he knows how to handle animals, so he's the best choice to tame the terror bird.
Roven: "We're going to wake up Avener?"
(Avner has a -1 to Handle Animal checks, but they didn't know that).
Avner was a little upset at being wakened in the middle of the night, but Vance's flattery convinced him that using a homemade rope bridle on a terror bird was a great idea. The birds stared at Our Heroes as if they were alien beings as Avner approached, making clucking sounds and bobbing his head oddly. He successfully tossed the bridle over the bird's head.
The terror bird let out a shriek loud enough to wake the dead and took off down the beach, dragging Avner by the lead rope. Avner shouted for the beast to stop but lacked the strength (and the leverage) to pull it to halt. Vance, unwilling to let his prize go, grabbed onto Avner and was subsequently dragged along.
The rest of the party woke to the sight of the maddened terror bird careening across the beach, dragging Avner and Vance. The second bird attacked non-dragged party members. Our Heroes killed the free terror bird, while Vance climbed up over Avner and onto the back of the bird. A paralyzing spell from the wizard stopped the bird's mad dash, and now they have a captive terror bird they're trying to tame.
So weird. But so fun.
I DM my husband in a solo game, where he plays a uniquely brilliant white wyrmling named Frigidus Horribilus. I won't go into extensive homebrew backstory; suffice to say, Frigidus has allied with a human wizard who acts as a sort of guardian to people who pay him a yearly fee (more like an insurance agent than a mafia 'protection' agent). Frigidus acts as the wizard's right-hand man and often goes on dangerous missions to help the wizard's policy holders.
I've found it easy to adapt a number of Dungeon/Compleat adventures to the campaign, and in return, they shaped the geography of the world. I uploaded a map, and this is the key to the adventures I used.
1. Merzeth's Tower. The home of Merzeth the Magician, who (in an attempt to gain a familiar) accidentally summoned the hero of our story, the white wyrmling Frigidus Horribilus.
2. The village of Seacove sent word to Merzeth that they required aid. Frigidus arrived and rescued the contents of a lost cargo ship. ("Salvage Operation", Mearls, #123).
3. Vultania Gorge, home to a clan of dwarves also allied with Merzeth, also in need of aid. Here Frigidus got in touch with his inner beetle herder to help a group of dwarves. ("Home Under the Range", Kortes, #134).
4. The sometimes-home of a group of elf nomads Frigidus befriended. When the elves were raided, Frigidus offered to track down their attackers (particularly since said raiders stole several stuffed monster heads the elves had preserved for Frigidus).
5. Frigidus tracked the miscreants to these underground tunnels, and slew their leader. ("Dark Elf Sanctum" Compleat Adventure, Mearls). He found the dark elves had attacked out of the belief that their surface cousins had orchestrated the appearance of a haunted cathedral, into which several dark elves had disappeared.
6. This led Frigidus to the haunted cathedral, where he wreaked much havoc and spoke to the spirit of a mad torturer ("Terror in the Chamber of Pain" Compleat Adventure, Strohm). The torturer's ghost told Frigidus he was doomed to suffer in the haunted church until his wife's murder was avenged.
7. Frigidus sought out the aforementioned murderer in a mysterious nearby grove. He slew the insane druid responsible and set the ghost's spirit to rest ("Grove of the Mad Druid" Compleat Adventure, Jacobs).
8. Merzeth then sent Frigidus to speak to an old colleague of his, a wizard named Tealpeck. Frigidus arrived in the middle of a deluge and found dangerous monsters and great treasure waiting for him in the castle ("Tealpeck's Flood", Vinogradov, #137).
That's all I got so far, but I'm sure I'll add more adventures over time. They are so convenient and adaptable. Thanks!
Apologies if this has been mentioned before, I'm slow on the uptake.
My party just finished The Sea Wyvern's Wake (I'm the DM) and I had an issue with the vine horror monsters. Their AC is listed as:
AC 19, touch 13, flat-footed 16
And their Dex is 10. So they have a +3...deflection bonus to AC? Dodge bonus to AC? Is this a typo? My party had a real tough time with the vine horrors and I was just curious.
My PCs have decided that they're never going to get anywhere with marketing a colony on a place called "The Isle of Dread." They toyed with the name "The Isle of Fortune" for a while, but finally decided to rename it "Freedom Island."
They've also renamed the terror birds "freedom birds." One of my players is a freelance artist, and he's busy making cosmetic changes to the Isle of Dre--I mean, to the map of Freedom Island. They're putting a parasail behind the pterodactyl, a saddle on the T-rex (with a guy waving a cowboy hat on its back) and bungee jumpers/base divers leaping beneath the rocs (who are there to catch anyone who makes a bad jump). Also the chick with the spear is becoming a mermaid with a huge bouquet of flowers.
Just thought I'd share.
Suppose you want a real challenge and you decided to play a human wizard with an Intelligence of 4. Let's also say you're leveling him up from level 2 to level 3 (though I'm not sure how you've survived this long).
When calculating skill points, do you receive:
2 (wizard) + 1 (human) = 3 minus 3 (Int penalty) = the minimim 1
2 (wizard) minus 3 (Int penalty) = the minimum 1 + 1 (human) = 2
2 (wizard) minus 3 (Int penalty) = -1 + 1 (human) = the minimum 1
I'm looking for official rulings and/or quotes from sourcebooks, not houserules or opinions. Thanks!
I know James J. (or maybe it was James S.) said to organize your adventure properly and take your best stab at the style formats, but I'm pretty confused. I thought I'd post here which styles I use and see if anyone can correct me.
Adventure Title: "Article Title" style seemed appropriate.
Intro blurb of text: I went with "Body Text."
The Adventure Background header: Not too certain here. It's a little smaller than some of the headers in an adventure, so I went with "3.0 Subhead."
Adventure background text: Back to "Body Text."
Adventure Synopsis header/text and Adventure Hooks header/text: "3.0 Subhead" and "Body Text."
Chapter Headers: I'm confused. 2.0 Header seems the most appropriate, but it right justifies. Maybe it's supposed to?
Read-aloud text: "Boxed Text"
Chapter sub-headers (like encounter titles): Back to "3.0 Subhead" with "Body Text" as the subsequent text.
Stat blocks: "Monster Stats" seemed like an obvious choice.
Sidebar header: "H1 Sidebar" or "H2 Sidebar" are logical choices, though I'm not sure which size to use. H2, I think, the sidebar titles in the magazine don't look all that big.
Sidebar text: "Sidebar Text."
Advice threads routinely pop up with questions like, "How do I write a query?" and "Should I send my email straight to the editor I know or not?" and "How strict are the word limits?" The posters here quickly answer such questions, but we rarely talk about the psychology behind writing professionally and the mental and social tricks you can use to get ahead.
I was reading Fitness magazine today and persued an article called, "How to Win at Everything." While geared towards women trying to accomplish life goals, the article also perfectly embodied the strategies writers use when building a career. I thought I'd share the tips here along with some of my personal experiences.
1. Compete Only When It Counts. Rule one of the article stated, "Don't get sidetracked by envy: Make sure the things you're competing for are the things you value." Especially when I was starting out (though I still feel like I'm just starting out) as a writer, I had a tendency to accept every assignment that came my way. I pitched every idea that crossed my mind, sent queries to every magazine that would accept them, and said 'yes' to every assignment anyone offered me.
This is great for building credits, but you can't keep up such momentum forever. Sooner or later you'll become burned out and frustrated because you're so busy doing everything at once, you have no time to focus on what you really want to do. It pays to evaluate your goals from time to time -- I'd say at least monthly.
Do you want to write primarily for magazines, or do you want to write game books? Crunch or fluff? Fiction? Fantasy or sci-fi? Once you've built up some industry credits, grow a little more selective of the topics you cover. Try and build towards your eventual goal.
Also beware of your motives. Do you truly want to be a professional career writer? I suspect some people feel like they ought to want to be a writer, and so work at it out of envy (particularly if you're friends with a wannabe writer) or a desire to be part of the industry. There are many ways to contribute to roleplaying games without actually writing them; look honestly at what you want to do and why. Perhaps you'd be happier volunteering at conventions, or just posting consistently in a helpful, conscientious manner on RPG message boards. Don't let what other people think you should do guide your choices.
2. Want The Win. Of course, you can take #1 too far. A few times on these boards, myself and other writers talk about the apathy that is our greatest enemy. That's when we talk ourselves out of a project before we even start it. I have a whole list of reasons why I shouldn't pitch queries:
a) the idea is stupid and the editors will laugh at me
I thought this was unique to me, but most writers I talk to confess to the same "apathy block" that occasionally stops them from going after a good project.
"Off the (organized sports) field, where the tenets are unwritten and the stakes may be higher, you might refrain from competing entirely or limit yourself to sure bets -- applying for a promotion only if you're positive it won't ruffle anybody's feathers or sticking with your (boring) beginner's step class because the people at the next level are so much fitter than you," writes Marguerite Lamb in Fitness.
If you're going to make writing your career, you can't let fear stop you. Not all your ideas will be great, and you won't always write in top form, and sometimes you'll pitch ideas the editors already have in the works. It won't kill you. Learn to accept that your "apathy" is really fear, and then push past it.
The article also recommends competing with yourself. Take all other writers out of the picture and compare your work only with your previous work. See how much you're improving and strive to develop your talents even further. This isn't a race for "best writer," it's a journey of self-improvement. Really.
3. Learn the Right Way to Lose. "Women tend to attribute their victories to luck or other external factors yet blame their failures on personal shortcomings," the Fitness article reports, quoting Anna Fels, M.D., author of Necessary Dreams.
Well it ain't just women. Writers in general -- human beings in general -- have a tendency to say, "Oh, I got lucky," when something goes right, and "Oh, I'm so stupid!" when something goes wrong.
Accept your failures and your successes as part luck, part personal responsibility. Sure maybe your editor was predisposed to like psionic ninja articles, but you took the initiative to write the query, you came up with a concept that caught his interest, and you delivered the finished article on time and within the proper word limit. Give yourself credit for your successes, and learn from your failures.
4. Play Fair. Writing has the image of being a solitary profession, and when you're at the table alone with your computer, it's true. No one can write the article but you.
But writing as an industry is very social. You must forge connections, learn to network, and deal with other writers, editors, and publishers. Some writers think that "playing dirty" when it comes to the social aspects of writing is okay, but don't be tempted. Bad behaviour will come back to haunt you.
What does playing fair entail? No name calling. No talking behind peoples' backs. If you're freelancing for a company, don't blog about how everyone there is an imbecile except for you. If you're working with another writer, don't send the editor emails about how the other writer sucks and you're doing more than your fair share. If you want to write for a company, don't tell the editor how much their product stinks because of their lousy writers, and how much better a job you'd do. People try this, thinking it will propel them ahead. They think of themselves as "cutthroat," "ruthless," and "practical."
It doesn't work. No one wants to play with a mean kid. Act responsible, professional, and neutral in public and save the rants for your spouse or mother.
5. Accept Applause. At the risk of sounding sexist, I do think this is a bit more of a female failing. Once you've finally climbed the mountain -- you've gotten your first greenlit query, or published your first article, or landed your first book deal -- enjoy your success. Most importantly, accept it.
Modestly brushing off praise might make you look sweetly humble, but it also diminishes your effort. You worked hard for what you got, and to then disregard acknowledgement makes it seem like it wasn't a big deal, and it undermines your authority (and your well deserved kudos). Accepting praise reinforces in your mind that you are worthy of praise, and it also makes you seem gracious.
I admit I had a terrible problem with this in the past. Whenever someone praised me I would reply with, "It was nothing," or "No big deal," or "So and so did most of the work," or "It was easy." Effectively undercutting the praise and the praise-giver and my own effort. It can feel awkward when someone praises you, so you might want to use the trick I learned. It's really easy -- smile and say, "Thank you."
GenCon attendee: "Hey, aren't you Amber Scott? I loved your Ecology of the Will-o'-Wisp!"
Then stop. It's easy.
Editor in email: "Got your submission today, Amber, thanks! You did a great job, I love it!"
If it really really seems just too abrupt, add a line about your favorite part of the completed project. DON'T qualify the thanks.
So there it is, my writing advice distilled into Fitness-magazine format. Feel free to add your own bits of advice or comment on the posted ones or whatever. :-)
New cover looks awesome! And strangely familiar. I'm not what anyone would really call a 'feminist' (well, my chauvenist friends often do ;-)) but I'm getting a little tired of the exposed cleavage poses. Not that I don't appreciate fine female flesh, but I look back on this year's covers and go, "Hmm. So cover models have to be evil, hot, and show the top of their breasts in a cutout." This new necromancer (?) chick. Dhusarra from the Vampire trilogy. The peekaboo mummy, the tiefling chick, the Lady of Pain (the Lady of Pain shows cleavage?!?!)
Just for a change of pace, can we see some female heroes who don't bare their breasts? I loved the covers of Iggwilv and the drow chick from the Istvin trilogy. Thanks. :-)
Hi all! I've been running Shackled City in Azeroth, the world of Warcraft. So far I've had to make a few flavor conversions, but not too many. I thought I'd post them here for others who are interested in setting Cauldron in Azeroth.
1. My Cauldron sits on the border of Elwynn Forest and the Redridge Mountains in Azeroth. It's a strange little city that holds remnants of both Horde and Alliance forces. To the west lies Stormwind Keep, a human bastion whose military keeps the Forest mostly safe. To the east is the Blackrock orc settlement of Stonewatch Keep, and the area is rather more dangerous. Deadwind Pass sits to the north, a gateway to the twisted lands of Duskwood and the Swamp of Sorrows.
2. I replaced the temple to St. Cuthbert with a Church of the Holy Light. The temple to Wee Jas is now a Forsaken stronghold and branch of the Royal Apothecary Society. Vortimax Weer (of Weer's Elixers) is now a sinister Forsaken apothecarist who leads the R.A.S.
3. I replaced the Church of Pelor with a small bastion of Knights of the Silver Hand, several of whom have suffered "accidental" deaths (really they were murdered at the behest of Vortimax). The Knights of the Silver Hand are (rightly) suspicious of Weer and the R.A.S., leading to their assassinations.
4. The Church of Kord is now a tauren lodge where shamans lead any interested members in sacred rituals to bring peace, strength, and prosperity to Cauldron.
5. I replaced all the hobgoblins in "Life's Bazaar" with orcs. All the half-orc mercenaries are now full blooded orcs as well.
6. I created a background for the dark creepers/stalkers; they once were demons of the Burning Legion who somehow became infected with the Scourge. They did not become undead, but gained powers over shadow and stealth and lost their demonic abilities. No longer able to survive in the Twisting Nether, they scrounge about under the surface of the world, eking out a miserable existence.
7. The goblins in the Malachite Fortress and those who serve Dratkthar are "savage goblins" who were born into slavery in non-Horde orc tribes that live under the ground. They are not intelligent and talented like their surface brethern.
That's as far as I've had to go. I'll post more conversions as I make them.
Hi all. My husband loves Axis & Allies and he likes minis, so I was thinking of getting him the new minis game for Xmas. I'm wondering if anyone has tried it and has any feedback. Also, does anyone know if the starter set is enough for one person to play? (i.e. if we want to play over Xmas, should I get him 2 starter packs, one for him and one for his opponent, and maybe a few booster packs?)
On another thread Erik said something along the lines of, "Don't kiss our collective asses when giving feedback, just be honest. We can take it." I paraphrase, but that was the gist.
So in the spirit of giving honest feedback, I decided to go through the third edition Dragons I have with me and pick out my top fave/least fave article from each issue. I've tried to give reasons for my preferences; especially with my least-favorites, it's not that I don't like the author's writing style or hate their guts, it's merely the kind of article I didn't find useful or appropriate. Nothing against you talented guys and gals.
I tried to refrain from saying, "I didn't like this article because I hate First Watch" or whatever. Not liking an article because I don't like the feature doesn't help you guys get better. So I refrained from that as much as possible. Maybe I'll do a feature breakdown in another post.
On with the show...
Medesha's Top Picks
299: Tough call between "Wizard's Toy Box" (Christopher Coyle) and "Oath and Order" (Bruce Cordell). The former because it combined flavor and mechanics in a solid, useful article accompanied by cool artwork on a readable background (readable by me, anyway). The latter because it afforded options for non-good characters, something rather rare, accompanied by creative flavor and good mechanics. I think the cleverness of "Wizard's Toy Box" tips the balance in its favor.
On a related note, what ever happened to those cut-out monster tokens? So useful!
314: All the elemental organizations were nice, but I particlarly liked "Dust to Dust" (Ari Marmell). First off, GREAT opening pic. I feel like I'm about to get squished. Then we have a few sections of fluff, some spells, some descriptive magic items, all broken up with bite-sized sidebars. Very nice.
315: "Birthright: Bloodlines for D&D 3.5" (Ed Stark). Gotta put my vote in for Birthright articles. Yay! Having trouble judging this issue because it's a "special" one. I'll give props to "Taladas" (James Jacobs) because I didn't even know what Taladas was, but the teaser ("Angry dead gnomes and sinister walking sharks") lured me in, the content kept me reading, the PrCs made me go, "Cool!" and the shark man picture made me giggle.
316: "Smoke and Mirrors" (Mike Mearls, back when he was calling himself Michael). Divinations are so tricky, and can "wreck" a game so fast. This article was useful and insightful and even had some fun fiction at the beginning. I didn't even mind the lack of crunch.
317: Toss-up between "Faiths of Faerun: Red Knight" (Travis Stout) because she's my favorite FR god and "Body of Knowledge" (Andrew M. Scott) because he has a cool name, and because the artwork was great, the concepts were interesting, and the abilities were fascinating. In the end I give it to Red Knight because a) it managed to explore the character concept of a devoted follower without resorting to a PrC and b) Cerebrex, the neural-mage of "Body of Knowledge," sounds vaguely like a medicine I'd see a cheesy commercial on tv for. Probably accompanied by pictures of kittens playing in a field. "Ask your doctor if Cerebrex is right for you." Ahem. I kid; I really did like that article. I just liked Red Knight a shade better.
320: The Big Anniversary Issue. "Dragon PCs" (Mike McArtor) was really great. Useful, fun (who wouldn't want to play a dragon?) and accompanied by cool art. But I have to give props to "The Teamwork Pool" (Mike Mearls) as well because it's just such a great idea. I like the article because it introduces a new mechanic that's not too complicated and that's designed to enhance the team experience. Great idea.
323: The Big Change Issue. My favorite article: "Seven Deadly Domains" (Hal Maclean). Again, flavor, mechanics, great artwork, and it blurred the line between shiny good heroes and black-hatted villains (particularly the "Playing A Sinner" sidebar). Hands down, the best article of that issue.
324: Great cover. My favorite article in this issue is "Exorcising Equipment"(by, um...Robert...J...Hahn? Ok, don't use this font again.) First, the pun is cool. Second, new equipment that isn't all magic items. Yay for Craft DCs! Third, a teeny new monster for fun. Fourth, a cool sidebar on RP stuff (Other Useful Undead-Fighting Gear). Fifth, neatly packed into a two-page spread for easy reference. I love this article.
325: "Myths of the Shadow" by Rahul Kanakia. I loved this Spellcraft because it had a good and interesting "backstory" that it revealed in the text of the spells. And there weren't 500 million spells, just enough to be interesting. And there was a spell called shock and awe, and that's hot.
326: "Down the Drain" (Chris DeKalb and Jacob Steinmann). First off, fantastic art and title. Creature From the Black Lagoon, anyone? Yeah, that was spot on. The article's scope was broad enough to fit most games (unlike samurais or half-elemental races, few DMs have to ask themselves, "Am I going to use sewers in my campaign?"). The article itself was well-written with a mix of history, architectural knowledge, game crunch (feats and magic items), and adventure seeds. And at 5 1/2 pages of text, it wasn't overwhelming. Pretty much a perfect article.
327: "With Friends Like These" (Joshua Cole). A long, interesting buildup followed by easily digestable units of utility. No crunch, but highly useful. I really liked it. A shame you had to put that ugly Statement of Ownership right at the end.
328: "Ecology of the Will-o'-Wisp" (Amber E. Scott). Ok, I wasn't going to do any of my own articles, but what can I say? It was my favorite, it's the article I'm the most proud of. Um, buy more by me.
329: "Demonomicon of Igwilv: Pazuzu" (James Jacobs). Maybe a touch too long, but so interesting I can forgive it for its length. Fun article, good layout, lots of little crunch bits. Yay! Also I love the cover of this issue.
331 "The Point of Pole Arms" (by Ari Marmell, Jason B., and everyone else). New weapons, new feats, an explanation of a weapon I'd always found confusing, and a neat 5 pages. I like this one. I have to mention "Ecology of Green Hags" too, by F. Wes Schneider. Really interesting backgrounds and little tidbits about Green Hags I'd never thought of.
332: "Cutting Up the Dragon" (Andrew Coleman) almost made my list because of its utility, layout, and tie in to a previous Dragon article ("Power Components"; that was a nice touch). But I have to withdraw top marks because of the eye-bleeding background (stop doing that!) "Chromatic Dragons" (Mike McArtor) sneaks into the lead because a) chromatic dragons are cool, and b) the artwork was great and really brought the article together.
333: I liked "Scale Mail" because the Koga wrote in. After that, the issue was a series of near-misses for me. "The Demonomicon of Iggwilv: Fraz-Urb'luu" (James Jacobs) was fabulously interesting but too much. First off, Fraz-Urb'luu is a silly name. I know, you didn't pick it, but I kept reading "Fraz-U" as "Frau", and it's hard to take a demon prince seriously when you're picturing him as a German governess. And the article was too long. An epic stat block AND artifact AND PrC AND new monster AND a map? How much detail do we need on Frau Urbluu? It was just overwhelming.
"Noble Born" (Keith Baker) had the opposite problem. Keith took a great idea and made it into a great, useful, and inspiring article, but as the old lady said, where's the crunch? One feat just didn't seem like enough. I'd have preferred 2-5 new feats to balance out the great fluff.
"Relics of Faerun" (George Swan) - yay! FR relics are cool. But I didn't like the artwork, and the messy background was way too distracting. I like textured backgrounds, but not ink splotches, please. I know, I know, you're working on it.
335: My copy of #335 is autographed by Troy Taylor. :-D Weirdly enough, I have to mention First Watch (by everyone) this month, because I loved the format. Being able to scan across the top line for a fascinating cover, then drop my gaze to read the bite-sized bit of info, was great. Well done.
Medesha's Thanks But No Thanks Picks
299: Michael John Tresca did a fantastic job with his "Knights" article. The level of detail and the balance between fluff and crunch was great. But it's just too much. Too much to read and absorb in one sitting, too much detail unless you're running a knights campaign, too much on one subject to make the magazine a "must-buy." I don't think there have been Campaign Components in a while, and I think that was a wise decision.
314: "Channeling the Elements" (Spencer Kornhaber). Nothing at all wrong with the writing or the mechanics, but 4 PrCs in 6 pages is just not enough room to do them justice. I like crunch, yes, but fluff is important too. Balance! I need to know the whys and wherefores behind a piece of crunch to appreciate it fully (and it makes it easier to understand it, and thus easier to work into my game).
315: "Greyhawk: Regional Feats of Oerth" (Erik Mona). So I've whined a bit about lack of crunch in some articles, but jeeze Louise, four solid pages of feats with one slim sidebar to break it up? My eyes! It's way too much. Sorry, Erik.
316: "Under Command: Mushroom Archery." Most Under Command sections are adaptable to regular D&D games. This one, not so much. The mushroom tile map was nice, though.
317: "Xenophilia: 4 New Exotic Races" (Dean Poisso). Great art, great concepts, solid, well-balanced article. But races are just too much work to incorporate into a setting, even homebrew. Of all the campaign components that require work to integrate, races take SO much more effort than, say, PrCs or spells. 4 new races in one issue was over the top.
320: "Sage Advice", because Skip Williams kept running with the "you can't use natural weapons in a flurry" even though I hate that rule. Ok, ok, constructive feedback. "Dragon Kingdoms" by Mike Mearls (my author for favorite article this issue, heh). It was nice, but not overwhelming. There was no, "Wow, I'd never thought of that!" moment, and the two solid pages of text (56-57) made my eyes hurt. Possibly a few extra pages and some crunch sidebars wouuld have livened it up.
323: The Big Change Issue. "Samurai vs. Knight" (John Clements). Like "Knights", this article was overwhelming in its detail, methodical (often exhaustive) research, and focus. But this wasn't a game article, it was a history lesson, and unless you cared about the subject in the first place, it was just too much to absorb. Plus, a two page art spread?! It's beautiful, I don't deny it, but totally unnecessary. I know you don't do that anymore, but don't do it again (unless it's a hot medusa chick).
324: "Magic Traps" (Joshua Cole). The writing is fine but the subject is mundane. Nothing here caught my interest, I'm sorry to say. And I know you're not doing it anymore, but can I just say I'm glad you've moved away from the utilitarian "oodles of white space" look? Thank you.
325: "Artifacts of the Pharaohs" (Kevin Hamilton). Too short! Loved the items but there was not enough backstory. I want to hear cute tales and interesting tidbits about the originals.
326: Umm...can I say "Under Command" cause I don't play the miniatures game? Seriously, there wasn't anything I really disliked about this issue. Except maybe that the cover was too dark.
327: "Tomb Raider" (Kyla Ward). A wealth of information that was hard to absorb because it wasn't translated into game terms. Even a paragraph at the end of each section going, "In your game, this could mean blah blah blah" would have made it more palatable.
328: "The Roman Legionnaire" (Troy Taylor. Ack! Sorry,Troy!) But the article underwhelmed me. I suppose the equipment list is useful if you're making a character in a hurry. There was barely any historical information, which might have been interesting. The stat recommendations were somewhat obvious. It needed a few more pages, or a reordering of priorities, or both.
329: "Mesopotamian Mythos" (David Schwartz). Good article, very interesting. But did we need writeups on ALL the gods? 11 pages, two of them full art, seemed a little much. I would have liked it more if it focused on 3-5 gods, giving a more detailed writeup of each, with a bit of crunch tied to each section.
331: There was nothing I really disliked in this isse.
332: "Where Did You Go To College?" (John E. Ling Jr.) Who is this hack? Seriously, don't hire him again. You'll only encourage him.
333: Nothing I threw out outright in this issue.
335: "New Olamn Bard College" (Elaine Cunningham). I love FR, and the article was well written, but...I dunno. There was no crunch, first of all. It was so "heavy", second of all - I like FR and play in it, but some of the history was totally incomprehensible to me. Not my favorite piece.
Hope these boards don't filter out "ass."
So GenCon was pretty awesometastic this year. I met a lot of great people, scored a lot of great contacts, and had a lot of great fun. I also got much blackmail material on certain editors of certain magazines that shall certainly remain nameless, because I'd never dare use it. :-p
One of the best moments was the "Writing for Dungeon" seminar which was both fun and informative, and let to the meeting of great minds - i.e. myself (Amber E. Scott), Troy Taylor, and John E. Ling (Zherog on these boards). We hung out for a bit, traded tips, walked around and had a good time. And, of course, recorded the event for posterity:
Troy on the left, John on the right, me behind the camera. I mean, me in the middle. So yeah, it was cool.
So Cait and Raccoon left Pylas Talaer behind and sailed on to the mysterious continent of Xen'drik. Some weeks later they saw the jungle-shrouded coastline dimly through a steady fall of misty rain. Bidding farewell to Captain Bargaz and the Crawdad crew, they went ashore and found the villagers all mourning and frightened. Their matriarch had been killed and their Zombie Master was missing!
What followed was an almost straight-up Torrents of Dread from issue #114. I had to strengthen a few encounters, but for the most part it played out really well.
Since Cait and Raccoon were a fairly decent level I added the optional giant squid. Well, it just about tore them apart. They took severe hits and were forced to retreat. Fortunately Raccoon has an item that lets him charm undead, so they had lots of zombie followers that the squid ripped to pieces while our heroes ran. They came back more adequately prepared and took the squid out fairly quickly.
I replaced the koprus with a pair of 5th-level psion Inspired, who were on a dastardly secret mission. One was controlling the bullywugs through her use of psionic dominate dorje. Cait got dominated and pumped Raccoon full of arrows, but in the end they both triumphed!
After restoring order to the village and earning the respect and friendship of the villagers, Cait and Raccoon took a few days to recover on the tropical island. Then a small village boy came up from the beach one morning to report that a large raftlike ship had beached a mile away, and off of it had come a withered elven woman wearing a mask and a host of guards. This, of course, was Demise and her Emerald Claw soldiers, looking for the hidden treasure that Cait and Raccoon are after. So our intrepid heroes...did something I'll type up in a bit, because it's long! But Torrents of Dread was a really cool adventure and I enjoyed running it (and my husband enjoyed playing in it).
Ambro, on the New/Refitted Dragon Impressions thread wrote:
Ecology—Chokers. I love the idea of the Ecology articles, but more often than not it leaves me thinking “Someone got paid to write this.” Too often the ecologies are just so generic. One of the few actually inspiring things in this article was the mention that Choker numbers are increasing and no one knows why. But that was it. How about a For Your Campaign sidebar with some campaign/adventure ideas pulling on these tidbits in these articles? I mean I see these Ecology articles as ‘This monster is cool and here are the reasons why and ways to use it.’ At least that is how I wish it would be.
As someone who has some ecology articles coming out (and hopes to write more in the future), I found this really interesting. I'd like to add more of this type thing to any future articles the editors are kind and benevolent enough to let me write. Are there any more opinions on Ecology articles and what they should contain?
Keep in mind the new Dragon slant is to make the Ecology articles more for players than DMs (e.g. how to kill them and stuff), which is why adventure ideas will likely be vetoed (but I could maybe sneak stuff in for crafty DMs to use).
-Amber E. Scott
*hopes no-one saw her misspell "write"* Gah!