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Kobold

Kobold Cleaver's page

RPG Superstar 9 Season Marathon Voter. Pathfinder Society Member. 19,745 posts (32,639 including aliases). 7 reviews. 2 lists. 1 wishlist. 3 Pathfinder Society characters. 95 aliases.



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Great System—Hard to Learn

****( )

I ordered this game with very high expectations. Some time had been spent on forums beforehand, learning the rules as best I could, hearing stories of others' experiences, and I had been absolutely certain that this was the game for me, that it would fast become one of my favorite systems. I was pretty hyped.

In a lot of ways, I was right to be. Mouse Guard is an extremely clever game with a lot of divergences from standard roleplaying games. However, I want to caution you: Just because it uses fewer numbers than Pathfinder doesn't mean it's any simpler. This is a very challenging game to learn, particularly for the Game Master.

Pros

  • System Encourages Allowing Your Mice to Fail: In Mouse Guard, failure doesn't halt the story, it advances it. You advance skills through both successes and failures, and are encouraged to use your Traits (basically personality facets, like "Young" or "Bold" or "Cowardly" or "Kind") both to hinder and help your rolls—not only to get those failures so you can advance, but to gain the checks you need to be more active during the Player's Turn. The Player's Turn is basically the part of the game where the GM steps back and the players get to decide where they want to go. Failure doesn't result in a flat-out "nothing happens", either. It can branch off the story with plot "twists", or it can simply apply conditions, like your mouse getting angry. Failure is a part of the game as inseparable as the mice themselves.

  • Roleplaying is in the Rules: Remember those traits I mentioned? Well, aside from using them to both boost and hinder your roles, mice also have Goals, Beliefs and Instincts to guide them. Acting on those gives them additional benefits, so players are encouraged to play their mice true to their core values and basic emotional reflexes. Even though half the game is essentially a "railroad portion" for the GM to lead the players on, everything is very character-driven. Fleshing out your character is pretty literally how you advance and succeed in the game. Conflict resolution is handled almost by committee, with the GM and players agreeing on "compromises" that match how the rolling went.

  • Lovely Art, Lovely Setting: Needless to say, David Peterson is a master of his craft. The book art is gorgeous, and the setting is both dark and optimistic. Life may be hard, but the Mouse Guard are an idealistic, heroic organization, albeit with the occasional bad apple. This isn't Game of Thrones. It's also definitely no Redwall. Whereas Redwall modifies the world to suit the mice, Mouse Guard has always been keenly aware of a little mouse's chances in a world with floods, snakes, foxes, kestrels, bullfrogs, and worse things. Not to mention stinking weasels! The setting breathes and sings, and the GM has plenty of room to develop it and make it their own.

  • The System is Fun!: Seriously, this is a neat, very fast system. There is no pausing to research how many dice of damage a fireball deals. Everything comes down to a few d6s and, in the case of conflicts, what's basically a more strategic game of rock-paper-scissors-mouse. All conflicts are settled the same way, meaning an argument, a chase, and a battle all follow the same basic rules. Everything encourages creativity—if you choose to Defend, you explain how you're raising your shield against the snake's fangs, or backpedaling in your arguments. If you choose to Attack, you explain how you're marching resolutely through the rainstorm, or driving a well-spoken point home. Killing isn't the only solution, and often, it's not the best one at all. Murderhobo mice don't live long.

  • Character Creation is Awesome: Character creation is handled as a survey, asking you questions like, "Do you fear wolves?" to gauge what skills you have. It's very fun to do in a group, and a great way to build up a concept from scratch. This is the best creation system I've ever seen, and the first I've really found to be inherently enjoyable.

  • The Box Set Is Worth It: At least in my opinion. The cards are beautiful and very easy to understand, the screen is lovely, the map is handy (if a bit hard to read due to its pretty cursive), and the sheets are incredibly useful. The bonus missions are very nice, too. If you can afford it, and plan on playing much in person, get the box set. If you want to play online, or only on occasion, get the book. The box set is better for campaigns, or for one-shots like conventions where the rules are new to everyone.

    Cons

  • System is Complicated: Unfortunately, the greatest point against this game is the organization of the system. It's already a difficult system to learn, with tons of moving parts to keep track of. The book sadly fails to ease the burden, and occasionally makes it worse with outright errors in the text. It's sort of like playing Minecraft—if you don't have anything to walk you through it, some parts are just nonsensical. I have yet to meet someone who can really give a logical explanation for Weather Watcher, for instance, or for exactly how the GM's Turn works if the player wants to do something. The book is in dire need of more examples, more explanations, and it doesn't give them. If I hadn't found some rather mixed examples and explanations on the Mouse Guard forums and here, I would have been totally lost. The bonus missions helped a little, but still left me in doubt. This is a real problem. I get tired of having to look up basic rules like "How do you recover Traits" or "How the hell does Weather Watcher work?". I really hesitated to give Mouse Guard a full four stars because of it.

    I probably should have split that into multiple bullet points, but there you go. Confusing, poorly-organized system, and not enough examples to help us through it. This really could have used some playtesting. A lot of playtesting, from gamers like me who'd never played before.

  • Very Hard for New Players: A lot of the rules, like "accepting failures", the GM's Turn, and actually sabotaging your own rolls, are very hard for players to swallow. I've heard it takes two missions for most of them to get that. I haven't had the chance to play a second mission with the same group, but that may be true. Still, it's rough on new folk. This is not a game that will make your average "we have been playing D&D for eighteen years and by God we aren't going to stop now" group happy, and it may well be rough on new players, too—I haven't checked. Certainly Evil Lincoln thinks that newbie players actually have an easier time than d20 veterans. Regardless, for those interested in experimenting and willing to bend their idea of how an RPG should work, I think they'll have a good time.

    All-in-all, it really is a very good game. Maybe I wouldn't have so much trouble if I was using the screen for an in-person game. Then again, maybe I'd be having more if I didn't have hours to spare between posts to look up obscurely-placed rules on Fate Points, which I swear have been split up between three places n this book.

    Mouse Guard is a great system, but the GM has to work very hard to understand it well enough to run. Like the order of the Mouse Guard itself, this is no place for the weak of heart.

    If you're still curious, here's a thread about the Mouse Guard/Burning Wheel system that you also might find useful.


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    Every Character I Have Ever Wanted To Play Is Now Ruined

    *****

    Oh my god there are not enough stars in the sky to give this product.

    Note: Text in italics should not be ta~~——~——-

    In The Company of Gelatinous Cubes is really quite splendid. This new, fully PFS-legal race is the mark of Paizo's new product line. I am very excited to see the next installment, which, from my understanding, will be centered on an all-new bugbear paragon class. Even aside from the full context, though, the PDF is a real treat.

    Have you ever wanted a guide to roleplaying a sentient cube of slime? Have you ever wanted to be able to roleplay solely by drinking five gallons of mountain dew and ordering Mexican? Have you ever wanted access to coded sneak peeks within the article revealing the iconics chosen to star in the upcoming follow-up to the Burnt Offerings play, set in the events of Hook Mountain Massacre and again performed by da Vinci Arts Middle School? Well, you finally have everything you'll ever need!

    The gelatinous cube is hilarious and clever. It captures the spirit of exactly what you expect. You can play a mute, cubical ooze that communicates with its "bonded humanoid" empathically. You'll have to get used to a little bit less agency—you can't talk and have to make Will saves just to disobey your bonded humanoid's orders, and Will is not a great save for the Gelatinous Cube Paragon Class, but you'll be given tons of crazy options that give you a real niche. Grab onto people's weapons as they stab you! Vomit old meals as a ranged attack! Disable traps! Sneak attack! Be the best at skills! Use stealth to—oh s++! he's back, gotta run. Where'd that son of a b%%&& go?!

    ...anyways. You aren't gonna get to be a cube wizard. Or a cube anything. You'll be a cube. You'll be the best adorable steadily-growing cube of death and destruction you can be. This is exactly what it says on the tin, and it's beautiful. I actually want a second installment giving more ooze ability options, more cube feats.

    And according to the author, this document is actually a bit of a prologue to the next Pathfinder AP. I don't generally pay attention to those, but now I may have to!


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    Turns Out Yelling "SCIENCE!" Is Pretty Fun

    ****( )

    So I was initially leery. Steampunk has never been something I'm huge about. But I played in a game at Paizocon, and it was a ton of fun. I didn't like vikati at first, but Varrak the vikati swordsman won me over.
    Charlatans are very interesting. I have yet to use them very much, but they seem to be a very complex class to balance. They get powerful spells like vanish as cantrips, and a seemingly at-will version of bardic performance, but certain limitations seem to render them quite suitable. When the charlatan spends most of the game being completely subtle only to leap out at the last minute and shrink the rail gun, you know there's something interesting here. The art is beautiful--I wasn't surprised to see that Hugo Solis was to thank for that--and I love the little snippets of fiction.

    Sadly, it's not all good. Kobolds are inherently spiteful creatures, especially when we realize we are not as pro at reviews as we'd like to be. One major problem is the complexity of the spark class. Seriously. The spark class takes about 12 pages to explain, versus the charlatan's 3-4. Still, I like the disciplines, and it's clearly very fun to play once you understand it.

    I still wish there were goblins. I think there's a lot of potential for fun with goblins. I house-ruled them into my game as gnomes an especially volatile spark experimented on, and I have yet to regret it. Goblins are funny enough with mere torches and oil flasks. Give them kegs of gunpowder and see what happens. Also, goblin sparks. "I INVENTED A NEW KIND OF FIRE!" indeed. ;D

    I'd also like to see the exploding dice variant, but that's kind of wishful thinking on my part--"exploding dice" has always been my pet mechanic, ushered into every game I can fit it into.

    Finally, I would have liked to see a bit more information on dwarves. There's some sort of Great Machine they serve? Sounds like it needs at least a little bit of elaboration.

    For the reasons above, and because I hate to give extreme ratings when I'm barely qualified to give any, I'm giving this a 4/5. Great work!


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    Wow.

    *****

    There are no faults with the fanzine, at all, except that it needs to be released more often than once a year! The comics are funny, the articles interesting, the illustrations beautiful! I recommend this to every person on a D&D forum. Great work!


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    Great work!

    *****

    Starts out with a beautiful cover. This rivals the work of Dragon! It goes on to include a handsome article about the Kitsune, which is very well-written. They even post the 3.5 stats elsewhere, so as to make sure not to alienate us grognards. The dinosaur article was awesome, beyond a doubt. The oath article was cool, as was the interview, and overall, I'd say that KQ has more than surpassed this issue.


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