|Liz Courts Webstore Gninja Minion|
|Erik Freund RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16|
I just recently re-upped my supporter status at En-World this week and downloaded this little ditty. I haven't read enough of it to post up a full on review. But THUS far (20pages in or so) I'm impressed. I'll post a follow-up when I'm done reading it, since "it's pretty cool" probably won't do for getting folks to pony up twelve bones.
|Russell Morrissey EN Publishing|
|Russell Morrissey Publisher, EN Publishing|
Endzeitgeist, thanks for the review, even if you did not find the product to your liking. That said, if I may offer a defense of some of the points you disliked:
We designed the book with a focus on handling naval adventures quickly and making it easy for players to pick up the rules and figure things out. It was produced primarily for groups whose gaming style is more "we're here for a fun adventure" than "we like things being realistic." That's why in some parts rather than offering specific mechanics for niche things like tracking food and water, or having precise hit point ratings for various ship components, we instead offer suggestions for GMs on what sorts of dramatic events might occur, and keep the stats simpler and easy to track.
As you pointed out, the book indeed started as just a system for exciting and fast ship-to-ship combat. For a dedicated nautical campaign, I acknowledge that it might lack the simulationist fidelity some gamers desire, but I think that it shines for campaigns where the party takes a naval voyage, and the GM wants to be able to have pirates attack without everyone needing to spend an hour learning a new set of rules.
I admit to a bit of bias in my preferred gaming style, and I recognize that some people like things crunchier. But I think we do a good job offering a variety of fun options for ship design and naval combat. With the mix of ship designs, PC tactics, and naval terrain, it's certainly possible to have a whole campaign without having ship-to-ship encounters become staid.
I'm currently having our layout guy make an excerpt that we can share for free, so people can take a look at the system and see whether the level of complexity is right for them.
As to a few of the more precise points:
We let the skill Profession (sailor) help for the various officer roles, but we didn't want to base everything on it. Our rationale was two-fold. First, technically Profession is supposed to be a skill about how good you are at making _money_ with a job, not necessarily how good you are; Profession (merchant) means you're good at convincing people to buy stuff, but it's separate from Diplomacy which is used for convincing people of things in general.
Second, it's kind of a skill-point tax in a naval campaign if you require every PC to take Profession (sailor), so instead we tied officer roles to different ability scores, so PCs of any class could gravitate to roles that suited them. As for Command checks, we didn't want to create a whole new skill, and neither Diplomacy nor Intimidate _quite_ fit the bill. So we kind of took a cue from the Leadership feat and just based it on your level.
Regarding various magical defenses for ships, yes we deviated from the rules of both Pathfinder and D&D in order to come up with a way to mitigate fireball. The narrative explanation is that ships are endowed with a bit of a soul because we think of them as entities, and thus any spellcaster aboard on can use that essence to defend the crew. Otherwise it's quite anticlimactic to have naval combat end 800 feet away when one side's wizard just annihilates the entire opposing crew with area spells.
Should such magic be available for castles, or for armies? Yeah, probably. Before directing our ZEITGEIST adventure path I worked on War of the Burning Sky, and we ad-hoc'ed some magic rituals the opposing armies used to make it so infantry wasn't wholly useless. This then _raises_ the value of PCs, who are the only ones tough enough to fight their way to the ritual, disrupt it, and open up the hostile force to magical bombardment.
I do dispute your statement that the rules work better for 4e than for PF. The only thing that the rules really take from 4e is the "item cost by level" scale, since it provided a handy way to balance costs of different ship enhancements. But for both PF and 4e, this book is intended to be a stand-alone system with guidelines for how to handle the interconnection between "large scale ship combat" and "small scale personal combat."
Why do all ships have AC -3? Because anything bigger than a rowboat is basically the size of a colossal creature (-8 AC) and they don't exactly dodge (Dex 0 = -5 AC). The challenge is dealing enough damage to actually do anything meaningful.
Here we give guidelines for how much damage a PC has to deal in one hit to actually harm a vessel. Now sure, if the character has several minutes to himself, and he wants to hack away at the hull, sure, wood has hardness 5 and 10 hp per inch of thickness; a ship hull might be 3 inches to 30 inches thick. But we care more about when a raging barbarian tries to smash a hole into the side of a boat in one hit.
Ultimately, our goal was a system that let you handle naval combat WITHOUT having to worry about details to the same level that is needed in personal combat. We wanted to preserve Pirates of the Caribbean style action despite some of the world-breaking magic that exists in D&D and PF.
That said, I fully intend to take another look at the rules in a year or so, and if you have suggestions for things to improve or change, I'd be interested to hear them. And again, thank you for the review, and for encouraging me to reconsider some of the choices we made with the product.
Thank you for the civil discussion regarding my points of criticism!
To reiterate some of my complaints - I did not object to the lack of a skill-tax, but to the impossibility to specialize in the system by expending resources (like skills). I wholeheartedly concur in the point that tying command to diplomacy and intimidate/bluff wouldn't have worked.
As written, though, there's no benefit for actually being a commander in contrast to being a dilettante.
As to the ad-hoc-ing of magical rituals: I am not opposed to the concept per se, but when tied to a campaign/provided in such a context, they require precise ways to being offset. Why not provide a magical commander's post for the ship's wizard, for example, to extend spells (like ones that grant resistance to fire etc.) over a clearly defined area? In a module, I'd not mind "winging it" - in a crunch-supplement intended for varying campaigns/system though...yeah, not there.
As to why I mentioned that it works better for 4th edition - its design-paradigm is closer to it; No CMB/CMDs, no vehicle-rules, special, context-dependent actions - all things rarely seen in Pathfinder, though the latter actually are some of the components I enjoy about 4th edition.
As to ship AC: What about special materials, adamantine hulls, defensive enchantments? The true issue here, as you've acknowledged, would be dealing enough damage. And you're right, damaging spells are good candidates here. But take a look at item hp/hardness and their rules - you'll be hard-pressed at demolishing a ship at 800 feet away, at least sans batteries of fireball-slinging apprentices.
Which also brings me to another issue - I *get* the design-intent here and in certain contexts, it works, yes - but as soon as you enter magic in the fray, the required level of detail suddenly rises: What if frostballs are thrown at the ship? Plate-defense? Cloudkill? What about lightning bolts?
By opting out of the systems in favor of the 3 strikes and the magical defense abstractions, you've essentially deprived the system of any chance of working in a meaningful way as soon as magic enters the fray, because the spare information given simply does not cover enough to make its substitution system work with the myriad options available.
Add to that the aforementioned logic gripes resulting from the implementation of a separate system and its options (which could be explained as rituals in 4th ed., but not in Pathfinder) and the implications to the overall world and we have some grievous issues here.
That being said, I'm still a huge fan of your modules and consider you a talented designer, so thank you for elaborating your design decisions in a civilized manner! Looking forward to reading more from you!