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Wilderness of Mirrors 002 Edition
by Cédric P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/09/2014 22:29:22
I think I prefer the original edition with the planet code-name roles. The graphic design and the layout was definitively better.
But this version work well. It just less sexy.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Wilderness of Mirrors 002 Edition
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Wield
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/03/2014 08:19:27
Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/07/03/tabletop-review-wield/<-
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Wield is one of those Kickstarter successes that just takes you by surprise. Looking for only three thousand dollars, Wield brought in nearly 1,100 backers and raised over twenty-seven grand! Not bad for a little game that could be yours for as low as five dollars. I know I was a backer. I mean, at worst I would be out five dollars and I’ve been looking for a game similar to Bloodlust, except in English. Hey, I may speak/read/write French, but very few of my friends do, and Bloodlust is only in francais. Wield definitely felts inspired by Bloodlust in terms of the core theme, but it differs greatly in both mechanics and demographics. Bloodlust for example is very dark and filled with mature themes while Wield can be for any age as it’s extremely setting-lite. Mechanics-wise…well, I can’t say I cared for Wield, and we’ll take look why below.

So what is Wield about? Well think of Elric and Stormbringer, Cyric and Godsbane, and other fantasy character wielding an intelligent magical weapon. Wield takes you into such a world, but instead of playing the hero who wields the magical blade or powerful mystic amulet, you will actually be playing as the self-aware item itself! That’s such a fun concept. The item can be anything from the usual weapon or armor to something more outlandish like a musical instrument, coin, or pet carrier. The only limit is your imagination.

There are comprehensive and detailed character creation rules for your item, known as a vatcha. Like any protagonists in a tabletop RPG, the vatcha have a goal to accomplish and will go through several thrilling adventures until they meet it or are destroyed. Character creation rules are easy as you choose an item you want to be, a goal to have and a way that your ancient artifact can be destroyed. Then you have to come up with a connection with each other vatcha being played. This creates a shared background and some potential story hooks for the person running the game. You should have a character up and running in ten minutes unless you and your friends are stumped for a connection between the flaming shield of doom and an enchanted mattress cover.

Things start to get a little more complicated when heroes come into play. You see, each vatcha is wielded by a hero, but a player does not play both their vatcha and its hero. No, instead, you play your vatcha and the vatcha of SOMEONE ELSE’S hero. This creates more potential for storytelling as well as conflict. While this is an interesting idea in theory, most people don’t like to play more than one character at a time. Sure there are exceptions like Dungeon Crawl Classics where the norm is to start out playing two-three characters per player, but the majority of games feel best when one person plays one character. Wield realizes asking a person to play two very different characters, one human and one a magical item, can be difficult so it suggests using two different voices or to have the hero card in front of your mouth when speaking as the hero, so everyone knows which one is talking/acting. That’s totally fine and it works for me. The problem I have is that this can lead to PvP conflict and that rarely turns out well for a gaming party. If player A wants the hero to do something the vatcha does not (or vice versa), which will probably happen more often than not, this can lead to some groups getting catty or spiteful towards each other. It could even lead to the hero trying to destroy the vatcha or the vatcha dispatching with the hero and looking for a new pawn to wield it. This is either going to be a good thing or a very bad thing, depending on the makeup of your group. If one or more player is immature or treats tabletop gaming as SERIOUS BUSINESS, this can turn out poorly indeed. If however, everyone remembers it’s just a silly fun game, these kinds of inter-character conflict can become a lot of fun and allow for memorable adventures. Just be sure you know your troupe well before deciding to play Wield.

Another alternative is to let Fate (the GM) play the Heroes as it would any other NPCs. This is a little more traditional and may work better as Fate does create the heroes. Otherwise when the heroes are handed out randomly to the Players, it’s like getting a pregenerated character as you would at a convention or starter set. It’s harder to become emotionally attached to a pregen, so some people playing Wield might not enjoy playing someone else’s creation. At the same time, heroes are actually meant to be disposable in Wield as the vatcha are the main attraction in this game. A Vatcha will go through several heroes as the game goes on, especially if you are playing a series of adventures or a campaign. Of course, a vatcha disposing of its hero may lead to hurt feelings by the person playing the hero, but again, it all comes back to making sure your group has the right mental makeup to play Wield. It’s definitely a niche game best left in the hands of a specific audience.

Another interesting aspect of Wield is that neither heroes nor vatcha level up, gain new abilities or advance in the same way one usually thinks of in a role playing game. In fact, both will stay the same from character creation to character death. This is definitely a game about role-playing and not min/maxing, which I like. Of course, people do like to see some sort of change or progression in the game and that’s where powers and control come into play.

Each vatcha can have up to three domains of powers. They don’t have to have three mind you, and generally having a single domain instead of two or three can be more helpful if you want to specialize in a specific power set instead of being multi-faced. Think of it as extremely skilled or a jack of all trades, master of none. Now the vatchas have these powers but they can’t directly use them. That’s what the heroes are for. They need a human patsy to channel the powers. However the more power/powers given to the hero, the less control the vatcha has over its would-be patsy. Too much power and the hero can take control, as well as learn the way to truly destroy the vatcha. It’s a very interesting give and take to be sure and with the right party makeup, Wield offers some unique and wondrous role-playing opportunities.

Now we come to the mechanics, and it is where the game falls apart in my opinion. You generally roll 2d6 to resolve things, but there are also sorts of ways to get bonus dice such as if your personality, background or vatcha power are relevant to the roll. A couple pages later, it mentions you can get up to two more bonus dice for proper equipment for a task. So your roll can get up to 7d6. That’s fine. So is the ladder of command. You have no roll for easy tasks, a target of 6 for a hard tasks, 12 for heroic, 18 for epic and 25 (shouldn’t that be 24) for impossible. Again, this is a fine scale as well. The problem is going to be remembering and justifying the bonus dice you get for each roll. I think that you’re going to see people forget more often than not all the options for bonus dice until after they have rolled. Challenge will also be highly depending on how Lax or tough Fate is as a GM.

Combat is where things get pretty weird and this is where the game will either really intrigue you or really turn you off. Unfortunately it did the latter for me. Every Player has to decide to attack or defend. You can’t do both. Fate counts to five and then if you are going to attack, you have to point at who you want to attack with one to five fingers outstretched. If you are going to defend, you place an arm across your chest with one to five fingers outstretched. The number of fingers outstretched means the difficulty roll you are willing to make. The five levels are the same for tasks (0, 6, 12, 18, 25). Now everyone has to do this at the exact same time, which can lead to a bit of a cluster. Then after everyone’s choices are revealed, you can choose to switch from an attack to a defense roll. Then all the rolling starts. However, there is no initiative in this game, so instead of a carefully laid out turn of events, Wield becomes a little too chaotic for my liking, with everyone rolling and resolving at the same time. It could also be that I didn’t care for the examples or descriptive text in this section. Nothing seems to flow well or read smoothly in the mechanics part of the book. I think there are a LOT of easy ways to improve things, and that Wield will be one of those games that lives or dies based on how well a local GM house rules the thing. I think if the team behind Wield had spent a little more time defining the rules (20% of the rulebook is fiction) and devoted some more pages to it, a lot of the potential for mishaps could have been easily avoided. Wield is a very rules lite game, which I enjoy, but this is one of those times where I feel combat could have actually used an overhaul.

So Wield is one of those games where I’m not sure if I really like it or not. I love the concept and character creation aspects of the game, but playing the game can be a real mess and utterly confusing for younger or casual gamers. Because of the high chance for PvP issues, it’s also a game that should only be played by people whose feelings don’t hurt easily and who can remember that a RPG is something to experience, not something to WIN. I think once the Wield Companion comes out and I have a lot more time with the game under my belt I can give Wield a definitive thumbs up or down. Right now I’ll say “thumbs in the middle” as it’s a very unique product and if you pick it up and dislike it, you’re only out five dollars. Compare that to money spent on Pathfinder or some other game that requires multiple 30-40 dollar rulebook purchases. My advice is give the electronic version of Wield a try and see if it is right for you and your friends. If not, at least you have an interesting curiosity piece in your collection.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Wield
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The Flux
by James C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/26/2014 09:03:34
This is an amazing game, or should I say the glue for many different games. As one of the reviewers confessed, I to have gaming ADD and I own more games than I will ever play in my lifetime. I have always wanted to have a way to play the different games and settings without having to keep starting up new campaigns. This is a brilliant concept that will allow for some really cool Eternal Champion style play.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Flux
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All the Days of My Children Hospital
by James J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/18/2014 16:21:01
It's a pretty simple party game, 12 pages of rules and a character sheet. What it does in such a small space makes for a very dynamic game.
A character is a thumbnail sketch of a personality. It takes all of 5 minutes to set this game up. Generate three true things about your character, and two secrets for a hero and villain each. I love the dynamic.

What is required is a GM / Director that understands scene structure, and a pile of players that understand Ad-lib /narrative style Yes, and.. type of narrative play.

Not for the usual Dungeon bash crowd, there is no combat whatsoever. But I really liked the way this was executed.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
All the Days of My Children Hospital
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Houses of the Blooded
by Thomas S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/17/2014 10:00:27
Well done and well written. If your looking for a game of intrigue, betrayal, and revenge this game fits the bill.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Houses of the Blooded
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Cat (Revised & Expanded)
by ash d. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/20/2014 20:07:08
Great concept, but...

I've been playing this occasionally with friends, and the idea is brilliant - playing as cats (with every stereotype from moggy to inbred pedigree) is brilliant fun. The problem is... Well, the rules kinda suck.

They just about hold together for general gameplay, but you quickly hit situations that make the rules seem unfinished - you can spend magic points, but there's no mention of how you recover them. You can give other characters traits as rewards, but can't gain them otherwise, and so on - there's a few typos as well. If this was a first draft, it'd be understandable, but billing it as 'revised' when there are both rules and basic formatting errors is a bit off.

The setting is great, and I'd love to give the author money for an Actually Really Revised edition, but as it stands you'd be better off nicking the campaign idea and using a rules-light generic system like Fate Accelerated.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Cat (Revised & Expanded)
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Wicked Fantasy (Full Book)
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/18/2014 17:51:03
Wicked Fantasy is a really bad Pathfinder RPG race book.

What it is instead is a really good fantasy RPG book.

And that's why you should absolutely buy it.

Let's break it down.

(Up front, I've met John and enjoyed playing RPGs with him a few times, interviewed him about Wicked Fantasy and other projects on Out of Character, and I backed this Kickstarter.)

The first Wicked Fantasy "race supplements" came out some time ago. I got copies of them in the DrivethruRPG Featured Reviewer queue, I read them, and didn't review them. The reason why was because I couldn't see how the race described could fit into a Pathfinder game. D&D3 and 3.5 were pretty generic, but not completely so - Pathfinder is much less generic and has a much more clear aesthetic for its "classic fantasy races". In the context of its classes and world (Golarion), it makes sense and is fine. So the best "new elves!" or "new orcs!" supplements for Pathfinder didn't stray too much from the Pathfinder aesthetic, whatever new ground it broke was right next door to Pathfinder, so I could put the "new orcs!" into the game world I bought from a different publisher last week, or in 1986, and it would be fine. To really be a functional product in this sense you need to not to be too different.

The orcs of Wicked Fantasy were so different that I couldn't envision putting them into most of the fantasy worlds I liked. Just try envisioning them in the Forgotten Realms, for example, one of my all-time loves. There are many good things about the Forgotten Realms, but thematic boldness sure as hell isn't one of them. Wicked Fantasy orcs would stand out like a sore thumb in such an environment. Similarly in quasi-modernistic Golarion, faux-noir Eberron, or gloom-and-doom Midnight. It didn't mean Wicked Fantasy orcs were bad, it just meant that to tell if they were good, I'd have to work up a whole fantasy world around them and I'm a broken down old man, not a young, vigorous gamer like the kids today, I don't have time for all that. So I reluctantly set them aside - as really exciting and interesting as they were, I just couldn't fairly review them.

A few months later I got word the Kickstarter was coming out. I lamented this indecision of mine regarding the quality of Wicked Fantasy material to my wife who said I was being stupid, "You just said you really liked it, so put some money in it, what's the issue?" She's always right about these things.

So I dropped enough cash on it to get the hardcopy, shut my eyes and waited. (This is the best way to handle Kickstarters by the way.)

When I finally got the full Wicked Fantasy book, everything changed. Now I could see the orcs in the context of a fully fleshed out world - these orcs make thematic sense next to these humans, these halflings, these gnomes. Indeed, the full Wicked Fantasy collection actually gives you a fully fledged fantasy world that, with the community creation rules already in the D&D and Pathfinder DMGs, is absolutely playable.

It's interesting seeing a fantasy world presented through the lens of its races. "Race" isn't the best word for all this stuff, but "species" doesn't work because that's scientific and these worlds aren't, and anyway you can totally get your elf girlfriend pregnant, so IDK. D&D calls it "race" so that's what we ended up calling it. In Wicked Fantasy, the traits of each of the races are intertwined with their origins, their legends, their history and most importantly to play, their cultures. This is a game about cultures, and characters who emerge from these cultures will be EXTREMELY fun to play with each other.

That's really what it comes down to. Wicked Fantasy is still about being adventurers - still about going into dungeons or across wildernesses - still about battling monsters and bandits - but the motivations of the characters become more fleshed out by a choice that normally just adjusts a few ability scores (death to ability scores) and changes your appearance.

The ten races covered are humans, elves, gnomes, dwarves, orcs, ratmen, kobolds, gnolls and goblins.

Here are a couple of examples that should give you some idea of why I see these cultures as so fruitful for actual Pathfinder/D&D3 play:

Humans value philosophy and knowledge - they labored under many tyrannies until they liberated themselves, created city-states and a great elected Senate to rule, along with controlling the money supply and other modernizations. However, human lands now face corruption from without and from within. They need heroes to revitalize or challenge their values. Human clerics and inquisitors may champion philosophy and intellect instead of veneration of the gods.

Halflings (called "haffuns") fled a terrible underground menace two hundred years ago and almost instantly insinuated themselves into surface society as servants and dogsbodies. They value social (and sometimes even physical!) invisibility, secrecy and partnership. When they die their families perform a ritual to keep their ghosts in the home they served. However, many challenge this culture in different ways since they have reached the surface. Their families give them bonuses depending on what sorts of professions their families have (the first time the Profession skills have ever been worth anything in D&D3 history.)

Just these two should show you the wealth of roleplaying opportunities afforded adventurers in the world of Wicked Fantasy - the human who blindly serves a decraying Republic bickering with a halfling who sees too well the injustices of the system....or perhaps a human who prefers the cool intellect of philosophy to the warm emotions of hearth and service advocated by their halfling partner. Put these partners on a quest for glory and virtue and their interactions will be memorable and exciting.

An epub version is also available in this packet, which gets a big reviewer bump up from me.

If there was anything I could list about Wicked Fantasy that could improve it, I would say it would be a section for each of the races focusing on the core, expected elements of a D&D game. Why do people from these cultures become adventurers? Why would they team up with other adventurers? What would drive them to battle monsters and obtain magic and loot? D&D4 did this, to great effect, and I think it should be something everyone is thinking of when supplementing a D&D experience. Given what D&D games are about, what specifically do you bring to that core game experience?

In any event, all together these supplements are much, much greater than the sum of their parts. You absolutely should check out this exciting world through the eyes of its well-detailed inhabitants.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wicked Fantasy (Full Book)
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Play Dirty
by Oliver O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/25/2013 22:15:08
What was John Wick thinking?

Look, I watched a couple youtube videos that Mr. Wick put out - the first recommended to me in a John Four newsletter. And based on the video picked this PDF up.

I am intrigued by some of the concepts presented here, but am a little turned off by what I perceived to be a lack of humility about role-playing in general (in one video Wick wears a shirt that says: "I don't have an anger problem, I have an IDIOT problem!" - yeah, that guy...). I think that being a GM is partially about embracing the role of mentor such that role-playing continues to be a healthy part of our culture for decades to come - a tradition passed generation to generation, not unlike comic books. Mentoring requires patience and kindness, in my opinion.

I think that Mr. Wick has a bucket-load of intelligence, but comes up a bit short on the wisdom end of the spectrum (D&D taught me there is a good reason why these are two distinct stats, neither one dependent on the other). I got a sense that he was very passionate about gaming, but really didn't like/respect his fellow gamers that much. The one dude he described in a positive way was so completely humble, down-to-earth and selfless, that I have to wonder if he had allowed himself to be completely dominated by the situation/GM.

At any rate, once you get past the self-absorbed tone, you get some poignant anecdotes about Wick's gaming group that provide some solid amusement. That being said, I still contend that the number one reason gaming groups break up is because people get mad and frustrated with each other - I would never encourage a GM to fan the flames of discord unless he is trying to not have a gaming group.

In Wick's defense, I also think that allowing for a real sense of danger in your game is a great tool for immersion and getting the players to care about what is going on (Like in Game of Thrones, for example). I think that where I differ with Wick is that I believe in collaborating with the player more, rather than imposing myself on the game, or wounding the player for my own gratification. I don't think I could defend an act of cruelty as glibly as he does.

Bottom line - I say get the book! Join the discussion!

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Play Dirty
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All the Days of My Children Hospital
by Michael D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2013 16:34:08
An overall anemic roleplaying game that seems more like a party game than something worth planning a bunch of weekends over. Not horribly broken (like, say, Eldritch High) but nothing to make it stand out.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
All the Days of My Children Hospital
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Cat (Revised & Expanded)
by Edit G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2013 16:36:46
I love cats, and RPG, mixing them sounds really good.

I have never played with Cat yet, because we didn't have any storyteller who knew the system, and some members of my rpg team criticized it harshly. I owned the previous edition too, and I have really wanted to try it (I had a character and his story).

Technical difficulties:
I can't read it with Stanza on my iPod with "unknown format" error (it has problems with the DRM), so I haven't read it from beginning to the end, I just dipped into it on my pc. I know that the files are okay and the quality is good, because I can open them (also the epub with Calibre), and read them, just it isn't comfortable this way.

Positive changes:
There was some question with the cat magic points and etc, I saw it is solved in this version (but it is funny, because when you sleep, you are in the dreamworld too)

Unchanged difficulties:
A member of my rpg team first question was what if there are more than two participant in a fight? F.e. more cat against a bigger enemy (like in a bad horror movie. I think - but I only think and there is no changes in the gamerules - the side with more participants has some advantage - and with it some advantage dice.

Design:
I loved the previous edition. The cover art was simple but suggestive. The inside graphic were childish or dreamlike, I liked them, as I liked the curly font.

The new cover art is... well, do you know the Cat - musical? Because that comes into my mind when I see a dark background with two cat eyes. I don't like the big book - little games text art either. It seems hollow to me.

The inside graphics are correct. The pictures are more uniform, that can be a good thing, but it is easier to find a good idea or feeling from the many different style pictures from the previous edition, some with lighter, dreamish mode, some with darker shades. But in the new edition there are only edited photos, and mostly dark and stern picture.
Tl, dr: It became a more professional in design, but I think with this it lost from its playfulness.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cat (Revised & Expanded)
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Eldritch High: A Little Game about Wizards, Witches and Warlocks
by Michael D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/06/2013 22:52:57
This game is... something I wish I could play as intended. It's so creative and has so much content crammed into just under 40 pages that captures my heart. The premise, the unique card based resolution mechanic, the way that character advancement works. The whole thing is full of great ideas that make me want to give this game a 5 star rating, but I can't and that's for one simple reason. The core elements are poorly realized.

First, the Freshmen Schedule (the mechanic for determining your "stats") has very strict (and unclear) rules on how you're allowed to arrange your Courses that forces you to focus heavily on using Magic and hobbles customization.

Secondly, the Homework method of advancement (gaining certain amounts points to improve your character with as you go through your classes) is horribly unbalanced with the option to Study for Exams being both highly necessary since not passing classes can get you expelled and a total waste because the benefits for passing are either easily replicated by other options for cheaper or have such a high investment threshold that you won't get them without failing other classes.

Thirdly, the card based resolution is based off of achieving a static target number with no accounting for difficulty and how many cards you draw is largely based on a combination of your Grade Level and your ranks in different Courses (which is also based off of your Grade Level). Since this is based so much on one thing and scales so rapidly, this means that Freshmen are grossly underpowered and higher grade levels are grossly overpowered with no happy medium anywhere.

Overall, the game is way too restrictive and poorly balanced for me to recommend.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Eldritch High: A Little Game about Wizards, Witches and Warlocks
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Wicked Fantasy: Uvandir: The Pride of Craftsmen
by Frank M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/02/2013 19:21:17
Based on an article in Kobold Quarterly, this takes dwarf cliches up to eleven and creates a species both familiar and alien: creatures born from the earth itself, obsessed with perfection, for whom a punch to the jaw is more eloquent than words. This supplement explores the culture, language, and psychology of this take on dwarves.

Others have complained about unbalanced feats in the WF series. I can't comment on how well or poorly the Pathfinder stats work, since I don't use Pathfinder. Also, if you're fine with plain old D&D/Pathfinder/every-other-FRP dwarves this supplement might not be for you. If, however, you want surly, drunken, perfectionist dwarves with hidden depths and an inhuman mindset, pick up this supplement.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wicked Fantasy: Uvandir: The Pride of Craftsmen
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Houses of the Blooded: Wilderness
by Brian H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/13/2013 08:40:02
I'm a huge fan of the Houses of the Blooded universe/setting/concept, etc. and this book, in large part, lives up to the high standard set by the base book and continued through "Cornets but Never Crowns". The ability to place Provinces on the edges of the civilized world is an interesting one, and I think that it could add to the intrigue/politics of most games. Especially given the new Vassals and resources that the wilderness Regions and Holdings make available. I also particularly enjoyed the idea of un-blooded adventuring groups and how they tied into "polite" Ven society. More than just adding a new way to play the game, it also adds a new dimension to noble politicking and provides vicious new options for dealing with troublesome blooded neighbors.

I have one basic complaint about the new content that this book provides: Specifically, several sections felt rushed and particularly light on detail. For example, in discussing the Blooded of the Boar, we are treated to a lengthy discussion of their unique virtue, but the discussion on what it means to be Boar in blooded society feels rushed and incomplete. In discussing the new Ork vassals the author references a nearby chart that does not appear to exist. Shortly thereafter, in discussing the first of the new Ork types, the author discusses the "Ancestors" and their importance. However, the reader is never told who/what they are. In addition, certain terms (i.e. Heartsheath) are never defined. Then, in discussing the second of the new Ork types, the author mentions that they suffer from Corruption rather than DOOM!. But nowhere is this concept explained. Finally, in discussing the Q'val, the author mentions the importance of noting Accomplishments and how they may allow for the increasing of Devotion. But this concept is never fully described. Indeed, the chapter dealing with the Q'val seems to end rather abruptly.

Don't misunderstand, I greatly enjoyed this book and I think that the content is fantastic. I'm already plotting how I'm going to introduce large chunks of this material into my currently running game (mostly likely to the dismay of my players [*cough* demons *cough*]). My complaints stem from a mere handful of the more than 200 pages of content and should not be read as an indictment against the book as a whole.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Houses of the Blooded: Wilderness
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Wicked Fantasy: Roddun: Scourge of the City
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/07/2013 12:24:14
The latest installment of the Wicked Fantasy-line is 27 pages long, 1 page editorial, 1.5 pages ToC/prelude, 1 page cover artwork, 1 page advertisement and 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 21.5 pages of content for the Wicked Fantasy-take on Rat-men, or as they have come to be known, the Roddun.

So what are the Roddun? Well, much like Warhammer’s Skaven or similar origin myths, they are humanoid rats, ratfolk so-to-speak, which have emerged by means not wholly mundane or understood – when a dread plague scoured the realms of men and its cities, whole quarters and neighborhoods were sealed off to fend for themselves, while the bodies of the infected sent blue flames and a sickly sweet scent upwards to the heavens. Into this void of lawlessness and desolation, a new force emerged – from nowhere, much like how the Haffuns emerged, came humanoid rats that looked after the infected areas, showed compassion with the infected and thus, while neither human, nor part of the society, managed to claim their place in the poorer regions of their respective new homes.

Mindset-wise, the roddun see the world in a model of concentric degrees of kinship that values the closer circles more than any others and much of their unique morality is structured around said circles and the concept of gratitude for favors rendered, which is inextricably linked with another key psychological mindset, namely that of necessity and ownership. Much like the infamous race of kenders, roddun have a unique sense of propriety, much dependant on whether an individual needs a respective good: Thus, for a roddun, a poor man’s wooden bowl might be of a greater value than one among 20 silver spoons a noble might own: At least favor-wise. Beyond that, they consider goods that someone doesn’t need valid targets for the taking, resulting in plenty of potential for conflict as well as a devaluation of coins, since they provide no true tangible benefit for survival.

Roddun that have left their fathers and mothers to fend for themselves in the world are organized in so-called mischiefs, which essentially constitute gangs that act as a kind of law-enforcement and seek to accumulate respect with the roddun’s shadow society – thus sooner or later pitting mischief vs. mischief and rodduns in positions where they have to duel for leadership of their gag, eventually rising to the point where they can challenge an area’s King Rat. A kind of super-enforcer, kingpin or godfather of such an area, the King Rat is not only the big boss, he is also the person that will ritually end old roddun’s lives. Once they have become old and meek, roddun ritually grant gifts to all associates, say goodbye, list their deeds to the King Rat and then challenge the King Rat in a vain attempt of seizing the throne. Since such challenges are always to the death, the King Rat will fight his now old follower/friend/family member and vanquish him/her, adding the final deed of “Challenged the King Rat” to a roddun’s list of deeds.

If my detailed description has not been ample indicator – as with all installments of Wicked Fantasy, the fluff and narrative, its description and dramaturgy is awesome and highly evocative. Unfortunately, much like the other recent installments of the series, the introduction of the crunch also means a distinctive break – not only from fluff to crunch, but also from high quality to something, well… that is not. Roddun gain + 2 to Str and Wis, gains a mischief pool of 3+Cha mod points (and additional points each level, but more on that later), immunity to mundane diseases, blindsight of 60 ft., 2 natural claw attacks and a natural bite attack AND fast healing 1 that improves over the levels. Immunity to disease. 3 natural weapons. Friggin’ Blindsight. AND scaling ‘*%&# fast healing? Honestly, what have the designers been smoking? None in his or her right mind could consider this clusterf*** of abilities balanced! Even when compared to similarly broken options, this one takes the powergaming-cake. Never gonna happen in my game. Ever. Have I mentioned their gemstone magic, which is represented via feats? They make a broken race horribly overpowered, extending for example disease immunity to magical diseases, double the blindsight range and add a kind of photographic (not eidetic) memory and increase the fast healing even further and upgrade claws to 2d4 base damage and bites to 1d6 – which is just as well, since the original damage values for the rodduns natural attacks are provided nowhere in the pdf, rendering at least this ability unusable sans the feat as written.

There is also one feat in this book I’d consider well-made and that lets you make a hostile takeover of another mischief and thus is tied with the section of rules herein I loved as much as I abhorred the racial traits: There are rules to measure respect and essentially recruit businesses to become a criminal overlord or godfather-like figure and extract favors from them – sheer, utter brilliance, as is the scaling of infamy AND good reputation in one person via heroic and villainous respect. The system is great, simple and a potential godsend for DMs running Thieves World-style campaigns or looking for a criminal-style campaign based in an urban setting – the one downside being that the system as an integral part of roddun way of life cannot, by design and basis, be extrapolated to wilderness, dungeon or rural locales. How do roddun interact with people in the wild, for example?

There also is a racial five-level PrC called King Rat to represent aforementioned Kingpins. King Rats gain d10, 4+Int skills per level, full BAB-progression, +6 to fort and ref over 5 levels (non-standard-progression: Not cool!) and full spellcasting progression. Apart from the glitch save-progression, the class is rather cool in concept, gaining a discount when shopping as well as being ahrd to kill: They gain their class-level on “dying saving throws”[sic!] – what does that mean? Death effects? Also spells that would kill them via damage when they fail their save? Falling rocks? Haunts? Traps? The wording is unfortunately non-standard and rather ambiguous. Apart from this faulty ability, the ability to curse foes with the king’s wrath, making killing them much easier is a cool capstone. We also get two archetypes, the first being the Junk Wizard, who is essentially a take on a hasardeur-style mage (i.e. wild mage): these mages can actually try to cast spells of up to 3 higher levels than they would usually have access to by expending multiple spellslots and risking a fizzling of the respective spell or evena catastrophic backfire. Generally a REALLY cool idea and while the implementation cool use some minor streamlining, I don’t have too much gripes against this one and consider the archetype actually enjoyable. The final archetype presented in this pdf is an urban legend, the Skootzik – a class of roddun that serves as direct killers of the King Rat and are a variant of the ninja that use a gem-dependant variant of ki that is fluffy awesomeness and gain 60 ft. climb speeds. “See the unseen” is yet another aspect of crunch gone horribly wrong:
“This trick also grants the skootzik the ability to see on top of her benefits from blindsight.[sic!]” Ahem. What? They already can see, can’t they? They are not racially blind! They can see up to 120 ft., can they not? Plus, they get Blindsight. I don’t get what this trick is supposed to do. Again, the idea is great, the implementation crappy.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting can no longer even be considered mediocre, providing ample homophone errors, punctuation glitches, non-standard formatting, lack of bold items etc. –all-around failure in that department. Layout adheres to a 2-column standard with a parchment-like background and the pdf comes sans printer-friendly version, but with bookmarks –to which the glitches btw. also extend. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I LOVE THE IDEAS OF THE SERIES. THE PROSE IS EXCELLENT. BUT: The last couple of installments of Wicked Fantasy, on a rules-level, feel like a frustrated novelist’s endeavor to jam a bunch Mary Sue-ish races down the gaming populace’s throat without care for balance or even ensuring that the content works within the unbalanced frame of reference of the respective pdf. Instead we get half-baked abilities that fail to specify the basic rules-coverage to make them work as intended, if not balanced, adding design insult to injury. At least this installment got rid of the annoyingly restrictive tables that prohibited races from taking just about all classes we had come to hate and loathe in earlier Wicked Fantasy installments.

Game design is both art and craft and while the embroidery of the Rodduns, the respect and reputation and mischief mechanics all work and are neat, the core of the product is terribly, completely, utterly flawed and in my opinion, broken beyond repair. DMs can use this race, sure, but as a player-race the roddun are far beyond the power-levels of even the ARG-races, which already feel a tad bit too powerful for my conservative tastes. Were I to judge ideas and fluff alone, this would be a straight 5 star +seal of approval-book, but the utterly broken accumulation of feats, flaws in basic ability, class and race-design as well as the at the evry best horribly sloppy editing and formatting mean that this pdf can at the very best, in spite of its cool ideas and premises, be considered a stay-away-candidate. Due to the reputation-rules (which use no standard pathfinder-mechanics and thus have no chance to fail at what they are doing compatibility-wise) and the coolness of the ideas which help to offset a tad bit the horribly failed crunch-design and the insulting bordering editing, I’ll settle for a slightly higher rating than for the last installment – 1.5 stars, rounded up to 2 stars for the purpose of this platform due to slight improvements over the elves and gnolls.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Wicked Fantasy: Roddun: Scourge of the City
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Wicked Fantasy: Gnolls: For the Pack
by Thilo G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/10/2012 04:44:17
This pdf is 29 pages long, 1 page editorial, ~1.5 pages ToC/introduction, 1 page cover-artwork, 1 page SRD and 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 23.5 pages of content for the very first very uncommon race covered by the Wicked Fantasy-line, the Gnolls, or how they call themselves, the Dach'youn.

Dach'youn translates to "we the trodden", an apt self-definition of the gnolls. In the origin-myths of the gnolls, the world was created by the sun, which turned vicious and even left the earth for a time, resulting in an ice-age that saw the gnolls starting to worship a trickster-style hero that returned the sun to the world as well as 7 moons known to gnolls as their guides and as seven sisters, serving as their guides. Thus, apart from a complex description of mating habits, old age (joining the "pack that cannot run" that is helped by younger packs) etc., we also are introduced to the central role of astrology for the Dach'youn:

With the reproduction cycle of the female dach'youn only taking 90 days and the orbit of their slowest moons also taking 90 days, the effects and associated characteristics and the moons result in essentially a variant of the superstitions of astrological signs, assigning characteristics to those born in the sign of the moons, with the new moon being considered cursed and sinister and there being a special festival every 3.5 years during which those of exceptional potential and destiny are born. Dach'youn of course are also scavengers and value scavenging skills rather massively and thereafter, the central social and mechanical element is introduced: The titular pack and its constituents.

A pack's leader (or alpha) is called Bach, the Beta being called Kech - both being usually gendered, with alpha being usually considered male and Beta being considered female and thus sex between both being encouraged as a concept of Duch'Khu, literally a union of heart and mind of the pack. Eechas, literally the noses of the pack are the scouts, Owouns being the mystics, Shu'shas the hunters, the Oosheh that question the decisions of the pack and finally, the Grr'khun, a pack's weapon. The three cardinal crimes in a pack, i.e. harming a pack member, murder and cowardice are detailed and their interaction with the reign of men and their habit of mud bathing is described as well. Hierarchy within the pack can be changed via ritualized duels between pack members

Crunch-wise, Gnolls get +2 to Con and Cha, can move at 40 ft when running on all 4s, scent, gain 3 pack feats and at 2nd level and every 2 levels after that, another pack bonus feat, grant every member of their pack access to their teamwork feats, +1 to Knowledge (nature), survival and, if available, Wild Empathy. They always treat survival as a class skill. Beyond that, they get +4 to profession (cooking) and can change their base attribute modifiers when born under a specific moon's sign and get a corresponding curse and blessing. Notice anything? This race is overpowered as written, with the cha-bonus feeling weird to me to say the least - the additional feats alone are enough to utterly break this race and we don't know whether the 3 starting gnoll-feats are in addition to regular starting feats or replace them.
Cha'ppa grants +2 to Dex and Cha. Beyond that, the moons always provide a bonus when full and a penalty when new, in Cha'ppa's case DOUBLING your bonus to sense motive and perception, while taking away morale and rally bonuses when the moon's new. And here the pdf starts to come utterly apart. "The Bonus" is doubled. Which bonus? the attribute-modifier? The overall skill ranks? In the end, this ambiguity does not matter since the ability is utterly overpowered in any way.
Gu'rgha grants +3 to Con instead of +2 - a non-standard design-choice that violates PFRPG-conventions and allow the gnoll to reroll failed fortitude saves once. Once per full moon? Once per save? The pdf does not say. When new, the moon prohibits the gnoll from making any knowledge check. Ähhhmmmm...ok? Weird? The moon Gu'sha grants +2 to Wis instead of Cha and get an ally to reroll a saving throw - here it does specify the ability can only be used once per full moon. When the moon's new, you either can't be magically healed, are deaf, mute, blind, lose scent or can't run on 4-legs. Why? Any explanation? This mechanic is utterly disjointed from the fluff, arbitrarily (literally - you roll the penalty) a detrimental condition. Can said condition be cured via magic? We don't know.
Hav'ha grants +2 to Str instead of Con, +5 to CMB when full and prohibits using the wis-bonus to any associated rolls. Okay, I guess. Or'gha grants +2 to Int instead of Cha and allows you to double your int-modifier in non-combat situations. Does this extend to bonus spells/preparation? What if combat erupts while using an int-based skill-check that takes time? The curse locks the CMD at 10. Which is ridiculous, since the int-based characters probably will be wizards etc. Sh'va grants +3 instead of +2 to Cha (again, non-standard odd attribute bonus...) and is perhaps the most broken of the moons. Yes. You heard me. Creatures with Int 8+ increase their starting attitude by 2 steps. By 2 STEPS! AHRGHH! When the moon's new, you gain a 10 ft. aura of untrust that automatically lets creatures notice you. We don't know whether e.g. invisibility can counter that, though. Finally, Vax grants +1 to any ability score. We don't get to know whether that's in addition to the standard modifiers or not. Worse, when making eye-contact for the first time with foes, you can enforce a fear-save (10+1/2 level + Cha-modifier) to make them flee. No limits. Usable unlimited times. *shakes head* Worse, the curse decreases starting attitudes by 2 steps, making this the other side of the unbalanced coin. Now how do both interact, the +2 -2 starting attitudes? Are multiple improvements of starting attitudes cumulative? The mechanics are unclear. Oh boy. I haven't even touched on the Pack rules.

A pack can consist of a maximum of beings equal to an alpha's charisma score (not modifier, SCORE). NPC gnolls only add +1 bonuses to the PC gnoll damages. While a way of abstracting their influence, it's also utterly, terribly lazy design: Why can't these gnolls attack? Can they be targeted as usual by spells and attacks? It makes no sense and is a prime example of bad design decisions. The roles in the pack are represented via archetypes and feats: Rouges can become Eechas, becoming faster (60 ft. 4-legged movement), +1/2 level to perception to track by scent and a scaling bonus to AC against surprise attacks or AoOs. Grr'khun-fighters replace bravery with +3 to intimidate checks to demoralize foes, add +5 to the DC of surviving their coup-de-graces. Kech-rangers gain the powers to issue commands as swift actions. Commands last for one round and at 5th level and every 3 levels afterwards, they gain another command. Members of the pack may follow the respective commands and gain bonuses depending on the command given - including cross-fire, distracting etc. They may also grant their allies half their favored class bonuses and command increasing amounts of allies at once.

It's sad, really. The command-mechanics are actually rather interesting! I just wished they were a bit more polished, as they e.g. fail to specify types of bonuses (I assume morale, but I'm not sure). Oosheh-bards can expend bardic performances to add their cha-mod to ally's non-combat skill-checks, cha-based checks and even switch around initiatives of her allies. Nice archetype! Owoun-sorcerors must be of 3 bloodlines, but gain a bonus to all knowledge-skills when under the moon equal to half their level. They also get an ability to howl a yes/no question at the moon that the DM has to answer truthfully on a successful diplomacy-check. This ability is unbalanced as well, as there's no limit to the knowledge provided and a starting attitude of indifferent is ridiculous when combined with the sorceror moon, which essentially renders rolling this skill a farce. The Shu'sha-ranger is the scavenger and gains improved navigation-skills as well as the ability to jury-rig (not Jerry-Rigg, as spelt in the pdf) mundane items and navigate swiftly through mazes. Per se a nice archetype, though I feel it should grant help vs. e.g. maze-spells and the like.

The second component of the pack-rules is handled via feats: Non-dach'youn can take a feat to gain membership in a pack or a gnoll can lose a feat to give a non-gnoll this membership. There's also a feat to gain more NPC-gnolls (see my rant above for their uselessness and the disjunction between existing as entities and working as static +1 to damage bonuses...) and a feat that allows you to make your pack larger - see my gripe with the last feat. Each of the roles in the pack also gets a mini-tree of 3 feats and they actually have a rather cool idea: They actually grant bonuses when adjacent to respective gnolls, allowing you to benefit from your allied gnoll's prowess

The pdf closes with the annoying restrictive allowed-class-list I've come to expect from Wicked Fantasy-products that disqualifies almost all PFRPG-classes as well as a graphical representation of the gnoll's complex moon calendars.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are beyond sloppy, they're amateurish: From typos to punctuation errors etc., we encounter quite a bunch of bad glitches that wouldn't be as bad as they are, would they not extend to the register of pathfinder: The language is often ambiguous, making identification of stacking bonuses or the intention behind rules obtuse at best and sometimes even impossible. Layout adheres to a parchment-style background and a two-column layout with nice full-color artworks, but no printer-friendly version. The pdf comes fully bookmarked.

Reviewing pdfs like this makes me angry as all hell. As with all installments of Wicked Fantasy, the ideas behind this race are awesome - the fluff and culture in the beginning is, apart from the frequent editing and formatting hick-ups, a joy to behold and obviously where the passion for this product went. And then the gaming material begins. I should have stopped reading after the race's base abilities, I really should have, for they already constitute a major example for sloppy design with no rhyme, reason or interest for balancing the race with any of the core or even the arguably stronger ARG races. And then we get the moons. Per se, they offer a nice way of customizing the gnolls. In theory, that is.
In practice, just about every moon has one component that does not adhere to PFRPG design-standards, is ambiguous in multiple ways, flat-out broken or mystifying in how the hell it is supposed to work. Add to that the amount of book-keeping necessarily to track NINE FRIGGIN' MOONS and where they suddenly came from and you're in for a mess. Newsflash: Most settings have one moon. Moons affect the tides. And usually are represented in the pantheons of all cultures. Tying the abilities not to constellations, but to actual heavenly bodies means that integrating the content, even if it would work as intended, which it sure doesn't do, would be a colossal amount of work. And think about all those bonus-feats gnolls get as racial traits sans any paying. Ahrgh.

All right: Base-race: Broken and essentially unusable as written. What about the pack-rules? They use an abstraction for non-player gnolls, which is fine. But why not use THE LEADERSHIP MECHANIC THAT ALREADY EXISTS? Non-player gnolls essentially add +1 to damage when adjacent to PCs. Ok. Why? Can they be targeted or are they supposed to be these ephemeral wisps of abstract gnolls that don't get hit by spells because they don't feature the blinking PC-sign? And why for Pete's sake don't they just use the perfectly fine aid another rules? Better: Why can't they use them? Why can't they do tasks like usual followers or cohorts? The idea behind commands and the mini-feat-trees to benefit from the pack's components is cool and should work in the end to make the pack more the sum of its individual parts. BUT: There already are solo-tactics and teamwork feats. WHY NOT USE THEM? As an afterthought, they've been shoehorned into a design that was obviously neither aware, nor interested in the existence of said mechanics, much less grasping the repercussions. When compared to Rite Publishing's stellar "Secrets of the Inquisitor", I can only weep and shake my head at the laziness and general disregard for existing rules.

The elven pdf was bad. This is just as bad, perhaps even worse. The pdf forces you to modify your whole cosmology if you want to use it as presented and even if you do, you have to essentially revise the whole content and redesign friggin' everything. Worse, even if you do, the pdf essentially is not balanced in any way and omits a vast amount of options, prohibiting them e.g. from becoming summoners and witches, among a vast bunch of prohibited options.
For whom was this pdf written? No. Seriously. For the DM? It fails, since it requires the modification of one's chosen setting and provides no sample statblocks. For players? Well, the race is so broken that you better get your DM drunk as hell to allow it. And even then: You essentially need multiple players to play gnolls and forma pack to get the most out of this supplement and the reimagination of what gnolls are ought to be and I gather there are not that many groups out there keen on playing gnolls AND spending multiple sessions fixing ambiguous mechanics. Again, fail.

Which is so infuriating since the fluff is imaginative and cool - but completely fails to supplement the ideas it presents with any rules that can be considered balanced or even well-written. In fact, the pdf hinders your creativity by its restrictive egotistic insistence on prohibiting a majority of the content assumed to be standard in PFRPG without providing adequate recompense for the lost options. Worse, the crunch herein shows no signs of effort. There is a distinct lack of knowledge of the more complex pathfinder-mechanics evident that borders on willful ignorance and just sloppiness. The crunch feels like ripped straight from a home-game - in all the bad ways, exhibiting failures in wording, mechanics, restrictions, etc., making the crunch feel like it was an annoying duty to properly sell what could be considered good fluff, but ends up a complete abject failure at game-design with sloppy editing that bespeaks of an ignorance or even contempt for the system in which this pdf presented. The admittedly cool command idea and ideas behind the pack-fighting feats are completely and utterly ruined by the rest of the pdf and its entwinement with the other mechanics. I remain with a verdict befitting of this utter failure: 1 star. Steer clear, even if you adore gnolls.

Endzeitgeist out.

Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Wicked Fantasy: Gnolls: For the Pack
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