Aug 292014
 

logo_500Welcome to the pilot episode of Dice & Slice, the show about games, gamers and food.

After a successful crowd-funding campaign in Kickstarter to buy some equipment and the hell of a lot of learning for the following four months, the pilot/rehearsal episode is now out with something tasty for you to enjoy and, hopefully, cook too!

In this episode two mega simple recipes and a super excellent game.

First a cold soup that’s as healthy as it is tasty and can be modified to fit your tastes: Gazpacho. Lots of tomatoes, some garlic, basil… Just watch. It’s pretty delicious. Click here to download the recipe.

And for dessert: Creamed Rice Pudding. Another really basic recipe that can be complemented with all sorts of ingredients to suit your taste and turn something simple into something awesome. Click here to download the recipe.

And then Michael Chamberlain and I play X-Wing and review the game. The good (lots of it), the bad (only a couple of things) and the ugly (absolutely nothing of that.)

And now, please get your feedback coming!

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Aug 282014
 

129198[1]By Endzeitgeist

This installment of the “Into the Breach”-series is 25 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 black page with a quote – nice to look at on-screen, very bad for the printer!), 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We kick off this pdf with a new archetype, the Karuna Sattva (which translates essentially to compassionate being) is a VERY interesting archetype – in lieu of a regular oracle’s curse, these beings take the curse-eater trope and can actually use their class feature “Take Thy Burden” – with it, they may, with a touch, take a given affliction from a target and lift the target’s affliction, instead temporarily getting one additional oracle curse depending on the affliction as well as increasing spell failure chances – problem is: Oracles usually don’t incur spell failure unless they multiclass – so if that one was supposed to be a balancing factor, it doesn’t work as written as soon as any arcane class-combo comes into play, since there are ways to cancel and mitigate arcane spell failure chances – how do they interact? Do they stack? Do reductions of arcane spell failure also work for this dissonance? Why is the table and phenomenon not called simply “spell casting dissonance” and presented à la: “This works like ASF, but extends to all spells the oracle casts, regardless of whether being divine, arcane or psionic [...]This does/does not stack with arcane spell failure chance and cannot be mitigated in the same way..”

Another issue would be that the ability does not explicitly specify the action it takes – yes, it mentions “touch”, but does it require concentration? Can it be interrupted? Why I’m harping on this? As written, the archetype allows no save/has a “willing target/harmless-clause” – i.e., the oracle could take a beggar’s handicap against said beggar’s will, hampering his/her livelihood. Another issue – while RAW not explicitly stated, it is heavily implied (and handled like that in all games I know!) that an oracle’s curse is the price they pay for their powers – in games with such a lore established/implied, taking away an oracle’s curse would cripple them. But that is just fluff, nothing to fault the archetype for and hence will not influence the final verdict.

What I CAN fault the archetype for is that the afflictions cured contain insanities, addictions, haunts and even possessions – no scaling. Oh, only evil possessions, btw. – no angels merged with humans, lawful or chaotic creatures. The lower planes get the short end of the stick here, in spite of no good-alignment-restriction. King’s possessed by a demon lord? One touch and gone he is! Plus, your oracle gets a free curse (which translates to more power!). Insanities, lycanthropy, addictions etc. often make plot devices and just canceling them sans any check or the like is broken. “So you saw Great Cthulhu? WHO CARES! We have a Karuna Sattva!” Jekyll/Hide-scenario? Pff, solved with a touch. This ability NEEDS a scaling mechanism! And it needs balancing – curses tend to evolve into bonuses and even having two (been there, done that in my game!) translates to quite a power-gain. Having up to 5 (!!!), even with the spell failure, is problematic. And yes, while curse no 5. amps the latter up to 60%, 4 still means only 30% spell failure. A more strongly escalating spell failure chance would help balance here. Another issue here is that this WILL be exploited like all hell by players. “Hey, we need curse xyz’s ability! Let’s do nasty, nasty things to our bags of kittens and have our Karuna Sattva take care of it!” Massive fail of the bag of kittens test. (Picture it: PCs summoning demons into cute kittens to have them exorcized…*shudder*) Also: The extension of spell failure gained at 7th level fails to specify the type of action it takes to initiate. I assume standard action, but I’m not sure. I *love* the idea behind this archetype, but the execution is sloppy, prone to abuse and needs a much tighter wording to prevent excessive and potentially game-world-logic breaking ramifications. Also: Why can’t the archetype mitigate diseases, poisons etc.? Why not tie the ability to DCs? Why not actually balance this? 2 abilities, much potential, none works as intended – not gonna happen anywhere near my table.

The second archetype would be the Diplomatique, available for exclusively good oracles. Their code of conduct specifies they lose all supernatural abilities upon reducing a living being’s hp or affecting them with a harmful condition, subject to DM’s approval. So this opens a huge can of worms – is e.g. paralysis, daze etc. harmful? Pathfinder has quite an array of conditions and a concise list (à la “non-permanent blinding of people, daze, stunned, paralyzed etc.) would have been easy to compile. Also, being allowed to only deal non-lethal damage is harsh, even though the archetype gets a feat to at least offset the -4 penalty to atk. Now the supernatural ability the archetype may lose would be pacification, which essentially is a permanent sanctuary, at-will suggestions and further increases of the defensive sanctuary. At 3rd level, the archetype learns to lay on hands as a paladin level -1, opening quite an array of possibilities there as well. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again – I LOVE the idea of heroes not killing everything. In my campaign, being “good” means NOT killing the bastards and instead incarcerating them etc. Mercenaries, neutral guys – those are the killers, the soldiers. So in theory, I do like this archetype. It essentially takes a basic concept from the book of exalted deeds and seeks to properly balance it – neat. BUT: Conditions need to be defined; Grappled is a condition, for example. Usually, violating a code of conduct results in all class abilities stripped, not just those of two class abilities. While understandable, this design decision there feels a bit inorganic to me. Additionally, the very strong restrictions imposed to balance the powerful abilities feel too rigid for my tastes – you can essentially make ONE type of diplomatique, there’s no choice. Actually getting to choose from pacifications, i.e. a list of various abilities, would have been much more compelling. Not as problematic as the former archetype, but also no stroke of genius here.

The Enigma Warden would be next – the archetype gets silent spell as a bonus feat at first level and stops increasing the level when using this feat at 5th level. If the archetype speaks, s/he loses access to the supernatural abilities – the only one of which would be this silent spell and another one gained at 3rd level. Thing is – it’s not clear whether the silent spell bonus feat is also lost? Generally, this restriction gets rid of the curse at low levels and breaking the vow doesn’t even need an atonement, which means low level characters will be breaking it nonstop – after all, silent spell is next to useless until the 5th level upgrade comes – unless you’re playing a very infiltration-heavy campaign. Now at 3rd level, things stop working – the oracle may choose from ANY revelation, as long as s/he has an equal amount of revelations from the secrets mystery, which is btw. obligatory for the archetype. Oh, and +2 revelations, for a total of 7. That means 3 freely chosen revelations, no penalty. If an oracle breaks the vow of silence, are these additional revelations lost? Do the other revelations still work? Do only revelations from the secrets mystery still work? I have no clue at all! This archetype needs some clarification and streamlining – cherry-picking revelations PLUS paltry drawbacks don’t feel balanced.

The ordained scion replaces the mystery and revelations with a sorceror bloodline and its powers, skills and spells. Okay way to wilder in another spell-list and ability-set – nothing to complain here.

Next up would be an alternate base-class, the warlock. The Warlock gets d8, 4+Int skills per level, good will-saves, 3/4 BAB-progression, proficiency with simple weapons, light armor, shields (not tower shields) and no spells. At 2nd level, warlocks add their cha-mod to one save of their choice, +1 at 6th and 10th level. The ability is called luck, but doesn’t specify the bonus-type – I assume, it’s a luck bonus, but still. The main theme of the warlock, though, remains blasting foes – blasts start at 1d6 and scale up to 10d6, increasing by +1d6 at third level and every 2 levels after that.

So how does blasting work? Essentially, it is a ranged attack that provokes AoOs, is hampered by spell resistance and has a range of 60 ft. Two noteworthy things about blasts – the damage they deal is negative energy damage, rendering the warlock absolutely useless against undead and allowing next to no resistances, unlike other damage types. The text also specifies that these rays can be cast defensively via concentration, but no equivalent spell level is given, rendering a key tactic of blasting foes unusable as provided. Worse, the text fails to specify whether one concentration-check per blast or per round is in order – I assume the former, but I can’t be sure from the text. Additionally, within 30 ft., the warlock may resolve these blasts as ranged touch attacks – which is very powerful. I’m not particularly sure the blast should remain a supernatural ability – while not duplicating a spell’s effect, it shares more traits with spell-like abilities than with supernatural abilities. Furthermore, the blasts cannot be countered as written – a glaring oversight that ought to be rectified to at least offer SOME protection against the never-ending array of blasts, especially since they offer no saves.

Why is this relevant? Because at every even-numbered level, the warlock gets access to a so-called blast evolution. These are grouped into essences and forms and start with least, unlocking lesser modifications at 8th level and greater modifications at 14th level. Now what do these do? Well, one, for example, deals positive energy damage and dazzles foes – while lacking the word “damage” at one point, it should be noted that I *assume* it’s like with channel energy here – i.e. no healing, just damage. The other least blast essences reduce damage die from d6 to d4 and add the entangled condition, deal non-lethal fire damage and add the fatigued condition, increase damage to d8 or trail a fog-cloud-like effect. Duration tends to be one round per damage die of the blast – and none of the conditions have a save. While each blast can only be modified by one essence and one form, this looks just as strong on paper as it proved to be in playtesting – while not utterly crippling, the sheer unlimited amount of blasts is problematic at best, with touch attacks and no-save debuffs added for even worse overall balancing. “But the range is so limited!” Least Form: Dart increases the range to 180 ft (later even 360 ft; 60 ft. touch attack range).-Yeah. Suck on that, archer. The forms tend to be problematic – a cone allows for a ref-save (Good!), but doesn’t specify whether additional effects are negated upon a successful save. The warlock may also make his/her blasts melee attacks that don’t provoke AoOs or create a blast-glaive: These have reach, deal blast damage + cha-mod AND are resolved against touch attacks. COME AGAIN??? Remember, the blast counts as a weapon and as such may be modified with all the feats – you can essentially make those killer pole-arm builds should you so choose AND choose spontaneously between that and regular melee/ranged combat with blasts that allow no saves…oh and your melee attacks are resolved versus TOUCH. This is incredibly, terribly, horribly BROKEN.

Lesser essences allowing for ranged combat manoeuvres (not a fan!), apply permanent sickened/nauseated or deafened conditions (no duration!) or deal the SAME damage minus one dice again next round – hello, vital strike and consorts. Urgh. Blast Chain is also problematic, allowing blasts to spring from target to target within 30 feet – at a cumulative minus 4 to atk and half damage (this one, strangely, not being cumulative!), yes, but this will devolve into a dice-rolling orgy that puts the game to a grinding halt akin to 3.X’s handling of cleave. Furthermore, the ability has a line that has me utterly stumped: “Each target that is hit with an essence which has an effect that allows a saving throw is entitled to a separate save with a +4 bonus.” In addition to any save? What constitutes a secondary effect? Negative conditions? Only those that allow for saves? Also those that usually don’t allow saves? Now remember, this is a form, so all essences may be applied AND since it is an attack, theoretically, it can be combined with all the feats you’d like. Broken. The fireball-style blast grenade modification works wording-wise, so kudos – especially since this and some other forms make the blast a standard action instead. Now adding the blast to unarmed attacks is also a cool idea, but how does it interact with improved unarmed strike? I *assume* that unarmed damage and blast damage stack – which is broken even before adding in ki-tricks.

There are also blast essences that have wording issues – hurricane blast specifies: “The eldritch blast damage is changed from 1d6 damage at every odd-numbered level to 1d4 force damage and 1d6 cold damage at every odd numbered level.” So does that mean +1d4 force damage or +level/d4 force damage? In the former case: Too weak, in the latter: Broken. Remember, that can be applied to e.g. the glaive form: At 14th level, a warlock could deal 7d6+14d4+cha-mod (this latter FORCE, one of the best damage types!) damage PER HIT – without even trying to game this and additional feat/equipment tricks to boost damage further – resolved as a TOUCH ATTACK ad infinitum. Insane.

Warlocks may also sheathe themselves as a standard action in an elemental shroud, granting them elemental resistance of 5, scaling up to 20, first for 1 round per warlock level, later up to 3 rounds per warlock level. Per se nice, but as written, it can be stacked, which should probably be noted as something to be fixed – warlocks with access to all elements via essences could sheathe themselves in the elemental + negative energy resistances. Also: The ability should specify the eligible damage types – as written, the class can net itself force resistance (since the blasts can deal force damage), depending on your reading.

Now while the central feature of the class is horribly broken in more than one instance, the warlock does have a nice treat -class-level + cha-mod antimagic points to counterspell spells, potentially even without identifying them (at least, that’s how the ability’s written, but I’m not sure that’s intended…) by just wagering spell-level points; You need to spend more points than the spell’s level. At higher level, weak micro blasts can accompany these counterspells and some spells can even be reflected on the caster.

Now that is NOT all – the warlock also gets one revelation PER LEVEL – of ANY mystery. In addition to the blasts. Yeah. take a GOOD look at what’s out there. Yeah, ouch. This would be very strong even without the blasts being broken.

There’s no way around it – the warlock, as written, needs to go back to the drawing board – it allows you to cherry-pick revelations at every level, has an insane damage output and doesn’t even require any ingenious combination to break. Just a cursory GLANCE at revelations is enough to make this simply not work as intended. The blasting is too strong and requires at least some balancing. “But Endzeitgeist, a sorceror can blast better!” Yeah, but a sorceror has limited spells, which can be counterspelled, is fragile as all hell, can’t wear armor etc. (yes, eldritch blasts don’t have arcane spell failure – go figure!), doesn’t have a weapon that dwarfs even the soulknife’s flexibility in comparison (choose your blasts freely, every blast!), doesn’t get 3/4 BAB-progression and sure as hell doesn’t add the ONE attribute that counts for the class, cha to just about all saves.

*rant*

And don’t start the whole “But casters dominate all encounters”-bullshit with me. If you as a DM can’t bleed casters dry and let the group rest after every encounter, then you’re doing it wrong. I’ve been DMing for more than half my life and forcing casters to think when to unleash arcane destruction is a basic tactic that seems to be lost on quite a few number-crunching whiners that point to the paper and complain that casters are oh so much better.

*/rant*

What I’m getting at with this rant – the warlock has no resources for his/her primary attacks and as such needs to be compared to all other limited-resource-less classes – and instead of falling somewhere in line at the upper power echelon, it essentially boots even the casters out of the water.

Another gripe of a completely unrelated topic- during playtest, it turned out to be fun for one of my players, mainly because said player enjoyed wasting any CR-equivalent threat…but he badgered me to include in this review that he “got bored, fast, because there is no strategy here.” You have your tools, you use them – that’s it. Interjection Games’ Ethermancer, with its unique buffs, spell pool mechanic and various modifications does everything this class tries to do infinitely more compelling and IS BALANCED and requires some forethought on how long your battle will wage, of when to buff and when not. It’s not a perfect class, but it’s not as OP as the warlock, it rewards tactical planning of the expenditure of etherpoints and still manages to portray the blast-all-day-long class without utterly breaking the game by offering sufficient drawbacks. It also tackles counterspelling and offers options beyond blasting everything to smithereens. The Ethermancer works, this does NOT. This class is BROKEN and needs a revision. I can’t recommend this class even to utter n00bs entering a game of pro-number-crunchers, since the wording ambiguities make many an ability harder to understand than it ought to be. I’ve rarely seen a base class that can break a game this easily. Steer clear.

Next up would be a 10-level-PrC, the Covernborn. Coverborn get 1/” BAB-progression, 1/2 will-save progression, 2+Int skills per level and require class features from sorc, oracle and witches, namely accursed bloodline, coven hex and oracle’s curse, requiring essentially one level sorc, witch and oracle – and the consumption of a hag’s heart. Now essentially, this class is a theurge-like class, offering +1 level of spell-progression for both arcane and divine casting at all levels except 1st, 4th and 7th, where the class instead gets fixed divine or arcane progression or, in the case of level 7, has to choose which one to take. It should also be noted that the covenborn needs to choose which arcane class to progress – sorc or witch. The PrC also gets an array of hag/fey-themed spell-like abilities to choose from and may “choose between Fortitude and Will based saves for her spell-like abilities.” That’s not how spell-like abilities work. Also: Does that mean it’s ONE choice or can the Covenborn choose for each individual ability? How can charm monster be based on FORT? Makes no sense to me. The capstone allows the covenborn to transform into a hag, complete with all spell-like abilities etc. – do they choose which save to use here as well? While I get the requirement to offset the dual casting progression, the kind of dead level of one of the arcane base-classes is a bit weird design-wise. An okay theurgish PrC, I guess, though not particularly compelling to take. It also has minor formatting issues like “3 a day” instead of 3/day, but that’s just minor nitpicking.

Next up are 5 new mysteries – Intoxicant, Sand, Secrets, Volcano and Wrath, all coming with nice icons, though I don’t get why some get a sample fluff-line, whereas other don’t. The intoxicant mystery is actually rather cool – shrouding yourself in euphoria-inducing smoke, hallucinating items into existence – cool ideas here, though the wording of the latter is problematic – -”When under the effects of an intoxicant the oracle may make a DC 15 Will save to believe an item is real. If failed the item functions as normal but has no effect on other creatures.”[sic!] I don’t get it. Could the oracle hallucinate a key to a door and open it? A weapon? Could a weapon be made to attack an object, but not a person? Can the oracle opt to fail the save? Is the item generated upon a success or failure or either way? Why are there so many punctuation glitches here, rendering an already confused and imprecise ability even more confusing? Using blood to poison others with consumed intoxicants on the other hand is rather cool. I really, really like this mystery, but many of its revelations require some cleaning in at least formal criteria, partially also in wording. The Sand mystery lets you e.g. look through solid surfaces and over all can be considered solid, if not particularly strong – still: Kudos!

The Secrets mystery generally is about knowledge and secrets, with frightening, maddening effects and the like. It also has a very weird ability that replaces dex-mod with cha-mod to AC and ref and “Your armor’s maximum Dexterity bonus applies to your Charisma instead of your Dexterity (see FAQ.” So, does that mean an armor can hamper bonus spells, DCs and the like? Where is the FAQ? Why isn’t it included in this pdf? I’m NOT going to google the web for information required to run a particular pdf. One note to ALL designers: If your wording requires a FAQ, that’s bad enough, but can’t be avoided in some cases. Not including said information in your product and forcing your customers to search it and potentially bump site-hits is NOT a way to generate a faithful fanbase. If it’s required to run your product, INCLUDE IT IN THE PDF or go back to the drawing board and make a better ability. Now apart from that gripe, the mystery per se is nice – somewhere between knowledge and dark tapestry in style. The volcano mystery allows you to conjure forth a 20 ft. x 20 ft. micro volcano that deals 2d6 non-scaling fire-damage, half on a failed save and +1d6 points of damage for 1d3 rounds after that. Solid per se, but a) why doesn’t the damage scale? b) Do those who succeeded the save still take the damage on subsequent rounds? Is the conjured lava an instantaneous effect or does it remain as long as the +1d3 rounds take? Lava Fists also don’t work as intended – the ability allows you to 3+cha-mod times per day make sunder attempts with your bare fists “at no penalty.” But unarmed strikes AND sunder-attempts provoke AoOs sans respective feats. An unarmed attacks do a whopping 1d3 points of base damage! Usable 3+cha-mod times per day? Where can I sign on? /*sarcasm off* Seriously, needs power-upgrade…badly. The wrath mystery offers a nice adaptive aura, damage-dealing mist etc. It should be noted that an imprisonment effect sends targets off to Gehenna to be held and driven mad – slightly awkward if your game still features that plane from the 3.X days of old, but nothing to fault the author for. Overall, this oen works somewhat better than most crunch herein, though wording also offers problems here – see Pillar of Salt: “You may call down a pillar of corrosive power as a full-round action. This pillar may target a group of enemies, no two of which are more than 30 feet apart.” So… does the pillar hit all in a 30 ft. radius? can it zigzag from foe to foe if they’re no more than 30 feet apart? Are these individual strikes? Define the amount of eligible targets? Utterly obtuse and incomprehensible. Also, it deals 4d8 acid damage +2 per oracle level – I assume the level-based bonus damage ought to be acid damage as well. Utterly insane “Everyone with line of sight to the targets (note the plural here!) must make a ref-save or take 2d8 acid damage and be stricken blind for one round per class level. Required class level: 3. Now compare ANY damage spell from ANY list with that. It can be used cha-mod times per day; Too strong. Don’t believe me? Open plains, flying, warfare – this revelation can blind whole armies! Broken!

The pdf also offer 4 new curses – The Addled curse is a nice take on the addiction curse. The distracted curse allows you to impart the shaken/later dazzled and at +1 save, confused) condition on ALL targets that fail a will-save against your spells. No duration given for the additional effect. Doesn’t work/too strong. Madness allows you to somewhat mitigate confusion et al and can drive creatures psychotic, as per the new CR+1 template. The Ominous curse is all about intimidation, penalizing almost all other cha-based skills with -5, but netting +5 untyped bonus to intimidation – too big a penalty and too big a bonus for my tastes – you can already make demoralization monsters sans such a massive boost. Not broken per se, though.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting could have required another pass – next to no spell names are italicized, punctuation glitches abound and bolding and similar minor issues are partially inconsistent as well. Layout adheres to an easy to read 2-column full-color standard and sports much less blank space than the magus-installment of Into the Breach -good and kudos! The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with two dead bookmarks relics labeled “Bookmark 53 &54″ respectively, but these don’t impede usability.

Designers Frank Gori, John Belliston, Jeff Harris and Matt Medeiros have good ideas – the concepts behind the archetypes and e.g. the intoxicant mystery are solid and show a speck of brilliance here and there. A speck. I won’t mince words here – this took me forever to get done and not due to page-count or the like, but due to the amount of issues. Balancing is completely all over the place – from ridiculously weak options to utterly overpowered ones, which constitute btw. the majority of this release, this feels like an alpha. How most of the content herein could get past any playtesting is beyond me. Several options will even be overpowered in the most high fantasy of games. The Warlock class needs to be scrapped and rebuild from scratch – it is the most broken class I’ve seen so far for PFRPG in any publication. The archetypes offer issues. The PrC is weird. Even mysteries and curses aren’t flawless and sport the other crux of this pdf: Ambiguities. A LOT of them. If the balance-concerns you might have, that aren’t even consistent within one mystery or archetype, don’t break this pdf for you, the latter will. There are so many imprecise wordings and glitches in here, it’s painful, partially taking cool concepts and rendering them unusable or unnecessarily obfuscating what exactly an ability is supposed to do. Scaling either exists and is OP or doesn’t and makes for utterly ridiculously weak options. Crunch-writing is all about getting math, syntax and semantics right and this one doesn’t for any even remotely consistent stretch of text.

And no, I did not complain about all glitches in this review. I hate dishing out verdicts like that, especially if good ideas are this present, but this pdf has nothing that would warrant any mercy, no mitigating, flawless gem at the bottom of this crackerjack box – 1 star.

Endzeitgeist out.

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Aug 272014
 

stop_harassment_v_Variation_1[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Sorry dudes, we need anti-harassment policies at conventions. And I’m afraid that’s not the only thing we need.

I’ve been battling with this for a while now and gathering my thoughts after listening/hearing both sides of the argument. After a lot of thinking, I have reached the conclusion that yes, we do need them.

And I think we need something else that is often overlooked and is probably as important, if not more, than the anti-harassment policy: The code of conduct policy.

You see, in any hobby there are bound to be assholes. The gaming hobby is not without its assholes and said assholes make a mess of things when they decide to assault a woman during Notch, or someone decides to harass a games industry veteran, or many of the incidents referenced in the Geek Feminism Wiki.

It is true that most of the people who are into gaming are not assholes. More often than not gamers are a friendly bunch and very easy to get along with. Contrary to popular belief we tend to be socially adept and know how to establish and maintain relationships and friendships with all sorts of people.

But there are assholes. And the problem with assholes is that when they show their face, the whole place stinks. Because what comes out of an asshole is shit.

One of the “reasons” people give to be against these policies go in the lines of “an asshole will behave like one with or without the policy”, and that is true. Other people say “harassment is covered by the law, why do we need to remind people? If they behave in a manner that’s not appropriate then we’ll kick them out.” And others say “but nothing has ever happened here. Why should we implement it now?”

Of course we have the “freedom of speech” evangelists. They want to be able to say what they want and if we are offended, then is on us because we don’t have the right not to be offended. You know, that is true. No one is immune from offense. And no one is immune from freedom of speech, so let me tell you and you’re not free from my freedom of speech to call you on you being an asshole. Freedom of speech goes both ways and I can’t imagine *for a second* why you should have the right to be offensive and I shouldn’t have the right to tell you you’re behaving like an asshole.

Also there is the point that if someone says “hey dude, that’s offensive, tone the language down a bit” it’s only a matter of manners to tone the language down. There might be children around, or maybe – just maybe – your sexist, racist, homophobic shit is simply not welcome. And just because you can’t see it’s racist, sexist, homophobic or whatever doesn’t meant it isn’t, or that you can’t be called out on that one. So giving a code of conduct guideline that says “be mindful of not offending people” is not infringing on your freedom of speech. It’s touching on your right to behave like an asshole.

Then there are those who say that people who complain about harassment are just exaggerating or seeking attention. I consider those being in the “asshole” category and thus won’t even address them.

One thing that we don’t often consider is that people don’t need to harass someone to make another person feel threatened or uncomfortable. Telling someone “your costume is shit because this hero had a different scarf” is not really harassing. It’s just rude and idiotic, though. And proper of assholes.

Sitting close to someone on the same bench without asking permission is not harassment, but it is rude. And yet some people just see a seat and take it without asking “Is this place taken? Do you mind if I sit here?” You know… common courtesy.

Harassment takes things one step further. Harassment also carries some form of intent: the intent to disturb or upset. Also is usually repetitive. Not all inappropriate behaviour carries that intent and it doesn’t have to be repetitive, though it can indeed be. If someone insults someone’s costume, or game, or whatever, what makes us think they’ll think twice before insulting someone else’s costume? Or game? Or whatever.

No. Exactly. They remain none-the-wiser and thus all-the-asshole.

And I think this is where conventions don’t go far enough to make sure the space is a safe as it can be. There should be a very clear code of conduct AND an anti-harassment policy. Yes, both.

Firstly it protects the organisation and it ensures the event is run consistently by all employees and volunteers. Alas, is not just attendees who can behave like assholes, volunteers and staff can too. It set clear rules and guidelines about what is acceptable and not acceptable. And if anyone were to take the organisation to court, the event could prove they’ve done all they can to make sure people knew how to behave.

It is also necessary because not all conventions need the same guidelines and code of conduct. A convention heavy on cosplay will probably have more emphasis on photography rules and conduct. One that’s purely about writing might need something different.

Secondly is necessary because, unfortunately and as it can be seen by many incidents, not all people know how to behave and having a reminder is not a bad idea. Ever.

Thirdly they are necessary because code of contact and anti-harassment policies don’t have to be just about the law, but about safety at the convention. It is about creating an environment in which people can feel protected and safe from actions and behaviour that is not necessarily illegal. Behaviour doesn’t have to be illegal to be unwelcome.

And it’s necessary because sometimes one has to remind people that they are not meant to be an asshole.

But most importantly they are necessary because providing people with a behavioural frame they can refer to so they can identify when behaviour is not acceptable is paramount for a lot of people. To give that code of conduct enables and empowers people to stand up and ask people to stop. They are told, in no uncertain terms that they do NOT have to accept certain type of behaviour and that the organisation is behind them to help and protect.

And whether you like or not, my dear asshole, they matter more than you. The people who feel threatened, bullied, upset, disturbed, harassed and put-off our hobby because you can’t be bothered to behave like a human being, matter more than you.

For every assault, every report, every incident, our hobby is made to look like a pool of shit, even if it’s just one asshole spewing that shit.

It only takes one.

So we need code of conduct. We need anti-harassment policy. And we don’t need assholes.

So if you are against them, please stop. Stop and wonder why you are against them. Are you going to behave like an asshole? No? then you don’t have to worry about it.

You don’t like to be told how you can behave or not? Then stay at home because you’re likely to not know how to behave.

You don’t know if you’re going to be called out for harassing anyone? Then follow the guidelines and people saying you’re harassing them won’t have any ground.

There is no logical reason to want to stop code of conducts and anti-harassment policies in conventions.

These policies have been in place at the workplace, clubs and organisations for decades. They are not new and they are not exclusive to the gaming hobby. So any reason you might have to want to see them gone is probably just your own insecurity.

Well… man-up. Or woman-up. Whichever, just up yourself.

Or stop being an asshole. That would work too!

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Aug 262014
 

pic1867874_t[1]The Titanic is probably the sea tragedy that’s capture people’s imagination the most up to date. Movies, books, museums, songs… and games have been created around it, like SOS Titanic.

And my favourite French games design company, Ludonaute, has done just that, create a game around the that very theme.

Designed by Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc, this is a cooperative game for one to eight players. A variant of the traditional solitaire in which the theme of the Titanic has been implemented to create a tense experience.

But does it play as well as it says it does?

We find out in this episode!

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Aug 262014
 

pic2087940_t[1]By Paco Garcia Jaen

Knee Jerk, an upcoming game by Knapsack Games is described as “The party game of instant reactions!”

I have to say I found that slogan to be rather uninspiring. Party games that require instant reactions are ten a penny (or a dime… or whatever currency you like), so another one didn’t really inspire me.

Then I read the rules: A moderator player lays three cards on the table. They will form a sentence. The first person to finish that sentence (hopefully with something funny) wins the point. The next player becomes the moderator. Another card is laid on the table and the process is repeated.

Uhmm… It really didn’t grab me. At all. Based on that, this is a game that shouldn’t work.

You see, doing “funny” in games is not easy. Sense of humour is such a subjective thing, that doing something that will be funny for everyone is extremely difficult. So I wasn’t hopeful at all.

But then we started to play the game and my scepticism vanished. Didn’t’ take more than a couple of rounds, to be honest.

The game, which will be funded in Kickstarter, it’s basically a deck of cards. I don’t know what the final result of the game will be, but the prototype I have is produced by The Game Crafter and it is pretty good quality (which is what we’ve come to expect from them). If the final product is as good as this, I’d be happy.

The graphic design in the cards is superb. Each card has three sentences inside a shape of different colours that turn into arrows when lined up with another card. The first sentence is a consequence (I feel my stomach rumbling), the second is a situation or place (On my honeymoon) and the last one is the reason to the first arrow (Because I figured out…)

Everytime you lay three cards you get three different situations with different consequences and different reasons. All the cards can be used with any other card and thus the combinations are pretty much endless. And wacky… really,really wacky!

Knee Jerk does humour very well indeed, I have to say. If you look at the cards individually, they mean very little, but when you start to put them all together, the sheer silliness of the situations will leave you laughing.

By now a lot of you will have thought of “Cards Against Humanity” as being a similar game. And you’re right, this game plays similar, but it’s not the same… not by a long shot.

Whereas the sense of humour in CAH is rather inappropriate, in Knee Jerk it doesn’t have to be.

Please note I say “it doesn’t have to be.” It can be, but this game is safe for kids and any inappropriate outcome is down to the players, not to the game.

For example there are situations or reasons that could inspire a less than appropriate response. “In the hot tub”, “because an Old Man Said…”, “Because I Felt Someone…”, “Because Someone Showed me…”

Some of those will inevitably inspire something naughty. But it does that, inspire it. It’s down to the players to say something naughty and when playing with children the sentences by themselves are pretty innocuous.

And this is what this game does so well. It leaves enough to the player’s imagination to become raunchy if that’s what you’re after, and it leaves plenty of room for innocent fun with silly situations so the whole family can enjoy the game.

Conclusion

This game is very well worth having, I think. It should do very well in Kickstarter and it’s a really good family game that can be played anywhere, be as silly as you like and provide a huge amount of fun to both adults and children alike.

that alone

I was won over after my initial cynicism, and I’m really glad I was. Now I have a silly/naughty game I can bring out with pretty much any of my friends that will live up to the expectation of pretty much any group.

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Aug 222014
 

mythic_monsters_mountsBy Endzeitgeist

Mythic Monsters: Mounts is 32 pages long, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 2 pages of introduction, 2 pages of advertisement and 1 page inside back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of raw content, so what do we exactly get here?

Since mounts aren’t just monsters, we kick off the pdf with some general pieces of information regarding mythic mounts (and animal companions), noting that some of the mounts herein come with integrated advanced creature templates as alternatives to provide sturdier options. Cool! Advice on further advancing mounts via templates, training them and 2 new mythic feats help here as well – one upgrading a companion’s ability to its mythic equivalent, one making the training of mythic creatures easier. The Trick Rider and Mythic Rider champion/guardian path abilities are also included, as is the companion mythic ability for the 6th tier guardian. Whereas the former you’ll know from the respective mythic minis, the latter makes a companion mythic/adds a mythic ability. This bonus content is okay, but a) not the focus of this pdf and b) not yet something that got me excited. Solid in craftsmanship, yes, but not yet legendary.

Let’s start, shall we? First would be the CR 5/MR 2 Mythic Bison, which can generate spirit bison phantoms to improve its trample. Sweet! CR 2/MR 1 mythic camels are next to unkillable due to starvation/thirst thanks to counting as if under the effects of a ring of sustenance. better yet, via mythic power, said camel can share its powers with the rider and even negate the fatigue condition or mitigate exhausted down to fatigued. Again, very cool. Mythic Riding Dogs (CR 1/MR 1) can emit pity-inducing whimpers and follow trips immediately with drag-maneuvers. This one also comes with an advanced version at CR 5/MR 2 that also gets the ability to stabilize the dying and duplicate some healing/soothing-themed SLs via licking the targets. Super-Lassie ftw.! ^^

Mythic Dragon Horses (CR 11/MR 4) can ride the lightning and generally makes for a truly fearsome flying beast to carry the most powerful of heroes into battle. The Mythic Giant Eagle at CR 4/MR1 gets an ability that more creatures should have – when hitting with both claws, they may drag opponents along: Either offensively or defensively. Nice swooping action! The CR 8/MR 3 version is an even better aerial interceptor that gets bonuses when readying against adversaries.

Mythic elephants clock in at CR 9/MR 3 and may pass through natural undergrowth, throw adversaries with the trunk and even toss adversaries with their charges – once again, this is one of the beasts that is closer to what the base creature ought to be able to do – the trunk and charge-tossing will be added asap to all non-mythic elephants in my campaign. Mythic hippocampi clock in at CR 3/MR 1 and allow the riders to breathe water or even act as if under freedom of movement while underwater. They may also create waves to topple/bull rush foes. Neat! The Mythic Hippogriff comes sans a non-advanced version and may emit a stunning shriek and catch falling allies mid-air via mythic power as immediate actions.

The CR 2/MR 1 Mythic light horse has superb speed and when running, benefits from an array of cool defensive abilities. Again, a set of abilities I will apply to some (though not all) supernatural/legendary horses. The Cr 6/MR 2 mythic advanced heavy warhorse is more geared towards combat and not only is not particularly impeded by armor, it also gets essentially a counter-flanking kick and diehard/mythic power fast healing when knocked below 0 hp.

The CR 6/MR 2 Mythic Nightmare can exhale soporific smoke and entice innocents towards an enchanting ride…that fascinates and kills them. NASTY! The CR 14/MR 5 Mythic Nightmare Cauchemar is this beast’s big bad brother – flaming hooves, hellfire, powerful trample – a steed worthy of the champions of darkness. Perhaps it’s my Warhammer background, but I was constantly thinking “This could be Archaon’s steed” while reading this one.

We also get two pegasi, one at CR 4/MR 1 and one at CR 9/MR 3. These flying steeds are particularly adept at avoiding titanic adversaries and they also can emit a reflexive whinny after succeeding a save versus freedom-restricting effects. The advanced version also gains wing buffet attacks and the option to use mythic power to smite foes larger than the steed. Cool.

At CR2/MR 1 the mythic advanced pony has one of the coolest abilities in this book -inexplicable survival. For one mythic power, these trusty mounts can survive EVERYTHING. Yes, even rocks fall, all die. And no, abusing this ability will not end well for the rider… At CR 15/MR 5, the mythic advanced roc makes for a truly majestic beast -with fortification, the option to drop huge things on foes, the option to create superbly strong winds, these titanic birds will make for a superb entrance.

At Cr 13/MR 5, I was exceedingly looking forward to the Mythic Sleipnir – and boy, does it not disappoint -summoning valkyries as the choosers of the fallen, and creating giant-damaging rainbow-bridges breathe the spirit of myths. Glorious and so much closer to the myths than the rather disappointing non-mythic standard sleipnir!

What can step up to this awesomeness? What about riding a CR 10/MR 4 Mythic Triceratops that is a true juggernaut of charging destruction? The pdf also includes a list of the mounts by CR.

Conclusion:
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 2.column full-color standard and the pdf comes with several nice artworks. The pdf comes without bookmarks, which is somewhat of a comfort detriment, but it is hyperlinked with unobtrusive hyperlinks -the good kind, that only is applied where it makes sense.

Jason Nelson delivers a glorious array of mythic mounts, worthy, one and all, to carry the best of heroes and worst of villains into battle, adding arrays upon arrays of superb signature abilities to the base-creatures, several of them actually fixing the base creatures not being too closely in line with what the creature ought to be able to do. Usually, I’d consider depriving this pdf of my seal of approval for the bookmark lack, but the pdf is simply too good – the mounts are universally awesome and not one felt lackluster or boring – final rating: 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.

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