Friday, August 17, 2018

Friday Art Attack

I'm not quite sure what this is all about, but that looks like a gibbering mouther, which is a reminder that Yog-Sothothery has always been a part of D&D, because what is a gibbering mouther if not a pastiche of a shoggoth?

When fighting some kind of black dragon, it's important to have a .... ghost dragon sword?  This looks very D&Dish (especially that very specific take on the black dragon) but I otherwise have no idea what's going on.  Cool image, though.

Some Conan related art; the other big races of northern barbarians (besides the Cimmerians to whom Conan belonged) were the alt.Vikings—the Vanir and the Æsir.  The Vanir were the red-heads, if I remember correctly.

Some extra spiky aliens.   I actually think the original design's smoothness is part of it's odd appeal.

Sam Wood's flipped image of the Ubese, which is what Princess Leia disguises herself as during Return of the Jedi, obviously.  They're kind of like the Star Wars version of Shadar-kai.

I personally think the Amazon warrior is kind of hoaky, but it's a genuine trope of Western civilization if you do it kind of right, I guess.  So, here's two images from it.  The skull-faced mask is pretty wild.

Bathymetric map of Antarctica if it had no ice cap.  I don't know if it's accurate or not, but it's a cool looking continent.  I'd do something with it.

The Morrison.  Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, and Othnielia.

Some more amazonian stuff, but this time let's add snakes and make the girl look like a vampire or something.  Cool.

I can't remember what this art is from, but it's pretty much what a fantasy port city should look like exactly.

Everyone loves a trip to the aquarium.

Aquilops, an early, basal ceratopsian found in Montana's Cloverly Formation.  This raises all kinds of interesting questions about the whole ceratopsian family and their geography.  Derived, big ceratopsians like Triceratops are only found in North America.  Previously, early, basal models like Psittacosaurus or Protoceratops were found in Asia.  So; what exactly is going on here?  Multiple migrations across a Berengian land bridge?  Probably.  But the picture is more complex than we used to think as more and more weird antecessors have turned up.

Cat people sorcerers with energy claws.  Why not?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Classes and Archetypes II: Advanced Class Guide Part 2

Here's some more from the Advanced Class Guide.  I've got one more part there before I'm done.

  • Cavalier
    • Daring Champion: While many cavaliers are the champions of old fighting forms, some younger, more daring cavaliers mix a martial style influenced by the lighter armored and more flamboyant swashbuckler forms with the dedication of cavalier orders. — To the extent that the Swashbuckler is a tactical and mechanical version of a mobile, lightly armored stunt fighter, putting them on a horse seems a little unusual as a concept.
  • Cleric
    • Ecclesitheurge: Eschewing physical armor for the protection of his faith, an ecclesitheurge focuses on the miracles his deity bestows and the breadth of that deity's dominion. — Again, this sounds like a very esoteric D&D related variation, rather than something that I can do much with in another FRPG environment.
  • Druid — although I've often suggested that I don't really have room for a druid per se in FANTASY HACK, in reality, the archetypes related to the druid—nature sorcerer, basically, seen through various lenses—is one that I like, so I actually hope to find concepts in here that are usable for me.
    • Feral Shifter: A feral shifter internalizes her communion with and mastery over animals. Instead of forming a bond with an animal companion or an aspect of nature, she alters her own essence or being in an homage to the noble creatures of the wild. More in tune with transformation and animal bodies than a normal druid is, a feral shifter blurs the line between humanoid and beast. — This is just a less out of control werewolf archetype, or one of various shapeshifter archetypes.  I don't really have much going on in my system that caters to this archetype, but it is a cultural touchstone, certainly, and I do at least have spells that would accommodate it.
    • Nature Fang: A nature fang is a druid who stalks and slays those who despoil nature, kill scarce animals, or introduce diseases to unprotected habitats. She gives up a close empathic connection with the natural world to become its deadly champion and avenger. — Actually, all of my druids, as a concept, would conform to the idea that they stalk and slay those who despoil nature, I think.  I'm not sure what else this means from a mechanical perspective (I'd have to dig further into the PRD to see the specific changes it offers) but yeah—I've already kind of decided that to the extent I have any druids at all, they'd conform to this concept.
    • Wild Whisperer: A wild whisperer is an expert at studying, predicting, and explaining animal behavior. She is less interested in plants, fey, and other aspects of the natural world, and uses her gifts to tame or relocate dangerous beasts and soothe the hurts of wounded and sickly creatures. — Crocodile Dundee in fantasy drag!  Yeah, OK.
  • Fighter
    • Martial Master: There are those who learn the fighting arts though countless hours of repetition and training, while others seem to pick up new stances and forms as if they were born to them. — I have no idea what that means, really.  That's not a concept, that's just... I don't know what that is.
    • Mutation Warrior: While most fighters rely on physical fitness and rigorous training to achieve martial superiority, a few prefer to create and imbibe dangerous concoctions that mutate them into fearsome creatures. — Another, more feral and darker take on the Hulk archetype.  Or maybe I should go back further and call it the original Jekyll and Hyde archetype.
  • Gunslinger
    • Bolt Ace: While most gunslingers are full of sound and fury, a few never soil their hands with powder or smell gun smoke. — An Arrowslinger?  It's the same archetype, just slightly different equipment.
  • Hunter
    • Divine Hunter: While most hunters heed the call of nature and fight to protect its bounty, some are inspired to serve a higher power. These divine hunters use faith to aid them in their struggles, and their faith infuses their animal companions, making these companions champions of their deities. — I'm not sure what this is except adding a few cleric powers to what is already a hybrid class (so a three-way hybrid?)  I'm also not convinced that slapping "divine" as an adjective in front of an archetype really creates a meaningful distinct variant of the archetype.
    • Feral Hunter: A feral hunter has forged a bond with nature that's so strong that she doesn't merely channel the aspects of animals—she actually becomes an animal herself. Though she lacks an animal companion, a feral hunter is in tune with the beast lurking within her flesh and spirit, and lives in a near-wild state of being. A feral hunter often resembles a lycanthrope, but her power comes from her own nature and is not influenced by moonlight or silver. — I've already mentioned how two or three of these archetypes fit this same bill; now here's another.  It'd curious that many of these "archetypes" are really just different approaches to the same archetype.
    • Packmaster: Some hunters form bonds with packs of well-trained creatures. Whether such a hunter is a northern berserker running with a pack of timber wolves or a savage warrior dashing through the jungle alongside her herd of dimetrodons, the packmaster revels in the thrill of the hunt and the glory of the kill. A packmaster is more comfortable in groups than alone, and although her animal companions may be weaker than a typical hunter's, what they lack in strength they make up for in numbers. — Less of an archetype, but certainly an intriguing unique character concept.  I like this idea.  Not sure how I would model it in my game; maybe just a house rule that animal companion can have more than one creature as long as the HD total is the same.
    • Primal Companion Hunter: Most hunters are skilled at awakening the primal beasts inside themselves. However, some can instead activate the primal essence within their animal companions. These primal companion hunters bestow upon their companions the ability to suddenly manifest new and terrifying powers—whether throwbacks to long-extinct beasts, bizarre mutations from extreme environments, or new abilities crafted through generations of selective breeding. — Kinda a cool concept; change your puma into a sabertooth, or something like that. 
    • Verminous Hunter: A verminous hunter calls on the ceaseless, single-minded dedication of vermin to hunt and overwhelm her prey. Where other hunters invoke the cunning, animalistic powers of the alpha predators, she calls on the powers of the lowest life forms, reaching out to the spider instead of the monkey, the mantis instead of the snake, or the moth instead of the owl. — Another good idea, especially for a villain.  Heck, doesn't that kind of describe the villain in the new Jumanji movie, for that matter?
  • Inquisitor
    • Sacred Huntsmaster: Some inquisitors create a strong bond with an animal companion, and the two of them hunt and punish threats to the faith as an awe-inspiring duo. When they work together as one, there are few that dare to stand in their way. — It's a bit ironic to see this right after I just did a bunch of animal companion classes.  This is hardly a unique archetype; it takes the archetype of one class and grafts it onto another.
    • Sanctified Slayer: While all inquisitors root out enemies of the faith, in many orders and churches there's a select group of these religious hunters devoted to one goal, and one goal alone—to terminate the enemies of the faith wherever they can be found. Sometimes these sanctified slayers are given special dispensation to commit ruthless murders for the faith's greater good. Other times, they're simply willing to take the initiative to revel in the zeal of their grisly work. — This seems like already the archetype for the Inquisitor to begin with.  I'm not sure, without reviewing the mechanics, how this is different, but from an archetypal perspective, it's not at all.
  • Investigator
    • Empiricist: Champions of deductive reasoning and logical insight, empiricists put their faith in facts, data, confirmed observations, and consistently repeatable experiments—these things are their currency of truth. — Yes, well... again, it's suggesting that Sherlock Holmes is a very specific sub-archetype of the investigator, or something.  I think he's more like the most exemplary single investigator, personally.  But is there any investigator who doesn't see himself as a champion of deductive reason and logical insight with his faith in facts, data, confirmed observations and consistently repeatable experiments?  
    • Infiltrator: An infiltrator specializes in investigating or disrupting groups from within. He uses his specialized set of skills and alchemical abilities to take the shape of the people or creatures whose company he's infiltrating, or even of specific individuals. — A worthy archetype for spy or crime type stories.
    • Mastermind: Although many investigators use their honed senses and cunning insight for personal gain, no one excels at such endeavors like the mastermind. Typically, these investigators dwell at the centers of complex networks of lies, minions, or precious information, from which they dispense commands, threats, and rumors, all carefully crafted to increase the power of their peculiar empires. While masterminds often act as the heads organizations such as criminal families, thieves' guilds, or corruption-riddled bureaucracies, they aren't always evil. — Another archetype that... is really probably more of a narrative archetype than one I'd expect to see mechanics for.  But intriguing nonetheless.  I'll probably actually check out exactly how they modeled it just for the heckuvit.
    • Sleuth: A sleuth is an investigator who relies on good fortune and guile rather than alchemy. Having no intrinsic mystical energy, she must forgo the more magical aspects of alchemy to solve her mysteries with wits, gumption, and the fickle consideration of luck. — In other words... every detective from real life ever.
    • Spiritualist: While most investigators look to the physical world to gain their knowledge, there are those who seek out knowledge beyond the pale. Those who think that the dead tell no tales are quickly proven wrong by the spiritualist. Instead of toying with chemicals and reagents to find clues, he talks directly to the spirit world to uncover the ways and means of skulduggery and the desperate acts committed in the heat of dark passions. — Reminds me a little bit of that old TV show Medium that was big a few years back, right?
    • Steel Hound: Black powder and firearms are a natural extension of the alchemical experimentation that investigators use on a regular basis. Steel hounds are investigators who have taken to using firearms in place of the more mundane weapons their counterparts favor. — An investigator... who carries a gun.  I don't think carrying a gun makes an investigator into a unique archetype.  Even in a semi-Medieval fantasy.
  • Magus
    • Eldritch Scion: Unlike typical magi, eldritch scions find that their spells and abilities come to them instinctively. — Again, this is merely a mechanical variation on how spells are cast.
  • Monk —  in general, I don't see the monk class as compatible with Western Civilization based FRPGs, but there might yet be something usable in here.
    • Kata Master: The kata master takes the visual aspect of his martial art to its logical extreme, harnessing his flowing movements and skilled maneuvers as a psychological weapon against his enemies. A kata master forsakes the mental discipline of his more contemplative brethren in favor of flamboyant exhibitions. He often performs in staged fights and tournaments, utilizing stylized forms to amaze the audience and shock and dismay his opponents. — Uh, no.
    • Wildcat: A wildcat is a student of the school of hard knocks who dedicates himself to learning how to take down foes by any means necessary. A wildcat isn't afraid to smash a tankard over a foe's head, stomp an opponent's foot, gouge an eye, or generally create mayhem to gain any possible advantage. — Given that my preferred way of playing is rules-lite, this doesn't require anything other than roleplaying to get out of whatever other fist-fighting approach you've already got going on.
  • Oracle — yet another alternate spell-casting class to give an alternative to normal D&D magic in the D&D game.  For the most part, I'll probably find these unusable given that I already have an alternative magic system and only one magic system as it is.
    • Psychic Searcher: A psychic searcher is devoted to revealing the hidden within the world around her by sensing and communing with residual mental energy, haunts, and fragments of living spirits that can dwell in objects or rooms. — This is also like Medium in many ways, or at least the same archetype.  I like this as a character concept, really, although we've already had it under another class.
    • Spirit Guide: Through her exploration of the universe's mysteries, a spirit guide opens connections to the spirit world and forms bonds with the entities that inhabit it. — We've also already had this exact concept in another class too.
    • Warsighted: A warsighted's unique gifts are not grounded in strange magical revelations, but rather in her ability to adapt in the midst of a battle with new fighting techniques. The warsighted is a master of combat, as dedicated as a fighter and as flexible as a brawler. — A brawling prophet who uses his gift of prophecy to be a better fighter?  lolwut.
  • Paladin
    • Holy Guide: A holy guide believes he has a sacred calling to clear the roads of bandits between towns as well as to escort travelers to safety. He must enforce the rule of law in the wilderness and help those that cannot defend themselves against the many dangers of the area. — This doesn't seem much like a paladin archetype.  It's basically just... the local sheriff.
    • Temple Champion: A temple champion is a powerful warrior dedicated to a good or lawful deity. She thinks of herself primarily as a servant of her deity and secondarily as an agent of her deity's church. She has a refined understanding of a specific aspect of that faith and gives up standard paladin spellcasting in favor of a warpriest's domain-based blessings and granted powers. — Just some mechanical stunts, it looks like.  The Paladin and Warpriest are already pretty much the same archetype anyway. 
  • Ranger
    • Divine Tracker: Blessed by his deity, a divine tracker hunts down those he deems deserving of his retribution. His weapon is likely to find purchase in his favored enemy. — We've already seen this exact archetype under another class.  Plus, I don't think slapping "divine" in front of a character class makes it a new concept really anyway.
    • Hooded Champion: The hooded champion lives on the periphery of civilized lands, and is often at odds with the forces of law and order. He is frequently a hero of oppressed peoples, lurking in the woods near their homes and trying to right the injustices inflicted upon them by the wealthy and powerful. — It's probably about time that the game acknowledged that Robin Hood was the original example of the ranger class, and that the class has drifted way too far from the details of the archetype, I think.
    • Wild Hunter: A wild hunter seeks to emulate the animals around him to keep him safe while he tracks his prey. Instead of studying the traits and behaviors of a favored enemy, a wild hunter studies those of various animals, incorporating those attributes into his hunting strategy. — Uhh.... I'm not sure what to make of this.  It's not much of a character concept, really.
  • Rogue
    •  Counterfeit Mage: Charlatans and stage magicians use sleight of hand to fake magic. A counterfeit mage goes a step further, parroting the motions and phrases used by arcane casters to activate wands or other magical accoutrements. While counterfeit mages rarely fool a real wizard, their command of the arcane is enough to convince most lay people. — I actually kind of like this idea.  It's not exactly an archetype, but it would make one heckuva interesting character concept.
    • Underground Chemist: Underground chemists are part of the fetid underbelly of the alchemical world. While underground chemists can't hold a candle to dedicated alchemists, their use of alchemical substances and potions makes them tricky and dangerous. — On the other hand, what the heck is this?  A fantasy drug dealer?

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Classes and Archetypes II: Advanced Class Guide Part 1

As is probably not surprising, the Advanced Class Guide has tons of class material, and therefore can't be done in a single post.  I envision it'll probably end up being three before I do all of the archetypes listed therein.

Because this is alphabetical, I'm going to be reviewing archetypes for classes that hadn't even debuted yet; i.e., I've only done the Core Rulebook, where as a class like the Alchemist comes from a book that's further down the line in the PRD.  While this is maybe a little bit awkward, it's not really so bad for my purposes, because I'm exploring archetypes by name and brief description, not really digging into the mechanics of such.
Advanced Class Guide
Hybrid classes  (This is more a mechanical conceit than an archetype conceit; it's all about putting two core classes' archetypes together in a blended form.  But sometimes the concept is itself a viable archetype, so I'll go through them.  There are archetypes (in the Paizo mechanical sense) of these hybrid classes too, so we'll see more of them as we go.)
  • Arcanist: Blending the power of the sorcerer with the versatility of the wizard, the arcanist draws upon a reservoir of power to bend magic to her will. — Because I already have no distinction between sorcerer and wizard, this is not something I can use.  It's not an archetype, it's a mechanical stunt.
  • Bloodrager: Fusing the frenzy of the barbarian with the bloodline might of the sorcerer, the bloodrager calls upon innate power to give himself extraordinary abilities. — a character that uses extreme emotion and an accident of genetics to fight with magical powers... I dunno.  That seems way too specific to be considered any kind of archetype.  But I can see an interesting character being built around that concept. 
  • Brawler: Focusing on hand-to-hand combat, the brawler mixes the martial artistry of the monk with the specialist training of the fighter. — This is basically just an attempt to make a fighter capable while unarmed.  This is more of an Eastern tradition than a Western tradition, but I can see where it maybe has a place.
  • Hunter: Though both the druid and ranger can have animal companions, the hunter takes this bond to the next level, forming a deadly duo with her savage ally. — a martial character who really focuses on an animal companion.  I like that concept.  I don't really have a great way to model that in FANTASY HACK other than the existing animal companion rules, so it would have to be more of a roleplaying gig; create an Outdoorsman or someone else who has an animal companion and fighting type skills, and maybe pick up a few spells to augment your animal companion a lot or something.
  • Investigator: With the rogue's cunning complemented by the alchemist's magical talent, the investigator is a peerless problem solver. — I actually have an example of this archetype as my very first DARK•HERITAGE m20 iconic character; not that I've looked at them in a long time, but he would work just as well as a FANTASY HACK iconic; he's an older human 3rd level Expert with a few spells.
  • Shaman: Calling on the divine power of the oracle and the hexes of a witch, the shaman communes with her spirit animal to unleash doom upon her foes. — This is another mechanical stunt class that combines two archetypes that aren't archetypal; they're just different mechanical takes on the same archetype.  Now, granted, one could make the case that the witch and the oracle aren't really the same archetype when it comes to mythology and folklore, but in terms of fantasy as we know it, it'd be pretty tough to distinguish them.
  • Skald: Sharing fury through song and deed, the skald takes the rage that lives in the heart of the barbarian and inspires it in others using the performances of the bard. — The skald is really a specific cultural archetype; the viking historian/bard character.  It seems very narrow to me.  Interpreting that as a hybrid of the barbarian and bard classes is even more weird; but again, I don't think the bard makes much sense in an adventuring milieu anyway.  I'd create a skald by merely making a Viking character who has some extra ranks in a skill that would make him a historian and/or performer.
  • Slayer: Mixing the precise strikes of the rogue with the special training of the ranger, the slayer hunts down his foes with ruthless efficiency. — This could be addressed by my Appendix II stuff; give the major bonus of the Rogue's sneak attack along with a minor bonus that is outdoorsy, or something.  Really, the more I think about it, the more I think the Sneak Attack is too narrow itself, though.  Not that I have an alternative, but I sometimes wish that I did.
  • Swashbuckler: Combining the prowess of the fighter with the determination of the gunslinger, the swashbuckler is an acrobatic melee combatant. — Combining the fighter with ... the gunslinger?  That's odd.  Almost everyone sees the swashbuckler as an archetype that straddles the line between fighter and rogue in the normal D&D class architecture.
  • Warpriest: Blending the cleric's divine might and the fighter's martial skills, the warpriest brings the fight to the enemies of his faith. — Sounds like the same mechanical niche as the paladin, but without the lawful goody-two-shoes restrictions.
  • Alchemist
    • Inspired Chemist: Akin to a mindchemist, inspired chemists use a type of cognatogen that, instead of increasing their mental ability scores, grants them an inspiration pool like that of an investigator. This inspiration provides an inspired chemist amazing powers to avoid danger, but takes a toll on both physical power and health. — I have to admit that I have no idea what this is even talking about, but I never really got involved in the specifics of the alchemist class in Pathfinder.  This sounds suspiciously like a mechanical stunt specialist than an actual archetype, though.
  • Arcanist
    • Blade Adept: A small number of arcanists learn to use blades as part of their spellcasting and in combat. While these blade adepts are not as capable with a sword as a true master duelist, their combination of swordplay and arcane power makes them quite deadly. — D&D related games seem like they're always after the Holy Grail of a class that combines martial skill with magical ability. The concept, in my opinion, is flawed from the get-go, though.  What people want when they crave this "archetype" is the Mary Sue who can do everything and is just better and more capable than everyone else.  Which... isn't really a problem, I guess.  That's a common theme in many fantasy stories.  But it's a poor fit for a game like D&D.  Rather than try to create it in a balanced way through the rules, it's probably better left for something like what you do when you have a smaller group, and you create Gestalt characters.  Using something derived from the old Unearthed Arcana rules.  Well, not the old, old Unearthed Arcana, but the 3.5 version of it, anyway. Just go into it boldly, accepting that such a character has all of the abilities of two classes and is thus better than any other class option, and structure your game around the idea of being able to do that, is my recommendation.
    • Blood Arcanist: Though most arcanists possess only a rudimentary innate arcane gift, the blood arcanist has the full power of a bloodline to draw upon. — So it sounds like the class that's already a hybrid of wizard and sorcerer is leaning more towards sorcerer, with more of a dash of wizard.  This is too finely grained separation of mechanics for me.  Who cares?  I mean, I see why players of a highly mechanized and tactical game would want mechanical and tactical variety, but this simply doesn't translate at all into the exercise that I'm doing.
    • Brown-fur Transmuter: Frequently called "brown-furs," these transmutation-focused arcanists are known for transforming themselves into animals. What few realize is that these specialized arcanists excel at turning themselves—and others—into all kinds of creatures. — Wow, I actually really like this idea!  Kind of a werewolf who's more of a magical werewolf, and not tied to the specifics of lycanthropy, etc.  I mean, if Harry Freakin' Potter can do something similar, why not us, right? I think this archetype is merely best modeled in my system with spell selection and roleplaying, but what an interesting character concept!  I really like it.
    • Eldritch Font: For some arcanists, the power bubbling up from within is nearly too much to contain. They become adept at shaping this magical energy without needing to bind it up in spells. — It also occurs to me that many alternate classes, and based on the description, this sounds like it applies here, are really an attempt to model a different type of magic system than D&D normally has.  Maybe something that resembles the magic system in some specific novel, for instance, or something like that.  That doesn't actually make it a different archetype, exactly, but I can see the point.  However—I tend to believe that a setting should have a magic system, and other settings should have other magic systems.  More than one active magic system in the same setting is... weird.
    • Elemental Master: Arcanists with an affinity for elemental forces sometimes focus on one and display its power in everything they do. — I'd simply do this with spell-selection, description and roleplaying.
    • Occultist: Not all arcanists peer inward to discern the deepest secrets of magic. Some look outward, connecting with extraplanar creatures and bartering for secrets, power, and favor. — The same could be said for this.  I like this whole idea of magic, though, that it's a fundamentally inhuman process and requires bargaining or exploiting some kind of entity from outside.
    • School Savant: Some arcanists specialize in a school of magic and trade flexibility for focus. School savants are able to prepare more spells per day than typical arcanists, but their selection is more limited. — This isn't an archetype; it's a tactical variant.
    • Spell Specialist: Where most arcanists are broad in their study of magic, a spell specialist has her power focused in a few spells. Spell specialists are able to warp and twist the magic of their signature spells in ways other casters cannot. — The same is true here.
    • Unlettered Arcanist: Some arcanists store their spells as whispered secrets within familiars instead of on paper. — While this may make a colorful character concept, I can't imagine dedicating even a mechanical variation to this idea, much less pretend like it's an archetype.
    • White Mage: A white mage is an arcanist touched by a divine power and gifted with the ability to heal others. — Aaaaannddd... again.  Most of these archetypes simply aren't "archetypes" in the normal sense; they are merely mechanical skins that play up a specific concept, turning it into a stunt that becomes that character's specialty.  I actually think that offering that kind of thing in a rules-heavy system is not at all a bad idea, but for my purposes, where I'm going through these looking for character concepts that can be used in another system, they are too esoteric and metagamey to actually be of much use. I actually expected exactly as much with regards to much of the magical class archetypes, classes and prestige classes, but still—it's one thing to expect something, and another to see it actually unfold before your eyes.
  • Bard — given that I don't even like the bard class at all, I doubt I'll find much to like in the archetypes that it has, but I'll dutifully review them all anyway.
    • Flame Dancer: A flame dancer studies the movements of fire, adding its grace to his repertoire. He seeks truth in fire's burning essence, and uses his performance to unleash the power of fire against those who dare oppose him. — A singing, dancing wizard who casts fireballs against his foes.  Coming soon to Dungeons & Dragons: The Musical.  WTF is this?  Seriously?
    • Voice of the Wild: Most bards are inspired by the art of civilization, yet the voice of the wild's muse is the grandeur of nature. The voice of the wild has discovered nature's magical secrets, and can use his performance to bring out the bestial side in his allies. — While I kinda sympathize with the core conceit, being an avid outdoorsman of sorts myself (who's coming up on a year since my last big hiking trip, and I really could stand to get away and not have to see anybody for a week right now, believe you me) I don't see how singing John Denver songs to your adventuring party to make them perform better is a concept that works for anything at all that I envision good fantasy to be.
  • Bloodrager
    • Blood Conduit: Blood conduits learn to channel their arcane might directly through their flesh, without the need for mystical words or gestures. — I don't find the notion of "a fighting sorcerer who doesn't need to use words or gestures" a sufficiently compelling idea by itself.  Again, it's so highly dependent on the standard D&D magic system that it only works—maybe—in that system.
    • Bloodrider: In the world's wild lands, a mount is an advantage in both everyday life and the dealing of death. In many barbarian tribes, the true stature of a warrior is determined by his skill and ferocity when fighting astride his mount. A number of bloodragers not only are skilled in the art of mounted combat, but have learned to channel their arcane energies directly into their mounts. — Magical pony emotional warriors.  D&D for little girls, it sounds like to me.
    • Crossblooded Rager: While most bloodragers manifest only one bloodline, there are some who, through some quirk of heredity or the conjunction of other powers, manifest two. This combination of two distinct bloodlines can create a versatile and powerful rager who stands out among the horde. — This concept is meaningless without the specifics of the sorcerer class magic system.  So, no—no can use.
    • Greenrager: Typically, nature finds its greatest harmony with divine magic, but sometimes a connection with the natural world manifests itself through the arcane current in the veins of the bloodragers called greenragers. These bloodragers funnel their eldritch heritage into abilities that allow them to call powerful allies from nature and empower them with their bloodrage. — While mechanically this is nothing like a druid (I presume) in reality, the concept is exactly the same.
    • Metamagic Rager: While metamagic is difficult for many bloodragers to utilize, a talented few are able to channel their bloodrage in ways that push their spells to impressive ends. — Use one class to get a handful of abilities that normally belong to another class!  Sigh.  Not a usable archetype.
    • Primalist: While bloodline powers come from the very essence of a bloodrager's being and are often strict and immutable, some bloodragers tap into ancient traditions and primitive wisdom to enhance their rages with something more primal. The primalist mixes his bloodline with more traditional rage powers. — What in the world does any of that even mean?  It sounds like the barbarian/sorcerer hybrid class that actually gets to lean towards barbarian a bit more than the other variants.  O.... K....
    • Rageshaper: All bloodragers blend the unpredictable surge of arcane power with the savage fury of battle lust. For most, their rage is a conduit for the eldritch power locked in their heritage, but for a rageshaper, the latent magical energies in his blood bring about physical transformations and facilitate the blending of arcana and aggression into a deadly synthesis that few other barbarians (or even other bloodragers) can match. — I think most people would simply call that a variation on the "werewolf" archetype.
    • Spelleater: Where other bloodragers learn to avoid or shrug off minor damage of all sorts, spelleaters tap into the power of their bloodline in order to heal damage as it comes, and can even cannibalize their own magical energy to heal more damage and continue taking the fight to the enemy. — This one I can actually see as being a unique concept or idea.  I could probably find some way to come up with a "convert magic into healing" stunt for m20.
    • Steelblood: Most bloodragers prefer light armor, but some learn the secret of using heavy armor. These steelbloods plod around the battlefield inspiring fear and delivering carnage from within a steel shell. — A barbarian and sorcerer hybrid, but... get this, get this!  He WEARS ARMOR!  Sigh. Since the only reason that neither barbarians nor sorcerers wear armor anyway is an esoteric detail of how it works in D&D that bears no resemblance to real life (and thus not to many other fantasy settings either).  How creative.
    • Untouchable Rager: While most bloodragers are known for their inexplicable ability to focus their bloodline into a horrifying mix of martial terror and spellcasting fury, from time to time a bloodrager's bloodline acts differently. Instead of empowering the bloodrager, it shields the bloodrager from magic of all types, often keeping the bloodrager untouched within the midst of magical effects. — This seems like a VERY narrow character concept.  It's not terrible as far as character concepts go, but I really have to wonder how often it matters in most campaigns.
  • Brawler
    • Exemplar: A versatile soldier who inspires her companions with her fighting prowess, an exemplar is at home on the front lines of battles anywhere. — I presume that if I read the specifics there's more to this concept than the description seems to imply, because... that's not much of a concept by itself.
    • Mutagenic Mauler: Not content with perfecting her body through natural methods, a mutagenic mauler resorts to alchemy to unlock the primal beast within. — It kind of sounds like a watered down version of The Hulk archetype.  Not a bad archetype, I suppose, but "mutagenic mauler" isn't exactly a name that rolls off the tongue.
    • Shield Champion: Stalwart in battle, a shield champion has perfected an entire martial discipline relying only on her hand-to-hand fighting skills and her ever-present shield. What she forgoes in weapon versatility and improved combat maneuvering, she makes up for in her ability to turn her defense into a weapon. — Speaking of archetypes that come from Marvel Comics, is it just me, or does this sound like Captain America?
    • Snakebite Striker: With her lightning quickness and guile, a snakebite striker keeps her foes' attention focused on her, because any one of her feints might be an actual attack. By giving up some of a brawler's versatility, she increases her damage potential and exposes her opponents to deadly and unexpected strikes. — This sounds more like a tactical specialty than anything else.  I'm not quite sure how else to characterize it just based on the description, so I don't know what I could do with it.
    • Steel-breaker: The steel-breaker studies destruction and practices it as an art form. She knows every defense has a breaking point, and can shatter those defenses with carefully planned strikes.
    • Strangler: A strangler is trained to choke the life out of her victims with her vise-like grip. Some stranglers are self-taught and are little more than brutish murderers, unhinged sociopaths, or opportunistic alley-bashers. Others are members of murder cults or specialized schools of assassination, trained since childhood to kill with their bare hands. — While in fiction, I can see this as a workable archetype, I'm not sure what to do with it in game.  Most likely, this concept is to force the mechanics to make the concept viable.
    • Wild Child: The wild child works with his sworn animal friend to conquer the challenges that lay before them. This kinship could come from being lost in the wilderness and raised by animals or growing up with an exotic pet. — The name has always been a pet peeve of mine, but the concept is fine.  Is it really going to resemble Tarzan, though, because if not, then what's the point?

Friday, August 10, 2018

Galaxy's Edge

After getting a very late start, I'm now 40% done with Requiem for Medusa, the Tyrus Rechs prequel spin-off series.

That makes eight main-line Galaxy's Edge novels (so far; at least one more to go), one spin-off prequel detailing the rise of Goth Sullus, and one spin-off novel about Tyrus Rechs, with another announced (I've already pre-ordered.)  So that makes ten novels currently available with an eleventh due later this month.

Amazon calls the series mil-sci-fi, and I suppose often it is, but my favorite stuff is the skulduggery.  Crime and intrigue, etc.  Either way, it's space opera the way nothing since the original Star Wars movie has been able to be in the mainstream, and which you can only now find by pulling up old stories (older than I am by a generation or two) or reading from indie authors.  Sci-fi has never been this bad.  Which creates quite the opportunity for indie authors to find a market that's literally starved for what they want.

Anyway, this is my semi-regular plug for Galaxy's Edge; if you like Star Wars the way it used to be and the way that it should be, then Galaxy's Edge was written for you.  Go get the first book, Legionnaire, as quickly as you can and read it.  There isn't a single one of these books that I haven't enjoyed.  I'm loving the Tyrus Rechs spin-off series too (although admittedly Rechs isn't as charismatic a character was Wraith, he's more interesting on other ways.)  I'm really curious what Jason and Nick have in store for us readers down the line.  Rumors of spin-off novels authored by others, and a Savage Wars series all abound.  Can't wait.

Classes and Archetypes I: Core Rulebook

For the heckuvit, I went through the PRD (the SRD for Pathfinder 1.0) and made a list of every class, prestige class and class archetype that I could find.  I didn't want to take a million years making sure I didn't miss anything, but it wasn't a difficult exercise.  Mostly copying and pasting the names and brief descriptions of each into a Google Sheet.  Of course, since I don't play Pathfinder and my tastes have wandered almost certainly for good in a different direction, one may wonder what in the world I'd do with this.  My thought was that I'd look over every archetype and class and see if it fit into my world and my game; not as a game class, but as a concept that one could build a character around, at least.  Or is the concept too rooted in the specifics of D&D that it can't translate into a different type of fantasy?  Even FANTASY HACK isn't so D&D that it can accommodate every type of D&D-style character, after all.

A few things stuck out at me.  There are a lot of archetypes.  I think archetypes as rules for varying the classes is a much better approach than creating new classes or prestige classes.  But still; I'm surprised how many there were.  Some of them were really quite specific.  Moreso than is probably useful generally, I'd wager.

Also; there weren't a lot of prestige classes.  My impression from 3e and 3.5 is that it is completely awash with prestige classes.  There are way too many to get your arms around.  But if Paizo did the same thing, they didn't add them to the PRD at least, because the only ones I saw were in the core rulebook, and they were basically the same ones that were in the SRD (modified and updated to be compatible with Pathfinder, of course.)

Anyway, there's way too many to do in a single post, so I've created a tag, ARCHETYPES, for me to use as I go through this series.  Keep in mind as I go through this that FANTASY HACK has a very different magical system than D&D; no Vancian fire and forget and major distinctions between different types of spellcasters, and a split between divine and arcane and psionic magic.  I have Lovecraftian magic, and you don't pick a class to use it; you just pursue spells and learn them.  Many of the specific magic-using archetypes that they have will be essentially indistinguishable in FANTASY HACK from each other.  In fact, in general, I'd say that my system is more "typical" fantasy than "D&D fantasy" in some ways, so I imagine that I won't have much to say about some of these concepts other than that the concept is based on a mechanical, rather than setting specific distinction that simply doesn't exist in my game.  But those caveats aside, let's do this!

Core Rulebook
Regular classes
  • Barbarian: The barbarian is a brutal berserker from beyond the edge of civilized lands. — Sure, we've got barbarians.  The idea of the Rage ability is too narrow, though.  I prefer the idea of barbarian not as a class archetype with specific mechanics and more as a cultural archetype that cuts across classes.
  • Bard: The bard uses skill and spell alike to bolster his allies, confound his enemies, and build upon his fame. — I admit, I don't understand the concept of bard.  Or rather, I don't understand why anyone would ever want to play one.  A singer or lute player who can cast a few spells?  Huh?  I understand that from a mechanics perspective, the bard cuts across several classes as a kind of hybrid, but the concept is just way too specific, and frankly, way too weird.  But if you really wanted to do one... I'd make the character in FANTASY HACK either be an Expert or a Rogue, teach him a few spells, and... I dunno; just carry around and instrument and use it as part of your roleplaying or something.
  • Cleric: A devout follower of a deity, the cleric can heal wounds, raise the dead, and call down the wrath of the gods. — This is another one where I kind of understand that archetype, but the mechanics have always done a poor job of mimicking them, focusing instead on a tactical need (the paladin actually better exemplifies the archetype that the cleric class is supposed to mimic.  Or even just a fighter who happens to be religious.)  With mechanics focused as they are on divine magic and healing (two concepts that I don't really utilize) it would be hard to create an analog to the cleric class, although the broader archetype of a religious warrior, is of course, very easy to do with roleplaying.
  • Druid: The druid is a worshiper of all things natural—a spellcaster, a friend to animals, and a skilled shapechanger. — I don't really have anything much like a druid, but if I did, they'd be villains anyway.
  • Fighter: Brave and stalwart, the fighter is a master of all manner of arms and armor. — Naturally, I have a fighter class.  It's not really an archetype, though, so much as it is a grab-bag of loosely related archetypes.  The class can be used to mimic many archetypes... but it does need some imagination to do so.
  • Monk: A student of martial arts, the monk trains his body to be his greatest weapon and defense. — The monk class is an import, and the vector for it is probably Hong Kong theatre, the old TV show Kung Fu, and Street Fighter style video games.  I really don't see it as compatible with fantasy based on Western civilization, so I'm not really very interested in it.
  • Paladin: The paladin is the knight in shining armor, a devoted follower of law and good. — The paladin class is basically just a fighter tricked out with the Arthurian Romance stuff.  The "holiness" and mystical, magical aspects were played up (in the mechanics, at least).  But again; any fighter can be a knight in shining armor in my game, and any fighter can pick up a few spells.  I'm not so sure that the mechanics are very integral to the concept, though.
  • Ranger: A tracker and hunter, the ranger is a creature of the wild and of tracking down his favored foes. — My favorite archetype, and one that I'm always tweaking, because I have different ideas on how to express it mechanically.  Given that I expect my games to really focus more on the wilderness rather than the dungeon, I've made this an integral part of my game, and one of only a few "core" classes that I have.  But there are ways to tweak and customize it even so if you read my Appendix II.
  • Rogue: The rogue is a thief and a scout, an opportunist capable of delivering brutal strikes against unwary foes. — I'm not sure if that back-stabbing ambush fighting rogue really fits the archetypes of the fantasy rogue or not, but it's certainly very ingrained in the D&D milieu.  If you don't want that, an expert can actually probably be a better thief than the rogue.
  • Sorcerer: The spellcasting sorcerer is born with an innate knack for magic and has strange, eldritch powers. — The sorcerer class has come under a lot of criticism from traditionalist gamers ever since it debuted in 3e back in 2000 for being a comic book character; the X-men version of a magic-user, as opposed to the more traditional wizard.  The distinction is purely mechanical, though, and since my magic system uses different mechanics, there isn't any meaningful difference between a sorcerer and a wizard in FANTASY HACK.
  • Wizard: The wizard masters magic through constant study that gives him incredible magical power. — see sorcerer above.

Prestige classes
  • Arcane Archer: An arcane spellcaster who draws upon ancient elven traditions to infuse his arrows with potent magical power.  — I doubt that this would be an archetype in my game, but one could be more or less approximated by making an archery focused character who also knew a few spells that enhanced his archery, and making him an elf, I suppose.
  • Arcane Trickster: A troublemaker and a scoundrel who uses arcane magic to enhance her thievery and trickery. — I actually really kind of like this concept.  The Gray Mouser was a dabbler in magic, if you recall, himself.  My system, if anything works better than using a prestige class, because anyone can dabble in magic if they want, and learn a few spells here and there.
  • Assassin: A remorseless murderer who kills for money and the sheer thrill of death-dealing. — Arguably, the Rogue class already exemplifies this archetype without needing another class.
  • Dragon Disciple: An arcane spellcaster who has embraced his latent draconic heritage and, over the course of training and devotion, undergoes a partial transformation into a dragon. — This is too D&D specific.  There isn't any draconic heritage for any character in FANTASY HACK.  I'm not even sure what I'd do with dragons at all, quite honestly, even though I have them in my monster list.  You kinda hafta, even if you don't really know what to do with them, someone will want one.
  • Duelist: A swashbuckling swordfighter who relies upon grace, poise, and acrobatics to win the day. — Absolutely yes.  The lightly armored, swashbuckling fighter is more my thing than the heavily armored tank type fighter.  Although the duelist is an original prestige class, quite frankly, not being able to have this archetype represented at level one was a major miss in the system, and it's been better defined through a whole slew of alternate base classes over the years.
  • Eldritch Knight: An arcane spellcaster who augments his magical skills with combat to create a deadly combination of weapons and magic. — just a fighter with some spells, in concept anyway.  Yeah, you can totally do that in FANTASY HACK.
  • Loremaster: A spellcaster who devotes his life to research and rumination upon the mysteries of the world. — Sigh.  A wizard who has a lot of knowledge.  This is a character concept, not a class.
  • Mystic Theurge: Equally devoted to divine and arcane magic, the mystic theurge combines both magical traditions into one incredibly diverse class. — This is specific to D&D where there's a major split between arcane and divine magic.  I have no such split, so the concept is meaningless outside of D&D and D&D derivative games.
  • Pathfinder Chronicler: An explorer at heart, the Pathfinder chronicler travels to distant, exotic lands to expand her knowledge of the world.  — Although very specific to the Pathfinder setting, the idea of an explorer was, of course, borrowed from the real world, so it hardly needs to be something alien and unique.
  • Shadowdancer: A mysterious adventurer who walks the boundaries between the real world and the realm of shadows, and who can command shadows to do her bidding. — This concept is best utilized in the Shadow Sword class from my game in Appendix II.  It's not exactly the same thing as the prestige class, but it still kinda gets to the heart of the same basic concept in setting terms.

Friday Art Attack

It looks like today I'm going to have more than the normal amount of Paizo art.  Oh, well.  They've done some good stuff.  Or commissioned some good stuff, more accurately.

A Wayne Reynolds piece where some of the iconics are fighting a bunch of demons and stuff.  If I remember correctly, this is Mythic Adventures; the ultra-high level stuff.  I think?  EDIT: No, it's one of the Wrath of the Righteous covers.  But that adventure path was the one that specifically highlighted Mythic Adventures content, so that makes sense why I got them mixed up.

A very skinny gnoll.  Technically, it's actually Yeenoghu from a 3e era publication.  But he's the patron demon-lord of gnolls and looks like a gnoll himself.  There was much better 4e art of him, for what it's worth.

Although I don't remember where I got this, I think I can recognize Master Chief when I see him.  Unless it's just derivative of Master Chief, which isn't impossible.

Two versions of the same illustration; orcs in New Paizo.  Not a bad piece.  These orcs are much more ape-like in many ways than most of their prior illustrations.

Paizo iconics again.  Cribbed from the blog, I think.

And again.  I know Paizo is proud of their inclusiveness, but in reality, what they do is favor pictures of "tough", unfeminine and unlikable adventure gals.  It's a shame that their art is ruined by the use of so many of these iconics, which end up being the weakest link in much of their art.

Yet another.

I don't remember what this is from, but it sure is weird.  It begs for some explanation.
Another tough nature girl and her kitty.  Sigh.

Pretty classic imagery here, although updated to a "dungeonpunk" aesthetic, as it's often derogatorily (yet curiously accurately) called.

One of my favorite of the wrap-around Eberron covers.

Rediscovering hardtrance classics

It may seem cheeky of me to talk about rediscovering hardtrance classics from my collection that I only discovered myself a few months ago, but I've gotten so much material so quickly that some stuff sinks out and needs to be rediscovered, I suppose.

I've always liked Uwe Wagenknecht, and he's one of the early discoveries I had in the genre.  He's one of the DJs that debuted during Wave I hardtrance but seamlessly made his way into Wave II.  Most of his best work seems to have been collaborative, and he worked with a lot of other artists.  Especially Mike Staab (Misar—together they were Cosmik Vision, Mikado, Nightclub, Pro-Active, and a few more, most notably Yakooza) and Martin Roth (M.R. or Y.O.M.C.—together they were DJ Wag & M.R., Pro-Tech, etc.)

One of Wag's early hits was a collaboration with M.R. called "Life on Mars" released on Overdose Records in 1998.  It had a bigger release in late 2001, this time credited solely to DJ Wag, but featuring two new remixes; a DJ Wag Mix and a Y.O.M.C. Mix (keep in mind that Y.O.M.C. is Martin Roth.)  Later releases, such as all of the Pro-Tech records which were a collaboration between Wag and MR were released in this same format; with a Wag Mix and a Y.O.M.C. Mix.  It's kind of a cool idea.

Anyway, this 2001 Overdose re-release with new mixes is what went on to become the really big hit, and a somewhat modified version of the Y.O.M.C. mix is the best known version of the song today.  However--the original vinyl mixes are the best ones, and they are begging to be remastered and re-released digitally.  The Y.O.M.C. Global Mix is not structured as well as the original Y.O.M.C. mix and the DJ Wag mix, which sounds quite a bit different, just isn't available at all except on old vinyl or vinyl rips.

If you don't mind the vinyl hiss and a number of scratches and pops (some vinyl snobs actually argue that such makes the song sound better but that's just freakin' retarded) then check out these two mixes.  Good stuff!

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Captain Future

Normally, I like a good old pulp adventure, and Edmond Hamilton wrote some good ones.  I do have to admit, though, that these names aren't very inventive.  I think I probably used some of them in my early D&D maps when I was 12-13 or so.  (I used to doodle during class, probably to distract myself from boredom.  For a while, Christopher Tolkien pastiche maps of Middle-earth pastiche fantasy settings was my favorite doodling subject.  I still love drawing maps, although I don't do it nearly enough.)

Anyway, from Hamilton's Captain Future stories (a character he didn't create, but he did do most of the writing for.)

Mountains of Darkness... on the dark side of Mercury.  As it turns out, Mercury isn't tidally locked anyway, so there is no light side, dark side and twilight zone.  But that's a common trope in a lot of earlier science fiction.

The undersea city of... Sea-Fuk!  lolwut?  I know Neptune is pretty bluish, and of course, it's named for the Roman god of the sea, but did people really think that it was a big ole water planet?

Northtown, Southtown and Jungletown!  Well, those are... creative... names!

And here's Mars.  Not nearly as clever as ERB's or even Leigh Brackett's, but serviceable enough, I suppose, from a mid-century pulp perspective.  There's a lot of forgotten versions of Mars out there from Planet Stories and other pulp mags that are very similar.

Anyway, when I first saw these maps, I was kind of excited about them.  There are some great maps of Skaith, for instance, or Barsoom.  Heck, Edgar Rice Burroughs was a freakin' genius when it came to inventing names; he has some really great names, especially on Mars.

But it looks like that wasn't one of Hamilton's skills.  Oh, well.  He did write some great stories nonetheless.  Here's one of first ones of his that I read; I didn't even realize that it was his until years afterwards, because I didn't pay enough attention to who wrote what.  But I read this from my public library when I was 11-12 or so.  With that cover, too!

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Roles in D&D

Looking briefly over the Pathfinder 2.0 playtest material, I'm a little struck by roles (i.e., classes) in D&D.  I recently re-read one of my older posts where I discussed the Thief archetype, which is a very old archetype in D&D.  It actually predates the printing of the game, although it wasn't included in the very first printed version of OD&D, and didn't come out until the Greyhawk supplement in 1975, after the basic game had been out for about a year. But it was in play at the very first conventions where D&D was played, prior to the release of the game.

The problem with the Thief, I think, and why it occupies a very controversial role among old school grognards, is that it really isn't meant for the dungeoneering environment.  The fictional archetypes on which it is based—the Gray Mouser, Bilbo, Cugel, etc.) spend very little of their time in dungeons and they offer very little material to work with in a dungeoneering environment.  In fact, they work quite well for a number of other roles that require a game that does stuff other than be stuck in a dungeon the entire time.  Of course, we're reliably informed that the dungeoneering environment is the only proper old-school environment for gameplay to take place by many in the OSR movement and elsewhere.  I'm not very sure that Gygax or Arneson or any of the other old school principals literally believed this of course, but many gamers today believe it, and even the mantra at one point during 3e's development was "back to the dungeon."  But if the Thief archetype doesn't really fit very well in a dungeoneering environment, well, how can that be?  Begs the question doesn't it?

In any case, although my tastes were formed very early and are largely in line with a lot of stuff that is very early in D&D, I don't consider myself old school, merely old fashioned.  And certainly I'd never be inclined to worry about whether or not something I liked fit into a certain box or not.  If I like it, I like it, and I'm not very concerned with whether or not I can fit my tastes into a specific "style" or not.  There are elements of the "old school" playstyle that I strongly dislike even though there are many other things about that style that are right up my alley.  The same is true for nü-style D&D too.  In fact, one could probably fairly say that D&D itself simply isn't my game, even though my FANTASY HACK game is largely based on D&D for much of its structure.  It's my own personal fantasy heartbreaker, I suppose.

Anyway, in the Pathfinder 2.0, we have a pretty standard array of classes, with a few additions.  I'll list them and talk very briefly about how well I think it belongs in the game.
  • Alchemist.  This is a new archetype for Pathfinder (as opposed to more standard D&D) although of course it's been an optional archetype in D&D for quite some time.  I personally think it has limited utility in the game, and I don't like roles that are primarily support because they're usually not very fun for most people to play.
  • Barbarian.  I always thought that some of these "alternate fighter" archetypes kind of were splitting hairs.  That said, for the most part, the fighter class is kind of boring, isn't it, in most versions of the game.  So I've often liked this class specifically even as I think it should be folded into the fighter class, which should be better designed so that it can be broad enough to have a barbarian archetype embedded within it as a option.
  • Bard.  I've never had any interest in bards at all as a character class.  While I've (very occasionally) known good players who enjoy playing bards, there does seem to be a high correlation between bard players and drama queens who hijack the game to be all about them.  I think something about the class just attracts that type.  And in any case, I can't even think of an adventure type where the bard is a good class to add to the mix unless it's as third string support.  No thanks.  I'd can the entire concept.
  • Cleric.  I've never liked the cleric either, mostly because it's a grab-bag of tropes jammed together to fit a role needed in the tactical combat game of D&D rather than an actual archetype that's clearly delineated.  My games don't feature them as an option at all, although if for some reason you really liked playing clerics, you could mimic them easily enough if you absolutely had to, I guess...
  • Druid.  This is really just an alternative spin on the cleric (like barbarian is an alternative spin on the fighter archetype) so I have as little use for it as I do for clerics.
  • Fighter.  This is, of course, one of the most iconic archetypes in the entire fantasy genre, but to be truly fair, it's more of several related archetypes boiled down.  The fighter class hasn't always been good at modeling the nuance of, say, a swashbuckling fighter as opposed to a heavily armored knight-like fighter, or some of the other version of the archetype.  But that's a failure of the mechanics, not of the concept itself.
  • Monk.  I personally have always thought this archetype was too esoteric to fit into D&D.  Plus, its source is not part of the canon of Western Civilization really—so its inclusion is oddly uncomfortable, and a lot of times both developers and players are a little unsure exactly what to do with the class.  I'd rather just not include it.
  • Paladin.  While this is indeed an archetype that is recognizable, it's also probably too specific to have general use in the game.  I'd prefer it, again, to be a variation that could be done with the fighter class rather than a class all its own.
  • Ranger.  In theory, you could say that this would be a variation on the fighter class too.  You'd not be wrong, although I'll admit for purely personal reasons (because I like the archetype so much) I don't mind it standing alone whereas I have less use for the barbarian or the paladin as separate classes.  But that's a personal quirk.  I think the ranger as a sub-class of the fighter as it was in AD&D means that the fighter class should be broad enough that the ranger archetype could be created within it.  Of course, that might mean that it's not a specific Driz'zt or Aragorn type character and more of a generic "hunter" type archetype, but that's fine too.
  • Rogue.  Well, I just talked about the thief archetype above.  Of course part of the problem is that there's been a lot of role and archetype confusion with regards to the class over time.  But y'know.  The basic concept is about as core to the genre as you can get.
  • Sorcerer.  This is a new spin on the same archetype as the wizard, and while of course it's iconic to the fantasy genre, you could also make a case that it's not so much a player class archetype as it is either a patron/mentor archetype (Merlin or Gandalf or Ningauble and Sheelba) or antagonists (Thoth Amon or Xaltotun, etc.)  I think at this point, though, if you don't have some kind of wizard or sorcerer option, you'll probably surprise, disappoint and otherwise disillusion your players, unless you're doing a very specific kind of fantasy that excludes them from play.  But there's no reason to have two classes doing the exact same archetype.  The way 3e tried to make sorcerers the "X-men" compared to the wizards being the Avengers was just as stupid as it was in the comics; why are mutants feared and reviled while other superheroes aren't?  It makes as little sense in D&D as it does in the comics.
  • Wizard.  See sorcerer above.
Of course, there are nuanced archetypes, and Pathfinder (1.0, at least) explored them a lot.  Many of these were less archetypes than they were simply tactical alternatives, or even concepts that the designers just made up that had absolutely no archetypical resonance at all.  Which is totally fine—arguably even a good thing, especially in such a rule heavy system as Pathfinder.  FANTASY HACK has the advantage that because it's much less rules bloated, you can play a concept like, say, "tower shield specialist" you can without having to have a bunch of new, specialized mechanics to back it up.  You just make your tower shield your signature equipment and because the game is rules-lite, that's sufficient.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Pathfinder Playtest: Doomsday Dawn

I don't pay all that much attention to what Paizo is up to anymore; their system has gone the opposite direction I have gone, and their aggressive and offensive cultural Marxism makes their material difficult to swallow lately.  But, I still check in from time to time, and heck—if nothing else, they're a good source of some interesting artwork.  Seeing an all new playtest cover, by Wayne Reynolds on his Facebook page, I thought it'd be fun to go see what was up, and of course, the playtest for Pathfinder 2.0 is free.  I got it, because even if I do nothing else with it ever, I'll extract a big version of the cover art (I bought a program that extracts images out of pdfs a long time ago.  I use it more than my actual pdf viewer with Paizo files sometimes.)

Playtest for original game cover art
The bundle also came with, in addition to the rulebook, a bestiary (without any art, hardly), a character sheet (that looks substantially different from what I'm used to), a tracking sheet so feedback from the playtest can make its way back to Paizo, a few tactical battlemaps, a pdf telling you how to access some sound effects, and... an adventure path.  Not really in the full sense, but a 6-module adventure that kind of reads like a truncated adventure path and which is meant to put the game through its paces to get playtest feedback, I presume.

Needless to say, I haven't read the whole thing yet, but I'm going to do a PAIZO DECONSTRUCTED discussion of it anyway, breaking it up into its constituent "chapters" or separate modules.

The premise is that Aucturn is acting up, trying to converge on Golarion and destroy it.  Think: Yuggoth is actually a sentient planet and is going to eat the world to give it power to become a virtual god itself.  PCs run around doing things to disrupt cultists, reclaim artifacts being used, etc.  There's a whole backstory about how this came to be, but as with most module backstories, it's really just fan fiction for the GM's sake, because I doubt most if it will find its way into the hands of the players.  But it's an interesting playtest adventure path—it is rather Spartan and old-school in many ways, lacking in much in the way of lengthy set-up, setting info, and heavy roleplaying opportunities, and much more of traditional location exploration modules (not necessarily my favorite kind, but I'll give this a try.)  You're not meant to play through it with your characters; you sometimes swap to different characters, and arbitrarily level them up several times through the adventure path.  It makes some minimal references to the passing of time and the events of prior adventure paths; notably, the part that explores the Worldwound, for instance, asserts that the Worldwound was closed as per the City of Locusts module in the Wrath of the Righteous adventure path.

Cover art for new edition playtest
Anyway, I'll spend some time going through the big module and doing my deconstruction routine.  I doubt I'll find much to utilize, because the point of this is to playtest new rules, not introduce new content, but I'll do it anyway.  I admit; my curiosity is at least a little bit piqued.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Bratty Princess Syndrome

Because my wife really wanted to, I went with her to see the sequel to Mamma Mia last night.  She'd already seen it once with my daughter.  It's a testament to the phenomenal skill and talent of the foursome that their music is so charismatic.  There is hardly an ABBA song that I don't like (although I don't pretend to have listened to everything that they've ever recorded, of course) and the songwriting skill of the boys as well as the performance talent of the girls simply is hard to overstate.  ABBA was one of the most talented groups of an entire generation.  My wife and I have had lively debates about the merits of some of the individual songs (she's convinced that "Dancing Queen" is clearly their best number, while I think that "Take a Chance on Me" and even "Mamma Mia" itself are better.  By better, I mean more fun to listen to, of course—songs like "Fernando" or "One of Us" or some others show more musical complexity and maturity and are thus arguably "better" in an objective sense, although that doesn't make them any more fun or memorable to listen to, of course.  We've also had rather lively debates about how well the songs have penetrated the popular consciousness.  I tell you, I knew all but one of the songs in the first movie, but had only ever heard half of the songs in the second movie.  She doesn't believe that I haven't heard them before, especially "Andante, Andante" which she claims that I introduced to her.  Even though I've never heard it before.)

So making a musical using their songs wasn't a bad idea, by any means.  Although a handful of songs feel forced, most of them work pretty well given the story structure.  And the movies themselves are fairly charismatic and charming most of the time too.  I laughed.  I felt emotionally tugged.  I had a good time.

Which is why, of course, the Mamma Mia movies are so dangerous.  Because underneath that charming, likable surface is a grab bag of civilization destroying content.  All of the characters are broken and dysfunctional, engaging in behavior that is irresponsible, immature, depraved, debauched, frankly kind of retarded, and to make it all worse, the movie romanticizes exactly all of those things.  I've flippantly (although completely accurately) summarized the first movie by saying that it's the story of a washed up older ho and her bratty princess syndrome daughter jerking around a whole bunch of different men, who for reasons that are completely inexplicable to the audience, they put up with.  The story is awash with r-selected feminism (but I repeat myself) tropes, including the "empowered" women who, like I said, always come off more as bratty and bitchy than powerful.  As always, feminists covet the alleged social and political power that they think men have, but haven't the foggiest notion of the responsibility that that power entails, or where it comes from, or how to maintain it.  It's nothing more than the ability to indulge their narcissistic fantasies, which ultimately, this movie is.

The men are all inexplicably beta, and pine after women in a way that makes no sense, especially because these women make no effort to be attractive, really—in fact, they go quite a long way towards trying to make themselves off-putting and unlikable.  Everybody gives up their dreams to go chase after women that, in many cases, they haven't seen in years or even decades.  Somehow these men still cling to romantic notions after decades—which is clearly nothing more than projection on the part of the women writers (actually, I notice that out of three writing credits two of them are men.  Biologically, at least.)

Nobody should ever watch this film and feel that the characters are anything other than pitiable, broken people, engaging in ridiculous behavior.  As much as I thought the movie was kind of charming, I most certainly do not recommend it.  Do yourself a favor and just go buy ABBA's Gold and More Gold collections on Amazon and listen to them instead.

Now, a more interesting development, of course, was the announcement that Star Wars: The Clone Wars is going to be revived.  Lucasfilm made a major mistake when they cancelled it in the first place, and replaced it with the much less compelling Star Wars: Rebels.  And hey, it's a great idea to actually try and do something that the fans have been really wanting for a change, after the flaming bag of crap that was The Last Jedi.  Now, of course, it's hardly enough to stem the hemorrhaging of fans that Rian Johnson, Kathleen Kennedy and even Jar Jar Abrams have caused, but it's still an encouraging sign that at least someone with some pull at Lucasfilm isn't a total idiot.  I have no confidence that they won't screw it up, though.  In fact, the distribution is already causing me to roll my eyes; it's going to be the flagship content of the new Disney Streaming service that's supposed to launch at some point to compete head to head with Netflix and Amazon Prime.  Just what I wanted; to get a whole 'nother streaming service.  Just so I can watch Clone Wars and Marvel movies that I'll either buy on blu-ray or not worry about watching again anyway.  Sigh.

Meanwhile, Galaxy's Edge continues to go from strength to strength and Vox Day has already hinted at work to bring not only books and comics (which he's already done) but even visual content—movies and TV shows—that turn their backs on the traditional industry and ignore it entirely.  That can't come fast enough.

My son thinks that for sure it's going to tank.  After all, all of his half dozen or so friends that he talks to about it have no interest in Disney Streaming, and he's kind of a Debbie Downer anyway who always finds something negative to say about whatever is going on around him, so we don't take his prognostications of doom for every new venture all that seriously.

But I admit that I'm both wary and cynical about this venture myself.

That same son also swears that he's seen evidence that the old Teen Titans TV show is going to be revived too.  I haven't seen any evidence of this myself, but why not?  That's a relatively engaging show too, and one of the early ones that proved that even being targeted towards kids, it can gain a broader audience by simply being good material, good stories, engaging characters, etc.

It used to be for most of Western civilization that there wasn't really a difference between entertainment aimed at children and entertainment for others.  It's long past time that we get past that false dichotomy, which is another legacy of the nannying, totalitarian Puritans and their attempts to purge Western civilization of everything of any real virtue.  Let's just make good stuff that appeals to everyone.  If that means its animated because it's easier to do some thing in animation, that's fine.  I think in the era of mainstreamization of anime, whatever stigma there is attached to animation is long gone except for the relict Boomers still kicking around trying to tell everyone else what they should do.