Category Archives: Tabletop Gaming

Cool Tools for Gaming part 1

Generally, every year Bruce Harlick and Ken Hite do a seminar at Dundracon called “What’s Cool” where they basically discuss what’s new and cool in gaming. Last year, Ken made the comment that he feels that we’re in sort of a golden age of gaming at the moment. Between the cost of producing a game having come down to where┬á just about anyone can afford to publish, and because of marketplaces like DrivethruRPG, there is more being published, and more experimentation in the tabletop space than ever before.

Chatting with Mr. Hite over a scotch, I made the comment that I think this is also true of gaming tools, software, and technology as well…

Fast forward to today…

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GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy
With the success of all flavors of Munchkin, and the concentration over the last couple of years on resuscitating Ogre, GURPS has mostly fallen by the wayside. Once the initial corebooks were published, I have seen little other than PDF releases.

PDF releases aren’t a horrible thing, but since they will never appear in your local game store, it doesn’t do much to give the perception of the game being supported… and doesn’t help build that network that sustains interest and keeps a game line going.

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy was a kickstarter from a couple of years ago that was, in my opinion, SJ Games’ attempt at reviving some interest in GURPS. My copy finally arrived on my doorstep last week, and it looks gorgeous.

On a personal level, I’m not a big fan of boxed sets for RPGs. They take up more room, and don’t really add anything to the game itself. It’s somewhat telling that I have quite a few old school game systems where the books are in great condition, but the box itself disappeared some time ago.

That said, the out of box/unboxing experience is kinda cool, and I suspect it makes it easier to get retailers like Target or Walmart to pick up your game… I’d have listed Toys-R-Us, as that’s where I bought some of my Basic D&D stuff back in the day, but they just recently declared bankruptcy. End of an era, that…

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is, effectively, everything you need for GURPS 4th to be able to run a classic dungeon crawl style game. I’ve seen at least one reviewer joke that it’s the Fantasy Trip box promised decades ago. Seeing as how GURPS grew out of the early work done on Fantasy Trip (Melee & Wizard), that’s not completely incorrect. ­čÖé

The box contains several digest-ish sized books for Adventurers, Spells, Monsters, Exploits (GM system stuff), an Adventure, and the Companion add-on (Traps, Magic Items, and another adventure). It also contains cardboard heroes (heavier stock), bases for the heroes, two battle mats, and a set of dice.
I will also note that there is a large library of additional support PDFs available on Warehouse 23.

These days, I am mostly running Pathfinder 3.x, but there is a special place in my heart for GURPS. GURPS and Champions (Hero) were my second generation RPGs and back in the day, I founded and was the first central mailer of All of the Above, the GURPS APA. I ran both GURPS and Champions for years, and I still probably have more Steve Jackson Games GURPS books than anything from another publisher. Note that the linked page is, to the best of my knowledge, incorrect, and that AotA is no longer being published.

At first glance, it looks fantastic. So, in the coming days I will at least run a one shot of G:DF and there is a better than average chance that I’ll record and post this online for people. I’m still looking into what’s involved there. If you’re following me, and you have some experience with this sort of thing, please speak up.

Ideas for Upcoming Posts

So, I am throwing around some ideas for upcoming posts, seeing as how I’m not currently running anything.

  • Get back to more coverage of Starfinder… how it differs from Pathfinder, media inspiration, and maybe some example characters.
  • Short reviews for games that I have acquired recently. The short list of these at the moment would be: Mighty Protectors: Villains & Vigilantes 3.0, the current Conan RPG, Mercenary Planet, the Schlock Mercenary RPG, Blue Rose (AGE), 7th Sea 2nd, and Coriolis.
  • One idea I had long ago was to write up a character for every RPG I know. That’s obviously a long term project and would likely require that I find a way to host a wiki, or find a wiki service.
  • Then there’s the game ideas I have, but some of that would result in giving away spoilers for my potential players.
  • Some sort of Tabletop tool review. Last year at Dundracon, Ken Hite expressed the opinion that we’re sort of living in a new golden age of RPGs. That the cost barrier to entry has dropped low enough that we’re seeing all sorts of new and different things. It occurred to me that the same could be said of tools for tabletop gaming as well. Software, etc. I wish I had the bonafides to lead a seminar at Dundracon on this.

So far I have only seen comments from two people, so I’m not entirely sure what my audience is.┬áYes, I know I need to find a way to promote this more so that the audience issue is no longer true. That said, what, if anything is of interest?

Thoughts on Hero Lab Online & Starfinder Support

I will lead with the fact that I understand WHY Lone Wolf has gone this way. This gets them Android devices, which is not insignificant in and of itself. The argument that it allows them to take HL forward to be more than just a character and statblock builder also makes sense.

That said, I’m not thrilled with the decision for Starfinder to be HLO only (at least at release). While it’s true that they won’t be able to do things like group starship combat with HLC, that shouldn’t keep them from releasing the features that it can support.

To be fair, they’re not saying they *won’t* support Starfinder in HLC, but they’re also pretty carefully not saying they will either.

For this to work for me, Starfinder needs support for both HLO and HLC. Until it has both, I have no reason to subscribe.

They do say that, ultimately, purchased content will work for both once legacy game systems are supported. It would help if they were pulishing some sort of timeline on when they expect legacy game systems to be supported.

It’s also not clear to me how or if they will accommodate those that purchased additional secondary licenses.

Additionally, it’s not clear if you will still be able to make use of custom user data files with HLO. If not, that’s gonna hurt for me, which encourages me to stick with HLC.

So… for now at least, I’m going to hold off on adoption until there is Starfinder support in HLC. Hopefully more of my questions will be answered by then.

It also means I am now less enthusiastic about running Starfinder, at least until it’s supported for both.

Toss off character ideas for Pathfinder…

One of the curses of being the GM is that you can have all sorts of great ideas for characters, but you rarely get to use them since you’re the GM. Sure, you can turn them into NPCs, but it’s just not the same.
Here’s a short list of (odd) character ideas I’ve had over the years based on either the kitchen sink setting of Golarion, or inspiration from character crunch…

  • Golarion Goblin Bard, with Perform (Puppetry)
  • Tengu Plague Doctor – *takes mask off* “You have got to be kidding… Really?!”
  • Sanctified Rogue of Abadar – “Credit is a sacred trust, it’s what our society is founded on. Do you think they give a damn about their bills in Rahadoum?”
  • Android Monk (yes, I know, not terribly optimal) with the┬áApotheosis (Story) feat. This one has a name. I call him Rild.
  • Goblin Gunslinger (Gun Scavenger) – Utini!
  • Halfling Bard (Archaeologist) with all of the Halfling helper feats and Halfling Luck. Just need to get him a cigar, some sort of fancy hat, and a bullwhip.

More Starfinder Thoughts

Sorry for the scattered brain dump posts like this, but if I don’t put this to bits, I’ll likely forget it later.

Subtle difference between 3.x and Starfinder: Typically, you are only caught flatfooted when you are surprised in Starfinder. Previously, you were flatfooted if you were surprised, or until your first action in the round.

As I said before, character generation is fairly straightforward. Pick a race, a theme, and a class. The combination of theme and class effectively is your class archetype (though it’s not called that). For example, Envoy plus the Outlaw theme can be a Scoundrel. These are, effectively, suggestions for how to build a type of character more so than an actual archetype.

This combination is fairly versatile, and easily covers a lot of  characters from fiction. Han Solo? Envoy/Outlaw. Chewie? More complicated but I would likely go with Soldier/Outlaw (an argument could be made for multi-classing). Luke? Solarian/Ace Pilot.

I could totally do Jim Starlin’s Dreadstar with Starfinder. Vanth is so obviously a Solarian it’s not even funny.

I can only guess what the various inspirations were to the creative team (I miss having a Bibliography like in GURPS books) but some of them are pretty obvious. Star Wars, Mass Effect (Biotics is basically space magic) and Guardians of the Galaxy are all pretty clear.

Since the setting is tied to Golarion, there is a chapter for Legacy Races, such as Elves, Dwarves, etc. I’m not sure I’ve ever wanted to play a Half-Orc so badly as I do here. One of the more common choices for the Half-Orc is basically a professional pioneer. They go in do the hard work of taming the world, and then they sell their stake and move on to the next world.

I think that’s it for now. I need to finish the tactical combat chapter and see what other changes they’ve made.

Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary for Pathfinder

If you’re a Pathfinder GM and you’re only going to purchase one single third party product, my recommendation would be this book right here.

The Advanced Bestiary was originally released for D&D 3.0, and it was a good book but kind of got lost in the glut of 3.0 books that everyone was doing.

However, it was getting regular use by the folks at Paizo on their early D&D 3.x adventure paths. This and Tome of Horrors were a mainstay in section 15 of their OGL listing.

So, when Paizo decided to publish Pathfinder, it was only a matter of time before both the Advanced Bestiary and the Tome of Horrors were published as Pathfinder compatible. Both books are excellent, and I recommend both, but this post is focused on the Advanced Bestiary.

In a nutshell, the Advanced Bestiary is a book of monster templates. As a GM, I have found this invaluable… there are roughly 120 templates in the book. Multiply that by however many bestiaries you have, and well… ­čÖé

For example…