So you’re walking, and you’re walking, and you’re walking, and a big scary dragon shows up! Traveling and wilderness exploration in Dungeons and Dragons can be fraught with peril, of course, but they can also be a little more nuanced than that. There are of course rules, in both 5th Edition’s Player’s Handbook and its Dungeon Master’s Guide, for traveling in the spaces between civilizations, but February’s Unearthed Arcana gets a little more specific still. I cracked open both books and compared them to the UA material, so let’s see what it means to head Into the Wild!
Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! February is the month of romance, and I think you’ll find plenty to love with a deeper field of new RPGs than we had in January. In addition to nine completely new games people are trying to bring to life, we have two honorable mentions: First, a new edition of an old game that deserves some recognition, and second, a board game which is trying to make RPG elements a primary part of its design.
Are you an old-school gamer, or a new-school gamer? I’m the Level One Wonk, and I consider myself both, which may be why I enjoy this week’s game so much. Today we’re going to talk about Stars Without Number, a game designed by Kevin Crawford. Crawford has released many games through his Sine Nomine Publishing imprint, which are all built around similar design principles: hackable sandbox experiences with an old-school heart. Games like Godbound, Scarlet Heroes and Stars Without Number are all designed to bolt right in to both old-school D&D and its retroclones, but these games are no mere clones. While Stars Without Number has characters with six familiar stats, saving throws, classes, and levels, it stretches the D&D framework quite far. As you may be able to guess from the name, Stars Without Number is a science fiction game.
“I’m writing this anonymously, because I’m spilling some secrets that aren’t supposed to slip out. Just know that I’m on the right side of true history – whatever TimeWatch says it is – and I’ve done my best to make that happen. And if I screwed up a few times? Well, no one’s perfect . . .” So begins the blurb on the back of a manuscript that has recently fallen into my hands, a century and change after a TimeWatch agent delivered it for publication and the entire print run vanished months later. It’s been out again for more than a year now, though, so apparently whoever made it vanish from the time stream didn’t manage to do so a second time around. Before history gets rewritten once more and I forget I ever read it, let’s review The Book of Changing Years from Pelgrane Press!
Welcome back to Level One Wonk, where it’s time to go back to the Dark Future! We’re substituting the interface plugs and cyberarms for a whole new Slack as we check out The Veil: Cascade. This supplement not only advances the timeline on PbtA Cyberpunk game The Veil, but also adds a whole slew of new settings, playbooks, and rules tweaks for upload. After reading, it appears that Fraser Simons and his contributing authors were not only thinking outside the box, but have gone so far as to delete the box with no chance of data recovery.
Last week, Seamus gave a comprehensive overview of the first part of Fantasy Flight Games’ new toolkit system Genesys. The first section presented a new angle on the Narrative Dice system which lived up to the promises of a genericized Star Wars game, while the second section on settings left a lot on the table and a bit to be desired. But there’s a lot more book here! Even if Seamus got more page count, this last section is the one that’s really full of the stuff you’re going to want. Now, if you need to get the lowdown on the basics of the mechanics and how this book differs from the Star Wars games, you should go ahead and check out Seamus’ first review. If you’re ready to talk toolkit, though, read on. All four of these chapters are from Part 3, the Game Master’s Toolkit. Overall, the toolkit is very well done, though there are several missed opportunities to have taken an addition that was merely good and make it great.
Genesys, the universal roleplaying game system from Fantasy Flight Games, is starting to land in mailboxes and game stores this week, and sure enough both of us here at Cannibal Halfling Gaming got our hands on a copy! Billed as a ‘toolkit’ that GMs and players can use for any setting they want, we’re naturally excited and curious to see how it shapes up. Does the system work? Is it as adaptive as it claims to be? As universal systems go, where does it land on a scale of Fate Core to GURPS? Will it actually be fun to play? Read on and let’s find out together as I take us chapter by chapter through the book for the first part of CHG’s review!
I was fortunate enough to attend the inaugural PAX Unplugged with my wife this past weekend, and while I (quite wisely, we needed a vacation darn it) wasn’t attending in any sort of official CHG capacity I was still viewing the convention as a whole with a critic’s eye. So what worked, what didn’t, and would going yourself next year be worth it?
After much hype and hullabaloo, Wizards of the Coast has released Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, the first rules supplement for the Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. While there is nothing revolutionary within this volume, it offers some great new options for both mechanical and story aspects of D&D. I’d say it’s nice to have for players but more recommended for GMs due to the expanded proficiency and downtime rules, trap creation and encounter expansions, and the solidly integrated rivals system.
Elves that can take to the sky on wings they are born with. Elves that view even other elves with suspicion, sticking to the deep forests of Greyhawk. Elves that took to the oceans instead of the forest, following currents instead of wooded paths. Elves that swore service to the Raven Queen, now wreathed in the darkness of the Shadowfell. There has always been more than just one variety of elf in Dungeons and Dragons, and with the latest Unearthed Arcana a lot more of them are coming out of the woodwork (or the sky, or the sea, or a plane of shadow) to take their shot at being options for player characters in 5th Edition!