All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide – A first look

When I first opened the brand-new FR campaign guide, I was disappointed. I was hoping for new races, new classes but the book did contain almost no crunch, only fluff. Then I remembered that the crunch probably comes with the upcoming FR players guide. When I continued reading I was surprised, since the book starts with the description of the town of Loudwater and an adventure. When I am not mistaken this is the first time in D&D history that a campaign guide starts with an adventure. Since I am not overly interested in published adventures (I prefer to write my own), I skipped a few pages and came to the chapter called “Adventuring”. And from this point on I was starting to love the new book. I don’t want to go into too much detail here. There are quite a few detailed reviews on the net and this is just a first look since I haven’t had the time to completly work through the 280+ pages book.
Wizards of the Coast have really managed to reinvent the Forgotten Realms without destroying the flair. In one of my earlier posts I wrote about my fear of the Realms. Although I like the setting in general, I always preferred other settings as a GM. With the FR you always get the feeling you’re running someone else’s campaign. And with the changes in the 4E version of the setting, Wizards has given the Realms back to the players. And although this was claimed when the 3E version came out, this time it’s true!
Ok, let’s recap what has changed between the two editions:

  • 100 years have passed
  • Cyric has murdered Mystra, which destroyed the Weave, changed magic, shifted the planes and let part of Abeir merge with Toril.
  • Gods have died or have been revealed as Exarchs working for more powerful details (which greatly reduces and simplifies the pantheon! This is detailed in the “Pantheon” chapter)
  • With “Returned Abeir” a new continent appears (bringing Dragonborn with it)
  • The destruction of the Weave caused the Spellplague that tainted certain areas and created mutations in creatures, effectively creating a new kind of monsters, the “Plaguechanged”
  • Whole nations have been replaced by areas from Abeir

Ok, this if of course not a complete list of changes (yeah, I am lazy). The important thing is that they’ve changed enough to give us a lot of new stuff to play with. It will still feel like the realms but there are a lot of areas that are new and that not even your Forgotten Realms veteran has ever seen them. High-level NPCs like (in)famous Elminster and the Simbul have more or less retired and there are a lot of opportunities for the players to earn money and fame.
The largest portion of the book is claimed by the “Faerûn and Beyond” chapter which gives detailed information on all the regions of Faerûn and Returned Abeir. Usually every region like “Cormyr”, “The Dalelands” or “Vasaa” consists of two or three pages including a small map and descriptions of the area, lore, settlements and features and adventure sites.
The “Threats” chapter concludes the FR campaign guide with description of monsters, NPCs and organizations that could become enemies or even allies for the player characters.
All in all I really like the direction Wizards has taken with the new Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide. Perhaps I should mention the artwork before moving to the conclusion. The whole book contains beatiful artwork on par with what we’ve seen in the core rulebooks. The included map is ok, but not as good as the one we got with the 3rd Edition version of the Realms. The cover features a female drow riding a dragon and not Drizzt Do’Urden as shown earlier. This is a welcome change in my book.
I am now eagerly awaiting the upcoming Players’ Guide. From what I’ve read in the campaign guide we’ll get at least one new class: the Swordmage. I am pretty sure that the Drow and perhaps the Gnome will be available as fully detailed player races in the upcoming book. I also would like to see some FR-themed paragon paths like Harper or Purple Knight.
If you were hesitant to run a campaign in the FR before, the 4E iteration of that classic campaign could be interesting to you. The designers made enough changes so that you can regard the updated campaign as a whole new thing much as the 4th Edition of D&D is something like a complete new game in many regards. In any case, you should at least have a look at this great book at you Friendly Neighbourhood Game Store.

Music for the adventure in your mind

I am pretty sure that a lot of GMs are using music to set the mood during their gaming sessions. I prefer epic soundtracks from computer games and/or movies. But using the music from major blockbusters is not without problems. Music usually triggers memories and even if the effect is sometimes intended you want your players to enjoy the story of your current adventure and not reminisce some movie. In order to broaden my repertoire of “gaming music” I checked out soundtracks from lesser known games and movies and finally I stumbled over “Erdenstern“. Erdenstern is the name of a german band that creates music especially for roleplayers. They have released several CDs and each CD has a special theme. “Into the Red” for example is battle/war-themed, while “Into the Dark” is perfectly suited for horror or gothic scenarios. They even tag each song, so that you can easily choose the correct tracks for the situation at hand. Erdenstern has gained some popularity in the german roleplayers’ scene but I think they are pretty unknown in the rest of the world. If you are looking for some fantasy-themed music, make sure you check out Erdenstern.
Erdenstern has released some bonus tracks for free, so you can check out their style before ordering the CDs.

Erdenstern – The River (Into the Gold bonus track)

You can download more tracks on their official site.

Tiny Adventures

Some time ago I stumbled upon “Tiny Adventures“, a Facebook application created by Wizards of the Coast. In Tiny Adentures you choose from a set of different adventurers (the iconic D&D 4E characters), give your new hero (you start at level 1) a name and you’re ready to embark on adventures. I chose the half-elf paladin. He came with some gold, a dagger (WTF?) and a rusty chainmail. Hmm, paladins ain’t what they used to be. When I clicked on the Quest tab, I got a list of several adventures suitable for my level. I chose “Sins of the Saltmarsh” and off I was…
The process of adventuring itself is not very interesting. You wait for a few minute before you can press a button and you get some descriptive text about what had happened (an encounter, fight, whatever) and you get some XP, perhaps some gold and/or equipment. Even while you are on adventure you can go to the shop, buy and sell stuff and you can even equip new armor.
In my opinion this simple game is a pretty nice idea, but it could need a bit more interactivity. Let me make some decisions, give me some customization options and I am happy. But in its current state “Tiny Adventures” is a nice distraction but not a real game.