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.

Is d20 Modern dead?

When I am not totally mistaken the last major release for d20 Modern was d20 Dark•Matter and it was released in September 2006. The most recent article on the official d20 Modern site was posted in december 2006. So d20 Modern has got no official support for almost two years now. After D&D 4th Edition was announced there was some talk about a new version of d20 Modern based on the 4th edition of D&D but nothing further has been announced. So, is d20 Modern dead or is there some hope that it will come back in one form or another? And how will a 2nd edition of d20 Modern look like?

“Dead like a dodo?”
In my opinion d20 Modern is dead. WotC is currently focussing on D&D 4th Edition and the Star Wars roleplaying game. When the recent lay-offs were announced Wizards let us know that they want to focus on their core brands. And from what we’ve seen in the past, they probably don’t count d20 Modern to their core brands.

“Pathfinder Modern”?
No, no, Paizo hasn’t announced their own version of d20 Modern (yet) but I think it would fit into their portfolio. With the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game they are releasing an updated version of D&D 3.5 for people who just don’t make the jump to 4th edition. So they, or another third-party publisher could release something like an updated d20 Modern in the future and revitalize the game when Wizards is unwilling to fill that gap. The d20 Modern SRD was released under the OGL, so at least there should be no legal barrier.

“D20 Modern 4th Edition Style”
Ok, let’s imagine I am wrong and Wizards would release a new d20 Modern based on the changes they made to the d20 System in 4th Edition. Most changes would be welcome like changing saves into defenses and dropping multiple attacks per round. But I just don’t think that powers would work well in a modern campaign. D&D 4th Edition feels a lot like a superheroes game set in medieval times (which I like) but I don’t think this will work in a modern low-magic world. Also “roles” and “power sources” probably have no meaning in a modern game either. It would however perfectly suit a superheroes game but I don’t think Wizards will release a game in that genre.

So, what are your thoughts on d20 Modern? Is the game dead or will we see a revival in one form or the other? Please use the comments below to share your ideas.

Roleplaying music – “The Witcher”

Recently CDProjekt has released the Enhanced Edition of its roleplaying game “The Witcher”. The game uses a heavily modified Neverwinter Nights engine and it’s based on the novels by Andzrej Sapkowski. One part of the games re-release was the soundtrack that you can now get for free!

The download consists of a ZIP file (approx. 191 MBytes in size) that contains the official score and “Music inspired by The Witcher”.

The official score was composed by Adam Skorupa and Paweł Błaszczak. Instead of some of the other soundtracks I recommended for roleplaying purposes the music from The Witcher is not atmospheric but more melodical, making heavy use of choirs (or samples sounding like choirs) and there are pieces that sound like medieval tavern music.

“Music inspired by The Witcher” is a compilation of songs that were inspired by the computer game. It contains songs from different genres and most of the tracks weren’t exactly my cup of tea. But your mileage may vary.

If you are interested to learn more about the Witcher check out the great Witcher Wiki. By the way, there’s also a Polish roleplaying game set into the world of the Witcher novels called Wiedźmin: Gra Wyobraźni. But as far as I know this game was never translated to English.

The Witcher OST – “Dusk in Northern Kingdom”

First Look: Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide

On Saturday I got my copy of one of WotC’s latest books, the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide. Although the Player’s Guide is a bit thin in my opinion, it’s a very good looking and interesting book that brings a lot of new option to your D&D game even if you don’t want to run a Realms campaign.

The “Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide” is a hardcover book with 160 pages. The overall look is great as with all the new D&D 4th Edition books. There are six chapters and aside from chapter 3 (“Backgrounds”) and 6 (“Almanac”) you can probably use the content of the other chapters in non-FR campaigns. So even people not interested in the Realms could find the new races and class options useful.

The first chapter “Races” provides us with two new playable races: Drow and Genasi. I don’t think I need to introduce the drow here since almost everybody has a least some knowledge about that infamous race from the Forgotten Realms. In 4th Edition they are finally playable as 1st-level characters. As racial powers they get “Cloud of Darkness” and “Darkfire”. The first power allows to create a shroud of darkness as a Close burst 1 and the latter power is a Ranged 10 power that gives you combat advantage against one foe. Both powers are nothing spectacular, but fit the Drow well.

The Genasi are of roughly similar to humans but are “touched” by the elements. For example a Stormsoul genasi has purple skin, silvery energy lines covering the skin and glowing crystalline spikes instead of hair on the head. There are five variations of Genasi (Earthsoul, Windsoul, Watersoul, Firesoul and Stormsoul) each with its unique physical qualities and racial powers. For example Stormsoul genasi get the “Promise of Storm” racial power that allows them to deal 1d8 extra lightning damage until their next turn once per encounter. The genasi are also perfectly suited for the swordmage class detailed in the next chapter.

The rest of chapter 1 deals with the other core races and their place in the realms and gives some information on “supporting cast” like gnomes, goblins, goliaths and so on. So there are still no Gnomes for player characters. I am pretty sure they will return with the Eberron Player’s Guide since the members of House Sivis are Gnomes.

Character classes
Chapter 2 “Character Classes” brings us the new swordmage class, an arcane defender. From what I’ve seen so far the swordmage is my new favorite class. There are two variants, the assault and the shielding swordmage. The assault swordmage uses elemental attack powers and the shielding swordmage specializes on defense using energy shields. Both variants look very nice but I slightly prefer the assault variant. One cool class feature is “Swordbond” that allows you to call your bonded weapon to your hand from up to 10 square away. The new class somewhat reminds me of the psionic warrior of 3.5th edition D&D but since it uses magic and not psionics it probably fits into more campaigns.

The rest of the chapter deals with a new warlock pact, the “Dark Pact”, the Spellscarred and new Paragon paths and one new Epic destiny. The Dark Pact is a whole new option for the Warlock especially drow warlocks. Dark pact warlocks get their power from a pact with the “dark beings that lurk in the shadows of the drow civilization” and their spells focus on darkness, poison, madness and spite. 

Spellscarred is not a complete class but an option for all classes. You take the “Student of the Plague” feat to multiclass into Spellscarred and get a number of traits and you can later choose powers from the Spellscarred list. You have to bear a spellscar in order to chose the feat. Usually the taint of the Spellplague that causes spellscars to manifest is an unique feature of the new FR setting, but a GM can probably introduce Spellscarred to any campaign.

There are 25 new paragon paths and a lot of them should be usable in other campaign as well. I haven’t checked them out fully, but there are quite some nice options for your players. The epic destiny featured in the FR player’s guide is the Chosen. When you choose this destiny you become your deities’ proxy in mortal affairs and you get some demigod-like powers. Each Chosen gets a specific level 26 utility power granted by his or her deity. There are only FR deities listed, but a crafty GM can either create his own powers or try to fit an existing power to a non-FR god.

The third chapter “Backgrounds” focusses on character backgrounds in Faerûn. Each region is listed complete with regional benefits (the 4th edition equivalent of regional feats), common knowledge and people of the region. This section of the book is a great addition to the “Faerûn and Beyond” chapter in the Campaign Guide. Now the GM never needs to give the Campaign Guide to the players since all information relevant to them is in the Player’s Guide and they get a couple of interesting player motivations. 

Feats and Rituals
The fourth chapter “Feats” adds some new racial, heroic, epic, swordmage, channel divinity and multiclass feats to the D&D game. Aside from the channel divinity feats you can probably use all the other feats in non-FR settings as well. The chapter “Rituals” provides us with a couple of new rituals like “Waterborn” that gives up to eight target creatures the ability to breathe underwater and resistance to cold and pressure of the deep oceans.

The last chapter “Almanac” gives the players some information on the setting, its deities, calendar, lore and so on. The chapter is a bit short in my opinion, but the rest of the information can easily provided by the GM using the information available in the campaign guide. 

My two cents
From what I’ve seen so far, the Forgotten Realms Player’s Guide is a must-have for all players and GMs interesting in running a FR campaign. But it also could come in handy if you want to play a drow or genasi and/or try out the swordmage class. The artwork is top notch and worth every penny. My next task is now to convince my GM that he allows me to play a genasi swordmage in his homebrew campaign…