Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

One GM screen to rule them all

I have seen a lot GM screens in my roleplaying times and most of them were either not too sturdy or the information printed on the GM’s side was only partially useful. One excellent GM screen was the one released by WotC for the new D&D 4th Edition but there’s another GM screen that put’s them all to shame!

I am talking about the “Savage Worlds Customizable GM Screen” by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. For around 26 bucks you get a sturdy trifold vinyl screen that has 6 pockets that you can use to customize your screen. I currently use it with the Pirates of the Spanish Main insets that you get for free at the official site, but you can easily create your own insets. If you don’t mind to create your own insets, you can use this GM screen with any roleplaying game. And since it’s coated with vinyl it’s pretty resistance to the common dangers on the playing table like sticky softdrinks, candle wax and/or spilled snack food.
You can even use it to hit your players if they don’t behave. It’s the perfect tool for the GM. 🙂

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.

Introduction
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.

Races
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.

Backgrounds
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.

Almanac
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…

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

We are still there! LHC has not killed us (yet), so we still have some time left to play post-apocalyptic roleplaying games! There are probably dozens of interesting roleplaying games featuring the end of the world, but now I want to write about some of my favourites:

  • d20 Apocalypse (Wizards of the Coast)
    D20 Apocalypse is THE toolbox for GMs planning a post-apocalyptic campaign. It’s a sourcebook to Wizards of the Coast’s d20 Modern. In the 96 page softcover book you find rules for playing at the end of the world, several campaign ideas including advanced classes and monsters. The included campaign models are Atomic Sunrise, Earth Inherited and Plague World. If you look for a complete campaign setting with all details fleshed out, d20 Apocalypse is probably not the right book for you. But if you plan to use d20 Modern and you want to run a fully-fledged post-apocalyptic campaign of your own creation, the book is worth a look.
  • RIFTS (Palladium Books)
    If you are a fan of roleplaying games you’ve probably heard from RIFTS. RIFTS is a unique mix of post-apocalyptic, cyberpunk, fantasy and horror elements. Rifts Earth is still one of my favourite campaign settings, but I think that the rules used by the game are nothing short of a catastrophe itself. If you can get over the unbalanced and confusing Palladium system used in the game, you get one of the most unique post-apocalyptic campaigns ever published. In 2005 a revised “Ultimate Edition” was released that made some minor updates to rules and setting, but I haven’t seen it yet, so I can’t comment on the changes. If you want to play a cyborged elf wielding magic and piloting a giant robot fighting against ancient demons and a nation of faschists, check out RIFTS!
  • Twilight 2000 (GDW)
    Twilight 2000 is clearly a product of the 80s. NATO and Warsaw Pact have gone to war and dropped a few of those thermo-nuclear devices the military is so fond of.  The campaign is set into a destroyed Europe where the remnants of former armies try to fight against warlords who came to power after everything went down. I made first contact with Twilight 2000 in form of the computer game based on the tabletop RPG. I was at once drawn into the setting and was blown away by the great character creation. The games’ rules are old-school but not as bad as Palladiums’ and the campaign is based on what everyone feared in the 80s. I recommend playing Twilight 2000 with people who still remember the early 80s or check out the upcoming version that features a completely rewritten timeline.
What are your favourite post-apocalyptic roleplaying games? Share your thoughts in the comments below!