Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

Dungeonslayers: Playtest report

Dungeonslayers 3.0Yesterday, a few friends came over to my place to play some games. One of the things I had prepared was Dungeonslayers, a free, rules-light, old-school game. The 18-page rulebook contains the rules for playing the game, a couple of monsters and an introductory adventure called “Herr der Ratten” (Lord of the Rats).

The character creation took ten minutes tops and my three players were ready to enter their first dungeon. The party consisted of a human fighter, an elven magic user (healer) and a dwarven scout. As all good old-school adventures, it started in the local inn where the inn keeper asked them to clear out a rat infestation in his wine cellar. So our three hero-wannebes entered the cellar, with sword and shield in hand. As soon as they reached the cellar they were attacked by a couple of rats.

The combat system in Dungeonslayers is pretty easy. You roll a d20. If your roll is equal or below your combat ability you have hit the opponent and your roll result is the damage you’ve dealt. So no extra damage roll (like in D&D etc.) is needed. Then the target may make a defense roll. The result of the defense roll (if successful) is substracted from the damage. It’s as easy as that. When all the enemies are killed, the GM hands out a couple of experience points.

After a couple of rooms, a lot of laughs and several killed rats my players reached an underground temple of an old rat cult. Although the temple was abandoned the evil influence of the rat gods’ altar could still be felt. In the end, they destroyed the altar, fought an animated statue of the rat god and returned to the surface with hands full of loot.

Dungeonslayers is a fun game that takes only minutes to get into. Although we are all veteran roleplayers we enjoyed the light-hearted nature of the game. We decided to continue playing DS next week. I am pretty sure that I can come up with a fun adventure on my own during the coming days or I will just adapt a D&D adventure to Dungeonslayers.

If you can read German, you really should check out Dungeonslayers ASAP. For everyone else, Christian Kennig (the creator of DS) and a few fans (including me) are going to translate the rules to english, so that more people can experience this fun game!

Roleplaying music: Elyrion – Call of the Titans

In October I promised you a proper review of Erdenstern’s new CD “Elyrion – Call of Titans“. Their last work is not part of their usual “Into the …” line but it’s a soundtrack created for the rather new roleplaying game “Elyrion – Call of Titans” by Prometheus Games.  Elyrion is a game that combines elements of Steampunk with Fantasy and is currently only available in German.

The CD contains 19 tracks  and has a total play time of 74:32 min. Although you can easily recognize the Erdenstern style, Elyrion sounds quite different from their other CDs.  It’s quite appearent that Erdenstern has tried out new styles on this album. 
The first track “Der Kontinent Audakia” (The Continent Audakia) could be easily sneaked into a “Into the Green” playlist. It’s a very melodic piece reminiscent of their “Library of Fantastic Music” albums. 
Other tracks are less melodic but more rythmic in nature like “Krieger aus Stahl” (Warriors of Steel)  or “Wolfsland” (Land of the Wolves). I’ve to admit that I haven’t checked out the Elyrion roleplaying game yet but the soundtrack does a good job of taking the listener on a journey to the continent of Audakia. 

The album comes in a custom jewel case with a printed booklet (german only). Like with all Erdenstern CDs every track is described with three adjectives in the booklet, so that you can easily choose with music you use in a given roleplaying situation. For example “Die Schänke” (The Tavern) is described as merry, folkloristic, strange while “Berge und Ebenen” (Mountains and Plains) is calm, wide, expectant.

The albums sets you back €14.99 (or $21 or £14.49) and can be ordered directly from Erdenstern. For a list of other retailers, check out this site. I enjoyed “Elyrion – Call of the Titans – Soundtrack” very much and you should check it out if you have the opportunity. You won’t regret it especially if you like to use music in your roleplaying sessions.

Elyrion Soundtrack – Medley

A quick review of the D&D Character Builder

ScreenshotThis morning I downloaded the D&D Character Builder Demo version. Within a few minutes I had created a sample character and I was surprised how easy everything worked. But there’s still some room for improvement.

Download and Installation
The download is advertised almost everywhere on the official D&D site, so it’s hard to miss. You then  download a tiny program that then downloads the actual software. *Sigh* Why is this necessary? Why not link to the ddisetup.exe file directly? There must be some obscure reason I am probably too dumb to understand. When I am not mistaken you also need a pretty up-to-date version of the .NET Framework to run the CB. But when you have some high bandwith internet connection it just takes you a few minutes longer to install the program. The installation itself is pretty straightforward.

Creating a character
Creating a character starts with race selection. I was surprised that even the  CB includes all races and classes released so far (including the ones from Dragon magazine that were released before you had to pay for DDI). And since all rules and flavor texts are included you could probably easily use these races and classes without even having the original books (or magazines). Of course you’ll run into trouble as soon as you want to bring those characters to level 4. The DDI subscriber version of the CB obviously includes all 30 levels.
Choosing the different ability scores, feats, skills, powers for your character is very easy and since you get all necessary information you can create characters without even looking once at your rulebooks. The Auto Pick function that auto picks ability scores, skills and equipment for you, works pretty well. This comes in handy if you want to create some run-of-the-mill NPCs fast.

Campaign Settings and Character Sheets
After you’ve made all your choices, the program saves your character and you can print out a character sheet that includes power cards and even cards for things like second wind. That’s a very big plus in my book and what could lead me to subscribe to DDI after all.  Although I have noticed a few bugs here as well:  the font on the “Dragon Breath” power card was way to big, so that instead of the full descriptive text you only get the word “Attac” in size 72 or so. I hope this is just a problem with either the demo or my PC. Has anyone else encountered this bug? And is it in the “full” version, too?
You can decide on which option you choose for you campaign setting. You can easily decide which books you allow and you can add house rules. The program even tracks is your character is still legal for tournament play (or whatever you call those RPGA events).

Final Thoughts
I am impressed! The CB is much better than I initially expected but it’s far from being perfect. You can get a character summary in text form to copy and paste into e-mails, forums, etc. but this summary doesn’t have the usual stat block format. You can’t export PDF of the character sheet and it would have been nice to be able to print out single power cards. I don’t want to print out the entire sets everytime I spilled coffee on one of the cards. But all in all it’s a pretty nice piece of software that helps you to create characters in mere minutes. That’s a feat that I was never able to achieve using the traditional method. It just takes too long to find the necessary information in the books. But I really would prefer to pay a one-time fee to download the CB instead of paying a couple bucks every month to use it. So I will probably stick to the demo version until Wizards decide to change their policy.