The Reaping Stone Deluxe Adventure

The Reaping Stone Deluxe Adventure

From: TPK Games

Reviewed by: Tera Fulbright

The Reaping Stone Deluxe Adventure is a Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Compatible Adventure from TPK Games.

TPK (Total Party Kill) Games lives up to its name in this Deluxe Adventure. Taking advantage of having a Pathfinder gaming group, I ran the party through the first couple of encounters in this adventure to see how it played out. As a DM, I had to pull my punches to keep from killing the party in the first session. While there are positive aspects to the adventure, the overall TPK (no pun intended) chance seemed extremely high.

From the Website:

“‘The Reaping Stone’ is a deluxe 200-page adventure that will take your characters down a dark path, from 1st level to at least 5th level, as prequel for the upcoming Bleeding Hollow deluxe adventure.

‘The Reaping Stone’ is as brutal as Rappan Athuk and as challenging and engaging as any published Adventure Path, with a good dose of old-school carnage binding the lot together.”

The setup for this game is absolutely inventive, even if it does start in a tavern. Characters are sent to investigate a cult and find themselves infected by a “vile” disease. From the outset, the game sets a high standard for survivability.

At second level, it is challenging for characters to make the save required to avoid the initial impact of the disease. Nearly all of my players became infected immediately. While this did give an immediate reason for the players and their characters to become involved in the campaign, it also immediately handicapped them depending on their CON stat. Indeed, the next encounter again targets CON, which puts already weak characters at further risk.

The adventure then leads the characters into a dungeon of twists and turns where they face challenge after challenge from new creatures like the Effluvium Jelly to a swarm of rats.

I do like that TPK Games include a “scaling the encounter” block in case you are playing with a smaller group. The adventure assumes six PC’s starting at second level. This did come in handy as I realized that the encounters as written were more than the four PC’s could handle.

From the Synopsis:

“Some years ago, Azrenar, a cleric of Maramaga, Scythe-mother and Queen of Rot, petitions the king of Maerh-Varza to build a great temple to the ancient goddess. In great fury, the king seeks to put the offensive cleric and his followers to the sword and nearly succeeds. His followers’ dead bodies line the roads to Maerh-Varza and the cleric Azrenar curses the king, declaring bloody vengeance.

Now channeling the power of the Reaping Stone, Azrenar has created a deadly supernatural disease, one capable of animating those who die of the horrible wasting disease. Will the spurned cleric turn Maerh-Varza into a zombie-infested metropolis or will the players find the cure in time?”

As the adventure continues, the characters are faced with challenges from haunts and ghosts to zombies and vampires.

There were things I liked about the design of the adventure. As I mentioned, I liked the “scaling” options. I also liked the “morale” aspect of the encounters which helps guide the DM in the personality of the enemy NPC’s. In addition, knowing the deadliness of the adventure, the encounter treasures are prepped with cure potions and other healing.

The encounters are described well, with an immense amount of detail. The author, Tom Phillips, is clearly well-versed in horror. He paints a picture of a dark and depressing world with NPC’s and encounters.

From page 107:

“These ancient crumbling ruins are obviously haunted. Softly whispering shadow-shapes dance at the corner of your vision as the empty streets and crumbling buildings seem to almost vibrate with a tangible malign presence.”

But all of the incredibly vivid and descriptive details get lost in the seemingly never-ending dungeon crawl aspect of the adventure.

Many of the challenges seem to be set two to three levels above the PC’s. Where this becomes a problem is when the PC’s are using a lot of resources on lower level encounters, leaving them with limited options when faced with a stronger enemy.

As the adventure continues, the NPC’s gain power significantly faster than the PC’s do. At one point, it appears as though the PC’s will face an NPC three to five levels above theirs, and this is after facing several equal or slightly higher encounters.

In Conclusion…

From page 5:

“It is a dangerous adventure that could mean the death of one or more player characters and will take extra precaution or resourcefulness to navigate it successfully. The word “Reaping” in the title of this adventure is also a serious hint: players should proceed with extreme caution.”

I think TPK Games calls the adventure correctly as dangerous. The adventure as written could easily kill a party of PC’s that are not extremely resourceful and careful. It is written to be challenging and deadly.

That being said, I still think the adventure is a bit overpowered for the expressed level of PC’s. Even with six PC’s, DM’s may find themselves scaling the adventure back if they do not wish to kill the party early on.

For more details on TPK Games and their new deluxe adventure “The Reaping Stone” check them out at their website http://www.tpkgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 11

Product Summary

The Reaping Stone Deluxe Adventure

From: TPK Games

Type of Game: Adventure Module

Lead Designer: Tom Phillips

Cover Design: Brian Berg

Additional Art by: Dusan Kostic, Christopher Stoll, and various public domain images

Number of Pages: 204

Game Components Included: Book

Retail Price: $24.99

Number of Players: 6

Website: www.tpkgames.com

Reviewed by: Tera Fulbright

Living MACE Campaign Contest: Final Rounds

The last few rounds were the hardest.  Getting from 8 to 4 and then 4 to 2 were some hard decisions.  I thought my efforts to make this a collaborative effort would make it difficult to judge and create patchwork settings with inconsistent visions.  However, much of the opposite happened.  The writers communicated with each other enough to keep the vision and theme, while subtlety adding new ideas and original concepts.  However, this was a curse as well as a blessing and made things very hard towards the end for the judges.

Judging in general was difficult.  Do we judge the setting as a whole or do we judge on the entries individually.  In the beginning, we focused more on the entries. But as time went on, it became more apparent that our focus was going to be on the setting in general.  The entries continued to be a factor but the setting was more important.  Our end result is to come up with a good setting that exemplifies JustUs Productions, and MACE, so the setting gradually became more and more important.

It was amazing how similar many of the settings ended up being.  And perhaps that was the nature of the collaboration.  What we did not end up with was a platypus-setting like many suspected would happened.  Because of good collaboration as well as the nature of the contest, I think that was easily avoided.  The contest started with a macro vision in the first round, with the contestants submitting a general pitch for the world.  Then we asked them to focus down to a sub-continent level.  Then, they had to focus on a major kingdom or province region.  Finally they had to come up with a location that will be the center of the adventure.  This telescoping of focus prevented a lot of the potential for weird amalgamations.  It was interesting to see each writer’s interpretations of what a sub-continent, kingdom/region/province and location were.  There were some differences, telling me that we need to be more specific in requirements.

However, there is still a risk of a platypus-setting as we move forward.  Our plan is to run another contest using the final setting.  What makes that difficult is that while we have the setting, now we are expanding off of it.  Now we have to worry about maintaining the theme and the concept of the original setting, while at the same time allowing for new ideas that take it outside the original boundaries. So as this contest grows, the more challenging it will get.

Never mind the whole living campaign nature of this, which I personally have not completely thought out yet.  My experience with living campaigns are minimal but we have resources that can help us on that end.

Now we head into the final round which takes place at MACE in Charlotte.  The judges are out of it.  It’s up to those that play the setting.  My end game plan was to have 2 settings with at least two tables of players playing in an adventure written by the final writer – which is the original writer of the setting.  I have a list of criteria each player will score the setting on and I hope to average them out.  I encouraged the GMs to work with the other writers on their setting to perhaps schedule other tables, and that is working out pretty well.  So we will have multiple tables of each setting with hopefully enough players to get a good overall opinion of each setting.

Overall, I am very pleased how this worked out, despite the problems and missteps.  We had some very good writers volunteering and some very good input from all of them.  Going in, I was afraid that some egos may have been bruised and in fact, some may have, but I hope everyone understands the motivation and intent of the contest.  It was a blast.  I feel we were consistent enough, fair enough and everyone came out of it for the better.  I look forward to doing a more extended one next year.

Living MACE Campaign Contest: Complications

The model we set up where writers are creating for different settings is a rather precarious one.  It relied heavily on the contestants staying in the contest.  What I did not plan for was contestants dropping out without writing their entry for the current phase.  Life happens as well all know, so I could not do anything to change it, but with one person dropping out, it not only took out the one person’s setting but also left another setting without an entry for that particular phase.

My choices were few.  One option was to drop both settings.   Of course the setting that  the person who is quitting will be dropped.  However, the setting missing that phase’s entry was also in trouble and that would not be fair to that writer.  It put me, in particular, in a very difficult situation.  Not only did one person write for a setting that has to be dropped, wasting a lot of time and effort the writer brought in, but now a setting is not going to get its fair shake because it was incomplete.

Another option was that I could write the entry really quickly.  That kind of blurs the lines of my impartialness as a judge, let alone the fact that I only had a day and a half to do it.  I wasn’t even sure I could do it justice.  The original setting writer also did not feel comfortable with me writing it.  I knew that was a bad option up front, but like I said, my options were few.

Finally, the other option came to me out of the blue.  Find another willing writer that could do it in a short time frame.  One of the other contestants volunteered to write something for the setting to at least give it a chance.  He also agreed to write it anonymously.  That was awesome!  It all worked out.

To avoid this in the future, I may have to restructure the contest.  One idea I had requires a forum where all writers can communicate with each other.  Facebook has worked to some degree but not all the contestants are on Facebook.  There are some people within my circles that vehemently object to social networking sites, which gets into a whole new level of anti-social, I suppose.  So a PHPBB forum or WordPress forum may be the solution.  This allows for more collaboration which is at the heart of this contest.  Given more time, I may be able to structure it o that for a week, all writers will comment on each setting and add their own short idea to it.  The writer will then be required to pick at least one idea for his addition during that phase.

Or I can just find more reliable writers.

Entering into the fourth phase of this contest and it has been really fun so far.  The settings are definitely developing really well, and with a little work, the final product will be incredible.

The Living MACE Campaign – Genesis

This year, MACE and JustUs Productions is trying something new to add to our experience.  Inspired by the Paizo RPG Superstar contest as well as a contest we ran at MACE called the Iron MACE Chef contest (where writers wrote an RPG given a certain number of parameters), the Living MACE campaign setting seeks to create a role playing game living campaign setting that will be exclusive to MACE events.

We knew this was going to be very involved for the contestants but we thought perhaps the rewards would outweigh some of the challenges.  We also hoped that some of our more loyal friends, as passionate gamers, would see it as an opportunity. We saw it as an opportunity to make something uniquely MACE and be a part of that.

The contest will be to create core aspects of the campaign setting, independent of a rule system.  Eventually by the final round or rounds we will have a complete enough setting to present to all the gamers at the 20th anniversary of MACE (2016).  For the system,  we plan to use generic systems like Savage Worlds, Pathfinder and a local favorite, Bare Bones Fantasy, assuming we handle all the licensing and rights before hand.

The basic parameters are:

Genre: Fantasy

System:  As mentioned, this would not be system specific.

The First Round encompasses the writers submitting a Name, Tagline, Elevator Pitch, and Designer notes.  This would give us the baselines of the setting.  It would give us the theme, the key plot elements and the general idea of the history of the setting.  From there, we would narrow down the scope, from world to subcontinent, to kingdom to location.  In the end, an adventure will be written.

Assuming we get at least 16, we will eliminate half each round.  After narrowing down the initial group of entries down to 16, it will be narrowed down to 8, then 4 and then 2, etc.   However, the difference between our contest and the one that inspired it is that the contestant may not be writing for their own setting after the first round.   We wanted to get an amalgamation of ideas in each entry.  Each entry will be a collective work between 4 of the contestants.

We realized that there is a risk of creating the “Platypus setting” but we thought we could avoid this by encouraging collaboration using tools at our disposal (social network and email) as well as relying on the participants’ imaginations to keep each setting relatively intact.   This kind of simulates common circumstances in the industry where writers on occasion are writing for other people’s settings. So it will be important for all involved to pay attention to other participants’ work.  The winning setting will represent a number of writers’ work.

The final round will have two adventures written for the top two settings.  These will be run in whatever system the authors prefer.  The players will score it and choose the winner based on the score.

I plan to have updates on this contest as we go along.  As of this writing, we are headed into Phase 3 with 8 writers.  So I am somehwat behind.  We have learned  a lot from the first time trying this.  I will document what I can and welcome comments.  I encourage other events to try this.  It’s is an amazing and enlightening experience

Living MACE Campaign Contest – Eliminations

Going into this, I knew the elimination process was going to be difficult.  With authors writing for settings other than their own, the decision to decide what and who gets dropped presented an extra challenge.  Who do you eliminate?  The original writer and the setting?  Or the writer of the current phase?  There was a risk of killing a good setting just because of a bad entry.  Also there was a risk of a writer’s setting being eliminated while they stay in the contest.  All this had to be considered and in truth was fleshed out as we went along.

No matter what, a number of people had to be eliminated each phase.  The question was who and what setting would also be eliminated.  The original setting they wrote or the setting they were currently writing for.  If you think about it, it is a real challenge based on the model we created. However, my central goal was not only to have a setting created but make it a collaborative work between some of the best of our writers.

The one option was to eliminate the writer and the current setting they were writing for.  The logic behind that is that the eliminated writer has “corrupted” (for lack of a better term) this setting with a sub-par addition.  In an effort to avoid ham-stringing the next writer, the bad entry had to be eliminated.  The problem with that is good settings could be killed by one bad entry.  On top of that, it could be contestant A’s setting that gets eliminated, and he/she is still in contest.  What motivation does that person have to stay in the contest now that his or her setting is out of the running?  You can probably see my dilemma.

Despite all the questions and “wonkiness” of that option, that was what I was planning to do.  I thought it better to keep the good written entries in and avoid the “corruption” problem that would occur.  Why keep them in if it is only going to hinder future phases of writing, regardless of how good the setting is?

Another option was obviously to simply eliminate the writer with his or her setting.  The problem with that is that leaves some “bad entries” in the mix, which ends up causing problems for the next writer.  What do you do with the entry that the eliminated player wrote for somebody else’s setting?  Admittedly, it may not be all that bad, but there has to be a reason why the writer was eliminated.

Both elimination options have their merits but also have their issues.  I also fully recognize that the problems stem from the nature of our model – the collaborative nature.  Unfortunately, you can’t have everything.

One statement from a friend and one of our judges made it all clear to me.  Good writers will write good settings.  So no matter what, if you eliminate the writers based on what they wrote and the setting they wrote along with them, you are going to still have good writers and good settings.  That helped us see things a lot clearer and the end result was that we went with the second option.

One option to deal with the “bad apples in the mix” was to let the original writer of the setting fix it.  That’s the most ideal solution.  Unfortunately, with the time constraint I had set for the first time we tried this, I could not do that.  What I finally decided to do was edit them myself while consulting with the original author.  I reserved the right to do this for any “bad apple” that might fall in our bucket, in an effort to make sure the next writer was not at a disadvantage going into the next stage.  Not the most ideal method but it worked within our time constraints. What I am considering for future iterations of this is to allow an extra week for re-writes – send the entry back to the original writer so he or she can fix it.

So far this contest has been amazing.  Great ideas are coming out of it.  We did not get the initial 16 contestants but we did get 11.  One was dropped initially and then we had 10.  We have gone from phase 2 into phase 3, where we whittled it down to 8.  Eliminating people is hard.  I know it’s not a good feeling to be told that what you wrote is not what we like or not good enough.  But I heard one writer say at some point – you have to take criticism well to be a writer.  So I hope they take it well.

 

Geek Girls Gaming Review: Paizo NPC codex

Pathfinder NPC Codex

From: Paizo

Reviewed by: Tera Fulbright

Pathfinder NPC Codex is a supplement from Paizo.

Pathfinder’s Pathfinder NPC Codex has been out for a while, since October 2012.  However, I wanted to review it both traditionally, but also with an eye toward Geek Girls Gaming.  As a note, I am currently running a Pathfinder Game as well as playing in one.

Overall, I find the NPC Codex is very useful for random NPC’s who actually need combat statistics.

From the back cover:

“Inside this tome, you’ll find hundreds of ready-made stat blocks for nonplayer characters of every level, from a lowly forest poacher to the most majestic knight or ancient spellcaster. Whether you’re planning out future adventures or throwing together encounters right at the table, this book does the work so you can focus on playing the game.”

Pathfinder’s Pathfinder NPC Codex lists over 300 NPCs, including at least one for every level of every class in the core rule book.  Overall, there were 94 female NPCs, 105 male NPCs and even one transgendered NPC.   In addition to NPCs for all the classes, the codex includes a handful of NPCs with prestige classes as well.  Overall the NPC male/female split is fairly even.

The codex itself is simply organized.  Chapters are divided by Core Classes, Prestige Classes, NPC Classes and Iconics, and each class within a chapter has several levels of NPCs.  In addition, the appendices at the back of the book include some very useful information, including animal companion stats (adjusted for PC level) and a listing of sample encounter groups.

The one major flaw I found was the lack of spellbooks for wizards. While they did include spells prepared, it does still mean a GM has to build an actual spellbook if his players need it for treasure.

I did like that the NPCs all had gear listed, which does make for easy treasure generation when using one of these NPCs in a combat.

From the back cover:

“Tons of flavorful names and backgrounds to give characters personality, plus ideas for using them in both combat and roleplaying situations.”

As a GM who struggles with naming NPCs, being able to open the book and tell players that they are meeting “Gorgu Stonesplitter” or “Telkineel Orbast” also known as “AlleyCat” is incredibly useful.  There are backgrounds included, and while the backgrounds are simple, they are still creative.  I especially enjoyed the background of Passago, which a clever reader will recognize as homage to Shakespeare’s Prospero from the tempest.

The tips and hints about the characters make them easy to bring to life both in combat and in role-playing situations.  Most characters have one or two lines describing how they think or their backgrounds or goals.

In conclusion, this could be a very useful supplement for GMs who do not simply run modules or whose players often take the “red herrings.”   It would also be useful for GMs who need the ability to create interesting and memorable characters that the PCs can actually fight.

I do think if Paizo expands the Codex series to include new classes, it would be well-received by fans of the original.

For more details on Paizo and their new Supplement “Pathfinder NPC Codex” check them out at their website http://www.paizo.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 13

Product Summary

Pathfinder NPC Codex

From: Paizo

Type of Game: Supplement

Lead Designer: Jason Bulmahn

Designers: Stephen Radney-MacFarland and Sean K Reynolds

Contributing Authors: Authors: Jesse Benner, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, Alex Greenshields, Rob McCreary, Mark Moreland, Jason Nelson, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Patrick Renie, Sean K Reynolds, and Russ Taylor

Cover Art by: Wayne Reynolds

Additional Art by: Joewie Aderes, Eric Belisle, Branko Bistrovic, Christopher Burdett, Victor Perez Corbella, Josh Corpuz,Alberto DalLago, Simon Eckert, Steve Ellis, Jason Engle, Nadia Enis, Jorge Fares, Gonzalo Flores, Mariusz Gandzel, Fabio Gorla, Grafit, Paul Guzenko, Mauricio Herrera, Jon Hodgson, Andrew Hou, Lake Hurwitz, Ivan Kashubo, Nicholas Kay, Tim Kings-Lynne, Melanie Maier,Damien Mammoliti, Diana Martinez, Kate Maximovich, Jim Nelson, Miroslav Petrov, Roberto Pitturru, Emiliano Pretrozzi, Scott Purdy,Maichol Quinto, Jason Rainville, Jean-Baptiste Reynaud, Wayne Reynolds, Denman Rooke, Kostia Schleger, Lydia Schuchmann, Chris Seaman, Kyushik Shin, Bryan Sola, Dean Spencer, Florian Stitz, Allison Theus, Tyler Walpole, and Eva Widermann

Number of Pages: 320

Game Components Included: Book

Retail Price: $39.99

Item Number: PZO1124

ISBN: 978-1-60125-467-2

Email: customer.service@paizo.com

Website: www.paizo.com

Reviewed by: Tera Fulbright

Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment

From: Paizo Publishing
Reviewed by: Ron’s Gaming Group

Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment is a new RPG Supplement from Paizo Publishing.

I chose to do this review a little differently. I wanted to get a wide range of opinions on the voluminous book and so I let several of my gaming group borrow the book and write a short review on it.   So this review is from a gaming group’s perspective – GM and individual players.  Each player has their own gaming styles and preferences but all are at least 30 years old and most are closer to or older than 40.  

From the back cover: With this vast catalog of tools and treasures, the days of boring dragon hoards are over, and your hero will never be caught unprepared again.”

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P John Freeman

A player’s perspective

The Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment is a compilation of equipment listings from multiple Pathfinder sources in one book.  It collects, organizes and re-prints mundane and magical (mostly magical) equipment from the Players Guide, the Advanced Players Guide and several other source materials.  It divides items out into categories, each given its own chapter.  The first two chapters deal with Arms & Armor (non-magical) and Gear.  The next four chapters respectively are: Magic Arms & Armor, Rods, Rings & Staves, Wondrous Items and Artifacts.  Within each chapter, items are listed alphabetically and with further charts for body location, etc.

That is all background; I will admit I was glad to be given the opportunity to review the book because I, frankly, enjoy thumbing through a book like this and thinking “What if.”  From that perspective, the book is a lot of fun.  You can read it and find “old favorites” (Sovereign Glue, anyone?) and new, fun items (Defoliant Polish; kills plants like nobody’s business!).  The new items alone are often fun to read and consider how they might work in actual game play.

However, the purpose of this review is to opine whether or not the book is “necessary.”  This reviewer does not think so.  Or rather, it is not “$45 necessary.”  Many of the re-printed items are likely to be in the Players Guide and other books you probably already own, so in that regard you are paying for something you already have.  If you have a large Pathfinder group, I would suggest a single copy of the book at most for the group to share; it could be beneficial in that regard.  It is a fun “common resource,” but one copy per group is more than enough.

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Dawson Kriska

A DM’s perspective

From the back cover: “Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Equipment is a must-have companion volume to the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.”

Providing an exhaustive collection of items mundane and magical, the Ultimate Equipment book presents new items and organizes pre-existing into one supplement.

Ultimate Equipment compiles the items from ten years of Pathfinder RPG products into one volume. Although the majority of the content presented exists in other books, having it in a single source proves extremely useful and convenient. A comprehensive guide to alchemical items provides an excellent addition to the collection. With all the playable equipment broken down into comprehensive categories, Ultimate Equipment delivers great ease of use for the readers. A plethora of exotic materials to craft weapons and armor open new possibilities to even seasoned players. At the end of the book a diverse guide to treasure spices up dragon hordes and wealth players gain throughout the game by including valuable art, gems, and in-game collectables.

The book delivers to the readers exactly what it promises and in typical Paizo fashion, the art dazzles and impresses. However, unlike other Paizo products, the consistency of the art leaves the reader wanting. The chapter art opens each section beautifully and most of the in-chapter illustrations match, but others fall far short. Not only do many items remain un-illustrated, but they also miss the opportunity to greet the players with illustration of exotic and Eastern style weapons. Instead, illustrations of long swords, war hammers, and several other fantasy staples appear leaving the players ever wandering what a kyokesu shoge and many others might look like.

The stat-blocks for the items presented follow the same familiar layout, but include some minor updates to make them visually appealing. Several never-before-seen items also make their print debut in Ultimate Equipment. Many of these RPG Superstar concepts make excellent additions to any game. However, this remains the vast majority of original content in a book otherwise full of reprinted and slightly updated material. Though to expect the bulk of the book as original content oversteps reason, the ratio felt too heavy in favor of the reprinted material.

Easily the three most impressive portions of Ultimate Equipment, “exotic materials,” “the alchemical guide,” and “treasure guide” stand out as the best resources for players and game masters respectively. With materials to make weapons and armor stronger, elemental, or fragile the exotic materials portion allows players to customize on a new level. On the other side of the table, the exotic materials include rules for bronze age and stone age weapons to run a more primitive setting.  The alchemical guide includes dozens of inexpensive items for players to craft or purchase. These items go far beyond the typical alchemist fires and acid, to include alchemical solutions as light sources, trap detectors, and more. The treasure guide takes the character wealth by level and treasure reward by CR tables and expands them into fantastic detail. Detailing works of art, tapestries, jewelry, ornaments, and much more makes creating a treasure horde easy, more realistic, and more detailed for the players.

If you seek an easily referenced collection of items and good source of player items and game mastery information, Ultimate Equipment conveys this very well. If you want a book of original content or a guided illustration to the some of the more exotic elements of items, keep your fingers crossed, because Paizo rarely leaves opportunities alone.

Codex Rating: 16 out of 20

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Ron McClung

The Gamer’s Codex Chief Editor/Player/DM

Ultimate Equipment is one of a myriad of books Paizo has put out to support the Pathfinder RPG.  It has released a whole series of Ultimate books.  This contains, as the name implies, 400+ pages of various equipment, from mundane to magical.  It is a rather hefty book, with hundreds of entries for a GM and player alike to peruse. In typical Paizo style, they present a stunning book of everything you can imagine to equip your character.

From the back cover:
“Choose your weapon and stride boldly into battle with
Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Equipment!

The book is broken down into six primary sections and the appendices.

Arms and Armor, as the chapter title implies, describes a vast array of weapons and armor.  It ranges from the mundane and previously published to the more exotic and never seen before (at least in Pathfinder).  From swords, bows, and axes to a variety of strange and exotics blades as well as firearms, this chapter has it all.  I tend to gravitate to firearms, and comparing that section to the Firearms section from Ultimate Combat, I did not see a lot of difference, however.  Much of the Firearms were simply reprinted from Ultimate Combat.

On the other hand, the section on Special Materials was very interesting.  I could not tell you if this was previously published but I am sure some of it was.  However, this presents a clear and organized list of various materials you could make weapons and armor with.  Your armor could be made from dragonhide, adamantine, angelskin or blood crystal.  Or you can be a little more old-school and have stone weapons or bronze armor.  There is a good amount to choose from, if you have the gold.

Gear gives the reader a list of mundane items to choose from.  From adventuring gear, tools and skill kits to animals and transportation as well as entertainment and trade goods.  There is also Clothing, Food and Drink, and Lodging and Services.  Most eye-catching in this section is the Alchemical Remedies, Tools and Weapons.  Alchemical remedies range from cure for nausea (defense again sickened or fatigued conditions) to rusting powder (derived directly from the rust monster’s fluids).   There is a great variety of chemicals, solvents, cures and corrosives anyone can use.  The chapter closes out with a two-page discussion on Poisons.

Magic Arms and Armor starts out with a variety of magical special abilities that shields and armor can have, mostly republished from other sources.  Following that is Magic Armor and Shields, followed by Weapons Special Abilities and then Magic Weapons.  Here I am sure players would spend a lot of time.  I was simply fascinated by the number of special abilities armor and weapons could have.  But on top of that there are dozens of armor as well as weapons.  Most are from previously published sources like the core rulebook and the Advanced Player’s Guide, while some are original.  I’ll leave it to the keener eye than mine to truly discern between them.

Rings, Rods and Staves is probably the third most popular place if not the second.  Here you can find wands, rings and staffs of all kinds, and like other chapters, some are previously published and some are original.  I am not one to know every single ring there is, but when comparing the two sources I have that include rings – the core rulebook and the Advanced Player’s Guide – I was able find quite of few that were not in either of those books.

From the page #4:
“Gear is the great equalizer.”

Wondrous Items includes all the magical items from previous sources as well as original items from the RPG Superstar competition Paizo sponsors every year.  Sorting through many of these items, I was able to find a few of the Superstar entries as well, bringing more value to the book.

Artifacts and Other Items has once again a wide variety of items, both previously seen and new.  These are divided up into three sections – Artifacts, Cursed Items and Intelligent Items.  The Artifact section includes both Minor and Major.  From the Deck of Many Things, the Knucklebone of Fickle Fortune and the Talisman of Reluctant Wishes to Axe of the Dwarvish Loards, Demon Prince Armor, and Skullsoul, there are plenty of unique artifacts to choose from.  Cursed items begins with an explanation of what it means to be a cursed item, and then lists several dozen nasty items that most players should stay away from but their DMs usually figure out a way for them to stumble across.  Intelligent Items are those items magically imbue with sentience and usually are treated as NPCs.  This section begins with an explanation and rules on how to create one.  This is followed by a short list of a few of the known intelligent items of the Pathfinder game.

The Appendices has a few handy tools for a GM to use, including a Treasure Generator, aong with various random tables for the various equipment types as well as a Gems and Jewels generator.

One nice feature is that each type is color coded for ease of reference.  Each group is broken out in subgroups and they added nice tabs on the edge of the pages to make it easy to thumb through.  Of course, this doesn’t really help as much if you are using strictly PDF, but I guess I am old-school that way. Another nice feature are the tables with a complete list of each item type in each section, merging all the previously published items with the new.  The book itself is stunning, with fantastic art throughout.  It is a top notch quality book, like most of Paizo products are.

In conclusion, I tried to determine how useful this would be for those that already bought most or all of the previous products that this books covers.  Usually that is measured by how much new stuff is in it.  But in reality this is also useful because of the organization and ease at which you can look everything up.  It is a one stop shop for all the equipment they have created up until now.  Is it a must have?  Probably not, but it is certainly handy.  It is a little pricey but what hardback book from Paizo isn’t?

For more details on Paizo Publishing LLC and their new RPG Supplement “Ultimate Equipment (Pathfinder)” check them out at their website http://Www.paizo.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 15

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Product Summary

Pathfinder: Ultimate Equipment
From:
Paizo Publishing LLC
Type of Game: RPG Supplement
Written by: Jason Bulmahn
Contributing Authors: Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Sean K Reynolds, Dennis Baker, Jesse Benner, Benjamin Bruck, Ross Byers, Brian J. Cortijo, Ryan Costello, Mike Ferguson, Matt Goetz, Jim Groves, Tracy Hurley, Matt James, Jonathan H. Keith, Michael Kenway, Hal MacLean, Jason Nelson, Tork Shaw, Owen KC Stephens, Russ Taylor, and numerous RPG Superstar contributors
Cover Art by: Wayne Reynolds
Additional Art by: Interior Artists: Kerem Beyit, Dmitry Burmak, Vincent Dutrait, Grafit Studios, Francesco Graziani, Michal Ivan, Chuck Lukcas, Steve Prescott, Christophe Swal, Wayne Reynolds, and Kieran Yanner
Creative Director: James Jacobs
Managing Editor: F. Wesley Schneider
Number of Pages: 402
Game Components Included: One hardback book
Game Components Not Included: Core Pathfinder rule books
Retail Price: $44.99 (US)
Item Number: PZO1123
ISBN: 781601 254498
Website: www.paizo.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Mike Welham , 2012 RPG Superstar

At MACE 2012 Mike Welham, Paizo’s 2012 RPG Superstar, attended and ran some games for us.  He took time out from his busy schedule to answer a few questions we had for him.

Hello, Mike.  Thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions.

MW: Thanks for taking the time to interview me.

Congratulations on the win for 2012 RPG Superstar. How does it feel to be one of the elite?

MW: Even 6 months after the fact, it feels a little surreal. I’m pleased that the voters saw something each round to push me into the next round, and I really appreciate Paizo doing this contest every year. Doom Comes to Dustpawn won’t be released for a couple of months, but I will be excited to see it in print.

What kind of gamer would you say you are?

MW: When I play a character, I like to create a slightly off-kilter hook for the character. It’s a lot of fun to come up with an unusual character and just throwing that out there for the others to interact with. At the same time, especially in “living” campaigns, I make sure the character can benefit the party in combat situations. My overall goal is to bring a little bit of laughter to the table, usually at my character’s expense. I primarily GM at home, and I run my campaigns a little loose, because I have learned that I can have a perfectly crafted plot for a night’s adventure, and the players will go off on completely different tangents, which have absolutely nothing to do with what I planned.

You are one of many RPG Superstar contestants that are from the Carolinas.  Why do you think that is?

MW: That’s amazing, isn’t it? You’ve got Neil Spicer who won in 2009, and this year featured 3 North Carolina residents in the top 4. I believe the Carolinas have a lot of gaming communities that provide a medium for talent to develop. Also, with the sheer number of colleges and military bases in the two states, I think the gaming population is fairly substantial. Of course, conventions like MACE get people excited for gaming. I know when I’ve had a great convention experience, I am eager to contribute back to the community.

Is this your first time being a contestant?

MW: Far from it. I have entered every year Paizo has hosted the competition. I learned something new during each attempt, and I finally found myself in the top 32 this year.

Tell us a little about the RPG Superstar Competition and how you got involved?

MW: Paizo has run RPG Superstar for five years now. It is their way to find amateur designers who can potentially become regular contributors, which Neil Spicer has done. However, you don’t have to win the competition to become part of Paizo’s stable of freelancers.

The first round of the competition is always the same: design a wondrous item in the Pathfinder RPG format using 300 words or less. The judges choose 32 entries, plus 4 alternates in case one of the 32 drops out, and those 32 entrants have a week or so to create their entry for the next round. In 2012, the second round challenge was to create an organization, but previous years have had contestants create an archetype or a monster concept or something else. After the first round, contestants progress through votes cast by the community. The judges have their say about each entry, but the Paizo community at large determines who advances. Ultimately, in the final round of four contestants, the challenge is to submit a proposal for a 32-page adventure module, and the winner gets to write that module (with help from a Paizo developer), while the other three contestants get the opportunity to write a Pathfinder Society scenario.

What was it about Doom Comes to Dustpawn that you think put you over the edge?

MW: I think I lucked out and struck a chord with the voters by choosing to touch on the recently released Distant Worlds supplement.

Did you have an opportunity to see your competitions’ works after each round?  If so, who impressed you the most?

MW: Each round I tried to take a look at what everyone else was doing. Since we couldn’t comment on our own entries, and some decisions for the next round had to wait until the judges released the full rules, I had time to at least skim my competitors’ entries. They were all good and made me nervous about my chances of survival. Overall, though, I felt Tom Phillips had the most consistent presence in the competition, and I thought he was a lock for the win. According to Mark Moreland, the difference in votes between the two of us was less than two percent, making it the closest competition in the history of RPG Superstar.

What inspirations kept you going in the competitions?

MW: I had  two sources of inspiration during the competition: my family and the “Forums Are Way Too Long” group. My wife, Cheryl, is not a gamer, but she was extremely supportive during my run through RPG Superstar, as she has been throughout all of my freelancing career. My daughter, Rachel, patiently allowed me to bounce ideas off of her, and she volunteered to read the judges’ comments first for one of the rounds. The FaWTL group gave me a place to vent frustrations, and a couple of people from the group critiqued my entries. That’s definitely something I would suggest to anyone interested in the competition: find a couple of peers that you trust to honestly critique your work.

Once the complete Doom Comes to Dustpawn is published, what plans do you have in the future?

MW: I’ve already made my turnover for Doom Comes to Dustpawn, so I have already started on my next projects. I have work coming out from Butterfrog Studio, Clockwork Gnome Publishing, Raging Swan Press, Rite Publishing, and Zombie Sky Press. I hope to continue working with Paizo as well, but I am certainly keeping busy.

Thanks again.  Looking forward to meeting you at MACE!

MW: Thank you! I am very much looking forward to meeting you and enjoying everything MACE has to offer.

 

Christina Stiles, 2012 ENnie award winner

MACE 2012 Interview

Hello, Christina and congratulations for your Gold ENnie Award for Best Adventure for Streets of Zobeck (Open Design).

Tell us a little about this project and your role in it.

CS: Thank you! I’m totally stoked! Streets of Zobeck was a patron project through Open Design/Kobold Press (Wolfgang Baur’s company), meaning patrons paying in at certain levels could anonymously “pitch” material for the book as contributions or contract work. I’d been a patron of a few other Open Design projects, but none called to me like the gritty nature of this one. I mean, with a motto of “leave the paladin at home,” how could I not want to have my name in it? Plus, I’d get to add my mark to the city of Zobeck!

I pitched my heart out on this project, getting in a few feats, magic items, and NPCs before the adventure rounds hit. At 5th-level, I jumped in with “The Fish and the Rose,” a heist adventure involving a hideous, singing fish painting that could foretell the future—think black velvet background ala the Elvis ones of the day mixed with the singing fish (“Take Me to the River” plaques that were popular in the 90s). It got accepted. Around the same time, I proposed “Flesh Fails,” a more risqué adventure involving blackmail and the high priestess of Marena, goddess of lust and torture (in this instance—she has other purviews in her portfolio in the Midgard Campaign Setting). This one didn’t get in immediately, and I had to re-pitch it. I rewrote it and sent it in for the 10th-level adventures, and finally won with it. So, I ended up writing two of the seven adventures.

Ben McFarland deftly led this project to the finish line, and other authors include Matt Stinson, Mike Franke, and the macabre Richard Pett. Ben did a great post about this project on the Kobold Quarterly Blog . http://www.koboldquarterly.com/k/front-page13518.php

How many nominations is this for you? How many ENnies wins is this for you?

CS: Let’s see, I had to go back and check the Ennie list on this. The products I’ve had a big part in that have been nominated include: Faery’s Tale, SCION: Ragnarok, Corwyl: Village of the Wood Elves, Black Sails Over Freeport, and Streets of Zobeck. There have also been things nominated I’ve had small parts in (Sidewinder, Liber Bestarius, Testament, and the Penumbra Bestiary). Out of the main five products, however, Green Ronin’s Black Sails won a silver Ennie for Best Adventure (it won an Origins Award, too), and Open Design’s Streets of Zobeck won gold for Best Adventure; so two wins.

I actually edited the former title, so I can’t claim my adventure-writing skills added to the win, though I’m hoping to trend in this category in the future, as I enjoy writing adventures best.

What do you think made this adventure stand out from the rest?

CS: Its gritty, noir, urban nature played a large part in making it a stand-out adventure. It’s like something you could run in Freeport, but it’s made for Zobeck. It also includes magic, NPCs, feats, and locations, so that’s a big plus for running a campaign set in the city. It’s everything you need to play an urban campaign up to 10th level.

Are you going to do more work for this product line?

CS: Oh yeah! I worked on another Zobeck book for Open Design right after this project: The Zobeck Gazetteer for Pathfinder. Plus, I pulled together the Player’s Guide to the Crossroads (which hasn’t yet released). Then I pitched to lead some Open Design projects and won. We’ve just finished up Journeys to the West (it’s in layout and due out around late September), and Ben McFarland and I are currently leading the Midgard Tales anthology project of 13 Midgard adventures to complement the Midgard Campaign Setting being released around October of this year. The adventures will be out in 2013, though I don’t know the expected date yet.

Additionally, I’ve done articles on Midgard for Kobold Quarterly and for the KQ blog.

What are you working on now?

CS: Oh so many things… I tend to keep busy!

As of this writing, the Rogue Mage RPG Player’s Handbook, a game based on the Rogue Mage novels (Bloodring, Seraphs, Host) of NYT bestselling urban fantasy author Faith Hunter, has just released for sale in pdf through Misfit Studios. The print book will be available at Dragon*Con and then on Amazon.com via BellaRosa Books. In regard to that game, I’m still tweaking the freebie adventure that will go on the Misfit Studios website, and we are finalizing the Rogue Mage RPG Game Master’s Guide over the next few months.

For Open Design (aka Kobold Press), I’m working on the Midgard Tales Open Design project, and I’ve taken over the Dark Deeds Freeport project for them, as well. I am also the associate editor for Kobold Quarterly, and I’m finalizing the 4th issue I’ve had my hand in (one not credited). I’ve also got an unnamed side project for a class I can’t discuss at the moment—but it’s nearing completion.

Backburner projects include finishing the Savage SpirosBlaak book, and then doing a Pathfinder version. I think that’s all, but I could have forgotten something.

What future work of yours do you think will be in the next ENnie nomination list?

CS: I’m hoping Journeys to the West for Open Design makes it into the Best Adventure list, though it could certainly fit in a few Ennie categories. Seeing the Midgard Tales (if we get it to print in time for 2013) or Kobold Quarterly on the list would be great, as well. And, if Rogue Mage ever made it to the list, I’d be beyond ecstatic! Years of work went into making it a great game for fans of Faith Hunter’s Rogue Mage novels.

How does it feel to be recognized by the fans by winning an ENnie?

CS: Cloud Nine describes it. We honestly thought we were the dark horse in that nominations list for Best Adventure—not that we doubted we had a great product, but because we were in great company. I thank the fans for recognizing the heart and soul that went into Streets. This is just a stupendous honor.

Again congratulations and we look forward to seeing more great work by you.

CS: Thanks! Keep your eyes out, as I’m always busy on RPG projects.