All posts by connorgwillson

D&D System Review – Pathfinder SRD

Pathfinder SRD is a D&D system that is based off D&D version 3.5. Set in the traditional fantasy world of Gnomes, Elves and Dwarves along with the traditional class options of Fighter, Mage and Rouge, Pathfinder is about as traditional as it gets. Pathfinder also has a space variant, but we haven’t tried it out since it doesn’t look that different from regular Pathfinder, as even the gear only seems to have been given a fresh coat of paint as opposed to drastically changing anything.

 

Much like the game it is based off Pathfinder operates around 6 primary stats, a class of your choosing, which combined with your stats will determine your bonus to hit and defences. You have armour class which traditional attackers (swords, bows etc) have to try to get past with their attack bonus, and then you have magic, which will affect one of your three saves (Reflex, Fortitude and Will), and you will have to try to get over the save DC of the spell. All in all, it is a system anyone who has played any Wizards of the Coast D&D version should be familiar with.

 

The most important part of any good D&D game is of course the copious amounts of loot, and Pathfinder has a decent selection of loot. While the loot isn’t the most inspired in the world, there are a few pieces that are more unique than others, such as the Merfolk belt, which as the name suggests, transforms you into one of the Mer once a day, and the large amounts of loot described are plenty to keep any party afloat.

 

Another important part of any good D&D based fantasy system in my opinion is how well designed the magic system is, and for Pathfinder, well, it’s a bit iffy at times. On a note, if you want to avoid a long discussion of why the magic system is broken at higher levels, just take away that lower level spells are useless at high levels because of math.

 

Long discussion of math and magic, read at your own risk. The main problem we’ve found is spell DC, which is a combination of the casters main casting attribute modifier (so (X-10)/2, with X being the original stat), a base of 10, and the spell’s level, leaving an equation that looks like 10 + spell level + stat modifier, the main problem with this is that lower level spells become completely ineffectual at higher levels. While generally this isn’t a massive problem, as higher level spells as a rule of thumb deal more damage. The problem comes when you use metamagic, think of it as putting your magic on steroids, it’s suddenly a lot stronger, however the use of metamagic comes at a cost, when using metamagic your spell counts as a spell from a higher level, however, it doesn’t count as a higher level spell in relation to spell DC. This means that while your level 1 spell might be powerful enough to slay a god (I don’t know what you did, but let’s say it is), what this means is that your spell DC equation looks like 10 + 1 + stat modifier, the problem with this, you are never going to hit that god with your spell unless they roll a 1 on their save, meaning that it is virtually worthless, especially since it is now taking up a higher level spell slot, meaning that you’ve had to give up a use of a higher level spell that might have hit that same god.

 

Overall, while Pathfinder doesn’t push the boundaries of D&D, it is a great system to introduce D&D to new players, and has a lot of replayability due to the variety of classes offered, along with the flexibility of the system, making it in my opinion one of the better D&D system out there.

 

We’ve done a lot of experimentation with Pathfinder’s flexibility, and found it to be pretty compatible with just about anything, for example we’ve allowed for other systems to be used at the same time as Pathfinder in our adventures, for example, we allowed Monty Cook’s Arcana Evolved series to be used alongside Pathfinder to allow for some variety. Along with that we’ve also used books like Liches – The Lords of the Night and Vampires – The Lords of the Night. We’ve also tried things like gestalting, which is levelling up two classes at the same time on one character, and ended up going all the way to hexastalts, so six classes on one character, which was based off us looking up whether anyone had discussed one character having that many classes, and simply went with it when we couldn’t find any search results (though there was a forum post discussing hexastalts, so we might have to go up to heptastalts).

 

You can the Pathfinder website here

Random Things – Elephant Art

 

I was fairly recently in Hong Kong to see Art Basel, and while there I took the opportunity to take a look around Art Central, and found the most amazing pieces of art (apologies for photo quality, they were taken on my phone).

 

 

I thought these pieces of art were innovative (flying elephant temples, I know what my next DnD base will be), and just overall well drawn. While these paintings (and paintings in general) are a rather random topic that I likely won’t discuss again, they were the highlight of my few days in Hong Kong, and I hope you like the paintings as much as I did. On a side note, the water one is my favourite simply because it contains penguins.

Highlights on Epicness – Demiplanes

What is a dempilane? Demiplanes are a separate layer of reality that sufficiently high level mages or gods can create. While a god have more control over all aspects of their plane, even a mage has extraordinary levels of control over their planes.

Demiplanes are admittedly not the most powerful spell you can pick at such high levels, especially when set next to spells like wish, which, as the name implies, bend the laws of the universe to grant you your wish, making your creation of your own plane of reality seem relatively minor in comparison. But despite this, demiplanes are epic in my view, and this is due to the amount of roleplaying potential found within them.

Mages of generally around 17th level in D&D can create their own plane of reality, and they get unparalleled control over these planes of reality, making them a player’s paradise. For example, if you want, you can even choose how quickly or slowly time passes in your plane (within reason, you aren’t a god yet), but this gives you more time to do things like research about your upcoming opponents, or simply lounge around, you are playing a mage after all, meaning you work hard and play even harder.

Not only all of the above, but a demiplane is about as secure as it gets, seeing as you control all landing of opponents, allowing you to trap the place so thoroughly that you can kill gods, and then, in the time-honoured tradition of all role players, loot everything they own while laughing manically about how much all the new stuff you got will improve your character.

Due to this, demiplanes, in my mind, are epic. Having a secure base that I have absolute control over is something difficult to accomplish for players, something I can attest to due to the number of times I’ve been attacked or robbed in my own base.

Game Review – Gwent

I was recently lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of Gwent while it is still in its closed beta. Due to Gwent currently being in closed beta, that means there are likely to be changes before the game is formally released.

 

Gwent is a card game made by CD Projekt Red based off the popular card game in the Witcher 3.

 

Gwent is based around 5 different factions, each with their own unique faction power, and then has 3 heroes inside each faction, all of whom also have their own unique powers, allowing for a myriad of playstyles. Much like Hearthstone, Gwent has a set of neutral cards accessible to all the factions, and faction cards that are unique to individual factions.

 

To start a game of Gwent, you draw 11 cards, and mulligan 3 of them (also, the minimum deck size is 25).  Gwent is played in a best of 3 style, with the player that is the first to win 2 rounds winning, meaning that it is quite common to have games where you win the first round, and proceed to lose the next two. In Gwent there is no combat between minions, instead they are simply played and generally don’t interact any further with the board unless they have text that specifies otherwise (more on that later). There is also no draw phase in Gwent except between rounds, with both players drawing 2 after round 1, and 1 after round 2, meaning that card advantage is one of the biggest factors in the game.

 

Both players have three rows on their side, the melee, ranged and siege rows. Each minion card in Gwent has a value near the top left that is their attack power essentially, and most have text that has them do something when a condition is met, whether this be when they are played, if a minion is damaged, or if they are resurrected. A round in Gwent is won by the player that has the most combined attack power, meaning that it doesn’t matter if you have less power in a single row (or even two), as long as you have a greater combined attack power. You can improve your attack power or lower your opponents through the use of spells, which might destroy the highest attack value minion on either side, or reduce the attack value of all minions in the melee row to 1, or through minions, who for example might remove a certain amount of attack from an opposing minion.

 

I’ve found Gwent to be simple to grasp after playing the tutorial, but there is a lot of depth to the game, such as card positioning, timing of certain plays etc…

 

Gwent doesn’t have any game modes apart from single player against the AI or multiplayer against other opponents, though it is quite possible this will change during or after the closed beta.

 

Overall, you definitely should check out Gwent (I’ve attached a link down the bottom to sign up for a beta key). It is a complex card game, that I’ve personally enjoyed far more than I have games akin to Hearthstone, as I have found the game to have more strategic depth. Even in the closed beta Gwent has a lot of enjoyment to be offered and I really hope that it grows out in ever more complex and interesting ways (also, aggro decks are next to impossible to play due to the gameplay style of Gwent, so hooray.)

 

Link to sign up for beta: Gwent  (you might not get a key, as it’s closed beta, but good luck)

 

 

 

Book Review – The Undying Mercenaries

“Legion Varrus is a harsh unit. We train our troops to think for themselves. We kill them now and then to keep them sharp.” – Centurion Graves

 

Note before review, Undying Mercenaries is more mature than other books, it has sex and a whole lot of gore, so this book isn’t for everyone.

 

The Undying Mercenaries series is set in a world where Earth has been forced into joining a much more powerful empire (control the galaxy powerful). For humanity not to be wiped out, Earth is forced to pick up a trade that is of value to the other vassal states in the same section of space as Earth. With nothing of value not already covered by other races, Earth turns to hiring out mercenary companies known as legions. Using the technology of the Galactics, (the powerful empire mentioned earlier) which allows soldiers to be brought back from the dead (more technically, cloning their bodies), Earth becomes a successful hub for mercenaries.

 

The series follows the adventures of legion recruit James McGill, who serves in Varrus Legion.

 

There isn’t a whole lot of science involved in the books, seeing as it centers life more around being part of this legion, there is some discussion of more advanced technology, such as plasma guns, cloning machines and nanobots. While not a sci-fi heavy book, there is enough that you can tell that the world the book is set in has technology beyond our capabilities currently.

 

Funny and just overall cool, Undying Mercenaries is definitely a book to pick up. While it isn’t a book that will make you ponder on difficult philosophical questions, it is a fun read, and if you have the spare time this is a good way to spend it.

 

Link to the Book: Undying Mercenaries 

 

Random Things – Top 5 Skyrim Mods

This week, in order to celebrate writing my first game review (on Skyrim), I wrote about my favourite Skyrim mods.

 

Better Vampires

Vampire Lords from the Dawnguard DLC were a transformation that overall, I found underwhelming, especially when you obtain it at higher levels, due to this I never used the transformation for Vampire Lord (never used the Werewolf one either). While the concept of playing a vampire was interesting, they were too weak to really be usable. This mod by Brehain2 makes the vampires far more customisable (I can finally make them gain power from feeding), and also makes them useful even when not in Vampire Lord form, making the trade-off of weakness during daylight well worth it.

 

Deadly Dragons

Ah the dragons of Skyrim, so pathetic that in a game all about you being the only person able to kill dragons, I have seen even bandits ruthlessly mow them down. Apart from the first one you kill, dragons are all laughably easy to kill, even on legendary difficulty. To fix this, I play using my most hated mod to date. Created by 3jiou these dragons have killed me more than all other enemies combined. Finally, proper enemies for the ultimate dragon slayer.

 

Alternate Start – Live Another Life

An interesting mod, live another life quite literally allows you to pick an alternate start to the lengthy Helgen introduction to the game. While sometimes these start locations are truly horrible (I fought a Hagraven at level 2), they are much more enjoyable then the lengthy cart ride through Helgen, so thank you Arthmoor for saving me from the same tediously long introduction 10 times.

 

Cloaks of Skyrim

The fashion choice for all stylish superheroes (or supervillains), cloaks of Skyrim makes your character look awesome (and is another place you can add an enchantment). Mod author is Nikinoodles.

 

Undeath

Finally, to round things out, perhaps my favourite quest line (though more for the rewards then anything). The mod Undeath gives you the ability to become a Lich after completing a suitably complicated quest line. While not always the clearest with directions, (I know I spent more than a few hours looking for things I’d missed) I’ve always liked the idea of being a Lich (and to have the power to throw cows onto rooves). This epic mod was created by Antioch08.

Highlights on Epicness – Luminus and the storming of the fortress

So, a bit of background to start (I’ll try not to be too long). Luminus is one of my D&D (Dungeons and Dragons) characters from the Pathfinder SRD system, he’s an Arcane (yes, the capital is necessary) lich (3rd Edition Liches Lords of the Night). Currently he along with his 3 companions are about to storm a fortress held by the Void (bad dudes) to, A) kill Void minions and B) become gods. The following short story takes place outside the gate of the fortress.

I’ve been alive for longer than most civilizations, and yet, I still feel myself hesitating at what I plan to do. I’ve spent years readying myself for this moment, and yet, now that the day has finally come, I’m frightened that all my practice may go to waste.

At the gates I bellow, “come, face me Sartorius, and we shall find out this day which of us is greater.” A shadow leaps over the walls of the fortress and lands about 40m’s away from us and stares at me, his eyes searching me.

“Ah, so you have returned Luminus, I have been for this day oh so very long, are you ready to face defeat once more?” The omnipresent villain lines of my defeat calm me, I’ve heard this so many times and have always defied the odds, this battle will be no different.

“I am indeed ready Sartorius, but are you ready, for our singing contest once more?” The great sing off would once again begin, and this time, I would emerge the victor.