Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player’s Guide

26 10 2010

OMG. It may be old news but I love the APG.
For me, the old Paizo quality is there to start with. The number of pages, the quality of the artwork, the fact that they’ve listened to the fans. They all say Paizo to me in a way that other RPG companies don’t. Am I biased because of the system? Actually no. I was never a huge fan of 3.5 (don’t get me started on the attack of opportunity rule, let alone grapple). No, it’s the quality of the product and the enthusiasm of the publishers and fans – no, it’s the partnership of Paizo and players that hooked me.
Not every offering has been awesome. I’ve bought most titles since the core rulebook came out. The wins have certainly outweighed the losses.
What appeals to me about this book is in many ways that it isn’t complete fantasy. OK, I’d better explain that one. What I mean is that they haven’t introduced six weird races. Rather, they have given ways to make humans, dwarves and the like unique. Now, you don’t just have six races that aren’t really distinguishable. Now you can flavour your gnome in so many ways.
The classes we’ve seen before to be fair, but the variants on the core classes are another welcome way of differentiating your standard fighter without having to create a whole new class that becomes an oddity.
The feats are a welcome addition – and you’d expect new spells and equipment to be fair.
The prestige classes build on what I’ve already said. Good without being weird.
The new rules I’ve yet to form a strong opinion on, but at least we’ve not been overwhelmed with optional additions.
I think you’ll love this if you like the core game and want more of the same.
You’ll find it wanting if, in my opinion, you want radical new things, like weird and wonderful races, classes and rules.
It won’t take a genius to work out which side of the fence I sit on.


The Tome of Secrets (a review)

1 12 2009

My love of Pathfinder is already documented on these pages.  But that doesn’t mean I will always praise Pathfinder related content – I will always write it as I see it.

I was a little surprised to see a hard copy of The Tome of Secrets in my local store – as I live in England and the nearby stores aren’t exactly RPG-centric.

That said, I saw a copy and immediately grabbed it (without checking the contents). 

My first overall observation is that with the Paizo produced stuff so far, just about anything within their covers is allowable in the game.  OK, I have a house-rule about attacks of opportunity and players have to check with me if they want to take a trait from a supplement or the web-document – but pretty much anything is fair game. 

This is rarely the case with third-party sourcebooks and Adamant Entertainment’s offering is no different.  Having started with something of a negative, I’ll balance that by saying that overall it is worth the purchase price.  Doubly so as you get a free PDF once you have bought it.

The sections are well laid out and cover:

  • Three additional races
  • Eight additional classes
  • Drawbacks
  • Occupations
  • GM Options

Some Specifics

I like the fact that Adamant Entertainment worked with Paizo to ensure that anything that goes in here doesn’t contradict something Paizo will put out later.  So the races and classes and mechanics won’t clash.

The races are…interesting.  Not sure if I’d ever play one but they give a significantly different option to the Paizo core races.  The classes are good too.  One or two appeal (the Spellblade and Warlock in particular) and the rest serve a purpose.

I really like the drawbacks and the fact that a player is allowed a skill bonus to offset taking the  drawback.  Some drawbacks are very specific e.g. Cold Aversion only affects you at certain temperatures and some are generic e.g. Bad Shot means a -2 penalty on all ranged attacks.  As a GM I’d be sure players only took sensible drawbacks.  Taking Cold Aversion for a desert campaign would be vetoed at once!

Occupations considers what your PC did prior to becoming an adventurer.  There are rules on wealth creation, some random tables if you just want to trust chance (and these are grouped by region e.g. rural, marine etc.).  Each background occupation gives specific skills that can give both flavour and some helpful abilities.

The GM section covers a range of topics and the GM can pick’n’mix whatever aspects he wants to add.  So there are sections on the mechanics of a range of aspects, e.g. stunts, morale and enchantment.

My favourite section is all about chases.  With standard movement rates, in the typical game mechanics you either never catch someone or you do.  This depends on your relative movement rate.  One human will never catch another human.  So the mechanics here allow for variety in that scenario – and a whole new aspect of adventuring can begin – the chase.

Next up there are some random generation tables for magical items and some mechanics for modifying standard monsters to create something new for your players.  There is a random adventure generator and finally a section on gunpowder weapons.   

What could be improved

My first observation is the artwork.  None is poor but many artists have contributed and for me at least, I like a high degree of commonality.  So some is OK, some is good but I don’t get the feeling I’m reading from one source – rather a few that have been put together.  But then I’m awkward.

I think that not every page will appeal to every player or GM but then that should not put people off buying it.  There is enough for any group to justify the price – with over 180 pages of information to use.

You’ll like this if:

  • You like Pathfinder and want some extra dimension
  • As a GM you want to try some different mechanics
  • You like the idea of ‘chases’
  • You’d like a way to develop backgrounds for your PCs and NPCs

You won’t like it if:

  • You’re on a limited budget and Paizo produce as much as you can afford each month
  • You want a huge amount of depth on one specific subject – this book offers a lot of different topics
  • You’re of the opinion that if Paizo didn’t want to publish it, you’d rather ignore it

Overall I’d recommend it to anyone who is serious about Pathfinder.  Would I recommend every player had a copy?  Perhaps not but every group should have access to at least one copy.

GM Gems – A review

25 09 2009

I like Goodman Games.  As a GM, they invariably provide a quality product.  So when I heard about GM Gems, I downloaded it without thinking twice about it.

And it was £10 ($16) well spent.  As I say, I bought the PDF – but I immediately printed it off.  It runs at 66 pages (although some of these are a cover, back cover etc. and is described as, “System-neutral tools for every Game Master.”  And, in my opinion, it lives up to its billing.

The book is divided into three sections:

  1. The Urban Experience
  2. Getting There is Half the Fun
  3. The Dungeon

I would suggest this book covers two basic needs.  The first is to help a GM in preparing an adventure.  When inspiration flags, it can be an excellent source of ideas.  The second use is to be used on the fly when players want to do something you hadn’t planned for.

One thing it has lots of is random event/outcome generators.  The first one presented is an ‘Alchemical Mishap’ table.  So the next time your PC gets a potion wrong, you can come up with a better explanation than just, ‘nothing happens.’  If I roll a ’33’ it tells me the, “character’s skin thickens abnormally.  (Temporarily gain a +2 natural armor bonus, but a -1 to Dexterity).

There are also random event generators and these are split by the chapter titles.  So, within urban there is, for example, a random dockside event generator.  A ’33’ again says, “a mirror-plated warship blockades the port, halting all trade and blinding anyone who looks at it for too long.’

As well as tables, the book is full of hooks.  It provides lists with a plot hook for each.  These include local superstitions, rites of passage, specialist shops, peculiar taverns and even unusual holidays.

For mundane things, there are random name generators for inns and a random quirk generator for NPCs.

The second chapter focuses more on travelling.  So it covers things like caravans, camp-sites, ruins and weather.  Again, every entry is either a random generator or a list with a description and a possible plot hook.  Again, if I pick an example, there is a weather event called Rose rain.  Local lore has it that every few years in late spring, the rain comes down a pinkish colour.  The plot hook is that the colour comes from tiny fey in the rain – and the potential plot hooks include:  the fey cause mischief; there is a fey banquet in their honour; the fey attract all manner of other beasts.

Next we have the ubiquitous dungeon section.  A humorous one is a random generator for describing empty rooms.  My favourite is, “the acrid stink of this room makes its temporary purpose all too obvious.  It is a makeshift urinal.”

There is a section on how to take a familiar monster but change its appearance to make it a fresh encounter e.g. a Huesha instead of a Harpy.  You are given subtle but distinct modifiers to make this work.  There is also shake’n’bake feature to further modify a creature with a random die roll to affect their physical appearance or some stat.

There is a section for familiars you may come across (and a plot hook), alternative light sources, smells and noxious substances.   There is also a random generator for short encounters and unique treasures.

Some sourcebooks have plenty of fluff and not so much crunch.  This book is all crunch. 

You’ll like it if:

  • You want to spice up a pre-generated campaign
  • Your players always do the unexpected
  • You can’t always think on your feet

You’ll like it less if:

  • You have unlimited imagination
  • You like to GM on the fly
  • You don’t like being told what to do by a random generator

I’d recommend every GM to pick up a copy.  There will be enough ideas and inspiration in it to justify the cover price.  Even if you don’t use it week in and week out, it will be a useful resource when you do need inspiration.