Book Review – Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner

Wow. A month between updates… admittedly not the longest break I’ve taken, but not ideal. Especially when I’ve got so much I want to be talking about. Anyway, I’ll hopefully be making another post soon talking about my plans for the blog, so I won’t go into that now. But before I wade into today’s review, there’s something I wanted to mention quickly.

A while ago I got an email from MacMillan Audio asking if I’d like to feature some sample soundclips for the Pathfinder Tales audiobooks on the site. I’m a big fan of the novels, and of audiobooks in general, so of course I said yes… then promptly forgot to actually post them. They’re finally up now, so if you’re interested you can check out samples for (at time of posting) six of the books over on the sidebar. As more become available, I’ll update the playlist. I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a better way to display the player on the site, I want to keep it prominent, but it feels a bit squashed over there in the sidebar. I’ll keep working on it.

And with that done, we can get started on the review of the newest novel in the Pathfinder Tales series (and Wendy, I owe you a huge apology for taking so long with this one). I’m going to try to keep this one a bit shorter than my usual reviews, I think half the reason I take so long between posts is that my usual in-depth reviews take hours upon hours to write.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with an advance copy of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it. The copy I received is an uncorrected proof, but I doubt there have been any significant changes between what I read and the final publication.

Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn

Wendy N. Wagner

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (are right… I know, I know, it’s a terrible joke, but I couldn’t resist…)

Jendara prepares to slam an axe straight into the face of madness...

Jendara prepares to slam an axe straight into the face of madness…

From the Paizo.com blurb:

The Stars Are Wrong

Once a notorious pirate, Jendara has at last returned to the cold northern isles of her birth, ready to settle down and raise her young son. Yet when a mysterious tsunami wracks her island’s shore, she and her fearless crew must sail out to explore the strange island that’s risen from the sea floor. No sooner have they delved into the lost island’s alien structures than they find themselves competing with a monstrous cult eager to complete a dark ritual in those dripping halls. For something beyond all mortal comprehension has been dreaming on the sea floor. And it’s begun to wake up…

From Hugo Award winner Wendy N. Wagner comes a sword-swinging adventure in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

I’m pretty excited to be reviewing this one. Not only is it bringing one of my favourite settings (Pathfinder’s Golarion) together with Lovecraftian horror, but it’s also the sequel to the first book I ever reviewed on this site, Skinwalkers. Skinwalkers was a favourite of mine, and I’m pleased to say that Starspawn is more than living up to the expectations I had for it. Ms. Wagner has once again managed to craft an exciting and, at least as far as the Pathfinder Tales series goes, unusually dark fantasy thriller. It’s worth noting now that those coming in expecting a true Lovecraft-style horror story are going to be disappointed, in keeping with the heroic fantasy nature of the setting, this is very much a pulp action horror story, closer to a Robert E. Howard mythos tale than a traditional cosmic horror story. This is in no way a bad thing, I’ve got room in my life for all manner of Cthulhu Mythos stories (though I will admit to a somewhat irrational hatred of Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow series), it’s just worth mentioning for the die-hard Lovecraft purists who dislike any suggestion that humanity can do anything but cower before the inevitable doom brought by eldritch horrors.

Continue reading

Blood Bowl 2 console players get shafted… (Warning: Profanity)

Hey guys. Just a quick update in order to help work out some anger regarding some downloadable content for Blood Bowl 2. I’m still working on my review for The Ninja Crusade RPG 2nd Edition by Third Eye Games, just taking a bit longer than planned thanks to work and the fact that I’m currently having to read it on my phone, which makes for slow going.

Anyway, onto the rant, which I decided to do in the form of an open letter to Cyanide Studio (the developers) and Focus Interactive (the publishers). Fair warning, there’s profanity aplenty.


An open letter to Cyanide Studio and Focus Interactive RE: Blood Bowl 2 DLC

Hi to whoever ends up reading this at either of the above companies (I’m hoping against hope that it actually makes it to at least one of you),

I’m a long time fan of Blood Bowl. I’ve sunk a stupid amount of time into the first game, and I play at least a few matches a week in Blood Bowl 2, so long as work and other commitments allow it. I’ve been really looking forward to the new teams, especially once I’d heard that hey, if you already owned the game when they came out, they were meant to be free. So I was super excited when I decided to check in and saw that the Norse had finally been released. Right up until I actually read the update. To quote the bit that concerns me:

To respect the PC players of the first Blood Bowl game, which accumulated 23 races through 3 paying editions – we have heard their frustration – we decided to create the FOUNDERS INCENTIVE for PC players of Blood Bowl 2: players will receive the Norse, the Undead, the Necromantic and the Nurgle teams for free, as long as they purchased the game before the races release.

I’m sorry, but “to respect PC players of the first game”? Fuck that noise. I’m one of those players. I’ve paid for every goddamn edition of that game on PC, even after I bought the console version and realised what a shitty game it was, because I was willing to trust that the PC version was better (which it was, though that’s not a very fucking high bar to set). I was running leagues up until last year when the last of my players jumped ship to Blood Bowl 2. So I got it on PS4 for a few reasons:

  • My PC wouldn’t have run it at any reasonable quality
  • My setup here is awful for PC gaming (I don’t have a desk or anything I can sit my keyboard and mouse on, making it a real hassle to play)
  • I knew I’d have some guaranteed opponents amongst friends who bought it on PS4

But hey, to hell with my loyalty to the series, I’m a filthy console gamer, so instead of getting the same teams to the PC players get for free, I’m expected, along with all the other console players, to pay out the arse for the teams. They’re over $10 AUD each here. By the time the 4 new teams are out, I’ll have had to shell out nearly $65 for them and the original two DLC teams. That’s a goddamn joke. I mean for fucks sake, if they’d at least been priced reasonably, I wouldn’t be anywhere near this angry. But I can fucking well buy brand new AAA games on day of release for what I’d have to pay to get these teams that you’re just handing out to PC players. I’m not kidding, I bought Doom and Uncharted 4 (one of the most highly anticipated games of the year) for less than $70 AUD each.

Continue reading

RPG Review – WITCH: Fated Souls

So I realised a while ago that despite this being a primarily gaming focused blog, I’ve never actually reviewed a game on here. It seems like an odd oversight, and I figured it was about time I fixed it. I’ve got a stupid amount of RPGs I could review (seriously, I’m running out of space for them), but decided I’d start with one of the newer ones I’d picked up from a Kickstarter project.

Since it’s the first time I’ve reviewed a game, I’m still figuring out the format I want to use. I might change it up a bit over the new few reviews I’ve got planned. Anyway, with that out-of-the-way, let’s get this show on the road with my review of Angry Hamster Publishing’s first game…

WITCH: Fated Souls

Creator: Elizabeth Chaipraditkul

Publisher: Angry Hamster Publishing

Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Witch Cover

Continue reading

Book Review – The Cleaners Book 2: The Maids of Wrath

Been a busy couple of weeks, but I’ve got some time to sit down and smash this out now, so it’s review time! Today I’ll be talking about the second book in Josh Vogt’s The Cleaners series, The Maids of Wrath. As always, there may be some minor spoilers in the review, but I’ll avoid any major plot points or gigantic twists. On the topic of spoilers though, some fair warning. This is a review of the second book in the series, so in order to discuss it properly, there’s going to have to be some spoilers for the first book. These are not minor spoilers, since the end of that book sets the stage for this story. So with that said, if you haven’t read Enter the Janitor, and are interested in seeing if this series is something you’d enjoy, you can find my review for that here.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with a pre-release e-book of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it. 

The Maids of Wrath

Josh Vogt

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

These aren't your anime-style magical maids...

These aren’t your anime-style magical maids…

Continue reading

A deer, a pirate and a mutant join a kult – Kickstarter Round-up

Woo! First post of 2016, and the first post in far too long. I’ve really got no excuse, I just let things get away from me, and before I knew it, it’d been six bloody months since I’d posted. So, yeah, sorry about that.

Anyway, to ease me back into posting, I figured I’d start with something easy that I haven’t done in quite some time. A Kickstarter project round-up! The timing works well too, because goddamn am I ever backing a lot of projects right now. For this round-up and any future ones, I’ve decided to only talk about projects that I’m 100% guaranteed to be backing, and that I’m extremely confident in the ability of the project leads to actually not only deliver their product, but to do it at a high quality, since I’ve felt a bit guilty over some previous projects that I pushed hard that ended up being very disappointing to me (not going to name names, but there’s been a few seriously shocking results). As is usual for me, most of these projects are RPGs (I tend to back RPGs or boardgames for the most part), but there’s one comic in there.

Now, in the interests of not making myself start silently screaming in horror over how much money I’ve sunk into Kickstarter recently, I’m not going to include the three projects that finished in the last day, I’ll just be covering the four projects that are still in the funding stage… So let’s start this party off with the project I’m currently most excited about…

KULT: Divinity Lost

Project Ends: 8:00 AM AEDT, 01/04/2016
Current Status: Fully funded, and smashing through the stretch goals!
Expected Delivery: December 2016

I’m not even sure where to begin with this one, I’m so excited! I guess a little history is in order. Kult is a Swedish RPG that was first released in 1991, though its first English edition wasn’t released until 1993. If anyone reading this remembers the Satanic Panic that certain areas of the USA had over D&D, they’ve got an idea of some of the ridiculous and unwarranted controversy that Kult had to deal with in the years following it’s release (in brief, media outlets in Sweden linked it to a number of disappearances, suicides and so on that involved people who played the game… it even got mentioned in the Swedish parliament in relation to a motion to stop tax-payer funding for youth groups that play RPGs). Controversy aside, the game was praised for its depth and handling of religious and philosophical content and ideas in a mature, if somewhat disturbing (it’s a horror game, what do you expect, puppies and rainbows), manner. The setting is our modern society, but what we perceive as our world is in fact an illusion, created by powerful being known as the Demiurge to hold humanity prisoner and stop us from regaining our divinity, while the players take on the roles of various characters from all walks of life who have started to see through the illusion and discover the stranger nature of reality. I won’t go deeper into the setting here, there’s a lot to cover and I don’t have all night, but for a decent overview of it, check out the Wikipedia page. The system had some really innovative ways of dealing with mental balance and featured magic systems based on real life mystical traditions, so it’s a pretty fascinating read. Honestly, it’s one of my favourite RPGs of all time, though I’ve rarely been able to get groups together for it.

The cover of the original English edition of Kult, featuring some of my favourite game artwork

The cover of the original English edition of Kult, featuring some of my favourite game artwork

Continue reading

Professor Jimbles Presents!: D&D 5E Review

So while our esteemed host has been trying more esoteric systems like “East Texas University”, I was introduced (read: Dragged screaming away from WoD and Pathfinder) to 5th Edition D&D/”D&D Next”.

Note from the Editor: I wouldn’t exactly call Savage Worlds (the system that East Texas University uses) “esoteric”. It’s just a very solid generic RPG system that can be adapted to a variety of settings with a minimum of effort. I’ll write about it more later.

In short: It’s good. It’s really good. It pokes all my favourite happy buttons.

In long: It was the best of times, it was the worst of tim-   

Anyway – 5th Edition.

I read through the Player’s Handbook and I’m floored. I read it in a single day and was so pleased. The endless lists of modifiers? Gone. Alignment restrictions? Gone. Obvious bias to casters? Poof.

So, yeah. I’m excited. I’m also pretty sure this huge shift away from what is traditionally associated with D&D (Huge crunch, expansive rules and character options, little focus on roleplaying.) is:

  1. Good for D&D.
  2. Good for Pathfinder.
  3. Very controversial.

Pathfinder and D&D 3.5/4 have been holding the same niche in roleplaying for a little while now.  Mechanics heavy fantasy roleplaying with years of experience and a wide community to build tools. (Hero Lab; for example.)

This divergence into a simpler, more open ruleset REALLY helps D&D as the “Beginner’s game” reputation it owns as being the longest running and most visible in the media. The option to make it more complicated is available… By trying Pathfinder.

Pathfinder currently has 89 (At my super-rough count.) books available, not including campaign setting and adventure paths. 89 books worth of customization and additional rules are available for you if you love your mechanics. (Another Editor’s Note: It’s worth pointing out that many of these books are very short, highly focused Player Companions, not full sized splats)

But of course, this means 5E doesn’t look much like D&D anymore. It’s not like the punishing 2nd Ed Tomb of Horrors; the expansive 3.5 filled with ridiculous feats from a third party or even the tactical MMORPG style gameplay of 4th Ed.

And while it’s not Open Gaming Licence, additional crunch is added with each new book. Princes of the Apocolypse has added Elemental races like Genasi. At what point does the scale tip? When does 5E start looking like 3.5?

Book Review – The Cleaners Book 1: Enter the Janitor

Note: Sorry guys, this is way later than I expected it to be. The last couple of months have been a bit of a struggle for me, and I’d found it hard to bring myself to write anything. Pushing myself to get back on track again, and hopefully the fact that I’ve got myself into a bit of a steadier routine should help with that. 

Okay, time for another review! This time around we’re looking at the first book in The Cleaners series, Enter the Janitor, by Josh Vogt. You might recognise the name from my review of Forge of Ashes. Forge of Ashes was Josh’s debut novel, with Enter the Janitor hot on its heels. It’s a bit of a genre shift as well, jumping from the fairly traditional fantasy (with some decidedly non-traditional elements) of the Pathfinder Tales line to urban fantasy with a comedic bent.

Anyway, enough preamble. Let’s get into the meat of this.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with an e-book of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it. 

Enter the Janitor

Josh Vogt

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Ben and Dani, ready to fight the literal scum of the universe...

Ben and Dani, ready to take on the literal scum of the universe…

Continue reading