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 – Pathfinder Tales: Pirates Promise

Alright ladies and gentlemen, it’s book review time! Still working on some other updates, but I thought I’d smash this one out-of-the-way while the book is relatively fresh in my mind. It’ll be a quick one, and free of major spoilers, since I’m kind of pressed for time at the moment. Got a lot of stuff on the go at the moment. If I can, I’ll try to come back and write some more in-depth analysis of the book, but this ought to do to get my opinion of it across.

Anyway, let’s get down to it.

Pirate’s Promise

Chris A. Jackson

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Captain Torius Vin gets ready to throw down against a trollhound

Captain Torius Vin gets ready to throw down against a trollhound

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Interview with Wendy N. Wagner, Author of Skinwalkers

And we’re back, with the third interview of the week, and probably the last for a little while. Don’t worry, more interviews will be forthcoming, as soon as I can find anyone willing to sit still long enough for me to bombard them with questions. As I’ve mentioned before, this interview is actually the first one I had scheduled, but was delayed due to the need to get the other interviews published while the related Kickstarter campaign still had plenty of run time. That’s out-of-the-way now, so it’s finally time.

After I reviewed Wendy N. Wagner’s first novel, Skinwalkers, I decided on a whim to send an email to Wendy asking if she would be interested in being my first interviewee for the blog. I’d been vaguely thinking about starting to try to interview various authors, designers and so on for a little while, and it seemed like an opportune time to start, since I was curious about the differences between writing short fiction and writing a novel, as well as the process of writing for an established setting like Pathfinder. Email sent, I figured it’d be a while before I heard back, and was pleasantly surprised to get a reply from Wendy within the next day, agreeing to the interview. So I whipped up some questions, fired them off, and am now ready to share the responses.

Now, before we get started, if you haven’t read my review of the novel Skinwalkers yet, I recommend doing so first. It might help give some context. You can find the review here: Review – Pathfinder Tales: Skinwalkers.

Wendy N. Wagner, wearing what I suspect is a Lovecraft Historical Society shirt (and if it is, I'm jealous).

Wendy N. Wagner, wearing what looks like a Lovecraft eZine t-shirt. Who doesn’t love Lovecraft?

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Interview with Morgan Boehringer, Independent RPG Designer & Publisher

As I mentioned at the end of my last update, I’ve got another interview for you today.

Morgan Boehringer is a freelance RPG designer based somewhere in the Blue Mountains here in Australia. Not exactly sure where, but having been up at Jenolan Caves for a wedding back in March, I can honestly say that if his home looks anything like the areas I was riding through, then it’s a beautiful place. Jammy bastard… Where was I. Ah yes. He can be found lurking around the Paizo Messageboards under the name Oceanshieldwolf, and is the mind behind Forest Guardian Press, a third-party publisher that focuses on content for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, with his first product, the Direlock class, already being available from Paizo.com. He’s also been involved in various projects run by other publishers, and is currently developing content for the Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock Kickstarter.

For an unaltered image in all his unfettered, shirtless and tattooed glory, see below the interview

For an unaltered image of Morgan in all his unfettered, shirtless and tattooed glory, see below the interview

I interviewed Morgan earlier this week about his work as a designer, and the Strange Brew project. Thankfully, he lives in the same time zone as me, so we could actually do a real-time interview. Time differences are of course one of the biggest inconveniences of living in Australia… well, that and the drop bears… and the ridiculously inflated prices we’re expected to pay for goods and services compared to the USA… you know what? I’m going to stop there and just get down to the reason we’re here.

The point is that we were able to chat online instead having him answer a set of questions I’d emailed to him, getting answers back, and emailing further questions that arose from his responses. It led to a very different feel to the interview. I deliberately didn’t plan it out too much, so that we could just see where the conversation went. I think it turned out well. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a better way to interview, but it’s good for something different, and I have a preference for it.

So, let’s get down to it.

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Interview with Timothy S. Brannan, Lead Designer for Strange Brew

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back to the Grassy Gnoll!

Sorry for the slight delay in updates, it’s been a hectic time over the last week, and I had some new stuff on the go that took a while to get organised. I think the wait was worth it though, and I’m ready to unveil what I’ve been working on. So I’ve got something a bit different for you all today. As part of my reboot, for want of a better term, of the blog, I decided to start doing some interviews with authors, designers and pretty much anyone who’ll agree to answer my questions.

Note: In the interests of honesty, I’ll just say that this actually isn’t my first interview, but since it’s related to a Kickstarter project, and is therefore time sensitive, I’ve pushed publication of that one back until the weekend… Sorry Wendy, I hope you don’t mind! I promise it’ll go up as soon as it can. 

Today I’ll be posting some questions that Timothy S. Brannan, the author and lead designer of Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock, has been kind enough to answer. Tim is a long time gamer, and the author of the Liber Mysterium, a third party sourcebook for D&D 3.0 that was released back in 2002. A lot of the Liber Mysterium’s content is being updated for Pathfinder as part of the Strange Brew project. You can find the Kickstarter page for this project here:

Kickstarter – Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock

Cover art for Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock

Cover art for Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock

Before we get started though, I’d like to thank Tim for taking the time to answer these questions, and giving us some insight into his history as a gamer and designer, and what he has in store for Pathfinder players who want more options for their witches and warlocks. I’d also like to thank Christina Stiles, who is coordinating the project, for being so open to the idea of my interviewing the people involved, and helping to make this happen.

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Professor Jimbles Presents! A Rant: Does anyone else die a lot?

Like, a real lot?

Hi! Jimbles here to ask a question of you: How often do you die in your games? All the time? Occasionally, but only because you make stupid decisions?

I can tell you that I die all the time in Pathfinder, but it’s generally my fault. Whenever I develop a high-concept character with tragic backstory and a good reason to set out adventuring, I often forget that ever so important stat keeping most of us alive… The armor class.

That, and I roll terribly when someone’s life depends on it.

Aside from the misadventures in the Crow (See earlier post for THAT particular embarrassing tale.) I’ve had characters die in the following ways:

  • Battle Toad (Boggard Barbarian Chieftain) exacted revenge with a warhammer for causing general chaos in the area and invading his shrine.
  • Lich fingered me to death in a oh-so-calm response to taking 38 damage from my surprise round greatsword attack.
  • Teleport mishap sent me to the Elemental Plane of PAIN. (Fire burns!)
  • Learned the hard way that Black Puddings are not delicious.
  • Felled by the Orc Hireling in a single strike.
  • Crushed by a brainwashed dragon after a Sudden Maximized disintegrate missed.

And that’s just in my Pathfinder and 3.5 games! Here, let me explain some of these stupid, stupid adventures…

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Review – Pathfinder Tales: The Redemption Engine

Alright guys, we’re back with another review.

As I mentioned last time, I’ll be reviewing the latest Pathfinder Tale’s novel, The Redemption Engine.  Please take this as your warning for potential minor spoilers for the novel, because damn it I have to talk about it to review it, now don’t I. Not much else to say really, so let’s just get straight to it.

The Redemption Engine

James L. Sutter

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

Used under the Pathfinder Community Use Policy

Salim, Pathfinder’s answer to Captain Jack Harkness, faces off against an angel. Wait a second… aren’t angels the good guys? Like, by definition?  What gives?

From the Paizo.com blurb:

When murdered sinners fail to show up in Hell, it’s up to Salim Ghadafar, an atheist warrior forced to solve problems for the goddess of death, to track down the missing souls. In order to do so, Salim will need to descend into the anarchic city of Kaer Maga, following a trail that ranges from Hell’s iron cities to the gates of Heaven itself. Along the way, he’ll be aided by a host of otherworldly creatures, a streetwise teenager, and two warriors of the mysterious Iridian Fold. But when the missing souls are the scum of the earth, and the victims devils themselves, can anyone really be trusted?

From acclaimed author James L. Sutter comes a sequel to Death’s Heretic, ranked #3 on Barnes & Noble’s Best Fantasy Releases of 2011!

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