Well, that's a header image that hasn't been seen for a while. But yep, the Tabletop Report is back! When I created that logo about a year ago, the idea always was to use it to do monthly reviews of tabletop products and update the world on the status of my tabletop (or virtual tabletop) gaming. And then life got in the way. But, we're back now, so let's get to work.
My gaming has been...limited...lately. Progress in the play by post games I play in has been slow, mainly because all of the players are busy with offline things these days. Most of us are dealing with work, some of the other players are dealing with work and classes, and one of the other players is dealing with work and classes and planning a wedding that takes place in a few months. So, we won't talk about those games.
My in-person tabletop gaming has also ground to a halt lately, primarily due to the fact that two of the players (myself and another) have work schedules right now that are making it difficult to actually schedule a game. But that might be turning around going by the latest movement on that email thread.
Well, what's that leave? THE INTERNET! Yep, most of my tabletop gaming has been live gaming over the internet lately. Most Friday nights I'm running my homebrewed scifi game in SSR's teamspeak server. Right now, the players - who have gone from being a purely military/paramilitary group of PCs to a group that includes several people who operate well outside the chain of command - are in the early rounds of the Obligatory Combat Tournament Arc, and are preparing to fight the Giant Snow-Eating Tripod Lifeforms after curbstomping the Lemurpeople (it makes sense in context). Additionally, I am playing in a Pokemon Tabletop United game that runs every week (usually). My character is a trainer from Fiore (the Italy of the Pokemon World) who is haunted by ghosts and is a passable swordfighter. And he's got a tendency to find stuff just lying around everywhere, at least until the GM inevitably gets tired of me getting free stuff on an almost daily basis from a class ability. Additionally I'm playing in a semi-regular run of Paizo's Hell's Rebels adventure path with two old high school friends, some of their friends, and DJ Berryshine. As the players, we're responsible for running a righteous revolution against the evil mayor of Kintargo, Barzalli Thrune. I'm playing THE GODDAMN BATMAN if Batman didn't have the tragic backstory, loads of money, and was an opera singer by day (see below in the review section for more information on the Vigilante class). We were making wonderful progress at achieving our goal....and then Berryshine started a riot and now we're being forced to lay low for a few weeks. Oh well, that gives me a f
Right now I'm only backing one gaming Kickstarter - Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder. It is pretty much what it says on the box. Sandy Petersen is an old hat when it comes to Cthulhu and RPGs, having designed the original Call of Cthulhu RPG back in 1981. And now, he, Arthur Petersen, and Ian Starcher are bringing all the Lovecraftian goodies to Pathfinder. Now, Paizo already had some elements of this in Pathfinder already, in particular we had actual stats for the Great Old One Cthulhu himself in Bestiary 4 (and I got to fight him last year at Gencon and the GM regretted giving the players infinite gold to work with).
But there's a lot to Lovecraft's mythos that's missing from Pathfinder right now. Numerous creatures, terrible tomes that characters have to seek out to find an answer or keep them out of someone else's hands, Great Old Ones beyond Cthulhu and Hastur, and of course - rules for a more Lovecraftian game such as a Sanity system so that when your character finally sees a Great Old One and cracks, you get more than just "you've gone insane." There's also a full line of unpainted miniatures available as part of the project as well, if you like using miniatures at your gaming table.
So, what's new this month? Well, all I've gotten this month is the latest Pathfinder releases from Paizo. This month, that means Pathfinder RPG - Ultimate Intrigue, Pathfinder Campaign Setting - Inner Sea Faiths, and Pathfinder Adventure Path - Hell's Vengeance - Chapter 2 - Wrath of Thrune.
- Inner Sea Faiths - Pathfinder has always had a fair amount of deities in the core rules, but there's always minor ones popping up in adventure paths, modules, novels, and isolated lore entries. This book focuses on fifteen of those minor deities who hadn't gotten a lot of attention yet. Ranging from Achaekek (the colossal crimson praying mantis who is god of assassins, divine punishment) to Zyphus (the god of accidental death, graveyards, and tragedy), the book primarily focuses on deities who are, shall we say, 'not fit for player use.' Only five of them fall into the realm of Evil alignment (Achaekek [Lawful Evil], Dahak [Chaotic Evil], Ghlaunder [Chaotic Evil], Gyronna [Chaotic Evil], and Zyphus [Neutral Evil], with the rest being some form of Neutral or Good. But when I start looking at some of the other deities from the perspective of someone who's always kept a pretty close eye on table behavior due to issues with public perception of your hobby, I start to see some issues. Besmara (Chaotic Neutral goddess of piracy, sea monsters, and strife) works great in a piracy-themed campaign, but even inside one of those if you have a character devoted to Besmara via the Obedience feat or any of the prestige classes that require it, then you're going to have a problem with that character having to engage in daily theft or extortion to keep their abilities. Groteus (Chaotic Neutral god of empty places, oblivion, and ruins) requires those same kinds of characters to preach the coming of the end times, which could be entertaining but could also get old really fast. And then we get to Hanspur (Chaotic Neutral god of river travel, rivers, and smugglers) who calls for his faithful to simulate drowning themselves, possibly going as far as asking someone else to waterboard them. Yes, that's seriously a thing in this book. There's definitely useful content for both players and GMs in this book, just be careful how you use it.
- Ultimate Intrigue - This was the BIG RELEASE I was looking forward to this month, and it wasn't just because I've been playing a Vigilante using the playtest rules for several months now. Ultimate Intrigue promised to add something we've been waiting for in Pathfinder for a while - uses for those pesky social skills beyond "I roll Deception and talk the city guardout of attacking me." But yeah, the Vigilante was a huge part of the book for me. My aforementioned character in Hell's Rebels is a Vigilante, so it was kind of important to see the final rules set so I could rebuild my class. Paizo definitely listened to a lot of our feedback on the playtest version, and they rebuilt some clunky class features (such as the weird spellcasting progression you can get) and expanded some class features that were just being ignored due to their lack of flexibility (such as things you can only use when you're in your social identity). The crux of the vigilante class is the fact that you're actually playing two characters - your Social Identity (the Bruce Wayne) and your Vigilante Identity (the Batman). Both of these have the same skills, feats, ability scores, and so on, but some class features can only be used when in one identity and not in the other. For example, you can get an ability that lets you examine a structure while in your social identity to get bonuses while inside the structure in your vigilante identity. Or you can make your social identity well-liked by everyone and use it to increase the fear factor of your vigilante identity. The class itself is extremely flexible, and came with 9 archetypes for further customization of it. As usual, there are archetypes for other classes as well, including some for Mesmerist, Occultist, and Spiritualist from last August's Occult Adventures. There's loads of new feats and spells for intrigue-focused characters, and a host of new rules for influencing people, running heists, leadership and variants on the Leadership feat, nemeses, pursuits, and research. And then there's the chapter titled "Social Combat." Now, I was originally hoping for rules for using social skills in combat, but that wasn't what we got here. Instead, we got something closer to what Exalted had - actual rules for literal battles of words. Going into details here would be difficult since I need to actually use these rules in practice first, but let me just say this - they're awesome if you're a player or a GM who wishes there was more for characters to do than just roll a diplomacy check or swing a sword.
- Hell's Vengeance - Wrath of Thrune - As this month's installment in the current adventure path, Wrath of Thrune progresses the combined story of Hell's Rebels and Hell's Vengeance along. The Glorious Revolution is still raging through Cheliax, and the players are now officially agents of House Thrune, charged with retaking the town of Kantaria from the Revolution. As usual for this adventure path which is designed for evil or morally ambiguous characters...its dark. I mean seriously, there's some really dark stuff you can do in this one. But what do you expect? The player characters are working for the Thrice-Damned House of Thrune to try and keep the House in charge of Cheliax, of course its going to be dark. Speaking of House Thrune, the article on the inner workings of House Thrune in the adventure path makes it worth it just for that, it's a very useful thing to have if you're running any kind of game in Cheliax. If you like your player characters to be more on the Good side of the morality axis, this is definitely not the adventure path for your table, go play Hell's Rebels instead. I thought about running it for my local group (they'd been on a "we want to play evil" run lately), but thankfully they're no longer interested in playing in an evil-aligned game.
Looking ahead to next month, here's what I've already got on my agenda for the Tabletop Report, product wise.
- At least one April Fool's Day Pathfinder third-party publisher release
- Pathfinder RPG - Adventure Path - Hell's Vengeance - The Inferno Gate - The next installment in the evil-focused adventure path.
- Pathfinder RPG - Campaign Setting - Heaven Unleashed - Last July we got Hell Unleashed which detailed out a range of subjects relating to the Nine Hells, including the Hellknights. Unlike that, Heaven Unleashed looks like it is going to be focused more on specific personalities of the champions of good alignments.
- Pathfinder RPG - Player Companion - Armor Master's Handbook - The inevitable counterpart to last year's Weapon Master's Handbook, I'm hoping it'll be just as good as that book was.
- Warhammer 40K - Dark Heresy 2nd Edition - Enemies Beyond - This actually released back in January, I've just only recently gotten it so I can't really post a decent commentary on it yet.