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Topics - HappyDaze

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Reviews / New Horizon Core Book
« on: February 09, 2020, 04:40:25 am »
I'm not a 'regular' when it comes to writing game reviews, but the author of this New Horizon was asking for reviewers and I volunteered. I tried to be as objective as I could while writing this. Everything below this paragraph also appears in the author's advertisement thread and in the review on DriveThruRPG, but I figured that this is where it belongs on this site.

New Horizon begins with a short Introduction that is pretty much what you see on its sales page. It throws teasers out of what's to come and makes you curious to know more. There is perhaps a bit too much effort spent here trying to sell the work as an improved version of a previous work rather than letting it stand on its own. This continues with the Story section, which includes the line of "For starters, it focuses in overcoming its predecessors [sic] flaws, aiming even higher to make it truly unique."

The next few sections--Concept and How to Play--are concise and appear to be written for the benefit of those with little or no previous exposure to roleplaying games. It touches briefly on table etiquette and dice along with advice like taking a 15-minute break to stretch each hour. It also introduces a few key terms, such as Adventure Teller (AT, what other games commonly call a gamemaster) and Custom Actor (CA, what other games commonly call a player character). Lastly, there are a few paragraphs on freedom of choice that describe players taking unexpected "forks" in the campaign, and something here seemed off to me when I first read over it (more on this when I get to the Campaign Section). Despite being brief, this section assures the reader that the following sections will explain everything in greater detail.

Next comes Custom Actor Creation. It starts by describing customization, mostly in the form of non-mechanical descriptors, and of the importance of creating a family tree for your character(s). The first step is to pick your character's race. There are five races, and each gets two pages of coverage. The first page for each race is a piece of artwork. The art here ranges from mediocre (valkin, an angel-like race, and elf) to good (human, orc, and dwarf). The second page of each has one column of description with a bit of game stats (mainly an elemental weakness) and another whole column on "health & diet." I was surprised that 50% of the text for each race was on how much & how often they needed to eat, and I found the described results for inadequate food intake very odd (e.g., elves catch the common cold from not eating properly). The rules had told me that all races (and both genders) start with the same scores in all stats, so I was not surprised that there were no such modifiers here.

After selecting race, a homeland must be selected for each CA. Six homelands are each given one-page descriptions. The effect of homeland on the CA is entirely non-mechanical, but the next section--Bloodline--is going to change that. Each character gains Strength from his father and Wisdom from his mother. I'm not sure why only those two stats are linked to Bloodline, nor why Strength comes only from the male side and Wisdom only from the female side, but that's how it is here. You can make a family tree and carry on such traits (both good and bad) through generations. This is hinted to be necessary for when a character dies or becomes too old to adventure, so I expect that the campaign section will have an extended duration.

The next step for each CA is to select a class (an adventuring role) and an occupation (a mundane occupation). These each adjust stats, so a Warrior/Farmer (class/occupation) has greater Strength and Endurance. Occupation also determines a CA's income. Both classes and occupations are tiered by level, and either or both can be abandoned at higher levels and replaced with new options. This means that a Level 1 Warrior/Farmer might become a Level 2 Templar/Stonemason and then a Level 3 Paladin/Councilman. The classes have some restrictions here, and a CA can only switch classes in the same category. I can follow this logic, but the fact that occupations have no such limits is very weird, as is the fact that occupations are tiered by level at all--apparently everyone has to start out as a Farmer, Fisher, or Bartender (the only Level 1 occupations).

Next come the special abilities. These are the cool abilities or spells that make the character special. This also starts to talk about Action Points (AP), but I didn't fully understand this until I got through the combat section and the monster section. In short, while everyone can do basic actions all the time, the special stuff takes 2-4 AP, and that AP recharges slowly (1 AP/turn) so a CA can't just spam the best attacks every turn. A total of twelve abilities--mixing spells and skills--of levels 1-3 included here. There is also a list of which guilds teach which ability, along with monetary costs for learning them.

Equipment comes next, and equipment is largely a set of modifiers to your CA's stats. This works fine with the combat mechanic (which still hasn't been explained at this point), but there is some real weirdness here. Every item has a level, and it's not clear if you can buy/use gear of a level higher than your CA's level. If not, then starting characters cannot use a Dagger--which is oddly better than a Sword--or a Kite Shield. Level of items determines how much they cost, and it is notable that items can be upgraded for additional cost. What I did not see was how much starting money a CA has, but the sample character seems to have spent 200K$, so that maybe the correct amount.

There are also expendable items that fill limited "slots" in a CA's inventory. Each CA has three slots, and each slot can hold up to three copies of the same item. This means that a CA can carry 3 x Health Tonics, 3 x Elixirs of Endurance, and 3 x Panacea Droughts (9 items), but could not carry 1 x Health Tonic, 1 x Elixir of Endurance, 1 x Panacea Drought, and 1 x Antidote Brew (4 items) for no defined reason. Lastly are a few additional pieces of gear that seem to just function as Have=Pass/Lack=Fail narrative traits.

At this point, the CA is almost done. A page on noble titles and hit points gets you set to go. The very brief rules on fleeing from combat are tucked onto the same page as hit points. They are very easy to use, but also very easy to miss (more on this later).

Finally, comes the combat section. It's very simple. There are three actions (basic, skill, and spell). Everyone uses the same basic, and it's what you'll use while waiting for your AP to charge up so you can get off a skill or spell attack. There is no tactical movement and no keeping track of positioning or range. It seems like a turn-based Final Fantasy fight to me. There are a few added rules for selecting hit locations, dodging, and counterattacking that are labeled as "advanced rules" and take up a single additional page. This section finishes up with a page of rules on breaking objects (quite possibly including the one your CA is using in the attempt to break something else).

Now comes the setting. It starts with some world data and a world map. There's no scale on the map, but you are told the radius of this spherical world, so I suppose you could determine the circumference and place it on the equator to determine a scale. Still, why not just put a scale on the map? Page 51 gives a list of geographical features & regions, but these are one-sentence descriptions like "North Beach (A-7): This hard to reach northern beach, is known to have the best crustaceans." It certainly doesn't bog the setting down with too much detail, but some ATs are likely to want more.

There is a page on four diseases, including "Hepatitis V" which is apparently spread by vampires. Nothing much to say here.

The Bestiary covers pages 53-83. The spread of creatures seems fine, but I have two issues. The art is overall of low quality and inconsistent in tone. Some is moody black & while other pieces are cartoonish with bright colors and heavy lines. My complaint on the art may be subjective, but objectively speaking, there is no excuse for the organization of this chapter. Creatures are ordered by Level, but within each level they appear to be randomly sorted. For example, the Level 2 monsters appear in this order: goblin shaman, skeleton warrior, rottweiler, ghoul, harpy, direwolf, bandit, and saurian.

With the world and monsters detailed, now it's time for the campaign. This is supposed to be the biggest selling point of this roleplaying game. So, how does it work? Well…
It's a scripted playthrough much like a choose your own adventure book that is read aloud by the AT to the players. There are several spots where the text breaks and there will be a bullet point with something in brackets like "*[Spontaneous Event] [Brawl Opportunity]" that tells the AT and players when to start rolling dice. Unlike a choose your own adventure book, there are no menus telling you where to pick the text back up depending on what you choose to do; the intention seems to be that you just keep moving down the page. Even if it were to tell you to go to a different section, doing so is going to be tough because Chapter 1 goes for 30 pages and each different location has a sequential timestamp--which implies to me that going out of order is really not expected.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The character creation and system are simple and easy to understand (once they are located in the text). New Horizon can serve as a basic RPG, but the real meat of the game (about 50% of the 180 pages) is in the campaign, and players that have exposure to mainstream RPGs will likely find it restrictive and limiting. However, New Horizon might be useful as a gateway to introduce beginning players to RPGs.

The organization of the pdf is poor. Rules are tucked in under headings that do not advertise them. This is compounded by the pdf not having an index and not being text searchable. If a reader does not already know where to find something in the book, it is going to be a chore to find it.

The authorial voice used in the text felt patronizing rather than a "casual conversational" tone, but some of this might come down to personal taste.

Lastly, New Horizon really needs the touch of an experienced editor. The many examples of poor grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure throughout the pdf made for a difficult read.

DISCLAIMER

I was provided with a free copy of the New Horizon pdf for the purposes of writing this review.

2
This is a D&D question, but not necessarily limited to 5e (although that is what I'm currently using):

When going on extended adventures out in the wilderness, do your PCs bring along hirelings?


I'm not talking about powerful combatant NPCs, but stuff like porters, linkboys, personal servants (valets), a cook, someone to care for horses, local guides, basic mercenaries (guards) to protect the camp, etc. that are mainly used to form, populate, and defend a base camp that the players set up.

3
I'm looking for a good form for a stolen McGuffin that contains lore. It needs to be something that will last thousands of years in an environment that is cool and moist. The culture creating it is druid-centered and largely more primitive than most D&D cultures,  but they have some metalworking ability.

I'm thinking of either stone or clay tablets, but I'm open to something more fantastical if it sounds fitting. The McGuffin does not need to be easily portable as long as it fits into a bag of holding. Suggestions?

4
So the party gets wiped out and the group is faced with figuring out what to do next. Do/would you generally prefer to:
1) Make new characters and jump back into the same game/campaign?
2) Try a different campaign with the same game (with same or different GM)?
3) Try a different game (with same or different GM)?
4) Something else?

What if it is a near-TPK? Say that 4/5 characters die and there is no reasonable chance that the 5th can/will restore them, does the answer change?

Does the amount of time the group had been playing this particular campaign change those answers? I would think that a TPK in the 2nd session is likely to feel different from one in the 22nd session.

5
Over the years I've noticed that many fantasy games show small towns (often of <500 inhabitants) existing in areas several days travel from other friendly towns that are sitting in areas teeming with monsters and even hostile bands of humanoids. These towns generally have no fortifications (e.g., walls, towers, etc.) and are not even built in a manner where the structures themselves can be fortified (often the structures are rather spread out... which might be a benefit when the orcs start torching them). To top it off, they often have very few defenders (which might be OK if they had some fortifications) to drive off attackers--except for the conveniently present PCs. Does this strain anyone else's suspension of disbelief?

6
So I just canceled my preorder for the book and instead picked up the pdf of Shadowrun Sixth World (aka 6e) without having looked too much at it other than the promises that it is going to be "streamlined" compared to 4e/5e. I've only spent an hour looking at it so far, but the massively expanded Edge mechanics look like they will take quite a bit to get used to.

In combat, the Edge pool gets accessed each turn with adjustments based on compared offense/defense values and then applied to select pre-roll or (not and) post-roll modifiers. I'm not sure how this is going to work out (it sure doesn't look "streamlined" at first glance) or what exactly they are going for here. Are they trying to get narrative control/effects or is there something that this really adds to the game? Again, just started looking into this, and I'm curious how others view it.

7
I'm making a 5e world and I don't think I want multiple subraces for each race. So, given that, which subraces do you find the best at suiting the archetypes of the race while also having solid and/or interesting mechanics?

Dwarf: I'm partial to Hill Dwarf as I find it far more versatile than Mountain Dwarf.
Elf: I can't decide whether High Elf or Wood Elf is more fitting.
Halfling: I don't really have a preference, but I've only ever seen Lightfoot in play.
Gnome: While neither is among my favorites, on the mechanical side, I like Forest Gnome way more than Rock Gnome.

8
I threw the $30 into the new D&D5e book Acquisitions Incorporated without knowing anything about it. Yes, it is loaded with attempts at satirical "office humor" (which, as someone coming into AI cold, I don't really appreciate most of), but it has rules for running an AI franchise. As written, a lot of it is downright silly and destructive to the general mood of most campaigns, but...

I recall early Forgotten Realms bits about licensed adventuring companies. They had charters and were a way for governments to make sure that the bands of powerful individuals roaming around the countryside were not entirely unregulated (and they funneled some gp back to the crown too). I also recall that, as a teen, I never really gave the adventuring company much thought. The idea of groups forming "corporations" of their own in-game didn't really spark my interest outside of Traveller and (ironically) Shadowrun. In most cases, it wasn't something that had crunch behind it, and I just waved it off.

D&D 5e is not the game where I would have thought to see rules for such a thing come up. Now, with the AI book, there are a set of rules that can be used for this sort of thing. No, not the sillier bits like "Occultants" that use a magical abacus to calculate the XP you get from encounters or the "Secretarian" that drops magical business cards that allow for cellphone-like communications. What actually looks workable are the parts about the business, including employees and headquarters, along with downtime actions that matter to both the characters and the business.

Don't get me wrong, AI isn't at all worth the price being charged for it; I'm just trying to make fertilizer out of the pile of shit I now own. Anybody else own this or looking into using it?

9
I picked up WotC's Guildmasters' Guide to Ravnica because, well... fuck it, I had the money to drop and I was curious. I was expecting a half-assed campaign setting but at least something I can use in other settings. I'm pretty sure I didn't even get that. What I got was a few new races and 10 guilds that feel terribly one-note (or, would that be two-note/color for those that played the Guilds in MtG?) and hard to use outside the setting. Of course, the powergamers will love the idea that your Guild adjusts your spell lists allowing for Bards with blasting spells and other exploits. As for the setting itself, it's tiny. The "world city" of Ravnica is composed of 10 districts. Only one district is covered in the book and they give a map. This 10th District ss irregularly shaped, but covers roughly 8 miles by 6 miles. If the other districts are of the same size, the "world" of Ravnica is less than 500 square miles--smaller than the Hawaiian Island of O'ahu. We also have zero natural settings (forests, grasslands, coasts, mountains, etc.) but Druids and Ranger options dependent upon terrain are not addressed at all.

Anybody else bought this? Anybody find anything worthwhile in it for use in other settings?

10
The WFRP4e early release pdf has been out for a few days. It has lots of little fixes that need to be done, and the lack of bookmarks is irritating, so I'm looking forward to when they replace the file with the finished version. Until then, this does show what looks to be a beautiful product and the system seems to be a fairly evolutionary step on the 1e-2e lines (not sure about magick yet, I haven't gotten that far).

I can already tell that this will cause me to permanently shelf Zweihander.

11
Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes is out and I've read over the first two parts. The second of these is on elves. I don't really like much of what I'm reading. Too much of it seems like it is trying to make elves 1000x more special than any other race. We find out that Gruumsh penetrated Corellon and that all elves come from what dripped out of Corellon after that. The much-advertised multi/trans/non-sexual bit about the "primal" elves is here, and so too is an emo vibe that all elves (except Drow) are desperately seeking forgiveness from Corellon. Did I mention that the elves all go in for reincarnation with a stint of solitary confinement in their afterlife? I'm just not really seeing anything in the elf section that I want to add to my game. What's really funny is that the in-world voices try to patch together the takes on elves from all of the existing D&D worlds and then...come up with this stuff which doesn't really fit with any of them?

OTOH, the Blood War section was OK. Nothing really too original, but also not bad. I'd rather have them keep with the old than drop some "hawt newness" on familiar aspects of D&D.

12
I'm crafting a D&D5e world, and I want to have playable orc PCs but half-orcs will not exist (orcs can not interbreed with humans in this setting). I have both the PHB and VGtM (which features a PC orc race). I'm wondering if I should use the PHB Half-Orc as the the orcs of my world, or if I should use the Orc stats from VGtM? I know that I want to pick one and stick with it exclusively, but I'm not sure which one to go with, so I'm here asking if anyone has any opinions on one vs the other?

13
I picked up the Tal'dorei guide last month on an impulse buy from BAM. I thumbed through it and wasn't overly taken with it, as it seemed rather plain and unoriginal to me with little to recommend it. I came into it having no experience with Critical Role or Mercer (and I still don't as I have never liked watching others game).

However, I'm now wondering how it stands up as a foundation for a game. Unlike some other published settings, the fact that there is little uniqueness to it makes it easy to build-on. It does offer a bit of history (and not too much) along with some cities, nations, and organizations. And then it kinda stops and gets out of the way. This is where I'm starting to see value in it. It can act as a bit of a DM shortcut by giving a lightly detailed setting as opposed to other settings (Greyhawk, FR, Eberron) that are now cumbersome in their own lore. At the same time, it would let me avoid the burden of starting a homebrew setting from scratch, which is what I generally liked published settings for. I guess this is along the same lines as the implied but only lightly defined setting of 4e.

So, has anyone had any experience with using Tal'dorei? Anything that sticks out as an issue with using it for a "baseline" D&D world?

14
I've been running a FFG Star Wars game for the last few months, and I've come to really hate the rules. I played this rule set from 2013-2015 and I playtested several products for the line, so I'm very familiar with the system. However, I stopped playing it when I moved in 2015 and only recently came back to it even though I detest pretty much everything about FFG's take on RPGs. This is the first group I formed in this new area (I moved across the country to help out elderly family members) after not playing for almost two years, and the group was assembled for this specific game as I don't personally know or associate with the players outside of this game. They are not going to play another game since they came together specifically for FFG Star Wars, which leaves me wondering if I should keep on running the game or if I should tell them that they need to find another GM while I look for players for another game.  In some ways I feel like our connections are almost work-like and that GMing is my non-paying side job. Looking at it that way, my "job satisfaction" is low, but I don't currently have any other "job prospects" so maybe I should keep going until I find another group doing a game I'm more interested in and then I'll cut this group loose. Then there's "no gaming is better than bad gaming" echoing in my head that tells me I should just end it now and have more time and energy to spend on other things.

Any suggestions for dealing with this situation where the gaming group is only a gaming group and has no real social ties beyond that?

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