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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Dragon Roots Issue #3 - Capsule Review

Dragon Roots is an independent RPG magazine that is published quarterly in both print and PDF format.

I'd like to take some credit for the subscription option for the PDF version - Rocco, the CEO, Publisher, Editor and all around decent chap wanted a print magazine format. He saw the PDF version as a way for people to sample, but wanted folks to go with a physical copy they could hold, smell, touch and do all sorts of sundries to it. I communicated the desire of some folks (like myself) that prefer PDFs in most circumstances as over 25 years of gaming has really cramped my ability to store more stuff. He listened and has offered PDF subs ever since.

The magazine itself has articles that are for 3.5e, 4e and game system agnostic. Heck, most of the articles in the 4 issues out so far could be plugged into any fantasy system if desired with little to moderate tweaking.

Rocco has finally started sharing the load (although he still carries most it) of putting together the magazine and it shows. The first 2 issues were labors of love that were infested with typos (that comes with editing one's own work) but filled with mostly good gaming articles. The latest issue, issue #3, is the 4th issue (counting started with 0) is a much tighter production, and the effort shows. I esitate to say issue #3 is a professional production, because all the issues have been, but i think it hits its stride with the third issue. I give it a high 4 for quality and gaming goodness.

DX-ability is a 3 - typset is a bit small on the kindle and there is some minor shadowing that looks great in print but less so on the DX.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Magpie Quick Play Rules. Capsule Review

Magpie is a 3e variant rules set under the OGL. The quick play rules for Magpie are more like a sampler of the full rules system, one that seems to stray fairly far from the 3e rules they are based on.

Skills and feats are replaced by 5 Feats that are linked to the 6 base stats. These 6 feats are bonuses to saving throw. There are a total of 8 saving throws - 5 feats, attack, defense and magic. Need to pick a lock? Cast a spell? Smack the gobbie with your mace? Roll the appropriate save. The target number you need to roll runs from 5 to 30, but the degrees of difficulty run from 0 to 5, with a difficulty of 0 needing a 5 or better and a difficulty of 5 needing a 30 or better. Wouldn't it have been been easier to name the degrees of difficulty after the target number you need to roll?

Combat requires one to roll a 10 or better to hit, adjusted my your target's defensive bonus. Armor class is subtracted from your weapons damage, it does not effect your chance to hit.

Character power advancement appears to be slower then core 3e as a level gain allows the player to add +1 to a single save. Hit points are higher, with fighters having a d12 and barbarians having a d12 +4 for HP per level (as examples). Almost every class gets some sort of spell list and class balance may be an issue to some (the core 4 classes are to be used by beginners, the subclasses are more specialized and more powerful).

I appreciate the authors releasing the quick play rules so that prospective players can see if the rules are for them or not. They are not for me. The attempt to simplify game play by the removal of 3e's feats is admirable, but a think the "Siege Engine" mechanic used in Castles & Crusades is a smoother solution over all. Then again, it did take me a while to really understand just how flexible the "Siege Engine" is thru weekly game play. No play test of the Magpie rules, just a read thru and my impressions.

I'm going to give the Magpie system, as much as I've seen in the Quick Play rules, a 3 out of 5. They aren't my choice of rules, and I don't quite agree with the direction they went in, but I'd be surprised if there aren't others that will like what they see. For free it's harmless to check it out

DX-ability rating - The typeset is fairly small and there is an annoying shading to the pages that really makes this difficult to read on the kindle without turning it sideways - 2

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Problem With RPG Reviews - Where's the Gameplay?

Most reviews of RPG material are based upon read-thru only. What looks good on paper (or e-paper) might not play well at the game table. The inherit problem is that to review a game in actual play you need a group of players to participte.

Movies. One person to watch
Books. One person to read.
Music. One person to listen.
Video games. One person to play.
RPGs. One GM and a group of players.

I'll be doing some short game reviews based upon read-thru only. If I have play experience with the game in question I'll state as such.

Kindle DX suitabilty reviews generally don't adress the quality of the product in question, just how it reads on the DX. The game may be a dog but look beautful on the DX. Go figure.

-- Post From My iPhone

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Free RPG Day Everyday!

So, yesterday was Free RPG Day. If you had a decent brick-and-mortar store near you that was participating you could get a free module or quick-start rules set to one of about a dozen games from just as many publishers. Free is always better then not-free, and I am sure lots of these goodies will show up as free PDFs down the line. But what if you missed out on FREE and are sitting in a dark room stewing about how the universe hates you? Have no fear, 'cause FREE RPG DAY is EVERYDAY!

Really. No BS. All you need to do is look. Is it all good? Hell no! But if its free and the cost to download was nothing but your time, the delete key is just a finger tap away.

1 - RPGNow - Lots of free games to be found here, from quick start rules to 400 page monstrosities of sci-fi rules and more. Just hit the FREE button on the left side of the home page. I did, and must have downloaded two dozen as I thought about how I wasn't getting my free swag yesterday from a nearby store.

2 The Free RPG Blog - Run, don't walk to this blog! My god man, do you have any free time? Rob Lang reviews one free RPG a week. Lots of goodies. I spent some time there last nite after recovering from my RPGNow hunting expedition. I have about 3 dozen PDFs sitting on my netbook just waiting to migrate to my DX.

3 The Free RPG Compendium - A HUGE list of links to free RPGs, some great and most not so great. Time to pick thru the coal to find some diamonds.

Enjoy. I may do some capsule reviews on some of these free finds in addition to the usual feedback on their Kindle DX suitability.