Saturday, January 16, 2010

Weekend Update

Lets see, it's saturday afternoon and I need to figure out which PDF / RPG Product I'm going to review next.  That's not so simple when your son is trying to drag your ass in to the Star Trek Online Open beta every free moment that you have.  I'm sure there is something I can catch up on.  Hmmm, I may need to do a quick spreadsheet just to organize what I have, what I have and haven't read, and what I have and haven't reviewed.

On the brewing side, I'm starting a Home Brewers Blog.  Gonna be slow at first but what the heck, everyone likes a good beer ;)  In the meantime, one more week of carbonation and then I start sticking some beer in the fridge to condition for a week or so.  All that and probably another 2 gallon batch will start brewing today or tomorrow.  Variety is the key...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: White Haired Man

The Nine Towers Fantasy Grounds 2 Module Review

In the first part of this review I talked about the PDF that comes in the package with the FG2 module.  Now we get to the toys, and I mean that in the nicest way.  

Whereas the PDF gives you a handy way to read the adventure, the FG2 module includes all of that and more for use with the FG2 software.  Unless you are a Skype / Teamspeak / Ventrilo / or some other voice software user, the idea of typing out all the descriptions, color text, NPC chat and such can be overwhelming.  A well designed FG2 module does all that heavy stuff for you - a few clicks of the mouse and you are moving right along in your role as GM.  White Haired Man has done that for you.

Just as an aside, I reviewed an adventure for FG2 on RPGNow in 2008 and basically said it's only saving grace was as a tool to designing your own FG2 modules.  After poking my way through The Nine Towers, I would take that back.  That old adventure from a company I shall not name has no redeeming graces compared to this product.

The Nine Towers is a great insight in to how, or at least, how high one can strive, to make your own FG2 module for your own use.  This is the example one should follow.  Links are there where you need them.  Need to find the handout of Tarshal'din's Shining Spear for your players?  Its linked right in the encounter.  Narrative boxes?  Check.  Tokens specific to the module that can be readily recycled into other game session or systems... or even, heaven forbid, a different VTT?  They are there, waiting to be used.  They are also very attractive.  I happen to like the top down look that was used.  Personal preference I guess.

Overall I give the complete package a 4.5 outa 5.  The Nine Towers is a well written adventure, slickly produced FG2 module for use with the Savage Worlds ruleset.

Now if White Haired Man would come out with a version for Castles & Crusades or Labyrinth Lord I'd be flying high. ;)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Teacher, My DX ate my PDF!

My Kindle DX displays the vast majority of my RPG PDF collection quite well, tho it chokes on a few and needs the Heimlich in one or two cases.  The Nine Towers gives the DX some isses... nothing that totally breaks usability, just a minor annoyance when it crops up.  Before I go any further, I wish to state that Adobe Reader 8.1 reads the PDF flawlessly.  Remarking that other programs or devices don't interact as flawlessly with it reflect more on the program or the devices shortcomings, not necessarily the PDF in question.

So, to answer White Haired Man games inquiry as to the problems my Kindle DX has with The Nine Towers PDF:

1 - The cover art doesn't display - its just a grey smudge (with the footnote on the bottom of the screen "some elements on this page could not be displayed").  It also lacks the Savage Worlds and FG2 Partner badges.  To be fair, Sumatra, an alternate PDF reader doesnt handle the art well either.  Adobe 8.1?  Perfect.

2 - Hitting the next page on the DX brings up a blank page with the same message as previously.  This might be a reference to the missing badges.

3 - The creature from page 4 is missing, but the Image: Token Outline is there.

I think I misspoke when I referred to layers i my previous post.  I am far from an expert at composing PDFs.  The problem the DX is having with this PDF is similar to others that have, what appears to me, to be "layers" of art / page shading or such.  Its all mumbo jumbo to me anyway ;)

In the end what matters is that the PDF is usable, well written, and appears like it would be fun to run.  The Nine Towers fits that criteria.  It is still readable and usable on the DX... just not a perfect fit.  I feel like I'm complaining I didn't get my "gift with purchase" that was neither promised nor offered ;)

Tomorrow  hopefully I get to the FG2 part of The Nine Towers.

Star Trek Online - Beta Action

The Star Trek Online Open Beta is in its second day.  My son and I got to play a bit of the end of the Closed Beta, which was surprisingly tight for a Closed Beta.  The Open Beta includes some of my friends from my old gaming group / MMO group.  I think this will wind up being a fun diversion, but I doubt it will keep everyone logged in and gaming like the early days of Everquest 2.

Still, starship combat is way cool.  Almost as much fun as rolling dice and high fiving at the dining room table.  Amost ;)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Brewing Apprentice 101

So, over the weekend I bottled my beer.  The Red Ale will need to be filtered as it appears some hops and dead yeast made it to the bottles.  No biggie, its all good ;)  The Oktoberfest looks nice and clear.  Both seem to be carbing well, as the plastic bottles are firming up nicely.  It will all be ready in plenty of time for the Super Bowl... heh

A side note to yesterday's review.  The PDF is not very Kindle DX friendly.  The DX seems to have issues with PDFs that have multiple layers on the page... it tries to view each layer as a separate page.  I could go into the PDF with some editing software and take out the offending layers, but it looks damn fine using Adobe Reader.  Sumatra has some minor issues, but I've been finding the Sumatra has issues with just about all but the most basically laid out PDFs.  Minor quibble, and it probably only effects me :)

New Layout - Semi - By Choice

The new blog layout is due to the fact that while experimenting with some new templates, I inadvertently forgot to save the old layout.  All that being said, I think I like this one better.  If nothing else, three columns means less wasted screen space ;)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Review: White Haired Man

Nine Towers -PDF Review

"Learn the adventure, the setting, and the motivations of the various NPCs. Careful preparation should give the Gamemaster a deep enough understanding that the right responses will spontaneously emerge and make perfect sense for the situation." (lifted from page 85 of this 88 page Behemoth)

Better advice could not have been written.

Like most (if not all) of White Haired Man's adventures, Nine Tower's takes place in a grittier, lower magic setting them most fantasy games. Take the time to learn the background of the setting, Kith’takharos, as it will add your appreciation of the adventure.

As to the adventure. How to describe it without giving away the plot? This is from the blurb itself:

"The ruthless archaeologist-mage Lenar Hoyt has stolen the most holy artifact of the Bright Water Swamp Men. The tribe holds Kith'takharos responsible, and will destroy the village unless the Order of the Jade Leaf retrieves Tarshal'din's Shining Spear. As the Swamp Man warriors gather for the assault, Hoyt activates the first Teleportation Tower."

Hmm, that is much of the plot I guess. Still, in its simplest summary, the players are on a recovery mission. A timed recovery mission. Thankfully, there are multiple choices for the adventure hook, so it can be tailored more to the party as opposed to shoehorning them into the plot.

This is not a dungeon crawl, although there are rooms and corridors to explore at points in the adventure. It requires more thinking and less swinging. Traveling is the key here, much of it in non standard ways (teleportation anyone?). Some events can be quite deadly (falling comes to mind) that players have little control over (about the only negative that quickly comes to mind).

The use of sidebars for added background and other information is pretty close to perfect. It keeps the flow of reading of the adventure uninterrupted, yet allows one to pause for added detail.

My best undereducated guess is two to three sessions to play out this adventure on a face to face tabletop session, then add one more session for the time lost using FG2 (VTT games always seem to take just a wee bit longer to complete in my experience).

Now, this review has just touched upon the PDF that accompanies the Fantasy Grounds 2 Adventure. Why have I covered just the PDF at this point? Because it is no light weight. It is easily worth the price of admission on its own. It is well written and edited. It is a professional piece of work that stands on its own. I've purchased adventures for use with Fantasy Grounds that offered no accompanying PDF at a higher price that left me regretting my purchase within minutes. All that and truth be told, reading the PDF has left me no time to play with the FG2 software. I'll peek at that tomorrow or wednesday and give a follow up.

I'm going to give this a 4 out of 5 star review - a full 5 stars to those that truly dig the setting Kith’takharos. This rating is for the PDF alone. Once I've given the FG2 software a shake with this I'll give the full review and rating.

The Nine Towers is a Savage Worlds adventure for 4-6 Seasoned characters.

Much thanks again to Andugus over at White Haired Man for letting me get my hands on a review copy

Body Scanners in the City of Hawks

Sitting at my work desk and a thought occured to me: isn't the whole "Detect" line of D&D spells the fantasy equivelent of the Body Scanners they are looking to deploy at airports?

How would your character feel if a Paladin detected evil on everyone before they could enter the town gate?

How far do we go in applying today's moral code and sense of personal right to our semi medivel fantasy worlds?

- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Its Been Busy at the Tavern

It's been a busy couple of days on this end. I came home from work on friday to find sewer specialists were called in as the 100 year old sewer line had backed up... yet again.

After a couple of harrowing hours (and fears that a need to replace the line would easily top 10 grand), our lovely specialists pulled a roots system from the pipe that would have made for an excellent baddie in any waterborne adventure. It looked like some bizarre sea creature from the depths of the deepest ocean instead of some roots and soil (and sewage oh my). Things we take for granted in today's modern world and probably our fantasy worlds too. All that for just $2700. Sigh, I need to take up a career in adventuring ;)

Yesterday I bottled one of the two batches of beer that have been brewing for the last three weeks. Irish Red is carbonating and the Oktoberfest will follow later today. About three to four weeks before the first beer from these batches get drunk.

If all goes well I'll have a short review of one of White Haired Man's products posted tomorrow or tuesday. Although packaged for FG2, the enclosed PDFs really make them suitable for all VTTs or even tabletop play.
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