Friday, October 19, 2012

Jumping on the USR Bandwagon...

This is just a short post explaining that I am going to dig in to some serious work with the USR rules system.  I have the original version offered on the Trollish Delver site.  The document has been sitting on my hard drive for months and I just now got around to reading through the rules.  I am really impressed with the rules and I have several projects that I would like to use USR as the base rules system.
My Toldara campaign was originally developed for 3.x and Pathfinder.  After some time, I became interested in using a simpler rules set for the campaign.  I have dabbled with Castles & Crusades and several other systems.  I finally decided to look into doing a B/X version after recovering some old gaming items from my old room at my parents.  Then I discovered the Moldvay Era Classes in USR download available from Tabletop Diversions.  After I read that information I decided that USR looks like it would work remarkably well.
I also have several unfinished game ideas from my Old Gaming Notebook series of posts that I would like to complete.  The most likely are A World in Ruins and To The Stars... after I complete the Toldara conversion. 
That is a minimum of three downloads that I am developing.  USR is pretty much exactly the type of game I was attempting to develop with Quick Six and S.T.A.G.E. but I kept hitting stumbling blocks because I just could not seem to "get it right" on either one of these designs.  I am currently putting them both on the back burner and attempting to show some USR support.
More later...  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

[Used Gaming] Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed

I frequent a few places that have used gaming products for sale.  I mostly visit the stores in Tulsa but every once in a while I make a trip up to Bartlesville.  When I do I always make sure to stop at Hastings because the in-store selection of Sci-Fi and Fantasy books always seems to be more in tune with my tastes than other book stores.  In short, I always browse the Science Fiction, Fantasy, and used gaming sections.  On my last trip to Hastings I picked up Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed.

I usually tend to avoid this type of product because it seems that there is very little bang for the buck.  It has been my experience that there are basically just a few changes here and there - like the removal or addition of just a few races and classes - that could probably just be handled by a small list of house rules instead of a complete rule book.  I noticed the price was only $5.99 so I flipped through the manual to look at those two sections.  I found enough information that I was actually quite interested and decided to purchase the book.  I have yet to play this game but I have skimmed through it and read some sections in a little greater detail in my spare time.  I get the impression that there is a lot more to this product than simply making a few alterations here and there to the 3.x iteration on the rules and calling it "new".  The following sections explain what I found in each chapter.
The only standard PHB race included in Arcana Unearthed are the Humans; all of the other races are removed.  In their place are 6 new races - Faen (3 varieties of diminutive folk), Giants, Litorians (lion folk), Mojh (reptilian), Sibeccai (canine folk), and Verrik (red-skinned and human in appearance).  These replacement races do not appear to simply be the demi-human races with a new skin.
 None of the standard PHB classes are use in Arcana Unearthed.  There are 11 new classes to choose from - Akashic (skilled experts that tap into the collective knowledge of all beings for information and other things), Champion (defenders of a cause), Greenbond (masters of animism), Mage Blade (follows the paths of sword and sorcery), Magister (master spell casters), Oathsworn (devoted warriors), Runethane (spell casters that focus on the study and creation of magical runes), Totem Warrior (rural warriors that bond themselves to an animal spirit), Unfettered (warriors focused on speed and prowess in contrast to heavy armor and brute force), Warmain (the other side of the coin with the unfettered), and Witch (spell casters focused on the magical nature within themselves).  As you can see, the classes presented allow many other types of characters than the standard classes.  I am definitely interested in taking a closer look at each of these classes in the future.
So far I have just quickly skimmed through the chapter on skills.  No drastic changes or additions grabbed my attention so I can only assume that there are none.  That may not be the case and if someone notices any omission on my part feel free to correct me in the comments.  Skills are usually pretty dry reading so I did not take a hard look at them.
Feats and Talents
There are three types of feats used in Arcana Unearthed - General Feats, Talents, and Ceremonial Feats.  General Feats are the most basic type of feats and can be taken at the appropriate time by any character meeting the qualifications.  Talents are feats that represent an inborn gift instead of training and can only be taken at first level.  Ceremonial Feats are gained after participating in a ritual of power.  Again, this chapter made me take notice and grabbed my interest in taking a closer look.
Equipment and Playing the Game
Similar to my reasoning for skipping the chapter on skills I did so with the chapters on equipment and playing the game as well.  If I understand correctly, Arcana Unearthed is supposed to be highly compatible with the 3.x version of D&D so I should be pretty up to date on these sections. 
The chapter on magic has just as much or more to offer than the chapters on race and class.  It seems pretty familiar but there are some important changes.  Spells can be cast as a diminished spell (using a spell slot one level lower than normal), heightened spell  (using a spell slot one level higher than normal), and a laden spell (using two slots of the spells level instead of just one).  Of course, it is mentioned that using the spells in each of these manners has special effects and rules that correspond to doing so. 
The spells are also split into three categories: simple, complex, and exotic.  Each category determines the learning and casting difficulty plus how common the spell is among the various spell casters.  Simple spells are the most common and easiest of spells to cast; these spells are usually the ones taught to apprentices.  Complex spells are less common and more difficult to cast and learn because they require a real understanding of the way magic works.  These spells will require components and difficult gestures to cast.  All spell casters other than magisters require a special feat to cast these spells.  Exotic spells are the rarest and most difficult of the spells. 
I did not read through this chapter yet but for different reasons than skipping the earlier chapters.  It is my impression that this chapter may require a serious look with all the differences from the magic chapter.  Since I am just giving my first impression of Arcana Unearthed I believe that this chapter will be better done with a post devoted to it alone.
Final Thoughts
I will definitely take a closer look at this rule book.  I may post further about detailed reading of sections from the core book.  I would like to devote a short campaign to test driving the rules in play.  I did not feel that there were any glaring omissions so far but I would have liked to have seen a small section on the campaign setting setting and maybe a short selection of monsters.  As it stands, this book is golden.  The only real concern right now would be the acquisition of the rest of the line.  I am pretty late to the party on this one but I would like to see the complete line of books to evaluate the whole run. 
A few questions for anyone interested in answering:
Does this game play as well as it reads? 
Does it "feel" particularly different from standard D&D?
Are the rest of the books worth obtaining?
Are there any big differences between Arcana Unearthed and Arcana Evolved?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Last Week...

...was absorbed by mid-terms.  I had important tests in 3 of my college classes during the last week and neglected to post anything at all.  The tests are over and I am more than satisfied with the results so it is time to crank up on the blog posts a bit.  I have no master plan at the moment but I have sorted out some topics for future posts. 
 Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed
I recently found a used copy of this rule book for the awesome price of $5.99 at Hastings.  I expect at least two posts covering this because I am really enjoying what I see so far.  I always check out the used gaming sections of the stores I visit.  I am prone to buy stuff if the price is right.  I think this will be a recurring post; something like "new used gaming item" or something similar.  I already have at least 3 other items lined up for this.
Other Gaming Topics
I have several ideas I want to put out there and get some feedback on.  I know that I announced the Quick Six system that I was developing but I have decided to put it on the back burner for now.  In the middle of development I had another idea that I would like to develop.  I usually design in the rules-medium to rules-heavy area but I find myself really attracted to the rules-light approach.  I have never designed a complete rules set using the rules-light approach but I have been gathering some notes for a system called S.T.A.G.E., which stands for Simple Tabletop Adventure Gaming Engine.  With any luck, information will be posted here soon.
DVDs, Rentals, and the ROKU
I am an avid DVD collector and I like a good deal so I will post about several that I have gotten recently.  Of course, sometimes the movie posts will be about movies I rented instead of buying.  I also recently got a ROKU and have been pretty happy with it.
There are other topics that may show up with irregular frequency.  One such topic is autism.  My (almost) 6 year old son has autism and the experience is very thought provoking.  I may do a once a week post on some aspect of autism as some sort of FYI thing.  Other topics that may get some more exposure in the future include professional wrestling, horror, creative writing, my campaign world, and maybe a surprise or two along the way.  Who knows? 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

[Mobile Post] Bargain DVDs

We stopped by Big Lots yesterday. I always like to browse the bargain DVDs to see what they have. There were many horror titles that I was interested in buying. Then I found what I decided on - The Lost Boys, The Lost Boys: The Tribe, and The Lost Boys: The Thirst. It seemed like a no-brainer to pick up the entire Lost Boys collection for a grand total of nine dollars. Of course, the original movie is one of the old 80s horror standbys but I am curious to see how these sequels hold up.