Saturday, February 27, 2016

Review: People of the Stars for Pathfinder

I'm not a big fan of mixing fantasy and sci-fi in gaming.  I see them as two very distinctive genres and typically I want to be immersed in either one of the other during play.  But a little while ago I had a subscription to Paizo's adventure paths and got the "Iron Gods" one, which is an extended homage to the old D&D module "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks".  I got it just to see how they'd do an entire campaign of mixed fantasy and sci-fi.  Overall I liked it but still wasn't sure I'd want to run that type of game.  Paizo has a couple companion products out to support it.  I've had them on wish list, but as lower priorities.  Then yesterday Paizo put out their "rainy day" sale for 10% off and I decided to take the plunge, buying their "Pathfinder Player Companion - People of the Stars" and the "Technology Guide".

"People of the Stars" is only 38 pages, cover to cover, but it does what it says. You get four full player races, a couple less detailed races, a good selection of thematic traits and archetypes, sidebars on each of the planets in the solar system for Paizo's campaign universe (properly detailed in their "Distant Worlds" book, which I recommend if the topic interests you), some magic items, and brief rules on gravity, vacuum, and other planetary/space conditions.  There is tantalizing mention of the Dark Tapestry, an evil alien interstellar conspiracy, but you'll need one of the Iron Gods books for details on that.

I liked two of the races (android and kasathas) but wasn't exited by the other two--but that's just a personal thing. The other bits were only okay I thought.  So overall I was mildly disappointed but don't feel I wasted my cash.  I'm considering how to run a campaign set in the D&D ethereal plane, which is similar to a interstellar setting, and this book is good food for thought towards that end.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review: Towns of the Inner Sea, for Pathfinder's world of Golarion

As I've mentioned before my favorite RPG books are setting books, from full-on campaign worlds down to city or wilderness settings.  Towns of the Inner Sea from Paizo for their Golarion setting world is one of my recent buys in this category.  The book presents six towns but also starts with a great listing of towns already detailed in earlier modules or adventure paths which is a really nice touch.  There is also a Golarion overview map showing you where the six are, which is very handy if you aren't familiar with that setting world.

Each town starts with a nice bit of art with a panoramic view of the town.  These are great for showing the players as they arrive.  Then there's an overview/background section to lead you into the various numbered locations.  Pretty much every single location has interesting details, an NPC, and plot ideas. There are also sidebars with more general adventure hooks, rumors, and a fully fleshed out major NPC at the end.  All this content is great.  You can easily run a bunch of adventures in and around any of these towns.  I particularly liked the desert pilgrimage town of Solku as a place to start a campaign.

The one feature which was disappointing is the maps of the towns.  As with the Neverwinter Campaign Setting book for D&D 4E I reviewed earlier, four of the towns as mapped out are just too small to encompass all the activity going on.  The town of Pezzack sounds like a bustling place and looks pretty cool in the opening panoramic view.  But the town as mapped is way smaller than shown in the panorama--it's only a quarter-mile across.  Unless all those buildings are very tall (and even then) there just isn't enough room for all the people and activities described.  Solku and Issurian look about right as mapped but I'd re-do and enlarge the maps of the other four before I'd use them in actual play.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

I color code my dice

My first set of polyhedral dice was purchased independently, not as part of a boxed game or anything.  I'm pretty sure I got it at the Compleat Strategist in NYC but that was a long time ago.  As it happened, each die was a different color.  This turned out to be extremely useful in the early days when most of my players had never seen anything but a traditional d6.  I'd ask someone to roll a d8, get a blank look, then tell them to roll the blue one.  And it made grabbing a die in the heat of play easier for me as well.  So as I bought more dice (so we didn't have to keep passing one set of dice around all the time) I stuck with the same colors.  I already had a pair of d10s from before for use as percentile dice with wargames, one red and one white, so I stuck with red & white for those.  Much later I bought some hit location dice but I consider them to be independent of my color scheme.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Another run with Roll20 last night

Okay, so for our Monday night game (actually on Tuesday this week), which we're calling "The Acadamae", we'd discussed moving online--at least occasionally.  So with the possibility of a lot of ice on the roads from the recent snow storm we figured this was as good a time as any to give it a try.  Our GM, Kirk, had already set up a Roll20 account for the game and the rest of us were already in for another game being built by our buddy Bill (also a player in Kirk's game).  However, Kirk hadn't time to put much of the way of maps or stuff into it and we wanted to compare it with Google Hangouts anyway.

After trying Hangouts we decided that Roll20 worked fine and we all moved there.  Overall it went well.  At first I had to exit Firefox and download Chrome to run Roll20 smoothly but that only took a minute or two.  I was able to easily transcribe a lot of my character info into my Roll20 character sheet from Hero Lab while we played and immediately begin using it for skill checks, etc.  I used the on-screen 3D dice roller (with the final modified results showing in the chat bar on the right) because I thought it was fun but the rest of the group wasn't so into that feature.

I successfully loaded an image to use as a character portrait but it wouldn't display at the bottom with the others for some reason and in the chat window it kept using a mini version of the old one I made for Bill's game.  Actually three of the avatars displayed were holdovers of the Order of the Stick style ones I made for Bill's Game.  Mike loaded new a cool one which matched his character nicely but there was only a generic for Talla.  I might make more OotS style portraits for the characters in this game.  They're fun to draw.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Healthier snacks for gaming...home-made kale chips

Okay, so the RPG hobby has a reputation for being populated with people who are either Very Very Skinny or Very Not Skinny.  I started, in high school, as one of the Very Very Skinny people but moved slowly towards being Very Not Skinny as I got older.  After years of being on and off diets and exercise programs I was introduced to the Ideal Protein program by my wife after she lost 30+ pounds (now over 40 pounds) herself.  I got with it and have lost over 30 pounds (which was about 20% of my starting weight!).

The key thing in the program is not eating tons of sugar and carbohydrates.  At the gaming table, typically, sugary and carbohydrate-based snacks rule.  (We are particularly partial to Cheetos, nachos, and Reese's peanut butter cups.)  So this sent me searching for healthier snacks both for everyday life and at the gaming table.  After a disappointing attempt at turnip chips (yes, I went there) I gave kale chips a try.  I found a decent-sounding recipe at and tried it out.  The initial test batch went well so I did a bigger batch this weekend and below are photos so you can try it too.

Start with a bunch or two of kale...

Wash them off...

Cut (or pull) the leaves off the stems...

Shred the leaves into chip-sized pieces (not too small, because they shrink on baking)

Spin dry...

And keep spin-drying in small batches until they're finally all pretty dry...

(I laid mine out on some paper towels to dry a bit more, but I think I'll skip this step next time)

Get out your baking trays and some parchment paper to put on them...

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (or ~150 degrees C)...

While you're waiting, paw through your collection of spices...

And get out onion powder, chili powder, garlic powder, and paprika...mix in bowl as per the recipe linked above (I suggest using double the amounts in the recipe, but I like things strongly flavored)...

When the oven's ready, spread your kale loosely on the parchment paper, if they're too bunched they will cook but remain chewy instead of going nice and crispy...

Slide into the oven (use a mitt!)...

When done they shrink down a lot!

Place in bowl, spray lightly with olive oil, sprinkle on spices, mix around; repeat until the batch looks well coated with spices...

For the first batch I did I used garlic salt because I didn't have the garlic powder called for in the recipe.  They came out very salty but also very garlic-y.  This weekend I bought garlic powder as per the recipe and the effect was much more muted.  The recipe suggests rubbing oil onto the kale and dusting on the spices before baking but I haven't tried it that way yet.  I went with the post-bake spray/dust/turn technique because I was worried about too much oil preventing proper crisping.  I will be experimenting further in the future but I think I'm on the right track.

In case you're wondering, I did actually offer some to my group but they were not as enthusiastic about the opportunity as I hoped they might be.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Super Dungeon Explore mini painting progress

So I managed to get in a short painting session today.  I'm sticking with just doing a layered dry-brush approach with relatively few colors, at least for the monsters.  This group is done except for painting the base gray.

Trying podcasts again...this time successfully

Okay, so the first couple times I tried a gaming podcast I thought they were terrible.  They all seemed to be a random bunch of dudes (always an all-male group) rambling about random crap.  There was a lot of chuckling over in-jokes which only meant anything to them, references to people only they knew, etc.  I was totally put off and moved on to other things.  More recently I decided to look into podcasts again as something to listen to while I work out.  I was fortunate to give Play on Target and Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff a try.

Both of these productions are packed with goodness.  Play on Target episodes typically center around a main theme for discussion, such as running long campaigns.  Ken and Robin cover multiple topics, moving between "huts" (topical areas) over the course of the broadcast.  Ken and Robin also toss in an advertisement or two (done by the two gentlemen themselves in typical fashion) for products they are involved in.  Both are free from the websites or from iTunes to check them out!