Do you remember back in July when we had author Timothy Zahn on the show and he mentioned his upcoming Star Wars book “Scoundrels”? Its out now and this book is Timothy Zahn’s return to the Star Wars universe and he delivers us what he called a Star Wars meets Ocean’s Eleven, starring Han Solo, Chewbacca, Lando, and a number of other characters for those of us who have read any of the Expanded Universe would know (and several new characters, too.)
The story is set just after the events of A New Hope, Han Solo is as we know in debt to Jabba, and is looking for a score that will settle his debts with the crime lord. When one that is too good to be true falls into his lap. It’s a daring heist and he’ll need a team to pull it off. He brings in a whole host of criminals, rogues, and scoundrels and they get set to work.
The story Zahn has created written very well and is straightforward for the long-con structure. That’s not to say there aren’t any twists and turns, like any good Ocean’s story there are MANY twists and turns, but they’re almost to be expected for this kind of story. Zahn manages to find ways to twist them one step further than you’d expect. There truly is nothing predictable about this book. And every time our scoundrels get a bead on how to do things, a new hydrospanner is thrown into the sublight drive.
The book is highly entertaining and enjoyable. I had a smile on my face and chuckled the whole time while readin. Tim’s writing just does that. It’s sure of itself and knows what it’s doing. To quote Bryan Young of Big Shiny Robot, “there aren’t enough Star Wars books that maintain that light-hearted sense of adventure that permeates Star Wars. Too often they’re brooding affairs”. Sometimes you just want a fun Star Wars book, and this book delivers just that!
The assortment of characters is great, from the con-men employed to Han and Lando’s delicate relationship. It all rang in such a way that it made me very happy. I also really loved the way Winter was used in the book, and how they actually played on the recent destruction of the planet Alderaan. In the movie it really didn’t seem like enough attention was paid to the fact that billions of people were killed on Alderaan and there are people in the galaxy who felt it. Zahn gives us that window through Winter and utilizes her better than I can ever remember her being used.
This book is a great read because the book ends in a way that forces you to want to immediately start it over again, and I wouldn’t blame anyone who does. It’s a totally different experience reading it over from the beginning knowing what you learned through the first read through. Just know that there are revelations you learn by the end of the book that almost require a second reading.
I would give this book 5 star. Its excellent Star Wars book and a must read!
Curse of Undeath is yet another installment in the wonderful miniature-skirmish-card game from Wizards of the Coast. Readers of the DCR blog know that I have a lot of love for this game, and it comes as no surprise that I'm doing another review for this. November and December have been crazy months for me and so this review is coming out a little late with my apologies. I barely had time to sit down and play with this new box until recently and what I’ve seen so far pleases me.
All of the boxes we’ve seen have been thematic and I expect this trend to continue. The theme extends into the art, card mechanics and inbuilt strategy all the way to what’s depicted on the tiles. The set oozes undeath and that’s how it should be. Flagoon pointed out earlier when we spoke with peter Lee and Laura Tommervik on the show that when the game will definitely feature some sort of a re-animation mechanic and he was spot on – zombies can come back from the figuratively dead. Although if I were honest, I was really wishing for an order card that would let you resurrect any miniature. This sort of card would be very powerful but there can always be drawbacks.
The miniatures are, as usual, lovely. I think in terms of sculpt quality, cool factor and paint job, these are easily the best out of the four sets. The skeletons come carrying axes but otherwise look exactly like the ones from Lords of Madness, which I think is a really cool touch. It’s a model that everyone liked but they’ve added a little variety to it and now your DnD game can feature an army of skeletons with different weapons. And to spruce up that army you also get another skeleton – with four arms and four swords and also a skeletal lancer on a horse. The other miniatures round out the undead theme with zombies, vampires, spirits and necromancers. Oh and let’s not forget the Dracolich!!
The set focuses on Constitution as the main attribute. The undead are hardy and tough to kill – just as they should be. Every monster is iconically represented in the rules – a vampire will sap life, a zombie will come back from the dead, and a spirit will phase through walls. There is enough variety in the box to bring out various strategies and plenty of ideas for unique custom warbands.
Many have drawn similarities to this game with Magic: the Gathering and I have to agree. Just looking at making custom warbands makes you realize that you probably have to quickly abandon the idea of a ragtag army of various miniatures and if you really want to play this game competitively – invest in some multiples. Whether it’s buying a second (or third, or fourth) box, or just getting singles from eBay, the fact of the matter is – it has to be done. One box is just not enough. Of course, if you’re not planning to play competitively and just want to play this game with some friends on your kitchen table – that’s fine. One box is probably all you need.
Tabletop Role-playing Games are a large class of commercially-available games. These are usually available only at specialized hobby or game stores, although a few (such as Dungeons & Dragons) can be found in regular bookstores. Game actions are taken primarily through verbal declaration (i.e. "my character climbs the wall"). These are known as "tabletop" RPGs (to distinguish them from live-action roleplaying) or "paper-and-pencil" RPGs (to distinguish them from computer games).
Tabletop Role-playing Games are played sitting around in a comfortable setting (often around a table but not necessarily), and what happens is defined by verbal description. i.e. A player simply declares "I am walking to the window", and it is understood that her character is doing just that. Diagrams and notes may be used as aids, but narration is the primary medium. These are often referred to as "tabletop" RPGs (to distinguish them from "live action" RPGs where the players move around) or "paper-and-pencil" RPGs (to distinguish them from computer games).
There is a wide variety of these games, but they have common features. One person generally acts as the Game Moderator or Game Master (abbreviated GM), who is the authority on the fictional setting (aka "game-world"), and has final say over what happens. A typical game session has the GM prepare a set of challenges for the players in advance. Each player (except the GM) has a single character in the game-world which he controls (known as a player-character or PC). The players then declare what their PC's try to do, and the GM describes what happens.
In practice, much of what happens is either descriptive or obvious results: i.e.
Player: I carefully walk up to the window and look inside. What do I see?
GM: [checks notes] You see a dusty room with a table in the center, which has a wooden box on it. The walls are bare, but there's a door to the inside. Player: Alright, I'm taking my knife and scratching a mark on this window, so the others can identify it later. GM: OK - done. [scribbles this on his notes]
Note that the player uses the first person ("I") to describe what her character is doing. This is just a common way of speaking. Some players use their character's name instead (i.e. "Davidson walks up to the window"). Of course, at other times the results are less clear. For example, the same setup could have more complicated results:
Player: I carefully walk up to the window and look inside.
GM: You see a room with a table in the center. There's a man sitting at the table playing solitaire. He has a revolver sitting on the table beside the cards.
Player: Yikes! I duck down, as quietly as possible. Did it look like he saw me?
This is the basic case of "action resolution" -- ...
It is a bit like cooperative storytelling -- by announcing and describing to the other players what you are doing, you become part of the ongoing story.
I remember the day I picked up my very first Forgotten Realms boxed reference set. It included some game materials, a really awesome map and a bit of background information to start your own campaigns. But never did I think I would ever see such an in depth look as Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster’s Forgotten Realms. It really is a masterpiece of Ed Greenwood‘s imagination.
Taken from Greenwood’s original notes from the late sixties, the Forgotten Realms were adapted in the seventies for game play with the original Dungeons & Dragons and finalized in the eighties for release with the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game books. By far the most popular and well known of all the official settings, the Realms are packed with well developed and powerful non-player characters (known as NPCs). This tome gives gamers a plethora of formerly unknown information, thereby not just amplifying our collective knowledge of Faerun but also expanding the possibilities in a campaign setting.
And when I say it is full of information, I’m not kidding. This book includes everything from typical foods to economics to everyday entertainments. Covering specifics such as how to become a noble at court and individual alliances between kingdoms, it also speaks to the more mundane things like education, local judiciary systems, and clothing differences by area. There really is something here for everyone. Whether you are a DM running a campaign in this setting or a player just wanting more reference material while reading the scores of novels set there, this is the most comprehensive compendium I have seen on the subject.
I wish I could detail every section of this book, but to do so would take far more time than if I just tell you it’s more than worth the price and your time to read it. Never before have I seen a section in a D&D reference book that described the variety of woods, children’s toys or types of rope and chain available. If you use the Forgotten Realms as a game setting or even just plan on writing a story or two based on it, this is the epitome of Faerunian information. My favorite parts are the scribblings of Greenwood from his original notes; it’s amazing to see how far this world has come in the past four decades since he first imagined it.
I really urge you to pick this up. As I said before, it’s the ultimate reference piece for the Realms and one that I think could be a crucial piece to any dungeon master. I love this book for the detailed look into this long lasting world. I hope you find it as appealing as I do. And to end this review, I quote Elminster: “Behold the Realms, from its lightless nether depths to the stars that twinkle down upon it. Make it thine.”
When I was younger my friends and I would play Dungeon! by TSR. I was playing Dungeon! before I ever played an actual role playing game, and I remember the fantasy characters and monsters had captured my imagination from a young age. I was crossing my fingers that this new edition of Dungeon! would be as awesome as I remembered it, but I also knew WotC would be making some changes. After all, this is the fourth edition of Dungeon to come out and it would have to mirror Fourth Edition Dungeons & Dragons (it even has the D&D logo on the game, which previous versions did not), whereas my version of Dungeon! was from the era of first edition red box advance-less D&D. So how does the remake hold up? Honestly, pretty well. What you will find as you read this review, is that Dungeon! is still an amazingly fun budget priced board game that anyone can pick up and fall in love with.
First of all, the package Dungeon! comes in is a fraction of the size previous versions were boxed in. The board is roughly the same, though, in terms of layout. The previous versions of the game had a much more realistic and dingy looking dungeon along with artwork of monsters here and there on the board. The layout is still very similar and the game also has basic rules printed on the side of the board, including what levels are best for each character class. I was a little sad to see how much more hand holding this version of the game is, as even in single digits I instantly got how to play the game and even make house rules for it, but I have to admit having the basic rules on the board is nice for when children invariably lose the rulebook.
Let’s talk character classes, by the way. The original game has Elf, Hero, Superhero and Wizard. Late versions of Dungeon! would change things up and have six different characters: Elf, Warrior, Wizard, Paladin, Dwarf and Thief. This latest version of the game changes things again. We’ve back to four basic character classes, but they are now called Rogue, Cleric, Fighter and Wizard. The Wizard Class is untouched from the original game, the Fighter is the Superhero, Cleric is the original Hero and Rogue is the original Elf class. The Rogue is the weakest class, physically, in the game, but has a 50% chance of finding a secret door instead of the two-in-six chance the other three classes have. I do remember that we used to play with the Elf being able to cast one of each of the three spells in the game to more mimic their “red box” rules, but that was definitely a house rule rather than an “official” one. It was the only way to get someone to play an Elf. The Cleric is just a basic fighter in this game, so don’t look for it to have any spells or healing abilities. The Warrior is exactly the same as the Cleric, except it has a better chance of killing monsters than the Cleric. The Wizard is not very strong, but it can cast powerful magic spells. These spells are limited, and once exhausted, the Wizard has to return to the start space to recharge his or her spells. One thing worth noting is that the magic spells in this newest version of Dungeon! are far more powerful. In the original they gave the Wizard a slightly better chance of success. Here it’s far easier.
So with all this in mind, you’re probably wondering why anyone would play a Cleric or Rogue. God knows we never played as Elves or Heroes as kids, except on rare occasions, because we wanted the toughest and most powerful classes. The answer is simple. To balance out their weaker chance to hit and defeat enemies, Rogues and Clerics only need to amass a total of 10,000 Gold Pieces in loot to win the game. Warriors need 20,000 GP and Wizards need a whopping 30,000! This means Rogues and Clerics can hang out in the easier levels of the dungeon (1-3) where enemies are weaker but there is also less loot. Warriors and Wizards will have to go deeper into the dungeon to face tougher enemies and deal with the greater risk and reward. If all four characters stuck only to Level 1, the Rogues and Clerics would almost be assured a win, as they would collect their totals at a faster pace, even though they are the less powerful characters. So basically, things are balanced out with the more powerful classes having to travel farther, face tougher enemies AND collect more treasure in exchange for more powerful abilities. In fact, with all this in mind, if you played according to the rules, the Cleric, with no special abilities or powerful attacks, actually stood the best chance of winning the game. Of course, I’ve never known anyone that played by the official rules. Everyone I’ve ever talked to had some house rule variant going on for this game, which is part of what has made it so popular and endearing over the decades.
Enemies and Treasure are different from previous versions of the game, but mostly in superficial ways. There are some new treasures along with new artwork. The monsters have been completely reworked. There are a lot of new monsters like Dracolitches and Driders, and the rolls for what kills a monster are tweaked as well. How Magic Swords work has changed too. In the original versions of the game, a Magic Sword had a set bonus to your die roll. The further into the dungeon you went, the more likely you were to find a +2 or +3 weapon. Levels closer to the surface were almost always +1 weapons. In the new version of Dungeon!, when you find a magic sword, you roll two dice. You check the result with what the card says, and if you roll high enough, you get a +2 weapon. Otherwise it’s a +1 weapon. Some may not like the randomization, and there are also FAR less Magic Swords in this edition than in other games, with only a single one appearing in Levels 5 or 6. Again, this is a minor quibble that only long time anal fans of the original version will notice or care about.
Let’s take a look at some monsters to better understand how combat works. A sample Level 1 monster is the Goblin. A Rogue needs a 3 or higher (on 2d6) to kill it. A Cleric needs a 4, a Warrior needs a 2, a Wizard needs a 5, a Fireball spell needs 2 and a Lightning Bolt, oddly, needs a 6 or higher. At Level 3, you might encounter an Ogre. Here a Rogue needs an 8, a Cleric a 9, a Warrior a 6, a Wizard an 8, a Fireball a 4 and a Lightning bolt a 5. In the foulest recesses of the dungeon (Level 6), you might be unlucky enough to come across a Blue Dragon. Here a Rogue doesn’t even get a CHANCE to kill it. Nor does a Lightning Bolt. Clerics and Wizards need a 12 and a Warrior needs a 10 or higher. A Fireball needs a 7 or higher, but still, the odds are against everyone here. Of course, with risk comes reward. A sample Level 1 treasure is a 250GP “Sack of Loot.” At Level 3, you might find a Silver Cup worth 1,000GP. At Level 6? 5,000GP emeralds are not uncommon. Again, this balances out the harsher requirements put on the more powerful classes.
Although the game doesn’t contain any of the house rules that have been accumulated and popularized over the past three and a half decades, it does contain some solo rules for playing a single person version of Dungeon! such as “Treasure Hunt,” where you try to survive long enough to find a specific treasure, “Timed Game,” where you try to see how much gold you can amass in a specific time period, and “Become the Hunted,” where a Level 6 monster chases you around the dungeon trying to kill you before you get the allotted amount of treasure you need.
Overall, I’m happy with the game. I’m glad they got rid of the new classes and PvP rules in the 1989 and 1992 versions of the game which really bogged things down. This is a return (for the most part) to the original late seventies and eighties version of the game that was awesome just the way it was. Playing this definitely brings back memories. Dungeon! is still probably best left in the hands of younger gamers, but even older ones can have fun with this very simple and streamlined dungeon crawl. With a price tag of less than twenty dollars, this is definitely a game any fantasy fan should be on the lookout for – especially if you played one of the earlier editions as a child. Nostalgia abounds here.
Fans of The Forgotten Realms RPG setting will be excited to get their hands on an upcoming supplement penned by the setting’s creator, Ed Greenwood, this month. Wizards of the Coast is publishing Ed Greenwood Presents Elminster’s Forgotten Realms, a 160 page supplement (although the sell sheet indicates 192 pages…) for Dungeons & Dragons. The hard cover will be on shelves on October 16th and carries an MSRP of $39.95.
The Forgotten Realms is the most successful and widely known Dungeons & Dragons campaign setting ever created, and it owes its existence to creator Ed Greenwood.
This 160-page hardcover book describes the campaign setting as it lives and breathes in the imagination of its creator. Through the alter ego of Elminster, Archmage of Shadowdale, Ed Greenwood presents the Realms as a setting where companies of crazed adventurers are born and have rich lives, and where they get to call the shots. In this book, Ed presents a world where friendships are forged, endless intrigues unfold, and heroes wage war against the monstrous inhabitants of famous dungeons and untamed wildernesses.
For those FORGOTTEN REALMS fan, this book provides a rare glimpse into the setting as imagined by its creator, with new information on its visible and clandestine rulers, various merchant and trade princes, the churches and mercenary companies of the Realms, renown magic-users and secret societies, adventuring companies, and the web of alliances and enmities that connect them. The book is aimed at all Forgotten Realms enthusiasts, including players of every edition of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game.
As you can see the DCR webpage has changed over the weekend and we are still in the process of redesigning and reconstruction the design and flow of the website. We hope you like the current changes and the changes to come in the next few weeks.
Please let us know what you think of the website and check back often as we will begin to post things both on this blog and our social networking pages.