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Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Latest Distraction

Settlers of Catan.

I bought my copy five years ago on a whim, never played it, and boxed it away in the garage until last night. It was our usual gaming session, but a couple of the players couldn't make it and after the topic of board games came up, I pulled my dusty Catan box out of storage.

For those of you unfamiliar with this game, here's a bit of an overview. Settlers of Catan is a strategy based trading/resource gain/construction board game where players each control a small group of settlers as they vie for control of an equally small island. The fun comes in the placement of your settlements (only settlements on specific resources can get that resource) and when players are forced to trade for what they need. What resource you get is determined by rolling a pair of d6's and whatever land tile has the matching number (2-12) produces resources for that turn. A roll of 7 (the most common roll possible) enables the roller to steal a resource from another player and block one of their resource tiles.

Since that night, I've played 10 times in the last two days and for a game that you can learn in 10 minutes it has a huge amount of strategy behind it. There's a good deal of luck as well, so even those that are veterans can loose to a totally new player. Amidst the trading, thievery and backstabbing there's a good deal of laughter and at the end of each game I was left thinking two things. 1) where has the time gone? and 2) why haven't I been playing this game the last five years?

So the bottomline? Pick up a copy of Settlers and call some friends if they have a night to burn. Play a game and you'll be entranced, play two and you'll never look back. Well, until next time (where I'll be going into more Pathfinder/RPG related topics) - Avid out.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Ultimate Combat Review

Ultimate Combat has been out for about a week now and after thumbing through the sections, I'm ready to give my opinion on the new class options it provides. As with any good sourcebook, new classes are often the first thing looked at and as such undergo high levels of scrutiny before they are published. UC introduces 2 variant classes (ninja and samurai) as well as 1 brand new class: the gunslinger.

The ninja has been and will probably always be a very
popular icon of stealth and combat for the gaming generation. A common problem RPGs encounter is how to balance out the mechanics of a concept that, at its core, is a one shot, one kill kind of
fighter. Ideally, a ninja should never be seen, smelled or heard while on a mission. The only evidence she should leave behind is the body of her target. In D&D or Pathfinder terms, however, this is often impossible to accomplish. Pathfinder tackled the ninja by basing them off a rogue, giving them a straight progre
ssion sneak attack as well as a ki pool (like monks). This ki pool allows them to do a number of amazing, superhuman feats. They can run along the tops of tree
s (crouching tiger hidden dragon), create shadow clones of themselves (naruto), and even go invisible. The trade off between them and rogues is that they sacrifice trapfinding and verbal subterfuge for an enhanced combat capability. A trade that most PCs would do in a heart beat, making the Ninja class a deadly alternative to the rogue.

The Samurai is the second variant class in Ultimate Combat, and is a spinoff of the cavalier. The cavalier was already, in my mind, similar to an iconic samurai in many ways - namely their honorbound codes and mounted prowess. However, the UC samurai diverges from the traditional cavalier path in a couple very cool ways. The first is their challenge ability, which enables them to call out an opponent on the battlefield, narrow their focus, and gain substantial bonuses when in melee with them. At higher levels, the challenge also imposes penalties on the target if they choose not to attack the samurai. This quasi-tau
nt ability for the samurai is noteworthy because it is one of the few available in pathfinder (2handed tank anyone?). Later on, the samurai gains the ability to shrug off nauseated and sickened effects, and his capstone ability is essentially a last stand, where he can take massive damage without dying. Compared to the fighter or cavalier, he sacrifices a bit of damage output for a hefty amount of survivability and honestly, who doesn't want to play a samurai?

Lastly, UC introduces a new base cla
ss: the Gunslinger, the fighter-type of pistols, the ranger of rifles. Note that in Pathfinder guns are in
credibly basic. They have a relatively high chance of being damaged or even backfired when being used and take a long amount of time to reload. The upside is that all guns have a x4 critical modifier and attacks resolve against touch AC provided that the target is within the weapons range (usually 30 ft). That said, the gunslinger is not to be trifled with. With access to Pathfinder
's newest mechanic: Grit (a rechargable pool of points), they can make their attacks hit touch AC's, reload quicker, and take called shots at a creatures vital anatomy. Certain feat selection can enable them to fire in combat without provoking an attack of opportunity, to fire two pistols at the same time (two weapon fighting) or to even fight with a sword and a pistol at the same time. Because of this diversity, and because guns pack a punch and hit easily (targeting touch), a well played gunslinger can out DPS some of the most heavy hitting classes in the game (archery ranger, twf rogue, fighters and barbarians).

And those 3 classes are only the first chapter! My mind is already salivating at the options of what you can do with your Pathfinder character now -- and I'm regretting not being a monk in my current game (see the feat section when you get the book). Without giving anymore away I hope that I've convinced you to at least read through the book at your local gaming store, or to check it out online (http://

Until next time - AvidPathfinder signing out!

A bit of history

Since I've had to tell the tale a few times now, I decided that this story warranted a posting. For those of you that don't know - in late 2007, Wizards of the Coast announced that they would be discontinuing version 3.5 of Dungeons and Dragons. What followed was a rift between the game's lead designers. Some embraced the idea of a 4th edition to the game, a complete revamp. They would go on to begin production of 4th edition - the edition currently in print by WotC. The rest, however, didn't agree that 3rd edition should be scrapped. They quit their jobs at Wizards, and started formulating a sort of "3.75" addendum to Dungeons and Dragons. This 3.75 would become pathfinder.

So now, in 2011, what has Pathfinder become? A recent online poll showed that more people are leaving 4th edition than ever in favor of Pathfinder. But why? Answering that, and convincing you and your friends to switch over to Pathfinder is one of the goals of this blog.

Pathfinder took the 3.5 edition of D&D and gave it a comprehensive overhaul. Each of the 12 core classes have been changed and refined, a majority of the changes allowing previously unpopular character options (fighters, monks) their own chance to shine. Game mechanics remain the same for the most part, each round consists of a standard, move, swift and free action -- but some of the mechanics have been adjusted.

Grappling has been simplified with the addition of CMD and CMB, Combat modifier defense and bonus respectively. CMD represents how hard it is for opponents to get a hold of your character, to grapple, disarm or trip you. While CMB represents how easy it is for you to preform those actions on your enemies. By removing the complex equations revolving around grappling and other maneuvers, and streamlining them into a simple roll and response stat block, this is one of the huge advantages Pathfinder has over 4th edition.

Also, Pathfinder has introduced a bevy of new and exciting feats, giving characters countless new options for how to spend their standard action. There are new skills, spells and items, and new rules involving each. Hide and Move Silently have become Stealth, and Spot, Search and Listen have melded into Perception. There are numerous other changes I could list, but you're better off to check them out yourself.

All of the Pathfinder books are available at and a complete listing of all current core material (plus short descriptions is posted below). So is Pathfinder better than 4th edition? It's hard to say. Personally, however, I believe so. As this blog grows and evolves I'll be commenting more and more about the pros and cons of each system, as well as highlighting some of the best parts of Pathfinder. If you like what you see here, subscribe and follow and I'll see you next time!

Pathfinder Core Rulebook - This book is both a players handbook and a dungeon masters guide, and includes everything mentioned in the above post.
Pathfinder Gamemastery Guide - This book has NPC options and tons of information for game masters and players, but is mainly for people looking to be better gm's
Pathfinder Bestiary 1 & 2 - Each of these includes hundreds of new (and old) monsters presented in a sleek, easy to read format. They are well organized and can be far more challenging than their 3.5 counterparts. Either book is worth picking up if you're getting into the system.
Advanced Player's Guide - This book contains 6 new base classes for players, as well as new prestige classes, class options, feats, items and spells. A must have for any player.
Ultimate Magic - This book contains a new base class, the magus, the dual weilds spells and a one handed weapon. It also has new spells and spell oriented feats.
Ultimate Combat - Their latest book, it contains 3 new base classes (gunslinger, ninja, and samurai), tons and tons of feats, equipment and some combat oriented variant rules. One attractive part IMO is the called shots mechanic, essentially taking a -5 to -10 penalty on an attack to hit a specific part of the enemy and severely wound them.