Review: Aventyr Bestiary by AAW Games

Aventyr BestiaryAventyr Bestiary is’s newest addition to their growing and impressive library of books for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and believe me when I say this tome is not only gorgeous, it is packed with fun game material. AAW Games Inc has collected some of the best names in the gaming industry as well as the most talented developers of their own products to work on this book. As an avid game master, I love the way the book inspired me with story and encounter ideas, and I can’t wait to work work the material in this book into my next Pathfinder session. If you are a game master who runs Pathfinder, or even if you are a gamer who loves enjoying great game art, go buy this book!

Now, let me tantalize you with the blurb from the back of the book.

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When the Players Break your Story

The Dungeon Master

“However, through defeat you shall find victory.”

As a veteran game master, I am well versed in the adage that you can never plan for everything your players are going to throw at you. My players have definitely thrown me some curve balls through the years. Inevitably, those so called “friends” are going to take your game and just turn it on its head. Months of planning and preparation become so much vaporware, because your hard work is definitely not going to see the dimmed, moody lights of the game table.

So what do you do when that happens?

There is no right answer to that question. There exists an entire spectrum of viable options depending on your players and how comfortable you are rolling with the punches.

You could calmly and politely tell your buddies, “No.” I know that sounds like an old-school, draconian kind of response, but it really is a perfectly fine response when your players have sent you into a tale spin. You have spent an immense amount of time preparing the foundation of a great story to tell with your friends, and its not unreasonable to ask the group to stay somewhat on coarse. The dominant philosophy in popular gaming culture right now is to “say yes,” but like many things in life, playing a game with your friends is not always so cut and dry. I think a good GM will say yes most of the time, but knows when to throw that much needed “no” into the mix.

On the other end of the spectrum is the obvious second choice. Yes! Yes, you can do this totally unexpected thing, no matter the cost. Saying yes is the popular choice at the moment, but too many game masters fail to realize you don’t always have to say yes and a culture of abuse is slowly creeping into the gaming community. Don’t get me wrong. I believe saying yes to my players is an important part of ensuring player agency has as much a chance to drive the story as my own. In improv, we always say yes, and it can lead to some pretty interesting and ridiculous moments. Ridiculous, good word. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

Everywhere in between are various levels of compromise that allow the players as well as game masters to move a great story forward without costing too much of one’s sanity or the other’s freedom of choice.

So why am I musing about this topic? Because after over twenty five years of gaming, my current Deadlands Reloaded gaming group got the best of me and I was caught completely off guard. Without getting too deep in the weeds, I tossed them into a classic Bad Future type of scenario. They had already survived some pretty nasty encounters in The Flood plot points campaign by the Pinnacle Entertainment Group (for those who have played through this campaign, you know what I am talking about). Its not the first time I used this trope, and historically, it has worked well for me. This time, not so much.

So the posse is deep in the future, learning more about what the villains have accomplished in their present, and a dice roll was needed to safely send them home. Out come the dice. The dice roll. The dice roll pretty phenomenally. You have no idea, this dice roll is beyond epic. I don’t remember what the player asked but I remember saying, “So, you can send the group back to the exact moment you want.” What I was thinking was, “the exact moment you left.” Of course, that is not what my players heard and they jumped on the opportunity. “Okay, then we want to go back to just before [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS] happened so we can stop that from happening.”

It caught me off guard. I had a choice. On one side of that decision, I saw a lot of prep time going out the window (not to mention the prep time to prepare the new story). On the other, I saw what seemed like a pretty epic idea (even if it isn’t all that original in as far as time traveling stories go). More than anything, I saw my group light up and get crazy excited about the possibilities the new story had to offer. In the end, that is what decided the matter for me. The prep time is important, it really is, but what is more important is the great time we were having playing a game together.

We spent some time planning what the group intended to do next, and then I cut the session an hour short because I needed time to prep the story to come. Was it the right decision? Only time and the dice gods know, but I intend to have fun finding out.

Review: Pathfinder Dice Set – Iron Gods

I bought a lot of dice at Gen Con 2015. I bought a set for myself, a set for my wife, and a set for all three of my children. Then I bought some special dice for Fantasy Flight Games‘ role playing game, Force and Destiny. Two sets of those special dice as a matter of fact. Like many gamers, buying dice is a yearly tradition at the four best days in gaming. I also decided to finally buy some of the fancy dice made by Q Workshop, and as a fan of the Pathfinder Role Playing Game, I decided to pick up one of the dice sets for the recent adventure path, Iron Gods.

Pathfinder Dice Set - Iron Gods

Pathfinder Dice Set – Iron Gods

The Pathfinder Dice Set – Iron Gods is designed to resemble the Numerian technology featured in the adventure path. The dice are dark, but the markings are light blue which contrasts well. No issues reading the numbers on these dice. They roll well, and I look forward to unleashing them on my players.

All the dice are belong to me!

I give the Pathfinder Dice Set – Iron Gods a 5.0 out of 5.0.

D&D Icons of the Realms: Tyranny of Dragons Booster Pack – Review

Tyranny of Dragons Boosters

Tyranny of Dragons Boosters

As much as I disliked the Icons of the Realms: Starter Set, I am a sucker for miniatures and I decided to pick up one of the Tyranny of Dragons (ToD) Booster Packs. I am very happy I decided to make that purchase because the ToD boosters feature some of the best pre-painted plastic miniatures I have seen on the market.

Since that first purchase, I have picked up two additional boosters and I have yet to be disappointed. The set includes 44 unique minis and all of the ones I have collected so far are interesting sculpts with nice paint jobs.

WizK!ds made some very smart design decisions when they created these minis as well. For example, the dragons can be very large minis with appendages extending well beyond the radius of their base. This can create problems at the game table as they spill over into adjacent positions making it harder to maneuver other miniatures around them. The ToD dragons have all been elevated on very sturdy, clear plastic posts (flying dragons) making them so much easier to use at the table (see below).

Each booster contains 4 miniatures and costs $15.99 which is roughly $4 per mini. This is not a bad price per se, but the quality of these minis is high which makes it a good buy in this GM’s opinion.

I give the D&D Icons of the Realms: Tyranny of Dragons Booster Packs five out of five stars. Well done Wizards of the Coast and WizK!ds!

ToD Dragon

D&D Icons of the Realms Starter Set – Review

Icons of the Realms Starter Set

Icons of the Realms Starter Set

The dragon slowly wakes from its slumber, and deep within the flesh its flames begin to build. Rumors begin to spread across the land saying the wizard has come down from the mountains, and he is looking for heroes. Whispers drift on the winds as the gods call their faithful to arms once again. Players everywhere begin to warm up their dice, while dungeon masters cackle evilly behind their screens.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is here!

The gaming community has been an important part of the playtesting process, but we received our first real taste of “D&D Next” last month with the release of the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set along with the D&D Icons of the Realms Starter Set (pictured to the right). Now the D&D Player’s Handbook and Hoard of the Dragon Queen adventure module have hit the streets (at select stores in the Wizard Play Network) and things are really swinging into motion. While miniatures are not required for all styles of play Wizards of the Coast is doing their part to support those who still enjoy using miniatures at the game table.

Glory Awaits! As do the paints you will need to clean up these minis!

The D&D Icons of the Realms Starter Set includes six miniatures. I picked up a set at the TBS Comics! in the Fort Walton Beach area for $19.99 + tax. Roughly that comes up to $3.70 a mini when all is said and done, a decent price at first glancce. The set includes a gold dwarf female cleric, drow elf ranger Drizzt, a lightfoot halfling rogue, a human female ranger, a Northlands fighter, and a sun elf female wizard. Each mini has a moderate amount of detail adding utility as they can easily be used to represent other types of races and classes without stretching the imagination too far. My only real complaint about the set is I expect a much nicer paint job on my plastic miniatures, especially when we are talking about a $20 price point. The paint job really leaves a lot to be desired with few colors, no highlights, blotchy eyes, and a good number of manufacturing mistakes throughout the bunch.

But are they worth the cost?

Honestly, if you have other options at your disposal I advise you save your money. A couple of the minis are nice (namely, the wizard) but most are a disappointment. I am not even sure I will use some of these until after I have slapped some paint of my own on them, and the dice gods know we have already seen more than one Drizzt miniature in previous sets of minis from WOTC.

Icons of the Realms Starter Set

A motley crew…

Even if you don’t have any minis and you are looking to start your collection, my advice is to shop around and see if you can find this set at a lower price point. Anywhere from $12 to $15 would be more reasonable. If you can’t, then save your money and buy some Pathfinder Pawns or shop for individual minis. You can easily find more bang for your buck out there, and at a higher level of quality.

Oculus is one part inspiration, and one part a convoluted mess

"You see what it wants you to see."

“You see what it wants you to see.”

Oculus is worth seeing, but at the same time it is not.

Half of the cast is excellent, while the other half was horrible (and two of the horrible half are excellent actors in other work, so I don’t know what went wrong here). Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) brought a real range of emotion to the role, and I feel she has transitioned well from her television performances to the silver screen. She really captured the personae of the tortured survivor quite well, and she is the rudder that guides this tale through its better portions. Annalise Basso (Bedtime Stories) and Garrett Ryan (Insidious: Chapter 2) brought their characters to life, and rarely do I feel so tormented about watching child characters suffer through the events of a horror film. I wanted to jump into the film to save them, and I attribute that drive to their talents. On the flip side of the coin, Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, Riddick), as much as I love her, continues to demonstrate she has a certain range she excels at, and this role was beyond her range. Rory Cochrane (Argo, Dazed and Confused) was much better, but never really developed a character that had much impact on me. I am not convinced it was Rory, so much as it was the script he was working with, and possibly the directions he was receiving on the set. Brenton Thwaites (nothing worth noting) was just awful. It is obvious he was cast as a beautiful face to draw in the teen ladies, but the casting director should have checked to make sure he could act first.

The writing was clever in places, and convoluted in others. It is so hard to critique this portion of the film without spoiling the film for you. There is a mechanic they used to tell the story, and honestly, I think it was a very interesting choice. That said, I think the production team got a little ahead of themselves, and the final product gets mired down in too much of a good thing. What worked quite well for the first three quarters of the film, caused confusion in the finale because it was used too heavily. I understand what they were trying to do. I just don’t think it worked out so well in the end.

There are one or two mildly decent scares, but what suspense the movie manages to scrape up is lost in the convolution of how the movie plays out. Ultimately, this is where the film falls apart the most. This is supposed to be a scary movie, and most of it just isn’t. That is what disappointed me the most.

There are things worth seeing in this movie, while there are also things that made me wish I skipped it. Tread carefully.

An Overview of ‘Demon the Descent Quickstart’

Demon the DescentDemon the Descent is the ninth major expansion to the World of Darkness, and the first since the introduction of the revised core rules in The God-Machine Chronicle. In fact, Demon the Descent is an extension of The God-Machine Chronicle’s setting, another facet of the twisted mechanical machinations of the God Machine and its servants. The Quickstart was written and developed by Matt McFarland and it provides an excellent introduction into the new game as well as the new rules.

Players adopt the roles of the Unchained, former angelic minions of the God-Machine who have forsaken their functions and fallen. These newly formed demons must cope with their new existence, not wholly angel or human, while at the same time hiding from the God-Machine and/or finding ways to oppose it. Angels are organized into one of four broad categories called Incarnations, and after the fall the demon retains these features. These include the Destroyers, Guardians, Messengers and Psychopomps. Angels are creatures of divine purpose but demons find themselves stripped of their purpose. This creates a void within the demon, and each adopts an Agenda to fill that void; the Inquisitor, Integrator, Saboteur or Tempter. Although the demon can perceive the gears of the God-Machine and the ancient laws that govern reality, it no longer possesses the intuitive understanding of those laws. Instead, it uses the few memories it retains of those laws, called Embeds and Exploits, to change reality in subtle ways. Each demon hides themselves behind a Cover, their ‘human’ mask, but they can reflexively reveal their demonic form, shaped by seven form aspects, at the risk of drawing the attention of the God Machine.

The Quickstart includes four demonic characters and all the rules you need to portray them as well as a complete scenario to play through called “Honey & Vinegar.” This scenario can be a standalone story or it can easily fit into an ongoing chronicle. Demons utilize the ‘waste heat’ of the God-Machine, called Aether, to fuel their powers. The God-Machine has created an Infrastructure to reclaim Aether for its own purposes, but it requires demons through which to filter the power source. The project is nearly complete and it is time to find those demons. Oh look! PCs coming this way.

Although the Quickstart Rules provide everything you need to start playing, it is but a glimpse into the countless goodies Onyx Path Publishing has packed into the full game. Demon the Descent is tentatively scheduled for release sometime this month. Notice the bold word in the previous sentence. OPP’s new business structure includes a strong dedication to the highest standards of quality, and while they always try to hit their marks, sometimes a product slips in order to maintain that level of quality.

If this product looks interesting to you, drop by DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy for yourself. It is available in both PDF (free) and Print on Demand (for a small printing and shipping fee). Stop back by and let me know what you think of it.