Efficient and effective character builds in Dungeons & Dragons have been a major feature since third edition, if not before then. This following example for 5th edition : How to survive a great fall (1000 meters & over) as level 2 Half Orc barbarian and still walk to tell the tale:
This is just a thought experiment, but I think I have figured out a way for my current PC, which I am basing this idea on to not die from falling off a cliff.
Hi John, welcome to RPG Review. Let us start with a common question, how did become involved in roleplaying games? What were the first games you played and what did you think of them?
I started back in the early 80s with AD&D, I loved it at the time, but can't ever see myself playing any form of D&D again.
What games are you currently playing?
Sadly none at the moment. Until December, I was in a short playtest campaign run by Ben Lehman called Thousand Kingdoms. A few months before that, a three year free-from campaign run by our primary GM ended. She'll be starting a new one in a few months, which will likely last between 2 & 5 years. Other than that until last year I was also in a 2 year long Amber Diceless RPG campaign. Unlike most RPG designers, I vastly prefer playing to running games.
You have an extraordinary list of RPG credits associated with your name; White Wolf and Atlas Games' Ars Magica, Chaosium's Nephilim, Last Unicorn's Star Trek, supplements for White Wolf's Trinity, Exalted, Mage: The Ascension and The Awakening, and others, Green Ronin's Blue Rose, Posthuman Studios' Eclipse Phase... It's an extraordinary range. How do you find developing across such a wide variety of genres, styles, and game systems?
Introduction and Product
As a 192 gloss page hardback Libris Mortis is very well-bound, with a colourful cover piece of a graveyard summoning. The contextual internal art, of colour and monochrome, is of highly variable quality although shows some notable aptitude in creativity; the bored lich is a particularly nice piece as an example. The book comes with a one page table of contents, but no index. The content is in two colum justified serif text with good use of white-space and clearly marked chapter title and page numbers in the margins. As with all books in the edition, the use of black-on-yellow chapter pages is annoyingly difficult to read. The writing also leaves a little to be desired; it is far too vebose, often chatty, and there are an unexpected number of minor typographical errors.
The content consists of seven chapters; Introduction and All About Undead (14 pages), Character Options (17 pages), Prestige Classes (16 pages), Spells (13 pages), Equipment (6 pages), New Monsters (51 pages), and Campaigns (57 pages), which are all pretty much what they say on the tin. As can be easily ascertained, this is primarily a book for new undead monsters and undead campaigns, and the review with emphasise those areas as appropriate.
For its own part, the first major chapter starts of by bringing together various definitions of the undead, and provides an excellent variant rule of 'Haunting Presences'. It also deals with the rather ambiguous issues of undead physiology and does so more as a collation rather than bringing the disparate implementations together. There is all too brief discussions on undead psychology, society, and religion although for the latter the 'Evening Glory' deity of undying love is at least interesting. The chapter concludes with various aspects of fighting undead including knowledge checks, tactics, and of course the time-honoured favourite of ability and level drains that the cold hands deal.
Sometime ago, I became notorious for building Labyrinth Lord campaign settings that were quite lethal to player characters. One of my initial creations, Scarlet Empire, presented the situation where a dark lord has risen, triumphed, and was now ruling the world. The Party began this campaign as prisoners of war from the previous conflict sold into slavery by a Goblin merchant and deployed into a certain trap-filled labyrinth – armed only with their wits – to, well, spring every trap before the merchant sent in the real adventurers. Another example is the setting I publish through Owlman Press – Over the Top – which applies the Tolkien-esq template of Labyrinth Lord to a steampunk, World War One inspired, campaign setting. The thing I found very quickly with Over The Top was that a machine gun nest – even at a cinematic scale of realism – is really effective at killing level 1 parties. This required some special setting rules designed to bring some heroism to Over the Top and avoid a regular total party kill.
Total party kill can be an awkward event for most gaming groups. It effectively ends play for at least that night, which can also mean an entire evening of entertainment goes to waste if it happens early in the session. While poor luck or player-initiated actions (and when I say players, I mean the Game Master as well – there seems to be this strange assumption that the Game Master is somehow not a player at the table. Their role may be different, but they’re still looking to have fun. But that is a discussion for another time) may be all involved in individual or collective character death. There are many common solutions to this from fudging dice for damage rolls, having some sort of deus ex machina occur such as a cleric appear offering an instant resurrection, and so on. However, for my Labyrinth Lord games I started to consider the other possibility. What if play continued after death as dead and departed souls in the underworld?
The underworld itself changes with each campaign setting. But at base, it is a composite of the world itself – meaning that it has a little bit of everything from each vista featured in the game. It generally is inhabited by the dead, gods of the dead along with their aids and helper beings (such as Angels). The underworld does not, however, contain any undead as such. Rather - as the player characters are not ghosts, zombies or the like - the undead are an aberration of the natural cycle of life and dead that occurs in the world of the living. The player characters themselves along with the underworld at large is posed herein as a natural part of that cycle. Aside from that basic premise, there are also some specific rules I engage for Labyrinth Lord characters playing on after their death:
The place: Mawson Station, Antarctica.
Scenario originally run at GenghisCon, Perth, Western Australia, 2015
The scenario: An alien shapeshifter, accidentally released from ice where it has been trapped for centuries, has infiltrated the base by replacing one – and possibly more – of the personnel. The aliens are invulnerable to gunfire, knives, and other conventional weapons, but there may yet be a way to detect and defeat them before they have taken over completely.
The far flung universe of the 41st Millenium of the popular table-top skirmish game series Warhammer 40,000 produced by Games Workshop is indeed a dangerous place. The reaches of the Imperium of Man, as it us known in this mythos spans far and wide across the known universe, each system linked together by precarious trade routes governed by navigators who 'fold space', moving vessels from real space into the immaterium, thus travelling vast distances with relative speed. There are lots of bad thing out there which threaten humankind's survival – races of aliens bent on destruction and conquest, wayward men fallen sway to the chaos gods and the lure of forbidden powers, hordes of daemons that are summoned by chaos worshipers to unleash reckless abandon (did I mention that you pass these whilst travelling in spaceships during fold-space), and mass riots and regicide on the Imperial worlds. That's all on a good day.
In this game universe, in most of its off-shoot games including table-top battles, gang skirmish and role-play games (the later produced namely by Fantasy Flight games under licence), the strongest fantasy references in this series are from the HP Lovecraft variety on forbidden powers and unworldly creatures that present themselves in the 'real word' by being summoned or stumbled upon, but there are some themes of the undead as we might understand from the George A Romero Night of the Living Dead sense (albeit in a high tech distopia) that would threaten mankind in this universe, but themes of the dead rising up again in WH40K are not strictly defined in this way. Well it's not so much the these threats exist as the undead, but more they exist as un-death, and this singular theme is presented in numerous ways. This essay will highlight a few examples of how undeath presents itself from the most threatening, otherworldly sort contrasting to what the typical tv or film audience might accept as the 'undead'.
The first edition of All Flesh Must Be Eaten (AFMBE) is perhaps the most well-known roleplaying contemporary implementation of survival roleplaying game settings, perhaps mainly because of its main antagonist component; zombies. Despite some claims to the contrary, it seems that popular culture has not tired of the zombie apocalypse setting, which really kicked off with 28 Days Later in 2002 and The Walking Dead comic series in 2003. In any case, AFMBE has been a hit and because RPGs are awesome and cutting edge, was published in 1999 before the rest of the world caught up. Two of its fiction supplements (Prometheus Unwound and The Book of All Flesh) have won Origins awards.
AFMBE comes in a 232 page B5 sized hardback with good stitching. The cover art is, unsurprisingly, a bunch of rampaging zombies of average technique. Interior greyscale art is also of the same quality but almost invariably as filler art rather than being contextually bound (the sample characters are an obvious exception). Text is provided in two-columns, justified, with a serif font with boxed elements. There is little waste in white-space yet page numbers and chapter titles are also mostly clear. The table of contents is minimal, but there is a four page index. The book is written in a style that is informal without become chatty, and provides information in a manner that is lucid and fairly precise.
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The twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh issue of RPG Review has been released. Either download the PDF or read online.