Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Stargate D6 System RPG

I'm a big fan of Stargate. I'm not a huge fan of the movie - the idea was great but I thought the actual film was a bit flat - but the TV shows were awesome. SG-1 was great fun, Atlantis was a great companion show and Universe may have took itself a bit too seriously and become a bit thin on impetus in the second season, but it was still a solid show. The characters, stories and adventures were fun and exciting, and I followed it quite closely.

The very premise of Stargate, the idea of a team of people with various skills going from world to world having a series of adventures, screams out for an RPG. I never played the official Stargate game, but as with every science fiction setting I thought the cinematic action of the D6 system was a good fit for the setup.

John Tynes wrote the game for West End Games just before the company collapsed, and he put his unfinished work on his website here. Afterwards, The Snake Farm took the rules and fleshed it out, adding some of Andy Slack's work to fill in the gaps.

What we have is a pretty much fully complete Stargate D6 RPG, and it's a pretty good system, free to download in it's entirety from The Snake Farm here.

All it really needs is some artwork and it's good to go. I'd run it in a heartbeat.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Review - Star Wars Force and Destiny Beta rulebook




By Fantasy Flight Games

The Force and Destiny Beta Rulebook is the precursor to the full roleplaying game due out from Fantasy Flight Games soon. It’s the final book in the series of core rulebooks and it’s probably one that a lot of fans have been waiting for. This rulebook covers the powers of the Force and the people that wield these mysterious abilities.

First off, the cover is really cool and atmospheric. The image of the Jedi Temple with an Imperial shuttle parked outside is impressive and very telling; the Empire control everything, and this former bastion of the Jedi Order is now in their hands, their power gone from the universe. It’s a very good indicator of what to expect in the book.

And what you get in the book is just that – the era when the Jedi Order was diminished and the only two fully-fledged Jedis were hiding on a desert world and a swamp planet. The players get to play force users not at the height of their abilities, but fledgling force users in danger of being hunted and destroyed by the agents of the Empire. If you had any ideas about your PC giving someone a hard stare, igniting your lightsabre and leaping impossibly high into the air to bring untold lasersword destruction on your foes, you may be somewhat disappointed.

The game is written with the idea that the PCs can use the Force and are trying to keep true to the old Jedi way, hunted and constantly in danger. This makes for some great roleplaying opportunities; do you use that power and give yourself away? Are the people trustworthy, or will they sell you out to the Imperials for a few creds? Are your team members trustworthy? It certainly would make for some great drama, but this is Star Wars and jumping about the place Force-pushing bad guys off ledges and blazing a trail through the enemy with a sabre is pretty much a must, surely. This book doesn’t really cover that but that’s not to say that you can’t adapt it to take place in your chosen era, such as the Clone Wars or The Old Republic. It’d take a lot of work but it’s totally possible.

There are new rules for using the Force, as well as a new mechanic about Morality - so that you know if you’re bending to the Light or the Dark side of the Force. This is a nice little mechanic that encourages roleplaying so that PCs don’t just turn into Force-choking killing machines, and it even encourages playing the Dark side of the Force so that you can have a go at being devious and calculating, and even allow for the age-old redemption storyline.

There are six Careers in the game; Consular, Guardian, Mystic, Seeker, Sentinel, and Warrior. Along with these we get Force powers to use, all in line with the original film trilogy.

So, what we have here is a good book with the atmosphere and feel of the previous two rulebooks, with some nice extra rules for Force users but limited access to what a Jedi can really do. The PCs you’ll be able to play will not be as powerful as the Jedi or Sith – heck, they’ll not be as powerful as Luke Skywalker in the movies – but you will get to touch on the all-encompassing Force and create some really good characters and adventures to roleplay out.

This is just a precursor to the full rulebook, but if it follows the same track as the previous books then there won’t be too much difference between this and the final release. If this is the case, then this promises to expand the character options of the gaming group even further, and in turn help to expand the fun you’re going to have with the Star Wars roleplaying game.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Review - Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide


By Wizards of the Coast

Now, I know this isn’t true for everyone, but to me a Dungeon Master’s Guide is one of those things that I always wonder ‘do I really need it?’ This is primarily because of my long history of gaming and the conceited self-aggrandising notion that I already know what I’m doing and I’m pretty darned good at it. Why would I want to spend a chunk of cash to get a book that tells me things that I quite obviously already know? ‘Pocket that dosh and buy more supplements’, I tell myself. ‘You know what you’re doing’.

I just need to get something out of the way, and this is something I’ve addressed in my previous reviews of the first two D&D 5th Edition books; I still don’t like the cover design. The artwork is great, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think the image suits a D&D rulebook cover and the lettering is still plain and uninspiring. That’s been my gripe about all these books – while the insides have been really well laid out with great illustrations, the covers have all been lacking for me. There’s a cracking picture on page seven that would have made a better cover. Trust me, though, that’s just a personal irk and doesn’t reflect on the quality of the interior.

The book is in three sections:

‘Master of Worlds’ for world-building, campaign atmosphere and themes, and the general layout of the worlds of D&D.

‘Master of Adventures’ for adventures, encounters and NPCs. Oh, and magic items. Ooooh, those magic items.

‘Master of Rules’ for those of you who want to reach into D&D’s engine and tinker, along with words of advice on playing the game and different approaches to it, with guidelines on running adventures that’ll stick in the minds of your players.

And this new DM’s Guide is very much that, a set of guidelines to give you some handy pointers so that you’re comfortable and confident in your DMing role. But it’s also so much more than that; in fact, this is more than a tome that helps you along the path to DM mastery with hints and tips on how to run a game, and how to utilise the rules touched upon by the Player’s Handbook. This book gives you the tools to stick your hands into the guts of the system and flail around like a first-year doctor on a rampage. It doesn’t just give you the ability to use the system to the best of its abilities, it also allows you to mix things up and create your own stuff, quick and easy.

You’re getting the normal gaming advice, running adventure tips and extended rules to give the player’s a few surprises they didn’t see in the Player’s Handbook, but you’re getting a whole lot more besides that. You can make changes to the rules and add/take things away that you think might make the game more fun, which in turn enables differing levels of complexity. Want a more basic D&D game? Strip the rules out and play with what you have left. Want to go the way of the rules god? No problem. Just pile in all those optional rules and let the dice fly.

Not only that, but there’s a lot of advice and guidance on creating your own world. This is fun and a great read and gives you plenty of ideas and inspiration so that if any of the new D&D campaign settings aren’t to your liking then there’s plenty of stuff here to kickstart your own world, and the easy-to-use monsters of the Monster Manual will help you populate it no problem. Old hands at worldbuilding might not find much to fuel their already burning creative flame, but newcomers to the idea will find it a great way to start. There’s also an adventure creation section that helps you with the campaigns that’ll no doubt take place in the world you just created, or the D&D campaign world you’re in.

In the appendices there’s this neat little random dungeon generator, which we had a lot of fun with one evening as the DM created the dungeon on the fly and threw in random monsters and treasure as we went along. This felt a little bit like my first days of Basic D&D when we just had fun and weren’t too sure what we were doing and the DM was either struggling to make sense of it all or just winging it. Although it’s really to help design a dungeon before play, rolling the dice to see where we’d end up next was fun and unpredictable for everyone around the table. For a moment – and dare I say it - I thought the game had captured the giddy feeling of excitement and anticipation I used to have in my first days of tabletop RPG, but it was fleeting. Can’t wait to try it again, though.

The magic in the book has a few magic items to play with. And when I say a few, I mean about a hundred pages. Along with the advice in the book that helps you create your own spells, this is a fantastic section that’s going to have players kicking down every dungeon door they see in the hope that they’ll get their hands on some of the things on show. Just let the players have a brief look at the pages and I guarantee that you’ll not have to worry about impetus, motives or reasons to go on that quest. The simple idea that they may get that random item will be enough to send any player character running out that door and into the greater world.

There’s plenty in here that got me excited and will no doubt prove invaluable when I finally begin to run the two-book Tyranny of Dragons campaign later this year, but it’s certainly not for everyone. At the beginning of this review I said that I sometimes wondered if it was worth buying the DM’s Guide, and to be honest I don’t know how much use I’ll get out of this new book before I go back to my old habits and do things my way. The simple fact, for me, is that there’s plenty in this book to help me along with my 5th Edition games and make them a hell of a lot of fun. Not only that, now that I’m much older and my time is precious, the time it takes to create new things with this book is vastly reduced and that suits me just fine. No longer am I labouring over stats, threat ratings and challenges, I’m just throwing a few things together that might make the game fun.

And that’s the thing about D&D 5th Edition as a whole; the game feels fun again. It’s quick and simple, and the rulebooks don’t feel like detailed stat-filled instruction manuals like they used to, but more like an enjoyable read that kind of sits you down and says ‘hey, take it easy, bro – it’s no big deal, just go with it’, and pretty much the only instruction is to do what you feel is right with the game and have fun with it. It doesn’t feel like it’s trying to set a standard that every gaming group must adhere to. It feels very much like a set of guidelines to help a DM and the gaming group as a whole play the kind of game that they want to play.

That’s been my outlook on tabletop roleplaying games pretty much since day one. This final primary book for the D&D 5th Edition rules really is the cherry on the top of a fabulous RPG pudding, and I have a lot of love for it.

So here it is; I’ve not been truly excited about D&D since 1989, and D&D 5th Edition is my favourite edition, period. I’m not into mathematics and I’ve never cared much for game balance, so I know that these books and I are going to be close friends for a long, long time.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Please do not adjust your set...

Farsight Blogger is still here.

Things have been busy over the Christmas and New Year period, and with the long break comes a short period of 'getting back into things'.

I won't be changing the format of the site but I will be adding new content soon. with reviews, interviews and random thoughts.

If you'd like to catch up on some of my tabletop gaming reviews, they are all now available at www.rpg.net, so please click here for the full list of reviews that I've done up to yet.

Be back soon.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Review - Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Beginner Game

By Fantasy Flight Games

It’s December 2014 and there’s a lot of excitement bouncing around the internet at the moment; the Star Wars Rebels cartoon is going great guns and the first teaser trailer for Episode VII has hit the airwaves and created an explosion of buzz and anticipation. Now is the time to get involved in the Star Wars tabletop roleplaying game from Fantasy Flight Games and immerse yourself in the Star Wars universe.

The Age of Rebellion Beginner Game follows the same format as the earlier Edge of the Empire boxset. It’s a step-by step instruction manual for new gamers to the hobby, and serves as an introduction to the new Age of Rebellion rulebook for existing players. With the special dice for the game, cardboard counters (including four for the PCs in the boxset and two extras for the PCs you can download from the FFG website), counters and chips, the rulebook, adventure and a map, you get quite a lot in the box. In total you get the following:

1 32-page Adventure Book
1 48-page Rulebook
1 Introduction Sheet
4 Full-Color Character Folios
1 Full-Color Double-Sided Foldout Map
14 Custom Dice
9 Destiny Tokens, 33 Character Tokens, and 7 Vehicle Tokens


As with the Edge of the Empire boxset you get a decent adventure that should last a few sessions, along with it’s downloadable follow-up ‘Operation Shadowpoint’ to stretch that out, but you don’t get a lot of leeway with the adventure. It really is a set of linear routes and choices that depend on the PCs choosing rather specific outcomes to further the story and doesn’t leave much room for improvisation. That’s fine for a new group who are learning the ropes, but for an experienced group and GM this might be a bit frustrating. Any experienced group worth their mettle should be able to make something of it.

This isn’t a complete game by any stretch of the imagination. Players will find the PCs useful in the adventure provided and may even get some use out of them in other adventures, but the boxset doesn’t really allow for any extended play outside of the limits of the box. Existing gamers may want to skip this and go straight on to the main Age of Rebellion rulebook but completists and collectors, like myself, may want to get their hands on this to complete the set. Regardless, it’s handy for the extra dice, the map and the counters, and the PCs come in handy as templates for NPCs and quick, off-the-cuff characters in case the gaming group is in need of a speedy retainer.

Its basic purpose is to act as a gateway to the full Age of Rebellion rulebook and it’s another avenue for new gamers to get involved in the Star Wars RPG. If the smugglers and ne’er-do-wells of the original Edge of the Empire didn’t attract them, then the allure of fighting as rebels in the Episodes IV-VI setting will surely do so. The clear instructions and step-by-step guidelines make this an excellent introductory game and in that it’s purpose is clearly attained; new gamers will get a lot of fun out of this and get a clear understanding of how the game mechanics work. It will take a lot of other games outside of the boxset for new players to fully appreciate the hobby and the experience of joining an existing group and learning the game hands-on will never be replaced, but this a fine product with excellent production values that will provide a few sessions of fun and frolics, and may even prove useful after it’s initial use.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Review - The Art of Space

By Ron Miller

Published by Zenith Press


I’m going to cut to the chase here – this book is filled with some of the most beautiful and inspiring art I’ve seen for a long, long time. From the earliest images of heavenly bodies to the modern-day digital renderings, and everything in between, this book covers everything.

The five chapters – Planets & Moons, Stars & Galaxies, Spaceships & Space Stations, Space Colonies & Cities, and Aliens – covers art that illustrates what we see in Earth’s orbit to what we imagine in star systems and galaxies far beyond our own. The combination of recreation, concept and fiction takes you on quite a ride and the sheer amount of art can feel somewhat like an overload on the senses. It’s hard not to be fascinated by how the ages before us viewed the stars, or inspired by those who imagine the views from the surface of other worlds.

But, I’m getting well ahead of myself. This hardback book, with a solid binding enabling you to leave the book open without fear of the pages flipping over while you peruse the images, is an attractive piece of work with a suitably impressive science-fiction cover (‘The Rings of Saturn’ by Peter Elson) and wonderful 1970s-style sci-fi title lettering. That may seem a little unimportant, but I feel it set a tone for me, a sci-fi fan from the 70s onwards, and even though science fiction isn’t the driving force behind this book as many of the illustrations are based on fact (or, at least, what was taken as fact at the time), there is a solid offering of speculative artwork. To be clear, though, although there are science fiction elements in this book it’s primary purpose is to show us space art throughout the ages based on what we know - or think we know - about the known universe.

The artwork is printed on glossy pages and the amount of detail is fine for a book of this size, but there are images you wish were much, much larger so that you could drink in the visuals, but where do you draw the line? A small book is out of the question and a poster-sized book is unwieldy and impractical, so I think the coffee-table book approach works just fine.

The Art of Space contains some stunning paintings and covers many things, from the bodies of our solar system, to some incredible starship designs to imaginative images of alien life. For example, the early drawings of the Moon reflect how our views and attitudes towards, as well as knowledge of, our Moon has changed so amazingly over the last century. To see the early images of how we thought the Moon would be, as well as the other planets of our solar system, is fascinating when compared to what we know of the Moon and planets now, and actual images alongside what could be regarded as simple flights of fancy really draws the line between a sense of innocent wonder and practical knowledge.

You get this sense throughout the entire book, as early concepts of what could be beyond our world or how we would get there is brushed aside by the reality of it. This doesn’t mean the early images have no merit – indeed, I found the creativity and energy of many of them very inspirational – and it doesn’t sterilise the impact of modern, practical art based on a more tangible sense of reality. In fact, some of the paintings based on what we know about the universe are just as fantastical and awe-inspiring as the speculative art, in some cases even more so. There’s wonder to be found in both types.

In each chapter there’s also a spotlight on some of the most influential and inspiring artists who really gave a lot to the genre – Chesley Bonestell, Lynette Cook, Pat Rawlings, Don Davis and Wayne Barlow. With a brief background and some of their best work included, these little snippets give you an idea of what drives and inspires artists to create the amazing visuals feasts that they do.

It’s written well and gets to the point, and each piece of art has it’s own description to give the image context. It’s very informative and covers all the pertinent details, and includes some great stories such as the ‘Moon Hoax’ and some observations on certain aspects such as the Soviet poster art. Even though I don’t like the black-on-grey text on some pages as I do not feel it’s easy on the eye, it’s a good read and really adds a lot of depth to the images.

I can heartily recommend ‘The Art of Space’. It’s a great selection of artwork accompanied by some good writing and I can’t imagine anyone not being even partly inspired by the glorious images within.

For me it was perfect because I’m a lover of everything this book has to offer, from the early art of Jules Verne stories to the renditions of starship concepts, planet surfaces and insane but believable aliens. It really did have something of everything for me, and I felt I had travelled the cosmos when I turned the final page. This is a truly great piece of work and a must-have for lovers of this genre.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Preview Trailer - the 13th Age Soundtrack

Here's the trailer for the 13th Age Suite by James Semple and his team of fantastic composers and musicians.

I'll be reviewing this soon, but I can tell you now that this will be many-a-gamer's go-to music for a very, very long time.

Review - The Art of Dragon Age: Inquisition

Publisher: Dark Horse

Review by Richard Williams

I have wished for a Dragon Age artbook for as long as Dragon Age has been around. It baffled me that there should be such fantast
ic art books for Mass Effect and nothing at all for this icon of fantasy RPG gaming. Now, finally, Dark Horse have gotten around to addressing this missing element of my collection and I can say that it is everything I hoped for. This is a lovely, big, beautiful book which somehow manages to look bigger than it is whilst still being larger than most other concept art books.

The layout seems a little haphazard at first, I'm not sure if the book has been tackled in sections as they are discovered in the game, and so there are no 'character', 'locations' or 'monsters' chapters. Instead it's this wonderful melange which keeps the book fresh and interesting as you work your way through it.

There are several different art styles on display here ranging from a fine art approach to something closer to a comic book. But all of it is excellent. The locations in particular are gorgeous and inspiring and I just can't wait to get stuck into the game and explore them in depth. Likewise the architectural designs that make the real world seem unbearably dull by comparison.

One of the things I like most about the Art of Dragon Age is how thorough the creators have been. There is barely an element of the game's design which has been left out. Banners, tables, curtains, weapons, statues, thrones - it's as though they have tried to fit the entire world of Thedas into this one book. On top of this is the extensive iterations which comprise the design process, in particular regarding characters. There are pages of costume and armour designs and they are just a joy to look at. At several points in the book there are also storyboards so this really is opening the doors onto the work that went into designing the game, not just showing off the lovely art.

This point is carried across with the accompanying text. Normally in art books this is used to let the artists explain what they have drawn and perhaps explain why and what they were going for. With The Art of Dragon Age the text is more about the work carried out by the art department, techniques and processes, and less about the actual pictures on the pages. On the one hand this is good because it gives you a greater insight to the work that the art team creates but on the other hand I like to know about the pictures I'm looking at. I'm also not too pleased about the fact that the only place in the book where the artists are credited is at the very start along with the books publishing details and 'special thanks to...'. I'm a fan not only of the art but of the artists and I much prefer to see an artists name next to their work, or least somewhere on the page.

But this is my only real problem with The Art of Dragon Age. Dark Horse make excellent art books and they have done so yet again. If only they would produce similar books for games 1 and 2! (seriously Dark Horse, if you're reading this, my money's just begging to be spent on such books).

To sum up: I can hardly praise this book enough. The art is outstanding, the detail is breathtaking, the book itself it excellently made and if there were a prize out there for 'concept art book of the year' then this would be serious contender. If concept art books are your thing, then this book is for you.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Review - Assassin's Creed Unity: Abstergo Entertainment Employee Handbook

Inline image 1By: Christie Golden
Published by Titan Books

Review by Richard Williams


I wasn't really sure what to expect when I opened my new Abstergo employee handbook and was thus very pleasantly surprised. There's plenty of really nice artwork throughout the book taken from all of the games (although largely from Black Flag and Unity) and the accompanying text is both well written and informative. Characters from the games are cast in a new light, the assassins now bloodthirsty anarchists while the Templars are glowing models of decency, and we can see the ideas that have been kicked about the Abstergo office for other time periods to explore. The only down side of this is that it might make you wish they had been made.

Occasionally there are little pull-out goodies (letters, pictures, etc) which are well made and add an extra dimension to the book and the way the book is laid out, divided by sections as in a real company handbook, is fitting and a nice attention to detail.

One of the things I like most about this book is the subtle undercurrent of the Templar's true intentions. While the book talks in glowing terms and with an eye towards the glorious future that technology will bring there are little clues to Abstergo's real motivations written between the lines. Health monitors that record your every heartbeat and bead of sweat and Abstergo's plans for Fluoride+ (Google 'fluoride' and 'conspiracy' and you'll see why this is funny) are just some examples and I appreciate the extreme subtly used by the author with many of the other 'beneficial technological developments'.

This is not a big book but is is colourful, fun and well thought out and fans of Assassin's Creed will get a kick out of it. Ideal present material, in my opinion.

- Richard Williams