Friday, April 29, 2016

At Ease Games & Inner Sea Races

When we visited San Diego, we dropped by At Ease Games and checked the place out. This is an amazing store with a great staff and a gaming room that needs to be seen to be believed. Long tables for card gaming with gorgeous artwork. Huge round marble gaming tables and comfortable chairs and an invitation to come down to the store to play. This is a gaming paradise, and it is not to be missed.

The game selection was incredible, and we got lost in shelf after shelf of incredible games and hobbies. They even have war-gaming mixed in with the Magic Cards, card games, Warhammer, Warmachine, Star Wars, and roleplaying games, and some of our old favorites were on the shelves as well. This truly is a special place, and we will be coming back.

They have a magnificent collection of Pathfinder books across one entire wall. I wished D&D 5 had this type of collection, but at this point I am feeling something is slightly wrong with D&D 5 and expansion books. I don't see many books that are purely expansion splat-books, and it feels like this version is heavy on the modules and light on the options. I don't want D&D 4 levels of splat-books and fixes to splat-books, just something beyond the basics.

The Inner Sea Races book is what struck me on this visit, and I had heard it had some not so great reviews. Picking it up, I was struck by the color and detail of the races in this book, the variety, and the background and "placement" of the races in the game world. It really made Golarion come alive, and I wish I had this book when I started playing as it would have given me a lot to work with. I love fantasy races, and I love the conflict and culture they bring to a world.

This book is a must get, and it raises the default Pathfinder setting up a couple of notches above Wizards settings in my opinion. Why? Epic feel. I love the epic feeling this book gives the world, it takes a simple world and elevates it to a World of Warcraft level of races and world shakers. I get this feeling the world is filled with a great variety of incredible and different races, more-so than just the basic Player's Guide gives us, but a real feeling of a deeper "something more" there to the world.

Books like this pull me back into the world and keep me imagining things there.

And stores like this keep me coming back for more as well.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Plane Shift: Zendikar and D&D
Plane Shift: Zendikar was made using the fifth edition of the D&D rules. D&D is a flexible rules system designed to model any kind of fantasy world. The D&D magic system doesn't involve five colors of mana or a ramping-up to your most powerful spells, but the goal isn't to mirror the experience of playing Magic in your role-playing game. The point is to experience the worlds of Magic in a new way, through the lens of the D&D rules. All you really need is races for the characters, monsters for them to face, and some ideas to build a campaign.
No! This feels like the Batman versus Superman of roleplaying supplements, and for the last great world without a roleplaying game it feels like a huge missed opportunity. What Wizards did here was put out a 38-page PDF attempting to mix D&D 5 with a plane from Magic: The Gathering. It reads like a brief player's guide to a larger module, and while it whets the appetite for the experience, I feel it falls short on execution.

Gone is MTG's unique magic system. What I would give to have a unique magic system built for this world - based on the spells in the card game. Get my mage out there tapping elemental sources of magic to cause great destruction and topple foes and kingdoms and it is GAME ON. Have me flinging a Greyhawk or Faerun era magic missile and it feels like a complete and seen-it-before fizzle. We could have had an Exalted-level of power game going on here with great and powerful heroes, but instead we get something that feels like a re-skinned mod.

I don't care if you use the D&D 5 system for this, in fact, I would love it - just not the classes, and not the spells, and certainly don't have me reskinning monsters to make due. I want the real deal. I want MTG the RPG, not the Forgotten Realms playing pretend.

The PDF is too short, and it feels like a feeler or something put out to gauge interest. If it is, I hope they take the time to do this right and use the core of the D&D 5 game to build an epic RPG based completely on MTG. Something I could collect a shelf of books for like Pathfinder. Something I would be excited as the next book covering the next era of MTG comes out and we have tons of new monsters, spells, and character options.

It hurts, because to me and my group, it would feel like an easier task to use a completely generic RPG, buy The Art of Magic: The Gathering—Zendikar art book (and maybe a card guide), and build a homebrew game from that. There comes a point where a generic game would do a better job, because with a generic game you are mostly adding content instead of removing it. I don't want a game that requires the D&D Player's Guide, I want a standalone book. I don't want to be saying, "well ignore this and don't pick that" and attempting to make two books with split personalities work together.

One book (or set of stand-alones), based on one rules system, and let me go at it. Why not? I feel this "don't rock the boat" feeling is way too strong in both D&D 5 and Pathfinder where you can't have a product that doesn't require the main book. Yeah, right, sales and everything - but it feels timid to me. Imagine the sales of MTG the RPG, and then let people pull in D&D stuff as an option because it uses the same rules set. I don't want to be forced to buy and understand D&D to play MTG if I love MTG.

Let MTG players have their own D&D 5 compatible books and join the roleplayers at the D&D table. Don't force them to buy something they may not want, or they have to mod to get working.

To me, it feels like a huge missed opportunity, and a dream game line that I guess only exists as a homebrew option.