Pathfinder Second Edition

Saturday, August 31st, 2019 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Pathfinder2EAs has been the case for the last few years, this year’s big Gen Con release was from the folks at Paizo. Two years ago we got the release of Starfinder. Last year was the release of the Pathfinder Playtest. And this year the Pathfinder Playtest reaches its fruition with the release of Pathfinder Second Edition, released into the wild at the beginning of August.

The gamer fanatics that we are here at Black Gate, we’ve been interested in this since Pathfinder Second Edition was first announced.  Last fall, I covered the Pathfinder Playtest, and most of the basic game mechanics introduced in the playtest stayed constant in the Second Edition release, even if some of the specifics changed.

The pacing is one of the best aspects of Pathfinder Second Edition. The action economy of having three actions each turn, and different tasks taking different numbers of those actions, helps keep players and the gamemaster moving smoothly through the turns. Each character can track their most common actions, based upon their character build, so that they can easily keep track of their options in the action economy.

The character design in Pathfinder Second Edition is around accumulating feats – ancestry & heritage feats, class feats, general feats, and skill feats – that allow for a wide range of diversity. Some of these feats also unlock uncommon task types, which players without those feats aren’t able to access. This keeps the distinctive customization that has really become the hallmark of the Pathfinder RPG over the last decade.

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Not Your Typical Hero

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

God of war

Good morning, Readers!

On occasion, I review video games for the site chalgyr.com. It’s really just a small thing I do every so often, when I’ve finished playing a game.  Currently, I’m working my way through Far Cry Primal, and enjoying it immensely. Not too long ago, though, I played through the latest iteration of God of War. I enjoyed the older God of War games on a very surface level. I moved my avatar, rage-incarnate, Kratos, across the screen and used him to utterly obliterate my enemies. I felt nothing for Kratos, and despite cut scenes that were designed to make him at least a little sympathetic, I wasn’t particularly attached to his story. There is nothing compelling or appealing about the embodiment of toxic rage. I played for the mayhem and the silly fun.

Then came old man Kratos and his son, and everything changed.

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A Time for Heroes: The Not-so-Secret Premise Behind World of Aetaltis

Tuesday, August 20th, 2019 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

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I’ve been pretty excited about Marc Tassin’s Aetaltis for years, and I’m thrilled that his Kickstarter has launched at last. Once you hear his take on heroes, you’re likely to be interested yourself. Take it away, Marc!

The world needs heroes. This is the simple premise upon which I built the World of Aetaltis. Especially today, at this moment in history, we need reminders that with the will, the desire, and the determination, one person truly can make a difference. And I don’t mean at the super-heroic level, where larger-than-life protagonists save the entire world with their daring. I mean right here, right now, where one small act of courage can change even a single life for the better.

That is why I chose to launch a new heroic fantasy setting at a time when anti-heroes rule and shades of dystopia permeate every story. Because I don’t think we’re tired of heroes. In fact, we need them now more than ever.

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Support the Hyperborea: Otherworldly Tales Kickstarter

Sunday, August 11th, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

THE LOST TREASURE OF ATLANTIS-small THE SEA-WOLF'S DAUGHTER-small

It’s hard to believe that I reviewed Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea right here seven long years ago. Since then it’s produced a revised and updated Second Edition, and become one of the most beloved independent RPGs on the market. I’m not the only one to fall in love with the system; Gabe Dybing interviewed creator Jeffrey Talanian for us back in 2016, and here’s what Howard Andrew Jones said on his blog in 2017:

The new Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea is a thing of beauty, a work of art. I spent thirty minutes last night just flipping through and soaking up all the artwork. If it’s not THE go-to sword-and-sorcery rpg at this point, it’s tied for first place. It just oozes the right vibe.

Now Jeff’s gaming company North Wind Adventures has launched a brand new Kickstarter to fund two new adventures, The Lost Treasure of Atlantis and The Sea-Wolf’s Daughter. Here’s what Jeff tells us about them.

Dear fellow Black Gate enthusiasts and fans of Clark Ashton Smith, Robert E. Howard, and H.P. Lovecraft: Do you like swords-and-sorcery and weird-fantasy role-playing game adventures? Well, North Wind Adventures, makers of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, have two new adventure modules coming out soon! Find out all the details here.

The campaign has already more than doubled its goal of $9,000, with seven days to go. It’s not too late to get on board — pledge right here, and check out all the recent goodies from North Wind Adventures in my 2018 Gencon report.


The Games of Origins Game Fair

Monday, July 29th, 2019 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Shadowrun Sixth World Box-smallMy first science fiction convention was 2001’s Eeriecon III, in Niagara Falls, NY. This was a literary convention, where almost all of my time was spent lapping up the wisdom of authors and scientists, discussing worldbuilding, sociology, magical systems, story structure and narrative, and all manner of other things of interest to writers, both old pros and aspiring novices.

These days, I make less of those literary conventions, and have migrated more into gaming conventions with the family. Less intellectual stimulation, perhaps, but it’s a much more active environment, with more to do. And though the intellectual discussions are perhaps not as rigorous (rule lawyering aside), there is no shortage of mental stimulation … let alone sensory stimulation … at these gaming conventions.

The most recent of these gaming conventions I attended was the mid-June Origins Game Fair, in Columbus, OH. This was my second year making that convention, and I’ve got to say that I somewhat prefer it to the more overwhelming GenCon. There is a bit less spectacle, a bit less overt consumption (you can, for example, actually walk through the exhibit room without colliding into people … usually), and more of an emphasis on just playing fun games.

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What Skyrim Can Teach Us About World-Building

Tuesday, July 16th, 2019 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

Skyrim Banner

Good morning, Readers!

No one who knows me is surprised when I say I love video games. I’ve written about them previously for this very site. I think it’s hard to overstate just how much I adore video games (specifically narrative-focused games). The one game that got me to buy my first console and actually dive head-first into gaming was Bethesda Studio’s epic addition to their Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim.

This open world game lets you go anywhere, and do pretty much anything. Best of all, it has dragons (which you can kill and steal their souls to fortify your own powers [insert evil laugh]). Loving video games, but without a PC (my home computer is a Mac) or a console, I resorted to watching other folks have fun with them on YouTube. I stumbled across a Let’s Play of Skyrim, and after three episodes, I knew I had to play it for myself. I saved like a madwoman, bought myself a console, and Skyrim.

And I was never heard from again (not really.  I did not ignore my responsibilities… but it was close!).

Skyrim proved to be everything I had been promised. It was epic in scope, the combat was fun, the dragons were amazing, and it let you play however you would like.

For the record, I always play in first person, and my build is always a bosmer (wood elf), whose strengths lie in archery and sneaking. There’s something ridiculously satisfying about sniping fools from the shadows with a good bow.

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Torg Eternity: The Aysle Sourcebook Interview

Tuesday, July 9th, 2019 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Torg EternityAbout a year ago I reviewed Torg Eternity, the reboot from Ulisses Spiele of the Torg tabletop role-playing game. I loved the original, one of the most wildly imaginative settings I’ve ever seen, and found the new version kept the best parts of the old Torg while making the mechanics smoother (I wrote up a session here). The game imagines our world attacked by other realities, each based on a different genre of fiction, which invade by making parts of our world operate according to their rules — increasing or decreasing the level of technology, adding magic or psionics or manifestations of the gods, and subtly encouraging people to behave in ways appropriate to their genre.

Now dinosaurs wander the jungles and mysterious ruins of the North American coasts. A cyberpunk theocracy’s taken over France. India faces colonial gothic horror. Splatterpunk technodemons in Russia have spawned a wasteland north of Moscow haunted by scavengers and monstrosity. East Asia sees zombies and bleeding-edge technology enveloped in espionage schemes. A maniacal pulp-era supervillain’s launched a New Nile Empire based in Egypt, opposed by masked Mystery Men. And in England and Scandinavia, wizards and elves and dragons are caught in a war between Light and Dark.

In the last year, two wildly successful Kickstarter campaigns have launched sourcebooks covering specific realms: first the lost-world realm of the Living Land, then the pulp reality of the Nile Empire. Now a third campaign has begun, for the sourcebook covering the fantasy realm of Aysle. I interviewed the Torg Eternity design team about the new book, how it approaches the fantasy genre, and what gamers can expect.

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Raiders and Rogues in a Cursed World: Forbidden Lands by Modiphius

Saturday, June 1st, 2019 | Posted by John ONeill

Forbidden Lands Modiphius-small Forbidden Lands Modiphius -back-small

While I was at the Spring 2019 Games Plus Auction, I took the time to shop around in the New Arrivals section, since Games Plus is probably the best-stocked games store I’ve ever visited. As usual, I picked up a few magazines and the latest issues of Jolly Blackburn’s excellent Knights of the Dinner Table comic. But there was another game that caught my eye: Forbidden Lands, a boxed RPG developed by accomplished Swedish development house Fria Ligan (Free League in English), makers of the excellent Coriolis science fiction game, as well as the acclaimed Tales from the Loop and the upcoming Alien Roleplaying Game, and distributed in the US by Modiphius.

What drew me to Forbidden Lands? Truthfully it was the cover art by Simon Stålenhag, and the impressively sized (and heavy!) box. Once I picked it up however, it was the back-cover text that fired my imagination.

In this open-world survival roleplaying game, you’re not heroes sent on missions dictated by others — instead, you are raiders and rogues bent on making your own mark on a cursed world. You will discover lost tombs, fight terrible monsters, wander the wild lands and, if you live long enough, build your own stronghold to defend.

Last thing I need is another fantasy RPG crowding my shelves, especially one in a generic fantasy setting. But the evocative text sold me on the promise of a dark world far-removed from routine high fantasy tropes, and characters that sounded a lot closer to sword & sorcery archetypes than I’m used to. The price on the box was $49.99, and I decided to take a chance.

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Like a Phoenix from the Ashes, City of Heroes Returns!

Monday, May 27th, 2019 | Posted by Thomas Parker

(2) City of Heroes-small

In the world of superheroes, nothing is less permanent than death. Just ask Superman; his demise in 1992 was one of the biggest news stories of the year, at least for the kind of easily bamboozled person who doesn’t actually read comic books (like the editors of Time Magazine). The more sophisticated were not fooled however, and rightly so. Superman was only in the ground for a little longer than your average basketball season.

This being so, it should come as no surprise that an entire universe of heroes and villains should return to life almost seven years after completely vanishing in a cataclysmic climax that can still bring tears to the eyes of those who were there at the end, but an enormous surprise it was. The comic book immortality principle notwithstanding, it really did seem as if that universe, the world of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles and the alternate dimension of Praetoria, was truly gone forever. But if comic books can teach us anything, it’s that the impossible is possible and that for the brave and pure of heart, no defeat is final.

In other words, City of Heroes, the legendary and beloved superhero MMORPG (that’s Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, a phrase even uglier and more graceless than its acronym), which ran from April 28th, 2004 until it was shut down by NCSOFT on November 30th, 2012, is back!

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NASCRAG: 40 Years at Gen Con

Sunday, May 5th, 2019 | Posted by David Mitchard

The Book of Nascrag-small

If you’ve ever been to Gen Con, you know it can be an overwhelming experience. More than 50,000 people surge through the halls of the Indiana Convention Center and Lucas Oil Stadium, attending thousands of individual events, often at the tops of their lungs. It’s a gathering that’s grown exponentially from its humble roots as a wargaming get together in the Horticultural Hall in Lake Geneva to become the premiere game convention in North America.

Not much remains of the early Gen Con these days. Its heart is the same as always, of course. Gamers who want to spend time with other gamers. A community of folks who think a little differently than the mainstream. But the particulars have evolved over the years. In addition to the wargames and board games and roleplaying games, there are video games, cosplay, collectible card games and so much more. And gamers aren’t outcasts these days. The crowd is a mix of races and sexes and orientations that the gamers of the 70’s could not have imagined. Good signs of a healthy and still developing hobby. But if you look very carefully, amidst all the hub-bub and growth, you can still find a few things that have endured.

One of those enduring things is NASCRAG; the National Association of Crazed Gamers. NASCRAG is a gaming group that has been putting on RPG tournaments at Gen Con since 1980. Think about it; 2019 will be our 40th consecutive Gen Con.

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