In Praise of ABC’s Galavant

galavant-poster-fullGalavant is ABC’s musical comedy that airs over a 4 week period. I watched last year when it came out, as light-hearted, and comedic fantasy TV is rare and doesn’t come up often.

I absolutely fell in love. It’s a wonderfully comedic blend of Monty Python, Mel Brooks and Disney, and if that doesn’t sound like something deserves your immediate attention, i don’t think I can’t help you.

But I’m gonna try.

It was hands down the best thing I saw on TV all year. The story is pretty basic at the very start, but I can have you just watch the intro. Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

That’s not even the best song. Somehow I missed the the premiere of the second season (I still haven’t forgiven myself), probably because Galvant’s original renewal was probably the surprise of television for me as it’s ratings were…mediocore. But Galavant is everything that is right with fantasy, music, and enthusiasm for the arts in a single 21 minute package delivered twice a week.

If it’s not absolutely clear to anyone, I’m a huge fan of fantasy. I play roleplaying games, I read fantasy novels, and this blog is called The Last Paladin. I don’t know how else to telegraph my love of fantasy to the world.

What Galavant is, is a fresh breath of air in a stale, grim and hard era of fantasy. It takes all the ideas that make up shows like Game of Thrones, and turns them into rousing musical numbers, witty one-liners, and delightfully cliche tropes that breathe new life into a genre that was desperate for something like this.

Every half hour episode has three musical numbers, and brilliant guest stars abound at every corner.

The second season did the right step, and instead of simply following the same old song and dance (I’m not even sorry I did that), it takes bold forays into new territories. Zombies, expertly executed spoofs of famous musicals like Grease, West Side Story (Dwarves vs Giants, anyone?), and Menken’s work on Disney and others, resound throughout. Even those in the cast who can’t carry a tune as well as others get their songs, and they’re positively brimming with enthusiasm.

The passion and joy of the cast carries through in the show, and when the first episode of the second season opens, the tongue in cheek surprise at renewal and joy of being back carries through.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Galavant has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating for the second season, and it’s well deserved.

The last two episodes air this Sunday (on my birthday! Thanks ABC!). While I love shows like Netflix’s Daredevil and Jessica Jones, and of course HBO’s Game of Thrones, Galavant is the only show I will spend this year raving about to everyone.

I look forward to spending Sunday night enjoying the Season 2 finale, and then fervently hoping that ABC will give me one more season to enjoy.

Watch @GalavantABC. You won’t regret it. Buy it on Amazon Video, watch it on Hulu, get it on BluRay, but whatever you do, do yourself the biggest favor you will this year, and binge watch Galavant.

 

 

RPG Review: Age of Rebellion from Fantasy Flight Games

Age_of_Rebellion_Core_RulebookAlright. We’re back for part 2 of my Star Wars Review Trilogy (wow).

This time it’s Age of Rebellion up for review (following Force and Destiny). Age of Rebellion is set in the time-frame preceding the Original Star Wars Trilogy, much like Force and Destiny, but with a very focused look at The Rebellion, and the soldiers, diplomats, and such that make it up. Age of Rebellion came out before Force and Destiny, and after Edge of the Empire, so it appears we’re taking a reverse viewing of these books, back to the beginning!

This book is being reviewed after 4 weeks of a Star Wars campaign powered by this system, so it’ll have a more nuanced look at the rules.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

Much like Force and Destiny, Age of Rebellion is a 440ish page hardcover that retails for 60$. The interior is full-color, and the layout and graphic design are great. It’s pretty clear this book is in the same line as F&D and you’d be hardpressed to find difference in the layout.

8/10


2.) Artstar_wars__age_of_rebellion___setenna_hase_by_anthonyfoti-d7r3avd

Much like F&D, the art is fantastic. Top notch art direction set in the Star Wars universe captures the feel of the setting, and imparts a definite and different feel than it’s successor.

10/10


3.) Content and Rules

 

In my Force and Destiny review, I discuss my views on their dice mechanic, so I won’t replicate them there.

In a lot of ways, this book is almost identical. You have six careers, each with 3 specializations. The Jedi focus has been replaced with a focus on soldiers, commanders, and military minds, and the game has a very strong bent towards rules that enable you to buff allies, lead troops, and conduct tactical plans before combat begins.

It’s got a very militaristic style of campaign, with missions, objectives, and more like that. I don’t think the game suffers for it, but it’s certainly a game that requires a particular desire to play in that sort of campaign.

Morality from Force and Destiny has been replaced with Duty, a focus on what drives your character to join the Rebellion, and also impacts the level of equipment you can requisition.  It’s entirely possible that I misread the intent behind this section, but it appears that as you increase your Duty, you get access to better equipment, less oversight, and more.

Additionally, the Duty mechanic requires the Gamemaster to focus on a particular group member’s duty each session, which seems like it could cause a issue, if the duty can’t be easily slotting into the campaign story the GM wants to tell.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

 

The GM section is very similar to Force and Destiny, and delivers the same tone. My only issue is I wish it would have delved a bit into the make of the military arm, political arm, and espionage arm of the Rebellion, and given me some terms, and more detail regarding that.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

The premade adventure is a very military-esque mission, focused on the needs of the Rebellion and very basic and easy to play. It’s fairly uninspired, and it didn’t grab me as much as the pre-made in F&D did.

5/10


Total Score: 37/50

 

Not quite as good as Force and Destiny, and the more I’ve played this game/its counterparts, the less enamored I am with it. The mechanics are very good, but the multitude of symbols makes the game difficult for newer players to grasp quickly, and the spending of said symbols additionally causes similar problems.

If you like Star Wars, and non-Jedi characters, and are going to play the FFG game, this book is a must have, and you won’t regret getting it.

LTUE Convention Appearences

This year, I will be presenting at LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everthing) in Provo, Utah.

I only have 4 panels this year, but last year, they added some at last minute notice, so keep an eye out and I’ll be around.

Here are the panels I’m on:


Managing a Giant Project: The Highs and Lows of Creating Planet Mercenary

Thursday: 10 am to 11 am

Room: Birch 

This will be the Planet Mercenary RPG team (Howard Tayler, Sandra Tayler, and yours truly) where we talk about the struggles, successes, and lessons we learned from Kickstarting the number 4 RPG last year. (Truth: See it here)


Tropes in Games

Thursday: 11 am to 12 am

Room: Zion

Description: “What is it about princesses that makes them so kidnappable? Does Chekhov’s gun really have to go off? This panel will examine the many tropes in games.”


Indie Game Development

Friday: 10 am to 11 am

Room: Olympus

Description: “How do you develop a game outside of a major publisher? This will cover different aspects of development, play testing, and marketing.”


Board Game Design

Friday: 5 to 6 pm

Room: Olympus

Description: “The process from start to finish of creating a board game.”


 

Look forward to seeing you there!

RPG Review: Force and Destiny from Fantasy Flight Games

650x650_c13baceb7d11ef628be0d2c5ead3e94f4b5040456b3ed0559772cca5Well. Force Awakens is out. Star Wars is on the forefront of the pop culture consciousness in again. So I’m going to review the 3 corebooks of the 3 lines of Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPGs: Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion, and Force and Destiny.

Also I got all 3 for Christmas, and since Force and Destiny deals with a subject dear to my geek heart, it’s first. That subject is Jedi, that awesome combination of mystical laser sword wielding samurai, and paladins.

That’s right. Space Paladins.

At the time of this review, I’m running a Star Wars campaign using these books, so I’ll be reviewing them with an eye towards that purpose more than I usually do.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

Force and Destiny is a massive 440+ page, full color, hardcover book. And it’s heavy. Pages are thick, well constructed. My only concern was the fact that after I’d received the book, and opened it for reading, I can already feel the binding starting to crack and give way. Little concerned for the life span of such an expensive book. Buying it would be 60$ just for a replacement.

8/10


2.) Art

The art in the book is fantastic. Simply stellar art, both displaying familiar and new characters. There’s excellent depictions of various game states, character options, and species. The variety is just astounding, and I don’t think a single piece was a miss for me. Plus lots of Jedi art is always great.

10/10


3.) Content and Rules

FFG’s Star Wars ruleset is…interesting. It’s an excellent example of the “fail forward” mentality that is gaining more and more traction inside the RPG design industry. The system is a little less intuitive than others I’ve read and played, but after a few minutes and reading the play through examples a few times, it flows really smoothly.

My only complaint with the execution and intent of the rule system is the need for special dice. The book does have a table for conversion of the custom dice into regular dice, but it involves a much more time consuming study of your roll, instead of the speedy narrative result one would like to see. I feel like purchasing the dice for this game is pretty essential to a good experience (at least in my opinion).

The inclusion of the “Morality” system to determine your character’s strengths, weaknesses, and where they fall on the “Light/Dark” spectrum of the Force is exceptionally well done. It competes for the best morality style system I’ve seen implemented in an RPG.

The spread of character classes (6 classes, each with 3 specialties…I’ve seen that before…) is deep. Each character class has 1 “Lightsaber combat” specialization dedicated to the combat aspect of the lightsaber. The other two specializations are dedicated to other parts of the archetypes the class fulfills.

Example: Warrior Class has 3 Specializations: Shii-cho Knight, Starfighter Ace, and The Aggressor.

It works pretty well in execution, allowing for a focused and trained starting character. The rules for switching between Specializations are well done and fairly easy execute, allowing for a good build of your character into your preferred idea.

The biggest deterrent regarding the content of the book is the lack of a “1 Page Character Creation” reference. The rules for creating a character are spread over several dozen pages, and require a lot of flipping around and searching in text for rules regarding how skills and talents are acquired and spent.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

In a book that is so focused on the “fail forward” idea of gameplay and interpreting unusual dice results, the GM section is the most important tool for imparting how to leverage the results you get, and this book doesn’t disappoint. It’s full of great advice and more than enough ideas to turn the game into a great story opportunity.

It’s well done and useful. It’s not perfect. There’s a few things that assume you know RPGs and in a IP this popular, I think you’d wanna be a little more new player friendly.

9/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

The pre-made adventure in the book links to the one in the GM screen, allowing for you to have players gather the components to make their lightsabers, and explore the history of the Jedi order and what the Force is. It’s exceptionally well done, and works greatly in tandem. As a stand alone intro adventure, it is still excellent, but does lose a bit of its “oomph”.

8/10


Total Score: 42/50

This is a pretty good score, as it should be. It’s an excellent book that completely captures the essence of Star Wars. Historically, I am unsure how it holds up to legacy items like the WEG Star Wars (I’m putting that on the calendar for a retrospective sometime soon), but Force and Destiny is a book I’m proud to own and have on my RPG shelf.

Having ran the game, it flows well. My biggest complaint, is that the game gets bogged down in “Spending” these symbols the custom dice generate, and that can slow the nature of combat.  A simple half-page cheat sheet, published for free by FFG would alleviate that problem and remove most of my worries.

RPG Review: Mummy – The Curse from Onyx Path Publishing

111598One a roll with these RPG reviews, eh? That’s what reading a book every night will get you I suppose. Today’s review is 2012’s Mummy: The Curse from Onyx Path Publishing

I’ve been playing in the new World of Darkness (Now named Chronicles of Darkness) for about ten years, and I have almost as much experience with some portions of the Classic World of Darkness (specifically Vampire: The Masquerade, Dark Ages, and Hunter: The Reckoning).

I didn’t back the Kickstarter of this game, and purchased my copy from print on demand.

I would like to preface this review with a very important caveat: I loved the idea of this game, and I intend to run it. However, don’t know if I will love this game after I run it, and that concerns me (you’ll see that reflected in my review below).


1.) Size and Production Quality

The book is standard RPG size, and fairly solid on page count (286). The interior is color technically, but seems to stick to sepia tons, and no real color outside of that.  The cover is very minimalist, like any White Wolf/Onyx Path production, and fits.

The print on demand quality of the pages is good enough, but they do feel a little thin.

Here’s the real point knock. Some of the fonts chosen in the book are practically unreadable. There’s whole sections of flavor and story that I can’t read because it’s too much work and strain to try to piece together what it’s saying through the terrible font. No good. Having whole pages unreadable is exceptionally frustrating.

6/10


2.) Art

The art is solid, (as any OPP/WW production, again), and is fairly rife with Egyptian themes, mummies, and entertaining illustrations of the powers and abilities mummies wield. The sepia tone was a little too much for me, and it obscured some detail on pages I wanted to see, but overall, it was well done.

8/10


3.) Content/Rules

Here’s where the game both shines and struggles. The explanation of where Mummies come from (proto-Egypt, cosmic magic, spiritual journey to face the very core of your identity), is intriguing, excellent and provides great fodder. The idea of the Judges, missions, and continually being reanimated as this sort of “immortal troubleshooter” on Earth is clever, fits the theme well and very fun. The overall setting was a joy to read, and I loved every aspect of it.

The powers Mummies can wield are fantastic. They’re thematic, powerful, interesting, and cleverly designed. However, it seemed that a good number of them are fairly rules heavy, and lack some of the “single roll resolution” that I loved about previous nWoD/CoD games. Without a reference/cheat sheet, they could quickly become unmanageable.

The reason they can become unmanageable, is due to the sheer power that Mummy’s start at. In a twist on the regular World of Darkness, where creatures grow in strength over time and experience, Mummies start the game at the height of their power, and dwindle and diminish over “The Descent“. You start as what might be one of the most powerful beings in the World of Darkness, and as you strive to accomplish the mission that awoke you, you slowly lose your power to do so.

The idea of no memories is excellent, and the use of Memory as a stat to drive roleplaying and growth is well done, and well delivered.

Here’s the bad. Players get little to no say in the background of their character, and instead, learn it as the Storyteller unfolds it throughout the game. This puts the onus of story telling, creation, and almost ALL of that on the Storyteller. Player’s can only react, and try to learn what their characters are and mean without a lot of guidance at times.

The sheer power level Mummy’s start at will make the game challenging for new players to the World of Darkness, and I can see them quickly becoming overburdened and overwhelmed.

Now again, I haven’t ran it yet, this is a read-through review. It’s possible in play this issues would melt away, and it would work just fine. But the idea of running and starting a Mummy chronicle I find daunting, even after a read through.

5/10


4.) Game Master Section

Well, if a game ever needed a GM Section, Mummy: The Curse is one. The big twists of the Mummy setting are here, and and you discover that as player’s powers grow, and memories return, the setting has a BIG SECRET that they can find out. The book prefaces this section with a “GM ONLY” warning, and that warning fits. All of the GM advice works, and in practice, would help alleviate some of my worries about running this game.

So here’s my question. If my players find out THE BIG SECRET does that impact their desire, and my ability to tell other stories in Mummy?  If we go through everything, and they learn all the secrets, why will they want to come back to this setting (which I think is excellent).

On a read-through, Mummy feels more like a one-shot campaign book with a special set of rules, then an actual core-book for ongoing adventures.

5/10


5.) Pre-Made Adventure

The premade adventure is great and really drives home the feel of ancient history, Mummies, and powers beyond belief. Can’t complain or knock it.

10/10


Total Score: 34/50

So, here’s the weird thing. I love this game on paper, but in practice I simply don’t know. Is it something I’d bring out once, and then put back on the shelf? I’m really unsure, and while the score might seem low, the game does pass the biggest test of any RPG:

“Am I willing to put the time into trying this game?” And the answer is unequivocally yes. It’s a great game, setting, and book from Onyx Path and White Wolf.

I’m just not sure it fits my group or my needs.

RPG Review: The Lone Wolf Adventure Game from Cubicle 7

LoneWolfBoxIt’s time for another RPG review! This time it’s the Lone Wolf Adventure Game from Cubicle 7!

The Lone Wolf Adventure Game is based on the series of Lone Wolf Gamebooks by Joe Dever, and is both a continuation of those books (both mechanically and in spirit) and an advancement of those game books into an RPG.


1.) Size and Production Quality

The Lone Wolf Adventure Game comes in a box priced at $30 retail. That’s pretty cheap for a full RPG, but about right for a “beginner box” as many bigger RPGs do now days. Inside the box are several things: 6 ready-made characters (both basic and master level, we’ll get into that later), tokens, handouts, reference sheets and 3 books: The Book of Kai Legends, Training, and Wisdom.

Each book is full color and ranges from 60 to 100 pages in length (it’s about 240 pages total between all 3 books). All are soft cover, and have art on almost every page. It works well, and for 30$ you won’t be disappointed in the contents.

10/10


2.) Art

The art is the same artist that decorates The One Ring roleplaying game, and gives a very distinct vibe. There’s a lot good here, and the spot illustrations and graphic design are top notch, as befits a Cubicle 7 product.

My only real complaint, was I felt like I kept seeing the same pieces over and over again, and while there was some reuse of pieces, it was actually different pieces that were very similar. A minor quibble, but it mattered to me.

8/10


3.) Content/Rules

Each of the 3 books covers a different section.

The Book of Kai Training is an “intro to roleplaying” book, and covers a lot about the setting, called Magnamund. It explains the role of Kai Lords in the setting, and how they manage (basically, they’re fantasy Jedi, complete with some mind-reading, force pushing, animal calming, and small object moving abilities). It covers creating new characters both on the basic level, and the Master level.

The difference is the complexity of the rules. Basic level is the simplest common denominator between the rules, and is really easy to use, play and go with. Master-level is much more akin to a complex RPG, while still retain the base mechanics of the basic level. The best part is the layering levels of rules, where the narrator can add new rules and mechanics as he deems appropriate, as to teach all the players the rules at the same level.

Some parts of the book revolving around Master level rules weren’t very clear, and I had to do some hunting through text to figure out various mechanics, rules, and interactions. The book is exceptionally new player friendly in it’s layout, and interface, but there’s some loss of clarity in it’s attempt to have a newer player friendly place.

The base mechanic harkens back to the old Lone Wolf books, and you flip a “coin” onto a grid of numbers rated from 0 to 9 to determine your starting skill check, and then add your level. It’s exceptionally new player friendly, and for more experienced gamers, contains rules for using a d10 (hint, 10s count as 0s, and the rest of the numbers are the same).

The Master-level mechanics work well, but involve a lot more math and creation then I expected at their highest level.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

The Book of Kai Wisdom covers all the rules of the game in a single place for the Narrator to manage the game. It also has a lot of setting fluff, and covers what the steps to scale some of the mechanics. After reading it, I discovered many of the lingering rules questions I had from Training were answered here.

It’s a little frustrating to be flipping through 2 separate books to try to piece together mechanics that could have easily been condensed into a single book.

6/10


5.) Pre-Made Adventure

The Book of Kai Legends (the third book in the series) contains two missions that scale the rules up from basic to master by introducing new scenarios as the newly appointed Kai Lords move through the land being fantasy Jedi. It works for what it is, a learning adventure, and the full-color illustrations of NPCs and maps make it very immersive and easy to show and tell your players.

8/10


Total Score: 39/50

Not a bad score. The game suffered from some writing issues, and lack of clarity, plus a pretty heavy docking for having to flip between multiple books.

However, the game does pass the “Would I play this?” test, with flying marks in one particular section. This is a roleplaying game that will hook new gamers on RPGs easily, and with intuitive mechanics and an easily accessible setting. This is the one I’ll be busting out when I have to teach children, or newer players, and it’ll be a go-to game on my shelf.

 

RPG Review: The Book of Uther from Nocturnal Media

161509As part of my plans for the new years, I’m going to spend some time revisiting, reviewing, and playing older RPGs that deserve some attention. That means more actual play posts, more reviews, and just overall, more content.

So, here’s the first one of the new year! The Book of Uther from Nocturnal Media. I’m a massive fan of Arthurian lore (my Keltia review reference that), and so, here I am to review the latest book in the “leather book” line of King Arthur Pendragon books.

As a preface, I’ve gushed about Pendragon before, and I hold that KAP is probably the greatest, and most well-researched, written, and delivered roleplaying games of all time. However, that doesn’t mean this review is all cupcakes and roses. There’s some serious talkin’ ’bout to happen here.

 


1.) Size and Production Quality

A full size 160 pages, black and white interior (which…red reminder/rules text on the sidebars? That felt weird).  For 30$ + S&H, softcover, as you can only get it in POD or PDF from DriveThruRPG. The price point feels a little weird, and while the design, layout and interior quality is all great, but the book’s price point and thinness left me a little…cold.

There’s also a few typos, specifically around some of the usage of latin, where the plurals and singular forms get switched around and messed up. Not a major quibble for the average reader I suspect. For a thin, black and white book (essentially), I think it could be cheaper. Many other games (Savage Worlds comes to mind), can sell fullcolor books for less on DriveThru’s POD service.

6/10


2.) Art

All of the art is culled from various medieval sources, and fits the atmosphere of the book exceptionally well. Some of it (as acknowledged by the author) is anachronistic, but even that art, still delivers on the theme and feel of the game. It’s an exceptionally deliberate choice that is expertly executed on.

10/10


3.) Content/Rules

 

Oh, look at that. Rules regarding Uther’s coronation, the politics and courtly states of the times, members of The King’s Progress, and stats for Uther and Excalibur…

That’s right. I don’t think Uther and Excalibur get stated quite this way in any other book (I could be wrong of course, as I’m only familiar with the 5e line, but a quick pass through my 5e books seems to bear me out).

All of the NPCs are well done. The delivery of the discussion around castles, property organization and management, and more is fascination as always, and Stafford (the author) delivers another excellent bout of history and gaming merged into a singular experience.

New mechanics around monks (cloistered religious ones, to be clear), and some new skills really round out the game.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

The whole book is really a giant game master section mixed with additional rules you can use to enhance your Pendragon campaign. The Content/Rules review up above really serves well to cover what I felt about the book.

10/10


5.) Pre-Made Adventure

Doesn’t exist here, so instead, we’re going to talk about the 5 year expansion to The Great Pendragon Campaign that is contained within The Book of Uther. 

Normally, the GPC covers years 485 to 566, but with the expansion in the BoU, you get an extra few years from 480 to 484. This means, your campaign can now cover the entirety of King Uther Pendragon’s reign. And every bit of it is awesome.

The new NPCs, conflicts, and chances to establish your lineage a little bit earlier are wonderful. They add a lot more depth than I expected, and giving the characters a chance to be allies of Uther from the start really adds a certain, feel to the game, I can’t help but love.

10/10


Total Score: 46/50

Well, The Book of Uther now has the highest score I’ve ever awarded to an RPG review on this blog since doing this format. Congrats!

I gotta be honest, I had to work to keep it as “objective” as possible, but I was ecstatically reading this book and loving every minute of it. I still hold Pendragon as the best RPG ever made (in any context, suck it everything else), and I think the Book of Uther is a must-have addition to the line.