D&D PDFs Are Back, and Other News

A couple of days ago, Wizards of the Coast brought D&D PDFs back on sale. They pulled them originally something like four years ago, after the decision that selling PDFs leads to PDF piracy, which equals lost sales, which can be rectified by making sure that the wealth of already-released D&D PDFs was only available illegally. No, I don’t get it, either. Indeed, the decision’s arrant stupidity made me so angry at the time I made me decide not to buy a single thing from WotC until they brought the PDFs back. This was not hard, because it was at the beginning of the 4E era and in the absence of PDFs, they didn’t really sell anything I particularly wanted to buy, either.

I may also have demanded an apology for the travesty, but I understand if that’s not forthcoming. I was pretty mad at the time.

Now they’ve finally decided to rejoin the rest of us in the 21st century. The PDFs are back at OneBookShelf, and even people who’d originally bought them got their purchases returned to their downloads, which I thought was nice. They’re now available at D&D Classics, as subset of the same webstore that operates under the titles of DriveThruRPG and RPG Now. They’re not all there yet, but it isn’t a bad selection for a start. Also, if the free B1 In Search of the Unknown they’ve got up is any indication of the quality we may look forward to, it’ll be worth the wait.

It’s a professionally-done PDF. Clean scan, quality OCR, fully copypastable. The pagination matches up and the bookmarks are all there. The text comes with some unnecessary line breaks, but I can live with that. Commendable job, all around. I can’t really fault the pricing, either. As a nice touch, most of the product pages have a product history, which are written by Shannon Appelcline and Kevin Kulp.

Like said, the selection isn’t comprehensive yet and they lack stuff like all of Dragonlance, but what’s there is the good stuff. For instance, they have one of my favourite gaming products of all time, Uncaged: Faces of Sigil, which is how NPC accessories should be done. Unfortunately, their Deities & Demigods doesn’t appear to be the original, with Cthulhu and Melnibonéan mythos. Then there’s the historical reference series, which, like most things 2E that didn’t have to do with the ruleset, are awesome. There’s The Sunless Citadel, whence comes the only lovable kobold in the history of the game, Meepo; often imitated, never bettered. Craploads of 1st-edition and basic D&D adventures, too.

So, here’s me saying something nice about WotC for the first time since December 2007, when I first playtested Dungeons & Dragons 4E.

Incidentally, WotC also sells novels as ebooks on Amazon, nowadays.

Rock’n Loud at IndieGoGo

There’s a new Finnish RPG project on IndieGoGo. It’s called Rock’n Loud, and it’s about the life of a rock band, exploring themes like power chords, drug addiction, groupies and black leather. I don’t yet have a really good feel of the content, but pledged for the PDF copy just on the merit of it being Finnish, and music being an underexplored theme in roleplaying games (the only other RPGs about musicians that I can think up now are Umlaut, Tähti and the d20 minigame published in Polyhedron, “Hi-Jinx”).

There’s not much out about the game yet, but I am optimistic.

Me, D&D Novels, on LOKI

I just started an article series on LOKI about gaming tie-in fiction. It’s in Finnish, which may not be overly helpful for most of you, but if you want, I can recommend a good self-studying package. I foresee writing quite a few followups to it. Despite the picture, I am not condemning them all, but seeking the about 100 good books that according to Sturgeon’s Law should exist underneath the mound of crap.

In other news, I spent a few days in Zurich a couple of weeks ago and picked up some fascinating gaming products in strange and foreign tongues. There will be at least one photoessay forthcoming once I can wrangle the time to do something about it.

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Serpent’s Skull – An Autopsy of a Campaign

Almost exactly two years after I did it the first time, I pulled it off again. I finished a Paizo adventure path.

This time, it was the postcolonially suspicious Serpent’s Skull, six chapters of lost cities, ape kings, deserted islands, pirates and serpentfolk. From January 16th, 2011, to November 11th, 2012, it took us 27 sessions to get from the intro of Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv to the conclusion of The Sanctum of the Serpent God. Along the way, some characters died and others left the team to be replaced by others. It was a fun ride. Along the way, there were sonnets written and hearts consumed. This post, by the way, shall contain SPOILERS by the bushel.

A mere 27 sessions over nearly two years of play may not sound like a lot, but we’re students and not all of us live permanently in Tampere when school’s out, so we basically have no games between May and August. When you have a break that long, incidentally, a proper campaign website like we had really shows its worth.

Compared with the Rise of the Runelords, Serpent’s Skull was rather uneven in quality, and especially in the middle parts we hit something of a lull. The extended sandboxy-dungeoncrawly nature of the third and fourth parts robbed the campaign of a lot of its momentum and we ended up dawdling a total of ten sessions in those two. More on that in the later posts, however. When Serpent’s Skull was good, though, it was really good. I name Souls for Smuggler’s Shiv among my personal adventure module top ten, and believe me, I know adventure modules. Also, I felt the final fight, the epic end battle against the serpent god Ydersius, was better than its counterpart in The Spires of Xin-Shalast.

It was fun, but I am feeling a bit of fatigue with Pathfinder RPG. Much like in its predecessor, high-level play gets mathematically intensive and rather tedious. For my next long campaign, I will switch rulesets. I am a Pathfinder Society Venture-Captain, so I’ll continue to get my regular PF fix, but for now, I need a change of pace.

Before I kick the next campaign into high gear, however, this one deserves a proper send-off. Let’s meet the team.

The Heroes

Niero Brandt

Some of you may remember Niero from the Rise of the Runelords recap, two years back. He originally saw light as a PC in that campaign, until dying at the end of the first adventure. Fast-forward over a year of game time, and the follow-up character, Michiell “Dawn” Grellson, dug him up, raised him from the dead, and sent him off to Sargava on the Jenivere, whose wreck started off Serpent’s Skull. Along the way, he switched careers from locksmithing and archaeology to alchemy. He was cynical, complained a lot and there are suspicions he was not entirely sane. He very nearly developed a split personality disorder, spent a goodly while paranoid of the rest of the group, and after somewhat stabilizing, grew a tumor familiar. Despite not being good-aligned, strangely enough he was the closest the party had to a moral compass, being motivated by an interest in ancient history and arcane lore rather than mere filthy lucre. He was also the chronicler of the group and most of the session recaps were written from his point of view.

Kailn

Kailn was the obligatory sex bomb of the group. The former halfling manservant and slave of another group member (the oracle Malje, who got killed by a neothelid in the ruins of Ilmurea), Kailn was also a sorcerer with suspicious ancestry and a serpentine bloodline. He was also responsible for an epidemic of the Taldan disease aboard the Jenivere. The half-pint Lothario found himself in great trouble as the adventures took the party into the lost city of Saventh-Yhi and onwards into Ilmurea, as increasing numbers of adversaries were utterly immune to his charms. This forced to rethink his approach to problem-solving, which led to a far more diverse spell selection. After the defeat of Ydersius, Kailn stole off in the night with the god’s skull in one hand and the high priest’s staff in another, apparently to found a cell of resistance fighters somewhere in Cheliax to wage the war for abolition.

Tiikki

Tiikki was a late addition to the group, after the Chelaxian noblewoman Malje bit the dust, though even more they were a replacement for the archer Sujiu. Tiikki was also an archer, and a member of the Pathfinder Society who had come to check up on the expedition in Saventh-Yhi and seeing if they could find an artifact or two on the trip. Tiikki was also angling for a seat on the Decemvirate. Additionally, they ended up replacing Niero as the party chronicler after the alchemist got too unstable to continue.

Kuros Ackler

The party’s pacifist cleric of Milani, who replaced Sujiu after he was torn apart by an angry chemosit. During his stay in the group, he never raised a hand against an enemy, focusing instead on keeping the party patched up. This led to a great deal of delay actions and had interesting implications for action economy.

Mogashi

The big brute was not there to fight Ydersius, as his player moved away and could not continue in the campaign, but I would be remiss if I ignored one of the great characters of the team. Mogashi was the native guide, whose father was unknown but were speculated at different times to have been an ape, a bear, an ape bear, a bar-lgura daemon, Angazhan himself, or perhaps Ruthazek the Gorilla King. Yes, Mogashi was a tiefling. His knowledge of the bush and the local customs kept the team alive when the going was difficult, especially during their stay on Smuggler’s Shiv. Later on, his inhuman capacity to take and dish out truly staggering amounts of punishment saved the party’s bacon more than once. He was the big bruiser, the anti-hero and in it mostly for the gold. His relationship with the Gorilla King is still unclear, and the King himself kept addressing Mogashi as “son”… Either way, the tiefling’s travels with the group came to an end when he left Saventh-Yhi to follow the Gorilla King – whether to join him or slay him, we do not yet know.