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Crucible of Classic Critters? A Critical Hit Confirmed

Don’t let the title fool you. The Crucible of Classic Critters is far more than a mere menagerie of monsters; it’s mostly a manual for maximizing your merriment! (whew…enough of that… I’ll leave the alliteration to the always erudite and entertaining expositor Erick N. Bouchard.

In all seriousness, I won’t bury the lede. This book is “blow you out of the water” amazing. I can’t emphasize enough the strength of this content. This reads like the expanded rules for Four Against Darkness (i.e. if you bought the rule books in two halves…THIS would be the second half). There is a lot to be said for Four Against the Abyss being that “other half” as well because of the expert skills and ability to take your characters past fifth level, but if that is so…then Crucible joins the original game and Abyss as the “Holy Trinity for the tabletop”.

What’s inside? Glad you asked. Number one, you can get out of the dungeon and into the forests! And it isn’t just the matter of exchanging copses of trees for dungeon walls. You’re out in the open so flying critters like to show up, there are bridges to cross, rivers to swim, and you may even discover an old drinking well that bestows a healing boon.

Next up (based on very popular demand!) animal companions show up. These provide some very cool options (have a wildcat as your buddy? He will kill rats for you!) . I think these are going to be immensely popular and for those who like a more narrative/rpg approach to the game will be able to add their animal companions to the fabric of the story. What would animal options be without new mounts? Erick provides a plethora of perambulating ponies and pals. With all these creatures running around you would think the game would have a beastmaster class…well…it does now! Erick handles that beautifully and even provides an option for the beastmaster to share his or her experience to level up the companion instead.

Beyond the beastmaster, two new cleric variants (both incredibly useful…one that charms foes and one that can calm animals) make their debut. And then finally we come to the critters…they are classic indeed! How about harpies, centaurs, troglodytes, the sphinx, griffins, lamias, rakshasas and unicorns? These monsters are amazing and slightly more complex than the base book creatures which adds additional interest. New magic items (check out the Scarab of Undeath…bring a fallen party member back as a vampire!) a special events table, and more content that I haven’t even mentioned (can’t give away all the surprises!)

The bottom line? a nearly flawless product (I personally wasn’t a fan of the- nearly strictly for laughs -useless spell section, but I can see some enjoying the chuckle). This should go directly to the top of everyone’s buy list. Kudos to Mr. Bouchard.

Plate Mail to go?

Check this out for the next time your PC needs to carry plate mail without actually using it.

Escape Velocity Gaming presents the PLATE PACK by William C. Pfaff

This item isn’t for everybody.
1) Does your GameMaster make you maintain some semblance of encumbrance rules?
2) Do civilized communities look askance at murder hobos walking around in full plate armor?
If you’re playing a fantasy RPG and answered yes to the above questions, then your PC might benefit mightily from the plate pack!

The plate pack gives your character the ability to:
a) carry an extra suit of plate mail b) carry it in relative quiet and c) not be so darn obvious.

A plate pack is essentially a backpack with quick release straps and ties and padding between the individual pieces of plate. It allows the fighter types to wear leather greaves and perhaps a chain shirt under a thick jerkin and look “normal” in public while still keeping a suit of extra protection close at hand. Or if a thief wishes to wear a “town guard” disguise suit of plate mail, they can then stow it away in the pack to use again on the way back out of the castle once their “stealthy mission parts” are complete. In RPGS where low-level wizards can wear armor but just suffer from a chance of spell failure, keep one of these packs on hand and once they are out of spells, just suit up in the armor and wade into combat with their staff. From a realism standpoint- while a PC may be able to physically carry the weight of a full suit of platemail- some GM’s may demand a reasonable explanation as to how it’s being carried…the plate pack to the rescue!
Since the plate pack is designed for use in any RPG game system, GM’s will have to determine exact crunch but these are my numerical recommendations.
 A suit of Pack Plate costs 25% more than standard plate mail.
 A suit of Pack Plate provides 1 point worse protection than standard plate mail.
 Due to the padded pack that keeps the plates from clinking together there should be no penalty to someone carrying a correctly packed suit on stealth/move silently type rolls and checks.
 Because the Pack Plate has slightly fewer pieces and well-designed straps it can actually be donned and doffed 20% faster than a similar suit of plate mail.

Fright Fest: Taking a break from gaming to enjoy some music.

FRIGHTFESTFright Fest 2013 ripped like a gale force wind through a chilly Pittsburgh, Pa on Friday October 25th.  The Altar Bar on Penn Avenue provided just enough space for 400-plus juggalos and juggalettes who crowded into the standing room-only venue to hear headliner Twiztid and a pleasingly variable array of opening acts.

The doors opened later than the advertised 6:30 pm but the crowd was shockingly patient.  The crowd poured in with the traditional “whoop, whoop” cheers and was immediately greeted with a fantastic array of gear (signed glossies, medallions, shirts, jerseys, tour exclusives).  If you had the cash and the patience (waits to fork over your cash for Twiztid gear took nearly 30 minutes at points) this place was Shangri-La for the dedicated masses.

The show was opened by Chronic Zombies (a local Pittsburgh Duo) who nearly stole the show in this reviewer’s humble opinion.  It’s obvious that they don’t quite have the ability to play off each other to the degree of Twiztid, nor the larger-than-life swag and presence of Blaze (dude positively owns the stage) but you can see that they will get there.  The Zombies (http://www.reverbnation.com/chroniczombiez) feature a shorter  curly-haired guy who has a befuddled, comedic personality and a taller, close-cropped guy who delivers his lines with a “go hard all the time” edge. [Their individual names are not listed on their reverbnation entry, thus I was forced to use descriptors].  The two are superb lyricists and the star potential is there.  Seeing these guys at this early stage of their careers definitely felt like finding a diamond in the rough.

Cheyne and Matthew Thorsen (http://cheyneandmatthewthorsen.com/) hit the stage with a “punk rap” sound that has to be heard to be understood.  If the Sex Pistols, the Dropkick Murphys, Limp Bizkit, and Twiztid had an orgy this would be the offspring.  The lead man and (hellaciously slammin’) drummer duo had the crowd in a lather of moshing and head-bobbing.  They were effusively thankful to the audience and you get the sense that these two are:  a) truly having fun on stage and b) genuinely appreciative of the applause.  Looking forward to seeing more from these two and their incredibly original sound.

Aqualeo…sigh….  Here’s the toughest part of this review.  Aqualeo (http://www.aqualeo.com/) is legit, let’s start with that.  They are a very intelligent, very thought-provoking Texas-based duo who demands more from their listeners.  They ask you to take an intellectual journey (a la Common) more so than a rhythmic one (my major fault in their stylings was a lack of diverse beats).  Aqualeo presents a precisely (some might think overly) choreographed show and lyrics that just don’t seem well-suited to a live environment.  I would buy these guys’ cd…I wouldn’t see them in person.  They ooze talent…but their skills don’t translate to a show such as Fright Fest.

R.O.C.  (original House of Krazees member) absolutely crushed the house.  This performance had the feel of both polish and ease to it.  The Detroit-based rapper (https://twitter.com/iamtheroc) rocked glowing face paint and then set the Altar Bar on fire with his crowd-pleasing rendition of “Hello” and theatrical muggings.  R.O.C. is a P.R.O. and it shows.

Before he ever hit the stage, the crowd’s chants of A-B-K, A-B-K were an attempt to summon the Native American warrior/rapper to the darkened stage.  Anybody Killa showed why he may be just now entering the pinnacle of his career.  His spiritual lyrics are sprinkled with cannabis culture and horror humor to create something as unique as his lispy-yet hard as steel-delivery.  At 40, ABK (https://www.facebook.com/pages/ABK-Anybody-Killa/121025614610565) has matured enough to deliver an incredibly satisfying stage show, but remains fresh enough to connect with the masses.  The crowd loved the warrior and his set….chanting his name long after he left the confines of The Altar Bar.

The last act before the headliners is a tough spot in the lineup.  You have to warm the crowd up, but not leave them hoping your set gets over quickly so they can devour the main course.  Blaze Ya Dead Homie proved he was the man for the job.  Blaze (http://www.thedeadmanblaze.com/) was large and in charge with a cocked Raiders cap, fresh kicks, and swinging the mic like Babe Ruth swings a bat.  Blaze was nearly relentless with perfectly executed renditions of all his hits, only pausing to give a pro wrestler-esque look to the crowd as if to say, “Can you handle more of this wicked shit?” Blaze hypnotized the crowd and left them wanting more.

A bizarrely-long delay between Blaze and the closing act of Twiztid left the crowd anxious and oddly quiet.  The nearly half-hour gap didn’t feature as many chants of “Family”, didn’t have the previous moshing shenanigans, and it seemed everyone was genuinely tense.  Each person crowded a bit closer to the stage, jockeying to see Detroit’s best….Twiztid (http://twiztid.com/news/).  Madrox and Monoxide did not disappoint.  Bursting onto the stage after the witching hour (a five-plus hour show for under $25 makes Fright Fest an unreal bargain for the faygo-loving crowd), Twiztid gave the crowd a little more old school than new…and it was the right call.  All the Twiztid standards were blasted throughout the now rollicking venue and it was obvious who the crowd came to see.  From my own viewpoint, it was incredible watching Monoxide Child work the stage with his expressions, shout-outs (at one point singling out a fan to bust some mother-mocking lyrics to…done in jest and accepted as such by the tight-knit crowd), and poses.  Jamie Madrox may be the best stage rapper alive.  He willingly defers to Monoxide taking the side of the stage in a gargoyle-like crouch and a maniacal grin and then explodes in a leaping attack of center stage when his role demands it.  The lighting, sound, and show were incredibly top-notch and this was a tour de force performance from the motor city maniacs.  Twiztid should have possibly closed with “We Don’t Die” as this song had literally everyone in the building shouting as one.  It was a surreal experience and demonstrated the unity that a Juggalo Nation crowd often displays.

The Altar Bar was a decent venue (if a bit small) and the security was unbelievably good as they walked the delicate balance between keeping things from getting out of hand without being killjoys.  Overall, minor timing issues and crowding issues aside, this was a near perfect show and it put the Underground in the hands of an appreciative Pittsburgh crowd.  Here’s hoping more fans decide to get Twiztid.

One Spot #1 The Painted Man

My man Fitz and the good folks behind Moebius are back with One Spot #1:  “The Painted Man“.  Check out Fitz’s “colorful” tavern filled with intriguing adventure ideas, cool NPCs, and featuring the art of yours truly and Jason “Banditt” Adams.  At this price, you’ll want to get the whole set! painted man final

Cloak and Dagger?

Why use a cloak when you can carry a shield?  The answer is simple…panache!  This one page pdf provides five 4E feats that you can use to capture the majestic and thrilling style of cloak and blade fighting.  Enjoy and en garde! Cloak and Blade Fighting

First Official Interview

Brian Fitzpatrick of Gameknightreviews.com is a class guy and has done the unthinkable…he’s dipped inside the mind of yours truly.  Presenting my first interview focusing on Escape Velocity Gaming here.

 

Brian thanks for your time and the great questions…a terrifically enjoyable experience!

Calendar time!

Time to pick up a new calendar as the new year is about a month away.  I can heartily recommend this one

Trust me…my man Billiam Babble has done it again!

Time to Hit the Garage!

WCP’s Monstrous Garage is finally done.  Six monsters that can easily become sixty.  Tons of options for adding and subtracting abilities, traits, and attacks for the monsters included.  The pdf also contains advice on converting your own monsters and ways to make the monsters slightly more or less powerful.  Volume 1 is on sale now with more to follow.  Here’s a look at the amazing cover with art by Daniel Olsen….