8/16/2015

Icons of Parsantium Review

Type of Hobby: Roleplaying Game (Supplement)
Number of Players: 3+
Authors: Richard Green
Publisher: Ondine Publishing
Price: £2.58

Icons of Parsantium by Richard Green

Disclosure: I received a copy for review from the author.

When I reviewed it last year, I was pretty impressed with Parsantium. I liked it's mash-up of historical and fantasy tropes; I liked that it was packed with detail; and I liked that it was cosmopolitan and varied.

I viewed Parsantium through a 13th Age lens, as that was (and is) my fantasy RPG of choice (although 5e has got a look in now I've actually seen the books!), and in my heart the two are inextricably intertwined, having initially encountered both at the same time at a convention.

Rich Green was quick to bring icons to Parsantium, presenting them on his blog. Now by popular demand, he's collected them together into a single product, alongside some very welcome extras.

15 Icons for 13th Age
Pasantium's 15 icons give players plenty of villains to choose as enemies and allies to throw their lot in with. Many have obvious parallels with those within 13th Age; covering as they do obvious fantasy archetypes. The Basileus is analogous with the Emperor, for example, and the Lady of the Summer Kingdom parallels the Elf Queen. However, thanks to Parsantium's more intimate scale, we learn much more about Corandius XVIII than 13th Age's near anonymous Emperor. We learn that's Corandius XVIII is 'a short, stocky and physically powerful male human in his thirties, who conducts himself with a confidence that borders on arrogance, though he is handsome and charismatic enough to get away with it.' That kind of detail is much more engaging, which is what you want from an icon; icons need to hook the players in and encourage them to engage with the setting. Parsantium's icons do just that. They have personality in spades.

I think my favourite icon is The Mummy - awakened evils are always a favourite of mine! Hunting down (and/or trying to prevent them falling into her evil hands!) ancient artefacts could lead to some fun pulp adventurers.

Parsantium is a melting pot, and its icons are a varied bunch too, many representing the leaders of the regional powers and threats outside the city. As links to cultures they are evocative. These interests all want their piece of Parsantium's pie and they give players plenty of ways in to the intrigue within the city. They also offer plenty of opportunities for action beyond the cities borders, perhaps protecting caravans from gnoll raiders loyal to the Khan, or investigating evil-doers for the Platinum Knights. Speaking of which, I liked the world map that helped put the city's place in the world in context. Now I really want to go on expeditions!

Races
I was pleased to see two races that I felt essential to playing in Parsantium included - the gnoll and the vanara. The gnoll of course has always been a staple of D&D, and usually in a villainous role. Having them as potential violent and feral sell-swords is a neat option.

The vanara are monkey men; nosy and with a predilection for pranks. In the right hands they should make fun characters.

Of course, races in 13th Age lack the depth of other systems, usually only having a single racial power and a stat adjustment, so these races could have been cobbled together by enterprising groups. There's something to be said for 'correct' rules, however, so I'm grateful to see them.

Icon Relationship Ideas
After the icons is a section full of sample icon relationship rolls, at least four for each icon (Positive 5 or 6 and Negative 5 or 6). Thinking up new and interesting ways to use involve those icon dice is one of the most challenging aspects of 13th Age, so I really enjoyed reading through these, both to use them in Parsantium and just generally for ideas in my other 13th Age games.

I really liked the format these took too - most 5s were simply an additional complication to the more broadly positive 6. As I find 5s far more difficult to work out than 6s, having these examples has been a great source of inspiration! For example, a positive 6 with the Grand Master of the Blue Lotus might find the party acquiring the use of a magical staff - but a 5 might add on top that an 'unscrupulous wizard belonging to the Fireball Club' finds out and decides he is more worthy of it than the party!

You could easily ransack these examples and use them as plot hooks too! The example above might lead to a fair few fun encounters if built upon, with the wizard going to increasing lengths to obtain the staff! (and what's so special about it anyway?) There's a lot here to get the ideas flowing in a pinch, and Parsantium was already rich in that regard!

Essential?
While the icons have been available on the Parsantium blog for a while now, they've been updated here and collected in a nice little package, with extra content. I'd definitely recommend it if you're planning to run 13th Age Parsantium - having the icons in one place is handy enough, both the races and icon roll ideas are nice to have and worth a look for a couple of pounds.

If you're not running 13th Age, you'll still find the information on the icons useful - powerful NPCs that vie in the background are useful to know about whether they're connected mechanically or not! 

9/24/2014

5 Further Potions for 13th Age!


The time has come for me to release to the world several more potions from the secret text given to me by a dying alchemist. His last wish was that I give his closely guarded family secrets to the world. Probably. It was hard to hear, he was mumbling. Still, his loss is your gain! 

Potion of Concealment from Animals
Being able to pass unnoticed beyond a hungry pack of wolves isn't just a neat trick, it can be life-saving. 

You become effectively invisible to any creatures with the 'beast' keyword. As with invisibility spells, any attack or flashy action will dispel this effect. 

TierCostDuration
Adventurer175gp5 minutes
Champion325gp15 minutes
Epic650gp30 minutes

Potion of Concealment from Undead
Best not to think about what's in it; just be thankful the zombies seem to have taken you off the menu. 

You become effectively invisible to any creatures with the 'undead' keyword. As with invisibility spells, any attack or flashy action will dispel this effect. Very intelligent undead, such as liches or vampires, may, at the DM's discretion, make a hard save  (16+) to see through this effect. You should inform your players if this is a possibility. 

TierCostDuration
Adventurer210gp5 minutes
Champion425gp15 minutes
Epic850gp30 minutes

Potion of Jumping
This potion tastes like rubber and bounces inside around its bottle somewhat alarmingly. Once drunk, being able to jump great distances or heights is a doddle! No check is required, and the effects of the potion mean that landing from a height won't hurt unless the distance travelled is greater than potions listed effect doubled (once up, once down!).

TierCostDistanceHeightDuration
Adventurer175gp10m2m1 minute
Champion325gp15m4m5 minutes
Epic650gp25m8m15 minutes

Potion of Undetectable Passage
Once this potion has been drunk, the imbiber leaves no trace of their passing. Snapped sticks underfoot will mend themselves, kicked stones will roll back into place and footprints will fade away. Tracking the imbiber is impossible without magical means.

TierCostDuration
Adventurer210gp15 minutes
Champion425gp1 hour
Epic850gp6 hours

Potion of Distant Vision
This deep black liquid allows the imbiber to see as if he were within a distant area. The area to be looked at must be declared upon drinking the potion. If the area is not known to the imbiber (i.e. he has never been there before), he must pass a normal saving throw, or nothing is seen. These potions are incredibly useful for getting the lay of the land ahead, or keeping watch on a distant area.

TierCostDistanceDuration of Potion Effect
Champion325gp5 metres30 seconds
Epic650gp30 metres5 minutes

9/20/2014

Morkai's Hunters - A Space Wolves Grey Hunter Pack

Morkai's Hunters, the foremost Grey Hunter pack in the Deathwolves.

By happy coincidence, both of my Grey Hunter packs were mentioned in Companies of Fenris as belonging to the Deathwolves; the Great Company of Harald Deathwolf. Here's the latest addition of the two - Morkai's Hunters. 

9/17/2014

Icons of the Ashen Coast: The Tenebrae Cabal and the Wizards of Thrinn

The final two Icons of the Ashen Coast, the Tenebrae Cabal and the Wizards of Thrinn are both icons that until now existed only as features on the map of the Coast. The Wizards of Thrinn held their tower, and the Tenebrae Cabal plotted behind the Plague Bulwark.

The gods are an important part of the world of Vostror that the Ashen Coast resides within. Conveniently, I already had a place where the evil wizards and clerics of the last empire resided. The Tenebrae Cabal is an unholy alliance that should supply me with all the evil I could ever want. 


THE TENEBRAE CABAL
A union of evil arcanists and dark clerics, cast out long ago by their masters but determined to rule once again. 

Quote
'Our right to rule is absolute, a divine thing, a holy thing. This land is ours; the Empire has forgotten us, but we have not forgotten it.'

Usual Location
Beyond the Plague Bulwark, with enclaves spread throughout the peninsular. Fort Ibrak and the desecrated temple of Dol Himak are centres of power, however.  

Common Knowledge
Though they do not exactly work in perfect concert, the clerics and wizards of the Tenebrae Cabal are united behind a single purpose - to destroy the Plague Bulwark and unleash their horrors upon the Ashen Coast. Wizards and Priests do escape past the Bulwark on occasion and work to bring it down from the outside or pursue their own vile schemes. Others still are driven to attempt to cross the Bulwark, either hoping to find like minded individuals or driven there by lawful or good pursuers. 

The power within the cabal fluctuates between arcane schools (particularly necromancy) and worship of the various dark gods (of which Kostro, Vundrica and Toovik have the most influence behind the Bulwark). The current 'head' of the cabal is a Priestess of Kostro named Nahal Afsheri, and cultists from the ruined and desecrated towns behind the bulwark flock to her cause to wage war upon the Coast and destroy the wall by force. The vile sorcerer Zavar Amaanat is the strongest source of arcane power beyond the Bulwark, and he schemes endlessly. 

Adventurer's and the Icon
Worship of the dark gods is a quick route to power which can be irresistible to some adventurers. Most are sensible enough to work against the cabal, however, not with it. 

Allies
None. Isolation and the destructive nature of their goals puts even the vilest icons off working with the Cabal. 

Enemies
The Platinum Shield stands foremost between the Cabal and the Coast and must be destroyed at all cost. The High Priestess is a source of hope for the worshippers of the good gods; her death would be a great victory. 

History
The evil experiments performed by many of the wizards in the Empire of Turin were frequently misguided; the dark rituals performed by the servants of the evil gods equally so. The result was that the Ibrak peninsular became the domain of plague, rogue undead and worse and threatened to spill into the lands beyond. The governor at the time ordered the construction of a great bulwark to contain the horrors to the peninsular. Many of the evil wizards and clerics elected to stay behind. 

A curious balance formed between the wizards and the clerics of the various dark gods and collectively they became known as the Tenebrae Cabal.  

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the wall stands and the full force of the Tenebrae Cabal is contained. 

There needed to be an arcane archetypal icon on the Ashen Coast, and the Wizards of Thrinn were already on the map - although that they lived within a tower was all that I knew about them. Combined with a recurring theme from my previous games - powerful and dangerous pink crystals - they've become somewhat more fleshed out now and something I hope my players will want to connect with. 


THE WIZARDS OF THRINN
An enigmatic order of wizards that travel throughout the Ashen Coast, recovering powerful magicks. 

Quote
'There is nothing to see here. And if there were, it would be in your best interest to avoid looking, nonetheless.'

Usual Location
The Wizards of Thrinn have always been a secretive presence on the Coston Peninsular, their tower standing looking out onto the Great Ocean. Only the select few that count amongst their number are ordinarily permitted inside. 

Common Knowledge
Wearing their distinctive purple robes, the Wizards of Thrinn are considered throughout the Ashen Coast ill omens; their appearance usually heralds 'interesting' occurrences with strange, long forgotten machines being dug up shortly before they arrive, or an evil awakening, posing a great threat before it is captured by the Wizards who disappear as quickly as they arrived, taking everything involved in the accidental summoning. Quite often these incidents will involve strange and dangerous bright pink crystals, although so far the wizards have yet to find any intact. 

Other times they will turn up and... nothing unusual will happen at all. At least, not that anyone saw. Perhaps something, or someone, might be missing when they've left. It's probably for the best. It's certainly best not to ask. 

Adventurer's and the Icon
It is not unheard of for a Wizard of Thrinn to join an adventuring party, although they seldom remain for long. More likely a party will recruited by a Wizard to help them in their mysterious work, learning only enough to earn their pay. 

Allies
The Wizards usually work alone, although any Icon may find themselves with a temporary ally in the form of a Wizard of Thrinn. Usually, they are not happy with the price of having such an ally. 

Enemies
The Lady of the Woods seems intent on preventing the Wizards carrying out their work, particularly in the wilds. 

History
The enigmatic Wizards of Thrinn have been sighted on the Ashen Coast for centuries, appearing, usually alone, to conduct mysterious arcane investigations. Their history is as mysterious as they are. 

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the Wizards of Thrinn can't recover any intact pink crystals. 

So, that's all 13 icons for the Ashen Coast! Let me know what you thought of them! 

9/07/2014

Thoughts On.... Companies of Fenris: Space Wolves Painting Guide

Type of Hobby: Miniatures Wargame (Supplement)
Number of Players: 2
Authors: Games Workshop Design Studio
Publisher: Games Workshop
Price: £20



Games Workshop have really been on good form recently with the quality of their painting tutorial videos. In many ways I thought that this book didn't really need to exist, as actually seeing someone paint is infinitely more useful than reading a description - but a real focus on variety and fleshing out the background of some of the less well known aspects of the Space Wolves makes the book well worth the asking price in my opinion.

The Great Companies

The guide presents four very different great companies, the Firehowlers, the Deathwolves, the Iron Wolves and the Champions of Fenris. This shows the depth that a single chapter can have within it, showcasing a few of the different themes you can choose. Space Wolves get a lot of flak for their recent focus on the 'wolf' side of the coin, but there's plenty of other options you can choose if you so wish and this book really shows them off. It's great to see a couple of the less obvious choices shown off here; Ragnar and his company would have been easy to throw into this book, but it's great to see other Wolf Lords getting a turn in the limelight.

There's a lot more space dedicated to background than I was expecting, giving a broad overview of the companies, then focusing in on the history and accomplishments of various packs within them, accompanied by lots of GWs usual high quality photographs. Interspersed there's advice on pack markings, how to apply company markings to vehicles and other iconography. The information is nice, and presented pretty organically, but it would have been better if it was all in one section within the book.

Each company has its own cool aesthetic, the warriors of the Firehowlers are covered in tattoos representing their accomplishments and look every bit the berserkers, whilst on the other end of the spectrum you've got the cold and mechanical Iron Wolves. Sven Bloodhowl and Egil Iron Wolf are pretty cool converted miniatures too and whilst they're not too hard to work out given the book tells you what they're actually based on, it would have been nice to have seen proper step by step tutorials for these.

This is all the stuff I actually bought the book for, if I'm honest; I'm reasonably confident painting my army at this stage. I'm pretty satisfied with the information presented, it gives just enough hints and ideas without outright giving the definitive answers or listing all the packs within the companies. There's still plenty of room for your own imagination!

By some serendipity, the two Grey Hunter packs I'd painted so far happened to be ones detailed within the book as belonging to the Deathwolves! Happy with that! I also learnt that within the Deathwolves the Wolf Guard keep their old pack markings, just painting them yellow and black. With that in mind I decided a little repaint was in order!

I won't be following the book entirely strictly though - I like the naming convention I've come up with for my vehicles, for example. (Everything is named after something from Norse mythology - Rhinos are named for wolves, Predators for weapons, Land Raiders for gods etc.)

Paint All the Things

I don't think that there is a single aspect of painting a space wolf that isn't in this book. Armour, fur, plasma coils, bone, parchment, metal, gold, gems, it's all covered. The only omission I noticed was no tips for painting eyes. A weird oversight but I have noticed painting eyes is falling out of fashion, so maybe that's why.

Not content with telling you how to paint everything, there's usually several different methods for doing it! It's a great resource, with eight methods for painting fur and nine for painting the faces of your warriors! I can't praise the sheer variety of painting guides in the book enough - each ranges from only a few steps to about 12, depending on the level of detail you're after - and you're bound to find a way of doing things that works for you.

Yet I'm not sure I can recommend this book alone for a new painter - Games Workshop still seem insistent on not teaching basic technique in their guides. You won't discover how to drybrush; or take care of your brushes; or correctly thin your paints in this book. Thankfully the internet is an amazing resource for that kind of information but I wish Games Workshop would start putting that kind of information in again. They're putting it in their video tutorials, which are free, so I'm incredibly surprised it's not going into their paid products.

A Nearly Perfect Resource

If you want some tips on how to paint your Space Wolves, or something to help you work out pack or company markings, this is a great book. The price is right too; at £20 it's a downright bargain for a Games Workshop product. I'm really interested to see if GW releases any similar products for other armies - it would be a shame if a product of this quality was a one off.

9/04/2014

Icons of the Ashen Coast - The Platinum Shield

The Platinum Shield scour the Ashen Coast for the dark followers of the Evil Gods.

When designing the icons for the Ashen Coast I originally wanted, where possible, to emulate the archetypes illustrated in the 13th Age core book. Naturally, the Platinum Shield are analogous to the Great Gold Wyrm. 




THE PLATINUM SHIELD
Revering Saint Laila and the metallic dragons, the Platinum Shield are the Ashen Coast's first line of defence against the dark gods. 

Quote
'A Knight must be pure of heart and noble of purpose; like our beloved Laila. She was the very spirit of a dragon. We can only strive to emulate her. We will never equal her.'

Usual Location
The Platinum Shield's headquarters are located at Fralfield, a days march from the Plague Bulwark. In truth the majority of knights are manning the wall or questing throughout the Ashen Coast. 

Common Knowledge
Since the Plague Bulwark was constructed there has been an order set up to protect it. The threats behind the Bulwark are more terrible than most could face; only the purest of heart could hope to stand before the followers of the dark gods day after day and remain unscathed in body and soul. 

The order's prime duty is to protect Thun from the terrible evils beyond the Plague Bulwark. However, due to the dire state of Thun's Royal Navy, many evil clerics from the Tenebrae Cabal make it off the peninsular and move inland, spreading their evil. As a response, the Platinum Shield roves the Ashen Coast, hunting down these evil priests, or worse. Worship of the evil gods is not limited to the Cabal, and the Shield has become adept at finding hidden devotees.

The order has a strict hierarchy, with ranks following the colouring of their revered metallic dragons so that Brass is the lowest rank, held by the freshest initiates, and Platinum is the highest, held only by the Master of the order. The current Platinum Master is Diogo Corte-Real, an elderly man, thought soon to step aside to one of his inner circle. However, that has been the rumour for many years and his Gold Knights continue to jostle for his favour. 

Adventurer's and the Icon
Fighters make up the bulk of the order, although there are many Paladins and Clerics as well, the majority of which worship Derne (God of War and Law) or Sorath (God of Sun, Light and Truth). In theory, however, anyone can join the order if they prove themselves stout enough of heart and pure of soul.

Allies
The Knights of the Platinum Shield are pledged to protect Thun and its King. As a holy order, they are natural allies to the High Priestess and, as a Paladin, they respect the Elven Baron.

Enemies
The Tenebrae Cabal is the sworn enemy of the Platinum Shield, and must be destroyed at all costs. The Devil is a new threat, but an unholy one nonetheless, and the quest to destroy the Cult of Mammon is gaining traction within the order. 

History
The evils of the Empire of Turin once ran rampant throughout the Coast, and on one peninsular in particular; entire towns and villages were entirely subjugated to the wills of dark priests. Eventually, even the Governor, Tyrmund, realised something must be done and ordered the construction of a great wall to prevent the spread of foul undead and terrible disease. 

In the years following the end of the Empire, the wall fell into disrepair under the degradations of the evil magicks beyond it and was almost breached, threatening the surrounding towns and villages.

In a town far from the Bulwark, in the northern Duchy of Arromere, the young Laila de Freitas dreamt of the Platinum Dragon, standing resplendent before a wall that spanned over a hundred miles. Laila was brought up in poverty in a world of browns and greys, she wept to look upon his awesome countenance. The Platinum Shield say that he imparted a message to her, though the exact wording has been long lost, if she ever revealed it. Then he spread his great wings and flew away, leaving Laila standing alone before the wall. Now she could see that it was cracked, a huge chasm cut into it. Feeling no fear, she strode towards it and placed her hands upon it. Even as searing pain burnt her flesh away, the crack shank into oblivion, sealing the wall once more. 

Waking that morning, Laila took up her fathers old sword and began her long pilgrimage south. As she journeyed, she helped many in need and defeated many evils. More and more pledged themselves to her cause and by the time she reached the Plague Bulwark nearly five hundred pilgrims stood beside her.  

The wall was exactly as she had dreamt it, crack and all. She trembled, knowing that only she could seal the breach - but that it would cost her her life. As she hesitated, the aperture grew larger and the wall finally shattered. Plague ridden beasts and undead, driven on by evil wizards and vile clerics flooded from the breach. The pilgrims stood firm, encouraged by the prayers of Laila, but many were only farmers and peasants - they could not hope to stand against such a force. 

The cause finally seemed lost as Laila was struck down by a priest of Kostro; god of Vanity, Tyranny, and Violence. Terrified, the remaining pilgrims turned to run. Then there was the flash of light and before them Laila rose to the air, great platinum metallic wings spread, her fathers old sword now a glorious Holy Avenger. She breathed deadly fire upon the evil host, and drove them back with her enchanted blade. Encouraged, the pilgrims fought all the harder and not a single other was lost. 

The battle over, Laila flew to the shattered wall and plunged her blade into the ground. A great platinum seal filled the gap, energy flowing from her reforged body. The Bulwark was reforged and Laila fell, lifeless to the ground. The pilgrims swore an oath that the Bulwark would never fall into such disrepair again, that Laila's brave sacrifice would not be in vain. They would be the Platinum Shield. 

The True Danger
Everything will be alright as long as the Plague Bulwark stands between the Ashen Coast and devastation.

Would you join the Platinum Shield or throw your lot in with the Dark Gods? Let me know! 

9/01/2014

5 More Potions for 13th Age

More potions for your perusal! As ever, let me know if you use them and if there's anything you'd tweak about them!

Potion of Chameleon Skin
This potion changes colour constantly, shifting hue between all the known colours and a few only the elves can see. Once consumed the user can change the colour of their skin and held items to any hue they like, simply by concentrating. Whilst many outlandish adventurers use these potions simply as fashion items - changing their colour at a whim - they're most commonly used to aid in more sneaky pursuits. 

When used to aid in appropriate skill checks to hide or deceive, Potions of Chameleon Skin give a +5 bonus. The duration the effect lasts for depends on tier.

TierCostDuration of Potion Effect
Adventurer100gp1 hour
Champion250gp6 hours
Epic425gp1 day

Potion of Speed
This potion rushes about its bottle, sloshing from top to bottom and side to side, as if unable to stay in one place for too long. Effectively doubling the speed of the imbiber reactions become quicker and distances can be covered in astonishing speed. In a combat situation the imbiber gains a second move action, as well as a bonus to attack rolls and physical defence (dependant on tier). Outside of combat the movement speed of the character is doubled - likely allowing them to outrun most normal foes. The effect lasts for a single battle, or 5 minutes, regardless. 

There is a downside to drinking such a potent mixture, however - each use ages you by a single year. 

TierCostBonus to AttackBonus to Physical Defence
Adventurer350gp+1+1
Champion650gp+3+3
Epic1,300gp+5+5

Potion of Sweet Water
The vapours of this bottle are often enough on their own to clear a room of any foul smelling mustiness, which makes these potions desirable indeed to adventurers delving in long sealed dungeons. The designed use is to transform tainted or contaminated liquid into pure, safe, water. Water created in such way is perfectly pure and the potion can be used on any non-magical liquid.

The volume of water that can be purified in this way depends on tier. 

TierCostCubic Feet of Liquid Affected
Adventurer100gp1,000 (10' cube)
Champion250gp15,625 (25' cube)
Epic425gp125,000 (50' cube)

Potion of Distant Voice
The bottle this amber liquid is contained within always sounds like it's clinking and sloshing around in someone else's backpack. 

Imbibing this potion allows the user to 'throw' their voice, causing the sound to seem like it is coming from someone, something, or somewhere, else. The distance and length of this effect depends on tier. If appropriate, the DM may require that a charisma based skill check is needed to for the effect to successfully trick a foe.

TierCostRangePotion Duration
Adventurer125gp5 metres30 seconds
Champion250gp25 metres5 minutes
Epic500gp100 metres30 minutes

Potion of Water Breathing
Blue and fizzy, this potion is a favourite of coastal adventurers. It allows the imbiber to breath normally when submerged in oxygenated liquids. The length of time this effect lasts for is dependant on tier and the user is aware roughly of how long they have left before the effect wears off. 

TierCostPotion Duration
Adventurer350gp15 minutes
Champion650gp1 hour
Epic1,300gp6 hours