Go where you want. Do what you want.
That's why you love open-world videogames: you explore a vibrant world where every little piece is its own believable microcosm. You choose the people in your party, or the quests you complete, or which minigames you play before the in-game day ends. The recent millionaire success of Shenmue 3 on Kickstarter shows how much gamers appreciate the open-world game style that began with the original Shenmue in 1999.
Except that 1999 was not the beginning.
Today on Kickstarter, authors Dave Morris, Jamie Thomson and Paul Gresty are funding Fabled Lands: The Serpent King's Domain, the latest in a series of gamebooks first published in 1995. Gamebooks, also known as solo role-playing, or Choose Your Own Adventure, where you turn between different pages as you choose where you want the story to go. Fabled Lands books were open-world games . . . on paper.
Let's hear what the authors have to say about the history of open-world gaming.
The players gather around the table. Even as the Coke cans fizz and the bag of tortilla chips is torn open, somebody looks at the map and says, 'I hear there's an abandoned fortress out on the tidal flats.'
The referee consults the rulebooks. 'Many claim it's the stronghold of the legendary hero Hrugga – though that's surely just a myth.'
Plans are made. Ships bought and outfitted. One of the player-characters has the sea captain skill, and he plots a course. Another considers the supplies the party will need. Soon they're ready to set out on a new expedition. And all because one of the players happened to spot the symbol for ruins in a corner of the map.
This is the power of a face-to-face role-playing game such as Empire of the Petal Throne. Most gamebooks spring from a different tradition of gaming in which an old man runs into a tavern and the players are spoon-fed the evening's adventure. That was never for us. Jamie and I wanted to create a gamebook series that reflected our own role-playing games, where a player could arrive in a town and choose from dozens of adventures, or sometimes be flung into one by accident. Where the players could pick their own goals, go wherever they wanted, and be whatever type of adventurer they chose. Fabled Lands is the nearest thing to Jamie's and my style of role-playing short of us coming to your house and running a game for you.
When you create a character in the Fabled Lands, you're setting out on a saga that will be unique to you. Maybe you'll face brutal foes on distant savage shores. Maybe you'll become an initiate of a temple. You could become a student of magic and travel the world in search of secrets and power. You could be caught at sea by slavers and escape to lead a rebellion. You might become embroiled in civil war – on either side – or merely turn a profit by trading goods while the war rages on. It's a whole life story that you're creating there. And by the way, this was ten years before Fable!
And I worked on Fable 3, writing storylines and dialogue etc. But even then, just a few years ago, you could see that Fable wasn't really a sandbox game. Sure, there were loads of sidequests and stuff, but the main storyline was the thing. And there weren't places to go that didn't take you on the main plot.
Not like the Fabled Lands books. I like to call them 'a computer RPG game without a computer'. Except they're more sandboxy than most computer games. The Fabled Lands books are much more Fallout 3 or Skyrim than they are Dragon Age or Sleeping Dogs for instance - in fact, even more so! There is no over-arching mega plot for the Fabled Lands. Sure, some big quests involve the overthrow of kingdoms and so on, but all these are entirely optional.
You just 'live' in the world.
You can do that in Skyrim or Elite: Dangerous or Fallout 3, but it's pretty hard to avoid the main storyline in those games (well, except Elite, that's the nearest to a true sandbox but suffers from having to do the same old stuff over and over).
Fabled Lands though - it's the only place you can 'live' in that's a book and not a multi-million-pound computer game. What you see and feel, how you visualize the people and places - it's your imagination that puts that together, not someone else's.
I think I get as much of a kick out of reading Dave and Jamie's comments on the origins of Fabled Lands as any other fan of the series. I guess I can talk about gamebooks from the reader's side of the page. If I have one outstanding achievement in my life, it's that I've read and reread a metric shedload of gamebooks.
I'm not keen on the term 'open-world gaming', for reasons I'll come to shortly. For now, let's take this term to describe games in which the players can wander wherever they wish. Gamebooks such as Michael J. Ward's DestinyQuest series (or, for that matter, the third act of my own gamebook Arcana Agency: the Thief of Memories) almost fall under this heading, but not quite; while they propose a vast number of areas for the player to explore at any one time, a linear, plot-driven through-flow is always present. The players are rarely able to return to areas they have already visited, for example.
No, true open-world gamebooks are a rarity and to find solid examples we have to look to fairly obscure publications. The short-lived and much-missed Fatemaster series included maps of each area that allowed real freedom of movement, as well as a flexible magic system. True, the orcs pictured in the two books seemed cheeky rather than scary, but that was a small point to overlook.
I'll confess I haven't been able to get my hands on many of the Tunnels and Trolls solo adventures, but Michael Stackpole's City of Terrors presented a free-roaming, quest-free approach to gaming back when it was first published in 1978. But here we see one of the inherent difficulties in such a structure - City of Terrors makes little or no provision for what has already taken place during the adventure. Consequently, the less-than-scrupulous player is free to exploit loops at will. 'The gods transport you to safety and double your lowest statistic'. Great news. Play through that loop a dozen times and - voilà! - you've quadrupled all your stats.
Maybe the most well-known open-world gamebook is one of the earlier Fighting Fantasy titles, Scorpion Swamp, by Steve Jackson (no, not that one - the American one). It's a unique entry in the Fighting Fantasy roster. You, the player, are free to travel where you wish in the eponymous quagmire - indeed, backtracking across your own trail is pretty much a necessity. And while it's impossible to imagine Fighting Fantasy without some sort of overriding quest, here you at least have a choice of three possible objectives. It's probably the most open-ended FF book of them all.
Yet here's my issue with the term 'open-world gaming', and applying it to a book like Scorpion Swamp. Simply put, the book doesn't describe an open world. It describes a swamp. A highly detailed swamp, to be sure - one that fills up a good 400 game paragraphs. But the player's movement is nonetheless curtailed by the limits of the adventure, 'the edges of the book'.
Not so with Fabled Lands. Should we succeed in one day completing all twelve Fabled Lands books, the player will have a whole, open world to explore. It's an ambitious project - too ambitious to be completed in the 1990s, evidently. But, I hope, achievable - in part thanks to the backers of this newest addition to the series, The Serpent King's Domain.
So, what can I say about the history of open-world gaming, at least in how it pertains to gamebooks? There's Fabled Lands. That's it.
Now we are in modern day, where each new videogame trumpets the phrase 'open world!' with the same pride that they once did 'stereo sound!'
Open-world gaming is a concept built into the art, a tool to be used well or poorly. It says something about how you approach games that you are excited by the freedom: you want to play. You want to forget the rules, the boundaries, and play. Fortunate are we that the technology has caught up to the desire; yes indeed, fortunate are we for imagination and paper.
Pictured above, from left to right:
(NOTE: user received 75 Shmuckers for this excellent article. Support the Fabled Lands Kickstarter while there's still time! -Rob)]]>
I have made videos that cover a rules overview, a preview/review, and a play through, which can be found on Stay Geeky's YouTube channel.
Direct links to the videos are...
The Rules Overview: https://youtu.be/QoGJznEgMGE.
The Preview/Review: https://youtu.be/Pr_JpQwgD10.
And the Play Through: https://youtu.be/4edaI74_1og.
The Kickstarter can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/playcogames/civicus-dice-game/description, as well as the link in each of the videos' description.
Also, check out all my other video on Stay Geeky's YouTube Page: www.youtube.com/channel/UCKP5eD_o1xV_CxuO4YtbuFw.
And always remember to STAY GEEKY!
(Note: User received 50 Shmuckers for this post. -Rob)]]>
4. The beastmaster (Snow White)
Who is (s)he?
Don’t play that game, because you should know by now. Ok, if you really want to know, it’s the princess with the strongest shown ability to control wild animals using nothing but the sound of her voice. With 7 dwarfs that are all experienced miners, armorers and jewelry makers.
How will (s)he take over?
An army of wild animals, armored and armed to the teeth with steel. Iron shod hooves, sharpened metal teeth/beaks, armor covering every soft spot. Hunting season on human beings (and everyone else) is now- OPEN.
Have you ever seen "Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole" where owls go to war and are armed with iron claws and helmets? Imagine every bird in the sky armed like that, from the tiniest of sparrows to the biggest of rooks. In the Shrek universe, Hitchcock's movie "The Birds" is a cautionary tale and a warning to always watch the skies, just in case one of the resident beastmasters looses it and goes on a rampage. Hell, just the number of pigeons in the world make them equivalent of sky piranhas! Oh, wait... She can control regular piranhas as well. Also, rats, wolves, tigers and bears, oh my. Armoured bears, in a world without guns!
Hell, with no preparations and just the animals in the surrounding forest (and a couple of other princesses), Snow White was able to storm the castle guarded by both human guards and evil trees. Evil trees! And I say that she was able to storm it for a reason, because she did almost all the work in that fight, she and her animal minions. We're talking about about a person who can quite literally control one of the primal forces of nature, the whole animal kingdom!
Why (s)he never tried to take over?
She’s already a member of royalty and the best friend of Fiona, heir to the throne and short-time queen of Far Far Away. Speaking of which, how many princesses in Shrek universe actually have the power to control the wild animals with their voice? Cinderella, Snow White, even Fiona herself in smaller amounts (untrained and can make birds explode with her voice because of that).
All the chances are that one of Snow White’s ancestor actually did take over the world and ruled it like a Genghis Khan, leaving his or her genetic material all over the place, offspring that became members of royalty few centuries afterwards and still are (around 16 million people in the world are direct descendants of Genghis Khan today). Anyway, as long as people curtail spread of wild animals and keep the gag on her mouth, she is pretty harmless. Good luck with doing that, because you have to move past the 7 dwarfs, heavily armored and armed with axes and picks.
3. Mage Retired teacher
Who is (s)he?
He is the most powerful wizard in the world. While... The Muffin Man... creates armies from materials such as flour and sugar, this individual destroys them with nothing but his raw abilities. Please welcome the ultimate nuker, quintessential D&D mage, Merlin!
How will (s)he take over?
His powers include soul exchanging between two talking animals, teleportation, lightning bolts and who knows what else. In one on one fight, he can fry you with lightning just by stretching his arms to warm them up. And, if you actually raise an army to fight him, you better be suspicious of everyone in it after you lose them from your sight for just a second. Why? Because anybody can be replaced by an enemy spy with a single spell, a spy that looks just like them and, with some preparation time, acts just like them. There’s being paranoid and there’s being properly paranoid, because you know any of your bodyguards can actually be soulswitched assassin.
Then there’s teleportation spell. Oh gods be good, teleportation spell. With some fire and some magical powder, he can teleport anyone anywhere. A group of people, even, far far away. Maybe even directly into your bedroom at night, armed to the teeth. In the middle of your headquarters during the war, fast assassination squad who can kill everyone then teleport back out. Or just send some very sweet guys his friend... The Muffin Man... provided just for that purpose, to kill everyone inside your castle without worrying about real people getting hurt, without need to risk his own skin by having to go with them and teleport them back.
And then, there are tactical considerations. Even if there was a way for you to ward your headquarters from being teleported into, any army positioning you decide to make falls the moment this guy enters the fray. Merlin is able to create an opening just by using two spells, mass teleportation spell (right into the volcano, if he is feeling cranky this morning. On the seaside far, far away, where they can’t help you at all, if he is feeling generous.) and lightning strikes. Then his replaced troops can sow more confusion, widening that opening. Or, he could just snipe your officers from far away, in the middle of their army, with lightning and probably fireballs.
Hell, how much can you trust your own generals? They could have bodyguards in front of their doors and on every window, but that won’t stop Merlin from teleporting right into their room with a goon squad, kidnapping them and replacing them with a spy, while your loyal general is stuck in the spy’s body in some prison somewhere. Hell, it might only take a minute, the general wakes up, someone is touching his arm, ZAP!, he is in another body now, his arms and legs bound by rope, being teleported away with his mortal enemy, Merlin. And that’s just what we have seen onscreen. The guy is actually modelled like Merlin from “Sword in stone” cartoon and that Merlin could change shape of himself and his companion. That ability could be used for spying or fighting and thousand other things. Imagine this, you finally get him cornered, he doesn’t have the time to teleport away, he’s dead for sure then... Merlin just turns into a bear and starts eating. Or he doesn't let that happen in the first place for he can just teleport half a mountain on top of your strategic position, because we haven’t seen any limits of his powers. Or half a mountain below your position, or your strategic position into the aforementioned active volcano.
Why (s)he never tried to take over?
He probably did. Why else would almost all-powerful wizard go and become a high-school teacher? He was probably forced to become one as a penalty for his try. Or maybe he was in a war against another mage or overlord. Maybe he was slightly broken in the head or suffering from PTSD after the war. Spending his time trying to teach potentially dangerous magic to classes full of cruel teenagers certainly didn’t help with that. After he finally snapped, he was sent to retirement in the middle of nowhere.
But guess what? Even after a couple of years of retirement in the wilderness with nothing but rocks for company, he is still force to be reckoned with. Eating rocks and gravel as if they were cereal. If he didn't help Shrek and his companions return to the castle in Far Far Away, King Charming would have ruled for a long long time. Even then, he was able to teleport to the front row seat in the show, right in front of the Charming, behind all his security (who were disarming people on the entrance) and snipe him with lightning if the fight with Shrek went badly enough. Then there’s another of his teammates who is
2. The piper]]>
Who is (s)he?
Fairy Godmother, the biggest producer of magic potions in the kingdom of Far Far Away. Oh wait, she’s not a minor character, but a major villain instead and dead to boot? Well, how about heirs to her potion empire, her 3 younger sisters/other fairies we have seen in Shrek 1? After death of successful CEO, you don’t close the company; you find someone with similar skills. Have you seen the movie Godfather? Fairy Godmother is similar position in more ways than one and it is inherited the same way.
How will (s)he take over?
Although she has extremely powerful magical wand, her main business is making potions. Potions for all sorts of things, from cures for embarrassing diseases (great chance for blackmail of the buyers) over love potions (with good matchmaking and loyal followers settled inside household of every important person in the kingdom, she doesn’t need armies to have influence and power) to “Happily ever after” potions that can change both the person and their true love with just a few sips (and their wisecracking animal companion. Never forget Donkey!). Those potions include frog-to-prince potions, swan-to-ballerina potions, humans-to-candlesticks/clocks-potions and humans-to-flock-of-doves potions and that’s just what we have seen on screen. She is quite literally a maker of good and bad endings, with good publicity as a local superstar!
And she is that on an industrial scale, we have seen her factory. Hell, just those “make my hair shiny and my teeth perfect” potions make her factory a pharmaceutical giant. And, if she can turn a frog into prince, she can regrow your limbs just the same, by turning a person into a newt then back if there’s not a potion to regrow your limb directly. But those are just a cover; her true power lies elsewhere, in a single terrifying potion.
And that’s the love potion, the most horrible one of them all. With just a single dose and a stolen kiss, the victim of the potion falls in love with the person giving the kiss, forever. Imagine that you’re a girl living in the Shrek universe, just walking along, minding your own business. You stop to have a cup of coffee/tea/drink of your own choice when a classmate/acquaintance from work you can’t stand to look at puts that potion in your drink. You drink it then he forcefully kisses you, just like Prince Charming did to Princess Fiona. Boom, you’re in love with him now, with no way to break the spell and no desire to break it either, cause you love him forever so why would you want to? That’s actually enough to rule everyone, by blackmailing everyone who uses that potion into serving Fairy Godmother forever.
And that’s just one potion. Even the least of the potions in Fairy Godmother’s arsenal can have potentially devastating effects on the economy, donkey-to-horse potion.
Imagine being a horse-and-chariot trader in that world. You bought a perfectly good horse, paid good money for him, only for that horse to turn into an ass at midnight. You bought a chariot, it turned into a pumpkin when the clock stroke twelve. You bought shoes, they dissolved into thin air. And, if you dare to go to complain to Fairy Godmother, you’d be lucky if she doesn’t turn you into a frog or bunch of bubbles, or use you as an ingredient in her potion, or turn you into a pig and sell you to the butcher. She can actually turn regular things into living things, “Beauty and the Beast” style. She can kill people by ordering their own wardrobes to fall on them, their own kitchen knives to slice their arteries if she so chooses. And that’s if she is not playing nice.
If she is playing nice, you’re in for a world of hurt anyway. You better not drink that love-spiced tea that she gave you as a courtesy while she listens to your complaint. Otherwise, you might get a kiss from that swan-turned-girl and then Fairy Godmother will own you both forever. Swan girl (the love of your life now), because she literally owes Fairy Godmother her life, shape and form and will do almost anything to keep it while being blackmailed with increasingly ludicrous demands; and you, who would do anything to make your beloved happy.
And you could also come to her because of a real need. She can heal you from an embarrassing disease and blackmail you later. She can fix your bad teeth and make them pretty, then just take them back from you whenever she wishes. She can regrow your legs and arms after that woodchucking accident. You still owe her everything. If she tells you to walk on the street tomorrow and rebel against your king, you'll damn well do it or you lose your life!
But that’s if you’re a commoner, just a regular Joe Shmoe. If you are a king, things are even worse in some ways, with diplomacy becoming a very messy affair... That’s because Fairy Godmother can play matchmaker for the kingdoms as well, with alliances and deals of the state happening according to her whims, while she could manufacture all sorts of scandals. Imagine making the son of an enemy king fall in love with a peasant girl, who turns out to be a frog in disguise? Imagine drinking your morning coffee when your potty cleaner suddenly gives you a deep kiss. Boom, you’re in love with her (or him) now. There goes your queen/king and your kids, because you don’t love them anymore, you got to marry the love of your life... with rebellions and wars popping out everywhere and thousands dying in brutal wars as a consequence. That's just two potions... What about sleeping potion? At the beginning of Shrek, Snow White is actually in a coma. There's awakened Sleeping Beauty in Shrek 3 (after the death of Fairy Godmother) who is constantly falling asleep and waking. There's a good chance Fairy had some hand in their fates.
And, to top it all off, she has an army of elvish archers working in her factory.
Why (s)he never tried to take over?
One of them fairies did take over in Shrek 2. It was only when she tried to make her rule legal by making her son a member of royalty when the whole plan went to pieces. And it was a good plan too, each step of it complementing her natural abilities, each of them fitting into one glorious whole.
And those steps are:
1) Turn a frog into prince. Help him woo a princess. With his new good looks and charm it should be easy for him.
1a) If he looks like he will fail despite everything, use one of your love potions.
2) Luckily, Princess Lillian saw the goodness in Harold and married him. Now, it’s only a matter of time before Prince Harold becomes King Harold. But, there’s another problem and you have the answer.
3) Frog genetics are strong. Either by chance or by design, your spell (or was it a potion?) which turned Harold into a prince doesn’t affect his future children. His children will all be frog-human hybrids by night, because that’s the loophole in the potion. The closest thing to that in the whole magical world are ogres, so his kids will be ogres by night. So you make an offer he cannot refuse to Harold, a solution, since he owes you and you can blackmail him. Your son will break the “curse” and his daughter will marry him. If his first child is male, you will marry that child yourself.
4) You feed Queen Lillian a story about some curse (with all details you choose to put in) and pick a castle for the girl to live at. It’s in the middle of nowhere, lava and dragon to guard her, the whole thing, but you know exactly where she is. Time to prepare your son for his mission, but no rush, you have between 1 and 17 years to do that.
5) While the girl grows up far away from her parents, she still needs food and clothes. Since it’s your dragon that guards her, you have unprecedented access to the girl, to model her as you see fit as you fly her food, news and new clothes. You tell her fairy tales about Prince Charming, your son. You are the only source of the news to her and she trusts you implicitly.
6) Your son saves her and they get married. It’s happily ever after for all, especially you. Your son will become king in the fullness of time, but you will actually rule behind the shadows even before then. After all, you have both King Harold and Prince Charming in your pocket. What can go wrong?
Alas, some ogre named Shrek messed with Fairy Godmother’s plan. Her old ally, the... Muffin Man... helped the ogre storm the castle and it ended with Fairy Godmother’s death. Even then, her plan survived for a while after her death, since Prince Charming ruled as a king for a short spell in Shrek 3. He was only overthrown with the help of another of Godmother’s former allies, a powerful wizard (number 3 on the list) and a daughter of another team mate who is...
4. The Princess
In the fantastic land of Erf, commanders lead stacks of units across a hex-grid terrain into battle at the whims of rulers, nobles, and titans. Observed by some amused Dungeons and Dragons deity, the Erfish mode of war proved intriguing. Perhaps to try a new style of battle leadership, or perhaps just for laughs, that god taught a version of the strategy and tactics of Erf to mortal nobles, heroes, and adventurers of the D&D ilk.
Role: As the leader of a group of powerful characters, the commander inspires others to amazing heights of achievement. They benefit from strange magical traditions unknown elsewhere. Nobles and aristocrats believe they make natural and ideal commanders – indeed, although some of common birth disagree, most aristocrats say they have a divine mandate to command.
Alignment: Since respect for following and giving orders is a fundamental characteristic of the commander prestige class, a commander cannot be chaotic in alignment. Moreover, commanders follow a strict code of duty and loyalty: duty to obey those to whom they owe fealty, and loyalty to their side and their comrades in arms.
Hit die: d10
Table: The Commander
.1...+1.....+0....+1....+1.....Leadership Bonus, Purse
10..+10.....+3....+5....+5.....Chief Warlord, Natural Healomancy
Class Skills: Diplomacy (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (Engineering) (Int), Knowledge (Geography) (Int), Knowledge (Local) (Int), Knowledge (Nobility) (Int), Perception (Wis), Perform (Cha), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis).
Skill Points Per Level: 4 + Int modifier
Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: You gain proficiency all simple and martial weapons and all armor except tower shields.
Spellcasting: Commander levels do not advance any spellcasting at all. Moreover, a caster's leadership bonus is +0, not half commander level. A few casters can apply a leadership bonus to select unit types and no others. These casters actually double the usual leadership bonus when stacked with the following: clerics with outsiders of the same alignment; druids with animals; summoners and conjurer wizards with creatures they have summoned; necromancer wizards with undead they have created; and any caster with golems and constructs they have created. These caster commanders only benefit from their own leadership when stacked with units who benefit from it as well.
Ethos: Duty compels commanders to use their own initiative in the service of those above them in the chain of command. It also makes them reluctant to withhold information from allies or to conspire against them. They accept that they may be executed if they fail to do their duty.
Leadership Bonus (Ex): At first level, you can designate up to eight willing creatures ("units") to serve under your personal command. These eight plus yourself (nine in all) form a "stack" and are "stacked units." They must be in medium range of you (100 ft. plus 10 ft. per commander level). Units can leave your stack by moving out of range or at will as a free action. Each round, as a swift action, you declare your stack and share your leadership bonus with stacked units. Your bonus applies to attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, or armor class, as you decide. You can give orders to units in your stack, and if they disobey, you can choose to revoke your leadership bonus. Your bonus is equal to half your commander level (round down, minimum +1). If you are an aristocrat, your leadership bonus is half your combined commander and aristocrat levels. Your bonus applies to yourself as well as your units, if you are stacked with at least one other unit.
Purse (Su): You have a purse that cannot be taken from you. At first level, you can store up to 1,000 gp per commander level in your purse, which cannot be taken against your will. Your purse and its contents do not count against your encumbrance. You can choose to deduct gold from your purse at dawn to "buy" a day’s worth of food and drink (at standard rates) for you and your stacked units – such rations pop into existence from thin air.
Natural Signamancy (Su): You look like a leader! You appear formidable, competent, and fit. At second level, you gain a +2 racial bonus on Diplomacy and Intimidate checks, and on your Leadership score if you have the Leadership feat. If you are an aristocrat, your racial bonus is equal to double your aristocrat levels +2.
Regent (Ex): You can manage an enterprise, fort, trading post, village, port, or town. At third level, when you spend time as a regent, performing no other duties, you lower costs for city improvement and production of equipment and food, you increase tax revenue, and you reduce the cost of upkeep of units under your management. The mechanical details of these bonuses are left to the game referee to determine.
Natural Thinkamancy (Su): At fourth level, you know the race, class, level, special abilities, maximum hit points, and current hit points of any unit in your stack. You can telepathically send orders to any unit in your stack. You can give one of your stacked units the "scout" special ability as a move action. Your scout can travel up to one mile away from you and send you reports telepathically, remaining stacked (but losing your leadership bonus outside medium range).
Screening (Ex): At fifth level, as a swift action, pick one stacked unit. For each attack launched against that unit until your next turn, roll d100. On a result of 1-50, the attack instead affects an adjacent stacked unit, chosen randomly from among adjacent units. On a 51-100, the attack is resolved normally.
Natural Dollamancy (Su): At sixth level, you can create a sigil / coat of arms for yourself. Armor, shields, and clothing worn by you or those stacked with you magically take on the look of a uniform with your sigil. Each day at dawn, all your gear and that of your stacked units is magically cleaned and all damage (including hit point damage to weapons and armor) to that equipment is mended. If you have aristocrat levels, units wearing your sigil (including you) gain a morale bonus vs fear attacks equal to your aristocrat levels.
Fighting Retreat (Su): At seventh level, when you use the withdraw action, you can order your entire stack to also use the withdraw action. Until your next turn, no stacked unit using the withdraw action provokes attacks of opportunity by moving out of threatened squares. Moreover, any damage taken by withdrawing units before their next turn is divided among all stacked units as you designate. However, withdrawing units must end their move closer to you, and farther from enemies, than they were when the move started.
Natural Rhyme-o-mancy (Sp): At eighth level, you can sing marching tunes, taunt enemies, tell stories, and give speeches that raise the morale of your allies and demoralize your foes. As a standard spell-like action, you can cast Bane and Bless at will. The saving throw DC for the Bane is 10 + your commander level + your Charisma bonus. Your commander level is the caster level. If you have levels in aristocrat and/or bard, they stack with commander levels to set caster level and DC.
Improved Screening (Ex): At ninth level, as a swift action, pick one stacked unit. For each attack launched against that unit until your next turn, roll d100. On a result of 1-90, the attack instead affects an adjacent stacked unit, chosen randomly from among units within ten feet. On a 91-100, the attack is resolved normally.
Natural Healomancy (Su): At tenth level, each day at dawn, all your hit point and ability score damage is cured.
Chief Warlord (Ex): At tenth level, your leadership bonus applies to two of the following, not one: attack rolls, damage rolls, saving throws, armor class. Moreover, one half of your bonus (round down) applies outside your stack to all allies within line of sight. Your Regent abilities double, and can be applied to cities, provinces, and small kingdoms.
In terms of party role, the commander serves as both a buffer and a combat specialist. Most of the non-D&D terms and magical qualities emulate Erfworld mechanics, of course.
I like the idea of taking sub-optimal choices and making them viable. With the commander, I have given decent bonuses and stacking to a character who takes levels in the aristocrat NPC class, which is a very underpowered choice, usually. The idea is to give characters reasons to explore more of the game space.
Also note that the aristocrat stacking plays into a central theme in Erfworld, that of noble rulers vs non-royal sides. Some observers speculate that Erfworld royals make more natural commanders than non-royals, leveling faster and gaining better stats. I tried to echo that idea by giving aristocrat/commanders some extra perks.
For players who prefer Third Edition D&D to Pathfinder, note that this particular PrC is very easy to convert. Just use the saving throws for a ranger of equivalent level and bump the required ranks in skills by +4.
Written by Cayzle of Cayzle's Wemic Site
(NOTE: user received 25 Shmuckers for this submission. - Rob)]]>
Some pretenders you can see coming a mile away. Some can sneak up on you like a Superman on a little boy falling from a waterfall. Some hostile takeovers you can prevent by a quick chopping motion near the neck department. Others you can’t, because they have too good a publicity and too many followers thanks to all the drugs, candy and sexy wanton woman they give to the community.
These six are of the latter variety and (in my opinion) they could rule the world of Shrek if only they had some more ambition and/or slightly better luck. Yes, I can already hear you cry “That’s not a very likely situation, kind sir.” and I know that it certainly looks that way, my very polite and erudite readers. Here are six people working minor jobs that could rule the world of humanity if it lived in the Shrek
universe. And I will start with...
6. A baker
Who is (s)he?
A kindly baker that makes live cakes in the shapes of animals and ginger-bread men. Father of Gingy, one of Shrek’s friends and the most badass piece of dough you are likely going to see in a children’s cartoon. Yes , we are talking about the ultimate chessmaster, ruler behind the shadows and the powerhouse of raw magic that is only known as (ominous pause)… The Muffin Man. From the Drury Lane.
How will (s)he take over?
An army of gingerbread men of all sizes and shapes, absolutely loyal, crushing all of the human spirit, freedom, faces and terror-induced fecces under their baked feet, forever and ever. Wearing raincoats. With tiny dough spies setting ambushes to everyone foolish enough to catch them, torture them and believe a single word they say.
Why he never tried to take over?
Who said that he didn’t? Let’s see the first scene that ever mentioned… The Muffin Man.
Have you seen that? That look of pant-shitting terror that passes across Lord Farquaad ‘s face after the realisation of what has been said hits him.
That’s Lord Farquaad, a guy with enormous, well equiped army, a brutal ruler successfully persecuting all magical creatures and moving them right the hell out of his kingdom, and yet he looks like he’ll shit his pants on the mere possibility that… The Muffin Man… is helping and protecting them, because he knows that, despite all of his power, he can’t take him head on. And for a good reason, as we’ll see in Shrek 2.
That’s Mongo, Gingy’s big brother. And he was made in less than an hour! One moment, Shrek is escaping from jail, saying:
We'll never get in.
The castle's guarded.
There's a moat and everything!"
the very next moment is:
"-we're gonna need flour.
Lots and lots of flour."
"Fire up the ovens, Muffin Man!
We've got a big order to fill!" . Cue fight scene! Cue fight scene!
But there’s more to be learned from these scenes.
First of all, the Muffin Man has all the ingredients and big enough ovens to create a giant gingerbread man powerful enough to successfully storm a well-manned and armed castle in under an hour. That’s worrying enough as it is.
Second, it is not the first time occurrence, as shown by the reaction of castle’s guards. Their first panicked reaction is to attack the Gingerzilla with regular weapons, only angering him in the process. But, when the first wave of fear is over (and, lets be honest here, who wouldn’t panic after seeing a couple of tons of gingerbread approaching the castle you are ordered to protect?), a heroic sergeant takes control with a single command “Man the couldrons!” (we would have added: “..and fill the bastards with some hot milk!” but the dreaded PG rating and not writing the scenario had foiled us again). The men under him not only have barrells of milk and what looks like a giant esspresso machine at the ready, but are actually trained enough to do it with efficiency and precision in the middle of a terrifying situation.
Finally, all the repeated drills and training from hell pays off and the giant monstrosity goes down, never to return. Oh wait… It is not dead, just immobilised! We can clearly see it singing the tune during the ending! All that is needed is that Shrek (now the King’s son in law) orders the moat drained and Mongo is walking the earth again! But wait, there’s MORE!
Gingerbread men can be repaired, because at the end of Shrek Gingy has both of his legs crushed but at the beginning of Shrek 2, he is walking again. The repair seems to be taking some floor and whipped cream and gluing the replacement legs together. Oh, and they can eat meat, as we can see during the small gag with 3 blind mice. Now, this is where the things go from sinister to openly terrifying.
Imagine that The... Muffin Man... didn’t have less than an hour but the whole year to make his army. Imagine them coming in all shapes and sizes, from giant living siege engines that is Mongo over man shaped guards to tiny spies that is Gingy. Perfectly loyal, indestructible except by being hit with milk (or, as we here at cracked like to call it, gingeronite), the whole divisions of them, some of those divisions playing the support roles of medical corps we have in the human armies, repairing the others... Smarter of them, commanders, wearing the raincoats to protect them from harm that is milk, taking over lands and destroying the kingdoms’ only weapons, one cow at a time. And who can say they have to be in the shapes of men? We see cookie animals in Shrek 4ever After. Put some candy blades on Gingy’s hands, and you have a tiny Wolverine made in bakery! Add some more hands or build them in the forms of elephants with more than two tusks, put some siege weapons on them and you have the siege of Minas Tirith all over again!
The only reason The… Muffin Man… doesn’t take over all of the kingdoms of the world is because he is already ruling from shadows. He already has a deal with the king of Far Far Away and it goes like this: The... Muffin Man... will deploy his army of almost indestructible gingerbread golems in the defense of the kingdom if the need arises and the king asks him to. In turn, The Muffin Man will be allowed to live his retirement as a simple baker, all of his crimes forgiven, and will tone down his crazy scientist’s experiments in baking in return. In Shrek universe, "Got milk?" commercials are probably equivalent of NRA commercials we have in our universe.
The only reason he helped Shrek storm the castle was to prevent the civil war that would have happened if his former team-mate got the throne,got corrupted with power and tried to take The Muffin Man down. The teammate that is…
5. The pharmacist. (click for part 2)
Pioneers (by Eigen Lenk): An RPG-esque game about exploration not just the world but yourself and your companions. Despite its being free the game has a great deal of replayabilty and a rather long campagin along with a "free play" style that allows you to merely jump into the game and have yourself a grand time.
Lost Constellatons (by Finji): A point and clicky style game heavy on narration and story with a sound track as chilling as its art is breath taking. Giving any more information on this game would ruin your time, so get to building your snowmen and see if you can find the Lost Constellations.
Clive "N" Wrench (by _Rob_): Love Banjo Kazooie and the Rare era third person platformers? This little demo should scratch this itch. Missed the boat on one of the most storied N64 titles? Get on this game now and see what the hype is all about. Not sure what I'm talking about, this game is an "old school" 3D platformer with cartoony graphics and a heavy leaning on collecting random items scattered around the map.
Return of the Obra Dinn (by Dukope): From the maker of the cult indie hit Papers, Please we have the Return of the Obra Dinn. Return of the Obra Dinn is at its most simple a brooding mystery novel aboard a stranded ship mixed with eldritch and magical elements. While also like a demo like the above game, it's well worth your time to check out.
Endless Express (by flrn): Endless Express may be short but it makes up for it in its scope and unique ideas. What seems a mere "Waiting for a Train" simulator at its base is a rich and deep experience on the nature of time and travel. While the game may not take you out of your element like it does the main character but one can hope.
The Not So Free
Seas of Scred (by Darkest Kale): Seas of Scred is a simple DOS-Like, taking gaming back to its old arcade style gameplay with a score-attack style gameplay and cute critters to blow up with your submarine lasers. Brightly colored and for only three bucks you'll easily play longer than you spend on the game.
Sandstorm (by Daniel Linssen): A game about not getting lost in a sandstorm. Way more fun than the real thing.
Delver's Drop (by Pixelscopic): A top down roguelike that pays a great homage to the older Zelda Titles like Link's Awakening and Link to the Past. Best described as "Zelda, The Dungeon Edition", it is sure enough to appeal to the "hardcore" gamer and casual player as well. It is important to note that this game is still in Alpha.
Earth Tongue (by Erichemmit): A game about growing mushrooms and keeping that ecosystem safe and stable. It's like Harvest Moon without the love life or magical gnomes. Also a lot of Mushrooms.
Heavy Bullets (by Terri Vellman): A fast paced first person shooter with a bright level layout and cute critters hellbent on eating your face off, Heavy Bullets promises a simple game and delivers more depth that it appears it could on first blush. Living up to its name, Heavy Bullets requires you to learn bullet conservation which gives the game a tactical level easy to learn but difficult to practice.
If you read Erfworld, you might like video games. If you like video games, you might like MMOs. If you like MMOs, you might have noticed that the most popular recent ones tend to follow the same treadmill formula: You create a character of a certain class, go out into the world, get some quests, and kill some things to level up so that you can go to a new area and do the same thing over again, but with new scenery and things to kill. The goal is usually to get to the end game content, the raiding. But even there, you go through a static, never changing dungeon that hundreds or thousands have been through before to get slightly better gear than what you currently have so you can progress to another dungeon with even better gear to get to another dungeon, etc. Eventually the gamers with the most time have seen all the content and are stuck at the top with nothing to do until the next expansion comes out.
Maybe you're fine with that model, and that's okay, it is the most successful MMO model currently on the market. But maybe you're dissatisfied with the current model and wish there was another way; a way where your character can have a real impact on the game world, where you can experience unique content that only you will see, where there is real risk to your character so there is a greater weight to all of your actions.
Trials of Ascension is that way. The developers are fans of old school MMOs like Ultima Online, and are trying to build a game where you don't experience the content, but influence and create it; where RP isn't enforced but happens naturally as a result of the game mechanics. They opened a store on their website and raised enough money from their fans to build a prototype of the full game. I donated enough via their store that I got to help test and experience that prototype and I can unequivocally say that they can deliver on what they promise if they reach their Kickstarter funding goal. I'm just doing my part to spread the word to give the KS the best chance it can have since I want to play this game as much as the developers want to make it.
Here's the link to visit the Kickstarter: http://trialsofascension.com/ks.php?ref=310236 (Yes, that is a referral link and I will get points in their referral contest if you click it, I have no shame. ;) )
Here's the link to their Game World Guide that describes all their features better than I could: http://trialsofascension.com/guide/ (Did I mention the human character progression is totally skill based - no classes - or that you could play as a freaking DRAGON???? How about that human characters can cooperate to make settlements?)
And here's some shots from their prototype to whet your appetite:
(This is a playable race in the game, by the way - Raknar. They're a ton of fun to play already and can go up and down any surface like the Aliens in the AvP games.)
Thanks for reading and I hope you will consider pledging or at least sharing the link above to help make this game a reality!]]>
The fans have not been lying around on the job these last 15 years. I discovered thousands and thousands of hand-crafted maps. Some incredible mods. And... Wait, I'm getting ahead of myself now.
Let's start with the review:
And how about a trailer (might not look like much, but it took me 80+ hours to put this one together)
Now for the mods, I think so highly of WoG I made a trailer for it:
And finally I'm currently checking out Ride the Lightning. And am very impressed so far:
I've been recommended several more mods which I'll be checking out in the near future, hope you enjoy the videos.
NOTE: User was awarded 50 Shmuckers for this post. -Rob]]>
We live in a magical age. The technology to build Morningstar didn't exist two years ago. Now, we can integrate all the components of a complex role-playing game into a single application that can be run on your tablet, laptop or phone.
Morningstar was born out of a love for tabletop. Chris Matney, the founder of Trapdoor Technologies, has been gaming since 1977 (the white box set was his first introduction). When his love for tabletop and career in technology collided, he was only too happy to merge the two. Trapdoor Technologies became a group of talented software and gaming geeks, all aiming to realize this vision.
In Morningstar, everything about the game is at your fingertips from rulebooks, adventures, characters, and maps to the most specific character customization - even a hard-earned badge from an epic homebrew campaign. Tracking campaigns and compiling logbooks are no longer chores, but an integrated, shareable experience. And game night is streamlined. Rules lookups are instantaneous - the right information is at your fingertips. Sharing of content, maps and secret notes is a single tap away. Spend more time role-playing and less time rules-playing.
Most importantly, Morningstar’s Library will be packed full of purchasable content written and submitted by homebrew and indie authors.
We firmly believe that the best adventures are sitting on the shelves and in the minds of passionate players and game masters like you. We are publishers by trade. Morningstar is designed to allow writers to publish and get paid for their creativity and imagination.
If this looks interesting, please check out and support the Kickstarter!