Posted on Leave a comment

Realm Works: Create Your World. Tell Your Story. Master Your Game

RW nerdtrek ad - FINAL

How many times have you struggled to keep your tabletop RPG campaigns organized? Have you ever lost track of what your players have and haven’t learned? Is “real-life” limiting the time you have to prepare for games? Do you waste precious time during games searching for details from previous sessions, some of which occurred months or even years ago? If so, you need Realm Works!

Brought to you by the creators of Hero Lab®, Realm Works™ is the Game Master’s answer to managing your campaign and your time, allowing you to focus on telling the story to your players. Built by GMs and players, this game-system neutral tool allows GMs to create and master their world like never before.

 

Game Prep

Plots
click to enlarge

Realm Works’ intuitive design allows GMs to quickly develop new content, change existing ideas and organize information for easy access and review. Use content from a variety of sources, including pictures, statblocks, Hero Lab portfolios, PDFs, and even audio and video – Realm Works allows you to effortlessly fold material from multiple sources into one Realm, so no more flipping between 3 books, 2 PDFs and your own notes!

As you enter content, Realm Works is smart enough to automatically detect links between different entries. For example, if you have a character named King Lear and you create a city where King Lear is the monarch, the two entries will link together. This eliminates the usual need to manually link topics together, as is necessary in most wiki-oriented applications.

Are you a visual creator? Realm Works also provides powerful visualization tools to help the creation of the story, tie events together and see the implications of the adventure’s plot along the way. Regardless of how you enter the content, you’ll find yourself spending less time doing prep-work and more time focusing on bringing the story to your players.

 

During Play

Maps
click to enlarge

During your game, access the content within your realm on-demand during play. If you’re trying to set the scene for your group, display your maps, images and other content directly through Realm Works and share it with your players. Want to display some content but keep some information hidden from players? Use our patent-pending Fog of World™ technology to reveal or conceal the exact content and details you want throughout your campaign.

 

The Community

Later this fall, Realm Works will also connect to the cloud, to make your gaming even easier. Share your creations with others or find ready-made content from to use in your campaign setting. Back-up your campaigns and also review your work via a web browser. Additionally, players will also be able to access your realm through a separate Player Account, allowing them to review what they have learned throughout play, record their own ideas and experiences in a player journal, and engage in discussion within game forums outside of the session.

Available September 2013, Realm Works is going transform the way you run your games! Follow Realm Works on Facebook for updates and sign up for the Lone Wolf Development newsletter for monthly updates on all products, including Hero Lab and Army Builder. For more information, visit our website at www.wolflair.com.

Posted on Leave a comment

C1: Alagoran’s Gem

I’m going to take a look at Adventureaweek.com‘s first module in their Classic-Play-Series, which is wholly devoted to old-school gaming, so let’s take a look, shall we?

 

Alagoran’s Gem

 

This module is 48 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC (& recommended reading for those not familiar with old-school style gaming) and 1 page SRD, leaving us with a total of 44 pages of content, so let’s take a look at the first of AdventureaWeek.com’s C-series of classic modules in the spirit of old-school gaming!

This being an adventure review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion. All right, still here?

Let’s take a look! Intended for levels 3-5, the premise of the module is rather simple: A wealthy merchant once named Alagoran sought a way to keep his belongings safe after a burglary and thus invested his fortune in a magnificent gem. Edged further on by his paranoia, he had a deadly complex crafted to keep both him and his prized possession safe. Alagoran has vanished. He stopped showing up for rations and, while some time has passed, none have yet returned or claimed the prize of the magnificent gem. Enter the PCs, who should then feel like a certain famous barbarian who was known to have pulled off some deadly heists in his youth. Props if you got that reference.

So yeah, via 4 different, albeit simple sample hooks the PCs are recruited to test their mettle against the dungeon paranoid Alagoran has crafted – but can they prevail? From the very start, a sense of puzzles and antiquity sweeps the PCs, as they get a chance to avoid a fight with a powerful undead guardian by mentioning a correct name and mundane, yet still sickening mildew, green slime and magic mouths that taunt them. Oh, have I mentioned the traps and the twisted ways in which they can actually be bypassed?

Pit traps and acid arrows are the least of the PC’s worries if they don’t take care – especially if they activate a certain magical door and get hit by a wave of energy that may not only pummel them into a pit, it may also eliminate ALL 1-use magic items and activate those that can be activated! Rod of fireball? BOOM. Potions and scrolls? Ruined! OUCH! PCs hit by this one will complain, but honestly – it can be avoided, it’s iconic and it FEELS just right…so kudos for including this rather nasty effect! Speaking of nasty: Even before they have went to the inner rooms of the dungeon, the PCs can find a mushroom forest including ogres, unhealthy puffball spores and be infected with dysentery (Yes, not filth fever or slimy doom. Seriously. I like it when not every damn dirty place features the same two standard diseases everyone seems to use…) even before they have to pass a gauntlet-style corridor full of magic-imbued arrow traps. Also nice: a trolley-based refuse-system leading to an otyugh’s nice home…
Where the module starts to become interesting is with a circular room, which can be considered a many-phased, complex trap that has no easy way to solve and cannot be simply deactivated by a successful disable device roll – instead, the PCs will have to brave the danger with brawns and use their brains to pass the trap – have I mentioned that the trap features rancid boar’s blood, acid, the chance to drown and a pack of starving ghouls? Speaking of acid: Hanging, tilting platforms over a sea of acid can also be found herein – guarding a nice bluff of a fake treasure room that has the iconic three chests, of which, of course, all are the wrong ones. The dungeon also features yet another false gem guarded by an Indy trap as well as an alternate entrance, an owlbear, an option to parlay with a tribe of orcs, a carrion crawler and undead ignited by a gas leak that may blow the PCs to smithereens. There is also a river of lava including… *drums* a dead magic zone! Yes! We have not nearly enough of those in most current modules and I’m not ironic there – magic should never be too predictable and challenges like this, where magical prowess alone does not suffice, add to this sentiment. Before the end of the dungeon, though, we have yet more lava, animated ropes (trip, trip, trip the adventurers into the river of lava…), superheated, unhealthy, sulfurous air and then, the final room, in which the PCs have one more chance to use their wits – if they fail, they will have to contend with a rather lethal array of traps and might even be petrified (though that is reversible by concluding the module). If they by now have a good grasp of Alagoran’s personality, they might be able to avoid these traps and even find the true, fabled gem – provided they can defeat its final guardian.
The module closes with stats in both 3.5 and PFRPG, which include 4 ready-to go replacement PC-stats should any perish in the module as well as a player-friendly key AND trap/secret-door less version of the map -Bravo!

RPGNow.com

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice any glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly white background and is otherwise the standard 2-column standard we’ve come to expect from AaW, including color-coded boxes for rules, read-aloud text etc. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks and is scheduled to get herolab files, but at the writing of this review, these have not yet been added. The cartography of the dungeon in full color is beautiful as I’ve come to expect from AaW-publications and the player-friendly map sans traps and helps, secret doors and keys is awesome to have and should be industry standard.

I honestly didn’t expect much from this module, seeing how often “old-school” is used as a synonym for “nothing new/creative” here – that’s not the case here. Yes, the story is simplistic, there is not a grand mini-game or some other twist – but know what? The design-philosophy, much like in the excellent modules by Frog God Games oozes this sense of antiquity, of looming danger and death, of unpredictability and the NEED, not the option, to use your brain in order to survive. This is not dungeoneering for people who cry when their character dies. This a module that oozes old-school flair, that evokes a sense of accomplishment when completed and, while it is a harsh mistress, remains a fair sojourn – this is no meat-grinder, it is a hard, challenging module. Not Rappan Athuk-level hard, mind you, but hard. And boy do I like it for that – the use of hazards, traps (that are not disabled via 1 roll) and enemies make this not only a blast from the past that evokes nostalgia via its themes and design, it also makes this module a stellar first offering for the C-series. I’m completely and fully recommending this very cheap module and look forward to seeing how the rest of the C-line will hold up to my scrutiny. If what I’ve written here even remotely intrigues you and if you’re looking for a well-written dungeon-exploration – here you go. My final verdict? 5 stars, endzeitgeist seal of approval.

As always, thank you for reading my ramblings,

 

Endzeitgeist out.

 

Posted on 2 Comments

HERO LAB: Setting the Standard

In a role-playing game industry flooded with a multitude of time saving tools, Lone Wolf Development has accomplished not only standing out; but setting the standard.

For those of you out there not in the know, Lone Wolf Development is the driving creative force behind several different software based tools, including the one this review will be covering: HERO LAB.

Now officially speaking, Hero Lab is available for several different game systems ranging from various incarnations of D&D (with 3.5 and 4e available), to Pathfinder, Shadowrun, Call of Cthulu, Savage Worlds and 2nd/3rd editions of Mutant’s and Masterminds all being available as core systems one can purchase for use with this program. Why do I point out the officially speaking part? Read on, we’ll get back to that.

At its core, HERO LAB  is a character builder, and quite simply one of the best I’ve ever come across.  Players can use this tool to find the perfect combination of skills to feat to trait ratio for the best all-around perks.  GMs that need to bulk out their encounters for the evening with some fast NPCs find HERO LAB a huge time saver.  Publishers populating their newest books with personalities may not wish to spend hours working out statistics for every single character; once again HERO LAB is a life saver.

I’ve been using this program exclusively now for over a year, and have converted several of my friends into users as well. The first thing that struck me was the brilliant design and intuitiveness of the program.

HERO LAB handles all formula and pre-requisite information. What do I mean by that? Simple: you no longer need to be a rules lawyer to create a character!  The program handles the math and keeps track of what I can and can’t choose as options.  It lets me know why I can’t choose something, and tells me when I’ve gone outside of the parameters set by the rules of the game system I am using.

The error system is simple and highlights anything incorrect in red either in the text or on a tab (as the pages are laid out in tab formation).  Just in case you miss that HERO LAB alerts you with an icon in the lower left corner.  Does this mean you are forced to only color inside the lines?  Heck no!  Creative role-playing games are all about finding a way around the rules, and Hero Lab accommodates.  It allows you (through several different means) to override error messages.

Your Hero got more skill points than he should because he spent time training in an academy?  No problem!  Add some more skill points!

Life on the mountains of Tarqui make you stronger than average with a free attack feat?  Again, not a problem.  If you can think it up, this program can handle it.

As cool and versatile as this program is, its strongest selling point is its simplicity.  I decided to do a speed build this afternoon and see if HERO LAB could handle the pressure.  HERO LAB pumped out 78 different NPCs in five minutes!  The ease of creating fodder for your world is insane and will give any GM back some precious time that can be focused elsewhere. Now of course these were all cannon fodder NPCs, but they were all different and unique in their own right.

Now that we understand this program is designed for building characters, what then? Well, after hooking up all of your players with their characters you have several different options really. The program can be used via its internal combat tracking system (known as the Tactical Console) to run all combat numbers for an evening of play. Simply load the portfolios (saved characters) of your group into one open screen, creating what they call the “dashboard”, load up your NPCs and monsters (also stored as portfolios) and you can very easily as a GM keep track of all combat using nothing more than this simple “Character generator”. Handling initiative rolls, all effects and conditions, an internal dice roller (if you choose to use it), the tactical console has become a trusted friend at my game table. But what of those of you using virtual tabletops like Fantasy Grounds? Well, Lone Wolf has got you covered, with options to export straight to the program format. And that’s far from the only option for export, others include html, pdf, text and of course the various character sheet options.

I would be remiss in failing to mention the rather large amount of additional data packs available for purchase to continue using new material as it is released, with prices ranging from as low as under $5 to around the $25 range for bundles. Now, admittedly this is more so for Paizo’s Pathfinder RPG then the other systems, but for those systems without a massive library of official releases, there is the “community”.  There’s that word again, official.  Don’t worry, we’re almost there, have patience.

When I began using this product, I was a casual user looking to speed up my game prep time. Now, whereas Hero Lab is my trusted right hand at my game tables, it has also become my most valuable tool.  I write .hl files for a small publisher of 3PP Pathfinder compatible material. Yes folks, on top of everything else this program will let you do, you can add and build your own custom database of your creations. And the best part of that is the included editor, which will, after some trial and error, become your gateway to adding everything you’ve ever come across to the database options for your characters. There is a learning curve, but it is an easy one. I didn’t understand a single line of html code the first time I opened the editor, and I closed it scared that I had ruined my program.  Now, less than a year later I am developing packets that are distributed every week. The editor makes it easy to learn, supporting both xml veteran programmers and the total newbies.  I would encourage any small publisher out there who is considering this program to stop considering, and buy it.  Customers want these files and being able to say your product includes HERO LAB files alone will increase your sales.  This will very quickly help you recoup the cost of the program and data packs.

And that my friends, is where we get to that word official I mentioned earlier. For whereas the game systems I listed earlier are the only ones available currently, they also have available an authoring kit, with which one can write their own game system to distribute. Additionally there is a thriving online community of folks sharing custom files containing everything from homebrew creations and rules, to converted game systems and current OGL material, with the embrace and guidance of Lone Wolf. Yeah, that’s right, they not only support the idea of the custom file sharing, they help folks figure out how to write code to get things to work that they are trying to add to their files. Talk about killer support for the consumer. There’s an entire section of their forums dedicated to custom files, their development, and the sharing of them.

Now, it would not be a review if I did not cover some of the negatives, as there are a few things that I would love to see in a future update. Currently, there is no method of adding/subtracting finances from the tactical console, now xp. With the tactical console open, you can see your entire playgroup without having to “switch” between profiles, and this step would greatly speed up that function of game. I would also love to see a method via which a company could instill a logo into their description text for custom created items/races/spells etc. Such that when the choice is highlighted, not only would it show the name of the source, but give the publisher/developer the chance to have a small logo at the bottom of the description, to help identify from whence the selection came.

OK I know; truly horrible stuff to say right? So, wrapping up, best character management tool on the market, multi-game support, fully customizable and seeing more support from the 3PP market everyday, intuitive easy to use interface….Oh, almost forgot, sharing your creations with a friend? As easy as clicking a few buttons and creating a “.hl” file (think program exclusive .exe zip) that they then can click on their end, and everything will install where it needs to go, no muss, no fuss….and my only negatives….oh yeah, I’m lazy and want an secondary money/xp button (lol), and the capacity to a logo on custom stuff…..can’t help but think it’s pretty obvious that this is the type of product that any gaming group would be well rewarded with benefits by picking up.

Oh, and one last thought, before we pass final judgement here….remember the beginner box Paizo put out? The stripped down rule set intended to help get a new generation interested in their game? Well, Hero lab supports it also, and for free. That’s right, If you are a Beginner Box player, go to www.wolflair.com poke around on the product page. The sheer fact that they support this system, and for free, major kuddos, and a great way to get people used to their product at a younger age.

OK, final tally, I promise this time….Seriously, if you are a GM, and you haven’t picked this up yet, you’re going to thank me. If you are a player looking for a tool to make management of your characters easier, this is that tool, or perhaps you’re the kind of player looking for the ultimate GM bribe? I’m not judging, (lol)…point is, you will not regret purchasing this program, its simply that good.

Once you’ve got some time under your belt with it, come join us on the forums and show us what custom goodies you’ve got to share!