Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Tangent Made of, and About, Words


Over the last few years, I’ve noticed a rise in nerds correcting other nerds about the literal meaning of words. In general, this is totally cool, and I know some people are more likely to prefer literal interpretations than others. The other thing I have noticed, however, is that some nerdy folks use this form or correction as a sort of competition.

“Sure, you know a big word, but you aren’t getting the literal meaning right, so that proves that even though we both know a big word, I know it better, so I win.”

Two words I’ve seen this happen with are decimate and sentient. I’m not even going to touch on how the literal definition of literal is literally a point of contention for people, because that is literally self-evident.  

To some degree, the meaning of these words has drifted from their literal definitions, but there is a context to the drift that I think sometimes gets lost in the process of correction.

Vocabulary and Verbosity, Grammatical Drift

The literal meaning of “decimate” is to have 10% of a force killed as an example to the rest of the force in question. This has led to all kinds of jokes about how “I guess you mean that you lost 10% of whatever when you said decimate, instead of a significantly larger portion.”

However, I suspect that the drift of “decimate” didn’t come from the concept of losing 10% of a force to a disciplinary action, but because of the feeling that a battle or an endeavor felt less like a struggle against an equal force, and more like someone in authority dictating the amount of losses that one would take.

In other words, it’s an expression of helplessness and being overwhelmed, as opposed to a mistake in using a term that implies a more specific percentage of loss. “We didn’t fight them tooth and nail, they came in and dictated exactly when and where we were going to take losses.”

AI, Uplift, and You (How to Confuse Them All)

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it feels like the newer expression of this is “sentience.” I have seen an increasing number of people correcting people using the term “sentience” to say that “that doesn’t mean something has human intelligence, it means that it has feelings and uses those feelings to react to its environment.” Which is literally true.

The problem is, I often hear people point out that “you meant sapience,” which isn’t necessarily true. Sapience is the cognitive ability to do a task. That’s a contextually relevant term, not something that means something is of human intelligence and independence.

The problem with this whole train of thought is that sentience became very popular in science fiction, usually relating to machines gaining sentience. If a computer isn’t just running a program but changing and reacting to an environment that it could perceive, this seemed like a relevant benchmark towards artificial intelligence.

The problem is drifting this into other aspects of science fiction and fantasy, the term is often applied to animals. Animals are, by definition, sentient. They can perceive their surroundings and react to their surroundings based on their ability to feel. But saying, for example, a talking wolf is “sapient” doesn’t mean what people think it means either. If you are focusing on their ability to talk, that means that they have the capability to talk, which is relevant in the context that wolves normally do not have the capacity to speak human language, but it isn’t the same as ascribing “personhood.”

The sad reality is that sapience has the same limited context that every other measure of “personhood” used by people with privilege has had over time. People in authority decide what “tasks” a given entity has to be equipped to perform in order to attain “personhood,” but that standard is always a contextual benchmark set by people in a position of privilege. Saying “sapient” instead of “sentient” doesn’t fix that problem.

Language as Gatekeeper

The real terminology would be to definitively state that the entity in question is a person, but people in authority reserve that right, because the connotation of “personhood” is more absolute, and is harder to shift by assessing what people in privilege all have versus what people in marginalized communities have. Except we don’t mind legal decisions about corporations being people, despite not being willing to extend that to all human beings until recently, and even then, we’ve got a lot of people trying to walk that back.

Hey, look, language, like many other things, is political. Who knew?

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, language should be a bridge people to facilitate communication and understanding, not a metric to measure superiority.

Monday, November 4, 2019

What Do I Know About First Impressions? Unearthed Arcana Class Feature Variants (D&D 5e)


I’m freshly back from Gamehole Con. Well, not all that fresh. I’m back under protest, because they refuse to run the event for two weeks straight, and because I don’t have unlimited money. Regardless, on my way home, I noticed a new Unearthed Arcana article for D&D 5e playtesting, and I couldn’t resist taking a look at it.

Class Feature Variants

Overall Thoughts

Before I dive into particulars, I wanted to get my general thoughts on additional class features out first. So far, we have only really seen Subclasses (and spells) as additional class features “officially.” This Unearthed Arcana is introducing Additional Options (new options for existing class features that already have a set number of options, like combat styles or cunning actions), Replacements (taking a class feature that every one of that class just received and turning it into “you get X or Y,” where X is the default version of the class and Y is the new option), and Enhancements (the core class abilities don’t change, but the class will be assumed to have more spells on their spell lists, or they might get a new way of doing something they already do, like the Ranger’s animal companion).

The first thing I wonder is how this plays into the core design philosophy for 5th edition that has been in place up to this point. In other words, the assumption, which is made expressly the default in Adventurers League, is that everything new they introduce only has to work with the Player’s Handbook. In other words, a new race from Mordenkainen’s Tome of Foes or Volo’s Guide to Monsters doesn’t have to work with new subclasses in Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, because the core assumption is that the rules work when you use Mordenkainen’s and the Players Handbook, or Volo’s and the Player’s Handbook, or Xanathar’s and the Player’s Handbook, but not all four together. This has been a pretty solid design conceit, because if a DM wants to restrict what they allow, they can point back to the stated design philosophy of the game. What makes me question this is that the core assumption of some of the Enhancements in the article introduce spells from Xanathar’s to the assumed spell lists. If these options exist in a book that comes out in the future, wouldn’t that in and of itself imply three sources for a character, not just two?

In general, my hierarchy of preferred new class features is Subclass > Additional Options > Replacements > Enhancements. Here’s why:

Subclasses are distinct rules that are a decision that the character makes at one point in their career, and then it's done. Additional options start to introduce a little bit of bloat, but in general, it’s a new rule that introduced into a space where a decision with multiple options is already being introduced. Replacements feel like they could get confusing, because the core entries for all classes are written as if the options they have are THE only option for what the class gains at that level, and this is changing that absolute into an either/or outside of the main class description. Enhancements feel like they are introducing the biggest potential for both bloat and confusion, because if you have a player at the table that just wants to play their character straight from the Player’s Handbook, it isn’t a matter of looking at “is this subclass better than a later subclass,” it’s that the player that has the Player’s Handbook + (Mystery Future Book) will be playing a better version of the class. It has the potential for having a character with a 5e character at the table with someone with a 5.5e character, and that might get to be a problem.

Into the Details

Proficiency versatility doesn’t bother me at all. It’s a change that will hit every 4 levels, when a character is already leveling up, and may even be something that a lot of DMs would allow as a house rule anyway. I’ve got zero problems with a relatively slow change in what a character can do based on the development of the campaign.

Barbarian: I really don’t like Survival Instincts, not because it’s a horrendously overpowered ability by itself, but because I don’t want an increasing number of characters at the table that have abilities that break the assumed range of skill rolls in the same party. Eventually, that erodes the “meaning” of the established skill difficulties in the game.

Instinctive Pounce sounds like a fun alternative to Fast Movement that is thematic for a barbarian character. Not always fast, just ready to sprint towards opponents. This does mean that your orc barbarians might end up being faster than your other barbarians, so I guess that might be a “story” element you want to consider when introducing this feature.

Bard: I’m not sure how I feel about Spell Versatility (and this goes for all of the classes with this feature). I don’t know if it will be a problem at the table, but the concept of it bothers me a little. Instead of having a limited range of spells that the “we don’t prepare spells” crowd normally has, with a long rest, they have access to their whole spell list, with makes the wizard, especially, feel like they exist in a weird, limited space now.

Hey, look, another class with Heroes’ Feast. Hm. I’m not sure that feels all that bard like to me. I also think some of these expanded spells make sense for some subclasses of bard, but not others. Not every bard should be picking up the ability to turn into a berserker, for example.

Cleric: Swapping out a cantrip when you gain a level doesn’t feel too game-breaking to me, and most of the spells the cleric picks up make sense.

I’m super biased, having played a cleric up to 11th level now, but I like being able to burn Channel Divinity for spell slots, because I’ve definitely been in situations where I haven’t needed my Channel Divinity powers, but would really like to cast just one or two more spells.

Blessed strikes doesn’t really grab me one way or another. I can see it as an option for combat-oriented clerics, but it is odd that it’s a general option that can replace two separate options that clerics get for different options of their domains.

Druid: See above for Cantrip Versatility. None of the expanded druid spells seem to be an issue, and Ceremony makes a whole lot of sense. Revivify may be the only one I’m iffy on, but it’s not a huge issue for me.

Having played a cleric that burned a feat to have a familiar, it doesn’t feel like it’s a big deal to allow a druid a familiar when it's drawing on another class feature’s resources, especially since it’s a “temporary” familiar and thematically appropriate to the class.

Fighter: I’ll pull these forward, since they show up at the end, but I kind of like expanding the Fighting Styles available to classes that have them, but I’m not sure I like Superior Technique, because it feels kind of fuzzy to start pulling part of a subclasses feature away from it into a broad class feature.

I don’t know that I mind Maneuver Versatility, other than the fact that it introduces a long rest decision on a character type that didn’t have long rest decisions in the past, and might lead to a few more people in the party deliberating over the “perfect loadout” before getting back to adventuring.

Monk: I like more weapon versatility for the Monk, but I’m not sure how I feel about some of the other options. For some reason it’s harder for me to visualize these features, and I would really need to playtest them to get a feel for what this does to the class overall, even though I’ve played a monk before in 5e.

Paladin: Nothing here grabs me one way or the other, except that the paladin essentially gets to burn Channel Divinity to create spell slots to burn on more smites, which feels like a bit of a roundabout, and the “clutch spells slots” feel less like a thing the paladin needs than the cleric who may be supporting the party with spells.

Ranger: Okay, so as a big fan of rangers for a long time, and as someone that has also played a 5e ranger a few times, I like some of what is going on here. I don’t like Canny (see the Barbarian entry), but almost every alternate feature is something I would take without hesitation over the current version of the class abilities.

I do wonder if the intention for Favored Foe is to allow even hunter’s marks cast with spell slots to benefit from the moratorium on concentration. If so, this optional feature becomes pretty mandatory for melee rangers (assuming you think you’ll need more than your wisdom bonus in hunter’s marks for the day).

It’s also interesting to me that most of the features in this UA for ranger are alternate class features that are pretty much a better version of the current ranger, but the Ranger’s Companion is a straight-up enhancement to the Beast Master’s ability.

Of all of these, the ranger from this UA feels strongly like a “5.5” version of the class.

Rogue: I haven’t read much commentary on this UA yet, but I’ve seen some people worrying that the Aim cunning action might be an issue. Honestly, for me, it will cut down on rogues asking if they have a place to hide and running back and forth between two points in combat.

Sorcerer: First off, see Spell Versatility way back in the bard commentary. Secondly, I’m honestly not sure how I feel about these options. I’m in a game with a sorcerer that is constantly doing all kinds of in-depth rules twisting with spell points, so I’m inclined to be happier with the Font of Magic options over the Metamagic ones.

Warlock: I’m going to backtrack on one thing from my previous commentaries in this post—I’m fine with Warlocks getting Spell Versatility. Their spellcasting is already so weirdly different from other classes that I don’t think that swapping out spells on a long rest really changes the feel of the class or the dynamic with “prepared” casters.

The pact of the Talisman sounds interesting, and my brain may not be processing well after the convention, but I’m not sure giving a familiar the ability to attack is all that great. Eldritch armor actually sounds like an interesting addition to what could be the “combat caster” option of the warlock pacts.

What I really want to say is, I love the Pact of the Tome options in this. Like, I really love them.

Wizard: Nothing to say that I didn’t say above with cantrip versatility.

Fighting Styles: Blind fighting, Thrown Weapon Fighting, and Unarmed Fighting are all options that make perfect sense as fighting options. I like Interception, but I’d like to see how it interacts with other “bodyguard” abilities before making my mind up.

I do like that, as written, all of these new styles are available to fighters, paladins, and rangers.

Final Thoughts

This UA is a LOT to think about. It may be a pretty big paradigm shift. I like a lot of the additional flavor, and I like some of the enhancements that the classes get from this. It's hard for me not to want to see most of the ranger abilities become “official” options. That said, I’m not sure what the long term ripple effect of this many new options will be on the game, overall, but I’m intrigued enough to want to see what happens.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

What Do I Know About First Impressions? Talisman Adventures Playtest Guide


I was a latecomer to the Talisman boardgame, and I actually played Fantasy Flight’s Relic variant set in the Warhammer 40000 universe before I played Talisman itself. That said, there was a time when I first got the app version of the game that I was playing it obsessively.

I was interested to see what a Talisman RPG would look like when I heard one was in production, but when I heard that Brandes and Rabbit Stoddard had worked on it, I became much more interested in seeing it take shape.

As luck would have it, Brandes and Ian Lemke asked me if I would like to see a copy of the Talisman Adventures Playtest Guide, and I said yes. If you haven’t picked up on it by now, let me reiterate the implied disclaimers—while I’ve only gotten to meet them in person once, this year a Gen Con, I’ve talked with Brandes and Rabbit for years online, and my preview copy of the Playtest Guide was sent to me compliments of Ian Lemke.

Since this is the playtest guide, this won’t be a full review, just a first impression article.

Structure

The Playtest Guide document is 82 pages in PDF form, including six pregenerated characters, a character sheet, a page of playtest questions, and a page of designer notes.

The document is professionally formatted, with artistically rendered boarders and a faux parchment background. One thing that immediately stands out to me is that much of the book has female presenting characters represented as adventurers, as well as people of color. This should be a standard now, but it isn’t nearly as common as it should be.

The PDF includes the following sections:

·         History of the Realm
·         Creating a Character
·         Rules of the Game
·         The Corpse Watchers
·         Character Sheets
·         Playtest Questions
·         Designers Notes

History of the Realm

This section is a three-page introduction to the game. It gives the backstory of the setting in a concise format. The introduction mentions that the game and its setting should bring to mind fairy tale conventions, and the introduction does this very well. Most of the characters are addressed by their titles. If a location had a proper name, it is a very archetypical one, like The Storm River or the Middle Region.

While some of this is a holdover from the terminology of the board game, much like 13th Age and its Icons, this really lends an air of mythic stories or folktales, rather than more “grounded” fantasy. I think detailing the setting background in this manner accomplishes two purposes at the same time—the core game remains rooted in a fairy tale sensibility, while leaving the details as more archetypical almost implies permission to use this set of rules for other similar fantasy settings.

Creating a Character

Creating a character involves picking an ancestry, a class, an alignment, assigning aspects and attributes, and figuring your derived statistics from all of those other steps.

Right off the bat, I’m happy that we’re using a term like ancestry in this game. The game doesn’t give bonuses or penalties for attributes, but it does set caps and restrictions on certain aspects. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about that. My knee jerk reaction is to say its better to have caps set differently than to have literal bonuses or penalties, but it still feels like its playing in some long term past issues that we may be able to do better in the future.

One thing I know that I like about the ancestries is that each one has its own background, meaning that while there are thematic trends within an ancestry, ancestries aren’t presented as a monoculture. Additionally, each ancestry has four special abilities, only one of which you pick at first level. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but in advancement, you can choose between class abilities or more ancestry special abilities, keeping with the “thematic, but not uniform” feeling of the ancestries.

The ancestries presented are:

·         Human
·         Dwarf
·         Elf
·         Ghoul
·         Sprite
·         Troll

The human special abilities don’t wow me, but I think its always hard to make something as broad as “human” into something that is exciting. Divorced of a particular established culture, “human” is kind of the “point of view,” “create your own core assumptions” kind of ancestry.

My favorite is definitely the ghoul. It’s not an option that you often see in a game, and I love some of the implied story in the background and the special abilities. You can lean hard into creepy, or rise above it a bit and embrace the concept of being a shepherd of the dead, and I really like that range.

Classes include the following options:

·         Assassin
·         Druid
·         Minstrel
·         Priest
·         Prophet
·         Sorcerer
·         Thief
·         Warrior
·         Wizard

The Assassin and the Thief seem to occupy similar thematic space, but I like that the Assassin is more about doing extra damage under the right circumstances and getting advantages from studying a target, and Thief, in combat, is about setting up other characters and learning information about an opponent.

Like the Assassin and the Thief, the Priest and the Prophet are both similar in theme with slightly different execution. The Priest is the character that cares about the day to day administration of the faith, while the Prophet is the person that is shown the big picture. They have abilities that essentially let the GM funnel information from them passively, and actively, they can make checks to have visions or revelations that answer a question that they pose.

Rounding out our thematically similar pairs, the Sorcerer and the Wizard are both arcane spellcasters, and it’s probably not a surprise that the wizard is the one that does the studying for their craft. The Sorcerer, as far as this game is concerned, is more of what D&D would see, in the modern era, as a Warlock—a character that learns their magic from trafficking with unpredictable powers like fiends or faeries, and they get a familiar that might run amok, if left alone.

If you have played any kind of fantasy roleplaying game before, the archetypes embodied by the Druid, the Minstrel, or the Warrior probably aren’t going to surprise you too much. I did like the explanation of why quickness is important to Minstrels, and it’s interesting that they utilize Nature magic, instead of Arcane or Mystic spells.

Spellcasters have the ability to spend spell points to cast spells. When they are out of spell points, they can burn a spell, meaning that they have to spend time studying the spell again before they can get it back. It’s an interesting, and simple, merger of spell points and Vancian casting.

I also need to take a moment and say how much I love the flavor conveyed in the Wizard’s entry. Wizards get the ability to make psychic attacks, and its flavored in their description by noting that their words themselves have power. If they take a special ability that grants them a staff, their psychic damage is increased. I love that I got overwhelming Saruman vibes just from reading the class description.

Choosing an Alignment is part of character creation, and the alignments are simplified to Good, Neutral, and Evil. Certain class abilities are dependent on alignment, and if a character no longer qualifies because their alignment changes, then they get to pick a new ability, and if they ever go back to their original alignment, they can pick up that old alignment dependent ability again.

In general, I’ve been pretty happy that D&D has been moving away from giving mechanical importance to alignment. The guide for this game goes into a lot of detail to point out that “evil” is, in general, extreme self-interest, and that an evil character shouldn’t screw over their friends or engage in pointless cruelty. The thing is, from the standpoint of emulating Talisman, it makes sense to have alignment as a component, and to have it “shut down” certain abilities when it changes. I’m just wondering if there will be more abilities in the full game that shift alignment, outside of character roleplay, as that’s a thing that happens fairly regularly in the board game.

The different classes set different Strength, Craft, and Life, and Strength and Craft scores are what you use to determine how many points you have to assign to abilities like Brawn, Agility, Mettle, Insight, Wits, and Resolve.

Because it may be a tad bit easy to not pick up on this if you haven’t played the board game, Craft isn’t about making things, per se, it’s about pursuing mental pursuits, such as, for example, crafting spells.

Rules of the Game

The way this book is organized, it has a similar structure to games like D&D, where it jumps you straight into creating a character before it fully explains what all of those numbers mean. There were some tantalizing bits in the character abilities that made me start to wonder, “wait, does that mean . . . “ and here is where I get to find out.

Like the board game, when you want to see if you are successful at something, you roll a number of d6s, then add an attribute if you have a relevant skill, apply a bonus if you have a focus in a skill, or a penalty if you don’t have a skill at all. If you hit the target number, you succeed, and if you don’t, you fail . . . but wait, that’s not all!

Unlike the simpler resolution of the boardgame, in the RPG, there are degrees of success. A standard success is just meeting or exceeding the number. A Great Success is a success where you roll doubles. An Extraordinary Success is a success where you roll triples.

Here is the part where my recent taste in games and preference in game rules gets me excited about this game—the GM doesn’t roll dice, and if the players attack a creature, the creature does damage on a failure, or half damage on a standard success. A Great Success means the opponent doesn’t get to retaliate, and an Extraordinary Success adds extra damage or other effects to the attack.

Any creature that wasn’t engaged by the players and is involved in combat can still take an action, but it its success is determined by the PCs defense roll, rather than by the GM rolling dice.

I love degrees of success, and I am increasingly fascinated with games that define the GMs role with adding complications rather than engaging in the same math as the players. Additionally, there is something that feels different and more impartial about a GM presenting something to the players, but allowing its resolution to be entirely in their hands.

Melee combat, ranged combat, and psychic combat all have different nuances when it comes to what happens in the event of a failure or different levels of success, but all of them revolve around the above generalities.

One of the dice being rolled is the Kismet die, which should be a different color, and works like the other dice, except on a 1 it adds a point of Dark Fate to the GM’s pool, and on a 6, it adds a point of Light Fate to the Player’s pool. Light Fate can be used for rerolls or to trigger special abilities, and the GM can use Dark Fate to trigger special abilities as well.

Surprise rules get a lot more detail than I was expecting, but when getting into the exploration and travel rules presented in the adventure later in the book, this makes a little more sense, as navigation rules can regularly lead to one side or another in a travel encounter having the ability to set up ambushes. The penalties can really rack up during an ambush, and I’m curious to see how devastating ambushes are in an ongoing game.

Injuries are tracked on two different axis, while measuring Life as well as incurring wounds. A character dropped to 0 Life may be dying, but they also get a wound. Even when they get Life back, wounds are treated separately, and provide a persistent penalty to checks. It reminds me a little of the ongoing crits a character can suffer in Genesys, except that in Genesys, losing vitality doesn’t kill you, crits kill you.

There is a section on spells, and, broadly, some spells have utility effects (see through an animal’s eyes, teleport a short distance), while others heal or cause damage. Spells generally require tests, however, meaning that it’s not trivial to use them.

The next section caught my attention, because it introduces rules for Followers. This is another aspect of the game that makes sense given that you can pick up followers as assets in the board game, but I really like the implementation of them in this game.

Followers aren’t fully stated out characters. They have a Life score, and a Max Loyalty score, and they have something that they can do for characters, either passively or actively. There are entries on how to restore Loyalty, because if the Followers Loyalty drops for too long, they’ll leave. They are also more fragile than regular characters, meaning they die if they hit 0 Life. No making tests to stay alive for them. Some followers also have alignment requirements as well, and they take off if they don’t like the vibe their getting from their boss.

I love the idea of having followers that do something in the game, but I have always hated the idea of running a fully detailed additional character in these circumstances. Even when the follower is a built using “monster rules,” they still effectively engage the rules in a similar manner to a regular character. I really like that these followers have quantified rules for what they do, and under what conditions they expire or leave. I’m really interested to see this in play.

The Corpse Watchers

The sample adventure sees the adventures arrive in town, find out about some missing townsfolk, travel to a location, stumble upon a cursed area, and have the opportunity to save the townsfolk. Rather than have a GM section that explains reactions, travel rules, or opponents, the adventure serves as the means of giving examples of what these rules look like in play.

I love some of the wilder bits of fantasy in this adventure. The structure is fairly basic, but you run across items like the Phoenix Potion, which lets you come back the next day if you die before the next sunrise. Its kind of a crazy, over the top item that feels very folkloreish in is straightforward implementation. “By the way, if you drink this first, then die, don’t worry, you’ll be back.”

The Exploration rules are mentioned in this adventure as a summary of what a more detailed system will look like in the main rules. It involves giving PCs roles like The Guide, Watcher, and Hunter, and having different events trigger during the trip based on their rolls. This really reminded me of the Journey rules in The One Ring and Adventures in Middle-earth, and that’s a good thing. I think its way more interesting if a “random encounter” triggers from the guide or the watcher not seeing all of the dangers on the upcoming path rather than leaving things up to actual random determination.

Looking over the traits given to the example creatures, I’m not thrilled with having special abilities that the GM can trigger that can potentially paralyze a PC for up to six rounds. Because the GM specifically has to spend Dark Fate to trigger this, it feels very adversarial to me, more so than just doing extra damage or even a lesser, temporary penalty. I think I would almost rather the special abilities that the GM can trigger serve to keep the opponent in the fight longer, rather than doing something extra nasty, since they are specifically spending from their pool to cause that effect.

I like that there are multiple ways to resolve the curse hanging over the afflicted villagers, and I also like the risk versus reward aspect the adventure introduces when it comes to trying to gather extra treasure.

The end of the adventure summarizes what leveling up looks like in the game, which generally involves adding increases to Life, getting access to new abilities, or bonuses to aspects. There are XP rewards for various goals in the adventure, as well as XP rewards for individual monsters. I almost wish the XP reward for potential combat encounters were phrased more like Dungeon Crawl Classics, where the XP is for surviving the encounter, whether that involved killing the monster or running from it, even though the encounter is worth more depending on how dangerous it was.

Final Thoughts

It’s kind of fascinating that by designing the game to pick up on a lot of the traits of the boardgame, the RPG also picks up on some modern trends in RPG design, such as more player facing and driven mechanics. I am generally a big fan of GM currencies and player facing mechanics, although I do thing some of the triggered abilities in the example creatures feel a bit too adversarial. When I spend resources in games that give me GM resources, it’s usually to make things more complicated or to keep an opponent in play, not to negate a player’s ability to participate.

I’m curious to see more magic items in play in this system as well. Given that one of the spells in the game is a relatively casual magic item destroyer, and given how much the RPG seems to be emulating aspects of the board game, I’m expecting magic items to be fairly common. I’m just hoping for more items with the whimsy (and admitted usefulness) of the Phoenix Potion.

I’m really happy to see the diversity of characters in the artwork. I am curious to see if the game can manage other forms of diversity, given that the genre it’s playing with often only touches lightly on deeper story issues. It would still be nice to see an adventure with a prince’s true love that doesn’t have to be a woman, or to have a priest or a prophet that doesn’t conform to binary gender.

Reading through this playtest document, I’m way more excited to see a full version of this game than I thought I would be. It does a great job of balancing RPG design with thematic elements pulled from the board game, and catching the feel of fantasy that is just a shade closer to folklore than it is to full blown epic fantasy.