RPG Wishlist, Fall 2005

Looking back through the archives, I was stunned to see that I hadn’t written one of these little gaming wish lists in months, since way back in March 2005. I think that’s do to a couple of factors — for one, I got a heck of a lot of gaming stuff for Christmas, and its taken me this long to get through it all. That deluge sated much of my urge to buy new RPG products, but the other sad truth is that there just hasn’t been much out there that’s excited me enough to buy … or even think about buying.

Fortunately, GenCon 2005 arrived, bringing with it the usual surge of new products and announcements, which in turn has me thinking how I can earn a few more bucks freelancing to afford some new literary toys.

Iron Heroes by Malhavoc Press

I’m always a sucker for games that do new and exciting things with the d20 ruleset, and Malhavoc Press’ Iron Heroes (Amazon) looks to do both. This new alternative player’s handbook does for combat what Arcana Evolved (Amazon) did for magic: namely gut and then rebuild the archetypes and mechanics upon with Dungeons & Dragons is based.

Originally called “Iron Lore” (the name was changed after the threat of the lawsuit), Iron Heroes introduces a variety of game mechanics to enhance swordsmanship while downplaying divine and arcane magic. The FAQ explains how:

“It emphasizes maneuver, inventive attacks, and tactics rather than static lines of battle. The innovative stunt system encourages characters to accomplish heroic and imaginative attacks. The standard skills have all-new combat uses. Modifications to the rules for attacks of opportunity and threatened areas emphasize outmaneuvering foes. And the exciting new fighting style feat categories allow characters to be vivid and distinct on the battlefield.”

It sounds very cool; I could certainly see using something like this within my Greyhawk campaign — perhaps through a specialized Greyhawk campaign focusing entirely on fighters and rouges, and ignoring the city’s arcane/divine possibilities. You can learn more about it on the Malhavoc Press Web site [Web Archive].

Stormwrack by Wizards of the Coast

I like the idea of an sea-borne Dungeons & Dragons campaign, but time and against, my execution of has fallen short. There are plenty of reasons, including a lack of good rules governing ship chases and ship-to-ship combat, a lack of floor plans for different kinds of ships, insufficient rules for underwater combat. The end result was a combat that that felt ponderous and undramatic, when I’d been hoping for something filled with swashbuckling excitement.

I don’t know if Stormwrack (Amazon) Wizards of the Coast’s new water-based environment book, will solve all of my aquatic adventuring problems, but from what I’ve seen of the tome, it looks like it may handle a bunch of them. It offers rules for sea-based campaigns (I’m not sure what those entail though), more detailed rules for dealing with water, numerous maps of ships as well as the obligatory new spells, skills and feats.

Spycraft 2.0 by Alderac

I loved Alderiac’s high octane Spycraft role-playing game, which did a great job of recreating the espionage adventures that you see in series like Mission Impossible, Alias and The A Team as well as super-spy movies like the various James Bond 007 films, Sneakers and The Saint. Its biggest shortcomings were an over-reliance on the Players Handbook — it was released as a d20 branded game, which mean that you had to use the Dungeons & Dragons PHB for experience advancement and certain core rules regarding leveling up characters, none of which was spelled out very well in the original Spycraft book. Spycraft’s other problem stemmed from its success: Alderac published a heck of a lot of supplements for the game, most of which superseded the original rules. Unfortunately, later supplements tended to rely on earlier ones for updated rules, and the whole mess could make it difficult to take full advantage of the system’s coolness.

Spycraft 2.0 (Amazon) looks to remedy the situation by giving the system a much-needed overhaul. The new game is based on the open gaming license, which means that it can take advantage of all the d20 goodness without having to tie itself to the D&D Players Handbook, which should make the game far more self-contained and easier to run. The update also gathers together many of the improvements made in the various supplements, providing one cohesive ruleset for a game in which rule cohesion tended to be a pipe dream. Moreover, from what I’ve heard, the game’s focus has been broadened to include all sorts of modern day games, including espionage, action and near-future science fiction. As someone who’s often thought of running a variety of modern campaigns (see my “Libertarian Gamer” columns for more on that) this is another welcome change.

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