Friday, December 14, 2018

Preparing for a New Year

    2018 has not worked out so good for me in terms of running my blog. Personally life has been full of ups and downs, which I've let distract me from writing. 2019 I intend to be different. I really like writing, programming and hacking RPGs so I'm taking the rest of this month to write-ahead by as many posts as I can, and I'm committing to starting off 2019 with a steady stream of updates. So I'm not going to be posting anything for the rest of December, but I will have plenty of new material starting January.
    I want to thank all of you have have been keeping an eye on my blog, I hope I've given you something interesting to read, and I look forward to the new year!

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Current Projects - December 2018

    I've been pretty quiet recently, but I am working on a few things I hope to be sharing soon.  In the two campaigns I'm running I have epic battles coming up, so I'm going to be doing a post on the mass combat rules in Pathfinder's Ultimate Campaign.  However, from reading them I don't like them at all, so I'm also working on some house rules of my own (and one campaign is DnD 5th, so I need rules that can work in two systems - or two different sets of rules!).
    On the programming front, I've done some re-working of my plans for Bookworm, and I'm going to be continuing that project and adding some features, and I'm going to be reviewing the Marvel Puzzle Quest mobile game, why I hate it because it is mean and a big poopy-head game, and starting on my own Match 3 game in HTML, CSS and JavaScript.  So I plan on getting back to more regular posting soon and just wanted to let anyone interested know that I haven't fallen off the world yet :)

Thursday, October 18, 2018

"Adventures In Middle-Earth" Review part 5 - Odds and Ends

    In the final part of my "Adventures In Middle-Earth" (or AiME) review I want to briefly talk about a few other things I like about the game, but which are not very developed or that I just haven't used...

Wealth Levels
    So every Culture ('Race' in 5e) has a standard of living...

A culture’s Standard of Living is a rough indication of the resources of any one of its members. The game ranks the average economic status of a folk in five tiers: Poor, Frugal, Martial, Prosperous, and finally Rich. It is used to gauge the approximate economic background of a character, and his ability to make out-of-pocket expenses.

    Now, I hate counting out gold pieces.  It's pretty much impossible to design and sustain a reasonable RPG economy, things seem to always be too cheap or too expensive in my experiences.  And I'm not sure how much it really adds to the game.  Sure, if you're a few bucks short of getting that shiny you want it creates incentive for your character to do something stupid (read: adventuring).  But is that really such a compelling motivation?  And isn't that just a low-level problem?  By the time you're level 10 you should have plenty of money and/ or skills to make money.
    Sadly while AiME defines these 'wealth levels' it doesn't really do anything with them.  It has some descriptions about each level on pages 147 - 149, but it doesn't divide equipment by those levels.  I would use this system to do something simple like: each character can choose 1 weapon, 1 armor and any 5 items from their wealth level's list.  Which AiME doesn't, so I kind of wonder why they put it in the game in the first place.
Fellowship Phase
    The book describes it as this...

Most games of Adventures in Middle-earth presume one or two adventures a year – “The Adventuring Phase”. When the adventuring is done, characters are given time between their travels to recover for a while, spending time with loved ones, looking after a business, or pursing their own interests. This time between adventures is referred to as the Fellowship phase, and characters may perform various undertakings during it – learning new abilities, removing Corruption, or establishing powerful patrons as allies. The Fellowship phase is an addition to the standard rule set, and is designed to evoke the storybook atmosphere of Middle-earth.

    It's the AiME "downtime" system.  Now, I really like the idea of downtime systems.  I think it adds a nice layer to the game to note time passing and that the heroes don't fight evil 24/ 7 for eternity like in a comic book.  But downtime systems are very tricky.  For one, time itself is not really well defined or use mechanically, there are a few good articles by The Angry GM about that.  Second, the downtime choices need to be meaningful, give you something to care about enough to be worth adding yet another mini-game to the rules.
    Sadly, I don't think AiME's Fellowship phase really adds much to the game.  There are very few actions you can take overall, some are tied to specific cultures at specific places, and not many are terribly meaningful.  Not to say that it's a bad system - while you are at Lake-town you can forage for healing herbs (rolling on a table for what you find and how much) or buy an upgraded piece of equipment at the market; neither of which you can do elsewhere, so it makes finding/ being at Lake-town feel special.  But there just isn't enough of that.  It's an okay system, that's the most I can say for it.
Combat Roles
    Okay, so I'm kind of cheating here - this rule isn't from the AiME books, it's from the original "The One Ring" RPG that AiME is adapting.  But I think there's a really cool idea for fighting roles in the "Adventurer's Companion" book...

    The true test of a company’s mettle comes when a small band of heroes is surrounded by many enemies. It is at that moment that a company of veteran adventurers can demonstrate that fellowship means more to them than just friendship and closeness.
    When a company of heroes is attacked, the player-heroes can choose to adopt a number of combat roles, representing their capacity to fight as a tight-knit formation.

    The captain of a company stands out in the confusion of a battle, as they must lead their warriors as they face the enemy. This makes the Captain the favourite target of archers and other creatures able to attack from a distance, wishing to see the leader of their enemies slain.

    By making a display of personal prowess, the companion fighting as the Champion attracts the attention of the most powerful foes among the adversaries, in an attempt to vanquish them singlehandedly.

    If among the companions there is someone whose life the heroes want to safeguard the most, a player may choose this role. At the onset of a fight, the companions look out for their Ward, manoeuvring to let only the weakest opponents engage the protected hero.

    I love this system.  It follows what a party might do anyways, but it sets how the monsters are going to attack explicitly.  Ranged monsters will attack the Captain, the biggest (or the most) monsters are going to attack the Champion and only the weakest monster(s) will attack the Ward.  This is cool because it gives direct control in how the fight plays out to the party.  And frankly, I think most RPGs out there would benefit from giving more direct tactical control to the party, and more abilities that played off the party as a whole.  It's a small thing, and I haven't had a chance to play with it, but I think it's a great addition to the game.

And that's all that really jumped out at me as being different from basic DnD 5e.

So what do I think about AiME?
    Not bad, not bad at all.
    This is a pretty good system for a "low magic" fantasy setting, and it does a good job adapting The Lord of the Rings to DnD 5e.  I've enjoyed running it, and my players have said they've enjoyed playing it.  The "Wilderland Adventures" campaign is pretty good overall, one adventure (the 4th) seems a little weak to me, and they like railroading the players a bit too much - but it's better than plenty of other prepackaged adventures I've run in the past.  It's also easy to adapt into stand-alone adventures or to tweak the story-line to fit your party better.
    My only real complaint is that they kept too much of the core DnD 5e classes/ class abilities - they really needed to make some custom classes.  But I just let my players take some archetypes from Xanathar's Guide to Everything and I re-wrote a few abilities to suit my tastes.
    I'd say give it a try if you like 5e and Tolkeen, I think you won't regret it.

You can find previous installments of this series here

Monday, October 8, 2018

"Adventures In Middle-Earth" Review part 4 - Audiences

    Out of all the things AiMe added to base DnD 5e there are two that I really like: the travel/ journeys system and the audience mechanics.  Talking to NPCs is always at least somewhat problematical in most RPGs, and in the DnD-descendents very much so.  Players need to know enough of the talking rules to be able to formulate strategies and predict outcomes, something vital to playing any game, but DnD has never created well-developed rules for talking, instead saying "just role-play it" on average, which doesn't make much sense given that none of us are Wizards riddling with Dragons in real life to use as inspiration.  So I am always happy to see a game try to tackle the "talking gap" even if it doesn't do a great job.
    To be perfectly honest, the Audience system in AiME is not going to revolutionize your conversations, but for a specific situation it actually works pretty well.  An Audience is a way to mechanically measure how much of a favorable, or unfavorable, impression the party as a whole makes on an NPC.  And for that, it does a pretty good job.
    Page 192 of the Player's Guide has the Audience rules.  It starts with a table of how each culture sees the other cultures.  This is good information, because making a good impression is very much effected by cultural stereotypes, that can be one of the challenges for the players to overcome.  I do wish this had all also been summarized at the end of each culture in the earlier character creation section, but that's a minor nitpick.  There are 6 categories of how cultures see each other, from "Favored" to "Mistrust" and "Unknown."  The problem with DnD's base rules shows up quickly in a sidebar here...

The attitude of an individual being intimidated generally drops off the chart from “Mistrust” to “Hostile”. Note that use of the Intimidation skill can be a Misdeed (violent threat – see page 182) causing whoever attempts it to gain one automatic Shadow point, whether successful or not.

    Wow, so if Intimidation is a Misdeed, that is a big problem.  DnD 5e only has 3 conversation skills: Deception, Intimidation and Persuasion.  So 1/3rd of your options get thrown out the window.  I think this is a too narrow reading of Intimidation as a threat of direct physical violence instead of something bad will happen to the NPC if they don't help the PCs, but not necessarily from the PCs actions.  Saying "you're going to have to live with yourself if you don't help us" should be Intimidation, in my opinion, and it isn't the PCs threatening to beat up the NPC, which is a tactic of conversation very rarely used anyways.
    Sorry, digression, back to the rules :)
    So each culture has it's base outlook on other cultures.  That sets up the beginning of the conversation, then the players start to roll.  The book says...

    When meeting someone for the first time, especially one of the great, powerful or wise, it is well to go about it in the proper way.
    One member of the company must make an Intelligence (Traditions) check at DC15 to introduce the group. Depending on circumstances, a hero’s culture, Standard of Living and reputation can all influence how they are received...
    ...The result of this check determines the other person’s initial reaction. If the check succeeds, use the table matching the non-player character’s attitude towards that culture. If the check fails, then in this social encounter only, treat the non-player character’s attitude as being one step lower. Treat Unknown and Askance as occupying the same ‘rung’ – in either case, the attitude caused by a failed check is Mistrustful.
    For example, a Woodman visits King Bard in Lake-town. Cross-referencing ‘Barding’ and ‘Woodmen’ on the table gives a starting attitude of Neutral. However, the unfortunate Woodman fails his Intelligence (traditions) check and so Bard looks Askance at this boorish barbarian from the wild forest.
    Mixed Companies: If there is a mix of cultures in the company, then use the attitude of the spokesman – the Player-hero who makes the initial Intelligence (Traditions) roll.

    Okay, so an Int-based skill is a nice change from the 'all Cha all the time' that RPGs usually use.  The mixed company rules are nice, so if talking to a Dwarf would be a penalty, as long as the spokesman isn't the Dwarf then the party isn't being punished or hindered for being a mixed group, I like that because it helps prevent a player feeling like a burden to the party.  Then the chapter has a sample breakdown of what an NPC is willing to do for the PCs, based on each attitude category, which I will summarize here...

  • greets the Company warmly, and will make minor sacrifices and honour small requests.
  • accepts a significant risk to aid the Company, if needed. The Company are treated as honoured guests.
  • does whatever the Company ask, as long as the requests are not outrageous or suspicious. The Company are welcomed as the NPC’s close kinfolk and given every comfort and honour that can be mustered.
  • does as asked, as long as there is no prospect of sacrifice or peril. Shelter is freely offered.
  • greets the Company warmly, and will make minor sacrifices and honour small requests.
  • accepts a significant risk to aid the Company, if needed. The Company are treated as honoured guests.
  • offers no help, but does no harm.
  • grudgingly offers shelter for a few nights, and does as asked as long as no risk or sacrifice is required.
  • provides whatever minor aid or service is asked by the company, but balks at any larger requests.
  • offers no help, and bids the company leave immediately.
  • grudgingly offers shelter for one night, but nothing more.
  • grudgingly offers shelter for one night, and does as asked as long as no risk or sacrifice is required.
  • opposes the company’s actions and thwarts them if possible. Shelter is refused.
  • offers no help, and bids the company leave immediately.
  • grudgingly offers shelter for one night, but nothing more.

    This is a pretty comprehensive table, and easy to figure out on the fly what the NPC would be willing to do for the party.
    And then the chapter ends, and you might think while this is kind of nice, it isn't really anything that great.  Because the good parts of the system are actually on the GM side and are hidden from the players.
    Here is an excerpt from the "Wilderland Adventures" campaign book, in the very first adventure the players meet the Wood Elves...

Guests of the Elves
    Sadly, the company see little of the Elvenking’s halls. Baldor is met by a friend of his, an Elf named Lindar who is master of the king’s cellars. Baldor is welcome here – the other characters may not be so lucky. If the company are unable to convince Lindar of their good character, they are obliged to wait under guard in the cellars until the caravan is ready to depart. Elves of Mirkwood are of course allowed to wander the halls as they wish.

    Lindar’s sole motivation is to ensure that the player characters keep the peace within the Elf-King’s halls.

+2: If the player characters are especially polite and courteous, or bring interesting news from afar
+1: If there are any Elves in the Company.
-1: If there any Dwarves in the company.
-2: If the characters demand better accommodation or complain about the guards.

    In the halls of the Elven-king, it is expected that one makes a DC 15 Intelligence (Traditions) check. Less educated heroes might make a DC 20 Charisma (Persuasion) check instead.

    Lindar suggests that as the Elves do not know the company, they should remain here to ‘guard the supplies’. In two days, the Elves will bring the company to the edge of Thranduil’s realm. In the meantime, they can remain here in the caves; Lindar promises to send down some bread and wine.

    Failure: Insulted, Lindar demands that the company leave immediately. It’s a Fell and Forboding Start to their crossing of Mirkwood, and they automatically get that result without having to roll on the Embarkation table.
    Success by 0-2: Lindar permits the adventures to reside in the caves until they are ready to depart.
    Success by 3-4: Lindar sends down excellent meals from the Elf-King’s kitchens, and the adventurers are welcome to visit again in future.
    Success by 6 or more: The characters are permitted to stay in better quarters in the upper caves, and may even hear the Elves singing. The combination of soft beds and good company ensures the characters depart With Hopeful Hearts and Clear Purpose when the journey begins without needing to roll on the Embarkation table.

    Now, I don't run very many published adventures so my opinion pool is limited, but this is one of the most useful NPC introductions I can remember.  It lays out the NPCs stance pretty clearly and succinctly, and then it gives some nice mechanical benefits to how the party might act.  It does have a kind of weird thing about "if the players complain about the accommodations or guards" which is always stupid to me because what kind of a-hole players do you have at your table that just complain about everything for no reason?  The outcomes are also clearly defined and have mechanical as well as story consequences.
    Here's one more block, from the same book but a later adventure...

Encountering the Village Elders
    The three Beornings who face the company are: Hartwulf, a greybeard who leans heavily upon a staff, and mumbles when he talks. The villagers call him their wiseman, and believe he knows all sorts of magical secrets – but who knows what he means when he mutters to himself. Ava is Hartwulf’s daughter and one of the strongest personalities in the village. She is the clan’s diplomat and spokeswoman when trading and dealing with outsiders. She mistrusts visitors, and always tries to dissuade them from coming too close to the village. Williferd, a warrior. With the recent death of Rathfic and the disgrace of Oderic, Williferd is now the most experienced warrior of Stonyford. He is very nervous about this new honour, and is clearly jumpy. He keeps one hand on his axe-handle at all times.

    Hartwulf just wants to get through the encounter without too much fuss.
    Ava wishes to give a good impression of her village to the strangers.
    Williferd is nervous, and desperate to show strength.
+2: Beornings can be trusted; other folk less so. (If the companions declare they are on a mission for Beorn immediately or if the company has Beorn’s blessing, they are counted as Beornings.)
-1: (Ava only) Affairs are to be kept private. (Ava grows worried if the characters seem too eager to pry into the events that led to Oderic’s arrest.)
-1: (Hartwulf only) Discussions are to be kept short. (Hartwulf grows tired if the characters are evasive or longwinded.)
-1: (Williferd only) Swords come easily to the hands of strangers. (He’s looking for a fight.)

    The three villagers introduce themselves first, with Ava doing most of the talking.
    “Strangers we do not welcome to our homes. Unless you have business here, you must move on. Woodland Hall is but a few days travel east of here; doubtless you will find better hospitality there. We have suffered enough sorrow in recent days. I beg you, leave us in peace.”
    Ava is a hardened diplomat and difficult to impress. She imposes Disadvantage upon the DC 15 Intelligence (Traditions) introduction check).

    The first thing the companions need to do is to get permission to enter the village. If they provide a thorough telling of how Oderic escaped and how the companions have tracked him back here, they receive a +1 bonus modifier to the Final Audience Check. If they instead barge into the village without explaining themselves, they gain a -1 modifier instead. In either case, Ava directs them to an empty house near the river-bank, this was Oderic’s house.
    Unless persuaded otherwise, Ava demands they hand their weapons over to Williferd before entering the village.
    Once they have permission to enter the village, they can share news. On hearing that Oderic has escaped, the Beornings are alarmed. Ava shakes her head. “These are grim tidings. Oderic is a murderer and kinslayer. We thought that by sending him to the Carrock for judgement, we were done with his evil.”  Her aged father mutters something into his beard about curses and ghosts, while Williferd grips his axe even tighter and looks around warily as if expecting Oderic to jump out from behind a tree. The company can get the same story from Ava as they receive in Sorrows Old & New , below, although Ava’s version of events is less charitable than some. Ava tells the company that she has heard nothing more of Oderic since he was taken away up the river by Merovech and Odo, but it is possible that someone in the village saw him and said nothing.

Sorrows Old & New
    The villager’s goodwill depends on how they did meeting the elders. Choose one hero to make a Final Audience Check using any appropriate skills (Traditions or Persuasion most likely)
    Failure: The villagers offer no welcome, and barely acknowledge the travellers’ existence. They are given stale bread to eat. The difficulty for all interactions in the village is set at DC 15.
    0-4: The villagers give a grudging welcome, and invite the company to share their fires. They are given fish to eat, and the DC for interaction rolls stays at the level of DC 10.
    5 or more: The villagers greet the travellers as welcome guests! A deer is roasted, and the whole village gathers around to hear news and tell tales. The DC of Interaction rolls is reduced to DC 5.

    Again, I think this gets a lot of useful information across in a short and clear block.  Each NPC is given enough character to be useful, but there's still room to improvise something yourself as GM.  There are a couple of quote blocks that set the mood and tone for that NPC, which again you could read or improvise on.  And there are role-playing guides that also have some mechanical weight along with pretty clear guidelines on how the conversation could end and what the NPCs would do thereafter.  I like this mix of, well, 'rules' and 'storytelling' that remembers this is a game that needs rules along with setting the scene and players involved.
    This is not a perfect system by any means, and it is really only good at the "first impression" stage, not a general conversation mechanic.  Still, it's one of the more useful I've seen in DnD-based RPGs and I think it captures the spirit of The Lord of the Rings well.  In the "Lore-master's Guidebook" (or GM's guide) pages 80-85 there are some more rules for creating your own Audiences, and it's pretty useful overall.  I would have liked more than just one example, but if you also have the "Wilderlands Adventure" book then there are several - pretty much at least 1 Audience per adventure (with 7 adventures total).

     There are some good ideas here, and I have liked this system overall.  I wish this was an OGL system that people could build on and improve, but sadly you couldn't directly lift this for your own system (which I talked about in my last post).
    To finish out this review I'm going to do one more post with a quick run-down of some other rules AiMe added, and then give my thoughts on the game as a whole.

You can find the rest of this series here

Thursday, October 4, 2018

"Adventures In Middle-Earth" Review part 3 - Shadow and Corruption

    This added mechanic seems to draw from Boromir.  He was the human who went crazy and tried to steal the ring from Frodo, and he is an interesting character to think about in terms of his literary appearance and how that might translate to an RPG.  I always thought Boromir was an odd duck - if you look at the fellowship overall they are all good people.  Gandalf is a wizard (really more like an angel) working to help save Middle-Earth, Aragorn is a future King, Legolas and Sam both stalwart friends, even Merry and Pippin are in over their heads, but continue to risk their lives to help their friends.  Everybody is pretty fundamentally good.  Then you have Boromir, who is a good guy at heart, but briefly becomes a bad guy, then goes good again.  He strikes me because of something that I didn't like about the Lord of the Rings story: why is the One Ring so scary?  There is a line somewhere in the books and movies about how the One Ring will give Sauron power or domination over men, but it is not your typical, flashy, world-ending source of doom.  Heck, the Dwarves lost their rings and the Elves wear theirs - if it was so terrifying that the One Ring could "rule them all" then why were they treated so casually?  I never really felt like the story conveyed how the One Ring was such a fearsome weapon.
    And that ties into the characters.  Frodo carries the Ring, and everybody else is warned away from it, but it really doesn't do much.  I mean, you hear about how it's corrupting him, but aside from Elijah Wood looking vaguely sea-sick/ sleepy it doesn't really do anything frightening.  Which is kind of why I think Boromir exists.  While a lot of people come in contact with the ring, pretty much all of them stay away from it.  Boromir is the only one who falls under it's spell and actually does something bad.  Which he is then killed right after.  So I always kind of felt he was thrown into the story to be the "cautionary tale," the example of what could happen if the Ring regained it's power.
    This has a lot of implications for an RPG though because of that one little thing called "player agency."  That's the idea that the player should be in charge of their character.  Like all things RPG this is a concept that each player and table sees a little differently.  Some players absolutely hate having control of their character taken away, others might specifically choose to play a game like Call of Cthulhu expecting their character to fall into madness and wanting to watch the ride.  So adding a mechanic for the character acting "badly/ crazy" is a potential minefield.
    Overall I think AiMe does okay with the concept, but it does create a fairly weak mechanic.  So, there are 4 general ways you might accumulate "Shadow points"-

  • Experiencing distressing events.
  • Crossing or dwelling in an area tainted by manifestations of the Shadow.
  • Committing despicable or dishonourable deeds, regardless of the end they sought to achieve.
  • Taking possession of a cursed or tainted item or treasure.

    So when you run into one of these circumstances you will usually make a DC 15 Wisdom save.  So you've got an unmodified 30% chance of shrugging it off.  If you fail the save then you gain 1 or more Shadow points.  Which is where it gets kind of weird.  First though, let's break down these circumstances.

Experiencing distressing events
    There's a chart in the book that goes from witnessing an accident, to being betrayed by a friend, to being tortured.  This makes sense, as bad things happen to the character their spirits/ outlook will be effected.  I kind of don't like these sorts of tables, because I think that level needs to be taken into account.  I fell like the older and more experienced you are the easier you should be able to handle tragic events (since no doubt you've seen and heard things over your life, possibly outside the adventure spotlight), not only have a bonus if you are "proficient" in Wis saves.  This is also kind of tricky because these are not the sorts of things that will usually happen by random chance, I think a lot of these have to be written into an adventure to come up.

Crossing or dwelling in an area tainted by manifestations of the Shadow
    I like this one.  Mirkwood is a scary forest overrun by man-eating spiders, so I like how just walking through it could give you nightmares.  To tie this mechanic into a place is a nice extra layer of world-building.  Again, not something likely to pop up at random, usually you'll write an adventure to take players there (or give them the option at least).  Kinda hard to imagine accidentally stumbling upon a horrifying forest of evil.

Committing despicable or dishonourable deeds, regardless of the end they sought to achieve
    Now this one I really hate in every 'sanity' or 'morality' system I've seen it in, because basically it says "are your players a-holes?"  Now, some tables like 'morally grey' stories and if that works for them then great.  Personally I've lived though too many "Chaotic A-hole" characters back in the early D&D days and I choose not to play with those sorts of players anymore.
    The thing is, this is either not something that is going to come up often if at all, and when it does it's likely to be more about out-of-game issues.  My motto is 'never cross the streams, don't make things happen in-game because of things out-of-game.'  I don't give awards for players showing up on time or buying snacks, that's all stuff that's a part of our personal relationships and not the characters.  Likewise I think punishing a character with Shadow points because the player is acting like a poop emoji is a recipe for disaster.  If the player's actions are at fault, then take that up directly with the player.  Mixing things in and out of game have caused more problems than benefits in my experience.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

Taking possession of a cursed or tainted item or treasure
    Again, just how often is this going to come up?  This also has a precedent in the lore, the evil seeing stones (palantirs) helped drive Saruman to the dark side and Denethor crazy.  But just how many are your party likely to find?  This is one that really needs to be set up by the GM, to creating a scary treasure and then giving the party a reason to keep it as it drives them to madness.

    Okay, so something bad has happened and you've picked up a Shadow point or two.  So now what, what does that mean?  Here is where things get strange in my opinion.
    So the game adds a new condition called "Miserable."  It imposes disadvantage on attack rolls and you automatically fail any Charisma checks.  Okay, you don't want to fight and you're very anti-social.  The thing is, you only become Miserable when your Shadow point total exceeds your Wisdom score.  That's score, not modifier.  So it takes anywhere from 9 to 17 Shadow points to drive a 'typical' character to being miserable.  Even on the low end (Wis 8 so 9 Shadow) that is a lot of bad stuff to happen and scary places to go through.  In 4 full adventures I'm not sure my group has had the chance to earn that many Shadow points, and I'm playing by the pre-written adventures.
    The real fun comes when a character is Miserable, they then have a chance to fall into madness...

Bouts Of Madness
    When a Player-hero who is Miserable rolls equal or less than difference between their Shadow point total and their Wisdom while making an ability check, attack roll or saving throw, they experience a bout of madness.
    For example, a Player-hero with Wisdom 10 and 15 Shadow points, suffers a bout of madness when they roll five or below while making an ability check, attack roll or saving throw. If they gain another point of Shadow then the bout is triggered on a roll of 1 – 6, and so on.

    This really gets fun.  First, you have to remember this, like write it on a sticky note or something, because it could trigger at any time.  Second, exactly what should happen is really vague, the book has this for an example...

Rage – the character broods over real or imaginary wrongs until they react aggressively to a perceived threat or source of opposition.
Wretchedness – the hero descends in a deep state of depression. They cannot propose any task for the length of the crisis.
Desperation – the hero cannot find a trace of hope in his spirit, and thus cannot use inspiration until their heart is again lifted.
Lust – the character feels an irresistible desire for an object not belonging to them, and tries to secretly take it.

    So how exactly is your 'bout of lust' supposed to kick in if you roll a 1 on a Survival check to follow tracks in the forest?  You feel an uncontrollable desire for a nearby flower?  The totally random nature of this is a problem, and the book even acknowledges that by saying that the GM can hold off on having the bout of madness kick in, but that's another problem because you don't want to separate the punishment from the mistake by too much, then it just feels like you're being mean arbitrarily instead of because of what the character/ player have done.
    A kind of cool thing though is what happens after your bout of madness, because the effects stick with you...

    When a bout of madness finally passes, the character regains control and sees their mind finally cleared of the tangle of fear and doubt he fell into before facing the crisis. In gaming terms, a player who suffered a bout of madness cancels all the Shadow points they have accumulated since their last bout of madness, and replaces them with a single ‘permanent’ Shadow point.
    Permanent Shadow points may not be removed in any way – they are permanent corruption of the spirit and there is no magic that can undo them; however, they are considered as normal Shadow points for all other purposes.

    In addition to ‘resetting’ their Shadow points, every time a Player-hero suffers a bout of madness they develop a new Shadow Weakness Flaw. Their Shadow Weakness determines the precise nature of their degeneration, as the various Shadow Weakness Flaws are taken from a list directly corresponding to their chosen Shadow Weakness.
    A Shadow Weakness represents an individual’s main inner fault; their susceptibility to a certain kind of temptation or behavioural flaw. This vulnerability is exploited by the corrupting power of the Shadow, gradually twisting the Player-hero’s behaviour. Each list presents its four Shadow Weakness Flaws in order of increasing seriousness: the first time a Player-hero fails and is taken by madness they develop the first Shadow Weakness Flaw on the list, then the second, and so on.
    A flawed adventurer has not lost the possibility of being a hero. Many of the characters described in the books display the influence of the Shadow to some measure. In most cases, they were able to keep their weaknesses in check, avoiding corruption’s direst consequences.

Degeneration Consequences
    The first entry on each list serves as a ‘warning’ of sorts for a player: their character is beginning to slip into Shadow. A player can actually choose to use this to their advantage, by properly roleplaying their new Shadow Weakness Flaw, they can gain inspiration, just as they do when portraying their hero's characteristics derived from their background.
    Reaching the second entry means a character has continued on their ever-darkening path. In addition to their new Flaw, any skill or feature that their Shadow Weakness Flaws would impair automatically loses advantage. For example, the Rohirrim love their horses as kin and may have advantage on Animal Handling checks. A Rohirrim with the Curse of Vengeance who becomes Brutal no longer treats horses as kindly as he once did and loses his advantage on Animal Handling checks. The third tier is a precarious one and reaching it signals that a character is likely destined for retirement, tragedy or villainy. In addition to their third Shadow Weakness Flaw, Player-heroes that have fallen to this point suffer disadvantage on all social ability checks, unless their Flaw would directly suggest otherwise.
    For example, a Deceitful hero does not suffer disadvantage on Charisma (Deception) ability checks, a Cruel hero has no problem making Charisma (Intimidation) checks and so on.
    Note that the behaviour implied by the third tier Shadow Weakness Flaws is, in many cases, the sort of conduct that leads to Misdeeds; the Player-hero’s descent into darkness is thus hastened.
    The fourth and final tier places a Player-hero on the cusp of becoming an NPC. In addition to their final Shadow Weakness Flaw, all Charisma checks suffer disadvantage, as do Wisdom (Insight) ability checks. Worse by far, whenever presented with a situation where their fourth Shadow Weakness Flaw is relevant, the Player-hero must make a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw to remain in control of themselves. Failure means they act as their fourth tier Shadow Weakness Flaw indicates. At this point, their friends may very well insist that they leave the company, and the Player-hero is forced into retirement.

Failure Aggravation
    When a Player-hero fails at an ability check, a Shadow Weakness Flaw may dramatically worsen its already negative outcome.
    If the consequences of a failed roll may be affected by a Shadow Weakness Flaw possessed by a Player-hero, the Loremaster can severely aggravate the outcome of the action, turning it into a truly catastrophic effort.
    For example, a Brutal hero attempts to impress a crowd using Charisma (Intimidation). The player fails the roll, and the Loremaster determines that the adventurer actually drew his sword and harmed someone in his overzealous attempt to intimidate.

    And an example of one "Shadow Weakness"...

Lure of Power
    When a man is given a position of authority, either by rank, lineage or stature, he may end up mistaking his own wishes for those of the people he should be guiding or keeping safe. Power is the quintessential temptation, and provides the Shadow with an easy way to win the hearts of those who desire it.
    An Arrogant hero doesn’t miss an opportunity to underline their own importance, often belittling their peers and companions.
    Overconfidence denotes overweening pride, a sentiment that blinds a hero to their own limits and weaknesses. They will set out to do anything they set their mind upon, regardless of the consequences that might befall others.
    A Resentful adventurer is often bitter and angry with the people they ought to protect, as they feel that they risk their life for individuals that fail to recognise their actions on their behalf.
    A Tyrannical hero escalates their actions and desires to the level of a just cause. Their disregard for the lives of others is so profound that they will go to any length to achieve their ends, regardless of the cost or methods employed to accomplish them. Any dissenting opinion is considered to be utter betrayal.

    I really like the example in there of a character's skills changing, that seems like a great way to mechanically reinforce the changes happening to the character, but I wish that each shadow weakness had a few such skills or skill uses listed instead of making the GM pull something out of thin air.

    So overall this is an interesting concept, but I have not really gotten much use out of the system.  Like I said before, my players have not had many chances to even gain Shadow points, and no one has let them build up.  I added a rule that you can spend a point of Inspiration to remove a Shadow point, and everybody has to gotten rid of them by the time the adventure is over.  I do like that unexpected side effect however.  See, the first time I read over these rules I had a brain-hiccup and thought it said you were Miserable when you went over your Wis Modifier, not score.  So I scared my players a lot about having Shadow points.  But I also didn't want to drive my Wis 10 Barbarian crazy all the time, so I started handing out multiple Inspiration points.  The 5e rules say you can only ever have 1 at a time, but I've been letting my players stockpile them if they want.  The cool thing is that nobody has, they are constantly using them on bad rolls and to get rid of the occasional Shadow point.  So I added another house rule, for some adventures I've given the players a choice - in the first adventure the players guided a merchant and his son thorough the scary spider-infested Mirkwood.  The merchant offers them a reward in gold, which he can afford so it isn't a big deal, but I told the players that if they wanted to turn the reward down then I'd give them a trait called "Friend of the Light" that means they start each adventure with an extra Inspiration point.  I found this "carrot" method to be more useful in putting the players in a 'heroic mind-set' than the "stick" of Shadow points from Misdeeds.  And I like when they throw Inspiration points around, it cushions them from the whimsy of the dice, and it makes them a little bolder since they can give themselves a boost.
    I like the idea of the Shadow system, but you really have to do some prep and structure the adventures to take advantage of it, and you need the players on board to really buy into it.  As written I'm too fond of these rules, and I have not had much occasion to use them as I mentioned.  I am not going to really try either, I'd have to house rule a more gradual system of increasing penalties and I just don't have the time to take the system apart and rebuild it to my liking.  Also, since this game is a DnD 5e port of their own custom RPG they locked all of these new rules.  I am talking about them here because I'm reviewing them, which is covered under fair use.  But I couldn't write them into my own game.  Even though this is released under the OGL, there is a provision in the OGL itself to declare something "Product Identity" which means it is not able to be freely copied.  Most games, like Pathfinder, only do this for names and background details and artwork, things specific to their setting, but AiME also applies it to the mechanics.  Which makes sense because these systems come from their original RPG, The One Ring, which is not OGL.  So any kind of madness system I wanted to use would have to be designed from the ground up and not built on these rules.

    Okay, next post is going to be about a system I wholeheartedly approve of- the Audience mechanics, which makes talking to people better than vanilla 5e.

You can find the rest of this series here

Monday, October 1, 2018

Drawing and Animation Resources on YouTube

    So I meant to work on the next part of my series looking at the mechanics of the "Adventures in Middle-Earth" RPG, but I had a stray thought about drawing.  See, I suck at drawing, but for creating RPG material and Interactive Narratives it is very hard to do text only.  So I've always wondered if maybe there was some way of drawing "advanced stick figures" - simple, quick, basic drawings that would at least serve as workable placeholders for my projects.  And being me instead of getting the work done that I needed to get done, I decided to go chasing off after this random thought.  But, as is also often the case, I found some really good material.  So this is going to be another tutorial/ review update with videos about drawing and animation, should have ever wondered the same thing I did.  None of these are my works, I'm just linking to some great YouTube content creators, and a big thank you to all of them!

How To Draw A Face, 10 Flat Design Characters in 10 Minutes, Speed Drawing in Adobe Illustrator

    This is the first video I found that blew my mind.  It is amazing to see the range of characters you can make from just circles and squares.  This is a style that I think I can follow to make some characters of my own, and while the poster uses Adobe Illustrator (which is a professional, read: expensive, program) I think you could do this in LibreOffice Draw, the GIMP or Inkscape (all of which I have, because they're free).
    His channel has a lot of similar vids, including famous characters and animals, plus some random stuff.  Really great.
Vector Easy Flat Character, Illustrator Tutorial, ZipUp

    Similar style to the video above, but this one goes slower and is better as a tutorial rather than for inspiration.  The channel does not seem to be very active, only a few videos and the latest is a year old.  That's a bummer, the video is great.

Free Game Art -- Full Game Kits

    One of the reasons I started looking into the drawing topic is because I'd like to design some games down the road, and while I want to make my own art, I have to admit that being able to use professional resources would likely be the better way to go.  This video has links to a bunch of sites, only about half of which I knew of before watching it.
    The site is great, frequently updated and talks about how to use a variety of engines and languages for creating games.  Really like this guy.

[LIVE] How to make modular 2d game sprites

    Speaking of art and game design, this is a really cool livestream of making modular art assets.  It is pretty long, so I hope he'll do a more concise follow-up in the future.
    A great channel with lots of videos for Blender and GoDot, and a bunch of game design stuff.
Grant Abbitt
Rigging People | Blender | Quick | Beginner

    From static 2d art to animated 3d, this is a very cool video about using Blender for 3d animation.  Much more technical than I started with, but something to bookmark for the future.
    Fantastic channel with a ton of videos about Blender.
12 Principles of Animation (Official Full Series)

    Awesome video, one to watch every time before you start an animation project, packed with great guidelines for making the best animated scenes you can.
    Lots of other good animation videos, I like this guy.
Pacman & Ghost Animation: CSS Tutorial (Day 17 of CSS3 in 30 Days)

    This video was mind-blowing, I have been studying CSS for about a year (so I'm no expert) but I would never have thought to create Pac-Man and a ghost using CSS Borders instead of line art.  And I did not realize how power CSS's animation effects could be.  One of my favorite videos for realizing you can use tools in all kinds of creative ways.
    This site just totally rocks!  A ton, lifetime even, of videos for web and programming in all sorts of languages.  A fantastic resource for any fellow noob programmers (like me) out there.

There you go, 7 videos and channels that I think are amazing - I hope that you can learn some cool things too!

You can find more tutorials and reviews I've linked to here

Thursday, September 27, 2018

"Adventures In Middle-Earth" Review part 2 - Travel Mechanics

    Travel is a big part of The Lord of the Rings.  It's also a challenge for an RPG, watching Aragon and Co. run the hills of beautiful New Zealand is cool in a movie, listening to the GM drone on and on about rocks and trees doesn't quite have the same punch.  Another problem is random encounters.  While rolling up a wolf attack out of nowhere can help reinforce the idea that traveling the wilderness is dangerous, it can also slow the game to a crawl if your combat system takes a long time to resolve (I think DnD 5e is a little better than Pathfinder, but at higher levels I'm not sure either system does a good job).  If you skip the combat and just deduct a few hit points or something then the players might feel like they're being punished for something they had no say in (no one likes to be punished by The Dice Gods, RPGs should be about choice - it's one thing to get killed because of your own stupidity, another because the dice didn't like you that roll).  So I was very interested to see how AiME would handle travel - and surprisingly it's pretty good, with room to be better of course :)
    Travel is broken down into three main phases:
  • Embarkation
  • Events
  • Arrival
 So let's look at each one...

Embarkation - "Did you pack some spare socks?"
    Okay, the first part of this doesn't work so great.  The book says that the GM should have the players choose a route on the Player's Map (which is hand-drawn), then the GM looks at the same route on the Loremaster's Map (which has hexes and the danger of each area) to pull up the numbers for later.  Here's what the two maps look like side-by-side...

    I have a couple of problems with this.  One, if an area is so dangerous, wouldn't the player characters have heard about it?  If Mirkwood is full of man-eating spiders I kind of think the locals might have mentioned it at some point in the character's life.  Now, it's fine not to now about the local hazards if you're from a different region - but gain wouldn't a smart adventurer ask?  Do we need to force the players to "role-play" a scene of asking the barkeep about the region?  Does that really add anything over assuming they are smart enough to know "don't play with the man-eating spiders over there"?
    The next section is something I like the best out of this whole system, the players then divide themselves among different roles.  Here's the rules from page 165 of the Player's Guide...

    While the Loremaster consults the Loremaster’s Map, players assign their Player-heroes a task for the journey, roughly summarising what they will be doing for the length of the trip.
    An experienced company differs from a novice group of adventurers in the capability of its members to collaborate effectively. When they are travelling, the companions usually divide up some of the duties according to ability.
    The tasks divided between the company are as follows:
    Guide - In charge of all decisions concerning route, rest, and supplies. Guides rely on Wisdom and Survival proficiency.
    Scout - In charge of setting up camp, opening new trails. Scouts rely on Stealth and Investigation.
    Hunter - In charge of finding food in the wild. Hunters rely on success with Survival checks.
    Look-out - In charge of keeping watch. Look-outs rely on their abilities in Perception.
    With the exception of the company’s Guide, more than one Player-hero may be assigned the same task (in other words, there may be more than one character acting as Look-outs, or more heroes going hunting regularly), but normally no character may assume more than one role at the same time (posing as the group’s Hunter AND Scout, for example). If there’s more than one person assigned to a task then nominate a lead Scout, Hunter or Look-out. That character is the one who makes the test and gains advantage from the assistance of the other Player-heroes performing the Help action on that task.
    If a task goes unfilled, any relevant tests for that task which come up are taken at a disadvantage.

    I really like it when the rules reinforce the idea that the players are a team, and I like how they kind of manage to use some skills beyond just "Survival everything" for a travel scene.  It does get a little weird though because even though each player chooses a role, they might not actually make any rolls, which I'll get to in a minute.  I think this is a good concept even though I don't totally agree with the implementation.  This is also when I have the players work out who takes which watches, in case I decide to ambush them in the middle of the night.
    So, while the players sort themselves (hat optional) the GM (which they call a Loremaster, but I will call a GM) is looking at the super-duper-secret-map to figure out how dangerous the trip is going to be, called the "Peril Rating."  This is a 1 to 5 scale, from Easy to Daunting, and increasing by 1 if it's winter (still max 5 though).  Then comes the part where you can tell they imported this from another game...

    Once the route is decided upon, and the Loremaster has determined the Peril rating of the journey, the Guide must make an Embarkation roll using a single d12. This roll is modified as follows: the Guide’s Survival proficiency bonus plus half their Wisdom bonus, minus the Peril Rating of the journey, as determined by the Loremaster. The result of the roll is used on the Embarkation Table opposite. The Guide should make a note of both the numbered result and its effects. The result may be referred to during the following parts of the journey.

    This is a switch from the usual DC system is because there are 12 possible starts...

1. (or less) Dark Signs and Evil Portents
2. A Fell and Foreboding Start
3. The Keen Eyes of the Enemy
4. The Wearisome Toil of Many Leagues
5. Foul Weather
6. Meagre Supplies and Poor Meals
7. Feasts Fit for the Kings of Ancient Times
8. Fine Weather
9. Paths Both Swift and True
10. Hidden from the Shadow
11. With Hopeful Hearts and Clear Purpose
12. (or more) From Auspicious Beginnings

    Some of these get kind of weird, since the descriptions talk about the journey ahead, which you haven't technically started yet.  Like this one...

5. Foul Weather
    The rain falls constantly, the wind chills to the bone, the sun beats down unrelentingly, frost numbs toes and fingers. Rest is hard to find, sleep is elusive and every mile walked feels like three. As a result, each member of the company suffers one additional level of exhaustion.

    I would expect an "embarkation" roll to say something more like (my words here):
    While you had fair weather when you started the trip, unexpected [wind/ rain/ snow] has set in for the first leg of the journey.  Each party member suffers one level of exhaustion (and/ or each makes their first skill check at disadvantage).

    This also makes me think of a special ability some characters can have (forget if it's a class ability or a feat), they can detect bad weather.  Which strikes me as a interesting thing if some characters could have an ability that would negate a bad embarkation roll?  Like, the weather character would say, oh no, let's wait before we take off (maybe with some small penalty if time is an issue, I'll talk about my "Pace" system in a later post).  That might be kind of cool, so even if the main Guide has a bad roll, perhaps another character could mitigate or negate the penalty - again to reinforce that whole "party working together" vibe?
    Aside from some wording issues like that, this seems an okay table, even though the journey may start off on a bad foot it doesn't mean the whole trip will be bad (thought the really low rolls impose some serious penalties).

Events - "What do you mean you didn't see that chasm?"
    With the embarkation over, now we get to the random events table.  The number of events depends on the length of the journey...
Short Journey (1-15 hexes on the Loremaster’s Map): 1d2 for number of challenges.
Medium Journey (16-40 hexes on the Loremaster’s Map): 1d2+1 for number of challenges.
Long Journey (41+ hexes on the Loremaster’s Map): 1d3+2 for number of challenges.
    Journeys through predominantly Easy terrain result in a -1 modifier to this roll, to a minimum of 1.
    Journeys through predominantly Hard or Severe terrain result in a +1 modifier to this roll.
    Journeys through predominantly Daunting Terrain result in a +2 modifier to this roll.

    Counting hexes is about as much fun as watching paint dry, so I've always picked the length that worked for me.  I also say that Easy terrain has a minimum of 0 events, because while some of them can be positive, generally I don't worry about going in-depth describing the journey if the players are in a fairly safe area.
    One thing I don't remember the book going over is when an event should happen.  With more detailed travel rules and a setting that is more travel-oriented I find myself actually narrating day-by-day, which makes it a small annoyance to roll a die for which day an event will trigger on.  I think I just need a better narrative framework, and I am totally obsessing over a minor detail, I know.
    The Peril Rating of the journey also factors into the DCs required, like so...
    In all cases, the DC of checks made during a journey is determined by adding the Peril Rating of the journey to a base of 12.
    Therefore, on a journey with a Peril Rating of 3 (unfamiliar areas, deep forest and so on) the DC of all checks would be (12+3) 15, whilst on a journey through Angmar in the depths of winter, all DCs would be (12+5+1) for a total of 18.

    Here's something you can get away with fairly well in a bounded accuracy system like DnD 5e.  A 1st level character with +2 Proficiency Bonus and a 16 (+3) Attribute would have a 55% chance of success for a DC 15 roll.   The same character at 9th level, +4 Proficiency and with an enhanced 18 (+4) Attribute for same DC 15 would have a 70% chance of success.  So the 1st level character is pretty iffy, while the 9th level character is reliable but not guaranteed.  It would be a lot more complicated to keep meaningful DCs in a system like Pathfinder (as I found when I used the Pursuit rules, DC 20 is hard for a beginning Pathfinder character, but less-than-trivial for a mid-level character).
    So there is a table of events, the GM rolls a d12 to choose.  They can be very strange, they can be good or bad and sometimes only one character will make a roll.  Here's a couple of examples...

5. Agents of the Enemy
    Hostile scouts or hunters cross the company’s path, this may even be a sharp eyed Crebain, gathering news for the Enemy.
    The Look-out must make a Wisdom (Perception) check to spot the enemy before they become aware of the company.  If successful, the company has seized the initiative and may decide how to proceed. They may either sneak past the hostile force or ambush them, in which case they benefit from a round of surprise.
    If the Look-out’s Perception roll fails, the hostile scouts set an ambush and they benefit from a round of surprise.
    If combat ensues, the Loremaster may resolve it as normal, setting out the combat abilities of the small enemy party to give a small to moderate challenge to the company.
    All rolls made outside of combat during this task are subject to disadvantage/advantage if the Guide’s Embarkation roll was either 3 or 10.

9. A Lingering Memory of Times Long Past
    The company discovers a relic of past ages. A statue, a building, the remains of an ancient settlement, perhaps even some finely wrought trinket half-buried in the earth. It is even possible that they witness a travelling company of Elves, making their way towards the Grey Havens.
    With good fortune and a light heart, the company will be uplifted by this sight, sensing something hopeful for the future in this glimpse into the past. With poor fortune, the company will be filled with a sense of doom, seeing the decay of lost glory and the end of hope.
    Each member of the company should make a Wisdom check. If successful, they are filled with Hope regarding their journey and their struggles against the Shadow and gains Inspiration. If they make the roll by 5 or more they are so positively affected by the sight that they may also remove a level of exhaustion. Additionally, if at least half of the company is successful, a +1 modifier may be applied to the Guide’s Arrival roll.
    With a failed roll, they see only the fleeting nature of life and the fall of all that is good, and must make a Corruption check to avoid gaining 2 points of Shadow.
    If they fail the roll by 5 or more, they feel morose and wearied by the scene and suffer a level of exhaustion in addition to the Shadow points. Additionally, if more than half of the company fail (since we’re talking about individual rolls) their roll, a -1 modifier must be applied to the Guide’s Arrival roll.

    They also included more events in each book, so you can customize them to the region the players are in to some degree.  Overall I have to say that I like these events more than most "random wilderness tables" I've seen.  At the same time, it feels a little weird to have some events that are extremely detailed if, like me, you usually gloss over travel.  Also it's a little weird that sometimes the whole party will be part of an event and other times only one character is rolling.  Given how much the travel system seems to be built on the characters working together, I almost would like separate event tables for each role (guide, lookout, etc...) - though that would add a fair bit of complexity to the system.
    Aside from a few minor gripes, I do like this system, and it has worked pretty well in the games I've run.

Arrival - "Are we there yet? Are we..."
    As much fun as trampling through the woods and fighting monsters and depression are, eventually you make it to your destination (hopefully).  Which means one last roll...

    As the company completes its journey they make a roll to determine their overall mood and demeanour. Dependent upon the exhortations of the Guide, the difficulty of the terrain they have travelled and the company’s successes or failures upon the road, they may be in high spirits or despondent; full of vigour or footsore and weary. They may have fine tales to tell, or they may be gritting their teeth and silently scowling at any folk with whom they must interact.
    This roll is additionally modified depending on the difficulty of the majority of the terrain that the company crossed, as follows:
• Easy Terrain: +1 to the Arrival roll
• Moderate Terrain: No modifier to the Arrival roll
• Hard or Severe Terrain: -1 to the Arrival roll
• Daunting Terrain: -2 to the Arrival roll
    The Guide rolls a d8, applies any modifiers from the Embarkation roll and the terrain of the journey, and then compares the result with the table on the opposite page...

    And again the party might have to roll for Shadow (I'll talk about that next post) or exhaustion or they might get some benefits.  This is actually the weirdest part of all - it's almost like one final, oddly tacked-on event.  I'd really like to see this part of the system get an overhaul, it feels very weird and unnecessary.  It's quick, I just haven't felt the love for it.

     Which brings us to the end of our journey through the journey rules.
     I have to admit that I like the system overall.  I have never liked taking a lot of time describing journeys and rolling on random tables, but these have been pretty easy to use, and added some flavor to travel - which totally fits the setting.  I think the system can be improved (hell, I always think I can make a system better if I thinker with it, don't mind me), but even playing it as-written for a few adventures I have liked it overall.  About two times I've dropped it because there was more important story stuff going on, so I wanted to keep the narrative focused, but the first adventure I ran was pretty much all the journey rules with a few extra scripted encounters, and the players seemed to like it.  I tip my hat to the designers for making something that fits well into the 5e rules and reinforces the setting.
    Next post I'll go into another mechanic that I like, but I don't think the execution was as well done - we'll go over the Shadow and Corruption system.

You can find the rest of this series here