While I’ve embroiled myself in the (very) long process of homebrewing my own campaign world, I have looked to many aspects of d20 and other game systems for mechanics and rule systems that I find appealing. It’s natural for a GM to want to add as much flavor to a game, homebrewed or not, and the result is definitely more rewarding to the players, but what happens if the rule set becomes too familiar, combat bogs down, or everyone (players and GM’s alike) plain just draw a blank as to what to do next? The minds behind Pathfinder over at Paizo Publishing seem to think that adding a little more fate and chance to a game seems just the thing. Enter – GameMastery Decks! This week, we’ll look at two of the decks I purchased for use in my upcoming campaign.
Critical Hit Deck
Now, in a d20 system, there are very few things as rewarding as a Critical Hit. That moment when your dice decide to play nice and offer up that huge damage boost can turn the tide of any battle, and sometimes, all the Players really want is for the fight to be over. The Critical Hit Deck can not only speed up the untimely demise of the latest mad scientist or Orc chieftain a party face, it also adds a little flair to the organized chaos that is RPG combat. The deck offers a couple of variable rule options based on critical modifiers for weapons, which can either boost or reign in the damage and dismemberment achieved, but Paizo greatly urges that GM’s use caution when turning the deck on the players. Those nasty effects go both ways, and unless you’re looking for a dreaded (and unappreciated) TPK, use against your players sparingly!
Everyone loves a good chase scene, and they are often some of the most intense and action-packed aspects of film. From the Nazgûl chasing Arwen and Frodo in Fellowship of the Rings to the Hummer vs. Ferrari chase in The Rock, chases add a whole new dynamic action. I became enamored with the concepts of cinematic chases in-game after reading the rule set in Spycraft 2.0, but had trouble adapting them to a less-than-modern setting. Wizards of the Coast introduced Skill Challenges in 4E which were capable of fulfilling the role, but still felt lacking to me. My hope is the Chase Cards Deck will give this GM what he’s looking for. Designed for three terrain types – city, forest, and dungeon – the rules are simple. The GM establishes how many cards the chase lasts, lies them face down in a row. Once each of the players complete one of two skill rolls listed, they advance to the next card. Rinse, repeat, escape. It seems to be a solid process with the chance for plenty of variation, and also appears to take some of the awkward guesswork out of the 4E skill challenge while still presenting PC’s with options. I’m looking forward to introducing this to the group, sooner rather than later.
Paizo currently has 23 other decks released, everything from NPCs to Magic Items, and all are compatible with 3.5 OGL rules. Check them out and add a little more spice to your ‘brew.