[GS] A Completely Serious Review of Wendy’s Tabletop RPG | Feast of Legends

An article I posted on Gnome Stew: A Completely Serious Review of Wendy’s Tabletop RPG | Feast of Legends


but why
I have a lot to tell my therapist.

Where’s the beef? Right here Wendy’s. As of now you and I have beef. And now I’m ready to throw it on my table and toss dice at it.

I don’t hide the fact I love Wendy’s. I actually owned the most popular(at its time) Wendy’s fanblog on Tumblr. This is one of the first things I tell new friends. I honestly and earnestly love Wendy’s, only second to tabletops. If they sponsored me to do any amount of content I would probably sell out in a heartbeat.

But this, Wendy’s? What the heck are you doing?

Very recently Wendy’s released their tabletop, Feast of Legends, to be played and run by members of Critical Role. In the spectrum of corporate memes like the fake Wendy’s / Taco Bell fight or the recent KFC meme visual novel, this is on the latter side of that scale. This tabletop isn’t some low-quality meme. It has legitimate, high-quality art reminiscent of D&D 3.5. There are mechanics and abilities. The website even has a dice roller. “Hey, guys! I know yall roll dice but can I use the Wendy’s dice roller,” is a perfectly legitimate, completely plausibly-serious question in this timeline now.

Is this legit? Is this just a meme? In the words of a scholar of this age, “Is this real life?”

Wendy’s could have stayed in their corner of the internet, intermittently tweeting memes and fake fights. I would’ve lived my life happily enjoying and consuming them with a ‘haha I do that’ once in a while. But this? Fine. You want to throw down on the table, marching into my domain and trying to get up in my corner of the internet?

Fine, Wendy’s. Let’s throw down.


Structure & Presentation

From a quick breakdown of the PDF, it has a staggering 97 pages including the front and back cover. The back cover, of which by the by, has a completely fictitious ISBN. If you’re going to go this far you could’ve at least gone all in, cowards.

It’s separated into three main parts:

  • Part 1: PHB, 30ish pages
  • Part 2: Rise From the Deep Freeze Campaign, 50ish pages
  • Part 3: Magic Items and Monsters, 10ish pages

The first thing to address is that the art is honestly gorgeous. Alex Lopez’s depictions of the Frysta and the Ice Jester, the lovely maps, the high-quality Queen Wendy, the various character vignettes in the Order’s guide, all of it screams nothing but top quality and I wouldn’t be surprised if he actually did work with Wizards of the Coast or Paizo. I plan to yoink quite a few of these resources for my own games at home.

While the formatting is lovely and something I’d expect to see in any adventure module, I have a great issue with the PDF bookmarks. Despite the otherwise high quality in the content, the bookmarks(labeled _GoBack, Part 2, _Goback) link to pages 50, 51, and 62 seemingly randomly. I’d also potentially like to see the area maps of Freshtovia, The French Fry Forest, and the Ice Jester’s Playhouse to have a slightly darker coloration to it all? Just a personal preference.

My biggest problem with the book as a whole is the rampant number of memes and references scattered throughout the book. Rather than take a Xanathar’s Guide style with flavor written in the margins, Wendy’s takes to writing the flavor into the content. It turns what should be simple and straightforward descriptions into a second glance, having to read it over again just to get the point.

It’s funny haha for the first bit, but leaves the reader with a constant sense of “What did I just read?”


Classes– I mean Orders

  • Order of the Chicken(OtChicken): Rogues/Bards
  • Order of the Beef(OtBeef): Warriors
  • Order of the Sides(OtSides): Mages/Bards/Whatever else they could fit in there?

Simple. It’s not clear off the bat, and the ‘Art of the ___’ sections at the beginning of the descriptions help. You can clearly see the OtBeef’s identity as warriors fairly clear, but I feel the OtChicken’s and OtSide’s descriptions to be fairly vague and lacking.

“There are still many side paths in the world for those who see things differently than the rest of the realm. Their ways are unique and often needed in a world of sameness. Those who study the Art of the Sides are the perfect complement to an epic combo.” – Pg 21

Like honestly, what does this even mean? I feel in the pursuit of a bad joke at the end, it loses out on clarity of the Orders outside of the specific archetypes under them. However, when it does comes to the specific Orders like the Order of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich(OtSCS), there’s a lot of flavor and identity with each and every one. As an OtSCS you burn your enemies, create smokescreens, create heat auras and even have a rad ability called “True Fire.”

How did Wendy’s come up with something this freaking cool?

Another interesting element with the Orders is that they have inherent Base Defenses, HP, Stat Bonuses, Skills, and Limitations. In a way, Wendy’s was able to combine standard Race + Class choices in an incredibly clean manner. I almost want to call this innovative?

Each Order is also only limited to 5 levels, with each level only granting additional HP and new abilities. Almost immediately I get similar progression vibes from Dungeon World. While more veteran players would complain at the lack of progression in other facets, the abilities each Order gains are honestly really fun and cool.

I’m honestly stumped to imagine who exactly designed this all. Considering that Wendy’s credits the artists, yet completely fails to credit any designers on this product, I have to imagine that there might more behind this story than we see on the surface.


Gameplay

obviously done by some top designer
This is legitimately a fantastic ability.

The gameplay is clean and simple. Roll your dice, add your modifiers, and have a list of abilities you can do. I don’t exactly know what constitutes D&D 5e’s Essentials, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this was tossed in there and someone told me that those were the rules.

My biggest complaint about the gameplay is concerning the food-based Buffs and Debuffs. Essentially when you eat Wendy’s based food you gain stacking +1 bonuses. When you eat non-Wendy’s food you take a staggering -2 penalty that can seriously wreck your character. Tip for playing this at home? Homebrew out these Buffs/Debuffs.

I understand Wendy’s is a burger joint and all, but vegetarians that want to play this are pigeonholed into only getting +1 Defense when they eat salads(which are way pricier than burgers or fries!). Talk about a lack of accessibility and balance. Yeah, I get that this is a burger ad but at least find some way to make it just a bit more player-friendly. What if they got a +1 Defense bonus with baked potatoes, but a +2 attack on salads?

On the flipside, however, one thing that does bewilder me is the incredibly interesting Feast Mode critical hit.

For every crit, you do maximum damage, and attack again at an advantage? It’s an epic interpretation of crits that I hadn’t heard before now. Almost immediately I get the sense of Warhammer 40k’s Righteous Fury. While my peers have told me others are currently practicing with these sorts of crits, to me it’s something I only learned about exclusively due to Wendy’s.

And I’ll never be allowed to forget that.


The Campaign

how did we get here
Queen Wendy. Seriously.

As much as I’d like to go into depth about the story, the progression, and the content, I honestly don’t think the remaining brain cells are able to comprehend the sheer number of memes and references in it. All I can truly say is that the maps were well thought out and the sections were well separated into arcs. Honestly, this is not an adventure you can do in a single session. I honestly think it might take anywhere from 5-7, maybe up to 10-12 sessions depending on how slow or fast the party goes.

Can I also bring up that any individual character at max level could have anywhere from 29-68 HP? The Ice Jester alone has 121 HP, which you only get to after dealing with a Freezagorgon and an Evolved Frysta.

I can’t believe these are real words now.

That said, the boss fight alone where the Ice Jester can do three actions/skills per turn almost screams like TPK bait to me. Admittedly I have little(see: none) experience with the system so it could be fair but I’m skeptical.


The Takeaway

Throughout this article, I’ve been flip-flopping quite a bit; for every complaint, I have something to praise about it. This confusion, this rapid oscillation of shock, awe, and confusion completely reflect my turbulent emotions going through the PDF over and over. It’s not entirely bad, but it’s not entirely good either. For all my complaints there’s one major takeaway: it’s… it’s really high quality. The Orders are interesting and combine Races + Classes well, the adventure is interesting, and the monsters are memorable and epic. I can sense the inspiration from D&D 3.5 and 5e, from Dungeon World, and even from Warhammer 40k.

This is not some low-quality meme any half-baked corporation would generate in a week tops. This took time, effort, and plenty of deliberation. They brought in industry names that have likely worked on other, top quality products. For all its flaws, there are legitimate traces of solid game design smattered throughout the meme. Chicken nuggets made of solid gold that had to have come from a creative mind.

That said, I completely reject it on its premise. The very idea of Wendy’s joining the tabletop world with this system, a system that acts mostly like an extended burger advertisement using 5e-like mechanics, is… dishonest and disturbing.

I don’t think they needed to drive the Wendy’s element as hard as they did. If Wendy’s honestly and earnestly made a solid tabletop RPG and marketed that, wouldn’t that somehow be more amazing? That alone would have made headlines even without the blatant pandering.

“Oh, Crimson Halberd? That game made by Wendy’s? Yeah, I heard it’s really really good.”

Wendy’s apparently has the manpower, the connections, the drive, and the incentive to make tabletops. Why don’t they? Why don’t they use their massive amounts of money and power to create a powerhouse dream team and shake up the tabletop world with not only memes but legit quality?

I ultimately reject this game because Wendy’s can do better. They’re, in a manner, trying too hard yet not trying hard enough. This has the makings of a legitimately solid 5e-like system, but their ‘hip, millennial ad-meme lingo’ is holding them back and, despite directly trying to market to a certain demographic, I feel my revulsion overtake my interest. I feel like someone threw a bunch of memes and bad Wendy’s references at the wall and tried to stitch it together onto potentially great and innovative content, only for it to come out looking like some odd franken-millennial horror. They could have done so much better if they actually took their content seriously—if they took their audience seriously.

So until that day comes?

Wendy’s and I got beef.

~Di, signing out

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[PF] Oops I broke Pathfinder again

or: Why Wasp Familiar is STUPID

In Pathfinder, like many other tabletops, balance is ultimately subjective. Something being overpowered or underpowered is only as properly viewable as the execution of it. Two people can have made fairly similar choices only for one to succeed and for the other to fail. What must be considered, however, is that many elements of customization have a degree of Synergy that must be taken into account. Synergy is the overall outcome of 2 or most elements combining together to become something greater than the sum of its parts due to effectiveness or results it produces.

Some things just have so much Synergy that they can break (ie, drastically increase the power/effectiveness of a character to the point it goes out of the expected bounds of its level) a game. A good example here is the Wasp Familiar (Feat) + Protector (Familiar Archetype) combo.

The Protector familiar archetype allows you and your familiar to share effective healthpools. By level 5 your familiar (who always has 50% of your hp) can work in tandem with you via a constant Shield Other ability. This increases your effective hit points to 150%. If/When you hit level 11, your familiar gains hit points equal to you, increasing your effective hit points to 200%. Typically this is only taken by Wizards and Witches who particularly need a bit of extra shielding.

However.

By being a chaotic neutral character and willing to worship Calistra you get access to the Wasp Familiar feat, using your character level as your Wizard level. With such a low barrier to entry you can take any class, slap on the Wasp Familiar feat at level 5 or 11 and watch your hit points skyrocket.

Lets assume a fighter with 20 con taking average(upper bound) hit points a level.

5th level: 5d10[5*6]+[5*5](con)+[5*1](favored class)
30+25+5= 60hp. *1.5 = 90hp

10th level: 10d10[10*6]+[10*5]+[10*1]
60+50+10= 120. *1.5 = 180hp

11th level: 11d10[11*6]+[11*5]+[11*1]
66+55+11= 132hp. *2 = 264hp

As someone that plays in a living world where we get max hit dice a level… by level 11 you’re looking at an effective hp of 352.

At level 11.

For a single feat.

Ban the Wasp Familiar feat.

This has been a public service announcement,

~Di

[PF] Gunblades in Pathfinder [WITHOUT Homebrew]

or: How I Unlocked RWBY in Pathfinder
or: How I Made Anime Real


Dagger Pistols.

Okay, folks nothing left to see here.

Okay but seriously, Dagger Pistols, combined with certain enchantments and ludicrous amounts of gold are capable of enabling any degree of weapon/gun, gun/gun, or weapon/weapon combination in the game.

So things to note:

– Dagger Pistols are masterworked or magically enhanced separately as if it was a double weapon. However, it’s NOT a double weapon.

– The /Greater Transformative/ enchantment allows you to turn your weapon into any other weapon in the game. For the most part, you enchant the Dagger side with this.

– While GT has a note saying “a double weapon that loses the double quality cannot use the abilities on one of its ends,” it’s important to remember that the Dagger Pistol is not a double weapon.

– What this means is that the pistol component, while only 1d4, is STILL applicable and usable regardless of the form the Dagger side has.

What this means is that you can turn your dagger side into a longsword, a cestus, a scythe, a greatsword, or a warhammer, all while the pistol side being active.

Gunblades are a thing.

Furthermore, at the same you can even add greater transformative to the gun as well, turning it into anything else. You can turn the gun-side into a rifle, or even a bow, but you can also turn it into any other weapon in the game.

Meaning you can turn one side into a scythe, and the other into /another scythe/.

This allows you to create double scythes, gunblades, gunscythes, gunhammers, swordbows. Hell, you can turn both sides into rifles, or into two bows for crossbows.


How much will this cost you?

So one thing you’ll note is that Greater Transformative is +15k, which since you’ll only be able to enhance it as a magic weapon, you’re looking at a minimum 17k weapon. If you wanted to apply it to the other side, that’s a 32k weapon JUST to be anime.

But there’s also its more standard Transformative property, which is only 10k(12k total), but you can only make things of similar size to a dagger. However that still enables you to make it into any light weapon, so that includes a cestus, kunai, light mace, punching daggers and spring blades, handaxes, machetes, shortswords, a light-shield, butterfly knives, nunchucks, etc.

Gunchucks. Gunshields. Gunfists.


Conclusion

Anime is real. It’s 2019 and it took me like 8 years of playing Pathfinder to realize this was a thing. If anyone else found this out before me… Well fuck. I mean at least it’s out there.

Happy hunting,

~Di

[GS] It’s Occupied, Using Space in RPGs

An article I posted on Gnome Stew: It’s Occupied, Using Space in RPGs


Whether you use a plethora of painstakingly painted figurines or the classical theater of the mind for your games, you’ll often find yourself with more space than you know what to do with.  Part of fleshing out the game world is filling up the scene with details that make the world come alive.  This is normally achieved through added senses and sensations in-game through narrative detail; despite all this, however, I find most battlefields bereft of real obstacles outside of the enemies.

This could easily be an article on environmental effects, traps, and how to add deadly complications to any encounter, but there’s plenty of articles already on that subject.  Today let’s focus on adding obstacles, items, and situations that simply take up space, and how to use to the players’ benefit or detriment.  While they can cause complications that can make a situation more difficult, they are able to do that without active force towards, or by eliciting resistance from, the players.

What’s wrong with empty space?

Empty space is essentially any degree in which a player is unobstructed.  This can be prevalent in the battle, in the backdrop, or in the running narrative.  If it isn’t detailed, it simply doesn’t exist; you can potentially have a strong imagination filling up the wizard’s lair with orbs arcing with raw magic and tables toppled over in frustration, but if you don’t describe it to the players, none of it matters.  What could potentially be a complex minefield of reagents and materials, of cover that could protect you from the wizard’s fireballs, is instead an empty battlefield, likely 7×7 squares where all that matters is positioning.

When you fill up space you can potentially do one of three things:

  1. you give the players more to work with [+]
  2. you give the players more to work around [/]
  3. you give the players something to avoid [-]

Read More »

[5e] The Blade of the Dungeonmaster

 

This seemingly ornate longsword, with etchings of heroic figures on the hilt, is perfectly balanced and easier to swing than expected.

You gain a +2 bonus to Attack and Damage Rolls made with this Magical Weapon. You are automatically proficient with it.

The blade has three glowing stones embedded into the hilt. While a stone glows, as an action, you may cast any of the following spells:

  • Mordenkainen’s Faithful Hound
  • Mordenkainen’s Private Sanctum
  • Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion
  • Mordenkainen’s Sword

Upon casting a spell, one of the three stones becomes dim. When all three are dim, the blade no longer grants its bonus to Attack and Damage to you.

The stones regain their radiance when the blade is gifted to a new wielder, as the true value of DMing is what is granted to the next generation.Read More »

[GS] Why You Should Let the Villain Monologue

An article I posted on Gnome Stew: Why You Should Let the Villain Monologue


Behind every great adventure, there’s a group of plucky players rolling dice to decide the fate of their avatars.  Behind those players is a GM—their smile partially obscured with a well-placed screen—secretly rooting for their victory.  When the dice and dust settle and the players set out on their journey to a satisfying night’s sleep, the GM quietly packs their gear: the screen, the books, the minis, the maps, their dice, and all the ad hoc gear they’ve gathered for this particular session.

The GM has a satisfied, yet bittersweet look on their face; they wanted the players to succeed, yeah, but they’ll always wonder if it was ever enough.  Could they have done more?  Perhaps prepared more?  Was it challenging enough?  The GM knows that the players inevitably win some way or another and that their adventure was always a challenge to be surmounted eventually.  But, it can be hard knowing that your own victory could lead to a raucous at the table.  With those thoughts, they, too, pack up for bed, their mind constantly on the players and the story at hand.


“Good to see you’ve finally come, I’ve been waiting for you lot for some-”

“I shoot him with an arrow.  Sneak attack, yeah?”


If you’ve ever played a long enough campaign you’ve likely faced your fair share of villains: from mid-boss to big-bad, from minor to world-ender.  Even the evil campaign has its own villains, in a sense, as the holy law enforcement seeks to end your reign of terror.  With any important enough antagonist there will eventually be a moment where the plots and schemes have been thrown to the side and they face you confidently and tell you the tale you’ve earned, explaining their modus operandi and reasons why they’re acting as they do, or some sort of critical plot point or piece of information that could change the world as you see it.

Or in other words, a monologue.

Read More »

[PF2] In Defense of Goblins

The Newcomers of Pathfinder 2E.

To all those picking up Pathfinder 2E—further referred to here as PF2—then you might be surprised to see goblins in the Ancestry(racial) options. Goblins have been a major element of Pathfinder since the beginning, with the first adventure (Rise of the Runelords) heavily featuring a goblin attack on the town of Sandpoint.

Since then, Pathfinder has brought about many a goblin related adventure. Eventually it would cumulate in what would quickly become one of the most iconic Pathfinder adventures: We Be Goblins (Check it out, it’s FREE)

You might be wondering how they got from there, to outright adventurers and, dare I say, heroes in the latest edition? Here I want to go over that.Read More »