All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team.

In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games.

Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

Why I am Not Excited about StarFinder

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StarFinder is the new science-fantasy roleplaying game by Paizo based on their incredibly popular Pathfinder game. It was released a couple of days ago and already third-party supplements created for it dominate the “Bestselling Titles” list at RPGNow. I like the science-fantasy genre and I know that Paizo’s releases are usually of an awesome quality, but still I am not really interested in StarFinder.

The main reason is that it’s basically Pathfinder in Spaaaaaace! Pathfinder was based on D&D 3.5 and even though they improved a couple of the rules it’s still the same game. In my opinion D&D 3.5 and therefore Pathfinder is a broken game, made worse by feature creep. Especially feats are a mess. But I get that still a lot of people love the game perhaps even because of the same reasons I have my issues with it.

When they first announced StarFinder I was intrigued and hoped for something like a Pathfinder 2.0: streamlined, moving towards a more modern system, killing a few sacred cows. Unfortunately they decided to keep it compatible with Pathfinder. So even if StarFinder introduces cool new stuff, it’s still based on an engine which I deem broken.

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Why did Paizo do this? Why did they create Pathfinder in Space instead of a new edition? I guess it’s the easiest and most risk-free move. Pathfinder is – as I mentioned before – still widely popular. Science-fantasy seems to be the hot new thing. So why not combine both? Because of the compatibility every new StarFinder product also means new stuff for Pathfinder. So the life of that almost 15 years old game gets renewed for a couple more years, but that also means that Paizo has no reason to create a proper new edition of the system.

What are your thoughts on StarFinder? Yay or Nay? Love it or hate it? What would you like to see changed in a Pathfinder 2.0? Please share your comments below!

By the way, if you like posts like these, why not help me out by supporting the blog on Patreon? Your support will help to make Stargazer’s World even better!

I am done with Zak S.

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I have to admit that I am still impressed by the products he irregularly puts out. Zak Smith or Zak Sabbath or whatever his name may be, creates awesome roleplaying game products and I am still glad I picked most of them up.

But he also has a pretty abrasive personality. In discussions he’s quick to throw accusations around, uses his own fandom to deluge people who speak critically of him with angry comments, and he generally makes an ass of himself whenever possible.

When he was furiously attacked and accused of being a homophobe, racists, transphobe, etc. I was among the ones defending him. It was clear he wasn’t any of that. But I am not going to defend him any further.

Recent events have made it clear to me that it’s just not worth my (or anyone’s) time to play shield for this person. It actually seems he has turned this behaviour into some kind of brand identity. Every time the Zak S. fans storm a thread in order to defend his honor, his brand gets strengthened.

When people politely point out that what he’s doing is wrong, they get instantly called names and ultimately get blocked. Sure, its his prerogative to do so, but – as I said before – I don’t want to be part of this anymore.

This morning, I blocked him on Google+ and I will probably not buy any of his products anymore. Yes, he’s extremely creative, and he creates awesome stuff, but I am annoyed by him enough to not bother anymore.

Powered By The Apocalypse

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During the last months I have repeatedly played with the idea to run a game “powered by the apocalypse”. These games are mechanically based on D. Vincent Baker’s Apocalypse World. So what makes these games so special that I am interested to give them a try?

Playbooks
Most PbtA games use playbooks for character creation and play. Each playbook describes a certain role and also list this role’s moves. But the playbooks also contain examples for a character’s looks, demeanor, attributes, etc. Instead of going through a long-winded character creation process, you usually just pick a playbook, pick from the available options for name, looks, etc. and you’re good to go. This is great for pickup-and-play style of games.

Player-facing
PbtA games use player-facing mechanics, which means all the dice rolls are done by the players. It’s also the players who move the action forward, the GM is relegated to a more reactive role than in most other games. The story is driven by what the characters do, not what the GM planned beforehand.

No prep
PbtA games are the perfect games to just pick up and run. There’s no need to prepare anything. Sure, this means that the players need to be pro-active. It also means that the GM has always keep on their toes, improvising everything. Luckily the GM moves help the GM to keep focus. At least that’s how I understood it. I wasn’t able to try it myself.

A few cons
Unfortunately PbtA games have a couple of issues as well. Some games suffer from a very pretentious writing style that sometimes goes out of its way to make it very hard for traditional gamers to grok. Talk about gate-keeping…

The other related issue is that I often get the impression that some PbtA games don’t explain everything properly. Instead of making sure the reader gets all the information needed to run a particular game, the games more often than not seem to imply a deeper knowledge of PbtA concepts.

What are your experiences with PbtA games? Do you love them or hate them? Please share your thoughts below!