By - December 20, 2009 - 4 Comments

Nerd Watching: How to Win Friends and Dominate Minds

The Ardent

Well, it’s that time again. Another bit of debut content from the Player’s Handbook 3 has dropped for all the insider members. The ardent is a psionic leader class. At the basic level, the ardent is a psionic warlord. Mechanically the powers are similar to a warlord. Ardents buff and heal their allies, pull them out of danger. Surprisingly for such a mental class, they do it all in the front lines with melee weapons. Ardents even have the same armor and weapon proficiencies as warlords. Aside from the ability score requirements, the big mechanical deviation from the warlord is the power point system. Like psions, ardents don’t get encounter attack powers from their class. Instead they get power points which can augment their at-will powers to the level of encounters.

Although nothing mechanically ground breaking, the flavor of the class is pretty cool. Ardents are distinct from warlords.¬† Warlords verbally demoralize their enemies and press their friends to keep fighting. The ardent skips all of the rousing speeches and intimidation techniques. Ardents achieve their results in the most direct way, projecting emotions directly into others. He sends soothing thoughts to nervous allies and cursing despair to break the will of his enemies. This raises a lot of interesting questions about the ardent himself. Is he so tightly controlled in his emotions that he can pick each one out like a weapon from a rack? Perhaps he is the opposite, an emotional roller coaster that projects moods as they change wildly in the fight. I don’t find the mechanics too exciting, but ardents sound like interesting people. I’m looking forward to playing one.

Tiny Deadly Friends

I consider an important part of my duties to point out things that are just cool. A tiny gelatinous cube you can have as a familiar definitely qualifies. Insider subscribers can find that wonder here, surrounded by more familiars, familiar feats and magic items. Mechanically the cube familiar is a bit underwhelming, how often is resist 5 acid going to come up? But the cubes active power to digest organic matter could be very interesting in the right player’s hands.

Bringing Outlaws to Justice

I’d like to talk a bit about a scandal in the small press RPG industry and issue a warning to all of you RPG buyers out there. You may know the game Tunnels & Trolls. The game has been around almost as long as D&D and started out as a simpler alternative to those chart heavy early days. Fast forward to today, several companies publish and sell T&T materials. One of these companies is called (rather brazenly) Outlaw Press run by James Shipman.

James Shipman is a thief, a villain and a whole thesaurus worth of words to make him as a very bad man. He has been burned in the past for some shady dealings. For instance, selling Tunnels & Trolls materials without permission to do so and for selling Mazes & Minotaurs, a game which its creator gives away for free. Well, the RPG community is quite a forgiving one. Intellectual property laws are confusing (even if Shipman is a lawyer) and legal action costs a lot of time and money. So Shipman was able to continue. It was recently uncovered by the combined efforts of the RPG community, primarily on RPG.net, that Shipman’s crimes only got worse. For his T&T magazines and adventures Shipman repeatedly stole artwork from artists without permission, payment or even notification. There are over 70 pieces of confirmed stolen art in the materials he is selling. His crimes extend to the written word as well. He stole a Dungeon magazine adventure, replaced the stat blocks with T&T monsters and claimed it as original work.

As a writer, game developer and part of Expy Games, I find Mr.Shipman’s actions particularly appalling. It casts a shadow on those of us who pay to commission art for our games and labor over every word. Even so, I was content to let the whole thing run its course without any comment. I assumed he would vanish from the internet and be forgotten. The trouble is that Shipman and Outlaw Press still have not stopped or even shown remorse. Despite losing permission to distribute T&T products, he continues to sell his products full of stolen art and stolen words on his website and on eBay. I just want to warn all of you Tunnel & Trolls players and potential players to stay clear of Outlaw Press. If you want to check out the game there are still reputable sources out there.

Oh, and if you see James Shipman on the street you have my permission to punch him in the face. Please note that my permission does not override the law.

What do think of the new psionic warlords? Would you drop a little gelatinous cube on James Shipman? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by Nicholas

Nick DiPetrillo is the original author behind the games Arete and Zombie Murder Mystery available at http://games.dungeonmastering.com

Nick is no longer active with DungeonMastering.com, however he is an accomplished writer and published his first game in 2009.

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Leave a comment (4 comments so far) »

  1. Pangalin says:

    The logic at play here eludes me. If you’re the kind of low-down slimy jerk who’s willing to make his living by illegally exploiting the hard work of others, then why in the world would you go into RPG PUBLISHING. Even the biggest players in the industry are hardly raking in what anyone would call big bucks.

    If you just want to make your money by being an amoral, thieving dirtbag you could almost certainly line your wallet faster and with less effort just by shoplifting.

  2. Nicholas says:

    @Pangalin: Shipman has said that what he does is a labor of love, which makes sense since I’m sure he doesn’t make much money of it. But I also don’t understand how selling a game that was released for free to rob innocent gamers could be a labor of love. It is kind of a twisted reasoning.

  3. noisician says:

    Regarding the Ardent – I just get the sinking feeling with a lot of the new classes that they are simply filling logical gaps. You have 4 combat roles defined in the game, so for each power source, you make up a new class. So of course you need the psionic version of the warlord (leader), just like you’ll need a psionic defender, controller, and striker.

    If that’s true, it just seems very dull because nothing is actually unique and different. This is a problem that I think 4E can become victim to in various places, where a lot of things are quickly reduced to a block of stats.

    But I hope I’m wrong, because I do like 4E.

  4. scott says:

    @nosician, i share your worries with the ardent, and subsequent character classes. While i like the idea of every power source having acess to the four combat roles i don’t find it necessary.

    I would prefer every class to really feel unique and special, but i’m sure their are people out there who will enjoy it and as Nicholas stated, flavour wise the Ardent is very interesting and i’m a flavour person so i’ll probably enjoy it.

    At minimum at least we are getting some great races to play with in PHB3.

    Scott

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