Monday, November 19, 2012

Sporadic Roundup!

So, my gaming has been... spotty, at best, but I figured that it was probably time to go and take stock of what I'm playing, for my own edification, if nothing else.

First off, quick shout-out to the indie+ gaming circle on G+, which has more or less got me back into a thinking about games, and writing about them. And, of course, Shieldhaven, who is running some D&D Next stuff for which I have a couple of alts. And, as I am a lazy git when it comes to filling out WOTC's feedback, I might as well talk about my impressions somewhere.


Arcana Evolved: Yeah, still playing that. Made it to level 14, are Runechildren now. Still not a fan of 3.5 style combat.
D&D Next: As I mentioned a little earlier, I have two characters in Shieldhaven's game: a Veytikka duelist-bounty hunter, and a Beruch FEy-Pact Warlock. So far, I really like the fighter's stuff in combat, though Shieldhaven changed up the dual-wielder specialty a little to make it less crappy. Warlocks, on the other hand, are very dull in combat, but, well, the class is basically sooooo two playtest packets ago. Will actually go into this more in-depth in a little bit.
Over the Edge: Have not played as much of this as I'd like, for realio.
Ptolus: played a session of this, and boy, I'd forgotten how much I prefer Pathfinder to core 3.x rules. Magus is completely broken, however, and... hm, there's probably a post brewing in how much I dislike +ECL classes (I was playing a Minotaur, but we hacked it to avoid ECL).
My Game: has been on hiatus about forever, largely due to a complete lack of time. And also because levelling without DDI, which I am not currently paying for, is pretty much lame. But I've probably talked enough previously about how badly I think WOTC bungled that one.
Mage: the Awakening:  Has now wrapped, after we murdered the face of the Red Word cult. I made it to Mind 5, Space 3 as a Mastigos, and I feel pretty good about that. There's some political goals that I will pretend happened as a result of us being awesome and sticking it to the Abyss, even though they did not occur on screen, primarily getting rid of the current head of the Consilium, and installing this Mysterium dude, Potestas.


Dust to Dust: Just passed it's 6th event, and boy are my arms tired! It remains both awesome and exhausting, and I'm delighted to be a part of it.
Eclipse: Is about to wrap up its first arc soon, and I am debating whether I am going to re-roll, or stay with my current character. Hm, ponderous questions!

Video Games

Skyrim: I continue to spend way too much time in the Skyrim Province for my own good. I have the Hearthfire and Dawnguard expansions, and am looking forward to Dragonborn. No, I have not completed the main storyline, at something like 250 hours. Good times.
Fallen London (And Failbetter Games as a whole): I still play this from time to time, though I have completed Cabinet Noir, The Silver Tree and the prototype of Below, their recent Kickstarter Project. I was less impressed with Cabinet Noir and Silver Tree, as they felt too... Fallen London, really, for the Format. Below, however, I am excited about, because I feel like the new format suits the dungeon crawl experience really super well. I should totes write a pimping post about that.

And now...

So that's where I am right now. I want to spend a little extra time talking about the 5e game, because it's what's interesting me most mechanically at the moment, and because the discrepancy between what the Fighter is good at and what the Warlock is good at is so huge.

First, the Fighter.

So, in the Aurikesh Setting, I am playing a Veytikka Fighter, which means I come equipped with claws that a) count as finesse weapons and b) do 1d6+atk. You know, just like the rapier I carry. So there's a certain amount of "eh, who needs this rapier?", at least, until magic weapons come into play. Also, I carry a shortbow, and am delighted by how switching weapons is a free action. The Duel Wielding specialty allows me to roll once for an attack with advantage, and if I hit, I roll the greater attack die plus 1d6 +bonus for damage. At the moment, this just means 2d6+bonus on hit, which isn't shabby, but doesn't have me putting things down with one hit at 1st level. Also, I am pretty sure that Haven boosted the HP on the monsters, which is just fine.

The Bounty Hunter background gives me contacts, access to a bounty board (basically, extra quests-- very cool if your DM wants to do anything with it, though I can imagine it being basically a dead spot in build), and 3 skills (spot, and... two other things I don't remember) , which is just fine, though the Veytikka advantage of keen smell gives me advantage on scent-based rolls (against wisdom), which don't stack with Spot. I'm told I can upgrade the skill to general perception later, which is certainly an interesting approach, and one I don't know how I feel about. But skills are tricky.

Combat as a fighter is not as purely awesome and cinematic as in 4e, but is likewise not as boring and staid as 3e. I have, from class, combat expertise dice I can spend to basically add damage or mitigate damage if I so choose: 2d6/encounter, which help me actually want to pay attention to combat outside of my turn, though I don't have a lot of reasons to care what my fellow party members are doing; nor do I have any mechanical way (thusfar) to keep the critters off of the casters and on me. Which I miss in an abstract sort of way, but didn't really notice when we were in game.

Also, I felt that my skills and things gave me some non-combat utility and interest, which was super nice. The character is kind of a silent, sullen type with a disturbingly honorable streak, and I don't really know where she'll go... oh, also, she's a member of the Iron Temple Warrior Society, so there's that.

Playing a Warlock is a massively different experience, and I can see why they were pulled from the packet. But I wanted to play one, because Haven is doing some awesome things with Fey in the setting that I super wanted to be a part of. Anyway.

In combat, a Warlock is basically All Eldritch Blast All The Time. I can see where Visage of the Summer Court (a wisdom-save AOE 30' charm spell, pick your own target) could have awesome combat application, but I didn't want to spend the boon for it just then. The lesser invocation that allows you to move around without incurring attacks of opportunity is sexy as hell, though as we were fighting arial opponents, it didn't come up. I'll be curious to see how it works in future encounters.  But yeah, as I didn't pick up the other Warlock Damage Spell, my combat applications are somewhat limited to blast, blast, blast.

That said, I pretty much used everything _but_ Eldritch Blast outside of combat- including Visage- and that was awesome and rocked my socks off. This is due in large part to Haven running a very fun and engaging setting with a lot of interesting NPC interactions, and that was definitely the strength of the session. I went from regretting not having bought more varied combat options to being really happy with Visage, due to its effect on Fey who, well... were just more likely to like me, recognising me as one who shared their same Patroness.

I'll be very interested to see what they do with the Warlock in future releases, if they keep it... it's a neat thematic concept, so I hope they do.

Also also, I took the Priest background and one of Haven's Custom Specialties, the Bloodletter, so that I could have a tiny bit of healing. So far, it has mostly meant that the party healers didn't have to spend healz on me, and could help other folks, so that's all right.

All told, I like it so far... I would very much like to see more 4e style terrain stuff in combat, and more of the push/pull/knockdown stuff also, as it made combat super engaging. I really like having to care about combat positioning, and I definitely miss it in this edition.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Grandiose Plans.

So, I learned somewhat recently that Atlas games has made the WaRP system available for use, which is the system Over The Edge is based on. And if you've read much of anything I've posted here, although that has not been a particularly frequent thing of late, you know how much I love love love Over The Edge.

So, I've had this King In Yellow/Dawning Star game I've wanted to run for several years now (ostensibly called, "The Truth in Yellow"), but, as I am not a fan of D20 Modern/Future, I'd been hard up for a system to run it.

And you see where this is going.

This will require spending some time with the Ineffable Tome of Ages and making shit work with what I want it to do, but WaRP is pretty durned flexible, and I'm excited to play around with it.

In the meantime, Shieldhaven has been gearing up for a D&D 5e game where I've got a couple of alts, one of whom (Lanth the Veytikka Fighter) you can see here, as rendered by the awesome Mr. Lich:

I am also playing a Beruch warlock, though I haven't a pic of her. Yet. :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In which I am not alone.

Aaaand here's a small collection of links to other people's blogs, who have ideas I love, or have posited elsewhere in this blog. Seriously, keep it coming.

Dear Wizards of the Coast... -- from UAD&D. Talks about Multiple Editions and Print on Demand, a welcome echo of my post on the Two State Solution some time ago. And from a pro! A righteous read.

The Threefold Path of RPG reading. -- Robin D. Laws has some excellent insight on Information Presentation, a subject dear to my heart.

I Made a Board Game! -- Shieldhaven discusses Stones of the Wall, a game he invented for DtD. It's pretty cool. :)

Among the topics which I intend to discuss in future, there are some reviews (Toys for the Sandbox and D&DNext/5e/whatever), and also more on information presentation as regards the Dust to Dust Rulebook and Website, which are of perhaps more immediate concern to me than other topics.

Speaking of Dust to Dust, we just had our fourth three-day event! Which may lead to some ruminations.

I suppose we shall see.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Way of the Rules Chick.

So, I like rules.

The reason I like rules is because, apropos of Shieldhaven's post about Wizards, and some other stuff I've seen in games, when systems don't have comprehensive rules, they go SQUISH! and you're floundering in an undefined world where, it is reasonable to ask, "well, why don't you just teleport Frodo into Mordor" because there's nothing defining what the possibilities actually are.

This is a huge problem when we're talking about magic, but it applies to other systems too, particularly in games, where you want your magic users, your fighters, and your fighter-mages (among your other tropes) to be at about the same competence for amount of time spent building skills.  Yes, I am assuming that game/character balance is a desired thing. And I refrained from saying, of the same level to allow for systems without levels, like Ro3 LARPing, or World of Darkness Tabletop, which define advancement in other ways. 

I know a number of people, however, who do not like rules. At least, they express discomfort with rules which ranges from, "I am just not a rules person," to "I fucking hate rules because they get in the way of my ability to Just Play."

I won't get into the expectations connected with who hates rules and why, but will point out that for most people, the thing isn't that one really hates rules. One hates rules that...

  • Seem arbitrary (also called, "are too obvious/visible"), 
  • Are badly presented,
  • Are convoluted and difficult to parse,
  • Change or explode too frequently to keep up with,
  • Are 'solved' (there's a right way to do things) or easy to exploit (unbalanced).
So allow me to go into some completely unsolicited advice for people who do think of themselves as Rules People, who love to design, modify, or add to rules systems for fun and/or profit.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Well, nevermind. Legal reasons, you know how it is.

Regularly scheduled content? Yeah, I should post some of that sometime, huh?

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday, January 30, 2012

If I Were a CEO #2: 5th Edition D&D and the Two State Solution.

Or D&D Next, as some are calling it. Yes, it's what everyone is writing about these days. What will it do, what will it have rules-wise, why is Monty Cook working on it, OMFG. So I'm going to avoid that right now, and as I have done in the past, delve into the business side of things, at least, from my own limited perspective. Keep in mind, that as with all blogging, this is an Op-ed piece.

First of all, I was disappointed, if unsurprised, to learn that D&D was going to a 5th edition anyway, or at least, just doing a 5th edition. As I mentioned in the previous post, linked above, I don't think that adding another player to the edition wars is going to solve anything. The players who felt alienated when 3.x was abandoned for 4th pretty much either went to Pathfinder, or kept playing with the older material, and were lost as customers. They're not likely to come back in any lasting way for 5th. Also, the 4th ed base, who spent a lot of energy supporting that edition, splintered when Essentials came out, and will splinter further for this one, especially if it renegs on some of the best things about 4e (Economy of Actions, I am looking at you). While a Middle Way, which I think they're trying to do here, might be desirable, it is more likely that it will simply create more strife, because it means that 4e (which has been pretty much dumped for Essentials) and Essentials will no longer be supported at all.

A pause while those who are so inclined cheer over one or both of these things. Schadenfreude out of your system? Good. Let's continue.

As Shieldhaven will say at length, I am not a huge fan of 3.x, or Pathfinder (though I have just agreed to play a Pathfinder game. Another story for another post), because of various issues many of which I describe here (and which are actually worse than I describe, in fact). That said, every edition has both its problems, and its die-hard fans. The correct-- if perhaps difficult from a design manpower standpoint-- option?

The Two (or Three) State Solution: Support All Editions.

No, I mean it. WotC should take a clue from White Wolf, re-release all the material that they've got license to as e-texts, and offer Print on Demand. Potentially offer rules tweaks, new modules, and new content on a limited basis, primarily in an electronic format. And WotC can do this very, very easily. How?

The DDI character creator was the shit. I don't mean the online version, I mean the downloadable version that used to have all the updates. Making this a comprehensive and multi-edition database would be a product worth paying for. And how.

But I talked about all of this in the post that I linked above.

Now, while I know good and well that going back to supporting and providing content for 3.x won't, say, bring back those who defected to Pathfinder and are super happy with it. BUT it will be a more comfortable fit, and potentially get people back into generating sanctioned content for it, and allowing for more comfort with new additions, variations, and the like, as they can be secure that Their One True Edition will still be cared for. Continuing to support 4e and Essentials just means that they fail to lose people who invested in caring about those new rulesets, particularly those who are Less Than Enthused about the design stylings of Monty Cook, and what that means for future rulesets.

Also, the one New Book that I suggest for all editions is a DMG 2, much like was done in 4e. I cannot stress the importance of Show Me in how to run specific mechanics within a story.

Bring Back the Open Gaming License

Or at least, create a more wide-open licensing scheme by which people can offer home-brewed content, or small-press content at a nominal fee. This is more a point of Shieldhaven's than mine, but a huge problem with 4e, including DDI Char. Builder, is how hard it is to houserule, or for independent content reactors to actually generate compatible content. This is super good for the company in that it helps generate and spread interest; every interesting module someone makes potentially gets someone else to _also_ buy the core content.

Make it Clear

For my final point, it's less about the way the rules are (though that's important), but about how the information is presented. The biggest problem of all D&D editions up to this point is that the information in the rulebooks is explained so badly, and there's so much cruft, that finding anything is really very problematic. If the staff here spent some of their money on doing organization work on the books of the previous editions, this would go a _long_ way, I feel, to cleaning up some of the problems with them, by making things clear, and actually fixing legitimate errors and conflicts.

To sum up, I have a real problem with the idea that the best way to deal with the problems in the game(s) is to release a new ruleset every few years. I think that it's more a better way to just hemorrhage players, and drive everyone to either sticking with their old products, or going to games like Pathfinder, D20, or others. That's money left on the table, and it makes me super sad that WotC is not really looking into what these people actually want, and supporting that. I fear that they will wind up wasting a lot of time and money on an effective bust.