Category: Games

Roleplaying An Alien in D&D

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


I enjoy imagining new D&D characters to try. Recently, I have wanted to try the Horizon Walker subclass for the Ranger in 5th Edition’s Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. I have always loved the planes, so multiverse Legolas sounds fantastic.

From the guide:

Horizon Walkers guard the world against threats that originate from other planes or that seek to ravage the mortal realm with otherworldly magic. They seek out planar portals and keep watch over them, venturing to the Inner Planes and the Outer Planes as needed to pursue their foes. These rangers are also friends to any forces in the multiverse — especially benevolent dragons, fey, and elementals — that work to preserve life and the order of the planes.

We aren’t starting a plane-based campaign anytime soon, so all the characters I have been thinking of lately have to have local reasons for taking local actions. However, that does not mean they have to be local characters.

I am imagining a faction of Horizon Walkers that operate primarily in the planes themselves, only visiting mortal realms to infiltrate various cults before they can open up portals or rifts. Sort of like a team of Doctor Whos or time cops, though maybe with a bit of Guardians of the Galaxy thrown in to the mix too.

Our next campaign will take place in the Forgotten Realms, but I thought this faction would be a wonderful excuse to play a Changeling, a race native and limited to the Eberron setting, in the Forgotten Realms. Changelings are known for having to the ability to change their appearance to other humanoids and their base form looks like a fantasy version of a stereotypical science fiction alien.

At an early age, this faction (I am calling them the Greeters until I think of something else), stopped a breach in Eberron, found an orphaned Changeling, and thought they could train him up to be their master spy for infiltrating cults on other worlds.

Unfortunately, despite having an amazing ability to mimic others, my Changeling is terrible at roleplaying. Unless given an exact script, he doesn’t do well with improving his way through a cult to actually function as a spy.

Still, he is a decent soldier.

He was recently left abandoned in the Forgotten Realms along with another rookie to infiltrate a cult. It was intended to be a training exercise for the two younger members. Unfortunately, it goes south quickly and he ends up losing his partner and is limited/too rage blind to find a way to inform or request the assistance of the other Greeters still off-world.*

*This origin is subject to revision depending on campaign specific details.

Stuck in a world he barely knows or understands, he is about as alien as it is possible to be in a fantasy setting. Better yet, people do not believe he is an alien since his strange appearance, strange customs, and strange knowledge seem acceptable in a world filled with so much magic and mystery already.

It plays loose and fast with D&D metaphysics and is a bit meta (I am not that great at roleplaying either), but there are a lot of great alien tropes in science fiction that I think would be enjoyable to adapt to a strictly fantasy setting, especially when you are unique yet cannot convince anyone else of that fact.

If I do end up playing this character, then maybe I could do a series of “Mission Log” blog posts summarizing our adventures!

Massive Nostalgia Vol. 167: Downtime

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


Since I deleted most of my old content, I am starting in media res with my volume numbering here. You have not missed volumes 1-166.

I remember in the third grade (ages 8-9 for non-Americans), we had a pen pal project. Now, I recall nothing about whom my pen pal was nor do I have any way of proving that a small southern town had contacts anywhere abroad, but these are the truths my mind has decided are facts.

I do recall it being a profound experience to realize that I could send a letter across the world and receive something back in a relatively short time. It was a moment that simultaneously made the world smaller and larger for my impressionable mind.

Similarly, I remember playing Ultima Online a few years later and marveling at how I could play with people all over the world inside a video game. Of course, with Ultima Online, you had to meet in person in-game to speak since there were no /tell or /whisper commands. There was a magic in-game telephone but it was rarely convenient.

Playing MMOs in the last several years and especially World of Warcraft in the last several weeks, I miss having the downtime to just talk to strangers. Sure, it caused me anxiety to talk to people online and not everyone was nice or worth talking to, but I made some really cool in-game friends that way.

Like pen pals and mailing letters, the notion of downtime itself seems quaint. Why force players to wait? Why give them nothing more to do than to talk to one another anymore? Instead, give them queues and quests and quick generating resources and graveyards with minimal walking and the list goes on.

It is probably for the better that we have less downtime. I don’t have to wait for a rarespawn to pop or waste most of my free time finding a group. Still, I miss the slower pace and the thought/time I could put into just occupying a digital space with others. I miss being amazed that my handwriting and my little piece of paper could make it around the world and back again too.

I refuse to say things were better or that we need to go back. That’s just an old man (in MMORPG years, at least) yelling about the good ole days.

But like so many old men, I am allowed to miss my youth where things were better and wish I could go back to those days one more time.

Sometimes it is easier to embrace the contradictions in life rather than choose between something you feel is objectively true and something you feel is subjectively true.

Let me grab a cane …

World of Warcraft, Computer Chair Designer

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


This will be a shitpost about the future of World of Warcraft. In it, I wish to compile various thoughts and conversations I have had of late. Read on at your own peril. I am using bullets to highlight the fragmented nature of these ideas and I will also warn you that I do not read quests, books, or typically care at all about lore.

  • Battle for Azeroth needs no “big bad”. It should being an increasing series of one-ups in wartime atrocities. There should be no grey area left.
  • I vote it ends with Dalaran’s Downfall, a raid where the opposing side has overtaken Dalaran, outfitted it with a dangerous amount of azerite, and intend to use it as a nuclear bomb of sorts (regardless of ramifications) on the opposing side’s stronghold.
  • In the raid, neither side wins and the city has to fall somewhere in between which further exacerbates Azeroth’s degradation after the events of Legion.
  • This causes a second cataclysm of sorts, only in a world where there is no banding together, no central governments, and complete chaos. Both the Alliance and Horde fall when their armies and leadership are decimated by the events of Battle for Azeroth.
  • The pre-expansion patch for the follow-up, World of Warcraft: Azeroth Reborn, focuses on this complete breakdown of society.
  • Azeroth Reborn, similar to Cataclysm, rewrites the entire world and catches it up to a current timeline to include Allied Races, etc. Much of the old content can be timewalked to for giggles.
  • The expansion focuses on recruiting opposite faction races and repairing homelands. The player’s are tasked with rebuilding Azeroth in peace, not in war.
  • It would see the effective end of factions and allow all players to coexist.
  • It would also have a massive level crunch, resetting the game to 60 levels and putting players back at 40 to start.
  • Two new enemy factions arise: the New Horde and New Alliance. In addition to fighting one another, they also fight the players and the rest of Azeroth.
  • The expansion ends with a tease for invading Void Lords who have found ways to more easily come to Azeroth through the collective strife, mistrust, and chaos of the post-war era.

 

 

 

Azeroth Again

This post is part of a series of everyday posts for Blaugust. If you’d like to know more, click here.


MMOs are a part of my gaming diet in much the same way fried chicken is a part of my food diet. They are an essential comfort, one I grew up with and one I cannot shake despite the ill effects on my time or health. While I would much rather be playing a MMO in 2018 from 2018 (or this decade. for that matter), few satisfy me the way a World of Warcraft expansion can satisfy me.

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It is amazing how much staying power this game has and continues to have. I used to only play it to powergame my way through hard dungeons and raids. Now, not so much. I have enjoyed leveling a new Nightborne Priest. Some levels feel sparser than others but there is the feeling of progression again and that is all I have really wanted.

Is it good? Better than any game this old has any right to be. It certainly beats retreading and relearning other MMO classics. I debated returning to EverQuest II instead. I often debate that idea, but it never comes to any action.

I have three months of game time purchased and close to having two characters I want to play. If I can get the Priest to max before the expansion, I will probably bounce between Shadow and a healing spec. I haven’t decided which on the latter. I also still enjoy my Warrior, which I mained in Legion, though I am dying to unlock the new trolls. Goblin Warrior has been fun but a troll that doesn’t look bad in plate sounds like a real winner to me. I think Fury is a lot of fun and I am excited to try pre-expansion Protection eventually.

I burned my token on a Dwarf Monk named Homebrew (I know, great name!). That lasted for all of five seconds. Two of my friends decided that they would play and we have always had a Horde bent. That plus struggling to find anything in both Ironforge and Stormwind made starting at max as Alliance a bigger ordeal. At least I have a max level Alliance-side character for the first time ever.

I am grateful World of Warcraft is still around. It is familiar but fresh. It also occupies that same space that games like Halo 2, League of Legends, and other MMOs have occupied in the past: a pseudo multiplayer experience that eats up my free hours despite having so many other games I should play instead.

Three months should be more than enough …

 

(Not So) Hollow Knight #Review #NintendoSwitch

 

hollow_knight_title_large_blackFor a game called Hollow Knight, the game’s setting, mechanics, and extras are incredibly dense. Originally launched in 2014 from Australian Team Cherry, I finally had a chance to play it on the Switch after it released earlier this month. I will save you the trouble of reading the rest of this post: Hollow Knight is, to me, equivalent in quality to the masterpiece Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and worthy of equal veneration.

Hollow Knight is a Metroidvania game. If you are unfamiliar, it is a genre of games that mimic classic series like Metroid and Castlevania. The genre is known for having an equal blend of platforming and action combat, as well as environments you constantly have to retread as you unlock newer ways to explore and progress.

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Exploration and discovery are vital to a good Metroidvania as well.

I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy Hollow Knight, but it hooked me quickly. The controls are phenomenal. They feel as smooth as Mega Man II or Megaman X. Like other games in the action-platformer genre, I found just navigating the Hallownest (the game’s setting) was pleasant. The combat is also tight, complete with great animations, and a variety of attacks and spells to unlock to spice combat up a bit as you go.

As much as I enjoyed exploring (both platforming and fighting) my way through the game’s dark and dreary setting, I wish there had been a bit more story. The little information you do get comes secondhand from a cast of strange characters you meet or through rare tablets you find hidden. I am still piecing it together even though I am at a 103% completion rate (thank you DLC).

Despite lacking story, Hollow Knight firmly establishes its tone and never lets go. All of the characters are bugs of one kind or another. The art is fantastic and the level variety is incredible once you start finding new areas. I also really enjoyed the music, especially the extra boss Nightmare King Grimm’s theme. I learned to hum it over the two hours of practice it took for me to finally vanquish him.

Now, to address the elephant in the room: is Hollow Knight challenging?

I am not the type of person who actively seeks out challenging video games. If a game is hard, then it is not automatically good. I tend to avoid especially hard games because they often frustrate me and I hate being frustrated.

Hollow Knight challenged me but I never got frustrated. The game does a good job of not punishing the player for a loss (outside of potentially losing geo, the game’s currency).  Rather than a game over, you wake up at the last bench you sat on and they are relatively plentiful. Certain boss fights take place in the dream world and if you die in those, you wake up at the start of the fight, no money lost and your health restored.

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I thought the Grimm Troupe DLC was weak outside of its final boss which I loved.

I have heard Hollow Knight compared to games like Dark Souls. I have long avoided that style of video game since I rarely seek out challenge over other things. While I cannot share my opinion on the comparison, I think Hollow Knight is a fun, engaging, and sound game that doesn’t try to cheat you of overcoming its potential difficulty with cheap tricks.

Furthermore, I really liked some of the additional late game areas. The White Palace in particular contains some very serious platforming that I would easily compare to a platformer-only game like Super Meat Boy. It even has the bouncing on saw blades that you see in hardcore Super Mario hacks. It was entirely optional, but I think it speaks a lot of what Team Cherry has managed to do with the controls in Hollow Knight that they executed a pure platforming area so well within a game that typically focuses on combat and exploration.

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Castlevania: Symphony of the Night holds a special place in my heart. It is one of the few games I have beaten multiple times on multiple platforms. Elevating a game like Hollow Knight to be its equal is a huge honor in my book. Deservedly so because the nearly 40 hours I have already put into Hollow Knight isn’t nearly enough even if I am running out of things to do. I cannot wait for more with the game’s next DLC!

Dungeon Mastering, My First Time

I have always been curious about dungeon mastering, but I only just recently had the opportunity to try it in a safe environment. That sort of thing makes me nervous. I worry about fucking up a rule or not being able to respond to some off-the-rails departure in a timely manner. I worry about maintaining the voices or really any kind of consistency. I should have worried less because it went well.

For my first ever experience as a dungeon master, I chose the one-shot “Wild Sheep Chase” by Richard Jansen-Parkes. I found it after googling to find a good “first ever” adventure for fledgling DMs. One of my players had already done the adventure, but I have never been the sort to do things exactly as written so I was less worried about that and more worried about what kind of characters the group wanted to throw at me.

They chose Team Rocket from Pokémon and it was kind of a perfect fit.

The premise for “Wild Sheep Chase” follows a wizard who has been true polymorphed for the last two years by his apprentice. His apprentice stole his wand of true polymorph and has been using it on mercenaries to guard the sheep wizard. It doesn’t make total sense, but it is a great excuse to have some fairly easy animal-based encounters with a moral dilemma at the end.

I started improvising almost immediately. For starters, I let my three players roll up level 5 characters, so a bunch of wolves were really no threat to them. I had a cool entrance for the animals though.

The players began in an inn and after the sheep exposited the plot, a half-orc, and local gang leader, summoned his animal friends to capture the sheep-wizard for his Mistress (I changed the apprentice to a lady for some romance angles). Bacon, a boar, jumped through a window behind the players before Meowth fried him in one hit with Booming Blade. Peeps the hawk came in through a young woman’s bedroom before being stabbed by James’s rapier. The wolf, Dagger, swallowed the knife he had in his mouth after Jessie blasted him for more than his HP.

The other wolf, Scarf, had a brilliant moment where he and James posed off and tried to look more glamorous than the other. Scarf felt like he had won, especially with the crosswind animating his scarf and the light reflecting perfectly on his eyes, and he left. This forced Guz to summon his backups, sibling bears named Ginger and Freckles. Similar to Bacon, Freckles exploded after a couple of rounds and another Booming Blade. One of those rounds included a critical stealth check by Meowth which resulted in him taking the perfect form of a chair.

This enraged his brother Ginger who proceeded to sit atop Meowth after critically failing the grapple contest and slipping on a piece of Freckles.

While Meowth and Ginger were battling, Scarf slipped in the back window while the players were distracted. He used his magic scarf to entangle the sheep-wizard, but Jessie summoned earthen tendrils shaped like an ekans to restrain the wolf before he could escape with their new ally. James used this opportunity to gloriously unravel Scarf’s scarf with his rapier which was the only thing tying his wolf head to his wolf body.

Realizing he needed to warn the Mistress that the sheep-wizard had strong allies, the half-orc fled the scene. James used his charms to try and convince Ginger to give up fighting. Ginger just wanted to go home to his mother who he missed though he realized since she was not a bear that might be a problem. Jessie successfully convinced Ginger to join their party and promised to undo the spell on him so he could return home.

After more exposition where the sheep-wizard revealed he had come onto his apprentice and she had turned him into a sheep so he could experience what it was like to be the prey, the party arrived at the wizard’s tower just in time to spot the half-orc warning his mistress that they were coming.

Surprising both me and the villains, the party ran out of the woods “guns a-blazin’” as they did not try and roleplay their way through this situation at all (we were running out of time). I still wanted the encounter to be memorable though, so after getting off their surprise round, the Mistress used her stolen wand of true polymorph to turn the half-orc into an elephant which she later enlarged.

The party didn’t struggle too much with the elephant, but it was scary for a time. Meowth ran up a tree to hide from him but the elephant rammed him out of the tree all the same. Jessie got a fireball off on the Mistress, but she was polymorphed into a lowly garden snake. James finally got the kill on the Mistress and Meowth finished off the elephant after some kiting.

All in all, I had a real blast. It was a unique experience as I had to balance enforcing the rules while sometimes bending them. I always tried to tell a good story, but not at the expense of fun or pacing. I also had to think on the fly and come up with new challenges to react to the player’s behavior.

I could see myself doing it again!

Let’s Talk About Ni No Kuni II

It is rare I finish a game I am so mixed on. Released earlier this year on PC and Playstation 4, Ni No Kuni II is a solid roleplaying game that will likely be loved by many. It has a young protagonist out to make the world a better place. It has stats, gear, and all the other bells and whistles of a typical Japanese roleplaying game. It also manages to perfectly capture what I have enjoyed more recently about JRPGs: their relaxing and familiar gameplay loops. But, for me, Ni No Kuni II was only just okay.

Ni No Kuni II is not a direct sequel to the first game released on Playstation 3 by Level-5 (Dark Cloud, Professor Layton, Yo-Kai Watch, etc.). It also lacks the involvement of Studio Ghibli though the aesthetic is similar. That helps because I never played the first game so I have no reason or ability to compare this Ni No Kuni to the original.

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Nothing like a furry page boy!

First and foremost, Ni No Kuni II is an almost too saccharine game. The game’s lead, Evan Pettiwhisker Tildrum, is the child king of Ding Dong Dell, a kingdom divided by animosity from its ruling class (cat-people called Grimalkin) and Mousekin (obviously mice-people). After he is ousted in a coup, he sets out to unite all of the world’s kingdoms in peace under the banner of his brand new kingdom. He does so with kindness, generosity, and the understanding that most bad rulers are not evil.

I do not think there is a better JRPG to use to introduce younger gamers to the genre or to play as a family. At least not one that isn’t far older. Ni No Kuni II looks great (especially on the Playstation 4 Pro) and I never got tired of the character or enemy design, even if it frequently repeated itself.

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The game’s biggest boss battles are varied and interesting but there’s only four of them.

Even better for younger gamers, this is not a particularly difficult game. Battles focus on a single character with a limited array of combos and other abilities. Controls are responsive and animations are crisp. Enemies explode into a variety of items (mostly materials for crafting) when defeated. The combat never stopped being fun for me despite its simplicity. You can switch characters at will and each has a different weapon type they can use which further differentiates them when you need a change of pace.

While I failed to get into Persona 5, an obviously superior and deeper experience, Ni No Kuni II does better what I like JRPGs to do. I love being able to fire it up for some brief farming or to complete a few side-quests. Ni No Kuni II also has a limited city building element that reminded me of Bravely Default which kept me engaged as well. I loved how all of the loops feed into it. Farm enemies for resources to complete side-quests to recruit new citizens of your kingdom who then help you build up that kingdom or produce better weapons/armor/spells.

 

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Yes, this game has Facebook and, much like my own profile, I never used it.

I wasn’t achieving much nor was I overcoming any challenges. If anything, Ni No Kuni II had more in common with mobile clicker RPGs which satisfy players much the same way a slot machine satisfies grandma. That isn’t a bad thing though I wish the game was harder or had harder challenges.

Beyond the simplicity of its gameplay and characters, I did appreciate the games story even if it got to be a bit silly. It was a nice change of pace being the one who wanted to conquer world (though in peace rather for my own personal gain). In the opening, it is revealed that the secondary main character is essentially the President of the United States transported into a fantasy land moments before witnessing the presumed beginning of a nuclear holocaust. It is easily the most unique opening in any JRPG I have ever played.

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The President has a handgun, of course.

I won’t spoil it here, but I also enjoyed the main villains backstory once it was revealed in the game’s final act. Like all of the villains in Ni No Kuni II, he starts out twirling his mustache and ends with pulling your heart strings. That seems to be a story trope of sorts often used by Japanese writers (villain of the week becomes best friend for the remainder of the series) and it works perfectly in this game’s narrative.

Overall, I think I recommend Ni No Kuni II though maybe not at full price. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone that wants a hard game to play, but it’s perfect for those of us who need something to relax while playing or something that’ll allow our brains time to rest between more narrative-intense video games or dense television like Westworld. If you haven’t yet, you may want to give Ni No Kuni II a shot.

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