D&D

2018 I HAS REVIEW – Q4

October 2018

  • Posts: 3 (Really? Just 3?)
  • Games: Magic The Gathering: Arena
  • Other Media:

October was my second lightest posting month and 3 in a month (along with the couple 5s I had earlier in the year) shows my inability to post consistently. Blogging is one of those things I love when I feel like I have something to talk about but struggle with when not – I would be a terrible place if I needed to have dependable, episodic content. October was about blahs and a general post, followed by a rentry into MTGA after the wipe (which I dreaded), and then an inspired post about an old gaming friend who I lost touch with – we were quite close, and he was suicidal near the end, and when we lost touch I worried about him. I still do from time to time.

In October 2017 I was playing Destiny 2 and Warframe

November 2018

  • Posts: 7
  • Games: Perfect World, Torchlight Frontiers, Breach, Magic The Gathering: Arena, Battlefield V, World of Warcraft, Fallout 76
  • Other Media:

In November I cleared out what was at the time, my last batch of Spring Cleaning blog posts drafts. It was a fun exercise. Checking recently, seems as though I may have another batch to do in 2019. We shall see. I had an Alpha based post on the 4-5 I was in at the time, as well as a great laugh at the bloopers from the Fallout 76 terrible launch (and the game continues to plague them, from what I am reading. I started playing (and being excited about) Battlefield 5(V) which I am still playing and being excited about. New free content update drops this week. I , along with many, many others groaned about the general boringness of Blizzcon this year.

In November 2017 I was playing Warframe

December 2018

  • Posts: 1 (FML)
  • Games: Slay the Spire
  • Other Media:

To be fair I had 3 weeks of vacation planned in December and that included a spill over into the first week of January – and two separate countries on two trips. Still, I didn’t put the effort in. My game of the year was Slay the Spire which my game of the year post neglected to mention (outside of the gameplay and screenshots). Never a dull moment here at IHASPC

In December 2017 I was playing EQ2, DDO, Warframe

Overall, not a bad year here statistics wise although I fell short of my 6 posts per month that I’d like to stick to. Good news is, heading into 2019 I have a lot to write about already and I only have two fears heading into February. The first is that with the upcoming Anthem launch IHASPC will become an Anthem blog for the foreseeable future. My other, bigger fear is that it will not – and Bioware will fade as my favorite gaming company.

Once again, thank you for reading, and here is to a happy, gaming filled, healthy, satisfying 2019!

2018 I HAS REVIEW – Q3

July 2018

  • Posts: 6
  • Games: World of Warcraft. Magic The Gathering: Arena, Warriors of Waterdeep,
  • Other Media / Non Digital Games: Blaugust

Summertime is more time outside time, less gaming time, and even less blogging time. I started a series about some World of Warcraft Specs that I thought would be really fun to include/play in the game and had drawn out several for several classes, but I didn’t get past one or two. (Maybe just one, will find out when I do August / September! My focus was on healing and tanking specs for every class to ensure you can play the flavor and role of class that you prefer. At the end of the month I wished the Blaugust participants good luck due to the fact I am at a cottage first two weeks of August and teaching at a hockey camp, so I don’t have time to blog at all for the most part. I spent a lot of time exploring my roster of World of Warcraft characters and tried to sort through how I would launch in Battle for Azeroth and where my focuses would be. I didn’t stick to my plan and even less did I do the armor class quests for the new races. I tried to give away Magic The Gathering Arena beta access as I had 5 keys – only two people asked. I managed to win at getting my Awesome Bear Form challenge before the deadline (And continued to use it through BFA – it is that awesome!). With my continued attention to D&D I ended up downloading a fun mobile game Warriors of Waterdeep, although I stopped playing it shortly after. Didn’t stick.

July 2017 I was playing Paladins, Fortnite, and Battletech

August 2018

  • Posts: 8
  • Games: World of Warcraft
  • Other Media / Non-Digital Games:

At the end of August I was already wondering if I should resubscribe to World of Warcraft. I did, but the fact that I had to second guess myself was telling to me of the quality of enjoyment I was having. I was enjoying the core story of Horde more than Alliance. I HAS PC turned 10 in August and as always, I reflected a bit on my 10 year journey here and what’s next for me. I looked for a guild of like minded people but wasn’t having much luck – so took random invites instead and was fine with that with my solo-ish playstyle. I found and added two new blogs that I enjoy Deez Words and Allunaria’s. I slogged through the low 100s and reflected often about my experiences as a once again, sole World of Warcraft (apparently) blog. I sourced a temp work position through the blog for a test, successfully, and I DID do a second part of my “SPEC ME OUT” series. Awesome rogue specs that I would 100% play for myself.

August 2017 I was playing Fortnite, Destiny 2 (beta), and Paladins.

September 2018

  • Posts: 7
  • Games: World of Warcraft, Telltale Games, WildStar, Cyberpunk 2077
  • Other Media / Non Digital:

I unsubscribed from World of Warcraft in September. Didn’t last long, sadly. Before doing so I grinded out Warfronts to get top end gear for basically just showing up. The ultimate welfare epics. I was sad about Telltale games – I really enjoyed a few of their titles (but the delivery did wane on me). I compared and optimistic view vs a pessimistic view on the 6 month mount subscription announcement by Blizzard. Level 120 in World of Warcraft was checking in, doing the work, but not feeling the love. Kind of like real life. I shared every post I made on WildStar and of course was sad that the game didn’t stick. Sad but NOT surprised – one of those “called its”. Finally I watched – with glee – the announcement and sharing of Cyberpunk gameplay. It was one of the PnP games I played the most in my youth (Rifts, Star Wars, Shadowrun being the other ones I spent my time on).

September 2017 I was playing Destiny 2, Clash Royale, and Fortnite

Q4 is less old but will still share, I really enjoy being able to go back through and see where my head and heart was at the times

2018 I HAS REVIEW – Q1

That time of year is upon us where we look back. I really enjoyed this series last year as the memory gets worse and I get older it’s fun to see what got me excited, dissappointed, and curious throughout the year. As a longer post I am breaking it up in quarters.

January 2018

  • Posts – 9
  • Games – Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms, Hearthstone, Dungeons and Dragons Online,  Everquest 2,
  • Other Media / Non Digital Games – D&D
  • Theme(s) – Review posts!

I am not currently playing any of those games regularly, and still have not gotten into a proper D&D game in my area (haven’t tried that hard either – the commitment level for a multi-hour, multi-session game is really hard for me. ICOTFR (say that 5 times fast) was the first “idle game” style that I spent some time in. I didn’t quite get it at first, a game you “watch” more than play, but it actually had a fun slant – for a while. Hearthstone was to explore the new PVE versions which were fun, but ultimately didn’t keep me with staying power. I invested in DnDBeyond source and rulebooks and became very excited about the idea of playing Dungeons and Dragons PnP.

Looking back to compare January 2017 I was playing: WoW:Legion and WoW:Legion only.

February 2018

  • Posts – 9
  • Games – World of Warcraft, Dauntless, Slay The Spire
  • Other Media / Non Digital Games – Critical Role Podcast, D&D
  • Theme(s) – underdogs, nostalgia

Funny that in February 2018 I went back to “finish” World of Warcraft. Flying was there finally and the game had progressed along enough that there was a lot of content for me to catch up on and enjoy. I also dabbled in Dauntless (which I spent very little time in, it was an Alpha invite and the game was very rough and without a great vision. I predicted it wouldn’t fare well due to the impending launch of Monster Hunter World a much more polished, proven game.

Looking back to compare February 2017 I was playing: World of Warcraft, Star Wars The Old Republic, and Mass Effect (Original Trilogy)

March 2018

  • Posts – 4
  • Games – World of Warcraft, Paladins
  • Other Media / Non Digital Games – N/A
  • Theme(s) – Zen grinding, Gamer Skill differentiation, Lessons learned in game design

March was a very light month of posting for me and it was all about WoW with a little bit of “I told you so” when Paladins went against their community wishes and changed their game to be more lootbox based during the Battlefront 2 EA fiasco – I mean, you just have to pay attention to how the market reacted to that to not do the EXACT SAME THING. Last time I checked steam charts the game hadn’t rebounded to their high before this decision.

Looking back to compare March 2017 I was playing Andromeda, and The Secret World Legends

Not a ton of consistency from year to year (fun to be able to do that this year) . I have a lot of posts in my head and drafts but currently still on vacation (a winter one, after my beach one), so behind on gaming and writing.

Happy new year! I’ll get to the other three quarters in due course.

Warriors of Waterdeep

Not sure how I got on the mail list but somehow a mobile game for Dungeons and Dragons entered early access (yes, that damn thing again..) and out of sheer curiosity I downloaded it.

The gist of the game is a top down, class and group based dungeon crawl. You get XP and levels and abilities are tied to equipment (which can be upgraded). You get packs of cards for completing new dungeon areas under “Play” and once you finish off a section of the dungeon you can do a “Challenge” mode. The challenge mode allows you to do the same boss over and over with increasing difficulties (And rewards). At the end of the crawl, you get an option to “keep rewards” or “continue”.

After a challenge mode you get a chest with a timer. The better the contents of the chest the longer the timer (minimum 3 hours so far, longest I have received was 12. There is at least a 24h one that I have seen an “ad” for.) So the game manages to hit all the right monetization notes – gold (in game currency farmed) or gems (paid for, and you can exchange for gold) card packs (get on completion or buy) and chests (timer unlocked that gems can speed up).

Outside of levels on equipment (number of cards to upgrade, gold to pay for the transformation) and levels of the characters (equipment is gated by levels) they also have a “renown” levelling mechanic which is the total “fame” of the party. Unlocking renown gives new character unlocks (of which you get a choice of at each unlock). So there is plenty to grind out and level here, and plenty of ways to spend your money (if you aren’t patient like me).

So far it has been fun and taking up more of my time than Clash Royale lately and there is enough carrots and “next level” points to keep me going for now. My only real complaint is that it is very slow to play and unlock. For example, if I do a 3 round challenge it takes me over 10 minutes (whereas three rounds of CR is 3-4 minutes each) so you can’t bite-size it as much. It is also pretty hard and I haven’t even unlocked the second challenge mode yet – because my group is only around level 6 each and there are creatures already one-shotting me. (You can also continue if you die in a dungeon, but that costs gems…)

I think it is a bit uneven and they will have to make it easier to unlock the first 2 or 3 challenge modes or people will lose interest. Going from level 6 to 7 on each charcater will probably take me a few weeks and I need level 7 to finish off the second dungeon leg. I have the patience many may not.

All in all, will see how it progresses but at this point I don’t feel the need to reward with cash yet, but happy to help them sort through their balancing before they go live. Which is probably in 2020. (Yes, getting cynical on EA titles…)

Magic Carpet Ride: Critical Role

The current Critical Role podcast episode I am on is over 4 hours long and they are fighting a Beholder. This is an advanced Monster that graces the cover of the Monster Manual and throws all sorts of challenges at players. The interesting part for me is that I have been learning higher level D&D play and the impact that prior DM choices have on the game itself. Not to put things into spoiler territory but one of the players has an attack that imposes the disadvantaged state to who it hits. That player has successfully used that skill on the Beholder twice in the battle (it’s still not over, I get it in chunks) and while it has been an epic battle that disadvantaged state has trivialized some of the scary things the Beholder can do. (Disadvantage, as explained here at DnDBeyond, forces a player or creature to roll twice on an attack or check and take the lower of the two)

As an aspiring DM this example forces me to think about how I would deal with that situation. I could, of course, just ignore that or impose an advantage situation to the Monster to nullify the disadvantage. I could fake rolls, behind my screen of lies. There are many things I could do to make my big evil bad guy more of a challenge. Truth is, as I think through it, is that that player chose that ability for this exact reason and him/her being able to use it would be highly satisfying – regardless of what intention the DM had. My personal take on this is that the game is there for the players to enjoy and ensuring there is a balance of them being able to have their moment to shine for the group. Giving them a real challenge becomes a bigger difficulty the higher level they get, the more items they get, and the more skills and skill checks they get. But in the end the adventure is for the players and the DM is one to help that enjoyment along.

I have two other examples of things that trivialize some of the game play I am experiencing that perhaps as a DM I would have been very careful not to give players – especially after I see the effects that it has had on the current adventure I am taking along with them. The first is a bag of holding. They have an awful lot of things in there that are convenient to have in specific circumstances but also things they would most likely not have on them if they were restricted on items and weight. The idea of being mindful of the exact items you have for a deep dungeon dive – and the scarcity that could create – is gone when you can throw in the kitchen sink. The Barbarian lost his Great Axe on a bad throwing attack, but no worries, I have a Giant Sword here in this bag too. Chances are he isn’t carrying both if he has limitations.

The second is a magic carpet. I don’t know where or how they got it (must be from a prior adventure!) but the carpet is huge – 10’x15′ and they neatly store it in the aforementioned bag of holding – so it is not an issue to lug it around everywhere. They have already used it three times in the first ten or so episodes to trivialize what would otherwise be a really interesting problem to solve. Of course they are going to use it and I don’t begrudge them to doing so but it makes me very aware that if I DM a group and give them something really good they will use that to their full advantage. So I need to have the adventure prepared to understand how prior loot found impacts future adventures. Again, I believe this is less of an issue in the early game when getting a +1 sword is a huge deal. This is also not as much of an issue if they didn’t have the bag of holding as carrying it around a dungeon would be cumbersome. So the combination of two items makes for the problem, and something I would need to be prepared for.

I personally don’t like how the DM does Stealth checks on the podcast as well because players have a good idea of whether or not their stealth is good. A sneaky rogue that rolls a 5 knows he isn’t sneaking well, and could alter what he does based on the roll. I suspect there is some argument there that they can tell if they aren’t stealthing well (hear their own creaking on boards, etc.) but I feel like if the DM rolled for them it could create some better stories. They think they are stealthed and unseen but are noticed (etc.). If I roll a 2 on my stealth check I will be far more careful than if I rolled a 19. The challenge here is if I should know that or not. I do agree with the idea that players should “own” their own results and rolls and the DM already gets to roll for a ton of things so this is an area I am curious for advice on from people who DM. This is similar to other checks that players can trivialize by hearing what they shouldn’t know. In one episode the DM forced a perception check. It was a low roll, and the person didn’t see the thing. One of the other players (with better perception) went to where that person was and then decided to “look around”. If the player didn’t know they rolled poorly on the Perception check then it wouldn’t have encouraged the other player to go and try and see what they may have missed. I am guessing these aren’t new problems to D&D but sorting through how I should deal with them.

Vox Machina, the name of the group of these adventurers are a fun and varied group of personalities and this greatly enhances the enjoyment I get from the podcast. Their Gnome Bard, Scanlon, sings renditions of current songs and alters them to the appropriate time period or event they are trying to influence and he gets a lot of them bang on and really funny. Grogg plays like a character with a 6 Intelligence, and his actions reflect that. Their Wizard is absent minded and plays the part amazingly. You can tell there are novice players when they are asked to directly role play out a situation – like when Pike, their Cleric, asked for Divine Inspiration for their God. The DM pushed her to be specific on what she asked, and in the tense moment she said something along the lines of “Come help us kill this thing!”. The God didn’t come, and as a DM if she would have been more specific on how and what she said I would have influenced the roll based on that. I already feel like the effort put into how and what is said would influence the outcome via modifier as the roll as well.

I think I am going to jump ahead and get in on the new campaign which is lower level characters. I’ll be able to keep up with the new releases and learn better how to run my lower level campaign ideas, and can jump back and listen in on the old campaign when there is no new campaign material available – as they are releasing weekly. I have never been much of a Podcast guy but this is very entertaining and engaging.

Learning by Listening : D&D 5e

I am on episode 10 of the Critical Role Podcast – that is around 30 hours worth of D&D, audio glory. It has completely taken over my time when I drive to and from work (which used to be reserved for The Economist) – so while I am far less up to date on the global Politics and Business arenas, I know when a good time is to force an Athletics check. Truth be told I somewhat feel less depressed by NOT keeping up on the formal failings of the human race in the world and much happier by the murderous hobo ways of Vox Machina (the party’s name from the series).

As mentioned in a prior post I have been reading the Player’s Handbook, Dungeon Master Guide, and Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. I have also bought (but haven’t started reading) Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide and have recently added the Monster Manual. I own most of the source books now outside of adventures. I have purchased all of the material through DnDBeyond.com which makes it searchable and easier to read. I did download PDF versions for free on the Internet, until I sorted out they weren’t supposed to be for free and that I would be getting enjoyment and value out of them so paying is the right thing to do.

Odd pleasure reading for a person who will never end up playing but it has fueled my fantasy thinking. I have even started ideation around and writing down a DM campaign based on a new frontier. It has been fun thinking through how I would design such a campaign and I may tinker around with finishing it up in small, bit sized adventures by size – with all of the tying into a grander plot around a specific geographic location. It is fun to jot down notes and plan around what could be a fun campaign – even if I never run it. Maybe I’ll just make one and put it up for other people to try and get feedback that way. Who knows. I am having fun.

I am on ‘G’ in the Monster Manual and there have been some fun moments on the Podcast where the DM (Matthew Mercer) is describing a monster the party has come accross and it is one that I have already read about in the Monster Manual. In fact, the four I have shown here are those same four and it has been enjoyable when listening to him describe the monsters that I can already pull from memory what they are. That ‘aha!’ moment. Bonus is when I listen how the party chooses to try and deal with them while knowing their tactic they are resistant to (illusion resistance, for example.) I should hurry along in the Manual before he gets to bigger and much badder monsters.

I have particularly enjoyed the sections on Dragons – it goes into great depth about them, their personalities, and how they view and interact with the world. The Podcast is a few years behind so I am not worried about spoilers – and as mentioned they just started a second season but I still have 105 episodes and well over 200 hours of content listening to catch up. I wonder if it would hold my interest that long.

The better part of it though, is listening in great detail on how the DM explains everything, what checks he asks the party to do / not do, and in general how the party forms how they do things and even what they do. It is a great combination of rules and color and since they are all voice actors you get a nice dose of that as well. I feel like I am playing – and learning – Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition just by listening along.

And that is enough and will have to do for now.