Dungeons and Dragons

I Don’t Get It: Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms

With my current D&D obsession and clever Google marketing I “somehow” “managed” to get “randomly” introduced to a new D&D game – Idle Champions of the Forgotten Realms. It’s on Steam, it’s Free To Play, so why not try it, I thought.

The game is simple enough. It’s an automatic side scroller. You choose the formation of your group, which heroes you buy (in what order), and which to upgrade (and in what order). There isn’t much to it and early on there isn’t even really that much choice. The second champion costs 50, the third costs 1000 and the fourth costs 25,000. By the time you get to the eight it is 10 TRILLION for a new champion. I have only unlocked that champion once.

The game kills and loots for you. Once you complete the objectives of the round you go to the next area. The areas are varied and so are the enemy types – and there is a “story” to each level (and group of levels). Every 5 levels there is a boss fight. On “autopilot” the game moves you forward to each area your party is able to win. If you “lose” one, it puts you one level back and stops auto-levelling you – but continues to kill and loot. When you check back in on your group you have a lot more gold and a lot more upgrades to go. Keeping progression “efficient” means quick check ins earlier in the game. The further ahead you are the faster the gold drops.

With all the talk of “automatic” that isn’t to say that there isn’t a decent amount of strategy here. The top left corner shows your total gold and total group DPS. Each character has different types of attacks (solo, cleave, single hit spell, multi hit, etc.) and each has different buffing conditions. The Dwarf, for example, buffs everyone’s damage in the same row as him. The game makes you choose later on whether to increase that buff, or increase his personal damage.  Some get increased damage by being around multiple classes, or in the front row. Some buff others in front of them or adjacent. There is a lot of moving your party around to see what fits. Some classes heal, some buff, there is a lot of diversity here.

There are active “ultimates” for each character which you can unlock. These require active participation. Mostly they are used on boss battles (and often trivializes them). Still – there really isn’t a losing condition in this game, only a “waiting” condition in case you need to grow in power before trying again. The game is neatly organized into 5 level chunks with a boss battle, and chain those into “campaigns”. When you beat a campaign, advanced options open up to do it at a higher level. Or, you can keep the party running through the same one (to amass more gold and loot!). It is the neverending story, D&D edition.

Things do get hectic and strategics that work on one map may not work on another. The game gives you three “quickslots” to auto-arrange your team into pre-defined formations. I have done that to focus on multi target vs single target (boss) for example. Sometimes the party gets overwhelmed if you have most of your damage stacked on the single target side, since each hero only attacks on a predetermined swing timer.

Progression is simple. Every time you beat a campaign you have to start from scratch again. The good news is that you get a percentage gold growth to start with based on how much you collected in the previous campaign. This is cumulative (at the time of this writing I get +1056% gold. Instead of one gold at the beginning per kill, well, you do the math!) This makes the repetitive nature a bit less painful. As I also mentioned this is a free to play game so they do monetize it via chests. Chests can be bought with in game currency or real money.

Like most chest base games it is a game a chance. And I am going to pause here for a second and smirk a bit. There really isn’t ever a need to buy anything in this game, since the entire game is “wait and get more powerful automatically”. Sure, buying things will increase that (and items are VERY powerful) – but really the whole point of the game is to play by “not playing” so it is really confusing to sort through how this game is going to make money.

The irony is, I did buy a chest. The game is fun. I rewarded the developer with $5. I just don’t see when or how much more I will give more. It’s an easy, fun, little game. You only need to invest so little energy or time, and that corelates with how much money I should also put into it.

The good news is the gear you do get you keep along campaigns and if you get a duplicate it increases the stats / bonuses on the item you already did get. So nothing goes to waste in the game, and I suspect the game never really ends either. It is a confusing, fun little jaunt with personality and progression in spades – you just don’t have to do anything to get there which makes it confusing to me on how much fun I am having. Kind of like checking in on an old high school friend on facebook, “like” the fish they caught with their kid, check back in a month to wish them “happy birthday”, and then scroll through the feed.

There is fun here, just hard to define. It’s free, so why not check it out? Now excuse me, I think I have a few trillion in upgrades to spend to get to the next mission.

More D&D Talk

I have been absorbing a lot of D&D 5e material and enjoying just learning, reading, and letting my imagination play out. A lot of this is much easier with the launch of DnDbeyond.com  which is free for the base information and has some handy, but basic, tools. I read more information about it and the future is to integrate D&D gaming onto Twitch – which makes sense. Not sure of the time frame. I downloaded a few sourcebooks via PDF – and not being a dummy realized that they were “pirated” materials. Since I am not actively playing and just wanted to get a feel for it I felt it was OK. You hard-line anti-pirater types, relax! In this case it worked wonders as I enjoyed the materials so much, and realized I would get some time with them regardless that I bought the digital versions through DNDbeyond.com. It’s a great way to absorb the information as everything is linked. Special spell granted at level three? Hover over it for a quick description or click on it for a far more indepth version. I have spend several hours reading the Player’s Guide, Xanathar’s Guide to Everything, and Sword Coasts Adventurer’s Guide. Each expand upon base classes and provide a lot of color.

The fun part for me is making classes via the DNDbeyond creator. It makes it really easy. I have created back stories and personalities for three character class types that I have never played. Two are part of the new materials and the third is a class I was never exposed to. I feel like the versions of them in 5e are great and expand much further on what I played when I was young.

The first is an Oath of the Ancients Paladin. This takes the typical lawful good Paladin (which is now just small part of the class in 5e) and has a nature bend – a protector of the light vs darkness. In fact in 5e they have further expanded on the Paladin class to be far more interesting with an additional 6 Oath types and you must choose one at level three. Gone are the days where the knight in shining armor charges in because they are compelled to, or loses their Paladin abilities because they lean Chaotic over Lawful. That option is still there but there is much, much more.

The second is a Rogue archetype – the Swashbuckler. I tend to roleplay the introverted / focused type but have often enjoyed the fantasy surrounding the master swordsman that ooze charisma. This archetype would be quite out of character for me but it does speak to me in the way that a dashing Swashbuckler would (I suppose). There are 7 Rogue Archetypes in 5e.

The last, is the Monk. And while I am most interested in one of the “standard” monastic traditions (that come with the Player’s Handbook) – the Way of the Open Hand – I like the skills the  Monk gets and the options they can use with their Ki points as a resource.  The “equipment optional” premise works well for me.

I purposely did not explain them in great detail – just teasers – because I want you to read about them if you are interested. Wikis exist so you do not have to buy anything.  The funny part about this is that I have rolled all three in EQ2 to tie over my desire to play those roles. Yes, of course, they are definitely not the same but it is still *something* that is close enough to tie me over. I still don’t suspect I will end up in a D&D game but the more I explore and read the more online options I realize exist – and maybe someday my schedule will support a semi regular adult gaming group for a few hours on a Sunday night. Or maybe it will just remain a gentle inspiration to my own imagination – of which, I do not engage in enough.

Aside from the game materials I am on chapter 7 of The Critical Role podcast – the DM is amazing in that and the voice actors seem to be novice D&D players for the most part – I actually find myself laughing out loud at parts and also sharing in the excitement when someone rolls a natural 20. It is a good way to get a fix in and also get a feel for how the game plays. I am still back in their 2015 adventures but they just started a new campaign if you wanted a fresh start. They cast live on Thursdays, but I do prefer the being able to listen on my way to work version, and I am not sure if I can consume it quickly enough to catch up to them. Nothing like having an embarrassment of riches of entertainment to consume. I appreciate content creators.

Last but definitely not least I can’t talk about D&D without mentioning Eri fro Healing the Masses. She draws maps for D&D and I love seeing her work. If I was a DM or actively playing I would support her patreon and use them – they are great! They do provide a visual to further enhance my imagination. in the hands of a skilled D&D group they would be wonderful.

Finally I have been playing gently in DDO and finished the main campaign in Baldur’s Gate – and am now on the DragonSpear expansion. The combat didn’t really hold up for me like I remember it so I defaulted to story mode. I still control the team during more hectic fights but for the most part it is a story and inventory management game for me – and I am fine with that. I am still surprised no one has come out with a 5e, turn based game yet with the increased popularity of the game. That is where my more likely future lay with D&D.

D & D 5e & DDO

I am still in “prep” mode in DDO – I have been gaming mostly in EQ2 but logging into DDO a few times a week to build comfort. I have decided to research less, and go for it more – there too is a very deep advanced mode to spend points in that I have no clue about or where to start understanding. So I just read tooltips and picked things that seemed to be synergistic to soloing. Which is what I plan on doing in DDO until I get comfort. I toy with the idea of starting on a fresh, level 1 to experience the game in the kind of bite sized chunks that are often best learned from the start. I still may do that but the Paladin is the class I am most interested in there, and mine is already level 7. That is a lot of duplication. Sometimes it is more fun the hard way.

I don’t know where or why but suddenly I became interested in re-exploring Dungeons and Dragons. I have often talked about PnP games here and lately I have had a bigger desire to reengage. This is mostly because PnP games don’t suffer from the same lack of imagination as their online counterparts – but come with much heavier challenges to get involved in. You need bigger blocks of time, away from your creature comforts, and your real life has to stop. That is called immersion. Conversely, I can game at home, pause and walk away to change the laundry, answer a work call, etc. etc. Gaming is convenience, PnP is immersion. I wish they were closer to one another. Sadly I am forced (by life circumstances, mostly) to stick to gaming.

I have read the new Players Handbook for 5e, and the Xanathar’s Guide to Everything. Both were very enjoyable. I especially like the new spin on classes they have introduced – The Oath of the Ancients Paladin, being my favorite (on paper). I have been reading and absorbing 5e material without an outlet – or likely space for one – but that still has been fun. I even downloaded the Critical Role podcast and am Episode 4. Critical Role is “old news”‘ for most, I suspect, but basically it is some Hollywood voice actors playing out an extensive D&D campaign. Each episode is over 2 hours in length but they are doing a nice job so far. It’s great as a “to work” and “from work” break. It is also a good exercise to understand what works and doesn’t work in a group dynamic. Listening to the first four episodes you realize quickly who doesn’t know when to listen instead of talk, and some need to take a back seat to let others make decisions and try things. I think that is part of a good learning curve for PnP players and people who plan to be.

This, of course, made me look closer at games in the Dungeons and Dragons universe beyond DDO – and I landed on Baldur’s Gate. They have done an enhanced edition (as well as BG2, and the other parts of the universe) and with that as the most deliberate D&D experience right down to rolls on the screen. It is not the latest edition, however, and the graphics are rightly from the era the game was created in 1998. The experience has been streamlined and I have spent a dozen hours playing it.

Sadly my print screen shortcut wasn’t working via steam as it was for my regular gaming and I didn’t realize it so have no screenshots captured – except the above, which was the first unidentified magic item I had found (and put on, without identifying) and it was cursed! Of course in the 2018 edition that shouldn’t be a curse but a benefit – think of the role-playing options for a thief, for example. Still – that kind of creativity and flavor items are what help made this game fun and I remember spending a ton of hours in it back in the day. Curious how the refined version plays through – and in the short term, it’s been better than expected. Anyone who has tried to go back and play XCOM (original) will appreciate what that feels like.

PnP games aren’t really supportive for a mid 40s, married with child, busy body with work and child based activities dominating the adulting required to “make it in this world”. And while that is a shame, it doesn’t stop me from trying new things, investigating and reading further, and still finding ways to enjoy myself. After all much of this is the base of what our MMOs and RPGs were/are made from – and the source material is as good as ever.