Latest Posts

I’ll Show You Mine : Steam Spend

Steam recently added the ability to see how much you have spent with them.

Here is the link.

(You have to log in and all that jazz).

In the spirit of fun, and transparency (because why not) let’s see who the true spending addicts are!

External Funds Used
This is a sum of external funds that have been applied to your Steam account, either to purchase games on the Steam store or fund your Steam Wallet. This value is used to determine if an account is a “Limited User Account”.
Type Time Calculated Amount in USD
TotalSpend 2018-06-09 08:30:02.783 $948.97
OldSpend 2018-06-09 08:30:02.783 $500.96
PWSpend 2018-06-09 08:30:02.783 $0.00

$948.97 USD. Yikes. I could have gone on a vacation.

Still, Not all that bad. Not as bad as I was expecting, of course. And of course that doesn’t count any other platform, box sales, etc. Just steam. I’m actually mildly disappointed I didn’t crack 1000. Anyone know of a game for sale for 51.03?

Care to share your steam spend? I know that is treading on some pretty personal ground, but we are all friends here.

Could be therapeutic.

 

Counterproductive Inducement : Battlefield 1

I have been sticking with Battlefield 1 since it is included in my annual pass for Origin. Entering an “old” game is hard as you are around a lot of players who have been playing a long time. Games like Battlefield 1 have perks and benefits for playing their games (as they should) that are not pay to win. But playing over time gives two benefits: first is knowing the maps really well, which gives a historical and practised advantage and the second is due to special skills you get by unlocking the game. Some of the requirements of which encouraged me to play counter to the needs and goals of my team. More specifically, trying to actually win.

I want this. But the advanced version.

I tend to play medics in shooter games (as I often play healers in MMOs) as it is usually underappreciated, underrepresented, and a very powerful way to play. When someone kills you in BF1 it shows you information about them – their rank, what dog tags they have, your K-D ration with them for the round, and what weapon – how they killed you. It also shows what “perks” they had equipped at the time. This is how I learned that perks even existed, and I decided to do some research on which fit my favoured role the best.

The perk I fell in love with is the Concealed Rescue specialisation. One thing I learned from Coppertopper in a previous BF1 post that you can “spot” a downed ally which lets them know you are coming to revive them – encouraging them to wait a bit longer and not release so fast. It also gives them a handy tracker to see how far away you are from them. Concealed Rescue automatically pops smoke on them to conceal they body so you can revive a bit safer.

That’s amazing.

Due to my experience in Project Reality and other, better paced shooter games using smoke and cover as a medic is key, and something I do quite often. Taking out that step (and the supply step of running out of smoke grenades) is a dream. An amazing dream. I want that!

The pathway to it wasn’t so bad. I had to unlock three different “getting started” service assignments. Since I was primarily playing medic I was fortunate that I unlocked this through normal play (which I wasn’t even aware of). And also, since I am often happy to hop into a tank or APC I almost had that one done too. The other three – Assault Kit, Recon Kit, and Support kit I had nothing in. Time to bear down.

Much made sense. Resupply 20 different teammates. Perform 10 Suppression assists. Etc. Except when I got to the last one, which I HAD to complete, which was “Kill 20 people with crossbow grenades”. Which is something I didn’t use at all. And it was the barrier for to move on. (Get 20 kills in a tank was easy and part of normal gameplay). The crossbow grenade is exactly what it sounds like and challenging to hit from distance. I tried to be mindful of using it when it made sense only and completing map objectives. In 10 hours I had 1 kill with it. This was not going as planned. So, I bore down, and started using it exclusively. It still took me a long time, but I would get 2-3 kills a round. I would usually end up doing horribly with 2-3 kills and 15-30 deaths. The more I died, or more I just missed kills (did good damage but not enough for the kill and a teammate would finish them off) the less and less I cared about how I was doing for my team and more and more I just wanted to get it done. And when I did, I was ecstatic!

Until the next unlock revealed itself (which it doesn’t unless you unlock the step before).

Good news is, as you advance you don’t need all of them but just 5 of 6. So I had some room here.

The “bayonet charge” will result in more suicidal / waste of rounds for assault specialties.

There were 4 sensible and 100% applicable ones to the medic class and playing as a medic. Revives. Heals. Kills with a specific medic gun. All things you would get in the normal gameplay of being a medic. And then two which sucked big time. The first is win a game of RUSH mode. Which, each time I has checked, has had zero servers using. So there is the 6/6 I would have to skip. And the next is get 20 kills with a specific handgun. I have everything else I can get but that, and in all of my rounds I had 3 hand gun kills. So I did a few rounds that I “wrote off” and just used the handgun. Doubled my kill count. Up to 6. I will have to spend a full night to get there, I think.

The grind is bad because it’s forcing me to act counter to my team’s best interest in the short term to better support my team in the long run. It’s bad game design. The thing I hate is that I know I have another bad one in the next step to finalize – getting kills with rifle grenades – which means, as a medic, I have to drop either my ability to heal or my ability to revive (that ability only fits in one of those slots). So in order to be a better medic I have to reduce my capability to be a medic.

Even after all of this complaining I am still trying to get there, because the reward is worth it. The hours of gaming to get there will be un-fun and a writeoff for me though – and that is frustrating. They should have built in tasks that required you to be a great medic, to get great medic rewards.

Hopefully Battlefield V remedies this.

Mind your Manners : Twitter Snitch Tagging

I am not an avid Twitter user. I have an account, I consume tweets sometimes and I even interact with some of Blognation there now and again. I wouldn’t classify myself as a regular user or even that interested in the platform – let alone take the time to blog about it. Except for an article I read this morning which rubbed me the wrong way. And normally I don’t mind being rubbed.

The article is here, go ahead, and enjoy the read.

I actually thought it was satire at first.I thought I was reading the Beaverton, or The Onion, but no.  If you don’t want to read it here is the basics of it – and I have never even heard of the term “Snitch Tagging”.

The general notion of Snitch Tagging is that when people are talking about you, in a public forum, they should be able to do so privately. And the act of “snitch tagging” is when a third party who reads you referencing or talking about somebody “tags” them in the thread so they are aware.

For example.

  • @ihaspc tweets – “I am a WAY BETTER Blogger than Bhagpuss. I can’t believe people read his stuff”.
  • @memyselfandI tweets – “@Bhagpuss”

And somehow, many people have a huge problem with this. It is akin to “I want to publically shame/criticise/make fun of/reference these people in a global, OPEN forum, but I don’t want them to know it is me!”

That is such bullshit.

First off I never say anything about someone I wouldn’t say to their face. That is just good manners. And if I have a problem with something someone said or did, I should approach them about it. If I am not comfortable with that, then i should just just keep my mouth twitter shut.  At bare minimum, if I want to talk about someone and them not know about it – I can do that in private, direct messages to my friends. (I still don’t do that). Or, just say it, and who cares. But don’t get mad at people for letting subject matter people know how you are sharing your non-private thoughts in a global, public forum about them.

Is this old school thinking? Where and how do people think it is fair and fine to talk about people – in a completely open, global forum, and be upset that someone else made the person aware?

In fact, I believe it should be the opposite – that Twitter should automatically notify someone when their handle / organisation is referenced.

In the article, the reason they use is that less people are sharing less information. BUT – if you are sharing a personal opinion, you should be able to defend or stand by it. If you are sharing facts, you have nothing to worry about. The only people that have anything to worry about when sharing information about someone or an organisation is if they are trying to slander them or use it for their personal benefit. Or hide behind their computer screen.

I can’t see any reason why this is an issue – is this an age / demographic thing? Am I missing something that is actually important here? Or am I just taking crazy pills?

 

Paying to Fix your Mistakes: Destiny 2

Much hubaloo was made yesterday when the Destiny 2 Year 2 Roadmap was revealed. They are finally addressing some of the long standing issues and bad design decisions they made in the sequel, and it is release on September 8th, 2018.

In a paid expansion, with annual pass option.

Oh, hello greed! Nice to see you again!

It is no surprise that Destiny 2 was a pretty big step backwards in terms of expectations, reception, and engaging their player base long term. Heck, D2 fansites stopped reporting concurrent players because it showed how steep of a cliff the population was jumping off of and didn’t want to “present a false narrative” to the wider customer base. With all the disappointed customers, and people who paid for expansion packs but didn’t bother playing because the game was so bad (hi, that’s me!), you would think the answer to winning back their customer base would be to fix the issues and invite the community back before charging them.

Well, not this guy. Destiny 2 remains dead to me and I hope other players are smart enough not to buy into this scam as well. I know it will bring some hopefuls back. I don’t remember, in my almost 10 years blogging, being so disappointing in a company or title.  So much so, in fact, that I am worried I am misplacing it a bit. Still, this is my rant-how-I-feel-off-the-cuff post after watching the live stream yesterday and absorbing the news. Of course, my disappointment is only equal to the high expectations I held for it, so that is probably also their fault. Right? =)

Information about the changes can be read here (or anywhere, if you google it). I am not convinced this solves all the problems either, but there is some intriguing decisions made (randomisation of rewards is the biggest one I am shocked they stepped back from)  To be fair – I would 100% try it again if this was a free launch of system fixes and a mea culpa “hey, we heard you – sorry!”. The timing of the expansion, pass fee and changes is what frustrates me – although you will still get the QoL changes without the expansion it just reeks of cash grab. I think they would have won me back if they launched the QoL fixes first, then the expansion 90 days later.

I’ll stop now. I don’t think anyone here cares about Destiny 2 anyway.

Quitters : MTGA

I am annoyed with the MTGA community on a few fronts. The first I have spoken about in most of my MTGA posts about the “money is for nothing and your kicks for free” entitlement attitude on the beta forums. The doomsayers explaining that if you can’t get most things for free extremely quickly that the game will fail horribly. Keep in mind this is the same, extremely slick game I have been saying is amazing. This is the probably the best representation of the decades long, arguably one of the most popular card games in existence successfully ported to digital format. I think they will be safe to charge reasonably, and I feel like the game is already too generous with the speed and scale it gives away cards and gold to buy more cards. I have stopped reading doomsayers posts about the economy in general on the boards.

The second, more annoying thing is that people quit fast in MTGA.  It seems like the instant I play a card that poses a modicum of a challenge the player gives up – often instantly. I can’t believe the lack of competitive spirit of taking on a challenge to see what you are able to do in the face of adversity. In MMO terms, it would be like the main tank dying on a pull and everyone logging out of the group instantly when it happens. It drives me bonkers.

The main reason for the frustration is I frequently come back from the abyss in games. Heck, just yesterday I was down 20-1 against a Blue/Black deck with Merfolk. He had 8 creatures in play and I had zero. They were all 2/2 and 3/3. The play before I was down to one health I exiled a 2/2 Merfolk that granted all his Mer-creatures +1/+1. Then he knocked me down to 1 health and played more creatures – but all of them were 2/2 or less now. My next turn I played all enemy creatures get -2/-2 and cleared the board. He is now ahead 20 health to 1 with a clean board. I play a 2/2 card that spawns a 1/1 creature at the end of every turn (mine and his) and since I have enough land cards that temporarily boosts the summoned creatures to 3/3. And soon as that lands he quits.

I would call it a one off but yesterday I was on a roll and in 15 games I had people quit early – at the first sign of trouble – close to 50% of the time. I have said it in an earlier post and I’ll say it again – I never quit early. If I am getting outplayed that badly then my opponent deserves to win with their combinations and checks. I have lost badly on draws, and decks, but the truth is I built my deck in such a way that it is good against all opponents but it too big to be efficient. I have several win conditions and can handle most of the decks I face if my cards come out right. And for that I need to stick it out and get the draws.

Perhaps my opponents have built decks with such narrow win conditions that when I throw a wrench into their plans they just assume they don’t have a chance and quit. Still, that seems like a big limitation in the brand and format if that is true. Or they just build bad decks. I know my deck isn’t meta, and isn’t a guaranteed win – but it can handle most of what is thrown at it and the way it plays is really fun because it is different from game to game – and I really enjoy that. I’ll share the deck in detail in the future.

I wonder if the in person card version/variant is the same? Do opponents quit soon as you show a challenge to them – is it a part of MTG proper or just an unintended consequence of the new online field of battle?

Hey, What’s Going On? : Battlefield

EA recently announced the newest edition of their critically acclaimed first person shooter series, Battlefield, would be having it’s latest instalment launching in October. Weirdly named Battlefield V. I say weirdly named because they went from Battlefield 4, to Battlefield 1, to Battlefield V. They need to work on some consistency with the naming convention. Long time readers of this blog might recall how much I love(d) Battlefiled 2142. BF2142 was a PC only, up to 64 v 64 FPS with personal servers you could rent for your clan and select your own rules, map rotations, etc. It has an amazing combination of infantry and vehicular combat – at the same time, good personalization of kits, and was a great, semi-strategic shooter. I say “semi-strategic” as it did suffer from bunny hopping, etc. but had the potential for good teamwork and was a bit better paced than the Call of Duty titles at the time, which was it’s main competitor.  This was also a title I played very frequently within a clan – funny how some of the best gaming memories are when you are a part of things with other people. I still connect with that clan and they are talking about the launch of Battlefield V, to which I replied that it might be worth checking out since I haven’t really played since 2142. Which launched in 2006.

At least it is honest

The follow up to 2142 didn’t appeal to me – and it had a silly rule that you couldn’t go prone. That was one of those things that drove me batty. What, the human race has lost the ability to lie down on it’s stomach suddenly? Prone is a base position for cover, as well as a favourite for MG nests, snipers, (etc.). Taking away prone is like taking away jumping. I never could reconcile how I felt about that change to actually buy the game. I stuck with 2142 with each new release, and the servers became quieter and more quieter, and once again, I was left behind in a game I enjoyed playing while others moved on to bigger and shinier things. Why can’t we just be happy with what we have?

Instead of buying Battlefield one and all the DLC I opted for the annual Origin Pass – on sale for $30. That got me the entire expansion, as well as a huge vault list of EA games – many I have not played. If I do decide to buy Battlefield V I will also get 10% off my order for being an Origin member. I did this when I bought Andromeda as well because the price of the membership was offset by the purchase. Logging into Battlefield 1 it is clear how amazing the art and production values are. It put me into a single player campaign that hopped me around different stories of different soldiers – facing waves of enemies that I wasn’t supposed to outlive. It was a “fight until you die”, hopeless situation. I can’t imagine what it was like fighting back in the trenches during WW1 (which is the setting of BF:1) but I felt nervous, and hectic, and scared as I tried to survive the onslaught. Which didn’t last long, before putting me into a different body of a different soldier in a different setting – who would also not survive long.

When I ran out of bullets and was overwhelmed they would put up a name and a born / death date. Added a human element to it all. I had a struggle identifying friend / foe but with friendly fire off it didn’t really matter. BF1 did a great job of sucking me in quickly. To get a better feel for the game I continued down the single player path which is not built around one soldier, but revisits different war stories in different countries with different protagonists. The first I tried was about a tank crew, and I was the driver.

I’m not claustrophobic

Seeing the war through a peephole didn’t capture the stress of the battle as much, but thethird person view was much better at doing so. I made it to step 4 of 5 before getting to a stealth style mission that I struggled with, and going full Rambo wasn’t really working for me either. Who cares, I am ready for multiplayer, which is where the game truly shines! I jumped into a Conquest match – which is a multi-point, capture the flags style of game. Each time gets tickets for kills and points captured (and held) and it is in true BF style where tanks support infantry and planes battle up above fighting each other (while dropping bombs on the ground). It truly is a spectacle, all those moving pieces and madness happening all at once, all around. And to be fair, the explosions are spectacular!

I feel like I am going the wrong way…

I did the safe thing I always do in these games – grab a medic profile, find a squad, and try to stay 10 steps back – watching flanks and reviving when it is safe. Except, only, it seems like it is NEVER safe. A few things I learned quickly (and disliked) was the fast rate of respawn. There was no real penalty to dying and you could force a respawn in 5 seconds for yourself. This is hugely unsatisfying when you kill someone (to know they are back in the mix pretty much instantly), but even moreso for a medic specialist. I can see on the screen someone who is revive-able. I clear out the enemies in the way. Throw a smoke grenade. Get to the body and – he force released. Heck, even the slow release is only 15 seconds. Once again the hyperactive ruins the immersion. How is a 30-45 second penalty for dying too much? You could kill someone, and they could kill you back in under 10 seconds (you can also spawn on your squad, not just rally points.)  That part was very disappointing.

close one! I did like the voting for next map

The different maps and countries are great, and the beauty of the game, the slick shooting, movement, vehicles, infantry and specialist kits – they are all ruined somewhat by the HURRY HURRY HURRY gameplay that used to be reserved for Call of Duty, but has now completely bled into the BF series. Maybe it happened several launches ago but I very fondly recall in BF2142 the benefits of sticking with your squad, and being able to protect objectives (and each other) with smart play, positioning, and teamwork.

No more. This game is just a huge spam and revive fest. The only strategy is that there is no strategy. Rush forward, die, revive, die, revive, die. Pretty packaging – actually, to rephrase – absolutely GORGEOUS packaging but not much depth.

the in game maps are pretty too

I have gone back and tried a few more times and it’s “ok”. It is definitely not what I am looking for in a long term shooter. Yes, I am entering a game at the end of it’s cycle so against a lot of seasoned players but the core gameplay at the crux of it isn’t strategic enough to be fun for an old FPSer like me. I will still give it a whirl now and again as I haven’t written it off completely but I also downloaded SQUAD from steam last night – which is the spiritual successor to Project Reality, which was the ultimate strategic FPS experience.  I’ll check that one out and let you know it goes.

Beta Fatigue : 2018 Version

I wrote about Beta Fatigue back in 2009. For me, then, it was the start of the changing process of how Beta tests went from actual bug hunting and shaping games to public marketing stunts. We have become even worse with beta phases lasting several years while “testers” pay for the honor of supporting a beta cycle. Heck, I was once a part of a group that was paid to beta test. Yes, you rea that right. Paid. The organisation was tasked with stocking beta testers who actually gave focused feedback. (The testers didn’t get paid, but the company did.). Still – that kind of engagement, where beta testers could lose their spot if they weren’t being productive and helpful is a better start than what I see in betas today. You can tell on the beta forums for Magic The Gathering: Arena a very vocal group who are trying to sway developers to basically give everything away for free because those individuals have zero intention of actually ever paying a cent. The idea that they would have to pay for any part of a game in 2018 is appalling. That is the sole focus of this loud group it seems – get the game as free as possible so they don’t have to invest in or support the company financially. Those that speak against them are attacked as employees of the company or rich whales that want a monetary advantage.

So much for civil discourse. Still, I am on a similar side of that but for other reasons.

The new Beta fatigue is more damaging in my real upcoming world example. I love the game, MTG:Arena. I have played around 1000 matches. I have several decks I love, tons of cards to build more, and over 20,000 gold (around 20 packs worth) that I haven’t spent because I have no need to. The game is slick, fun, challenging, and has a bright future.

Except I probably won’t play it.

I can’t imaging having to play another 1000 games just to get back to where I am today. I love where I am. I’m in a great spot. I am invested and have invested a TON of time and energy into it. But starting from square one on “launch” day just do do everything and collect everything I already have will not happen. Having this realisation over the weekend I almost logged out and was done – but then I realised that no, this is my time to play. When they wipe everything I have done and accomplished to date, when the “final” beta wipe happens is when I will be done with the game. And it is a shame because I won’t be supporting them financially after all (and they do deserve it). Before you get mad at me for that last line – the truth is, the game could be out right now. It doesn’t need to be in beta. They are choosing to leave it there and have people invest hundreds of hours (and dollars, the payment system is live. When the final wipe happens no one gets refunds of cash but gets refunded  the crystal currency to start fresh). The game runs well enough and with some avatar tweaks and basics the game is ready for prime time.

The only option I can see that would change my mind would be if I were able to pay for the option to keep my beta progress. Have a supreme collectors edition. I’d pay well over $100 to keep my deck and current progress.  That would also keep me playing, and paying in the future. Unfortunately, as of now, I will just be a beta player – who did help shape the game, but will not be a part of it when it moves to live status. Which may be 2 years from now, with how many other betas have run recently.

Free 100 : Everquest 2

I keep refreshing my sidebar to see if Bhagpuss has already made this post (or one like it) – and I think if I type fast enough that I might just beat him to the punch this time. That is probably because he is away somewhere (is my guess).

Still, Everquest 2 is giving away (yet another) free level 100 Heroic Character.

This is exciting for me as I had recently spent a lot of time levelling several characters from one to as high as fifty – across both live and public test servers. My highest, the Warden, was indeed the most fun to play and as such the Public Test Realm is now my EQ2 “home”. This offer is limited until the first week of June and last time there was a free level 100 I did not log in in time to get the benefit – so now I am feeling the pressure to make a decision and do it quickly before life gets me busy and I forget once again. While always a tough decision I have been thinking out loud about what to do. I basically have three choices, with the third counting as 20+

The first, obvious choice is the Warden. I could zoom by 50 levels on what is (so far) my favourite character. I could then join the “end game” of EQ2 (which for me is solo questing, really. Or whatever solo players do in “end game”). In that case, am I just cheating myself? I have really enjoyed playing him thus far. So it is a conundrum – do I take away the levelling fun to myself or do I just accelerate it because I would then be doing “relevant” content? Is the Warden I see myself as my “main” in EQ2?

The second choice is the Coercer. I love Enchanters from EQ2 and funny enough I had decided to “main” the Coercer in EQ2 at launch – and boosting this character would be boosting the first character I made at launch in EQ2. Oh, the delicious irony of that. I have had fun messing around with this character more than playing it directly in a way that enchanters often do. Can I solo this instance if I can land a charm on that way to powerful for me NPC? Let’s try! The gifts of magic give you fun options in MMOs and to be fair I have never mained a caster class in any of my games. I usually revert to healer / tank to take advantage of being “needed”. (Which is also why i loved enchanting in EQ1 – was a very sought after class). Charming things and pushing limits is a fun playstyle.

The third, of course, is to take a brand new shot at any of the other 20+ something classes and start fresh. This could very much be a waste if I don’t enjoy the character.

At this early stage of thought, I am leaning to the Coercer because I know I enjoy the Warden – which means I won’t mind levelling him up the “old fashioned way”.

Any ideas? Have you used a character boost in EQ2 and how did you decide? Did you regret the choice?

Otherwise – even if you don’t play EQ2 regularly – go install and take advantage of this offer because it is limited – and regardless you get to keep the character. You never know if you ever want to jump into EQ2 you might enjoy it. I definitely have.

If you want to read the posts on my return to EQ2 this year they are here.

Playing Second Fiddle : LOTRO

In my “bounce around in many titles” mood and mindset I did go back to Lord of the Rings Online. As mentioned here (often) but worth the review – the Warden is a class I strongly identify with thematically. I had big issues with the fact that you couldn’t play the Warden without the expansion even though there was no new starting area for them – and that turned me off of trying back in the day. Still, I actually invested in the opportunity in 2014 finally, got to level 5 on a human Warden, realized that at some point I would want to head West so rerolled an elf (my true calling, sorry  Syp!) and didn’t get out of the “tutorial area”. Around level three. At the time I didn’t even know it was a tutorial area until just last night it told me “finish other quests before this one because this one takes you out of the tutorial area”. Clarity is a benefit.

Dream sequences always win positive reviews

The graphics are not, of course, and there is a weird, floating movement I feel (and find) just running around doesn’t feel natural. Combat seems to play out that everything is off the global cooldown – so when I am trying to get a Warden combo in it’s special attack / auto attack / special attack / auto attack / finisher. Feels like it would be smoother if I could skip the auto attacks. It’s not terrible, of course, just something I noticed felt off that I was waiting to do things while things were just being done automatically.

I was being harshly unfair when I noticed that her lips weren’t moving when she talked in the dream sequence. It looked unnatural. Then, OF COURSE I remembered that she didn’t speak out loud in the dream sequences in the movie either. I don’t even remember which came first. I definitely don’t remember if she mind-spoke in the book or not. Either way, at that point, I was able to be proud of them for sticking to the movie script and then unsure which came first. Maybe the movie copied LOTRO?

 

 

 

This part of the pre-tutorial ending dream sequence is the bit that made me go AHA! and remember that in LOTRO, you aren’t the hero. You are the supporting cast. This is a new territory to be explored in common MMO land where I have saved the world a thousand times (or every time?) in most other games. I actually appreciate that of the game but still thought it would be nice to support directly. Perhaps I do get to at some point. I hope I get there.

Bonus points to hit to other popular and big plot points in Middle Earth just to remind you what is going on. While I just recently (last paragraph) mentioned that I didn’t mind being the second fiddle, at the same time it is hard to play a story out when you already know how it ends, no? No matter what I am doing there is something much more important going on and no matter what I do, the outcome is already concluded. The movies are already out! Is that stuff Canon yet? Now I feel less comfortable with that position and whether that is a good thing or not. Perhaps they should have gone pre Lord of the Rings and hit the major conflicts not covered in the movies (books. I mean books. I did read them. When I was 12.). None of this matters of course. Just thinking out loud. I just got off a 7.5 hour flight from france and now on a 2 hour train ride to get home.

The final instance is not all dream sequence (however) and we do get to try and stop a necromatic event. The exciting part here (of course) is seeing Dwalin from the Hobbit’s Journey! The second trilogy movies that made him really famous. Again, I find myself happy to see a familiar name and then back to pondering timelines between LOTRO expansions and movie releases (while still not being bothered enough to google it to find out for myself. More fun trying to guess / sort it out.

Then the map, of course, which is one of the most unfriendly maps to use I have seen in pretty much anygame in the last decade. That is fairly explained that LOTRO is over a decade old. I will, of course, give it props for having a great style to it though. Feels like a King’s Quest map, if that game had any.

All in all, despite the tongue-in-cheek post I actually had a lot of fun. There is so much comfort in the levelling game and early levelling is always the most fun. Not sure of the staying power here, but I will dip my toes back in much quicker than the four years since last time.

Do This 4x a Day and You Go Blind

Total lie. FAKE NEWS!

I was just commenting on the Magic: The Gathering forums that I am completely happy and satisfied with the pace of gold and pack accumulation as a free to play player. I felt it was important to balance out the view of what seems to be a vocal lot that if you can’t get everything for free, immediately, and that will somehow make it lose out against competitors such as Hearthstone(!) because of the “ease of acquisition of cards in that game”.

I’m not drunk. I quit Hearthstone because they release must-buy expansions quickly to enjoy the game. This is more proof that developers SHOULD NEVER EVER LISTEN TO THEIR PLAYER BASE. EVER. Well, not when it comes to monetization, anyway. Let them vote with their wallet. This post feels silly to write because I am in a silly mood. I haven’t posted much lately because I’m not playing much. And what I am playing is either so old news (the new player experience in LOTRO is not a hot topic these days), so old (Walking Dead: a new frontier was released in 2016. Wasteland 2 was 2014) that I feel it pointless to write uh, pointless articles. (Shush you who say that’s why the come here in the first place!)

making it faster than I can spend it

The game I am most consistent with is Magic The Gathering Arena. I play four wins a day. By doing this I already have over 10,000 gold and oodles of wild cards – but I have no desire to build any new decks or try anything new. I am very happy with my deck. So I play the game to have fun, and while doing so am racking up in game currency that I have nothing to spend on. To be fair it really isn’t much of a surprise to me that the mother of all card games (is it the mother? Who would the father be? Pokeman? Should I be using gender neutral identifiers in that situation?) is the most fun of the card games I have played. There is so much to see and do.

Further compounding the “how does this game make money” conundrum is that I already have collected half of the entire card collection – just by playing and collecting free packs. To be fair, up until a few days ago I would buy packs every 1000 gold but now I am hording it. In anticipation of Horde vs. Alliance. I might actually play Horde this time since I am getting good practice at it. (To be fair, every new expansion I say I am going to play Horde this time..).

In the Ebbs and Flows of blogging I am definitely in an ebb mood – and I know that is pretty common for many bloggers while the pros blog away with great writing, interesting insights, and groundbreaking news. Will see what the summer brings in terms of content and gaming. I’m in airport about to fly to Europe, putting a pool in this summer, and already have two weeks planned away. I’ll try to squeeze in a blog post here and there between my four matches per day.

 

My Dominaria Pack Openings

With Dominaria launched for Magic:The Gathering both in “real life” and the digital world I was fortunate enough to have have saved up a lot of gold (free to play currency) to buy 8 packs. I also received three free ones, and through the first few days of winning daily contests and matches I also have received a handful of others (again, through the free to play currency). The update enabled real world currency but I’m not playing in that space yet. And the truth is, the game is extremely generous. I don’t think I ever received the generosity from other card games – especially Hearthstone (which is the one I played the most. outside of MTG.)

I’l share a picture (you will have to click to enlarge) and I’ll pick my favorite card of the bunch and explain why. Fun stuff for Izlain, fodder for most of you!

 

 

Opening pack 1 of 3! The Freebies for the launch.

I am still not up on the Lore of everything in MTG, but whoever that is probably pretty important. That would be my guess.

First pack, first Legendary (two actually)! Marwyn introduces a new race connection – Elves – that she can play off of to gain power. I play green / black as my main and currently don’t have any elves so the interactive play is minimum to me from the get go. The white card is a common ‘wildcard’ which you can exchange when deckbuilding for any common card.

Second pack has 2 ‘Saga’ cards. I haven’t played one (or played against one outside of killing it with a Naturalize card the second it was played) but from my understanding, Saga cards are three step cards that advance on each turn. So playing them once gets 3 things to happen in succession. I am always happy to see green cards.

I already added Nature’s Spiral to my deck but feel Sylvan Awakening is a bit too situation for me to play. Still – more green!

Another Marwyn (you can carry 4 of any / all cards in your deck). The blue wildcard is for uncommon cards.

Two Legendary Creatures in this pull and the Black one would be quite the card to play in a red/black deck – although the cost seems pretty high.

I zoomed in on Grunn here (and yes, that’s me reading Tales of The Aggronaut in the background!) to show the “kicker” mechanic. I am not sure how new that is but it is the first time I have seen them show up on cards – and they are pretty common in Dominaria. Not sure if it is a resurgence or a new mechanic.

Gilded Lotus is an interesting artifact but one that I wouldn’t use until really late rounds (cost of 5) at which point, mana is not an issue for me. So seems counter-intuitive to get a card you can’t play late game that has less impact at that time.

At this point I tipped my vault – and the Mythic wildcard is always nice, as well as the two rare and three uncommons.

Another two legendary creatures and a supporting elf for Marwyn. I can start building my “annoy Syp” deck soon.

The Cabal Paladin introduces “historic” spells to me – will be interesting to see where and how those play out.

 

Not a single green card in this hand. Totally feel ripped off. Semi-satisfied with yet another legendary creature.

Excited to see another Saga card, but curious as to when it is a good play – clearly not if you are in the lead in creature count. Seems like a board clearing effect with the added bonus of complete exile of them if you can keep them in there an exgtra turn.

Another green-free hand. What are the odds? I suspect I would need to know total cards available to know that. 8 in a deck, 5 colors, X cards total.  Some sort of factorial, 8r!5nX? (I don’t remember high school algebra. Completely making that up).

Another elf! I am not truly excited about that as I would need to burn a lot of wildcards to build some sort of a deck to support elf-play, but the thought of a mono green deck is very interesting. Just need a Nissa Planeswalker.

So there was my first couple of days of the new pack set, and as you can see I received many cards, legendaries, wildcards across all colours and play styles. One thing I can’t complain about MTG:Arena (among many others!) is that it is pretty easy to get several packs per week. I hope the economy stays as generous at launch.

Small Update Post

I hate going a full week without posting, but that happens from time to time when I have nothing fun or exciting to write about. Both of those should be qualified a bit – things I fun fun or exciting. I have been writing about un-fun and boring things from you, the gentle reader’s perspective for (almost) 10 years now. I have been playing 4 games regularly but none of them have inspired an interesting post to write, let alone read. So I figured I would just touch on each.

I can’t stop playing Magic The Gathering. I go through these feast/famine stages with many games and right now I am at an all you can eat buffet, 10th trip up, and still plenty of room on my waistline. Even better is that a new expansion is coming out (in the real world) and they are right on top of launching it at the same time in the digital world. Each day you can get 500ish gold in game just by playing – so I have been doing all the daily quests and grabs, stocking up on gold. Currently I can buy 6 new packs when the expansion drops end of week and hoping to get that to 10. I have a deck I love and am cruising with a ~60% win rate with it so I see little reason to change at this time. Eventually at this rate I will climb up and start seeing more competitive decks that will probably wipe the floor with me – but will stick with my fun deck until that time. The post about my deck and why I built it that way is coming soon!

I finally bought MLB the Show 2018 – the baseball season is in full effect. I played a TON of the 2015 version (maybe too much?) and I dislike that sports game release annually, so give them several years before buying in between to see if there is any real change. My favourite mode – Road to the show – where you are basically playing a Baseball RPG – is back and refined. Levelling is more skill based (grows by using) and they even get worse if you don’t do well. Maybe there is even permadeath – who knows! The fun/annoying new aspect of it is the social media sidebar, where fake, digital fans trash/ support you on twitter and other social media. Pretty sure the Russians are behind it in game, too.

Slay the Spire’s daily challenge is fun but already starting to feel a bit repetitive. How a new and interesting daily game mode gets repetitive is not really clear to me either, but I am just getting that feeling in that game. I know they are planning on launching new modes and even a new character to play – hence the joys of early access.

I bought Starbound on whim and a mood for some reason. I have enjoyed it and played through to getting my ship. I can’t even recall what the impetus was….

So those are the 4 I am playing right now. World of Warcraft has fallen off the playlist. I was close to unlocking the new races, but don’t have a desire to level a full new character – especially when I only have a couple that aren’t at max or near max levels (Mage / Warlock). No desire to level up another character again, just for a new race look (not even story?). If I really want a new race I suppose I will just pay for a race change at some point. I’m still undecided on the expansion (as I am every expansion…)

In other, awesome news Battletech – I game I early accessed (And a cross between the original, board game format and the new X-Com) launches fully this week. I am already pre-loaded and super excited. I am expecting this to take up a lot of my time when it goes. I’ll have much to.

I dislike when I am going through the motions in gaming – and writing, but sometimes that is just the way things are.

MTG Arena : Joy in Learning

The way rewards work in MTG:Arena is twofold – daily and weekly. The daily is a pretty easy to hit challenge by just playing the specified card colors, and the weekly grants you a pack of cards at 5, 10, and 15 wins. What is good about this in the early stage of the game (you can’t spend money yet) is that that 15 wins stays up all week – so it acts like a counter of sorts for how many wins you got for the week. I did over 40 wins last week and am quickly figuring things out.

I came back and won this match with my new favorite card drawn next turn (shown face up on the draw pile)

In this early stage there are no statistics (which would be interesting) and matchmaking at this early stage is clearly more interested in getting you playing quickly than evenly. I don’t even know if they are matchmaking by level at this point. It doesn’t matter because one thing I am learning quickly is that there are so many variables to a successful match that is out of your control – but enough that is IN your control – that you can clearly tell this game has been played and tested for years. However that doesn’t seem to set the learning curve.

Sometimes you just  have to fail and fail hard, and then head to google for the answers. I think that is the new, life metaphor we all live by. Yes that was mostly tongue in cheek.

As a noobie I tried a bunch of preset, 60 card decks. They seemed to all be interesting and have their own nuances, but I wasn’t getting better by swapping decks so quickly. I needed to grab a deck and focus on it and become good at it. The answer came to me in the form of a pack of cards. I drew a legendary Pathfinder – Vraska, Relic Seeker. Pathfinders are high(er) cost cards with a health pool based abilities. One that adds to the health, and two that take away from it. They can be directly attacked by creatures and spells in the game as well.

Love of my life! A little tentaclely, but I am not superficial.

The + health card gets you a nice 2/2 Pirate that  needs to blocked by 2 or more. The small, -3 health ability – destroy target artifact, creature, or enchantment is an amazing controlling benefit and the -10 power really changes the state of the game. Armed with my new girlfriend I had to pick a deck that she would fit in. Some comfortable digs. The base deck – The Golgari Exploration (which is a swamp/forest based deck, the same two land cards you need to play Vraska) had to be it. So it was.

It’s a fun deck based on cards and enchantments the have the “Explore” feature. Which allows you to find and play more land cards. From what I have learned it also has a good amount of control cards (clearing out enemy creatures) but I quickly found decks I was weak against. And this is how I started getting better at the game.

A very popular deck I see a lot is a “blue” deck – which has a lot of counter creature and counter spell cards. Frustrating when every time you try and play one of your cards the other player negates it. When you finally get your Pathfinder on the board only to have it negated by a 2 power card it feels like the tables turn. I needed a way to counter that. I found my own, two power card that allows you to retrieve a card from your graveyard (where dead creatures go) so I placed a couple of them in my deck – and have been able to use them successfully. The trouble there is that they have all sorts of “remove / negate” creature cards so I needed a way to look at my opponents deck before bringing a card back. I found one and placed a couple in my deck. Those cards have helped me compete against blue decks – even though I am still very much at the mercy of which of my (and my opponents) 60-70 cards are drawn at any time it is far more fun knowing you have counters to your counters in case it happens.

card images found at https://scryfall.com/

So now I could deal with those pesky “blue” (island) based decks. Then I kept running into issues with a card called The Scarab God. It was literally a “game over” card for me every time I played against it. It’s a strong 5/5 card that can grab any card from your (or your opponents) graveyard and make a 4/4 zombie of it. Terrifying when you face him, and when you kill him, he has the pesky effect of going right back into your opponents hand next turn. Like a cockroach, you can never really get rid of him.

Or can you? Magic has 2 discard piles. One, the graveyard, cards can be pulled back from with various cards. The other, is the “exile” pile – when a card goes to exile it is gone from the game. So how do I kill the Scarab God, and exile him, all in one turn? Is that possible? Yes it is! And thankfully there are great in game (and on web) resources to find cards to help you with your issues. Enter the low cost, Deadeye Tracker.

There. Now I can kill and exile that card all in one. Building up defenses so at least I know I have the right cards to counter him if I face him. Keep in mind that any card I add has to be a swamp or forest cost card or I can’t play it. In MTG you CAN add more land based cards (tri color decks, etc.) but due to how many cards most people carry that’s a high risk on a card draw. So while I chose the above cards to deal with my issues based on the land cards my deck is based off of there are other cards for other lands (and even other cards for my lands). I tried to find ones that work with my style of deck – and the above card also “explores” on that use – and I have several cards that gain benefits / interact with the explore mechanic.

My last big challenge was enchantments. Often I’d get a strong hand and my opponent would play an enchantment card that would remove my card / creature from play until the enchantment was dealt with. The base Golgari Exploration deck has zero counters for this. I had one on my Pathfinder, but that is a high cost card AND often when I played my Pathfinder that was the card my opponent would enchant. Enter another easy and low cost counter.

And with that card I now have a deck I feel comfortable with countering anything that I have played against so far. This doesn’t mean I win every game of course, but it means there are far less “lose for sure” scenarios. I have the tools to counter my opponents. Each game I learn new ways and face better opponents. I am loving that losing is just another experience for me to consider how or what I could have done differently. And if the answer was “nothing”, then I can search for ways I don’t already know to help myself out in the future.

That part has been almost as fun as playing the cards to begin with.

 

 

As a note – I do have an extra code if you are interested in joining in the closed beta. There is zero monetization in the game currently so it’s for fun and testing.

MTG Arena : Hitting My Stride

I am still not “good” at the game, but I am becoming “effective”. Quotations used for loosely defined terms. What I mean is that I fully understand what is going on and have been able to create strategies on the fly with the two decks i am comfortable with. I am still not “good” because many of the cards I am seeing are cards I have never seen before – so the learning curve is Hearthstone times a bajillion. There may or may not be rounding errors in that last statement.

The glowing purple chest is the vault. I am excited.

I can’t comment on how the economy works (or will work) as you can’t buy anything in this beta (shocker, I know!) You earn gold, cards and packs from playing. There is a daily challenge (play 20 land cards, play X spells of Y color, etc.) and every win plateau grants you a deck. Turns out at 15 wins (for the week maybe?) that free deck pile stops. At least it did for me. There is in game gold, gems (which I am guessing is the currency converter) and the vault. One thing that is kind of fun is unlocking decks and cards gives you a percentage unlock of your “vault”. I finally unlocked my first.

OMG ITS LIKE A LOOTBOX

Clicking on the vault showed a whole cornucopia of goodies. Burning color cards! Wildcards! (Wildcards – the three on the right – are tokens you can turn in for rarity cards of the same color so you can customize your deck. I have no clue what kind of goodness this will unravel but of course, we are about to find out!

A Legendary Planeswalker HAS to be good, right?

Well that is my second Planeswalker. The decks I use are the Brazen Coalition which is a quick hitting, fun Pirate deck and the Golgari Expedition – which is an “explore” based deck – nature and death. Vraska – the legendary Planeswalker – fits in that deck perfectly. With excitement I added her to the base deck and began playing, and quickly got into a really fun match. The other player jumped out to a quick lead but I was able to get some explores in and with the help of some Chubacabra’s (low cost death cards) I was able to catch up.

Then the fun hit the fan. The other player played a Planeswalker – the second I have ever played against. The first time it didn’t go well. Then more fun hit the fan as I drew – and was able to play – MY Planeswalker the next turn. Things got crazy and fun, until my opponent started playing enchantment cards that took both my Planeswalker and a 7/7 card I had played out “until enchantment removed”. I haven’t seen a “remove enchantment” card in either of my decks and that was the turning point. I lost but it was close. My opponent only had three health left.

What is good about the way the game works is I was able to use a search function in game (and you can filter by color, rarity, keyword – etc.) and I have access to two types of enchant removal cards on the Nature side (cards I own). I forgot to filter “unowned” cards before they took the server down but that is where the wildcards will come in handy. Even if I haven’t drawn a remove enchantment card I have plenty of wildcards so will be able to build them myself.

The circle of life and learning in games is great. Enchantments whooped my ass and now I found a way to deal with them for next time. This part of gaming I a have always enjoyed. Discovery.

MTG : Arena

I finally got my closed beta invite to Magic The Gathering : Arena. I say that like I was always entitled to it and it was just a matter of time (I am, and it was, right?) but good old RNG worked in my favor in their last round of 100,000 invites.  I quickly loaded it up, logged in grabbed a nature themed preset deck (I like nature. In real life. I have no clue if Nature decks are good.) and of course completely was slaughtered and confused. It is a beta, there is no tutorial yet, and my whole experience with MTG is duel decks my son bought and I played three times.

opening screen – complete with daily challenges

Three times.

I did forget to add I enthusiastically read all of Izlain’s WAR REPORT posts but without historical reference I hadn’t understood a whole bunch about them. Safe – and happy – to say, after a few hours with MTG: Arena I already have a high level of comfort with how the game works. Yes, it’s completely intimidating and there are so many hundreds of cards and combinations that sorting through it all is extremely daunting. Thankfully I enjoy a new challenge, card games, and learning new things. All at once.

The preset decks are pretty good. I added a planeswalker to one of them (cloning it), making it a bit better.

The good of the game is that every card comes with an explanation. Some are challenging because without the context of the game phases, etc. it is hard to fully understand but what it is REALLY good at is highlighting a card you can play – whenever you can play it. Games ported to PC like this is a great training tool on how to play the game. It has things such as auto-tap land cards, auto-pass turn, etc. etc. The best part is you can turn any and all of these support features on or off depending on your comfort level. One – the auto-pass turn – actually tips off your opponent that you don’t have spell cards so that is the type of training well best to turn off.

Some tips – like using a mulligan if less than 2 or more than 4 land cards, is a “rule” I never would have known without reading tips

Like many games there are levels and ranks and similarly to Hearthstone the early levels you do not lose ranking for losing. In the second level (which I finally am at) you lose progress towards your next level but do not lose the level itself. Things aren’t entirely clear as I have been playing all ranges of levels (assuming that for the closed beta phase they are more interested in getting games and data in than much else) and I am quickly learning about some really freaking cool decks (that I don’t have a chance against) that are clearly custom made by really strong MTG players. I don’t mind losing if I am learning.

The interface is slick and clear. Little bit of lag sometimes, but it is beta after all!

I have received a lot of packs and opened them all – but I honestly have no clue (outside of Pathfinders, which the Duels deck my 12 year old taught me to play on explained all about) what a good card is or a bad card, or how to best build a deck from scratch. There is decades of information here and too much to learn in a few hours. Sticking to the base decks and trying all of them (based off of daily rewards / challenges ie: play 12 black or red spells means I pick the black and red deck to learn).

Most matches are done pretty quick, but the one above (which I only played to get some photos today) went the long run. He had a cycling deck and I misplayed my lands – I had good counter spell and creature cards but never enough land to tap them on his turn, meaning he was able to play spells and status cards and grind me down. From the above to the below:

It looks like I am winning. I am not.

He kept playing draw cards that took down my life 2 at a time and added 2 to him. I always played creature cards that used my land so I couldn’t counter them effectively. If I played it slower and smarter I could have won. This is part of the learning curve that I have to embark upon. The good news (for me) is that there seems to be a lot of other, new players in the beta as I am winning enough matches that I feel good about continuing to try. Assuming matchmaking has a part to do with this as well, as the true vets climb the ladder.

I have an extra key from a second email for the stress test next week, if you are interested – let me know. That will also get you into the next phase of beta after the stress test.

It’s fun. Wish it was on mobile, but probably too much important information to share on a small screen at this time. There is so much good complexity and nuance to the cards and sets I bet you could literally play this game for years before mastering it at all – but you can still get your wins along the way to feel good about the curve. Would be curious to hear about a seasoned MTG veteran’s take on the game.

 

I am Number Four : World of Warcraft

Weird gaming lately. Searching for a mindless, zen like state where I can log into someplace comfortable and advance and repeat tasks. Not really with a fun focus but just a time killing focus. Some may say “wasting”. I can’t disagree with that. I hit my fourth max character in World of Warcraft this morning.

You can see the Demon Hunter is not far behind. I think I am doing the Shaman next though, really tired of leveling leather wearing characters. They all end up looking the same by armor type. As you can see I have no cloth wearing classes at max level and that is also something I want to “fix”. Normally I don’t like playing DPS only classes as it takes out reasonable timeframes for getting into speechless groups and raids (any kind of group or raid, really. I mean, you are a tank or a healer and you have a one minute wait. As a DPS only class you have 20+ often. Sometimes it’s not so bad and you get lucky and get one that’s under 10 minutes.

The Hunter class was my first WoW class, back when everyone was a hunter back in Vanilla. That’s when I switched to Druid as my main and who is my emotional favorite. The Shaman was my other raiding class (from a heal perspective) and the Rogue is just a lot of fun to play. Hunters in Legion took on a new look – the Marksman (what I play) can get rid of their pet altogether. Heck, they even have a melee spec, which from what I understand isn’t that great. Still it was glad to see some changes to the standard in this expansion and since I had never levelled one to max I chose to this time.

I don’t think I am going to bother multi-speccing the class, however. If I want to Melee I will use my rogue, or my Shaman (Enhancement was a long time favorite class of mine). Nice to have the simplicity of one class, one spec for a change. The great thing about WoW is the maintenance mode it is in is very easy to play. Everything is simplified with flying. I log in, do the daily emissary quests with each (once they have 2+ saved up), get the loot, run follower missions for gold/rep, send everything to my bank alt, sell on the AH, rinse repeat. I am a creature of habit. I get up at 4:30 am every day, have a coffee, work out, make breakfast for my family, go to work, rinse, repeat. WoW works well on a schedule.

Great news is that I made enough this month to pay for my next two months so WoW is a F2P game for me. Makes it easy to spend my time there this way.  I am still confused why the sudden desire to have one of every class to level cap. I also want to unlock the new races (for alliance, anyway) but I have little to no desire to level a character from one. Not sure if you can race change or not but I’m leaning on that. Would be nice to get different races on my classes but  not going to level them up from scratch. I have a 70+ warrior on another server that I will transfer. Still, there are cloth wearer at very low levels so perhaps I could start a new race there?

I haven’t had any desire to play WoW and still not quite sure what the draw is here. Any content I now do has been done 4x over and if I do get all the classes to 110 all that means is that I have far too many choices when the expansion drops (which takes a lot more commitment and focus than what I am doing now). Kind of feels like I am playing while half asleep – zombie gaming? Where I am half in, not fully paying attention, but nevertheless pleased with result? It’s odd, but not a bad time. That isn’t really a super high endorsement now, is it?

The class halls, feels and story has been an interesting perspective at least.

This post is as clear as my mind is right now and my gaming.

Making a Generation of Bad Players : WoW

There is nothing like a Timewalking event to make you appreciate old school MMO players and feel bad that newer MMO players haven’t had to learn what used to be “core competencies” in MMOs. Now to be sure – these skills aren’t as important because they aren’t prevalent in today’s gaming but for anyone who grew up when MMOs had a modicum of challenge this will be very familiar territory.

Love the old, ugly, mish mash of levelling gear

The setting was a 5 man Timewalking Dungeon from the Cataclysm expansion – specifically Throne of the Tides. I am levelling my 4th and 5th characters to cap (more on that later) and my Shaman has a heal spec which I spent many years playing so into Timewalking dungeons I go.  Throne of the Tides has some large pack pulls (5+) and very specific mobs that cast greater heal. With the de-levelling and gearing you can’t just muscle through it. You need focus fire, and interrupts, and/or CC. The first run I did of this dungeon was with “newer” WoW players. They just kept full AOE, no interrupts, and we literally spent over 5 minutes bashing our heads against a single pack until we wiped. I, as a healer, was the only person trying to interrupt. Even when I Hex’ed a healer (hard CC) someone would hit it to bring it into AOE fest. I took the time and energy to try and explain.

More ugly gear, my tanking set. Gross. Love it. Orange and Purple should match better.

Not only did they not get it, the Mage didn’t even have Polymorph on her hotbar. I kid you not. Of course, makes sense, because if you never have to use a spell/skill why bother? I remember those pulls “back in the day” and we would do a SAP, POLY, HEX, FREEZE TRAP and prioritize the others, rotating interrupts. When done it was a wonderful coordination and really made you feel like a team. Now it is just gather up as much as you can and AOE it all down. The beauty and intricacies of the genre are completely watered down.

But there is hope.

That group fell apart because people refused to communicate, mark mobs, and try something different. So I requeued up and decided to try again. This time I got a group that cleary was from the Cataclysm era. The tank marked mobs. BLue square was hunter trap. X was Polymorph. Was explained once, and everyone excuted throughout the whole 5 man. It was still the same old, same old WoW experience because no one said a word after the “rules” were set until the final piece of loot dropped (“ty all”, was the crux of it.) but it was a well oiled, experienced machine.

The Shaman class hall, on the edge of the Maelstrom is frightening and beautiful. Waves crash up and spray. I haven’t tried jumping in. Yet.

Rest of the runs were a mixed bag of both which was when I realized that a lot of players either just don’t know any better, or don’t care to put in the effort. All of this means that there is probably less complexity on it’s way in future games and they will continue to be questing snore-fests.

No wonder why nothing really new is coming out in the space “for the masses”, and hopefully the niche titles will try to recapture at least some of the personal responsibility along with personal loot boxes.

Backtracking : Paladins

When I last wrote in depth about Paladins in this article I was shocked and dismayed that they were ignoring everything that EA just went through with BAttlefield 2 and was launching a new “Cards Unbound” system that was clearly and obviously designed as pay 2 win mechanics. It was a sad hail mary from a really good game – one I used to believe was better than Overwatch – albeit having a more niche following. Greed, it seems, is more important than having a stable and solid revenue base. The community rallied against it heavily – I have never seen a community so united against a change – but the developers made excuses and stuck to the plan. They were going all in on it.

It worked out exactly as expected, from a player base perspective.

Cards unbound was launched December 18th. People had already been leaving the game pretty upset by then, since the announcement in November. Many people came back to try it out in January as there was a small uptick in players – only to have their fears fully realized, and a huge drop in February – their lowest ever. What is a developer supposed to do? What happens when their vision of money doesn’t line up with the vision of the game the players have adopted and loved about them?

Backtrack of course.

Here is the main snippet:

We know this system has angered many of our most loyal fans and become a point of continuous contention in the Paladins community (and even inside of Hi-Rez). Your voice has been heard loud and clear.

Our team will be working over the next major release cycle to remove Cards Unbound from the game. We will be replacing it with a new system that I believe the community will be really excited about — including the re-introduction of the deck building point system, and a method for obtaining cards that will be way less grindy.

We want the focal point of the card system in Paladins to be about fun ways to customize your champion to your favored playstyle.  We also want to unify the COMPETITIVE and CASUAL experiences with the card system so that we use the same system for both (no more separation of bound vs unbound).

We are still working out the details of the new system, but the rough outline of our current thinking is as follows (NOTE: Subject to some change, but hopefully this communicates the general direction we want to head):

  • Legendary Cards will now be called Talents.
  • Talents will only have a single level.
  • Talents will be unlocked for free by earning XP and gaining Champion levels (for example; level 1,5,10,15).
  • All Champion Cards will now be free (No cost or grind).
  • Deck creation will return to a point system where players can distribute 15 points across the five cards they select for their loadout. Each Champion Card will have five ranks to choose from.
  • Talents will not have ranks, and are not included in the loadout point cap.
  • Talents and Decks will continue to be chosen at match start to allow players to tailor their playstyles based on their opponents.
  • New Talents will be added over time and give further varied playstyles.
  • Champion Mastery will no longer be capped at level 25. Instead, it will work similarly to Player Account leveling (which has no cap).
  • Card chests will be removed from the game.
  • We are evaluating the best options to compensate players for their previously earned cards, and hope to share details soon.

The release plan is to start testing this new system as soon as we can on PTS (hopefully, next week).  Your analysis and participation will be very important over the next few weeks as we work the kinks out of this design and deliver the best possible product to you in the next update.

You can read the full announcement here, if you want.

I am torn on this. I like to support companies that make good moves. Anyone who was listening and had half a brain knew it would turn out this way. It was made clear to them. This forced me to consider that the move itself was desperation – that they HAD to do it or shut down the game – why would you ruin such a good thing? Still, they did it, and made it worse, and are now trying to fix it. So the optimist in me wants to load it up and play again once they relaunch the game with the new, older rules. The other part of me knows that I quit the game before that terrible decision, because the matchmaking imbalance wasn’t fun – they weren’t spending their time and energy on the important parts of the game.

I will probably go try it again, only to show that their steam numbers get a small uptick for doing the right thing – but it is probably too late for Paladins. They have already announced a Battle Royale mode and my guess is that this game goes the route of Fortnite and all resources are funneled into that project – where the “easy money” is at. Problem is by then that space will be even more crowded. You don’t have to “win” to be the best.

Being the second most popular small team shooter would have been okay, you know.

Content Catch Up : WoW

Well, that didn’t take long. As of this morning I have completed all the Broken Isles content I had planned too (LFR once through all, got the new flying form, have completed all the main quests). I am also done all of Argus except the LFR raid (and will probably finish that off tonight). It took me three days to go from 7.2 to 7.35. To be fair, I was running pretty good content when I left (Mythic +9, etc.) but wasn’t raiding outside of LFR. My ilvl is 891 and that is a far cry away from the easy to reach 910 from grinding out Argus, so there is a goal at least. I also need to grind out enough material to upgrade all of my legendary items to 1000 but almost have enough for my first just through the leveling process. It’s good to have goals but outside of daily Emissary quests I think I am already out of things to do. So, I started doing my main two alts (Rogue and Paladin) through the Daily Emissary quests for catch up and get them headed to the Broken Shore.  I then started planning out three other characters I want to get to max level (Shaman 94, Monk 56 , Hunter 101 – in that order) when it occurred to me – here I am again, hook line and sinker repeating the content I just completed in a whopping three days to climb in ilvl for no specific purpose. What’s that quote about doing the same things over and over again and expecting a different outcome? Although hard to judge because it was a super fun and comfortable three days. This is how games suck you in.

Really? Maximum of 50 characters across all realms? Who does that?

I’m not a big fan of the new flight form for the Druid. The old one, looks like a scrappy young druid ready for battle. Maybe a bit like a “still able to fly version” of a Dark Crystal Skeksis.

The new version is a grandpa like, “get off my lawn you pesky kids” version.

The bad mustache style feathers and upright neck make it also look uncomfortable. I’m not sure if I will be keeping it, but will give it a chance to grow on my a bit. We’ll see if Grandpa Owl has all the tangible benefits of a real grandparent.

The flying quest had an instance where you had to go support Thisalee Crow to get the Relic back from a big bad Legion guy.  The fun part for this is that I already had Thisalee Crow accompanying me in my adventures in the Broken Isles. So there was a weird moment where her and her clone and I were all hanging out.  Can you say awkward?

Will the real Thisalee Crow please stand up?

Outside of that continuity error – of which I don’t suspect Blizzard really cares – the experience has been WoW through and through. Although I did stop to pause to wonder if “old Blizzard” would have cared of the duplicity there. I know they aren’t into immersion as importance but they have done a lot of good cutscene work and surely someone would have noticed that this was a very distinct probability for a druid character. Of which, a production manager of some sort would have realized that there would be no real outcry, so why bother investing programming time and dollars to find a fix for something that wasn’t going to be noticed or written about by anyone of substance? There was one Argus cutscene moment where I actually said “Wow, that was cool!” and I don’t want to put this post into spoiler territory (guessing I am the last in the world to see it anyway) but take a guess in the comments if you think you know which I am talking about.

Ilvls to grind and alts to level. For now. I have enough for a token for my first 30 days and I made 30,000 on the first day in the Auction house, so the game is free for me for as long as I want to play it. Will see how long it can capture my attention for for now.  The big question is if I will drag my alts through the same experience or if I can stick to just one character.

Flying Not Flying : WoW

Well, with some helpful tips in my last post from Leo and Will my “ehrmagahd this grind is going to suck!” path to flying turned into “really, that’s it?”. It helped of course that I was fully done all the prereqs and had to just slog through a gated quest to get the Legionfall rep a flowing. Yay, I can Crow Form again!

I belieeeeve I can fly. I belieeeeve I can touch the sky.

Yaaaas! Longtime readers with excellent memories (no, I am not going to link all the posts from years gone by) will know how much I love flying in World of Warcraft. Tesh and I would chat about it all the time. Something about the Crow form and just flying around is a complete joy in the game. Which is always why I am upset and confused on why they take it away temporarily in their expansions. It is a core part of the game, the excuses for not being able to fly are completely lame and immersion breaking, and people who care about “seeing the world” will still do that. Some will just do it from better viewing angles, too.

You can be my wing man anytime. No, you can be mine.

So of course I am in the full “pure fly, all the time” camp. Not being able to fly is a severe detriment to my enjoyment of the game. It is kind of like how I struggle with any game that doesn’t have jump (Dauntless, The Division). Being grounded just isn’t any fun at all. Of course in the interest of keeping land masses small and huddled and lowering development costs by stretching out existing content via travel times, we end up with a lie  to excuse not flying every expansion and a lengthy quest to eventually get it. It’s fake content, but it’s all we have. Clcearly with my additional slang and silliness in my writing you can tell how much happier I am and how much better WoW Legion is right now with flying.

While I am still not “done” LegionFall content (there is a new flight form to unlock, and a new bear form, at “bear” minimum. Ugh, yes, the silliness continues…) I quickly jumped to the Argus content so I can get some key upgrades. The super cool awesome new Bear Form is supposedly very difficult to get with low ilvl gear. So I figured if I run through the quest content on Argus then I can go back and sort through how to get that form. More, super guided, super easy planned obsolecence content is not my cup of tea but it is exactly what World of Warcraft is. Argus, here I come!

Oh. f@$k you Argus and your non-flying.

And back to no flying. Birds are now Deer. Or Elk. Definitely not Reindeer, because that would be super cool to fly as a Reindeer. Time to slog through non-interesting and engaging content with my feet flat on the ground. The good news about Argus and the guided quest experience is that – well it’s kind of like – you know, that thing that is sorta – oh damn. Trying to find something positive and fair. Wait, I got it. Comfortable. That is the right word for WoW leveling through a new area. Like a cup of hot cocoa on a cold winter’s day. Without the alcohol to zip it up.

What WoW DOES do well is scale. Fighting giant creatures makes you feel pretty epic. I was carefully dodging all of his telegraphed, big attacks until I missed one my accident – and realized that he hits like a wet noodle. I stopped trying to get out of the way and took the hits, mashed some buttons, and pushed the scattered narrative forward.

In comfort, not style.

 

Jumbled Mess : WoW

Well, my return to World of Warcraft wasn’t as smooth, fun, or heralded as I expected. I haven’t used bullet points in a while.

  • First off my guild of the past three expansions was gone. It wasn’t that I was kicked out of it but that it had completely disbanded. I was shocked because even my first guild – from 2007 still exists with a skeleton crew. I know this even though I have long left the server because my Potion Bank Alt is still in that guild (along with my Warrior alt.) I login once in a while to see who is still there and kicking around. I moved servers when I quit being a guild leader and followed some friends who wanted a better timezone for their playtime. Since I wasn’t leading or raiding anymore, the Mountain time zone didn’t matter (I am Eastern Standard) as I was playing WoW super casual at that time (and still am).  So when I had some good gaming friends go to a new server I went with them. It also gave me a good split from a guild that I had loved for many years – but when you step down as a leader it’s hard to be in the wings, and many people send you whispers looking for advice, etc. that is better for the new leadership to handle. You feel like you are in the way. I do regret that move some days, because I left a lot of good people behind and I didn’t support them how I should have. It’s tough when “it’s just a game” and “there are real people who matter” collide.
  • For some reason WoW is the only game I can’t play with the base UI. I had to download, install, update and configure no less than 17 mods to get the base UI to a state I deemed “playable”. Curse used to auto-update this for me but now they are owned by Twitch, so I had to install a  new installer program. Plus, many of my favorite mods were no longer supported or updated so I had to find mods that did a similar thing. It took two of my first full play sessions to even get close to being able to play. I am still not done by any stretch of the imagination but it’s pretty close now. I think this crutch is as much my own issue as the game itself as a past raider the mods you had to have became a part of the core experience. I have had zero issues in DDO, EQ2, EQ1, TSW (etc.) with needing mods to play.
  • At this stage in the expansion and where I was at there is so just so much to do and no real proper or clear path in what order to do it in – the game is pulling me in several different directions that are unrelated. There are quests to unlock new traits in my artifacts – but those traits are already unlocked (I think as a catch up mechanic?). I already spent billions on improving it then finished the quests and became able to do… what I already did. Flying in Legion does NOT have an easy catch up mechanic. I don’t know why the WoW devs hate that so much. Should be easy peasy at this point and not a month long grind. I have daily quests from Argus – an area I haven’t been to yet (want to finish off the flying part first) and they take up one of my three available daily chest slots. I had two of them going at one point. I feel like it should be more streamlined at this point.
  • I did LFR to get some quests done and see the bosses – and it is embarrassingly easy at this stage. I went in without reading a single raid boss strat and killed them all. I am glad they exist. It’s pretty easy to just watch other players and react accordingly. I did some of the new 5 mans too. The best part about LFR over the 5 mans is that people talk in LFR! Sure, it’s only to complain about “noobs” and “I can’t heal stupid” but seeing chat was nice.
  • Oh, I did join one of those random accept guild invites. Guild perks are a thing in WoW for rep and quest grinds in particular. Lucky for me they are chatty and seem friendly. No clue what my long term plans are – I definitely do not want to pay to transfer all my characters to my old home (Whisperwind) but if I can cross account things now to Horde side I may go next xpac as a Horde. I talk about that every expansion but never do it.

I am not loving the return. I am committed to trying to get flying. Curious to level a Monk. Going to start playing the AH to try and preserve a free subscription cost. This may be a short trip back, we will see. I was hoping to be having more fun and be more excited at this stage!

Finishing an Expansion: WoW

I spent a lot of months in Legion last year, and it has been probably my second favorite expansion.  I have a strange relationship with WoW that bounced from love to hate and most emotions in between. It is hard to explain why in some regards – I have had multiple accounts at multiple times, happily paying my subscription fee. I don’t know if there is another game I treat the same way as WoW. For example, when I play it I feel I have to exclusively play it – and play it hard – because I have to “pay” for it. While this is less true now (with tokens I haven’t paid for it the whole expansion) I am still exchanging something for that access more than time – so I feel like I need to be dedicated and focused at it.

Legion lost me at their first real hard gear reset. That was in and around 7.2. I had spent a month grinding out challenging content to slowly inch my ilvl up by 1s and 2s to, well, be stronger I guess. Then a patch came that greatly increased your ilvl for basic tasks and quests and I realized that all the effort I was putting in was wasted. I could just wait for the “last” patch in the expansion, and get easy gear with less effort and time. I don’t even think that this is fair to say because I was having fun – but when you hit the progression wall as a non-raider it starts to feel like work. (Less work than raiding mind you). So I made the decision to stop, and stop all the alts I was levelling, and wait until the next expansion was announced so I could just finish off the expansion and park my characters until the next. We have been at that point for a while now, but I still didn’t have the itch or the push to make WoW “my game” again – I am having too much fun in other games that only need my time.

I am being clear here that I actually think the way I look at and feel about WoW is largely unfair in comparison to how I play other games. I am so emotionally tied to the wonderful and terrible experiences I had in the game that I honestly believe that I owe it to my druid to continue his journey to the level cap with each expansion. Then I start having fun and start getting other characters there (as I love the way many different ones play), and eventually the fun turns into a grind that I realize isn’t making it fun anymore, and I step away. Legion was the longest I stayed in any expansion since WOTLK though as it had hit a lot of good places. Even now I am wondering why I didn’t level a Shaman. I had done my Druid (as my main), my Paladin next, my Rogue, messed around with a Demon Hunter, worked on a Hunter… that is a lot. I can completely see how and why WoW is a permanent home for many. It just doesn’t always last for me.

The tipping point to getting back into it?


Sometimes you just need a little push. Being so far behind and no real goals in site (except experience all the updated content, probably get flying, level an alt or two – fu@k here it goes again…) I probably won’t have a lot to report here, but then again, I always find something to complain about.

More Learning by Listening: Critical Role Campaign 2

In my last post about learning by listening I explored the questions that popped into my head while listening to the Critical Role podcast as they played through a Dungeons & Dragons campaign. It was fun and interesting for me to listen in and learn how the DM and players react to different situations, how they use various roll checks, and the descriptive nature by which the DM handles the game. It has been a fun listen in. I am on episode 11 of season one and at a pretty interesting and exciting pivot point for the group – they just completed their main, specific mission they were on but aren’t quite out of the woods yet. The next step will be to see how the DM handles the end of a chapter or break in the excitement. There are still over 100 episodes left, all between 2 and 4 hours in length so there is a ton of content to enjoy. I already feel connections to all of the characters in different ways. It is even more fun and interesting as you start to understand the personality of the people who are playing the characters. It is a very interesting experiment.

I made the jump to pause on the first Campaign and start in on Campaign 2. The main reason is to be a bit more current – there are five episodes out currently so I can catch up easily. I can always go and revisit the first campaign when I am in a holding pattern for new material. The new campaign is with all new characters (but the same players) in a whole new setting so I am not missing out or skipping ahead in timeline. Campaign one will always be there but being a part of something as it happens has it’s own benefits as I can be a part of the conversation.  I am also very curious how things have changed in the mood or style that they play by. There are some big changes and I have not been disappointed. I am going to share my experiences as spoiler free as possible with still getting my points across.

First off – the players are all role playing a lot heavier this time. They are using new voices and themes and have really dug deep behind the characters they are playing. Characters are doing things in this play through that are turning out to be bad decisions but being made for the right reasons – that it is most likely what their character would do in that situation. I respect that a lot but it also makes a lot of things happen that are unexecpected for the DM – which seems to be fine because Matthew Mercer is a very skilled and experienced one. I would have probably been thrown for a loop or two. The group can be a bit “joke heavy” at times in what they are saying and doing but that is who those characters are – and the DM is making  modifiers based off of that. He made a character do a persuasion check, who rolled really high on it – but the words they used to persuade (the way it was presented) was very weak and he mentioned there is a modifier. That is fun and forces players to be sure about what they say and do.  He also pressures them if they are taking too much time to make a decision if there is pressure on (in combat, for example) which forces players to think on their feet.

In this campaign the players do not all know each other and some have had side, introductory adventures to the city they are in – so there is reference and differnt understandings in the three different groups that currently exist. It is a challenge to get them to become a single cohesive group in a natural way. Part of the gameplay is very interesting and almost too open – a card game, for example, where both are attempting (and perception checks) against each other to cheat using sleight of hand. Each player knows the other player is attempting it but the characters don’t (as they both failed). This creates an interesting dynamic where the player knows that the character is cheating but the character doesn’t. How can you balance knowing you should mistrust someone but based on the in game rolls you can’t? There has also been a few times where there have been statements made by one player character to another and the recipient asks for a contested insight check to see if they are lying – and if the player loses the deception check has to admit to the player that they are lying, so the character doesn’t believe them as well. Again – it is just a layered dynamic that forces me to think how I would handle that.

The first episode starts slow as we are introduced to the different players and their small little groups, how they meet, and a central place they end up together where the action really heats up and sets the tone. I believe it was this event that should force them closer. However, the second episode is playing out really slow as the DM has given them a big sandbox to play in with little guidance or instruction and the actions the players are currently choosing is not moving the tale along in any obvious meaningful or tangible way. The DM seems to be really patient here forcing the players to sort through it to move the action along, and I am curious how long that will last before he gives them a big in game hint/nudge to support them. The way it is currently going I have a feeling it could be a lot of circles – but I don’t believe the DM will let it go that far. This episode (#2) has been a bit of a struggle for the players and you can feel it as a listener as well.

I will definitely sludge through this part and I am sure things will pick up. Regardless, it is a great listen and the new campaign is a good starting point for new listeners (or watchers if you prefer – it is broadcasted on Thursday nights and the podcast follows it up the following week). I still am very curious how the old campaign continues and for me it is like having The Walking Dead, and Fear the Walking Dead – two good, related shows, both at my finger tips. I just haven’t decided which is the better one yet – still too early to tell.

In the Shadow of Monsters: Dauntless

I spent more time playing Dauntless when it dawned on me. This is an actual beta. No, not the normal, pay for 95% complete game so we can test and do some minor things but grab millions of dollars before it goes free to play beta, but an actual, game is barely done and things are broken beta. More like an alpha compared to what betas are called these days. Throwing in a gamma for good measure.The Influences of the Monster Hunter series are all around. The slight pause on a hit mid swing to add emphasis and oompf. The advancement of armor, weapons and Monster types. You can clearly tell that the designers were iterating on the Monster Hunter franchise which hadn’t clicked in the Western world. It was  great idea and a great premise. After spending a good chunk of time in the game in the state it is in I am nervous it won’t ever really launch in any meaningful way – or by the time it does, Monster Hunter is already reigning so big and supreme (as it already is) that there is little reason to go to Dauntless. They have an uphill climb.

A bar that you can’t enter. You can’t jump and all the tables are blocking entranceways. Good use of social space

I’m not blaming them as designers or an impassioned product but they are just so far off of anything reaching a semblance of what MHW already provides and they are  a small team with  a smaller budget – doing in essence the same kind of thing. I am sure it can carve out it’s own niche but the basics are so far off that right now that if I were to take a fair guess, it’s a long way away from being anything substantial. I like the art and premise but it’s not even close to what I am reading and watching in MHW.

My list of deficiencies are pretty simple at this stage, and all fixable!

  • Low soloability. If you die, you get booted back to the city. And the things you can solo don’t provide you with meaningful progression – so there is no path to farm the items you need to improve to fight the harder monsters. The items you need to get better are at the same level you are at, not a step down. If I could farm and improve in a solo manner it would be great, but even then the matchmaking has it’s own, game breaking issues.
  • Matchmaking isn’t great for two reasons. One, they have limited access, which I guess makes sense to make sure the hardware and software can keep up. But it is a double kick in the shins because you can’t do anything while waiting for matchmaking. You stare at your loadout screen for 5 minutes, then it forces you into a solo hunt. Which, as my first point points out, isn’t that much fun. Let me run around the city and explore while Matchmaking is doing its thing. Let me talk to people. Let me stay in the world.

I got a new jacket! Swanky.

  • Very linear. Kill a mob type to get the items to craft its specific gear to get strong enough to kill the slightly harder mob type to get the slightly better items to craft the slightly better gear to get strong enough to kill an even slightly harder mob type to get the even slightly better items…..
  • The story stinks a bit. The goal is to protect your city from these monsters. BUT every monster is on a floating island that you can’t get to without a flying machine. They are stuck on tiny, little floating islands with no way to get off. If it was a proper planet or continent I would get it, but really we are just embarking out to hunt caged animals who have nowhere to run.  Like a Lion safari hunt where they feed the prey tainted meat beforehand. There is no urgency or real threat that is apparent
  • No jumping. You feel so glued to the ground that it is painful. Especially since you fly in.

All of the things that are exciting to me about MHW (which I HAVEN’T played, since it is not on PC) is not in Dauntless. At least not yet. There is a good base here to build off of which is good news, but ultimately it’s not in a state you can really enjoy right now unless you are very invested and committed to the dev team and what you hope they can produce in the future. I do wish them well, and I will check back in with patches to see how it is coming along. They are also very active communicators and I do believe they are doing their best with the resources they have. I do appreciate the honest use of the word ‘beta’ for sure and with word that Open Beta is coming “soon” in 2018 I suspected it would be in a more finished state. Looking forward to the next patch to see how far and fast they can move the needle.

Unfortunately – if MHW is king of jungle then Dauntless is a mouse. Let’s hope Aesop was right.

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.