Cortex Dreams

Its left leg clanks and bends outward with every step it takes from an injury incurred decades ago from a forgotten enemy as it patrols its length of cavern for yet another turn.  With what limited memory the machine has it cannot fathom how many times it has made this walk, searching for foes long dead.  There are no feelings of regret or depression though, the Gnomish Clang-Vincer’s cortex just doesn’t have the capacity for anything approaching emotion.  All that powers the alloy monstrosity is a sense of duty.  It must protect the masters, until the end of its days.  So it marches on.

Today there is something different though, it senses movement in the dark.  Five shapes creep toward it, they likely believe they have the element of surprise but they are soon to discover their error.  As the first leaps from the shadows the Clang-Vincer brings its armored backside to bear in a rush of whirring gears and the enemy’s sword barely makes a dent.  It is readily apparent to the others attacking that they are not going to get the jump on the machine and a full melee ensues.

A blow to the side of its head jars loose a memory and while crushing one of the villains’ legs within the clamp on its right arm, the Clang–Vincer recalls the day his master placed the clamp.  It shone bright and polished in the light of the workshop, opening and closing with oiled silence.  Nothing like the creaking difficulty with which it moved now, loud enough to be heard even over the piercing wail of the clamp’s victim.  The blow to the head must have been vicious indeed as more memories, long buried, poured through the cortex brain.  With ease the machine let them flow as the combat continued.

Memories of how it used to serve its master through labor, not dealing death.  Lifting large metallic beams high and using its torch to weld those beams together so water may flow into another fountain.  This memory passed into another where it used that same torch to melt the armor off countless foes as it stood next to its mechanical brethren.  All the while their masters fled upward into the higher portions of the mountain.  As it attempted to raise that torch now the Clang-Vincer was reminded that the torch was gone, it had been long ago ripped from its place by one of the creatures responsible for the gnomish masters’ flight.

It noted dimly that though one of the present attackers lay weakly gripping their ruined leg, things were not going well.  One of them had discovered the Clng-Vincer’s own weakened leg and had brought a heavy mallet down on the bend.  It fell.

As the Clang-Vincer lay upon the dust of the cavern floor a final memory flit through its rapidly fading mind. No…not a memory, this was happening at this very moment!  One of the masters was before its eyes, they had come back!  Was this emotion it felt?  Was this happiness?  Finally they had returned, it tried to warn the little master of the villains who had just vanquished it, for they could not be far away, but speech had never been a gift bestowed upon this machine like some others had received.  At least it had survived to see a return of the mast…

“BE DAMNED YOUR ANCESTORS AN’ THEIR GOD CURSED MACHINES GNOME”, bellowed Krint Meadbrash as the dwarf tried to put pressure on his crushed leg and faltered.  The other dwarves in the group rushed to the aid of their fallen comrade as he screamed more curses at the Gnome, but  BindiBindabick just silently straddled the machine they had just fell.

“I think it’s trying to tell me something”, Bindibindabick whispered looking into the dimming red eyes of the once magnificent construct.

“What was that?!” The dwarf hollered, in anger trying to stand.  “If’in you try an’ convince me one more God Curs’d time that these THINGS have somthin’ akin’ ta’ a brain I swear I be leavin’ you down here!”

“Oh…nothing Krint, just trying to figure out where to start salvaging”, the gnome said with a hint of sadness, “I’m certain we’ve found something great here… something real great.”

Bindibindabick began his work while the others patched up the Dwarven leader of their little band.  He kept his head down so the others couldn’t see the moisture welling, threatening to fall.

Topher’s List of the Worst Console Controllers Ever: NUMBER 1 WILL BLOW YOU AWAY!

*Topher’s back folks, and he’s still talking vidja games.  This time he’s running down his list of the five worst contollers to ever grave a gaming console! Kevin and I were talking about Destiny and the similarities and differences to the Halo series when we went off on a tangent. In the middle of a sentence, I was suddenly struck by the idea of the original Xbox controller, mainly, the memory of ill-fated small black and white buttons. This got me thinking. What is the worst controller ever made? Well, I’ve put some thought into it, and here is my list of the 5 worst controllers of all time. Starting in reverse order: NUMBER 5 The silver boomerangs, concept controller, PlayStation 3 PS3 Boomerand Do you remember the internet blowing up when this photo of the PS 3 leaked? The PlayStation controller is about as perfect as you can get on a modern gaming system’s controller. So perfect in fact, that Sony has sued when it has been imitated. (This is probably the reason that the number 2 entry exist.) But, what was Sony thinking they changed perfection? On this design, reaching the L and R buttons would have been extremely difficult and you would be sliding off the circle button. I would have also expected it to come flying back to me when I threw it in frustration…..yeah, I’m that guy. This controller was never officially released. The design was changed back after the criticism surfaced. The controller was changed to the SixAxis design before the release of the PS3. Good call Sony.

PS3 Controller

NUMBER 4 DOL-003, Nintendo GameCube Gamecube controller Honestly, I had a hard time deciding which I hated most: the GameCube controller or the N64 controller. I really didn’t like the N64 controller either because the stick was in the middle, but that is about its only problem, so I went with the GameCube controller. The initial design is alright. The controller fits in your hands, you can reach all the buttons, but I have three major problems with this layout.

  1. Why is the right stick smaller than the left? You use it less, yes, but when you do need to use it, I always left like my thumb was falling off. In fact, that happened quite often. This stick also wore out fairly quickly too. I remember lots of them being worn down and even more difficult to use once the controller was broken in.
  2. Why is the A-button so much bigger than the B button? You use both of them, yes, not equally, but you still need to be able to hit the other buttons. Why not make them all equal?
  3. The X button and Y button should not go around the A button. Going from X to B or B to Y is extremely challenging. The A button always inadvertently got pressed in the exchange.

I mean, kudos for pressing the envelop Nintendo, but this layout is lacking. Maybe next time, try keeping all the buttons the same size. NUMBER 3 Dreamcast Controller Dremcast Controller If Nintendo were pushing the envelope, this thing tore the envelope up and set it on fire. It is a bit too big for your hands, but the layout is ok; it is missing a stick to control your camera, but that aside, this thing was the grand pappy of basically many modern controllers. That massive port in the middle was for plugging fancy things into the controller to enhance the gaming experience. These things include: Jump Pack (fancy name for rumble pack), memory cards, visual memory cards, and microphones. The problem was all of these things were accessories. You had to find, and then buy them, to plug into the controller. Then you had the problem of breaking or losing said accessories. This lead to the way more common thing for DreamCast players to do which was for people to have none of the accessories, leaving a big hole in the middle of the controller. Or players would have a visual memory card that would throw up words that you would try to read during the game, get distracted, and then mess up. Not to mention that the visual memory card took 2 batteries to run, and would drain said batteries quickly making the VMU useless. DreamCast was unceremoniously discontinued when PlayStation 2 was released and the controller was laid to rest. Most of its parts were copied to make the number 2 controller on the list. NUMBER 2 The original Xbox “Fatty” controller Faty Xbox Controller Firstly, I really want to know if this thing was designed for giants. I know of two people that I gamed with that like using these. Both of these people could be considered giants, or at least half giants. A normal sized person couldn’t even get their hands around this thing. Add on the fact that the staggered placement of the sticks made you hold the thing at an even more awkward angle and the fact that you had to basically move your left hand over to hit the white and black buttons, there is no way that this cannot be considered one of the worst designs of all time. I gave the fat boy the fourth spot since Xbox did redesign their controller into the S-pad. The put the controller on a diet and exercise program, moved the black and white buttons to more reachable locations. They actually used this as the basis for the Xbox 360 controller which was a good idea. The downside is that for the Xbox they did charge 40 bucks a pop to fix their mistake. Not cool, Microsoft! XBox 360 Controller NUMBER 1 The human body and Kinect, Xbox 360 Kinect I had such high hopes for Kinect, but every game is the same. That being said, I was fairly good at Kinect. I even help a top 100 score in the world for the javelin in Kinect Sports. There are several major problems with Kinect. The first is injury. Do you know how embarrassing it is to explain to someone that you twisted your ankle playing Kinect? The answer to that question is very. “Why are you limping?” said the cute girl from work. “Oh, I hurt my ankle running,” said the nerd trying to look cool. “Were you trail running?” inquired the girl that the nerd had a crush on for months. “No, it was hurdles,” said the nerd. “You still run hurdles? Where at?” the girl asked politely. With a sigh the nerd replied, “At home……on Kinect.” “Oh……” was the last word she ever spoke to the nerd. Kinect Guy What happened, was I just flashbacking? Sorry….anyway, the game play is just frustrating. You never know what is going to happen. Every time you go to play, the game pauses sporadically, the game loses you and then forgets who you are, and overall, you just feel like you are flailing around wildly. You can never really plan out how the Kinect is going to register a movement. Sometimes if you make a slight movement to your right, your character goes flying off the side of the screen. Other times you jump to the left and your avatar stays put. And one of the other things that are overlooked are, who has their living room or game room set up with no coffee table or ottoman or some other piece of furniture in the way? You end up having to change your entire room around to play Kinect Sports or Harry Potter Kinect. Microsoft said they have made changes to the Kinect, but the fact that they sell the Xbox 1 without the Kinect now means that they have realized what fads things like Kinect and PlayStation Move were. Motion gaming never lived up to the hype mainly because the technology isn’t where it needs to be yet and the games that motion gaming needed to be fun were never developed. Well, there it is. Agree or disagree: let me know what you think on Twitter @Topher_Witt. Until next time, I will see you online. -Topher

The Myer’s Briggs Type Indicator and The DM: Part One of a Two Part MTBI & RPGs Review

MyersBriggsTypes

Anyone who has taken a semester or two in college has likely been introduced to the Meyer’s Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test. Despite typically being classified as a Psychology exercise it will also routinely crop up in the business world as a way for employees to be either classified or be more introspective of their own “type”, which explains why the last time you applied for a job at Burger King you had to answer roughly 300 “personality” questions.  The MBTI breaks down an individual’s personality preferences across four spectrums:

  1. Extroversion or Introversion – How someone prefers to respond and interact with the world. Outward turning, action oriented, and a seeker of wide social interaction (Extroversion) or inward turning, thought oriented, and prefer limited, deeper, social interaction (Introversion).
  2. Sensing or iNtuition – How someone prefers to see the world around them. They may focus a great deal on reality, what the sense (Sensing) or prefer to pay attention to patterns and impressions, the abstract (iNtuition).
  3. Thinking or Feeling – How someone makes decisions with the information they have. Do they place a greater emphasis on fact & objective data (Thinking) or do they prefer to consider the feelings of others when making a decision (Feeling)?
  4. Judging or Perceiving – How someone deals with the outside world. A preference for structure, firm decisions, and timeliness (Judging) or a preference for being more open, flexible, and adaptable (Perceiving)

There are countless ways to become intimately familiar with the science and research regarding this system but I’d rather keep the description less complicated for our purposes, thus you get the limited descriptions above. (Here is a good place to take this test)

I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about this test and its uses in the business and psychology realms and had something of an epiphany the other day.  Why can’t this test be useful for a group of Tabletop Role-players?  My answer is, of course it can!  Any manner of breaking down RPG play is interesting to me so I went ahead and applied my own thoughts on the matter into the below.

THE MBTI IS TO HELP ONE LEARN MORE ABOUT THEMSELVES, NOT PINPOINT DYSFUNCTION

I needed to get this out of the way first.  Within the MTBI there are no wrong answers.  There is nothing wrong with your results, post taking one of the tests.  The preferences you receive help to indicate where your strengths lie and to indicate how strongly you prefer those “types”.  Take my recent test I took through my job.  I came back as an ENTP (Extroversion, iNtuition, Thinking, Perceiving)(Also the same as Theodore Roosevelt’s, so Hell yeah!) .  I think this type fits me well, especially when I look at the numbers behind it.  There were 120 questions, 30 for each spectrum.  Some of my results strongly indicated a preference i.e. Extroversion: I answered all 30 questions like an Extrovert, showing that I am, very much and Extrovert.  Others maintained a slimmer margin i.e. Perceiving: I answered 17 questions as Perceiving and 13 as Judging, this means I’m practically undecided on whether I prefer being flexible or structured.

So to reiterate, no wrong answers, these are just preferences of mine.  They are where my strengths lie.  If a situation arises that requires someone good in a crowd of people, I’ll likely thrive.  Put me in a situation where I need to be more thoughtful and deliberate and I may falter.  There are strengths on both sides, and I suppose weaknesses as well.  In fact, part of reason we go about discovering our preferences, at least in the business world, is to learn about the areas you may need to work on.  That is going to be a later topic though.

USING MBTI TO BETTER RUN YOUR GAME

Perhaps you’re preparing to run a game for a brand new table of players, and you want to gear things toward a successful cohesive nature.  Why not give your players an MBTI test prior to the game?  See where the dominate preferences show up within your collective of players.  After you have that information you may have a better idea of how to run the game.  This may also be of use for a table of players you’ve played with for years as well.  Perhaps you’re finding that your style isn’t working for them anymore.  Give them the test, maybe you just aren’t bringing the game to them in a way they prefer.  Let’s look at some examples shall we?

EXTROVERSION VS. INTROVERSION

With Extroversion and Introversion we will be discussing how your player’s characters may wish to interact with NPCs and some of the decisions they may make within the campaign.  Namely its a question of where they derive their energy to play the game from.

If your players lean in the direction of Extroversion you may wish to run your table in a far more raucous manner.  Allow for a lot of verbal communication between them and NPCs, allow more actions for call-outs in combat.  Keep them engaged and expect them to take immediate action.  An Extrovert table is going to thrive under speed and immediate results.  Figure out a way to provide this without allowing them to just roll over your plans.  Plan for it and it will just be part of the action.  Not to mention they’ll want that spotlight a lot!

Do you like to run games of intrigue and complicated details to be pondered? Perhaps your perfect group would be mostly in the introverted category.  They will enjoy a slower pace of play, one that rewards someone for taking a more cautious route to a solution.  They may enjoy communication in writing prior to a game, something for them to ponder coming into a big decision.  They likely won’t care to be rushed, especially when something big is at stake.  You may have trouble drumming up a “face” for the group though.

SENSING VS. INTUITION

For Sensing or iNtuation driven players the focus will lay with how you present the game to them.  This is how they perceive your world and it can be important to present it to them in a fashion they prefer to take it in.

For someone who prefers a Sensing approach, they want to see this world in a literal fashion.  This doesn’t mean they only want games with little to no fantasy but rather it means they want to see this game, and see it in a precise manner.  Your descriptors should be less analogous, and more to the point.  Use props, miniatures, battle-mats etc., these types of physical items give them a real item to latch onto.  When they interact with NPCs perhaps those NPCs can present information in a step by step fashion rather than wax and wane with metaphors and the like.

An individual that thrives on iNtuation would rather have the bar keeper tell them the story of the haunted cave atop the hill rather than explain that a few townsfolk have gone missing lately.  These are your players that thrive on visualizing the big picture and will be more likely to think of what they will do with all the treasure a dungeon may have than what steps they need to take to make it through.  Engage them with metaphors and analogies, use colorful language when explaining landscape or weather.  Feel free to embellish a mite as well.

THINKING VS. FEELING

It gets a bit dodgy here because a fantasy world may skew how someone would naturally respond using these two items.  In real life a Thinking individual will tend to make decisions based on the cold hard facts, and someone with a Feeling slant would take another’s emotions into play.  I would have to surmise that almost everyone skews a bit closer to the Thinking framework when playing about in fiction, but you may still get some Feelers at the table.

Thinking players will be the easiest to work with for a DM, and, as referenced above, likely the most prolific.  They are going to look for measurable details and facts that they can pit against one another to discern the most likely avenue of success or the most utilitarian approach to a social challenge.  You can use this to mess with such players as well by presenting something that may look better on paper but in the end results in a less than optimum outcome because they didn’t take the emotional response into account.  It can be a fun way to shake things up when used sparingly against a Thinker, but could alienate them if used too often.

A player who makes decisions based off Feeling will take NPCs and other Player Character’s emotional well being into account when solving the various problems you throw their way.  I’ve completely inferring this but it’s my gut instinct that even those who are Feeling based in life often change when faced with a fantasy world to play in.  I can cite my own wife, very much someone who makes decisions based on her feelings in day to day life, in game she is often one of the coldest, “Thinking” players I’ve ever seen.  Many an interrogated monster lay slain at her feet just to not have an enemy at her back.  If you do get someone like this you’ve got a rare bird!  They may shake things up constantly in your group.  Other players may feel they work against the grain.  You can use this to add a little more emotion into the game.  Try to reward them from time to time for taking the road less traveled.

JUDGING VS. PERCEIVING

With these two frameworks your focus will be on how you approach your timing of game day and how you may present the flow of your game.  It’s all about the structure here, or lack there of.

If you have a player that falls along the spectrum of a Judging individual you can certainly be happy that this person is likely to show up on time and prepared.  Judging aligned folk tend to adhere to schedules, enjoy lists, and love to be prepared ahead of time for anything.  These players may actually enjoy when you pay strong attention to aspects of the game sometimes brushed under the rug.  Things like keeping track of arrows or rations might be interesting to them and they’ll pay attention to such things. Try to reward times where their characters prepped well for a situation (i.e. a long wilderness journey).  If you want to shake them up a bit, have a moment where no amount of prep can protect them.  Keep that limited though, it may frustrate.

For someone along the Perceiving line of thought you’ll have a player who lives and dies by the credo “Let’s play it by ear“.  These players may frustrate you by showing up late or not at all and if they are really poor about keeping to your schedule may need to be relegated to pickup games.  Within a game they are most likely the players who wish to “fly by the seat of their pants” and may be an element of chaos for the group.  This can actually be a bit of fun and you can certainly let it play out from time to time to liven up any situation, and can be perfect for pickup games as referenced above.

IN CONCLUSION

I’ll admit, this is all a bit heady, and most people can discern the types of players they play with and their styles anyway.  It is an interesting idea though.  This article isn’t actually the meat of what I came up with for using MBTI for Tabletop RPGs, or rather, how you can use Tabletop RPGs to adjust your MBTI.  What I found when I looked at my “types” when it came to RPGs it surprised me how often I went another way, highly interesting stuff there.  I plan to get into that in Part 2 of my lecture series*, so stay tuned!

*Melvin Smif is not considered by anyone, but himself, to be qualified to do “lectures”.

-Melvs

“Professor Pendrake, I Presume?” A Review of Privateer Press’ Monsternomicon

Monsternomicon CoverI love a good monster source-book.  As fun as it is to pour over character classes or races in a player driven rule-book nothing sucks me into the lore of a world quite as well as it’s monstrous critters and villains.  When I was younger, before discovering Tabletop RPG’s, I would read a lot of nonfiction dedicated to our world’s various species, and revel in some of the more dangerous variety.  It’s easy to see how I, and many others who hold the same love of cataloging beasts, could come to adore an RPG’s alphabetical listing of what “atrocities of nature” the fantasy world holds to pit against us.  Not to mention, as someone who typically runs games, I certainly enjoy a myriad of extra ways to lay wast… I mean, “challenge”, my players.  Privateer Press’ Monsternomicon doesn’t fail to impress.  We are introduced to over forty monsters of nature, machine, and supernatural, all unique and well fleshed.  A must have for any Game Master working their story in the Iron Kingdoms.

ARTWORK AND PRESENTATION

Monsternomicon - Hollowed

A Hallowed wants to eat your organs. Don’t feel too special, it wants to eat EVERYONE’S organs.

Every source-book in the relaunched Iron Kingdoms has been made of sturdy stuff and has featured a style of art found across the board in all of Privateer Press’ materials set in the world.  This book is no exception.  While I always prefer hardcover books to paperback the size of this source-book, coming in at exactly 100 pages, means it would have been an unnecessary cost.  Paperback does not mean it is a weak product though, the binding appears hearty and the two covers as well.

We begin with a section that explains how to understand the layout of the monster pages and some of the rules surrounding their anatomy and size categories.  Then we drift into the meat of the book, the monsters themselves. The final bit at the end is an Appendix of Creature Templates that can be affixed to most any monster in the book, this can add on some truly terrifying aspects to challenge players with.

Monsternomicon- Scylla Stat Block and Description

Every monster layout includes at least a quarter page image of the creature, fully colored and boldly presented.  Each monster is handled with, at least, a full two page detailing.  On those pages will be an introduction, a stat block, a deeper description, combat details, a bit of lore, and finally some of the creature’s abilities.  Sometimes, if the monster is decidedly interesting or dangerous, it may bleed into a third or even forth page where further customization options are given.  It is plain to see that with two page spreads, some extra pages, and the Creature Templates, there was a dedicated effort to really flesh these baddies out.

Monsternomicon - Crypt Spider page

The layout of the book is solid and the artwork as clean and bold as ever.  The only thing I would have liked to see tacked onto the end would be one or more indexes.  These could arrange the monsters in different ways than the alphabetical Table of Contents.  Perhaps one to list them by Encounter Points so we could assess their potential danger to a party, or even one that listed by environment.  Otherwise I have few complaints.

THE FEARED BEASTIES

This Croak is not impressed with your Warjack son.

This Croak is not impressed with your Warjack son.

For those unfamiliar with the Iron Kingdoms it is a land of civilized, magically steam-powered armies at war with one another and at the same time encroaching upon some of the darker recesses of the world’s, very dangerous, natural landscapes.  So it is fitting that the creatures in this book cover a wide berth of monsters that are, as mentioned in my introduction, naturally occurring, machine based, and supernatural.  Each monster’s stat block will be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with the system.  They are well presented, eye catching, and all inclusive.  The abilities portion of a creature’s stats is then found on the second page.  This may make the layout flow better but also forces you to draw from two separate areas for a monster’s pertinent combat stats, and could pose minor nuisance to those who would find it cleaner to have them back to back.

Monsternomicon- Argus Lore

A bit of Lore about the Argus, here’s hoping you roll a 10 and realizes you’ll soon be paralyzed.

More so than stats I’m a fan of descriptions and lore surrounding the monsters I use.  The Monsternomicon handles this very well.  I personally love the introduction of Professor Viktor Pendrake, a fictional Dr. Livingstone for the Iron Kingdoms.  Each entry in the book is hailed by a few words of advice, colloquialisms, or stories surrounding the creature by the good Professor himself.  It adds a nice, often humorous, touch to the reader’s introduction to the beast.  The physical descriptions are in depth for assistance in visualizing what lay before someone and the combat section gives solid details on how the monster may approach it’s hapless victims.  There is a Lore section dedicated to a “by the numbers” list of what a Lore roll may uncover for a player first encountering the monster.  I really like that there isn’t just one number to meet but rather a detailed scaling list of information so that better rolls really do uncover a variety of useful bits of information.

Monsternomicon- Dragonspawn Stat Blocks

Some individual creatures have some very involved customization rules even without the creature templates. Dragonspawn have a ton of options!

The best way to determine the level of challenge these creatures pose to a party of players is to use the creature’s “Encounter Points” number as a reference.  In the first part of the book you are directed to the section in the Core Rule-book, Page 333 of Full Metal Fantasy, to get a handle on encounter building.  I would have loved to see perhaps one or two pages dedicated to encounter building within the Monsternomicon, but at least they give you the exact page to reference in the Core Book.  The Encounter Point spread in this supplement ranges from 1 point per creature to a whopping 47 points!  Although that last number represents one singularly horrifying creature, the Dracodile, everything else falls between the numbers 1-20.  There is a lot of variety between those numbers and a few outliers actually have Encounter Point ratings that depend on choices you make for the creature.  You’ll find you have a lot of options at any Encounter Point level.  Failing that, you can choose some add-ons from the Creature Templates at the back of the book to not only adjust their capabilities, but also how many points they are worth.  Sample templates include Blighted, where a creature has spent too much time in the vicinity of a dragon or Trained, meaning some creature has been worked with by someone so that it can follow simple commands.  Each of these Creature Templtes is really fleshed out.  I see them adding a lot to any foe (or even ally! Whose to say a character couldn’t train something?).

Objects in picture far far larger than they appear. The Dracodile gets to make use of the new Huge-Based Creature rules. Isn't that fun!?

Objects in picture far far larger than they appear. The Dracodile gets to make use of the new Huge-Based Creature rules. Isn’t that fun!?

I’ve more than hinted all along this review that I’m impressed with the book.  I feel there were a few things they could have added to enhance the experience but my largest complaints could be resolved with some additional, light, effort on my part.  I could create my own list of creatures sorted by Encounter Points (and I intend to do so, it will be available in my tools section) and it’s not that hard to flip open the Core Book when i need a refresher on Encounter Building.  The book is gorgeous and will certainly enhance anyone’s experience playing this RPG.  I consider it one of the three Core books for the Iron Kingdoms RPG.  Those being Iron Kingdoms Core Rules, Monsternomicon, and the yet to be released Unleashed (Monsternomicon will be fully compatible with unleashed as well).  Look for my review of Unleashed just prior to release next year.  For now, pick up the Monsternomicon as soon as you can when it releases on September 24th, you won’t be disappointed.

-Melvs

(RoS FTW!)

Kickstarter Highlights – Karthun: Lands of Conflict

As I write this the Kickstarter for Karthun: Lands of Conflict has 55 backers (myself among them) and is 20% funded.  This is day one.  I have a solid belief that we will see a fully funded project, perhaps by the end of the day and I, for one, am happy to be a small part of that success.

Karthun Logo

I’ve been a reader of Brian Patterson’s comic D20Monkey for some time now and have witnessed it grow from a “joke a day” concept to a truly narrative force.  Through one of his storylines back in early 2013 Brian introduced a Campaign World Concept that the main protagonist of his Webcomic, Sam Tigh, created named Karthun.  Our first glimpses into this world were deep with flavor and intriguing possibilities.  It wasn’t long before readers began to clamor for a full treatment of the setting.  We wanted to play it ourselves, exploding-rogue-logoand we were in luck because just this year at Gencon 2014 Brian revealed his partnership with Tracy Barnett, designer of such works as School Daze and Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone, to form Exploding Rogue Studios.  Their first project would be the long-awaited Karthun Kickstarter.

It isn’t often the case that we can saunter into a backer relationship with a game knowing as much as we do here.  We know the art will be Brian’s, and as readers of the webcomic (or a quick look at it if you’ve never had the pleasure) we know it to be vivid and top knotch.  We are fortunate to have a lot of background information regarding the style of the game from reveals on Brian’s webcomic.  Tracy has designed two successful games previously, and similarly we know that Tracy and Brian have successfully fulfilled Kickstarter obligations in the past, having run five successful Kickstarters between the two of them! 

If you want to get a better look into the mythology and style of the game I urge you to read the various arcs that take place in the world(Here,& here for the main two).  Not only will you walk away with a good understanding of the lore, character options, and style surrounding Karthun you’re also likely to be impressed with Brian’s narrative capabilities and imagination.  You should also take a look at some of Iron eddathe work Tracy has put out over the years.  I personally own School Daze and Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone will be in my hands one of these days I assure you.

Karthun will represent a Campaign Setting that should fit into any system you have.  The idea appears to initially support a Lore only setup that will be usable for anything and further stretch goals purport to open up specific referance tools for some of the more popular systems (i.e 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder and 13th Age). 

I write fast, but in the small time I’ve been typing another 15 have joined the growing list of backers clamoring for Karthun and it is now 30% funded.  Don’t be left out!

Kickstarter Details:

  • Goal: $15,000
  • My Backer Level: $35 Adventurer Level: Hardcover Core Book, Name Listed, Previous Awards, and all Stretch Goals as pdfs.
  • Full Team:
    • Brian Patterson writing and illustration.
      Tracy Barnett writing and project management. 
      John Adamus Editor  
      Daniel Solis Layout Artist and Designer

  -Melvs

The Darkness, the Ghost, and the Sparrow: A Look at Destiny

*Today my good buddy Topher pops in to give us a contributor piece that offers a look into some gaming I’m not nearly as familiar with, the world of Video Games.  Bungie’s new game Destiny has gained a lot of hype leading into its launch and Topher seems to really dig it, but let’s here him chat about it!

So, Kevin asked me to write a review of Destiny. First, Kevin thank you for letting me contribute to your site. Alright now that the mandatory kowtowing is over, let’s get to business.

Destiny is a First-Person Shooter Massive Multiplayer Role Playing Game, or in other words a FPSMMORPG, for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. From the start I will tell you that I am currently playing the Xbox One version, and overall, the game is really good.

STORY AND ENEMIES

Peter Dinklage is your companion and guide, a hyper intelligent robot called Ghost that brings you back to life. That’s right, Tyrion Lannister is your Sherpa. Do I need to say more?

Mr. Dinklage I presume?

Alright, I was informed that I do need to say more, so…

Good story if you overlook the typical Human = Good; Aliens = Bad; Earth = Doomed cliché, but have I mentioned Peter Dinklage voices your companion?

Missions let you jump in quick and feel emerged in the struggle against the evil aliens known as the Darkness. The aliens are actually a solid enemy, and enemies are what make a game interesting. If the bad guys not good at their job, what’s the point? The enemy A.I. in Destiny actually utilizes, and get ready for this, LOGIC!!! If you snipe one of them, the rest actively try to get to cover. I hope this is the type of thinking more games start to employ in their enemies. I have killed too many faceless enemies because they are staring at the comrade who was just sniped.

The map is set up into story missions to work your way through, and an open environment gives you the opportunity to sand box patrol as well, kill more baddies, and farm that sweet, sweet XP. The sandbox mode is awesome. This is something that any game with a RPG element needs. Bravo for including it Bungie.

I will not give spoilers away, but the early on you see that the battles between humans and the Darkness have scarred the moon, after that I was all in for exterminating the enemy. NOBODY FRACKS WITH OUR MOON!!!

CLASSES AND RACES

Three classes so far. There are Titans, Hunters, and Warlocks. I will give you a quick breakdown of all of them so you can make an informed decision. Don’t worry though, you can make multiple characters.

Titans – The brutes. They like to take damage and dish it out. Good at getting close and melee enemies

Hunters – Short for bounty hunter. These are the nimble gunslingers.

Warlocks – Kind of like someone with force powers that also uses guns.

There are also 3 races to choose from when making a character. They are nothing but cosmetic, so just pick the one that you think look coolest.

Humans – Well, they are human….

Awoken – Humans that got lost in space and their skin lost all pigment

Exo – Robots, you know, like Bender Bending Rodriguez

VISUALS

The visuals are stunning. Bungie has their in house engine for Destiny and so far it looks great. I am yet to see a major bug. I don’t need to say any more, because instead look at this picture of me pretending I am Ezio Auditore da Firenze.

Destiny

CONTROLS

The controls are a throwback to the Halo series, not surprising since the game was made by Bungie. So, the learning curve on the controller is actually quite quick. All the standard buttons are the same and the powers a really well mapped. This allows the player the ability to quickly remember where there buttons are mapped and to expend their skills expertly in battle. You also have a failsafe of using two buttons to unleash your big damaging dealing power. So if you don’t get that to land properly, it was your fault and not the controller’s.

Bungie has also taken some of the things that Halo was lacking and incorporated these into the controls. The right stick now allows the player to sprint to avoid enemies or to retreat and heal. This is a huge boon to the combat system. If there was one thing that Halo was missing it was sprinting. Too many times would I find myself getting shot in the back with the only option to save myself was to turn and charge my attacker or slowly lurch forward and pray that I made it to the inevitable fall to a lower level or grav portal or, if I was real luck, a large random purple crate.

The land speeders take some getting used to. In the beginning their controls are counter intuitive. Your first bike has a brake on the right and accelerator on the left, you know, the opposite of any car you’ve ever driven. The reason it is set up like this is because later on your bike can get a gun, then right trigger is a gun and all is right with the world.

Side note: The menu’s controls are awesome. They control like you have a curser and a mouse. It gives you the feel of being closer to a PC game. A small thing, but the emersion value is huge.

MULTIPLAYER

First, Xbox One, fix your multiplayer and party options. They are AWFUL!!!

Alright, now that I got that out of my system, cooperative multiplayer is amazing. You can form a three man fireteam to take down story missions or explore in the sandbox. Since everyone is on their own counsel, you can go where ever you want and scatter the wind. I always find this appealing. It allows you to attack from multiple directions at once. This multiplayer is one of the strongest parts of Destiny.

Now, competitive multiplayer has some problems. This first being that some people you play online will be much higher level than yourself. This means they have unlocked more powers, gotten better weapons, and can take more damage. I do not know if they scale the powers back or up to compensate and make the playing field easy for those people that have, what do you call those things, oh right, jobs and can’t sit around a dorm room playing video games all day. (Sigh….I miss college so much…) You can still be competitive in multiplayer mode, but be prepared to take a beating every now and again.

VERDICT

Great game overall. I have enjoyed the hours I have already put into it and will definitely be playing this game for months to come.

OVERALL SCORE: 9/10

This game is a can’t miss. Go buy it right now. And I will see you online.

-Topher

Review: Player’s Handbook for the 5th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons

I had a few thousand words written for this post that I just erased, mainly because it represented a look at the Player’s Handbook in a far too clinical fashion for my taste.  I don’t typically review something in that manner and it dawned on me, during the write-up, that 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons doesn’t read that way either.  5th Edition represents a far more narrative bent to the game I know and love than a mechanical one, which I explain throughout.

The most recent iterations of the game, 3.X and 4th, were heavy on the mechanics and represented huge changes in the way the D&D was played.  Grid combat was a must, min/maxing could easily become a focus for the gamer, and (especially in 4th) some of the magic of the game was dulled in an effort to balance the play.  I absolutely loved 3.X and 4th edition both, albeit for completely different reasons, but I am quickly finding 5th edition to be my favorite version of the system.

Before getting into the piece by piece review I want to talk about the artwork.  With the glaring exception of the really weird looking halflings this book is gorgeous.  I haven’t seen something as beautiful since the Numenera books.  You have male and female characters of every make and size splashed throughout the rule-book by a cornucopia of talented artists.  Nothing feels out of place, it just flows around the page with delicacy.  It’ll certainly be up for an ENnie at next year’s Gen Con for art alone.

PREFACE & INTRODUCTION

Mike Mearls’ preface sets the tone for the whole rule-book.  We are looking at a game to help us tell stories.  We are told to focus more on the narrative play of the game than to fiddle with the rules.  Not that they aren’t important, more that we are told that we “don’t need to read all the rules” to enjoy ourselves.  Per Mike all we really need is a few people to play this collaborative game with, and the rest will follow.  You’ll learn the rules, you’ll learn to create, and you’ll likely have fun doing it.  You’re likely to even make a few new friends in the process.  I don’t know about you but it’s a nice message and one that strikes true to me, I’ve certainly gained plenty of close friends thanks to this hobby of ours.

If you’ve seen a players handbook for any version of D&D you’ve seen the basic format for this book.  You have an introduction to the basics of the system, a lengthy section on making the characters, a section on playing the game, the large chunk of spells and their descriptions, and the final pages of Appendixes.  It’s an old formula for a reason, it covers everything a player truly needs, and everything seems to flow very well.  I really like equipment falling into Part One of the book where we create the character, it is certainly more of a character creation piece than, say, part of the Playing the Game portion.  I’m also just going to say right now that I am ecstatic to see Magic Items removed from the Players Handbook.  In my opinion, they never belonged there.

The introduction portion of the book may seem old hat, “this is what a role-playing game is” etc. etc., but it is here that a few important details are mentioned.  Mainly Advantage and Disadvantage.  By now most anyone paying attention to the gestation of this system are familiar with Advantage and Disadvantage but just in case a virgin eye crosses my page I’ll explain what I feel may be the most important new mechanic of the game.  It is simple, rather than attribute gobs of excess, differing in value, bonus points to a roll when someone has a situation arise that is either advantageous or less than ideal we use the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic.  The player will roll two 20-sided die and choose either the best roll, when they have Advantage, or the worst, when they have Disadvantage.  It’s such a simple concept I honestly can’t believe it’s never been implemented before (if it has let me know).  If we ever have a new edition of D&D again I can easily see Adv/Dis continuing to be a standard for the game.

PART ONE: CREATING A CHARACTER

Part One is 162 pages in length and covers 6 of the 10 chapters.  It is the largest portion of the book.  If you’re like me you’ve made so many D&D characters in the past you may have gone into the game wondering how they could possible come up with a new paint job for something that has been recreated time and time again.  They pulled it off though, and they pulled it off by picking up things that have worked in the past and tweaking them together to form something altogether new.

I see pieces of nearly every old edition in the framework for character creation, granted some editions I remember better than others.  We get a narrative presentation and simple initial characters we saw in the 1st and 2nd editions as well as slimming skills and saves down to just ability modifier rolls, there’s a bit of dabbling with a few feats like we saw in 3.x, characters can have Bonus Actions that are basically Minor Actions from the 4th edition of the game.  You’ll see plenty more of this cribbing as we go along.

Race and Character Class flow the same as they have for the past few editions but I think Character Class is where some real work on creating flavor went in.  Character Class is going to play a huge role in defining players which I call a huge detraction from the last two systems.  In 3.x you were defined mostly by the feats you chose and in 4th you were defined first by your role (Striker, Defender, Controller, Leader) and then your class choices.  In 5th we see very different styles of play between the classes further broken down within the class by certain pathways the character can take.  I imagine we will see more and more of these paths in future supplements, they’ll be easy to craft and slap on.  Expect to see a “Martial Pathways” book or something to that tune in the future.

Of the bigger changes we have Personalities and Backgrounds worked right into the Player’s Handbook as a core mechanic.  They were added on in 4th edition and can really add a flare to character creation that gives the player a guiding hand of sorts into knowing who their characters is.  This could have been handled poorly by writing these backgrounds in a way that points to who the character currently is, but in a smart move the focus is actually who the character was.  To clarify, the team behind Personalities and Backgrounds didn’t want to tell you who your character is, that’s for you to decide.  Instead these help shape a little of where you may have come from and how it might play into who you are but the present is for you to shape.

Equipment is largely similar to older editions but there are nifty changes there as well.  I don’t see any Armor Check Penalties and I am certainly not crying over their absence.  Instead armor may grant it’s wearer Disadvantage if they try to do something that the armor might honestly get int the way of.  A good example of this is trying to sneak in Full Plate, you’re just going to have a harder time doing it.  Currently there are only Simple and Martial weapons, though it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Exotic variety show in the future.  Many of the weapons have interesting properties attached to them and because feats don’t grant any extra proficiency, it could be easy to use a variety of them without feeling like you’re missing out on an extra bit of “To-Hit” or damage.  The equipment chapter is well stocked with the remaining items beyond Weapons and Armor as well.  We have tools, adventuring gear, mounts, even a table set aside for something call trinkets where the player gets to roll at the very beginning to add a weird little item to their possessions.  Mad Adventurers already made another Trinket Table and I imagine many others will follow suit.

Something else I like is how multiclassing and Feats are handled.  For multiclassing it isn’t so much that there’s a lot of new material there, it’s mostly because the rules are so wonderfully simple!  I kid you not, the rules take up three full pages and barely a quarter of a fourth page.  They are straight to the point, there are no real downsides beyond missing out on the progression in your old path, and it actually makes me want to consider trying it out.  Feats are really cool, as they have always been, but they are also wildly different.  For most character, every 4th level, with the exception that 19 gets it rather than 20, a character can choose to either plug two points into an Ability Score (up to max 20) or they can choose a feat.  Some characters, like the Fighter and Rogue get this option more often.  Many of the feats add an Ability Score point on top of their extra benefit so you essentially end up trading one point for a cool ability.  Of course, you don’t even have to do this or multiclassing, they are truly additional customization options.  I expect to see a number of supplements adding in new Customization in the future.

PART TWO: PLAYING THE GAME

D&D_Game_1

 

Much of this edition relies on ability scores alone, with the addition of a scaling proficiency bonus that fits every character across the board.  Starting at level 1 anything you are considered “Proficient” at you get an additional +2 to the roll.  Beyond and ability modifier and the proficiency bonus there is very little that adds to a roll.  This is a very streamlined approach compared to the bonus happy editions we’ve seen in recent memory.

Skills and Saving Throws no longer have an arbitrary bonus attached and are now regulated to essentially being differently named Ability Checks.  You honestly don’t even need the Skill names on a character sheet, beyond the ones your character is already proficient at, if your good enough to know what Ability a skill may utilize.  Saving throws are much the same.  Certain classes grant proficiency in certain saving throws, rather than adding a variety of bonuses to them.  It is also worth noting that multiclassing does not grant you proficiency in any saving throws but it does net you a skill from that class.  Passive checks are also back from 4th edition, a good idea so you don’t have to hint away a creature in hiding.

Resting in 5th edition borrowed a bit from 4th edition with the Short Rest concept, only they lengthened how long that rest needed to be in order to gain its benefits.  You have to take an hour’s time to spend one or more Hit Die, an amount equal to a character’s level, in order to regain a few hit points.  5th edition hit points are pretty low numbers, especially near the beginning.  Things are going to be dicey for a while and it is nice to have this little heal up available.  A long rest, eight or more hours, just heals you up completely but you can only do this once every 24 hours.  It is implied that your characters have means of treating wounds, either by magic or otherwise, that takes care of this without having to actually micromanage it.

Combat has been simplified to the point where simple fights can easily be played out grid-less but not so much that a larger fight won’t benefit from the grid.  D&D still relies on an initiative method of determining order and honestly looks very similar to versions past, with the exception that it is far more streamlined.  On a character’s turn they may Move and take one Action.  If a character has one they may also take one Bonus Action a turn.  That’s all there is to it, many of the other fiddly bits we’ve dealt with in the past are gone.  You can draw weapons for free, pick up a weapon for free, pull a leaver, etc. the idea is that characters are in constant motion in combat and there is no reason they can’t do some of these things with the momentum they have.  I agree, why wouldn’t a trained swordsman be able to pull a sheathed sword as he advanced?  It just makes a lot of sense.

There’s a helpful list of various things that constitute actions beyond just “Attack” and you are given permission (though did you honestly ever need it?) to form your own actions.  I like that you can Disengage while moving away from an opponent to avoid opportunity attacks or even Dodge to make the opponent have Disadvantage when trying to strike you.  The named Actions are actually well thought out.  Attacks are as well, even Grapple has been slimmed down to a simpler form of its original behemoth form.

In the damage and healing portion the only thing that really stands out as interesting is the portion on dropping to 0 hit points.  Looks like they decided to crib a bit from both the crowd who wanted a more lethal game and the crowd that didn’t want to just flat out die at 0.  They compromised.  Now if you drop to 0 HP you get to use the three saves method from 4th edition.  However, if you take enough damage that you surpass your maximum HP on the negative side, you are deader than a staked vampire.  Seems there are some Temporary hit points floating around as well, which I didn’t know until I just now flipped the page.  Nice to see those, I liked them from 4th.

PART 3 THE RULES OF MAGIC

I’ve always loved spellcasting in D&D and if I’m to be honest the way it was handled in 4th edition did not appeal to me.  I’ve always found myself drawn to the Vancian system and in 4th spells just felt like any other power held by the other classes.  I know that isn’t exactly correct but it is how it felt to me.  What we have in 5th is a return to form with a Vancian system but with some common sense thrown in by expanding the number of cantrips known to expand what you can do per day because they don’t exhaust spell slots.  Due to this you’ll never truly be without spells.

We are back to only two forms of magic Divine and Arcane, kind of sad to see Primal go but it wasn’t a necessary thing.  All the spellcasters work differently too.  Every on is unique in some fashion and it’s excellent across the board.  I’m especially intrigued with the Warlock’s mix of spells and Eldritch Invocations creating a sort of unique hybrid of a Wizard and a Sorcerer.  I’m really impressed with the way all the spellcasters are set up, none of the spell lists added to a class fell tacked on.  They feel core to the class’ identity and fully useful.

The spells themselves are basically the one’s we’ve grown up with but with some added items that make them unique.  There is a simple system for casting a lower level spell in a higher slot which will increase the Save DC and in some cases have an added effect detailed in the spell itself.  Some spells have material components again, which are easily ignored if you’re like me and never wanted to fiddle with it.  We also have some ritual versions of spells that don’t expend spell slots, yet another nod to 4th edition.

Mostly I believe spells work the way I personally want them too and have even exceeded my expectations.  Every class has a unique approach, as mentioned above, and the paths you choose to follow further add interesting styles of play.  Take the Wizard for example.  You choose your path based on one of the eight schools of magic (i.e Abjuration, Enchantment, etc.).  Choosing a school will immediately net you a benefit in the style of the school without the historical drawback associated with choosing a favored school we’ve seen before.  One of the more interesting benefits I’ve seen is the “Grim Harvest” ability you gain by choosing to focus on the School of Necromancy.  With this feature you “Harvest” Hit Points from the enemies you slay with your spells, additional HP for kills with Necromancy based spell too.

THE APPENDIXES

APPENDIX A: CONDITIONS

I love this Appendix, mainly because of the artwork surrounding the conditions.  I also love that it is an Appendix rather than placed somewhere in the combat section.  Now we have a specific place mentioned boldly in the Table of Contents.  The conditions themselves are all one’s we’ve likely seen before and are well explained through the filter of the new system’s rules.  Advantage\Disadvantage is everywhere.

APPENDIX B: GODS OF THE MULTIVERSE

This section is far larger than I expected, written with an eye to the future I imagine.  You have gods from all over the place here.  Historically D&D Pantheons nudge up against a few tables of other mythological Pantheons from our shared history of stories.

APPENDIX C: THE PLANES OF EXISTENCE

An interesting delve into the outer planes for those who are into that sort of thing.  Hopefully we get some other supplements that further flesh this out, but this is a good taste!

APPENDIX D: CREATURE STATISTICS

Some animals for the DM to use as wild creatures to fight and for the Ranger and Druid classes.  Rangers get animal companions and Druids can really do a lot with Wild Shaping into animals, Hell all they have to do is see an animal and they can potentially change into it later, it’s a Challenge Rating based thing.

APPENDIX E: INSPIRATIONAL READING

This is cool, a little send up to the many authors out there that write material we can easily use to influence better games.  Plus, I’ve already found a few books and authors I’d never heard of or read before!  I do find it really odd that Ed Greenwood isn’t listed here, his works only inspired the entire damn setting for 5th Edition.  If someone can tell me something I’m missing please let me know, it’s a head scratcher.

IN CONCLUSION

I know I’ve only seen the Player’s Handbook thus far but if it is any indication of where things are going with 5th Edition this is the version of Dungeons and Dragons I want to play and run.  In fact the only problem I see thus far beyond little finicky nit picks is that right now the classes look so damn fun I would almost rather play the game than run it!  Characters are defined by their classes in this game, I know I’ve likely overstated it but it is such a core aspect of play.  They are all unique and hold tons of character in themselves.  I can also honestly say that despite my appreciation for the Basic rules and the Starter Set, the PHB is the first item put out that really got me excited about this edition.  Well, I liked what I saw with DungeonScape too.

I anxiously await the Monster Manual and Dungeons Master’s guide so I can really get some stuff going with monsters and magic weapons.  I’ve heard some good things about the Monster Manuel and can’t wait to dig in when my review copy finally gets here.  Be expecting another lengthy review around that time!

Let me know your thoughts on 5th below or hit me up on Twitter!

 

 

-Melvs

 

 

 

Ten Books That Have Stuck With Me

I’ve only recently begun following Chuck Wendig on Twitter, and I have to say it’s a long overdue follow.  Today I came across a tweet of his regarding a blog post where he writes about ten books that have stuck with him through the years.  Typically such lists, no matter who they written by, contain a sort of revolving door of works that I’ve either seen before and decided “not for me”, or I’ve already read them.  In this case I was pleasantly surprised to have only read one of them prior and found myself wanting to dive deep into the others.  So, since I’ve spent a large deal of time lately burdening you with information only related to Tabletop Roleplaying games I’ve decided to provide a palette cleanse and follow suit.

1.) A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

I found myself smiling ruefully, or flat-out cracking up on every page of this non stop fools’ parade.  The title explains everything.  Within the pages we are introduced to Ignatius J. Reilly, a man who is difficult to believe could exist but sadly we know he’s out there somewhere.  He is foul tempered and an insufferable know-it-all, literally a tyrant in the lives of those he meets.  He rants, raves, and complains about generally everything all while interacting with equally fantastic people in his day-to-day life.  I can’t recommend this book more to anyone who wants a taste of the outrageous.

2.) Catch-22 by Joeseph Heller

I suppose I’m following a theme here with comedy, but Catch-22 needs to be on this list.  Not only has it stuck with me, it is honestly my favorite book of all time.  If you haven’t had the chance to read this winding, episodic, loony-filled book, you’re doing yourself a disfavor.  Heller somehow creates a huge list of recurring characters that never fail to make me crack a smile, each one is a welcomed sight when their name adorns the top of a chapter.  Never have I laughed so hard reading a book.  I’ve probably read this 3-4 times by now.

3.) Roots by Alex Haley

I read this when I was in high school and it has stuck with me ever since.  It is almost a dare to myself to read it again as an adult.  It’s full of atrocity and holds little to celebrate throughout.  You find yourself just getting comfortable with Kunta Kinte’s initial tribal story, and then it’s an almost non stop rollercoaster of fury at the men and women responsible for so much pain.  Still, a gripping tale based on true events.

4.) The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

If you’ve seen the movie you’ve only gotten a taste of the unsettling nature of its preceding novel.  I read this young, way to young to truly understand many of the darker paths explored, but I was a precocious kid when it came to reading.  It honestly terrified me, and my later research into the phenomenon of possession has terrified me even more.  A great read, well written and gripping.  Though you may wish for the light of day when you read it.

5.) The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien

I read the Hobbit roughly around the same timeframe I read The Chronicles of Narnia, they both lit a flame of passion for the Fantasy genre that has obviously endured since. Not even The Lord of the Rings trilogy invoked the feelings I had and still have for this book.  My sister had to read it for school so I had to be near the end of grade school at the time.  Wizards, Dwarves, Hobbits, Elves, and all the monsters they face thrilled me to no end.  It wasn’t long after I started playing Dungeons and Dragons too.  I still re-read the battle of riddles from time to time.

6.) The Blade Itself, and the rest of the First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie handles his characters in this trilogy with near perfection.  His wizards are powerful, but not all-powerful.  His protagonists are just barely that.  I’m having a hard time talking about the moral greyness of his world without sounding clichéd but I urge you to give it a try, especially good for a Dungeon Master needing a lesson in creating realistic NPC’s.  Hell, read the story for Glotka, the mentally and physically twisted inquisitor\torturer, alone.

7.) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

If there’s a better revenge tale I beg you to point me in its direction so I can either prove you wrong or be deliriously delighted by its discovery.  The movie was fine but just plain shit compared to the book.

8.) One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey

Nurse Rachett is routinely touted as an example of actual evil, and with good reason, you will revile her before the end.  I took a portion of this book to the state level in Speech and Debate as a Prose Interpretation piece so the entire work has certainly stuck with me as well.

9.) Blindness by Jose Saramago

It’s a rough one to trudge through.  Not due to poor storytelling or the fact that it’s a translation, but because it gets real rough around the edges.  Our protagonist is a lone woman with sight in a world gone suddenly blind.  We are subjected to what she sees when the worst in people comes to the fore and we get a glimpse at how some may react to no longer caring for social graces in any aspect.  Great read, check it out.

10.) The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

…and honestly the entire set of five novels containing the adventures of Arthur Dent, his absurd companions, and the whole nitwitted galaxy.  I think this series may have introduced me to novelized Droll Wit and I’ve loved the style ever since.

There are many more books I could name but I’ll leave it at that.  Typically I don’t be for comments but I would LOVE to hear from anyone else who may wish to give a rundown of their list, as I’m always looking for a good book to read.  If this moves you to post on your blog, feel free to link me so I know where to find your write-up!

-Melvs

Index of Tables in the D&D Player’s Handbook for 5e

I’ve always had a time finding tables in most RPGs as they never seem to be where you expect them, even if once found they are in an obvious locale. I’ve decided to make a helpful reference PDF detailing the various tables within the Player’s Handbook and where to find them.  Enjoy!

TABLES IN THE PLAYER’S HANDBOOK

-Melvs

The Torch is Still Brightly Lit for City of Heroes

I’ve made no secret of my love for the MMO Game City of Heroes over the years, and even wrote a piece back in 2012 lamenting its then upcoming demise at the hands of a seemingly indifferent company.  Business is business though and NCSoft can shut down anything they own if they feel it isn’t turning the profit they wish, or if they simply feel they want to go in another direction.  That’s a danger anyone can face when their beloved game relies on a batch of servers somewhere and not a physical disc or download, someone can shut it off.  However, NCSoft’s decision to never sell the property to the myriad of interested parties always rankled me, despite it being their prerogative to turn down whatever offers they wished.

City of Heroes has a strong community even today though.  A weirdly strong community, our game has been shut down for nearly two full years now and we still fight to bring it back to life.  Some fight harder than others.  I merely write about it every now and then or lament its passing.  Others, like the folks over at Missing Worlds Media, have taken it as a charge to return us to the game in at least a spiritual capacity with works like the successful City of Titans Kickstarter.  Now though, there may be something entirely different coming down the pipe if all goes well.  Perhaps the return to City of Heroes may be less Spiritual and far more concrete!

Here is a blurb recently posted in the forums of Titan Network by Nate Downes, President of Missing Worlds Media copied word for word for ease of relay (Link to original HERE):

For those unaware, my name is Nate Downes. While I am the President of Missing Worlds Media, Inc, I am also a member of the City of Heroes community, and an advocate. A series of circumstances put me in to a unique position, to reach out to NCSoft, not as the company president, but as a member of a small group with the goal to acquire the older property in some form or another.

Early on, this group, which included a few people from MWM as well as other members of the community, made the intentional choice to not directly involve CoT in the negotiations. There are a few reasons for this. It prevented the discussions from negatively impacting the project should they go wrong. It also prevented them from distracting any development. And, most importantly, if this should work out, it would be incredibly unfair for only one segment of the community to benefit.

How it began.

In September of last year, I had lucked into a chance meeting with a few people who worked for NC Soft, including a manager. They advised me then to come back later on to talk with them. While I’d kept the dialog channel open, the general consensus was that no, the company would never sell City of Heroes complete and intact.

Then IronWolf posted the idea of buying up part of the game, but not the entire thing. This prompted me to ask my contact people, who through several discussions eventually advised me to talk to a single person, NC Soft’s Business Manager Jae Soo Yoon. In addition, we had some other people who were ex-employees and ex-partners suggest the very same person.

For those who do not know Korean business methods, it is considered highly rude to directly email someone, but to instead get an introduction from a third party business associate. This meant we had to find someone who was not part of NC Soft to formally introduce us to Mr. Yoon. Fortunately, we had two people who could do just that, a former NC West employee and a former co-worker of mine who had started a media company which works with NC Soft on developing properties for the Asian market.

Introductions in place, we made the leap from US-bound people to members of the Korean firm. This was very carefully done, very slowly orchestrated. By July, we had gotten to the point that Mr. Yoon had passed us to Sangwon Chung from NC Soft’s Strategic Partnership Development Team.

For those who are unfamiliar, this is the group which handles things such as partnering with an existing studio or the development of new partnerships. This is the group we have been working with since early July. It is a very slow process, and still will take a long time to conclude.

The proposal as it stands right now (this is not a final form, just the current proposal on the table) is this:

The CoH IP would be spun to its own company, to handle licensing. This company would itself license the existing engine from NCSoft for the creation of a maintenance mode, using a binary copy of the i23 server.

The existing user database and characters are not part of this arrangement at this time, nor is the source code.

An arrangement is to be made to license the trademarks to the various Plan Z projects, CoT, Valiance and H&V, to create a family connection, and to allow each to drop the “Spiritual” portion of successor. This means they can make references to the original game if desired, and to enable the expansion of partnerships. This could be expanded for any of them, should the desire be there.

An arrangement is also to be made for the Atlas Park Revival project. As part of the informal agreement we have with them, they would be given an official stamp of approval, and the CoT game build would be licensed to them, to create a kind of “CoH 1.5” and migrate people off of the classic game engine before it finally becomes unsuitable (we expect this to happen around when Windows 9 is released, due to binary compatibility). This can be done because both APR and CoT run on Unreal Engine 4.

By being its own firm, the licensing company can also pursue other avenues which were unavailable before.

Why this group?

Because we approached them like another Korean company. We respected their company culture. And most importantly, we were patient. We had periods where we heard nothing for weeks.

The group itself began as three people. It has grown, some people more connected to the inner workings than others. Some former Cryptic and Paragon employees have given us advise on things ranging from what is needed to run the old server binaries to how the Paragon Market worked.

So, why come forward now?

Back in March, we were advised to wait until after August as a show of good faith. It is now September, so here we are.

Since we could not give full details to anyone without jeopardizing the whole thing before now, a lot of misinformation, rumors, and flat out wrong ideas got out there. To correct them could have broken the request, and therefore the trust, built up. So we had to let them stir, and do minor nudges to fix when we could get away with it.

So where are we now?

Right now, still discussing terms, ideas, limits. The challenges we have been given we stepped up for and handled. Likely there will be discussions and adjustments right up until the moment the deal is signed. The whole thing may fall apart. For all we know, everything done so far has been nothing but a delaying tactic so they can say once again that they tried to work with the community to no avail. But until such time that becomes clear, we will continue forward in good faith.

They could have ignored us from day 1, but they did not. They may not operate at the pace we would like, but they are at the pace they are comfortable with. At this point, the ball is in their court.

Ultimately, it is not the dozen folk here who have been in talks with are important here, but all of you. Those who said what you wanted, what you’d hoped for, who did not give up. We’re still not there, may never make it there, but we are not even close to giving up. And whatever happens, we can do it together.

Thanks to all of you.

So there we have it.  If all goes well the City of Heroes IP may actually be resurrected! Granted the post by Nate is laced with a healthy dose of “Don’t get your hopes up” but this is still the best news we’ve heard since City of Titans funded.  Looks like we may still never get to play the characters we spent hours leveling up, but honestly at this point I want back in for a return to the game-play and community I loved more so than the things I “owned” there.

Many gathered on the steps in Atlas Park days before City of Heroes shut down, hopefully they can once more.

So keep a lookout for more information folks, I know I will.  Maybe one day I can Superjump across Atlas Park once more, maybe even recreate Melvin Maddock my Spines/Regen Scrapper!

Until then,

/LFG Melvs