Total War: Warhammer cinematic vid impression

Good, but unsurprising news, TW and WFB are slapping together! This had been rumored for a long while and then leaked in some magazine a few months back so not a shock .  GW tried back in the day with Blizzard (which later became Warcraft), then later with Shadow of the Horned Rat, to get Warhammer on the computer successfully.  Frankly one couldn’t ask for a better mash up of brands and companies. Unless, of course, you were waiting for Total War: Medieval 3 which following their M.O., should follow Attila closely.

There are no gameplay bits in the following video, but if you’ve played any recent Total War games, you know what to expect minus the MAGIC and big monsters.   I’m pretty pumped for it, but then again I get a fucking giant boner every time any Total War stuff is announced or released and then have to untuck my shirt for like a whole day or look like BUSDRIVER.

Animation wise, awesome.  Not so great with the voice acting.  The Greater Daemon of Tzeentch at the end is wicked looking.   We have to remember that GW is in the process of destroying the Old World we grew up with– so we have to see how this leaks into the computer game. It may be that the TW game will coincide with the story of the destruction of the Old World, which would be fun to see rather than buying all the crazy expensive END TIMES books.

This reminds me I have not put hours into Attila nor played a game of 8th Edition in a looong time…

LotFP fans, we have our fucking Monster Manual

Deep inside the Referee book (now free) in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Grind House edition, the author laments the use of stock monsters stating that they just aren’t scary or interesting and everyone knows what an Owl Bear is and can do and a Githianki isn’t frightening at all after you’ve fought hundreds.  He encourages DM’s  that ALL monsters in games should be original creations entire. The man put his money where his mouth is by creating the excellent Random Esoteric Creature Generator published by Goodman Games.  What’s more, in the Referee book he describes at length how to USE monsters in game so they have a, well, monstrous effect and don’t become ZZzzzzz or just a combat challenge.  This is why LoTFP hasn’t had a bestiary or monster manual equivalent these years past until very recently with Raphael Chandler’s Lusus Naturae.  Reading only a handful of entries so far, I have been extremely impressed, much more so than his previous work for OSRIC, the Teratic Tome which every other creature had some sort of boobs on it…lots of cool stuff, but too many boob monsters, even for me!

This leads me to a tangent about how generally impressed I’ve been with two other very recent bestiaries, one for Numenera, which has TONS of amazing creatures and entities that could be used in any type of game regardless of Numenera’s very different system from D20, and the 13th Age bestiary which really fired up my desire to run the game once I got my hands on it last year. Both are inspirational tomes. While 13th Age’s monsters are pretty stock D&D in many cases, the USE and EFFECTS of them are very original and what an AD&D Bullette does and what a 13th Age Bullette does is quite surprising.  Numenera has some basic stuff, but many, many of the creatures just go so far off the deep end your campaign will never come back– including a WEAPONIZED MEME.

Back to Lusus Naturae– each of the entries I read so far are worth at least a session of play, and some of them, an entire campaign.  So if you are a hapless player in my LotFP or Numenera games– look out!  (not so much 13th Age, since it’s gonzo fantasy and while I want the characters in real danger, they are super difficult to actually kill by design)

lusus1
You rang?

 

All the gorgeous snatch…

So I was in FLA last week and on the beach at Flagler and Daytona.  There were a couple cloudy days and the wind was up and the waves were pretty rough, and one day there was a bit of a rip tide you could feel up to your calves.   I like to try to body surf, despite my hairy body and pasty white skin on display.   But, when I was out there on one of the wavy days, two girls, probably in their late teens, early twenties, were also out in the rough. These gals weren’t the skinny waif types.  Since my wife and kids were there as well, I was trying to not leer at them, but being tourists to FLA: they were wearing bikinis.  In the waves.  You can imagine what happened multiple times.

So, being both a creep and trying to keep up appearances I constantly moved away from the area that they were while keeping close enough to witness boobs come out of the waves as they normally do in this type of situation.  What was terrible though is that whenever I would body surf in and catch a wave that shot me to shore, I would invariably end up right next to them and stand up just as they were tossed and turned all over the place.  I would just swim back out to the breakwater and try to move up or down the beach– but riding the wave in bam, right there again.  They probably though, who is this dirty old man? While I was thinking: who stays in the waves when they have bikinis on? That’s my FLA story.

Secret Wars II: Cloak and Dagger

For those of you steeped in Marvel geekery in the mid-eighties, this is a fucking brilliant read about the abhorrent Cloak and Dagger Secret Wars 2 crossover.  I had come out of my “buy everything Marvel” phase around this time with just how shit ROM had become and how piss Secret Wars II was from the outset– even as a little kid it was obvious something had gone terribly wrong with comics that would only be redeemed by the shallow but beautiful Image comics late in the decade.   This was also the time I started getting into Epic Magazine, Heavy Metal, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and Cerebus (which was just a confusing mess for a kid really) so it was a distinctive shift from mainstream comics.  Reading this, you can fucking SEE why in all the gory detail.

Beyonder checking out some booty.
Beyonder checking out some booty.

I’m an actual man now for once

Because today, after 4 years, I beat Dark Souls.  I think I bought it the week it came out, and it took me longer to finish it than it took FROM SOFTWARE to make Dark Souls 2 and Bloodborne.

Shameful? I don’t think so.  Dark Souls is a difficult game, but it’s a fun one.  The fun keeps you coming back for more abuse, but when you get beat down pretty bad, or get stuck, or get into a farming rut (where the stuff you are trying to farm takes a lot of practice to git gud enough to beat consistently), you may need to take a break. I took a lot of them, some months at a time.  Unlike Red Dead and Bayonetta (and a few others), I kept coming back to Dark Souls.  It really is that good.  I’ve heard complaints about the camera and the controls (and the difficulty) but frankly the controls are brilliant, the camera is just fine and the difficulty?  Let me expand on that a bit.

First, the game takes skill in two ways. First you have to learn how to fight and if DS is your first FROM game, you are going to have to learn the fighting system.  The core features is that you need to actually hit your opponent with your weapon (seems odd but watch any World of Warcraft or Diablo 3 video for the contrast) and a lot of the things that work in a normal fight work in DS, like keeping distance, feinting to draw out certain attacks, circling, parrying and blocking.  Seems easy right?  Except that your AI opponents are doing some of the same things!  All of your moves take stamina, and that’s probably the strangest thing to get used to– when you move around or get hit or attack, you use stamina.  If you block an attack that exceeds your stamina, you will get staggered– and usually fucked.  Heavy attackers, like bosses, or groups of small attackers will chew through your stamina like crazy– and you have to figure out how to deal with it, either through the movements and blocking you do, or equipment because…

Secondly DS is an item management game, just like Torchlight or Skyrim.  There are tons of items and weapon sets in the game and most can be upgraded, some to godlike heights.  You need to know what type of weapons you want to use, how to use them (this takes a lot of practice) and then learn how to upgrade them.  I ignored the item management portion until the last half of the game and I suffered for it.

Unless I get the DLC (likely) I won’t pile into DS again for a long time, so bear with me as I take a trip down memory lane for my own future enjoyment here.  This has spoilers (just a few).

Bosses that were rough

Makes people cry.
Makes people cry.

The first bosses were pretty easy, nothing too crazy there.  However, when I got to this guy and his fucking DOGS, who is just a mini-mid-boss, I had to take a break from the game for a long time.  I just could not get past him.  The combination of the dogs knocking your stamina down and the massive stamina damage that the Capra can dish out is brutal.  As this is fairly early in the game, it was teaching you a lesson about what to prepare for later and how to deal with stamina issues like this.  I ended up beating him when I was just showing Matt the game on a whim over Xmas break (probably in late 2012).

Yeah, shortly after the Capra is the Gaping Dragon, which is one of the scariest monsters in the game.  I don’t think this would be a problem now since the thing is so big– but I had a lot of problems getting him dead. I used the sun bro to help and then it was off to Blighttown…

After that, I sort of got on a roll.   Even though Havel and the Hydra and probably a bunch of bosses I can no longer remember took me a long time to beat, none of them were a huge problem.  Queelag I did pull a summon in to help, but that was just to save time really.  She was a cool enough fight to not mind and also, tits.

However, Andor Londo is where I’ve heard people say the game says “fuck you, welcome to Dark Souls!” and they’re right.  There are two notorious parts to this beautiful cityscape.  The first are some knight archers that you have to come at on ledges.  Their bows are bows used to kill DRAGONS, so you go flying when hit to, you know, your death.  This wasn’t even a boss and it made me want to eat my controller.  After that, of course, is the most difficult boss in the game, which is actually two bosses.  Smough and Ornstein.

Not too friendly
Not too friendly

These guys are total dicks, and really this is a gateway to the game since the actual ‘plot’ starts after these two guys are beaten. You figure out (sort of) what you are supposed to be doing to beat the game except for just going around different areas after the bells of awakening have been rung. I had the sunbro AND another person help me with this fight, but I knew if I got stuck there, I would not finish the game, so sucked it up and farmed humanity from the rats in the sewers to run it as a human with FRIENDS.

After these dudes, I have to say the rest of the bosses were much easier, especially with the internet helping. Except, of course, for the last one. The final boss reminded me of the Capra Demon above in that he has completely relentless attacks, does massive damage and drains the shit out of your stamina bar. And then you die again and again and again. I think I was able to get past ALL of the knights guarding him without having to use an estus flask.

Here was my item Build at the end:

  • Black Armor Set – max upgrades on everything
  • Shield of Artorias – no upgrades (you need 34 STR to use it)
  • Black Knight Great Sword – max upgrades
  • Flame Stone Plate Ring
  • Ring of Steel Protection

While the boss fights are intense and ‘big events,’ in the game, Dark Souls is so much more about the exploration and the world you get to experience. It’s basically a huge undead prison with a lot of mean people nearby that want to fuck you up.  The way the world map is set up is like some huge puzzlebox that you unfold during play, it’s quite amazing.  I even enjoyed the worst area of the game, Blight town, quite a bit despite it’s insane difficulty working (slowly) through it.  And if you ever get stuck there, remember, at the end there are TITS, so keep going.  Though the story is explicitly sparse, there are some dramatic parts and some subplots going on.  What happens to that preistess in the beginning? What happens to the first firekeeper?  Who is that knight that you talk to early on?  What is going on with SUNBRO!??  That said, with both Bloodborne and Darksouls 2 out already, I am not sad to finish DS1, since there is MORE mayhem to wade through.

PVP

I did fight about 20-30 people in PVP.  Most of the fights were due to the Forest Covenant ring which summons you back to the forest when people show up there to kill them.  I was probably invaded 5-8 times and won only a couple of those invasions. Most of the time there was a fire blast and I was killed in those situations.  In the Forest, it was a bit more even but I still didn’t do great. I ran a SUPER tank build and a lot of times I would swing my sword and the other guy would not be expecting to get hit stunned and then would be lying down shortly after. I found the mutiplayer mechanisms, both invasions and helping people out to be extremely innovative and excellent. If you want to get invaded or help someone, you can, if not, it’s a single player game when you want it to be.

In the end, Dark Souls is a modern classic whose popularity keeps growing and growing for good reason, why would people play PVP in WOW or Guild Wars when they can PVP in Dark Souls?  And even if you experience just a part of it, say up to the Gaping Dragon at least, you will have experienced one of the best video games ever made.

A poem about Runequest

If you read a Bernard Cornwell novel,
you’ll feel the need to run a gritty, medieval RPG.
So you’ll go to RPG.net to ask the people there what to play,
You will find that they are young and ill-informed and in many cases,
cunts.
They will recommend Dungeon World and FATE
without reading the entirety of your question.
You will ask yourself are these really gritty or medieval?
The answer will be no.
This will remind you of an older game you’d long forgotten,
and you will search on the internet and won’t remember the name,
you will go to half price books
and look to see if anything there jogs your memory,
but it won’t
you will go on /TG and ask
and though the people there are explicitly cunts,
they will answer you with knowledge and thoughtfulness,
albeit rudely and with disdain for your person,
(Since you will likely be a summerfag or worse)
They will tell you Runequest 6 and you will coerce your friends to play,
they will complain about the long character creation
and lack of options for character powers, and at the table,
They will be shocked at the true horror of combat
at the blood loss and fatigue and destruction of limbs
and they will ask you to play more
and playing more will remind you of Bernard Cornwell
and you will need to read one of his novels.

Numenera and Pathfinder weekend

This weekend had a lot of RPG action.  I filled in for a buddy on a Friday night session of Pathfinder.  The session was fine but man, playing an 8th level character using Mythic rules just reinforced to me why I just do not like the 3.5/Pathfinder style of D20.  Too much crap, too much focus on what’s on your sheet than what’s going on in the game, skill system sucks.  The single combat during the session took most of it as well and as an archer, it’s was tough not to be bored (archers are nearly always bored in the fights). There was a character death (extremely rare in Pathfinder) so that was interesting.  I left my friend’s dude unharmed but with a scapular of demon ears and other parts around his neck, so there’s that.

And I ran Numenera since our full group couldn’t make it for 13th Age, or chose not to.   Most of it was hand made, I had an idea I would just wing the entire session since, with the bestiary in hand, it would be very easy.  But, I broke down and spilled into a pre-created adventure after awhile.  We didn’t get too far with the beginning of the session being character creation, but it was enough to give the system a stretch and a single combat.  I think the best thing for me is not the pool system or the D20 only rolling but the fact that everything has an excuse to be really weird. Certainly the basis for the game is fundamentally a ‘Medieval Fantasy’ game, but the characters will recognize no monsters, no constructs of thought from other games will be able to hold in light of all the weird shit everywhere. In addition to the strange stuff, it’s RANDOM too–the Numenera themselves will be a surprise even to me as the GM.  It has a weaponized MEME as a monster and that’s no joke.

I love the character concepts and how easy they are to make.  I built Mouth’s character for practice – a Hideous Glaive who hunts mutants… how fucking awesome is that shit?    If you are running the game, get the Character Options book for sure, taken with the Focus and Descriptors in the base game it feels like there are tons of options.   The base game was a bit stingy with these.  Originally I thought you could make up ANYTHING for these and was disappointed when they were constrained to a (small) set in the original book.  Since there are specific and odd mechanics attached to each focus and descriptor (more than just stock bonuses and skills) it just wouldn’t work if it was totally free form.

So there you have it, fun both days, but Pathfinder’s system gets in the way of the fun for me, though the GM was running it loose (which is why 13th Age is simply a better choice for D20 for high fantasy because it’s loose where it needs to be and tight where it needs to be, sort of like), Numenera was neat and strange.

yeah

Darkest Dungeon – Keeping people sane, or not.

Being a fan of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Call of Cthulhu and as a card carrying member of the OSR (is that even a thing?), I like my adventures mean and insane and not necessarily in that order. The first two games above have sanity rules, while my choice for OSR play (LoTFP) has no CODEFIED rules for it, which is just fine by me since then me (or Steve) as the DM’s can make up rules on the fly when necessary but holy fuck is it in there– that insanity that is. There is an adventure with a disk that if your character puts it on their head from the bottom (the logical way) it crushes your brains out, if they put it in from the top it downloads the ENTIRE internet circa 2009 into your memory and your character goes insane.

Anyway, I digress. A recent early access STEAM game, Darkest Dungeon, caught my fancy for it’s very fancy graphics and old-school dungeon crawler feel. It’s a party based RPG where you delve into dungeons and areas around an old mansion. You can have a very large party, but only four can go down into the depths at a time. The combat looks a bit like DRAGONS CROWN (holy shit yeah) but is entirely turn-based in play (so it’s OK for steve). A nice implementation of a dungeon crawler that is augmented by the fact that your characters gain MENTAL skills, either insanity or helpful mental quirks. Some are bad, some are good and some are situationally bad or good, which is pretty clever. This reminds me, of course, of Rome Total war where your generals and leaders gain traits based on what they are doing. Leave a decadent man ruling a town for too long and things get a little catamiteish after awhile. Have your general on the front line of battle all the time and that can lead to some very bad things as well, such as not taking orders and rushing headlong into battle, or injuries.

Darkest Dungeon’s aesthetic is early modern (influenced by Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and LotFP no doubt) with pistoliers and lepers and vestals (virgins?) in the character class mix. Not only can you customize your party, but as your characters get better at what they do, they can tune their skill sets (you can choose 4 out of however many you have) for what’s best for the party. It’s easy to sit down and play, and in that way it is pretty casual, but it’s also difficult and seems fairly deep.

While I’ve only played Darkest Dungeon for a few hours now, I am definitely interested in playing through it eventually, given I can stop playing Torchlight 2 with everyone first. I do think Dungeon of the Endless is flat out better than Darkest Dungeon but both are games one can own and love almost equally– graphics wise both are simple GORGEOUS games.