Finally a D&D board game

4th Edition D&D is really a board game. It has a lot more in common with Descent, Warhammer Quest, Heroquest and the like than say, Paranoia or Vampire the Masquerade.  That said, 4th edition is quite a bit closer to the original D&D games from back in the day: i.e.: extremely combat with miniatures focused.    With the release of 4th edition, I was shocked that the ‘starter’ set was a few books and some chits and dice in a box rather than a massive box filled with miniatures (prepaints or not) and lots of hard cardboard dungeon tiles a la the British Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Board game (only available in England).  That starter set would have been cooking with swamp gas.

Well now Wizards is finally getting on the warhorse and is planning to release Castle Ravenloft D&D Board Game and guess what it looks like? Descent!

ravenloft STUFF
Look at all the shit you get in the box!


Being crushed by my enemies…

Being driven before them…

and letting them hear the lamentation of my women!

That’s the story of my first campaign run through Mount and Blade : Warbands.  Being a seasoned veteran of the old version of the game I feel I was slightly overconfident and went into some siege battles that decimated my miniscule warband– then I wandered into three armies of Swadians who had their way with the rest– what’s more, while running away (all alone) I ran into another full army who attacked and had their way with my lonesome self.  I took down 15 or so before, yet again, being captured, probably raped and pillaged.  Though you don’t lose all your good/goods/weapons,  there is a random roll and I lost my elite tempered sabre, about 2K worth of flax, and, of course, all of my followers are locked up in some castle jail somewhere.  A desolate place to be in the game– but who can stop playing even after constant and massive set backs?  That’s the beauty of the game: you and your fellow ‘lords’ are effectively immortal– you just keep going.  Raise another army, train them, go on some trading runs and then you’re back in the field after an hour or so destroying the Swadian masses.

For those that don’t have it yet, if you have the old game and just want to play the single player campaign: wait until you can get Warbands for cheap.  It’s really just an incremental update rather than a new version of the game for single player, which I am fine with as it’s a fantastic indy game.  Sure you can get married and learn some poems (!?) but that’s really not enough to warrant a purchase unless you are dying to get some multi player in.  However, if you have been waiting for multiplayer all these years– immediately go out and spend the cash as that’s where this version shines.

Parent's basement finds

While the amount of stuff in my own basement that I’ve lost track of continuously grows, the amount of stuff in my parent’s basements diminish by the year as they pawn off boxes and furniture with random drawers filled with gaming erm… jewels.  This weekend I ransacked my dad’s basement and here is what I dragged out of darkness.

Swords and Spells

While I’m a big fan of the D&D as the wellspring from which most gaming today flowed, the game itself has a history of pretty terrible rules, many of which exist in the nether realms of these small books from back when I was in kindergarten. This little book could be the very reason Games Workshop decided to make Warhammer Fantasy Battle back in the day as the rules are really just that bad: and to think, I actually played this as part of some early 80’s D&D campaigns.  This will probably sit in my basement shitter for a month or so and then get put away along with all the other old D&D stuff.

Ah Paranoia–an RPG with near 100% death rate for the Player Characters during any given SESSION, let alone a campaign. Sure sure, there were 6 clones of the PC’s each, but that basically meant that no campaign could go more than 6 sessions for fear of the entire cadre of characters being wiped out. It was fun and a refreshing change from dungeon crawling or being driven insane by elder things back in Jr. High, and this is certainly the best edition. Like many of my boxed games hidden away in dark recess of my basements, this came with some extras. In the bottom of the box looks to be the complete chit-set from the Ogre influenced Battlesuit game as well as a mess of stand up cardboard armies from Steve Jackson.  I’m assuming they were used to represent the characters during their ill-fated adventures.

The reason for my delve into the dank basement over the weekend was to search for a copy of the original Squad Leader, which I remember seeing in someone’s attic/basement/shelf back in the 80’s. While Panzer Leader is really not what I was looking for, I grabbed it anyway. It had a touch of mould on the box, but everything else looked great for it’s age and the counters are surprisingly high quality compared to today’s games. In addition, the extras include a chrome-plastic Transformers weapon, a few cavalry figures from THIS comic book ad, a staff from one of the lava dudes from Crystar the Crystal Warrior, a mess of counters for some Napoleonic SPI game and what looks to be the Dark Tower dragon (with his base broken off).

All in all, some great and terrible finds.  Sadly I could do the same sort of crap hunt in my own basement and be just as surprised.

Cinderella Story– with horse archery!

Mount and Blade: Warbands released today, continues onward from humble beginnings into a major release that hopefully has the Elder Scrolls/Dragon Age/Gothic/Fable creators a little nervous as this tiny indy developer has shown HOW TO PROPERLY DO THIRD PERSON WEAPON COMBAT.  Need we say more?  Demo to level 7 but you know deep in your heart that you need the full version.

This is what it’s all about people:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V30tyaXv6EI

More replacements for HOMM 3

Anytime anything even remotely resembling Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is a whisper out the gas-bag of the game industry I pester my brother, let’s call him Mat and my other friend, let’s call him Steve, and embarrassingly enough, yet another friend, let’s deem him John, to TRY SOMETHING NEW as they have been playing HOMM3 whenever the mood hits them for countless years now.  While I see the kitsch value the graphics are far worse than HOMM2 and the gameplay is so tired it’s rumplestilskin’s ileus.  It’s impossible for me to believe that someone hasn’t done it better.  As the years go by and my recommendations are thoroughly ignored by all but John who briefly dabbled with Dominions 3 (granted it was still for probably over 100 hours), I start to think– fuck I still love Master of Orion 1 the best– is it possible that no one has captured whatever shit-magic these fallen friends see in HOMM3?  But I digress as this post is to chronicle yet another HOMM-like recommendation that will be completely ignored: Disciples 3: Renaissance.  On or near July 15th here is the conversation that will happen regarding this blog post:

Steve: remember that post Mute made about that Homm game? The one with the weird art?

John: mraak

Mat: No.

Steve: I thought about trying it but I just forgot and then when he asked about it we laughed at him.

Matt: yeah.

Some d&d..er Pathfinder

Not without some trepidation after a disasterous D&D session at a bachelor party in 2005 did I agree to a day long Pathfinder session for a buddy’s birthday.  Having only had the chance to play an RPG a few times, and with my majority exposure to version 3.0 being the excellent CRPG Temple of Elemental Evil, I said yes.   Since it was in the company of friends, food and beer, there was no question at all that it was fun, so I want to focus on a few things in the system that irked me a bit.  While the session was entertaining, it ratified some of my previous feelings that the D20 system has a very odd abstraction of combat that really isn’t very good when you get right down to it.

First is initiative.  Pathfinder’s initiative system makes zero changes from 3rd edition, 2nd edition and as far as I can remember uses the same initiative system as basic D&D.  Each character rolls a D20, adds some modifiers and take their attack turns in that order.  Regardless of the type of action the character takes, their initiative order does not change at any point during combat, regardless of ‘wounds’ and regardless of the action they took until a character or enemy is incapacitated.  Essentially, characters have 6 seconds to act in and order based on an arbitrary role at the beginning of combat.  That said, I failed to see the real advantage of going first.  Compared to other systems (I’m tempted to say ‘more modern systems’ here but will abstain) the initiative system has a frustrating lack of tactical depth.  In most RPG’s I’ve played or GM’ed since playing D&D as a kid,  a character’s speed and actions taken during their turn effect the next time they can act, how they are able to defend, etc.   While the initiative system in this version of D&D works, it has a distinct lack of allowing the player to make interesting choices.

Second beef is the single, massive spread of pips die roll to attack–i.e.: the basis for the entire D20 system.  In combat you make a couple choices, for example: whether to move attack/ attack move whether or not to use a feat, etc.  What it really boils down to are modifiers on a single die roll where each pip represents +/-5%.  If you roll high enough, you get to roll another die for damage.  If you roll low, your turn is over.  There are no attack rerolls, no way to expend power points or whatnotall to enhance your attack, and while the choice of feats to use can be somewhat interesting, it typically only increases or decreases the attack roll by 5-10%.  What’s more, your attack roll has nothing to do with anything your opponent did previously, and your opponent cannot react at all to your attack, whether it’s an (abstracted) flurry of fists or a massive haymaker with a halberd.

Third, and this is the big one for me, is the lack of narrative combat options: i.e.: stunting. During the session I kept wanting to blurt out some heroic, stylish, wuxia-infused description of a clever use of the scenery, my weapon or the opponent’s position to not only spice up the proceedings, but to gain some extra dice/pips to hit, etc. I realized during the session that I hadn’t played a game without some form of stunting, whether it was Werewolf, Exalted, Amber diceless or Feng Shui for a decade or so. I’ve been exposed so much to players always stunting everything that I had forgotten just how like a dry wind through a soulless city (like, say, Houston) narrative roleplaying combat was without it.

Years ago during a session of Feng Shui, an old school D&D player (who we will call Steve to protect the innocent) had real problems wrapping his head around the stunting system while fighting some mooks inside a fully stocked kitchen no less. After some frustrating attempts at stunting and goading from the other players he would simply say “Medium punch to no specific location.”    He eventually picked up the torch and can now stunt to consistently help other players to roll on the floor in laughter or state the softly spoken ‘badass’ compliment.  Yet, this phrase is the essence of my issue with the D20 system. Combat becomes an exercise of moving miniatures, adding up the bonuses and rolling one die representing an abstracted set of combat actions that take exactly six seconds. If you roll high you get to roll another die– and that’s it. While miniature-based, Pathfinder/D&D is just not good miniature combat (like say Confrontation), nor does it capture the narrative possibilities that exist for pen and paper RPGs. For me personally, stunting in combat is sine qua non. Without it, my Confrontation/Warhammer/Blood Bowl miniature game player brain takes over and it’s all about abusing scenery, wishing I had a lot more than just one little plastic figure to control and little quirks in the rules rather than a flowing narrative.

Amazon Diablo 3

Without even a published release date YEAR announced (I’ve heard from 2011 to 2013), Amazon has started selling pre-orders of Diablo 3 for ~60$.  Is that even the final price?  Is that the final box art?  Are you giving a giant company a chance to invest your money for up to 3 years and gain interest on it for a pre-order that has only imagined value and from the price is not any type of deal at all, especially since electronic delivery methods may be the only way the game files are actually delivered to the user by the time it comes out?

Mass Effect 2 x360 quick PUNCH

(SPOILERS AHEAD YOU BASTARDS)

My initial impression of ME2 after 4 hours of play.

– Character import – AHHAHAHAH you die and they bring you back to life to justify taking your lv’s away. GAY. Why even let me import shit. I like playing the “same” character but it just feels very forced and uncreative.

– Freedom’s Progress – It’s the first non-tutorial location you go. It’s a Alien’s(the movie) rip off for music and visual feel, very borrowed. Feels good, but it’s a rip off non the less.

– Sound – The cut scene sound is WEAK. Something just not right about it, it does not feel EPIC. just watch some space scenes from the original star wars triligy to see what i’m talking about when you compare the two.

– Graphics in the space cut scenes – The scale of ships seems off, but this was a weakness carried over from the first mass effect, the sci-fi space visuals are just average in my opinion.

– Sci-Fi – Science failure, talk of wireless networks with firewalls etc that Edi hacks? super gay FAIL. Complete 20th century earth tech/terminology just to make it “easy” for the audience to understand, or maybe the writers are the uncreative and lazy.

– Sci-Fi – SUCCESS – the data logs.  listening to the stuff the writers came up with the flesh out the ME2 universe is a great touch. It’s not Dune level awesome, but it’s the best thing out there sci-fi rpg wise on the x360

– AH hits of hot lesbian sex – Choose a female character, chat up your female crew, insinuate same sex loving. Catholics beware, it’s WONDERFUL STUFF!