D&D Old School is New again…

•July 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

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This week marks the offical release of the newest edition of Dungeons & Dragons.  40 years this game has been moving along in and out of popular culture…sometime maligned and sometimes lauded.  Love it or hate it, at the end of the day it is the grandaddy of a wonderful and vibrant industry of creators and free thinkers that have brought to us a wealth of games from all genres and a great varying of rules and mechanics.  There is in my humble opinion a RPG/Sim out there for everyone (Fantasy Football I am looking at you).  In my life I have purchased, played, and run a large number of RPGs, most pen and paper, and a handful of digital ones (Mass Effect series being my favorite of that category…More on that later).  No matter what I always return to my first love…D&D.  I got my start at the ripe age of 8…and I never stopped playing it.   Other games have come and gone yet D&D has remained the most constant presenter in my life of hobbies.

Over the past 14 years we have seen 2 other editions of the game come out.  In 2000 Wizards of the Coast fresh from their purchasing of TSR, delivered to us a massive evolution of the Game with 3rd edition.  Gone was THAC0, gone were positives to Armor giving your a negative armor value, gone were many things that for 26 years were, what many considered sacred cows of the game.  Some things were familiar and stayed the same, the Vancian Magic system most readily comes to mind.  This edition of the game changes a lot of things and perceptions of how the game was played.  Miniatures became staple of the game, we started having debates about Euclidean Geometry when it came to movement, we began a new arms race with the inclusion of the feat system.  All these things were good…and all these things were bad to some degree or another.  Me, myself and I?  I kept playing the game they way I wanted too.  Story was key to me and always will be.

2008 saw the release of 4th Edition, which changed the face of the game again.  I say in a new an interesting way…many will disagree with me.  That is okay they can disagree with me all they want I still like and will defend my appreciation of 4th editions for the years to come. 4th added a more robust tactical element to the game, with new mechanics and the what would seem the death of Vancian Magic all together in its place a powers & spell system that revolved around at-will abilities, encounter abilities and daily abilities.   The game took some interesting steps forward…yet I kept playing the game they way I wanted too.  Story was key to me, and always will be.

So this leads me to today July 15th 2014…the offical release of D&D 5th Edition. (Granted they are just calling it D&D which is fine by me)  So lets take a look at this new yet oddly old feeling edition of the game.

First things first mechanically speaking the game retains much of it’s basic wheel house from the past 2 editions.  Roll a d20, add a modifier, subtract any modifiers, calculate result…and PROFIT!!! Err see if you succeeded or failed.  Pretty darn easy.  However they in this edition at least in the Starter Set and the Basic Rules that you can download for free right now, go ahead I’ll wait…

Dum de dum dum dum de dum dum de dum de dum de dum dum….

Got them?  Good.  Now where was I oh yes it feels like they have taken many of the rules from previous outings and distilled them to a more basic set of rules.  They have fine tuned the engine by being more minimalist with things. You don’t need to use a grid map and miniatures anymore, you don’t need to worry about a over expressive tactical combat simulator.  It can all return to the Theater of the Mind, so many people remembered from the days of their youth. However they added a very modular aspect to the game this time around…want to use a battle map and miniatures.  The rules are still there just optional.  While we only have the basic rules we know the more expanded and crunchy Player’s Handbook due out next month in August will include a series of these modular rules to add to your game or not. They took the approach of really allowing you as a play group to customize your game experience to fit your groups play style without having to kit bash a lot of house rules. While you could do that in previous editions this time around it is really feels like they have made this seamless and easy way of doing things.

So far with only the 4 basic classes available to us that Class design has been handled pretty darn well this edition. The classics are there Fighter, Rogue, Cleric, and Wizard.  They will be joined by the other mainstays like Druid, Paladin, Bard, Sorcerer just a name a few more again when the Player’s Handbook is out.  However lets get back to the four classes we can talk about. The Starter Set comes with a High Elf Wizard, a Dwarf Cleric, a Halfling Rogue, and 2 Human Fighters.  Each class feels exactly like they should.  They are those comfortable gloves that fit wonderfully.  Mechanically what I find great is while we are given 2 fighters, they are very different from each other.  One is a front line melee fighter, and the other is a more nimble archery based fighter. Moving on from them is the Rogue not only are Halflings rigged (Racial Ability Lucky…Rolled a natural 1 on that attack roll…go ahead roll it again and take the 2nd result)…Rigged I tell you they rogue can really dish out a punishment with it’s sneak attack and other tricks.  The Cleric and the Wizard have gotten some upgrades in the spell-casting department.

The Spell System the “innovation” I think is incredible. You have a number of spell slots of various levels (as in original D&D through 3rd Edition), but they’re independent from the spells you prepare at the beginning of the day. When you cast spells, you can cast any of your prepared spells, as long as the slot is high enough – and low-level spells may be more effective when you use higher level spells. So, if you have three first level spells and prepare sleep, magic missile and say Tenser’s Floating Disk, you could cast three sleep spells during the day and nothing else, or one of each of the spells, or two of one and one of the other…This flexibility, in a lot of ways, combines the sorcerer and wizard from 3rd Edition.  However Clerics get the same flexibility which is great, and that get further modified by the Cleric’s chosen domain.  Right now all we have access to is the Life Domain…more are coming to be sure.

Speaking on character advancement.  It feels much like 4th & 3rd editions. Your character gains abilities and features as you level. At 3rd Level your character gets to specialize. Want to focus on being that Fully Armored Defending Tank style fighter then that’s the specialization you take, just another great way to focus your characters efforts.

However characters are not just a set of mechanics.  Backgrounds come into the mix. Story is a huge emphasis in this edition and they open up the flood gates on this concept. While we all make characters and even sometimes we come up with backgrounds this edition it brings additional and fun way to do this.  By choosing your characters background from a list of things like Folk Hero, Sage, or even Criminal you help shape your characters abilities and skills.  You also might get tangible benefits to your character. Like being from a Noble might get you a free stay at an inn, or maybe you get to stay with the Mayor of the town(your friends can stay in the barn). Your a folk hero, mostly likely you worked on a farm in your characters youth. Chances are you might have Animal Handling as starting skill.  This background choice also comes with some great elements to spice up your character…Ideals and Flaws.  Granted you can of course make up your own but their suggestions can help flesh out your character if you are drawing a creative blank.

What is good about getting characters to do this is that when a character plays into his strengths and flaws the DM can award the character Inspiration.  Think of this kind of like a Benny from Savage Worlds.  It allows the character to gain Advantage on a task by spending the inspiration, or to give another player his inspiration if they feel the PC deserves it. So speaking of Advantage, just what the heck is it…

Well one this editions big new mechanics is Advantage and Disadvantage, probably one of the most innovative and unique mechanics in the new edition. Instead of passing out modifiers, the DM instead passes out Advantages and Disadvantages: the former lets you roll 2d20 and take the better result, the latter has you rolling 2d20 and taking the worse. It’s a design to curb a bloat of conditional modifiers, such as those for flanking, cover, terrain advantage (“I have the high ground!”), aid another, and what have you. Instead of worrying about stacking modifiers from a bunch of different sources, just make it into an Advantage or a Disadvantage. It speeds things up and is a great way to grant on the fly bonuses for clever actions…or negatives for stupid ideas.

I am going to wrap this up as it’s past my bedtime and I am starting to get fuzzy.  Onver all the feel of this edition is back to Story…all the rules and changes and additions lead to one thing. A game that is easy to play, and has good clear rules so that the Story can take the driver’s seat. From just the Starter Box alone and all the musings about the upcoming Tyranny of Dragons multi-Adventure coming out in a few months. The Story you will tell around the table looks to be the most important part agian. I for one am looking forward to many great stories being told with this edition, and playing the game the way I always have wanted too…Story is the key to me, and always will be.

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I suck at blogging!

•July 15, 2014 • Leave a Comment

[[Tansmission Line Open]]

So I said it…I suck at blogging.  Last Blog September of 2013…its now July and I am just now touching this again.  So A LOT has transpired in this last few months of Blog Silence.

Little news…Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. got good…real good.  Enough to make me eat a little crow about my last post about it.  Still not better then the CW’s Arrow.  However still a solid outing by the end of the season.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier RULED!!!! Seriously it kicked so much ass…

D&D 5e has released…I will be writing about that here in a few days.

My friends Josh and Kris got hitched in New York!  Huzzah for them!

And the biggest news of all.  I got cancer! YAY!!!  Which is one of the reasons I am back here writing.  I don’t share very often.  I mean I share opinions but I don’t share deeper things very often.  So I feel like I need to share here.

I am not mad…I am upset…in fact I am strangely at peace with the fact I have a potentially lethal illness.  I just know I am going to be fine.  I have the best family and friends that surround me and are just fueling me with support and positive thoughts it is really awesome. Also medical science has come pretty damn far and while I have 18 more weeks of Chemotherapy to go.  I am in good hands and feel ready to make this just another long but still kinda short stepping stone in my life.

So I am going to try and make 2 weekly contributions to this blog every week from now on.  Mainly I’ll be talking about nerdy nerd stuff.  Movies, Gaming, TV…the regular ilk.  If you don’t see me post…BUG ME about it.  Seriously. I need to make myself write…and share…and in general live more.

And just because I am pimping this all over here is a fundraiser I have to help me offset some of my medical bills.  Pretty much everyone who reads this blog has already seen this so I am not really gonna expect much traction from this but I need to add it any way. Let’s Help Wes Kick Cancer’s Ass!

Anyway…off to concocted my first actual blog to blog about….

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Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

•September 26, 2013 • Leave a Comment

==Transmission Lines Open==

agentsof

Okay I have had a day to process this and think long and hard about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

If you don’t know what I am talking about you have been living under a rock for the last 6 months.  They have promoted the hell out of this show.  It paid off as the ratings were huge for the show.  However the bigger question is did it really live up to all the hype?

On a scale of 1 to 10…1 being the M. Night Shyamalan’s Last Air Bender adaptation, and 10 being The Empire Strikes back.

I will have to put this at a solid 6.

Don’t get me wrong I am a avid lover of Joss Whedon and his many works (Alien Resurrection did pave the way for Firefly…horrible movie but the foundation of an outlaw crew with intriguing characters was there).  However the show was good…not the great “nerd’ hope we have been waiting for.  In fact as far as a Pilot is concerned it was good.  I can honestly say the same can be said for his other works like season one of Buffy, season one of Angel, and even season one of Dollhouse(Which ended on a high note making me really look forward to 3-4 more seasons of that show instead of just one).

It was fun, quirky, had Whedon Wit, set the tone of the show, and over all I was left feeling good about it.  Seeing Gregg Clark return as Agent Coulson makes me happy. Very very Happy.  Over the course of the Marvel Movie Universe having him be that bridge, our window as it were into this world is great.  He continued to be the Agent Coulson we know and love.  However I can’t wait to see more of him in the same vein as the Short “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer…”, in that he showed why he is an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. I mean he kicked ass in that little short. I want to see more of that from him in this show.  What I don’t want is every ass kicking moment to be hogged by Agent Ward or the reluctant Agent May.

Speaking of Agent May…MING NA!!! WOO! I love her, always have and always will.  Very happy to have her in the show, and looking forward to getting more of her back story which I hope is not the cliché “I was a field agent, got my whole team/partner killed…I will never again be responsible for another person blah blah blah.” I hope the Whedon Brain Trust will come up with a more intriguing back story.

I personally liked the characters of Fitz and Simmons.  They look like they could be fun.

However I was disappointed in a few things.

Over all the idea of a origin story for a new superhero or a already established hero (like I dunno Rage might have been nice) would have been a better way to go.  I get grounding the show in the Movie universe, so making him an Extremis candidate is a little disappointing. I was really hoping for them to start looking to tap into the well spring that is the Marvel Universe…Heck if at the end he put on multi-colored tights and called himself Captain Ultra I would have been happier.

capultra

Yes…he really is a character in the Marvel Universe!

==RANT MODE ON==

SERIOUSLY ARGH!!!! EXTERMIS!!!! BLARG!!!! There is weaving in and around the movies and then there is just plain old laziness.  GIVE ME A DAMN MARVEL HERO!!!! I would have taken Squirrel Girl over what we got…oh and I know Iron Man 3 out on Blu-Ray…plug plug plug…GAH!!!! FFGGET!!!!

==RANT MORE OFF==

Agent Ward thus far is a let down.  Sure he had a comedic moment with his “Grammy” comment, and I am sure there will be a bit of chemistry between him and Skye. However thus far he is nothing more than your average “Daniel Craig James Bond-ish, Chip on his Shoulder, I work better alone” guy.  I would have perfered a little more than that, just a small bit more to make him more interesting. Which is my hopes that we will get that.  However as of the pilot…Agent Grant is uninspired.

Speaking of Skye…she better have a technopathic kind of super power…or her I can hack your shit better than anyone will become old hat.  She is thus far flat…I want a character like Claudia from Warehouse 13.  If she develops that way then I will be a happy and satisfied camper. I trust Joss and Company to write a good and solid female character and if Skye is supposed to be that character then they need to get cracking and turn her into something more than the current sum of her parts.

Fitz and Simmons, while I previously said I like them and they could be fun, I also recognize their introduction was rushed and other than them being hyper-smart young geeks again that is about it. They will either be fun or just blasé background techno-babble characters.

So at this point you might be wondering…”But Wes…this is the first episode more will come!”  And if this were any other show I would agree with you.  This isn’t any other show. This is a Joss Whedon show.  Let me step back and offer why I am being overly critical like I am at this pilot.

In the actual pilot of Firefly, we are not only introduced to the Crew of the ship Serenity, we know who they are. We get a good base understand of the series regulars.  By the end of the episode we are if not in love with them all we certainly want a 2nd date, or will be willing to go to 3rd base at the end of the show.  At this point I don’t have that feeling for any of the characters expect Coulson and well we have had a slew of movies to get know and love him.  I expect more and will wait for that to happen and I will keep giving the show a chance until they don’t deserve it.  However I am not going to lie…they have a few hurdles to jump if they even want to touch the CW’s Arrow…that show is bad ass…and I am a Marvel fan!

So again…6 outta 10 “I couldn’t Help myself that corner was so dark, I just had to…”

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Nerd is the new black!

•September 25, 2013 • 1 Comment

==Transmission Line Open==

So of course this isn’t a new concept or idea. Many have talked about this subject ad nausea.  However I would like to take the time to speak about my thoughts on the matter.   I am a nerd, a geek, a dweeb, all those things and more.  Of course so is everyone else in this fine world.  We are all nerds about something.  Whether that is Dungeons & Dragons or watching Football, we all have that moment to geek out about something we love.  The difference is that the things I and my friends tend to geek out about will lose what is commonly now referred to as the “Muggle” population (people who aren’t gamers or comic nerds really). They will look at us like we are speaking a different language.  Then usually one of them will bring up the Big Bang Theory…

 

==RANT MODE ON===

I DO NOT LIKE THE BIG BANG THEORY!

Why? It is a really simple explanation for me. When you really come down to the brass tacks of it all. The show isn’t for nerds, at all. It really is for people who are sort of friends with nerds.  For that guy who is like “yeah my buddy plays Magic or yeah my Brother-In-Law is in to that”. Really all of the humor in the show typically revolves around Sheldon or one of the other cast being really socially incompetent and just very non sequitur thing like “That’s crazier than trying to play Battletoads!” or “That reminds me of my N64!” or “Blah blah something something Game of Thrones!”

I absolutely love shows like Community and Arrested Development. They are smart shows about dumb people. Big Bang Theory is a very dumb show about smart people. Those characters are there for the audience to laugh at and make fun of, usually just like they did in High School.

In short, the show is a poor attempt at ‘nerd-humor’ by simply dropping references, creating intentionally awkward situations, and it has a god-awful laugh track.

==RANT MODE OFF==

However now the world is rife with so much Nerd stuff it really boggles the imagination. Avengers, Dr. Who (yes I know it’s been around for years but in the US it just recently got huge), Batman, hell even My Little Ponies have made a comeback in a huge way…with men 18-34, and pre teen girls. 

Television is where they great bastion of it is.  I mean I had to get a new DVR just so I can keep up with the all the new Nerdy freshmen and the returning shows.  I am not usually around to see them when they air as usually my time is consumed by being out with my nerd herd playing games and the what not. My current draw is Star Wars Miniatures: X-Wing, and Star Trek Attack Wing.  Both great games based in general on the same rules mechanics.  I will give a review of both here soon.

So in the coming weeks that follow I think it will be good to take the time to review these new Shows, Games, and movies as they come out.  Also if you can think of anything else you would like my loud and obnoxious opinion on please let me know.  Just don’t ask me about The Big Bang Theory…

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Hoi Chummers! Watch your Back!

•September 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Shadowrun-5

SHADOWRUN >noun : Any movement, action, or series of such made in carrying out plans which are illegal or quasi-legal on behalf of a corporate, military, or governmental organization that favors anonymity.

Let me first start off by saying next to Dungeons & Dragons (in all its forms mind you) Shadowrun is my next favorite Role-Playing Game (aka and from now on RPG yes I figure folks are well aware what the acronym for a Role-Playing Game is, but you never know who might stumble on this blog and wonder what in the 9 hells I am talking about).

Any way back to the topic at hand. This year at GenCon Catalyst Games released the 5th Edition of the Dystopian Future Sci-Fi Fantasy RPG. I have been a fan of this game since it’s original release in 1989. At that point I was 13, and and an old hat at gaming…no really I had 5 full prepubescent years under my belt as a avid D&D player…and I am sure by many standards if folks looked at my 14th Level Cleric/Wizard Sir Richard who wielded a Two-Handed Sword and wore plate-mail as he cast Fireball you would just shake your head in shame a walk away from me…I was 8 when I made him and the group I played with didn’t care (I was playing the Wizard and the Cleric…they were quite happy about that). Well a good friend of mine at the time pulled out this book that had this wicked cool cover on it.

shadowrun1sted

A dark seedy alleyway, a elf dressed like Billy Idol, plugging in to a computer terminal…A scantly clad woman about to unleash magical electrical death, and a urban commando who seems to be Native American with uzis shooting at what looked like the cast from Planet of the Apes. I was in!

Set in not so far future of 2050, the world as we knew it changed at the end of the Mayan Calendar. Magic & Dragons returned, Dwarves and Elves came later…we got to Deck into the Matrix, and commit amazing cybercrimes. (And no…not that Matrix…1989 remember).

Wizards sling spells, Trolls sometimes speak with a proper British accent (hey if their from England what would you expect). Corperations that make Google look tame rule the world from the shadows, and all the while your stuck in the middle just struggling to get by and earn your next Soy Meal at the local Stuffer Shack.

So let us just fast forward to today…the game year is now 2075, technology and magic are still jockeying for position and the Megacorps have continued to keep the world in the palm of their hands.

So in a nutshell the setting is a rich and intriguing world of Elven Cyborg-Samurai, Spirit Summoning Ork Shamans, and Corporate Douche bags.

So is the new edition worth it?

 

I would say yes!

While there are not a a ton of changes from the 4th edition mechanics, there are enough that in my not so humble opinion helps streamline and balance the game.

Gone is the Build Point system…I am a staunch believer that almost all (not all, but most) RPGs that use a Build Point system by nature lend themselves to a very lopsided and easily exploitable. Shadowrun 4th Edition had the latter and man if left unchecked the PC, (player-characters, remember that is for the uninitiated) go a little crazy.

So in it’s place they brought back the Priority system. Which leads to the mantra of 5th Edition of “Everything has a Price” . You set up your character in a series of choices that will always leave something wanting. Making it much easier for a group to build their characters so that everyone will have times to shine doing what they do best. I have always liked the Priority system in previous editions so I am very glad it’s back.

Limits – previous editions had what I can the dice glut issue. You get your skills so high you roll so many dice you’ll NEVER fail, and always have an epic win. While 5th Edition allows players to accumulate larger dice pools, there are limits on how many of those dice you keep on any one test (Skill, Attack, Damage resistance, etc.) I think it is a nice change to what was an over bloated system.

THE DECKER IS BACK!!!! Okay so its not a big deal to some folks the earlier editions of the game had hacking expert characters called Deckers. Then they changed the name to Hacker as the “Matrix” changed and hey it it changes lets change one of the more fundamental icon things about the game. Well they learned and the hackers are now Deckers again and the cyberdeck has returned. I love much of the new rules that surround Deckers and the Technomancers(folks who are for all intents and purposes technopaths – think that kid in Heroes that could talk to machines).

Magic is still awesome…’nuff said!

Armor now has one value…no more ballistic and impact armor. For those that don’t know. Armor had two ratings one that was good against ranged attacks (like getting shot by a gun), and the other rating was your defense against melee attacks. It has been like that since first edition, and frankly I like the change, quicker book keeping in combat and honestly just makes life easier.

Riggers look solid from the get go. However time will tell and as long as we get a solid Rigger Book early on that will remain true.

One last thing I will mention that I likes…Assault Rifles are FRAKKING AMAZE-BALLS!

Are there things I don’t like?

So far not much…I still hate for all the ease with which they have fixed things like Armor, the Limit system, and the other things I like…

==RANT MODE ON== WHY DOES CALACULATING PLASTIC EXPLOSIVE DAMAGE STILL USE SQUARE ROOTS!!!!!==RANT MODE OFF==

Also I think the Mystic Adept might need a little tweaking they seem a bit OP…however more time and running the game will be the ultimate judge of that.

Really to find things I don’t like will really require more reading, going over the rules with a fine tooth comb, and playing the game itself. I am sure I will find things to gripe about…and when I do I will post it here.

So what are my hopes for the Edition…New Box Sets…the Denver Box Set from back in the day was amazing. I want more supplements like that…seriously go look it up. It was so awesome it had maps of Denver, (That were accurate for the time it was released) and some great over all material. I want more of that.

Any way those are my first impressions.

At this time I give it a 5 out 5 Renraku Red Samurai…Oh and it still has a pretty sweet cover!

shadowrun5thed

 

Guess who’s back!?!

•September 23, 2013 • Leave a Comment

You know some days…life kicks you.  Then you go down for the count…and it’s hard to get up dust yourself off and move on.

Well life kicked this Blog in the squarely in the NUTS!

Years have passed and the dust and cobwebs have built up.  The door hinges need oil and the windows need to be replaced.

So hey ho here we go!

I am back and my plans are to start speaking to the world…well toss my thoughts out into the Æther and see where this all lands.

So check this space in like a hour!

Its Friday…and I haven’t blogged in nearly a Year!

•October 1, 2010 • 1 Comment

:: Begin transmission ::

Good Lord.

Nearly a year and I have kept this blog silent.

heh

Slilent Blog

Kevin Smith might be turning over in his grave right now.

Oh Kevin Smith isn’t dead.

Anyway, if I can actually get off my ass maybe I can resurrect this blog spot.

Oh and I got Type 2 Diabetes…WOOoooOOOoooOOO!

I got some stuff to write about so as I have said before watch this space.

::  End of Line  ::

 
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