Some of you may have noticed that the affiliate link to the right has changed. I’ve recently become an affiliate of Noble Knight Games. The benefit to you, the reader, of this change is that you can get a lot more from Noble Knight than you can from Funagain. Noble Knight carries board games, RPGs, miniatures, novels, and other things, and they deal in both new and used products. If you buy something from them, I’d appreciate it if you did it through this site; it won’t cost you anything but an extra click or two. Thanks in advance.
I just read this post on At-Will, and it got me thinking. The author comes at the subject of knowledge checks in D&D from a slightly different perspective than I do. There seems to be a general feeling that a knowledge check either propels the story forward (because you succeed, and get the knowledge you need), or throws a road block in the way of the story (because you failed, and didn’t know what you needed to). I don’t think it needs to be that binary.
There’s a school of thought in indie RPG design that says that failure should never be a dead end; it should always serve to make things interesting for the players, to complicate their lives, and to provide more fuel for the story. To an extent, this is already true of most skills in D&D. Think about it: when you’re trying to sneak past the guards and you fail your Stealth check, what happens? You get caught, meaning that you trigger a combat, skill challenge, role-playing scenario, chase scene, or any number of other exciting things. If you fail your Perception check when you’re keeping watch, you likely get ambushed. That’s exciting, too.
I think a lot of people tend to treat knowledge skills (by which I mean skills like Arcana, History, Religion, and other skills whose main purpose is to convey information and represent how learned you are in a field) as binary switches: you either know it, or you don’t. I think they can be a lot more interesting than that. What if, the next time your wizard makes an Arcana check to try to figure out what a set of magic sigils does and fails, rather than just saying, “You don’t know what they mean”, you instead tell the wizard what they mean, but change some of the important details? Suddenly things get interesting. The wizard knows something about the sigils, but that something is likely to get the party into trouble if he acts on it. If your players tend to meta-game (and really, who doesn’t, to some extent or another?), he may realize that his roll was pretty low, and he may think that some or all of that knowledge is suspect. Now he has a choice to make. To make that choice even more interesting, consider requiring knowledge checks for information that you were just going to give the players, so that you’re occasionally giving them good information for bad rolls. That way, they may be wary of the information gained from such a roll, but past experience may cause them to take a chance on it anyway.
Go check this out. You won’t be sorry.
I just got back from my FLGS where they were holding a special event: Looney Day. “What is Looney Day?”, you might be asking yourself. Looney Day is the day that Andrew Looney of Looney Labs comes to the store to talk, play games, and sign autographs. It was awesome.
I brought with me a copy of Fluxx and a copy of Zombie Fluxx to be signed, both of which Mr. Looney graciously signed for me. He also threw in an autographed promotional Andy Looney card, which went directly into my Fluxx deck.
When I first got there, Mr. Looney was explaining the rules for Are You the Traitor?, a party game about lying, table-talk, and reading people. Luckily, I had already played the game before, so he didn’t have to restart his rules explanation for me to sit in. It was a great game, with six players (my previous games have all been with four, and it’s definitely better with more players), and I even won the game.
Next, we broke out Monty Python Fluxx, and during this game Mr. Looney was actually playing four simultaneous games: Monty Python Fluxx, Chrononauts, Treehouse, and his upcoming super-secret game, which you’ll have to wait to find out any more about.
All in all, it was a really good time. Andrew Looney is a really nice guy, and is a lot of fun to play games with. He’s very animated when playing his games, and clearly loves what he does.
When I got my Nintendo DS two Christmases ago, I got The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass along with it. I loved every single minute of that game. Twice. It was, and is still, the yardstick by which I measure other DS games, and I doubt that I’ve enjoyed another DS game as much since. So, you can probably imagine that when The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks was announced, I was excited. Oh, yes I was.
I bought it with a Best Buy gift card over the holidays and started playing it immediately. At first, i really liked it; it was more of the same, which was exactly what I wanted. However, the more I play the game, the less enamored of it I become. Things that I found fun in Phantom Hourglass have analogs in Spirit Tracks that simply seem tedious, and where the former game seemed to have a lot of personality and charm and soul, the latter seems somehow soulless. That’s not to say it’s a bad game; mechanically, much of it is very sound, just as much as these same mechanics were good in Phantom Hourglass. The dungeons and temples, too, are well-constructed and enjoyable. But something is missing.
Posted on : 09-02-2010 | By : Brian | In : D&D, Indie Games, Links, News, Random Stuff, Video Games
I’ve been pretty bad about keeping this blog current lately. I’ll make an effort to try not to do that anymore.
At any rate, I just thought I’d post quickly to let everyone know that I’m still alive, and also to talk about what’s been on my mind and what you can expect to see posted on this blog in the next couple of weeks. In no particular order:
1. Steam. I love me some Steam. Steam, for those who are unfamiliar, is a digital video game distribution platform on the PC. Over the holidays they had some killer deals and, as a result, experienced serious growth. Because of this growth (I assume) they’re offering more great deals than ever before. They used to always have a weekend deal, which the still do; now, though, they have mid-week madness, too. Good stuff. Some games that I’ve purchased since the holidays on Steam, some of which you might hear about in more detail later on: Dead Space, Far Cry 2, Freedom Force, Red Faction: Guerrilla, Torchlight, Medieval II: Total War. All for cheap (as in, not one of them was more than $10).
2. D&D, as always. Haven’t played for a while (the last time was in November, I think). I’ve got a game day scheduled for later this month, toward the end, and I’m pretty excited. We’ll probably be wrapping up the current adventure in that session, which will give a friend of mine a chance to step into the DM chair for a little while. Also, if you’ve noticed that the most recent session report is not yet up, you’re very astute. Here’s a cookie. It will be going up soon, don’t worry.
3. Indie RPGs. I recently donated to Haiti through DriveThruRPG and, as a result, got a coupon for a bunch of free RPG PDFs. I got some indie RPGs that I’ve been wanting for a while, including Don’t Rest Your Head, Chronica Feudalis, Full Light Full Steam, Beast Hunters, and 316. I’ve read all of DRYH and played it once (more on that in a future post), and I’m in the process of reading through both Chronica Feudalis and Full Light Full Steam. I’d also like very much to get my hands on a copy of the Mouseguard RPG, but that may not happen for a little while.
4. Other games. I got various and sundry video games for Christmas, some of which you will be hearing about. Expect to hear about Dragon Age: Origins, Left 4 Dead 2, Metroid Prime Trillogy, and The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, and possibly some others.
Posted on : 23-08-2009 | By : Brian | In : Links, News, Reviews, Video Games
I’ve played a few video games lately that I thought were worth mentioning in one regard or another. Some of these games have been out for a while; I got them through Goozex, a game-trading website that gives you much better deals on your old games than Gamestop does.
Hitman: Blood Money: This is actually the first Hitman game that I’ve actually completed, and I liked it quite a lot. Some of the missions were very difficult for me to complete gracefully, but you can jump into any mission you want to at any time once you’ve beaten it, so I may go back and remedy that at some point. Like its predecessors, it’s less an action game and more a game of patience and problem-solving. You have a target (or, in many cases, multiple targets) that you have to eliminate. You’re rewarded for not killing other people, for not being seen killing people, for not blowing your cover, and for not leaving any trace that you were there (including bullets in your targets’ heads). The best kills look like accidents, and it’s entirely possible in most (if not all) missions to go in with no guns and complete the mission. Again, I liked it a lot.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time: I may wind up giving this one back. I liked it at first; I’ve always been a fan of these action/puzzle-solving games, and I like spatial puzzles like those presented in the game, and in the most recent Tomb Raider games. I must say, though, that this game is frustrating despite its time-rewinding feature, largely because I feel like I’m fighting the controls and the camera every step of the way. The camera is obstinate and uncooperative, frequently becoming lodged in places that give me no useful vantage point. The controls are floaty and imprecise, making it difficult to accomplish the precision that the puzzles require of you. All of this may have been better on the Xbox, its original system; I’m playing it on PC, and I’m not having much fun.
Gun: Guess what? I’ve decided I like western games. At least, I like this one. I’m having a lot of fun shooting bandits, riding around on horseback, and layin’ down the law, Eastwood style. It’s great fun.
The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition: since you can swap between the original graphics and the new graphics on the fly, I can tell you that the new graphics are a huge improvement, though the animation looks strange at times. The voice work is good for the most part, though the game has its fair share of delays between lines. The hint system is great, and it saved me from frustration many times, particularly toward the end where there’s a lot of pointless and annoying backtracking over fast stretches of Monkey Island. Worth the $10; not sure I would have felt okay about it if I’d paid more.
Plants vs. Zombies: Yeah. The title says it all, really. This is a fantastically fun and addictive little game. It gets difficult (especially in the unlockable mini-games), but it ramps up pretty gradually, allowing you to get a handle on what all of your plants can do, and on what all of the zombies can do. Definitely worth the money.
The Sims 3: As many have said, it’s The Sims, with a “3″ after it. Is it more of the same? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not. It is more of the same, but they’ve managed to update enough so that it remains fresh and fun. If you like Sims games, you’ll probably like this one; if you don’t, I doubt this one will change your mind. If you’ve been curious about this crazy Sims thing that everyone’s been talking about since you got out from under that rock, this one’s a good entry point into the series.
Batman: Arkham Asylum: I just got done playing the demo, twice. I like the game. The brawling is pretty simplistic, but is very cinematic and makes you fell like a badass. The stealth portions are good and, again, make you feel like a badass. In short, this game makes you feel like Batman, a badass. I liked the demo. I’d like to play the full game when it comes out. Do I want to spend $50 on it? Well, that’s a bit thornier. $50 seems steep for this game; I’d pay $20 or even $30. Maybe I’ll wait for it to come down in price a bit. Or try to get it on Goozex.
So I attended the D&D Canned Food Drive at Days of Knights in Newark, DE, and it was a blast. We played a super-abridged version of the Lovecraftian Last Breath of Ashenport adventure released on D&D Insider with five players. My friend Mike played a dragonborn fighter with an executioner’s axe, while I played the changeling psion. There was also a dragonborn paladin, a pacifist healer cleric (can’t remember the cleric’s race), and an elven two-blade ranger. We played through some role-playing and investigation at first, and I got to make use of some abilities (namely, a +19 Bluff and the ability to communicate telepathically) to good effect. Then we fought some fish-men out in the rain.
I must say, I like the psion’s powers a lot. The power point mechanic works pretty well, and with three at-wills that can each be augmented into three different versions, plus some dailies and utilities, I only felt like I had run out of interesting things to do once, during the second encounter. The second encounter was pretty sloggy, against a tough solo that seemed to have never-ending hit points and high defenses; we were whiffing quite a lot.
The first encounter, though, was very satisfying. I got a chance to inflict someone with lots of psychic vulnerability, then whack them with psychic damage and a big attack penalty. I also got to command someone to jump off of his rooftop perch and attack his ally, which is always fun. Unfortunately, I only got to use that particular at-will twice in the game, since it requires some setup and isn’t much use against solos with no minions.
All said, it was a really fun way to spend the day, and I got to donate some canned food to charity, too. Not bad.