Zephyrus of the Anemoi

.the ramblings of a radman.

Category: Games (page 1 of 9)

Targets can be killed in their sleep in D&D: prove me wrong

A topic of conversation that regularly comes up in the various D&D communities in which I’m involved is that of attacking an adversary that is sleeping. The argument breaks down into two camps: those that believe the sleeper can only be immediately killed if the attacker can deliver enough damage to the sleeping target to reduce its hit points to zero and those that believe a sleeping target can’t defend itself, therefore guaranteeing the player can deliver a killing blow.

As always, I recommend leaving the decision up to the Dungeon Master, but I feel that the underlying argument comes down to one of a misunderstanding as to what hit points are meant to represent. Here’s my attempt to quickly summarize my interpretation of hit points in D&D (and specifically, how I try to utilize them in the games that I run).

Hit points aren’t really a measure of a character’s blood loss or anything so specific as how much damage you’ve taken physically. Instead, they are the numerical component of a mechanic used to negotiate contested combat. Did you, Cordric the Magnificent, hack-and-slash your way through a dungeon full of baddies to arrive at the inner sanctum of the vile Rippah the Malevolent with only 5 HP left? You’re not physically holding your entrails in your body through sheer force of will. You’re just worn out and beat up and could make a mistake that allows someone to slip past your guard and deal a fatal blow at any time.

Sure, you’ve probably been cut here or there, particularly that time Ashford the Axe rolled a nat 20 two rooms back and hit you for 33 damage. But Ash didn’t bury a hatchet in your back and leave you clinging to life. He just landed a blow that cut deep enough to distract you. Sure, if you don’t tend to it soon, it will be a problem, but you’re not in danger of bleeding out in seconds. Instead, you’re distracted, in pain, and struggling to maintain the upper hand.

So what does that have to do with attacking a sleeping adversary?

Let’s presume for the moment that you’re the DM. In the most common scenario, a sleeping NPC isn’t in combat. You haven’t rolled initiative, and your player is likely sneaking into their adversary’s camp. At this point, if you want to allow Francis the Forgiving to die in his sleep, you can. If you don’t, then you should come up with a reason why they don’t. Only ask for a roll if you want their death to be contested. It doesn’t even have to be a combat roll. In this particular case, rolling the player’s Stealth vs. the NPC’s Passive Perception would be my recommended option. You can even give the NPC disadvantage what with the visit to Nodsville and all. Not all deaths in D&D have to be the result of rolled damage. Mix it up a bit. Do what works best for the story you’re trying to tell.

And remember, the rules exist to help everyone have a good time, but the beauty of being a Dungeon Master is that—sometimes—you get to rewrite the rules to make sure everyone has a good time.

Besides, it’s really important to remind the players that if they can do it, so can the monsters. 😈

The Tower of Terror, or How To Almost Party Wipe Your PCs for Fun & Profit

Last year, I started playing D&D with my cousin and a few friends. Two of them had never played D&D before and some had only played a handful of times. A session or two later and my teenage son joined in the fun. As we neared the end of Lost Mine of Phandelver (yes, it took us a year; we are still figuring out ways to improve our combat efficiency so that they don’t take as long), two more players joined us, bringing our party total to 7 (I do say, that’s an auspicious number).

Spoilers for Lost Mine of Phandelver after the break…

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Goblins & giants & bears, oh my!

This summer, I started running my own Dungeons & Dragons game for my friends using the 5th edition starter campaign, Lost Mine of Phandelver. It’s a pretty solid opening campaign, especially for a group of people that range from haven’t played in several years to “What’s a d20?” There are plenty of opportunities to learn the ins-and-outs of the Forgotten Realms, how to solve a problem without violence, and what to do when the players go off the rails for a bit. I’ve learned a lot and my players have been really enjoying themselves.

One of the greatest struggles of any D&D campaign, however, is scheduling. With five players and a DM/father to four children, trying to align schedules can be akin to befriending a beholder. Especially during the holidays. After more than a month with no opportunities to play together, we managed to lay our schedules upon the altar of good fortune in a runic pattern capable of opening a gateway to Toril in the Prime Material Plane so that my adventurers could continue their journey. Alas, it was not to be.

Our Druid managed to injure her back and apparently the D&D books don’t actually give you magical powers, despite everything I was told as a child. As such, healing her was not an option and we decided to find an alternate activity for the evening.

Luckily, my cousin (one of my players) decided he would run a one-off campaign for the rest of us. We quickly rolled up a few characters (or grabbed a pre-gen from Wizards’ website) and dove into an Adventurer’s League campaign for a night of mayhem.

One of my favorite aspects of D&D is the collaborative nature of the experience. While the Dungeon Master sets out to guide the players on a journey with delineated plot points, adventure hooks, and designated goals, once the game starts it becomes a joint effort to tell the story. Players often find ways to alter the course of the adventure and force the DM to think on his or her feet. In this particular instance, while being mobbed by a swarm of miniaturized goblins, I decided to keep one as a pet by shoving it in my bags. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that its curse would soon wear off and he would restore to full size. In an effort to keep my new companion, I asked the DM if I could determine the nature of the curse and make it permanent. While explicitly stated within the pages of the adventure that the curse would wear off in time, my cousin let me put the goblin in a confined space and make a Strength check (a die roll with my character’s Strength used to add a bonus on top of that roll) to keep the goblin compressed when the curse wore off, preventing him from returning to full size. My new companion, Pocket the Goblin, gets to travel with me on my journey, all because the DM decided to “Yes, and” instead of “No, but”.

In the end, my character’s choices won’t bear much significance, as our next session will return us to our regularly scheduled campaign. But I still had a blast playing again and have some great ideas for future encounters for my players, thanks to my brief stint as an adventurer. I’m looking forward to digging out the Dwarven Warlock, Thu’udin Hjalgrim, for his next excursion, whatever it may be. He was a lot of fun to play, and I hope his future journeys are filled with laughter in the face of darkness.

Gloriole Jump

With Destiny nearing its end and Destiny 2 ramping up for release, I feel like it’s finally time to share this microstory I wrote about my favorite ship in D1.

WARNING: VULGARITY AHEAD (not profanity, I mean actual vulgar language; you’ve been warned)


“Dude, I found two holes in the wall of your cockpit. What’s that all about?”

‘Oh, that. One of those is my glory hole. The other is my gloriole.’

“What the fucking what?”

‘Yeah. You put your dick in one and the ship’s AI gives you a blowie. It’s awesome.’

“And the other?”

‘Exposes it to pure Traveler’s Light.’

“Which is better?”

‘The glory hole. But if you put your dick in the gloriole, it glows in the dark for a week. And if you fuck a Vex with it, they explode.’

There are, like, a crapton of iOS sales right now

Like, so many that I don’t even have the strength to write a paragraph about each of them. I’m just going to link to them here. You should find the ones you’re interested in and check them out. Or just buy them all. That works, too. Whatever. They’re all on sale, possibly through Christmas, but you should probably buy today, just to be safe.

Infinity Blade – $0.99

Infinity Blade II – $0.99

Infinity Blade III – $0.99

Waking Mars – $0.99

Transistor – $2.99

Don’t Starve: Pocket Edition – $2.99

Prune – $2.99

Attack the Light – Steven Universe Light RPGFREE!

Space Age: A Cosmic Adventure – $0.99

868-HACK – $2.99

Banner Saga – $4.99

Tales From Deep Space – $1.99

Til Morning’s Light – $1.99

Lost Within – $1.99

The Martian: Official Game – $0.99

Hitman Bundle (Hitman GO & Hitman: Sniper) – $0.99

 

Also, pretty much every Tin Man Games gamebook is on sale, so if you’re a fan of Gamebook Adventures or Fighting Fantasy, you will probably find something to love here.

Hey! Listen! Wake up, Lonk!

Lonk's Awakening Icon

There is currently a Flappy Bird-esque game on the App Store called The Legend of Zeldo: Lonk’s Awakening DX. No, that is not a typo. This is an actual game someone developed, because of reasons. It’s not terrible, as far as Flappy Bird clones go. It has a unique inventory system where you can collect items as you go which affect the game play (Pelican Boots let you dash ahead a short distance, Irony Boots increase the speed with which your character flies), which almost alleviates the frustration of the core gameplay conceit. Almost.

Lonk's Awakening Gameplay

It’s free, though. And it will likely only exist for a short period of time before the developer receives a cease & desist (even though it is clearly parody and protected, the dev likely isn’t willing to pay a lawyer to prove that), so if you think it might even be slightly interesting, you should pick it up now before it’s gone forever.

Room 12 Studios: Official game developer of games and other game-type things

It’s been nearly a year since the first prototype of Ecliptic showed up on my phone and now, after a lot of work, a fair amount of luck, and an egregious amount of procrastinating, it’s live on the App Store.

The bulk of the development was handled by my cousin, Alex (who wrote up a nice little blog post about the app, as well). But, as with all Room 12 Studios projects, the whole project is a group effort. Between beta testing, hiring a real composer, and pushing each other to get stuff done (all while working full-time jobs and/or raising children), it was a pretty interesting experience.

But enough about the boring stuff, let’s talk about the game.

It’s not fancy. It’s not groundbreaking. It’s not even award-winning (except for the award for Best Game Currently Released by Room 12 Studios). But it is fun. It’s great for kids. And the music is pretty awesome. Plus, it’s free (as in beer). And if you like the app and want to support what we’re doing, you can buy the Theme Pack as an in-app purchase for the low, low price of <insert the cheapest paid value available on the App Store in whatever country your account is located>. The entire game is entirely playable without paying a dime, however. And there are no ads (unless you count links to our other apps, in which case, I’m a liar).

Speaking (sub-consciously typing) about our other apps, be sure and check out iPredict, as well, if you haven’t already. It’s a quirky little fortune teller with an attitude. It received an update today, as well, which added some beautiful new animation and support for 4-inch iPhones and retina iPads. Be sure to check it out.

(also comes in a Lite version, with 100% fewer calories)

So go, download Ecliptic, and tell us how awesome it is. Or don’t. But share it with your friends, anyway. Especially if any of them decide to take pity on us and keep us as pets. We’re really tired of working for a living.

Dust off that French Maid outfit, it’s time to play Tanto Cuore!

I’m not sure why—maybe it’s because it’s Friday the 13th; maybe the full moon has got the world’s blood up—but whatever the reason, several iOS app developers have decided to throw an impromptu sale on the App Store. This is good news for the rest of us, though, as some really great games are on sale for just a dollar each.

As you may have guessed from the title, one of the apps is none other than Felicia Day’s favorite card game, Tanto Cuore. In this game, you play as the master of a mansion and you collect maids. Or something. I really don’t know, because it seemed confusing and I was only half paying attention to the episode of Tabletop in which they played the game. But it looked like a pretty good deck-builder, so if you’re into that sort of thing and like anime French maids, then this game should be in your wheelhouse.

Continuing with the tabletop gaming theme, the Euro-style board game Agricola is also on sale. If you’re a fan of the game, this is an excellent adaptation into a digital form. If you’ve never played it before, the game has an excellent tutorial system to get you started while playing your first game. The entire goal of the game is to build your farm from a 2-room hut to the most profitable farm in Europe, saving countless starving villagers.

And at this point in my post, I’m realizing that most of the great games on sale today are all Playdek titles. The one I’m most excited to start playing is D&D Lords of Waterdeep. This game was also featured on an episode of Tabletop, and it’s an interesting take on the Dungeons & Dragons universe. Instead of controlling a group of heroes as they quest for gold & glory, you join a shadowy group of powerful men & women secretly controlling everything that goes on in the city of Waterdeep. It’s sort of like Monopoly but with more backstabbing and less parking.

And finally, the only non-Playdek title on my list is a Disney title. Now, I heard you groaning back there, but hear me out. It’s for Star Wars Journeys: The Phantom Menace. No, wait! Come back! Seriously, I know that the movie is not for humans everyone, but this is a far better way to experience the story than watching the movie. Most notably because George Lucas wasn’t involved. Plus, it has a podracing game! Anyway, check it out. It’s only a dollar. What do you have to lose? I mean, aside from your self-respect.

Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s continue on the sci-fi trend we’ve got going here. If you’re a fan of Star Trek and you enjoy strategy games, you’re going to love Star Command. Set out on a mission to save the galaxy and try your best not to lose any of your crew. But good luck, because space is dangerous and humans are fragile. Assign your crew to Command, Science, or Engineering teams and give them jobs. Firing your weapons is a minigame in and of itself, but watch out for invaders on your ship. And hope you don’t get a hull breach, or else anyone nearby will be lost forever.

Bringing it back full circle to the fantasy and tabletop gaming of the start of this post, Warhammer Quest is also on sale. To date, Warhammer Quest is still my favorite tabletop dungeon crawler and it seems unlikely that any game will ever supplant it. While the iOS game is not as great as the actual board game, it’s still pretty fun and provides a heck of a lot of value for just 99¢. Plus, there are several expansions that add all new heroes and environments to explore. Happy treasure hunting!

That’s the last of the $0.99 sale titles that I felt were worth sharing, but there is one more title you should check out, because it’s free. Ridge Racer Slipstream may be just another Ridge Racer title and is not even close to the best racing experience on the iPhone and iPad, but it’s still a fun arcade racer and you can’t beat the price. So pick it up while it’s free, at the very least.

So go buy games and have some fun this weekend. Besides, what else were you going to do with that six bucks?

No, you’re wrong; Nintendo should NOT exit the hardware business

With Nintendo reporting a loss of $456 million dollars last year, armchair-CEOs have once again begun clamoring for Nintendo to “get out of the hardware business” and start making games for iOS, Android, and PCs. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating:

This is the wrong solution.

Nintendo is not Sega, the last great console-maker to exit the business and focus solely on software (something which has led to rather pronounced decline in the quality of games from their studios, though correlation or causation depends on the data, which remains scant). But, they do need to either create hardware capable of playing the games that “core” gamers want (such as Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, Elder Scrolls, etc.) with all the bells and whistles and fancy lighting and super-pixels or whatever, or else aim for mass-market appeal with devices that cost less monies, increasing the likelihood of families being interested in purchasing them for the home.

The Wii was a smash hit because it was cheaper than the competition and it provided a gameplay experience that was easy-to-learn and encouraged community (not in the online way that Xbox Live does, but in the actual face-to-face way). The Wii U is a step backward from that, thanks to its higher price tag and poorer selection of games. The Wii may not have had all the shooters and hardcore action games that the last-gen systems had, but it got pretty much everything else and massive numbers of other great games that embraced the physical nature of its control system (Boom Blox is a prime example of this).

Nintendo makes amazing games, it’s true, but what allows them to do so is the fact that they control the entire experience, just like Apple does with OS X and the Mac or iOS and the iPhone/iPad. But people don’t buy game systems the same way they buy computers and smartphones, and most casual gamers aren’t compelled to upgrade to the new system when the old one still works fine for everything they used it for (Wii Sports, Netflix, Virtual Console).

But putting their greatest assets (in this case: Mario, Link, Samus, and Kirby) onto other people’s platforms will reduce them to a shell of what they are now. You won’t see amazing games like Super Mario Galaxy on those systems, because Nintendo won’t have the advantage of developing the hardware and software in tandem to create new and unique gaming experiences.

What we want Nintendo to do and what Nintendo needs to do are not the same thing. I’d love to play Zelda on my iPhone, but not at the cost of the most influential gaming house the world has ever known. Instead, I want Nintendo to focus on creating affordable systems and valuable software. Let us buy Virtual Console games on the Wii U and play them on the 3DS (and vice-versa). Provide us the opportunity to purchase games once for all the systems we own (instead of requiring us to buy three copies of one game so that we can play it with our kids). Bring us new, big Mario and Zelda games every few years, but also give us more games like NES Remix that provide incredible gameplay at prices that scream “Value!”

If Nintendo can stop trying to retake the number one spot and instead focus on providing the best games at a price people are willing to pay, they’ll do well for themselves. But to throw all their control away to make a quick buck on iOS and Android is a fool’s errand.

In your future (“you” being the iOS/Android cage-rattlers), customers will clamor over every release of a classic title they loved to play until Nintendo runs out of classic titles. And they will run out of classic titles eventually, because they won’t be making another new title worthy of becoming a classic.

On Facebook and the Oculus Rift

So, if you haven’t heard yet, Facebook announced today the purchase agreement of Oculus VR, Inc., the company behind the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset. Many people are worried about what this means for the device, others are concerned (as always) with privacy issues, and still others are just puzzled as to why Facebook would want it in the first place.

I’m not terribly worried about Thing 1 and Thing 2, but that’s just me. I’m sure the Oculus Rift will still come out and be much the same device as we expect it to be now. As for privacy concerns, the Oculus Rift is designed heavily around gaming and a lot less around “3D Facebook”, so the data it can gather from users will be quite different (though some of it could be a pretty big deal) than what Facebook is typically after. Surely there will be data worth mining, especially if Facebook decides to try and take on Google in any aspects of its business again in the future. But, for the most part, tracking which games you play doesn’t provide nearly as much critical data as what websites you visit, what you buy, and who your friends are (and what websites they visit, etc.)

As for why Facebook would want the Oculus Rift, I find that a much simpler conundrum. I can think of three key reasons for Facebook’s desire to own the VR company.

  1. If Facebook owns Oculus Rift, Google doesn’t. It’s a no-brainer that Google would be interested in Oculus Rift. Their Glass project focuses on augmented reality rather than virtual reality, but there is still a great deal of overlap. Plus, since Oculus Rift is self-contained hardware designed for playing games and watching media in 3D, it appeals to a different subset of tech culture. A Glass-powered Oculus Rift would give Google all the same data that Facebook likely wants, but it could also be paired with an Android smartphone to give Google more access and ecosystem control. Facebook has more money than it needs and buying up a company simply to prevent Google makes business sense. Especially if Facebook already has an idea on what to do with Oculus Rift.
  2. Facebook is looking to a future without Facebook.com. No, Facebook’s social network isn’t going away, but it almost certainly could one day. MySpace was unstoppable until it wasn’t. Facebook could simply be trying to make sure that if and when that day comes, they’ve got additional revenue streams to keep things going. Wearable tech is shaping up to be a big part of the future and Facebook is trying to get in on the ground floor, rather than waiting until it’s too late to carve out a niche (like they did with the Facebook phone). By selling hardware that could be the definitive way to play games and watch movies in the future, Facebook is positioning itself to move away from social networking and to become an ecosystem of its own. Which brings me to…
  3. Facebook is starting its own gaming platform and network. Right now, if you ask a console gamer if they’re on Xbox Live or PSN, you can’t be certain of the answer you receive. But, if you ask a PC gamer if they’re on Steam, you almost always get a “Yes.” There are other alternatives to Steam out there, but none with the clout and popularity of Valve’s little digital store that could. Considering that Steam is making a play for the living room, Facebook could have seen the Oculus Rift as a way to get a foothold there, as well. Sure, they could just try to work side-by-side with Steam and other PC developers to make sure their hardware is the definitive virtual reality headset, but Facebook could also be planning to simply build their own Steam alternative. And why not? They already command the largest curated list of friends online. Their social platform has been used to effectively leverage mob tactics to generate a large amount of revenue for a number of web-based games. Imagine turning that power loose on Borderlands 3 or Grand Theft Auto Eleventy-Five. Steam has already integrated Facebook to make it easier for players to find their friends. But that requires players to link their Steam and Facebook accounts. Facebook could find all your friends instantly and tell them what games you’re playing lately.

Of course, there are major positives and negatives to Facebook’s acquisition of Oculus Rift. What looked like promising tech that could change the face of PC gaming might now become just another tool to harvest personal information. Major players may decide not to support it for fear of alienating gamers that don’t trust Facebook with their personal data. Sony now has a major opportunity, though. Project Morpheus will likely be a PS4 exclusive at release, but it will almost certainly find its way to PCs via third-party drivers. Sony could even release official drivers if they felt they could make enough money on the hardware to justify not controlling the profits from games (or to prevent Microsoft or someone else from doing the same).

I will be keeping an eye on Oculus Rift and the VR market, in general. Things in this space are just heating up.

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