Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not a Post

Due to the Easter Holiday I was unable to post this weekend.  Regular posting should resume this coming week.  My sincerest apologies.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

D&D: Not Just a Table Top Game

Courtesy of Darknight0x0
            Greetings!  Good news! My character no longer has cancer!  Woot! It only took three cards from the Deck of Many Things, which gave me a wish spell that I used to eliminate the magical cancer.  Then on the next card it forced Endos to betray me (a.k.a. almost kill me)… at least the cancer is gone.
            Anyways, this week I thought would be a good one to give a review on the game Neverwinter Nights 2, a PC game that is basically a D&D campaign on a computer screen.  The game begins with you, as a relatively normal person living in a small village, participating in some local competitions and festivals and such when all of a sudden the village is attacked by an army of goblin-like creatures looking for a magical shard that, unknown by the villagers, is in their area. That’s the start of the game, now here’s the review:
In the realm of games that relate to D&D, Neverwinter Nights 2 (NWN2) is definitely one worth playing for any D&D enthusiast.  The key factor that stands out about NWN2 is that the game takes actual material from D&D books and pastes it right into the game text.  Special abilities, weapons, spells, and equipment are almost entirely from one version or another of D&D.  One would think that this would lead to a repetitive gaming experience, but with the minor changes in the rules and the addition of several “new” classes the game remains relatively fresh. 
With this said though, the story of NWN2 is quite basic as far as role playing-fantasy games are concerned and on top of this it is a rather long game (30 to 50 hours depending on if you know what you are doing).  Because it is so long and the story so generic, the game may become dull after awhile unless you are good at finishing long games.  If it is any consolation, later chapters are far more interesting than early ones, which are primarily concerned with your character trying to figure out what the heck is going on. These issues are easy to overlook though due to the general enjoyment you will experience from developing your character into his/her most powerful state.
 However, there are three major issues in NWN2 that hold it back from being a truly great game.  The first of these is that the camera is often frustrating and unable to show corners adequately.  The second issue is that there are a few bugs and glitches in the game that, while not crippling, are a nuisance and can be challenging to work around.  The third, and worst, of these though is a mediocre AI system.  AIs will walk right through traps that are plainly visible, ranged characters will charge right into battle, spell casters won’t cast spells, and everyone will guzzle potions like they were water.  Now you can work around this by micromanaging your party, but this becomes increasingly demanding as your abilities mature.
Overall, despite a few lack lust technical issues, the game is worth playing even if it’s just for the sake of saying you did.   Whether you finish it though is up to you…

Until next time.


Player Tip of the Week

Don’t take what happens in game personally outside of the game.  Sometimes it is easy to get engrossed in your character or party dynamics when playing through a campaign, which can lead to issues outside of the game in real life.  Just because your party’s Chaotic Neutral Sorcerer casted Flare in your character’s face or made fun of your character in game, does not mean that they are insulting you in real life. 
For instance, when Endos in game makes fun of me having a rat tail, or when his Imp Familiar tricked me into making a deal with a demon to remove the rat tail (he gave me cancer instead) my character was certainly angry with them, but once we were back to reality there are no hard feelings.  In some circumstances, the opposite can happen and arguments may ensue.
Point is, don’t take what happens in game personally.  Most of the time it’s just a joke; so be sure to take it like one.

A Ranger Courtesy of Grandanvil

DM Tip of the Week

            Try to balance the number of enemies per encounter with your party’s strength.  Sometimes it can be rather difficult to determine what the optimal number of enemies per encounter is because every party is different.  For some parties a swarm mentality (many weaker enemies) is the best where as for others a boss mentality (one very powerful enemy) is best.  The problem with a swarm is that enemies might be too weak, making the encounter simple and boring, while the problem with a boss is that against a party of at least 3 players, one enemy can be outmatched by simple virtue of having only 1 action each turn, vs the 3 actions the party has.
            For instance, in my last campaign I took liberties from Lovercraft and made Cthulhu the final boss of my campaign.  However, everyone in our party was about level 10 so I had to Nerf Cthulhu’s attacks to make it a more fair fight; giving him a base attack that did 4d6 and a secondary attack that did -2 damage to Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, and Cha.  I figured I’d just give him more health and it should even out.  I was wrong (initially I thought around 200 health would suffice, but it ended up being around 500).  Perhaps it was because the party was a bit overpowered, or maybe just lucky, but they killed Cthulhu in five or six rounds. 
            Long story short, no amount of health can compensate for having an unbalanced fight.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Interview With D&D Artist Felipe Gaona

Greetings!  D&D, as I have said before, pulls heavily from the art that surrounds it.  So I thought that nothing would be more appropriate than to interview an aspiring D&D artist, Felipe Gaona.  He is a self taught, self motivated, painter from Chile whose art is characterized by vivid coloration and definition.  Fortunately, I had the opportunity to interview this fantastic artist on D&D and his artwork.  To see his works visit his website here or his Deviantart page here. 

[this post is property of Do A Spot Check]
What experience do you have with D&D and how long have you been playing?

I've been playing D&D for a long time now, probably since I was 12 years or so, but I wasn’t introduced to RPGs until College.

My first DM was very bad, but the second one was great! I got to play a second edition Halfling Rogue for the adventure, which ran for a few years, until everyone started to get busier; eventually the campaign was just dropped. Since I didn't get to play my character all the way to the end, I do tend to introduce some random Halfling Rogues here and there in my campaigns as a DM, they're so much fun.

As a DM, I started with a Legend of the Five Rings campaign, but I really didn't like the system.   However, because I'm a big fan of Japanese Culture, I moved to 3rd Edition Oriental Adventures and created my own world.  That campaign was very long and the players actually finished it.  That was a great experience especially because I think a lot of campaigns are just abandoned. [this post is property of Do A Spot Check]

I've been playing a lot of games since then.  Nothing too long, but about a year ago I started a 4th Edition campaign that's still running.

What was your most prevalent memory of D&D?

In the campaign with my Halfling Rogue, at one point the party had to face a lich to cross a gate.  Unfortunately, he would have kicked our collective asses and of course my character wasn't good at fighting.  However, the lich was willing to let us go through the gate if a character sacrificed his life.  The only one to step in was Rufus’ (my character's name) friend "Karlak”, a Half Orc.  He sacrificed his life so that everyone could live.  It was kind of sad (kind of, since it's a RPG) because Karlak was my character's only real friend. [this post is property of Do A Spot Check]

What made you want to become an artist for Wizards of the Coast/D&D?

I've always been drawing and painting my characters and everyone else's.  I think before that I usually drew things out of videogames and anime, but I really liked making the characters that I’d been playing with in D&D come to life.  I had a great time doing it and I think it's an amazing career.

As for WotC itself, I came across Art Order a community run but Jon Schindehette, senior Art Director of WotC, he has a lot of wisdom to share and I think he's one of the best ADs I've "met" (well, internet meeting that is).

What is the inspiration behind your D&D related artwork?

This is a hard question.  I really get inspiration from all kind of sources.  I think the biggest would be European myths and culture, you know, vikings celts, armors, etc. I draw a lot of inspiration from nature as well.  Movies and animation are also big sources of inspiration also. [this post is property of Do A Spot Check]

As for artistic inspiration, some contemporary illustrators such as Jesper Ejsing and Tyler Jacobson, and older ones like N.C. Wyeth and Adolphe Bouguereau.  My paintings look nothing like theirs though!

How would you say D&D has positively affected you/your life?

I've met a lot of people and made good friends through the game.  I also have an excuse to get together with friends and hang out while having a good time. I think that's one of the greatest things about a game like D&D.

I've also learned a lot from the artists that work for D&D.  There's some amazing talent between those pages. [this post is property of Do A Spot Check]

Are there any closing comments you would like to make?

I really liked answering these questions; thinking about the answers gave me some insight about myself and where to go next.  It was also fun remembering some good times with the game, thanks a lot!

And there you have it!  Thank you Felipe for your time, energy, and of course your art!  Keep up the excellent work!

Until next time.


Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Bag That Can Hold (Almost) Everything

            Greetings!  This week I can officially say that the gods of percentage dice are not in my favor.   For the past few sessions every roll of the percentage dice has yielded unsuccessful results.   From trying for 12 hours to commune with the Sword of Truth, to practicing with my rat tail, to rolling around in Green Dragon blood in an attempt to spark a mutation (everyone got a cool mutation except me) I have utterly failed every roll.  I was terribly upset about this, especially when for 7 rolls in a row I could not break a 5…  [this post is property of Do A Spot Check]
            Annnnyway, this week I have a nice piece of D&D paraphernalia for your consideration, the Think Geek Bag of Holding.
                                Ever experience the excruciating pain of not being able to fit all your stuff into one convenient bag?  Well fear not because the Think Geek Bag of Holding is the satchel for you!  The Bag of Holding offers you the convenience of being able to hold such bulky items as a laptop, a PS3 with accessories, textbooks, and an assortment of all your smaller devices like ipods, phones, cameras, and snacks. [this post is property of Do A Spot Check] 
Its revolutionary design is such that while on the outside it may not look like much, on the inside it has enough space to fit more or less anything you could possibly need on a day to day basis.  It's a perfect book bag for college, gamer bag for your gaming devices, or business bag for all your important documents and folders.  And better yet, the Think Geek Bag of Holding is priced at about the same as a normal backpack so you won't have to pay extra for its awesome holding prowess. If you want a bag that can fit it all, the Think Geek Bag of Holding is the one for you! [Pocket dimension not included.]

Until next time.



Player Tip of the Week

Think in terms of your party, not yourself.  When you are trying to solve a puzzle or get through a situation, it is easy to get wrapped up in a “What can my character do?” rather than “What can my party do?” mentality.  While it is not your job to know how your party members’ characters work, you still need to be familiar enough with them so that you can construct a solution that incorporates others and not just yourself. [this post is property of Do A Spot Check]
For instance, one day in our current campaign we were going through a dungeon and found a magic wall that when Aurora or myself touched it, we were unable to pass through, but when Endos and Alexander touched it they slipped right through to the other side.  Seeing as there was still a good bit of dungeon left, I was sure there was a way for me to pass through so I tried everything humanly possible to pass.  I tried hitting it with my sword, I tried walking through it with my sword leading the way, I tried tumbling through it, and none of it did anything.  At this point Endos and Alexander had decided that they would just go ahead without me. 
Now I was desperate.  I knew that if only I could see through the wall then I would be able to teleport through it so I put on my magic mask and very slowly put my face to the wall in an attempt to see through.  Unfortunately, the wall was too thick to see through and I ended up with magical third degree burns on my face.
Turns out, the solution was simply for a magic user to hold my hand and lead me through and I would have been spared from cooking my face.

White Dove Courtesy of Nuriko-Kun

DM Tip of the Week

Incorporate moral decisions that significantly impact the outcome of the campaign.  One key element to most any game is immersion into the characters or story and there is no better way to do this than to incorporate moral decisions.  Now when I say “moral decision” I don’t mean “kill the helpless beggar or don’t.” I mean gut wrenching decisions that directly affect your characters. [this post is property of Do A Spot Check]
For instance, in our current campaign we went on a quest to save the dragon king who had a Dagger of Assimilation stuck in his chest on our watch.  So we slayed the assassin and upon our return to the king found that the dagger’s magic was still affecting him and we could not remove it.  Zed then said that he could overload and destroy the dagger with his own life force, but at the cost of his immortality. 
This was a terribly difficult decision because on the one hand, if we didn’t save the king then we would be seen as assassins across the land and hunted like fugitives.  But on the other hand, if Zed gave up his immortality we would lose not just a powerful party member, but also a teacher and friend.  This was extremely difficult to decide, considering both characters were benevolent and beneficial towards us and there was a no other way to remove the dagger. [this post is property of Do A Spot Check]
In the end, we decided to save the king in exchange for Zed’s immortality.  Unfortunately, as we would find out soon after, Zed’s life force had gone straight to Darken Rahl making him more powerful than he would have been if he had just absorbed the dragon king. 
How this will affect the final boss battle is yet to be seen, but it should be challenging if nothing else.