Sunday, June 22, 2014

Going to Gencon!

I know I said in an earlier post that I will probably take the year off from Gencon, oops! Guess not! I've been doing a lot of thinking lately and I finally decided that I should just go anyways. I have the vacation time already approved, have enough time to spend and hopefully will have someone to split the cost of the room with (looking at you Fletch!).

My brother will also be going to Gencon for the first time so I wanted to go so I could show him around. I also want to get him hooked on D&D. He's shown interest in it before and he's said he always wanted to try it but he would back out at the last second whenever I invited him. Now since he's going to the RPG mecha, there will be no way he can say no!

Which gets to the last reason why I want to go, D&D 5th edition! It'll be out right before the Con and they have a decent amount of events going on that I want to partake in. I just wish I made up my mind sooner so I could have gotten one of those WoTC Con passes that get's you into all WoTC games, along with swag. I did however sign up for quite a few events, 11 total, and hopefully I can get into a 12th with generic tickets. So here's what I signed up for so far...

Hitting up the vendor hall, hopefully I'll find my fill of stuff to buy before 3pm when my first event starts.
I have D&D Ready, Set, Play which is a basic intro to 5th ed and they go over rolling up characters with you. Should hopefully be pretty in depth since it's 2 hours. I'm dragging my brother and his friends to this because that should be a good intro to get them sucked it.
Cost: Only $2!
After that I have Story Telling in the Reams which is kind of self explanatory. The kicker to this is Ed Greenwood (creator of the Forgotten Realms) and R A Salvatore (my favorite author of all time!) will be there for 2 hours talking about Realms Lore and what's to come. Kind of hard to pass this up, especially considering the Ready Set Play takes place in the same room and ends right before Story Telling beings.
Cost: Free

My day will start with the Tabletop Panel of Awesome. Cmon, it's Tabletop (Wil Wheaton's show) and it's in my hotel!
Cost: Free
I then have to walk over to the Crowne Plaza for Tyranny of Dragons with Wolfgang Bauer from Kobold Press (the guys writing the first adventure path for 5th ed). I'm really glad WoTC is letting other publishers make adventures for them again and this panel is supposed to shine some light on how Kobold got picked for this and what's to come in the future
Cost: Free
I then go back to the main Convention Center for Defiance in Phlan. This is 1 of the many D&D adventures that were written just for Gencon. I don't know if I can talk my brother and company into doing this with me because odds are we will be at a table with people we don't know, but I'll be willing to give it a shot. I've never done roleplaying at a Con before so hopefully my first time will be fun.
Cost $2
Later on in the night WoTC is throwing a Tyranny of Dragons launch party at that Georgia St area. It's like an outdoor festival area and there will be drinks there too! I've been to a launch party, but never a RPG launch party so this should be pretty fun. I'm sure all the big wigs and writers and designers will be there too.
Cost: Free

First I have Auntie Lisa's Story Hour. You might be thinking "WTF is that?" It's an hour sit down chat with Lisa Stevens, who is current CEO of Paizo and was in charge of D&D back in her WoTC days. As you can see, she's a pretty big deal so I jumped on the chance to sit and hear her story for an hour.
Cost: Free
I then have something called Play Better Games, Dammit! From what I've read it seems to be a panel discussion about making your gaming group and gaming sessions better. Problem solving, dealing with drama, etc which should help a n00b DM like myself. This might be one of the few events I would consider skipping if I'm too tired, hungry or still need to buy stuff
Cost: Free
I then get to see Mr Ed Greenwood again and this time he's bringing Erin Evans (another D&D author) with him and this is called Spin a Yarn. This goes over how to tell better stories. My goal as a DM is to weave awesome stories, not just facilitate combat and hand out loot and exp, so this is right up my alley. I also can't turn down another chance to listen to Mr Greenwood
Cost: Free
Now here is where I run from Crowne Plaza back to the main Convention Center to hopefully get into Corruption of Kryptgarden with generic tickets. This is a 3 hour mega rpg session with over 100 people total. This sold out pretty quick and was one of the main reasons to get the Con pass. From what I've heard, the mega sessions like this are pretty awesome and they are a must do. If I can't get in there's always next year I guess.
Cost: $18
Right after that WoTC is throwing some type of celebration thing. It's not listed on the events schedule but the Gencon forums mentioned something about this. I don't know what goes on at these, but hey, I'll swing by to check it out.
Cost: Free
Only thing I signed up for (pickings are slim) is Secrets of Golarion. Golarion is the world setting made by Paizo for Pathfinder. Granted, I'm all about D&D right now but I still like Pathfinder and learning more about the world it takes place in is always a plus.
Cost: Free

As for any tabletop gaming, I'm taking a pass this year. I had a blast playing Dreadball last year at Gencon but it took a lot out of me. Tournaments just drain me, and there's so much to do at Gencon I would hate to wear myself out again on something like a Tournament. There's only 1 40K event going on (Apoc) which is 1 more then last year, lol. There is a lot of Warmachine, Malifaux and almost any other system you can think of going on at Gencon.

So as you can see once you get past the cost for the 4 day pass, travel, lodging and food most events that you can do at Gencon are free. Most of the seminars you can just walk into and nobody minds at all. They just think the more the merrier. I can understand the costs for the RPG sessions but that probably covers materials they give you. And in all honesty the prices aren't that bad. $2 to have people from WoTC teach me how to roll a character where the materials are provided? Sure I'm fine with that, it's cheaper than a bottle of water down there! $18 for a 3 hour mega RPG session? Sure why not, $6 an hour where I'm sure I'll get handouts and maps and stuff of the adventure, that's definitely reasonable.

The $150 for the WoTC Con pass seems a bit high. It was $100 last year and there was 28 hours or so of gaming that it covered and you got swag as well. This year's pass only covers 18 hours of gaming but you still get swag. Hopefully the amount of swag is worth the extra money. I'll be keeping an eye out for that.

So yea, I'm pretty damn excited! I'm kind of shocked I went from going to 1 event last year to 11 this year but I'm going in with a different mentality. I want to learn as much as I can from the pros, play with people I've never played before and hopefully get my brother and friends hooked on RPGs. I'll still be with the Screaming Heretic crew down there, but after 3 years of going and only attending 1 event, I really wanted to broaden my horizons.

This will hopefully prevent me from spending too much money in the vendor hall, which is easier said then done!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Tech Alpha?! Hell Yea!!!

Look who just got into the Technical Alpha for Heroes of the Storm? No, I didn't get in because I blog or anything like that, I just opted in for it just like everyone else. My wife got an invite at the same time I did so I guess it goes alphabetically? Who knows how they do it.

HoTS is like League of Legends lite. I know some DOTA peeps out there already claim that LoL is for babies and they talk even more shit about HoTS but I don't care. HoTS is probably the most casual MOBA out there, but that's just perfect for me. I hate last hitting and items shops, I always felt it took too much away from what the main focus should be, duking it out. HoTS doesn't have last hitting and all experience is shared throughout the team. Matches are quicker (from what I've seen on Twitch) and more team fight centered.

Things are still instaling but I'll let ya'll know what I think of it. Blizzard normally does a pretty good job on everything they do, hope that continues.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Old Schooling It Up!

So I've been pretty busy lately. Work has been kicking my ass and I am starting my journey in BBQing with my new smoker. By this time next week I should be slow cooking a pork shoulder for 12 hours and hopefully it'll be edible.

Anyways.... I haven't been able to really do to much gaming lately. One thing did catch my eye yesterday, and I feel bad not being able to post about it until today. There is there awesome website that I hope most of you have heard about, but if you haven't prepare to read about something awesome., or Good Old Games is a site run by CD Projekt Red (makers of The Witcher) that sells old school games with no DRM for a very fair price. A lot of these games are a pain in the ass to run on newer PCs but GOG has gone through the trouble to update these games to make they run easily on newer Windows OSes and sometimes even on OSX.

The reason I wish I could have posted about it yesterday is because they are currently running their summer sale. I picked up their entire Dungeons & Dragons game collection last night for $22. The collection includes Balder's Gate 1 and 2, Icewind Dale 1 and 2, Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2, Planescape Torment, Dragonshard, Demonstone and The Temple of Elemental Evil. That's an insane deal! I have spent countless hours playing most of these games back in the day and I'm extremely excited about being able to delve back into these classics.

If D&D isn't your thing they have a ton of the old Ultima games, the old Fallout games, the old Wing Commander games, and even newer indie titles like FTL. All of them DRM free.

I hate to sound like I'm making a pitch, but I hope most of you know my style, I don't give lip service to anyone. If I go out and say something good about a product or company, it's because I genuinely love the product and want to share my thoughts about it with everyone. So go check out GOG, it's a pretty great site!

In other video gaming news, I let my subscription to Elder Scrolls Online expire. I liked the game and intend on going back to it but I guess I got burned out of questing. I got up to level 32 and finally made it to Windhelm (my favorite town in Skyrim) but I just needed a break.

I've also been keeping up with all of the D&D 5th edition news coming out of Origins and what I've heard just makes me more excited. But that's grounds for a different post.

So, enjoy the nice weather outside, feel free to BBQ and don't forget that it's World Cup Time! My money's on Uruguay!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dungeons and Dragons On My Mind

Dungeons and Dragons, the grandaddy of all RPGs, has been on my mind quite a bit as of late. If it wasn't for D&D I probably would have never turned into a tabletop gamer, it was basically the game that started it all for me.

I started playing D&D back in the glory days of 2nd Edition (AD&D with Skills and Powers FTW!) and played 3.0, 3.5 and most recently Pathfinder. I understand that nostalgia often clouds your vision, but I felt that I had the most fun back in 2nd Ed. Granted, it was the first system I played under and the campaign we all had back then was beyond epic (I'll do a post about it later), but it just felt simpler. 3.0, 3.5 and Pathfinder were good but it felt like there was sooooo many options that it began to weigh things down.

Pathfinder wasn't as bad as 3.0/3.5 but when I took my first steps into DMing Pathfinder I felt overwhelmed. Part of it could be the group I was DMing for consisted of 8 people (yea, I know, insane) but at times I felt like I was always fighting an uphill battle trying to keep track of multiple things at once and how certain mechanics worked. Tons of charts, prestige classes up the wazoo, Dan rolling a character that did nothing but grapple (I still hate him for that) and stat blocks for enemies that were waaay too wordy in my opinion made me take a step back from DMing for the time being. I would love to do it again, even with Pathfinder, but I would have to run it with a much smaller group.

Anyone and everyone that has played or is currently playing Dungeons and Dragons knows that 5th Edition, or D&D Next, or Basic D&D or whatever the hell they are going to call it is coming out this year. I was mildly interested at first but the more I read about it, and the playtest I was part of, the more and more I became interested.

For those who don't know, the beginner box is being released in July. The other cool thing is there will be a basic PDF released at the same time for FREE! I think Wizards of the Coast made a really smart move by doing this. It will let old timers who were not part of the playtest to see what the new rules are all about. It will also let people who play other systems or have never even played a tabletop RPG to check out the rules as well. WoTC claims that the free PDF will let you go up to level 5 with your character and everything you need (to some extent I would assume) will be in there.

As for the other books, WoTC is doing a staggered release. The Players Handbook is coming out in August and the Dungeon Masters Guide is coming out in November. WoTC clams they are doing this to make sure they get every book done right before it hits the shelves. Some are disappointed with this but I can see where they are coming from. WoTC only has 15 people (not counting playtesters) working on D&D at this time, and only half are working on D&D 5th. That's a pretty small development team compared to what they had in the past. Even Paizo has double the amount of people working on Pathfinder then WoTC has working on D&D at this moment. WoTC claims that a DM won't need the DMG to run things, but who knows how that will really turn out. I hope their claim is true but I would also like them to get things right before it hits the shelves, so hopefully it's worth the wait?

WoTC also has a 2 part adventure path coming out at the same time called Rise of Tiamat that takes place in the Forgotten Realms. Two cool things about this. First, it's being written by the awesome team at Kobold Press. WoTC outsourcing things to reputable companies is a really good sign because there was barely any of that going on in 4th edition. The second is the Kobold Press guys said that the Realms will not be as high magic as it was in the past. There will be no players walking around glowing like a Christmas tree because they have a ton of magic items. A much needed change of pace IMO.

D&D 5th, from what I've gleamed so far, is a bit of a throwback to 2nd Ed. There are still elements of 3.0/3.5 and even 4th (which I never played) in it, but it dials things back a bit. There are not as many charts, countless feats and prestige classes. I understand this can change in the future but from what I've seen it's much simpler. The rules also get rid of a lot of the + and - modifiers to rolls. Instead there is Advantage and Disadvantage. Instead of having to check the DM screen or rule books to see what bonuses you get when someone is stunned or prone or dazed you just get to roll 2 D20s and you take the highest roll out of the two. Disadvantage is reversed where you take the lowest of the 2. Things like this cut out a lot of clutter and would help speed things along. I had a rough time with remembered all the bonuses and penalties in Pathfinder so you can just imagine how much I love the Advantage/Disadvantage system. Every other part of game has been either condensed or simplified.

The feeling I got from the new direction WoTC is taking is they want the game to revolve around the story and narrative more than the combat. Combat isn't really taking a step back IMO, it will just run smoother and not take up as much time as previous editions. There seems to be more of an emphasis on Role Playing then killing as many bad guys as possible.

All in all, I'm very excited and can't wait to get my hands on the rules when they come out. Hopefully I can find enough time to cut my teeth on this edition with a small, dedicated group so I can get the feel of things. If D&D 5th does indeed feel more like 2nd Ed, I will be one happy nerd!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Kickstarter: Buyer Beware!

Kickstarter was the hotness last year and it appears to be so again this year. There have been many great Kickstarter Campaigns that were funded and delivered an awesome product to the people who pledged. For example the two Kickstarters I have done, Reaper's Bones and Mantic's Deadzone, were hugely successful, my products were delivered on time and I was pleased with what I received.

There have also been some blunders out there where people are still waiting for their product or just didn't receive anything at all. Robotech is one example where pledgers have already waiting for far too long to receive anything from Palladium. Relic Knights was another one that was delayed multiple times.

There have even been some straight up scams, such as Asylum Playing Cards, which even has a lawsuit attached to it

There has also been controversy about one of the most successful Kickstarters of all time, Oculus Rift. Oculus Rift was purchased by Facebook for a pretty penny which caused a lot of backers to get furiously upset, as seen below.

I would be upset as well. If I had pledged I would have done so to help development of a new product, not to make the developers filthy rich by selling to Facebook.

So what am I trying to say in this post? Well things might get even worse in Kickstarter land. They just changed their rules and made it possible to start a project without it being vetted by a person, as seen on their website, Oh, I'm sorry, they will have an algorithm do the vetting now if you choose to not be vetted by a person. Everything must be ok if it's just an algorithm! The only things that can not be posted now are anything that is illegal, regulated or dangerous. They also require the people behind the project to be "honest about what they're doing". So the honor system is in full effect when it comes to people's money. I'm sure that will just work perfectly....

Are you kidding me? People have already been ripped off and taken advantage of before the loosening of their rules, now they're just opening the floodgates to even more dishonest people trying to make a quick buck.
Considering Kickstarter has already seen a ton of gaming projects being launched on their site, I can see even more starting out now, and not all of them will be legit. Do your research and I would go even further and suggest that you only pledge as much money as you are willing to take as a loss. With the flood gates being opened, I can now see pledging on Kickstarter to be not much different than playing the Slot Machines in a casino, with Kickstarter taking the house's cut regardless of what happens.

Buyer Beware......

Monday, June 2, 2014

Audio Book Review: Templar

There is only duty.

Anyone that knows me finds it to be no surprise that I purchased this audio book as soon as it came out, lol.

I really don't want to spoil things for anyone but if you are a fan of the Black Templars or Imperial Fists I highly recommend buying it and giving it a listen. It's a little over an hour long but it gives great insight on Sigismund, the man who became the first Emperor's Champion and then Chapter Master of the Black Templars. There are also a few other extremely noteworthy characters in the story that have excellent interactions with Sigismund. I now have even more respect for Sigismund after listening to this. I really hope Black Library expands upon the story of Sigismund, especially his heroics during the Siege of Terra. This audio book definitely cements the Black Templars as MY chapter!

I wish it went more in depth but there's only so much ground you can cover in an hour on an audio book. The production quality is top notch. I have always been impressed by Black Library's audio books and this one continues the legacy of top notch voice actors and sound effects.

4.5/5 Stars from a rabid Black Templars fan boy!