To Boldly Nerd…

PC games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

21/01/2015
by Kadomi
0 comments

Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords, Session 4

I decided for now I will write more detailed session reports of the Pathfinder Adventure Path I am currently GMing. We’re playing Rise of the Runelords. If you play this AP or plan to play it, I warn you, there will be spoilers.

First off, let me introduce our party. It’s a party of six, which comes with its own trials and tribulations:

Calandria, the bitter divorcee half-elf druid
Fynn, a gnome ranger fleeing the wrath of her family
Naur, a shady half-elf rogue from Riddleport
Phileas, an elf paladin of Iomedae and construction worker
Samrit Moor, a halfling sorcerer touched by the grave looking for his missing friend
Torben Hermson, an Ulfen barbarian who hits like a truck and is a sexist pig

PZO1002_500Rise of the Runelords is a sweeping Adventure Path that begins with a harmless goblin raid on the small town of Sandpoint.

Session 1: the heroes came to Sandpoint, participated in the Swallowtail Festival, found out that one of the festival games was a total sham, and then defended the town when the goblins raided it. They saved Lord Aldern Foxglove, who took a shine to Calandria.

Session 2: Where heroes go to die. The heroes decided to be contrary, did not really want to cooperate with the sheriff of the town when he asked their help, but then later found out that a body was stolen from a town crypt during the raid, and unwillingly went on a hunt with Lord Aldern Foxglove when they tried to find more goblin tracks.

Session 3: Suspicious that a boar in the Tickwood had lots of ticks (duh!), our heroes investigated the woods and found a monstrous mother tick breeding, right next to a small shrine of Lamashtu, goddess of monsters. Back in town, they convinced the mayor to increase their payout for assisting the town, got roaring drunk in celebration, witnessed a family fight in the inn between the innkeep Ameiko and her father Lonjiku and in the morning found out the owner of the inn went missing.

We begin our session with the party trying to figure out what they’ll do. As a letter hinted at a meeting in the Glassworks in town, with Ameiko and her brother Tsuto, that’s where the party headed. The barbarian tried to climb onto the roof, without much success whereas the rogue casually picked the door to the main shop. The party advanced very carefully, and two doors later peeked into the furnace room where goblins were obviously having fun. The party then surprised me by simply moving off and investigating every other room in the building. I mean it, every single room. Even the stairs outside to the beach. I made hidden checks to see if goblins would wander out and catch them, but no, they got all the time in the world to check out every single room, including the latrines. When they wandered to the stairs to the basement, I tried to lure them back to the furnace by having the goblins playing soccer with the chopped off head of one of the Glassworks employees. They noticed the head and that the goblins were playing, and I hoped that either the barbarian or the paladin would be enraged by this to storm the furnace room, but nope. The barbarian got the job to guard the door, and the others went downstairs.

Tsuto Kaijitsu, half-elf super-acrobatic monk/rogue with a big nose

Tsuto Kaijitsu, half-elf super-acrobatic monk/rogue with a big nose

In the basement, they soon found the door to the office where Tsuto Kaijitsu, the innkeeper’s half-brother and organizer of the goblin raid, was sleeping off a hangover. Just about when they tried to open the door, Tsuto walked out, spotted them, and started running with a successful Acrobatics check. Now, logically, he should have fled and escaped through the smuggler tunnel under the Glassworks. But to make things more exciting, I had him run upstairs where he made another successful Acrobatics check to roll through the legs of the barbarian in the doorway. He was pissed, let me tell you.

Of course, he never got to join the goblins in the furnace room, as the barbarian managed to trip Tsuto, and two more PCs piled up on top to tie him up. Tsuto did manage to alert the goblins, who started to rush out of the furnace room throwing glass and shooting arrows, into their certain death.

Rise of the Runelords is written for 4 PCs, and the advancement track suggests that they do not level to 2 until they’re done with the Glassworks. But as I had added additional encounters and did almost all the encounters of the Local Heroes section, most of them were level 2 already. The original Glassworks encounter would have been 6 CR 1/3 goblins plus Tsuto, a level 2 monk/2 rogue. Instead, I made them face 9 CR 1/3 goblins plus 2 CR 3 goblin warriors from the Monster Codex (which I really enjoy). The raging barbarian got fairly low health-wise because the arrows of the goblin warriors packed a punch, but everyone else did really well. For fun and giggles, our sorcerer did not remember that Color Spray is a cone effect, and effectively managed to stun and blind the barbarian for 8 rounds.

Pathfinder goblins are so much fun to play

Pathfinder goblins are so much fun to play

It was a long battle that took us forever to resolve, but with Tsuto out of the question, the goblins were soon running out the other side of the furnace room, to be butchered. It was only then the party took the time to actively check out the furnace room, to find out that Tsuto had encased his ‘father’ in molten glass, and that the goblins had been having fun with the remains of the workers, chopping them up, trying to cover them in glass as well or simply burn them. The party managed to search Tsuto thoroughly and intimidated him sufficiently that he spilled the beans why he killed his father and tried to abduct his sister Ameiko. He also told them about his lover Nualia and Thistletop, though very little.

The party went to free the badly beaten up Ameiko from the basement, and then investigated the smuggler tunnel a bit, while the gnome ranger stayed behind with Ameiko. They found the entrance to the catacombs, and that’s when we made our cut as it had gotten very late.

As most of my players are co-workers, I know the next session will be tricky. For one, they aren’t sure what to do with Tsuto. At least one character does not want to give him up to the authorities. I am hoping that the paladin will not agree. He’s a new player and maybe not 100% clear yet on what it means to be lawful good at all times. Then, some of them are ready to rush to Thistletop already as well. At level 2, this would be a very short trip. I am hoping that they will take the time to digest the information they got from Tsuto’s journal and will maybe try to investigate the catacombs first, especially as they received information that there’s a quasit underneath Sandpoint, and our paladin managed his knowledge religion check so he knows it’s a demonic creature. I’ll have to be prepared that they will want to run off in every which direction. This session was fairly low on roleplay, high on combat, and so I am hoping that next time they will take the time to talk to some NPCs in Sandpoint to learn more.

I will have to continue working on better encounters. I am considering buying Green Ronin’s Advanced Bestiary for access to the templates, and Rite Publishing has templates as well. Anything to make those encounters more challenging. I am also thinking about switching to the medium advancement track after the next level, because some of the characters are more than halfway to level 3. Our rogue keeps missing sessions though, 2 out of 4 so far, and so he is still at level 1.

It was good fun again, and I really wish we had more time to play than just once a month. I am eager to get through Burnt Offerings. The Skinsaw Massacre seems like such a fantastic adventure, I can’t wait.

I am really hooked on GMing those great APs Paizo has published and am pondering if I have time to sort out a PBEM group or a forum game. I offered to run a solo campaign for my SO, and she wasn’t interested at all, because she likes the social interactions best. She’s got a point, doesn’t she? I seriously haven’t looked into virtual ways to RP yet, but I am also looking something relatively low on time commitment, as I already have two different games a month now. But the addiction, it is strong, at the moment.

19/01/2015
by Kadomi
5 Comments

WoW: World of Minecraft

It took me 1.5 months of the expansion until I tired of the garrison mines. I don’t know if that’s a good run, or a troubling sign of garrison gameplay being too much of the grind.

I have three level 100 characters by now: Kadomi, protection warrior; Yatalai, frost death knight and Yacoran, holy paladin.

In order of play preference, really.

In order of play preference, really.

Going into the expansion I was totally excited to be a warrior again. I missed it. I was most excited for the new gladiator stance, it was everything I ever hoped for as protection warrior. Or so I thought. Ultimately, I was unable to make it work for me. It received nerfs that it probably deserved, but that’s not why I gave up on her.

Shield Charge buffs the damage of Shield Slam, Revenge and Heroic Strike, in a very tight 7 seconds window. As Shield Slam is your hardest hitter, you want to use it twice during each Shield Charge. With Unyielding Strikes, you also want to spam Heroic Strike during Shield Charge, but also Devastate a lot to proc Sword&Board for more Shield Slams. That’s a frantic 7 seconds. I went to one raid as gladiator, and did not perform well. I already struggled with not clipping the GCD, missing the 2nd Shield Slam, on a target dummy. Insert Tectus and tons of movement. After the raid I compared logs, and the other gladiator had higher DPS. Our only difference was the amount of Devastate spam.

I don’t care for a playstyle where you have to spam abilities constantly. It reminds me of TBC where I had Heroic Strike bound to my mousewheel and pretty much rolled it non-stop every fight. I don’t care for the other two DPS specs of warriors either. Fury and I haven’t gotten along since vanilla, and I never felt like trying Arms. I might still do that, eventually. What it means that Kadomi the warrior plummeted from main status to garrison alt. Mind you, she’s still getting decent gear. I do a lot of 630 missions on her, and so she has a lot of 645 items, including a weapon. I just wish I loved playing as gladiator. I really do.

I did enjoy tanking as warrior, and maybe one of these days my guild will need an offtank for alt raids. I think I might enjoy that.

Plan number 2 was to go back to the character I played throughout MoP: Yatalai, my DK. Frost is in a good place in WoD, and I enjoy playing both 2H and DW playstyles. DW will remain my favorite, and that’s what I play. I went to one raid again, and did okay even though I was just above ilevel 625, and that was before our Christmas break.

During Christmas break I leveled my paladin. I have always had a soft spot for holy paladins. I last raided as such in Cataclysm, on the only Alliance character of note I have ever played. In MoP my paladin did all LFRs, but no real raids. At 100, I switched to holy, and mostly taught myself how to play in Proving Grounds. I know there are a lot of people who don’t care for them, as they’re not balanced for all classes, but as far as healing goes, you pretty much learn how to use all of your toolbox.

That was actually a lot of work. Wave 9 is harsh!

That was actually a lot of work. Wave 9 is harsh!

I did dungeons to gear myself, and it was horrible. I have pug-healed since Wrath and I have to say that I have never been treated as horribly as I was just now as healer. It was a bit depressing to non-stop spam flash heals on tanks to no avail because they failed to avoid mechanics or mitigate enough, and then get yelled abuse at. I learned that UBRS with 3 melee is the worst that can ever happen to you. I further learned that most DPS do not understand the 2nd boss in Grimrail Depot, or how not to stand in fire.

But nothing aggravates me as much as the wall jumping nonsense in The Everbloom. The jumping takes longer than the trash pulls would. For real. Everbloom is the worst. A guildie and I went through like 5 tanks, who left, because people didn’t wall jump fast enough for them, or because the group failed on a boss, and so on and so forth. You really pay your dues to earn that 680 ring.

Despite all that, I prevailed. I got my 680 ring. I cursed about Khadgar and his pet sucking so much at the Kairozdormu fight. I later learned that people do much better picking healing as challenge and then burn through it as DPS. Huh! I never knew.

I had 15 Savage Blood together after spending tons of Primal Spirits and had to make a decision. Upgrade an item for Yata or upgrade an item for Yacoran. The paladin won, because I like to challenge myself. Guess I am a healer main now.

I’ll keep you posted about my further adventures, but for now I am really excited. I healed in two raids, and I did really well. At least it felt I did well! One day I might be as good as Fabulor even, who managed to be 97th percentile on H Kargath. Not bad at all!

I don't feel so bad on Butcher. It fact, it makes me glow. :)

I don’t feel so bad on Butcher. It fact, it makes me glow. :)

My guild is currently 5/7 in normal Highmaul and 1/7 Heroic. We’ve wanted to do more heroic but were missing folks. I feel we’ll probably get Kor’agh on normal very soon. Exciting times. If it weren’t for all those damn mines in three garrisons.

08/01/2015
by Kadomi
0 comments

2014 – A retrospective

Another year has come and gone, and once again I didn’t blog as much as I would have loved to. I think about blogging a lot, mostly while commuting to and from work. Then I get home, plonk down in front of my computer, and start gaming or prepping Pathfinder.

Still, let’s look what happened for me in 2014:

Gaming:
In February, I had my WoW-catharsis. After very intensive play-time throughout MoP, Siege of Orgrimmar managed to break me. I stopped logging in and in February, after 1.5 months of not playing, I finally admitted that I was done with WoW. I was fully convinced that that was it for me after 9 years of playing, because I just had no more interest in it. All the news coming out in regards to WoD and its bros, plus the chopper nonsense, it really killed it for me. I still feel bad for the people who stayed without a break, that long time doing SoO over and over, that seriously can’t have been fun.

In March, I hopped on the Wildstar train. I don’t know why I can be such an MMO migrant at times. Wildstar had me more excited than any other MMO since WoW and I was fully convinced that I would be writing a Wildstar blog. I got linked on Reddit, and the high view numbers inspired quite the fervor in me. From March to June I blogged a lot about Wildstar, about closed, open beta and release. I still think it was a fantastic release, and it’s a great MMO with very interesting, challenging combat, a colorful world and lore, and fantastic housing. But it’s not a casual player’s game, and not even a casual hardcore player’s game. It’s a huge time-sink, and when I couldn’t commit to the time, I felt deflated and stopped logging in as well.

The summer and fall were spent going through my Steam pile. I played AC Liberation (hate it), Black Flag (LOVE IT!), Bastion, The Wolf Among Us, Remember Me (underrated gem) and Arkham Asylum (unfinished playthrough, but excellent).

In November I crawled back to WoW like the good sheep I am. The LFG documentary hit all my feels and like many others, I went back to WoW with a full blast of nostalgia on. I have been playing since then, have three max-level characters by now, and until a couple days ago I was still fairly adrift because I couldn’t figure out what character I want to main through raids. WoW is casual enough that I will be able to raid once or twice a week with far less commitment than Wildstar would have required. On top of that, that’s where all my social connections are. I have moments of frustration with WoD and the whole garrison approach, but mostly, I have fun. I know I will probably disappoint some old readers who were excited I went back to warrior at the start of the expansion, but I decided that my main will be my Tauren paladin, healing it up for this expansion.

I am also working my way through Dragon Age: Inquisition, but extremely slowly. Everyone who’s read this blog since its inception knows that I fiercely loved Dragon Age 2. I still do! Screw repeated maps and the lesser scope. I loved Hawke and her companions, in all their gloriously flawed brilliance. I wish I could say the same about DA:I so far. The main character is fairly Mary Sue so far. Why can’t I be sarcastic, like Sarcastic Hawke? The companions leave me equally unconvinced. I am aghast because the options you have as gay lady when it comes to romance are quite disappointing. No Cassandra? Irritating Serah? I guess it’s got to be Josephine the dull bureaucrat. Bah. I should note I am only like 12 hours in, but I keep waiting for story to actually kick in.

Books:
I read a lot in 2014. I broke my own reading record and read 53 books and graphic novels. I probably cheated a bit by including Pathfinder rulebooks into the mix, but hey, that’s books too! My standouts were Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson (my overall favorite), Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch, The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, and The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin. Bonus shoutout to Fables, the comic that The Wolf Among Us is based on. Biggest disappointment of the year: Touchstone by Melanie Rawn. All the tears, it makes me so sad that it was so terrible.

RPG:
I am still all about Pathfinder, huzzah. The campaign I play in is converting from D&D 3e to Pathfinder, and I am hoping that will make my rogue a lot more fun. She will be more powerful, as the general power level is quite a lot higher in Pathfinder, IMHO. I shouldn’t complain though, our group is currently investigating an old temple, full of traps and such, which has given me a lot of opportunities to be all super-rogue. Schmitt is getting a bit frustrated, because her asocial ranger doesn’t really get to shine in such a dungeon crawl.

The group I GM will have its 4th session next weekend. The way we’re playing, we’ll finish Rise of the Runelords in approximately 5 years, playing once a month. I wrote about my worries in session 2, but session 3 was a sweeping success. Everyone was role-playing their hearts out, and the group dynamic felt tons better. I struggled slightly, but I don’t think anyone noticed, because it turns out that our party barbarian is a sexist pig of the kind that thinks no means yes. He wanted to force his way into Shalelu’s room at the inn. Awkward as lady GM. I think I managed to sort that out. It led to an interesting conversation with the GM of my other group who mentioned he once had a creepy player who was very into rape ICly, and got kicked out of the group for that. Yuck.

Anyway, both groups are going strong, though I am having far more fun with my own campaign. I feel more involved, naturally. For 2015, I want to be much better at writing session reports, and more reviews of tools and RPG books. I am considering buying a more modern tablet, because reading PDFs on our 2012 Nexus is a bit torture. It’s so damn slow.

Other stuff:
My beloved kitty Jenny passed away in June, and I still mourn her every day. We got two kittens, one in July, one in September, and you can see them everyday in my SO’s photoblog. They are delightful and make us very happy.

I got a promotion at work and am pleasantly challenged every day. I love (most of) my co-workers, I totally lucked out by running into a bunch of fellow nerds. I love it.

I traveled to London in spring, and the US in fall. I saw Sophie Ellis-Bextor, my imaginary wife, play live in a church, and it was beautiful. I met Spinks and her husband again, this time in London, and they’re great people.

I am confident that for 2015 I will be able to blog more than in the past. But I say that every year. On to another year of cool computer games, great books, and tabletop gaming with friends.

17/12/2014
by Kadomi
0 comments

Bloggy XMas Day 17: Welcome home

xmasred2

Syl from MMO Gypsy is currently running a special Christmas event and kindly asked me to participate, so here I am. It’s a lovely advent calendar full of pretty screenshots, lovely soundtracks and blog posts about MMO community. I will use this opportunity to say thanks to people in the US and now in Europe that have made MMOs such an outstanding experience over the years. It’s a love letter to my guilds and their community.

I just recently took a very extended break from WoW, almost 11 months, and I was pretty sure that this was it. I was so done. But I wasn’t. I am a member of the Ashen Rose Conspiracy, thanks to the recommendation of Spinks, and I kinda walked out on them without a warning. It was last Christmas, I really didn’t want to log on anymore because I was so bored, and then I never went back, disappearing while they were still working on progression. I left just after the Siegemaster firstkill. So really, these people would have all the reason in the world to be disappointed with me, but when I returned for WoD, I got lots of all caps greetings, and one of the officers greeted me with the words ‘Welcome home’. I was really moved by this.

Playing WoW would not be the same without them. I love chatting up Spinks for warrior stuff, or picking our DK tank’s brain about all things DK. I love to oooh and aaah about cats with guildies and distract the whole raid with kitten cam. I love knowing that for sending a BoE epic as a gift to our raid leader he will buy me a pint at the next pubmeet this will actually happen. This goes beyond the acquisition of purple pixels, by far.

Did I mention how much I hate Horridon? Because I do.

Did I mention how much I hate Horridon? Because I do.

I am saying thanks to my American guild as well. I have met tremendous ladies that way, and still fondly recall many raids, heroics, guild parties with them. When the guild sent me real flowers when my mom passed away, it was meaningful. When my friend got married to her Scottish fiance she met in WoW and sent me an invitation to the wedding, I really wish I could have gone. Daughters of the Horde were just as much my home as ARC is now.

Who doesn't like remembering killing the Lich King? Thank you, DotH!

Who doesn’t like remembering killing the Lich King? Thank you, DotH!

Go find yourself that special place in an MMO, to fully experience it. Go find a community that will welcome you home whenever you come back. Open yourself to it, and your experience will be all the richer for it. It might be hard to find, but it’s out there.

26/11/2014
by Kadomi
9 Comments

WoW: WoD – Two weeks after launch

It’s strange being back to WoW. My SO hates it. I’m excited to play again, at the same time I feel oddly adrift.

The good stuff: Leveling was good fun. It didn’t feel like questing on rails much, and the story was very coherent. Nagrand felt very grindy, but then, I guess that’s just how Nagrand has always been and always will be. I enjoyed the garrison integration, you really do get to feel like a commander raising outposts everywhere. The Nagrand frostwolf is the best thing ever. I also dig the whole follower mini-game, and get excited pushing them to 100, getting them gear and they in turn getting me gear. It’s awesome.

See? It could be any Titan playground., but it happens to be lush Gorgrond.

See? It could be any Titan playground., but it happens to be lush Gorgrond.

Overall, I enjoyed all the zones. Gorgrond felt like this weird mix of Sholazar meets Badlands. Talador is so close to Terrokar Forest, and yet so different. Nagrand will always be one of the most gorgeous zones in the game, no matter in which timeline.

Of all the pretty places in the world, I had to ding in a poop-filled cave of Sabermaw.

Of all the pretty places in the world, I had to ding in a poop-filled cave of Sabermaw.

The other big thing to enjoy is dinging 100. Within minutes, I took the portal to Orgrimmar, spec’d from fury into prot and got Gladiator’s Resolve. I had such a fantastic time playing around with it. I did silver damage proving grounds within the first hour of being 100, with a pitiful ilevel of 590. It’s all the fun I missed about prot warriors, without the tiresome responsibility of tanking. Speaking of which, I tried Proving Grounds for that as well, and can’t seem to get silver done, so there’s that. I might try again, eventually, but it’s no priority. Seriously, I am really loving that Blizzard made a Sword&Board DPS spec happen.

The meh stuff:

I don’t get professions anymore. I love that the new model is wonderful for catchup. My warrior is boosted, and not having to grind out to 600 first was very nice. In fact, I only just got like 150 mining and 137 blacksmithing. What I don’t love is that you don’t get to experience the satisfying impact of your profession while leveling. I managed to craft one piece of gear while leveling, a helmet, and in retrospect I wish I had saved the truesteel ingots. Right now, blacksmithing feels like this juggling game of work orders and eventually, weeks later, you get to craft an epic. What will happen once you have your maximum amount of epics? Post them on the AH and that’s it?

I always liked the economy metagame, but I no longer have any idea how to make gold on the AH. Throughout Mists, I crafted PvP gear and made a lot of gold that way. I am still sitting on 450k gold, but I haven’t worked out a new strategy yet. The other goblins in-guild don’t seem to have anything set up yet either.

Furthermore, I should be excited that melee is quite strong, from what it looks like, but it’s led to the result that my guild is full of level 100 melee and not much else. I tried my first heroic with guildies, DPS being two warriors and a DK, ending up in UBRS and…yeah, it was ugly. A wipefest. Frustrating. I like the challenge, but not the part where it seemed impossible with three melee and a tank. That’s a lot of venomous puddles to stand in on the 2nd boss. Which was where we gave up.

The ugly stuff:

I’ll be honest, it’s not a feelgood feeling when the first round of class tuning is done, and your chosen main gets a flat out nerf. Warriors get 20% less damage on Shield Slam and Revenge, the main damage abilities of a gladiator warrior, and of course the primary rage abilities of tanking prot warriors as well. I know no prot warrior who doesn’t love Shield Slam, and seeing that nerfed for both prot playstyles, it really sucks. I wish they had nerfed Gladiator Stance’s damage buff or Shield Charge, but not those two abilities across the board. Arms is not in a great place, Fury isn’t either and honestly was quite tiring to level as. Together with the abundance of melee, that might have been it for being a warrior main this expac.

I am currently contemplating my other options. There’s my paladin, and retribution paladin is a lot of fun right now. Holy has always been my paladin’s main spec, I could go for that. Alternatively, level a ranged DPS. I started leveling my priest yesterday, but honestly, shadowpriest is just not my thing. The next closest ranged DPS I have is a shaman that I leveled as enhancement. She’s level 78. I have all the mail int heirlooms so switching to shaman would not be a problem. They just got buffed too. Maybe it’s a sign.

I could go back to Yatalai, my DK. Frost is in a good place. It just doesn’t feel quite right to me at the moment.

So there you have it, my 2-week impressions.

18/11/2014
by Kadomi
2 Comments

Pen&Paper: Session 2 – Overwhelmed

Pathfinder-logoOn Saturday I had session 2 of my Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder campaign. It was great fun but at the same time it was frustrating and really showed me my limits as GM. I’ll really have to work on my skills, and am already nervous that the group might fall apart. That would make me very sad. But let’s start at the beginning.

My campaign consists of a seasoned player who used to play DSA, Germany’s biggest RPG, my SO who has some experience from our D&D group, and three co-workers and a spouse who have never ever played any Pen&Paper game at all. Everyone is very enthusiastic though, and they got really into creating their characters. As for the party, we have a half-elf druid, a human barbarian, an elven paladin, a half-elf rogue, a gnome ranger and a halfling sorcerer. We are playing Burnt Offerings, the first of five adventures of this adventure path.

The Rise of the Runelords Adventure Path starts with a peaceful festival in the town of Sandpoint that then gets raided by an unusual amount of goblins. The party is supposed to assist the citizens of Sandpoint, develop some attachment to the place and then figure out the sinister background why the raid happened. The first session in September went really well. I think everyone had fun at the festival, and then liked to kick goblin ass, defeating the raid.

On to Saturday’s session. The party had saved a noble, Aldern Foxglove, from the goblins, and our druid Calandria in particular caught his eye. They were to join the noble at the Rusty Dragon the next day at noon, because he wanted to express his gratitude and invite them to hunt with him. Problem number 1: the party split up. The paladin invited the ranger to stay at the crafter’s guild where he is living. No real discernible reason that the two would have bonded, beyond being a RL couple. My SO plays a very aloof loner druid, also doesn’t help. So the next morning, only two of six people are at the inn, and of those two, the halfling has IC reasons to not like humans. Awkward. The paladin and the ranger arrived late, so no opportunity for group bonding, or really, even an introduction. When the druid arrived, she decided to not join the others. Aaaaah.

The sheriff of Sandpoint arrived to ask everyone’s help, and no one really seemed interested in actually helping him heroically. At that point I already felt I was descending into railroad territory, because I really needed them to investigate the crypta. Hrm. Then the noble arrived, and invited them to the hunt, and no one seemed interested in that either. The druid latched onto him for very valid IC reasons, but the others simply weren’t interested. Now, the segment of Burnt Offerings we’re at is called Local Heroes. It’s to establish that the citizens view the party as valiant heroes and to establish a connection to the town. That part really did not seem to work.

Eventually, they did actually investigate the crypta, and found signs that goblins and a humanoid scaled the walls to steal the bones of the former town priest, and that they have left skeletons in their wake. The party dispatched of the skeletons and then investigated the outer town wall, for more signs of the goblins, before calling it a night.

The next day, the noble wanted to pick them up for the hunt, but the party was only interested in the free horses that he gifted to the characters. Not a single person wanted to join him for the hunt, which left a very miffed noble behind. Instead, they wanted to leave the town to find the goblin leader.

The plot continues to be that a scout of the town arrives to report that all tribes of the goblins seem united, and that there is a mastermind behind it. The sheriff then asked the party to please stay in Sandpoint to be available if the need arises, so that he can travel to the city of Magnimar to ask for more troops. Well, bugger that, none of them actually wanted to stay, or listen to the scout’s report. They wanted to leave the town and blindly go find some goblins. Here I had to use some extreme railroading and strong-armed by offering individual amounts of gold for staying, and Shalelu the scout actually called them idiots for not actively listening to her report.

They then went to see the mayor, because they all mistrusted the sheriff for wanting to leave the town in need. She confirmed however that he was leaving on her behalf, sweet-talked them some, and that was that. They still wanted to look for the goblins themselves and left town on their new horses. I had them run into Aldern who was still out hunting and they were attacked by a boar. We called it a night after they defeated the boar and gathered all escaped horses again.

I think my frustration should be obvious. The party is split, no one seems interested in the others, and for adventurers they’re rather…unwilling. It’s like they don’t actually want to be heroes. Maybe I confused all the new players by asking them to think of a character motivation. Now they’re all entirely focused on the character motivation and not really on the adventure. But I also probably failed here because I should just have run with it. Let them run free and look for goblins, create some random encounters and maybe a bit of a new backstory, and somehow try to get them back on track for the adventure.

Or maybe I am just a sucky GM. I am very anxious now.

17/11/2014
by Kadomi
0 comments

MMOs – And then LFG happened

And not a Dungeon Finder of any kind, but Blizzard’s documentary about WoW.

I was out sick last week, watched the documentary while laying in bed (yay, tablet!) and then not much later pre-ordered Warlords of Draenor and bought a game card. Sigh. I am weak. Though it pleases me to know that I am not the only one who crawled back to WoW for the expansion. I just had all the feels for WoW. It’s been such a huge part of my life since 2005.

So then this happened:

Kadomi 2.0 was born!

Kadomi 2.0 was born!

I originally rolled Kadomi on US-Bronzebeard in 2005. She was my main from Burning Crusade launch til October 2012. I only gave her up for Mists of Pandaria because I closed my US-account. Boosting her was a no-brainer. Have to say that I really enjoy the new female orc models and found a nice bitch-face for Kadomi. She’s got spunk. I am still getting used to her weird new run, but it’s okay.

The WoD launch has been terrible for me. On Thursday, the game was pretty much unplayable. Which is to be expected on a launch day. A lot of the pains were self-produced by Blizzard. I am not sure how you can think it’s a clever idea to tie a mandatory quest to create your garrison to an item that can only be clicked by one person. When Kadomi made it to Frostfire Ridge, I noticed something very strange. A long line. A very long line. You see, you had to click the Master Surveyor item on top of the hill. I play on EU-Argent Dawn, and it’s an incredibly polite realm. On other servers you end up with hundreds of people on mammoths standing on top of such items. On my server you get: THE LINE!

Not that this line had any point, because the item was actually bugged.

Not that this line had any point, because the item was actually bugged.

While I stood in this line for a good 45 minutes, Blizzard did a hotfix and suddenly the whole line in front of me disappeared. They changed it so proximity to the item was enough and you got ported to your garrison instance. The rest of the day was unplayable lag, huge amounts of phasing issues (I hate you, Bladespire Citadel), and near constant downtime of the garrison server.

On Friday, we got more of the same, and I had my first run-in with the queue monster. Argent Dawn is the highest population English RP server, and let me tell you, it’s very very full atm. On Friday afternoon I made the mistake of logging out around 4 pm to do groceries. When I tried to log back in at 5:30 pm, I was 3900ish in the queue. 6.5 hours later I finally got in, to play for the least satisfying 30 minutes ever, because bedtime. Yesterday, I tried to log in just after noon, and was 2600ish in the queue. Tonight after work, pretty much the same. I am 1931 right now.

At least when you can play now, there’s no lag. The Garrison is a lot of fun. I love my very own mine. I am a bit bewildered how professions work now. I didn’t powerlevel my boosted character’s professions, and it’s nice that I can tap ore out in the world, what little there is, for frustratingly low amounts of ore. That’s why I love my level 2 mine. So much ore! You can’t really craft a lot of items, was boggling a bit that there’s no items for leveling, and how prohibitive crafting costs are. Really, 100 trueiron ingots? That’s how many work orders? A lot.

As a self-declared TBC junkie, WoD works for me on many levels. I get misty-eyed with every familiar character or follower you run into. I spend a lot of time walking through the zones and trying to find hints of Outland. It was a bit tough in Frostfire Ridge, but then I found Daggermaw Ravine and the path to Gruul’s Lair. Memories. Same with the Crimson Fens, Zangarmarsh flashbacks. I am currently in Talador, which really is a colorful version of Terrokar Forest, and every familiar sight makes me happy. For all that alone, I am happy I returned.

The view from Daggermaw Canyon up to Bladespire Citadel

The view from Daggermaw Canyon up to Bladespire Citadel

I am not sure if I’ll continue to play Kadomi as main though. I feel an urge to level my tauren paladin, because I like healing, and everyone seems to play melee these days. Also, fury is not a good fit. I am very curious about gladiator stance DPS. We’ll see.

For what it’s worth, it’s good to be back, and I didn’t think I’d ever say that again. A huge thanks goes to my lovely guild, the Ashen Rose Conspiracy. I quit 10 months ago, and they were very welcoming in having me back. When I read ‘Welcome home’ I did have the warm fuzzies.

I still don’t feel that I really have time to commit to MMOs anymore, but I can piddle around in the garrison, sure.

03/11/2014
by Kadomi
2 Comments

Book Reviews: October 2014

I have lost a lot of momentum in my book reading this year. I started with the very ambitious Goodreads goal of finishing 50 books this year and for a majority of the year, I was ahead of schedule. It’s now November and I have two months to read 10 books. It might not happen. It didn’t help that I started numerous books and didn’t finish them because they bored me, or that I am using precious reading time to prep my Pathfinder game. Enough with the whining, here’s what I read in October. It was a good month, I read very solid books.

The first book of the Shadows of the Apt series

The first book of the Shadows of the Apt series

Empires of Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky is the first book of a 10-book series called Shadows of the Apt. I added it to my reading list when I was on a steampunk kick. It’s classic fantasy meets steampunk, with some rather interesting concepts. The fantasy world the series is set in sounds rather generic, but the people living in it are anything but. There are different races called Kinden, who have all descended from an Ancestor Spirit and share traits with insects. They are Ants who can communicate via telepathy, spiders who can crawl walls and plot nefariously, scorpions who have claws, flies who can fly, etc. People with insect traits. Fascinating. The Kinden are split again. There are some who are apt, like beetles, who can use and create technology like flying machines, trains, and cars. Those who are not apt cannot. Some, like the moths, cling to old and forgotten magic. Yet now they all have to come together, because they are threatened by a race of kinden that comes and offers trade and prosperity: the Empire of the wasps. Master Stenwold, a Beetle-kinden teacher in the university city Collegium, has witnessed how brutally the wasp-kinden advance their empire and is organizing a spy-ring for what he thinks is impending invasion of the Lowlands. He is sending his most promising students to the industrial city of Helleron, to get in touch with his contacts there, to find out more about the plans of the wasps. But the wasps interfere with the plan, splitting the group up, and no one knows the wasps’ masterplan just yet. – Yeah, so Stenwold is the Gandalf of this series, and his niece Cheerwell is a bit like Frodo. You have the classic party on a grand quest. I loved the book for the worldbuilding and the concept of insect-kinden + technology, that was very well done. The writing is probably the weakest part of the book, but I am definitely planning on reading the sequel.

My rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

Moon over SohoMoon over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch is the sequel to Rivers of London or Midnight Riot, depending on which side of the Atlantic you are on. Peter Grant, the street copper turned wizard’s apprentice copper, is dealing with the aftermath of his first adventure, when a new series of deaths is brought to his attention. Apparently jazz musicians keep dying, and he senses a touch of magic on the corpses. But why would jazz musicians die after performing? In order to solve this case, Peter involves his dad, the former junkie who plays jazz music, and gets involved with the girlfriend of one of the dead guys. The book introduces a recurring villain who has it in for Peter and his boss Detective Nightingale. – I loved the first book, but felt it lost momentum and tension in the later parts. Not so with this book. I love the super-dry British humor. I can connect a lot better with the British Peter Grant than the so-American Harry Dresden. It was funny, witty and exciting, sometimes creepy to read. Even if it dealt with jazz vampires, which sounds ridiculously silly. Or female assassins who chop off dicks with their vaginas. I want more.

My rating: 5 Stars (5 / 5)

The Cloud RoadTaking the prize as surprise of the month, we have The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells, the first book of the Books of the Raksura series. How many fantasy books do you get where all the races are unique and different? The kinden concept from the Shadows of the Apt series was cool, but the Raksura and all other races in this book, especially the fell, feel very alien. The world is called Three Worlds, actually, because it has realms on the ground, in the air and in the sea. Our protagonist is Moon who has moved from groundling tribe to groundling tribe in hopes of fitting in. But he is not a groundling. He can shift to be a creature with wings and claws similar to the most hated race of the world, the Fell, which inevitably gets him kicked out of settlements once people find out he is a shifter. He is alone, because his mother and siblings died, leaving him alone in the world. When he gets kicked out again from his latest home, he is rescued from certain death by a member of his own race that he didn’t even know existed. Stone brings him back to his tribe of the Raksura, where it turns out that not only Moon is a Raksura, but one of the rare consorts who can breed with a queen. But as Moon tries to figure out if he can fit in with his own people, an attack of the vilest sort is imminent from the Fell.

We have great world-building, with mysterious islands in the sky full of ruins, flying ships, and a race full of kickass-women like Jade, Flower and Pearl. Moon can be a bit whiny, but it didn’t stop me from pretty much devouring this book. Greatly enjoyed, will definitely read on.

My rating: 5 Stars (5 / 5)

November should be awesome too, as I am currently reading another great book. Cross your fingers I will make my goal!

29/10/2014
by Kadomi
2 Comments

RPG – Tools of the Game Master: Hero Lab

As I mentioned in my September post, I have recently begun to GM again, in a Pathfinder game with five friends and my SO. In the ten years since I last played tabletop, there’ve been a lot of technological advancements, and I am now looking for ways to enhance my GM experience using software and mobile apps to use at the game table. I might also post about game products that I find incredibly helpful, but we’ll see. It’s a bit of a departure from my normal game posting, but it’s what I am currently excited about.

Today I want to talk about the first investment I made in this area which I started using right around the time that my players were ready to create their characters: Hero Lab.

hl_logo

Hero Lab is the officially sanctioned character creation software for Pathfinder. You can use it for plenty other systems as well, e.g. D&D 4E, 3.5, Shadowrun, World of Darkness, Savage Worlds, etc. The software costs 29.99 USD and comes with one core rulebook enabled. Naturally, I picked Pathfinder. It also comes with free rule additions from the Paizo website, e.g. the player companions for Adventure Paths, including traits and items from there plus all the content from the Inner Sea Guide. If you want to use any additional sourcebooks for your character building, you have to purchase them. Prices range. I bought access to a couple player companion books (the races books) because my players wanted to use traits from there, and paid like 15 bucks additionally for those. If you are a completionist who wants to have access to every single splat book beyond the core rules, Hero Lab might be a bit pricey all in all.

So what does Hero Lab actually do? Above all, it’s a tool to create characters. You can then keep track of the characters and advance them with experience and level them up as you go. You can print out full character sheets, add images, have room for a full detailed background, etc. That makes it a sweet tool for players to keep track of their characters. It also makes it incredibly easy for me as GM who is quite admittedly really rusty when it comes to rules. I am still learning all the intricacies of the Pathfinder core rules, and the rules part has never been my biggest strength, I’ll be honest.

I installed the trial to test-roll a character, and was so happy with it that I bought it before the players showed up to create their characters. Character creation is quite easy. When you create a new character, you choose which rulebooks you want to include, which advancement track to use, but it also allows you turn off stuff like encumbrance rules if that’s what floats your boat. Hero Lab has 15 tabs for each character, which sounds overwhelming but to me is very organized. They range from Classes to Abilities to Feats, Gear, etc. When creating a character, the software always makes it fairly obvious when something has been forgotten.

In this example, the stalwart paladin Phileas forgot to pick a language.

In this example, the stalwart paladin Phileas forgot to pick a language.

What makes this so wonderful for me is that it calculates everything. Player picks Improved Initiative feat? Without me having to think about it at all, Hero Lab calculates the correct Iniative values for me. You can also easily keep track of which spells have been used up, how many arrows are left, how many rounds the barbarian’s rage will last and how this affects his health and combat rolls. And so on and so forth. The In-Play tab of each character lets me easily keep track of things like that, or apply damage or heal them.

Here I can fiddle with the barbarian's options. He's been injured, and hasn't raged any at all yet.

Here I can fiddle with the barbarian’s options. He’s been injured, and hasn’t raged any at all yet.

Hero Lab offers a tactical console that will handle combat rounds for you. It will roll initiative for the PCs and determine attack order that way. But as my players roll initiative themselves, and it’s very awkward to adjust the order, the tactical console didn’t really work for me. If your players don’t enjoy rolling their own initiative, it might be an idea. To help me out with combat, I bought Paizo’s Combat Pad instead. We’ll see how that goes. I might test other software options as well.

Another Gamemaster tool is the encounter builder, which allows you to build encounters based on the desired challenge rating, from a wide list of NPCs included in Hero Lab. You can then import them as enemies and control them via the tactical console as well. You can also add friendly NPCs that way as allies and use them to assist your group with a few mouse clicks. Quite handy.

Here I am in the process of building an encounter with goblins, for my party. APL 2, desired CR 3.

Here I am in the process of building an encounter with goblins, for my party. APL 2, desired CR 3.

For those of you who are playing Pathfinder online via either D20pro or Fantasy Grounds, Hero Lab is integrated and any character created can be easily transferred to the virtual tabletops. I haven’t used either and think Roll20 is more widely spread than those two, so there’s that.

Me, I am happy I sprang those 30 bucks on the software. I run Hero Labs on the laptop at the gaming table and feel like it helps me a lot more with the rules-end of things, for sure. Hero Lab is also available for ipads, so I am sincerely hoping they’re going to release an Android version eventually as well.

If you want to give the software a shot, a trial version for Windows and Mac is available.

27/10/2014
by Kadomi
0 comments

Steam Pile: Remember Me

Remember-Me-01-515x271

Due to a trip to the USA, this review has been a bit delayed. It’s been a good while since I finished it, but nevertheless, it’s one of those games I definitely wanted to write a review for. I had wanted to play this game for years, but never got around to it. It’s been very under the radar, and I wish it had gotten more spotlight, if even just through Steam sales. It never seems to be one of the games on the list for flash sales or heavy discounts and that’s a real shame, considering how important Steam sales are for PC game visibility these days. I don’t know about you guys, but aside from Bioware releases like Dragon Age or Mass Effect I haven’t really bought a full price AAA game for years.

I bought Remember Me during a midweek sale, one of the few times it actually got a discount, and now I wish I had played this game a lot earlier. It pushed a lot of the right buttons for me. Story-wise, Remember Me is set in a dystopian near future in the late 21st century. Europe seems to have fallen apart, and a mega corp has risen using the Sensen technology. Everyone has them implanted, allowing people to import, export and modify memories. Like drug users, people are hooked on only reliving their favorite memories over and over again, while the corps can use Sensen to influence people. In comes Nilin, our protagonist. She’s a mixed blood female and the best memory hunter around, and for the latter she gets captured, about to have her memories wiped. With the help of a terrorist or, as they’re called here, ‘errorist’, named Edge, Nilin manages to escape from the facility, out into Neo-Paris, the cyber-punk remains of the great city that is now a crazy mix of slums, former glory and the rich hiding in their high-security buildings. As some of the memory wipe was already successful, Nilin sets out to regain her memories, aiding Edge and his group along the way.

The views of Neo-Paris are sometimes quite gorgeous.

The views of Neo-Paris are sometimes quite gorgeous.

The story and the atmosphere really grabbed me. Neo-Paris just oozes atmosphere, and the glimpses, the views you get of the city are breath-taking at times. The gameplay however has its weaknesses. It’s got two facets. You spend a lot of time running, jumping and climbing, but always on a leash. It’s close to Assassin’s Creed’s parkours, but without the freedom of the open world. An orange indicator from your Sensen always shows you the way. I hear the closest comparison would be the Uncharted games, but as I have no console (yet) I wouldn’t know. While you jump and climb your way through Neo-Paris, you sometimes run into foes. There are leapers, tragically addicted Sensen users who reminded me of husks in Mass Effect. Then there’s security staff and security robots. Running into them triggers combat, one of the most fun and yet also most frustrating aspects of the game.

Nilin usually kicks ass by using martial arts but in case of robot enemies, she has to use a zapper as well. Combat is similar to the Arkham Batman games. You dodge when the game indicates that you are being attacked, and otherwise try to build combos. The further you play, the more so-called pressens get unlocked. If you play with an X-Box controller like I did, the pressens use either the X or Y buttons on the controller for your attacks. Some pressens do damage, some heal you, reduce the cooldown of your S-Pressens (your big special abilities) or enhance others. You start with a short combo, but eventually end up with having rather complex combos. I set up one for damage, one for heals, one that mixed damage and cooldown reduction for boss fights, etc. Sometimes you may have to adjust them for specific boss fights.

A look at the combo lab where you unlock pressens and form combos.

A look at the combo lab where you unlock pressens and form combos.

Boss fights are usually what caused frustration for me. They’re usually at the end of story chapters and either really boring (here’s looking at you, Madame) or very challenging (damn you, fucking leaper twins at the end). They all rely on using specific special abilities to deal with them. That often means that you just have to hang in there and use your cooldown reducing combos until you are ready to attack the boss again.

Sometimes, Nilin gets to show why she is the best memory hunter in the memory remix sequences. For example, she has to change the memories of an assassin to stop her from killing Nilin. You watch a memory the victim treasures and then have to rewind it and change it to a different outcome. There are specific objects in each sequence that you can change and it is up to the player to figure out which changes will result in the correct outcome you want. It’s very interesting, and definitely cooler gameplay than some bossfights. There are however only few memory remixes in the game, which is a real shame.

A memory remix in action, with two possible actions how to change this particular memory

A memory remix in action, with two possible actions how to change this particular memory

My verdict: it’s an underrated gem. Despite middling reviews, it’s been one of the best games I have played this year. The story is thought-provoking, the combat is fun when it works, and the setting is so great that I would love to see more of it. Which is unlikely to ever happen, because it sounds like it bombed in sales. Such a shame! Anyone who’s looking for a strong female protagonist in a game that’s definitely more than eye-candy, go ahead, meet Nilin.