To Boldly Nerd…

Video games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

by Kadomi

Life is Strange – The Aftermath

On Monday evening, I completed episode 5 of Life is Strange, the episodic adventure by Dontnod, the creators of Remember Me. I call this review the aftermath because of how the game has affected me. I haven’t played anything that tugged so heavily on my heartstrings since DA2, and it’s been more thought-provoking than Bioshock Infinite, or any other game I have played. In fact, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, and managed to convince one of my friends to buy the game, even though there is no German translation for it. Experiencing her reactions now is like savoring the game a little longer. I use a spoiler plugin, to keep this text as spoiler-free as possible, while at the same time offering spoilers to those of you who wish to read them. Reveal at your own risk.

The two main characters of the game, Max and Chloe.

The two main characters of the game, Max and Chloe.

It’s a game in the vein of Telltale adventures like The Walking Dead or The Wolf Among Us. Gameplay-wise, it has two major differences from the Telltale offerings: there is no time limit on any of your dialogue choices and there are no Quicktime events whatsoever. Instead, it uses a mechanic that they apparently fell in love with when they did Remember Me, but it’s used differently here: the ability to rewind time.

Our protagonist is Maxine Caulfield, short Max. She’s 18, and is a highschool senior at Blackwell Academy in small fictional Oregon town, Arcadia Bay. Max originally used to live here, and had a best friend, Chloe, BFFs, never to be parted, but they did part, when Max’s family moved to Seattle. At the beginning of the game, Max hasn’t met Chloe again yet. The first episode starts very slowly, and mostly serves to introduce all the characters that you will meet throughout the series. The other students, teachers, the pushy security staff, etc. My first thoughts were that it was weird to play a game that felt like playing a teenage drama, maybe a bit dull. But early into the episode, we learn that Max has a supernatural ability. She can rewind time, and change the course of events that way. She discovers this ability when she saves her old friend Chloe from being shot by the school’s rich kid and drug dealer Nathan.

Whereas in The Walking Dead, e.g. you always have the rush to quickly respond to events because of the time limit, you have a different problem in Life is Strange. Most decisions are agonizing. As you can rewind time, you can re-do every conversation. Sometimes you can use information you gained from a previous conversation after you rewound time. Sometimes you just listen to all reactions and then go and pick the one that’s best for you. Sometimes there are no options that one could consider good, like the heartbreaking conversation with Chloe at her sickbed in episode 4. And then there is this final moment when you can’t rewind at all and are stuck with those two options, both of which are crushing.

I have watched Felicia Day playing Life is Strange, even though I normally don’t do Let’s Plays, and when she played episode 2, I think there was one decision she re-wound like 5 times, because she just couldn’t make up her mind. Sometimes, it’s just nail-biting and not so easy to pick what feels right for Max.

A decision from episode 1. I finally settled on Blame Chloe. Man, she was pissed at me for a while.

A decision from episode 1. I finally settled on Blame Chloe. Man, she was pissed at me for a while.

Life is Strange is a dark game, with serious subject matters. It involves murder, substance abuse, abductions, cyber- and RL-bullying, hints of date rape, and has a perfectly creepy villain. Playing through early episode 5 and interacting with him closely has been one of the most chilling game experiences I ever had. It felt personal. I hated the villain, from the depths of my heart.

With each episode throughout the series, I felt the story got more intense, and as a result more emotional. Ultimately, it’s the story of Max and Chloe. Max saves Chloe, they reconnect, and they go through the worst of times together. Max is the good girl, the good student who wants to be a photographer, create art, whereas Chloe is the highschool dropout who has blue hair, digs punk, does drugs, and mourns her best friend Rachel who has disappeared six months ago. She has a lot of anger, and she’s a terrible influence on Max. There are times you want to smack her on the head, to get some sense into her. But just like Max, we start loving her. In my case, it was very obvious to me that my Max -really- loved Chloe, not in a platonic way. I am sure others play Max in a way that she didn’t, but I did. Jewel from Healing the Masses managed to explain it all a bit better than I can, but beware, spoilers!

Of course I now know that I am not alone in Max loving Chloe that way, because the ship has an official name, and it is Pricefield, and it has its own subreddit. I haven’t even checked Tumblr, there’s probably pr0n about them…

After playing the final episode, I dreamed about it all night. There’s this sequence where Max is losing it a little bit, and just reading her journal in that segment of the game really fucked with my head. It’s that part of the game that feels very David Lynch-esque, in a very compelling way. I was freaked out the whole time.

I mention a journal. Max has a diary, and it’s very entertaining to read it, especially her reactions. Also, when the time travel stuff gets heavier, it’s interesting to read it to make sense of Max and how her changes have affected the people around her. You also get to read text messages she receives, which really enhanced the game for me. I got excited every time she received a message. When they all turned to hate messages in episode 5 during the storm, I cringed a lot.

The game is not without its flaws. It lives and falls on the dialogue and the story. When it comes to its gaming elements, that’s probably the weakest part of the game. In episode 2 in particular Chloe makes you prove your time abilities to her, and the gameplay wasn’t particularly fun. Also, could the junkyard be any more confusing? Additionally, the voice acting has very uneven quality. This is mostly because a relatively small cast has to voice-act a much larger cast of characters. I found it the most grating with Kate Marsh’s voice acting, because it was very obvious she was also Alyssa. In episode 5 there was this scene when it became very noticeable that some adult characters had the voice of the students, etc. But ultimately, it’s what we call “Jammern auf hohem Niveau”, whining on a high level, in German. The voices that matter the most, Max and Chloe, but also e.g. Victoria or David Madsen, they were pretty good. Especially Ashley Birch as Chloe was shining in some scenes, for example when you finally find out what happened to Rachel Amber. Her sobs were killing me. Life is Strange is a budget game, despite Square Enix backing, and I am pretty sure Dontnod were nervous going into it. Remember Me was no huge success, so this episode game was a risk. I hope it pays off in gold for them.

Max and Chloe, walking off into the sunset. Aaaah.

Max and Chloe, walking off into the sunset. Aaaah.

All in all, I cannot praise this game enough. It’s definitely the game of the year for me. My SO is not into video gaming as much as I am, and she kept asking me to play. We played it together, because it was that good. After every episode, we took a break and watched Felicia Day playing it, because we wanted to see how she did and experience her reactions. So many twists and turns, so many decisions, so many reactions. We both were pissed when her brother Ryon joined her for episode 4 and at first talked over the game so much that it kinda ruined the experience for us. It felt disrespectful to the game. We weren’t the only ones as people on Twitch and YouTube complained and he noticeably got more quiet. We’re waiting for the final Let’s Play, and I really hope she leaves her brother out this time. We are currently planning on my SO actually playing it in January, and me just watching. We should be aiming for 100% photo ops, hah!

Life is Strange is currently a download only game, available on PS3/4, XboxOne and 360, and through Steam and Square Enix for PC. A limited boxed edition will be released in January 2016, including the full soundtrack, an artbook and director’s commentary, plus subtitles in several languages, and you can bet your ass that I am so going to pick one of those babies up. At least for Playstation, you can pick up the first episode for free, and a season pass runs very little money, IMHO.

If you enjoy Telltale games, or stories like Heavy Rain or Gone Home, it’s really almost a mandatory purchase, if you ask me. Go play it already! remains in denial about people enjoying Fallout 4 instead :)

by Kadomi

RPG: Legacy of Fire, Session 2

With me playing four different Pathfinder campaigns now gulp, it’s going to be tough to keep session reports posted in a timely fashion, but I’ll do my best! I’ll post reports for the two games that I GM, today for my online campaign Legacy of Fire.

At the end of the first session, the leader of the Kelmarane expedition, the merchant princess Lady Almah Rovashki, tasked our intrepid heroes to find her one of the pugwampis and prove that Dashki wasn’t lying. The group left camp in the middle of the night to do just that and found Dashki not the slightest bit helpful. In fact, he was more than happy to taunt the group and not provide any helpful clues as to where to find a pugwampi. The gunslinger Qusai started to threaten him with shooting his foot off if he didn’t do anything whereas the paladin tried the more gentle route of persuading him to help for Lady Almah. He half-heartedly tried to find tracks, without any success. Fed up with him, Qusai decided to look for tracks himself, and managed to find tiny footprints that Dashki was quick to claim were a pugwampis.

The group stumbled through the rolling foothills of the Katapesh desert following those tracks, eventually being led to a giant field of cacti that gave them an ominous feeling of doom.

So many spiky cacti to impale yourself on.

So many spiky cacti to impale yourself on.

Next came one of the most fun introductory and probably most frustrating encounters ever: meet the pugwampi. The pugwampi who had indeed started the fire in camp had abducted Rombard, the beloved baby goat of the camel drivers. Pugwampis are a kind of gremlin that literally radiate unluck. In game terms this means that every single check has to be rolled twice, and it’s always the lower number that counts. To move through the cacti, the players had to do a successful Acrobatics check or take 1 point of damage from the cacti. As this was difficult terrain, they were moving at half-speed. I also allowed them to attack the cacti, and even gave the cacti a relatively low AC of 10. And yet, the aura of unluck did its work.

The rogue was the first one to break through the dense growth, at quite a price, as he failed to move past the cacti dexterously, despite being a nimble person. The paladin and the gunslinger used melee weapons to whack at the cacti in a straight line. Qusai had a grand moment of triumph when he tied a rope to his dagger and then did a ranged attack move that will now forever be known as Cactus Dagger Whirlwind Jubilee, tearing down the cacti in his path once. The dwarf alchemist Kiva was smart enough to let the big humans clear the way and followed carefully through areas that had been cleared (on the above map the squares with green were cleared), only getting bolder when they were nearly through the patch.

At the end of the field was a ravine, and far below, a deadly-looking cactus was gleaming in the moonlight, waiting for enemies to impale themselves on its spines. The abducted goat was tied to a scrub by the ravine, crying pitifully. Kiva tried to calm down the poor goat who appeared to be bleeding from being dragged through the cactus field, but did not do a great job at it. The goat ran in circles around her and managed to trip her so that her head was hanging over the edge of the ravine, right above the giant cactus. The paladin Tefya also did not manage to calm the panicked goat and Qusai failed to cut the goat’s rope. Kiva, alchemist that she is, tried to remove one danger by throwing down a flask of acid onto the cactus below her, which made another creature elicit a snarl and howl in terror at such sizzling dangers: a pugwampi that had been hiding behind a rock near the goat, not perceived by any of the party members so far!

Nasty little fellas, the pugwampis

Nasty little fellas, the pugwampis

Looking like an ugly little dog on two legs, the creature started to attack the party. Qusai was quick on his feet and shot his musket at the creature, but the shot went high into the night sky. Tefya called upon Sarenrae’s might to smite this evil creature and got a good hit in with her scimitar. Kiva then decided to grapple the creature and succeeded, but Qusai’s attempts to tie up the creature were not met with success. It required the more deft hands of the rogue Tillous to tie the creature up. To end their unlucky streak, Tefya then gave the pugwampi a good whack on the head to knock the creature unconscious, the aura of bad luck and doom lifting immediately. The group then freed Rombard the goat and wandered back to camp, where the cowardly Dashki was quick to claim that he had captured the pugwampi for Lady Almah. The party reported how things really went down, which caused Lady Almah to be quick about ordering her majordomo to kill the pugwampi, which he did immediately. Dashki received the corpse, which he tied to his quarterstaff hanging from a noose, as his good luck charm.

Lady Almah decided that this camp was not safe if there are really that many pugwampis out there and made the executive decision that the expedition needed a better camp to stage their conquest of Kelmarane from. She informed the group that the deserted monastery of St. Vardishal, dedicated to Sarenrae is in the vicinity, and that the party is to visit the monastery, clear it of any possible threats and claim it for the expedition.

The next morning, the party received a sumptuous breakfast from the happy camel drivers who were entirely thankful that the heroes saved their goat Rombard. The majordomo Garavel then produced a map of the Kelmarane hinterlands so that the party could locate the monastery. As the monastery is only a mile away, the trip didn’t take long. As the group approached the monastery, a feeling of doom grabbed them again…

Here’s where we ended the session. The monastery visit will be the first introductory dungeon crawl and should be lots of fun. Howl of the Carrion King is really a fun adventure with lots of different encounter styles. Friday will be our next game, looking forward to it. :-)

by Kadomi

RPG-Blog-O-Quest #1

Those who actually read this blog, might remember that I tried to push me to keep writing by doing the Media Monday project of weekly blog posts. As most of the questions are usually tailored to movie geeks which I most definitely am not, I found it hard to use the prompts for myself. In comes RPG-Blog-o-Quest, a project run by the two German RPG blogs Würfelheld and Greifenklaue. This post will be a huge departure for me, because I will actually post in German to participate. I will however post a translation below, for anyone interested. switches to German


Mal eine ganz neue Erfahrung in meiner Bloggerei. Obwohl ich bereits seit 2008 ein Blog betreibe, erst über WoW, nun über allgemeine Nerd-Themen, habe ich noch nie auf deutsch gebloggt. WoW habe ich stets auf englischsprachigen Servern gespielt, und fast alle Nerds, die ich kenne, sind englisch-sprachig, bzw. so sah es früher mal aus. Seitdem ich wieder aktiv Rollenspiel betreibe, und auch relativ viele Brettspiele spiele, ist mein Haupt-Nerdkontakt deutsch. Meine Lieblingsrollenspiel-Blogs sind deutschsprachig, die Brettspielszene ist ja eh sehr aktiv, und überhaupt, warum nicht mal auf deutsch bloggen für RPG-Blog-O-Quest? Die Idee stammt von Greifenklaue und Würfelheld, und ist letztendlich eine monatliche Version des Media Mondays für Rollenspieler. Hurra, endlich muss ich nicht mehr versuchen, Kinofragen (bin kein großer Kinofan) auf Nerd-Krams umzustricken. :-) Ich sollte warnen, ich tendiere, weit auszuholen.

  1. Wie kamst Du zum Rollenspiel? – Die Wegbereiter meiner Leidenschaft für die Fantastik heißen Michael Ende und Otfried Preußler. Sehr sehr früh angefixt durch die Abenteuer von Jim Knopf (ich erinnere mich noch heute an die Karte im Buch), dann Momo, Die Unendliche Geschichte und Krabat. Nach meiner Grundschulzeit kam ich recht früh mit Herrn Tolkien in Kontakt, erst mit Der Hobbit, und dann mit meinem ersten richtigen Buch für Erwachsene: Der Herr der Ringe. Letzteres hat mich sehr geprägt. Das war 1984. Spiele fand ich schon immer toll, und wenn ich mal Langeweile hatte, bin ich einfach in den größten Spielwarenladen Dortmunds gefahren, Lütgenau. Dort sah ich sie dann, diese Box, die mich anlachte, und mich irgendwie total an Saurons Auge erinnerte. Nachdem ich meine Eltern davon überzeugen konnte, mir diese zu kaufen, musste ich nur noch Leute zum Spielen finden. Das war allerdings nicht so einfach. Mein damals rein weiblicher Freundeskreis hatte null Interesse an Fantasy. Das Einstiegsabenteuer aus der Box kam entsprechend überhaupt nicht gut an, und so habe ich die Box exakt einmal verwenden dürfen. Es hat danach dann noch ca. 5 Jahre gedauert, bis ich wieder angefangen habe zu spielen, dann aber nicht mehr DSA, sondern AD&D. Daraus wurde irgendwann D&D 3E, und seit letztem Jahr ist es Pathfinder.
  2. Wie alt warst Du beim Erstkontakt? – Stolze 13 Jahre, und damals definitiv viel zu nerdy für ein Mädchen der 80er Jahre.
  3. Mein Lieblingssystem ist Pathfinder, weil es eine starke Weiterführung von D&D 3E ist, die Edition, mit der ich damals meine Rollenspielkarriere beendet habe. Es macht alles das, was ich damals beim Umstieg von AD&D 2nd Edition auf 3E geliebt habe, ohne das Rad neu zu erfinden. Ganz unkritisch sehe ich das ganze allerdings nicht, denn mittlerweile gibt es soviel Crunch von Paizo, dass das System sehr überladen wirken kann. Deswegen bin ich sehr dankbar, dass ich als SL HeroLab benutzen kann, was mir sehr viel Rechenarbeit abnimmt.
  4. Mein Lieblingscharakter ist schwer zu ermitteln, weil ich fast ausschließlich nur SL war. Ich habe mir meine Freunde immer selbst zusammengetrommelt und zu RPGlern bekehrt. Erst Mitschüler, dann Freunde und Arbeitskollegen. In den 90ern habe ich mich mal von einer Mitarbeiterin des lokalen Fantasyladens für AD&D anwerben lassen. Witzigerweise hat diese Mitarbeiterin mittlerweile ihren eigenen Fantasy-Laden, Tellurian. Zu der Zeit war ich unsäglich schüchtern, und es half wahrlich nicht, dass die Kampagne schon lief, und die anderen Spieler zum größten Teil 15-jährige Jungs waren, die dazu auch noch echte Regelcracks waren. Dazu kam noch, dass mein damaliger Freund alles was mit spielen und Fantasy zu tun hatte, zum Kotzen fand. Es kam, wie es kommen musste, bei dem kurzen Ausflug in die Welt des Spieler-Seins war es dann schon wieder gelaufen, und ich habe nur noch geleitet. Ähnlich lief es bei allen anderen Ansätzen, zu spielen, wie z.B. bei einer Midgard-Runde, oder dem alten Star Wars. Letzteres habe ich noch als positivsten Versuch in Erinnerung. Dort spielte ich eine rodianische Kopfgeldjägerin namens Aklim Evol I. was I love Milka rückwärts ist. Die war toll. Mittlerweile spiele ich seit ca. 2 Jahren in einer Runde eines ehemaligen Arbeitskollegen meiner Partnerin. Dort spielen sie und ich ein Zwillingspärchen, die Halblinge sind und sich gegenseitig zum Kotzen finden. Sie ist Euphoria, asoziale Waldläuferin, die immer direkt das sagt, was sie denkt, und dass ist meistens nicht so freundlich. Ich spiele Discordia, die charmante Schurkin, die der festen Überzeugung ist, dass sie Diplomatin ist. Das hat ihr zumindest der alte Halbling-Lehrmeister gesagt, der ihr das Langfingern und Leute charmant bequatschen beigebracht hat. Im Geiste sieht sie sich schon als Hof-Diplomatin am Königshof und arbeitet zielstrebig darauf hin, wozu halt auch Schlösser knacken, Diebstahl und fiese Oger mit spitzen Gegenständen zu stechen gehören. Ich mag sie sehr gerne als Charakter, und meine Partnerin und ich sind absolute Profis darin, echten Zickenterror an den Spieltisch zu bringen. :-) Da ein Freund von uns uns gerade zu einer neuen Kampagne eingeladen hat, bei der mein Charakter sehr sehr viel Potential hat, cool zu sein, mag sie Discordia als Lieblingscharakter bald ablösen. Nur kurz gesagt: Bastard, Mörder und Magus, Mitglied einer Strassengang in einer rein urbanen Kampagne.
  5. Ich bin ein linearer Rollenspieler, denn mir macht Railroading überhaupt gar nichts aus. Vielleicht liegt es bei mir auch an mangelnder Kreativität, aber ein Grund warum ich Pathfinder so toll finde, sind Paizos vielfältige Adventure Paths. Ich möchte epische Abenteuer erleben (und auch leiten) wo man klein anfängt, und hoch hinauskommt, und vielleicht ein wenig die Welt rettet. Ich mag keine absolute Sandbox, weder in Computerspielen, noch im RPG. Gib mir eine Geschichte, ein Handlungsfaden, der mich mitreisst. Ich hoffe, dass sich die Gruppen, die ich leite, immer dadurch auszeichnen, dass die Spieler wissen wollen, wie es weitergeht.

There, done with wall of text. That wasn’t so bad, was it? The English version will be a lot shorter as I was rather wordy in German already. On to the writing prompts:

  1. How did you start playing tabletop RPGs? – I read a lot of fantasy books when I was a kid. When the first German RPG hit the market, I bought it and have been a fan of tabletop gaming ever since.
  2. How old were you when you had first contact? – I was 13 years old, which turned out to be a bad time because none of my highschool friends were into fantasy at all.
  3. My favorite system is Pathfinder, because it’s a continuation of the last D&D edition that I loved, improving on the solid D20 ground works laid in 3E.
  4. My favorite character is Discordian, the diplomatic rogue. My SO play twins who hate each other and my character is the charming one. However, she fully believes that she wasn’t trained as rogue but as diplomat. She’s my favorite because it’s really the only character I have played long-term (about 2 years) but also because she’s fun and my SO and I are VERY good at playing chicks who hate each other, hah! I have always GM’d and none of my many attempts to join a group to actually play panned out. However, I am joining another new group as player, a campaign with 3 PCs, and I am greatly looking forward to playing my murdering bastard magus in an urban setting.
  5. I am a linear roleplayer, because I value nothing more than a strong story with great plot hooks. I love adventure paths and the opportunity to play from low beginnings to the epic finish. I don’t mind the railroading that it involves, as long as the story grabs me. I don’t like sandbox computer games, and I am not interested in sandbox adventures either, which is one of the reasons Kingmaker isn’t interesting to me at all. It is my sincere hope that the campaigns I GM will always have the players come back for more, because they want to know how the story continues and want to live out and roleplay and fight through an epic adventure.

by Kadomi

RPG: Legacy of Fire, Session 1

As I mentioned in my previous post, I started to GM another Pathfinder Adventure Path, with the novelty that this time, I would run it online instead of at a table. I use Roll20 to show my face-to-face players maps using a TV, so I had an account already, but I haven’t used the platform for its original purpose, as a virtual tabletop for people who can’t play locally with friends.

My SO made it a condition that we would play a more exotic Adventure Path instead of a fairly standard fare fantasy campaign, as she is already playing two of those. She wanted some spice to it. I offered five different Adventure Paths to the players:

  • Legacy of Fire – Paizo’s take on Tales of the Arabian Nights
  • Jade Regent – a caravan traveling to the far-eastern lands, a mix of Nordic and Asian adventures
  • Skull&Shackles – Arrr, pirates
  • Hell’s Rebels – foment a rebellion and overthrow the evil rulers of your home city
  • Zeitgeist – Steampunk meets D&D, in a truly epic campaign

It was a close call, really. I still dream of running Zeitgeist but I am glad it didn’t win the voting, because it’s not tailored to new players at all. Tobold is currently running this campaign, and I enjoy reading his session reports.

In the end, Legacy of Fire won by the skin of its teeth versus Hell’s Rebels, which was my favorite. The latter uses elements of weekly rebellion actions that remind me so much of Assassin’s Creed 2 and setting up the Assassin’s. It’s very heavy on social skills (at least the first adventure that I have read) which I adore, and has gorgeous artwork. But alas, no. Hell’s Rebels will definitely be the campaign I run next, for damn sure.


Legacy of Fire did win, and it’s a fine winner. It’s Paizo’s 4th adventure path, from 2009 and the final one using D&D 3.5 rules. Thankfully, the Paizo messageboards are a treasure trove of wonderful information and someone else has converted all six adventures to the Pathfinder ruleset. Hooray! There are also additional set pieces, maps and other content there, though not anywhere near as much as for Rise of the Runelords. It’s not a super-popular AP, which I don’t understand, because the first adventure is an absolute delight and easily beats Burnt Offerings, in direct comparison. For example, it nicely deals with one of the issues that I had with starting Rise of the Runelords. In Legacy of Fire, the adventure party are all hired by the majordomo of a merchant princess of the desert and trading nation Katapesh, to join an expedition to claim a village that was abandoned 20 years ago and is now ruled by a tribe of gnolls. By the start of the game, the party has traveled together for a week. This solves the problem that I had in RotR. There, my adventurers didn’t try very hard at first to have reasons to adventure together, and it was a bit like pulling teeth. I enjoy it’s different here.

Our adventuring party consists of the following characters:

  • Kiva – a female dwarf alchemist who got trapped in a collapsed tunnel for maybe too long, after a gnoll raid. Slightly unhinged ever since, she likes to throw bombs and cackles when she gets to thrown things, and is looking for the friend who inspired her to become an alchemist
  • Qusai – this jock who used to be the captain of his ruk team (a popular and fairly brutal ball game in Katapesh) is a trained gunslinger and likes to shoot things with his musket. If need be, he shows off how awesome he is by shooting cacti.
  • Tefya – a human paladin dedicated to Sarenrae, she was trained in the Lambent Citadel of the Dawnflower in northern Katapesh and is now looking to free Kelmarane to build a church or rebuild it, to honor the goddess of sun, redemption, honesty and healing.
  • Tillous Borde – a fellow ruk player from Qusai’s team, this rogue is used to doing shady deals in Katapesh’s famous Nightstalls, its most infamous market, working for a gang. Now he’s looking for adventures, and maybe learn more about his family’s history in the abandoned village of Kelmarane.
This is Qusai, as created at Spiffy tool!

This is Qusai, as created at Spiffy tool!

The intrepid heroes traveled on camel-back for a week, to their destination Kelmarane, a small village near the mountains, which are packed with many tribes of gnolls, the largest led by a ruler called the Carrion King. The heroes were traveling with the majordomo who hired them, to join the rest of the small expedition. The expedition is led by Lady Almah Rovashki, and Kelmarane used to be the ancestral home of the Rovashki family after they first arrived from Varisia. Lady Almah is joined by four Pactmaster guards, six mercenaries, a gnoll expert called Dashki, an alchemist and healer, Zastoran, and a married couple, Hadrod and Hadrah who tend the livestock, plus Garavel, the majordomo. When the party arrived in the camp near Kelmarane, called Sultan’s Claw for the giant tree at the campsite, a chaotic scene was observed, because one of the expeditions wagons was on fire. The party immediately got to join the efforts to contain the scene. Tillous and Kiva helped with carrying buckets of water to the burning wagon, or rather, one of them did that, while Kiva threw the buckets from the water cart, cackling gleefully all the while. Two of her throws missed, which caused the Pactmaster guards to be very disgruntled with her, for soaking them and actually wasting precious water in the desert. Tefya and Qusai helped the mercenaries to push a wagon close to the burning one away, to stop the fire from catching on and destroying supplies. Tefya turned out to be just a whee bit clumsy and instead of pushing the wagon ended flat on her face. Eventually they managed to push the wagon away, so Tefya was able to join Zastoran with stabilizing two mercenary guards with severe burns who had tried to save the inhabitant of the burning wagon, one Varisian astrologer named Eloias, who alas perished in the fire.

I really enjoyed to run this introductory fire scene. There are four different ways for the PCs to get involved right off the bat, get those dice rolling and feel awesome. Or not so awesome, as poor Tefya’s dice were cursed for a while. It also was a nice and easy way to introduce Pathfinder D20 rules to the tabletop newbies with a few nice and easy skill checks, while at the same time establishing RP connections to the expedition NPCs. The PCs unfortunately couldn’t handle the fourth task that was available, as not a single one had learned Handle Animal as a skill, which meant that they didn’t earn Hadrod and Hadrah’s undying love for dealing with their livestock during the fire.

After the chaos was over, Lady Almah summoned them to her tent, to get a proper introduction to them, and so that she could determine how each individual could assist the expedition. She then tasked them with investigating who set the fire, as the party and the majordomo were the only ones not around when the wagon went up in flames. The party dispersed around camp to investigate the burnt remains, spying the very unkempt and suspicious looking gnoll expert Dashki who had been mysterious absent while the fire was raging. The party found out all sorts of tidbits about him, e.g. that he is not very popular, has an obsession with Lady Almah and was jealous of her attractive astrologer. All signs seemed to point at him being the murderer and arsonist. They also found out that the livestock people were looking for their favorite goat, Rombard, who had gone missing. Kiva doggedly followed Dashki around camp and made him mad, until he babbled that the fire was laid by pugwampis, evil creatures all over the area who are known to bring bad luck to everyone, hated even by gnolls. When the party was asked to draw a conclusion after their investigation, Lady Almah was not ready to condemn Dashki without direct evidence and instead tasked him and the party to bring her a pugwampi immediately, despite it being night, if there really were as many around as Dashki claimed.

Overall, I thought the party did excellent with the investigation. There were a couple of clues that they missed because they either didn’t ask the right questions or didn’t use Diplomacy to make their overall impressions more favorable. I had lots of fun RPing the camel-driver couple and Dashki. I have to work on my accents though, as all my Katapeshi expedition members pretty much sound Indian. Maybe I should find out, what accent Arabs have when they speak English.

We concluded the session there, and I am looking forward to the nighttime foray in the desert next Friday.

A view of the camp in Roll20, with lots of tokens.

A view of the camp in Roll20, with lots of tokens.

As far as technology went, Roll20 was great. I had some issues first because in Firefox, audio and video didn’t work at all. I switched to Chrome and it worked. Still, a bit irking. I actually went ahead and purchased the Plus plan, because I want to try Dynamic Lighting, and think they’re offering really fantastic service that I want to reward while we use it to play. The map I used I found on the Paizo messageboard, and I created all tokens, using the fantastic TokenTool in combination with Paizo’s Paper Minis for Legacy of Fire. I’m a bit more worried for when we come to the first real dungeon map that I have from the map folio. It’s a low resolution, and I have to zoom in so much that it doesn’t look very nice at all in Roll20. I am still pondering how to fix that, or am hoping that the players will forgive that it’s just a wee bit pixelly. I am also thinking about trying Dungeon Designer as part of Campaign Cartographer, but that’s a whopping 69 British Pounds for the cheapest bundle. A friend of mine owns it, so maybe I want to try it at his place first to see if I can recreate the maps there. I haven’t found any other mapping software yet.

by Kadomi
1 Comment

State of the Kadomi, October 15 edition

Time flies by, and now it’s been two months since I last posted. Not for lack of nerdy endeavors, just for lack of making time to sit down and write. As always I’ll strive to be better, so here’s what I am currently doing:


I don’t know what happened, but after I hit level 59 in FFXIV, I stopped playing. Playing MMOs is a weird thing for me, because I have this thing with being very enthusiastic about games, and then suddenly dropping them like a hot potato when I reach the point of losing interest. It’s happened with so many games. WoW, Rift, SWTOR, just about every MMO I have ever touched, going from super-bouncy to not wanting to play. It’s really weird. I have no logical explanation for this. I had just gotten the quest for the Great Gubal Library, which is one of the most fun dungeons in the game, from what I have heard. I have hugely enjoyed Heavensward content. The zones are utterly gorgeous, and I took many many screenshots. If there’s one flaw with the zones, it’s that Sea of Clouds is no fun to navigate without flying, but because of the different levels and altitudes of the zone, the compass is next to useless when it comes to locating aether currents.

For the uninitiated, Heavensward introduced flying to FFXIV. To unlock it, you have to locate aether currents in each zone and do a mix of main story quests and side quests. I know some people hate it, but I thought it was absolutely fantastic. It gives you huge incentive to explore the entirety of each zone, without making quests too easy, as you usually require the final story quest of a zone to unlock flying. It means you’re basically done with the zone as far as it comes to leveling, but will enjoy the ease of flying when you return to complete hunts, e.g. or level your alt jobs.

Churning Mists, basically The Netherstorm in green with tons of dragons

Churning Mists, basically The Netherstorm with bits of greenery with tons of dragons

As far as story goes, the final story patch leading into Heavensward was absolutely outstanding, and Heavensward story has topped it even more. As far as story goes, they’re really knocking it out of the ballpark. So yeah, I am loving everything about Heavensward, am one level away from max level, have not made one negative experience in groups, and if I have any beef, it’s that leveling as a healer first without any DPS job is pure agony. There, I said it. Just the thought of questing and using Stone III over and over again to slowly kill stuff, while thinking I should really have picked scholar/summoner instead of white mage, maybe that’s why I haven’t logged in again for a while.

And then there’s Wildstar. Once upon a time, I was so pumped for this game that I thought I would be turning this place into a Wildstar blog. I blogged regularly about it, got linked on Reddit, and loved it. Then in the 30s on my stalker, the situation described above happened, and I went from hot to cold. I wasn’t the only one, and so pretty much every blogger I know went back to playing other games, especially when Warlords of Draenor was released. The game struggled, stuck with design issues from a time when playing MMOs catering to hardcore players instead of the many casual players of today was the norm. It transferred to F2P on September 29, and once I heard the news, I was determined I would at least dip my toes in again.

There’s a lot that was streamlined with the relaunch. When creating a character, you no longer have to do the first 3 levels on-ship if you’re a veteran. The stats that were confusing were removed. They added a new intro dungeon, and generally made the game more approachable, I think. Everything I loved about it is still there: addon support, fun stuff like shiphands (now called expeditions). I played Fragment Zero, a newer expedition, and it’s ridiculous how much fun that is. They made Espers actually able to be mobile, and there’s an intro quest to offspecs for healing and tanking.

I love Wildstar combat. Especially after playing FFXIV, it’s so fresh and exciting! I re-rolled a spellslinger, because I wanted a fresh start, and am having a lot of fun with my chua on Jabbit. Haven’t gone back to join the guild I was in back then, though I know the offer would be there. I have to see if this game sticks first. At the moment, I am excited about it, but I’ll know more a month from today. Their F2P model rocks though. I tried SWTOR once after their transition, and hated all the obvious restrictions. I don’t feel that at all in Wildstar. Which might bite them in the ass, if no one actually spends money, but we’ll see.

Video Games:

When I am not playing an MMO, I am currently playing two games: The Banner Saga on my PC, and Life is Strange on my PS3.

I don’t think I am good at the Banner Saga and people keep dying on me. For a while my caravan was traveling without any food and morale was terrible. A truly devastating feeling. I enjoy the story, and the art style is absolutely gorgeous. The turn-based combat is definitely more fun than King’s Bounty, but still, I don’t think I am very good. It’s a good game full of story-decisions, but you have to enjoy the combat-style. There’s also a mobile version, I can easily see that being excellent on a tablet.

Life is Strange is the episodic adventure by Dontnod, the studio that released Remember Me, a game I love, but which wasn’t a huge commercial success. Freed from the predicament of including combat in their game, Life is Strange explores one facet that was already prominent in Remember Me: what if you could change time? In Remember Me, you were able to change people’s memories of the past to change events. In Life is Strange, you play Max, a senior at Blackwell Academy, a prestigious high school with an art program in the fictional Oregon town Arcadia Bay. In the first episode, Max finds out that she has the power to rewind time to change events. At the same time, she gets sucked into events in Arcadia Bay, with a missing girl who also went to Blackwell, another student who got drugged and other sinister things. It’s got dark themes: drugs, sexual abuse, abortion, and yet there’s always a hint of the supernatural going on. In that way, it feels very Twin Peaks. And I love Twin Peaks. But it’s also very touching, in the vein of Gone Home. Max is a teenage girl, with issues of a teenagers, with teenage friends. Her best friend Chloe is kind of a shithead, but I still find their interactions so very unique in a video game. It’s an exciting series. Usually, I play it and my SO watches as if it was a TV series. I just finished Episode 3 and am still floored by the reveal at the end of the episode. Looking forward to starting the next one.

After playing each episode, I tune in to Felicia Day’s Let’s Play of that episode. I usually don’t do Let’s Plays because I find them totally boring, but this LP isn’t boring whatsoever. Her reactions to events in the game are hilarious and it’s interesting to watch her decisions and different takes. I just wish she didn’t stop playing to play Cook Serve Delicious so often! She’s done five streams so far, and I am looking forward to finishing the game with her.


Once upon a time, I joined the D&D 3.5 game of my SO’s co-worker, which eventually switched to Pathfinder. Then, I started my own Pathfinder campaign with co-workers a year ago, playing monthly (for the most part). But that didn’t satisfy the tabletop itch completely. The pitfall of having two monthly groups is that so much time passes between sessions that you forget where you were in the campaign, and that kills some of the buzz. I try to keep the buzz alive by sending out a summary newsletter to my Runelords group, but something always gets lost. To make matters worse, my players are almost universally new to tabletops, and with each session they forget about abilities their characters have, they forget rules, and it doesn’t flow as well as it could.

When my friend Rach from the UK told me about Critical Role, a Geek and Sundry show of a group of voice actors playing D&D weekly, and how much she would love to play too, the gears in my head started spinning and I had the crazy idea to start a campaign on Roll20, playing every two weeks if all goes well. I asked two Scottish friends of mine if they’d be interested and they were! All of us have a MUSH background, being used to roleplaying online, and this promises a very nice campaign heavy on the RP. Awesome! We had our first session on Friday, and it went fantastically well. I let the group vote on which adventure path to play, from a list of 5 choices I made, and even though I had rooted for Hell’s Rebels, Legacy of Fire, an Arabian-themed campaign, won. Which is also cool. The first adventure, Howl of the Carrion King, is outstanding. Because it was so much fun, I will post about it in more detail on Wednesday, actually keeping a session log.


I will also try to be better about session logs for Rise of the Runelords. It’s still near and dear to my heart, and I can’t wait to finally conclude Burnt Offerings (maybe in two more sessions) and move on to The Skinsaw Massacre!

To make things even crazier, I was just invited to another Pathfinder game as player, which would make four Pathfinder games. I think my head will explode, but I am also excited. Currently thinking I will play a Magus. We’ll see.

Board games:

My SO is a board game fiend, and would love to play all board games all the time. Me, not so much, at least not competitively. I have come to accept that I am not good at any game that has strategic elements. I suck at RTS, at turn-based strategy, and usually place last playing board games involving strategy. Which is usually fine, I like having fun trying anyhow. It’s a social thing. But I seriously cannot stand playing at home with just my SO and losing every single game because she is a strategic genius. It’s depressing, it’s no fun, and it makes us yell at each other. We have been playing Forbidden Island which is cooperative, and that’s fun. We just picked up Forbidden Desert, which we’ll try for the first time tonight.

We went to a board game meetup in our area last month. They meet monthly in a community center. There, we played Epic, a kickstarted card game in the vein of Magic, but without the trading card component. We played a couple draft games, and I even won one of those. It was a very enjoyable card game, and I could imagine buying a box of it. The meetup was a bit of a sausage fest, with another table of middle-aged guys playing some kind of wargame. But they’re trying to expand a bit and also try to make people play more cooperative games.

We’re also hanging out regularly with a couple now who also love board games (we play Pathfinder with them too), and were introduced to Pandemic. It’s close to how Forbidden Island plays (same author after all) but so much harder, and also so much cooler. We have played two games so far, and haven’t won a single one yet, but it’s been oh so fun. Last game we would have needed one more round to win the game, when a chain outbreak in southeast Asia cost us everything. Aaaaaargh.

We also started playing Mice and Mystics with them, which is a cooperative, light RPG in which you are turned into mice and have to escape some maps as mice, using the special abilities of your character. I was the mage mouse and my SO was the fighter, but we still miserably failed the first map. It’s a sort of campaign where each scenario advances the story. I thought it was incredibly fun and am looking forward to continuing this game on Thursday night. But before we do that, we’ll have to watch Tabletop (Wil Wheaton’s very fun board game Geek and Sundry show) with the Wheatons playing it, because the rules of the game are not written as clearly as they could be.

I have another cooperative card game, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. I bought the second base set, Skull&Shackles, but my SO refuses to play with me. We tried it once and I didn’t get the rules at all, which she hates, and so it was 30 minutes of misery. Then we played it with our friends Anika and Benny, and I still didn’t fully understand the rules, and we lost again. Now my SO only wants to play it again when they play with us, and that hasn’t happened yet. I played two solo games, completing the first two scenarios, and thinks it’s a lot of fun once you actually understand the rules. It combines cooperative action with a bit of the Munchkin kick-in door effect, and getting loot that actually improves your deck is awesome. Note to self: must invite A&B to get to play it again.

If only my SO would play this with me.

If only my SO would play this with me.

Obsidian Entertainment (yes, the people behind KotOR II, Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity) are working on a computer version of this game, which I think will be awesome!


Because I am reading so many Pathfinder source books this year, it feels like I have a lot less time for fiction. I have been reading Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy, for the past couple weeks and just started the final book of that trilogy, Assassin’s Quest. I don’t know why it took me so long to ever read this, it’s absolutely marvelous. If you haven’t read these books, you should! I will need something lighter once I am done with that before I dig into finishing “The Dagger and the Coin” series by Daniel Abrahams.


I had two weeks off in September, and binged on Netflix shows. Sense8 is the best show I have watched in years. It’s also utterly crazy, and has high potential to jump the shark in more seasons, much like Heroes did after its tremendous first season. Still, it’s hilarious, and touching, and exciting and tense. I love all the characters (with the exception of Riley) but Capheus and Sun are the absolute best! I am so looking forward to season 2.

After that I moved on to Daredevil. I had watched the first episodes with my SO but she bowed out after the scene where the Kingpin slams the car door on some poor guy until brain matter sprays about. At least that’s what she said, I was too busy covering my eyes with my hand. I don’t watch horror movies for a reason and don’t understand people who enjoy them and all their gore. Despite that, I was invested, and finished watching the rest on my own. I think Charlie Cox is outstanding as Matt Murdock, and I really enjoyed all the other characters as well. The show is maybe a touch too slow, some episodes a bit on the boring side. In any case I did enjoy the origin story of Daredevil, and am pretty sure that we’ll see more of the Kingpin in next season.

I am all aboard the Jessica Jones train now. I picked up the first issue of Alias to learn more about her, and she’s a pretty fucked up lady alright. The trailers look exciting, and I like the thought of David Tennant as a villain. Also, Carrie Ann Moss is kissing ladies, I hear. Yeah, I’ll watch that, alright!

And that’s it, for now. I need a time machine that gives me two extra hours each day to blog more often. Or maybe I need to be Max who’s just able to rewind as many times as she wants (until her brain leaks out of her nose).

by Kadomi

MMOs: My continued journey through FFXIV

First off, it’s Blaugust 2015, so it’s a great time to be a reader of MMO and gaming blogs. You get a deluge of posts, every day! Blaugust is a project where the challengers post a blog post on every day of the month August, kinda like Belghast does every day. Insanity. I didn’t last a week, so I am never going to participate, but I am cheering all you Blaugust folks on. Best of luck, and looking forward to reading lots of cool stuff.

As I described last month, I went back to FFXIV, and the longer I play it, the deeper it gets its hooks in me. I am pretty sure it’s not for everyone but it’s exactly what feels right for me. I realize it’s easy to come in so late into a game and feel the amount of content is absolutely overwhelming. If I had my first WoW character now, would I feel the amount of content is overwhelming? Probably so. I peruse the FFXIV Reddit at times, and know people have already burnt through the expansion content or get bored with it, so some things never change. Content locusts will go anywhere.

That's a lot of untouched stuff for a completionist.

That’s a lot of untouched stuff for a completionist.

As I predicted, I didn’t really continue leveling my dragoon job. I fell in love with healing and picked up the White Mage job. I leveled White Mage to 50 and completed the 2.0 main story on her. White Mage feels a lot like vanilla-style priest. You have a fairly large toolkit of healing spells. You have Cure I and Cure II, your bread and butter healing spells single-target spell. Medica I is your AoE heal, Medica II adds a HoT to it. You have a HoT called Regen. Forget about ever pre-hotting anyone though in a dungeon, because it’s an open invitation for any mob to descend on you and eat your face. Healing threat is a thing, yo! FFXIV comes with tools to monitor your threat level on a mob and especially early in a pull it’s a bit of a risk to heal. Or in fights with adds. Oy. Furthermore, you have something like Lay on Hands and you can combat rez. The White Mage brings nothing to the table that you haven’t done before in any other game, but it’s a very solid healing class. Soloing as White Mage is a bit of a chore as your damage arsenal is quite limited, but with stance dancing (you have a DPS stance) you can pretty much go on for a veeeeery long time.

Fancy White Mage, check!

Fancy White Mage, check!

FFXIV does something I have come to adore, a series of class quests. Every 5 levels, you get a specific quest that usually involves solo instances and teach you quite a few tricks of your class while also awarding you new abilities. The White Mage class quest awards you a great set of level 45 gear plus the same gear for level 50 at a high item level, as a catch up mechanism for Heavensward. Pretty sweet. I have missed class quests. Some of my favorite memories from classic WoW are the Whirlwind warrior quest chain that had you travel the world, or the various shaman quests to learn new totems. The loss of those quests have killed a lot of flavor. I am looking forward to experiencing all the class storylines, and their unique characters. Let me tell you, those thaumaturge lalafell masters? Utterly creepy, one and all! Speaking of creepers, lalafell are really the worst.

Really? A half-naked catgirl fanning air? Where are the grapes?

Really? A half-naked catgirl fanning air? Where are the grapes?

When I hit level 50, I bought the expansion, for the sole reason to get my experience bar moving again. The Heavensward content is completely locked behind the storyline content of the main game, which I am not anywhere near finished with. I finished the 2.0 story of A Realm Reborn on Sunday and am currently working on the 2.1 story content. I don’t mind at all, I am in no rush. In fact, I regret I missed A Realm Reborn endgame, because I would love to do beast tribe dailies. Mounts, I want more mounts! I find I love daily quests so what’s not to love. Not enough hours in the day is a problem. Of course, I am maybe glad I missed ARR endgame because the end of the 2.0 storyline nearly made me ragequit FFXIV to never come back. It is total bullshit for any latecomer to the game. I apologize to @KerynWeylan, who accompanied me to that part of the game and who got to bear the brunt of my rage.

To finish the 2.0 story, you have to run three full-party (8-man) instances. A trial called Cape Westwind, which is pretty much a one room boss-fight, and two dungeons, Castrum Meridianum and The Praetorium. Apparently, everyone who’s played FFXIV for a while used to farm those two dungeons for endgame currency that running them awards. Which means it’s like people running old school UBRS, taking every possible shortcut and roflstomping their way through. However, if it’s your first time there, you get all the story cut scenes. I mean, just about every trash pull advanced the story. Even with me skipping them after they started playing (you can replay all the cut scenes in your innroom), I was far behind everyone else and managed to get locked out of boss fights which automatically lock the room after 15 seconds. Besides, it was really ridiculous how easy Castrum Meridianum was. A total snoozefest, which Keryn easily solo-healed. I really hate speedruns, and I really detest crushing and outleveling group content. I hate being carried. My mood was black.

Keryn told me the Praetorium would be better but if you ask me, it was even worse! There’s a section where you get to control a vehicle. Unfortunately I did not know you need to click on something earlier in the dungeon to be able to get a vehicle. What kind of shitty design is this? I ran back to find whatever I was supposed to click on, but found nothing. While I ran around like an idiot, I got one cutscene after the other because the rest of the party continued to kill bosses. I even got myself killed to use the dungeon shortcut, only to end up at the vehicle again that I couldn’t use. My blood pressure was through the roof, and I was about to drop party, when I got automatically ported to the end boss. Even the massive amount of cut scenes and proclamations of me being a total badass hero didn’t help. If you didn’t actually get to feel like a hero through gameplay, it’s all moot. It was entirely disappointing.

I am only sticking it out now because those dungeons are considered a failed experiment and there are not going to be any others like that in my near future. If they were, it would spell the end of my FFXIV, I kid you not.

They really like to make you feel like a hero, and you are the one who deals deathblows here. Not Green Jesus. *coughs*

They really like to make you feel like a hero, and you are the one who deals deathblows here. Not Green Jesus. *coughs*

I haven’t really touched any crafting yet. It’s definitely not the queue and forget kind of crafting, or the crippled version of crafting from WoD. Crafting is leveled like a normal character class, with class quests, special gear to craft better, dailies, and a lot of time invested to craft perfect, high quality things. I think I want to be a culinarian, because who doesn’t like cooking?

This post might sound overly negative because of the crappy end of 2.0, but I enjoy pretty much all other aspects. It’s a gorgeous game, a bit quirky for sure. I love you can play any class on your character, and tanking and healing remind me how much I missed the old threat game. DPS classes have a certain complexity, reading about dragoon rotations made my head explode, e.g. Dungeons are really fantastic. The first few are very easy, but the higher you level, the more challenging they become. I am very engaged healing them, and the level sync feature means you can’t really outlevel them.

I’ll end this post with a couple scenic screenshots I took of my catgirl, who is easily the most cutesy character I have ever played in an MMO. But seriously, she’s the most fierce catgirl you’ll ever meet, trust me!

I think the monocle made me decide that white mage is the main class. Honestly.

I think the monocle made me decide that white mage is the main class. Honestly.

Around sunset in the Coerthas Highlands, my trusty chocobo and I.

Around sunset in the Coerthas Highlands, my trusty chocobo and I.

I thought those waterfalls are ridiculously pretty, with the crystals.

I thought those waterfalls are ridiculously pretty, with the crystals.

by Kadomi

Book Reviews: June 2015

As Goodreads kindly reminded me, I am doing great on my 2015 goal of 50 books. I didn’t read as much as I’d hoped to in June, but I have some reviews for the month.

ruin-risingI continued to finish the Grisha series, with its final volume Ruin and Rising. The conclusion to the series finds Alina and Mal trapped in the caverns underneath Ravka, with the clergy using her as symbolic figure of little power, Saint Alina. Eventually the gang of Grisha flee to find the mystical Firebird, the last of the sources of power that Alina hasn’t bound yet, hounded on all sides by the vastly superior powers of the Darkling. The book is dark, full of action and only in its conclusion managed to disappoint me, with a giant cop-out. An opportunity of giant emotional impact was lost here. I wish Leigh Bardugo hadn’t gone for this cop-out and had treaded a less safe route. But then, who am I kidding, this is YA. I have to admit I was a bit disturbed to read all the Goodreads reviews of teenage girls fawning over the ‘hotness’ that is the Darkling. Erm, yeah.

My rating: 4 Stars (4 / 5)

steles-of-the-skyThe next book I read finds me conflicted. Steles of the Sky is the final book of the Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear. Set in a quasi-Asian world, it is the story of Re Temur, the exiled heir of the Khaganate, so basically Mongols. In the first book his lover Edene was captured by the Nameless Assassins, a cult of assassins from the desert that want to resurrect the greatest evil of all times. In the final book of the series, Re Temur and his allies, including a now fled Edene and their child, gather at a lake in Song (what I gathered to be this world’s China), and prepare their last stand against the armies of Al-Sepehr. When the final battle comes, it’s full of surprising twists and turns. I have to say, I really did not see this end coming. As in the previous book, Steles of the Sky is not really a book about Temur, but of the women in his life, the wizard Samarkar, Edene, and many other strong women. The book’s greatest problem for me is its glacial pace. It really takes forever and ever until things happen, at a pace that made me give up caring at times. Also, as it’s been a long time since I read the previous books, I had forgotten a lot of elements of the story. In retrospect, I can only wish I had read all three of them in close sucession, to make the final volume a better experience. One thing I know for sure: the setting made me actively crave playing Mists of Pandaria, its soundtrack would be a great soundtrack for the Steles of the Sky. All in all I absolutely recommend this trilogy of fantasy books, but please read all three books together for the best experience.

My rating: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

prince-of-wolvesLast but not least, I read Prince of Wolves by Dave Gross. This is the first book of the Pathfinder Tales, tie-in fictions for the official campaign world of the Pathfinder RPG, Golarion. Now, in my time, I have read tons of tie-in fiction. When I used to play AD&D, I pretty much bought every Forgotten Realms book published, and same with the Dragonlance books. A lot of this tie-in fiction was bad or disappointing. I know people love R.A. Salvatore’s Drizzt do’ Urden books, but I despised them. They were bland, generic, and Drizzt is just such a special snowflake. Eventually I moved on to what I consider real fiction. I mean, come on, I even read Dragonlance fiction by Richard Knaak, the guy who brought us Rhonin and other disappointments in WoW fiction. This all should explain why my expectations for Pathfinder fiction were really really low. I am very happy to say that I was very pleasantly surprised.

The more than creepy villain of this book is a Penanggalan, a vampire rising out of a body. Gross.

The more than creepy villain of this book is a Penanggalan, a vampire rising out of a body. Gross.

Prince of Wolves is set in Ustalav, Golarion’s version of Romania or maybe Transsylvania, settled by a group of people called Varisians. It’s a country ravaged by war against the Whispering Tyrant, a powerful lich and is still suffering from that today. The story has two protagonists and is told from the first person perspective in alternating chapters. Count Varian Jeggare is an elven Venture-Captain in the Pathfinder society, a powerful faction of explorers. He has lost contact to one of his Pathfinder agents and travels to Ustalav to find her. He is accompanied by his bodyguard Radovan, a tiefling with devil blood, but also Varisian roots. Early on, they get attacked and separated. Count Jeggare ends up in the clutches of cultists of Urgathoa, the goddess of undeath, whereas Radovan ends up with a group of werewolves who are Sczarni and who believe he is the Prince of Wolves that was foretold to them. Inevitably, they end up together again, both searching for the Lacuna Codex, an evil book of spells that the Urgathoa cultists are only too eager to get their hands on. The book is a strange mix of humor, a bit of a Victorian feel because Count Jeggare and Radovan were a bit like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, with the count being very much snooty upper class, and classic gothic horror, sometimes a lot more creepy than I really expected. Above all, it was extremely true to the world of Golarion and pretty much oozed Pathfinder spirit at all times. I am not the only one surprised at this level of quality from a series of tie-in novels, as you can see in Aidan Moher’s interview with James L. Sutter, one of the Paizo developers and in charge of the line of novels.

My rating: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

That was it for June. Anything good anyone else has been reading? Recommendations are always welcome. :)

by Kadomi

RPG: Titansgrave

Whenever I try to describe pen&paper RPGs to someone, it turns out to be a bit difficult. How can you describe it so that the other person is not weirded out but interested? When I roped my co-workers into playing Pathfinder with me, I had the advantage of them being extreme nerds in the first place, and having seen RPGs in action in The Big Bang Theory. But others? To get more people interested in the hobby, it’d be great to have a great example to show them. Titansgrave might just be this.

This is Aankia, one of the game's PCs

This is Aankia, one of the game’s PCs

So what is Titansgrave? It’s a show on Geek&Sundry, Felicia Day’s web channel for nerdy shows. It’s hosted by Wil Wheaton, who’s already been doing a boardgame show called Tabletop there, where he plays boardgames with various nerd celebrities. There’ve been a couple episodes there in which he GM’d the Dragon Age RPG by Green Ronin. Titansgrave is taking this a couple step further, by running a pen&paper campaign in a story arc of 10 episodes at 45 minutes each. Now, that’s not a lot of time, considering my average RPG session is 6-7 hours, but for a produced show it’s great.

The used RPG system is Fantasy AGE which is a generic version of the Dragon Age rules that can be used with any fantasy setting. The campaign setting for Titansgrave was developed by Wil Wheaton and his son, and is a blend of the currently very popular Science Fantasy style. Think Thundarr the Barbarian, John Carter, technology meets magic. A bunch of RPGs use Science Fantasy now, aside from Titansgrave, e.g. Numenera (which I am going to write about soon) but also Pathfinder, with their bizarre Iron Gods Adventure Path (which I am also going to write about, honestly). There’s some technology on this world, but also magic.

Wil Wheaton is running the campaign with four nerd celebrities, though I have to admit I didn’t know most of them before I started watching the show. There’s Hank Green, apparently a popular vlogger, as Aankia, a saurian rogue. Alison Haislip, actress and hostess, plays Kiliel, a half-dwarf rogue, who is the thieving ranger type. There’s Yuri Lowenthal, a voice actor with tons of anime credits but most importantly Sandal’s ENCHANTMENT! voice from Dragon Age. He plays an orcish mage called S’Lethkk. Last but not least we have Laura Bailey, a famous voice actress, and MMO fans will mostly know her as /the/ voice of Jaina Proudmoore since Warcraft III. She plays a human warrior with a cyborg arm.

Lemley is seriously the best.

Lemley is seriously the best.

As far as pen&paper goes, the campaign so far has been what you call a railroad. The characters have zero freedom to explore as they want to because the GM is pretty adamantly setting them on a course. This is understandable, because in such a short format and a planned story arc, the characters have to play along. As much as it’s more fun with more freedom, just as in video games, I am not a huge fan of the sandbox style, and do not mind that it’s so very railroad-y. I have to say that so far I have been impressed by Wil Wheaton as a GM. In general, I find him a bit overhyped, and he clearly believes his own hype, but as GM, he’s good. He’s a big advocate of role-playing, and I am shamelessly stealing a couple ideas for my own campaign. For example, every character has a secret only they know. We got to see those secrets in episode 0. Also, every character has a short- and a long-term goal. I really dig that, because it’s an easy way to add depth to the characters. I offered these two systems to the players in my campaign as optional rule, with a small XP reward if they participate, and some really dug into it. Especially our rogue surprised me, as his secret really offers great character motivation and layers to his character.

Titansgrave is produced well, and so the GM has lots of assistance, with roll tools on the screen, voice enhancement when needed for big booming voice moments, and lots of customized art to visualize the campaign. There’s also a battle overlay but that’s not working for me. It’s not your usual grid, and it didn’t help me with visualizing the combat at all. Of course, Wheaton has an advantage as GM. As professional actor, he really is quite outstanding at performing NPCs. I am just a bit jealous. But as I said above, he’s good, and he’s got experience. He’s running a series of tips on The Mary Sue now as well, to improve your GM game, and I’ll enjoy watching those.

As far as the player characters go, the first episode was a bit stiff, everyone still getting their bearings, but it is a lot of fun watching them getting really into it. Laura Bailey is my favorite, because she’s really getting into it. Wheaton tosses stuff at them that requires impromptu roleplaying and storytelling, and she’s been outstanding at it. Hank Green is a bit annoying, and maybe a bit pushy. Yet, that mirrors my pen&paper experience, because you will always have one of those players in every group. 😉

If you are interested in pen&paper, but aren’t sure what it’s about, Titansgrave is a great intro. If you’re already an avid RPer and don’t mind a railroad, this is probably the most high-profile and well-produced RPG session you’ll ever find. Certainly beats all the other YouTube game sessions that I have ever watched. They’re currently at the midway point of the show, with episode 6 out today. I wish my players spoke English a little better, because I’d totally make them watch the series. I am considering buying the Titansgrave campaign book when it comes out, to steal more ideas for a Numenera campaign I am hoping to run one fine day.

If you want to check out the introduction episode 0, you can find it below.

by Kadomi

MMOs: Return to FFXIV

Whenever I quit playing MMOs, I always think it’s forever. I start playing single-player games, get fully immersed by them and then shake my head how I ever fell into the MMO trap, with its shallow stories, repetitive tasks and content droughts. But it’s always the same. It’s always about the people.

I am still in touch with friends I have made over the years playing WoW, and we always reminisce about wanting to play together. My friend Shivali who is all around fantastic, probably has been the most consistent part of my MMO life, always playing with me where ever the waves of MMOs drop me ashore. We played Rift together, she created an EU account to play WoW with me when I gave up the US account, we played Wildstar together, and now she went ahead and tried the trial version of FFXIV. She liked it and so I decided I would go back to that game that I had fallen slightly in love with but then dropped after the free month you get with the box was over. I am glad I went back, because the deeper I dig into this game and its various WTF quirky systems, the better it gets.


When I last posted, I was working on the chocobo mount and was level 21 on my lancer. In the meantime, I picked the Maelstrom Grand Company, making me a fancier version of a pirate, and did the grindy quests and Fates that award company seals which are used as payment for your mount, leveling gear or promotions within your company. Please meet Chocobon, my trusty Chocobo mount and defender. At level 30, you can unlock that your mount fights at your side. They have three different specs, tank, healer or damage, but you have limited control compared to, say, a WoW hunter pet. Still, it’s available for any class in the game and makes leveling a lot more pleasant while you are out in the world.

Isn't he perty?

Isn’t he perty?

Apparently there’s another kind of mini-game involved where you can change the color of your mount by stabling or breeding them, and I have to admit I didn’t fully get it just yet. It’s another of those quirky systems that you have to play with and that are very different from what I am used to. I will eventually play around with it, because Chocobon has a very dull brown color. But then, afaik, I will get a unicorn mount sometime. Seriously, a unicorn. What the hell!

schokobonFor anyone wondering why my chocobo has the stupid name Chocobon, I thought I was being clever when I named it after a favorite treat of mine, Kinder Schoko-Bons. It’s basically Kinder chocolate in egg-shape with chopped hazelnuts in it. I am so brilliant. 😛


It is still mind-boggling to me, but you don’t really play alts in FFXIV. You just have your one character, and the world is your oyster. You can pick up any or all professions, and you can be any class you want to be after level 15. You don’t even have to change specs or anything of the kind. You just pick up a different main hand weapon and bam, you are that class. There are six martial classes (not counting the ones the expansion added), plus three caster classes. To make that even more complicated, you mix and match those classes to a so-called job, a more specialized and improved version of the classes. I started the game as a lancer, which is a melee class that uses lances and tridents and spears, basically incredibly long weapons on a stick. The improved job of a lancer is the dragoon. In order to unlock it, you have to be a level 30 lancer and a level 15 marauder, which is the tank class that uses 2-handed axes and plays a little bit like an Arms warrior from WoW. As dragoon you can use skills from the classes lancer, marauder but also pugilist, which is a weaponless monk-like class.

Enjoying the view of Limsa Lominsa while leveling as Marauder

Enjoying the view of Limsa Lominsa while leveling as Marauder

My friend Ria just started playing and is going to be a ninja, aaaaaiii. In order to be a ninja, you need to be a level 30 rogue and a level 15 pugilist. While she catches up, I thought to give healing a whirl and decided I would want to be a White Mage, which is conjurer/arcanist. I now have the conundrum that I totally fell in love with healing in FFXIV and might not want to go back to the dragoon for a bit. Also, my cat lady is awfully pretty in robes. The cowls even show off her ears quite nicely!

And that's just a level 5 robe!

And that’s just a level 5 robe!

Healing in FFXIV is quite relaxed, at least at my level. There’s the long global cooldown, the matching cast time, and I only really have three spells to use, which is Cure, the basic healing spell, Medica, an AoE heal and Ensuma, to remove a debuff. I know there will be more, especially of the support kind. But for now, that’s all. Damage is very smooth, with no real spikes, and so I find myself DPSing a little bit while the tank needs no heals. It’s a bit jarring going from click-healing to not doing that, but it’s fine. I am having so much fun, and from the rate it’s been raining player commendations on me, I seem to be doing well. Move over, dragoon, you might be looking badass, but I sense some pretty white mage outfits in my future.

I am still too chicken to try tanking. All the tanks so far have been frighteningly competent. Maybe later, when I can field a full dungeon group just with friends.

Group content with weird names

The thing that still gets me is that everything has a weird name. There are levequests. I originally thought they missed the ‘l’ but no. They’re repeatable quests that you get to do on a timer, and the speed of completion determines the amount of exp you get. You can do those for normal leveling, but I think most people probably do them for professions and gathering. Then, there are guildhests. Because the name was so odd, I didn’t do any, and now I can’t get enough of them. They’re basically mini-dungeons or scenarios that you do in a 4-man group and queue for. They teach you basic info on group play, and are pretty great exp for completing them the first time. They’re quick, and really a welcome diversion. They made me miss WoW scenarios. I don’t know why those weren’t brought back. I have fond memories of the heroic scenarios from MoP.

At least dungeons are still just dungeons and not some weird word, and they’re pretty much mandatory content in FFXIV. Most of the dungeons are tied to the main story mission, and thus you require a visit. The variety has been pretty good so far. I have visited a pirate hideout, a crypta, a mine, a former prison, an arena, a spooky manor, and an outdoor instance set in a jungle. Bosses mostly have interesting mechanics, though a lot of them are annoyingly add-based. Still, fairly creative for leveling dungeons. My experiences are still very positive. When a wipe happens, people work together so that the next time, it’s not a wipe. Did I mention healing’s been pretty pleasant? I think I did.

The main story

The shining glory of FFXIV is its highly touted story. It’s been an entertaining way to level, but up until I finished the Titan trial at level 34, it’s been fairly unexciting. For me, this is in large parts because Minfilia, the leader of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, an organization you join, is so dishwater dull. She’s very very pretty, but she sends you on the most inane fed-ex quests. There are comics mocking those quests, because inevitably she asks you back to HQ even though you have a linkshell to use for communication. But the return to HQ after the Titan trial was my first wow moment, and I suddenly believe all those people who are telling me that they were moved to tears by the further events of the original game’s story. I still seriously wish though that Minfilia and the game in general had professional voice acting. I don’t know how they managed to hire Gideon Emery (Fenris from DAII, Lor’themar in WoW), and then nothing but crap for the rest. Minfilia is the worst for me. Now I can only imagine her if Laura Bailey had voiced her, instead of this very bored and boring, young voice actress that she really has.

Despite the cringe-worthy voice acting and the many fed-ex quests, the story is engaging and keeps you pushing on. I can’t wait for my character to get White Mage to 35 so I can continue.

Speaking of cringe-worthy, meet this dude from one of the story missions. I still have nightmares:

Yeah, I don't know what to say. I wanted to run screaming.

Yeah, I don’t know what to say. I wanted to run screaming.

by Kadomi

Media Monday #207: Otherland, MOBAs, E3 squeeing

I was a bad blogger last week and skipped Media Monday. I wanted to post on time yesterday, but my computer wouldn’t boot. When it finally did, I spent most of the evening updating phpbb, which I use to run a forum for my two Pathfinder groups. I also run a Wiki, which I will have to post about another time.

Off we go, however.

  1. I’d love to be a member of the movie or TV show family Bartowski, from Chuck, because for one, Chuck is a loveable nerd, and Ellie seems like a kickass sister to have around. There’s Captain Awesome, who’s even awesome for a gay lady like me. Let’s not forget Stephen Bartowski as crazy scientist dad and Mary Bartowski as super-asskicking tough spy. Yup, it’d have to be them. I’d be the normal one.
  2. The cover of City of Golden Shadow, the first book.

    The cover of City of Golden Shadow, the first book.

    One of my favorite authors is Tad Williams. I regularly re-read his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy of books and have an Otherland re-read on my to-do list. I know way too few people who have read those books. They’re slow and they’re wordy, but they are utterly fantastic and amazing. It’s a bit like Snow Crash, but way more detailed, and more fantastic. It’s Alice in Wonderland meets Snow Crash meets Neuromancer meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I can’t recommend this series more. As a bonus for diversity, the main protagonist is Renie, a South African university teacher, and her sidekick is !Xabbu, a Kalahari bushman.
  3. Yvonne Strahovski played quite a few parts, but I would like to see her back as Sarah Walker, because her story is definitely left unfinished. Basically, this is me saying: GIVE US CHUCK THE TV MOVIE. Ahem. If not, then video-capture her again as in Mass Effect 2 and put her in more games as kickass heroine. I’d play that.
  4. I just can’t couldn’t deal with MOBAs, because I can’t see any of those games be anything but toxic. Aside from MMOs, I don’t really play multiplayer games. I haven’t ever played anything like Team Fortress 2 (which explains my non-existent interest in Overwatch) nor do I ever play multiplayer maps in games like Uncharted or Assassin’s Creed. I messed around with Mass Effect 3 multiplayer for a bit, but honestly, I sucked at it, and thus it was no fun. I am pretty sure I would not be a particularly skilled League of Legends player, and all the stories about its toxic communities have taken care that I will never try. None of my RL friends are playing, so I am out. I haven’t even downloaded Heroes of the Storm because the same rules apply. People will be assholes. Come to think of it, most of Blizzard’s recent games have been big misses for me, because I don’t care for Hearthstone either. I am not the target demographic whatsoever.
  5. Lego Dimensions is almost unsurpassable in coolness, because they even make someone like me consider it, and I don’t play with Legos, nor have I ever tried anything like Skylanders or Infinity. But just look at all the nerdy audiences they’re covering with sets: Portal, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, Back to the Future, etc. Yes, I would get a tiny companion cube like that. Because it’s cool!
  6. Seriously, how cool is Lego Chell with her portal gun?

    Seriously, how cool is Lego Chell with her portal gun?

  7. Would be really cool, if the transporters from the Star Trek universe really existed, because instantaneous travel is my ultimate Sci-Fi dream. Alternatively, let’s live like The Jetsons and just fly everywhere in personal ships.
  8. Video game consoles didn’t use to appeal to me, because I was a happy PC gamer and thought that it fits all my gaming needs. But now, I have changed my mind, ever since I first tried gaming on a PS3. I haven’t bought a single game this Steam sale, because a) I have tons of Steam games and b) I can’t play them while sitting in my Ikea Poäng chair. Yet. I just bought The Last of Us GotY and am super-excited to play it. Speaking of excitement, the following trailer had me squeeing and laughing and grinning all over my face in giddy anticipation. Hell yeah.

Less squeeing, more like awe-inspired watching happened when I saw the following trailer.

2016 looks like it’s going to be amazing for gamers.