To Boldly Nerd…

PC games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

02/03/2015
by Kadomi
0 comments

All about the games

It’s been ages since I last wrote about video games. I almost typed computer games, but then, I changed my mind. Because reasons. So for what it’s worth, today’s post is about the games I am currently playing, on all platforms, hah. It’s quite a few.

MMO:

WoW. Still. Vaguely. Basically, I am underwhelmed with the current amount of content. I haven’t logged in once since 6.1 dropped, because that’s how exciting I find all the new content contained within. I am burnt out on garrison play, and the only compelling thing outside of raids for me is the garrison campaign, which I should have completed soon. And then? Oy vey. I sincerely hope that 6.2 will be more like the Landfall patch 5.1 was, with quests, and actual reasons to play that aren’t missions or farming pets in old raids.

I do however still love my guild and our raid team. When we actually get to raid, I love it. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am the only one bummed out by current WoW. One of our three raid tanks just started a break. We raid two nights a week, and lately, we’ve had to cancel a few raids either because tanks were missing or people in general are missing. Last week there was no raid at all. That’s how compelling 6.1 is, eh. Current progress: Highmaul Normal 7/7, Highmaul Heroic 4/7, Blackrock Foundry Normal 1/10. I somehow don’t think we’ll be Ahead of the Curve this expansion.

I often think about trying FFXIV, because great people like Liore and Syl report about how fantastic the community is. Let’s not forget how enthusiastic Belghast is about the game in general. Yet I haven’t played a single Final Fantasy game ever, and also don’t think I have time for a second MMO. There’s barely enough time in the day to play all the other games I am playing, and commitment to a subscription game always means investing time. That I don’t really have in spades. I might do a trial one weekend when I am not playing tabletop.

PC:

dragon_age_inquisition1Dragon Age: Inquisition. I wanted to write a whole blog post about this game. Dragon Age as a series is near and dear to my heart. Yet I have owned this game since Christmas and just keep playing it in bursts. There’s a couple reasons for that. First off, game designers, shame on you. The Hinterlands as first area was a stupid idea. It’s too large, has very little impact on the story, and is probably mostly to familiarize the player with the game and its content. The quests are boring, and completionists like me will feel compelled to do everything, which basically means you’re doing the Dragon Age version of running around in Elwynn Forest. Not particularly heroic. Then you pick a faction and suddenly the game actually has a story and a reason to keep you playing. Who knew? I sided with the mages, and their story bit is all the wonderful gritty, ‘grimdark’ fantasy that I have come to love and associate with Dragon Age.

My second reason for not playing DA:I much is that the Inquisitor is fairly bland. I liked that you were able to play Hawke in DA2 either sweet, sassy or pretty aggressive, but at least my Inquisitor has no real personality. The companions of the Inquisitor, even dear old Varric, are fairly bland as well, again compared to DA2, and DA:O as well. Vivianne, so much lost potential. I run around with Cassandra, Varric and the Iron Bull, who I think are the most entertaining of the bunch by far. Even if it is very difficult not to stare at the Iron Bull’s nipples all freaking day long.

I am still fairly into it, and not anywhere near done, afaik. If only the distraction below hadn’t arrived.

Playstation 3:

That’s a whole story itself. Let me begin with something that might make most people’s brain explode in disbelief: I haven’t owned a TV since…2006-ish. I haven’t actively watched a lot of TV since the early 2000s, when the Internet was waaaaay more exciting than watching TV. All the shows and movies I have watched in recent years were watched on my computer. But it got harder. For one, I am older now. I have been married to the primary reason the Internet was so exciting for 12 years. Some nights I don’t want to sit in a desk chair, because I already do that at work for 8 hours. Sometimes I want to lie on the couch and watch a TV show. But not on my 24″ monitor. On a TV. So why didn’t I just buy one? My SO hates TVs and was vehemently against bringing one into our house. We actively fought about this for years. She likes to sit on the couch and piddle around on the Internet on her laptop. She doesn’t want the distraction that a TV is to her. Oh boy, that was a tough battle. In the end she caved because I am the world’s biggest whiner. I whined my way to a TV. I have had it for two weeks now, and I am totally overjoyed. It’s a 40″ Sony Bravia with wifi, tons of apps, and lots of nifty features. Oh man, Netflix streaming is so sweet, I am totally loving it.

Because I love my TV so much, you get a rare Kadomi sighting.

Because I love my TV so much, you get a rare Kadomi sighting.

One of the primary reasons I have always stated for wanting a TV was to play games on it. A week after I got the TV, my co-worker and friend Anika gave me her PS3 that she currently doesn’t need (as she already has another one and a PS4), and a bunch of games. My other co-worker and friend gave me more games I should play. Blissful. I feel like I missed out all those years before.

Here are the games I am currently playing on it:

Origami, aaaah. I will never look at origami the same way.

Origami, aaaah. I will never look at origami the same way.

Heavy Rain – I looooove story-heavy games, and Heavy Rain is great. I seriously find it outstanding. Short summary: a serial killer kidnaps kids and then drowns them in rain, leaving an origami figure in their hands. You get to play four characters who are all involved in the events around the Origami Killer: a father whose son is kidnapped, an old private investigator looking into the case, an FBI agent, and some journalist lady who meets the father. The game is mostly story-telling with lots of QTE action. It also has fairly traumatic sequences, like the journalist being attacked in her home, and the dad having to drive the wrong way on the highway. It’s such a mindfuck game. I love it. It has its silly moments, when it comes to QTE. There’s a reason there’s a meme around called Press X to Jason.

Uncharted – I pretty much wanted to play Uncharted ever since hearing that the Tomb Raider reboot is pretty much similar to an Uncharted game. I started the first game, and I was not disappointed. It’s probably a bit too shooter-heavy for me, but I hear that’s quite different in the next games. I am determined to have a PS4 for Uncharted 4. The jumping sequences are everything I ever loved about Ezio’s Assassin’s Creed games. It’s such great entertainment.

Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes – A match 3 strategy game set in a fantasy world. What’s not to love? It’s highly entertaining, but also fairly challenging whenever you run into an opponent of a higher level. Especially the elite units are lethal.

I have a lot more on my To Play list, and I can’t wait to play some more. It now makes me wish I had DA:I for PS3 instead of PC. Alas.

Android:

I have a Moto G phone, freshly upgraded to Android 5, and I play games on it too. I usually don’t mention them because they’re stuff like…Candy Soda Crush Saga. Ahem. However, thanks to Amazon regularly giving apps away for free, I picked up three fun games that I want to recommend: Monument Valley, 80 Days and Sorcery 2.

Monument Valley is ridiculously gorgeous for a pixel game. You play a silent princess who has to navigate worlds by manipulating the area she is in. It’s full of optical illusions and clever tricks. The soundtrack is lovely too. It’s a very relaxing game.

80 Days is basically a Choose Your Own Adventure style game set in a steampunk version of Jules’ Verne’s classic. It’s really more about the story-telling than actual gameplay, for all that I know, but it’s highly fun, and really well-written. You play Passepartout, the valet of Phileas Fogg. Expect to ride steam cars driven by android-like robots, or ride the Orient Express. You can freely choose what way you want to travel. I am currently determined to head to India from my current location Istanbul.

Sorcery 2 is from the same people who made 80 Days. Again, it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure style game as you explore a dangerous city that you wish to leave again. It appears to be huge. It has an interesting combat system, and a surprisingly complex system of magic spells. If you like Interactive Fiction, I highly recommend it.

Now excuse me, I have more games to play…:)

11/02/2015
by Kadomi
3 Comments

Book Reviews: January 2015

I met my Goodreads goal of 50 books last year, but I feel that’s pretty much my limit. I can’t squeeze in more reading time than that. Admittedly, my binge-reading of RPG sourcebooks might get the count up, but I stuck with another 50 books goal for 2015.

Off we go with the books I read in January. I’ll be frank, it wasn’t many works of fiction.

the-siren-depths

The Siren Depths, by Martha Wells – The final book of the Books of the Raksura is quite excellent. In the book, we finally get the backstory of why Moon lived as a solitary and why his foster mother Sorrow fled with him and four more fledglings from their former court, which turns out to be Opal Night, the largest court of the Raksura.

Inbetween we also get lots of the usual Moon-emoness but it’s fine. This book also continues the backstory of why the Fell attacked Indigo Cloud’s court in the first book. It’s that backstory that left me unsatisfied. I was waiting for this big reveal that would explain all of the Fell’s machinations in detail. The resolution was not 100% satisfying because I just don’t understand who this creature is that the ancestors left behind. Also, why did this creature need a Fell/Raksura crossbreed? What’s the significance of that? Aargh..

Other than that, I can’t recommend this series enough. This is the first time in ages that I actually read fantasy where lots of non-human races were introduced. Jade and Moon are not a classical lovestory, no sappiness involved, and yet emotional. By the end of the final book, I cared about so many of the raksura. What more can you ask?

never-let-me-go

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Shiguro – Not exactly the sort of book that I enjoy reading. I don’t quite remember how it ended up on my shelf, but there you are. Theoretically, I added it to my to-read shelf because it’s dystopian, but that part is so buried in the book, it’s tough to find.

Told from first person view, our narrator Kathy tells us the story of growing up at Hailsham, which sounds like a public school somewhere in England. There she grows up with her friends Ruth and Tommy, a set-up of the classic YA love triangle. There are hints of Hailsham having a select circle of students, and guardians dropping hints at the future of the students, but it’s not until the last 15% that the reveal happens where dystopia comes in.

It basically read like a sappy school story romanticizing those school years. I didn’t understand at any point why Kathy was friends with Ruth. I pretty much was bored throughout.

Why 2.5 stars at all? It wasn’t badly written, and so despite the boredom, I kept reading.


And that’s it already, the rest of the month was spent reading Pathfinder books, which I will review separately.

06/02/2015
by Kadomi
2 Comments

My nerdy birthday present

So it happened that it was my birthday on Tuesday, which is normally not worth mentioning. But I got such a lovely and nerdy birthday present from my loving wife that I just had to share it.

My Pathfinder group rotates where we play. It’s either at our house, or at the other couple’s. This of course means that I have to transport my various amounts of tabletop RPG crap (and it’s growing daily) to another place, plus haul around a laptop, a USB stick with all my tabletop PDFs, plus the tablet. My previous solution: not ideal.

And that's only with half my stuff in it.

And that’s only with half my stuff in it.

Transportation in a box meant that my paper minis got squished, and I had to dig around a lot. I hadn’t figured out a better solution yet. But my wife did. So here’s what she presented me with for my birthday:

Yes, an organizer with drawers, to store all my minis and pawns and dice and what have you!

Yes, an organizer with drawers, to store all my minis and pawns and dice and what have you!

You will note that one drawer is missing and that the others are empty. But not much longer. I immediately went and ordered the Pathfinder Pawns for Bestiary and Rise of the Runelords. The Pathfinder Pawns are pretty genius. They’re printed on thick cardboard, double-side, and you put them in bases, creating very sturdy minis for combat. Paizo also produces paper minis for printing yourself, but as I currently have no color printer, it was a pain having them printed professionally and then building them. I will be looking at pre-painted minis at the Role Play Convention in Cologne in May. Which I am pretty excited about already.

Pawns and dice, oh my.

Pawns and dice, oh my.

A sample pawn of a human rogue. One of my players uses it for his character.

A sample pawn of a human rogue. One of my players uses it for his character.

The second part of my birthday present is a business suitcase. From the outside it looks like a very standard rolling Swiss suitcase, but on the inside it is 100% RPG nerd:

Doesn't look very nerdy, does it?

Doesn’t look very nerdy, does it?

That's my combat pad, battlemat, lots of dry-erase pens and my campaign notes.

That’s my combat pad, battlemat, lots of dry-erase pens and my campaign notes.

This is where the minis for the session go.

This is where the minis for the session go.

Plenty of room for core rules and DM screen.

Plenty of room for core rules and DM screen.

Heck, I can even store my campaign binder and many more things in there. When it’s all neatly packed, the handle pulls out and I can roll along. It would even fit the laptop and the tablet. It’s my all-in-one solution.

From now on, I shall be Kadomi: Traveling GM. :)

I have the best wife.

03/02/2015
by Kadomi
2 Comments

RPG Tools: Syrinscape

When I first went back to tabletop gaming, one of my players asked if we would get tavern music in taverns, like a previous GM of his had done it. At that point, I had never really used music to enhance the gaming. The first session, I put on the Game of Thrones soundtrack. Then I read about Syrinscape being presented at the Spiel 14 in Essen, and my curiosity was piqued. I’ve been giving it a spin since our second session, and am really quite happy with it.

So what exactly is it? It’s a sound player for enhancing RPGs, available for Windows, Mac, Android and iPad. The mobile part is important to me, because the vast bulk of truly interesting RPG apps is still limited to iPad. The player comes in two flavors: fantasy or sci-fi. The basic version is free, but only comes with two soundsets: Bugbear Battle and Witchwood. The first one is obviously your battle archetype, nicely showcasing the features. You get lots of angry bugbears, riveting battle music to inspire, clanging weapons, etc. The second free soundset is a spooky forest, including rain and creepy nightsounds. If you are interested, I recommend checking those two soundsets out.

I play with a laptop at the table, because I run Hero Lab anyhow, and thus also use it to set the music. Syrinscape was of particular interest to me after test-running those free soundsets, because it has official Paizo support and actually publishes soundsets for the Adventure Path we’re playing. This is exciting, because it means lots of fantastic sounds custom-made for what we’re playing.

That's what Syrinscape looks like in action.

That’s what Syrinscape looks like in action.

But now, how does it really work? If you look at the screenshot above, you can see the four columns that matter. On the left side, you have all available soundsets. If a soundset is yellow, you have actually downloaded it. Next to that is the list of different pre-sets. I am currently prepping for the Catacombs of Wrath for the next gaming session. There are pre-sets for pretty much all the major scenes in that dungeon. The middle column lists all the different available sounds in this soundset. All the lit up ones are active in the current pre-set. If in the example, you want Erylium to hiss more loudly, but be angry less, you can adjust the volume sliders to your liking. You can also turn off sounds. Let’s say that all sinspawns are dead, only Erylium is alive, then it only makes sense to turn off all the sinspawn sounds with one click. In order for the sound loops not to get entirely repetitive, each sound is on its different loop, and so the pre-sets don’t actually get acoustically boring. You can also create your own pre-sets. Assume you want to create your own encounter using the sounds of a soundset, you just click on the + button and create away.

The final column on the right has a lot of preset sound effects. They recently added new ones, which I am very excited about. There are sound effects for fire and lightning spells, you can use somewhat funny Oooo and Aaaahh sounds, you can sound the defeat and play a victorious fanfare at the end of the battle. All of these extra effects have shortcut keys, so you can quickly insert them into a battle. Running battles as a GM is tedious enough at times, so that I appreciate an easy way to insert special effects.

The variety of available soundsets is quite huge. As far as Rise of the Runelords goes, they’re up to book 4, which should have me set for at least the next 2 years, with the snail pace of our campaign. There are lots of other sounds as well. From sounds on the streets of a town, to spooky ruins and dungeons to tavern brawls, there’s a lot going on there. For those more on the creative end of things, the Syrinscape Sound Creator was just released as well, so people can add their own sounds and create soundsets.

There's a lot of punching going on here...

There’s a lot of punching going on here…

A recent new feature that I am a fan of is the campaign manager. The list of available soundsets is quite huge, especially if you are a subscriber (coming to that in a moment), which means there’s a lot of scrolling and searching involved. That’s why I was quite happy that they just recently added a campaign manager. You go to the website, pick My Campaigns, create a campaign and then add the soundsets you want to use for it. You can edit the lists easily. In the player, you can then pick your campaign and it will only list the soundsets you picked on the site. Very neat!

syrinscape-2

Which takes us to the pricing. As the player itself is free, there’s got to be some costs somewhere, and that’s for the soundsets beyond the two free ones. The Syrinscape site has a store where you buy the soundsets. The soundsets for an Adventure Path book is 15.99 USD which isn’t cheap, especially if you have every intention of playing all six books. There’s two starter packs of generic fantasy sounds for 20.00 USD each. Individual soundsets run 3.99 USD. The second option you have is a subscription, and that’s ultimately what I opted for. The subscription is 6.50 USD a month, giving you instant access to all available soundsets. If at any point you unsubscribe, you still get to keep the most current AP release, and all the soundsets that were newly released while you were a subscriber. The current release schedule is three new soundsets every odd month, and in even months you get a new AP book. All in all, that seems like the much better deal for me, and thus, I am a subscriber.

The release schedule looks very promising...

The release schedule looks very promising…

Nothing is perfect, and so I have a few issues with the software. Moving it from one monitor to the other causes really weird flickering and makes buttons unresponsive. Downloading soundpacks takes very long. I assume the files are hosted somewhere in Australia, but it would be nice if files downloaded faster. Probably the worst bit for me was the recent update of the software. I had tediously downloaded all soundpacks, only to find that after the update they were all gone again. Not sure why that was necessary.

To end on a very positive side, the author, Benjamin Loomes, is a fun guy who does a great job advertising the software. He has a YouTube channel, where he showcases recent additions to the software, lots of demo sounds and for example stuff on how to set up Syrinscape at the table. I will definitely try to see if I can get my hands on a Boombox as the laptop speakers just don’t cut it anymore. He’s also very approachable on Twitter, where I recently asked for advice looking for specific sounds.

All in all I think it’s a great product with tons of potential, and it’s really well received in my group. In my recent session in the Glassworks, I feel it truly enhanced the exploration when they were able to actually hear the goblins smashing glass in the furnace room.

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.