Guilding It Up (Sort of) in Neverwinter

•September 29, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So I started playing Neverwinter again. I don’t exactly remember why I did this. Perhaps it saw mention on a podcast, or I saw an ad in a particularly weak moment. I’ve circled back to it a few times, though neither for as long nor with as much regularity as Dungeons and Dragons Online.  I also haven’t spent nearly as much money in the game, in part because lockboxes don’t really drive my purchasing decisions. They’re a seductive trap, and I’ve opened my share, but it’s the kind of trap where the teeth are too apparent, the tongue too pulsating, and I know that I’m throwing my limbs away if I hop in.

I have a handful of characters in the game, though I don’t recall whether or not I bought a spare slot (compare this to DDO, where I think I have 14 slots on every server). The last time I’d played for any length of time was when they premiered the Scourge Warlock, a class that was featured in the rather excellent trailer but didn’t actually drop until recently.

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Fantasy AGE: Why not learn another RPG system?

•August 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I mean, I love ’em. I collect ’em! The massive proliferation of new systems means that I’m nowhere near up on everything, but when a game catches my eye I always try to look into it, and if the books are cheap I’m happy to pick them up. I first ran into the Fantasy AGE system (that’s how they want it written, folks, and who am I to stand in their way?) with the stellar Tabletop Dragon Age episode. How stellar is that episode? The guy you’d think had played a ton of DnD never touched it; the guy you’d think would be too cool for school and just doing this to promote the sci-fi show he acts on is totally into it; and Chris Hardwick–the man whose off-the-cuff comment about hit points during an episode of Singled Out opened my childhood eyes to the possibility that adults could be popular, famous even, and still know about D&D…he does the entire game playing Fonzie as a wizard (so just Fonzie).

Never forget.

It also introduced a pretty cool system, but one that I never explored because I’m just not that into Dragon Age. I played the first game, but never beat it, and not for any particularly compelling reason–I think I just got a bit bored, and a bit lost, around the time I had all of the DLC available to me. I picked up Inquisition when it was brand new, meaning that the negative reviews started trickling in just as I was starting to play it; I mostly got it for the multiplayer, anyway, which I enjoyed in spite of the tremendous lag, long wait times, and tendency to crash. However, since I was playing during the day, during the week, I was mostly playing with Germans (I base this on the fact that they were usually speaking German in the voice chat) and that didn’t help the ping issues. I deleted the game a few months ago but haven’t touched it since a few weeks after it dropped.

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Talking 4e: Power Sources Overview and Martial

•July 27, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I got this ball rolling by talking about roles available to characters in 4th Edition. I think a case could be made for reading this post first, if you’re inclined to perversity in following lists.

While the previous post discussed the various broad services that a particular character might provide the party—healing, damage absorption, extreme damage, or horde removal and/or priority target incapacitation—power sources are a broader concept. Two Arcane characters might look and act nothing alike, for instance, whereas a Fighter and a Paladin are likely to do very similar things. Instead, power sources help define how a particular character interacts with her abilities, as well as how the character understands the larger world. Most power sources included a class for every role, though none launched that way at the beginning of 4e. By the end of the edition, many power sources had double- or triple-dipped in some roles. In addition, the Heroes of… books fiddled with power sources and roles, creating classes with multiple masters and other riffs on core ideas; those books also changed up how characters gain abilities at a given level, though, so I’m going to address them in later posts.

The power sources are:

  • Martial
  • Divine
  • Arcane
  • Primal
  • Psionic
  • Shadow

The PHB launched with representatives from the Martial, Divine, and Arcane power sources. Primal characters came about in the PHB2 (meaning, surprisingly, Rangers aren’t Primal characters), and Psionic ones dropped with the PHB3. In both cases, races were added that were particularly well-suited to the new power source being surfaced. Shadow’s…that’s a weird one, with only two classes represented, one of which is really an R.C.C. It’s helpful to remember that 4e doesn’t apply limitations to class selection based on race, so you can have dwarves who are thoroughly Arcane, or half-vampires with a Divine bent. Some of the classes available in a given power source are also far less supported than others, representing ideas or experiments that never had a chance to gain much traction. Continue reading ‘Talking 4e: Power Sources Overview and Martial’

I’m Seriously Going to Talk About 4e. Class Roles, In This Case.

•July 22, 2015 • 2 Comments

I love 4e. This is known. This has been demonstrated. Recent house…I don’t call it cleaning, so perhaps “Item Shuffling” is more accurate…has added beloved books to the pile I’ve been picking up when I find them on sale. This stokes the central engine, cast in iron and chased with bronze, that powers my whole deal. I’ve gone back through my old posts—always a harrowing experience—and see that I’ve never done the dream: I’ve never gone through the 4e classes based on role and power source. I’m going to start that now! It’s something that, honestly, I think about so very, very often. It’s what I do instead of counting sheep.

I seriously lay abed, thinking in my mind about the various power sources for 4e classes, and how the classes slot also into roles, and how each class serves as representatives of both categories. I want to begin unloading that pillow-clad work into a digital format.

So where do we start? I think an argument could be made for starting at either major, top-level criteria and chew inward. However, between power source and role, I like starting with role. This allows me to draw on a lot of received wisdom in potential readers, because one of 4e’s most maligned qualities—its MMO-ification—is also the thing that makes it most accessible to folks who’ve never played a tabletop rpg but have, say, done some work in WoW. Or Mass Effect. Or League of Legends.

Continue reading ‘I’m Seriously Going to Talk About 4e. Class Roles, In This Case.’

Character Workshop: Nzail Gbak

•July 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Nzail UnpaintedI still love making characters. An opportunity cropped up to join a game by an excellent DM. Part of what drove the game was our mutual frustration with the offerings available (or not, more precisely) on the boards—of course, between then and now a few cropped up, but none have the punch of this one. Huge, sprawling map, and the DM always takes me back to Howard, Lovecraft, and Leiber. I started playing around with concepts based on the excellent recruiting requirements:

  • Name (with a link to the character sheet).
  • Race, class, and background.
  • A brief description of the character’s appearance and personality.
  • One Unique Thing (I’m stealing this from 13th Age). What makes your character unique? This can be almost anything that doesn’t give you a mechanical advantage–no combat bonuses or combat powers. For example, “I’m the bastard son of the Emperor” or “I have a clockwork heart made by the dwarves” would work well, but “I am a dragon rider” or “I am the reincarnation of a previous Archmage/Emperor/High Druid and I remember everything” would not.
  • The name and description of your personal magic item.
  • The names and brief descriptions of two important NPCs tied to the character.
  • The name of one powerful, recurring foe and what kind of threat they represent.
  • One type of creature that the character regards as a particular threat to the land. This can be tied to the recurring foe or entirely separate, and can be as general or specific as the player desires. For example, one player might choose dragons as a general class of enemy, while another might specifically choose ghouls and link them to his personal recurring foe, the Ghoul King. Feel free to get creative here–exotic and unusual creatures are encouraged!

This was the first thing I wrote: Shriveled men. Desperate men. Men whose flesh wriggled as it tried to hide between their bones, to escape the thirsty desert with its million scouring tongues. The men of Mnar turned to Ul’Kawaw, for the Jackal Soul knew what it was to hunger, to quake with need.

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More Painted Malifaux!

•July 13, 2015 • 3 Comments


I’ve got Jakob Lynch painted, and his crew’s rapidly reaching painted completion. I admit I’m apprehensive about the female Illuminated, because there’s a dress involved and I just don’t know if I’ll do it justice.


I said “screw it” and painted part of the shirt up in black.


The claws and fangs will get a pass of ‘ardcoat.

So, we’ve got the Illuminated, which I just glued to their bases. I want the “Vomiting Brilliance onto a dude” Illuminated to be an awesome centerpiece model, but it was tricky to put together and the way the feet are set makes it hard to pose. Sadly, that has relegated him to a second-tier piece at best. When you’re playing games with sticky tack holding your figures on, the tippy-toe guy is an even bigger issue.

I’d had a whole bold plan for the entirety of Lynch’s Brilliant folks: I was going for Western Tiger Salamanders.

I love these little bastards so damn much.

That was in no way what actually happened, and I’m sure I’ll return to the task in the future. Continue reading ‘More Painted Malifaux!’

Character Workshop: Council of Thieves

•July 8, 2015 • 3 Comments

Having jumped back into Play-by-Post as a writing/creativity enhancer, I’m on the paper chase for a couple of games. My goal is to keep things locked down to no more than two, ideally in different systems. I’m also keeping my applications along the way locked at two, meaning some games may fill up while I’m waiting for others to close the app process. The idea of needing to even wait for approval is surreal, but I’ve been away for a long time and have actively avoided just knocking on the doors of my traditional gaming partners and looking for a spot. Doing so would feel like Andy Cramed asking Cy to “get somethin’ goin’” in Deadwood; which is a scene I’ve had a wretched time finding a clip of! One game I have my eye on involves the Council of Thieves adventure path for Pathfinder. I think that I’ve looked into playing this before, but if so it would have been a long, long time ago. I never re-use characters, precisely, but I do have a basket of character concepts that I occasionally trot out when new tools are presented. In this case, I’m looking at running a new iteration of Mr. Downs, a character I created in conjunction with an old writing partner for the Realms of Evil forums.

I enjoy the incredible depth of the Pathfinder world, and in the case of this character I’m finding myself most taken by the Divs and the Kyton. I’ve never really looked at either race before, and I love what each of them offers. I appreciate the sheer bloody-minded spite of the Divs, their desire to tear down edifice. It’s not the mindless destruction that Demons fall to in so many campaign worlds. Instead, it’s something directed—the distinction between striking a wall with a pick versus the flat of a show shovel. The focus gives them a greater capacity for terror, if not outright efficacy. Their visuals aren’t constrained to just horns and veined wings, either. One of them just has a giant eye in the center of its face, surrounded by teeth.

As for the Kytons…wow. For a campaign set in—and rebelling against—Cheliax, I’m particularly excited to pursue the Kytons. I’ve done myself a terrible disservice by not looking into them sooner, though I know I looked into Zon-Kuthon before and am thus surprised the Kyton’s didn’t come up there. An entire Hellraiser/Slaanesh species of infernal beings hiding in the setting?! One that focuses on the whole concept of transcendence rather than getting bogged down in pierced nipples and bondage?! Amazing stuff.

They even managed a little Phantasm!

By aligning my character with the Kytons, I can create someone whose political and philosophical motivations are in direct opposition with the current Chelish school of “power at any cost,” while still proselytizing to a people who were willing to accept that approach.

Continue reading ‘Character Workshop: Council of Thieves’


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