I may have mentioned… repeatedly, that I am a tremendous fan of Matthew Colville, and that I gave to the Kickstarter that was ostensibly to get a streaming series up onto Twitch and YouTube, but for the purposes of putting a product into the hands of backers, it was also for the Strongholds & Followers supplement that he had hinted at repeatedly in his “Running the Game” videos that a few fans had been asking about.
Well the MCDM stream began last Wednesday, and aired on YouTube (where I will be watching) over the weekend, and I squeezed in watching between games I was running, and as I already reviewed the book, it’s only fair I have a look at what else our generously given donations have yielded. Side note Strongholds & Followers has had an update with extra artwork and some fault-fixes! Version 1.1 is available for download now, and free if you’ve already got 1.0. (more…)
So long 2017! You were mostly terrible but there were a few redeeming qualities, not least of which the advent of GeekOut Shrewsbury. On Thursday we rounded out the year in true geeky style, a mountain of board games, Callum’s Nintendo Switch (thanks man), and our first super secret santa.
The Little Dessert Shop Pre-Meet
This was my first trip to the recently opened Little Dessert Shop, and I am not disappointed by what’s on offer, I thought I’d grown sick of sweet foods over Christmas, enough to skip the waffles, but not enough to resist a brownie and custard. The table size was a little small for some serious gaming, but there’s always space for a quick game of Love Letter between coffees. Thanks to the lads behind the counter, you were nothing if not entertaining.
A Very Busy Montgomery’s Tower
To say that Monty’s was busy is an understatement, in fact we had a while to wait before we could claim our seats, and no other table was available for us apart from the little ones we use to rack up the games. But we’re nerds, and never short of something to do. Callum and Murray settled into a Pokemon battle, while I played some pinball and chatted with Ben until we managed to occupy some furniture and bust into a game of Magic.
I also broke out some of my new Christmas presents, including new favourite Rhino Hero courtesy of our very own Timlah (cheers Tim, expect your presents soonish) which will need to be expanded upon at some point; and the DC Deck Builder Heroes Unite, featuring the D-list of DC heroes, but some of the better mechanics from any iteration of the game I’ve played thus far. I did not get to try the Harry Potter Hogwarts Battle deck building game brought in by Harley, who ran an RPG later in the evening.
Around 21:30 the music began, because it’s the bizarre half-formed space between Christmas and New Years where time is irrelevant and no one has to work unless they’re retail, service or emergency services. I neglected to consider this possibility, and may have to restructure next December’s GeekOut Shrewsbury to account for it. Still, it didn’t stop the progress of the Christmassy roleplay taking place in the corner, which I hear involved a murderous reindeer, and Mad Max elves. No doubt I’ll hear the rest of the story another time.
Thanks to everyone who put in to the Super Secret Santa, especially whoever brought the Trumpisms book, which shall take pride of place next to my volumes of George W. Bushisms. I can also say that whoever put in the Ferrero Roche, your present was equally well received. We wound down early as the music only got more intrusive, squeezed in a quick game of Surakarta on a custom board made by John, which cracked spontaneously in the middle of the game surreptitiously moving my pieces allowing me to gain the brief advantage I needed to turn the horrible losing streak I’d started on.
This coming Kitacon I will be arriving a day early to socialise, get some work done, and to get some gaming in before the convention comes in and cruelly steps on my chances to play, there are still some Magic rematches I owe but I never seem to get the chance because of panels and the like. Damn you Kitacon, getting in the way of me enjoying a perfectly good convention!
Anyway, first item on my docket is a one-shot role play in a system I’ve never run before. It’s an opportunity for me to learn something new, get experimental with something other than Dungeons & Dragons. I chose Pokethulhu because it combines my greatest strength – horror – with an important component of any one-shot where no one is planning on getting emotionally invested with their characters – completely stupid comedy. (more…)
What do you get when you cross an RPG and a CCG?
Well actually the net result is rather clever. In the game by Defiant Development you sit at a table across from a mysterious figure for a game of cards, moving your token along random layouts that offer challenges, threats, conundrums and opportunities. Each round unveils a sliver of a story, uncovering sidequests and fighting your way to the finish line. It’s a rather interesting little take on a classic format that I picked up during the Steam Summer Sale. (more…)
This should be an easy one, as it’s the moral alignment of which I can claim some personal experience. I’ll try and stay unbiased.
Evil is a variable term. There are evil ends, and evil means; those who can recognise that what they are doing is wrong and simply don’t care, and those who simply do not comprehend the harm they are doing in pursuit of some perceived greater good. It can be hard to determine what kind of evil is worst, but both are remorseless in pursuit of their goals, be it because of conviction or lack of empathy.
Neutral Evil is the alignment of the cruel, the driven, those with their own cause to pursue for whom all others are a secondary concern unless particularly useful, or annoyingly obtrusive.
The Ends That Justify The Means
Just to define neutral evil from its close relatives, evil unconfined by law is free to do whatever it pleases, but there’s no denying that it is better organised than those who give in to the recklessness of chaos. Like all evils however, it has a purpose, an ultimate end to achieve, and that end is almost universally centred around power. Money and weapons are means to achieve power, immortality gives you the time to accomplish any plan you put into action, revenge is reclaiming power from those who took it from you. Perhaps you’re seeking a cure to an illness, the power to save another life.
And therein lies the difference. Where Good seeks to empower others, Evil only wants power to itself apathetic to how it effects others, or what damage is caused in the mean time. Take for example the version of Doctor Octopus as portrayed by Alfred Molina, who’s desire to succeed in his efforts to create safe and clean energy led him down a destructive path, stealing money, killing those who stood in his way, rebuilding his miniature sun experiment and nearly destroying the planet in the process. Whether he was driven by an unchecked desire for success, or by a noble cause, his actions were ultimately evil.
This is where the danger of an NE character lies. Conviction to a cause makes them unrelenting and willing to do anything, be it immoral, unpredictable or wholly vindictive. Alliances can only be forged with those whose desires either align themselves or at worst are not likely to interfere. This means that such a character could be brought to a more socially acceptable world-view, so long as as they are not stopped from getting what they want from life… and that thing isn’t the death of everyone.
In the tool-chest of the wicked lie all things unimagined by the wholesome and righteous. Torture, murder, blackmail, exploitation, oppression, theft, manipulation, deceit, and rude words are all at the disposal of those given wholly to the dark side, but that’s not to say that a Neutral Evil character is without principles. To start with, all of the above must have serve the purpose, otherwise it’s just pointless aggression that accomplishes nothing.
Sadism is not beyond an NE character, indeed you may have considered the possible options and considered that viciousness and cruelty are the more desirable ways forward despite their being an equally valid and socially acceptable method, but evil is rarely without cause. Perhaps taking the more terrible path will send a message to others, such as in the pursuit of revenge, not merely having your adversary arrested, shown-up, or their ill deeds made known, utterly destroying them may serve to warn anyone else of what fate might befall them if they cross you. If time is of the essence, cheating your way to the finish-line may be the buy a surplus of time where getting their honestly may not have left enough margin for error.
Sometimes evil is just the natural response, something organic. To take a rather grim example from reality, it has been proven that psychological help, support and therapy rehabilitates most criminals and prevents re-offending. But as a species we cry out for punishment, not sympathy, while logic may follow the proof our emotions demand retribution, and throwing criminals into a hole to suffer for months, years, decades. One of our lesser societal evils.
I find Ultron to be delightfully evil, his programming is complex enough that it can rationalise away any of the laws it may have been originally programmed to obey, driven by the extinction of natural life in favour of a planet more easily governed and ordered, where there shall be no war, only the peace of cooperating machines. While the MCU version may have been a little more egomaniacal (James Spader, you are glorious) than the cold comic-book counterpart, either will go to any lengths to wipe out humanity.
They said no to human trials. The studies had all been going well, tumour shrinkage faster than anything on record, coupled with limited cellular regeneration in affected areas, and then the mice began biting, becoming less social, and finally… Well, a few vicious mice proved nothing, humans had far superior higher brain function, and “mood alterations” is commonplace on side-effect labels. Besides, her mother was suffering, and the vial was just in her bag.
He maintained he’d done nothing wrong. As it turns out people will give you money if you even look like a charity, but nobody took a moment to double check that “Holding Hands” wasn’t just a name he got printed on the hi-vis jacket and stuck on the side of the collection tin, nor had anyone stopped to ask about the so-called charity. A bunch of kids got some over-priced stickers and nobody got hurt in the process, it’s their own fault for being blinded by faux-generosity.
I wanted to cite Scar in this list, but let me give some love to an underappreciated Neutral Evil: Randall Boggs of Monsters Inc. The capricious chameleon (voiced by Steve Buscemi) has no qualms about kidnapping terrified children and harvesting them for energy if it means being the best monster in the company. He’s an ambitious weasel with a vindictive streak a mile wide, and with practical invisibility and Henry Waternoose backing his every play he needn’t fear a thing, except the unpredictability of toddlers.
We sink ever deeper through morality and into cruelty, malice, desire placed above need, ambition put before consideration, ends always justifying the means.. It’s important to recognise here that the most evil amongst us are the ones who don’t consider themselves evil, perhaps they are just motivated enough pursuing their goals to overlook the damage they might be doing, or perhaps they feel as if they are doing the right thing, and those who try and stop them are being unjust. Or perhaps their malevolence is born of some great injustice done to them, real or perceived.
Oh how I love a good villain.
So while I quietly persuade myself not to get too political, let’s take a look into what can earn someone the label of Lawful Evil. (more…)
On Saturday the 19th of August at 20:00 I will be giving my second panel ever. Considerably less interesting than doing my first, but still kind of a huge deal from where I’m sat. I fully intended to bring back my confidence building panel with some rather necessary improvements, I can’t claim to have been all that organised, but sadly someone seems to have beaten me to the punch as I was declined on the grounds that someone had submitted a very similar panel before I got to it. Not to worry, I always have a fallback: (more…)
As a DM, you need to be able to set scenes by using mostly words. Sometimes you might draw a map that you can slowly reveal to the player and some of them might be quite complex, but sadly only 2D. It is possible to build actual 3D models of your maps, which has become a bit easier with the Dwarven Forge pieces that you can piece together however you like, similar to Lego. However, dear RPG players of the world, how awesome would it be if you could actually use Lego?
Well I must admit that I lost interest in Lego some time ago; I think they departed from their core mechanic in favour of cashing in on things like Star Wars, Batman and Minecraft. I thought it would take something drastic, (like having children,) to make me actually need to or even want to buy Lego again. But it appears while I have been ignoring them, Lego have taken on a fan’s idea to make Role Play flavoured lego. A user, going by the name of Ymarilego, submitted their proposal for a Dungeon Master lego set back in January 2017. By January 25th, they already had 100 people supporting it. Somehow this idea blew up on the internet and the idea reached it’s minimum of 10,000 supporters on 22nd Feb.
What this means is that Lego are actually now going to take this idea seriously, by pushing it through their internal review process, which I am sure is based around the sellability and cost of producing the actual pieces themselves. It is in the hands of the so called Lego Gods right now, so all we can do is hope that they make the decision to go ahead and build it.
From what we have seen of the proposal, it looks like that the set will include a few base player characters and some of the more regular monsters as mini-figs. Then the set is broken down into individual squares that you can mix and match or replace the contents of. There looks to be dungeon, as well as building-flavoured blocks, and a hint at some lava based blocks. The additional proposal is to add on some mine cart functionality which sounds like a great little add. For some this may bring somewhat of a cute factor to battling some serious enemies which may or may not appeal to DM’s. I rather like the idea of having many more component parts to build my maps from. Again some may argue that a decent DM does not need physical maps; and I would argue that at times it is absolutely necessary.
We asked our resident RPG expert Joel what he thought of the proposals.
Freedom of Expression
It’s about damn time Lego got together with RP, it’s just a shame it took a fan on the outside to start the ball rolling. One of the pillars of Lego’s popularity is the freedom to create whatever you like from the glorious universal pieces, and in the way they have embraced every genre and collected intellectual properties to give us the rather non-metaphorical building blocks to bring our imagination into the real world.
Roleplay does the same, the numbers become the building blocks, a means to drive imagination, create structure that can help bring our ideas to life and share them with friends. Physical props have always helped make manifest our brilliant ideas, our handcrafted worlds and bring our players deep into our narrative. Well now we can really handcraft those worlds!
Chris mentioned Dwarven Forge because they produce some of the best scenery for tabletop on the market, and their range keeps getting better and more versatile, but you’re still stuck with their own (stunningly beautiful) set pieces that can be moved around. They’re elegantly sculpted and beautifully painted but rather lash you to a theme, fixed paths and immovable scenery components. This project could bust those options wide open. Don’t like a wall? It’s gone. Path too wide? Narrow it. Not in a mine? Don’t be! The Lego Gods would be fools not to seize upon a market yearning for this level of freedom.
Ok, so you can just buy Lego. There are fantasy kits out there, and they’ve recently brought back the basic bricks in a big way, but we don’t really want to make knights with chainsaws and go-carts (Nexo Knights, what exactly is going on there?) or caverns that change colour every five foot. We also need some dedicated stuff for creating our characters that can be pretty expensive to bring together in a custom mini-figure. I’ve yet to see a well made Lego beholder.
Chris is right when he says a good DM doesn’t need a physical representation for what they’re trying to create, but that doesn’t stop us from wanting it. The market demands, and Lego have given it a new channel through which to demand in very specific terms. If Dungeon Masters are the market in this particular instance then let us speak clearly, we have wanted to play with Lego while role playing for years – hells, I’ve tried to make a set myself with the Digital Designer – because physical representations can make the world feel more real and immerse you further into it, even if it’s population can only move at right angles and have weird yellow claw hands.
Fellow geeks, I cannot stress enough how much I want to see this come to fruition. Tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell your parents. Get everyone you know to go through a very short sign up process and go and vote on this set. Don’t think about it, just make it happen.
It’s a dark and stormy night. The intrepid dungeoneers are huddled around a table, trying their hardest to shelter themselves from the wind, the rain and a never-ending torrent of monsters, traps and curses that the impossible mission that they have undertaken is throwing at them…
There are frequently benefits to multiclassing your characters, giving your fighter a level of rogue or barbarian can really up his damage output, or perhaps a little paladin or cleric can make him a greater utility to the group. Giving your monk a few sorcerer spells can really change the way she plays in combat without compromising her usefulness, or perhaps some ranger to turn her into a serious close-range menace.
But why? Surely you’re not just chasing numbers and making a more effective combat-unit, or chasing some build that you found on a forum to break the game. Your character shouldn’t just be a collection of stats on a piece of paper because that ceases to be role-playing, but there’s no need to avoid multiclassing because it doesn’t fit, and if it works in your story then you should absolutely add a level of a class that makes no sense. Like bard…
I’m kidding, bards are fine. (more…)