I finished Chained Echoes last night (you can find my early thoughts here). I mean, I’ve still got a bit of post-game type stuff to do (unlocking the last two ultimate weapons, getting and upgrading some of the ultimate armors, etc), but I’m most of the way through that as well and only the final (extra) boss fight really appeals to me. Clearly, I didn’t need the fully upgraded ultimate everything to finish the game. I managed to figure out a system of abilitys and debilities in battle that has worked pretty well for me and I can now reliably put out enough damage while keeping my Damage Per Second anchors alive that I was able to get through the final plot boss fight fast enough that I think the game was struggling to do all the cool stages of the fight before I blew the boss away. I even tested it against a timed encounter that’s part of the “collect the macguffins to unlock the ultimate hidden boss fight” line of challenges that had been absolutely unbeatable only a few gaming hours earlier (I’d literally tried it before heading off to the final area where I got the ultimate armors and weapons and whatnot) and managed to end it faster than I thought was possible. I’m not sure I really need to do more of this kind of collection and gear imrpovement stuff before I take the hidden boss on, so I might try to bang that out tonight or this weekend.Continue reading
Becoming a World Traveler In Dragon’s Dogma
For what feels like a year now, I’ve been working my way through Dragon’s Dogma. I tend to play in bursts, usually doing nothing else for a weekend or for a few week nights in a row, and then moving on to somehting else for a while. Most of the time, I wind up getting distracted by a new game that feels more urgent than the relatively ancient Dragon’s Dogma which doesn’t even have a release year for its sequel. One time, I got frustrated with a bug and losing three quarters of an hour of inventory management, so I set it aside long enough that I forgot what had caused the bug in the first place and promptly ran into it again when I went back. I’d saved more recently, this time, so it was easier to fix the problem, but it did keep me from diving too deeply into the game that round. The past couple weeks, though, as I try to save some of my recently acquired Switch games for my impending trip, I’ve focused more of my time on Dragon’s Dogma and discovered that the real reason I stop playing most days is because it takes so damn long to get anywhere.Continue reading
Chained Echoes Is More Fun Than I’ve Had In Ages
Over the past week and a half, I’ve spent what limited evening video game time I’ve got playing Chained Echoes on my Switch. I only heard about the game because a podcaster I follow (Austin Walker of the wonderful Friends at the Table) tweeted about appearing on an episode of another podcast (specifically the Jan 16th, 2023 episode of Axe of the Blood God: An RPG Podcast). Since I’m really into RPGs and I trust Austin’s opinions on games, I decided to give it a listen. Wound up getting myself a new RPG to enjoy and a new podcast to check out at the same time. Unfortunately, for a while there, I was too stressed out to consider trying anything new, especially after the new thing I was most excited for wound up being incredibly underwhelming. Between that and just being generally busy, I didn’t start playing Chained Echoes until last week.Continue reading
Like Most Myths, Wildermyth Is About The Characters
I’ve been playing a bunch of Wildermyth recently. I’ve played through almost all of the campaigns on my own, some of them multiple times with different groups of people, and there’s only one left that I haven’t played at all. At this point, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the storytelling pieces of this game, even if I don’t always remember the particulars of every encounter. Throw in a general understanding of the strategy behind the game and a nearly complete understanding of how all the abilities synergize (except for Hero Theme abilities, since I’m still working on collecting all of those), and I feel like there are no real secrets left for me. I’m sure there’s plenty of random encounters I haven’t run into, given my penchant for creating specific types of heroes, but I’m working to correct those biases and hopefully I’ll eventually be able to tick through all the achievements as evidence of my gameplaying breadth.Continue reading
My Video Game Schedule Is Full Through Next Winter
I played a lot of video games during my two-week vacation over the winter holidays this year, but I feel like I barely scratched the surface of all the games I got and want to play. This feeling isn’t entirely based in reality, since half the games I currently want to play are games that I don’t own. I put a bit of an embargo on buying things in the latter half of the year, specifically on games I would be alright waiting to play but definitely wanted to play eventually so I’d be able to give people ideas for what to give me as a gift. Now that the holidays are over and I’m not expecting any more gifts, I’m looking to buy everything I wanted and didn’t get. It’s not a huge amount of games, to be sure, but it’s enough that I’m probably going to be busy for months, especially with all the other games coming out this year.Continue reading
The Unhinged Quartet and the Crystalline Honey Scepter
I ran a game of Honey Heist for the first time last weekend. It hadn’t even played it before but my players were demanding it (I mean, we were all excited by the idea of playing it, so it wasn’t some one-sided thing) and the two times I’d seen it played (once on Critical Role and once as a live-show by The Adventure Zone with special guest Eriak Ishii) gave me enough confidence in its simplicity that I decided to run it. Plus, this was going to be the first thing my new Sunday group played together and I wanted something with very little preamble so we’d all be awkwardly uncomfortable together. Since this was one of those games meant to be picked up and played in a single play session, the only prep work I did was buy the game, read through it once, and then come up with a pun for the heist.
As the players made their characters, I rolled on the various scenario tables provided in this excellent one-page RPG (techincally two if you count the GM tables which aren’t necessary for play) and spun up a scenario as I went. “Madame Beesaud’s Wax Museum” featuring the “Crystalline Honey Scepter” was eventually built up into an elaborate heist featuring security gaurds armed with tranquilizer guns, a complex CCTV system, live bears as part of the entertainment, honey-coated decor, and a figure I described as “Lady Gaga-esque but with honey.” Everything else beyond those data points I made up as I went along using my in-depth knowledge of the heist-movie genre, my player’s excellent character creation skills, and just enough prompts to get most of my players asking the right questions to flesh out this scene.
If you’d told me that was all I was going to need to create one of the most memorable hour and half tabletop gaming experiences of my life, I’d have probably nodded politely while cussing you out in my head considering I’d spent the entire day prior to the game fretting about how I was going to make it happen since there is aboslutely no structure provided for how a heist should play out. The game has a simple pass or fail mechanic, two stats that fluctuate based on passes or failures, and a system clearly designed to end every heist in a spectacular and hilarious disaster. And tons of costume and bear suggestions for creating your characters, of course. It is not a great system for someone who struggles to put something together without any amount of structure to build off. I have, for most of my life, been such a person. I’ve always struggled to improvise without leaning heavily on something I know well and the only reason I was able to do that for D&D over my years as a DM was by making sure I knew the game well enough to improvise within its realm.
Turns out I’ve grown. What a surprise. All of that listening to actual-play podcasts featuring improvisation and shared storytelling games over the last couple years has actually taught me something useful. Plus all of my own writing and movement away from the more stilted, pre-planned story beats of my old Dungeons and Dragons games towardzs a more “reflecting the players actions in real time” style of storytelling has given me plenty of practice. It also helped, once I settled in to run the game and stopped fretting, that my most memorable tabletop gaming experience prior to this game was the D&D game I’d run about forty-eight hours prior where I eventually entirely abandoned everything I’d prepared and the rules of D&D itself in order to respect the fiction as we’d established it during a dead-world moment with two of my players. Something else I’d entirely improvised in the moment when one of the players took an action I didn’t expect but that had interesting narrative implications given the way we’d talked about their character’s relationship with their powerful, partially sentient magic item.
Turns out, I am actually pretty good at this, thanks to all of that practice and the excellent examples I’ve had of how to ask the right questions. It also definitely helps that both groups are full of creative, expressive people who aren’t afraid to push the boundaries and try something new or daring. Sunday night’s game of Honey Heist went off in spectacular fashion, starting with the coincidence that all of the players rolled “unhinged” as the description of their bear, passing through a bear doing muscle-based seduction, reaching a high with the introduction of a rival team of thieving bears that I’d been hiding in plain sight the entire time, and then blowing past that high point with the introduction of a river following one of the players betraying the party right when doing so would result in the players failing the heist only for their bear to be tackled out a window into the newly introduce river by a polar bear which brough the game to a conclusion with a tumble over a waterfall and an ambiguous final shot showing an unknown bear grabbing the prize in a way that firmly established there would definitely be a sequel to this game.
Honestly, even that belabored, overly-detailed sentence doesn’t do it justify. I wish I’d recorded the entire game because, with the right editing, it would make for an amaing hour-long audio drama. What a great experience that was. My players were all clever and inventive, I got to pull of a twist by building off details they’d established, and we all laughed so much that the game took almost two hours instead of one. It was one of those moments that made me realize and appreciate the group I’d brought together. I’ve been confident that they’ll all get along, but I knew that they’d need some time to adjust to each other. With this single game of Honey Heist, I think they all see the strength and potential of this group in the same way I do. I can’t wait to keep playing games with these people!
Picking Through Spelljammer Like A Content Vulture
Just as I was getting to the point in my Science-Fantasy D&D campaign that might include fantasy-flavored space stuff, the long-awaited Spelljammer expansion to Dungeons and Dragons Fifth Edition came out. For the entire time I’ve been playing fifth edition, I’ve seen people posting comments on every Wizards of the Coast announcement that amount to “Spelljammer when?” and, frankly, I’m pretty happy for that to finally be done. I bet it’ll continue in some capacity, of course, because that’s how people are, but I’m glad to finally have this out so I can inject some fun space-themed fantasy bullshit into my science-fantasy game and so people will finally shut up about it. I am a complex, multi-faceted being and I can enjoy things for multiple reasons.Continue reading
I Love Running Dungeons And Dragons Games
I ran the first session of a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign last week. This was the game I was building while I wrote last month’s posts about how to do interesting worldbuilding for your Tabletop Roleplaying Game, and that resulted in me spending more time than usual reflecting on the place that TTRPGs have in my life. It went well, thanks to the efforts of myself and my players working to get everything ready and the world built for an engaging first session. It was a lot of fun to run for such a roleplaying-centric group! It’s not that my other groups aren’t interested in roleplaying, it’s just that they aren’t always super invested in roleplaying at the same time. Which is fair, you know? Not everyone plays Dungeons and Dragons so they can do a bunch of roleplaying. Many people play because they want to enjoy the mechanics and mix in some roleplaying between chances to roll dice. Some people just want to roll dice and do math. All of these are valid and acceptable reasons to play TTRPGs.Continue reading
Open-World Situation Building In Dungeons & Dragons
After nearly two months, I got to run my Sunday night Dungeons and Dragons campaign again. After side-sessions, many missed sessions, and a whole lot of tumult in everyone’s life, we were able to gather again and return to the dark fantasy and mild horror stylings of the world I’d spent over a year slowly developing. I had fun, my players had fun, there was a lot of lucky rolls, the player characters survived a lot of nasty damage, there were some clutch reactions and actions, and only one player character died in a boss battle they were absolutely unprepared for! That’s the danger of open-world scenarios, you know. You can accidentally wander into the desecrated temple to the not-evil gods right as a priest of what is essentially malicious entropy completes a ritual that temporarily grants him a huge deal of power in a side-realm. All without any of the information that contextualizes any of that so even when you do win, you’re not sure if it matters or not, or even how to do anything as a result.Continue reading
The Horror Game Is Off To a Great Start!
After approximately a month and a half, I got to return to my main weekly D&D campaign and run the next session (the first full session) in the extra-universal domain I built way back in 2020 when I was bored due to only working alternate weeks. I set up a whole mystery thing I was going to unveil for a different campaign since one of my core players loved mysteries, but she wound up withdrawing from the campaign because only doing stuff online became too much for her, so I recycled it into a different D&D campaign. Now, one kidnapping and a side character later, my players have fully immersed themselves in a world of betentacled eyeball sunrises, screams instead of clock chimes to mark passing hours, and a massive mystery to solve before the constant wear of terror and nothingness grinds down their very souls.Continue reading