Song of the Deep Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

The underwater portions of old 2D side-scrolling games were often the bane of every gamer’s existence. Thankfully we’ve reached a point where not only can maneuvering underwater feel right, but we can play entire games set within a vast underwater wonderland.

Song of the Deep obeys the time-tested Metroidvania playbook to create a worthy adventure with a heart-warming story.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Wolverine Goes to Hell

Logan’s soul is tortured in Hell while his Earthly body rampages with a host-demon in this killer start to his 2010 solo series.

With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.

Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!

marvel comicsWriters: Jason Aaron

Artists: Renato Guedes

Issues: Wolverine (2010) #1-5, Wolverine: Road to Hell*

*Also included sort-of tie-ins Daken: Dark Wolverine #1-3 and X-23 #1-3

As a kid of the 80s/90s I love Wolverine. But at this point in 2010, Wolverine had reached peak saturation. He was in multiple X-Men series, multiple Avengers teams, a part of X-Force, then Uncanny X-Force, and still had his own solo book. He also cropped up in other series like Deadpool.

As I said, I like Wolverine, but it was all a bit much. I didn’t have much motivation to read his new solo series when I was getting plenty of him elsewhere. But I kept hearing good things about the story, so I gave it a shot. And holy crap, it’s pretty damn good.

“Wolverine Goes to Hell” is a pretty simple premise. A bunch of normal people who had been wronged by Wolverine’s many, many terrible deeds in the past get together. They get their hands on some occult stuff, trick him into a van (uh, yeah) and then rip his soul from his body. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Wolverine Goes to Hell”

D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 24 Recap

The party goes toe-to-claw with an Umber Hulk, fights off a swarm of ghouls, and defends against air cult reinforcements.

Recorded every Sunday night, uploaded on Mondays. Subscribe for our weekly adventures!

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

At its heart Dungeons & Dragons is all about the dungeon crawl. Many groups might get more enjoyment out of role-playing with townsfolk or uncovering a mystery. But at some point, everyone’s gotta throw down inside a labyrinthine maze of danger and traps.

One of my favorite things about “Princes of the Apocalypse” is how cool and varied the dungeons are. Surprisingly my players skipped over the giant underground pyramid to explore the Northern end of the Temple of Howling Hatred. I can’t blame them. If I get a giant “GO HERE” main quest update, I try and go everywhere else first! Continue reading “D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 24 Recap”

D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 23 Recap

We overcome some terrible technical difficulties to take down a giant stone golem and a plaza full of air cultists.

Recorded every Sunday night, uploaded on Mondays. Subscribe for our weekly adventures!

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

Normally in a tabletop setting of D&D you don’t have to worry about technical difficulties. In an online environment with webcams and recording, it’s a different story. Things had been smooth sailing for awhile so I suppose I was due for a catastrophe of a session last night.

I won’t get into the details but essentially I had recently acquired a USB wireless adapter. Apparently that overloaded my USB ports and they began shutting off last night – turning off my internet, webcam, mouse, keyboard, etc.

This managed to destroy my recording of the first 15 minutes of our session while I dealt with these issues. Rather fortuitously we spent most of the beginning going over some new rules changes in our house rules, so we barely lost any actual adventuring time.

Unfortunately, and I’m incredibly embarrassed to admit this, I had turned off my mic in OBS (my recording software) while trying to diagnose the problem. And of course I forgot to notice it was still off when we came back on. We proceeded to go through an hour’s worth of D&D, and only when we took our break did I notice it was off. DAMN IT. Continue reading “D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 23 Recap”

My D&D House Rules

The official house rules we use for our D&D campaigns.


PCs can only level up during a Long Rest after they’ve gained sufficient experience, and only at the beginning/end of a session so everyone can prepare between sessions.
Upon reaching a new level, players roll their hit dice to gain new maximum hit points. If it’s less than the average + 1, they can take the average + 1 (d10 is 6, D8 is 5, etc). Then also add their CON modifier.

Whenever you take a short rest and do not spend any hit die during it to heal, if you are not at your maximum number of hit die you can regain 1d3 hit die up to your maximum.

PCs are generally given 2 Short Rests and 1 Long Rest per Adventuring Day (Adventuring Day is ultimately at the discretion of the DM). If performing a Long Rest outside of an inn, PCs use 1 ration each. PCs expend 1 ration for each Short Rest beyond 2 in a single day.
PCs can still perform a Long Rest without rations and fully heal, but they cannot regain any spent hit dice.
A Dangerous Area is generally any campsite outside of an inn or protected area.
FORAGE – Up to 1 PC can perform a Wisdom (Survival) check to forage for food and water. A successful test negates the ration expenditure for the Long Rest. The DC of the test depends on the region. The foraging PC cannot also be a guarding PC.
GUARD – Up to 2 PCs can be designated as guards during any Long Rest in a Dangerous Area. The DM will first roll to see when a possible encounter could take place (either first or second shift, which may or may not have an active guard), then roll to see if an encounter takes place. A Guard uses a Wisdom (Perception) test (or passive perception if higher) to spot any incoming threats.


Note, these are not house rules, but simply converting the travel rules in the PHB to our Roll20 map.

Each hex = 5 miles on the world map. PCs traveling at a Normal pace cover about 25 miles (5 hexes) in a day moving over normal terrain (half speed in Difficult Terrain).
The DM will make an encounter roll up to 4 times per travel day – twice during the day, once in the evening, and once at night (see Resting in Dangerous Areas above).
PCs can opt to travel at a Fast pace and cover 30 miles (6 hexes) in a day. Doing so gives a -5 penalty to passive perception scores for any possible encounters that day.
PCs can opt to travel at a Slow pace and cover 20 miles (4 hexes) in a day. This allows them to use stealth checks while traveling for any possible encounters that day.

Inspiration can be declared after a roll, but a second roll must be made (using only the first number).

Beginning a combat sequence through successfully winning a stealth check vs Perception is the way to gain a Surprise Round at the beginning. Advantage on attacks from stealth is only granted under special circumstances, such as a distracted foe. This is not a house rule. Ultimately advantage with stealth, as with advantage in general, is up to the DM in each scenario.

Fog Cloud renders the affected area as Heavily Obscured, and blocks vision entirely. Any creatures within the Fog Cloud suffer from the Blinded condition.
Blinded (PHB 290) – Can’t see, automatically fails checks that require sight. Attack rolls against blinded creatures have advantage, and the blinded creature’s attacks have disadvantage.
However, you also can’t target a creature you can’t see. Here’s the ruling:
Attempting to attack a creature inside the Fog Cloud from outside the Cloud is extremely difficult, and has the potential to hit different targets, including allies. This attack has Disadvantage and only a Critical Hit will find its target. A Critical Fail will randomly hit another target within the Cloud. You are essentially blind-firing into darkness.
If someone attempts to attack a target outside the Cloud while inside the Fog Cloud, same rules as above. Also same ruling as attempting to shoot through a Fog Cloud at a target on the other side.
Attacking a creature within a Fog Cloud while also inside the Fog Cloud requires a Perception check (w/ Disadvantage) vs the target’s Stealth check to locate them, even within melee range. The target doesn’t have to actively hide, the Stealth check is just used as a target number to find them. Attacks of Opportunity also first require the Perception vs Stealth check.
Moving through a Fog Cloud halves speed as if difficult terrain, but checks are only required to locate a specific target, Use the Perception vs Stealth checks as above.

Minor Illusion can only create sounds or static images of objects, no bigger than a 5ft cube (PHB 260). Sorry sexy goblin.
Any physical interaction with the illusion reveals it as such, like an arrow going through it.
Plunking down an illusion in front of non-mindless creatures will grant them advantage on their Investigation check. The illusion still works for other creatures until it’s physically interacted with.

When an NPC casts a spell, the DM shall first describe that a spell is being cast, and describe any material and/or unique somatic components or visualizations. If the PC is unaware, the DM shall also explain if it’s an Arcane or Divine spell.
The PC that wishes to use Counterspell must make a free Arcana or Religion check for Arcane or Divine spells respectively.
The PC has Advantage on the check if the spell is on his or her spell list.
10+ PC learns the spell’s school
15+ PC also learns the spell’s base level
20+ PC also learns the exact spell name
25+ PC also learns the spell level being cast
Once a spell is cast through Roll20, Counterspell cannot be used. DM must provide time for the PC to make appropriate checks.


Climb Onto Larger Creatures – Make a Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) check vs the target’s Dexterity (Acrobatics). Climbing onto a larger creature this way grants advantage to the grappler/climber. The larger creature can attempt a Strength (Athletics) check vs the climber’s skill check to shake them off.
Disarm – Make a normal attack roll, but vs foe’s Strength (Athletics) or Dexterity (Acrobatics) rather than AC. Does no damage if successful but causes the foe to drop their weapon/item.
Mark – When making a melee attack, the attacker can choose to Mark its target. Until the end of the attacker’s next turn, any opportunity attack against the marked target has advantage and doesn’t expend the attacker’s reaction.
Tumble – As an action or bonus action, make a Dexterity (Acrobatics) check vs target’s Dexterity (Acrobatics). If successful, you can move through the target’s space and adjacent spaces without incurring an opportunity attack.
Flanking – Flanking is not an action, it occurs whenever two allies are adjacent to an opponent and on opposite sides. Both gain advantage on attack rolls as long as the situation remains in effect. This does not apply to NPCs (though some have similar built-in abilities)

You may move through (but not land on) the same space an ally occupies at the cost of double the movement for that space (shoving them aside without injuring them). Assuming a small/medium ally, it would take 10ft of movement to cross that ally’s 5ft square.

Beginning at Level 2 a PC can sustain a lasting injury when their health drops to 0 (or lower).
PC must make a DC 15 CON saving throw. Failure results in a Lasting Injury, which should be denoted on the character sheet until healed. (DMG 272)
If a PC hits their negative maximum (-17 if you have 17HP), you don’t automatically die. Instead you gain one Failed Death Save, and must roll for a Lasting Injury (no saving throw)
To determine which Lasting Injury, roll a d20:
1 Lose/damaged Eye – Disadvantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight and ranged attacks. Advantage on Charisma (Intimidation) checks). If you lose both eyes you are blinded.
2-5 Crippled Limb – Player chooses which limb. Arm – Can’t hold two different objects or wield two-handed weapons. Disadvantage to some STR saving throws/checks. Leg – Speed is halved, can’t use the Dash Action, Disadvantage to most DEX ability checks and saving throws. Crippling both arms means you cannot wield anything, crippling both legs means you can’t move at all.
6-9 Internal Injury – Disadvantage on Constitution saving throws/checks. Roll again if already suffering from this.
10-13 Concussion/Head Trauma – Disadvantage on Intelligence saving throws/checks. Roll again if already suffering from this.
14-19 Nasty Scar – Disadvantage on Charisma (Persuasion) checks, Advantage on Charisma (Intimidation checks). Can choose where the scar is, but must be somewhat visible.
20 Minor Scar – Not immediately visible. Confers no advantages or disadvantages. Builds character.

A PC can have more than one Lasting Injury, though some do not stack or have obvious limits (only unlimited one are the scars).
All injuries can be healed via a DC 20 Medicine check (can try once between short and/or long rests, failure doesn’t expend a healing kit unless rolling a 1) or via a Lesser Restoration (or better) healing spell or service (40gp). Healing spells can remove multiple Lasting Injuries at a time, Medicine check can only work for one Lasting Injury at a time.
Concussion and Internal Injury will eventually heal on their own if the PC rests for one solid day.
These rules apply only to PCs, however NPC foes can suffer Massive Damage (see below).

Massive Damage applies only to NPCs, and triggers whenever a single blow does equal to or greater than half their max HP. The target must make a DC 15 CON saving throw, failure results in System Shock. DM rolls a 1d10 (DMG 273):
1 Target immediately drops to 0 hit points, dead
2-3 Target drops to 0 hit points but is stable
4-5 Target is stunned and cannot take any actions/reactions until the end of its next turn
6-7 Target can’t take reactions and has disadvantage on all attacks until the end of its next turn
8-10 Target can’t take reactions until the end of its next turn

lost mine of phandelver

Upon encountering a new creature, location, or object, a PC can roll a skill to see if they can recall that information from their studies or travels. The skill check varies. Wisdom (Survival) could be used for a wilderness location or Beast, while Intelligence (History or Arcana) could be used for some ruins or magical creatures. Most items and objects would be Intelligence (Investigation).
For creatures, Succeeding on a DC 15 gives you the character card in Roll20 with pic and description, while a roll of 20 gives you that as well as some clues as to its abilities, vulnerabilities, etc.
The knowledge roll can be used during combat as a free action, though each PC can only ever attempt it once per target. Knowledge on creatures can be gained automatically if the PCs encounter enough of them – ask your DM!

Under certain circumstances (creatures are surprised, leader is taken out, things are looking bad), the DM can make a DC 10 Wisdom saving throw for the NPC with the highest saving throw. Failure results in the creature (or creatures) fleeing the PCs. PCs gain XP as if they had slain any that fled (if they don’t pursue), though they don’t get any individual treasure the fleeing monsters had. (DMG 273)

A town’s local priest or temple can provide healing and information spells, for a price, up to 3 times per day. Those with Acolyte background can get the first spell for free (50gp or less), once per day.

  • Cure Wounds 10gp
  • Identify 10gp
  • Lesser Restoration 40gp
  • Prayer of Healing 40gp
  • Remove Curse 50gp
  • Speak with Dead 90gp
  • Divination 210gp
  • Greater Restoration 450gp
  • Raise Dead 1000gp

A Player can volunteer to recap last session’s events instead of the DM. This Player will be rewarded Inspiration (assuming they do an adequate job – DM’s discretion). Remember you can’t have more than one use of Inspiration. The same player cannot do back-to-back recaps two weeks in a row.

Pokémon GO Tips and Tricks [Pixelkin]

Read the full article at Pixelkin

Pokémon GO’s incredible success is undeniable. Nintendo has struck gold with its combination of pokémon hunting in the real world using augmented reality.

As brilliantly fun and simple as the game is, Pokémon GO does a poor job explaining its mechanics. Professor Willow may be distractingly handsome, but there’s a lot of missing information out there. Thankfully since everyone’s playing Pokémon GO, we’ve figured everything out. Mostly.

Read the full article at Pixelkin

D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 22 Recap

The PCs dive further into the Temple of Howling Hatred, freeing prisoners, talking to djinnis, and the return of the wyvern.

Recorded every Sunday night, uploaded on Mondays. Subscribe for our weekly adventures!

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

Non-hostile creatures have become a favorite of mine. They allow for fun, often memorable scenes of role-playing. I also enjoy a bit of amateur voice acting. Sometimes these scenes turn hostile, other times my players meet an ally.

This week our heroes dived further into the Temple of Howling Hatred. We ended up plumbing through the most boring sections of the dungeon in the SouthEast, but things finally picked up when they met the friendly djinni Ahtayir and had their second encounter with the wyvern. Continue reading “D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 22 Recap”

My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year 2016

I rank my top five games of the first half of 2016, and list my most anticipated games for the second half.

Why wait until the end of the year to rank my favorite games? I want to talk about great games now!

Last year I began doing a mid-year Game of the Year-style list. Since I’m ranking half of the year I only allow myself five games to choose from. All must have released in the first half of 2016. I also include my most anticipated games for the second half of the year.

Last year both my #1 and #2 picks of the mid-year went on to become my #1 and #2 in my final Game of the Year post. Two of the games dropped off to make room for exciting fall releases. It’ll be interesting to see where the games fall this year.

My Top Five Games of the Mid-Year 2015

My Most Anticipated Games of the Year 2016

My Top Five Games of the First Half of 2016

5) Stellaris


I had dabbled with Crusader Kings II but found it overwhelming and borderline impenetrable. Paradox’s Grand Strategy titles always seemed intriguing, but the gameplay a bit too menu-driven and complex. Not to mention the themes a little too dry.

Enter Stellaris, which fixes all my complaints in one fell swoop, creating one of the most intriguing strategy games I’ve played in years. It’s got a great mix of exploration, diplomacy, side quests, and war. The emergent stories that creep up are fantastic, and I love the way all the random alien races are defined by an interesting combination of ethics and governing bodies. The sci-fi theme is fantastic and I’ve lost dozens of hours moving battling star fleets, creating outposts, subjugating uplifted races, and fleeing from ancient star-faring empires.


4) Fire Emblem Fates

Fire Emblem Fates

I have an embarrassing confession to make. I bought Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest when it first launched in February and I have yet to fully complete it.

I’m about 80% of the way through, but real life just caught up to me and it’s been tricky to find the time. That may be a mark of a disappointing game, but Fire Emblem Fates scratched all the right itches of its 2013 predecessor. The combat updates are a vast improvement, though the story is noticeably weaker. Even an okay Fire Emblem game is still one of the best games of the year!


3) Overwatch

top five 2016

Blizzard has been on fire in the last few years. Diablo 3, Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls, Hearthstone, Starcraft II: Legacy of the Void, and Heroes of the Storm have all graced my Game of the Year lists in their respective years. 2016 is the year of Overwatch.

Overwatch is easily their most accessible game – and they’ve built their entire company over making certain genres popular and accessible. The team-based hero shooter is simple to play yet deep to master, with over 20 unique heroes that all combine and play off each other in interesting ways. This is my go-go online game to play with friends, and very well may climb the charts by my final Game of the Year list.


2) XCOM 2

top five 2016

XCOM 2 was one of my most anticipated games of the year with good reason. I had absolute fallen in love with the first game, spending well over 100 hours in nail-biting tactical playthroughs over the last few years. The sequel is a five star example of how to improve upon a winning formula, adding More Good Things.

I’ve only completed a single run so far, but I spent a total of 60 hours going the extra mile and racking up various achievements. I adore XCOM and XCOM 2 is better in every way. Hopefully I’ll find time to play some more in the latter half of the year.


1) Stardew Valley

top five 2016

Talk about coming out of nowhere. I had no idea this charming farming sim even existed until it launched earlier this Spring. Then it quickly took over my life (and my wife’s).

There’s a unique intangible quality to the pixelated adventure-RPG. It’s just so god damn delightful. The town is like your favorite quaint 16-bit RPG town. The farming mechanics are fun and enjoyable instead of tedious. You can explore a giant dungeon and fight monsters, cook meals, get married, fish, raise livestock, and brew ale.

I’ve spent over nearly 80 hours over the last few months, and my wife has spent even more – making this by far her most played single-player game. We are chomping at the bit for the eventual co-op mode! I don’t know if Stardew Valley will remain #1 at year’s end but so far it’s the game I love the most this year.


My Most Anticipated list has done a damn fine job with its predictions so far. All three games that have released so far on that list made this one.

The biggest shocker is obviously Stardew Valley coming out of nowhere. I love that the gaming industry can utterly surprise me with these fantastic indie titles that make me fall in love with gaming all over again.

The one honorable mention I want to make is Grim Dawn. I’m playing it right now as my backlog adventuring and it’s a pretty great Action-RPG. Very much a spiritual successor to Titan Quest (which I also loved). If I allowed myself a sixth game right now, it would be Grim Dawn.



My Top Five Most Anticipated Games of the Second Half of 2016

(alphabetical order)


Civilization VI

top five 2016

Civilization VI was just announced about a month ago. Since Civilization: Beyond Earth has received only one expansion, I was pretty surprised. Yet it’s also been six years since Civilization V, one of my most played games of all time.

It’s Civ, it’s going to be great, and I’m going to play a lot of it. The new City expanding mechanic looks like it’ll do for cities what Civ V’s unstacking did for armies and warfare. This is a Day One Purchase, no question.


Cosmic Star Heroine

cosmic star heroine

It’s been on my Most Anticipated lists for last year and this year, so it would feel wrong to leave it out. This Chrono Trigger-like Kickstarter game Cosmic Star Heroine just recently received a trailer. It still doesn’t have a release date but the PlayStation blog has confirmed a Summer release. This is one of the longer Kickstarter games I’ve had to wait for, and I’m incredibly excited for it.


Dishonored 2

top five 2016

Dishonored was one of those sleeper games that everyone played later on after it went on sale, me included. We also all discovered a hidden gem, a first-person game that combined BioShock‘s excellent world-building with some Deus Ex stealth combat. The one element lacking was a strong story, and it looks like this sequel will provide that, starting with Emily as a playable character!


No Man’s Sky

no mans sky

What the hell is No Man’s Sky? Nobody seems entirely certain. Sort of a Minecraft/Starbound/spaceship sim? It looks insanely ambitious and may be a bit overhyped, but hell if I’m not incredibly curious. Exploring is one of my favorite things to do in video games, and No Man’s Sky looks like it’ll provide that in spades.


Pokémon Sun/Moon

top five 2016

The seventh generation of Pokémon titles were recently announced. We didn’t get a main Pokémon title at all last year, and the year before was a remake of Gen 3. Suffice to say I am very ready to jump back in with the true sequel to Pokémon X/Y, my first and still one of my favorite Nintendo 3DS games. I’ve been a fan of the series since the beginning. Though I’ve wafted in and out of the franchise, I’ve been firmly planted back in since Gen 5. My body is so ready for more Pokémon.

D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 21 Recap

Our heroes gain entry to an ancient underground Dwarven city and the Temple of Howling Hatred.

Recorded every Sunday night, uploaded on Mondays. Subscribe for our weekly adventures!

Previously on “Princes of the Apocalypse”

If I had a lot more time and video editing skills I would start each session with a nice Game of Thrones style recap montage.

With our sessions lasting 2-3 hours once a week, it’s easy for plot details or side characters to get lost and forgotten in the shuffle. Particularly as “Princes of the Apocalypse” is a lengthy campaign.

We’ve already passed the total length of our previous campaign, “The Lost Mine of Phandelver,” a few weeks ago. Here, we’re just beginning to plumb the depths of Elemental Evil.

Which isn’t to say I’m not enjoying “Princes of the Apocalypse.” The dungeon-focused format and multiple villainous factions has worked quite well for my group thus far. Thankfully I also keep track of important quests and notes in the form of game-like Journal Updates in Roll20, which I was able to point to in this week’s session. Continue reading “D&D 5E “Princes of the Apocalypse” Session 21 Recap”