Roll20 Review: Curse of Strahd

Welcome to the first Roll20 Review! This is a new series in which I review the paid modules available for sale in Roll20. First up – Curse of Strahd.

Roll20 has been my group’s go-to resource and website for online role-playing for the last two years. We’ve been enjoying Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition for most of that time, finding it a wonderful system of intuitive mechanics and flexible role-playing. Roll20’s built-in Fifth Edition character sheets help make rolling and stat-tracking a breeze.

Roll20 is free to use (with optional paid subscription for added goodies) with the caveat that it can be a lot of work to put together virtual maps and tactical battlefields.

When I ran both Lost Mine of Phandelver and Princes of the Apocalypse, I purchased the battle maps from the artists, then converted them into Roll20. I created tokens and placed them throughout each map, and built every monster and character sheet from scratch. Roll20 is amazing at giving you the canvas and tools, but you still have to put in the work.

About a year ago Roll20 began releasing the official D&D 5E campaigns as paid modules, beginning with The Lost Mine of Phandelver, followed shortly by Storm King’s Thunder. Since then Roll20 has released paid content for the Monster Manual, and additional published modules in Tales of the Yawning Portal, and, most recently, Curse of Strahd. Continue reading “Roll20 Review: Curse of Strahd”

D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 10 Recap

We finally find our Harper Agent only to be interrupted by an army of Frost Giants laying siege to the city.

Streamed, recorded and uploaded every week. Subscribe for our weekly adventures. Join us live on Fridays at 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern!

Previously on “Storm King’s Thunder”

“There you all are!” We turned and found Sheriff Southwell staring us down in the back alley. Beldora looked startled, and the Sheriff had a desperate look on his face. I began hearing the wider noises around the city: screams, shouts, and several loud booms and crashes.

“We’re going to need your services – now!” Chaos began erupting in the marketplace as the Sheriff motioned for us to follow, allowing for no argument. “We have giants at the gate.” I turned back to Beldora but she simply shrugged, equally confused and shocked.

We ran through the screaming crowds. People were fleeing toward the town hall as if the end of the world had arrived. We made it to the wall at the Southwestern gate to behold a terrible sight – an army of pale-skinned Frost Giants stood outside the city, wearing leathers adorned with bone and wielding axes bigger than a man.

The giant in the middle was flanked by a pair of ten-foot wolves, their breath crystallizing in front of them as they exhaled. The leader shouted with a great, booming voice. “I am Drufi, leader of these frost giant armies. I demand you sent out Artus Cimber and he will give us the Ring of Winter!”

We all turned to each other with the same bewildered and fearful expression. At some point Sir Baric and his friend Sirac had showed up on the wall with us (watching us again no doubt). Sirac began groaning. “Oh no, that’s my dad. He was an adventurer, but I haven’t seen him in ten years.”

The giants were in no mood to talk. “By blade and by boulder we will destroy your city!” The army of giants began advancing. Continue reading “D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 10 Recap”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Age of Ultron

marvelWriter: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Bryan Hitch, Brandon Peterson, Carlos Pacheco

Issues: Age of Ultron #1-10, Avengers #12.1

Age of Ultron has a fun premise (that’s absolutely nothing to do with the 2015 film): let’s do Age of Apocalypse, but with Ultron! Instead of X-Men we’ll focus on Avengers in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by a supervillain.

Unfortunately Age of Ultron loses its footing almost immediately, with a main plot that focuses more on time-travel bullshit and alternate realities. Ultron himself doesn’t even show up until the last issue, and it’s practically an afterthought. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Age of Ultron”

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life As a Weapon

Matt Fraction concocted one of the most easy to jump into and satisfying new comics I’ve read in years.

Writers: Matt Fraction

Artists: David Aja, Javier Pulido

Issues: Hawkeye (2012) #1-5, Young Avengers Presents #6

My comic reading has slowed down significantly this year, which is ironic given I’ve finally reached the era I’m most excited to read: Marvel Now, the post Avengers Vs. X-Men era that began late 2012 and ran until Secret Wars in 2015.

Since I began my grand comic catch-up in late 2014 I’ve been very excited to reach this era, which brought lots of new characters and fun new takes on existing characters, including Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel, Thor, and Hawkeye.

Wait, Hawkeye? The lame bow-slinger? The dumbest Avenger?

Hawkeye’s previous claim to fame was that he died and was brought back by Scarlet Witch. He went through an existential crisis for a few years, including dressing as a ninja and calling himself Ronin. A new character became the new Hawkeye, a Young Avenger named Kate Bishop. At some point Clint Barton resumed his original Hawkeye-ness and became fairly boring again.

Then something magical happened. A new Hawkeye solo series launched as part of Marvel Now. It focused on Clint’s life when he’s specifically not an Avenger, and it turns out that life is equal parts humorous, emotional, and action-packed. Matt Fraction concocted one of the most easy to jump into and satisfying new comics I’ve read in years. Continue reading “Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Hawkeye Vol. 1: My Life As a Weapon”

Ranking the E3 2017 Press Conferences [Pixelkin]

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It’s a pompous, yet time-honored tradition to grade each publisher’s E3 press conference. Companies go through an interesting cycle every year where some have exciting new game announcements or console reveals while others tow the line with some extended trailers. And some just go completely bonkers.

Here is our ranking of the E3 2017 press conferences.

Read the full article on Pixelkin

D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 9 Recap

We survive the Yetis and make it to Bryn Shander, a city that’s not as safe as we thought.

Streamed, recorded and uploaded every week. Subscribe for our weekly adventures. Join us live on Fridays at 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern!

Previously on “Storm King’s Thunder”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Due to two people being out of town, there will be no D&D session this week (6/16). Session 10 should resume on 6/23

We kept going. We trudged North. Yetis be damned, we had to make it to Bryn Shander soon. We were not going to survive out here. 

The damn beasts were hunting us. Their fear of fire kept them distant, Bryseis made sure of that. Halfred was a hunter of monstrosities and could track them easily. It was more unnerving getting constant updates on their whereabouts. They circled around us, flanked us, herded us.

We came up to a pair of small ridges on either side of the road we were following. One of the creatures lay waiting. Bryseis fired up her Dancing Lights as a protective barrier, and we moved as a scared, huddled group, knowing full well the power these things wielded. We were in their territory, at their mercy.

The Yeti leapt down when we tried to pass and roared defiantly. We heard its mate answer the roar some distance behind us.

The scars from my near death experience itched savagely under my robes and leathers. I could succumb to fear, or let the rage building inside me take over. I couldn’t feel the calming serenity I had been so carefully taught. Only fear and hatred. It was dangerous to give in, but it could also be a weapon.

I threw down my torch at the creature. It glowed softly in the snow. The Yeti jerked back for only an instant, then crouched down on all fours to let loose a chilling scream.

I was already numb to the constant cold around me. I let myself feel numb to the fear as well. I focused my mind and reached into my chest, withdrawing the psi-glaive that manifests from my psychic energy.

Before the others could react, I screamed back, both in my mind and out loud, and charged at the beast. Continue reading “D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 9 Recap”

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia Review [Pixelkin]

Read the full review at Pixelkin

The Fire Emblem series has exploded in the last few years. The tactical role-playing series has been around since the 90s, but only in the U.S. since 2003. With Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia we’re already getting our third Fire Emblem game for the Nintendo 3DS – but it’s actually a remake of 1992’s Fire Emblem Gaiden.

Playing the remake of the second game in the storied franchise with updated sprites, 3D dungeon crawls, polished voice acting, and anime cutscenes is an incredible treat for any Fire Emblem fan.

Read the full review at Pixelkin

Interview with Ashes of Creation’s Steven Sharif [ZAM]

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Since the halcyon days of Double Fine Adventure just a few years ago, Kickstarter has faded as a legitimate source of revenue for video game companies. While some veteran developers and spiritual sequels can still find success on Kickstarter, it’s the last place one would expect to find a multi-million dollar MMORPG by a brand new studio.

Intrepid Studios has discovered an audience who is hungry for their upcoming title Ashes of Creation, an ambitious MMORPG that promises an impressive degree of player involvement within the politics, economy, and history of the world. The Kickstarter campaign surged to over $1 million after 36 hours. The campaign wrapped up last week with nearly 20,000 backers pledging over $3.2 million.

Read the full article on ZAM

D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 8 Recap

We talk down a dwarven assault on the flying tower, survive an explosion by a mysterious new foe, and cling to life versus a pair of deadly Yetis in the snowfields below.

Streamed, recorded and uploaded every week. Subscribe for our weekly adventures. Join us live on Fridays at 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern!

Previously on “Storm King’s Thunder”

We’d been in the tower for a week, and fended off two separate attacks. I was pleased to see Zephyros again but unnerved at the global event that painted him a target. I would be glad to set down near Bryn Shander and resume our quest.

That night I felt a chill in the air. I slept uneasily, with visions of what Korinn had told us about her own ominous vision dancing through my mind. We awoke to the sound of a growing thunderstorm all around us. Zephyros floated down, a worried expression on his face.

“Little ones! Gather quickly!” he implored. I’d never seen him like this before. “Something terrible has happened. You all need to get out of here right now.” His words were punctuated by a startling roar that echoed throughout the tower, as a thudding sound indicated that something large had landed directly on the tower.

“I’m not going to leave you, Zephyros,” I yelled, the howling winds making it difficult to speak. I’d only just found my friend again. After all we’d been through protecting this tower, I wasn’t about to abandon it. We could face whatever new threat together.

“Zephyros,” an eerily calm, deep voice echoed down the tower. “You have for so long stared into the void,” it taunted. “Now it is your lucky night. The void has come calling.”

“Zephyros,” I yelled, “What did you see?”

“The cloud, dear boy. Whatever I could not see. It is here. You have to go.” Zephyros waved his hands and I felt our bodies become lighter than air. I glanced at Korinn, who was clutching her stomach as if struck by a wave of nausea.

“Don’t do this Zephyros!” I felt my voice crack. Zephyros was the closest figure I had to a father and mentor in my life. Without him, I’d never reached the Mind-Zei monastery, never untapped my potential, never survived the nightmares.

d&dZephyros’ eyes crinkled with sadness. “I’m sorry my boy. It is the only way. I will deal with this. You must continue our work. The Ordning – fix it if you can. I will find you. I promise.”

The tower shuddered as pieces began falling around us. I was dumbstruck as the giant ushered us toward the front door and outside into the swirling winds, our hair standing on end from the lightning surging around us.

Zephyros stepped back inside the tower and drew himself up. The kindly old man became a beacon of strength and defiance. “Whatever you are,” he shouted up into the tower, “You will not have me or my castle!”

“Come Zephyros,” the voice teased. “Claim the answers you seek.” A huge chunk of the tower was ripped away, crashing to the bottom nearby.

“Zephryos!” I screamed and ran back toward him. The cloud giant turned, a look of resolution etched upon his face. He reached out a hand and a blast of telekinetic force slammed into me. I hurtled backwards along with the others. A second later we were tumbling down the air, the Feather Fall spell keeping us from plunging to our deaths.

I reached out with my mind, briefly touching his. ::We’ll find you again:: I sent. The connection was severed as the tower receded into the distant sky. A giant bolt of lighting coursed through the cloud, slamming into the tower and exploding chunks of rock. I screamed again, and again.

Continue reading “D&D 5E “Storm King’s Thunder” Session 8 Recap”

We’re In a Golden Age of Space Strategy Games [Pixelkin]

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Not long ago the strategy genre was struggling when it came to the final frontier. Fans of endlessly replayable strategy games and galactic empires frequently cite 1996’s Master of Orion II as the pinnacle of the sub-genre. Nearly two decades have gone by without much competition.

Fast-forward to 2017 and suddenly we have a myriad of excellent space games all vying for your star-faring gaze.

Between 2015’s Galactic Civilizations III, last year’s Stellaris, and the recently released Endless Space 2, I’m officially declaring it the Golden Age of Space Strategy Games. But which one is right for you, O Conquistador of the Cosmos?

Read the full article on Pixelkin