Important Programming Note: Due to a player on vacation, our session next week will be on Monday, December 14. Thus, look for the video and recap on Tuesday the 15th!
We come to the last leg of our side quest sojourn in the mountainous crag of Wyvern Tor. A band of orcs have taken up residence inside a roomy cave, harassing travelers along the Triboar Trail. The townmaster of Phandalin had put up a 100gp reward for their elimination, and my players were eager to kill some orcs.
In the fall of 1998, Pokémon hit U.S. shores. The Japanese mega-hit descended on the West with a multi-pronged media approach. Eager kids and teens were bombarded with the anime TV show, Gameboy games, and an endless parade of toys and full-length films. This massive approach turned into a huge success, and Pokémon remains one of the most beloved and popular children’s franchises. Ask anyone (kid or otherwise) to identify the now iconic electric yellow mouse who’s become a staple at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and they will definitely know who he is.
Now we are poised on the precipice of an eerily similar situation. Yo-Kai Watch has been out for two years in Japan. It’s already spawned several 3DS games, a popular anime TV show, manga (Japanese comics), a feature film, and numerous toys and merchandise, including the watch.
Yo-Kai Watch just began airing on Disney X-D in the U.S. several weeks ago. The first game was released on November 6 for the 3DS. If Pokémon is any indication, Yo-Kai Watch could prove an equally big hit in in the U.S., despite having its roots in Japanese folklore.
As I anticipated this session was much like last week’s. The PCs explored the Eastern half of the ruined town, going building to building and fighting more twig blights and ash zombies. Dare I say it might have gotten a tad repetitive, and I should’ve found a way to spice up a few of the battles and scenarios.
This was a war of attrition, as the PCs couldn’t take a Long Rest during the druid’s cleansing ritual. They took their second Short Rest after a small zombie fight, then found themselves nearly overwhelmed by the half dozen zombies in the barracks to the North.
I also finally hit a string of good rolls with another twig blight ambush, scoring high rolls for surprise and initiative, as well as nailing most of my attacks during the first round. The Paladin was forced to drink a potion, and both he and the monk had to use their final hit dice during the Short Rest.
Despite Dungeons and Dragons‘ recent renaissance, we’ve yet to receive a proper, officially licensed D&D video game since Neverwinter Nights 2 in 2006. The ’80s, ’90s, and early 2000s were replete with fantastic D&D-style role-playing games that helped define the genre in video games. So, developer N-Space had a lot to live up to with Sword Coast Legends. Though it had high potential, the current offering is a disappointing example of oversimplification.
Sword Coast Legends’ main selling point is the ability for one player to act as a live Dungeon Master. The Dungeon Master runs randomized dungeon modules or a custom-created campaign for up to four players. It’s an intriguing concept. It’s frankly astonishing that we haven’t seen a D&D game attempt before.
Blizzard Entertainment doesn’t release very many games. They still have only a handful of franchises to their name, and half of them have “craft” in the title. Blizzard has abstained from releasing yearly entries in its popular franchises like many big gaming companies do, instead releasing just one or two games a year total, then giving players years’ worth of post-game updates, improvements, support, and the occasional paid expansion.
Blizzard’s successful approach to mainstream gaming and commitment to their games has never been more apparent than with Diablo 3. Originally released in 2012, an agonizingly long 12 years after Diablo 2, the latest entry made the surprising changes of breaking and reconstructing many of the series’ (and the whole genre’s) beloved systems. And fans were not happy.
Skill points were completely scratched, the game instead rewarding everyone with the same skills and skill-runes every level. The art style was bemoaned as being far too bright and cartoony compared to the series’ former Gothic, sinister tones. An auction house, at which you could buy other players’ in-game items and sell your own, destroyed the exhilaration of finding your own loot, and a real money store—where you simply paid the developer for stuff—threatened the game’s basic integrity.
Then there was the infamously derided always-online component, which forced even those that just wanted to play by themselves to sign into Blizzard’s servers, at the constant mercy of their internet connection. On launch day players who simply couldn’t play the game they had just purchased spewed enough bile to fill a Grotesque.
Many purists and diehards of the genre quickly dismissed Diablo 3 in 2012. But then a funny thing happened. You see, underneath all these derided changes beat the demonic soulstone of a solid action-role-playing game. The desire to swiftly kill things to get more powerful and get fancy loot so that you can then kill more things is still a winning formula. Its near universal popularity has been co-opted by shooters and action games like Borderlands and Destiny, and is particularly adept at bringing friends together in a more relaxed, cooperative environment.
It wasn’t until this week’s session that I realized a big part of role-playing that I had missed in Shadowrun – monsters.
I’ve always enjoyed dipping my toes into dramatic voice acting, and I feel like my skills and range have steadily improved over the last few years thanks to reading to my young daughter nearly every day. In Shadowrun most of the foes and NPCs were gangsters, mobsters, businessmen, hackers, etc. I had fun with some unique accents and speech patterns, but nothing too crazy.
Dungeons & Dragons, however, has actual monsters. Demons, fiends, aberrations, undead – lots of fun opportunities for creepy whispers and foul mutterings.
“Lost Mine of Phandelver” includes a rather unique creature called a Nothic – an insane, twisted former mage with clawed hands and a single eye. It feeds on flesh and communicates telepathically – a wonderful excuse to unnerve my players as it steels into their minds, searches for their secrets and their past while gibbering about rending, tearing, GNAWING, biting, feeeediiiing. It was a lot of fun, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 5 Recap”
With this week’s session our heroes finished visiting the various important NPCs in Phandalin, then struck out to Tresendar Manor and cleared the first two rooms of Rebrands in the underground cellar.
Every RPG group is different. Some prefer nonstop combat and min-maxing their characters, squeezing every ounce of power out of the rules. Others are in it for the story, and enjoy role-playing their characters, exploring the world, and talking with NPCs. My group, like most, is somewhere in the middle, but definitely leaning more on the video game side of the experience. By that I mean they like solving problems, getting direction/quests from NPCs, and tackling dungeons, defeating monsters, and acquiring loot.
Knowing this I set up the town of Phandalin very much like a video game by pointing out all the notable NPCs that had relevant information or a quest available. A floating yellow exclamation point, if you will. This worked really well as the PCs were able to go around and visit each location, have a quick dialogue scene, gain a quest, and move on to the next one. In a single hour we were able to tackle the Lionshield Coster, Woodworker (which I custom added as a crime scene based on built-in events), Miner Exchange, Alderleaf Farm, Edermath Orchard, and Sleeping Giant Taphouse. Continue reading “D&D 5E – “Lost Mine of Phandelver” Session 4 Recap”