Practical DM Tips #1…

I ran my first game of 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons last Friday night.  I’m pretty pleased with how it went and I look forward to running another game hopefully this week.

One observation I’ve made about 4th edition (4e) thus far is that it is much more accessible than previous editions.  I’ve had a few friends who were only ever interested in playing 3.5 say to me that they’d love to try and run a game of 4e.  Wizard’s provide all the tools you need to do so in  much nicer package than they did with 3.5.  The Core Ruleset (pictured below) is everything a budding DM needs to whip up a game of 4e D&D.  The core books are also laid out much better than they were in 3.5.  Take, for instance, the Dungeon Master’s Guide – I rarely used this book in 3.5.  Sure, there were one or two nice class options in it and yea, there were some cool magic items but it failed to live up to its raison d’etre – it didn’t actually help you to be a Dungeon MasterThis is where the 4e Dungeons Master’s Guide (DMG), in my opinion, excels.  It really helps you get to grips with how to run a game of D&D.     The Monster Manual is also great for building little encounters with monsters and even the mechanic for building a combat challenge is greatly simplified on that presented in 3.5.  Each monster has an XP value and the rules give a DM a kind of XP budget for their party.  To build an appropriate encounter, you simply pick a number of monsters whose cumulative XP values meet the XP budget.

With all of this – the rationalising of the rules, the ease of building adventures and the way in which 4e encourages players to DM for the first time, it got me to thinking… Sure, there are plenty of guides online regarding building great story, great narrative and great Michael Bay-esque  sequences in games, but with all of these new folks dying to try their hand at DMing, how about the practical aspects of the game?  Over the next few weeks (hopefully), I’m going to run a few posts on Practical DM Tips covering things like your basic table-top layout to how to structure your own notes and how to keep players in the game up to speed with what is going on on the combat grid or in the narrative within which their characters are enveloped.

Tonight, I’d like to say a few words, as a fellow DM once titled a post in a similar vein…

Of Maps and Miniatures

In the first game I ever played of D&D, the DM had no accessories whatsoever – he used a sheet of graph paper and we just pencilled our characters and monsters on to it as appropriate.  Let me be clear about one thing – this is absolutely fine!  If you don’t want to commit a lot of money, time and effort to your first game, this is a great cheap solution and, after all, I went back to the second game of that adventure with my first DM, so it must have been just fine!  I will say this, however.  If you have players who have had previous role playing game experience, either on a games console or on a table-top, they may feel like they are stepping back in time with a graph-paper based game.  Also, the graph-paper can get a little crowded and messy with lots of scribbling on it so maybe I can offer you a few cheap and easy alternatives.

The accessories I’ve used in game have gone through timely evolutions. In my very first campaign I simply printed and cut out circles and just wrote PC or monster names on them in pencil – these essentially just act as counters which represent each player or monster on the game mat. For that first game, the mat I used was the massive grid which was included in the back of the 3.5 DMG covered in a big sheet of clear plastic so I could write on it with a dry-wipe marker.  If you don’t have a 3.5 DMG, however, the 4e DMG has a battle grid on the last few pages which can be photocopied on to A3 paper.  This could be laminated or covered in acetate allowing you to draw dungeon corridors and landscapes on to it.  Alternatively, simply pop into a word processing program or a spreadsheet and whip up a few pages with 1 inch squares on it and, again, laminate them or cover them in acetate so you can write on them.

The next thing I invested in was a box of white eldritch gems. These served to replace the circular paper tokens.  Again, I could write on these with a marker and simply rub it off when I needed to. As the adventures scaled, however, I needed more and more monster counters and buying more ‘eldritch gems’ just wasn’t cost effective so I headed into town and bought a big cheap bucket of glass beads.  You’ll find these in any interior design shop and they are usually used in things like floating candle displays but they double up brilliantly as a medium sized monster. 

Eventually, I decided to invest in a few official D&D mini’s. At the time I was buying them, D&D Minis was a game in of itself and, unfortunately, this is no longer the case so some are much harder to get hold of.  Wizards of the Coast have offered an alterative these days in the form of the Heroes Series but choice is limited and they are quite expensive, so it may not be ideal for a first time DM. There are some sites that still sell old minis singly as opposed to in bulk boxes and it was actually these kinds of sites from which I purchased my first few official minis.  I just bought a spread representative of most playable races – a few humans, a halfling, a dwarf, a few elves etc etc. These single sites sell common minis as cheaply as £1 so they aren’t too expensive.  If you’re already a fan of Warhammer, why not use some of those minis in your D&D game?  Players don’t need a mini that looks exactly like their character and that almost never happens anyway.  As long as your players know where they are on the map, they’ll find the game much easier.

By this stage I was DM-ing weekly so I decided to upgrade my combat grid aswell. I bought one of each of the official sets of Dungeon Tiles. Now I’ve seen these online as expensive as £60-£100 but I shopped around and grabbed them for the reasonable price of £4-8 each. Obviously the 3.5 ‘Dungeon Tiles’ are harder to get hold of now but Wizards have released quite a few sets of 4th edition Dungeon Tiles which can be bought with relative ease online or at your local gaming shop.  If you are considering buying Dungeon Tiles for the first time right now, I’d be tempted to hold off for just a little while.  As part of an initiative to get more players into D&D, Wizards are releasing a line of what they are calling EssentialsPart of this line is three sets of core Dungeon Tiles Master Sets (like this one for adventures set in Dungeons)  which new DMs will probably find really useful.

Over recent years, I’ve built up a reasonable collection of miniatures. I now have about 60 miniatures for playable characters representative of various races, classes etc. I also have well over 100 non-playable character minis covering everything from generic monsters like goblins, trolls and undead to basic human npc’s like guards and barmen. What I’ve done is put little numbered labels on the bases of each of the npc mini’s. It just means that players can easily identify what they are doing and who they are doing it to as well as making it easier for me, the DM, to keep track of hit points, effects etc. Then, because,as you’ll find out in due time, I’m a little obsessive compulsive when it comes to organisation, I bought a partioned box at a local hardware store so I could organise and label groups of minis. It’s no bad thing, mind you, to be organised when it comes to running a game.  When I need to lay my hands on a random undead monster for a skill challenge or combat encounter, I know exactly where to find it.

The Dungeon Tiles have been great and I’m still using them in all of my games but oft-times, I find that it’ hard to account for larger scenes with dungeon tiles.  When an enemy is running away but a character wants to take one final shot at him with his bow, that character usually needs to have some idea of how far that enemy is.  There’s also times when you’ll have gaps in between Dungeon Tiles which are significant somehow but don’t have any concept of scale within them.  To cover this, I now place my Dungeon Tiles on a Chessex Megamat which I ordered a few months back.  After seeing the picture of it, a regular player of mine commented saying that It’s big enough for a sun rod.  That is exactly why the big space is useful.  Sure, you have a nice arrangement of Dungeon Tiles in the middle of the mat, but if your players need to get an idea of scale when it comes to bigger area of effect features in the game, having the tiles laid on a mat like this really puts things in perspective.

16482323[1] My final thought Of Maps and Minis is that of the z-axis.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times in your D&D game, especially as a new DM when you’ll just want to ignore the question of verticality.  There are, however, times when you simply can’t ignore it.  Some of the newer sets of Dungeon Tiles have even started to include three-dimensional scenery and terrain. There are simple ways to convey height to your players.  16483836[1] A quick-fix and personal favourite of mine is the humble six-sided dice.  In one game I was playing, for example, the DM wanted us to understand that some of the goblins were in towers, ten feet off the ground.  Stacking 2 six-sided die on top of one another was an easy way to overcome this problem.  You’ll also usually find that when you buy a set of standard polyhedral dice, they come in a little dice box like this.  This is also a useful asset to have on-hand when facing z-axis issues.  Things can be placed on top of them and within them to show payers creatures on two different levels for instance.  34455436[1] In almost every campaign I’ve ever ran, I’ve had some kind of big, epic, siege-type battle ad it’ almost impossible for players to get an idea of the scale of these kinds of battles on castles wall etc without some kind of impression of height.  I’ve seen DMs create wonderfully elaborate wire frame or paper mache scenery (to scale I might add) for these kinds of battles and, again, if you play Warhammer, you may already have hugely detailed mesas you could use for this.  There are also companies which specialise in three-dimensional terrain and if you have the time and money to invest in them, by all means, you should!  If not, let me offer you a simpler solution – the jenga block. A few weeks back, I set about trying to design a Helm’s Deep D&D encounter to induct new players into the game.  What would Helm’s Deep be without the Deeping Wall?  The picture below should give you some idea of how I’ve used minis, jenga blocks, dungeon tiles and a battle mat altogether to produce an interactive representation of what is going on in the game without too much expense to myself.  When your players see a little effort like this, it can really up the enjoyment of the game for them.

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Hopefully that has given you a few practical ideas on how to run your game visually.  Next time, I’m going to try and give you some advice on how to run a game mechanically.

Jim

July 15, 2010 at 2:08 am 2 comments

Thirteenth Rain…

The first Dungeons and Dragons campaign I ever ran began almost five years ago.  I wrote a small one day adventure based in a world I created myself and beginning in a little village called Turter.  I even sat down in front of MS Paint one day to try and whip up a little map for this world which I had envisioned.  I liked the idea of having a world at my own disposal.  I liked it that I didn’t have to fit my ideas around something which another writer had designed and I liked it that I could make my world bend and shift around the players without them having preconceived notions of how it ought work. 

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I actually ran the first adventure within this world for two different player groups at the time.  As my first experience as a Dungeon Master, I’d rate it fairly highly.  I really enjoyed the way in which the two different groups handled the role-playing situations completely differently.  One of the first challenges the groups faced was meeting a contact in the outskirts of the Rammasad Forest just to the south of Turter.  One of the groups approached the contacts cabin stealthily and then proceeded to chat to him diplomatically.  The other group mistrusted the contact and threatened to set the thatched roof of his cabin alight.   One of the groups only lasted one session and then university commitments etc. took over and we were never able to revisit their adventure.  The other group, however, persevered and continued on through the campaign.

A few more adventures in to that particular campaign and my opinions on the setting changed.  While it was nice to invent the world and play with it as I pleased, it was often hard to ad lib the minutiae of the universe and, beyond that, maintain some kind of canon regarding the world.  I decided to lift the game which I had started and drop it into a world which had already been fleshed out.  Unlike many DMs, however, I looked past officially published campaign settings and instead went with the Raymond E. Feist popularised world of Midkemia.

After that campaign had run its course and it was time to induct a new group into a brand new campaign, I thought I would try something a little different.  The group I was playing with was split right down the middle between guys who had a little D&D experience and guys who had no D&D experience.  To try and ease them into the game, I downloaded a few premade modules to run through.  The first was an adventure called Wreck Ashore which set the characters up in a little coastal town called Seawell which had been plagued of late with a piracy problem.  A couple of the players commented that they really liked taking on these nasty human enemies and that it made a refreshing change from the standard Orcs, Goblins and Kobolds of the generic 1st level D&D adventure.  What I wasn’t sure about, however, was where to go after the adventure was wrapped up.  I liked the little small town setting of Seawell  but I had exhausted the adventure set there.  I decided to pick up a copy of the Forgotten Realms campaign guide for D&D 3.5 and set about integrating the little town into the Sword Coast.  I retrofitted two more pre-generated adventures into the setting and the campaign was progressing nicely.  Eventually, however, I craved doing something a little more epic.  I loved writing my own material but at this time I was in my 4th year at university and that was one resource I did not have.  Instead, I splashed out and bought one of the the larger pre-generated adventures set in the Forgotten RealmsThe Twilight TombTo this day, that still remains the best adventure I ever ran and I think that the players really enjoyed it as well.  After completing that particular adventure, given that I had finished uni and had a little bit of time on my hands, I set about writing an adventure of my own which placed the characters in an alternate reality version of their universe.  We managed to just about finish that adventure before one of our group headed off to America for a year which put a little bit of a halt on our proceedings but I do hope that we can come back to that game some day.

Regardless of the campaign halting, my love for the Forgotten Realms campaign setting endured and the next two campaigns I ran were both set in the Realms.  For one of them, I decided to do something completely different than the standard noble adventurers/swords and sorcery campaign so I set it in an area of Faerun called The Savage FrontierThe basic idea for this story was that the characters were members of an adventurers guild operating out of a frontier town called Nevermeet.  This was a bleak, cold, savage place and the characters felt it.  It was a lot of fun to run.

As I said in my last post, however, I have, of late, started to slowly migrate into the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons.  Even though I bought the 4e campaign setting for the Forgotten Realms, I made a decision some time ago that if I ever started to write some material for 4e, I’d change up my campaign setting completely – new rule set, new universe.  A few weeks back I ordered a copy of the Eberron campaign setting and I have to say that I fell in love with it really quickly.  It is a world pervaded by intrigue and adventure and the tone is completely different from the atypical fantasy of the Forgotten Realms.  I only hope the players enjoy this slightly different tone of D&D as much as I am.  At the minute, I’m in the middle of an ongoing project, writing up material for my first D&D campaign to be set in the world of Eberron -  A campaign that I’ve come to know as…

 

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 (The Eberron campaign setting and the images and maps associated with it all come from source material published by Wizards of the coast.  Some of the character artwork above is taken from the Pathfinder source material published by Piazo Publishing)

June 21, 2010 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

The next edition…

The first character I ever played with something akin to D&D rules was a Wizard named Gandalf Chimera.  I got to know this wonderful fellow through the awesome roleplaying game Baldur’s Gate II.  It was an incredible experience which stood me in good stead for the moment, a great many years later, when I picked up a proper Players Handbook for the first time and started to roll the stats for a 3.5 edition D&D character.  This character was a Cleric named Fingolfin.  In some ways, Fingolfin was thrust upon me.  I’d joined a random table at a local gaming group and they needed a healer character so I was happy to oblige just for the opportunity to roll some d20s.  Days and weeks went by in this adventure and for a long time I felt that all I was doing was rolling d20’s… I had no attachment to my character, I didn’t care about his past or his future and I had no desire to roleplay him.  I was content to roll d20’s and fulfil the roll which the party needed: A hit point battery.

One week, some time into the adventure which had started with me generating Fingolfin, our party of adventurers was walking through a wood.  I remember the dungeon master asking me to make a reflex save to avoid falling into a pit trap set by nasty little KoboldsI failed the save and fell into the pit.  For the first time, I started to roleplay that humble cleric.  I thought to myself Gee, Fingolfin will be raging after this.  He’s going to have to get these little blighters.  The first thing I had to do was get out of the pit (and a number of checks relating to that endeavour followed).  When he was out of the pit, Fingolfin, his pride blemished, was gunning for the Kobolds.  I remember charging at one of them, trying to rain the furious vengeance of Tyr down upon him.  As I made the charge, Fingolfin’s foot wedged underneath a tree root and (thanks to more failed saves) he fell flat on his face.  That was a horrible moment for Fingolfin, but a great moment for the table.  We all erupted with laughter and imitated the vengeful half-elf swearing to bring righteous retribution to the Kobolds only to end up biting the dirt.  That moment is when it all became real again for me: The table banter and the great night out with your mates.  The attachment to your character and the way you almost feel everything he does.  That was probably the moment I fell in love with the game.  Numerous 3.5 editions books were purchased and I started to pass on my love for the game to others.  Within months of Fingolfin-gate, I had designs on running my own adventures for my buddies and five years on I’m still doing that.

While I was still playing 3.5, however, Wizards of the Coast released 4th edition D&D.  That meant more books, new rules and time which, as a fourth year University student, I didn’t really have.  I continually griped that 3.5 was the definitive edition and that I was not going to give into 4th.  Shortly after, when a few of my buddies got a kind of 4th edition play test campaign on the go, I stretched as far as buying a 4th edition Players Handbook and joining them.  It was a fun night as per usual but I was still convinced that 3.5 was better.  I liked the deeper character customisation options in 3.5; subtle things which were rationalised in order to streamline 4th edition into a simpler rule set.  My 4th edition Players handbook did not return to my bookshelf: it was relegated to the little narrow space between my desk and the wall of my room, out of sight and out of mind.

Then I got involved in another campaign at the same local gaming club.  I got to play a Bard named Laurie, a character I’ve written about here on OMS before.  Without a doubt he was my favourite character to roleplay.  I got the opportunity to do some really cool things and I just fell in love with the game of D&D all over again.  Coming home one night from an amazing adventure, I started to listen to the D&D Podcast adventures.  I went through so many different emotions listening to the guys play: Laughter ran into fear for their characters.  Concern became awe as they overcame the greatest odds.  Genuine bedazzlement went full circle back to me just falling off my chair laughing.  I had to get in on this game they were playing.  I immediately ordered the 4th edition core rule set and a copy of the guide to the Forgotten Realms campaign setting.  Despite this tumultuous influx of books, however, I kept on playing and running 3.5 edition D&D and the new 4th edition books slipped into the same space at the side of my desk.

More months passed until, just a few weeks ago, my fellow OMS author Ian and I were chatting about the dearth of D&D games we’d played of late.  Another buddy of ours offered to run a couple of 4th edition modules for us (he was gearing up to run a 4th edition campaign and wanted to bounce a few rules etc off us) and we were only too happy to oblige.  Since there were only the two of us, Ian and I decided to run two characters each – it got us more familiar with the rules while also giving the dungeon master something more akin to a normal party.  When Ian and I sat down to generate our characters, it had literally been 6 months since last we rolled a d20.  We were chomping at the bit and literally couldn’t even wait for the campaign to start.  We got together at least twice a week in the run up to our first adventure to generate our characters, give them a couple of play tests and start to get to grips with the rules.  I generated a number of characters that I could potentially use but eventually settled on the two show below:image_name9 image_name10image_name11image_name12 Even though this initial adventure was just a little pre-written module to get us all acquainted with rules, I couldn’t help but fall in love with my characters.  I wanted to know everything about them: I wanted to know about their pasts and about what made them them.  I wanted to know why they did the things they did and carried the items they carried.  I couldn’t help but start to write a rich back story for each of them.

Ulthane

Ulthane was born in Tymanther, the third of his family to born on Toril after the Spellplague fused Toril with the Dragonborn’s home world of Abeir. By the time that Ulthane was born, the Dragonborn were enjoying relative peace. They had established their own government in Tymanther and had relatively good, albeit at times disconnected relations with most of their neighbours. The only exception to this was the Genasi of Akanul with whom a grudge had developed.

In Ulthane’s 19th year, Akanul secretly sent an assassin to murder select members of the Tymantherian government. A Genasi named Sulidzar infiltrated the estate of Braandos of the clan Starweaver. Braandos was of the Loremaster’s caste and had ascended to the top thereof and while he was well versed in history and literature, he had little defence to raise against the expert elemental. The female guard outside Braandos’ room heard nothing but momentary commotion before utter silence. When that same relatively young female dragonborn named Melda entered the chamber she found her master murdered and the killer still lingering there. Sulidzar had little choice. The witness also had to die.

Ulthane was practicing his swordsmanship with his brother Relthane when the news arrived of the attempted assassination. Their clan was a hereditary member of the warrior caste and it was expected that each of the children would work hard to become the best fighters they could be and one day end up members of the Dragonborn’s vanguard or with some equally prestigious position. Unfortunately for them, the news of the attempted assassination carried with it an extra string. Melda was Ulthane’s sister; an esteemed member of the warrior caste tasked with protecting a senior member of government. Ulthane and Relthane were devastated. They felt saddened by the great loss of their kin but at the same time almost disgraced that Melda had failed in her duty. Regardless, their sense of honour would win out and Melda would have to be avenged. Hopeful of a full-scale retaliatory attack against Akanul, Ulthane’s father Daethane, a general in the Dragonborn’s vanguard, would stay in Tymanther to fulfil his role in the vengeance. It was left, therefore, to Ulthane and Relthane to exact revenge upon Melda’s killer.

The two dragonborn set out on Sulidzar’s tail and tracked him almost a year across most of the continent until eventually they found themselves in Waterdeep, the city of splendours; the kind of place an assassin with a few high-profile kills and a tremendous bounty on his head could find both cover and employment. The Genasi was remarkable at hiding his tracks but the two Dragonborn were resourceful and driven by an insatious need for retribution. Eventually, they tracked the Genasi down to an inn hidden deep within the Waterdavian slums. There, they confronted the assassin. At first, Sulidzar was unsure whether or not these were two creatures with a personal vendetta or just simply a little bit of racist confrontation. This quickly became clear as Relthane’s breath erupted in an impassioned attempt to immolate the assassin. Sulidzar deftly rolled beneath the dragon’s breath and bolted for the door. Ulthane too heaved a breath at the fleeing assassin. Sparks of lightening leapt around the small inn from banister to rail and shards of hot metal fractured and ignited the pieces of cloth which hung from the windows. Relthane dashed past Ulthane and out the door of the fragile structure. When the younger of the Dragonborn emerged into the street in front of the inn, Relthane and Sulidzar were gone. Ulthane took to his heels and ran in the direction he had thought the two had turned on exiting the Inn. It was only minutes later that he came upon the two embroiled in battle in a vacant lot where some building had used to stand. Ulthane reached for his sword, only to find that he must have lost it in the commotion in the bar. He ran towards the two combatants, picking up a heavy iron hammer from an anvil outside a smiths shop as he ran. His brother’s body fell to the ground, victim of a fatal wound from Sulidzar’s dagger but Ulthane’s stride was not broken. He planted the hammer firmly into the elemental being’s temple and Sulidzar fell to the ground. Ulthane knelt next to Relthane’s body and made a silent prayer to their ancestors to keep him safe in his journey after life. As he knelt there, city guards arrived and arrested him, unknowing of what had gone on minutes previous.

At the guards post, it became clear that Ulthane was going to have a lot to answer for. They told him that he would be facing charges of murder. He hoped that the guards would understand his plight and that the legal formalities would be wound up within a matter of hours. Were he so fortunate. Two people had been trapped in the little inn Ulthane and his brother had confronted Sulidzar within. They burned to death as the inn blazed around them. Ulthane was devastated. He had lost both his siblings and he was ultimately responsible for the deaths of two innocents himself. Truthfully, he didn’t know what to do next.

That, however, is when the gods intervened. A cleric of Torm named Solon took pity on the Dragonborn and his tale. He invoked a local writ which allowed him to take a prisoner into his charge for two years service to the church rather than face local law. The dragonborn was stunned; he knew little of human laws and even less about their gods. Still, he was honour-bound to accept the cleric’s grace. On being released, his first duty was to bury his brother. One day, he vowed to take Relthane back to their homeland to rest but for the time being, a lonely corner outside a temple of Torm would have to be a fitting spot. While he was retrieving his brother’s body he made an unsettling discovery; Sulidzar’s body had never been recovered. Was the Genasi dead? Did he survive the powerful hammer-blow? In time, Ulthane would have to find out.

Ulthane spent the next two years in Waterdeep, learning about the city, about its inhabitants and their ways. He studied codexes of Torm and focused his mind into prayer. He took up a warhammer as his own weapon; a constant reminder of Sulidzar and of his siblings. He learned to control his rage and to channel his abilities into a more profound purpose; service as a shield of the weak and as a weapon in Torm’s hand.

Ulthane left Solon and Waterdeep a new dragonborn. He vowed to spend the rest of his days as a servant and justicar of Torm, journeying with bands of traveller and adventurers, searching for atonement for the two deaths he had caused in Waterdeep. In the back of his mind, however, he still had one burning, driving purpose; he would have to find out what happened to the Genasi. If the assassin was still alive, he would have to uphold the duty he had to his kin. He would have to have his vengeance…

Amitiel

Amitiel’s parents were performers in the circus which used to stand on Waukeen’s Promenade in Athkatla, capital city of Amn. The two changelings dazzled those who came to the circus with their ability to imitate anyone’s appearance. Amitiel’s mother, Nim, fell pregnant at the wrong time. The circus was doing poorly and simply couldn’t afford to keep their act, now one changeling short, on the roster. Their employment was terminated and the two were left to use what little money they had saved to try and build some kind of a life for themselves in the Athkalan slums. With Amitiel’s mother heavily pregnant and unable to work, her father, Findulous, turned to whatever jobs he could get to scrounge out a meagre living. He fell in with the Shadow Thieves guild; an unscrupulous group who found his shape changing talents uniquely useful. He hid his line of work from his wife fearing that she would worry for his safety. Amitiel’s mother died minutes after giving birth to Amitiel. She only got to hold her in her arms for the briefest of moments before her life waned. In those closing moments, she named her daughter Amitiel, meaning Angel of Truth.

Her father did what he could for Amitiel as she grew up. His steady, albeit morally questionable income meant they could live in relative comfort (at least compared to some other slum dwellers). As she grew up, she learned little tricks from her father; how to operate simple locks, mechanisms, switches and levers, all tricks that Findulous had learned in his line of work. Still, he couldn’t always afford the time to look after Amitiel. By day, she was often left with women under the employ of the Shadow Thieves; women who, by night, were courtesans, tricksters, hustlers and scoundrels. Some of them, however, Amitiel found perfectly lovely. These women taught her how to read and write and others taught her morality; the difference between right and wrong despite not necessarily putting this teaching into practice themselves. She read as many books as she could about geography and zoology and found she had a real desire to see what was outside the city walls; she wanted to feel the grassy plains underneath her feet, see the forest canopy over her head and observe wildlife in its natural habitat. Still, this all just seemed like a dream to her. As she grew into a teenager, Amitiel made some coin cooking and cleaning in the houses and brothels where she had spent her youth.

Shortly after her 17th birthday, Findulous was murdered. A deal went sour and one of his marks had seen through his disguise. Missing for days, his body eventually washed up on some slip in the Athkatlan docks. Of course, Amitiel was saddened but still, she had seen little of her father over the years and had grown up learning that life expectancy in the Shadow Thieves was short. She simply got on with her life. Without her father, however, she was exposed to dangers she had previously been naïve to. Someone in one of the brothels observed that her talents could be used for great monetary gain. Amitiel was naturally and hauntingly beautiful herself but she could also assume the appearance of anyone else; she could fulfil any number of fantasies almost simultaneously. She fell into a life of prostitution and she began to loathe herself. She hated what she had become but anytime she sought a way out, a swift blow to her face from some basher soon put her back in her place. She began to not only mistrust but actively hate other people.

When she was 19, Amitiel was sold to some minor estate holder who came from somewhere south of the river Chionthar, near Baldur’s gate. Amitiel was apprehensive; she was essentially being sold into slavery for this mans pleasure. At the same time however, she was leaving Athkatla for the first time in her life; she was taking the first steps into the world she had dreamed of since childhood. On the journey to the man’s estate, her eyes were opened to so many wondrous things; flowing rivers, rolling hills, weird and wonderful creatures traversing the landscape. Suddenly, however, she found herself in a walled prison once again; their carriage train rolled into the estate holder’s mansion and the gates closed behind them. Amitiel refused to be caged again. She spent the first three months of her stay pandering to the Noble man while at the same time observing the guards and planning her escape. When the time came for her to make her move, the simple lock on her door did not cause her any problems; her father’s lessons had made sure of that. She was also slender and nimble so acrobatically scaling the walls of the estate caused her no problems. As her feet hit the ground on the far side of the wall she was elated; she was feeling the free earth beneath her feet for the first time. She spared herself only a moment before running off towards a copse of trees she could see on the horizon, back-lit by the moon. She might be ok until morning but those in the house would not miss her absence indefinitely.

It felt like she had been running for hours before she reached the small wood and when she got there it seemed like she was spending hours navigating through it. Her mind wandered but for a few seconds; enough time for her to miss the shallow ravine she was coming upon. She stopped herself too late and tumbled over the ridge and down the earthen sides of the ravine. Soil and grass caught and clumped in her white hair as she rolled and when she finally hit the bottom her head struck against the side of a fallen tree. She blacked out.

A warm breath against her cheek roused her. At first she thought she would open her eyes to find herself back in the estate with Noble man bearing down on her. Then she felt the warm glow of the sun kissing her forehead and new she was still outside. She opened her eyes to see rays of light streaming through the canopy above her. She turned her head to see the source of the war breath. A wolf was lying in the ravine next to her, placidly observing her with great interest. She had read about wolves when she was young; about their natural hunting instinct and their tendency towards territorial and protectoral attacks. Now that she was actually faced with one, however, she felt like she had nothing to fear. How long had the wolf been there? Had it stayed with her all throughout the night? She reached out her hand to touch the creature and it began to lick at one of the sores on her arm. She smiled. She was free. She quickly deduced that the wolf was male and she named him Defenbaker. She could only take but a moment to gather her thoughts before moving again. She took off the overcoat she had been wearing and put it into the small leather satchel she had on her back. She tore the sleeves off her shirt and cut her leggings up short with a knife she had secreted from dinner the evening before. With her attire somewhat altered, she next turned to her physical appearance. She had read about the elves as a child and always felt a great affinity with those proud beings who respected nature and lived off its bounty. She shifted her appearance to look like a young elven woman. Defenbaker looked on confused but his natural senses saw through the trick. Amitiel would have to find a local town and try and procure some supplies. After that, she would be heading into the wilderness and getting as far away from Amn as possible.

Amitiel spent the next few years of her life in the untamed wilds of Toril. She observed the various creatures she had read about as a child and learned how they lived off the land. She taught herself how to hunt and she learned how to track and sense wild animals from Defenbaker. She became accomplished in survival and made the odd coin or two from groups of travellers wishing to avail themselves of her special skills. To this day she most often finds herself banded together with some adventuring group travelling the wilds in search of treasure or bounty or on some noble pursuit. She doesn’t mind what the cause is. She has enough to get by from day to day and, more importantly, staying on the move keeps her free and hidden from the intrusive eyes of her former master or, worse still, the Shadow Thieves.

So the characters were made, their back stories were written and we’d even play tested them.  All was looking good for Mine and Ian’s foray into 4th edition.  Despite all of this, however, two adventures in and I was still less than enthused.  I felt even more detached than I had done with Fingolfin all those years ago.  Rather than just rolling d20s, I felt like I was playing a collectible card game (in 4th edition, each character has a set number of powers which Ian and I had printed out on cards so we could flip them over when we expended them).  Tonight was out 3rd game of the adventure and, while I was glad to be playing with my buddies, I just wasn’t feeling the game.

Then it happened: My two characters, Amitiel and Ulthane, had two moments, two crystallising moments like Fingolfin’s trip or Laurie’s epic bluff which just got me excited about the game and, moreover, got Ian excited as well.  When those tingly moments of excitement roll over everyone at the table, you know that you’re playing a great game.  These moments in fact happened through the medium of game mechanics and inter-personal conversation but this is how my mind narrated it.

Ulthane

To contextualise Ulthane’s moment, our group of adventurers is investigated some strange goings-on in the town of Arabel in the Forgotten Realms.  Locals have been plagued by a terrifying figure called Darkskull.  As we pick up the narrative our heroes, investigating a possible link between Darkskull’s appearance and the lunar cycles of Toril, have travelled to the Arabel Astronomical Socitey.

The aide showed the four adventurers into a little office down a narrow corridor.  The walls of the office were ordained with decorative ceramic features depicting Toril’s celestial bodies.  What little light there was shone through stained glass windows adorned with embossed constellations.  Tychondrius seemed to absorb every part of the room which he saw as more of a habitable tapestry of knowledge.  Amitiel, ever the curious young lady couldn’t help but look at the mechanical contraption on a desk by one of the windows.  The device was constructed of various spherical objects connected to a central spindle by firm wire.  The device seemed to operate with a complicate gear system: A system which, Amitiel assumed, simulated the orbits of various planets and moons.  She reached out a finger to nudge one of the larger spheres when a voice from the far side of the room exclaimed, “I wouldn’t touch that if I were you.”  Amitiel drew her finger back and looked towards the pile of books from whence the noise came.  Behind the leather bound volumes sat an older man with white hair which flowed into thick mutton-chops and a dense handle-bar moustache.  “My name is Lord Arowmont,” said the older man “you requested some of my time?”  “Indeed we did,” replied Gabriel, proceeding with conversation cautiously.  Gabriel didn’t know how much Arowmont knew or indeed did not know about Darkskull and the odd proverb which seemed to link his attacks with the patterns of the moon.  “Tell me Arowmont, are you expecting any odd lunar events in the near-future?” Arowmont twirled his moustache and got up from behind his desk.  “Indeed,” he replied.  “This very evening, in fact, due to the odd way the moons orbit passes over our skies, we expect that observers will watch the moon turn a very dark shade of red.”   Ulthane didn’t believe in coincidence; something was wrong with this whole situation.  “Tell me,” said the large Dragonborn, “do any of the locals attach any religious or superstitious significance to this celestial event?”  “Of course,” said Arowmont, stifling a cough.  “The people of Cormyr can’t help but feel a great sense of foreboding when the moon turns blood red.”  The party had heard all they needed to.  It was time to move; time to follow the next thread in their investigation.  They bid Arowmont farewell and left his office making their way down the long corridor towards the large oaken front door of the society.  As they made their way out into the pattering rain a voice called from inside the society building.  “Wait!” cried a young man running towards the group.  “Wait,” he said again, panting as he reached the group.  “I overheard your conversation with Lord Arowmont.”  Ulthane stared at the young man, a little over 5”10’ with short cropped dark brown hair, a bead of sweat forming on his temple. “It’s rude to eavesdrop,” growled the Dragonborn.  “Let his speak Ulthane,” requested Gabriel.  The young man gathered himself and started to tell the group of unusual celestial activities he had been observing of late.  “There have been a number of unexplained lunar movements in the last few weeks and I can assure you that this is no good thing,” he said.  “Tell me,” Gabriel asked, “what is your name?” “I am Synobis my Lord,”  the young man replied. “Perhaps then Synobis,” interrupted Ulthane, “you could tell us why such a young astronomer has observed these events which have apparently gone unnoticed by your seniors?”  “They are stuck in their ways,” explained Synobis.  “They blame incorrect calculations on my part, but I can assure you, something is corrupting the moons movements.”  “Then you are right young Synobis,” replied Ulthane, “this is no good thing.”  Synobis’ eyes were drawn to the sliver chain draped around the think blue scales on Ulthanes neck.  On the end of it was a little holy symbol – a token of devotion to Torm.  Synobis reached into his waistcoat pocket and opened his palm to reveal a little symbol of Amaunator.  The Dragonborn synched his jaw; a look to which any onlooker may have taken to be the closest thing Ulthane had to a smile.  He reached out his scaly blue hands, his long fingernails caked with dirt.  He cupped them beneath Synobis’ hands and closed the young mans fingers over the little token.  Ulthane pushed Synobis’ hand back into his breast.  “Hold it tightly my friend,” he said stoically, “we may need it’s protection before the night is through…”

Amitiel

When we join Amitiel’s moment, the party have just spent the better part of an hour tracking Darkskull to a little forest glade outside of Arabel.  The ominous figure, clad in black armour stands atop a rise taunting the party and calling them to fight him.

Ulthane’s face flashed across with a white-hot rage.  He ran towards the armoured figure with lightening sparking from his nostrils.  Ulthane let out a ferocious roar.  He breathed in, waiting to bathe the horror in his raw elemental breath.  Below him, however, Ulthane started to feel the ground give way.  He reconsidered his tactics.  He took a quick step to the left just as the ground opened to reveal a dark pit below.  “Try again coward,” cried the dragonborn.  Ulthane’s insatiable need to smite the evil Darkskull drove him to advance forward recklessly.  Just as he was closing on the black knight, he felt a familiar shifting below him.  This time, he could not find his feet and plunged into the hole below.  “Amitiel!” cried Gabriel as Tychondrius began his magical advance against Darkskull, “get Ulthane out of there!”  The sound of battle continued as Amitiel tried to plan her strategy.  She heard Gabriel cry out again, directing Tychondrius in his arcane assault.  Amitiel grabbed the rope which was dangling down from the back of her belt.  “Hang on Ulthane,” she called, charging across the glade with little regard for her own safety.  She threw the rope down the hole and braced herself ready to pull the heavy paladin up from the earthen recess.  She felt a cold shiver pass over her as Darkskull horrific presence started to haunt her thoughts.  She focused on the task at hand, wrapping the rope around her wrist one more time.  Ulthane scrambled to his feet, finding Amitiel’s rope hanging in front of him.  He gripped it firmly and started to wade up the sides of the small pit.  As he made it to the top, his zeal was once again renewed against his foe and he started to move on the armour clad figure.  Amitiel’s lip furled with rage.  She drew her bow from across her shoulders and dragged the plumed haft of an arrow between her index and middle fingers.  She said a silent prayer to Silvanus… “Guide this sure shot to the heart of my quarry, that he might face his judgement.”  She knocked the arrow on her yew longbow, closed one of her eyes to gauge her accuracy, pulled back on the bowstring with all her might and let it fly.  The arrow found the narrow gap between the figures paulders and back plate and ran him through from back to chest.  Blood started to flow from the grievous wound that Amitiel had dealt [In game mechanic terms, this was me using my daily power – sure shot and making a critical hit for 34 damage, bloodying Darkskull].  Darkskull snapped his head around to Amitiel and in a matter of split seconds, blinked out of existence and re-emerged  right next to her.  He swiped at her with his mighty greatsword, throwing her ten feet through the air and where she landed with a mighty thud.  Ulthane stepped in, trying to draw the figures Ire.  Amitiel’s eyes blurred after the powerful attack.  She stumbled to her feet and the clarity returned to her vision.  She drew another arrow, letting fly and again finding a chink in the creatures armour.  Again, he blinked out of existence but the calls of Gabriel soon alerted her and Ulthane that he was now bearing down on Tychondrius.  Amitiel ran up the small rise that Darkskull had been standing on.  Gabriel was standing toe-to-toe with the obsidian monster while Tychondrius lay on the flat of his back in one of the pits Ulthane had narrowly avoided.  Ulthane wheeled around the rise towards the creature, ready to charge it with his mighty hammer.  Amitiel let another arrow fly catching Darkskull on the back of one of his legs.  Again, the creature disappeared and emerged right next to Amitiel.  Defenbaker, standing mere feet away, growled through pearly fangs as the monster pressed on Amitiel.  “It is over,” the young changeling called.  She threw herself back on her right foot, pulling another arrow from the quiver over her back and in the same motion knocking in and letting it fly.  The arrows course was true and struck the creature in the gap just to the left of his breastplate where Amitiel expected his heart (if he even had a heart) to be. The arrow visibly shunted the creature back and it gasped… “I have failed you… My King!” it cried before toppling to it’s knees…

In my last post on OMS, I talked about how I loved the videogame Battlefield because it generated moments – memorable instances that keep you coming back to the game.  These are D&D moments.  When I, as Ulthane, delivered that line, Ian clapped his hands together and smiled.  It was poignant and more to the point, we felt epic.  When Amitiel achieved a critical hit on her daily power and immediately dropped Darkskull to less than half health, the mood for me and Ian turned electric.  This was our task, the creature was our quarry.  We had hunted him and we had corned him and Amitiel was not going to let that chance slip away.  This was the one 5 hour game which has changed 4th edition for me.  I’ve already started to write my own 4th edition campaign because of it.  I still love 3.5 but I love it for different reasons and I’ll be quite happy to come back to it if and when the mood takes me.  But for now… well, for now I’m happy for my 4th edition books to take their rightful place on my shelf.

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June 6, 2010 at 4:47 am 1 comment

It’s Warfare and it’s Modern…

or is it?

I’ve realised something this morning… I do so love to write.  A post here on OMS has been long overdue simply because, of late, I’ve found that time is the rarest of commodities.  I would, however, like to make an earnest effort to post (here on OMS in particular) at much more regular intervals…

and so it begins.

Video Games Journalism is a term which I find contentious (thus the angular typosgraphy).  At best, it’s a collectivised term for individuals who’s writing is engaging and who’s research is exhastive but ultimately who’s source material is viewed as puerile and far removed from the gritty stories which drive the mainstream media.  This, I’d imagine, is probably a direct result of the flipside of the coin.  At worst, Video Games Journalism tends to be the folical scrapings from the underbelly of the world wide web; a compilation of commentaries from the inhabitants of the inner city of the internet.  This is a postal code inhabited by forum trolls and serial bloggers who list their address as Azeroth, who’s vocabulary doesn’t stretch beyond four letter expletives and sexually stransmitted diseases and who derive hits by posting a seemingly unending torrent of youtube videos  (belonging to the offensive humour genre) about every game they are incensed with.

I generalise somewhat… After-all and truth be told, Journalism as a whole is a profession with which I am becoming somewhat disillusioned.  When nearly 300 die in a Chilean natural disater and yet all you hear about in the British news are the debaucherous affairs of national footballers, one can’t help but despair.  In general, low-brow reporting, once damned to ever-walk the covers of loathsome tabloids, is now the staple opiate of the masses.  Even those outlets of Journalsim which I respect the most can’t help but frequent a popular interest story; publishing a biographical column detailing the sordid lifestyle of some Z-List celebrity just to pander to a different market.

Maybe this, therefore, is the underlying problem.  Maybe it’s once again the business and the corporation being ensconced amidst traditional values and ultimately overpowering them to a proftieering end.  As a good friend of mine said over XBOX Live meer nights ago in reference to Games Journalism; “Games reviews are bought and paid for…”  This is the road towards a bleak, post-apocalypic wasteland for Games Journalism.  In fact, I can’t help but be reminded of Mutant Chroicles, where a fallen earth becomes a wasteland in which megacorporations vie for control.  In this metaphor, however, the brutal generals of the armies are the editors for our beloved Games Journalist infantry; both ultimately nothing more than puppets to the illuminati of the grand corporations.  If you criticise the corporation, you will be shot by your general as an example of or by some other infantry man in a desperate bid to curry favour with his corporate taskmasters: You dare not disagree with the masses lest you be purged for having a contrary view-point.  And us?  The readers; the audience to which they deliver their service?  Clearly, we’re the mutants… the shambling, mindless drones whose hive mind tells us nothing more than to be content with being a part of the machine.

It’s one thing which has annoyed me greatly over the last couple of days.  Today, March 5th, marks the release of the newest chapter in one of my most beloved games franchises.  The problem I have, however, is that every review I have read of DICE‘s newest game not only compares it to InfinityWard‘s winter smash-hit but describes it as an inferior game…

This, I just can’t fathom.

One review I read talked about the campaign in Battlefield: Bad Company 2 [hereafter B:BC2] being “short and linear… and not on a par with Call of Duty.”  Let me be clear: I’ve played the campaign in Battlefield: Bad Company [1] and it was nothing to write home about.  Similarly, I’ve played the campaign in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 [hereafter MW2] and found it to be average at best.  At the same time, I’d cut MW2 some slack.  Most of the folks who bought that game aren’t doing so for the single player and I expect that most want to kind of just switch off and blow some stuff up in a cinematic introduction to their multiplayer experience.  Two words, however, that I would almost categorically associate with MW2,  are short and linear.  To comparatively call DICE out on this, therefore, is a moot point.

Another review, this time discussing B:BC2’s multiplayer, described it as “lacking exhileration and… less memorable than MW2″…  To that I say rubbish!  My Call of Duty [hereafter CoD] career (if you will) started in CoD 2 and progressed through CoD 3 and 4, skipping out World at War and ending, most recently with MW2.  CoD4 was probably the one game in the series I played more than the rest.  My buddies and I oft looked forward to an evening in with a cup of tea nesteld below the tv screen, the satisfying visual of an M16 with an ACOG scope centred in front of us and a delectable round of Overgrown just about to kick off.  In saying that, I can’t think of any memorable moments we ever had in that game. Correction… I can think of one memorable round where we verbally abused some teenagers who were making derogatory comments about our respective Mother’s… Welcome to the CoD community…  By contrast, sweeping my minds eye back over the  games I’ve played in the Battlefield franchise, I can almost feel my toes start to tingle and my head brims with excitement at the recollation of memorable Battlefield Moments…   Who can forget the first time they threw dynamite at the base of a flag only to detonate it remotely when said flag was being captured.  How about the time you finally figured out that to effectively launch a mortar strike in Battlefield: 1942 DC  you needed to get one of your friendly snipers to call out co-ordinates from his rangefinder.  Remember the enemy team wetting themselves at the LAN tournament where you used the shovel in Battlefield: Vietnam to create a spawn point in a tent in their base and steal their helicopters?  Recently, I’ll bet you’ve taken to recreating High Altitude, Low Opening parachute jumps to storm a point in Battlefield: 1943.  Just a matter of weeks ago, in fact, some friends and I were forging new Battlefeild Moments in the demo for B:BC2, providing remote UAV overwatch for the rest of the squad who were capturing a point.  Heck, even last night in a pre-B:BC2 warm up game of it’s predecessor, a good friend and I coined the lasting phrase Arborial Tomfoolery – used to describe a moment when distraction caused by destructable trees leads to a violent death.  Two nights ago, when circumnavigating an enemy base, I passed the remark “That sounds like the familiar sound of a 22 caliber rifle” which led to a brief 5 minute window when we became the Tommy Lee Jones to our adversary’s Benicio del Torro.  That’s what makes a great multiplayer experience… Moments…

In MW2, you tend to just kill and be killed… Don’t get me wrong, you kill and are killed with impressively animated guns and gadgets (some of the best in the video games industry) but that’s it.  There’s little depth.  For me, it’s an easy phenomenon to explain – the Call of Duty franchise is antiquated.  Fraggy death matches on small maps have been around for decades and I just think it’s time to move on.  Nearly 10 years ago now the first Halo game out and was aptly titled Combat Evolved.  Who could forget that moment in the single plyer campaign when you move from the tight interior corridors; the a-typical almost on the rails, linear sections that shooters had in those days, into a vast, wide open, sand-boxy world full of vehicles and tactical topography.  Now compare this to the CoD fanchise 9 years on.  Halo was combat evolved and CoD still remains just combat…

This is a contentious topic to post on OMS as my counterpart, the wonderful Mr. Ian has been oddly bewitched by MW2 (no build-related pun intended).  He seems to express a love for it rivalled only by, I’d imagine, Captain America’s love for Old Glory and that’s ok – To each, their own.  In many ways, in fact, I’m in the minority compared to him.  When discussing this topic, it was hard to argue with statistics.  When a game sells over 7 million copies in one day alone, one wonders how it could’nt be good… a point noted by Mr. Ian who argued “If it wasn’t awesome, it wouldn’t be this popular,”  to which a cynical friend, with grace, replied “self-harm, it’s popular to.”

It’s a debate I’m unlikely to win in the long run.  For the foreseable future, the CoD franchise will probably continue to dominate and the Games Journalists of the world will likely follow the beckon call of it’s fanboys with 9-10 scores aplently; after-all, how can you negatively review a game which the majority of the gaming community is in love with?  I just wish, however, that these same reviewers would give Battlefield it’s dues.  There’s no need to review B:BC2 as a poor-mans CoD; as some shoddy knock-off sold only by bearded men in back alleys.  Battlefield was doing multiplayer games and doing them well when the first Call of Duty game was still on the drawing board.  It’s not some new IP which has to prove itself; much to the contrary, in fact, it’s well established and well loved as it is. I doubt, however, that even with it’s following, it will ever outsell Activisions behemoth.

Me?  Unless something comes along which drastically shakes up the CoD franchise, I think I’ll sit the next few games out. In its current state of morphosis it has little more to offer me.  It’s nothing more than a big budget, overly cinematic, linear, on-the-rails rollercoaster which is good fun the first while but has little lasting impression…

…If Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 were a movie, it’d be directed by Michael Bay.

March 5, 2010 at 3:21 pm 1 comment

The Return of Ian’s World…

4 years ago, to the day (well I started this on 24th), I took the notion that I would quite fancy drawing a web comic.

I am not a particularly talented artist. But somehow I put together a strip featuring, to begin with at least, characters based upon, or at least chariactures of 2 close friends and myself. What started off as something I was doing just to exercise the creative juices turned into something more. I discovered I was beginning to build a readership that was stretching beyond the inner circle of friends who would really appreciate the subtle commentary on my friends and I’s nuances, and that people from as far away as Japan and New Zealand were following it. I soon moved the comic from its humble location on a blogging website to a purposebuilt site…www.ians-world.net (now defunct).

I reached a lot of milestones…the first 50, the centenary, the birthday…but early 2007, I started to learn guitar, and coupled with lots of university work, I wasn’t really enjoying drawing the comic anymore, and didn’t feel I could match the schedule anymore, and so with a whimper more than a bang, Ians World finished on strip #167 .

Until now.

Recently, encouraged by friends recalling the strip with fond memories, I started to think about it starting it up again, which brings us to today, the 4th anniversary of where it all began. Once more into the breach…Ian’s World is back.

More Ian. More Lee. More Lori. More minature cult. And much much more fairy jokes.

Without further ado…I present #168: Back with a bang

Stay Classy,

Ian

P.S. I’m looking into a way of hosting the pics on WordPress without having them resized (hence the photobucket hosting), plus how to get the entire back catalogue available too. Any ideas would be much appreciated. Stay tuned for more :).

May 25, 2009 at 12:45 am Leave a comment

This ain’t SeaWorld, this is real as it gets…

So I finished up Resident Evil 5 a couple of days back.  Being a big fan of its predecessor I had been really looking forward to this title and it really didn’t disappoint.  While I don’t think that it was quite a scary as previous titles in the series I think that it definitely came up to scratch in terms of setting.  The African backdrop is superb and had my characters fighting back the bio-threat everywhere from shanty settlements to tribal marshlands and from ravaged oil fields to ancient temples.  I have to say, however, that I had such a laugh to myself when the last chapter struck up.  In Chapter 6 I didn’t think to myself “hey, I’m in a humble market town” or even “gee, I’m in some ritualistic sacrificial ground…” No, in the final part of the game only one thought crossed my mind…

Sadly, while on said boat and despite the lack of ammo, I couldn’t swap out my shotgun and magnum for my swim trunks and my flippy-floppies.  Is it too much to hope for some downloadable content which adds a T-Pain costume to Chris Redfield’s repertoire?  Now, you see, you’re laughing but I don’t know, I reckon it could work…

In other news, the Dungeons and Dragons campaign which I had re-joined a couple of weeks back continued tonight.  I set off to join my fellow intrepid adventures with (finally) some kind of character concept in my head.  I mean obviously I’ve been playing a bard, like I mentioned in the last D&D-centric post, but it’s nice to know where you eventually want to end up with your character.  I now figure that Laurie, my character, is going to become a kind of specialist thief.  He can use his keen wits and experience in speechcraft to worm his way into places he’d otherwise never get and then use a combination of acrobatics, dexterity, stealth and magic to acquire valuables.  We leveled up tonight which basically means that all our characters got better at what they do.  I chose to make my level count a lot more towards the acrobatic side of my character making him an expert at jumping and tumbling as well as bolstering his stealthy attributes like his ability to hide and move silently.  I’m never going to be as good an unaided thief as the like of a rogue would be but Laurie will have the edge when it comes to his magic; eventually being able to make himself invisible or teleport out of sticky situations and the such.

Nevertheless, with my new found acrobatics in tow I re-joined my party where we had left off the last time.  In truth, the tornado stunt didn’t really help and we ended up in our targeted building (where, if you’ll recall, our two man quarry were holding up), in a tight corridor facing off against tens of enemies.  Indeed, our cunning plans had somewhat back-fired and our notions of funnelling the enemies through the narrow space soon resulted in we, the bottleneck-ers, quickly becoming the bottleneck-ees.  This glitch in our plan resulted in the death of one of my companions and his player facing the dreaded reroll (having to make a new character).  In the heat of the combat which continued Laurie had little time to think about the death of his friend but, no doubt, in the respite which followed, the humble human troubadour would have taken time to compose a short lament for the dwarf named Loken.

The Unfortunate Tale of the Dwarven Barbarian

Bravest Loken, that fighter fair

He sure did have a lot of hair.

As sure in life as now in death,

The smell of ale hung on his breath.

But he died well, with axe in hand

In the path of danger he did stand.

Defiance was his battle cry

His only choice? To fight or die.

His final moments, fought he well

Until death tolled it’s darkest knell.

But death, alone? No fitting end

Brave Loken died next to a friend.

Side by side, he and Relgore

That’s the half-orc, didn’t I mention that before?

And even as his lights grew dim

That half-orc had a taste for him.

To bravest Loken we bid farewell

Your full-plate armour we did sell.

It netted us two thousand gold

Fair tribute to our friend of old.

As we battled on through those the enemies in that building which became Loken’s tomb we found ourselves now engaging not only a mixture of both weak and powerful melee combatants but also a quartet of archers on a balcony.  With the rest of the party now indisposed and Laurie’s compendium of spells all but exhausted I found myself turning to my newly acquired acrobatic ability.  In fact the next six words uttered struck more fear into my party than the spilling of Loken’s blood as I stepped up to the plate saying “Listen guys, I’ve got a plan.”

What was this daring plan?  To dart across the room, jump onto the balcony and engage the archers keeping them distracted for a round or two.  Some would say that for a lightly armoured bard with next to no hit points to do such a thing would be all but foolhardy.

Me?  I’d call it brave.

This plan of epic proportion left the party completely stunned and re-appropriating Penny Arcade’s Gabe in asking

Can Laurie leap onto a balcony and attack four archers before tumbling back down to safety…?

 

… Hell yea he can!

March 25, 2009 at 5:29 am 1 comment

That is a great band name…

Ok, so I’m not a big fan of ‘facebook.’  I mean you’ll find me there but its more out of a desire to stay in touch rather than an obsessive desire to ‘social network.’  Now, in fairness, I’m on ‘bebo’ as well and it is, perhaps, my preferred locale for this kind of activity but I have to admit I am a little tired of the quite obvious teenage market to which the site panders.  This evening I happened to check my account only to be greeted by a helpful info-banner reminding me that

If he doesn’t wear a condom, he’s just a prick

Yes, quite.  I also got rather tired of the spam messages from random sites who use bebo at what seems like a kind of baiting-ground for individuals who may potentially seek, how shall I say, online adult services…?  Yes, from time to time I’d open my inbox to find that I had a lovely message from Jane21 who’s email address was nicole45@spambot.com enquiring if I’d perhaps like to see her teeny-tiny panties…  I mean, truthfully, this isn’t the only kind of spam mail I’d receive.  No, indeed, often friends would forward me quizzes posted on their blogs asking intimate questions hoping that blinded by a moment of boredom, I’d cave in and fill it out.

From time to time, however, on both bebo and facebook you receive little gems of messages.  I got this fantastic one from a few friends over the course of the last few weeks.  You may have got it yourself.  It goes a little something like this

1 – Go to "wikipedia." Hit “random… Read More” or click http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
The first random wikipedia article you get is the name of your band.

2 – Go to "Random quotations" or click http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
The last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.

3 – Go to flickr and click on “explore the last seven days” or click http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days
Third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

4 – Use photoshop or similar to put it all together.

I was a little bored this evening so I gave it a go.  Quite simply, I got an amazing result!  Indeed, I rather think I’d like to form this band and create this album just because it is quite so awesome!  The one thing I should say before I reveal the masterpiece is that it really wouldn’t be fair not to mention the photostream on flickr where my random third picture came from, so please, check out Wings of a Hero.

So, without further ado, it gives me great pleasure to announce to the world my next (and incidentally first) musical project, spawned from nothing more than a humble facebook forward!

March 17, 2009 at 4:11 am 1 comment

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