Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Gaming Babble: Sons of the Forest

So it's been a while. Not much to say in terms of what's been going on. Work, work, work, work, work, D&D! Sleep, Grounded, sleep, work... rinse repeat.

But then, on Thursday came something new...

... which was promptly interrupted by loadshedding and apparently a crashed Steam. But yes, Sons of the Forest, sequel to 'The Forest', is out on early access.

How is it? ... Pretty good. The first few hours was really rough as I took a while before figuring out things. I've not gone spelunking too much - creepy mutants creeping me out! - but I've run around the new island, and around cannibals who didn't like me running through their camps, and the game is very pretty. And good. So. Pretty good then.

The premise is that you're part of a squad who gets sent to an island to find a billionaire and his family. Soon after your helicopter takes a tumble in one of three locations on the map and you start off to continue your mission and survive and not get eaten by cannibals, not be killed by mutants, not starve, not thirst to death, or not find other horrible ways to expire.

There are a number of similarities to The Forest. Crafting has expanded but basically works the same way: Gather ingredients, combine them, boom. The difference is that there at least seems to be a lot more items available than before. Your inventory expands quite a bit and you have to swing your cursor around left and right to make sure you spot everything that you've accumulated so far. Being early access, there are a number of things subject to change. Currently some plants are hugely overpowered while others are pointless to gather. Some weapons are effective, others are like using a fly swatter on that big lady's ass in Resident Evil - meaning: pointless but amusing.

A big difference is how building works. There are a few pre-fab buildings that are built in similar ways to the original game: gather logs and lob it in the blueprint area. But the developers have decided to make free building a thing. It takes some getting used to and, as with all things, there are bugs, but I managed to craft a cabin for myself with a ramp and I'm currently working on a palisade-esque wall to surround the area. It's a lot of work but it'll be worth it, I'm sure.

Then there are the additions of companion AI. The first you encounter not far from where start. Kelvin is a useful companion who can't hear you swear at him... which is probably for the better. ;)

The other companion I've encountered so far thinks she's a gazelle. She runs her ass off the moment you swing your axe at a nearby tree, or when the baddies arrive. She eventually warms up to you if you do the things she wants you to do - like not swing weapons around her, not follow her or "chase" after her, etc.  
But this isn't Mass Effect. You're not here to interact with your companions to maneuver them into a er position. They seem to be helpful additions, but I haven't gotten far enough to see how helpful that is. I've only played 10 hours of the game, which is honestly not much but to get an impression of the game. From what I have gathered, I can say that the game does need a lot of work, there are still quite a few adjustments, tweaks, and bug squishing that needs to happen. But with that being said, I'm having fun. 

Still not keen on spelunking though... don't want to fight the mutants, eeeeek!


Tuesday, January 17, 2023

TTRPG Babble: Delve - A Solo Map-drawing Game

I've been quietly stalking some youtube channels who talk about solo-ttrpg games and stumbled over a map-drawing game called Delve

The premise is fairly simple: You're part of a dwarven settlement who has been sent to delve deep into the depths of a mountain to find a special type of crystal. As you explore your mountain, you draw cards that indicate what you find - resources, trade goods, remnants of former civilizations, natural formations, etc. Then you can build your own rooms - all of which needs to be drawn in, of course.

The size of the map is determined by what paper you have to work with (or not, you could always add more pages to broaden/lengthen your mountain).

The game requires a set of cards, a piece of paper, pencil and eraser. That's it. Oh, and candles if you're playing during loadshedding in South Africa, but that's not a design feature. ;)

In my second play through (which has been far more successful than the first one), I've yet to discover the void crystal, but I have stumbled over two sleeping dragons, a magma flow, an underwater lake, a dormant volcanic shaft and built a slew of different buildings. Giving me a map that looks like this:

So far, I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

Saturday, December 31, 2022

2022 in retrospect


I find myself a little conflicted.

I don't know about you, but the last day of a year always has me very reflective and I can't decide where on the scale between fabulous and god-awful 2022 lands.

It was a year of firsts.

  • First time streaming.
  • First time running a dnd game at a gaming convention for strangers.
  • First time a judge told me to go sit outside in the corridor like a schoolchild. 
A lot of good things happened during the year. My best friend got an amazing, life-altering new job. I committed myself financially to visiting Canada in 2024. I feel more confident in myself. Made a new friend who has already impacted on me quite a bit. (No relationships, of course. Still allergic.).

But my anxiety has never been as bad as it has been this year.

So, as 2022 leaves my periphery in six hours, I suppose the best I can do is to focus on the new year, taking the best of this year and just kicking the rest on its ass.

2023 will have some nice things lined up. I will be streaming more, hopefully. I'll have better internet, hopefully. More D&D shall be played, hopefully... 

And I'll be playing some more Grounded, DEFINITELY!

Friday, December 16, 2022

Babble: Twitch - WHAT WAS I THINKING?!

 I honestly don't know. That's the truth. I've sat and tried to figure out my own motivations and I can say that I don't know.

Whatever the reason, I've begun streaming on Twitch. And by begun I mean "did a single solo stream".

For now.

I think my intentions were/are fairly pure. I'm currently enjoying my holidays and thought that I should play some Ironsworn since I'm usually too tired to play. But what usually gets me is the fact that I don't have anyone to bounce ideas off of. As I've said in a previous post, Ironsworn can be played solo, co-op, or guided. While I'm still fairly new at the game (and solo gaming in general), I find that playing in isolation ends up with me staring blankly at an equally blank piece of paper.

So what if I could do a couple of things in one go?

  • Showcase Ironsworn - which is a pretty cool game all by itself. (And whose pdfs are free btw)
  • Play the game (mostly) solo
  • Grab as many ideas off of those who decided to take the time to watch me fumble, stumble, and mostly wildly twitch on camera. Stupid anxiety.
I'm by no means a "Me, Myself and Die!" or "The Bad Spot". I also don't see myself aspiring to do what they do. There are many years of solo gaming, improv, and in-depth knowledge of the system behind what these gents do. 

So what am I aspiring to do?

I think just play a little Ironsworn. It's going to be a lot of fumbling about trying to navigate the rules and whatnot, but the only way I'm going to learn is through practice.

There are some obstacles in my way. Besides my own internal lacks (that I can work on, at least), my internet isn't very good. I'm still waiting for them to activate the fibre in my neighbourhood that they've almost finished installing. That's hands down my largest obstacle. I'm still going to try to stream regardless. Why? Because I am inspired to do so now. I might forget everything I've been thinking about (and spent over two hours making notes about) if I wait for better days.

I'm not trying to be professional. I'm just me. Hopefully that'll be enough.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Geeky Babble: Fun at Con.ect 2022

Con.ect is a geek convention held in Gqeberha, South Africa almost annually. I say almost because this year was the first time since the pandemic that the convention was held. It was down-scaled somewhat with it being held only on one day (as opposed to the usual two), but up-scaled in terms of the variety of things that were going on. They had their first LAN arrangement, which was an interesting development. They also had an actual play D&D session running in another room... Which is a little strange for me, but I'm happy for the TTRPG exposure it offers. Beyond that, they had the standard geeky fare: stalls, geek quiz, cosplay, some demos, etc.

Every year, I save a small, monthly amount in a little money jar for the convention. With the pandemic, that amount grew a bit more than usual, yay. Tradition holds that I buy at least one set of dice at the convention. That tradition was broken as no one was selling dice. My mom, who usually gives me grief about my dice buying, noticed this lack before I did. She proceeded to give some stalls a hard time for this lack. They took it good naturedly - especially the book sellers who never have dice to sell to begin with, but did have some board games on display. (Sorry, Bargain Books!) I directed her to the right stall to exert her customerly annoyance at and the dude simply shrugged. Apparently they didn't have stock in so they didn't bring... A bit weird, but okay.

So instead, I bought myself something else.

My mom decided to get some things. I tried to buy a hat, my head was too big for it. I thought of buying a plushie bat but decided I'll try to win the raffle first and then maybe bug the lady later if I wasn't successful. We bought very nice chocolate croissants, then left the convention to stop at a food place for a nice meal.  

In the end, I'd call that a successful outing. 

Monday, November 21, 2022

D&D Babble: Thoughts on the Wild Beyond the Witchlight

 Life is kicking my butt. Life is an evil Dungeon Master.

However, I'm looking forward to a long, hopefully calming, holiday in December where I will sit and veg and whine about the heat. So there's that.

But that's not what this post is about. This post is going to be a discussion on The Wild Beyond the Witchlight. This babble will contain spoilers: Some light, some not so much. I think when I get into my struggle with it, I'll mark where the spoilers run thick. To be honest though, I think this is more for DMs who are looking to run the story to read. So players *makes a shoo motion*.

Wild Beyond the Witchlight (WBtW) is an adventure campaign that takes you from levels 1-7. It starts the party off at the Witchlight Carnival and then takes you deeper on a Feywild-filled adventure. Supposedly this game can be run on "pacifist mode" or gives you the opportunity to use negotiation to get past combat. In most cases, this may be true, but I found some instances where it would be very difficult to do. My group of adventurers was first drawn to the idea of finding ways to circumvent combat and then got surprisingly bloodthirsty with the first boss. So... Yeah. No.

There are two story hooks supplied. Both are interesting. One has the player characters look for things they've lost. The other is a more standard "someone gives you a mission" approach. I think you could use both if you wanted to mix it up. I took my group through the standard mission and in it found the first problem. But more on that later.

Your PCs are sent to the Witchlight Carnival - a place of fun and excitement and lot of whimsy. My players spent several sessions in the carnival and enjoyed it thoroughly. Enough so that, even when the exit was clear, they went to all the smaller stalls to see what was available. They sucked the marrow from the bone, so to speak. Wizards of the Coast really did good here. I have never had a party oblivious to the fact that they were only level one for so long and, it's true, you can introduce this adventure at later levels, though that might require a bit work from the DM to upscale things.

After some time, the party notices that things are not as they would appear and, with some investigation, they find that the patron to the carnival is in some kind of predicament. Through possibly heavy-handed manipulation, the party is sent through to a portion of the Feywild to further investigate and correct things. Depending on the story hook, the party has a clear mission at this point or a 'oh you've lost something? well uhm, go look there.'

[More Spoilers]

WBtW sends you to Prismeer, a domain of delight within the Feywild. You find that the current management consists of three, very uniquely crafted creatures. It is probably the strength of the campaign: how unique their villains are. Prismeer has been divided by these nasty critters and each one's area is different - in landscape, fauna and flora, and mood. For all of this though, the pattern expected of the players get old quick. Reach new area, go to locations, find bad guy, kick bad guy's ass, rinse and repeat. It was probably easier to deal with from the players' point of view, but for the DM's side, it felt really tedious. As unique as the creepy characters were, there was little variety in the actual missions.

Now I realise that some of this is my own fault. For one thing, I use Roll20 and roll in the open. I am also someone not blessed with bountiful luck and so every combat consisted of my baddies being trounced. The players found that entertaining. I did not. And I think that's what bothers me so much about WBtW. It just didn't click with me.

[Even More Spoilers]

So you know how I said the standard mission presented the first problem? Well, WotC was very heavy handed in their hints. The first character you encounter who gives you a mission has a tattoo on his face. The moment my players saw that, they instantly connected it to the final riddle even though they didn't realise it at first. Now you can say "Oh they shouldn't meta-game", but if you're going to have a famous person in an adventure and make it so bluntly obvious from the beginning, it's really, bloody difficult not to meta-game the shit out of that. And so when the final question arose, it wasn't the knowledge accumulated through the game that brought forth the answer, but external knowledge instead. And when the players realised this, they felt a little cheated. Sure, there are some hints of the answer in the adventure itself, but that bloody tattoo... was basically all that was needed for the cat to be out of the bag.

[Final Thoughts]

There are a lot of good things in this adventure. It has a very 'Alice in Wonderland' dark feeling to it. So if that's your cuppa tea, this will be fun. The villains are really good. The game is FULL of whimsy - which is something I just don't have a taste for, but recognise that this is a preference and not necessarily a criticism. It's an adventure that is on rails, to some degree, but with a lot of work, you could free it up. I just found my people didn't really care to go back to the places they were before. As we sped to the end, I think the party felt the same weariness I felt for the adventure. Maybe I just am just projecting this on them. They said they liked it, after all. But yeah.

WBtW is pretty. It is detailed and intricate and whimsical and dark. But just not my type of game.

Monday, October 3, 2022

Life FYI

So it's been a while since I posted anything.

I'm still planning on babbling about TTRPG stuffs. Honestly? I haven't had the energy for anything that requires real thinking. The past couple of weeks have been... bad. Major setbacks, outright failures, that kind of thing. It's difficult to adjust to a reality you were dreading but kinda knew was coming.

Then our government stumbled and bumbled and turned off our power.

That and the burnout bug bit me again. 


Anyhoo, speaking of bugs, Grounded is out of early access and on Microsoft Game Pass. It's delightful. I scream a whole lot less now but it doesn't mean the game isn't any less fun!

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

TTRPG Babble - Ironsworn

So imagine my surprise when I realised that I have not actually used this medium to babble about TTRPG games besides my homebrew and some references to D&D. I mean, what an opportunity missed!

Needless to say, I'm going to being amending that today.

Ironsworn's default setting sees you as an oath-keeping Ironsworn within the cold, harsh Ironlands. You're of the third generation of Ironlanders to live here and you journey from settlement to settlement completing quests/vows.

I'm not really doing the game justice. So let's start with the things that appealed to me.

This is a game you can play guided (with a GM), co-op (2-4 people without a GM), or Solo (that means you. Yes, you! All by your onesy!). I found this a very novel idea.

Another rather remarkable feature is that this game's pdfs are absolutely FREE. Yup, you read that right. This is a game that can bring hours upon hours of joy without you having to fork out an enormous amount of money for it. Naturally, I did because I wanted to support the dude, because he's really cool. But nevertheless, you can play Ironsworn for absolutely nothing.

So how does the game work? 

Well it runs on an engine that's inspired by the Powered by the Apocalypse gaming engine in that your character's narrative actions trigger mechanical moves. Let me give you an example:

Eshan is following the trail of what might be a big beastie. She examines the footprints looking for more information on it.

For this, she triggers a Gather Information move which states:

Wits is one of your character's core stats and represents their intelligence (Or rather their expertise, knowledge, and observation.)

To make a roll, you roll one six-sided and two ten-sided dice. The d6 is your action die and will be what you use to tally your action score - meaning its total + wits in this case. The 2d10s are your challenge dice. You want to have your action score be higher than both of them, which would then result in a strong hit. 

So if I was playing Eshan in a guided game, the GM would tell me to roll Gather Information and will then tell me everything that is 'envisioned'. With co-op, it's more of a team brainstorm as to what it can mean. And solo, gameplay is all me. 

Let's say I rolled a strong hit, maybe my d6 landed on a 5 and I added 2 for my Wits score giving me a 7 action score. My 2d10 rolls were both lower than 7 and I pat myself on the back for rolling such a nice roll. Now I discover something about this beastie. Hm. Maybe the beastie is wounded. I deduce this by the drops of blood that I notice along its trail. Mechanically this might mean that when I encounter this beastie, I'd assign it a lower difficulty rank than initially envisioned. I add two points to my Momentum track (which is another nifty mechanic which you can use to strengthen the outcome of your rolls in certain situations) and continue my narrative.

Let's say I rolled a miss. It says I must roll a move called Pay the Price.

So I would go with the most obvious negative outcome in this case. Now there are two things that immediately come to my mind that could happen. I lose the trail or the beastie surprises me.

But which option do you choose? Well, whichever fits the story best in your mind is one option. Like I would have gone with the beastie attacking me out of the brush and thus catching me off guard. But there is also an Oracle role you can do make to determine which. It's really up to you. The thing with Ironsworn, especially playing solo, is that it's all up to you. It's about your ideas and making it work.

How you record Ironsworn is also your preference. Whether you make a few brief notes, write essays on your character, or try and cram all the information in your head. How you do it is entirely up to you.

So what else is cool about this game?

Reader, I haven't even scratched the surface. 

Imagine this: a game that helps you decide on all the major aspects of the world and make it your own. Ironsworn has that. It has an entire section on building the world. Magic, religion, horrors, beasts, governance, etc.

Don't like the setting? Change it and get help from the book to do it! Ironsworn has a section on how you can hack the setting and change it to your whim. I've seen people set it in Middle Earth, in Westerns, etc. 

The only limitation you have is yourself and, when you start playing, you might realise that you're not as limited as you had thought initially.

But what if a medieval setting isn't for me and I would rather want it in space?

I present to you... Starforged.

Which I'll babble about in a separate post. :)

Thursday, August 4, 2022

DM-ing Ramble: The Little Homebrew that could?

Hundreds of hours of prep. Over fifty hours of play. Over ninety maps. One-hundred-and-thirty NPCs stretched over several towns and cities. And all of this with the knowledge that this is but the first or second leg or a long journey should my players (who are now at 7th level) end up with an epic 20-level campaign.

It's been over a year that we've been running this game once every couple of weeks. And it has been quite a challenge for me who thought that this would only last maybe five or six sessions before the story fell apart. There was a risk of that at one time. I didn't have everyone completely roped into the tale and then we had one player depart, which shook me a bit more than it should have. I've been working on regaining my balance and fighting a bit of burnout, though not nearly as bad as what it was this time last year.

I've also enjoyed some of the process. There are a lot of things I'm still learning to do that I'm not good at. I can't improv very well, my descriptions are lacking and I struggle to set the scene if I don't have a visual cue like a map or something. But my players know me well enough to know that prompting me for more information will yield a bit more than the standard fare I would have otherwise given them. Sometimes in their questions, they'd make suggestions as to what they were looking at and then I, as many DMs do, steal mercilessly from those suggestions. It is the way, after all, no?

I love making maps - be it battle maps or geographical maps. I never took geography, I have no grasp of tectonics or what the weather would be like on either side of a mountain, but I can make maps that serves the purpose I had in mind for them. There my Inkarnate subscription helps a lot. For general interior and exterior maps, I am so, so happy with my Dungeondraft programme. I like the styles of Forgotten Adventures and Tom Cartos' assets, so I've subscribed to their Patreons for a time. I admit my budget for patreon isn't really big enough to follow everyone whose assets I enjoy, but those two seem to have the widest variety of things that I want to use.

One thing I think I'm doing okay at is being a 'Yes, and' DM. I'm kind of a stickler for the rules but so is the majority of my players who will look up things and self-govern. But if someone comes with an idea, I try my best to incorporate it into the story and make it part of the game to such a degree that it seems as if it was always there. 

I do realise that my I am very fortunate with the group of people that I'm playing with. The players' alignment tend to lean towards lawful so I don't have a chaotic bunch of murder hobos who burn through every town they encounter. I don't have to worry and feel like I'm feeding my world into a shredder. Being experienced DMs themselves, they know that the amount of effort I've put into this thing is immense and a little expensive and so they deal rather respectfully with my 'toys'. But that also means I can trust their wild ideas. Sometimes it means making a whole story arc in the Shadowfell. Sometimes it means creating a map of a bordello and hoping that I won't need to use it very often. 😆

So the question remains: will this campaign actually have enough material and coherence to make it to level 20? I have no idea, but I hope it'll come to a satisfying conclusion... eventually. That's the most anyone can ask for in a story, isn't it?

Monday, July 4, 2022

A ramble that involves talking about video gaming

 So. Been a while, hasn't it? My silence has mostly been a lack of being able to report anything fruitful happening. So I've been playing my tabletop games and, when I'm not doing that, escaping through video games.

Which brings me to what I have been playing these past couple of months.

The time has mostly been spent on guilty pleasures. I was not familiar with My Time at Portia before discovering My Time at Sandrock. Both play out in the same world and has the same basic concept so I'll talk about them together. 

In short, these two games are Stardew Valley on drugs, but you're not a farmer, but rather a builder. You're given different commissions that you need to complete that increase in difficulty as you research better equipment. You have the same relationship dynamics with the people of the town as you do in Stardew. 

You can eventually win over some of the folk, make friends, get married and whatnot. I haven't really explored the relationship dynamics much as that's frankly not something I'm interested in. 

So, if that's not why I play, what is it that compels me to give these two games so much of my time? I think it's the sense of accomplishment. Like you're building things and the town begins to improve around you and you feel like you've had a hand in it. That and it's kinda cutesy... which I am not always drawn to but sometimes you just find these things that kinda suck in my attention.

While your character is a builder and not a farmer, there's quite a bit of farming options available in the games. You end up being very much a Jack-of-all-Trades. I dare say it has a little something for everyone be it combat, farming, building, relationships, etc.

My Time at Sandrock is still in Early Access. I finished the content available for it in thirty hours. It still has quite a ways to go before we're looking at a release date, I think. They say 2023, but I'm a little doubtful about that. Not because the game is poor or anything. Simply because its current content doesn't scratch the surface of My Time at Portia. They still have a long, long way to go to get the two on par in amount of content, IF that is what they're aiming for.

I've spent almost three-hundred hours on Medieval Dynasty and only recently felt like I've had my fill even though I'm not actually finished yet. I've babbled about it before, I believe. You start off with the clothes on your back and some food in your pocket. The castellan gives you permission to build a home anywhere and so you start off your journey to become a village elder. 

This game is a first/third-person village builder and manager. I would say the AI is still a little iffy. So if you're in it for the combat aspect it sometimes offers or want to really interact with the town folk, you might be disappointed. However, the managing aspect is rather solid.

There's a lot of 'make work' in this game, which is probably why I have so many hours invested into it. At the same time, it's one I can sit and play while idly watching a tv show or try to catch up with Critical Role (don't ask how that's going).

For the longest time, The Elder Scrolls: Online didn't work on my computer. It was an internet issue, that much I knew. And so I've been very annoyed at it and railing at it because technically it is supposed to work with the internet speed I have. It just didn't want to.

Until it suddenly did. I don't know why, but suddenly I can play this game. It wasn't because of the new PC (because it was giving me this issue with the old AND new PC). But for whatever reason, it is working now and so I've started playing it. I've heard that it's great fun to play ESO on multiplayer and I'm awaiting the opportunity to try it out. For now, I'm just happy the bloody thing works. 

As to gameplay, it's interesting. I'm still trying to figure it out. The world is big and I'm confused as to what I'm doing within it. But the game still deserves an honourable mention given that I have spent a couple of hours running around in it.

I've also tried a bit of Starwars: The Old Republic. I have done the tutorial homeworld bit and am now hitting level 14... and I'm not all that impressed yet. There's much about it that is impressive, don't get me wrong. The areas are pretty, Corusant is insanely impressive, but as quests go, it's very fetch quest centred. Not quite my bag. Combat is okay it's an Old Republic combat system, so there's not much to do but hit a button, wait, hit a button, wait. 

Then comes the "of course I played it" and some other honourable mentions. Grounded is a game I play at least two hours a week, sometimes more. I'm very excited to see what the story release will be. I'm not necessarily very good at the game, but it has all the elements of a survival game that I love so how can I not be rooting for it? 

I attempted Starbound. One would think that it would click with me but it hasn't. I'm still waiting to try it on multiplayer. Maybe with the guidance of a fan I'll be able to get it. But at the moment my character dies. A lot. And I don't see the point of it.

Then there is Raft which I started playing last night. Still trying to figure it out, so I don't have a lot to say about it yet. Looks pretty. The concept seems simple enough. The seagulls are annoying. As is the shark chomping on the boat (and me). But I need to play it a lot more before I can form an opinion on it.