Thursday, May 30, 2019

Nexus Game Fair 2019

Nexus Game Fair takes place this weekend in Brookfield, WI, at the Sheraton and I popped up Wednesday evening for some early boardgaming.  If you happen to be in the area, this is a fun convention whether you go the whole weekend or just for a day or two.  Plenty to do and many great gamers to meet!  (Facebook Event Link)

The excellent Jacob Clemens guided us through a seven player game of Between Two Cities (2015) which was a good time.

Four of us followed it up with a game of The Builders: Middle Ages (2013).

Afterwards, I squeezed in a game of Five-Minute Dungeon (2017) with Jolly Blackburn but failed to snap a picture.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Imperial March at the Talent Show

Funny thing happened at a talent show in Minnesota. It was reported on Twitter that Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was interrupted by a kid's rendition of the Imperial March.  No star systems were destroyed during the making of this talent show . . .

Monday, May 27, 2019

D&D Cartoon-Inspired Car Commercial

You might recall that recently it was revealed that there was a Renault car commercial in the works utilizing live-action representations of the characters from the 1980s D&D cartoon.

Well, now the Brazilian Live-Action D&D Cartoon-based car commercial has dropped, so ENJOY!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Deep in the Grind in Grymvald

There was some concern from the players that they had been under-leveled to delve into Marak Tor and some even felt that the Deaddrop Goblin complex presented a low chance for survival.  I can't argue with that and every group, and player, can have their own opinion about the difficulty level of any adventure or campaign.  There have been a fair number of deaths.  And I'm not a kid gloves kind of game master anymore than I am an iron fist in velvet glove type.  I allow players to make choices and tell them the consequences.  I don't allow trial balloons (i.e. "IF I do [this], what will happen?") but I make sure to answer exploratory questions regarding details that can help inform choices.  There's no such thing as a true sandbox, as I've stated in the past, since there is no infinite sandbox, but I like to think that on the sliding scale between railroad and sandbox my own campaigns are pretty far over to the latter.  So, what's the point?

Well, after listening to my players concerns about what they seemingly believed to be a high rate of new character generation, shall we say, I decided to give them a location where they could simply throw themselves in for a few weeks or month and grind up some monsters into a fine EXP powder, along with the requisite coinage and magic items for treasure.  But please recall in my last campaign report I wrote, "This newly discovered ruin, while not directly tied to the Dragon's Teeth, seemed like something the group should be better equipped to tackle without too great a risk to life and limb, something the group had begun to learn was worth consideration.  Early losses in the numbers of the group had been slowing down their overall progress and they felt a more incremental approach to adventuring might be prudent.  There were only a handful of founding group members (and a number of players had worked through several characters).  They understood that what they would find at this new ruin would be an underground goblins' lair and rats' nest, and so it has proved thus far."

A bit shorthanded but not daunted!

So a couple of weeks of exploring this new ruin found them dealing mostly with goblins on the first level but also with a few other creatures, animalistic in nature.  There were a couple of hobgoblins but these were a cake walk.  They also had to deal with a small crypt section which, while it presented some serious difficulties, was eventually overcome through clever game play and force of arms.  Then they started feeling their oats and delved deeper, working their way around the second level, clearing out more goblins, hobgoblins, some fire beetles, and a bit more, only to eventually run up against one of the surliest, veteran goblins ever.  This fella was in no mood to charge in with a nasty goblin knife, opting instead to throw a flask of oil during a surprise round . . . then won initiative and tossed a couple more.  Needless to say, the group which had been doing so well grinding out encounters and had, indeed, found some success in leveling along the way, were burnt in half with six party members severely crispified, three to zero or below, one even so far under you'd have thought Thanos snapped him out of the game.  It was devastating.  But the party regrouped, cut off a continued assault by the goblin vet, gathered up their fallen, and retreated from the complex, then proceeded with great speed to the one place they thought they could get enough healing to make a difference.

In the kingdom's capitol, they hooked up with a temple they'd previously utilized and traded off a major magic item to secure a Raise Dead spell, to bring back the one party member who was beyond the pale.  They even had enough value from the item to bank two additional Raise Dead spells for future instances, should they be required.  The rest of the party needed some time in civilization to recover from dropping below zero but the healing of them was within the means of the party.  It was a tough set back but there were no permanent party member deaths, so it should be chalked up as a semi-success.  The group has reached a point where death is an obstacle but not insurmountable.  The grind has afforded them the option of pressing their luck without the risks being impossible to take.

Photo by "Scott Michael"

Their set backs seemed to fuel the group's resolve and they remounted an assault.  This time they approached by a less deadly route, opting to travel some distance through civilized lands and come at the complex from across a river, saving themselves from many wandering monster checks.  Always a plus.  They dove in, having previously mapped a good deal of the first and second levels, and utilized their wand of enemy detection to triangulate the whereabouts of potential threats then eradicate them with surgical precision.  While they were unable to locate the surly, fire-wielding goblin vet, nor the goblin shaman from the Deaddrop caves who had eluded them (and who they were sure had traveled to this location), they cleared out many goblins and hobgoblins, as well as other creatures quite successfully.  They also garnered a good sum of coins and gems, as well as some useful items.

Sadly for the group, you can only fight so many goblins before you experience what Portwert the Moneychanger calls a diminished rate of return.  At some point, the going is going to get tougher, and the rough-and-tumblers are either going to have to get going or get gone back to civilization to lay down their arms.  Adventuring is not a pretty business.  New challenges await the group as they are poised to explore the third level of the complex.  They are aware it is a more extensive crypt and that the undead are going to abound in great numbers.  They've seen what can happen to large parties of adventurers who get spread out and don't watch their six, nor their three, nor their nine.  They know they can't get the dead raised if no one is left to transport the bodies to the raisers.  While they might be less worried about a single death, or even two, they now have to be concerned about the risk of a Total Party Kill.  Not that I am rooting against them, of course, but sometimes the dice aren't in anyone's control.  And a sandbox is no sandbox if it doesn't let the dice fall where they may . . .

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Damsels, Dice, and Everything Nice

They've dropped episode two of Damsels, Dice, and Everything Nice!  In case you haven't watched it yet, here's episodes one and two . . .

Damsels, Dice, and Everything Nice: A Royal Roleplaying Adventure (Episode 1)

Damsels, Dice, and Everything Nice: Episode 2- The Party Gathers

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Crusaders, Vikings, and Birds

Knocked off a few boardgames in the last couple of weeks, though I have been less than diligent in my camera duties, let alone blogging about them.  The store hours at Lake Geneva Games have expanded, we've hired and are training two additional staffers (so far), and a new MtG set dropped.  Dare I say I have had a fairly full plate lately.  Nevertheless, after months of trying to arrange a game of Crusaders: Thy Will Be Done (2018) the LG lunchtime gamers managed to get it to the table.  I was thoroughly trounced due to a disjointed strategy that garnered a steady stream of victory points during play but left me wanting for end-game points.

Fire & Axe: A Viking Saga (2004) has been around a while but was recently acquired and three of us put it to the test last week.  We played incorrectly but in such a way that we all, more or less, equally benefited from the error.  Essentially we were all taking additional actions each turn which, surprisingly, slowed down play rather than speeding it up.  We even removed the cards they suggest you set aside in games for beginners.

Wingspan (2019) is something Mark M. just got hold of, a slightly dented box copy which he lucked into getting, considering this game is seemingly hard to track down for less than double it's MSRP.  We had to truncate our game due to time considerations but got through about 80% of a full game and none of us had played before, so we all needed to learn it.  Rodney's How to Play video on it helped me out tremendously, as he always does.

I found all three of these games enjoyable and will play any of them again, if given the opportunity.  I think Crusaders can be played much faster than we did but we'll see.  Fire & Axe might need a closer look next time as I am not really sure how much playing it correctly will change the game.  I think the additional cards will make it a lot more competitive.  Wingspan works just fine as is but feels a bit like a race with little interaction between players, except when an action allows all players to benefit.  There's a bit of blocking other players when choosing dice but it didn't seem too egregious.  We'll see!

Mopping Up,Getting their Due, & Tracking Down in 1E AD&D Grymvald

The Lake Geneva 1E AD&D crew gathered a few weeks ago with but one missing member to unfreeze time after the big cultist temple battle from two weeks prior.  They still had the Witch of Dour Haven to locate and bring to justice.  Plus, there surely must be some treasure to be had.  And, of course, there must be experience to tally and some sweet, sweet leveling to be done.

The light of two huge braziers on the riser at the far end of the temple highlighted the carnage.  The bodies of almost a dozen heavily armed and armored cultists lay mangled on the floor along with two comatose party members.  There were two archways leading out of the temple, one to the north and one to the south.  They suspected the witch had cast a spell during the proceeding combat and that she had done so from the southern archway because now, a few feet down the hallway beyond the archway, a membrane of green slime blocked further progress.

Photo by "Scott Michael"
Why is the DM hiding, one might ask . . .

This was a more cautious foray into the complex at Marak Tor than many of the previous trips, but also one that was meant to be thorough.  They wanted to be able to say they had cleared the place and have it as a potential HQ for future expeditions deeper onto the Trackless Moors.  Once they had removed the slime-obstacle, they were able to ensure both the southern room and northern room were free from opponents.  This left the question of where the Witch of Dour Haven had fled.  The room was outfitted as a sleeping quarters for the witch, alone.  Some treasure was found as well as signs that others treasures had been here but were now gone.  A quick reconnoiter by the Half-Elves revealed a secret door to a supply room where food stocks and other provisions were stored for the witch and her closer bodyguards.  After some additional searching, yet another secret door was found to a lower chamber where a standing stone was kept, as well as a great deal of coinage).  It obviously had been brought here from elsewhere, as evidenced by the damage to it and the manner in which it had been propped up on an unlike pedestal.  The runes upon it were some form of ancient Dwarven language so they figured a way to transport it out of the structure (and eventually back to town in a double-locked box).  A later search of the same areas, mostly to retrieve coinage they were not able to carry on the first trip, revealed an additional hideyhole containing a wand of enemy detection.

After regaining civilization, the group spent some time converting their treasures into more directly useful items for the various party members, some healing potions were distributed, as well as cure scrolls and a few other spell scrolls.  Armor and weapons were acquired through trade or purchase to try and optimize everyone who might be in the line of fire.  A fair bit of time was spent seeking sage advice on the standing stone / obelisk, what it might be meant to represent or possibly do.  The group had sussed out that it might be used as a portal but were not clear on how.  A first attempt to discover its secrets from a wizardly mentor was only minorly helpful, though he did direct the group toward a more knowledgeable information source in the form of the Temple of Darien, the Guardian, a military-religious order in the kingdom's capital, Jalston, with which the party had previously had dealings.  In fact, Nydijan the (Human) cleric, one of the original party members (and still kicking) is of that order of Darien, though the temple in Jalston has a mostly Dwarven membership.  This, of course, worked out well for the adventurers because they were able to discover that the portal-stone was not usable without some sort of accompanying headwear, that it was connected to the Dragon's Teeth (a series of tors-cum-towers spanning the Trackless Moors), and the stone was probably what the witch used to escape.  All this being likely, arrangements were made to cover the stone in molten gold, encasing it in such a way that no one could come to it from elsewhere, or so it is surmised by the temple sages.  They also left it in the temple vaults for safe keeping.

Mind you, the above took place over a couple of game sessions and yet a third has transpired since.  Although the witch had escaped, she was no longer considered an imminent threat and chasing her straight away in the unknown seemed like suicide.  The group opted, rather, with the help of a map and some information from a mining camp scout, to check out a ruins south of the Deadrop Goblin caves where that threat may have originally emanated.  This was also confirmed by their ally, the mist dragon that had been freed by the group from the Deaddrop Goblin caves.  The mist dragon, Vaporex, came up to them in a fog bank, making the party a bit nervous as to what might be approaching, but thanks to the newly found wand of enemy detection they group managed not to jeopardize their friendship by plugging the dragon full of arrows.  This newly discovered ruin, while not directly tied to the Dragon's Teeth, seemed like something the group should be better equipped to tackle without too great a risk to life and limb, something the group had begun to learn was worth consideration.  Early losses in the numbers of the group had been slowing down their overall progress and they felt a more incremental approach to adventuring might be prudent.  There were only a handful of founding group members (and a number of players had worked through several characters).  They understood that what they would find at this new ruin would be an underground goblins' lair and rats' nest, and so it has proved thus far.

The group scouted the hillock upon which mere remnants of a crumbled ruin sat, discovered a spiral staircase from it to below, but also found a cave entrance down the side of the hill.  Some goblins were dealt with outside of the complex, including several caught unawares while gambling by the top of the stairwell.  The cave entrance was determined to be primarily used by disease-ridden rats, so they torched and blocked it as best they could then made use of the spiral stair to descend within.  Inside they had several tense battles with goblins, mostly, but also a few hobgoblins, and a trained ferret in the keeping of the goblins.  Though they did not discover the location of the goblin spellcaster from the Deaddrop caves, they did find some treasure as well as a stairway leading even deeper underground and that's about where the group has left off.  With more to explore, they plan to hone their skills as a well-oiled machine to become a more competent strike force for these dangerous journeys in hopes of someday going on more legendary adventures!