Thursday, May 31, 2012

D&D Next Annoatations: How To Play

 Hey, what's up? I know, I've been missing. A quick rundown: these Next annotations are taking a long time because I want to be thorough, and as such I'm going to post them as I finish documents. This is the big one, the How to Play. In the past week, we didn't get a chance to play this, but we DID play Fiasco, and I'm writing up the AP report. I bought Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb and it's wonderful, review soon-ish. I HAVEN'T had a chance to see any of the movies we planned to go to, but still are planning to go. Midsummer Songaday also starts tomorrow! Okay, that's enough catch-up, to the annotations!


So. Here it is, the D&D Next playtest document. Time to see how it measures up to expectations, goals, and previous editions.

*Maybe an hour later* Ummmm.....I don't have a lot of experience with 2e or 1e, but......it basically looks a lot like 3e. A lot. I'll go through it anyway, but Wizards, there was a good raving horde concerned that you were gonna try to sweep 4e under the rug, and it looks a lot like that's happened quite a bit. I hope that opens up when we see the modules really appearing.

Okay, so if you don't have the playtest yourself, well, go get it. But in case you don't want to, the playtest came in a .zip file (D&D Next Playtest 5-24-12.zip) containing a pdf Letter from Mike Mearls explaining the situation and two folders containing the files (one with Mac files, the other with normal pdfs). There are nine files:
* Bestiary (34 Pages)
* Caves of Chaos (the Adventure in the packet) (29 Pages)
* 5 Pregen Characters (2 Pages each)
* DM Guidelines (9 Pages)
* How to Play (31 Pages)
So let's start with the logical point: The adventure! No, the How to Play.


I sure hope it doesn't violate the playtest agreement to do all of this, since I'm not actually putting the rules here aside from the rare quote. I don't believe I am, but I may have misinterpreted. NOTE TO WIZARDS: IF I CAN'T DO THIS LET ME KNOW AND I WILL REMOVE IT.
Also a note, I AM aware that Legends & Lore has been giving some rationales for choices - I'm very intentionally not looking at them until I complete all of the annotations, then I'll go back and talk about how L&L's explanations affect things for me. So if you see something that's already explained, hold your horses.
How To Play:
* Page 1 covers the extreme basics first. What is D&D, what  you need to play, etc. Honestly, this is kinda superfluous seeing as almost zero new-to-D&D folks are going to start with the damn incomplete playtest. I guess it's nice to know how they want to describe themselves though, gives a bit of an insight into what they're going for, but honestly its nothing we haven't seen before. However: "Feel free to use whatever visual aids enhance your enjoyment of the game -  miniatures, gridded surfaces such as Dungeon Tiles, and the like - or use none at all." So it is explicitly NOT requiring minis. Gonna need to keep that in mind.
* It then starts in with a section titled Basic Rules. The first one is, of course, the central mechanic - Checks. Checks are exactly hat they've always been. D20+relevant ability mod+bonuses/penalties, compare to a DC. Contests are two folks rolling and comparing. Nothing to see here.
* Attacks... Attack rolls vs. AC, doesn't seem to have the other defenses from 4e.
* Saving Throws! We have CHANGE from the basic 3e form! Saves are like they used to be in that they add a stat and go vs. a DC. However, there's been some evolution from then - there aren't Fort, Ref, or Will saves, but instead the ability is determined by the DM whenever a save is called. I definitely like the change. It's much more freeing for effects to be able to use the most appropriate ability (a change reminiscent of Dungeon World's Beta modification of Defy Danger), and it doesn't require use to keep track of it on the sheet. If they need to mimic the additional save bonuses of old (pretty unneccesary from where I'm sitting) they can give class features like "When you make a saving throw using your Constitution, take +2 on the roll." A bit clumsier, but it really shouldn't matter that much.
* Advantage/Disadvantage. This is an entirely new thing that seems to be a replacement for flanking and combat advantage. The way it works is that when you make a d20 roll with either of them, you instead roll 2d20. If you had advantage, you take the higher roll. If you had disadvantage, the lower. You can't stack multiple advantages to get multiple dice. Having both cancels them out.
Honestly, I like the mechanic, and I like it as an idea. However, I DON'T like it as a total replacement of flanking or combat advantage. +2 to hit from flanking is an important thing to me. Thinking about it though, flanking is pretty hard to represent without the grid, so maybe this is actually for the best. It DEFINITELY should reference in the rules that flanking provides advantage if they do (especially if there's a rogue around - I checked ahead and sneak attack DOES trigger off advantage). An interesting difference is that you can have advantage for a save too, which is kinda cool. Also disadvantage is new entirely and is pretty neat. I'm worried that at high levels things you'll have so many ways to attain advantage and the monsters will have so many ways to impose disadvantage that they'll just always be cancelling out.
I really hope this doesn't replace the circumstance bonus as well.
* Okay, we are now off of Basic Rules and onto Ability Scores! Again, 10/11 is an average person, 18 is a normal person's maximum, adventurers can go higher, yadda yadda yadda we've been here before. Each ability score is gone through individually, with a section detailing some sample checks for that ability, some instances when you would save with that ability, and whatever the ability does uniquely. And in case you were wondering, the ability scores are still the standard six (and are back in StrDexConIntWisCha order!).
* Strength. Standard enough. Strength's uniques are most melee attacks and Carrying Capacity, which I will be playing without (because fuck carrying capacity, especially with phrases like "To determine how many pounds you can carry unencumbered, multiply your Strength score by 10." Damn 10 makes for big numbers, and I'm not touching lift and drag weights. Thanks DW for making a way better system).
* Dexterity. Dex's uniques are most ranged attacks, plus finesse weapons, an influence on AC, and initiative (still d20+dex mod).
* Constitution's unique is just HP. It doesn't talk about advancing HP elsewhere, so it goes here. Okay, so starting HP is equal to your score (not mod) plus a dice determined by class (your Hit Die). Because we like strong heroes, I'll probably maximize it at 1st level for my group (though just first level). This is pretty standard, and not far off of 4e's HP, providing strong heroes with lots of starting HP. At each level though, you roll your Hit Die and then compare it to your Constitution modifier and add the higher of them to your max HP. I'll say this right out: I REALLY like this. It allows for that element of randomization but prevents your fighter from ending up laying on the floor due to a bunch of lame HP rolls, while still letting the more fragile classes able to keep their fragility. This is a smart mechanic if you're going to scale HP (DW has convinced me otherwise of its importance, but that's not the issue at hand).
* Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma. All three of these have "Magic Ability" as a unique, meaning that they're used as a casting stat by some class. Unfortunately, no Charisma casting classes are currently released. Nothing special here.
* Now that we're done with the ability scores, it goes to the Exploration section. This section describes, Time, Movement, Stealth, and Perception.
* Time is, at any given point, measured by one of four units: days, hours, minutes, or rounds. Days are used to measure large events, keep track of the universe, or be the unit acted on for long journeys or long rests. Hours are good for a measuring time between rests, lengths of things like rituals or research, or short travel. Minutes are good for small tasks, but are best for travel. Rounds are small scale, each lasting ~6 seconds. The round is the basic unit in combat. Nothing here is new, but I don't expect it to be.
* Movement is measured with a speed value. It looks like we're back in 5 foot units, not squares. Works for me, squares are an easier number but fall apart entirely without the grid. Plus feet are more grounded in the fiction. Difficult terrain is no different, walking is normal, jumping is pretty simple, as is climbing, swimming, and crawling. They should clarify how things interact a bit - if I crawl 5' on difficult terrain, is it 10', 15', or 20' cost? I could justify any of them. Standing up is a PART of a move action, so you can just stand up and then move a bunch. Just standing up and not moving is still the move action though. I guess this works, but it feels off to me.
* Stealth! Oh boy. Well, it's all in one Dex check, including the equivalent of both a Hide and a Move Silently check. Basically it's all quite simple. Guess that's good.
* Perception. Ugh, tying it to Wisdom has always bugged the hell out of me. Discern Realities made a lot of sense to me (as it was about interpreting what you see, not what is actually there), but directly using Wis for Spot/Listen equivalents irks me. Whatever, that's not what's at hand. For the "Spotting a Hidden Object" section, the advice makes sense, but the questionability of range has always been an issue. How specific do I have to be to search the right place? If I say "I search about the furniture" is it possible to find the key in the example? Would the DC just be higher? If I say I'm searching the whole room and roll a natural 20, can I find the key? If I specify that I'm lifting up the clothes on top of the bureau do I auto-succeed? Some advice about the extreme subjectivity of this "range" could really help. Maybe you have advice about this in the DM guidelines though.
* The other strange case is retries, rolling in the open, and groups. You should mention that, if they do not succeed, they cannot retry the same search over and over, otherwise this game gets boring. Since the player is making this roll, how should you differentiate between "I know I rolled low so something could be here" and "Nothing is here." Thirdly, if Abby the cleric rolls perception and finds nothing (either through "I know I rolled low" or simply a high DC) then can Bob the fighter try the same perception? And if he fails, what about Chris the wizard? Allowing the whole party to take a shot at something could easily result in stuff grinding to a halt whenever it comes time to look around.
* I definitely might modify this slightly for my game though. Not enough to hurt the viability as a playtest, of course, but this: "If there's something to find in the room, set a general difficulty for how hard it should be to find it. The player rolls and, on a success, you reveal what they found. The finding player then narrates the steps and path they took to find it." Note that this does a couple things: 1) The "Range" issue is gone since they're picking how to do it - the key is not to specify that the key is under the clothers on top of the bureau but instead that there's a key in the room hidden well enough to have X difficulty. 2) Gives the player individual buy-in to the world since they're involved in making it. 3) Well, it's easier on the DM in my opinion since you don't need to come up with all the clever stuff on your own. It's an easy modification rooted in collaborative-playing style, but it shouldn't really interfere with the viability of my session as a playtest of the rules.
*COMBAT: Here we go. I'm saddened that combat is still such a "different" part of the game. I don't know if I've talked about it here but I DEFINITELY have on the Wizards columns' comments. One of the things I think really contributes to the strange balance between combat and non-combat (with combat being heavily havored in D&D) is the requirement that you basically go into a separate "combat mode." Since the game is formed of "combat mode" and "everything else mode," no individual non-combat piece will get attention in comparison to combat. Of course, other things drive this (combat being the only concrete source of XP is another, with non-combat XP left entirely to GM control - this is why I really like games like Lady Blackbird or DW, because XP is tied to player actions, not bundled into certain enemies). Anyway, even if I dislike the procedure of going into combat, that's what we're stuck with, so let's see how it works. I'll think of it both in gridded and gridless terms since it needs to operate in both.
* Well, the basic sequence is basic enough. I know how round works. Hey, no surprise round! That's neat, just a huge initiative penalty is pretty cool. Also nice that there's no complicated stuff about determining it, just common sense.
* Initiative isn't anything special. At all. Now, I'm familiar with this a lot, so we'll run with it for a little bit since it's what's here, but this MAY be something we shift. We'd be shifting it NOT because we have a problem with this so much as it's just a bit boring to us since we've done it before. We'd been thinking of transplanting the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying initiative system into a game, and it slots in really easily here, so maybe! Not the first session for sure though, give the thing it's own shape.
* Taking a turn...oh that's deceptive. One action, oh but you can also move. Why not just give us Standard and Move actions like usual? Skipping...WAIT WAIT WAIT where's Delay? You removed it!? Okay, I'm thinking the Marvel initiative will probably come in pretty quick then. As for Reactions, can you PLEASE put a checkbox for "Reacted?" on the character sheets? I always lose track of if I've reacted yet and since I only get one, forgetting could overpower me. I know I could just add one myself, but I think it would be a helpful addition for people.
* Actions in Combat: now lacking in "Delay!" Good to see Coup de Grace back in proper order instead of the lame 4e version, and Dodge is decent. I LOVE that Help doesn't need a separate check to see if you can help. Hustle is a double move, Improvise is excellent, Readying an Action is simple (and I have more to say in a moment), and Using an Item is nice and broad. It's especially nice that a lot of crap little stuff that normally needed Minor Actions before are just assumed to happen. I guess technically you can use Ready as a blunt instrument to delay (since it's the only thing to shift initiative order) but that's bludgeoning through the issue, not solving it.
* I mentioned Readying as something I wanted to expand upon. I think there's an innate issue with the usual readying procedures in that the GM will likely have a subconscious bias about it. They know about the ready - you told them. That means that for it to trigger, they have to intentionally trigger it, and the reverse is true as well - if they don't want to be hit by it, they can just avoid the trigger. This is simply an issue with the fact that all actions go through the GM. My solution (experimental as it is, and I'm not saying to put this in the rules necessarily, it's just musing) is to cut the GM out. When you declare that you're readying an action, write it down on a small piece of paper (an index card, post-it, ripped off corner, etc.) and pass it to the player to your right (if the GM is on your right skip him). Tell the GM you're readying an action, but do NOT tell him what it was. When the trigger happens, reveal it and take the action. You can either set it up so that you can announce it or so that it has to be the person you passed it to has to announce it for you (removes any making stuff up or changing it, but you have to trust them to remember it). The reason for passing is so that the DM knows that you haven't cheated and changed the readied action. This way, the GM doesn't know what the action is and can't act in response to it, but you can't cheat it. Plus, if the latter route is taken it makes characters pay attention for the sake of others too, which kinda amps up the team thing. Not saying to include this in the real game, I just want to mess with it a bit.
* The basics of attacking remains unchanged. This is probably the place to link to Sage  Latorra's review of the playtest where he talked extensively about his issue (and one me and my group heartily agree with) with the D&D rolls in general, and that's that on a failed roll, simply nothing happens.  Here, I'll paste the relevant text:
"Ultimately my biggest complaint with the rules is one that’s so central I wonder if it’s been analyzed at all. I feel like the     design team may have been so busy looking back over D&D’s history that they haven’t thought about other games and their     innovations, in particular the single easiest thing to improve a game: consequences for rolls. This is a problem more or     less inherited right down through d20's core mechanic, and I think you only see it as a problem once you’re played     something that ‘fixes’ it.

    Just like d20, by default all rolls come down to succeed and something happens or fail and nothing happens. That means     that, particularly in tough situations, the most likely outcome on the dice is “nothing happens.” You try to pick the lock and     roll a 4 for a total of 10, so nothing happens. You attack the orc but miss, nothing happens.

    At least in combat there’s a bit of an opportunity cost: nothing happens immediately, but the orc will do something that it     might not have done had you hit. But it takes GM skill to realize that failing to pick a lock has consequences too: time,     danger, resources, or maybe all three."
- http://www.latorra.org/2012/05/24/dd-next-public-beta/
But what he says at the end of the first paragraph is totally true, you only see this once you've seen otherwise. He goes on to explain more (and where the DM Guidelines SORT OF try to improve it, but I'll talk about that when I get to those annotations). Other than this missed opportunity - because that's what it is more than a real problem - the rules are fine enough. Crits don't have confirmation rolls, thank goodness.
* Cover. Hmm. I've never really paid much attention to cover, but I might. The rules are simple at least.
* Unseen targets. I have an issue: ..."by hiding, casting Invisibility, or lurking in darkness." Um, guys? Invisibility is not a spell contained in this book. Referencing things you haven't given us? Not cool. Either give us a rudimentary Invisibility spell or remove the reference until we gt it. Otherwise I'm satisfied with this means of targetting, though I think disadvantage may be a bit too generous to the attacker in a lot of cases, especially if they know where the creature is "because of a noise it made." That's disadvantage -2 to me. Whatever though.
* I have a dislike for running invisible stuff on gridmaps. See, I don't want to try to keep their location memorized, so I still have them on the page. Unfortunately, whether it's a player or a monster, I run into the same issue as with readied actions - we have to either pretend we don't know and intentionally avoid it or take advantage of the knowledge. There's no solution I can think of like the Readied one though. Oh well, I'm not gridded for the time being but thought I'd mention it.
* I understand keeping Max Damage for crits, but I don't LIKE it. I really liked having double damage, it made things feel satisfying.
* Damage type is fine by me, and nice that slashing or piercing are the same as fire or cold. Would like to see some reference to what happens when something is multiple damage types - it doesn't occur in the book so I'm glad it's not here yet, but you WILL have flaming swords eventually so you'll need to be prepared. Speaking of that, I don't see ANY magic items here...
* Surprised to see Resistance and Vulnerability switched back to multipliers when crit was kept at Max Damage. Not good or bad, just surprised.
* DYING. Well. I'm amazed. You've managed to make characters even MORE survivable than 4e. Guys, unless monsters are curb-stomping unconscious heroes, people are never going to die. Death Saving Throws as DC 10 Con saves? A dude with 14 Con needs an 8(!) to succeed. 3 successes and you stabilize? Failure only does 1d6 damage? Against said 14 Con character, even at lvl 1 you need to fail 3 times and roll higher than a 5 every time. Hell, against a level 1 guy with 8 Constitution, two above average rolls of 4 still won't kill him! I mean, I'm not necessarilly complaining if this is the goal of the system so that heroes never die. But it says a LOT about your approach to the game. Also, this will alienate 1e players by a mile, they're used to their characters dying.
* Oh! About Stabilized, you should mention that should you be stabilized and take additional damage (from a curb-stomp) you cease to be stabilized and reset your Death Saving Throw counter at 0.
* I will be taking the 4e approach to nonlethal damage, actually. Basically, if you reduce them to 0 HP, you choose how they're defeated - you can kill them or declare that the attack was nonlethal, you don't need to say so beforehand.
* I think that short rest healing may provide too little. If you're sticking with this, everyone is going to carry 10 healer's kits at all times. We simply don't have enough spell per day to do so - you only have 2 each on the clerics, and they don't heal very much. At least Long Rests (lame name - go back to Extended Rest in my opinion) full heal. You may have brought back the five minute workday by accident with those cleric spells/day.
* Conditions are back. They're simple enough. I LOVE that you reference that they're only a starting point though, very important. Bold it or something.
* Disadvantage may be too small of a penalty for Blinded, that's pretty crippling in a fight.
* Why does Intoxicated reduce damage? Their flesh isn't getting any harder, and the "feel-no-pain" really shouldn't help that much. If you want them to have a benefit, give 'em +1 AC for moving all unpredictably or something. Don't think it should give any bonus at all though.
* Why have paralyzed? It's fundamentally similar? Why not mention that unconscious can easily be reskinned to paralyzed? The onyl difference is that a paralyzed creature percieves its surroundings, which could definitely fall into the "modify to the situation" clause. You even have a note next to Restrained, so you could put a similar note on Unconscious that "Paralysis is like Unconscious but the victim can percieve its surroundings."
* I see a lack of a "Dazed" condition where the target can only move or act, not both. This was a fairly common condition in 4e, one of the most common along with slowed and immobilized, so I'm confused at its absence.
* Onto equipment. Coinage...Electrum? We really needed another sub-Gold currency? We'd recieve some while first level and never look at it again! I never touch anything less than 1 gp. If I must, I tell the group with decimals, but I don't think that's ever actually come up.
* I like the line: "the value of magic is far beyond simple gold." That's pretty cool. Don't know how it affects the game economy, especially if magic items can be bought eventually, but it's a cool sentiment.
* I REALLY like how AC is simply tied right into your armor. VERY nice. You should mention (or put on the table) armorless or Cloth, since it provides 10+Dex modifier based on the Wizard sheet. It's a situation that DOES come up, and will need to have a ruling. Disadvantage for stealthing in big armor is a great idea, as is nonproficiency. I don't care about getting into or out of armor personally.
* Weaponry makes sense. I like Light, it's basically just a narrative tag which is cool. I like how Improvised Weapons are actually a viable option now. I kinda recommend dropping the two handed one to 1d8 though or anyone without Martial training is gonna just carry around a two-handed improvised weapon (and even most with Martial training will do so as well). Seriously, swinging a chair is stronger than swinging a warhammer right now.
* Hmm. Explicitly mentioning Silver already? Only the Wight in the Bestiary is actually specially affected by it, should have given us a werewolf or devil or something to make it more than a one-trick pony in this packet.
* I LOVE that the special weapons are the only ones described in a separate way. Also, this is probably the best rendition of the Bastard Sword I've seen yet, so great job.
* Not so sure about Complex Missile Weapons using Strength right now, the Heavy Crossbow is still more Dex-based. I could get it for like a Composite Longbow, but crossbows still don't need strength to power their firing, just the reloading.
*Aaaand you went back to full lists for gear. How long does it take to set a Hunting Trap? If you can do it instantly, that's the new Tanglefoot Bag.
* Ah, the 10-foot pole. Incredibly effective, plus going by the current improvised weapon rules it's a 1d10 that would have Reach, with no training necessary (since it'd be like a quarterstaff)? Yes please. Oh, and it only costs 2 sp!
* Spellcasting time!
* Aww, you're going back on yourself! "Some situations make spellcasting a tricky proposition. For example, if you stand on the deck of a storm-tossed ship, a crashing wave might wash over you just as you attempt to cast a spell. In such a case, the DM might ask you to make a Constitution check to block out the distraction and complete the spell." This is the perfect place to remove an interrupting roll like that to give them disadvantage! I'm also going to rule that since you need to chant for spells, you cast at disadvantage while deafened, that sounds neat.
* Spells have casting times and thus can't usually just spontaneously react, but can you ready them still?
* While I love it being there, you're gonna screw yourself with the Stacking line as you make more and more spells over the course of the edition. Careful there guys.
* Minors are at-wills. Nice.
* Are there any rituals here? Oh wait yes, there's Alarm. It's seriously the only one right now? Whatever. Just get me my Raise Dead soon please, I'm gonna need it.
* And I've been avoiding the elephant in the room, the lack of division between Arcane and Divine spells. Tell me guys, is this because the spells have already been selected and assigned to characters, or is the wall really gone? It would be really interesting if it was gone. If it is, what's the big difference between Wizards and Clerics? Need details! I'm inclined to think it IS removed since you came up with Minor Spells instead of straight-up naming them cantrips and orisons.
* Battle Psalm? Really? Damn bards.
* Cure Light Wounds heals a greater amount of health now, and is balanced by Healing Word nicely. We still can't cast it often enough.
* Magic Missile is pretty much a direct transplant from 3.5e, except now as a Minor Spell it's genuinelly really good. The staple of the Wizard.
* Ray of Frost is USEFUL for once. This is a good use of it, a great challenger to Magic Missile on many turns.
* Radiant Lance too will be a hard choice against Magic Missile or Ray of Frost in a turn if the A/D wall is gone.
* Shield being cover is a nice version. Suprised only Shield of Faith and not this can be reaction-cast.
* Sleep has been handled quite well, and the threshold idea that bounced around in Legends & Lore is obvious. Thing is, I'm still not entirely convinced by this method. I'm much more convinced by 4e's "progressive model" (as I called it in that discussion, it was opposed by this one, the "threshold model" and the "Save or Die model") for things like falling asleep or petrification since they're gradual processes, not one-step happenings, plus it allows the effect to be relevant throughout the whole battle. As it is, Sleep is basically doing 10 damage if theyre under 10 HP, provided they fail the save. It's better than an overpowered "Save or be unconscious and awaiting my coup de grace," but I'm still not convinced by the threshold model for sleep powers. The progressive model of SoD, along with Aftereffects, are some of the coolest, simplest, most port-able innovations to come out of 4e, and I'm saddened to see them left off to the side. Of course, I know the handling of SoD is a very tough issue, but consider it.
* Woah, Turn Undead is a spell? A Wizard with a holy symbol could theoretically cast it? Barring that, a Druid or Ranger or other non-Cleric divine class could do it? I saw in the character sheets that Clerics can use it without preparing a few times per day, is that how they're getting preferential treatment of it? Very intriguing move there.

Wait, that's the last page of the How to Play! By the way, for reference, I started writing this the day it came out, so the 24th, and right now when I'm finishing it's 3am on the 31st. This is a lot of stuff! So here's a verdict on the How to Play before I keep moving on:
There simply isn't enough innovation here - it looks a lot like a stripped-down 3.5e. The places you do innovate are usually really good (such as the Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic, which simply continues to grow on me), but you simply don't do enough of it. I'm really hoping that if this is meant to be the very core ruleset standard to all games that modules then build on top of that the modules will bring all sorts of interesting NEW things into the game. That said, if this is the very basic core common to all games, it's still too rules-y. I don't intend to go around pushing rules-light on people, but for a simple, quick story-gaming type experience a player would need to subtract from the very core, which is bizarre. It would really help if you clarified exactly how this document is planned to fit into the final moduled system of rules.

Already started in on the DM Guidelines. I'll keep going and catch up with you later! Look out for that Fiasco AP, the Wrath of the Lamb review, and any movie reviews! Art of the Pantheon will be resuming regular updates when I've gotten through this backlog of stuff. See you tomorrow with the first song!
(No schedule because it's in a bit of flux)

End Recording,
Ego.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dungeon World Beta 2.3 Annotated Changelog

Hey wanted to do this before the Next playtest goes up and consumes me for a bit.
 
DUNGEON WORLD 2.3 CHANGELOG ANNOTATIONS
Typos
- We’ve fixed a lot of typos. Thanks in particular to jeremyf and tresi on github for not only finding typos but fixing them too!
* Why thank you jeremyf and tresi.

Cleric
- Martyr and Penitent work better with the current HP scale.
* Sounds good.
- Cleric spell tags are no longer a restriction, so Inquisitor and Scales of Life and Death have been replaced by new moves.
* Invigorate is nice and seems pretty useful, but the new Scales of Life and Death seems like it could be really powerful. Oh well. Less perma-death is always good for our group.

Cleric Spells
- Replace Gibber and Dictum with Command Elements
* You mean Storm of Vengeance by command elements? Because that's the name in the file. Cool spell though. Also Peace seems to have become Plague. Pretty sure that's a typo in Plague (death of the first borN, unless I don't know anything about plagues).

Fighter
- The Human and Halfling Fighter moves have been rewritten
* Hmm. The human one still doesn't have the flair of the others. It's useful, just less flavorful seeming. The halfing one is great though.

Paladin
- The Human Paladin move has been rewritten
* Yup. I like it. Less "detect evil" and more divine connection.

Ranger
- Animal Companion Ferocity is a flat bonus again
* That works. And less dicerolling. Bonuses seem low for the number of dice we had been rolling though (2d4 to +2, for example). That's just at a glance though.
- The Ranger now has moves for improving archery
* Both Blot Out The Sun and Smaug's Belly are extremely cool and put al kinds of pictures of Legolas's fights in my head.

Thief
- Backstab is now Dex-based
* YES <3 <3. Looove it.

Wizard
- Eldritch Touch and Eldritch Connection have been replaced with some cooler moves.
* Enchanter and Enchanter's Soul? Why yes, they ARE cooler. Might they be a bit too easy to replicate through Ritual though? That's something I liked about the other moves, they didn't overlap with all the cool things you can do with Ritual (I love Ritual btw, so cool).

Wizard Spells
- Replace Identify with Charm Person
* I liked some of the stuff you could do with Identify but Enchanter basically does that now (and anything further is good Ritual material), Charm Person is a good replacement.

Equipment
- Magic items have been rewritten, along with plenty of cool new items.
* What does a blind wizard see if he casts Clairvoyance? Sorry, the Arrows of Acheron description got me thinking.
* Cursed Item variant: When sounded, Captain Bligh's Cornucopia spills forth food - out of the end you have in your mouth. Unfortunate, and difficult to use.
* Woah, the Cloak of Silent Stars is awesome.
* As is the Echo.
* Okay, I'll finish looking through this later, it's all sweet stuff.

Blood and Guts
- Added an extended example of play
* Only skimmed it, but including an example of play is an awesome idea.

Appendix 1: Thanks
- The place where we’ll thank everyone who helped out, including the Guild.
* Thanks to you too for making a great game, glad to be able to help a bit!

Appendix 2: Teaching the Game
- How to introduce new players to Dungeon World
* Very nice stuff.

Appendix 3: Conversion
- How to convert adventures from other Dungeon-y games
* Mmmmm I love it. Also seems a bit weird to put Introductory Moves in the Conversion chapter. Also I wish there was as evocative a name as "Love Letters" that would still fit the genre. Oh well, for now Intro Moves will do.

Appendix 4: Instant NPCs
- Make an NPC on the fly.
* I love it. BUT MORE LISTS, GIVE ME MORE LISTS (and I assume that's what the blank pages are for, so just keep doing what you're doing).


So, uh, yeah. Changelog 2.3. Just wanted to do this tonight before the D&D Next playtest goes live and consumes my attention. So, uh, schedule time I guess. GO CHECK OUT THE HENSE IN THE ART OF THE PANTHEON I POSTED TODAY. I don't want it to lose attention because I'm posting this. I'm really proud of it. Okay done plugging my othe project now.

This Week: Battleship, AotP, D&D Next annotations(excited!), maybe a post about my friend's game if he allows it.
Next Week: Men in Black III maybe, AotP, D&D Next (current game scheduled for Monday the 28th), Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb review.
June: Songaday! YES I'm doing another round. Also, June 15-22 is the TheSpeedGamers Pokemon marathon, and June 5-7 is E3. June 29-31 is Go Play NW, so I'll have con stuff.
Stars Without Number: If you're wondering where this went, this will probably be a more project-style posting. Deciding how I want it to interact with AotP and June Songaday (catchier name suggestions? Oh! Midsummer Songaday maybe!), so dates are TBA.

AotP: Finalizing Hense, Garmuth

Previously on Art of the Pantheon:
Introduction, Concepts, Original Sketches
Hense Take 2, Design Guidelines
Hense Take 3 (with hood designs), Lemaign
Garmuth, a bit more Hense
More Garmuth, Roathus
Slimmer Hense, Hense Color, Windbags (Lore and Pictures)
Micia, the Lorn Mother
Colorful Forms (Hense, Jevel, Roathus, Micia, Garmuth) 
Olak Take 2

Okay now, when I say "finalizing," that doesn't mean the design won't shift, as I'm sure it will. However, I've reached a point with these two that I can firmly say I'm happy with how they look, and did more complete drawings of each of them. I'll start with the pencil works I have laying here. By the way, everything in today's update was scanned in instead of cell phone photo'd like usual since I had the scanner out and hooked up already.

I'll start with Garmuth here. This is a doodle of him, in all his glory, with the mirror added in. I kinda made the mirror design up off the top of my head, incorporating various elements I remembered from the true design (such as the "wing" and the jewel) but not going with a reference, and I like the result.

Basically, THIS is what I want the final Garmuth pic to look like, just with some refinement. Scanner lost some detail on him unfortunately, but it's mostly conveyed.













This is Hense from the side. I did a pair of doodles of this angle back when designing the hood, so I figured I'd revisit it. The slimmed down head and body looks much more natural, and I bunched in up at the back a bit since I liked how that looks (plus it makes a bit more sense for why it doesn't fall off her). The veil is slightly misshapen, but only slightly. I didn't shade the robes black like usual since I didn't want them to be the focus here.

Of special interest is the flames on the hood - note their locations and patterns, because this has become more and more consistently the design I've placed on the hood. While it DOES shift around a bit, this is about what I want it to be usually.






And that brings us to my big piece today.

 HELL. YES. Okay, so I did a fairly large sketch of Hense, taking about 1/4 of a standard sheet of paper, and then went back and used my Sharpies to ink it. I scanned it in and digitally messed with it a bit on the very fine level to clean some lines. I'm very very very happy with this. Seriously, it does everything I want it to - even the eyes smile a bit, though I've mostly given up on making that work to a large degree. I think it reminds me a lot of Persepolis what with the very covered look and the black & white.  Now let's look at the variations. Click them for a real look.

Okay, so here's a variation  that added another tone for shadowed areas and the not-so-bright flames. I like it, not sure if more than the basic, but still quite a bit.










And this is the original scanned image. Just thought you might be interested in seeing it so you know how much work came digitally.










And this is the same final image as above but with the original plain white background, just in case I majorly screwed up the transparency again.










So that's it! This Hense design is definitely what I want to move forward with, and this Persepolis-looking image isn't even half bad as a final!

Oh, and guess what? I'm done with my freshman year of university!
This Week: Battleship, AotP, D&D Next annotations(excited!), DW 2.3 notes
Next Week: Men in Black III maybe, AotP, D&D Next, Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb review.
June: Songaday! YES I'm doing another round. Also, June 15-22 is the TheSpeedGamers Pokemon marathon, and June 5-7 is E3. June 29-31 is Go Play NW, so I'll have con stuff.
Stars Without Number: If you're wondering where this went, this will probably be a more project-style posting. Deciding how I want it to interact with AotP and June Songaday (catchier name suggestions? Oh! Midsummer Songaday maybe!), so dates are TBA.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dungeon World 2.2 Annotations

Oh screw you Adam and Sage. I literally wrote this up last night and only didn't post it because I wanted to space stuff out a bit more after the LB post so it got some attention. I didn't think you'd really go ahead an post 2.3 tonight!

Whatever, I'm posting it anyway. I'll do the 2.3 changelog soon.

"DW2.2 Changelog Annotations
General
- Lots of typo fixes courtesy of Jeremy Friesen.
* Appreciated.

Introduction
- Expand the dice rolling paragraph into its own section. Introduce “XdY·b” notation.
* While basic dice rolling seems like something that ought to be covered in Basic and not the advanced rules, no harm done. The notation is cool, but I'm not so sure how well it'll catch on in general.

Moves
- Hold from Bolster is now called preparation
* Cool, makes sense. Kinda makes me wish the hold from Defend had a name.

Bard
- It Goes to Eleven now gives the monster +1d4 damage to make the 7–9 result a bit more interesting
* I like it!
- Eldritch Chord now doubles one effect
- Duelist’s Block armor bonus reduced
- There were two moves named Bamboozle, one is now named Con
* The rest make sense, but don't interest me a whole lot.

Fighter
- Fighter Load is now 9+Str
* Sure thing.

Cleric
- Devoted Healer now gives a smaller bonus
* That's probably for the best, especially since hit points stopped scaling.

Cleric Spells
- Reword Bless for clarity
* Fair enough. Still seems a very strong spell to me, it made Kris infinitely more effective.

Paladin
- Healing bonus abilities (Hospitaller, Perfect Hospitaller) grant a smaller bonus.
- Perfect Knight granted too many boons, now just three
* Yeah, it needed that. Not that I didn't love having that many boons, but it was really strong.

Thief
- Revise poisons
- Armor bonus moves (Underdog, Serious Underdog) grant less armor
* Okay. I like the poisons, but non-Touch poisons will get almost no use from us.

Equipment
- Revise poisons
- Change healing potion to 10 HP
* Cool.

Monsters
- Reword “adaptation” question for clarity
- “Skill in combat” question is now three questions to give more specifics
- Devious now adds “roll twice and take lowest” instead of reducing damage dice size
- Reword “planar” question
- Add section on monsters without stats
* Cool stuff, all helpful.

Woods
- New monster setting
* Blink dogs, Dryads, Ogres, TREANTS! Hell yes. Also love the Hill Giant description a lot, as well as his instinct - everyone else has things they want to achieve, but he, he just wants to throw stuff.

Hordes
- New monster setting
* Important stuff, but less exciting since it's a lot of standard fantasy fare. Except Tritons though, THAT'S sure as hell not standard. Why include them? I like it, I'm just curious.

Experiments
- New monster setting
* Finally, some damn golems! Also Bulettes and Rust Monsters! Not sure all of these really are experiments (Pegasus?) but it works out. Wait...they're constructs? Huh. Interesting.

Lower Depths
- New monster setting
* DRAGONS! FINALLY! And Gray Renders, Salamanders, and Aboleths and Minotaurs and Nagas! A good category. Question: While the Apocalypse Dragon's instinct is easy to understand as a concept, I don't know how well I could use it in combat as a "it will tend in this direction" thing. Maybe I just need to try it. Also my first "Set a disaster in motion" will be "Create psychic maelstrom."

Planes
- New monster setting
* I'm a sucker for all of this stuff, I'm just gonna consume it all. But the Concept Elemental stands out as a piece of genuine beauty. Powerful piece right there.

Folk
- New monster setting
* Again, important, but less interesting. Hey, when it comes time for final release are you going to take your monster settings and alphabetize them? I'd say to do so.

Moves Discussion
- Add discussion of class moves
* Very nice, would love discussion of even more moves. This is what I read for, basically. You got a typo in the Guidance one btw. And Animate Dead (wrong "it(')s" multiple times).

Overall valuable stuff! After D&D Next this is back on the list of Games To Play since we didn't give it a full shake. Maybe I'll post that list up sometime.
Aaand I can finally take this off of the schedule! Cheers folks."

----------------------------------------------
So, that's that. Finally. Oh, and if you're interested my name's gonna be in the book with the other members of the Adventurer's Guild! That also means you're all gonna know my last name... Oh well. Cross that bridge when we get to it. Just look for Max 'Ego' lfekjhsnrkj. My name in there'll probably impress Kris a bit, though Daniel will think I'm super-nerdy for liking that. Whatever, I'm excited.
Oh, and just glancing at the 2.3 changelist, I see Dex-based Backstab <3 <3 <3 You just made Shank's day guys. I like to think my comments helped with that, it makes me feel like my feedback actual helped in the long run (and validates that SOMEtimes I have good ideas...)

Well, what's next up? Schedule is still here:
This Week: Battleship, AotP, D&D Next annotations, DW 2.3 notes (goddamn it guys)
Next Week: Men in Black III maybe, AotP, D&D Next, Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb review.
June: Songaday! YES I'm doing another round. Also, June 15-22 is the TheSpeedGamers Pokemon marathon, and June 5-7 is E3. June 29-31 is Go Play NW, so I'll have con stuff.
Stars Without Number: If you're wondering where this went, this will probably be a more project-style posting. Deciding how I want it to interact with AotP and June Songaday (catchier name suggestions? Oh! Midsummer Songaday maybe!), so dates are TBA.

Cheers, back to work. First final went well.
End Recording,
Ego.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lady Blackbird AP

Hey, so where've I been? I told you I'd post stuff! Shut up, finals are Mon/Tue/Wed for me so I'm busy. But not too busy to type up some AP in order to procrastinate!

But wait, that says Lady Blackbird! I thought we were going to be playing Dungeon World! This was actually an idea I had sitting at the back of my mind the whole time, and I decided it was for the best. We haven't played for two whole months. We lost most of the momentum with the characters, plus I was iffy on going back to the Bloodstone Idol - if we were going to do Dungeon World, we'd make new characters with the Beta. This would have been the plan, BUT next Thursday the D&D Next Public Playtest goes live, and I REALLY want to play that, if for no other reason than to help shape the next edition. Everyone seemed pretty cool with the idea, so I pitched that instead of DW, we'd do a one-shot instead to tide us over to D&D Next. We tossed the game ideas back and forth a bit, but because Kenny had never played Lady Blackbird and Kris and Dan and I enjoyed it so much and it's been a whole year since we last played, we chose that. I tried to pass off the GMing duties so I could actually play one of these games for once, but no dice.
For reference:
http://www.onesevendesign.com/ladyblackbird/

So Lady Blackbird is a cool game. Unfortunately, to play at full capacity you need 5 players and a GM. We only have 3 players and a GM. Now, I did this last time too, but we didn't pick nearly as an eclectic mix of the characters. Last time we had Curtis as Kale Arkam, Kris as Cyrus Vance, and Daniel as Snargle, leaving Naomi Bishop and Lady Blackbird (the passengers) as NPCs while the group played the crew. This time...
LADY BLACKBIRD - ESCAPE FROM THE HAND OF SORROW
Starring:
Daniel as Cyrus Vance, an ex-Imperial soldier turned smuggler and soldier-of-fortune, Captain of The Owl! Secretly in love with Lady Blackbird, he's the leader of the group!
Kris as Naomi Bishop (aka Martin Bishop aka Chocolate Dip Strawberry Deluxe aka Bone Crusher aka the Bonenator aka Midnight Chocolate Justice), former pit-fighter and bodyguard to Lady Blackbird! He hates the empire and has the muscles to do something about it!
Aaaaand Kenny as Snargle, a goblin sky-sailor and pilot of The Owl! A shape (and race) shifting fungus creature, Snargle always has a joke up his sleeves!

So yeah, you probably noticed a couple oddities there. Kris didn't feel like playing a woman this time, but liked Naomi. We noticed that the sheet never actually specifies a gender aside from the name, so Kris decided that Naomi Bishop is a big burly black man with a girly name (and is ashamed of the name - he goes by Martin. The rest of the names came from Kenny over the course of the game). We made some decisions about goblins too. Kenny is a Warhammer 40k player, so if any of this looks familiar, it sorta is. Goblins are fungus creatures that reproduce via spores, able to generate from even a single spore. They have a pretty fast turnover rate, but when a goblin is near death most of its spores develop and consume the host goblin, absorbing his memories and rapidly maturing to full goblin-hood. We decided that the Snargle Kenny was playing was actually the fourth or fifth Snargle that had served on The Owl. In a curious twist of fate, when Kris asked how he became a crew member Kenny answered that Snargle had tried to steal the ship and that Cyrus was impressed enough to hire him on. This is curious because this is the EXACT SAME as what Curtis had said for Kale last time. This would've been seen as kinda unoriginal if Kenny had been there last time, but he hadn't, which just made this amazing coincidence. Anyway, so Goblins can shape-shift, and Kenny enjoyed the idea that that includes skin color, so he was constantly cycling through races. Every time he said something as Snargle he tossed a d6 to determine which of his many stereotype-laden accents he'd use (usually Asian, Jamaican, or British). A couple times I acuatally played this against him, which was fun. He also wears what is effectively an unstable-molecule suit (like the Fantastic 4) so he can mimic clothes too. There's only one drawback to his shapeshifting - if water touches him, he reverts back to basic goblin-form.
Cyrus was basically cut-and-dry in concept though, no crazy shifts there.

CLANG. We're all stuck here in the brig of the Hand of Sorrow. It's a sealed room with, like, a bulkhead door with the wheel and everything, and the floor is about ankle-deep full of water. Goblin-proofing, you know. Anyway, it takes a bit but they decide their plan of action to get out. Some of the options included Naomi blowing the door down or Naomi blowing out the small porthole and Snargle crawling along the outside of the ship and coming in another side, but they decide instead that Naomi will lift Snargle out of the water and, now free to shift, modified his voice to that of Captain Hollas of the Hand of Sorrow, more or less saying "you idiots locked me in here too, now let me out!" It took a roll of deception to make it work (mostly since I wanted Kenny to do a real roll, this was his first), but they convinced the guard to open the door to check it out. As he opened the door...well, Naomi's fist vaporized his head. CRACK. The body fell in the water and started tainting it dark red. Snargle shifted into the form of the now-dead guard and was sent off to scout. He went down the hall and passed by two other soldiers, who asked him why he wasn't guarding the prisoners. He bluffed about him being relieved and was able to continue on. He started looking about in the ship for where the hanger would be.
Cut back to the group hanging around in the brig waiting for Snargle to return with some intel. In the course of things, the bulkhead door has been torn off of the cell. Unfortunately for them, those two soldiers are coming by and Naomi poorly sets the door back on as they come in and call after the replacement Snargle had named. With no answer, they come in and see the lamely replaced door. They rush over to it and the prisoners say it had just been like that and the guard just stepped out. It doesn't work as the soldiers see the blood in the water and the headless body. They're drawing weapons, one a sword and the other a gun when actions happen. Cyrus and Naomi pick targets - Cyrus aims for sword guy and Naomi bull-rushes the gun guy. Cyrus goes first with his roll, succeeding at drawing his two pistols, quick draw style, and placing one shot in the head and one in the heart. Naomi actually fails the roll, getting shot in the arm and missing the guy. However, he manages to jump up and push off the wall and body slam straight into the guy, pinning him, and then he proceeds to beat the head to a pulp until it's pretty much not there. Yes, there are a lot of heads being destroyed in this session. They toss 'em into the cell (now overflowing with bloody water), and Kris hefts up the bulkhead door and starts carrying it with him. Yes, he's carrying the goddamn door. Why not? They leave the cell, and after a moment of arguing "Wait, did Snargle go left or right" with the NPCs (look, I was goading Daniel into stepping up as leader, which he DID, so mission accomplished). Oh, and for a moment Lady Blackbird took Naomi to the side and secretly used her lightning magic to cauterize his bullet wound. He still has the injured tag.
Snap back to Snargle. We decide that he's found his way to the mess hall. He goes over and tries to talk to one of the officers, and one thing leads to another (he posed as a new-recruit Jamaican-accented guy and failed his check, so it turns out they didn't pick up any Jamaicans in the last recruitment) and the officer sprays him with the small squirt bottles that all the officers in the Imperium carry to combat the goblin threat. Snargle, surrounded by an entire mess hall that knows he's a target, does some sweet maneuvering out of there (which I allowed through a slight reinterpretation of the Pilot trait). He finds his way to the kitchen by accident since it was the nearest path and, with sirens and alarms going off around him, shifts into chef attire. Or what Snargle THINKS is chef attire. Turns out in this military they don't where the traditional chef clothes. He bluffs his way out of it before the ones with the meat cleavers get to him and he backs out of the room and finds a closet to hide in.
Cut to the rest of the gang. Yeah, I know this is a lot of time of Snargle off on his own but everyone seemed engaged enough even when they weren't there (which is excellent). Anyway, so the gang DID pick the correct direction and had gotten to a cross-point when they see the alarm go off in front of them and hear the running of many boots down a nearby corridor while "Prisoner Escape!" blares over the intercom. They dash off down the right path and find themselves at a dead end with a door. They enter and find the armory. They seal up the door and wedge it shut with the other door that Naomi's been carrying. They all grab weapons - Kale a rifle, Lady Blackbird a pistol, and Naomi sticks to no-guns. Because there are way too many guys out there, Naomi tries to find a spot on a wall where he could blow through (Juggernaut-style) and get out. He blasts through a portion of a wall and...finds a closet with Snargle in it. A bit of "Wow. How did YOU get here?" goes on, and Cyrus makes fun of Snargle for being incompetent ("You didn't try impersonating a Jamaican recruit, did you? Seriously? And you STILL haven't found the hanger?") but they find a hatch down to the cellar of the ship. With bullets randomly coming through the wedged door and one wizzing by Cyrus' head, they descend and seal the hatch.
Now they're all in a wine cellar. Yup. They debate about ways out and try throwing around blame for how they ended up down here, but end up thinking the only solution is to fight out. Naomi pushes Lady Blackbird back away from the fighting (while Snargle is cowering) and has Kale use his Jump spell to get him high enough to smash through one of the guys. Now there are a bunch of guys up there, ~9 (though I announced no numbers), and Cyrus and Naomi look to each other and have Kale send them both up at the same time. They each lay out an attack set: I told them that the difficulty was equal to the number of guys they wanted to kill. Get too ambitious and you'll either lose too many pool die or possibly fail, not enough and there are still guys shooting at you. They each chose 5, the general maximum. And they both SUCCEED, though one of them got a helping dice from Kale. Snarlge tried to help too by grabbing Lady Blackbird's pistol and shooting a few times himself, but failure meant the gun busted. BLAM BLAM BLAM SMASH BLAM CRACK SMASH POW BLAM BLAM BLAM. Daniel had spent an advance to add the Hail of Lead tag - totally worth it.
So, pile of dead guys. Good times. They go out and find a map on one of the bodies. They follow it to get to the hanger, where The Owl is maglocked and two guards flank a gangplank onto the ship. Snargle decides to mimic Captain Hollas of the Hand of Sorrow to get them to release the maglocks. The guards are suspicious but call up to the balcony that the captain wants the ship released when the real Captain Hollas steps into view on the balcony and calls back "I said to do what now?!" And the classic "He's the fake! No he's the fake!" happens, with Snargle barely failing a roll and taking a gut shot. Naomi wrenches one of the doors off and shotputs it up to the balcony, succeeding ANOTHER ridiculously hard roll to take the whole thing down, crumbling Captain Hollas into a mass of rubble, where he is crushed. Some quick fighting results in Cyrus taking down the guys on the ground and hitting Naomi through the leg. He still tears everyone a new one. Under a rain of bullets from the survivors on the balcony and newcomers to the ground level, Kale, Snargle, the Lady and Cyrus get aboard. Naomi tries to pry off the maglocks but can't manage it. He calls out Lady Blackbird, who he has blast the whole area with lightning, killing most of the soldiers and disabling the maglocks, but revealing herself to be a member of a prominent noble family and not who she says she is. They get aboard and escape, but are going to have to stop off in Haven to resupply and refuel, and who knows what awaits them there? And I'm sure everyone is going to have some tough questions for the Lady... Next time, on Lady Blackbird!

But this was a one shot, so no next time! The game was fun. Here's some feedback I got:
* Kenny: It was pretty sweet, a definite step outside my usual genre, but enjoyable. Strange to play a character who doesn't like violence. The shifting was very cool though. What really would have helped would have been something visual. I enjoy how in gridded combat you always know where you are in relation to others. Wish I had gotten even one advance though.
Me: I agree, that's the main benefit of the grid. I guess I really shouldn't blow off that "Make Maps, Leave Blanks" principle, should I? I guess even though it doesn't matter to me, it helps others. Note to self: buy index cards. Also, I did love the cool goblin-lore and abilities you came up with. And as for the advance, I think you could have marked it a bunch more times than you did, I think you might be used to the GM telling you when to mark XP and not just taking it when you think you hit a key. I'll try to remind you of that in the future.
* Kris: Definitely fun to play a meathead for once since Dan is always the brute. I enjoyed challenging Dan for the leadership since he has actual incentive to be the leader. There was a weird spot near the end though when I was trying to pry off those maglocks - none of my traits applied and only a couple tags did, despite it being something my character would obviously be good at. Needed a "Make a Strength check!" to happen.
Me: Yes, that struck me as strange too. I'm questioning if maybe I was just supposed to say "you do it" or provide something else to challenge you with as a conflict rather than the prying, which was more of a task than a challenge. I think that could be a remnant of our D&D mindset. Not sure how I would handle this. But yes, I enjoyed the tension between Naomi and Vance. Thanks for pushing him to hit Key of the Commander a few times. I also liked this as a proof of how the genderbends can totally work on these characters (though it gets stranger with the romances).
* Daniel: Not used to playing  leader at all, that took a bit of getting used to. Felt like a badass with the guns though. Only really ever used the Warrior trait though, none of the others.
Me: Fair enough, you did. That's sort of my fault, though if you'd gone with Snargle or something you likely could have used Ex-Imperial or Smuggler as well. I guess that's just how it fell out. The whole thing was basically one long, tense action setpiece for you guys, I think if we went further your other traits would have come up, especially at Haven, or maybe at Nightport if you visited there. Kind wish you'd used the Secret of Warpblood. You used the Secret of Leadership at the perfect time though, very climactic (it was in that final scene).
* Me: I thought it went well, but I don't think as well as the previous time. I think I spent too much time wandering the Hand of Sorrow with them, should have given them the hanger sooner, but it played out well. More visuals, alternate means of doing things, but in general a lot of it was built by them. It was extremely enjoyable in that regard - DAMN easy to GM when you just turn 3/4 of the questions back on the asker. Also very fond of how the dice rolls and pool usage came out. At the end, Snargle had only just emptied, Naomi had just emptied, and Cyrus only had two. It was just excellent timing for the end of the action.

So that was Lady Blackbird, take 2. It was fun. Next week (hopefully next Saturday) we'll be playing D&D Next and I'll be done with finals! Unfortunately it doesn't look like Dan will be able to make it, but most of us will, so hey. Maybe Curtis will sub in.

This Week: Battleship, AotP, DW2.2, D&D Next annotations and AP.
Next Week: Men in Black III maybe, AotP, D&D Next, Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb review.
 Cheers folks.

End Recording,
Ego.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

AotP: Olak Take 2

Previously on Art of the Pantheon:
Introduction, Concepts, Original Sketches
Hense Take 2, Design Guidelines
Hense Take 3 (with hood designs), Lemaign
Garmuth, a bit more Hense
More Garmuth, Roathus
Slimmer Hense, Hense Color, Windbags (Lore and Pictures)
Micia, the Lorn Mother
Colorful Forms (Hense, Jevel, Roathus, Micia, Garmuth)


So, before I get started I just need to say: I <3 The Binding of Isaac. Seriously, damn game is incredible. And I finally hit 100% of the achievements. Yeah, a game that I said was ridiculously difficult, that took a week of trying to get even one win, well, I sunk 150 hours into it and now I have all 64 secrets, all 133 items, and everything. Hell yes, this is one of the most nuanced, incredible games out there. I've been giving the whole Mass Effect series a lot of love lately, but that's a game that I'll praise for its storytelling and universe with a pretty good gameplay system to go with it. BoI has an excuse for a story (with surprising depth) sitting next to unbelievable gameplay. Rock on, BoI. I'll sink another eternity into you in a couple weeks when your expansion comes out.

Okay, done gushing over that game now. You came for AotP and Olak, right? Oh hey, did you know that as of the previous post, the colorful ones, this project has been going for a whole month? I'm impressed with my own resolve, I usually give up faster and move on to something else.
Well, here's what we know about Olak:
1) Olak is the Carefree Son.
2) Olak is the God of Chance and Whim (making him the only deity with two positives and no negatives)
3) "Alive forever in a single moment, the Carefree Son plays beyond the reach of time."
That's what the game gives us. Here's my additional pieces that come from my own interpretations.
4)  Olak is the son of Micia.
5) As such, Olak has white hair.
6) Olak is the spirit that brought color to the world during the planet's creation.
7) He wears extremely vivid and colorful clothing, not unlike that we see on Zulf and Zia.
8) He's young. HOW young is up for grabs still.
9) He no longer exists with the other gods. He left the general time stream to reside in his one moment.
10) He bears a Star of Caelondia as a relic of his mother.

So.
Yeah. This drawing has a lot of issues. But it gets the concept down. The face is much too high, though the mouth is in the right place. The fair is just...I have an issue drawing Olak's (and the Kid's for that matter) hair. One shoulder is much higher than the other, the arm are slightly odd, etc BUT it gets some patterns down. He might get even younger than this, though I've been avoiding that. Also, he has no Star on this, I haven't decided where it goes yet. Considering putting it on a necklace. How would that be?

Now, the important part is to see him in color. Not that there are still a lot of issues with the lines in the colored...





Well, his expression changed, but I tried to slide around the head and features. The arms came out much better than I'd expected. The clothes worked great, super bibrant and colorful, though I need to think up of even more possible patterns. I like the blue shoulder a lot, especially when touching that purple. The hair is still BLECH. Look, I did what I could. I'll have another go at it later.











So yeah, that's it! Quick showing of what's to come for Olak.

Schedule:
5/18: Maybe my DW 2.2 Annotations. The game IS happening, so AP soon! We aren't going to Battleship, but we will be this weekend probably. If I come up with some good AotP, that.
Next week: Battleship review, DW Session 2 (if that's what we play) AP, D&D Next release, Men in Black III release. Definitely some AotP. Olak needs some reworking, Micia needs a damn body, Pyth and Yudrig need redraws, Hense needs a finalized hood design (as in placement of the "flames", for consistency) and a rough body.
Following Week: D&D Next Annotations begin, hopefully either DW Session 3 or D&D Next Session 1, maybe a MiBIII review, a Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb review. By June I want to have someone's design finalized (it'll probably be Garmuth or Hense).
Later folks!

End Recording,
Ego.

Movie Review: Dark Shadows

So hey, yeah, saw this tonight. Johnny Depp flicks aren't my usual fare other than the Pirates movies, and neither are Tim Burton flicks, but the family wanted to see it so I tagged along. This'll be a quick one.
Overall, it was...decent, I guess. It's a bit weird how it works out to that. First, my background: going into this, I knew zip about the movie. I hadn't seen an ad, a trailer, nothing other than the fact that it was Johnny Depp and Tim Burton again. I know nothing of the source material.

Plot: The plot is BY FAR the weak point. Seriously, to be honest this is a good quality movie that is forced to follow a ridiculous and bizarre plot. Now, I suppose it's to be expected; this WAS based on a late 60s soap opera. But to be totally honest, this movie could have been considerably stronger all around if they'd ditched the old plot and come up with some interesting new stuff to go with all the rest of the quality.

Writing: Despite the absurdity of the plot, the writers salvaged a watchable and occasionally funny movie. They wrote some  excellent scenes in there, and I felt an awkward/weird Twin Peaks vibe that was pretty cool. Kudos to the writers - it takes skill to make a decent movie out of an awful plot.

Directing/Photography: Holy crap, whoever came up with some of those shots needs an award. The filming itself is very impressive, and several times I saw something and stepped back and thought "damn, that's a cool angle they pulled off there!" There's one scene near the beginning when Victoria is having her first dinner with the Collins family where Carolyn is dancing slowly in the foreground but out of focus while we're watching the stuff further away that sticks with me as very memorable for it's shooting, it just had a natural look and the scene itself was one of the biggest ones to hold the Twin Peaks vibe I mentioned.

Acting: Actually, it's top notch, assuming a lot of the characters are supposed to be awkward (especially the David kid near the end). Johnny Depp pulls it off like usual, as does Helena Bonham Carter, Michelle Pfeiffer, and the whole cast. Chloe Grace Moretz just keeps on coming with her good films, coming off of last year's Hugo and the year before's Kick-Ass! - if she keeps it up she'll be quite the force to be reckoned with in the future, I mean she's actually only 15 right now. And I gotta admit, I found Bella Heathcote (Victoria) to be pretty cute, despite how screwed in the head her character is. Anyway, yeah, any problems this movie has certainly aren't stemming from the actors.

Sound: Actually, this is my surprise success. I actually caught myself paying attention to the music at times, and not just when it's taking center stage. I was expecting your basic background stuff, but this stuff was actually pretty good! Likely not worth listening to outside of the movie's context, but still a success I wasn't expecting to give them. Also, the licensed music did a good job at fitting the time. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised - Danny Elfman has worked with Burton for long enough to know what to do with Burton's movies.

Conclusion: So yeah, what's the final verdict? Well, it's decent-to-strong everywhere but the plot. Unfortunately, the plot is the thing that you really need for a movie to be good, and while the pretty good writing makes it watchable, it's not good. I think the big issue is that this is a movie built to be a B-movie based on a soap opera itself built to be a B-movie, but they released it like an A-movie. The general public just doesn't go for camp as much as they used to, and Burton should have realized that.
Watch This Movie If You: Like the original Dark Shadows (or maybe the 1991 remake), enjoy Burton/Depp movies, like campy humor mixed with gothic color.
Don't Watch This Movie If You're Expecting: A strong or serious storyline, Burton/Depp's best work
Grade: 6/10 (C), and that's being a little generous, I was wavering on 5 or 6.

Basically I'm saying to watch this if you catch on TV sometime but not to spend your theater money. Go watch Avengers or save up for any of the next few weeks' powerhouses in Battleship, Men in Black 3, Snow White and the Huntsman, or Prometheus. By the way, you can expect reviews for most of those, maybe not MiB3 but the rest for sure, especially Prometheus. Later folks!

End Recording,
Ego.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day! (Non-Project Art)

Hey there folks, it's Mother's Day! So go call your mom and tell her how much you appreciate her. Right now.

Okay, so I admit there's more to this post than that. My parents always appreciate art from me as a gift, so I usually draw the card myself. Usually it's just a drawing of something or other, but since I've been doing all the human practice lately thanks to AotP, I figured I'd go one step further than usual: I'd draw my mom. I decided this at 3am. And mom had mentioned before that artists seem to have a problem rendering her. As such, come this morning I was pretty worried about the image, but it turned out great actually.

This is a piss-poor photo of the card. Seriously, the card looks better than this, it was my photographing skills that sucked. W/e. I kinda recommend viewing the full image by clicking it, but it's kinda huge, I didn't mess with it at all. Anyway, so I make this card, and I decide: "You know what? I'm pretty proud of this, so let's do some digital painting work to try to give it some color and make it look nice."










Now I've gone and messed with it. I used a despeckling filter in gimp after de-saturating it to zap away really harsh lines that would hurt my digital process. As-is, this could be submitted as a pretty sketch-like image and be satisfying. But that wasn't where I wanted to stop. Full view is a bit safer on this one.












And here's the final. I'm VERY satisfied. I wanted it to keep some of the sketchy quality, but I wanted it to have color and for some of the shading to return from the despeckle. So here it is. Thanks mom, and happy Mother's Day! And cheers to all of you other folk, enjoy the day.

PS In case you saw it and were very eager for it, I will NOT be going to see Dark Shadows today like we thought, it's just too late and folks are tired so we'll be going later this week, likely Wednesday. Sorry.

AotP: Colorful Forms (Roathus, Jevel, Garmuth)

Previously on Art of the Pantheon:
Introduction, Concepts, Original Sketches
Hense Take 2, Design Guidelines
Hense Take 3 (with hood designs), Lemaign
Garmuth, a bit more Hense
More Garmuth, Roathus
Slimmer Hense, Hense Color, Windbags (Lore and Pictures)
Micia, the Lorn Mother

 So, a quick one! I decided to do a quick color-over of each of the folks I've redone so far.
So let's just go through them all.
First is Hense, who you've already seen. This was the first color edit, and I didn't do any manual shading fixes on her, but it gets all the points across. I'm reshowing this mostly because I like it and now I've removed the white paper background and made it transparent. I really gotta figure out an easy way to make that yellow look less yellow and more gold. Also, again, does the veil need a design on it at all, or does anyone have a thought about the robe color?










I, um, did a Lemaign one, but it sucked. I'll redo another one later. So here's Jevel instead. I like it. This one is lighter than the other ones from way back in the beginning, but that's alright. I think the color difference is TOO much here actually, the left side is too yellow/green. Also, it's hard to transparency around hair. I do NOT envy green-screen digital artists, having to clear out and leave individual strands of hair...

And yeah, I'm definitely gonna go with this angle on the final picture for him, not the 3/4 most folks are getting.


Hey look it's Roathus! Definitely screwed up the expression in the coloring, it all has to do with the lips. Needs to be sadder. Still, I like the wood texture and the colors that came out, which was my main concern. Also tears fucking SUCK. I hate 'em. THAT is gonna take some practice. Just in general, Roathus' coloring came out exactly the way I wanted, despite messing up his expression. Also, I need to incorporate "Gorging" and his overall hunger better into it. It's there as a theme, but it needs to be more visual. Maybe his mouth is hanging open in a frown, with his lower jaw stuck out a bit further with a prominent lower lip, combined with sadder eyes and tears.

 You guys saw Micia last time! I still like it, and pretty much nothing in my opinion has changed in the, like, 2 days since making it.















And once again, Garmuth goes ahead and makes me love drawing him. The skin colors just WORKED. The purplish shadow tones that emerged? Hell yeah. Copper-ish cog trim for the shirt? Yup. The sealed over eyes actually receding and looking a bit sunken? God yes. Why is Garmuth such a joy to draw?
EDIT: Gave him an outline now.









Hey look, that's five colorful pictures and a sixth that's ready for color! I'm actually making significant progress on this project. Gotta keep making Lemaign better in the drawing department and gotta improve Roathus' expression (against all my instincts - I really like the drawing I did for Roathus Take 2!, and then I just need to make new drawings for Pyth and Yudrig (as all of the hard work for Yudrig happens at the color stage) and need to keep struggling with Acobi. Olak is in the works already, I think he might be up next.
Schedule:
Next Week: Dark Shadows review (seeing it tonight), DW2.2 changelog annotations, Stars Without Number, DW session 2 if all goes properly, AotP (maybe more Micia, I hope to do some Olak). End of the week might bring a Battleship review if I go right away.
Week of May 21st: Finals week, probably low content until I finish on Wednesday. This week is more likely for Battleship.
May 24th: D&D Next playtest goes public, I'll start writing up my annotations for that. Very exciting, might break from DW for a shot at it this week or the next.
May 28th: Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb releases, and I'll spend a bunch of time playing it and then review it. Very very excited for it. 

End Recording,
Ego.

Friday, May 11, 2012

AotP: Micia, The Lorn Mother

Previously on Art of the Pantheon:
Introduction, Concepts, Original Sketches
Hense Take 2, Design Guidelines
Hense Take 3 (with hood designs), Lemaign
Garmuth, a bit more Hense
More Garmuth, Roathus
Slimmer Hense, Hense Color, Windbags (Lore and Pictures)

Hello, and I've had no idea what to do with characters over the past week. I've been doing way too much Stars Without Number that I will never use. Seriously, it's crazy. I'll share some later, though you probably don't care about that.

Micia is the Lorn Mother, goddess of Loss and Longing, who tore out her own heart. She is the bearer of the Star of Caelondia. In my interpretation, she has the face of a crone and the body of a young maiden, and has long, pure white hair.  The left side of her chest is wide open, unhealed from her self-destruction, and the Star lies where her heart used to be. She still clutches the heart, and it continues to beat. Her actual outfit is still undecided and as such it is currently using the black dress placeholder from the original sketch. the final will incorporate some unique element of Olak's design.

So this was the first thing I drew when I decided to take another shot at Micia. I really like the expression she has here, it's really one of true unhappiness and it communicates age well, though her face is perhaps too tightly drawn. At first I was worried about design conflict with Hense since both are old women in the face, but the Hense redesign fixed that. I am aware that her ear is too high up here.
Something I'm not sure about is how I will tackle the neck area. She has an old face, but a young body, and the problem is where the transition is. I fear that if I make the neck old there won't be enough 'young' apparent. If it's young though I have to figure out how to draw the transition. Perhaps I'll have a lesson in this from Jevel.





And here's a much larger sequel drawing. This drawing actually spanned all the way to the waist, but I am unhappy with the rest and do not think it fit to share. This is a much more weathered face, though it doesn't capture the great expression from the other one. However, it's a different take on it, and I still like it.











There we go, this was the same sort of treatment I gave to Hense. I really like how the hair came out. It's definitely the right sort of look if the expression changes. Now I just need to think about what the rest of her looks like. Though the ear is still damn far away -_-

And here's a very quick drawing I tossed on the side of her arm on the big drawing. I didn't like the hand posture I'd done, but hey, came up with this alternative shape. It also shows the kind of strong posture I want her to have, a very 'proper' lady. And yes the doodle has black hair but give me a break, the whole thing is like an inch across the long way. You can also see here the  one-breast with a hole look that was in the main image. Drawing her with just the one breast is very bizarre. I'm considering just blowing open her whole damn chest to get the heart out. A lot more gruesome, a lot harder to draw, but still doable.

So hey, there's your update already. Had a hard time starting with Micia, though I like the end results so far. Hey, here's a quick run-down:
Hense: Main design complete, colored entry generated. Oh, question, anyone have an opinion on whether the veil should have a design or edging or something?
Acobi: Initial sketch only. I have ideas, but I need to figure out a new pose to put her in to showcase them. Nothing's worked as of yet and also been within reach for how well I can draw it.
Lemaign: Main design mostly complete (slightly lacking for godliness).
Pyth: Only the initial sketch, but it's pretty solid design-wise.
Jevel: Main design complete, colored entry sorta generated (need to take a second shot at that).
Yudrig: Initial sketch only. I have ideas for a repose, but need to look up a ref for it and haven't done so yet.
Roathus: Main design complete, needs some color. I like my sketch of him more every time I see it.
Micia: Head design complete and colored, need to keep trying to draw the body.
Olak: Initial sketch only, but I like it so I just need to do some redrawing.
Garmuth: Main design complete, just need to do one more drawing of him in his mirror and then color it.

Schedule:
his Week: AotP: DW 2.2, more Micia I hope. Also considering coloring Roathus or recoloring Jevel quickly.
Next Week: Stars Without Number, DW session 2 if all goes properly (Kris wasn't back in time this week), AotP (maybe more Micia, I hope to do some Olak). End of the week might bring a Battleship review if I go right away.
Week of May 21st: Finals week, probably low content until I finish on Wednesday. This week is more likely for Battleship.
May 24th: D&D Next playtest goes public, I'll start writing up my annotations for that. Very exciting, might break from DW for a shot at it this week or the next.
May 28th: Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb releases, and I'll spend a bunch of time playing it and then review it. Very very excited for it.

End Recording,
Ego.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

So yeah this movie was awesome. As such, short review.

Plot: Well, it goes without saying that you really should see all of the individual character movies in order to understand everything. That's Iron Man 1, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America. Iron Man 2 and Thor are the most important of these, and Hulk is the least.
Alright,  so I don't want to really spoil the plot, but I can attest to its quality. It incorporates elements of the plot that have been scattered through the others, mainly Loki and the Cosmic Cube (referred to as the Tesserect). The plot is very comic-book in my opinion (which is uneducated, I've never really read a comic book, but I AM up on a lot of recent comic activity thanks to a friendly monthly podcast), but that's a good thing. It gets maybe a bit over the top at point (thinking specifically of the, um, I think Stark called it the Mk. 8) but I can accept that from the comic book.
It was also, much to my surprise, awesomely funny. People were openly laughing in the theater, and when Hulk finally goes nuts on Loki the crowd was actually applauding. Seriously, it's awesomely funny.
That said, the movie's plot has its flaws, though they're more flaws of wasted potential than flaws of absent necessities. It, at times, doesn't explain things really: most notably, we have no idea how Thor got to Earth without the Bifrost, other than that "the All-father did it." Otherwise, the biggest flaws just come from how BORING Hawkeye (and to an extent, Black Widow) is. Seriously, Hawkeye really had nothing special going for him.
Also wow pretty much the whole damn Marvel universe happens in New York City, doesn't it?
Gonna talk about each character for a moment:
Iron Man: Woo he's good. Robert Downey Jr. wins again. It saddens me that his alcoholic thing didn't at all come between him and the team, it's an easy one.
Captain America: Yup, he's fun too.
Thor: Excellently done, just like in his movie. Without the other characters from that movie weighing him down all the time Chris Hemsworth stays right up there with Chris Evans and Downey Jr and Jackson. But seriously, how is he here, the Bifrost is all busted!
Hulk: I was worried about Ruffalo coming in, not because I had weak faith in him but because I had strong faith in Norton. That worry was misplaced. Ruffalo is an excellent Hulk, and I can't wait to see him in his own movie. Normally I have an issue with Hulk as a character, I just usually don't like him, but I think he's competing for best character right now.
Black Widow: Her intro scene does a LOT to keep her interesting in all of the action. Unfortunately, her big plot point is her care for Hawkeye, which sucks because Hawkeye wasn't impressive.
Hawkeye: Yeah,  not impressive. He had a couple cool movies, but mostly was just a soldier. He didn't have a personality of his own really, and it dragged everyone else down.
Nick Fury: Not enough happened; also, he wasn't very impressive-looking with that pistol. It didn't make a very strong noise, he just kinda plinked away with it.

Oh and don't leave until after some of the credits.

Special Effects: Well yeah they're good. Hulk in particular looks really good, but all the Tesserect effects are very impressive too.

Music: A weak point. It's fine, but it's unnoticeable. I wish there was, like, an Avengers theme song or something going on. Hell, I wish they had just said "Avengers assemble" at some point, even if just as a joke.

So yeah, that's it.
Watch This Movie If You Like: Action movies, humor, superheroes, pretty much unless you hate Marvel with a passion you'll like this.
Don't Watch This Movie If You're Expecting: Heavy drama.
Grade: 9.5/10

-------------------------------------------------------------------
Hey, so what's going on? Only one post last week? I've been busy with homework, finals are coming soon. Kris's finals are this week though, so we should actually be able to game finally (maybe this Friday, maybe soon after that). I've been doing AotP stuff, but it's mostly just redrawing Garmuth and Hense a lot and as such isn't worth posting. I've been messing around with Micia, but haven't been happy enough with her yet to have something post-able. Been doing a lot of fun prep work for the free RPG Stars Without Number, though I'll never use any of it. Maybe I'll post some of that at some point.
So what's the schedule?
This Week: AotP: Micia probably, some Stars Without Number stuff, hopefully a Dungeon World post over the weekend, and DW 2.2 changelog annotations.
Next Week: More AotP is the only concrete thing.
Week of May 21st: Finals week, probably low content until I finish.
May 24th: D&D Next playtest goes public, I'll start writing up my annotations for that. Very exciting.
May 28th: Binding of Isaac: Wrath of the Lamb releases, and I'll spend a bunch of time playing it and then review it.

End Recording,
Ego.