It’s been an insane few months. I started a new job at work and with the holidays and everything gaming has taken a bit of a back seat in life. I still play D&D once a week, and we’ve been running a Blades in the Dark game for a few months now.
In December we picked up a new Telescope for the family. Ostensibly for Penny’s Christmas gift, but honestly for everyone in the family.
I’ve always wanted a big fancy telescope since I was a kid. My parents had gotten an old refractor at some point, but living in the suburbs and having a telescope that was super difficult to use, I never saw anything exciting and got discouraged quicklly. With that in mind I wanted to get something large enough that it would really scratch the itch I had for awhile, and also help foster Pens excitement for astronomy and not discurage her in the same way. I did some research on telescopes, which I had done off and on for months, and came across a reddit post for buying a telescope.
This thread is perfect for getting you going and directed me at a 6” – 8” dobson. So I picked up the Orion XT6 6” Dobsonian Telescope for the family for the holidays and set it up.
Right away we started looking at the easy and obvious things. The moon, venus, Sirius and Betelgeuse. Those were really cool and Penny was getting exciting. I wanted to see some Deep Space Objects like Nebulae and star clusters and galaxies.
We spent some time doing research on books and sky charts to help us find some of the more difficult items.
We found a few easy star clusters like the Pleadies (M45!) and practiced finding some constellations. Honestly outside of the constellation Orion I had no clue how to identify and of the others. I didnt even know Orion isnt visible at night during the summer! Maybe I only look at starts in the winter? The book lists items you can see with a telescope at home and gave us a ton of great recommendations on what to look at to start, how to find them and how easy it is to see them. It recommended we start with the Orion Nebula (M42!). It’s super easy to find and almost visible with binosculars.
The Orion Nebula was so easy to find I was shocked. It’s located in Orion’s “Sword” (aka penis) and we were able to find it in minutes. It was really breath taking to see it for the first time. I was a bit bummed however, because it didnt look like all the pictures I had seen online. This led me to doing some more research online about viewing Nebula and realized that the light is do dim that the human eye under normal conditions cannot take in enough light to see the colors you see in those fantastic pictures. Maybe some day we’ll make it to a dark sky site to see them for better.
Today Penny can find Orions Nebula on her own. The first three things she looks for each time she’s out with the telescope is :
Sirius (she loves Harry Potter and gets a kick that there’s a character named after the star who turns into a dog!)
Betelgeuse. I need to show her this movie some day. She’s excited that it’s doing some cool things lately, aka dimming drastically (maybe thinking about going supernova?). It was really cool to watch videos online of Sarafina Nance, an astronomer who studies Betelgeuse! It’s great for Pen to see a rad woman in science studying the things she wants to! We’ve watched a few videos on Youtube with her in them, and read her twitter feed. Such a cool woman.
Orions Nebula. Again it’s so easy to find and it’s cool to watch her using the finder scope to find it in a matter of minutes.
Penny and I decided we needed to do a fun little project with our telescope. We did some research on the Nebula that we had seen and learned they are part of a list called the Messier Objects. Basically some old french dood discovered some while looking for comets and made a list of all the objects so he could keep track of all the NOT comets he had found. I figured, if some dood in the 1700s could find these with a primative telescope, we should be able to find them as well using our new fancy modern telescope. So we’ve ordered a poster that lists all the Messier objects and we’re starting a project to find them all!
Today we found M1!
M1 is also known as the Crab Nebula! It’s located in the Taurus constellation and using Taurus and Alderbaran (Alderan?) you should be able to find it! First we read the information in the book about M1 which is the remnants of a star that went supernova in 1054! Pretty cool that it was a star that went Supernova during humanity’s exisitance! Human being actually saw this star go supernova! Thats pretty fascinating when you think about how little amount of time humanity has been around on the cosmic scale.
We spent some time trying to figure out which of the damn stars up there were Alderbaran … Where was the Taurus constellation? Where is this star Tianguan thats next to the cluster?! So confusing.
Penny surprised me. She was able to find Alderbaran first and together we figured out the V shape grouping of stars it sits in. That we realized was the head of Taurus! And Tianguan is one of the tips of its horn! And the Pleiades we had found before was close by and part of the Bulls back? I guess? either way it was cool to see all these items that we’ve been able to identify all sort of close together and helping us to pinpoint what we’re lookign for!
So getting “in the area” of M1 we figured it should be pretty easy to spot! Here we are on a relatively moon less night, with clear skies, and living in a place with relatively low light pollution (we’re a Bortle level 4! Bortles!!!!)
Took us a bit but we eventually found a “smudge” on the lense that stayed in the same place when we moved the telescope. It was barely noticable, but we are confident to say we found it! M1 is checked off! We practiced finding it a few times, moving the telescope to a differnent spot in the yard, resighting on Orions Nebula, then Sirius, then Betelgeuse, then Alderbaran, then the Pleiades, and finally over to Tianguan, stepped down to Struve 742 and boom, there’s the smudge again. It was a really neat feeling to be able to walk through those steps to find the Nebula. The book Turn Left at Orion really helped walk us through those steps and made it really uncomplicated to find. I’d say easy, but it wasnt easy, but it was certainly uncomplicated.
After that we were too cold to do much more, it being in the low 20s and the wind picking up we packed up and went in for some hot cocoa. Maybe tomorrow night will be good too!
So I had a post up here from October talking about how I was going to do 30 characters in 30 days. I made about 5 of them, but unfortunately, life just got in the way and kept me from actually diving into this.
I’m hoping I’ll be able to get back to this project this month! So stay tuned!
In other news, I’ve had some big game things going on the past few months! We are on session 14 of our D&D game running Waterdeep Dragon Heist. That’s been a lot of fun and really looking forward to wrapping that up sometime early in the near year. Not sure where I’ll be taking the game after that. I’ve laid some bread crumbs that could lead the squad down to Chult to run Tomb of Annihilation or even Saltmarsh along the way.
I have also considered just moving them right into Dungeon of the Mad Mage, so that could be fun.
Another option would be to make something up. But with how busy life is for a Dad of 2 with a very busy full-time job, that’s unlikely.
I’m also running another game. Our Scum and Villainy game morphed into a Blades in the Dark game, which I haven’t run before. But so far so good. It got off to a bit of a rocky start as one of the players is not playing anymore. Our first 2 sessions we ran with only 2 as our third hasn’t been able to make the game. But it still went great and was a lot of fun! So hopefully we’ll get to play soon.
So hopefully some more to come on my games. Looking good to talk to more people soon about gaming! <3 <3
Hi Everyone! A quick break from the posts about D&D.
Wanted to talk about a game we played last night at our board game group that I wanted to talk about a little bit.
So we played a game that I’ve owned for awhile and have played a few times, but never as successfully as we did last night.
Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
Deception Hong King is a reimplementation of an older game called CS-Files that was kickstarted back in 2015. I don’t think I got it as part of the kickstarter but i game across is a bit later seeing a friend post about it on Facebook.
At my bi-annual private cons we have here in Frostburg with my friends, we always have a strong group of 6 – 8 people we play games with for about 3 days straight. One problem with that is that there is not a whole lot of games you can play with 8 people and not get tired of them. There is only so much of Secret Hitler and Codenames you can play. So I’m always on the look out for good party games I can pick up that play well with 8 people.
I always like to look at the Board Game Geek top rankings for various games, and I tend to try and acquire games in my favorite categories that are listed there. So when i saw that Deception: HK was on the top 10 list on Board Game Geek I immediately wanted to pick it up. So I did!
The game itself is a bit like Mysterium in that there is a mystery component. You are an investigator and you are trying to unravel a murder. The Forensic Scientist runs the game (like a GM) and helps to coordinate all the pieces. The Forensic Scientist is similar to the ghost in Mysterium as they are trying to give you clues without talking to pinpoint the murderer and their murder weapon and the key piece of evidence. These two items the murder will show you in a Werewolf style “Everyone Close your Eyes” segment to start the game.
The first time I played this game at a Dan Con I didn’t understand the rules very well and it went VERY poorly. Everyone was confused and messed up and no one had a good time. I feel bad because I think i turned everyone off of the game as I haven’t gotten that group to play it again.
We played it a few more times with some other friends, but two of those people dont talk to us anymore, so maybe that went even worse? I’m not sure.
So to try and correct this problem I went for the best avenue to learn how to play a board game.
I found two great youtube videos that helped me learn how the play the game correctly! I’ll share those below so you too can learn the game! It’s really fun and quick and once you get the hang of it, it’s a great time accusing your spouse of being the murderer. It has the fun of accusational pieces of deception games, with none of the 2019 awfulness of accusing someone of being a Fascist or Secret Hitler.
Sidenote: I really do miss playing Secret Hitler. It was a always a blast to play and we have many great experiences playing it. Unfortunately in today’s world its too real and has lost some of its fun. Also, cant play with kids because having an 8 year old scream “YOU ARE SECRET HITLER! I ASSASSINATE YOU!” isn’t as fun as it sounds.
I finally got a chance to break it out again this week (Labor Day game fest 2019!) play it with a bunch of friends.
We played a few rounds of the game, and after a shaky start in the first game with myself as the Forensic Scientist (we lost, the murderer won, once again… I suck at Gaming) we had a better try the second round! In that one my lovely wife was the murderer and killed the victim with eggs laced with illegal drugs! Is that poisoning? I guess?
Either way the game plays really quick and is actually pretty light weight in terms of ruling. We got through 2 playthroughs in roughly an hour and a half. Game box says 1 game is about 15-30 minutes long, and we certainly could have gotten into that time range if we had cut out the cross talk and held people to 30 secondish long presentations between rounds.
Overall it’s a very fun game thats great for parties / party sized gaming groups that I will certainly keep in my bag for future game nights.
I probably wont get a chance to do another game night for a few weeks due to my sons soccer scheudle, but SOON!
Anyways, here are the two How To Play videos which helped me the most. Enjoy!
I talked briefly last time about setting a hookt/trap for my PCs. I had them fall in love (platonic?) with one of my NCPS by having her be a supportive helpful and kind old woman who helped to hand hold the group get their tavern started.
While we haven’t played again yet (we play tomorrow), I just wanted to share a few pieces of feedback I got from my group in the subsequent days.
So, I feel kind of bad? But also feel kind of awesome that I’ve gotten such emotional reactions out of my players over “just a game”.
For the past few weeks I’ve been prepping a game of Waterdeep Dragon Heist for my regular Wednesday night game. Since we finished off Strahd awhile back, I took a month or so off to prep by reading, taking notes, and building out the roll20 campaign. One of the neat things with Roll20 lately is the ability to create characters very quickly with using the Charactermancer. It’s nice and allows you to build a new usable PC.
I wanted to play around with the Charactermancer the day before our session started, mostly so i could help out one of our newest players with the build process, since it was her first time playing and building a PC.
I ran through it the first time making a Cleric using the name I use for most of my PCs, Alpaca Pepper. I made a cleric since i knew the group was without a healer, and figured if things went south in the opening encounter in the Yawning Portal (a fight against a Troll and a group of Stirges) I could drop a quick heal or two to keep the party up right.
I did a google search for “female cleric image” and probably due to the algorithms in my web browsing traffic I got some scantily clad images of women in armor.
Oh well, i took the first one there and copied the picture over to Roll20. Loading it up to the new character I made took a few seconds and i made a token for it and dropped it on the map as well. I also made a fighter and a wizard as well and made them a similar adventuring group to the PC’s that will probably show up from time to time.
Unfortunately however, this story has a side side. Doug, who is playing Tabby in the game, showed the roll20 interface to his wife. She apparently took offense to my clerics picture and called her “Tit Cleric”. 🙁 So I changed her name in the game to Tit Cleric now and thus she has entered into D&D lore (in my games) as TC.
Hello Internet Friends! (Probably just Friend. Thanks for reading my Blog Mrs Dan Sucks at Gaming). Welcome back to another installment of my awful blog.
Today I wanted to talk about a new Table Top Role Playing Game I’ve started with some friends. It’s called “Scum and Villainy” by Stras Scimovic and John Leboeuf-Little, from Evil Hat Games. Its a fanatasic sci-fi It’s based on the Blades in the Dark game by John Harper, also published by Evil Hat Games.
We’ve played a few sessions so far, and I’ve liked it so much I started a second game with some more friends so I can play it even more.
The system is just so different from other games I’ve played in the past. While I cut my RPG teeth on TMNT & Other Strangeness and it’s percentile based dice system, I’ve mostly played Dungeons and Dragons over the years. I’ve mostly been a D20 or D100 system TTRPG player. Games like Dungeons and Dragons or Call of Cthulhu, or even Old School RPG’s like Dungeon Crawl Classics. I’ve played a few other games which I would label as non-traditional or maybe new wave like the Fate based Dresden Files RPG and Fiasco, but I’ve certainly been more into the traditional TTRPGs. And even games that are just trying to be different like the Fantasy Flight Star Wars system. I had played the West End Games version in my youth (so many d6’s) but havnt played that in years.
I’ve run D&D campaigns for 3.5, 4e and 5e with 4e being the game I’ve probably played the most in my history. My favorite system right now is absolutely 5e and I run a regular game of the on roll20.
Scum and Villainy, and it’s predecessor Forged in the Dark game, Blades in the Dark, is just so much fun. It’s narrative driven and much less crunchy then the other games I’ve played in the past outside of maybe Fate. It uses d6’s for all the skill roles, but relatively sparingly. There some really neat mechanics that I’ve never run into before with gaming such as the use of Position and Effect, and structured downtime activities and the Faction portion.
By far my favorite part of the system has to be the use of the flashback mechanic in play. I came across the flashback mechanic for the first time in Dusk City Outlaws from Scratchpad Publishing. Scratchpad is led by an amazing game designer Rodney Thompson who was part of the Wizards team that built D&D, the Lords of Waterdeep board game, Star Wars Saga edition and currently works for Bungie. I was in love with DCO when I found it on kickstarter and over the summer of 2018 I watched tons of actual play videos of the game in action. The Leverage style heist games really evoked the feel of one of my favorite series of novels, The Gentleman Bastards series (Lies of Locke Lamoa) from Scott Lynch.
The flashback mechanic in that game really helped to drive the fast pace of the game and give it a neat feel you don’t find in many other games. One of the most painful parts of d&d adventures can be the 30 minutes the group spends planning out how they are going to break into the villains compound. With a flashback mechanic you can skip those parts and still feel as if your characters are competent and planned for everything.
For example, in our game this past weekend, the crew was using a Deception Plan to get on board an asteroid scientific outpost to steal a prototype shuttle with a cloaking field. They used a sway roll to convince a group of guards and a technician to plug a coax cable for their music performance into a jack near an airlock. They flash backed to rigging the air lock to vent when the guards approached, allowing them to dispose of the guards effortlessly, all for some meager stress!
The mechanic is alot of fun and leads to some interesting interaction and ideas via game play.
This game is quickly turning into one of my favorites! Catch one of our streams when we play on www.twitch.com/danthehut !
Last night was the final session of a Curse of Strahd campaign that I’ve been running since October 2016.
This is probably the longest single campaign I’ve ever run and I’m a bit amazed it’s lasted this long. There were a few moments when I expected the game to fall apart. A few months in one of the most engaged players got swamped at work and dropped from the game. This was incredibly disappointing as I had mostly started the game for him. One of the players he had also brought in stopped attending as well. Luckily we were able to push through this drop of players and bring in a few more!
This unfortunately happened a few times. Overall the game had 12 different Players over the course of the 2 years that we played. Some of them played for 6 months. Some for over a year. a few played for only a hot minute. Either way they all participated in the overthrow of Strahd, and I’m grateful for the time they spent playing with us every (ok.. most) wednesdays for 2 years.
We’re going to have one more session with the crew to do recaps of what happened to them after they left. Perhaps they will show up again in future adventures?
I didn’t go into last night with the plan that it would be the last session. The party had already had the main final encounter with Strahd and I had been using him to pop in and out of the rooms they were in while exploring the castle, and harass them. Get a few hits, make them spend some of their spells. My goal was to have them low on spell slots and hit dice, and then have them engage in a big battle. I was just waiting for the opportunity to show up.
When they found Gertruda in Strahd’s bed chamber I played her as if she was a pouty 20 something refusing to go with them. Nicks character Dawnlord was so focused on having her returned to her mother in Barovia and couldnt drop it, even at the behest of the others in the group. With him so set on having her returned, and Strahd knowing this, I decided to kill her off. While the party was finishing up a random encounter of wights, I had Strahd pop in through the wall and bite her, killing her. However the stubborn PCs of course resurrected her! Her resurrection insanity however made her unstable and more focused on loving Strahd and would have her refuse to follow the group, setting up the next encounter.
I decided to have Strahd bring her mother to the castle from Barovia, along with a bunch of charmed villagers, and convince Gertruda to leave. Instead of letting her go the group rolled initiative and the final fight began.
I tried to stack the combat a bit to make it difficult for them. They had been breezing through the last few encounters and were making it hard to give them a real challenge. Sitting at level 9, having looted Srtahds crypt for armor and the Staff of Power, AND getting the AC bonus from having returned the skull of Argynvostholt to his tomb, the group were sitting on 20 + AC each, making the minions Strahd normally brings with him incapable of hitting them. Strahd of course with his +15 to hit with his longsword was still able to do some real damage and I almost dropped the parties Paladin in the first round. Things were not looking good for the group and a lucky poor roll by Strahd saved the Paladin, and maybe a TPW.
Shasta’s character then pulled off an amazing spell, using the Staff of Power to cast Wall of Force, and trapping Strahd alone with the party and none of his minions. Strah had already used his Lair Power so needed to wait a round to escape. He couldnt get out with his move and I had him use his legendary actions to attack Linkosa (Shasta’s Warlock) to try and break her concentration and lower the Wall of force. A poor damage roll from Strahd and a good Concentration check on her part kept the wall up and I knew Strahd was in some trouble. I had broken the connection to the Heart of Sorrow the turn before after he took almost 35 points of damage on the first attack from the group, good thing as Dawnlord (Nicks character) did 70 points of damage on his turn.
Bloodied and at the start of his next round I had Strahd use his lair ability and fall through the floor and move back to his bedchamber by flying. This got him out of the fight, allowed him to reconnect to the Heart of Sorrow briefly to regain some HP and get away. But with the group still blocked off and surrounded I thought that Strahd arrogance and vindictiveness wouldnt want to let Gertruda get away and still wound Dawnlord, who had evolved to become Strahd real main opponent throughout the campaign. I had Strahd use one of his legendary actions to move into the room, then after a wight ineffectively banged on the Wall of Force some more, used the last 2 legendary actions to Bite and kill kill Gertruda. A great moment in the game, Strahd looking up at Dawnlord and the party, his fangs dripping with blood, behind 2 ranks of his minions and the other side of the wall, and gloating in this petty little victory of destroying something beautiful and again toying with the party.
BUT… i didnt account for Shasta being willing to drop the Wall of Force so quickly. Her selfless act, being alone in a corridor on one side of wall with 4 wights and 2 Strahd Zombies, while Dawnlord and Thaco were in the study with Strahd, the commoners and the Druids, allowed Dawnlord and Thac0 to get into range of strahd before his move and his legendary actions AND his Lair ability recharged.
Strahds minions were too low level to really effect the crew at this point. And they were. After a quick recharge of HP from Thac0, Dawnlord, with his 23 AC braved the opportunity attacks from the commoners and the Druids and rushed Strahd, pinning him in spot with his abilities. The sunsword forced strahd to havedisadvantage and he couldn’t use his hp regen. After Linkosa dropped the wall, she did get beat up a bit by the wights that she had blocked in the hallway, but it let Dawnlord and Thaco get to strahd and pin him down. Thaco threw up his doom circle (spiritual guardians).
At this point I’m still thinking it was going to be ok. Strahd would get a few hits in then use a legendary action to bounce again waiting for his lair power to recharge to he could just drop through the floor. But then Thac0 crit on his spiritual weapon (24 damage!) and hit hard with his spiritual Guardians (17 Damage!)! This could be it!
BUT a lucky roll from Strahd on his wisdom save saved him, for now.
With 18 hit points, and Thac0’s Spirtual Weapon Strahd suddenly only had 8hp left!
The crit catches me off guard and unexpected destroys the heart of sorrow. Strahd is also stuck in sunlight so if he’s dropped he cant transform to mist to escape and regenerate. His only chance was to wait till the top of the round when the lair power regened and he could pass through walls and floors again. He did that and used a legendary move after one of the wights to drop through the floor to escape Dawnlord, but Dawnlord got an attack of opportunity.
I’m sitting here looking at 8 Hit Points for Strahd, and Dawnlord about to roll a melee basic attack with the Sun Blade.
Luckily Strahd’s AC is 21. The Sun Blade just misses the Counts head as he falls through the floor to safety.
Strahd is distraught from the destruction of the Heart of Sorrow and his recent defeats. He rushes to the Heart and screams in despair when its obvious its destroyed. He then limps to the tower roof and is found by the group looking out over his demense.
The party decided to go investigate and went up the tower stairs. There they found rubble and shards of a large red crystal and the echoing emanations of some evil dark energy(the destroyed heart of sorrow)a line of indented scratched stone led out to the tower roof where Strahd stood, blood dripping from his wounds, standing in the pouring rain looking out over barovia. He monologues for a bit and Thaco and his Spiritual Guards move closer to bring Strahd into his spiritual guardians aura Strahd casts invulnerability while Thacos spiritual guardians danced around Strahd trying to attack him. Strahd smiled and said “fine. you have defeated me”and dropped his invulnerability and the spiritual guardians killed him
Hi Internet! If you are not aware I’ve started a Patreon to help support my Gaming Addiction. While it’s true I have a successfull day job, my gaming addiction tends to spend a bit more then my wife allows me to budget for bullshit gaming stuff. I have alot of kickstarters that I’m currently supporting as well as a a bunch of video and board games I want to buy,
I’m currently supporting the Tsuro Pheonix Rising Kick StarteR: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/781219801/tsuro-phoenix-rising. This is a game based on the board/tile game Tsuro which U;ve blogged about before but in a sci fi setting (which you know i love). I played Tsuro and its a ton of fun. Little Gamer at age 8 was also able to play with us so it’s a good game for kids. Something they can pick up and enjoy relatively easily!
I’m also waiting on delivery on a a few Kickstarters:
1: The Crusader Kings Board Game:https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1192053011/crusader-kings-the-board-game-lead-your-dynasty-to Look. I have like 400+ hours invested in the Crusader Kings video game. If you are lucky you might catch me streaming some of that on twitch. It’s one of my favorite video games.
2: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/awakenrealms/tainted-grail-the-fall-of-avalon Tainted grail, something something something. Looks like King Arthur Gloomhaven. No other words needed
3: Trogdor the board game: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1999933720/trogdor-the-board-game
Do I really even need to explain myself here? My personal domain name is trogdor.us. I love me some trogdor. He is the burninator.
Ok. So those are the top three kickstarters I’m doing. So I need your patreon support so i can blog about those. Makes sense right? Get it.
Hello Friends and welcome to another year of sucky gaming with your GM Dan Bogart.
Today I’d like to talk about Lords of Waterdeep. One of my favorite games. We have talked about it before briefly but we’ll start from the beginning here for you.
Lords of Waterdeep is a traditional strategy worker placement board game that I’d consider one of the most prominent of this new Golden Age of board games. Inspiried by the wave of german worker placement games, and set in the wonder Forgotten Realms world of Faerun, Dungeon and Dragons primary campaign setting for the past 20+ years, Lords of Waterdeep expanded upon the grand tradition of D&D based board Games.
Designed by Rodney Thompson, who’s work on Star Wars and Dusk City Outlaws I’m a huge fan of, has you completing quests with a variety of adventurers you collect in your tavern as a secret Lord of the Waterdeep council. The more quests you complete the more victory points you accumulate. Whomever has the most points after 6 rounds wins the game.
Pretty straightforward mechanics to this one. Gameplay should be relatively quick as well as you take a turn placing one of your agents (workers!) at various locations around the city of Waterdeep to collect adventurers (represented by wooden cubes of different colors), build new locations, collect monies, or utilize Intrigue cards to make neat things happen.
I say “SHOULD be relatively quick” since in reality I’ve been in many games where the game play can really slog down if players are not paying attention or not ready to place their agents. We’ve played some games that take 2.5 hours, which is a LONG time to be playing a board game.
One of the neat mechanics of the game is that at times the actions you may take, or the Intrigue cards you play make effect your opponents. This isn’t the kind of game where you are playing inside a bubble taking your moves while your opponents are in their own bubble taking their own moves and you compare scores at the end. This is a game where you play AGAINST other players. it’s competitive. And you are trying to win the game.
Alas and this is where my tale begins.
Twas the great Holiday Trek of Two Thousand and Eighteen for my family. We had journeyed far and wide this great festival season, visiting the shores of Delaware for time with my progenitors, as well as our previous land of residence to take in the Yule eve festivities. We partook of many libations and sumptuous repast. Following the Commemoration of the Nativity of Jesus, we then departed the lands of Delaware, and crossed the great Chesapeake Bay as well as the Potomac River, to finally arrive in Herndon Virginia.
We always love visiting Virginia during the holidays as it provides us an opportunity to play board games with my wife’s family. My family isn’t really that into board games, which is ironic as my love for board games began with family game nights we used to have.
We did play one game with my parents. A game we had gotten for my daughter and son.
We did play one game with my parents. A game we had gotten for my daughter and son. It’s a silly game called Dont Step In It! Unicorn Edition. I probably should include it on a game blog as it’s barely a game. But the loved it and i got a picture of my mom with a blindfold on! Win Win. Definitely a fun game to play with a 3 Year old. Or a bunch of grandparents on Christmas Morning! Its as bad as it sounds though.
In Virginia we played a number of games this trip. Tsuro of the Seas was the first. It’s a neat game of path finding that involves actively trying to eliminate your opponent by forcing them to take a path off the edge of the board. It’s pretty neat. I had played this once before at the beach with my friend Evil Steve. My cousin big C (thats his beard in the photo below) had found the game at his college’s gaming group and brought it home to share with his family. Glad I got to enjoy it again with them too!
Penny the little gamer even got in on the action. It’s simple mechanics that are easy to pick up but a lot of fun. Penny didnt have any issues with it and even had the strategy down by the end. I chose the red ship of course. Go Phillies. Pretty sure I won this one, but who keeps count. (hint i do).
We also played a few rounds of Codenames Pictures which I always love. The “Pictures” version is a nice change of pace, and throws in the added difficulty of trying to decipher the images on the cards. I like it as it give the kids the opportunity to play, even if they are not as great at reading or understanding all the words.
During Codenames I started seeing some of the warning signs for what was to come. The two brothers in the family were ultra competitive during Codenames, and I was worried the table was about to be flipped. And this with them both on the same team! Seems competitiveness runs high in this family and they can get a smidge worked up when playing a game. But I mean, who dosent right? As Herm says:
To wrap up the evening we played a nice family oriented game of Apples to Apples. This one was a slightly different variant that included the “Sour Apple” to the game, which adds in some complexity by doing silly things like making you not able to talk. Its a fun game and we played with my wife’s parents. So when I got the “Beaver” card i had to discard that as quickly as possible. It turns out that playing
So the next day before we left we got to play a few more games. The family wanted to play Lords of Waterdeep, as it’s one of their favorites. It’s one of my favorites too! I had introduced the family to it a few years before, and got them a copy of the game for a Holiday or a Birthday I think. I was happy to know they had played it a lot and really enjoyed it. They were all also very good at the game. I’ll say that now before I get to my arguments against our game session. Very smart people. Very good at board games. And I love them.
So we break out the board and start setting up. I didn’t get red. This should have been a the second warning sign for me. But we continue with playing.
As I mentioned above, Lords of Waterdeep is pretty competitive. There are mechanics that specifically attack an opposing player’s tavern resources, money, or even gives them tasks (mandatory quests) they need to complete before they can compete other quests. Boardgame Geek calls it the “Take That” mechanic and it’s purpose is to cause trouble for other players.
If you’ve read one of my other posts about the Virginia Family you’d know that they tend to play games a bit more casual then I do, or even than they are intended. And thats fine. There is nothing wrong with playing games in a more casual manner with house rules to remove some of the components of the game. For some games it can make it easier for people less accustomed to cut throat player vs player style, and allow an entry point for those who dont have the same level of competitive streak. I also am certainly not someone who NEEDS to play very aggressive games. I cant stand online multiplayer games because of this. I’m not super competitive. I enjoy playing games to learn the mechanics. I dont NEED to win, regardless of how often i post that Herm Edwards gif. I like to win. I’ll try to win. But I’m not gonna spazz out if i dont. For me playing the game is more important.
However, (you’re probably saying “HERE IT COMES!”.. but bare with me.) If you are going to house rule your game, ya should let everyone playing know.
Thats one of the things I love about Role Playing Games in general. D&D, Scum and Villainy, Fate, Call of Cthulhu, etc. Part of the constant interaction and dialogue between the GM/DM/Keeper and the players builds a sense of shared ownership and control over the game and TYPE of game you are going to play.
So back to our little game of Lords of Waterdeep.
***Disclaimer*** I’m not pointing these items below out to poke fun at how they play, but more to look at just how changing a few rules can really change the type, tone and tenor of the game. ***/Disclamer***
First thing I notice when playing the game with them is that they play that you can resolve as many quests as you want on each Turn. This is clearly incorrect as the rules explictly state you can complete only one quest per turn. This is pretty game breaking of itself. If you could do that turn economy becomes less important. Why play any quests during the game then? Why not wait till the last turn and play them all.
Second, they don’t record the earned points immediately on the score tracker. This one is a bit of a bigger deal to me. The score tracker is used not just to track your points, but as a bit of a leaderboard for the game. If one opponent is taking the lead you might start targeting them with Intrigue cards with ill effects and Mandatory Quests to try and balance their lead out. The player who goes first in the game generally has a leg up from the very beginning that COULD be insurmountable. At that point it’s just a race to the Castle Waterdeep to get the first player token each turn.
Mandatory Quests as I mentioned before are one of the main ways you can try and slow down a run away leader. This is a quest you play on an opponent that they must complete before they can do any other quest cards. If your opponent is building up Fighters (the orange blocks), play a Magic quest that they need a wizard (the purple blocks) to complete. Then camp out on Blackstaff Tower to prevent them from getting that arcane associate! Unfortunately they had removed all of those from the game so that you couldn’t prevent someone from scoring that big completed quest. I didn’t know this until about 3 rounds in and was holding on to a card to eliminate mandatory quests and fishing the intrigue pile for one to play on the player who was leading.
Third big issue with scoring I came across playing with them was in Plot Quest Cards. Plot quest cards allow you to, once completed, have ongoing benefits that help you along in the game. Some of the guards grant you extra victory points when you complete quests after the plot quest is completed. So if you complete another Arcana quest after completing it, you get 2 more victory points.
They would only score those bonus points at the end of the game when counting up all their victory points and moving the scoring tracker. The problem here is that with that method, you could play this card absolutely last and record those bonus points for all the quests of that type you complete the whole game. That makes this card way too overpowered. This card is a beast if you complete it early and are able to focus on those quest types. Especially if combined with your lords ability.
While bringing up these rules discrepencies they repeatedly told me “You taught us how to play the game!”. And that may be true. This blog is called “Dan sucks at Gaming” because I’m generally terrible at it. However I’m pretty sure I played with those specific rules above correctly, as they are pretty big game breakers if they are played incorrectly.
I felt pretty bad about upending how they play the game. It obviously frustrated them a bunch as they kept slipping up with those rules after and losing track if they hard recorded points, or trying to play two quests. They just generally seemed grumpy about it.
But to me these are pretty fundamental changes to the game that really change how the game is played. I joked earlier about playing the game in a bubble with no cross interaction between players.. and thats not the point of this game.
I have played a lot of worker placement games, and blocking other players from placing their workers in an advantageous position is pretty critical. This is the main component to worker placement, besides the actual worker placement. This in and of itself is competitive. Why take the other mechanics of the game and water them down?
When discussing this with my in laws they mention that they prefer to play games in a less competitive fashion due to arguments that arose in game play. I can understand that, especially when watching brothers and sisters play the game togther. But knowing who is leading the game and being able to hamper them from a run away victory is pretty important is, as is playing defensively by blocking quests.
Their style of play was much faster then when I typically play this game and that was refreshing. I have dreaded playing Lords of Waterdeep and actively avoided due to some of the delays between turns. Granted that was with the 6 player game and the expansions, so perhaps going back to basics would be fun.
Overall as much complaining I am doing above it was a neat thought exercise to see how their changes of the game really alter strategies and the point of the overall game. Having played a lot of Lords of Waterdeep in the past it really changed how i approached some of the ingrained tactics of holding on to cards that neutralized Mandatory quests, or keeping an eye on who was in the lead to even who I was going to share a split loot card with.
Either way, I lost. So at least I keep up with my blog title. I hope they will play the game with me again!
Whenever I go to start a new campaign, I like to spend too much time looking at various campaign tracking and organization tools to decide how i want to lay everything out. Do i want to use something easy like evernote or google notes? Or should i use something more traditional like the wiki based Obsidian Portal? Should i dive into some of the fee based apps like Hero Lab, City of Brass, Realmworks Scabard? Or what about all the novel organizing and writing tools like Scrivener and Final Draft, those seem really cool. Plus I’ve always wanted to write a novel some day! Maybe something semi-autobiographical about my mythical life as a swashbuckling alpaca farmer / IT Manager.
When I was a kid I used to use trapper keepers or 3 ring binders. Sometimes folders and graph papers. This was in a time before time. A time before Ipads and smartphones and even laptops and PCs. During my parents big move back in April of 2018 I found a box full of all my old RPG stuff. I was so happy to find my old TMNT&OS, D&D and WEG Star Wars Books. As well as all my old campaign notes an folders!
Doing things in analog sure had it’s benefits. You only had to worry about paper and could organize things all you want! But lets be honest, PCs really revolutionized campaign preparation. Even using word and excel allowed you to organize things and track everything with so much more ease. I loved it and have used those tools a number of times.
In 2018 I decided I was going to run a campaign of Scum and Villainy in that fall for a bunch of my friends. See this old post for more about that system. I was hoping to start it once I wrapped up my Curse of Strahd D&D Game.. but that’s still running. So I geared up to run it around Thanksgiving or so. So I really wanted something to help show the interconnection of the different NPCs, Factions and PCs throughout the game. The first thing i realized was that there really are a ton of different systems out there.
Geek and Sundry did a great article on some of the tools you can use. I wont rehash it and just include the link: https://geekandsundry.com/find-your-ideal-rpg-campaign-organization-method/ . For this round of deliberation I spent a lot of time looking at various online demos and youtube videos, downloaded a demo or two, and signed up for about 4 different online services. I even stumbled upon a play by post site that is really cool and that I’m playing in a few games on . It’s called Rolegate. Check it out too!
One tool I’ve used in past is Obsidian Portal. This is a neat website that is in wiki format and uses collaborative editing. It allows the GM to build out pages and keep them separate or label them for different uses like PC or Locations. I’ve used this one extensively for a Dresden Files and D&D Campaign in the past. I also have their paid version for it that I barely ever use. Please don’t tell my wife.
I also looked at a new one called World Anvil, which was insanely in depth. It scared me away pretty quickly honestly when I went to create a “world” and came up with these options:
This was seriously a bit too intimidating. There were just a ton of options and each item had about 15 different fields to fill in. Yikes. I don’t know if i was ready for the level of commitment that this site asked of me. I have one marriage thank you very much. I think if I was building a world from scratch or writing a novel this would be a good option. But for something that I was hoping to use for a more in depth world building or writing a novel this would be a great tool. That being said I’ve come back to this slick website and all the neat features it has built in. Maybe once my kids start sleeping and I’m not tired all the time I’ll come back to it.
The Adventure Journal/Forums in Roll20 were also an intriging option. While it’s just a forum I considered using it to just document posts of information there. Most of the games I run I try and write up a session recap immediately after each session, or at least a few days later. However the features on the site were loacking and are really mostly the forum and an external journal of Characters and Handouts. Not organized enough to my tastes . So I ruled that out.
The more I looked at all these complex tools the more I just wanted something to take notes and be able to hyperlink those notes together. Something to make it easy and quick to write down info, look something up and edit it if necessary. This sounded like a note book so I shifted into looking at some of the note book tools that are out there.
So I fired up Onenote and started to take it for a test drive. And quickly ran into a problem. It was a similar problem to one I had in the past where I couldnt get it to synch my account across various devices, and I wasnt sure where it was saving my notes to. The cloud? My local PC? I tried fighting with it for a bit with using my google drive as a location for the data, but kept running into issues getting it to synch with my phone, my laptop and my pc. So frustrated I gave up. These things should just work!
So finally I was back to Evernote. I used Evernote for my Curse of Strahd campaign originally before, and still do, so I was familiar with it. I had used it for work prior to switching to OneNote. So I thought I’d give it a shot.
Overall I was very happy with Evernote. It was easy to use, simple and I could grab everything i needed in a given session very quickly. I did miss OneNotes organizational and free flowing.
I still wanted something to be able to present to players and have as a resource for others. So I went and setup an Obsidian Portal Page for it.
So the draw back here is that I need to do things in 3 places in order to: 1: Take my campaign building notes and where I do the rough draft, ouline and creation of my campaign. 2: Where I put the data for presentation to my players. That will still be Roll20. 3: Where I put the data for after play presentation. 4: (ok there is 4) I have a notebook I use to take written notes in during game play as i find typing to be distracting on my loud keyboard mid-session. Sigh.
So did i save myself work using these three tools? Definitely not. Now I have three places I need to keep update to date. I’m sure Info in one may not make it into the other two… Uggh. FML.
Well Either way this is what I came up with and will have to work with for now. I imagine I’ll stop updating the Obsidian Portal Page first lol.
What do you use for your campaigns? I’d love to hear! Maybe i should just go back to an old school Trapper Keeper or 3 Ring Binder.