Tuesday, December 30, 2008

In Which The Warlock Celebrates His Centennial!

Well, devoted readers--oh, few of you!--we've reached our first real milestone. This, right here, is my 100th blog entry, and (almost) my 2 year blogging anniversary.

Well, I suppose I can't actually say the latter portion. I held a personal blog during college, which promptly disappeared, as the blog-service that I was using vanished. However, it's nearly the 2 year anniversary of this blog, so it warrants celebration.

To be perfectly honest, I'm somewhat surprised that I've been as on-time and as up-to-date with this blog as I have been. Averaged out, 100 entries over 2 years is almost exactly 1 update per week. Now, you and I both know that's not exactly the case--this past Origins alone had daily posts, which skews the average quite a bit--but still! Success!

I really wasn't sure what to write in this entry, though, to be perfectly honest. But, with it being New Year's Eve...I figured that I might as well go ahead with some New Year's Gaming Resolution:

1. Keep updating on-time! Been doing well so far, but Sunday's the day to shoot for...

2. A stronger focus on writing. Managing game design with Dungeon Slam!, writing up campaigns and WEGS Supers ideas, and doing the whole 'teaching thing' isn't exactly easy, but it's a balance that's gotta be struck. I can't just leave Dungeon Slam! as a summer project! Doesn't work that way...

3. More gaming-based reviews. While the movie reviews this year were a nice change--particularly considering the utterly loaded summer blockbuster season--this is a gaming blog...sort of. Speaking of, I've got some strong opinions on WotC's 4e Manual of the Planes that need to be divulged...to say nothing of some other recent purchases.

4. More insight into design. Some of my favorite entries of the past two years have been the ones based around understanding the principles of game design, as well as observations on the practical application of these. I remember particularly the entry on "how the Warlock changed 3e/4e"...that was glorious.

5. More pictures! Especially with how much the PlatinumChick and I have been painting, it'd be nice to set up a weekly painting progress book!

6. More "tales from the table" With a weekly D&D game once more, and my Watchmen-esque Call of Cthulhu/Heroes Unlimited game coming en route, there'll be plenty of gaming tales to be had. Here's for seeing some of those here!

Cheers, all! Happy New Year! Good gaming to all, and to all...well, something they enjoy, I suppose.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Warlock's Review: "Munchkin Quest" by Steve Jackson Games

When Munchkin Quest was announced formally, just about a year or so ago, I had already known about it--there were whisperings of it at Origins 2007, and there was a little bit of available for demo, on the final day of said convention.

This didn't stop me, mind you, but there was a little bit of a niggling doubt in the back of my head as I began work on Dungeon Slam!, asking me "Why are you going to start on a tile-based, backstabbing, dungeon-crawler boardgame when Steve Jackson--a man much more important than you--is about to do the same thing?"

My mental response was, of course, "huh?"

In this case, ignorance was the correct answer. While Munchkin Quest does a good job of putting forward the base Munchkin card game as a board game, it leaves much to be desired as a real dungeon-crawl.

Munchkin Quest begins just as the card game begins, with the characters at level 1, and they're quickly trying to blast their way through a series of monsters on their way to hitting level 10. While I only played the 2 player version of the game, I felt like the quintessential "backstabbing" of Munchkin was almost completely absent. Lionel and I spend most of our time on opposite ends of the dungeon, only staying together long enough to help each other through the lower levels.

While the Munchkin Quest game was a fun little diversion, it loses much of the simplicity of its card game predecessor. In addition to the expandable board--quite colorfully and boldly done in laminated cardboard, the sheer number of pieces and cards becomes almost mind-boggling. Lionel owns a 6 person dining room suite, and we very nearly took up the whole of it with the various pieces, cards and room tiles. That's a feat that Arkham Horror has a hard time doing, even with the 4 expansions it has!

Coupled with the sheer volume comes the complexity of the game itself. There are something along the lines of 5-7 major phases to each person's turn--again, longer than even an Arkham Horror. One of the more needless phases to me seemed to the monster movement--set to a colored die, the movement of each monster is determined by what color entrances and exits are lableled on the room tile that it is on, as well as whether the hallway pieces are "doors", "locked doors" or "secret doors". And this has to be done for each monster! This was a little much for me...

Similarly, each individual turn seems to last an inordinate amount of time. Despite only having 3 movement points, I (as a 3rd-4th level character) fought 5 monsters in one turn, looted 3 different rooms and bought and sold items. This is to say nothing of the massive amount of "Treasure" and "Deus Ex Munchkin" cards that I had gained through this, and consequently had to read and wrangle.

The raw simplicity of Munchkin was just...gone. Sylish, yes, and definitely capturing the feel of the original game, but there's just too much here. Speaking as someone who loves piece-heavy board games--again, AH is one of my favorites--the sheer volume of items, pieces, and tiles here make Munchkin Quest more tedious than anything else.

If you're a fan of the game, you'll definitely enjoy it. I was, once upon a time, and would have reveled in this game, had it come out 4 years ago. But now...it's a bloated, overly complex inflation of Jackson's storied franchise.

...At least I don't have to worry about Dungeon Slam! being too similar!

Monday, December 08, 2008

Bonus Post! In Which The Warlock CrossDresses for his New Game...

I figure that I've been running behind on posts, so here's a bonus one. Our Friday night game has a new DM--Fred, who wanted some tweaks to the 4e system to make it more classless, and more RP-oriented. I had originally come up with two ideas--a flail-wielding elf fighter trying to rectify the situation between his estranged elven homeland and his former mercenary company, who was bent on invading said homeland, or an amoral human warlock raised by a thieves' guild and trying desperately to escape the consequences of her pact.

As such, I ended up rolling neither.... Naturally. :D

Below, is my newest character. It's been a while since I've played a female, so this should provide for something interesting...

Name: Unsere Sehkmet-Sabath
Alignment: Good, with slight Neutral Leanings
Age and Gender: 27, Female

Tomboyish, with a green ponytail and wire-rimmed glasses. Slight of build (5’3”, 120lbs.) Often wearing work-gear (overalls and the like), or grease-smudged traveling pants and comfortable shirts. Always wearing a belt full of pouches and various tools. Carries a bastard sword on her back.

Pop Culture Inspirations:
Lucca from Chrono Trigger.
Pepper Potts (Iron Man film)
New Hawkeye (Young Avengers comic book series)
Huntress (DC Comics)

“Let’s go to work…”
“Science H. Logic!”
“A little magic can solve this…”
“Just like back in Applied Alchemy…”

Born to a family of tieflings outside of Thromstorm, Unsere was very much a city girl. Roaming the streets was commonplace for her, weaving through the foundries of the city, and marveling at the various arcanotechnological devices being wrought around her. Unsere was the only child of Thamuz and his wife Shabriri. When Unsere was 6, her mother—having developed several psychoses that were designated untreatable—was institutionalized. As such, Unsere often was unable to attend school and was treated to ‘on-the-job’ training the in the Calixis forges with her father, who raised her primarily.

Adult Life:
Unsere attended the Great Academy of Thromstorm at 16, where she excelled in their arcanoengineering program. She also excelled as a fencer, preferring a longer bastard-sword to negate her foes’ often-longer reach. Following her graduation, she signed on with the Thar Acquisitions Company, who routinely sought various arcane supplies—mainly mithril ore, adamantine, and deep crystal—from the nearby Underdark mines. Unsere was one of several teams of ‘materials experts’ who were sought not just to procure high quality shipments, but also to defend them against possible incursion. She has made several contacts with the deep dwarves, tieflings, and even drow of the Underdark because of this. As such, she has often come into conflict with rival companies and with human bandits/claimjumpers from Undermine. Because of this, she was asked to take her first life in the line of duty—a human claimjumper.

Following this event, which haunted Unsere dearly, she resigned from Thar Acquisitions, gaining a position as an ArcanoEngineer at Gyrosys Fabrications, which specialized in golem and automaton creation. She was promoted to Lead ArcanoEngineer in her department approximately one year ago. However, Unsere has recently been finding significant errors and re-routed funding within the department she oversees at Gyrosys. These errors, of course, are the result of her supervisor, Kezar Uzarisa, who has been overseeing the creation of a new project—the merging of a stolen soul into a golem-shell…something known as Project Warforged.

Previously—-Acquisitions Expert and Material Procurer, Thar Acquisitions.
Currently—-Arcanoengineer, Gyrosys Fabrications—Engineering Division.

Follows: “Science!”
Worship: No particular deity, though has been known to curse Gond Clockmaker at times.
At odds: Racial deities tend to rub the wrong way (Moradin, Corellon, etc.)

Father: Thamuz—Elemental forger, Calixis Corp.
Mother: Shabriri—Currently institutionalized at Shal-Dei Asylum.
Siblings: None.

Life Events:
Mother’s Institutionalization at age 6.
Graduation from Great Academy of Thromstorm at age 21.
First actual ‘career’, at age 22 (Thar Acquisitions)
First life taken, at age 22—a human claimjumper, from Undermine.
New job, at age 26—Gyrosys Fabrications, Engineering Division.
Promotion, at age 26—Lead ArcanoEngineer, Gyrosys Fabrications.
Discovery of anomalies in Gyrosys records—3 weeks ago (age 27).
Activation of Sheathan—current!

Friends in Thar Acquisitions (Dwarves/Tieflings, primarily)
Business contacts among mining purveyors around Tornia.
Former professors at Great Academy of Thromstorm
Best friend/fencing partner, Daria Majestrix.

Near entirety of Gyrosys Fabrications.
Thromstorm militia and guard.
Kezar Uzarisa—Head of ArcanoExperimentation, Gyrosys.

--Greater understanding of magics, and they way they work with the world around them.
--Understanding of the fiendish/elemental origins of magic, and the role of the sentient races within that.
--Comprehension of the sentience of Sheathan, as well as Kezar’s role within his creation.
--Discovery of whether Sheathen is, in fact, an actual soul.
--Escape the Thromstorm militia, and the far reach of Gyrosys.
--Find a way to treat Mom.

Social Int.
--Incredibly curious, particularly regarding Arcane magic and Arcanotech.
--Generally optimistic, though growing frustrated with continual lack of fairness.
--Believes in social justice, fairness, generally kind…
--Overly trusting. While nice, she’s not particularly “wise”.
--Easily embarrassed, particularly in risque situations.
--Somewhat tomboyish, and something of a ‘grease-monkey’.

--Can be flustered easily, but very determined once a course of action is chosen.
--Tries to be law abiding, in most things. Will break ‘minor’ laws without thinking.
--Feels for many ‘victims’—hospital victims, orphans (people who have been in her position)
--Absolutely fearful in asylums and the like.

Often gets nervous and stammers, if does not know what to do in a given situation.
Does not like bloodshed, if other sentient beings are involved—believes in right to life.
Enjoys cats and other small animals (would have had a familiar, in 3.5e)
Fascinated by any major arcane or arcanotechnological device—will spend hours enjoying them.

The Warlock's Holiday Schedule Unfurled...

As the holiday season rolls through, everyone finds things more hectic. Same old thing, here. With grades rolling through, and final projects getting turned in, the teaching life takes up more and more of my time...however, there's always time for gaming, but never enough!

My biggest priority right now, gaming-wise, at least, is to pump out a new revision for "Dungeon Slam!". It's been since last WittCon that I've done a full card revision, which means that it's high past due. Many of my cards are getting so marked up, that it's hard to read them!

What's more, the character cards--probably more than anything else--are getting somewhat beaten up. They're a little too small to read comfortably, and they really could use some more room to be functional on. In addition, I'd like to finally implement the "Health/Arcana" track system that I've been talking about doing. Formatting these in Publisher is difficult, but not impossible--finding the time, though...ugh.

Ideally, I'd like to have this revision done before the Christmas/Festivas/Boxing Day/etc. holiday, as many of the errant Witt-Weggers are rolling back into the Miami Valley. We'll see if this actually happens, but it should be an admirable goal, any way that you look at it.

My premiere notes for the WEGS Superz idea have come to somewhat of a halt, but only for a want of feedback. Definitely, I'd love to work up the Blaster and the Mystic/Psychic before break's end...What a New Years' Present that might be!

So, I guess it's time to take a deep breath and take the plunge. The holidays await, citizens!