Dungeons & Dragons: Father and Son

One subject that I don’t discuss as frequently as I like is Dungeons & Dragons. I try to stay up to date regarding the latest supplemental material and core books, etc. But It’s been several years since I actually made a post about the current state of the game.

If you look back on this site, you’ll see my very first entry regarding Dungeons & Dragons is when I discussed the upcoming release of what is now known as Fifth Edition. Dungeons & Dragons has has a tumultuous history. But I think it is safe to say that D&D 5E has ended up being a smashing success. In my opinion, Wizards of the Coast (D&D’s parent company), has finally hit on the right formula. No longer are the bookstore shelves packed will useless, poor quality supplements. Instead, every single release is filled with quality, well tested material. Any “up in the air” play-options are instead posted online in a series of articles called “Unearthed Arcana”. Players are encouraged to download these game options for free and try them out. This allows 5E players to customize the style of the game they are playing, without weighing down the core rules with countless, redundant options.

Recently, my 13-year old son expressed a serious interest in the game. So, I began a search to find a new group of players that are family-friendly. I’m happy to say, I found what I was looking for! For the last month or so, my son and I have been spending our Saturday Nights at a local game shop playing D&D.  It was a bit of a proud moment when I gifted him with his very own copy of the Player’s Handbook… I still remember my father buying mine for me. So far, he has really enjoyed the game. Plus, getting out and meeting new people has also help foster some valuable social skills.

When I started playing again a few years back, I found myself participating in some official, sanctioned games. These days, I no longer concern myself with that. Currently, our DM is running the “Out of the Abyss” adventure, which is an actual official D&D story, but we’re not actually participating the “Adventurer’s League”.  It’s a much more relaxed and laid back atmosphere.

I plan to begin posting a little more regularly about my D&D adventures. I’ll also be covering some of the books that I previously decided against reviewing on the site. Aside from the PHB, DMG and MM, there’s really only been two other “source books” released – the rest have all been hardback adventures. So I had originally planned not to really spend my time on those. But, to keep things chugging along, I have changed my mind about that.  So, sometime within the next month I’ll start discussing some of these. Stay tuned!

Review: Baldur’s Gate II (Enhanced Edition)

Finally, I bring you my review of the final chapter in the Baldur’s Gate series. For those that are interested, and might have missed it, I reviewed the enhanced edition of the Original Baldur’s Gate back in September. This was followed with a review of Beamdog’s official DLC: Siege of Dragonspear in January of this year. Now, after what seems like eons of time spent in the Forgotten Realms, I’m proud to share my thoughts on this remastered, classic CRPG.

First, a bit of a history lesson. Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, is the sequel to the extremely popular PC game, Baldur’s Gate. It was released two years after the original and closely follows the formula that made Baldur’s Gate such a smashing success. The sequel used the same game engine, with some additional polish and refinements. Baldur’s Gate II continues the story of the original title. In fact, players of the first game are even able to carry over saved data to the sequel. A year after the original Baldur’s Gate II was released, an expansion pack; “Throne of Bhaal” was also made available. This expansion extended the storyline of the original game, and added a new optional area.   In 2013, Beamdog Studios gave Baldur’s Gate II the “Enhanced Edition” treatment as well.  This update combined both “Shadows of Amn” and “Throne of Bhaal” into one package. It also includes a new third scenario “The Black Pits II” (which itself is a sequel to the additional scenario found in the first Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition).  The Enhanced Edition also modernizes the game for today’s computer systems. It adds widescreen support, updated multiplayer functionality, and cross-platform compatibility. Also worthy of note, just like with the initial release, players can import saved data from both Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition and Siege of Dragonspear into Baldur’s Gate II Enhanced Edition.  –  Being the most accessible version of the game, it is the enhanced edition that I’ve spent the last several months playing for this review.

While there many enhancements and differences between the original Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II,  the differences between the two Enhanced Edition are much less obvious. Both games actually run on a modified version of the BG2 engine. So the actual changes from one EE game to the other are mostly cosmetic.

The story of Baldur’s Gate II, starts shortly after the events of the first game. If you’ve played Siege of Dragonspear, the events of that game actually fill in the gap between BG1 and BG2. When the game starts, the main hero and his companions find themselves being held prisoner by a mysterious magician. The first goal in the game is to get your bearings and escape from captivity. Shortly after doing so, one of the lead characters is “arrested” by an order of powerful wizards. The focus of the game then turns to finding a way to rescue this individual. This thrusts the players into the middle of some major political intrigue. Naturally, things are not as simple as they seem at first. As you continue to play and explore the world of Baldur’s Gate II, you will find yourself immersed in the rich and vibrant world that is Forgotten Realms.

Fans of Dungeons & Dragons will feel right at home. This game, just like the original Baldur’s Gate is based on the core Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules. Also, the Forgotten Realms setting is a D&D mainstay. Just like with the first game, players can create and will encounter characters based on classic D&D races and classes. Also, much like a real game of D&D, players are able to explore and do as they please. The main scenario of the game is ever present in the background, but there are endless quests and side-stories for players to pursue and enjoy.

The game is filled with classic D&D tropes and cameos. From things as mundane as talking swords to legendary magical items, fans of D&D will be sure to finds references to some of their favorite places and characters

Like the first Enhanced Edition game, this one features a number of difficulty levels. All of the original options are included, as well as the new Story Mode (super easy) and Legacy of Bhaal (insanely difficult). Being nearly identical to BG:EE,  this modern version of Baldur’s Gate II also suffers from some of the same strange issues. In the 70+ hours I sunk into this game, I observed a number of odd glitches and behavior. For example, the party AI is often troublesome. Characters do not stay in the selected formation, they wander off in odd directions, and sometimes during battle, even when selected, they just stand there doing nothing instead of executing the actions requested of them. I even encountered one serious game-breaking issue towards the end of the title that caused me to have to reload a saved game and redo over an hour of play. To be specific, upon a defeat, an NPC did not yield an item needed to progress in the game… serious glitch. Also, the Steam version of the game seems to have some issues activating achievements correctly all of the time. But, when considering the absolute vast scope of the title, it would be nearly impossible to squash every potential bug. Despite encountering a few glitches, the game is overall very stable and enjoyable.

For my playthrough, I enjoyed the game in a single-player setting. But, it is important to note there is a multiplayer option. This is certainly welcome and in fact, can be a very rewarding way to play. The only downside is that a game of this size would require some serious organization and commitment between friends in order to really make the most out of this option.

In a nutshell, fans of the original game will certainly find themselves right at home with Baldur’s Gate II. As will fans of D&D and other CRPGs of the era. For younger and modern gamers, a title such as this can seem rather daunting and perhaps even a bit overwhelming.  As with many older games, there’s little to no handholding. And, with a game of this size and complexity, that can only make things seem even more challenging.

That being said, if you like western-style RPGS, and open-world games like Fallout, Skyrim, etc – this might be a series that you should consider. Baldur’s Gate II not only continues the story of the original title, but the Throne of Bhaal chapters even put a final end to story as a whole. Playing these games through to completion is very challenging, but also extremely satisfying.  Having only dabbled with the original game back during it’s release, I am proud to have finally played both entries to their completion. Both games are simply works of art. Now, with the Enhanced Editions available, these gems can once again be enjoyed by retro gamers like myself, as well as new players who may be unearthing them for the first time.

Difficulty: Variable–  Baldur’s Gate 2 features a number of options when it comes to difficulty.  Easy, Normal, Core Rules, Hard, and Insane. The Enhanced Edition also adds options for “Story Mode” and “Legacy of Bhaal”. The latter options making you either invincible or cranking up the difficulty to a point that makes the game nearly impossible.  I’m proud of being able to have completed the original game on this new insane difficulty, but I must admit that I was unable to even get through the first half of BG2 on “Legacy of Bhaal”. With the increased characters levels, seemed to come even more challenging opponents. “Core Rules” was my go to on this title.

Story: As one might expect with a Dungeons & Dragons title, the storyline is everything here. BG 2 extends the lore and storyline of the original game and brings it to it’s ultimate conclusion. Main scenario aside, this game is filled with side quests, background lore, and even character romances.

Originality: Being both a remake and a direct sequel to another game, certainly costs any title a little bit in the “originality” department. But BG manages to keep a fresh feel by presenting the player with totally new areas and cultures to explore. The storyline is also engaging enough to keep things from getting stale.

Soundtrack: Just like with the original Baldur’s Gate, the music in the game is overall very well done. It has a classic western RPG feel to it. It does lack a bit in diversity. The voice acting is also a mixed bag. Some of the characters are spot on, while others just sound silly and out of place. Again, this game suffers a bit from when I call Repetitive Sound Syndrome. NPCS and party members have a habit to repeating the same phrases over and over to the point of being annoying.

Fun: If you’re a fan of CRPGS and/or Dungeons & Dragons, you’re going to have a blast with this game. However, many players many simply not have the patience for the old-school style found here.

Graphics: At time it was released, Baldur’s Gate was top of the line. Today, even though a lot of work was put into modernizing the Enhanced Edition it looks quite dated. Yes, the new textures are beautiful, but the character sprites suffer a bit.

Playcontrol:  While most point-and-click games are pretty simple to control, Baldur’s Gate suffers from terrible AI. It is not uncommon for NPCs to get stuck on terrain, walk the wrong way, etc. I also frequently struggled with being unable to enter buildings due to all of my characters crowding around the entry way. Also, the new edition  of the game is not without it’s share of bugs that can interfere with your progress. These are largely the same complaints I had with the original Baldur’s Gate EE.

Downloadable Content:  No – At the time of this writing, no DLC has been announced for BG2 EE. The game comes complete with both BG2 and it’s original expansion.  It also contains a new third-scenario “The Black Pits 2”.  Which, is really a continuation of the “The Black Pits” chapter found in the first BG:EE.  Overall it’s a pointless little add-on, but still worthy of a look.

Mature Content: Fantasy Violence, Mature Themes

Value:  This game currently sells for $20. Considering the amount of content packed into the title, it’s a steal at that price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Baldur’s Gate 2 Enhanced Edition is a must-have for both fans of the original game and for fans of CRPGs as a whole. It’s a classic game packed with tons of content. Even with some of the glitches and faults of the remake, the redeeming qualities of the game outshine any faults it might have. For some of the reasons outlined above, I can’t claim to give it a perfect score, but it comes damn close.

Available on: PC (Steam and GOG)

Dungeons & Dragons: Volo’s Guide to Monsters

Wow! It’s been a while since I made a Dungeons & Dragons post. Almost two years. But, it’s also been that long since Wizard’s  released a core supplement. Everything they’ve put out in the meantime has either been adventure modules or campaign source material. But finally we have something of interest to talk about;  Volo’s Guide to Monsters.

What we have here is an interesting combination of both a reference book and a monster manual, all rolled into one. The first half of this book deals strictly with monster lore. This is mainly of interest to Dungeon masters who may wish to know more “scientific” details behind some of the more iconic monsters in the game. It’s written much like a research paper. For example, there’s a section on Beholders that includes everything you could ever want to know: life cycle information, physical details, diet, etc.

Second, there’s small area that introduces a handful of optional playable races to the 5th edition game. That’s always interesting, albeit controversial.

Finally, we have the real gem. The Bestiary. And it is filled with tons of classic, forgotten 1e monsters! (Including some of my old favorites; Darklings, Flail Snails, Red Caps…. classic stuff!)

Sadly, I haven’t been playing much D&D lately. But, I’m still relentlessly collecting every official 5E supplement. I know the time will come sooner or later when I will be able to pick up one of my favorite hobbies again.  So, if you’re just getting back into the game, or even if you’ve been trucking along the whole time, Volo’s Guide to Monsters is a quality release. No 5E DM should be without it, in my opinion.

Review: Baldur’s Gate (Enhanced Edition)

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Getting back to my late 90’s game reviews, I step away from the PS and N64 consoles for a moment to talk about a classic PC title. Baldur’s Gate is almost universally regarded as one of the greatest western RPGs of all time. Originally released in 1998, Baldur’s Gate is a birds-eye-view role playing game based on Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition rules. The game takes place in the ever popular Forgotten Realms campaign setting and takes on the mammoth task of incorporating as many aspect of the D&D ruleset as possible and applying them to a real-time video game setting.

The original Baldur’s Gate proved to be extremely popular with fans. A year after it’s release, an expansion, Tales of the Sword Coast was made available. This add-on integrates seamlessly into the main game, adding new areas to explore, quests and storyline. The legacy left behind by Baldur’s Gate was so great that it was inevitable that someone would one day want to resurrect it. This occurred in 2012 when Beamdog Studios announced Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition.

I owned both the original game and the Tales of the Sword Coast expansion, but admittedly never completed them. Recently, I saw the Enhanced Edition on sale and decided there was no better time to revisit this classic.

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For the record, let me state that for the most part – the Enhanced Edition is a faithful remake of the original Baldur’s Gate. It features the original story, original score and voice acting, but many of the textures and graphics are replaced or highly modernized.  One thing I noticed right away, is that the original opening video has been replaced with hand-painted still images. I’m not sure why the new developers chose to do this. Granted, the original video is very dated by today’s standards. But why replace it with still images and not a new video? Regardless, the new into movie is fitting and  admittedly beautiful. Plus, it doesn’t detract from the experience at all in my opinion. Also important to mention; the new version includes both the original game and its expansion, out of the box. It also features a new arena-based add-on called The Black Pits. (More on this later). As far as additional content, the remake adds a handful of new playable NPCs and a few additional quests that provide backstories to these characters.

In Baldur’s Gate, the player creates a hero from scratch. Character creation follows standard AD&D 2nd edition rules.  Players can choose to create a character of any of the following races:  Human, Elf, Half-Elf. Gnome, Halfling, Dwarf, and Half-Orc. (The Half-Orc is a new addition to the original game). The following classes are available to players: Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Cleric, Druid, Monk, Mage, Illusionist, Sorcerer, Thief, Bard, and Shaman. These classes can be specialized even further using “class kits”. (Barbarian, Wild Mage, etc). Just like in real D&D2E, players also have the option to dual-class and multiclass.

The game story revolves around your custom character. In a nutshell, you are the foster child of a wise sage named Gorion. The two of you live in a quiet sanctuary of Candlekeep, a place best known as a center of learning and home to one of the best libraries in the realm. One day, a frantic Gorion requests you to pack your belongs and purchase supplies for an impromptu journey. The game begins here, amidst the confusion of his sudden request. As you make your way through town, you encounter more than one nefarious character that seem to be hell-bent on seeing you dead. Eventually, as the game presses on, Gorion meets a terrible fate that leaves you alone in the wilderness, confused, and with little go on besides a handful of cryptic clues and request from Gorion to meet some trusted friends at a nearby tavern. You are hunted and alone, with no real explanation.

From this point forward, the entire game is open-ended and you can do as you please. You can elect to follow the path you were set on, or you can explore as you see fit. Throughout your journey, you will encounter characters that wish to join you on your quest. Each have their own motives and values. As you travel together, your actions will either enhance the bond you have with your companions or drive them away.

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Baldur’s Gate is played from a birds-eye-view. You click on objects or points of interest to interact with them. To move, you click on the characters you wish to advance, then click on their destination and they will walk to it. Clicking on individual character portraits provides with some additional options. For example, let’s say you click on a door to open it, only to find the door is locked. Well, if you have a thief in your party, you can click on that character to bring up a list of skills, then click on Pick Locks, finally you can click on the door again to apply that skill. The same is true for combat. During the melee action, you can choose individual actions for each character. This includes simple physical attacks, using items, casting spells, etc.

All of this may seem like a lot to take in, and to be honest, the game is very daunting at first. My first experience with Baldur’s Gate was back in ’98 when it was first released. At the time, I was admittedly overwhelmed. I suppose I played about a quarter of the way through it before shelving it. Now, playing through the Enhanced Edition many  years later, I find that had I stuck with just a bit longer, it would have started to fall into place. A little patience and a quick read through the manual help tremendously. Plus, the new edition of the game also comes with a tutorial mode. (Which I highly recommend for new players).

Interestingly enough, there is a multiplayer option. But in reality, it is rarely used. In multiplayer, one person is the host. This means they control the lead character. Any additional players control party-member characters. The sheer length of the game makes it difficult for this type of multiplayer to be viable option.

Finally, I want to mention the additional scenarios. Included for free with the Enhanced Edition is a short, arena-combat prologue to the game called The Black Pits. This scenario is aimed a veterans to the game and features a party of characters that fight battle after battle in a gladiator-type setting. With each victory they earn riches that can be used in-between fights to purchase new armor and weapons. Each battles get progressively more difficult. The final few battles require some serious preparation and commitment. In truth, this whole add-on seems to serve as nothing more than an introduction for one the new NPCs add to the Enhanced Edition. But it is included free, so no complaints there.

This new version of the game does also offer a brand new paid-DLC scenario called Siege of Dragonspear. This chapter serves as a bridge between the events of Baldur’s Gate and Baldur’s Gate II. However, due to the sheer size of this expansion – I have decided to review it separately.

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Difficulty: Variable–  Baldur’s Gate features a number of options when it comes to difficulty.  Easy, Normal, Core Rules, Hard, and Insane. The Enhanced Edition also adds options for “Story Mode” and Legacy of Bhaal”. The latter options making you either invincible or cranking up the difficulty to a point that makes the game nearly impossible.  (I gloat in being able to claim I completed the game on Bhaal difficulty…   not that I’m bragging or anything.)

Story: As one might expect with a Dungeons & Dragons title, the storyline is everything here. The game features a massive, rich main storyline. Not to mention it is peppered with a number of sideplots and quests. All of these are very well done.

Originality: Baldur’s Gate was a breath of life into what was a fading genre in the late 90s. It was fresh and new upon it’s original release. Now, with the new edition, it still manages to feel new by taking an old classic, polishing it up and releasing it into a sea of games that began to grow stagnant with unoriginal ideas. It’s the new black, as they say.

Soundtrack: The music in the game is well done. It has a classic western RPG feel to it. Sadly, there’s not much diversity in it. The voice acting is also a mixed bag. Some of the characters are very well done, while others just sound silly and out of place. The voice acting for the new characters added to the game also don’t seem to fit in well with the original cast. Also worthy of mentioning, this game suffers a bit from when I call Repetitive Sound Syndrome. Simply giving orders to your character usually results in some type of feedback statement. Usually it’s one of three, and you get tired of hearing them really quick. Thankfully, there is a setting that allows you to control the frequency at which you hear these. Finally, this game seems to have an issue with volume management. Often times during the game, NPC will be speaking only to be drowned out by a swelling background score. Adjusting individual volume levels did not seem to help alleviate the problem.

Fun: If you’re a fan of CRPGS and/or Dungeons & Dragons, you’re going to have a blast with this game. However, many players many simply not have the patience for the old-school style found here.

Graphics: At time it was released, Baldur’s Gate was top of the line. Today, even though a lot of work was put into modernizing the Enhanced Edition it looks quite dated. Yes, the new textures are beautiful, but the character sprites suffer a bit.

Playcontrol: Here we come to my biggest gripe. While most point-and-click games are pretty simple to control, Baldur’s Gate suffers from terrible AI. It is not uncommon for NPCs to get stuck on terrain, walk the wrong way, etc. I also frequently struggled with being unable to enter buildings due to all of my characters crowding around the entry way. Also, the new edition  of the game is not without it’s share of bugs that can interfere with your progress.

Downloadable Content: YES – A paid DLC Scenario called Siege of Dragonspear is available for purchase. This is a completely new original adventure available for the Enhanced Edition only. This currently sells for $20, so it’s a little on the steep side, but it claims to provide about 30 hours of content. So, that’s not really a bad price. I plan to make a separate review of it in the coming days.

–      ***UPDATE: Review here:  Siege of Dragonspear

Mature Content: Fantasy Violence, Mature Themes

Value:  This game currently sells for $20. Considering the amount of content packed into the title, it’s a steal at that price.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition is a must-have for fans of the fantasy genre. It’s a classic game packed with tons of content. Even with some of the glitches and faults of the remake, the redeeming qualities of the game outshine any faults it might have. For some of the reasons outlined above, I can’t claim to give it a perfect score, but it comes damn close.

Available on: PC (Steam and GOG)

Dungeons & Dragons: Dungeon Master’s Guide 5E

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Confession time! Even though I was thoroughly enjoying my weekly D&D game, I missed a week back in the fall due to family vacation and I have not played since. The thought of missing a week’s worth of content discouraged me a bit. I guess that’s the drawback to playing a sanctioned game; it goes on with or without you. Despite my lack of playing, I still maintain an interest and I’m still buying the new releases so that when I decide to play again, I’ll have a whole library at my disposal.

So that brings me to my latest acquisition, the 5th Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide. This book was actually released back in December, so I’m a little late with this post. But that’s given ample time to flip through and look over this product and I have to say, I’m very impressed. I’ve spent a lot of time with my nose in various DMGs over the years and I was delightfully surprised to see that the 5E DMG is packed with more content than I’ve seen yet. All the staples that a Dungeon Master would expect from a DMG is here: treasure tables, optional rules, game lore, etc. But while previous manuals have often provided barebones information on many topics, this book really expands on them.

For example, in the older 1e and 2e guides that I’m used to, the section describing Planes of Existence is usually relegated to a paragraph or two with a simple rudimentary diagram, this book gives the planes their own chapter. Which I personally found to be fantastic, as the Outer Planes are one of my favorite aspects of D&D.

So again, this new version of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is just another example of what Wizard’s of the Coast is doing right in the his new edition of the game. Now that the big three core books are out, I’m very curious to see what types of products they are going to offer us next (aside from playable adventures).

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Dungeon & Dragons: Monster Manual 5E

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A brief update here on D&D related things. I’m still attending and enjoying the D&D Encounters at my local games store. I’ve found that buying the “grab bag” boxes of miniatures can be quite addicting… So far I’ve managed to acquire a few neat pieces though.

Recently, I got my hands on the new version of the Monster Manual and I have to say, I’m very impressed with this book. Back in the 1e days, Monster Manuals were very thin and contained only black and white artwork. I enjoyed the old 1e books regardless. By the time the 2nd edition came out, the developer had the terrible idea to release loose-leaf pages of monsters. The plan was for players to create their own monster compendiums using a big white binder, but for me, the pages always got torn or fell out, etc. It was a big pain.

This book on the other hand, is very well put together and feature absolutely breathtaking artwork for each monster. I found the contents of the book itself to cover quite a bit of ground. I see things here that I remember seeing in the old Fiend Folio. I’m very excited to see what might lie in the future monster indexes. So far, I’ve been VERY impressed with this version of D&D.

Dungeons & Dragons: 5E Player’s Handbook and Adventuer’s League experiences

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Last Wednesday I played my first actual game of Dungeons & Dragons in almost twenty years. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve had an interest in Dungeons & Dragons since I was around 11 years old. I played my first games with some family friends, a bunch of young AirForce guys. Through them, I learned the basics. We played a few AD&D 1E games, then switched over the brand new 2nd Edition. This occurred while I still living in Japan. Once I got back to the states, I still collected the books, but I had a very hard time finding a dedicated group. A lot of the kids my age didn’t share my maturity level and when I did manage to get a game together, it ended up being filled with people making dick jokes, or pseudo-sexually roleplaying. Not my cup of tea. By the time 3rd Edition came out, I did catch wind of some serious groups in my area, but my interest had shifted to other things.

Over the years, 3rd edition split into 3.5 and then 4th. 3.5 loyalists made their own game; Pathfinder, and it got very fragmented and confusing. But, once I learned a 5th edition was coming, my interest was sparked.

I decided that instead of falling into the trap of trying to get friends to play, I would seek out a group of serious gamers. I used Meetup.com to find an official group in my area, I RSVP’d and took the plunge.  Here’s how it went down:

 

After registering, I went and bought myself a copy of the Player’s Handbook and spent a good part of the afternoon reading over it, and making a character. For the most part the process was fairly straightforward. I did get confused at some points when it came to ability modifiers. I wasn’t sure how to record these accurately at first. Rolling stats was easy. Then came the racial modifiers. Ok. Done. Then came the class modifiers. Ok… Proficiencies were next. I was told to choose 4. Then, I find out that some are assigned to me automatically. Did I need to change my original choices if there was overlap? Where these additional? I found myself jumping between two or three chapters just trying to figure out what exactly I was supposed to record.

When it came to equipping my character, I was given a list of starting items. Then, ANOTHER list when choosing a character background. It was clear as mud at first. It wasn’t until I actually got to the game table and asked other players did things start to clear up.

I guess my biggest gripe is, there’s really no clear cut step 1, step2, step 3, etc, in the PHB. No one is going to read it cover to cover. It is a reference manual. Maybe the basic version of the game or the version in the starter set is a bit clearer, I don’t know. Regardless, that is my big gripe.

Upon arriving at the game store, I went to the gameroom in the back. There were five tables and they were already filling up. Four games of 5E D&D and 1 Pathfinder game. Everyone was friendly and handshakes went around as you might expect. Shortly after taking a seat, I was handed a DCI enrollment card. This is apparently to officially register me in the DCI rankings for Wizards of the Coast. My membership number allows me to participate in official convention games as well as track my progress in the new “Adventurer’s League”. Upon registering on the website later that day, I didn’t really see any way to keep up with this, however.

The game ran for two hours. I didn’t really expect much to get done honestly, but we did actually play for a while. For the record, I rolled a Tiefling Rogue. I’ve always enjoyed playing “thief” type characters, and the Tiefling race was new to me. This was something we didn’t have in the old days. The game we started was the Tyranny of Dragons. This is official storyline/module that is running between now and March of 2015. For more information on this, click here: Tyranny of Dragons

The official game-world in fifth edition is Forgotten Realms. This felt comfortable to me from my days playing 1e and 2e. Not a lot of backstory was provided, I get the feeling that the Dungeon Master was a bit of a rookie… I heard a lot more detail coming from some of the other tables. But, I’m not going to complain. At this point, I’m certainly no pro. I’ve been out of the game for a long long time, and I had PLENTY of questions. Everyone was nice enough to take the time to answer them, so again, no complaints. I was given a print out with a description of several factions. I was told I could choose a faction to align my character with if I wished. I picked one and then was given a very nice folder to keep. Inside were some official character sheets, a description of the faction and some sort of registrations codes. One was to redeem an item in the D&D Neverwinter MMO, the other… I’m still not sure what it’s for yet. Still, it was a nice unexpected freebie.

The gist of our night was this: rumors of a town being ransacked by bands of Kobolds. Call to arms for all abled adventurers, etc etc. Upon arriving, we do indeed find a town in peril. Smoke is billowing from the ruined city and a dragon is circling the skies overhead. Our party made it’s way into the city and joined up with a group of characters that were being attacked by roaming bands of Kobolds. Battles ensued. Then another, and another and another…. the rest of the night was basically battles as we made our way through the town towards the keep. Despite what seems to be slow progress, I had a lot of fun. It was a blast.

There was a lot more combat right out of the gate than I expected. The DM seemed unclear on certain things when asked, but overall it went very well. At this point, I’m still in the learning stage so I’m not taking things too seriously. I plan to attend this week and I will again post my assessment of this week’s game as well.

Dungeons & Dragons: Character Creation

Tonight for the first time in nearly twenty years, I’m going to play Dungeons & Dragons. As I’ve mentioned here before, the 5th edition of D&D was recently released. A free version of the rules were published online for anyone to use, and a low-budget starter set was also released as well. This week, the first core rulebook appeared on store shelves.

I decided a while back that I really wanted to get back into this hobby and the release of the 5th edition was the perfect opportunity to do so. Recently, I joined a local group on Meetup.com and the first officially sanctioned game is tonight. This morning, I went to my local hobby store and picked up a copy of the Player’s Handbook. I plan to fully review this book in the coming weeks once I’ve had a chance to really sink my teeth into it.

As for tonight’s game, I’ll also post my thoughts on the experience. This is first time I’ve ever sat down to play a game like this with total strangers, so I’m not really sure what to expect. We shall see how it goes.

Now, I have to sit down and actually prepare a character for tonight’s event. A quick glance at the book shows a lot of changes from what I’m used to. Back in the old days of 1e and 2e, things seemed quite simple. From what I’ve seen so far, there are some rather exotic options (half-dragons, half-demons). Also the classes seem to include areas of specialty that you can choose. This is also something I’ll need to wrap my head around.

My working knowledge of D&D pretty much ends with the first and second edition. I’ve heard bits and pieces of 3E and 4E,  and I have a very rough concept of how the D20 system worked. The word on the street is that this current version is truly the best of the old and new. So, with an open mind and no real expectations I’m about to roll the dice and see what happens. Stay tuned in the coming days for updates.

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition is here

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Updates have been slow lately because I’ve been grinding away at some pretty big games. So in the meantime, I’ll take a quick break from the video games to talk about the new D&D. That’s right, it’s finally here: Dungeons & Dragons 5E!

Initially, when I discussed D&D I expressed some concern over pricing. It’s true the that new core rulebooks will carry a hefty pricetag, but thankfully Wizards did something I never expected. They have announced that the basic version of the game will be available for FREE.

That’s right, all you have to do to mozy on down to www.wizards.com/dnd to download a free PDF version of the basic D&D rules. This covers character creation, magic rules, combat rules, and a little bit more. It’s certainly enough to teach the very basic mechanics and get a character prepared.

In just a few days, an inexpensive Starter Box Set will also be available for purchase in most book stores. For $20.00 you will get a printed and slightly expanded version of the rules, a set of game dice and a few other trinkets and tokens. This package is meant for new players or anyone who wants to get their hands dirty a bit before the full rule books are released in the coming months. However, to be clear, Wizards is stating that the free PDF is all a PLAYER will need to actually enjoy the game.

So what am I taking away from all this? Well, I think the move of making a free version of the game is a good idea. But I get the feeling that Wizards is trying to steer people into the direction of playing their “live hobby store events” instead of focusing on the classic “play at home” players. What I mean by this is simply this: Wizards of the Coast wants you to download the PDF, create a character and then take your character to your nearest authorized retailer where you will then join other players in an officially sponsored event. Participation gets you a certificate and the whole nine yards. If I understand thing correctly, your character can be used at ANY officially sponsored event regardless of location. Now I guess that’s cool. But I’m not used to playing D&D that way.

Of course, people can still play their own campaigns at home. And they most certainly will. But I worry that allure of playing an “official” campaign combined with the potential roadblocks of finding an open seat, and locating a shop to play in may also turn some players off. Thus, making the ranks of D&D players dwindle rather than swell.

Personally for me, the nearest WotC sponsored game is over 40 miles away. That makes it difficult.

Ok enough ranting. I’m impressed by what I’ve seen with the 5E rules. It is most certainly a new and fresh take on the game mechanics. Yet, it manages to have a touch of that old school 1E feel that I love. I have high hopes for this edition.

I will certainly be buying the starter set. Once I do, I’m going to start keeping my eyes peeled for a game. Be it some local people or one of these official events. I WANT TO PLAY.

Nerd Passion: Dungeons & Dragons

So far, this site has focused mainly on video games. That’s not too bad. Almost everyone plays video games to some extent. We’ve also touched on subjects just a little bit less mainstream; comics, Star Wars, etc. But again, who doesn’t like Superman or Darth Vader? These are household names. So today, I’m going to talk about one of my passions that is 100%, unfiltered NERD MATERIAL. That is: Dungeons & Dragons.

I love D&D. But sadly, I have not played it in many years. For those of you who are not familiar with the game. Dungeons & Dragons is a tabletop role playing game. It’s played with books, paper, dice, and these days, miniatures. Perhaps, you’ve seen the movie E.T., remember the scene where Elliot and his brother are sitting around the table talking about elves and magic missiles? That was D&D.

I was first introduced to D&D when I was about 11 years old. I remember seeing some of the rulebooks in the bookstore and I was very intrigued. This was around the time that the original version of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was transitioning to its second edition. At this time in my life I lived on the island of Okinawa in Japan, so when I expressed an interest in playing, my parents had some of their young AirForce friends come over for dinner and they stuck around to teach me how to play.

Over the years, I experienced a number of fantastic adventures. I played First Edition and Second Edition. I bought and collected all the material I could get my hands on, and even read several of the novels. (Dragonlance was a favorite of mine). However, like many other things in my life, my interest in the hobby started to fade as I got older. By the time the Third Edition of D&D was released, I was no longer playing.

But, my interest in the game never completely faded. In reality, between school, work, and other hobbies I could never find the time to pick it back up. I also became a bit disgruntled by the rapid release cycle. In just a few short years the third edition of D&D became 3.5, and than 4. I couldn’t afford to keep up if I wanted to.

These days, I have a bit more time on my hands and I find my interest in the hobby rekindled. The hardest thing about playing these days is not finding the time, but finding people to play with. Tabletop RPGs have recently taken a backseat to computer games. Today, the “D&D Nerds” play MMO games like World of Warcraft. No one seems enjoy that nostalgic sound of dice rolling across a dining room table. I miss that! After doing a bit of research, it seems the best way to find other players is by hanging out in local hobby shops or stopping by for official “hosted games”. Not my first choice, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I feel like this problem may have more to do with my location than with the overall interest in the game itself. I live in the middle of nowhere. The nearest hobby shop is 30 miles away. So, yeah.

Despite these hurdles, I’m starting to feel that D&D itch again. After doing a bit of research, I’ve learned that the 5th edition of D&D is on the horizon. The new version of the game is expected to launch this summer. It is my intention to get in on the ground floor with this “D&D Next”, as they are calling it.

Naturally, I plan to detail my experiences here. So if that’s your cup of tea, keep an eye out in the coming months.