Saturday, September 17, 2016

Autumn Approaches...Finally!

Before I get into what has been going on, I just wanted to thank everyone who has continued watching the blog for updates, all our listeners of Untamed Dice, and everyone who helps keep the creative juices flowing on Twitter. You are the best.

Things have been pretty crazy for the past month or so. Those of you who have followed my updates here know a bit of why and those of you who follow me on Twitter have a good idea. August, very quickly, got away from me. In fact, I am having trouble recognizing the fact that we are already halfway through September. While Summer is always pretty busy for me, the end of it really got crazy this year.

First off, I work IT at a high school and there is a lot of upgrades being done to the system. So, in addition to the prep for the start of the year, there was also a significant amount of extra work. The result was much shorter breaks for lunch and less time after the workday to get things done. Secondly, I work at an ice cream shop during the summer and this year we lost some employees, we had some less than awesome hires, and just generally were busier than last year. The main result of this was just longer, harder nights each weekend. Both of these jobs, with the school year approaching and the season nearing its end, only got crazier as September approached. Very suddenly it was September and even more suddenly we have reached today.

I made a decision in the beginning of the month though, and I have, obviously, been taking a break from making sure stuff get on here. Getting things outside of the blog to make myself more able and comfortable to get things done was a big part of this. Resting, cleaning, organizing. And a lot of thinking. Untamed Scribe and I have also talked about what's been going on and what will be going on here. To best relate to you our plans I am going to break things up a bit.


Notes of the Wandering Alchemist

In August I did attempt to expand on my Monday notes throwing up some of the items I had noticed or run into over the week. Announcements, new Kickstarters, releases, and other related things were all included. I want to continue this and will continue doing the news posts this way, with a couple tweaks. First off all I may do this twice a week depending on how much stuff I manage to come across. Secondly, I will be creating a separate post for updates to the Blog. In fact, I mean to be less strict on myself for posts like that in timing and more lenient on when they come out. I will not be sharing every single post to various sources, though links to each and every post will likely still journey through Twitter and Facebook.

Additionally I will continue to release Resources for Every GM again, once a week, though I may change the day. Tuesday and Thursday are still the two best days to get big posts out there, however, and it is likely to stay on Thursday. A minor change will be in increasing reviews. A big part of this is the large number of DMs Guild titles I have at this point. I want to begin getting reviews out for those and not use them as Resources replacements. Instead I will throw those up around once a week when I start getting to it. Probably on weekends.

What all this means is that I will be more focused on getting Resources articles out regularly, getting more reviews out, and sharing links to awesome stuff more. As this all becomes routine, I will continue to seek to improve it, but there are other projects to work on as well.


Untamed Dice

We haven't had a new episode in a number of weeks now, sadly. At first this was a simple lack of time to edit properly. Now it is a deliberate decision. We still have audio to get you and I am sorry for the delay to our Edge of the Empire game, but I think it'll be worth the wait. One of my players works with audio for a living and he is going to help get me some better software to work with and some tutorials on some basic editing techniques. This increased knowledge should allow Untamed Dice to become that much better.

Another reason we haven't been releasing anything is so that we have a plan in place for new stuff. That plan has begun to form and will hopefully take shape sooner than later. First it involves the very simple fact that a new episode of Brave New World will not be recorded (very likely) until almost November. It's a work schedule thing and unavoidable. Secondly, it involves that all those time issues that caused the lack of material coming out also caused us to play very few games. In fact, we have not played Strahd in almost 2 months, we have not managed to get Monster of the Week finished, we have not had time to try something else, and we have played maybe 2 games in general.

This means we have nothing aside the end of the Star Wars adventure. Well, almost. One of the nights we played was a small Luxarrahn game. Luxarrah has been on my mind quite a bit since prepping the last game of BNW. I have come up with a lot of stuff while putting computers together and stocking ice cream. The result is this new game and I am very excited to keep exploring Luxarrah through 5th Edition D&D. That game is also one we recorded. It is one we will continue to record. It is the easiest game group to get together and should become a very regular game. The only thing that will take as much precedent will be BNW. One shot games of other systems are pretty much on hold till things get brought under control again, but more on that down the road.


DMs Guild & Beyond

This is something I have really enjoyed doing and want to do more of. It is something I have been putting some work into whenever I can. Part of my time will continue to be more regulated towards those projects. I have a few things coming down the line and a hopeful schedule for these. Included among them are the (finally) 3rd Volume of Spells of Old, as well as a 4th. I am also working on some more patrons for Paths to Power Volume 2 to finally come out. Finally there is also the trinket supplement I have been working on.

In addition to DMs Guild products there are a couple of things being worked on, but these are more long-term. Soonest you should see a class a friend and I are working on. A test version at least. Then later on we will get that up as a full class. The other world I am working on with another friend is slow in taking shape, but as winter proceeds I hope to take some larger steps there. Finally in terms of getting some of my homebrew out there, I think Luxarrah will be foremost among my development. In what way this will show up, big supplements or small or both, I do not know yet. Nevertheless these are the things I am dedicating some of my time for.


Patreon

This has probably changed least over its existence, but changes fairly significantly each time. Untamed Scribe and I have decided we need to make some changes here and those are going to be fleshed out overt the coming weeks. Included will be changing goals from things we plan on doing anyway to milestones for which we can reward you folk, such as giveaways and more stuff like wristbands and stickers. We will also be changing the Patron rewards quite a bit. First of all we want to share the Untamed Rant with everyone. This will get more people the Rant and will make things easier on us. All of the Patrons will get it 2 weeks earlier than everyone else though, just like the Cracks in the Rift story.  Other things we are talking about are giveaways for Patrons, newsletters, a mailbag addition to each Rant, and similar things. I will be sure to keep everyone apprised of what is up as we figure it out.


What This All Means

We are coming back. Effort as been focused on making work less daunting and more doable. Ideas and talks are to change things up so that what we do is better and easier on us, even if that means there is less for a while. We will not be overextending ourselves by trying to start this whole plan Monday. October is when we begin to make a big shift. By then a new routine will be in place. Lists for Resources, schedules for Untamed Dice, a reworked Patreon, and more will all be in place. The rest of September is to take all the information above and everything we have been talking about and building a foundation for future things. Extra time will be spent in prep work for this stuff and more fully recovering from August. To keep up with what I am thinking and working on be sure to follow me on Twitter. Do not be dismayed by a lack of posts for September. We look forward to making a good re-impression in October!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Cracks In The Rift

*This is the first part of a story that took place through the playing of the Pathfinder RPG, in a home brew world.

Chapter 1
First Meetings
By: Erin Rowan, the Untamed Scribe

The city of Aggramon was a quiet one. Nestled along the coast it was not a place of extreme power and greed. Nor was it a place of poverty and despair. When described to outsiders one might call it simple. The people lived simply, which suited them, and they were kind. That is until the creatures from the sea started to push up from the tides and kill Aggramon’s people. This simple city became lost to locked doors, curfews, and death. The people no longer stroll through the town but hurry past while glancing over their shoulders. As more and more terrifying creatures emerge from the depths the people grow more weary.

----

Freya sat quietly in the Cornered Crab tavern waiting for the ‘others’, as she deemed them. With her back to the wall and her long legs up on a chair she surveyed the crowd. The people of the city moved differently these days. As an honest thief and hustler she had been able to make her way through life undetected for the most part. Knowing people - watching people - was her way of life. These days no one was willing to gamble their coin away. Folks clung to their every possession like the greatest of misers.

“Give me another!” A booming baritone voice cut through her thoughts.

Freya looked over and saw Lincoln, the local butcher, at the end of the bar. He was already into his fourth mug of ale and slurring his speech. She guessed he had been drinking before coming to the tavern. Ale dripped through his greying beard as he tried to talk through gulps. His wife had just been lost to the monsters that plagued the city not but two weeks ago. His once kind smile and gentle humor was fading. Celine, his wife, had been loved by many, and her loss was a deep wound.

“Get ‘way from me! I’m perffect fine,” Lincoln spat the words at his friends, Keval and Patrick, as they hauled him up from his stool. Lincoln half heartedly tried to fight them off but was dragged out of the bar, tears streaming down his flushed cheeks.

Keval, handsome with a chiseled jaw and large build, turned back to the gawking patrons, “Nothing to see here! Get back to your business.” His icy blue eyes met Freya’s for a moment. Under the hardness she saw his pain. He nodded slightly to her as she raised her glass in knowing acknowledgement. It was hard watching friends lose their way, a plight all too common recently.

Freya looked around the rest of the room. Everyone that sat within the Cornered Crab was losing their way. The air was heavy with despair and mourning. She shifted in her seat and finished her mead. Growing impatient she got up and tossed a few coins on the table. I’m not waiting forever, she thought as she turned to go.

 As she moved towards the door a familiar man entered wearing the colours of the city guard. Freya’s eyes met his.

“Leaving so soon, Freya? I thought you were better than that.”

She fought the anger bubbling under the surface at his accusation. “And I thought you were punctual Captain,” she saw his jaw twitch slightly at the remark. Raising her eyebrow she sized up the man before her. Captain James Highwater in his pristine uniform was a handsome man. Despite his calm features she could see the tenseness of his muscular shoulders and noticed his bow was out and firmly grasped in hand. “So,” Freya crossed her arms over her chest. “Why are you late?”

“I had a little more trouble locating our companions then I had hoped,” his voice held a tinge of anger that Freya had not heard in a long while. Whatever had happened in the city clearly did not sit well with him.

Not wanting to push the issue Freya gestured towards the door, “So where are they?”

As the words left her lips the door behind James opened with a creak. Stepping through the threshold were two figures. As the door shut behind them Freya was able to get a better look.
The first figure ducked through the door with purpose. Freya held her breath ever so slightly as her eyes briefly met those of the ifrit striding towards her. His eyes were swirling wisps of black as he stared back, his eyes evaluating the room. He stood almost seven feet tall with crimson and purple robes loosely wrapped around him. The colors denoted that he was still a student at the Academy but a powerful one. His skin, a smooth onyx with cracks of blood red scattered across it, appeared to be steaming from the heat he emitted.

“This is Boom,” James gestured towards the ifrit. “One of the top in his class and a descendant of a great line.”

“Boom?” Freya didn’t bother to hide her mocking tone.

James sighed heavily. “Don’t ask where he got the name, trust me it is better if you don’t know. Just know that he is beyond capable. He will come in handy.”

Freya gave James a sour look, “His robes suggest his skill, Captain. That doesn’t concern me. I’m concerned with why we have a student instead of a teacher.” She would not normally take such a tone with the captain, but her patience was wearing thin. The city needed skilled help now - not more amateurs making messes.

James grabbed Freya’s elbow and pulled her off to the side before she could react. “Listen Freya,” his voice was hard as he whispered in her ear, “we are all doing our best to protect this city and it’s people. You are here to repay a debt. Or have you forgotten what I’ve risked for you?” His blue eyes bore into hers, his frustration clear.

“No,” she stated flatly, remembering all too well that she herself was not here by choice.

“You do well not to,” his voice held a silent threat. “This is who the city could spare Freya.” He abruptly turned back towards the others. “And I will be leading them myself,” he called firmly over his shoulder.

Freya couldn’t keep the look of shock from her face. Why are they sending James? Are they sending him to watch me? To watch us all? 

Freya’s mind raced as she did her best to compose herself and moved back to the group. Whatever happened from here was out of both their hands and she knew it all too well. She made a note to talk to James later.

     As she approached the group, James held out his hand in gesture to the other man that had entered. “Freya, this is Samson Ashbane.” Freya nodded to the stoic half elf standing before her. His smokey brown eyes stared curiously back at her as she took in his gold hair. His ears gave away his elvish heritage though they were not the traditional length of a full blooded elf.

     “He comes from the church district near the upper city and is a talent with curses,” James held his chin up high towards Freya, waiting for her objections. Not one to play the fool Freya held her tongue. She would bring her concerns and her questions to the Captain’s ear, but not now.

“I’m Freya,” she stated as she nodded her head towards the men. She turned towards the ifrit, “Forgive my rudeness earlier, Boom. I meant no disrespect.” Boom did not speak or acknowledge the gesture as he moved past her towards the bar.

“Don’t worry, love,” Samson’s deep voice whispered as he came closer to her. “I’m not as easily offended,” he winked at her and followed Boom to a stool.

Freya let out a long sigh. This is going well. She could tell that she would have to keep an eye out for Samson. He was the reckless sort she was sure. And Boom held his own silent threats that did nothing but keep her on edge. She herself knew the value of silence. This made him dangerous.

“Relax,” James stated as the two men sat and ordered a drink. “I need your head sharp for this run.” He glanced over at her.

Turning to meet his gaze Freya couldn’t help the smile that lifted a corner of her mouth. “I could tell you the same thing.”

His face broke with a smile that quickly vanished, “I won’t relax until we find out what is happening and how to stop it.” He turned his gaze back to their new companions. “But you already know that. As I know the same holds true for you.” James headed towards the bar without another word.

Freya smiled. James knew her too well. Society saw her as a criminal, but James saw her as a friend. Friends were hard to come by these days. Having grown up with the Captain he was always looking out for her, always keeping a watchful eye. James was still, to this day, keeping a watchful eye, but now for different reasons.

Freya remembered him vouching for her during the trial. He hadn’t looked at her once as she had kneeled on the platform, tied to the post, the sun beating down on her exposed skin. The crack of the whip and the smell of blood still fresh in her memory. She gazed over at him as he threw some coins on the bar for the men. I owe him a debt. I’m here to pay it. It was hard for her to admit to herself. She hated owing anyone anything, especially James. But if going on this journey was her only way out then so be it.

She made her way across the room to the others. She swept Samson’s glass up from the bar, “So when are we leaving?” She took a long draw from the glass. Samson just watched with curious eyes.

Before James had a chance to answer there was a shrill scream from outside. In a rush of staggering motion and panic a man burst into the tavern clutching his side. Freya noticed a small pool of crimson spreading along his gut. “Help! Help me!” The man bellowed to the room as a second form entered the tavern on his heels.

The pointy eared figure on the man’s heels was a gremlin. Freya knew it to be a fuath. Just little bastards as far as she was concerned.They stood about two feet tall and had lobster claws for hands. Fuath were particularly horrible to look at or deal with. They kept mainly to the shores and for one to have come to the inner city at all was unsettling.

Freya didn’t hesitate as she swiftly removed a dagger from one of her many sheaths. She took a calculated step forward and flung the dagger towards the fuath’s head. From the corner of her eye she saw Samson move from his stool, his guisarme now firmly in his grasp, charging to cut the beast down. James, arrow notched, was already calculating a shot.

Her blade landed with a thunk into the wall behind the creature as it continued to rush forward, screeching. Fuck, Freya cursed under her breath and drew another two daggers from her thigh sheaths, lining up for another throw.

Streaking by her ear with a loud whistle, Freya barely caught sight of the orange fireball as it connected between the gremlin’s shoulder blades.

Freya whipped her head around to see Boom floating a few inches off the ground not far from her, his arm outstretched. She sucked in another breath at the site of him. His flesh had broken open where the red trails had been, flames now licking up from the openings and across his skin. His black eyes held fast to the fuath as it lunged forward off balance into a table screaming in pain.

Dangerous indeed, she thought as she moved behind a table.

Samson rushed forward his weapon about to strike, as James let loose an arrow. Both came down with a quick grace, finding purchase in the gremlin with ease. Freya couldn’t help but wonder if they had fought together before.

Freya released another dagger at it’s exposed back. The blade flew end over end catching within the wet flesh of it’s shoulder blade. The fuath staggered forward against the table and with a gurgled shrill cry slumped to the floor, dead. The man that had rushed in now huddled in a corner of other patrons just beyond the corpse, clutching his side, his wound looking worse.

James gracefully placed his bow upon his back as he moved over to the man and the other villagers. He immediately started giving orders, bringing them out of their fearful haze.

Samson quickly flicked his wrist and a cascade of blood scattered across the wooden floor. Securing his pole arm he made his way to the wall where Freya’s blade stuck out. He tapped the end with his pointer finger and the blade vibrated. Wiggling it free from the boards he made his way over to Freya who now was doing the same with the blade in the gremlin’s shoulder. “You have a lot of power in your throws,” he stated as he twirled her blade in his hand. She could hear the flirtation in his voice.

Her blade came out with a sloppy thwick sound. She pointed the end of it towards the long, deep gash that now lined the little beast, “You have a lot of power in your thrusts.” His eyebrow rose and she smiled back at him ever so slightly. Standing she held out her hand for the dagger he had retrieved.

Samson returned the blade. As he did he pulled her in ever so slightly, whispering, “It would be my pleasure to show you my skills some time.”

She turned, meeting his eyes, “You're right, the pleasure would be all yours.” She stepped away from him and back to the corpse. Samson walked back over to his drink chuckling to himself. Boom had already made it back to his stool, his skin back to its regular black. Men, she thought leaning over the body.

The creature was abnormal to Freya. Never before had they come this far into the city. They were never that curious or were cut down too quickly to be trouble. She looked over at the man in the corner being tended to. His shirt was lifted and she could see the wound, a smooth gash across his middle. She knew the wound of a blade when she saw one. The fuath, with its clawed hands, wasn’t what attacked the man. She had seen some of those wounds in the past and it wasn’t a sight to forget, all jagged edges and torn flesh. Even bones broken in horrific angles never to set right again.

So who attacked him? Who was he running from? Why did the fuath follow him? Her questions swirled around in her head frustrating her.

Suddenly there were more screams from outside. She heard faint yells near by of ‘Grindylow’. Her eyes snapped up to James. He met her gaze and she knew he had heard it too.

Grindylow were the sea dwelling demon cousins of the goblins. They were shark-like in the torso, chest, and head but they had eight octopus legs that they used for movement, capture, and killing. These beasts were not something many survived.

Without hesitation Freya moved for the door, James not far behind her. She saw that Samson was already charging out the door and that Boom was gliding outside, the flames lapping up from his skin lighting the way, a beacon.

Freya smiled to herself. Perhaps they’ll do after all, she thought as she rushed into the night’s salty air.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

...And Throwing It Out The Window

Last week I talked about optimizing your character in a role-playing game. I got some good responses from people and those made it clear that the first part of this was a bit polarizing in what it tried to state and came under certain unclear assumptions. So, let's start by getting into what I was talking about last week. When you make a character one of the things you generally need to do is set it down to paper. There are stats or abilities or some other things that apply the mechanics of the game to your character.

Or perhaps it is better to say they make your character apply to the mechanics of the game. Because, as some of you mentioned, it isn't about optimizing at all for many people. It is about creating a fun, interesting, and deep character to take into another world. That comes with as many flaws and downfalls as it does above average to superhuman abilities. Nevertheless, games tend to have mechanics to drive it forward, focus play, reward players, and advance characters. Some games are more heavy on these rules than others. Some rely on them more than others.

The point I made (or attempted?) last week is that there is a lot of optimization there to be had. Especially when it comes to a rules heavy game like D&D or Pathfinder. This optimization, or lack thereof, can make or break your experience with the character you dreamed up. Hell, if it breaks your experience there may be a better way of doing things or a different game system to fit your play style, but that's beyond the scope of this article.

Right now I want to talk about taking that optimization and the work and potential number crunching and put it aside. Maybe even throw it out with the bath water. See, there is a difference between optimizing your character strictly by number and optimizing your PC to be the character you wanted it to be. If you are into min-maxing, a heavy number cruncher, a in-depth theory-crafter of builds, or something similar then what I am about to say is probably not for you. If you already throw your cares for being the best you can be (mechanically) out the window, then you know what I am going to talk about.

You see, putting good scores into strength and constitution as a fighter is a great thing to do. Dumping intelligence because you have a wizard and most saves are Wisdom is a smart idea. It could be considered optimal. But now you are treading where I would suggest shutting the door on optimization. Seriously, do you want to be just another strong, dumb warrior who tanks for the party?

If you do then that's great, but just because its the best choice statistics-wise shouldn't drive your decisions. Be slow, or dense, or un-charismatic. These are all options for the so-called dump stat. Don't just choose the soldier background to get those bonus proficiencies in fighter-like skills. Personally, I love seeing characters that are maximized to a vision rather than a statistic and in order to do that you really do have to go and throw optimization out the window.

For games like D&D, it is still good to do a little bit, but you will not be following the numbers to their best outcomes if you want a half-orc ex-soldier turned warlock. Or if you decide to go with a gnomish barbarian. But these can make some great characters. Despite half-orcs being dumb fighters or barbarians a bit too often, perhaps yours was a tactical leader with great Charisma and with a good Intelligence but bad Wisdom. Smart people can make dumb choices for noble reasons, and perhaps that is what this character did. Maybe you won't have the best skill load-out, but you will have a fairly versatile one. At this point you could think about going pact of the blade. Maybe multiclass into eldritch knight. A long road to combat magic, and you may be spread thin in abilities for a while, but it could be a very rewarding character.

I use this example because it seems like a good compromise between optimization and throwing that crap out the window. It's how I like to make my characters. I like to have an idea in mind, and then anchor parts of that idea within the mechanics. Sometimes things, like multiclassing in that example, come from the potential of the stat layout. But of course some of you may be screaming about how eldritch knight isn't a Charisma caster. You're absolutely right, and that's part of throwing optimal choices out the window. It might be better choice to just go straight warlock and be that surprisingly strong and intimidating caster.

Or perhaps you talk to the DM and work something out so that your eldritch knight uses charisma. I never said optimization couldn't happen on the rules side. Tweaking them a bit to get the character you want is a solution for some things. The moral of the story here isn't that you should optimize by the numbers if you want to be strong. It isn't that you should ignore the rules completely if you want to enact your vision. The idea is that you go in with an understanding of what the game system you will be using is going to ask of you and what to expect from it. The GM and other players too, for that matter. Work with the rules, bend the rules, and work with the GM to make sure you get to play the character you want whether its a min-maxed PC or an off-the-wall, full of oddities and flaws PC.

What I'm trying to say, and kind of beating around the bush getting to, is optimize your experience and your fun above all else. This might mean sitting around the table and doing some co-operative story telling, no game systems involved. Or it may mean the careful planning of a character whose flaws and ability choices work out to something rich and fulfilling. In all likelihood you stand somewhere in a great grey area of wanting a games that feels good to play, lets you role-play the way you hope, and make characters you enjoy.

So, now that the optimization is out the window and in a puddle of bath water outside, go mop some of it up. Use it differently that those min-maxers. If you haven't already use it to find the right game for you and your group. Decide what rules are missing or need to be removed and take care of them. It may be that optimizing your character is all about playing a game or with a group where mechanics is at the bottom of your concerns-list. But that might just mean that you've already optimized your experience by getting rid of that word and enjoying the game for what it is: hanging out in another world with a bunch of friends. Optimizing has its place, but don't overdo it!

Last D&Donuts Before Rename!

Here it is folks out last D&Donuts before it gets renamed to The Untamed Rant (as voted on by you!). Well, the preview of it anyways. Become a Patron (link to the right) to get the full episodes and more. Sorry for the popping and crackles. Some kind of recording problem for the first half of the episode (aka: preview part) appears, gets worse, and won't go away. Hopefully it doesn't annoy you too much!

Things To Come, Putting Out Fires, And New Games

This post is already a day late, and for that I apologize. Before we get into the couple things I wanted to talk about, which you may know more than me about at this point, I want to talk about what is going on around here. Despite all my previous claims to have fixed the internet at my house, the universe as seen fit to make sure that all of those are falsehoods. We have tried a power amp, removed it, replaced splitters, reduced cabling, and gotten a new gateway. At this point the intermittent problems have to be at the pole and it will likely be a challenge to get them out here. I have begun using my phone as a hot spot whenever it is down, so that solves one problem. The lack of options on my end solves to problem of that struggle taking up any more time. From here we can actually get back on track.

Well, soon. Despite all my goals and attempts to do so, the last weeks of August have flown by me and problems keep me behind. So, in all forwardness, with the start of the school year falling on Tuesday next week (both for work and the courses I am taking) there is the chance that something will be late before September 10th or so. Beyond that is a turning point in the season, at work, scheduling, everything. Needless to say, my life will become that much easier.

Until then there are some things you can look forward to though. Later today D&Donuts will FINALLY go up. There we some audio problems with the first half I can't do much about, but so goes this month. This evening you will also get the sequel to last week's Tuesday article. The responses I got from it last week were great and in strong agreement with my feelings and may be even more into the throwing optimization out than I am. I like conversations like that, even when they tell me I am wrong! Thursday you should get not just a resources article (for real this week) but you will definitely be getting the first chapter of our Pathfinder story. Untamed Scribe won't be posting it as we haven't set her up to do that yet, but I have it ready to go don't worry!

Next week we will see how things go, but I may be working a double on the holiday so, as of right now, there will be no news / updates post. The other regular posts should be fine. As for Untamed Dice, I apologize for missing last weeks episode, but it should be up this weekend. Hopefully I will manage one next weekend as well. Following that they should be back to a weekly release. But who knows maybe a black hole will appear in my basement. Now that you know what cosmic shenanigans are going on here, let's get a quick overview of some of the stuff I have been keeping an eye on!


New Games To Play

There are two big names I want to mention here. First is one that I have very little information about. Every time I try to learn more about it, the mysteries only deepen. I think that is the point though. If you have had the time it is likely you know more than I do. Perhaps you have even uncovered some of the secrets Monte Cook Games has for us. You can find more information about Invisible Sun here and check out the Kickstarter here. I am incredibly intrigued by this game, though I don't think we will be able to work out a Kickstarter pledge to get it. All the mysteries, secrets, layers of the universe, and Lovecraftian feelings about Invisible Sun make me really want to buy it. In many ways it reminds me of the way I felt when The Secret World first came out. Playing a game in a familiar, real world that is hiding just so much more is definitely something I am interested in!

The other game I wanted to through out there is one I had not heard about in a while, and one I never got a chance to look into. In fact, I still haven't though it is something I will be doing in the coming days/weeks. What's O.L.D. is N.E.W. is a game from EN Publishing that released this past week or so. It is a system that is toolkity oriented and drives three different games: fantasy, modern, futuristic. There is tons of information on it over here. I'll have more about this later once I check it out more!



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Character Optimization...

If there is anything that everyone sitting at the table does when they make a new character, it is definitely optimization. It doesn't matter whether you are a fighter or a wizard or a rogue. And it doesn't matter if your specialty is knives or bows, evocations or divinations. Each person, on some level, is trying to make their character better at what they are supposed to do. Optimizing is how we get closer and closer to the best we can be with what is available. Of course there is such a thing as going too far, but we will talk about that later.

*note: my examples reference D&D, but the principles should be applicable to most systems

There are some very basic ways to optimize a character for the job at hand. The very first step in doing this, is to decide what it is you want to do exactly. Decide on what is most important for your character and their role. Are they going to be dealing the highest damage of the group? Are they going to be able to manipulate the battlefield? Are you a tank, or perhaps a healer? Do you like versatility? These are the questions everyone should be asking themselves. Not everyone does though, coming up with a cool idea and getting it in their head that they know exactly how that will play out.

But part of optimization is knowing how you want to play, as much as knowing what you want to play. If you want to be the damage dealer but hate tracking spells, then sorcerer is definitely not for you. That is an obvious example, though. What if you do want to cast spells, but you want to be right up in melee combat? Sorcerer is still, probably, the wrong choice. An arcane trickster and an eldritch knight are both good choices. Don't stop there! Would you prefer being an unwavering wall of magical swordsmanship or a agile dealer of surprising magical attacks?

Differentiating between the role you want to fill and how you want to fill that role is just the start to optimization. It's the part that gets you into doing what you want in a way that you will enjoy. Or it may be a way of getting you into the role the party needs in a way you would enjoy filling that hole. Beyond that you have to go into the more common form of optimizing: the numbers.

Giving yourself the right stats and picking the right features are the most important part of optimizing your character mechanically. It doesn't matter how good your weapon is or how deep into assassin you are, if you didn't give yourself a dexterity score over 11, you are going to have a bad time. Now, that is an obvious example of just making the necessary choice for your character. But what about when you have to choose between giving one important stat the best score and another the second best? Should my tank have more strength or more constitution?

There is a very easy way to figure this out, at least when you are talking optimization. Is damage or survival more important to you? That's a good place to start. Then just look at other stats. Strength is actually involved in skills. It is also used for melee attacks, throwing things, grappling, and literal feats of strength. Constitution would give you more HP, better healing, survival of long term threats like poison or disease, and allow you to have good endurance for strenuous situations. Mechanically, in a game like D&D, strength is the better choice.

It may depend on racial bonuses as well. You might be able to get two good scores out of those, or you could get one decent score and one really good score. At that point it is up to preference and whether your intention is offensive or defensive. There are other choices to make as well to optimize aside the explicit numbers. Getting the best armor you can to boost your AC, making sure you pick the right fighting style, getting a shield to make up for putting extra into strength instead of constitution, and more can help you make your character the best it can be.

Optimization continues on throughout play as well. Choosing the right gear to buy or simply wearing the right items for the right situation will become regular choices to make. Whenever you level or spend XP, you will want to choose the right feature, spell, or ability. As you learn how you play the character and what you tend to do more often, pick the things that will enhance that. Take note of situations you have trouble with and find items or ways of negating those issues.

Beyond that, picking the race that will give you appropriate stat bonuses is a good idea. Or one that has some racial features that will compliment what you intend to do is also a good choice. Picking the right background or similar aspect to a character can boost the role-playing and skill-based aspects of the character as well. Soldier, for example, is a great choice for a tank and sage is perfect for spell casters.

Be careful though, there is a way to take optimization too far. I have known some people who would do it. As good as those ideas may be on paper and in the numbers, they tend to have problems. As helpful as optimization is, these games aren't video games and getting the best numbers and MOST optimal build is not going to make you "better" at D&D. When it comes down to it, there will be a time when you just need to throw optimization out the window, but we'll talk more on that next week.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Hello everyone and happy Monday! Today is just a quick post because my list of things to talk about is still my list of things to look into. I can however tell you what is going on around here. A lot of work is getting done in my headspace (with the help of the fine folks on Twitter) about greater details of Luxarrah. Part of this is preparing for the world as a bigger work and D&D world for my group to play in. The other part is in preparation for the next session of Brave New Worlds, which honestly can't come soon enough.

Sadly its still going to be a little while before that happens. Those of you listening to Untamed Dice will just have to continue listening to our Star Wars adventure. I have said it before but I'll say it again. The coming episodes are part of the most fun session of the adventure so get excited! In terms of scheduling I don't have too much more for you, but we are playing Curse of Strahd Saturday and and work is actually beginning to slow. Summer ends soon and school begins. The season of gaming is almost upon us and we're hoping to have a ton for you.

As a final quick note we have something fun coming to you soon. I may have mentioned it here, but in case I have not, the tales of our Pathfinder campaign are coming to you starting September 1st. Part 1 is already out to Patrons but you all will see it from Untamed Scribe on the 1st of each month, just a few weeks after Patrons get it. It is already turning out to be a great read and I can't wait to see what you guys think!

Next week I will have a lot more here for you so stay tuned!