#313: The Newest Group

photography of three men in an outdoor location

Photo by Suraj Gangoni on Pexels.com

Starting a new Dungeons & Dragons group is always a daunting task. There’s the issue of finding an appropriately knowledgeable and qualified DM, and of course finding players that are willing to play according to the group’s expected play style. By that I mean, not letting players act like jerks or chaotic evil dirtbags. That can definitely happen from time to time, if you let players play exactly how they want to. It’s important to set standards and limitations to what players can and can’t do, as a Dungeon Master, to ensure the game progresses smoothly and without complication. I’ve had some groups end because players got frustrated with each other and weren’t able to reconcile their differences. It can be frustrating to watch unfold, as people argue with each other over what’s the appropriate way to handle a situation.

But that’s not what D&D is all about. It’s about making memories and telling stories with your friends, it’s about making new friends in the process, it’s about developing your own, originally-created character in a social role-playing world of your imagination. It’s about all of those things and a lot more that can’t fully be described in a short blog post. I owe so much of my development to this game, and to think it will only continue further with a group at work is awesome news. I’m so stoked to hear what the kids decide to do, and where they take the story we’ve been working on together.

What I’m looking forward to most about joining a group is being able to sit back and relax as a player, while also meeting new friends in the area. Since starting my job in Norwalk, I’ve still been hanging out mostly with people I know from the New Haven area. It’s not the same.

Advertisements

#306: The Banjo

man person wall music

Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

This blog post won’t be about actual musical banjos, though I did have to look up whether the plural of banjo was banjos or banjoes in order to write this sentence.

My very first video game system was the Nintendo 64, which my uncle got for me on my fifth birthday (I think). I remember being incredibly engrossed in Super Mario 64. I still hold a certain nostalgia for 3d Mario platformers because of that era. And there were so many games like it that came after! Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo & Kazooie are the two that spring to my mind quickly, and they’re both modeled after the genre Super Mario 64 practically invented. Banjo in particular feels nostalgic to me because I used to love that game, even though I never beat it. The music, with its classic country twang, feels right at home in this type of game. It makes sense and it fits Banjo’s aesthetic. The people behind Rare Studios really took Super Mario 64’s mold and created their own colorful, energetic game out of it. I’m not saying that Banjo-Kazooie is a fantastic game, but it’s recognizable to me the same way Mario and his games are. The game is full of magic.

So, when news dropped a couple months ago that Banjo & Kazooie were coming to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, I was totally excited. Banjo was my biggest pick for Smash for a long time, and I knew it was unlikely because Rare Studios was traded over to Microsoft years ago. Microsoft is of course a rival gaming company to Nintendo, but to see them cooperate to allow this to happen shows that these video game companies are willing to put aside their (financial) differences to make great moments like this happen. I’m grateful for that, and I wish others would take their example.

#297: The Vanilla

vinyl record in vinyl player on table

Photo by Drigo Diniz on Pexels.com

The classic experience. When people think about World of Warcraft, they probably think about the original game, the game as it was when it first came out and people flooded the streets of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, recognizable faces polluted trade chat, and Horde and Alliance alike waged war against Ragnaros, Kel’Thuzad, Nefarian, and C’Thun. This age, from 2004 to 2006, is referred to as “Vanilla WoW,” and the most basic (but not in a complexity sense) and fundamental aspects of the game trace their roots to this time period.

I never had the chance to play during this era, so my experience here is restricted. However, recently, Blizzard has released what’s called “Classic WoW,” which is included in the regular, retail WoW subscription price. “Classic WoW” is a separate set of servers that are tailor-made to restore the game as it once was. It preserves this two-year span of history forever in the state that it was at the time. For fans of the simpler days, before sharding took over and when servers had their own communities, this is ideal news. Blizzard’s decision to finally endorse and give in to classic servers was huge, considering their prior resistance to the idea. While I still dip into the retail game from time to time, I don’t currently have a subscription. If I did, I would consider jumping into Classic WoW to get a sense of how things were before probably going back to how things currently are. While I’m not saying the current iteration of the game is perfect, there are certain mechanics and systems to the retail version of WoW that I’m not sure I’d be able to do without, and I just learned flying again too!

Regardless, I respect Blizzard’s decision and the huge wave of support that Classic WoW has received is great to see. I’m a fan.

#296: The Crimson Flower

red flowers roses rose

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses was an emotional experience. The ending almost made me cry, and reading all the different paired experiences for each character combination gave me just the kind of cathartic feeling I was looking for at the end of the game. Certain characters traveled the world and adventured together, some became romantically involved in unlikely combinations, and other characters went solo for a bit, accomplishing their dreams in their own ways. It was inspiring and made me feel things for my team that I had worked so hard to protect throughout each and every mission. I made sure to keep all my characters fairly overleveled through the repeatable battle missions.

My friend finished the same campaign, but the majority of his cast died in the process in that fateful final battle against the archbishop in her dragon form. The only surviving members of the Black Eagle house were Linhardt, Ferdinand, Edelgard, and the professor. I feel bad for him, but at least it was the final battle and at least he made it to the end after all. I’d feel bummed if I made it that far and couldn’t beat the game after all my effort and time spent building up my team.

The music is bombastic, epic, and over-the-top in all the right ways. It draws you in and gets you invested in the story of each mission, fitting appropriately next to the atmosphere they wanted to create.

The story was engrossing, nuanced, and memorable. It’s one I’ll remember for awhile. I’m also pretty glad I happened to side with Edelgard in this conflict, considering her philosophy was pretty agreeable (besides the obviously questionable parts of it, like waging war against your former classmates to reshape society). But overall, I liked the shades of grey that the story presented and I feel that the designers did a solid job of capturing that.

#238: The Grind

beans brew caffeine coffee

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The Grind. When it comes to grinding out experience, reputation, currency, gold, whatever I need in order to push forward in World of Warcraft, I’m used to it. Back when Burning Crusade was current content, I remember the first grind I participated in was the Shattered Sun Offensive reputation grind. You had to hit exalted in order to get all the good stuff, so obviously I wanted to get there pretty badly. As a kid in middle school, I didn’t realize the predatory practices of games at the time, and I didn’t quite understand how the rep grind was designed to make me want to play the game more and more, incentivizing total commitment to the game every day in order to maximize the reputation I earned each day. That’s what life on current World of Warcraft is like, too, now that they’ve added two new reputations and two new zones to explore: Nazjatar and the Ankoan, and Mechagon and the Rustbolt Resistance. (Rustbolt almost sounds like Rustbelt, which is kind of funny.)

(Coffee beans are all I could find when searching “grind,” even though it’s unrelated to the topic. I like having unrelated pictures attached to these blog posts, though.)

In other words, the grind is a long, arduous process of completing monotonous tasks over and over again in order to achieve a result that’s gated in some way by an arbitrary restriction, such as reputation or gold or something like that. In this case, in order to get flying on all my characters in the new areas, I need to hit revered with both of the new factions and then explore each new island, too. It’s a process, but I’m used to it by this point. I’ve done it on almost all of my characters, so there’s nothing holding me back.

#220: The Timewalk

gray double bell clock

Photo by Moose Photos on Pexels.com

Timewalking is a feature in World of Warcraft that becomes available every few weeks or so, and it’s become a tradition for us to take time out of our busy schedules to complete the 5 required weekly timewalking dungeons, regardless of what expansion they come from.

Let me explain what timewalking is first. So in World of Warcraft, there have been seven expansions up to this point. The game has been out since 2004, and it’s still running strong despite everything else going wrong with the game since then. Each expansion has a set of dungeons (5-player group content) exclusive to that expansion. In Mists of Pandaria, the fourth expansion to the game, you could explore the Temple of the Jade Serpent with a group of randomized players, but in the most recent expansion, you can still complete the Temple dungeon, but not with random players in an instance queue. That is, until timewalking appears, and then you are able to experience the magic all over again. Your characters are leveled down to the current level of the expansion, and then you’re forced to take on everything that comes your way with an item level appropriate to the expansion, too. Everything is normalized to provide an authentic experience of what it would be like if that content was current. For example, all the enemies and bosses are scaled up while you are scaled down to match their power levels. Mechanics are important again, and you can’t just zerg rush through all the bosses without paying attention to some of the mechanics of the game. You have to actually pay attention and work as a team, rather than rushing and rushing along through every health bar you face.

That’s it for timewalking, for now at least. I’m sure I’ll talk about it again at some point, considering how prevalent it is in WoW.

#218: The Board Game

close up of chess pawn

Photo by Ali Arapo─člu on Pexels.com

It’s time we talk about board games and how they’ve changed the way I think about gaming in general.

Board games are a blast, and I own plenty of them. My favorites that I own are probably Betrayal at House on the Hill & Kings of New York, two classics that always seem to pop up when my friends and I decide to hang out and play games together. There’s also Settlers of Catan, Clue, Taboo, Munchkin, Magic (if you count magic as a board games, it depends on your definition I guess), and more that I’m forgetting off the top of my head and I’m sure Alex will remind me of them after she reads this.

The reason why I like playing board games is because they allow a certain degree of role-playing that isn’t afforded by other games. In Betrayal, for example, people are given the chance to role-play as a person trekking through a mysterious, haunted mansion. The place is procedurally generated, thanks to the freedom that playing a board game offers, and there are tiles that you pull from to create the mansion. When you run into an Omen tile, you have to draw an Omen card, such as a Sword, Zombie, Knight, etc., and they determine what the Haunt will be. The Haunt is the moment that changes the game and flips everything on its head. Depending on what Omen is drawn, who draws it, and what room they draw it in, the game chooses a “Betrayer” who then has to fight against the rest of the party. It’s one of my favorite games because of the randomness presented by it, as well as the sheer interactions that come from playing a game that randomly pits certain people against each other. How fun is that?

I also like playing Kings of New York, but I’ve run out of words to talk about that one. Maybe next time!

#169: The Hare

shallow focus photography of gray rabbit

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

Woahhh, we’re halfway there! Giant plushy hare! Take my hand, and we’ll make it I swear.

Today, I’ll be talking about the eponymous plushy hare that I got from Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. Yes, I know, another post about pocket camp, but at least it’s not about Magic: the Gathering, right? I’ve had enough of those in a row lately, so it’s time to shake things up.

So, recently, there was another gyroidite-collecting event in the game, which means you have to walk around the different venue spots, collect as many little gyroidite blobs as you can, and turn them in for items that help you acquire leaf tickets and more. This time, though, in celebration of Easter and general springtime, Zipper arrived and we collected little eggs instead of gyroidite. It was appropriate, given the context and setting, for them to offer eggs, like it was some kind of egg hunt. Zipper, the animal dressed as a large bunny who refuses to admit that he’s just an animal playing dress up, offers a huge plushy version of himself for you to put in your campsite.

When you collect 600 eggs, you can craft the eponymous giant plushy hare, the one massive mega item offered by this event. It takes a long time to get 600 eggs, as it’s no easy task to just walk around and collect eggs for hours on end. Well, it might be easy, but it’s definitely a bit boring. When you eventually get to the end of the mountain, though, it feels great to plop your giant hare in your campsite as a signal of your accomplishment. You will always be known as the one who managed to scavenge up 600 eggs in under a week or so. It’s a badge of honor for a job well done. And I did it! Sorry, Alex.

#125: The Second Return

gray dragon statue

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After a long absence without playing Dungeons & Dragons with my friends, it’s finally made its return and I couldn’t be happier.

Now, you might be thinking, hasn’t Anthony written about D&D before and doesn’t he currently DM a group? The answer to that is, of course, yes, but it’s more complicated than that. I am currently DMing a group of friends through my own self-made campaign, but I am also a player in another campaign with a different group of friends, and the latter campaign is what I’ll be discussing briefly in this blog post.

So, in case you don’t know, Magic: the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons are both owned and operated by the same company: Wizards of the Coast. As a result, the developers of D&D published a guidebook recently that allows players to explore and create a campaign using one of MTG’s most fabulous and interesting locations: Ravnica. Because all of our friends used to play MTG to some degree, it fits that we would decide to return to D&D using an MTG setting.

The DM is one of our friends who hasn’t DM’d much in the past, but his lack of experience allows us to fill in the gaps and explore options through the story. The story still has a definitive beginning, middle, and end to it, but we are allowed to make our own story out of what’s available.

I play a centaur cleric named Cassio Stormbringer, and my friends play a multitude of other races, such as minotaur, half-elf, and human. The variety of races allows for some interesting interactions in our party.

Overall, I’m super happy that D&D has made a second return in my life. It’s one of the most consistently great things going on.