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Sentinels of the iPad

They have shut up and taken my money.

I now have the Sentinels of the Multiverse app for my iPad and it is excellent. I don’t have a lot of experience with board-to-iPad conversions for games, but I have a great deal of experience with Sentinels of the Multiverse, and this conversion feels great.

The graphics are straight from the game, the music is good without being obtrusive and the sound effects are nice. The interface does a good job of keeping track of everything that happens in a Sentinels game and thankfully they made sure you can double tap cards at just about any time to review them. This is particularly handy because some cards put into play vanish from the screen a little too fast to read, so being able to review them is essential. One particularly clever addition is that with each phase of the game it reconfigures the screen by “turning the page” giving it even more of a comic book feel. Another nice touch is that the pictures of the heroes and villains show increasing amounts of battle damage as the game progresses.

Currently the game encompasses all the heroes, villains, and environments of the base game. The app also has an impressive encyclopedia of the characters which includes the ability to look at all the cards in their deck. Given the wide range of powers the heroes and villains have in Sentinels it’s impressive how well the application handles everything. It also has a randomizer allowing a mix-and-match of villains, heroes, and environments. Although for someone not familiar with the game this may provide unexpectedly difficult or exceptionally easy battles. For example, three heroes matched against Citizen Dawn have little hope, while six heroes vs Baron Blade will be overkill. However the randomizer isn’t locked in and you can modify the results before launching the game.

No word yet on if they will expand the game to include the expansion sets, though I would be surprised if we don’t see them coming down the pipe.

If you are a fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse and have either an iPad or Android tablet I can’t recommend the game highly enough. The only thing I can’t vouch for is how accessible the game is for people who aren’t already familiar with the card game. There is a tutorial and Sentinels isn’t a very complex game, but there are some nuances that are easier to understand when looking at a real manual. Someone new to the game will have a harder time picking up what is going on even with the tutorial.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more justice to dish out!

Or rather I will have justice to dish out, once my battery recharges.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Computer Games, Gaming

 

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Bundle of Holding

This doesn’t happen very often.

Old School is not the only kind of gaming going through a Renaissance. Print on demand and the PDF market have been a big boon to indie-games of all stripes. I read a lot of gaming blogs of all different stripes and there are tons of games out there that I’ve heard about but have never entered my realm to play.

I’m also a big fan of the Bundle of Holding. If you’re not familiar, this is a site that offers .pdf copies of game books at a steep discount for a limited period of time. If you opt to pay over a certain additional threshold, which is set based on average payments by other customers, you will get bonus e-books. The Bundle of Holding is a great way to dip into a game system you’re curious about for substantially less than you’d otherwise pay.

Best of all a percentage of each purchase goes to charity. Yeah, the Bundle of Holding is a cool thing.

Back to discussing indie games, I’m well aware that there are games out there that I haven’t heard of, but when I checked the new Bundle offerings I got a big surprise. They have a total of eight books, all horror themed RPG’s, and I have never heard of any of them. It looks like seven of them are complete RPG’s while the last is a campaign setting.

Seven horror games that I’ve never heard of? That’s highly unusual.

They look to all be story games, not normally my thing but often fun to read and mine. The offering is up for another five days and right now you can get it all for under $25, or just the core offering for $12.95. If you’re into story-based horror games, or just looking for something new to read, give it a look.

Or check back in six days and see what the next offering is.

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Books and Comics, Gaming, Horror

 

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The Eyes Have It

Just a short post, as work is consuming my brain again this week.

Speaking of brain consumption (how is that for a segue?) I finally put my finger on something that has been bothering me for a while.

Mind Flayers. Illithids. Specifically, why I don’t care for modern drawings of them.

I admit it’s a silly thing, but I could never pin down why I don’t care for how they’re usually drawn these days. By all rights I should like them and they’re still one of my favorite monsters. Sure, there are some illustrations from the 3rd edition era that scream, “trying too hard,” with pointy shoulder armor on warrior variants of the beasts, but the tried-and-true brain eaters aren’t that different. Except in one aspect.

The eyes.

Take a look at the eyes on the original Monster Manual:

Illithid1

Huge, squid-like, soul-peering eyes.

And here’s a more contemporary image:

Tiny, beady little things. Always looks like it’s squinting.

The original seems more vibrant to me, more animated. I could make up some deep explanation, like that squids have the largest eyes in the animal kingdom and that’s why the original strikes such a primal chord with me. Of course the truth is that the Illithids I grew up with had big eyes, so I like them better that way.

Although there is one recent Mind Flayer picture that has become my new favorite, courtesy of the Infinite Machine Tumblr:

IllithidSlurp2

SLUUUUUUUURP!

 

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2014 in Fantasy, Gaming, Weirdness

 

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Sentinels of the Multiverse – The Video Game

Ahem….

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!!

I’m not a Sentinels’ addict. I can quit any time I want to.

I just don’t want to.

 

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in Computer Games, Cool Stuff, Gaming

 

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Professional Adventurers – Seeds and Sources

Following up on my post from Monday, here are some ideas for adventuring groups who are in service to a patron.

There are a few historical examples that come to mind that can provide inspiration.

Varangian Guard – Founded in the late 10th Century the Varangian Guard was originally composed of Rus warriors but soon became closely associated with the Norse. The Varangians served as elite troops and the personal guard for the Byzantine Emperors for nearly 400 years. The Varangians have a lot in common with Dungeons & Dragons adventurers; they are free men who travel to far off exotic lands to gain fame and fortune. They do this by taking on dangerous missions for a powerful lord and using their skill at arms to accomplish them. A Varangian would be right at home in Greyhawk.

The Swiss Guard – Historically the Swiss Guards are not a single company but a military tradition. The 15th Century was a tumultuous time for Europe and many young men from Switzerland decided to seek their fortunes by forming companies of sell swords. They created a militant mercenary culture that became renowned for their discipline and skill in arms. For several centuries companies of Swiss Guard could be found on battlefields across Europe. The most famous company of Swiss Guards, and the only one remaining to this day, is the Pontifical Swiss Guard of the Holy See who act as the bodyguards to the Pope of the Roman Catholic church.

The Landsknecht – Very similar to the Swiss Guard, the German Landsknecht filled the same military niche throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. In fact the Landsknecht patterned themselves after the Swiss Guards and a rivalry grew between the two groups. Like the Swiss Guard they were known for their flamboyant uniforms as well as their battlefield discipline. The relationship between the Landsknecht and the Swiss Guards is a good historical example of how you can play up rivalries between PC and NPC adventuring groups.

Adventure Seeds:

The Amazing Race – A patron is looking for an adventuring party worth his or her time and has decided to hold a contest, with the PC’s being one of the groups invited to participate. The objective may be to recover an artifact, or slay a dragon, or to see who can recover the most impressive amount of treasure from a dungeon. The patron may make the objective’s location known and begin the competition with a grand ceremony, giving the entire affair a feel similar to The Great Raceor discovering the location may be part of the challenge. If the groups are allowed to fight each other the adventure will quickly turn into The Hunger Games but if they are not allowed to kill each other it will present a more subtle challenge.

Belle of the Ball – When normal adventuring groups return from a successful dungeon delve they usually head to the tavern to celebrate. When they have a powerful patron they have other responsibilities. The patron will want to show off their great adventurers and exhibit the recovered treasures and that means a grand ball. The players will be both guests-of-honor and centerpieces on display as bards tell stories of their exploits while the other guests get the chance to view these exotic creatures known as “adventurers”. The status gained by such events is too important to the patron and the wise adventurers will learn that this is a duty they cannot avoid.

Such events open possibilities for role playing and intrigues. It will also give rivals of the adventurers, or the patron, an opportunity for mayhem on a grand stage.

Dancing Bear – This angle is closely related to the previous seed. Adventurers rarely come from the ranks of nobility. Usually they are low-born sell swords, peasant apprentices in the mystic arts, or later children to minor nobility. They may mingle with the noble castes but they are not of those people. This is something they will be acutely aware of and there will always be members of the aristocracy ready to remind them at every opportunity. The adventurers are possessions, no different than trained animals or the unusual objects they pull out of a dragon’s hoard. Demi-humans in particular may fall under this stigma of being exotic curios in a human-dominated realm.

The adventurers will need to suffer these insults if they wish to retain their patronage. All too many tavern brawls end in fireball spells and battles with the city watch, but giving in to such impulses among the aristocracy will bring down a whole new level of punishment. Those seeking influence over the players will know and use this. Perhaps they will ingratiate themselves by feigning sympathy and friendship, going out of their way not to be like those other nobles. Some may make offers of titles and lands in order to lure the players away from their current patron. Enemies of the patron may send agent provocateurs with the intention of causing the players to lose their temper in the most spectacular ways possible.

Escort Duty – The patron will send someone important on an adventure with the PCs with explicit instructions to bring their new charge back in one piece. Failure to do so will invoke their patron’s wrath and the forfeiture of sufficient valuables to resurrect the deceased. However casting a sleep or charm spell on the hapless target and leaving them in a local inn isn’t an option, the patron is clear that their charge must experience the quest.

The NPC will definitely be a few levels lower than the player characters, providing a soft target that the veterans will need to shield. The old cliche of making their charge be arrogant and boorish works well here, but for a change of pace I’d suggest a different route. Have the NPC be hopelessly in love and out to prove his or her worth through facing dangerous adventures. For a twist, make that the stated goal but have the NPC secretly be in love with one of the PCs.

The NPC may also have a death wish, some secret or destiny that he or she finds so distasteful that they would rather die in the unholy depths rather than live to see it come true. Or perhaps the party is being set up to fail, as the patron or one of their rivals has marked the NPC to be killed in an indirect manner.

Betrayal – Maybe the party has grown too powerful for the comfort of their patron. Maybe their fame has begun to eclipse that of their patron, their exploits no longer bringing him or her the renown it should. Perhaps the patron has to sacrifice the adventurers for some political gain. Or maybe the collecting of adventurers has begun to bore the patron and is falling out of fashion. Engineering their downfall may provide one last great legend to boost the patron’s reputation, not to mention removing their now inconvenient presence from the patron’s household.

For a twist, leave doubt on if the patron really is behind the betrayal. Perhaps the real mastermind is one of their patron’s enemies and by driving a wedge between the two the villain is now free to move against their patron.

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things - The adventuring company of another patron has become powerful. So powerful that rumors abound that their patron is now their puppet. The adventurers are growing bolder and the nobility is beginning to take offense. Other groups have approached the PCs saying that if something isn’t done soon the aristocracy may withdraw their protection en masse and leave them open to a purge, judging all adventurers too dangerous. The other groups are willing to help but the player characters are the only ones close to the renegades in power.


 

Have any game seeds of your own? Any other historical examples to draw from? I’d love to hear them.

Landsknechte1

 Also the Landsknecht get +1 CHA for snappy dressing.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Fantasy, Gaming, History

 

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The DragonDex

I came across this nifty resource today.

The DragonDex is an exhaustive index of every article in Dragon Magazine, from issue #1 to issue #359. That’s an impressive feat!

In addition to the total index there are sub-indexes that will help you narrow your search. Of special interest to me is the Adventures list and the Fiction list looks fun. There are two lists that I’m surprised not to see, most notably a collection of the various PC and NPC classes presented in Dragon, but those would be easy enough to parse out from the master list.

Hats off to the creator for this handy resource.

*UPDATE* The character classes are broken out under a heading in the master index! Hat-tip to the author for the correction!

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2014 in Cool Stuff, Gaming

 

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Dwimmermount – Professional Adventurers

Aaaand we’re back!

Dwimmermount is a big book. A really, really big book filled with lots of details. Many are fleshed out in depth, such as the history of the megadungeon and the nature of dwarves, while others are left open to allow the dungeon master to develop them, or not, as best fits his or her plans.

One of these elements that caught my attention is an emphasis on rival adventuring parties. This isn’t a new idea, any megadungeon near a populated area is likely to draw attention from groups other than the PC’s. Rumors and evidence of rival groups venturing into the dungeon is an old DM’s tool for bringing the world to life and giving the PC’s a sense of urgency.

Dwimmermount takes this further than other published books I’ve read by including a section that details several rival adventuring groups. These groups come in different levels and have different motivations. Some are independent adventurers while others have been hired by various powers-that-be to explore the newly opened dungeon. There is also information provided in case the players themselves wanted to hire another party, either to bolster their numbers or to carry out some other task. Which, depending on the alignment and temperament of the characters could be very interesting indeed.

“Dr. Jones. Again we see there is nothing you can possess which I cannot take away.”

-Dr. Rene Belloq

There is even a table included in the Restocking section to cover the activities of these rival groups. This includes the possibility of encountering another adventuring party in the midst of a battle with the denizens of the dungeon, opening many possibilities for the players. An interesting omission is not having a reverse result, where the rival adventurers encounter the PC’s while they are engaged in combat.

Note to self…

This level of emphasis on competing adventuring parties is interesting enough, but one line in particular caught my attention. It’s in the history section:

“High Priest Saidon alerted the Despot of Adamas. The Despot has not yet committed his own hireling adventurers, the Crimson Band, much to the consternation of the temple of Typhon.”

-Dwimmermount, PG. 21

While not explicitly stated in the description of The Crimson Band, the implication from the above statement suggests that they are not just another band of freelancers. Instead they are directly linked to the Despot of Adamas. It could be that they are on retainer to the Despot, paid a regular fee to be available when he needs them, or perhaps their relationship is more direct. The Despot may be the group’s patron, making the Crimson Band his personal adventuring team.

This is an aspect I have not considered in a Dungeons & Dragons game, the idea of a wealthy patron financing a personal band of adventurers, and the more I think of it the more I like it. A powerful patron offers more than money and supplies to adventurers, he or she can provide protection once they return to civilized lands. The patron’s authority can give the characters a claim to hospitality from various nobles and officials. He or she can provide an outlet to sell treasure such as jewels, artwork, and magical items. After the patron has has their pick of course. Patrons can also provide valuable information.

This kind of relationship also makes sense from the patron’s standpoint. Aside from the obvious benefits of a share in the recovered wealth the patron also gains an elite team of troubleshooters, capable of defending the patron’s interests. A group of hardened explorers makes a fine fast reaction force to monsters that threaten the patron’s holdings, or a show of force against a rival noble, or a personal guard.

Or thieves and assassins.

Possibly the biggest attraction from a patron’s standpoint is the fame a successful adventuring company can bring. Historically it was important for nobles to demonstrate their wealth and power and the more ostentatious the display the better. A common practice among European nobility was to build large collections of exotic luxury items. This often crossed into obsession, with cash-poor kings taking out fantastic loans in order to further expand their collections of fine china, or sculptures, or even spoons.

In a Dungeons & Dragons world, what better display of wealth and power could a noble ask for than to have a famous adventuring group at their beck and call? As the players rise in level and fame so too will the prestige of their patron. Bards in the patron’s employ will make sure that the PC’s legend grows, making sure that they are recognized wherever they go.

Renown is a double-edged sword, but a very attractive one to most adventurers.

In my next post I’ll list a few ideas for adventures that could develop based on this kind of patron/party relationship. I’ll also include a couple historical and gaming resources that can be mined for ideas.

“Finally, as a referee, rival adventurers provide an opportunity to role-play with more depth than one is typically afforded by most monsters. I love playing the role of venal, self-interested antagonists; it’s fun in a way that playing Pig-Face Orc #231 is not.”

-James Maliszewski

Grognardia, March 7th, 2009 (Note, this is incorrectly listed as March 31st in the book)

 

DwimmerCover

Dwimmermount is now available from Drive Thru RPG.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2014 in Game Design and Mechanics, Gaming

 

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