Category: Gaming


So, after hearing about and refusing to play any of the Pokemon games or its multiple (and I mean 我的天阿, there are SO MANY of them!!) clones, rip-offs, and crazy-pants alternate versions of it, I slowly began hearing of a new new game franchise being added to the mix.

Now, I watched Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh!, and Digimon when I was younger. I even tried watching Card Captors or whatever it was called (someone help me out with that one), but couldn’t really get into any of them. Pokemon was fun and hilarious at times, but the only characters that resonated with me were the actual Pokemon themselves, and there seemed to be few episodes dedicated to them.

Though, I do vaguely remember one episode where the pokemon were the central characters but they still spoke poke-speak (Is there another name for that language where they all just say their names in odd-damn-ball ways? There has to be, right?)

What is he saying?? Is it Pika-nese, Pikachian, Pika, Pokenese, Pokemonian? WHAT ARE THEY SAYING???

What is he saying?? Is it Pika-nese, Pikachian, Pika, Pokenese, Pokemonian? WHAT ARE THEY SAYING???

Anyway, when the video games came out for game boy and all of its iterations, I didn’t really hold much interest in it. It sounded like so much work; running around, capturing these (mostly) cute little creatures and forcing them to fight for you to prove that you’re the best trainer alive. For some reason it just didn’t appeal to me.

Then came Skylanders Giants. Now, I admit, I was super skeptical of this game at first. It seemed like it was a knock-off of all the other “collect creatures and make them fight for you” games, so i wrote it off. Then I started hearing about it on two fronts:

My dear friend, Jesse, who has a nephew who is just silly over the game; and My sister-in-law, J.J., who has a son…also pretty silly over the game and has been doing his best to convince me to get the game myself. Well as of my birthday: Mission Accomplished, Aiden.

Mission Accomplished.

So, for all of you who haven’t heard of this game before (because you don’t have kids or live in a cupboard under the stairs) let me explain what makes this game so brilliant.

Hey, I get it. It's hard to get your gaming information when THIS is where you live. Sorry, Harry!

Hey, I get it. It’s hard to get your gaming information when THIS is where you live. Sorry, Harry!

So, when you buy the game with the starter pack it includes the game itself (available on MULTIPLE platforms, but we’ll get to why that’s awesome in a sec, be patient), but it also comes with a PORTAL OF POWER (just imagine that being said by the booming voice of James Earl Jones…oh yeah…):

This looks pretty cool. It glows even!!

This looks pretty cool. It glows even!!

What the hell is that thing for? Oh, I’m getting to that. Wait for it! You also get three figures. Which Figures you get all depend on what platform you buy it for, mostly. You plug in the portal to your console, power that bad boy up and then start the game.

Now I won’t get too much into the story, but suffice it to say you are fighting an evil Palpatine wannabe named Kaos who seems to want to take over the world and laugh like a crazy person. Normal villian-type stuff, sure. Enter the Skylanders, the heroes of this world. It is your job as “Portal Master” to make sure that the Skylanders are able to enter the world and defend it.

How do I do that? I thought you’d ask that! Here’s where the figures I mentioned come in. When you place any of the figures on the PORTAL OF POWER (and yes, I am going to keep doing that) that figure then materializes in the most insane, chezy, catch-phrasey way within the game itself.

Each figure has its own abilities and attacks based on the elemental family it belongs to. There are eight elements altogether: Earth, Air, Fire, Magic, Water, Life, Tech and Undead and while you might think that each elemental family might have a gripe with the others, there doesn’t appear to be anything like that in the game.

You also have two different kinds of Skylanders; you have the original type as featured in the prequel game, Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure (yeah, remember him, PS One fans? well….he’s back!), and you have Giants. The Giants are each the leaders of their respective element types and have been kind of missing for a while (though, how one could miss them I’ll never understand, they’re pretty distinctive…and huge!). The Giants are able to move through obstacles the other Skylanders can’t and access areas that are not within reach of the others.

Plus they look really bad-ass!

So bad-ass! Also...I don't think that there's any amount of "Clear Eyes" that can help him...

So bad-ass! Also…I don’t think that there’s any amount of “Clear Eyes” that can help him…

The gameplay is pretty cool too. You unlock more attacks to upgrade your skylander as you go, making them more powerful and pretty much more badd-ass. One of the cooler things about this is that, rather than saving all of your progress to the console itself you save your character’s progress to the figure itself thanks to NCF (near field communication) technology.

What does this mean, you ask?

Well it means that you can take your own figures, with all of their saved data, to the homes of anyone who happens to have the game and their own PORTAL OF POWER (told ya) and play with your character there. There is also a battle mode of the game that allows you to play, head to head, with someone who has their own saved skylander.

Here’s one of the more genius things about this game, though; and I dare say that this is what has helped the success of this franchise: Toys.

I mean, sure, the game is colorful and fun to play; it’s like a lighter version of Diablo marketed to young children.

And, yes, Patrick Warburton does a hilarious job in voice acting as one of the supporting characters in the game (spoiler, no spoilers!!).

oh alright, but this is the ONLY spoiler you get!

oh alright, but this is the ONLY spoiler you get!

The awesome and genius thing about this (and parents might roll their eyes at this) is the figures. Any new content, be it playable characters or landscapes, are accessible by purchasing figures and other toys, and believe me when I tell you there are a LOT of them. There is nothing in the way of downloadable content, but lots of toys that kids go bananas over. (I own five of them, myself) I’ve stood shoulder to, er, waist with several young gamers, all clawing and begging for new Skylanders toys. (seriously, it’s quite the site. I don’t think I had ever been so afraid for my life…or my non-existant cotton candy…kids still eat that, right?). What’s more awesome is that there are so many of these toys that there will always be more characters and content to add to the game.

Is Skylanders Giants the uber addictive gateway game for kids and adults that everyone makes it out to be?

Yes.

Will kids be talking about this for the next few years?

Likely.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, Eye-Brawl and I have our eye on some baddies in need of pummeling!

(Yeah…that was a terrible joke…remind me never to do that again…in this post…)

 

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So last Friday night was really really fun. My first time as a DM was very well received and everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy themselves.

So here’s a Synopsis of what happened this episode, starting with the Player Characters.

Harjongr

There’s Harjongr (Dwarf). A failed Necromancer doomed to slavery, he was rescued by Paladins of the Goddess Nusemnee and offered a chance at redemption. Taking it, he has become, himself, a Paladin of the order. Following the Death of the Minor Goddess, the order splintered and he became one of the last two adherents to the Order, dedicated to the principles and teachings that transformed his life. He traversed the landscape of Khorvaire during the Last War helping whom he could, not for the fame or recognition – simply because it was the right thing to do.

Mjothvitnir Ginnar, but his momma calls him Vit

There’s also his friend and comrade Vit (Dwarf). The sword to Harjongr’s shield, he is the other remaining adherent to the Order of Nusemnee. A a wanderer who fell in with a strange crowd, he was brought into the order by his friend and took to journey along the path of service and redemption, putting his darker abilities as a Blackguard to good use. The two Dwarves Traveled to the city of Sharn seeking a chance to serve.

Both Dwarves are also motivated by their mutual curiosity over how a Goddess, however minor she was, could just Die, and if she is truly dead at all…

Which is where they met the following Player Characters:

Othello

There is Othello (Human), member of a secret order of Gunmages. Towards the end of the Last War he amassed a small fortune as an Airship Pilot and Smuggler. Deciding to remain neutral during the war, he traversed the battlezones of Khorvaire delivering goods and cargo to the five warring factions up until the Day of Mourning, four years ago. After the establishment of the Twelve Nations though the Treaty of Thronehold, rumors began to spread among the smugglers that a law amongst them had been violated and that Othello had been smuggling far more than war supplies and arcane augments. Upon further investigation by officials, triggered by an anonymous tip, Othello’s shipping houses in Breland were discovered holding humanoid cargo, frozen in crystals to be sold. His business seized and his ships taken from him, he barely escaped capture, fleeing to the city of Sharn, driven by a desire to discover the truth of why he was framed and to regain all that he had lost.

Hamilcar

Othello left Breland, but he did not do so alone. With him, traveled his “Nephew” Hamilcar (Kalashtar), the son of his Deceased Best friend and Brother in Bond. A formidable Psionic, he remains the heir to his father’s formidable shipping guild…or would have been, had his father not died when Hamilcar was but 16. The other merchants and ship captains, refusing to take their lead from a teenager they thought had no experience, they left, leaving the dual souled youth with an empty Guild and his father’s former Bodyguard Bolgor (Warforgedpssst, he doesn’t know/remember that he’s warforged as he has an Arcane-made Synthetic skin).

Not much is really known about Bolgor, mostly because he doesn’t remember much past his awakening in the home of Hamilcar and his Father (who’s name I don’t remember). He is conscious of the decision he made to be the family’s protector, a decision made more critical by the death of Hamilcar’s father. On that day he swore to defend Hamilcar to his last breath. (which is funny because he doesn’t remember any real desire to breathe, either) Hamilcar and Bolgor closed the doors of the guild and, vowing to someday return, set out to prove themselves in the world, but not before paying a visit to his “uncle” Othello, who happened to be, at the time, a fugitive of Breland with a significant bounty placed on him.

 

Bolgor – he really does believe that he’s human…

The trio, after escaping the authorities, made way to Sharn as Othello still retained a few loyal contacts there who might yet point him in the right direction on his own personal Vendetta.

But ah, the need for coin would soon arise and our heroes, sensing a darkness overtake the metropolis, are thrust together as they all quest to unravel the mystery of the Dolurrh (Eberron’s Shadowfell). On their quest they learn of a priest who wishes to bring forth the Prince of Undeath, Orcus, and lay a swath of death and, subsequently, undeath across the world. The Band of Heroes defeat the priest and prevent the dark God from stepping into the realm.

Greatfull to them for this, the Lord Mayor Cathan ir’Demell, rewards them in gold and in a warm welcome to Sharn, granting them all citizenship in the process. Emboldened by this, the group decide that this adventuring thing, might not be such a bad lifestyle and buy themselves an inn/tavern that they call The Barrel and Hammer, to serve as a front for their private investigation/adventuring company. They hire a lovely half elf barkeep (Alarra) and a Dragonborn cook (Vol), and run the inn respectably in the heart of the Menthis Plateau, nearly a stone’s throw from Morgrave University.

And it is here that we begin our tale.

Part One: Death in the Upper City

A few months have passed since their meeting and the encounter with the dark priest, Kalarel. Their Inn is enjoying a moderate amount of success as the word spreads of the food and drink as well as of the newly forged reputation of its owners. The two Dwarves have even gone about setting up a small shrine to their fallen Goddess for those whom might wish to pay tribute, but since no one really pays much attention to that area to even notice the shrine, it’s mostly ignored except by the two of them.

1. The Bloody Bridge

On this particularly dark and rainy night, having not yet seen all that the city has to offer, the party leave the tending of the shop to Alarra and Vol and find themselves drinking and eating at an Inn called The Broken Anvil. Noticing the time, the party leaves to walk/stumble home, sobering up some along the way. Finding themselves upon a skybridge, Hamilcar’s awareness suddenly slams into focus as he spies a curious figure in a cloak avoiding the lights along the bridge, he watches curiously as the figure leaps from the bridge and disappears. After being informed as to what Hamilcar had just seen, the party moves cautiously across the bridge when they spot a body, lying on the ground in a pool of water and, presumably, his own blood.

When they get closer, it is Othello who recognizes the body of Provost Bonal Geldem, a scholar from Morgrave University. As they reach to investigate the body further, Hamilcar hears the sounds of an approaching climber and warns them just as the hooded figure leaps from the side of the railing an onto the bridge before them, throwing off it’s cloak it reveals itself as a Warforged, it’s eyes gleam bright red as it stares at Bolgor, atop his Dire Wolf mount, with a look of angry recognition.

the Warforged “Cutter”

“You…FLESH TRAITOR!!”

Though confused by this, the party takes no chances and jump into action. The battle is lengthy but the party, having taken their fair share of hurt, lands a strike that, finally cuts through the metal of the Warforged and sends a blaze of sparks flying through the air. Harjongr, ever the diplomat, reaches out to the construct in an act of compassion.

“You can be destroyed here, right now, or you can tell us what you want with this man’s body. The choice is yours, we do not wish to destroy you, but we shall if you press this further.”

The Warforged spits oil at the Dwarf’s feet in derision. “I would rather be destroyed by you, than to give in and disobey my master. He will have what is in that satchel, small fleshbag, one way or another!” And as he levels his axe to strike, he is struck down, to one knee. With his dying breath he looks to Bolgor again, rage in the bright red glow of his eyes and says. “I would not have expected this from you, after all we had been through together. You betray us, for these sacks of flesh and meat?? Your day…will…come…”

With his last words a compartment opens within his chest and a small clockwork dragonfly unfurled itself from within it and zips off into the night. The Warforged itself, falls to the floor, sparks flying from it as it clatters into it’s component parts and spills oil onto the rained-upon pavement.
Horjongr took the satchel from the provost’s body and examined the contents, locating what appeared to be a small journal with a mithril laced sigil on its cover. He opens the journal to find the pages, which weren’t made of any material he had ever seen, completely blank but having a sheen to them that was strange and unnatural. He was sharing this with the party and had just slipped the journal into his own travel satchel when an angry and astonished voice rings across the night from the other end of the bridge.

“Olladra’s bloody nose!” the voice curses. “By order of the Watch, drop your weapons and explain yourselves!”

2. The City Watch

Sgt. Dolom of the City Watch

The voice has come from a rather sturdy looking Dwarf with a close cropped beard and wearing the black and green studded leather of the City Watch, he is flanked by a male and female human bearing Halberds and crossbows. The Dwarf levels his own crossbow at the party, who recognize the him as Sgt. Dolom, the leader of the City Watch.

Instantly, the party drop all of their weapons (all except for Bolgor, who lurks behind Othello, still gripping his weapon but has dismounted from his wolf). Horjongr and Othello immediately use their charms to explain to the officer exactly what had just transpired.

“You know of us, we’re good people!” Horjongr spoke up. “We don’t know what the construct wanted or why he killed the Provost. We tried to ascertain that from him, but he refused. He only mentioned that he was sent by someone, an unknown master.”

Dolom lowers his crossbow, annoyed, but impressed. “While ye’ shouldn’ta take the law into ye own hands, I count meself impressed by yer actions and by ye honesty. He hands them all a bit of gold as a reward and hands the Gunmage and the Paladin a small ledger with his contact information. “Should ye’ need anything, lads. Now, ye best clear out. We have an investigation to begin.” And he waves them off. The group thank the officer and move on towards their own tavern.

3. The Broken Anvil

As the group heads home in the pouring rain, they are approached by another figure in a cloak. This figure’s hood is pulled down to nearly over his eyes and holds his hands up and open before them, to show that he has no weapons and no intentions of attacking them. He moves closer to the party and speaks low, yet loud enough for the five to hear him. “If you would know the truth of Bonal Geldem’s murder, you will go to the Broken Anvil at dawn. He turns away, wrapping his cloak around him and vanishing into the night before the party can question him.

They all glance at each other curiously and decide to head home and rest first before investigating the broken anvil.

At Dawn, the party all walk into the Tavern, to enthusiastic greetings from the other patrons and and smile and hug from Rosie, the halfling matron of the tavern. As she hugs Othello, he proceeds to squeeze the ass-cheek of the halfling (cementing his role as the gun-toting, scoundrel-charmer), who then proceeds to punch Othello in his Solar Plexus. As he grasps his stomach he glances at Rosie in time to see her wink at him with a small smile as she walks over to a table at the back of the common room and speak to a patron dressed in a fine hooded cloak. Flanking her is the hooded man who approached them hours before, his hand on a blade that hums with power as he grips the hilt cautiously.

“My Lady.” She leans over to the lady seated. “Your guests have arrived.”

Lady Elaydren d’Vown of House Cannith

The cloaked woman nods and Rosie smiles and waves the party over to her.

As the party draw closer, the woman removes her hood, revealing a beautiful dark haired, blue eyes woman, whose hair is bound in solver and turquoise ornaments. The signet ring of House Cannith gleamed on her right hand as she beckoned the party to sit and drink with her, shaking her head as Bolgor attempts to suavely flip into a chair next to her, but instead nearly falling on his face. “Thank you all for coming. Please forgive the ‘Cloak and Dagger’, my friends, but time is of the essence and I have a matter of utmost importance to discuss with you all.” She then introduces her herself as the Lady Elaydren d’Vown and gives the party information regarding an ancient family heirloom lost in an underground foundry in the ruins of what was once Old Sharn. “I was going to fund an expedition to locate the heirloom, but without Bonal…” her voice trails off and her eyes give off a look of an idea or plan forming in her head. “Perhaps you would be willing to recover the item for me. For a generous reward of course.”

At this, the party confer with each other and agree that they will take the job, but that there are things left out that are not being said. to that end. Horjongr hands over the journal that they found in Bonal’s Satchel. The signet ring and the journal immediately react to one another and the Mithril strands on the journal’s cover begin to glow along with the ring. To the party’s amazement, she opens the journal and scrawled handwriting suddenly appears where the pages had once been very blank. Her eyes fall upon a particular entry in the journal, her eyes going wide for a moment before pulling a map from her cloak and unfolding it onto the table.

“The location of the lost foundry is deep within the Dorasharn Tower,” She proclaims, quietly. “Fifty-seven levels below the tower’s present-day sewer system.” She looks at each of the party members in turn, a look of measured hope in her eyes. “I offer you five-thousand gold pieces and the good will of my house if you recover the item and return it to me. Will you help me?” She places a bag upon the table, which Hamilcar opens and reveals it to be one thousand gold pieces.  Lady Elaydren nods, “This is an up-front payment, and this…” she places a small token bearing the signet of her house upon it, “Is for you to use during this quest. If you are in need of equipment, go into one of the shops and show the owner this token. He will give you what you need on my house’s behalf.”

Othello pondered this for a second. “So, it’s a credit chit then?”

The Lady smiled. “Yes, of a sort.”

Horjongr raised his eyebrows and spoke up. “That thing we fought on the bridge.  what was it?”

Elaydren nodded solemnly. “That” she began “was a servant of the Lord of Blades called ‘Cutter’. He seeks the relic for his own nefarious purposes, no doubt.”

Vit, taking a swig of ale from his mug, spoke up as well. “And what, my lady, is it that we are recovering, exactly?”

“The relic we are seeking is an admantine plate in the shape of a seven-pointed star about the size of your hand.” She began. “It has no special power of its own, but it is an ancient schema-a piece of a pattern used by the ancient Cannith Artificers to create…well…unusual items. Recover this piece of history for me, and House Cannith shall be extremely grateful. ”

Now it was Bolgor who spoke. “Are there any dangers or dangerous people that we need to be aware of while on this…er…quest?”

Elaydren shrugged. “Other than the Lord of Blades, himself, who may have other agents seeking the schema…who knows what lurks in the hidden places beneath the city?” She pauses a moment. “Now that I think about it, Bonal did mention that he would definitely need to bring fire on the expedition with him. I wonder what he meant by that.”

The party look at each other making a mental note, thanks to Hamilcar’s mindlink, to equip themselves with fire as well.

The Lady continues. “Anyway, I urge caution, but I am completely confident that you can handle anything you might encounter in your search.” The hooded servant places a hand on her shoulder. “My Lady, we must get you back to the manor.”

She nods and begins to rise, as does the party. Horjongr places Bonal’s satchel on the table along with a few gold coins. “Did Bonal have any family, My Lady?”

She gives the dwarf a stunned look. “Why yes, yes he did. He had a wife waiting for him.”

He nods. “It would do my soul good to know that she received his things, along with this gold and our condolences.” He fingers the hilt of his hammer as it dangles from his belt. “We will do everything we can to ensure that his death was not in vain.”

Lady Elaydren blinks twice. “You show true character, master Dwarf. I shall see it done. I and my House thank you all.” She sweeps from the room with her guardian in tow.

Othello takes a last swig of his ale and gathers up the map, placing it in his many pocketed vest. “Well boys, To market!”

Part Two: Into the Depths

1.The Rat’s Market

After gathering supplies for firebomb crafting and enchanting and sharpening their weapons, the party, following Elaydren’s map, make their way through the tunnels and corridors of Lower Sharn, emerging into an area filled with a mix of Goblins, Humans, and Shifters gathering around small tables, booths, and wagons filled with items and trinkets. The smell of sweat and sewage permeates everything as the inhabitants are forced to breathe in the stale and putrid air. In the center of the area is a large collection of baskets filled with blankets and trinkets, either used or broken, or both. A Goblin shouts from atop one of them, eyeing the Party as they pass. “No pushing! No Pushing! There’s always enough for everyone at the Rat’s Market!”

the Goblin Skakaar

While Othello Haggles with one of the merchants over the sale of a long gun and shotgun, Horjongr surveys the area and catches the goblin, the very one who was shouting earlier, keeping a close eye on the Party. The Dwarf approaches the goblin and surveys his goods. “Is there a reason you watch us so.”

Surprised by the Dwarf’s boldness, the Goblin stutters his answer as the rest of the party begins to gather near. “I notice things is all, sirs. I can tell that you folk ain’t from around here, and that intrigues me. Is there anything that I might be able to do for you here, in the Rat’s Market?”

Othello, slinging the long gun onto his back and the shotgun into a leg holster walks over to the Goblin. “We’re looking for the entrance to the E-213 Valve Cluster. A Savy Goblin like yourself would know all about that wouldn’t you?”

The Goblin ponders this for a moment then begins pointing to his wears. “I have this rare stick of sealing wax, only partially used, for a mere sixty coppers. Or maybe you could use this fine woolen blanket with just a ‘hint’ of mildew? Only thirty-seven coppers. Ooooh, or maybe a skewer of boiled rat meet, eh? For you, only 4 silver. Or, I suppose, if I could point out the way to a certain valve cluster, but what would it be worth to you fine explorers, hmm? One hundred silver?”

At this, Vit steps foward, nostrils flaring. Horjongr senses this in just enough time to put a hand on his “brother’s” shoulder to calm him and leans over to the dwarf, producing a few gold coins from his satchel and tossing them towards the Goblin. “How’s this for assisting us?”

The Goblin, takes the coins and examines them, upon realizing that the coins aren’t fakes he flusters and turns a bright red color. He nearly falls off of his basket.

(Meanwhile, as Bolgor decides it a good idea to stand inside of one of the seller’s wicker baskets, Hamilcar notices halfling eyes upon him and his party and alerts the group to this via Mindlink)

The Goblin introduces himself as Skakaar. “I would be most pleased to aid you in this endeavor, but we must hurry, there have been others who seek the entrance to the cluster and they have not been nearly as generous as you sirs have” He leaps from his basket and gathers his things into a backpack.

A crossbow bolt, seemingly from nowhere, sticks into the ground in front of Skakaar and he leaps back cowering behind Horjongr, who readies his Hammer as a group of halfings begin to appear from out of the shadows. Their leader, a slender halfling brandishing a large knife, calls out from a few yards away. “You’ve been askin’ a lot of questions, and that’s something my boss don’t take to kindly to. It’s a shame, but we gotta kill you and the goblin now!” And with a signal, a trio of crossbow snipers appear atop the mercantile roofs and begin firing bolts at the heroes, while brutes move in from all sides to attack.

Rory, Halfling Rogue

Within moments, over half of the halfling party are dead and their leader knocked flat on his back, bleeding heavily. Horjongr stands over the little man and lays his hammer down upon his chest. Vit stands nearby with his Halberd at the ready, a snarl upon his lips as his shield-brother speaks. The rest of the party, stand close, weapons pointed either at the fallen halfling or at the remaining members of his party.

“Why does your master want the schema?” The Paladin asks. “Be aware that it should benefit you most if you surrender and tell us what you know, we don’t wish to kill you, but we will if we are pressed to.”

Knowing that he is defeated, the Halfing drops his weapon and motions for his men to do the same. “Please. You win, but I tell you I know nothing of the schema you seek, I only know that my master has ordered your deaths and that I will die, having failed him.”

Hamilcar sees into the Halfling’s mind and sees the truth of his words. “What is your name, halfling?” He asks, helping the small man to stand.

“I am called Rory.” He answers “Of the Boromir clan.”

Horjongr, knowing that clan name, frowns. “I have heard of your clan. How can one from such a noble clan come upon a lifestyle such as this?”

“Well, look at us!” he half shouts, half sobs. ” I was exiled from my clan long ago, for dealing in forbidden spices. Now I and my brethren live here, on these streets, fighting for our very survival.”

Harjongr, feeling sorry for the Halfling, pushes a handful of gold into his hand. “Take this and go to the Barrel and Hammer, get yourselves cleaned up and fed. If you wish it, we can provide you work, or, if you wish to continue in your current way of life, we can provide you with a safe place to rest, so long as you provide us with information when we need it.”

The Halfling and his men all beam at him. “You shall not regret this, my new friends. We shall await you at your tavern, good luck in your quest.”

They all watch as the surviving band of halflings leave the Rat’s Market. Skakaan turns towards the Party. “Well then, come now sirs. To the Valve Cluster we go…”

Will our heroes find the missing schema?

Will they get to the bottom of the Murder of Bonal Geldem?

Will they ever learn that Bolgor really isn’t as human as he appears?

What is the deal with Lady Elaydren?

Find out next session…

 

 

To Be Continued!!

Okay, so the campaign I’m running begins in little over an hour and a half!

I’ve got everything set. Monsters and Enemies created and accounted for.

Campaign adequately Modified (there may still be some making things up as I go along and I’ve prepared for that as well).

I’m in the process of drawing the opening map as we speak.

I’ll be tweeting and Tumblr-ing the night as it goes by.  ( http://sphinxakashaa.tumblr.com/  my twitter is, as always: @sphinxakashaa

Wish me luck.

Hell, wish the PC’s (player characters, for those not in the loop) luck.

 

Allons-Y!!

So I found this and had to share…how could I not?

 

 

 

 

 

a beautifully done strip by Simon Goeneulte and Alexis Moroz.

Everything IS possible!!

For the love of Sackboy

 

He's a lover, not a fighter...

So, to start, this post will be the first of an ongoing string of reviews on all manner of stuff. We love stuff, you love stuff, I LOVE STUFF. You want to know what stuff is good? I like seeing if stuff is good, thus the rigorous testing of stuff and reviewing of said stuff, which will be posted here on my blog of awesome!! I’ll cover things from Film and Television (new, old, and upcoming), Books (of the Geeky variety, and a few that maybe aren’t), Gaming of various shades (Video gaming and Table Top, Mostly), and Music. This way, I’ll always have something to write about and you will have something awesome to read about here (that won’t always be mushy or soapbox-like here)

 

Now that we have that out of the way…

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am a Gamer. I like to follow the happy middle path between Hardcore and Casual. In other words, I LOVE to HAVE FUN!

This brings me to the game I am reviewing today. Sorry that it’s so short.

I used to be the proud owner of the last gen PS2 and Xbox consoles, the Current Gen systems had been released by this time, but I didn’t really have much of an interest in either of them at the time.

Until I watched the PS3 Keynote one fateful E3 (for those of you who don’t know what that is – it’s the Electronics Entertainment Expo, it’s like a huge Video Gaming convention, but it’s mainly for the Press. The Vendors/Console Companies often talk about the experiences they’ve had with their product over the last year and then preview the shitload of goodies they’re releasing in the next year – it’s awesomeness on toast). It was the usual thing you might expect, look at the number of units that our console is selling (which wasn’t many in comparison to Xbox, at the time), look at the cool new games we’re releasing, look at how we’re changing video gaming as you know it.

And then they revealed their showcase game – a British Video Game called LittleBIGPlanet.

From the moment the first vids of it were revealed, it captured the attention of everyone watching. This game promised gameplay that would be accessible to every level of gamer, it promised a level of cuteness and fun that went way beyond the level of awesome, most importantly, they promised the ability to utilize developer tools to create playable levels of their own to upload to a virtual community via the Playstation network (or PSN) for other players to test, rate, and be inspired by.  Here’s part 1 of the developer walkthrough at the e3 conference.

This was the game that prompted my interest in the Playstation 3 console. My wife (then my girlfriend) bought the console for me for our 2nd year anniversary, and the wait for the release of LBP began. It was well worth the wait!

In the 2 years since the release of LittleBIGPlanet, the game has more than lived up to the hype. In addition to being insanely cute and insanely fun, players have created almost 10 million levels and pieces of content that has been uploaded to the network. (Including one of mine – it’s not nearly as good as the others, trust me. lol) For this reason alone, it looked like there wouldn’t really be a need for a sequel, right?

Wrong! WRONG!!!

Media Molecule released the much anticipated and thirsted after sequel to the blockbuster, genre changing game, which means more levels, more DLC (Downloadable Content), more uploaded levels to play, and more tools with which to build anything you can think of. So far I’ve seen LBP remakes of several Video Game titles (like Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Pac Man, Street Fighter II, and yes – Space Invaders) and the creation of all new games and interactive bits of visual art that are mind boggling and  awe inspiring. Also, the addition of the grappling hook, the throw gloves, and the mountable character vehicles add a level of awesome that adds to the difficulty as well as the fun of gameplay and keeps me unable to breathe from laughing so much

I personally haven’t finished the game yet. I’ve honestly been having too much fun playing the created levels and coming up with ideas with one of my own (one that’s not as lackluster as the last attempt. lol) and trying to convince Christine that it’s not nearly as stressful playing as it might look. The wonderful thing about this game is that it forces you to have fun, whether you intend to or not, forces you to laugh, forces you to point out all of the little quirks and inside jokes and nods to pop culture, it’ll make you want to play with other people so that you’ll all laugh until you can’t breathe.

Most importantly, just like its predecessor, it’ll force you to imagine.

Just play the game and see if it doesn’t bring a smile to your face!

So, as I may have stated at some point in the past, there are aspects of myself – my personality – that help to define me as a person. My music, my writing, my desire to be an exemplary Husband and Father, and the path I walk Spiritually all fall into this category. The oldest aspect of myself is the one I had the hardest time coming to terms with as I grew up – the Nerd/Geek factor. To anyone my age who shares this particular trait, you know what I mean.

Imagine spending a good deal of your young life ostracized and made fun of because you’re not good at sports (not popular ones, at least), you like reading poetry or sci-fi or fantasy or science books, playing video games, and have a tendency to carry around a set of Magic: The Gathering cards or a bag of polyhedral dice. What type of person would that turn you into as an adult? I know the answer will be different for a lot of us. Some of us shed that lifestyle entirely and become Meat-heads and Assholes. I see this trend more often than I would like within my age group and it makes me really sad when I see someone that I hung out with due to this commonality and see how much they’ve changed – completely casting that former self aside or pretending that it never happened. The Kinship I had once had with them, ultimately, was lost to the winds, and I knew that they would never reach out to claim it again.

I had, during my college years, made a feeble attempt at suppressing my inner Geek; not to completely kill it off so much as tone it down a bit, for the sake of being “cool” and all that jazz. Eventually, it would rear it’s strange head at some unforeseen time and I’d be assaulted with raised eyebrows and stifled giggles. It didn’t help that the University I went to didn’t seem to openly have any of my Kin there to relate with, though I stumbled upon one or two in my time there that made being at “Fashion Walkway University” bearable.

After college, I met and made friends with people who were of the same persuasion as I. They actually enjoyed gaming and hanging out and being complete nerds. They were a bit older than me so I  felt a bit out of my depth being around them at times, but there was an unspoken kinship with them that played a huge role in my inner Geek coming out of seclusion and back into the daylight. Being that this was during a particularly dark time in my life makes that process all the more profound for me, as it was a venue for my self-repair of sorts. They were warm. They made me feel welcome. They were there to let me know that it was okay for me to be what I am. I was determined to be the best Geek I could be!!

When I moved out to Washington, I met a really awesome group of people. Some were Geeks themselves, some were simply Geek Adjacent by virtue of being married or in love with one. We didn’t share all of the same interests, but many of the ones we did/do share are beyond awesome. They, just as the group back in New Orleans had, made me feel welcome and safe to be myself in a place where I was all but foreign.

I would delve more into that lifestyle while here, going to Cons, rediscovering Wil Wheaton, learning that there were people who viewed me much in the same light as I had viewed the people who had embraced and accepted me.

Yet somewhere buried inside me there was still that middle school/high school kid who wanted to be cool to the cool kids, who wanted to be accepted by everyone, who was just a little bit ashamed of what he was, and afraid of being made fun of.

That ended this past Saturday.

A couple of friends of mine, a married couple (who also just recently joined the “new parents” club) that I work with, hosted a Dungeons and Dragons session at their home. I Hadn’t played the game in something like a decade or so, but my interest in it had resurfaced, and I was so excited to find people who shared that interest as well. I am also friends with a young man just out of high school who reminds me a lot of myself at that age. When I told him earlier in the week about what I was doing – he expressed such excitement and interest in it that I got him an invite into the game as well. It helps to add that he had never played D&D before – EVER, so I figured this would be an awesome initiation for him into that world.

(if you’re having touble understanding what any of this means, find the nearest Geek and ask them to explain it to you. And ask them nicely – manners still count for a lot in our world)

He arrived before I did and was already looking at sample character sheets when I got there. It was something I think I’ll remember always, and hold out the hope that I can someday do the same with my little girl, when she’s old enough.

It was an awesome night. Junk food, gaming, and more obscure nerdy references than you could shake a babelfish at. It was everything I had been wanting since my youth – the sense of Acceptance and Kinship that only happens so often. And it happened among a group of awesome people, two of them whom I hadn’t met until that night. I was a geek. We were all geeks. And we were unabashedly so. I can’t speak for everyone there, but there was a magic present that had nothing to do with the fact that my character (I rolled a Sorcerer) had shot lightning at a Kobold. Something that my wife saw in me when I came home that night, grinning as if I had just gotten a tour of the greatest candy factory known to man and was given the keys at the very end and told that it all belonged to me. (Yeah, I went there)

I had achieved another level of self-acceptance. DING, motherfraker!!

We’re playing again this coming Saturday and every other Saturday afterwards. We are that awesome! Yes, you want to be us! Believe it!!

Something I should mention – even now, as an adult, I have these moments where I completely geek out – I mean really get excited – about something awesome. It’s not always understood by everyone, “normal” people especially (I’ve taken to calling them Muggles…see what I did there?). I still get the oddball stares and the raised eyebrows. People still roll their eyes…okay so maybe it’s just my Wife who rolls her eyes, but she has permission to do that, it’s part of the marriage contract – it’s there in fine print (at least, she says it is). Anyways, I always find it so odd that rather than ask questions about things they don’t understand, Muggles just dismiss it as uncool or unworthy of them. Or they say something like: “Yeah, I saw/participated/heard about that once, it wasn’t that awesome or exciting or anything I would be interested in at all.”

Muggles, I give you this bit of advice: Don’t just dismiss what could prove to honestly be a great time, try it – honestly try it out. If it’s not for you, then at least now you have more understanding of it then you did before. You can’t just diss it because it looks Nerdy, you could come to enjoy our world too if you would only give it a chance.

I’m just sayin…

I suddenly remember my freshman year of high-school, or maybe it was my sophomore year, I remember being on a field trip somewhere and being asked by this girl (who I thought was the prettiest girl in our class at the time) as to why I was such a geek. It was in such a negative and condescending tone that I was taken aback and fundamentally stung/wounded by her question. I didn’t/couldn’t answer or I said “I don’t know” or something equally lame. I was absolutely mollified.

I wish I had my own TARDIS, because if I did I’d jump back to just before that moment and prepare past me for that, and he’d end up saying something to the effect of:

“I’m a Geek because it’s fun, because I enjoy it, because I don’t have to pretend to be someone I’m not because I think it’ll make me seem cool to people who could honestly care less anyway. I’m a geek because I was raised to be so, unintentionally, but here I am, all the same. I have imagination, I have talent, I have the courage to be myself even during moments like this, when all I really want to do is crawl into a hole and read a book. I’m a Geek, and a Nerd, and a Dork because I know that in 15 years and afterwards we’ll be well on our way to running the Fraking world, because it’s all I know how to be and I don’t want to be anything else and someday it’ll make me, to some lucky kid or group of kids/people cooler than all the Athletes, movie stars, and Rappers on the Goddamned planet!

I am Geek, Gorram-it!! Hear me Fraking W00T!!”

you know, something to that effect.

Gamer-ism


So, as promised, I am writing about gaming as a whole.
I find that the gaming culture as of late tends to be divided into three groups:

* The Fanboy/girl:- these gamers tend to be loyal to their particular platform, genre, or game with an almost religious fanaticism. I find them to be more common when it comes to consoles (i.e. Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo).

*The Hardcore – I find these players more often in MMOs and First/Third Person Shooters. These are the people who, while not loyal to any particular gaming type or console, will play any game with such fervor and intensity that one would think that these people were being paid to play at 175% and that anything less would result in immediate execution. These are the folk you hear about on PSN, XBOX Live, or World Of Warcraft using racial slurs and cursing up a storm whenever something doesn’t go their way. They also make it a point to tell you how to play the game if you’re not playing the way they think you should be. I kinda want to throw these people against a wall and scream into their left ear with a megaphone that it’s ONLY A FUCKING GAME! GET OVER YOURSELVES!!

– as you can see, I don’t have a whole lot of love for this gamer type –

* then there’s the Casual Gamer – this is what Wikipedia has to say about them: “Casual gamer” is a loosely defined term used to describe a type of video game player whose time or interest in playing games is limited compared with a hardcore gamer. Casual gamers can conceivably consist of any people who show more than a passing interest in video games, therefore it is difficult to categorize them as a group. For this reason, games which attempt to appeal to the casual player tend to strive for simple rules and ease of game play, the goal being to present a pick-up-and-play experience that people from any age group or skill level could enjoy.
– these gamers are primarily classified under you Wii and DS gamers. (not always true, but there it is)

__________________________________________________________________________________

I don’t know that I could place myself into any of these categories. They all seem to be gamers of varying extremes. Honestly – when I play a game, all I want is to have a good time.

That’s what these things are for, right?

I don’t enjoy being called a racist name where, in a game where the point is to shoot your opponent in the face with a very large gun, I just shot my opponent in the face with said very large gun. (I don’t like being called a racist name at all, but that’s not why we’re having this discussion)

I hate, when playing World of Warcraft, I spec myself to a particular play-style that I am comfortable with and get good at, only to be bombarded with messages by people in the random group I joined to do a quest that I’m not playing the way they think I should be playing.

I’m sorry, I thought this was a game. I thought that these massive online games allowed us to utilize our own individual playing styles. If I wanted to be made subject to a soulless, rhythm-less routine of blah blah blah, I’d be playing Frogger or Pong.

Here’s how it is for me, personally, as a gamer:

1) It is one of the primary forms of relaxation I have. If I’ve had a shit day and want to punch someone in the face – I can come home and play something uber violent and release all that anger and tension out on computer or player controlled avatars. (ie. Grand Theft Auto)
– and it’s fun
2) A good deal of these games have very compelling stories. It’s an entirely new and intriguing form of storytelling.
– and it’s fun
3) I enjoy open world style games that allow me to get away with stuff I would never ever do in real life. There is nothing like walking away from your starting point with a 12-gauge shotgun, making a car stop in front of you, shooting the driver of said car in the face through their windshield, stealing said car after heaving the body out of it and careening down the busy streets at HOLY SHIT mph, running over pedestrians with your arm out of the window either firing off your SMG or throwing grenades at the cars behind you while the police and other law enforcement chase after you and causing millions of dollars worth of damage and taking about a hundred or more computer controlled lives in the process, all the while giggling like a school boy with an ice cream sundae – to quote a good friend “I like to Fuck their Shit up!”
– and did I mention it’s fun?
4) and here’s the BIG one for me! Playing with Friends!! I hate playing with strangers, most of the time they’re in one of the categories I mentioned earlier or they’re just assholes! I like playing with people I know and like. That way, there’s no pressure to be bad-ass, no need for cursing anyone out (unless that’s the way you banter/shit-talk), and no need for ridiculous douche-baggery. Why? Cuz we’re all friends and we respect and like each other enough that we’ve already gotten all of the asshole stuff out of the way and just like to play together. Not having to wory about playing the game right by anyone else’s standards and hanging with your friends=WIN!!
(granted, this is not always possible with me because I own a PS3 and so many of my friends Have XBOX 360’s, but there are a few I can still play with)
– oh yeah…FUN!!!
5) the Challenge factor! Something that can make me think, something that makes me reassess how I approach my own playing style, where the puzzles reflect the way the world in which your playing works and implements it seamlessly is something I look for when playing a good game (except where the object is, of course, shooting all of your opponents in the face). Role Playing Games are among my favorite genres because of this.

If I get my hands on a game that encompasses all of the above – it’s like Gamer Nirvana for me.
and …it’s…FUN!

I’d like to think of my way, the way of fun, as a happy middle path.
So if we meet on the virtual battle field, worry not. I will never teabag you, never call you a racist name, never tell you what to do when you play (unless we’re maybe playing a squad based tactical shooter and I am calmly giving out orders because I am captain of the squad). You will be safe with me and my friends – unless your being shot/stabbed/magicked to death/beaten mercilessly by us (and even then, I would do so honorably).

Okay, I’ve talked enough – time to open the floor for discourse! Why do you game? What’s your Motivation for gaming? What are the highs and lows for gaming for you, personally?

Let your Gamer/Geek flag fly!!!

Observations of a Social Gamer

The idea of gaming from my own personal standing is that one should partake to enjoy one’s self: to have fun. I, myself, am a gamer for this very reason. What I have found on more than one (or one hundred) occassion(s) is that many of the gamers that I find myself in the company of (online) take their gaming experience so seriously that it has the tendancy of ruining the game and the experience the game is meant to provide for others. I see things happening in games like World of Warcraft,Modern Warfare, the Halo games, Metal Gear Online, etc., and it’s very disturbing.

It’s not even a matter of the usage of foul language (which everyone does to some degree or another) or the gratuitous amount of “Shit Talking”, which I myself partake in from time to time. It is the racial/sexual slurring, hate-mongering, and all out adolescent immaturity that disturbs me. Calling someone a “Nigger” or a “Fag” just because you were shot in the face by your opponent while playing a game where the objective is to shoot your opponent in the face is, well, rather stupid and bespeaks of someone who holds the mentality of a 5 year old who throws a tantrum because he/she doesn’t get his/her way.

I know that there are many young and even teenage gamers who are guilty of this, I expect but do not condone it from them. What/who I WILL condemn are the Adults in the gaming world who are guilty of the same thing. IT’S A GAME!!!! It’s not a presentation for your job, it’s not a job interview, it’s not actually saving the world from whatever method of destruction the game is offering – it’s a conduit for fun and enjoyment that can be(and should be) shared with multiple people. All I see, however, is hate, and anger – and we all remember how that worked out for Anakin, and this last administration (yeah, I got political just then, you’ll live).

Give FUN a chance! and stop ruining the experience for those of us who are in it to have fun!! You want to be an over competitive Douche? Great, find other like-minded people to play with/against and let out all of your negativity and hate with them. That’s why sites like exist, right?? Go be insane with each other and please leave those of us who are actually trying to Enjoy the game alone!!

Next post: “Why are you a gamer?”

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