Monday, August 29, 2011

MTG Tips #5 Top 7 Ways to Handle Tokens

Tips and tricks for Magic the Gathering players.

There are times you might have to stare down a massive wave of tokens and you simply can't block all of them. There's enough to easily deal 20 or more damage to your dome and you need an answer. Unlike my other posts in this series, I won't be explaining the choices since the cards themselves seem pretty self explanatory. Instead I'll just list more examples than usual.

1) Board Sweep
Board sweep fixes a lot of problems. In fact it fixes most problems. Why deal with tokens when you can just carpet bomb the area? Wrath of God, Day of Judgment, Austere Command, Phyrexian Rebirth, Martial Coup, Pyroclasm, Slagstorm, Volcanic Fallout, Flamebreak, Infest, Mutilate, Decree of Pain, Damnation, Life's Finale, Black Sun's Zenith, Windstorm, Corrosive Gale, Hurricane, etc.

2) Static Effects
Static effects are capable of keeping tokens off the field indefinitely. These cards keep the field clear of annoying pests better than a pool of acid or your mother's horrendous singing voice. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Ghostly Prison, Norn's Annex, Windborn Muse, Night of Souls' Betrayal, Engineered Plague, Ascendant Evincar, Screams from Within, Leyline of Singularity, Stormtide Leviathan, Cumber Stone, etc.

3) Punish
Some cards punish opponents for having, casting, or attacking with too many creatures. Warning: casting these may bring you a bit closer to the dark side. Blood Seeker, Massacure Wurm, Hissing Miasma, Netherborn Phalanx, Spreading Plague, No Mercy, Dread, Circle of Flame, Suture Priest, Lightmine Field, Michiko Konda, Truth Seeker, Dissipation Field, Powerstone Minefield, Raking Canopy, Retaliator Griffon, Farsight Mask, etc.

4) Bounce
Bouncing back an entire wave of tokens to the opponent's hand means they lose all of them for good. Much like sinking the Titanic, these tokens won't be able to paint anyone like one of their French girls. Echoing Truth, Evacuation, Inundate, Hurkyl's Recall, Wash Out, Soulquake, Wouldpurge, etc.

5) Tap Out
If your opponent is only using an army of tokens as annoying blockers then foil their plans with these spells that tap them out and leave them defenseless. Thoughtweft Gambit, Naya Charm, Sleep, Aether Shockwave, Aboshan, Cephalid Emporer, etc.

6) Fog Effects
Maybe your opponent attempts to setup a single massive strike with an Overrun or similar effect? Why not use a ninja smoke ball such as Fog, Moment's Peace, Tangle, Blunt the Assault, Holy Day, Kami of False Hope, Darkness, Batwing Brume, etc.

7) Echo
Echoing Truth was already mentioned but Echoing Decay, Echoing Ruin, and Maelstrom Pulse can work just as well.

Remember, when dealing with tokens: just don't.

This is Kylak signing out and reminding you to always have the higher ground against their token army.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

VG Talk #5 JRPGs aren't Dead they're just Spread

Video Game discussion.

Every now and then I notice a gaming site throwing around a particular phrase, "JRPGs are dead." I'm not exactly sure why this trend started but I can't help but disagree. Just to be clear: JRPG = Japanese Role Playing Game (Example: Final Fantasy).

Just to name a few recent titles (from the last 5 to 6 years) after only five minutes of research:
Final Fantasy XIII, Type-O, XIII-2, and XIII Versus
Kingdom Hearts 2, 358/2 Days, and Birth by Sleep
Persona 3 and 4
Devil Summoner 2
Digital Devil Saga 2
Odin Sphere
Monster Hunter 3 portable, Tri, and 3 portable HD remaster for PS3
Pokemon Black, White, Heart Gold, Soul Silver
Dragon Quest IX and X
Tales of Abyss, Vesperia, Graces, and Xillia
Valkyria Chronicles 1, 2, and 3
Demon’s Souls
Resonance of Fate
Disgaea 3 and 4
Star Ocean: The Last Hope
Eternal Sonata
Rune Factory Series
Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn

That’s not even considering the more obscure titles or the countless titles that never got imported here in the US. I think it's clear from that list alone that JRPGs seem to be thriving and innovating to this day.

While the JRPG genre is anything but dead (more titles are being released here in the US than ever before) there is a serious threat to the genre: the spread over consoles. Back in the day, all major JRPGs appeared on the Super Nintendo. Later on, Playstation 1 and 2 took the genre under their wing. Each generation of gaming had a single console holding all of the major titles. This made it a breeze for players to get their hands on every major release. This generation of JRPGs however are spread out over the PS3, PSP, Wii, DS, 3DS, and soon enough the PS Vita. The majority of gamers here in the US don't own multiple consoles or multiple handhelds which means US sales are typically low unless it's a brand that's easily recognizable such as Final Fantasy. To make matters worse, handhelds are extremely popular in Japan (but not in the US) which translates to handheld exclusives that US players may never get the chance to play. This also translates into lower US sales which increases the chance of games not being localized or made in the future. Xenoblade Chronicles, Last Story, and Pandora Tower are the most recent and prominent examples of games that may never exist in the US (as of the time of this writing).

Bottom line: JRPGs aren't dead. If that was the case then it wouldn't be one of the most expansive genres in the last 5 years.

This is Kylak signing out and hoping you check out the list of games above. You might find a new favorite.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Reverse Dungeoneering #6 Making Combat more Engaging

Improving your D&D experience. For Dungeons and Dragons Players and DMs.

This is the second article in a series of D&D combat related articles. Check out part one: Speeding Up Combat of 4th Edition

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. You’re DMing and the players are in the middle of combat. Players are rolling dice and something comes up that prompts someone to tell an out of game joke. Then things derail into more jokes and stories and before you know it, it’s 2AM and it’s time to end the session. Sensing some déjà vu? I’ll be the first to say that there’s nothing wrong with this scenario. If everyone’s having fun then that's all that matters right? There are however groups that would prefer to actually stay focused on the game so I've got a few handy tricks for DMs to help engage players during combat (I originally posted this in a forum as advice but it seemed worthwhile enough to post here and spread the love).

1) Roleplay
Whether it's intelligent creatures being condescending to the party in a fight or creatures making snarls and mad lunges toward their characters, they pretty much have to pay attention. This gets them invested in the encounter.

2) Descriptions
Add in-depth descriptions to get their imagination running.
"The beast's rotten teeth tear into your flesh. Your blood begins to run down your arm."

3) Shock value!
If the fight opens up with an explosion (metaphorically although literally works too) or something dramatic happens a few turns in, they'll be all ears.

4) Mystery
Adding cryptic events or clues to something much larger, whether it be in or out of an encounter, will definitely get them curious.

5) Questions
If they're not actively paying attention and it's their turn then simply ask them, "What is Melira doing?" You want to make sure to use their character's name in most instances to keep them in character and bring focus back to the game.

This is Kylak signing out for now but you can look forward to this combat series continuing in the future.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Reverse Dungeoneering #5 When is Metagaming acceptable?

Improving your D&D experience. For Dungeons and Dragons Players and DMs.

In the previous Reverse Dungeoneering article (here's the link for your convenience: I alluded to a future post when I mentioned that metagaming doesn’t need to hold a purely negative connotation. Today I’ll finally get around to giving a few examples (just a few because I don't have time to cover all the bases or we'll be here all night) of how metagaming can be helpful or even necessary.

1) Character Stats
Let’s say you’re roleplaying a character with a high intelligence. Let’s go with a number around 20 for this example. You’d be surprised but it’s actually impossible for you to roleplay that character properly or think on that level. Don’t take it personally but that’s beyond a genius level intellect in D&D terms. So what if a puzzle comes along that you can’t solve but your character would find it child’s play? Your DM would obviously need to give you, the player, hints which you would then use in game as your character. This happens to be metagaming and yet it's extremely helpful in this case.

2) Character Creation
You can’t even play D&D without creating a character and yet this very act is actually metagaming. You’re using outside knowledge to build a character that you want to play in game and tailoring the character as you desire. This is something that's completely awesome and yet it's metagaming.

3) Game Mechanics
Game mechanics themselves are a bit too broad so let’s pick a very specific example. How about action points? The fact that you can gain and lose action points that grant different benefits depending on your character is something that you can only keep track of as the player. Can you imagine characters discussing their action points in game? Definitely not. It’s simply a necessary game mechanic that happens to be a metagame concept.

4) Out of Game Relationships
Oh crap! We’re getting into some dangerous territory here but I figured I would bring this up. There are plenty of couples (married, dating, or otherwise) that play D&D together who are able to keep their relationship and their characters in the game completely separate and harbor no jealousy what so ever and you know what? More power to them. The rest of us aren’t able to distance ourselves like that and since the priority of the game is to have FUN above all else, I personally don’t care for this to ever come up. My personal fix for this issue is to allow players to metagame their relationships in game. Yep. I know there will be some who won’t agree with this solution but I find it to be an easy fix that has always worked regardless of relationships or group dynamics.

This is Kylak signing out and I hope your metagaming is always of the awesome variety.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Critical Playtesting #9 The Druid

Playtesting different classes and races so you'll give them a shot.

Whether you want to change into beasties or summon an animal companion to fight by your side (to clarify: you pick one or the other), this class is probably for you. Let's jump right into the selling points this time around shall we?

1) Pick a role. Any role.
Druids can be built around almost any role. The only thing they aren’t as proficient with is being a primary Defender but anything else is fair game (Primary: Controller, Leader, or Striker. Secondary: Striker, Controller, Leader, or Defender.). Almost every role combination in the game is possible which is a rarity among class choices.

2) Versatile Ass-Kicking.
You’re not just versatile in what roles you can build around but also how you stomp face. Shape shifting, animal companions, ranged AOE, ranged control, ranged heavy damage, weapon attacks, beast form attacks, close implement attacks, healing, stun effects, bull rushes, and the list just goes on. That's more than 10 different flavors of pain! With extra calcium and no added preservatives!

3) We like to move it move it.
You’re more maneuverable than an Arwing doing barrel rolls! Wild Shape and many Druid powers actually hand out free minor action shifts. Sentinel Druids get to move themselves and their animal companion each round which is twice the amount of movement a single character gets (especially when you take into account if you're immobilized, your companion can still move or vice versa).

4) I choose you *insert random summon*!
So apparently the Druid is the best summoner in the game. Fancy that. That kind of speaks for itself so let's move on.

5) HP-BBQ Sauce!
Your HP and healing surge count is on level with most leaders, better than most strikers, and far beyond any controller. Plus, most Druid builds use Con as a secondary stat which helps your HP even more. Primal classes tend to have higher HP than most other classes and the Druid continues this trend.

6) Roleplaying opportunities.
Seriously think about it. Druids live a life kind of outside the norm and most likely come from a tribe with very interesting customs and traditions. There are a lot of angles to play around with when it comes to respecting nature. Add to that the fact that you can either change into other animals or that you might have your own animal companion brings along even more opportunities.

This is Kylak signing out and inviting you to party it up like an animal in the comments section below.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Critical Playtesting #8 The Warden

Playtesting different classes and races so you'll give them a shot.

You’re the staunchiest of the staunch and one of the few that can yell, “None shall pass!” and mean it. You’re built to last longer than mountains as your defenses are the best in the game. The day you crash to your knees in battle is a cold day in hell. You are a Primal Defender. You are a Warden.

1) Guiness Records for HP
You surpass every other class in the hit points category. Your HP is so high you wouldn’t be able to commit seppuku even if you tried.

2) Twice the Savings
Unique to your class is the ability to have an extra chance at saving during the beginning of every turn. You easily shrug off would-be annoying effects like Sleep, Daze, Stun, Knock-knock jokes, etc.

3) Even more Defense?
Having the highest HP and getting double the amount of saving throws would normally be enough for most people but not for you. You go above and beyond the call of duty. Not only do the majority of your utility powers also help keep you standing but many of your daily powers and feats help in this regard as well. Are you sure your ancestors weren’t diamonds? You’re built to last like one.

4) Making your Mark
Wardens can mark every enemy adjacent to them. For those that don’t want to count: that’s 8 marks. This leads into the next category.

5) Different kind of Sticky
Wardens play rather differently from most Defenders. Rather than relying on their class features for their stickiness, they have to rely on their powers. Wardens are essentially black holes. Any enemies that dare get too close will get pulled in, slowed, or immobilized and eventually cease to exist. Being a black hole is pretty awesome since you can just stand by your allies and instantly have an advantage over any enemy that wants to come into range to attack the party.

6) Transform and Roll Out!
The Warden’s daily powers actually transform the Warden into an avatar of nature. There are plenty of options such as growing wings, gaining rock-plated skin, breathing fire, or farting lightning. You’ve got to admit that’s a pretty awesome selling point.

This is Kylak signing out and hoping you transform the comments section below into a force of nature as well.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Story Seeds #3 (Dungeon Theme)

D&D story seeds and adventure hooks for you to steal.

Prepare yourself for this week's theme is Dungeons! Was there ever a doubt?

21) A labyrinth of traps, riddles, and secret doors (Indiana Jones meets The Minotaur’s Labyrinth).
22) An underground library hidden in the sand (Avatar the Last Airbender).
23) Ruins of a forbidden and forgotten land (Shadow of the Colossus).
24) A submerged city awaits adventurers with a terrible secret (Atlantis and/or Rapture).
25) A dungeon concealed among frozen mountains and caves that houses a powerful artifact. (Uncharted 2).
26) A mysterious jungle that’s dense enough to be similar to a dungeon. No one that entered the jungle has ever returned and rumors spread about the circumstances of the lost travelers.
27) A dungeon made from arcane arts. Glowing sigils makeup the ground, enchanted walls surround the adventurers, and magical traps, runes, and objects are abound.
28) An ancient temple that was designed by a religious group as a last defense against outsiders and non-believers.
29) A dungeon made out of hardened crystals that reflect sources of light to unlock passageways.
30) Floating rocks lead to a cave entrance in the sky. Strange clouds loom above.

This is Kylak signing out and reminding you not to get trapped in your own ideas or your own dungeons.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Story Seeds #2 (Dragon Theme)

D&D story seeds and adventure hooks for you to steal.

This time around we're going with a Dragon theme.

11) The group has to protect and raise a baby dragon.
12) A shapeshifting dragon manipulates the politics of two nations in the disguises of a Human King and a Tiefling Lord.
13) An immortal dragonborn desires death in battle.
14) Dragon nests are being hunted down for profit and to minimize the dragon threat. Will the group side with the hunters and villagers or the dragons?
15) A powerful shaman that’s dedicated his life to dragonkind worships a diabolical dragon who desires to become a god. He’s ordered to protect a magical seal from being disturbed by trespassers such as the party (*cough* Sarkhan Vol *cough*).
16) A dragon rescues the group but wants something in return.
17) The group stumbles upon a dragon’s hoard. She’ll spare their lives if they’ll bring her priceless artifacts to add to her treasures.
18) A city of Dragonborn is under attack by Lizardfolk.
19) The group must find seven ancient artifacts that are scattered across the world to summon a mystical dragon that can grant wishes (totally original idea that you’ve never heard of).
20) Two words: Dragon Riders.

This is Kylak signing out and hoping some of these ideas breathe some fire... err I mean life into your worlds.


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