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August 2014

The Daily D4

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Formula E

Formula E is a racing game where three to six players race elephants and their riders through village, over mountains, and across deserts trying to be the first to reach the finish line. Elephants push one another along the course until the lead elephant hits an obstacle, then the lead elephant pushes until it finds a clear path. Hand management plays a big role in the game as players have to determine when play cards that will trigger different events. Being able to move diagonally, and moving obstacles on the course at the right moment could give your racer the advantage it needs to win. This seems like a great game for a family game night, who doesn’t like elephants?

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The Daily D4

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Lords of Waterdeep

Yesterday Sebastian turned up and we decided to spend part of our evening playing a game I’ve been curious about for some time now, Lords of Waterdeep. Lords of Waterdeep allows two to five players to take on the roles of some of the lords who rule in the great city. You’ll be working to help make one of the five factions vying for supremacy in Waterdeep the supreme power by collecting and completing various quests. How will you do this? Well if you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons you’re probably familiar with the tasks that face adventurers during the course of a campaign. There of several types of quest including commerce, warfare, arcane, skullduggery, and piety. You’ll be asked to do everything from domesticating bugbears and attracting merchants to the city, to founding defending the city from invading monsters and founding guilds. However true lords can’t be expected to carry out such tasks themselves. Rather than getting your hands dirty you’ll be delegating these quests to adventurers. You’ll rally adventurers to your cause by dispatching agents in your employ to various locations throughout the city where they’ll be able to recruit the rogues, clerics, fighters, wizards, and other resources needed to complete quests. As a reward for completing quests players are awarded victory points and other benefits which may help the them to achieve victory. While your agents are recruiting adventurers the competing lords can also employ intrigue cards to their benefit and to the detriment of their competitors. Will you sadly them with a mandatory quest tying up vital resources when they need them most? Or perhaps you’ll snatch a much needed rogue at just the right moment to prevent them from completing a quest with a high reward? Perhaps you’ll just add to your own resources will a well placed card. Lords of Waterdeep lasts for eight rounds of play and at the end of the game the players with the most victory is declared the victor. Victory points are tracked during the game, but at the end each of the players reveals which lord they drew at the beginning of the game, something that is kept secret throughout the game. Each lord has different bonuses that add the to the calculation of your final score. Some gain additional points for completing certain types of missions while others have more unique bonuses.

In all I would say Lords of Waterdeep is a fantastic game, and it is ideal for any collection. It’s fun with two players and it only takes about an hour to play making it perfect for a nice night in. If you’ve got a bigger group you can be a bit more competitive about the game and really get into hoarding the adventurers and resources as only a true noble could. I think that it is worth noting that there is an expansion called Scoundrels of Skullport that we didn’t employ during our game. So if you like Lords of Waterdeep and want to add more material why not give that a try too?

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The Daily D4

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Recently I decided to take a chance on reading through a few of the books from The Sundering series. The six part series is supposed to be a major event that will establish the new status quo for the Forgotten Realms. Fair warning if you have yet to read the books mentioned here there may be some spoilers ahead.

The Reaver by Richard Lee Byers

I started reading The Reaver earlier today and I am already hooked on it. The book introduces a new main character to the Forgotten Realms, a pirate captain named Anton Marivaldi. He’s not the most heroic of captains. In fact by the end of the first chapter his crew decides they’ve had enough of him and a mutiny ensues. Anton finds himself embroiled in a conflict between the chosen of two gods. Thanks in part to the rapidly swelling waters of the Sea of Fallen Stars the goddess Umberlee, Queen of the Deeps, is quickly expanding her influence. Raising an undead pirate captain named Evendur Highcastle from the depths to carry out her will she is trying to trying to seize power during the chaos. Meanwhile Stedd Whitehorn a small boy serving as the chosen of the newly returned Lathander, the Morninglord, is trying to spread a message of renewal and hope. Anton is one of many who have been dispatched to capture the boy and bring him to Evendur so that they can silence this message before it gains any converts. The Red Robed Wizards of Thay also play a part in the story as their agents race to capture Stedd for their own purposes. This is a great book because it portrays the setting well, gives readers new characters they can enjoy, and presents an interesting story that makes me care about what is going on in the Forgotten Realms during The Sundering.

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The Herald by Ed Greenwood

After hearing Ed Greenwood discussing The Sundering and his new book on a podcast I knew I needed to see what all of this was about. I’ve picked up a couple of things Mr. Greenwood has written over the years, but until recently I’d never read anything featuring Elmister. Let me start by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed Greenwood’s writing style and I found the beginning and the ending chapters terribly fascinating. However I was continually frustrated by the fact that I had no idea who many of the characters in the story were which really downplays the importance of the events in this story. Oddly enough Mirt, who only appears in a few parts of the book and never meets up with the rest of the characters, probably entertained me more than the rest of them put together. He spends most of the book playing a game of cat and mouse with a vampire sorcerer named Manshoon. Candlekeep is also a location that came of extremely well here, I want to spend some more time there without all of the chaos and intrigue. If you’re a longtime reading of all things Forgotten Realms you’ll probably get more out of this than I did, but for a casual reader or someone whose new to the setting in any way shape or form I’d suggest reading a few more books before picking this one up.

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Overall these two installments of The Sundering left me with a very favorable impression and I will definitely be picking up the other books from the series as soon as I can get my hands on them.

A Table for One

Being intensely shy as a kid I didn’t have many friends, and the idea of inviting anyone over to my house terrified me far more than a dragon ever could. Aside from answering questions whenever I was called upon in class and a bit of chitchat at the lunch table I didn’t volunteer very much to the proceedings. The fact that my family moved around because of my dad’s job more than a few times over the years didn’t help matters much either. Looking back I wish I could have taken my younger self aside and given him a bit of confidence. Despite my shyness I still loved games in those days, so much so that even my parents couldn’t miss it. Every birthday and holiday there would be a couple of new games thrown into the mix. Various versions of Monopoly featuring nerdy themes like Star Wars, comics, and more were the most common theme but others worked their way into the mix. My family would gather around the table to play one of those games occasionally with all of the enthusiasm someone can muster up for a family game night. Now some of you are probably thinking that all of this changed the first time I played Dungeons an Dragons aren’t you? Well you’d be absolutely right! Unfortunately I didn’t play for the first time until I was in college, but that didn’t stop the game from having an impact on me. At some point I got my hands on an adventure module which I carried around with me everywhere I went, and I remember copying all of the maps inside out onto sheets of graph paper with a level of concentration that could safely be considered intense. That was without a doubt the only time I ever had fun with a sheet of graph paper in my life. The game reared it’s head again at a local street fair when I found a used copy of The Legend of Huma resting on a blanket outside of the hardware store. A knight mounted on the back of dragon soaring through the sky caught my attention immediately and I bought it without hesitation. Huma, Kaz, and Magius were exactly the friends who I needed then, and I like to think they helped me deal with the daily struggle of a public school education.

The last blow fell when we were on vacation and the weather turned uncooperative driving everyone indoors. My parents took me and my sister to a nearby toy store to try and find something to keep us busy in our hotel room. I found a slightly battered copy of Dungeon! sitting alone on one of the shelves. Unlike the rest of the games it wasn’t wrapped up in shiny plastic and something about it caught my eye. The clerk at the cash register gave us a discount because it had already been opened and he thought there might be some pieces missing inside. I must have played that game by myself a thousand times after that day. I’d set the board up with imagined players and we’d run through dungeons fighting monsters and collecting treasure. That wasn’t unusual and I played a lot of games that weren’t meant to be played with a single person in a similar fashion. My copy of Dungeon! is sitting on the shelf downstairs, but the red plastic wizard from inside is on my bedside table staff raised high.

So what stopped me from playing Dungeons and Dragons back then? Honestly I have to believe it goes back to the idea of that level of social interaction freaking me out. Even in my twenties it was a struggle to walk into a game store for my first night of D&D. Luckily it went extremely well and I enjoyed it so much that I knew I wanted to keep playing forever. A few months later I met Jade and my life changed for the better. She showed me that there were people who loved games as much as I did, and she finally helped bring me out of my shell. Because of her I was able to run campaigns at conventions, start multiple gaming groups, volunteer to run games at our local library, and even start a podcast and this blog.

Since those days there has been a lot of innovation in gaming and players who aren’t able to get a group together are no longer confined to games of Solitaire. It’s not the most common feature but there are a few games that do allow one player to enjoy and adventure all alone. The Dungeons and Dragons board games like Castle Ravenloft are on example. I also just discovered a game from the 80’s called Dark Tower which featured a single player campaign. Complete with a map of four kingdoms, a quest to recover a magic scepter from the Tyrant King, and an electronic dark tower that brought the game to life with lights, sounds, and randomized events makes this one of the coolest things of all time. I wish I’d had this game back then.

If anyone out there is reading this and you’re struggling with the same issues I’m not going to tell you to suck it up and dive into the water at a local game store. Do it when you’re ready and in a way that makes you comfortable. There’s probably going to be a few terrifying moments when you meet people and worry that you’re the biggest dork in the world, but that’s alright. That’s just the imp on your shoulder trying to keep you from becoming the hero it knows it can’t hope to beat. So raise your broadsword, cast magic missile, channel divine might through your holy symbol, or sneak up behind the little bastard and put a knife in his ribs. Find your own path through the dungeon and when you look up you’ll discover you’ve found a party who will watch your back and that you’re capable of great things. Don’t be afraid.

DD-Wizard

Episode 23: Games of Thrones, a Song of Liars and Dice Part 1

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In the latest episode of the Out of Character podcast we got together to play the Noble Houses of Westeros, a tabletop RPG set in the Game of Thrones universe. Our cast included a wanderer from the free cities, a ranger from Bear Island, a scarred member of the alchemists guild, and an ambitious shipwright in the service of House Baratheon. This is also the first time our friend Jessica has taken part in the podcast so we’d like to extend a special thanks for her participation.

http://outofcharacter.buzzsprout.com/13127/193368-episode-23-game-of-thornes-a-song-of-liars-and-dice

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