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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

RPG Stack Exchange

About a month or two ago I Stumbled Upon RPG Stack Exchange and have been following it off and on ever since. This past weekend I actually decided to register after having a few questions of my own.

Now, you are probably wondering to yourself, "what is this RPG Stack Exchange you speak of, Blob?" To put it simply, it is like Yahoo! Answers but specialized. There are quite a few different Stack Exchanges over various subjects as well as a website that polls user interest in creating a new Stack Exchange over a new and potentially popular subject. If the idea of it being similar to Yahoo! Answers turns you off from visiting, just wait and hear me out. RPG Stack Exchange like I said is specialized and sorted by subject with all tabletop gaming under this one heading. The people who answer the questions are generally players of the varying games themselves and have to work their way up a reputation scale to even be afforded the privilege of answering a question. This, in my opinion, is what sets it apart from other Q and A sites. The search engine is magnificent and the support from the users is top notch. Hell, I have not even touched on the answers yet! The answers themselves are generally well cited from the source material, occasionally provide insightful examples, and are rarely matters of opinion (unless called for or in a situation where a rule is up to "DM discretion.") The old saying "there are no stupid questions" rings true here and chances are if you were confused about a rule in an RPG you've read or played you are probably not the only one!

So, readers, (if I even have any at this juncture!) check out RPG Stack Exchange and become more enlightened about your respective games and maybe provide some enlightenment to a confused gamer while you are at it!

Here are some of the questions I've asked to date (and have gotten excellent responses on!):


My next post will be over a connection I made when writing my introductory post regarding "stereotypes not always being true." It dawned on me that both the Gamer and Frat-boy stereotypes often overlap, sometimes even intertwining, and I am going to explore that in depth and with examples. 

Hopefully, my post after that will be my review of Brother Ptolemy and the Hidden Kingdom, a 3rd party 4E adventure and mini-setting created by the geniuses at Nevermet Press, so stay tuned!
Until next time,

S. Blob

PS- Also, "Howdy!" to the visitors from the Stack Exchange website!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Welcome to Sorcerer Blob: Charisma Isn't Everything!

Hey folks! A little about myself: I am a 25 year old gamer who got into RPGs (D&D specifically) back in 2008. I was always aware of D&D, for example, and always in the back of my mind thought it sounded cool but for whatever reason I avoided my nerd-dom like the plague. This wasn't just a D&D exclusive denial of my nerd-dom, this also applied to my love of all things comic book (except manga, it can burn in hell.) Eventually, as I matured, I embraced it and even was coined as a "day-walker" by my now-DM. (For those of you unfamiliar with "day-walkers" see the Blade the Vampire Slayer movies or comics - In this case, he was referring to how I can easily pass in non-nerd and nerd circles)

Having played many of the computer games growing up that were set in the Forgotten Realms, I had a vague idea of what was going on with D&D on a certain level. Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 and the expansions, both Icewind Dales, and my much-beloved Neverwinter Nights, plus expansions and fan-created modules, colored my opinions of what D&D was, and I was intrigued. In 2007 I inadvertently started a job with a self-proclaimed pack of nerds in the stockroom of a popular Texas-based-Mid-Western-And-Somewhat-In-The-South retail store that sells books, music, video games, comics, and video (both to rent and buy.) This pack o' nerds would spend the beginning of most weeks talking about their campaign and what had played out at their last game-day, typically on Sundays. I would eagerly listen in, sometimes commenting, sometimes joking. The rest of the week would be talking about gearing up for the inevitable play day that was rapidly approaching. I could hear the excitement in their voices when they discussed funny or epic things that happened in game or what gear they would buy or their class builds or or or. It sounded awesome. But of course, I was too shy and couldn't admit to myself that I wanted in. And then it happened, "The Invite." After listening to my co-workers talk for about 6 months, with them dropping subtle invites along the way for me to come and play with them I finally agreed to it. I talked with one of the players about what fantasy-trope I wanted to play (Hey, to be fair, my knowledge of fantasy was pretty much limited to film and what Sci-Fi/Fantasy books I had grown up reading, so it's only fitting that my first character be an obvious rip-off/stereotype!) I was on a Robert E. Howard kick at the time, rapidly consuming all things Conan after having not read his stories in about a decade and justifiably decided that I wanted to go to non-complicated character route and chose the brute known as Conan. I didn't just want to base my character off of Howard's creation, my character was Conan.

I showed up for my first game approximately March 2008. I was admittedly confused but eagerly embraced the game. With my limited knowledge I was readily rolling d-what-the-hell-are-theses? with the best of them. Conan, my Barbarian-Rogue-Druid (I have no idea about the Druid part, I did not make my first character!) never raged, barely remembered to add in his sneak attack die, and actually saved the party a few times simply by being able to use magical devices. Thank you level of Druid for that and my Air Elemental companion, Blow Hard. I loved it. I was enthralled. Every weekend I played D&D to my heart's content, every week I discussed our games with my coworkers. I even got talked into reading some of the Forgotten Realms novels and made the rookie mistake of loving the Drizz't books... until they got completely ridiculous. I even, in my spare time, tried to make up a Drizz't character using 3.5 Editions rules. Yeah, I know, I was like every 12 year old almost 20 years ago. 

Sadly, my first campaign was cut short, mainly due to the fact that I came in at the tail-end of it. Our next campaign was coming up, a different DM (and for the record my current DM all of these years later) and a different setting, 3.5E Ravenloft. I decided after having tried my hand at a simple "hit 'em 'til they stop moving" character that I was going to be bold and make my own character, a magic user. I created the super charismatic sorcerer, The Blob. In my mind's eye, The Blob was an excessively obese man who could charm the pants off of anyone, and boy did he try. After a few sessions of fun with Blob, I invited my roommate to join us for a session and thus the addiction spread unto him. We completed Ravenloft, killed Strahd who turned out to be a complete push-over. I was more scared of Madam Eva than I was Strahd. 

When D&D 4E came out we organized a game day at our retail store and played through Into the Shadowhaunt one-shot. We left loving it, even though it took us way too long to finish it! We all eagerly purchased the new 4E Core books and began Keep on the Shadowfell just a few weeks later. We played it for about a month and all had a growing distaste in our mouths, what had they done to our precious D&D?! We didn't finish the module and moved on quite quickly. There were things we all liked about 4E and things we hated. Multi-class feats? We loved. New skill system? Hell yes! Actually having HP at 1st level? Sign me up! (And Tieflings, I loved Tieflings!) Every class having "magic powers?" No, a thousand times, no. Almost no customization (due to only the Core having just being released.) And marking and all of these status effects? It was hell to keep track of, especially transitioning from 3.5E! That was part of the problem, too, that transition. We went into 4E with 3.5E in mind and when 4E didn't play like 3.5E we hated it. It was only later that I learned that you had to play them differently to enjoy them because they are, after all, different games. 

When we moved on we delved into my first mega-dungeon, Alderac Entertainment’s The World’s Largest Dungeon for 3.5E. I drug my roommate along and another co-worker who hadn’t played since 2E as my DM took us through the torture that was the WLD. My DM has split the 12 different levels of the dungeon into 2 groupings of 6 dungeon levels apiece and ran a good and evil party. I quite obviously chose evil as did my roommate and other-co-worker. The DM’s wife and some other shmucks chose the good party whose goal was to chase some escaped criminals of the worst degree, us, into the WLD. The two parties ran through the first level simultaneously but not together only to exit it through two different exits leading to two very different 2nd levels of the dungeon. And thus the race to finish the dungeon first to get the drop on the other party began. The drop being a mass combat between the 12 characters at the end of the dungeon. Awesome, right?! This dungeon was a first for me, we all played 2 characters apiece and I experienced my first character death. D’Strus the Half-Drow Duskblade/Fighter/Vampire was not meant to be and a fall from a pit trap proved it. Luckily, that was my only character death unlike my roommate who seemed to have to roll up a new character every session, included one ill-fated session where he had 5 characters die. We ended up making it through the dungeon after over a year of play with three of the original 6 characters still alive (quite a feat!) and having climbed to the ever-elusive 20th level. The good party never made it out of the dungeon, but no one was really sad about that, them being Lawful Stupid and all.

Around the same time of having started the WLD, I also decided to have my hand at DMing 3.5E. I ran my play group through Scourge of the Howling Horde and Dungeon Crawl Classics’ The Dragonfiend Pact quite successfully. I made some rookie DM mistakes of course, like forgetting some minor rules, and even ran into the stereotypical trouble that is DMing for friends, one of them expects you to pull the punches for them and when things strategically go bad for them they blame you and think you are picking on them. Crisis eventually averted, we finished both of these modules and I found that I loved DMing almost as much as I loved playing.

Towards the end of our trek through the WLD, my fiancée and I discovered D&D Encounters and decided to give 4E a shot (again for me!) Fiancée had played 3.5E D&D once in college with her pack o’ nerds ™ from the fraternity she hung out with and really enjoyed herself and wanted to give it a shot again since I played every Saturday. (I know what you are probably thinking, frat boys that belong to a real fraternity and not a music or “insert major here” frat playing D&D?? What?! But, to be fair, this nerd was also a frat boy and also plays D&D. Turns out stereotypes are not always correct!) So we ended up playing 2 Encounters seasons, the first being Undermountain and the second being Dark Sun. We loved it. I loved how 4E had progressed in terms of source material and how I didn’t feel pigeon-holed into just the Core sources as well as the Character Builder. Fiancée loved it due to its stream-lined rules and just how much fun it was. 4E had successfully won me back over, and further did so with the release of the Essentials line, which I feel harkens back to previous editions and gets rid of (at least slightly) my complaint of every class, even Fighters, having “magic powers.”

After the completion of the World’s Largest Dungeon by the evil party, my play group moved onto Paizo’s Pathfinder line and find ourselves deeply involved in the 3rd module of the Kingmaker story-arch. I love Pathfinder. It fixed all of the problems I had with 3.5E and then some and I love that the Wizard, Sorcerer, Rogue, and Monk are actually useful and have real hit die! That and the new classes in the Advanced Player’s Guide are phenomenal and not over or under-powered like the non-Core classes in 3.5E. I will probably continue to play Pathfinder games for a very long time!

If you cannot tell by now, I love me some D&D and Pathfinder. While it is primarily what I play and will be discussing here, I am always open to new games, RPGs, and suggestions. I also enjoy reviewing products and plan to post semi-regular reviews, the first of which will be Nevermet Press’ Brother Ptolemy and the Hidden Kingdom. My love of games is not limited to tabletop games, I love me some Risk, Clue, BANG!, and all Munchkins. So, if you have any questions or suggestions feel free to comment here or send me a message! Thanks for reading!

-S. Blob