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Archive for November, 2010

Well the new online Character Builder dropped on Tuesday November 16th with the visual equivalency of a horse taking a dump in the middle of the street. Now I am not the most tech savvy person out there, as I don’t know Silverlight from a flashlight or alpha/beta whatever version, but I do know suckage, and so far this thing sucks balls. In a previous post I mentioned that I would reserve my nerd rage until server issues jammed me up, well this happened after about 2 minutes during my initial foray as I tried to make Ken Benobi, my poor little hybrid swordmage/psion. So did I hulk up?…Nope, instead of the pulsating of gamma irradiated cells, I felt more of an absolute bewilderment that a company who tends to cater to a client base that knows a thing or two about technology can be so repeatedly horrific with their digital offerings. Like honestly, how is it that your fan base can produce quality content, for free, in their spare time that can rival yours in functionality. I can’t quite understand how a successful multi-national company that is a subsidiary of the largest toymaker in the world just can’t’ throw money at their digital content to get something pimp or at least something I don’t have to pay to beta test. I mean look at those dudes that put out that Microsoft virtual surface, why the hell aren’t they making your digital tools? There is nothing like, as a customer, paying for a working and functional product to then have that product discontinued and replaced by an unstable, bug infested one with significantly less functionality than the older obsolete product. I think the only thing missing is someone from Wizards of the Coast showing up at your door and cock punching you.

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The session started off with the party reuniting outside of Newdale, minus Casino who had other fantasy commitments to attend to, on the hunt for some black dragon blood to help purge the taint (hehehe taint). Newdale is a relatively “new” town in the Dale lands that has sprung up after the spell plague unearthed a large vein of mithril and gems in the local mountains. It has also become a growing hub for wine distribution to the northern nations. The gang had a tip from Elminster that recent caravan attacks might be linked to a Black dragon due to signs of acidic burning on the bodies and wagons. The party scoped out the town and chatted with several of the locals, and shook loose some leads. They decided, not surprisingly, to look into some recent disappearances of prostitutes from a local brothel. After Garrick bartered sexual favors (from Svettlanna, the Halfling brothel mistress) for the party’s assistance in looking into the disappearances and then declining the opportunity offered by he DM to collaboratively role-play said sexual favors with another player 🙂 the chase was afoot.

The Scooby Gang followed the trail and leads to an old mausoleum in the graveyard, which then lead them through an underground passage into the forest outside of town rumored to have become almost impenetrable as of late. After sensing that they were being herded or funneled in a certain direction the party came to a clearing and a meeting with Tanaka Khan, warleader for the Serpent clan. He regretfully informed them that they had entered Blighttongue’s “lands” (AKA the black dragon) and would be subsequently sold into slavery. After there typical default response of intimidation/threatening innuendo/bullying Rhogar picked up on the sadness and regret in Tanaka’s tone and got him to reveal the clans plight. Apparently a young child who is the re-incarnation of the tribe’s powerful shaman (thanks Steven Erikson) was kidnapped by a douchey band of Orcs allied with Blighttongue. Threatened with the loss of the tribes repository of magic and lore, the Serpent clan was forced into safeguarding access to the dragon’s lair. Being the heroes that they are, the party agreed to help the clan by rescuing the child.

The next act involved a mini-delve into the Orc stronghold built into the mountains, where the party opened a can of major league whoop-ass on them mofo’s Bruce Leroy style. In addition to rescuing the child, the party may have claimed a new base of operations in the now purged stronghold. Up next….. a dance with a dragon.

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The Rumor Mill

In my last home campaign session I added a random rumor table to the NPC interactions during the initial exploration phase of the adventure. Not surprisingly this was not an original idea, as I drew some inspiration from Sarah Darkmagic. My players were entering a new town and I was thinking about some way to spice up the presentation of the relevant plot information that needed to be imparted without resorting to the Columbo style questioning of the startlingly informed barkeep or street urchin. I came up with 10 rumors about happenings in the town, with some being true, some patently false, and others true but misinterpreted by the individual. The “rumors” that were true or mostly true imparted information that would put the players on one of several paths that would eventually end with them meeting Tanaka Khan (I know I know my lack of creativity with names is shocking even to me), War Leader of the Serpent Clan.  Whenever the players talked with an NPC I had them roll a d10 either once or twice and then worked the corresponding information into the conversation. I felt that this really added something to the game session, as it allowed the players to try and piece together different pieces of information from different sources leading to some Scooby gang style investigating. What I also liked was the way it negated the sometimes problematic “third eye syndrome” that I like to call the Insight skill, because in the immortal words of one George Costanza, “it is not a lie if you believe it”.

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“Wars over man. Wormer dropped the big one” a line uttered by D-Day and forever ingrained in my psyche, unleashing perhaps one of the first depictions of nerd-rage, with Bluto shouting “Wormer, he’s a dead man! Marmalard, dead! Niedermeyer…” Well on Tuesday, Wizards of the Coast dropped the equivalent of the “big one”, as they announced that the beloved character builder was moving to an on-line version only and that the current off-line version would no longer receive any support or future updates. I think most of us knew this was coming, but the explosion of nerd-rage and bile that erupted over the blogoshpere, message boards, and Twitter was truly something to behold.  The official thread on the Wizards Community Forum has had over 75,000 views with 1,376 posts, with the majority being negative.

There are various pros and cons to the move that are relatively valid on both sides; you can check out a pretty good article and discussion at Critical-Hits. Change can be stressful irregardless if one attributes the change as positive or negative. Ultimately I think it is probably a good thing as it looks to be the first step in cross-platforming other services and programs i.e. a virtual tabletop. It seems that one of the largest beefs is with the fact that you will need to have a valid and current DnD insider account to access and use the character builder and can only save your character data on their servers. It also requires you to have a working internet connection to access and use, which I can see being a bone of contention for some people. So no more gaming the system by paying for a month to get an update or splitting the 5 downloads between friends or pirating the builder and updates from a torrent site.  Now I can understand being strapped for cash, but blaming a company for trying to make money or capitalize on a successful product is a little ridiculous to me as well as the fact that anyone might be surprised by this strategy. Also surprising or really not so surprising was the mass bamboozling and corporate spin that Wizards pumped out to account for the delays in updating the old character builder that culminated in Tuesday’s announcement, I mean come on man don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining. Now given that I am “The Middle-Aged DM”, I can also remember a time when you couldn’t get stuff for free so readily, it never stopped me or my friends from gaming. We played years and years of Runequest campaigns with a single red book, it didn’t even really occur to us that their might be other books or supplements that we could get for the game.

For me, my concerns center around feeling dependent on their servers. Perhaps I have some unresolved attachment issues or problems with intimacy, but I hate relying on others to get my needs or wants met. My nerd-rage is reserved for when or if that system shits the bed, like the day I can’t log on, or when it is slower than a government bureaucrat, or the day I get bumped off mid-use, particularly when they inevitably move the monster builder online and I am trying to prep for my game. That’s when I’ll Hulk-up and….well continue to pay my monthly fee and buy every book that comes out….Damn you Wotc.

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