Magic the Gathering: a humbling experience

I know it has been a while since I last posted a blog and I apologize for that.  I kept telling myself I would blog something and kept pushing it back until I completely lost sight of it.  With school starting up again this week, I will try to add blogging to my schedule as I work on my homework.  With a regular schedule or homework, which will cut into my video game time, I will be able to add in time, when not gaming, to post various blogs here and there.  Without further ado, let’s dive into it.

Image credit: archive.wizards.com
Image credit: archive.wizards.com

While “camping” with my WoW guild high up in the mountains at a lovely home (can it be called camping when we rent a house?) I had a very humbling experience.  While we basically rented the house so we could have a weekend of board games, the only game I was looking forward to playing was Magic the Gathering.  I had constructed a blue deck a while back and felt it was quite powerful.  I had painstakingly built it over the course of several hours, pondering which cards to keep and how much mana to include.  After playing a few times solo to get a feel for how much mana I would get and the cards to go with it, I felt it was pretty solid.  Boy was I wrong.

My friend brought his various magic decks and we duked it out.  First I went against his red deck.  I do not think I have ever lost so quickly in my life.  It had been a while since I played magic last, and I did think my deck was good, so I was expecting to at least put up a decent fight.  Yeah, that didn’t happen.  It didn’t happen at all.  I played against his red deck several times; don’t think I did any damage to him.  It was truly sad.

The cards I got were actually quite powerful, if only I had the necessary mana to play them.  Or, when I did get some of my cheap monsters out, he killed them almost instantly.  By the time I could play anything substantial, I was down to next to no health that I just forfeited.  I ended up forfeiting a lot.  Clearly this powerful blue deck I built was just no match for the rapid fire pace a red deck utilizes.  So, he offered to play his black deck which he said takes longer to build up than his red.  I said sure and we duked it out a few more times.

The banes of my magic existence.  Image credit: http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Default.aspx
The banes of my magic existence. Image credit: http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Default.aspx

Perhaps what he meant by “takes longer” is different than mine; his black deck was pretty darn fast.  Ok, so maybe it took one more mana before he destroyed me, but he was still able to get everything out way before I could play much.  You see, my deck was designed to counter spells, commandeer my opponent’s monsters, and use sorcery to arrange my next few draws so I can get exactly what I need; pretty much a typical blue deck.  However, my friend, with his “slower” black deck was able to completely nullify, with one card, my deck’s main highlights.

The card I am referring to is Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver.  Somehow he was always able to play that Planeswalker on his third turn, and immediately employ their ability to make me exile the top three cards from my deck.  This especially hurt when it occurs immediately after I put the top five cards of my deck in the order I need them to be to play the cards in my hand.  Essentially, once this Planeswalker made its way into play, it was game over.  I started forfeiting once it came out as I had zero ways to counter.  On top of Ashiok, my friend also played Jace, Memory Adept, who also has an ability to make me discard cards from my deck.  It was truly frustrating.

This brings me to a couple points.  One, I clearly don’t know how to properly incorporate Planeswalkers into my deck as I only had one Jace in my deck whereas my friend had four Ashioks and four Jaces.  I thought, incorrectly, that you could only have one copy in your deck and only can only play one Planeswalker period.  I have no idea why I thought this, but I did.  Clearly, if I want to incorporate Planeswalkers, I need to have multiple copies of them so that I have a higher chance of drawing them.

The other point is that playing your deck out a few times solo gives you no idea how it will play out in a match.  Since all the various colors all play differently, playing your deck out solo will not show you how to adapt to the other play styles of the other colors.  It will also not show you how to adapt to other players and their play styles.  So, in my opinion, if you want to play magic the gathering, you need at least one friend who also plays who is able to and willing to help you develop a deck.

What has been your experience with magic?  What colors are your favorites to play?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Cycling between campaigns

As I have mentioned a few times, my gaming group is currently playing through two homebrew campaigns with the occasional adventure path offshoot.  In the first video blog I produced, I asked a question about how, those of you who are playing multiple campaigns at the same time manage or cycle through those various campaigns.  I wanted to bring up that issue again and discuss it a bit further.

The initial idea behind the two campaigns we were running was to give the GM from our main campaign a chance to play as well as time to prep.  Since it is a homebrew campaign it takes longer to prep since they have to come up with everything.  We would play one for a bit and then move back to the other.  This worked fairly well for a while.  However, due to a relatively high kill count in the initial main campaign, and the secondary campaign’s GM letting us spitball it quite often, the secondary campaign quickly became an additional main campaign.

We were all thoroughly enjoying the second main campaign and we finally completed a major story arc (something about stopping a beefed up Glabrezu from destroying our country… you know, typical day’s work).  However, this meant we were playing the second main campaign for a year, without going back to the other one.  On top of that, one of the other players really wanted to run Mummy’s Mask, on the promise that we would only run it for a few weeks to get through the first book.

Image credit: http://paizo.com/products/btpy94vv?Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-80-Empty-Graves
Image credit: http://paizo.com/products/btpy94vv?Pathfinder-Adventure-Path-80-Empty-Graves

Those few weeks turned into a couple months.  While we all still had a lot of fun (well, some of us, two characters I made did die), we weren’t sure which main campaign we would be going back to once our Mummy’s Mask adventure was done.  We took a vote, and since the GM from the initial main campaign was really looking forward to running again, we went back to it.  This brings me to the main issue I had and am looking to get some suggestions or answers to; how long should you go between playing major campaigns?

We went a whole year without playing one of our main campaigns and I am now thinking that that is just too long.  Almost none of us remember what was going on before we broke for the other campaign.  I didn’t remember anything about my character.  We did ask for and the GM did put up a summary of what happened, which did help refresh our memories.  But, again, I am of the mind that a year and a half (we almost went two years we think) of a break from one campaign is just too much.

So, I am personally thinking, and will be bringing it up with my gaming group, that we try to aim for three to six months of sessions (factoring in that we play every week), or shorter, before jumping back to our other campaign.  I think this should allow us to get some stuff accomplished and move the story along, and allow us to keep our other characters and what they’ve done still within memory.  Granted, I am not a stickler that would demand we hop over to the other campaign once the six month limit has been reached.  I just don’t want to go another 18 months without playing one of our main campaigns.

What do you think?  Is this just par for the course when playing multiple campaigns?  Do you think three to six months in one campaign before switching is a good idea?  Do you have other ideas or suggestions on how to handle hopping from one campaign to another?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Make a boring game fun again, play a different character

As I mentioned a bit ago in my blog about taking a break, I had been away from WoW for about a month.  With my vacations and vacations from other guild members, our raiding was pretty much put on hold until the new patch dropped.  To be honest, I really wasn’t even thinking about playing again.  I was just done with the game and my Mage (note: I am a terrible Mage).  However, as one of my friends was thinking about bringing his Mage up to shame me in the dps ratings, I was thinking about hoping over to my only other level 100 character, my DK.  I wasn’t having much fun playing my Mage and with another guild mate bringing up one, I just thought now might be a good time for a change.  So, for most of last week, and over the 4th of July weekend, I spent a good amount of time playing my DK and getting his ilvl up high enough to start seeing Hellfire Citadel, the new raid content.  And I have to tell you, playing something new can make a boring game fun again.

My Death Knight in World of Warcraft
My Death Knight in World of Warcraft

If the prospect of my and a friend essentially switching roles, he currently raids on his paladin, I don’t think I would have even bothered playing again.  However, I had a great amount of fun playing and learning how to dps with my DK.  Since I have almost exclusively played a ranged class since I started WoW back in February 2005, that’s when I rolled my Hunter Kanzto (haven’t played him in four months…), trying out a melee character was a whole new experience for me.

I no longer could plant my feet and cast anything and everything I wanted from as far away as possible.  Now I had to be in the thick of things, constantly moving while constantly trying to stay within range.  Some boss fights, that used to be a snooze fest for me, are now challenging due to the “new” (new to me at least) mechanic I had to deal with.  I even had to change up my action buttons a few times to get a more streamlined layout that worked better with constant movement.  I now have new found respect for those melee classes and players who always manage to do well in the dps race; I’m still not completely sure how you do it.

I also went a different route with how I was playing my DK.  While leveling, I was in a tanking spec and basically just outlived whatever I was fighting.  That’s pretty easy to do as DKs are notoriously difficult to kill.  However, taking things down just took too long.  After doing some google searching, I found a decent guide on how to be a DW Frost DK.  I not as unkillable as before, but I can take things down much quicker…well, quicker than I could in tank spec.  This brought on a new level of different and frustration for me.  Not only did I have to be next to the thing I was fighting, I now had to make sure I was doing everything right in order to survive.

Now, chances are that I am as terrible a DK as I am a Mage, but I do enjoy the challenge of figuring out what I need to do and when in order to maximize my dps as well as survivability.  What switching up a class and role did for me was make WoW different, fun, frustrating, and kind of new again.  If only my friend who hurry up and hit 100 with his Mage (he’s at level 98 right now) and gear them up so we can officially swap out for our raids.  Though, to be honest again, I did raid last night on my Mage and did have fun with it.  Though, the whole while I was talking about how much fun my DK is.

Playing something new can make old, boring games new and fun again, though your mileage may vary.  If I had to level my DK from 55 to 100, I never would have even tried.  But, this does work in other settings as well.  If you do not like or are bored with you D&D (or other systems) character, talk to your GM about rolling up a new one.  It can definitely change how you feel at the table and make the experience more enjoyable.

Have you ever given up on a game only to go back to it and play a different character?  Did it make the game fun again?  How about with a tabletop roleplaying character?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Dragon Age: Inquisition Part 1

This is part one of at least a two parter…I will try not to make it three.  It ends with character creation as there are a ton of choices and I had a lot of fun going through it.

I finally get around to playing Dragon Age: Inquisition.  I have played the previous installments, the first one a couple times through.  I really enjoyed the first game and being a Warden.  While I thought the second game improved a couple things, one of which was combat, it did feel anti-climactic when compared to the first game.  You weren’t a Warden and you weren’t really continuing the adventure from the first game.

This is the first game I am playing on my Xbox One.  I tried using the Kinect for a while, but I don’t really care for it much.  I really haven’t had much time to console game recently and that is a shame since console gaming is where my heart is.

I am very excited to see that I can be a Qunari in this game, I have always wanted to play one.  I am going to play a rogue this time around which is something I haven’t played before.  So, first time race, Qunari, with a first time class, Rogue.  I am also going to leave it on Normal difficulty because I get very frustrated with my failures in more difficult settings.  I do try to get as many achievements as I can, but I always skip the difficulty setting ones.

I am really hoping that I can be a Warden again in this game.  It made what you were doing in the first game more fulfilling.  You were a force in the world trying to defeat the evil menace.

What did you think about Dragon Age 1 and 2?  Which one did you prefer?  Please leave a message and/or share on Twitter.

Gaming Breaks

In the course of being a gamer, we sometimes get completely engrossed in one game and ignore all others.  This is why, in a video I will be posting later, I mention that I haven’t had much time, if any, to play games on my various consoles.  I got completely engrossed in Elite: Dangerous on top of actively tackling garrison missions daily in WoW.  However, my recent vacation to the great cities of Boston and New York City allowed me to get away from gaming.  I could have gamed while there, but I didn’t bring a laptop that could handle those games and I was far too tired after waking around all day to even think of playing a game.  I have been back now for a two weeks and I still haven’t thought about online gaming.

Image Credit: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/should-i-have-any-free-time--540228.html
Image Credit: http://www.arabianbusiness.com/should-i-have-any-free-time–540228.html

This brings me to the topic I wanted to talk about, taking a break.  Taking a break from our regular routine of gaming can be quite refreshing.  It opened up more free time than I thought and I found myself looking for things to do.  I caught up on some TV shows (I can now say I have watched all of Breaking Bad), but I really was kind of bored and didn’t know what to do.  Kind of a good problem to have, no?

The added benefit of my new found free time is that I was finally able to look towards playing some console games again.  I truly have a huge backlog of games I still have to play.  While I will most likely continue playing Dragon Age: Inquisition until I beat it, I still have the original Assassin’s Creed to beat (just need to do the last couple kills).  I even bought a PS4 and Bloodborne because I kept reading so many good things about it.  If I was still spending all my time online gaming, Dragon Age and Bloodborne, along with a couple other Xbox One games I have, would still be unopened.

This doesn’t just apply to video gaming.  Sometimes we need to take a break from our board game groups and our tabletop roleplaying groups.  The break helps us realize how much we enjoy and how much we get out of our gaming groups.  Fortunately for me, the breaks I get from my board gaming and roleplaying groups are because people are out of town.  I really enjoy these groups, and believe I could go without the breaks (not regularly gaming during the week completely throws my schedule off), however it is most likely that these shorts breaks I get keep everything fresh and fun when we get to game again.

What do you think?  Do you take breaks from your gaming routine and find yourself with a lot of free time to enjoy something else?  Do those breaks allow you to go back to other games that you still need to play?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Pathfinder Character Creation

While I was out on vacation, a misfortune befell me.  I made a classic mistake of not leaving my character sheet before I went out of town, knowing that I was going to be missing a session.  So, needless to say, while I was in Boston and New York City on vacation, my fighter was killed.  He was a Viking archetype fighter and I really enjoyed playing him, but now I have to make a new character.  This video is a brief look into the process I go through when making a new character.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you have all the necessary books available in some format before you start making your character.  I find Ultimate Equipment to be an awesome, must-have book, but even more important than that is having the Core Rulebook.  The character I am going to make is a 20 point buy, level 5, two trait fighter.

The first thing I come up with, when creating a new character, is a concept.  For this build I am going with a two-weapon fighter named Comm Red (yes, like comrade), who is going to fight with a hammer and sickle (yes, this is a reference to the Soviet flag…I couldn’t help myself).  He’s going to use the sickle to trip you and then he is going to hit you in the head with a hammer.  After I come up with the concept, then I start building the actual character.

For this character, instead of starting with the stats and building everything on down, I am, instead, going to start with the feats.  The feats are going to be the most important thing for this build that I need to focus on because I need to make sure I get the correct ones.  There’s a whole tree for two-weapon fighting, so I am going to start there.

I am happy that I looked at the feats first because the start of the two-weapon fighting feat tree, Two-Weapon Fighting, requires a Dex of 15.  Had I not looked at this first, I might not have put enough points into Dex and would have needed to redo my stats.  The other feats I need to focus on are those for tripping, since that is a major part of my fighter’s concept.  The start of that tree is Combat Expertise which requires and Int of 13, which I probably would have also skimped on.  I am really glad I looked the feats first instead of building my stats, because I would have made several mistakes due to my unfamiliarity with two-weapon fighting.

Even though I mentioned I would post this on Friday or Saturday, that was 12 days ago.  I reference my vacation in the video and decided I was going to post the two videos I took on vacation first.

As I mentioned in the video, there might be an archetype for a two-weapon fighter.  There is.  It’s in the Advanced Player’s Guide and called Two-Weapon Warrior.  Instead of going with that archetype, I just built a straight up two-weapon fighter.

As promised, here’s the scans of my Happy Camper character sheets.

First page of my fighter's character sheet
First page of my fighter’s character sheet
Second page of my fighter's character sheet
Second page of my fighter’s character sheet
Third page of my fighter's character sheet
Third page of my fighter’s character sheet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did make a mistake with my armor choice, as having Armor Training 1 allows me to move full speed in medium armor.  I will be looking for medium armor to rectify this error, though doubt I will be able to get any before we tackle the final dungeon in Mummy’s Mask book 2.

I also double dipped into Weapon Focus.  First one was to give me a +1 to trip with my sickle.  The other was to open up Weapon Specialization for the hammer as Weapon Focus is a prereq.

To give you an idea how crazy I am with my extensive character sheets, my Magus, which I mentioned in the video, covers seven character sheets.  Yes, I am insane.

What do you think about the Happy Camper character sheets?  Do you think I did my feats correctly?  Are there any I should have taken?  Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.

Thoughts about An Act of God and being a nerd

Another video from my time in NYC, but instead of broadcasting from the beautiful Central Park, I am coming to you from my hotel room.

I went to the Broadway play An Act of God starring Jim Parsons from the Big Bang Theory.  I want to do a quick review of the play and tie it into the topics I discuss on my blog; basically being a nerd is cool..ish, but definitely awesome.

The show was fantastic, truly funny from the beginning to the end.  Jim Parsons started off by making a joke about how God was coming down to possess the body of Sheldon Cooper.  This ties into why I think Jim Parsons was able to have his own Broadway show and that is because of the success of Big Bang Theory, a show l love.  The show does have some negative stereotypes of nerds, but the passion they show for “nerdy” things in the show is definitely true in real life.

Because nerd culture is kind of the new thing, Big Bang Theory is incredibly popular.  Because of the popularity of Big Bang, Jim Parsons was able to land his own Broadway show and be awesome.  There’s a lot of humor in the show where the premise is God came down to have a chat with us.  He is flanked by a couple angels, Gabriel and Michael, who have their unique roles and tie everything into Jim playing God and going over his new 10 commandments.  There is a bit of politics in it, but regardless of your political affiliation, it was very funny.  He goes through the creation of the universe and it was awesome.  I definitely recommend this show to anyone looking to see a Broadway show.

It was in Studio 54, which provided a fantastic venue to see a show like this.  Definitely picture worthy, but, unfortunately, no pictures are allowed.  It would have been worth it to try to sneak one, but I am a rule follower and didn’t risk it.

Again, basically the popularity of nerds and nerd culture contributes greatly to the success and popularity of Big Bang Theory, which then allowed a cast member of that show to have their own Broadway play.   Without the existence of nerd culture, I do not believe Jim Parsons having his own play would be possible.  10 years ago I don’t think this would be possible.  While there were nerdy shows back then, none really brought nerd culture to the forefront as Big Bang has.

If you have had a chance to see this play, please leave a comment and we can start up some dialogue.  If you agree with me on how nerd culture being in leading to this Broadway play happening, please leave a comment.  Comments are always appreciated.  Thank you.