game

Innovation in Ingress

Phones are no longer just devices to call one another. Wait, that’s old news? Well excuse me for trying to find at least some way to start this post. Psh, grumpy little readers. Alright, let’s get to the point then: I got an Ingress invite, and I want to tell you about that. You happy now?

Anyway, Ingress. Yep, the ARG developed by Google has reached my smartphone as well, and after a dozen crashes (which are the fault of my phone), I was able to complete the tutorial and join the Enlightened (because it sounds cooler than “the Resistance” and green is awesome). So far, it looks like a nifty little game, which my phone doesn’t allow me to play. Fortunately, I should be the owner of this little beauty by the end of the week, so then I will hit the town and paint it green.

It looks like a somewhat more innovative ARG so far, but I’m curious to see how it plays out. According to the Intel map, my hometown has quite some Portals which are fought over bitterly. I’m eager to join the fight!

In the mean time, I’m curious to hear about your experiences with this little game so far. Anything a freshly Enlightened like me should know? Any wisdom you have to share? Hit me up, as I prepare to bring the Shapers to this world…

How Jaime Lannister got on my good side

Before you read any further: spoiler alert. This text contains massive spoilers about the A Song of Ice and Fire books, and especially the events in A Clash of Kings and A Storm of Swords. If you still want to enjoy those books, better read something else on this blog. Please, stay on this blog. It will be worth your time.

With that out of the way, let me tell you something about Jaime Lannister. Ah, what hasn’t been said about this smug-faced sisterlover already. With his good looks and his charming ways, he conquers many Westerosi hearts, but his own only beats for his twin sister. While being the father of a bunch of incest children, he still does his best to be the awesome member of the Kingsguard everybody thinks he is, despite the fact that he already killed a King he had sworn to protect. He has so much to hate, and many viewers of the HBO show and readers of the first two books really hate this arrogant tool. Until a few days ago, I was one of them.

You see, if you make it to the third book of the A Song of Ice and Fire saga, you will discover an entirely new side of Jaime. While trying to make his way to King’s Landing with Brienne, the two get caught by the rather brutish and primitive Brave Companions, and in a sadistic turn of events, Jaime Lannister loses his sword-hand. That’s right: this great knight loses what makes him so feared and famous, and he sure has a serious internal crisis about it. However, instead of turning into a wimpy idiot who just complains about how cruel the world is, Jaime makes up plans to get the most out of the situation, and even starts to appreciate the companionship and bravery of the female knight Brienne. When he gets a safe escort back to King’s Landing without Brienne, he decides that he can’t just leave her behind, rides back to Harrenhal and saves her from a bear, which she had to fight with a blunt tournament sword. Of course, he keeps his cool through all of this, almost never complaining about his lost hand, while risking his life and safety for a woman he could just as easily hate.

Ladies and gentleman, Jaime Lannister is, officially, my new favourite character of the entire saga.

Seriously, it’s impressive how Jaime goes from charming jerk to handicapped good guy in just a few chapters. Even better, the entire transformation feels plausible and is well-written. It’s great to see a tough, badass character like Jaime developing soft spots, and that almost makes you forget that he is the father of several incestuous children and the member of the family responsible for Eddard Stark’s death (though you could write that one up to Joffrey’s sheer madness). It also makes him believable, and that was just the thing he needed after being my favourite character to hate (next to Joffrey. God, I hate that brat).

So, next time you meet a fictional character that seems to be a prick, don’t judge him too fast. Snape turned out okay, and Jaime Lannister seems to be a semi-good guy as well. Hate and despise them while you can, but respect them as soon as they find redemption for their douchery.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I got books to read.

Love the people, not the game

“The Guild” by Irrel

A week ago, I wrote about my return to Azeroth. Currently, my brave little panda is having some aquatic adventures, and as I kill sea monsters and gather crab meat, I wonder what called me back to World of Warcraft. Many things have changed, but the two expansions that I’ve skipped didn’t add anything entirely new to the game. Also, there are several other MMO’s out there that are just as fun (and more up-to-date) than WoW (like my beloved The Secret World). So what makes me put so much time in this old love of mine? Well, it’s the people.

MMORPG’s are a social experience (or at least they should be). In fact, every game is a social experience. You can’t play Monopoly all by yourself, and neither can you have much fun playing football without two teams. While one half of the joy we experience during game comes from the quality of it, the other half comes from the people we play it with. The greatest MMORPG in the world could hit shelves tomorrow, but I wouldn’t linger long in it if I had no one to share my excitement with.

One reason I left Azeroth behind me after the Cataclysm was because of boredom, but that boredom was born from a lack of fellow players. My guild, in which I had experienced two expansions, had started to fall apart, and we all followed our own paths. Some of us had left WoW, others were busy leveling new characters, and the rest had moved on to other guilds. The social unit that I had called “home” was no more, and so there was no guild chat in which we could tell lame jokes and no Ventrilo on which we could annoy each other with our bad taste in music. Most of these people were more than pixels to me; I knew them in real life. I knew what they looked like, and I recognised the timbre of their voices. This knowledge made their characters come to life, and thus, I travelled across Azeroth with real, organic beings, with whom I shared victory and defeat. In a way, we were a digital band of brothers.

Now, I have a new group of people who are exactly that. The people who dragged me back into a world I had almost forgotten are also the people I would have a beer or go to the movies with. Sometimes they’re silly, sometimes they’re childish, but they are always there with me in the game. It’s a feature no game has, but that you add yourself: friends and buddies, journeying with you into new adventures.

So, be thankful for all the gaming buddies you have. Next time you rage about their low damage output or their annoying habits, be grateful for the fact that they add something to your gaming experience. Because no matter how awesome a game can be, nothing is as demotivating as a silent, lonely guild chat.

I’m the Chindividual, and I salute all gaming friends out there!

Why Dungeon World fascinates me

My winter vacation is coming to an end, and next to spending some more time with my girlfriend and playing video games, I’m also using my loads of free time to read through new tabletop role-playing games. Next to Fiasco (which I praised a few days ago), another title has caught my attention due to the amount of discussion about it in the blogosphere: Dungeon World.

If you have been so unfortunate to have not heard of this game, Dungeon World takes the well-known dungeoncrawling genre, and adds a layer of storytelling and narrative gameplay. The GM plays a rather small role in the entire campaign, being there to pose challenges to the party and to interpret their rolls. The GM himself never rolls a die (except for damage) and is only there to guide and navigate the story. This basic premise intrigued me, and now that I’m done reading the rulebook, I am more than intrigued. I am fascinated.

"The World" by Tony Dowler

“The World” by Tony Dowler

You see, Dungeon World puts emphasis on the conversation between players and the GM. It’s an old concept, one that every one of us has used at the table: the GM describes a scene, sets the mood with the right words and when everyone has an idea of what’s going on, the classic question “What do you do?” is posed. It’s nothing special, but Dungeon World puts this whole conversation into the spotlights. It makes the whole back-and-forth between descriptions given by the players and the GM the essence of the game, instead of focusing on dozens of little rules that might disturb the flow of gameplay. Just keep on telling an epic story in a fascinating world full of adventures, and worry about the rules later!

Talking about a fascinating world, Dungeon World does not expect you to come up with a fleshed-out campaign setting before starting your first game. Instead, it expects you to start your first sessions with almost no preparation whatsoever, and to just use what the players throw at you. This premise is awesome: right after character creation (which also focuses on “bonds” and relationships between the party members, so that no mysterious guy has to recruit them in a pub) the players and their heroes dive into some cool scenario and fight their way out. Use what’s on their sheet, instead of what’s behind your screen. In a way, Dungeon World is the game for the lazy GM: just go with what your players want, as long as you keep the action flowing!

It makes me happy to see game that takes the old and somewhat boring dungeoncrawler concept, and makes it so enchanting by adding this layer of storytelling. Really, you should visit the author’s homepage or head right to your digital friendly gaming store to buy it, and see what little gem they created. I will probably prod my group into playing this soon, and you will hear about it here. Have fun plundering dragon hoards!

TSWoD – More Anima, more rule hacks and more Fiddles!

Another day, another post about The Secret World of Darkness. In today’s installment, we will take another look at what Anima has to offer for a character, look at some notes about conflicting rules and expand Fiddles’ character sheet. Here we go!

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Three reason why you should give the Song of Ice and Fire RPG a spin

A month ago, I did two things for the first time in my tabletop role-playing career. The first thing was to organise a campaign that will be played entirely online (well, except for our next session). The other thing was to start playing the Song of Ice and Fire RPG (SIFRP) by Green Ronin. I can say that both of these ideas were good ones, and I am especially surprised by the system presented in SIFRP. Today, I want to share my enthusiasm with you and give you three reasons for trying a game in Westeros.

Reason #1 – You don’t create characters, you create a house

Alright, that is a lie. Sure, every player still creates a character, but before you get to that, the entire group creates a House. Anyone familiar with Martin’s world knows that the Houses of Westeros play an important role in the daily life and politics, and it was a great idea to give players the chance to create their own. Through a series of dice rolls and choices, the group will give birth to a minor House, loyal to one of the famous major Houses. During their adventures, the player characters will influence the destiny of their House, and will hopefully uplift it.

The House system includes rules for the management of the House and “House Fortunes”, which can be positive or negative. Players and their characters will have to decide where to take their House, and what role it will play in the Game of Thrones. It is intriguing and a nice distraction from the regular adventures and politics, and that can never be a bad thing!

Reason #2 – Combat is fast and deadly

I love Exalted. I do. I think that Exalted is one of the best games that I have ever played. But you know what I seriously hate about it? Goddamn combat. Why? Because it takes ages, and since every competent fighter is some demi-godly superhero, combat drags on and on until someone has run out of their supernatural fuel and is brutally murdered by the equivalent of a human nuclear bomb. Gosh, I hate it.

In SIFRP, combat is the exact opposite. It is fast and deadly, often done in just a few rounds. As long as a character has some competence, fights will be dramatic and exciting, yet short because of the high damage and low health points. The only problem it has is shown when two equal fighters meet each other. Then it can become the boring back-and-forth I despise so much about Exalted. However, as long as you as a GM know your PC’s, and throw the right enemies in them, combat is just a delight in SIFRP.

Reason #3 – It’s Westeros, damn it

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two years, you will know that the HBO show of Martin’s books has caused his fan base to grow by a gazillion percent. Everyone loves or hates Game of Thrones, but every geek on the planet now has an opinion about it.

I am not trying to say that you should play SIFRP because Westeros is all cool and mainstream now. No, what I am trying to say is that you should give the setting a spin because there is more source material now than ever before. Next to the books and source books by Green Ronin, you have two seasons of a marvelous TV show to refer to and use for your players to learn the setting. It is easier than ever before to discover the thrilling world of Westeros, and to create your own tales in it.

So, if you are still looking for a Christmas present for a fellow gamer, you could do worse than to buy him or her a copy of this game. Tell them that winter is coming, and what better to do during the Long Night than to roll some six-sided dice and pretend you are a knight?