Octopath Traveler Diary Entry 06: The Deadly Dance

It’s a deadly dance that Primrose plays for vengeance.

The lone daughter of a noble house that fell under assassins’ blades, Primrose has suffered no end of indignities working as an exotic dancer under the vile Master Helganesh. All to find the three marked assassins who murdered her father. The dream of that horrible night has tormented her for years, ever since she was a small girl; the things she would do to free herself of these spectres of the past.

Unspeakable things…and she has had to do the unspeakable to come this far, following up on the barest hint of a man with the mark of the crow. That’s what has led her to Sunshade, and that is where the party of five came across her. By that time, Primrose had begun making enemies, but also a friend. Here is the tale she told her new companions:

Helganesh, that leery old fool. The things I’ve had to do to keep in his good graces, I shudder to think about the memory of them. You can’t imagine being in the power of a man such as he. All my accomplishments over these past few years have been his, all my failings – my own. My reward for those accomplishments was nothing, and the punishments I suffered for failing… I will not speak of them. You will meet men like him in every city, town and village – petty and vile,  and all too willing to abuse whatever little influence they’ve managed to work out for themselves. That his influence in Sunshade is more than negligible is beside the point.

Over the past few weeks and months, I began worrying that the lead for which I sacrificed so very much of my dignity had led me astray, and I would be doomed to this nightmare forever. This very night was nearly catastrophic for me — my mind astray, I gave a performance for Helganesh’s patrons that the ‘Master’ found wanting. His threats forced me to go to the streets and perform my charms on passers-by until I had enough clientele to make up for my failure. The last of these clients escorted to Helganesh’s hall, I was resigned to give the leering masses another show when I caught sight of a man with the crow on his hand!

Finally, all my suffering had paid off! Just as I was about to follow, however, the old wretch cornered and threatened me. I nearly gave in to the threat, when Yusufa, the only other dancer who has shown any kindness to me, stepped in and offered me her help.

I could hardly refuse, could I? 

I tracked Helganesh down — and you can imagine my surprise when I saw him colluding with who else but the hooded man? I listened in, and what I heard made the hairs on my neck stand at an end.

I wasn’t surprised to find that Helganesh is a flesh peddler…but I wasn’t going to stand by and allow him to keep it up, least of all when it’s that monster’s pockets that he fills. I made my decision then and there …

So telling her story, Primrose needed do nothing else to recruit the adventurers to her quest. They quickly made their way to the dark underway below, following Helganesh and his mysterious partner. The road led them to the desert outside Sunshade, where they were all forced to witness a horrible crime…

Her friend dying at her feet, Primrose was overcome by rage. The time for standing against Helganesh was nigh, but before it, she would make sure to show him how she’d played him.

How good it must’ve felt to remove the mask she’d worn for so long! Though, admittedly, not as good as what came next!

Even as death stared him in the face, Helganesh didn’t change his ways — a traitorous bastard till the end. But an end it was, and soon, the crows…
will follow.

Octopath Traveler, Diary Entry 03: Hedge Knights and Exultations (Olberic, Chapter 1)

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Cobbleston, home to beautiful women, sturdy young men, and quite possibly the realm’s mightiest retired knight. Cobbleston, Cyrus and Tressa soon enough find out, is home to Olberic, the warrior.


What a badass, this guy.
Olberic’s tale begins with a flashback, as is sometimes the case with badasses. This one takes us back years from present times, at a time when Olberic was not a glorified sellsword going under the name of Berg but a true knight, serving his king and kingdom.This flashback is seventeen different kinds of epic, starting with Olberic holding off an entire platoon of enemy soldiers without so much as breaking a sweat. He’s immediately likeable, owed to his no-nonsense personality. The low, dangerous voice he has doesn’t hurt any, either.And when someone knows you under that moniker, you’re either a helluva fighter, or a damn good lover; and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out Olberic is both!
But Olberic has something that neither Cyrus nor Tressa have – – a nemesis. This flashback, in fact, is little more than Octopath introducing us to the first real antagonist I have come across in my ten hours of play.Did anyone ask for a fresh serving of “Assassin of Kings”? Think I’ve got that order squared away for ya!
Erhardt is just the kind of villain you learn to hate with surprising ease. He used to be Olberic’s sparring partner and dearest friend, and that betrayal stings all too deep, despite just coming into Olberic’s story.
At any rate, Erhardt wins this round, and Olberic fails in his last duty to avenge his liege. All the years since,
Olberic has toiled away as a hired sword from town to town, teaching the youths to fight, and protect their homes from roving bands of brigands.  Far from glamorous indeed, but it’s better than thieving, isn’t it, Therion?! Cough, cough, I’m getting ahead of myself.
From all the village miscreants, Olberic took a liking to one in particular, a fatherless lad named Philip, gasp! Okay, okay, that’s not him, that’s another Filip, with an F. Lemme try again.Huh, those two look rather similar. I’ll file this under “to be researched further”. Philip is a nice enough lad, even if a bit impatient;a little bit too young to see combat, he nevertheless clamours after it. Others, too, are promising students, especially a pair of young men who remind the expert swordsman of himself and an old friend, almost painfully so.
All goes well for a time, Olberic using his Path Ability, “Challenge”, to teach a great many of the villagers a lesson. What this lesson is, no one is quite sure, but when a swordsman smacks you stupid with the dull of his blade, you better thank him, or else!
Then, shameless and in the light of day, brigands attack.Yeah, those lads, it turns out we’re asking for it. Olberic is not a man to shy away from combat, though, and his skill was more than enough to take. Them. Apart.A level slash of his blade, and they were done for. But little did Olberic know, in another part of town, a brigand had snuck away and taken young Philip. Queue the Liam Neeson-style Taken moment, when Olberic decides to murder his way through an entire band of brigands to get the lad back to his mother. It was then that we, COUGH, I mean, Cyrus and Tressa, came upon the man, as he made his preparations to crack open a circle of hell as yet unimagined by any brigand.Now would be a good time to spend a few lines to recollect the time spent on the road, and how Cyrus and Tressa have so far gotten along! It went something a little like this:Cyrus: Do you like books, dear girl?Tressa: I sure do! How about you?Cyrus: Love them!T. : . . .C. : . . .*Companionable reading ensues for hours, until Tressa comes across a person and buys everything they have, including the clothes on said person’s back, for pennies. *
Good Times.


Needless to say, both Cyrus and Tressa were all too happy to save young Philip. And besides, after the episode with the pirates, it only seemed the next logical step for Tressa to rob some brigands blind, next!
What did folks say about a road paved with good intentions? The pavement’s real high-quality? No, no, that’s not it. Well, I’ll figure it out!
The brigands were, needless to say, not too impressed by our merry band of rag-tag adventurer-scholars and traveling merchants.



But Olberic is far from all bluster, and his skill catches many of the petty criminals unawares.


Of course, the leader of these brigands is no random comic relief sidekick, the scholar noted while throwing Tressa the stink-eye.
The blade he wields, Olberic realises with cold horror, used to be the weapon of Erhardt! Blade or no blade, thoigh, Olberic will have Philip freed… And now, he will have answers, too!
What’re Cyrus and Tressa to do but provide covering fire?
Okay, covering fire might not quite xdescribe it. How about, Blazing Inferno! (Trademark Pending)

Aye, the brigand leader was taken care of, after a fashion. Defeated, he expected death for himself and his men. Olberic surprised him, and perhaps himself, when he offered another option.
Overcome by Olberic’s mercy, the brigand leader gives the warrior what he is most desperate about – – the chance to find information out about Erhardt. Uh-huh! By the end of that little tête-à-tête, this Gaston fellow figures out just who the hedge knight’s true identity is! Queue the gasps!
The brigands defeated, Philip safe and sound, our knight errant decides to move on with his new-found companions, to clean up the rust of his blade with some sweet, sweet monster blood, and-oh, yes- deliver the villainous Eirnhardt to justice. After, that is, he finds out why his friend betrayed their monarch.

It’s a full plate Olberic has, but with good friends along the way, he’s sure to have a hell of a journey!
Olberic’s introduction was easily the most blend of epic-tragic storytelling Octopath has delivered thus far, to my great joy. Good voice acting all around, excellent writing, and Olberic himself is an excellent party member to have in a pinch!
Together with Cyrus and Tressa, these three will take the wilds by storm, as they explore the next few cities over. Who will they come across next?
The answer might surpri–it’s the thief. It’s Therion, that smooth, white-haired anime protagonist.

Until then, thanks for reading!

God of War: First Impressions

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I played six hours of God of War with two of my closest friends, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

It’s rare that I’ll find a game lingering on my mind after I’ve put it down. Such games more often are those “just one more turn/game” strategy experiences, which can suck your life away while you’re grinning happily at your perceived intellectual genius, caused by thrashing a bunch of AI opponents. There’s a reason I no longer play StarCraft 2 on ladder!

But I digress. God of War, what an epic experience! First of all, this game’s encounters are Hard! We three amigos played on the third difficulty, i.e. what would be called in yon olden days “Hard mode,” and it frustrated me a few times if I am honest. If I were alone, I would’ve played the game on Normal. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I often pick Normal on most games, because,

A) I’m not that good, and;

B) I have a library of games I want to finish, and no matter how many I finish, it seems to always expand. I haven’t finished the Witcher 3 DLCs for Tolkien’s sake!

A few fights were an outright nightmare, I tell you. I reckon a few battles forced our collective blood pressure to go way, way up due to the sheer amount of time spent trying to beat them. The first battle with the heavy shield draugr(might’ve misspelt that, I’ll freely admit) was…not fun.

That said, passing through those moments eventually, after all that effort, it’s a high. I am definitely beginning to see the appeal of games like Dark Souls (my friend, whose place we invaded to rob him of his time with God of War made loads of Dark Souls meets Kratos jokes, some of which were quite good).

Enemies can take a lot of punishment on Hard. I don’t want to think what it’s like to play on God of War difficulty. It’s doubtlessly insane. But then again, the rush I felt at beating a few of those encounters which so flummoxed us — that’s almost enough to make me consider.

Might I not be able to spare the time? It might just be worth it if it’ll make me feel like a… God of War.

Cringe. I know, that last line was abhorrent. What about the story and the four boss fights I witnessed and/or participated in?

I liked BOY.

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Boy is the boy of Kratos, who is patiently taking care of him, bonding with him over hunting magical deer and boars, and also over his mum’s death. They’re taking a road-trip to the peak of the nearby mountain and I can’t help feel that it’s a lot more difficult than it should be, what with the army of undead giants and non-dead giants, and angry gods without any clothes on.

The story is one-fourth road trip, one forth greek tragedy, and many more forths of cheese axe-throwing, all to defeat incomparable odds and yell some more at this little godling. Or demi-godling. Probably all-part godling though, if you ask me.

It’s great. Angry dad Kratos 2018 is even more entertaining than I hoped, and those few times during which you see Kratos fighting to keep as calm as possible or having a tender moment with Atreus Boy are nothing short of emotional.

Oh, and fighting the naked Stranger (who may or may not be a very weird interpretation of Baldr, though I’m beginning to see it)  was epic beyond all rhyme and reason!

In short, I’m excited to experience more of this god-son road-trippy goodness.

P.S. I love how the side-quests are done! Because of Kratos and BOY’s continuous conversations, none of the ones we played through felt like they were moving away from the actual main plot; it was all an extended lesson for the Boy. The levelling up-upgrade system is also something I have a lot of appreciation for, though I need to further familiarize myself with it before I can really discuss it.

Dungeon Master’s Diary, S01, Session 02: Poke

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Hello and welcome back to my Dungeon Master’s Diary, where I recollect the long and winded tale of my Dungeons&Dragons party, the Assholes. Some time has passed since I last posted about these venerable adventurers.

Let’s get straight to it! The problem with note-keeping is…sometimes you lose the notes. Others, you’re too lazy to write them down in the first place. So it is that I’m forced to recreate this particular session from memory alone, which might bring about a continuity issue or five.

Dramatis Personae:

P. as the Witcher-y Warlock Logen Thum.
S. as the cowardly fighter Kalis Dargon.
I. as the young half-elven cleric Ignus.
N. as the half-orc-like homebrew Kimir barbarian Gell.

NPCs of note:
Tess Einhorn, princess of the Einhorn Duchy. Thief.
Shank, Sergeant of the Einhorn army.
Crazy old herbalist guy.
Crazy old herbalist guy’s drunkard nephew.

When last we left off our valiant heroes, Logen Thum went after a suspected thief, whose dextrous fingers the witcher felt on his backpack. Without checking to see if his hunch was right, Logen rushed after the thief, closing on and eventually catching the young woman. Without so much as a question, he forced her into one of many back-alleys of the capital city of Moranth, and punched her twice in the stomach in quick succession.

Just then, the rest of the party caught up with the witcher. Kalis, horrified, realized the girl clutching her stomach in pain was none other than Tess Einhorn, the sole daughter to the Duke, the man they were to investigate.

What the players didn’t know was, the thief was no thief. Tess, a spirited young woman, had gotten away from her chambers in the palace and gone exploring, looking for news from her brother. It was a happy coincidence–the kind ever-so-helpful to DMs everywhere–that she heard the party discussing their plan to find the prince and gain his father’s favour.

So it was that Tess decided to stealthily put a map of the prince’s last known movements in one of the party’s backpack–the lucky recipient none other than our exceptionally violent witcher. She, a natural at sneaking, was more than surprised when Logen immediately shot after her, surprise turning to shock as his knuckles sank into her belly, forcing the stomach out of her lungs. Ouch.

Not a great first impression to leave on a woman in her position but after a short conversation, she assured the party that she would forget all about the warm welcome if they found and brought back her brother. This didn’t sit right with some of the party, and they went for an Insight check. Surprise, surprise — Tess can swallow a lot for family’s sake.

This misunderstanding cleared up with surprisingly little backlash, our heroes got to studying the map. Where the first attack of the undead had started was a fishing village two hours from Moranth by the name of Sarhas.

When they reached the village, they found nearly half of it burned to shambles. Soldiers toiled away, building barriers and digging mass graves. The attack has been recent if the smell is anything to judge by. What happened next?

Did they ask the soldiers what happened, do you think?

Nope, they got into a brawl with the town drunks, beat them half to death, and Logen took to carrying the drunken ring-leader’s body in the stead of a cape. This strange exhibit caught the attention of several soldiers, and the party was very close to getting into some very deep, very serious trouble with the law — if not for one sergeant Shank, who was familiar with the drunk’s antics and laughed it off. Kalis, an imperial soldier himself, found a common language with Shank, and so the two escaped any further trouble.

As for the drunkard? Turns out, he was the nephew of the crazy village herbalist! Wot!

They traded a man for a bunch of healing potions, is wot I’m saying. Note, the herbalist was off his rocker in a major way, and he was a standoff-ish old goober, so I don’t necessarily blame the party for kicking his nephew around a bit. It later turned out, most of those potions the herbalist offered were way past their ‘best before’ date, which made for some pretty strange and often horrifying effects!

So it was that Ignus drank a potion and fell in love with a scullery maid! There was a lot more to the potion, I reckon — but unfortunately, that’s one more thing I did not record. Yes, I know, I really need to write these hilarious events down! It’s so annoying, remembering how hysterically all of us shook in laughter, but being unable to recall why exactly. Was Ignus giggling uncontrollably? Was he belching, perhaps? Maybe he hallucinated slightly. I’m not sure, and the world is all the darker for it.

What comes next?

Find out next time, in the Dungeon Master’s Diary!

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed this one! As I cover more of the game, more details will emerge, what with my consistently better notes. Besides, this session didn’t really hold much in the way of using the game’s system to enrich the narrative, besides the occasional initiative check and simple combat rules. It’s all going to get progressively more interesting as we move forward!

Dungeon Master’s Diary, S01, Session 01: Beginnings

Beginning a D&D campaign is a daunting experience, especially when your entire experience role-playing is in a few Pathfinder games. Dungeons&Dragons’ latest edition is by no means an overly complex game. Most of the rules are explained in a clear, forthright way, and both the Player’s Handbook(PHB) and Dungeon Master’s Guide(DMG) are excellent books, introducing both the basics necessary to begin, as well as plenty of intermediate and optional rules — especially in the case of the DMG.

This first session either introduced or continued the stories of several characters from a short-lived summer sit-down with a group of six people, which relied on the Pathfinder ruleset and was quite the challenging first outing for me as a Dungeon Master.

My players were happy enough with it, or so they told me, but more importantly, I got to plant the seeds to what I envisioned as the main conflict.

The player characters found themselves on the Tenebrae island, the land of the Einhorn Duchy. Ruled by Duke Gregor Einhorn and his family, the Duchy began as a sprawling human colony. Soon enough, races of myth and legend, unseen since a war three thousand years in the past, make contact with the Duke and his people.

Cautious at first, eventually the Duke opens his lands to these strange creatures. Elves, dwarves, gnomes and more began mixing with humankind. That was the jist of my description for the setting of the game.

We see many fantasy worlds, especially D&D ones, which are entirely comfortable with a plethora of races mixing together, brushing shoulders against one another. I wanted to explore a world in which this diffusion had just occurred — that’s the main reason as to why I chose to put a single restriction on any half-elves my players were interested in playing. They could be no older than 22-25. (Somewhat vague, but giving too many details from the get-go backs you into a corner a wee bit.)

The main conflict I spoke about wasn’t anything too original — the Empress’ mage was checking in on the Duke. He didn’t want to be too obvious about it, so he asked one of the Empress’ soldiers (fighter PC), Captain-lieutenant Kalis Dargon, to investigate whether the Duke was planning to break away from this far-off Empire.

Kalis’ player(S.) is the most experienced D&D player at this point, having played since 4th edition so I gambled on anchoring the main plot to his backstory, on which we worked on together. I reckon doing a lot of that with most of the players who had the time and will to do so — three out of the original four’s backstories offered focal points at various times over our game, and continue to weave the story threads.

Nothing’s worse than a static world in which your players’ backstory has no meaning.

Faced with the need to get close to the Duke, our players explored the city of Moranth. Soon enough, they discovered an opportunity — the Duke’s son had disappeared during one of the last undead att–oh, did I mention the undead?

Aye, the undead were another thread of the conflict I had begun weaving for my wee lads. Nothing too original at all — the ancient dead awake, no one knows why, they begin attacking the smaller villages outside Moranth; they come from the seas, the fish is diseased, the ship of our human adventurers is the last ship to enter Moranth’s harbour before a blockade is enforced.

The blockade worked in two ways — first, it gave an in-world reason for my players’ characters not to just up’n’leave the island when the going gets tough; second, it created yet another, unspoken objective. Those characters who might want to get home now had another reason to disentangle whatever’s happening on the island.

Our group of adventurers discovered Boris Einhorn’s fate soon enough. Information about him was richly rewarded by the Duke, himself. Find his body, and…Bob’s your uncle. Probably not quite how the ‘Information wanted’ posters were phrased, but it’s been awhile.

They spent their sweet time considering how to go about finding the young Prince’s trail, discussing their plans loudly and in the center of city. Someone noticed, of course. That someone decided to place a little something in Logen’s pack.

Logen Thum is the company’s warlock/witcher; while using the warlock class, his backstory heavily borrowed from the Witcher universe. I allowed it because…who doesn’t like witchers in their universe? He’s a bit of an arse, though, and not nice to women at all. Something about spending all his life in a warrior monastery must’ve done its damage to the lad, but his heart is golden, and that’s all that matters! The lad who plays Logen is also one of my closest friends, so of course, I hand him an awful lot of rope and giggle as he hangs himself.

I’m a great friend.

At any rate, I asked P. to give me a perception roll, and he rolled high enough to tell that someone had tinkered with his pack; Logen sees a flash of movement and goes chasing the figure down. The rest of our adventurers follow.

He got the thief, blast his lucky die rolls! Surprise, surprise — the thief is a teenage girl who’s somewhat surprised to have gotten caught but there’s a twinkle of amusement in her eyes.

The twinkle vanishes as Logen punches her in the stomach once, a second time — the rest of our adventurers catch up at last and Kalis, horrified, realizes that this girl is none other than the daughter of Duke Einhorn, and the heir apparent to the Duchy, now that her older brother’s disappeared.

Oh, boy.

Next up: An introduction to the rest of our characters, a lot more story, and behind-the-scenes decisions and a Dungeon Master’s reasons for them. Stay Tuned!

Saturday Night Gaming: Prey

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Back when I was a kid, and then a teenager, I hated games like Prey! Dead Space, Bioshock 1&2, a variety of others which saw a lone protagonist facing against horrifying and unknowable enemies, whether on a derelict starship or submerged leagues beneath the sea.

Hated is, perhaps, too strong a word. Feared, in truth, would work much better; I was a scaredy-cat when I was a kid, due to an unfortunate accident that had much to do with a movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher — as average a movie as any, but a seven year old’s mind can turn silly, horrible special effects into the stuff of nightmares.

After that experience and another one a year later, it was easy to ignore horror films and games with a lot of jump scares; so it was when I got over Prey’s beautiful intro that I knew, the Filip from six-seven years back would’ve stayed as far away from Prey as he could throw the physical copy of the game (that younger Filip hated digital distribution; whether due to distrust, or some other reason, I couldn’t tell you).

I’m very happy to have grown out of that fear, for Prey deserves to be played and replayed, and replayed some more!

You take on the shoes of Doctor Morgan Yu(the gender of the good doctor is your choice), as you find yourself missing a three year-sized chunk of memories. If that wasn’t enough, you’re also on the space station Talos I, which orbits the moon in the year 2035. It’s…not looking too great, with corpses littering the ground and strange alien lifeforms running around, turning into cups, trying to chew your face and what-have-you. It’s all terribly confusing, as the last thing you remember was preparing to leave for that same space station, after some cajoling from your older brother, Alex Yu, in 2032.

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Alex is the CEO of TranStar, a mega corporation whose public face is the Yu family (mum and pop, as well as big bro and –yey — you!). The biggest hit of the company is the so-called Neuromod; the device changes the neural pathway of its user, allowing them to gain a new skill ranging from learning languages, to lengthening the life span, as well as a variety of other skills. As you might imagine, they’re something of a luxury, with only the richest and most influential on Earth able to purchase them.

Thankfully, Neuromods a plenty, since you’ll need a lot of help if you’re to stand so much as a chance of getting alive. Then again, a friendly robot who seems to have all but stolen your voice — your personal assistant January does the talking, instead of you — is asking you to blow up the station, for the sake of all of humanity down on Earth.

The choices are many, both in how you go about your exploration of the space station, and in how you deal with the decisions the story throws in your face. I won’t spoil now, nor will  I go in an in-depth discussion about the bits of the game that made my mind go boom, then blank, then boom again — but I have to say, it’s an excellent game that deserves a lot more attention than it got, both for its narrative and its varied gameplay.

It was made by the excellent Arkane, which stand behind the Dishonored franchise (although, to be fair, there are two studios that wear the Arkane name, one in Lyon (Dishonored 2), the other in Austin, Texas (Prey) ) and it does feel like Dishonored in space, in some ways. The best ways.

What a brilliant gem of 2017, a year that’s given us a ludicrous number of excellent games!

P.S. Thy Typhon were downright scary for the first five-six hours I spent playing, and that’s the greatest thing! Enemies who spook you as you squish them into fine jelly with a wrench or turn them into statues with your trusty GLOO gun are the best.

The best.

 

Ah, how I’ve missed writing one of those! Next week, Horizon: Zero Dawn. Probably. Alloy is the best.
Morgan Yu ain’t half bad, though, trust you me!

 

 

Adventurer’s Mishaps: No One Appreciates a Bard!

Welcome to Adventurer’s Mishaps, a new short fiction series on my blog, inspired by my love for role-playing games akin to Dungeons and Dragons (D&D).  Today’s entry is all about the hard life of a bard, as you might’ve gathered. Let’s get started!

“No one appreciates a bard! Here I’m at, a week after I trapped–single-handedly, I may add–Single-Handedly, I tell you– that black monstrosity that’s been terrorizing your piss-poor countryside, and not a dime off tonight’s meal, and a tenth of the official prize for the dragon paid besides! All evening I get ‘Thank you for this , Master Musician,’ ‘Thank you for that, My Lord Minstrel,’ but is there a single coin in my hat, is there a–BARMAID!” Luzwig waved the half-filled tankard, spraying drops of ale across the faces and beards of the villagers that had gathered around from the entire village, expecting to meet their savior.

Any man would’ve noted the storm brewing amongst that crowd; any man save for one as intoxicated as Luzwig. The people of Isthvaan, normally as meek as sheep, had been marinating in the newly-arrived bard’s tirade against King and country for a little over two bells’ time. Where warm smiles and kind words of gratitude had welcomed the bard earlier, only vicious glares and deep frowns were left.

The little gnome’s stay in the tavern had started well enough, with a few merry songs and an ancient epic retold with such mastery as to leave even those men most devoid of imagination speechless. Then, the tiny guest of the ‘Old Lady’ had requested–nay, demanded–a drink. Then, he had called for a second. And then for another one, and one more besides. That had been an hour past.

“Where’s that damn gir–what was I on about? Right, right, the small-minded pettiness of small-town folk. You won’t find smallness so…so…” the bard seemed to fall into a reverie of which only the harsh screeching of a nearby chair could pull him out. “…Tiny,” Luzwig finished. Some semblance of clarity returned to his eyes. The tiny orbs of violet focused on the face of a youth, strangely familiar to him, and sharpened. “Have you a clue of the intricacies of weaving spells into song? The years of study that went into mastering the lyre and the flute, the horn and the harpsichord. Touching the hearts and minds of your listeners, like plucking the strings of a harp, is no easy matter. Here, I’ll show you.” The gnome took to unpacking one of his instruments with care that didn’t reflect his intoxication.

In the silence, murmur broke out like the aftershocks to an eruption. “We gon’let him play us for fools now?”

“Mean-spirited drunk, that one! Throw ‘im out!”

“Not a coin to his name, and yet this one expect us to believe he’s who he says he is? I say cut off his tongue, see him spew that filth without it…”

“No knee-licker is going to disrespect My King in the ‘Lady’, while I’m standing in it! Grab the Trickster, and let the river spirits do away with him!”

The first string notes silenced the growing voices of discontent as if they’d never been there. Music filled the overcrowded common room, found its way through skin and flesh and bone, and, like draconic claws, sank into the villagers’ hearts.  Discontent, pain and hurt flooded the men’s hearts. Anger soon followed, but not towards the bard.

The gnome did not see who threw in the first fist and soon enough, it hardly mattered. One moment, nothing but the music and the baited breaths of the villagers broke the silence; the next, the soft stringing of melody was drowned out in the melee that erupted through the ranks of men.

***

Luzwig closed the door to the small village inn behind him, and hummed a small spell, locking it tight. Then he whistled, a sharp, clear sound that reinforced the doors and windows and walls of the establishment.

“A pity, that,” Luzwig said, before disappearing.

Several hundred feet from the village, a human woman, clad in a black mantle, awaited in the darkness. Her stance exuded of deadly calm, like a serpent awaiting the opportunity to strike.

Before the gnome had removed the invisibility spell off himself, the woman said, “All went well, I take it.”

He almost tripped in surprise.”H-how did you know?”

“How does anyone?” She didn’t await Luzwig’s response, throwing a purse of coins that the gnome hastily caught.

He weighed the pouch thoughtfully, then asked. “Liadrin…what was that whole thing for? If whoever you’re working for now wanted a couple of villagers dead, surely there would’ve been less expensive ways to go about it. More direct. Less a pain in the ass.”

Liadrin’s lips twitched into a humorless smile. “Sometimes, a cut is all the more painful when it comes not from outside, but from the inside, where you would least expect it. My employer will be pleased by a job well done.” The woman turned her back to Luzwig, saying “I’ll be sure to recommend that he use your services again, should he require…a softer touch.”

Before the gnome could respond, Liadrin took a few steps away, and vanished from sight. Luzwig glanced around, frowning, then took one last look at the small village of Isthvaan, a place whose importance he couldn’t have understood if his life depended on it.

“A pity, that,” he repeated in a low mumble, as he began to walk to Keirn. “If only that old miser, Lekaved, had seen fit to pay me more. I bet I’d be somewhere far away, with loads of booze and far away from that bloodthirsty bitch.”

He could’ve sworn, then, that he heard laughter.

 

Thank you for reading! Join me next week for more Mishaps! This series will run through the whole gamut of classes of D&D–I Hope– and while each adventure will be its own story, there’ll also be an overarching storyline running through and connecting each character!

Saturday Night Gaming: Dishonored 2

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Before you decide how to play Dishonored 2, you have a choice to make: The carrot, or the stick?

Will you choose to play as a deadly assassin, unnoticed and quick with his blade, or a merciful ghost that always moves in the shadows, unseen by any? Perhaps you’d like, rather, to strut into a room, take your blade out and cut guard after guard down with excellent swordwork and dark magic. It’s a choice you make every time you begin another level; hell, every time you enter into a new room.

Sure, it’s best to decide what your playstyle is going to be early on, and build your character’s skill set to best complement your style. I say ‘your character,’ since, as you probably know, you are free to choose between Dishonored 1 protagonist Corvo Atano, and his daughter, Empress Emily Kaldwin.

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Both characters bring unique powers to the mixture, allowing for a lot of replayability in terms of tools used to achieve the objective of taking back the throne. Yeah, you lose your throne to Delilah, Empress Jessamine’s sister, at the very beginning of the game. What a shocker.

That was a bit of a lore tangent–I have to be careful about those, since I always lean towards talking about lore, when I am trying to pay attention to mechanics, and how they allow you to craft your own story.

The Emily you play as a cold, almost bloodthirsty killer is a world away from the one that is ghosting through the levels without ending anyone’s life. Still more different is my Emily, who, try as she might not to kill, occasionally ends up pressed against the wall and will find herself forced to put someone down in the heat of the moment. The dialogue, the flavor texts and the cinematics don’t account for the difference between the ‘ghost’ style of playing, and my own–they’re both dubbed ‘low chaos’ — but they are different, none the less.

That’s what Arkane Studios, the game developer, has managed to do so well–it has recreated the freedom of choice that it brought on the table with Dishonored, and has gone one step further. The choice in characters certainly helps add another dimension to the fun, murder-y business that this little sandbox offers.

The powers at Emily’s fingertips are a great addition — she can summon a rift to the Void that hypnotizes a number of enemies, and can either continue on her way, cut a few throats, or let her opponents have a little nap. She can also link enemies, forcing the faith of one upon them all; as well as pull objects and bodies–living or dead; depending on how much Runes you decide to invest into your ability tree, you can get some pretty awesome upgrades to the base abilities.

Exploration will take you hours, which you will not regret spending…most of the time. Some bonecharms are rather…underwhelming. With the bonecharm crafting mechanics in place, though, that’s not all that worrisome; all you need do is ‘disenchant’ them for their special properties and build anew. The more you invest into that skill, the better the charms; and you can actually help along your play style by making relics which enhance your speed, endurance and so on.

The technical issues I’ve faced are still annoying, despite the game coming out a year ago. Performance has been much improved, certainly but there’s a lot to be desired in that particular aspect. I wish more could be done, but it is what it is, and with that much time having passed since release, I doubt that we’ll see another fix.

I have every intention of putting a video of a bunch more of my thoughts in a couple of weeks. And after…perhaps I’ll tackle Death of the Outsider, the expansion that just came out, on September 15th.

 

 

 

 

Saturday Night Gaming: My One-Year Anniversary as a D&D Dungeon Master!

I first took the seat as a Dungeon Master a year ago in August. Since that time, I have killed a player character, gone soft on several occasions and not murdered several others, and realized the most important lesson anyone wearing the DM hat could ever learn — convoluted plans are worth squat when your players have the freedom to do as they will!

Planning is great, of course. The type of session I hold, however, is very much about player choice; the action (or inaction) the players take affect the world in many different ways; I try to make the world fluid and never stationary. I imagine many DMs do it, to differing levels of success.

Me? I fumble with words, sometimes. I’ve always been much more gifted with the written word than with the spoken one; I am actively working through that particular flaw, and — though it takes effort — I’ve become better. This last year has helped me improve a great deal — as a storyteller, improviser and even as an actor.

Okay, that’s a lie. I’ve always been an amazing actor!

Improvising has been a problem in the past, however; not so much now. When you’re constantly forced to do something, you either get better at it, or get murdered by a mob of angry players ( or “friends,” as they keep insisting they are) for sucking.

What lessons have I learned?

My players are evil sunsuvbiscuits.

That’s about it, actually.

On a serious note, I had an amazing time exploring D&D. Here’s to ten more years!

With the amount of evil wizards, priests of lost gods and what-have-you-not having been awoken due to dreadful decision-making by said players, we’d be lucky to wrap Act I by then.