Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Nerd Level-Up!

This weekend I played Dungeons and Dragons for the first time ever.

Some background on my D&D experience;

-I'd never touched table top D&D, and have very little experience with table top gaming in general. I only know the stuff that's considered blasé these days. Your Carcassonnes and your Settlers of Catan.

-I've played a bunch of Bioware/Black Isle/Wizards of the Coast stuff. Loved Baldur's I and II. Minsc is my man! Planescape: Torment is my all-time favorite game though I worry for my mental health anytime I try to play through it these days and find the text too much to handle. How did my teenage self do it?

-Like I said, I have very little table-top gaming experience, which seems to be rare for working game designers. This makes me feel a deep sense of inadequacy and doubt in my own skills as a designer. In the rare times when I do play table top games with other designers, I pretend to understand various table-top gaming terms like "dice" and "your turn", nodding and smilingly knowingly and shouting things like "Whoa this isn't how I would have designed this!" and "This is SO unbalanced!" The other designers will tend to nod agreeably and I go home feeling a little better about myself.

So yeah, we played some D&D on the weekend.

Kristina prepared for our first game by dressing up as a "Badass-Badass" and playing some Dragon Age, just to set the mood:

And so with the mood set, and Alistair/Morrigan half-seduced (I can't remember which one Kristina wants. One of those) a few friends dropped by to walk us through the new, stripped-down, newby-friendly version of D&D.

Apparently the game's street date was broken because this isn't supposed to be released yet. G'job, Newbury Comics!

We had two sessions over this Labor Day weekend.

Session 1: Everyone Takes Turn Making A Character

Before we got started, we ate and drank disgusting things. Caprisun is diabetes you can drink with a straw!

Then we got started with the game. I'm pretty sure we did it wrong, at least at first.

The new D&D starter book is constructed in such a way as to encourage new players to first go on a very short solo-adventure. A sort of "choose your own adventure" over the course of which you create your character. You play the part of a passenger on a wagon that comes under Goblin attack. Over the course of the attack you learn the ropes of how D&D works without having to hold up a bunch of other, more experienced players who are raring to go (ie. you're encouraged to do this without other people around)

Instead of going on a series of short solo adventures, we all sat together creating our characters one at a time, and it took around 3 hours. It got boring at times and didn't feel like the strongest start possible for a new player (though maybe it would have been if we'd actually followed instructions and each created our characters). Being new, I felt a little overwhelmed not only stepping through the creation of my own character, but also everybody else's. Whinge/whine. It wasn't all bad though, and there were some cool things that came out of doing things this way; we all had a small hand in creating each other's character, and the group dynamics encouraged us to make characters that would gel together as a team, each with their own entertaining spin. It was actually probably more fun creating our characters as a group, I just wish the game itself had supported/strengthened this process instead of encouraging players to create a character on their own.

I'm playing a teenage Dwarf who is a little at odds with the world he lives in. He's adventurous, but not an adventurer; his thing is fashion. His fascination with designer battle-wear started when he was 5 years old. He was hanging out in his Dad's beer cave when a Paladin donning the most exquisite silver plate mail with red gold trim and purple velvet cape you've ever seen dropped by for an ale and a tale. He's been fascinated with armor (or armour, if you speak English) ever since. It's his dream now to travel the world while hanging out with the people that wear this stuff. Also, he has magical powers and hopes to one day create a spell that will rid him and other Dwarves of their excessive body hair and also maybe act as a really good exfoliator. His name is a rude word pronounced strangely (he's European) so I'm not going to mention it here.

We've also got Tom Hanks in our party (the Cleric, not the American actor), Moondancer the Elven Fighter, a pyromaniac (there's always one) Mage named Sloopy, and an Australian bogan named Pepperwinkle Dropbear whose charisma soars to 18 when he's speaking to characters with an intelligence equal to or less than 6 (otherwise his charisma sticks at 5)

Kristina took the role of our fearless DM. So far she seems very up to the task, and I have to admit I'd be terrified if it was my job to run the game and keep everyone entertained throughout our first campaign without ever having played before.

Once our characters were created, we banded together and went on a short introductory quest to kill a bunch of Goblins who may or may not have had something to do with the wagon that got attacked during our solo character-creation adventures. Who cares, all Goblins are the same, right? This is a life lesson that D&D teaches very well, and we all took it to heart. We massacred the Goblins with ease and then I screamed "This is totally unbalanced!" and everyone nodded in agreement and I felt really good for the rest of the day.

We were about to leave the Goblin cave/sharehouse when Kristina spoke up; "One of the Goblins is clinging to life! If you heal him, you maybe be able to question him about the attack on the wagon..."

We all started screaming for blood while Tom Hanks stealthily grew a heart and rolled a d6 (I'm learning terms!!) to cast Heal, saving the Goblin.

It turns out the Goblin's name is "Gobby" and he's pretty cool. We've let him join our party. He doesn't like wearing clothes, so we tend to keep him at the back of the party where enemies can't see (it's important that we appear respectable and all-round legit). Also Gobby is a complete weakling and we're finding that other Goblins will attack him on-sight for having abandoned his kind.

So that was our first session. I'll post about the second session later because this is a lot of words and you probably just looked at the pictures anyways.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ninga Dinos

So I'm going to use this blag to post thoughts about game design and the like, because I really need to spend less time sitting around playing games and getting fat at night and more time making stuff and posting it here for you to laugh at/ponder/ignore.

But before I make any new stuff, I'm going to start by showing off some old stuff. Some reeeeally old stuff.

To set the scene;

Its 1987. I'm addicted to the two things that, predictably, all boys my age are: Dinosaurs, and Ninja Turtles. I can name over 100 dinosaurs (and my dad, after a few beers, thinks this is the best party trick to show off to his friends). And even at this young age I'm a geek, and so Donatello is my man. I've just started learning to write, and am also considered a "good drawer".

Thus, the NINGA DINOS are BORN!

I used upper case letters for the front of the book/comic/early exercise in world building. The sign of a pro.

Check out that logo! I think I'm going to have to translate as we go. "Harness the Power of Dinosaurs" ok?

Ankylosaurs are the coolest. They have big bony balled tails. Those trained in the ways of ninjitsu can stand on their hind legs!

Brontosaurs cause earthquakes when they walk, causing their suspended names to fragment and shake. They also carry pirate ship cannons in their belts. Get it? Coz they're huge. I was learning to play with scale!

The jumping board indicates the ability to swim and the mushy bread loaf arm indicates my inability to draw good.

This name is much more fitting for one of the bad guys. I was a talentless idiot.

I still remember practicing the art of parallel line drawing for hours and hours and hours with a pencil and ruler. Drawing parallel lines on a slant was a super neat trick that I employed very rarely to give maximum impact!

You know Tricky is bad because he's carrying both Raphael's sai, Donatello's bo staff, and a "ball-stick"!

Stegosaurs had one of the smallest brains in the Dinosaur kingdom so I'm pretty sure they weren't fit to pilot jetpacks.


I couldn't spell "ninja", but I could spell the shit out of "transportation". I guess the Ninga Dinos flew around in a bellyflopping walrus mobile? Cool.

This is all pretty straightforward but just so you know the squiggly lines are for drilling holes through rocks and magma.

Oh fun! When I was a kid I used to make puzzles for myself all the time. I have a book laying around somewhere full of this stuff; I used to think to myself "I wonder, if I make these puzzles, will I remember the solutions when I'm grown up, or will I forget?" I always hoped I'd grow up and forget the solutions, and that the puzzles would then be super challenging, and my past-self would be like "Ha! I tricked you, you stupid adult! Kids rule!"

They were not super challenging.

American peeps: "Armour" is actually spelled correctly here! I wanted all of this gear so bad.

Ninja Turtle weapons and other assorted doodles and blobs. Also, a really sweet disembodied flaming dinosaur head.

Magma and arcade machines. Oh, they fancy.

Hahaha the bad guys don't even have Nintendo! And tar really smells.

Ninga Dinos was also an educational endeavor. It's not all fun and games kids, Dinosaurs are serious business! Read up!

A Diplodocus is a Sauropod. The more you know.

So that's that.

Who knows, in an alternate reality maybe Ninga Dinos could've been the perfect storm of young-boy-fetishism to make bajillions. Eastman and Laird and Tate. Or not!