A week ago, we were at the (unofficial) opening of the zendo at Zen.nl Veldhoven which is run by klik’s coach. It’s a really nice space: it used to be a showroom for a flooring store, so there were some nice floors in there, which certainly helps. I like going to events like that: they’re festive occasions, and the people are invariably nice.
They had a potted plant out in the kitchen area, and I really liked it. Turned out it was a Bambusa Ventricosa: when they get stressed for water, the stalks become thicker, creating little bulges in every segment of the stalk. That’s also why it’s also called “Buddha’s Belly Bamboo” (though those pot-bellied men you see are mostly Chinese gods of good fortune, not the Buddha). It had been pruned to be more like an indoor plant, with foliage on top of the stalks. I really liked it, and remarked about it to klik.
She visited a garden centre with her mother this week, and they had a plant just like that! They’re quite pricey though, but as it was 40% discounted, we decided that she would bring it home! We don’t really have a location for it yet, but that’s certainly a solvable problem!
Twitch Prime gives you free games, which is a pretty good deal. These past months they have been especially generous and I got quite a few games.
One of those is Guild of Dungeoneering, in which you play the manager of an adventurer’s guild. You need to recruit adventurers (“dungeoneers”), and the types you can recruit are dependent on the facilities in your guild: you need a library to recruit a magician’s apprentice, and a stage to recruit a mime(!). You can buy extensions with the money your dungeoneers get from the various dungeons that you can send them to.
The actual “dungeoneering” is the meat of the game. Your dungeoneers enter each and every dungeon at level 1 and no equipment — indeed, none of their gains carries over from dungeon to dungeon. The dungeoneer is free to choose their own path through the dungeon, and each round you have three cards to choose from a hand of five to add rooms, monsters and treasure to the dungeon. You want to entice the dungeoneer towards the path you want them to take, towards monsters that are appropriate for their level. If they defeat a monster of a level equal or higher to theirs, they gain a level — and the power level really ramps up, so you really want to guide them towards the right battles. The maps are hand-drawn on a graph paper overlay, to give that home-brew dungeon feel, which is a nice touch.
The combat system is card-based: you draw a hand of cards and you choose one action card to play that round, while the monster does so too. There are cards with effects that operate on the number of cards you have to choose from: more is better, obviously. There is physical and magical damage, and you can defend against physical and magical too. Equipment can give you an additional hit point and multiple additional cards during combat, some of which are really good.
Each dungeon run will give you gold, and with that gold you can expand your guild. You can add rooms that will get you a new type of dungeoneer (only one dungeoneer per type!), rooms that will give you a blessing (you can choose one blessing when you go in) or workshops that will introduce new equipment cards to the dungeons.
I have to give a shout-out to the best feature of the game: the bard. Whenever a new chapter starts, or with victory and defeat, you get a little song by a “bard” that is appropriate. There’s not much variation in them, which is a pity, because they’re a nice flourish to the game.
It’s kinda fun in that each dungeon is a puzzle. But it is also repetitive and can be frustrating: some unlucky draws can cost you your victory. The randomness really makes it a bit hit-or-miss for each dungeon run. And there is no way to ‘build up’ your dungeoneers, which is a pity.
The game it most closely resembles is Darkest Dungeon, but that offers much deeper gameplay. In DD, you earn treasures to build up your town, which has real effects for the adventurers you recruit. And you need to plan further ahead, since things like stress carry over from every dungeon you explore — and that is absent from Guild of Dungeoneering.
So I’m not sure I’ll still be playing this months from now. The game costs EUR 20 on Steam, and I don’t think I would get my money’s worth out of it for that price. Heck, it’s twice as expensive as Darkest Dungeon, which you can get for EUR 10 in a sale right now on GOG, and that is the better game of the two.
Day 31: Share why you take part in RPG-a-day
Roleplaying games are, at the moment, my main hobby. I love them, and I wish there were more people playing them. I especially would like to have more diversity in the player base: things are improving, but it’s still a hobby for white dudes. And I play RPGs for the awesome adventures, so having more diverse experiences and viewpoints represented in the hobby will make adventures more surprising and interesting — and thus awesome.
Things have improved a lot the last few years, with artwork becoming more inclusive (iconic characters being non-white, no chainmail bikinis!) and a wider variety of viewpoints being represented in the subject matter of games (such as queer teenagers in Monsterhearts). But we’re not there yet, and there are shitty white dudes everywhere who will happily seek to exclude others, but I think the tide is against them and can’t be turned anymore.
But RPGs are still very much a niche hobby, so perhaps a lot of people who would be interested, just are never made aware of the possibilities of RPGs and how fun they are. So by talking about them, I hope to pique people’s interest. Perhaps they will become interested, perhaps they will find a group.
And maybe, one day, I will be able to play in a group where I’m the only white dude. I’d certainly like that.
…and on the last day of the month, that is the last question of RPG-a-day 2018!
Day 30: Share something you learned about playing your character
I’ll do you one better: I’ll share something I learned about myself while playing my characters. All of my characters tend to stay “on task”: there’s something to be done, and my character(s) are going to do it, and are going to make sure that the other characters are going to help. This is only slightly helped because I tend to write session reports and thus remember all kinds of details — but that is also part of who I am.
I’ve had other players remark that I’d be a great project manager, because I went about the mission so structured. I had never thought of myself that way, but not long after that, I did make a promotion to project manager, and I turned out to be pretty good at it…
I guess I’m not that good a roleplayer, because all of my characters tend to have this trait. Recently, I have tried playing characters that are more easy-going and less structured, and that’s hard work for me!
Day 29: Share a friendship you have because of RPGs
The group I played with in the streamed campaigns that I mentioned two days ago. I already knew them from hanging out in the chat for the streams on ByronicGamer’s Twitch channel, but the Dungeon World game was the first time I got to play an RPG with them. And we’re still playing (though not online): most of my RPGing these days is with this group.
It’s turned into a really mutually supportive group — or perhaps it already was, and I’ve become included in that through my RPG participation.
Day 28: Share whose inspiring gaming excellence you’re grateful for
I had to think a bit for this one, but I think I’ll go with Pete Fenlon. He used to be with Iron Crown Enterprises, and he drew all of their overland maps for the MERP modules that they published. He developed his own, distinct style of mapmaking that inspired gamers everywhere.
And it inspired me, too. Looking at those detailed maps of the places I read in professor Tolkien’s books, tracing the journeys described and seeing what else is there. Perhaps this has given me a keen interest in RPG games that treat travel as an actual (part of the) adventure, instead of a reason for pesky random encounter rolls, like The One Ring and especially Ryuutama.
Day 27: Share a great stream/actual play
I’m a big fan of the idea of streaming RPGs, but somehow it’s not something I would watch myself. So I only have two collections of recorded streams to offer that I played in myself. The first is the YouTube playlist of the run of Dungeon World we had, clocking in at just a little under 35 hours (which does include our breaks) and 13 sessions. It was my first time playing an Apocalypse World Engine game, and while I had read the book before, it never ‘clicked’ with me until I got to play. It got chaotic fast, mostly because we didn’t really ‘gel’ as a group with a common mission, and the campaign ended with us burning down another village — and we just never got around to the next session because it had run its course.
The second is the YouTube playlist of the run of The Sprawl we had. This one is much shorter, with only 8 videos and under 25 hours. I like this one a lot better, because The Sprawl has a good mission-based structure (which comes natural for cyberpunk!), so you had a much more ‘modular’ experience. And in between, we had quite a bit of cool character play, both individually and between characters. Unfortunately, this didn’t ever reach a conclusion either, because we were kinda burned out playing on-stream: it’s quite something to be performing to an audience and for the other players for about three hours!
We have been going on little walks in the evening around our neighbourhood for a while now. There’s lots of greenery and parks around here, and we’re at the edge of the city, so we can just walk into the countryside if we go the other way. And then we thought that if we were going to walk anyway, we might as well have a little extra motivation and have a goal. So we installed Pokemon GO, and we have been playing quite a bit since. There are a lot of pokestops near us, and right behind our house is a Gym too!
Today we were visiting family, and when we got back home, around 20:00, we immediately packed up for our tour around the pokestops. When we approached one of the Gyms that are on our route, a pair of guys with their phones out were walking the other direction. And when we went to a pokestop somewhere in the middle of a residential street where nobody has any business being unless they live there, they were there too. Turned out that they were players too, and they asked us if we were there “for the raid” as well.
We had seen there was a raid going on with a super high level monster in the gym we passed, but of course we don’t have any hope of defeating that monster with just the two of us. Turns out that there is a Whatsapp group of Pokemon GO players in our part of the city, and they had coordinated to meet at that gym in about ten minutes later to battle that rare and super-strong pokemon.
So we made sure to be there at the designated time, and people were happy to have us on board — even though we’re total beginners and much weaker than almost everyone there. It was a good opportunity for us to gain some XP… In the end, there were 19 trainers (out of a maximum of 20) doing battle together, and we managed to bring the beast down! Whenever that happens, you get a number of special balls (determined by a few factors) to try and catch that pokemon that had been raiding the gym. Of course, being a low level doesn’t really help when trying to catch such a powerful pokemon, and indeed I did not succeed (though I did go from level 20 to 21 in one fell swoop)! But klik had more luck, and she managed to catch this mythical-level pokemon!
We were added to the group by the group admin, and then the rest went on to do a raid somewhere else, while we continued our round. The group is quite high-traffic, but if we can coordinate more things like that, it’ll be good fun!
Day 26: Your gaming ambition for the next year
To keep doing more of it. And I want to GM more in Play-by-Voip or Face-to-Face games!
Day 25: Name a game that had an impact on you in the last year
Hm. If I had to choose, I’d think that would be Blades in the Dark. People were very enthousiastic about it, so I got the PDF and read through it, and I decided it was not for me. But then a friend was looking for players for BitD, and I will play anything they want to run — so there I went. And it’s been a very, very wild ride. We started out as a band of drug dealers, and it sort of… devolved… into us basically decimating another gang while the drug dealing took a backseat. We’ve lost three characters, and the Crew is still not a unified group: there’s lots of internal tension. I’ve never had a group that was that intense in-game.