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.

“Fun” spaces

One thing that I noticed with most streamers with a large audience that I watch (mainly CohhCarnage, Sacriel and P4wnyhof) is that they have a rule to not engage with “politics” on their channel, because they want their stream to be a “fun space” that we can get away from all of the stuff that’s happening outside of our door. And I get that — you’re providing entertainment, you don’t want to set off a flame-war in your chat. And for professional streamers, your income is also dependent on the continued support from your community: every month, your subscribers can decide to take their support elsewhere. So you don’t want to be too controversial, I guess.
But refusing to talk about politics is a political stance in itself. It normalises (and therefore reinforces) the status quo. And that makes it automatically less inclusive, because the current state of things is far from balanced. That is extra problematic when you look at the streamer demographics: most are white males in their 30’s — a most privileged group. It makes sense: streaming equipment doesn’t come cheap, and you have to be in a place with a great internet connection too. And in the case of people trying to make it as a professional streamer, you also need a support network — you need time to grow your community, during which period you won’t earn any income off of it. Only people who are already nicely set up can do so.

So they’re all in their bubble of privilege, and if they are aware of the plight of others, they make a point of not making a point out of it — because it’s not “fun”. That reasoning is also used as a weapon to exclude others. “I don’t want gays in my entertainment, I’m just here to have fun, not to get all political!” is one of the things that were commented when Paizo introduced homosexual NPCs in some of their modules. In other words, this commenter doesn’t want non-heterosexual people to be in that space and enjoy the same things they enjoy. It’s used to exclude people, and if you want to discuss this (or even mention it), you are accused of bringing in “politics” into a “fun space” — it could even get you banned!
This is also how people who have suffered abuse are punished by bringing it up: they are harshing the mellow of the “fun space”! But if you have an abuser in your space, then that is the problem, not that someone is pointing it out. Alas, it seems that not everyone has realised that fact.
I’ve had a shitty white dude (somehow, the shitty people in this context are always white and always male) shout at me because, while he was ok with a world literally created by the dreams of dragons, having a female mayor for a farming village was somehow “unrealistic”. If you’re ok with fantasy but somehow not ok with gender equality, then realism is not the problem there…

When someone mentioned the repeal of the 8th amendment in Ireland, CohhCarnage told his audience that he definitely had an opinion, but that he was not going to share it on stream, because it is so “political”. And sure enough, abortion is of course a hot-button issue for a lot of people. Do you really want an 11.000-person flamewar in your chat?
On the other hand, he could have just answered the question that was posed to him. Because in his channel, he is in a position of power, and he had a chance to speak out to his viewers, and thereby move hearts and minds into the right direction. And he didn’t take that opportunity. None of those big-name streamers do.

That disappoints me. It really does. I think a position of privilege gives you the moral obligation to try and be more inclusive. It is certainly something I keep in mind when deciding who and how to support the streamers whose content I enjoy.

Now, don’t get me wrong: none of these streamers will tolerate bigotry on their channels. Racial slurs, homophobia and other things that bring other people down will get you banned in their channels. I’m not saying they are bad people — they are not. It’s just that they actively dodge the chance to make a positive difference.
Luckily, there are also streamers that are explicitly inclusive — but their audience is a lot smaller. Take for instance AdamKoebel: he is explicitly queer and advocates for minorities at every chance he gets. But he has 40.000 followers, and CohhCarnage 962.000… There is a definite difference in impact.

(OK, this has turned into more of a partially-coherent rant than I had intended, but this is all that I have to say at the moment.)

Greenscreen

Last December, I invested some money in a desktop gaming system, using as many left-over components as I could. This also allowed me to stream with a face-cam, because I would be sitting at my desk (instead of in the living room, where my gaming system sat before). But my desk is oriented towards the window, with my back to the rest of the house. So I used a folding screen that we had lying around to block out the view behind me — we wouldn’t want accidental domestic scenes to be streamed to the internet, right?
But that means you got to see the off-white fabric behind me during streams. Not that terrible, but it could be better. So I ordered a large piece of fabric in that chromakey colour — the colour they also use for the weather report on TV. After a bit of ironing (the fabric came folded in a box, so creases everywhere!), we smoothed the fabric over the folding screen, using safety pins. It took some fiddling to get the lighting all set up correctly, but setting up the greenscreen effect in OBS is just a single mouse-click! So now I obscure less of the screen, and it looks so much more professional. (Not that I want to be a professional streamer, but for less than 20 euros this is certainly a fun addition to the setup.)


A screenshot of a previous stream. You can see the white folding screen behind me.


Pinning the fabric to the screen. We made sure to have as few creases as possible, because a too high difference in hue will defeat the effect!


A screenshot of yesterday’s stream. Now it is as if I am in front of the computer screen!

When I got fed up with all the ads I saw on Twitch, I got Twitch Prime. It’s basically Amazon Prime (though there is no Amazon in the Netherlands, but there is Prime Video, so that’s something), but you get to watch Twitch ad-free and you get to use a free subscription every month. The subscription times out at the end of that 30-day period, so you can re-use it somewhere else (or at the same channel, if you want). Given the amount of enjoyment I get out of it, it’s a good investment.
There is another perk: you can get in-game loot in certain games. But you can get full games as well! For no additional charge, you can install those games if you have the Twitch app installed — it acts a bit like the Steam client in that regard.

Last week, I saw that I could get Tales from Candlekeep: Tomb of Annihilation for no additional charge — and I thought: “Free D&D game? Why not?”
It’s essentially a computerised version of the D&D board game, which uses a simplified version of the much-maligned 4th edition rules. You control characters with their own abilities: some they can do every round, some they can only do once per day (once per ‘quest’). Every turn, you can move and undertake an action, and if you end up at the edge of a ’tile’, then a new tile is added to the map. Of course, monsters can spawn on newly explored tiles. Combat is simply using powers (all the ‘at will’ powers do damage — some ranged, some melee), and it’s the usual “roll D20 + your power’s attack bonus to beat the monster’s Armor Class”. There’s Advantage and Disadvantage and things like that: if you’re familiar with the D&D rules, it doesn’t take long to understand what’s going on. The game really pushes you forward: if you don’t uncover a new tile after each hero’s turn, you get a random ‘encounter’ — some of them are beneficial, but most of them are not. But then again, most of them can be averted by using your Adrenaline.
There are five pre-generated characters: you can’t make your own, which is a let-down. Part of the fun of D&D is, after all, creating your own character and fine-tuning their abilities. You need to gain ‘levels’ to open up a new ‘slot’ in your party (you start with two). There’s a paladin, a ranger, a wizard, a bard and a druid — a nice mix of classes.
There is a main quest path, and side quests that unlock with each main quest undertaken. Each mission completed gives you gold and components, which you can use to upgrade the equipment of your characters, giving them more armour, HP or bonuses. The game comes with all the ‘DLC’, which are basically item packs that you can use right away.

The whole game feels rushed though. There is a tutorial, but that only covers the barest basics. There are only two sets of tiles (jungle and dungeon). There are very few different monsters. The interface does a bad job of communicating some of the statuses or the consequence of a choice. There is no undo or “what if”: if you click somewhere, then that’s it. I finished the game, but I never understood how a Spell Ward worked.
For an adventure game, it’s really slow-moving: the game takes its time in the phase transitions. A 9 tile exploration side-mission takes 15 minutes to play through. And it’s not difficult: I think there was only one mission that I couldn’t finish in one try.

I do not recommend the game. Especially not for the 28 euros that the set I got for free would cost you if you bought it on Steam. But I have been ill these past days, and it is a perfect little diversion for when all you can do is stare at a screen, click your mouse and make decisions that require only a light cognitive load.
With a bit more polish, it could have been a lot better. Throw in a level editor for people to add their own missions for others to enjoy, and you could have had a neat little computer boardgame. But that was not the path taken.