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6:12 PM on 08.16.2012

We (League of) Legend(s) Now

Hey lobster milkshakes, the cast of We Legend Now is going to be streaming tonight at 9pm EST (6pm PST) on Streamtoid, but we'll be doing something a little different tonight. For those just joining us, this weekly show is normally six guys (including some really old hands from around Dtoid) playing Legend, a very fun d20 RPG thatís in open beta, on a virtual tabletop for your and our amusement. I say normally because we've got an absence, and are therefore unable to continue our current campaign right now.

Our beloved king3vbo, who plays the endearingly stupid acid-blooded dragon Vasuki, is telling us to fuck off so he can go see Rifftrax Live as they show Manos: The Hands of Fate, and I support him in this decision. We certainly aren't worth skipping extremely funny people talking over the worst movie for, and if I also lived in Portland there just straight-up wouldnít have been a show tonight. If for whatever reason you live in the area and have been agonizing over the decision between seeing this awesome thing, and seeing our terrible thing, then I release you from this conundrum: go. Hell, you can even go and watch our horrific show afterwards in Streamtoid's archives (including the actually good episode 2, which I strongly recommend).

As far as the actual show goes, we can't do our main campaign (even though I really want to, because we just hit level 3), and we don't have any filler content prepped. So, instead we are gathering the might of The Goof Troop, and cheating on Legend with League of Legends. We will probably lose every game and lose horribly, because that is our mutant power, but I can promise you it will be entertaining to watch. So, stop on down at Streamtoid to watch as I kick rich amounts of ass but somehow fuck everything up for everyone (the stream audio included), Ryu89 obsesses over his numbers (it's okay that my KDR is trash because I had the biggest crit, guys!), JohnnyViral goes from wrecking top one game to getting steamrolled the next, Beers tries to work out the differences between this game and DotA2, and Analoge is Bro King of Supports except for how he accidentally all his wards everywhere.

You are free to suggest extremely ill-advised builds and team comps either here or over on the stream, and we will probably be just dumb enough to use them. Actually sane builds or helpful bits of advice will be soundly ignored. Also, late show post is super late.   read

12:49 PM on 08.09.2012

We Legend Now: Episode 3 live tonight

Hey gang, weíre gonna be streaming We Legend Now Episode 3, live tonight at (EDIT, We gon' be late) 10pm EST/7pm PST on Streamtoid. For those just joining us, this weekly show is six guys (including some really old hands from around Dtoid) playing Legend, a very fun d20 RPG thatís in open beta, on a virtual tabletop for your and our amusement.

Last week, our DM, Ryu89, rebooted our campaign because he didnít like where he started episode 1. This led me to joke that we were probably going to do a cross-over soon as well, which makes me officially prescient. Five minutes later, we were pitted against a blast from the past: the party from some of our crewís old D&D 4th Edition campaign. The acid spitting dragon, the combat advantage-obsessed rogue, some bible beater pally, a wolfmang, and the almighty Finder of Sandwiches, they were all there, and we were fighting over who got to take some chump change jobs off a tavern bulletin board.

We didnít get much more than that fight done, but what a fight it was. The rogue nearly killed our healer, yours truly, right off the bat, then got the living shit debuffed out of him. Seriously, his token was almost completely obscured by markers by the time he dropped. Will, the demon, persuaded enemies of entirely implausible things (like I am a gnome, and also over there), and then shot them in their dumb faces. Johnny failed yet again to find out anythingís true name, but he shot things too so we forgive him. Jeff missed every attack, but did so fabulously, and remembered on the last round that he had a source of damage that didnít need attack rolls. Evan was a real workhorse, got his claws plenty wet, and refused to teach anyone how to dougie. I managed to teleport the enemy dragon into an oven, and saved Jeff by recreating The Creation of Adam (you know, that thing on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel). We closed the encounter out with Evan and Jeff causing themselves to fall unconscious in order to take out the final dude. Evan in particular dug his claws into his own chest in order to spray the enemy with his acid blood (he took 18 damage and dealt 4. Beautiful).

So, this week we need to top that, apparently. Should we disappoint, though, the glory of this session has been preserved forever in the archives.

So, stop on by Streamtoid tonight to watch the spectacular, highly improbable, and frequently ill-advised misadventures of a stupid dragon dervish, a pyromaniac healer, a brain-damaged sniper, a smarmy demon con man, and a douchebag prettyboy angel jedi.

EDIT 2, SON OF EDIT: Sonofabitch, I keep forgetting this part, but if you've got a completely stupid or amazing idea for a character (such as a shark-riding velociraptor), let us know on the stream or here in the comments, and we will tell you how it can be built in Legend. And if it is incredible enough, we may even ask your character to appear as a guest player on an episode of our show.   read

11:35 AM on 08.02.2012

We Legend Now: Episode 2 live tonight!

Hey gang, weíre gonna be streaming We Legend Now Episode 2, live tonight at 9pm EST/6pm PST on Streamtoid. For those just joining us, this weekly show is six guys (including some really old hands from around Dtoid) playing Legend, a very fun d20 RPG thatís in open beta, on a virtual tabletop for your and our amusement.

Weíre a little sore about having started our first session three weeks ago, and due to personnel issues having no show and then a show that didnít involve our usual campaign, setting, characters, or GM (that one didnít turn out as well). So weíre very eager to get back to business as usual with our normal characters tonight.

Stop on by to watch the spectacular, highly improbable, and frequently ill-advised misadventures of a stupid dragon, a pyromaniac healer, a brain-damaged sniper, a smarmy demon con man, and a douchebag prettyboy angel.

Also, in lieu of normal viewer comments, feel free to suggest completely ridiculous and/or stupid characters in the comments, and we will tell you how it is completely possible to build them in Legend.

(See my other posts on the show and Legend in general here)   read

6:31 PM on 07.29.2012

We Legend Now ep1.5: We Learning Now

So, mercifully few people were watching our episode last night, and I say ďmercifullyĒ because I will freely admit that it wasnít up to snuff with our first episode, nor will our subsequent episodes follow this trend. This is largely because we were doing something starkly different, with not as much prep time, and a vastly less experienced DM (me, derp). In short, this session sort of nosedove, but in a very educational way. Players interested in Legend will find this post helpful as you consider things like party makeup and optimization, and GMs may find a lot of the rookie mistakes I made (it being my first time running any content whatsoever) amusing and familiar. I should also note that the specific things that went wrong had very little to do with the Legend system, and more to do with the choices we made while playing.

Also also, if you arenít big on reading, you can just skip ahead to the bulleted list, where Iíll say what lessons should be drawn from this, rather than exhaustively detailing everything that went wrong.

The Scenario: objective-based PvP. Specifically, two rival teams of bounty hunters, chasing a target they must capture. Only one team gets paid. This means the end goal of the encounter is one team standing, one team down, and the bounty down as well.

That is what was supposed to happen, anyway.

What actually happened: I made a pretty basic, elementary error when I designed this session. Namely, that I thought I could predict what my players would do, in any way, shape, or form. When I made the bounty for this encounter, I made a character designed mostly to keep itself alive and run. The NPC was pretty damn hard to hit with attack rolls, had some decent resistance to physical damage, and had good healing, some of which was automatic. The NPC was also a robot priest, named Clergybot. So far, so good.

Imagine my alarm when every last character sheet I got from my players was focused on physical damage and attack rolls. I hadnít expected this when I made Clergybot, but it turned out she was almost custom-engineered to not ever be harmed by these characters. The melee players in particular would need three separate saving throws to even attempt to attack her, and then they had to contend with a fair bit of armor and resistance to their particular damage. Which she would probably heal through without even spending actions to do so.

So, that was my first major failure to predict how my players would behave (specifically, their builds). And although it was probably too late to change anything by the time I found out, I regret not even trying to either make a new target or outright demanding some changes in player builds (strongly-worded hints and suggestions went largely unheeded).

Which leads to my next error. I had persuaded myself that when the players saw how tough Clergybot was, they would realize that it would take the combined efforts of both teams to bring her down. The first player to attempt to attack her was made an example of, so far, so good. But, and it makes sense in hindsight (just like my logic made sense to the players in hindsight), rather than pour everything into trying to burn Clergybot down, they turned to easier targets: each other.

Which might have been alright, since this was supposed to be PvP, but it turns out that they were all really hard targets themselves, with the exception of one player. Thatís correct, every player made their character deal damage in the same way, and every single character in the encounter except for one (the ranger) was particularly resistant to damage being dealt that way. That player then proceeded to get whaled on all night, while his partner (a Chirurgic Poet) burned his HP to keep the ranger alive. In doing so, he boosted his armor even more. Like, to the point where he would never be hit, ever.

So, there we were, with one player staying alive for now but headed for certain doom, his partner who now had very low HP but literally could not be harmed by his opponents, and whose attacks were crappy enough that once he was alone, he would be no real threat to his enemy. And the objective being firmly ignored (although major props to Will, the ranger, who despite getting punished hard in-game and having major distractions IRL, kept his eye on the prize and landed the only significant blow on the target all night). The players were headed toward a stalemate, which is no fun, and one of the players in particular had taken all the heat for the entire encounter, which is especially not fun when youíre not designed for it (Clergybot actually threw a heal his way, out of pity).

Meanwhile, ironically, Clergybot could bring the entire encounter to an end pretty quickly if she wanted to, because she was a spellcaster and could bypass all the huge armor and physical resistances everyone was packing. Thatís right, we had managed to eff up our encounter to the point where the only way it would ever have an ending was a Total Party Kill. But at least that wouldíve been closure. After all, these characters were one-offs, so nothing wouldíve been lost and it wouldíve been a fairly memorable end. And stupidly enough, I hesitated. It wasnít how Iíd planned it. In hindsight, plans are meant to change.

By the time I nutted up and decided to assert my dominance over my foolish players, it was too late to do so. The combat had bogged down, the players were demoralized by the apparent fact that there was no end in sight, and one player in particular took so long with his turns (and this is everything that isnít supposed to happen ever in Legend, and shouldnít have been an issue for his build) that all the flow of the match was lost. We didnít get past my first major nuke against the party before the session was called due to general weariness.

No matter what else went wrong, though, we will always have the wonderful image of a mummy on a flying, pyramid-motif motorcycle (seriously, this character was beyond rad) charging a robotic priest, and as it entered the priestís repelling aura, began to feel nauseous, before doubling over and vomiting up sand, its attack forgotten.

So, what lessons can we draw from this?
For the players:

1. Donít make parties where every character has the same strengths.
1a. Similar to the above, a Sage, Elementalist, or other spellcaster is worth their weight in solid platinum when youíre up against a bunch of armor-stacking assholes.
2. If you are expecting 2v2 PvP, a build designed to do area damage in melee range is way less than ideal.
2a. If the GM says that he thinks your build isnít good for whatís going to be happening in-game, he probably knows what heís talking about.
3. Please, for the sweet love of every possible god, when youíre playing a pen and paper game, no matter what game, read the rulebook before you start playing.
3a. Know your character backwards and forwards before the session begins.
3b. Clear up any questions about rules before the session begins.
4. The fewer questions you have to ask in-game, and the less time your turn takes, the more actual fun you (and everyone else) will have.
4a. Start thinking about your next turn as soon as your turn ends.

For GMs:
1. Accept the fact that you donít have the first clue what your players are going to do.
1a. Plan your sessions accordingly
2. Having surprises ready for your players is one thing. Having a bait-and-switch is another.
2a. If it feels like a bait-and-switch for the players, it doesnít really matter if they could have reasonably expected it, frequently dropped hints or not.
2b. Your clever hints will always be not clever enough or too clever. Be direct when you are giving important information to your players. ĎSubtleí may as well be synonymous with Ďsilentí.
3. If your player shows you their character sheet and you feel that it is bad, say so. Be blunt about it.
3a. If you see the character sheet, and think it looks great, and say so, and then in-game you realize that the playersí armor, damage and attack bonuses are actually really low (whether due to math errors or poor optimization), you have officially given that player bad information. Double-check, pls.
4. If, during preparation, you are starting to get the feeling that your encounter is over-tuned, you may well be right. Make adjustments accordingly.
4a. If you find out that your players are going to get countered mega fucking hard by your encounter, change the encounter or change the party.
5. If you want players to pay attention to a target, donít make that target really hard to hurt. Make the target a threat. This is a lesson I should have remembered from MOBAs. (Ironically, Clergybot had the necessary tools to make people scared, I just didnít use them until it was too late).
6. If itís obvious that the only way the encounter will end within the next millenium is a TPK or divine intervention, make it happen. The sooner youíre out of that encounter, the better, really.

So, thatís that. Not the best experience on earth, but what doesnít kill us or our viewers will make this a stronger show. We look forward to internalizing these lessons deeply, and coming back next week with a hell of a show. Same bat time (Thursdays, 9EST, 6PST), same bat channel (Streamtoid). If youíd like to see what our show looks like when we run it with some modicum of competence, check out Episode 1 in the archives.   read

4:15 PM on 07.26.2012

We Legend Now: Episode 1.5 Live Tonight

So yes, we didnít have a show last week. I know, I noticed. The bad news is that the same personnel problems that led to last week being cancelled are present this week, which means Ryu canít run his usual campaign. The good news, however, is that there will still be a show tonight, 6pm PST/9pm EST over on Streamtoid.

Specifically, I am taking the reigns to run some PvP (still using the Legend system) with some mid-level characters. Our usual cast is here, with the unfortunate absence of one king3vbo, and theyíve rolled up some, er, interesting characters for your viewing pleasure. They will square off in 2v2 combat in a scenario and setting of my design, and I plan to make them suffer.

So stop on by, watch us battle it out in a great little d20 RPG system, on a great virtual tabletop client, while we swear, draw obscene pictures on the pretty maps, mock each othersí builds, and discuss our unhealthy interest in Charles Barkley.

My previous blogs about We Legend Now:
Review and show announcement
Episode 1 Recap

P.S.: I guess usually when I'm on a stream/podcast we'd solicit your stupid questions, but in this case I will ask that you propose the most ridiculous RPG characters you can imagine, and we will tell you how to build them in Legend. If your idea is particularly rad, we may use it the next time we do PvP. Tell me about how much you want to see a Raptor Demoman in the comments, please.   read

1:00 PM on 07.13.2012

We Legend Now: A Recap

So, the inaugural episode of We Legend Now, in which we play the Legend d20 system while doing offensively stupid things on Streamtoid, went off fairly well. Certainly better than I expected our crew of gallivanting jackasses to manage. If you were for some inexplicable reason one of the few (like, the entire human population less 20-30 people) poor fools that didnít tune in, you missed the following misadventures of our party.

Dramatis Personae:
Vasuki, fallen cursed remnant of an ancient dragon, also a dervish, played by King3vbo
Vidya, the other remnant of said dragon, caster, healer, pyromaniac, played by yours truly
Verchiel, arrogant, insufferable prettyboy angel, played by Analoge
Staude Haragos, unhinged sniper whose guns talk to him, played by JohnnyViral
Wespyr, smarmy demon con man, mechanic, played by the absolutely top fucking percentage Will Beers
And the dickass GM himself, Ryu89

Events of note:
-Introductions out of the way, welcome to the show
-We are somehow already at a combat encounter, despite nobody having any idea how we know each other. In Media Res!
-Haha oh wow, Beers' frigging token. Seriously, look at it (I made it the header).
-No seriously, who are all these people weíre supposed to be allied with?
-Oh fuck, skeletons!
-Whatís the proper term for a group of skeletons, anyway?
-A pursuance, is general consensus.
-Who cares, fucking hit them already.
-Vidya is half dead. The first round is not yet over.
-Seriously, you asshole, stop using good tactics and focus-firing the healer.
-Wespyr has a fucking obscene Bluff modifier. Skeletons are persuaded of completely implausible things, and then shot.
-The skeleton king rolls up, gets set on fire, shot in the face, and gusted.
-Vidya is brought to exactly 0 hp. Itís okay, Iím a healer.
-The skeleton king hits Vasuki, and promptly dies to Vasuki bleeding on him.
-Moral: the wages of sin are acid blood.
-Skeleton King: he showed up, looked vaguely ominous, waved his hands to make shadows with no immediately obvious effect, and then died the first time he hurt anyone.
-Oh hey guys, it turns out the proper term is a drudge. A drudge of skeletons.
-Stupid skeleton archers get the living shit shot out of them, dragons are intimidating.
-We spend five minutes trying to figure out if there is an Attack of Opportunity (there was not).
-We win, loot the shit out of everything, get no loot.
-Vidya finally locates the blood she was promised (it was in the thick of slaughter the whole time).


-So we swamp now. Halflings live here, apparently?
-Vasuki attempts to steal back the quest turn-in after we get paid, gets caught.
-Something something, Verchiel thinks the quest-giver is a grubby little asshole and the whole thing is beneath him.
-Vidya pays zero attention.
-Beers brings the location-appropriate vidja gaem music with a fierceness.
-Staude wants to know if this is Kokomo. No, wait, his gun does.
-Halfling thugs jump us on the docks. Apparently some of them are called Shockers, as well?
-Consensus is that if they manage to get two in the pink and one in the stink, it will inflict [Dazed] or [Nauseated].
-Vidya is dropped to exactly 0hp again. This will be a theme, probably.
-Verchiel stabs Vidya with a dagger of pure fire. This makes Vidya feel much better.
-No, seriously.
-Halflings are generally set on fire, knocked around, shot and beat up. They donít do a lot of damage to non-Vidya people, because Wespyr has an energy shield.
-Vidya drops to 1hp. Everyone is racist against fire elementals.
-She sets someone on fire and gets very far away.
-Boom, last halfling down, encounter over.
-Party dings level 2, so long folks

-Johnny checks the recording this morning and realizes that nobody watching the stream could hear Evan talking all night. Whoops.

Sooo, yeah, apparently when Evan (who was streaming) was fucking with audio settings at the beginning of the stream to make the rest of us not sound like we were speaking through tin cans in a cave, he somehow managed to turn himself off. This is going to be fixed next week, so you can hear his dulcet tones and the funny things he will probably say, unless he accidentally leaves his actual mic muted anyway. It will be especially fixed if we can get someone with actual chops with these programs to teach him their ways.

Catch us on Streamtoid again next Thursday, 6pm PST/9pm EST for more insane hijinks, and see all the new tricks we get now that weíre level two! Expect allies to get buffed, and punk bitches to get dazzled, cleaved, smote, and headshotted. Allies may also get set on fire, for laffs.   read

12:38 PM on 07.11.2012

Legend: why you should probably play this thing

Have you ever wanted to play a game where you are Kamen Rider fighting alongside a robot encyclopedia, a demonic moneylender, and an impressively-muscled lunatic? You probably have, so you should probably read this, then.

Okay, so yes. This is not a video game. But I know for a fact that there are a not-insignificant number of Dtoid people who have an interest in various nerderies that do not necessarily involve LCD displays or controllers. Board games and pen and paper games alike have a place in many of our hearts. Iím here to talk about a d20 game Iíve recently been enamored with. But I do not speak of old hatreds, nor shall I recount the torturous history of the Great Edition Schisms. No, Iím here to talk about Legend.

This is your UI

First, some background. Legend is a game that is currently in open beta, with its core handbook as well as all other currently available content available for free at Rule of Coolís site. The name of the game or the developer may be familiar to people who keep an eye on Childís Play or Kickstarter. Last year, they released their core document as a pay-what-you-want drive with proceeds benefiting the charity, followed by a Kickstarter campaign to spruce up their handbook with more art. Both drives had their incentive goals repeatedly blown out of the water, so not only is there quite a lot of bonus content available for the game prior to its full 1.0 release (such as the John Woo-esque Japanese folklore gangland fantasy adventure module, Osaka Street Stories), but the team is committed to provide a whole lot more (like another module, Sherlock Holmes: Demon Slayer (!!!)) , which means that in the unlikely event that thereís something youíd like to make with this game that isnít possible, you may only need to wait. The Rule of Cool team, I should take the time to note, are a bunch of super-helpful folks who are very communicative and always looking for feedback.

Well then, thatís probably quite enough history. The whole point of this game is to provide the whole ďparty of adventurers go on a roleplaying adventure and kick rich amounts of ass, wacky hijinks are very likely to ensueĒ experience of d20. It takes inspiration from games like D&D, of course, but itís morphed into an entirely different beast. It was fun when everyone and their dog became an immortal god-beast at high levels in D&D 4E, so thatís here, but not the dreaded WoWification that launched ten thousand angry forum posts, nor is it necessary for GMs to get a Total Party Kill before level five. A lot of D&D 3.5 is here as well, but with a lot of healthy trimming of unnecessary complication, and a very sharp eye toward balance (sorry, wizards, everyone gets to be quadratic now).

The whole game in general tries to provide a robust set of rules for dealing with things, with the caveat that the rules should be straightforward, always be clear about what happens mechanically when youíre using your abilities, and then get out of your way. In fact, despite it being very rule-heavy, it succeeds particularly well at that last part. Through most of my hands-on-time with this game so far, I donít believe weíve needed to consult anything beyond our character sheets more than a couple times a session (well, okay, there were a few times where one or several people clearly hadnít read the manual), which beats the living hell out of spending ten minutes figuring out how a single action taken in a grapple is supposed to go off, and consulting seven sub-charts (did I mention that the entire rules for the infamous grapple and all related actions fit on a single page, in this game?). Thereís never been doubt over what Iím allowed to do at any given moment, provided that I read the rulebook once before and read my characterís abilities once or twice. And the rulebook itself? Those of you familiar with the Pathfinder (the other D&D 3.5 with the serial numbers filed off) may recall that its core rulebook had the heft of War and Peace plus Gravity's Rainbow, and that it was handy as a bludgeon should you be mugged leaving your friend's basement. Legend's core book is just 183 pages. Less handy as a self-defense weapon (and much lighter on fluff) but considering the emphasis on robust and consistent rules that deal with any possible situation, a short rulebook speaks well of how much they've managed to reduce needless complexity.

Yeah, you can totally make this.

And the characters? Character building is great in this game, and not just because they make it very straightforward and pretty hard to build a crappy character. No, characters are great in this game because you can (and are expected to) make anything. Whatís that, you say? You only see eight classes there, and surely Barbarian, Paladin, Rogue, Ranger, Monk, Sage, Tactician, and Shaman couldnít cover all your bases? I heard you, thatís totally what you thought even though youíre still reading this and not actually looking at the handbook. Well, thatíd be the case, if multiclassing wasnít easy as sin and expected of most characters. The biggest components of characters are three sets of abilities, called tracks, that gain abilities as you level up. Your base class will generally set out what three tracks are the default (usually including one offensive and one defensive track). And then, if you want to multiclass (and you should, if you have higher ambitions than Generic Shoots McBowguy), all you have to do is pick out one of your tracks you donít want anymore, at character creation. And then you pick out a track from almost anywhere else, and that is now the track you have instead. Not only is there no penalty for doing this, it is explicitly encouraged by the devs. And youíve got 52 tracks to choose from (with more coming), so someone who cares more than me is free to calculate the ludicrous number of possible builds (suffice to say itís a large number).

To help me illustrate my point (that you can make anything), let me list some of the characters (all of whom have been completely viable) that have been built with this system so far in my games alone:

-A pugilistic madman with Batmanís utility belt, whose primary defense is sheer luck
-A robot wizard who aids his allies in combat with his vast databases of knowledge concerning his enemies
-A whirling dervish who happens to also be a dragon
-A demon machinist who protects his allies with energy shielding
-A pyromaniac healer that can prep battlefields to be deathtraps
-A sniper whose massive head trauma has given him the bizzare ability to understand and manipulate the true names of the people and objects around him
-A nobleman fencer who physically and emotionally injures people with the force of his insults
-A prettyboy angel jedi
-An 800 lb. perpetually drunken gorilla
-Kamen Goddamned Rider

And I left out the aspects of those characters that arenít supported mechanically, like the Kamen Rider guy being a washed-up profit-obsessed jerk. That list is the way these characters actually play. There is literally a track that gives you a ridiculously rad suit of armor, a motorcycle, and the ability to do a flying jumpkick. The crazy-but-lucky boxer with a suite of tools that rival Batman is all mechanics, I left out the part of him being Tizoc but with a Macaw mask.

Yes, that Tizoc.

Other favorite highlights of the system include weapons being completely abstracted. Meaning that you can build knife that deals damage like a greatsword, pistols used in melee, or a greatsword designed to be thrown that can be easily hidden on your person. Weapons, like so much else in Legend, are what you want them to be, while doing what you need them to do. Also, power progression is handled nicely. Not only are characters and individual tracks fairly well-balanced against each other, but it also manages to remain balanced with your encounters, despite pretty obscene levels of power coming into play late-game. Thatís because monsters are characters. Thatís right, you (the GM) build your monsters with the same tracks, feats, etc as your own players, with fewer restrictions.

Unfortunately, that does lead into my sole gripe with the game. You see, character creation is pretty fast in Legend, but itís still more of a time investment on the GMís part than monsters are in most other d20 games. A monster manual would mitigate the living shit out of this, but, well... the monster manual isnít out yet. Theyíre committed to releasing one, but it wonít be here until after the 1.0 version of the core rulebook (which is, I understand, on track for release sometime around August). In the meantime, fast-creation mooks, myriads, and minibosses are available to lessen the sting somewhat. I will, say, though, that the encounters pay off enough that the extra effort to make them is worth it.

Oh, right. I should probably mention the encounters. Since players are frigging superheroes, and enemies are built the same as players, Legendís combat is pretty fast-paced, with a lot of damage flying around, people taunting, insulting, doing acrobatic maneuvers, turning invisible, and flying all over the damn place, while warriors charge 60mph and casters set the entire battlefield on fire. Itís cinematic, over-the-top, and very satisfying.

Thatís about the long and short of it, except to say that I have enjoyed the living hell out of this game. So much so that (and here we go from review to completely shameless plug) I and a few folks you may know from around Dtoid are going to be doing a new thing over on Streamtoid Thursday nights (6pm PST, 9pm EST) where we play Legend on a virtual tabletop, for your viewing and listening pleasure. So yeah, that might make this review a pretty significant conflict of interest, but rest assured that I wouldnít commit to playing it all evening once a week with people watching unless I thought the game was fun.

So this Thursday, why not stop on by? If itís possible to be entertained by anything in this world, you can probably get a little enjoyment from watching a moronic dragon, a pyromaniac, a raving brain-damaged elf, a bishounen angel, and a demon doing the most pointlessly stupid things they can think of in combat while drawing cartoon dicks with googly eyes on the map.

I give this game twenty-seven apples out of nine possible oranges.

P.S.: Many thanks to king3vbo for the wonderful header image   read

12:03 PM on 11.09.2010

My Champions of Bloodline: Champions' Bloodlines impressions, also champions

Before I begin, let me say that over the course of my group's messing around with this game last night, we fucked up the name every other sentence. It's Bloodline Champions, by Stunlock Studios. There, that's the only time I'll get it right this entire blog.

So I'd heard a limited amount of buzz for this game before yesterday, seen a couple screens with some interesting art direction, and then I suddenly got a beta key for this thing in my inbox. And so, apparently, had my internet bros-for-life Ryu89 and Analoge. We decided to make an evening of it to see what it was about. A wild King3vbo appeared a couple hours into the proceedings. Herein lies what I've learned about this thing.

-Not a DotA-like/MOBA, stop saying this: Seriously, this seems to be the first conclusion everyone jumps to when they read the word "Champion". Until I saw my beta invite and actually looked at the game's website, I thought so too. There are no creeps, there is no leveling, there's just straight-up arena combat from a top-down perspective, limited, non-customizable skill pool like you'd have in a dungeon crawler, with WASD+mouse controls like you'd encounter in a game like, say, Crimsonland.

-Fast-paced, frenetic combat: Every character class has a decent move speed and at least one movement ability, and it seems like every class (sorry, BLOODLINE) packs in some short crowd-control on a small cooldown, so the combat moves and changes very, VERY quickly. At its best, it's very intense and demands focus and fast reflexes, and feels very fun and engaging. At its worst, it was very easy to completely lose track of what was happening. Several times a round would complete and I would realize that even though King was right behind me in terms of damage done, I did not see him once during the entire fight. Stunlock may want to do something about this.

-The art style is great: I have no idea whether it'll be everyone's cup of tea, but all the bloodlines have a very unique, shamanistic feel to them. Several of the cooler cl-BLOODLINES are downright creepy, like the Igniter and the Glutton. Even the Engineer has a certain janky, tribal charm about him. The in-game graphics sometimes can't do the art direction justice, but the maps and character models have a lot of, well, character.

-Strategy is rewarded: Since there's no leveling, item buying, or any other sort of power progression, skill is the deciding factor in most matches. Which, given the very quick pacing of combat, may be problematic, because there's pretty much zero time available for decision-making. Players need to know what their bloodlines can do and when they should do it ahead of time, and currently the only way to find that out in the beta is to get your ass handed to you a few times. But when you do something clever with your skills and completely outplay somebody, either 1-on-1 or as a team, it feels very good.

-Balance: Since power progression is nonexistent, it's important that Stunlock get their basic level of balance right. It is, of course, only beta still, and I only have one evening of play under my belt, but the balance doesn't quite feel there just yet. Tank classes offer such a high amount of damage and control, even with their huge health pools, that it's pretty silly not to stack tanks and a healer.

-The Ravener: BEST CLASS, I MEAN CHAMP, I MEAN BLOODLINE. Leap over enemies, knock tank away, stun healer, SPIN TO WIN! wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Ryu, Analoge, and King may have liked the bloodlines they picked up, but who cares? Screw those guys.

tl;dr: This game sort of surprised me, it was extremely catchy. I have no idea how much I'll revisit it, especially since my crew ended the night with a couple fairly demoralizing defeats, but there you have it. Interesting game, if you have a chance/get a key, give it a shot.   read

3:25 PM on 03.16.2010

On FFXIII reviews

Be it known that on this day, scant hours beyond the Ides of March, I did peruse the inimitable Mr. Sterling's opinion-blog regarding the Thirteenth Fantastic Finale. And be ye warned! I have opinions.

There's a massive caveat for what I'm going to write in this space: I haven't finished this game yet. But I've got enough under my belt so far that I think I can offer some rudimentary opinioneering on how I feel about this game.

First, and also foremost!
I have no idea how I would approach this thing, were it actually my job to write game reviews. If we look at the philosophical purpose of game reviews as simply posting our opinions of a game on the internet and having enough readers to make it on Metacritic, then I know more or less what I would say about it. And I will, after a couple more paragraphs! But if we take the school of thought that a review constitutes an informed recommendation to consumers, then it's a little trickier.

You see, I can't think of something to say about FFXIII that could be summed up as a purchase recommendation from 1-10 on a sliding scale. I can't even say "If you liked Game Z, you'll like this," because there's a good chance here that it isn't the case. The reactions to this game have been pretty sharply divided, and not even with respect to demographic. It isn't 'for' the hardcore Final Fantasy fan, there's a schism there. And it isn't 'for' people who love JRPGs, schisms here also. And it doesn't seem to be universally repulsing people who aren't JRPG/FF fans, my brother being among those who don't usually like 'this sort of thing' but like FFXIII. Hell, I'm not sure there even is a 'this sort of thing'.

In short, what we have is a pretty divisive game. And while I seem to be on the far side of that divide from most people talking about it, I can't say that they're wrong. Practically every point Jim raised in his review struck me as completely legitimate. Do I disagree with him? Well, I like the game. If I don't think everything else he wrote in the review was wrong, I'm not sure 'disagree' is the right word for it. I'm not sure what perspective I'm looking at this game from where Jim and I could say the exact same things about it, right up until we talk about how we feel about it.

For my part, I've definitely enjoyed my time with the game. The story has been revealed very piecemeal, and one thing I actually love is that the story doesn't open with Lightning sitting on the train, monologuing about everything that's happened in the past couple days and the history of the world. Here we're dropping in on established personas, in an established universe, and it makes it feel like they're not performing for a camera. So I don't know why, in the third chapter, they knock it the fuck off and start telling, in excruciating detail, exactly what the fuck the deal is with all these Fal'Cie and l'Cie, OVER AND OVER. For each character. Even when they're talking to themselves. Stop it, it was bad enough the first time. To cut a huge paragraph short, I like parts of what I see, story-wise, but this story could have been handled much, MUCH better, and with more consistency. And I can't believe for a second that Sazh and Vanille were thought up by the same writer.

Snow is that 'Broseph' guy you keep hearing about.

The linearity is completely understandable. Budgetary concerns (a reason for the lack of wide-openness I've heard a lot) aside, there's a growing trend in game design wherein you take what is working only some of the time and get that part the fuck out of your game. In our current topic, towns are a good example. They're very nice when they do what they're supposed to, and can provide a large amount of immersion and diversion. But when they don't work (and as much as I love side-quests and big hub towns, it happens a lot in RPGs), they're really goddamned frustrating; I do not want to cruise the city for half a fucking hour looking for that NPC I missed the first time through so I can continue the story. From a design perspective, if you cut out what isn't core to your narrative, and isn't fun 100% of the time, you have a tighter, more focused game that fires all cylinders, every time. Square-Enix's application of this principle wasn't completely consistent or successful (see my complaints about the story above), but the focused gameplay shows me what they're going for.

Which leads me to what is working for me in this game. Combat is working. COMBAT. Ostensibly, a JRPG should be all about the narrative and the characters, and hitting things with sharp sticks should come second, or maybe even third. That's not happening here: the pictures are very pretty, but the combat so far is making me think an awful lot for merely requiring a couple button presses every few seconds. More articulate voices have written about this, so I'll spare you most of my thoughts on the matter, but one bit of the system stuck out in particular to me: In part of the 3rd chapter (I think?) I was presented with a team makeup that was, well, it wasn't ideal. You see, I had a squad without a single Commando, and I was facing enemies that you practically HAD to stagger to kill. As fast as I could attack, the chain meter would just reset without that Commando holding it in place, and I couldn't get a stagger. Then, suddenly, I had the brilliant idea of [i]waiting[/] to attack. Which worked beautifully. When was the last fucking time I had to decide NOT to attack at every available opportunity in an RPG? For a system that at first glance seems to take me OUT of the action, I seem to be having to pay very careful attention. This seemed to irritate Mr. Sterling. I love it.

Of course, the combat isn't everything, no matter how pretty is. And the flaws in the overall experience are numerous and easy to spot. So I suppose what I'm curious about is what perspective I'm taking on this game that's allowing me to enjoy the hell out of it, where so many others can't. And I don't really have a good answer for that. I'll probably revisit the subject after I've finished the game (as though this wasn't tl;dr enough!), and even if it does go completely south from here, I will finish it. I've played worse games to completion and had fun doing it.   read

2:56 PM on 08.10.2009

I Suck At Games: First, admit your problem

So, I have a problem. Itís called masochism. There are some genres of games that I love. I love playing them, watching them, and everything associated. And I also suck balls at some of these genres. Specifically, fighters. My name is Pangloss, and I have a problem.


So, where to start? I enjoy fighting games, for various reasons. I of course love exhibitions of martial prowess, which is certainly on display here. And being the manly dude that I am, I love the fierce competitive aspect that fighters revolve around. And I love watching excellent players of fighters ply their skills. But I am not among their number. I am not even a ďgoodĒ player. A brief youtube search reveals that much.

Thereís this thing, a difficulty curve to these games. And oh [indeterminate deity of your choice], is it ever steep. SNK, Capcom, et alia all have a rather large-ish volume of fighters, and I love them all. And I am far, far away from achieving anything approaching decency in any of them.

I should explain. Being ďgoodĒ and/or ďbadĒ at these games depends largely on what sort of level you play at. And on one level, I probably qualify as ďnot half-badĒ. Whenever I pick up a new fighter, I quickly gravitate (within, say, an hour or so of play) to a level of competent mediocrity. Among friends who play only casually, say, when company is over, I generally dominate without much effort, to the point that nobody wants to play with me anymore. They think Iím good at these games.

No, they are dead wrong. I know better. I have seen people who are truly good at these games (who no doubt have other players that can make them feel inadequate). I have been dominated by the third AI opponent in line on the old SNK arcade games. Iíve looked at the FAQs, at the combo lists Iíll never master. Iíve tried network play, teeming as it is with fresh vistas of humiliation. Oh yes, I know where I stand here.

And even though I am aware of my place, I still love fighters. I picked up BlazBlue the week it launched, and I adore it so far. And Iím still not good at it. The pain that is always attendant with network play is still fresh in my mind. As per my usual pattern, I quickly attained level 13 on Live, and hit a streak where everyone was better than me. And the AI can still demolish me when it takes a shine to the notion. Three days before this Monthly Musing theme was announced, I had the message of my status in fighters drilled home once again, when I bravely volunteered to host BlazBlue for 360 FNF. And had the pleasure of my fellow Dtoiders grinding me into the dust. Repeatedly. Sweet Odin, Iíd never even SEEN a well-played Carl Clover before.

But Iím committed, now. Iím trying to get better. Iím studying over at Dustloop every other day or so now. It makes my head hurt, but Iím learning, I think. Iím practicing more, and itís hard to tell whether Iím improving at all, but I, well, I think Iím getting better? I think Iím on my way (dinged level 15 the other day! Woo!), but for now, Iím just going to accept my status in the world.

My name is Pangloss, and I suck at fighting games. And I enjoy it.   read

11:10 AM on 02.03.2009

Singularity University and why it probably won't end the world

So I'm scanning google news and I see this article about a new "University" (not accredited yet) in the Silicon Valley, founded by Ray Kurzweil. This is tangentially game related, I promise. For those of you who don't pay attention to futurist nerd stuff, Kurzweil is one of the main guys predicting the advent of the Technological Singularity (AI that can make itself smarter, tech advances at unimaginable rates, etc) about halfway through this century. And he's starting the Singularity University, with backing from Google and NASA.

Go ahead, make the Robocalypse/Skynet jokes. Especially since Google went ahead and flagged everything ever as malware last week. I mean, come on. Talk about low-hanging comedic fruit. But after some further reading, I'm not especially worried about world-changing progress emerging from this thing. Why? Something about the faculty list seems a bit... off.

What could it be? It's a blue-ribbon panel of Nobel physicists and nanotech/AI professors. Except for the fact that for some reason, Will Wright has been hired as faculty. No, "Will Wright" is not some obscure genius rocket surgeon who shares a name with the game designer. They have hired the guy who made Spore. WHY.

I mean, don't get me wrong, I like Will Wright. I'm not a huge fan of his games, but he is a great idea man. But he's not exactly a scientist. So I'm not worried about Singularity U destroying humanity anymore, because hiring a big-name game developer is not how you get substantive research done. This seemed like it had the potential, on first read, to generate some interesting progress, but now it just looks like a $25,000 networking camp for grad students.   read

4:00 PM on 01.06.2009

I hugged Tyra...

And her security detail took my friend's camera and escorted me from the premises. So there aren't any pictures, or anything. She did shred my WoW discs though.

What? You thought it would end like... this?

[embed]117126:16810[/embed]   read

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