The Wanderer’s Journal – Beyond the Prism Pentad: The Verdant Passage (Guest Post)

This is a guest post written by my patron & friend Saevrick, as part of his fantastic “The Wanderer’s Journal” series.  He is a huge fan of DarkSun and Planescape, and there will be more from him about these subjects in the future.  Enjoy folks!  You can find Saevrick on twitter by clicking his name.  If you have questions about Athas he is the man to ask.  To be honest I was really tired this weekend after running a game, and had nothing prepped.  So Saev took over.


Just outside the base of the Ringing Mountains, the city-state of Tyr, our story begins with the opposing figure of Kalak, Tyrant of Tyr. The sorcerer-king and his High Templar of the Games, Tithian of Mericles, inspect the process of the grand Ziggurat’s construction. The multi-leveled and ornately painted structure bears witness to the the High Templar, suspected of working for the Veiled Alliance (an underground movement of preserver wizards) in a plot to depose the king, and meets her end at the hands of Kalak. Tithian is not only charged with the task of uncovering the plot, but also tasked with the completion of the Ziggurat.

The slave pits are near over flowing for preparation of the structure’s final stages, and also with the gladiatorial games to celebrate it. One slave in particular and one of Tithian’s own, Sadira, is suspected of being an agent for the Veiled Alliance. Tithian muses that he had knew of the implication long ago, and sets for to uncover what the Alliance had in store for the sorcerer-king.

Within the gladiatorial pits, the mul, Rikus, the human, Neeva and the halfling, Anezka discover the remains of a fellow slave who has fallen prey to the terrifying Gaj, a creature caught by Tithian for use in the upcoming games. Angered by the scene, Rikus confronts the pit master Boaz. The argument is quickly squelched, and in exchange for punishment, Boaz tasks Rikus to fighting the Gaj, but only with a pair of singing sticks (a coupling of springy wood, roughly 2 ½ feet long, and make a shrill noise when twirled, thus earning their name).

Rikus does not fair well during the fight, as the Gaj’s own mind powers and brutal strength nearly end the combat. Sadira, watching out, uses her magic to turn the tide. Boaz, both outraged and horrified to see a magic wielder in his slave pens, quickly imprisons the sorceress and awaits Tithian to dull out final punishment upon her.

On the estate of the noble Agis of Asticles, Tithian arrives to visit his childhood friend. After some pleasantries walking the noble’s farm lands, Tithian unveils that he knows that Kalak is planning for something nefarious after the completion of the Ziggurat, and if the nobles plan to survive, they should not interfere. The conversation quickly turns south as Agis sees the true meaning of the visit, as Kalak’s need for slaves reaches now even into the noble’s pockets.

The entirety of Agis’ workers is marched off to the Tyrian slave pits, except for his closest friend Caro.

Choosing not to wait her punishment at the hands of Tithian, Sadira once again calls upon her magic to escape her bonds, and aways to find her mentor, Ktandeo, a Veiled Alliance member. She divulges a plan to convince the gladiator Rikus to help her assassinate Kalak, but Ktandeo dismisses her quickly, and tells her to leave the city as soon as possible. She is quickly found by elven slavers, and is taken away to be auctioned.

Against and several nobles congregate and decide to find the Veiled Alliance and aid them in killing Kalak, but their meeting is cut short when a riot breaks out. Agis is saved by the wizard Ktandeo, who quickly flees after exposing the illegal magic to the noble.

Back at the Ziggurat, Tithian and his fellow templars uncover a hidden throne room within the structure, littered with obsidian orbs. The Tyrant, goaded by a pair of talking, floated heads named Sacha and Wyan, convince the king that the group is their to kill the king. In a fit of rage, Kalak slays them all aside from Tithian. He once against reinforces the High Templar to find and stop the Alliance. It is revealed that Caro is a hired spy by the templar, as Tithian distrusts his old friend, to find out if Agis had any contact with the Veiled Alliance.

Within the slave markets, Ktandeo sets to purchase Sadira from the elven slavers. Agis, too, is within the crowd, and seeing Ktandeo, digs deep into his pockets to outbid the wizard. Winning the sorceress, Agis releases her in good faith, and asks for an audience with Ktandeo so he can meet and get aid from the Veiled Alliance.

Tithian, knowing the aid Sadira had paid to the slaves, threatens Rikus, Neeva and Anezka within the gladiatorial pits. The Gaj, peering into the mind of the templar, warns the slaves of their danger and that their friend Sadira travels with Agis, and that they are in danger from Caro. Rikus schemes to escape the pens, and along with his companions, flees into the Tyrian fields to find the estate of Agis of Asticles.

Convinced of Agis’ genuinity, she convinces Agis to acquire information from Tithian. Meeting, the noble displays his strength in the Way, and quickly learns of Kalak’s throne room and the orbs. Tithian admits to funneling the information to Agis, and knows that he is working with Sadira and the Alliance. Despondent, Tithian realizes that Kalak is going to slay everyone at the games, regardless of his devotion, and agrees to aid them.

Agis and Sadira set out to meet Ktandeo, and informs the wizard of Kalak’s plot. The Templars are made aware of the meeting though, and quickly force their way in. Ktandeo leads them into a passage and under the streets of Tyr, the remains of the old city deep in the heart of the sands. They retreat to a place named the Crimson Shrine, where only the pure of heart may enter. Agis is refused entry from a wraith of the Crimson Knights.

The templars lead by half-giant warriors give chase, due to a copper coin that Caro had planted on Agis and they storm the trio. Ktandeo uses all his power to fight off the force, and using the last of his strength, finally defeats them. Dying before the shrine, Ktandeo tasks Sadira to find the halfling druid Nok, who is devising a weapon to kill Kalak. Sadira tosses the copper coin into the shrine to fend off further incursions.

Rikus, Neeva and Anezka find the Asticles Estate, but only find Caro. They explain they are their to warn Sadira and Agis of a spy within his walls. The slave turns on them quickly, and lets Tithian’s guards into the compound. Returning from the under streets, Agis and Sadira arrive during the ensuing conflict, and the group dispatches the guards easily.

After meeting and explaining their respective stories, the group decides to venture out to the Ringing Mountains and find the halfling Nok in the Forest Ridge. Agis finds the device that Caro used to communicate with Tithian. Agis contacts the templar, and Tithian nonchalantly admits his dealings with both sides, playing them off one another. However, Tithian also explains that while he is tasked to stop the group, he will let them continue on if they truly have a plan to assassinate Kalak.

The companions travel forth from the city-state of Tyr and into the Ringing Mountains. A love triangle is revealed between Rikus, Agis and Sadira. The two men come to words, and the rivalry nearly gets them killed a few times as they venture to the Forest Ridge. They are found by a group of halfing hunters, who reluctantly take them to Nok.

Anezka admits that she only accompanied the group to offer them as a tribute to the tribe to regain its good graces after her time in enslavement. Unconvinced of their loyalty, the halflings test the group several times, and nearly kill them in the process. Nok, finally convinced of their trueness, gifts Rikus the Heartwood Spear, the weapon he was fashioning to kill Kalak. He also gifts Sadira with Ktandeo’s cane.

Nok reveals Kalak’s plan into sapping the energy of the Tyrian populace, draining them of life and feasting upon it to become a Dragon during the Gladiator Tournament, using the Ziggurat as his focus. He asks only that they return his gifts when the deed is done in exchange for his help.

Tithian agrees to help the group when they return to Tyr, and enters the gladiators Rikus and Neeva into the tournament. Agis joins Tithian in the templar’s box within the coliseum, and Sadira tries to ventures into the lowers stands. Tithian turns to Agis and forces the noble’s hand, and agrees to continue only when Agis agrees to help Tithian become the new King of Tyr once it is all said and done.

During the final game, Rikus and Neeva draw close to Kalak’s box. Agis leads a psychic assault on the would-be dragon, and Sadira dispels the magical shields protecting the king. Rikus stands before the box and hurls the Heartwood Spear into the stand, surprising the king as it rips through his body. He quickly is ushered away as panic erupts.

The company, led by Tithian into the secret throne room, witness the evolving Kalak in dragon form, swallowing the obsidian orbs. The group assault Kalak physically, magically, and mentally. Heavily wounded on both sides, Kalak finally falls to the floor defeated. Tithian takes up the Heartwood Spear, and rams it through the dragon’s skull. Tithian then takes up the golden diadem that once belonged to the Tyrant of Tyr, placing it on his own head and thus ushers forth the new monarchy.

* * * *

A new age began for Tyr that day, as the only free city-state in all the Tablelands. The companions may have uncovered the plot of Kalak, but many sinister dealings were already brewing outside Tyr. They would begin with the warrior- and sorcerer-king, Hamanu, the Lion of Urik…

I hope you enjoyed this synopsis of “The Verdant Passage”. Next time we’ll take a look at the second book in the series, “The Crimson Legion”, and see what lies for our favorite rag-tag group of the Athasian wastelands. If you’ve any suggestions for further wri–

Wait. No. I have something special for you!

Below, you’ll find the D&D fifth edition stats for your very own Heartwood Spear! I hope you enjoy, and please join me next time for “Beyond the Prism Pentad: The Crimson Legion”, and as always, hail to the new King, Tithian of Mericles!

The Heartwood Spear

Wondrous item, unique, requires attunement

The Heartwood Spear was created from the Last Tree by the halfling druid, Nok.  Both willingly gave a part of their own life essence to form the artifact.  It’s sole purpose was to slay the Tyrant of Tyr, Kalak, to ensure no other dragon would arise to terrorize the world of Athas.  This spear was fashioned from a single piece of smooth wood, and is tapered to a point at one end.  It is wrapped in leather at its midsection, harder than any steel, and can puncture most armor and magical fields with ease.

It was gifted to the mul gladiator, Rikus in the year of Priest’s Defiance of the 190th King’s Age by Nok himself, with the promise for its return after the sorcerer-king Kalak met his death.

It can only be sundered by smashing it against the great Obsidian Plains, or if halfling blood is spilled by it.  Should it be broken, it can be thrust into the ground and watered for a day.  The remnants will grow strong roots and sprout leaves.  Any missing pieces can be reattached after that point, to where the leaves will wither and fall off, leaving an intact spear in their wake.

The Heartwood Spear acts as a spear +4 and has the following abilities:

  • Keen Point.  The spear ignores any armor, regardless if it’s of magical origin or otherwise (dexterity or class bonuses are still applicable to AC).  The spear can also penetrate magical barriers (i.e. wall of force).  Should the spear hit an armored opponent and the maximum damage of the weapon is dealt, nonmagical gear  must make an DC 15 saving throw or be destroyed permanently.  Magical gear must make a DC 10 saving throw.  Magical barriers are instantly destroyed.
  • Dragon Bane.  The spear deals double damage against foes with the Dragon type.  It also secretes a sap that is particularly harmful to dragons.  If the weapon deals damage to a dragon type creature, it must make a DC 20 Constitution saving throw or become immobilize.  The sap also inflicts an additional 2d10 poison damage (which cannot be resisted regardless of immunities) and deals another 1d10 poison damage at the start of every round thereafter.  A successful DC 20 Constitution saving throw can be made at the beginning of the opponent’s turn to break both status effects.  The sap is usable 6 times per day.  The charges refill at sunrise the following day.

The Elf Inside by Saevrick

Terminally Nerdy’s Note: This was written by my brother from another mother Saevrick.  He wrote this to show how D&D helped him overcome quite a bit of horrible shit in his life.  This is raw, this is emotional, and frankly had me tearing up.  But I felt this needed to be shared.  D&D, and really gaming in general, has helped so many people deal with issues they could not have handled on their own.  It helps us find friends, find family, and express ourselves in ways that we could not before.  I am proud of him for doing this.  Oh and for warnings?  ABUSE, SUICIDAL THOUGHTS, DEPRESSION.  Keep this in mind BEFORE READING.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

There is no easy way for a story like this to begin–no fluid way to weave some whimsical words to hide any sort of convoluted sense of fantasy.  Like most things, it is just best to lead with the beginning, however dark or morose it may be, and let the unraveling strands of this spiderweb fall where they may.

I was a four year old, completely ignorant to the world and its ways of course, having not yet truly established a sense of right or wrong.  I was a quiet child, more locked away in my own little world of drawing or games to take notice of the happenings around me.  Too ignorant to know when perversion was not an act of care, but a devilish seed implanted in the darker souls, to take for selfish want and feed the sinister need of desire.

This all leads to a four year spanse of sexual assault on my being.  I knew the man (he was a relative), yet I did not understand the purpose.  Years of therapy has distilled the idea that it was my way of thinking I was being accepted or cared for–that such things were normal, and it was attention that a quiet child like myself required.  Four long years of abuse, till the child in me started to grow up a little too quickly.  Started to understand the true breadth of real evil.

The feelings of disgust took root. The feelings of abuse took root.  The knowing of how wrong and awful it all was took ROOT.  There I was, an eight year old child, my innocence long taken, freely given without understanding, and leaving nothing but a tortured little soul in its wake.  I felt damaged and ruined, and took little solace in the world.  I feared speaking of it, as my upbringing was harsh (not abusive, but stern under a keen military eye), and I did not desire the confrontation or disappointed eyes.  I was alone with this.  I could not deal with this.

I now have a son of my own who is eight, and I couldn’t imagine him holding onto the feelings that I felt.  I had matured quickly in mind, and there the younger me sat, and dreamed of suicide–dreamed of the pain ending, dreamed of the world ending, and just dreamed of living a normal life beyond this mortal coil.  Reality was a terrible existence to live in, and I hid as far as I could in the depths of the background, shunning all around me, and finding only solace under a bed or inside the warm blackness of a closet–where no one could hurt me.

I didn’t speak much.  I hid from my relatives–and I trusted no one.  I refused to let anyone touch me again.  I would not give anything of myself freely.  I could not look at the body in the mirror.  Not this disgusting, ruined flesh. The world was a beast always over my shoulder, and I would rather be dead than fear a lingering hand on my shoulder.  Everywhere reminded me of those terrible moments–and nowhere was safe outside myself in the dark alone.

My older brother around this time had found a catalog, and we had decided to order this “cool” little game called Dungeons and Dragons.  When it came my eyes were falling on this beautiful, glossy red surfaced box with a terrible creature eye to eye with a sword wielding man.   It looked so empowering and awing.  I remember just staring at that cover for the longest time, curious as how one could show so little fear in the face of such a monster.

Then when it came time to play, I just fell into a whole other world.  The nightmares during the abyssal night were replaced with tales of this heroic elf, squashing injustice under his heel.  No one could challenge him and not feel the consequences.  No one bullied him, or took what was his to be had.  This figment of creation was all that I wanted to feel again in life.  This little elf was just me trying to rebuild myself all over again–kobold by kobold, adventure by adventure.

When it came time to play with his friends, I was more than reluctant.  I had so much fear in me of others, and it took so much prodding and whining to get me involved.  Oddly enough, I finally did bend to the wants of the group, and decided I would try.  Long sessions had me speaking so little words.  I feared being looked down upon.  I feared saying something “stupid”.  Little by little, that elf emerged.  What would begin over the years following was a turn around in my views of the world.

I learned to trust people again in the real life as I trusted my fellow party members.  My creativity grew more fanciful as I began to weave new cloth into the tapestry of my own being, the threads pieces of the make believe life.  A part of me became that elf I had once started, and the shield in his hand became my strength against the self loathing and the flashbacks that would terrify my visions.  The sword would become my guiding light, and with it, I took the road less traveled by my peers.  I braved the brambles of all that abuse, descended into the dungeons of my scarred mind, and slayed my own dragon with the sword of this budding young man that emerged from the fold.

I learned that life could be more than just a series of painful moments to be tortured with over and over again.  I learned how to have my own voice.  I learned how to make friends.  I learned that I didn’t have to be alone.  I even learned to love.

I owe it all to the adventurers around that table and to a little red box.  It not only changed my life–it saved my life.  Here, at 37 years of age, I still hold this little game so very close to my heart.  I became it, and it became me.  It tore me from a child on the edge of the abyss, into a man who today has become honest, hard working, creative, and loving towards his own son.  Without it, he would NOT be here–I would NOT be here.  For this, my thanks is never enough, and my love for this art eternal.

So when the days are long and hard, when I dislike the image in the mirror and hide it away, when I fear others and distrust them expecting only lies from their lips, I can turn to that elf inside me, and know that I’m a hell of a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.  I did the hardest thing I ever had to do, and that was just make the choice to keep on living, right onto the next adventure.

Thank you for reading, and do me a little favor.  If you ever have the chance to share this gift with another, do it.  Who knows, it may just save their life.  Until next time, may Selûne guide your steps in the night, and bring them to the new dawn.

Saevrick

Lost Artifacts of Greyghast: A Review

Thanks again to the great creators known as ManySidedDice for giving me this hefty tome to take a look at.
My short written review can best be summed up as a mixed bag.  While its got a great collection of interesting items, mechanically a fair amount of them seem to fall short of usefulness.  Given that 5E is designed to not need magical items, the usage of this book is really dependent on your need of magical item variety.  I love the art in this book, and the stories for each item, some of which had me laughing, but its price makes it a rather steep barrier for many people.  The PDF being $30 base on DriveThruRPG and the basic Hardcover (the one I have) being $56 is really rough for a lot of people.  But the sheer amount of content and variety of it does justify the price.
You can pick up the book here on DriveThruRPG.  The PDF is at least worth a look if you find yourself wanting unique and varied items.  Just be aware a fair amount may bore you or just seem useless just as there are completely crazy ones like the Barony that will give you ideas.

The Truth about Gatekeeping

We all do it.

No.  Really.

This is all about the recent controversy that all started with a tweet by D&D Designer Mike Mearls.  Here is a pic, as I believe the tweet has since been deleted. (edit nope the tweet is still around!)

This simple tweet caused an absolute shit show to occur on Monday, and I was involved in it.   For the record, if you actually read this tweet you will realize its 2 distinct statements.

  • Statement 1: Some fans insist on gatekeeping (prevent people from entering) the hobby via Rules Complexity / Lore Knowledge.
  • Statement 2: Those Same Fans tend to have a problem with woman in tabletop gaming.

What surprises me is the sheer number of people who are taking his statement to mean that woman have tiny squirrel brains and cannot understand complex rules (I have no idea how they are reaching this conclusion btw).  But I stated that I agreed with his overall view: that Gatekeeping has no place in this hobby and the people doing it should leave.

By the afternoon I had blocked several people on twitter, and was called a variety of names.  Here are some of my favs.  I have removed the names because frankly I dont want people seeking them out to defend me.  Its unneeded.  Also these are kind of funny after a fashion.  The best they could do was equate me to a White Knight Butthurt Cuck who seeks to date rape ladies and promotes piracy apparently.  I tend to block people who insult me or are hyper aggressive towards me.

Now here is the thing.  I will freely admit, to anyone, that I do not want Sexist, Racist, Homophobic, Mysognistic, or any other form of hate mongering nutjob in my hobby.  It serves no purpose, it helps no one, and it only ends up preventing the hobby from growing.  But my doing that?

Its Gatekeeping.  Seriously.

What makes mine any better then theirs?  Well, in my opinion (And of course this is going to be a biased opinion) my particular reasons are a bit more nuanced then “THEY ARE GIRLS / BLACK / GAY ZOMG NO GAMING FOR THEM!”  Rather, I seek to create a positive and fun environment for the hobby that I love to grow, expand, and prosper.  For this to occur, we need to have a place were as many people as humanly possible feel welcome and are able to learn.  The trick here is this: I am willing to give the assholes a chance to learn and grow and change.

You see, you cannot change your sexual orientation, gender, skin color, ect.  Those are physical and mental attributes that are personal and individual.  I cannot change the fact that I am a white male anymore then my wife can change the fact that she is an asian female. And for the record: A Trans person is whatever gender they SAY they are.  If they are a male to female, then they are a female, end of story.  Gender Fluid, same thing.  We cannot change they basic way their brains function, its not going to happen, it SHOULD not happen.  Additionally, all these issues can flow both ways.  Women can be just as sexist as men, Black/Hispanic/Asian can be just as racist as Whites.  Frankly the entire mess needs to just stop because at the end of the day we are all just people and more then the sum of our parts.  I sure am.  The vicious cycle of hatred only causes more hatred.

Now, what I (and others) can change however is my outlook, perspective, and the way I treat people.  I can change my way of THINKING.

Excluding someone just because they are female, male, gay, straight, trans, black, white, ect is wrong.  It helps no one, it does not solve a problem, and these people CANNOT change those aspects of themselves.  Its impossible for a black man to become white just to join a game of DND, or Pathfinder.  Expecting a woman to suddenly become Male just to play (or a man to suddenly become a woman, yes sexism exists both ways folks) its insane.  Its not a feat that is achievable.

However, I can expect a person to realize the error in their thinking and possible realize the pain and hurt they are causing others for things those people cannot change.

A prime, but Hypothetical example of this: I am running a game at a con.  At my table are 3 males.  A woman walks up to join us.  One of the men makes a snide comment along the lines of “Oh god a girl is gonna try to play!” or “No woman allowed here!” or “This game is too hard for you little lady” or anything along these lines.  My immediate response would be to say “Hold on miss.  Please have a seat.” followed by “And you sir, explain your reasoning please.  Cause unless there is a really good reason for her not to be here, she is perfectly welcome to join us.”

EDIT: After some discussion this may not be the best option.  I am a firm believer in attempting to educate people to remove hatred, but honestly in a tense situation the best option to create a more inclusive overall experience would be to remove the trouble player at the table, as they clearly have a poor attitude towards others.

The question then becomes how the man answers.  And yes, you can flip that to me running a game for a table full of ladies, and a a guy sits down.  Or whites and a black sits down.  Ect.

The first step is trying to get them to provide a reason so you can show them that this hateful way of thinking is wrong, and explain they should just try to let the person (whomever they are) show that they belong in our world just as much as themselves.  Sometimes you can reach these people.  Other times, such as those examples above, you cannot.

The ones I wish to push out of the hobby and into their own little hate filled bubbles are the ones who cannot be reasoned with.  The ones who cannot and will not change their way to adopt a more positive, inclusive, welcoming attitude.  They do nothing for the hobby other then to harm it directly.  And for those who cannot believe that these people exist, well just look at the screenshot.  Read my tweet here about how I suffered the effects of gatekeeping myself once.  Or how about this post from a fellow twitter user named Mysty who ran across the classic “Girls shouldnt play DND!”  Explain to me in a way that makes logical sense how either of these events were ok.  That these were the right things to do.  Spoiler alert: You cant.  Cause in both cases, it did not achieve a good result.  In both cases, we were dejected.  In my case, I stay away from Miniature Wargaming.  In Mysty’s case, she finally found a place that welcomed her in.

Additionally, for those who say things like “Let the assholes be assholes its their right!” and “You should just get stronger!” understand that there is no single solution that fits every single person.  You are not everyone.  You do not know what another has been through, what things they have experienced, that has shaped them to who they are now.  Also letting assholes be assholes is not a solution, its passing the buck and saying “Well its not my problem to deal with!”.  That’s not strength, that’s cowardice.  If you just let them be, nothing will ever change.

As long as there are different view points, there will always be gatekeeping.  People trying to prevent others from ruining things.  The trick is understanding where you stand, what you stand for, and why.  To make sure you effect the least amount of people in a negative manner, and to aim for a positive overall result and a better place in the end.

I stand for a hobby, a world, that is welcoming.  I am happy to help you learn to get over your hate, but I have zero issues showing you the door if you refuse to.  Treat others the way you wish to be treated.  If you treat others hatefully, then expect a similar result.  If you treat people well, expect a similar result.  If I have to run off 1 asshole so that 5 new players feel comfortable to join in so be it.  I would rather lose 1 jerk then 5 possible friends.

So yes.  At the end of the day I am gatekeeping in a way.  We all are.

Just be sure you are doing it in a positive way.  A way that will leave things better then how they started.  Always strive for the better.

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

EDIT: This is a good example of the whole paradoxical mess we are in at this point.  This single tweet says it all really.

Word of Mouth, the Small Creator, and the Struggle Part 2: The Aftermath

Well. Its been a wild few days for my little site I think. I want to take a moment and address some of the comments and reactions people have had regarding my little call to arms as it were.

Now, understand when I wrote Part 1, I was not in a good place. I have been dealing with a lot of stress regarding my job (moving offices, transportation, ect), I have been sick several times with a cold followed by positional vertigo, and having my stomach try to kill me, as it often does. Suffice to say, I was in a rough place.

I am going to try to divide this post into sections each addressing specific things.

Lets start with the few Negative / Opposing Comments I got.

“I disagree good sir!”

First, my buddy Goblin Stomper wrote a counter point post on his blog which you can find here. In his view, Creators should strive to create because they want and need to. And yes, that is a completely valid view point and for some people the need to create is a driving force all its own. For others, we wish to accomplish something specific with our creations. Whether that is to entertain, to inform, to assist, or hell to make a living. His post, along with comments from Ryan Schapals and Askren yesterday on twitter made me really sit down and think about WHY I do what I do.

The answer, by the way, is because I want to help people and improve our hobby (tabletop RPGs). I want to get more well known because, if I can reach more people, I can thus help more people. I can help creators with my critique of their work, and help people find the good and avoid the bad products out there. I can give people ideas, and new creations, and provide interesting concepts that people can use and tweak. I want to expand our hobby as best as I can, as much as I can, and help people love DND and Tabletop RPGs as much as I do.

Now, I got one really negative comment directly on the post. I am not going to link to it, and I already responded to it. Although for some reason you cannot view the reply on the post? Disqus is weird. You can go view it as its public if you choose and basically the commenter stated I was insulting and demeaning every hard working creator with my view, among other things. However, given that he is the single person who seems to feel that way I don’t really worry. Opposing views are fine and all but I think, given what he said, that he really didn’t understand the point I was trying to make. For example, he claimed Fans are not a resource but a gift. Well, yea, Fans are a gift. But they are also a resource. Lets break down why.

I for example am a fan of many different youtubes and streamers, including WebDM, EncounterRP, Exploding Dice, ProJared, Critical Role, and more. Each of these people produce metric tons of content to consume in a given week. I work a 40 hour a week job, have my usual adult responsibilities, and work on this blog. I play in 2 DND games, one every week, and one every other week, each one running 2-3 hours. The rest of my free time is spent with my wife who I do not get to see very often. I am also a one man show, so any work I do is completely on me alone. So how on earth am I supposed to watch all the stuff all these wonderful people create?

Fact is: I cant. So I have to budget my time. Manage when I can watch, what I can watch, how much I can watch. My time is a resource being spent as a fan on these creators. And in that way, I am a Resource to THEM. Additionally, I am a voice that can talk about how great each of em are (and I do, frequently) to put the word out. And just how much difference can one person make? How much power does a single voice hold?

Well…

“First Rule of Promo Club: Always Speak of Promo Club”

Lets take a look at the traffic my little blog got before, and after, I made that post, and discuss what I consider the moment my post took off:

See that insane spike in activity? Kinda wild dontcha think? I went from 20-40 views per day overall to those days having over 1000! This started because of a single retweet by Matthew Mercer, a major voice actor. Now, I did actually tag him in a tweet asking him and several other medium to large creators their opinion on my thoughts, and most of em, including Matt himself, commented and agreed with me.

But Matt has insane reach compared to me. Him retweeting it got it in front of literally 269000+ people. Who then started to see it, read it, notice he liked it, suddenly it starts spreading, growing, moving, getting talked about, commented on. Discussions are born, suddenly my post is shared on REDDIT (found that out from traffic sources) suddenly my post is on a friend of a friends Facebook feed out of nowhere (found that cause said friend called me famous), and according to my little share thing, its been put on facebook over 100 times now. Suddenly a youtuber created a video and started quoting me, see the video here:

This is a perfect example of what one voice can make. Sure, it was a massive voice from Matt, but apparently what I said resonated enough that he felt compelled to share it. Its taken almost a life of its own now. Which is good, its what I want, to reach people and make them aware of something they can do to help, however small it is. You may not think your voice is worth anything because you are not as big as someone like Mercer but ya know what? It might just be the spark that sets things off for someone.

And will this turn into regular readership for me or change anything? Not likely. That piece, and this one, are so far removed from what I normally talk about that I doubt I will get much spillover, although I do seem to be experiencing some of that on my other articles as seen here:

Now another thing that came up earlier is also the issue of “shilling” or over promotion from a fan. This is yet another landmine in the wonderful world of the small creator. As a fan, its hard to know where the line is on promoting your favorite content creators. How far is too far? How much is too much? Well, it depends. Part of it is how comfortable you are in your own skin and how comfy you are dealing with people who might not like you talking about the creators you enjoy. Hell I was telling a coworker recently about how our downtown library has this awesome Tech Center free for library card holders to use (it even has a full recording studio with professional grade lighting and green screen, no joke) and had another coworker say “Oh are you talking about that library thing AGAIN clay!”. Like it bothered them that I was telling someone who could use the info about a resource.

I can’t tell you how much is too much to be honest. It differs person to person, community to community. If you are only comfy sharing once a day, maybe one person, then go for it. You will make that persons day when you do it, I promise you.

“The WebDM Incident”

I had a few comments from people telling me that I should not have called WebDM out in regards to what they did. Thing is, I did it to prove a point. Yes, I could have been a bit more circumspect / nicer / better worded way, and I admit that. Additionally, WebDM apologized on their own accord, and I also apologized to them for doing it. I stand by my decision though at the end of the day.

What people DON’T know is that I am friends (at least in my eyes) with at least one half of the pair. Hell, he is patron of mine and has been for two months roughly at this point. We have chatted quite a bit on twitter and in my personal discord, and I felt comfortable enough with my relationship towards them to speak my mind openly.

Did it bother people? Yea, it did. I am honest, open, and blunt to a fault. The folks at WebDM know that, and most people who deal with me regularly know that. And both me and WebDM understand the point I was trying to make. It was not that I was angry with what they did, no. But sometimes, the greatest harm can come from the best intentions, and it was the proverbial straw that broke the camels back in my mind.

I am human, I am not perfect, I will make mistakes. we all do. I still however would not change what I did, and why I did it.

“Endgame”

So what was my endgame with all this discussion? What was my point?

To show people how their voice matters, and why it matters, and how words and actions can affect each of us. I have begun to make my own strides in dealing with my personal loathing of self promotion, and I aim to continue learning and growing and trying to promote others who I feel the world should see. I always practice what I preach, after all. I am not in this for money, I am not really in this for fame other then as a means to an end (reaching more people).

I just want to help people.

Thats all I ever want to do really. And at the end of the day, I hope I have helped you reader, in some fashion.

Thanks for reading, and Stay Nerdy folks.

4th Edition: Was it really that bad?

The answer to that question is no, by the way.  But it’s interesting to discuss why.

4th Edition DND gets a lot of hate on the internet from the old guard.  The folks who started in 3rd Edition or earlier hated it for the most part.  Too video game like, some cried!  Too much focus on miniatures and the grid, said others.  Too stripped down and power focused!  No RP focus!  And so on.

Here is the thing.  4th Ed was a very very different system that clearly took cues from video games.  It used a power system with a cool down (at will, encounter, and daily) like approach and heavily featured movement and tactics during combat.  It used defined roles for the classes as well (Leaders, Defenders, Controllers, Strikers) and had a system focused on where your classes power came from (Divine, Primal, Martial, ect)

So for those who took issue with it for being too similar to video games, well, you are right.  But that doesn’t make it a bad system.  It simply meant it was not really built for you.  For those who complained about these facts, well we now have 5th Edition which takes ideas from a variety of sources and you could always have gone back to play things like 3rd Edition / OSR / 2nd Ed / ect.

Just remember: In general, just because a new edition comes out does not invalidate OR remove the old ones.  Those books are STILL there, still usable, and no one but you and your group matters when it comes to your enjoyment of the game.

My biggest issue with the 4th Edition decryers are those who claimed it “killed Roleplaying at the table!” as if its streamlined and mechanical changes somehow removed everyones ability to tell a good story.

Here is the thing: Story, Character, and out of combat stuff was still doable in 4th Edition.  Many of the games I played and ran back then had just as much focus on RP as my games do now.  Nothing changed really except the way resolution of conflict was played out.  Skills are still pretty stripped down from 4th to 5th if you take a look, but you don’t hear people complaining about that in 5th Edition.  We didn’t NEED all those “Craft” and “Professional” skills from 3rd edition, which were barely used.  If you wanted your character to be a sailor, well, you were a sailor and your DM (if they were smart) would just assume you knew how to do those things.

I personally loved how 4e handled combat.  It made it very easy for players who had never touched a tabletop RPG to understand how things worked.  My wife, who at times struggled to wrap her head around 3rd Edition took to 4e perfectly.  She knew exactly what things her character could do, understood exactly how often they could do these things, understood her role in a party, and how to maximize her effectiveness in combat.  I also got a few other folks to try DND with 4e who have since kept playing in their own groups.  Lots of “video game” players got their start with 4e and still play to this day.

And these changes did not stop her from playing some of the most goofy and fun characters she has ever played!  Her first 4e character was, no joke, a Kua-Toa Sorcerer, who kept a wig made from peoples hair that she stole.  She believed it was magical (it wasn’t) and would creepily ask people for clippings of their hair.  Every NPC she met got asked this and sometimes she went to great lengths to steal the hair.

If you were to listen to those who frequently claim 4e “Killed RP” then my wife should not have created such a funny and interesting character.  She would have just been playing 4e like a “video game” with no passion.  

Looks like any character sheet to me, personally.

Also I loved how every character had a specific place in combat and how movement and positioning played into it.  Defender types could shove enemies around and control who attacked what using a fairly basic “taunt” system via Marks.  Controllers would either push or pull enemies, or sometimes do large scale AOE to blast groups down.  Strikers could target single enemies and burst em down.  Leaders buffed, debuffed, and healed the group, and healing was spread out using “Surges” so anyone could keep themselves standing, letting Clerics be more then just Heal Bots.  Remember, DND actually CAME from a miniature wargame, so it has its roots in this style of combat in the first place.  Yes, at times classes could feel similar (All defenders did roughly the same things in different ways) but thats true in 5E just as easily.  Barbarians, Fighters, and Paladins basically handle the same roles in the party but do it in different flavorful ways.  Class based systems all work this way.

Minion Rules came about with 4e as well, and many DMs (myself included) still use them.  Nothing makes a group feel badass then taking on a small army, striking them down with impunity while the DM keeps the pressure on by having each of the little twerps be able to harm their targets still.

Lets not forget about Skill Challenges as well.  Prior to 4e there was no real “mechanical” way to handle setting up a skill based challenged, and many of us DMs just had to wing it.  The format of the skill challenge, with multiple steps requiring success or failure and different states is something I still use to this day, and it was codified here.

Now, there are admittedly some issues with 4e for me.  One thing that drove me nuts was lack of choice in At Will powers.  Most classes had 3-4 At Will options, you got to pick two, and those were basically your standard attacks for life.  Human’s got a 3rd at will but you still were stuck with these.  Then you would eventually have a total of 4ish Encounter Powers (these WOULD change as you leveled), 2 Dailies, and a couple of “Utility Powers” and that was it.  Every class worked this way, even Fighters.  And this admittedly bothered people, the idea that a Fighter or Rogue had “Powers” like a superhero.  It never bothered me however.  And I enjoyed the fact that spellcasters could in fact use their abilities more often.  Cantrips do that now in 5th Edition, but back before Pathfinder and 4e casters basically had almost nothing to do at low levels.

I still want this!

Also housecats could kill wizards at first level.  No joke.  It was badddd in 3rd Edition and before at early levels.  That d4 Hit Die….*shudders*

Another common complaint about 4e was how long combat could take, given its focus on tactics and enemy control.  However, combat has ALWAYS taken a long time in tabletop RPGs.  Its not just the system guys.  Having to wait on each person to decide what to do, how to do it, making the rolls, describing the results.  I have had 5e combats take forever just because both the players and DM roll horribly and can’t hurt each other.  It’s not an uncommon issue, ever, and it’s not just for DND either.  Had this issue a few times in Savage Worlds for example.

4th Edition was clearly an experiment by WotC to try something very different from what came before it, and has not been replicated.  I personally still maintain that it’s the best system to get people into the game however, with its easy to understand systems and mechanics and fun combat.  I miss playing it to be perfectly honest and I have a personal goal to eventually collect most of the books for it and even run a few games in 4E again, just because I enjoy it.  I never did get to run that Dark Sun 4E game either.  Or Gamma World.

How did you personally feel about 4E?  Did you hate on it?  Have you ever even tried playing it?  Let me know in the comments below.

As always thanks for reading everyone and Stay Nerdy!  Make sure to follow me on TwitchYoutubeTwitter, and join my Steam Group and Steam Curator pages!  Pledge to my Patreon!  Spread the word on social media & help me get out there so I can bring even more content to the masses.  You do want more content yes?

 

Word of Mouth, the Small Creator, and the Struggle

This is gonna be a wall of text that I assume many won’t actually read.  But I have to get it off my chest.

Earlier today I went on a bit of a twitter tirade you might say.  In that thread I pointed out that, frequently, people wonder why the creators they love are not as well known, are not as popular, are not bigger then they are.  How could they not be well known?  They create amazing quality content all the time and work super hard!

Here is the secret: If no one ever tells others about how great something is, how is anyone going to find out?

Now, admittedly, my own issues with getting noticed are really my own fault.  I have trained much of my twitter fanbase to not discuss my work, and I really need to get my head around the idea that its ok to promote myself and let others promote me.  Its a long road and that’s my own issue and I am working on correcting it.  This post is technically the first part of that.  By the way, do me a favor and SHARE THIS TO THE WORLD.

Now in regards to general practice / marketing, here is something you learn early on in any form of Customer Service training.  I forget the technical name for it, but it boils down to this: A person who enjoys a product / content / thing, who has a good experience with it, will NEVER TALK ABOUT IT.  It was fine, it was what they wanted, they liked it.  Hell maybe they LOVED it.  But talk about it?  No they wont do that.  However, if a person has a bad experience, they will tell EVERYONE THEY POSSIBLY CAN.

Think about yourself for a moment.  I bet you can pinpoint yourself doing this exact thing.  Very rarely do you see people talk about the good experiences, unless they are trying to prove someone wrong.  However, you can go just about anywhere and see bad review after negative review after bad experience almost about anything.  Think about when you go to amazon.  Do you trust a product with only 3 ratings of middling style.  Or do you check for a product with massive amounts of ratings and decent scores (4+).  Or when you are looking at DMs Guild Products, do you go to the low scored or low reviewed items or do you go for the stuff that people are talking about?  And then, when you are done, how often do you leave a good review?  How often do you leave a bad one.

You, as a consumer or fan, cannot assume that others will talk about your favorite thing for you.  Because, if they enjoyed it, they wont, because its easy to be passive and assume someone will come along behind you and talk about it.  Of course, once a thing gets large enough it gains the momentum and you end up with things like Critical Role where you can’t NOT talk about it, and can’t really escape it either.  At that point the fan base is so large you will see both good and bad.  More bad then good a lot of the time, but you will see both, because the fan base talks to each other, gushing over what they love, and are so large everyone sees it, thus creating is own sort of gravity sucking people in who go “I wonder why they are all excited about this?”

But people who are smaller?  Even under say 10k “social media reach” as it were, will not see that.  Their fan bases are small, self contained, and none of them go out of their way to let others know about their favorite thing.

This leaves the creator to try to promote themselves, and now we hit the second issue: PEOPLE HATE SELF PROMOTION!  Most sites have specific rules for self promotion and those rules are good, no doubt.  Promoting yourself blindly is a wrong move in every sense of the word.  But even when you find a community or site that allows you to promote your things every so often, its almost always ignored.  Again, as people we have been trained, thanks to TV Ads and website ads and such to ignore such blatant self promotion from people, because how can we trust them?  In this age of click bait titles and meme nonsense, how can we believe a person who claims THEIR art / blog / youtube / stream is good?  We can’t.  So we look to the fans, the reviews, to the people talking about it.

And guess what the small timers run into get?  Nothing.  Because, yet again, no one is talking about them.

This is why you see so many Youtuber’s best for you to “SMASH THAT LIKE BUTTON!” or to Comment.  It means a whole lot more then a blind subscribe.  This is why podcasters beg you to leave a like on Itunes and a review if you liked it.  These are things non fans look for when trying to consume content.  Nevermind the built in promotion algorithms that exist.

This whole mess spawned when a large DND Youtuber known as WebDM (like 79k sub s massive) said to me this – “Duuude, we’re lucky to have help (and Travis). But YOU are quality.”

How am I to take this?  I mean I know they mean well but…  This is a group who makes tons of money on Patreon to fund their show, has thousands of fans, who makes high quality high production value content on youtube every week….tells me I am quality.  Yet they have never promoted me.  They have never shared things I have done.  They follow me on twitter which is nice.  Sorry Jim and Pruitt but I gotta call it out cause its really what made this whole mess happen.

And truly this hurt me.  It honestly hurt me.  It makes me start to think “Are they telling me the truth?  If I was so great, if I was quality, wouldn’t they want others to see it?”  Granted, that’s the emotional side of my brain.  I understand, logically, that the WebDM twitter account is a business account as it were and can’t really promote every Tom Dick and Harry who comes along, but seriously.  Having people tell you over and over and over again how great you are, but never seeing them actually tell OTHER PEOPLE how great you are is demoralizing in the extreme.  This is why creators burnout.  This is part of why creators die out.  That Youtuber you loved who quit because they never got to 1000 subs after a year of trying?  The one you NEVER told anyone about?  You failed them.  Just as much as you are sad that they are gone, you too are to blame.

This of course does not apply to those of you who do share what you love with the world.  But generally, its just other creators, and generally, only those who are not competing with you.  Go really look, one day, at the different groups on twitter and their small level creators.  Very rarely will bloggers share each others work on their accounts.  Very rarely will Youtubers talk about each others vids and share em.  Why would they?  They need to keep their fans with them because each fan is precious.  A resource.

Yes its messed up for me to call fans a resource, but to be honest, in a sense, they are.  Fans are what keep creators going.  Fans CONSUME your content.  Why do I write, if no one reads it?  Why should I make a 30 minute Youtube review that takes me 8 hours to put together if no one watches it?  Where is my motivation?  To just create?  To shout into the soundless empty void and hope things catch on?  This again is why people eventually stop.

And again I want to stress this is NOT about just me.  This effects EVERY SINGLE CREATOR OUT THERE!  And its not just about numbers.  If someone takes the time to share something of mine, to talk about what they learned or how it helped them or how they felt, thats a huge deal to me.  I dont CARE if nothing comes of it.  The fact that I made someone care enough to want to share it is enough for me.  Theoretically, yes, if enough people did that then I would grow, larger and larger, until I could self sustain this.

But every time someone tells me how awesome I am?  How helpful I am?  How much they love the work I do?  but never actually shares anything I do?  It hurts me inside.  It makes me question my worth.  And after talking to other creative types I know I am not alone in this.

If you want a creator to succeed.  If you WANT that Streamer, that Youtuber, that Podcast to grow and sustain itself and keep producing content, then you need to get the word out.  You need to tell people who you think would like it about it.  Leave comments, leave reviews (positive or negative, seriously, we true creatives like both), share our content on your own, dont just retweet but actually create posts on Reddit, on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, talking about the things we have created.  Share your favorite artists commission requests, your favorite podcast episodes.

We can only grow WITH YOUR HELP.  We need Word of Mouth to get to the point where we can self sustain like the big guys (such as Crit Role or Matt Colville).

Its either that, make friends with a powerful “influencer”, or die out.  And I personally keep fighting off the urge to just close up shop and give up after a year+ of doing this, just fyi.

Here is an example of how word of mouth helps.  The first and only massive burst of growth I had back when I was starting out was when I made a video criticizing Critical Role / Actual Play stuff, and Matt Mercer himself retweeted it.  It took a moderately famous person to get me even a small burst of growth, thanks to how twitter functions.  If more creative types had this sort of luck maybe they would get growth too.  But most of us don’t and honestly its never ever been replicated for me.  Not a single time.

For most of us all we have is you guys, our fans.  Help us please.  Tell the world why you like us.  Share what brought you to us to the world.  Its the only way to keep us going.

Thanks for reading, and Stay Nerdy guys.

Additionally: I wrote a Follow Up post addressing some things which you can find RIGHT HERE

Plot Hooks: Godsfall

A bright light is seen in the night, crashing into a nearby wood.  Upon investigation it’s not a rock, but a being.  It claims to be a god, and was cursed to become mortal until it learns its “lesson” but has no other memories.  It then proceeds to tag along with the party, causing havoc & mischief as it tries to come to grips with being mortal.

Hello dear readers and welcome to yet another Plot Hook!  Today we are going to take a look at the idea of a Fallen God.  This is a pretty common plot hook that is honestly not used as much in tabletop games as I think it should.  It’s frequently however used in fantasy and fiction.  Just look at the recent Apollo Trials by Rick Riordan for an example of this, where Apollo is cast out with no memory as to why, and pressed into the service of a mortal.

Now with this sort of plot hook I personally see you having two major ways to really go about it: The Prideful God, and the Childlike God.

The Prideful God

The basic idea here is that this god was cast out by the others for being way too serious and prideful, believing that they are beyond the rest of their fellows.  They have been sent to the mortal realm to learn some humility and hopefully gain perspective on how things really work.

When the party comes across this god, they should demand obedience, possibly even trying to use their godly powers against the party should the party (most likely) laugh at them.  Of course nothing will work, and the God should at this point follow the party regardless of what the party wants.

From there the Party will basically have to teach this god how to actually deal with the mortal realm.  The God, since they will be following the party and most likely expecting the party to take care of them early on, would cause trouble simply by being prideful.  Why should the God pay for these fruits?  They are a god!  Make those people (the party) do it!  How dare this guard speak to the God in such a manner!  My retainers will deal with this! (points at the party)\

Either the party gets fed up and teaches the god a lesson physically, or the party realizes that the god might actually be telling the truth and starts to try to teach the god how they should really behave.  Once the god has learned to treat others with respect and understand that they are not in fact the center of the universe, they regain their powers and are welcomed back into the divine planes.

The Childlike God

This works best if there is a Cleric of this god in the party.  The Cleric should be able to sense who the entity is, and realizes that they need to help this god learn their place in the world.  Similar to the Prideful one in that this god will follow the party, but in this case the god simply has no idea how to take care of themselves.  How does one deal with Mortals?  How does money work?  Basically in this case the god would be almost childlike in their mannerisms.  The cleric would essentially become the gods babysitter.

The goal here would be to teach the god how to fend for themselves.  They were most likely removed from the divine planes / pantheon because they simply never bothered to care about their own duties, and caused problems due to inaction.  The party would basically need to teach this god about responsibility and how to take care of your tasks.  Essentially, the god needs to grow up.

Ramifications and More

In any case, however, there should be clear ramifications of a god becoming mortal.  Perhaps clerics and worshipers of that god suddenly can no longer work their magic.  Dangerous beings such as devils and demons might realize there is a power vacuum and seek to destroy the mortal body of the god, stealing their divine power and causing misfortune.  Hell even clerics of an opposing god might be informed that this has occurred, and seek out the now mortal deity in an attempt to prevent them from returning to the divine realms.

Perhaps other aspects of the world fall into chaos.  If the God of Healing was suddenly mortal, imagine the issues that could cause.  Suddenly magical healing no longer functions, disease becomes more widespread, ect.  In these cases, the players would hopefully realize that their tag along has been telling the truth and seek a way to return them to the divine realms and repair the damage.

How would you use a Fallen God in your game?  What ideas do you have for this idea?  Leave a comment and let me know I would love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading, and remember: STAY NERDY!

You are not the Gatekeeper Maggot! (Gatekeeping / Bullying in Gaming)

I hate bullies.

Growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s as a fat nerdy quite kid with Glasses I was basically the target of every bully and harresser in a ten mile radius. I couldn’t even escape it at home, with my mothers boyfriend telling me to “get my head out of the clouds and be a man” and all that wonderful bullshit.

So when I see things and hear things related to the idea of Gatekeeping, Harassment, and Bullying in gaming, I get rather aggravated.  Tweets like this one are fairly commonplace for example and show a serious issue in this hobby that needs to be dealt with.

First, let’s define what Gatekeeping is really. Gatekeeping is a concept where, through hateful remarks, treatment, and general bullying, a person attempts to prevent others from entering their hobby or fandom. Why do people do this? Its usually related to keeping their fandom or hobby “Pure” from people they feel do not belong.

From men claiming that “Women do not belong in gaming!” to people being super passive aggressive to others cause they don’t play a game “the right way” this is a hugely commonplace and prevalent culture that needs to stop.

NOW.

All Gatekeeping does is stop the growth of your hobby or fandom. All it does is prevent people from experiencing what you love. Why would you not want to share your passion with the world? Does keeping it secret and holy somehow benefit you?

By the way the answer is no. Hell, Gatekeeping is why I don’t play Warmachine anymore in fact. Me and friend didn’t want to play it at the same point level as everyone in the community here so we got constantly made fun of, being called names and being told that “real gamers play at the 50 and 75 point level!”. Shit like that. I refuse to touch miniature wargames now in my town because of these sort of people. Oh and they shit on the first and only miniatures I ever painted. This is them by the way and I no longer have em as I sold em when I stopped playing.

These were called “Utter Shit” among other things.

Additionally, I want to talk about the idea of dismissal. Lots of times the general response to any statement showing gatekeeping or harassment happening is “Well I have never seen it happen!” implying that because you did not see it, it never happened. Here is the thing however: Just because you didn’t see a person robbed, raped, assaulted, shot, harassed, bullied, ect doesn’t mean it did not happen.

You see, none of us are omniscient. Not a single one person on this planet can be in every place at every moment experiencing every single thing in the world. It’s not physically possible. So trying to explain away another person’s experience because YOU didn’t see it happen is one of the dumbest things you can possibly do.  I don’t care how many years you have been in the hobby, how many places you have been, nothing.  We each experience life our own way and are shaped by those experiences, simple as that.

What I really want to see this 2018, more then anything, is more acceptance. Try to welcome newcomers into your hobbies. Help people understand what you love and why you love it. Telling people they do not belong does nothing positive, ever, and does nothing but make your fandom / community look like a shitshow.

You are not the Gatekeeper Maggot!  You do not get to decide who likes what, and why.

So stop pretending you are. Do you really wanna be like this guy?  I don’t think you do.

Legacy of Kain Soul Reaver: A Guest Review by Walking Virus Gaming

This is a guest post and review written by a friend of mine who goes by the name Walking Virus.  He runs the Youtube channel Walking Virus Gaming where he streams 3-4 times a week, with a mix of Retro gaming and new titles.  Feel free to check him out on Twitter as well!

Recently I found myself thinking more and more about the Legacy of Kain series, I always remembered the games fondly and thought it was a great series, but when I got to thinking about it more I could barely remember anything about the actual events of the story other than 1 or 2 key moments, or anything of the actual gameplay. This started me asking the question, “Was it really as good as I remember it being?” Which led to me playing through the original Soul Reaver again, and I just thought I’d share my feelings about my experiences after playing it so many years later to see what I feel holds up and if I would still recommend anyone who hasn’t played it yet to go out and find a way to do so.

Basic Plot Synopsis

(Raziel coming to grips with his servitude to an Elder God)

Soul Reaver follows the journey of the fallen vampire Raziel. After being thrown into the swirling vortex for daring to evolve wings before his master, Kain, Raziel finds himself in the service of an elder god as a means to stop the Vampiric menace that has stopped the cycle of life force into the well of souls. But Raziel cares not for the fate of the world but begrudgingly agrees to begins his quest through the land of Nosgoth, not to save the well of souls, but to get his revenge on Kain. To do so Raziel needs to use both his physical body and his ability to enter the spiritual realm to traverse the land and slay his Brothers to gain their abilities.

What’s Held Up?

(Raziel acquiring the titular weapon, Soul Reaver)

When I initially dove back into this game I set aside my nostalgia glasses and was expecting that the vast majority of the game’s features would be dated beyond belief, but a few managed to surprise me. For one thing the Voice Acting has held up surprisingly well. The delivery and effect work is far above other games of that time, almost up to about early-mid PS3 standards, particularly in regards to Kain’s lines. I also found myself to still be a fan of the way they dealt with exposition in this particular game, having Raziel narrate information that would be differing from his previous mindset and knowledge, felt more smooth in the delivery as opposed to some games tendencies to just deliver large chunks of exposition through other characters, and while there still is a bit of that in the game they tend to keep it in smaller chunks and use it sparingly. And while the graphics have obviously become dated at this point, the actual art style itself has held up and aided significantly in the immersion in the world. Which brings me to the plot itself, all of the previous elements are all well and fine on their own, but the plot itself was very engaging to me and helped bring those elements together to form a better cohesive whole, which makes it even worse that the things that don’t hold up start breaking down the atmosphere this game worked so hard to create.

What’s Become Dated?

(Raziel’s progress keeps getting blocked…)

There are so many unfortunate things that kept this game from being the well crafted storyline it was shaping up to be, and one of those things is most definitely the “puzzles”. Almost every single one either involves going to the spirit realm, which was an interesting set of puzzles the first couple times, or a sliding block puzzle, or in some cases both. Now neither of these puzzle types are inherently bad when used sparingly, but when they make up the vast majority of your game it becomes more of a chore than an engaging experience. And speaking of chores, the game had a lot of neat ideas for combat that also tossed any sense of fun out the window with extremely dated, simplistic, and yet somehow still clunky controls.

(Raziel getting to the point of the matter)

Soul Reaver also suffers from a problem a lot of the 3rd person platformers of the time did, having the camera be more of a hindrance than an actual help. Often times the camera will need to be manipulated in such a way to reveal the path to the next area, or just to reveal a portion of the puzzle you are currently trying to complete, as well as fighting it to be able to platform with any sort of precision, it can become a massive source of frustration when the camera suddenly decides to jerk to the side as you attempt to land on a tiny platform. The remainder of the puzzles involve an upgrade acquired later in the game that just results in more busy work by running around an object repeatedly to get it to turn, again, not very engaging and kind of brings down the pacing and world building that the rest of the game had built up. But the big question is, does this make the game worth someone’s time if they haven’t played it yet?

Final Thoughts

(Raziel catching up with one of his brothers)

Soul Reaver is kind of a mixed bag for me, I did thoroughly enjoy the world building and storytelling themes they used for the game, as well as the performances delivered from the vast majority of the characters, but the extremely dated puzzles and mechanics just made the game so much more of a slog than it really needed to be. I would say that the story itself was worth the playthrough again for me personally, so it really comes down to how much of a slog you are willing to put up with. If you’re willing to put up with the painfully slow combat and puzzles, than the story is well worth the playthrough (just be prepared to play through the second game as well because it kind of ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.) If those things drive you away from a game, I really can’t blame you for not wanting to sit through it, but regardless, we can all hope they do something with this somewhat forgotten franchise, whether it be a reboot with better mechanics, or just an entirely new game, I personally hope to see something else come out of the world of Nosgoth, and bring a bit of Gothic glory back into the gaming spotlight.