Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Neverwinter, The Tomb of Annihilation, and Grief

Back before the pandemic, I was running a D&D campaign for my family and Jeff Toney and his daughter. The ragtag group called themselves "The Saviors," and I had them on a ship headed toward the peninsula of Chult (as I blogged about it here in 2019). 

Unfortunately we all got busy for a few months . . . and then the pandemic hit, so we never actually got a chance to undertake the quest to reach the Tomb of Annihilation. Now, look, I'm not the best DM in the world, and taking on an epic sandbox adventure such as the Tomb of Annihilation is a bit daunting to be honest. I remember feeling that pressure and went to an old MMO named Neverwinter (you remember this game, yes?) to get some inspiration.

The colorful town of Port Nyanzaru

Back in the day, I absolutely loved Neverwinter, and especially the foundry system (RIP). Even on my last venture there back in 2019, I was vibe-ing with the game even though the foundry system was gone. Anyway, in Neverwinter, you can visit Chult and run around Port Nyanzaru and the surrounding jungles of The Tomb of Annihilation as part of a campaign. It's great this exists!

You know, I guess I've had a bit of a fascination with the Tomb since in 2021, I even played the turn-based Steam Game. What can I say? I LIKE ME SOME DINOSAURS AND LICHES!

I really did have fun playing this game.

Fast forward to last Monday, the family and I finally took a couple hours over the holiday to once again play the Dungeons and the Dragons together. In fact, everyone in the family thought it was finally time for my youngest to join in our nerd-dom and roll up his first character, and they all agreed that dad needed to step up and be the DM again. Well, since I never got a chance to run Tomb of Annihilation, guess what adventure we started playing? Yup, it's all happening!

The first session went well, they formed their party in Baulder's Gate, met the quest giving wizard Syndra Silvane, and teleported over to Chult after a considerable amount of roleplay and laughter. It was a good time. My son's Goliath Paladin named Gungaga is amazing. I think they're going to have a lot of fun playing together.

I love the book art for Tomb of Annihilation

Now (insert nervous laugh) once again, I'm feeling the pressure of taking on this epic sandbox adventure known as the Tomb of Annihilation.  Because of this, I logged on Neverwinter again and got fascinated all over with what I found there. This time I even went as far as reassigning my skills, cleaning out some of my overstuffed inventory, and ran out the doorway to kill a heard of raptors.

It took me a second to catch up to speed and then I realized . . . everything had changed once again in this game.  What?! I was now level 20, which seemed like a downgrade to where I was back when you could level to 70. The gear ratings on my gear were unfamiliar. I was in that back-to-an-old-game lost state.

A little research on MassivelyOP turned up some information about a game update back in 2021 where all the levels got squashed down to 20 to match the pen and paper RPG. 

I then took to YouTube to find a guide for returning players, and instead stumbled upon the Josh Strife Hayes Worst MMO Ever series where he talks about his ruined love for Neverwinter. I couldn't make it through the whole thing, but man . . . it's full of sadness (especially at the end of the video). This was the MMO that got him into MMOs, and you could tell there was a lot of love mixed with a lot of loss there. Long story short, the aggressive monetization practices of the game made him mourn the game he loves to play.

You know, most of the problems he cites won't affect me as an extremely casual player of the game, but I couldn't help but sympathize and understand where he's coming from. It was weird because his emotional stress made it even more difficult for me to want to log on and run around where I was already having trouble reacquainting myself with the game. 

In the end, I don't know if I'll ever really return to Neverwinter as an MMO of choice, but I am happy there are some resources there I can draw from for my game. I'll most likely queue up the Chult music on our TV during the next game. That alone will help set the mood for our game. 


I'm sorry that money ruins the online worlds we love, but at the same time I am happy the money that funds these games allow for art like this to exist. It's truly a bittersweet feeling.

Happy Dueling

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Pirate101's Sinbad Adventures Continue!

Two years ago, Pirate101 gave us an interesting story update that was completely unexpected and quite frankly made me incredibly excited. As I said back then, "Playing through this quest this morning pretty much solidified in my mind how much I love and have missed playing Pirate101. It's such a great game." Fast forward to five days ago, KingsIsle announced a new update to the Sinbad story line, and I was equally excited! 

Last night I logged on fresh without reading any patch notes and gave it a spin. Albano was there just waiting for me with a yellow exclamation mark, beckoning me on to further adventure!

Albano giving us the deets!

Albano lets you know he's tracked down Sinbad's ship, the Chimera, in the Ravaged Valley of Mooshu. Apparently all the characters you met in Sinbad Part 1 have chumped out and all that's left is Albano. 

Once you get to The Ravaged Valley, Sinbad joins your crew as a new level 71 Privateer Companion! There's no promotions for this companion, but he does come equipped with repel boarders, valor's shield, and a heal, so not the worst, not the best. It's a new companion! That alone gives you a lot of power, right?

New companion, what?!

Eventually you find The Chimera floating above a burning Mooshu tower and head-in in search of Sinbad. What you find inside are a bunch of Yakooza, Ninja Pigs, Goat Monks, and terrifying Tengu wizards! They're pretty tough!

Bring it, Miniboss Man!

Don't let the tower's outside appearances fool you, this isn't a three-story romp and you're done. It's much larger on the inside. Actually, in a way this tower feels a bit like a mini/more-manageable version of the Tower of Moo Manchu with only seven levels instead of 10.

Since I was doing this solo, and I'm a bit rusty on the game, I opted to use some crowns to get henchmen to help me fight my way up. Regardless, I died on floor six when I got a bit lazy on my first run through. On my second time through, I made it to the top floor and the final battle with the terrifying Kharonchi Khan, a fierce tiger warrior from Rajah that uses three clawed rakes as his weapon of choice. His stats were incredibly intimidating! I need a companion fit like this.

Riposte 5, Flanking 5, and Sneaky Sneaky? It's like the designers are trying to kill me or something!

After defeating Kharonchi, Sinbad goes on to weasel his way out of being the bad guy and reveals the true bad guy of the story, a warlord out of Rajah named General Klaw. There's a pretty big hint here that there might be a new windstone . . . to somewhere . . . perhaps Rajah . . . in our future. 

Did you say "Stone"?! As in . . . Windstone?!

As it turns out Sinbad's crew mutinied and now Klaw has the Belt of the Champions, which also means he has a head start on obtaining the infamous Eye of the Liger! In the end, Sinbad actually joins your crew as well! So, it's a pretty great one-two punch of new companions here for finishing this second quest.

Sure! Welcome aboard, Sinbad . . . would you like some pet hunting companion orders?

Here's to hoping we get another game update sooner rather than later! I really enjoy these new game updates for Pirate101 that have been happening! It's still such a great game. Now I just need to find some time to fight this new Dreadnaught I've heard is out there in Cool Ranch. Hmmm.

If you're looking to get into Pirate101, the Steam release is just a few days away! Wishlist the game and get ready to sail!

Happy Dueling!

Friday, May 26, 2023

Making my first Town in A Township Tale

Lately I've been playing a Multiplayer VR Survival game called A Township Tale. On PC you can play this for absolutely free, but on Oculus it'll cost you $10 (or cheaper if you buy it on sale like I did). 

This tip on the intro screen is a really good one btw . . .

The main difference between the versions is that on the Oculus version, you get the ability to make a server of your own. On the PC version, you'll have to become a supporter (subscription based) in order to make your own servers. The other really important note here is that currently as of this writing, cross platform servers aren't a thing, so I can't have my PC friends come join me in my Oculus games and vice versa.

The interesting thing about this game to me is that for a VR title, it actually has a surprisingly robust community. It has 82k followers in its official Discord channel and a really deep wiki to back the game up, which is needed btw.  The game NEEDS a wiki, which by its very nature shows you how intricate (or confusing, based on how you view it) this survival game is. You don't find that often in a VR game.

The game itself is pretty light on tutorials, but it does have a tutorial server that walks you through the basics of gathering stuff, exploring, making tools, and crafting your first backpack. The tutorial server is a public server, however, so I found it . . . interesting. There were a couple kids in the voice chat being obnoxious, and I get plenty of that at home. No thanks. Finding the mute voice chat button while in the tutorial server was my number one priority.

Once making it out of the tutorial server, I made my own server and wandered into the wonderful blank slate of a brand new game. I figured I'd invite people from my work to play this with me if they're interested, and so far the only person I've got onboard is my boss. hehe.

Getting just the right amount of straw to throw in the box to build a stairway to the blacksmith.

The main objective for the game is to find your run-down, vacated ghost town and build it into a thriving city. There are boxes all over the world that ask for various ingredients, and you throw those into boxes to unlock repairs and new features. Outside of this, exploration, hunting, and crafting are your main goals . . . find new things, hunt new beasts, and craft awesome weapons and tools. That's the game.

Crafting a handle for a tool is no joke. Legitimately complex.

I'm highly impressed with the embodied actions for this game. That's what you want from a VR game: to feel like you're really chopping down trees or crafting something. Unfortunately that also means that the easy actions of resource collecting and chopping down trees definitely isn't easy (at least here at the beginning of the game when my tools are a bit primitive). You'll break a sweat!

Things were even harder at first because I didn't know any of the controls, which is something the tutorial attempts to teach you, but doesn't do a great job with. I didn't know at first that you can lower your body close to the ground to pick things up. Instead I was bending over again and again and got completely worn out just from harvesting a few sticks and grass. 

If you're interested in playing a Township Tale, I'd highly recommend watching Mr. Whitty's How to Get Started video series on YouTube. It's an excellent set of tutorial videos for Township Tale. He's got a ton of time saving and helpful tricks that will get you going in game.

Stocking up the community woodpile for our town

My work is going to be having a "fun day" the last half of work today, and I've been prepping for me and the boss to start building out our town during that time. I've chopped down several trees, gathered stones, gathered sticks, found a couple hunting grounds . . . I'm ready for fun! We're going to build out the blacksmith and hopefully hit the mines today so we can start crafting some good weapons and tools. I've also cooked up 24 pieces of meat, so we should be totally set for the play session. 

I'll have to report back on our progress. Can't wait!

Happy Dueling!

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

A skiff is "What lies within" for me in Guild Wars 2

Yesterday was a big day for Guild Wars 2! The announcement came across Twitter just before noon that a new story quest was available to play titled "What Lies Within." If you owned the End of Dragons expansion, that meant this new content was available to you as a bonus.

For me it's been several years since I played any Guild Wars 2 content right as it released, and so I decided that I most definitely wanted to check it out. I purchased End of Dragons back when a sale was going on, but I still haven't finished my Icebrood Saga content, so it's just been kind of sitting there waiting for me to catch up.

I logged on and teleported to the far away content of Cantha and opened up my very first waypoint in the continent! 

Cantha is pretty. I spent a little bit of time in the original Cantha in the original Guild Wars, so I wasn't surprised when I saw the eastern world, but I was still struck by its digital beauty.

The beautiful views of New Kaineng City

As for the story content itself, it was pretty interesting. I was lost on who a few of the characters were, obviously, since I hadn't even played all the way through a couple of the story quests, but I got the gist. I love that Guild Wars lets you skip chapters and entire books in their story if you want to. Its freeform nature is a refreshing pleasure. 

Lots of people crowding the quest NPCs for What Lies Within

About halfway into the quests asking me to review my past in the game I got stuck because I hadn't unlocked fishing yet, so I spent an hour yesterday going back to the first part of End of Dragons to learn how to fish, and then I just kept going a bit.

Hmm . . . how to fish? Me no know!

My friend John also let me know that the Skiff mount was available from a heart faction vendor there on the first island as well, so I instead made that my goal for my play session instead of going back to What Lies Within and finishing the current content. I was giddy.

The Skiff was surprisingly easy to obtain. Basically you just finish the two heart faction unlocks on the island, buy a Writ of Seitung Province from both vendors and then use those and 700 karma to purchase a Skiff mount. Easy!

Peacefully floating around in Cantha on my new Skiff

The Skiff mount is great! You get a whole freakin' boat that you and your party can ride on together. It also allows you to go out to fishing spots far from the beach and cast your line.

The fishing game found in Guild Wars is not bad. Basically you cast your line, and when it sinks under water, you hook your fish. After this you use your 2 and 3 keys to move a tension bar left and right as a smaller fish bar moves back and forth. The objective is to keep the green fish bar within the tension bar until you've caught your fish.

My first fish!

I'm happy I got a chance to run around and see the crowds taking on the new content en masse. Any time I can play new content in a game and feel the excitement of the players simultaneously, it's just a unique kind of fun.

Happy Dueling!

Monday, May 15, 2023

Time to ROLL OUT with the Roller Beetle in GW2

After my last ordeal with getting the Skyscale, I have to tell you how nice it was to earn this mount. In comparison, getting the Roller Beetle Mount is super easy. In fact, it was fun! 

Rolling out with the Roller Beetle!

No nested achievements hidden inside of achievements here, the Roller Beetle is just straightforward and not bad to earn at all.

Basically, you just need to complete the second mission in the third episode of your Season 4 story to begin. Gorrik and Blish are stationed at the Northern end of the Allied Encampment in the Domain of Kourna, and they'll be your quest givers as you make your way toward beetledom.

Basically you need to grab 9 types of beetle juice, gather 7 components for a beetle saddle, and then feed your beetle 7 treats from around the world. Done and done.

I gave Petey a nice greenish Yellow paint job.

I mean, yeah . . . some of the components involve defeating group content, but, I have to say, shouting in the Map channel always seemed to gather support. Probably the suckiest of them all was the Alpha Beetle in Far Silverwastes.  I shouted for help, and all I managed to get was one other person.  On the other hand, we managed to take care of it just with the two of us. 

Look at all these crazy people. What are they even doing here?

The great thing about the Roller Beetle is that crazy speed you can get from it. I was reading through a few of the tricks people had found to get max speed with their beetle and it seems pretty fun to ride and race.

So now that I've earned the Roller Beetle, all that's left to earn (as far as mounts go) are the Siege Turtle and the Skiff. To get those, I need to move on to End of Dragons content, which I haven't done yet. 

It's a long list of mounts!

There's definitely more left to do for me in Guild Wars 2! At least for now I can get from point A to point B just a little bit faster.

Happy Dueling!

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Playing The Underdog in Diablo IV

Man, I can't wait for Diablo 4, y'all. Stress Tests Slams and Bust-em-up Beta Beatdowns, here I am! I am in for the hype and all the stupid Blizzard crap. BRING IT ON!

. . . and yet what dumb class am I playing for beta and the stress test? Not Necromancer!  No no no . . . I chose to play the underpowered, underdog class: The Druid. What am I thinking? I'm the Friendly Necromancer after all?! BUT, I love me an underdog.

Large and in-charge . . . Stingite the druid.

Well, it wasn't all bad as that to be honest. The weird thing is, I actually enjoyed myself better on the first go 'round that happened back in March. The main reason being that I found some great gear that made playing a lot of fun.

Basically the gear I had made Boulder a core skill and cut its spirit cost and damage by a bit. In addition to that I had another piece of gear that made core skills deal an additional 7% damage per each active companion, so there was some really nice synergy there. I loaded up 3 companions, and I was chucking boulders everywhere and having a great time with it.

Loved this combo . . .

This time around, I didn't find any Legendary gear.  All I had was yellows, and it was much less exciting. In traditional Diablo fashion, gear makes the game more fun. Meh, it is what it is, and it's not like I had a bad time playing this weekend. I still had fun, and I enjoyed building my druid a bit differently this go around because I was trying to play to what bonuses I had on my gear, which wasn't much.

On both playthroughs the Druid felt more tanky than DPS, and I think perhaps the Diablo team was trying to make some kind of "roles" for characters to fill? No.  It can't be that way. This is Diablo! The main thing any class will want to do is SHRED through things and feel powerful. Right? I've never played a Diablo where every class wasn't DPS. Killing things as fast and efficiently as possible is the name of the game.

OH . . . yeah . . . and, you know, the epic chilling story telling of good versus evil, but mostly evil. That's also a thing. So far, it was delivering.

This quest was. . . pretty disturbing . . .

The most interesting encounter I saw in Diablo IV was the world boss encounter where myself and 10 other chumps tried to kill Ashava, the world boss in Fractured Peaks, which is the wintery area that would typically be called "Act I" in any other Diablo game.

We tried . . .

This Diablo really seems more like the Diablo Immortal mobile game in that you are, in fact, running around with other people nearby all the time. It's MMO-like in that way, and if it's MMO-like and a Diablo clone? Yeah, the Friendly Necromancer is sure to be there.

Happy Dueling!

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Skyscale, the litmus test for GW2 Insanity

Well, I guess I should post about this since it was a long MMO project that kind of consumed a lot of free time this last couple weeks in Guild Wars 2. BEHOLD! THE SKYSCALE!

Flap. Flap. Flap. Flap.

The quest to obtain a Skyscale mount isn't an easy one. I'm reminded of the feeling I got from completing the epic weapon quests back in Everquest in a way, but Guild Wars 2 does such a good job at making content more accessible that it doesn't really compare. On the other hand, the complexity of the Skyscale quests in Guild Wars 2 is on another level. So, it kind of balances out.

Props to those that came before me who wrote down and documented instructions on the Guild Wars Wiki. Those are the true time-saving heroes in this world. It's such a noble task. Those crazy wiki people are saints. You know who else is a saint? My friend John, who completely saved me hours and hours of farming by letting me know map currencies are available through the Seasons of Dragons Achievements. THE BEST!

Ok, lemme just break this down for you a bit in case you don't know how the Skyscale quest works.

Step 1- Play through the entire Living Season World 4 content. It's a long story with some absolutely epic story moments. Really great content, and this part of the skyscale quest is just enjoyment of some PvE content. At that point, then you can start wondering about your Skyscale.

Yes, I flew down an elder dragon's throat and punched its heart until it died.

Now, if you look at the Wiki page for the Skyscale quest, you're like . . . hey! not bad! Just five achievements to get this thing. I can do that! But then and you click deeper, you realize that each achievement has nested achievements inside of it and suddenly that five step quest is now much, much more complicated.

Step 2 - Enter the world of Dragonfall. The first Achievement has you circling the world of dragonfall three separate times. Once looking for 21 scales. Once giving medicine to 14 sick skyscales. and Once looking for 21 skyscale eggs. It's not horrible, just time consuming, but all locations are well documented. You'll probably make a lot of money in Dragonfall while you're at it.

Grabbing an egg in Dragonfall

Step 3- Travel the entire Guild Wars 2 map while charging up 12 eggs with 4 sources of energy each. So you'll be making 48 stops around the world. Some are more difficult than others, but most are cake . . . touch some lava, touch some water, blah blah blah.  You gotta follow the guide though!  Otherwise you'll be backtracking a bunch. The most complicated part was solving the Rune-Locked Doors puzzle.

I love the Rune Back Piece you have during this puzzle! I need a perma version!

Step 4- Hatch that dragon and do some nurturing quests. You'll be spending some gold in this step as if you're like me, you weren't charging up quartz crystals for a couple weeks in advance.  I mean, I had a few, but it's not like I log on and charge a crystal each day . . . (but I probably should as a Blackmarket side hustle). That Crystal is a component for a Mystic Forge recipe to make Skyscale food. That quest is throttled in that you can only feed your dragon four pieces of food each real world day. You'll be stuck here for at least a few days.

Baby dragon loves me!

Outside of this you'll be needing to buy your baby skyscale some expensive toys and hunting down 12 of it's favorite treats from random enemies around the world.  Not bad, just another hoop in the series of hoops.

Step 5- Congrats! Your dragon is now a terrible toddler and its flown away to 21 different locations around the Guild Wars 2 map. The only problem is that most of those locations are at the top of jumping puzzles. It's a pain, but you got this!  You're too deep in there now to give up!

My dude, why do you pick the hardest places to hide!

After that you actually get to play with your dragon. After a fun game of catch and hide and seek, you'll be done with this step.  This dragon play part of the quest felt more fun than challenging. I liked it.

Step 6- Now you have to make your saddle. All you need is 250 of the unique map currencies found in 7 zones and 35 gold and 1,750 volatile magic.  The gold and volatile magic are the easy things to come by.  The map currency on the other hand . . . whew . . . it's a bit soul crushing at first when you realize it could take DAYS maybe WEEKS to collect all that currency.

But my buddy John saved me here. There's a beautiful mega achievement called Seasons of the Dragons, and nested inside this mega achievement are all of the 250 unique map currencies that you desire. All you gotta do is complete "Tier 3" steps for the Crystal Desert, Domain of Istan, Sandswept Isles, Domain of Kourna, Jahai Bluffs, Thunderhead Peaks, and Dragonfall. To do that you'll be harvesting nodes, completing bounties, completing events, completing Adventures, etc. in each of those zones.  It's much faster than the alternative, don't worry.

Awesome Boss Events await you!

Step 7- To cap it all off, once you get your saddle made, you need to do a short test flight with "rental skyscales" in 28 different zones.

Most of these tears in reality are just a few feet away from the rental spot. Not bad, just time consuming

And there you go, after 900 million sub-steps tucked away in the above seven steps, you're done and have an epic mount that can get you to the highest points in the game. 

Really cool to have finished up that mount. Now all I have to think about is if I want the two-rider turtle mount, the skiff, and the roller beetle. (At least I think that's all the rest of the mounts in GW2.) I've got plenty of content still to complete, but I can now join the masses of those who have the skyscale. It's not an exclusive club, but this quest definitely feels like a litmus test for GW2 insanity.

Happy Dueling!