Dungeons & Dragons, pt. 2

So it slowly seems we are creating a tradition of playing D&D, though with another group than mentioned in the previous post. It’s a bit different since we are running this game online over VOIP and without cameras, so there is a certain amount of communication lost through that, but still it has been quite fun so far. We have even managed to recruit a new player who decided not to join us on the initial session but coming in for the second on and staying for the third, so new convert, yay!

Preparation is still an aspect that I find highly challenging, since it’s hard to know in which direction the players want to go so I don’t really want to overprepare things that are unlikely to end up happening yet simultaneously I often notice how unsatisified I myself am with things I end up improvising on the fly—not that any of the players seem to have minded at any point so far but still! Also the whole “keeping the world consistent” thing is much easier when I actually have some idea of what’s going on beforehand, though maybe that’s an aspect that I personally focus on more than the players themselves do.

Simultaneously, that all can just be solved by taking good notes while we are playing of the things that I'm coming up with on the spot, and our last session actually ended up being mostly improvisation on my part since while I had accounted for a bit what was going to happen if the players ended up going in the direction they finally headed, it wasn't the "primary" story path—more akin to a sidequest or the like—and consequently the world that they encountered on the way there wasn't overly fleshed out yet from what I can tell the players seemed engaged and interested in the characters they encountered while doing a bit of investigation on a missing person in the village and their suspicions even gave me new ideas for potential further stories if they decide to go that way even if I had previously had nothing planned for these characters. Though maybe I also need to be careful of confirming any suspicions players may have to often since if jumping at every shadow yields something dark the world might feel a bit more bleaker than it is.

This last experience though has significantly calmed my nerves when it comes to actually running the game, since it was an opportunity to see that I can actually manage the situation coming up pretty well of having to think on my feet and just kind of blurt out things that are forming in the moment which while I knew was important going into the whole dungeon mastering thing, was something I felt really shaky about especially hearing the amount of preparation some dungeon masters choose to do before their sessions that I haven't really commited to myself—I mean, I try to prepare as good as I can but it just feels very difficult since I don't know here the next session will go. Still, this does mean I'm not as stressed for our upcoming session and am actually rather looking forward to it, well, moreso than I was before.

Gaming

Beta, pt. 2

This past week I ended up participating in some more raidtesting along with a quick run of a Mythic+ dungeon as well as some quick addon development. I finally ended up getting frustrated enough with the healing experience on the beta, and ended up seeking out and fixing the couple of errors I was encountering with Clique in order to be able to actually play the beta with sensible keybindings. The fix was actually rather minor which I’m happy about since I’m not overly familiar with the Clique codebase and since it means I get to test the new expansion properly, though it does mean I’m sligthly frustrated to have waited so long to give it a shot since all these problems could’ve been over ages ago. To be fair, during the fixing I was relying on reports from other people regarding what changes Blizzard has made to the API which might not have been available as easily at a earlier point in time, so maybe it was so easy because I ended up waiting so long to fix it.

Mythic+

The dungeon we did was Halls of Atonement and it ended up rather surprising me with its ease especially since I was still figuring out the keybindings at the time. To be fair, we did not end up managing to complete the dungeon in time and seemingly the only affix that was active was Fortified even though it stated it was a +10 dungeon so maybe all of the scaling was completely broken but still. If it was indicative of what a +2 will feel like come release with some heroic blues it all seemed to be in line with expectation.

Raid testing

The past week I also participated in all of the raid tests, rather than just the one I had participated in the week previous, and well, the new raid is looking rather nice. Sure, there are tuning problems and bugs but that's what we're there for.

The most fun boss of the bunch so far to me seemed the Council of Blood, I liked the flair of the intermission where you have to participate in the dance since from the little story I've played so far it felt like it fit the theme of the place perfectly. Beside that though, the fight did feel rather hectic and I'm really curious to see how it ends up on mythic since it already had so many things going on—maybe this is one of those cases where we only get the numbers tuned up and no real additional mechanics. I might be biased though, since it's the only boss in testing these raids so far that we have actually killed.

My definite least favourite boss of the bunch was Shriekwing, which seems to be the first boss of the raid—gets a bit confusing at times since there is actually another bossfight that takes place in the same room and you just get ported to the correct boss anyway. There was an annoying tendency on this boss for people not to be in line of sight of me which is understandable since it plays such a huge role in the fight and dodging out of the boss' line of sight at the correct time is crucial, but it does make for a very annoying experience as a healer. Luckily, this is the first boss of the raid so it will probably be trivial anyway but those reclears could get a bit annyoing. The second phase also seemed like it could be interesting, the boss basically went into a rage which you needed to wait out where it took almost no damage and periodically did a sonar pinpointing people which you had to hide from.

The other two bosses, Huntsman Altimor along with the Stone Legion Generals, somehow felt a bit more bland though still fun even if the Huntsman once again introduced the twist of there occasionally being an add that needed healing instead of just being able to focus on the raid. This is probably also partially due to the bugginess and tuning of these two encounters, so final judgement is as always reserved until mythic.

Holy

For this week I also took the opportunity to test out holy a bit more again and I have to admit it does feel rather good to be playing the spec again even if I at the same time feel it is probably not the most sensible choice. It all does still feel rather weak and I don't have nearly as much time to dish out damage as was available in Legion but there is still a familiar comfort to it all. To be fair, it's probably also the better choice for new content where the damage patterns are still rather unknown.

All the returning abilities have made it a bit more interesting to figure out what is the optimal play in different situations as well, so that is a welcome change.

World of Warcraft

Beta

Last week I ended up getting access to the Shadowlands beta and while I haven’t done much testing so far what little I have done has been interesting. The first thing I noticed has been the reintroduction of several spells, known beforehand of course but still interesting especially since I now get to consider where in my toolkit those spells fit in and more importantly where I get to bind them—for this it will actually be rather nice to have the beta so I have all of that figure out before I have to stumble around with it on live.

With this introduction of several new spells looking for keybinds, I ended up rather sorely missing Clique since it meant that several keybindings I was used to being able to access were no longer accessible to me leading to something of a dearth of available binds; drawbacks of beta-testing I suppose.

Finally, actually getting into the content and playing it, once more the lack of haste hit me though for some reason not quite as badly as in the transition between Legion and Battle for Azeroth (except when I played Shadow for a short while, there it felt really painful to have almost no haste).

What I have done on the beta so far is the second evening of raid-testing the past week as well as a couple of introductory quest runs into Torghast, and so far it all seems rather promising if a bit disorienting with the aforementoned lack of certain keybindings leading to rather more relearning than usual. Of course, the content is all new and I haven’t really had to bother with the daily grind aspects of it so I guess there is a certain tendency towards optimism in it all, but it does somehow seem surprisingly nice even if I am still not quite sold on having to give up on transmogs I could be interested in, in order to enable me to actually get the abilities that I feel benefit me the most which is a situation having to choose a covenant still puts me in.

Also, there is a smaller irritation I have with the covenants, namely the flight between their base of operations and what seems to be the central hub of the expansions, I’m not sure the extra travel between these two places which will both be visited rather frequently by players is completely justified.

Beyond that, it’s a bit too early for me to give any more concrete feelings on the new expansion and it is all still a work in progress I endeavor to help make better where I can find the time so I’ll reserve final judgement for the release version but I do have a hint of more optimism in me towards the new expansion than I had previously, we will see how long that lasts.

World of Warcraft

Dungeons & Dragons

Inspired by my playing a lot of RPGs lately, I ended up organising my first actual round of Dungeons & Dragons in a long while, five years or so. As often happens with these things when one self is the initiatior, I had the role of Dungeon Master and wow, I was so stressed going into this even though these are people I know well, but once we got rolling it all ended up quite good as these things tend to. Though to be quite honest, we had a longer break at one point and I think we should have just ended the session there, it went on a bit too long and the concentration was severly lacking after the break.

Despite the not quite as successful latter half everyone seemed to enjoy the session overall and we are planning to do it again some point this year hopefully, though for that I think I really need to be a bit more prepared and have more of the world thought out so I’m more ready to respond to the whims of the players since I encountered a place or two where in hindsight I’m not happy with how I played the situation out.

Gaming

Pathfinder: Kingmaker

Having played both of the Pillars of Eternity games, I rediscovered my liking for RPG games and went looking for other recent examples I could get into playing and after a bit of experimentation ended up with Pathfinder: Kingmaker. It hasn’t yet drawn me in quite as well as the Pillars games but it has still been quite enjoyable so far though it does certainly feel like a much less polished experience—this game was unfortunately quite known for the amount of bugs it had at launch, and even now some of them still seem to plague the game. The one I most recently ran into that is now making me consider how to proceed is that one of my companions’ pet now simply spawns in the middle of whatever map I happen to be on and is uncontrollable, essentially completely removing the pet from the game and consequently making that companion quite a bit less useful, which is especially unfortunate for me since that was one of the companions I had been quite regularly running with up until now.

Beyond that, the writing also feels quite a bit more cliché, with the game focusing a bit too much on the beauty and prioritising that for both the female companions as well as some of the other NPCs one runs into in the game, especially in some of the dialogue choices the game puts on you.

Still, the kingdom management aspect is actually a nice feature of the game I find, and at times I even find myself getting somewhat annoyed having to go back to questing due to some timed event or another pressuring me away from that part of the game and I think the balance between the two is rather nicely achieved where there are multiple things to keep tabs on and you have to prioritise what is more important at any given time.

The less nice thing is that some of the tools the game gives you for keeping tabs on things are rather poor, namely the way the game indicates quests and where in the world you are actually going leaves something to be desired I find. I’m not saying there needs to be an arrow pointing to every single thing in the world, but when I get a prompt in the dialogue that an NPC pointed out a location on the map to me and I then go to look on the map and see no indication what this “new” location is since I’d already discovered it on the way there, it does get a bit annoying to try to puzzle out what the game wants me to be doing. Most of the time the game does have some indication when hovering over a location of the map that a quest takes place there, but not always, and once enough of the map is discovered and the game suddenly decides to send you off into some far-flung corner of it having some option to just click in the journal to have the map display the relevant part of the map would be a rather nice feature to have. Not having this included might be an intentional decision though, where the game tries to emulate some of the older style of RPG where there were fewer UI elements helping you along but those games also tended to have a bit more thorough descriptions in the text where you could ask where something was supposed to be located, and intentional or not it’s not really a design I agree with.

Despite these flaws, it is a game I definitely want to go back to at some point, when I either figure out how I want to deal with the bug I encountered or when it ends up getting fixed. Despite the clichés, I do want to see where the story ends up going even if the general direction of it seems somewhat obvious.

Gaming