Back with another book review, looking at the second book in the series by Luke Chmilenko, Ascend Online. Now, you can see that this is kind of the second book because it isn’t #2, but is instead #1.5. The reason for this is that this […]
Good morning everyone. Last night I went live again, this time starting my play through of Pandemic Legacy Season 1. Pandemic Legacy, if you aren’t familiar with it, is the same as the base game of Pandemic, at the start. However, as you go along, […]
Fun board game thought I had yesterday, surrounding board game nights. Last board game night, the theme was new to you games or new to the group games. We got to play Just One, One Night Ultimate Vampire, and Lord of the Rings Dice Game, so the games were to new to some people, and two of the games were new to everyone playing them. This upcoming month, I’m thinking that the theme will be doing old favorites. What are some games that you’ve loved for a long time.
So what I wanted to think about, is there a better way to play games or is there a time for both things?
I think that the simple answer is that there is a time for both old favorites and trying new board games.
There, the article is done. But not really, because I think there are traps that we can fall into as board gamers that we should be aware of with old and new games.
With new games, I feel like it’s pretty simple. As they have put it on the Dice Tower and other places, it’s the cult of the new. The idea for that is that whatever is new is clearly a lot better and everything that came before it is bad. Obviously there can be several issues with this. The first being that you buy games faster than you can play them. I think that is inherently an issue, depending on the type of game that you like to play. If you just play euro games, you can probably keep the games on the “shelf of shame” to a minimum, because playing the game once is a separate experience. There are a lot of games now that have a campaign in them, and with that, now you need to play through several games to either get the idea of the story or to complete the game. So you can end up with a big shelf of unplayed games. The cult of the new can also lead to buying games faster than you can play them, not just because of length, but in general, and in that case, you’re never going to get to them all, and I think for some people that’s fine, but for others, it can be an issue. It goes back to hobby versus collection. Finally, the issue with cult of the new is cost. One groups like The Dice Tower and Rolling Solo Facebook groups, people are always talking about new games. So there are so many games that seem interesting out there, and that is spendy.
Now, I talked about that as a negative, but I think sometimes people push back on it too much. This can be one of the issues with the old favorite. There’s nothing wrong with Dominion, a game that I’m not a fan of anymore, but if you are excluding playing other deck builders because you like Dominion so why bother, that’s a bad attitude as well. There are a couple of issues with this mindset. The first being that it’s possible you’ll be alienating yourself from your play group. They are probably going to put up with playing Dominion for a while, but if that’s all you’ll play or if you only have a handful of favorites, they might want to branch out and that will mean branching away from inviting you to game nights. Also, it’s going to keep you from finding other good games. I can, again, understand not wanting to have to learn new games all the time, but doing that to the exclusion of other games is an issue.
Tied into that, but another issue can be treating the game like something more than it is. The idea is that because something like Dominion was the first big deck builder and now is liked less, you feel better because you still like the original. This comes with not being willing to try new games and keeping you from finding new good games because it might be a deck builder and Dominion is a deck builder so why do you need more. However, there are many deck builders out there that do a whole lot more than Dominion, so the elitist attitude that there is no reason to try more keeps you from being able to branch out into more interesting games. Let me quickly clarify my last sentence, while personally think there are deck builders that provide more interesting choices and themes than Dominion, what I meant there was additional interesting games.
Finally, I think that people often stick with old favorites because of the amount of board games in the market. If you got into Dominion, Catan, or Ticket to Ride when they first came out, the board game market was much smaller. So some people keep from jumping in further, because they don’t know where to jump in. Instead, they just defend the old favorite and only want to play that. That can be because of the number of games or a bad experience with the wrong new game. If someone liked the idea of Legacy games after playing Pandemic Legacy and then played Seafall, they might not want to play another legacy game after that, but don’t let that color all future legacy games. I think, now, we have enough resources to keep the overwhelming number of games or a bad experience to keep you from trying new games. I feel like that is more of an excuse than a reason. With top 10 lists on different types of games from The Dice Tower or The Brothers Murph, and tons of other locations, you can see what games other people like. Also, there is Board Game Geek that has all games listed there, and you can search either by an mechanic that you like, or by a name and you find out information on a game. So yeah, you are still going to find a dud, but between those things, you’re going to be able to find games that are more likely you’ll like. Board Game Geek even has a nice resource now that recommends games if you like one game, so that helps you find more games as well.
Right now, we live in a world where some people hang onto old things too much and other people are too happy to rush forward and never look back. This is a trend in board games as well. For board games, and for my collection, I feel like I need to walk that line, being discerning about adding new things, and being willing to try new things, but at the same, coming back to the old games again from time to time. And again, this depends on whether you want it to be a collection or a hobby. So for that reason, I want to go back to old games, because I want to walk that line, where I have a hobby, but also a large number of board games.
Where do you fall with this on board games? Are you into the new board games? Do you only want to play old favorites? What are some new games that look cool, that you want to try? What are your old favorites?
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Welcome back for another Friday Night D&D, where I try and come up with different campaign ideas for myself to run sometime, or for you to run in your game. Today’s idea borrows from Hell to Pay, the 1.5 book of the Ascend Online series by Luke Chmilenko.
The basic idea is that you are all players tied into a thieves guild. Or several thieves guilds in their cities. So it’s a bit of a twist from the standard heroic game. However, I don’t think that this is a straight up evil game. The thieves guilds are going to be more neutral groups, sure they do criminal activity, but they aren’t too brazen about it, and really, they are a sub economy in the world and worried more about their economic status on the black market, versus killing everything that moves.
This again, might be something you have to pull your players back from, and since it’s going to be a big part of the game, it’s going to be something that you’d want to bring up in session 0. And I’d even lay out the consequences for what getting caught for some of the crimes are. Murder will be a beheading, stuff like that, and possibly even introduce an infamy track or something that tracks where they are in thieves guild hierarchy, and how much they are on the city watch/guards radars.
In this game, I’d have the story focus around a couple big points that are going to be tied together. One should be in the city proper and one should be among the thieves guild. They should be both introduced at the beginning of the game, to at least some level to get the ball rolling. Eventually you’ll tie them together so that the one of the two paths the players have been ignoring now becomes important.
I also wouldn’t do the “B-Team” thing, where the second story line is being tracked by a “B-Team” that, when they intersect with the players, fills them in on what they missed out from that path. I’d keep the two paths separate, and put some specific information on one path only that the players now don’t have. Just don’t make it something critical to the story that they’d need to know to put it all together in the end.
Start with small goings on in both the city proper and in the undercity where the thieves guilds reside. Let the players deal with some sort of summoned creature that is causing issues. Maybe have the big bad as an elemental mage who decided to use their powers to get a hold of one of the thieves guilds or blackmail them, while on the surface they are starting to take out the other noble families in order to get the throne at some point in time. You can start with some small elemental creatures showing up in places and trace is back to the one guild. If he’s taken over the guild, by magic or persuasion, you could even start a war between guilds.
Have the players raid hideouts to find information, have them have to track down drop locations and fight off members of the other guild as well as elementals. Have an attack on the thieves guild that the players are part of. Escalate it to the point where it becomes an issue that’s getting really big and impossible for the players to ignore and just do their own thing. But at the same time, have the players also still have to be pulling a heist here or there and deal with their own contacts and drops.
Or they if they are more focused on the surface, those other things are still happening, but they are having to break into the mages guild, sneak into noble houses to investigate what is going on. Tracking down assassins or having to protect a noble who has ties to your guild.
I think that either of those things can work well, and the other things should be going on in the background. At some point serious fighting will break out on the surface or in the undercity, and that’s when you should start tying things together. This is kind of what kicks off the climax of the game where now the stories are brought together. Eventually the players have to deal with whomever is causing the issues.
Finally, I will say, this doesn’t have to be a game of all rogues. A thieves guild is going to need a wide variety of things. Even a paladin or cleric are needed, because when other members come back injured, or even are brought back dead, you want someone able to heal them or bring them back to life. So let your players play whatever they want.
What are your thoughts on this game? Does it seem like an interesting game to play in? Do you like the idea of two different paths the players could take or bounce between?
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The most recent book I’ve listened to is yet another LitRPG novel, this one is more obviously one, just just as much of one as Sufficiently Advanced Magic. I’m actually onto the second book of the series (there are three out now), but I wanted to do a review of this first one.
Ascend Online, a book by Luke Chmilenko, is a story of a new, fully immersive video game that is coming out. It’s basically a surprise to everyone in the world that it’s happening, because, other places have tried immersive games, and they’ve failed. But this one looks much more impressive from the trailer and it certainly is. In fairly typical LitRPG style, the main characters end up in the video game and the whole of the story is spent there. Marcus and his friends go into the game together, but because Marcus takes longer than everyone else picking his character, he gets sent to a small village and separated from everyone else, instead of the main city. So it follows him as he has adventures and gets different quests while waiting for his friends to join him, beating the rush of adventurers who will be pouring out there for sure.
Now, that bit of synopsis screams edgelord, an edgelord, in this setting, is that character who would set themselves as an actual ruler of an area and do things that they think are dark and edgy that makes them cool. And there have been a few LitRPG stories that I’ve listened to where characters seem to be headed in that direction. Also a few authors who seem like they are trying to be that themselves. This book could have easily gone down that path, and you do run across some characters who get that sort of treatment in the book, but Marcus and his friends are actually good people. It’s really refreshing to see handled that way, and I think that is one of the things I appreciated about the book.
The other big thing I like about the book is that while it’s in a game, the author does take some steps to just write a fairly epic feeling fantasy story. Yes, we do get one of my least favorite bits, because it is a LitRPG, but the world is well conceived as compared to some other LitRPG’s that I’ve read where it just felt very generic. It felt much more like a video game than this one does. Now, like I was saying, we do get one of my least favorite things which is stat blocks and heads up displays that you get in actual video games. I think that in book form, that wouldn’t be as bad, but for an audio book, it makes for some boring listening. Since I’ve just listened to it, I’m going to assume that the book has it laid out in a table you can skim over faster than it takes someone to read it, especially when not a ton has changed always.
Let’s quickly talk about the actual writing in the book. This is another spot where I don’t want to say it’s bad, but it certainly isn’t good. I think that Chmilenko writes compelling characters and a fairly interesting story, tying different things together well, while stringing together different quests, but the actual writing is a bit clunky. This book could be made a lot better by just having a better editor, or having taken the advice of a good editor. It isn’t a case where there are just dumb sections of the book that could be cut, I think that they’ve done a good job of keeping what is needed, but there is a lot of need to clean up sentences. A word will be used in a sentence and then used again, or something will be described at the start and end of a sentence. Just a little more time on editing would have been able to clean up the sentences, that in some sections were pretty commonly bad and other sections were better, and made it an easier listen to. Does this take too much away from the book to make it listenable/readable? I think for a lot of people it might, which, is a shame, because I like the story. But it really pulls you from immersion when you feel like the author is repeating himself. I think I said this with Sufficiently Advanced Magic, if you are going to write and possibly self publish LitRPG work, find a good editor and listen to them. I know it might be beating a dead horse, but it’ll make a huge difference.
So, what do I think of the book and would I recommend it? Clearly I’m enjoying the book as I’m listening to what is technically book #1.5 in the series. Different cast of characters, but I think better writing than the first book. If you can make it through the rough sections of writing and want to check out a LitRPG book, I think it could be an interesting read. I think I might prefer Sufficiently Advanced Magic, though that one drags in spots more so than this one does. Ascend Online is a good book in the LitRPG genre, however, most books in the LitRPG genre seem to be less good than your standard fantasy. So yes, I can recommend it, but don’t spend much money on it, in fact, try and find it at your library if you can.
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