Time to do another quick talk on a board game that I know I might not get to the table again all that quickly. I want to do these when I know I’m not ready to do a complete review of the game, do the…
It’s a spooooooktacular time this Halloween. I’ve gone through and done some Halloween Horror articles, looking at Stephen King books, movies, and board games. But now we’re onto an interesting part of Halloween, the monsters. My top 5 monsters is going to pull from classic…
Alright, we already know how this is going to go, I love this series. So it’s going to be me talking about why this series is good, but I’ve finally read everything that out thus far from Jim Butcher for the series. This includes the two books of short stories, and I’m now part of the group of people waiting for the next book to come out.
Just in the way of a quick synopsis, The Dresden Files follows around Harry Dresden a wizard private investigator. He mainly does things like find lost objects or missing people, stuff that’s pretty easy. But the Chicago PD bring him in time to time to consult on cases when things seem weird and that is too often in Chicago. The series starts out with him doing a few one off cases, but soon he figures out that there is something larger at play and now he’s having to deal with fae courts, vampires of all sorts, and basically anything else that might go bump in the night.
I really like Urban Fantasy, and Dresden Files is a very good series in that genre. Too often or too much of urban fantasy seems to lean into that light fluffy writing with a bit of pulp, whereas The Dresden Files are heavily pulp but keep a serious tone and really create depth of character. Now, this isn’t through all the books, the first couple, especially, since they aren’t as obviously tied into the main plot of the rest of the books, and are early in Butcher’s writing career don’t hold up quite as well, though, they are still very enjoyable. And his short story book, Side Jobs, you get some more of his earlier writing and while I enjoyed them a good amount, I can see how they might not hold up as strongly as some of his other work.
Besides the genre, I really like the main character. Harry Dresden is a good character, generally a good person, and definitely a flawed person as well. I think that is one thing that I really appreciate about Butcher’s writing of Harry. Harry has a pretty obvious character arc as he grows, and there are still things that he recognizes as hang-ups for him that he just doesn’t address or that he has accepted are part of him. This rough around the edges works well for the gritty world that the series is set in. And I think that’s a strength, not just of Harry in the series, but other characters as well. Each character has their own flaws, and while there are some who seem to have less flaws, their flaws just look a bit shinier and are harder to see. I’ve been listening to, and have read enough, to notice when books create a character that is either too perfect or too generic, and Harry is definitely not perfect or generic.
One thing I wasn’t sure how it would go throughout the books is finding a good way to increase the stake throughout. I’m not going to go into spoilers, but things start to get big and there are a lot of issues surrounding the fae, vampires, wizards, and other parties. Whenever that happens, I start to get worried. You can end up with it getting too big too quickly, and if a problem is solved, that means now you have to come up with something even crazier and bigger. In the Dresden Files, I feel like it’s balanced well. There is definitely a building feel to larger things, but there are some books where the stakes seem a bit smaller again mixed in without. The slow build and those that keep the story from growing to quickly make the series better. You can feel that it’s building towards something even bigger, and while there was a moment where you could feel like it drops off again, there are so many open questions in the series that it works to take a little bit of a step back.
I’m not sure how many books are going to be in the series, but I’m definitely looking forward to the next one. If you want to know more about the series, or get into some spoiler territory, you can join me with Malts and Meeples as I play through the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game which does a solid job of telling the Dresden Files story. I’m really waiting for this to get picked up for a good television show as well or movie series. We had one SyFy channel series, and while the actor who played Dresden did a good job, the rest of the cast was just decent, and all in the all, it was too procedural to really be a show that captured the spirit of The Dresden Files.
Like I said at the beginning, I love this series. There are currently 15 books and 2 books of short stories. You definitely don’t need to read the short stories, though they are fun to fill in some gaps of the stories. And, random aside, one cool thing about the series is that each of them takes place about a year apart, so there are stories and things hinted at that we don’t ever see. It’s a bit of a haul to get through the series, but I haven’t regretted it, and I’ve read some of the books, especially early in the series, several times. I think if you’re looking for a good urban fantasy series you’re going to be hard to pressed to find something that works better than Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files.
What do you think of the series? What is your favorite book out of all of them?
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We’ve had some traps in our dungeons, we’ve got monsters wandering around and patrolling, but what about puzzles. It’s fairly iconic as we get in Lord of the Rings Gandalf puzzling out which direction to go in the Mines of Moria, and also sitting outside…
Next thing we’re going to look at with your dungeon is to look at the ecology of your dungeon. I talked about it a little bit in the what is your dungeon, but it used to be that dungeons would have all sorts of monsters living together with random traps thrown in, in a way that would kill the monsters if they actually had left their rooms where apparently they had an infinite supply of food and water.
So instead you have to plan out your dungeon to make sense. Though, there is an easy way to make an old school dungeon, and that’s with four simple words: “A wizard did it.”. That will get you out of jail free when your dungeon doesn’t make sense. But that only works in some situations. A lot of the time you’re going to be building a dungeon for a specific reason. Maybe it’s an old abandoned temple that is hidden away in the jungle. Having ice monsters in there isn’t going to make sense. You’re going to want to have something like Yuan-ti in there, and they can be bossing around another race. Or maybe it’s in a volcano, well, then fire elementals are probably going to play a big roll in the dungeon.
But it could be boring to just have one type of monster in the dungeon, and I agree with that. If I was playing in a dungeon, I wouldn’t want to run into a fire elemental in one room, then two in the next room, and one after that, then an empty room, and so on and so forth until I reached my goal.
Instead, start by thinking about if there is a big bad in your dungeon? Is there a boss monster that your players are going to have to fight? If there is, who is that guy, is it a demon? Is it a Mind Flayer? Is it a mad wizard? All of those are going to have a different group of monsters working for them. You might, for example, run into lesser demons or even weaker creatures like goblins that the demon has conscripted to guard the upper levels. Then maybe the further in you go, you run across a demon who is in charge of the goblins and imps who is a mid point battle. From there on, you face a mixture of demons of various powers and a few goblins thrown in until you finally face the big boss demon at the end of the dungeon who is most likely doing some evil plot when you get there so you have to stop them from being able to do it.
Another example with the mind flayer, you’d be looking at Underdark creatures, such as Duegar and Drow who would be being controlled by the mind flayer. You might even run into a band of Githyanki or Githzerai who might want to stop the mind flayer as well, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be an encounter, just might not be combat. Eventually you’ll probably have a situation where you have to sneak around a bunch of mind flayers to get to the elder brain or the main mind flayer leading the charge to disband the other group. But since this is the underdark, which is almost a dungeon onto itself, you can also use natural monsters down there. Various oozes and slimes might be clinging to the wall. A cloaker might be off in the shadows waiting for the next unsuspecting drow or adventuring party to come by.
You can start to see how you can build out a dungeon that really has a theme and feel to it. In fact, that’s one good way to start with a mad wizard dungeon, what sort of theme would they have put in it. Maybe they have it elemental themed and each floor has a different type of elemental in it and the traps are built so that they aren’t an issue to the elemental type on that floor.
But there are also some dungeons that don’t have a big boss in them, or if they do, it isn’t because someone has set this up. The examples above, all of them are probably something that’s been tailored to the group in them. But what happens in the example of the abandoned temple? There isn’t some big bad Yuan-ti in there who set this up to be great for snake people? It was most likely a human or Elven temple from a long time ago. So you have to start to think about how they are going to be using the place. Maybe they’ve only cleared the first few levels of the dungeons because the traps later on are just too nasty. So you’re going to have to deal with them early, but eventually the dungeon will be “safer” or less monster filled, until maybe you get past those really bad traps.
In the example above, it’s possible that the ecology even changes part way through. Maybe the original owners of the temple left some construct monsters further down. Or maybe something is also coming up from the bottom (or down from the top) of the dungeon. Or maybe instead of constructs, there are a group of Drow who are using it for some dark ritual, but it’s easier for you to get to them by going down through the temple, through the Yuan-ti, through the traps, as compared to searching the underdark with it’s dangers and maybe finding what you’re looking for in time.
Hopefully it’s starting to make sense how you can use a dungeon in your game and have it be a part of a bigger story of the world and of your game. By having a more tightly built dungeon you don’t have to have it be a random wizard, but you can tailor it specifically to the spot in your world that you want the dungeon to be and build it to a specific theme, monster, or boss, whatever your game needs.
Have you made a dungeon with a really cool theme or some really cool monsters? Tell us about them in the comments below.
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This one comes from a handful of places for my newest campaign idea that you can steal, pick apart, etc. The first spot is Nerdarchy which really got me thinking about it on one of their videos where they were talking about a dungeon/tower that…
Another new board game review is coming up, this time I played recently with some friends (aka last night), and took on the world of Andor as we tried to become legends. We only played through the into scenario, but we had a lot of fun with it, and it’s on the list to play some more as we do more small board game nights. By small board game nights, I mean with fewer people, so we don’t end up just playing party style games. Legends of Andor is a big fantasy adventure game where you play through a deck of cards that tells a story as you go along.
The first story has us facing off against monsters that are invading your lands, and you have to get a message to the elves that live in the woods to let them know. It’s not very epic, but the first scenario does an awesome job of teaching you how to play the game. It teaches you combat, it teaches you how fog works and how you can find things, and it teaches you have the action system works and how the story progresses. The action system and the story system are two of the really cool features of the game. The action system is set-up in a day, but they recognize that you can’t work 24 hours a day, so you can work hard for 7 hours a day without any issue, and you can push yourself, spending your willpower (a resource basically to determine your effectiveness in combat and HP), to work longer. The other fun thing is that story track. You are using these cards to tell a story, and there are letters that basically are parts of the story. So in the first story, only some letters had story bits on them, but whenever you move forward a day, the story track progresses, but not only that, whenever you kill a monster, the story track progresses, this means that you are deciding which monsters can be left alive so that you can complete the main objective, at the same time trying to figure out which monsters need to be killed so that they don’t make it into the castle and you lose the game that way. It is a fun countdown to try and figure out what is going on.
One thing that I don’t love about the game, though, is that you can play the same characters over and over again, maybe I really like to be the wizard (or the archer or the fighter or the dwarf???), and I want to play them again, the scenarios are built that your character doesn’t keep anything from what they’ve had in the previous legend. So every time I start out, my hero is my plain old vanilla hero. It would be way more awesome if we got to build up our hero over time. I realize why they don’t do that, the scenarios are balanced so that you start at 0, and leveling up your character in the strength of their attack or in their willpower goes pretty fast, so you’d have super powered characters by the end that wouldn’t need to do those strength or willpower actions anymore, and it would happen pretty early on in your third story out of the base five. But that would have been something cool that they could have done.
But going back to some fun things, one thing that I do like about this game is that the game isn’t too heady. Yes, it will be tough, and yes, you’ll lose, but it’s fast to reset the board and it’s a game that you can play with a middle school age kid and they’ll be a part of the game. Plus it’s cooperative, so that means that if they need help, they can get help, at the same time, anyone can point out something that you would have missed as well. And another cool thing to add onto the cool things stack is that you can buy more scenarios. Once you’ve figured out how to beat one you’ll have to forget before you can play it again (or come up with a scoring system to see if you can beat it), but you can buy more scenarios, which is cool, so it might be a bit of a money pit that way, but the base game comes with five legends, so five evenings of playing a game, that’s not too bad, plus it’ll probably be more because you’ll lose multiple times.
Overall this is a really fun game that does something awesome for a game that has a number of rules, it teaches you how to play in the first game. This game and Krosmaster are two games that do that, and Seafall is a game that pretends to hint that it might do that, and then completely lies about it. Legends of Andor is a game that I’d recommend, especially to people who enjoy fantasy based games. It feels like a light fantasy world that you get to play, or like YA fantasy would be a good way to put it, but that’s all it needs to be. And I’ve played it with three people twice and it’s fun to play at that level, and they do things to balance it out for fewer or more players.
Overall Grade: B
Gamer Grade: B-
Casual Grade: B+
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Here’s the newest Thursday video that I’ve been doing. This is where I tackle a monster and try and create a story/campaign arc around them that people could use instead of getting away from cultists, drow, goblins and dragons. Let me know if there…