Monday, August 22, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons: Living Forgotten Realms

This past Saturday was Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) play at my friendly local gaming store (FLGS).

Up until now, I've only been playing D&D Encounters, and while I have found those sessions to be a good welcome back introduction to the world of D&D, I've been looking for something with a bit more narrative meat to sink my RPG chops into. Thus, when I saw the post for LFR play up on the notice board at the FLGS, I promptly did a little research on the internet to see what LFR was all about.

Players across the country and world create Forgotten Realms characters per instructions on the D&D LFR webpage, and then bring their characters together to play LFR adventure modules at RPG convention events, FLGS open play sessions, or even home game play sessions, tracking and documenting their play and character advancement via D&D's RPGA/DCI system. The LFR adventure modules are designed for both new and veteran players to enjoy, and even within the module adjustments can be made for playing "low" or "high" - adjusting the difficulty down or up based on the experience and composition of the player group at hand to provide the most satisfying experience possible.

Now armed with a basic understanding of the goals and mechanics behind LFR, I decided to brave the LFGS on a Saturday morning and devote a few hours of play to adventure in the Forgotten Realms, one of my favorite sword-and-sorcery fantasy world settings of all time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

REVIEWS: Captain America #2 and Daredevil #2

Captain America #2, written by Ed Brubaker and pencilled by Steve McNiven, picks up where last issue left off - with Cap and company hot on the trail of the mysterious conspiracy of villains introduced last issue. We're treated to some exposition by Nick Fury (the classic James Bond version, not the more recent Samuel L. Jackson inspired one), as he fills Agent 13 (Sharon Carter - Cap's current love interest and the niece of Cap's former love interest from WWII)  in on the origins of their current predicament. Turns out that Nazi spies and saboteurs were the de riguer plot element back in the days of WWII, not only impacting Cap's origins, but also his further adventures, incuding the one that spawned the current conspiracy plot that our star spangled hero and his pals finds themselves embroiled in.

I'll be honest - this issue feels like a fill-in or bridge issue for the story that's being told. I didn't feel like the action in the book was particularly exceptional, and found the exposition to be a little heavy handed and leaning towards the cardinal sin of tell rather than show. Still, the art by McNiven is fairly gorgeous and fits the overall story's bold tone well. I just wish that I didn't feel like this issue was just a long set-up for the next issue's fireworks. And the cliffhanger ending at the en dof this issue definitely promises fireworks, with the return of another blast from-the-past antagonist for Cap and Agent 13 to face down as they inch closer to the truth behind the conspiracy they're facing.

RATING: 3 out of 5 Stars-n-Stripes

Daredevil #2, written by Mark Waid and pencilled by Paolo Rivera, on the other hand, felt like a solid chapter in a mystery story arc similar to the one that's going on over in Captain America, but with way more show-me and much less tell-me in the narrative. Ironically, the issue guest stars none other than good ol' Captain America himself, in a hero versus hero tête-à-tête that connects the dots between hornhead's current status quo with his recent actions in the Shadowland storyline that ended the last volume of his eponymous series. For those of us that have been following DD's story for some time, it was both an appreciated nod to the fact that continuity matters, and a reinforcement of Daredevil's essential quality as lawyer by day, and outlaw by night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons Encounters: Lost Crown of Neverwinter, Episode 2

When last we saw my heroic alter ego for this season of D&D Encounters, Quendalon the Eladrin Bladesinger, he and his companions were catching their breath after having survived an attack of spellplagued drakes and zombies in a Neverwinter market square. Just as they managed to regroup and get their bearings, what should appear flying down from the sky but a spellplagued white dragon, come to angrily avenge the death of the drakes!

Thus picks up this week's episode of the Lost Crown of Neverwinter. 

Sunday, August 14, 2011

REVIEW: Mouse Guard: Fall 1152

Mouse Guard: Fall 1152, by author/illustrator David Petersen, is a soft cover graphic novel collecting the first six bi-monthly issues of the Eisner-award winning Mouse Guard comic book series published by Archaia Press.

The story centers around a society of anthropomorphic mice living in a medieval England-like period and setting. Specifically, the protagonists of the story are the titular Mouse Guard - a sworn brotherhood of mice who originally served as soldiers in a war against weasels, but now fulfill a variety of other roles - scouts, pathfinders, weather watchers, bodyguards, etc - for the civilians in mouse society. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

REVIEW: Black Panther: The Man Without Fear #522

When last we saw our hero, series writer David Liss and artist Francesco Francavilla had the Black Panther's alter ego of Mr. Okonkwo arrested by Homeland Security for falsifying immigration papers. Also arrested was Foggy Nelson, Daredevil's sidekick, confidant, and law partner, who also happened to be the attorney that helped the Black Panther obtain immigration papers for his assumed identity. This issue picks up with the pair in jail while the city of New York goes to pieces outside as a result of the "Fear Itself" storyline ripping through the Marvel Universe. Taking advantage of said chaos is an entity known as the Hate-Monger, and his jackbooted henchman, the American Panther. 

After Foggy cashes in some favors from a colleague in the legal world, he and BP's alter ego are released from police custody. BP tries to alleviate Foggy's concerns about the legal consequences they are facing, but to no avail, as Foggy is unaware that the man he helped is really the Black Panther - former king of Wakanda, Avenger, and all around bad ass.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons Encounters: Lost Crown of Neverwinter, Episode 1

So tonight was the premiere of D&D Encounters Season 6, "The Lost Crown of Neverwinter".

If you'll recall from my post of 8.7.11, the prologue adventure to this season that was run on D&D gameday, "The Gates of Neverdeath", didn't go too well for me. Would tonight be another wipe for my PC and party, or would I and they have a chance at redemption?

Well, it turns out that tonight's adventure was an entirely different story (figuratively speaking). People showed up early to prep their PCs, and there were enough players for two tables, necessitating the drafting of another DM.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons Gameday: Gates of Neverdeath

I was really looking forward to playing the Gates of Neverdeath adventure on D&D's Neverwinter Gameday this past Saturday and returning to the Forgotten Realms after a long, long, long absence from the richly detailed and supremely engrossing campaign setting (hadn't played there since my AD&D days waaaaay back, basically).

But...instead of a fun and entertaining session, all I got after nearly 5 hours of frustrating play was a Wipe/TPK.  

Well that doesn't sound so bad, you might say. Or you might ask, what IS a Wipe/TPK anyway?

So, without further adieu (and courtesy of the folks over at Wikipedia): 
Wipe/TPK - Total Party Kill (TPK) or Wipe is the colloquial term for the demise of the entire party of player characters in a single encounter during the course of a role-playing game adventure. While many games permit other player characters to resurrect deceased comrades in some fashion, a TPK often results in all of the players making new characters (or the end of the campaign if the group is less cohesive).

Friday, August 5, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons Gameday Tomorrow! Neverwinter!

A new season of D&D Encounters starts tomorrow with the Nevwerwinter Gameday set in the Forgotten Realms Neverwinter campaign setting. I'm really looking forward to starting a season from scratch since I came in at the penultimate episode of the previous season,  Dark Legacy of Evard.

I'm hoping to play at a more experienced table tomorrow rather than at the newbies table that I had been playing at this past season. I think that I've picked up the mechanics of D&D 4e enough to not slow things down at the "regulars" table, and I've been getting a little short on patience for some of the folks at the newbies table - we barely managed to slog through and finish the season finale last Wednesday due to the slowness of some of the newbies as they fumbled with systems and mechanics pertaining to their characters.

I went a little overboard and pregenerated a dozen or so characters for the new season tomorrow, but better to be prepared with options than get stuck with one of the prepackaged PCs that every season has available for the Johnny-come-lately types. I'm hoping to play a Drow Bard, Human Mage or Half-Elf Sorcerer this time, or maybe even a Shadar-kai Monk, though I also have a Revenant Blackguard, a Human Knight, and a Minotaur Warden ready to go if I feel more Martial than Arcane. I'm also looking forward to the promise of an Eladrin Bladesinger class, so I whipped up an Eladrin Swordmage to use as a rough template should the new class indeed become available at tomorrow's session. Decisions, decisions!

I'll be back here with a play-by-play report of the gameday kick-off for the new season after tomorrow. I'm excited to be playing in the Forgotten Realms world, even if it has drastically changed since I last visited it many years ago back when it was still AD&D.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

REVIEW: Digital Culture, Play and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader

"Digital Culture, Play and Identity: A World of Warcraft Reader" published by MIT Press and edited by Hilde G. Corneliussen and Jill Walker Rettberg, is a collection of works by various authors regarding the World of Warcraft phenomenon and how it informs contemporary notions of culture, play and identity.

I stumbled onto this book at Half Price Books in the role playing game section, of all places. After reading it, I'm not entirely convinced that was the best place for it to be shelved. The majority of the contributors to the essays contained in the book are Norwegian and all of the contributors are based out of universities in Europe, where they serve as social science and cultural theory academics. They all play(ed) World of Warcraft on the European servers, all served as part of the same guild, and used their experiences while logged in as the basis for their research, even going to the extent of holding guild meetings in the game world to review and share findings.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons Returns to the Legendary City of Neverwinter; Fans Vie for Glory in the City of a Thousand Fates


Wizards of the Coast today announced that its iconic roleplaying game of fantasy and imagination, Dungeons & Dragons®, will return to one of the most well-known and fascinating cities within D&D lore and the Forgotten Realms novels – the city of Neverwinter. Along with the new D&D Neverwinter Campaign Setting comes an extensive suite of products and in-store play offerings, including a new comic mini-series, a board game, organized play sessions, and a new novel from New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore. Wizards of the Coast will showcase new Neverwinter product offerings at Gen Con Indy 2011 on August 4-7 at Booth #2031, and fans can also get in on the adventure at

"The Neverwinter suite of products and programs offer something for all players and fans, both new and seasoned," said Liz Schuh, Dungeons & Dragons Brand Director, Wizards of the Coast. "With so many different ways to engage with the city, players will be immersed in the storyline and find themselves vying for glory alongside their fellow adventurers no matter how they choose to play."

Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter offerings include: