Weekly Round-up: Wicked Mazes, D&D, Champions Now, & Deep Dungeon History

Now that we are home schooling and I’m working on getting the taxes done, there was very little time this week for much of anything.

My wise wife says, “Write about what you’re doing!” So here goes… a roundup of the week in my corner on the gaming cosmos…

2020-04-08 teamwork_solo_blog
Gaming, it’s what’s for dinner.

Roll20 FTW

My regular group has successfully transitioned to online play. We’re usually a bit more adventurous than this, but we are playing good old D&D. For starters it seems that R20 caters to the D&D audience, naturally. I’m still a little bewildered (occasionally befuddled) by all the bells and whistles, but our GM Brian has gamely gotten in there and started to figure out the GM-facing stuff. Aaron, our software engineer, has quietly done his share of problem solving for us. He helped debug some character sheet problems for me, and gave a strong assist on making the mapping components work.

Our second session was more like playing and less like fumbling around. There was a lot more genuine fun, at least for me. We penetrated the forgotten tunnels under an ancient citadel and dealt with the denizens: a group of hobgoblins controlled by intellect devourers and an umber hulk. My ranger, whose first impulse is to coexist with most things, attempted to parley with the umber hulk, but that blew up in his face. (That Confusing Gaze power they have is nasty.)

In session 3 we will continue our SpecOps-style mission to disrupt the leadership of a bugbear controlled citadel as a lead up to a full scale assault. Fun! And it’ll be interesting to see how Roll20 handles pitched combat. So far our sessions seem slower than FtF, but maybe that will change once we all get used to the tools.

In any case, it’s amazing to see how fast the human mind can adapt to change.

The Return of Champions

Thanks to MadJay and his interest in Ron Edwards’ Champions Now, I’ve been brought back to my original gaming love. I spent many a high school summer playing Champions back when, and later played a lot of 5th Edition with my old Chicago gang. Ron has moved the furniture around and sacrificed a few sacred cows, but he’s built a damn entertaining story engine for the classic Champs chassis.

Jay and I have played a couple of solo sessions, and we’re just having a blast so far. I’m hoping to post about Champions Now in this slot next week, but here’s the TL;DR… it’s fun, very “comic booky,” and a blast to play.

At some point you’ll be able to hear the results of our sessions in MadJay’s Diceology podcast. Since it’s a solo game, Jay has been very generous taking the plot into areas I’m interested in… and I think we both enjoy the game’s conceit of imagining the notional comic you create as you play. I paint a lot better with words, so it’s a blast to invent visuals I could never draw.

Exiles_of_the_wicked_mazeBaby’s First Fantasy Heartbreaker

Kudos to Bundle of Holding and their timely offering of a Solo Gaming Bundle! Looking through the contents, I realized there were a few titles I could facilitate as GMless games with my son, Xander. Given that we are some 150 pages into the 5E Monster Manual for our Irreverent Reading series, I realized that a dungeon-delving game would be ideal. The Solo bundle provided lots of options.

Exiles of the Wicked Maze fits the bill nicely. It’s a baldly procedural solo delve in a large maze. The conceit is that you’ve been tossed into a grotty labyrinth with just the clothes on your back; the only way to get out is to obtain 5000 gold worth of treasure AND to find the exit from the Maze. Intuitive encounter symbols and a d20-based resolution system allow you to while away the hours in your quest to survive.

My enjoyment comes and goes, but Xander is eating it up. As a bonus, Exiles builds excellent scaffolding for gaming skills and real life tasks. Along with teaching resource management concepts (you can only carry ten items) and risk assessment, there are some other neat byproducts of play. Xander is getting a lot more used to adding modifiers to d20 results, so he’s getting used to addition problems that cross over the tens place. (For example, it was a big deal when he could tell me what 19+2 was without resorting to finger math.) Also, your Hit Points start at 100 and go down, but your Sick Points start at 0 and go up. So, there’s the gentle hint of big boy math without the pressure of the classroom.

Our first maze run ended in failure just a few encounters shy of sweet release, but Xander took it more in stride than I did. (Or he delighted in cheering me up enough that he didn’t mind losing.) Since then we’ve gone from success to success. I haven’t even had time to bring in any of the bonus charts from the expansions. Oh, and there’s a fun web tool for creating your own maze that it might tickle you to play around with.

Anyway, Exiles might be just the thing to get your stay at home tween off the gaming console for a few hours.

hostDungeon Building as World Building

After getting a couple of runs of Exiles under his belt, Xander got curious about the other games in the Solo bundle. After hearing the descriptions of everything, he surprised me by expressing his stoke for How to Host a Dungeon. It’s an abstract game of dungeon creation. You create a deep and multi-layered history for an underground environment. It’s essentially a pure story game which produces a map as an artifact. It puts me in the mind of Ben Robbins’ Microscope and Kingdom. I’m just delighted that Xander is sophisticated enough to see How to Host a Dungeon as game at all, let alone that he wants to play.

As always, Dad’s prep time is the choke point. Even for a solo game, you have to read the rules! What I’ve seen so far, I really like. You use four ages to create your dungeon, each age coming with its own tables and procedures.

In the Primordial Age you lay down the strata the dungeon will eventually occupy. Tables help you determine where resources like ore and gem deposits lie, along with an origin story for how this chunk of earth came to be. Is it a dismembered numinous being, a god’s dream, or just an accident of fate?

The Age of Civilizations shows how the natural assets of the area are exploited. Each of the 6 possible civilizations comes with its own very resource driven mini-game. The map is altered by new construction, digging, etc.

I’m not sure what happens in the other two ages yet, but I’m excited to find out! I think the process of rolling, drawing, and riffing will be right up Xander’s alley. I’ll be delighted to play a game where our interests genuinely overlap. And if we get it to the table, you can be sure I’ll blog about it.

In the world of stay at home, as my wife might say, I gotta blog what’s going on.


4 thoughts on “Weekly Round-up: Wicked Mazes, D&D, Champions Now, & Deep Dungeon History

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