Wrap Up

Well I enjoyed Blaugust. I posted more this month than I had in the previous year, which is an amazing way to end a slump.

The challenge will be continuing… every other day will be really tough, but I think I can manage or average a post a week, flipping between progress in LoTRO or ESO and then whatever other games I’m playing.

My goals are simple: work on my gaming  backlog (haha, essentially this is an infinite task), and keep advancing in the MMOs I’m playing (LoTRO, ESO). My attention also is wandering a bit… I played and enjoyed FF14 (on PC, not so much console due to overall controls) and think about fiddling around there for a bit. I know that my attempts to play 3 MMOs at the same time, very casually in each, have failed with a 60-30-10 split at best.

As far as progress, I might as well mark where I am now.

  • In LoTRO, my “mains” (Naerys the Guardian and Dhrun the Burglar) are outside Minas Tirith. But, I’m taking a break from them and leveling up Barlk the Boerning, who is level 30 in the Lone Lands, and nearly finished with Vol 1 Book 2 in the epic storyline.
  • In ESO, Dauram the Wood Elf Nightblade is level 18, still on Shimmerene, and in the middle of the Lost in Translation zone quest.

 

Books

Here’s a few books I’m planning to read:

Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson

I’m a Sanderson fan, but this book has sat in my unread pile for around a year. I read the first two books in the series (The Way of Kings, and Words of Radiance) and really enjoyed them. Both are around 1000 pages long and… let’s just say that I’m starting to forget some of the finer plot details, minor characters, etc.

So I was reluctant to start Oathbringer knowing I’d be in a partial fog for most/all of it.

However, I found a solution. First, refresh my memory by reading chapter summaries (TWoK, WoR) and skim over Tor’s re-reads of both (TWoK, WoR). That’ll set me up to read Oathbringer remember enough to make sense of it. Just to make sure, perhaps I’ll follow along the Tor re-read too.

Bared Blade, by Kelly McCullough

Bared Blade is the sequel to Broken Blade, a novel I really enjoyed.

I’ll just copy the Amazon blurb for the book:

Once a fabled Blade of Namara, Aral Kingslayer fought for justice and his goddess alongside his familiar, a living shadow called Triss. Now with their goddess murdered and her temple destroyed, they are among the last of their kind. Surviving on the fringes of society, Aral becomes a drunken, broken, and wanted man, working whatever shadowy deal comes his way. Until a mysterious woman hires him to deliver a secret message-one that can either redeem him or doom him.

I read this earlier in the year and the main character inspired me to play a Nightblade in ESO. 😉 The idea of a stealthy knife and bow fighter that also had some magic ability resonated while I was reading so that’s the character I created and am questing in Summerset with.

 

 

LoTRO: Lone Lands

Hitting level 20 brought a large increase in power, mostly because I could upgrade my armor and weapons at a skirmish vendor. Plus, I bought a horse. Beorning in bear form plus Wanderlust (for a 40% run boost) is nice but a horse is still faster. Once those upgrades were done, I entered and finished Orthongroth, the barrows that Vol 1 Book 1 Chapter 11 takes place in. The reward for that was a very nice two-handed axe, Defender of Cardolan. It turns out the Beorning damage while in bear form is calculated from the main hand weapon, so while I can dual wield 2 one-handed axes or 2 one-handed club, I’m much better off with a 2-handed axe or a 2-handed club.

ScreenShot_2019-08-20_193543_0

Next the storyline takes me to the Lone Lands, just east of Bree. I’ve done this zone so many times I’m already thinking ahead. I find the Lone Lands to flow quite well, especially after SSG revamped it many years ago. The quests from each hub complete in the immediate area, so you march through the zone from west to east quickly. After that, Book 3 occurs north of Bree in the North Downs.

ScreenShot_2019-08-20_204633_0

My slowdown point is Evendim… however if I strictly follow the storyline I’ll skirt around it and return when I’m higher level and further along in the books. On the Legendary Server due to the xp penalty, I needed to quest outside Tinnudir, Esteldin, or the west part of the Trollshaws for a few levels before starting Book 4 (which occurs in the Trollshaws). The way things are going back on Landroval, the level gap will be much smaller if not entirely vanished.

If I fall short of the levels needed to tackle the storyline, I’ll obviously supplement by local questing. Another option I might strongly consider is leveling by doing skirmishes. The downside with leveling by skirmish is that many virtues are exploration or quest based, or my least favorite… kill deeds.

Speaking of virtues, I need to work those in sometime. I settled on slotting Compassion, Discipline, Fidelity, Innocence, Tolerance. These give, as a primary effect, physical mitigation, resistance, tactical mitigation, physical mitigation (again), and tactical mitigation (again). As you can see, I like the mitigation related virtues, and am not a fan of straight stat bonuses. Unfortunately for my Beorning, he has yet to earn any ranks in any virtues! When I start a hobbit, I do 75 quests in the Shire and at least have Innocence (+2) to slot right off the bat. Well, right off the bast after completing 75 quests!

 

ESO: Daily Reward Riches

I’ve been waiting for this day all month… the daily reward is (to me) a fortune!

ECxobhnXsAAAKn0

100K gold!

I find money to tough to come by in ESO. I’ll quest for 2 hours, finish off 2 or 3 multi-stage quests, and earn enough money to barely cover the repair bills and maybe purchase a single piece of armor. Training horse skills? At 250 gold a pop, I could rarely do that. Fast travel? At 60-100 gold depending on destination, even that ate into my meager cash reserves.

It all changed when I started to pay attention to the daily rewards. Previous months had a total of roughly 15,000 gold spread out over a few days, bunched up at the end of the month (so missing a single day means you miss that reward), often 5,000 gold on the last day. I couldn’t grab the daily reward every single day, due to travel, and thus rarely got the final day’s reward. Nevertheless, I’d happily take whatever I could get.

But this, this is game changing for me. I did a double-take when I first saw this on Aug 1 – does that REALLY say 100,000 gold?! I closed the window, re-opened it, got closer to the TV, and confirmed the 25th daily reward collected in August will be the enormous amount of 100,000 gold.

Before, from the “normal” amount of gold rewarded, I amassed approximately 20,000 gold, and have been spending it down every since. With 100K gold I can play differently: I can always upgrade my gear, I can always fast travel, I can always train my horse, I can buy extra bank slots; all without scrounging or saving up beforehand. Or worse, deliberately farming to make money, rather than following the storyline and/or questing along and having fun.

Heck, I can even train a horse on an alt! Maxing out a horse is expensive: 3 skills (speed, stamina, capacity) at 60 levels per skill at 250 gold per level = 3 * 60 * 250 = 45,000 gold. That’s pricey for my main so an alt was out of the question. I’ll take a few days to decide if I want to spend that much on an alt. Perhaps I can partially train to give one a nice bump, but not drop half my fortune on a secondary char.

Board games

I spend enough time in front of a computer, so it’s nice to step back and play some board games with friends. Here are some I’ve been playing lately.

Wingspan

Wingspan is an engine-building game themed around birds – you probably guessed that based on the name. It comes with something like 180 bird cards, all unique, and as a player you decide which ones to add to your habitat, what food to collect, whether or not to concentrate on gaining food in the forest, laying eggs in the grasslands, or gain more cards in the wetlands.

Each bird has an ability that triggers off others in your habitat and possibly other birds in the other player’s habitats. Scoring involves meeting per-round objective (have the most birds with ground nests that have eggs, etc), secret objectives (most birds with wingspans above/below some number, most eggs, etc).

This game won the 2019 Kennerspiel des Jahres and it deserves it. My group really enjoys playing this.

Gloomhaven

Gloomhaven, currently #1 on boardgamegeek, is a tactical combat RPG. There is a giant amount of content in the box, with nearly 100 scenarios, a branching storyline to follow, 6 starter classes and 11 unlockable classes (spoiler – 12 since there is one that unlocks after solving a puzzle). There is an expansion that adds another starter class as well.

The classes are all creative and not just typical fantasy tropes of fighter/wizard/thief.

The game is cooperative – the group succeeds if the objective is met (typically: kill all the monsters) and at least one player is alive. But nearly everything else is competitive, such as gaining loot, accomplishing secret objectives (be the first to loot a chest, let someone become exhausted, etc.)

The game brings several new mechanics to the typical board game dungeon crawler. One is: instead of dice each character and monster has a modifier deck. Characters can influence the deck as they play and earn “perks” from the secret objectives. What each class can do to the modifier deck differs, but they all generally involve improving the deck by adding or removing cards. Think of it as a customizable die.

A second is the skill ability deck mechanics. Each class gets a certain number of cards (ranging 8 – 12), each of which has an initiative value and two halves: top and bottom. The key mechanic is the cards must be played in pairs, one card for the top half ability, the other for the bottom half ability. If you can’t play a pair of cards, you have to rest which makes you sit out a round, choose a card to discard, heal up, and re-enter play.

Over time, resting depletes your deck and you are out when you are unable to play a pair of cards, i.e. become exhausted.

OK, there is a lot more that I can’t possibly summarize here, but this game is fun and challenging. There is character progression – level up to access to better equipment, learn new abilities, possibly unlock a new class to play, etc. There is a computer version available on Steam, which is missing several classes and mechanics… but to be fair, does implement basic game play well.

LoTR: TCG

In case you can’t get enough Lord of the Rings, there is a “living card game” (LCG) by Fantasy Flight. LCG means the expansion packs are all fixed, so you know what you are getting, as opposed to a traditional CCG like Magic where expansions packs contain random cards.

The basic play of Lord of the Ring: The Card Game is: build a deck of 50 cards from the huge number available, advance the quest deck, and survive the encounter deck. Each round you get resources to spend putting cards into play from your hand, and those cards lets you advance the quest, defend against monster attacks, or attack – you decide how to divvy the effort up.

You can dip your toes in by getting the LoTR:TCG so-called “core set” which has enough cards for 2 people to play. From there, you can buy deluxe or saga expansions, or try to catch up on monthly adventure packs.

This game is cooperative, and plays very well solo or 2 player. It can play more but then the downtime between turns starts to get pretty large. Also, if you play with more than 2, you’ll need more core sets.

I have a friend who is really into this game, and sets up a weekly meeting at a game store. All I have to do is show up with my character deck, all the extra work of picking the quests and setting the encounter deck up is handled by others, so I can be lazy. To be fair, I’m the least experienced player in the group.

PS4 Games

Here’s a few PS4 games I also play, besides Elder Scrolls Online.

Detroit: Become Human

This is essentially a choose-your-adventure game, sent in the future with you playing 3 different androids. Markus is an assistant to a disabled man, Kara helps around a home, and Connor works for the police.  At least so far.

The game has you respond to various UI prompts so you have to walk places, pick things up, manipulate the environment a bit.

I’m about 25% though and so far it’s enjoyable. The story looks like it has something to do with android becoming self aware or “alive” and whenever possible I’m making choices that are decidedly pro-android. 😉

At the end of each chapter you get a flowchart showing what you did along with optionally showing percentages of what the player base did as a whole.

ECdNA6JWsAg3uQ6

Persona 5

This is a JRPG that mixes attending high school and fighting as a vigilante at night. There’s a lot of story so far, with a bit of battle here and there. It’s got great music and a very distinct visual style.

Like many games in this genre, the storyline and tutorial are interwoven. I’m not far into the game and a typical play session will be: a lot of dialog to move the plot along, followed by a tutorial over a game mechanic.

The plot involves… heck it’s bizarre. Students entering a weird castle in their dreams (or perhaps an alternate universe), odd cat-like beings helping out, opponents that are twisted version of their real-life counterparts… well it doesn’t have to be realistic to be fun.

God of War

This game…what can I say that hasn’t been said. Fantastic voice acting, plot, visuals, combat is very satisfying… I bought this after renting it from a RedBox first, and it is amazing all around.

 

 

LoTRO: Beorning Beginnings

One thing I’ve missed about Landroval is catching an impromptu concert outside the Prancing Pony. I join and watch (and dance, clap, roar, etc.) for a few minutes every time one is there because it’s fun for me. I think about how this is an example of players making content for other players. Well, maybe not content so much as entertainment. In an MMO world where you advance by essentially killing everything in sight, a non-combat musical break is welcome.

ScreenShot_2019-08-18_223132_0

I inspected the bands waiting on the side and it appears the standard for musicians is to all pick the same race and class, wear identical outfits (except for possible the leader), and for the ones I looked at, get to the same level. Pretty cool!

I was in my Beorning bear form trying to be inconspicuous on the rock. 😉

ScreenShot_2019-08-18_214819_0

Anyway, starting a new character is speeding right along. With no xp penalty on the Legendary Server, xp boosts from scrolls saved through the months from hobbit presents, enhanced xp from spending destiny, and the Derudh’s Stone pocket item, I reached level 15 in just over 3 hours. And this wasn’t with hardcore power leveling, I just followed the quests from the Intro (Beorning intro is very short), Prologue, and then up to Vol 1 Book 1 Chapter 5. I stopped at Adso’s camp on the way to see Lenglinn in order to do my level 15 class quest.

I usually start a character in the Shire – well, I usually play hobbits so that is the natural starting point! – and do 75 quests there for the +2 Innocence virtue. It’s a nice virtue to have since it provides physical mitigation and that’s useful for every character. I’ll swing my the Shire eventually and chip away and those quests. For now I’m going to work on knocking out Book 1 and Book 2 (occurs in the Lone-Lands) as soon as I can.

 

PoGo: Relicanth

I was at work Fri when a friend excitedly messaged that there were Relicanth in Washington DC. Niantic often runs local special event alongside other ones, and in this case the other special event was the 2019 Pokémon World Championships at the DC Convention Center. Events like these or other gaming conferences will sometimes results in rare spawns (Unowns!) or research encounters for rare spawns.

After a quick check of the Sliph Road subreddit, I found the Relicanth were available via the “Send 2 Gifts to Friends” research quest from nearby Pokéstops. Another encounter was available from “Catch 10 Pokémon” (Aerodactyl), which wasn’t as interesting since we already had them. Although that encounter would provide a chance at a shiny.

The Relicanth is a rare New Zealand regional, so I’ve only ever seen them on gyms. Trading for one proved very difficult because the players with them generally only wanted to trade for rare shinies, and I’m not shiny hunter so I have nothing to trade back. This was a chance to get one, without flying to New Zealand. (I’ve been there and it was an AMAZING vacation, but I can’t zoom over just to catch a Pokemon!). Since I live in the DC exurbs, going in wasn’t a big deal – not something I do on a daily basis, but not difficult – and to catch a regional we’d otherwise not get… the decision was easy. My friend and I skipped out of work early to head into DC. 🙂

Once at the convention center, we walked a search grid collecting the quest. Once we had 3 copies of the quest, we’d send 2 gifts to complete all 3 quests at the same time and collect Relicanth. Repeat and even after meeting up with another friend who works in DC (another reliable PoGo Community Day player and boardgaming friend) and having dinner, I caught 30 Relicanth. I’ll hold ~5 back for other friends, keep a few for myself, and leave the rest for trade with my local raid group in case people couldn’t get in for the quest.

 

2019-08-17-scale

We also chatted for several minutes with a group of PoGo players outside the convention center. They were also hunting for the Relicanth quest, but they were also spectators at the tournament and playing a scavenger hunt. Each needed a picture of one of their Pokémon on a gym, a trade with a player whose name started with D or C, a trade of at least 6000 km, AR photos, etc. It looked kind of fun and there were prizes. Since it was a mixed group of various teams (Valor, Mystic, Instinct) we took turns fighting a nearby gym for control so people could get their checklist done.

Nintendo Switch Games

Well I screwed up and this posted before I could write anything. I left myself an outline of games to write short notes on but thought I had set to post tomorrow. Oops!

So… after filling in the outline, here are some games I’ve been enjoying on my Nintendo Switch.

Splatoon 2

This game is fun team shooter, with a few others modes. It’s got crazy over-the-top weapons, short (3 minute) matches, and is generally pretty fun.

The goal is to paint more surface than your opponents. NOT get the most “kills” (splats, in this game). Repeat, mostly for myself because I’ll get caught up trying to splat my opponents – the winner of the match is the team that COVERS the most surface area, not the team that racks up the most kills/splats.

ECDaI6IUIAA6vhW

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

I’m a fan of the Fire Emblem series, which are turn-based tactical RPGs. The storylines differ, but the combat game boils down to positioning your units on the battlefield, and wiping out the enemy. I started the series with Fire Emblem Awakening on the 3DS, and also have Fates, Echoes, and now Three Houses on the Switch.

I’ve found the series to have an odd tension where I wind up avoiding using my strongest units in order to level up the others. The tendency is to keep using the more powerful units, since they do more damage and can take more hits, but then they get most of the available xp and level faster than the laggards. Having a few units powerful enough to carry the rest of the team works for a bit, but eventually always fails.

In this game, I started with Edelgard and the Black Eagles but decided to restart and join Claude and the Golden Deer. I was already having runaway character issues with the Black Eagles – Edelgard and myself were several levels higher than everyone else after just a handful of missions. This time, I’m careful to keep closer and distribute the action to the point of avoiding using certain characters. Even still, 3 missions in I have 3 characters at level 5, 1 at level 4, the rest at level 3 or 2.

You get some experience for an attack and some for defense (essentially, get a bit of xp for taking a hit) and a lot for defeating an enemy. So I’m trying to have my tougher characters soak up hits and let the lowbies do most the attacks and get most the kills.

I’m enjoying it but this game does have way more extra maintenance than the other games – due to quests, exploration, teaching, and in general all kinds of ways to increase standing among a cast of ~25 characters plus raise skills over the 8 or 9 in your house.

A good reference for all things Fire Emblem is Serenes Forest.

EBLNkRAU8AEnwvx

Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate

You know how boss fights in MMOs are fun? How raiding revolves around the craziness of the boss fight and its mechanics? What if there were a game that was all boss fights? That’s how I’d describe Monster Hunter franchise.

There is more going on than just boss fights of course. Crafting is major part of the game, actually crafting is nearly everything. You don’t level, but your gear does. The gameplay loop is: kill huge monster for stuff to craft better gear to hunt even bigger monsters.

The weapons are giant, anime-style oversized swords, axes, blowguns, etc.

It’s fun if a bit obtuse. Just using the equipment the game gives you can be tricky (various traps or paint guns to mark the monster). I refer to pages on Kiranico for info.

Diablo 3

I’m late to the Diablo 3 party, having avoided it on PC due to hearing the massive groaning about the original auction system. Years go by, I still don’t dip my toes in. But recently the game was on sale for 50% off on Switch and I figured what the heck. It’ll be portable plus come with the expansions.

I haven’t played much, but so far its fun. The game does a great job making you feel like an unstoppable hero, mowing down the hordes left and right. I’m experimenting with various classes, my favorites in the bit of Act 1 I’ve played have been monk, demon hunter, necromancer.

I do like this style game and fire up Grim Dawn on PC every now and then. I’ve tried Path of Exile a few times but lose interest pretty quickly… not sure why.

I find great info about Diablo 3 on Icy Veins.

ECDZx2JUwAEugUa

OK, I’m going to add some screenshots and double check future posts aren’t going to sneak out on me. 😉

LoTRO: Return to Landroval

While writing my earlier blog post about LoTRO I realized that I should return to Landroval. I think the concept of the Legendary Server is awesome, as are all the various “progression” servers that many other MMOs offer, but I kind of missed out on the main reason to join one: experience the content while leveling with other players. Essentially, ride the leveling wave and do all the stuff.

Without that, I’m left leveling behind the curve, mostly soloing… I don’t mind that, since that’s my normal playstyle, but if I’m going to do that, why restart on a new server? Might as well just poke along on a server where I’m better established. On Landroval I’ve got tons of alts: 5 characters above level 60 (I had them parked in Caras Galadhon) and 2 level 100+ in Minas Tirith. I’m interested in trying out a Beorning so that character can depend on gold and crafting support from the others.

So, I logged back into Landroval for the first time in… 8 months… to find my house had expired. Yep that’s my fault, I usually pay ~3 months in advance, but I had been gone for 8. It seems that my house payment was so long overdue that everything went back into escrow and my (abandoned) house was purchased by another player! I went to look and it was occupied and redecorated. My fault entirely so no hard feeling or anything, I hope the new owner enjoys the view of the pond in the Shire housing area. 🙂 Actually it’s good that somebody took my old abandoned house.

While reading various dialogues about how/where to get my stuff back, I noticed a remark about “premium” housing and how there wasn’t a monthly fee for VIP members. What?! I totally missed that addition to the game somehow. I checked the wiki under Premium Housing and learned all about it.

ScreenShot_2019-08-13_191117_0

And soon enough I bought my own on Swan Lane in the Cape of Belfelas housing area. I’m excited – this house is GIANT compared to my previous house, and there won’t be a monthly fee!

I haven’t had a chance to decorate yet but I am looking forward to it.