Dungeons & Dragons at it Again

The Wizards of the Coast found themselves at the Origins Game Fair last weekend in Columbus, OH. The game fair takes place every year in June, and the Origins team gives out awards for the best “insert gaming category here”. There were plenty of winners, but as you can probably tell by now, my bias lies with D&D. The Dungeons & Dragons team took home Best Role-playing Supplement of the Year for Xanathar’s Guide to Everything.


Lore Time

Xanathar and Sylgar are best friends forever. Credit Dungeons & Dragons

Xanathar is a gangster in Waterdeep. He is especially dangerous, because he is a powerful Beholder with all manner of ways to make the lives of characters uncomfortable. Imagine if you will, a dark Jabba the Hut. He collects baubles and trinkets, magical artifacts, and information from all over the Realms. He is the master of a network of agents that serve his needs, including taking care of his beloved pet goldfish, Sylgar. Xanathar is so violently obsessive over his pet gold fish, that if he were to ever find out that it died 100 times over, only to be replaced, he would start slaughtering the people of Waterdeep without a thought.


Xanathar’s Guide is a great supplement for DMs and players alike. The book contains a ton of details that help bring characters, places, and monsters to life even more. There are spells for all manner of spell caster, new class options, and my personal favorite—rules and insights for player character Rivals. There is even an in-depth section for tool kits and skill checks. It even includes the rule set for a Brewers Kit, just in case the player wanted to start brewing their own beers.

That isn’t even the most exciting piece of news out this week. DM Matt Mercer and his team at Critical Role are separating from Geek & Sundry to found their own studio.

Critical Role
Watch Critical Role live on Thursdays at 7PM PST on Twitch and YouTube. Credit Geek & Sundry

If you don’t know, Critical Role is a D&D stream where a bunch of voice actors get together and play D&D for your entertainment. Mercer has voiced characters in hundreds of your favorite games and TV shows over the years, and he isn’t the only one with credits in popular titles. They have also been known to bring in Hollywood stars, like Deborah Ann Woll and Joe Manganiello, to play in the Mercer run games. Unfortunately for us, Mercer and the team left out any major details about what this could mean, other than more content and a “Mighty Nein” t-shirt. Given the creativity that just oozes out of this bunch, the star power in their back pocket, and a new studio to play around in I am positive we won’t be disappointed.

Dungeons & Dragons: Neverwinter, from Arc Games, has been celebrating its 5-year anniversary this week. There have been sales, promotions, and hints to new content on the way (my personal favorite). The last big update for Neverwinter was the Tomb of Annihilation story line. This takes players to the jungle choked island of Chult. A place where you will fight dinosaurs, the undead, an undead dinosaur, and eventually a god fetus…? Yes, a god fetus that feeds on the souls of the dead through a device called the Soul Monger. Brutal.

Take a Vacation in Chult posters. Credit Neverwinter

The next installment is Neverwinter: Ravenloft. If a more dark and twisted story is what you enjoy, Ravenloft will be your gig. The table-top adventure supplement, The Curse of Strahd, was featured in Season 1 of Dice, Camera, Action!, and has made some reoccurring appearances in the adventures of the Waffle Crew. The story is rich with intrigue, danger, and death as you confront a vampire lord, and the prospect of this story coming to life in Neverwinter is very exciting. Remember, Neverwinter is free-to-play, and available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Strahd in his keep, waiting for you and your friends. Credit Dungeons & Dragons

Finally, after the wildly successful Stream of Many Eyes, there is a chance that we could see another large streaming D&D event before the release of the new Waterdeep content. At least I hope so. Greg Tito, one of the head haunchos for D&D on Twitch, hinted at something big on a recent broadcast. I wish that I could say more, but we will have to stay tuned. There is no doubt the D&D renaissance will continue. Either follow D&D on twitch.tv/dnd, or smash that subscribe button for Level Grind to keep up to date on all things D&D.

Are you playing D&D? Do you want to? Who is your character? What have you fought? Who have you saved? What dastardly deeds have you performed? Let me know in the comments!

Keep Grinding.

The Aftershocks of No Man’s Sky

No Man’s Sky had a rough go of it at the start. So rough that even some of its fans (Adam) refuse to update and play. I get it, the backlog of games grows with time. Despite the rough go, the impact of No Man’s Sky is becoming apparent. But what is going on with No Man’s Sky?

Despite being one of the most ambitious procedurally generated universes…in the universe, No Man’s Sky fell short with hardcore gamers. The lack of real quests and base building at the start turned a lot of them away from the game. Add in the fact that you couldn’t planet hop with your friends, the game became an abandoned, outdoor sand box where stray cats go to poo. Admittedly, I’m one of the stray cats, putting almost 100 hours into my game. Only 30 of those hours after the new updates with bases, exocraft, and questing. Everything has made it into the game that the players have demanded with one exception: multiplayer. That is going to change. No Man’s Sky NEXT is coming July 24th, and with it, the multiplayer experience. This isn’t news, just hype. Since the announcement was months ago.

On July 24thNo Man’s Sky NEXT is releasing as a free update. Soon, you and your friends can explore and build together.

The “delayed” release of updates didn’t stop No Man’s Sky from having an impact on the gaming world. E3 2018 had two very similar games announced, but this time there are things to accomplish right off the bat. The first is Ubisoft’s Starlink: Battle for Atlas. Your task is to lead a team of pilots in saving your star system from an invading force. It implements toys or digital purchases for ship customization. As long as you buy the parts, you can customize your ship. Not a huge fan, but I get it.

Choose your pilotSelect any starship

Combine any weapons
Image credit to Ubisoft, who will have you choose a pilot, star ship, and weapons to customize your experience.

Along with ship customization, you will also select your pilot. Nintendo Switch players get a special treat, since you will be able to play as Fox McCloud. He is voice acted for the entirety of the game, and he pilots none other than his famous Arwing. This is very welcome, considering rumors around the Starfox franchise moving towards racing. For those of us with an itch to save the galaxy with Fox McCloud, this could be the only way we get to scratch it. Due out in October, Starlink: Battle for Atlas will give you the look and feel of No Man’s Sky, but your role in the galaxy as crusading fighter pilot is more defined. The game-play will also be more geared to star-ship play, so I wouldn’t expect to meander about on foot too often.

The Nintendo Switch Exclusive Starter Pack Includes:
The Nintendo Switch Starter pack will start you off with Fox and Mason, along with the Arwing and some weapon upgrades. Fox is a great sign of Ubisoft’s support of the Switch. Image credit to Ubisoft.

If the toy scene in gaming, or buying digital parts, isn’t your preference then Satisfactory from Coffee Stain Studios should be on your radar. Announced during the PC show at E3, this game has one planet, 30 square kilometers of space to work in, and a full multiplayer experience out of the gate. You and your friends will be engineers on this planet, tasked with building factories to produce goods from raw materials that you find. There will be combat, there will be adventure, and there will be multiplayer fun.

According to Coffee Stain, who gets credit for this image, Satisfactory is due to release only on PC, and that release has been delayed.

While not as expansive as No Man’s Sky, mechanics in Satisfactory look almost identical. And the world is more detailed.Image credit to Coffee Stain.

Satisfactory will be smaller, but shows a broad diversity of things to see and build. Instead of giving the player an entire galaxy, or star system, they have focused on the team play and base building aspects of this genre. Whether it’s Starlink focusing on story and ship combat, Satisfactory focusing on base building and multiplayer, or No Man’s Sky expansiveness with touches of all of it, we are in store for a great time in space.

Hello Games has introduced some incredible mechanics for adventuring and gathering games in space. Their influence is hard to miss when watching the reveal trailers and game-play of Starlink and Satisfactory. Each game will give you certain elements to cater to your style of play in such a world.

Will No Man’s Sky see a resurgence after the NEXT update in July? Are you getting a Switch just for Fox McCloud in Starlink? Do you want to call me out on my very apparent bias for No Man’s Sky? Let me know in the comments. And of course, don’t forget to share and subscribe.

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Gaming’s Greatest Two Weeks

dnde3

The last two weeks were stuffed full of new content and creations from Dungeons & Dragons, plus console and PC game developers. Some of it was good, some of it bad (Command & Conquer Rivals), and some of it was weird. But this isn’t a critique, it is rather a show of what the gaming industry has in store for us this fall and winter.

If any one thing is apparent from the Stream of Many Eyes, Dungeons & Dragons is in a renaissance period. With the drop of 5th Edition came a slew of updated lore about Faerûn and the Forgotten Realms, plus a pile of streaming games on Twitch and YouTube. Faerûn is the world that all the most popular D&D video games and books are set. I’m the DM for two teams and they adventure in Faerûn. Still, after about 17 years of DMing, I still haven’t used half of what is available in this world. And now it is about to get deeper.

On June 1-3, D&D brought us the Stream of Many Eyes. Twitch streamers of D&D descended upon the Waterdeep set and role-played new content.

In the fashion of D&D in our time, the release of new content was celebrated over a 3-day period, where some of the most popular players and DMs from the D&D streaming community came together and presented different stories set in the latest focus for the developers. The event included a massive set, composed of a full market and tavern filled with shops and role players dressed their parts.

Along with a full live action role play, the event was filled to the brim with classic table-top play, sometimes involving some famous folk taking on the role of characters in this adventure. One actor, from Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix, DMed one of the best games of the show in the Witch of Briarcleft. Cosplay and imagination abound, with a few cringe worthy moments that kept it grounded. The whole event is available to watch now on YouTube, and I encourage you to check it out after this. If anything, to check out the extremely entertaining Jocks Machina.

The content being announced was a new adventure that takes place in Waterdeep. Based on the first look presented during the streaming event, this will be a more in-depth look at Waterdeep than we have seen in the past. It is an adventure set up to really draw the player into role-playing, versus the standard dungeon diving and wilderness exploration found in the rest of the Realms. There will still be opportunities for a brutish barbarian to slam some poor schmuck, but the idea is to role-play your way through the city. The goal is to go through a full-blown heist, and your group will be working against (or with) some of the most underhanded and powerful organizations and people in the Realms.

Waterdeep Dragon Heist Dungeon of the Mad Mage
From Dungeons & Dragons, the new adventure gives the dungeon master even more content to keep adventurers busy for months to come. 

Now, once your adventurers steal all the gold in Dragon Heist, one of the most ingenious and diabolical dungeons awaits them. And that dungeon is none other than Undermountain. A powerful wizard constructed Undermountain ages ago, and the lore presented hints that the creator still wanders the dungeon to this day. Beyond that, the Dungeon of the Mad Mage source book is packed with lore and monsters for this procedural dungeon. The dungeon changes and becomes more dangerous as the adventurers go deeper, and it is never the same twice.

The challenges that await them below Waterdeep come from all over the universe, and there is loot beyond anything your players have ever imagined. Between the Waterdeep adventure and the Undermountain source material, DMs will be able to give their players a level 1 to 20 campaign.

Video game developers followed on the heels of the Stream of Many Eyes with the always anticipated E3 conference. And this year, none of the presenters disappointed. Unless you count yourself in with the Final Fantasy 7 Remake or bust crowd, SquareEnix dropped more information and game-play on some of the most widely anticipated games this year, like Tomb Raider and Kingdom Hearts 3. While these and Just Cause are not my cup of tea, the game play and cinematics presented were gorgeous and fanciful. Certainly, these games will not disappoint fans.

Even EA, with a history of disappointing gamers, came out with a healthy mix of games, which included Anthem. BioWare is the studio on this, and they are putting together another RPG masterpiece. Announced last year, Anthem came back to the EA stage with new game-play and a playable floor demo during the event.

There was plenty more that EA showed, but one of the most exciting pieces of news from EA involved their long-troubled Battlefront series. It is poised to receive a free Clone Wars update. The update will include General Grievous, Anakin, and Obi-Wan as heroes. It will also include a new mode that allows for space combat between hero starships. With the adjustments to progression made after launch, and this new content drop, Battlefront II can easily make a case for itself as a must own.

Along with these games, I have a list for you. A short list of five games that you should get onto YouTube and check out if you haven’t already. They are my notables from E3 2018 and deserve some attention.

Ghost of Tsushima

This game is set in feudal Japan, during a time when the Mongols are invading, and we the players will take on the role of a samurai. The first look game-play video is one of the side quests available in the massive open world samurai adventure. It is gorgeous graphically, and the samurai movie cinematics and ensuing battles really drive home the fact that this is new. Who doesn’t want to be a samurai in an open world?

tsushima
Sony dropped this beauty of a game during their press conference at E3. The combat and open world environment are set to make this one of the greats.

Crackdown 3

Crackdown is one of the greatest open world smash ‘em up games ever conceived. The brilliant backdrop and over the top action are just too fun to pass up. And this time around, we get Terry Crews firing us up as we rip through the city. There is even a tank. If I can’t have a new Saints Row, then give me Crackdown 3.

Spider-man

Speculation of the Sinister 6 plaguing Spidey’s New York are all but confirmed at this point. And the open world game-play paired with the web-slinging action of Spider-man, there is no wrong here. This is a solid pick up this year, with plenty of room for expansion into a new Marvel game universe. I hope.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Dragonball what? Mortal who? Which Street Fighter are we on again? That’s right. I did that. Because the best fighting game to ever grace us on this planet Earth is back, packed full of everything any Smash Bros. from the past ever had. Game-play has been tweaked, characters are returning, and maps old and new are jammed into the most complete Smash Bros. ever. But what about Waluigi? Well, he must not be able to fight, because as of right now he is a no-show. But the Ice Climbers are back, and Saffron City is making a return.

smashult
Nintendo just ended any competition for a fighting game. Get in my library.

Game of the Show – Octopath Traveler

Among all the games presented this past week, Octopath Traveler grabbed me by the eye holes and didn’t let go. I couldn’t get enough on this game, and the demo is live right now on the Switch. Taunting me. Not owning a Nintendo Switch hurt me this week. Which is why I will be getting one “for my kids” for Christmas, or a birthday, or Halloween. Any occasion really. Octopath Traveler makes me want a Switch in our household.

There was plenty more from the last two weekends that I’m sure to jump into as I digest all the great content. Keep your browser bookmarked to Level Grind, as there will be more to come from E3 and Waterdeep.

Did you watch E3? Tell us what you think, and what games caught your eye. How about the press conferences themselves? Who do you think won? Did you watch any of the Stream of Many Eyes? Do you even table-top? Let us know in the comments.

Keep Grinding.