Sword Coast Legends: First Impressions

Sword Coast Legends, the new D&D 5th edition computer game, is slated to be released Sep 29, 2015. It may be the first computer game in ages that I actually take off work to play on the day it’s released. That aside, I figured I’d go over some of the items I am jazzed about, and some of the features I’m disappointed with or wish they had implemented.

The game will be playable by up to 5 people, 4 player characters and a DM. The description of the game says that you can choose from five playable races and six unique character classes. The classes available are fighter, wizard, rogue, cleric, ranger, and paladin. They haven’t shown gameplay with the ranger that I’m aware, but just this last week they showed off the paladin class.

The races available are going to be Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf, Halfling, and Human. From listening to the developers it seems that each race, except maybe human, will have sub-races available to choose from as well. This list of classes and races may be small at first, but it is predicted that the other available options in D&D 5th edition will be made available through DLC.

The solo campaign will feature party control similar to Baldur’s Gate, with one player controlling a party of up to 4 characters. The developers have recently revealed that the campaign can be played cooperatively, so you can have your friends come in and play through it with you.

The one drawback I’ve noticed with co-op play is that unlike Neverwinter Nights, if you want to split up the group you are unable to spread out more than single “board” or dungeon. This limitation was likely implemented for game balance and development purposes, but still it’s a bit of a disappointment as I personally enjoyed the freedom player characters enjoyed in Neverwinter Nights.

The player talking to an innkeeper.

One of the most exciting features that they have unveiled is the DM mode. Not only can the DM create a custom campaign and influence the world while the PCs interact with it, but inside dungeons the DM gains a threat meter which allows him to place down more monsters, traps, secret doors, and the like. Also, he can use threat to gain direct control of monsters and their abilities during a fights as well.

A silly concept to some, the DM threat meter allows the dungeonmaster to tailor suit the difficulty of his dungeon to the PCs power level. Not only does it allow him to make encounters more difficult, but he can also tone down encounters, and remove monsters if the fights are going particularly bad for the players.

The developers took a look at this play mode a few months back on their Twitch stream, and as you can see it allows the DM to keep the dungeon fresh and interesting, particularly if the players are taking their time working their way through the dungeon.

Currently there are a few features that may irritate some tabletop fans. Spells in the game are not regained through rest, but are put on cooldown timers so they cannot be spam cast. Also, there is an overland travel screen that allows you to go from one area of a map to another, but currently you cannot upload custom maps. At the moment you are forced to use the Sword Coast maps they have available with the campaign, which has frustrated some DMs who wanted to port their home world into the game.

There is also a limitation on dialogue currently, with branching dialogue not supported. The developers have said that for complex dialogue they would hope that the DM would roleplay the situation out with the players, but some would like to be able to code options into questlines.

The last hotly requested item for DMs is to be able to build a dungeon, or city, tile by tile. The release build of the game will make it so that if you build a dungeon it will generate the rooms randomly, and then you can adjust the encounters throughout the dungeon. This is great for a DM that wants to get a dungeon together quickly, but some DMs would like to be able to customize the layouts and are unable to do so at this moment.

I don’t normally pre-order games, but Sword Coast Legends has me pretty sold on their product. There are definite limitations, and I am hoping that most of them get worked out through future DLC, but even with the limitations the game is definitely worth the $39.99 asking price.

Sword Coast Legends

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Posted in Gaming

A Night of Murder and Mystery: Murder Macabre

This is a bit of a follow up to my previous post “A Night of Murder…and Mystery”. It’s also an addendum to my presentation that I made at Ignite Newark a year ago on hosting a Murder Mystery. You can see that here:

Warning, this post contains spoilers for the game I ran at Relaxicon 2015. We may run it again at some point. If you have an interest in playing in the game someday in the far future you may want to stop reading here.

The latest project we (my writing partner and I) were working on had a touch of inspiration from a number of different sources. I think the show True Detective had a lot to do with our mindset, although the original idea was rooted in John Carpenter’s The Thing. Essentially in this instance we wanted everyone to have a crack at being the murderer, and we ran with the idea that this spirit was possessing various players throughout the night. We also wanted the game sort of rooted in reality besides this particular mechanic, something along the lines of a gritty Cthulhu-esque game. (see Call of Cthulhu for more of an idea on that thought)

So looking first to various film noir examples as inspiration, we began to put a game together. We needed a remote location so that the players were trapped there with little to no chance of escape, and so we evolved the story line so that it would occur at the site of a Mayan archaeological dig-site. This would allow us to draw heavily off of Cthulhian mythos, as disturbing ancient artifacts or entities is like the bread and butter of the setting. The Cthulhian goddess Yidhra worked well as the spirit possessing players, but we went with a “child” of Yidhra to give the players a fighting chance.

The ascot should've given it all away.

The ascot should’ve given it all away.

This set the scene nicely for an isolation-like/creeping horror game. Also, we set it back in the 1940s after World War II so we could control the technology available, as well as introduce some interesting costuming options. I am a big House on Haunted Hill fan, and so we went with an eccentric millionaire backer for the dig-site. The millionaire, Frederick Manning, was hosting a party at the dig-site to show off a few new finds to his rivals. Of course, in reality he was secretly a worshiper of Yidhra’s, and was seeking to unleash her “child” upon the world. Therefore, he invited a large number of his enemies and rivals to the dig-site with the express idea of all hell breaking loose.

We then took some influence from Raiders of the Lost Ark and gave Manning some rivals, a French archaeologist and a German archaeologist. In the spirit of film noir we introduced the standard conniving wife, the femme fetale ex-lover, as well as a few other staples from the genre to round things out.

This is a bit rambly, but the emphasis I want to make is that if you’re developing a Murder Mystery for yourself, or your friends, draw inspiration (or outright rip off if you have to) from media sources that you love. This is standard fare for your conventional LARP writers, but I’ve had some people ask me how I write my own stories. Work with the standard tropes that exist in movies like House on Haunted Hill, Clue, Chinatown, etcetera and then work from there. As you develop the characters the plot portions of it will likely begin to write themselves. Get some props, work up some ideas.

Mayan Mask

Mayan Replica

I know for our game we bought some Incan, Mayan, and Aztec pieces to use as props and they helped us tremendously with working up ideas and plot lines. It doesn’t have to be mystical or magical either, props such as old time family photos, documents like family wills or land deeds, anything like that will help you to work up story and further immerse your players/characters. The dual benefit is then you don’t necessarily need to work up a formal “rules system” as the players will be trying to steal the items, figure out what their significance is, hide them around the game space, etc. I can’t emphasize enough that some well thought out props will help tremendously. Especially when it is something that your players can physically hold and examine.

Now, for the Murder Macabre event we introduced a complicated mechanic with the possession idea, so overall I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone starting out running Murder Mysteries. I would say it’s best to keep things simple regarding rule mechanics so that they don’t bog down game play, and also so that there’s little chance of any broken rules being abused over the course of the evening. You want the players to have the ability to influence the outcome of the evening, but you should be in control of the game.

Apparently the Nazi Scientist got a little roughed up.

Apparently the Nazi Scientist had it a little rough.

The final point I want to make here is sort of a call back to a similar point I made at Ignite Newark, and that is you need to write in enough conflict to ensure the players will clash throughout the evening. If this does not happen naturally you need events to occur such as blackouts, non-player character attacks, or other similar happenings to push the plot forward. Alternatively, when you are writing in conflict make sure not to go too overboard in writing enemies for particular characters. In this game I wrote the German scientist as a former member of the Nazi party with a large number of enemies gunning for him at the event. Turns out he died fairly early-ish into the evening. Who knew everyone would be gunning for the Nazi? I didn’t see that coming…

Overall, as long as your group is one that is intent on having a good time, and acting out a cool story, then it’s very hard for one of these to go horribly south. Yes, you definitely need to take in to account players that are over competitive, and you want to have someone look over your story lines at least once to ensure there are no gaping plot holes, but ultimately the best advice I can give regarding a Murder Mystery is to just jump in and try to do a small one (6-11 people), as I guarantee you’ll learn a lot from your first outing.

As long as you orchestrate one murder, and your guests enjoy themselves, I’d call your evening a success.

Nora Dunaway

Murder never was so much fun!

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Posted in Gaming, Movies

The Transgender Community Needs Our Support

You’ll forgive me if this post is confusing, but I won’t be referring to Leelah Alcorn by her deadname, nor will I be referring to her with any pronouns other than what she wanted. Also, please pardon me if this comes off as a little reactionary.


If you haven’t read about the story of Leelah Alcorn then you can read about it on CNN here. I can barely read the article because of some of the quotes from her mother, like this one on her being transgender:

Carla Alcorn“We don’t support that, religiously,” Alcorn’s mother told CNN Wednesday, her voice breaking. “But we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”

-Carla Alcorn

Your child threw herself in front of a bus because she never got any support from you, and she looked to the future and saw that her existence was hopeless. Then, after her death, you still refuse to accept her for who she was. Instead, you delude yourself and cling to the idea that she was sick and God meant for her to be a boy. The idea that perhaps you could respect how she saw herself, and how she wanted to be, which was perfect by the way, never entered your sick addled brain.

Now, I’ve come to hear that the parents buried her in a suit, and insisted that the name on the tombstone read “Joshua Alcorn”. That’s rather unsurprising. It hurts my heart, but it’s unsurprising.

While I’m loathe to agree with Dan Savage on anything, I have to agree with a number of his points on the issue. They at least bear thought and investigation.

They systematically cut off her support, and had her see “Christian Therapists” that only tried to tell her she was wrong. I am so fortunate that throughout my life as a gay man that my parents never, ever abused me in this way. These children have a hard enough life as it is, with their parent’s support, they don’t need their parents mentally destroying them as well. She had people that wanted to support her, and the Alcorns tore them away.

The transgender community, more than ever, needs our support. I am hearing people, good meaning people, not get the point here. This is how gay and lesbian men and women were treated 10-20 years ago. We need to stand up for the transgender community and make it clear that this is not acceptable. Clearly Leelah Alcorn throwing herself in front of a bus wasn’t enough to get the message across.

Her final words, reiterated here, are pretty poignant.

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Delaware Voting Guide: How I’m Voting Tomorrow

Since many of you are not from the same state district as I am, I’m not going to bother talking about those election races. I’m only going to discuss statewide races here. For more information on any candidate you can check out the News Journal’s voting guide, but just keep in mind they have a liberal bias most the time:

Democrats are on the left, Republicans on the right.

United States Senate Race:
Senator Chris Coons v. Kevin Wade
I’m voting for: Chris Coons

I’m voting for Chris Coons simply because Kevin Wade is the typical crazy-ass conservative that the Delaware GOP has been trying to field in Senate races for the past 4 years now. The Delaware GOP appears to not even care to consider moderates anymore when we’re discussing national offices. For Kevin Wade our #1 issue today is securing our country’s southern border: http://data.delawareonline.com/webapps/Voters_Guide/138/282/

I’m sorry, but as a Delaware voter I am concerned with that, but that area is not my #1 concern. He wants to lower taxes, but says he wants to spend more on roads. Where is that money coming from? He supports the raising of the minimum wage, which is enough for any fiscally conservative Republican or Libertarian to go running. I’m not 100% happy with Coons, and I don’t like all the legislation that he’s pushed in the past, (anyone remember SOPA/PIPA?) but frankly Wade seems like he’d be much more damaging in office so I’ll settle for Coons in this race.

Honestly, if you vote for Wade I almost understand...

Honestly, if you vote for Wade I almost understand…

United States House of Representatives Race:
Congressman John Carney v. Rose Izzo
I’m voting for: Rose Izzo

Izzo is a little bit more palatable then Kevin Wade. Her bio: http://data.delawareonline.com/webapps/Voters_Guide/139/286/

While she discusses immigration a tad too much for my tastes, she seems to also be concerned with job creation. I have never liked Carney from the get go, and Izzo seems like she has her head screwed on pretty OK for a fiscal conservative. Carney is a typical career Democrat who pretty much sells whatever the Democrats are shilling this month. Because he is an incumbent Democrat in Delaware he’s likely going to win, but Izzo is talking the talk I like from a Republican. She wants us to stay out of unnecessary conflict, and concentrate on jobs. She has my vote.

Even if her voice could be the most irritating thing I’ve ever heard in my life…

Delaware State Attorney General Race:
Lt Governor Matt Denn v. Ted Kittila
I’m voting for: Matt Denn

Matt Denn is one of the unsung heroes of the Democratic party, who by all rights should be running for Governor next election cycle. Unfortunately for Denn, a man with the last name “Biden” has said he wants that seat, so despite the fact that he’s one of the hardest working men in Delaware politics, Denn had to shuffle around a bit and run for Attorney General.

Denn has accomplished so much in the many offices he’s held in Delaware, and has assisted the non-profit and the business community in numerous different ways. He’s helped us keep down workman’s comp rates, he’s helped non-profits and parents of special need children receive the insurance and financial support they have so desperately needed, in short he’s done an amazing job with whatever task he’s been given. That’s the kind of man I want to be focusing on the crime problem in Wilmington, and so I’m voting for Denn.

Delaware State Treasurer Race:
Sean Barney v. Ken Simpler
I’m voting for: Ken Simpler

Tough call here. Sean Barney is a bonafide war hero, as well as being a former member of Governor Markell’s cabinet. Ken Simpler has been the CFO of businesses that have a portfolio that could be comparable to what he’ll be handling if he wins the Treasurer race. Honestly both would do an excellent job, and I’ve thought a lot about who would be best to vote for.

As much as I like Sean Barney, and he is a great guy, Ken Simpler has the financial experience needed for this office. I’m confident that in any other position I’d likely be voting for Barney, but for Treasurer this is all about the numbers here.

Either man is a good choice for the job.

Either man is a good choice for the job.

Delaware State Auditor Race:
Brenda Mayrack v. Tom Wagner
I’m voting for: Tom Wagner

Tom Wagner is the lone Republican who holds office in the state of Delaware. He’s done a tremendous job for over 20 years, and no one works as hard as Tom does at his job. He has the experience, he knows the job, if you vote Democrat in EVERY other race tomorrow I’d ask that you heavily weigh the Auditor race and consider voting for Tom Wagner.

Plus he's always wearing his trademark suspenders.

Plus he’s always wearing his trademark suspenders.

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A Political Reading of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather.

This is a fascinating take on “The Godfather” that I really enjoyed reading.


Vito Corleone appears to be the founding father of an alternative model of America, in which the power of money, the means and end of a bourgeois economy, is negated. It is not merely that the wealthy are stripped of power once the Godfather has intervened, for a man can make nothing of his talents if he is not endorsed by the Godfather. Even a man with no particular talents may succeed with his backing. But does this patronage signify a retreat into feudal certainties, a lapse into the sort of cartels and syndicates which capitalists use themselves to master capitalism, or the dawn of an entirely new social system? Admittedly, a thwarted Jack Woltz will resort to the word only out of temper:

People didn’t have the right to act that way. It was insane. It meant you couldn’t do what you wanted with your own money, with the…

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Open Letter to All the Big Damn Heroes of the Internet

Some of you may recall a piece I wrote on Rae Stabosz being attacked outside of Planned Parenthood. Rae asked for the opportunity to write a guest piece for my blog regarding a project she is looking to have funded. Here it is.

Dear Catholics, Big Damn Heroes, and Other White Hats of the Blogosphere,

How would you like to participate in a stunt that, if it comes off, will REALLY piss the heck out of the folks who profit from abortion, like Planned Parenthood and their kin?

My name is Rae Stabosz. Some of you know me. Most of you don’t. I would like to interrupt your kitten videos, your reddit snark and your all-purpose interwebs fun and bring you a bold display of naked desperation.

You don’t have to label yourself “pro-life”. Labels can sound like polemic. This is a non-political stunt for anybody who holds to this equal care principle: in an unwanted pregnancy, both the pregnant woman AND her unborn child deserve equal respect and care.

Here’s the stunt:

Between now and Sunday, November 30 – we internet White Hats will pool our resources and fund a SINGLE mobile pregnancy center equipped with ultrasound!

  • It will be beautifully appointed and staffed by professionals; it will park outside of abortion clinics in Delaware and offer FREE ULTRASOUND, FREE PREGNANCY TESTING and FREE COUNSELING to women in crisis.
  • It will also park at fairs, church festivals, and other happy community events, educating the public to the marvels of ultrasound technology and what it shows of intrauterine development.
  • All we want to build the bus and put it on the road is $120,000 in capital expenses. We will get the operating expenses on our own! (there’s a reason for that).

We only need 4800 heroes to donate $25 each!  More than that, and we give it away!

Save the Storks LogoYou may have heard of Save the Storks, the national organization founded by Joe Baker in 2011. Save the Storks is taking the country by storm. Its mission is “to equip pregnancy centers to more effectively connect with abortion-vulnerable women … by providing Stork Buses — mobile medical units — so that pregnancy centers can offer free sonograms and pregnancy tests wherever women need them.”

Two months ago, an eclectic group representing two of the three counties of Delaware founded the Delaware Stork Bus, Inc. Our intention is to carry out the Save the Storks vision in Delaware. We have signed a contract with Joe and Co.  We are ready to rumble. And we want your help.

We have put together a crowd sourcing campaign on GoFundMe with a goal of $120,000

BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT… I can hear you say.

  • “Why should I help you?  Aren’t there other groups in the country trying to get a Stork Bus off the ground?”
  • “I live in Kokomo, Indiana, home of the Kokomo Mantis. Why should I care about little Delaware?”

Fair enough. Here’s where “stunt” part comes in.  I DO live in Delaware, and I DO want to pull out all the stops to get this Stork Bus up and running. I freely admit that it is self-serving.

But if the stunt takes off we could scare the pants off of Planned Parenthood and fund more than just one little Delaware bus!

 “For the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light, “ Jesus tells us in the gospel of Luke.  And isn’t it the truth? 

No Stork Bus project has used crowd funding to our knowledge, and we hope to establish a precedent.  The secular world has been a lot quicker to harness the power of crowd sourcing than we have been.  Witness the success of the ALS Bucket challenge. In two weeks’ time it made four million dollars for the ALS Association and its 38 chapters. It did this by harnessing the power of social media and the fun of seeing people (especially celebrities) have buckets of ice dumped on one another.

Yet the ALS Association supports using human embryos for stem cell research, and so Catholics and others were not able to embrace this as readily as some.

$120,000 is just 4800 donors giving $25 each. What if the White Hat blogosphere gives more??

Here is the deal, and it’s a good one:

If we raise more than $120,000 between now and the end of November, we will give 100% of all additional monies collected to the national Save the Storks project!

That’s right! We are not greedy. This is our first fundraiser, and we are targeting our capital expenses only.  We will trust in our fundraising acumen to raise the first three year’s operating expenses on our own. We came up with this stunt not just for Delaware Stork Bus, but for all of us.We want to show the abortion industry that we can get a fully-outfitted Stork Bus on the road in a little more than two-months time. That will have them shaking in their stylish yet affordable boots!

But we don’t want this to be a Zero Sum Game.  If YOU give to US, we don’t want you to worry that other Stork Buses will suffer.

Save the Storks gives grant money as part of its mission. So if our little stunt goes anywhere, and we collect any extra we make above our capital goal of $120,000, we will give the rest to Joe and his good people to give in grants as they see fit.

Most of you don’t know me from Eve, even though I’ve been an internet presence since before there was an Internet! (international PLATO system in the late 70’s, anyone?) I have left a 20+ years trail on the Internet.  Look me up and see if I seem trustworthy.

Look our entire Board of Directors up! You’ll find some surprises!

Yes, you will find that we have paid our dues. We are trustworthy.  Children of light: allons-y!  No need to be less sensible than the children of the world!

Click here to help crowd fund the Delaware Stork Bus and maybe, just maybe, other stork buses throughout the country!

Rae Stabosz, with the Delaware Stork Bus Board of Directors:
Evelyn Baldwin
Susan Bullock
Nicole Collins
Jayne Mitchell-Werbrich
Ed Taubert
Tim Werbrich

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A Guide to the Delaware Republican Primary

I created a quick rundown of information, along with some resources, for some of the major races in the Republican primary next week. I didn’t go past State level because my specific district isn’t having any local primaries, the only primary candidates I will be able to vote on will be in the race for United States Senator, and the race for Delaware State Treasurer.

First up I’m going to discuss the race for United States Senator. I’d like to preface this by saying that the reason the Republican party lost this race last time is that we chose an unelectable crazy woman (I’m being nice here) named Christine O’Donnell over a very electable moderate Republican (some would say RINO) named Mike Castle. You may have heard about that whole fiasco.

That said, let’s take a moment to look at the Republican candidates up for Senate for next week’s primary. First off we have Carl Smink…whose website outlines a laundry list of positions that have been reeeeeally just racking in the votes for Delaware Republicans. I just want to note that was sarcasm in that last sentence, I know it doesn’t do to well in text. What he wants:

-Get us out of the U.N.
-Strengthen and preserve traditional families
-Protect the dignity of life and marriage
-Overturn the Obamacare mandate
-Stop government harassment of Christians
-Very strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment

I’ll stop there as you can review the rest on his website.

Then we have Kevin Wade running against Carl Smink. Let’s take a looksee here…

-Stop our government from spying, snooping and prying on the American People!
-Secure our border and care for Americans in need first.
-Supports NeighborHealth: A replacement for ObamaCare
-Stance on abortion can be seen here: http://www.ontheissues.org/senate/Kevin_Wade.htm
-Stands about equal to Smink on gun rights

His platform as he states it can mostly be found here:

Smink - Wade

I’m not really in agreement that Kevin Wade is electable either, however, if I’m going to have to choose the lesser of two evils I’m probably going to go with Wade. He at least sounds more Libertarian than Tea Party to me. In the end I think Coons will likely crush either of them, but Wade has a better fighting chance, and at least sends a message to Sussex County Republicans that we no longer will tolerate batshit crazy candidates. For the News Journal article on the two of them check out this link: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/27/gop-senate-candidates-different-callings/14721343/

For Delaware State Treasurer we have a primary race that really shouldn’t be a race, at least in my opinion. Ken Simpler announced months ago that he was going to be running against the winner of the Democratic primary, and he put himself out there in the press, actively challenging the Democrats Chip Flowers and Sean Barney to prove that they have better credentials and experience then him.

Sher Valenzuela comes off as more of an opportunist. She filed the last day that she could, which could be construed as a very cagey move considering incumbent Chip Flowers was pretty much out of the race around this point due to a number of scandals in his office. Since she was unable to beat Matt Denn for Lieutenant Governor a few years back, she may have thought she couldn’t tackle an incumbent Democrat in Delaware, but suddenly she has an opportunity to go after a relative newcomer in Sean Barney and she’s thrown her hat in the election ring.

This move actually reminds me a lot of what Christine O’Donnell did against Mike Castle. Mike Castle announced early, did the heavy lifting against the Democrats, and then O’Donnell swooped in and slung so much mud the Castle campaign did not have time to react. Valenzuela seems to be doing the same, if the fliers in many Republican’s mailboxes are any indication.

Sher Valenzuela

That’s three to one, with the three being Sher’s.

Simpler has fired back, but relied mostly on touting his own financial expertise. While Valenzuela does have some financial experience, Simpler has worked with larger portfolios comparable in size to the Delaware State portfolio, and that’s why I’ll likely vote for him on Tuesday. He just seems better qualified. Also, he just seems like a more stand up candidate then Valenzuela, a candidate who will run a good race against the Democrat Sean Barney.

For more information on the Valenzuela/Simpler race you can read this article written by the News Journal here: http://www.delawareonline.com/story/news/politics/2014/08/30/treasury-race-gop-also-fighting/14870957/

So just to conclude everything, on Tuesday I’ll be voting for Kevin Wade for U.S. Senate and Ken Simpler for Delaware Treasurer. I’m not 100% certain on who I will be voting for in the actual election coming up in a few months, but we’ll have some time to see what hatches out of the debates after the primaries next week.

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