Tobold's Blog
Saturday, November 17, 2018
 
Pokemon: Let's Go Ballistic

As I have a Nintendo Switch, I am watching the most talked about releases on that platform. This week that would be Pokemon: Let's Go. And if you go to a site like Metacritic, you find that opinions on that game are very much split: There are a lot of user reviews giving it a high score, and a slightly higher number of user reviews giving it a very low score, with very few in the middle.

Once you sorted it out, the picture becomes quite clear. Pokemon: Let's Go is in itself quite a good game and does what it sets out to do: Introduce new players to the Pokemon universe. If you haven't played any Pokemon games on Nintendo handheld consoles previously, there is a high chance that you will enjoy Pokemon: Let's Go. If you are a veteran gamer who has already "caught them all" over hundreds of hours in several different versions of Pokemon games, you will hate Pokemon: Let's Go. Because the game hasn't been done for you, and is too easy for veterans.

Now personally I think that this sort of problem can be diffused by having more than one difficulty in a game. People are literally complaining that they earn xp too fast, that should be easy enough to fix in a hard mode. But I can't help but see the irony of old gamers complaining that Nintendo making a Pokemon game that is more suitable for children than for them. How dare they! A children's game that is actually casual and easy and doesn't require grinding! When we were young we had to walk to school fifteen miles in the snow! Barefoot! Uphill! Both ways! And we liked it fine that way!

It isn't even as if Nintendo marketed this game wrong. They clearly said that they are going to do a game for a younger audience and new players now, and another, more hardcore Pokemon game next year. No audience has been neglected. So review bombing the game that just isn't for you is rather immature. The entitlement culture of gamers is getting worse and worse every year.

Friday, November 16, 2018
 
Magic Arena solves a hardcore problem

While I am not playing the game, I keep up with the news on Magic Arena, hoping that one day game modes that would actually interest me could be added to the game. But the latest news doesn't suggest that this is a focus of the developers. Instead they announced that they will solve a problem which is seriously affecting people who have spent hundreds of dollars on the game: The Vault. The problem is what is known as the "5th card problem": You can only have 4 copies of any card in Magic Arena. And in case you didn't know, Magic Arena is a trading card game in which you can't trade cards, so pulling a 5th copy of anything doesn't enable you to trade it with somebody who has the card you want. Instead the 5th card in Magic Arena just vaporizes and adds to your "Vault" score, which then gives you wildcards which you can exchange for the cards you want. However vault progress is extremely slow, so that getting a 5th copy of a mythic card gains you just 1.1% progress for a card that in physical form might be worth $20. Changing the Vault system to a system where you get a card you didn't have yet instead of a 5th copy is obviously much better for players.

But it only solves a problem that very few people have. If you really want all the (current) cards in Magic Arena with the vault system, a guy tested that you need to buy 1260 packs, for $1,400. Even if the news system cuts that down to half (the new system is in planning, so we don't know the details yet), this would still be some serious money to be competitive.

And there is the *real* problem of Magic Arena: You *need* to be competitive. If you are a new player and get just some theme decks, the thing you can do without paying money is losing every game you play, while fulfilling some quest conditions like "play X red cards". You get a few free theme decks, but there is no way to get paired against other people who also use themed decks. There is no mode in which you play an AI of various difficulty levels. You can only play competitive modes in which you will lose to people having far more cards than you do. Magic the Gathering has been Pay2Win since before mobile games were even invented, but people invented game modes that allowed new or poor players with small card pools to have fun. Magic Arena has none of those game modes.

I see a lot of advertising for Magic Arena lately. I think the open beta isn't as successful as Wizards of the Coast had hoped. And I don't think the Vault changes will improve that. The people who spent hundreds of dollars on Magic Arena will like it, but with their sunk cost they weren't the most likely to quit anyway. The problem of Magic Arena is somebody downloading the free client, playing a few games, and being mercilessly crushed every single time, until he just uninstalls the game. A free game that doesn't succeed to convert free players into paying players fails. I feel worst of all for people who after failing on free spend $20 on the game for some packs and find out that this doesn't really improve their chances of winning by a measurable amount. Magic Arena only works for the people who spend hundreds of dollars, and I don't think there are enough of them out there to make this game viable. If anything the Vault changes decreases the chance of financial success of Magic Arena, because it further caps the maximum amount a "whale" can spend on the game. We end up with a game that has neither mega whales nor small time spenders, how could that ever work out financially?

Wednesday, November 14, 2018
 
Gacha in Belgium

I was trying out Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia on my iPad. It is one of many "gacha" games on iOS, which are games in which you have a collection of heroes with which to fight. The heroes are acquired more or less randomly via loot boxes, and then you level them up, equip them, evolve them, etc. You get some loot boxes for free, but if you want more, you need to spend money on them. And because I live in Belgium, I will soon not be able to play the game any more. Due to Belgium considering loot boxes as a form of gambling, Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia, and a bunch of other gacha games will be inaccessible from Belgium.

That is weird to some extent because gambling is regulated, but not illegal in Belgium. There are Belgian casinos, online casinos, and sports betting shops. But because following regulations costs money and is a hassle, some companies prefer to simply remove their loot box games from the Belgian market instead of following the regulations that would protect their customers.

As I have stated repeatedly in the past, I am not totally against games with in-game purchases. There are a number of games which I started for free and then decided to spend modest amounts on loot boxes and other in-game advantages on. As long as you stay reasonable in your purchases, that is an okay business model. Of course if you spend more money than you would have spent on a full price game, or even hundreds or thousands of dollars because you became addicted, that is a different problem. And I can totally see the need to restrict that legally. Which, in my opinion, should then be done in the form of spending caps. Not by simply removing the games from the Belgian market.

Of course this removal from the Belgian market only works because Belgium is a small country. There is a chance that Belgium succeeds in making their case to the other countries in the European Union, and loot boxes will be banned all over Europe. I would imagine that in that case game companies would come up with a way to still sell games in Europe, even if that game had a loot box mechanic in other countries.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018
 
Yonder the Cloud Catcher Chronicles

I finished the main quest in Yonder the Cloud Catcher Chronicles yesterday, after 11 hours of overall played time. I guess I'd need about the same time again to finish all the side quests and get all the achievements, but I'm probably not going to do all of that. So I would say that Yonder is a short game. Nevertheless, for the €14 I paid for it in some Steam sale it was well worth it. The console versions on PS4 and Switch are a bit more expensive, but still less than half of the price of a "full" game. And for that you get a nice game, which feels a bit like a "lite" version of Zelda: Breath of the Wild: You are running around exploring a much smaller continent, gathering resources, finding secrets, solving puzzles, farm, and craft.

What you don't do is somewhat remarkable: There is no combat in Yonder. In fact, there really isn't any challenge at all. Days pass in game, but nothing bad happens if you take your time and go flower picking. Yonder is one of the most peaceful and relaxed games I have been playing for a while. Obviously that isn't for everyone. But as games in which you don't kill others are harder to find than games in which you do, I thought I give Yonder a mention.

What I really liked about the crafting system was that there is a trade part to it. There is no currency, all trades are barter only. But if you want something from a trader, you can give him items from your inventory that you have a lot of in exchange; each item has a value indicated, and the trader is willing to barter if you offer at least as much value as the stuff you want from him. There is even an element of supply and demand here: In the town with all the tailors, clothing is very cheap. So you can trade for clothing there, and later exchange that clothing at a higher value in another town. You even get NPCs telling you what towns currently have a surplus or demand of what types of goods.

Some of the stuff you can buy, craft, or find is just cosmetic, like different clothing or shampoo to color your hair. But you can also craft various farm buildings, and even machines like a butter churner. You can capture animals and they will produce various goods if you house them in a stable. You can also grow various crops, and even trees on your farms. The whole system is not very complicated or difficult, but it is fun enough to explore for a while.

Exploration is slightly more limited than in Zelda, due to the fact that you can jump, but not climb. If you fall, you automatically deploy an umbrella to glide slowly downwards. You can't really "die", you don't even have a health bar, but if you sink under water for several seconds, you are teleported back to where you came. Of course Zelda is a much bigger and better game, but it comes with a higher price tag and is only available on the Switch. Yonder is not only the version more suitable for kids, but also has wider availability and a lower price tag. So if you are ever looking for a very peaceful game and aren't feeling up for something challenging, you might want to give Yonder a try.

Friday, November 09, 2018
 
Grumpy old gamers

There have been a couple of events in the past weeks in which I detected a common trend. One was Blizzcon, where the announcement of a mobile version of Diablo evoked an incredibly negative response among the fans. Another was several instances around D&D 5th edition, where as well privately in my role-playing club as publicly on YouTube and similar channels there is a growing discussion about the game evolving away from "real" role-playing. The common thread behind all that is grumpy old gamers being angry about a move of their game towards a broader market.

There is no doubt in my mind that Diablo Immortal will do extremely well and make millions of dollars for Blizzard. That also means that millions of people who haven't played Diablo on PC or consoles will play it on a phone or tablet. And even people who already played one or several versions of Diablo on one or several platforms might be interested in playing it on a more mobile device. The angry people tend to be hardcore fans, who want Diablo 4 on their PC and console, and who feel that Blizzard developing Diablo for a different audience is taking away something from them.

Dungeons & Dragons is 44 years old, and the 4-year old 5th edition has attracted more people to the game than ever. D&D is now all over YouTube, there are celebrities like Vin Diesel playing or talking about D&D on TV, and the game simply isn't considered as "weird" anymore than it was decades ago. The new generation of players grew up with RPG video games, so the very concept of "I play a wizard" is not something completely out of their previous experience, as it was for the first generations of players. But that also has the effect that they often see the game from the point of view of a video gamer, for whom the tabletop RPG is a means to play a game similar to a video game, but with less scripting and restrictions on what their character can do. I find that a very healthy approach, but of course some grumpy old gamers with a very different history and approach feel offended that suddenly there are so many new people playing the game differently than they do.

Basically in both cases it is a small group of grumpy old gamers telling are larger group of new gamers "you are playing it wrong!". And I find that pretty idiotic. While the grumpy old gamers frequently have a very loud voice on the internet, they don't necessarily contribute to the financial well-being to a brand as much as a large influx of new gamers. So companies listening to the grumpy old gamers can actually hurt a brand (something which I feel is the case with the new digital version of Magic the Gathering, Magic Arena, which I think will do less well than the previous, more casual version of Magic Duels). I know old D&D gamers who haven't given any money to Wizards of the Coast since buying a 5E Player's Handbook 4 years ago. Why should a company even listen to those people? Just like religious extremists make religions less attractive, gaming purists make gaming less attractive.

The broadening of the audience for gaming over the last decade has been very good for gaming and for gamers. Today games are cheaper and there are far more of them than a decade ago. That is all good. Yes, sure, some of the new games might not be to your liking, either for game design reasons or for political reasons. But often you can still play the old game: You can still play all of the old versions of Diablo, you can still play all of the editions of D&D. So it is really hard to argue that new games for new players are hurting old players in any way.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018
 
Two-weapon fighting paladin

A year and a half ago, I played a dragonborn paladin in Dungeons & Dragons. I had gone with a traditional build and role, acting as tank / healer for my group. The paladin died at level 3 due to rolling a 1 on the second death save, but by that time I already wasn't very fond of him any more, and so I didn't mind. What I had learned was that a high armor class isn't protecting you as much as you would think, not if several monsters are hitting you at once. And that a front-line caster whose spells are mostly concentration-based is far from ideal. I also noticed that the "Smite" spells of the paladin are weirdly useless: Why would you want to cast as a bonus action a concentration spell that gives you up to 2d6 extra damage on your next hit, if you have Divine Smite, and can use that same spell slot *after* you know you hit, and without using a bonus action, to deal 2d8 of extra damage? And then of course it turns out that Divine Smite gets really strong if you wait until you land a critical hit and then double the number of dice rolled both for the regular damage and the extra damage.

This weekend I started in a Tomb of Annihilation campaign with a level 1 paladin. He survived the first session in the Cellar of Death and is now level 2. But this time I made a very different build, based on what I had learned with the first paladin. And with what I had learned from other characters I had played in between. One of those other things was that in 5th edition Dungeons & Dragons, everybody can fight with two weapons if they want. The weapons just have to be light, which means that they usually do 1d6 instead of 1d8 damage (unless you have the Dual Wielder feat). And without the two-weapon fighting style, the second weapon doesn't get the damage bonus from your fighting stat. In pure mathematical terms that isn't all that powerful, as you deal 1 point of damage less on average with your main hand, and then it costs you your bonus action to maybe deal 1d6 damage with your off hand. However in real life the possibility to roll more dice is fun, especially before level 5, when nobody else has multiple attacks. After level 5 the off-hand weapon attack becomes less noticeable, because you can hit twice with your main weapon, but only once with your second weapon.

While two-weapon fighting is a viable option for several classes (I have a dual-wielding bard who is also a lot of fun), for the paladin there is an extra element: If you attack twice, your chance to roll a critical hit doubles. And if you decided anyway that you'd best spend your spell slots on Divine Smite criticals, doubling your chance to crit becomes awesome. Which means that my tabaxi paladin is less tanky than his predecessor, because he doesn't have a shield any more, but is more of a damage dealer. Having made a build based on dexterity instead of strength I have AC 17 at level 2 with the defense fighting style and studded leather armor, which isn't bad (the previous paladin had AC 18 at that level with chainmail and shield, before he found a plate armor and a magical shield at level 3). The dexterity also gives me a good initiative, and I can shoot a longbow well. So now that I got Divine Smite at level 2, I am looking forward to seeing whether I can land some crits with my two-weapon strategy.

At level 3 I will most certainly take the Oath of Vengeance. In a boss fight I can put my vow of enmity on him and get advantage on all of my attacks, further increasing my chance to crit. If all else fails, I could also use Divine Smite twice in one turn, if I hit with both weapons. That blows through my spell slots quickly, but I'm not really planning on casting much. The only spell that I am considering for combat is also from the Oath of Vengeance, which gives me Hunter's Mark. As I said earlier, concentration spells aren't great for melee fighters; but it adds 1d6 to *each* of my attacks, so it works well with two-weapon fighting. And if I don't get hit right away, or succeed my constitution saving throws for concentration, that Hunter's Mark could end up dealing serious damage for a level 1 spell. I did take other spells, like Cure Wounds, but in combat I might prefer Lay on Hands. The most effective healing is just spending 1 point on anyone unconscious to get him back into the fight. Giving him 1d8+3 instead usually doesn't make a difference, he'll be down from the next hit anyway.

If I really wanted to push the "critical Divine Smite" strategy over the top, I could switch to fighter class after reaching level 5 in paladin. At level 2 in fighter I'd gain Action Surge for two more attacks, and at level 3 I could choose the champion subclass to crit on a roll of 19. On the other hand, if the two-weapon fighting doesn't work out, I can at any time take a shield instead of the second weapon and trade that extra attack for +2 AC.

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Friday, November 02, 2018
 
Best class in Dungeons & Dragons

As I have been playing D&D a lot more as a player (as opposed to as DM) lately, I have been looking at other people's ideas on what classes and sub-classes are especially good in D&D. And I quickly noticed that they all tend to disagree with each other. After thinking a bit more about the matter, I realized why this is so, beyond the obvious differences in personal preferences. Basically the style of your DM determines what the best classes for your game are.

Take for example this YouTube video of D&D class ranking: It is heavily skewed towards ranking spellcasters highly, and classes that can't cast spells badly. I looked at the video, compared it to what kind of character I would need for our RPG club's multi-DM campaign, and realized that this was exactly the wrong choice for that campaign. The average level of characters in that campaign is around 6. And the rule is that each session is one day long, long rests are impossible during a session, and for short rests you need to make rolls for random encounters. The result of those rules is that the "adventuring day" (as D&D officially calls it in the Dungeon Master's Guide) is long, often reaching the "6 to 8 medium to hard encounters per day" recommended. If you are a 6th level wizard, and you have 10 spells per day, it means you can cast only 1 or 2 spells per encounter, and then you are reduced to casting cantrips that do comparatively little damage. If you played that same 6th level wizard in a campaign in which the DM lets you take a long rest whenever you want (and often it isn't easy in a regular campaign to come up with a reason why the group wouldn't be able to take a rest), he would be a lot more powerful.

I was thinking what kind of spellcaster I would play in our "long adventuring day" campaign, and it would probably be something like the DFC Ultimate Healer, because healing becomes a lot more useful in such a campaign. But in a campaign with lots of opportunities for short and long rests, a healer is much less important. There is no penalty in D&D for being low in hit points, so if you can rest when everybody's hit points are low, the healer is only needed occasionally in combat when somebody drops to 0 and needs to be revived quickly. If you can't rest, healing spells between combat encounters become a lot more important.

So, what is the best character build for you game? It is a question impossible to answer without knowing how your DM runs the game. If you can expend limited resources like spell slots without having to worry about resource management and how to get them back, characters relying on such resources (e.g. spellcasters) become very powerful. If you DM is playing up the resource management, characters with higher base damage and less burst damage become more useful. I have a suspicion that multiclass characters are more powerful than single-class characters, because you can "break" things in the game by combining abilities from multiple classes (e.g. life cleric + druid for extremely powerful Goodberries). But other than that you really need to know the style of your DM, and possibly the classes of your fellow players, to really make an optimal build.

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Thursday, November 01, 2018
 
Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate Demo

In many ways the Nintendo Switch Shop appears like a step back into an earlier age. Even rather old games like Diablo III are being sold for €60 full price. And there is an old idea that you don't see as often any more on other platforms: Demo versions of games. So I downloaded Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate Demo, and gave it a try. I had never tried any Monster Hunter game, and know that it is a big franchise, so I thought it might be worth having a look.

First of all it turned out that Capcom apparently didn't have me in mind when they designed the demo; but rather somebody who had already played other games in the series on other platforms, and wanted to see how the Switch version looked. So something I assumed to be obvious, that a demo version gives you some tutorial on what you are supposed to do and how the controls work, turned out to be completely missing. Fortunately there are only so many buttons on a gamepad, so at least the controls I figured out. I'm still not sure whether I completely understood what to do. The demo version offers you three different hunts, but even on the easiest one I never managed to kill the monster I was after. Even with a fast weapon my attacks appeared to be extremely slow, and the controls cumbersome, so my hits rarely connected. And when they did, it didn't appear to have any effect on the monster, even after hitting it for 5 minutes straight.

In the end I decided that this wasn't the game for me. I'm not a big fan of action combat even when the controls are good. In this game the controls were clearly not for me. I'm sure some people completely master them and will tell me that hunting a monster is easy. But for somebody who has never played a Monster Hunter game before it clearly isn't, and the demo version completely failed to teach me.

Having said that, I very much appreciate that there *is a demo version. I really would have hated spending €60 on this and then finding out it isn't the game for me. And while I am more used to world of PC games, with a Steam library full of cheap but unplayed games, I can see the attraction of buying fewer games for more money, after having carefully selected and tested them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018
 
Thronebreaker impressions

I’m not going to write a full review of Thronebreaker: The Witcher Tales. I’m nearly half-way through, and I’m planning to keep on playing. But as the game definitively also has weak points, I’d like to discuss what I like and dislike about it.

The game’s strongest point are the story and the standard Gwent card battles. I’m playing at the highest difficulty, and at that level the battles are challenging enough to be fun, without being unfair. The story is interesting, has a lot of difficult moral choices, and succeeds in creating a believable albeit dark fantasy world.

The strong story has innate drawbacks: The game is fairly linear, and there isn’t much interest in playing it a second or third time. However given the reasonable price tag and length, this is something I can live with.

The weak points of Thronebreaker are the somewhat trivial resource gathering part, and the puzzle battles. Resource gathering forces you to go all over the map and click on things, which just isn’t very interesting. The puzzle battles are non-random card battles with a single solution. You need to play your cards in a specific order to win. If you are the kind of person who rather solves chess puzzles than play a game of chess, that might be fine by you. Me, I find the puzzles somewhat annoying. And they aren’t very well balanced, some are trivial, some require you to foresee complicated card interactions 5 moves ahead. Fotunatly solutions for all puzzles can be found on YouTube.

As a medium to tell a grand story in the Witcher universe with the occasional card battle thrown in, Thronebreaker is an amusing enough game, and I don’t regret having bought it. But I wouldn’t really call it a RPG, and some of the minor gameplay elements are more tedious than fun.

Sunday, October 28, 2018
 
Tavern-Born™: Pintsized Realms - 3D Printable Kingdoms

Just to let you know, I just backed a Kickstarter Project called Tavern-Born™: Pintsized Realms - 3D Printable Kingdoms. Basically it is a step up from the dungeon tiles I use, a tile set that allows you to 3D print overland maps of villages, towns, or wilderness. One tile of 5 cm x 5 cm (2" x 2") represents something like a section of a village with two or three houses on, or the village square, so the scale is obviously much smaller than that of the dungeon tiles. Not to be used with miniatures, but for overland travel. I think the wilderness tiles would work out well for a hex crawl (or in this case square crawl) type of gameplay.

My only reservation is that I don't paint the tiles and miniatures I print, except for painting the water tiles blue. So I am not sure how good this will look in mono-color.

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Saturday, October 27, 2018
 
Optimizing the fun out of it

I don't know if you are familiar with the theorycrafting websites that exist around games like World of Warcraft, and which can tell you exactly with detailed mathematics what choices to make in character creation to get the absolutely most powerful character possible. Or the sites for Magic the Gathering or Hearthstone describing the "net decks", that are the most powerful in the currently tournament-legal set of cards. To a lesser degree that also exists for Dungeons & Dragons, see for example this Guide of Guides, linking to guides for every D&D class to optimize a character.

Some of the characters I described yesterday as me playing in my various D&D campaigns deliberately deviate from the optimum. For example I have both a barbarian and a paladin built around maximum dexterity instead of strength. It is pretty obvious that the barbarian loses out on his "rage damage bonus for attacks based on strength" if I don't use strength attacks, and big strength-based weapons deal more damage than small dexterity-based ones. Of course I don't just take something sub-optimal with no advantage at all: The armor class of characters with high dexterity is better in the absence of armor, and so is their initiative. For the barbarian the dex-build actually gives the best possible armor class, and then it opens up a barbarian/rogue multi-class build. For the paladin I took dexterity in order to use two-weapon fighting; having previously observed that the best use for paladin spell slots is often using them for a divine smite after rolling a critical hit, I am trying whether by making more attacks and thus having an increased chance to crit I can make a good build.

But the main reason that I build sub-optimal characters in D&D, or "fun decks" in Magic Duels instead of "net decks", is that optimization inevitably results in having fewer options. There are far more sub-optimal builds for a given class of D&D, or a given deck type in Magic, than there are optimal ones. If we all play just optimal characters in D&D, then you will meet the same build over and over. At one point you are just sick and tired of half-orc barbarians with greataxes, and a halfling barbarian with a scimitar sounds more fun, even if he deals less damage per round. And if you play Magic only with optimal decks, you don't use 80% of your cards, and miss out on a lot of variety. So what if my zombie deck isn't tournament viable? As long as I am having fun playing that deck against an AI deck, I don't care.

Certainly in Dungeons & Dragons, "winning" is not the purpose of the game. And in a game like Magic the Gathering, especially in PvE, "having fun" can also be more important than winning. Having a completely useless character or deck is not fun, but there is a wide variety of slightly sub-optimal builds that can be more entertaining than the ultimate optimum. In D&D that is not just true for yourself, but also for your fellow players. The halfling barbarian and the tabaxi (cat-person) paladin make for more interesting travel companions than their more traditional and optimized versions. And even in combat, optimizing average damage per turn is somewhat boring to the other players, while a character that does slightly less damage but can occasionally shine with maneuvers the optimal build doesn't have can be preferable.

Fortunately at least for D&D this is uncontroversial, and well supported by the game developers. For online card games like Magic and Hearthstone, developers seem to want to push people towards the most competitive game modes, because players need to spend more money to build a competitive deck than they need to build a fun deck. Especially the latest online version of Magic the Gathering, Magic Arena, is going down a path where it only appeals to highly competitive players, and doesn't even offer the opportunity to play a fun deck against an AI opponent. I don't think that this is a sustainable business model for the long term. I'm still playing Magic Duels instead, in spite of there not being any new cards added to it.

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Friday, October 26, 2018
 
A lot of Dungeons & Dragons

I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons during the 80's and 90's. Then I had a forced break, when I moved to another country for work, and didn't have anybody to play with. I restarted about a decade ago with new friends I made, playing about twice a month. And then I discovered a local role-playing club, and have become increasingly involved there. So now I am back to playing a *lot* of D&D.

As a DM I was running up to three campaigns in parallel. One at home with my friends, using the Princes of the Apocalypse book; but I think everybody forgot everything about that story, and we are just running it as a large dungeon crawl. I would like to stop DMing that, and play as a player instead, but it isn't so easy to find a replacement DM. The second campaign uses the Out of the Abyss book, which is one of the more complicated campaigns in the 5th edition material; we are already over half way through, but will make a pause so that another player can run his campaign. The third campaign I am running is called Ruins of Engorath, and isn't an official campaign at all. It is more of a specific mode of play in our role-playing club, where every session represents an expedition into the ruins, played with a different DM and a different group of players. Each DM has his own part of the ruins to run, and the players move from one game to the next. Again there isn't much of a story, and more of collection of different styles of dungeon crawls, with every DM having his own style.

As a player I am currently playing a dwarf cleric in a self-made campaign playing in the fantasy world of Balaia, from the Chronicles of the Raven novels. In another self-made campaign I play an anti-hero bard in the fantasy world of The Witcher. And I am playing a halfling barbarian in the Ruins of Engorath game, when I'm not the DM. If my Princes of the Apocalypse group finds another DM, I will play another bard there, more of a classic "lore" bard. Soon my Out of Abyss group will play Tomb of Annihilation with one of my current players as DM, and I will play a tabaxi paladin in that campaign. Actually we were told to make two characters, because the campaign is kind of lethal, so I also made a tabaxi rogue, the sister of the paladin. The (tragic) story is that the paladin is looking for his sister, so if he dies during that search the group will then suddenly find the sister, who will join the group. I also signed up for a campaign of the new Waterdeep Dragon Heist book, but don't know when that will start and what I will play.

So the idea is that due to me currently being very busy at work, I will do less DMing, and more playing next year, which requires less preparation. I still will run the occasional Ruins of Engorath dungeon. And if I have more time, I might run a 5th edition conversion of the Zeitgeist Adventure Path, or rather the first two adventures of it. I already played those with my home group in 4th edition, and can reuse the maps and tokens, so it is less work to prepare.

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