Everyone Is John: A Cooperative Roleplaying Game For Three Or More Horrible People

I run a Star Wars Saga game weekly. One of the players cycled his character out for a new one, the new character being a corporate fixer who was going to do some corporate fixing in a session as sort of an introduction. He couldn’t it make it to this week’s game, and we didn’t want to run a session revolving around his character’s schtick without him, so instead we played Everyone Is John. That’s selling it short, though. We didn’t just play Everyone Is John. My group beat Everyone Is John.

Continue reading

Let’s Play Horde of the Dragon Queen: Battle of Naerytar

Played September 17th, 2016

The party approaches Castle Naerytar with their new lizardfolk allies. The crumbling walls are surrounded by water, scalable by Robyn, the lizardfolk, and perhaps Arvensis, but all of the more heavily armored party members would have to leave their protection behind. Seeing no subtle route in, Thaemin and Cyanwrath agree that they’ve got a lizardfolk army so they may as well use it. Arvensis is not a fan of such an obvious route of attack, but he has no alternatives to suggest.

Continue reading

Who Is Winning The Edition War?

The Orr Group (those people what run Roll20) have released an industry report every quarter since Q3 2014, detailing what games have how many games and how many players according to their data. Unfortunately, there are some weaknesses in the ways they collect this data. Rather than run an Orwellian police state in which gamers are carefully monitored to ensure they are playing the game they claim they are, the Orr Group just gathers up the data on how many players have a system listed in their profile and how many games tagged with a certain system currently have at least one active player in them. This means the players metric is a list of people who say they would like to play a certain system, not the number of people who have actually played in such a game on Roll20.

The games number, on the other hand, uses the system tag from the LFG system. Players looking for a specific system in LFG search by tag, and the dropdown to select the system tag to attach to your game is a necessary part of LFG listing creation. This means it is safe to assume that a strong majority (I would posit at least 70% and likely 90%+) of Roll20 games have an accurate system tag attached to them. This is why the Orr Group uses games rather than players to rank their current most popular systems from any given quarter, it’s much more accurate. This method also has a drawback, however, because a game listing created at Roll20’s inception in September of 2012 and abandoned before the end of October is treated as an active game just the same as one that just started last month and is still ongoing, provided that at least one person wanders into the game during the quarter when the data is collected, even if it’s just the GM looking up what battle music he had in the jukebox. Since RPG campaigns have a half-life of something like 3-6 months but the games remain full of assets that their GMs may want to review or recycle for other games (which will require him to access the game, thus marking it as active even if he only comes in once every three months), an equally important measure of the game’s actual popularity is the change in percentage between quarters, which indicates how many new games are (or aren’t) being created.

At the time of writing of this paragraph, I haven’t yet seen what the results of the data are, and have only looked at the data from Q3 and Q4 2014, so I’m going to state in advance a couple of limitations in this data collection. The data covers roll20 users only, which means people who play primarily offline are not counted, and decisions made by the Orr Group regarding roll20 can affect the numbers in a way that won’t be representative of the market in general. The Orr Group runs YouTube videos and podcasts and in these they talk about some games and not others, and while I suspect the affect this has on the numbers is small, it is certainly going to be much greater on roll20 than in the market in general. That Lost Mines of Phandelver is now available on roll20 is likely to artificially inflate the prominence of 5e quite a bit for no other reason except greater availability, whereas in meatspace 5e D&D shares shelf space with 4e and Pathfinder, an effect we should take into account starting from Q2 2016 (the data for which hasn’t been released at the time of writing, but should be soon, and may be released while this is sitting in the queue).

EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: The data totally was released while this was sitting in the queue. I’m too lazy to extend my graphs for now, so I’ll run an update post sometime. Also, statistically speaking your favorite game is probably losing (nobody has a majority of players, only a plurality). Let’s all try to avoid the very tiresome and predictable flipping out over this.

Continue reading

Hexographer Is A Thing

I am intermittently reminded that there are people in this hobby who still don’t know that Hexographer is a thing. This is baffling to me, because it’s been around since 2009. This isn’t a lucky ten thousand thing either, because when people ask for help in making world maps I am very often the only one recommending Hexographer. It’s just, for some baffling reason, obscure. And that’s weird, because Hexographer is awesome.

Hexographer is a world map design program that allows you to make hex maps. There’s about four or five dozen different terrain hexes you can paint onto a map of virtually any size, you can add on rivers, borders, text, you can any of dozens of icons for cities, castles, or armies onto the map. I’ve made a dozen maps with Hexographer and there’s not yet one thing I’ve ever found myself wanting to do that I couldn’t, except to have more different types of city icons so that I could represent different nations or cultures at a glance. As it happens, that’s one of the promised features in Hexographer 2 which is slated to come out sometime in February, so that’s neat.  I probably should’ve posted this like two weeks ago when their Kickstarter for Hexographer 2 was still ongoing. Oh, well.

Here’s an example of a small hexmap I made for a hexcrawl based on Thar to show you what this thing can do.

thar-hex

Let’s Play Horde of the Dragon Queen: To Castle Naerytar

Played September 10th, 2016

Cyanwrath is briefly taken aside by Jamna Gleamsilver for a job offer from the Zhentarim, whom she’s been working for. She’s noticed that Robyn was curiously absent while everyone else was either in the crowd or in the fight, and has guessed that Cyanwrath was intentionally diverting the cult and the guards from the strongroom. Having seen both his combat prowess and his skill for subtlety, Jamna offers him a spot in her messed up extended family of spies, assassins, and extortionists. After mulling it over for a few minutes, he accepts.

Continue reading

Elven Lifespans Should Be A Bigger Deal Than They Are

Elves are dicks. I wrote an article about it and I stand by it – in nearly every D&D setting, elves have been somewhere between moderately and extremely dickish (Forgotten Realms and Dragonlance, two of the biggest D&D settings around, lean towards the extreme side). So, when I say that elven lifespans should be a huge deal and that middle-aged elves should logically have crazy-high character levels even if they’re bog standard elven guards or the local apothecary or whatever, that’s not because I’m an ardent supporter of the “misunderstanding Tolkien” school of worldbuilding, it’s because being able to live for a very long time is a huge advantage which is pretty thoroughly underestimated by D&D. I use elves as an example here, but dwarves are quite similar.

Continue reading

Salt Lake Comic Con 2016: Harley Quinn

IMG_20160901_144012442

Let’s go ahead and dive right in with our first Harley Quinn, who is a pretty standard Animated Series Quinn except in that she is accompanied by some kind of spec ops Joker. Baseless speculation: Maybe this couples costume was a compromise between the guy who wanted spec ops and the girl who wanted a Harley/Joker combo.

IMG_20160901_144029961

Tiny Harleys are consistently adorable.

IMG_20160901_160107788

Here we have a mostly standard Animated Series Quinn.

IMG_20160901_160136747

This is a Suicide Squad Quinn with a half-baked Joker. Get ready for lots of Suicide Squad Quinns, especially in couples costumes. I won’t fault couple cosplays for taking the Quinn/Joker route. Those two were spectacular in Suicide Squad.

 

IMG_20160901_160559310

IMG_20160901_160853981

Doctor Quinn is a consistently popular theme. That’s how densely Harley Quinn has blanketed the cosplay world. Specific niche interpretations of the character can be more common than entire other characters. Doctor Quinn makes a poor showing this year, ordinarily we’ve got more Doctor Quinns than Scarecrows and Riddlers put together (which is usually, like, three, but still).

IMG_20160901_160935286

Family cosplay looks nice and all, but particularly for the kids I always feel kind of bad because someone was probably pushed into a costume they didn’t want. I appreciate that this family all just showed up as whatever.

IMG_20160901_161948966

Arkham City Quinn has red and black hair dye, but we can see here that Suicide Squad’s red and blue has migrated into other Harley types.

IMG_20160901_162210139_HDR

I’m honestly not sure who that person on the right is cosplayed as, but they look pretty awesome.

IMG_20160901_162659558

We’re going to see a lot of Suicide Squad Harleys. So many that it’s going to take some examination to make sure we don’t have any repeats. We’re on Quinn #10 so far.

IMG_20160901_163743185

I like how this one’s playing with the form. You’ve got a Suicide Squad jacket over a costume that’s a bit of a cross between Arkham City and Arkham Asylum.

IMG_20160901_165431213

This two-for-one gets us up to 13.

IMG_20160901_165846986

Much like Quinn #11, this one is playing with the form a bit. In fact, she’s got a very similar corset and skirt, though she’s missing the Suicide Squad jacket. It makes me wonder if there’s a new Quinn sub-genre forming based on something I’m not familiar with.

IMG_20160901_175304908

Steampunk Harley Quinn here makes 15 total.

IMG_20160901_200149913

Spear Harley and distaff Joker. A few years ago even a distaff Joker was unheard of, but this isn’t even the first spear Harley I’ve seen (the other one was at a previous con, so won’t be part of this post). We’re counting up Harley Quinns here, so spear Quinns do count, but distaff Jokers do not.

IMG_20160901_200234698

This Suicide Squad Harley is mostly by the numbers, but there’s a different haircut at least.

IMG_20160901_201756685

Here we see Arkham City’s hair dye migrating to the Suicide Squad costume.

IMG_20160902_115918177

Here’s our second spear Quinn in one convention! Spear Quinns are never parodies, either. It’s never a guy in a corset doing British crossdress humor (there was a spear Slave Leia at this year’s con doing just that, by way of comparison). Instead it’s a recognizable but unironically male version of the costume. Not sure what to make of that.

IMG_20160902_151006061

This Harley, part of a femme fatale set, brings us up to 20.

IMG_20160902_151105397

This rote but well executed Animated Series Harley gets us to our halfway mark of 21. We’re not nearly halfway through my Comic Con 2016 photo folder, but the Harleys are usually more dense towards the beginning. As the con wears on, I tend to mostly get repeats. Will this year be a record breaker?

IMG_20160902_155113592

Once again we have someone playing with the form while still being a clearly recognizable Harley. In this case, it’s hard to even say which specific Harley she has most in common with. That top is pretty Animated Series in pattern but not in how much it’s covering, the collar is a bit Suicide Squad but not exactly, waist down is completely distinct, relying on the top to signal the character.

IMG_20160902_155147939_HDR

A basic Suicide Squad Harley.

IMG_20160902_183323516

Once again we’re looking at a fairly distinct Harley, though she seems to fall into the vaguely Asylum-esque skirt-and-corset look that’s going around.

IMG_20160902_184053079

This looks *very* similar to Harley #20, but her black-handled hammer is clearly distinct. This brings us up to 25.

IMG_20160902_184443033

A little Harley with a little Joker.

IMG_20160902_184749602

Are you finding yourself double-checking against previous Harleys to make sure this one’s distinct? I am. The tied off t-shirt is new, but it’s also something that can be added to a costume at any time, so I had to double check.

IMG_20160902_184935420

The corset look again. Okay, “Arkham Asylum Quinn but with black/red instead of red/blue” is not so groundbreaking an idea that multiple people can’t have come to it by themselves, but I’m starting to wonder if there’s a specific precursor I’m missing here.

IMG_20160902_185002156

Paired off with Poison Ivy, this is clearly a steampunk Harley. I wouldn’t have recognized her on her own, though.

IMG_20160902_184841242

This one’s a statue, and thus not actually Harley Quinn #30. I thought I’d include it in the parade anyway.

IMG_20160902_185328624

The real Harley #30 is a standard Suicide Squad Harley.

IMG_20160902_185425828

Another corset Harley. This one has very light dye on her hair that was probably Suicide Squad colors at some point, although the blue in particular is hardly there anymore.

IMG_20160902_190050358

Harley #32, our three-quarters mark, is original enough as to defy sub-genre classification. This makes counting her easier, so thank you for that, Harley #32.

IMG_20160902_192449248

Some of you probably didn’t believe me when I said the standing record for Harley Quinns was 42. This is the world we live in.

IMG_20160902_193349009

I can’t tell if this cosplayer is intentionally mixing Doctor Quinn with Animated Series Quinn or if she just happens to have glasses. Either way, it works.

IMG_20160902_194334402

Biker Harley Quinn here is our #35. Props for bringing some originality to the character.

IMG_20160902_194925082_HDR

Another corset Quinn. The corset Quinns have much less uniformity amongst them than Suicide Squad, Arkham City, and Animated Series Quinns, so I’m more and more certain that they aren’t based on any particular Harley Quinn from media (even though Arkham Asylum Quinn also has a corset, very few corset Quinns have the red and blue color scheme).

IMG_20160902_194939876

Sleeveless Animated Series Quinn. We’re five away from a record breaker.

IMG_20160903_125252594

“Okay, her hair’s not as light as most of the others, and she has makeup. I think? Or else pretty pale skin. She looks kinda like that one, but that one has a hammer and not a bat and anyway the skin doesn’t match. This would be much easier if she weren’t making a face.”

IMG_20160903_125720668

I’m running out of things to say for Suicide Squad Quinns.

IMG_20160903_130111347

Harley Quinn #40 is an Animated Series-esque Quinn, but with largely original make-up and a dress rather than a onesie. Once again: Thank you for not making me crawl through all my Suicide Squad Quinns and compare them one by one to make sure you’re not a repeat. We’re only three Quinns away from breaking a record now!

IMG_20160903_130225527

So, for purposes of the record it’s total number of Quinns at the convention I’m looking for, not total number of photographed Quinns. Photographing them is just how I record them. There was an Arkham City Quinn who turned me down for a photo on Friday night (first time any cosplayer has ever turned me down for a photograph without being clearly in a hurry). She looked kinda like this one, found on Saturday, and much earlier in the day. Is this the same one? Maybe the one who turned me down was feeling fatigued and was more open to it the next day? As I have no record of the Quinn who turned me down, I can’t tell for sure.

IMG_20160903_130415156

Quinn #42. Comic Con 2016 is officially tied up with FanX for the record.

IMG_20160903_130805761

Congratulations, tiny Harley. You’re a record breaker.

IMG_20160903_131205507

Suicide Squad Harley is a very adult character, so it’s surprising how perfectly acceptable the costume can look on a ten-year old just by throwing some pants on (pants not visible in this photo, but yes, she had pants).

IMG_20160903_131650590

Harley #45 is changing up the hair dye a little bit. The boom in Harley costumes (which were extremely popular in the first place) is probably at least in part due to how you can now have a recognizable Harley costume just by buying a new shirt. Everything else can probably be assembled from what you have lying around the house. This cosplayer in particular also dyed her hair, and her costume is better for it, but it would’ve counted as a Quinn even if she hadn’t.

IMG_20160903_134550047

Posing would also be a good way to differentiate Quinns. I should ask them to pose more often. This one didn’t need it, since her tweaked Arkham City costume is distinct on its own.

IMG_20160903_134753602

This corset Quinn is *very* similar to Quinn #24. She’s definitely a different Quinn, but their costumes are near identical. I’ve gotta be missing some precursor Quinn here.

IMG_20160903_135840069

Bridal Quinn.

IMG_20160903_140501346

Oh God another Suicide Squad Quinn. Time to dig through all the others for matches. At least that tattoo will make verification straightforward.

IMG_20160903_141233028

Our third spear Quinn of the convention is also Quinn #50.

img_20160902_191919437

The final Harley Quinn of the year is, if I recall correctly, someone I’m supposed to tag (along with her Wonder Woman buddy) as #AllredGirls. I hope I remembered that correctly. A twitter search for that reveals only one photo from like eight months ago, but I think it’s the same people.