Saturday, October 26, 2013

Cory Doctorow plays D&D with his toddler

Cory Doctorow just tweeted via Boing Boing a link to this article he wrote that was printed in Gygax Magazine about playing Dungeons and Dragons with his 4-year-old. Check out the link. This resonates with me because my son (who just played his first official D&D campaign a few weeks ago) first became interested because of the dice, the miniatures, and the little sets. I took a picture of the dungeon he made and wrote about it on this blog. Modifying and adapting the rules and ideas are part of the play experience. I'm glad his daughter seemed to enjoy their joint game. I hope to hear more about parents and children playing together - especially since my colleagues and I just went to the Educational Computing Organization of Ontario conference in Niagara Falls yesterday to promote the Minecraft "Professional Play" server. Fingers crossed!

Monday, October 21, 2013

League of Legends

I'm interviewing the Girl today about League of Legends, while she is playing the game in question.

Mom: How did you find out about League of Legends?

Girl: I found out about it via my gifted friends. It was something that they had been talking about since the beginning of the school year. I didn't know about it so I asked them and they said I would like it, so I checked it out.

Mom: If you had to describe it in ten words or less, what would you say?

Girl: I'd describe it as -  complicated, strategic, but really fun. The game is a real-time strategy game. It's really heavily oriented around making decisions quickly and making the right decisions. There are a lot of moving parts to the game because there's a lot vocabulary you need to get used to, and the game play in general, but once you get used to it, it's really, really fun.

Mom: How does this game differ from others that you play?

Girl: It differs from others in that, even though it's a MMO, it's focused on just the battle arena aspect. There's no story mode; it's just player versus player. As I describe it, it's like a virtual capture the flag. Everything just is, no story ... just fight.

Mom: Tell me about your characters.

Girl: The two characters that I currently play are Ashe and Annie. Ashe is a ranged type character. She has a bow and arrow and she shoots things. She is not that strong but she is powerful in her attacks. She's good with giving debuffs and buffs to her teammates and enemies. If she shoots enemies with her arrows, she can freeze them in place, giving stronger teammates the chance to pounce on the enemy in question. Annie is a mage character. She casts spells, especially fire oriented spells. Her main feature is the giant bear named Tibbers that she can summon to fight for her. He is more durable and can do more damage. Your strategy is to hide behind Annie while Tibbers smashes things. I am a lot more comfortable with Ashe than Annie but Annie is more powerful in health and damage dealing.

Mom: I've been hearing you talk a lot about Jinx. What's up with that?

Girl: Jinx is my big goal that I am trying to get to. Over time, you can unlock more powerful characters. She just came out last week and I think she would be suitable for me because her play style is more like Ashe's - she is also a ranged character; she uses guns and grenades but her attacks are a lot more powerful than Ashe's. In addition, I just like some of the aesthetic of the character herself because, even though I am not at all like this, I like that she is a trouble maker and likes to have fun, even though her actions have dire consequences. 

Mom: Any other characters interest you?

Girl: I'm working towards two other characters: Miss Fortune and Vayne. Much like most of the characters I've been mentioning, they are range classes and in between Ashe and Jinx in terms of their powers. They were recommended to me by my gifted friends so I thought it would be a good idea to get them as well.

Mom: League of Legends is a free-to-play game but players can buy cards. What's the advantage to buying cards? Is there a class system between those that are free-players and those that pay?

Girl: From what I can tell, there is no hierarchy in terms of players. Free-to-play and cards are about the same - what matters is how well you play the game. The benefit to buying the cards is that you are able to get points which you only usually get by winning games. 

Mom: I hear you give compliments at the end of your matches, Why is that?

Girl: One of the reasons I give compliments to other players is that there is this thing in the game called the honour system. It happens when you compliment a player. It gives them extra points in the end of the game. My rule, even though others don't abide by it, is that if I give compliments to others, that they will give compliments to me. 

Mom: Why doesn't your brother play?

Girl: The reason he doesn't play is because the game is rated T and I thought that since it's T, it might be too complicated or too mature for him.

Mom: Are there any final words about the game you want to share?

Girl: Not really. (She's too busy playing right now.)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Minecraft Story in Screenshots Part 2

Here's the rest of the horror story acted out in Minecraft and captured with screen shots.

The creeper can transform people ... and FLY!

He levitates over you, ready to strike!

The zoo sign provides an ironic reminder - too late for us!

The hapless zookeeper's metamorphosis is complete.

The monsters plan to spread their chaos - beware!

These were taken September 27, 2013. The follow-up plans aren't to create a mini-movie. They are for all of us to go "virtual trick or treating" by dressing up in costumes like these and traveling around our server world.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Minecraft Story in Still Shots

Lots of other games, such as Terraria and Cube World, are competing for my kids' attention, but we still occasionally go back to play Minecraft. While my son and I were playing on the server, another young player joined us. We were working in the zoo, making it more humane for the creatures that live there by improving the environment, when we, almost by accident, co-created a little story. Here it is, in pictures.

We slowly approach the creeper cave, which appears to be inhabited.

On closer inspection, the cage is ... empty?

Something is wrong - really wrong! The creeper is back and ...

The creeper is out of his cage!!
The creeper is coming to get YOU!
The creeper turns the hapless observer into a skeleton!
I can't upload any more photos, so part two of the saga will continue - next time!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Boy's 1st D&D Adventure

We love to play games together in our house - that's no surprise if you read this blog. Like any group of individuals, however, there are some games specific people prefer. Up until very recently, our boy has not taken any interest in participating in role playing games (RPGs). On Thanksgiving Monday (October 14, 2013), our family friend DM and his young son were over playing the ongoing campaign. (I wrote about this particular campaign in this post on this very blog.). For some reason, my son decided to join the fun. He created a character, called Talrock, who was an alchemist. The drawing below illustrates episode four and episode five, in which Talrock entered the fray.

In Episode 5, the group of adventurers were given a large, egg-shaped object by a fearful kobold. As they rode back to town, carrying an unconscious and severely injured Brother Egon, they met up with a band of leather-clad forest dwellers who insisted on a "protection fee" for passing through. Brother Egon recuperated and was told by his contact in town that they were being sent on a fool's errand. Talrock met the other player characters in the pub, who were examining the odd relic they acquired.

My son has never played an RPG before, so it was very entertaining to see how he (and DM's son, who is about 8 years old) chose to play. Our GM told our son to roll a six-side dice and since he rolled high, he told my son that his character (Talrock) recognized the relic for what it truly was - a dragon's egg. Talrock decided not to share the information (that all of us, out of character at the table, has just heard) and instead, offered to give the other characters the data we desired in exchange for some valuable minerals he needed for a potion he was brewing, located in the caves we were just at prior to our meeting. He offered to share a random mixture he was creating to my character, Inga. My character drank the brew and fell down dead. (I rolled badly.) Thankfully, Drake and Talrock revived Inga with a combination of healing antidote and magic spells. Despite this minor set-back, the party decided to head back out to the caves after Inga took time to recover (and restore her hit point pool).

It was utter chaos, and hilarious! Drake (played by DM's son) wanted to go with his pal Grimaldi (played by DM in addition to his GM role) to the goblin caves because by raiding them, we could get some gold. Talrock wanted us to get the minerals from the kobold cave, which he said was possible to get by extracting it from under the dead body of a kobold guard infested with toxic rot grubs. We didn't want to get too close to the body, because there was a deep pit right in front of it and the grubs caused a lot of damage. We decided to light some oil on fire, throw it on the body to roast the grubs, and then scrape up the mineral (which the GM ret-con'd to explain was rot grub poo). Grimaldi lit the oil, but rolled dice poorly and accidentally set the floor on fire. While the rest of us ran away, Grimaldi rolled poorly again, caught himself on fire and fell in the pit. He was severely hurt (taking eight points of damage), but the player characters managed to fish him out of the pit in time.

"I thought you were the Game Master! I thought you had the power!" my son shouted. We had to explain that part of the drama unfolds based on how the dice rolls go. I loved how my boy hijacked the story, shaping it to his interests.

"I don't think I ever played like those two [young boys] when I was a kid", observed my husband after the game. It's true that this is a very different game, but I had to laugh and go along for the ride. We'll see how future adventures unravel!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

RPGing in the west end

It's great when we get the opportunity to game with other groups of friends, beyond our immediate family, and this summer we gathered at a friend's house to play Marvel Saga, a superhero role playing game. My daughter and I are relatively new to this particular gaming circle, which consists of my husband, two of his friends he met when he moved to our city, and his friend's wife. The husband and wife team have even written and published gaming materials and supplements for games, so we were playing in a world that was very familiar to them. If you zoom in on the photo to the right (which my daughter allowed me to include), you can see a bit of her character sheet. She plays Lucky Cat. My player character is called Plague, and I've already written on this blog about her super powers. The adventure we played that day involved alien ghouls, spiteful pixies in an alternate universe, and some very unusual fighting techniques. Unfortunately, we do not assemble together as often as we would like, so that makes the moments we do convene extra special. In 2005 my husband and I presented a workshop at the Ontario Library Association Superconference about the history of RPGs and how they can be used in schools. Between the creative storytelling, problem solving, and mental math skills (as well as historical research for player character back stories), it's an educationally rich past time!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

King of Tokyo - finally!

In the summer, we finally got around to playing King of Tokyo, the board game our son received for Christmas. Once we understood the game mechanics, it was a lot of fun - but surprisingly intense for our younger players!

The game consists of monster figures used on the game board, special dice, and the accompanying score card that keeps track of your hit points and victory points. Your goal is to eliminate the other monsters by reducing their hit points to zero or by increasing your victory points to twenty, whichever comes first. The game has a very "us vs. them" vibe, similar to Fortress America, because the monster who controls Tokyo fights all other monsters. Staying in Tokyo is the only way for your monster to rack up victory points, but it also makes you the target of other monster attacks. This made both the Boy and the Girl very hesitant about spending any time at all in the creature capital of the world. (You can choose to withdraw if someone else launches an assault.) We've played several times since our first forays into the game and different people have won using different strategies. It's not the most popular game in our closet, but at least we finally got around to playing it!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Terraria and entering Hard Mode

My family has recently become re-interested in playing Terraria because of the updates. On Monday, October 7, 2013, the team of Bridget, Mr. Bunny, and Jhaerith defeated the Wall of Flesh to enter the Hard Mode version of the game. Here's the Girl to recount their adventure and epic battle.

The Wall of Flesh was a boss that took a lot of preparation. Mr. Bunny and Jhaerith fought it twice before, without me, and both times they lost.
But that was because, even though they had the best armor (Mr. Bunny had Meteorite and Jhaerith had molten, respectively the second and first best armor in Easy Mode.) and weapons, the battlefield was not to their advantage.
To spawn the Wall of Flesh, you have to drop a Guide Voodoo Doll into the lava in Hell. Hell isn't a very nice area, as it's name would suggest. There's a lot of lava on the ground and not many blocks to stand on stay away from said lava. There are only a few small platforms, scattered around, that you can stand on. But even if you did manage not to get burned to a crisp, there are still demons to avoid. They shoot magic at you, which does a lot of damage.
Most videos on Youtube suggest that you build a long road that goes through most of Hell and helps you to avoid the lava. 
So, the three of us went into the Underworld to build this road. We used a number of materials, such as dirt, ash, stone and other things. It took a while, and we died several times, but finally, we completely our pathway.
But before Jhaerith spawned the monster, I accidentally teleported myself back to my house. Then I had to go all the way back to Hell, much to my dismay. And then, once I got there, Dad had some difficulty get the doll to fall in the lava. 
Finally, the monster made its appearance. The Wall of Flesh has a simple attack pattern: it flies towards us, while trying to bite us with it's many mouths. To counter this, we have to run backwards while shooting at it. I used my Aqua Scepter, Mr. Bunny used the Space Gun and Jhaerith used his Fiery Great Sword. Eventually, it was whittled down to half health, when it began shooting its little mouths at us. But we were able to fend them off, to hit the beast where it hurt and kill it.
We did surprisingly well, after all our various errors early on. Still, this was a good surprise for us, as Peter got a Pwnhammer (a very cool hammer) out of it, as well as a Ranger Emblem (a thing that increases your ranged attack strength) for me.
Now we had officially entered Hard Mode. Hard Mode is very cool. It adds a lot more challenging features into the game, like new enemies and new bosses. 
It also expands the Corruption (an area where everything is very dark and especially evil) and adds its counterpart, the Hallowed (an area full of rainbows and flowers and magical things). 
You can also get new ores to craft armor and weapons out of.
With this, as well as the new patch to the game (which introduced new non player characters and lots of cool stuff), we're not so tough anymore. There's a whole world out there to explore and I can't wait to continue our Terraria adventures!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Family Blogging Lesson #1: If the kids are not themselves regular bloggers, don't just leave it up to them to write the posts!

Having learned this lesson the hard way (since the last blog post was in July 2013), I've decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns and interview the kids about their latest forays and newest game acquisitions. Today's topic: Animal Crossing - New Leaf, by the Boy.

Animal Crossing: New Leaf starts off on a train. This cat person named Rover will talk to you during your ride. Then, eventually, when you get to the town you were supposed to go to, these anthropomorphic animals greet you and think that you are the mayor. Now, you must work as the mayor. Basically, this is a never-ending game. There is no final boss, there is no giant thing you have to do. This is a do-whatever-you-want game. You can decorate your house, decorate your character, have friends come over to your village, buy things, sell things, reforge things ... this game is very fun, especially when you don't have a lot of things to do and you can only buy one game. 

I bought this game because it's never-ending, I could do whatever I want, and also it's multi-player, which is one of my favorite types of games. 

I usually find myself catching bugs, fishing, or selling. I wander around. Sometimes I encounter fish shadows, so I pull out my fishing rods to try to catch the fish. I just started this game a couple of days ago so I do not have a lot of inhabitants in my village but I do have a favorite inhabitant. His name is Static. He is a purple squirrel, has a lightening bolt on his head, and sometimes calls me Bro. I really like him because I like squirrels, I like the colour purple and I think lightening is cool.

If I could make this better, there is a blue alpaca and his name is Cyrus. He always sleeps until a certain thing happens, which is one of the following: 
  • 50 pieces of furniture
  • 10 inhabitants live in your village
  • 100,000 bells
It would be really nice if you could use him from the beginning and not have a certain event pop up to awaken him. Right now, I am trying to get Cyrus to wake up and it's giving me a hard time. If anyone has an easy way of waking him up, please tell me - it would really help me. 

If you like one of the following things:  building your own village, wanting to give controls, and building houses, - then this game would be perfect for you.