Ego Check: Craig Plazony, SolForge Featured Streamer

I previously reviewed SolForge and presented some of the reasons why I have launched myself into the game. It is one thing to play the game casually but quite another to get ahead in the more competitive aspects of the game. To learn about strategy, I searched for people talking about SolForge online and stumbled into the efforts of Craig Plazony. He has been playing SolForge since the beginning, volunteers for Stone Blade Entertainment, and streams live games while dispensing strategies for the audience. I reach out to Craig to see if he would be willing to talk briefly about the game, and he kindly agreed.

How did you first learn about SolForge? What motivated you to dive headfirst into the game?

Craig Plazony

Craig Plazony

I had been playing a couple of different TCGs like Shadow Era but I really didn’t like their systems. I was wondering through the floor area in GenCon and I found the game on display. I ended up coming back and playing 7-8 times before I put it down so I could do other stuff. I had so much fun and the game got me very excited. I use to play MTG but the expense was the biggest turn off so game really appealed to me. I could see the depth and complexity that the game could offer right away so I backed it for 100$ and started to become involved in the community.

Once I started being active in the community and enjoying the interactions with the other backers I became hooked. I wanted to be good at the game, know everything about it, and spread the word to others so it could grow big. Even now, after playing many of the other TCGs out there, I think SolForge has the best system and I really like their card design choices. All of this convinced me that this is the right place for me. Continue reading

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Iddy Approved: SolForge

My health is quickly draining away as fallen heroes on both sides of the conflict litter the battlefield. My trusted ally, Tarsus Deathweaver, who has been providing bonuses to attack and health to my party, was vanquished by the relentless Zimus, The Undying, a powerful undead soldier who earlier dispatched my female cleric in flowing white robes. The tension mounts as I know Zimus will be the death of me soon. I shift my attention to the diminutive Arboris Dragon, who has been quietly accompanying my party. He plots his next move and sends a Glowhive Siren to block Zimus’ next charge. The crafty Arboris knows her death will not be in vain. As Zimus splits the Siren in two with his mighty battle axe, her life force grants me and the party new life. Arboris absorbs this life and swells to enormous size and now towers over the battlefield. My pulse rises as I cast the perfect spell for such a moment, and it grants the mighty dragon the power to breakthrough all defenses. Even the legendary champion, Oros, the Chosen with his majestic two-handed sword is not enough to fight off the dragon’s onslaught. Arboris unleashes a devastating attack to vanquish my foes. I take in the outcome of the battle, and exhale. It was a close call for this group of adventurers but more glory awaits. There is always another foe to conquer.

Forge-&-DragonAt the moment, I’m not sitting around a table playing Dungeons & Dragons with a group of friends. I’m in the passenger seat of my wife’s car as she is driving us to a family gathering, and she is quite annoyed with the fact that I’m buried knuckles-deep in my iPhone playing a deck building game against a stranger.

Welcome to SolForge.

SolForge first came to my attention around the time I interviewed Justin Gary about his previous brainchild, Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer. I had gushed about that game after playing it at Gen Con in 2011, so when I heard Mr. Gary was working on another game – I totally dropped the ball and did not back the Kickstarter.

I was a fool!

Considering I have been playing SolForge on a daily basis for the past few months, the magnitude of regret I have for missing out on the Kickstarter is considerable. Let me explain why.

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Ego Check: Russell Tomas, Graywalkers Purgatory Creator/Team Lead

For those of you who were following me on Twitter about a year ago, you may remember that I became absorbed in XCOM: Enemy Unknown on XBOX 360. I thoroughly enjoyed the turn-based strategy aspect of the game, and how the gameplay was combined with traditional roleplaying elements like leveling and specialization. Since blasting through scores of alien invaders, I have remained on the lookout for another game with a similar style.

Graywalkers CoverOne game that could potentially fit into that mold is Graywalkers Purgatory, which is the brainchild of Russell Tomas - CEO and Creative Director at Dreamlords Digital. The company has been in existence for two years and develops games for iPhone, iPad, Android, PC, Mac, and browsers. Mr. Tomas was kind enough with his time to discuss the changing climate for tabletop and mobile gaming, the lessons learned from his first Kickstarter attempt, and his hopes to make Graywalker Purgatory an intellectual property that can penetrate into the tabletop, mobile, and PC gaming market.

You have now been in the gaming industry for about seven years. What developments have you noticed since you first started in the business, and would you describe those developments as positive or negative?

I’ve worked on both sides of the industry, on the publisher side as a top executive for large MMO publishing company, and now as a developer of PC/mobile games. For the past seven years, things have moved fast in the gaming industry. Within that time, MMOs were big, then Social Games grew big, and now Mobile games are on the rise and the indie gaming industry has been revived. All of these contributed in making gaming mainstream. It has not only legitimized gaming as a viable business industry, it is now seen as one of the most lucrative.

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Increasing Immersion with Obligation

We started a Star Wars: Edge of the Empire (EotE) campaign last year, and one of the more interesting components of character creation is the Obligation system. Obligation is introduced during character creation and remains an ongoing device throughout the life of the campaign that can be used by both player and game master (GM) to facilitate storytelling, increase tension, and introduce surprise action. I believe the Obligation system is an example of how mechanics can affect the amount of roleplaying and immersion at the table.

When building a character in Edge of the Empire, one of the steps is selecting the character’s Obligation. Quite simply, no one in the Edge of the Empire is a self-starter; every character owes somebody something.  While some players may enjoy forming a backstory – complete with layers of drama and intrigue – creating a detailed backstory is not something all players (or GMs) enjoy. For example, a player does not have to create any meaningful backstory for a 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons character; the character is built by selecting desired attributes, powers, and gear. The player is asked to select Alignment to designate his or her moral compass, but after that initial selection is complete, alignment rarely comes into play for most groups. In other words, creating a backstory with any detail for a 4e D&D character is up to the discretion of the player and GM; Edge of the Empire’s Obligation system forces players to create a bit of backstory for their character.

Prologue Comics Wookiee Life Debt

I believe the Obligation system is something that could be used by other roleplaying game systems to enhance character creation and increase immersion. It forces the player to not answer answer the question, “What do I want my character to do?” But to also answer, “How did my character get here?” I will discuss the benefits of consequences of the Obligation system below.

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WWJD – What Would Joel Do?

Spoiler Warning: Like my statistical review of The Games of Thrones novels, the following post contains massive spoilers for the Playstation 3 game, The Last of Us. By all means at your disposal, play the game first and then come back to read the article. You have been warned.

What would Joel do?

What would Joel do?

The Last of Us is a remarkable game. Playing the game over the course of a few weeks resulted in some anxiety and nightmares as I replayed a few of the creepy-as-hell sequences and brutality of dying repeatedly while trying to fall sleep. For example, nothing can quite prepare you for quietly creeping past a host of Clickers in a dark room – or that first time a Bloater rips your face open in shockingly-close detail. While the game travels well-established mechanics of cover-based combat and stealth in yet another post-apocalyptic setting, it is the acting, characters, and story that set the The Last of Us apart from titles with similar gameplay. The journey of Joel and Ellie is riveting, and the conclusion to their story is unlike any experience I’ve had with a videogame in the 20-plus years I’ve been an avid consumer of such entertainment.

After completing the game, I scanned around for other reactions to the game, which I had previously avoided for fear of spoilers. Some of the commentary was surprising. A discussion of the game by the site Polygon used the following terms to describe Joel at various points in their commentary: sociopath, psychosis, disturbed, and spook. Meanwhile, the New York Times commented that “Joel grows over the course of the game into an admirably complicated protagonist” between paragraphs that blast the game for its handling of gender roles. The later is I comment I disagree with slightly, but my thoughts about Joel are more in line with the Times’ take on him.

By the end of the game, I felt completely immersed in Joel’s experience of the world. I empathized with him. The following is my attempt to justify the actions of Joel at the end of the game – and rationalize why my thoughts were completely in line with his actions when I/he burst through the operating room to find Ellie about to be killed.

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Introducing Star Wars: Edge of the Empire

Beautiful book.

Beautiful book.

Now that my gaming table is complete, I have started up a new campaign and our group has selected Star Wars – Edge of the Empire as our system. Expect numerous posts in the future about the gameplay, mechanics, and other issues that arise while playing the system. The first item I wish to discuss regarding Edge of the Empire is a great idea that was introduced to our group by our DM (and licensed Lucasfilm artist), Grant Gould.

During our first session, our “pitiful little band” met to create characters with the guidelines provided by the Core Rulebook. This process lasted a couple of hours as we traded ideas on how to balance our three-player party. I stuck with an early character concept – a cross between an interrogation and medical droid who had parts of his memory wiped and was stolen from Black Sun. Now the droid, EIT-27, has been reprogammed to help instead of harm, and somewhere deep in the circuits of his chrome brain are essential details on Black Sun operations. The rules allowed me the flexibility to take skills in multiple Careers to build a Droid who could function both as a healer and techno-savvy brain for the party.

With character creation completed, our DM turned his laptop around and told us to gather around the screen. Click below to find out what he showed us!

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Ego Check: Spencer Estabrooks, Creator of One Hit Die

I did not realize what was missing in my life until I received a press release for One Hit Die, a new webseries that combines “the journey and adventure of a Dungeons & Dragons game with the intimate aside interviews of The Office.” I quickly followed the link, watched the first four episodes of the series, and fell in love with the concept. Considering how much of my blog is dedicated to navel gazing the various levels of communication involved in roleplaying games, One Hit Die is a critical hit on my sensibilities.

One Hit Die LogoI reached out to the creator of One Hit Die, Spencer Estabrooks. He has directed numerous short films in the past and was able to fund One Hit Die by earning a grant through the Alberta Foundation of the Arts. He is in the process of raising funds to advance the show, and was kind enough to share some of his time to discuss the genesis of the series – and some of the wonderful moments in the first four episodes currently available online. Before reading the interview, I suggest you first watch the first four episodes, which will be time well spent!

When previously asked about your inspiration for the series, you responded, “It came out of a desire to relive my early Dungeons & Dragons gaming experiences . . . we always had a lot of inter-party treachery, and I thought it was fun, and wanted to do a show based on that.” How would you describe the world of One Hit Die, and how does it relate to your early gaming experiences?

I grew up in a small town, and we played D&D and other games with very eclectic people. Everyone played with different ambitions, but it started to get fun when characters passed secret messages to the DM. It went like this:

  • Player A passes message to the DM
  • Player B asks, “What was that?”
  • Player A responds, “Your character wouldn’t know.”
  • Player B grumbles

Which is why I like focusing on the characters in One Hit Die, not just on their class and race. I started with the four standard classes, because what’s interesting is how people play them, and how that effects interactions with others.

So to sum it up, One Hit Die is not about games as much as it is about how people play them.

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