Navigating Hearthstone Game Modes

I started to write about Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft earlier in the week to offer my thoughts on what it is like as a new player attempting to jump into the game. While I have tried to absorb information from a variety of websites, podcasts, and professional streams, I imagine that other players experimenting with the game for the first time do not make these efforts. My next article will provide an overview of the resources I am using to improve my skill and have more fun with the game. However, the article below discusses the various game types that are available in Hearthstone, and how new players can best navigate them.

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 9.42.35 AM

Opening menu in Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft

At the moment, Hearthstone features five game modes when you log into the game – Casual, Ranked, The Arena, Tavern Brawl, and Solo Adventures. Casual and Ranked are always available and free-to-play under the Play button pictured above. At any moment day or night, Casual and Ranked are there for you to play against a random opponent for a single game. The Arena costs 150 gold to enter, while Tavern Brawl is available for a few days each week. The rules of the Tavern Brawl change each Wednesday, and the button is greyed out early in the week while Blizzard performs background work to get the next Tavern Brawl ready for action. The Solo Adventures, Curse of Naxxramas and Blackrock Mountain, can be purchased with money or unlocked with gold.

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Well Met? Hearthstone & Social Comparison Theory

I started to play Hearthstone more frequently this summer. I downloaded it last year and experimented with the gameplay, but ultimately felt that SolForge was a more interesting experience. Over time I lost interest in SolForge and allowed the Hearthstone app on my iPad to get dusty, but my interest was renewed when Hearthstone became available on my iPhone. It allowed me to play more often and I slowly got sucked into the gameplay mechanics. Hearthstone is an online competitive, collectible card game that relies on numerous factors including a growing element of randomness, player skill, and the quality of the cards. Some cards are clearly more powerful and effective than others, and players must spend resources – time and/or money – to unlock, craft, or purchase new cards.

Hearthstone Logo

Playing Hearthstone is fun, but winning is better! Like any good researcher, I set out to learn how to best play the game and what cards I should unlock, craft, or purchase so I could win more often. What followed was a lesson in the merits and perils of comparing myself to others who I deem more successful than me – commonly known in the psychological field as Social Comparison Theory.

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Life, Death, Love, and Star Wars

Star Wars is woven throughout the fabric of my existence. I am far from alone in this regard because Star Wars matters to a lot of people around the world. With the new movie debuting later this year, and Force Friday happening today, it feels like a good time to explain why I find Star Wars so important. I spent some time earlier this year at Star Wars Celebration with tens of thousands of people who could share a similar story about how Star Wars has affected their lives. Every one of those stories is original and valid.

This one is mine.

Before delving into the details of what it was like to be at Star Wars Celebration back in April, I want to explain the various stages of my Star Wars fandom and experiences throughout my life. I was born in New Jersey in 1976, so I was too young to be aware of the first movie’s imprint on society in 1977. As I grew up, I became a fan because Star Wars toys were everywhere – and I wanted them all! My mother referred to me back then as Greedy Smurf, which is a title I thankfully outgrew (right, mom?!). I recall watching Star Wars in my living room whenever I could find it on the cable channel, PRISM. This was before the days of digital downloads, DVRs, Blu-rays, DVDs, Laserdiscs or even VHS tapes – so finding a movie you wanted to watch took planning and the local TV Guide. For example, discovering that Star Wars was going to play on PRISM next Friday night became appointment viewing. My aunt or grandmother would sometimes call our house to alert me that Star Wars was going to be on television. My fandom started in this way, sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of an old box TV watching Luke leave his home to partake in a grand adventure.

Luke Reaching for Lightsaber

Use the Force, Luke. Let go, Luke. Luke, trust me.

My memory tells me that the first time I saw Empire Strikes Back was on a VHS tape at my aunt Eileen’s house while the rest of the family were off doing something else; I could be mistaken. The scene that hit me like a bolt of lightning was Luke in the snow cave on Hoth. Helpless and dangling from the roof of the cave, Luke senses danger, closes his eyes, and wills his lightsaber to leap from the snow and into hand just in time to fend off a raging monster.

That was it.

That was the moment!

I had heard “Old Ben” teach Luke about The Force many times in the first movie and watched Luke trust his feelings to blow up The Death Star, but it was not until that moment when Star Wars connected with me on an existential level.

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Ego Check: Nathan Paoletta, Creator of World Wide Wrestling RPG

Nathan Paoletta

Nathan Paoletta

When I first learned about the World Wide Wrestling RPG, I questioned, “Damn, why didn’t I think of that?” The game takes elements of professional wrestling and turns them into an organized, functional, highly entertaining tabletop roleplaying game. I previously shared my initial impressions from playing the game, and posted a template for a recap of our wrestling promotion’s episode. Below, I interviewed the game’ creater, Nathan Peoletta. He was kind enough to discuss the aftermath of his successful Kickstarter campaign that brought WWWRPG to life. We explore how the game compares to traditional tabletop offerings such as Dungeons & Dragons, and delve into how he addresses the darker elements of professional wrestling within the game.  Please enjoy the interview below, consider visiting his Patreon, and certainly try at least one session of WWWRPG!

Now that World Wide Wrestling RPG has been able to breath for a few months, what does it feel like to have the project completed?

It feels really good! The response to the game has been great so far, both in terms of play activity and sales. The community that has grown up around it – centered in the Google+ community I run, but also including general conversations on Twitter and other platforms – has been incredibly gratifying. I obviously am happy that people are playing the game, but it is a testament to the strength of the design itself that the game experiences seem to be generally positive, and that multiple people in the community are emerging as rules experts without me having to use the “designer voice of authority” very often. I think every designer is nervous about their design not actually communicating to their audience, and having tangible evidence to the contrary is probably the best part on the pure creative level.

Another worry was that the Kickstarter would be the peak in terms of reaching an audience. Thankfully players have been doing a great job of spreading the word about it since the public release. It is fantastic that people are finding the game post-Kickstarter, that people are signing up to play at conventions, running games online for their non-gamer wrestling friends, and all of that. So far I’m counting the entire experience as a success!

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Never Forget the Action

The first foray into offering suggestions for improving the experience of playing roleplaying games came years ago when I detailed how to create an in-world newsletter to summarize important events and characters in an ongoing campaign. Before that time, I took on the responsibility of summarizing the events in my group’s D&D campaign, which turned into a lengthy document that spanned many months of gaming sessions. In general, I believe externalizing and recording the actions during a session is important so everyone involved can easily have cues to remember things when it is time for the next session, which may not take place for days, weeks, or even months. The most recent campaign I started was with the World Wide Wrestling RPG, which has so far been a delightful experience. Below I offer a template to recap the events that take place during a play session of WWW RPG.

Approximately 15 years ago, I met Wade Keller, the creator of Pro Wrestling Torch, which has been operating for over 25 years and now features daily podcasts in addition to a website updated around the clock with new content. Before learning publications like Pro Wrestling Torch existed, I was a wrestling fan that did not have any insight into the business other than enjoying the entertainment it provided. Professional wrestling features ongoing news and drama based on political issues, injuries, scandals, and speculation about how recent events behind the scenes will affect the future direction of a promotion. Having consumed content from Pro Wrestling Torch (off and on) for 15 years, I am now familiar with how the industry is covered and reported. I borrowed heavily from the coverage style of live wrestling events like James Caldwell’s recap of World Wrestling Entertainment’s most recent pay-per view, Money In the Bank.

I created the following recap almost a week after the first gaming session with the World Wide Wrestling RPG. During the session, I jotted down some notes to remind me of key events, and several of the players tweeted about moments during the game – so I was able to refer to that as well when writing the recap. Ideally, the recap would have been written closer to the conclusion of the gaming session to ensure nothing significant is forgotten. On the other hand, waiting a few days can provide interesting additional context for a recap. One suggestion is to have the recap be a rotating responsibility in the gaming group, so players take turns writing a recap after the event. I asked players in an online D&D campaign to rotate writing session summaries last year, and that worked quite well.

Enjoy the recap of the first episode of the Midwest Wrestling Alliance! A MS Word version of the recap is also available if that would help as a template.

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Get Inside the Squared Circle

WWW RPGWorld Wide Wrestling RPG is a new game that allows a group of players to create their own professional wrestling promotion and live out their dreams as larger-than-life characters in and out of the ring. The game is a must for any tabletop RPG enthusiast that also happens to have a soft spot for professional wrestling; however, the game can be readily consumed by players that do not know the difference between a suplex and DDT. I previously presented how borrowing the drama of professional wrestling can be used to enhance roleplaying games. World Wide Wrestling RPG is nothing but the drama and action of professional wrestling.

I played the game for the first time last week, and it was a fantastic session. I am also in the process of interviewing WWW RPG’s creator, Nathan D. Paoletta, which should post within the next couple of weeks. My goal with this post is to briefly explain how the game works, and then present a number of suggestions based on my experiences running a session.

Professional Wrestling is Roleplaying

Professional wrestling presents a fictional world to an audience to consume. That world features heroes (babyfaces) and villains (heels) with many shades of grey in between. The plot for the audience is scripted by a creative team to maximize the audience reaction to events that take place in the fictional world. The heroes battle the villains, and there are many complications along the way. The wrestlers do combat in (and sometimes outside) of the ring to determine who wins and who loses. Whenever one villain is defeated, he or she finds a way to come back again – or a new foe takes center stage. The hero’s work is never truly done as there is always a new challenge to overcome. Sound like a familiar premise for a roleplaying game?

Players create different types of wrestlers instead of adventurers. Players roll dice to determine the success of wrestling moves and other activities to increase the popularity of his or her wrestler. When a player’s wrestler gain enough popularity, the wrestler is allowed to level up (called Advance in WWW RPG) to learn new skills or strengthen an existing statistic. The GM (referred to as Creative in WWW RPG) orchestrates the session by introducing non-playable wrestlers (NPWs) and other personalities to set events in motion. Other world-building activities required of Creative are detailed below.

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Mola Mola Death Rules

Suprise! Mola! Mola!

Surprise! Mola! Mola!

Last week, I made the plunge (puns) and gave into the temptation to download the incredibly silly time-waster known as Mola Mola. From numerous people I follow on Twitter, I kept seeing notifications about fish dying in tragic ways. I was curious, and decided to give it a try. It’s free – what could go wrong? The game is like a million other products that run on the mechanics of behavioral psychology and a variable-ratio reinforcement schedule. There is even an achievement for tapping on your mola 3,000 in one game, which is ridiculous. Did I complete this task? Of course I did! When you play the game, the goal is to grow a bigger fish, survive grander adventures, and unlock more and better food. Rinse (oh, puns), and repeat.

The unique thing about Mola Mola is that death, which happens frequently, suddenly – and quite tragically I might add – actually makes you stronger in the next play through. When your fish dies, the likelihood that it will die again from the same cause is reduced. For example, your fish could die sunbathing (just trust me). The first time you go on the sunbathing adventure, you have a 50% chance of surviving. When you die by sunbathing the first time, the chance of survival increases to 75%. When you die by sunbathing a second time, the survival rate increases to 95%. Also, when you die, you earn Mola Points (MP) that can be used to buy food and adventures – so death makes you stronger. If MP reminds you of experience points (XP), then you are correct; it’s exactly like XP.

Death is often seen as a negative outcome in gaming. Death in videogames often leads to the player starting over from a checkpoint to progress through a level again in the hopes of learning from their errors. Death in tabletop games often ends the adventure for the character that has died – unless he or she is brought back to life through some type of game mechanic or divine/DM intervention. Mola Mola takes the outcome of death and turns it into something that is rewarding and makes it easier to advance further in future games. Below, I explore how Mola Mola-style death could be used to inject more life into your next roleplaying game session.

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