Hearthstone Session #2 -Managing Anger & Making Friends

In February, I climbed as high as Rank 4 in the Ranked ladder format in Hearthstone. It is – by far – the most success I have had on the ladder, and it likely boils down to three primary reasons. First, I am playing many more games in recent weeks, which has given me a clear sense of the current popular decks. Second, I’m learning how to best counter other popular decks while making better plays with my own cards – practice, practice, practice! Third, I was able to save up enough dust to create Archmage Antonidas, which is a Legendary card I did not possess. My Tempo Mage deck often ran out of steam in some games, and Antonidas is an excellent late-game closer.

The Tempo Mage deck is heavy on RNG (random number generator) effects. For example, the spell Unstable Portal gives the players a new minion card at a discounted mana cost. It could be ANY minion in the game. If Unstable Portal spits out a high-cost, Legendary card then suddenly I have a huge temp advantage over my opponent. However, Unstable Portal can pop out a weak minion (I’m looking at you, Stonetusk Boar!) and then the spell puts you behind your opponent. Tempo Mage decks are solid, but a few good RNG moments can make them great.

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The Hearthstone Sessions #1

Several months ago, I wrote two articles as an introduction to the online competitive card game, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. The first addressed the potential benefits and consequences for new players attempting to learn the game while the second offered some advice on how to approach the various game modes that are currently available. It was announced recently that Hearthstone will be undergoing numerous changes to the format of these game modes. The moves align it close to the structure of Magic: The Gathering as some cards will cycle out of play since they will no longer be allowed in certain game formats. The coming months will once again be a good time to jump into Hearthstone because the changes will mean a new player will not have to catch up on collecting as many older cards.

One of my thoughts in playing more Hearthstone was to stream the game from time to time. In trying this, it became clear that my Internet connection and computing equipment has nowhere near the capacity I need to stream efficiently. It has been extremely helpful to watch professional players compete at Hearthstone and learn lessons alone the way. While far from being an expert player, I thought it would be fun to bring my “style” and “personality” to the Hearthstone world.

But how to stand out in the crowded streaming world?

Dr. Drew, Frasier Crane, & Hearthstone

While pitching ideas to close friends, one idea that has stuck with me is combining Hearthstone game sessions with some mental health tips or observations that may even be related to Hearthstone and its gameplay and culture. Since 2011, I have been writing my blog on roleplaying games like Dungeon & Dragons through the lens of my training and experiences as a psychologist.

In my mind, I could be the Dr. Drew or Frasier Crane of Hearthstone streaming!

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“Should I remove the minion with this Fireball – or go to the Face?”

For example, I think it would be fascinating and fun to have a call-in show while streaming where people can either ask questions about Hearthstone or any self-help topic of their choice. To be clear, I would NOT be providing mental health therapy to people, but could certainly offer behavioral advice and talk about common misconceptions about psychological theory and practice. All while trying to be entertaining and becoming a halfway decent player at Hearthstone.

I am interested in making this happen, but as mentioned earlier – I don’ have the capability to deliver. I may launch a Patreon in the future to see if there is enough interest in helping to make this a reality. In addition, I hope to write more for the site and perhaps transition the Ego Check interview series to a podcast format.

My mentality with the blog has always been, “If you want something to make an impact, really dedicate the effort and do it RIGHT the first time.” I have dabbled with trying to make a podcast or stream work in the past, but I don’t have the technical skills and equipment to form a polished product that I’m happy to launch. So I’m going to break that “Do it right the first time” rule and start with posting my first attempt at providing some mental health advice while playing Hearthstone.

The audio gets a little wonky toward the end of the video, and I certainly make some misplays with my Mage deck, but perhaps you’ll find the content intriguing. One way or the other, let me know!

And if you’d like to see more of this, then please leave a comment below. I think there is useful and entertaining content I can create. Let me know if you agree.

500th Mage Win & Short-term Goals

In the video, I am sitting at 499 wins with my Mage. I have been practicing a Tempo Mage deck and add better cards to it as I build up enough Dust to make it more competitive. This month, I’ve climbed as high as Rank 4 and decided to record my 500th win. I figured it was an apt time to discuss the importance of setting short-term, attainable goals for yourself in ALL areas of life.

If you have a Hearthstone or mental health question you’d like me to answer in a future video, then please send me an email or contact me on Twitter.

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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.

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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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