Risk of Rain 2

A roguelike that is a lot of fun, but is mostly just a shooter with random gear if you don’t bring friends.

I was gonna pass on writing about Risk of Rain 2, mostly for two reasons. One was because it has been out for forever. Then I went and checked, and its actually been just a bit over a year.

Huh. 2019 and 2020 have been really long haven’t they?

Then I didn’t have anything I thought was interesting to say. So.

So, some background if you haven’t played. Risk of Rain 2 is a sequel to Risk of Rain except not really. Risk of Rain was a 2D side scrolling game, and Risk of Rain 2 is a 3D third person shooter. Both are rogue likes, but the difference made by third D in 2 is pretty massive. The gameplay loop is something like this: start a game, pick a character, run around for loot while trying to finish the level. If you do finish the level, congrats! Proceed to a new level with more death and loot. When you die, and you will, rinse and repeat, but now you might have unlocked some new stuff.

Now do it again. And again.

One primary advantages that Risk of Rain 2 has over its predecessor is that the net code actually works this time, which makes playing it in multiplayer much easier, and also brings up the big thing I find interesting about the game: I think Risk of Rain 2 is actually a better roguelike in multiplayer than it is in singleplayer.

Here’s why: in singleplayer, there are very few situations where you actually get to make build defining choices. Unlike Immortal Redneck, pretty much every single item you might find or pick up is good. Outside of a few edge case items you get with a special currency that holds over between runs, no item is even a side grade. The worst an item can be is useless. It’s never going to really penalize you.

This matters because in Risk of Rain, the primary thing that is going to kill you is time. As a run progresses, the difficulty of the game ticks up, scaling the damage, health, etc, of bosses. So in order to get the most out of a run, you more or less want to be constantly pushing forward. You don’t really want to spend time farming money or items on a given level, because that will just make things harder in the long run, and the benefit of a single extra item doesn’t outweigh the time it took to get it. Instead, the game plan usually becomes scoping out a few items you can grab quickly, fighting the boss fast, grabbing those items, and charging ahead.

So again, in singleplayer, here’s what will happen: you’ll just grab every single item you can get your hands on. A given item won’t make you worse, so there’s no reason not to.

But in multiplayer, suddenly the builds become important. There are two reasons for this. One is that a fantastic item for one class might be at best mediocre on other. Everyone having a little bit of attack speed might not be as good as one person having a ton. And some items just stack poorly. So now when you open chests, the question being asked is no longer “Should I pick this up?” to which the answer is always “Yes,” it becomes, “Is this item more effective on me, or on my teammates, and if so, should they commit time to coming to grab it?”

I’ll give an example: Bustling Fungus. Bustling Fungus is a fairly straightforward item. When you stand still, after about 2 seconds, a field around you will appear, and will restore health to the source of the field, and any friendly allies standing in it. As a player, standing still will get you pulverized, so Fungus hot trash most of the time.

Unless you play Engineer. The Engineer puts down turrets have two important properties when it comes to Bustling Fungus. First off, the turrets function as if they have copies of all the items the Engineer, and… they never move. So the Engineer with Bustling Fungus suddenly becomes able to place down self healing turrets that also heal allies who just stand near them, even if the ally is running around. Suddenly the Fungus is pretty good.

The second thing is this that the number of items per player in a game of Risk of Rain 2 is mostly linear. So if you’re in a one player game, let’s say you get about 4 total items per level. Well, in a 2 player game, you’ll get about 8 total items per level. And either of the players can pick those up! Before, your build was likely to be pure luck of the draw, but now you can plan with your teammates to put those items where they’ll do the most good. Some like Bustling Fungus are straightforward, and some are more complex, but the increased variety and choices means you have a much bigger pool to try to build out of.

In either case, I think the key takeaway here is as follows: Risk of Rain 2 is pretty great. Steam says I’ve played almost 60 hours of it, so yeah, I like. But perhaps more important, if you do decide to risk those rains, bring some friends. It makes the game much more fun, and makes the building aspect much more strategic.

(Or you could just unlock and use the Artifact of Command, which lets you pick which item you want from a given tier, but I’m not counting that here.)

Running Secrets Of Shirakawa Castle – DM Thoughts

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish running the Secrets of Shirakawa Castle module this week, but instead I hope to have the second part of the review up next week. If you haven’t read the first part, the link to it is here.

This post isn’t a review, instead, it’s just a collection of quick thoughts on running the Secrets of Shirakawa Castle module before. The primary difference between this and review is that I view these more as areas where I screwed up running the module, and where doing things differently would have been more fun for the players. As such, this post is mostly intended for game masters intending to run the module. So without reading the actual module, this article may not be very useful for you.

The module itself can be bought here, on the DM’s guild.


1. Don’t be afraid to use Sei as part of the investigation.
-I’m always afraid of having NPC’s do too much in games. Its something I need to work on. With that said, the way I ran things, it was almost like he wasn’t there. If I were to do this again, I would try to make him a more active part of the game, especially if I was to run the module as few players as I did. Sei and their lore is a fairly key component to the module, and by downplaying them too much, I think I made things a lot more complex then they needed to be.


2. Actively monitor party resources.
Again, more on me then the module. I wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention to how much HP/Spells/etc my players had. The module isn’t a met grinder, but it is punishing, and with exhaustion and other mechanics in play, it can become very easy to accidentally overestimate how much more the party can take without a short rest.


3. Let the players know that they have options to really explore the castle.
This is honestly my biggest regret. I’m pretty sure it’s how I ran the module, but when collecting feedback at the end, many of my players said they felt railroaded. Here’s the thing: Secrets is very, very open ended. Every room in the castle has a description and something to find in it. There are servants to talk to, a bathhouse to visit, and a small garden and pond. Each of these also has clues and information about the cause of the Yokai infestation. Players really can just wander and explore. If I was to run the module again, I think I would do a short tour of the castle, then have the NPC’s tell the players they can inspect wherever they want, and leave them.

These were my big three take aways. I expect to finish running the module next weekend, and after that I’ll post my final review of it. Hopefully these notes help anyone who ends up deciding to send folks on an adventure of their own!

Immortal Redneck – Finally Finished – Video Games!

So, I finally finished Immortal Redneck, by Crema. If the name sounds familar, it might be because they’re the folks that made Temtem. And raised a bunch of money on Kickstarter. But Immortal Redneck is their first game, and frankly, I’ve had way more fun with it.

I’ll talk later about Temtem, but for now, lets just talk about Immortal Redneck. If I had to describe it sufficiently, it’s a rogue like version of Doom, with an Egyptian theme. The game itself is fairly straightforward. You pick a starting character ALA Binding of Issac. This character determines your starting weapons, special activated ability, and usually has at least one more passive gimmick. Then you go into a pyramid, fight your way through to the stairs, go up the next level where enemies get harder until you die or get to the top. On the way to the top there are two bosses. If you get all the way to the top, or if you die, you restart, and can spend money you’ve collected on your way up to increase your hp/def/attack/unlock characters. It’s a pretty standard rogue like structure.

Here’s the thing though. If the reason you start playing Immortal Redneck is because “Oh hey, roguelike” I don’t think you’ll actually have a very good time. Most well regarded rogue-likes have an aspect of “learning” to them, and that isn’t really present in this. You don’t really construct a build. The only thing you can change about your set up as you proceed up the pyramid is your weapon load out, if you find something interesting to replace it with. The only real power-ups, “scrolls” can be good or bad, and you don’t know what they are until you pick them up.

I like Immortal Redneck overall though, because its fun. While it doesn’t follow the standard rogue like gameplay, most of the guns are a joy to play with, and just fun to shoot things with. While it does lean a bit heavily into references to pop culture with some of them, (looking at you little cricket and woolololo staff) most of them are just very satisfying to use.

In addition, the voice acting is pretty good. The only real voice lines are from the titular Immortal Redneck, but I found myself actually rather enjoying how he’s described. Making your character likable in a shooter like this seems difficult when all you can have them really do is spout one liners, but these make the redneck out as surprisingly likable.

I enjoyed Immortal Redneck, and if you like shooters I’d say give it a shot. But if you’re looking into it for the roguelike elements, it may not be your cup of tea.

Glory to Rome

Let’s talk about a great game you can’t buy unless you want to sell your kidneys.

As we enter another week of quarantine, I’ve spent a lot of time playing games with people over the internet. This week, it was Glory to Rome in tabletop simulator, a board game with a really weird ass history. While I could spend time writing about that, I’d just be retreading ground already covered by Cyrus Farivar, in his article on arstechnica. So yeah, if you want to see how a Kickstarter can go horrifically wrong, and why being in a relationship with your only translator for your production line might be a bad idea, go read his stuff instead. It’s fascinating.

(Side Note: I find the failure of Glory to Rome especially interesting as the only components for the game are paper and cards. It’s all cards! No complex inserts, no expensive plastic models, nothing. Where’s the Jason Schier of the board game industry? There’s probably a fascinating and horrifying story about global supply chains in this thing.)

So instead, lets actually talk about Glory to Rome. I had a lot of fun with it. I was playing with three other friends, one of whom had played before. I also got crushed, coming in last place. Generally speaking, I get pretty salty when I lose games, and while there was some of that, I mostly want to play it again.

Probably the thing I find the most impressive about Glory to Rome is the same thing I sorta mocked it for up above: the only component is cards. The cards are your resources. The cards are your buildings. The cards are your victory points, your actions, and clients. The game manages to pack a stupid amount of functionality into each card WITHOUT making them illegible or hard to read. (Unless you’re playing on tabletop simulator with blurry scans. In which case, yeah, they can be a bit hard to read.) But the fact of the matter is, the game feels like it does a lot with very little.

The second thing about Glory to Rome that I find interesting, and would be helpful if I played it again, is how fast the game is. Most building games I’ve played tend to sorta drag out near the end, getting to the point where you’re playing kingmaker, or where you’ve lost, but the game keeps going. Glory to Rome ends with a bang. Of the four people in our game, I would say the two highest scoring players earned most of their points in the last two to three rounds of play, in one person’s case, scoring around 20+ points in one turn. (My end game score was 12 total. 3rd place was 13.) There’s an explosive energy to it by the end.

I honestly don’t really have any nitpicks with the game, and honestly, if I could, I’d go out and buy a copy. But you can’t, and no one can. At the time of writing, Ebay shows maybe two copies of the first edition, clocking in at about $130, and a single copy of the “Black Box Edition” at $425 (To be fair, that’s including the $50 shipping. To be unfair, that’s probably more then it would cost you to go and get an entire copy of the game professionally printed.) The next several results are all for games that describe themselves as “Glory to Rome-like”.

If you want to play it though, there is still a way to do it. First, you’d need Tabletop Simulator installed, and then, theoretically, you would need to go and find a mod version of the game in the workshop. You know. Theoretically. And playing this way would still cost about $20 per person, since you’d all have to buy a copy of tabletop simulator.

But it would still be cheaper then buying the actual game.

RPG Module Review: The Great Egg Scramble

Module NameThe Great Egg Scramble

AuthorsDylan Teal

System/Character Level – DND 5E/4 Level 5’s (I ran it with two level 7’s though)

Price – Pay what you want, $2 suggested. ( I had 2$ worth of fun running it, so I bought it afterward.)

I was going to write this post later, and play Minecraft instead, but because I was talked into playing modded Minecraft, my instance is still launching. Seriously, why does this require apparently recompiling my entire game each time I want to launch a mod pack? It’s insane.

So, DND Module Review time! Today I’m gonna talk about a fairly fun adventure I ran last week for two the folks in one of my DND groups, when one person was just dead sick, and one couldn’t make it.

Woo! So, where to start. I actually had a lot of fun running this, and I think folks had fun playing it. It’s a fairly straightforward adventure, with a few encounters, and some custom enemies. It has maps, which is, as always, appreciated. They’re not super beautiful by any means, but they are functional, and the fact that they’re actually included means it won’t be too hard to remake them in whatever software you prefer if you decide they aren’t up to your standards.

While overall I like the module, there were a few places that it did feel a bit weaker/less fleshed out. The first place is the Spring Festival itself. Despite it being a semi-large part of the story, there isn’t much detail in what is actually being sold, whose present, other little bits of flavor. The closest we get is a brief description in the intro, and a few lines about how the party can find most mundane goods they might want, but no magic items, and how they won’t be able to find a horse/cart. And that’s more or less the whole thing.

Second place is the second NPC the players encounter, Lupin. While Lupin is fairly central to the module in terms of driving it forward, the module mostly only contains info about what Lupin knows, and what might happen if the players are able to persuade him to talk. For the Townsmaster Lepus however, we get a full set of information, info about his personality, and also a few other little things that help roleplaying him. I personally would have liked to see Lupin get the same treatment, especially since he’s arguably the main roleplaying set piece of the adventure. (The bandits end up threatening you/fighting you, Townsmaster Lepus is generally pretty helpful. Lupin is really the only one where players really can either sway him to their side, or totally fail to do so. )

Outside of these two places however, I generally felt I had enough to work with in terms of tone and flavor for the adventure.

Here’s what I would do differently if I ran the module again:

  1. Flesh out the festival in advance. Create one or two stalls to visit, selling knick knacks and trinkets. At the same time, make it very clear that the NPC’s in town won’t be willing to part with their carts. (My players got hung up looking for a cart in town when a better way is to try to make a deal with Lupin.)
  2. Decide on Lupin’s personality beforehand, and force the players to lead the negotiations. In my game, I sorta decided that Lupin was a bit pissy with the bandits, and had him take the lead in negotiating with the players. I think for more experienced players, having to really talk him into a deal would be more fun, and reinforce his grumpy sort of personality.

Afterthought:

One small part of the module I’m not thrilled about is the killer rabbit at the end. I think this part fits in best if you run the adventure as a one-shot, and want to just kill some of the party members at the end as a joke. Otherwise, it’s not fantastic, because the party will have done about 4 four encounters by this point. (The Bandits, The Dire Hares, The Return Journey, and the Bad Egg.) Throwing the rabbit at them WILL kill someone especially because the rabbit’s decapitation means that any player it brings down to zero hit points gets their head popped off like a marshmallow.

Until the next time I think of something worth posting, cya, and stay safe folks.

Updated: 4/25/2020 – This article linked to the wrong module/author on the DMG. We confused it with the similarly named module, “The Great Egg Hunt.” The module that was played/reviewed/purchased was in fact, The Great Egg Scramble. The article has been updated to reflect this information.