Monday, November 30, 2020

Warlock Tiles Town & Village Review (vs. Dwarven Forge, OpenLock, etc)

Too Long, Didn't Watch Summary: The Warlock Tiles Town & Village set is a reasonably good deal for the money, even if you are already invested in 3D printing or Dwarven Forge sets. Some features will appeal specifically to owners of 3D printed tiles. Timestamps follow below.

Warlock Tiles offer some limited compatibility with OpenLock and DragonLock 3D tiles, but in my opinion, it would be nice if they allowed 3D enthusiasts to print their own combination clips to allow even more interchangeability. The Dwarven Forge City System is a bit more than twice as expensive than Warlock Tiles Town & Village, and Warlock Tiles offer more versatility, but do not have the same enclosed exterior presentation that Dwarven Forge buildings offer. In a sense, the two systems have different goals -- Warlock Tiles for interior playability and Dwarven Forge for an outdoor village or city display.

You can view more about OpenLock and DragonLock offerings here.

00:00  Intro
00:35  Warlock Tiles description
01:40  Town & Village box contents
07:00  Tile system using magnets and clips
09:05  How much can you build with the Town & Village box 
10:05  Using Warlock Tiles with 3D printed dungeon tiles
11:00  You can use Warlock Tiles with OpenLock and DragonLock
13:08  Warlock clip force issue
15:22  Standout Feature: Interior Walls and Doors
16:30  Example layouts using Town & Village box
16:45  Using the interior walls and doors to easily alter your layout
19:05  Using the interior walls with OpenLock or DragonLock
21:00  OpenLock and Warlock tile compatibility
22:00  Half height walls vs. full height walls
24:30  Thin doors and walls will also appeal to 3D printing enthusiasts
25:40  Warlock Tiles vs. Dwarven Forge City System
32:20  Warlock Tiles vs. OpenLock and DragonLock
34:30  Warlock Tile Pros
36:20  Warlock Tile Cons
41:40  Warlock Tile Mystery Notch
47:35  Wrapping Up
50:00  Owlbear Approved -- Please Like and Subscribe!

Friday, October 2, 2020

HeroQuest: Should you back it?

 In today's video I look at the Hasbro reprint of the HeroQuest board game.

For those who are not certain about backing the new crowd-funded reprint, I do a broad comparison between the HeroQuest mechanics (as we know them from the Milton Bradley version) and other popular dungeon crawlers such as the D&D board games (Ashardalon, Drizz't, Ravenloft, etc), Dungeon!, Talisman, Descent, and Gloomhaven. This is not a deep discussion of gameplay, but I do talk about the broad differences between the various offerings. 

I also discuss the variety of miniatures and quest options that will be offered in the difference pledge tiers. Hopefully, I will present you with enough of a picture that you are better able to decide if it worth your money. Reference time stamps follow below the video.

00:00  Introduction
01:00  Why crowd funding?
01:50  Mass market vs. niche market
05:13  What kind of consumer are you?
06:52  HeroQuest mechanics summary
08:00  HeroQuest is almost a roleplaying game.
13:08  Mechanical complexity versus other dungeon crawl board games.
13:35  Dungeon!
14:20  D&D board games - Wrath of Ashardalon, Legend of Drizz't, Castle Ravenloft, Temple of Elemental Evil, etc.
15:18  Descent: Journeys in the Dark
15:55  Gloomhaven
16:55  Where does HeroQuest sit in the dungeon crawl game hierarchy?
19:35  Who is the best audience for HeroQuest?
22:35  HeroQuest is probably a better dungeon crawler for the younger gamer.
23:12  HeroQuest is less strategically deep and more random.
25:18  Modern dungeon crawlers might be better for a more strategic group of players.

25:58  But... what about the value of the box contents?
26: 20  Base game: 9 Hero minis, 31 Monsters, 30 bits of dungeon dressing.
28:33  Game mechanics aside, the miniatures are a good deal.
29:30  The selection of miniatures is good for any fantasy TTRPG.
32:15  The $150 level is harder to justify, but it comes with a lot of play content.
33:30  Do you back it?
35:55  Wrapping up

Gloomhaven - Descent - D&D board games - Talisman - Dungeon! -

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Review: Tiny Epic Dinosaurs

In today's video, I discuss Tiny Epic Dinosaurs, the new worker-placement and resource management board game from Gamelyn Games. In Tiny Epic Dinosaurs, you construct a ranch and raise dinosaurs to sell to... well, dinosaur zoos, I suppose. You must balance the breeding of dinosaurs against the resources they consume as well as keep your ranch outfitted in order to house all the beasts. It has mechanics similar to other worker placement games such as Stone Age, Viticulture, or Lords of Waterdeep... but with dinosaurs! 

 While Tiny Epic Dinosaurs is still pre-order from the Gamelyn Games web site, [what appear to be] Kickstarter copies are starting to show up in retail such as here: 

 You should probably jump on that price while you can!

If this video was helpful or entertaining, please Like and Subscribe to help me out a bit.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Review: Monster Scenery Terrain

In today's video, I review Monster Scenery from I discuss the three sets I ordered through their Kickstarter (now available to the general public) and measure their usability and value as compared to other popular terrain (*cough* Dwarven Forge *cough*).

If this video was helpful or entertaining, please Like and Subscribe to help me out a bit.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Review: Hero Forge Miniatures (2020)

It's been over five years since my very first review of Hero Forge custom miniatures... and a lot has changed in that time.

In addition to 3D printing technology improving, Hero Forge has significantly upped its game in its character building options and resin offerings. In this video, I look back and what was and review the latest entry level "Plastic" model I ordered from their site. Gallery shots after the video.

If this video is helpful for you, please LIKE and subscribe. The previous "Premium Plastic" review is here.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

BattleTech and Alpha Strike Overview

In this video, I do a brief overview and comparison of BattleTech and Alpha Strike, as well as spend some time looking at miniatures old and new in the introductory box sets. I also note why I think Alpha Strike may be a better introduction for new players into the BattleTech universe. This is meant as a broad introduction to both games for an unfamiliar player. I don't get into the nitty gritty of mechanics and lore (of which there is a lot).

Addendum: There is a BattleTech RPG (BattleTech: A Time of War and the out-of-print MechWarrior RPG) that I was going to note briefly in the video, but forgot. I do not have experience with the RPG. I have only played the miniature skirmish games, so I don't have any particular insight into the RPG.

** LOCUST!  -- I had bugs on the brain and couldn't get past "Cicada".

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Ep 10: Running the Giant Lairs - Running Storm King's Thunder

In Episode 10, I summarize events in my game after Kraken's Gamble and then dive into the challenges I faced running Grud Haug, Lyn Armaal, and Iron Slag. The first half is plot details specific to my game (i.e. - ideas for yours). My discussion on challenges running the enclaves starts around 29:00. Timestamps after the video below. 

00:00 Intro
01:00 Pacing Challenge
01:38 Summary of My Campaign
01:50 Yartir / Kracken's Gamble
05:25 Harshnag Set Up
06:48 Yartir Redux
07:15 Aboleths and Villain Contingencies
10:00 Eye of the All Father, Harshnag, & Zephyros
12:50 Frost Giant Subplot
18:15 Grud Haug - Focus on Prisoners
19:28 Lyn Armaal
22:30 Rescuing Felgelos
23:54 The Dark Side of Felgelos
25:40 A Surprising Turn
29:00 Challenges DMing Giant Enclaves
29:30 Grud Haug
30:42 Lyn Armaal Constraints
37:35 Iron Slag Issues
40:54 What To Do When Things Go Bad
41:22 Alternatives to a TPK
45:15 Keeping Players Focussed on Goals
47:00 Summing Up
49:36 Outtro

Monday, July 20, 2020

Dad sucks at video games

Minecraft Dungeons box art
Today marks a slightly new direction for Raging Owlbear. I am adding a Twitch stream to my into my blogging alongside my YouTube videos. Tbis won't change the content of the blog that much. I'm still primarily interested in talking about D&D and other table-top RPGs, but I'm going to add some diversion on the side.

Tonight's steam is "Dad sucks at video games."  A stream for those of us likely to get sniped by a 12 year old just after spawning. 

Don't worry... It's not yet another Fortnight stream. I'm going to be looking at dungeon crawlers, adventure games, and classic CRPGs. It will be on-brand for the blog.

I got this idea after watching my 6 year old son master Zelda: Breath of the Wild. He was doing shield parries and flurry rushes... He was the first in our family to defeat Ganon. He doesn't even read! (I helped him with the quest text).

I'll be starting out with Minecraft Dungeons, which is a Diablo-like dungeon crawler, but with Minecraft aesthetics. I might occasionally just into classics or whatever strikes my fancy. 

But don't worry. Whatever it is, I'll be bad, so it will be good for a laugh or two. Come hang out in chat and we can talk role-playing games, video games, or whatever. Steaming at 10 PM Eastern on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Minecraft Dungeons - camp site

Sunday, July 5, 2020

GM 101: How To Say Yes

There are many ways you can say "Yes!" to your players to give them more control over narrative or lore in your campaign. In Episode 8 of my Game Master 101 series, I discuss ways you can give a player the spotlight even if it bends or breaks the rules a bit. I also discuss some other narrative controls you can hand to a player during play. 

As a new Dungeon Master, you may be hesitant to bend or break the rules in a way that benefits the players. When they ask if their PC can do something which normally they could not, think about how you can give them the opportunity to perform their requested action even if it is not covered in the Rules As Written.

TLDR: If the ask is small, and it's going to get your player more invested in the campaign or encounter, then do it.

Raging Owlbear tops 1 million views!

a raging owlbear
Just 6 years ago, I started a little experiment talking about old school gaming and the D&D Next play test that was to become D&D 5th Edition. In that time, my blog has seen some really explosive months where I was getting over 20,000 views on average, and some less than stellar months when I mostly ignored the blog leading to a slump in views from its highs.

However, in over 6 years of content, there are several posts that stand out. I have reviews of which I am proud that have consistently brought in thousands of views year over year. I have posted my share of unpopular opinion pieces for the internet to pillory, doled out sometimes questionable advice... but all in all, it's been a fun experience. 

Sadly, the loss of Google+ and the comments section upon which my blog relied really hurt the interactivity with the audience (all 9 of you)... but somehow I clawed my way up to 1 million page views and the blog stays steady at around 10,000 views a month even when I ignore it.

June was one of those ignoring months... and also the month where I topped the million view mark. 

My goal for the rest of 2020 is to get the juice going again. Perhaps I'll get to 2 million before I retire the blog. The way the world is, who knows what will be in store over the next few years. 

Stay safe and stay sane... and thanks for reading -- all 9 of you. Your fingers must be aching after clicking my posts 100,000 times each. If you're relatively new to the blog, I invite you to peruse some of my favorite articles.

Dungeon exit with self portrait of artist David Trampier
See you again soon!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Hackmaster - D&D Alternatives, Episode 5

In Episode 5 of my Alternatives to D&D series, I discuss what makes Hackmaster unique among old school systems. Hackmaster has dynamic "real time" combat, a flavorful magic systems, and an old school character generation that still allows a great deal of customizations.

Hackmaster Basic is available FREE to download, so this make a great "try before you buy" system to check out.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Castles & Crusades - D&D Alternatives, Episode 4

In Episode 4 of my D&D Alternatives series, I talk about Castles & Crusades which is an old-school hommage to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons but with cleaned up modern game mechanics The C&C the Player's Handbook is also currently free to download right now from the Troll Lord Games web store, so this is no reason not to check it out.

Castles & Crusades was one of the first old school games published in the modern era under the Open Game License. It uses a single d20 mechanic for all attribute checks across the game, so it eliminates a lot of the messy mechanics sometimes associated with D&D and AD&D retro-clones.

In addition to Castles & Crusade, Troll Lord Games published numerous 5th Edition Adventure modules for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition, which are absolutely fantastic and worth checking out, especially A1 Assault on Blacktooth Ridge (also part of this awesomely inexpensive bundle).

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Adventures in Middle Earth and The One Ring - D&D Alternatives

2022 UPDATE: The One Ring is now back in print with its second edition. Adventures in Middle Earth is currently still out of print, but may be coming (somewhat) soon.

In the 3rd episode of my impromptu series, I explore two RPGs set in the Tolkien's Lord of the Rings universe -- The One Ring and Adventures in Middle Earth

Both RPGs are low fantasy / low magic to match the narrative feel of the The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The One Ring has a mechanic based on d6's and a d12, while Adventures in Middle Earth uses the familiar D&D 5th Edition / d20 mechanics. Both systems are wonderful, although The One Ring has a bit less power creep than its 5th Edition translation. Adventures in Middle Earth has many ideas and mechanics that can be adapted to your standard D&D 5th Edition game or other d20-based low fantasy game.

If you're a fan of the Lord of the Rings and D&D-style fantasy, you absolutely need to pick these offerings while they are still available at retail prices (they are now out of print). See the video for what I love about these two games and how they differ.

The One Ring RPG - Books / PDFs
Adventures in Middle Earth - Books (currently out of print)

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Lone Wolf Adventure Game - Alternatives to D&D

Though D&D may be the 800 pound gorilla in the table top RPG space, there are dozens and dozens of other wonderful fantasy and science fiction games out there.

In this video I discuss the Lone Wolf Adventure Game, based upon the adventure booklets by Joe Dever from the late 1980's. This is a fantastic, rules light fantasy RPG with very deep setting lore. The game uses a simple d10-based combat and skill resolutions mechanic. The illustrations are wonderful and the basic box set is a great value at $30.

Lone Wolf Adventure Game:

At the end I also note another alternative from Cubicle 7, Adventures in Middle Earth. I plan to talk more extensively about AiME in an upcoming episode.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Stop trying to win D&D

AD&D Player's Option: Skills & Powers
AD&D's power gamer wet dream
Over the last few editions, there has been a trend toward "winning" at D&D. The seed was planted with the AD&D Player's Options: Skills & Powers, which came out late in the product cycle of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition... but the tree of this trend really grew from the soil of D&D 3rd Edition (and also Pathfinder).

I'm not simply talking about power gaming here, but a change in the way the power gamer approached character generation due to the internet. Power gamers across the world now could converse and compare optimizations, which have lead to forums meant for just one topic... "character builds".

Character Builds

Perhaps it's the grognard in me, but the whole idea of a "build" raises my hackles. I can already hear the critique of this post. This post will likely be labeled as a "Your fun is wrong!" rant without actually considering my words, so bear with me a moment and read on before you judge.

Here's the thing. Role-playing games are form of improvisation. Your PC acts within the story and the story changes. And the story will also (ideally) change your PC. I don't just mean levels and hit points, but hopefully non-mechanical personality growth will occur. Goals will change. Motivations will change.

Perhaps a PC who is a bit churlish and grumpy will experience something that softens his heart. Or, conversely, a faithful paladin might experience something that hardens her and she eschews her deity for a demonic warlock patron... or the wizard, having experienced a divine intervention of some kind, decides to become a devotee of Pelor.

The whole point is that when you start out with that new character, you don't know what will happen at the table over the course of the next several months. Consider not planning all your feats and multi-class options at first level. By focusing on a "build" you may be missing out on opportunities for your PC to grow organically within the campaign. The "optimal" wizard build doesn't take into account that you might want to change to a cleric or paladin for story reasons for a couple levels.

If you are so fixated on the pre-destination for your character (as outlines in some build guide), you are closing yourself to changes that could occur during the actual play at the table. You don't know what will happen in the game to your PC at level 5, or 8, or 12... so consider not planning every single mechanical leveling up detail at level 1. Let what is going to happen be determined by play. If you are locked into a single character strategy, you have shut out the in-play possibilities.

D&D Ultimate Warlock Build
Skip the game guides. Build a personality.
This is my biggest issue with the focus on builds. They have nothing to do with character growth through role-playing during the game. They are completely about playing D&D as if it were a video or strategy board game. Not only that, but excessive optimization often leads to one character hogging the spotlight over other PCs in the game due to having the highest... everything.

Stop worrying about every little +1 bonus, feat, or ability score improvement from level 1 through 20. Play the character, not the mechanics. Then, when you actually achieve those levels, perhaps make a choice that makes sense for the character's story arc instead of trying to gain the highest possible DPS. I'm not talking about making a "gimp" character here. I'm just talking about not focusing so much on every minor bonus and think a little more about what makes sense within the fiction of the game, rather than the mechanics.

Character growth within the fiction of the campaign is one of the primary reasons we play in-person RPGs instead of games like World of Warcraft. Stop trying to make the perfect monk that can move 400 feet and stunning strike every enemy on the field in 1 round. This is D&D, not League of Legends.

Embrace the non-optimization.

I'm getting a lot of "Stop telling me your fun is wrong" replies, and that's NOT what I'm saying.
1) To be clear, I never said you should purposely build an ineffectively gimpy character.
2) I never said you shouldn't pick a combat-effective option or think about what's coming up level-wise.

One of the comments from Peter Olsen on Facebook put it best:
"... extreme focus on progression and builds lends itself to removing attention from where the character is right now."

This. So much this. I'm just trying to advise players (especially newbies) to not think about what's happening 8 levels from now. Think about what is happening in the game right now. Make character choices based on those events. Don't be a slave to the cookie-cutter "optimal build" if something happens in game that might lead your character to multi-class into something slightly less optimal (or pick a different feat, or whatever) because it makes more sense within the story.

Friday, February 21, 2020

GM 101: Adversarial Dungeon Mastering

GM 101, Episode 7 - Adversarial Dungeon Mastering

Using the power of the Dungeon Master, there are many obvious ways one could screw the players in a game. But there are also way you may be unintentionally hindering the players or passive-aggressively acting in an adversarial manner. Don't be the "Gotcha!" DM.

Other Owlbear musings