Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Encumbrance and Equipment (A.K.A. Why wagons are handy in D&D.)

For a long time I've played in and run games where the players didn't have to worry about encumbrance with their equipment. Usually due to having magical bags to store the stuff in or having easy access to transports. However, in this new D&D campaign I'm starting, encumbrance is an issue. Players are not only having to watch how much they are carrying, but where they are carrying it (I need to be able to determine what pickpockets can get their hands on, hee hee).

Back long ago when I was playing AD&D, I had to worry about encumbrance and the weight of my character's equipment. After struggling with it for a little while, I realized that I could use a wagon! So from that moment, when my characters started getting enough loot/equipment they went and got a wagon. We almost always had hirelings that would watch the party's camp so I just gave them a bit extra gold and they watched my wagon as well. It caught on with other members of the group and soon everyone had wagons and boy did it get interesting. The best time was when the group had about 10 wagons, most of them were covered or enclosed and they all had magic on them in some form or another. We would circle them around our campsite, set up the watch, then put a cover over the whole thing with a hole in the center of the cover for the smoke to go out, and then activate the magics to make it secure. The group was about 15th level when doing this. We called it our portable canvas tower. Then the group would leave their hirelings and followers there at the camp and trudge into the dungeon, if we needed anything that was at camp, our mage would teleport back to it, grab the stuff and port back, it was easy.

Then someone ticked off a demon.

But that is another story. This is about the encumbrance and equipment.

Treasure has a weight, all treasure, and equipment has weight, so what happens when you combine both? Things get heavy, characters start to slow down. No more are the characters going to be carrying around 1000s of gold pieces at at time. Now, I'm not doing this to be mean (Though part of me is getting a bit of a sadistic kick out of it), but I wanted to do a "back to basics" game, even though it is in 3.5 D&D. So I wanted to count encumbrance again, get people to think about how they are going to accomplish these tasks they set out to do. And having to keep track of what your character is carrying is part of that. You have to plan more to get through. In all honesty, I think that the players will get more out of it since they are going to have to put more into it. And this is where a wagon would come in very handy.

Recently, I've found groups(not just members of my group, others that I have talked to as well) scoffing at the idea of having a wagon coming along with the group. This boggled my mind until I realized that no one was used to encumbrance. At the time it was easy to transport thousands of gold pieces and treasure, but not this time. This stuff can get heavy so it's time to figure out how you get the treasure back to town to sell it off. My suggestion? Get a wagon and a bunch of sacks. Big ones if you are lucky enough. Oh yeah, a horse to pull the wagon. I've seen groups forget to get a horse for their wagon. But remember, someone needs to watch the wagon while the characters are in the dungeon otherwise things might go missing.

Never underestimate the usefulness of a wagon.

Duke Nukem Forever, My Review (A.K.A. High hopes and low expectations win again!)

Okay, I've read the reviews and have seen numerous posts that say that Duke Nukem Forever is a horrible game, that it's boring, the controls have no weight, that the story is paper thin, that Duke has no depth as a character, and that the game doesn't look as good as most other games that have come out recently. To which I have to say,

What were you expecting?!? <- The exclamation point is required there, btw.

Remember, these are just my opinions and I understand that not everyone will agree.

I do agree with the critics a bit, the graphics look like some of the games that came out  a couple of years ago and the animation is a bit stiff, but they aren't that bad.

Here is where I have a difference of opinion with a lot of the reviewers.

The Story, a lot of reviewers say that the story is thin and direct with no real substance. My response, What were you expecting from Duke Nukem? It's always been about blowing stuff up and ogling babes. It's a throwback to the old 80's over the top action flicks. I almost expect to hear Duke say something about the story getting in the way of blowing things up. Duke Nukem hasn't really ever had a big story (I'm talking about  Duke Nukem 3D and it's expansions. I've never played any of the others really.) Shoot stuff, look at babes, spout bad/cheezy/cliche lines, and shoot stuff. Simple story, no need to get over dramatic.

The Character, reviews say that Duke is a big douche bag and is crass as hell. My response, Well, yeah that's what Duke is supposed to be. Duke is self absorbed and egotistical, not to mention shallow and chauvinistic. However, I have noticed a few times Duke actually helps out the underdog rather than picking on him (you get to punch out a whining self absorbed prick who is chewing out a stage hand in the game) but I think that this is because Duke knows that he is the greatest thing since breathing was invented and doesn't have to put down everyone to get an ego boost (he gets that by just looking in a mirror.). With Duke, what you see is what you get.

The controls to me feel exactly like the old Duke Nukem 3D, so far everything is how I figured it would be. Duke can run across a football field in just a couple seconds and when I want him to turn, he turns and fast! Almost too fast, it took a few seconds to get used to the controls but they felt really tight in all honesty. Duke feels like he is superhuman and I think that is what it is supposed to be like. He punches creatures and they fly away. Though I wish that they would lessen the lag time on attacks a bit (push the button and it is just a brief delay on the attack going off but the lag is still there, doesn't detract too much though.)

The Humor, almost all of the reviews have said it goes too far, and I agree... to a point. The point is that the humor is supposed to go too far. So far I'm getting a lot of laughs out of it but I know there will be a point that I won't find everything funny. However, I do find it is very similar to a number of frat parties that I went to when I was hanging out in college and so far, the parties were worse in the humor department. Some of those guys went on to become doctors... that kinda scares me actually, I know what they did during some of those things. But Duke is all about the bad jokes, bawdy humor, and being down right WRONG at times (kinda like Family Guy and South Park, oh yeah don't forget episode 26 of the Excel Saga *shudder*).

The game play has also been criticized, saying it's too linear, there are sections of driving that are boring, and the combat is easy. I haven't found it to be easy on the combat, I've gotten my butt handed to me a few times, but I don't play FPS's very often. The driving so far has been fun, and while in the RC car, I had aliens trying to kill me the entire time. And the linear part, most FPS's I've played are linear, move from one area to the next and shoot everything that moves or doesn't (notable exceptions are Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and the Metroid Prime series)

 It doesn't do anything to the FPS genre that hasn't been done before but I wasn't expecting it too, but Gearbox better do something amazing with Duke in the next game, it will have to be something special next time!

After all is said and done, I would rate the game at a solid 75 out of 100, due to nostalgia, not expecting a genre changing game, and the sheer fun of being the Duke again. It's fun and mindless, so if you like your story's thin, your hero shallow, and your action as explosive and frantic as you can get then this is the game to play. But if you want an in depth story, a character you can relate to, and meaningful dialog then I suggest you pass on this one.

Always bet on the Duke.