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A N G L E R Y

A N G L E R Y published on No Comments on A N G L E R Y

The Anglerlich, as illustrated by Zach Stoppel. The hero can’t see the “fish” part. Only the Snidely Whiplash guy with an impaled Myconid child. That’s probably how dimensions work!

A Fishy Encounter

My “Fall One-Shots Campaign” is in full swing. It’s neither fall nor are we doing one-shots. We’re having a blast! Originally, I was going to DM different settings and stuff each week, and that quickly devolved into Gomer the Ranger, Anna Jones the Wizard, Vikrid the Druid, and Bharash the Barbarian on a long, involved quest to defeat a blue dragon who’s conquered Amn and is coming for dear old Candlekeep next.  I think the story of how this came to be is
fun, but I’d prefer to zoom in on a fun encounter we had and look at a pretty cool monster from the Veins of the Earth.

During his down-time, Gomer trained with Drow in the underdark, which I thought was cool. Then, when the session was live (we deal with downtime via our Facebook group), and the party was tasked with killing the aforementioned blue dragon, he suggested to the party that, since he trained in the Underdark, it’s not unreasonable that he’d be able to navigate it to skip some of the challenges they knew were on the road ahead.

So they headed toward the nearest entrance to the Underdark and I chucked away two weeks of campaign prep. (You never really waste prep, but it’s always amusing to me when the party finds a way to make me discard 12 hours of work.)

Then I discovered that I didn’t really have any fresh ideas about the underdark. And exploring so far had been very bland, in an empty-seeming world. I wanted to fix that when we came back to the darkest caves Faerun can offer — so I picked up a fantastic PDF called Veins of the Earth and gave it a read.

I was instantly enchanted by it and after an excruciating month-and-a-half-long break from D&D (because we have jobs and apparently those don’t pay us to roll dice, I guess. Hey, speaking of which, you should subscribe to our patreon or go buy one of our comic books!) and finally got to break out some content from it a few nights ago.

My party rolled into an ambush and the dice landed on an Anglerlich. 

Anglerlich

Without giving away VotE’s content, an Anglerlich is an extradimensional fish with a lure. The lure is a horrible villain. The fish is hungry for heroes. The villain does horrible things to try to draw heroes out or else to inculcate new heroes. The fish emerges when the hero is heroic
enough to eat, and it devours them, experience points first.

The lure is meant to be easy to kill – or at least, meant to be non-lethal. The fish, not so much — though I softened it up a touch out of style preferences, and because the party had just emerged from a deadly encounter.

Discovery

I have a homebrew answer to the Exploration Pillar being scant (stay tuned), and this naturally involves ways to find interesting locations, fights, traps and other things that are fairly randomized. The party first encountered the Anglerlich as it was spearing myconid sproutlings, eating them, and cartoonishly shouting “Evil!”

VotE says to color the Anglerlich a shade off of the tone of the rest of the campaign, and while I had fun turning it into Snidely Whiplash, I definitely made it too easy to divine the nature of the creature. He was too out of place. Our Druid (hi, Duke) and Wizard (hi, Angela) were both instantly suspicious. And the Wizard had heard about some of the VotE content before, so she knew Anglerliches could potentially exist, even though no one in the group had ever encountered one before, meta or otherwise.

They saved the Myconid sproutlings and pinned the Anglerlich (well, it’s lure, which I decided was its tongue) under a massive boulder. The monster waited around to see if the party would take the bait and then left when they didn’t.

A bit more travel happened and then the Anglerlich was in their way again, this time torturing some Duergar. Our Dwarf ignored that hot mess and on they marched. The Anglerlich was getting angry. (A n g l e r y !)

At the next settlement (a random drow village from one of my tables), our Barbarian passed a DC 20 insight check to realize that the anglerliche was stalking them through village after village, torturing people to try to get the attention of the Good characters in the party. If they wanted any hope of safe places or friendly encounters in the underdark, they would
need not to be seen as harbingers.

The party decided to ambush the Anglerlich.

The Fight

They backtracked to a fortress they’d found (an abandoned Amnish undertaking) so that they’d have room to fight. This was a smart choice. 

They “killed” the Anglerlich’s tongue, and I decided to keep him cartoonish. I had his body glow, as if he were in a video game and needed to be looted. The party had already guessed that the creature was some kind of trick, and Bharash had even used the word “anglerfish” when trying to get across what he suspected it was. (They’re a pretty sharp bunch, and again, I over-sold the encounter.)

The fish itself became furious at the party’s teasing and attacks. It burst from its extra-dimensional hidey hole and real combat began.

Three people were swallowed. Experience was siphoned away. The fish would face from existence, leaving its awful lure out to fight, then re-emerge and try to swallow people who were fighting the lure.

Anna Jones and Gomer’s faithful goat saved the day with 24 damage from burning hands (She had a boon from a shrine of Lolth that would let her next attack do maximum damage) and something like 8D4 piercing damage from its horns. (It’s not actually a goat. It’s some kind of goaticorn. But it’s really just a goat.) The fish’s armor class is very high, and my party’s a bit low level, so I modded the stats so that people other than the wizard had a shot of hurting it – attacking its open mouth dropped the “shield” from its AC, and I had made the Lure be the Anglerliche’s tongue, specifically, so that the soft target could be hittable for most of the encounter.

Can’t have a beastie swallowing away their experience points if there’s no way to kill the damn thing.

Final Thoughts

I was a bit nervous about running a systems agnostic encounter in a 5e game, but it worked brilliantly. I naturally had to take the creature and stat it so that it worked in a 5e encounter, but the book gave me more than enough tools to do so, and the writing in the book is brilliant and engaging.

And yes, I’m aware that 5e is not built for exp-loss encounters, but we’re already so steeped in homebrew that makes the game feel a bit more old school that the Anglerliche fit in just fine.

Reconsidering Diablo III

Reconsidering Diablo III published on No Comments on Reconsidering Diablo III

When Diablo III launched, I wrote a pretty scathing review of it, then vanished into academia and far from the lands of gaming. On rising from that mound of books and paper, staring blinky-like at the sun of all things changed (Next gen console? You mean the 360, right?), the first wind of change to smack me was that Blizzard planned to shitcan the Diablo III auction house system, completely, in prelude to a new expansion pack.

A Review of Blizzard, First

So that everything is aboveboard in this review, know that I am not Blizzard’s biggest fan. I bought Diablo III back when it was packaged with a year’s subscription to WoW, and had a lot of fun zooming around on the Tyrael Charger. Good stuff, until the homework mound hit. I went a few months without playing WoW, and learned that I could not, under any circumstances, cancel the subscription because of the Diablo III package deal. Made sense. The game was more expensive that way, especially since I was no longer using WoW to make the package valuable. Customer service didn’t care, but in fairness to them, the deal had plenty of warning about this.

Diablo III came out and the launch was riddled with horrible, horrible problems. On top of all this, the story was fan fiction quality, and playing required an always-on connection to what were at the time incredibly unstable servers. I liked my Wizard, though, and saw a lot of potential for fun. I kept playing.

Act IV hit my computer like a freight train. Massive, horrible slowdown, all the time—textures turned bizarre colors—and then the inevitable crash to desktop. I called technical support, and they were exceptionally rude about pointing out that my video card wasn’t supported. I have a very hippy-dippy attitude about people who work in call centers, and always try my best to be a beam of sunshine for them, mostly because I know from personal experience that the call queue is full of assholes.

But this guy—Christ. He treated me like absolute garbage because I dared to buy the game even though there was a massive list on the tech support forums of non-supported video cards. Never mind that my video card wasn’t actually on that list—I was a huge moron. He hung up on me after about 15 minutes. It was a bizarre, otherworldly experience.

A new computer later (I needed to upgrade anyway, and buying fun toys makes me not think about people I dislike) and I was done with Hell difficulty, working my way into Inferno. Inferno was… impossible. Then my account got compromised. Customer support was again distinctly hostile to me, and even after sending them a picture of my photo ID, they treated me as if I were a crook trying to steal, rather than regain control of my account. This was only a week or so after the tech support incident, so I, because of the company, gave up on the game.

I really wish the story ended there. I do.

More than a year later, I noticed that I was still being charged for World of Warcraft, but couldn’t gain access to my account. I called customer service, and learned that they don’t do refunds. They were nice to me, this time, but frankly, I’d earned a friendly voice at the low, low price of $230.

Time passes. I learn of the Loot 2.0 and the Reaper of Souls expansion, figure—eh, why not? I already owned the game, and from a certain point of view, I’d paid a lot of goddamn money for it. I go to sign into Battle.net to start downloading Diablo III.

Account compromised, of course. And it took two electronic tickets, a phone call, and two scans of my photo ID to get it back. Online Banking, Steam, Paypal, WordPress, Origin, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit—those accounts, I use every day, without ever having lost access to them. Battle.net, though? It might as well be a timeshare I own with thirty men in China.

TL;DR – Blizzard makes Bart angry.

Diablo III and Loot 2.0

Some of my complaints about Diablo III were tied into the storyline and aesthetic. Those, obviously, weren’t fixed and I didn’t expect them to be. But comparable games don’t have better storylines and pound for pound, nothing matches the breathtaking beauty of a cut scene from this game. Couple that with Diablo III being an astounding pretty game, and there’s a solid three star balance between mishandled story and eye candy. I maintain that, if everyone skips the cut scenes by default, they need either be better, shorter, interruptible with action, or non-existent. I’d rather have no story than a terrible one.

That grumping behind me—wow. Loot 2.0 and the collective patches since the game’s launch have effectively murdered any complaint I have about it. Even before the expansion pack, this game was crack cocaine. The gameplay is fantastic, if lacking the strategy and tactics I tend to prefer in my dungeon crawls (blame Dungeons & Dragons in my formative years), and Loot 2.0 makes randomly stomping open every crate and stray monster fun. It’s great finding loot that I always have a chance of caring about, rather than only occasionally finding anything with the potential to be useful.

My wizard tends to find wizard items, my demon hunter tends to find demon hunter items, and that’s just better.

I still find crap I’ll never use, but finding items with stats to spells and abilities I care about makes me think about potential builds, try new skill sets, and generally keeps me thinking while I go through my piles of loot.

Reaper of Souls

Act V is everything aesthetically that Diablo I used to be. Fighting evil on a city of corpses is fun, the music is sexy as hell (where I’d never noticed it before in the other acts), and the premise of the extended plotline is interesting, and perhaps on the merits of being shorter, manages to entertain me rather than offend me.

Adventure Mode turns Diablo III into a game I can play the way I do Team Fortress 2—quick sessions where I accomplish one or two goals, admire my loot and stats, and then get back to work. This is a serious boon to players who don’t have the time or desire to play lengthy sessions. It lets casual gamers feel powerful without grinding for six hundred hours, and it lets non-casuals dump time into finding the perfect trifecta of stats on their gear.

The new class is entertaining; Crusaders feel, mechanically, like Cavaliers from AD&D but with a modern spin. There are still a few bugs with their skills, but nothing game breaking and despite my lengthy rant about Blizzard as a company, they have a strong history of killing bugs quickly. It’s their product, after all, they push the good stuff.

That’s right. Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is crack cocaine, and Blizzard is the seedy, yellow-toothed dealer you get it from.

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