Review – Minecraft Dungeons (Switch)

It’s the 26 June. That was the release date on the website, on all the advertising. And we still waited.

And waited….

We’d been waiting for a couple of months. We’re not massive Minecraft players in our house, especially since the girls moved to Roblox. But we all thought that this looked interesting.

But it wasn’t until 11pm on the 26th that you could actually download it. So I had a little play around midnight before bed. I played a little more the next night, before revealing its existence to the girls.

So we’ve all had a go now. Miss 12 is the furthest through, almost finished the first run through. Miss 10 is having a go as I type. Miss 12 and I had a 2-up game as well.

It’s quite fun, not massively difficult and very Minecraft themed, without ANY building. None at all.

I did read it described as Diablo crossed with Minecraft. And the total of 20 minutes of Diablo I’ve played, that seems a fair assessment. It has the same 3rd person iso view and you basically run about killing Minecraft mobs in a Minecraft themed world.

Chaos ensues.

This isn’t a disappointment to be honest. I wanted something the girls might enjoy – I’m struggling through Witcher III on the Switch as a my penance (I’ve not played it before on any system). And wanted something I could have fun with, or we could all play together. And that’s what we’ve got.

The base camp you return to. Here you can purchase equipment and select missions. Also there are target dummies.

There isn’t any building – that’s probably the surprise. There are drops of equipment that you can upgrade yours with (very World of Warcraft, or very anything really). You can enchant this equipment which gives it bonuses and allows some customisation, giving your gear extra powers. In groups, some of the gear drops are tagged to a particular player to make sure its more fair.

It’s generous with health, giving you a recharging healing potion, and 3 lives. When in a party, a dead member can be revived by another player without subtracting from these lives. This makes it more playable for the younger ones but even then you can be overwhelmed, even in a party.

I did read in one review that they were happily introducing their kids to terms like kiting that many of us in MMOs and such are well familiar with. I’ve noticed me doing that as well. Or sometimes we’ll split into ranged and melee.

Tips so far

  • You can’t pause, and you can still be attacked when accessing your inventory, but also the game menu if you are on a mission!
  • When a player is revived by another player they have almost no health so HEAL UP straightaway!
  • When you create guest characters in a person’s game, they are still there all levelled and geared up next time you join in.

DND – Almost off track

Oh, it was a close one today. The party used a spell to get assistance from other beings and ended up interpreting their response in a very unexpected way.

I had everyone come in this weekend for the adventure as the next meet I would be unavailable for. The party began to explore Thalivar, the lost wizard’s tower. I had a few ‘ghostly’ things occur, but I was really trying to get them to come back that night, or at least, hang around for most of the day to get the big nasties to come out.

They found a couple of skeletons and correctly deduced that one was the late wizard. This is where it started to head off the rails. In order to try and figure out why the wizard was haunting the tower, they cast a spell to ask “other beings”. I gave them a sensation of being confused and lost (the wizard didn’t realise he was dead and was confused why the tower was damaged) and that he was stuck somewhere (he was stuck as a ghost).

Of course, this was interpreted that Thalivar had been caught up in the explosion of his magical device and transported to a different plane. My vigourous wave off hand waving was not well communicated over the audio only comms we were using and the party latched on to this theory.

And here I was worried they were about to head off on an adventure to another plane in order to rescue a wizard who wasn’t there. Who was dead and his skeleton buried under a pile of rubble in the tower. But there were two things in my favour – there wasn’t long to go in the session, so I could delay to give me time over the week to create this branch. And two, they were still keen on the idea of burying the skeletons.

The party approached the town priest, seeking advice on the bodies, laying to rest etc. Here’s my chance to steer them back to the “plan”. Together with the priest they decided to get some workmen to dig graves, while they collect the bones of the two bodies. Then the priest will say some last rites, and the bodies will be buried. Hopefully that would clear the ghost.

It worked. Of course, there is still a small doubt in at least one character’s mind that perhaps he’s not dead, just trapped in another plane.

The mysterious disappearing dark skinned woman doesn’t help.

As a last little scenario before the session ended they did a little shopping in the Peculiarites Shoppe. A couple of fun interactions there. Including the reveal that the dark sinned woman is actually one of the heroes of the town from long ago.

Overall it seemed like a good session. I will get them out into the marsh next time. And into some combat again as we’ve now managed two sessions without combat.It may also distract them from pursuing this planar adventure.

Then it will be off to Phandalin with the goats before the last act begins. After that it will be on to another module – Sleeping Dragon.

DnD – The Player Continues

Hilfander’s journey continues. The pocket dimensions ended up in a final space, apparently carved within a passing comet. Here, a magical crown of mystical power over the fey creatures was the goal. Most of the party agreed that taking the crown was a bad idea, and we would leave it, guard the entrance so no one else could, and then the comet, and the danger, would be passed.

There were some guardians here, but after defeating them, we helped ourselves to a small part of the treasure within. Hilfander picked a +1 longbow. We headed back out.

Outside, the dryad, now recovered, was waiting. However some insight from us, and it was clearly not actually a dryad, but the sea hag from previously. Out for power and out for revenge. It became clear that one of our party, a rather self-centered rogue, had pilfered the crown on his way out. The hag could tell, and was quite excited by the opportunity to kill us and grab the crown. A battle ensued, with success by the companions against the hag.

After her defeat, some extremely powerful fey arrived to take back the crown. We could do little, even if we had wanted to. They did let us keep the stolen magical weapons.

The party moved on, and was soon hired by agent to investigate some problems at a local farm. On arrival we discovered a well run little farm, with strange holes developing across the property. These were quite large, several feet across.

Suddenly, something leapt from the hole, grabbed the farmer and disappeared back down underground. The party gave chase and found itself in a warren of ankheg tunnels.

Several fights with ankheg occurred as we hurried to rescue the farmer. Hilfander’s work with the bow proved significant and we did rescue the farmer, mostly unharmed. We returned him to the surface, before accepting a task to clear out underground.

Again, Hilfander’s bow, this time married to his improved dexterity and his Gloom Stalker training again proved significant.

I’m enjoying Hilfander. He’s becoming sort of a dwarven Legolas, though more suited to underground and the darkness. Fun to play, though I wish his spells had more direct impact. Perhaps I am using them wrong or trying to be a wizard/warlock type. At level 4 he’s +9 to hit with the bow, sometimes gets a second attack and with 16AC (in leather). I am thinking about Sharpshooter the next point I get a feat choice.

And it is certainly a lot less effort to be a player than a DM. This second adventure is proving a little frustrating as the DM is quite slow moving and still learning Roll 20. But it is only his third session in Roll 20. I need to cut him some slack especially if you think it wasn’t that long ago it was me in those shoes.

Working from home?

With half the world in lockdown, and NSW having spent the last two months “working from home” today was the first day I actually got a chance to “work from home”.

I feel pretty at home on my bike, so I planned to interpret it differently and planned a long ride around some roads to the north of Sydney.

Just over the Mooney Mooney Bridge

After clearing the family out of the house, checking work emails and having some breakfast I hit the road. I intended to go up the Old Pac and then back down Wiseman’s. Leaving a little later meant that the early morning sun wasn’t quite in my eyes. But it did mean crossing many school zones on my way out of the city.

Not a bad day to be stuck working from home….. emphasis on from home 😉

I got up to the Old Pac in good time, and after a couple of laps I returned to Pie in the Sky. I wasn’t hungry I decided, but the location (top of the hill) meant I would be able to get a signal and log into work. You know, just in case anything had actually happened (it had not).

Selfie time!

I decided I didn’t really want to ride past lunch time. So I did a couple more laps and headed back home. I made it back home, and had picked up some packages (and lunch) from the shops and even eaten most of lunch before 12. The Old Pac really isn’t that far from home here. Any of the other roads and it’s an hour just to get to the start point (Wiseman’s, Putty, Nasho’s etc). Whereas the Old Pac (depending on traffic on Pennant Hills Rd) I can be halfway through a lap within an hour.

So Lockdown day 1? I think Friday I will be working from home too, and maybe a couple of days next week…. hmmm..

DnD – Settling into Leilon

The group ended the last session just as the last Water Weird dissipated back into water. So we tidied up after that long string of battles from the previous session. They collected themselves, rescued a pair of very distraught children and returned to the townsfolk to let them know that the town was cleared and safe to return to. For now at least.

I had a plan for this session, hopefully leading the group into the next couple of incidents around the village. But, as GM you need to be able to improvise and the session almost went off track very quickly, but some surreptitious rolls and ad-libs kept it on track.

After the long day of fighting, they spent the afternoon and night recovering in a building provided by the Council. In the morning they met with the council and settled on an agreement to support the town for the next few months and to investigate where these undead and cultists were coming from and why. The town provided them some immediate reward, an ongoing retainer and access to repairs and provisions for their stay.

The only clue they had were the lightning embosed symbols found on the cultist. Merrygold, the local priest had taken them away for research and provided that they represented the Storm God, Talos, but could offer nothing else.

The party headed to the port to see if the fishers had anything.

My intention was to have them recuperate in the town for a few days. After that, it would seem appropriate to launch into “Missing Patrol”, but understand that they might investigate the Tower, and so lead them into that adventure, either before or after. I didn’t think Missing Patrol made much sense the next morning – the town wouldn’t have set up patrols again and the townsfolk might not think to seek aid from the adventurers.

The fishers had little, but suggested that the invaders came from the south across the water. At this point I couldn’t find any information on where they had come from. Later on I found that they had come from a place north along the coast. They looked about, becoming interested in the islands and peered southward at the Mere of Dead Men stretching out across the water.

Searching the islands, they discovered the statues and after the rumours from the fisherfolk decided to return after dark. Then they turned back to town, with a plan to head south and search the marsh. I was really worried here as I didn’t want them in the marsh just yet. But I didn’t want to force them to stay in town.

They spent the afternoon following along the High Road as it wound alongside the Mere. I threw in some random rolls to keep them guessing and at one point some strange, non-human tracks (foreshadowing the lizard folk). But they decided the marshland would need a bit more prep before they explored too deeply. The gnome wizard especially was unhappy at the mess his boots were in.

After returning to town, they went out to the Idol Island for the night. Most decided to stay up, so there was only a single character asleep to get the “prophetic dreams”, so I gave him the “storms gathering over Leilon” and made it a warning, but positive dream. I also had the priest describe the statues to be the ‘Swords of Leilon’. This gave them the opportunity to learn about these folk, which would help with the story of the Tower, the Planar Beacon and the women on the hill later.

The next day they rested mostly, recovering from having spent the night awake. They took their info to the council and learnt of the wizard working to restore the tower. This set them up nicely to investigate the tower the next day.

They walked up the hill, coming across the workers hurrying away in fear. This encounter only seemed to further excite the gnome and he rushed up the hill ahead of the others.

He spied the dark skinned woman at the crest, and gave chase as she went around the back of the building. The rest of the party went the other way, only to meet the gnome and no woman. Suspense!

They called out and the wizard came out. He was furious that the workers had fled, but clearly believed their story. And the session ended with the party agreeing to investigate the ghost, and hopefully remove it, so the work can continue.

In the end, I was really happy how the session turned out. I think our first session without any combat and the players seemed to enjoy the role play as they began to investigate. They haven’t made much progress and have done nothing about the undead threat, not even realising that the two are seperate. They will get more of that when they head to Phandalin. It certainly got well back on track after my first alarm when the party was about to head straight into the Mere at the start of the session.

I’ve started creating the town for them as well. There’s an eatery which I can turn into the Tavern later (ready for Sleeping Dragon module). The fishermen and Merrygold have been helpful and so they become more accepted within the town. They have connections within the town and are starting to get to know the place. Pretty soon they will be as warmly welcomed here as they are in Phandalin

I do wish that D&D would organise these modules in level order before alphabetical. I was all set to send them to Phandalin, before further reading made it clear that it was for later. I’ve since noticed that several modules seem to be organised like that. Storm Kings has a progression chart, which is something I had to work out for Storm Lord’s. Something I might not have noticed at first. It’s certainly something I will keep in mind if I work through Sleeping Dragon and Divine Contention.

From a playing perspective, the next hiccup is going to be that my Sunday Morning time isn’t going to work soon when all the schools go back. My youngest has some tutoring and with the new schedule I will be dropping her off at the time I’m supposed to the starting. I’m sure we can figure something out.

DnD – A watery start

The session picked up just at the end of the battle from the last session, with the last of the attackers having just been felled. As the party picked itself up, a couple of things occurred:

  • They found some sigils on the victims, metal discs with 3 lightning bolts engraved on them. They had no idea what this meant. The priest From Leilon helped them, mentioning The Storm King.
  • The council asked them to head into town to investigate where these attackers had come from.
  • An acolyte ran over to tell the council that at least 2 children had been left in the town.

The party headed into town, the paladin at least, not needing further motivation than the missing children. In fact, he’d charged off as soon as it had been mentioned.

They discovered a group by the water, carrying out a summoning ceremony. Before they could get properly into range, they were spotted and engaged.

The battle went well, though they did not get through unscathed. However, as they had not rested from the previous fight, they started to find themselves running short on spells (especially), and the damage piled up on top of what they already had suffered. This started to put them under pressure.

From my perspective, I was a little deflated when they cast counterspell, knocking back the priest’s Call Lightning that she was going to open devastatingly with! Nothing she could do in response to that and she ended up having to slink away under the cover of a darkness spell.

The party fought well, knocking over the priest and her 5 berserker guardians. It did use up almost all of their available spell slots.

No time for a rest though, for as the priests fell, the water bubbled and a Water Elemental and 2 Water Weirds appeared. This fight actually didn’t go too badly for them, though it was long. They were helped when one of the Weirds, unable to attack the party on land, headed away to peruse some fishermen. One of the party slowly ground that one down while staying at range, reducing the number of opponents the rest faced.

And the session finished with the last one dissolving back into water. We will kick it off next time with the post battle tidy up.

As players, there were lots of positive comments. While I have struggled to push this group, I was expecting this series of running battles to challenge them in ways that the other combats had not. I had expected them to start running low on options and resources, and this is exactly what happened. And the players enjoyed it (and so did I).

Getting on top of the prep helped a lot this time. Something to keep in mind for the next step between modules. I’ve been reading up, sorting out my hooks for the next couple of episodes in this module. I think I will go above the recommended numbers for my creatures. Otherwise they just get smashed and there is little challenge to the party. I have also been looking at playing them smarter too, using better tactics. Enemy just charging straight in makes sense for zombies and such, but for mid-level fighters and others it makes no sense. Especially against this experienced group with things like fireballs and spell shaping.

DnD – A Call from Leilon

The party enjoyed several relaxing days in Phandalin, enjoying the chance to rest, recuperate and resupply. The town was continually grateful, with the group having saved the town from goblins, orcs, the Redbrands and a dragon. 

Then, one afternoon, a messanger from Neverwinter arrived. Carrying an invitation from one of the Neverwinter Lords, he asked the party for help in the nearby town of Leilon. Leilon is along th coast, a little south of where the trail to Phandalin branches of the High Road. 

Leilon, as it is planned to grow into.

The party set out, making it about ¾ of the way before dark (they had set out late due to wellwishers in Phandalin). As night fell they approached the Wayside Inn, a place recommended by the proprietor of the Stonehill.

To their dismay, they found it set upon by zombies and wraiths. A fight ensued.

Here I messed up as a DM. I wasn’t as familiar with the creatures and missed the fact that zombies can reanimate and that wraiths take half damage from non-magical, non-silvered weapons. The battle would have been a lot more tense had I realised that. Next time!

They defeated the undead and were welcomed into the tavern, meeting most of the staff and guests. 

The following day they set out towards Leilon, only to find the townsfolk gathered in panic in a field a little away from the town. Something had spooked them.

Again, I missed a little of the flavour here, missing a lot of the council’s conversation which would have added to the colour of the situation. 

But never mind, because they were quickly set upon by knights and archers on watery horses, attacking from the direction of the town.

Look I really hadn’t expected them to get this far in the session, so I really hadn’t read up on what happens and again, missed that the archers had multiple attacks. 

The townsfolk scattered and the party engaged the attackers. A townsfolk was killed by a miss from one of the archers, but their tight formation lent itself to a fireball assault. And the battle was quickly over.

And we had to stop there.

I’m enjoying the party, and this adventure none have played. It’s the expansions from the Icespire adventure. If you buy the Starter Kit you gain access to these through D&D Beyond for free.

But I am feeling both a little underprepared (fixing that for this next session) and that I’m not really challenging the party. Partly that has been my ongoing problem with my monsters just not hitting the party (almost totally due to my ongoing dice roll fails). So instead of hurting them, the monsters (and this has been true from session 1) stand there flailing away and not hitting anything while the party pounds away. And of course, they are experienced players, using their skills effectively.

We’ll see what happens next as they will not have time to prepare for the next two combats. How will they cope when all their spells are spent?

DnD – I’m a Player!

One of the crew from my Phandelver group has moved a couple of modules he’s written into Roll20. He needed some playtesters, so I happily volunteered. With all of the kids after school activities still off, I have some free time in the evenings.

So I got to make a character and actually play it (rather than just fluffing about on D&D Beyond). I decided I wanted to make a dwarven ranger. I ended up with some nice rolls, with good strength and dex bonuses. Perfect for my ranger.

And so Hilfander was born. He’s spent many years living with his Grandfather, trying to keep an unused Clan mine clear of nasties. Sadly after the death of his Grandfather, he wasn’t able to keep on top of the threats and eventually was forced from the mine. He’s left to wander in shame and also to skill up to take it back at some point. 

Our first session saw us come across a small town being hassled by a drunken medusa. This eventually led us to a run in with a hag. Hilfander is developing into a ranged attacker, using his longbow to support the party. He’s now level 2, and has +7 to hit with his bow, so it’s quite effective with 1d8+3 damage. And no one has said anything about the bow being taller than him. Keen for a magical bow.

A quick google, and I am using this
picture for Hilfander

In the next session we rushed to help a dying dryad, who told of a terrible evil trying to capture a magical crown. We’ve set out to get to the crown first and use it against the evil. Hilfander is not convinced it’s the right idea, but supports the party. He’s pretty sure that we should just guard the location for the next 7 days or so, then after that it’s not a concern for almost 3000 years. 

This has led us to an interesting set of puzzles and pocket dimensions (I think That’s what they might be, we’re not actually sure of the mechanics) where again, Hilfander’s bow, and his dwarven constitution have proved worthwhile.

It’s only a short story, so it’s expected to finish up this last session. I hope to get a chance to see Hilfander continue in his story later. It sounds like one of the group is going to kick off with a Dungeon of the Mad Mage, which I would love to join in, but am not sure of my commitments coming up.

DnD – Dragons in Phandalin

Where did we last leave our intrepid Phandelver party? Sadly our scribe seems to have lost interest some and there are no further updates from him. You’ll have to make do with my brief notes.

So the party headed into the mountains in pursuit of the dragon. Searching the hills they found several clues, including a frozen orc carcass. By this stage, they were pretty certain it was a white dragon, and the dragonborn was looking forward to the scrap.

They eventually found themselves following a trail up to an abandoned keep, high in the mountains. Made up of two buildings, you needed to enter the gatehouse building, before crossing a bridge to the main keep. A pretty good design I thought. Drop the bridge and then attackers have to scale cliffs to the main building.

Inside the gatehouse they came across a group of brigands, whom they fought until the last two surrendered. The party let these leave and continued onwards. 

Most of the keep turned out to be empty, though a small flock of stirges had moved into one room. Most other rooms had been ransacked and defiled by the orcs who had lived here. Before the dragon of course.

The new “Dragon of Icespire Peak” module.

The dragon was found on the rooftop, and a fight ensued. They won it over quite easily as they managed some lucky casts of Hypnotic Pattern which kept the dragon incapacitated for each of its turns. This let the party pound on the dragon without taking almost any damage. This was helped by the initiative order. They would cast it, then the dragon would miss their turn, only for each of the damage dealers to take their turn, and then it would be recast, just in time for the dragon’s turn. I think the dragon managed about 1 round of actual combat (where it nearly killed one character with a breath attack).

Unfortunately as the dragon had only recently taken up residence, there was not a lot of treasure.

Finishing the episode, they travelled back to town carrying a dragon head (now mounted in the Stonehill Inn common room) and with the intent to take ownership of the keep.

Not staying at home..

Um, yeah, 2020….. well – not a good year so far.

The virus has meant a lot of people are at home. I’m not, work has me involved in their COVID working group, so I’m actually busy again. Similar to when the bushfires were on. I’m back to commuting to the city again, possibly for months? So far this year I’ve spent more time away from my regular desk than at it. Not a good sign I suppose.

However the commute through the city is a little lighter. Look at the difference here.

Before COVID-19 (This was only about a month ago, maybe 6 weeks)
After (and yes, it’s not such a nice day)
Before again
And after. But the weather is starting to clear up.

So far, my family is safe, healthy and Mrs and I still have jobs. Seems like that’s becoming a lot to have these days. I hope your families are well and safe too.