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Critical Brew

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Dungeons and Dragons has a lot of variety for players to choose from. The combinations between the 9 races and 12 classes from the Player’s Handbook alone will grant you 108 possible combinations, not accounting for multi-classing, subclasses, and racial variants. For some that is not enough though, or perhaps their inner creativity just can’t be sated by what’s offered officially.

So we have Homebrew. Many a player and Dungeon Master has spent their time to craft homebrew classes and races. If they wish to share with the world, many of these creators post their offerings online in a Pay-what-you-wish format. There are too many for me to review here, but I will showcase two Homebrew classes created by Matt Mercer of Critical Role.

In season one of Critical Role one of the heroes of Vox Machina was Lord Percival Fredrickstein von Musel Klossowski de Rolo III, or Percy. Percy was a Gunslinger; a homebrew fighter subclass created by Mr. Mercer. In season two we saw Mollymauk Tealeaf, a Blood Hunter, join the Mighty Nein. The Blood Hunter is a full class, complete with subclasses to choose from. Both the Gunslinger and Blood Hunter were played by Taliesin Jaffe, and over the course of both campaigns his characters were adjusted as Matt tweaked and modified the homebrew classes.

The Gunslinger uses a mixture of Dexterity and Wisdom to make incredible shots with firearms, some of which they must create themselves. When you choose Gunslinger you gain proficiency with firearms to better hit your target, tinkers tools to craft your weapons and ammunition, and your choice of trick shots to give that added oomph to your attacks.

The trick shots are fueled by Grit, which is based on your Wisdom modifier, and can either be replenished when you rest or when you roll a critical success in combat. This is a good thing as rolling a critical failure will result in a gun jam, and should you fail to clear it, the weapon will break and need to repaired outside of combat at not-to-cheap cost of gold.

The action economy of the fighters multiple attacks and action surges will keep you busy as you unload and reload your weapon multiple times during an encounter. As you level the speed with which you can reload increases, so there is that. With the many Ability Score Increases a fighter gets you can customize the type of gunfighter you wish rather well. A Gunslinger with sharpshooter and the Bad News rifle can make the ultimate sniper, while choosing crossbow expert can make a dual pistol wielding Gunslinger rather fearsome in close quarters. In the latter case wielding two might be considered unnecessary and your DM might be convinced to extend that Feat’s hand crossbow bonus action to your pistol.

Ammunition is not cheap however, and it’s cost varies by the weapon you wield. The palm pistol will run you 2 gold for 20 rounds, while the Hand Mortar is 10 gold for 1 round. That is if you can find the ammo at a market. Most likely you’ll have to craft your own, and that cuts the cost down by half.

There are 8 trick shots to choose from. As you level on your way from Fighter 3 to Fighter 18 you’ll have the opportunity to choose 6, changing out ones you don’t like when you also have the chance to learn a new one, much like spells. These trick shots can intimidate foes, disarm them, give you advantage or grant them the reverse, and even greatly increase the damage you do, while also increasing the chance for your gun to jam.

I say double down on Crossbow Expert and Tavern Brawler, dancing through melee combat with pistol in hand and pistol whipping targets when the gun jams or you run out of ammo. Maybe there’s room for a Gun Fu Monk homebrew there somewhere.

Now the Blood Hunter is another creature entirely. With a fighters hit die, light and medium armor, and all simple and martial weapons they can be sturdy warriors. These arcane rangers are skilled in tracking fey, fiends and undead. Their class features allow them to sacrifice their own vitality in order to charge their weapons with magical energy and cast curses upon their foes.

With the Crimson Rite they can reduce their maximum hit points (which Mollymauk did by slicing himself with his own blade). This adds an extra die of arcane energy, that scales with their class level, to the imbued weapon. Starting at 1st level they choose one of basic types (fire, cold, lighting, or acid) and will gain 1 more each at levels 6 and 9. When they hit level 13 they can choose one from the lesser types (thunder, psychic, or necrotic).

Upon reaching 3rd level you have another major choice before you. Which Blood Hunter Order to you follow; Ghostslayers, Profane Soul, or Mutant. Like other martial classes they can choose a fighting style at level 2, and gain an extra attack at level 5. Further on they gain the ability to cast blood curses, determine an object dark past through psychometry, fend off fear and charm, move swiftly around the battlefield, and even have a greater chance to stave off death.

The Ghostslayers seek the Undead and add a splash of Radiant damage on top of their chosen damage from their Crimson Rite. They can also hasten their actions gaining another attack and bolstering themselves from the defeat of a foe, extend their Blood Curse to targets without blood, see that which others cannot, and continue to fight in spirit form while their mortal form slowly bleeds out.

The Order of the Profane Soul have borrowed a few pages from the Warlocks handbook. They choose a few cantrips, a few spells, and may use their weapon as an arcane focus. Further advancement along this subclass sees them casting cantrips and making a bonus action attack in the same turn, or channeling a spell through a weapon attack in the same blow. They can also gain resistance to magic energy that matches their currently chosen Crimson Rite, make a spell attack as a reaction to a foe’s error in combat, or regain a spell slot upon the defeat of a powerful foe.

The Order of the Mutant consists of Doctor Jekylls that alter their own bodies on the fly through alchemical experimentation.  They eventually master the knowledge of 5 mutagenic formulas, and become immune to toxins because of it. The creation of these mutagens requires a short rest, and by level 15 you’ll be able to craft 3 separate formulas during a single short rest. Drinking these requires a bonus action and their affects, and deleterious side affects last until you take a rest or mediate and flush the toxins from your system. As your body grows accustomed to these toxins you’ll be able to ignore the side affects, and find that you’ve begun naturally producing one of them permanently.

There are 15 mutagens each with side affects, and class level prerequisites. Any of the six attributes can be boosted, but they are accompanied by a penalty to one other. You may find yourself able to fly, but physically weaker. Foes may not be able to restrain or grapple you, but you’ll be slower in the combat order. Every pro has it’s con, at least until level 15.

I suggest watching the 1st season of Critical Role, or listening to the podcasts of it, and paying close attention to Percy to gain a better feel of the Gunslinger class. Taliesin’s luck, good and bad, with dice was most entertaining and showcases the pros and cons of that class very well. As for his Blood Hunter, Mollymauk, in season 2…

The risk of betting ones own health did not fare well for poor Molly. He did shine bright, even if only briefly.

 

 

 

 

Hellsing: An Anime Review

hellsing Vampires. There is a very real fascination with them. The idea of being immortal, powerful and supernatural is something that can be very appealing to many people. 

Hellsing is an anime that premiered in 2001. Created first by Kohta Hirano as a manga it was then developed as an anime. In Britain there is a special task force with a very interesting mission. Hellsing, the official name for the task force, is led by the descent of famed vampire hunter Van Hellsing.  It’s primary aim is to protect England from vampires, ghouls and over supernatural creatures which are threatening it’s civilians. This is no easy task, even for such elite soldiers. Thankfully Sir Integra has a few tricks, including one very surprising one. 

There is one vampire that England can trust. He has sworn to work with the Hellsing family and therefore to take care of those who it protects. This gives Hellsing one big advantage to go with their guns against the forces of the supernatural. Will it be enough though? Are their enemies too strong? Is one vampire enough to help turn the tide and keep England safe?

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The character designs are really what shine in the original anime. The costume designs are very interesting and unique to each character. While some are extremely impractical, if you have seen the show you know EXACTLY which one I am talking about, the overall feel of the show is aided by the costumes. The colors that the animators use are perfect. The settings are so well done in this anime. Between the aster setting of Integra’s office to the dark and gritty settings everywhere else the animation is critical to telling the story. The soundtrack is also well done. 

Hellsing is an interesting anime. The concept is a particularly fun one. I enjoy a lot of the characters. I know there are many who are fans of the manga first who dislike the changes made to the original anime. Because of this there was a remake called Hellsing Ultimate. This follows the plot of the original story more closely. 

So if you like vampires and anime I would suggest giving Hellsing a try. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: FAR: Lone Sails (2017)

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FAR: Lone Sails
2017

FAR: Lone Sails is an exploration adventure game by Swiss developer Okomotive. Available on PC, Xbox One and PS4. Where you traverse a dried-out seabed littered with the remains of a decaying civilization. Keep your unique vessel going, overcome numerous obstacles and withstand the hazardous weather conditions. How far can you make it? What will you find?

Now that that’s been said, I’ve beaten this game 5 times in 3 days and got 100% steam achievements. That’s something I rarely do. It isn’t a long game so beating it several times will only take a few hours. However, this game is full of magic.

Let me explain. In this game, you have an androgynous character traveling a grayscale landscape with red being the only other color. The art style is beautiful. As you side scroll in your large land vehicle, the scene is ever-changing. 

You start in a small house/workshop after taking a moment to honor the passing of, what I assume is your father or mentor. After leaving the building behind you walk until you come across a massive vehicle. It reminds me of many things, reminiscent of movies about a dystopian future, you do everything you can to keep your vehicle operating. 

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Stopping to gather items for fuel, solving puzzles to upgrade the vehicle, outrunning disasters. All while a quiet story is told in the background. A story without words, which can be the best story there is. As I travel, my mind races to try to fill in the blanks. Wondering if it’s a comment on our current society and where we are headed or it’s just a simple story to be interpreted how we wish. This was magic to me. 

As I stated, I played the game over and over, hoping to grasp more and get all 14 achievements on steam. Each playthrough I noticed something different, something I was surprised I hadn’t noticed before. Honestly, these discoveries excited me and now that I’ve achieved everything I may slowly go through one more time to see if I’ve missed anything else.

This is definitely a comfort game for me and I could see myself booting it up after a long/bad day. It’s stunning, well worth the price and time. I can’t wait to see what else this developer has to offer.

TL;DR: Great Game, Must Play

The Unicorn Store: A Review

220px-Unicorn_Store_(Netflix_poster) Growing up is hard. What is one of the worst parts is probably the pressure to give up “childhood things.”

Giving up the things that you love because of the pressure to act like an adult is something that everyone has struggled with. However for many of us these things are still a fundamental part of who we are. In the Netflix movie The Unicorn Store Kit is on a precipice of who she was and who she can be. After being dealt a harsh blow of failure in art school Kit moves back in with her parents who seem to have already moved on. Hurting and confused Kit needs to decide what to do next in her life.

Should she put aside all of her creativity and glitz for a “normal” job? Is this idea of what being an adult is all that there is for Kit? An invitation and the promise of a unicorn of her very own, if she can meet the requirements, is presented to Kit. She then begins her journey to be worthy of a unicorn. She meets allies along the way and starts to find the strength to be her own version of an adult.

A lot of work clearly went into this movie. Costumes, hair and makeup are big tools in showing where different characters are on their own journey. The sets are amazing. The diversity between sets is really a treat for the eye. It also really helps to set the mood for every scene. I was really blown away by how much attention to detail went into making The Unicorn Store.

The cast really knocked it out of the park. They took interesting characters and breathed them to life. I very happy with how well written these characters were. To be honest if they hadn’t been then the premise of the story would have fallen flat. However all the hard work paid off and we are left with a lovely movie about growing up on your own terms.

I think everyone should watch this movie. The Unicorn Store gave me a lot to think about and I wasn’t expecting it to. I thought it was just going to be a silly, glitter filled movie. What I was presented was instead a thoughtful and heartfelt movie that was still filled with copious amounts of glitter.

So grab a stuffed animal and give The Unicorn Store a chance.

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Review: The Boys (2019)

the boysThere has been a trend in comics, television series and movies for superheroes to be darker. To look at the gritty, dirty parts of their world. While some fans are getting sick of this trend, it does lead to some interesting stories. 

The Boys is, once broken down to its core, one very interesting story. The show can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video. The origin story of The Boys can be found in comic form. Created in 2007 by Garth Ennis, this comic didn’t pull any punches, which is just what a fan can expect of any of Ennis’ work. The story was then picked up and revamped for not just the current times but for its current streaming format. 

The Boys starts off with one of the protagonists, Hughie, being dealt a harsh blow at the hands, well sort of, of a superhero. Not just any supe either, but a member of the most elite group in the world, known as The Seven. The Seven are treated like celebrities, or even more so like untouchable Gods. For the last decade, they have been molded by a huge corporation, so it is no surprise that when things go wrong with a supe, it is quickly covered up.

After learning this firsthand, Hugh is left angry and disenchanted. He is approached by Billy Butcher, someone who seems to know not just what really happened to Hugh, but also all about the dark secrets of the superheroes that the world adores. Hugh is then brought into a crazy series of twisted events as he tries to get revenge with the rest of the team.  

The soundtrack for The Boys is a great selection of music. The songs not only set the mood, but also give the audience hints about the overall tone of the scene. Sometimes they are used as juxtaposition against how dark of a twist is just around the bend. The sets are really amazing. The costumes are also well done. Even just looking at the supe’s suits, the viewer can see clues about the heroes. Really, the costumes are amazing and enough of a reason to watch the show in and of themselves. 

Would I recommend this show? That is, honestly, a really good question. I will say that I think that the show is so much better than the comic. The changes made gave characters a lot more depth and really helped the story flow. Without giving anything away, I want to stress that this is a VERY dark show. Pay attention to the rating and the warnings at the start of every episode. By the way, I am so grateful for the very thorough warnings they put up and am hoping that more shows will follow suit. 

It is a very interesting show, but it will not be for everyone. If you are a fan of darker versions of superhero stories, give it a shot!

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ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

Games Created by Women: Galactiquest

galactiquest Space, we obsess over it. We wonder what is out there. We want to live there. Well what if you could? What if you got to colonize a planet other than your own?

Galactiquest is a game about colonizing the galaxy. It was developed and invented in 2017. It is for ages seven and up which is perfect for all kinds of imaginations. Not only is this game perfect for kids of all ages it was also invited by a kid. Ellie Skalla invited the game at eleven years old when she submitted it to a challenge.

The Young Inventor Challenge is a great initiative that was started to inspire children. It gives children, ages six to eighteen, the chance to develop and then to even pitch original ideas to major toy companies and other very interested audiences. This contest is an opportunity for children to use their skills to shine and maybe, to even have their ideas put out into the real world. Ellie entered the contest and had a lot of fun developing the game and testing it with her friends. The experience was very positive for Ellie and she enjoyed working to make her idea a real board game that is now being sold by Target.

The aim of the game is to conquer the most planets to win. Just be careful because you will also still have to defend the ones you have from your fellow players. This board game encourages strategic thinking. It is for two, though I would encourage more, to four players.

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I found this game when I was browsing the games aisle for my younger cousin.  He loves playing games and it is something I really want to do more of with him. We both also love space so this seemed like a win win. Then I read the bit about Ellie and how she won the contest. Into the cart it went. My cousin really enjoys the game and I think Ellie did a fantastic job.

Not only is this a fun game but the story behind it is also just really neat. I think it is important that we spotlight the accomplishments of children and organizations that help them realize their goals. So go pick up this game and blast off to space. It will help encourage programs such as the Young Inventor Challenge and you will get a really fun game!

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!

A Trip Through the SNES Classic: F-Zero

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It’s shameful, I know, but up until I got the SNES Classic, I’d never played a game in the F-Zero series.  I didn’t even know what type of game that it was, though the title sounded familiar.

For those in the same boat, F-Zero is a racing game set in the future.  It’s the series that introduced everyone to Captain Falcon, though he doesn’t have a clear presence in the first game.  If you’re a longtime fan or a newcomer like me, I recommend reading this interview with Kazunobu Shimizu, Yasunari Nishida, and Takaya Imamura, three of the original developers of F-Zero.  They share some great stories about the history behind the game and the reasoning behind some of the decisions they made.  Some highlights include: Captain Falcon was initially designed to be a mascot for the Super Nintendo system, not F-Zero, and that the game was set in the future to work around different programming issues.  They didn’t have the technology yet to create effective tires that turned, so they just took out the tires and designed hover cars for the racers.

The original game allowed you to pick between four different cars and race through three different sets of tracks: Knight, Queen, and King.  In a manner similar to Mario Kart, once you pick a set, you have to play through all of the tracks. I wish these games would just let me select a racetrack that I really enjoy and let me play it without going through hoops to get there.  That’s something that I appreciate more and more about Diddy Kong Racing.  (And yes, F-Zero has a Practice Mode that lets you do this, but only for seven tracks.)

Regardless, I fell in love with the original F-Zero. I couldn’t get over just how fast and smooth it feels, even when using a control pad.  It doesn’t have all the extra bells and whistles that you get with racing games like Mario Kart or Diddy-Kong.  You can’t pick up items that give you colorful shields or the infamous Blue Shell missiles.  But that’s not a bad thing at all.  It’s just straight, pure racing and I appreciated the change.

When you start a race, your hovercar has a Power gauge that functions similar to health.  If you hit the edge of the track, or your fellow racecars, your power diminishes.  If it drops down to zero, your hovercar will explode and it’s game over.  You can also fail if your hovercar goes completely off-track or if you fail to complete laps after a certain period of time.  It didn’t take long for me to get the hang of things, and it helps having Practice Mode available if one ever needs a quick refresher.

If there’s one thing that holds F-Zero back from being a perfect experience, it’s the lack of a multiplayer mode. While it is fun and challenging, playing against an AI can get boring after a while.  Having the option to play with friends would have made it even better and increased the replay value.

Still, I’m so glad that I had the chance to discover the original F-Zero on the Super Nintendo Classic.  I’ve had a blast playing it, and if the other games in the series are just as good, I’ll have to check them out too.  If you’re a fan of F-Zero and have any recommendations, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments!

I’m rating this game 9 out of 10 hovercars.