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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.

 

 

 

 

Influential Women in the Gaming Industry: Marisha Ray

ray-marisha-image Marisha Ray has done almost everything. She is a voice actress, producer, actress, host and stunt performer. Sher is also an avid gamer.

Marisha has been playing games and kicking butt since she was a small child. She loves all kinds of gaming. This passion has been able to help fuel her career and take her on the path that she now walks. Marisha has an impressive resume. She has been voice acting for years and has given us many fantastic characters.

Before she could start acting though Marisha tained at many companies such as; Actors Theatre of Louisville, American Academy of the Dramatic Arts, Point Park University Conservatory of Performing Arts, and the Governor’s School for the Arts. These companies helped Marisha hone her craft.

In 2012 she was able to star in and help create a fantastic series called; Batgirl: SPOILED. Ps I would LOVE to see more of that story. Batgirl is a great example of the creative nature of Marisha. Taking something she loves and building upon the story for others to enjoy. From there she has only gone forward. Including what most of us are most familiar with.

Critical Role is a show that has is a fan favorite for many tabletop gamers. It has also been a way for so many to get a start in Dungeons and Dragons and as a tool for Dungeon Masters with new players. Marisha has been on both campaigns and the one shot adventures of this nerdy group of voice actors. She has given players an excuse to be awkward and to make mistakes as they play through her characters. Marisha brings a real sense of fun to Dungeons and Dragons. I have written before about one of her characters Keyleth and how she inspired me as a gamer. 

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Marisha also is in charge of the Critical Role Podcast. She has been the producer of an awesome show called Signal Boost! Which is a really fun project that showcases everything from comics to music. Every episode has a different host. Which means viewers get a plethora of different interests to look into.

Marisha is a free spirit and an uber nerd. She has made space for herself in the gaming world where she can be totally herself. Marisha has made more space for women as well.

Marisha is proof that creativity breeds success. That you can be yourself, take your interests and make a career that you love out of it.

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You can see Marisha every Thursday night on Critical Role!

 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!  

 

Influential Female Characters: Keyleth

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Most of my readers and our fans know that when I started gaming again, my Dungeon Master suggested I watch some Critical Role to help me. I have a habit of getting stuck in my own head and being too worried about rules to just play and have fun. The show did help and also give me the idea to try what has become my favorite class in D&D because of  the Druid, Keyleth. I felt for Keyleth because her backstory. I was also really interested in her powers. I started playing Druids and that has become the class which I feel most comfortable, but I would never have chosen that class so quickly if not for watching Keyleth.

Keyleth is a Druid of the Air Ashari. Without giving away too much for those readers who are catching up on Critical Role, here is a little bit of her backstory. Keyleth has always been a talented druid, even when she was a child. Her father was the Arch Druid of her people and her mother left at an early age. Keyleth’s  father sees her potential and chooses her to be his successor. As it is then explained in the old intro, “ Just like that, her jovial childhood was stripped and replaced with endless spell memorization, teachings from ancient traditions, and exceedingly high expectations.” Here, I thought my school days were rough. 

 

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We never really hear about Keyleth having childhood friends. Nor, as it would seem,  has she had a lot of socialization till she is sent away from her tribe. When her father thinks she is ready, Keyleth is sent on a journey to the other Ashari tribes to “establish respect” with their leaders where she becomes a member of Vox Machina, what the group is known as, along the way. Because of this upbringing Keyleth is awkward and, at times, socially inept. She is also reckless in times of stress.

Keyleth is played by Marisha Ray who is not only a gamer, but also an actress and writer. Marisha often comes under fire for her style of gameplay. There are many reasons for why viewers don’t enjoy how she plays. Some of which are because of how their Dungeon Master allows his players to experiment and, some say, he is not enough of a rule enforcer. Marisha also really commits to playing Keyleth, flaws and all. She doesn’t polish her just because she isn’t the most popular character. I know that some of her particularly cringe-worthy moments make it difficult for me to watch her as well.

That being said, I give Marisha a lot of credit. She took a character who comes from a strict and sheltered religious background to thrust her into the world which does not follow the rules. Keyleth has gone through a lot of growing and evolving throughtout the game thus far. She has put aside many of the religious beliefs that she grew up with and has had to learn how to interact with people who have not. Keyleth continues to find her own strength and control over her powers. This has been particularly hard for her since they scare her at times. She also has come to terms with guilt that she continues to bury throughout the game.

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In short, Keyleth is an evolving and flawed character. She is very real because of her flaws. She is kind. She feels things very deeply, including remorse when she makes a mistake. Keyleth is struggling to be worthy of the responsibilities thrust upon her by others. She is finding herself, making herself better and helping those around her.

Keyleth helped me to understand that it is okay for me to play characters who unflinchingly believe in good. That I can play a character who isn’t a perfect hero from jump. Marisha has taught me that it is okay to make a mistake in game and learn from it. Keyleth inspires me to be creative with my characters. To allow an awkward moment to happen if it is what I think my character would do at the time.

She is a great example of being present in the moment of gameplay. Of going with your gut as a player. Of taking a risk because it might lead to something awesome. Keyleth is all of us just trying to figure the world out. She is us trying to figure ourselves out. Keyleth is all of us, just with awesome powers and a really cool headpiece.

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Check out episodes of Critical Role here.  

You can listen to a pretty rad soundtrack that Marisha put together for Keyleth here.

Always keep sparkling!

Women in Gaming: Laura Bailey

lb_1950When I started to get back into gaming, it was through Dungeons & Dragons. My friend and DM suggested I watch a stream of a show called Critical Role. He hoped that by watching, I would get a better idea of how to play. To get out of my head, stop worrying about the grid on the map and start being my character. I really enjoyed watching the stream. One of my favorite characters was the Half-Elf Ranger who snarked her way through most of the game. That was my first introduction to Laura Bailey.

Laura is a voice actress by trade and gamer for fun. She was one of the first really successful female gamers I had ever seen. She is what I strive to be when I play. In character and having fun. She is so good at playing in the moment while being filmed. Let me tell you, it is difficult to focus on playing a character while you know you are being filmed.

Laura is as talented as she is funny. As a voice actress she has given her voice to many characters in different mediums. She loves anime, which is where she got her start. Laura voices characters in different cartoons as well. She, of course, also voices video game characters which must be fantastic for a gamer to get to do.

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I have gotten to enjoy watching Laura play other games as well. Mostly she can be watched on Geek and Sundry. As I stated above, every Thursday she and other voice actors play D&D under their DM and fellow voice actor, Matt Mercer. Laura plays Vex’ahlia, who has gone through so much character development on Critical Role. I really enjoy Vex. I love her humor. I love her bear, Trinket. Laura does an amazing character who could have easily been annoying in the start. She gives Vex a lot of personality and emotion. She never holds back while she games and it is amazing to watch.

Laura teamed up last year with fellow Critical Role mates to game for a charity livestream to support MDA. Matt Mercer was the Sheriff, or basically a game master, and led the group through a thoroughly entertaining game of Deadlands. Laura played a gunslinger named Stinky Jules who was basically a Calamity Jane-esque character. She was hysterical and wonderfully inappropriate. The group helped tip Geek and Sundry over its monetary goal. Laura and her husband Travis also played Hearthstone in an episode of Worthy Opponents, which is a great way for newbies to the game to get to learn while being entertained.

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She has also played different games with Wil Wheaton on his Geek and Sundry show, Tabletop. Tabletop is a great show created by Wil to showcase different kinds of tabletop games. It has given me lots of ideas for games to try and also for games for friends in different stages of gaming. Laura also teamed up with Wil to play a character in his homebrew game called, TITANSGRAVE: THE ASHES OF VALKANA.

In Titansgrave, Laura plays a human cyborg named Lemley. Get ready for feels and lots of laughs when you watch this one. Lemley made me realize just how talented Laura really is at RPGs. Lemley is so different from Vex, and Laura gave her just as much love and attention. Titansgrave is also a really great series to watch for new RPGers. Laura and the rest of the cast do a great job of bringing you into the game. You really root for these characters as they try to accomplish their missions, which is a testament to the players.

Laura Bailey is a talented and hard working woman in the gaming industry. She tries to give back to the community. She makes mistakes and, literally, keeps on rolling. Laura really is a great role model for those of us trying to find our gaming style in the world of RPGs. I really admire her for her courage to be so expressive with her characters’ emotions. She also brings so much real joy to her gaming.

Always keep sparkling, my friends!