Main difference of 4E D&D from 3.5

I’ve started DMing a little bit of 4E D&D.

4E is commonly reviled by fans of other editions as not being “real D&D.” There are good reasons for that. 4E changed a lot of things about how the previous editions worked and 5th edition was largely a reversion of those changes.

One of the biggest changes was making every class function in essentially the same way.

In 3.5 and previous editions, every class had subsystems in the rules for how their specific abilities were used and how those abilities progressed as your character got stronger. Those subsystems varied from extremely simple (fighters and rogues) to extremely complex (wizards and clerics).

That variation in complexity came along with a variation in power. At higher levels fighters are still doing pretty much the same thing and aren’t nearly as useful as they used to be at low levels. Meanwhile wizards can now summon a protective warrior that’s about as strong as his fighter friend and still have plenty of magic left over for whatever they want to do.

The problem is usually referred to as “linear fighters and quadratic wizards.” Continue reading

Cool Stuff from Last Semester

I did some cool stuff last semester in my science classes that I’d like to show you guys.

The gist of it is… This picture:


This is a picture taken by my lab group in my basic lab technique class last semester of a mouse fibroblast cell moving into a simulated wound on a glass slide.

Fibroblast cells are kind of like the contractors of your body when you get a scratch or wound. There are your first responders to the “disaster,” your immune system, and then fibroblasts go in to start the process of rebuilding your tissue by laying the foundation for other cells to move in.

A lot of scientists are interested in wound healing. How can we make it faster? How can we make it better so people don’t have lingering problems after the superficial injury has healed? How can we prevent infection? How can we prevent scarring?

Those questions are tested with a variety of experiments but one of the msot common is the scratch assay.

A bunch of fibroblasts are grown on a glass slide until they practically cover it. Then the slide is scratched.

The fibroblasts move into the scratch, thinking it is a wound. Their movement into the scratch is measured in a couple different ways and those measurements can tell us a little bit more about how wounds heal.

Which brings me back to the picture my lab group took. Obviously its got a lot of color and is very prety, but what are all those colors? What’s going on in that picture?

My lab group scratched the space above the big cell in teh picture. The cell is now moving into the scratch.

The red lines are called actin. Actin is the support structure of your cells. Cells move by extending actin filaments where they want to go and breaking them down behind them.

The green parts are called vinculin. Vinculin is spread throughout the cell and localizes into spots where the cell is attached to a surface to assist in adhereing to that surface. All those bright green spots are where the vinculin is helping the cell hold onto the glass slide.

The blue parts are cell nuclei. Each cell has one nucleus and I’ll bet you can pick out the one that belongs to all the actin and vinculin in the middle of this picture.

I did a lot more stuff on scratch assays in this class and leaarned a few new techniques, but the best part was definitely getting this picture.

Oh and apologies to any color blind people. I have no idea how to spearatae out the red and green things for you. Enjoy!

-GoCorral

Blackrock Mountain Wrapup

I haven’t posted anything about Hearthstone’s Blackrock Mountain adventure since it came out and I think it’s about time I got around to that.

The adventure was a lot of fun. The bosses had their own little quirks that you had to work around to win, but none of them were too hard.

The Mage class challenge was awesome and I have replayed it a bunch of times. The deck you get is a solid 30 Unstable Portals!

Unstable_Portal

I’ve tried my hand at a few of the Heroic bosses and beaten three of them. My decklists and a glimpse of how the decks work are available on YouTube at these links: Grim Guzzler, Emperor Thaurissan, and General Drakkisath.

Now that the adventure is over and I’ve collected all the cards, which ones are the best and most fun?

Hungry_Dragon

Hungry Dragon stays a favorite for me. You get a good creature and your opponent gets something useless or something that completely messes you up. Shieldbearer is one of my least favorite minions to pop for my opponent even though its usually trash.

Volcanic_Drake

Volcanic Drake is pretty good in Arena and might make mid-range Hunter much more viable. The Drake combines well with Unleash the Hounds. Drop the Hounds, wipe your opponent’s board, and then play the Drake for free.

Blackwing_Corruptor

Blackwing Corruptor is pretty much an auto-include if you’re building a dragon tribe deck. The Battlecry effect is just so strong. Get a decent sized minion and probably eliminate one of your opponent’s minions as well. Awesome card.

Drakonid_Crusher

Drakonid Crusher is another winner for Arena. 6 mana for a 6/6 isn’t bad. It’s only got 1 worse health than Boulderfist Ogre. And Drakonid is a dragon so it can activate the Battlecries of Blackwing Corruptor and other similar cards. Best part is that if you’re already winning and you drop Drakonid, you get a 9/9. Even bigger than a giant! Solid draft in Arena. Not so good in constructed because you usually need things other than huge creatures in constructed.

Dragonkin_Sorcerer

Dragonkin Sorcerer is terrifying when a Paladin plays it. It’s stats are average for its cost, but if the Paladin drops a buff spell on it, look out. And its a dragon for that dragon synergy as well.

Emperor_Thaurissan

Emperor Thaurissan made a lot of combo decks much more viable. Specifically Freeze Mage and Combo Druid. If the cards necessary for lethal are all 1 mana cheaper then the combo can be pulled of in one turn instead of two if needed or at an earlier turn thatn previously possible. Thaurissan is a great card.

NefarianMajordomo_Executus

Nefarian and Majordomo Exectus both underperformed my expectations to be honest. Nefarian often gets you spells that are completely useless in your current situation. Exectus is often a liability because becoming Ragnaros reduces your health to 8. In what situation would you want your health to go that low? Usually if its already that low. And if it is that low, then your opponent will just deal damage to you instead of Exectus.

Resurrect

Resurrect is one card that I’m excited to see more of. I’ve heard that it combos well with Injured Blademaster because it comes back at 4/7 instead of 4/3. I’d like to see if slightly modifying a Preist deck could make this card awesome, but I don’t play that much Priest anymore. I’ll give a try sometime! Maybe for the Heroic bosses.

Imp_Gang_Boss

Imp Gang Boss is a really nice Warlock card. Demons are getting better and better as Blizzard releases more of them. Imp Gang Boss is chock full of demons and quite difficult for your opponent to fully remove. Pretty much a solid card in any situation.

Lava_ShockFireguard_Destroyer

Lava Shock and Fireguard Destroyer are the two new Shaman class cards. Lava Shock is definitely cool. There are a few Shaman decks I’ve wanted to try out in the past, but Overloading too much stopped those decks from working. Lava Shock could fix that. And Fireguard is just a good card for its cost. It will almost always be worth the Overload cost you pay for it, just like Crackle.

Druid_of_the_Flame

Druid of the Flame is a good Druid card and it counts as a Beast to combo with Druid of the Fang. I once had Druid of the Fang, Druid of the Claw, and Druid of the Flame all out at the same time and I felt very naturey. You’ll almost always play the Druid of the Flame in 2/5 form just like Ancient of War, but its a good card regardless of the false choice.

Quick_Shot

Quick Shot is the latest upgrade to the Face Hunter deck. Out of cards? Why not deal damage and draw more cards! Plus it allows for more burst from the hand to surprise your opponent with lethal when they thought they were safe. Good card.

That’s all the new cards that stuck out to me. I’ll be posting more YouTube guides to beating the Heroic bosses as I manage to do it!

-GoCorral

Darkest Dungeon

I’m going to talk about the latest video game sensation! Not League of Legends! Not Hearthstone! That’s right! You guessed it! The Darkest Dungeon.

2015-02-13_00001
I… I… I can’t read.

Darkest Dungeon is an indie game funded through Kickstarter.

In the game a wealthy socialite turns to the Cthuluian mysteries for entertainment and he unlocks horror beneath his mansion. The evil spreads until the entire countryside is corrupted by monsters, cultists, and brigands.

2015-02-13_00002
Beware! This game uses fancy words like antediluvian and tenebrous!

The player controls various groups of adventurers hired by the caretaker of the mansion to rid it of the abominations that inhabit it.

The game is a fairly typical turn-based RPG. Positioning of your party members is also important, but there’s nothing new there.

The new mechanic in Darkest Dungeon is the stress bar.

If you’ve read the short stories by HP Lovecraft that inspired this game, then you’re familiar with how the characters go insane when exposed to otherworldy horrors. Well, the same thing happens to the adventurers you control in Darkest Dungeon.

Getting hit really hard by monsters drives your party crazy. When the monsters do creepy things your party goes crazy. When the torchlight starts burning low your party goes crazy.

All that crazy is measured by the stress bar which goes from 0-100. 0 is fine, 100 is insane.

There’s other cool stuff too. Every class gets special attacks and you can name all your characters, like Snoop Dog in that picture down there.

WHACK! Take that!
WHACK! Take that!

In between adventures your party can rest and recuperate from all that craziness. There’s plenty of buildings to upgrade in the little town you stay in and the gold you bring back can be spent to improve your adventurers’ abilities for future dungeon raids.

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It was a dark and deluvian night.

And best of all, the adventurers talk throughout the whole game. Here’s your boss, the caretaker, describing one of his favorite places to visit in town.

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Caretaker’s getting jiggy with it.

I like to gauge entertainment on a ratio of hours of entertainment to money spent ratio. Movies are $10 to 2 hour ratio. Darkest Dungeon is $20 to… probably about 100 hours? That makes it 25 times as much entertainment value as a movie! Not necessarily as much fun packed into two hours, but over time it’ll appreciate into something you can really enjoy.

Check it out on Steam now!

-GoCorral

An Interlude to TAing

I enjoyed TAing a lot last semester, but due to a scheduling hiccup I won’t be able to this semester.

Hopefully I can pick it up again over the summer or next semester. I love teaching people and getting paid to do something you love is always appealing.

Since there won’t be any posts this semester about me TAing I have prepared this glorious selection of photos from the Vertebrate Museum at Sac State.

The Vertebrate Museum has hundreds of taxidermied animals and skeletons in it. The animals are from zoos or people who donated their own collections.

Last semester my class got to go on a “field trip” to the museum to examine different evolutionary traits. I say field trip in quotation marks as the museum was literally across the hall from the normal classroom.

So without further delay, here are some photos!

Chimpanzee Skeleton
A baby chimp skeleton.

 

Snake Skeletons
Snake skeletons. There’s supposed to be tiny toes near the back end of the tail.
Moose Head
Moose Head!
Undergraduates
The students comparing the different birds.
At least I think this one was a goat?
I think this one was a goat? Maybe a pig.
They're in love!
They’re in love!
All the deer!
All the deer!

-GoCorral

 

 

 

Goblins vs. Gnomes

With Bouncy, Flouncy, Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun!
With Bouncy, Flouncy, Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun, Fun!

The new Hearthstone expansion, Goblins Vs. Gnomes, comes out on Monday and I’m super excited!

If you’ve been keeping up with Hearthstone news then I’m sure you heard that the new expansion has two themes, mechs and randomness.

Blizzard has been releasing preview cards over the last few weeks such as these beauties:

Blingtron 3000Mechwarper

 

Blizzard is also giving everyone a free test run of the cards in Hearthstone’s Arena format. Everyone gets a free Arena run! The GVG cards are mixed in with the older cards, just like they did with Naxxramas.

I did my free run today and drafted a rush style mech warlock deck. The Mechwarper up there was a key part of the deck.

In one match I went up against a Priest. I coined out Mechwarper on my first turn along with another 1 mana cost mech that was reduced to 0 mana. The next turn I dropped a Harvest Golem for only 2 mana. Then I dropped this bad boy on turn 3:

Piloted Shredder

And after Turn 4 my opponent surrendered. Mechs are crazy!

The GVG set is also introducing a few new cards for the pirate, demon, and beast tribes such as:

Ship's CannonMal'Ganis

The new warlock legendary looks insane. I’m not sure it will be enough to make demon decks viable, but there were a few other demon cards that might make it work. You can check the cards out for yourself at Hearthstone Gamepedia

Before you get all excited to play on Monday I should remind/warn you. Blizzard has a tendency to announce that an expansion will come out on a specific date and then release it at 11:59PM Pacific time on that day and still claim they released it on time. This is technically true but it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

Anyways! Lots of new cards to try out! Fun to be had! Even a new game board to mess with which includes an aimable lazer gun that you can shoot your opponent with, a rocket, bombs, and a transmogrifier! Sweet!

-Mister Ed

Hearthstone Tracker

Hearthstone Tracker Stats
More statistics than you can swing a stick at! That is, if you’re into swinging sticks at statistics…

I got a program called HearthstoneTracker to generate some statistics on my Hearthstone matches.

Do I win more against a certain type of class? Do I win more when I’m playing a certain class? Which matchups are favorable for which class? Which class have I been playing against the most lately? Do I win more often going first or second? Am I making enough money in Arena for it to be worthwhile?

Hearthstone Tracker collects the data that I can then use to answer those questions. It even has graphs!

Hearthstone Tracker Over Time
I lost a lot of games on September 14th.
And here you can see my win/loss rate is good, but not amazing.
And here you can see my win/loss rate is good, but not amazing.

The program is available for free at http://hearthstonetracker.com/

It’s a small download and it runs in a separate window while you play Hearthstone. You can minimize the window or even have the program stored in the tray if taskbar space is precious to you.

The program may collect a lot of statistics but it has a few issues.

Originally the program collected stats through a screen capture system. This is fine if you always keep the game open, but I like to do other things while I play (like writing blog posts).

I created a workaround for that through a little bit of window feng shui.

The program developer has since come up with a way to grab data from the stream going on to the internet or something.

And somehow that method is even worse. I don’t know how it manages to get the length of a game wrong every single time, but it does. There’s an option to manually enter the times along with changing which class you played, which class you played against, how many turns the game took, etc. But who wants to do that manually? That’s why I got the program in the first place!

Other than that it performs fine. It detects who won and who you were playing against. Ultimately that’s all that matters.

The Tracker also has a neat feature after you finish an Arena run. You can manually enter your rewards and it keeps a running total at the bottom of the application.

I’ve tested HearthstoneTracker against other tracking applications out there, Track-o-bot and HearthStats, and I found HearthstoneTracker to be the best one. If you’re interested in something that will keep track for you, I’d definitely recommend the little program!

-Mister Ed

In Time Movie Review

I watched the movie In Time the other night. The movie stars Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, and Cillian Murphy.

I was not satisfied with the movie based on what I’d seen in the trailers.

The premise of the movie is that in the near future all medical problems have been eliminated.

Additionally, now that people are effectively immortal there isn’t really any reason to use any normal currency because eventually anybody will accumulate an infinite amount.

Instead of spending money, people spend time. Time is the remaining years, weeks, days, minutes, and seconds in someone’s life.

When someone turns twenty five their clock begins. You an see the clock on Timberlake’s arm in the above poster. When someone’s clock runs out that person suffers an instantly fatal heart attack.

The clock starts with a year on it. Time is spent on everything, coffee, taxi rides, movies. Everything.

And all income is in the form of time. If you work for a day at a factory then maybe you earn two days of time. One day to buy stuff with and one day to live with.

The movie villains are the rich who hoard time in order to live forever. The rich drive prices up in the ghetto to steal time from the poor because “not everyone can live forever.”

The movie heroes, Timberlake and Seyfried, fight back by stealing the hoarded time from rich banks where time is stored physically somehow and redistributing it to the poor. Surprisingly the movie never mentions the name of Robin Hood.

Giving time to the poor is somehow supposed to make them realize that the system is killing them, but the epilogue shows only that the poor are happy frivolously spending their money on vacations. The rich don’t lose power and the poor don’t gain any. What was the point if the poor waste their money on a week of pleasure?

There’s other problems with the currency system that are never explained.

Theoretically the only time that exists in the system is one year for each person when they turn 25. The average age would be around 25 because most of that time is spent on food, rent, clothes, etc.

Where is all the extra time coming from? Are there power plants that produce time? Or is the rich oligarchy just minting time and using it to pay their workers?

The rich are right in a sense. If everyone lived forever then the world would be overpopulated, but is the rich effectively murdering the poor really the plan that was landed on?

Why not use a traditional currency and set everyone’s clocks to one hundred years? Then people still have long lives with predictable deaths and the economy has a natural development instead of being controlled by some strange merchant dictatorship.

Plus, the script was clunky and the acting was bad. I’ve seen good acting from all these actors though, so I’m tempted to blame the director. The director, Andrew Niccol, also wrote the script, so really all the blame lies at his feet.

Niccol’s other movies are really good though. I’d recommend checking out Gattaca which has a similar premise and The Terminal.

As for In Time, it had a cool premise, but failed to make that premise compelling or interesting outside of the trailer. The other parts of the movie weren’t so hot either. I’d avoid it unless you’re dying for people to talk about wealth in amounts of years instead of thousands of dollars.

-Mister Ed

A Short D&D Glossary

A photo of the glossary page in the 4th edition D&D Monster Manual
A photo of the glossary page in the 4th edition D&D Monster Manual

There’s a few words that get tossed around a lot in D&D. I often forget that other people don’t know the specific D&D meanings of those words, so I thought I’d provide a short glossary of terms today.

The first word that I realized others might not know was teleport. None of the auto-spellcheckers I have used ever recognize teleport as a correctly spelled word  (And now I’ve confirmed that WordPress’s spellchecker doesn’t catch it either). Teleport is a word that means to instantly appear somewhere else. The transporter in Star Trek and apparating in Harry Potter are essentially both teleporting. The act of teleporting is called teleportation.

Campaign: A series of adventures that the players undertake, often with an underlying theme. My players are in a campaign where they fight a vampiric empire. The campaign before that was an attempt to prevent the establishment of the vampiric empire (they failed in the end). Prior to that they were fighting an evil death wizard (or necromancer since this is the blog post to teach you these words).

Campaign World: The main fantasy world in which a campaign takes place. My campaign world is based off Greek and Roman mythology and takes place in a place far to the east that the Greeks called Cimmeria.

Plane: There are often other worlds connected to the campaign world. These alternate dimensions are called planes. They appear as pools in some of the prequels to the Narnia series. The other worlds could be parallel dimensions or versions of heaven or hell, or anything else you can think of.

Cleric: A cleric is a person who devotes their life to religion. In English we often associate specific words with specific religions. A minister is Christian, a rabbi is Jewish, an iman is Muslim, etc. To avoid that confusion, D&D uses cleric to refer to priests of all gods and religions.

Encounter: A single conflict between the players and an adversary represented by the DM. These conflicts are often violent, but they don’t need to be. A diplomatic negotiation could also be an encounter.

Adventure: A string of encounters that have a unifying villain or objective. Adventures are composed of encounters and campaigns are composed of adventures. Campaigns can also have overarching villains and objectives, but the individual villains in each adventure will often change. You fight the henchmen before you fight the villain (Deatheaters before Voldemort in Harry Potter).

Experience: When the players defeat an encounter their characters are awarded experience points (EXP or XP). These are used to make their character stronger. They’re an important extrinsic reward in the game. A character’s power is defined by how much XP they have. If a character is more powerful then they can take on greater challenges. A hero could start off slaying orcs, gaining more experience til he is slaying giants and dragons.

Level: As characters gain more experience they increase in level. Each level has a set amount of XP required to reach it. Thus power increases in a stepwise fashion. More and more XP is needed for the higher levels. D&D levels typically range from 1-20.

System: D&D is the most well known pen and paper roleplaying game, but its not the only one. Many others exist and most have their own acronyms as well. Generic Universal RolePlaying System (GURPS) favors realism over the fantastical heroism of D&D. Call of Cthulu (CoC) simulates the Lovecraftian horror genre instead of high fantasy. Star Wars is for science fiction and World of Darkness (WoD) is for playing in a world of vampires and werewolves. D&D is the flagship of roleplaying games, but it probably has less than half the overall market share within the business. The rules of D&D and the rules of all its competitors are called roleplaying systems.

Edition: All these roleplaying systems have different editions. D&D is about to release its 5th edition. I believe GURPS is on its 4th now. WoD is on its 2nd edition. My friends and I started off playing 2nd edition D&D and switched to 3.0 and then 3.5 when they came out. We became entrenched in 3.5 and never switched to 4th edition (4E) and are only considering it now. This unwillingness to change leads to what are called edition wars in D&D. Different groups will argue that their system or edition is far superior to any other. It’s a snobbish elitism that exists in any hobby from beer drinking to bird watching.

Class: A character in D&D must pick a class to decide what powers they have access to. Wizards can cast powerful spells, but can’t fight very well. Fighters can swing a sword, but they can’t sneak into buildings. Rogues can sneak around and lie to people convincingly, but they can’t heal wounds. Clerics can heal wounds and cast some of the weaker spells, but not the more powerful ones. The wizard, fighter, rogue, and cleric make up the 4 basic class types in D&D. Each character must be one of these classes or a variation on them. Each level a character has is in one of these classes. A character could have all of their levels in one class or spread them out as much as they like between the many variations on the basic four.

Race: Players pick a race or species when they first create their character. The basic races are human, elf, dwarf, halfling, half-orc, gnome, and half-elf,  but there are many more. Each race gives a character a few small bonuses and penalties along with a set of typical physical features to choose from and a racial history to assist in writing a character’s backstory.

Skills: Characters have a few things they are good at. This could be something like cooking, playing an instrument, climbing, or using magical items. Most if not all roleplaying systems have skills.

Feats: Feats give a character additional options or bonuses beyond what their race, class, and skills give. A character gets one feat every three levels. Feats are unique to D&D. A feat could be something like the ability to create magic items, running for long distances without tiring, or using one weapon much better than any other.

That’s enough for now! With this info you’ll be able to understand my future posts on D&D a little better.

-Mister Ed