Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Disney Infinity 2.0 - Villains!

The latest announcement for Disney Infinity 2.0 introduces the key villains for the three Marvel playsets; Loki, Green Goblin and Ronan the Accuser, and they're playable. This is not a huge surprise as these characters were already known to be in the game from previous videos and playable villains are not unprecedented. Davy Jones and Syndrome were playable in the first edition. Nonetheless, the introduction of three more characters which are playable in all the Marvel playsets is pretty cool.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Way of the Wicked 23

The assault on the Agathium continued in our latest session. After retreating at the end of the last game, they rested, leveled up, and were ready to go again.

This time the Agathium seemed to block any manner of teleporting or etherealness. For some reason there was great reluctance to go in through the front door (I was hoping they come crashing in through the stained glass windows) so they disintegrated a fairly large hole at the mack of the cathedral and entered that way.

They encountered the Frost Giant Queen Ellisif, who didn't seem all that concerned that the 9th Knot had murdered her husband. She made a bargain with them. If they win she will gain some influence in their new kingdom (a spot on their ruling council) and they will do what they can to protect her Frost Giants that have come south. In return she provided them with a map of the lower level and some intel on its occupants. The PCs accepted the deal and made their way to one of the stairs leading to the lower level.

The plan was the same as it was against the dragon Eirmanthus. Rush him and kill him before he has a chance to summon allies. The PCs buffed up and everyone had Fly. They raced through the lower level, going past some "Deathknights" before entering Cardinal Thorn's throne room. Initiative was rolled, and the PCs rushed him and killed him on the first blow. It seems it was a decoy and the entire room was trapped. Cube of force appeared trapping the PC and then subjecting them to force blades inside. Most of the PCs dodged the Cubes as they appeared and only the wizard was trapped. He dodged the first round of the blades attacking him and then disintegrated the cube allowing himself to escape.

The PCs fled the room and waited in the hall for the Deathknights to catch up. They didn't arrive as expected and the PCs were watching their buffs run down. A couple minutes later, the Anti-paladin Wolfram arrived leading all of the Deathknights that were present in the Agathium (some were out patrolling for the PCs). The battle was long but not overly dangerous to the PCs. They managed to block the hallway and were only being attacked from a single direction so they squishier people in the back were safe.

Their next stop was Grigori the wizard. As suggested by Ellisif, they approached diplomatically and through some decent roleplaying and excellent rolling they managed to turn the unhappy Necromancer helpful. Grigori was no longer so thrilled to be working for Thorn and as long as the PCs left him in peace and allowed to continue to work on "the machine" then he would reveal Thorn's location.

The 9th Knot located the secret door and moved into the secret section of the lower complex. They decided to head straight for the throne room and attack. Cardinal Thorn was waiting for them there and after a short monologue the battle began. Thorn was not alone as it first appeared and the wizard quickly realized that Tiadora and 6 barbed devils were present. The barbed devils used Hold person and Scorching Ray, Tiadora grappled with Gorbatch to keep him from killing Thorn in 2 rounds. However Sergent was very effective at preventing Thorn from casting his spells and was immune to Thorns physical attacks. Thorn died, Tiadora surrendered and the Devils returned to Hell. I think it was a fairly challenging battle but none of the PCs were in any real danger of dying.

With the death of Thorn Book 5 is effectively done. The PCs are now in control. There are a few clean-up issues to deal with but I think some of that can be dealt with by email and we'll be ready for Book 6.

Book 6 is an interesting beast. The first section of the book deals with completing Thorn's plan, which for 18th levels heroes, should be a piece of cake. The middle section of the book is almost all roleplaying and a lot of work for me to get set up.

I predict only another 3 play sessions unless there are parts a head that take much longer than I expect. Depending on what the PCs do it might only be 2. I am already looking at the ending and trying to decide how to run it to make sure that it is tough enough. Should Good or Evil win?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

More on Disney Infinity 2.0

It seems like every week there is a couple of new announcements of what will be available in the Disney Infinity 2.0 game coming out this fall. So far, we know for certain there will be three playsets based on Marvel properties. They are:

The Avengers - Thor, Ironman, The Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye
Spider-Man - Spider-Man, Nick Fury, Nova, Venom and Iron Fist
Guardians of the Galaxy - Starlord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon and Groot

We also know of several Disney characters that will be available for toybox play; Merida, Maleficent, Tinkerbell and Stitch.

Then there are the rumoured releases based on leaks from vendors. These include Donald Duck and a possible Big Hero 6 playset with at least Hiro Hamada and Baymax coming out to coincide with the release of the film.

So now it's time for speculation. The original Disney Infinity game had six playsets; Pirates of the Caribbean, The Incredibles, Cars, The Lone Ranger, Monsters University and Toy Story. It seems likely that there will be as many or more in DI2. Since Big Hero 6 looks to be the big Disney animated feature for the fall, with lots of potential characters including female characters, I would guess it is almost certain to be released as a playset. However, that means four Marvel properties will figure prominently in the game. I can't imagine there will be more. I am going to go out on a limb and predict a playset based on one of the princess properties. Right now, I am leaning toward Brave. We already know that Merida is coming. The addition of Queen Elinor in bear form and maybe King Fergus would make a suitable playset. The other possibility would be a Frozen playset. Elsa and Anna have already been released, but a further release of Kristoff and Olaf as a playset is certainly an option (and a license to print money). More announcements coming up this weekend at San Diego Comic Con.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Stampede Road Race 2014

Last Sunday was the 7th annual Calgary Stampede Road Race - called such because it takes place during the Stampede not through any affiliation.

As I was prepping the night before the race I had the horrible realization that I had forgotten to pick up my race package. Apparently you could pick-up your package the morning of the race but it was supposed to be for out-of-towners only. I was hoping that they only say that to encourage people to pick up the kits ahead of time and decided to go anyway.

The race starts at 7:30 so while I had to get up early it was not the crazy early starts of the Disney races. I made sure I was there early to get easy parking and have time to pick-up my race kit. I was able to do so and still had time to walk back to my car and stick the none essentials inside so I did not have to use the bag check. Now equipped with my bib and timing chip I walked over to the starting line and hung out for 30 minutes until things got started. They let the slow-pokes leave at 7:00 (people with an expected 2:45+ finish time) so they won't be out there long after everyone else. The 10km runners depart at 8am.

While killing time, at one point the MC went over the timeline of getting all of the different pieces ready for race day. Permits are requested almost a year in advance and shirts are ordered over 9 months in advance (which is why they never have enough of the right sizes). It gave me a good appreciation of all of the work that goes into making the race a success.

After getting eaten by a bunch of mosquitoes the gun went off and we took off from our starting line near the Glenmore track. I am always amazed at how adrenaline causes runners to start off at such stupid paces. I'm pretty fast and started up near the front but there was still a surge of people that roared past me in the first couple minutes. A few minutes later these same people are wheezing and muttering "too fast" under their breath. I prefer to start a tiny bit slower than my target pace for the first kilometre until I'm fully warmed up. I also like the psychological boost of passing people.

It was a bit warm that morning but completely overcast with little wind so it was almost perfect running conditions. By the time I had made it to the dam the pack had really thinned out and there were only 20 or so people left a head of me. I hit the aid station coming up the hill after the dam and grabbed some water. I've never tried what they were offering for energy drink so I played it safe. I normally don't stop for water either but it was warm and I need practice for marathons. I really didn't want dehydration cramps.

I passed a few more people as I went by the hospital. Sometimes its hard to tell if the person you are passing is someone that has run out of gas from the lead group or were one of the early starts that is running particularly strong. I passed the Ken and Barbie Australian couple as I rounded Heritage Park. I seem to remember them from a different race where they passed me easily and never looked back.

The south side of the reservoir is a lot of small rolling hills which can be rather draining on a bad day. I was still feeling strong and was staying a head of my desired pace. I hit the second Aid station but felt the water sloshing around and deicided to skip the next one. At about the 44 minute mark I passed the mid point. I wasn't exactly sure because my stupid Garmin had lost its satellite signal at Kilometre 4 and I was now dependent on my foot pod to track my pace. My goal for the race was 1:32:00 or 4:20/kilometre which I was exceeding, but I also knew the last 7 kilometres of this course are rough and I slowed down through there last year. Still, finishing under 1:30:00 was within my reach.

As I came to the big downhill I passed the blonde that I'd been tailing for quite a while. My legs felt good and the pathway was dry so let gravity do its thing and blasted down the hill as fast as I could barely staying in control. I can get up to almost 30 km/hr on a good downhill like those and although they can wreck my feet and knees I find it worth the risk on a race.

At the bottom I resumed my normal pace and tried to recover a bit as I continued on over the forested flood plain. My Garmin was not reporting correctly and it didn't take long to figure out that somewhere coming down the hill my foot pod had popped off. I was now stuck having to reset my watch so I could track my pace.

The course's worst hill is coming up out of that flood plain and I passed yet another guy. I guess all of my hill training paid off. At the top was the second to last Aid station and I hit this one for more water. Those few seconds of walking enable me to actually drink the water and drop my heart rate a bit before taking off again. My Garmin was back up and running now.

Running along the north end of the the reservoir I could only see 5 people a head of me. One I would catch just as the path turns north leaving the park. The next two remained frustratingly distant.

The section that runs north out of North Glenmore park towards Glenmore Trail is long and a slight incline. I find this to be the most psychologically difficult part of the race. It is still about 4 kilometres to the end and I'm always really, really tired by this point. I was also starting to cramp up.

I changed up my breathing and pushed on. Up ahead was where the 10k runners route joined ours and there was a mass of people. I came around the corner and joined the pack and heard a great cry of "Go Obiri" from behind me. It was some of my coworkers running the 10k. I did an over the shoulder wave and used the boost to pick up my pace.

As I ran up the ramp of the pedestrian bridge over Glenmore I could hear the whispers of the 10kers as I dodged around them: "OMG. He's fast","Wow he's a half marathoner". Their tears were delicious.

Coming down the ramp on the far side I realized I was close to another Halfer. The white haired guy had passed him and now I was coming up on his tail. He looked over his should twice at me which I interpreted as a sign of weakness. I used the downhill stretch again to my advantage and passed him and rounded the corner onto the final long stretch. There were hordes of 10kers everywhere and I spotted the white-haired guy ahead. With a little less than 2km to go, I kicked up my breathing into hyperventilation mode and made my big final push. Weaving around other runners is not the most efficient way to run but at times the psychological value exceeds the energy cost. This was one of those times.

As I blaze past the runners I can feel them become demoralized. It only makes me stronger. The white haired halfer is getting close now. My heart is pounding but I'm gaining on him quickly now. I pass him on the outside and then make the turn into the athletic park. There is a short stretch of running on grass to get up onto the track that sucks a lot out of me. It takes a moment to refocus and I push on. Somehow with the finish line so close I dig a bit deeper and sprint to the finish. I cross the finish line a big sweaty mess but very happy. I managed to finish with a 1:28:46 time which is 3 minutes better than my previous best and 8 minutes faster than I ran this race last year. Aside from the initial burst I was never passed by anyone the entire race which I think is a first for me. I also finished 11th overall. Still not top 10 yet but getting close.

So yeah, I loved the race. In fact I'm still fairly high from it 2 days later. It's not too big participant wise (less than 2000 runners), there were lots of water stations and the volunteers kept us on track. I don't remember any entertainment but I fall into a trance after the first few kilometres and don't care about that stuff anyway. There is a very nice stampede breakfast available at the end of the race. It always has a big line and I wasn't hungry anyway. There are all sorts of fun kid family events except this year I was solo and went home after I'd said hello to everyone that was participating that I knew.

Stampede Road race is a solid well organized event.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Way of the Wicked 22

I think there was some anxiety going into last nights session. People were worried about the Linnorm and a possible TPK. It turns out those fears were unfounded. We had 5 players so there was lots of firepower ready to go.

The party airwalked the the cairn lair of Nithoggr and set up a base camp a few thousand feet away. The wizard remotely scouted the lair using magic and had a pretty good idea what manner of creatures lived inside and where the Linnorm made his home. The wizard had a pretty good idea what sort of Linnorm Nithoggr was and what any of his special abilities were (Acid and Negative energy).

Rather than waste time clearing out the cairn the party just rushed through hoping that the other inhabitants were scared of the linnorm and would not interfere with the fight. The battle itself turned to be easier than expected. Everyone was initially blasted with negative energy-laced acid and then melee combat began. Nithoggr hates Cold Iron weapons and targets people who carry them. Fortunately for the party Sargent Fenton, the impossible to hit halfling, was carrying one and the Linnorm spent most of his actions trying to kill him in vain. The deathblow was actually dealt by the Anti-paladin who made a sky high saving throw to avoid the Linnorm's Death Curse. With the death of the Linnorm the party was attacked by the cairns of fearsome inhabitants - Banshees and Dread Wraiths. Under other circumstances this would have been a super nasty encounter but with everyone buffed with Death Ward it was a cake walk as the undead only had death attacks or negative energy powers. The 9th Know looted the Linnorm's vast horde and found Thorn's phylactery.

They decided to destroy it and shortly after another Devil showed up. I didn't wish to fight and twisted Thorn's instructions to kill the party. I informed the party where the Agathium is located and then departed.

The party again windwalked to the location and then D-Doored past the front door only to be met by some of Thorn's allies - The King of the Frost Giants and 4 of his personal guard. This encounter turned out to be much scarier then the Linnorm and the King had as many hit points as the Linnorm and could inflict far more damage. Everyone except Sargent Fenton took tons of damage this encounter with the Anti-paladin almost dying, the wizard getting knocked unconscious, and even the BloodRagers vast hit points were almost completely depleted. What guaranteed victory was casting Maze on the King. With him out of the way, his guards could be dealt with and then the King got Gang-banged when he escaped the Maze.

This one encounter depleted a ton of party resources so they have decided to retreat and heal up (and level up to 17 - 9th level spells!). In two weeks we'll see how the rest of the Agathium goes.