Hey everyone welcome to the inaugural installment of Old Man Gamer, a hopefully regular feature of the Old Magic Gaming. I'm Jim, known to you as either Ogun the Anvil in "The Great Old Ones", Johnny Sparks, the Rocker with the Robot Arm in "Heavy Gigs in Seas Side City". When I am not playing in all of those games I am editing the podcasts for OldMagicGaming.com, as well as appearing on a veritable plethora of other pods on hhwlod.com (DCTV Podcast, Dosvedanya and The Walking Dead TV Podcast) and the Taylor Network of Podcasts. So basically I run my mouth a lot and edit audio.
This blog will basically cover things I find fun and interesting in the RPG and gaming world, reviews of stuff I have read and played that fit in the format of Old Magic Gaming, and other random stuff designed to entertain and delight you. Or to just enjoyably kill some time scrolling and reading on the phone wherever you are.
Let's get started shall we?
TOMB OF ANNIHILATION: TALES FROM CANDLEKEEP
As cool as it is to be a part of a longer, ongoing RPG campaign, sometimes logistically it's impossible. You might not have the mental capacity or time to get into a character as deeply as you might or you just want something you can drop in or drop out of at your leisure. Well Tales From Candlekeep has you covered. This game is a computer version of the board game utilizing the Dungeons and Dragons adventure game system. I know that seems like a lot of re-purposing but at it's most basic it is a simplified D&D game based on the board game system used in Tomb of Annihilation.
So what does all that double talk mean? The game supplies you with four pre-made characters; a ranger, a druid/mage, a bard and a saurian paladin with a few predetermined skills and more that you can choose later as the characters progress. The basic story is pre-set but the actual gameplay areas are procedurally generated with a series of tiles that are laid one by one as you play, loaded with encounters, traps and events ensuring that each playthrough will be a little different from the last. This "rogue-like" method of dungeon generation allows for a lot of replayability as do the three difficulty levels and branching quest structures. The trade-off here is a lack of the background depth one might normally experience in a custom-made pre-written RPG adventure but for what it does offer it's a small price to pay.
Gameplay is turn-based and broken into four phases: movement/action, villain phase, hero phase and exploration phase. This simplification of classic D&D gameplay works well in this streamlined version (as it does in the tabletop TOA system) and a tutorial quest does a serviceable if somewhat bare-bones job of explaining the sequence of play to newbies. As quest areas are explored and cleared the story continues and new types of tiles with new enemies, traps and other encounters open up, and side quests also occasionally pop up as well that do a good job of filling in the backstory and motivations of these pre-generated characters and add flavor to the story itself. Although these stock characters start as relative ciphers, the text and progression eventually flesh them out.
So far so good right? Well it's not all Nat 20s and roses. Progress is slow at first, dependent on a crafting system in which you make better equipment from resources you find in treasure chests and loot drops. The system is demanding in the early game but levels out as it goes on. Also the game is kind of stingy on healing items and spells, so sometimes a player will have to temper their call to adventure with caution depending on their inventory. Finally, the tiles in individual areas can seem a bit same-y at times, especially on multiple playthroughs, but that is a boondoggle to be expected with the procedurally generated adventures.
On the whole, Tomb of Annihilation: Tales From Candlekeep is a solid digitized version of it's tabletop source material, offering fun dungeon crawling with a mostly interesting story and engaging gameplay. If you are looking for a videogame fix in the D&D universe without the 50-60 hour time investment many of these style of games demand, you could do a lot worse than this. Tomb of Annihilation: Tales From Candlekeep is available on Steam and Humble Bundle Store currently for $15.99