New Mass Effect d20 Conversion

Back in July, I wrote about wanting to play in a Mass Effect pen and paper RPG. Although my brother and I did toss around ideas for weeks afterward, nothing ever really came of it. Both of us wanted to play, but neither of us really had time to DM a campaign, especially one with conversion work needed in addition to regular DM duties. However, even though I didn't get a chance to play in such a game, I did have fun browsing through the conversion work that others had already started online, and I linked to many of them in this post. Apparently, my post caught the attention of a Mass Effect fan who is starting a similar project. This is an excerpt from an email I received yesterday:
Last Christmas day I searched the web for completed works on a ME d20 conversion and found none, not even nearly finished. While that is a bit disappointing, that made me happy enough to finally display all my work on the internet, on a forum I created today (26/12/2011). Unlike all the others, I have no intention of stopping until my Mass Effect d20 manual is complete. I've been playing RPG games (as well as d-20 system games) my entire life and for the past 6 years I have even created my own rulebooks and setting for my D&D campaigns, so I'm not exactly inexperienced in creating rules and RPGs. And I see no reason to stop this conversion, especially when I already have a third of the work finished.
Since I'm doing this alone, any help is appreciated. And you don't even need to register or be an active member of the forum (link is below in any case), you could simply talk about it to your friends that also like ME and d20-system games, or even talk about it in that post of your blog. Any bit of, well, "publicity" is greatly appreciated ;)
João Santos
I just got a chance to check out his work on the forum, and I like where he's going with this. What he has done so far is solid work, and should provide a good foundation. I would suggest that anyone interested in such a project should go check out his work, and get involved if you can. Personally, I have so many things going on right now that I doubt I can contribute much... but I did sign up for a forum account, and maybe this post on my humble little blog will get him a bit more attention from like-minded Mass Effect enthusiasts.

Now, go check out his work:

Madcap Mercenaries Campaign Reboot

Gotta quit using this pic for this campaign...
we aren't even playing on Google Wave anymore!
This old Rifts campaign died with the announcement that Google Wave would no longer be updated. I looked around for other options, but I finally just gave up on it and called it quits. However, it has sprung back to life this past week in blog format. The idea is so simple that I should have thought of it myself. GM posts information as blog posts, and then interaction takes place mostly through comments. Brilliant!

Feel free to join us over at the Madcap Mercenaries Campaign blog to follow the action as our heroes track down a missing excavation team.

Avacyn Restored Spoiler

We don't know much about this set as of yet, but Wizards just announced the new set this week. Here's what we do know:

  • 244 Cards (large set even though it's the last of the block)
  • May 4 release date
  • May 4-6 launch weekend
  • May 25-26 game day
  • Pro Tour: May 11-13 in Barcelona, Spain
  • Three Letter Code: AVR
  • Twitter Hashtag: #MTGAVR
  • Design Team: Brian Tinsman (lead), Mark Gottlieb, Dave Guskin, Kenneth Nagle, Bill Rose, Mark Rosewater
  • Development Team: David Humpherys (lead), Mark Globus, Dave Guskin, Erik Lauer, Billy Moreno, Matt Sernett

Two Rifts Campaigns Brewing...

I made my wish list last month, and I ordered a Christmas Grab Bag from Palladium Books last week. With new books due to arrive at my doorstep any day now, the urge to play Rifts has overcome me. It has even managed to steal some time away from Skyrim, which has eaten up every bit of what little free time I've had lately.

First of all, the Madcap Mercenaries Campaign (previously referred to on this blog as the Rifts Wave Campaign because we were running it on Google Wave) is coming back soon. I had given up on that campaign, and all online campaigns in general, when Google Wave's development was cancelled and my life got too crazy to keep up with it. However, I've recently been inspired by a post I read about play by blog games*, and I reserved the address for us. Since then, I've been slowly working on making sure the campaign's new home is usable: exporting Google Wave info, trying to hotlink character sheets, making sure players can comment from their cell phones, etc.

The other campaign will be in person, a return to Phase World. Although I've used elements of the Phase World setting in my Rifts campaigns (like this guy), I haven't actually run a campaign set in Center since 1998. Yeah, I was in the 8th grade then. It will definitely be a return to my roots, as it was the first Rifts campaign I ever ran. I've decided that we'll run this as a one-shot adventure and see where things go from there. I like the idea of establishing some background events through an exciting opener and then letting the players decide where to go from there: sort of a "drop the game or sandbox it" option.

In any case, the Rifts content here will increase over the coming months. I can't wait to start gaming again!

*Sadly, I can't figure out where this post is... if anyone knows of it, please let me know so I can link back to it. I thought that I saw it on, but now I can't seem to find it.

Using Mage Knight Figures for Warhammer 40K

Way back in May, I decided that I wanted to create a really cheap 40K army. One thing I noticed recently was how cheaply you can purchase Hero Clix and Mage Knight figures on sites like Admittedly, it also helped that I had a few in a shoe box that I could experiment on before I ever spent any money.

Sadly, that army has yet to materialize. It's really difficult to match equipment from random games to specific Warhammer gear, and I don't know if it's worth the time. I doubt I'll actually use these for Warhammer, but I can always play them alongside D&D Miniatures.

In any case, I shot this quick tutorial over the summer, and I ran across it this week. I'm not exactly proud of the quality, but what the hey... might as well share anyway. The lighting in this video is terrible. Between bad lighting and pale skin, I look like a friggin' zombie!

Skyrim Crash Problems

I played through much of the intro just fine... no lag, no slow frame rate, no bugs, no audio issues... until the character customization. And then my whole system crashed... completely shut down as if I had hit the power button. I tried twice more, the first time getting a little further before the crash, and the second time getting all the way through.

"Whew!" I thought. "There's a bug in the character creation part, but now that I'm past that, I can get into this game."

And I did get to for a while... all the way to the part where you actually get to start interacting with the world and picking up equipment. I equipped a sword, took a swing, and watched as my screen went black yet again.

I'm not sure what's going on. I thought the issue might have just been in the character creation stage, but my crashes haven't been limited to that.

This is quite a frustrating development. It also took me several days to play Fallout 3 when it first released because of system crashes. Come on, Bethesda... throw me a bone here...

I'm playing (or at least trying to) on an Asus G74SX, for reference.

UPDATE: It looks like the issue was accumulated dust inside the machine. I bought compressed air and intended to open up the whole laptop and clean everything out... but I got nervous taking everything apart, so I went with the vacuum cleaner trick that Vojta used. I am happy to say that I haven't had a crash since.

Fell Off the Face of the Earth? Not Yet...

Where have I been? Obviously, not posting to Outsyder Gaming a lot...

Life has been insane since August, working full time and taking two graduate school courses as well. I've barely managed any posting at all over the last few months, and even those were mostly short and news-based.

So have I been up to any gaming? Well... not much... but here are a few things I've been dabbling in...

The idea of a Birthright style campaign that plays adventures whenever the guys can (sporadically, in other words), and that plays campaign turns in a play-by-post format. The big picture would unfold over time, while we could do mini-adventures whenever we do get a chance to get together. Nothing solid on this one yet, though... I haven't even read through the Birthright rules in 10 years (maybe more than that!).

A really aggressive Bant Pod list with Mirran Crusaders at the three spot and Sword of Feast and Famine to capitalize on that double strike ability.

Making a wish list for the Palladium Christmas Surprise Package. If you're into Palladium games, this is the best time to get their products at a huge discount. Yeah, it's hit or miss sometimes, but it is an amazing offer that I wish I had started taking advantage of sooner. Click here to see what I got in last year's surprise package...

In any case, I have exactly two more papers due for graduate school in the next few weeks (one of which I should be working on right now), and then I'll be back to gaming. However, there might be a longer delay before the blog picks back up. Skyrim releases this week, and I'm sure it will be a huge time sink for me...

Icosahedron Art

Strolling through little shops and stuff in Asheville, North Carolina last weekend brought me face to face with this work of art. I was wandering downtown with some friends, just exploring and checking things out, when we came to this store and one of the ladies just had to go in. Figures... frickin' flower shop...

It's called Shady Grove Flowers. Honestly, I was bored to tears in there until I saw the giant metal D20 on the stump. And the first thing I thought? Holy crap! That's a big D20! Check this crap out...

It is in times like these when I have little or no time to write or roll my own little plastic D20's that little things like this make me really miss gaming.

Innistrad League Play

The Dugout is beginning an Innistrad league this weekend. I've never participated in anything like this before, except on a small scale within my gaming group. Essentially, it's a sealed deck event that takes place over a long period of time and incorporates some Vanguard-like qualities that vary from week to week. Rules for this six week event were emailed out in the newsletter last week:

OK so we’re gonna host a new league and you want in! Here’s what’s up. To begin week 1 (the league is 6 weeks long) you need to purchase 6 Innistrad boosters and build a minimum 40 card deck. Then within the next week, you play as many matches as you want to, but the first five and only the first five count toward your league score. The cool thing about playing the matches is that you pick who you want to play and when you want to play. You can schedule to meet your opponents at a certain time and play or you can play when we have some “league time” set aside. For example, if you want to play a few games one morning and then come back that afternoon and play some more its fine. All games must be played at the store. You may play as many games as you wish and make as many changes to your deck as you like during each week (only from your card pool though) you will only receive points for your first 5.
So week one ends and now it’s time to purchase another booster and add it to your card pool. Make any changes you like to your deck and play more games during that week. Each week you can get 1 additional booster. Now the coolest part of all is the effect that the moon of Innistrad has on your games. During week 2 for example, all creatures will get +1+0 for the entire week. This is a global effect and part of the league structure. Week 3 -6 have similar effects and in week 6 all creatures have haste! The top 4 in points at the conclusion of 6 weeks will receive a mini poster with artwork from Innistrad. Why not packs? Simply because this is intended to be a light-hearted and casual event played for fun and hanging out. If you win, great! If you don’t win, oh well. Just have fun.
Now some guidelines.
As stated earlier, all games must take place in the store.
It’s up to you to make arrangements to meet your opponents. Any time we are open is fine and we may have a time set aside for everyone to just come hang out and play. Perhaps we will stay open a little later on Thursday nights and have a casual night or something and have some “league time”
I reserve the right to grant an additional booster to players with exceptionally bad points ratings to keep it competitive and fun for everyone. This is our first league so we will learn what works and does not work. Just enjoy the game.
If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to call or email and ask.
Thanks, Tim S
Many thanks to Tim for coming up with ideas like this and getting people involved in more than just the competitive scene of Magic: The Gathering. Although I prefer the competition, cool opportunities like this are hard to pass up.

As for me, I've got four hours to finish a thirty minute presentation that's due in my night class tomorrow. As long as I finish (fingers crossed), I'll be at the store by 2:00 to play in today's draft and start this league. Back to work... it's crunch time!

Dark Ascension Spoiler

It's probably a little early to be posting about this, since we know so little about the set. However, Wizards of the Coast has made some announcements about the set, and here's what we know so far:

2nd Set in the Innistrad Block
158 Cards
Prereleases: January 28th & 29th
Official Release Date: February 3rd
Launch Parties: February 3-6
Game Day: February 25-26 (originally listed as March 3-4, but updated here)
Three Letter Code: DKA
Twitter Hashtag: #MTGDKA
Design Team: Mark Rosewater (lead), Jenna Helland, Zac Hill, Graeme Hopkins, Matt Tabak
Development Team: Tom LaPille (lead), Mark Gottlieb, Zac Hill, David Humpherys, Ken Troop

I love this Sorin artwork... kudos to Michael Komarck for this one!

Midweek Metapost: Gaming Through the Stress

September is tough for me as a blogger, as I also work in public education and the beginning of a new school year is incredibly time consuming... and that's not counting the onslaught of work from the two graduate level courses I'm taking. For the most part, my blogging has come to a screeching halt.

However, I am doing better about not pushing gaming out of the picture this year. I usually find myself even more stressed out than necessary because I cancel all of my gaming activities and I end up a workaholic... and anyone who knows me well knows that I am far from a workaholic. Getting into that "all work and no play" mindset makes me grumpy, sleep-deprived, and somewhat of a recluse. This year, though, I've kept on gaming straight through all the business of life. And I feel much healthier because of it.

Innistrad Magic Workstation Patch

Yes, I know the set hasn't even been fully spoiled yet. However, that hasn't stopped people from getting in some early work on getting the new patch ready for Magic Workstation ASAP. The most updated version online at this point (as far as I know, anyway) can be found here:

Innistrad for Magic Workstation

It looks like there have been some issues trying to get the new flip cards to work, but perhaps the folks at Magic Workstation will find a way to make it happen. In the meantime, enjoy testing your new creations before the cards get in your hands!

Best Card of Innistrad Spoiled Already

Yep, I said it. We've only seen 76 of 264, and I've proclaimed one card best of them all. It's not a rare... it's an uncommon. It's also a 1/1. It's this card:

This is slightly better than one of my old favorites: Silhana Ledgewalker. They share the same mana cost, albeit in different colors, the same keyword (Hexproof, if you count Oracle text), and most of a second ability. The main difference? The words "except by creatures with flying." Unblockable is just so much sweeter. And as much as I loved slapping a Moldervine Cloak on Silhana Ledgewalker, well... just read on...

So why do I call this the best creature in the set? Not because it is so spectacular on its own. Even if it is difficult to kill, a 20 turn clock just isn't fast enough. No, this is the best card in the set because of the way it interacts with some of our favorite equipment cards from the previous block: swords.

I've spent quite a bit of time now running Dungrove Elder and Thrun, the Last Troll in decks with lots of swords. If my biggest complaint about those guys isn't immediately obvious, it's their lack of evasion. Hard to kill? Absolutely. Easy to chump block? Yeah, that too. Invisible Stalker makes it certain that you'll hit for a little more and gain some life (Sword of War and Peace), or untap your lands and force a discard (Sword of Feast and Famine), or mill ten and make a wolf (Sword of Body and Mind). Yeah, about that last one... I seriously doubt I'll be playing that particular sword when Innistrad rotates in. Milling ten in a format with so many cards with Flashback might be suicide.

When Innistrad becomes legal, you can bet that you'll see me swinging with some of these guys... and I'll probably be untapping my lands when damage resolves.

The Outsyder's GM Merit Badges

It seems like posting your GM Merit Badges is catching on. I doubt it will make much difference for me, since I very rarely bring new people into my games... but I guess it's worth exploring and sharing, even if only for the mental exercise.

Combat is more fun when there is something more at stake than just winning or losing. Even if the story is just, "We're a group of traveling mercenaries and we want to make a fortune," that loose framework is what defines the game and makes the combat meaningful. That said, I have to admit that the story is usually secondary to the actual challenges of the game: exploration, combat, traps, etc. Improvisational theater has its place, but it is not in my game room. My GMing style is almost strictly 3rd person, so I rarely ever take on the voice of a character and I don't expect my players to either. "She threatens to burn down the whole village if you don't comply," is a lot more common at my game table than talking in funny voices. Also, see "Tactics."

Lochlann's Laboratory: Dr. Travis Lochlann

Travis Lochlann began his life as the son of a mechanic in the Chi-Town Burbs. His grandfather had applied for citizenship but it was not granted within his lifetime. Travis and his father, however, were accepted when Travis was a teenager, and they moved into the city itself immediately. Travis joined the Coalition military when he was old enough and was selected to be trained as a scientist. He fell in love with the daughter of an officer, married her, moved to Lone Star to conduct genetic engineering research, and believed he had the perfect life… until Bradford’s lies led to Lochlann losing everything he held dear.

Although his genetic engineering projects are far from stable and always a little risky, Lochlann couldn’t resist the temptation to experiment on himself. After all, the world seemed aligned against him and he needed every edge he could get, and furthermore, what superhuman in his right mind would follow a normal human to war against the Coalition States?

Lochlann was once light-hearted, with a contagious smile and quick wit. The light-heartedness has been replaced by cynicism and that smile rarely surfaces anymore. His wit is still there, though it is much more biting than playful. His once-dark hair has become peppered, and is nearly gray on the sides. He constantly fears for his life, and even though most in the Coalition have written him off as dead, he still believes that they are out to get him. Despite his near immunity to common weapons (thanks to his self-experimentation) he is rarely seen without body armor and bodyguards, and he fiercely guards the secrecy of his identity and of his laboratory’s whereabouts. His efficiency as a scientist has increased exponentially through his self-experimentation as well, as his mental attributes have increased and he can concentrate on multiple projects at once in ways that would surprise even the most talented multi-tasker.

BUGrove Elder Evolution

Another of my articles was published on PureMTGO today. Click the image below to check it out.

Midweek Metapost

To be honest, my brain isn't firing on all cylinders at the moment, so trying to explain this will probably not come out as eloquently as I'd like. So be it. I hope you'll accept my apology ahead of time.

I was on a good streak for the better part of July and the first part of August, writing 4-5 posts per week. That pace is slowing down as school starts back, and my gaming will drop off as well. I miss writing and I miss gaming... already... so I'm going to start sharing my random musings a little more than usual. If I'm not gaming, I won't have regular battle reports or tournament reports to share, so why not my personal thoughts? Who knows? I might just stir up some controversy.

No controversy today, though... just a little blog post about blogging.

I read a lot of other blogs, and on a regular basis, the best blog posts I've read have fallen into three categories:
  • Review or preview of a product I find interesting
  • Insight into a game or a playing style
  • Personal accounts of peoples' lives who share interests with me
I do the first two quite often, but I rarely ever share anything about myself on here. I do talk about the games, and I talk about my gaming crew a little, and I give my opinions about various games on a regular basis... but I just don't talk about me. That might be a plus... maybe people don't want to know about me. Maybe they just want to read about games and they don't care about the person behind the writing. 

But I don't think that's the case most of the time. I'm convinced that most returning readers come back because of the connection with the author. Write a technical manual, and people will only read the manual when they need the information within... build a relationship with your readers and they'll come back for the relationship.

I wouldn't say that Outsyder Gaming is a technical manual... but I wonder what direction this thing might take if I opened up a little more and actually shared a bit of myself here. I aim to do that more in the future. NPC spotlights and tournament reports are cool... but does anybody really know me

Expect that to change...

Building a Better GM

A challenge was issued last week, and I'm going to try my hand at it. The challenge was to share three "best practices" that I possess as a GM, and then elaborate on them (specifics here). I'm not the best at writing about myself, so I'm just going to go for it... I hope my players will respond here and give their input.

Best Practice #1: Create interesting and varied combat situations.
Sometimes this means fighting in unusual settings with weird terrain, and my group's foray into Warhammer 40K scenery has certainly improved the cool factor of our RPGs from a visual standpoint. However, this also includes challenging the players with different situations and tactics. Take your trusty old standby of marauding orcs. Nobody wants to fight 3d6 more orcs that look just the same as the last ones that came up on the random encounter chart. That's boring enough to make you pay more attention to the Cheetos and Mountain Dew than the game itself. However, even monsters with the same stat lines can use different tactics. Perhaps the last group just stumbled across the party, but this group heard them coming. The two fights should be noticeably different, even if the monsters have the same stats. You could use different monsters each time, but eventually you suffer in one of two areas: the necessity for more preparation time, or a lack of verisimilitude within the adventure. Sure, your characters could be adventuring in a fantasy zoo where all the cages magically opened, but most of the time, you need something believable to tie the monsters together thematically and give them a reason to be there.

Best Practice #2: Make it a point to know your players' preferences and give them opportunities to interact with those game elements.
If you have the opportunity to play with the same group for a long period of time, you'll know your players pretty well already... but you might be surprised what a quick survey would tell you. Put one together and see what your players are really looking for... you might find some things intriguing. And as soon as you find these things out, look for ways that you can incorporate them. For example, when our Age of Worms campaign ended and I was in the process of brainstorming for the next campaign, I gave out a survey for the next game. In it, I asked things like, "What percentage of the game do you think should be combat and what percentage should be roleplaying?" I also asked what monsters they would like to see in the game. To be honest, I don't remember too many of their responses... but when I introduced my group to Rifts, I created a minotaur character just because Matt had listed minotaurs as a monster he'd like to see more of in our D&D games. He snatched that character up, and while other characters died off and were replaced by more and more powerful ones, Matt managed to keep that minotaur alive as long as the campaign lasted. I would never have known he would be interested in such a character if I hadn't given out that survey.

Best Practice #3: Use flat characters sparingly, and keep your players guessing.
It is actually kind of a joke around the table that nothing can be taken at face value in one of my games. My brother especially is hesitant to act on anything I describe as GM without trying to figure out what kind of spin I've put on things that are seemingly obvious. I took Ray Winninger's advice from his Dungeoncraft articles very seriously, and one point he always brought up in his setting design was the idea that everything must have a secret. I realize that shopkeepers can be flat and uninteresting, and so can the bad guy's minions at times, but I try to make sure everything in my campaigns has some trait that nobody knows but me... until the time comes to reveal it. It certainly keeps my brother on his toes...

Now, with all that said, I'm hoping my players will drop by and offer their opinions. They've dabbled in GMing as well, and I'd be curious to hear their critiques of my style. What do I do wrong, guys? And don't worry... I have thick skin... I can take it...

BUGrove Elder: Comments on a Green-White Version

This little pet deck I've been working on has really been giving me some good results, so I'm going to keep running with it. I placed 3rd at a local tournament a few weeks ago (tournament report here), and finished 3-1 at last night's FNM (not sure what I placed other than that I wasn't in the top 4... needed a fifth round of swiss to avoid the need for massive tiebreakers, but they only ran four rounds for some reason and my tiebreakers apparently sucked).

In the comments on the tournament report (linked above), Ebonlocke (a player running a similar deck) responded with the following: 
Hey man, love the blog post. Made an account just to be able to respond! I have been playing my own version of U/W Control until recently when I aquired 3 Mind Sculptors and 4 Mystics in a trade and decided to convert it to a legacy Caw-Blade, but that's besides the point.
I was out of a standard deck because of that and I love the idea of a Dungrove elder. I only just put it together but here's what I have:
20 Forest
2 Plains
4 Gladecover Scout
4 Spirit Mantle
4 Rampant Regrowth
4 Sylvan Ranger
4 Viridian Emissary
3 Hunter's Insight
4 O-Ring
4 Dungrove Elder
3 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Thrun, The Last Troll
2 Gaea's Revenge
I play alot of can't be countereds and hexproof things. Until I get around to getting them manaramping and little critters keep me alive, little worried about flyers though as I haven't really tested this yet in an FNM. Hunter's insight is awesome if you have an empty hand and you swing in with a 7/7 Hexproof Pro. Creatures dungrove elder to give you more fuel for the war effort.
The swords idea seemed very tasty too, but I'm not sure about what to replace them for really. I'm thinking I'll probably try to adopt the swords of vengeance and the basilisk collar too, but I'm afriad I'd have to replace too much if I don't play blue to fetch them with trinket mages. I'd rather just get a massive dungrove elder and get through defenses with spirit mantle, the sword of vengeance would make that especially tasty.
It's also alot of fun when you already have a heavy dungrove elder to bring in a Gaea's Revenge and then copy either of them with metamorph next turn to make for quite a few number of really hard hitters, all of which canpotentially be creature proof with spirit mantle.
I only play 2 plains because I have a million ways to fetch them anyway.
What do you think? ;)
First, I have to say to Ebonlocke: Thanks for reading, and I'm glad you enjoyed the post. As far as the deck, it does have quite a bit in common with mine. The core strategy is the same: abuse big Dungrove Elders. Many of the cards in this deck were ones that I considered for my own. Sylvan Ranger, Viridian Emissary, and Dungrove Elder are really the core of the deck. Two are mana ramping/fixing chump blockers that can put some pressure on a control deck in a pinch. As for the other card choices, let's go one by one:
  • Gladecover Scout: I love these guys in M12 draft, but for my deck they're just too fragile in combat and they don't do anything other than say "no" to targeted removal. Personally, I prefer either Llanowar Elves or Birds of Paradise. BoP might even help your worries about flyers. Now, that said, giving these guys protection from creatures can make them really annoying for your opponents... so if that's working for you, run with it.
  • Spirit Mantle: Another card I love in M12 draft, I can see the potential they have for this type of deck. If I was running white, I think I'd be running these too.
  • Rampant Growth: Do you need it? I would argue that you don't, and that this slot might be better as either another threat or more removal. 
  • Hunter's Insight: I have gone back and forth on this card, and I had three in one version of my deck as well. I think it's amazing under certain circumstances, but when it is amazing, you're probably going to win in a turn or two whether you cast it or not. I finally cut it after I had a few experiences of drawing it without the ability to push much damage through, and I ended up just drawing one or two cards.
  • Oblivion Ring: This is your deck's primary advantage over mine... there are things you can get rid of permanently (barring enchantment removal) that I can only bounce for a turn. After boarding, I can get rid of the same things, but they get a 3/3 beast in place of whatever I killed. O-Ring is amazing... love it...
  • Thrun, The Last Troll: Before M12, I was running 3 copies of Thrun in every green deck I played... but now he's usually just a smaller, more expensive Dungrove Elder. I would definitely run a few of these if UB Control was popular in my area, but so far I haven't seen anyone playing it, so he rotates in and out of my sideboard depending on whether or not I feel like I have better options. 
  • Gaea's Revenge: A big untargettable guy that can't be countered and has haste. These can be amazing in certain match-ups. However, they're also pretty mediocre in others because there are just so many creatures in standard that he trades with (all of the titans, for example). Another option to consider here is Terra Stomper... he doesn't trade with titans, can't be countered, and can't be chump blocked by a random Bird of Paradise. He can be targeted, but he at least ignores the most popular removal spell in standard right now: Dismember. I don't know if he's actually better rather than just better in theory, but it's worth considering, at least.
  • Phyrexian Metamorph: I saved this for last because it is actually a little embarrassing. Congratulations on catching this gem... I'm not sure why I overlooked him. I'm definitely going to see if I can find room for him in my version of the deck.
As far as using my deck for ideas, allow me to share some things I've learned over the last few weeks of tournaments and testing.
  • Sword of Vengeance is a ton of fun, but I think I was running too many copies. Drawing multiples is not fun, and it happens more often than you'd think. In the last tournament I played, I dropped down to two copies, and I might end up going down to one. I just keep replacing them with other swords (Feast and Famine, War and Peace). The most important ability that Sword of Vengeance granted was trample, and your Spirit Mantles provide pretty much the same thing for a much smaller mana investment.
  • The Trinket Mage engine is cool, but it's a one trick pony and there are too many cards devoted to that one trick pony. I always wanted to get a Basilisk Collar with the first Trinket Mage, and then I winced every time I drew another one, because I already had the only card I really had Trinket Mages in the deck to get. My advice: Don't switch to blue just for this.
  • Fetch lands really help the mana situation. I know there isn't one for green-white in standard, but I think Terramorphic Expanse is worth it just for the versatility.
  • As someone else pointed out in another comment, Green Sun's Zenith is amazing in this deck. It almost feels like you're playing eight Dungrove Elders, and it lets you go get other things that you might need in a pinch as well (like Acidic Slime, for example).
I've modified the maindeck significantly since the last time I posted a list. I'll post a new list and a mini tournament report on PureMTGO soon.

Lochlann's Laboratory: Shemp, Lochlann's Failed Experiment

HU2.114Although Dr. Lochlann has never been able to predict exactly what changes will befall his experiments, very few of his experiments have been disastrous. Unfortunately for Shemp, he was one of these disasters. Kidnapped from a group of adventures who barely survived a freak rift storm nearby, Shemp was tested without his consent, and the experiment broke his mind while it strengthened his body. 

Horribly disfigured yet strong as an ox, he has the mind of a toddler, always seeking positive attention and adoration from "dad" (Dr. Lochlann). Shemp is great at moving heavy loads and bashing things that dad doesn't like, but he can be a bit of a liability at times. A toddler throwing a tantrum can be quite terrifying when the "toddler" is a hulking monster of a man!

Painting Rifts Miniatures, Part Two

I haven't had much time to keep this project going, but I did do a little work on the line walker over the weekend. The last pic I posted was just the base coated version, more to share what the model looked like than anything else. Here's some actual progress I've made:
I need lots of touch up work around the face, and the skin is a little too yellowish for my tastes.

Basically, this is just the base coat, blues for the clothing, browns for the boots and gloves, some paint on the face, followed by a blue wash on the clothes and a black wash on the gloves/boots. Obviously, we're not going for Golden Demon quality here... not that I could achieve that level of quality with my current artistic skills anyway.

I still haven't worked on the Coalition SAMAS, but he'll be next when I get the line walker finished.

Playing Magic in Cornelius

Last Friday, I played a Magic: The Gathering tournament in Cornelius, North Carolina. It was an M12 draft, and I had to drive a fair distance to get there. With two card shops within five miles of my house, I can't believe I agreed to drive so far... but then again, I was rejoining some old friends who haven't played in quite some time and don't have enough newer cards to play standard. Getting to hang out and play cards with them again was cool, even though the tournament was a little bit of a let down.

The draft itself was great. My first pick was an Oblivion Ring, and I cut off white in the first pack. I thought I would end up in red-white based on what I was seeing come so late, but the second pack showed me a Dungrove Elder (which is fast becoming my new pet card), and then several Trollhides. I ended up with a pretty impressive green-white aggro deck, with griffins and their riders, multiple Pacifisms, some spiders, and some more hexproof guys. I didn't draft any true bombs, but hexproof regenerating guys are pretty impressive. My MVPs of the tournament were definitely my two Stingerfling Spiders, though. I didn't take notes this time, but I went 4-1 for the tournament, placed fourth, and won... two packs? Really?!

I knew from the beginning that this tournament would be harder on my wallet just because of the drive and the cost of gas, and that isn't the fault of the store. However, the draft costed $16 just to enter, which is $1 more than what we pay in Hickory. That doesn't seem like that big of a deal, but if the draft costs more, I expect there to be a bigger prize pool, even if only marginally so... and apparently there wasn't. If I heard correctly, first place only got six packs. I got five packs for this third place finish in Hickory last week, at a tournament with a similar number of people.

I haven't played enough tournaments outside of Hickory to know for sure, but I felt like I got ripped off. Maybe whatever prize structure they use is more common than I'm imagining and I'm being unfair in this assessment. Maybe Tim at The Dugout just spoils us. I don't know. I do know this: it will take a lot of convincing to get me to play in Cornelius again... which is sad, because the players there were really cool. I met some folks that I would really enjoy playing again. I wonder if they have any clue how much greener the grass really is on the other side?

The Dugout's First Legacy Tournament, a Semi-Success

A few weeks ago, I posted this to see if I could garner any interest in a legacy tournament in The Dugout of Hickory. Standard and draft have plenty of support, but those of us who love the older cards are usually just out of luck except for casual games. Initially, I thought we would have a good turnout, but on the day of the tournament, very few of the people I thought were coming actually showed up.

So we ran an unsanctioned tournament with just six people... still fun, but just not the same as getting a big crowd. I brought Junk, and I was able to play a pretty decent (as in, not budget) list since John let me dip into his collection and borrow a few things. My deck list was:

Lochlann's Laboratory: Darla, D-Bee Experiment with Amnesia

R.WB.30.071Though he conducted numerous tests on D-bees in his days as a Lone Star researcher, the only time Dr. Lochlann has experimented on one since his exile has been with the creature known as Darla. From where she came, even she doesn't know, but at some point she found herself on the run, at Dr. Lochlann's doorstep, begging for protection from mercenaries. Dr. Lochlann refused to protect her, but offered her the means to protect herself (if the experiment worked). She accepted, but an unforeseen side effect of the experiment was complete memory loss. Since she told Lochlann so little when she arrived, he was little help except to tell her that she was on the run from someone. She left Lochlann for a time, eventually confronting those who wanted her killed and defeating them. With no past to cling to and no present danger, she decided to return to Lochlann's laboratory and has remained there willingly ever since. She has no idea where she came from, but she knows that Lochlann's experiment saved her life. With nowhere else to turn, she has found it a relatively comfortable place to reside.

Now Writing on PureMTGO

I've just had my first article approved and posted on, a site that focuses on Magic: The Gathering Online. It's a little ironic, since I rarely ever play MTGO and do most of my card slinging with physical cards, but it is still an interesting experience to be published on another site. You can check it out by clicking here.

The article is just a tournament report for last weekend's Sunday tournament, and it is far from what I would consider polished. Still, the only blatantly obvious error in the article is actually an issue with the image linking... I assume the Magic 2012 set just hasn't been uploaded yet since all of the titans are linking to the M11 version and Dungrove Elder is stuck as just basic not-hyperlinked-or-replaced-with-a-pic text. Either way, you should check it out if you're interested in a really fun budget deck for standard.

Painting Some Rifts Miniatures

Line Walker after base coat
I'm finally getting around to painting some Rifts minis that I intended to start working on back in 2010. It has been a long time coming, and these miniatures have remained in their original packaging for quite some time now, but it's about time that they got some fresh air and a few good coats of paint. I don't know if I'll ever actually use them, since Rifts isn't mini-dependent at all, and we aren't even running a Rifts game at the moment... but painting them will be fun nonetheless. I decided to start with two of my favorites: a line walker and a Coalition SAMAS.

Warp Spider Phoenix Lord

Yeah, I know... terrible paint job...
I haven't actually used warp spiders in forever,
and I never got around to finishing them.
For some odd reason, the warp spiders got shafted when it came to distributing phoenix lords. If I had my way, they would get stats as follows:

Warp Spider Phoenix Lord (215 points)

Stats: Same as all other phoenix lords.

Unit Type: Jump Infantry

Wargear: Enchanted Death Spinner, Powerblades, Warp Jump Generator

Special Rules: Independent Character, Fleet of Foot, Fearless, Eternal Warrior, Disciples, Withdraw, Warp Jump Navigator

Enchanted Death Spinner: This weapon has seen so many trips through the warp that it has taken on mystical properties and is much more powerful than its more common counterparts. This death spinner is AP 2 and Assault 4.

Warp Jump Navigator: All warp spiders are adept at traversing the warp, but the phoenix lord is especially skilled at doing so safely. When this phoenix lord or a model in a unit he has joined would be removed as a result of rolling doubles for a warp jump generator move, roll a D6. On a result of 4+, the model is not removed.

I also want to add a note that taking this guy allows you to take one unit of warp spiders as a troop choice, but since none of the other phoenix lords have the ability, I'm leaving it out. Considering how many HQ choices printed in the 5th edition era have similar "may take X as troops" abilities, I'm assuming the next Eldar update will include this for phoenix lords. Until then...


Lochlann's Laboratory: Jerome, Dog Boy Experiment

R.UE.259Three dog boys who served Travis Lochlann helped him escape from Lone Star with his life after he took the fall for Desmond Bradford: Moses, Larry, and Jerome. Each of the three served Dr. Lochlann in a different capacity before his exile, and each fills a very different role in the lab now.

Jerome is the youngest of Dr. Lochlann's dog boys, and has shown his youthful curiosity by taking it upon himself to join the doctor in some of his research, as well as volunteering as a test subject. Due to the experiments Dr. Lochlann performed, Jerome can now shoot electricity from his fingertips, is extremely resistant to energy attacks of any sort, and has transformed into a mega damage being. What might be the most interesting of his new abilities, however, is his ability to walk in front of a camera and his image not show up on the film. Although it hasn't been fully tested, Jerome and Dr. Lochlann have speculated that he is probably invisible to technological sensors and cameras of all sorts.

Legacy Tournament at The Dugout in Hickory, NC

The Dugout, one of the local game shops in Hickory, North Carolina, will be hosting a legacy tournament for the Magic: The Gathering game on Saturday, August 13th at 1:00.

If you're an old Magic player who hasn't played in a while, this is the kind of tournament for you. There's no issue of being unable to play because you don't have the newest cards. Every set from Magic's long history is legal (except for Unglued and Unhinged), but unlike vintage (type one), the "Power Nine" and the game's other most unbalancing cards are outright banned rather than just being restricted.

For a list of banned cards and other details on the legacy format, click here.

Need to know how to get there? Last I checked, Google Maps was sending people down the street a bit, but here's a decent image of the place. It's on Catawba Valley Boulevard, right by the mall.

View Larger Map

8/3/2011 Update... Here's part of the message Tim sent out in the newsletter:
Ok folks…breaking news from the Dugout! On Saturday August 13 at 1:00pm, we will be hosting our very first MTG Legacy Tournament!! The entry fee will be $5.00 and there will be prize support. So come hang out with us on the 13th, play some Legacy, meet some new folks, and have a blast!

Ty Hawkins, Slacker Extraordinaire

Ty Hawkins is a classic slacker, fairly intelligent and talented but without the work ethic to be as good at anything as his parents (or anyone else) expected of him. Even though he barely graduated from high school and dropped out of the local community college, he has managed to build a relatively stable income through various online means. These have ranged from respectable stock trading to shady pyramid schemes. If you can do it online, he's probably tried to make money at it... and he usually succeeds, though his successes are always shortsighted enough that he is in need of a new business plan within six months.

Ty rents a studio apartment in New York City, in a neighborhood that isn't scary itself, but is close enough to a rough neighborhood that he started taking a self-defense course and learned how to use a gun. He likes it there, and despite family members far away who have begged him to move home for years, he doesn't plan on leaving any time soon. Ty is satisfied with life right now, and he believes that he has everything he needs: a bed, a bathroom, an internet connection, and enough attractive women in his building to keep him "distracted."

Lochlann's Laboratory: Larry, Dog Boy Psychic

Three dog boys who served Travis Lochlann helped him escape from Lone Star with his life after he took the fall for Desmond Bradford: Moses, Larry, and Jerome. Each of the three served Dr. Lochlann in a different capacity before his exile, and each fills a very different role in the lab now.

Larry is the oldest of the three dog boys who helped Dr. Lochlann flee. He has greater psychic powers than most of his peers, and is seen as the wisest of the three. When not in the presence of Lochlann, Larry and Moses often bicker over the correct course of action: wisdom vs. anger. Luckily for the trio, Larry is good at calming his temperamental partner down.

Budget Deck for Standard: BUGrove Elder

Just on the heels of my complaints about Magic: The Gathering becoming too expensive, Star City Games and Wizards of the Coast both post articles about budget decks for standard. On the official WotC site, Jacob Van Lunen walks us through his ideas for a blue/black deck that abuses Gravitational Shift. Over on Star City Games, AJ Kerrigan doesn't go into as much depth, but he tosses out four deck ideas... several of which are quick enough for potential turn 3/4 wins with the right draws.

Because I am the rogue deck builder that I am, I can't be satisfied using somebody else's list... so I wanted to get in on the action and share a budget deck that I've been working on myself. It clocks in at just under $80 using the prices at Star City Games (and we all know that you can snag cards a lot cheaper if you work at it on eBay).

Sooo... what deck can you think of that gets to swing with a 8/6 trample, first strike, vigilance, haste, lifelink, deathtouch, hexproof creature to win the game? This deck can do it fairly consistently (and 8/6 is a conservative number). This deck is a Timmy's dream come true... and with an average converted mana cost of 2.79 (and Phyrexian mana letting you play things even cheaper when need be), it is fast enough to compete with the best decks in standard.

Three Player 40K, Second Attempt

A few weeks ago, we tried out a game of 40K in which each player was on his own in a three way free-for-all. It was interesting, and you can check out the details by clicking here. This time, we had a different player and a different army in the mix. Eric, usually our Tau player, decided that he wanted something different, so he grabbed Matt's Space Marines. Jeremiah played orks, as usual. And I played my Blood Angels this time. For some reason, I stopped taking pictures after the first or second turn. I usually have tons of pics to choose from for blog posts and I only have seven.

Our setup was exactly the same as last time. 1000 points, four objectives (one in the center, one for each player to place), kill points for the tiebreaker, deployment as in the following pic:

As with last time, I was concerned about Player C being at a disadvantage. This time it was Jeremiah who ended up with the long edge, and I cautioned him not to split up his army like I did last time (which led to me getting smashed by the other players). He kept most of his force together, but still sent his deffkoptas on some tank-killing runs and kept his nobz in cover away from the fighting.

Free Rifts PDFs at DriveThruRPG

I was really excited when I found out that Palladium Books was going to start releasing their books as PDFs on DriveThruRPG, and then I was sorely disappointed to find out that they weren't releasing any of the newer books there. To be honest, I didn't look again after that first disappointing glimpse until just recently, when I discovered that my assumption was only partially true.

No, they still aren't releasing the new books in PDF format. But they are releasing sneak preview materials for new books that will be hitting the shelves soon. These are the free PDFs that are listed on DriveThruRPG at the moment:

Here's hoping these are just a taste of a long line of sneak previews!

Recent Magic Tournament Results

I've been playing a lot of Magic: The Gathering lately, if you haven't noticed by the increase in Magic-related posts here on Outsyder Gaming. In the last few months, I've come to a few realizations about the game:

  • I don't really like Standard anymore. Gone are the days when I could put together a decent deck for less than a hundred bucks and make top eight with it at FNM. Budget decks have always been tough to make work, but nowadays they are just so sorely outclassed that it just doesn't seem worth the effort. You either sink tons of cash into the format, you don't play at all, or you get used to losing a lot.
  • Legacy, while much more expensive to get into, is actually less expensive over the long haul. Similar to Warhammer 40K, in the legacy format you dump a lot of cash on the game when you first get started but you don't have to make major investments after that.
  • Limited formats (draft and sealed deck) are much better options for me. Since I stopped playing (back when I was running a budget Gruul deck and making top eight consistently) and started back (with budget decks that get me 1-2-drop performances consistently), I've had the following results at tournaments:
4/1/2011: Win, Win, Loss, Win, Finished 2nd
5/6/2011: Loss, Loss, Drop (Bad night...)
6/3/2011: Win, Loss, Win, Win, Finished 3rd
7/17/2011: Win, Win, Win, Win, Finished 2nd

5/29/2011: Win, Loss, Drop (Time constraints... wanted to keep playing...)
6/12/2011: Win, Loss, Draw, Loss, Finished 10th
7/3/2011: Loss, Win, Loss, Drop
7/22/2011: Loss, Win, Loss, Drop

Total for Limited: 10 wins, 4 losses, three out of four top eights
Total for Constructed: 4 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw, zero top eights

So the big question is this: Do I fork out the money for these $20+ mythic rares, or do I just suck it up and expect losses in constructed tournaments? 

Eventually, I'm sure I'll start forking out the money... even if I'm just selling off cards to get the new hotness. For now, though, I think I'm going to hang back and stick to limited for a while.

Lochlann's Laboratory: Moses, Dog Boy Bodyguard

R.UE.259Three dog boys who served Travis Lochlann helped him escape from Lone Star with his life after he took the fall for Desmond Bradford: Moses, Larry, and Jerome. Each of the three served Dr. Lochlann in a different capacity before his exile, and each fills a very different role in the lab now.

Of the three dog boys who helped Travis Lochlann flee, Moses looks the toughest and has the most foul temper. He considers himself the leader of the others, although they only grudgingly follow his orders unless they know they came directly from Dr. Lochlann. Moses is in charge of security and any mercenaries that Dr. Lochlann hires. Whenever there appears to be a threat to the laboratory, Moses usually leads whatever group goes out to eliminate said threat.

Blood Angels Army List for Tonight

Tonight is game night, and we're playing 40K. I'm glad we're finally getting back into playing again. It had been so long since we played, I spent way too much time last game looking up rules that I had forgotten. Tonight should be another 1000 point three way match like last time, although this time Matt isn't coming and Eric will be taking his spot. That means this battle will be Orks vs Tau vs Blood Angels.

I'll be commanding the Blood Angels, and this is the list I intend to run:

Magic: The Gathering Event Calendar... MtGmom

I just stumbled across an awesome Magic: The Gathering event calendar and I wanted to share it. The site is called, and you can find events listed here from all over the place. If you're ever planning on going to a major event or you'll be playing somewhere out of town, this is the first place you should look for details. Click the banner below to visit the site.

Rifts Errata

I've never bothered much with errata. I just hate having to justify it to other players. "Yeah, I know the book says that, but the company that wrote the book says that it doesn't actually work that way anymore." Blegh. Seeing the looks on peoples' faces when you try to say that is just terrible. However, it is no big secret that Palladium Books products suffer from some internal consistency issues. If you're like me and you encounter these issues, you just pick whichever contradictory or ambiguous rules make the most sense and you go with it. No harm done... on with the game! But for those of you who need the official fixes (or just want something official to clear up a rules argument you're having between you and another player at your table), you can find all of the official errata for the Rifts megaverse by clicking the following link: (just scroll down a bit)

Rifts rules lawyers rejoice!

Mass Effect D20

I'm a huge fan of the Mass Effect series (and so is my little brother... he's even read the novels!). So when I was scrolling through the WotC forums the other day and noticed a thread under the d20 Modern section that focused on bringing one of my favorite games into the D20 system, I was thrilled. This might be old news for a lot of folks, as the thread appears to have been around since 2008, but it is news to me! A quick Google search reveals the following resources for a Mass Effect D20 campaign:

Three Player Warhammer 40K

Last week, we had three people for game night and we had planned to play 40K. This meant that we would either have to play 2 vs. 1 (not that fun), have one person sit out (even worse), or play a three way battle (which sounded promising). What wasn't promising was figuring out how to set it up. Unfortunately, the scenario in the big book isn't all that fun (we've tried it twice already), so it came down to trying to figure out a relatively even way to divide up the board. The best solution I could come up with was to divide the board as follows:

The board is a typical 6' x 4' Realm of Battle board. With this kind of deployment, each player gets exactly 1152 square inches of board for deployment. That's exactly one third of the board each. Now, I tried to search online for other setups, but I didn't find any others that I liked. Every single one warned about the player in the "middle" of the board getting ganged up on by the other two players and then the other two fighting it out between themselves, but most of these maps used an area around the center of the board on one side and the areas around each corner on the other side. This seemed highly restrictive to me, so I split things exactly evenly (space-wise at least). I figured that Player C, at least with my setup, could choose a corner of his own if the other two players seemed intent on crushing him.

Lochlann's Laboratory: The Lone Star Renegades

Desmond Bradford
Several years ago, a rumor began to circulate Lone Star that there was an ultra secret laboratory that focused on human experiments, something strictly forbidden in the Coalition States. Rather than deny the rumor, Desmond Bradford (the administrator of Lone Star and the one responsible for the forbidden experiments) feigned rage, conducted his own investigation, and picked a scapegoat: Travis Lochlann. Blaming Lochlann was convenient but disappointing for Bradford. The young doctor had already expressed some curiosity about human experimentation, and had dissected the remains of several genetically modified human cadavers retrieved by dog boy squads in the surrounding area. This curiosity put Lochlann on Bradford’s radar as a potential co-conspirator, but he had to be sacrificed to keep the secret projects going.

Sacrificed is a bit of a misnomer, though, as Travis Lochlann still lives (despite Coalition reports to the contrary). With the help of a few dog boy companions who knew his innocence, he escaped execution and actually fled with some of the evidence that was used against him (copies of Bradford’s own genetic research credited to Lochlann instead). Eventually, after trying to lay low and avoid Coalition patrols for a time, Lochlann settled down in a small village and took the time to study the research that he reputedly conducted. He found it fascinating, spending the better part of the next two years analyzing the data, building his own secret lab, and conducting new experiments.

Magic 2012 Database and Card Images for Magic Workstation (MWS)

For anyone looking for the latest Magic Workstation patch that includes all cards up to Magic 2012, look no further. You can find the new database by clicking here and downloading it from MWS Games & Manuals. For the card images, you can click here and download them.

Both and are amazing resources, and I suggest you do more than just download the files when you follow these links.

40K 6th Edition Rumors, and My Opinions (Part I)

Okay, I just read through some of the rule changes that will supposedly happen in 6th edition (found here). Honestly, I'm not big on the rumor mills... but these are interesting. For the sake of this article, I'm going to assume that the rumors are true and share a bit of how I perceive the changes. Copied stuff is in bold... my comments are in italics.

Update: One Heck of a Week

The last seven days have been CRAZY... flying back in from Panama, spending time with my family for the 4th, trying to get somebody to come fix the siding and roof of my house after the last big storm, trying to get somebody to come fix my air conditioner, and scrubbing out of a Magic tournament... I've been pretty busy and I haven't gotten to work on the blog as much as I would have liked.

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