Archive for the ‘Gaming’ Category

There are a few unwritten D&D rules:

Thou shalt never lend thy dice

Thou shalt never show thy character sheet

Always make sure appropriate snacks are available to the DM

I think Thou shalt never leave a character with the party should be added to the list.  It was a rule that a friend broke recently almost to her character’s utter ruin.

Tara has only just started playing D&D and Ashlin, a half-elf wizard, is her very first character.  And she was doing a good job of playing Ashlin as the quiet studious adventurer with a little learning and a lot to prove.  She’d even had a few successes in her first outing, killing bandits with magic missile and darts, contributing to the provision of the party by catching rabbits.

Last time we met, Tara had another engagement later that night and so after a day of solid adventuring through an undead-riddled castle she handed her character sheet over to the most experienced player there confident that he would look after her.

The very next battle…

The group have a dozen skeletons trapped in a room.  Half, having been turned, were cowering in a corner while others were blocked from attacking by a large barbarian in a doorway.  Ashlin shot the skeletons full of magic missiles scattering their bones to the four corners of the room safely in the hallway. She was protected on one side by a 20 foot deep trap and the other side by a human cleric and paladin.  We all thought her in the perfect position for a wizard, right out of harms way.

It was then two baric appeared from a room we’d opened earlier.  I wasn’t too concerned, we were the other side of the ultra nasty pit full of spikes.  It should be no problem for this group to knock over these weird rat-like creatures with duck bills, six legs and….glowing eyes….

… then the baric climbed the walls.

Both Ashlin and my pixie were ready with range attacks but the baric were faster and one was across the gap and on the barbarian before we knew it.  The second one unfortunately threw itself at the delicate Ashlin.  She didn’t have a chance.

All thought of the remaining skeletons were forgotten.  While our barbarian dealt with the vermin latched onto his loincloth, the rest of us put every effort into killing the baric now starting to digest our party member.

Murphy’s Law now decided to kick in.  Our cleric and paladin, with all their gods’ might, tried smiting the beast to no affect.  My pixie used arrow after arrow even one of his precious sleep arrows, anything to stop the monster from eating Ashlin but even that the baric saved.

And then our DM went quiet and pulled his hand away from the dice roll he’s just made.

“Umm…” He said with a nervous laugh.  “Er….how many hit points did Ashlin have?”


“I’ve rolled a critical.”  He didn’t need to say anymore.  She’d been unconscious so was already in minus hit points.  If our DM followed the rules she was dead without a wish spell between us to bring her back.  He said nothing about Ashlin and suggested we have our turn.  Maybe if we could kill the baric this round then we could get to her in time.  Maybe we could save Ashlin and Tara wouldn’t hate us forever.

Gloriously, this round the cleric swung his maul and connected with the vermin.  A blazing cover drive over the boundary for six, it knocked the baric off our prone wizard and the DM proclaimed that we had saved her just in time.  After healing in a comfortable room Ashlin is now as whole and hearty as ever, maybe with a few interesting scars to prove she’s a seasoned adventurer.

When I talked to Tara about writing this post she had this to say:

Tara:  “Just don’t get me in trouble with any Half-elf protection agency for neglect!”

Me:  “I think they’ll let you off with a warning this time and ask you to choose your babysitters better in the future.”

Tara:  “I think I have learnt my lesson, no more baby sitters.”

He’s a diamond in the Ruff

Posted by Miztres On July 6, 2011 2 COMMENTS

This is the stuff that makes legends.  When the actions of one character turn the odds and save his party, those actions deserve to be immortalised.  A recent DDO quest showed the calibre of our guild, The Bro Code and in particular a Dwarf called Ruff.

At the end of a campaign called The Jungle of Kyber, adventurers need to fight a massive boss called The Inevitable. The Inevitable is a thirty foot tall construct (an intelligent Golem) with sonic attack on one hand that stuns and an electrical attack on the other that blinds. The Inevitable regenerates so if any attack falters health slowly builds increasing the imperative to hit him fast and hard.  All this besides the usual monstrous attack of just plain monumental bludgeoning force. The Inevitable is scary. We knew we were in for a snotting.

The room that the boss fight occurs seals when the fight commences so the usual trick of releasing (quitting the quest) healing and jumping back into the quest would not work here.  We had one chance to get this guy otherwise we’d have to start the quest from scratch. The first time we came close, but it was clear we were going to need speciality weapons. The second time, we were completely snotted by two mini bosses, a +5 level Troll with extraordinary regenerative abilities and a +9 level Beholder that killed with a look.

Third time, now equipped with Deathblock armour, chaos weaponry and an extra level for good measure, we re-entered the battle. Most of us were killed in a flash of lightning. Ruff the Dwarf though was still running and run he did.  While the rest of us scrambled to find ways of salvaging what was looking like another failed attempt, he just ran the entire circumference of the room keeping The Inevitable distracted.

Once again we started our attacks, this time staying well clear of the circling monster and the tasty dwarfish bait. Our attacks were all range, nothing ostentatious that may attract his attention and all attacks ceased when the monster lumbered close enough to notice. Comments such as, You know he’s a natural sprinter, very dangerous over short distances, started being spouted as the groups moral lifted and The Inevitable health was whittled away. With a strangled roar the monster crashed to the ground at Ruff’s feet. The ordeal was over, and a legend was born.

Last weekend my character, an elven thief called Philipia, found herself in a similar situation when a Fire Giant spotted her breaking into his throne room in Stormcleave Outpost. Instantly the call went up from the party, Do a Ruff! I clicked my haste and high tailed it around the room with the fire giant lumbering after. Eventually the giant was killed, another quest completed with no loss of life thanks to the ingenuity and fast feet of one dwarf. Well done Ruff, you’re a credit to motley crew that call themselves The Bro Code.

D&D, Nerd Culture & Me!

Posted by Miztres On June 28, 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Nerd Culture Podcast are proud to introduce our newest NCP crewmember – Miztres! Fans of the show will know her as the author of the feedback we read out in episode #2. In that ep I mentioned having her on the show and she has leapt at the chance! Being interstate an appearance on the show is unlikely, but she was eager to contribute to the site, so here she is with her first (of hopefully many) piece. Take it away Miztres…..

Role-playing is an integral symbol of nerd culture. A nerd could almost be defined by their devotion to a role-playing game either paper or online. Though one is superficially the online version of the other, by the nature of their media, playing MMORPG and paper-based D&D are different experiences.

Unlike pen and paper gaming, anytime or anywhere you have sufficient Internet access you can go on a quest and fight for the right (or treasure) in a MMORPG. Paper D&D does require the participant to make the time to come together, but in so doing D&D becomes an event, a chance to share telling a story.

Paper D&D participants all have a part to play in the story guided by the DM (Dungeon Master). With a flexible DM and thoughtful members a D&D game moves the story beyond the confines of the module. Online you are directed through a predetermined path with no way of manipulating the story beyond what has already been determined by the programmer. Your character’s decisions mean little or anything beyond the quest.

If none of your character’s choices matter, MMOPRG becomes the acquisition of some goal, advancement or treasure. With limited scope beyond a few emotes for expressing emotions online RPG is gaming Valhalla, a continual battlefield on which your can show your worth.  Paper based gaming is more about role-playing your character. A good DM will even give experience points to participants who express their characters strengths and weaknesses to the full.

An example of this character expression is through alignment. In Dungeons and Dragons Online (DDO), a MMORPG that is based on the D&D 3rd edition rules, alignment is almost a secondary consideration. Some weapons are aligned (e.g. a chaotic character could not use a lawful weapon) but there is no penalty or benefit for choice of alignment. Alignment in paper based D&D is far more important especially for those classes under the ethos of a god.  Role-playing a Paladin outside of the lawful good alignment will anger the character’s chosen god and permanently strip them of all the benefits of its class.

Regardless of media, RPG is a group activity. Though online you can complete quests alone it is only in a guild or working at quests as a team that a player can really appreciate all aspects of the game. Although the classic Fighting Fantasy novels did allow readers to role-play alone, the greatest strength of paper based D&D is missing, being a participant in a group and telling your own story. It is, as with most things in life, by playing together that the most exciting, rewarding fun can be had.

For more information on Dungeons & Dragons Online go to –

For more information on pen & paper Dungeons & Dragons go to –

Mortal Kombat review

Posted by David On June 26, 2011 ADD COMMENTS

When a friend of mine announced that he was bringing over his copy of the new Mortal Kombat game for me to borrow I was shocked. Not at his generosity (he’s that type of guy) but at his brazenness. For those of you reading this and thinking, ‘What the hell is this going on about?’, let me explain.

In yet another example of the ridiculousness of the Australian classification system and lack of an R18+ rating for games, Mortal Kombat was ‘refused classification’, making it illegal to sell, or even own a copy of it, in this country. Pretty stupid right? It’s not like we’re talking Mein Kampf here (although that is available…..). What makes it even more galling is that it was banned for the following:

“At the conclusion of a bout, a character is invited to perform a ‘fatality’. If this is successfully accomplished, a non-interactive cut scene is triggered which depicts a character explicitly slaughtering their opponent.

The game includes over 60 fatalities which contain explicit depictions of dismemberment, decapitation, disembowelment and other brutal forms of slaughter. Despite the exaggerated conceptual nature of the fatalities and their context within a fighting game set in a fantasy realm, impact is heightened by the use of graphics which are realistically rendered and very detailed. In the opinion of the Board, the game contains violence that exceeds strong in impact and is unsuitable for a minor to see or play. The game should therefore be Refused Classification pursuant to item 1(d) of the computer games table of the National Classification Board.”

Fatalities have been a staple of Mortal Kombat since the beginning and every iteration since. None of them were banned. But apparently it’s not the violence that has them concerned. It is more the realistically rendered level of detail of the graphics that is the problem. Well that explains why violent games with cartoony graphics like Splatterhouse can still be released, but what about Bulletstorm, with its kill with style combos that almost always involve dismemberment of some sort, or Aliens vs Predator, which feature the Predators taking trophies of human skulls and spines?

Warner Bros. unsuccessfully appealed the decision to the Classification Review Board, who ruled “the impact of the violence in Mortal Kombat is higher than strong and thus could not be accommodated within the MA15+ classification”

Now, to be fair, it’s not entirely their fault. Their hands are tied by the lack of an R18+ rating, but can we at least have consistency! Just how realistic do the graphics have to be? In Bulletstorn I can lob a grenade that blows my opponent into assorted body parts. In Mortal Kombat I can punch into my opponents chest, freeze their heart and then slam them in the face with it. Which one of these is more likely to be copied in ‘real life’?

Anyway, despite my opinions (as valuable as they are), Mortal Kombat remains banned in Australia and it is a real shame because this is definitely the best entry in the series since my personal favourite – Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. (Memory Lane Sidenote: I once beat the arcade version of UMK3 blindfolded. I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed).

Much like the recent Star Trek movie, Mortal Kombat (chronologically it is #9) is a reboot of the MK universe, with a welcome return to the 2D style of fighting from the earlier days of the series. No more sidestepping and stupidly endless circling of the opponent, bliss. The graphics are still rendered in 3D, using the same modified Unreal engine they used for Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe, but have managed to lose the weird plastic look all the combatants had in that game. They really are well done and are used to great effect to bring the characters to life during Story Mode and for the Fatalities and X-Ray mode during combat.

Each combatant has a power meter that can be charged by various actions during the fight in order to power up special attacks and activate X-Ray mode. During this attack, an internal view of the victim character is shown with bones and organs being broken from attacks, doing around 30% damage (50% for bosses!). It is very cool, but unfortunately isn’t a guaranteed hit so it is still possible to use up all of your hard earned power for nothing, and after the first few times the novelty factor is lost.

There are a plethora of additional modes, including the standards like Arcade, Versus, Training, & Online, as well as the Challenge Tower, the Krypt, Story, Tag Team VS & more. I didn’t get enough time to try all of them before my friend cruelly deprived me of the disc, however I did manage to complete Story Mode and get a fair way into the Challenge Tower.

The Challenge Tower mode is a single-player option that includes 300 challenges of various difficulties providing Kombat Koin rewards upon completion. Amongst the various challenges are the classic ‘Test Your Might’, as well as new variations like, ‘Test Your Sight’ (finding an object hidden under shuffled cups or skulls), ‘Test Your Strike’ (destroying a specific block in a stack), and ‘Test Your Luck’ (battles with certain conditions/limitations). It is a lot of fun, and apparently has a bonus after the 300th level.

I briefly dabbled with the online mode game ‘King of the Hill’ option, where up to eight players can act as spectators and play the winner of a fight. Spectators may also rate the fights. The netcode appeared quite good, and although I did experience a bit of lag, it wasn’t too detrimental.

I also spent some of my Kombat Koins in the Krypt but it seems for the die-hard fans only, with the majority of items appearing to be development artwork and other behind the scenes items. I would prefer if it worked more like a store, in which you could select the items you wanted.

However, most of my time was taken up with the awesome Story mode. A well written story, motion captured ‘acting’, apparently ban worthy graphics, and the chance to play as multiple characters during the course of the story, all combine to create the most enjoyable Story mode I have ever played in a fighting game. I’m a sucker for alternate reality stories and this one doesn’t disappoint.

………………SPOILERS AHEAD……………….


Game Review Archive

Posted by David On June 19, 2011 ADD COMMENTS

As I’ve mentioned before, I got my start in the world of reviews and podcasting on the Black Panel, Australia’s grooviest Gaming site. These guys are so awesome our gaming coverage here at Nerd Culture Podcast can stay minimal and we recommend you head on over there for all your gaming news and reviews. But every now and then we might feel the need to do something in the area ourselves so, to kick off Joystick, NCP’s gaming area I thought I would repost my Black Panel reviews. I’ll only have a paragraph and link. The full reviews can be read at


BioShock 2

The first thing that comes to mind when playing BioShock 2 is just how ‘right’ everything feels. Like the first game in the series, BioShock 2 is a first person shooter set an undersea city known as Rapture, but various refinements have resulted in much more depth. Real time hacking (you can be attacked while hacking), hacking rewards (want some free ammo?) and true dual-wielding, all build on the already great gameplay of the original.

Read the full review at Black Panel


Heavy Rain

It is important for me state this right from the outset – Heavy Rain is more than a game, it is an experience. It is an interactive drama that blurs the boundary between film and games and offers the chance to show how realistic moral choices can have realistic consequences; to show that games are not just for kids. Heavy Rain is an adult drama, and this is a great thing for games.

Read the full review at Black Panel



Super Street Fighter IV

The room is dark. Vivid colours suddenly appear on the huge TV screen on the wall, illuminating the smiling face of the handsome game reviewer. The announcer’s voice rings out, and a plethora of selectable characters appear. Who will he choose? Selecting one of the newcomers, Juri, he grins with excitement as her image then fills a third of the screen. Using an impressive looking world map the game then chooses a location, giving a hint of the opponent to come. The scene of the imminent battle appears and his opponent is revealed, the bestial Blanka, and the fight begins!

Ok, so I got a little carried away with the intro, but this game brings it out of you and it does illustrate just how exciting this game is. The bright colours, the ridiculously over the top fight announcer and the superhero like physiques of the fighters all combine to deliver a pulse racing experience and that’s before the fighting even starts.

Read the full review at Black Panel


Red Dead Redemption

The sun is setting in the distance as I casually trot along the dusty trail. I’m admiring the scenery when a damsel in distress comes running out of the underbrush, wearing nothing but a negligee and begging for help. Could I give her a ride into town? Wait! All is not as it seems. As soon as she reaches me, she throws me to the ground, leaps onto my horse and gallops away laughing. But all is not lost. I quickly rise and whistle for my trusty steed. He immediately bucks her off and trots back to meet me. I leap into the saddle and the chase is on. I quickly lasso and hogtie her, place her on the back of my horse and think about what to do with her. Decision reached, I ride to the nearest train line, dump my protesting captive onto the tracks and step back. It doesn’t take long for the train to arrive and my would-be horse thief explodes into red mist. My ‘Dastardly’ achievement is proudly announced and I can’t help but smile. Life was hard in the Wild West.

Read the full review at Black Panel


Monday Night Combat

Monday Night Combat is a wonderfully entertaining mix of player vs player, third-person shooter with tower-defence mechanics set in a futuristic combat game show. Think The Running Man X Wipeout (or It’s a Knockout if you’re an older reader) and you have some idea. Visually, Monday Night Combat looks very similar to Team Fortress 2, with vibrant colours and cartoonish characters. It looks awesome.

Read the full review at Black Panel