Scenes from Among the Trolls

Forbidden Studios is an independent game development studio based in Turku, Finland. Their first game is in development now. Recently the studio shared a few more pictures from Among the Trolls on Twitter:

Among the Trolls Forest w Birch

All of the scenery looks absolutely lovely, very much like home, which I’m not used to seeing in a video game, and they prompted me to go look for more. Below are a few other shots that reflect a location firmly based on traditional Finland:

Among the Trolls Cabin Interior

A traditional cabin with what’s clearly a ryijy wall hanging. Nice.

Among the Trolls Sauna

It’s a sauna! Ha! 🙂

I’m now looking forward to hearing more about the story. At this writing the description only says “Among the Trolls is a first-person survival action adventure where the strange mysteries of Nordic forests are unraveled.”

On the basis of the current demo video, among other things you can pan for gold and have a sauna bath; at least two things that are highly unusual. (In fact, a sauna bath provides more sisu in game, which can save your life when all else fails. How fabulous!) On Twitter, Forbidden Studios also shared a clip of rune singing, which is clearly a reference to the Kalevalaic poetry. More unique Finnish goodness!

There might be one potential problem, unfortunately. If the Forbidden Studios gallery and Twitter stream are anything to go by—and they might not—there is only one woman in the plot. (The protag’s grandmother Elina Kantola, who has disappeared along with her husband Aarne.) It could be a stylistic choice; it’s not at all uncommon for Finnish storytellers to focus on lone men in the woods. If true, however, that’s a problem for me.

As fantastic as it is to see the kinds of environments I grew up with reflected on screen, if there aren’t female characters beyond the obligatory Smurfette / wife / girlfriend / (grand)mother type, I’m not interested. At this point in my life the lack of multiple individual, nuanced women in a story is as hard and immediate a turn-off as horror and dystopia are.

Images by Forbidden Studios: Forest via Twitter. Cabin interior via their website. Sauna scene screencapped from the video demo.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

WoW: Reminiscing about Past Feature Additions

Our home is finally starting to function and look like a home (instead of a storage area for n+1 boxes) after our transatlantic move. We’ve been even able to play World of Warcraft a little in the midst of cleaning and organizing and bureaucracy and starting work again.

That got us reminiscing about the various expansions, specifically their new features we liked or loved at the time that have since become—begging your pardon for the pun—quite vanilla.

Below are some of my favorite changes, listed in expansion order.

(FYI: I just couldn’t remember and failed to find online the exact timing for some features, so I’ve given my best guess. If you know, please let me know in the comments!)

The Burning Crusade

-Ahh, the amazing, breathtaking sky over Hellfire Peninsula!

-Multiple flight points per zone—what is this awesome magic?

-Expanding the availability of paladins (one of my favorite classes).

WoW BC Hellfire Peninsula Skies

Wrath of the Lich King

-In Northrend the environmental design definitely progressed from lumps of mashed potato. (Overall, though, they really didn’t know what to do with the icy zones, Icecrown and Storm Peaks.)

-Improved music, especially the Grizzly Hills intro music. That’s still one of my all-time favorite WoW themes.

Cataclysm

-Changes to Orgrimmar and Stormwind. It took me time to get used to, but I wouldn’t go back.

-Flying in old world zones.

-Phasing, but only when it doesn’t mess up the rest of the gameplay.

Mists of Pandaria

-Pandaria is where the environment design turns truly good. By this I mean natural-looking shapes in the landscapes, undergrowth with variety (including height), mountains that look like actual mountains, etc. To be sure, Cataclysm tried very hard as well, but graphics just got so much better by MoP that it was more feasible to do better. (Trees still look clunky, though.)

-Area-of-effect looting. The shift-click looting did help, but, man, I NEVER want to go back to picking. Each. Individual. Loot. Item. One. At. A. Time—AOE loot helps so much.

-11th character slot per realm. Obviously it’s changed again since, but at the time it was big.

WoW Pandaria Jade Forest Arboretum

Warlords of Draenor

-The toons’ new and improved looks. I didn’t like losing some of my favorite female Dwarf faces, but overall the change was good.

-The little gold coin marker for vendor trash in your bags. Hated it first, grew to love it.

-No fighting over gathering nodes anymore, since more than one player can get the same one. (If it was WoD? Or was it Legion?)

WoW Arms Warrior Roar

Legion

-The new transmogging system that automatically saves all applicable reward looks into your wardrobe. Oh, and being able to hide certain gear slots in your mog.

-Trees look so. Much. Better!

-Worldquests.

Flight Master’s Whistle.

WoW Legion Druid Classhall Xmas Gear Dec 2018

Battle for Azeroth

-Allied races.

-This is slightly esoteric, and definitely not a gameplay feature, but I love the penguin sledding world quests!

-Overall my favorite expansion, by the way.

Shadowlands

New customizations for the core races (skin, hair, jewellery).

-After opening Shadowlands with your first character, being able to choose whether you do the storyline or not on subsequent toons.

Torghast, of course.

I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting a lot. Love to share your favorite tweaks to the game? Comments are open!

Images: screencaps from World of Warcraft.

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Mini-Opinion of Torghast in WoW: Shadowlands

I’ve been meaning to post about my first impressions of Shadowlands, the latest World of Warcraft expansion, but there’s such a high demand for my spoons this spring that I haven’t gotten it done yet. (In fact, I’ve barely had time to play, never mind writing about it!)

One thing I can mention, however, is Torghast. I simply LOVE the fact that it was designed as either solo or group content. Erik and I can either group up just the two of us or run it separately as mood or moxie mandate.

Blizzard Watch shadowlands-icecrown-torghast-cinematic

Being constrained for time and energy (both physical and mental) AND living through a pandemic, with the stress it places on people everywhere, I find I have very little tolerance for energy-wasters. If a project or person turns out to be more trouble than it’s worth, out it goes! It’s already been years since I’ve run PUG dungeons; this spring I really don’t have the patience for random idiocy. Ergo, only carefully curated groups in game.

And because of the layers to determine the difficulty, I can decide upon entering whether I want to just crash through everything for a bit of destruction therapy, or whether I’m in a good brainspace for a more strategic approach. Not only that, the random selection of anima powers keep the runs unpredictable and new every time. The multi-prong approach to flexibility works really well for me this year.

As if that’s not enough, the funniest thing in Shadowlands so far is found in Torghast: the Scroll of Elchaver anima power. It doesn’t proc often, but I have seen a mob turn into a chair, and others report boots, crates, or even a porkchop. (Someone even said if the mob was a skinnable type pre-transform, you can still skin them after.) What a hoot!

I’ve only had the power come up for me once, though. Here’s hoping for more!

Image via Blizzard Watch

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

A Farewell to Cards

Back in the 1990s, in my high school and college days, I used to be into Magic: The Gathering, the granddaddy of trading card games. I’ve dabbled a little since then, but it’s twenty years since I played the game with any seriousness. I really enjoyed the game, especially the challenge of coming up with interesting decks (I was what they used to call a “Johnny” player), but it isn’t part of my life any more, so I’ve decided its time to get rid of my collection.

After doing a little research on ways of selling Magic cards (and thinking about which ones are viable in the midst of a pandemic), I decided to list my cards on Cardsphere, a website created by and for Magic fans.

So far, I’ve only sold a handful of cards, but I keep my eye on the offers and little by little I’m working the collection down. I was never much into the collecting aspect of the game, so I don’t have many of the high-value cards (although I do have a couple of old dual lands that I’m hoping to sell for a few hundred dollars apiece). Most of what I’ve sold so far has gone for pocket change, and I know I’m losing money on postage on some transactions. Still, it is a pleasure to know that these cards I no longer have any use for are going to make someone else happy.

The process of sorting, organizing, listing, and sending off my cards has meant I’ve spent more time looking at my collection in the past few months than I did in the previous couple of decades, and in a way that has been good for me. It’s nice to be reminded of happy days long ago and to say a proper goodbye to the old dears.

My card inventory is visible here, if anyone wants to check out what I have to offer.

Image by Erik Jensen

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Blood Elf Subtlety Rogue Mogged to Hide in Shadows

I don’t typically role-play in WoW, but for some of my characters I have a broad outline or concept figured out. My Blood Elf rogue is one, and the new Shadowlands prepatch character customizations really allow me to make the most of it.

She’s a pragmatist and bit of a girly-girl subtlety rogue who is, however, not too fussy about her looks. She’s more concerned about her outfit being practical, but if it can also be pretty, yay. Her name has the element shadow in it, which I wasn’t able to do much with previously.

However, now that we’re able to tweak our toons’ skin colors so extensively, I was able to make her skin the blackest black (like the shadows), with dark grey hair, one green eye (a carryover from her previous look) and one blind one, and some silvery jewellery to go with the gray hair and eye.

WoW BfA BE Rogue in Barber Shop

I’ve hidden most of the gear slots (head, shoulder, cloak, bracers, gloves, and boots), but otherwise I’m carrying over the green scheme from her earlier look (but with different pieces for a change). If interested, you can have a look at the set in Wowhead’s Dressing Room.

And even though the dressing room now gives you the new physical toon characteristics, here they are separately for posterity:

  • Face: 4
  • Skin Color: 14
  • Hair Style: Full
  • Hair Color: 14
  • Eye Color: 13
  • Ears: Long
  • Earrings: Dangles
  • Necklace: None
  • Armbands: Phoenix
  • Jewelry Color: 2
  • Bracelets: Silver Chains

The 1-hand weapons are both mogged, one to a dagger and the other to a sword model (Starshard Edge and Ethereum Phase Blade). Although, I’m considering re-mogging the Starshard Edge. I might turn both into the Ethereum Phase Blade because it’s so beautiful, but I’m not sure if that’s too much repetition. Any suggestions are welcome!

Images: screenshots from World of Warcraft

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

More Silly WoW Battle Pet Names

A while ago Eppu shared some of her best silly names for her battle pets in World of Warcraft. In that same spirit, here are a few of mine. (Be warned: some terrible puns ahead.)

First, let’s start with my Erudite Manafiend, which is name Garkthyn. “What’s so silly about that?” you might be wondering. Well, Grakthyn accompanies my warlock, whose voidwalker is called Grak’thyk. You could say they’ve been through thyk and thyn together. (Don’t worry—it gets worse.)

Male Turkeys (which are the ones who display their fan of tail feathers like this) are called toms, which is all I’m going to say about why mine is named Bombadil.

My Fossilized Hatchling is named Boneyparts. (Yes, that’s a Napoleon reference.)

When there’s something strange in the old barn yard, who ya gonna call? Goatbuster! (Ghastly Kid)

My Lurking Owl Kitten is called Hootenanny, because why not?

The Anubisath Idol stands with its hands poised ready to strike. Why else would I call mine Idol Hands?

Some of my pets are named in Finnish. My Sinister Squashling is named Kauhea Kurpitsa, which is Finnish for “horrible pumpkin.”

Another one is Lentokone, my Ancient Nest Guardian. This pet is a mechanical type that can temporarily turn into a flying type. “Lentokone” is the Finnish word for airplane, but litterally it means “flying machine,” which felt appropriate.

Maybe someday Dark Whelpling will grow up to be another Smaug, but for now it’s just a Smig.

Got any good pet names you want to share?

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Dwarven Fire Mage Transmog

I mentioned in the past that my fire mage got a hidden artifact appearance as a random drop back in Legion. I also mentioned that I’d made a new mog for her, but never posted a better screencap of it. Tut tut, bad librarian!

Turns out I liked her mog so much I kept it even after we moved on from Legion artifacts. Since it’s likely I’m going to change it after World of Warcraft Shadowlands drops, here, finally, is the mog saved for posterity.

BfA Dwarven Fire Mage Transmog

The wand and legs aren’t mogged, and I’ve hidden the head, shoulder, and belt slots. Like with my surv hunter mog, I used the wrist armor to add another stripe of turquoise into the set.

If interested, you can have a look at the set in Wowhead’s Dressing Room.

Image: screenshot from World of Warcraft

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Night Elf Survival Hunter Transmog

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to spend a lot of time in the barbershop after World of Warcraft Shadowlands drops. I’m likely to change not just some details of my toons’ appearance but also some of their transmogs—I like to rotate some of my characters’ mogs since I don’t have an absolute favorite, and for others I’ve never found anything particularly fitting. So I thought I’d save a few mogs for posterity by posting them online.

Here is my female night elf survival hunter.

BfA F NElf Survical Hunter Transmog1

I go back and forth with a headpiece I like and a hidden head slot like here; the polearm is also unmogged. Other armor slots, however, are mogged, including the the bracers, which I usually skip; this time I found a way to add a slight chevron line just above the glove edge with the bracers.

BfA F NElf Survical Hunter Transmog2

If interested, you can have a look at the set in Wowhead’s Dressing Room.

Images: World of Warcraft screencaps

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.

Dwarven Windwalker Monk Transmog

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to spend a lot of time in the barbershop after World of Warcraft Shadowlands drops. I’m likely to change not just some details of my toons’ appearance but also some of their transmogs—I like to rotate some of my characters’ mogs since I don’t have an absolute favorite, and for others I’ve never found anything particularly fitting. So I thought I’d save a few mogs for posterity by posting them online.

Here is my female dwarf windwalker monk.

BfA F Dwarf Windwalker Monk Transmog

The head and shirt slots are hidden and the bracers aren’t visible. Not sure how well the gloves work, but at least the gold more or less matches the other pieces. It was neat to be able to use two fist weapons in this mog.

If interested, you can have a look at the set in Wowhead’s Dressing Room.

Image: World of Warcraft screencap

Of Dice and Dragons is an occasional feature about games and gaming.