Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Update on MPDC League

The first three weeks of the MPDC League are now in the books, and overall things continue to go well. However, there are a few small items of note that I wanted to take this opportunity to touch on.

First, CHAOSBLACKDOOM has created a Discord channel for our league. I don't know how many of you use Discord, but if you do, definitely check it out here.

Second, when filling out the results form, it is very important to make sure that your username and the name of your opponent are both spelled correctly. When I go to tabulate the results, I will sort by the username, and if there are different spellings of your name, it can be easy to miss some of your results. While I have been able to catch most of these, one in particular did mess up this week's results. Fortunately, it didn't impact the prizes, but it still meant that this particular player didn't initially get their right score. So please double-check each result form before you submit it!

Third, there has been a request for access to each week's form so that players can track shifts in the metagame. Right now only the scoreboard for the current week is available. I hope to work on this later this week. All the data is saved; it's just a matter of how to make it available in the right way.

Finally, there have been a few questions about tiebreakers. Week 3's results are a great example of how they work. When two or more players have the same score, the first thing I do is calculate the match win percentage for each of their opponents. These are then averaged to determine the Opponent's Match Win Percentage. Should those numbers end up identical, I next calculate the percentage of games each player won by adding up the total numbers of games (not matches) played and how many of those were won. This then gives me the Player Game Wins Percentage. And while I don't expect to ever have to use this, should that result be the same, I would then determine the Opponent's Game Win Percentage as the final tiebreaker.

Thanks to everyone who has participated in the league!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

RPG Cards

Today I want to share with you another awesome resource for your roleplaying games. A person who identifies him or herself only as crobi created a great online program called RPG Cards that allows you to create and print small cards to use as handy references for spells, monsters, magic items, and the like. It uses some fairly simple formatting code, which you can view on this page, and allows you to customize with a variety of rich text, images, and colors. There is also a sample file you can view that shows you a variety of different cards whose code you can then use as a starting point for your own cards.

Once you created your cards, you can print them out on A4 size page, which fits 9 cards altogether on the default settings. But of course, the size of each card, and the size of the paper you want to print them, it just one of several different options you have at your disposal. You can also save the file locally and then load it back up next time you come to the website, although the page itself records its last state so everything is just as you left it next time you come to the site (assuming you're accessing it from the same computer and same browser as before).

I primarily have been using this as magic item cards to hand out to my players as they acquire custom magic items. Here are a few examples:

They are surprisingly fun to make and play with. Why not give it a try?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Importance of Deadlines

Apparently I'm a lazy person.

No, maybe that's not it at all. But I've discovered that when it comes to writing, deadlines are important. In fact, that's exactly why when I resumed blogging a couple weeks back, I specifically announced a specific schedule of days of the week and topics. I know that without a deadline, I am more likely to procrastinate, to get lazy, or simply to not write at all.

That's been the best part of my decision to work through Writing Excuses Season 10 with one of my friends. Just this week, out of the blue, I was able to sit down and write over 500 words in about 40 minutes. How? I had a deadline. I had to get something done so that he and I would have something to talk about. I'm embarrassed to admit that we had to reschedule our discussion time two weeks in a row. And both of those weeks, I never once sat down to work on that assignment. No, it wasn't until I knew we were meeting again that I actually took the time to get it done.

Unfortunately, if I am ever going to become a published writer, I have to do better than this. I need to reach the point here my deadlines are internal, rather than external. I need to redevelop the discipline of writing every day. But I'm going to save that topic for next week.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Finding Matches for MPDC League

So far most players are reporting to me that they aren't having much trouble finding other players participating in the MPDC League simply by joining the chat channel #mpdc when they are online. I encourage our players to login regularly and make use of that channel, and to feel free to challenge any other player who is logged on, as often times people don't notice chat in the actual channel itself.

However, for those of you who want some more definitive data as far as when you are most likely to find a match, I did include an optional question in the Match Reporting Form to gather this data. Here's what I've found by sorting the data from the past two weeks:
  • Our player base is pretty diverse as far as preferred playing times, with responses ranging pretty much across the entirety of a 24 hour range.
  • Based on the original time zone indicated, our players are fairly well split between North America and Europe, with only a few players in other parts of the world. This tracks well with who has participated in MPDC in the past.
  • The best time to find other players online seems to be in the 5-9pm GMT range. This makes sense, as it starts early afternoon for most of the United States but includes evenings and late night in Europe.
There has also been some discussion about starting a Discord channel to help facilitate finding other Standard Pauper players. I would love to hear how many of my readers currently use Discord and whether or not you would use this medium to chat with other players. Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Race for the Galaxy App

Several years ago, I wrote about a card game called Race for the Galaxy. Although the only components in the game are the cards themselves, it plays out very similarly to worker-placement games like Agricola or Puerto Rico. In each round of the game, each player secretly chooses a single action - such as settling a new planet, exploring the galaxy (for new cards), constructing a development, producing resources, or selling those resources.  All players play each of the chosen actions, but the one who chose it receives a significant bonus. Each planet and development gives the player certain advantages or abilities, and is also worth a certain number of victory points at the end of the game. Naturally, whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins.

Recently Temple Gates Games released an app version of this game for both Apple and Android, and I must say it's a hit. The app includes a nice, clean interface, some basic but appropriate music and sound effects, a surprisingly good AI, a quick three part tutorial, and a variety of ways to play the game - including against the AI, against other players online, or even as a "pass and play" option where you substitute your device for the game with multiple people around the same virtual table.

While $6.99 is a bit steep for an app, particularly when the two expansions will run you an additional $3.99 each, you're still getting pretty good value for your dollar. Games are quick enough that you can easily jam several in a short amount of time, or just squeeze one in while waiting for something else. At least on a tablet, the cards are easy to read even without zooming in on them, and each card includes helpful tooltips to help explain any card that seems unclear.

If you're a fan of the game, this should be a no-brainer to pick up.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Respect as Professionalism

I am a subscriber to David Farland's #Writing Tips, which sends out periodic emails with advice related to the world of writing and publication. One of his recent tips talked about the value of what he called being a professional. This is how he put it:

"Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the value of being a professional. In other words, a professional is someone who works hard, meets deadlines, tries to be a team player, and so on.

A professional doesn’t whine if he doesn’t get his way with his publisher. He doesn’t punch his agent in the face. He doesn’t talk nasty about his agent. He recognizes that each of these people perform a valuable service, are probably doing the best they know how, and therefore strives to develop strong relationships with them.

If you look at successful authors, ones with long and healthy careers, you’ll find that they behave professionally."

While Farland refers to this as professionalism, a better term for what he's talking about might be respect. Sadly, we live in a world where respect is at an all-time low. People routinely treat other in ways that are vindictive, mean-spirited, and blatantly rude. So I thought this advice was quite timely. In whatever you do, it's not enough simply to be good at it. You also need to treat others with kindness and respect.

Even when we may never see a person face-to-face, how we treat that person matters. And I certainly am not immune. Just this week, I had to apologize to a player for the way I disconnected at the end of a match. While I didn't say anything negative, I still felt like my actions didn't communicate respect. So next time I was online, I took the time to apologize to that person.

What do you need to change to be more respectful?

Monday, May 15, 2017

Wizards Donates Prizes for the MPDC League

The first week of the MPDC League is in the books, and from all accounts it was quite successful. We had 18 players total for the event, and of those both nate316 and afreeAk managed to go 5-0, with moromete in 3rd place with 4-1 and manaissues in 4th place with 3-2. You can view all of the results from Week One here.

But the biggest news for today is that longtime Standard Pauper support joekewwl reached out to Wizards of the Coast about this league. In response, Lee Sharpe replied back that they would donate 36 packs of Hour of Devastation to be distributed over the next two seasons of the MPDC League. After consulting with joekewwl, we decided to award one pack to the 1st place winner of each week, and then award an additional pack to all of the Top 8 players at the end of the season. Now obviously these packs won't be distributed until after that set is released online, but this is still a great show of support from Wizards of the Coast for this event. As a result, I've updated the Prize page accordingly.

Special thanks to everyone who participated in the league this last week, and particularly to those who expressed to me their gratitude for this new format. I hope this enables us to reach out to many more players over the weeks and months ahead.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Dyson's Dodecahedron

As I have been prepping for the Dungeons and Dragons adventure I am running with my group, one of the resources I am constantly in need of is maps. Fortunately, there are a whole host of maps available online. Most of those, however, are either copyrighted materials or are only available for personal use. So while I don't have any plans on publishing my adventure in the near future, I still very much was hoping to find some maps that I could include in such a product should I decide to put something like that together.

And that's when I discovered Dyson's Dodecahedron. While the author originally used this page for RPG characters and thoughts about roleplaying in general and Dungeon's and Dragons specifically, what he is now known for is his amazing old-school maps. He publishes several such maps a week, each with a short blurb describing a possible adventure hook and/or the circumstances that led him to create the map. But even more remarkable, as long as his Patreon sponsorship continues above the $300 mark for a particular map, he releases them under a free commercial license. This means that anyone can use, reuse, remix and/or modify the maps on a royalty-free basis, with the only restriction being that they must include attribution such as“Cartography by Dyson Logos” or “Maps by Dyson Logos." You can view all the maps that have been released under this commercial license here.

This is a fantastic resource, and one that I highly recommend. Check it out for yourselves.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Promises Made

I recently did an interest writing exercise as part of the Writing Excuses Master Class my friend and I are working our way through. Often time when discussing the beginning of a story, writers talk about the "promises" that a story makes. Essentially, within the first few paragraphs or so, a good writer should be telegraphing to their readers what the story is going to be about - the tone, the genre, the main character, the setting, and so on. For this exercise, we had to take the first page or so of our work in progress and show it to someone who knew nothing about the story and see what that person thought the story would be about.

My current story is about a priest who specializes in destroying items endowed with evil magic. He's brash and overconfident (and also racist), and in the story he is given three "gifts" which, in specific circumstances, will combine to unleash a terrible trap for him. After showing my wife the first page, here is what she said she thought would happen in the story:

"I feel like this is a set up for a story in which this guy lets something in that he didn't intend and underestimates some insidious dark magic-y thing and deals with either personal corruption or the corruption of many of his order as a consequence. Maybe trojan horse-like?"

Guess I must have made the right promises!

Monday, May 8, 2017

League Begins and Amonkhet Top Hits

I am happy to announce that the Monday Pauper Deck Challenge League is officially underway! Whenever you are on Magic Online, join channel #mpdc, chat with your fellow Standard Pauper players, and get in some matches. You can also check out the current Scoreboard, which lists every match that's been recorded as well as the decklists they were using. It's been great to see so many players already taking advantage of this opportunity, and I'm happy to report that things are well underway.

I've also had several questions about Self-Assembler. While this card has been banned for the last couple seasons of MPDC, with the start of the league I decided to go ahead and make it legal again for play in the league. I will be keeping a close eye on the results and won't hesitate to ban it once again if it proves to continue to warp the format. But in many ways the league is like a reset button for the format, and I'd rather open everything up, especially with the influx of returning players. As such, I have adjusted the front page accordingly.

Finally, today PureMTGO.com published my latest article, this time analyzing what I believe are the best 25 cards of the set for Standard Pauper. Check out my article here. Note that I am no longer doing a card-by-card evaluation on the whole set. Instead, I'm just evaluating the cards that will probably see the most play, ranking them as follows: good, for those cards that will see regular play; better, for those cards that are particularly relevant or worth building around; and best, for those cards that will define much of the format. I hope this new ranking system makes it easier to quickly get a grasp on the format and guide you as to which cards you should pick up first from Amonkhet.

Hope to see you soon across the virtual table in the MPDC League!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

New Blogging Schedule Starts Next Week

While I can tell you now that there will be some growing pains as I get back into the habit of blogging, my plan going forward is to update this blog three times a week. My plan at this point is to post new content on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Monday will be my day for updates on the MPDC League and Standard Pauper. That will be my day to talk about high-impact cards, promote my articles over at PureMTGO, and discuss whatever is of note in the metagame.

Wednesday will be my day for posts about writing. Even while I wasn't blogging, I have continued to work through some writing exercises and classes. I hope to discuss what I'm learning, share snippets of my work, and post reviews of what I'm reading in the fantasy genre.

Friday will be my day for gaming related topics. This may include other video games, board games, my current D&D campaign, or anything else that catches my fancy. I will probably try to use this day to talk about anything other miscellaneous topics that may come up.

Of course, if you my readers have a particular topic that you would like me to address, I'd enjoy hearing about it. Let me know in the comments below.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Introducing the MPDC League

Today I am pleased to officially announce the Monday Pauper Deck Challenge League. You can find all the details about this new event here, which (for now) includes rules, the season schedule, and the prize structure for the event.

As I mentioned last time, we will still have a regular tournament today at our normal 2pm EDT / 6pm GMT timeslot in channel #MPDC, and Amonkhet will be legal for that event. But this will be the last "live" event, at least for this season.

I've already heard from several players that this will allow them to participate in Standard Pauper once more, so I am hoping that this will be a good solution to the declining participation in our events. I will be sending out an email to all those who have taken part in our events in the past and inviting them to try out our new "league-style" event.

While I encourage you to read all the rules for the details, here's the most important things to know:
  1. You DON'T have to register ahead of time. Join chat channel #mpdc on Magic Online, find an opponent, play a Standard Pauper match, and report the results. That's it.
  2. You can play as many matches as you want, but only the first five will count toward your record. Prizes are distributed each week based on point totals for that week, and at the end additional prizes will be distributed based on the cumulative points across the whole season.
  3. As always, matches should be Standard format, best 2 of 3, and 25 minute timer. Play them in the Just for Fun room with "MPDC League" in the comments. 
  4. Since BOTH players need to report the results, I don't recommend just creating a random table. Chat with players in #mpdc instead.
  5. The league begins a week from today - Monday, May 8th and will run through the week of July 16th.
Questions? Comments? Let me know below, or feel free to email me at gwyned at gmail dot com.