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A Comprehensive Guide to Overlord Strategy


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#1 GamePunk666

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 01:10 AM

There seems to be a lack of strategy articles for the Overlord players in Descent Second Edition. Many of the articles are simply "Battle Reports" of scenarios that have been played and following in the steps of successful Overlords in those cases can lead to a win, but they are not comprehensive guides. I recently played through The Shadow Rune campaign over a course of several weeks with my regular group and then had the opportunity to play the entire campaign again, in six straight days at a week-long gaming convention that I attended. These tips are meant for campaign play and are based on the awful mistakes that led to my crushing defeat in the first campaign (Won 2 out of 11 games) and the resounding defeat that I handed the group I played with at the convention (Won 7 out of 9 games).

 

1. Hero Selection

This isn't normally part of the OL's job. However, reading over the hero character cards and the cards for whatever classes they choose are important. Do not just look at their starting cards. Read the whole deck and see what they are capable of after spending a few XP. Make notes if you want to. The next thing to pay attention to is each of the heroes Attribute scores (Might, Knowledge, Willpower, and Awareness). Many of your OL cards will trigger Attribute tests and you will want to know who to hit for the best effect. I suggest writing them on a note card and keeping it in your play area for easy reference. Finally, make note of the movement, health, and fatigue of each Hero. These can be affected in several ways by monsters and OL cards. The Heroes abilities later in the game frequently have a fatigue cost as well. Finally, make a note of what kind of party you will be facing. Is it the "Classic" party with one of each class, or is it lopsided in some way either because your players are trying to create some sort of advantageous combo later on or they have just chosen what they liked and didn't care about party composition. Whatever it is, start planning now on how to best exploit it with your cards and monsters.

 

2. Overlord Card Selection and XP.

It takes some time to finely tune your OL deck to do what you want it to do. Because of the restraints on how you can spend XP on new cards, it may be into Act 2 before your deck really begins to sing; especially if you haven't won enough to get bonus XP to spend.

I suggest waiting until you have played at least TWO quests before you decide what set of OL cards to spend your XP on. Watch how the Heroes work and how the players run them. Do they frequently max out on fatigue? Are they relentless Searchers that try to grab all of the treasure? Are they weak in hand to hand? All of these factors can help you decide what to buy. The only cards that I would say are essential to every OL are cards that let you work through your deck." Plan Ahead" and "Unholy Ritual" are both good and they each cost one XP. I prefer "Plan Ahead", but if you are going to buy into the Magus set, you may want to spend your XP there.

 

In terms of spending XP on cards, I suggest spending into one set with most of your points. Having a deck that is too broad, doesn't really make it tough enough and it denies you the ability to really trim out the fat and know for sure that your meanest and most useful cards are going to be present during a game. On that note, Trimming your OL deck is very important. Try to keep it to a lean 15 cards. Spending most of your points in one set will allow you to drop Basic cards that are not as useful later on and create a strong theme in your OL deck that you can rely on. Do not be afraid to get rid of cards. Sure "Critical Hit" is useful, but if you are avoiding fighting with the players in a given quest, take it out. Keep the Objective of the quest in mind and take the best cards for that game when you can.

 

Saboteur - This set has the broadest application as the cards trigger off on Move, search, and Open Door actions. These are frequently taken actions. They also combo with a few of the basic cards to create a trap heavy deck. These cards carry a good psychological effect and can scare the party into making sub-optimal choices or keep them from acting altogether. Denying heroes the ability to search is a very powerful tactic that will be discussed in another section.

Warlord - This is the most direct set of OL cards. It does one thing well, it beefs up your monsters. The cards grant more Attack actions and the ability to hit harder with attacks. There are couple utilities in there as well, but these cards are primarily concerned with Attack actions. This set has the least amount a versatility and as such, you need to focus on attacking as much as possible to really derive the benefits of these cards. As the Heroes acquire better gear and powers, attacking them isn't always your best bet. As such, the Warlord cards become less useful as the campaign progresses.

Magus - This is the least focused set. Where Saboteur and Warlord both clearly define what they do, Magus has more varied effects. There are cards that let you draw from your OL deck, pull specific cards out, do straight damage to the players, and one that affects your monsters. There are some cool effects, but it is not as strongly focused so building for a certain effect in your OL deck isn't possible. It would certainly be satisfying to pull off a win with some of the tricks in this deck though.

Punisher (From Lair of the Wyrm Expansion) - This set uses the Heroes abilities against them. There are cards that let your monsters move when Heroes spend Stamina to move extra spaces, cards that hurt the Heroes when they heal, and other fun activities that take advantage of the things they do in game to get advantages. It has a psychological tax like the Saboteur set and can cause the players to second guess themselves or stop them in their tracks.

Universal - These are all good for 1 XP, but do not dilute your deck with too many.

 

3. Searching and Items

Acquiring treasure and buying new gear is the fastest way for the Heroes to become more powerful. Relics gained from quests play into that as well, but Heroes will acquire most of their increased damage and defenses from New gear. That said, it is important to deny them the ability to search as much as possible. Read the rules in quests carefully and do your best to keep the players focused on the Objective of any given scenario. I have found that with enough pressure on them, they cannot spare the actions to Search. There are some scenarios that end when a certain condition is met, if you are losing a quest, try to make that condition happen in order to end the quest. Once the End Condition is met, there are no more actions. Keep your eyes open and try not to give the players an open ended period of time that allows them to search every token on the board.

 

4. Monster Selection

The first thing to keep in mind is the Objective of the scenario. Do you need to move fast, block access, kill villager tokens, or run with an objective. This should be your first consideration when selecting monsters for your open groups. Secondly, keep in mind the Heroes Attributes, Stamina, and Health scores. If you can use monsters that have abilities that are able to affect the heroes without performing attacks, that is very useful. Use those abilities on the most vulnerable heroes as often as you are able. Scare them with something other than the monster's attack dice. For instance, the Barghest "Howl" ability can be used to damage Heroes that frequently end their turns with their Fatigue maxed out or to slow down the party's movement. Free Damage and taxing the Heroes resources are good outcomes. Abilities like this can be used to confound and affect the Heroes without getting into direct combat with them.

 

Using your monster to block doors, corridors, and other narrow passages is a basic strategy that all OLs should use. There comes a point in time, where the Heroes have spent enough XP and gained powerful gear, where blocking is no longer viable. When a Hero can drop a tough Act 2 monster with One Attack, you have reached the end of the Blocking phase of the game. Blocking is still useful in terms of making Heroes use actions to get by them, but it is far less effective later in the game. Instead, focus on harrying and disrupting the Heroes. I used the Goblin Archers more than any other monster in the game. They are fast, have ranged attacks, and in Act 2 they can do a significant amount of damage by spending surges. Keep the composition of the Hero group in mind too. If they are weak in Melee, get in there and pound them. The opposite goes for when they are melee heavy. Stay away, plink at them, annoy them, and keep your eye on the objective.

 

5. Quests and Encounters

The advice here is simple; read and understand the quest and all of the little details. Focus on your objective. Sometimes Heroes and OLs have different objectives in a scenario. Select monsters that will help you obtain the objective. Tune your OL deck to help you obtain the objective. Every action you take should be in service to gaining the objective. Do not ignore the Heroes though. If you are working toward your objective and you have monsters to use against the Heroes, do so. If attacking the heroes does not help you obtain your objective, leave them alone and focus your attacks on killing your objective.  If, during play, it becomes clear that you cannot obtain the objective, make the objective difficult for the players to obtain. If they are going to walk over you, do what you can to deny them the opportunity to search. If it is Encounter 1 of a quest and you are clearly going to lose, let the players screw around and grab treasure and heal themselves and do whatever takes multiple turns. Players are greedy and weak-minded <wink>. You just sit back and draw OL cards. Build up a real nice hand to punish them with in Encounter 2. Then in Encounter 2, do all the same things mentioned above, but use your nice big hand of cards and take every advantage you can grab. Always work toward the objective. Nothing sucks worse than moving in on what appears to be an easy kill and leaving your objective under-guarded to provide an easy win for the Heroes.

 

6. General Advice/Thoughts and House Rules

 

Get the latest FAQ/Errata and apply it to your game. Print it out and have it on hand for reference. It is important. Get it here http://www.fantasyfl...on FAQ_v1.2.pdf

 

There is a point in the campaign were the heroes are well geared and have spent XP to increase their abilities. The End of Act 1 and the Interlude were the points in both of our campaigns where the heroes seemed very powerful. That changed in the first game of Act 2 when the monsters receive a bump up in power and the defenses of the Heroes are not up to snuff. However, this lasts for one Quest before the heroes get access to Act 2 gear. That stuff is crazy powerful. By that point you need to be well on your way to a focused OL deck and be able to spend a little time really considering what monsters to use in each Encounter of a quest. Strategies that you employed previously will begin to be altered by the level of power the Heroes display. It is rough. The Heroes will continue to gain power and you, as OL, just get a few XP to add cards. This is where a long term plan on spending XP and acquiring certain sets should begin to really pay off. Trim out the useless cards by paying attention to how the Heroes are being played. Refresh your memory on their new abilities. Listen to their table talk and use it against them. That is one advantage you have that they cannot avoid giving you.

 

If you have Lair of the Wyrm Expansion (LotW), the temptation to throw in those Rumor quests is mighty strong. However, it really tips the balance of the overall campaign. Regardless of who wins the first Rumor quest, they now have a powerful new Relic that was not factored into the Shadow Rune campaign. More important than that though,  the Heroes have a whole extra board worth of Search tokens to grab treasure from and they get another shopping step in between the Rumor and the next quest. This is bad for you as OL. Gear is the main way that Heroes become tougher in combat. In Act 2, you play the second part of the LotW Rumor quests and that is a two Encounter quest with two more boards worth of search tokens and another shopping step in between. This is even worse for you as OL. The Rumor quests add nothing to the main story, but they add a whole mess of gear to the Heroes that you will have a hard time coping with. We played the rumor Quests in the first campaign and the Heroes were so powerful from acquiring tons of extra gear at the end, there was nothing I could do to deter their victory. Fantasy Flight put out rules to run LotW as a mini campaign. It is far more satisfying that way. You get a whole story and you get to play more of those quests. Far more bang for the buck.

 

We implemented a few House Rules in the second campaign.

 

1. Fair Play -  There is a lot going on during the game on the board. There can be several figures of different sizes and shapes and tokens that remain unseen and a variety of other things that are subject to errors just based on point of view. It is the responsibility of each team (Heroes and OL) to double check that everyone's figure has been moved and every action that can be taken, has been. Reminding the OL that there is goblin behind the Dragon that he may not have seen before he stops moving his goblins is just fair play. This is not a tournament and there is no money or prize on the line. You don't prove yourself smarter or more superior because you can see something from your chair. Hopefully you are playing this with people you like. It really boils down to the simple missive of "Don't be a ****".

 

2. Timed Hero Turns - We played one scenario (The Dawnblade) for over six hours to a drug out, near standstill. The longest parts of each turn were those in which the players debated every minutia of every move for many long minutes. Some of their turns took over 20 minutes in just the discussion phase; before any figures were moved or dice rolled. This was intolerable and could not be allowed to occur again (partly due to one member of the group having to work very early). We instituted a 15 minute long player turn. It goes into effect after the First quest of Act 1 is complete. By then the players have had the Intro and one quest to figure out how to play their Heroes and work together. After that, when the OL turn ends they get a minute or so to prepare and the timer is started. The OL calls out each five minute increment as a running countdown. If the players have not moved and acted with all pieces by the end of the turn, they lose the actions for whoever has not acted. They can finish with someone if they are in the middle of acting. It has worked well and we have yet to run out of time without everyone acting. It isn't a perfect solution, but it does keep the players on task rather than endlessly debating each person's perfect turn.

 

I hope this helps.


Edited by GamePunk666, 02 August 2013 - 12:17 PM.

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#2 Robin

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 02:35 AM

Very nice contribution. Thanks !

I did appreciate your strategical insight about using goblin archers, which answers to the very frequent argument that the game forces the use of large monsters.

 

About your "house rules", I rather see them as "common behaviour rules", in that they don't affect the game system, but do establish some lines of behaviour that favorise the fun factor.


An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered.
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#3 Kunzite

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 10:33 AM

I really like this. It proves a few really good points. I would love to hear other OL's thoughts presented here as well.

 

One point I would like to add, is talk with your heroes. Give a little insight (not too much) to your thoughts. Feel out a little on theirs. OL don't get to talk to anyone to flesh out their thoughts and movements, which is both to your advantage and disadvantage. Help each other will help you.

 

Besides, it's amazing what they let slip ^.~

 

And take the game lightly. This isn't competitive, like Magic: The Gathering. Lives and money aren't really at stake. So let the mistakes slide. Tell yourself you will do better next time. Talk like Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget or Shredder from TMNT. Well, if you can pull it off. I can't, so I draw everyone in these humorous moments. Particularly if it was frustrating at the time. If you can't laugh at yourself (and your heroes) then this game is going to demoralize you (and your heroes). This is NOTHING more frustrating for the winner then to have a sore loser. It saps the joy right out of the game. You will lose some, sometimes most. Expect it so when you do win, it's satisfying. 

 

And laugh. Evilly. It's your job. >}


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#4 Silverhelm

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 06:46 PM

I got to agree with you goblins are awesome. I also pick monsters based on not just heros and abilities but how many I got to deal with. For me usually 3 most of the time 4,3 hero game plays so diffrantly. ( most people know that though)

And yeah LotW does do what you mentioned. One thing I like about LotW is the OL card reward it is so fun to place a master Sentinal behind enemy lines. Not as good as certain Relics they can get of course but fun. And believe me I know of the Relic your talking about.

Your OL scheming is very much what I do saving cards back for encounter 2 ect,works very nicely. Sometimes my heroes anticipate a Web card and such,purposely send scout to get coins to avoid group being hit turning him into a decoy. This works well sometimes because most of the time they want the coins so in my games when they send as decoy odds are I'm going to try to snare him. If I don't then they simply get coin later. Best thing to do here is get an idea how much coin they already have and gear they already possess. If its good odds are its a bluff. Scouts I respect these guys/gals and they all offer there own kind of trouble. Jain if used properly can slip by at the precise moment and she's gone (don't let her get past you if you can). Also she can be used to do same for objective not just coins(good decoy too,coin or is it objective game with her). Tomble can search from a far and act as a wall of impregnable craziness! (Also a good decoy, and damage absorber),Tresure Hunter can manipulate search deck and have a high success rate in getting cards he wants chest,potions ect. He's really interesting aswell.

I also have heroes that like to literally throw a act 1 quest just for coin and I find is pretty nasty and sometimes manage a win anyway. Good example is Tomble and a melee class blocking a corridor to a objective while another class gathers coins. In act 1 this is hard to penetrate(scamper good here if able)Tomble changes roles here but it works. Also makes OL think should i spend a card here or save it for encounter 1. If he is going to get it anyway then don't use it wait until encounter 2. Lot of people think he's OP but I don't think so he just has his uses. I mean he isn't a Jain ect.

@Gamepunk666 I enjoyed your post. Only house rule we agree on here is poison and burn we feel its to useless in act 2 so we role a grey dice for damage instead,0-3 damage just feels right to us. (Act 2 only)

Edited by Silverhelm, 01 August 2013 - 07:05 PM.


#5 kuffdaddy

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Posted 01 August 2013 - 07:21 PM

I really like the timed hero turn as I am almost always OL, my group loves that I have everything for first edition so when they want to play some monsters that have not seen the board in a long time they can
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#6 noodles

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 11:32 AM

Great article!  Will there be a heroe's strategy post as a follow-up?


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#7 Kunzite

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 12:11 PM

I wouldn't mind seeing a brake down of hero ideas. The only problem with that is heroes are far more complex then the OL. Each hero brings something new to the table. And then you mix that with all the class cards. That would be a very extended thread. But all the same, I would love to hear it. As the OL almost every time, I am a little out of the loop when it comes to the heroes.


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#8 GamePunk666

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 12:17 PM

I haven't played as a hero so I don't have anything to say on that topic. The one thing that works for the groups that I Ol'd for is making an executing a plan. Communication is key. When one person goes rogue, that can tip the whole game for the OL. 

 

Hmm...on second thought. Hero players should ever speak to one another and always act independently of the team. Yeah...I like that advice better.


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#9 Kunzite

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 01:32 PM

I haven't played as a hero so I don't have anything to say on that topic. The one thing that works for the groups that I Ol'd for is making an executing a plan. Communication is key. When one person goes rogue, that can tip the whole game for the OL. 

 

Hmm...on second thought. Hero players should ever speak to one another and always act independently of the team. Yeah...I like that advice better.

 

Twice this has happened in our group. One time the scout dashed out to set herself up to get a key. She ended up in the jaws of the barghest. She dropped that turn with no one able to pick her up. She dropped the following turn as well before anyone could come to her aid.

 

The second time was a group effort to throw the warrior into the arms of death. I had never dropped him up till that point (second to last act II quest) because of his counter attack. I had things with reach this time around and beat him into the ground... twice. He was not happy and blames the group to this day for sending the slow dwerf to his end. Solo attempts are normally a bad idea. >} You know I took advantage of both moments.


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#10 Silverhelm

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 02:20 PM

I haven't played as a hero so I don't have anything to say on that topic. The one thing that works for the groups that I Ol'd for is making an executing a plan. Communication is key. When one person goes rogue, that can tip the whole game for the OL.

Hmm...on second thought. Hero players should ever speak to one another and always act independently of the team. Yeah...I like that advice better.

Timing is key with scout not always sending him solo. He can bring back up. Lets say as OL you drew a card and you just used right away instead of use it when you need it, heroes need to use there abilities wisely too and time it right. Jain might try the solo thing and she does well at it. Others varies what act 1 quest your on, how many cards OL has in hand (act 1 you already know his deck).

An example of how a scout can be used. Lets take that first quest mentioned above let's say Jain is the scout heroes choose. On her first turn (scout should be thinking how he is going to secure the coins or the hardest coin for the team)the coin near water could prove a problem if heroes don't get the jump on that coin. So activating Jains heroic feat move her towards water before proceeding shoot a goblin along the way(she can do this anytime during this move). Now finish her move take coin. Other heroes will take one closest to them. Now move two heroes to block either Ettin from blocking heroes. The hero that took bottom coin needs to get Garden coin while other two block. Once coin is grabbed let Ettins try to block you. When they go for it move hero in for last coin. This entire time Jain should stay where she is killing goblins to slow overlord down. If the OL is still trying to win at this point then kill Mauler. This is just an example how we play with a scout that goes solo.

First quest is a no brainer for heroes all should be getting coins(see you can solo here). Heroes got to take risks sometimes. (Above) Things can go wrong but that's the game. And reward is same win or loose. Other quests you can do same there is time to get plenty of money first few Act 1 quest without risking Relics to OL and exp. As Gamepunk mentioned heroes are stronger as they get cash. Try forcing OL player to realize that money is just as important as quest and he'll make mistakes. Capitalize on it when he does (say scout for example). Find ways to block OL out of his objective so a hero can get the coins (act1). When a OL realizes the end game is to the death Those act 1 quest won't seem all that important. You can even win back some relics in act2. I wouldn't purposely give a quest to OL but if it means getting rich early why not. After your middle quest is done you get to see all act 1 shop cards pick only a few good ones if need be. OL monsters aren't getting any exp. they only get stronger in act 2. In act 2 you shouldn't need so much gold you won't need but what you walk by. Act 2 is hard press type of quests you really don't have the time to get every coin unless you can block OL's monsters and just keep killing them. It doesn't hurt to send that scout ahead some even in act 2 to use that search from afar ability ect. Use it make OL hate it.

I don't know I think heroes are well suited against the OL as OL is well suited for heroes. Monsters can block so can heroes and so on. I've seen heroes dish it out just as much as a OL can in my games.

If heroes learn to already know what they got to do without spelling it out every turn is good! In my games scout player knows what he can do and when he will do it (without discussing it or asking permission). He's kinda a let other 3 discuss a little and let OL think im going to too guy. Others do a little discussing but after several games with them I don't need a house rule timer system(in beginning maybe thank god not any more)! But good idea if playing with new heroes or OL.

Personally I'd like to play scout again in near future I like playing that class. But for now I'm still OL. O and this is by no means how to play heroes this is the successes against me post. And I'm not implying in anyway my heroes are pros or played in a professional league. We have just come up with things that work together. I've killed a solo scout before, lol practice makes perfect i think.

Edited by Silverhelm, 03 August 2013 - 04:20 PM.


#11 Silverhelm

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Posted 02 August 2013 - 03:40 PM

I wouldn't mind seeing a brake down of hero ideas. The only problem with that is heroes are far more complex then the OL. Each hero brings something new to the table. And then you mix that with all the class cards. That would be a very extended thread. But all the same, I would love to hear it. As the OL almost every time, I am a little out of the loop when it comes to the heroes.


Couldn't agree with this more. As OL player I've come to respect heroes, I've been humbled a lot and I've had some sweet victories as well.
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#12 kuffdaddy

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 07:25 PM

Humbled is a kind word for it. In my first game I am OL and playing fat goblin ( I think) my ettin died to an awesome roll of perfect dmg from a reanimate. Humbling is a word used frequently when I am OL. Hoping next sat to play a game as a hero and we are going to proxy a troll fens hero and use a gimmick hero group all healer with abilities that stack up handily. Will mention the finalized group after we finish meta'ing out our 4th hero choice
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#13 Kunzite

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Posted 03 August 2013 - 07:51 PM

Humbled is a kind word for it. In my first game I am OL and playing fat goblin ( I think) my ettin died to an awesome roll of perfect dmg from a reanimate. Humbling is a word used frequently when I am OL. Hoping next sat to play a game as a hero and we are going to proxy a troll fens hero and use a gimmick hero group all healer with abilities that stack up handily. Will mention the finalized group after we finish meta'ing out our 4th hero choice

 

That sounds like hell for the OL. You might as well ask him to KO a hero in one turn, less he recovers everything every round. Though I have been wondering how that would blow over. I have jokingly nudged my Heroes into the direction of a lopsided Epic, if not a campaign. No luck yet. 

 

And humble is a nice word. My heroes deserve very ounce of my respect. But I deal with them well enough, I think. We joke pretty hard, throwing around mild challenges, but at the end of the day both sides fear the other. It's a satisfying feeling. Keeps me on my toes while encouraging my wee ego ^.^;;


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#14 DukeMantis

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Posted 15 August 2013 - 11:21 PM

Speaking as a complete novice to this game facing my first session as 'OL' next week against a gang of hardened gamers this thread has been super effective! Thanks alot guys.


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