Non-Fiction Gaming Gaming and Geek Culture! Thu, 10 May 2018 09:45:15 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 League of Origin Returns with an AFL and Riot Games Partnership Thu, 10 May 2018 09:45:15 +0000 League of Legends Oceania is strengthening connections with the AFL to bring a partnership between esports and sportsball.

The partnership between the AFL and Riot games brings with it a premier stadium tournament to the heart of football in Melbourne.

Following in the footsteps of last years League of Legends: League of Origin, the new event kicking off in November 2018 will build off the sports rivalries between Australian states and territories and New Zealand.

The short, intense competition will bring together the very best professional players from Oceanic League of Legends esports in an all-star style event where they will step outside their regular season teams to play for their home side.

The AFL and Riot Games together will work on developing local League of Legends esports, building on existing relationships with teams from the Essendon Bombers and the Adelaide Crows.

AFL General Manager, Growth, Digital and Audience, Darren Birch says that this partnership will expose a new audience to the AFL and provide a great opportunity to engage a new wave of fans.

“Esports is one of the most exciting emerging industries to come in and disrupt the traditional sports landscape. Riot are a respected and credible leader in this space, and this event will be a great opportunity to continue on that path. We will bring our expertise and insight to the competition, giving all-star players an opportunity to play with different teams, play in a different tournament structure and in a radically different venue environment.”

“Our vision is to progress the game of AFL and continue to help fans share in the experience of footy. Working with Riot is one step towards us learning new ways to connect with fans and enhance the complete digital experience.”

“We’re excited to continue to learn and lead in this space with our new partner, Riot, and to work with our two AFL clubs already in this space, Adelaide Crows and Essendon Bombers, to build out player pathways and opportunities.”

Daniel Ringland, Head of Oceanic Esports for Riot Games said

“The AFL is a world class league, and leads Australian sport in many key areas. From fan engagement through to player welfare and development, they’re the gold standard. We aspire to the same levels of excellence for our pro players and fans of League of Legends esports, so a strategic partnership makes absolute sense.”

Choosing to take place in a stadium leads itself to questions about attendance. Previous League of Legends OPL finals have had a combination of live attendees and online viewership through and Youtube.

2015’s OPL Grand Final at Sydney’s Luna Park had over 10,000 attendees and an extra 1,500 HOYTS cinemas viewers. The 2016 OPL Grand Final at Courier Mail Plaza in Brisbane attracted over 5,000 fans, including 2,500 ticket holders and 2,500 fans who just came for the community activities (this was Riot Games last major event).

“The AFL and Riot are culturally aligned, both being firm believers in putting the fan and player experience first. We’re excited to be paving the way for esports fans in Oceania.”

The venue and date of tournament are yet to be announced, though it’s expected to be at Etihad stadium. The AFL bought Etihad Stadium last October and it sees the venue eventually becoming a hub for esports.

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Grand Theft Auto: Update to Remove Expired Music is Now Live Mon, 30 Apr 2018 07:11:34 +0000 Are you still playing GTA IV? You may have noticed a large update today as a number of songs are being removed from the Grand Theft Auto IV game due to licenses expiring.

When you load GTA IV up your Console or PC you’ll be asked to do an update which is 6.96GB on console and 225mb and 382MB on PC. This is for both Grand Theft Auto IV and its story DLC, Episodes from Liberty City.

Below you can find the list we have so far of the removed songs and the added songs.

Removed songs

IF99 – International Funk
  • Gil Scott-Heron – Home Is Where the Hatred Is
K109 The Studio
  • Tamiko Jones – Can’t Live Without Your Love
  • Rose Royce – Still In Love
Liberty City Hardcore
  • Cro-Mags – It’s the Limit
  • Leeway – Enforcer
  • Bathory – Call from the Grave
Liberty Rock Radio
  • The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979
  • Stevie Nicks – Edge of Seventeen
  • Electric Light Orchestra – Evil Woman
  • David Bowie – Fascination
  • Black Sabbath – Heaven And Hell
  • AC/DC – Touch Too Much
  • The Doors – Five to One
  • Jefferson Starship – Jane
  • Iron Maiden – Run To The Hills
Radio Broker
  • The Prairie Cartel – Homicide
  • Ralph Myerz – The Teacher
San Juan Sounds
  • Angel y Khriz – Ven Báilalo
  • Angel y Khriz (feat. Gocho & John Eric) – Na De Na
  • Ivy Queen – Dime (Reggaeton Remix)
  • Tego Calderón (feat. Oscar D’León) – Llora, Llora
  • Aventura – El Desprecio
The Beat 102.7
  • Fat Joe (feat. Lil Wayne) – Crackhouse
  • Papoose – Stylin’
The Classics
  • Brand Nubian – All for One
  • Marley Marl (feat. Craig G) – Droppin’ Science
The Journey
  • Terry Riley – A Rainbow in Curved Air
  • Michael Shrieve – Communique: ‘Approach Spiral
The Vibe 98.8
  • Mtume – C.O.D. (I’ll Deliver)
Vladivostok FM
  • Kino – Gruppa Krovi
  • Marakesh – Zhdat
  • Zveri – Kvartira
  • Seryoga – King Ring
  • Splean – Liniya Zhizni
  • Basta – Mama
  • Leningrad – Nikogo ne Zhalko
  • Ranetki Girls – O Tebe
  • Dolphin – Rap
  • Glukoza – Schweine
  • Ruslana – Wild Dances
  • Oleg Kvasha – Zelenoglazoe Taksi
  • Sucker DJs – Salvation (eSQUIRE Remix)
  • Jonathan Peters feat. Maya Azucena – Music
  • David Guetta feat. Kelly Rowland – When Love Takes Over
Vice City FM
  • Robbie Nevil – C’est La Vie
  • Mai Tai – History
  • Womack & Womack – Teardrops
  • Scritti Politti – Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin)
  • John Farnham – You’re the Voice

(Many thanks to Mastah on the GTA Forums for providing this list)

Added Songs

It’s not all loss and despair for GTA IV fans, there are some new songs being added… though it’s not quite an even trade.

Vladivostok FM
  • ALEKSEY BOLSHOY: YA Nenavizhu Karaoke
  • SERYOGA: Mon Ami (ft. Maks Lorens)
  • DELICE: Goryacheye Leto
  • SERYOGA: Dobav’ Skorost
  • RIFFMASTER: Begu (Rancho Song)
  • RIFFMASTER Riffmaster Tony
  • ZHENYA FOKIN: Noch’ju
  • AYVENGO: Underground
  • KIEVELEKTRO: Gulyaj, Slavyane!! (ft. Alyona Vinnitskaya)
  • AYVENGO: Reprezenty
  • SERYOGA: Chiki

These are all of the songs that we know have been added so far. We’ll keep updating the list as/if new songs are found to have been added or removed.

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Can I Get An Encore: Do You Want More – D&D 5E Bard Optimisation Guide Fri, 20 Apr 2018 02:02:13 +0000 This Bard guide is strung together from many musicians across the internet. Taking the best notes and chords from those that came before, the Encore guide below hopes to get that foot tapping into your Bardic future.

We also link to a full list of other great character optimisation guides for D&D.


Stats and Races
Class Features
Sub Classes
Spells (In progress)
Skills and Backgrounds  (In progress)
Feats  (In progress)
Multiclassing  (In progress)

Always Play the Encore: The Core of the Bard

If the Bard is anything, it is versitile. A strong list of spells, combat skills and of course a huge number of skills to call upon.

While this class can do many things, its strengths lie in boosting up allies and commanding roleplay. You don’t get as many spells as the Wizard so you’ll need to be creative with your choices. Bards can buff their allies and decimate their enemies.

bard guide

From this point forward, the common colour coding is being used:

Sky Blue = Top of the line choice. Bard optimisation starts here.
Blue = Very strong choice for Bards, but not amazing.
Black = Solid choice. There are better options, but this is more than serviceable
Purple = Not top tier. It may have niche use, but better options exist
Red = Mechanically weak. If you feel it fits your concept, go for it, but you will likely be less effective

Remember that this is an optimisation guide. We’re looking at what is strong or effective for your Bardic performance.

That said, if you have a fun idea for your character that isn’t based around ‘charop’, don’t be afraid to put fun ahead of numbers.

You know your game better than me, after all.


  • Str: Good for skill checks, and some melee builds will need STR, but most won’t. Valor Bards are more likely to go with STR over Lore Bards.
  • Dex: This should almost certainly be your secondary stat, and Valor Bards will want to have this roughly equal to their CHA. It boosts your attack, initiative, and AC, not to mention some great skills.
  • Con: Another top tier stat. Hit points are just too important to let slide. If you want to stay unarmoured, it is doubly important.
  • Int: You’re most likely dump stat. Though it’s nice to know Arcana if you’re the magicky one.
  • Wis: Perception and insight is important, and Wis saves can be very nasty (as you can prove yourself).Not a dump stat, but not a priority either.
  • Cha:You main stat. You could potentially play a low Cha valor bard, but you’re probably better off as an eldritch knight or cleric for that concept. This also increases your inspiration dice, so it’s hard to pass up.

Best Bard Races:

Anything with +Cha/Dex/Con is good, and any other defensive bonuses.

Variant Humans (Inspiring Leader), and Half-Elves are top options. Dragonborn work nice for the melee type. And mountain dwarfs are good if your party is squishy.

Player’s Handbook Races

  • Dwarf: [+2 Con]
    • Mountain Dwarf [+2 Str] Like the Hill Dwarf, but instead of a dump stat, you get a boost to STR. Okay for Valor Bards. Again, Lore Bards shouldn’t touch it.
    • Hill Dwarf [+1 Wis]  You gain a boost to CON, which is nice, and you get some sweet Dwarf features. You get nothing that boosts your ability to attack or cast, though.
    • Duergar [+1 Str] Okay for Valor, less good for Lore. [SCAG]
  • Elf [+2 Dex] The Bard Elf is not the best choice, but darkvision and sleep immunity are good mechanical choices for any class. Here is how I would rank the three subraces:
    • Wood Elf [+1 Wis] Again, the basic Elf package is solid, but the Wood-specific features aren’t terribly helpful. It’s a slight improvement on the High Elf.
    • Drow [+1 Cha] Boost your DEX, boost your CHA, boost your casting, boost your Darkvision, plus all the Elf features! Sunlight Sensitivity sucks, but you can get around it, and most of your spells rely on saves. Besides, Faerie Fire washes out the disadvantage.
    • High Elf [+1 Int]  Like all Elves, High Elves get Trance, proficiency with Perception checks, and a DEX boost. You won’t need the INT or the cantrip, though, and the weapon training is wasted.
    • Eladrin [+1 Int] High Elf with a teleport spell. Not terrible [DMG]
  • Halfling [+2 Dex] An increase in Dexterity like the Elf, but you also get the Lucky Racial feature.
    • Stout Halfling [+1 Con] Like Lightfoot, but without a boost to CHA. Still, Con isn’t bad, and neither is resistance to poison.
    • Lightfoot Halflings[+1 Cha] DEX and CHA boosts are awesome. Luck is awesome. Brave is awesome. Hiding isn’t bad, either. This is awesome.
    • Ghostwise Halflings [+1 Wis] The other halflings are simply superior for your purposes! [SCAG]
  • Human [+1 to All scores],  Plus one to every stat? Sure.
    • Variant Human [+1 to Cha and Dex and a feat] If Human Variant is allowed, that’s a whole different story. That turns the Human into one of the best choices for a Bard, from one of the worst. Pick up Inspiring Leader, Actor or something else to kick off your Valor Bard.
  • Dragonborn [+2 Str, +1 Cha]  A CHA boost, some damage resistance, and a breath attack? Cool. If you want a STR build, this is the race to pick. If you don’t, it’s still solid.
  • Gnome [+2 Int] Similar to the Halfling, because of the small size but without the benefits of Lucky or the Dex Bonus.
    • Forest Gnome [+1 Dex], Gnome Cunning is awesome, and you get a DEX boost, but INT is your dump stat, and you don’t get much use out of anything else.
    • Rock Gnome [+ 1 Con]. See above, but switch out DEX for CON.
    • Deep Gnome [ +1 Dex] DEX is fine, and you can get advantage on a lot of saves and Stealth. That said, INT does nothing for you. Besides, Deep Gnomes are too dour. [SCAG]
  • Half-Elf: [+2 Cha, and +1 to ???] Did you want 16, 16, 14 for CHA, DEX, and CON? Then take this. You even get Elf features and even more skills.
  • Half-Orc: If you want a Valor Bard who’s a mediocre caster for the first eight levels, pick a Half-Orc. If you’re starting at level 8 or higher, it’s actually not bad. Nothing here for Lore Bards, though.
  • Tiefling [+1 Int and +2 Cha] It’s a +2 to CHA, resistance to a common damage type, and you gain spells that key off of your CHA. You’re second boost goes to a dump stat, but everything else is great.
    • Tiefling Variant [+1 Int and +2 Dex] An interesting option especially with winged. You’re giving up the Cha boost though. [SCAG]

Dungeon Master’s Guide Races:

  • Aasimar: Charisma and resistance are great, but the spells are kind of crappy. [DMG]
  • Eladrin: High Elf with a teleport spell. Not terrible. [DMG]

Volo’s Guide to Monsters Races

  • Aasimar [+1 Wis & +2 Cha] The Charisma is great. The rest of it is arguably better. It just offers too much not to be useful. [VOLO] 
  • Firbolg: Not that great for Bards, but not terrible for a Valor Bard.
  • Goliath: Another that is okay for a Valor Bard, but terrible for a Lore Bard.
  • Kenku: It’s good at doing things unrelated to being a bard, but it isn’t great otherwise.
  • Lizardfolk: If you roll a solid STR, this isn’t terrible, but it isn’t great unless you’re a Valor Bard.
  • Tabaxi: CHA, DEX, and mobility features sounds good to me.
  • Triton: Are you a Valor Bard? Well these guys boost all your major stats, plus resistance and extra spells.

Volo’s Monstrous Races

  • Bugbear: Don’t bother. Really, no one wants to hear a Bugbear sing. They’re not terrible Valor Bards, but they’re not good Bards.
  • Goblin: The bonus action Disengage is nice, as is getting boosts to your secondaries.
  • Hobgoblin: There is nothing about Hobgoblins that is musically inclined.
  • Kobold: Pack Tactics isn’t great for Bards, who basically only use save-or sucks.
  • Orc: Nothing that Orcs provide helps with the whole singing and making magic by singing schtick.
  • Yuan-Ti Pureblood: For having no emotion, Yuan-Ti are damn good at musical magic. The Charisma and Magic Resistance are solid on their own, but there’s also poison immunity and some extra spells.

Elemental Evil Races

  • Aarakocra: [+2 Dex] Flight is fun, and you get a DEX boost, but nothing provides you with any major advantages.
  • Genasi: [+2 Con] All the Genasi options provide a CON boost and some CON spells. This is generally a pretty good thing.
    • Air Genasi: [+1 Dex] DEX and Levitate are decent for any Bard.
    • Earth Genasi: [+1 Str] It’s better as a STR build.
    • Fire Genasi: [+1 Int] Just take a Tiefling.
    • Water Genasi: [+1 Wis] The only thing here that helps you is the CON boost. If you want Acid resistance, be a Dragonborn.

Unearthed Arcana supplements have provided a few new options:

Eberron Races

  • Changeling: Charisma and Dexterity boosts, plus Deception and Shapechanging? Plenty of fun for a Bard here.
  • Shifters: Shifters tend to provide purely physical boosts. Some of these boosts are better than others, but Valor Bards are generally the only ones who will want to pick a Shifter. Lore Bards have no business being Shifters.
    • Beasthide Shifter: The bonuses to AC, CON, and DEX make a decent Valor option.
    • Cliffwalk Shifter: Your DEX is good, and you get the shifter temp HP, but other shifter options are simply better.
    • Longstride: Another pure Dex option, with a mobility option. No need to poach Longstrider.
    • Longtooth Shifter: A little STR and DEX can help a Valor Bard.
    • Razorclaw Shifter: Pure DEX with a bonus attack. Not terrible.
    • Wildhunt Shifter: WIS is a dump stat.

Waterborne Races


Minotaur bard guide

Minotaur: You ever feel like you’re constantly repeating yourself? Well, it’s another race that is okay for a Valor Bard, but terrible for a Lore Bard.

Now that that’s said and done, here’s the thing about racial abilities: Later in the game, they won’t matter as much. At 15th level, that +1 to your stat has less impact in overall performance.

At lower levels though, the difference is much more noticeable. 5e is flat out a harder game at low level than either 3.x or 4e were. It is less forgiving, and getting dropped is really, really easy.

Keep that in mind when looking at races. Some races might not have the “oomph” when it comes to doing to damage, but a lot of the survivability perks that they do have will come in really handy during those difficult low levels.


Bard Class Features

  • Hit Dice: 1d8 per level isn’t the worst. You won’t be able to take a punch like a Fighter can, but you’re no wimp.
  • Armor Proficiency: Light armor isn’t bad, especially since most Bards are DEX builds. Valor Bards get Medium and Shields.
  • Weapon Proficiency: You get all simple weapons, plus some martial swords and ranged weapons.
  • Saving Throws: DEX is extremely common, and you’ll be pumping it anyways. CHA is less common, but it’s common enough to be useful.
  • Skills: You literally get all the skills. Only the Rogue could possibly contest your position as supreme skill monkey. Grab Acrobatics, one conversational skill, and anything else you think you’ll enjoy.
  • Tools: Musical instruments. You’ll be able to find a use for this. At least, early on, you can make some coin.
  • Spellcasting: You can keep up with any other primary caster, with the same number of slots as any other principal caster, and as many cantrips as a Druid. The Bard list lacks a bit in pure damage potential, but it has options in every school, and you can make a powerful Enchanter or Illusionist. Plus, Ritual Casting.
  • Bardic Inspiration: Combine Bless and Guidance, then increase the size of the die every five levels. All this, and you don’t even need a spell slot.
  • Jack of All Trades (2nd Level): You will never be bad at a skill. Also applies to Dispel Magic, Counterspell, and Telekinesis ability checks, which is pretty damned helpful.
  • Song of Rest (2nd Level): Stretch out the whole party’s hit dice.
  • Expertise (3rd Level): Bards didn’t need to be any better skill monkeys, but they are.
  • Ability Score Improvement (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, 19th Level): Obviously good for obvious reasons. The only reason it’s not sky blue is that the Fighter gets more.
  • Font of Inspiration (5th Level): Bard features tend to make them even better at things they can already do, and this feature is no exception. Bardic Inspiration now regenerates much faster.
  • Countercharm (6th Level): It’s a decent buff at the cost of an action. Paladins get similar features that don’t cost actions, but this is a solid ability, too.
  • Magical Secrets (10th, 14th, 18th Level): Learn any two spells you want. This feature is the primary reason why people claim that Bards are the best caster class.
  • Superior Inspiration (20th Level): You will always have some Bardic Inspiration. You probably weren’t running out very often to begin with, but there you have it.

Bardic Colleges: Bard Subclasses

College of Lore

The College of Lore is for bards truly devoted to story and song. In his quest for learning, the Lore Bard gains more skills, more magic, and some truly awesome abilities that make him an excellent support character. Arguably the greatest support caster in the game.

  • Bonus Proficiencies (3rd level): At this point, you’re so skilled you’ll hardly need spells to accomplish anything.
  • Cutting Words (3rd level): You can prevent a lot of damage with these. Lower the attack roll of your enemy if it was close to missing. Now, you buff your friends, and debuff your enemies, makes Bardic Inspiration much more versitile.
  • Additional Magical Secrets (6th level): Who doesn’t like more spells?
  • Peerless Skill (14th level): Never fail at anything ever again. Well, up to five times per short rest. Works on Initiative, Dispel Magic, Counterspell, and Telekinesis, too.

College of Valor

The College of Valor is for those skalds who sing songs of heroism on the front lines. The Valor Bard is a competent melee combatant without losing much of their magical ability.

  • Bonus Proficiencies (3rd level): Exactly what you need to become a strong melee combatant.
  • Combat Inspiration (3rd level): Solid buffs to damage and AC.
  • Extra Attack (6th level): Double your damage with more attacks.
  • Battle Magic (14th level): This is where you really start to shine as a gish. Cast and slash, every turn.

College of Glamour: [XGE]

This is very much a support caster bard. Though your spell versatility isn’t as good as a Lore Bard, you still bring a lot to the table.

bard guide

The Mantle of Majesty is really, really good, which makes this a decent option.

  • Mantle of Inspiration (3rd level): A pretty good use of Bardic inspiration (temp HP for CHA number of allies and a reaction/move).  Extra HP is always nice, though this could be redundant with things like Inspiring Leader.  The move might be handy at the beginning of combat for melee characters to close quickly.  Alternatively, this might be the “quick escape” ability should things go poorly, as the movement does not provoke opportunity attacks, so no disengage necessary.
  • Enthralling performance (3rd level): This may depend on your DM a fair bit. Feeds into the idea of a charming fey-like quality to any performance you make though.  Pretty circumstantial.
  • Mantle of Majesty (6th level): This is really, really good.  Command every round as a bonus action (for one minute) without spending a spell slot.  A creature charmed by you automatically fails its saving throw (Entralling performance looks a bit better now). This is once per long rest, and it’s going to be your big fight “go-to” ability.  I mean, if you simply command “Grovel” every round, the fight is over. Note that you are “concentrating” to maintain this ability, so there is that limitation to consider.
  • Unbreakable Majesty (14th level): A bonus action defense that targets would-be attacker’s CHA or they can’t attack you. Great way to stop enemies focusing you or potentially wasting their attacks. Lasts one minute (10 rounds) and doesn’t require concentration. If it does succeed against your Charisma saving throw it has disadvantage on your next spell. Not a bad trade.

College of Swords: [XGE]

The ‘Blades’, members of the College of Swords offers a Bard who can fight. You risk a lot having less defense than other fighting classes though.

bard guide
  • Bonus Proficiencies (3rd level): Medium armor and scimitar – no shield.  Immediately, this gives me concerns about defense.  Don’t get me wrong, happy to get medium armor, but with Half Plate, we’re looking at an AC of up to 17, no shield spell, no mirror images, and bard HP.  If you are planning to live in melee, this is a concern.
  • Fighting style (3rd level): No defensive options here.  Dueling and Two Weapon Fighting.  Without warcaster, Dueling is really the only option.  With warcaster, two weapon fighting is probably the better offensive option, though it uses up your bonus action (keep in mind you will not be using your bonus action for Bardic Inspiration much with a blade, so this may not be a big deal)
    Update: The College of Swords Bard can use their weapon as a focus for spells. Talk to your DM. Or just take the Warcaster feat.  It’s a pretty good choice regardless.
  • Blade Flourish (3rd level): 10 feet extra move when you take the attack action.  Extra move is always nice.  When you hit a creature you have 3 options for use of your Bardic Inspiration:Defensive flourish adds to AC for a round, which is very needed (but also limited).
    Mobile flourish has some interesting tactical implications
    Slashing Flourish is just an offense boost.
  • Note all of these add the dice total to damage, which is a nice offensive boost no matter which you choose. Those Bardic Inspiration dice will not last long though. You are likely starting with 3, ending with 5. Still, by level 5 that’s coming back every short rest, which is pretty similar to the Superiority Dice of a Battlemaster.
  • Also, like a Battlemaster, Blade flourish does not specify the attacks must be melee attacks, so pull out your bow and use Blade Flourish with it as well.  With Mobile Flourish, you will feel like a Warlock with repelling blast!
  • Extra Attack (6th level): Standard Gishy 6th level extra attack.  This character can bring some hurt in one round, and maybe the next round.  More I think about it though, this is a full caster, so running out of Bardic Inspiration dice isn’t that big a deal.  Fight with sword/switch to spells.  Again, the primary concern is defense.
  • Master’s flourish (14th level): So basically, you get infinite use of Blade Flourish with a D6, but at 14th level with a full caster, are you really in extended melee engagement? You should probably be doing more casting than swinging your sword by this level I would think.
  • Final Thoughts: If the intention was to create a Bard that could do damage in melee, mission accomplished.  Blade Flourish + Extra attack is enough offense that although you may not be the best offensive powerhouse in the group, you can contribute effectively.  The problem is defense.  I think a lot of College of Swords Bards are going to end up face down in the dirt.

College of Whispers: [XGE]

This is you Bard “Secret Spy” type, it does quite well for the intrigue aspect and being different from a general rogue. There’s a bit of a Rogue type feel here as well, and I note that Psychic Blades has similar mechanics to Sneak Attack.  However, unlike a Rogue, you are getting the Bard spellcasting.

  • Psychic Blades (3rd level): 2d6 (increasing) psychic damage with a weapon attack (does not specify melee). This immediately makes you think of sneak attack.  For a straight Bard, I’m thinking a ranged weapon becomes your option when there is no spell to cast (your cantrip replacement). This eventually reaches 8d6, so it continues to outpace cantrips as you level up, though you might find that since you are likely raising Cha not Dex, and you are only doing this once per round, this is a backup option only for when you don’t need to cast a spell.
  • Words of Terror (3rd level): Not something you’ll be using in combat. But if you can get someone alone at the fancy party long enough to fill them with paranoia you’re lauging. This holds the same 1 minute of conversation limitation.  Pretty circumstantial, but OK.
  • Mantle of Whispers (6th level): This is like disguise self with the difference being the creature needs to die near you and you get access to some information it knew. In the right kind of campaign this is excellent for infiltrating.
  • Shadow Lore (14th level): For a 14th level spell…well it’s charm monster basically. Paired with a number of languages and you’re golden for most monster types. No concentration, but once per long rest.

Final Thoughts: College of Whispers is very much not the Bard you are looking for in most dungeon-crawling campaigns.  It’s far more suited to a campaign with intrigue and maybe some good old politics.  In those kind of campaigns, this is a great choice.

As you can tell, the Bard provides excellent options that diverge considerably, but provide excellent power and utility.


Best Bard Spells

The usefulness of a lot of Bard spells frequently depends on your own imagination and roleplaying. Of course, they also tend to have measurable mechanical aspects that allow you to pull off your imaginative tomfoolery with varying degrees of success.

It’s also worth noting that many of the Bard’s best spells rely on Wisdom saves. It is advisable that you occasionally branch out, even picking somewhat inferior spells, in order to ensure that you can target multiple abilities. Otherwise, you might end up with great spells that are completely useless against your enemy.

You can use either a component pouch or a musical instrument as a focus.

I will not be rating spells eligible for choice using Magical Secrets, as ranking every spell in the game sounds like a horrible experience. Just make sure one of your choices is Counterspell, and remember that Telekinesis benefits from Jack of All Trades and Peerless Skill.

Besides, Navigator put together this awesome list of spells eligible for Magical Secrets.


Spoiler: Cantrips
  • Blade Ward: This would be great if it didn’t last a single round. As it is, if you expect to be attacked by a lot of mundane weapons, you should probably just Dodge and take a different cantrip. That said, a Valor Bard can get use out of this after hitting level 14, when he can cast and then attack as a bonus action.
  • Dancing Lights: Light for people who want to feel fancy. It uses concentration though, so I guess making Light fancy takes a lot of skill.
  • Friends: Charm Person for people you don’t care about. Want to get past a hostile bouncer? Friends. Interrogation? Friends. Maybe you want a guard to carry a bomb into a monastery, and you don’t particularly care what he thinks of you afterwards. That’s right. Friends.
  • Light: Makes a light. If you frequently find yourself in need of light, take this cantrip.
  • Mage Hand: It provides a minor benefit that you can definitely get some use out of. In fact, I’ve found that players who chose Mage Hand will frequently find far more reasons for using Mage Hand than other players think is reasonable. It’s like when you have a hammer, every problem is solved by Mage Hand.
  • Mending: Fix a thing. There are some things that are definitely worth fixing. If you think you’ll be around things that need fixing, maybe take the spell that lets you fix things.
  • Message: I can imagine ways that this spell can be useful. I cannot imagine very many, though.
  • Minor Illusion: A lovely spell that allows you to fail spectacularly when you roleplay an animal sound. Also, a fantastic way to trick people without using up any resources. Take it.
  • Prestidigitation: It’s all flash, and it provides no mechanical benefit whatsoever. You’re a bard. Take it.
  • Thunderclap: Bards get a damaging cantrip! It deals more damage than Vicious Mockery, but it doesn’t impose disadvantage and leads to fewer yo’ momma jokes at the table. It’s also a spell that demands that you be surrounded to use it, but doesn’t actually help very much if you’re surrounded. Lightly slapping the three orcs standing next to you is rarely a winning strategy.
  • True Strike: You know what’s better than giving up an action to roll twice for an attack next turn? Rolling this turn, then rolling next turn. You roll the same number of times, but you have the chance to hit twice. Casting this spell is mathematically worse than not casting this spell.
  • Vicious Mockery: The Bardliest cantrip you can get, it deals very little damage, but the disadvantage is an excellent debuff. Plus, any spell that encourages you to insult the DM’s favorite villain deserves respect.
Spoiler: 1st Level Spells
  • Animal Friendship: Heavily situational.
  • Bane: More powerful than you think, less powerful than you hope. Inflicting disadvantage is arguably more powerful.
  • Charm Person: Better than Friends, but possibly not good enough to contend with your other options. You might want to wait for Suggestion.
  • Comprehend Languages: Obviously extremely situational.
  • Cure Wounds: Healing is good. This provides healing that scales.
  • Detect Magic: You may need it at times. I don’t know if you’ll need it enough to displace your other options.
  • Disguise Self: Again, situational, but useful.
  • Dissonant Whispers: Deal okay damage, and force your enemy to run away of their own volition. This can trigger all kinds of op attacks and reshape the field in your favor.
  • Earth Tremor: This can help you escape a nasty situation, dealing some damage to boot.
  • Faerie Fire: I like having advantage. This does that thing that I like.
  • Feather Fall: When you need it, you’ll be glad you have it. You will not, however, need it very often.
  • Healing Word: Heal on a bonus action. You don’t heal as much as with Cure Wounds, but you still get to do something else. Valor Bards may want this over Cure Wounds so they can continue attacking.
  • Heroism: The temp HP is extremely strong when you first get it, but that fades with time and levels.
  • Identify: Having ritual spells around is certainly a good idea, and this one provides a decent benefit. Having the Wizard take it is an intelligent decision.
  • Illusory Script: Again, situationally useful.
  • Longstrider: The slight mobility granted is simply not worth expending any resources.
  • Silent Image: A neat little illusion that’s suitably superior to Minor Illusion.
  • SleepAt first you can lay waste to entire encounters with this spell, but it becomes less impressive as time rolls by.
  • Speak with Animals: Situational, if you could not tell.
  • Tasha’s Hideous Laughter: It keeps your opponent from being able to do anything for a while, and provides advantage. Extremely abusable in social situations.
  • Thunderwave: Deal okay damage and push your enemies away. Those are two things any caster can appreciate.
  • Unseen Servant: Situational, but it can address so many situations.
Spoiler: 2nd Level Spells
  • Animal Messenger: You know this is situational.
  • Blindness/Deafness: An enemy that can’t see you is an enemy that won’t last very long.
  • Calm Emotions: Don’t want to deal with the furious orcs? Worried that mob might grab its pitchforks? Need to fight off a Frightening Presence? Calm Emotions is here to help you out.
  • Cloud of Daggers: Okay damage in a very small area. If you can keep a target from moving out of the area, it gets better
  • Crown of Madness: As many have pointed out, the fact that the enemy attacks before you force it to move can lead to situations in which the enemy you cast it upon can’t actually attack another enemy. This reduces its effectiveness, though you can still force op attacks and prevent enemy actions.
  • Detect Thoughts: It has situational uses, but can also be used to sweep for invisible enemies.
  • Enhance Ability: It’s a solid buff, but it does not allow advantage on attacks or spell attacks.
  • Enthrall: I just don’t see the point of it. I suppose you can distract a creature while your buddies sneak around, but they could just use Pass Without Trace. Its uses are extremely limited.
  • Heat Metal: As a matter of fact, dealing damage every turn with no save allowed is extremely nice. The ability to incapacitate or disarm your opponent is gravy.
  • Hold Person: Don’t want a big guy to get near you, hold him still!
  • Invisibility: Always good.
  • Knock: If no one has Thieves’ Tools, this can be useful.
  • Lesser Restoration: Will be necessary a some point.
  • Locate Animals or Plants: Obviously situational.
  • Locate Object: Again, clearly situational. To the point where you shouldn’t have it without a spellbook.
  • Magic Mouth: So very situational.
  • Phantasmal Force: The uses of this spell are infinite, and the damage you could do with it is tremendous.
  • Pyrotechnics: Provides solid debuffs that are definitely worth utilizing.
  • See Invisibility: Somewhat situational, and Detect Thoughts and Faerie Fire can replicate its effects.
  • Shatter: Scaling AOE attack that deals decent damage. Bards don’t actually have many of those.
  • Silence: If you want to cripple another caster or sneak through a dangerous are, use this.
  • Skywrite: Completely situational.
  • Suggestion: The only limit is your imagination… in addition to the other limits specified in the PHB. It’s an extremely powerful charm.
  • Warding Wind: Like with Unseen Servant, the sheer variety of situations in which this would be useful move it beyond situational abilities.
  • Zone of Truth: Useful, but not necessary.
Spoiler: 3rd Level Spells
  • Bestow Curse:When I read the text for this spell, I feel like a trick is being played on me. You can choose from all those awesome debuffs or convince your DM of another one? Great!
  • Clairvoyance: That’s a solid spying tool. Not necessarily one you’re ever going to use, but still solid.
  • Dispel Magic: I think everyone finds themselves needing this occasionally. Benefits from Peerless Skill and Jack of All Trades
  • Fear: It has the potential to completely change an encounter. Forcing your enemies to flee while giving your buddies op attacks is fun, but the conditions for saving from it make it downright abusable, and its an AOE to boot!
  • Feign Death: Situational. Sometimes you’ll get some use out of this, but you usually will not.
  • Glyph of Warding: If you have an hour to use it, you will frequently find it worthwhile. However, you will rarely have an hour to spare when exploring a dungeon.
  • Hypnotic Pattern: Take away the actions of quite a lot of enemies. Very nice.
  • Leomund’s Tiny Hut: Protect yourself from the elements, your enemies, and random encounters at night. A decent utility, though not particularly useful in combat.
  • Major Image: Illusions have infinite uses, and this is a very big illusion.
  • Nondetection: Completely situational. If the BBEG is a mage who has been scrying you, go for it.
  • Plant Growth: The utility uses are entirely situational, but it also aids you in escaping pursuers and allows you to hold groups of enemies fairly still for AOE effects.
  • Sending: You know what’s totally situational? This spell.
  • Speak with Dead: And this spell.
  • Speak with Plants: Also, this spell.
  • Stinking Cloud: AOE that denies actions on a CON save? Not bad.
  • Tongues: Playing Holy Spirit is very situational in its usefulness.
Spoiler: 4th Level Spells
  • Compulsion: Solid battlefield control that denies movement and can set up some nasty AOEs.
  • Confusion: It interferes with enemy actions as an AOE, but it offers saves every turn and has a smaller radius. Plus the effects are unpredictable.
  • Dimension Door: 500′ teleport with very few restrictions. Also potentially weaponizeable.
  • Freedom of Movement: Provides decent bonuses, but maybe not worth the slot.
  • Greater Invisibility:Well, that’s nice.
  • Hallucinatory Terrain: Good for occasionally tricking people.
  • Locate Creature: Does what it does well, but you won’t necessarily need it.
  • Polymorph: While it’s not completely broken as some came, it’s still tons of fun.
Spoiler: 5th Level Spells
  • Animate Object: Animate some silverware and tell them to assassinate a king for 65 damage per turn. Or animate a cottage and ask the taxman if you really owe for property. This is one of those spells that’s more useful than it sounds.
  • Awaken: A spell for those among us who, despite all evidence to the contrary, genuinely believe their pets have something interesting to say. It’s situational, but infinitely applicable.
  • Dominate Person: This is arguably the most powerful enchantment up to this level, but it only lasts a minute, and the target can save multiple times.
  • Dream: Situational, but its usefulness is wide-ranging. From simple communication, to intentionally harming or even assassinating a target, you can do quite a lot with this ability.
  • Geas: You can do so many horrible things to a target using Geas. You can ruin an NPC, force an enemy into service, or even assassinate someone via dangerous, but not suicidal tasks.
  • Greater Restoration: You will need this at some point. Take it if no one else will.
  • Hold Monster: Excellent ability that can stop your death in its tracks.
  • Legend Lore: Just make a History check. You’re a skill monkey, after all.
  • Mass Cure Wounds: I’m a big believer in not dying as a means of winning, and this is a good spell for that. Doesn’t scale terribly well, but still great.
  • Mislead: One of those situational spells that’s still useful in combat and has so many uses it has to be black.
  • Modify Memory: This one is just plain situational, though many parties will wish people forgot what just happened. As a Bard, that will likely be your fault.
  • Planar Binding: Potentially powerful, but celestials, fey, and fiends all tend to have excellent Charisma saves, which limits its use. Certain fiends are better targets for this than others, but those tend to be the weaker fiends.
  • Raise Dead: This is one of those spells someone needs to have, or else your party will regret it.
  • Scrying: Totally situational. Flavorful, and a spell I personally like, but situational.
  • Seeming: A decent way to stealth your way through hostile territory. Also good for turning guards against one of your enemies.
  • Teleportation Circle: A decent way to skip travel time for the whole party.
Spoiler: 6th Level Spells
  • Eyebite: Solid debuffs on multiple targets for ten rounds for a single slot. Not bad. Still, a lot of these effects can be replicated by lower level spells.
  • Find the Path: Extremely situational.
  • Guards and Wards: If you have a home base of your own, you will want this spell. Most players will not want this spell.
  • Mass Suggestion: I love Suggestion. This is Suggestion for lots of people.
  • Otto’s Irresistible Dance: This is possibly the most fun you can have with a spell. Cast on flying creatures for double the awesome.
  • Programmed Illusion: Situational, but like all illusions a little creativity can make it very useful.
  • True Seeing: It’s a festival of benefits for the price of one spell.
Spoiler: 7th Level Spells
  • Etherealness: Excellent scouting spell, plus an automatic “Eff your prison.”
  • Forcecage: Possibly broken, but no save is necessary, and it can completely remove someone from a fight.
  • Mirage Arcane: A tactile illusion limited only by your imagination and the “no creatures” clause.
  • Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Mansion: A fancy hidey-hole. Not quite useless, and very fun.
  • Mordenkainen’s Sword: Summon with an action, and deal bonus action damage for the remainder of its duration. The damage is poor for the level, but it’s on your bonus action
  • Project Image: If you need another you hanging around, this works out.
  • Regenerate: Excellent healing over a long duration with no concentration.
  • Resurrection: In case no one had Raise Dead when the Wizard died.
  • Symbol: Upgrades Glyph, but has a massive cost. You won’t be using it often if you take it, and there’s a lot of competition for these slots.
  • Teleport: This is simply a great teleportation spell.
Spoiler: 8th Level Spells
  • Dominate Monster: Like Dominate Person, but works against any creature.
  • Feeblemind: A little twisted, but you can completely destroy an enemy’s ability to function as a person, almost permanently.
  • Glibness: You’ll be out-talking everyone anyways, but you’ll find uses for it. If you’re expecting to fight casters, it’s an enormous boost to your Counterspell.
  • Mind Blank: Great buff if you need it.
  • Power Word Stun: Guaranteed chance to prevent at least a single round of actions.
Spoiler: 9th Level Spells
  • Foresight: Holy balls this is great!
  • Power Word Heal: Make someone all better.
  • Power Word Kill: Do you really want to waste your ninth level slot on something that has less than 100 HP?
  • True Polymorph: And now you’re a dragon.

Skills & Backgrounds:




(Working on it)

Bard Feats:

You’re probably best off taking a +2 Cha over a feat if you already have an even number in that stat. If it’s an odd number a feat that provides +1 can help bump it up to even and give a perk.

  • Alert: Going first means you can disable enemies before they act, or get some buffs on allies before they charge in.
  • Athlete: You really don’t need this.
  • Actor: If you thought you weren’t crazy enough at Charisma based skill checks, this feat can help you truly break the game. Great for getting that +1 Cha too.
  • Charger: It’s okay. You get to charge, just like you did in the last system. Nothing special.
  • Crossbow Expert: If you want to use a crossbow, adds a fair bit of damage when you have nothing else to do, even for lore.
  • Defensive Duelist: Great for any melee build, and archers will find it useful when combat gets tight, too.
  • Dual Wielder: Most bards need a free hand to cast, though if you go with the College of Swords then it’s much more useful.
  • Dungeon Delver: Great if your DM is a bit trap-happy.
  • Durable: It’s okay. Nothing special, but it’s a good half-feat bonus.
  • Elemental Adept: You can snag some blasting spells from other classes and make great use out of this, though maybe not as much use as some other casters could.
  • Grappler: Not all that great for a caster, unless you’re going for a Valor Bard wrestler.
  • Great Weapon Master: An excellent feat for a strength Valor Bard.
  • Healer: Your skills will be high enough for it. This is right up your ally as support. Slightly more than inspiring leader, but at the cost of a little money.
  • Heavily Armored: You really shouldn’t need Heavy Armor, but some Valor Bards might want it. Consider Multiclassing for the armor proficiency.
  • Heavy Armor Master: This is the only reason to get Heavily Armoured, but only for Valor Bards, and the benefits aren’t worth sacrificing two Ability increases.
  • Inspiring Leader: Starts off powerful and scales okay. Good choice for a Bard.
  • Keen Mind: Situational, but abusable, and it only costs a single ability point.
  • Lightly Armored: You already have the benefit.
  • Linguist: In my experience, knowing the right language at the right time can save your ass.
  • Lucky: This is an exceptionally powerful feat. Definitely worth a look at.
  • Mage Slayer: A Valor Bard can get great use out of this, especially if your DM likes casters.
  • Magic Initiate: Grab some blasting power without having to multiclass. Great option.
  • Martial Adept: I would only pick this if you multiclass as a Battle Master.
  • Medium Armor Master: Good for a STR build that relies on Medium Armor, since you won’t have to pump DEX quite as much to get a great AC. Even a DEX based Valor Bard could use it if he really wants that +1 AC.
  • Mobile: Solid mobility boost with an escape option.
  • Moderately Armored: You already have the benefit if you’re a Valor Bard, but Lore Bards might want it.
  • Mounted Combatant: It’s a perfectly good option if you’re frequently mounted.
  • Observant: It’s a great bonus to two skills that are extremely important to a party.
  • Polearm Master: Great synergy with Sentinel. Only for STR-based builds.
  • Resilient: For a single ability point, you gain a save proficiency. That’s awesome.
  • Ritual Caster: You’re already a ritual caster, though this might be worthwhile for the spellbook.
  • Savage Attacker: A powerful option for any melee build.
  • Sentinel: Not good for a Bard. Moves up to Blue if you’re a Valor Bard and have Polearm Master.
  • Sharpshooter: Great benefits for a ranged character.
  • Shield Master: Great if you use a shield.
  • Skilled: This is made weaker because you already have’Jack of All Trades’
  • Skulker: Sneaky stuff can always work to your advantage.
  • Spell Sniper: Okay, but this is not made for a Bard.
  • Tavern Brawler: You’re a Bard. Don’t take this.
  • Tough: It’s a fairly good benefit, and it ends up giving you 40 HP at level 20.
  • War Caster: Valor Bards have no reason not to take this. In fact, if they don’t take this, they’re big stupid dummy heads. Lore Bards should take it, to. I have half a mind to introduce a gold rating just to emphasize how much this feat rocks.
  • Weapon Master: You already have proficiency with everything if you’re a Valor Bard. If you’re not, you still don’t need this.


Here, I want to make just a quick look at some options, along with the concept of a “dip” to grab some goodies from another class. I’m going to leave some of the finer points of multiclassing up to the individual though, especially anything that takes away from the character being majority Bard.

While there is a colour grade in this section remember that other options may fall into your character concept side of things than true optimisation.

  • Barbarian : Being unable to cast makes this pretty bad for a caster.
  • Cleric: A couple domains offer enough ancillary benefits that one level might be worth taking (Life Cleric comes to mind for a healer), but be sure to pick as few spells that rely on WIS as possible. And why do you have a 13 WIS?
  • Druid: Doesn’t offer anything to a full caster with WIS as a dump stat.
  • Fighter: Fighting Style, Extra Attacks, Second Wind, Action Surge, Combat Maneuvers… this is a great for a Valor Bard. Even Lore Bards can benefit from a few levels.
  • Monk: No overlap, no real benefits.
  • Paladin: You share a spellcasting ability, plus a lot of combat benefits. A smiting Bard could be fun.
  • Ranger: A level in Ranger is okay as an alternative to other martials, even two or three if you want Hunter’s Mark or a Path option, but no more.
  • Rogue: Sneak attack is fun, but you’re already a skill monkey.
  • Sorcerer: Arguably the best option to up your blasting potential, but metamagic also provides boosts to your buffs.
  • Warlock: Another excellent option to increase your blasting power, plus the benefits of Invocations.
  • Wizard: Don’t cast spells with your dump stat.

Weapon Selection:


Daniel Ryan

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Labor’s Got a Plan To Fix The NBN Multi Technology Mess Wed, 11 Apr 2018 07:26:32 +0000 There’s no doubt the discussions around NBN from politicians have left something to be desired. Aussie gamers have been watching the NBN debate unfold slowly from disaster to disaster.

Now the rise of mainstream discussion on 5G and the competitiveness of a ‘Multi Technology Mix’ based NBN is getting into full swing. The discussion gets further complicated by the number of technologies involved and the CVC pricing that connects customers, ISPs and NBNco.

Michelle Rowland the Shadow Minister For Communications gave a speech today at the Commsday Summit which covered Labor’s position on the digital divide, 5G, and digital inclusion.

Rowland called out Australia’s “great complacency” – the “she’ll be right” attitude that assumes because we have prospered in the past, “it must inevitably continue”.

Rowland also went into significant detail about the NBN. Here’s everything that was said.

I would now like to turn to the subject of competition and the NBN.

The Labor Party gave Australia competition policy.

We introduced the Trades Practices Act.

We opened up capital markets.

We floated the exchange rate.

We removed tariffs, despite the challenging near-term impact this had on working people.

We developed a national access regime to ensure businesses could access significant infrastructure such as airports, electricity, gas pipelines and railway lines.

Yes — we did do all these things – and we did it because promoting competition is in our DNA.

It is not a stretch to assert the flexibility and dynamism of our modern economy is a testament to structural reforms undertaken by the Hawke and Keating Labor Governments.

And these past lessons are not lost on us today.

Central to the efforts of policy makers since that time has been the desire to promote robustly competitive industry structures.

The policy and regulatory environment is a set of signals to business, which responds accordingly.

I want to focus on this today because of the evolving dynamics of competition in the telecommunications sector remain an important issue.

The fault lines of today are not those of two decades ago.

It is important for both the public and industry to understand how Labor thinks about these issues.

Over the past few months, we have seen various headlines proclaim that next generation 5G services will render the NBN redundant.

These arguments have been made in spite of recent ABS statistics reporting that fixed-line networks still carry 92 per cent of internet traffic in Australia – nearly 3.5 million terabytes over the December quarter.

Furthermore, nearly three fifths of the fixed-line footprint — 5 million of the expected 8.6 million active services — are yet to connect to the NBN.

It is a fact that the mobile networks we have today are not built to handle the volumes of traffic supported by the fixed network.

Nor are they designed to handle the peak hour demand seen in the residential home broadband market.

For these networks to carry 20 per cent of the total domestic traffic load, it would likely require a material increase in capital investment that would, presumably, have the effect of increasing prices.

So the claim that 5G is going to replace the NBN, or render it unnecessary, is simply not a useful, factual or relevant frame for policy discussion.

My view has always been that the two are complementary and will create value for society in different ways.

This does not mean wireless networks won’t present a significant challenge to the NBN.

Mobile will present a value proposition to particular segments of consumers.

This includes consumers who have modest usage requirements, people in the inner cities and those who receive poor speeds or reliability over the copper network.

Some have suggested Labor should be worried about 5G.

We aren’t.

As I’ve made clear, including at this forum in the past – we are very excited about 5G.

We are obviously dismayed the multi-technology mix has reduced the competitiveness of the NBN, as any potential shareholder would be.

Nearly 1 in 3 consumers in the copper footprint can’t achieve over 50 megabits per second.

And NBNCo’s competitors know where most of these homes are.

If wireless were to take an extra 5 per cent of market share relative to assumptions in the current NBN Corporate Plan, it would — all things being equal — reduce $4 billion in revenue streams to NBN, at present value, over the course of the current business plan from 2020 out to 2040.

Notwithstanding these challenges, the competition NBN will receive from wireless is, on the whole, a good thing.

That is because infrastructure-based competition, when oriented towards the long term interests of end-users, is a good thing.

That is the principle.

The NBN has never been an end in and of itself.

It was always a means to an end.

That end being the consumer: the student, the entrepreneur, the small business owner, and the broader social and economic benefits to the nation at large.

Whilst NBN will have an ability to control its operations, it may not necessarily be able to control its own destiny.

Competition, and the cost recovery arrangements that have potential to distort it, will take place within whatever parameters, incentives and structures, governments devise.

This is why the task of constructing policy is important and why it needs to be managed carefully.

We recognise that in the end, markets will function, and consumers will make choices based on value.

For this reason there needs to be a more substantive discussion about how we deal with the economics of the multi-technology mix.

Delaying discussion until completion of the rollout risks another two years of policy drift which I do not believe we can afford.

The sooner we can begin clarifying the balance of trade-offs the faster and more effectively a set of long-term arrangements can be implemented.

In order to form these assessments our policy discourse needs to move beyond conceptual debates.

We need modelling and analysis that provides tangible insight into the trade-offs policy makers need to consider.

We are yet to see any public financial analysis of what implications would follow for entry level prices, consumers, and the NBN business case if there were changes to pricing design – such as moving to a flat access fee or a rebalancing between AVC and CVC.

The Government’s approach to Universal Service Obligation reform remains uncertain in both trajectory and substance.

And there is no public analysis about the distributional impact of how a structured write-down — which has been called for in some quarters — might flow through.

This is where I believe that pricing design, price levels, competition settings, funding of regional services, the ownership structure of the last seven per cent and USO reform all begin to join up.

We may be foregoing creative possibilities because of an unwillingness to consider reform in a more holistic manner.

There may be a modest grand bargain of sorts — and there may not.

In any event I am optimistic something better is within our grasp if we are prepared to match lateral thinking with tough decisions.

That does not mean we should make bold decisions for the sake of it.

Such exuberance needs to be avoided — but we shouldn’t be afraid to be bold if the public interest warrants it.

Labor is steadily working through these issues with the modest resources available to us in Opposition.

Several of the key questions we are working through are as follows:

What are consumers willing to pay?

And by extension, where would benefits from any changes in wholesale pricing actually flow? To consumers? To shareholders of retail providers? Or some combination of the two?

What is the relationship between the sustainability of retail profit margins on the NBN and investment in competing wireless networks?

If competition to NBN is indeed robust, is the market best placed to organically temper wholesale prices on its own?

What synergies exist between the assets NBN will own at rollout completion, USO reform and broader public interest objectives?

And would the realisation of these synergies be constrained under particular ownership structures?

A Government does not need to have a precise answer to all these questions.

But it should have a view.

In this context, I felt that whilst the wide-ranging ACCC communications market study was certainly useful in parts, it was also, perhaps, a missed opportunity to join up the pieces.

I want to deal briefly with recommendation five which proposed the future disaggregation of NBN into competing fixed-line businesses.

As I outlined earlier, 4G and 5G are going to give NBN enough to think about.

My view is that NBN and wireless broadband are the future of infrastructure-based competition for residential broadband in the Australian market.

The market should be designed to encourage competition along this dimension.

Labor does not want to see fixed-line networks duplicating each other because we do not consider this to be efficient investment.

We saw this with the cable wars, and it was simply not productive.

We do not want to see uneven competition in inner city residential basements.

I want to be very clear on this point.

We are comfortable for NBN to be a ubiquitous fixed-line provider because that was always the policy intent.

This is not a religious argument.

It is simply borne out of what has and has not worked over the past twenty five years, and why the NBN was set up.

As Geoff Dixon, the former CEO of Qantas once noted, it is often easy to pronounce oneself in favour of pure competition.

To declare that the more competitors you have, the healthier any given industry will be.

This equation is a simple one, and the economists will usually cheer you most of the way.

However this is often an overly simplistic view of what is a more complex world.

For particular sectors to flourish, and the long-term interests of consumers to be maximised, they need more than competition, they need sustainable competition.

Where market failure exists the Government needs to have a coherent view about the price and quality dimensions along which they want competition to occur.

There is no scientific formula, but as a Member of Parliament my conversations with the community in every corner of this country are helping to form my views.

The public has a far better instinct for these issues than they are often given credit for.

The ACCC market study recommendation for NBN to be broken up into several separate fixed-line entities — contesting each other at the margins — on the basis that it would improve competition.

I should caution, however, this does not mean it stacks up in the real world.

Consumers are the core of our policy focus.

But it would not be wise for any Government to throw taxpayers under a bus in the name of competitive purity.

A leap of faith, in that sense, is not fiscally responsible — particularly if the long-term benefits to consumers, if any, remain highly uncertain.

The fiscal implications of the multi-technology mix are already serious enough.

In the lead-up to the development of the Corporate Plan in 2015, NBN was skilful in persuading the Government that $49 billion was needed to deploy the multi-technology mix.

Once that figure was signed off the incentive for cost discipline went out the window.

The current level of excess is apparent everywhere you look.

We now have a multi-technology mix which, according to NBNCo’s own analysis, will cost $200 million more per annum in steady state to maintain and operate — and generate $300 million less per annum in revenue, relative to a fibre to the premises network.

That is a $500 million earnings gap.

That is enough to subsidise two thirds of the losses in the non-commercial footprint.

That is nearly 10 times what the Government’s proposed regional broadband levy will raise.

On top of this, in August 2017 there were roughly 300,000 homes, of which 220,000 would have been revenue generating, that disappeared off the NBN business plan.

Yet cumulative capital expenditure forecasts increased by $1.4 billion from the year before.

This would suggest taxpayers are spending the same, or possibly more, for the NBN to serve fewer connected homes.

That is another $140 million per annum that isn’t coming back.

Yesterday Andy Penn observed that 1 million more consumers could substitute from NBN to wireless.

If that number materialised at some point in the future, it would reduce NBN’s market share to 65 per cent.

There are some big challenges here, and as the Australian Financial Review recently observed, the scale of the iceberg remains unknown.

I spent most of 2017 focusing on the lived experience of consumers.

In my address at this forum last April and October I outlined a series of priorities:

· Seeing fibre to the curb to be deployed in areas where design and construction on fibre to the node had not begun.

· Stopping the practice of consumers being sold speeds that NBN infrastructure could not deliver.

· A greater alignment of accountability with responsibility in terms of the end user experience.

· Putting the speed monitoring program in place as quickly as possible to ensure consumers had the information they needed to make choices.

· I also made clear that pricing needed to change because the deteriorating economics of the NBN and price-based competition were combining to deliver a poor peak hour experience.

There was progress on a few of these issues, and less progress on others.

What I hope is clear is that whilst we are in Opposition, we are not an Opposition who is idle.

In 2018 we will continue to focus on improving outcomes for consumers, but we will increasingly focus on the economics of the NBN and the medium term settings.

In terms of the NBN it is clear that at every juncture policy makers face difficult trade-offs between consumers, the budget, stakeholder interests and an efficient market design.

It is my view that communications policy over the past four years has been dealt with a piecemeal manner.

At its core, it has been lacking in creativity, vision and a coherent narrative.

I am not making any assumptions about the next election.

It will be a very hard fought contest that could go either way.

I offer that in sincerity.

But if the Labor Party is fortunate enough to be elected by the Australian public, we will be ready to tackle these issues.

We won’t be the dog that caught the car.

We will be rigorous in our approach, we will make choices, and we will explain the trade-offs to the public.

We have done this on negative gearing.

We have done this on the recently announced dividend imputation policy.

And we will do this on communications policy.

Can NBNCO compete in a world of 5G? Will 5G wireless be able to provide enough bandwidth and speed for Aussies to pump data up and down stream? These are the questions we’ve yet to have answered.

Until then, I’ll stick with asking for full fibre.

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ReedPOP and EB Games partner up for PAX Aus 2018 featuring EB Expo Wed, 04 Apr 2018 06:00:07 +0000 The two biggest gaming shows in the southern hemisphere will come together for the ultimate celebration of games and gaming culture in 2018.
For the past five years, PAX Aus has welcomed gamers of all stripes home with three days’ worth of massive console, PC, handheld, VR and tabletop freeplay gaming areas, esports stages, over 120 panels across 6 theatres, live concerts, and more — and all of that is coming back in 2018.
This year, PAX Aus will also play host to EB Expo, including a dedicated area for the largest publishers in the world to showcase their upcoming titles, developer presentations in the EB Expo Live Theatre, and Australia’s biggest pop-up EB Games store. You want more major publishers? More hands-on gameplay? More panels? Well, you got it.
PAX Aus 2018 will take place from 26-28 October and will feature over 180 companies from around the world, thousands of playable games and over 150 hours of on-stage content. Three days can barely contain it. The event will be held at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, as part of Creative Victoria’s MELBOURNE INTERNATIONAL GAMES WEEK.
PAX Australia 2015 indie games
“PAX Aus grows every year, and in 2018, EB Expo is the red mushroom to our Italian plumber,” said Jono Whyman, Event Manager of PAX Aus. “We’re incredibly excited to partner with EB Games to level up PAX Aus and continue to put on the biggest, best gaming show for our die-hard fans and new members of the PAX family.”
Debra McGrath, EB Games Event Director, echoed Jono’s statement: “When we created the EB Expo in 2011, our aim was to share our love of video games with as many people as possible. Our vision for the future is to create a world-class event that becomes a landmark on the global gaming calendar. After an exhaustive search we have found a kindred spirit in the awesome team at PAX Australia, who share our vision.” Debra continued, “Together, with the full support of the Australian publisher community, the IGEA and Creative Victoria we are committed to creating an event that gives Australians the experience they deserve.”
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Australia’s strongest man wins 8-tonne tank pull world record Tue, 27 Mar 2018 03:06:12 +0000

Australia’s strongest man Eddie Williams from the Central Coast, New South Wales, has won the ‘World of Tanks PC Tank Pull’ at the Arnold Pro Strongman Australia in Melbourne in front of a massive crowd, including proud tank-owner Arnold Schwarzenegger.

To celebrate the upcoming launch of World of Tanks 1.0, eleven of the world’s strongest men were challenged to pull an eight tonne FV102 Striker tank and set a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS™ title for Fastest time to pull a tank over 10 metres.

Williams, 27, successfully pulled the tank 10 metres in 36.65 seconds setting a potential GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title*, with Trey Mitchell from USA coming in second, pulling the tank in 46.16 seconds.

Williams said after the event: “I really wanted it. Now I can say that I have won the first-ever tank pull event in the world,” said Eddie.

Alexander de Giorgio, World of Tanks’ Regional Publishing Director, said: “Today we witnessed the true power of the tank with the world’s strongest men put to the test. We hope that World of Tanks PC fans are getting excited about the upcoming launch of 1.0 this month.”

The ‘World of Tanks PC Tank Pull’ was the fourth of six events in the professional strongman competition.

For more information or to download World of Tanks PC, visit

*GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS currently verifying record.

]]> 0 Games Industry Responds to The White House Violence Montage With Their Own Video Wed, 14 Mar 2018 00:24:53 +0000 88 seconds of video games, not violence

Games for Change has hit back at The White House after earlier this month the US Government released a graphic, violent video games montage that seems to reflect its stance on violence in gaming today.

In their statement they point out that games are more than ‘ultra-violent’ and how they wished to share a different view of games.

After seeing that the White House produced a video depicting video games as ultra-violent, we felt compelled to share a different view of games. Video games, their innovative creators and the vast community of players are so much more than what is depicted in the White House’s video. We wanted to create our own version, at the same length, to challenge the White House’s misdirected blame being placed upon video games. To all you game developers and players who create and enjoy games – this is for you! #GAMEON

You can watch the Games for Change video below.

Games for Change, a non-profit group that focuses on using games and technology as social activism, is now pushing back against the message of Trump’s video with its own video montage, which shines a light on the beauty found in games. The response video includes scenes from games like Journey, Mirror’s Edge and Monument Valley, among many others.

The response follows President Trump recently hosting a meeting with representatives from the video game industry and well-known critics of violent media, held in response to what he believes is a link between virtual and real-life violence.

The meeting featured a montage of violent scenes from various games; it was also posted on the White House’s YouTube channel.

The video, seen below, pulls clips from titles including Dead by Daylight, Wolfenstein: The New Order, Sniper Elite 4 and more. Of course, it also includes Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2‘s infamous “No Russian” mission.

The White House spoke of a meeting between President Trump and the ESA in a statement that accompanied the video.

“The President acknowledged some studies have indicated there is a correlation between video game violence and real violence,”

“The conversation centered on whether violent video games, including games that graphically simulate killing, desensitize our community to violence.”

Gamers are no stranger to ill-informed public panic at video games or even tabletop games by government and public figures. From the ‘Satanic Panic’ around Dungeons & Dragons to Jack Thompson and his crusade against violent video games, those who’ve seen these arguments before may be forgiven for an eye-roll or two.

What do you think of the videos above?

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Arnold Pro Strongmen to Pull World of Tanks for a World Record 💪 Tue, 13 Mar 2018 23:08:41 +0000

World of Tanks PC to set Tank Pull GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS at Arnold Pro Strongman Australia

When you think of a team-up, World of Tanks and Weight Lifters make unlikely allies, however they’re joining forces in Melbourne this weekend to attempt a Guinness World Record.

The title on the line is for the fastest individual to pull a tank 10 metres.

Though it’s been out seven years, Wargaming is launching World of Tanks 1.0, the biggest game update to date. To celebrate, professional strongmen will compete in the inaugural ‘World of Tanks PC Tank Pull’ and aim to become the official GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title holder for the Fastest time to pull a tank over 10 metres.

The Arnold Pro Strongman Australia, presented by World of Tanks PC, is part of the Arnold Sports Festival founded by Arnold Schwarzenegger and will be held at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre from March 16-18. The ‘World of Tanks PC Tank Pull’ will be the fourth of six events in the professional strongman competition, held on Saturday 17th March at 12.00pm AEDT.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen World of Tanks bring the big guns to an event at the MCEC. Fans who’ve attended PAX Australia have been able to get photos with the tanks dropped in the main hall around Wargaming’s booth.

Wargaming Tank Ride

Arnold Schwarzenegger is of course no stranger to tanks either and has even shown off his own crushing cars. But Arnold won’t be doing the pulling today. According to Alexander de Giorgio, World of Tanks’ Regional Publishing Director, the title attempt will see thirteen of the strongest men from Australia, New Zealand and across the world go head to head, with the fastest competitor to pull an eight tonne FV102 Striker tank over 10 metres, claiming the world record.

“With the completely remastered PC game, World of Tanks 1.0, set to launch soon, we wanted our 160 million players and new fans to get hyped up about this massive game update. Nothing is bigger than going for a tank pull GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title!”

“We’re calling on all Australians and New Zealanders to get behind the strongman attempting the world record and witness the true power of man versus tank,“

Tony Doherty, 2018 Arnold Sports Festival organiser and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s business partner, says they are looking forward to the ‘World of Tanks PC Tank Pull’.

“We have had truck pull events in the past, but this is the first ever tank pull event, so it will certainly be one to watch. Our professional strongman competitors are now gunning not only for the Arnold Pro Strongman Australia title, but they also want the tank pull GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS title,”

Though this is semi-gaming related, it doesn’t look like it’ll be streamed on Twitch in any official capacity. Arnold Pro Strongman Australia  has their own streaming at  and

While the details will be shared through the World of Tanks PC Asia Facebook page

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Why watch Twitch streamers when you can play the game yourself? Wed, 07 Mar 2018 01:35:32 +0000

Gaming streams have become an extremely popular and profitable activity. Millions of people spend their time on sites like Twitch or YouTube, watching other people play games.

If you’ve ever tried to explain Twitch streaming services to a non-gamer, no doubt you’ve been asked this infamous question.

“Why waste time watching others play games when you can easily play them yourself?”

The usual response to this is to compare it with watching sports, but what is it that sets Twitch streaming apart from the mainstream?

Streaming itself has really become quite the phenomenon, with the gaming-oriented Twitch hosting the largest service for such live broadcasts, easily beating numerous mainstream TV channels in both viewership and retention.

Most large gaming events and tournaments are streamed on Twitch or Youtube, forming a kind of a symbiotic relationship: Twitch gets bigger and more popular as people tune in to these tournaments, while the events gain access to the site’s enormous viewer base.

esports bar GG EZ

Twitch streams are even shown in esports bars now

Everyday new streamers are stepping up to become celebrities through Twitch, be it via their skill at a given game taking them to the professional level, or just being an entertaining person with a charismatic online presence. The streaming space appears to have a niche for everyone willing to put the work in to carve one out.

We spoke to Steven ‘Bajo’ O’donnell about his move from public broadcasting on television into the world of professional Twitch streaming. He’s developed his audience through fostering a community and providing short videos in between gaming sessions.

So, we know Twitch is a huge service and has changed numerous lives, but this still doesn’t tell us why people watch others play games instead of playing themselves.

Sometimes the chat does ‘play’ the game though

A good number of viewers want to be entertained, and Twitch offers no lack of colourful personalities, who bring a shine to all manner of games—such a shine, in fact, that the game plays second fiddle. Other viewers tune in to see how the pros do it. They want to get better at a specific game, so they avail themselves of the opportunity to watch, or even play with these S-tier gamers.

Others use Twitch for the community. They get involved in the Twitch chat or discord servers. Posting memes seemingly at random are helping answer questions the streamer didn’t spot for others.

Memes…. memes everywhere…

A community sharing like this not only lightens things up, but helps spectators become participators as they test their imagination and ingenuity.

The community aspect itself seems to be the key for Twitch’s meteoric rise. Channels that encourage interaction with their chat through emotes and answering questions tend to maintain a steady growth. Twitch helps its own cause here by allowing streamers to make their own custom emotes as they reach certain milestones for their channels.

In bigger channels the individuality aspect of a community is lost, the sheer amount of people assures that there will always be something interesting happening in the chat or through donations.

2017 OPL Split 2 - Analyst Desk

Esports streams with live commentators and colour commentary

Personally, the streams I watch are usually for a specific event like a Charity stream, or for the personality of the streamer. It’s a bit like watching sports on the weekend when the League of Legends OPL goes live, although I tend to hide the chat as I’m not up to date on the latest memes.

Some personalities I listen to as they’re insightful on the games they’re playing or I just like the sound of their voice. Often its something I can listen to in the background as I work on something else or do some chores around the house.

Not all is rosy in the world of game streaming, though. A few terrible scenarios have played out during streams tarnishing the pastime. From channels that have encouraged depression, violence, harassment and a litany of other forms of wrongdoing. Some people just cross certain lines of comedy and end up actually being dangerous, whilst others were toxic to begin with.

On the commmunity side of problems, the most notorious is probably ‘SWATing’. This is when someone watching calls the police during a stream and falsely claim that the person streaming is a terrorist or has hostages, only to get the police to engage the streamer and land them in trouble.

Such acts are extremely dangerous and may lead to real physical harm for the streamer, or cause the special forces sent to him to miss a real emergency, therefore endangering other people.

Playing games while people watch is a fun pastime.

All things considered, streaming has become a fun new and liberating way of finding enjoyment, or employment, for many people doing the things they love doing.

Twitch being so open, allowing as it does everyone over the age of 13 to become a streamer, has enabled common folk like us—that’s right, like you and me—to go on to become popular streamers.

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Activision to release more remasters of existing IP in 2018 Fri, 02 Mar 2018 13:00:16 +0000 First Crash now Spyro The Dragon?

Spyro The Dragon Remaster

Activision has teased remasters from its library of IP as part of a Form 10K filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

“We expect to release World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth and our latest Call of Duty game in the second half of 2018,”

“In addition, we expect to deliver… releases of remastered versions of titles from our library of IP,”

The publisher goes on in the document, referencing DLC and new mobile titles.

While the document doesn’t detail just what IP was being remastered, fans of Activision’s titles are hoping for a revival of the Spyro franchise… hopefully, with less Skylanders.

The first Spyro the Dragon came out back in 1998, making next year the game’s 20th anniversary – very convenient. Since the original first came out in September (in the US and Japan at least), we expect to see any remaster arrive in the same month: September 2018.

This was backed up by a recent Kotaku report that claims the game will be released in September 2018, following a March 2018 reveal.

Alternatively, one of Activision’s most successful titles of 2017 — at least in Australia — was a remastered bundle in the form of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. Maybe other platforms will see that release this year? It’s certainly been rumoured for long enough.

What Activision IP would you like to see remastered and why?

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