Saturday, July 31, 2010

Another day at Remlington Farms

Starcraft 2 battle report later.

So today I was the Activities Breaker, the guy who takes over for people going on breaks. Fun times! Except this one time I was put in charge of a daycare-type facility for a half-hour. I've got this thing about working with children. It's probably because I don't really understand them all that well; honestly, I'm always afraid that if I start relaxing/having fun with the children, I'll accidentally break one.

Me: What? Oh, I was just doing X with him and suddenly he freaked out.
Parent: You were doing X?! With my child? You should be arrested!
Me: Come on, it can't be that bad. Can't you, like, send in for a replacement?
Parent: (string of expletives)

Fear of this scene has me standing several feet away from the nearest child in hopes that, if it DOES spontaneously combust or something, I at least will not have been the one to cause it. It's really a winning situation for everyone; I remain gainfully employed, and the child remains in its current, unexploded state. This normally works quite well, except when (as with today) I am put in temporary charge of a daycare. My strategy there becomes

1) Smile at people entering.
2) If a child makes eye contact, wave.
3) If a child walks towards me, backpedal like a mother.
4) Hope nothing goes wrong.

Number 4 is really the most vital step here, since the tactics I can employ in dealing with screaming children is currently limited to
1) Finding the parent and hoping blame does not accrue to me.
2) Frantically doing stuff in hopes of bringing the child back down.

Child: (screaming)
Me: Oh! Oh! Is something wrong? Can I do something?
Child: (screaming)
Me: Oh! What about this toy car? Kids love toy cars, right?
Child: (screaming)
Me: Okay, okay, that's no good, so what about... my watch! Shiny! Look!
Adult: What are you doing to that poor child?!
Me: Stop looking at me!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Starcraft 2: Revenge of Starcraft

This post will be a placeholder, meant only to force myself to put up a Starcraft 2 replay of a game I shall be having this very night (possibly somewhere after 12, hence the placeholder); I plan on a few 2v2 games featuring Branden as Terran and myself as those 'Nids. Can't say I'm all that experienced at it yet, so I expect lulz and hilarity to ensue in equal measure.

Wish me luck!

EDIT: OH MY GOD IT'S SO LATE.

Okay, so I'm gonna make this short, and post a more detailed thingie tomorrow. (Which is to say, today.) In that spirit, allow me to give the highlight of the session.

This needs a bit of background.

Okay, so the game's chat function defaults to "allied chat", though you can change this by pressing "tab." However, on rare occasions, it will default to "chat with everybody" for reasons which, after some investigation, I have yet to ascertain. Which can be irritating when you have an exchange like:

Branden: [Allied] Okay, this guy's using lots of mutalisks.
Me: [Allied] The other guy's going for mass hydralisks.
Branden: [Allied] Gotcha.
Me: [Everyone] Okay, you go mass siege tanks and I'll go anti-air.
Random Opponent: [Everyone] Wow, do tell!
Me: [IRL] *facepalm*

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Starcraft? In MY Miami? It's more likely than you think.

"Jenkins, if I didn't know any better I'd say that's blue blood on the ground. And I don't mean royalty."
"Yessir. A group of humanoid aliens teleported here several minutes ago, armed with... well, I guess swords. But, like, all glowy and shit."
"Jenkins, you know I don't approve of swearing."
"Sorry, sir."
"At any rate, it would seem they are now very, very dead. What exactly happened here?"
"Sir, Seargant Stein assumed that they were teleporting in to attack. You know, with the swords and such. So what he did was, he hurled a grenade into the pack of them and hoped for the best. From fifty feet away, no less."
Sigh. "Blast it, Jenkins, that was probably a diplomatic envoy. This may have been our only chance for peace with these... things. Now we're probably in for a massive interspecies war, and it's all Stein's fault. Him and his grenade."
"Shall I dock his pay, sir?"
"No, Jenkins, I s'pose I can't blame the good seargent too much. I may have done the same in his position. Still-- it's surprising how much harm can come of a..."

(puts on glasses)

"pro toss."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dark Heresy: Session The Second

...will be discussed tomorrow, for reals this time!

Nah, I'm just messin' with ya. Here you go! First session's plot synopsis and character summaries are here.
-----------------
Dark Heresy 2: The Heretical Darkening
A Short Synopsis

The session started with our techpriest making nice with other techpriests in the Engine Room, trying to figure out why the ship wasn't going anywhere. Now, being as I am a puny hew-man (though backed up, mind, by the POWER OF THE WARP) I was not privy to the actual conversation; apparently, the gist of it was that the conventional engines wouldn't run until the warp engines were back online-- and that meant waking up the Navigator, who was slacking off. And by slacking off, I mean in a coma. Thankfully, our techpriest had a great deal of helpful advice.

Stormshrug: Oh! In those holodramas they always wake people up using strong electrical shocks. I'm thinking maybe I could--
Me: No.
Stormshrug: But if I just--
Me: Nuh-uh.
Stormshrug: And I--
Me: Not even a little bit.

Thankfully, a marginally less suicidal suggestion was offered by Kory (or possibly Rome), who thought that we (by which he meant I) could help out the team by invading the coma-ing Navigator's head and looking for clues in his dreams. Rome would assist by keeping a loaded pistol trained on my forehead in case a daemon popped out in the process. What I found in his dream was a naked man (the Navigator himself, presumably) floating in the depths of space, asleep.

Stormshrug: You know what this means, Aaron! It's recursion time!
Me: Daaaamn right.

And what I found there, in the slumbering psyker's meta-dream, I sadly cannot divulge at this time. But I'll give you a hint: A train erupting from a cave embedded in a sidewalk. Freudian? You decide.

Anyhow, where was I? Ah yes. Well, we didn't wake up the navigator, but near this time we had found a badly-made dud bomb on the conventional engine coils in what was an obvious attempt at sabotage-- likely by the same fellows that did in the Warp engines. The individuals who were supposedly guarding the engine room were entirely unhelpful, as our security detail found.

Rome: So how many people at typically guarding the engine room at once?
Guard: (shrug) I got nuthin'. Varies, I guess?
Rome: Okay, then how do guard rotations work? Like, how do you guys get assigned to whatever rooms you're in?
Guard: How the hell should I know?
Rome: All right, so on the maintenance schedule it says--
Guard: Hereticsayswhat?
Rome: What?
Guard: (guffaw)
Rome: Goddammit.

My (in my opinion, excellent) suggestion that a touch of madness might jog his memory were met with disapproval by the rest of the team, the bunch of psy-bigots. Thankfully, our techpriest found some vital evidence in security footage from a few days earlier.

Stormshrug (actual quote): "Looks like a guardsman had something big in his pants, and I don't think he was just happy to see the engine room."

And lo! The guardsman in question could at that very moment be found in a storage room elsewhere in the complex. Stormshrug suggested locking the doors, and filling the room with a debilitating gas; however, this was deemed a good way to tick the Servitors (like techpriests, but dumber) off, so this plan was scrapped in favor of Jesse holding a rawk concert outside the storage room to lure the guardsmen out. We would then interrogate them.

The plan worked quite well up to the point where people were actually getting interrogated. Confronted with the incriminating footage, the suspect started running for the door, as did the techpriest accompanying him; the servitors, however, attacked us, apparently ungrateful for our restraint in not gassing them when we had the chance.

Lesson Learned #1: "You just can't please some people, so you may as well gas the lot of 'em."

Anyhow, combat ensued, which involved:

Kory & Rome: Shooting a guy's legs out from under him, killing several servitors in melee (Kory) and at range (Kory & Rome), being generally terrifying.
Stormshrug: Kiting servitors in the best WoW tradition
Jesse: Still absorbed in his rocking-out
Me: Gave one guy a chronic mental illness before he was killed by Kory. Hurled large objects around the room in an ineffectual fashion. Shockingly, not once did even the suggestion of a daemon appear from my head.

Lesson Learned #2: "Pretty sure this means I'm safe forever. Psychic backlash? That's for other people."

And then a bunch of genestealers appeared, with a brood queen. Inquisitor Stradivarius appears at this point and saves the day while the rest of us hightail it from the room. ("Doooon't juuuuudge meeeeeeeeeee!")

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Starcraft 2

...just came out!


And I'm SO EXCITED that I'm delaying the Dark Heresy post until tomorrow. (Also I just realized I had forgotten about the blog post at 11:20, when Blake notified me I had 40 minutes remaining before the New Day. So yeah.)

Anyway! So the deal with Starcraft 2 is that it's basically Starcraft 1, but prettier. Also with better matchmaking, and a variety of subtle improvements that tremendously enhance the game, as well as paving the way for lulzy good times.

Now, I'm a proud Eldar Space Elf Protoss player myself, primarily because (as has been alluded to in the past) I am a lazy old bastard and cannot be bothered to send more than one worker out to build mineral-harvesting expansions. Yeah, I'm the kind of heartless individual who builds tons and tons of workers at a completely undefended mineral site, then gazes on, pitiless, as they're casually exploded by a pair of Gaunts Zerglings skipping merrily along on their way to the actual assault on my actual base.

Not shown: The three expansions mowed through to get to this battle.

And y'know, while browsing the web for screenshots to steal acquire legitimately on this topic, I noticed something: Starcraft 2 is only getting screenshot-recognition for its battles! Somehow games-journalists neglect the sexy, sexy economic underpinnings of these battles, and thus neglect its real heroes: the workers. That's right! Those unsung, unmourned laborers who gather our minerals; who harvest our Vespene Gas; yea, those brave souls whose job it is to let bitches know 'bout my additional pylons.

You, ladies and gentlemen, are the true heroes of Starcraft. This post... goes out to you!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Dark Heresy: Session Two

...will be discussed tomorrow.

In the meantime, I just got a comment from Stormshrug on a previous post re: whether or not to include Raise Dead in campaigns, which I felt could use a bit more discussion. Also I'm going to a Starcraft 2 party in like an hour, and I kinda wanted a bit more time to write out the summary of our last Dark Heresy session. Sorry, HTMC!
Stormshrug said...
I hate cheapening death, though, because of the way it mutates the setting. It's very hard to justify that the PCs can buy a Ritual of Raise Dead on their relatively low salaries, but the decadent noble they murdered two sessions ago doesn't have a store-room full of the things. And, if he does, it becomes very difficult for the PCs to meaningfully harm most NPCs who actually pose a threat. Suddenly, not only do you have the PCs unable to die, but also all important characters.

If you make NPCs too stupid to use readily available ressurection resources, then you run into different problems. How did the genius villian who foiled the PCs at every turn forget to pay his Blu-Cleric premium?

You could offer some sort of other justification, I suppose, but you'd really have to build it into the setting's core that the PCs are unique, powerful individuals above the regular mortal NPCs. Then, a large portion of your setting is going to be dictated by the immortality of the PCs, and you're restricted from doing many things. Also, suicide attacks become an optimal strategy, though some may consider this a bonus.

I'm not saying that the way you're running things is wrong, or mistaken, or even hugely problematic, but these are the reasons that I'd be disinclined to do it myself. There are definitely flaws in the solution I use, too. I just strongly feel that PCs should be mortal unless the *point* of the campaign is that they aren't mortal.

I'd also make the case that having the option to kill the PCs, even if it is rarely-used, is worthwhile. Sometimes, a character might just need to die. Perhaps the character is a death-seeker, and it's his or her goal. Perhaps the player has decided it's time for his or her character to go out like a badass in a heroic sacrifice. Perhaps the character is too stupid to live, or cannot face an important truth until it's too late. I feel that PCs might, on rare occasions, even have cause to kill each other - obviously, this should come from a conflict between the characters, and not their players, but it certainly could happen.

Finally, to return to your first point, I don't think that *all* suspense is lost of characters can't die. Heck, before writing my post, I was suggesting ways to punish players for failure without killing them on your blog. Plot suspense certainly is suspense. But the problem of eliminating permanent death has ramifications that stretch beyond the PCs themselves. Plot punishments also become much harder to enforce if death's sting is taken away. For instance:

The hostage that/ you failed to save/ just pull him up / out of the grave!/ Blu-Clerics!

Anyway, I feel that it's a bit of a 'Scylla and Charybdis' situation. You don't want to kill your PCs too often, but also you don't want to end up getting sucked into the vortex of having everyone be functionally immortal. Of course, you can just invent Super-Death to overcome that, but I *hate* the concept of Super-Death.

In theory, for the next campaign, I'll be sticking with my previous model. Beaten Senseless (0HP) => Messy Results (Instead of taking damage under 0HP) => Death (-Bloodied). Now that all of the players are a bit more experienced, I hope that I'll be able to make myself enforce this. We'll see how successful I am. TPK-Os will not necessarilyy mean TPKs, but I feel that just having the option adds suspense. Even if the players are 90% certain that the Ogres want to use them as hostages instead of eating them, that 10% is still worrisome, especially if I'm doing my job right.

Heh, it's a good point about the plot-punishments thing-- that's an angle that I didn't consider earlier.

Although that said, mind that super-death isn't entirely necessary in a Raise-Dead-enabled campaign, or at least not as such-- mind that, as written, Raise Dead only works if you've got a body to work with, and it's been a short enough time since its death. It doesn't sound like much of a restriction, at first glance, but it does lead to a few interesting results in a world where the Blu-Clerics exist:

1) Rescuing dead players/NPCs becomes a bit more involved if they've been swallowed whole by a sand-worm. "Well, we better go in and get him."
2) Murder necessarily becomes a bit more involved (sniping important figures in public doesn't work at all, for example.) Kidnapping and then murder, however, works just fine. Alternatively, murder and then kidnapping.
3) You (both NPCs and players) really only ever perma-kill somebody intentionally and with forethought.
4) Tracking down and rescuing dead people so that Raise Dead will work on them can actually be an important plot point.
5) As mentioned in a previous post-- this opens up the possibility of parties being revived several days after a climactic battle to witness the horror a villain has wrought.
6) Suicide tactics become entirely viable! Of course, this is also true for NPC villains.
7) Some plots (particularly ones wherein you expect widespread death and mayhem) open up a lot more if you make an additional restriction wherein Raise Dead only works at properly sanctified temples.
8) Also opens up potential side-adventures where a group of mercenary NPCs (controlled by the players, of course) try to recover the PC's bodies from a dangerous area so that they can be revived.

Still, I can definitely see where a lot of plots would work better in a game with no Raise Dead ritual. Depends on what plot it is you've constructed, I suppose!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

........

"Excuse me, dear lad, could you bring me a cup of amasec?"
"Ah... sir, you've got some amasec right there. You're holding it."
"Well, yes, but I need another cup. This one is smudged, you see."
"But sir, isn't it wasteful to ask for another cup when there are soldiers out there, in our very own Imperial Guard, who don't have amasec at all?"
"By the Golden Throne, boy, why all the bloody questions? I came to this bar to get a drink-- I wasn't expecting a sort of Imperial inquisition!"

Saturday, July 24, 2010

PC death? In MY campaign?

It's less likely than you think, or so contends Stormshrug. Myself, I think the problem of PC deaths is one of suspense; most combats are set up such that the implicit penalty for combat failure is player death. For example:

Players win ----> Plot progresses
/
Orcish ambush!
\
Players lose----> Death!---> Plot does not progress

The trouble comes when the DM, seeing this diagram (at least implicitly), becomes resistant to the players losing, since that means death and plot derailment. (Or at least, taking-players-prisoner and plot derailment.) Which in turn leads to a loss of suspense.

It seems to me that the most obvious solution to the problem is to 1) make resurrection easy (though if you like expensive), and 2) keep suspense up by turning the downside of combat failure into something significant that's not death-- for example, the druglord gets away with his shipment of polymorphine. This development can be re-introduced later, for example in the assassination of a mentor character by a guy polymorphed into one of the PCs.

It seems to me that, then, the solution to the problem posed by the above diagram is, for every combat, to have this flowchart in mind:

Players win ----> Plot progresses
/
Orcish ambush!
\
Players lose----> Something horrible happens to plot

Nice thing is, this means that you don't (often) have to deal with problems of player death (and its attendant frustrations). It also means that you'll start making your combats weightier and with more meaning. Of course, it does require a bit more work in that you really do have to work out the consequences of combat beforehand-- otherwise, frantic and on occasion unwise DM adlibbing is likely to result. To that end, I have prepared:

A List Of Reasonable And Generally Applicable Consequences For PC Loss In Combat

  • The Heroes are revived several days later after the villain's finished wreaking havoc, to witness the awful results.
  • The Heroes are robbed of a plot-important item.
  • The world bursts apart into a fiery apocalypse, and the campaign proceeds from there.
  • PCs get their blood stolen and/or organs removed and/or souls stolen.
  • The Heroes are made to fight to the death in horrific tournaments for the amusement of decadent nobility.
  • The Heroes are made into terrifying amalgamations of man and machine in one dark and terrible experiment administered by power-mad techo-sorcerers.
  • The Heroes are made into sacrifices for an eldritch abomination, for which to look upon is to look upon the face of madness itself.
  • The PCs awaken to find themselves in a dark and twisted landscape, a damned version of their own universe; and must rally together with its blighted and demented inhabitants to overthrow the rule of their hellish masters, a scheme so audacious and mad that even Beelzebub himself would ne'er think of it. Until, that is, until the heroes, with a righteous fury and a terrible vengeance, sap dry his awful power and-- in a punishment altogether too cruel to be poetic, or too poetic to be cruel-- return him unto the throngs of the tormented, to be torn asunder by their wanting and desperate hands.
  • The players get some money stolen or something.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In Which Aaron Makes Another List Of One Item

So I've gotten a series of emails re: this new game that Rome wants to make. Well, I can think of two basic questions to start us off.

1) What genre are we goin' for, here? Turn-based Strategy, computer RPG, tabletop-RPG?
2) What irritates you about current titles
in that genre?

(This is actually a very important question, because other people are probably bugged by the same basic things we are. So, if we can figure out a way to deal with common genre problems in a fun and innovative way, we've got a target audience almost built-into the product. Awesome.)

Oh! Oh! I've got some answers! So, I'm a lover of turn-based strategy games-- particularly ones where tons of diplomacy is involved. I've got a pretty fair (though woefully incomplete) list of things such a game should include here. I'll focus on the loose genre known as 4x: eXplore, eXpand, eXterminate, eX.... uh.... well, y'know what, that's not important right now.

What's important is:

My Irritations With The 4X genre

1)
'Nuff said. Tiny Village Level and Sprawling Empire Level are both irritating, because one gives you too few things to do in a turn, and one gives you too many. Now, Civilization's solution to Sprawling Empire Level problems was to allow you to appoint "city governors" which would assign build orders so you didn't have to; and to allow you to group units, so that you didn't have to select and move every single one.

Frankly, I think that neither solution works all that terribly well, simply because the more micro you do, the better your build choices/unit selections will conform to your overall strategy, and the more likely you are to win. So even though not microing is
in theory an option, the game mechanics still militate towards you doing it.

Me: Ho there! Governor! If you wouldn't mind dealing with my build orders, I've got a world-spanning war to run.
Governor: I'm on it, sir!
(later)
I like to build
allllllll the settlers.

And frankly, grouping units would be an okay idea if my PC didn't vomit every time I move a stack of 30 units at once. Also if I didn't have to assign promotions to
every single one individually.

Now, on to the tiny village level! Though I don't think this one's as much of a problem.

Honestly, it's not the simplicity of the Tiny Village Level which often gets to me; it's more the fact that all this time building and expanding is not time spent
interacting with your opponents, which is, y'know, the whole point of the Strategy genre. The environment (no matter what form it takes) is static, unchanging, uninteresting. (A fact which my comrades here in Washington always point out when I thrust Civ 4 in their direction. Dicks.)

This noninteractive time is best minimized, which 4X games in all their incarnations are very reluctant to do for some reason. Of course, it can't be eliminated, just because of how important your expansion ends up being strategically; however, it seems to me that I spent like ten times as much time
executing such important decisions as I do making them, which is a big problem.

Solutions:

So I've seen a few solutions to the Sprawling Empire problem (really, two problems-- the Troops problem and the Cities problem); probably the most innovative that I've seen is found in Solium Infernum, which takes the straightforward yet unintuitive method of strictly limiting the number of orders you can give per turn, which makes turn lengths go waaaaaay down. Orders are shared between your troops and what might be termed "economy management", which makes things even more complex.

Alternatives include having you get direct control over your closest few "core" cities, assigning the outlying regions to governors automatically. Likewise give all troops above a certain number to "governors". The end goal, if all goes well, would be a 4X game with 4-5 opponents that you could play in two hours, tops.

Possible Twists That I Haven't Thought Out Very Well:

Alternatively, have it be fundamentally a game played with teams of two players each, one who manages the military and one who manages the economy.

Alternatively, have it be a game of two "teams", but wherein players don't actually win as a team; the difference between team members and outsiders is in under what conditions you're allowed to go after a teammate. Could be intriguing as a fantasy title (with the "teams" being the superfactions of Good and Evil.)

Alternatively, have the game be about maintaining a faction's prestige in a Fey court-- such a game would involve lots of duplicity, backroom dealing, random dicking around with other players... just in terms of concept it sounds fairly appealing, and not really done outside of WoD (which is, after all a tabletop RPG franchise.) I'm kinda liking that one, actually. Will elaborate later.

.....

You know, I should really start not making lists composed entirely of one item. Anyhow, feel free to post your favorite genre's most horrible flaws in the comments!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Left 4 Dead, GIFT, and My L4D Fall From Grace



...or the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, for all y'all who've been living under a rock for the past five-ten years. (Man, it's weird to think that there was a time when the comfortable anonymity of the intarwebs didn't exist. But that's another topic.)

At any rate, after much personal research on the Left 4 Dead community (read: procrastinating on schoolwork), it seems to me that L4D is much, much more prone to trollery than any other competitive multiplayer game I've played. This is because of the extreme reliance the players have on one another; the fact that you really need somebody to help you out of inevitable jams is what spawned the meme of "Master-Chiefin' It", where one of the geniuses on your team who thinks he's some kinda SPESS MEHREEN charges off down an alleyway, guns a'blazin', and gets himself killed immediately. I've started referring to it as "Suicide..."

(glasses)

"by Smoker."

Yeah.

But anyway! I find that the trollery in Left 4 Dead is of many varieties. I have catalogued a few of them for your convenience-- no need to thank me, just doing my job. Also for your convenience, I've sorted them into the subcategories of Light, which is kinda annoying, but an understandable error; Problematic, which is an offense many players will be votekicked from their team for; and Terminal, wherein the only appropriate response is to shoot the hell out of them, then votekick and hope they never darken your internet-doors again.

1) The Master Chief, as described above:

Light: "Hey guyz, I'm just gonna linger in the safe room... I mean, that's why they call it a safe room, amiriteOHGODWHATISTHISIDONTEVEN
Problematic: Charges off ahead when the team is bogged down in commons, getting horribly maimed by a Hunter juuuust when he's out of sight. Untimely death is probable at this stage.
Terminal: "Why aren't any of you noobs rescuing me-- Am I the only good player here?!"

2) Marathon Boomer; this is the fellow who spawns as a Boomer far behind the survivors. He then attempts to waddle close enough to the survivors that he can vomit, with the result that:

Light: he manages to get a survivor lingering behind inadvisedly. Kudos, lucky boomer!
Problematic: he gets shot within 10 seconds of spawning.
Terminal: "Okay, just give me another minute to chase down the survivors, and then I'll vomit! Seriously, these guys are just so fast!" (And then he gets shot.)

3) The Junta: two players that act as a team unto themselves. This manifests itself in...

Light: the Junta giving themselves preferential treatment with healing items.
Problematic: the Junta giving themselves preferential treatment when multiple teammates are grabbed by Special Infected.
Terminal:
"OH GOD HUNTER ON MAH FACE"
"Is that really our problem?"

Actually, I am marginally ashamed of the fact that Stormshrug and I have, on at least one occasion, played the terminal version of the Junta. It was one of those L4D matchups that's basically a cripple-fight, where clearly neither team (other than us, of course) understood how to play survivors or infected effectively. Anyway, we started Junta-ing that shit up when Stormshrug and I made a very singular discovery.

Stormshrug: Is our teammate... running backwards? Like, back to the safe room, backwards?
Me: Yes. Yes he is. And... wait for it... yup, Smoker got him.
Stormshrug: (sighs heavily) I'll go rescue him.
Me: And I'll keep my eye on the guy ahead.

Because we were good people. By all the stars, we were virtuous. You don't leave a man behind-- that was our motto. I hope it won't sound too self-serving to say that Stormshrug and I, we're the kind of players you want on your team. So you can only imagine our disappointment when:

Stormshrug: Okay, I'm grabbed by a Hunter. Don't worry, though-- the other guy's right next to me, he'll be able to knock it off.
Me: That's good, 'cuz me and the player I'm babysitting are like two minutes away from your position.
Stormshrug's Compatriot:
(trots off in a random direction)
Stormshrug: RAAAAAAAAAAAAGE

So. Having died horribly on the first round, Shrug and I... we hatched a plan. We would no longer attempt to defend our teammates from their own idiocy-- we would act like a team unto ourselves, and if the others couldn't keep up... well, at least they would perform sterling service as distractions for the special zombies. And to give them due credit, they did buy us enough time to get (if I recall) to the end of a couple of the levels of Dark Carnival. (And remember, the opposing team seemed to be almost as bad as our own; there's a certain charm to two players taking on the entire zombie horde by themselves.)

At one point (when we were beginning yet another level) our teammates fired a few "warning shots" at us with their shotguns, as if to say "We do not appreciate this lack of consideration given to us by our comrades."


"I must say, chaps, it's quite a kick in the knickers."

To which we replied, in our own fashion:

Stormshrug and I: Fuck you, you fucking fuckers!

Which is to say that, for the next ten minutes, we played this into our microphones while chiefin' it and laughing hysterically. It's true, ladies and gents! I had become, in one fell swoop, everything I had ever hated.

And I loved it.

I think this might make me a bad person, I'm not sure. Anyway, I guess our teammates were for some reason offended, because at that point they stopped trying to win/survive period, settling in the end for trying to kill Stormshrug and I. A task for which they were... ill-equipped. And we did damn well, despite not only the opposition of the entire infected team, but also our own allies.

Anyway. we didn't win that game, no (though it was quite a close match.) But I considered it perhaps the greatest of my moral victories!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Only Reasonable Conclusion


I'm chalking my last game with HTMC up to "Meddling By The Fates", if anybody's wondering. Damn genestealers.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Short Summation of the First Dark Heresy Session

Disclaimer: I make no claims to the accuracy of any of the below information.

Character Summaries:

HTMC: Our noble DM
Stormshrug: The Marvelous Misanthropic Machine-Man
Me:
Irresponsible psyker with Bang Shishigami living in his head.
Jesse:
Rockin' Priest of Powermetal
Kory: Naive yet psychopathic Emperor-bothering assassin
Rome: Straight-shooting cop who likes his coffee black and his parole de-nied.


The Story Thus Far:

Rome:
Okay, I've got the voice chat program set up.
All: Yaaaay!
Rome: Wait, it stopped working.
All: Boooo!
Rome: Okay, it's back on again.
All: Yaaaay!
Stormshrug & Kory: Let's chat about WoW!
All: Boooo!
Me: Crap, I'm having problems with voice chat. Can... can you hear me now?
HTMC (our DM): Okay, you guys are in a Black Ship with your Inquisitor, and it's dropped out of the Warp some days from your destination. The ship's navigator is unconscious due to warp-related phenomena, and the engines are down. Your quest: to find the problem with the engine and fix it! By any means necessary.
Kory: Don't worry, you guys! The Emperor will save us!
Stormshrug:
I'm afraid not.
Kory: ++SYSTEM FAILURE++
Me: Okay, can you hear me now?
Stormshrug:
Well, let's investigate the engine room! (You stupid meatbags.)
All: What's that?
Stormshrug: Let's investigate the engine room!
All: Okay!
HTMC: The guards are being dicks and won't let you in.
Jesse: Don't worry, you guys, I'll solve this with the power of RAWK! Also reasonable diplomacy. Actually, pretty much just reasonable diplomacy.
Rome: I, too, will engage reasonably! Now respect mah authoritah, you guards!
Me: Now can you guys hear me?
HTMC: All right, the guards let you by. You enter a room where a fellow in a commissar's hat is standing. He's guarding a holding chamber filled with witches-- that is, unregistered psykers, dangerous to themselves and everyone around them.
Me: (What... what's that, Bang? You want me to release all of them? I couldn't do that! Could... could I? But, what would the Emperor think....)
HTMC: That's all the time we have for today, kids! Will the Black Ship get repaired and deliver its cargo of witches on schedule? Will Stormshrug learn to respect meatbags and all their disgusting organs? Will the party's crazed psyker condemn the group's immortal souls to the Warp, to be digested eternally? Tune in next week to find out!
All: AWESOME!

(Credits roll during ending reprise of theme song)

Me: Okay, guys, I think I've got this voice-chat thing worked out... hey, where's everyone gone?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Long, Rambling Post About Left 4 Dead And Microsoft Marketing Strategy



So I've played Left 4 Dead quite a bit. Back before Jesse's XBox broke, I played it even more. The best games I've had were always with the Tower group; when we had to incorporate outsiders into the team, things generally went to hell right quick. This was for a few reasons.

1) The Stag Hunt

The Stag Hunt is a scenario in game theory which is analogous to two hunters trying to catch dinner. There are two kinds of game in the area; rabbits, and Jabberwockies. Rabbits are easy to catch, and either hunter could do it easily alone. Jabberwockies, however, have claws and teeth, and thus requires another hunter to help bring it down. On the other hand, they provide much more meat than would be gained from having both hunters just hunt rabbits.

The way this ends up playing out really depends on whether one hunter thinks the other will go after rabbits or not.

The way this is analogous to Left 4 Dead is in infected spawning; particularly, Team Cohesion. The optimal time to attack the survivors is when all the Special Infected are in ambush positions, at their lifeless best (Jabberwocky). This is obvious to most decent players of the game. However, if your teammates aren't waiting for you to spawn, doing the "right thing" and waiting for the others to group together is pointless and stupid, and will probably get you kicked 'cuz you "aren't doing anything". So the best option in that case is to just spawn whenever and hope you get some lucky damage (Rabbit.)

Well, this is a problem when it comes to players that don't use microphones. If everybody's got a mic, they can coordinate and jointly decide to Jabberwocky that shit up. However, if somebody doesn't, then a lot of times the team will degenerate into a bunch of teamkilling rabbit-hunters.

Incidentally, you know what bugs the hell out of me? That Guest players on the XBox can't use headsets to hear what's being said in the game. It's a small thing, but I feel like it illustrates a very large problem in Microsoft's gaming philosophy: that the Xbox, quite clearly, does not want you and your friends sharing consoles. This manifests itself in a few ways:

First, with the notable exception of Halo 3, no big-name titles that I'm aware of support 4 player versus modes. Which is bizarre, particularly in cases such as Left 4 Dead where there are always four people on a team. Now, I guess you could make a plausible argument that interfaces take up space for each player, and you wouldn't be able to fit all that stuff on a screen if four people are playing. Oh wait.
Likewise, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare was a blockbuster title for the XBox, garnering some gigantic number of sales the weekend it was released. And yet, I notice that there seems to be a curious feature that you can play two friends to an XBox if you're doing an offline game, but in online play (CoD's main selling point), the option is oddly removed. Thus, in order to get three of your friends playing Modern Warfare, you have to persuade all of them that the experience is totally worth several hundred dollars for consoles + game discs, and they'll likely respond:

So anyway, I feel like this is a pretty clear policy decision on the part of Microsoft; I suspect the boardroom-conversation was along the lines that, well, they stand to earn vast sums of money if they could take the four-person coterie who enjoyed the Halo franchise on one XBox, and get them all to purchase consoles and games. Sounds reasonable. So, Microsoft, how's that decision been working out for y'all?
For me, my decision to get a 360 was fueled entirely by me and Jesse's marathon asskicking sessions in Left 4 Dead, which were performed on his 360. This state of affairs lasted for quite a while (about a semester), until his console broke down and I figured that it was an opportune time to grab one of my own. Note-- this sale was only made possible by my being able to join in on his system. If Left 4 Dead had gone the Modern Warfare route, there would have been no sale, and I would still be doing all of my gaming on the computer. In effect, joining in on Jesse's Xbox was free advertising for Left 4 Dead and, by extension, the console it used. Clear win for Microsoft.

Now, I obviously can't say what exactly Microsoft's marketers are going for, but I suspect that their reasoning was that, first, they were going for a market of hardcore gamers; and second, that hardcore gamers generally bought games on the strength of internet reviews, and not on what they've personally played themselves. Contrast this to the Wii, where the flagship titles feature multiplayer prominently, a lot of times giving an obvious advantage to the gamer who can finagle a friend to join.

So I wanna ask anybody reading this (anonymous or otherwise)-- what made you decide to get the consoles you have, if you have any? Was it game reviews, or firsthand experience with other peoples' consoles, or something else? (And, of course, what was the console?)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Psyker Powers!

Okay, for reference, in Warhammer 40 psyker= wizard IN SPACE, and the Warp = magic IN SPACE. We get a selection of 4 powers to choose from at the start of our psychic careers, which I will be listing, explaining and justifying before I go to bed tonight IN THIS VERY POST, but likely not before 12, due to my being occupied with being rather darkly heretical.

1
)
Need I explain? I can think of a few broad uses for somebody going completely and utterly mad.

Obvious: Turning a combatant into a gibbering wreck of a noncombatant.

Non-Obvious:

Sen. John Jackson: My opponent's stance on trade negotiations with the Tau is entirely heretical, and, more to the point, based off of a fallacious economics model.
Moderator: Mister Flask, your rebuttal?
Me: You make a fair point, Senator, but is it not true that, even to this moment, your body is covered head-to-toe in bees?
Sen. John Jackson: Not the bees! Dear god, NOT THE BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES!
Me: That's what I thought.

2)
Obvious Uses: Blockading doors; playing Poltergeist with nearby objects.

Nonobvious Uses: Play merry hell with exposed wiring. Blowing holes in pressurized tanks of gas. Bursting through walls (with decently high Willpower, natch.) "OH YEAH!" Kool-Aid Man is secretly a space-wizard. Tell your friends.

3)
Obvious uses: Combat. Making inspirational speeches to NPCs to make them support your mad schemes. Becoming Bang Shishigami.
Nonobvious uses: I'm sorry, you must not have heard me. BANG SHISHIGAMI.
-------------
4)
Obvious uses: Pretty much anything, really. Especially gambling.
Nonobvious uses: Using it before you use other psychic powers to avoid bad Perils of the Warp rolls. Basically lets you go from "utterly and completely boned" to "boned, but in less of a game-ending way." For reference, 1/10 of the possible rolls for Perils of the Warp result in the psyker's body being taken over by a Daemon who then kills everyone in the party. From this power alone, you could turn that into "temporarily causing everyone in the area to switch bodies."

The book does not elaborate on the body-switching process a great deal, but it DOES mention that after you go through an experience like that with someone, you never want to see that person again. tl;dr: It's not easy, being a space-wizzard!


-----------

No blogging for the next two days, I'm afraid-- I'll be on a trip with some friends of mine going from Friday till Sunday.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Murder... most FOWL! Wait, that was the punchline, lemme start over.

"Murder by arson, Joe?"
"Nothing that simple, sir. We contracted out for a diviner, and she says that the fire's only victim was... well, the man who started it."
"Do we have an ID on the body?"
"He's an accountant, sir-- name of Aleister Lobo. Pretty innocuous fellow, by the look of him. He died at the exit door-- the diviner says that it got jammed somehow as he was trying to escape." Eyebrow raise. "It was quite the unfortunate coincidence."
"And where would our profession be without them, eh?" Thoughtful silence. "But I still think that the door itself may warrant investigation, or at least the charred remains thereof. After all, who would believe that an accountant..."

(puts on glasses)

"Couldn't budge it."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Open rolling: The controversy: The revenge

So one thing I've considered doing in my next campaign (which may or may not ever materialize, depending on when/if I can get my players up to Carnation) is going with an open-rolling system. Which is to say, the DM and players both roll dice out in the open, where everybody can see and judge the dice-roller for his mad rolling skillz (or horrific rolling deficiencies.)

Of course, when I use the term "open rolling" what that means in practice is "no DM fudging for/against the players." Which... well, can be a mixed blessing. I did that for my players' introductory D&D game, and it resulted in a gruesome, gruesome TPK due to the monsters rolling like 4 natural 20's over the course of the final (read: most challenging) combat.

So maybe I should say a bit about why I like it, since so far I've just been discussing how it helps me kill my players. Which is quite enjoyable for myself, but not the main point of this essay.

I suspect a lot of my enjoyment of open rolling comes from my own inherent cynicism-- back at Geek Tower, we did a stint of D&D where not only did the DM do his own rolls behind the DM screen, he also did players' skill checks behind the DM screen. When this was first implemented it seemed quite reasonable-- for a lot of skills, like Bluff, you don't know if you lied well enough until the guards tackle you to the ground. So this seemed like a good plan.

Problem was that, despite my earlier support, whenever the DM would roll his die behind the screen, I found myself wondering whether I really rolled a success/failure, or if it was merely DM fiat carrying the day. I became paranoid and suspicious, counting the DM's keystrokes to see if electronic dice were being rolled in earnest by their nefarious keeper. I sought madly for a way to appease my dark curiosity, even if it meant learning things... unseemly, and not for human understanding.
This was particularly true for monster attacks, especially when a party member was on his last legs.

I suspect that a lot of it is that I know well the seductive temptation of bending events to suit my overarching desires, when I myself DM. A temptation I manage to rein in for the most part, but there really is something liberating about open-rolling-- by God, it's fate deciding the course of events, not the whims of mortal man! And if the players are all drowned or horribly dismembered, well, that's another wrinkle in the story, and makes eventual victory that much sweeter (assuming, of course, the existence of our good friends the Blu-Clerics.) I also feel that, as a player, it adds to the tension knowing that things aren't being sandbagged for my benefit-- that the possibility of failure and death is actually there. Lurking. Waiting.

Actually, that's another topic which I'd like to get to: Death, and the trials and tribulations thereof! But that's a topic for another day, by which I mean, probably tomorrow. Or maybe it'll be skill DCs.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Orpheus Post-Mortem! (See what I did there?)

So upon reading Stormshrug's post on online tabletop gaming, I felt inspired to talk a bit about what I like about it. And I do think there's quite a bit to like, particularly from the standpoint of DMing, but also in general, about the online medium. I shall list these reasons in, ah, a list. (Pretty profound, I know.) Anyway!

1) In many significant ways, text>speech. For one thing, it means that you can speak privately to another player if you want to plan something out between the two of you; likewise for super-secret DM/player conversations. Rome (our DM) was fond of using private chat for knowledge-based rolls. At first I was skeptical.

Me: I roll to figure out where to turn the power on. I rolled 3 successes, what's that get me?
Rome: (Whispered) The switch is to the north.
Me: Wait a second. You mean I have to roll to find stuff out, and then repeat the stuff you tell me for the others? What am I, some kind of wizard?

But I warmed to this kind of thing in the end, because it, to me, reinforced the team-yness of the game. If one of your cohorts is an expert in chemistry, you're not asking the DM if that player knows you should induce vomiting. You're asking that player. It's kind of a subtle effect, but it's totally there. Good for immersion. I like it.

2) The whole "text-based" thing means it's very easy to, if you're the DM, to just copypaste things like area descriptions, long monologues, and the like. I notice that when back when I DM'd in person, I tended to leave out important details when inadvisedly speaking off the cuff.

Max: I head to the north.
Me: You fall into the obvious 200-foot pit in the middle of the floor.
Max: What? What pit? You didn't mention any pit.
Me: I'm almost sure I mentioned a pit. Or maybe just a hole. Anyway, I think I said something about the middle of the.... look, the important thing is that the Table of Messy Results is really very forgiving. I mean, when you think about it.
Max: Dammit, Aaron.

So the textual advantage there is that I can standardize that sort of thing. It's definitely possible to write these descriptions out in person, too, but I'm not great at "sticking to the script", since players interrupt my descriptions with questions about the environment (as I do when I am playing.) I therefore find it difficult to keep track of what I have and haven't told the players; that's another nice thing about text, that it...

2) Logs stuff you say and do. Speaking in a live group, it's very easy for one player's question or statement to get lost in the shuffle. Or to put it another way, when you're online, everyone speaks at the same volume. (UNLESS THEY USE ALL CAPS.) Plus, you can record stuff for posterity's sake, which is always classy. So says Mister "The Fonz" Flask.

(I'd explain, but you really had to have been there.)

3) This appears to be a point where I differ from Stormshrug; I really like being able to switch tasks at will when the DM is having a private conversation with a player, or if events are happening which I'm not (and fundamentally can not) be a part of, such as others' combat turns. Honestly, if people are taking forever resolving combat turns such that I'm not doing anything for long stretches, I'll start tuning out regardless of whether I'm online or not. The main difference is in what exactly I'm doing while tuned-out:

In-Person Games: Getting a drink. Using the restroom. Stretching. Making little towers with communal dice. Making large towers with communal dice. Fake yawning. Singing "Journey." Attempting to get other players to sing "Journey." Dice-Jenga.

Online Games: Pilotwings 64 using an emulator. Awwwww yeah.

Anyway, I strongly suspect that I'm less irritating online, and that this is a not-inconsiderable advantage for the other players. Just sayin'. Though that said, I also agree with Stormshrug that due to slow typing speed, combat really is not the strength of the online medium, particularly extended slug-fests.
----

Hmm. You know, while I've been writing this, I've kinda realized that a lot of what I perceive to be the dullness of combat is probably my own fault. When combat begins and figures are placed, I tend to go from lateral-thinking mode (where Twist of Space is your closest friend) to Rules-Lawyer mode (where mashing one At-Will over and over is your closest friend.) I think that's a lot of the reason I enjoyed playing a Wizard as much as I did; despite the mechanical weakness of their powers, you could use almost all of them to do craaaazy shit. For example, I have:

1) Used Twist of Space to make a boat larger on the inside than it was on the outside;
2) Used Twist of Space (plus possibly an action point, can't recall) to make an impromptu portal gun;
3) Used that portal to make (in rapid succession) a rubble-railgun, then a Jesse-railgun.
3a) Got blamed by Jesse for misuse of said railgun. Totally worth it.
4) Used Hypnotic Ray to get myself some peasant-revolutionary minions.

with, of course, the help of an accommodating GM. His willingness to let me abuse Twist of Space to its most psychotic extremes made the character quite a bit of fun to play. I suspect the Warlock has other such hidden potentials; must investigate further. At any rate, I think this will form a valuable lesson for combats in the future-- never just shoot your pistol. There's always cooler stuff to be doing.

Which leads into our next Geek Tower tabletop RPG; I'll be playing a Psyker in Dark Heresy! All I'm gonna say, fellas, is that you better stock up on sacred incense!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

He whats behind the what?

"Hey, Joe! Has anyone ever been so far as to do what meant more like?"
"You know it, sir. What's the problem this time?"
"͠Wel̡l̡, J͘oe, ̶it̨ lo̴oks ̸l͠ike ҉t̸he sp̶oon n̕exus̶ ̶h̢as ̢t͢ąk͡eǹ w̕in̴g ̴with͟ ̢the ͠ov͜e̷r̶s͏eei̶n͢g͡ ̡p͟l͟ant͜ l͝ife i̡n̶ t̡he̛ ͠r̸egi͝o̵n. ̴Op̶en-and̸-͠sh̢u̧t̵ c̴asȩ,̛ i͡f ͡y͞o̧ù'l͘l ̶t͞ake͝ a w̕or̢d ҉fo͘r͝ it."́

͘"͜Qu͏ìte͟ ́o̕bvious͏,͘ ͢s̶i҉r҉.͟ ̴ ̶O͡nĺý t͡hing I d͝o͡n't͏ ͘ǵet̡ ̨ìs ͘h͘ow thę pigeon̸ ̛f҉l͏o̧ck man̴a͞ge͠d ͡t͝o̵ ͢parláy ͠P̛elo͠r͝ ̸i͏n͠t͜o a ̷fant͝as̛y lab͟ora͟t̸orium?"͏
C͡͝͏̭̱̱̳͎̥͖ḩ̻̘͎̝͓u̴̡̯̖̠̟̙̠̩̘c̱̗͍̳̘̫͡ͅk̵̨̙͕̲̘͕͚̖͝l̶̟̮̳̻̀͡e̛̱͕̲̩͍̮̠ͅ.̬͘͜ ̺̬̲̼̻ ̶̞̺"҉̪̙̰̟̯͚W̞̫͎̺͕ę̦̜͕͢l̢͇͓̮͜͝l̡̠̥̘̟̯̟̱̠,̢͉̣͎̭͎̕ ҉̮͓͚͈̺̻̯J̛̦͍͝o̪͚͉͙͍͜͟͞e͍̼̳̟̥̱̩,͚̣ ̶̝̖̩̗͙̱̮͢í̷̠͇̬̝͎̦̯̬̬͟t̼̳͘ ͎̺̮̯̺̗͇̹͢͡s̸̢̤͘e̬͖͔͓̗e̟m̸̷͍͖̮̣̮̘̯͙s̴̡͕ ͝͝҉͔͈̫͉̳̠ͅc̱̳͢l̹̬̺̪͓̲͙͝ę̳̖̀͠a̵͚̕͢r̫̰̗̥̟͓̠̦ ̷̡͕͖̣̭́ͅt̷̪͕̘͉o̷̮̙͓ ̟͔͇̖̼ṃ̝̟̼͚̕͠e̢͝҉͍̹̠̭̰̦͖͍̗ ̺͔̼̠͔͉̝ţ̞̻̣ͅh̵̙̞̥̝̦̘̺̕͟à̢͔̜̜͙͉͖͙̫͟t̝̳ ̢̫̞̯̙͓͚͙w̩̤͚̖̰͢͡ͅh҉̱a̘̦̟̳̥̤̲̘̫͘͟t̡̡̩͚̼͈̺̠ͅ ̥͓ẉ̤̭͍̰̭̥̥̣͜ḛ̮̯̠̫́͞'̴̮͖͎̠̗̙̹̝r̸̪̫͓͇̗͔͡ͅe̛̲̦͈̳̩̲̺̦͝ ̲̻̲̻͎͝ͅẁ̝̘͚̻̖͉͜͡o̶̸̼͕̫̩͜r҉͔̬̮̰͔̙͉̲́k̝̗͉ḭ̤̩̖̫̪̯̫͢n̰̳̣͜͡͝g̭̤̫̳̙͖ ̷͎̳̫͓̺̼͠w̻̥̱͚̠͓̪̥̲i̫̤͢t͔̯͉̀͘h̥̯͍͞ ̼̳̰̙̼̞͉̠̀í̯̫̱̞͔ͅs̩͕̲̭̹͉̭͎̕
̵̭̖̯̳͉͓a̵̛͇̭̫̼̟̪ ̠̳̮̭͘ḇ̧͎̫̙͍̜̟̤͞a̶͇̙̞̯s̟̣̬̲̮̯͝ţ̻̰̙̤̥̱̫͉͈͘a̧͍͇̣̟r͏͏̟̗d̨͔̯̣i͔̕z҉͎͓à̙͎͎͙̺̣̞̬t̸̻̣̰͉̜̜͕͈͘ͅi̩̪̫̕͠o̷̻̺̗͖͠n҉̟̹͍͙̣͞ ̖͔̟ò̬̲͕͍͍̬̭̼͠͠f̵̫ͅ ͙̝̩t̶҉̖̯͉̥͓̲̖͉̝h̭̮͇̞̝͟͞ͅͅͅé̸͏̩̩̥͙ ̰̳h̷̯͓̫̬̘o͡͏̞͉̹͔͕l̵̛̛̦̯͈̗̬̟̱̖ỵ̴̙͈̞ ̤̱͎͉͉ṭ̷̸̤̭̞͚̫e̡̱̻͜x͏̸̜̜̯̜t̻̘̫ş̡̜͙͉͍̹͖̝
̴̤̖̟͍̕ͅh̤̫̲͠o͖͈̟̥͇̬͢͝l̥ͅỳ̢̲̩̤́ ̡̙͎̺c̤͡r̷̛̙͠e̵҉̪͇͚̩̯̘̱ę̶̗̳̹̹͖̘̼͞ͅd̸͇̥͎̟͈̳̱͘͝ ̴̶̨̪̗̠̤̣a̡͍̱̘ź̩̞̺̯̣̥ͅṵ̱̩̖̥r̡̤̺̙̺e̵̢̯̮̪̺̱̱ ̘̝̼̙̪a̵̟̫̪͕͞ͅz̸͕̯̮̲̣̜͚͞ͅụ̢͕͎̘̪͚̙̫̰r̩̠̖̀ȩ̴̶͕̹͔ ̶̣̘a̪̻͖͎͚͘z͍̟̫̯̱͢͜ͅu͏̢͈̗̙͔̲r̖̪̼e̫͚ ̹̼̺͖͡a̸̛̞̲̜͕̱z̥̠͉̙̻̞u͏̰̣̬r̛̛̙͜é̗̩͚͚͉̩͉̺
Z̡̞͉̟̫͚̝̮̣̹͙͆ͥ̈́͋̈́͆̔͟͠͞͠A̢̛̟̹̦̮̮̓ͣ̔ͭ̍ͮ́̓̄̋ͭ̉ͧͥ̎̍͗̄̎L͗̽̒͛͑̌͊̋̏͒̚͟҉̜̮̼͙̘͍̼͍̻̤͇ͅG̀̑̄̇ͬͣ̐̅͋͛̂ͭ̓҉̢̢̮̠̣̣͕̙͔͕̮̯͈͉͔͔́́ͅO̱̥̝̹͕̪͑̌ͦͧͮ̏̑͢͝ͅ ̶͖̪̬̲͔̺͎̫̰̣̥̪͎͕͒ͤ̒̃̈͆͛̒̉ͥͨ̀ͯ͊ͪ͂ͧ̆͞ẏ̶̡̊ͣͭ͗̋͏̫̮̙̰͕̜̹̤̦ǫ͔̖͎̝̺̮̗̮͇͕̪̟̘͚͔͛̎̅ͪͥ͌ͤ̿͑ͭ̇͊ͬ̀͞u̶̧̨̢̲̮̗̗̮̭̩ͥͮ͌̑̌̈́ͣͭ͊͗ͮ̓̀͐́̾́̂͘ͅ ̡̧̗͔̤̰͉̭̥̯̰͕̥̬̫͚̣̤̪̬̊ͩ͊ͬ̂̒̈ͩ͆͑̒͋̉̅̓̿͜͡͡m͓̖̤̬̯̩̞̥̪̬̳̯̜̹̟̫̦̰ͣ̾̈̇͟͢͜͝û̡̬͓̮̖̗̪͚̰͕͙͕͓͗̍͌ͥͦͨͩ̎͑́̚̚͜ͅs̸̀͛ͨ̽̓ͨͤ̾̈́̍̂̋ͯ̄ͪͯͤ̉͂̕҉̡̳̼̰̣̪͇̱̹̫̰̼̜̦͢t̸̢͈͙̮̩̪̭͑̂͗ͤ͛̒̈̌͊̅̾ͯ̃ ͗̓ͪͤ̆͆ͤͮ͆̓̍́́͏͏̵̪̱̮̼̱̺̘̫͈̖̹̭͢͠u̶̶̧̱̭̬̙͉̜̞̰̱̥̘̫͇̣̙̞̪̰ͯͨ͌ͯ͞n̸̶̜̪̰̰͎̓̄̎ͮ̓̈͊͆̿̈́̅͛̌̀̕͠ͅḑ̫̤̯͕̭̗͚͕͇̞̜̄̓ͥͫ̐͐ͦ͌͊̊͝ͅe̛ͭ͌̔ͫ͏̝̠̠̺̺̻̟̫̤̖̗̻̼̙̰̠r̢̲̭̪̲͎͚̠̮̞ͣͭ̋͐̉̀s̶̨̙͔̗̳̙͔̳̫̮̭̱̠̼̝̪̼͊ͨ̇ͨ̽̓̀͟͝t̸̷̢̗̗̲̼̤̲͇̩ͭ́͆͗͂̌́ͅa̽̈́ͥ̓ͮ̎͑ͯ̏͑͐͏̢̞̭̱̺̱͍̀͘ǹ̡̨̖̠͓̥̳͖̦̫̺̞̰̬͗ͣ̎̿̾̂́̿́͡ͅd̷̡̓ͣ̾̍ͥ̇̃͛ͬ̈́̾ͥ̌̒ͧ̉̚͝҉̼͈͍̗͉͖̥͎̳̗͕̦͕͎̲͔̻͍
̴̡̡̥̳̙̞͈̆͒͐̓͑̔ͦͨ̈́́̅h̸̵̯͉̤̼̱̳̖̫̩̞͍̓͆̔̎͒̚̚͢͡͠ĕ͌ͤ͊ͤ̓ͯ̊̅͑̿̉̈̒͂̓̇͝͏͏̱̪̙̤̘̯͇̝̻̪͖̕ ̡͕̥̱͇̲̻̬͈̼͎̗̟̙͖͉̽ͤ͐ͭͬ̋ͣ̒̂̾ͯ͑ͧͫ͌ͫ͘c̑͌ͨ̏̒̐͗̔ͬͦ̿ͭͥ̉̅ͬ̂̚͏̧̹͖͖͎̹̹̟̦͇̪̦̻̟̰̘̜̦̰́͟ö̡̗̻̰͈͇̘̩̬̠̤̟̘́ͬ͒̄̃͠͡ͅm̷̸̨͓̩̩̠ͤͩ̀̍̓͋͌̂ͫ̂͋͗͊̏̿̄̋ͤ̉̕e̪͈̰͎̬͕ͪ͆ͪ̇̇ͨ̀͂ͦ͂͂̍͗̕͢s̷͉͉̣̗̺̻̩̭̏̆ͯͪͦ͢
̵̷̹͎̮̝̪̟̞̬͖̩̝̗͇͉͖̹̘̤̺͂͆̽̑̉̽ͯ̒ͩ̄̊ͥ͒̀͜͝Z͊ͥ̂̃ͦ́͏̫͙̮̟̹̳͚̟A̢̺̜̲̤̦̫͚̩̖̗̰̹̙͈͚̭̮ͨ͑ͫͣ̏̓͞͡L̔͗̆̚͏̨̳̲͍̣̰̹͉̖͈̙͖͙͟G̴̷̶̴̪̰̦̝̦̤̰̰̼̱̊̌̄͋̉̕Ǫ̹̥͍͈̭͕͖̺̲̘͔̭̳̭́̔͐͗́͘͢͜ ̸̨̧͔̠̥͙̮͓̱̘̩̿ͥͭ̅̃̒̍̾̔̓̕w̷̡̪̺̪̼̱̬͈̙̲̼͎̭̺̪̭͇̠̪̿͂̓͒͌̓̏̓̒̐͂ͥe̡̡ͥ̌̔̈́̒͗̈́̊̎̉ͧͫ̾̿̊̎͟҉̝̥̠̞͔ ̷̮͖̜͍̪̬̱̬̉ͩ͒̿̎͛̈̊͒̒̃͢ņ̴͈̫͎͉͈̗̹͍̪̂ͪͥ̾̅͛̉͘͢e̷̸̙̦͚̖͙͙̘͍̞̠ͤ̀̒͗ͩ͆ͥ̊ͭ̏͡a͉̦̤̺͎̪ͫͯͫ͑̑̾̊͊̚͘͞r̸̵̪̺̝͙̫̮̙ͪ̽̈́̑ͯ̇̈̊̊ ͣ͗͊̓҉̭͓̹̱̙̪͕̖̲͟ţ̵̛̛̺͓̘͈̳͇̪̤̫͌͛̓ͤͫͪ́͡ͅḩ̴̴̂̏̀̍ͪ̈ͣ̆ͣͤ͋̐ͤͨ͗ͨͭ̚͝͏͔̰͉̝͕̘̩̘ę̧̦̳͎̠͍͔͇͉̥̻̥̖̟̐̎̔ͨ̽ͦ̐͋̕͠ͅ ̨̦͍͓̬̫̮̜̮̫̜̮͈̋͆͛͑ͪ̍ͬ͟e̛ͨ̒ͫͬ̋ͣͩ̃ͤ͠͏̪̣̭̘͔͎͔͕̼͚̖͉̪̤͉͍ǹ̊ͦͧͮͯ̇ͬ͛̒ͯ̅̿ͪͫ͏̴̕̕͏͖̫̩̜̥̭͓̬̝̺̲̺d̗̳͚̗͓͔̼͓̞̘͎̜̠̮̺͎̠͎͒͛ͬ̽ͩ͋̀͐͗̿̊̿ͤ̀͢͞͠ ̟̻̜̬̜͖̳̳͆̄ͭ̄̀ͯ̽ͭ̿ͭ̑͟͠͡ͅỏ̐ͪͣ̎̅̀̊ͧ̋̿͒̀ͣͨ̈́̍͟͏̡͕̪̠̣̠̠͕̭̤̤̖̳̙͍̲̪͢ͅf̸͕̱͕͈̙̥͚̞̭̖̦̝͉̠̖͔͚͎̋͆̇͊ͯ̎̇̓͂ͦ̔ͭ͒ͤ̂̀ͅ ̨̻̗̜̟͇͉̘̓ͮ͂͑́͆͆̍̒̀ḋͪ̒ͭͯ̽҉̶͔͖̩͚͖̖̘̥̳̝͕͔̜͇̥̱̟̦̳ą̸̷͍̼͍̠̳̝̑̌̿̎̈͊̔̏ͥ̈͆̐̃ͤ̉̑̕͡y̶̸̨̟̟̟̲̼̫̟̗͔̙ͦ͊̎͋̇̉̋ͨͤ̓͊͐̀͞s͉̩̱̪̼̙̰̩̝̫̈́̽ͧͩ́̂́̈́̊ͭ̿̓́̈ͮ̆͜ͅ
̴͉̤̦̥̜̟͔͔̲̪̼ͩ͊͂ͤ͗̀ͧͯ͢͠ą̓̎̋ͩ͐̌͌ͫ͗̿̾͏̪̭̰͔̺̻̥̱l͗̐ͮͨ̂͋ͫͣ̌͑̄̐̒̆͌̿ͯ͝͏̲̣̩̜̼͕͎͉̬̱̜͇̮̝͎̲͙́ľ̰̗͖̮̉̒̈́͆̋ͭ̋ͥͦ̈́̈͋̀́̚͝ ̇͐͑̃̒ͣ̋͂̈̍҉̫̼͔͙̼͎̲̜̺̯̦͖͡ş̴ͧ̋̏̍͐̔ͧ̈̃ͭ̒͛͊̓ͩ͡͏̸̺̥̘͈̼͖̣̪͉̹h̪̜͙̺͍͕̱͓̹̻͂̒ͧ̃̾͊̈́̕͜͠͠ǎ̵̷͇̣̼̯̺̱̳̬̼̮̲͙̝̥̹͔̣͋ͫͭͧ̀͜͜͠l̵̨̺̺͈͓̪̰͉̒̐ͪͭ̊̓ͤ̓ͮ̑̍̔̿́̋̀͟l̔̅͌ͤͬ̔̊ͯ̇͏̖͙̺͓̼͖̜̭͚̤̺̣̪̱̀͝ ̙͔̳̗̝̺͙̅ͥ̂̈́̓̓̍̂ͧ͐͐̀́́̎ͦͪ̀͘p̸̸̸̵͓̼̹͚̄̑ͬͩ̓̉́ͅe̴̫̪̟̖̖̪̜̥̮̦͈̲̦͔͔̩̥̙̓̑̄ͯ̽̈̇̐͑̒͌̑ͪ̿̈́͑̄ͯ͛r̽̍͛̋̀̽̄̋ͫ̃҉̛̦̘̺̱͙͈͉ͅi̙̼̙͍͖̦̤̺͈̫̙͕̦̦͕ͨͣͪ̍̑̓̆̋̿̆́ͥ̄̾ͤ̔̐ͮ́́̕͟s̷̢̥̫̬̤̟̭̉̎̈́̈̏͌̓̿̈́̋ͩ̓̉ͦ̇̾͡ͅͅḧ̴̵͙̮̲̥̳̹̜̪̖̭͎̮̝̜͈́ͯ̽̏́͘
͑̄͑͑̄ͫ̂͏̸̧̢̞͙̬̥̘͝Z̲͎̮̥̫̲̰̍̽ͨ͊͂̃ͮ͞Aͫ̊ͣ̽ͦ͂ͤͥ̾͑̎̆͏̯̟̯̮̺̙̥͓̥͚̹̗̥͟͡L̴̨̮̙̠̺͉̫̳̅̔͐ͩ̀̽ͨͮͬ̀͂ͦ́ͅG̸̶͙̬̦̣̠ͦͨͥ̋̒ͭ̏͘̕Ȍ̰̰̺͍̹̪̮͉̫ͫ̽͐̑ͪ̓́̓̅̉̊͆͐͊͟͟!̷̶͔͖̩̼̳̳͆́̈́ͥ̀͠͝



(puts on glasses)

"Zalgo."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tales from the payroll!

Second day of my prestigious job at Remlinger Farms! Not exactly career material, but it pays minimum wage and that's good enough for me! Plus it's a good opportunity to do something which I don't normally do, which is have superficial interactions with a large number of people.

Today, the company was hosting a picnic for Safeway employees. I was working at the registration desk with a fellow named Sean, where we'd hand out little bracelets to people with tickets. Anyway, most of it was pretty uneventful. My job description boiled down to:

1) Handing out little souvenirs/trinkets to the people coming in, and give them wristbands so we could know they belonged there.
2) Stop people from going into the food preparation area. People pretty often tried to do this, since it was really just another part of the field, with no real distinguishing features beyond people... well, preparing food. Sean's and my job was to funnel customers into the main recreational area, so they could do stuff not-preparing-food. But yeah, at one point, some guy started walking towards the FORBIDDEN ZONE.

ME: Sorry, excuse me, customers aren't allowed in that area. It's for food preparation.
SOME GUY: Well, y'know, I'm a higher-up in the Safeway Company Employees Association. So I think I'm just gonna go on in. (Continues strutting.)
...
SEAN: I guess he just really wanted to see what we're doing for lunch later.

I took the moment to reflect on how much people like to feel important and powerful-- like we're making our mark on the world. The guy I was working with and I both thought it was pretty lulzy at the time, but I get the sentiment. I wonder how much customer service boils down to making people feel important-- one nice thing about operating the cotton-candy machine (as I was doing at the last event) is that this is very easy, since cotton candy costs almost nothing to produce. If somebody wants special treatment, you can pretty much pile on the stuff without arousing the ire of the people hiring you. Truly, the limits of cotton-candy size are set by the LAWS OF PHYSICS, not the petty whims of managers. So it's an easy job to be popular in.

Another thing I've learned: Carrying around a notebook all the time is AWESOME if you're trying to learn people's names. Name + brief descriptor = never having to apologize for forgetting a name again. Which is a great improvement from my earlier breakdown of social time:
It now is a much healthier pie chart.

Awwwwwwwww yeah.

Friday, July 9, 2010

An old /tg/ game.

Alternate Title: "In Which Giants Give Out Weaponry Made Of Metaphysical Concepts."

"I received from a giant a sword forged out of pure pride.
I felt great holding it, but shattered at the first good swing."

"I received from a giant a sword forged out of pure trollery.
Others have tried to kill me for it, but I rise up stronger after each attempt."

4chan's /tg/ came up with some pretty good ones-- for example:

"I received from a giant a sword that was forged out of pure masculinity.
How it's going to fit next to my first one, I'm not sure."

and my personal favorite:

"I received from a giant a sword that he claimed was made entirely out of swords.
Looks kind of like a regular sword to me, but I suppose he wasn't technically lying.
Stupid giant."

Let's hear some of yours, eh?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I LIEEEEEEEED

Sigh. "Who's been murdered this time, Joe? You caught me in the middle of dinner. Oatmeal."
"A Sharn bureaucrat, sir-- Flauros "The Cheque" Rackheim, so-called because of his penchant for throwing state money at his problems until they go away."
"I see. Ah... normally at these scenes there's a body."
Wince. "Thing about that, sir. He seems to have been... mauled to death. Then eaten. By a pair of owlbears, one female and one male. There is good news, though-- we managed to capture the female."
"Ah. And did you recover the Cheque's body?"
"Nossir. I expect that the body was eaten by her mate."
"Well, we need it-- we can have our clerics revive him, if we find it in the next day or so. I'll post a 1000 gold bounty on its timely recovery in the meantime."
"Good idea, sir. Anything I can do to help?"
Nod. "Put the word out to the Ranger's Guild, Joe! The Cheque...."

(puts glasses on)

"is in the male."

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stalin's kind of a dick.

So, y'all know I've done a bit of modding of Civilization 4 (or rather, a mod of a mod called Fall from Heaven-- I stand at the end of a long, recursive chain of modmods. Anyway, not important.) The reason I went for this game in particular was because I see a lot of multiplayer potential in it, once it gets a bit more stable.

Of course, there are a lot of multiplayer games out there. But I like this one because, well, I have a lot of requirements for 3+ player games before I'll hock them to friends. I'll list four of 'em.

1) The best strategy for multiplayer free-for-all must not always be (as I've mentioned before) "turtle up until I have an unstoppable force." This tends to be the case in games (such as Magic: the Gathering variants and most types of Real Time Strategy) where the only benefit to attacking is depriving other players of resources. That is, your sole reward for blowing up a player's base is that their base gets exploded.

Although if you're like Chandra, that's probably all you care about anyway.

Player A attacks player B, and player C wins. This changes in a game like Civilization, where warfare can get you a significant advantage even against players not involved in the war. You get to leverage stuff you conquer into better technology, a bigger military, and other ways of going all British Empire on everyone's ass.

Player A attacks players B,C,D,E,F, and G, then becomes a world-spanning empire while Player H attempts to look as tiny and unimportant as possible. Cheerio!

2) There must be enough time to negotiate and barter with other players. Diplomacy is always a ton of fun, but you can't do it in games like Starcraft where you have to spend every second micromanaging your production so you don't get eaten alive by a stray horde of Carriers.

See this? THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS.

3) There must be a great diversity of balanced factions. I'm a big fan of asymmetric strategy games, since not only does it deepen the number of possible strategic situations, but it also encourages diplomacy, since you can't take on every threat by yourself. For example, you might have to negotiate with those bastard orcs to kill off that fireball-slinging wizard civilization so your treants don't get completely boned when try to stop said wizards from stealing your mana nodes.

4) There must be a map. In games like Munchkin or Magic, the end game always feels random, since every player just hacks away at whoever is closest to winning until they finally run out of hatchets. The player who's in the lead at this point wins the game.

However, this doesn't happen in games with maps, such as Civilization. When the lead player isn't right near you, attacking him becomes a question of how much you really trust your neighbors to let you do your thing while your ripe, plump cities lie unguarded, many turns away from any kind of military backup.

Ha ha! I am of course joshing. Your rivals would never be that dishonorable!

Yeah, he seems pretty trustworthy.

So I think the mod will be pretty cool once it's finished and multiplayer-ready, since it incorporates these four features (with style, I might add.) Only problem is that the release schedule for Rise from Erebus appears to be somewhat... ah... asymptotic. That is, about four months ago the new release of the mod (1.3) was "almost done," according to the head of the RiFE mod team. Four months later, it's still almost done, with new features still being added for the next release.

This wouldn't necessarily be that bad a thing, if it weren't for the fact that major bugs and balance problems in the last version (1.2) have been fixed in the team version for months. So, the "bugs/feedback" forum has more or less devolved into:

Player:
Small woodland animals keep massacring my enemies. I now win conquest victories without setting foot outside my cultural borders. It's pretty game-breaking.
Valk (that's the main modder): Oh, the hamsters have been toned down in the team version for a while now.
Player: Ah. In that case, could we have a list of bug fixes in the team version so we don't keep reporting them?
Valk: Ha ha! No can do. That would take forever, due to the sheer amount of fixes in the new version.
Player: (grumble)
Valk: Don't worry, the new version's almost done.
....
PROBLEM, OFFICER?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Old product jingles? HOW CAN I LOSE?!

Somewhere, somehow, I will incorporate something like these into a D&D campaign. And then my life shall be complete. Hmm... Sharn-based priestly services, perhaps? Call it... Blu-Clerics Life Insurance!
  • The Raven Queen/ can be a bitch/so scratch your im-/mortality itch/ Blu-Clerics.
  • His deceased loves/thought him a cur/ for he was a/ neck-romancer/ Blu-Clerics.
  • Skilled sorcerer/you'll still get dead/when crossbow bolts/go through your head/ Blu-Clerics.
  • Hire assassins/at 1000 per/and get us one more/customer/Blu-Clerics
  • The palace guards/you bribed for cheap/thus does the pit-trap/earn its keep/Blu-Clerics.
  • Great musician/earn some ire/when royal wives/you so inspire/Blu-Clerics.
  • What horrid luck/You had it made/but nicked yourself/with poisoned blade/Blu-Clerics.
  • You'll never charm/that sweet young miss/when you've got/rigor mortis/Blu-Clerics.
and last, but not least:
  • Tick druid off/logic decrees/your house will soon be/filled with BEEEEEEEEEEEEES/Blu-Clerics.
It had to be said.