Diceless Nobilis

Nobilis, renewed.

(Via Story Games:) Rebecca Borgstrom has released “Unlikely Flowerings”, the first part of the long-awaited Society of Flowers supplement for Nobilis as a 115 page pdf at Drivethrurpg for $5. It’s also available for free at (the publisher) Eos’ website, but “purchasing it from DTRPG will show your support for the author, her efforts and improve the chances of seeing the rest of the book.”
Nobilis is also getting a reprint by Eos Press. The reprint will be revised and twice as thick as the 2nd edition, due to resizing the book to 8.5″ x 11″; will contain new art, a new visual style, and content from The Game of Powers Live-action RP rules. (Which is ironic, since I always thought the rules in Game of Powers worked better for TTRPGs than the main rulebook’s more LARPish rules.)

MMO & Computers Table Top

Week in Review

Not a ton to say, really. Kate might disagree, but it doesn’t feel as though a lot’s been going on with Gaming-stuff.
* No Galactic or Spirit of the Century. *sad panda*
* I led a Kara raid up through the Opera event on Wednesday. That was fun in a wacky way; more stress, but we had a weird group and ended up doing stuff like taking out Moroes and company with no priests, chain-traps, and a lot of shooting things in the face.
* One of the other Raids on a ‘free’ night fell through, which left me with nothing to do, so I hopped on Syncerus the Drood and chewed up Strangethorn Vale and Duskwallow Marsh for awhile, dinging both 40 (hellooooo Dire Bear form) and 41.
* I didn’t really want to watch the Oscars, so I played during that while Kate watched and filed a bunch of her books on our now-full shelves. This led to FINALLY getting Kayti done with the huge Zul Farrak dungeon for which I’ve been gathering quests and prepatory gear for… three months? A long time. During the run I dinged 47, and turning in the (eight!) quests afterwards took her all through 47 tp 48. Tanking the run was fun, though the paladin threat generation isn’t as easy as I recall (partly due to trigger-happy pug-teammates).
Grezzk’s guild is struggling to recreate itself in an active-raiding mold. Consequently, raid schedules are in flux, the officer corp is in flux, the guild charter… you get the picture. Old officers unhappy with the changes are leaving, etc. etc.
Y’know what I’m doing about it? Nothing. I went to the (vent-based) meeting to vote on various changes, and offered my two cents and a reality check or two on some of the rules, but volunteer to be a raid leader? No. Volunteer to be an officer? No.
Thanks. I’ve done that. I have the t-shirt and the “die in a fire” emails from former guildmates.
I log on. I play. If I’m really lucky, I get in a group with some folks and we have a good time. If not, I still get to blow stuff up and mess with my little characters and play a game.
A second job (unpaid, that is) I do not need.

Actual Play Table Top

“All right, you rudimentary-lathe people have gone too far.” (Galactic: introduction and Session One)

I’m really not going to be able to do the Galactic game justice with an Actual Play report.
First, we’ve had four sessions now and I haven’t done a report yet. The first one was back in late November, and the details are a bit hazy.
Second, a ton of stuff has gone on, and inevitably, I’m going to forget some stuff.
Third, I want to talk a bit about the mechanics in the game, so that’s going to color things a bit, and there’s a lot of that to talk about.
I’m going to give a shot, though, because the game deserves the thought and discussion.
So let’s start from the beginning.
In Session 0, we had too many players. That’s all right, because (a) one guy wasn’t going to be able to stay with us for the whole run and (b) with a few extra players, we were more likely to have enough people to play even if someone couldn’t make a session.
These are the characters we came up with. We each also had to come up with one planet and one faction that’s active in the setting, and you repeat that between each of your three quests, also, during the first session, every Captain comes up with their own cliffhanger for the first quest to start with. They also pick the world the quest will feature. The player on the left picks a faction that will be prevalent. The player on the right comes up with a central NPC for the quest.
So there is a lot of communal world-building going on throughout the game, which means that each game of Galactic is very different in tone, elements, and story than any OTHER game, despite the “main” story being the same. (Even the Scourge itself is different in each game.)
Now, on the surface, Galactic looks like the kind of game where no one can miss a session. The reason for that is the way character creation works. Everyone makes up a starship captain, and then we sort of ‘meet’ each captain in turn, and everyone else at the table (except the gm) makes a crew member for that captain. Captains and their ships can run the gamut from an officer of the Concordant Navy to the captain of a commercial cruise ship to the leader of a ragtag group of scavengers — it’s all good. Thing is, it seems like “if someone doesn’t show, then that crewmember isn’t there on every captain’s scene, and so forth”, but as long as you make the ‘minimum’ number of players (which might be three plus the GM, maybe, but which could work with just two players, short-term), you’re good to go.
The basic background of the setting is that mankind, after creating the huge Galactic Republic, was wiped out by the mysterious Scourge. One colony ship escaped the genocide, and founded a new home on a nasty, brutish world at the end of nowhere. They finally returned to the stars, found out about their lost history, and are starting to explore and colonize back in the direction of the “Core” — the home of the original Republic. On the way, they run into lots of alien races who were once part of the Republic (and who often revile or worship humanity, by turns), as well as the ruins and abandoned technology of their own ancestors.
And then the Scourge wakes up.
The game is about how these captains (working alone for the most part) try to stop the thing that no one could stop the last time. It’s got a strong feel of the new Battlestar Galactica for me, both in the story tone and in the mechanics and interplay of crew and captains.
This is basically how the conflict works out.
A scene opens with a captain. We set up what happens and we play. At some point in there — maybe right away, maybe later — we get to a point where either I or the Captain say that something happens that other one says “no” to, and that’s where and when we go to the Conflict system.
The conflict system works like so: in true Firefly- or BSG-style, there’s two sides to every conflict — there’s “what the conflict is ostensibly about” and “the relationship between the Captain and one of the crew that is either going to be strengthened by Trust or weakened by Doubt as a result of what happens.” It’s important to understand that Winning or Losing the Goal happens INDEPENDENTLY of the Trust/vs/Doubt thing with the crewmember. You can totally get your ass kicked in the epic space battle, but the crewmember who is “on the hook” for that scene could trust you more at the end, because of the WAY things happened. Or vice versa: you could kick ass and take names, but your actions fill the crewmember with Doubt.
1. You figure out what the Conflict is about, and which crewmember is ‘on the hook’. (This is my term for it — not the game’s.)
2. Then, the Crew who are involved take the one dice that they get to contribute to the conflict (there are painful and dangerous ways to contribute more dice — sometimes a LOT more dice — using what I and the author call the “leaf on the wind” mechanic) and decide if that dice is going to help the Quest or the Crew side of the conflict.
3. Then, the GM decides where he is going to allocate his dice in the conflict — is it mostly going toward weakening the crew’s resolve, or to resisting the Goal of the quest? Maybe an even mix? The GM has a budget of dice he can use on each captain (plus any Doubt the crew has in the captain), so I can’t just crush them every time with as many dice as I want.
4. Once the captain sees where the crew are putting their effort, and what forces are arrayed against him, he puts out his own dice, which can be quite numerous — he has multi-dice ‘archetypes’ that can be brought to bear, as well as the ability to utilize any Trust that he’s earned from any of his crew (like any captain, he can put the crew’s Trust to use, though that puts that Trust at risk — he can lose it). Finally, he can decide that whatever he’s doing might put innocent bystanders at risk, and the bigger those potential Consequences are, the more extra dice he can bring in. They are BIG dice too, those Consequence dice, so they’re very tempting.
When it’s all said and done, the dice are all arrayed against each other, and there is rolling, and comparisons a lot like the old dice game “War”, and narration of that round happens, and then folks might have lost, or they might ‘give’, or they might rally and go into another round and keep battling until the whole thing is resolved. At the end, the Captain has either won or lost their goal, and one of the crew members has either gained Doubt or Trust in the captain (and the same crewmember can totally have both Trust AND Doubt in the captain, over time, which is awesome.
Once that scene is done, we do it all again with the NEXT player; we switch to a new captain, everyone switches gears to playing a new character, and off we go.
So… that’s kind of what happens in play.
This is a very set kind of story arc. Each captain plays through three quests. A quest is over when the captain wins three conflicts having to do with that quest. Now… that might be three wins in a row, or 2 wins, then a loss, and then a win; or maybe five straight losses followed by three wins (which would be kind of cool). Doesn’t matter — at some point, they get the three wins, the quest is accomplished, and they move to the next, then the next. (Unless they die — they CAN die, and there are provisions in place for that.)
Once the third quest is done, we move to the Last Big Quest, and at the end humanity is either saved or it’s wiped out by the Scourge. The end.
Right now, we’re about four sessions in, and pretty much everyone is done with their first quest.
Session 1 (Chris, Tim, Dave)
We started with Tim’s Captain Nils, the captain of Isabel’s Dream, which is ostensibly a cruise ship, but is also a neutral ground for diplomatic meetings and happens to be armed (definsively!) to the bloody teeth.
Tim had a great cliffhanger set up, and I was looking forward to it, but I also wanted to make sure we were ‘getting our roleplay in.’ Matt Wilson is a great game designer, but in playing his other ‘big’ game, Primetime Adventures, I’d noticed that players got wrapped up enough in the mechanics that they didn’t… you know… “just roleplay” — they only did with regards to the Conflict — making for very focused, but very short scenes… maybe only a few lines of dialog and lots of narrative. That’s partly Matt’s playstyle (as I understand it), but I wanted to make sure that we were taking the time to roleplay just for the sake of roleplaying as well.
Also, this “who is the ‘featured’ crewmember” thing was kind of new to everyone, so I took a page from BSG and started the ‘show’ with a scene between the captain and the crewmember-of-note. In this case, that was Dave’s college student, working as an assistant purser on the ship.
We opened the scene with Tim’s captain briefing the purser on the seating arrangements for a big banquet that evening on the ship. This was an impromptu thing, but Tim really rose to the occasion, rattling off page after page of detailed “do’s” and “DO NOTS” about everyone attending the party — who couldn’t sit next to who, and why, and which group’s hated which other groups, or who needed special treatment, or practices, or food, or greetings — while the harried and utterly overwhelmed purser trailed along in his wake, nodding and trying to take notes. The scene really illustrates how good Nils is at his role (which is largely an act) and how new to the whole thing Dave’s purser is.
So now the cliffhanger, which is simply this:

During the banquet, as the Dream comes into orbit over the planet of R___, the mysterious black box in Captain Belinar’s room (passed down for generations in his family in readiness for ‘when the Scourge return’) begins to beep. The captain is called to his suite, and he and a few select members of his crew enter. As soon as they do, the box emits every more beeps, and the ship shifts perceptibly. The helm hails the captain, and informs him they have just lost all steerage control, and the ship has moved into a landing pattern with the planet’s surface.
There are a few seconds of silence, and the captain comments, “It’s unfortunate that we’re not atmosphere capable.”

The goal for the conflict was “Get control of the ship away from the box, before we enter the atmosphere.”
I’d love to give a play-by-play, but it’s been months, so here were the key bits:
* Dave’s neophyte-purser character was at some level mind-melded with the mysterious black box.
* Chris’ security chief/ship’s chaplain was a pain in the captain’s tuchas.
* The captain kept the ship from entering orbit by cutting all the main power in the ship (including things like the gravity control) and using on-board nuclear missiles (!), fired at the planet (!!!) to introduce enough counter-momentum to get back into a shaky low-orbit.
* Dave’s character, as a college-level historian, was shocked that the captain targeted the planet randomly to induce the right thrust for the ship, ignoring the fact that he was targeting key bits of the local ruins, such as the famed “Third Pylon”, but the captain’s plan paid off : the planet’s highly damaging Acid Raid (which actually shouldn’t have been falling during that phase of the planet’s weather) damaged the missiles enough that they didn’t damage anything of any importance on the uninhabited planet — several didn’t even fire.
We then switched to Dave’s character, Allysande Daen, who’s main goal is to track down her father, a former navy admiral, and find out what happened to him and What’s Going On.
We join the crew making planet fall on Ando III, a cool-temperate planet with a vaguely oriental flavor, on which “Zeno”, Daen’s father’s former XO, is living… in a well-heeled asylum.
Tim’s crewmember Bosley, Daen’s personal ‘batman’ is the crewmember on the hook. Chris is playing “Smoke” the stoner-mode mechanic who keeps Daen’s “Heart of Darkness” working. Daen and Bosley are heading to the Asylum. Smoke is heading to the local bazaar to scrounge up some supplies.
Bosley, who knows Daen well, is quietly talking with her during the mechanized rickshaw ride to the asylum. They’re discussing things like “Are you prepared to tell him how your career is doing?” (It isn’t: she left the navy to pursue this personal quest.)
Dave’s cliffhanger setup was the next bit:

Daen and Bosley walk into the public “sun room” where Zeno and a number of other patients are sitting around doing various sun-room activities. He looks up and recognizes her. She says “Hello, Commander. I’m looking for my father, and I was hoping you might be able to help me find him.”
The old man nods and says “I was afraid of that.” Then he and EVERY OTHER PATIENT IN THE ROOM pulls guns out from under their lap blankets and open fire.

The goal for the conflict is essentially “Win the firefight without killing Zeno.”
((A word about conflict goals: they are best when they have interesting failure options built into them. “Survive the fight.” is boring, but “Survive without killing Xeno” is cool: you can LOSE the conflict, but that could mean lots of things. Maybe you lose the firefight; or have to flee; or the police arrive and arrest everyone; or you win, but you shoot the one source of information you have… or a dozen other things. Setting up a good conflict WITH INTERESTING FAILURE OPTIONS is a key part of not just Galactic, but any game. Losing should be just as interesting, if not more so, than winning.))
So there’s a gunfight. Meanwhile, Smoke is in the bazaar, and only a few seconds after the shots start in the asylum, some guys jump him in the bazaar and he’s running for his life and shouting for help from the Captain as well. (His crew-dice were in on the side of winning the Crew conflict, not the Quest one — how well she handled Smoke’s problems would build Trust with Bosley. Bosley was ALSO in on the Crew conflict, not the quest.)
Again, I have only a few bullet points.
* The captain took a few bullets in this fight. Dice that get knocked out of a conflict stand the chance of being “impaired” – made unavailable for the rest of the quest. A LOT of Daen’s “Warrior” archetype dice got impaired during the fight, so that’s how that was narrated.
* Dave went to a lot of work to protect both Tim and Chris’s dice from getting knocked out — lots of shouted commands and shoving Bosley out of harm’s way and suchlike.
* Some ‘deep cover’ agents from the organization that Daen is working with a lot showed up to help out (use of her Connections trait, which allows (or forces) rerolls)
* Dave ended up winning the conflict, and closes in on Zeno, who’s run out of bullets. He agrees to talk, and then goes into a violent seizure (seizures being one of the “Scourge traits” in this version of the game.
And cut to the next guy.
Captain Argon Slash is docking his ship, the Legion, on “The Drift” — a massive space-station in the middle of uninhabited space, comprised of hundreds if not thousands of different ships crushed, bound, and welded together. Each captain has his own ‘flavor’, and Slash’s is a kind of mix between Firefly and an anime where the characters often make Super Deformed angry-faces. The crewmembers for this part of the quest are Sonja, Slash’s ex-wife and the ship’s negotiator; and Jake, who’s sort of a young, crazy, gun-ho shootist (and Slash’s fifth-cousin).
Slash, who collected crazy Solar Republic artifacts (and then tries to integrate them with his ship), has discovered a weird pyramidal object. He’s not sure what it does, but he’s heard a rumor that at the heart of the Drift are ships that date back as far as the Solar Republic — ships that still WORK. His ‘plan’ is to find a way into the core of the gang-turf-controlled Drift and plug the device in… and just… see what happens.
Which is his approach to most ancient tech.
The three are heading toward a meeting with a contact on the Drift who controls the territory they need to get through when they’re jumped by members of the neo-luddite, anti-expansion “Blue Sky” faction.
Slash holds them off — thermal detonator in Jabba’s Palace-style — with a Mysterious Ancient Artifact (or two). Jake is waiting (and eager) for orders to shoot. Sonja is verbally sniping at everyone. The following verbal exchange takes place
Sonya: “Listen to the man — I was once married to him, and I can assure you it’s dangerous to get close to him.”
Blue Sky: “Silence! We would hear nothing from someone who has succumbed to the sin of divorce!”
Sonya: “Excuse me?!?”
Blue Sky: “Quiet!”
Sonya: “All right, you rudimentary-lathe people have gone too far.”
And that’s when the shooting starts.
* Slash was pretty much conning the Blue Sky folks all the way through.
* Jake’s crew dice where very hot — he was shooting all over.
* Sonya was saved from ‘knock out’ by Argon’s love of tech. She takes a shot and the chest and Slash cries out, running over to her and pawing at the hole in her clothing. She protests that she’s fine — and he reveals he was just checking to see if the armor weave that he put into her jacket (without her knowledge) held. It did! Slash is happy — Sonya is pissed.
I put a LOT of dice against the Crew aspect on this fight, cuz I wanted Sonya to have Doubt in Slash, but the group banded together and held me off — Sonya, although she doesn’t *like* Argon very much, does *trust* him… at least she trusts his instincts with technology. (Ironically, it’s turned out that Sonya is the only crewmember who DOES have trust in Argon… maybe the other’s don’t know him that well?)
The Blue Sky scatters, and Jake runs off after them, whooping and hollering. Sonya storms off back to the ship. Argon is left by himself.
Back to Captain Nils
The goal of this conflict was not very good on my part — simply “Get Control of the Ship back from the Box.” It was a FUNNY conflict, to be sure, but not a good one — failure would have resulted in nothing much happening, which sucks. Luckily, they one.
What happened.
* The box used some kind of lightning on Chris’ guy… then sort of mind-controlled him. Nils had to incapacitate him with some other ancient family-heirloom widget.
* Dave’s character was the box-translator most of the way through this. (“No, no, using the blue lightning against the Reverend is BAD!”)
* The box was receiving a signal from the planet, telling it to come down to the planet. The Signal is on U-space frequency … ironically, from the just-saved-from-destruction Third Pylon!
* Nils is able to control the box by speaking commands to it in Trilatian. (The Solar Republic version of the /sudo command.)
And Allysande Daen…
With Zeno having seizures and possibly doing himself serious internal harm, SMOKE has to talk the Captain through dosing the man on something that will bring him out of the seizures and subdue him… without killing him. Luckily, Smoke is something of a ‘pharmaceutical expert’.
* Smoke gives quick, professional medical advice and actually shouts at Allysande when she hesitates at one point.
* She trust him and follows his instructions.
* Bosley now really trusts her for her success and for supporting her crew. (Though I think we awarded Trust wrong here…)
… and that was the end of session one. I’ll put another post up for Sessions 2 and 3 combined, and a third for Session Four, which is where we are now.

MMO & Computers Musing Scheduling Table Top

“Let’s not create a WoW-widow before we even get married, hmm?”

… or, to be fair, a Gaming-widow in general.
I’ve been giving my Google-calendar a workout for the last couple days, because although I am a gamer of many different colors and stripes, I have traveled down the road of life-imbalance quite a few times since the early 90s (oh, those early MUDs and MUSHes; oh those hours of Space Hulk and Battletech map creation), mid-90s, and far far more recently… and I’d just rather not go back there, thanks.
So: I raid in WoW (though I could wish for a little more progression-status and a little less farm-status — I did my farming in my youth :P), and I have some alts I really enjoy, and I play LotRO, and a have a copy of Tabula Rasa winging its way to me for a practically criminal discount, and I have table top games I’m running and even more that I want to run, and then there’s writing stuff, and reading stuff… the question before me is “how do I get enough time to ‘blow stuff up’, without ensuring that I have “ALL THE TIME YOU COULD EVER WANT, AND THEN SOME, YOU BASTARD”?
I’m not an expert, but these are the guidelines I’m working with right now.
1. Schedule my time. I don’t mean just my play time, but just flat out schedule the Big Stuff that needs doing during the next week. Note: I use the word “needs” advisedly, and not without some irony; leveling my druid does not “need” doing… it’s just one of those things I’d enjoy getting to do.
2. Kate and Kaylee first. The time I will, without fail, spend with My Girls during the week goes on the calendar first. Everything else bends to adapt. Non-negotiable. This is fairly easy for Kaylee-time, as Jackie and I already have a set schedule that pretty much ensures I see her every day (barring the off-weekend). Kate and I — not habitually that detail-oriented — are working on actually scheduling stuff, too: weekly date nights and the Regular Tuesday Night Activity (currently swing dancing). This also (happily) includes some activities like LotRO and watching geeky shows like Avatar, so… Win/Win!
3. Limited ‘play commitments’. I have a limited amount of time to be online and playing stuff. Call it 15 to 20 hours a week. My guild has planned activities that take about 15 to 20 hours a week. I do ****NOT**** want to spend all my online time on those planned activities. Therefore, I need to strictly limit my raiding commitments. This basically boils down to (selfishly, very selfishly) signing up only for stuff *I* really want to do, and NOT signing up for things just to ‘help folks out’. I’ve prioritized my time helping online-people out before, and it always means I spend too much time online with an exponentially decreasing amount of personal enjoyment. I play so *I* can have fun; bugger off, internets. This rule means I get to spend a good portion of ‘me’ time completely unstructured. I approve.
4. Vetoes Unless I am currently involved in some kind of group activity in which my sudden departure will result in screwing over a bunch of other people. (I’m GMing a game, a central player in a game, or in some kind of group, online), Kate (and, to a lesser degree, Kaylee) can ask me to drop what I’m doing. ((Emergencies, of COURSE, mean that I say “sorry guys, gotta go” and I f-ing GO. Duh. Obviously.)) Conversely, I reserve the right to go kill stuff instead of watching a third hour of Trading Spaces… or Little Einsteins.
There are unspoken parts of this, like the assumption that there will be lots of ‘white space’ on my calendar that will get filled in naturally with the “sand” of honey-dos, chores, random acts of laziness, and especially impromptu fun stuff involving either The Girls, or Games, or both.
But you have to lay out the Big Stuff first, before the whole area fills in with sand and leaves no room for them.
Or so it seems to me. I’ll report back, maybe, on how it all works in practice.

MMO & Computers Musing

Fiddling with my global cooldown

Cooldown: n. MMO-related. A period of wait time before a spell, ability or power can be used after that same spell, ability, or power has been used.

Example: In World of Warcraft, a character’s hearthstone has a one hour cooldown. Once you use it to teleport back to your ‘home’ location, the stone cannot be used again for an hour.

Global Cooldown: n. MMO-related. A period of wait time before any spell, ability or power can be used after ANY OTHER spell, ability, or power has been used.

Example 1: In World of Warcraft, any attack power triggers the ‘global cooldown’. At the moment that an attack power occurs, all other special abilities become unavailable for 1.5 seconds. This is to prevent players from stacking up skill uses at an unrealistic or game-breaking rate.

Example 2: In City of Heroes and Lord of the Rings online, the Global Cooldown is actually ‘front loaded’ into each power — there is a (often uninterruptible) delay between activating an attack and that attack actually happening. The end result is the same as WoWs global cooldown, but allows players to queue their next attack while the current attack is still ‘going’.

Global Cooldown: n. Doyce-related. A period of time during which I need to decompress at the end of the day. Cooldown times vary, depending on what has been happening that day. Cooldowns often include use of an MMO, but might also involve reading, watching videos, or various other activities; however, many people adopt specific activities that they prefer, and are reluctant to change.
Failure to observe the the Global Cooldown can be game-breaking.
Global Cooldowns (as defined here) are strongly affected by who else is in your adventuring party, as other players can aid the GCD, extend the time required, or even interrupt the GCD unknowingly, resulting in a number of system errors.
Communicating with the other members of your team about the GCD is highly recommended, especially when you have recently added a new member to your party.

MMO & Computers

Almost suspiciously perfect

A job opening posted by Blizzard Entertainment. I’ll boldface the requirements I meet.

* Contribute to the written development of Blizzard Entertainment’s intellectual properties.
* Write copy text for use by other Blizzard Entertainment teams.
* Write technical information for game manuals.
* Author original short stories that showcase Blizzard Entertainment’s rich and diverse intellectual properties.
* Contribute in the research, gathering, and documentation of source materials from Blizzard Entertainment’s intellectual properties.
* Work with business partners in the development of our intellectual properties through the creation of ancillary products
* Perform editing tasks when needed by creative development.
* Perform other duties that may be assigned by creative development management and producers.
* 2+ years of industry or related industry experience as a writer
* Successfully published writing work, preferably in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres
* Working knowledge and understanding of technical writing and editing
* Excellent written and oral business communication skills
* Working knowledge of Blizzard Entertainment’s intellectual properties, and a vast knowledge of current successful intellectual properties in today’s popular culture
* Ability to work and thrive in a team environment
* Ability to produce writing without constant supervision
* Excellent organizational skills and ability to work well under deadlines
* Experience creating and running pen and paper RPG campaigns and/or live-action RPGs
* Experience in playing massively multiplayer online role-playing games, especially World of Warcraft
* Bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience
* Experience in designing and playing computer games (finally, my years buildings and running those text-based MMOs, written in LISP, pays off!)

Could this possibly be for real?

This is a full-time position in Irvine, California.

Ahh, there it is. The sting of verisimilitude.

MMO & Computers

New TV spot for LotRO shows Ordinary People getting their MMO on

Quite a lot of fun: I like the sense that it’s just regular people, going about their day, and the game they’re going to play later is sort of lurking around in the back of their mind.

Actual Play MMO & Computers

Week in Review

Got everyone together for the third installment of our Galactic semi-playtest this Sunday. Despite horrendous paint fumes and a cuddle-needy munchkin underfoot, we still got a lot done and… MAN I need to write up an actual play report for the whole three sessions so far.
This game delivers. Wow. Seriously. Unlike a lot of other games I really really like (Heroquest, Dogs in the Vineyard) Galactic is not the kind of game you can easily kitbash to work in some other genre. it’s hard to explain, but it’s designed very specifically to play several science fiction ship captains, with their crews, working independently to stop the destruction of humanity. It is really NOT the kind of game that twists and bends into some other genre very well.
However, the stories that you get OUT of the game will be very different, even with repeated replays, so in that way, it’s different every time. It does one thing, but it does it very well. More later.
After a two-month break from progression raiding for the holidays, the guild I’m in has started fast-tracking some raiding work. To this end, the officers have been recruiting and we took our single, over-populated, weekend Karazhan team and split it into one weekend and one weekday Karazhan team, which lets us gear more people up, more quickly.
The challenge there is that we’re then working with much leaner ‘rosters’ for both teams — we no longer have the luxury that we had over the holidays of swapping people in and out to create the perfect team to annihilate whatever boss we were about to fight. If we don’t have ‘enough’ priests to handle the undead guys in Fight B, then … well, we have to deal. If we don’t have “enough” rogues for the Aran fight? Tough. This has forced us to be a little more resourceful, coordinated, and willing to use some unconventional tactics to win what are sometimes ugly fights.
But win we have: three weeks running, both teams have had full clears of Karazhan from front to back. Cool.
Also: after our almost two month break from progression raiding, we took a brand new raid group back to Gruul’s Lair. With a significant number of new raiders in key roles, the result might have been tough to handle, but instead we handed High King Maulgar a flawless, one-shot kill. Seven days later, the guild downed Gruul himself for the first time in the history of the guild, which is awesome. (I wasn’t there to see it, but hopefully I’ll be in on the next one.)
The most notable thing about our first Gruul kill is that they took him down much more quickly than a first-time guild would. We’ve recently adopted a new strategy that verified what many have suggested all along — once we learned the fight, we would prove to have *more* than enough Damage, Healing, and Tanking to immediately start looking at the next challenge after Gruul.
In non-progression news: I’m leveling up a druid and a paladin. Grezzk is Damage, so one of these new guys will be a Tank, and the other will be a healer. Don’t yet know which will be which, though.
Hey: those folks who play LotRO and read this: we should set up a time to log in and do some stuff.

MMO & Computers Musing

Week in Review: Done with PvP

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I like WoW battlegrounds. I like WoW Arena. I even like flagging myself for PvP and going after various PvP “world objectives.”
I especially like the way they implemented PvMP in Lord of the Rings Online.
So how exactly am I done with PvP? I’m done with PvP-servers in WoW. I transfered the last of my characters from a PvP server to a ‘carebear’ server last night.
Here are the things with the PvP that I like: It is challenging and it is a very different kind of game than the typical PvE “Kill Ten Rats” missions that you run over and over and over again with gradually improving special effects budgets. Playing against other players is fun.
It’s also NOT what I want to do ALL THE TIME. If I sign up for a battleground or an arena — that’s what I want to do. If I flag myself PvP so I can take back the town of Halaa — fantastic — that’s what I want to do.
If I’m riding around the open plains of Nagrand, hunting clefthoof bulls for their hides and meat while I get caught up on my newsreader, then PvP is NOT what I want to do. Setting up a game so that anyone who wants to be a jerk can interrupt what I’m doing just for the hell of it is not fun for me. It’s like reading a book on the edge of the playground and having some other idiot decide that — whether you want to or not — you’re playing Dodgeball.
Right. Now.
So the deal with the WoW “PvP” servers is that, if you’re in a ‘safe’ zone, you can’t be attacked unless you specifically say you can, and if you’re in any of the ‘contested’ areas (read: 85% of the landmass in the game, and almost 100% of the area you’ll be in for 96% of your character lifespan) it’s automatically Duck Season.
Switching from a PvE server to a PvP server is like learning how to play an arcade game in a regular video arcade, and then visiting an arcade where all the other players are allowed and in fact REWARDED for walking over while you’re playing your game and SCREWING WITH YOUR CONTROLS. Nevermind that they could just wait until you got in line to play one of the player vs. player games there — they want to screw with you while you’re doing one of the solo race car games.
Thank you, no.
What bugs me the most about the PvP-server-players’ attitudes is that it’s more realistic to play in a setting like that.
Because, well… no. No it isn’t. If ‘realistic’ means ‘like real life’, then I disagree. The two major factions in WoW are currently observing a TRUCE. Moreover, both sides are being assaulted by other, more powerful forces. The SAME ones. Enemy of my enemy? Hello?
Secondly, people don’t just randomly see another hunter on the open plains and say “he’s not bothering me, but I want to engage in a life-or-death struggle with him RIGHT NOW.” Why? Because they might DIE. And, realistically, DEATH IS PERMANENT, and not to be engaged in between two people over who gets to kill the next clefthoof cow down the road (when both the people in question have thousands of gold in their pocket to buy food).
People go PvP for objectives. Important ones. Otherwise, realistically, it’s not worth the risk.
Or, coming back to the game, it’s not worth the TIME WASTED. Having some level 40 guy following my level 20 character around to kill her over and over again, then /dance, /spit, and run off? That’s now how I want to spend my 15 bucks or my time.
You want to get me in a battleground with that guy?
Bring it on.

Actual Play MMO & Computers Table Top

Week in Review

Just a quickie.
This was kind of an exciting week with the guild, as we expanded our raid schedule a bit to accommodate more people.
Normally, we do the (10-man) Karazhan instance on the weekends (most of the real progress is on Saturday and Sunday for a couple hours, though we do sometimes get started with a drunken Friday night ‘run’ for laughs).
This last week, we ran a Kara raid on the weeknights as well. This is a pretty big deal, because you can’t be saved to two instances at the same time, which means we had 20+ different people (or at least different characters) participating, and two runs means more gear upgrades for everyone. Both teams pretty much cleared the whole instance. (I believe the weekday team did it in three nights, and the weekend group did everything but Maiden in two runs and just decided to skip the Maiden of Virtue, as there was no benefit for anyone to doing the fight.)
That was cool, but even better was fielding a full 25-man group to take a shot a High King Maulgar (and his court of Ogres) on Friday night, followed by Gruul the Dragonkiller.
This was a pretty momentous thing. The last time we took a serious stab at that fight was in November, and we didn’t really get enough people: we didn’t actually even beat Maulgar, and we’ve had that fight pretty much worked out for awhile.
Now… this time… okay, the signs weren’t great. We took maybe an hour to get started, and we have a LOT, and I mean a LOT of new people. The guy who usually magetanks Krosh Firehand was on his healer, so Lee was magetanking with Wyrmeyed. We had a new guy tanking Kiggler the Crazed who’d never done it before. We had a new guy who doesn’t speak English very well tanking the Warlock. Probably half our healers were new. We brought a level 68 guy along just to fill out to 25 people. It was crazy.
So we fight through the trash to get to the High King, we explain the fight to the new people, and how complicated the five-simultaneous-pulls start is, and we say “go” and we go…
… and we one-shot it. Damn near perfect fight. After not doing it for months and then bringing a bunch of new people. That was cool. I was up around 900 damage-per-second, and another guy broke 1000 dps. Insane. In-sane.
So it’s on to Gruuls. The Raid Leader announces that we’re going to do three tries and be done with the fight, no matter how it’s going. No building frustration: we have a lot of new people (we swapped in a 70 for the 68 at this point, with no hard feelings), and a brand new strategy to learn.
Let me explain what kills people in this fight. It’s not really the Boss. Gruul is an incredibly big guy in a very big cavern, and he does this thing every so often where he smashes the ground. Again, this guy is BIG: when he smashes the ground, it jumps like a trampoline and everyone goes flying in the air in random directions. When you land, you are slowed… slowed… slowed, and six seconds after you land, you’re frozen for a few seconds, and then SHATTERED. Everyone who’s within 15 feet of you at that point will cause you (a lot of) damage, then you can move again, if you aren’t dead. Around four people or so around you, and you stand a good chance of dying. If no one is close to you, you take no damage.
The problem is, even with a big room, there are 25 people in there. The chance of you landing too close to too many people is HIGH, and it’s hard to get away when you’re slowed. So we have a strategy now where everyone but the healers and the tanks run to the walls before the slam, so we don’t fly around anywhere — just the healers and tanks do. Less people flying around means less damage from the Shatter.
And it works. Damn it works. We did not get Gruul down, but we got him lower than we ever have in the past (again, with a lot of new people and no practice in two months). We had some bad luck where all our healers got silenced at a very bad point in the fight, so the tanks died… and on another attempt, sheer bad luck bounced all the healers and the tanks on top of each other, so the whole healing and tanking groups Shattered each other to death.
But that’s just bad luck. We can beat bad luck. We totally have the damage-dealers we need (I broke 1000dps on one attempt, and another guy broke an unheard-of 1200) and we have the method we need to beat that bastard. It might even be this Friday night.
… when I will be on a plane to New York, which I’m very happy about… so I wish them luck.
ANYWAY: it was a very fun series of runs, and Grezzk got the last of the gear he can get from either of the instances (pretty much — I’ve given up on getting the Wolfslayer Rifle or Nightbane’s mail leggings, and that’s okay) — Curator in Karazhan dropped my Demon Hunter (Tier 4) shoulderguards and I got the matching gloves off High King Maulgaur, so not only are my stats pretty damn good, I *match* — at this point, I’m going along on the runs to help the rest of the guild gear up and to have a good time (which it almost always is). My last two major equipment upgrades until we get past Gruul and start doing the later 25-man raids are going to come through Arena pvp.
Syncerus and Thienedera
I’m leveling up two Horde alts right now. Syncerus the tauren druid (the bearcat cow), and Thienedera the paladin. Last week, they got a lot of love. This week, I’m leaving them logged out in Inns to build up their rested rating for that lovely double XP bonus. I’ve seen the low and mid-game content already — I’m not interested in dwelling on it this time, so I’m focusing on flying up to 70 as fast as I can with both of them. Thie is a little lower level than Syn at this point (she’s on a PvP server for now, so I’m a little more cautious), but I expect they’ll get a lot of playtime soon.
My grand scheme is to have one Damage dealer, one Tank, and one Healer at level 70 and reasonably well-geared by the time the next expansion hits. I don’t have much interest in alts past that point.
I have, really, one alliance character. I finally dusted off Kayti and took her for a spin this week, and it was a lot of fun. Spell casters are a total pain in the ass on a paladin, but if I avoid them it’s a nice relaxing solo grind. I’m taking my time on her because there’s stuff on the Alliance side of the mid-game that I HAVEN’T seen.

Kate was available to play this week, so we got on Geiri and Tiranor. We had a lot of Fellowship quests to do, so I got on the Looking for Fellowship channel and asked around for some more people. A guy sent me a tell and pretty quick we were in a group with a bunch of guys who all know each other in real life and were all on voicechat.
Two hours later, all those Fellowship quests were done, Kate had gotten hooked up with some new crafted loot from one of the other players, and I had built up a pretty good start on a “DPS” set of equipment to put on when I’m not tanking — something that will become a lot more useful when Book Twelve opens up new options for Guardians, and we had some new people in our Friends list. It was another good run with a random group of strangers — in that arena, I believe LotRO is the Best MMO on the market, bar NONE.

No gaming this week, but here’s what I having coming up:
* Galactic: We still have a lot of game left to do there.
* Spirit of the Century: Need to get those sessions started up again.
* I have Savage Donjon Squad ready for our next pick-up game session.
* Once Galactic is done, I want to take a stab at Bliss Stage with Dave and De and whoever else I can get in.
* I have the pre-order copy of In a Wicked Age, a sword and sorcery bit of genius from the guy who did Dogs in the Vineyard. Totally new system. Totally new kind of Awesome.
* Don’t think I’ve forgotten about our characters for Breaking the Ice, Kate. I haven’t. Also, I have been challenged to play a Paranoia-set game using Breaking the Ice, and I don’t intend to back down from that. That’s a two-person game — anyone out there want to learn a new game set in a familiar, crazy setting?

MMO & Computers

WoW, that’s a big number

WoW breaks 10-million subscribers.

Blizzard also explicitly defined who it counted as subscribers, clarifying that the 10 million number (2.5 in the U.S and Europe each, 5 million in Asia; currently available in 7 languages and coming soon to Russian) refers to those who have paid a subscription fee or have an active prepaid card to play World of Warcraft, as well as those who have purchased the game and are within their free month of access.
The count does not include free promotional subscriptions, expired or canceled subscriptions or prepaid cards.

For the purposes of comparison, CoH has about 120 to 150 thousand active subscribers at any given time. LotRO has, at last report, 300k and rising.
People need to stop comparing WoW to other US-developed MMOs in terms of subscribers or size or ‘who wil be the WoW-killer’. 10 MILLION people isn’t a game, it’s a city. Comparing WoW to something like DnD Online is like comparing CoH’s playerbase to the population of Chicago.

Actual Play MMO & Computers

Week in Review

What can Brown do for you?MMO – WoW
Grezzk – level 70 (effective level: 117)
Most of my time on Grezzk has been spent on (1) Kara runs (2) getting folks qualified for Karazhan runs and (3) getting together supplies for the Kara runs. Which isn’t to say that they’re terribly time consuming, just that that’s all the time I’ve spent on him in the last couple weeks. Just a few updates:
Team Stuff:
I’m the default “caller” for the Infernal ‘bombs’ during the fight with Prince. Basically, while fighting the boss, these bombs fall out of the sky at regular intervals, flying in at and angle, change direction one time in the sky, then hit the ground. If they land near or on the team, the team probably wipes, and we all start over. The caller’s job is to figure out where they’re going to land, and get people out of the way. One of the members of the guild calls the fight “Grezzk vs. the Prince”, due to the way the fight tends to play out — everyone is doing their job, but it pretty much comes down to whether or not we can stay out of the Infernals long enough to kill the Prince. Some of it is just luck, unfortunately, but alot of it is good calling a group who follows instructions well, and quickly. It’s a tricky thing to judge when you don’t have anything else going on, which of course I do. As ranged DPS, I’m in a position where I can pan my camera around to watch for the Infernals as they fly in from the sky behind us, while still doing my primary job (kill the boss) and keeping my pet fighting and alive.
I’ve called the fights for about a month now, and we’ve been pretty successful. The raid leaders have been pretty vocal about my ability with the calling. Feels good.
I’ve pulled in quite a lot of heroic badges commemorating boss kills, which you can then use to acquire some nice loot, so I’ve upgrade quite a lot of stuff (my new leggings aren’t on yet, since I’m still waiting to get an enchant on them from a guy in the guild. I also got a really really sweet bow off that Prince fight last week, so right now my gear is pretty strong.
There’s really nothing I can ‘buy’ with honor from the battlegrounds right now that would be an upgrade for me as near as I can tell, so after I got a very nice ring, I’ve been giving them a pass for now.
HOWEVER, there is a very nice hunter’s axe I can probably pick up with a few more weeks of doing arenas. The “noob” 3v3 team I was on kind of dissolved, but another guy got a 5v5 team started this week, featuring some pretty major DPS guys from our Kara runs. I like 5v5 a bit more because I’m not ALWAYS the “first kill priority” target in the bigger group. In our first series of matches, we won something like 8-of-12, and we were actually short a healer for that run, so that group looks really promising, and they’re fun to chat in Vent with as we play. I like doing arena as a fun break from the typical activities in WoW — it’s fast, furious, and over quickly — you can get your 10 matches in in about 20 minutes and have the rest of the week to do other stuff.
Honestly, I think my favorite part of the raiding isn’t the gear (whatever) or the boss fights (though they are fun), it’s having everyone in Vent and talking while we play. It’s a very laid back, fun, social kind of thing, and I’m less interested in being on Grezzk just to make some gold and do solo quests than I used to be, simply because I’d RATHER be doing something that involves running Ventrilo. I probably end up doing more Instance runs because of that, since it usually means having vent to chat on.
MMOs — a social activity. Who’da thunk it.
Syncerus (level 31)
My tauren (minotaur) druid is a ton of fun, and that’s reflected in the time I’ve spent on him — I think I was level 22 or 24 about a week ago. For you CoH people, druids work a bit like a Kheldian. You can stay in your ‘native’ form and heal/cast damaging spells, shift into bear form to tank (or when you pull way more aggro than you meant to), and claw the crap out of stuff in a “cat” (read: lion) form when you want to sneak around and kill stuff super quick (read: scrapper). Basically, whatever mood I’m in, there’s probably some way to scratch that itch with this character. Right now, all his talents are going into stuff that makes his Bear/Cat forms stronger, but I have a pretty decent set of “healer/caster” gear that I switch into when that sort of thing is called for — I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with him at level 70, but he’ll be either a tank or a healer. (I already have a ranged DPS character, so as cool as the Moonkin (read: spellcasting, facemelting Owlbear form) is, that won’t be what I do.
My current project with him is doing the quest chain to give him the ‘water’ form — a kind of manatee — cuz I need a lot of stranglekelp for my alchemy right now. I have a non-combat ‘cheetah’ form for hauling ass on land and let me tell you — it actually makes gathering up herbs fun — looking forward to the same ability underwater. 🙂
Herbalism aside, I’m not really stopping to smell the roses on Syn, though; I want to get him to 70 and join in all the big-reindeer games. Ultimately, I’d like to have one DPS, one CC/Tank, and one Healer available in the end game. Since I don’t know whether Syn will be a tank or healer, my ‘third’ guy should probably be someone who can go either way as well — that probably means Paladin, so I might be talking more about Theinedera in the future.
Kate’s been MIA for a couple weeks to get her company rolling and wrap up things in NYC, so I haven’t really been on LotRO much. I did get a chance to play a bit with Dave and Margie’s trial-characters last night, and I hope they decide to give the game a run; Dave geeks out on the lore like I do, and Margie seems to really enjoy the ‘mini games’ hidden within the crafting system and auction house, as well as the nuances of the skills and traits. They’re both adaptive and smart (obviously) and have quickly figured out the changes to gameplay that you need for different quests.
I leveled my little armorsmith a bit with them — one more level and he can actually wear the heavy armor he’s been making for other people. Really do like that game, and I look forward to some more time spent there once things settle down for Kate and myself.
face to face
No joy in mudville. We were going to run another session of galactic on Sunday, but I’ve been sick (not really feeling better even today), so I called it off and took a long nap. Hopefully we’ll get something going soon.

Links & Resources

Sillof’s Workshop: Reimagining your Childhood

I’m not sure who this mad, mad genius is, but I can’t argue with the results. Boing Boing linked to his (?) steampunk Justice League (and they are yummy — I *adore* Hawkgirl), but take a look at the Star Wars and Venture Brothers figures as well.

Links & Resources

Dragonlance Animated Movie: first one released in a few days.

Holy crap. Holy CRAP.
Okay, the animation isn’t great, but the voices are pretty good. Why am I so excited?
Here’s the story with Dragonlance. Basically, a group of DnD players back in the days of ADnD, working at TSR, ran a campaign. The two authors who were writing the books basically statted out the characters from their story and everyone divvied them up. A huge amount of stuff that happened in that game made it into the story, but as importantly, the idea of the story superseding the basic DnD practices of “kill it and take their stuff” infused the campaign.
It didn’t hurt that the books are actually pretty good.
When the books were released, TSR also released a series of campaign modules designed to let anyone play those characters through, essentially, the story of the books, with some extra stuff that you only see alluded to in the books. It was something like 14 modules, I think — an epic, epic kind of story. Huge.
But more importantly, a lot of the players in my group (this was back in high school) read the books and were really jazzed about the characters and the story. They saw what the characters were doing, they saw what happened to them, and what kind of choices they made — more realistic, less ‘loot it!’ And that informed their play.
In short, that was the first game I ran where people weren’t so much playing a group, tabletop version of Gauntlet, and started roleplaying.
The story was a horrible, horrible railroad from one end to the other, I’m sure — no way it could be otherwise, really, when you’re trying to follow the basic storyline of a book — but it was a golden, special time in my memory, and I preordered the movie this morning.

MMO & Computers

Aggro and You (and you… and you… and you)

I really enjoy Lord of the Rings Online as a game and as an immersive Tolkien-geek experience, both because of its similarities to games like CoH and WoW, and for its differences.
One of the BIG differences in LotRO is Aggro Management and handling big fights in the game. I’m going to illustrate how Aggro generally works in most MMOs that I’ve played, even for only a few days.
Aggro: Aggression. The amount of “hate” that a computer-controlled bad guy has toward a player’s character. It’s summarized (behind the scenes) as a numeric score.
The BASIC mechanics of aggro work something like this, in most games:

Actual Play MMO & Computers

Week in Review: Online

Didn’t have any face to face RPG goodness going on this week (and yes, I know I have yet to deliver an actual play for Galactic — it’s just that it’s going to be SO LONG… *whine*), so here’s what went down in the world of Online Heroics.
MMOG: Lord of the Rings, Online
Tyelaf (hunter) and Tirawyn (captain) are level 25 and working with Radagast the Brown in investigating Things Gone Wrong in the eastern Lone Lands around the ruins of Ost Guruth. (the lands between Weathertop and the Trollshaws, for those soaking in lore-geekery). Throw in an encampment of Dourhand Dwarves, wights, more evil spiders than you can shake a flaming arrow at, and some sort of neeker breekers soaking in the waters of a swamp filled with the dead, and you’ve got some good times.
Geiri (guardian) and Tiranor (hunter) are in the North Downs past Trestlebridge (up the Green way from Bree a fair hike). They are also level 25, and the main thrust of the storyline in that region seems to be around a Ranger and a few organized Men who are trying to unite the free peoples of the North before the whole region falls to lawlessness and orc raiders out of Angmar. Baddies so far are mostly the aforementioned goblinkin, or are bestial in nature — lots of wargs, maddened bears and wolves, et cetera.
When they aren’t directly on the front lines, Geiri keeps working on the fine art of jewelcrafting — gold necklaces, intricate silver rings and so forth. Interesting, fun, with lots of benefits for those wearing the finished products.
Aside from a weird disconnect in my head where it feels like Geiri and Tiranor should be the ones fighting the evil dwarves, while Tye and Tirawyn help unite the Men of the north… it’s going pretty well.
Finnras (captain) is also in the Lone Lands, but a bit closer to the Forsaken Inn, so he can travel back to Bree and the Old Forest more easily when he’s working with Tirathien (minstrel). He’s closing in on level 20, which will give him access to a cooler man-at-arms, heavier armor, and… well… other stuff, but that’s what I’m focusing on at the moment.
Grezzk had a pretty good week. Early on in the week, the hunter class boss decided to spend a night farming up the materials he needed to give (give!) me a couple nice if minor upgrades to my gear.
Me: Did I mention how much I appreciate this?
Him: Did I mention hos much you deserve it?
So that was a good feeling. The guild had a Karazhan run scheduled on Saturday, but I had some stuff to do, so I wasn’t around for the first part. When I did get on, they had already taken out Attumen the Huntsman, Moroes, Maiden of Virtue, and were just starting on the Opera Event, which turned out to be Big Bad Wolf. The raid leader (who was that same hunter leader) got me into the group in his place (passing the leader rains to another guy) after that, and I stayed in for the rest of the run.
Result: total clear of all thirteen boss fights in about six hours, which is pretty awesome. I was in for… the Shade of Aran (1-shot), Chess, Curator (1-shot), Terestian Illhoof (1-shot, during which I disconnected and got logged back in in time for the last half of the fight), Prince Malchezzar (three attempts, due to some bad luck on the Infernal bombs), Netherspite (1-shot), and Nightbane (1-shot).
My personal performance was (I feel) pretty damn good. Aran went damn near flawlessly. Curator involves me a lot, since I’m pulling all the patrols prior to the boss, I did a LOT better on Netherspite and really kind of helped communicate the ‘rotations’ that have to happen during the fight, and Nightbane was okay — I got killed just before the last phase, but I wasn’t the only one, so I don’t feel that bad.
Prince? On the Prince fight, which I’ve only done twice, they put me in charge of Calling Out the Infernal Bombs.
How to explain this fight? Basically, there’s a big boss who knocks the tank all over, so he has to be fought with the tank’s back against a wall to prevent that. It’s a big open courtyard, and every minute or so, a big demonic stone golem thing drops out of the sky AT AN ANGLE and hits the ground. It doesn’t MOVE, but it it sends out an Area Burst of fire that ticks for damage every second. The damage will kill you in three seconds, or one, if you’re currently weakened by the Prince.
So it’s one guy’s job to watch them as they fall, figure out where they’re going to hit, and tell everyone where to move BEFORE it lands.
And they change direction in mid-flight.
Sometimes twice.
And you have to keep FIGHTING while you’re watching these things… while you have the camera swung around to look ABOVE and BEHIND you. The job always falls to a ranged DPS person, cuz healers and melee guys just can’t do it.
And when the Prince gets down to about 33% health, they drop every 30 seconds, instead of every minute, so you start running out of places to stand that are safe.
I’m happy to say that our first two fails weren’t due to my screw ups, but just bad luck on placement of the infernals or silly things like the tank getting bounced away from Prince and dying. I was kept on the Infernal calling for each try, being told by the raid leader “you’re doing a good job, and you’re getting better every time” and by the end I was moving people a lot more confidently. The third try was very clean.
Best of all, the loot off Prince included the hunter’s Kara-level (tier four, if you speak WoW) helm, so I really felt like I EARNED that sucker — it was very nice upgrade for me. (Picked up the Badge of Justice trinket, and I’ll have the T4 pvp shoulders this week some time.)
Best of all is the feeling that I’ve gone from the noob guy on the teams to someone folks feel like they can count on to do well. “Grezzk is going to keep calling the Infernal drops” is worth a lot more to me than a shiny new helmet.
We were going to try to down Gruul on Sunday (we totally have the DPS, Tanking and healing for this fight, we just need to manage the Slams and Shatters better), but with the holidays, we just can’t get 25 people on. It sucks, cuz I KNOW we’re ready to beat that big bastard.
And that’s it. Got another post coming up about Aggro and the fighting style in different games.


Building Excitement

It is a very special kind of activity that, when discussed (even in the abstract) via any medium, actually makes you more excited about performing that activity in the future.
I believe that’s also the definition of most of the leisure activities I really, truly enjoy.

Actual Play

Week in Review

Sunday’s Galactic session (which was the second gaming session, and the third session if you count chargen) was covered in Awesome. I promise to post an Actual play report on both sessions, combined, this week.
I wish I could write a book based on this setting. Great, great story.
MMOG: Lord of the Rings
Mostly working on some crafting skills in mid-week and then got on Geiri and Tiranor for some grouping goodness on Sunday night. That went reasonably well as a duo, but we tried to do a six-man quest on Weathertop THAT I HAVE SUCCESSFULLY TANKED BEFORE, and we got owned repeatedly. Huge repair bills. We had a PuG-healer who was SEVEN levels higher than the rest of us and he couldn’t keep me standing against bosses that the healer on the last run had no problems with. I know why it was happening, and I also know why I don’t want to run with that guy again. Moving on.
Really like the tanking ability Geiri has right now. I’m holding aggro pretty damn well, and am quite tough. Now if I could only tweak a few things about the interface that i don’t like, I’d be really happy.
Grezzk finally got the horrible “KILL FIVE SONS OF A GOD” quest chain done, which opened up a whole slew of new quests in the Blades Edge mountains, and made him the King of the Ogres (the ogres in Blades Edge don’t aggro to you after that, and if you kill one, they say stuff like “Me so honored. Me killed by King!” — it’s funny).
I’m getting a lot better at the PvP battlegrounds with him. Last weekend in one match I got something like 97 kills in 14 minutes, 25 of which I dealt the killing blow for (which usually means I took them out one-on-one), and was defeated twice. One-on-one pvp fights pretty much used to mean I was dead — these days, one on one means I’m down about 30% health, and 2 vs Me is still sometimes in my favor, depending on what classes the other two guys are. I hate shamans a lot. 🙂
Ran most of Kara on Friday and Saturday. Friday we one-shotted Attumen the Huntsman, Moroes, Curator, the Opera Event, and took out Aran in two or three tries. It was my first time fighting Aran, and it’s a very very fun fight. “Hit him hard. Okay, no one move at all, or we all die. Now there’s a Blizzard sweeping through the area… avoid it! Now don’t move again or we all die! Now run to the edge of the room before he AoEs! Now Freeze again! Now kill the elementals he summ– DON’T MOVE! BLIZZARD! KILL HIM! KILL HIM TIL HE DIES!” And win. It’s fun. We did Chess and Maiden of Virtue and Prince and Netherspite the next day. Netherspite was a new fight for me. I suck at Netherspite. A small upgrade for me dropped in the Chess event, which was cool.
My personal bragging, however, was on the Moroes fight the first night. Moroes is one boss with four other Elite Ghost mini-boss adds.
How it usually works: You have two priests in the group, at least. They each use Shackle Undead on one of the adds, which keeps an undead mezzed the whole fight. One tank takes the other two adds, and one tank takes Moroes. We kill the two ‘loose’ adds, Kill Moroes, then take out the two shackled mobs. Getting to the shackled guys usually takes like 3 or four minutes, which means the priests have to be reshackled about three times per fight.
We didn’t HAVE two priests. We had one… and me.
HUNTERS have Freeze Trap. it is pretty much the only thing besides Shackle that works on Undead. (Freeze Trap basically works on anything that can be mezzed at all, but it has Certain Downsides.)
The downsides:
– It lasts 20 seconds.
– It can only be cast every 30 seconds. (Yes, do that math — that’s not hunter friendly.)
– You don’t cast it on a mob; you drop it on the floor and then lure your target over it by hitting the mob.
– Hitting the mob once it’s trapped releases them, so make sure you stop hitting them when they’re getting close to the trap.
And… yeah, so for that fight I had to keep one of the “Shackle guys” trapped for … a long damn time. Normally hunters might have to ‘chain trap’ from one trap to a second one… maybe a third. This one was going to be more like five or six in a row.
…while continuing to do high damage to the group’s current target.
1. Drop a trap, which lasts for one minute, unused.
2. Wait 30 seconds until the skill is ready to use again.
3. Tell the tank to go. Hope he listens and doesn’t wait so long your trap expires.
4. Tanks pull. Hit the mob and piss him off, lure him to us, and into the trap, seconds before it would have vanished from the floor.
5. Take two steps off to the side, drop another trap.
6. Send the pet after the main target and start shooting.
7. About 18 seconds later, the trap breaks and the mob comes after me, hits the second trap, and freezes. I have 10 seconds left on the skill before I can use it.
8. Move a few feet. Switch to the Group’s Second Target and start shooting.
9. Drop the trap.
10. 10 seconds later, the mob gets loose and comes after me. He hits the third trap. I have 20 seconds left before my skill is ready, and the trap lasts 20 seconds,optimally.
11. Move toward the fight at an angle, while shooting.
12. Switch targets to Moroes and send pet.
13. Trapped Mob gets loose just as my skill is ready, but since I ran off a ways, I get it down before it reaches me. It is trapped (hopefully) for 20 seconds. I have 30 seconds before my skill is ready to go again.
14. Run all the way to the other end of the ballroom, shooting Moroes as I go. Turn back the way I came, keep shooting Moroes and watch my trapped mob.
15. Mob trap breaks. I switch to him and shoot him in the face. He comes after me down the long room.
16. Switch back to Moroes and continue shooting. Trap is still not ready.
17. He’s halfway to me. Trap is still not ready.
18. Someone on Ventrillo says “umm… the Trapped Mob is loose.” I say “He’s just coming to me, I got him.” (he is still controlled, because he’s doing what I want)
19. Trap is ready. Drop it just as he gets to me. Freeze. 20 seconds on the trap. 30 seconds on the skill timer.
20. Run 10 seconds away from him (counting in my head) while shooting Moroes, and repeat.
21. Moroes dies just as my baddie hits the trap again.
22. Everyone kills my mob, which by this point in time, due to the shots I used to keep him angry at me, is already down to half health.
23. I break my arm patting myself on the back.
… and I’m very lucky none of the traps broke early… which happens.
Anyway, I was proud of that. I was either second or third DPS for most of the Kara stuff, except for Netherspite. All in all, a pretty good run. I didn’t break anyone else’s mezzes, I didn’t send my pet onto any wrong targets, and I just generally didn’t screw up — after my second Kara run, where I was pretty unhappy with myself, this was a very good way for the run to go: uneventfully.
Aside: I’m just generally ‘better’ when things go pear-shaped, I guess. Seems like I screw up more in the controlled situations.
Case in Point: doing a heroic run of the Coilfang Slavepens, and the tank, mage, and healer die on a bad pull. There are two elites left to kill and it’s me and a warlock. Either one of these elites can two-shot either one of us.
And we won. THAT was a good fight. 🙂


Motivation in Games

Penny Arcade discusses why people play games.
Kate said to me “yeah, I definitely play to explore the game — to *see* it.”
I enjoy that, or at least I can understand enjoying that, but for me the real joy is in displaying expertise. I don’t mean BEATING the game, really — I mean doing stuff in a game that demonstrates a level of familiarity and skill.
First thing I learned how to do in City of Heroes? Run along fence tops. Stand on top of traffic lights and do jumping jacks. Get to the altitude ceiling in Steel Canyon without using Flight.
In WoW? Ice Trap two bad guys at once. Defeat a ‘team of five recommended’ bad guy with just me a long, open road. Tank a whole dungeon using my pet.
In Lord of the Rings? Defeat the evil, haunted oak tree in the heart of the Old Forest with two characters and no healing.
In Halflife? Beat the enemy gunship with a beat up pontoon boat, no cover, and half my health.
In X-Com? Taking an entire enemy ship with one solder, after the whole rest of the crew was killed in the first round.
I think everyone can give a ‘woot’ when that sort of stuff happens, but for me, that’s really the GOAL. I almost WANT things to go pear-shaped when I’m playing — because that’s when it gets FUN. I know Lee’s the same way.
By the same token, I really don’t like it when I’m the only one in a group experiencing a learning curve — it makes the whole experience less fun for me, and it’s one of the reasons that raiding in WoW right now is a little frustrating.
Why do you play?

Actual Play

Week in Review

This one will be brief. I’ll got into more detail in some following posts.
Tabletop: Galactic
We played our first session of Galactic on Sunday, with three players. It was an good sized group for learning the rules, and we had some excellent scenes — a shipboard emergency, a big gun fight, a little gun fight, a mexican standoff, and some fun MIND CONTROL.
The mechanics are much cleaned up from earlier iterations of the rules, and want only some reorganization to really come out clear. The strategy you use in the conflicts is a lot of fun and easily as engaging at that level as the crunch you work with in d20 — it’s just a completely different KIND of mechanical crunch.
We got the rules, we laughed a lot, we enjoyed the scenes, and we’re excited to play the next session. What else to say?
Oh, a lot more to say, but I’ll save that for a post of its own, later this week.
Grezzk: Some new gear becomes available tomorrow in the game, ‘purchasable’ by using the honor points that one earns by playing the PvP battlegrounds. There are two pieces in particular that I’d like to get that total something like 27,000 honor: a total I believe I hit last night, and if not I’ll be able to get the difference in one run tonight, then log on Tuesday and two new epic pieces.
We ran all of Karazhan on Friday with a couple of tanks I’ve never worked with before. Normally, I target through the tanks for these situations, and that worked GREAT last week. This week, it was an utter horror.
I did about half the boss fights, but it was a frustrating run for me. The Raid Leader I’d snapped at early on (You want me to run without a pet? Okay, you run without a weapon.) sort of made me his pet (pun) project — get ‘im geared up and used to the trash pulls. I think they’ve just never had a hunter in the guild who gets offended when you suggest they don’t use their pets. We did some other runs later that weekend where I did perfectly fine — I perform quite well when I know the fights, really. The Dark Portal instance is particularly fun for me, even if I’m in charge of the waves of adds, and most of the rest are very comfortable as well.
Running Kara as melee or tanking seems like it would be a lot easier than ranged damage — it’s so damned easy to target the wrong guy and screw everything up on those group pulls.
Tyelaf the hunter and Geiri the Guardian both hit 24 this week. Geiri is probably my favorite character on there, though Tye is a close second and Finnras (oh captain my captain) a close third at level 18.
This week, Geiri got to tank the Great Barrows up to the first boss and a Cave Troll, atop Weathertop. The group for that run was moving very fast, so i’m not sure how I did on holding aggro on the minor trash, but the boss fights all went very smoothly — I kept them on me without any wavering.
Also: CAVE TROLL! So much fun.

Actual Play MMO & Computers

Week in Review

No face to face gaming this last weekend (pretty much everyone was gone or busy), but a fair bit of online stuff going on.
Play by Post Galactic
Captain Finnras of the Binturong is shaping up to be a great, interesting, fun character… that I’ll probably never get a chance to really play.
Face to Face Galactic
Trying to use email to get done with the last bits of campaign generation, prior to our game this coming Sunday. Some silence from the players on this point, but at least one has really stepped up and given me a fun cliffhanger to start his story off with. Woooot.
Looking at the calendar, I feel a bit of mope. We get a game in this weekend, then I’m gone the weekend of the 30th, then we have the 7th and 14th weekends… one of which is probably iffy… so maybe we’ll get three sessions in. Maybe. If only we had more TIME. Eh. A noble effort, either way, and maybe we’ll get a chance to keep going after the holidays with the folks who aren’t off to another acting gig in some other part of the country.
Pretty much everything I’ve done on WoW in the last week has been Grezzk. It’s not because I don’t enjoy playing Kayti, or Theinedera (who I’d LOVE to level up with the speeded up leveling they put in), but Kayti’s Alliance-side in a guild I don’t know that well and who aren’t my level, and Theinedera is on another server entirely (really should move her to Farstriders).
Hellfire Ramparts, Blood Furnance (fail), Shattered Halls, Steamvaults (twice), and Arcatraz.
We one-shot High King Maulgar, AND the guy that “the hunters” are assigned to (Kiggler the Crazed) dies so fast that we have time to switch targets and help the melee dps guys kill their first guy. That has never happened before (granted, it’s only our third Maulgar kill, but whatever). The guild Hunter leader is VERY happy about this and personally compliments me on the damage I was putting out.
We don’t beat Gruul the Dragonkiller, but MAN it feels like we COULD, if we could just figure out where NOT to be when he shatters us.
We take down half the bosses. Attumen the Huntsman (an epic for Grezzk), Moroes, Maiden of Virtue, Curator… and the random “Opera” event, which was Wizard of Oz… so we actually beat Tinman, Dorothee, Lion, Strawman, and Toto all at once, and then Wicked Witch. They’re all one-shot kills with no one dying. I am in for every part of this run. (10 people can be inside, but your group can actually be bigger than 10, with back-up people outside to swap in on certain fights where their skills are needed or they need gear — they keep me in for everything, to teach me the instance. I *did* screw up one pull on the trash before Curator and wipe everyone, and died a few times early on as I figured out what was what, but otherwise it was good.)
At the end of the day, I go to repair my gear… and I notice that I have been given access to a guild-funded repair allowance.
We one-shot all but one boss (they have to do Nethersprite twice — I wasn’t in that fight), and I do well in everything I’m involved in — we nine-man Prince, which was cool.
At the end of this week of stuff, Grezzk has a two-piece “Beast Lord” set from the Heroic runs (which helps me trap stuff better), THREE epic pieces of gear from Kara (when you’re the worst-geared guy in the run, you want lots of stuff that no one else has an interest in), hundreds of gold worth of enchants and ‘nice to haves’ from the Guild Bank… and some personal compliments from the hunter leader and the Guild leader. A couple more heroic runs, and I’ll have some more pretty gear from cashing in Heroic Dungeon badges.
Plus, as I already blogged, it really feels like he’s part of the guild now. Especially when people can just BS on Ventrilo while we run instances.
It’s been a good week. 🙂
I haven’t done much with Tyelaf since the epic battle with the Cave Troll on top of Weathertop. He’s level 23…
… and now, so is Gieri, my dwarven Guardian (tank!). This is where all my LotRO time has been going this week, and it shows — I’ve gotten some really nice tanking “Deeds” completed that are increasing the amount of threat he generates, AND the number of enemies he can keep locked on him simultaneously. It’s HARD to hold aggro in Lord of the Rings, and there’s some assumption that any but the truly crazy/dedicated tanks are simply going to let some of the enemies hit other characters.
I aim to be one of the crazy tanks. No one gets hit but me. Dem’s the rules. Generally, it works pretty well, though we have had a setback here and there. By and large, Geiri + Tiranor the hunter = EZ Mode. 🙂
Finally, Finnras, who is my ‘third main’ character. The captain is level 17.9, and will be the next person I work on catching up with the other two. Once Kate and I have a pile of people all the same level, we’re going to play around with the team ups to see what different ones might be fun.

MMO & Computers

Getting over the New-guy Wall

After a long dry spell, I feel pretty good with the guild Grezzk joined a couple months ago.
MMOG is Massive MULTIPlAYER Online Game, and if you’re solo for everything… well, play Halflife 2, it’s really good.
But if you’re in and MMOG, It’s like that song from Cheers, y’know? It’s nice when everyone knows your name. That’s where you want to go when you have some free time.
Especially when getting to that point was a lot of work.
So here’s Grezzk’s play history in a nutshell.

Table Top

Galactic: characters and everything else

So, this part is going to be very sketchy. For more information on the characters, the setting, the worlds, and and the factions, check out the Galactic Playtest section of RandomWiki — Denver Playtest Two.
Players involved were Tim, Chris, Dave, Jay, and Randy.

Table Top

So let’s talk about Galactic.

Then Isabel, seeing before all others that the Scourge would indeed be the end of Humanity, did gather up the faithful and lead them across the Wastelands and through many hardships and past many tempting oases, until they came to their new home. There, Isabel said they would be safe, and told the people to persevere, and was gone.
On the nasty, unpleasant world of Caliban, that is the story at the core of the ‘origins’ tales in most of the religions. There was a great and powerful kingdom/empire/shogunate, and then the Scourge came (why and how they came varies wildly), and the great prophet Isabel led the Chosen on a long trip and left them to fend for themselves in a rough and dangerous place that was, nonetheless, safe from the Scourge. The Chosen survived, and everyone else died. Noah’s Ark, but with a LOT less water.
Time passes. Many many many generations of people live and die (often violently) on Caliban, which is a harsh world requiring harsh measures and harsher rules. The world is sparsely but widely settled, and its people are highly territorial, warring with all other territories both for survival and for the supposed evils “they” have committed since time immemorial. Mankind slowly becomes more civilized (or at least more technologically advanced) and, like Earth, people find a comfortable place in their lives for their religion — maybe making it a central part of their lives… maybe not thinking about it at all.
About five generations ago, someone found a long lost ruins down near the almost-uninhabitable equator. In the ruins are some very very odd documents and… artifacts that contain references to the prophet Isabel.
Many references.
And a lot of math that people are only barely able to figure out — math and information that seems to be showing the exact location of the great ship that Isabel brought her people to safety in… and that location is smack dab in The Reef.
The Reef… which is an asteroid belt on the outer edge of the solar system of which Caliban is a part.
Space-faring technology at that point in time amounted to a few unmanned rockets being fired into the outer atmosphere. (When fighting your neighbors and survival are your two main motivators for several millenna, a budding space program is not a big priority.)
People were, needless to say, a bit agitated.
Temporary treaties were signed. Much work is done in a surprisingly short period of time. Several territories send ships to the coordinates in the Reef.
They find Isabel’s ship.
The five generations since then have seen a lot of change.
So, the basic legend seems to be true. There was a big … empire? Federation? Something. A big human-founded republic that spanned thousands of worlds. Somewhere at the height of that, the Scourge came… or were created… or manifested… something. Isabel saw the writing on the wall, got together an enormous generation ship with all the best tech (much of which Caliban techs are still trying to reverse-engineer), and set out to get clear of the impending destruction of the human race.
She passed a lot of really nice, habitable planets and, for reasons unknown, picked arid, barely habitable Caliban to settle on. Humanity had to work so hard to survive in those first years that they lost — or gave up — pretty much any knowledge that didn’t focus directly on making it to the next sunrise. Society fell apart, scattered, and slowly… very very slowly… rebuilt, and discovered where it had come from; the disaster it had avoided. There is a resurgence of faith, but also a massive drive to analyze all the old texts in light of this new information.
What does mankind do in a situation like that?
They head right back out to the stars, of course.
In the current time, there are many colonies spreading out from Caliban, funded by the still highly competitive, barely cordial Territories of the home world. Beyond the colonies are the Remnants — hundreds, maybe thousands of worlds that were once part of the Solor Republic that was humanity at its finest. Left behind are ruins, lost technology, mysteries, and hundreds of Alien clans that still live on those worlds and who were, inexplicably, untouched by the Scourge that destroyed humanity. Some are neutral toward the last survivors of mankind; some worship them like returning gods; most of them shoot on sight (using technology far better than Caliban’s), screaming in a rage. It has been well over two thousand years since they’ve seen a human, and still they remember the pain of when it all came crumbling down.
You play a ship’s captain, sailing the void between worlds in search of… something. (What that is is different for everyone, isn’t it?) You might be a captain in the Concordance Navy. You might be a smuggler, or entrepreneur, or merchant, or archaeologist, or scavenger, or one of the idle rich, or something else: no matter what, you’re the Captain, and when things get rough, it’s just you and your crew.
Things are about to get rough.
The Scourge is coming again.


Game Mechanics that set the tone

So I’m musing about game mechanics; have been for the last couple weeks, actually, because I’m playing a lot of Spirit of the Century, editing a MONSTER of an old-school-style game called Robots and Rapiers, getting ready to run Galactic, and wishing I’d had more luck playing PTA and Dogs.
So all those systems are bouncing around in my head, and I start drawing comparisons.
Here’s an observation:
Lots of games have Edges. By “edge” I just mean “that thing on your character sheet that lets you tweak things in your favor.” Call them Aspects, Traits, Talents, whatever… in play, they let you tweak results.
There are really two ways that an “edge” can be invoked:
Mode 1. They can be used to give you a intial, “pre-roll” boost to your chances of success, thereby increasing your odds of winning a conflict. Primetime Adventures does this with both it’s Traits and Fan Mail. Spirit of the Century pretty much does this with Aspects (they come in after the roll, but before the roll *counts*).
Mode 2. They can be used to stave off or lessen the sting of failure. Galactic’s “Edges” do this. Traits you bring in after a conflict has already started in Dogs in the Vineyard do this. “Doom” in Conspiracy of Shadows does this. The appropriately-named Survival Points in Dead of Night do this. There are many others.
Now, my point is this: your final numeric result using ‘edges’ in either of the two ways above might be exactly the same, but the modes feel different, and that feeling seeps into the tone of the game you’re running. pushing either toward adventure-heroic (mode 1) or the survivalist-gritty (mode 2).
I’m not talking about the game’s power level. It doesn’t matter if you’re giving folks one ‘edge’, or five, or ten — I think if they’re implemented in the style of Mode 1, the game is going to have a kind of “let’s be awesome” feel, and if you’re using them in the style of Mode 2, it’s going to have a kind of “let’s survive this” feel.
What does that mean? I think that means that, even if you have a mechanically-perfect ‘hack’ to the Spirit of the Century rules to use it for zombie-survival-horror, unless you change the way you can invoke Aspects, the system itself will be subtly encouraging you and the players ‘be awesome and heroic.’ It’s not the number of Aspects you give people that matters, but how they can be used that will affect the tone.
Now, let’s say that you have a group sitting at the table who (a) totally gets the tone you’re going for, (b) agrees to it and (c) actively works to support it. Can they overcome the subtle whispers of the game and run an horrifying zombie-survival game using, say, straight Spirit of the Century?
Yes. Without hesitation, yes. The rules are only one voice at the table, and can be drowned out easily but other voices. It’s really no different — or less jarring — than when one PLAYER is working toward a different tone than everyone else.
You just can’t throw popcorn at the rules and say “knock it off.”

Actual Play Table Top

Galactic: good for the brain, bad for the eyes

I was going to write up a post about the character/universe generation for the Galactic game from this weekend (a complete campaign I’m foolishly trying to cram into the space between here and mid-December), but I wanted to transfer everyone’s notes up to the wiki first.
And reading their [censored] awful handwriting, I am now totally [censored] blind, so you’ll have to wait for the update until I learn how to read braille.
I thought *my* handwriting was bad. Holy hell.
Anyway, the stuff I sacrificed my eyes to transcribe is on the wiki here.

Actual Play MMO & Computers

“I got Girl Cooties” (Weekend in Review, the MMO post)

Figured I’d split this up into two posts, since I have a lot to post about the face to face Galactic game.
If you want to know why the post has the title it does, you’ll have to read to the end.
Right then.
Who’s this? I haven’t mentioned her before. This is my level 20 blood elf paladin on Kel’Thuzad — a full-PvP server. I’ve been wanting to level up a tank on the Horde side, and while I’m still trying to get into playing a bear-form druid, I still REALLY LIKE paladins, and I already have a lot of experience playing a protection-specced pally on Alliance, so I’m working on Thienedera now.
The patch coming out on Tuesday is cutting the XP required to level from level 20 to 60 by 20%, and increased the XP from quest rewards, so I wanted to get her to level 20 to really set her up to smoke through the levels in a hurry. That meant getting her up 3 levels this weekend, which… I pretty much did just on Friday night — there’s a reason they didn’t speed up leveling from level 1 to 20. 🙂 In the process I was invited into a Guild and … was really really surprised by a very supportive group. There are no 70s in the guild, but they’re a very good-sized group and the leadership seems really really focused on helping out everyone and really helping the group progress as a whole. That’s neat. I’m pleased I’ll be part of a guild like that as try to her up.
Also, I might have to make use of WoW new renaming service (which take all of 2 minutes, apparently). Kaylee informed me that Thie’s name is “Casey”, so I might have to rename her. 🙂
After a couple weeks of fairly light play, I got Grezzk on and did some fun stuff. Said fun stuff included a run of not one or two but THREE five-man dungeons that I’ve actually seen before, and participating in Gruul’s lair, which is the first of the 25-man raid-dungeons in the game — a pretty short one that only takes an hour or so to do successfully, or longer if you’re still trying to beat the last boss.
The first instance was done as a favor to a friend of mine who is not in my Guild. He’s a tank, and a nice guy, and needed someone to provide damage in the Auchenai Crypts which, to put it simply, is my least favorite instance on Grezzk (I think I’ll LOVE it on Kayti — it’s MADE for AoE tanking). He talked up his guild a lot to me, how smart and quick they run things, and I’m at least five levels too high for it, so I figured I’d come help out.
Yeah, we team wiped probably 8 or 9 times. It was awful. I was pulling aggro off the tank with just my autoshot running, and … ugh. It’s a miserable mid-level-60 instance and they didn’t have the people they needed for it. Sucked.
The second instance was with my Guild in one of the wings of Tempest Keep known as Arcatraz. “Wings” is a particularly-apt name for it in this case, as Tempest Keep is actually a series of ornate palaces floating in open space — you can’t even get there without a flying mount. Arcatraz is essentially a prison for horrific critters that some bad people are keeping locked up, and whom someone is now releasing to wreak havoc — you must stop them, yadda yadda. I’m not sure, but I believe Arc is considered the hardest wing of Tempest Keep, which would then presumably make it the hardest five-man instance in the game (Again, the Crypts have my vote for MOST ANNOYING, but it’s not even a level-70 dungeon).
This is a particular FUN and FUNNY dungeon to run — there are two bosses in about the middle of the instance that have been working together so long that they really really HATE each other and each actually cheers you one as you kill the other one. The bickering and the cheering is done with some FANTASTIC voice acting. Also, the last guy in the run — a kind of powermad toady — is voiced beautifully by Curtis Armstrong, and always cracks me up.
This run went really well — it was a good group and everyone was guildies and on Vent together, so while we were a little tired and not too talkative, it still went really well. I found I was STILL pulling aggro off the tank (who is geared very very well and knows his job), so I’m not sure what happened there. Normally I don’t have aggro management issues like that, but maybe I’m starting to get into the DPS range where I churn out so much damage I have to routinely pull back a little. Would be nice if that’s so.
In any case, I was EASILY the top damage dealer in the group according to the DPS readouts which, considering I was running with some serious Guild vets, made me feel good. I also did a little chain trapping, which makes me happy when I can contribute in that way.
Saturday, the Guild was running the 25 man raid-dungeon Gruul’s lair. How to explain this…
There’s a giant that the Ogre tribes worship as a god. (For good reason.)
You go to his lair. You beat through his elite guards to the first main room. In it is the High King of the Ogres, and four of his closest advisors. These advisors are also full-on raid bosses in their own right. They are all standing in a pack AND HAVE TO BE PULLED, TANKED, AND KILLED SIMULTANEOUSLY BY FIVE DIFFERENT PEOPLE.
Kiggler the Crazed uses ranged magic attacks on whoever he’s fighting, and doesn’t hit too hard — anyone with decent health and a healer along for the ride can tank them — you just need DPS to kill him.
There’s a warlock who summons demonic pets the size of a bus and fears his tank all the time, so that’s a total pain. The fear is an AoE, also, so he has to be fought FAR AWAY from all other groups.
There’s a mage who keeps up a fire aura so nasty that it will kill ANYONE in melee range in a few seconds, so you have to take him down with nothing but ranged attacks.
There’s a priest who, unless interrupted by rogue stuns or silences or something, heals everyone ELSE, a LOT.
And there’s the High King, who just hits really frigging hard.
So you need
1. Someone to pull the High King off in to a hallway and basically solo tank him (with a healer or two to keep you standing, until everyone else is dead).
2. Someone to keep the fire-mage guy busy.
3. All the rogues and other melee guys killing the priest as fast as possible.
4. A tank (or two) on the fear-spamming demon-summoning warlock.
5. A five-man team of hunters, mages, and one priest to keep Kiggler the Crazed busy, and then make him dead.
It is one of the most complicated pulls around, and if the pull is good, and you kill everyone in a smart order, the fight is easy — if the pull is bad, the fight is very… short.
I got picked to pull and tank Kiggler the crazed this time — my second time in the run. Then when he (hopefully) dies, I’m to send my pet after the priest or warlock while simultaneous attack a different guy (the fire mage) and, when everything else is dead, join the whole raid in killing the King.
How’d it go? We killed everything on the first pull, and all 24 or 23 of us were standing at the end. We’re getting pretty good at this. I was really happy to be the guy in charge of pulling and at least initially tanking Kiggler, and really pleased to be in what is, so far, our best fight against the High King and crew.
Then we went on through another hallway full of tough guards to Gruul. This was really tricky and actually raid-wiped us once. Then we got to Gruul. People were told where to stand once we got inside. People were warned not to linger at the doorway when the fight started, or you’d be locked outside the chamber of this huge bastard…
… and I walked in a step too far, Gruul triggered, came over, and wiped us all out. &**&#$(&*@# . Dammit. Wiped out the raid. @#$@#%.
Anyway, we tried one more time, but folks had to go after the one try — we have yet to beat this guy, so I’m not going into all the stuff that happens in the fight, but suffice it to say it makes the fight with High King Maulgar look like a summer cotillion.
Peole were still on Vent after the raid was done, and some of us needed a run of another instance, so five of us reformed and ran and did that instance. I dunno if we were overgeared or what, but I’ve run The Black Morass before, and won… and this was a breeze by comparison. A BREEZE. 18 waves of dragonkin coming in through randomly spawning portals and trying to kill this guy behind us… with waves 6, 12, and 18 bringing along a full on Boss as well… and we smoked it. It was good and, again, among a group of vet characters, I was WELL in front on damage-dealt. I feel like I’m ready to sign up to participate in the (10-person raid, 13-boss, “task force in a box”) raid dungeon “Karazhan”.
I feel like I can contribute. I think I might do that this Saturday.

Saturday night (yes, after running Gruul AND the Black Morass instance), I got onto LotRO and Kate and I were running around the Lone Lands (the uninhabited region all around around Weathertop for miles and miles. We’re in a tricky place with Tyelaf and Tirawyn — lots of “need a fellowship” missions in both the Barrowdowns and Lone Lands, and not much else — in short, we’ve hit a wall we need some help to get over.
We were on no more than 10 minutes when Kate spotted someone on the Looking for Fellowship channel asking if people wanted to join them for “Clearing Weathertop” (which involves exactly what it sounds like — defeating the orcs and … OTHERS… that infested the area Weathertop after the Ringwraiths recently visited there.
We joined, and found out there was another player who also had the in-game voice chat enabled (a built-in push-to-talk tool that we use instead of Gtalk). We started chatting and coordinating that way, and eventually got the whole group on the tool, so we could get really teamed up well.
This was a GREAT group — one of those once-in-a-hundred pugs that just clicks. We had a great tank, some decent damage, and two Captains who, although not healers as such, do an excellent job of healing “morale” as long as you keep WINNING.
This was where I was really glad that I’ve played most of the classes by this point. The thing with the Captain-class heals is that they only become available when you DEFEAT AN ENEMY. If you just look at the skill list for the class, you see a bunch of heals and think “okay, they can heal, we’re fine.”
And that works great when you’re fighting packs of five or six orcs — bad guys are dying all the time, so their heals (and a number of defeat-dependent buffs) are available much of the time.
As I said, they’re really good when you’re WINNING.
BOSS fights, when you’re fighting one BIG thing, for a LONG time — they loose access to a LOT of those abilities, and become, basically, a mid-range damage dealer, which is bad.
And we had to kill a number of bosses.
So I’ve come off several hours playing WoW, where hunters can’t shoot things from too close in, and LotRO hunters have a HUGE range on their bows, so I’m WAY WAY WAY back.
And we fight our first boss, and I see that health levels are starting to drop all over, and finally the boss dies, and a heal goes up, and then his minions die, and we’re fine again.
So… the next boss guy… I switch to a minion. Hunters are like well-armored Blasters in CoH — we hit FRIGGING HARD. So I start on a minion, pull him to me, beat him up, and he dies in the middle of the boss fight.
And… I see a heal go up. I hear the other captain on voicechat say, six seconds after the kill, and one second after the “heal power” opportunity has dropped “dang, missed it.” She wasn’t expecting the kill, so she didn’t know all those buff powers were going to come available all of a sudden.
I kill another minion right about when the boss dies… so that doesn’t matter so much.
We get to the top of Weathertop.
There’s the big boss guy. None of us have ever been here before, but we’re ROLLING through the thing, so we (read: they) all charge in. It’s a toughish fight, but we win.
This guy has half-again as many hit points as the boss we just killed, we’re already down on power, and his had more minions. ACK!
So I shoot him a bit, and we’re getting POUNDED on. He smashes the whole group and everyone but me (who is WAY WAY back) is stunned. I switch targets off him so he doesn’t decide I’m his new target while the tank is knocked silly.
I’m on a minion. A HA!
I shoot the minion a lot. In the face. Health scores are plummeting and NO heals are going up, cuz nothing’s dying.
Just as I’m about to kill the minion, I get on Voicechat and shout “Captain! Heal opportunity is coming up… NOW!”
The minion dies. Beautiful green light floats up from everyone.
So. Damn. Cool.
We had such a good time with that we all just stayed in group all night and cleared Fellowship-only missions the rest of the evening. Good stuff.

So what’s with the post title?
I was in voicechat a lot this weekend. By and large? Everyone in charge was female, which I think is just unspeakably cool.
The leader for the Tempest Keep run? Female, as was the main melee DPS.
The Raid Leader, one of the tanks, and main healer on Gruuls? Female.
Pretty much the whole damn fellowship in LotRO were female — both Captains, the Tank… (And as much more of LotRO are 35 and up, it was a good group for that reason also.)
It was just a neat thing… and really made me appreciate the mental energy that that brings to a group.


Religion in Gaming

We need more Starbucks: the character, not the coffee. An interesting take on probably the most believably religious character in genre television. Very nice ideas about bringing that kind of portrayal to your gaming table.
After reading it, imagine bringing that kind of ‘real’ religion to, say, a Dogs character. FUN. 🙂

Actual Play Musing

Year in review

Yes, I know it’s not the end of the year yet, but since the holidays typical kill my gaming, I’m simply looking at the last 12 months, to take a look at what kind of face to face gaming I got done.
November, 2006
– A year ago, today, I ran the first/last game for the guys out in NYC. It was the “freebooters” scenario for Shadow of Yesterday.
– I also started up a play-by-post Mountain Witch game that sadly died of asphyxiation during the holiday doldrums. More sadly, in cleaning spam out of that forum last week, I accidentally deleted all the gaming-related posts. 🙁
December, 2006
– Nothing
January, 2007
– Got together with the locals and made up characters for a clockpunk Shadow of Yesterday game.
February, 2007
– Nothing.
March, 2007
– Nothing again — I didn’t even post weeks in review for these two months. Sheesh.
April, 2007
– After two months of a big fat nothing, I am *rabid* to play, and fly to Chicago for Forgecon Midwest. There, I get to play Heroquest, run a game of Shadow of Yesterday and the Mountain Witch, and playtest Galactic with Matt. After I get home…
– I start up the Primetime Adventures “Weird War Two” game, and had the pilot session.
– I run the second (and apparently last) session of the clockpunk game.
May, 2007
– Nothing. Scheduling people for games continues to be a nightmarish endeavor.
June, 2007
– Stealing from the very best, I pick up on the NYC crew’s gaming plan, which is basically “have a huge group of players, and run a regular game for the first five who say they can attend.” I start a Spirit of the Century game and sign up 13 other people. Only one has not played to this point — most everyone has played at least two or three sessions, and EVEN I GOT TO PLAY ONCE! Success!
– I also start the Nine Princes in Pulp game this month.
– I get in the second episode of Primetime Adventures: Strange Allies — “Djinn” — it goes swimmingly awesome.
– Dave starts his Ill Met by Gaslight PTA game.
July, 2007
– Not one but TWO different FULL EPISODES of Spirit of the Century
– Another session of Nine Princes in Pulp — unfortunately, pretty much the last one, as we’ve yet to get back to that.
– Dave runs PTA again.
August, 2007
– Spirit of the Century and the ever-rotating player pool wins again.
September, 2007
– Nothing in here. How odd.
October, 2007
– More Spirit of the Century: Two new episodes, both on Friday nights. How unusual. And lots of fun.
– A session of Dead of Night: “Zombies At(e) my Homecoming Dance” Still need one more session on that.
November, 2007
– Flying in the face of history (and sanity) I’m trying to start, play, and FINISH a short Galactic game during the months of November and December. Chargen is this Sunday. No other gaming is on the docket yet, because Galactic is going to take scheduling priority, but I do intend to get in some more Spirit of the Century and finish the Dead of Night game.
Analysis, after the cut…

Links & Resources

So Conflicted

The Zombie Fluxx card games combines a great love and a great hate of mine.
Love: Zombies. Man, I likes me some zombies.
Hate: Fluxx. I’m goal oriented enough that the constantly shifting ‘win’ requirements in Fluxx actually give me a headache (and remind me of a few too many bad I.T. projects).
I’m torn. I want to order a deck, but it might only be so I can set it on fire.