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Showing posts from June, 2008

Belated Things

Belated Worlds

I finished patching up EverQuest 2 and Vanguard and quickly discovered that the magic was gone. Both games are too big -- way too much world. You can't just throw a bunch of players in there and expect the problem to be solved. They'll just get bunched up at the best places, and unless you happen to be "in the know," you don't know where to go and how to get there.

I'm not "in the know," and I don't care enough to get there. I'm not going to pour over message boards and harass people or join a guild. I just don't care enough to jump through those hoops to find a way to enjoy myself. To get me to play these games, they really need to consider cutting out a lot of the unnecessary geography so players can congregate. Alternately, perhaps just route me directly to where the most fun is to be had - I'm not asking for them to kill the open-ended aspect, but is a signpost so much to ask?

Of course, I should shoulder so…

July is on SOE

Fussing around with that musical clip has sort of snapped me out of my Neverwinter Nights 2 related stupor. I realize I need a bit of a break from the game, but what? My Age of Conan account is expired and I don't plan on renewing it. My City of Heroes account will soon follow, my burnout having reached such depths that I suspect nothing less than the unofficial Champions Online sequel will suffice.

At first, I honestly considered giving Final Fantasy XI another spin, as you can now get all four expansions for $20. Just then, Sony Online Entertainment may have come to my rescue. In my email box is a dynamite offer: As a former subscriber in good standing, I'm able to try out both EverQuest 2 and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, for free, until July 31st.

I can afford free, but I still have a few reservations. I've painted myself in a corner in EverQuest 2, lodging myself neatly between classes I don't want to play, having bored of soloing yet not knowing enough people…

Pride and Prerequisites

There comes a point where a person who engages in a negative activity long enough has to come out and confess that this is what they are, no amount of goading will change that, and they're proud of it. In this case, I'm going to say my non-committal alt-a-holic ways are such an activity: "I like to reroll my RPG characters, and I'm proud."

Lets hold a parade. Meanwhile, I'm noticing a certain tendency towards Neverwinter Nights 2 again.

I've taken my current Sorcerer/Arcane Scholar of Candlekeep to the end of chapter 1. He's a pretty cool character in that he has a smaller selection of spells than a Wizard, but a lot more freedom in how he can use them. He gets more casts per day, freedom to cast whatever he wants so long as he has not used up the circle for that spell, and now new feats let him cast those circles again using the allocation for one to three circles higher.

To extent, I enjoy that, but I notice that my play style doesn't work thi…

It's all about the "M"

If pride comes before a fall, it seems a bit of humility has the opposite affect. My humility in the last entry which lead me to roll a pure Sorceror has developed into the smoothest runthrough of the Neverwinter Night 2 I've ever had. It's practically easy mode, and I've the "M" to thank for it.

The "M" in this case stands for "mitigation." I had learned through playing City of Heroes that the healing heroes are just burning a lot of endurance patching up wounds: the true path of victory is to prevent getting hit in the first place. In other words, damage mitigation, or an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Little did I know this lesson carried over very well into the D20 system.

By combining Barkskin (Natural AC, +5) with Improved Mage Armor (Armor AC, +6) the whole 4-member party is neigh unhittable by any foes I've encountered all the way to level 9. Magic Circle Against Alignment is a start on the deflection bonus asp…

Accepting D20-style Outsourcing

After a day of experimenting with various "Rogue/Sorcerer/Arcane Scholar of Candlekeep" derivatives, I've decided (in so far as an indecisive person can decide things) to just accept Neeshka's place in the party and roll my own character as a straight "Sorcerer/Arcane Scholar." As I mentioned at the end of the last entry, this character should be more interesting when combining spontaneous metamagic conversion with the already higher casts per day.

My thinking is that, rather than consider Neeshka's pure tiefling Rogue status to be a incurable burden on the party's combat abilities, I'll look into making good use of her. She already starts with Weapon Finesse, so I'll advance her as a melee fighter. Normally closed ranged combat is quickly fatal for Neeshka, but my Sorceror/Scholar character's spells should be able to (among other things) boost her armor class while keeping her invisible (even when attacking).

With any luck, this pl…

D20 Humility

Occasionally, outspoken gits like myself have to eat a bit of humble pie when they realize they've stepped over the line in their assumptions. Okay, fine, Wizards of the Coast knew what they were doing with spell resistance in the D20 system, after all.

I thought that the only modifier to a spell resistance overcoming roll was feats such as Greater Spell Penetration. Actually, you add your caster class level to the roll, which is a massive difference: +20 by level 20.

Those commonly available 12 spell resistance Sashes of Shimmering become completely ineffective against a level 12 caster. 31 spell resistance on a lvl 20 Dark Elf isn't such a bad thing: Without any Spell Penetration feat, you've a 50% chance of overcoming it at level 20. Casting Assay Resistance overcomes it entirely. Spell Resistance is really more of a level restriction mechanic than anything else.

On top of that, making saving throws versus spells isn't that easy to do. The base DC is 10 + spel…

The Art Of Hitting Things Very, Very Hard

Well, it seems I've finally figured things out in terms of finding the "replace the Rogue" solution in Neverwinter Nights 2. It comes with the understanding that you only need to dump 3 skill points per level to keep the neccessary skills up. That's trivial and, as long as you have that first level of Rogue, DC 20/35+ traps are doable (I think).

Taking Able Learner and having a decent intelligence score means you could technically have a level 1 Rogue, level 19 (+) anything. Many races can do this without penalty. Don't fret about your ability scores, Disable Device and Search are not even dexterity based, although Open Lock is.

Poor Neeshka (the provided pure Rogue tiefing of the main campaign) how little we need her... however, the Rogue's plight it's about to get worse.

Sneak attacks: Picking your pockets of any real damage?

If there's any new discovery I've come across since yesterday, it's only that "sneak attack" isn't…

Still Roguishly Pursuing The Neverwinter Nights

You know, my overall desire to fixate on the pros and cons of various classes in an RPG is interesting. It indicates that, deep down, I must have a great interest in being a business manager or something. Always tweaking, always trying to find the better way to do something.

Yesterday, I thought I found the solution to my latest Neverwinter Nights 2 fixation. In order to make a Rogue a valuable member of a party (instead of the medium BAB trap and door handyman they usually are) I thought I'd go for Arcane Trickster. It seemed like a pretty good deal because you essentially get 5 free Rogue and Wizard levels. However, problems arose on multiple levels.

The Arcane Trick Was On Me

Without getting into too long of a story, the main two problems were these:
Neverwinter Nights 2's implementation of the Arcane Trickster make the high sneak attack bonus a complete tease.

So what if I'd have 8d6 sneak attack at level 20? I'd also have a +10 (lvl 5 Rogue/5 Wizard/10 Trickst…

Trick and Treat

In the last entry, I outlined what I wanted in a Neverwinter Nights 2 campaign character: a trap removal specialist to replace poor Neeshka that would actually be more useful in a fight. After wracking my brains to the point where I was regretting a lack of an overclocked Jesus-like heat sink, I'm happy to report effective solution: The Arcane Trickster wins.

The clincher was that an Arcane Trickster essentially transforms a 20th level 10 Rogue/10 Wizard character into a 20th level 15 Rogue/15 Wizard character. A few skill points and bonus feats are lost in the transition, but keeps the important parts: sneak attack bonus progression and spell progression. A 10 level bonus is hard to beat, it was worthwhile enough to edge out the runner up, a 16 Bard/4 Rogue.

There were threes hurdles left, but two have been overcome:

First, the Arcane Trickster's level progression assures an experience penalty for my favorite race, the humans. I solved this by deciding to not ditch the R…

Hacking AD&D

After playing a bit more Neverwinter Nights 2, I've decided that perhaps spellcasters in AD&D 3rd edition are not such invalids, after all. True, spell resistance, combined with needing to pass saving throws and damage rolls, make most offensive spells very unreliable. However, what I've learned is that melee characters have their own problems. For example, damage reduction works not unlike spell resistance in that it requires a lucky roll (such as a confirmed critical hit) to inflict meaningful damage at all.

My original impression that the D20 system is one of great randomness was even more all-inclusive than I earlier realized. Regardless of if you're throwing spells with epic spell penetration or attacking with the highest base attack bonus, you can't count on getting anything done in AD&D unless the dice are on your side.

I think what I've been looking for all this time is just something along the lines of reliability in the D20 system. I'm a …

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points Is Drizzt

Subjects on the menu: The nature of intelligence versus insanity, and why the shortest distance between two points in Neverwinter Nights 2 is Drizzt.

Today, I've decided all my entires on "alt-a-holicism" are largely evidence of insanity... but I'm no mental invalid. The trouble is that, when you get right down to it, excessively overthinking things always leads to insanity. Ideas are just that, ideas - they exist only in the mind - and the more complicated they get the more insane (distanced from reality) the idea is.

This "insanity" is occasionally useful, it's what gives Humankind its incredible edge. For example: "People can fly. No, listen, I've been thinking it over and perhaps air will actually resist an oddly shaped plane moving through it, causing an upward suction that we can use to fashion a vehicle that allows people to fly." Thanks, Wright Brothers, that one turned out handy.

Though it's sort of a sign of ongoing insan…

The Futile Beating Of Dead Things

Well, today's gaming endeavors were a waste. I was bored of my Monk in Neverwinter Nights 2, and so decided to try the City of Heroes solution: roll an alt. One thing lead to another and before I knew it I had pretty much spent the whole day rolling alts. Wizards, Clerics, Bards, even a Rogue/Wizard I was grooming for being an Arcane Trickster.

I'm honestly not sure how those hours disappeared: was it from leafing through the Neverwinter Nights 2 manuals (both the original and Mask of the Betrayer) trying to figure out how to wrestle the missing fun from this D20-inspired monstrosity? If so, I'm sorry to say that my quest has failed. I think the only reason I tried so hard is because I might have liked to have finished the Neverwinter Nights 2 original campaign, if only just to say I did.

Too bad, it seems enjoying NWN2 just isn't possible for me anymore. Even minor inventory clutter pushes my nerves past the breaking point. My problems with NWN2 may have stem…

Back to Forgotten Realms butchery

Well, now that I've said my tearful temporary goodbyes to City of Heroes (history has shown that I'll be back) I'm currently in the default position of "every MMORPG sucks." Yet, I need to play something, if only to stave off the gasoline price related melancholy that is sweeping the nation.

At first, I thought perhaps I'd give Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion another run with intent of getting some heavy plugin work done on it. That's certainly easier than writing a game from scratch (learning Torque, Flash, or Java) and would create a working model of my game design genius - albeit carved from the screaming innards of a Bethesda design. (Lately, I've been considering the stark reality that, without some kind of produced end product, brains don't impress anyone.)

Maybe later. Instead, I decided to turn my attention to Neverwinter Nights 2, a game I got pretty far in the main campaign before (almost to the beginning of chapter 3 of 3) but never quit…

End Of The Line: Alt-A-Holicism Exposed, MMORPG Assessments Finalized

In a fit of rampant alt-a-holicism, it seems my City of Heroes flow is thoroughly disrupted. In this state of mind, it's really hard to give any character a fair shake, such is my natural inclination to abandon them and move on to the next. However, I've run out of power combinations awhile back, and so it begins to look like
I've resubscribed in vain.

Yes, I've canceled again, the day after I resubscribed. However, not without taking things into perspective.

My Super Power Is Being Non-Committal

For four terrifying hours I went without my City of Heroes subscription today. I nearly tried to learn the Torque Game Builder! But, confronted with there being no real game I wanted to play at the moment, I caved and resubscribed to City of Heroes for another month. 

So it's time for another exciting episode of watching me debate what character I'm going to play today.  The squeamish may want to skip to another entry.

Cape Theory

One thing that's proved difficult to surmount for me is that there's a gap between theory and practice. What looks excellent on the drawing board does not always perform well when the final implementation is assembled and given a test run. It baffles the finest of engineers in the field, and baffles this gamer in City of Heroes.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it's another riveting episode of me trying to figure out what character I feel like playing in City of Heroes.

Quality Found Outside Hyboria

Yesterday, I put Age of Conan "on probation." Today, it seems I've no motivation to play it at all. There's something missing in the replay value - it just doesn't feel worth the climb the second time. Perhaps a little time away from it will change my mind.

Instead, today I played the latest Pixeljam web game: Dinorun, the new Penny Arcade Adventures, and (my longtime old flame) City of Heroes. I'll probably play a bit of the venerable Elite Beat Agents and/or Drill Dozer before bedtime.

No wonder time's been flying lately: my cup runneth over with awesome.

Cracking Down and Putting Hyboria On Probation

Yesterday morning and afternoon was graced with a welcome break as I finally got around to playing a bit of the year-old XBox 360 game, Crackdown. Compared to Grant Theft Auto 4, Crackdown's rooftop-to-rooftop leaping gun play against deserving targets is a lot more fun. However, GTA4 has a lot more soul to it, the Shenmue-like realism that made the characters and goings-on within the game something one can relate to, and significant.

In what time I had left after Crackdown, I returned to the very well-received Age of Conan.

The first thing I did after Crackdown yesterday was get my Necromancer in Age of Conan up to level 16. I'm getting the hang of him, he's not too shabby once you get a knack for firing off damage quickly and recognizing when it's time to throw the AOE fear spell. While the Necromancer may be vulnerable, he has the tools to deal with it. I like it when a MMORPG gives me genuinely useful tools.

However, one thing a Necromancer can't do is pla…

Preliminary Spell Weaving Research

Well, first day back in Age of Conan and playing it at a pace I can enjoy it, my Necromancer's now up to level 13. At 10, I decided to make sure I was making the right choice. So, I took a little break from the game and do a little class comparison between the different "spell weaving" classes: Priests of Mitra, Tempests of Set, Necromancers, and Demonologists.

I used two good resources for my data:
Habes.de Ability List
A pretty comprehensive list of all the abilities (spells and combos) from 1 to 80 for all the classes. It's not all-inclusive, but it's close enough.Goodheim Feats Calculator
An excellent feat planner interface. It doesn't show specifically what every feat does, but it does have a lot of good data entered into it.I'm a great believer that you can determine the general ideology of a character class by taking a look at a healthy portion of their opening abilities. So my approach was to do a quick rundown of the first 20 levels of spells…

My Own Personal Hyborian Clusterfuck

In most situations, if a person is to say they're feeling a bit bored and will need to start an alt on a non-PvP server in order to rekindle their interest, they might be met with kind understanding.

Unfortunately, the friend who hooked me up with the guild had a history of absolutely loathing my tendency to create alts, interpreted my last Blog entry in the worst possible way, told me he was kicking me out of the guild, and started treating me like shit.

I'm not real good at getting treated like shit (if I was, I'd probably get along swimmingly back at F13). Maybe I don't have the self-esteem for it, or maybe it's higher standards, but when a friend starts treating me as an enemy I really start questioning the value of our relationship. In this particular case, the man was a repeat offender: he said he'd stop treating me like shit and he didn't, so that friendship comes across as something significantly less.

It seems I've one less "friend"…