Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas EVE, WoW!

Gaming has been mostly World of Warcraft lately. I have been working on my Death Knight, Mildread, for a while. The class is pretty ridiculous by comparison to other classes, but it is pretty fun. Leveling past 70 is a crawl though.

In the midst of leveling Mildread, I also kept leveling my "main" on this PvE server. I have three 70's on my PvP server, but Amy wanted to play on PvE so I've been working on it instead. I have level 60 Shaman on the same server with Amy. He has herbalism and inscription professions which are helping make some gold so it is worth while to level him up. Plus our guild sorely needs healers.

I've been having heaps of technical difficulties with WoW. Basically when I first log in it loads the environment, but all NPC's are listed as "Unknown" and I can't interact with anything or cast spells. Then after exactly 2 minutes I drop. This will happen 2 or 3 times and then the game will work normally. It's very annoying.

Today I got an email from Eve Online offering free 5-day account activations for inactive players. So I'll probably take advantage of that sometime soon. I am quite excited to visit my old space locations... perhaps with the Carrier ship.

I also need to revist Adventures of Doom and get busy writing more of my Cyberpunk novel... So much leisure... so little time.

Merry Christmas all!

Monday, December 8, 2008

What a Gamer wants for Christmas

Hey, it's Christmas time and I was thinking about writing a blog update and presto... Blog idea. Here's what piques my interest this season.

Pathfinder RPG:
I've read about this as a competitor to the new D&D 4e rules. It has been described as the next evolution of the 3.5 rules. While I don't need another fantasy game in my life, I am interested to see was a serious contender is doing with tabletop gaming.

Eve Online Time Cards:
With the falling exchange rate, my USD purchasing power has been cut in half. This makes subscription based games like Eve Online particularly hard to pay for. The fees have essentially doubled. So $30 buys me two months of gaming that would have cost me $60. Go go American Dollar!

World of Warcraft Time Cards:
Same idea, different game. My lovely wife has been playing Wrath of the Lich King with me and maintaining two accounts is doubly hard (that's quadrupal hard with the exchange rate).

Traveller RPG books:
Books in general start at three times more expensive in NZ than in the US. Next add shipping and the exchange... Books are nearly equal to there weight in gold. Traveller is a space opera setting that I've looked at for a while, but could never justify the purchase on my own.

Battlestar Galactica Boardgame:
I love board games. I never get to seriously play them, but I have reconciled myself to a life of collection. At $88 in local currency... this is another item I just could never justify for myself. Amy and I have been working our way through Season 2. If there is a season 3, that would be cool too. I also saw a spin off called "Razor" that would probably be cool too.

Nintendo Wii:*
Just in case Santa ever reads these things. I'd like a Wii with Metroid and Wii Fit. Well over $400 in NZD... This won't be under my tree this year.

Playstation 3:*
Quite the awesome console with an equally "awesome" price tag. Maybe if I have been extraordinarily good this year.

Ghost in the Shell: 2nd Gig (boxed set)**
I love everything in this series. I already own Stand Alone Complex. This isn't a game, but it is gamer cool. Truth be told, I am an Anime fan. I like all of it. But GitS is one of the best in the genre (IMO).

Books by Iain Banks:
I have already read, The Algebraist and Player of Games. Anything else by this author would be grand. Iain is a brilliant sci-fi writer.

Virtually any DVD set:**
We don't have cable of any sort. Any series or recent movie is going to be cool for us!

Here's some stuff I *don't* want... Nothing from D&D 4e. Nothing from the Wizard's of the Coast d20 Modern line. Nothing about Warhammer Online or Games Workshop.

*NOTE: Video games are copyright controlled by "zone". We can not play games from non-asian zones (like the US). The best site to shop for us online at is http://www.mightyape.co.nz/.

**NOTE: DVD's are copyright controlled by "zone". While we are not in the US zone, we do have a US DVD player. We can watch DVD's from any zone on our player. Mighty Ape is a great source for DVD's and Books that will save you International shipping charges :)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Wrath of the Crack Lich

I'm still heavily engaged in my writing goal of 60,000 words. I'm at about 18,000 which while far from the mark is more than I've ever written before so I'm still pretty excited about it. The story is a cyberpunk theme based on many of the tropes I like most about the Interface Zero True20 setting I picked up a few weeks ago. My theme is really to discover what new levels of humanity may be uncovered as we shed more and more of our biology.

I have the next leg of Adventures of Doom layed out in bubble flow form with a list of encounters and necessary NPC's altho I don't have all details worked out yet. But I could probably run it as is. I'm really working on developing NPC's and motivations so that I sustain the story without so much planning.

The other big time waster is the newly released Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft. Amy started playing again on a PvE server and that suckered me in to racing a character up to 55th level so I could start a Death Knight character. The DK's are just introduced with this expansion and they rock. I've had tons of fun with my new Blood Elf Death Knight that I named... Mildread. I hope my great aunt doesn't mind.

All things considered, life is good.

Game On!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sound Shaping: a new Power of Doom


SOUND SHAPING
Fatiguing, Maintenance
The Adept has supernatural control of sounds. Sound Shaping can not function in areas of supernatural silence or in a vacuum, but it does function underwater. Targets with no ability to hear are unaffected by Sound Shaping. Wearing protective ear plugs (or similar) gains +2 on saves versus Sound Shaping.

Eavesdropping: The adept can listen in on conversations (even whispered) conversations at a distance of 120’. The target must be within line of sight. The adept is effectively amplifying the sound to her own location. The conversation can be “turned up” for all to hear or kept soft to whisper level. Eavesdropping requires a Difficult Check of 10 plus situational modifiers. This use of Sound Shaping is not Fatiguing.
Mimic Sound: The adept can recreate any tonal sounds she has experienced in person. This can include the voice patterns of a speaker she has listened to for at least 10 minutes granting a +2 on Disguise checks when attempting to be a specific person. The adept can instantly pick up accents and dialects of languages she knows (+1 on social interaction skills). Animal sounds that have been heard once can be recreated. Virtually any sound can be mimicked—gun shots, door slams, windows breaking, train whistles, etc. Sounds recreated this way can not be so loud as to be damaging. This power functions even when the adept is gagged otherwise unable to speak. The adept can “source” the sounds from any spot within 120’ that is in view. This is effectively an aural illusion which may grant a target a Will save to detect the deception. Mimicking requires a Difficulty Check of 15, however, the result becomes the save DC for the target. Mimicry lasts 1 minuter per adept level. The adept can make another fatigue check to extend the duration. In general, using this power should only grant +/- 2 to any given effect.
Daze: By emitting sharp sounds the adept can daze a target for one round per adept level if the target fails a Fortitude save. The adept must make a DC of 15 Daze a target.
Nauseate: By emitting sub-sonic tones the adept can induce the Sickened condition on the target for 1 round per adept level. The difficulty check for Nauseate is 20.
Silence: The adept can center a 5’ sphere of silence on a person or object. If the subject is unwilling they can resist the effect by making a Will save. The base Difficulty for this effect is 25. The target must be within 60’ of the adept. The adept can increase the area of effect by an additional 5’ radius by adding +5 to the check to a maximum of 15’ radius. Targets caught inside the effect, but not targeted by it receive a Reflex save to get out of the area of the sphere.

Time: Sound Shaping is a Standard Action, only Eavesdropping and Mimic Sound require maintenance.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Raise Sand Golem: a new Power of Doom


RAISE SAND GOLEM
Fatiguing
You can raise servants from the sand to protect you or guard a location.

Mindless: Creation of sand golems requires 100 pounds of sand, grit, gravel or other similar material per golem. Once destroyed, the material can not be re-used. The size and shape of the golems is entirely up to the caster, but can not be larger than human sized. The caster has no awareness of what the golems experience. Inert golems made of fine sand can be sculpted to appear in whatever Medium sized form the caster desires. Regardless of the type you create, you can not make more golems than twice your adept level with a single use of Raise Sand Golem. The golems you create remain under your control indefinitely. No matter how many times you use this power, however, you can control only four times your adept level in levels of mindless golems. If you exceed this, all newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess from previous castings become uncontrolled. You choose which creatures are released from your control. Golems must be within your line of sight to control. New commands can be issued while the golems are within 60’ of the creator. Damaged golems do not heal over time, but another use of the Raise Sand Golem power will repair all damage.

Intelligent: You craft a single intelligent guardian. Unlike the mindless golem, this creature is not under your control; although, you can use other means, including other powers, to command it. Creating an intelligent golem has a Difficulty of 18. Default intelligence of the creation is INT -2. Each one point of increased intelligence add +2 to the Difficulty. Intelligence can not exceed that of the caster. Only one such creation can be active at any time. The creator must destroy the current golem to create another.

Creation of an intelligent Sand Golem requires 300 lbs of fine sand plus other expensive materials totalling Wealth DC of 28 + 1 per extra point of Intelligence. If you fail this power check to animate a golem, the materials are rendered useless. Once completed, the final result is an intelligent construct of the same level as the creator’s adept level. The golem is functionally a spirit of the earth given free-will by the caster. The foundation of its knowledge is the same as the creator’s. The creator can only give the golem skills the caster possesses. An intelligent Sand Golem can learn 2 Skills + Int bonus (minimum 1). A first level golem gains the Weapon Training feat and one other Feat—gaining one additional Feat every 3 levels. A sand golem may use any equipment normally available to humanoids including arms and armor. It will share the same languages as the caster and speaking to it is required (there is no mental contact). It begins “life” as Friendly to the caster.

Time: One minute for Mindless Sand Golems. One day for Intelligent Sand Golems.

SAND GOLEM (Mindless)
Type: 1st-level construct
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 ft.
Abilities: Str +1, Dex +1, Con —, Int —, Wis +0, Cha –5
Feats: Improved Initiative
Traits: Damage Reduction 2/Bludgeoning, Night Vision, Darkvision (60 ft.),
Immunities
Combat: Attack +1 (Dex), Damage +1 (unarmed) or by weapon,
Defense +1 (Dex), Initiative +5
Saving Throws: Toughness +1, Fortitude —, Reflex +1, Will —
Damage Reduction +2/Bludgeoning: Sand Golems lack flesh or internal organs, making them resistant to cutting and piercing weapons.
Immunities: Sand Golems are immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, disease, and mind-influencing effects (including mind influencing powers). They are not subject to critical hits, non-lethal damage, ability damage, ability drain, or any effect requiring a Fortitude save, unless it works on inanimate objects.

A Sand Golem maintains what ever shape it was given at creation whenever it is “at rest”. This can be virtually any form from an indistinct pile of sand to an ornate sandstone statue. Once activated the Sand Golem forms in to a swirling humanoid shape attacking with hardened punches formed from its own swirling mass. Once the action it was given is completed, it will return to its original state. Sand Golems can not swim, but can walk along the bottoms of still lakes or pools. Rushing water (and high tides) will disperse a sand golem destroying it in 3 rounds. Mindless golems can only accept simple direct commands.

SAND GOLEM (Intelligent)
Type: Variable level construct (as Expert)
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 ft.
Abilities: Str +1, Dex +2, Con —, Int —, Wis +0, Cha +0
Feats: Improved Initiative
Traits: Damage Reduction 4/Bludgeoning, Night Vision, Darkvision (60 ft.),
Immunities
Combat: Attack +1 (Dex), Damage +1 (unarmed) or by weapon,
Defense +2 (Dex), Initiative +6
Saving Throws: Toughness +1, Fortitude —, Reflex +4, Will —
Damage Reduction +4/Bludgeoning: Sand Golems lack flesh or internal organs, making them resistant to cutting and piercing weapons.
Immunities: Sand Golems are immune to poison, sleep, paralysis, disease, and mind-influencing effects (including mind influencing powers). They are not subject to critical hits, non-lethal damage, ability damage, ability drain, or any effect requiring a Fortitude save, unless it works on inanimate objects.

A Sand Golem maintains what ever shape it was given at creation whenever it is “at rest”. This can be virtually any form from an indistinct pile of sand to an ornate sandstone statue. Once activated the Sand Golem forms in to a swirling humanoid shape attacking with hardened punches formed from its own swirling mass. Sand Golems can not swim, but can walk along the bottoms of still lakes or pools. Rushing water (and high tides) will disperse a sand golem destroying it in 3 rounds.

Intelligent sand golems may use arms and armor for which they have training. Sand Golems can not use fire arms or other gear that is sensitive to grit.
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Example text...
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Evelyn Drake, a level 1 Expert and level 1 Adept, decides she might need some help entering the Cave of Mystery. On the bank of the nearby stream is plenty of sand. Evy spends two minutes shaping four sand golems in to plain humanoid shapes. She doesn't need them to be particularly sneaky as she is alone on this expedition. If she desired should could have used Craft checks to form the golems in to artistic shapes--for example, stylized dogs, gargoyles, or as 3 chairs around a small table. Once complete she mentally commands the squad to follow her and protect her from any creatures in the cave.
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Being an explorer can sometimes be a lonely road. Evelyn desides to craft an intelligent Sand Golem to be her friend an ally to guard her arcane library. Evy decides that the construct needs to at least have a +1 Intelligence. This raises the cost of the golem to Wealth 31 and the difficulty to DC to 24. Evy is going to need to roll a 20 this check, but she has nothing but time and decides to "take 20" by extending the construction time to 20 days and adding +20 to the Fatigue check. This stretches the young adept to the absolute limit of her powers. The new Sand Golem is created with Str +1 Dex +2 Con- Int +1 Wis +0 Cha +0. It will only be a level 1 Construct. It will automatically possess the Weapons Training Feat and Evy selects the Light Armor Feat. With the extra Int, the golem gets 3 skills each at +4 ranks, but only from skills that Miss Drake knows. She picks Knowledge History at +5, Disable Device at + 5 and Notice at +4. Evy would like to have some one to discuss history with plus the golem could perform research while she is away. Evy believes that "Sandy" could also be useful at disarming traps, since golems are immune to many effects and finally Notice since all guards need to be able to spot things.
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Sandy is created as a free-willed construct begining as Friendly to Evelyn. The two begin a long chat about history. Miss Drake is a gifted student and conversationalist. After a few hours, Sandy and Evy are great friends. Sandy is excited to have a whole library of history to explore. Sandy is not a human intelligence. She has no need for food or shelter. She is aware of her own consciousness and will act to maintain it, but it as an imprint of Evy's skills and spirit, Sandy will be satisfied with life in the library as the ultimate chance to study forever. How will the relationship hold up over time? Only time will tell what may befall such odd friends in Adventures of Doom.
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Adventures of Doom is a True20 pulp setting placed in 1935 near-history. See other posts with AoD tag for more info.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Pharaoh’s Heart: An Adventure of Doom

Real History:

Dr. James Henry Breasted was the first American Egyptologist and a professor of the University of Chicago. After 70 years of ground breaking research, Dr. Breasted died on Dec 2nd, 1935. Breasted was in the forefront of the generation of archeologist-historians who broadened the idea of Western Civilization to include the entire Near East in Europe's cultural roots. Breasted coined the term Fertile Crescent to describe the archaeologically important area from Palestine to southern Iraq (inclusive).

AoD History:

James tragically dies in January 1935 after a long illness after returning from a 2 year expedition in Egypt. In his fevered distress the old archaeologist manages to write a six page rambling letter to his friends, Guy and Devon Lareux. The letter is strange and often illegible. But it appears the old man is worried some secret will be lost on his death. He needs the Lareux brothers to recover the secret, but nearly mad Breasted doesn’t mention where or even what the secret is. The letter is postmarked from New York.

Guy and Devon decide to send their agents, Evelyn Drake and Joshua Spectre to find the doctor, unravel the mystery about the secret, and report back to Chicago. Evy manages to secure a favor from the pilots of Chicago Aeronautic Club (CAC) to lend her and Spectre a plane to travel to Big Apple where the duo spend a couple of weeks chasing down various leads to the lost historian. Eventually, Drake finds Mrs. Breasted staying at one of finer Manhattan hotels. They arrange a polite tea where Mrs. Breasted and Miss Drake hit off well. The good doctor is dying and is being kept at a reclusive hospice just outside the city.

After several hours of patient interviewing and visitation, Evy learns that James appears to be concerned about a lost artefact called “The Pharaoh’s Heart” which can only be found by his old friend—a janitor at the University of Chicago where the object has been hidden for some 20 years. James is guilt stricken and seems to be confessing something about a man named Kinkaid who he credits as finding the Heart.

Spectre and Drake return to Chicago to discover that the janitor James spoke of is dead and has been for a number of years. After searching the professor’s office they find a key. After talking with some of the college staff they come to suspect that the janitor had spent a lot of time in the endless steam tunnels under the college. It is quite possible something could be hidden down there.

A search leads them to an old locked door. The key from James’ office fits and the two enter a series of storage rooms obviously unused for at least 20 years. The rooms are full of relatively normal Egyptian artifacts. Evy can tell that while each is authentic, they are not particularly noteworthy. That is, until a pair of matched stone jackal statues come to life and attack Joshua. The fast and fleet footed young ninja quickly kicks the two in rubble. Room after room uncovers more strange and mysterious encounters until they reach the last door.

The last room is laid out in a perfect representation of an Egyptian tomb complete with sarcophagus, statues, scrolls, and chests. One corner of the room is laid out with an odd arrangement of candles and a single statue of Osiris. Miss Drake knows enough about archaeology to know these objects are not like the others and are out of place. While the room contains a number of gold objects, again nothing is particularly unusual aside from being in the basement of a Chicago campus. But the chest at the foot of the coffin reveals the secret. It contains the Pharaoh’s Heart still encrusted with the dirt it was found in. But the real secret isn’t the Heart itself but the accompanying documentation. The Pharaoh’s Heart is dated at 4000 years old and was found in The Temple of Isis located in… Arizona. A staggering find to the intellectual world.

While the two ponder what the full impact of this will be, the tomb opens and a living guardian of sand erupts to attack. The shifting nature of the creature makes edged and ballistic weapons useless, but Josh has come to possess a mysterious ornate knife that seems to be able to hurt the creature. After a tense combat that severely wounds Spectre, Miss Drake lands the final blow disabling the creature. The open tomb reveals the body of Gerald Kinkaid, the lost adversarial colleague of Dr. Breasted who found the Temple of Isis in 1918 and disappeared soon after.

The discovery heralds the awakening of Kinkaid’s “ghost” who tells the pair of his discovery and subsequent betrayal under the college. Using the objects stored from his discoveries he followed an ancient ritual to make him immortal. But the result trapped his mind a small statue of Osiris which is now bound too. Kinkaid is an excitable Scottish soul who agrees to journey with the pair to finally uncover the temple in the remote deserts of the American Southwest. As a twist, no one can perceive the spirit save Evy and Josh.

When the two adventurers return to tell the tale, Guy and Devon are excited by the prospect of more lost treasure. Lareux Procurement could certainly use the cash!
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These notes are taken from a game session of Adventured of Doom; a True20 Pulp RPG setting. See other posts with the AoD tag for more details.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The 3 faces of RPG

I was thinking about this the other day wanted to capture the thoughts. For about any Role Playing Game there is are 3 fundamental styles that give and take in a 3-way triangle in much the same was at Cost <-> Quality <-> Time. For an RPG these elements are Roleplay <-> Simulation <-> Game. These 3 elements exist to some degree in each RPG, but can be seen more clearly in extreme examples. But first a quick definition of what I mean.

Roleplay: This is the aspect of the game that is not a game. The desire of a participant to act out a role. No mechanics are necessary for roleplay--you just make it up based on your idea of the character and the world.

Simulation: This the degree that the RPG attempts to model reality. While all RPG's are fictional, some try very hard to model real-world physics and other real features. RPG's with a strong emphasis on simulation are usually modern military type games, but even pure fantasy games like Dungeons & Dragons attempt to simulate physical combat with complex systems design to estimate chances of success and resulting injuries.

Game: This is like Simulation, but not so much. This is the aspect of an RPG that is not based on reality and makes the RPG play more like a game and less a simulation or a roleplay action. An extreme example is chess. In chess each player is controlling a king's army, but each piece must follow rigid rules about how it moves on a grid. This does not simulate reality in any way and there is no emphasis on playing in character (roleplay).

All 3 elements combine to create a variety of RPG experiences from very rules light (tending to be strong roleplaying) to very rules heavy (tending to be miniature based combat simulations). Whether any particular game is enjoyable will depend entirely on the player's preferences.

I liked the idea of the 3 elements because I think it might be useful in describing games to other potential players. Personally, I like a game with more roleplay and game and less simulation. So if I were reading a review of a game that was rated 10 for Simulation, I might infer that game was designed for a different kind of player.

Nothing all that profound... Just random musing.

Game On!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Quest for Atlantis: An Adventure of Doom


Atlantis is a legend as old as the art of story telling. It is a concept that has captured the imagination of billions for several thousand years. The history of Atlantis would appears to begin with Plato our earliest documented reference to the lost city of the sea. But something about the idea of Atlantis has resonated with us. Perhaps there was no city named "Atlantis" full of technological wonders and an advanced culture. But what if the rest of it were true? We have many references to lost cultures. Eden, the Land of Nod, Thule, and dozens of others. Could the human race have lost something so long ago that now our stories of it are broken, blurred and scattered?

Science itself is confronted with strange oddities that can not easily be explained. Often these anomalies are boxed up and tucked away to be quietly forgotten. If it can not be explained, well then it probably was a fluke. But the flukes add up and the pile becomes larger. Few have ever considered the sum of all out-of-place artifacts. But in 1935 tensions are rising. Millions are without work and Nationalism is out of control. Any hint of a new power or lost science is quickly (and quietly) investigated by the desperate nations of the world. The Nazis would kill for it. The Brits would do anything to keep it from the Nazis. The Yanks need it to end the Depression. The Vatican would see it destroyed. Russia would bury it and use it in secret. The Empire of the Rising Sun would use it to build the greatest war machine seen in the East. The world would go mad for it.

Perhaps the origins of mankind go back further than anyone would guess. Maybe evolution was only half the story. The other half of story may be buried in the deserts of Egypt, the Temples of the Amazon, or even high Himalayas. The quest for Atlantis is not a search for a lost city beneath the sea, but the search for the lost origin of Man. But the story of Atlantis is often a tale of warning. Uncovering too many secrets too soon might bring down the same destruction that doomed those poor souls so long ago. Who will unlock the secrets? What world power will rise? Who will fall in... Another Adventure of DOOOOM.
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Adventures of Doom is a True20 Pulp RPG set in 1935 and designed for family play. Check other posts with the AoD tag for more.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Rockefeller "Rock" Ross, An Urban Legend in Aventures of Doom.


Rock was a legend in all the newspapers as an explorer. He has been all over Egypt, Persia, the Amazon, and the wilds of Africa. Reporters around the globe have tried to follow him to capture the story of discovery. But none of them have ever volunteered twice! Rock seems to always stumble across lost tribes of cannibals, ancient curses, and temples on the precipice of doom.

Guy and Devon Lareux tell stories of Rock every week to the whole staff of Lareux General Procurement. They claim to have met the man just after the War when he was still a young whelp. The way they tell the story, Rock got his start working with the brothers in Africa. But they also mesmerize the staff with stories of his further adventures.

But all the stories stopped 2 years ago. Rock announced he was on to a great new discovery which he kept very secret. But he disappeared only a few days after his announcement. Most folks assumed he took off in secret as he often did. But no one has heard from his since. The world still wonders what happened to Rock Ross, the Man of Adventure!
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Adventures of Doom is a True20 Pulp RPG set in 1935 that I am developing for family play. It is designed to be non-gritty, contain themes appropriate for my 9 year old, and still entice my wife to play.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yamada Taro, An Urban Legend in Adventures of Doom


Chicago has always been a city with a reputation—a beautiful city with a dark side. Organized crime has always thrived here, but never more so than through the 1920’s with the rise of Al Capone and Liquor Bosses. Mr Capone has long been away in Alcatraz and the mafia has lost much of its power, but it remains. With the shift in power, other groups have managed to increase their influence in the windy city. High among them is the Yakuza—the Japanese mob.

The Yakuza specialize in human trafficking and opium. What is unusual about the Yakuza is their rigid discipline and culture of honor and respect. The Mafia’s Code ultimately crumbled with corruption and greed. The Yakuza are like machines—cold, calculated and efficient. Targets are identified and respect is paid in full or the result is often worse than a single death.

One of the more unique features of the Yakuza is the employ of Ninja. At first the Ninja were considered a joke. Who would fear some crazy Japanese in masks? Many foes have now fallen to the secret order known only to the Yakuza. Their methods are supremely subtle. Almost no one knows when a Ninja has been used to eliminate an obstruction. Where the Yakuza is obvious and usually messy, the Ninja are barely a ripple on the water. Overnight their targets suddenly comply or utterly disappear. Often the threat of hiring the assassins is enough to weaken an opponent.

The Master of Assassins is Yamada Taro. He is the only Ninja in Chicago who works independently of the Yakuza. While this causes some ire in the crime organization, they can not deny he is the best. Yamada-san comes at a high price, but he has never failed. The legend of how to hire Yamada is well known. Rent the penthouse suite at the Broadmoore Hotel—a dive hotel on the upper west side of Chicago. The clerk will offer you two registers. One of the registers will be new containing no other entries. If you write your name in the new guest book, Taro will find you in 3 days to hear your offer. Payment is demanded up front. The word on the street is, if the price is too high, then Yamada makes you disappear. Do not summon the Devil lightly…
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Adventures of Doom is a True20 Pulp adventure setting based in 1935 Chicago.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Fright Night 2008 - Wellington


So after a bit of searching I've found a pretty cool gaming group here in Wellington. While table top gaming has certainly spread around the globe, it is not exactly "main stream" in New Zealand. The relative remoteness of the country combined with the overall lower population base makes gaming a relatively rare past time. But I also think as a result of that, the game enthusiasts I have found seem more open and more mature than a lot of others I've known.

NZ doesn't really celebration Halloween in any fashion. But these guys and gals have come to appreciate a good horror game to mark the season. They have established a "Fright Night" mini convention in October which I was just lucky enough to get in to due to a late drop out.

Fright Night is broken up in to two sessions of about a half dozen one-shot adventure games of various styles. The two games I got in to were Geiger Couter hosted by Micheal Sands and Hot War hosted by Sophie Melchior. Both games were based on systems I had not played before. The underlying theme in both was the idea that player who overcome an obstacle in the game get to then decide what direction the game takes next. I've dubbed it "collaborative" style--although I think you might also call it "interactive."

The first session game was based on the Geiger Counter system which is designed to facilitate the creation of a classic "survival horror" movie. Mike picked out the idea of a viral meme overtaking human hosts and our group of 7 players was off.



Eclipse Mining Station is about to confront terror when the Princess Dawn cruise liner arrives with more than a message of of a plague stricten Earth--it transmits the plague itself. Viral nanobots make the jump from computer virus to attacking the original computer--the human brain. Infected victims are driven to blood and revenge and there is no where to run. There is no one to hear you scream. There is only darkness in the Total Eclipse.
Each of us created a character concept roughly iconic in the movies. I was Dallas a heavy industrial engineer--big, bald and black. Dallas was smart, hard working and always looking for that way in to early retirement. Eclipse station was 4 years of hell, but the pay was extraordinary. But when the station is plunged in to chaos by a nano-virus. Dallas takes his opportunity to raid the station vaults of the mined gold. But Dallas had to confront the menance in the station hanger bays. Using the massive cargo loader he fought to a stand still as wave after wave of infected zombies were crushed in his claws. In the end even the powerful man and machine couldn't hold them off. Dallas crashed over a tower of fuel barrels and blew it all to hell.

Mechanically, each player started with 2 six sided dice. Each turn one of the player would get to create a "scene" involving one or more other characters, but not their own character. The scene would resolve itself in some natural way and then the next player would make up a new scene with other characters. As things progressed the characters confront "the menace" where the player rolls their 2 dice and some one else rolls for the menace. If the player rolls higher, then the player can describe how they beat the menance. If they fell then the player must pick a "condition" from a short list--things like "lost", "pursued", "injured", etc. The conditions dictated what kinds of scenes their characters could be set in to next and if there would be advantages or disadvantages.

The second session was a game based on the Hot War game/setting. In Hot War the world outside London has been wiped away. World War III erupted in 1963 in an exchange of weapons more terrible than just nuclear bombs. Twisted weapons stolen from the crazed Nazi laboratories were unleashed one after another resulting in a world distorted and completely changed. The near dead still walk as soldiers, the boundaries outside London simply seem to warp in to nothing. People who leave the edges of reality never return.

Sophie had a number of pre-gnerated character to use. One of them was an American Air Force pilot, Brad Harris. Since I was the only American at the table, I felt it was a sign for me to play Brad. You have to remember that here in NZ, I am the one with the funny accent. Kiwi's all sound normal to me now, but I guess I still sound funny to them. But it was good. I didn't feel weird or anything. It was a good game. Mechanically, Hot War was similar to Geiger Counter, but more tradionally directed by the GM. Hot War came pre-loaded with a lot of great flavor.

The whole thing lasted from about 4:30 to midnight. We played in an old historic building called Turnbull House right next door to the Beehive building. This is conveniently 3 blocks from Wellington Station so it was super easy for me to get there on the train. It was coincidentally a bit rugby night and I did have to tolerate a number of happy drunks on the train... haha! But it was a great time.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Interface Zero: An Exploration

What is consciousness?
Is it self awareness?
How can you tell that another thing is self aware?
What makes human self-awareness different?

These are the questions I pose in a series of explorations in Interface Zero. IZ is a world projected along our darkest future. A world where nations have fought many "limited" nuclear wars, billions have died from biological weapons and the human race is simultaneously saved and doomed. The secrets of gene modification, nano re-fabrication and Artificial Intelligence have been unlocked. But these miracles have not fashioned a new Utopia--they only seemed to have pushed the human condition to grotesque extremes.

The human-machine interface has blurred to the point where all people perceive both reality and virtual reality at the same time. The information network that started with the Internet has spread to become a ubiquitous network of everything overlapping the whole world existing in both real terms and as a separate plane known as "the Deep". Some choose to live in absolutely virtual worlds, but most live in an enhanced reality blend from the two--a very few have no ability to sense the Deep. The Deep is everywhere, everywhere you look, every object you touch can have a representation in Deep that you perceive through your eyes in exactly the same manner as you perceive this message. If you could see in to the Deep you might see these pages as ancient parchment or perhaps in floating neon blue lettering--all based on your preferences. The real document might simply be a stack of white papers or perhaps a small data chip with nano transmitters connected to and part of the Deep. The Deep is powered by the mass networking of all CPU's of all devices known on Earth. Most objects right down to paperclips have small CPU's buried in them. Some places in what used to be called Japan have released processors so small they float in the air like dust. In these places the Deep is thick and impossible to filter out. In the nuclear wastelands between China, Pakistan and India, the Deep is but a faint echo where you'll be lucky to raise a single voice comm.

Nano technology has progressed to the point where nearly everyone has access to a fabricator that can re-assemble similar matter in to what ever the user requires. Grass clipping, rotting protein, and a handful of dirt can be re-assembled in to edible healthy foods--even flavorful foods if your fabricator is an expensive model. These wondrous machines can even create clothing from nearly any fibrous materials. Style-patterns are downloaded from the Deep (for a price) and the user can choose whatever she wants in whatever simulated fabrics she wants. All machines can make the basics necessary to survival for free. But despite these daily miracles, the human race is not better off. It seems all these machines really do is perpetuate squalor and suffering. The world economy can not employ the vast majority of workers. Billions are left idle, clothed and fed. Gangland wars are perpetual. Most are essentially homeless living in derelict urban districts below the upper cites where the luckier wage slaves live. Only your friends care if you're hurt and some of them might be more interested in your stuff after you're dead.

The boon of technology has fused biology with machine. All humans have TAPs installed in their heads for interface to the Deep. But this meshing with hardware extends to full prosthetics, eyes, internal weapons and skill upgrades. How far this can go has yet to be fully explored.

But mankind was not satisfied with just the Deep and nanofabrication. Humanity also choose to alter itself. The genetic code has been solved, mapped, rendered to component parts and fashioned anew. Humans can now select exact traits both before and after birth. In the Amazon Wars, genetically enhanced warriors are used for the first time taking science in to a darker art form. The goal in warfare is to eliminate the enemy--no semblance of humanity is required. Chimera are born. These radically altered "humans" possess a variety of outlandish features designed to kill--period. Generally only used in battle and always with gruesome effect, these creatures are often shunned by society. But still the pride of man was not complete. Man created Simulacre. Wholly biologically copies of humans with artificially limited mental capacities to be an endless source of labor--a new race of slaves. Each Simulacrum is designed to fill a purpose and die in a limited time. The new labor force quickly replaces any need for Human workers. Simulacre are cheaper, require nothing but nano-replicated food and clothing, and are fully recyclable. Any tasks considered too unsavory for humans to dirty themselves with directly including prostitution and suicide combat squads are given to Simulacrum. Lastly, man created AI. A necessary technology to administrate the vastly complex Deep and civil systems to control the exploding populations of the major cities. AI control all traffic systems, power, communications, entire manufacturing facilities and even some military applications. However, science wasn't entirely naive. AI programs are closely and intensely monitored. If any sign of self awareness and creativity are expressed, the AI is brutally eradicated and copies burned.

Corporations control the world's economy. City-states and nations are cowed before policies of embargo and arms races. Humans lucky enough to work inside the megaconglomerates are the elite of the world. These individuals are rich beyond the wildest dreams of "sprawlanders" (those that survive on the toxic streets of the new cities). These executives make decisions that doom millions to death, starvation or war. Anyone working for a corp as a wage slave only knows that they could be instantly cast aside in to the gangs wars, nuclear wastelands, or (worse) experimental biological testing. Employee satisfaction surveys are high... always high.

This is the world, such as it is...

My proposal is to create a few iconic characters based on IZ (True20) to explore both character abilities and a few philosophical questions. Since it would probably be impractical for folks purchase the True20 core rules and the Interface Zero setting, I would create characters for use in certain one-shot stories. These stories are likely to explore the Deep, sentient AI, Simulacre and Chimera. I will attempt to run these via live chat primarily. But I would also use materials posted, emailed and maybe even a virtual table top app (one of the free ones if I do). I'll probably try to kick off a True20 how-to session with Skype or phone calls or something where I can talk you through the system--unless you happen to have the rules. Interface Zero is a setting based on the cyberpunk genre seeded from inspirations like "Ghost in the Shell", "The Matrix", "Neuromancer", and "Blade Runner." The characters I want to test are Hackers, Martial Adepts, heavily modified humans and AI's. I might foray in to heavy military machinery.

Who wants in?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Joshua Spectre


Level 3 Warrior (True20 Character)

Joshua Spectre is the only son of a dock worker and hotel maid. He grew up in Chicago living a fairly tough life, but was always physically adept. He always seemed to come out on top in a scrape and had a knack for interacting with the urban jungle. At a very young age he caught the eye of a wise oriental man. Unknown to Joshua, the man sent word to a teacher in the East. On Joshua's 14th birthday he was invited to train in a remote school of Japan. With no understanding of the unusual offer, Josh took it.

Two years later Josh has returned to Chicago. His training is not yet finished, but he had to come home to help out his folks during this Depression. But his Sensai has kept an eye on him and will continue to teach his young student. He sees a great destiny in him.

Stats:
STR: +2 DEX: +3 CON: +2 INT: +0 WIS: +0 CHA: -1

Saves:
Will: +1 Fort: +5 Ref: +3
Toughness: d20 +2 Con +3 Combat +2 Armor = d20 + 7

Skills:
Stealth (Dex) +9, Climb (Str) +8, Jump (Str) +8, Sleight of Hand (Dex) +9, Acrobatics (Dex) +9

Feats:
Martial Weapons, Rage (+2 Str, +2 Fort/Will, -2 Def), Attack Focus (Unarmed), Stunning Attack, Improved Speed, Improved Strike, Ki Dart

Core Ability:
A warrior can spend a point of Conviction to immediately erase all bruised and hurt damage conditions (and their associated penalties).

Attacks: Base +3 (Combat) +3 (Dex) = +6
Punch/Kick +6 for damage +2
NunChuk +6 for damage +4
Sword of Destiny (Katana): Damage +5 (sheathed non-lethal, blade lethal)
  • Light: Blade is +1 Positive Energy DR
  • Honorable: Blade must not be drawn unless it is use (blooded). Blade must not be used on targets with no Honor. The weilder can sense this.
  • Contracted: When the blade is used in a contracted kill, the victim is plane shifted.
  • Defended: Warrior can shift 2 points of Attack Bonus to Armor Bonus (+3 Attack +2 Armor Bonus)
Defense: Base 10 +3 (Combat) = 12 w/Parry +2 = 15 or w/ Dodge +3 = 16 (Weapon Armor Bonus +2)
Light Leather +1
Ninja body suit +1 to Stealth

Evelyn Drake


Level 1 Expert / Level 2 Adept (True20 Character)

Evy's slight frame holds a frighteningly compelling woman of young years. Highly educated at Radcliff she has studied archaeology. While Evelyn’s family is not well-to-do, her Aunt Alice was the first female professor at Harvard. Alice mentored Evy through Radcliff.

Evy's father was a well travelled global purchasing agent for Marshall Field’s based in Chicago. Mr. Drake raised Evy’s as a single father following the death of his wife when Evy was only two. The young girl spent most of her life with her Aunt on her mother’s side, Alice Hamilton. Her father taught her to fly aircraft, to shrug off limitations, and how to shoot just in case.

Miss Drake currently resides in Chicago and works for Lareux Procurement.

Evy can quickly capture the attention of men and women, but never seems to lack for men willing to do her favours. Men find it difficult to pull their gaze from her and often hang on her every word.

Combat is a rarity for Evy. Most men can not bring themselves to be physically violent with the disarming woman, but in the rare instance it becomes necessary, Evy has been fully trained to use pistols, rifles and shotguns. In the field where danger appears to be inevitable she carries a shotgun for guaranteed close combat success and a pistol for general defence. But, more often than not, Evelyn only needs to politely suggest that fighting isn’t necessary and this is usually enough of a distraction that the matter resolves itself long before she has to actually fire a shot. In game terms, Evy can paralyse a non-threatened target with Fascinate and then use Suggestion to completely avoid combat.

While out of combat, Evy can make a lot of friends very quickly—especially male friends. She has a 1 in 4 chance to convince neutral strangers to offer genuine help (small amounts of cash, rides, personal information, shelter, small gifts, etc). She has roughly a 50/50 chance of convincing a man who was sent to kill her in to only making sure she leaves town (as a hypothetical example). The odds with women drop slightly, but they are still quite good.

Due to her college education Evy is great judge of human nature. In some cases she may gain bonuses to social interactions where she can employ both her natural charm and her keen intelligence. Years of field and college study have given her a broad understanding of history. She has about a 4 in 5 chance of knowing common historical facts (like when the Romans occupied Alexandria) and roughly a 50/50 chance to know details (like how big the Roman army was, where it camped, what important artefacts is may have carried). She has a naturally cautious nature and can occasionally spot traps and tricks, she is much better at stopping and systematically searching areas. When she does find a trap she has slightly less than 50/50 odds of disarming a basic threat. Since there are many “issues” around access to historically significant sites, Evy has learned to “avoid interest” by sneaking in unseen. She is no master of stealth, but would in time become quite difficult to notice for average guards.

Stats:
STR: +0 DEX: +1 CON: +0 INT: +3 WIS: +0 CHA: +2

Saves:
Will: +2 Fort: +2 Ref: +1 Toughness: +2

Skills:
Disable Device (Int) +8, Knowledge (Human Behaviour, Int) +7, Knowledge (History, Int) +8, Pilot (Dex) +6, Notice (Wis) +5, Search (Int) +8, Diplomacy (Cha) +7/+11, Bluff (Cha) +7/+11, Sense Motive (Wis) +4, Gather Information (Cha) +6, Stealth (Dex) +5, Medicine (Wis) +5

Feats:
Fascinate (Diplomacy), Suggestion (Diplomacy), Firearms Training, Attractive (+4 to Diplomacy and Bluff vs. Men), Defensive Roll (+1 Toughness Save, Spirit Guide (Ghost Familiar)

Powers:
Summon Sand Golem,

Core Ability:
An expert can spend a point of Conviction to gain 4 temporary ranks in any skill, including skills in which the expert is not currently trained or that cannot be used untrained. These temporary skill ranks last for the duration of the scene and grant their normal benefits.

Attacks: Base +1 (Combat) +1 (Dex) = +2
Shotgun +2 (+3 inside 30') for damage +5/+6
Browning 9mm +2 for damage +3
Unarmed +2 (non-leathal) for damage +0

Defense: Base 10 +2 (Combat) += 12 w/Parry 0 = 11 w/Dodge +1 = 13
Leather Jacket +1
Toughness Save bonus: +1 (Leather Jacket)

Spirit Guide: Kinkaid
Kinkaid was found trapped a steam tunnel vault oned by Dr. James Breasted underneath the University of Chicago. Originally of scottish ancestry, he died while sealed in the vault along with the artifacts of his discovery--a discovery so shocking the academic world ignored it. But the US commission of sensitive information paid closer attention. They pressured Dr. Breasted to seal Kinkaid away. The ghost has progressed through various stages of existance in the 20 odd years he's been dead. But recently he discovered a link through Evelyn. Her connection to him has provided new awareness to the world of the living as well as given him doorway to the other spirits of the dead. Evy found rituals that would bind the two together forever. Kinkaid agreed to be part of her adventures and protect her as long as he was able.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Like... WoW, man!

Hey, Warcraft has just release the pre-patch to launch their Lich King expansion planned for November. All I can say is... WTF?! Blizzard gets a release out *before* Christmas? Inconceivable!

This patch installs many of the features that are going to be seen in Lich King. While I'm sure we'll have to purchase the release to play in the new zones and get the raised level cap, Burning Crusade players can still see many new features. Everybody gets new Talents. There's now a new Profession, Inscription, and literally hundreds of other enhancements. Its virtually a whole new game.

I was pretty stunned. After many months of game disappointment, I was surprised to find new life in a game I was sure was overplayed. But I guess I should have learned to expect more from Blizzard. WoW still delivers. If you have an account and you've been waiting for the expansion , well you sure don't have to. The pre-release content is pretty cool. Re-activate and be ready enjoy it, then enjoy it all again with the pre-Christmas release.

Game On! For the Horde!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Savage Worlds

I've let all my MMORPG's expire. I was getting pretty tired of them and nothing new has really come out. I spent all my game money on Warhammer, but that sucked and I'm not even playing it. So I have retreated to the comforts of my table top systems.

I picked up the Savage Worlds of Solomon Kane well before I moved. I flipped through it a bit, but didn't really get a chance to read it. I had read some good things about the Savage Worlds game system and knew eventually I'd come check it out. So now is a good time.

I have only read through character creation so far, but I like it. It is not quite a "simple" as True20, but it is certainly designed to be an easy and fast system. It has a number of game elements that look like great fun (like using playing cards for initiative). The basic mechanic of d4 to d12 ability progression also trips my triggers as I like lots of dice and I was beginning to fear that the d20 focus was going to eliminate the "lesser" dice. I'm happy to have all my friends back at the table. I will do a more thorough review when I've read and play tested it, but so far the production quality on this book is excellent. The rules are easy to understand and it appears that game play would be fun and fast. A great combination!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

d20 Modern: Tweaks and Tips

This is an old system with many flaws. I've documented "house rules" before, but can't seem to find them. So I'll post them here quick. For the record, I'd recommend you ditch d20 Modern for True20--all the same benefits and fewer flaws. However, I'd take the Dramatic Chase rules from Spycraft.

#1: Dump cross-class skills
Characters get to spend skill points on any skill that any one of their classes knows 1 for 1.

#2: Wealth Check multiples
Every doubling of quantity adds +2 to the wealth check Purchase Check.

#3: Wealth and Cash
Sell the suitcase of money as if it were an item to determine if the cash amount has any impact on the character's wealth score. Alternatively, let the players keep the cash for other purchases.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Warhammer Online: The Age of Suck

I'm in the first 24 hours of owning this game and I regret it. Several things have already gone wrong.

#1 The disks shipped to New Zealand and Australia contained an image flaw that broke the install. There were multiple versions of a patch available. It took me a long time to find the description of the problem and ultimately find the right patch. The patch failed several times before I decided to reboot. Patch worked and the game would now load... 4 hours after install.

#2 The game is buggy as heck. It frequently locks up, disconnects, or fails to display objects. The client flat out refuses to close when I select quit.

#3 When it is working, it feels clunky. While the detail is pretty good, the animations seem unconnected... like the models are not well placed in the environment and they don't relate well to each other.

I'll update more as I attempt to play...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A quick summary of Spycraft 2.0


I wrote up a summary for Spycraft for posting on another board and then realized I never captured it on my blog... Here's a repost.

On the far, far other end of the simplicity vs complexity scale is Spycraft 2.0. SC2 is *advanced* d20. While initially perplexing, once you finally grok it, SC2 is stunning in its integrated mastery. The fundamental goals of SC2 were deep character development, fully integrated rules (mechanics that are consistent and lend value in many rule areas), and to quantify what the GM can do.

Key Features:
SC2 is still fundamentally d20 based, but the Skill tree is radically altered, there are all new feats, all new vehicle chase rules, there are in depth player organization rules, a very unique take on Player vs GM game play, and an intensely different equipment/gear system. Basicaly, SC tried to plug every clunky hole WotC made in d20 3.5 and they did a pretty good job. It will be quite hard to adequately convey the complexity of Spycraft in a brief. I'll be as clear and simple as a I can, but you're going to have to seriously examine the rules for yourself to fully appreciate the system.

Classes:
There are a bunch. Spycraft is designed to be a modern spy adventure game and as such the classes fill specific action-movie themes. Indeed, the entire frame work is often described in terms of an action movie. These classes cover the range of action heroes like Guide (Indiana Jones type) to Spook (CIA spy type) to Field Scientist (MacGuyver type). There are 10 basic classes and something like 8 Expert classes (advanced classes). The power level of these characters is much higher than equivalent level d20 Modern classes (or True20 classes). But that just means everyone is pretty good from the first session (and everyone is therefore roughly equal).

HP / Damage:
Spycraft uses the Vitality/Wound Point system very similar to the one used in Star Wars RPG. A character Vitality represents incidental damage or fatigue while Wound damage is more serious and deadly. For those unfamiliar with V/W Points, your Wound Points are typically fixed as equal to your CON score. Thus even high level character can be laid low quickly with 15 points of Wound damage.

Combat:
Hmmm... where to start? Combat is vastly expanded. There are many new actions and details about when to use actions. Initiative is overhauled and can actually be variable between combat rounds. There are no less than *40* individual combat actions from Aim to Withdraw. Combats between matched foes is always going to be an Epic battle. SC recognizes the difference between Villians and Mooks. Villians will have real combat stats including Vitality and Wounds. Mooks don't. Often mooks can be mowed down in droves. The combat mechanic for mooks is based on a damage save concept where the thug must save vs the damage dealt or just be dispatched. This is designed to simulate the way guards are just knocked out in the movies.

Powers:
While there are no true spell-like powers in SC, many of the effects are still fantastic in ability. These are often explained away as super spy gear or simple class abilities. But these rarely have any limitation on use. SC does use a concept called "Action Dice" which are awarded at the beginning of every session which are usually required to activate anything really special. But more on Action Dice later as this is a key mechanic of the game.

Skills are vastly expanded and go a fair ways to filling the void left by Spells. Every skill has a family of sub-skills, where buying some points in the skill gets you some points in all the sub-skills too. But the sub-skills may use different key attributes. For example, Falsify is a skill with 3 sub-skills called Forgery, Disguise and Cover-up. Disguise and Cover-up are Wisdom based while Forgery is Int based. Overall the skill system appears to replace what would normally be combat in a Fantasy game.

Money:
Here is one area that Spycraft is really different. It still uses a Wealth Check concept for minor game interaction, but also contains a vastly complex Gear Check system. The basic premise of most Modern games is that the PC's work for someone--the CIA, Omega Force, The Dark and Shady Corporation, etc. So it follows that the PC's are equipped by their employer. What you can request is a factor of your level and various feats that increase your request potential. Since much of the gear fills the niche of ultra powerful firepower ala magic items / spell casting, this mechanic is essential to control the raw destructive power of the characters. While at first look the Gear system seems overwhelming, it actually becomes masterfully elegant as a game design mechanic.

Fudge Factors:
Okay... here's the nitty gritty. The over-arching concept to Spycraft is that all "missions" have a Threat Level associated with them that is actually a mathematical calculation of the number players and their levels. This sets a numeric value that becomes the seed for virtually all other mechanics in the game. Once the Threat Level is set, this number becomes a modifier to virtually every "default" DC in the mission. So for example if the threat level is 5, then the DC to unlock basic doors become 15 + 5 throughout the game. You just add 5 to all the variable DC's. This works surprisingly well and allows you to instantly scale any adventure to any sized or leveled group. Brilliant! This Threat Level also ties in to the Gear Request system to define what (and how many) items the players can request.

Another brilliant concept is seen in Action Dice. On the surface, Action Dice look like Action Points/Conviction Points... basically tokens the players can uses to boost die rolls or generally save their butts. Players also use AD to instantly confirm critical hits and critical failures. So if during an attack the player rolls a 20, they can spend an Action Die to instantly make it a critical hit or if the GM rolls a 1 while attacking the PC, then the player can again spend an AD to confirm that the 1 is a fumble of some sort. What is really interesting about this mechanic is that the GM is awarded Action Dice based on the number of AD possessed by the players. The GM has to use his dice to confirm threats as well. This makes being a GM slightly more strategic as it quantifies when the GM "exerted force" in opposition to the players. If a GM wishes to use more AD than was originally awarded, then he must give the players bonus AD to compensate. In fact, the game assumes the GM hands out more Action Dice as a way to keep the game action packed.

Lastly a quick summary of what I think is the most broken aspect of all RPG's... bad chase mechanics. Spycraft again delivers a brilliant system to handle chases without time consuming distance/speed calculations. Actions in a chase are broken down in to basic strategies that are selected in secret by the players and the GM and then compared. Character abilities affect how well the strategies work and then GM / Player make opposed Skill checks (usually Drive Skills) to determine the result. The results modify a 1 to 10 point pursuit scale where 1 means you've caught the prey and 10 means the prey escaped. SC re-uses this strategy selection mechanic for Seductions, Infiltrations, Interrogations, Hacking, Brainwashing and Manhunts.

I was really impressed with Spycraft, although I am still somewhat intimidated by its complexity. I fear even a very good GM would spend a lot of time reviewing rules at each session. But once you got it... It would be like d20-zilla... uber-gaming at its most hardcore. I hope the guys at Crafty Games hold out. They got some Good Stuff.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Facebook

I thought I'd post a quick note about joining Facebook. I expanded my social networking Fu by casting my gamer net over Facebook. I hauled in several fun widgets like "Tiny D&D" which has rekindled my desire for the old pen & paper game. I'm just plain ol' Curtis Owings on Facebook. Come on over and installed Tiny D&D.

I also joined the RGPLife site which has many social networking aspects, but is more RPG focused. It's a new site and just getting off the ground.

I downloaded Battleground RPG demo client. It is a virtual "table top" environment for over the Internet gaming. You basically play the old table top games over Skype and use BRPG to be the game table for diagraming physicial situations, sharing maps, etc. Might be cool... I'll have to get some play testers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Virtual Morality

I’ve played a lot of games for a lot of years and recently I discovered that I have a whole set of ethics around gameplay. Besides the obvious “no cheating” standards I realized there are many more ethical considerations. As I thought about it more I began to see a recent evolution in these ethics. I am sure one could probably do a great deal of research in to the area of simulated morality. These are just some of my thoughts.

With the creation of MMORPG’s has come the creation of “guilds” or team vs. team play. Fighting other players is as old as DOOM, but the advancements made in the last couple of years have been significant. In DOOM (and most first person shooters), there is very little personal loss (if any) to character death. At most you lose some play time as you wait to re-spawn. But old school MUD players will remember how character death often meant complete loss of all your cherished items and some if not all your wealth. Ultima Online was one of the first graphical MMORPG’s to continue this as a concept. But this type of cut-throat ethic only appealed to a small market. This in itself could be examined in more detail, but as UO was interested in more subscribers and more revenue it experimented with ways to alter the player vs player game. And thus an era of game ethics and player psychology has been born.

Each and every MMO game developer has now had to consider what morality it will enforce and what animosity it will foster. WoW has created the two sides with limited areas of allowed PvP and even goes farther by allowing players to choose completely non-pvp (called Player vs Environment PvE) servers to play on. Other MMO’s have chosen to allow only special zones where combat is essentially free-for-all. Few graphical MMO’s adhere to the draconian “lose it all” style, but some come pretty close. EVE Online losses are limited to only the ship the players happen to be in. Ships are very specialized and most pilots have dozens of ships so even this loss is far from “total”.

What is more interesting is the self imposed ethics of players. Despite all these options and all the tweaks developers make to encourage/discourage certain behaviour, the openness of RPG allows players to decide for themselves what actions to take. You can even include some external game activities in this set of simulated morals. Some games allow for the trade of in game currency for additional play time (e.g. EVE Online). Players are allowed to buy game codes good for 60 days and sell them in game for ISK. While completely allowed by the game developers, many player see it as “cheating” and will not. Many players, even when playing games with strong PvP elements, refuse to engage—struggling through PvP as an extra obstacle in what is for them a largely PvE game. Entire guilds/groups are organized around common game play ethics. Few disputes can shatter the members of a guild than a sudden radical shift in game ethics.

I can see how these concepts can branch out to creating whole new fields in predictable psychology. Game developers will need to be keenly aware of what their target market desires in terms of game morality while at the same time allowing for players to break the morality. We get to see first hand fledgling gods of creation introduce evil in to the virtual world.
What are your game ethics?

Game On!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Scammers


I suppose that any game where folks will put in years of play time creates a whole new playing field for scammers. I don't have a lot to say about it other than "yeah, I've been scammed before." It can happen to you.
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I have never lost actual money, but I can sure see how it could happen. Most MMO's have strict acceptable use policies (AUP) that forbid ever using cash to buy accounts, gold/credits, items, etc. Although, in spite of those policies the virtual blackmarket is awash in illicit goods. You can literally buy whole accounts at top "levels" with the virtual equivalent of billions of dollars for enough real cash. Just don't get caught. The trick to not getting caught seems to be as simple as keeping your mouth shut.
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These transactions happen in some obvious places like eBay, TradeMe, etc. But often they happen on one of the millions of game forums. It appears that while most game developers know it occurs, they can't devote much time to enforcement. Some of the schemes around these transactions are pretty grandiose. One site offers trade in a virtual currency called "forum gold." On this site you don't trade real cash, but rather credits... then you use your credits to buy other account goods. One step shy of ever using cash and interesting as it allows the trade of goods between games (i.e. I'll trade you my 70th level WoW Warlock for 2 top level Guild War accounts).
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All of these trades are under the table and leave the buyer with no recourse should things go awry. Some developers, like CCP (EVE Online) seem to turn a completely blind eye to blatent scammers on their own forums. CCP goes out of their way to warn players that they do not interfer in game credit transactions and offer no guarantees of safety. As long as actual cash is not trading hands, they don't care.
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The scam I fell in to was the "lottery" on EVE's own forums. I bought a "ticket" for 25 million ISK (game currency) for a chance at winning a billion ISK ship. But the lottery never happened and the 30 some players that gave money just lost it. 25 million ISK is a chunk, but not really crippling. CCP is completely aware that many (if not most) lotteries are complete scams... but they don't step in. It's part of EVE.
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My advice to gamers is, unfortunately, to avoid these dark alleys. Look around... how many dilweeds do you see smoking dope and playing the latest crack MMO while jobless? Uh huh... a lot. Well just like crackheads they need money to play and they are not above stealing it. Aside from pothead frat boys, also consider that $20 USD is large sum of money in Taiwan or China. The origin of the "gold farmer". These economies can actually sustain human beings a living wage on 10,000 gold for $50 USD. But again, once the money is in their account there can be no guarantee the gold will ever show. Plus I worry that in the secret archives of data and transactions that the dirty deed is forever recorded... a ticking time bomb to sudden account closure.
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Stay clean... Game On!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Manifest Thanatos


Well, it finally happened. I slowly ground out enough ISK to be within throwing distance of buying a Carrier in EVE. My original intention was to wait until I had enough ISK to buy the carrier and not be broke afterwards. But as I hit about 850 million ISK, I found a Carrier for sale at 844 million. It was up on contract in the Everyshore region.

Besides being a great price (as carriers are going for over 900 million commonly), Everyshore is where I started playing EVE. It was the location of my first corporation and where I learned most of the ins and outs of the game. It was where I first researched my goals in the game and decided to go for Carrier. At the time, I really didn’t know it would take 3 years of playing to reach that goal. Now, I’ve play a lot of EVE, but only a few hours a week. Many other players have rushed to Carrier in less than a year. But I dilly dallied along the way and took my time.

I still have yet more training and probably another 400 million ISK in ship fittings before I would feel minimally qualified to fly it. But I did make my first cyno jump last night (that’s how Carriers travel) and I have it safely stored in a station where I can run out fittings to it.

In the next few weeks I will manufacture Fighters, purchase Capital repair modules, pick up a number of other fittings, scads of support drones and drone modules and deliver them all to my hanger. I will probably have to purchase a Blockade Runner Transport ship (Viator or Prorater) to make safe deliveries in to Low Security space. Carriers can only exist in Low Security—places in EVE where there is no interference to pilot warfare. I will also be maximizing key skills to improve survivability.

I am the Great Masada Akiva, Carrier Pilot of EVE.

Game On!

Monday, July 28, 2008

I got a fEVEr for more cow bells

Nothing much to see here. I'm still working on making ISK in Eve so I can get that dang carrier. Masada can now take the Level 4 missions from the Royal Khanid Navy agents in my corps home. That means I can make a ton more ISK with missions. Still, I can only make about 40 mil a day. I need about 700 mil and that's nearly 20 days... bleh. Plus I don't really play every day.

As for training. Masada is on Gallente Cruiser V and Porter is still on Long Range Targeting V. Masada will qualify for Heavy Assault Cruisers (pretty bad ass) in about 2 weeks. Porter will qualify for Logistics ships in about 5 days. A Logistic ship is like a "healer" of the space ship world. They tend to make the ships they support seemingly invincible. But we'll see.

Otherwise... not much gaming going on. I might be teaching Gabe Magic the Addiction... er Magic the Gathering. I don't even know if they still make it.

Game on!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

nEVEr Really Stopped

Okay, okay… I never really stopped playing EVE. I have cut way back and then recently got sucked back in again. Mostly I have kept up my active training. I did have to make a few changes.

After more than a year, I had to leave the EVE corp I was in. The membership had dropped off to near nothing and my odd playing time in New Zealand kept me at an opposite schedule to them. I went searching for a new corp to actively play in and actually ran in to an old EVE buddy still playing, Domitianvs. He has stayed mostly in Empire space (safe space) since I began my career as a 0.0 pilot (not safe space). He is still hacking at Empire space in a new corporation called East Khanid Trading. That’s the last Empire region in the “south” before you get to the might Band of Brothers controlled regions (the dreaded BoB). They have a nice outfit with a ton of good perks that you don’t often see in the more “advanced” 0.0 corps. Here’s a linky… http://www.eastkhanid.co.uk/.

You’ll note that they are UK founded and therefore exactly 12 hours off my time and that really works out. 8:30 PM my time is 8:30 AM there time and they have several students and part-timers online. They seem pretty cool and I’m glad to have an old buddy and some new things to do on EVE.

Porter’s training is currently on hold while I train Suky Tawdry up as a Cyno field pilot. That’s a special pilot you need to open a jump target for Capital Ships like the Thanatos I want to buy. Masada is training up a lot of skills for carrier prep and other things. Masada’s Amarr faction standing was very low so I trained up Diplomacy so that I might be able to take missions to raise it. I also finished off Assault Ships 4 as a pre-req to HAC’s and to just be better in those ships. Mas is probably a week shy of my full Carrier train goal. But I still need a good 700 million ISK to fund the purchase and fittings.

I have a full carrier plan all worked out. I know where I’ll likely buy the carrier, the jump plan to pick it up, the mods I need, the Fighters I’ll fit, the fuel I need and the number of Cyno pilots and locations I’ll need them. I’m hoping to negotiate a safe location with a 0.0 alliance for storage. That way I can perhaps gain access to 0.0 space and trade jump services. I’m pretty close to getting that carrier and that’s what’s keeping me playing now.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Game NO

Well since I got back all I have been able to do is flip skills in EVE and run about 2 missions. Work and home are now both becoming too busy to allow much game time of any sort. I have gone ahead and canceled all accounts. I only have the one EVE account now anyway and it will expire here in a few days.

I think I'll try to do some cool gaming type things with the kiddo. He retains quite a bit of tension though. A game of Jenga nearly kills him, but he loves it. I wish I could find some other 8 year old games he liked. So far I seem to be pretty limited to Trouble and Sorry. Both are a bit below my interest threshold. But then it is hard to walk the line between a game we can both enjoy where I like very complex strategy games and he is... well 8. Maybe Break the Ice... I wonder if he'd like LIFE.... hmmm...

Anyways, with little time to game... that will probably make game blogging pretty lame. If free time returns I will of course pick up again.

So for the rest of you, Game ON.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

EVEntually


I played out Porter's account to the end. She is now expired and on a 30 day train to Minmatar Cruiser 5. Eventually, she will be ready to fly the Minmater Force Recon, the Rapier (above). It will take a fair bit to increase her gunnery to Tech 2 Projectiles, but she already had T2 small Projectiles so stepping up to mediums on the Rapier will not take long. She already has all the other supporting skills.
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That account expires and I will be on vacation away from computer gaming for 2 weeks. Eve has the nice feature of allowing even expired accounts to continue on their training until they complete.
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When I return from vacation I will most likely activate my Masada Akiva account and continue to work on his combat skills for missioning and general ISK generation until I can buy a carrier. I have recently discovered that my little back water low security system is less than 14 lightyears from Gultran (a TOG Empire haunt). That means I have easy to acquire resources in my system and an easy to reach friendly market some 25 hops away. That may create market opportunity. If I had a carrier. But like all things in EVE... EVEntually it will come.
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Game On!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

EVEr Onward

I forgot to mention that my Eve corporation decided to split from the BRUCE Alliance. One of the primary things EVE has going for it is the entirely player driven politics. The shape of EVE is defined by the players. More than 50% of the galaxy is controlled solely by player corporations and alliances. These relationships shift frequently and often spill over in to your little corner of space. The BRUCE Alliance was huge. It quickly grew to over 1500 players. But just as quickly it faded. Although, I suspect there will still be good things to see from BRUCE. By the way, BRUCE stands for BRUtally Clever Empire.

In EVE you control star systems by building permanent structures and hold them. If you hold a system long enough, you become "sovereign" and can then build an Outpost Station. Stations can never be destroyed, but you can lose control of them. Stations generate vast wealth as they tax every one that uses them for repairs, market sales, refining and production. They are the power base in EVE. An alliance is then defined by what space it has established sovereignty in and how many Outposts it controls. You can see a map of territory (updated weekly) here...

http://sov.eve-dev.net/maps/influence.png

Each of these colored blobs is a 100% player controlled alliance with sovereignty of the systems contained with in. Each of the faint dots is a star system with up to a dozen planets, asteroid belts, moons, stations and other features. Eve is huge.

BRUCE established itself by appealling to the "good guys" in Eve. We all rallied behind the ideals and the leadership of the alliance. But then the guy decided sunshine was preferable to Eve super-stardom. When the leadership changed... the alliance disintegrated. There are still shards of it, but it probably will not be able to hold what it has taken for much longer.

My corp leadership decided to move on. But I hope BRUCE does well.

By the by... the pictures I post of Eve are all real screen shots. That Providence picture below is quite large if you click on it. You can spin 360 degrees horizontally and vertically around that ship and change camera views throughout. Eve is graphically very nice.

Game On!

Monday, May 19, 2008

ForEVEr


So I spent all my game time this weekend playing EVE. I let the subscription on my main combat pilot expire so I have been limited to only my industry focused alt, Porter.

This weekend reinforced what I dislike most about EVE though... it takes forever. This is even more painfully obvious in the comparison to the speedy Guild Wars. I do like Eve, but I aways feel like it is just this close to being fun.

I was feeling eve-y this weekend so I logged in Porter. I had her based out of the Zoohan star system on the edge of Amarrian Empire space. This is a "safe" zone with high value asteroids for mining. But I was mostly alone and profits/motivation were low. Most of the other players I know were based about 30 jumps away (roughly 30-50 minutes travel) from where I was operating. But since I was sick of being on my own... I figured I might as well move over to them. I caught up with a pair of buddies that are power mining for enough minerals to build a pair of freighters.

A Freighter in Eve is the pennacle of raw volume shipping. It is a billion ISK asset and a long term goal. It is kind of cool. I say "kind of" because they really don't have a lot of great functionality. They are really, really big and they move really, really slow. They have no armament or defenses (they fit no modules) and in a small corporation like ours, they see almost no use. But hell... why not? I have trained Porter to fly the Providence Amarr freighter which while of no combat value, is one of the most majestic ships in the game (above). These two yahoo's in my corp were building the Charon--which can actually haul a bit more, but isn't nearly as cool.

Anyways, I packed up all my useful gear and moved the 30 odd hops to mine with them. The zone they are in is quiet and sparsely populated. It isn't a particularly valuable area, has no strategic value and is a blend of low security and high security. In low security zones you can be shot by other players anytime. In high security you can only be shot if you're in a war or if the attacker is prepared to commit suicide to gank you--rare, but it happens. This is not the same as 0.0 space or no security. 0.0 space has really high value asteroids and random belt "rats" (NPC ships you kill for bounty and loot). But this zone is not in (or even on the way to) 0.0. This makes about all activity in the zone harder (cuz at any moment some dork could kill you) but not high value... But whatever... we are not a power corp, but we are tough enough to scare away small groups of unmotivated gankers. Plus our territory is pretty worthless.

Regardless it was fun to mine with friends and it brought back the memories of why I play this stupid game to begin with. The team effort is amazing. When you finally find a way to make something work and profit from it, it is a boost to fun. In Eve, where that boost may be a loooong time coming, its like a double boon.

After they logged out, I moved more of my stuff to their home system and began mining and some production work. Since that's all Porter can do, I'll play around with it for a while and see how it goes. My account runs out at the end of May. I'll be on vacation the first 2 weeks of June. It will be interesting to see if I come back to Eve at all. But I probably will...

See ya later... til then... Game On!

Friday, May 9, 2008

TOGgle On? Check!



So I found a large game community of "mature" gamers. Called TOG, The Older Gamers, it appears to have members around the globe and in to virtually every video game ever known to man... including those extinct for a generation... Hehe... I guess that makes me old too. Anyway, I've linked them under Gamey Link to the right and I'll give them a go here for a while. A couple of my online buddies have been in their group for a long time so they come well recommended.

I am still enjoying Guild Wars (not unexpected in only 3 days!) I have also discovered that after buying one boxed set, you can purchase the rest online through the log on interface. In NZD that adds up to $60 per title. But then the shelf price was $90 per title. So that is a savings to me! Still I'll hold off a bit on further purchases.

Game On!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Fee-less Adventurer

I've been looking more seriously at Guild Wars. It looks very WoW-like, but no monthly fees! My webivestigation has determined it is probably not quite as vast as WoW and may have less overall content. But hell... it's free. I have enjoyed WoW, but occasionally I do become morally offended by the notion that even after spending hundreds of dollars on the game, I can't play it for free yet.

I'm thinking of doing a common build of Elementalist and Mesmer--generally refered to as a "Nuker". BOOM BABY BOOM! (obscure Tick reference) ((Tick is an obscure comicbook reference))

Guild Wars is sold in 3 "chapters"--Prophesy, Factions and Nightfall. You can buy any of them and play online. Each chapter allows you access to more zones and content--plus skills, classes and other goodies. You can play in PvE and PvP in any chapter. PvP looks to be more arena-style were you can fashion a top level character immediately or use your PvE developed character. There is also an "expansion" called Eye of the North which I guess is like a mini-chapter.

Regardless... there is a fee-less world out there. My new quest is to find the land of the Free.

Game On!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Game-less

Still in a bit of a rough patch gamewise. I still have one active WoW account, but I can only rarely catch my friends back in the states. The timezones conspire to only allow me to find play time when it is like 2 AM their time.

I cancelled both EVE accounts. This saves me nearly $40 a month and I need it. Besides I wasn't playing nearly as much. My laptop's wireless access card (EVDO) tanked and that makes it hard to play both accounts which you need to do in order to make any sort of solo game progress. Again, my timezone shift and knocked me out of playing with the folks I knew. Plus EVE is a very slow game. It takes forever to accomplish even small progress.

Work has been just busy enough to de-rail any planning on Adventures of Doom. Although, I'm hitting the point where I'll just have to wing it.

Grand Theft Auto IV just launched here in NZ. I have no desire to buy a Playstation 3, but the game looks good. I'm sure someday they'll release a PC version (PC for Personal Computer, of course, since there can be no more un-PC game ever).

Warhammer Online has derailed to late Fall 2008 and that probably means "maybe before Christmas." So that's out. There are virtually no titles on my radar worth looking at.

I'm actually thinking of falling back to Texas Hold'em.

The game I have been playing the most often now is Tetris on my cell phone... that's how desparate it is folks.

~Game On!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Armageddi-CON

I'm taking the family to Armageddon Expo this weekend (http://www.pulpexpo.com/). It looks like a nice little gaming conference with a few fun bits tossed in. I think I am most excited to see the game/hobby stores represented, but all of it looks pretty fun. There are lots and lots of video game activities. While I know my son will love it, I am a little concerned that leaving will be torment on him. Hopefully we get a good long while to play. The TSB Arena is only a short walk from the train station so we can take the train and save parking, etc. Although... considering the median age of attendees will be around 15, parking wouldn't be an issue!

I'll post updates after we've been. Game on!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Desert of the Now (or WoW?)

I have been playing a little WoW still. I had a 55th level Rogue that I thought, "what the hell" and started leveling up so I can at least get in to Outlands (gotta be 58th level). I have managed to catch a few of the guys from Nebraska online so that's been cool to play and chat with them.

I've kept EVE active, but I'm only flipping skills when they are due. This is probably cool long term, but it isn't making any ISK for me. At this point, I'm not sure what to do with it. Ah well. I'll probably just set a couple of long skills (45 day trains) and cancel the sub. Maybe I'll come back to it.

Otherwise, I've been writing. This directly interferes with posting time and game time. But I'm sure I'll have more to post soon.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The WoW that won't Die


My wife's account gracefully expired and I stopped playing Warcraft. But then, like a group of drunks all going out on a bender, my old friends started playing their expired accounts again. So again I re-upped my subscription. Only this time I did my account. Most of my history in WoW has been on PvP servers starting on Daggerspine and moving to Nazjatar (after a Blizzard free move offer to uncrowd Daggerspine).

Our guild was Clarity of which my main was probably the 2nd member. My main was the oldest character on Daggerspine and I suppose by extension the olded main in our group. That character is now a 70th level undead warlock named Melongrim. I played all the classes extensively, but like warlock best. I guess I just like evil-against-evil themes. Plus the free mounts were the best looking in the game.

My other characters on the same server are Sharphoof (70th Druid), Shagreal (62nd Priest), Violated (55th Rogue), Lunna (40th Mage) and several others all lower than 40. Thankfully I can report I have no 70's on other servers, although I do have a 40 on a PvE server.

World of Warcraft recently expanded to 2.4.1 which added a new 70th level quest zone and some new Instances. *Shrug* I don't know... seems like more of the same. I'm not particually impressed. But there just isn't much else out worth playing. It is nice to talk to the guys again though. That's really what I play for.

See y'all around. Say Howdy to Melongrim if you see her. Hopefully you're not Ally...

Game On!