August 1, 2013

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 7/25/2013

After a long caravan journey, our heroes finally reach the mage town of Horizon, home of the Archmage and hiding place of Project Baal’s Throne. Glyff thanks them profusely for their hard work, and gives them a little bonus for the lengths they went to to help his caravan. He also says they’re welcome to ride with him any time: in a week he’s heading to the Golden Citadel, if they want in. Our heroes do not commit, for they have work to do.

Their first stop is the hideout of Sylvia Highstack. Using Murdock’s memory of maps of the city, they find the address, but oddly, find nobody home. It’s an empty building. They do find a Wheel of Fortune card on the table, one from Sylvia’s deck, which gives Murdock a little shock when he picks it up. Nimrod looks around the room for signs of the conspiracy, and finds one part of the strange wall that just isn’t normal. Eventually our heroes turn the small slat in the wall, creating a staircase down to Sylvia’s secret lab and war room.

Syliva seems surprised to see them, but tells them of the situation. He and her crack team of two other elvish magic users have narrowed down the location of Baal’s Throne to one of two of the Archmage’s many many secret labs. Heathcliff excuses himself for a moment, and quickly deals with that problem with a quick coin flip, finding the location. Sylvia is very doubtful of Heathcliff’s sudden knowledge, not knowing about the coin, but eventually gives up fighting with it as the party pushes on her that it’s the right choice. The other problem is that each secret lab is surrounded by a magical locking spell that keeps everyone not enchanted by high officials in the Archmage’s organization from getting in. Sylvia and her team are trying to reverse engineer the enchantment to allow access, but it’s been slow going. It may take something like kidnapping an official to really figure it out fast, but that would give away their presence very quickly.

Unsure of what to do, the team decides to scout out the location, deep in the Dire Wood, in the morning, and gets some rest. Before bedding down, though, Murdock goes and buys a large amount of dynamite from a dwarven trader. Can’t have too many explosives when you’re trying to break into a lab and destroy a magical artifact, right?

While sleeping, Zardy has a vision, thanks to his cursed sword. The Blue speaks to him, and gives him a task: retrieve the Silver Key, a magical item lost long ago by his clan, to help some machination of The Yellow. The key, Zardy is told, can open any lock, magical or mundane. Zardy wakes up with a magical item to find the key, a ring called The Eye of the Blue, which lets him see the magical threads around him and will somehow help him find the beast in the Dire Wood that has a piece of the key in its stomach. The other half of the key is apparently the contents of the Falconcats chest Zardy already has. He doesn’t have much knowledge of magic, though, so he’s unsure of how to use the ring effectively.

The next day, the party goes into the woods and scouts. They attempt to disguise themselves as apprentice wizards on a training exercise, to some effect. They find the lab, a strange shack guarded by a bored wizard, but cannot get near. Unsure what else to do, Zardy tells the party the short version of his task from the Blue, hoping the key could help them get inside. Still, though, he’s unable to make sense of what the Eye lets him see, and they decide to head back, and talk to the Elvish woman back at the war room that Heathcliff had been seducing, Elena Collins. Elena can’t get the ring to work for her, as it’s bonded to Zardy, but through conversations with her, a plan is finally hit upon: look at the chest where Zardy’s piece of key is, and follow the strands from it to its partner.

Using this new plan, they soon stumble upon the lair of the horrific disfigured chimera beast that has the other piece of the key. The party creates a distraction while Murdock climbs atop the cave and drops dynamite right onto the beast’s head, weakening it as the battle starts. The party fights hard, even through the many tough attacks the chimera’s three heads dish out. Heathcliff has some serious problems hitting the beast, being more likely to hit his friends with his Deadly Hellchord. Still, when the beast is weakened, Heathcliff still manages, somehow, to deal the killing blow. Can nothing stop The Wonderheart?

After the battle, Zardy cuts into the beast and pulls out the other piece of the key. When brought near the Falconcats chest, it pops open, and the key is restored. With this, our party should be able to get into the secret lab! But what awaits them within? And what is The Yellow planning to do with the key when he comes to get it? Questions abound, but our brave party prepares to go onward!

July 25, 2013

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 7/18/2013

Gathering their power, our heroes crush some butterflies and naked butterfly ladies. The Ballad of the Wonderheart is sung proudly over the fight, and everyone does their part to easily dispatch their opponents, using their new Level 2 abilities. After the job is done, the townspeople are extremely grateful, and celebrate by throwing a feast with plenty of caterpillar meat for everyone!

During the feast, the party is approached by a strange man selling questionable magical runes. Looking at one another, the party decides not to partake. The man shrugs, and says they know where to find him if they change their mind.

As Glyff gets the horses fixed, Nimrod spends his time preaching to the people, who never really had a religious figure talk at them before, about the wonders and flatness of Slyce. Murdock holes up in the town hall and reads some boring town records and farmer’s almanacs to add to his memory banks. Zardy sleeps off his drunk of butterfly ale. Heathcliff, however, remembers the request from his beloved, and talks to the mayor to try to find information to stop these attacks once and for all. The mayor is a simple man, like his simple town, and doesn’t really know much, but he shares some rumors, which Heathcliff gathers the team to follow up on. He first checks on Don Frumple, the town dick. Frumple is not cooperative to an interview, locking himself in his shack and screaming at the party. Heathcliff uses his Magical Seduction to get to the bottom of the situation. It seems that Frumple was the first hit by the angels, and became extremely paranoid. He offers little information other than a neighbor doing some sort of construction at night. He’s not the culprit.

Not about to be discouraged, Heathcliff then heads out to the house of Francis Maraquette, a relatively wealthy farmer who has not been hit yet by the angels. There are rumors that he used to be a cleric. However, he greets the party happily, and lets them search his house. Nimrod and Murdock do manage to find some robes of Kyte hidden among the belongings in his attic, though! Francis gets quite scared at this, and doesn’t know what to do. Murdock calms him down as a fellow man of god, and has a private word with him, where he learns that Francis was holding the robes for his girlfriend, Lily Veilscythe, so she wouldn’t get in any trouble. Murdock thanks him for his honesty, and the party heads to Lily’s house.

When they get there, nobody is home. They look through her house, but find nothing out of the ordinary. They decide to stake out the house, and when things get dark, lights appear in the house, though nobody has entered it. Knocking on the door, Lily is now there. Murdock pulls her aside, and, though she is extremely nervous, tells her that he agrees with her fight against the Demontouched and the Diabloist, but asks that she wait a few days to resume her attacks, until they’re out of town. He promises no harm will come to her if she does so. Shivering with fear, Lily agrees. Murdock comes out of the house and says that he’s negotiated peacefully, and Lily will no longer attack the townspeople. Everyone seems satisfied with this, except Heathcliff, who writes a letter to the mayor, giving it to him in secret and telling him only to open it if the attacks resume. The letter names the culprit, so that the town may do something about it.

With the trouble in Tilltram dealt with (for now) our heroes reboard the caravan with its newly healed horses, and head out towards Horizon once more.

July 23, 2013

Here Is One Of Probably Millions Of Rants About What Bothers Me About The Castle Doctrine.

Jason Rohrer is a guy who I’m glad exists, overall. He’s just one of those insane visionary types, and you can’t help but respect his single vision and urge to create art. Many of those attempts work (Passage is pretty good, and I’ve heard great things about Diamond Trust of London, though I have not played it). Some of them don’t, really (Remember Sleep is Death? Oh man). With The Castle Doctrine, he’s kind of on his way to another failure.

I’m sure I’m not the only person writing about this. People were already complaining the moment he announced it. But I recently read an interview with him about the game on Rock Paper Shotgun, and I am just overwhelmed at how much he himself is not seeing what he’s doing and how ineffective, at best, and offensive, at worst, it is. I’ll let others ramble on about how he’s creating a world where all women are literally objects worth money, a treasure that must be protected with no free will, because that’s certainly there. There is so much he has said about this game that is just offensive. I just want to talk about how it certainly sounds like he’s not even accomplishing what he’s trying to do.

If you read the Rock Paper Shotgun interview, you’ll see him repeating one thing over and over. He wants you to care. He wants you to care about your house, your family, he wants you to care. He wants you to invest emotion into his game. He wants you to care about it! It doesn’t work without that!

I think it’s very possible to care about his game. I think the themes he is going for, of being scared, of wanting to feel secure, and of never knowing if you are or not, are very universal themes that could speak volumes and be really reflected in a game of the general sort he’s putting forward. I think I could really get into that. But the game is created to make it as hard to care as possible.

In the game, you are male, and you have a family that consists of a wife, a son, and a daughter. These characters are randomly generated and randomly named. You have no control over them. You have to protect them by building traps. If your wife dies, you lose half your money, so you best keep her alive, but there’s no gameplay reason to keep the kids alive, so, you know. Do what you will with them. Maybe they can be bait. You can also buy dogs to protect your house. They’ll probably be shot, then just you can just buy another, why not?

I’m not a male. My family does not consist of a wife, a son, and a daughter. The number of potential players who fit that description are relatively low. Even if you’re the male part of a married straight couple with two kids, one girl and one boy, the characters in the game are not going to resemble your family in any way. They’re just virtual doodads. They’re bragging rights. “My kids aren’t dead in the game yet, I’m good at this game.” That’s all it is. Rohrer sees this, and his solution was to make the wife simply be a method of keeping some of your money. So now you care about her as a person even less, since she’s simply your cash personified. Awesome.

Anyone who has played a game like the recent XCOM: Enemy Unknown knows the value of assigning people in your life to people in the game. It means more when that soldier you named after your best friend bites it, because you aren’t getting him back. Perhaps it’s not a TON of investment, but it is way more than if he was just a random dude with a random name, since that investment is probably 0, maybe a little more if he’s leveled up a few times. There’s extra agony to it, losing this monument to a relationship you find important, you know?

If Rohrer wants me to care about this virtual family, I should be able to make it like my real family, which consists of an awesome male partner and a puppy dog. I should be able to customize them to make them, and myself, look close to our real counterparts, at least as far as the graphics allow. Then I care a bit more. Then coming home and seeing the dead pixel body of my dog, Mr. Q, on the ground from where he tried to protect my house means something. Fuck, I got a pang of sadness just picturing that just now. NOW it’s important to protect the house. Now I’m invested. Roll me up a random family, and they are just stats to show my skill, and nothing more.

Rohrer claims that making the game work this way would ruin his artistic vision. He compares it to movies. Let me quote what he said.

Well yeah, but then it wouldn’t be my personal art. It would just be this pandering product. This is a game that’s from my perspective, just like in Passage the main character is me. So you don’t get to play as the girl, because I’m not a girl. Just like if you go to see the movie Memento, no-one walks out of that saying ‘why isn’t there a version of this where there’s a girl with memory problems?’ It’s the personal statement of the director who is making this and telling the story, and you don’t even question it, but for some reason in games we question it, because we’re so much stuck into the role of this character.

This is such a nonsense defense I don’t know where to begin.

In Passage, you’re playing through a linear narrative. You can change the outcome, unlike a movie, but like a movie, you’re telling a linear story. You’re telling one person’s story. As such, it’s cool to be in someone else’s shoes, and see someone else’s story. You’re on a train track to the end. It’s expected. What’s more, in a movie especially, this main character is, well, a character. It’s not a player avatar. It’s a complete person with hopes, dreams, and goals, and we see that throughout scripted scenes. Someone has crafted a person for us to engage our minds with. Even in Passage, it’s clear this character is not you. I mean, I don’t have any desire to open treasure boxes. Most people don’t. He’s a particular person. He’s a character, even if not a deeply fleshed out one.

In The Castle Doctrine, there is no character. It’s a massively multiplayer game. Everyone is making their own houses, their own way, by Rohrer’s own design. There is not a set arc. It does not reflect Rohrer’s actual reality in any way, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that the dude I am in this game is a particular person, since every player in this multiplayer game is him, any more than when I pick the Marcus Fenix skin in Gears of War, I don’t truly believe I’m playing the one and only Marcus, and nobody else is him, since tons of other people are playing as him online at that exact moment. The only character that exists in The Castle Doctrine is the character I put into it, and I’m not going to invest in those avatars without reason. Rohrer is actively discouraging me from investing with his game design. There is a reason I name every character in every game I play that lets me enter a name Alexis (or Alex if I can’t be a lady for some reason). It’s because then I’m more invested. I build that character up with skills I would want. I make them my own. I invest in them, and try to shape them into me, or a much cooler version of me who can throw fireballs.

Rohrer is right. He can make any game he wants, any way he wants. He doesn’t have to have a female playable character. He doesn’t have to let the player be gay or whatever they might want. He has that power as designer of the game. But by making these decisions, he’s not protecting himself from pandering. He’s protecting himself from success at his goal: conveying those feelings of being scared for his family and wanting to protect them. Without investment in what is going on besides being the best at the game, those feelings are not going to be felt by the player. If art can’t transfer those feelings, the type that can’t be explained in text and can’t be spoken, then it’s not very good art. Rohrer is not making very good art with The Castle Doctrine. It’s a shame, and maybe the end result will prove me wrong. But from what he’s saying, I kind of doubt it.

July 18, 2013

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 7/11/2013

Taking up arms against the dandy band of rogues lead by Richard Hemmingsworth, Gentleman Thief, our heroes jump into battle in order to protect their mechanical friend, Murdock. Murdock takes quite a beating as the enemies gang up on him, trying to deactivate him. Glyff Searclaw, however, helps out, showing how he got his name by mowing through scores of crossbowmen with flaming claws, and a few strong hits from everyone, with a little help from the Ballad of the Wonderheart, manages to subdue the gang. Richard, however, teleports away with a smoke bomb trick, living to fight another day. Should Murdock be wary of this future threat?

Glyff then shares bad news with the party: the raid on the caravan has injured most of the horses, making continuing on a problem. He could heal the horses back to pulling strength if he had access to the supplies, but unfortunately, the closest town is that of Tilltram, a town he normally avoids. He tells the party to be wary as they slowly limp towards the town for help.

It turns out Glyff is wary of the town because it is filled with Demontouched, changed humans with horns and red skin, marked by the Diabloist. As soon as Heathcliff learns this is why Glyff is wary, he gets confident, promising Glyff he can work out something. However, all the townspeople are afraid of the group, especially Murdock and Nimrod, who radiate holy energy. Realizing he needs to help his group get in good with these people after Glyff’s attempts to negotiate help just result in people running away from him, Heathcliff plays a powerful hymn of the Diabloist, helping to gain favor with the townsfolk and greatly disturbing Murdock, wondering what exactly he has gotten himself into in his quest with this potential revelation. Once the town warms up more, Heathcliff gets a secret letter from his beloved, the Diabloist, who details that this town has been under attack by horrifying winds, and if Heathcliff could be a dear and deal with that, she would make it worth his time.

Talking to the townspeople about the attacks, they sound bad, but it gets worse as everyone hears a scream. An attack is on! Murdock uses his data banks to determine that the these are angels of Kyte, God of Winds and Change. Trying to negotiate with them, Murdock and Nimrod do not get far. They seem to be very simple creatures, only programmed to do a very specific task, which is destroy the crops of the people of Tilltram! They’re not messengers who can negotiate and listen to reason. As the winds get worse, our heroes look to each other, and pull their weapons. They must put a stop to this!

July 11, 2013

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On The Whim of a Coin Flip for 6/20/2013

Our heroes rush back through the MURDER MAZE, triggering one of the traps along the way to slow down and weaken their opponents. They get out of the maze in time to get the healing potions, but soon Ingrid Stomphowler, and her two companions, Virion Iroquois, the Mist of the Battlefield, and Frank Jones, come out of the maze, a bit singed, but ready to fight. What follows is the most dramatic battle in MURDER MAZE history. Everyone but Murdock tries to gang up on Ingrid, who hits hard, while Murdock chases Virion around the battlefield, constantly frustrated with how he teleports away. Murdock eventually gets him weakened, and Heathcliff finishes him with a crossbow bolt. The crowd loves it! Heathcliff soaks in the admiration of the crowd, and decides to take the final blow in a similar fashion on Ingrid and Frank as well! The crowd loves him! The Wonderheart is now an arena star! And the rest of the party is a bit miffed at him taking all the glory!

After basking in the glow of their fans, and getting what they are owed from Mott Battleman, they head to the temple of Slyce for a victory party. The followers of Slyce are overjoyed, and present Nimrod with a holy artifact to attach to his shield, the flattest of all gear, as reward. Nimrod accepts the artifact humbly, glad to help his fellow worshipers.

The next day, the party prepares a plan to head towards Horizon, but first goes to a local wizard in order to check out Zardy’s chest. After a long bit of research, the wizard determines the magical lock on the Falconcats Chest was made by someone of almost ludicrous magical power. His guess is either the Archmage, the Blue, or the Elf Queen. Zardy takes his chest back with new things to ponder. Since no normal sailor is willing to take a chance on buying their weird magical ship, the party also negotiates with the wizard about the Fore Sail. He says he knows a guy who may purchase it, and promises to barter the ship for magical items that may be of use to a group such as them, and give them the payment when they get back to Axis. The party agrees.

Searching for a safe way to get to Horizon, the party eventually finds a caravan going through Horizon and the Golden Citadel to reach the Red Wastes. This caravan is lead by Glyff Searclaw, a Dragonspawn businessman and ranger, and realizing that the party is the Slyce Flatteners, he agrees to give them free passage if they’re willing to work as guards, as he’ll be able to get more passengers that way.

The party agrees, and the caravan soon sets out, with the party entertaining the passengers with tales of arena glory and other adventures.

On the second day, though, there is a problem. Crossbow bolts shoot out of the woods, and injure most of the horses in the caravan! It has to stop. The party meets Richard Hemmingsworth, Gentleman Thief, and his band of well-dressed thieves. After having hit a caravan-load of expensive clothing, Hemmingsworth’s band upgraded their image, and they have been terrorizing this route ever since. However, Hemmingsworth has his eyes on something different this time: the mechanical man, Murdock Steelbeard! Clearly, the party are not going to deactivate and give up their dear friend! Combat is afoot! Will our heroes survive?

June 13, 2013

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 6/6/2013

After surviving their brush with the Lich King’s forces aboard the abandoned ship, our heroes finally manage to sail into Axis, the City of Swords. Once there, Zardy tries to convince Sylvia to unlock the Falconcats chest, but she claims she can’t because the enchantment is very strong, and she’s a sorcerer, and enchantments are technical and less natural like her magic. Sylvia heads off of the ship, to complaints from our heroes. She claims she only agreed to ride with them out of Santa Cora, and nothing else. Still, after being pressed for how they can help her deal with Baal’s Throne, she tells them to meet her at a secret address in Horizon once they get there, but she needs to travel alone now, in order to prepare as quickly as possible. She leaves.

Once exiting the Wavecutter, however, after deciding to tentatively put it on the market to see if it would be worth abandoning or keeping and renaming it The Fore Sail, a strange little gnome runs up to Nimrod with an excited expression. It seems he’s with the local cult of Slyce, and he’s overjoyed to see a real, true Paladin of his god! Nimrod tells of his quest to get Slyce recognized by the Priestess, and he says that the small local chapter is helping too, and shows a flyer advertising an exhibition match in the MURDER MAZE of Slyce’s followers versus the Dragon Empire’s finest in order to prove the strength of their god, seeing as only strength is valued in the City of Swords, or so the little gnome claimed. He rushes the party back to the local Slyce shrine, a unfortunate, unpleasant location in a basement near an arena, to show Nimrod off and give our heroes a great… well, okay, a questionable place to crash while in town.

Our heroes meet with the combatants that the local cult of Slyce has picked to fight, and it’s obvious they are going to be murdered immediately in the MURDER MAZE. Pulling Heathcliff into another room, Nimrod reveals that he knows about Heathcliff’s coin, and that he believes it to be an instrument of his god, seeing as it’s so flat. He forces Heathcliff to use it to determine if they need to help these people, and Heathcliff gives in. The coin says they do in order to further their goals. Hearing this, Nimrod and Heathcliff find it easy to convince everyone to change plans to our heroes entering the fight as the Slyce Flatteners, since Zardy is interested in making a comeback in the arena scene and Murdock is wanting to help these nice people in any way he can.. Zardy and Heathcliff take the required change of combat forms to the arena and attempt to convince Mott Battleman, the Arena Event Coordinator, to make this fight a huge deal. When that doesn’t work, Heathcliff uses a bit of charm magic to get the job done, and they arrange not only the pot for the cultists to get them a better temple, but a little prize on the side if they win the fight.

Soon, it is time for the MURDER MAZE. Zardy learns that his old rival for the affections of the arena-going public, Ingrid Stomphowler, has forced her way in as his opponent so that she would have a chance to defeat him once and for all. Zardy fails to intimidate her, but stands his ground.

Once the MURDER MAZE has begun, our heroes barrel through the traps, braving the danger and using endurance and physical prowess to get through the first two, and a little ingenuity and Murdock’s knowledge of Dwarven machinery to get through another. Their great brains solve some difficult riddles to get through a locked door, and finally they engage in combat with a room filled with horrible, poisonous spiders, which Nimrod helps to fight with more righteous fury from Slyce than ever before, in order to obtain the key to the main battle area, as well as the key to activate the traps of the MURDER MAZE on the other team. Armed with these keys, our heroes must now make a choice: will they rush back and try to beat the other team, securing the healing for themselves to prepare them for a tough fight with Ingrid and her team, or will they hang back and try to weaken them with the traps they have barely survived, risking giving them the healing potions? We’ll find out, tonight!

June 6, 2013

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 5/30/2013

Hearing the Crusader forces outside of the shack Sylvia Highstack is hiding in, our heroes burst into action. The Wonderheart takes position outside of the shack, acting as a street performer, to keep an eye out. Nimrod joins him, pretending to enjoy the music and try to sell him on his religion (which is something he probably wants to do anyway). Inside, Zardy and Murdock attempt to figure out how to hide Sylvia. Eventually, Zardy just busts down the back wall of the shack until there’s a hole big enough for the Elf to sneak through, then covers it up with furniture as Sylvia makes her escape to the Wavecutter. The Crusader leader gets there, and Zardy poses as their friend, leading them on an investigation of Sylvia’s shack. Murdock poses as an investigation robot. They cause the Crusaders to waste time searching, but eventually find evidence she was there. Nimrod then creates a distraction, saying that a woman just stole the cart where he keeps his Slyce Pamphlets! The Crusaders run off after the non-existent thief, and our party runs back to the Wavecutter, taking the long route to make sure they aren’t followed.

Once back on the ship, they find out that the ship itself is actually a special Archmage ship in disguise, and is designed to be driven by wizards and sorcerers, not sailors. They do this via metal cords throughout the ship, and an Attunement Rod, which can focus magical energies to make the ship go. Syliva is willing to do the ritual to set up the rod to her and Heathcliff’s frequency, but needs Phalanthum Dust, rare in these parts. The party sneaks out to find some, and Murdock runs into an old friend, the dwarven merchant Gladys Nightstone, who points Murdock in the right direction of someone who can hook him up with some (admittedly marked up) Phalanthum Dust.

With preparations complete, and not a single ship sank, much to the chagrin of Zardy, our heroes set sail for Axis. Along the way, moving a bit too close to the Necropolis, perhaps, our heroes encounter a mysterious ship filled with horrible skeleton creatures. Nimrod tries to keep them contained in a door, while everyone else attacks horrible skeletal scorpions and a nasty skeletal lich. Even Sylvia gets in on the fight. After destroying the evil on the ship, they search for anything valuable, and Zardy finds a strange chest, marked with the symbol of Clan Falconcats, sealed with some sort of odd magical energy. What could be in this strange chest? And what will our heroes find awaiting them at Axis? Have they made a clean getaway? What’s their next move?

May 30, 2013

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 5/16/2013

Following their impromptu leader Heathcliff, our band of heroes attempts to sneak onto the Wavecutter, a ship chartered by Seymour Beuttes to return him and his group to Horizon. Heathcliff attempts several fancy moves, even a magical charm, to try to whoo his way past the guards and security on the ship, but fails. Murdock and Zardy look to each other, shrug, and wade into the fray, starting a fight against Lord Captain Sebastian Wavecutter, a deadly ship captain with a huge scythe which he uses to cut through his enemies like water, and his crew. Throughout the brawl, Nimrod attempts to convince the crew to jump into the water to save their captain, sometimes subtly pushing them forward. After the crew is dispatched, our heroes fish Lord Captain Sebastian Wavecutter’s body from the waves, and place him in the captain’s chair, hoping nobody will realize what happened. They also discover Seymour’s journal, which highlighted that Heathcliff’s coin is needed, at least in part, to try to finish something called Project Baal’s Throne, which is attempting to control one of the hellholes of the Diabloist for some purpose. It also outlines a rebel who was trying to stop the project, the large-chested, apparently, Sylvia Highstack, hiding somewhere in the city.

After trying to get some sleep on their newly “acquired” ship, during which Nimrod sneaks a peek at Seymour’s journal and learns of Heathcliff’s coin, our heroes are woken by the rabble of Crusader forces returning to their ship in the harbor. This causes the team to go to the nearby Seaman’s Cannon, a bar frequented by seamen of all sorts, and learn that these Crusaders are looking through each quadrant of the city in turn. Murdock uses a connect with someone at the Grand Temple’s library, his friend Demitrius Dule Dirigibule, to find out Sylvia’s more specific location, and the party sets off to rendezvous with her. After some tense negotiations, Sylvia agrees to, at the very least, join them on the Wavecutter to escape the Crusader forces for the time being, and suggests that, even if they are going to Horizon, they not dock the Wavecutter there, as it would be instantly recognized. She suggests docking at Axis instead, and going to Horizon on foot, and the party agrees this is a good idea. However, as they are about to leave the building, Crusader forces can be heard outside the door! Will our heroes be able to dodge the forces outside, or will they have to overcome them? And how will a group with no sailing experience pilot a ship with no crew? We will find out… tonight!

May 16, 2013

13th Age Adventurer Tier: On the Whim of a Coin Flip for 5/9/2013

Last time, on On the Whim of a Coin Flip,

Murdock Steelbeard, mechanical dwarf made by the Dwarf King himself, found himself called to the chamber of the Priestess. The Priestess had a vision, and there is someone in the city of Santa Cora he must help. Following the will of his teacher and his goddess, he sets out on his quest, only to immediately bump into Nimrod the Odd, a half-orc cultist who is trying to get the worship of his god, Slyce, recognized by the Priestess so he can spread the doctrine of how flat the world is. Murdock and Nimrod come to an understanding: if Nimrod can prove his worth and strength, Murdock will attempt to use his connections to get Slyce recognized. Without much guidance, the pair set out into Santa Cora.

Meanwhile, Heathcliff, bard extraordinaire, known as the Wonderheart for his prowess, sits in a bar called Bellaluna’s Cup, trying to keep his head down. His demonic lover has tipped him off that he’s already been located in this place, and he must be wary. He’s accosted by a half-drunk and merry Zardy, however, who demands music and ends up taking a liking to the man. As he gets swept up in the revere, Heathcliff notices outside his nemesis, Seymour Beuttes, a lacky of the Archmage who has been chasing him for some time in an attempt to acquire his magic coin, which can answer any yes or no question. He attempts to make an escape through the back, being forced to keep Zardy in tow due to his insistence that he not leave the party.

At the same time, Murdock sees a holy sign in the sunlight, and he knows the goal of his quest must be near. This causes him to be right in the way as Heathcliff races into the alley to get away, causing a collision. Deciding he must be the goal of his quest, Murdock gives chase, attempting to help the man, but the noise of him attempting to get him to slow down draws the attention of Seymour and his goons. While Heathcliff beats feat, Murdock gallantly stands against these enemies, and Nimrod tries to talk them down, still eager to be helpful to the mechanical dwarf. Zardy, however, is filled with the power of the Red coursing through his sword, and urging him to kill, and he’s more than happy to do so in order to help his new drinking buddy. Seeing the bravery of his group to protect him, Heathcliff also rejoins the fight to help, glad to have Seymour out of his life once and for all.

After dispatching of these foes, the group finds out that they were to return to a ship in the Santa Cora harbor, called the Wavecutter, according to a writ of passage on Seymour. Heathcliff secretly flips his coin, and it tells him that he should proceed to the ship itself, and after buying a round for everyone in the bar, especially his new barbarian friend, the group decides what to do next.

January 1, 2013

My Top Games of 2012: Honorable Mentions

Welcome to a new year! Last year was basically the best year of my life, so I’m really looking forward to trying to beat that this year!
But for now, let’s look back at more games of 2012. There are always good games that don’t make the top ten for some reason or another, and I like to at least point them out. So here they are, in no particular order.

Blacklight: Retribution
How did a free to play shooter get on here? I was really obsessed with this one for awhile. It’s basically Call of Duty, but it nails Call of Duty, and had enough little tweaks, like robot battle suits and basically building looking through walls into the game, that it felt fresh and fun. What’s more, I somehow got pretty good at it. By the end of my time playing it, I was consistently getting first, second, or third place in matches, which shocked me every time. The only bummer was the way you bought items. It costs way, way too much real money to unlock guns permanently, which makes me sad, because I would have totally given them money if that wasn’t the case. Still, you don’t need to pay money to have a great time. If you want a free multiplayer shooter, Blacklight is actually really good. Download it on Steam, shoot some dudes for a week, and enjoy yourself.

Virtue’s Last Reward
Horrible, unforgivable save bugs aside, this game really got its grips into me. However, then I got busy and didn’t finish the story. Shame on me. Still, I loved 999, and this game was, up to where I played, better than it in every way. It’s really good. I need to finish it. Since I didn’t finish it, I wouldn’t put it on any top 10 with a clean conscience. But seriously, I’m glad I bought it.

Orcs Must Die 2
I thought the first game was a fun little tower defense game, to be sure. But the sequel added co-op, which is a blast, plenty of new weapons and traps to try, a new character with different equipment, and way, way more content than the first game. They also changed the unlock system so you don’t have to grind levels over and over again, hoping to get one more skull, but can instead play a different mode or just get skulls for trying to beat your high score, even if you don’t. It’s basically the best tower defense game out there, and as you shoot orcs with your own weapons, you feel powerful, but not powerful enough to do it without traps. It hits a good medium there. Especially if you have a buddy, pick this up for cheap on Steam. You won’t be disappointed.

Persona 4 Arena
Goddamn, what a fun fighting game. I really felt like I had a good grip on it, too. It felt simultaneously more complicated than something like Street Fighter IV, but also more simple. Plus, I love Persona 4, and I was super attached to all the characters. Once our little tournament was over, I stopped training. I’m just not a repeat over and over kind of lady in general. But damn, it’s a fun little fighting game. Highly recommended.

Hotline Miami
So I just bought this like 3 days ago? I thought I understood it from watching CJ play it, but fuck, I did not. It is so intense and so fun, and the music! Oh fuck the music! This is a great game, and if I had grabbed it earlier, it may have snuck onto my list. As it is, though, just know murdering so many dudes never felt so good, and leave it at that.

Resident Evil: Revelaitons
Look, that’s how my box spells it, okay? But seriously, the 3DS Resident Evil had some problems. There aren’t many enemies, and the story is pretty awful, even for Resident Evil. But this is no RE6. The game plays great, just like RE5, but on the 3DS. Sure, you could use the circle pad pro to make aiming better, but it does not need it. The tense stopping to aim gameplay is fun as ever. I really enjoyed this, despite its flaws. If you like RE4 or 5, don’t let the mediocre reviews scare you away. Pick it up for cheap, and give it a try.

This tiny little game has some really amazing ideas on what makes a good video game story. The way you shape the story is pretty genius, and the atmosphere, especially the sound design… fuck. The game pretty well terrified me. I jumped at several points, mostly from CJ walking in. It’s a great experience, it’s cheap, and you should spend the hour, maybe, it takes to play through it.

Frog Fractions
Hilarious and grin inducing. You should play Frog Fractions. Just don’t give up on it until you see what the Warp Drive does, okay?

And that’s it. Bye, 2012! Hello, 2013! Hope you’re as awesome as last year.