Archive for October, 2013

Pokemania

October 15, 2013

So, I’ve missed several days now in a row, and I am simply going to wait until the amount I play pokemon every day dies down before I try to post regularly again.   See you in a few days.   

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Pokemon X/Y

October 12, 2013

Tomorrow, or I guess today is the release date for Pokemon X and Y, the newest pokemon games.  This generation is changing a lot of things up, with Mega Evolutions, Fairy Type, New types of Battling, Fully 3D battling and a bunch of other stuff.  I will be purchasing pokemon X tomorrow, along with a 3DS, and it will likely be consuming a large amount of my time.  I will still be posting, but expect my posts to be colored by me spending more than half my time playing pokemon.  

Pokemon in all its many incarnations and forms has been a fairly large part of my life since I first found out about it on a family trip.  I have watched hundreds of episodes of the tv show, collected hundreds of cards, logged over a thousand hours on the video games, spent many nights reading about and discussing it on the internet, and more recently have dedicated a significant fraction of my time to playing the rpg.  The wold of pokemon has always fascinated me and I expect to be pulled back in tomorrow.  

I suppose at this point I can not really make much of an objective statement about pokemon considering the sheer amount of time and thought I have put into it, but I will say this.  The world is great, the ideas are fun and the games are fun.  For those who have never done much with pokemon I suggest playing any of the video games.  For those who have played the game or the card game or watched the show than I suggest reading the manga and playing the rpg.  If you have done all of those things, then send me a message so we can play some PTx together some time.  

Camelot

October 10, 2013

This night, I watched the movie version of the musical Camelot.  It was an interesting experience to say the least, with the story seeming to be making fun of itself at the beginning, but then becoming much more serious later on.  During the first part of the movie, King Arthur was introduced as a man that possessed the valued traits of courage and bravery, that kings and knights possessed, but also wit and wisdom.  His dream was to unite Britain, and lead it into an age when violence was a thing of the past and might no longer made right, but was rather used to defend right.  

His ideals were difficult for those around him to accept, but eventually he found a companion in Guinevere, who he was at first terrified of but eventually fell in love with.  For quite some time, the two share a happy romance, with Arthur having someone to bounce his ideas off that will actually listen and consider them.  In conversation with her he creates the slogan, Might for Right in opposition to the phrase Might makes Right.  Additionally he seeks to spread this doctrine by promoting chivalry and making that a popular ideal.  When his wife insists that assembling a group of knights will simply make them compete for status, Arthur comes up with the idea of a round table of knights, so that they are all equals united in pursuit of chivalry.  He forms his table and begins to call for the best knights of the land to come and join his round table.  It becomes a thing of honor to live up to knightly chivalry and the very best knights all seek a spot at the round table.  

The next character that is introduced is Lancelot, a french knight of unparalleled skill at arms and devotion to god.  His introductory song is a self sung song about how great and wonderful he is, that seems to continue for his entire months long trip from France to England.  He arrives in England and quickly becomes fast friends with Arthur.  The initial song and his initial attitudes seem to make him a caricature of an arthurian knight, seeming to think far too highly of himself.  He is presented as a man different than other men, both extremely skilled in combat and very close to god, but also lacking in all worldly pursuits.  Arthur and he discuss various ideas for the round table, but when he meets Guinevere he makes a bad first impression.  She sees him as a proud and vain knight and wants to knock him down a peg or two.  In a clever little song she convinces three other knights of the round table to challenge him to jousts upon the same day in an attempt to see him defeated.  Up to this point, there is much that seems to indicate that Lancelot is indeed a braggart, if perhaps a skilled one.  

Lancelot fights the three other knights and defeats them, but the last is struck with such force that he appears to be dead.  Arthur lays his cloak over the man and Guinevere cries next to his body.  It is here that we see that Lancelot is indeed the man he claims to be, for he is overcome with grief and is crying himself when he sees what happens.  He takes the dead man in his arms and begs him to be alive.  After several seconds of this, the man begins to breathe again and it is clear to all present that Lancelot performed a miracle.  In doing so however Lancelot and Guinevere for the first time really look at each other, and it is here that they fall in love, creating the tension that leads to the conflict in the second half of the story.  Only minutes later Arthur finds out, after seeing them gazing into each others eyes but goes to another room to think about how he should deal with this.  

It is here, with Arthur examining his own motives that I really decided that I liked this movie.  Arthur begins by talking of how Guinevere is the perfect woman for him and Lancelot is the perfect friend and then goes into how they betrayed him and that as a man he must take his revenge.  Then however, he controls his anger and speaks about how he must not be a man however, but rather a king, and that as a king he has opposed the idea of revenge and violent response his entire life and it is not fair to hurt the entire kingdom or even those two just because of his personal pain.  He hopes he is imagining the love he saw between them but decides that even if he is not, it is better for everyone if he ignores it and does not pursue revenge.  This monologue really made me respect Arthur in a way I have respected few characters, for you could hear the pain that this decision caused him, but his willingness to stick to his principles over his own satisfaction or happiness is something I admire and seek to emulate.  

In the second act, Arthur’s kingdom collapses as his estranged bastard son begins turning people against each other and the rumors of Guinevere and Lancelot’s love begin to permeate the court.  Arthur manages to create a court system to replace the system of trial by combat, just in time for that court to decide to find proof of Guinevere and Lancelot’s relationship and sentence Guinevere to burning at the stake.  Arthur is forced to watch and hope that Lancelot will break into his castle and save her, as he is unwilling to shatter the principles that he spent his life putting forth by overruling the jury.  

Eventually Lancelot does indeed rescue Guinevere and Arthur is forced to wage war upon him.  Arthur is able to meet with the two and tell them that he personally forgives them both, but that his nation seeks revenge and he cannot stop them.  Before the eve of his battle with Lancelot, he encounters a young boy who says he wants to join the round table.  Said table had been shattered in the fighting and the knights turned against each other by Lancelot and Mordred, but Arthur asks why the boy wants to become a knight of the round table.  The boy says it is because of stories he had heard of the knights and there motto of might for right.  Arthur commands the kid to stay out of the fight and go home and tell these stories for the rest of his life, and though his kingdom is in pieces and he is fighting against this best friend, Arthur finds peace knowing that even if the age of Camelot is over, its ideals have made there way into the stories of the common man and that his ideas are shaping the dreams and hopes of generations.  With that thought the movie closes.

All in all this movie was amazing to me on several levels.  Specifically the character of Arthur was heroic in a way that very few characters in movies or novels are, a quiet courage that seeks to create strong principles and stick to them.  The story that was told is an old one, but it is a strong one and the idea that the ideals of Camelot exist as long as the stories are told is a profound one.  I have a bit of a hard time putting into words how incredible some of Arthur’s ideas were and how difficult those around him found them to comprehend, but suffice to say the movie is worth watching and its moral elements are worth analyzing.  

Dungeons & Dragons Campaign Log #14

October 9, 2013

This post is going to be fairly short, as it is sort of late and I actually have to wake up tomorrow at a specific time.  

I’m going to talk about a few things that I forgot about that had happened earlier in the campaign.  

One thing of interest was something that happened just after the changeling character returned.  As it turned out there had been a whole side adventure that he and I had planned to play out that never happened, and his character had lost all his memories and stuff, but anyways, around that time, the level disparity between various characters began to get pretty large, so I took a kind of obscure trick out of the Dungeon Master’s Guide and had them encounter a portal to the dimension of frogs.  Frogs are the lowest challenge rating opponent in the Monster Manuel, in fact they have no damaging attacks.  As it turns out, there is a rule that players no longer receive experience from fights once they are 7 levels higher than the creature they are fighting.  Basically I gave them infinite frogs to fight, which brought them all up to level eight with no risk.  Eventually the portal to the frog dimension started to close, so naturally some of the players tried to jump into the closing portal.  The only one of them to succeed was the Elf’s animal companion, a badger.  Said badger was now lost forever in the dimension of frogs and canonically it later became a god, which the players tried to summon on a few different occasions.  

Going back to where I had left off in the story, the character of the young child possessed by a demon is worth his own little bio.

Greg:  A nine year old child who was the son of the captain of an airship that the party attacked.  Detected as evil when the paladin randomly detected evil on all of the captured folks.  Turned out to have sacrificed his sister in a well in order to gain demonic powers.  Would be played by a few different players who only played for a session or two.  His father had told him to wait until he was older and then betray the party by killing there kids or something.  Would become the nemesis of Amarakus, though this was a bit of a one sided hatred, with Greg never really disliking Amarakus all that much.  

Also of note, the airship raid that resulted in the capture of the human airship was one that had been filled with much delaying on various parts.  For some reason Amarakus had been in charge of starting the sky pirates assault and he had intentionally dropped the sword he was supposed to swing, flying down to catch it and going through a number of other attempts to make the fight not happen.  Eventually the more bloodthirsty members of the party forced his hand however and the fight resulted in the capture of the humans and their gold.  

I’ll actually advance the plot next campaign log, I promise.  

Space Opera Questions

October 8, 2013

Once again, I’m basically going to be using this post to throw some ideas at the wall as far as my Nanowrimo book for this year.  One of the big questions, is what kind of story I’m going to tell in this world of various species.  Should I tell it like a grand history, having the main characters be entire civilizations?  Should I pick some people who are going make a very important change to the galaxy and tell of how they made that change?  Should I instead focus on a much smaller story, simply taking place in the larger universe that I plan to create around it?  Could I do something like Aasimov’s Foundation series, and tell a series of smaller stories, that all tie together into a more cohesive look at the world?  

The latter of these sounds very appealing to me, but I am not sure if I have the talent to pull it off or if it would just end up turning out really disconnected or forced.  The idea of simply telling it all like a history or an encyclopedia entry has a certain appeal as well, as I generally find knowing the whole story and finding out about the world to be the most interesting part of a lot of sci-fi or fantasy.  Doing that would make it very different from anything I had done before, and without the luxury of being able to focus on individual things that happen to a given character I may find myself unable make the story 50,000 words long.  It also might not really help me get much better as a writer to do it that way, as encyclopedia entries get to write in a way that would be considered bad if it was fiction.

Since I decided to do space opera, I might as well go big or go home, so the small story is probably right out, unless it is something “The greatest story never told”-esque.  I might be able to cheat, and do encyclopedia entries at the beginning, giving a history of all the different races and such before getting into the story proper.  On the other hand, I might just want to write some encyclopedia entries for myself during october, and simply let the story reveal most of the facts as it goes along.  I was playing around with having some races “first contact” be the start of the story, with their growing understanding of the universe coinciding with the readers.  I’m not sure whether that’s just an easy out, or a necessary conceit in a world with a lot of background detail.  In any event, hopefully I can answer a few of these questions before November rolls around.  

Leyline

October 5, 2013

One of the problems I always have with personal projects, is straddling the line between being too secretive and being too open.  If I am too open, I end up talking about it enough that I lose the drive to actually create something, because I released some of the energy bound up in the project just by explaining all the cool stuff.  On the other hand, if I do not tell anyone, it is very easy for me to simply forget about a project or randomly decide on a whim that the hours of work I have put into something are for a project not worth doing.  I tend to not complete them in either case.  In all actuality, I may simply be lazy and have a hard time finishing things because I don’t have the attention span to do so, but at least currently I still hold onto the above as to my reason for failure.  What is the point of all of the above?  Well, I currently have a project and I want to share part of it.  Said project is a TCG or trading card game.  Like Magic, Pokemon and Yugioh, it would be a game in which you assemble a deck of 40 to 60 cards from a large pool and then do battle against and opponent, restricted by the contents of your deck and with the specific cards available in your hand.  I will now attempt to explain the basics of how my game, “Leyline” will work.  Being able to put the game into a comprehensible form that others can understand is a good first step to making the game playable, so that will be part of what I am doing today.  

The first thing that needs to be explained before the game’s details can be described, is the shape of the play field.  I have a special place in my heart for TRPGs such as Final Fantasy Tactics, so many things that I create, end up incorporating some sort of grid into them, and this game is no exception.  The battle will largely take place on a 7×7 grid.  The first two rows closest to each player will be where cards from both sides will begin, but the cards will move over the course of the game, agressing towards the enemy lines.  In addition to this 7×7 grid, their will be 5 special spots behind the second through sixth columns on both sides of the board.  At the beginning of the game, both players will start with the same set of five cards in those slots.  These cards will be power sources, serving something of a similar role as mana and energy in magic and pokemon but with something of a different twist.  

The big gimmick of the game is that not only must you have the energy to power something, but you need to be able to get that energy to the right place.  Every card in the game will have arrows on none, one, two, three or four of its sides.  These arrows will represent where that card can send energy.  Initially, only the five spots right above the power sources can receive energy, but after a card is placed so that it can receive energy, it can also transfer that energy further along in the directions of its arrows.  Only a total of five energy is added to the board each turn, but as the game continues, the abilities of the players to put that energy in exactly the place they want increased greatly.  With the basic idea out of the way, lets skip to the basic goal of the game and the phases of play.  

Your goal in the game is to destroy your opponents five energy sources.  You can do so largely by attacking with creatures or using long ranged abilities.  

The turn is broken up into five phases.  In the first phase, the active player gets n points, where n is the number of energy points they still have.  The player may then spend these points either putting cards on the field or drawing.  They can do this in any order ie they could draw one card, decide to play something, then draw another.  Drawing a card always costs one point and playing a card usually costs one point as well, though particularly powerful cards might cost more and particularly weak ones might cost nothing.  The cards may only be played in your build zone, which, unless you have a card that changes that, is the first two rows of the grid closest to you.  An important thing to note is that even though a card is played in this phase it often cannot do anything until it is charged.  

The next phase is thus the charge phase.  The five energies untap, and each can be tapped to give one energy to either the card directly in front of them, or any card that can be connected to by a chain of arrows by the card in front of them.  Every card in the game has a minimum and maximum energy.  The card is basically completely useless until it has the minimum energy, being unable to defend itself or use any of its powers.  It can not hold more than its maximum energy.  Once all of the energy has been sent out, the next phase occurs.  

Said phase is the movement phase and cards that can move may do so.  Depending upon the card, movement rates are different.  It is also possible that movement might cost energy, depending upon the card.  Each card that can move may do so, in what ever order to current player chooses.  

After the movement phase is the attack phase.  Attacks from different cards have different values, different ranges and different energy costs.  Like the movement phase, each card gets an attack and these attacks can occur in any order.  

Finally, there is an end step, which has no specific thing that occurs, but is simply a phase where things that happen at the end of the turn happen.  

I will likely update the blog again with how attacking works and a few example cards, but this is the basic system of how the game works.  Any critiques or suggestions are more than welcome.  

Humans Vs Zombies, a Retrospective

October 4, 2013

As I mentioned in the previous post, the nominal reason I have skipped about a week of posting was because of the Humans vs Zombies game that was going on at my campus.  It was a combination of spending a lot of time playing that game and just needing a break from blogging every day that made me decide to have a hiatus, but I should be back and ready to rock and roll now.  My first post will be about the various events and fun things that occurred during this game of hvz.  

The first thing of note was that our campus made a few changes to the game this year, the most notable of which was the removal of a game element called the OZ or original zombie.  In a traditional game of Humans Vs Zombies, on the first day, there is a single zombie that looks like a human, and one has to be very careful of the other players as any of them could be the OZ.  Depending upon the campus, you would have to either question everyone you met, or shoot them with your nerf gun every ten minutes in order to keep them stunned and unable to tag you.  We decided that this was an unnessasary element in the game, because it generally created bad feeling in those who were tagged by the OZ and also led to those humans who were tagged being left on there own, because the OZ did not want to be figured out and would not want zombies hanging out with him or her.  By simply starting with a number of starter zombies, that were typical and unhidden, it made the horde more cohesive and gave everyone a chance to fight against the zombies, and not just get killed by someone they though was a friend.  

Another element of this game, that was notable only on a personal level, was my choice to eschew traditionally good guns and use two weapons that are rather bad but a lot of fun.  One such gun is the Centurion, a four or five foot long blaster with a two or three foot long draw.  Even though the gun and its amunition are enormous, they don’t really fly much further than any other blaster, and it only holds six shots at once.  That combined with the fact that it takes almost a second to cock the gun between shots makes it a truly impractical weapon.  The other weapon I used was the Diatron.  Said gun is a disk launcher that shoots two bullets at once.  It is quite horrible to reload, and burns through ammunition twice as fast, though it does have the advantage of spread fire.  Its cocking mechanism is also on only one side of the gun, so it can largely be used exclusively in the right hand.  All in all both weapons were pretty terrible.  Still, because of my training in Vigil and my general attitude towards the game, I was more successful in killing zombies than most people playing the game, and it was not until noon that I got killed and that was only after I had called the horde to my location and told them how and where I was going to be moving for an hour.  The battle went pretty well, with me eventually being betrayed by a sign post and joining the horde half way through the first day with a smile on my face.  

After that I got down to the business of eating people.  At that I was reasonably successful, ending up halving the fourth largest number of kills in the game, but my greater contribution was in leadership.  Their were a number of capable zombies who could lead the horde, and when they were around I deferred to them, but as I had no job and no classes, I was able to be out there the entire day and lead the horde when others were in class or what have you.  

Because of my and others leadership, and due to the earlier mentioned new ability to keep the horde together in the beginning of the game, the zombies were able to take out key human targets during the first few days, and by the end of the second day most of the human leadership was gone.  With strong zombie cohesiveness and low human morale, the horde grew rapidly and the moderators of the game had to change many of the missions to make them harder for zombies and easier for humans.  In some cases this made the game less than fun, but in general the horde at least had a lot of fun, and were eventually victorious over the humans, though only by a small margin.  

As far as the game went as a whole, it started out strong and ended strong.  The missions were too short for the most part and the humans too cowardly, but the game was largely a good one and a lot of people had fun.  We’ll be having a one day game soon and I hope to have a lot of fun in that as well.  If you ever hear about a game of humans vs zombies happening in your community, I encourage you to participate, and if there does not exist one, I urge you to create one, because its an amazingly fun game that lets you meet people, chase people and shoot people in a fun and mildly competitive environment.