Friday, March 24, 2006

Connectivity tests succeed!

After a disheartening hour-long test last night, Scott was able to connect to the board on the first try this evening . I'd figured out what kept us from playing last Sunday. Game on!
We're playing Sunday at 2pm EST.
Make sure you're fully updated in the hakpak department. You'll need the small updates I posted last week and today, which are on the Vault here.


Here's a link to a walkthrough of the new Metacreation game, "Spore" that looks very ... involved! (watch the whole thing to get an idea of the scope of this game.)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Scientific Heresy...

"Joyce Ann Hafford was thirty-three years old and had always been healthy. She showed no signs of any of the clinical markers associated with AIDS -— her CD4 counts, which measure the lymphocytes that are used to indicate how strong a person's immune system is, and which HIV is believed to slowly corrode, were in the normal range, and she felt fine. In early June 2003, she was enrolled in the trial and on June 18 took her first doses of the drugs. "She felt very sick right away," recalls her older sister, Rubbie King. "Within seventy-two hours, she had a very bad rash, welts all over her face, hands, and arms. That was the first sign that there was a problem. I told her to call her doctor and she did, but they just told her to put hydrocortisone cream on it. I later learned that a rash is a very had sign, but they didn't seem alarmed at all."

Hafford was on the drug regimen for thirty-eight days. "Her health started to deteriorate from the moment she went on the drugs," says King. "She was always in pain, constantly throwing up, and finally she got to the point where all she could do was lie down." The sisters kept the news of Hafford's HIV test and of the trial itself from their mother, and Hafford herself attributed her sickness and nausea to being pregnant. She was a cheerful person, a noncomplainer, and was convinced that she was lucky to have gotten into this trial. "She said to me, `Nell' -that's what she called me-—`I have got to get through this. I can't let my baby get this virus.' I said, `Well, I understand that, but you're awful sick.' But she never expressed any fear because she thought this was going to keep her baby from being HIV positive. She didn't even know she was in trouble.""

Len Lakofka!

FYI: The Len Lakofka of which Mr. Colbert speaks is the greatest AD&D module author of all time. He wrote "The Secret of Bone Hill" and "The Assasin's Knot". And the Sheldamor Valley lies between the Lortmil Mountains and the Crystalmist Mountains in the World of Greyhawk.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A moment of silence...

...for Mem' nock the Drow Assassin (formally known as Bob = 666) who called in sick on Monday to play Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and hasn't bothered to bathe or eat since. Good luck Mem! We're all pulling for you!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Marvel Comics: stealing our language

Marvel Comics is continuing in its bid to steal the word "super-hero" from the public domain and put it in a lock-box to which it will control the key. Marvel and DC comics jointly filed a trademark on the word "super-hero." They use this mark to legally harass indie comic companies that make competing comic books.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Biowar for Dummies

'The real cost of villainy is in overhead. Even with the ready availability of equipment, you still need space, staff, and time. Brent guesses he would need a couple million dollars to whip up a batch of smallpox from scratch. No need for state sponsors or stolen top-secret germ samples. “An advanced grad student could do it,” Brent says. Especially with the help of some high schoolers who actually went to lab classes.'

'It sounds like submicroscopic surgery, but all you do is squirt chemicals into a culture dish and let it all soak overnight.'

Friday, March 17, 2006


Jason and I went to the Gemäldegalerie yesterday
which has a bunch of "old master paintings" in it.
A lot of mediocre itatlian artists a couple of Vermeers
and their prize of the show. This painting of Dutch
Proverbs by Peiter Breughal. Which was a pretty
cool thing to see. A lot of the figures in it reminded
me of H. Bosch's.

Oh pete, I also found my new character portrait on
the Gemäldegalerie website (image is 256x 400) .
What do you think? (the eyes nailed it for me).

Albrecht Dürer, Portrait of
Hieronymus Holzschuhers, 1526

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Some sandbox design notes

Plot: I’d like to quash recent insinuations that there is going to be a string of quests for your characters to follow, which would lead to you “beating” the module. It’s not to say that the module is non-narrative, but we should work with the narrative that the systems give us. And if the systems are good, they will provide us with a wide variety of challenging situations that force us to make interesting decisions. The design concentrates on the environment and various agents in it, modeling them at a few different levels of abstraction (highly abstract for MPOP numbers, travel points, etc., and more specific when everything is spawned and loaded up in-game), as opposed to a programmatic design, which is essentially a series of tasks, which is the approach of a traditional RPGs. In pencil and paper play, programmatic design is a matter of necessity, as it takes a lot of time and forethought to conceive plot well enough to run it.
In any event, a programmatic design would limit my monster population system too much. Say I had a quest which was, “Go get such-and-such from the skeletons in yonder cave.”, which would be given to fledgling PCs. But before the low-level party gets to the cave, a high level party stomps through it and cleans out the skeletons, in enough time for the much harder bugbear population next door to move in. When the low-level party gets to the cave, they will likely be eradicated many times over, striped naked by the ferocious bugbears, wondering why they had been sent there… not good design.
Also, I think I can get much more game-play out of the work I (we) put in on the module, because each new monster population, new area, new quest item, new henchman, new magic item, new spell, etc. has a combinational effect with everything else already in the module and hakpak. So we’re expanding the module geometrically rather than just adding x hours of game-play.
This is not to discourage the idea of plot and quests. One good way to think of the module is as a medium for interacting with the other players.
For instance, Ryan asked me if his friar should start saving gold to build a parish. Not a bad idea at all. As you’ll find, though, Caer Mabon is on the fringe of an utterly chaotic land, and gets completely overrun weekly. Your characters aren’t dealing with isolated pockets of goblinoids and undead, the overrun Shield Lands is a sea of anarchy (in a Mad Max kind-of-way). Not a great place to build a church. So on to answer your question, Ryan: around ninth or tenth level (called “name level” in first edition) your characters will receive the accoutrements of a powerful character of their class. So you will receive a parish in a more civilized area, likely in Critwall or Willip, which will exist in-game.
(For now, though, Ryan, it might be fun to start insisting that the other PCs come up to the roof of the tower to, “…praise Saint Cuthbert for our recent victory.” And lead them in some kind of prayer/ritual.)

Level limits: I’ve been kicking around the idea of putting a level cap on our game, probably between 10th and 14th level. I foresee this improving play. A few points on this:
  • Characters wouldn’t be forced to retire when they reached the level cap… however there would be a big liability to adventuring with them, because death would surely mean losing a level, maybe two.
  • This danger would encourage players to keep a portfolio of characters, leading to more variety in role-play.
  • Magic items would be tremendously valuable to high level characters because, after a certain point, it would be the only way they could expand their power.
  • Say a mid-level party runs across a dragon and decides that only high level characters could deal with it… so the old crew needs to come out of retirement to deal with the threat. That’s the kind of story situation I looking to incite.
  • Players could write conversation trees for “retired” characters so they could still be present in the game even when they are out of the action.
  • I’d write some kind of “legacy item” system to both aid and restrict the passing of items between PCs of the same player. The first edition Oriental Adventures book has rules for a player running a succession of characters built into its honor system.
Super-Characterization: Ryan asked me about importing character portraits into the game. A well chosen character portrait could do wonders for characterization. It’s very simple. Send me a 240x400 pixel JPEG, and I’ll do all of the conversion and installation, and include it in the next hakpak update.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006


I had a blast the other night in the Shield Lands! I can't wait to play again. The good friar was a bit hungover though from all of the booze... er, i mean spirits he was in contact with! Thank St. Cuthbert that he aids the faithful in recovering the day after.

I really like the scene set in that first town, the models and the armor is so much better than in the 'real' game. I'm anxious to learn more of the history of the Shield Lands and maybe start roleplaying a larger story arc. If that isn't ready yet, oh well, i don't mind running around fighting off the encroaching goblin menace either! That was a lot of fun!

Oh yeah and Pieter Bruegel ( a.k.a. "tha Elda") rocks! checkout this painting of the Dance. I think his paintings are totally appropriate models for the Shield Lands Pete and I'm sure Pieter would have been into playing too if he was still around (is that a halfling and a gnome dancing in the foreground?)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Money Bags Fehotaw Oraril Raccoon Guardian of the Unholy Weasel Kingdom and his Psychic Advisor Brain

lots of fun above


This is one crazy movie. have any of u seen it?

Re: the sandbox

The Shield Lands server will go back online this Sunday, the 12th. Some notes:
Scheduling: Previously, we’d been playing at 1pm EST, which was quite early. We’d been playing this early because Jason was playing from internet cafes in Madrid. Since both him and Ryan are going to play from Ryan’s apartment could we bump the time an hour or two to accommodate people in the westerly time zones?
Voice-over-i.p.: I’ve decided to use it. Earlier, I was against it because I’m pretty sure it’ll cut down on role-play. But the whole point of these sessions is to hang-out, so why wouldn’t we use v.o.i.p., especially since it’s going to be a handful of people. It might take a while to work out, but roleplay might be enhanced, say, if we use our speaking voices for third-person references and in-game text voices for first-person speech.
Experience calibration: I’ve decided to set the XP scale to 24 (normal NWN is 10), as well as bump the XP penalty up 5%, from 15% to 20%. Everyone agrees that tread-milling isn’t any fun. The slow gaining of levels, only to incur a penalty and have a few hours of work erased, is frustrating. But considering that my treasure system is pretty generous, and my monsters loot fallen PCs: Characters fortunes will wax and wane much more wildly, which I think will take us beyond the doldrums of tread-milling. Adventuring is only fun if the character is putting something on the line, and not just punching the clock.
That said, first level is really boring as-is. I’m going to tie starting-packages for new characters to their social class. So children of Counts and Barons will start with 0xp and 200 gold, freemen and the children of merchants will start with 500xp and 100 gold, and vagabonds and peasants will start at second level, with a club and a biscuit.
P.S. Jason, I did some research about getting rid of the familiar penalty to experience and it can’t be done without disabling Bioware’s experience system and writing our own from the ground up. We’ll talk about this later.
P.P.S. I’ve been thinking of re-building the summoning tables (maybe not this week, though). I’ve looked into it and it isn’t terribly hard. This little gremlin inspired me. Also, monodrones... MONODRONES!!!

Please comment to indicate interest in this. Your questions will be answered, your design ideas will be considered, wrongs shall be righted, etc.

Friday, March 03, 2006

A new Stereolab LP will be released on Monday. I'm excited! Link.