To Boldly Nerd…

Video games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

16/06/2015
by Kadomi
0 comments

Media Monday #207: Otherland, MOBAs, E3 squeeing

I was a bad blogger last week and skipped Media Monday. I wanted to post on time yesterday, but my computer wouldn’t boot. When it finally did, I spent most of the evening updating phpbb, which I use to run a forum for my two Pathfinder groups. I also run a Wiki, which I will have to post about another time.

Off we go, however.

  1. I’d love to be a member of the movie or TV show family Bartowski, from Chuck, because for one, Chuck is a loveable nerd, and Ellie seems like a kickass sister to have around. There’s Captain Awesome, who’s even awesome for a gay lady like me. Let’s not forget Stephen Bartowski as crazy scientist dad and Mary Bartowski as super-asskicking tough spy. Yup, it’d have to be them. I’d be the normal one.
  2. The cover of City of Golden Shadow, the first book.

    The cover of City of Golden Shadow, the first book.

    One of my favorite authors is Tad Williams. I regularly re-read his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy of books and have an Otherland re-read on my to-do list. I know way too few people who have read those books. They’re slow and they’re wordy, but they are utterly fantastic and amazing. It’s a bit like Snow Crash, but way more detailed, and more fantastic. It’s Alice in Wonderland meets Snow Crash meets Neuromancer meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I can’t recommend this series more. As a bonus for diversity, the main protagonist is Renie, a South African university teacher, and her sidekick is !Xabbu, a Kalahari bushman.
  3. Yvonne Strahovski played quite a few parts, but I would like to see her back as Sarah Walker, because her story is definitely left unfinished. Basically, this is me saying: GIVE US CHUCK THE TV MOVIE. Ahem. If not, then video-capture her again as in Mass Effect 2 and put her in more games as kickass heroine. I’d play that.
  4. I just can’t couldn’t deal with MOBAs, because I can’t see any of those games be anything but toxic. Aside from MMOs, I don’t really play multiplayer games. I haven’t ever played anything like Team Fortress 2 (which explains my non-existent interest in Overwatch) nor do I ever play multiplayer maps in games like Uncharted or Assassin’s Creed. I messed around with Mass Effect 3 multiplayer for a bit, but honestly, I sucked at it, and thus it was no fun. I am pretty sure I would not be a particularly skilled League of Legends player, and all the stories about its toxic communities have taken care that I will never try. None of my RL friends are playing, so I am out. I haven’t even downloaded Heroes of the Storm because the same rules apply. People will be assholes. Come to think of it, most of Blizzard’s recent games have been big misses for me, because I don’t care for Hearthstone either. I am not the target demographic whatsoever.
  5. Lego Dimensions is almost unsurpassable in coolness, because they even make someone like me consider it, and I don’t play with Legos, nor have I ever tried anything like Skylanders or Infinity. But just look at all the nerdy audiences they’re covering with sets: Portal, Doctor Who, The Simpsons, Back to the Future, etc. Yes, I would get a tiny companion cube like that. Because it’s cool!
  6. Seriously, how cool is Lego Chell with her portal gun?

    Seriously, how cool is Lego Chell with her portal gun?

  7. Would be really cool, if the transporters from the Star Trek universe really existed, because instantaneous travel is my ultimate Sci-Fi dream. Alternatively, let’s live like The Jetsons and just fly everywhere in personal ships.
  8. Video game consoles didn’t use to appeal to me, because I was a happy PC gamer and thought that it fits all my gaming needs. But now, I have changed my mind, ever since I first tried gaming on a PS3. I haven’t bought a single game this Steam sale, because a) I have tons of Steam games and b) I can’t play them while sitting in my Ikea Poäng chair. Yet. I just bought The Last of Us GotY and am super-excited to play it. Speaking of excitement, the following trailer had me squeeing and laughing and grinning all over my face in giddy anticipation. Hell yeah.

Less squeeing, more like awe-inspired watching happened when I saw the following trailer.

2016 looks like it’s going to be amazing for gamers.

10/06/2015
by Kadomi
2 Comments

Book Reviews: May 2015

I have fallen out of the habit of posting book reviews, but I’ll go back to that on a month by month basis. My Goodreads goal for 2015 is 50 books, and I am currently doing well, even though I might be cheesing it by counting Pathfinder sourcebooks as well. But they’re books, even if it’s only 64 pages.

Shadow and Bone, book 1 of the Grisha series

Shadow and Bone, book 1 of the Grisha series

The first book I finished in May was Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo. It falls into the YA genre, which for me has held few highs (Hunger Games, Divergent) and many lows. Mostly, because I am hardly the target audience and really have no patience for the romantic tropes of this genre. However, Shadow and Bone is beautiful. If I had to sum it up in a few words, it’s pretty much ‘Harry Potter is a Russian girl, goes to Russian Hogwarts and kinda gets the hots for Voldemort’. Our protagonist is Alina Starkov, the setting is Ravka, which is a fantasy Russia heavily leaning on tales of folklore and fairy tales. Alina is in the Ravkan army and she is to cross the Unsea, a magical lightless area full of monsters that separates Ravka from the western part of the country. While trying to cross, it is discovered that Alina has magic powers, which makes her a Grisha, a member of the magic users of Ravka. As she has the unheard of ability to summon light, the Darkling, the ruler over the Grisha, wants her to help him remove the threat of the Unsea. She gets taken to the capital to the Little Palace where Grisha are trained and Alina struggles to understand her power.

I really enjoyed the Russian flavor, and there are surprises in the story. If you enjoy YA of the fantasy kind, I highly recommend this.

My rating: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

The first Jean Le Flambeur book

The first Jean Le Flambeur book

Next up, I picked up the debut work of Hannu Rajaniemi, a Finnish author. I’ll be upfront, I probably never read a book that left me so confused as The Quantum Thief. I really want to read some amazing Science Fiction, but for me, this book wasn’t it. Even trying to describe the plot will be hard. Jean Le Flambeur is a thief who is held captive in a Dilemma Prison of the Sobornost. He is broken out by a female mercenary called Mieli and her sentient spaceship. As price, he has to steal something for Mieli’s employee, and in order to do that they have to travel to Mars, to Oubliette, where Jean has hidden the memories of his past life. If that sounds confusing, it’s because it is. The author seriously offers zero exposition to any of this. He flings exotic terms your way, like Sobornost, gevulot clouds, etc, but at no point stops to explain them. I really have to respect the author for writing in such a way that despite the lack of information you keep reading. The writing is definitely top-notch, even if I still can’t say I fully understood any of it. It even includes a race called Zoku who are basically gaming communities celebrating LAN parties and MMO raids. Yeah, make of that what you will. I am not quite sure I will pick up the next book, though I would really like to learn more of the Sobornost, the evil overlords of this setting.

Only touch if you enjoy hard scifi and insanity.

My rating: 3.0 Stars (3.0 / 5)

Grisha 0.5

Grisha 0.5

The Grisha series received three companion novellas that are available for free on the Tor website. I read all of them, and I have no regrets! The first one has no relation to the series, but is set in Ravka, in the vicinity of the orphanage that Alina and Mal grew up in. It’s a very dark fairy tale of a girl living on the outskirts of Duva Forest. In her village, female children keep disappearing, and it is said that the forest consumes them. It’s very Hansel and Gretel like, really, with a surprise twist at the end. I thought it was absolutely brilliant. I am a sucker for dark fairy tales though. I read a lot of fairy tales as a child, and really come to think of it, most of them are deeply disturbing.

My rating: 5.0 Stars (5.0 / 5)

The Tailor is set between the first and second book of the Grisha series and returns to a character we met in Shadow and Bone. This novella helps with actually understanding her motivations and adding layers to this character who seemed mostly like the sympathetic sidekick for Alina in Shadow and Bone. However, I didn’t enjoy this novella nearly as much as I did the other one.

My rating: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

siege-and-storm You shouldn’t be surprised I continued my reading with the 2nd book of the Grisha trilogy, Siege and Storm. It seamlessly continues the story from the first book. Middle books are always a bit problematic, and this one is no exception. My biggest issue was how drawn out the middle section is. You get an action and story-packed beginning, and then an endless middle section with little going on, until you get a very dramatic finale. Also, the middle section is full of the love triangle bullshit I have come to expect from YA fantasy, drama for the sake of drama. It was still an entertaining book, but did not live up to its full potential.

My rating: 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)

Grisha 2.5

Grisha 2.5

In Siege and Storm we met Nikolai, also called the Too-Clever-Fox and this novella tells us the folktale of Koja, the too-clever-fox. It’s a fable full of talking animals, and much like Leigh Bardugo’s first novella, it’s excellent. There’s no obvious connection to the Grisha series, it’s just a lovely short story.

My rating: 4.5 Stars (4.5 / 5)

And that’s everything I read. Very Grisha centric, but I like to read complete trilogies. If anyone’s got any excellent SF recommendations for me, please share. My last two tries (the other one was Revelation Space), really fell short.

09/06/2015
by Kadomi
2 Comments

Steam, you mighty overlord

I don’t usually get excited about hardware announcements. I don’t chase after the latest phones, I have no intention of purchasing any smartwatch, and I am happy using the PS3 (for now). Every couple years I upgrade my PC, usually when something breaks or it’s become too slow. Steam however managed to get me so excited that I am pondering a pre-order. And I don’t do pre-orders ever!

Since the arrival of the PS3 in my household, I find it difficult to actually play games at my computer. When I come home from work, I don’t want to sit at a desk again, I want to lounge in comfort. The only game I am currently playing on my PC is Pharaoh, and that only occasionally, since I made a mistake in the last map and really hate starting over. However, my pool of PS3 games is very small. Last week I got really frustrated in Darksiders, and didn’t really have any alternatives to play. I do however have many many alternatives on my PC. My Steam Library.

Don't ask me how many of those games I have actually completed.

Don’t ask me how many of those games I have actually completed.

My PC and the TV are in the same room, and so of course I have the option of having an HDMI cable lying across the room and buying a wireless controller to use Steam’s Big Picture functionality. But really, I wouldn’t want that cable lying around all the time, and crawling around under my desk everytime I want to play is not my idea of relaxing fun. Another option would be if I had an older PC I could set up next to the TV, to use Steam’s In-Home Streaming. We streamed a game to my SO’s laptop once, but when I tried streaming something beefier, like Tomb Raider, it pretty much didn’t work. Not sure why that would be, maybe our wifi doesn’t support the streaming. In any case I don’t have an older computer I could set up for streaming.

This last week, Valve announced two hardware releases that pretty much will solve my woes in November: the Steam Link and the Steam Controller. The Steam Link is a small streaming box you can connect to a TV and which will then stream content you have on any computer running Steam in your home network. The Steam Controller looks like a hybrid between mouse and controller, and I have to say, seeing it used in the trailer is inspiring.

It pretty much solves my current issues (as long as there’s the necessary throughput). I want both pieces of hardware. Well played, oh mighty overlord of my PC gaming experience.

Of course it’s Steam, which means European buyers get punished again. In the past, Steam used a 1:1 pricing scheme for selling PC games. Game cost 4.99 USD, it would cost 4.99 EUR, even though that was quite a bit more money converted. Now that USD and EUR are pretty much even, they’re not even bothering anymore. The Steam Link and Controller are both priced at 49.99 USD.

Are you fucking kidding me?

Are you fucking kidding me?

At the current conversion rate, that means we’re currently paying around 62 USD per item. Just a slight difference, eh? But who am I fooling, I am going to buy both of those puppies. The only question is: why is November so far away?

04/06/2015
by Kadomi
2 Comments

Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords, Session 7

The reason I didn’t blog last week was that my post-work time was for the most part consumed by either watching TV or preparing the Saturday game of Pathfinder. It’s been a while since I last blogged about it, but I want to start writing more regular session reports. Spoilers abound.

PZO1002_500Most of our party managed to reach level 3 after clearing the Catacombs of Wrath in the previous session, with only the rogue lagging behind because he missed a couple sessions. I am not 100% convinced about the experience point rate. Pathfinder uses three different XP tracks: fast, medium and slow, based on what kind of game you want to play. The slower the track, the more experience points a character needs to level. We’re playing the Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition, which is set up using the fast XP track. As we’re 6 PCs, and RotRl is set up for 4 PCs, I had to adjust encounters a lot. In the Catacombs of Wrath, the first real dungeon of the adventure, I pretty much tossed in quite a few more sinspawns than originally planned, nearly draining the minor runewell. All the extra monsters accounted for extra experience points, taking them almost halfway through level 3. I have been toying with the idea of not awarding experience points anymore, and instead leveling the characters at certain story milestones. I do however have the impression that people are really excited to get their experience points at the end of the night. I guess it’s the ol’ draw of MMOs as well. Leveling and loot are very gratifying, and as they’re all fairly new to pen&paper, I don’t want to deprive them of this kind of excitement.

Rest in peace, Koruvus. They'll never know your story.

Rest in peace, Koruvus. They’ll never know your story.

On the other hand, awarding experience points based on challenges also greatly encourages murder hobo behavior. In session 6, the party pretty much methodically explored every room in the catacombs, slaying all that were there, never once stopping to question anything they saw at all. Murder, loot, rinse and repeat. As a story and RP opportunity, it fell flat. I also did not do my best as GM to present the main antagonists, Koruvus and Eryllium, as more than cannon fodder. I can only strive to do better with the finale to Burnt Offerings.

Shopping Queen or adventure?

This Saturday the group, minus the player of the barbarian, continued where we had stopped last, looting Eryllium’s dead body. The party tried a bit half-heartedly to investigate the well in the cathedral, but gave up quickly. Instead, they decided that they would cleanse the catacombs by taking some of the Water of Lamashtu that they found outside in vials, and then went back to get a town guard to bring them stuff to set the zombie traps in Koruvus’ room on fire. After they set the zombies on fire, they left the catacombs behind, instilled fear in the townguards outside of the Glassworks who had let a sinspawn escape to murder a Sandpoint citizen the night before. The party then split up, to sell their loot and to inform Sandpoint’s mayor of what they had found underneath the Glassworks. Our rogue and the druid make a terrible tag-team of greed, both being Chaotic Neutral, and played the mayor like a fiddle once they stopped the intimidation route the rogue was taking by tossing Eryllium’s dead body on the mayor’s desk. Instead, they decided to sweet-talk her and aided each other with diplomacy rolls to receive further assistance with their next step forward, investigating the goblin stronghold Thistletop. The mayor promised them to purchase masterwork weapons for them. Yup, I brought it onto myself, power creep at level 3. It was just a pretty great diplomacy roll and good RP which I wanted to award. I will just have to continue making the challenges tougher.

The other party members sold off all their loot, had the wand and scrolls identified, and that was pretty much it for the day. The next morning there was some shopping of masterwork weapons, and then the party decided to head towards Thistletop. Sort of. They didn’t really seem sure what to do, so I gave them Tsuto’s journal page again. Instead of heading out directly for Nettlewood, they decided they would use the smuggler tunnel underneath the Glassworks. Soon they were trudging along the coastline, somewhat aimlessly. The ranger found an obviously goblin-trodden path that steeply led up back to the main road. A small pack of goblins assaulted the longshanks on the main road and were quickly taken care of. Instead of pushing onward, they decided to go back to Sandpoint to get their horses and buy a map of the hinterlands. Little did they know that Nettlewood and the approach to Thistletop don’t really allow for horse-riding. Speaking of horses, when they finally reached Nettlewood, they found a distraught horse breeder with a cart who was traveling towards Sandpoint and then Magnimar to sell his prize horse Shadowmist. Only that he was assaulted by a horde of goblins who didn’t bother with killing him when he hid under his cart and instead dragged his horse off. The gnome ranger gave up her pony so that the breeder could travel to Sandpoint and then followed the tracks leading into the dark Nettlewood full of briars. Eventually the forest became impenetrable until they discovered a briar gate leading into a goblin-size tunnel system through the briars, very close to the coast. After the gnome ranger scouted and did not locate any enemies, the rest of the party joined. The gnome ranger, halfling sorcerer and the half-elf druid were fine walking through the briar tunnels, but the rogue and the paladin had to squeeze their way through.

They found a hole in the ground that seemed to directly go to the sea, and beneath them, a strange sea creature cried loudly, filling the druid with utter panic, running all the way back to the entrance of the tunnels. Lucky for her that she is a druid or she would have scratched herself up badly. Warily the party proceeded in line, when suddenly the paladin was jumped from behind by a wild cat…

With this cliffhanger, we stopped at 1 am. I am quite fond of this cliffhanger, because it means I can prep the encounter and hopefully make it the most dangerous one they have faced yet for next time. Based on the speed with which we were progressing, I would say that the resolution of this last chapter of Burnt Offerings will likely take at least 3-4 sessions for us, as the pace is relatively slow. A lot of this session was pretty much filler material, character maintenance, really. Selling loot, identifying, buying stuff. As one of the players complained, it felt a bit like Shopping Queen, a German reality TV show. Because that all took so long, the adventuring part was a bit thin. I think sessions like that can’t be avoided. I would have liked to see more RP of the plotting and planning part, but I think they’ll have to learn that yet. At the end of the night, they did not get the bombastic amount of experience they had gotten the previous session and sighed a bit that of course there hadn’t been enough combat, which made me try to explain that it’s not only combat but also creative RP that earns them experience. I guess that’s the downside of a system like Pathfinder, rewarding combat too much.

Gadgets and rules ramblings

On the technical side of things, I experimented a bit more with how to best experience the sound effects from Syrinscape. Our rogue brought his bluetooth speaker along. I ran Syrinscape on my Nexus 7 tablet and put the speaker in the middle of the table. The speaker itself has excellent quality but the tablet has fairly low volume settings, which meant the ambient sound effects just didn’t work well. Also, around 11 pm the speaker lost its charge, and when I tried to charge it via USB, it didn’t pair with the tablet anymore. Ultimately, I decided that next time I will run Syrinscape on the laptop again and will use my TV’s soundbar for all sound effects. Other than that, I still think Syrinscape is the bomb.

I used roll20 again for the map, and learned a lot this time around in prep. I am using my maps off Deviant Art because the artist hero339 makes gorgeous maps over there. I hope by the time we get to Skinsaw Massacre, he will have created maps for it as well. Speaking of Deviant Art, it’s really a treasure trove for Pathfinder related art. hero339’s maps are glorious, but they’re also enormous, and roll20’s upload limit per file is 5 MB. The Thistletop map I am using is 28 MB however. I went ahead and cut the map into six pieces using Photoshop and then saved it as web jpgs, reducing their size to around 5 MB each. I was then able to upload all six parts, enlarge the canvas size for the map layer and put all six pieces together like a puzzle. I made a couple mistakes when cutting the map, and so some connecting pieces have an irritating white line, but it’s no dealbreaker. It still looked pretty awesome.

Pathfinder-UnchainedPaizo recently released Pathfinder Unchained, a sourcebook that offers optional rules and new systems for any GM to pick and choose from. Amongst the most interesting parts of this book is a class overhaul for four classes that Paizo deems a bit problematic: barbarian, monk, rogue and summoner. As I have two of these classes in my game, and play a rogue in another, I am very interested in these changes. As far as I can tell, the barbarian’s overhaul is to make the rage mechanic more transparent. I’ll be honest, one of the reasons I run Hero Labs in my game is that I can toggle rage on and off, and see the changes in stats immediately, without having to calculate anything. Anything to make this easier on player and GM is a bonus in my book. The rogue part is even more interesting. Our rogue complained that compared to pretty much anyone else he kinda feels useless in combat. Playing a rogue, I have exactly the same issues he has. I am squishy, as a Bilbo Baggins-style rogue I have a very slow movement rate. By the time I arrive at a monster in order to flank, it’s pretty much dead already. All the rogue seems to have going for the class is the skill monkey approach. From what I have read, the Unchained rogue is a nice improvement. I will be offering my rogue the chance to play one and if it’s good, I might try to convince my other GM to switch to Unchained for my rogue as well.

I am super-excited for the Ultimate Intrigue playtest coming up in mid-June. It’s going to be a new sourcebook to be launched in spring 2016, and it is described as follows: the new Pathfinder hardcover that delves into the shadows, where charm, grace, innuendo, and insult may be more powerful than a sharp sword or spell. Color me intrigued already! Anything that enhances roleplay outside of combat is a big plus for me. Paizo playtests are pretty great, because they let you download the current rules, test them in your own games and then provide feedback on to how it works. I didn’t participate in the last playtest for Occult Adventures because I think core rules and Advanced Player’s Guide provide plenty of classes already, but Ultimate Intrigue only seems to have one additional class, the Vigilante.

01/06/2015
by Kadomi
4 Comments

Media Monday #205: Chuck, Darksiders, Wildstar and more

I didn’t get around to a normal blog post last week, quickly devolving to old patterns again. But I’ll make up for it this week. Last week was full of exhausting work, prep time for Saturday’s Pathfinder game and a catastrophic playtest of the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game that I will have to blog about another time, because, gee. First though, it’s Media Monday #205.

  1. Ah, so adorable, those two.

    Ah, so adorable, those two.

    Not just recently I have a certain weakness for nerdy TV shows like The Big Bang Theory, because before I rooted for Leonard and his hot blonde chick, I rooted for Chuck and Sarah Walker. I could really wax poetic how much I love this TV show and once we’re done with TBBT on Netflix, it’s time to watch Chuck again. It’s got Chuck, the adorable nerd, who accidentally gets an important database full of government secrets downloaded to his brain, from then on requiring protection by NSA and FBI. I laughed, and worried, and cried. This action-drama-comedy show had it all. Admittedly, it’s got its weaknesses, but season 1 is such a fun ride, and season 2 really blew my fucking mind. It gets weaker after that and ultimately has one of the saddest endings ever, but I love the whole package. If you have never watched it, just give it a try on Netflix or whatever other TV streaming you do.
  2. Darksiders is somewhat intense in its design which I enjoy on the one hand but have come to despise on the other. I enjoy the intense atmosphere of the first chapter, which is pretty much Diablo-esque, and I don’t mind the blood and gore because a) the monsters are demons and devils from Hell and b) none of it has been particularly gross. But the intensity has its downside when minibosses and chapter bosses are a drastic increase in difficulty. I have been stuck on Tiamat for over a week now, there’s no mid-game adjustment of difficulty, and I might throw the PS3 controller against the wall one of these days. Ugh. Ever had a game you love until you get stuck? That’s where I am with Darksiders at the moment.
  3. logoIn my opinion ____ was doomed to fail, because ____ . – If I listened to the majorities out there talking about MMOs, Wildstar was doomed to fail but I don’t think so. No one plays subscription games anymore (other than WoW and FFXIV apparently), too hardcore, not fun enough, etc. I am still sticking with it that Wildstar is a fantastic theme-park game, and I was totally excited to make it my number one game back then. Then it launched, I played until my stalker was level 35ish or so, and then I stopped logging in. Not because it wasn’t fun, but because I couldn’t keep up anymore. Liore put it excellently in her post about Wildstar going F2P: “I suppose that most of us found ourselves in the same situation — fans of the game in theory, but not able to make the effort in practice”. I really wanted to give it my all, but I don’t have the time and the energy to commit to any MMO that much anymore. I sincerely hope the transition will mean an influx of new players and ultimately cash. It’s a fun game, the devs at launch were amazing and really upfront (something current Blizzard devs could have learned from), and I will probably go back. For a while at least.
  4. never-unprepared-cover-250wThe huge allure of pen&paper RPGs for me at this point in my life is nearly inexplicable. It’s really time-intensive, all the prep time alone has led to me currently reading a guide to GM prepping. As an adult, it’s really hard to find a day that all seven people are available and ready to have their game face on. Then you find out someone in your campaign would rather play a different game, etc. etc. And yet, despite all the obstacles and the time-consuming hobby that it is, I wish I could do it way more often. Maybe I am just crazy.
  5. I would enjoy Final Fantasy XIV even more, if I had more of a weakness for J-RPGs or Japanese entertainment in general. As pretty as the game is, some of the very Japanese shticks (to me) rub me the wrong way. What’s with the insanely young faces and the white hair on so many characters? Why always the upskirt looks? The early outfit of my lancer was embarrassing to me. I feel like I am missing references or something because I haven’t played a single JRPG game in my life. It’s really a miracle I enjoyed the game as much as I did. Still on a break though, not feeling MMOs at all, and the impending expansion doesn’t help because I am far behind for that anyhow. It just seems that with all the dungeons the main story requires it will get a lot harder to get those done once everyone is leveling in the expansion.
  6. ____ did better movies, but ____. – I am skipping that question, because I am really not a giant movie buff and might have to start rephrasing some of those Media Monday bits to steer clear of movies.
  7. Generally, I enjoy movies best that either have incredible plot twists like The Usual Suspects or are so bombastic that you simply have to watch them in a movie theater. The last one of those I watched was Inception. As I have mentioned before, I would really like to watch more movies and I think that’s one of the media goals I have this year. Watch more movies at the theater. Rar.

25/05/2015
by Kadomi
0 comments

Media Monday #204

Off we go again, to my from now on regular Monday post. Hope you all had a great weekend, while I am enjoying Whit Monday as extended weekend. As always, the original questions are posted here (in German).

Frodo Baggins, professional Ring bearer

  1. An Extended or Director’s Cut that really greatly enhanced a movie, was the one for the Lord of the Rings movies, because it added important scenes or extended existing ones to make it a better flowing movie trilogy of the books that shaped me and my interest in fantasy literature when I was a 13-year old. It’s possible that there are even better Director’s Cuts, but I wouldn’t know, not being a huge movie buff. I do want to watch the Final Cut of Blade Runner. One of these days.
  2. The best film-musical is Grease. It has the catchiest songs, and is pretty much All-American silliness. It made me long to go to a drive-in movie all my life. I’ve moved past that desire though, especially as there are very few drive-ins over here.
  3. Many people like Bloodborne whereas it aggravates me because of people discussing that it means the PS4 is the hardcore gamer console, and that this is the renaissance of hardcore gaming. I personally haven’t played it, but friends of mine have and their descriptions of the game were colorful, to say the least. I am sure there’s a market for games like Demon Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne, but it’s certainly not me. In a world that’s shown last year that there’s a very ugly side to gamers, I don’t know how to feel about the most-highly celebrated PS4 game of the year being a game that ‘puts hair on your chest’, quoted from a review.
  4. Pathfinder Online seems like an old-school MMO because of its design approaches. Its list of features pretty much reads like a mix of Dark Age of Camelot with Ultima Online. My only interest is really that it’s a Pathfinder game, set in Golarion’s River Kingdoms, so basically being Kingmaker, the sandbox Adventure Path. I don’t do sandbox, and the pricing is shocking. How can you be making so much money with selling access to an alpha game with no release date, actually making people sub to a game that’s not really anywhere near release-ready? When you already got all the money from Kickstarter? It doesn’t help that the creators are asking for a recruitment drive in a very pushy manner. Sometimes I feel morose about MMOs in general. I think if I wanted to play a Pathfinder multiplayer game online that’s not a VTT, I’d probably go with Tenebrae MUX.
  5. Tasty!
    The subject is guilty pleasures: I don’t care, if you all find King games stupid, I however love playing Candy Crush Soda saga on my phone. It’s my daily ritual. Whenever I come home from work, I plop down on the couch and play through 5 lives in Candy Crush Soda Saga to unwind from a long day. It’s brainless, sometimes annoying when they run one of their sales, but above all, it is very relaxing and most of my friends play it, so I could burn through many lives daily, if I wanted to. Yesterday, I finally beat level 145, after being stuck on it for two weeks, woot.
  6. I gainfully used the long Pentecost weekend, to play lots of Darksiders. I also am blogging, and I did some prep work for Saturday’s Pathfinder game. I prepped the loot list that they got last session, because I am sure they will head off to sell stuff or get the magical stuff identified. As next step, I will prepare the campaign newsletter. A couple days before the next session, I always mail a newsletter, with a session summary, some helpful campaign background, usually notable NPCs they have met and a deity from the Golarion pantheon, and local gossip around Sandpoint, as RP hooks. It’s always fun to write.
  7. With the passing of this week, May is over. That’s okay, because in June my SO will likely be allowed to give up her crutches and fly like a bird. Or rather, walk on both feet. That’s going to be momentous.

22/05/2015
by Kadomi
1 Comment

Yay for long weekends

Today is the last day of my Belghast experiment and I can draw my conclusions now.

  1. I still enjoy blogging.
  2. It takes me entirely too long to blog at night, about 1.5 hours.
  3. I don’t have the time and the energy to blog every night.

So there’s that. I will never write daily like Belghast, but I don’t actually need to, I think. I think I can pull off twice, maximum three times a week. Media Mondays will help me with focus and keep me writing. Also, if I have an idea, I should write about it the same day, not push it back, because then I lose the inspiration. I was very happy about the comments I received here and on Twitter. Thanks for reading, guys. :)

Her Little Pony

As I probably mentioned many times before, my spouse had a horse riding accident in March when her horse spooked and she landed on her right foot, snapping the ankle. It’s now 2.5 months later, and she’s still not on her feet, though she is allowed to put 20kg weight on the foot now. She will probably be allowed to walk without crutches in another month. That’s a long time to be sitting on the couch. She pines for her horse like I pine for delicious food and awesome games. Actually, she pines for him more. So today right after work I picked her up at home and drove her to the barn, where she spent happy time brushing her horse while I played Candy Soda Crush. I have been stuck on level 145 for two weeks, it’s driving me insane.

It’s really hard for me to understand why she pines for her horse that caused her to have such a grievous injury. I mean, the wound where the bones broke her skin is still not completely healed. Horse riders are strange folks, honestly.

Rider of the Apocalypse

That pony looks as evil as my spouse's! I honestly can say that I had never heard of this game before, like ever. I thought I know pretty much most PC releases, but Darksiders totally flew under my radar. It’s from early 2010, which is when I was playing Dragon Age: Origins more than any other game. I think as a game, it’s far more suited to a console than PC, so I am happy I am only playing it now.

You’re War, one of the Four Horsemen, and at the beginning of the game, you are tricked into starting the apocalypse which brings about the demise of humanity, and the forces of Hell beating the forces of Heaven. Accused of having done ill, it’s up to War to prove that it was not his doing. You do so by swinging a giant sword, jumping and running and exploring. It’s as if Diablo had a love child with a jump and run game, as far as the combat game play goes and the aesthetics of an Earth ruled by demons and devils.

Arthas' love child with Jaina? We'll never know.

Arthas’ love child with Jaina? We’ll never know.

War kinda looks like he’s the Lich King’s better-garbed son, with giant clunky boots and a red cloak with hood. His enormous sword is called Chaoseater. It pretty much looks like a WoW death knight’s dream sword. The more I look at him, the more War looks like Arthas in his death knight days. The WoW references don’t end there. War’s voice actor is Liam O’Brien who is probably most familiar to people from the following line:

Oh, there’s also chests you can open, treasures and weapons to collect, Zelda style. It’s a little bit of everything. It’s a bit cartoony, it definitely is incredibly gory, and I am having fun hacking and slashing my way through it.

So far I can’t fault my RL friends with their PS3 recommendations, games have all been quite excellent.

The long weekend

As mentioned in the title, we’re having a long weekend. It’s Pentecost, another religious high holiday, and we love ourselves our public holidays in spring and early summer. No work on Monday, hooray. I am looking forward to another much-needed break. So far, we don’t have a lot of plans. Tomorrow, we’re trying to buy Thai and Indian spices at the Asia grocery store, then pho for lunch. At least that’s the plan. On Sunday, we have an invitation to have barbecue at a good friend’s house, friends who we haven’t seen for a looooong time. That night there’s also the company anniversary party, but I am not sure yet if I’ll go. No plans for Monday, though maybe friends will come over. We’ll see!

I have a lot of reading to do, because I am behind my Goodreads challenge goal this year, oy. It really doesn’t help that I am not digging The Quantum Thief as much as I’d hoped to. I also need to start prep work for next week’s Pathfinder session. But more on that in another post.

Hope you’ll have a great weekend, long or regular.

21/05/2015
by Kadomi
4 Comments

Roll20, or technology is awesome

Ever since I started GMing pen&paper games again, I have been struggling with getting maps across to my players. I am terrible at drawing. I seriously was the worst art student ever and deeply admire anyone with a talent for art, and when it comes to RPGs, map-making in particular. Back in the 90s, I actually bought a copy of Campaign Cartographer after seeing an ad for it in Dragon Magazine. I wanted to create beautiful player handouts for my sessions and create. Well, let me tell you, it didn’t work out. At the heart of it, CC is a CAD software, and hardly what I would consider intuitive and user-friendly. I messed around with it, but never created any full map myself. To this day I am disappointed. It’s entirely possible that version 3 is much improved, but I wouldn’t try it again.

With the campaign I am currently GMing, I am very lucky that there are crazy amounts of community-created stuff to help GMs with running the adventure path. There are also gorgeous maps. But how to bring them across to the players without spoiling anything? I tried with one print-out for the Glassworks in Burnt Offerings and what happened was that the players took in all that was visible on the map and meta’d like crazy, using knowledge of the map. I vowed I would never do that again. Hand-drawing everything was out of the question because once again, I suck at drawing. I am very jealous of people with custom made gaming tables using projectors or integrated monitors. (As an aside, I would love to have a gaming basement, let me tell you).

Now that I have a TV, I was looking for a way to connect the laptop via HDMI cable and display a player map on the TV, with me control the GM map on the laptop. I looked into two solutions for using maps for Virtual Tabletop games, short VTT. First, I tried MapTool. It’s free, game-agnostic, and a lot of people with custom tables were using it. I played around with it a bit, and found it to be somewhat hard to grok. Also, the setup to use a GM map and have a player map involved running it as local server, and it all seemed a bit much. Solid piece of software, but I think it’s for the extremely tech-savy.

I started watching the Rise of the Runelords videos (they’re in German) which is a VTT game through Google Hangouts, using Roll20 as VTT. I was really impressed by what I saw. Cool tokens, fog of war, and it looked slick. It’s a browser-based VTT that’s also system-agnostic, with nice support for Pathfinder. It’s primary purpose is to actually run online games, and I can totally see that. I would run an online game like that, if I actually had friends who would rather play online. Not so much with the strangers.

Roll20's page bar

Signing up is free, and though there’s a subscription model, for the basic thing I want to do, it’s already perfect. Once you have created a campaign, you launch it, and end up on your start page. From there you can create additional pages, as many different maps as you might need for it, with a simple click of a button. Importing maps onto any given page is incredibly easy. Either you upload your own, no bigger than 5 MB, or you use the search function. Which is pretty nifty.

Let’s assume you want to run one of the published adventure paths, and are looking for a map for the Catacombs of Wrath. You can select Maps, Tiles, enter your search term and voilà, your results that you can simply drag and drop into your current page. Incredibly easy to use.

The art library

I am currently preparing our next session, and I didn’t like the maps you have access to in Roll20, so I will be uploading my own, or rather, those of a very talented artist at Deviant Art. I would link to it, but my players read my blog, and I just don’t want to risk them peaking ahead. They wouldn’t be able to resist. Now, once you have set up your map, it’s time to hide it, or reveal it, as you see fit. In the page settings you can enable Fog of War, which does exactly the thing you might be used from RTS games. When you do that, a dark layer that is opaque is laid over the page. You can then click on Reveal Areas and drag and drop to select the area you want to have visible on the player map.

roll20-3

And that’s pretty much it on the GM side. But how to display the player map now? I created a second free account and added it as player in the campaign. I logged into Roll20 on the laptop which was connected to the TV with an HDMI cable, using Firefox. I opened another browser, Chrome, to log into Roll20 as the player account, then dragged the window over to the TV. I created a token representing the group, which is a turtle (don’t ask). As they explored the Catacombs of Wrath, I moved the party token and revealed rooms. It worked fantastically well. Whereas I have an opaque GM layer, the player map really only shows whatever you have revealed right now, and it’s just as easy to hide areas again or reset the fog of war.

The revealed room where the party had their last stand against a quasit.

The revealed room where the party had their last stand against a quasit. Why yes, I am using a photo of Sophie Ellis-Bextor as my gravatar. *coughs*

The only downside was that I have to turn my head to see the TV, and that hurt my neck. But that’s really what we call ‘Jammern auf hohem Niveau’ in German, whining when you’re actually doing great. My players loved it, and so did I. Next time, I am trying the next technological trick, using a bluetooth speaker in the center of the table with Syrinscape on a tablet. One of my players has an excellent one. It should really enhance the game some more.

Am I a giant nerd, or what? Next weekend I’ll actually take a photo of the TV and how it looks in action. :)

20/05/2015
by Kadomi
0 comments

Hump Day Blues

It’s Wednesday, before a long weekend, so I should be celebrating, but once again I am feeling particularly exhausted today. Especially when it comes to this blogging project. What do you blog about when you have been at work all day, did some online business and it’s already 8 pm, the evening feeling half over? Ugh. Being an adult sucks. I am also cooking dinner right now as we speak, a hearty meal of fried potatoes with sunny side eggs.

My cats are enthusiastically cheering me on to blog while dozing and bathing. Really.

My cats are enthusiastically cheering me on to blog while dozing and bathing. Really.

In good news, my replacement credit card arrived today. I keep looking for my wallet everywhere, in dubious hopes of it not having been stolen but just been lost by me, but no dice. Now I only have to order a new debit card and get a new ID card. Which means taking new biometric ID photos. So much hate.

Completely Uncharted

I have been trying to be very systematic with my gaming when it comes to the Playstation 3. I played Heavy Rain first, and followed it up with Uncharted. Then UC2 and since last night I am done with the series. For now. I had planned to buy a PS4 with the release of Uncharted 4 later this year, but Naughty Dog shattered that plan by announcing it’s been pushed back until spring 2016. Bummer. But maybe not so bad. Maybe it means they will fix Nathan Drake’s face.

This is not the scoundrel I have come to adore!

This is not the scoundrel I have come to adore!

Sure, that’s very photorealistic, but do I need it to look like that? The Uncharted series is an Indiana Jones movie as a game, with a more modern protagonist, and characters you come to care about. It doesn’t need to be 100% real for me, because I don’t think the average, realistic bloke runs and jumps through a desert city collapsing in a giant pit of quicksand either!

Why is everything collapsing around this guy?

Why is everything collapsing around this guy?

All in all, I was not disappointed by the series. They were all fantastic, offering different wow moments. If I have to pick a winner, then I would have to say Uncharted 2 is the best game of the series. It’s longer than the other two, and more diverse. It has a museum heist, and so many amazing action moments, plus the best start sequence of any game with jumping puzzles. There’s always this utter sense of emergency, that everything around you is going to hell. By the way, whoever at Naughty Dogs came up with those disgusting spider/crawler/bug things that keep chasing you, thanks for making me itch all over. Yuck.

When people compared the Tomb Raider reboot to Uncharted, they weren’t wrong, only that Nate really doesn’t have all those gross deaths that Lara Croft has to experience. Way less gory, for sure. I am very fine with that. What Uncharted is really good at is character building. You care about Nate, and I was very much rooting for him and Elena. Chloe for one has the sexiest voice actress of all times, Claudia Black, making me swoon over her about as much as I did for Morrigan. Plus Sully, especially in part 3. The villains need some work, but I enjoyed Marlowe and Talbot in Uncharted 3 the most.

What to play next

Based on the recommendations of my friends, I should play Darksiders next. I have no idea what it is about, other that you play one of the Horseriders of the Apocalypse. I am also plotting further purchases. The Last of Us really needs to be next, but I do worry it will be too hard for me. I am not so great at the shooting, and a game where ammo is actually limited? Uh oh. For coop play, I want to pick up one of the Legos, my SO requested Harry Potter. Hopefully fun! I am also hunting for a good platformer to play occasionally, so Child of Light is still on the table. I wanted to download a demo.

I am also debating picking up a wireless XBox Controller for my PC and connect my PC to the TV to use Steam’s big picture. But that seems like so much work. If I could use Steam on the TV without having to put an HDMI cable across the living room, that’d be something. So many games I could play then.

Recommendations for outstanding PS3 titles are very welcome!

19/05/2015
by Kadomi
0 comments

Media Monday on Tuesday

In recent months, I have added a lot of Roleplaying blogs to my RSS reader of choice (feedly, btw), and one of my favorite German blogs is Greifenklaue. It’s a multi-purpose nerd blog with a focus on pen&paper. But really, just a little something of everything. Every Monday he participates in something called Media Monday, and I want to join in. It’s a very creative way to blog about nerdy things when the inspiration won’t strike me myself. Ahem.

As Media Monday is a German thing, I will briefly explain how it works. Every Monday, the Medienjournal blog posts posts a couple statements with gaps in it, and you fill the gaps with your own thoughts. I will translate the sentences, because I happen to blog in English. The italics part is the original sentence, the normal text is mine.

media-monday-203This is Media Monday #203:

  1. One of the most frequently used exaggerations in MMO history is the term ‘WoW-killer’. The only thing that will kill this game completely will be when Blizzard officially pulls the plug on maintaining the servers. Overall, I think the playerbase will shrink further. 6.2 will probably see a lot of people re-sub, eat their way through content and then drop it again. With no expansion or even further patch news in sight, I think the numbers will go down, maybe below TBC numbers. I don’t think we’ll ever see another MMO reaching the lofty heights of WoW in its day, and with the drastic failures of triple A games like TESO and Wildstar last year, I think new MMOs are going to be a niche market again, e.g. Crowfall. There’s a Pathfinder MMO in the makings, and I fear it will be dreadful. Not that I wouldn’t love stabbing the iconic Pathfinder goblins.

  2. Twin Peaks I thought was very artistic so that I believed I was really into David Lynch, back when the original show aired. I was a serious fangirl. I owned the soundtrack, recorded all episodes on tape, loved it. But the truth is that I am too chicken shit for David Lynch. I have never watched Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive, despite being fascinated by the stories and not really being able to understand anything about them. Just reading about Blue Velvet’s plot (and the ear the protagonist finds) weirds me out. Even Dune, which I watched when I was a teenager, really grossed me out. I continue to believe that Twin Peaks’ first season was an incredibly mysterious and amazing TV show which was the most mainstream David Lynch ever was. I would rewatch the classic TV show over and over, despite the mess it turns to in its second season. I would never ever EVER watch the Twin Peaks movie again, because it’s been years and just thinking about Laura Palmer’s death scene in the train car makes me want to curl up in a ball. What a fucked up movie. I don’t know what to think about Showtime’s plans for a new season.

  3. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is something I really want to dip my toes in further, but feel like I am sitting on the fringes of something everyone loves. That’s most likely because I never go to the movies. I would love to, but my SO is not interested which makes it hard. My nerd friends at work are all very into the Marvel universe, and I don’t even know the order you watch them in. While in the US last fall I watched The Avengers on Netflix, then went home and watched The Incredible Hulk, ending up totally confused because of different actors. I know I should have watched Iron Man and maybe Thor first (I don’t really know) to get my full value out of the Avengers. It doesn’t help that Netflix Germany only has an eclectic selection of Marvel movies. I am looking forward to watching Daredevil. I really enjoyed the first episode.

  4. The ZEITGEIST Adventure Path recently really wowed me because it is such an intelligent and creative Pathfinder story with an amazing scope. I would chop off my pinky toe to be able to GM this for a close group of four people regularly. The full adventure path is 13 adventures strong, and I believe issue #9 will be released soon. It’s Steampunk meets fantasy, the PCs being members of the Homeland Constabulary, defending their kingdom from outside machinations. It’s not about killing monsters and finding loot, it’s about politics, conspiracies and dealing with the effects of Industrial Revolution in a magical world. It’s outstanding. If that gets your interest, there’s a free intro pack with a full campaign guide, a player’s guide and the first adventure.

  5. Amongst all the podcasts I wish there was a single one that held my attention. I have tried popular WoW podcasts. MMO podcasts. Pathfinder Podcasts. Know Direction probably held my attention the longest. I don’t know why that is. Usually, they’re way too long, the voices put me to sleep, I can’t follow the discussions and if I do anything else but listen to them, I tune them out. I know they’re incredibly popular and I know lots of people who love producing them, but I just can’t. How can I turn into a podcast listener, staring at the wall for 2 hours trying to listen without getting bored? I don’t know. Is it easier in German? I might try that, but I have my doubts. The same applies to audio books, btw. Booooring.

  6. What I always hope for from movies is that there’s the one movie that turns my SO into a fan of regular movie nights at the theater. Off the top of my head I can only recall four movies that I actually watched with her in the theater: Wallace&Grommit, Inception, Bridesmaids and Brave. If there were any others, I don’t remember. I want a movie buddy. I want to be wowed again by a blockbuster. I wish!

  7. The Big Bang Theory is positively magical and so it doesn’t bother me particularly that there’s some casual sexism involved. I wish Amy was less of a science nerd and a bit more of a gamer on the show. Why did Bernadette have to be so dumb while playing SWTOR with the boys? Ah, whatever. I don’t care, because the show makes us laugh lots, and we love it. Time simply flies by when we watch it on Netflix.