Hope, Dark Souls, and “Seriously, it’s not that bad.”

By | April 16, 2016

Yes, I am saying that the grim and often grueling adventure series… isn’t not hard, and that it’s a terrifically positive game. No, I’m not claiming to be “that good”.

For the unaware, there is a series of video games, the “Souls series” that is lauded as being the epitome of difficult, punishing, hardcore gameplay. Each entry follows a single undead protagonist through beautifully sprawling ruins and varieties of opponents and giant foes, acquiring magical weapons and armor and spells, meeting interesting characters to help and hinder their journey… and ultimately, possibly saving the world… by some definition, for a moment more.

To me, it’s got a lot in common with Zelda games. You know Ganondorf is going to rise again in the next Zelda game. But nobody claims those games are grim. They’re about courage triumphing over evil power. And hookshot acrobatics. And treating each boss as a puzzle until you figure out how to actually damage it without getting stomped into dust.

Failure in Zelda means… you have to walk back from the start of the dungeon… but you’ve already opened the doors, and solved the puzzles. Then you start the fight over again and try not to lose again.

Dark Souls, you’d lose your rupees in a wee sack in the boss room. So you’d run back and usually manage to retrieve it. Once in a while, you might get killed first, and you’ve lost them all, and have to collect more at some point.

But in Zelda, if you lost all of your rupees… that was not a big deal, was it? You spend most of the game either saving up for one or two big upgrades… or running around with a purse so full you can’t fit anything more into it… because there wasn’t anything to spend it on.

Dark Souls games… you can buy better stats, improved weapons, spells, equipment… and that way, losing the currency does have a sting to it. But… you don’t lose things… only currency is at risk.

And like Zelda, if what you’re doing when fighting a boss isn’t working… you should probably try something else. Try out that magic wand you got a while back, load it up with something dangerous, and give that a fling. Or maybe keep the foul beast at spear’s length… or get a big shield… or dance so close to the devil, he thinks you’re his own bad knee, and fears to step on you.

Many games have those bad moments though. Those frustrating times when you can’t quite tell when to move where to not die… or something you didn’t expect trips you up and you’ve got to try again for the 47th go around… now, in Zelda, or Mario… you have extremely limited options. You don’t get to head off to another castle to save up and buy double fire flowers. You can’t make the fireballs a little bigger. You can’t change into lighter boots and jump away farther. I can do that in Dark Souls. I can make the things I’m doing more effective even while I develop the skill to use them better. Or to try something else that doesn’t involve trying to circumcise a dragon from between his toes.

Every time I fail in Dark Souls (when I’m not falling off a cliff or something) I get back to what I dropped and I’m in the same place… with a few more souls saved up. Or I get a sharp lesson to go a bit slower, prepare a bit more carefully. But I can get through. Eventually, I am going to win. I can wear down the mountain.

Now, whenever I get killed in any Mario game? I could be back at the start of the level, with nothing. If I came in with a powerup, that’s gone now. I’m in worse shape, and facing the same obstacle. That’s brutal. Anybody remember getting thrown off the mountain in Mario 64? Having to not only climb back up, but having that boss at full health again? And knowing, no matter what, it wasn’t ever going to get easier?

Dark Souls isn’t half that bad. At least when it puts a dragon in turtle shell armor, it doesn’t ask you to do it barehanded.

Bachelor Recipes – “Stuffed” Potatoes

By | January 15, 2016

I love potatoes. They’re the best vegetable there is. And I’m gonna show you how to make awesome “stuffed” potatoes. The “stuffed” is in quotes because stuffing them implies removing potato to make room for filling. We’re not doing that here. That’s a waste of potato. Instead we’re gonna layer everything on top and microwave the shit out of it (or bake it if you’re pedantic)

6 medium potatoes
Cheddar cheese
2-3 rashers of bacon
a tomato
steak seasoning (optional)

About 6 medium-size potatoes

6 medium-size potatoes

Wash your potatoes and place them into a microwave safe dish

Put the potatoes in a microwave dish and seal the lid

don’t forget to seal them in tight.

Put them in the microwave for around 12 minutes. I’ve never had a potato explode, but if you have, prick them first. I don’t usually

cut up 2-3 rashers of bacon, and 12 slices of cheese (two per potato), and dice your tomato

stuff you’ll be layering onto your potatoes

Cut up your ingredients: dice the bacon and tomato, and cut about two slices of cheese per potato

once the potatoes are cooked, cut each one in half

cut each one in half

Once your potatoes are ready, slice them in half like so

place them on a plate like so

place them on a plate like so

Plate them up, add optional steak seasoning to them if you like

layer the bacon onto them. You can also put steak seasoning on the potato halves first before you put bacon on them if you like

layer the bacon onto them.

Layer bacon onto them.

layer the tomato on top

layer the tomato on top

Now layer the tomato on top of that

you want about 1 slice per half a potato

you want about 1 slice per half a potato

Start to layer the cheese over each potato, you’ll probably have leftover cheese after you cover everything

layer the remaining cheese on top

layer the remaining cheese on top

Just layer the rest of the cheese over what you’ve put down already

microwave for around 6 minutes

microwave for around 6 minutes

Microwave at high power in a 1000w microwave oven for about 6 minutes. You can probably bake or grill them too, and they should be as good if not better. This is the easy way, I like easy.



Plate and serve. These are super full of fat and salt, so they’ll probably give you a heart attack.


Song Rundown – China Girl, by Iggy Pop/David Bowie

By | January 15, 2016

This is my first article in some time, and it comes in the days after David Bowie’s untimely and very unfortunate death from terminal cancer. As I have been oversaturating myself with David Bowie music, I’ve been taking particular notice of the lyrics to the song China Girl.

When I first heard this song several years ago, I just assumed he had met a nice Chinese girl on one of his tours and formed a relationship with her. Only after looking into it more did I realise it was actually an Iggy Pop cover (of which David Bowie makes shine). It was also around this time I had a lung collapse and was given a tonne of IV morphine while they reinflated my lung. I’ve also been on prescription painkillers for a good deal of years. Now the song started making sense. The lyrics to the song are very clearly speaking about heroin.

Let’s start with the first two verses:

I could escape this feeling, with my China Girl
I feel a wreck without, my little China Girl
I hear her heart beating loud as thunder
When I look at my China Girl.

I’m a mess without my little China girl
Wake up in the morning, where’s my little China girl?
I hear her heart’s beating loud as thunder
Saw these stars crashing down

Heroin, also known as China White is an addictive substance that once stopped constant intake of, causes withdrawal symptoms. He is feeling a wreck, and in the second verse, a mess, without his little China girl. Heroin addiction can cause a rush of anticipation when a user knows they’re about to take another hit. Heroin addiction can also cause high blood pressure and increased heart rate, or palpitations when in withdrawal, hearing her heartbeat could be his heart not beating in proper rhythm.

Obviously, waking up in the morning after being high the night before, in the starting throes of withdrawal will have you searching for your drugs.

The stars crashing is the feeling of IV opiates making their way to the brain. Vision goes black and you “see stars” as it returns. In this instance however, he has not yet taken a dose. This feeling could allude to a sense of dread or depression at sobering up.

The third verse:

I feel tragic like I’m Marlon Brando
When I look at my China girl
I could pretend that nothing really meant too much
When I look at my China girl

Feeling like Marlon Brando could mean he’s either feeling sorry for himself, or perhaps guilty. He is in the grip of an addiction, and isn’t sure how to pull himself away, he has drugs, he’s not going to just throw them away. He doesn’t care about anything else except getting his high. Nothing else means anything at that point. He must quench his ‘thirst’.

I stumble into town just like a sacred cow
Visions of swastikas in my head
Plans for everyone
It’s in the white of my eyes

We will assume he took his heroin for this verse, everything is brighter, everything feels better, all is good.  Here I believe he feels bulletproof, he’s high and he’s king of the world. Some users inject into the whites of their eyes, but here I believe he’s in such ecstasy that his eyes have rolled back into his head. He’s probably lying on the floor off his face.

My little China girl you shouldn’t mess with me
I’ll ruin everything you are
You know I’ll give you television, I’ll give you eyes of blue
I’ll give you a man who wants to rule the world

This verse seems to talk about his constant use of the drug. The drug is addicting him, and he’s going to ruin the fantastic, fun, feel-good high by being addicted fully to it. To a constant user, shooting up is more like relief rather than feeling a high, causing frequent users to continually “chase the dragon” or up their doses looking for that “first rush” again. This often leads to an overdose.

And when I get excited
My little China girl says
“Oh baby, just you shut your mouth”
She says, “Shh.”

He’s in bliss and stupefied. Any higher and he’ll be dead. His heart rate has slowed, he can’t talk, just feel great. This could be after a second dose, or he could have overdosed.

If anyone has other ideas, feel free to drop a comment.

Tiger! Tiger! Burning Bright.

By | November 23, 2015

(Which ho will you fuck tonight?) – courtesy of my sister

Welcome to another trip on the Public Shame Glory Train. Today’s stop: Woods, which connects to at least 4 other stations and possibly quite a few more.

There’s not a whole lot to be said about Tiger Woods that hasn’t already been said so far.  He’s been examined through and through on Twitter: “Wondering if my Tiger skills will transfer over to basketball? They seem to get all the quiet hoes” by @EVILTIGERWOODS, lalate seems to have dozens of articles on him and while I was typing this just updated with another, and of course piles of news and sports sites, webmagazines, and blogs. I can’t even imagine what the tabloid rack at the grocery store must look like. I bet it’s incredible.

I’m not here to take a good man down. Whether Tiger Woods is a good man, nobody can say except maybe the supposedly twenty-nine women he’s banged. We know he’s cheap and doesn’t tip, he apparently has naked photos and possibly a love child, and had women in his house when his wife was out of town. I’d link some links but frankly I’m tired of going through the huge pile of articles. I did, however, find a couple of very clever videos from Taiwan that explain a bit how he managed to lay more pipe than Mario and Luigi and their clones, combined.

I’m disappointed. I’m just a few months older than Tiger and when he first came onto the scene I had a huge crush on him. I like golf okay (not to watch but playing it can be fun as long as I don’t pass out under a shade tree on the 18th hole) and he was young and enthusiastic and interesting. As we got older I enjoyed hearing about his big wins and how he was sweeping the golf world by storm and even though I had some fangirl jealousy, I was happy to hear that he had married, and a not-famous one at that! She was probably happy too. I doubt she is happy now.

Tiger himself is not so much the issue here, because there are a lot of people out there doing the same thing or who would like to. I’ve read about a million comments from people stating sentiments from “He’s only human” to “Let the man and his family have their privacy” to “Everyone does it and what’s the big deal?” What is the big deal indeed? Is there a big deal?

I tend to think so. Here is the problem. Marriage is a legally binding contract and most vows include the phrase “forsaking all others” included with loving and cherishing and better and worse. Why did Tiger Woods get married? What was he hoping to get from it? Why does anyone get married if they know they have appetites their spouse cannot meet? This is something which confuses me to no end. Okay let me rephrase that. Why did Tiger Woods get married to a woman who wasn’t okay with him seeing other women? It seems prudent to find this sort of thing out before marrying.

It’s not just Tiger, either. Jamie Junger says she doesn’t need to apologize to his wife. These women sure know who Tiger Woods is and never once looked online to find information about him? Never looked up to see if he is married? I’m talking to you Jaimee Grubbs.

Crown Victoria

By | October 5, 2015

So recently my friend has acquired a 2000 Crown Victoria P71, former county sheriff car. He traded his 1993 Honda Accord with 166k miles, rust spot, and a bit of a goofed up interior for it and $190. The guy gave back $10 since he basically gave us an empty tank of gas while my friend put in a nearly full tank a few days ago in the Honda.

It seemed like a solid ride. A little ruff, spot of rust and the hole in the roof still from the removal of the police light bar. He guy said it doesn’t leak, which I don’t doubt, but still gonna leak in water. We traded and he drove off. We looked inside and they left in all their garbage, old clothes, and a bunch of old shit. We cleaned it out, threw out the cigarette butts, and threw in some gas and made our way home.

Along the drive back, I got to drive it for a bit. This was about 30 mins into it, Check Engine light started blinking. We got back home 1 minute before Autozone closed to they scanned the codes, misfire on cylinder 6. It was either the coil or the spark plugs. I swapped the coil between cylinder 6 to 4, then misfire went to cylinder 8 and 5. So, that was strange.

We went in to replace the spark plugs, which was a bit. Two of them wouldn’t come out, since the steel screws where threaded through brass fittings and the brass just spun not getting removed. It wasn’t ’till later someone with a torque gun could remove them and fix it. Then we discovered the real issue.

No compression in cylinder 8.

Looks like this car was driven hard, improperly maintained by one of the previous owners, and ended up blowing the piston ring. Which explains the low trade cost and the want to get rid of it. Guy probably got the codes cleared before trading off on it.

On top of that when a mechanic looked at it, tire rod end was bad, some of the U-Joints where bad, and the steering column. All in all, he spent less then 2k, including the cost of his Honda for sell.

So currently, he has some interior work to fix, put in a CB, get a push bar, a paint job since Indiana law dictates you can’t keep the Sheriff two tone (So for the time being he just painted the doors black so it’s tri-tone), an interior light, upgrade his sound system, oh, and an engine in a year or two when he can afford it.

But even with all these problems, he fuckin’ loves his car. It’s his first true car he paid for himself, so he takes all the time in the world to make sure everything he does to it won’t break it further. Cause last thing he needs right now is for a piston head to shoot through the engine block.

Fix Your Fucking English.

By | April 5, 2015

Having been on the internet, and having used the world wide web since around 1995, I’ve seen trends in spelling errors which seem to crop up over the years. The more they’re used misspelt or misplaced, the more their misuse grows. This post isn’t about being grammatically correct, as it seems to be less of a problem on the internet than flat out blatant failure to spell common words (so it’s/its won’t be here). I know hundreds of these articles exist already, but I’m going to attempt to make this one slightly more comprehensive.  Here are some examples:

1) Your/You’re – I can’t believe this spelling error is still around. After all these years, kids are still coming out of school with the inability to distinguish between a word that denotes ownership (your) and an abbreviation of the word YOU ARE. I’ll use it in a sentence, so if you’re one of these people, you can see how to use the word properly. “YOU’RE FUCKING RETARDED. GO AND SLIT YOUR FUCKING WRISTS.”

2) There/They’re/Their – Another 3 words idiots fuck up. As if it’s not bad enough that you were taught this shit in grade 1 or 2, in an attempt to sanitize your retardation as early as possible. But no, this remains one of the worst offenders. There denotes a location. Their denotes ownership, and they’re is like you’re – its short for THEY ARE. Let me use these in a sentence for you. “THERE ARE SOME RAZORS IN THE BATHROOM. THEIR BEST USE IS FOR SLITTING YOUR THROAT WITH. THEY’RE VERY USEFUL FOR REMOVING IDIOTS LIKE YOU FROM THE GENE POOL.”

3) Then/Than. This is a reasonably new trend on the internet, or so I’ve seen. Apparently people think that than and then are the same word. Then denotes a time, whereas than is comparitive. Using then in place of than is ultra retarded. If you pronounce them both the same, you should be shot at point blank. Heres a handy sentence: “DO A BETTER JOB THAN MICHAEL JACKSON. TAKE A SHOTGUN, THEN BLOW YOUR FUCKING HEAD OFF.”

4) Amok – I’ve seen this plenty of times – people saying they’re “running a muck”. It’s not a muck, it’s amok. They’re very barely even pronounced similar. This is one of those words you probably only saw at school 2 or 3 times in your entire time there, so it could almost be excusable – except running A MUCK doesn’t actually make sense. Muck is dirt, or the likes. You’re running a dirt? what? Fuck you. Sentence: “I’M GOING TO LOAD THIS SHOTGUN, AND RUN AMOK IN YOUR HOUSE LOOKING FOR YOU.”

5) Definitely – This word is one of the harder ones to spell, as depending on your pronounciation of the word, your brain may be tricked into thinking it has an A in it, or no Is at all. This is a fallacy. The word has finite in it – like infinite, which no one seems to spell “infenate”. Its about time you started using this word properly. Sentence: “I WILL DEFINITELY FUCKING KILL YOU IF YOU DONT LEARN TO SPELL”

6) Ridiculous – This word stems from the word Ridicule – as in to make fun of someone or something. It doesn’t magically change its base letters before the extension, nor does it change colour to red. Sentence: “YOUR RIDICULOUS LACK OF LITERACY SKILL IS GOING TO GET YOU MURDERED ONE DAY.”

brakes, tyres, genius, sandwich, human being, australia


Numenera Campaign: Adventure One

By | February 14, 2014

Numenera is a roleplaying game… if the term is unfamiliar, you can google for it. Numenera is a setting far in the future, as a sort of logical extreme of “technology sufficiently advanced”. The world is full of insane gizmos that are still (somewhat) operational… and nobody really knows how any of it works. The social structures resemble the medieval simply because travel is dangerous… limiting infrastructure. So you have isolated communities for the most part, working separately to survive.

And having communities built around such odd things as a series of pipes jutting from a cliff face, some of which are heated, and some contain, or have been modified to contain potable water. No one knows where the pipes actually go, but “warm in winter” and “has indoor plumbing” actually make it an incredibly posh and overpriced place to live. Other areas have to make do with “not overrun by monsters” or “orchard grows screwdrivers”.

Our team of intrepid adventurers includes one Tough Glaive who Masters Weapons; a Mystical Nano who Fuses Flesh and Steel; and a Clever Jack who Controls Gravity. Ordinarily, I’d be able to point out who is the squishy… but after the dust settled and everyone had figured out the powers to best suit their characters… the “mage” has medium armor. The “fighter” has heavy armor and defense… and the Jack… took defensive skill, armorless fighting, and got a shield. I think they’re going to be fine on defense.

The system has each character pick another party member to share a bit of backstory with. Everyone took largely default options. The Nano, with his cyborg… let his wife’s character know a control word to reboot his brain. We let him come up with a nice d20 list of crazy things that could leave him doing. She, in turn, is quite familiar with the Jack, whom she’d tried to train in the finer points of “hitting things with an axe”… but had been catapulted skywards by a rare misfire of her gravity powers.

The adventure “Seedship” happened to start with three interesting hooks. I had three players. I grinned, and assigned everybody their tasks, having them all meet up at the debris-clogged crack into the heart of the complex a wee town was built upon. Why? Because it’s warm. The town has heat in winter, and a kind of hot springs. Which an earthquake had started some… gross fluids bubbling up into the town and the springs. Eww. One member was tasked with fixing the leaks. Another was asked to find a local woman who’d almost certainly gone in trying to, well, save her town. The third was asked by a member of the local doomsayers guild to gather some samples for his actual research work. The doomsaying was really just to keep people out of the facility until they’d gotten their expedition ready to go and, well, take whatever wasn’t nailed down. Bit like the party.

I’d aimed for everyone starting off with the phrase “Oh… it’s you” with varying inflections. Beats starting everyone off in a tavern.

The system for Numenera is simple. You roll a d20. GM 1-10s the difficulty. Skill can reduce difficulty by one or two bumps. “Assets” can reduce it another one or two. Effort can be spent from the stat pools to drop it further. But starting out, you can only spend 1 level of effort, which doesn’t feel like much benefit. But by the end of the second session, the dice and the group were beginning to see how it would come into play more frequently.

The initial task of strong-arming the crack in the wall was a good object lesson in how the stat pools… aren’t stats. The mighty fighter did not make her roll, but the Nano did. In D&D, you’d have very poor odds of a mage bending iron bars. In Numenera… difficulty 4 is difficulty 4… if there’s no skill that applies, it really doesn’t matter if you pummel for a living or blast things with your mind. Although, if you were applying effort to the task, the “weaker” character will tire out quite a lot faster.

Poking carefully, the group found the steel spiders hiding in the crumbling fabric squares dangling from the ceiling. The mighty Glaive spoke, “Oh god, why did it have to be SPIDERS? You know I hate them, oh god.” Which is a great sign I described their entrance well. I can’t take credit for more than delivery, the text was in the adventure. I pointed out that the other adventure I had considered had something much worse. “What could POSSIBLY be worse?”

“Glue-secreting giant centipedes. Oooh, I have a picture! See, it’s wrapped around this tree.”

“Yaaay, spiders!”

Low level characters against low level monsters. This proved to be… a surprisingly drawn-out fight. The steel spiders had enough armor to only take a point or two from any given hit. They also didn’t have a very good chance to hit most of the players, and couldn’t hit hard enough to get through the Glaive’s armor. The fight did still do some damage, because everybody managed to roll at least one “1”… allowing me to show them very painfully why you don’t want to brush up against steel spider webbing. It’s razor sharp, and does more damage than the spiders themselves. Although, when the Jack did it, I had her crossbow jam, just to be different.

Some of the problem was purely bad dice rolls. Without any skill or effort, the roll to hit or dodge these was a 9 or better. But a 60% chance of success… is still a 40% chance to fail. The rolls in the 17-20 range do get an extra point or four of damage, which sped things up a bit, when it happened. The most cinematic result was kicking one of the spiders into its own webbing. Reviewing the optional combat rules later, I found there was a little “gang-up” bonus if everyone’s attacking the same target. That +1 to hit would have helped.

The party got smart about the next encounter, with a mnemosyne. Basically a jellyfish with the constitution, size, and jaws of a crocodile… which feeds off of neural energy… from the severed heads it collects. It like to sit under water, where it’s mostly invisible, except that it’s got a half-dozen severed, babbling heads on stalks sticking out. Safe to say that it’s not actually all that good at being stealthy. The pool of water was down a staircase where each step was 3’… and water flowing down to make the footing just slick enough to notice. So, everybody with a ranged weapon took pot shots while the Glaive braced atop the stairs. Since it couldn’t really take cover… and might not understand the concept, I had it slowly climb up the seven steps. So they worked it down past half health when it started tearing into their meatshield. The fight was incredibly intense… because I’d not really stressed enough how the damage system worked. The fighter almost ran out of points in her Might pool. Characters have Might, Speed, and Intellect… but losing one pool just leaves you a bit shaken. Effort costs one more point and those critical success rolls only gain +1 damage. For how she was fighting, this would not have impacted her fighting ability. In 4th ed terms, she was afraid of becoming bloodied. Running out of 2 pools would have her unable to fight. 3 is lethal.

We ended the first session with the party taking… basically all of their day’s recovery rolls to get back up to full.

This gave me a great chance to review the system and the adventure… now that I knew how the party was playing, and what to expect. I wasn’t happy. The adventure had some flaws. The woman to rescue… in addition to being one of the dead heads on the mnemosyne’s tendrils… wasn’t actually named. She had clearly assembled a nice device to seal the cracks in the final room, and had a few journal scraps pointing out its existence… she died trying to save her town, and still managed to give the party what they needed… but it’s her widower who gets a name. Although, this did make it kind of awesome that his name is what the head babbles, rather nicely cluing the party in on her fate.

That’s not half as bad as the remaining combats. My guys were struggling to deal with a lv 5… the most obvious door lead to a robot that was also lv 5, with enough armor to ignore most of the party’s weapons, and two shields, making hitting it a lv 7 task. So the party would have to spend effort to drop that to lv 6, to be able to hit it on an 18, 19, or 20. There was a button/weak spot that would cause it to drop its shields, but that would not have made it a fair fight. And in the final room, a lv 6 “Travonis Ul” which I’d describe as “What a shoggoth draws when it’s writing tentacle porn.” It hits hard, and it can hit everybody at once… and with a crazy pile of hit points. Either this adventure was intended for higher-tier characters… or better equipped ones, at least.

So I made… one change. I upgraded the journal left by “Betty” as we named her. Now, the party knew which door had the killer robot. That’s really all I had to do. The doomsayer expedition was heard going through the main room as the party finished looting the non-functional control panels of a side room… and the party followed cautiously.

For some reason, the thing this group rolls insanely well on, is any kind of perception roll. The first session, they made the improbable discovery of a hatch that would bypass the first puzzle (which they’d figured out, but didn’t want to waste hours of hard labor at)… and this time, spotting the (rather easier) control to shut off the video-game-y flame jet making the main corridor a bit tricky. The party avoided the robot room, and took… the deathtrap of shinies. But the Jack made her save against possession, which would have terribly nerfed her reward. The party then saved her employer, which also helped. As I’d hoped, going into the last room, the party opened the back door to the robot guardian, and stunned the tentacle horror… used one of their cyphers to manipulate the button on the robot, and left both monsters to duke it out while they got the battered boss out, and tracked down the molecular bonding artifact.

At this point, when they found the very angry tentacle horror standing triumphant over the robot… they didn’t hold back. Someone threw webbing to keep the beast in place, and those with ranged weapons held back. Since the two monsters had been pretty even on damage output after considering armor, I just subtracted the hit points of the robot from those of the beast. That left it weak enough for the party to be quite assured of victory.

So… naturally, that’s when I finally pull out a GM Intrusion. The system allows and encourages the GM to spice things up now and then, with interesting complications. The victim gains an XP to keep, and one to bestow on a colleague, and suffers. Or can pay one XP to not have the problem. I didn’t apply a lot of imagination, as the one from the book was nasty enough. Swallowed/engulfed by the great mouth on the big tentacle. Since I was doing this to the most heavily armored party member, the 10 points of damage was mitigated down to 7. In this system, you start with about 34 points between the three pools. Seven points stings. She did manage to escape on her first attempt, which was surprising. I was expecting the party to finish the beast well before her demise, but need to cut her out of it.

In defiance of all the hentai jokes at the table, it was actually the woman that penetrated the tentacle. Go ahead, get it out of your system.

Enough XP was gained for everyone to buy a little advancement. And enough cyphers were recovered for the players to choose what to keep. The initial rolls at creation had resulted in some… pretty lackluster items. A “permanent handle” is quite tricky to picture circumstances where it’s vital. Water-repellant plates are even harder to place.  The seven gained through a really nice salvage roll gave the party a lot more power… and options. The difference was mostly in the extra cypher splat pdf I’d gotten. The main book had much better gear, at least, the way the dice were rolling.

While the adventure called for the party to gain an xp if they figured out they were running around in a crashed spaceship… other than the room with the good loot having a viewscreen showing dirt with some tunnels in… I don’t think there was anything in the adventure that would clue anybody in. At all.

Overall, a lot of fun was had, and we’ve all gotten over the fairly mild learning curve of the system. I think I’ll be starting everyone on the Devil’s Spine campaign next… partly because it’s fun, but also partly because it feels like a good tour of a few key points of the world. I can see what the group wants more details on, and give them, well… what they want. Our Nano of Borg wants to know what it would take to make him deal a point of damage whenever he gets hit… it’s completely doable, and makes sense. Just have to figure out what would be appropriate to build something like that. It’ll probably become the next adventure hook I dangle.

Vaccination and Raev.net

By | May 19, 2013

Recently it has been brought to my attention that Googling for vaccination in Australia brings up links to a disreputable site full of anti-vaxxer morons. To try and boost the search results of reputable vaccination sites, this post will be pretty much full links. Not vaccinating your children is what idiots do, and if you happen to be one of them, you should read all about vaccination risks and other common misconceptions about vaccination provided in the last couple of link-words. Further more, websites like the Australian Vaccination Network (who I refuse to link to, and instead will be linking to Stop AVN) are totally, entirely full of shit. Here are the links contained in this post, in bullet-point format.



I’ll probably write another one of these one day when I’m not tired and trying to fill space quickly, but until then, this is all.

Mars: War Logs – Review

By | April 30, 2013

It’s pretty good. Something of a Bioware clone. Efficiently delivers the standard action-rpg experience. Some voice acting is bad. Overall, though, I felt good about the presentation, and always felt as though any reasonable action I could take in a given situation was decently covered. Steam clocks my playthrough at 20 hours, although some of that was spent paused and pondering a couple branches. I will replay half of the game, changing faction, so it’s likely about 20 hours, for a $20 rpg with okay depth and reactivity. If you just wanted the quick & dirty opinion piece, you can stop here. The rest of this is going to be in-depth about what impressed me, and this is your only spoiler warning.

The mechanics of the skill system… are kind of awesome. The three skill trees actually synergize. The technomancy ability to charge your weapon with electricity can be specc’d out to up critical hit chance, and so can your basic combat talents, and further in the renegade section, for anyone facing away from you. The only skills not available to you after the prison escape are the capstones of each tree. Everything else is available instantly… but at the lowest power. Every level, you get 2 points to spend. And every point has weight. There are a few pre-reqs that are a little… underwhelming. I didn’t really want to upgrade, for example, MP recovery rate before upgrading the power of the damaging attacks. I never did put any points into throwing sand in anyone’s face… but it was still a pretty nice, quick maneuver that worked just fine on anybody without glasses or stormtrooper helms. The system also avoided the question of item power. You never got more effective health potions (they can call them infusions, I don’t care, it’s a recovery consumable), but the renegade tree let you make them more potent. Or upgrade your “homemade grenade”… which was faster at knocking a squad of soldiers on their butts than anything else at my disposal, and gave a precious second to buff up. Because these consumables never went bad, and weren’t crazy-hard to build, I actually did use them. Which tends to not happen in this kind of game unless the combat is particularly dire. Generally, if I was having trouble in a fight, I wasn’t using half my abilities. And the game has that perfect option: You hit one button, and it almost pauses the action, letting you target, give orders, and activate any of your abilities. You can have a few hotkeyed, but it was generally better to use the menu, just to plan another second or two, and be quite sure you have the right target.


Separate from the skill system is a feat listing. You get 1 feat point per level… and almost nothing is that cheap. Unlocking the crafting options was the most helpful. Every chapter or so, you’d get to access another tier of moddable weapon, and be able to fit it with slightly better mods… with quite a list of options to arrange as you like. You could make your weapons gain extra damage when buffed, or more crit damage, or a bit more defense. Your armor gave some tradeoffs with damage mitigations, regeneration, and I… went with the Techwarrior mods for the electrical resistance. Sure, most foes do physical damage, but who wants to have no defense against the guys who fling lightning? The system gives the player a lot more than you… could need. Early on, you will scrounge. Later on, you can recycle components you’ll never use into stuff you might like, and have enough health boosts, grenades, and ammo to gun down an army. Other notable feats allow for more xp from combat and more loot. Your reputation as a good guy or an ass also grants you a couple free ones. Bad guys get a slight boost to wound chance and critical hits. Good guys get 50% off at the shops. So, you can buy whatever you like at the shop… if you needed anything. And didn’t want to wait to find the free stuff. Great guys get +50% companion health and damage. You only really get 1 npc follower at a time, with very brief exceptions. And this is the difference between your friend being able to keep 1 of the 4-5 enemies off you… and being able to hold out against half of them until you’re free to help clean up.


Now… I like these systems. The feat system is perhaps the least impressive aspect. You’ll get most by the end of the game, so you’re mostly picking the order, and none of them (except the crafting) are actually necessary. The thing I like about this is that it’s got no direct connection to your combat abilities. The +10% boosts to combat xp seem like a lot, but I don’t think the difference is going to total even one level over the course of the entire game. The looting bonus seems great, but in the middle of the game, not only do you have a ton of resources, but you can farm enemies. I think, outside the crafting (again, seriously, I quite liked that one) only the option to recycle primitive components was worthwhile, and then only because a lot of what I made used up my leather… without touching a ton of cloth I had no earthly use for.


Outside of combat, you have the usual adventure gamer system of quests and side quests. There were a lot of potential problems with the conversation system, as you select one of usually three very short phrases, and having your character expand on the concept. Frequently, this sort of thing leads to massive frustration as your character says something very different from your expectation. M:WL avoids this by putting a lot of effort into making the hero sound intelligent. Most other characters are not so snappy. There is a fair bit of reactivity to your choices, although a lot is… rather on rails. Only a few of the things you did in the prison matter outside of it. But then, it’s a prison break plot. After that, the game opens up dramatically in scope, in side-quests… and then, after you choose a faction and depart the city… you are back on rails. The game advertises a high degree of reactivity, with everything you say mattering… I’d qualify that some, as most of the payoff is in how a few dialogs play out.


You can never fully forget that this game is more of an indie title than AAA. The romance sub-plot was… thoroughly perfunctory. “Oh, I’m less horrifically maladjusted as a person now. Wanna… date?” “Eh, sure.” The final assault, running with the general to have a “chat” with the leader of the guild/nation… the general doesn’t have a nicer weapon than the usual salvage clubs? Some of the enemies have tasers, or guns more dangerous than the PC’s nailgun. (Which is solid enough with a few skill points.) I don’t care if he’s not a good fighter, the man should have something to swing that might not be an embarrassment in an armory.


Still, I’m incredibly impressed by what is present. Because, while it has clearly achieved the minimum necessary in several categories… it doesn’t fall farther. Yes, the companions could have some more dialog, and discourse, or react to one another in ways that would allow you to bring more than one along at a time. But that would be quite a bit more expensive. It scales geometrically with the number you bring, and the budget for this title capped at one. So we get to hang out with our choice of not-quite-trustworthy oddball, and hear them interject when it’s not entirely inappropriate. The zones are broken up by doors and ledges that not only allow for subtle terrain loading (more helpful on the consoles than my PC) but also teleport your companion to you, and are skippable cutscenes. It’s easy to get your companion pretty lost otherwise, because they stop moving when you sneak… so as to avoid screwing up your chances at ambushing most of an area. AI’s functional, although, if you bring the technomancer, and she’s getting ready to fire the shockwave… DODGE. The game makes her take longer on that for your benefit. They can’t make the AI smarter on the cheap. It can’t stop an attack queued if you finish a foe before it gets back to its feet… but they can give you warning for the one attack that’s friendly fire. Keeping your buddy AI from getting stuck if you stealth over half a map and then stand up. But it can move them to you when you go through a door. Cheap solutions to thorny programming problems.

These clever dodges combined with a system that very cleverly expands the scope of your abilities without the linear scaling issue of the usual RPG… a combat system that is fluid, modifiable, and tactical… with a reason to bother, as you are outnumbered and can be staggered… a plot that’s fairly sharp, and not quite as predictable as I’d imagined… and you have a game that’s about half as deep as the average Bioware game, with a lower price tag. A good buy, with the only caveat being some rather lame voice acting in some of the tertiary cast. And a terribly shrill potential love interest. Still better than ye olde Resident Evil.

What is it for? Good god, y’all?

By | January 31, 2013

I found myself offended by something I am reading. It’s a seemingly minor thing, just a question. “What is [the world] for?”

“What is it for?” That’s 4 words, 15 characters, and might be the most efficient way I’ve been pissed off by anything in my life. It sounds so bloody innocent, to be pondering the theological implications of a world to live in. And yet, it perfectly encapsulates a very simple flaw.

I’m going to tell you, but it is going to require an example first. You have a hammer, in a world with no nails. You can look at it, and wonder what it is for… this part could be used to pry bark off a tree, perhaps. It doesn’t have great weight for throwing, but fits in your hand fairly well. And then you strike it against a rock and get sparks, and cook your food with the fire you start with that. Handy thing. Nice and shiny, if the light catches it right.

But you’re already seeing that hammer being used for the “wrong” purpose. And thinking this example is silly. But this is a world with no nails. That hammer is a rock. Iron ore. Picked up from where a glacier left it.

Does that change in context change the purpose of the tool? No. Purpose is synonymous with motive. It is a rock. To assign it purpose is to anthropomorphize the inanimate… or to assign it your purposes, your motives in placing or crafting it… and expect the world, and other minds in it to think as you do.

The rock doesn’t care if it’s a hammer, a firestarter, melted for ore, or thrown at a baby. It’s a rock, and to assign it motive is as absurd as arguing with the elements. And when it comes to a debate with thunder, it is a Thor point.

To personify the driving forces in a complex world is to build gods and spirits. Superstition… worthless superstition.

The question that must be asked in its stead, when you have a hammer, in a world without nails… is “What can I DO with this?” From this question, imagination and context matter. You can build a house, sharpen a spear, hunt for dinner… and if the rock is big enough, you can stand on it and see farther. If it’s the size of a planet, you take some smaller rocks and build a place to live on it.

This works for worlds, tools, and even lives. If you ask what your life is for, you may find that you are a hammer in a world without nails… doomed to rust. But if you ask what you can do with your life… you might become the whack-a-mole champion, and with practice… be a magnet, generating electricity.

That’s the choice. Plead with Thor, or create the lightning. Ask better questions.