A 3.5e Staff Slinger

So I think I’ve got my Staff-Slinger. There’s a chance I may be joining a 3.5 group for a short campaign, and I’m going to run this character by the prospective DM. He says he wants to run a Gestalt campaign, which means something about combining class abilities every couple classes; sounds like some power-gaming nonsense to me. I’m hoping he’ll let me run a straight fighter class for this game, since 3e character creation is a nightmare without software if you’re starting at anything above the first few levels (we’re starting as level 12 for this, he says).

Anyway, here’s the basic stats for my slinger:
STR 16 +3
Dex 14 +2
Con 12 +1
Int 10
Wis 10
Cha 12 +1

HP 75
AC 22 (chain shirt + 3, Amulet of Natural Armor +1, Bracers of Armor +1, Ring of Protection +2)

(G)Weapon focus + 3 to hit
(G)Weapon Specialization + 6 to damage
Improved Crit – threat range 19-20
Point Blank Shot + 1 damage + 1 hit within 30 feet
Precise Shot – no penalty for firing into melee
Rapid Shot – One extra ranged attack per round*
Power Attack – I forget exactly what this one does, I think it’s -2 to hit and +2 to damage. Given my slinger’s base attack, I’m sure it’s a sacrifice he can make.
Far Shot – increase range by 50%
Stealth & Track, since he’s a skirmisher.
For purposes of creating a staff sling, I ‘combine’ a sling and a quarterstaff, but treat them as a single weapon for purpose of feats. In this case, a +4 sling and a +4 quarterstaff, making it an Infinity -1 weapon worth around 65,000 gold. Which is entirely plausible for a 12th level character to have, based on Redblade’s wealth calculation.

So, here’s what his combat package looks like:

Ranged: 21/21*/16/11 d4+11
Short: 22/22/17/12 d4+12
Power: 19/19/14/10 d4+13
Power short: 20/20/15/10 d4+14

Melee: 21/16/11 d6+11
Power: 19/14/10 d6+13
Two hands: 15/10/5 1d6+11 + 11 1d6+9
Two H Power: 13/8/3 1d6+13 + 9 1d6+11

Now, for all I know, this character could be incredibly under-powered by 3.5 standards, I’m pretty happy with a character who can get off 4 attacks with a minimum 12 damage each in a round at range before going in with 3 melee attacks per round with minimum 12 damage per hit.

I’m not going to go into his skill list, because skill lists are boring. But anyway, hopefully my slinger can find a place is this campaign.

*I need to check and see which To-Hit this uses; I’d guess base for first a first attack.

 

A few notes: I’m using the numbers from the book rather than creating a unique staff-sling type weapon simply because I don’t want to push my luck.  Optimally, a staff-sling would do 2d4 ranged damage with double the range; I’d leave the ‘staff’ part as-is, with the exception of allowing for a spear-headed staff that could be used with the option of doing either 1d6 blunt or piercing damage.

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Emergent Narratives and a Few More Shout Outs

I’m always intrigued by games that have emergent narratives, and the emergent aspect of rogue-likes combined with the work/reward cycle makes games like Elona particularly addictive.

I’ve been playing in a way I hadn’t ever played before. Usually, I would only have 1 or 2 allies and would never even think about hiring other adventurers in the world for short term contracts. The character I’ve been playing this time, however, has grown to have quite the entourage, including a core party of a tank, two gunners, a tank in training, and a very low-level tank in training that I don’t quite know what to do with right now. I’ve got a high level rock-thrower, but he’s keeping things under control at my Shop, which is like a used car lot for undesired dungeon-loot. In addition to this fairly large party, I’ve been taking the opportunity to hire any reasonably priced adventurer who swings by my house to say “hi”. This has more or less ended up with there being 3 mediocre adventurers I’ve had with me several different 7 day stretches each, as well as a few others I may have only hired once. I typically use them for a little extra oomph in dungeons around my level, hoping that they’ll keep my lower level companions from taking the heaviest hits.

Anyway, I was playing last night, and something happened. Some adventurer showed up at my character’s house, and she had the Zantetsu. The Zantetsu is probably the best longsword-type weapon in the game, and god knows how much stuff you have to have to be able to trade for it (you can only trade one stack of items at a time, and 19 Scrolls of Wonder got me laughed at). The chances of finding one or having someone who has one stop by your house is astronomically low. So, I had a plan. I hired her.

Hiring this adventurer cost me about 1.5 million gold for a 7 day contract. This pretty much broke the bank for me, so I had to get my money’s worth. The original plan was to tell my main party to stay behind, take her to high level dungeons, and hope that she got killed by something so I could get her loot and escape using various scrolls before whatever killed her got me. After clearing 2 high level dungeons, it became apparent that there’s next to no way that anything in these holes are going to kill her. I’ve got maybe a day or so left on her contract and I’ve taken her into a level 34 dungeon, which is more than twice my current level and will have out of depth monsters of nearly godlike proportion. One after another, she cleaves her way through wyverns, titans, liches, dragons, greater mummies, evil chess sets, and worse. And with each monster she obliterates with her Infinity+1 sword, she smiles at me and winks. This changes everything. I may not get Zantetsu as a bequest but as a dowry.

Sleezy evil wizard (c’mon, it’s a roguelike!) brings a beautiful warrior with him, hoping that she will die and he can steal her treasures, but over the course of their time together, he sees more than her sword, she maybe sees the job as more than just a contract, and they start to fall in love. Will they get married? Will they live happily ever after? WHO KNOWS!? I do know that mechanically, the characters are a little over half-way there. I don’t know exactly how much time is left on her current contract, but it should be enough to finish off this last dungeon. If I’m lucky, she’ll have killed enough monsters that she’ll be willing to stay as a permanent fixture of the party. If I’m less lucky, I might at least get enough money to hire her again and run another high level dungeon or two. Because it’s Elona, there’s a lot of potential for evil unhappy endings for this relationship: after the wizard and warrior get married, and the wizard could always just rob her of her prized possessions and then sell her into slavery. But that’s pretty awful. I’d like to think that maybe the wizard sees more in her than her valuable equipment and she becomes a staple in his party and in his life.

Anyway, enough about that, there are a few other things I wanted to mention.

First of all, there are only 10 days left on the Rumors of War kickstarter, and it’s just under half-way to its goal. Go over there and show some love!

Secondly, Varg has started a new video series of mini-documentaries on Black Metal. The first might be of particular interest to some of the readers here, as it pertains in part to the influence of RPGs on Metal. I’m not entirely sure how this documentary project is going to turn out, as it’s just begun. If he cuts it short and only makes a few, it’ll be kind of a disappointment, especially as a lot of what he talks about can be found elsewhere or is common knowledge to music wonks. But if he keeps it up and actually creates, as he says he’s planning, a definitive and myth-dispelling analysis of Black Metal from the perspective of someone who was there, if only to try to set the record straight, it will doubtlessly be insightful and fascinating.

Lastly, I’ve found a tool that will help me in my Batman quest. Or deter me. I haven’t decided yet. Either way, http://www.therealbatmanchronologyproject.com/ is a thing of wonder.

More Complaining About Superman (and His Unimpressive Death)

So, I picked up a couple graphic novels at the library over the weekend so that my girlfriend wouldn’t feel so self conscious about the mountain of manga, cds and dvds she borrowed. Normally I wouldn’t want to add more to my already extensive list of books to read, but I figure that graphic novels are slightly more acceptable, since they don’t slow down my progress on my main reading list by more than a day or two.

One of the two graphic novels I picked up was the Death of Superman. I’d read this one once before when I was a kid so thought I’d relive one of those ‘turning points for comics’ from my childhood. I’ve never been a huge Superman fan, partly because he’s dangerously boring in the wrong hands. Either he’s so powerful that nothing is a challenge or he’s been turned into an invincible and invulnerable weenie who can’t actually fight very well despite having nearly unlimited power like he was in DCAU. Drama for Superman exists only when he experiences loss. Superman cannot die, but things he loves can be taken from him. Death of Superman tries to flip the script by invoking the drama of a world losing Superman. This can be incredibly powerful if you’ve got a deep attachment to the Man of Steel. Unfortunately for Supes, I don’t, and I won’t be clapping my hands hoping to bring him back to life.

What I remembered from my childhood reading was that Doomsday just shows up, beats the hell out of the Justice League, and then he and Superman punch each other several times until they both finally die. And, uh… That’s how it plays out. What struck me today that did not occur to childhood me was the shallowness of Doomsday and the shallowness of Superman’s death at his hands.

I’m told that Doomsday has some explanation that happens later. But not here. So, he’s just a big unstoppable monster sue that is introduced to kill Superman. He punches his way out of the ground, across Ohio, through Pennsylvania (ostensibly), through New York and to Metropolis. In Ohio, he tears apart a Justice League B team to illustrate how tough he is, and oh, man! The combined laser beams of Superman plus the Justice League B team (you can’t tell me that Fire, Ice, Stormwynd, ex-Lantern Guy Gardener, Blue Beatle, Booster Gold and the crazy warrior lady whose name I already forgot are A-listers) can do nothing! One of the best lines in the comic is the reporter noting that the battle has ravaged the better part of the US. Yes, the better part of the US comprised of Ohio, the part of Pennsylvania around Erie, and middle New York.

Interestingly, Doomsday beating the Justice League B team was much more powerful to me now than when I was a kid. A team with various powers and problem solving skills can’t solve this problem! So a guy with one power and no problem solving skills is going to fare better? Characters, including Supes, have to remark that Doomsday is the most powerful foe Superman has ever fought. Because otherwise, we wouldn’t really know. One big punchy monster is the same as the next big punchy monster, right? Only way we know is by having Superman say “ow” when he gets hit. And Superman being Superman, he has no strategy other that punching and hoping he can outlast his opponent.

I found myself thinking “Superman got killed by Doomsday because he fights dumb against a villain that plenty of other DC characters could have handled better” which translates to “Superman got killed because an Exec said he had to die for publicity and the writers did it in a really lazy way.”

Any character that had the ability to teleport others could’ve thrown him into space. Characters who had the ability to pass through matter could’ve kept him distracted. One of the DC sorcerers could’ve banished him to the distant future where he and Vandal Savage would’ve been the only living things on the planet. Doomsday’s main traits are virtual invulnerability and infinite strength. Going toe to toe with him is like a boxer who goes toe to toe with Vitali Klitschko. You’re going to get hit lots of times, very hard, and you will be lucky if you live.

So, when Superman was lying there dead, I wasn’t thinking so much “poor Superman”, I was thinking “Maybe you should’ve just tried to hold the line until Martian Manhunter showed up?”

The next major killing/crippling an A-lister that DC did was the Knightfall arc about two years later, and I’d like to think that they learned a bit from Doomsday. While Bane is pretty much tailor-made by the universe to want to kill Batman for no logical reason, at least he has a strategy. While Superman just gets punched a lot across 3 states and 5 or 6 issues, Batman’s fall is painful and drawn out. We see Batman beginning to lose his grip after several close calls rather than be told “Ow, his punches actually hurt harder than other times I’ve been punched!”  Bane showing up in Gotham and immediately breaking Batman’s back prior to breaking everyone out of Blackgate would’ve felt as lazy as Death of Superman.

The other graphic novel I got was the Risso Batman Noir collection. I think it gave me nightmares. I really think that Ventriloquist is the scariest Batman villain. Can you imagine how horrified and cowed his henchmen must be to put up with Ventriloquists *ahem* eccentricities to follow the orders of Mr. Scarface? Those first few (several) times, people must have laughed. And must have died truly horrific and violent deaths (Scarface is fond of knifings) to leave an impression on the underworld that the old man with the puppet is not a person with whom to mess.

The Search

Thanks to Midtown Comics and my own local Comic Book store, I’ve got all but the last two uncollected chapters of Knightsquest: the Search.

Justice League Task Force. Obviously, this is a Justice League title for the inclusion of D-listers, so I can understand why the comic store guy said they’d banished them all to the $.50 boxes because ‘we just couldn’t move them’. The art is pretty bad; I know Bruce is supposed to look a bit rough after being beaten by Bane, but here he’s drawn like Dustin Hoffman dying of AIDS in Midnight Cowboy. The cameo of Tim Drake makes him look like he’s in his 40s; now, I know how Tim is drawn is hella inconsisten throughout the various titles, but this is the worst I’ve seen him look. The coloring was pretty bad, too, with the villain’s mustache being brown only half the time and fleshtone pink the rest. Bruce was obviously here to raise awareness of a mediocre new title before continuing his story in higher quality lines.

The Shadow of the Bat arc with the Hood, however, is pretty great. In fact, I’ve come to learn from the Knightfall Omnibuses that Shadow of the Bat is a consistently high quality title, and SotB interludes in the main story were often high points. The Shadow of the Bat: Bruce Wane mini-arc is no exception. The art and writing were far superior to the JLTF portion. The villain is pretty WTF evil. Cripple Bruce is cane-wielding faux-british badass, though I’ll admit that I would’ve never thought the dude with the mutton-chops on the cover was the same guy as Batman.

I’ll probably start the Quarry once I get the last two issues of Legends of the Dark Knight, which have proved somewhat more elusive. How good the QUarry is will determine a lot of my feelings for the Search. The JLTF was lousy, the SotB was great, so my opinion hangs in the balance! I do have a feeling that it will make me appreciate the Crusade a bit more. Because Abattoir and Tallyman were both pretty good villains. It’s just nice to have the full story.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I’m going to go all out on “modern” Batman stuff. I figure checking out all of the ‘important’ stories and arcs from between Crisis and Flashpoint gives me a reasonable 25 years of stuff to choose from. If anything, I can be thankful that the “New 52” gave me a nice hardline cut-off point, where I can say “And after 2011, I can stop caring, because that’s not the Batman from my childhood anymore.” Thanks, Dan DiDio!

Another Long and Rambling Post About Elderscrolls Games

I’ve gone back to some Morrowind for a bit. I have a character who’s now up to level 40 or something, has 100s in all stats except for luck and is, for all intents and purposes, a god.

While one of the biggest problems I have with Morrowind is the ‘static’ nature of game world, especially in terms of things going on after you’ve finished a quest arc, I find myself going back to it over and over. There are some truly awesome and epic missions in the Tribunal Temple arc, particularly those out of Ghostgate, where you’re asked to make forays into the heart of godforsaken and accursed badlands of Red Mountain and retrieve lost relics of the temple from the hands of Dagoth Ur’s minions. But once you finish those last quests, you’re told “Congratulations, you’re the Patriarch now. Goodbye!” and your involvement with the Temple is effectively ended, save for the massive boost in faction/individual relationship ratings.

That part of your character’s life is ‘done’ so you can go on to do the next thing. “But I’m the pope of the dark elves!” I wish that had a bit more bearing on the game, I guess.

And in some ways it does. Once you’re a faction leader, members have a hard time refusing you things. Maybe the fact I was grandmaster of the Morag Tong made a fetch quest for some Telvanni shlub easier since the Morag Tong guy was all “Oh, hey, sure, have this thing.” I don’t know. It could’ve just been a personality check to begin with. I do like that being the Dark Elf Pope means that your underlings don’t murder you for heresy when you go around claiming to be the Nerevarine. But it does say a lot about the weight and worth of the rank of Patriarch of the Tribunal Temple when Vivec tells his own pope to screw off and not bother him if the main quest hasn’t started. Man, the theological implications!

I’m actually saving wrapping up the Mages Guild arc, partly because I like having that arc open ended, with everyone I run into at the halls pleading for me to replace Trebonnius, but also because I want to do his last quest. The one where he asks you to murder all of the Telvanni mage lords. And I’m doing the Telvanni great-house arc to become the head of the Telvanni first, because murdering all of the other Telvanni mage lords seems like such a Telvanni thing to do. I just hope I won’t have to kill Divayth Fyr; for some reason I find him one of the most likable characters in Morrowind, even if he’s a bit of a creep. Most people are playing politics for religious and world domination; Fyr just wants to cure an incurable disease.

I like Morrowind and keep coming back to it, I think, because it FEELS like a big world, and the towns FEEL like towns. Small towns, sure, but you always have the sense that they are, in fact, communities and places, not just for existing for the adventurer’s benefit. I think part of how it does this is by having lots of places that just aren’t really worth going. Yeah, the hero PROBABLY isn’t going to check out the various small houses, homes, hovels or apartments in a town, because there’s nothing THERE except for the basic implements of living for its inhabitants. But those places ARE there, which gives the towns more depth and a realistic feel. I’ve never checked out the (albeit very small) residential part of Northeast Ald Ruhn, but IT’S THERE! And the fact that the town is big enough to have a part that I can say “There’s a part of town I don’t go to” makes it feel bigger than it really is. Like some of the Canton’s of Vivec; there’s stuff there to do and check out, even if there’s nothing that would ever really prompt you to go there.

Even though Morrowind is, landmass-wise, a smaller world than Oblivion, it feels larger because of how it handles these town and random NPCs. Having a dozen or more people who can answer (from stock responses) 10 or more questions, for some reason, feels better than having a dozen people who have one very specific thing to tell you each, because if that thing that they tell you isn’t relevant, and that person isn’t a questgiver or merchant, you find that you’re asking yourself ‘was this person not fully implemented? Was there a dummied out quest where this person was relevant?’. That’s the way that half the characters in the imperial city feel. But some dude who is out hoing in his field, I am happy to see him out there hoing and am okay with the fact that he doesn’t know much relevant to me but can tell me a handful of generic things about the region around his farm. Keep rockin’, farm dude! The plethora of irrelevant characters makes this okay, because they’re there to make the world feel populous, and it does! But in a sparsely peopled game like Oblivion, if there is a farmer, and all he has to say is “I’m a farmer, these are my fields!” I feel let down; he is taking up valuable space that could be occupied by someone who could give me a quest!

Another irony is that Vvardenfell feels so much less ‘ruined’ than Cyrodiil. I mean, yeah, I get that things must have been bad under the Pretender, but Cyrodiil a lot of times feels more dead than alive. ALL of the forts are ruined. Lots of super ancient elven ruins are everywhere. In most cases, any place with that many ruins would have long since cleared them away and used their materials to build new and better structures. You’d think that the great and mighty empire would’ve at least engaged in some sort of renewal program, rebuilding and fortifying what forts they could, demolishing those that were too far gone and using them for materials. The immediate answer that comes to mind as to why they haven’t done this is that there just aren’t enough people. The imperial legion consists of maybe a dozen guys patrolling the highways. There’s no WAY they could actually man the ruined forts. Heck, the best the entire province could muster to stand against an extra-planar invasion force is two or three dudes from each city. Contrast this with Morrowind. While the Velothi towers are technically ‘ruined’, many of them are in excellent structural shape, and several are home to as many as a dozen people. In fact, you’re more likely to find a these towers peopled by wizards or retainers of great houses than monsters or brigands.

So why do I say it’s ironic? Well, Vvardenfell is JUST NOW being recolonized for the first time ages, and most of the structures are from the 1st age. But there are enough people in Vardenfell to actually fix up these places, fill them with furniture, and hang out there, which really lends to a feeling that there are LOTS of people here in the world, as opposed to ‘here is a thoroughly ruined castle’s underworks that is now inhabited by brigands with bedrolls.

Another thing I like about Morrowind is the abundance of tombs. I’ve written lots about tombs and undead and necromancy here, and Morrowind has the best handling of haunted tombs of any setting. The tombs are mostly small, often don’t have a lot of significant treasures other than those left as gifts to the ancestors. The guardians are ‘undead’ magical construct created by the tombs’ families made for the purpose of discouraging tomb robers. These are made from the bones of ancestors, so it is the family’s ancestors protecting their tomb with the magic of the present and past working together. I remember there was also some discussion of the ‘ash pits’ and the idea of mixing together the ancestral remains to strengthen the bonds of family after death, and part of this somehow tied into the creation of the ghost-fence. But what’s important to me is that they are not haunted in the traditional sense.

In Oblivion, and the world of Cyrodiil, to add to the feeling that you’re in a dead world, it seems like every place is haunted. Ruined forts, caves, and elven ruins are, more often than not, crawling with undead. Rotting zombie corpses, skeletons and aethereal undead are all over the place. These aren’t constructs created magically and put in place as sentinels, these are things that are appearing because all of the places in cyrodiil are reeking of death and evil. The reappearance of Mannimarco could explain this to some degree, but a lot of the places aren’t touched by the necromancers; they’re just haunted. I know that part of this is probably so they could create ‘undead’ as a levellable creature type, but it definitely contributes to making Cyrodiil feel like a place where the dead significantly outnumber the living.

Man, I’ve really gone overboad and in all directions in this post! So, what lessons can be drawn from this? Population can make a world feel more ‘real’; we don’t interact with everyone we see each day, but the fact that we see them and they are there gives us our impression of the world, and when that is missing from an imaginary world, we notice. Having more ruins than towns in a kingdom gives the feeling of a ‘dead world’, especially if we’re expected to believe that kingdom ISN’T in ruins. Especially if that kingdom is CROWDED with ruins. Most stable kingdoms, if able, will repurpose old structures or will demolish them to recycle the building materials. Having a kingdom that is filled with as many ruins as Cyrodiil will give the impression that the kingdom lacks the resources or manpower, very likely due to depopulation, to reclaim or recycle older buildings. Lastly, I say give the dead their own places. It’s fine to have haunted caves and castles now and then, but tombs are a great and consistent place for undead to lurk. Wherever they are, though, give them a good reason to be there! It shouldn’t just be ‘because it’s an evil place’. Your world deserves more depth than that. Heck, even feel free to use my ‘magic as chemical runoff’ model.

(apologies in advance for all of the ES proper name misspellings that I may not get around to correcting).

So Boris Came Out with a New Album Last Year

Which I might have known about, if I hadn’t been living under a rock for the last 13 months.  And if I hadn’t made a bazillion mistakes in my life, I might have even managed to scrape together enough money to pre-order it instead of seeing it on Amazon for between $120-$500.

Even though their 2011 period was somewhat lacking and left me wanting for both more and better boris (and cash, considering how much money I spent on all the stuff they put out in the first half of that year), they’re still probably one of my favorite bands, and meeting them in Dallas was still one of the coolest moments in my life.

Update:

After having listened to this a few times, I’m speechless.  So beautiful I could cry.  Totally blows New Album, Heavy Rocks 2 and Attention Please out of the water.  I’d even go so far as to say it’s their best album since Vein or the Thing Which Solomon Overlooked 3.  And darn them for making it it vinyl only like those.  Except Vein and Thing Which Solomon Overlooked are on CD now.  And the CDs are so expensive you might as well get them on vinyl.  My amazon wishlist has been updated accordingly.