Monday, September 15, 2014

Unpopular geek opinions

One of my "go to" geek sites is io9.com. Like most of the Gawker media world, they do spend a lot of time railing against the Patriarchy which can get a little tiresome, but the good outweighs the bad most of the time. One of the things I like is when they pose questions to their readers about their tastes in geek entertainment. The latest asks what unpopular opinions do you have about geek culture. It's an interesting question and one sure to elicit strong opinions, so I put it to our readers. What things do you like in geek entertainment that are unpopular?

I will start:

1. I don't hate Michael Bay. There, I said it. I recognize he is no Stanley Kubrick or even Steven Spielberg, but he's no worse than George Lucas. Nobody in the business, with the possible exception of James Cameron, is as adept at FX as Michael Bay.

2. I never got into Doctor Who. I first watched it in the Tom Baker era and stuck with it for awhile mainly because there wasn't much else to watch. Now, just not interested.

3. I think the Cthulhu Mythos is very cool, but I think Lovecraft's writing is weak and dull. Other writers did a far better job bringing the Mythos to life than HPL ever did.

Note, these are just my opinions, your mileage may vary. Anyone else?

-Rognar-

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Way of the Wicked 26 - The End

Its interesting that this campaign  went 26 session which assuming we played every two weeks would be exactly one year.

The original plan was to start this session with a Kracken hunt but the player that was driving this was missing so the PCs decided to put that off until the next session. Kingdom building continued. The cathedral to Asmodeus was completed and a foreign princess arrived looking to marry the king. She had with her a thousand of loyal soldiers and a large dowry.

The king thought about it briefly: a young hot sly virgin princess that wants to have my baby and whose dad is rich? They got married and was shortly after pregnant.

Being a Vampire is pretty awesome but comes with some pretty serious drawbacks. Knowing what was coming, I threw the vampire a tainted bone in the form of an Elixir of Protection of Sunlight. Knowing that the PCs would want to make more I came up with an ingredients list that was meant to signal that they should forget about it move on: a Tooth from a Demilich, a Balor fart, essence of rainbow, and the tears of a Ancient Great Wurm Gold dragon. The PCs thought that the Balor fart was hilarious and it was good for about 20 minutes of solid laughing as different people riffed on it. Even though they had no intention of going after the other ingredients, collecting a Balor fart was just one of those things that will never ever happen in another campaign and so it had to be done.

The wizard began researching Balors trying to learn a name so it could be Gated in. I tossed out the name of the Balor Lord Khorramzadeh and one of the players (who is currently DMing Wrath of the Righteous) went very pale and suggested that they go after a regular non-Barlor Lord.

A less TPKing candidate was found and was gated in. The Balor spent the first round threatening the PCs but they immediately hit it with a spell that made it Helpful and then diplomasized the Balor into fart for them and allowing them to collect it. I thought it was simple, funny and seemed legit so I let them get away with and they talked the Balor into returning through the Gate before their spell wore off. That Balor is going to need some therapy.

Word came form the Frost Giant Queen Ellisif that there was trouble in the far north and to come ASAP. The PCs arrived and were told of a strange shadowy substance that was spreading across the land killing every living thing that touches. They quickly discovered that it ignored the undead and so they set off to find the source.

The shadowstuff was erupting out of a volcano in a remote mountain range. The PCs found a tunnel that led into the heart of the volcano and there faced off against two monsters from the darkness between worlds. The two Shoggoths were dispatched without too many problems (some of the PCs being grappled and engulfed aside) and then much time was spent trying to figure out how to stop the flow of the shadowstuff. The key was several large magic stones. These were moved and the flow began to reverse. The PCs then moved the Stones to a location near Matharyn were they could be studied further.

At this point we were cruising right along with still 2 hours left to play so we decided to start the end game. Everyone leveled up to 20 and the Princess returned. She sent riders across the land to summon the faithful. The PCs called up their armies and used  Gates to transport them to the capital. The Princess led her forces to the Fields of Tamberline where the Makardians had to defeated the Barcans to take the crown 80 years earlier. There a Solar extended the artifact, The Veil of Mitra, to cover an area a mile across protecting it from Divinations and Teleportation.

Thinking they were being cheaky, the PCs challenged Belinda to a 4 vs 4 duel, winner take all. Thinking how many lives would be saved and knowing the strength of her allies she accepted.   Cleric, Vampire Fighter, Bloodrager, and Wizard vs an Elysian Titan, an Ancient Wurm Silver Dragon (Mom), Half Dragon Sorcerer, and a Solar. While they PCs grumbled a bit after the battle started that they should have been sneakier about attacking, doing it this way saved them from having to deal with the Titan's Cohort a Ghaele, and the High Inquisitor. The Princess had no shortage of high powered companions.

The battle stretched on over 4 long hours although in game time it was probably only a couple minutes. Lots of very high level spells were tossed and there were some big hits ( a couple PCs can cross off "Getting hit with a Maul of the Titans" from their bucket list). The Titan was the first to go down despite getting Healed twice. The vampire kept the Princess Belinda pinned and was slowly draining her blood. The Dragon and Solar were on a rampage with the PCs trying to keep away from them. Finally the Bloodrager went down and the Wizard a few seconds later. The cleric moved next to the vampire and used Word of Recall to whisk away the Vampire and the Princess's body.

We decided to end the campaign here because the logistics for continuing would be difficult with the Bloodrager and Wizard in the custody of the forces of Good, and the Princess in the hands of the Vampire and King who have retreated to their sanctuary in the Agathium.

The forces of good hold the field and most of the PCs forces would surrender or withdraw after the defeat.

The forces of the White Unicorn take the capital, arrest the Queen and other members of the PCs court. A few battles are fought but troops loyal to the PCs quickly find themselves isolated and are forced to revert to banditry to stay alive. As the capital is restored to Markadian rule, the heroes of the White Unicorn begin their search for the missing princess. The Titan is True Resurrected and joins the search. The High Inquisitor begins to purge Asmodean influence from the kingdom.

But where are the remaining PCs?

As the King used Word of Recall something felt slightly off but under the circumstances (a colossal dragon coming to eat you) it was ignored. As things cleared the King was immediately aware of a few things that were not as they should be. Firstly, this was not his sanctuary in the Agathium. This was  a second circle that had been drawn outside the walls of the Agathium. Second, the almost continuous storms of the area were not present today and the sun was shining - perhaps that was why Sergent was screaming beside him. Thirdly, they were surrounded a number of beings. There were the Death Knights, the wizard Grigori with a far away look in his eye and lastly a large Skeleton in fancy robes. There was something about its skull that seemed familiar, the Gems that were set in it perhaps? It whispered in voice heard long ago, "Welcome Home" and began to laugh.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

The power of the Raccoon

It looks like Disney Infinity 2.0 is set to eclipse Skylanders as the leader in the collectible toy/video game market, thanks largely to Marvel. Pre-orders of DI2 starter packs and figures, due for release later this month, are skyrocketing, with Guardians of the Galaxy merchandise being exceptionally popular. Because of this, Disney is already starting to announce future figures most likely to be available next year. The first of these are Yondu from GotG and Falcon from Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Here we see the first image of the Yondu figure:


I better go pre-order the GotG starter pack this weekend.

-Rognar-

Monday, September 08, 2014

September Blahs

So after a flurry of posts in August we are back to the regular pace of updates for September. The kids are back to school and starting after school activities which sucks up energy and free time.  There won't be a Way of the Wicked update today since our game this weekend got postponed due to scheduling conflicts and the coming weekend is already looking iffy. We are coming to the end of the campaign and I'd kinda like to see it over with.

I have the next session planned out but I'm still a bit up in the air about how I'm going to close things out. The Adventure Path has some good suggestions but some elements are dumb. Why would some of the antagonists split off from their group and try to fight the PCs one at a time? The PCs always fight as a team so why would their opponents be dumb and not do the same? I do like the idea of a duel though. maybe I'll slide that in their somewhere.

I have also let the PCs get immensely powerful this campaign. I hate tracking WBL rules (and XP for that matter) so we implemented some training rules that replace a lot of the Big six magic items in the game (weapons, armor, headbands, belts, cloaks, and amulets of NA). Rings of protection are still in. This has made for highly optimized PCs. They pretty much ROFLStomp most of their opponents and I'm ok with that. As long as they assume that combat is not going to be easy and they have to retreat from time to time I know they are still being challenged.

So Good vs Evil, Evil vs Good. Who should win?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

EROEI - the unseen enemy of the bright future

We Albertans are widely-derided within our own country for being insensitive to the environmental consequences of our oilsands development. It is true that we have an out-sized carbon footprint and there are many Albertans that would like to see better environmental stewardship. In fact, despite the ugly pictures of tailings ponds around Fort MacMurray, a lot of Alberta looks like this:


We have invested a lot of money in carbon sequestration, the process of capturing carbon during the burning of fossil fuels and burying it, typically in old oil reservoirs. Of course, the environmental groups disapprove of this approach, preferring the oil to stay in the ground and the energy production replaced by renewables. Well, it turns out the environmentalists may have it all wrong, a future of wind and solar is just not possible. The villain is EROEI, energy-returned-on-energy-invested.

A recent paper by John Morgan, a prominent Australian expert on energy storage technology, lays out the problem. In order for a power plant to be viable, it must return more energy over its operational lifespan than it requires to build it. Dr. Morgan calculated the minimum EROEI of 7:1, once maintenance and operational requirements are included. Anything below that and the project makes no sense. Under current conditions, that is, an energy grid with ample baseload supply from fossil fuel and/or nuclear plants, wind and concentrated solar power (CSP) comfortably surpass that minimum EROEI. Interestingly, photovoltaic solar doesn't even achieve the threshold now, so you might want to reconsider any plans to install solar panels on your roof.

Anyway, a future without fossil fuels would require extensive energy storage capacity for times when the wind isn't blowing and the sun isn't shining, a problem fossil fuels don't have since the energy is already stored in the fuel. There are two main ways of storing energy, batteries and pumped hydroelectric. Batteries are more mobile but are ten times more energy intensive to produce per unit of energy storage. In other words, batteries will have to become an order of magnitude more energy efficient just to achieve the current EROEI of pumped hydroelectric and, of course, batteries require lots of rare metals which have their own scarcity issues to deal with when considering massive scale up. So, the best case scenario assumes pumped hydro, which involves pumping water to a place of higher elevation, then releasing it to run turbines like a normal hydroelectric dam. Even with the assumption of using pumped hydro for energy storage, wind power falls well below the threshold and CSP is just marginally above (and even then, only in ideal conditions for solar power). Nothing short of a miraculous new technology unlike anything we are currently working on can turn the trend line on this. We simply cannot maintain our civilization without fossil fuels or a huge increase in nuclear power generation.

-Rognar-

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Strange, a first look

The Strange, the latest game from the game design superteam of Monte Cook and Bruce Cordell has been released and it is fantastic. Using the Cypher game system, first introduced in their previous game, Numenera, The Strange is the most recent imagining of the multi-genre role-playing game concept. Although it borrows much of its tone from the Dark Matter campaign setting for Alternity and d20 Modern, which Monte Cook developed in collaboration with Wolfgang Baur, The Strange really seems influenced by a much older game, TORG by West End Games.

The title of the game refers to an intergalactic transportation system originally created by a race of hyper-advanced aliens billions of years ago. Over the aeons, this technological marvel which we observe today as dark energy, decayed and became chaotic.  When humans or other sentient races interact with the Strange, pocket dimensions called recursions can form. Theses recursions often have different metaphysical foundations depending on the source of their creation. For example, fictional worlds based on the combined belief of large numbers of adherents can be formed, such as a world based on Greek mythology or a particularly popular work of fiction, such as the Cthulhu Mythos. Recursions based on these worlds would allow for whatever magic or alien science would be required to fully realize the details of such worlds. Sometimes these recursions pose a threat to earth and there are other things that reside in the Strange as well that are even more dangerous.

There are two major recursions detailed in the game, a magical fantasy realm of gods and heroes called Ardeyn and a weird science world of intrigue and alien technology called Ruk. Players can be natives of earth or either of these recursions and may travel among them. Numerous other smaller recursions are also described and gamemasters are free to create more using whatever fictional worlds inspire them. Admittedly, the results can get rather silly (i.e. one recursion is inhabited by puppets), but the possibilities are endless.

-Rognar-

Giant Man: More from the Advanced Class Guide

Here is another Marvel Super Hero made from Pathfinder. Again this is something put together quickly so I'm sure you could tweak it to make it better or a bit more thematic. I know Giant Man doesn't use a huge sword but it works better in Pathfinder.

There were a few things that caught my eye back in my long Early Thoughts post on the ACG. Animal Soul allows you to cast many of the really great Druid buffs on yourself. The Primal Companion archetype for Hunter allows you to grant yourself a bunch of evolutions when your pet is dead/not available.

So with a swift action you can make yourself almost as tough as a Synthesist Summoner, and then use your standard action to drop Atavism or some other great Druid buff on yourself.  Sure the Teamwork feats become something of a waste but in most cases that's not a huge loss. Just leave yourself without an Animal Companion and you are very powerful.

Not game breaking by any means but could be fun.

Giant Man
Advanced Human Hunter (Primal Companion) 15
CN Huge humanoid (human)
Init +2; Senses Perception +27
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Defense
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AC 32, touch 12, flat-footed 32 (+11 armor, -2 size, +9 natural, +4 untyped)
hp 303 (15d8+195)
Fort +27, Ref +16, Will +21
DR 10/lawful; Immune electricity, fire
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Offense
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Speed 20 ft.
Melee +4 falchion +30/+25/+20 (3d6+40/15-20)
Space 15 ft.; Reach 15 ft.
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 15th; concentration +17)
   At will—raise animal companion (neg level when cast)
Hunter (Primal Companion) Spells Known (CL 15th; concentration +22):
   5th (4/day)—death ward, fire snake{super}APG{/super} (DC 22), stoneskin, summon nature's ally v, whip of centipedes
   4th (5/day)—atavism{super}UM{/super} (DC 21), dispel magic, echolocation{super}UM{/super}, freedom of movement, summon nature's ally iv
   3rd (7/day)—darkvision, life bubble{super}APG{/super} (DC 20), quench, spit venom{super}UM{/super} (DC 20), summon nature's ally iii, water walk
   2nd (7/day)—aboleth's lung{super}ARG{/super} (DC 19), allfood{super}APG{/super} (DC 19), barkskin, lesser restoration, protection from energy, sickening strikes{super}ARG{/super} (DC 19), summon nature's ally ii
   1st (7/day)—cure light wounds, endure elements, entangle (DC 18), faerie fire, resist energy, snowball (DC 18), summon nature's ally i
   0 (at will)—create water, detect magic, know direction, light, purify food and drink (DC 17), read magic
--------------------
Statistics
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Str 45, Dex 10, Con 32, Int 10, Wis 24, Cha 14
Base Atk +11; CMB +29; CMD 44
Feats Animal Soul, Armor Proficiency (Heavy), Back to Back[UC], Furious Focus[APG], Improved Back to Back[UC], Improved Critical (falchion), Improved Spell Sharing, Intercept Charge, Iron Will, Outflank[APG], Pack Attack[UC], Power Attack, Toughness, Weapon Focus (falchion)
Skills Acrobatics -1, Appraise +2, Bluff +4, Climb +16, Diplomacy +4, Disguise +4, Escape Artist -1, Fly +10, Heal +9, Intimidate +4, Knowledge (dungeoneering) +20, Knowledge (geography) +20, Knowledge (nature) +20, Perception +27, Ride -1, Sense Motive +9, Stealth -9, Survival +27, Swim +16
Languages Common
SQ animal companion, greater empathic link, hunter tactics, improved empathic link, primal surge, primal transformation, raise animal companion, swift tracker, track +7, wild empathy +17, woodland stride
Other Gear +5 breastplate, +4 falchion, belt of physical might +4 (Str, Con), cloak of resistance +5, headband of inspired wisdom +6, 93,050 gp
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Special Abilities
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Animal Companion (Ex) If no current companion, summon nature's ally spells last 1 min/level but only 1 at a time.
Animal Companion Link (Ex) You have a link with your Animal Companion.
Animal Soul You can allow spls and eff that affect anim, anim comp and special mnts to affect you.
Back to Back +2 to AC vs flanking foes if adj to ally with this feat.
Damage Reduction (10/lawful) You have Damage Reduction against all except Lawful attacks.
Furious Focus If you are wielding a weapon in two hands, ignore the penalty for your first attack of each turn.
Greater Empathic Link (Su) Can communicate telepathically with animal companion in 1 mile.
Hunter Tactics (Ex) Animal companion also gains the bonus teamwork feats, but doesn't need to meet pre-reqs.
Immunity to Electricity You are immune to electricity damage.
Immunity to Fire You are immune to fire damage.
Improved Back to Back As a swift action when adj to flanked ally with this feat, gain +2 to AC against flanking foes.
Improved Empathic Link (10 mile) (Su) As the familiar ability, but as a swift action can see through companion's eyes (but not own).
Improved Spell Sharing Divide share spell dur evenly between you and companion. Can move apart w/o ending effect.
Intercept Charge When opp charges ally with feat, mv up to speed to get in way of charge.
Outflank Increase flank bonus by +2 if flanking ally has same feat. If you crit, ally gets an AoO.
Pack Attack Ally's attack allows you to take a 5-foot step
Power Attack -3/+6 You can subtract from your attack roll to add to your damage.
Primal Surge (Su) As a swift action, touch companion to grant it an extra evolution.
Primal Transformation (Animal Companion Dead, 15 minutes/day) (Su) As a swift action, activate eidolon evolutions on animal companion (or self if companion dies).
Raise Animal Companion (Sp) Can bring animal companions back to life, but incurs 1 negative level.
Share Spells with Companion (Ex) Can cast spells with a target of "you" on animal companion, as touch spells.
Speak With Master (Ex) You can communicate verbally with your familiar.
Swift Tracker (Ex) Tracking penalties when moving at normal speed or faster are reduced.
Track +7 Add the listed bonus to survival checks made to track.
Wild Empathy +17 (Ex) Improve the attitude of an animal, as if using Diplomacy.
Woodland Stride (Ex) Move through undergrowth at normal speed.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Way of the Wicked 25

There was much kingdom running this session but not much fighting. The Kingdom of Talingarde is slowly being corrupted. The villains have begun constructing their Cathedral to Asmodeus and they have seized church lands and redistributed them to the poor (or their friends).

The borderlands were successfully pacified by Herr Eisenmark and the decision was made that rather than rebuild the Watch Wall (for now at least) they would try and pacify the North as well.  The Frost Giant Queen offered to lead this expedition is Herr Eisenmark was put under her control. The PCs agreed and the campaign to pacify the north succeeded with minimal loses. The PCs have pacified the north which no other King has managed to do before them.

The Iraen barbarians were brought into the fold when the 9th Knot managed to track and kill the legendary Bandersnatch. Prophecy holds that when the beast was killed and the slayer appeared wearing its hide and soaked in its blood that their Destiny would be revealed. For now the Iraen were told to wait.

The warrior nuns of Saint Celeste were slaughtered as they waited in the wilderness for the Princess Belinda's return.

A secret police force has been established to root out the growing resistance. One town revolted openly. The crown removed its protection of the town and the Dragon Jaratheon was sent to raze it. Few survived the dragon's assault and unrest in the kingdom quieted.

The PCs were attacked by Demonic Marilith assassins while they were holding a council meeting. Security is going to be increased. When the Hadreon Signet was dipped in the blood it began grating immunity to Fire and Poison and allowing DR to be bypassed for all evil outsiders. Since this was deemed pretty awesome the PCs have decided to locate the next monster on the list: a Titan.

A half Titan Kraken was located and the PCs began preparation to assault it. We'll see how it goes next game session.