Monday, May 28, 2012

Why Mass Effect 3 Sucks

It doesn't.

Well, okay, I can't say that for sure. I've never played it. But everything I've seen of it looks totally awesome. The only thing that pisses me off about the game is what they did to Tali. Tali deserves so much better than a random stock photo. Yeah, that's right, not even the horrid ending pissed me off. I don't care. How else is it supposed to end? Shepard and Tali riding off into the sunset? . . . Come to think of it, I'd be down with that ending, actually. Though, in my heart of hearts, I ship Fem Shep/Garrus. . . . I'm not gay, I promise.

Anyway, getting off the point. The point is, I really don't have a lot against the game itself. Certainly not as much as a lot of people seem to. However, I am still not likely to ever actually buy the game, even after playing, and absolutely loving, the first two games in the series. Why is that? One word. Origin.

Now, I've heard a lot of bad things about Origin, how it's not coded well, how it pokes around where it shouldn't, how it has undue control over access to your games. I don't really care. Well, actually I do, but it was a pill I swallowed when I bought Portal. And make no mistake; I bought Portal. Not Half-Life 2. Not Team Fortress 2. I bought Portal. Fifty bucks well spent. It just happened to come with the other two games.

Now, to be fair, Steam is far superior to EA's Origin, and really shouldn't be compared to it, but I still take issue with the fact that it's required to play games that I've bought and have the physical disc for. DRM, in any form, is bad. But, once you find a game that's worth accepting it, like I did with Portal, then the damage is already done, so you might as well enjoy the other goodies it has to offer.

So, yeah, it's not really what Origin does that makes me shy away from it. I hate EA. With a raging passion. But, you know what? I own all three Sims games. And, I own the first two Mass Effects, the second of which was made after EA bought Bioware. So, as much as I hate them, EA's name being attached to a product isn't really enough to keep me away from it. Especially not one as good as Mass Effect 3 promises to be.

So what is it, then? Why do I refuse to use Origin? Why would I deny myself the concluding chapter of one of the greatest series in gaming history? It may sound silly, but it's because of the name. Yes, really, the name. It opens old wounds and pours a bag of salt on them. Wounds for which I have never forgiven EA, and will never forgive them for reopening. Sit down, kiddies. It's story time.

Once upon a time, there was a man named Lord British. To his Earthling friends, he was known as Richard Garriott. He created Akalabeth, a sort of prequel to Ultima. At first, he was selling it out of a small computer store, but eventually it lead to the formation of one of the greatest game development companies in history: Origin Systems, Inc. Are we beginning to get the picture?

Origin Systems, under the leadership of Richard Garriott, became like what Blizzard or Bethesda is now. Or Bioware. Yeah, actually, that's a really good analogy, there. Origin Systems was the Bioware of its day. It made games that were innovative and deep, much as Bioware does today. It was responsible not only for the Ultima series, but for Wing Commander and System Shock (Yup, that's what inspired BioShock) as well. With Wing Commander: Privateer, they created a sandbox space flight simulator, back when sandbox games were unheard of. Without it, we wouldn't have had Freelancer. With Ultima Underworld, they introduced gamers to a first-person experience that featured full three dimensional movement, the ability to look up and down, and even the ability to jump, before DOOM ever hit shelves. It was the game that paved the way for things like The Elder Scrolls.

Origin Systems was also responsible for Ultima Online, one of the first graphical Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games, or MMORPGs, and proved that the genre could be successful and profitable. That's right. Without Origin, there might not have been World of WarCraft. . . . Which might have been better, come to think of it. I hate MMOs, too, but that's an entire post topic to itself.

EA, being EA, wanted a slice of that yummy, yummy MMORPG pie. So, they bought out Origin Systems. Okay. No big. Richard Garriott and his merry band of misfits carried on as they always had, and Origin and EA both benefited from subscription fees for UO. Capitalism at its finest, yeah? Cool. So, Richard Garriott and his band of magical pirates and privateers sailed forward, and began production of the ninth installment of their flagship series, Ultima.

Now comes the part of the story that gets a little bit sad.

Ultima 9 was coming along, but not fast enough for the ever money hungry EA. They wanted the sales from that game NAO!!!! So, they told Richard Garriott to release it. He told them they couldn't release it yet. It wasn't finished. If they released it now, it would be an unfinished piece of crap. EA didn't listen. It had money wadded up in its ears. So, they forced Origin to release Ultima 9 early. Surprise surprise, it was an unfinished piece of crap. It flopped. What was EA's response? Did they say, "Oops! Our bad! We should of listened!" or "Oh. Well, huh, that didn't work. We'll do better next time, eh, Richard?" LMAO!!!! Fuck no. they said, "Oh, we fucked this game over. To make up for it, we're going to dissolve your company, and kick you out on the street. Have a nice day, Richard."

And Origin Systems, Inc. was no more.

But you better fucking believe they kept Ultima Online going. Even better, there was no Origin Systems to share the loot with anymore!!!

Fast forward to now, and EA has the fucking gall to insult this once great game development company by using its name on that piece of shit, thinly-veiled DRM, bullshit of a "service". EA is taking a massive dump on the memory of the company *THEY* destroyed. The way they treated Origin Systems is the origin point of my hatred of them (pun not intended . . . initially). Their business practices did little to make up for it. And now, just when it seems like they might be learning and getting better, letting Bioware do its own thing unhindered, they pull this shit.

So, no, I will never be buying Mass Effect 3 for as long as it requires Origin to play.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Toldara: Regions - The Forsaken North

 There are many regions in Toldara. The first one we're going to look at (because it will be featured in the game I'm running tonight) is the Forsaken North. It is a frozen wasteland with some truly hardcore denizens. While I will be providing traits that are gained by natives, I do recommend that you not allow players to use them. They are not balanced at all, but very lore friendly. Definitely better suited for NPCs. Rules for Traits can be found in the Pathfinder Advanced Players Guide (pg. 326).

The Forsaken North

The Forsaken North is a continent located at the North Pole, and buried under miles of ice and snow. It is the coldest and most treacherous region in Toldara, with the warmest temperatures never coming above zero, and the native creatures being the most fierce and hungry. Very little is known about the Forsaken North, as nearly all expeditions to it have ended in disaster. Most of what is known is legend and rumor. There are people who live in the Forsaken North, and they are just as hardy and fierce as the other creatures who call the glorified iceberg home. They are the Barbarians of the North, and are aware of, but care little for the powers of the South. They are nomadic and tribal, but are unified in their dedication for their Goddess-Queen, Xarlinia. Xarlinia is a Great White Wyrm who made the Forsaken North her territory eons ago, and has taken a liking to the roaming barbarians. The barbarians and their Queen have made it into the legends of the Southern kingdoms because of the rare occasions where Xarlinia has sent an emissary to the South to warn of events of great importance, mostly as her version of a subtle hint that they might want to possibly do something about it.

REGION TRAITS:

All characters that originate from the Forsaken North have Cold Resistance 5. Also, for the purposes of Cold Dangers in the Environmental Rules (Pathfinder Core Rulebook pg. 442), they treat Extreme Cold (-20 degrees) as just Cold. Severe Cold for characters from the Forsaken North is at -40 degrees, and Extreme Cold is at -60 degrees.

Ice Forged - You have lived your entire life in the wastes of the Forsaken North, and have managed to survive, not by out witting or out maneuvering, but by being able to take any punishment the North can dish out. Your body has been hardened by the cold and the hardships of the North. Characters with the Ice Forged trait gain a +2 to Fortitude saves.

Primal Calm - The Forsaken North instill in its inhabitants a primal ferocity that is unmatched anywhere else. You have learned to control that ferocity in yourself, and, by extension, in others. You gain a +2 to Diplomacy and Handle Animal checks. However, you find it more difficult to go into a Rage. Whenever you attempt to Rage, there is a 25% chance you fail to Rage.

Chill Charmed - The cold is your constant companion. Maybe you love the cold, and have dedicated yourself to becoming one with it. Maybe you were abandoned in the snow as a baby, and managed to miraculously survive, but not unchanged. However the connection was formed, cold energy is as natural to you as breathing. All spells you cast with the Cold type are cast at +1 caster level. Also, your appearance is different from others of your race. You're skin might be extremely pale and slightly blue, or your veins might glow slightly with an icy energy. Whatever the specifics, it should be drastic enough to be easily noticed, but it doesn't need to be unattractive (although it can be).

Frozen Shadow - Living in the Forsaken North your whole life, you've learned to survive by not being seen. Stealth in the arctic regions is second nature to you. You gain a +2 to Stealth checks when in any environment that is or resembles a place that is covered in snow and/or ice.

Barbarians of the North

The Barbarians of the north are tribal and nomadic, living wherever and however they can. The druids of some tribes have learned to cultivate the local plant life and feed their people that way. Other tribes rely on their warriors to provide meat from the local predators (as there is nothing but predators in the Forsaken North). They believe in honor, and will greet and house foreigners in need, but would never fully trust one. They are uninterested in the ways of the South. In fact, one of the quickest ways for a foreigner to wear out his or her welcome is to insist on any aspect of his or her culture or way of life as being better. All Barbarians of the North are unified, despite their tribal nature, in their dedication to Xarlinia, who acts as both goddess and queen to them. She is the one who taught the druids to cultivate local plant life, and has repeatedly helped tribes who have fallen on bad times survive.

The Barbarians of the North are a hardy people, mostly human in composition, though there is an extremely low percentage of representation from the other races. These oddballs are not looked down upon or outcast, as all members of the tribe are considered children of Xarlina, and the entire tribe must all pull together to survive. Xarlina will help when absolutely necessary, but will not pull the weight of a tribe that is capable of providing for itself.

Even the tribes with trained druids must still hunt and combat the native creatures to survive. The inhabitants of the Forsaken North are always hungry, and are always hunting. The Barbarians make for yummy snacks. Also, when the tribe must move into the territory of a local predator, there are always territorial conflicts. Because of that, the Barbarians are always battle-hardened (High-Level NPCs).

Toldara: Races - Oranians


My first real post for the Toldara campaign world. A new PC race: the Oranians. They're a humanoid/avian race. The closest example I can think of to give you an idea are the inhabitants of Dragon Roost Island from Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. The Oranians are actually more bird-like, but not by too much.

Oranians

Oranians are a bird-like race from the Oran Mountains. They are able to fly just as well as they can walk. In fact, flying is their preferred method of travel, as it is much faster. They love music and poetry. In fact, the best poets and musicians in the land are Oranians.

Personality: Oranians are poets and philosophers, musicians and knowledge seekers. Because of their ability to fly, they can travel easily to other lands. This has allowed them to hear the legends and histories of other races, as well as see their culture. They have grown to love such interaction, always searching to learn more about something, whether it be the location of a mythical artifact, or the play time rituals of a human child. They often write songs or poetry about their findings. They are usually always cheerful, and are delighted to learn any tidbit of information.

Physical Discription: Oranians are tall and mostly humanoid in shape. They stand from 5 ½ to 7 feet tall, and usually weigh between 175 and 300 pounds. They are completely covered in feathers, except for their feet and hands, which are talons, and the top of their heads, which has something that can be called hair, though it resembles down feathers almost as much as it does hair. They also have eagle-like wings on their backs, and generally have a wingspan equal to their height. Their heads are shaped more like a bird's head than a human head, complete with a beak. Oranians who stick to their own race's clothing traditions wear elegant robes with golden support bars for structure and holes in the back for their wings. Their feathers come in all manner of colors, from the browns of a hawk, to the grays of a pigeon, to the rainbow colors of a parrot. They achieve adulthood at 50 years, and they have no known lifespan, as no Oranian has ever died of old age. Whether this is because they die of other causes before they are able to, or because they simply don't grow old is unknown. The oldest known Oranian was 986 years old.

Relations: Oranians make a point of getting along well with other races. They love to observe and learn about the culture of other races, and are more than happy to share their own culture. For the most part, they find the other races amusing, but they find all of them fascinating.

Alignment: Oranians tend strongly toward Good, and it is very rare to find an evil one. However, their are just as many that are Lawful as there are that are Chaotic.

Oranian Lands: Oranians make their homes in the aviaries of the Oran Mountains, a vast connected maze of caves and caverns running through the entire mountain range with hundreds of outlets to the outside. They often go abroad into other lands for fun and adventure, but the Oran Mountains are the only place they feel comfortable calling home.

Religion: The patron god of the Oranians is the wind god, Metorlogis. While few ever truly abandon their worship of Metorlogis, some become so fascinated by other races that they take on the religions of those races.

Language: The native language is Auran, the language of air-based creatures, but they also speak Elven, as most of their songs and poems are written in Elven.

Names: Oranians used to have names specific to their race, but they have been influenced by other races to the point that they no longer have any naming traditions of their own. Instead, they use the names and traditions of other races.

Adventurers: Oranians love to adventure. They are always looking for some bit of history or myth to unveil. They will almost always find a party to adventure with, and will try to pick one that is as varied in the races that make it up as possible, so that they may learn all they can. Also, there is no better material for writing poems and songs than a grand adventure.

Oranian Racial Traits
  • +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom, +2 Charisma, -2 Strength, -2 Constitution: Oranians are agile, have excellent awareness due to their animal senses, and are quite charismatic, which is helpful when interacting with other races. However, their hollow bones and unique body structure make them weak and frail.
  • Medium-size: As Medium-size creatures, Oranians have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Oranian base land speed is 30 feet. Air speed is 80 feet (Good) with light or no armor, 80 feet (Average) with medium armor, and 60 feet (Clumsy) with heavy armor.
  • Eagle's Sight: Oranians have excellent eyesight. Because of this, they can see twice as far as other races can in the same conditions.
  • Low-light Vision: Oranians can see just as far in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination as they can in daylight. They retain the ability to distinguish color and detail under these conditions.
  • +2 racial bonuses on Perception checks. Their eyesight is so good that, if they have line-of-sight to a secret door, they are entitled to a Search check as if they were actively searching for the door.
  • Unique Body-Type: Oranians have a unique body type that other races do not have (mostly because of the wings). For this reason, Oranians can only wear clothes and armor that is specifically made for them, whether it be custom made, or from a shop that sells Oranian goods. Such shops are not found just anywhere, and are usually just in large cities.
  • Automatic Languages: Common, Auran, and Elven. Bonus Languages: All except Halfling and Druid. Oranians learn the languages, as well as the cultures, of those they study. Only the secret languages are unknown to them.

Campaign World: Toldara

My cousin and I have been working on a campaign world of our own for quite some time. We've gotten several ideas, and made up rules for them, but have never gotten around to getting a cohesive document out that details everything. We started this in the days of D&D 3rd ed. We have always intended on adapting the world to other systems, besides just D&D, but we used D&D as a base. My cousin has decided that he will be working on the version that uses some of the other systems, and it is my responsibility to update things to the Pathfinder ruleset, and some of the other, more rules-intensive systems. I am totally down with that. So begins a new series on my blog; the campaign world of Toldara.

Before we get into this, I wanted to mention that my cousin runs his own blog; The Semi-Retired Gamer. It's a really cool site in which he talks a lot about his experiences with table-top gaming, among other things. He is and old-school gamer, and his posts tend to reflect that. It's really interesting for someone like me, who got into table-top gaming during the D&D 3rd ed. era, to read his posts about earlier games. I don't have a lot of experience with them, and it's always nice to see where this form of gaming came from, and be introduced to games and systems I might never have known existed otherwise. Not to mention ideas for completely new games. Definitely worth checking out. Oh, and he posts much more frequently than I do. Lol!

So, what is Toldara? It's a high fantasy campaign setting that has a rich history, complex relationships between various powers, and, when it's finished, will have a tremendous amount of detail that other worlds tend to lack, such as different currency for each nation and exchange rates.

The basic history goes something like this: Some of the younger gods wanted a world to call their own, something that wouldn't have ties with the more established gods, so they went to create such a world. They couldn't agree on exactly how to go about it, so had to use a mediator who would incorporate everyone's ideas to actually create the world itself, though they would create the inhabitants themselves. The mediator they chose was a god of whimsy who promised to keep the world to the other gods' specifications, as long as he was allowed to add two or three of his own ideas as he chose. Things went well, until four new gods appeared and waged a war upon the world of Toldara. The new gods were the goddess of Chaos, the god of Evil, the goddess of Law, and the god of Good. The goddess of Chaos and the god of Evil brought their minions from the Abyssal and Infernal planes to wreak havoc upon the mortal inhabitants of Toldara. The original gods and goddesses could do nothing to help their creations against the onslaught, and had to enlist the help of the god of Good and the goddess of Law. This was known as the First Fiend Invasion. A lot of relics and ruins from this period are still around. They are some of the most powerful, and most dangerous, relics around. Most are made from a special mineral that is near impossible to find now (due to the fact most of it was used during the First Fiend Invasion). Though much of the magicks and technologies that were developed during this period were lost (deliberately, as they were quite dangerous), the various nations have come up with other means of preventing another Fiend Invasion, and hopefully being able to combat one if they fail to prevent it, including the Dragon Knights of the Bronze Kingdom, the Inquisition, the Tech-Mages, and the Rulac Karnin, among others.

There's actually a lot more to it than that, but if I get into it all here, this post will go on forever, and I have other posts to make today. Eventually, the history will get it's own post, however, and it will be far too long. Lmao!

For now, signing off. See you again real soon!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

StarCraft 2 101: The Zerg

Greetings, Internet! This is Drai-Gon typing. We are here today to talk Starcraft. My good friend LawGambit started a small series on his blog covering the basics of StarCraft II, which takes a look at each race individually, and gives some information behind some of the simple mechanics behind each one. LawGambit has already done one on Terran, which can be found here, and Protoss, which can be found here. We thought it would be a good idea for me to handle the Zerg, as it is the race I play. Because this follows the same format and is basically just the continuation of LawGambit's series, I highly recommend reading them first. The first installment was the Terran, and the second was the Protoss. Now for the third.

The Zerg are entirely organic in nature. They're basically giant bugs, and can be produced about as quickly. Each individual unit is rarely the most powerful unit on the field, but what they lack in sheer power, they more than make up for in numbers and speed. Also, with the Burrow upgrade researched, nearly all Zerg ground units have a "stealth mode" they can activate by burrowing into the ground, though this generally leaves them unable to move.

Zerg Starting Equipment

This is a Hatchery. It is the core building in any Zerg base; the equivalent to the Command Center (Terran) or the Nexus (Protoss). It comes with six Drones, which are the builder/gatherer units of the Zerg army. There are a few things to take note of right off the bat. One is the purple goo that surrounds the Zerg base. This is called Creep. All Zerg structures must be built on the Creep, except the Hatchery and a few other exceptions which will be noted later. The Creep also allows certain units to move faster while they're on it. Also notice the little centipede-like things underneath the Hatchery. Those are larva, and are used to make units. Larva are generated by the Hatchery, which will generate up to three larva. The Hatchery is the only structure that generates larva, making it the building from which all Zerg units come from. The greatest benefit from this system is that multiple units can be created simultaneously from a single building, whereas Terran and Protoss must queue up units and build them one at a time.
Flying Food!

This is an Overlord, the Zerg version of a Supply Depot/Pylon. Unlike the other two races, this is a unit that can be moved and issued commands. With the right upgrades, it can even act as the Zerg's transport unit.
From a Drone into a pimple


Zerg build structures differently than other races. Their Drones actually morph into the structures they construct, meaning you lose a drone in the process. However, Zerg structures are generally cheaper in cost to make up for the loss.


Extractors are the gas factories of the Zerg race. They operate just like other gas factories.


Pictured above is a Spawning Pool. Though all units come from the hatchery, this structure is required for the Zerg's first combat unit. It is also required for other structures that unlock more advanced units and tech.
"I think you hit someone's dog, sir." - Random Terran


These are Zerglings, the smallest and fastest of the Zerg combat units. They are the cheapest combat unit, and you get two of them for every one larva you morph, making it very easy and quick to produce a swarm of them. Singly, they are the weakest combat unit in the game. In a swarm, they are nightmarishly frightening.


The unit pictured above is the Queen. The Queen is absolutely essential for Zerg production. She has several abilities, including the ability to expand the Creep, heal structures, and allow a Hatchery to have more than three larva, and is a decent combat unit with the ability to attack both ground and air targets. Her main drawback is that she is slow, even on Creep. Most of the time, she is used for her Inject ability, which gives the Hatchery more larva, and as a last line of defense for the base.


The Roach Warren allows for the production of Roaches, one of which is pictured next to the Warren. Roaches are generally the first ranged units Zerg players have access to. With the right upgrades, they are also capable of moving while burrowed, allowing them to sneak into enemy territory, emerging only for the attack. By then, it's usually too late, especially since their acid attacks tend to eat through armor.


The Evolution Chamber is the structure used to research ground unit upgrades, making them tougher and more powerful.


The Baneling Nest allows Zerglings to morph into the dreaded Banelings, as shown above. Banelings are kamazazi units that explode on impact, dealing massive amounts of damage. A swarm of them can melt entire armies, and ravage entire bases.


This is the Hydralisk Den. It allows for the production of the second tier unit, the Hydralisk (pictured next to the Hydralisk Den). Hydralisks are slow moving when not on Creep, but are decently armored, have ranged attacks, and can attack both ground and air units. They are also the most iconic of the Zerg units. If you've only seen one Zerg before, it was probably a Hydralisk.


The Spire allows production of Zerg air units, and also has the upgrades for them. It can be upgraded to a Greater Spire to allow access to the Zerg's third tier air unit.


These second tier air units are, from left to right, the Corruptor and the Mutalisk. The Mutalisk is fairly weak, but it's fast, can attack both ground and air targets, and its attacks hit multiple targets. The Corruptor is much more powerful, but can only attack other air units.


This is an Infestation Pit next to the Infestor unit that it allows to be created. The Infestor is the spellcaster unit of the Zerg army, and is the only other unit besides the Roach that can move while burrowed. It can immobilize and damage units, create Infested Terrans, and even take control of enemy units.


The Nydus Network is a fairly unique building. Not counting Terran add-ons, it is the only structure in the game that creates other structures. Namely, these:
Horry Shite! Wut iz dis?!?!?



Nydus Worms. Ground units go in, and can come out at any other Nydus Worm or the Nydus Network on the map.


And here, standing side by side, it the Ultralisk Cavern and the Ultralisk it allows to be produced. The Ultralisk is the toughest and most powerful Zerg ground unit. It can only attack other ground units, but it will tear them to shreds. But which is which? The unit is bigger that the structure!!! (HINT: The unit is the one on the left)


The almighty Brood Lord. Morphed from the Corruptor, it is the greatest of the Zerg units. It can only attack ground units, so should always be supported with Corruptors. However, only a handful can level armies and wipe enemy bases off the face of existence.

And that's the Zerg race, in a nutshell. They're fast and numerous, and that is their greatest advantage. Used correctly, they can out produce any opponent. I wuffles them!!! ^____^