Tuesday, December 30, 2008

You must die, I alone am best!

I've been obsessing over 2d fighters lately. Loaded up some old ROMs and started playing games like Garou and KoF 97-02, plus a half dozen random fighters that apparently never got imported. My wife, in her infinite wisdom and compassion, bought me a limited edition Halo 3 X360 controller, and a wireless adapter for my PC. So, I've been playing these ROMs with it, and it's been quite worth the effort (I love my wife).

Using money from the holidays, I was able to buy two copies of Guilty Gear XX Accent Core; one for myself and one for my sisters-in-law. A while back, the watched our cats for us when we were out of town, and spent the night there playing Guilty Gear X2 for 7 hours on end. Megan and Kelsey are probably bigger gamers than I am (currently, at least, I am working 60+ hours a week), and I've seen them become scary good at games in the past. I'm looking forward to seeing how skillled them become at this.

The only reason I was ever good at Guilty Gear is that I lived with John Hogrefe. He was a tournament worthy Guilty Gear player, with near flawless timing and execution. In the time we lived together, I only was ever able to beat him 33% of the time. Even then, that includes times where he wasn't playing his most proficient character, Baiken.

I remember once, John over-slept a tournament, and played it off with "Tourney players are cheap little pricks, who try to trap you into infinite hit combos cause they can't do a real 1v1". We arrived after the tourney was over, and started milling around, playing people who were still there. John broke this one guy's 23 win streak. He asked why John wasn't in the tourney, and John repeated what he had told me. The guy pauses, then says "Well, I was the one who won that tournament, so..." Meanwhile, on a different terminal, I ruin a 17 win streak, absolutely crushing Potemkin, and leaving everyone slack-jawed from my blistering assault (30 some consecutive non-special move hits in a row, the bastard never touched the ground).

I never really realized how good I had become, because from my perspective, I was getting my ass handed too me, day in and day out. But losing to John for two years in a row did more for me than I could have ever hoped for. After all, you only become stronger by facing a stronger opponent.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Music for the Slaughter

I listen to different music when I PvP than when I PvE.

If I'm PvEing, my media player is usually on random. Everything from William Shatner to Tatu to Kompressor. If I'm feeling particularly epic, I'll put on Vanessa Mae and put her best of album on repeat. Other times, I'll put on Justice Radio or Woot Radio, and listen to whatever the hell their DJs pick.

If I'm PvPing, it's a whole new ball game. I have a special select few MP3s that I whore while PvPing, sometimes I'll listen to the same song on repeat for hours on end. I once spent five hours in the Random Arenas listening to "Oh No You Didn't" from the Mercenaries 2 commercial. On another occasion, I pimped out "Dance Commander" by Electric 6 while fighting in 13 consecutive ABs. "Bitches" by Mindless Self Indulgence is a little to short to cycle for that long, but it usually finds its way into PvP oriented playlists, as do songs by the following artists:
  • Disturbed
  • System of a Down
  • Drowning Pool
  • Godsmack
  • Linkin Park
  • Jay-Z
  • Three 6 Mafia
  • Dynamite Hack
  • Burning Airlines
  • Various hawt techno

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Last year, on the Justice Server" or "Hollow Words pt 2"

Last year, on the Justice Server, myself and about 30 other players engaged in a 5 stock Domination Match, to celebrate Wintereenmas. Basically, a standard FFA Deathmatch type game, but each player only has 5 lives.

I faced Broad Sword/Regen Scrappers, Radiation/Psi Defenders, Ice Armor/EM Tankers, and one very stubborn SWAT Drone SL-OW, who brought an AR/Dev, and made it into the Top 5.

In the end, I faced WWII, a Stone Armor/Super Strength Tanker. He couldn't even begin to damage me, and I couldn't beat his regen. So, we both turned off our toggles, took our mezzes off the power bars, and faced each other as Statesman intend; like really stupid men. I triumphed, and not only was the last man standing, I claimed the most kills of anyone in attendance.

It's rare that I PvP for so long without taking a brief respite (drink, snack, bathroom, etc), but this kept me glued to my seat for almost 1 1/2 hours. It's things like this that makes me miss CoH the most.

Good times.

Cheater McCheaterson

It usually doesn't bother me if people cheat in video games. It's their choice if they do, and it's more important for a person to enjoy a gameplay experience than to abide by my gaming "code of morals". Infinite ammo, infinite money, infinite health, whatever. Gameshark, secret codes, glitches, it's all the same.

That being said, don't fucking brag about something you cheated to achieve. It's that simple. If you haxxored your way into victory, it really doesn't count. If you used aimbot to crush someone in CS:S, you didn't win, the aimbot did. If you use a glitch to make yourself invulnerable to enemy attacks in the Eden Trial, you didn't actually participate in the Trial, you were just kinda there. If you use gameshark to do god knows what in pretty much any game, it means nothing.

It's like watching the demo video of a game and talking shit about how good you are, like you're actually playing. No, you're not, someone else enabled you to live vicariously through them. You're letting another entity give you victory, whilst you claim the credit, as if you helped, or your presence mattered.

I've run into a lot of people lately to whom cheating is like a creedo or a maxim. It bothers me that they will boast of their accomplishments, or tout their victories, when in the end of the day, they're the kid who plays Duck Hunt 2 inches away from the screen, nothing more.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


On a completely unrelated note to my previous post, an excerpt from the I13 patch notes:

"Peacebringers damage adjusted
Increased Melee Damage to 0.85 from 0.75
Increased Range Damage to 0.8 from 0.625
Increased Melee Dwarf Form Melee Damage to 1.0 from 0.85 "

The rubberband is on the other claw now! I'd been lobbying hard for a change like this for quite a while. The post was lost in a forum purge, otherwise I'd transcribe it here.

For those unfamiliar with CoH game mechanics, I'll explain a little.

Let's say we have a Defender, a Tanker, and a Blaster, all with the power Total Focus. Despite the name, this is a melee attack, and it's one of the top 5 most potent in the game. Let's also assume, that the base damage for this attack is 100, at the heroes current level. The Defender has a melee dmg mod of 0.625, the Tanker is set to 0.85, and the Blaster is 1.00. Translated:

Defender=62.5 dmg
Tanker=85 dmg
Blaster=100 dmg

Simple enough, right? You multiply the intended damage of the power by the ATs modifier, and you get the damage. The intended damage is called "damage scalar." The scalar for Total Focus is 3.56, which is very high.

The scalar on Kheldian ranged attacks is abysmally low. The three single target ranged attacks they possess (in human form), rank in at 0.6, 1.0, and 1.64. Compared to a Blaster using the Energy Blast powerset, who's three single target attacks rank in at 1.0, 1.64, and 2.12. Obviously, the Blaster will do more damage hit for hit.

Now factor in the fact that the modifier for a Kheldian used to be 0.625, while for a Blaster it's 1.15 (Blasters have a different modifier for ranged attacks than the do for melee attacks). A huge performance gap appears, as the Kheldian has to deal with a low modifier, and a low scalar. My argument against this was that even set to an equal modifier to the Blaster, a Kheldian at damage cap would always underperform to a Blaster. Thusly, it was more than fair to at least adjust the modifier to let them outdamage a Defender under normal mission conditions (standard +96% dmg from slotting, +40% dmg from Cosmic Balance, and a misc +15% from team buffs).

I was accused of trying to turn Kheldians into Tank-Mages, and that I wanted far too much.

Guess the Dev team didn't think I was that wrong.

Friday, December 19, 2008

City of Heroes PvP

Before I begin, everything and anything I'm about to say might soon become completely irrelevant, as major changes are soon coming to the City of Heroes PvP system. Anything I say below is referring to PvP from Issue 4 to Issue 12.

The most fun I've ever had PvPing has been in City of Heroes. It's also some of the most imbalanced PvP, but that doesn't mean it wasn't fun. However, those imbalances are really most glaringly obvious in high end, competitive PvP. I'm talking about zone PvP. The middle ground between Arenas and World PvP. In zone PvP, everyone has a chance to win. A skilled player can take a very sub-optimal powerset combination and make it shine. A lot of avid PvPers disagree with me on that, but hear me out:

Through a combination of usage and general skill, a good PvPer can take an underperforming character and win consistently with it.

Consistently being the key point. Not always, not most of the time, but consistently. Now, the immediate response I tend to get is, "An AR/Dev will NOT beat an Ice/Nrg, it's just not going to happen." Sure, in the Arena 1v1, I agree 110%. But this isn't the Arena, it's a zone. It has NPCs, multiple exits, huge expanses of terrain, with the chance of outside interference at any point, for either side, whether you want it or not, and most fights start with one person ambushing the other. There are too many variables to make blanket statements as to the outcome of a fight. Police Drone M8 and I used to tear a bloody swath through Warburg, wrecking anything in our way. I played an AR/Nrg, he played a Stone/Emp. Not exactly FOTM power builds. I can recall times where we steamrolled Ice/Rad and Ice/Dark corrupters, as an afterthought. If either of us had fought them in the Arena, we'd have been toast. But we outplayed them in the zone, and trashed them repeatedly before they left.

Prime example: I was playing my Invul/SS tanker, King's Rook, in Warburg. Super Strength is a great choice for Siren's Call, or even Bloody Bay, it is not a top performer in Warburg. Energy Melee, even after the nerfs, is still way to strong hit for hit for SS to compete in higher level PvP. Same with Invul. Solid against spikes, but in a sustained fight, every other Tanker primary is liable to outperform it in sustained combat.

I found myself fighting a EM/Stone brute, and an Ice/Dark corrupter, near the villain base. I was losing, and the ice blasts were destroying me. I spotted a pair of Zeus Titans in the distance, +5 to myself and the villains I was fighting. I queued up Hurl, and pegged a Titan, then moonwalked behind a piece of rubble, positioning the Brute in line-of-sight with the Titans. They came running to attack, but hit the Brutes aggro aura first. They turned on him, causing the brute and corrupter to shift focus. I pulled back, let the debuffs fade, then rushed the corrupter, taking her out why the brute was distracted. I then turned and finished the brute off with the help of the NPCs. Got full credit for both kills, and saved my own hide. It was more luck than anything else, but unorthodox and underhanded tactics can level the playing field.

And that's what made PvP in CoH so unique and appealing to me. It wasn't cause I wanted to pull NPCs onto people in PvP, but that I had the option. Ambushes were a possibility, almost anyone had access to stealth powers, giving them greater freedom of movement in a zone where others hunt you. You could stand atop a sky scraper, looking down on others, and leap down to instantly join the fight, or merely steal a kill. You have foes flying, leaping, teleporting, or just plain super speeding around in a mad craze, trading blows and firing at each other.

I scored countless kills in Warburg by resting on ledges, looking down over the zone, waiting for a target to fly by the blind corner, unaware of my presence. I'd target them, leap over them, fire a beanbag into them to stun them and drop their flight toggle, then free fall with them to the ground, where I finish them in melee while their helpless. Done properly, they don't realize it's me till I land next to them on the ground, already attacking them. A prepared player breaks the mez before impact, might even retoggle flight to pull out of the dive. But usually not. I'd hit them with Power Thrust to knock them on their ass, and use my melee attacks to finish them fast. Again, it's underhanded, and doesn't even allow them a chance to fight back, but that's zone PvP for you.

Despite playing AR/Nrg, I was considered the top PvPer in my SG. The SG leader put a bounty out open to anyone who could beat me in the Arena, in part to encourage newer players to PvP with us. We'd do weekly Arena FFAs, with everyone exemplared down to the level of the lowest Drone participating. Even then, I almost always came out on top. Most weeks we'd take a team of Drones into Siren's Call, and dominate the zone for an hour or two, until the villains got tired and called in their own SG mates.

However, the few times I participated in a high end, organized PvP event, I received a hot ass-whipping. It's just how it is.

That being said, one of the other aspects of Zone PvP in COH was that everyone could try their hand at it. They certainly weren't guaranteed, or even likely, to win, but they had a shot.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kaiser's movie quote mania

On the City of Heroes forums, there is a subforum for each server. My home server was Justice, and in the Justice forum, we had a game, "Kaiser's movie quote mania."

Take a quote from a movie, change it to fit CoH and the Justice server, then make other try to guess it. If you guess it correctly, you get to post the next quote. So on and so forth. It started in February of '07, and it's still active. Non-active accounts can't post in those forums, but we can still read, so I combed through and picked out a few quotes, mostly PvP related.



Police Drone TH: [paces back and forth on the deck of the Paragon PD King's Row HQ as he addresses his new recruits] "Greetings. Police Drone X9 has chosen you to serve your server in Warburg. Those of you who continue to profess a belief in "badging" will receive the standard substandard training that will result in your eventual ganking. Those of you who renounce this superstitious and hysterical belief will be eligible to join the warrior elite of the Paragon Police Department. Each of you will be given a Paragon City Registration Card."
[Displays his own card to the crowd]
Police Drone TH: "Whatever you do or whatever you learn will be imprinted on this card. If you lose your card or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate ganking. That will be all."


Kaiser: "I've done far worse than kill you, Folonius. I've trapped you. And I wish to go on trapping you in inescapable places. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her: marooned for all eternity in the hotdog stand with no way out, buried alive. Buried alive."
Folonius: "KAAAIIISER!"
Folonius: "KAAAIIISER!"


"Give up, just quit, because in City of Heroes, you can't win. Yeah, you can try, but in the end you're just gonna lose, big time, because the world is run by the Gnome. The Gnome, oh, you don't know the Gnome. He's everywhere. In the White House... down the hall... Katfood, she's the Gnome. And the Gnome ruined base raids, he's gankin' folks in Warburg, and he threadjacked the Prophet's thread and turned it into PWNZ! And there used to be a way to stick it to the Gnome. It was called PVP, but guess what, oh no, the Gnome ruined that, too, with a little thing called Recluse's Victory! So don't waste your time trying to make anything cool or uber or awesome 'cause the Gnome is just gonna call you a fat washed up loser and crush your soul. So do yourselves a favor and just GIVE UP!"

Bubble: "Man, why don't we just do his job, so we can do our job and get the [censored] out of here? "
Frog: "What do you mean, "do his job?" What am I, a cold-blooded stalker? I'm not a cold-blooded stalker."
Bubble: "Now, wait a minute..."
Frog: "No, you wait a minute. You want to gank the hero but not be the villain. Doesn't work like that. You have to wait until the villain ganks the hero, then when you gank the villain, you're the hero. "
Bubble: "So - just to clarify - if we do his job we're the villains, and if we do our job we're the Heroes. "
Frog: "Yes."
Bubble: "That's... great."

Emma Peel:

"Plasma Warrior: All right, listen up. You heroes will not die on me in game. You f’ing noobs will do everything you can to prove me wrong. You'll ask for bio breaks in the middle of combat, give sbs when they’re not wanted, pull agro you can’t handle, eat cheetos and diddely-bop through Paragon City like you were back on the block. Or when you’re supposed to be healing and rezzing in combat you'll send tells, play with your mouse, and think of your girl who’s playing WOW. Forget her. Right now, some Orc has her on her back and is telling her to play WOW for peace. This is Emma. Those of you who are foolish will think of her as 'ditz,' 'bimbo,' 'twit' or 'bleeptch.' She is your enemy. She came over on the “Let a Crazy Person Out of the Psych Ward” Program, and after she fattens herself on Cabernet and Dark Chocolate she will be hunting your young butts in Siren’s Call. Now forget about this noob PvPer stuff. What you'll encounter out there is hard core PVP, Player Versus Player. Highly motivated, highly trained and well equipped. If you meet Emma or her cousins, you will give her respect and refer to those little beastards as 'Echo Papa.' Meet her twice, and survive, and you will refer to her as 'MISS Echo Papa.' Now people, I am sick and tired of filling body bags with your dumb f’ing mistakes.Emma is super jumping in on your position. It's night... Look at me! I'm gonna save your life and your gonna save mine. It's night, it's raining. While your thinking about Salvage, cheetos and whether or not we should be watching Heroes on NBC, Emma is going to crush your f’ing gonads with her Gravity powers. And your afk. You've been playing this mission in Peregrine for hours. It's your turn for a bio break, you're allowed to pee. What do you think Emma is going to do? Is she going to wait for you to come back to the keyboard, TJ? And smile? And talk about men? MISS Echo Papa gets all wet watching you die. Some of you think you have problems because you're against the in game advertisements coming up. You demonstrated in Atlas Park... you wear Statesman symbols on your costume, and you have attitudes. I'm a noob, my brother plays SWG, the RWZ got the clap from my sister, Mom drinks, Dad coughs blood, I have ringworm, imersion foot, the incurable crud and COH ruined my chances of being a brain surgeon. People, you are in CITY OF HEROES. You have no problems. Except me. "
(points to Emma who is summoning her Singularity and grinning)
"And her."


"Oh, the reason I called... Could you find out who else is in Warburg? I've made two Tanks and a Stalker already, so if they've double-booked the mish, and/or they're going to ambush me, I'd like to know. If you could find that out, that'd be great."


"In the year of our Lord two thousand and seven, patriots of Justice, low on endurance and outnumbered, charged the fields of Siren's Call. They fought like hardcore PvPer's, they fought like heroes, and won their server, forever."

Police Drone X-9: "Shall...we...play...a...game? How...about...a...nice...game...of...pvp?"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Powergaming Part 3

I had originally intended to simply transcribe Jameson's character sheet, rather than talk about how cool I thought he was. Then I found out my wife recycled him. Sorry.


For various defensive and offensive reasons, I started taking levels of Monk with Jameson. My DM allowed me to take the feat "Ascetic Mage", despite my being a Wizard. Normally reserved for Sorcerers, this feat allows you to use Charisma towards AC, stacks your Monk and Sorcerer levels for purposes of the Monk's unarmored AC bonus, lets you convert spells into +to hit/+dmg equal to the spells level on all attacks for a single turn, and lets you freely multi-class between the two. In short, a damn good feat. By spending much time and resources in game, I was allowed to use it on my Wizard, using my Intelligence score for AC.

I also took "Arcane Strike", a feat the also lets you drop a spell for a +to hit/+dmg bonus. However, rather than +1 per spell level, it gave +1 to hit/+1d4 dmg per spell level, for every attack you make until the next turn. The best part was the feats weren't mutually exclusive, so I could drop two spells a turn, if I had a mind to (and I often did).

Then, after finding out that a pre-existing magical item could be permanently augmented, I took a pair of Ogre Gauntlets and turned them into a Frankenstein worthy monstrosity. After I was done with them, they went from simply granting +2 st, to the following: +4 str, +4 AC, +1 to hit, +2 dmg, Flaming Burst (+1d6 fire dmg, +1d10 extra on a crit), and they were acid proof (courtesy of the scales of a green dragon I slew while separated from my party). I would have added more, but alas, Tom made sure to keep my party VERY busy, not giving me the chance to tweek them.

I made the mistake of teaching Tom how to beat a powergamer. I explained to him that rather than trying to contest with the strength of their character, you simply need to force them into situations where, a.) Force of arms doesn't matter. b.) They must make choices they hate. c.) They are relatively powerless.

Simple enough, really. Some DMs get so caught up in literally trying to beat the players, they miss easy ways to take them down a notch.

Armed with this knowledge, Tom almost succeeded in shutting me down completely: He made me king.

I hate leading groups. I'm not bad at it, but I lack patience when it's most crucial, and if I'm in charge, it HAS to be my way. So, to avoid conflict, I let others lead. Of course, I still want to do things my way, so quite often, I end up separated from the group. Sometimes I'm right, sometime I'm wrong. In this case, going my own way turned into a nightmare.

After fending off a siege by the lich, and routing his army of undead, the city was in shambles. We stayed to try and rebuild, and offered the money and resources we had to the effort. However, the city's council felt that we were solely the blame for the attack, and it was our fault (I agreed). So, their answer to the destruction was to leave, and plead their case to the king that we were evil and left the city in ruins. I felt that being labeled as brigands by the king wouldn't help us beat the lich in the slightest, and that we needed to reach the king first, and take responsibility for what happened. That way, we could avoid his wrath, and solicit his help in fighting the lich.

After much agony and conflict (myself and the two NPCs I traveled with, Galin the half-dragon, and Lady Cross the Paladin, were ambushed by the green dragon I mentioned, which left one of them permanently scarred), I reach the king, and tell him everything that happened, leaving nothing out. He sympathizes with our plight, and absolves us of guilt for the fate of the town. To celebrate our victory in driving back the lich, he invites me to a banquet. At said banquet, an assassination takes place, which Galin, Lady Cross, and myself vainly try to stop (Draco-liches are tough customers, I'm afraid). With the king's dying breath, he gives me the royal signet ring, and leaves me his throne.

What. The. Fuck.

That makes absolutely no goddamn sense. I've known the king for all of one day, and he makes me his heir. So, I immediately try to seek out his closest blood relative. There are none. I seek out other royalty within the kingdom. None are present. So, I spend much time agonizing over how to not be the king anymore, and how to hide this from my party. Before I left, we had discussed petitioning the king to make John, our fighter, the mayor of the city, which we could then use as our base of operations against the lich. John had spent the entire game bitching about how my mage rendered him useless, so I supported this idea, to give him a stronger sense of purpose within the group. And Tom knew this. Bastard.

So, as I return to my party, having found a proper steward for the kingdom in my absence, I receive word that the nation to our south is poised to invade, after hearing the former king had passed. So now, I'm faced with letting this country fall, or trying to save it. As I mentioned earlier, I lost my soul to a demon. It was the price I paid for it saving my life. In addition to fighting the forces of the lich, I was fighting a personal war for my free will. In order to keep the trust of my party (which ended up with multiple Paladins), I continued to risk personal safety for the greater good, despite my Lawful Neutral alignment. So, for me, it was more than a simple invasion, it was a test to see how far I would go to prove that I wasn't secretly evil, and that I wasn't a puppet of the demon.

So, I travel south to parlay with the invading nations king (again, with Galin and Lady Cross, no real players). I end up being so frustrated with the whole situation, that once I enter the throne room, I launch a one man assault on the royal guard. I reasoned that I was a higher level than the other king, and his guard, and that I could intimidate him into withdrawing from my border. I was half right. I tore through his guard, with Galin and Lady Cross covering my flank, to find that the king was an epic level rouge, and that he could sneak attack me even if I wasn't flat footed (which isn't even really possible, I found out later, given the rouges build).

I was completely outplayed. Tom was able to manipulate the actions of my character, alienate me from the group by playing us against each other, and waited until the last minute to bait me into fighting a superior foe, so that my defeat would be complete. I have to admit, I never saw it coming, not like this.

However, I ended up having the last laugh. Do to the sheer overwhelming power of the foes we faced, we died a lot. A lot. But Tom allowed for frequent resurrections, even in the absence of divine healing. It annoyed me, but what broke the camel's back was when we got ambushed by a Hell Wurm. It flew over the city, hit us with it's breath weapon, then left. I was taken to -14 HP instantly, from full. When Tom found this out, he kinda blinked, then said I was only at -9 HP, courtesy of the demon that owned my soul. So, I told him that I was at -14 HP, and that I wasn't going allow myself a 7th extra life, for the sake of accommodating his unbalance encounters. I told him my death was final, and that player fatality needed to be taken more seriously, otherwise there was no point in playing.

Doing this seemed to rally the party, and they all agreed with me: our deaths would be final, and meaningful, not just hiccups in our campaign.

Which to me, is the heart of the issue with powergaming to begin with. When something ceases to be a challenge, what's the point? If all the enemies in the world only provide you with resistance equal to that of a cardboard cut-out, why play? Likewise, when every battle you fight offers crushing defeat, why play? A balance must be struck. Where the outcome isn't certain before conflict begins, where defeat and victory are both equally real options. That's what makes gaming fun. That way, if you lose, you still want to try again, cause you can do better. If you win, you still want to come back and do it again, if only to try and outdo yourself.

I think that Tom forgot that he was tasked with challenging us, not beating us. I think he treated DMing like he did playing a character: He was in it to win.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Powergaming Part 1

When it comes to pen & paper RPGs, I don't like powergaming.

In video games, victory and loss are usually binary. Winning is good, losing is bad. Winning lets you progress, losing makes you start over. In this environment, powergaming is fine, since you're only dealing with the computer, and it's feelings won't get hurt when you give every stat up and new sword to that same warrior. The game doesn't care if you skip content, use cheat-codes, neglect character story developement, etc.

Not true of pen & paper RPGs (for the purposes of this rant, we'll use D&D 3.5, but feel free to substitute whatever works for you). In D&D, you're playing with your friends, or at least, people who share a common interest. Age old lessons of sharing and taking turns come into play, as you work alongside these people to achieve party goals. Powergaming hurts players in this environment, because one player can quite literally overshadow the whole campaign, and ruin everyone elses fun. Powergamers can skew challenge level, party rewards, even negate the need for certain party members to exist. When the warrior has AC 27 at level 3, it makes it hard for the DM to present the party with a challenge that doesn't crush everyone else. Likewise, a party of varying levels can run into similar trouble.

However, in D&D, winning isn't always good, and losing isn't always bad. A player can be tricked into fighting or killing the wrong people, can take the wrong quest or not pay enough attention to the details, getting everyone into a heap of trouble. Having the ability to retreat from a battle, and quite literally live to fight another day, can create incredibly dramatic sequences within a campaign, and give players a chance to display great depth with their characters.

That being said, I'm one of the biggest offenders when it comes to powergaming in D&D.

To be continued...

Powergaming Part 2

Those who have played games like D&D know that good DMs/GMs are in short supply. Far too often, you get a heavy handed DM who tries to force the players to follow the plot. Or, he simply doesn't pay enough attention to gauge monster encounters to the party's true strength. I feel I don't fall into this category, but that I still suck as a DM, so I try to put that duty on someone else if I can.

Not too long ago, my wife and I lived with two roommates, John and Cassie. Both of these people played D&D at one point or another in their lives, and were eager to play again. Being the pack-rat that I am, I still had my books tucked away, so I pulled them out. Feeling that four people wasn't enough, well called in two more people, my friends Tom and Drew. We talked it out for a bit, and we all decided that we'd play a standard fantasy campaign, and that Tom would DM.

After my wife gave me a metric fuckton of shit about wanting to play yet another Fighter, I opted to play the party Wizard. My wife was our Rouge, John was the Fighter, Drew played a "Priest" (Priest is to Cleric as Sorcerer is to Wizard). Cassie didn't come into the campaign until later. My wife proceeded to give me even more shit for the name I chose for my wizard:

Jameson Flamesmith

It's a stupid name, I know. However, most everyone in a fantasy scenario has a retarded name (Elminster, Gandalf, Drizzt, etc), and I felt accomplished actually having a first and last name, unlike most of the party. And it fit, being as I focused on fire magic, so I had no qualms with it.

So, I mentioned how some DMs can be very heavy handed with how they run a campaign.

Tom is a VERY heavy handed DM.

By the end of the first dungeon, our fighter had be gender-swapped via polymorph (and he lost all his gear), I had lost my soul to this worlds version of Satan, and we had horrible offended a lich, by stealing it's phylactery, without realizing that's what it was. Said phylactery was bargained away by us so that we didn't have to fight an NPC rouge thrice our level.

The lich proceeded to hound us across the continent, killing anything around us indiscriminately. We ended up evacuating two separate villages, and leading the refugees to a third city, where we had to fight off a siege against thousands of summoned undead. At this point Cassie had joined us, along with her boyfriend Mike (Cassie was another wizard, while Mike played a Paladin).

It continues in the same manner, fighting elder dragons at level 8, contesting greater demons, yadda yadda yadda. Constantly getting beaten, chased, sieged, betrayed; I decided I'd had enough.

My wizard multiclassed.

To be continued...

Monday, December 1, 2008


Ah, soloing.

Be it forced or chosen, it's almost a completely different game from teamed content. However, soloing isn't possible in most MMOs. At least, not soloing story based content. One can easily farm, or grind out a few levels solo, but eventually, you'll end up needing a team to tackle high level instances or end game missions.

Not in City of Heroes though. With the ability to adjust the difficulty of your game on a mission by mission basis, you can crank up the difficulty to where the spawns are double sized, and +3 your level, or turn it down a notch, making them even con (the five difficulties in order being Heroic, Tenacious, Rugged, Unyielding, and Invincible). Even in story arcs, turning it down to Heroic causes Arch-Villains to spawn as Elite Bosses, allowing everyone a chance at solo glory.
But where's the fun in that?

Let me introduce you to my scrapper, Pale Tiger. He solos AVs. Not solo as in "Lemme use 15 temp powers, and summon a billion allies", I mean solo, as in, just me and the AV. And this is post ED, pre claws buff. Huzzah. In fact, he soloed his first AV at level 24, without IOs. He's been pimpin' since been pimpin' since been pimpin'. You wouldn't think that such as thing is so easy, after taking a spin in the Scrapper forums.
I had planned on attempting every AV in the game. My subscription ended while I was on the story arc to fight the Envoy of Shadows. I was slowly IOing him, and even with what little he had, you could feel the bonuses. Definitely wanted to get some inherent +acc on him, it's painful fighting +3 Devouring Earth with only one accuracy IO per attack (Terra was worth 44k XP solo at level 37, that's almost twice what a level 50 hero gets for completing a mission on Invincible).
I don't like soloing in Guild Wars. I use that term, even though I'm technically teamed. I don't consider doing missions and quests with seven NPC teammates being "teamed", I call that solo. However, I'm forced to do it most of the time, since PUGs are a dying breed, at least from what I've seen. Maybe I should try looking for groups in the International dist, or European dists. I hear that you can find high quality teams that way, and that there are more people willing to PUG with you.
I guess what I'm really lamenting is that my guild is sorely inactive, and that my alliance has one too many douche bags in it. I'd drop guild and solicit myself to a mid ranked PvP guild, but both of my sister-in-laws are in the guild, and play constantly. The three of us comprise 60% of our active members. Although, honestly, even if 100% of our members were everyday active, we'd still have a small ass guild with only 13 people.
Le sigh.