Archive for November, 2009

In a Hostile Country: The Saga of Cahmel (Let’s Play Morrowind, Part 25)

30 Nov

When we last left our hero, he was seriously contemplating defecting to another house. I mean, intelligence-insulting quests? I can handle that. Larceny and murder? Comes with the territory. Harassment? Creepy, but bearable. But asking me to escort an NPC through bandit-infested territory to a town that I’d been forced to streak through twice? This isn’t so much a quest as a world tour of frustration and humiliation.

Okay, calm yourself, Cahmel. It’s not that bad. They probably won’t even remember me, right? It’s not like a drug-running nude courier tends to stick in the memory. Oh, and I’ve got a full-faced helmet now. Also, and this is important, NPCs have the attention spans of goldfish on bathtub acid. Yeah. Yeah, I should be fine.

Except for the whole escort quest part. Yeah, that’s still gonna suck.

I meet up with my “traveling companion.” I must admit, my concerns that he’d be a blundering ignoramus were immediately allayed by his choice in wardrobe. I mean, tell me this doesn’t scream, “walking across dusty ash country and trying not to get noticed by bandits.”

Yeah. I could tell this guy was just as sharp as butter.

We set out on our journey through the wastes. I stick to the roads whenever I can, not trusting him to navigate any terrain rougher than a papal game of badminton. Still, he manages to lodge himself on rocks, fence posts, stiff bits of grass, passing scribs, passing bits of scrib jerky, unusually humid air, the farts of gnats, etc, every few minutes or so.

Somehow, it’d surprise me each time. I’d be jogging along at my little clip and then I’d turn around, knowing even as I did so that he’d have mired himself against some bit of microscopic geometry. I like to imagine his expression grew a mite sheepish; I don’t know if that’s true, and I suspect it’s not, but it makes me feel better to project some sort of remorse onto his damnable smug grin.

Of course, it’s no picnic even when he’s right behind me. That bastard is slow. Maybe it’s because he won’t take a walk without a highly-trained escort, maybe it’s because he’s a sack of bureaucratic pudge, or maybe he just enjoys screwing with me…

Ooh. I bet it’s that last one.

…but he moves at the pace of a stunned sloth. Alright, maybe he’s a bit quicker than Granny Pruneface, but he’s still a burden and a half.

Still, for several minutes, wrangling this guy was the only challenge of my position. I was half-convinced that this whole story about bandit attacks was a ruse, and they just needed a more graceful way of saying, “We need someone to hold this guy’s hand, keep him on the path, and make sure he doesn’t eat too much paper while he’s away.”

That’s when I see the bandit.

He’s a Dunmer, he’s well dressed, and he’s got a magic weapon. He’s a highwayman, but he has a polite demeanor and is basically nonthreatening. Funny how this is the second such guy to appear around Pelegiad. Is this some sort of backwards gentleman-thief mecca, or is this guy a particularly pathetic copycat criminal?

Whatever. I talk to him. He’s all cordial and polite, and seems genuinely concerned for my welfare vis-à-vis him not having to kill me. I guess the whole cultured bandit thing’s supposed to endear me to him, but it’s really just irritating at this point. It’s like how someone will take something without permission or shove their shift onto you, and will act all apologetic the whole time, as if that excused the fact that they just royally screwed you over.

Right, ball’s in my court, then. Ten drakes or I have to face you in combat? Terribly sorry, dear chap, but it seems we’ve reached a bit of an impasse here. If I might be so bold as to offer a counter-proposal, I would heartily recommend you piss up a rope.

Time to make with the hacky-slashy. The fight is pretty one-sided, for all of his cultured trash talk, and he’s on the ground before I know it. Got a decent sword, too—think I might hock that for training montage money.

Luckily, I don’t’ have to dwell in Pelegiad long. I get in, get out, and try not to make eye contact with anybody. Especially not that old woman I collided with the first time. And the second time.

Glad to have that spot of bother over with, I leg it back to Vivec. Right, time to check out my next quest.

…okay, let me see if I’ve got this right. You send a team of fighters—people who are trained in combat, who you bankroll for the sole purpose of making things dead—to a dangerous Telvanni base. None of these guys report back. Your response, then, is not to send a bigger squad in their place, with mages and spikes on, but to deploy…one man. Who you’ve previously used to transport your mail.

I mean…okay. This is how I advance. Doing these quests is what I do to get a higher rank. If I want a promotion, I can’t not do these quests. And yet, when you look at Crassius Curio, my bosses’ boss, you get the sense he’d lose in a boxing match against a down comforter.

So, my question is this: does every Hlaalu intern have to be a human killing machine, or is it just me?


Lord of the Scraps: Session 1, Part 2

28 Nov

This post is late. It’s also 3000 words. So, I have an excuse, is what I’m saying.

Just in case this isn’t clear: the guy I refer to as Elvis is playing the elven cleric. From your comments, I gather I made that a little more confusing than it needed to be. No matter, he’s…well, let’s just say he’s not going to be around much longer.
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The Week to Come

28 Nov

Last week, you came out in amazing numbers to read and comment on Vatsy and Bruno. You bastards.

See, I realized I needed to put a candy apple around the razor blade that is my lengthy short story series, so I promised you guys additional LP posts this and last week. Well, you guys have met both quotas, so I set to work lining up the bonus posts.

It seemed simple enough. Extra Morrowind post the first week, extra Dwarf Fortress the next. Just have to play a little extra, won’t I? Indeed, as soon as it became clear you’d come through, I sat down for a few marathon playsessions.

I loaded up Morrowind. Did a few quests, took a few dozen screenshots–boom. In the can. The next night, I sat down, booted up, and launched Dwarf Fortress.

The fortress had fallen within fifteen minutes.

So, yeah. Since my buffer from the last week consisted of failing to farm and digging a hole, I barely had enough interesting content for one post, let alone three (keep in mind, in order for me to have a bonus post this week I’d also need a regular one).

So, I’m gonna have to fudge it a bit. Here’s what this week looks like:

  • Regularly Scheduled Morrowind
  • V&B
  • Regularly Scheduled Dwarf Fortress (this will be an out-of-character wrap up where I’ll talk about the game and show you screenshots of my tomb fortress)
  • Bonus Morrowind Post
  • D&D Summary

Fun Fact for the Week: You know how when you play a game right before bed, you sort of keep playing it in your head until you fall asleep?  Last night, I was playing a FedEx quest in an RPG. And then I had insomnia.

Related: I now know what Hell feels like.


Crossfire Tango, Part 13

27 Nov

Hope you had a good Thanksgiving, if you’re a blasted Yank like myself. Anyway, this entry’s a bit shorter because a.) it was a Holiday, b.) it was my first real day off in a few months, c.) new Pratchett book and d.) friggin’ Dragon Age.

Bruno considered himself a connoisseur of law enforcement personnel. There were the street constables, who didn’t have a thirst for justice so much as a thirst for getting paid to stand around outside and wave at people. In the unlikely event that one of these was in your way, just about anything would work to get them out of it, from bribes to lazy threats to polite enough requests. Then there was the slightly rarer, cagier breed, the patrolmen. These could be counted on to enforce the law, or at least those parts of it that let them beat people stupid with sticks. It’s often hard to talk around one of those, but luckily, they’re almost all poor fighters. Finally, there’s the special units, who have undergone the training required to hold a gun and open a door. If those were your problem, fighting was by default your only option.

The squads passing by contained all of these types, and not even grouped together with constables of their own kind. If someone who didn’t really understand how law enforcement worked had thrown down the mandate, “I want everyone you have to go here,” this would be the result.

That’s not to say it was an ineffective one. If nothing else, the thick swarms of surly-looking constables had cleared the streets of any people, or at least any conscious ones. A presence was being maintained, and a message had been sent. It wasn’t an articulate one, but given the circumstances, that was appropriate.

Bruno stepped back into the shadows, clenching and unclenching his hands. “Boss?”

“Yes, Bruno?”

“Now, I realize this is a bit of a long shot. But I feel like I should ask, just to make sure we have all of our assets accounted for.”

“Right, makes sense.”

“Did you by any chance happen to see a sawn-off shotgun of some sort on our way here?”

Vatsy stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Hm…no, I’m sorry. I don’t believe I did.”

“Right, no, that’s to be expected. Just making sure.”

“So…” Vatsy crept past Bruno and snuck a curious peek. “My. That is, in fact, a lot of police officers. More than I’ve previously seen together in one place.” Vatsy bit his lip, glancing upwards in recollection. “Hm…actually, come to think of it, I don’t believe I’ve seen that many constables before, in total. I can’t say I’ve ever felt much of a police presence in our neighborhood.”

Bruno shook his head, glancing around. “Wouldn’t guess this place sees many constables either, most days.”

“Hm.” Vatsy drummed his claws against the cobbles. “You don’t suppose they’re holding some sort of parade? Only I’ve never actually seen one, and I’ve been meaning to get around to it. I suppose I could just wait until they throw one in honor of my expertise, but that’ll probably be a few more weeks at the very least.”

Bruno shook his head, sneaking another glance around the corner. They were still mobilizing. “Shouldn’t think so. I’d say they’re here to quell a riot, actually.”

“How do you figure?”

“Place smells like a riot waiting to happen.” Bruno paused, tossing the halfbrick to himself. “Hm. If that’s true, they might be associated with the revolutionaries.”

“Really?” Vatsy straightened bolt upright. “Hang on a minute. Are you saying that if they do riot, it could be based on what I wrote?”

“I’d wager so, boss.”

Vatsy squealed in excitement, rubbing his hands together. “Delightful! I’ve never caused a riot before!”

Bruno cleared his throat.

Vatsy waved a claw dismissively. “Oh, well, obviously. One that’s not directed at me, I mean.”


In a Hostile Country: The Saga of Cahmel (Let’s Play Morrowind, Part 24)

26 Nov

Bonus Cahmel’s a bit earlier than I originally planned, but you lot were so quick to read V&B that I figured I’d get it right out. Vatsy and Bruno itself should be coming up here, followed by the next D&D post.

When we last left our silver-tongued hero, he’d just came back from a mission of bribery (mandated) and larceny (my own discretion). To my great surprise, my reward of 1000 drakes actually surpassed the sum I had to blow through getting there and doing the quest.

Bolstered by this unexpected windfall (read: getting paid), I press Uncle Crassy for more assignments. He replies that he has “no more business for someone of your rank.” Oh, that’s right, the whole point of me coming out here was to get promoted. I ask him for a rank up, and hit a bit of a snag.

See, most factions in Morrowind have two criteria for advancement. First, you have to perform enough duties. You can usually perform these any way you like: you can do almost any Fighter’s Guild quest with magic, and do almost any Mage’s Guild quest with brute force. At some point, the devs realized, “Hey, isn’t that kind of stupid? I mean, sure, you’re getting the job done, but nobody’s even checking to make sure you’re doing it right? It’s like getting promoted to the CEO of Microsoft because you’re good at firebombing Apple stores.” So they added a second criterion: you must raise one skill germane to the faction to a certain rank, and at least two other related skills to a significantly lower rank.

To the developers, this solved two issues in one. Firstly, they ensure that any verisimilitude-breaking class/faction combinations did not ensue. Secondly, they ensure that players are skilled enough to undertake any given mission (there’s no real level scaling in Morrowind, so it’s easy to stumble into a quest that’s way over your head). There’s just one tiny flaw with this system:

Morrowind has a spectacularly, luminously, gloriously broken training system.

Seriously. Most RPG forums are like libraries of exploitation, combination archives and debate floors where every crack in the game’s balance is analyzed and worried away at until it splits wide open. To the denizens of such forums, Morrowind’s training system is something of a sacred bounty. If you use training—not even abuse training, but use it at all, even unwittingly—you should know that you are breaking the game. All of it. Forever.

See, here’s how training works. You go to a trainer. This trainer will have three skills they can teach you, usually only up to a certain (high) point. You pay them a fee, and you get a skill point. You pay them another fee, and you get another skill point. If you get enough skill points to level up, you level up. You are quite literally buying your character’s progression.

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Kahdzbar’s Journal, Part 7

24 Nov

We don’t have any food. Our soil is hard as rock. Our water is spoiled and rotten. We’ve lost the only one of our number who knows how to use a weapon. Winter has set in, we’re out of supplies, we’ve just lost contact with the outside world, and we’re all going to die.

I think they wanted me to make a speech. After dinner, they expected it. I really did try to scrounge one up, but in the fifteen minutes I had to come up with something the best I could manage was, “Well, we’re still alive right now.” That’s the highlight, really. That’s the one thing we’ve got going for us right now. I just wish I could find some way to capitalize on that.

I got to my tent, got out my stationary, and sat there for two hours trying to draft a single order. Nothing came to me. There are no animals nearby to hunt. Farming has proven entirely pointless. Our water is bereft of fish or basic drinkability. The pointless excavations beneath the surface are complete, and we have nothing to fill them with but the stone these excavations produced.

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A Gentleman’s Agreement

23 Nov

Edit: Links added. I’m an idiot.

Most of you came here pretty recently, to read my Let’s Plays of Morrowind, Dwarf Fortress, and (now) Dungeons and Dragons. That’s all well and good—I have a lot of fun with those projects, and don’t see myself stopping them any time soon. But you should know that my real magnum opus, the project that I’m most passionate about, is Vatsy and Bruno.

If you came in within the past month or so, I’d imagine the weekly Crossfire Tango posts are more confusing than anything. See, how it works is, I’ve had this serial story going on for like 6 months now called Vatsy and Bruno. It’s subdivided into chapters, with Crossfire Tango being the third chapter. The first story, First Ink, ended up being about 25 standard single-spaced pages long. The second one, From Breakfast to Hell, was more like 45 pages. You can find edited, compiled copies of the first two stories here and here.

Now, I can get why you wouldn’t really want to read these. For one thing, it’s some random guy’s net fiction. You’ve got no guarantee it’ll be good. In fact, if you’ve got any experience with internet writing, you’re probably going to start out assuming it’s gonna be terrible. I don’t think it’s terrible. Well, actually, I’m not crazy about the first one anymore, but other people seem to like it. Of course, even if you do like it, you’re going to have to read almost a hundred pages to get fully caught up.

I’m the best salesman ever.

Here’s the thing. I’ve got two problems: getting people to read Vatsy and Bruno, and wasting the block of free time I’m going to have at the end of this week. I figure, why not solve both problems in one stroke?

I’m going to make you a deal.

If at least three people read Vatsy and Bruno: First Ink (for the first time) before Friday, and leave some sort of comment here, I will post an additional Cahmel this weekend. If two of those people read From Breakfast to Hell before next Friday, I’ll do another Dwarf Fortress post THAT week.

Sound good?


In a Hostile Country: The Saga of Cahmel (Let’s Play Morrowind, Part 23)

23 Nov

When we last left our hero, he’d finally given his moron employer the shaft. Finally, for the first time in like 5 quests, I’d be taking my orders from someone who didn’t make me want to beat him to death with a bit of scrib jerky.

Right, so, who am I reporting too now? I guess since that guy’s in jail, I’m going to start doing jobs for his boss. So, that would mean my current questgiver is…

Oh god.

I wonder if there are any jerky stands open this late?

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The Week to Come

21 Nov

This week, we’ve got:

  • An Announcement You Might Actually Care About
  • Cahmel
  • Vatsy & Bruno
  • D&D
  • Super Long DF I Promise
  • ??? (See Tomorrow)

Now, astute observers may have noticed the lack of a Dwarf Fortress post last week. There are a few reasons for this: firstly, I don’t think I have enough gameplay to make a compelling post yet. Secondly, I’ve had a few tests and blah blah usual mewling college excuses blah. That last sentence was pretty much a smokescreen to cover up the real problem: friggin’ Left 4 Dead 2.

That’s why, in lieu of last week’s DF post, I have this letter to give you. I actually did e-mail it to Gabe Newell, head wrangler of Valve, and I eagerly await his totally ignoring it.

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Mechanical Squirrel: Larger

19 Nov

The Dwarf Fortress post is in the works, but for now, I’ll give you guys this week’s Pretty Picture: a larger version of the mechanical squirrel I use for products.

Two things:

1.) This isn’t quite the most recent version of the image, so there’s a few mistakes–actually, I recently discovered that the tail needs fixing in the current version. Luckily, nobody’s bought one, so no harm done. Actually, some people might prefer it in its current form, since I mention in the product description that the things are dented.

2.) Yes, if I was really super serious about turning a profit, I’d probably watermark the image, but I’m gonna go ahead and just trust you guys.