Archive for July, 2010

Unfit for X-COMmand: Test Episode

30 Jul

I’m going to be doing a test Livestream of Unfit for X-COMmand at around 3:00 PST, July 31st–today, by the time you will most probably read this. I will be screwing around and trying to get the proportions right, but I’ll probably also begin the actual gameplay part. Might be worth popping in, to heckle my weak Procast-fu if nothing else.

The stream can be found here:

EDIT: Oh yeah, nearly forgot.

Have you ever wanted to have your organs ruptured by a burst of unnatural, nonterrestrial energy, causing you to spit up blood and breathe out a final choking breath on some godforsaken tundra thousands of miles from your place of birth?


You sure? Because–you’re sure. Well, okay, I guess.

…but if you did want that, you could sign up to be on my X-COM squadron right here. Apply below, and you can have the name of your choice applied to one of my extremely doomed X-COM operatives, where they will serve my squad with honor and courage right up until they die four minutes in. The first eight applicants get the first eight spots, but there’ll be plenty of replacement marines that will also need naming, so don’t fret if you’re like the thirtieth guy. Even if you can’t find time to follow the series, I’ll post the current roster/deaths with every announcement.

EDIT2: And we have our first international alien-fighting team!

Angelo “Jell-O” Rawr

Acro “The Knob” Nix

Gil “Trust Issues” Moriel

Dan “Not Justin” Dannerssen

Meate “9th Wheel” Loaf

Ramsey “Sponge Bath” Zsus

Val “Kilmer” Hala

Tuck “Neverlasting” Babbitt

I look forward to a few of you guys getting off the ramp.

EDIT 3: Sorry, I guess  I just took it as granted that I meant 3PM. Considering when I posted this, I really should have specified.


Wolf in the Playground: Instant Jeopardy, Just Add Bull Puckey

30 Jul

I’ll be doing this series as an out-of-character, first-person commentary on my thought processes, decisions, panic situations, schemes, plots, lies, slanders, and backstabbings. Since this whole affair was nothing if not a learning experience, I’ll be pausing occasionally to share my hard-won knowledge, compiled as the Rules of the Enlightened Bastard. I take no responsibility for the consequences that will occur should you ever apply these rules, for any reason at all, in game or out of it. You’ve been warned.

The first Day Cycle began on November 30th, 2009, at 19:14 PST. Day One of a Werewolves game is an infamously brutal affair; Day, as you may recall, is the period in which the players vote to lynch one another, villagers trying to find and neutralize werewolves while werewolves attempt to hide and sow confusion. When the game begins, players have no knowledge of anybody else’s role and absolutely nothing to speculate on, so they just have to lynch some random person and hope for the best. The Bandwagon Effect, in which one person casts a lynch vote and others follow, is especially pronounced on Day One, and if somebody points at you early on—well, you could be in serious trouble.

I came into the thread after about a half-dozen people had cast their votes, all for different people. There was a definite air of screwing around present; a few players pointed at each other as in-jokes referencing a previous Werewolves game, a few people seemed to pick random people off the list, and one player pointed at a newbie—Kopaka, who had apparently never played a game of Werewolves on the forums before—as a sort of welcoming gesture.

At the time, it seemed wise to cast my vote right there. That way I’d be sort of lodged in the middle of the pack—I wouldn’t be as visible as the first handful of people, but I wouldn’t look like I was trying to be too sneaky, like I was slipping in my judgments n at the last minute. In short, I’d be in the Sweet Spot. I hit the Add Reply button, then set about typing a suitably innocuous opening point.

For my point, I selected Dr. Bath. The odds he’d get bandwagoned were low, and it’d help to have a little wedge of separation between us in case one of us came under suspicion. That tactic was by no means bulletproof—generating this sort of fake animosity is a common tactic–, but it was a touch of misdirection, one that provided a decent return for not a lot of risk. Bath and I were both important, and if one of us fell, the other needed to be able to carry on autonomously.

I reviewed my post carefully, then clicked Send. Now to sit back and wait for the people to choose their first target.

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Covering Myself

28 Jul

Yesterday’s optimism was misplaced; my service to the state is not yet concluded. As it should by all estimates terminate at some point tomorrow, July 28th, I’ll get my content in on that day–might even try to go for two posts at once. In the meantime, you need not leave empty-handed.

I’ve been saving this, but I think I’ve got an 85% complete draft of the Vatsy and Bruno cover completed. I’m pretty damn sure this is what the final product will look like–perhaps there’ll be a few props moved around, Vatsy’s head altered a bit– so if you don’t want the surprise ruined for you, don’t open the fold.

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Abjure Thee

27 Jul

Between serving on a jury for the better part of the day and going back in for seconds early tomorrow, I just plain don’t have the time to write a post tonight. I’ve been getting little enough sleep over the past few days that if I don’t get a solid amount in before tomorrow’s court session, I probably won’t be operating at peak capacity. Once again, the state seems to insist that their gauche criminal justice thing comes before my descriptions of playing various games, so I might as well humor them.

On the bright side, tomorrow looks like it’s going to be the last day, so after that I’ll be working through this week’s content full speed ahead. I’ll probably turn out the D&D or Werewolves post next, since I need blocks of time to do the Video LP. For reasons of disk space, I don’t want to maintain too much of a buffer on those, so I pretty much serve them up as soon as they’re done–meaning that at any given time, what you can watch is all that I’ve played. Like I said, jury duty ends tomorrow, so you can expect the videos up later this week.

On the bright side: I think I’m less than a month away from having Vatsy and Bruno all edited up. I’ve got a few plans for that which I’ll discuss later–in the meantime, I’ve seriously got to sack out.


The Cyrodiil Look: Cahmel’s New Travels (Let’s Play Oblivion, Part 1)

26 Jul

Oblivion was a well-designed and entertaining RPG that provoked a massive, widespread, embarrassingly violent backlash–the kind where if you got to certain forums, at certain times, and listen real closely, you can still hear the sound of somebody taking it too seriously. Lines were drawn, communities were torn apart, scars were inflicted. It marked the only point in history where uttering the phrase, “I don’t see why lizards can’ t have feet,” would result in hospitalization.

One shouldn’t look too much into any of this; for hours of fun, you can mosey on back to that first word and substitute any RPG ever released in any franchise, ever, for computer or for tabletop. Fans like to form expectations; some would say fans of the nerdier stuff, like RPGs, tend to form more outrageous or specific expectations, and subsequently get more bent out of shape when their favorite series gets mucked with.

I’m in an interesting position. I can see exactly why people hated Oblivion, and I can sympathize and agree with almost everything bad its detractors say about the game (It’d be redundant to go into what these things are now, because I’m about to spend like 50 entries exploring those items, among many other things). And yet, I like the game enough to do a lengthy Let’s Play of it, and while it’ll never replace Morrowind in my heart, I can’t say I look back on my time playing it with anything like regret.

Here’s the thing: like Fallout 3, Oblivion is at its worst when it is compared to its predecessor. That’s not because its predecessor is much better (even if it is), it’s because the things that Oblivion does well weren’t really a part of the Morrowind experience and the things that Morrowind does well are by far Oblivion’s greatest weaknesses. Thus, if you’re coming into Oblivion without any prior expectations, you think: Good game, a few weak points. If you’re expecting a successor to Morrowind, your favoritest game ever, you think: Where the hell are my ski mask and breaching shotgun?

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State of the Skarn

25 Jul

I think we can all agree that on the grand scale of importance, written accounts of some random guy playing a video game are intensely significant. If it were up to me, I would spend the entirety of tomorrow making video computer game let’s play accounts, pausing only to edit fiction and relate the bastardized rules to parlor games. The state seems to have other plans; that’s right, the damned guv’mint seems to think their stupid justice system is more important than my content. Content’s going to be a day behind on account of jury duty.

The first content I’m going to post this week will, more likely than not, be the new Let’s Play. Yes, it’s going to be Oblivion; yes, it’s going to star Cahmel. I know I said I couldn’t get into Oblivion, but that’s proving not to be totally true. Thing is, I’ve been playing Morrowind for so long that all of the things that were fresh and novel about the game the first time around are kind of new all over again. It’s like, “NPCs actually sleep? I can fast travel between cities? NPCs don’t immediately treat me as if I’d just performed unspeakable acts against their pets? Holy Brave New World, Batman!”

And yes, I’m really going to try to get those D&D posts up more regularly. If one thing slips in a week, it’s usually those, mostly because they actually take much longer to write than posts of equivalent length. I’ve got no idea why–it’s all already happened, and I remember it fairly well, but somehow writing an account of it takes more time than coming up with something completely new. Regardless, I’ve missed a few weeks of it, and if anything I really ought to be doing extra D&D posts to make up the difference.

Speaking of the Lord of the Scraps series, for the Comment of the Week this week, I’d like to address a message Noumenon left on Part 5. Another poster commented that the party seemed evil; he replied,

It does, but so does the DM — he could run a game where none of these sickening moral choices even came up and the players could play for a chance to feel like heroes instead of bastards.

This statement makes a few assumptions. Firstly, it assumes that playing a “hero” means you’re never given difficult moral choices, which I would say is flat-out wrong. Tricky dilemmas can make playing a virtuous character all the more rewarding…not that any of the party members seem inclined to play virtuous characters, as I had figured out by that point.

This brings me to the second, more important assumption: that all players *want* to play a heroic campaign, and that I’m “evil” for denying them that. It posits that every person who plays a roleplaying game wants to step into the shoes of Prince Rockjaw Goldenboy, virtuous knight and saver of orphaned kittens with tuberculosis. Some people do enjoy that, and that’s cool and all, but not the party I played with. Their natural playstyles, and gaming personalities, ran the gamut from reasonably neutral to finger-choppingly evil. Hell, a lot of them didn’t even stop to reflect on how morally ambiguous some of their behavior was until this series started running.

After the campaign, I asked them if they wanted something a little more heroic next time–something more along the Fabled Heroes vein, which I don’t actually have a problem running. With one exception, their response was, “Not really”–the exception being an emphatic, “Hell no!”

Different groups call for different types of campaign. The presumption in this comment is that my players–and all players–want a particular kind of campaign, and that I was denying them that so that I could enact Saw-esque moral gutwrenchers on them and toy with their consciences for my own twisted amusement. Would they have showed up to the second session if this was the case? Hell, wouldn’t they have called the cops?

I’m sorry, but this comment offended me. I’m not trying to say this is how a D&D campaign should be run–the next campaign setting I’m working on is shaping up to be somewhat less bleak than this one–but it was how I ran it, and it seemed to work for everybody involved. That’s all that matters.


It’s That Time Again

23 Jul

Reader participation time! Since Uncle Rutsy’s 2nd Annual All-American Squirrel Parade Fiction Week is coming up, let’s get some terms up

For those of you who missed it last year, and have a childhood illness preventing them from following links, here’s what I need from you:

Come up with five…items…and post them below. I don’t mean “items” in the RPG sense, I mean it in the “random nouns and verbs” sense. For example, a valid list of five items would be:

1.) Sharp Cheddar

2.) Naked Mole Rat

3.) Ticket Stub

4.)Robotic Nose

5.) Jogging

Items cannot be obscene, copyrighted, adjectives, or actual people and places. A list of invalid items would be:

1.) Tom Cruise

2.) Spider-Man

3.) Bosnia

4.) Spider-Man’s privates

5.) Gangrenous

I’ll end up selecting random terms for use in a sort of improvised week-long story thing, which I’ll go into more detail about when the time comes. For now: get to it.


Ruts Plays Dark Messiah

22 Jul


This one’s a little longer to catch up, and because  I had trouble getting to a good stopping point. Enjoy.

Repost of description:

Yeah, I’m really not sure what I’m looking at for that bit at the beginning, so I took the X-COM approach and just neutralized it on sight. Part of me is skeptical that they’d a.) stick naughty bits on the demon while covering up the chest and b.) manage to slide that by the ESRB, but I ain’t taking any chances. If you’re really curious, you can probably find that cutscene on YouTube.

Also, the SILI (Shoehorned In Love Interest) demonstrates two things in this episode: 1.) she has not-inconsiderable combat ability, and 2.) she ain’t going to actually use any of it when it matters.

EDIT: Minor question–anybody else end up picking this game up? Might be interesting to host a multiplayer session at some point.


Wolf in the Playground: Introduction and Rules

22 Jul

In late November, 2009, I received a notification that I had been hand-picked to lie, mislead, bear false witness, distribute fake information, cast blame on innocents, and befriend complete strangers before using them and stabbing them in the back. My purpose would be to impersonate a good and virtuous individual, claiming to seek order and justice, while busily working to undermine these very things from within. My goal would be anarchy; my watchword, treachery.

You see, I had just been assigned my role in one of the Giant in the Playground forums’ many Werewolves games.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Werewolves, the rules we used are fairly simple, which is why I’m going to spend like 800 words explaining them. Don’t let this block of text discourage you; you don’t have to understand the rules 100% going into this series to appreciate it, and besides, it’s an interesting game that you might want to know how to play in the future.

(If you have any specific questions, feel free to ask them in the comments.)

There are two main groups, the Villagers and the Werewolves. Each of the players is given assigned a role within one of these groups—in our case, there were 24 villagers and 8 wolves. The goal of the Villagers is to find and lynch the Werewolves; the goal of the Werewolves is to systematically annihilate the Villagers. Importantly, only a few players start out knowing what anybody else’s role is.

Every turn in this game consists of two cycles, Day and Night (these are abstract titles, and in fact many “days” would be 72 hours long to give all of the players enough time to weigh in). During the Day, players discuss the situation in the forum thread and debate amongst themselves which players might be Werewolves. They then cast a vote as to which player should be “lynched” at the end of that Day cycle. A player is lynched every Day, and one must cast a lynch vote every couple of Days or else they will be automatically ejected from the game (this means you can’t just abstain and keep a low profile). Whichever player receives the most lynch votes is cast out of the game, and his or her role is revealed for posterity. The goal of Villagers during the Day is typically to find and weed out the Werewolves, taking them out one by one until none remain.The goals of the Werewolves during the Day are generally as follows:

  • Appear to be innocent to avoid getting lynched (just another villager, I’m not suspicious or nothing, move along, HEY LOOK OVER THERE IT’S A WOLF oh sorry you just missed it)
  • Verbally come to the defense of any Werewolves who are in danger of being lynched. You can’t be too blatant about this, or else you yourself might end up looking suspicious (Hey, guys, MikeyLikesIt isn’t a wolf, he’s a model citizen! A veritable saint! He donates money to all of the trendy charities, and even a few obscure ones for indie cred! You shouldn’t lynch hi—oh, you did? Oh, it turns out he’s a wolf? Whoopsie! Say, why are you all looking at me like that?)
  • Create chaos (accuse villagers of being wolves, distort the truth, throw blame around, etc)
  • If you’re feeling daring, try to eliminate a Villager by way of vote. Start making accusations against a Villager, rouse some rabble, maybe get a bandwagon started with a few other wolves—if they get enough votes, Villagers die just as easily as Wolves. For the same general reasons as number 2, this can look suspicious if you overdo it—say, how come it’s always the same five guys who start slinging accusations at the model citizens?

Once the Day is complete, and a player has been removed from the game, Night begins. During the Night, the Werewolves all send private messages to the person running the game identifying the player they would like to assassinate. Whichever player receives the most votes is removed from the game as if they had been lynched, and their role is revealed as the next Day cycle begins. However, if the person the Werewolf votes to assassinate turns out to be another Wolf, there is no kill; instead, the Wolves merely become aware of each other, and may conspire together in the future.

This is the basic shape of the game: Villagers try to find the Werewolves during the day and cower in fear during the night, Werewolves try to distort the truth during the day and murder priority targets/find one another during the night.

Adding complexity to the game are Special Roles. Most of the Villagers (of which there are 24) are just generic dudes with no special powers beyond lynching people during the Day and getting picked off one by one during the Night. By the same token, most of the Werewolves (of which there are 8) have no extra abilities besides voting on which people to assassinate at Night. However, there are a handful of Special Roles—seven for the Villagers, two for the Wolves—which have extra abilities. In the game we played, the Special Roles were as follows:

Special Villager Roles

Masons: These three villagers know each others identities. Thus, they can safely defend one another from lynch votes and trust one another in tumultuous situations.

Baners: These two villagers have the ability to shield people from harm. At Night, when the Wolves are mailing in their assassination votes, Baners can pick one player to protect from Wolf attacks. Basically, if they decide that buggybumpers87 is in danger of being assassinated for some reason, they can send in a private message saying, “I’m baning buggybumpers87.” Then, if the wolves do vote to assassinate buggybumpers87, they’ll be informed that their attempt was blocked. Now, this only works if a relatively slim majority of wolves vote for buggybumpers87—once the wolves have found one another, and are voting as a bloc, they can often bypass the best attempts of baners. Each of the baners starts out in contact with one of the…

Scriers: Every night, these two villagers can request to learn the role of another player. There is a certain chance (50% for one, 25% for another) that these scries will yield incorrect information; the chance of failure can be reduced by spending multiple days scrying the same individual.

Special Werewolf Roles

Devil: The Devil is the evil version of the Scrier. He can determine, with 100% accuracy, what role any other player during the Night cycle. As a tradeoff, he may not cast an assassination vote like the other Wolves, not unless he’s the last one standing. The Devil role is unique in that unlike the other roles, it is not cast by the person running the game—it is instead cast by the…

Beast: The main villain. Starts out in contact with the Devil, who he handpicks from the players roster before the rest of the roles are assigned. His vote is worth three other votes when it comes to assassinations, and if the Villagers scry him, his role is always erroneously reported as “Villager”. Most importantly, because of his commanding votes, he’s in charge of the wolves. He decides who to assassinate and who to spare, who’s protected and who’s exposed, who’s a safe kill and who’s too risky to touch. He can even direct Day actions, requesting that the wolves he’s in contact with rally around certain targets or disseminate certain sentiments. Basically, his job is to do this. In short, if you’re running a Werewolves game that you want to make interesting, you pick the most treacherous, foul-minded, snake-tongued, duplicitous bastard you can find to fill your Beast role.

Needless to say, when the invitation arrived, I was flattered.

I was also more than a little nervous. I’d only ever played on Werewolves game before, and I was saddled with a Neutral role then—neither Villager nor Wolf, I won as long as the other Neutral player was eliminated. It was a fairly anticlimactic game for me, a lot of bad leads and apathetic finger-pointing, which was then compounded when the other Neutral went on walkabout halfway through and was automatically booted from the game, granting me victory by default. It wasn’t exactly a trial by fire, and it gave me no insight into how the Good and Evil sides played their roles—in fact, when I (casually) asked what the situation was a few times, I was given the brush-off and told that it was none of my business. Bottom line is, I was by no means prepared to lead the evil side this time around, unless you count 18-odd years of being a bastard as “preparation”.

Not that I ever considered turning the role down, mind. It’s just that this little caper had the potential to be real interesting. And by “interesting,” I mean, “painfully short-lived.” And by, “had the potential,” I mean, “almost certainly would.”

You’ll see what I mean next post.


Previous/Next Functionality Added

20 Jul

I usually save this sort of thing for State of the Skarn posts, but this is a fairly significant announcement, so I’ll just come out with it. I’ve crowbared in a previous/next function, as seen on Twenty Sided–series navigation no longer requires hours of time, special tools, and the assistance of friendly natives.

If I were, for example, to post a link to the first ever Let’s Play Morrowind post–and if I were to have spent half an hour going back, locating, and manually editing each of the 50+ Cahmel posts to all fit into a single Let’s Play Morrowind category–you would be able to use that link as a starting point to effortlessly read the entire series, start to finish. Well, you’d still have to read it. Or get somebody to read it to you, I suppose. I won’t judge you that much.

Anyway, this was requested feature #1, and now you’ve got it. I’m guessing feature number two is going to be more pictures of naked people; I’ll get to work on that as soon as my webcam is set up.


EDIT: Now that I look at it, the category displayed on those is still Let’s Play, not Let’s Play Morrowind. It will still work, but there’ll be some Kahdzbar posts mixed in that you can easily skip past. Still, I’ll probably go back and remove the redundant categories anyway.