Monthly Archives: October 2006

Everything New is Old Again

I got GW Nightfall this weekend.

I remember my first Guild Wars character, Black Willow.  It was April, 2005.  I randomly stopped by Electronics Boutique to reward myself for finding a new job; I was fascinated by the idea of a MMORPG without monthy fees, grind, high level caps, and with a focus on player skill instead of hours played.

It was day one of the Guild Wars launch.  There were probably Beta testers out there somewhere, but other than that, no one knew what to expect.  It was a fresh horizon, and every area, every quest, was a new frontier, a new adventure.  There was no Iron Dragon Society, and I had no accumulated wealth to go upon.  I had to scrimp and save for every piece of armor.  Every new skill was a ‘whoa’ moment; it was something I had never seen before.  You had to work to get your Fur Squares; the Expert Salvage Kits didn’t show up until Yak’s Bend, and to get there, you had to walk uphill.  Both ways.  And we liked it.  I was level thirteen, which meant I was hot stuff.

I introduced GW to Matt, and he introduced it to Tommy and Laura, and thus the IDS was born.   I had allies!  By that time I was up to the Shiverpeaks and the Ring of Fire (Matt got there first), and I needed them.

I bought the strategy guide, rolled up two more characters- Willow Arcadia, my monk, and Roller Bow Lady, my ranger.  This time through, I had the benefits of a large gold and materials stockpile to draw from, and could easily find end-game weapons for my characters to use in the mid-game.  The second time through was keen, but the third seemed like a chore in some ways.

Factions came.  Unlike Prophecies, I knew full and well what the story was going in:  with Proph, you know it’s “something about the Charr,” and that doesn’t even take you very far into the game.  With Factions, it’s “something about the Luxons and Kurzicks, and also Shiro.”  Anet spread the word far and wide about Cantha, and the setting was pretty cool.  But if you were paying attention, you knew exactly what you were getting into: an early game of training, followed by awesome street-level-fighting (still cool, and I’m hoping we see more metropolitan explorable zones in the future), then a mid-game focusing on something about the Luxons and Kurzicks, and then and end game to kill this Shiro fellow.

(And Shiro gets name-dropped in the second mission.  In Prophecies, the identity of the end boss isn’t really explicitly clear until the end of the second-to-last mission.)

Fun yes, but not the same fun.

Elona.  It’s based on Africa.  The Dark Continent.

Unlike Factions, the plot of Nightfall is kept under wraps.  I know there’s the Sunspears, and they fight evil or something, and I’m one of them.  And there’s an ancient evil, or something.  And I can’t wait to find out more.

And I’m not giving myself all the money I need to twink out my character.  I’m getting her gear the hard way.  I’m playing a Paragon, and I’ve done no research into what skills they have.

That sense of wonder is there again.  I zoom out, and look at the Elonan continent map, and I have no idea what awaits.  I look forward with anticipation.  What awesome skills will I get?  What heroes are there for me to have?  What’s going to happen next?

And to top it off, I’m level seven.  Which means that I am hot stuff.

The Longest Night

Daylight Savings Time.  Other people get to sleep an extra hour.  I get to work an extra hour.  And turn all the clocks back.

Speaking of work…

Coworker #2:  This is so stupid.  I took an online “What Desperate Housewife Are You?” Quiz, and it told me I was Eva Longoria.

Me (not really caring):  Uh, so?

Coworker #2:  Well, she’s always sleeping around and stuff.  I don’t… I mean, well, (laughs).  But I’m not materialistic!

My Interview With a Pyramid Scheme

Today I had an inteview for a pryamid scheme.

How did this happen?  Let me start.

I’m looking for work.  My resume’s on monster.  Wednesday I called back a company (to be referred to as Real Company) who had contacted me, with me saying I was interested in talking to them.  They said great, and wanted to interview me on Thursday at 4pm.  I work 3rd shift, so that’s when I’m usually waking up, but I can get up early and get there.  They emailed me some mapquest directions and forms they wanted me to mail out.

I wasn’t able to open their attachments (I suspect I know why, the problem is solved), but I emailed them that I was able to google their offices, and I was willing to come early to fill out paperwork.  This email, of course, was sent at 4 AM, so I wouldn’t be hearing back from them before I went to bed.

I got a call at noon, from so and so at such and such a company.  Note that I was dead asleep, and I do not make my best decisions at noon.  Something about an interview.  Something about where they were located- no they didn’t have offices, it was a full or part time position and they worked out of their homes (hmmm- maybe this woman worked for Real Company and was using her work email domain?  I don’t know what I was thinking), and I should meet her at a local restaurant.  On Friday.  At 4.  “Huh?”  I asked.  Not today?  “No, I can’t make it today, I have something else scheduled.”  I figured it was fine, reset my alarm for later.

(Wierd tidbit:  when companies come to you through Monster, they don’t seem to want to talk about specifics of what the job actually is until you’re there in person.  This has been my experience even with the reputable companies!)

When I woke up, I realized what happened, and called Real Company.  Awkward question:  “So, uh, did you call me earlier today?”  I explained what happened apologized, and the recruiter laughed, said it was ok, and we rescheduled for Monday.

(Also, I didn’t realize it at the time, but the recruiter from Real Company is named Mary Short Middle Name, Two Syllable Last Name, and it’s all said fast like one word.  the recruiter from Pyramid Scheme is named Mary Short Middle Name, Two Syllable Last Name, and says it the exact same way.  No wonder I thought it was the same person!)

So that’s how I got scheduled for an interview at Pyramid Scheme.

So I was talking about it the night before with a friend, about how I was interviewing with a pyramid scheme, but in a ‘lower case’ sense of the word- you know, where you are a commission-based salesperson out of the home, and someone else makes the real money.  How little did I know.

I met with Mary at the Local Restaurant, and we did a little bit of chatting with one of the staff people- I used to do assissted living in the neighborhood, so I’d come by almost weekly with two disabled adults, and Mary comes by often too.

Mary tells me a little bit about the company; essentially it’s commission based marketing/sales something for telecommunications networks, and makes some boasts about how its really done well on the coasts and is ready to catch on in the Midwest (where I live.)  She’s met the guy who started the Madison branch of the company, and he’s a “really honest guy.”  The parent company is based in Kentucky, it was founded in 2001, and there’s a profit graph with only one number on it and absolutely no context.  (She has a laptop with a powerpoint presentation.)

The first five-ten minutes are so are pretty much pure rhetoric about self-empowerment, go-getting, setting your own pace, word of mouth advertising, 5% of the people owning 95% of the wealth and how we should try to be one of those 5%, and “unlimited income potential”.  (She actually kind of scoffs at that phrase, which is a little bit to her credit.)

After that, there’s a graph where it says “Recruiter/Trainer $598, Manager $298, Salesperson $75,” with some confusing context.  I’m trying to parse the information on the screen, when she says

“I wasn’t sure if I could start out as a Trainer, but I figured I could risk $300.”

That makes me snap to attention.

“I’m not interested in a company where I have to pay for employment.”

That took the wind out of her sails.  I was ready to leave right then and there.  Then she said this “I respect that, but hear me out- I need people to manage my staff- and I’m willing to pay your $300.”

Ok, I don’t get up to leave, but my bullshit detectors are now on overdrive.

Now, if it was me, and I was working for Pyramid Scheme, I would gloss over the whole pryamid-scheme aspects of the company at that point and focus on the whole fake-income method cover-story.  But no.

Thus far, I was still thinking that this was just a sales scam.  Then I saw the next few slides, and was explained how I earned money by getting people to sign up, and when they got others to sign up, and how after a certain number, that ammount increased.

It wasn’t just a Pyramid Scheme.  It was a blatant, blatant Pyramid Scheme.  It was an insult to my intelligence.

So I said, flat out “This is a pyramid scheme.  I’m not going to have anything to do with it.”

She said she respected my decision… but that I should mention them if I knew anyone who was looking for money.  I could tell that she was really desperate for me to sign up.

I have her business card… I’m thinking of contacting the BBB and some of the companies she claimed that they partnered with and letting them know what happened.

Agon is a Harsh Mistress

This session report cross-posted across the intarnet. 

Tim, Len, and myself gathered for another session of blood, sweat, and glory.

After spending many interludes allowing Alastor to regain his wounds (and Praxis to milk the system for d12 God Oaths), and me telling them they needed to own missile weapons and not split up all the time, what do they do?

They split up.

Specifically, Praxis went to challenge Orpheus for leadership of the tribe, and Alastor went to sneak Proctus (the MacGuffin) out of the area.  They agreed not to join in the other’s challenge.

Praxis and Orpheus had a Great Hunt nonviolent combat, which led to Orpheus taking 4 wounds and ceding to Praxis.

Alastor got to Proctus ok, but I made getting away from the tribe with him a conflict with 5 wolves and 5 men, all minions.  Dire Wolf being dead, the wolves had no name die, but the men were pretty darn kickass.  5d6 + d6 + d8 + 5 is crazy!!!  Alastor got some Glory mopping up a few minions, but they took him down pretty darn good.

Alastor’s name die went up to d10.  I cackled with glee.

Back at the camp, a celebration was held for the new chief.  The traitor Alastor and the runaway, Proctus, were brought to Praxis for judgement.  Listening to Orpheous’s advice on the customs of the tribe (they wanted a sacrifice to show the city dwellers to stay out of their territory), and announcing his divine heritage and saying that Proctus was offlimits, a compromise was reached:  Alastor would be sacrified in Proctus’s stead!  (Alastor was none too keen with this resolution.)

More interludes to get Alastor back down to healthy… I think by this point I had more strife than I started with, and one of the NPCs I had written up was still in play (Orpheus).

Praxis escorted Proctus back to town, and restored him to the temple (ding! sub-objective completed!)

Meanwhile Alastor was beaten and left for dead by the Wolf Tribe.  I made this a dangerous obstacle challenge, because you know, they can’t kill him!  The point is how roughed up is he?  Alastor failed, but got like 8 glory for getting beat up and left for dead.

Together again, Alastor and Praxis began searching for rumors about the construction of the great fleet, which was clearly taking manpower away from the righteous festival.  They learned it was masterminded by Zagreus, the leader of the city, a “giant of a man,” and it was being build to wage a war of expansion.

Praxis dressed himself up real nice as a chieftan and Alastor snuck into the castle; I treated this as one challenge to get them inside.  Alastor took an Advantage challenge, and got an advantage “Zagreus’s Food is Poisoned.”

Praxis and Alastor (disguised) met in the council chambers, where they found out that Zagreus was a cyclops!   😯   Some talk about gods and hubris, and the virtues of Dionysus vs. Ares ensued.  Praxis talked some major trash, and Zagreus decided to deal with things the way 24-strife point Cyclops tyrant-kings are prone to do-with violent challenges.

The monster rules came out, and people groaned.  Praxis only had 3 divine favor in his pool.  (In order to let Zagreus be an “intelligent monster,” I built him with the Man rules, and then added the Monster Invulnerability as a strife advantage, costing 3, based loosely on the resurrection power.)  I told them of the secondary objective “discover Zagreus’s weakness,” and about fleeing options, but Alastor divinely-empowered his weapon and went to whup-ass.

Zagreus creamed Alastor (Zagreus had 1d10 Name, 1d10 Athletics, 1d12 Sword, a 3d6 Sword and a normal Shield, 1d8 Offense, 1d8 Defense, and the power Multistrike 1.  Alastor had 1d10 Name, 1d6 Athletics, and 1d10 Sword.  Ouch.)  Praxis ran away.

Interludes followed for Alastor to heal himself, and for Praxis to gain divine favor and lose impairment (and remotely heal Alastor).  A single conflict broke Alastor out of Zagreus’s dungeons, and they decided to set up an ambush for Zagreus, by spreading rumors of Alastor’s appearance.

Big final fight: we decided to play for all the marbles here, with the festival of Dionysus hinging on the party’s defeat of Zagreus.  Zagreus showed up with 12 soldier minions, and the battle was joined, starting with 5 point weapon power-up expenditures from both player characters.

Praxis was Zagreus’s early target, and responded by burning through the Fate track to up his name die to d12, and Alastor soon followed suit!  Good positioning let the heroes focus fire on the mooks and keep Zagreus in check, but Praxis was downed by concentrated mook fire and Zagreus’s attacks, and Alastor was not too soon after.  They had both filled up their entire fate track, and Praxis had 6 legend, with Alastor having 5, so we agreed that they both died then and there.

One thing I noticed was that mooks were really really powerful- I wonder if the “kill an extra minion on a victory” option should be available (maybe it is and I was just forgetting it, but I think I read about it being an option and some people not liking it.)

The other thing is that there’s a HUGE death spiral in combat- each wound makes your next action, or all further actions worse.  If you’re outmatched, it only gets worse.  I think this was exaggerated by the fact that we only had 2 players.

But worse, there’s a meta-death-spiral.  When you get defeated, it takes a ton of interludes to get back to full health (a larger or more cooperative party can cut this down, and I suggested lots of Divine-Favor using ways they could boost their heal rolls too.)  Len said he thought there were 30+ interludes taken, although I didn’t keep track.  I do know I ended the game with 115 strife (and joked that I could easily bring in the four cyclopsian brides of Zagreus, if I so desired.)  The only way to break out of that seems to be to abandon the quest after taking interludes, wiping the strife slate clean.

All in all, a good time, although still some stumbling with the rules.  Everyone they agreed they wanted to play again (although with another player or two), and that they were getting the hang of things.

Return of Classic Quotes

They just won’t stop talking!

Coworker #2:  Willow, my drawer is $100 short.

Me:  Let me see.  No, you’re $100 over.

Coworker #2:  What?  Why would that be?

Me:  I’m looking (starts going through computer files).

Coworker #2:  Could it have anything to do with the fact that the drawer was over $100 when I came in?

The following are all excerpts from our employee logbook:

Coworker #2:  (highlighted)  “OH, GOOD MOROW COWORKER #!”

Coworker #2:  “I know you and you know who (Madra) hate me, the man told me, that’s okay.  I still love each and last one of you!”

(I have no idea what to make of this.  I don’t know who Madra is, either.)

Coworker #2:  “Guess what?  I get to stay in the dells at a resport for $69 a night, awesome!  I Rock, yeah!”

(Best Western employee rates are $39.  There’s probably one in the Dells.)

Hotel General Manager: “Please keep notes pertaining to hotel information only.”

Some Agon Actual Play

Tim, Len, and myself met for a rousing session of killing things (and taking their stuff).

The night started off a little humorously, Tim’s computer couldn’t be connected to both his printer and my portable drive that the character sheets and my adventure notes were stored on.

None of us had played before, but I had read through the rules several times. I (awkwardly) walked them through the process of creating a character. I also explained the rules as we went along (we were using the rated help-oath variant, where d4 help is worth 0 oaths, d10/d12 is worth 2, and +1 is worth +1)

Len came up with Strong-Limbed Praxis, Son of Dionysus. (“His name is law.” -Tim) Praxis specializes in swords, with a d10 in that ability, and has a daiklaive-like weapon (treated in game terms as two swords.) He had a scattering of d8 and d4 traits.

Not to be outdone in the d8 name die or d10 fighting departments, Tim made Alastor the Monster-Slayer, Son of Apollo. Like his companion Praxis, Alastor also has a d10 in swords, and two swords. However, ALL his other traits were d6.

Praxis and Alastor both ended up owing each other oaths- from the challenge their own player issued! Upon arriving on the island of Serifos (detailed on the Agon Forge forums, but my own players stay out!) and the island of Serifopolis, they were granted a visitation from Dionysus, who demanded that his son and companion insure that his Sacred Festival would take place. (Note: Dionysus never specified when the festival was supposed to take place; Praxis seemed to be under the impression that Dionysus wanted it immediately. Praxis also seemed to have a love-hate relationship with his dad, heavy on the hate.)

They thus got the Primary Quest Objective: Arrange for the People of Serifopolis to hold Dionysus’s Sacred Festival, and the Secondary Objective: Discover the sources of opposition to holding the Sacred Festival (note to my players: this objective is not yet achieved!)

(Also note to my players: I didn’t mention it, but this quest has 9 secondary objectives, which means there’s a lot of stuff going on and I have a lot of Strife to play with, but you get more glory for finishing it.)

Serifopolis was a city of many temples, so our heroes decided the best place to start would be at the Temple of Dionysus. Praxis quickly realized that there was no priest there, and the acolytes explained that the priest, Proctus, was on a pilgrimage to the seven shrines. (“Doesn’t he know the festival is supposed to be today?”- Praxis)

Praxis attempted to talk the acolyte into revealing the location of the shrines. I made this a conflict against 2d6 (the base difficultly), not bothering to write the acolyte up as an NPC. Praxis didn’t want to reveal his divine heritage (he doesn’t like being his father’s errand-boy), and rolled poorly, and the tight lipped acolyte sent him on his way.

Alastor took another approach: using Might, he beat the information out of the acolyte! One successful contest later, Alastor had the location of the seven sacred shrines.

(Completed Secondary Objective: Find out where Proctus went.)

Praxis and Alastor decided to split up to cover more ground and see who could get to the most shrines; I believe this was a mistake from a system standpoint; Agon seems designed to challenge the party as a group, and by splitting up, the balanced challenge provided by the GM was thrown out of whack. In the future, I’ll probably encourage the group to stick together.

Praxis had a challenge obstacle against a raging river, which he swam across; Alastor had a color scene with a tribe of Stone Men guarding some of the shrines, but allowing him passage, and then a challenge obstacle with a sheer cliff (which he failed at, taking impairment.)

In the woods near the fourth (and therefore final shrine, where of course the target NPC would be) Praxis found himself hunted by a pack of wolves and a giant wolf- Dire Wolf, totem animal of the Wolf Tribe. This was handled as a non-violent physical combat, with us seeing the initative rules, wounding rules, and attack/defense splits. There weren’t any divine favor, help, oaths, or creative ability usage. The Dire Wolf used Hunt, and Praxis used his Insight or Cunning (don’t remember) to evade him. Thanks in large part to his name die advantage (d8 vs d4), Praxis was able to evade Dire Wolf- and rack up an amazing 16 glory (highest wound plus Dire Wolf’s 10 value- overpriced in this encounter because of the Ambush and Swift abilities. There’s the problem with a group splitting up.)

Alastor approached the final shrine, and was set upon by wolves and humans, led by Orpheus, chief of the Wolf Tribe. Adamant that no one violate the tribe’s territory, Orpheus was still willing to listen to what such a mighty warrior had to say, especially when that warrior announced his intention: Alastor declared that he wished to join the Wolf Tribe!

(Orpheus was also a 10 point enemy, to even the chances between Praxis and Alastor. However, Tim took a non-violent route, and it didn’t seem like an extended conflict thing to me, so he only ended up with 1 glory.)

Praxis tried to sneak into camp, but was spotted by Orpheus, Alastor, and company. Alastor’s quick wit revealed Praxis as another would-be tribe-member, confusing Praxis, but saving him from immediate violence.

Interludes followed, in which the Interlude rules were taken for a spin, and Praxis ended up owing Alastor several oaths. The warriors entertained the Wolf Tribe with Music, and particpated in a carthartic Spear throwing contest.

Praxis and Alastor were able to see Proctus, and discovered that the Wolf Tribe planned to butcher him as an example to the people of Serifopolis not to violate their territory. It wasn’t made obvious what they were waiting for.

(Completed Secondary Quest Objective: Travel to the Sacred Shrines. Incomplete Secondary Quest Objective: Rescue Proctus from the Wolf Tribe)

The next morning, the warriors were awakened early by Orpheus and the Wolf Tribe. For two such promising iniatites as theirselves, they were treated with a special hunt: they would have to fight Dire Wolf himself! (I spent 6 strife to heal the damage from the previous challenge.)

A lot of Divine Favor was spent in this fight, but no Creative Abilities were used, and Help was minimal. Thanks to early use of Swift and Praxis being a right bastard, Dire Wolf was only within range for most of the first part of the combat. Alastor scored the first four wounds on Dire Wolf, but took heavy damage himself.

Note that NONE of the combatants had any ranged weapons! I will have to grill Tim and Len for whether or not their characters have bows or javelins, since there’s no downside to doing so, and with swords you can’t attack more than 2 range bands away.

There was a lot of movement, and lots of use of the Tactics/War Cry/Battle Lore abilities, which seemed very underpowered. (Someone has a temporary penalty, so you Tactics vs. them, making them lose their penalty and gain a new one, and then they just end up using it on some opposed roll you don’t have much control over.) I suspect I’ll be instituting a house rule that by spending an extra victory on such a roll, you can choose what roll it applies to over the course of the next round (before the roll is made).

After a series of good rolls by Dire Wolf (with the exploding die use of Divine Favor, which seemed to be the most popular option), Alastor was disabled, giving me a sweet 8 strife, and him +1 fate (to be fair, I did tell him about his option to try to flee, which probaby would have worked since Dire Wolf didn’t have as good positioning. He chose to stay and fight.) Praxis soon swept in, and mopped up with Divine Favor powered extra attacks. 9 Glory for Alastor, 11 for Praxis. Dire Wolf bit a big chunck of Alastor, but was struck down by Praxis.

At this point, we called it for a night. Praxis told me his plan- challenge Orpheus for leadership of the Wolf Tribe, which I think is way cool. I wanted time to review the rules, with my play experience in perspective.

Anyway, we’ll likely be playing again in a week, and there’s room for a player or two more.

Kitties are Crazy

Someone called Crazylady has chosen This Way Lies Madness as one of her favored links.  I have no idea who this person is, but she likes cats and her blog is kind of wierd, so I thought I’d call attention to her blog.  That is all.

Edit:  I seem to have misread the url, since Crazylady doesn’t exist anymore.  Or she deleted her blog.  Or I’m just going nuts.

The View From the Top

Crossposted to the IDS forums.

I stumbled across a link to this blog post over on

Wow. It really puts some things in perspective.

We have things really good here in GW land. High levels and massive loot are easy to find. There have been periods where I haven’t played for weeks (except for checking in occassionally) because I needed a break. You know what? I really value that. On top of that, I’m not paying a monthly fee. I could set the game down, and not come back for a year, and pick up where I left off.

(That said, I’m sure *someone* out there, not necessarily in this guild, is killing themselves trying to farm out some of the more onerous titles, or complete EVERY bonus mission with EVERY character they have. You don’t have to beat Prophecies, Factions, and Nightfall each a dozen times.)

So if anyone reading this is feeling pressure to “succeed”, stop. Relax, take a break. Go for a walk or something. Do your homework. Read a book. It will do you good.

Oh Noes!

Monday night, I tripped over a PS2 controller, pulling my PS2 to the floor.  Since then, any DVD or PS2 game freezes up after about 5 minutes.

I talked to Sony tech support and they’ll replace it for $45, so I’m not totally hosed.  But I’ll be without my game and DVD player for a week, week and a half, which sucks big time.

I am SO looking forward to wireless controllers on my next gen console.

Weapons of the Gods is Awesome

Just picked it up last night, and I’ve been reading through it.  It’s a keen, keen game.  I’ve been randomly making DBZ powerup faces and making Wuxia noises.  It’s probably for the best that I don’t have co-workers.

“Stocku Footage ATTACK!”

(Some rules examples:  there’s target numbers for actions that are literally impossible, but the GM thinks would be cool anyways, ultimate Kung Fu techniques and Weapons of the Gods to buy, and resource tracking and spending.)