Monthly Archives: November 2009

It’s the Alcoholism, Not the Infection

In honor of Left 4 Dead 2 coming out today, I give you something to spice up your Left 4 Dead classic games: behold, the Left 4 Dead Drinking Game.

As a Survivor:
Take a Drink Any time…

You Startle the Witch
You Shoot an Alarm Car
Your Team Activates a Creshendo Point
You Use Pills
Your Team Kills a Tank
You are Rescued from a Closet

As an Infected

Take a Drink Any time…
You deal enough damage to bring the survivor down one health category (green ot yellow, yellow to red, red to incapacitated, incapacitated to dead.)
You live long enough to use your special ability (entangle, pouncing, vomiting) twice in one life.

As Anyone
Take a Drink Any time…
You earn an Achievement.
The Survivors make it to the safe room.
All the Survivors die.
Francis says he hates something.
Any of the characters says the word “zombie.”

Dragon Age: First Impression

I got my copy of Dragon Age in the mail late last week, and I’ve been having a good time playing through it. I haven’t had a chance to finish the game, but I’m having a blast, and thought I’d share my impressions.

The game is a fantasy roleplaying game- knights, mages, elves, dwarves, horrible evil on the horizon, etc. I was immediately put in mind of Neverwinter Nights and Oblivion, and given that it’s Bioware, there are also some gameplay parallels to Jade Empire and Mass Effect. If you liked those kinds of games, you’re Dragon Age’s target audience, and chances are you’ll like it. If you didn’t, chances are you aren’t and won’t.

The combat is real-time, top down, and involves your party of four people up against hordes of enemies. You can easily switch between your characters, though I found keeping all my party’s abilities straight a little tough and focusing only on commanding my main character. The AI on the other characters seems fairly straightforward, and the Tactics system (very similar to FF XII’s Gambits, though your characters seem to be a little smarter when there’s no relevant Gambit/Tactic) allows you to customize certain behaviors. For example, I have it set up so my party tank automatically uses a healing potion when reduced to under 25% health, and my spellcaster automatically casts healing spells when party members are below 75% health.

Interaction with NPCs is a major part of the game. The conversation trees seem to be much more detailed than similar games, often with many different results. However, you can’t skip over NPC dialogue and just quickly read the text (or if there is a way, I haven’t found it yet)- this is a little annoying now, but I suspect it will get even more annoying in subsequent playthroughs. However, like previous Bioshock games, there are often big decisions in the dialogues.

The storyline so far seems ripe with variety and tough choices. For example, in my prologue (one of 6) as a poor elven rogue, I started on my wedding day, when the human lord sweeps in and decides to borrow several elven women for the entertainment of himself and his men. You end up storming the keep to rescue your fiancee, (or if you’re playing a female character)- cutting a bloody swath out of the keep. The events end with a very tough call on how to handle the situation which I won’t spoil here, but made me seriously take pause. There’s a lot of replay value here in seeing how various choices turn out.

That’s it for now! I’m having a blast- lots of fun (and tough!) interactions, and great dungeon environments to hack through.

The Carrot and the Stick

I have a short story idea I’ve got kicking around. It’s pretty cool. I should write it.
But I have so many reasons not to write it, and the biggest two are my xbox and my boyfriend. I love them both so much! It’s hard to tear myself away from both of them at once- if I’m not playing with one, chances are I’m, er, playing, with the other. Or sleeping. Or working.
So promising myself a reward helps. I think. So if I write this story, I get to buy myself an xbox game I wouldn’t necessarily have bought anyway.

(You’ll note that it’s not phrased as ‘No Games Until I get this Story Done.’ That would be a carrot. And Left 4 Dead 2 is coming out next week, and let’s be realistic: I’m totally buying it.

D&D Nexus II

These districts all have something in common- the destinations of their portals often wander, rather than leading to a fixed point in a single plane. As a result, they cast a wander net, allowing travelers to reach farther and more varied places. Just make sure the portal doesn’t close behind you, leaving you without a way back.

Market District
Warden: The Golden Queen (Eladrin Archfey)
Portal: The Feywild

The great Portal of the Market District changes its destination most frequently, and the district is home to the most lesser portals, making the Market District the most visited district in Nexus. The district is host to the Great Bazaar, an open air market home to many vendors hawking their wares, the sellers and clients changing daily. The majority of the trading caravans that do business in Nexus base their operations here. Tucked into the corners of the districts are warehouses on one end, and merchant villas on the other.

The Golden Queen is an Archfey, and she personifies commerce. A savvy investor with interests of her own, the business of the Market District flows around her. In other fey demenses, the weather matches the mood of the lord. Here, the markets do.

The fey links are noticeable in more ways than one- the seasons of Nexus are tied to whatever part of the Feywild the Market District links to. When it touches on the domains of the Prince of Frost, cold and snow fall on Nexus. However, this seasonal affect is more pronounced here, and the summers are hotter, the winters colder.

The Temple District
Warden: Archcardinal Joanna Excelsior (Human Cleric)
Portal: The Astral

The Temple District is home to all manner of temples, cathedrals, and shrines, and almost any religion is welcome to practice in the district. In practice, temples to evil deities are scarcer. If there’s a bastion of light and goodness in Nexus, the Temple District is it.

The Warden, Archcardinal Joanna Excelsior is an Exarch of Erathis, the Goddess of Civilization. She does all she can to keep Nexus orderly and free, and often serves as mediator during negotiations between the other Wardens. She keeps a very close eye on temples to evil gods, especially chaotic evil ones. If their priests and followers don’t follow the laws of the Temple District, out they go.

The district’s portal is most often attuned to the Astral domain of Hestavar, but occasionally is attuned to other Astral domains.

University District
Warden: Grand-Provost Zhirilith (Mind Flayer)
Portal: The Underdark

The University District is home to four prestigious universities, several massive libraries, and a host of scholars, but it is also home to a massive slave market. The district is a prosperous one, but it comes with a reason that many of the students try to ignore: their tuition fees are kept low by the District’s many slaves.

The universities include a general academic college, two competing academies specializing in arcane magic, and a university specializing in psychic training. Several independent magical research organizations have ties to the universities, and many magical orders have lodges in the city.

The district’s portal links to the Underdark, but Zhirilith often moves the location. This is used to set up trading caravans with several Underdark locations, as well as to send research expeditions into the deepest depths of the world. Slaver caravans often come through the portal, bringing their wares each way.

D&D Nexus: The City, and Three Districts

Nexus, Hub of the Planes

Rising out of the Astra Sea is a great Plateau, the city of Nexus. Tall spires jut into the skies as airships fly overhead. Nine humongous gates ring the city, each one a portal to the Planes. The city is divided into districts, each one around one of the gates, with its own culture, flavor, and dangers.

Nexus is a setting for Paragon or Epic characters in Dungeons and Dragons. It is home to a variety of fantastic creatures, and adventure in the city might be as exciting as adventure outside, but due to its proximity to Astral faring airships and portals, Nexus also makes an excellent home base for a group adventuring across the cosmos.

The Districts

Nexus is divided into nine districts, each under the control of a powerful Warden. The Wardens are supernaturally attuned to their District, granting them a degree of awareness and power over it. The Wardens, and their districts, are very different from each other, and each District is like a city unto itself.

Blade District:
Warden: Myrmidon Alexandros (Storm Titan)
Portal: Elemental Chaos

The Blade District is a place of constant battle. Its Planar Gate opens into the Elemental Chaos, and the District is home to a host of Giants, led by the Storm Titan Alexandros. The two things the Myrmidon enjoys most are fighting and watching others fight. The district is filled with gladiatorial arenas and coliseums, and a variety of different martial tournaments take place- many of the areans have their own ‘house formats’ to distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowd.

A wealthy caste of gladiator nobles, giantish, mortal, or stranger things exists as an aristocracy under the Warden. Heritage is irrelevant- only might. Sometimes the Myrmidon himself steps into the arena, and those battles are the stuff of legends.

Financial District
Warden: Prime Minister Oenerophaesatryx (Ancient Black Dragon)
Portal: The Shadowfell

The Financial District is a corruption of its former self. Once ruled by the Lich Gregarios Yalith, who was organized to the point of obsessiveness, making sure his district, the legal, bureaucratic, and financial center of Nexus ran on a steady schedule. Now Yalith is dead, slain by Oenerophaesatryx (the Prime Minister, to those who can’t pronounce her name), who has no love of bureaucracy, but a great love of wealth.

The Prime Minister has made sweeping changes to the structure of the city, but has left many institutions intact- they citizens are used to it, and they make her money. When she first took control, there was chaos, but the District seems to have settled into a status quo. The institutions of the Financial District finance and underwrite the city’s many guilds and projects, and support and back adventuring parties, magical researchers, and interplanar merchants.

Imperial District
Warden: Emperor Gha-Fiz Urs-Thane (Demon Lord)
Portal: The Abyss

While it may be officially known as the Imperial District, outsiders prefer to call it the ‘Demon District.’ The Warden of the district is an exiled Demon Lord, Gha-Fiz Urs-Thane, a maligner who delights in suffering. The demon Emperor cares not for rampant destruction or corruption of souls, but rather in the exquisite torment he inflicts on mortals. The District is home to the Emperor’s demon minions who do as they please, and a population of dregs trapped in this terrible life.

The terrible truth is that many accept this willingly. The Emperor has a power to make the wishes of mortals come true. His wishes always come at a cost- either a dire twist, or a great service to him. Every day he hears a petition to grant a wish. The waiting list to petition the Emperor is decades long, and one must be a resident the entire time, so many people live in the Imperial District waiting for their petitions. The Imperial Court also accepts bribes to move one’s petition forward in line- a rich and powerful being can see the Emperor after only a few days or weeks if the price is right.

Trapped by their desires, the hopeful petitioners live as slaves in the Imperial District, tormented by the demons. And when they are finally granted their wish, they often wonder if it was worth it.