Oct 122010

It was going to be about traffic. Specifically, how traffic was delightful yesterday and today was back to the usual ridiculous crap. No doubt, this was due to Columbus Day and people taking (or having) the day off of work, thereby decongesting the roads.

Had a fairly excellent weekend. Saw Easy A on Friday, which was surprisingly good. Going into it, we were discussing how we missed John Hughes movies. Lo and behold, this one is of similar spirit and directly references John Hughes in dialog a number of times. Good on them. Emma Stone is gorgeous and Stanley Tucci is brilliant. I shall say no more. Saturday, we spent the evening with Talia and Jeff at Talia’s parents’ lakehouse playing drunken Scattergories. Sunday was another WoW day. With Steve’s timely assistance, Cody got her Glory of the Hero achievement, and I whittled my own list down to 5 achievements remaining.

The three of us and some pugs finished off my Glory of the Hero last night! In before the patch!

Today marks patch day, which in turn means that massive, massive changes are occurring to the way some fundamental mechanics in the game have functioned for several years and, in some cases, since the beginning. Cody and I are both very excited about these changes, as they seem aimed at making gameplay smoother and more intuitive. Of course, the downside is that we likely won’t be able to log on tonight, since the servers are experiencing extended downtime while the patch is deployed. Further, there is already a list of known issues to watch for.

We still have no idea what to do for Halloween.

Mount Up

 Posted by at 16:44  No Responses »
Oct 012010

As it stands right now, Jakosta has 51 mounts. Cody and I are gunning for the Mountain o’ Mounts achievement, which itself rewards a mount for obtaining. The road from 51 to 100 is largely a matter of rep-grinding and spending “money” (be it gold, badges, honor points, or whatever else). Then there are the remaining few that have to be obtained through RNG1.

Why do this? With a few exceptions2, a variety of mounts doesn’t afford you any material benefit. They’re vanity rewards, offering little more than a wider selection of things to look at while you flit from place to place, and dubious bragging rights. The honest answer is…because accumulating stuff is fun, even if it’s virtual stuff.

Right now, I’m running dailies for the Argent Tournament, the Hyldnir, Netherwing, the Sha’tari Skyguard, and pursuing the Mag’har quest line. The latter three are in pursuit of reputation-dependent mounts; the mounts cost gold, but you can’t buy them without an Exalted reputation. The Tournament dailies reward Champion Seals, which are then used in purchasing mounts. The Hyldnir daily is RNG from the quest reward. After that, it’ll be on to the PvP-based mounts, which are fairly uniform in price and fairly quick to obtain. The most expensive mount cost 50,000 honor points. It’s a trivial matter to get over 35,000 honor points through a single Wintergrasp victory coupled with turning in the weekly Wintergrasp quests. The remaining 15,000 points can be gleaned from repeating Wintergrasp or doing other battlegrounds.

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  1. Random Number Generation, or chance. Think of it like a die roll. You have some percent chance to see something drop on any given occurrence of a particular event, such as a mob dying. The game “rolls” this chance when the mob dies. What you get from the mob in loot is the result. []
  2. There are a handful of very difficult to obtain mounts that are faster than the “normal” epic mounts. “Normal” epic flying mounts afford a 280% speed increase over the character’s base running speed on the ground. “Extreme” epic flying mounts afford a 310% speed increase. []

Making Fantasy Worlds

 Posted by at 16:53  No Responses »
Oct 062008

Many GMs like to play in existing campaign worlds. One of the most popular was/is Forgotten Realms, which has all but become D&D’s de facto setting. Others play in an alternate version of the real world, such as is the case with many World of Darkness games. Then there are the ultimate crazies: the world builders. Count me among this bunch.

I’ve been preparing to run an original sword-and-sorcery game of late (using GURPS), set in a fantasy world of my own devising. In researching for the daunting task of crafting an entire planet, I did a fair amount of reading on what makes something fantasy as opposed to historical fiction, science fiction, et cetera. The resounding answer: magic. Magic regarded as the universal defining characteristic that sets fantasy apart from its peers.

This made a lot of sense to me, since the real question one must ask when tampering with reality is this: what ramifications will the thing I’m changing have? This is the core idea behind science fiction, for instance, with the “thing I’m changing” usually being a piece (or many pieces) of technology. I think that it’s often overlooked in fantasy, though. Magic just “is” in a lot of fantasy, without the ramifications clearly thought-through. D&D, my favorite whipping dog, is guilty as hell of this. With as many wizards are running around hurling fireballs, D&D societies are often far, far too similar to a romanticized modern-day medieval world.

Thinking through the ramifications of magic was one of the key questions I first tried to answer. I found that I had a crystal-clear picture in my head of what I wanted…but the task of articulating that picture was arduous. The details are irrelevant to this post, but suffice it to say that I wanted magic to be difficult, limited without serious investment, and completely impossible to “alter the world” (i.e. D&D’s Wish spell). The result: a world left largely unaltered by magic, but altered just enough that it was no longer ours.

I then seasoned this with the idea that there was prevalent low-key magic, more akin to ultra-effective herbalism. I didn’t want to deal with the realities that people faced in medieval life like poor sanitation, rampant disease, poor medical understanding, and so forth. All that is handwaved away by “peasant magic,” which is powerful in its own right, but too limited to result in a shift in the balance of power.

Everything else — the arrangement of the society, the types of fantastic creatures, and so forth — comes after this critical decision is made. In truth, these subsequent pieces may dictate what picture it is you paint, but the decision about magic is the canvas, the medium, the type of brush, and the technique you use.

GNS Theory

 Posted by at 17:13  No Responses »
May 012008

There’s an active community of amateur and independent RPG developers that base their activities at The Forge. While I am wary of the culture fostered there, it’s the birthplace of many great independent games. In addition to games, the site’s constituency analyzes the RPG hobby. GNS Theory is one resulting idea this analysis produced. While I despise the casual appellation of the term “theory” to anything (stemming from the layman’s dismissal that something is “just a theory”)*, I think some of the core tenets are sound. The full body of GNS Theory goes too far into crazy land and has since been abandoned for the less interesting “Big Model.” The Big Model doesn’t say anything of groundbreaking, though.

The GNS in GNS Theory stands for three broad categories of gamer: the Gamist, the Narrativist, and the Simulationist. These categories are broad player archetypes, framed by the question, “Why do you role-play?” As with many anthropological studies, few gamers will be an exact fit for any of these three archetypes; the archetypes provide a lens for understanding goals and style of play. GNS Theory falls down here: it proposes that gamers and systems are only one of these three, which is ridiculous.

The Gamist approaches RPGs as problems to solve, challenges to overcome, and victories to win. Gamists seek to accomplish goals and make progress in measurable, mechanics-oriented ways. A Gamist might answer the “Why do you role-play?” question with, “To win.” Gamists are often attracted to systems that encourage contests and achieving the best stats. Many, including me, cite D&D as a Gamist-oriented system. Most computer RPGs are Gamist by default, since the usual objective of a computer game is to win.

The Narrativist is a storyteller at heart. RPGs are improvised acting sessions, during with the Narrativist seeks to explore themes and characters. The Narrativist’s key question is not “Who has the better stats?” but “What is the most dramatically interesting outcome?” A Narrativist might answer the “Why do you role-play?” question with, “To tell a story.” Narrativists are often attracted to systems that highlight drama over hard numbers. Dogs in the Vineyard is often cited as a Narrativist game.

The Simulationist wants to experience a world. In this case, the world is provided by the RPG’s setting and mechanics. The more detailed the mechanics, the more detailed the world, and the happier the Simulationist. The Simulationist answer to “Why do you role-play?” might be, “To experience another world.” Simulationists prefer systems that are mechanics-rich, such as GURPS.

As one might conclude, I am not a fan of Gamism when it comes to RPGs (computer RPGs get an exception). I enjoy some mix of Narrativism and Simulationism. As a Narrativist, I am not as interested in theme as I am drama. If a character does something bold and dramatic, that ought to pay off rather than be slapped down. By the same token, I also like my games to have a high degree of verisimilitude. Without that internal consistency, a game lacks credibility and that ruins my immersion.

How would you classify yourself?

* For the record, a theory is a framework that offers a consistent, verifiable explanation for observations. A theory is not some idea you cooked up. That’s called a hypothesis. When someone says, “I have a theory about that,” what they mean is that they have a hypothesis. Next time you hear someone say this, correct them. You will be doing the world a favor.