Monday, March 20, 2023

Meme Monday: Lore Memes

Typically this would cover World of Warcraft, but really it can cover RPG game (or non-game) world you want to cover.

If there's one thing that drives me absolutely crazy about the lore in game worlds, it's that we --as campaign DMs-- or a dev company as an RPG designer or an MMO designer-- don't think much at all of creating a game world with a history 10,000 or more years old.

(See: Middle-earth and Azeroth for two well known examples.)

Think about that for a minute.

What do we know of our human history from 10,000 years ago, or 8,000 BCE?

Well, we were just beginning the warming from the last ice age. There were neolithic settlements around the Fertile Crescent, such as Jehrico and Çatal Hüyük, and most of the rest of the world had paleolithic settlements. In the Americas, there's evidence of the beginning of agriculture. And... not much else.

It's not that we as a people don't want to know more of what's going on from 10,000 years ago, it's that we only have what we can find via archaeology, and that's not a helluva lot. 

But to a fantasy world, 10,000 years ago isn't a big deal: War of the Ancients. The Elder Days. The Crown Wars.* It's quite amazing just how much a fantasy world can stuff into such a time as if it were a short bit ago. 

For a semi-historical reference, the period of time generally associated with The Trojan War is 1300-1200 BCE, at the end of the Bronze Age. In an RPG, that's the blink of an eye.

I suppose we tend to forget just how compressed history can truly be, particularly how the acceleration of the pace of technology was in the past 200 years. My great aunt was born the year before the Wright brothers from Dayton flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and she lived to see the first landing on the Moon and the first space probes reach Neptune. 

So, keep all this in mind when designing your RPG, I suppose.

Yeah, kinda like that. And that's not
even covering what I mentioned above.

If you're gonna go bonkers on lore, then
you'd better remember to tie up the
not-so-subtle loose ends.
From pinterest.

Yeah yeah yeah.
For some reason, Jupiter from Holst's
The Planets just started playing in my head.
From DnDMemes.

Then again, Azeroth has no monopoly
on bonkers lore. From

And one bonus pic, if you think that the RPGs mentioned above have some bonkers lore/backstory, let me introduce you to Runequest's Glorantha...


*From D&D's Forgotten Realms setting.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

A Collection of Guild Names, Part the Third

It's been several months, but I keep running into guild names that amuse me or touch me in some way. 

Scott Andrews, in his book The Guild Leader's Handbook, recommends not picking a guild name "that could embarass or offend someone. No one will want to walk around with a name like that, and you'll have a tough time recruiting. Choose something that people will want to show off rather than downplay."* Scott also provides a helpful list of clichés to avoid, which would in most times be sound advice.

I'm glad that this bunch didn't necessarily follow said advice.

Well, Milwaukee does have
some big breweries.

This warmed the heart of
this Midwesterner, seeing
"Ope" in a guild name.

"We'll get there when we get there!"

And their companion guild...

Maybe I should have joined this guild
given the time differential.

The guild of college students everywhere!

Pretty sure I don't qualify, but if
by "Hot Dads" they mean "It's hot
outside", then... okay, during Summer
I'd qualify. Right now it's 32F/0C outside.

Three days later? Probably releasing
and running back would have been
quicker than waiting for a rez.

For ice fishing, maybe...

That's a guild name I didn't expect.

Alas that the bearer of this guild
name DID have a shirt on.

For some reason I had the mental image
of a bunch of box turtles trying to chase
after me.

Anyway, here's Wonderwall...

"Don't you forget about me..."

But my monitor is already on.

Found the Robert Jordan fan.

Of COURSE you're not addicted...

Uh... Yeah.

::insert moose call here::

First time I saw this guild name,
I read it as "Bananas ARE Large."

Mmm... Refried dreams...

Is Fargo, North Dakota really deep?

No comment.

And finally...


Monday, March 13, 2023

Meme Monday: Praise for the Healers Part Deux

In tabletop RPGs I tend to play Clerics. I started on that path when I was in college and we needed a Cleric to heal the party, and it kind of stuck. 

In MMOs, I have off-spec healed before, but healer classes and I don't often mesh. I leveled my original Paladin as Holy up until... Outland maybe? But before then, my very first toon was a Priest who I assumed would be like a D&D Cleric.

Oh, was I wrong.

Low level WoW Priests do not handle
hand to hand combat well.
From... Reddit, maybe? All over the net, really.

Still, I have a certain fondness for people who can play the healing classes well, and this Meme Monday is dedicated to them.

Pretty sure this does NOT apply to FF XIV.
From Pinterest.

It's not that I don't trust healers, it's
that I don't always trust other people.
There's a history to unpack there.
From imgflip.

I'm pretty sure I've made healers
look like Elrond before. My
questing buddy denies it though.
From Pinterest.

But sometimes the Healer actually
gets an "atta-boy" for their work
in a group. And their brains freeze up.
From Pinterest.

And one bonus Healer meme...

On those times when Briganaa healed
a 5-person group...

Thursday, March 9, 2023

How to Suck at Another Game Part 2: Minecraft as Survival Horror

Longtime YouTube RPG personality, Matthew Colville, put out a video 3+ months ago about how modern D&D is not really designed with a specific style of role playing in mind, in the same way that Call of Cthulhu is designed for Cosmic Horror or Paranoia for... Well, I'd call it "The Insanity of Bureaucracy", but "Something like the movie Brazil" works too. But what made me sit up and take notice was when Matt described Old School D&D as Survival Horror.

Matt's premise, that dungeon delving and keeping track of things such as torches and other minutae that make a foray into a dungeon an exercise in ongoing tension, puts the initial incarnations of D&D in the Survival Horror style of gaming. Your party isn't all powerful, you have limited amounts of critical items such as food, water, and light, and you have to balance your ability to delve deeper versus your ability to get out before your supplies run out. 

In that vein, I could call the Survival option of Minecraft "Survival Horror" as well.

And believe me, that thought has crossed my mind more than once these past few weeks.

If you've been watching Carbot Animation's
Elden Ring videos, this will look awfully
familiar. Just insert screaming. From gfycat.


The deeper I got into Minecraft, the more I realized just how similar Minecraft is to being on a PvP MMO server. Your head has to constantly be on a swivel, even in the daylight, because you're never quite sure when a Creeper or another monster will just appear --or be hanging out under a tree-- and can cut you down before you can say "What happened?"

I guess that leads me to the fifth revelation about Minecraft: Don't be concerned about leveling up, because you're going to die anyway and lose your levels.

Fatalism very quickly set in during those first several hours of game time, where I realized that if I was going to survive I was going to have to clear out some space and build above ground. I didn't really need to go above ground in general, but I felt that it made the most sense to be able to have a tall building where I could at least see if it's dark or not outside. But to clear that space, I had to live with dying a lot. 

Plus I had to cover up the "mine" I made, which was my first shelter. 

And every time a Creeper exploded in my general vicinity, a hole opened up again, which meant that the long term solution was to basically fill that damn thing back in. 

Which meant strip mining a nearby hill and using that dirt to fill in the mine itself.


Eventually, I built a tower made out of birch blocks and each evening I'd seal myself inside. I had little openings where I left gaps in the blocks for a cheap window, and I learned my sixth revelation about Minecraft: If you make your windows two blocks big, a monster can get inside. 

Like a @#$%-ing spider.

So that became my reality: hiding out in my birch tower in the darkness and the rain, and clearing the area some more during the day.

My long nights were spent trying to figure out what I could do next. Surely I could craft more items than what few pieces I already had, so I read some more of the How to Play section and noted that I could create a workbench --apparently without tools, no less-- and from there I ought to make more items. So I created a workbench and stuck it in a corner. 

Now, the instructions said to click on it, but... how close did you have to be to actually do that? I kept accidentally putting down blocks (which required me do break them down again) before I realized I had to basically stand right next to it. Then the builder's window came up with far more options than before, and I could create wooden items such as an axe, a shovel, and a sword.

Uh, a wooden shovel? And a wooden axe to chop down trees?

Me: "Sheesh. Can't you all give it a rest? I'm
not even playing WoW right now!"

Me: "@#$%-ing Paladins."

Whatever. I still built them, because even a wooden sword is better than a pointed stick.

Just ask Monty Python.

Okay, I thought. I've got this. I have some basic tools, I've cleared out enough space to survive walking out of my tower, and I even built a door for the damn thing. Now, what else to build?

It was then that the seventh revelation reared its ugly head: monsters will spawn inside your dwelling.

I discovered this when I went inside my tower for the night, saw darkness creep over the land, and I got up to get a drink. I came back to discover I was dead. 

"What the hell!" I exclaimed as I rezzed and ran (!) back to my tower.

I reentered to find a Zombie inside, who promptly killed me before I could grab my weapons and fight back.


Third time's the charm, right? I reentered and finally took the zombie down, then I had a chance to stew over what happened. 

Just what did happen? Did it come inside while I wasn't paying attention and left a door open? No, I'd been very diligent about that. So... What?

I guessed that it had to have spawned inside, maybe if I wasn't there when darkness closed in or something.

Reading the How to Play section again, I read up on Nightfall. The last sentence caught my eye: "Also be sure to light up the area with torches, it may save your life." I'd presumed that it was talking about outside, but what if it meant that monsters would spawn inside?

And how the fuck do I create torches?

Coal? Oh, for fuck's sake.

That meant I was going to have to dig until I found some coal and then I could make torches.


"I apparently suck at Minecraft," I told my questing buddy that night. 

She chuckled and mentioned that she happened to know some kids of hers who'd love to chat with me about Minecraft. 

"Oh, I can imagine," I replied. 

"Maybe you should try the sandbox mode."

"Sigh. My oldest said the same thing."

My mining adventure looked pretty grim, since all the digging that I'd done had only landed me some cobblestone and dirt. But in a rare stroke of luck, the next day I dug in just the right spot and found some some coal. I grabbed a couple of chunks, made some torches, then just kind of plunked them on each floor of my tower and hoped for the best.

If you'll note, I also made some stone
swords and axes as well.

So far, so good. 


Outside of behaving as if I'm some strip mining corporation with a penchant for mass deforestation, I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. Now that I've got the basic tools down, I can now try to mine to find ore and gradually expand my capabilities. 

The unknowns:

  • How long items last. I know from sad experience --and truly bad timing-- that items will gradually weaken and break through use, but I don't know whether that includes wooden blocks. Or stone blocks, in much the same way as fencing in Stardew Valley eventually crumbles. That would kind of suck to login and suddenly discover half of my birch tower crumbling to dust beneath me. 
  • Just what other monsters are out there. I've already encountered Zombies, Creepers, The Drowned, Spiders, Slender Man (?), Skeletons, and Witches (?), I'm not sure what else is out there. I don't have any ranged weapons, so I run like hell from Skeletons and Witches who can hit me from distance with arrows and spells. I just have this bad feeling that some truly big monsters are out there, lurking, and I'll discover them the same way I usually do: by dying to them.
  • What effect things such as fire might do. I've played enough Rimworld to not be completely clueless, and I know that one of the worst feelings in the world in Rimworld is when a wildfire starts outside of your safe area. I would not be shocked at this point to see wildfires spreading like crazy because OF COURSE THEY WILL.
  • Whether I can ever actually see my toon from the front. I've tried the traditional MMO view of swinging around using the left mouse button to see what my toon looks like with armor on, but no dice. Surely there has to be a way to view my toon, but I haven't figured it out yet. Then again, The Outer Worlds never had an option for a 3rd person view, which is the main reason why I didn't play the game. 
  • How to eat. Maybe I'll start working on that part, given that I can actually survive for longer than a day. But campfires require coal for some weird reason, so unless a furnace doesn't need coal to cook I might have to do a lot more digging. 
One big question remains: now that I've got a functional shelter, a fence around it (not sure just how much it helps, but it's there), some tools, and some armor, now what? My immediate needs have been met, but I know I'm just tempting fate if I stay out in the rain or after dark, so I can't really explore very far. I may have to create alternate shelters if I want to go exploring, in the same way as any guerilla group has multiple hideouts. (See: the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, or to use a Fantasy equivalent, the Noldor's hideouts in The Silmarillion.)

I guess in one respect, I'm a poor candidate for playing an open world sandbox game such as Minecraft. While I can appreciate what goes on in trying to figure the game out, and believe me, there's plenty of gaps for things such as "just how DO you eat food?" which isn't covered in the How to Play section, once I get past a certain point my motivation for playing kind of drops to the floor. I mean, I've got the house, the weapons, the armor, and even a freaking door, so why create anything more ostentatious? Maybe that's why my motivation for raiding and achievements in MMOs isn't really all that great: it's not that I can't put the work in, it's me questioning whether the work is worth it in the long run. 

Perhaps I should investigate that more in Part 3.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

How to Suck at Another Game Part 1: "I just had to go and touch it..."

I remember a suggestion I once read about graduate students, in which the science writer in question* suggested that a way of training grad students to be better at teaching others was an addendum to their requirements for graduation: in order to receive their degree, the grad student had to accost a layperson on the street and explain to them exactly what their dissertation was about.

Having gotten my degree in the sciences, and having had more than my share of obviously brilliant professors who couldn't explain their way out of a paper bag**, I became enamored of this idea. And decades later, having tried --and failed-- to explain to coworkers in IT that they need to write better documentation, I sometimes feel like a lone swimmer going against the tide of shitty wordsmithing.

My experiences with IT documentation is just like that in gaming. I've had the experience of reading wonderful game instruction manuals which I detailed a year or so ago, but I've also read my share of "manuals" that were abjectly terrible at explaining the basics. 

And of course if you wanted to learn how to play MMOs, well... Don't bother the official website; go visit a third party side such as Wowhead or Icy Veins (for WoW, naturally). Those sites will be... kinda sorta better... at explaining the game from a certain point of view (mostly raiding, some PvP), but even then they make a ton of suppositions that a newbie won't get.


To understand my opinion on the matter better, when I was at my old position at work last year, I had a big argument with several of my coworkers about documentation. I'd put together a document with extensive screenshots, detailing all the steps people must take to get an account created on our LINUX servers, and my overseas coworkers basically laughed at the document. "You don't understand," I told them, "but I see this every goddam day. People who have never touched a LINUX server and only know the words Red Hat or SuSE from some sales pitch expect to get access to these servers, and they don't know shit about the process that their own company put into place to do that. If you don't want them contacting you at all hours of the day and night because they got your name from somebody who knew somebody and 'They want access NOW because they WANT it', you need to give them the explanations and tools that will help out. NOT just a three or four line instruction set, because they don't understand the underlying assumptions. YOU all know LINUX, so this isn't an issue for you, but THEY DON'T."

My boss understood what I was trying to accomplish, and before he left --a few months before me-- he was pushing to get this doc published. But bureaucracies being bureaucracies, it never did.***

Still, that experience, which was repeated by watching people be clueless in MMOs with only the "Get gud scrub" or "Go read Wowhead" guidance over the years, had me stewing for a long time. 

Then I saw the beginning of this series by Razbuten on YouTube:

And I thought, "Hey, that's a good idea!"

I mean, I know it would suck for a complete noob to figure stuff out on their own without guidance, but it also would provide --front and center-- what I was complaining about with the lack of good instruction in video games. Processes such as figuring out how to jump in Shovel Knight that we --as gamers-- could easily figure out, aren't as intuitive as we might think. And likewise, understanding MMOs may come naturally to an MMO player, but a new player doesn't have that to lean on. They have to figure it out themselves, based on what the game provides. Or be told where to get a game manual outside of the game itself in order to figure this out. 

After all, people perusing the Mystery or Horror section of a bookstore might remember that "Hey, there's probably a magazine or book about this video game I'm interested in" and go check to see if there's a "Complete Manual" there to buy. 

I got this for my oldest's SO about a year
ago, who'd been perusing it, only to
discover afterward that it was already out
of date. So it sat on our coffee table since
that point. And no, I've never looked inside.

But when was the last time someone checked out a print manual of, say, World of Warcraft, let alone going to an actual bookstore?**** Or maybe they'd try to find something online, but can you imagine going to Wowhead for the first time and trying to figure out the basics of World of Warcraft from it?

This design practically screams
"busy" and "early 2000s". 

You could say "Hey, there's a 'Guides' tab, let me select 'Classic' on there and see what happens."

Uh... Right.

I looked at the "Lore" section and, well, you kind of have to know what's going on already to get much out of that area too. 

Look, I could go into more detail on Wowhead and other sites and how a completely new player can end up more confused than before, but that's not the point. The point is that there is data online, but the underlying assumptions are such that you have to know what to look for, or at least understand the context of what is being presented. If my wife were to suddenly announce that she wanted to play WoW in the same way that she did when trying out Breath of the Wild*****, I suspect that unless I held her hand all the way through she'd never make it much farther than the starting zones (Classic or Retail), much less max level. Besides, the easier game of the two, WoW Classic, requires a game time commitment at minimum; there simply is no way of trying out Classic for free.

But this video series did give me an idea. Why don't I try this out myself?

After all, I'm not a fan of online guides (or add-ons such as Questie) when playing video games, but I do have a long history of referencing official documentation, so why not try a video game I've never played before, using only what the game company provided me, and see if I can figure it out. 

Enter Minecraft. 


The game had come with my PC, and it was merely sitting there, unused. I'll admit there was a bit of snobbery involved with my reluctance to pick it up, because the game wasn't what I typically play. Sure, I do play builder type games, but none so wide open as this. Usually there's a more defined structure to the game, such as with My Time At Portia or Sim City or Cities: Skylines.

Plus Minecraft is also incredibly popular, even among people who don't play video games, which means that there's a ton of resources out and about on "how to do things right".

Which I'm disinclined to use anyway, as guides aren't what I'm interested in. 

But that doesn't mean I'm some macho type who doesn't read the instructions before assembling something, I just believe in following the instructions as presented, as opposed to having to go find "the REAL manual" from people who wrote guides and posted YouTube videos on how to "properly" play a game. 

You get the idea. Except for the Folding
Ideas video, which pointed out the underlying
assumptions to the game that look suspiciously
like Colonialism. Which is fine, because at the
time I watched it I had no interest in actually
playing Minecraft.

Of course, if there's confusion out of the instruction manual for a video game, the stakes are a wee bit less than if you're putting together office furniture (don't ask how I know that), so if I screw up in a single player game the only person I hurt is myself. 

But hey, Minecraft is beloved by kids and adults, so it ought to be fairly easy to pick up and play, right?


Yeah, about that...


"I think you ought to play in Creative mode."

My oldest informed me of that when I mentioned about trying Minecraft to her. My wife had no opinion at all, since she doesn't play video games much, but I value my kids' opinions.

And I did briefly consider it, but... Come on. I've raided in Classic WoW. I finished Baldur's Gate back in the day, and I regularly play (and win) at Civ IV and other 4X games. 

Yeah, why not?

So I went with a "Normal" Survival World.

What, you expected another name?

Ignoring that yes, I've been sitting on this post for a while as I've delved into the game, I figured that there'd be some sort of tutorial or something. Failing that, there was likely a Help section that I could use to figure things out.


As you can tell, I figured out the Dressing
Room portion of the game. I didn't
like the semi-gray beard option, so I just
ran with the ol' Redbeard look.

In the Settings section I found what I was looking for:

Between that and the Keyboard
and Mouse settings, I should be good.

It was at about this point in the game where I discovered the first big revelation about Minecraft: the game does not pause when you bring up a window such as this one.

How did I learn that?

Yep. That's where this came from.

Apparently time continued --at a rapid rate-- and the next thing I knew it was dark in my world and the Zombies came out. Oops.

So... I remembered that first stanza of the How to Play section, saying "At night monsters come out, so make sure to build a shelter before that happens."

I figured that I died, so go restart and build a shelter. 

But I respawned into darkness and was immediately chased by Zombies and things that I can only describe as "Explodies". And in the time it takes you to try to get something --anything-- mined or chopped down or whatnot, I died.

Over and over and over.


So I spent my entire first half an hour in Minecraft running for my life.

The second big revelation about Minecraft came when dawn broke: while most monsters may die in sunlight, they can hide under a tree --or a forest-- and still live.

Because naturally I spawned in a forest, so the Zombies laughed in the face of the sun and ran after me again.

Which led to my third big revelation about Minecraft: not all monsters die in the Sunlight, and monsters can jump in the water and survive.

The Explodies --officially called Creepers based on my numerous deaths to them-- survive in the daylight. And they love to come up to you from behind while you're busy getting resources and suddenly BOOM! You're dead.

Double WTF.

I decided I was going to at least live long enough to make a shelter --any shelter-- and survive the night just to prove I'm not an idiot. So I chopped down some wood, if "chopping" is the right word for using the left mouse button to thwack a tree until a block pops off, dug up some dirt, and started learning how to place blocks. But because I was in a forest, I still had fatal issues with monsters coming after me even in the daylight, so I ran until I found a (relatively) clear space near a river's edge. I then began to emulate the Dwarves, digging into a hill, and then I decided to enclose myself in said mine/hill/whatever as sunset was upon me.

And there I sat for about 5 minutes, feeling very foolish. I could hear grunts outside, and I realized that they might try to break down the "walls" of my dirt hideout, so I began digging further into the hill.

Sorry, I don't have any screenshots of this because I was too antsy to get away from the monsters who were more deadly than what I've encountered in quite a while. But trust me, I was digging frantically enough that eventually I realized I had to take a peep outside if I was going to leave my cocoon. So I came over to where I sealed myself in and hacked out a block.


It was raining, but it was daylight.

So I mined another block and went outside.

Which is how I had my fourth big revelation about Minecraft: monsters don't despawn in the rain.

This again.

Sigh. This was harder than I thought. But it was what I wanted, wasn't it? Learn the hard way, with the tools that Mojang (aka Microsoft at this point) provided, trying to emulate what it's like if you don't rely upon external Wikis and YouTube videos and whatnot to play an open world game.

*Boy, did I try hard to find this, but no dice. 

**One famous time in an after school seminar, one of the professors brought in a bunch of overhead slides and was alternately bumbling over and droning on about his research, the chair of the department who was sitting next to me leaned over with a sly smile on his face. "Perry Potpourri..." he whispered, making a play on the professor's name.

***What I've heard is that they never distributed the doc after I left, and they've come to regret that. I still have my original copy, but even if they came crawling back and asked me for it I'd be inclined to tell them I deleted it. Let them figure it out for themselves.

****Before people get pissy at me, I go to bookstores all the time. It's just that I know I'm very much in the minority these days.

*****My kids gave it the ol' college try and worked with her during her attempts at playing, but after a couple of weeks she simply gave up and went back to Mario Kart.

EtA: Corrected a few items.

EtA2: Corrected a couple of more things.