Friday, May 31, 2024

My, How Things Have Changed

I'm one of those people who end up gravitating toward a standard way of playing, and despite my willingness to try different strategies I end up following the same old path.

Take Stardew Valley, for instance.

Yes, I actually used Cardwyn for this
particular playthrough, because here her
name is kind of unique.

Despite all of my best intentions, the sheer volume of games that I've played there with variations of Redbeard as my character's name can look pretty daunting. The current playthrough I'm doing is yet another permutation of my own name, and yes he has red hair and a beard.

Another quirk of my Stardew Valley games is that I end up with a similar layout of crops and animal habitats. Not because it's the most efficient, per se, but because the crops are grown close to the shack I live in and I clear that area first. The next area I clear is a path leading to the woods to the south, so I stick the animals in a fenced area over there.

Kind of like this.

And so on, and so on.

Finally, although I make a point when I start each game to tell myself that I'm going to try to romance other NPCs, I pretty much always end up selecting Penny or Leah. This is not an accident, as both of them have qualities I see in my wife. That they are both redheads is kind of a cherry on top of the sundae, so to speak, as I've a thing for redheads.*

In spite of that, I have at one occasion or another romanced almost all of the other eligible candidates out there, just to see what their storyline is like all the way to the end.

There's been a few major updates to Stardew Valley since I last played, and it seems that Eric Barone has make some dialog changes to the characters. While the main cutscenes up through to 10 Hearts is unchanged, the dialogue when you talk to all of the NPCs has been expanded by a bit. While it's not a complete overhaul, for a few NPCs it does make a measurable difference.**

Okay Leah, I get the hint. Have you been
talking to my doctor or something?

It made Haley more interesting, which surprised me.

Haley, for those who haven't played the game, is the stereotypical popular blonde girl who is pretty superficial. If you've ever talked to someone in high school who looks on you with active disdain for not being 'with it', that's Haley. Of the romanceable NPCs in Stardew Valley, she and Alex are tied for the most vain and disliked by me. Yes, I know that some people might think similar things about Shane or Sebastian --or early Abigail interactions-- but being not one of the popular kids in real life meant I had a similar visceral reaction to Haley and Alex when I first began playing. 

In this most recent run-through, I was expecting to pretty much stay with the tried and true, but early on I noticed that some of Haley's most annoying commentary had been trimmed (or I'd gotten lucky and avoided it) and some of her new commentary wasn't all that bad. (By her standards, anyway.) That intrigued me, and when you combine that with her Spring birthday she ended up with more hearts than she usually gets in one of my playthroughs. 

Well, I thought, she doesn't seem quite so stuck up as usual, so I figured I'd let the chips fall where they may and let the game progress naturally. 

As usually happens, my traditional romance partners caught up and passed her, but Haley did hold her own, so when decision time finally came for me --selecting which NPC to turn from a friend to a romantic partner-- it came down to Penny, Leah, Abigail, and Haley. The two tried and true, the adventurous wildcard, and Haley.

In the end, I selected Haley.

I'm pretty sure this is one of the new dialogue options.
The Winter clothing definitely is new.

I was quite surprised how much she'd grown over the course of the game, and she really blossomed into a caring woman. Her 14 heart cutscene** really showed she's no longer a shallow person, and that she had the drive and initiative to do something without making that something all about her. While she still enjoys the beach and makeup and whatnot, there's a lot of caring and depth to her now that I'd never seen before.

Who knew?

*Yes, my wife is a redhead.

**I'm aware that Stardew Valley has a ton of mods out there for it, ranging from mild to risqué to converting the game into a mathematical exercise that a WoW add-on user would love. Among the mods out there is one that changes the dialogue of the NPCs, and I suppose that is the inspiration for some of these changes that Eric made in Stardew Valley.

***If you haven't played the game in a few years, yes, there's now a 14 heart cutscene for married companions.

EtA: Corrected grammar. They're their there...

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

It's Just Something To Do

Meteorological Summer begins this week in my part of the world, and the weather has had its share of humidity and thunderstorms the past few weeks.

It also means that its time for building projects to kick into high gear.

That doesn't mean I don't repair or work on stuff during the Winter months, it's just that I tend to use power tools outside due to lack of space in the garage*, and if the weather sucks for some reason or another I tend to pass on doing outside work. Sawing outside when it's 32F/0C or colder tends to suck, and I'd rather not repeat that performance if I can help it.

I have decided that this year is the year I am finally going to do something about our deck.

Obligatory photo of deck boards that need replacement.

The old deck has been around since 1989** with a few boards replaced here and there by me about a decade or so ago, and while the bones of the thing are still in good shape I really need to go replace the deck boards themselves. I'd thought for years about replacing the wooden deck boards with composite decking, but while the price has come down it has remained high enough that I simply can't afford it. 

I have also discovered that the stairs for the deck, while probably up to code 35 years ago, are no longer good enough should I rehab this thing. 

So, barring any surprise financial issues, such as all the car repairs from last year, I'm going to fix the deck to make it usable once more.


I do have a plan here, it's just a matter of figuring out how to put it into motion. 

There are three big jobs:

  • Replace the deck boards
  • Replace the two sets of stairs
  • Replace the skirting
That last one was the one I was most concerned about, ironically enough. While I'd replaced deck boards before, I'd never really touched the skirting. The skirting that was originally used was wooden paneling, making the bottom of the deck look like it was a finished basement straight out of the 1970s, and that paneling has begun falling off as it deteriorated. I really don't want to replace it with more paneling, but I'm also concerned that by altering the skirting I might also be creating a problem with erosion under the deck.

I put some of the skirting back up just to take this pic.
About the best thing about the deck is that the main
beams and supports are in good shape.

Here, let me show you what the basic design looks like:

Yeah, I used MS Paint for this. Nothing too fancy.

The two sets of stairs aren't very large, only about 2-3 steps each, but they need to be brought up to code with better slope and adding rails + lighting. (I suspect the lack of the proper number of stairs and their steep slope were done to avoid having to add lights to the deck.) The deck faces West and north, while the south has a covered porch and the east is walled off by the back of the garage.

Our weather comes west to east, which means the skirting facing west gets the brunt of the weather. Replacing that (now dilapidated) solid skirting with anything more permeable, such as lattice, might allow erosion of the ground under the deck. That being said, I've also discovered plastic sheeting that was placed under the deck when I began removing the skirting. 

Boy, was I surprised when I discovered the sheeting.

I suspect that sheeting is to prevent erosion --or it could be a lazy developer leaving it behind-- but I'll talk to a friend who is the son of a builder, and he's built his share of decks and porches over the years. He might have an idea as to what's going on, and what I ought to do going forward.

Still, it's a project for me to work on, and I've been putting it off for about 5-6 years too long. 


Why now?

Well, I've already tackled one stair issue around the house this Spring, such as the so-called stairs from the garage to the house. I say 'so-called' because when I went to pull the old stairs away from the boards I discovered they came right off as they weren't secured in place. They weren't a singular stair at all, but rather a builder-made step-stool. Basically the builder did it rather than putting in the two step stairs that ought to have been there so he wouldn't have to put in a railing. Before you ask whether I'm being a bit asinine putting down the builder like that, the more I've worked on the house the more I've found really stupid things that were put in by the builder as cheap "corrections" to errors made while constructing the house. If it were me, I'd be embarrassed about some of this shit, but I'm obviously not the builder, either. 

Yeah, there ought to be --at minimum-- one
extra stair there, and probably two given the slope
of the yard. I have no idea how the contractor
got away with not even supporting the steps right
and merely sticking a brick under the stairs, which
sagged as the bricks sunk into the dirt over time.

But the biggest reason is that it has to be done. Full stop. The wood is rotting, and it's past the point of anything resembling safety. So, hopefully, I can get this taken care of correctly without needing to hire someone. 

There's also another motive: it gives me something to do.

When I had my six month checkup with my regular doctor, in addition to him telling me things are progressing well he prodded at me to go take some time off. Go on vacation. Relax. 

This was the same doctor who told me to not worry about work so much when I'm off work, in spite of the fact that I am on call 24 x 7 and that I have been woken up at 2 AM plenty of times in the past. I understand his point, which is to reduce my overall amount of stress, but I also couldn't explain some of the hobbies I do enjoy. 

Video games? Board games? Dungeons and Dragons?

If I told him that I was a gamer, he'd likely think I meant playing blackjack and slot machines at one of the local casinos.*** And trying to describe Gen Con was completely out of the question. 

But working on the deck, just building something from start to finish... Yeah, that's something both he could understand and something that I enjoy. 

And, lucky me, I actually need to get that done anyway. 

*One of my long term goals is to clear out the garage enough to use the damn thing to work in. There was a period of about a year in 2004-2005 when I'd cleared out enough space to do just that, but then my great aunt gave me her old Conn organ, and... well, that was that.

**How do I know the deck dates from 1989? Well, that's because I was told the porch and deck were put in place after tornadoes came through the area in the 80s. I knew that when that tornado hit it was 15 years after the Day of the Tornadoes (April 3/4 1974), because I was working during the Summer up at UD, and up there people know it as The Xenia Tornado

So, the realtor had told us that the cheap deck that came with the house was damaged by the hail that accompanied the tornado, and the owner at the time decided to put in a covered porch where the old deck was and added a new deck to one side of the porch.

***Judging by the commentary by my neighbors and others I encounter while out and about, it seems that I'm more the exception than the rule for eschewing any interest in casinos. 

EtA: Discovered the ** was missing almost all of its entry, so I fixed that (and corrected the grammar along the way)..

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Where Are The Normal People At?

This is something that's been bugging me ever since I started playing Baldur's Gate 3, so I figured I'd get it out in the open now rather than later. 

Who the hell came up with your companions' backstories??

I mean, I knew that the Forgotten Realms were a bit higher in magic content than I prefer my average D&D campaign to be, but I play WoW, so I can adjust my expectations as needed. But the backstories? They're a bit bonkers. 

Don't worry, I'm not going to divulge any spoilers here.

I have to wonder about who came up with
Gale's backstory. And given what we know,
why is he 1st Level when we meet him?
From PC Gamer and Larian Studios.

Now, I get that the companions' backstories feed into the overall plot behind Baldur's Gate 3, but the backstories are so far removed from those in the first Baldur's Gate that it feels like we're living in an entirely different Sword Coast. I suppose that we are, given the Spellplague and the Sundering* explaining why races such as the Dragonborn are around.

I guess I can explain the difference in the backstories between Baldur's Gate 1 and 3 in a World of Warcraft analogy: Baldur's Gate 1's companion backstories are to Baldur's Gate 3's version as to what a toon in Vanilla Classic WoW is to that in Retail WoW. In Vanilla Classic WoW, at the end of Naxxramas your toon is just one piece in the army that took down Kel'Thuzad; you don't report directly to faction leads, you're not constantly lauded in game and told how great and awesome you are, and there isn't a big ol' cheering squad when you turn in the lich's phylactery. Contrast that to the end of a Retail expansion, where you get your own personal Star Wars Throne Room scene.**

The companions in Baldur's Gate 1 were all, by and large, relatively normal people. Minsc was notable less for his prowess on the battlefield and more for his sayings, his companion (the miniature giant space hamster Boo), and his less-than-impressive intellect. Jaheira and Khalid were married, so there's that; Khalid stuttered, which was different; and Branwen's entrance to the game was a bit unusual, but in a post-Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets world it's not so unusual these days. 

But in BG3, things are different. All of your companions have incredibly important or weird backstories that remind me of a new player creating a PC and going for maximum angst and/or drama.

This old comic from Dorkly comes to mind.

Although I'm only in the Shadow-Cursed Lands right now, this change in direction between your companions' backstories has also changed how I approach BG3. My skepticism in how things are --relative to BG1-- is pretty much at an all-time high. If there's an NPC that you encounter who seems normal, maybe I ought to simply not believe them one damn bit and save myself the trouble.

In this respect it's a lot like when you're out in the middle of nowhere in WoW and you just happen to bump into a couple of Elves. Sure, they might be Elves, but... come on. You just know they're going to be dragons in disguise, because it certainly seems at times like it's a meme that Blizzard just feeds into.


I get where people want to be the hero of their own story, because for the most part our own lives aren't what I'd call heroic. There are days when just going to work, getting work done, and coming home can feel like an heroic accomplishment, but in general we're not part of saving the world --or even our local community-- from some Big Bad. 

That being said, when I end up in a situation like I find myself in with Baldur's Gate 3, I start to wonder just why the hell am I hanging out with all of these people anyway. Matt Colville loves the brain worm's usage in BG3 as a reason for all of the players to get together,

To say that Matt is not a fan of "you all meet
in a tavern" is kind of an understatement.

and from the perspective of bringing a party together where there's always one person who is kind of an ass about "why would my character want to join up with these people?" I completely approve. But from the standpoint of a story like BG3 where everybody else but you has these fantastic backstories that kind of border on Mary Sue/Marty Stu levels, you just go, "Uh... So why am I here again?"

I mean, my character's backstory via the character creation process is that he's a city guard. No more, no less. This is exemplified by one of the quotes my character makes in BG3: "No one back home would ever believe this." 

See? Travolta isn't the only one who's confused.
From Pulp Fiction.

When you've got extraplanar entities interested in your activities --and no, I don't just mean that inevitable "Warlock with an Infernal Pact" player or companion, either-- you start to question your place in the universe.***


Are my characters as normal as I think they are?

Maybe that's a nonsensical question because I've played numerous video game RPGs and MMOs, and it always seems to move in the direction of you becoming the Hero. Not just a lower case, garden variety "you saved those kittens from drowning" hero, but a world/galaxy/apocalypse saving Hero.

And I'm not sure I'm on board with that.****

I'm old enough to know that doesn't happen in real life, and I'm also old enough to no longer fantasize about that sort of thing. Truth be told, fantasizing about living longer than five years past my congestive heart failure incident is probably at the top of my list*****, with far more mundane desires following behind.

The side effects of notoriety surrounding such earth shattering acts of Heroism are things people don't talk about much, unless it's to put down the people who performed those feats. History is riddled with people who performed heroic acts yet either they or their family couldn't handle the fame that accompanied it or they became the target of all sorts of ne'er do wells, the latter ranging from people looking to cash in on their friendship/family status to hangers-on scumming for money to even threats/acts of violence against the hero and extended family. It's not only superheroes who become a target.

Insane antagonist not included.

If there's one comforting fact about being "normal", it's that your "normality" keeps you from being a target. Well, not explicitly so in a public fashion, anyway.


So, what do I make of Baldur's Gate 3?

I'm not sure.

I mean, I enjoy the game, and it does scratch that RPG itch that I have, but if this were a campaign I were designing I wouldn't have gone in this direction. Throwing everybody together in the manner Larian did works, but those backstories are a bit too overpowered for my taste. I think I can handle the romance angle as well, but it certainly feels rushed. Like everybody --and I do mean everybody-- is excessively horny. (And I began playing AFTER the adjustments to the game Larian made to correct what they believed as excessive horniness among the companions.) 

It's not that I don't remember my 20s or something, you bet your ass I do, it's just that I don't remember the sheer volume of horniness coming out like this. Maybe it was me attending a Catholic university had an impact here, but I knew enough horny Catholics that I doubt it. 

Those items aside, the power and narrative creep in the campaign is part Larian, part D&D 5e, and part Forgotten Realms. Likely equal parts, to be fair, but still all three parts share a hand in creating the story --and the characters-- the way it has.

I'm going to see Baldur's Gate 3 all the way to the end, and pump the brakes as much as necessary to keep myself from going off the rails and ignoring my real life. At this rate, it'll probably be November or later by the time I finish the game, which isn't a bad thing. At least I will have gotten a lot of gameplay out of it.

*I only barely paid attention to both events, because my D&D group played in our own homebrewed campaign that wasn't based in the Forgotten Realms, but those events were basically excuses to explain the transition from D&D 3.x to 4e (The Spellplague) and from 4e to 5e (The Sundering). I do know that when The Sundering was revealed at Gen Con, my brother-in-law said the crowd was not impressed; a similar reaction to when Cataclysm Classic was revealed at BlizzCon.

**While you could point to The Burning Crusade as when some of this "You are THE Hero" began appearing in WoW, it was in Wrath of the Lich King where Blizzard went all in on with your toon as The Champion. (Just ask Arthas in The Culling of Stratholme instance.) If you started playing WoW in Wrath, as I did, you never realized that this aspect to the game simply didn't exist in Vanilla WoW. To me, you were always the hero of your own Lord of the Rings-esque story, and the reworking of Azeroth in Cataclysm removed all aspects of a previous, non-heroic environment. It was only when WoW Classic appeared were my eyes opened as to how much the game didn't revolve around you back then.

Yeah, I get that there's the few turn-ins for a buff in Vanilla, such as the Onyxia/Nefarian head and the Rend head, but that isn't the same as a full on cutscene. This isn't limited to WoW either, as SWTOR also was notable for a full-on cutscene at the end of their vanilla campaign.

***You could also argue the same thing about when NPCs/party members start flirting with you. Maybe it's scars from my youth, but in my experience that sort of stuff just doesn't happen out of the blue. And if it did, I'd question as to whether there's an ulterior motive involved. (Yes, there's a lot of baggage to unpack here. Maybe another time, since nobody really wants to read about puberty-driven angst in a gaming blog.)

****For the record, our AD&D 1e campaign doesn't have any of those "You Are THE Hero" moments in them, but if you wanted to put them in there you could. My game group, however, really isn't interested in roleplaying how awesome they are. We joke around and don't take ourselves seriously enough for that. I realize that in Pathfinder adventure paths or D&D 5e published campaigns this movement up through to becoming THE HERO is very much a thing --just see Baldur's Gate 3 for a video game interpretation of that, I suppose-- but it wasn't all like that in the past. And in other RPGs, notably Call of Cthulhu, you know you're going to eventually go insane, it's just a matter of when. Or if you play Fiasco, which I've described as being in your very own Cohen Brothers movie, there are no real Heroes there either. 

*****From Medical News Today, "Research estimates that more than half of all people with congestive heart failure will survive for 5 years after diagnosis. About 35% will survive for 10 years. However, in some cases, a person can extend their life expectancy through lifestyle changes, medications, and surgery." If you're keeping track (as I am for obvious reasons), I'm 2.5 years past my little incident and halfway to the 5 year mark. 

EtA: Corrected a double entry of a link.

Monday, May 27, 2024

Meme Monday: Fantasy Language Memes

It's a pretty well-known thing that JRR Tolkien invented languages --he was a philologist, after all-- and decided to create stories (and a world) for them. Hence, Middle-earth was born. 

Nowadays, Fantasy Languages (I lump SF Languages in here as well) are pretty common in SF&F literature. Of course, that can be both a good thing and a bad thing. 

When I write, I tend to gloss over the different languages themselves and focus on whether my characters can understand them, like so:

Sighing, I broke the seal. "I'd just like to receive a response from the Explorer's League," I grumbled.

 "What was that, Apprentice?" Elsharin called from the other room.

Crap. Wrong language. "I was hoping it was from the Explorer's League," I replied in Thalassian. "I sent them a letter about visiting one of their digs."

 I heard a brief, whispered conversation involving a lot of Thalassian words I didn't know, then Haleh spoke up. "It is good you wish to help, Cardwyn," she replied. "The Dwarves know much but are frequently too eager. A voice of" --she used a word I didn't know-- "would be good for them."

"Thank you, ma'am," I replied, making a mental note to look up the word she used, and opened the letter.

When I was younger, I would have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to invent words and string them together like they were a language. You know, like that found in Chris Paolini's Eragon books. 

“Atra esterni' ono thelduin
Mor' rana li'fa unin hjarta onr
Un du evari'nya ono varda

(May good fortune rule over you
peace live in your heart
may the stars watch over you)”
Christopher Paolini, Eragon & Eldest

Still, it's time to poke some fun at a stock part of SF&F literature!

There's always that one person in the back that
pushes their glasses up and says "Well, ACTUALLY..."
I know, because that would have been me.

And this is why I don't try to make up
languages any more. From ofwordsandbooks.

When not done well, I turn into Grumpy Cat.
From imgflip.

I never took Latin, but I was amused enough
by its usage in Harry Potter that I thought of this meme
first when I decided on this for Meme Monday.
From Memehunter.

Friday, May 24, 2024

Fighting the Demons

The other week, my son asked me how Baldur's Gate 3 was going. 

"I haven't really touched it since we last talked about it a month ago," I replied. He is quite aware that I try not to go bananas when playing a video game, and for me that means playing a game in fits and starts.

Yes, I'm aware that I play MMOs --and WoW Classic Era-- very regularly. The thing is, in those games I'm not very goal oriented these days, so it's more to play just so I can hang out with other people. Or people watch wherever I'm at.

There's always something going on in Vivec City.
Even at the bank.

Still, I worry about my ability to control myself, as I have the tendency is to go "all-in" on playing a game I like that I'm progressing through. So I play a bit, then I force myself to back off. Once I create a bit of separation, that magical pull that a game or a book or a piece of music has on me lessens, and I feel better able to balance my desires with my needs. 

BG3 is definitely a game that I enjoy playing. It has some moments that make me go WTF, such as your companions' backstories*, but overall I enjoy it a lot. It scratches that RPG itch that I don't get often enough these days, just as Age of Wonders 4 scratches that Fantasy building game itch that Master of Magic first gave me.**

Hey Sundren, how are you doing?
I remember you from Age of Wonders III.

So when I told my son that I hadn't played in what was effectively a month, he wasn't surprised. One of his friends had begun playing BG3 recently, and he was having to balance the video game with all of his grad school work that needed to be finished before the end of the semester. I didn't envy that friend of his one damn bit.


I suppose I've always known to a certain extent that I am prone to addiction. 

If I find something I like, I tend to do it over and over to an almost unhealthy extent. Even before the Satanic Panic derailed my D&D youth, I used to read and re-read The Lord of the Rings. And before that, The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald.

This was the version of the books that I had.
From Amazon.

I clearly remember my dad coming into my room when I was in 8th Grade and sick with a cold, and he informed me I had better start reading something else than "those darn Tolkien books". Of course, that made me want to re-read them even more often just to spite him, but I instead turned my mind toward other Fantasy and Science Fiction***.

During my freshman year at college, I had problems transitioning to college level work because I got distracted by Star Trek, of all things.**** That Fall of 1987 was when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted, and the friends at college and I would watch the show religiously and talk about it after. The internet was still in its protracted infancy and email access was restricted at UD, so those of us who liked geeky pastimes could only rely upon face-to-face contact for such discussion. So there I was, struggling to keep up with my studies, but all I could think about was Star Trek. 

Yes, I was a nerd. You had to ask?

When my grades began slipping to the point where my scholarship was in danger --and my dad made sure I knew about it-- I had to take drastic action. So I began dialing it back on Captain Picard and crew.

I wasn't as self-destructive as some people I knew in college, such as the person who lived in the dorm next to me. He didn't last a semester at college, as about 6-8 weeks in he discovered the pleasures of partying and simply stopped caring about his classes.***** His girlfriend (who was attending Notre Dame) contacted us because he had even gone silent with her, and she was worried. My roommate and a couple of other people on our dorm floor, including our Resident Assistant, basically held an intervention and convinced him it was smarter to drop out to get his life back together before he ruined it completely.#

Still, watching that happen was a sobering experience. There were several instances of people on my dorm floor imploding and getting themselves on academic probation, enough so that the joke was that our floor had the lowest GPA in the entire building, and that was despite several people with excellent grades calling our floor home.


Even today I have to be careful lest I get sucked into some distraction to the point where I haven't gotten any of the normal activities of home life completed. This goes for work as well, because I've had to be told more than once over the course of my career to basically "stay in my lane" and not do other work I found interesting but wasn't part of my job description. 

So while I'd love to be farther along in playing some of these video games, I know that I have to be on my guard. Writing down lists of things to do, much like how you'd write out a grocery list, help to keep me on track from being distracted too much, but even then my sense of time can get all thrown off when I'm absorbed in something. Maybe I ought to set a timer.

You and me both, Jodi.

*I have a post I'm working on about that.

**I should clarify that the original Sim City, Sim Earth, and hell, even Santa Paravia for those old farts like me were the video games that inspired my love of building and development games. 

I actually have a printout of the source code
of the game in TRS-80 BASIC. I'd meant to convert
it to TI-99 4/A BASIC, but I never got around to
it. Something something hormones something something.

***Likely to his displeasure. He never read fiction, much less F&SF.

****Given that I went to an all-boys high school, you'd think that I'd have said "girls" instead of Star Trek. And you're not wrong in that having girls in classes were a distraction after years of not having them around, but you have to understand I dealt with that already in high school. My junior year of high school I took Spanish III, and since only two of us signed up for the class they sent us over to the "sister" all-girls high school next door. I should have known that something was up when my classmate and I discovered we were in two separate classes, but even I was surprised on that first day of school I walked to the classroom and knocked, only to see thirty pairs of eyes turn and look at me. 

"Spanish III?" I asked.

The teacher smiled. "Sí sí," she replied. "Red?"

"Uh, yeah," I said, my face likely showing my mind turning to mush, as a wave of laughter swept the the class. It wasn't enough that I was outnumbered 30:1, but that they were all really attractive as well meant that I was in for a very long year.

"Do you want to sit somewhere up here?" the teacher asked, motioning to a desk in front. 

"No, I'll take this one right. back. here." I replied, sliding into the desk in the back by the door to another round of light laughter.

TL;DR: I survived the year, but that's because I made myself as invisible as possible. I'd say about 5-6 of the girls knew me from grade school, so most of them were a total unknown to me. My biggest takeaway from that year was that if you kept quiet you got to hear all sorts of interesting things about people's lives, particularly their love life. I also (now) realized that I missed a few obvious hints that some of the girls dropped that they were interested in me. This period of my life will come back from time to time, so don't be surprised if this reappears in a subsequent post.

*****I was there when it happened; we'd gone out on a Saturday night to the university village, nicknamed The Ghetto at the time, and we came across a student house that had kegs there but very few people in attendance. At the time I didn't drink so I passed (they got me a Mt. Dew, I think), but about halfway through his first beer our floormate decided he really really liked that stuff and he just started plowing through the beer like there was no tomorrow. He and another guy we were with got totally plastered and it took us the better part of an hour to walk them back to the dorm.

#As far as I know, it didn't help. Someone who was a mutual acquaintance ran into him at a concert back in their hometown a year or two later, and he was well down the "throwing your life away" path.

EtA: I corrected the time from 3-4 weeks to 6-8 weeks, as it was late October when this began.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Meme Monday: Return of the Healer Memes

It's been a while since I last did some memes on healers, so I figured "why not?" and resurrected the healer memes for 2024...

Gives a whole new meaning to the phrase.
From 9gag.

And this is why I don't play healers much.

Uh, yeah. From imgflip.

Again, another reason why I don't play
a healer. From

Thursday, May 16, 2024

The Secret World Comes to the Tabletop

Anybody remember The Secret World?

The property that Funcom developed about three factions fighting against legends and myths and horrors?


Apparently the setting for The Secret World is coming to the Savage Worlds RPG.

Alas that this is just a screencap of the video on
Kickstarter. I couldn't figure out how to add it to 
this post.

The funny thing is that there's already a completed Kickstarter for a D&D 5e version of the setting, which I can't really wrap my head around. Yeah, you can make D&D 5e work for The Secret World, but does it really fit the ruleset? If I'd a choice, a system such as Savage Worlds --or maybe even converting Call of Cthulhu-- would work better. Savage Worlds is by far the more accessible ruleset, so I'm kind of glad the developer, Star Anvil Studios, went in that direction.

One caveat is that you don't get a print version of the game, but PDFs. You DO get the option to do a print on demand of the material (the amount varies according to the backer level) via DriveThruRPG at cost, which is a significant cost savings over what it would cost in retail. So... take that into mind should you make a pledge.

Still, it's kind of intriguing that The Secret World (The Secret World Legends in this case) has made it to Savage Worlds. It's the sort of setting that ought to thrive on the tabletop, and in a Savage Worlds environment.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Speaking of Mother's Day...

This arrived in my email inbox last night:

Pretty sure my mom doesn't look
like this, even in the morning.

I looked at the full ad --I cut off the rest of it when I took that screenshot-- and just kind of shrugged.

That's nice and all, but the thing is I tried Diablo II Remastered once last November, and I haven't touched it since. I'm glad that it was basically free (courtesy of a gift card the kids gave me a few years ago), because I was disappointed in how little the game resonated with me. 

And that was supposedly the "best" Diablo out there. 

When I played D2 through the beginning zone, I kept remembering commentary that D2 was supposedly the best storytelling that Blizzard did in Diablo, but you could have fooled me. It was "kill this" and "do that", and I kept wondering whether I should have known any of these people before in the original version of Diablo. 


I couldn't quite describe my experience with Diablo until I saw this YouTube video recently by Day9TV, chronicling his experiences of trying Retail WoW for the first time.*

When Day9 was saying "I am so confused!" I nodded along, thinking about trying to figure out Diablo 2**, and replied "Yep, I know where you're coming from, man." If you're not part of the ecosystem, trying to figure things --including story and people-- out is really daunting. The question becomes "Are you curious enough to try to push through your confusion?"

Maybe I ought to give Diablo II another try, but if I can't really get into that game, playing D4 is probably out of the question. The concept of re-running the same game with a harder difficulty simply doesn't appeal to me, so I'm pretty reliant upon gameplay and story to resonate with me. If this becomes a "oh, it's not great now, but 50 - 100 hours in it gets good" scenario, I'll pass. 

*When he mentioned watching characters from Frozen yelling at each other, I chuckled. I figured he had to be talking about Jaina, given that she does kind of have that Elsa look about her. Not sure about the other person, tho.

**Or Age of Wonders 3, Elder Scrolls Online, ArcheAge, Pillars of Eternity, Black Desert Online, or any number of games where I'm just starting out and the info dump or expectations of understanding is quite large.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The Opposite of 'Nobody Cares'

I think I'm at that stage in my MMO career that what attracts me, more than anything else, is playing with other people.

There's always the automatic dungeon
finder, dude. I hear people who use it
are absolutely fantastic to play with.
Just ask Reddit. From Imgflip (and Reddit.)

I guess I'm just kind of done chasing the next new thing, whether it's a new expansion or a new raid or a new instance or new gear.*

There's only so many times you can be asked to keep running on that hamster wheel before you start to question why you're doing it in the first place. This is particularly the case if you're also questioning the quality and direction of other aspects of an MMO, such as the story or class design. 


I can throw all that whining out the window, since I have a group of friends I play with regularly and I value their company. 

It is not a coincidence that I continue to both play WoW Classic Era and have a small group of friends to play with. If it weren't for them, I'd have likely not renewed my WoW game time when it ended back in early 2022, after I walked away from progression raiding. Hell, were it not for the Friday Night Karazhan Run that I raid led** until the guild up and moved from Myzrael-US to Atiesh-US, I'd have probably not made it until March, much less June of that year.

Yet here I am, almost two years later, and I'm still logging into Classic Era regularly. 


It is also not a coincidence that in the age of people predicting WoW's demise --myself included-- that the power of friendship keeps World of Warcraft and other MMOs afloat.

No, I'm not talking about the Retail WoW team's recent storylines, although judging by some of the commentary surrounding them I can understand why some would feel that way.

So... Who are the Bronies in this scenario?
From Reddit.

But the reality is that while you can play MMOs solo --and "playing solo" while in a group via the automatic dungeon or raid finder is very much a thing-- MMOs are built upon group content. And you don't have to be in a guild to find friends to play with. 

I mean, that's how I found most of my friends in WoW Classic.

Ancient of Tome of the Ancient was the only friend I knew who not only was playing WoW Classic at launch but was also on the server I played on.*** Sure, I knew a few people in the blogosphere who were going to play WoW Classic, but most of those whom were friends were over in Europe. The people from previous guilds that I could have considered friends at one point had either drifted away from the game or vanished from view in one of the couple of guild blow-ups that I've had the dubious privilege of witnessing. 

So... outside of Ancient, I was pretty much on my own as far as making my way was concerned.


I was fine with that. I'd been effectively playing MMOs solo since about 2011, when the Alliance guild I was in basically faded away to nothing in late Cataclysm and then after a burst of activity early in Mists proceeded to do a repeat performance. The only group content I participated in were the Flashpoints in the "vanilla" portions of SWTOR, and by 2016 or 2017 I moved away from even that.

Given that I wasn't raiding, and --outside of the mini-Reds and my blogger friends-- I knew almost nobody who actually played MMOs, this wasn't a surprise.

But the surprise was that I began to make acquaintances and then friendships with people in Classic WoW.

Look, I'm tellin' ya, that's what happened.
And no, people weren't asking my toons
to strip or anything.

It was a natural outgrowth of manual group creation and obeying Wheaton's Law: "Don't be a dick." I would get into a group, behave nicely and not try to pull threat from the tank, and at the end I'd thank people for the group and if they ever needed a Rogue (or Mage), to hit me up. Most people wouldn't whisper me again, but a few did. From those initial connections grew some of my longest lasting friendships in the game. 

While I had acquaintances in Classic WoW that have fallen by the wayside as interests diverged or people unsubscribed, other friendships persisted. It is those friendships that keep me playing WoW Classic Era more than anything else. So when I see that subscriber numbers kind of float between 4 to 8 million --and I'm assuming that paying for game time as opposed to an actual subscription qualifies-- then yeah, there's far more here than just approval and love for the game and its content. 

Yes, that's 4 to 8 million players spread across (effectively) 5 games: Retail, Wrath/Cataclysm Classic, Classic Era, Classic Hardcore, and Classic Season of Discovery. I get that it's not the same as 4 to 8 million players that were playing a single game (Retail WoW), but money is money to Microsoft and it pays the bills.****

I realize that friendship isn't impervious to anything video game related, just as in real life, but MMO creators would do well to realize that fostering and maintaining friendships are likely the smartest thing they can do when designing and building an MMO. After all, it is an armor stronger than any plot armor out there, and can keep players subscribed even when the product stinks and the development team make horrible decisions. Okay, maybe not, but when people still play after a bad expansion, I believe there's more at work than that the WoW community are just a bunch of "sheep" who blindly continue to play the game. 

And for pete's sake, don't expect the sanitized group and guild recruitment tools to do the heavy lifting of interacting with people for you. I'm almost 100% certain that if I relied upon an automated dungeon finder to enter into Classic Era dungeons that I'd not have made the connections I have. That doesn't mean that there aren't problems in a purely manual system --there are a truckload-- but by minimizing interpersonal contact the WoW team(s) have inadvertently exacerbated the problem of people forming bonds in the game. And online want-ads aren't the answer.

Uh, that person spamming a level
boosting service in Mandarin notwithstanding.

At least I'll admit that the guild name "Frequently Reported" is kind of funny.

*That doesn't mean that I'm not interested in trying new games, because I am. It has far more to do with games I'm already playing that rely upon people constantly ponying up money for more things --whether it's an expansion or some cash shop item-- than getting a chance to try something completely new. I'm looking at you, Paradox, who either give up on a game after a very short period of time or will simply throw "expansions" at you ad-infinitum until you cry 'uncle'. It seems that every time I turn around there's a new addition to Stellaris or Europa Universalis IV, while on other games Paradox simply gives up on those that need bug fixes and tweaks to make them shine (Imperator: Rome).

**I found out much later from a friend who remained in the guild and in a semi-leadership position that the franken-guild's leadership expected me to run the "social" raids in the same manner as I ran the Karazhan raid, and they were surprised when I refused to move to Atiesh-US with the rest of the guild. Given that my orphan raid was pretty much independent of any guild leadership input or oversight for over half a year, they kind of screwed that up pretty badly given they never bothered to ask me my opinion on things.

***To be fair, I chose Myzrael-US in part because Ancient had decided to play on that server, as I figured that I at least knew one person on there.

****If anything, Microsoft is disappointed that I don't pay for more via the Cash Shop, because there they get maximum profit for minimal effort.

Monday, May 13, 2024

Meme Monday: Moooommmm! Memes

In the US, Mother's Day was yesterday. 

For all those gamers out there who are also moms, here's a few memes for you.

This is from AtomzFamilyGaming on Etsy,
but you should also just go to Etsy and
search "DnD Mothers Day" and look at all
of the awesome stuff there.

This was extra funny because my wife
works at Target. From Imgflip.

I mean, you knew that Alextrasza was going to
show up here, given that she's the Lifebinder and all.
But the reason why this one is here is that she's got
the "I'm so fucking DONE with your shit!" look
I've seen out of my wife (and other moms).
From YouTube and Krimson KB.

And a little something from Wizards of the Coast,
circa 2015. Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, May 6, 2024

Meme Monday: Edgelord Memes

I've been amusing myself lately by watching D&D oriented videos by Antonio Demico, aka The Pointy Hat. (Here's his Artstation page as well.) His YouTube videos take an aspect of D&D, examine it with a high amount of snarky humor, and make a few tweaks and twists to change the class to make it more interesting to play. Being a long time player, I've been chuckling along with his videos, as he skewers a lot of stereotypes within D&D (and roleplaying in general).

In case he changes it in the future, I wanted to make sure
I saved it. From Pointy Hat Studios.

What caught my eye the most was this one about Rogues:

That Rogues or Thieves (or Shadowblades, for you ESO fans) attract an edgy type of person is an in-joke for RPGs and MMOs since forever (although in AD&D 1e the truly edgy played Assassins), and I'll admit I had my own Batman phase of sorts*. Still, the Edgelord player that plays Rogues is very much a thing, so why not poke some fun at them?

As long as they only simply stay brooding in the corner, mind you...

Yeah, this. Something about Fire Nation
that brings this out in people. 
From Facebook's My DND group.

Wow. That hurts. Also accurate.
From d20dndmemes.

And this is why I don't play Forsaken.
From Reddit and aitipse_Amelie.

Sigh. Yeah, that. I feel ya, Geralt.
From Reddit and The Witcher.

Okay, one more, from one of my more favorite webcomics:

You have to click on it to see the full thing, but
yeah. I've been in campaigns with that one player...
From Jonboy2312 on DeviantArt and
Tales from the Tables.

*Although I suppose you could say I was too nice to be Batman.

EtA: Corrected grammar.