dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
Yesterday, [ profile] softlykarou accidentally woke me up while she was looking for something in our bedroom before she left for work, and it took me a while to get back to sleep. Eventually, after some fitful tossing and turning, I gave up on sleeping, grabbed my phone from my bedside cube (we sleep on a futon, so I have a low-to-the-ground cube instead of a table), and started checking Twitter. When that was exhausted, I grabbed my iPad, popped myself up on my pillow, and started reading the internet. Then, all of a sudden, my iPad's screen went all jagged like in this Super Mario Brothers video. After some fruitless effort to fix it, I was about to get up to go check my computer for information on how to fix it-

-and then I opened my eyes onto a dark room. My phone and iPad were both on the cube where I left them. My phone alarm going off had woken me up, which I assume, dear reader, you already knew because the subject of this post has "dream" in it. But I'm a little annoyed that the first dream I can remember in months is a dream of what I do every morning anyway with an anxiety-inducing ending.
dorchadas: (That is not dead...)
When I was young and had newly acquired an original Nintendo, I went shopping one day for a game with my parents. I fixated on a game--I no longer remember what it was--and told my father that I wanted it. He looked it at dubiously and suggested something different, a game I had never heard of called Maniac Mansion. I looked at the cover, with the house and the five misfits on the cover and the weird face in the background, and I turned it out. It didn't look exciting. It didn't have Mario or explosions or spaceships on it. Would I really like this? Despite his attempt to convince me, I rebuffed his suggestion and insisted on my initial choice.

Well, it turns out that maybe I should have gone with my father's choice. I spent years after playing adventure games on the PC and I don't even remember what game it was I wanted so badly. I've always remembered the game that my father suggested, though, and now that it's October and I'm looking for spooky games to play, I thought it was finally time that I sit down and do so.

Arson, murder, and jaywalking.

Maniac Mansion wasn't the first game to implement a graphics-based interface, with clicking on objects to interact with them instead of typing into a text parser, but it was the most popular of the early games to do so. Initially there was some worry about this being too easy, since hunting for the right verbs and nouns was part of the appeal of text-based games since it was seen as a kind of ur-puzzle taking place over the entire game, so nothing was context sensitive. As such, instead of the later "Move," "Look," "Take," "Use," and "Talk" list of commands that Sierra would popularize, there is a list of fifteen verbs like "Walk to," "Pick up," "What is"--used to identify items, since there's no look command--"Fix," "Read," or "Unlock." This is obviously an improvement over a text parser, but there's still a ton of extraneous commands. "Turn on" and "Turn off" are separate, and there's both "Unlock" and "Open," which strikes me as leading to nearly as much frustration clicking on the slightly wrong verb and getting "You can't do that" responses.

But I didn't have to deal with any of that, because I didn't play the original version! I played Maniac Mansion Deluxe, a 2004 fan remake in the Adventure Game Studios engine that uses the Day of the Tentacle interface and verbset. That does have Look and Use commands, as well as context-sensitive right-clicking so that most simple interactions are entirely mouse-driven. It also upgrades the graphics to 256 colors but leaves all the details the same. I don't feel like I missed anything.

Okay, that's not entirely true. I missed the music from the NES version, which is character-based and is amazing. Dave's Theme, Wendy's Theme, and Bernard's Theme are what I could have had playing, plus the Edison Family Theme. That's a genuine loss, but I wasn't willing to put up with a controller-based interface to do it.

No disintegrations.

Maniac Mansion is classic B-movie horror. The opening cutscene shows a meteor impacting near a creepy-looking haunted mansion and all the lights turning on, and then the story kicks in. Dave's girlfriend Sandy has been kidnapped by Dr. Fred for nefarious and unspecified purposes, and he ropes two of his friends into going to the house to rescue her. The puzzles begin right away, with a locked door and having to look around to find out how to get in--the key is under the mat, by the way--and then a house filled with weird single-purpose rooms, strange displays, and even stranger inhabitants.

The game wasn't the first to have a click-based adventure game interface but it was the first to have cutscenes called "cutscenes," and those are the way most of the story is delivered. Every ten minutes or so, the game cuts away to the people in the mansion talking to each other. Nurse Edna and Weird Ed talking about how Dr. Fred has been locked in the basement for a while, Weird Ed deciding he's hungry--which means you better get your characters out of the hallways so he doesn't see them--Dr. Fred menacing Sandy in the basement, a package arriving, and so on. Some of these are for flavor, and some of them carry vital information, like the cutscene where Dr. Fred accuses Weird Ed of stealing the keycard that he (and the player) need to get in to see the meteor and also talks about Ed's pet hamster, thus informing you that you'll need to into Ed's room and search the hamster cage.

Though I had already done that by the time that cutscene came up, but I felt better when I saw it because the developers thought about it.  photo emot-scienceA.gif

Tuna heads unite.

At the very beginning of the game, there's a selection of several other kids besides Dave and a requirement to pick two of them. Then, there are multiple endings depending on which kids you pick, which is pretty great for a game from 1987.

I picked Bernard and Wendy, which gave me the option to repair the radio and call the Meteor Police, who come and arrest the meteor for hideous crimes as depicted on the wanted poster in one of the mansion's rooms; or find the draft of the meteor's memoirs and have Wendy rewrite then, getting the meteor a lucrative publishing contract and give up its life of crime. I've learned since then that I could have combined them by calling the police and then giving the meteor the contract before they show up, leading to the meteor being arrested in live TV. That's really clever and I'm kind of sad I didn't do that.

Other kids have other endings. You can launch the meteor into space, you can get a recording contract to pit the green and purple tentacles against each other, you can ally with Weird Ed to free his father from the meteor's control, you can feed the meteor to the man-eating plant on the top floor... Considering most old adventure games offer you the choice of one ending, maybe two of you're lucky, with the only variety being the myriad of horrific deaths available for stepping one pixel out of line, this is an amazing buffet of options.

Though there are horrific deaths too. Like microwaving the hamster and then showing the remains to Weird Ed. Not the smartest idea, that.  photo emot-commissar.gif

This is one puzzle I had to look up.

I had a walkthrough open while I was playing, because this was an old adventure game, built for a time when people didn't have Steam backlogs that would take thousands of hours to play through, and I'm not a boy scouring demo discs because I'm otherwise out of games to play. But it turns out that I didn't need it as much as I thought I would. Not because Maniac Mansion has obvious puzzles, because it doesn't. They don't have the torturous logic that a lot of adventure games do--though there are a few obscure ones like using the Pepsi to keep the man-eating plant from eating anyone who comes nearby--but they are harder simply because the game doesn't tell the player anything more than that they have to free Sandy. Everything else is up to you.

No, it's because I already knew so much about the game just through geek osmosis. I've listened to four podcasts from three shows about it, read the Nintendo Power coverage of the game fairly recently, and read articles that mentioned the puzzles for years. I had to look a few things up, but so much of the game I already knew. I mean, that's why I picked Bernard and Wendy, because I already knew their skills and the endings they could get. I knew I had to use the telescope to see the safe code, that I had to pour the radioactive water on the plant, that I had to drain the swimming pool to get the radio, that I had to get the high score from the Meteor Mess machine... I didn't know what order I had to do them in, but as soon as I found any hints at all I knew excatly what I had to do.

Unfortunately, that means I can't provide any idea of how hard the game would be for someone who didn't have those advantages. I was so riddled with unconscious spoilers that there were bits that seemed obvious that would almost certainly be inscrutable to anyone else who wasn't adopting the old adventure game mode of saving often, going everywhere, and trying everything. Like the aforementioned safe code, which requires distracting Edna, finding the ladder in her room before she returns, getting the dimes, figuring out the right place to move the telescope without running out of dimes...

Trial and error, with an emphasis on the error.

 photo 3327b7f6b45a33781e80dce4e4461510-d4ipx9c.gif

I can see why people load this game up and play it to relax. Occasionally wandering aimlessly, sometimes having to look things up, relying on my memories, it took me three hours to finish. If I had known everything to do and immediately set to, it might have taken me an hour.

I'm surprised by how well Maniac Mansion holds up and doesn't fall prey to most of the problems of adventure games, which is even more astonishing considering it was made in the 80s. There are very few ways to render the game unwinnable that don't involve one of the kids dying, though there are ways that can lock out certain specific endings--all of that is listed here. There are time-based events, but they're all either triggered directly by the player or there's a cutscene warning you that it's happening. And even when you're caught by the house's inhabitants, you're thrown in the dungeon instead of dying and can either unlock the door with the key and leave or find the secret catch that unlocks the exit. It’s amazingly lenient and even though I got stuck, there was never any time when I cursed the developers after learning the solution or ended up frustrated because I needed perfect timing on my actions to accomplish what I knew I had to do. If all adventure games in the 80s and 90s had been like this, the genre never would have dropped from popular consciousness.

There's a lot of gaming classics, especially on PC, that are nearly unplayable today. This isn't one of them.
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
A couple days ago, I read this article about the game Wurm Online and a man who was a king. I found it really poignant, the image of the author and the man riding together through an overgrown and abandoned landscape, littered with the crumbling ruins of what was once a vibrant community of players now almost all gone. A single house, alone in the wilderness, the last remnant of life.

Like this passage:
We haven’t seen a single soul since we left Strongbox but these towers are populated by NPC guards. Reminders that there used to be something worth protecting nearby. In this case, the flat land is peppered with bed frames. It used to be a collection of houses. But none of the walls, roofs or chimney stacks remain. Only bedframes, abandoned and forgotten.
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

The other reason the Wurm Online article hit me is because I played World of Warcraft for six years, for thousands of hours of playtime, and I have almost no posts written about it on here. For a long time, I used my blog as a form of social media before Twitter and Tumble and Facebook rose to the prominence they now occupy, and once those took off, I stopped posting much of anything here that wasn't directly what happened in my daily life. That means I sometimes went weeks or months without posting, and that something that took up a huge portion of my life and the lives of many of my friends for years is left with almost no records. I even ended up accidentally deleting my screenshots at some point. All I have are memories.

Yesterday, [ profile] softlykarou and I finished watching ToraDora, after having it on our to-watch list for almost six years. It's a deconstruction of the tsundere--one of the main characters is even voiced by Kugimiya Rie--with a happy ending that works out for nearly everyone. It's very Japanese in that "I will set aside my own happiness for now so that you can be happy and achieve your dreams" way, in multiple directions. And like many other such anime, it ends when high school does, happily, and the future is glowing brightly ahead as the characters walk forward into it. Even though these are high school relationships and the odds of them lasting past the beginning of college is very low, we don't want to see that. We want a happy ending.

That Japanese in the subject translates as "There is nothing that is eternal," which is the title of a story I wrote for that Scion LARP I was in and also one of the bedrock parts of my life philosophy. And while I was searching for the link to that story, I found this question on 知恵袋 (chiebukuro, "fount of knowledge") where someone asks if there is anything in this world that is eternal. One person says love, and one person says time, but the majority answer is that there is nothing.

I think that's what I write so much of my life down now. It's a way of holding out against entropy, of making the transitory experience of playing a single-player video game into something that can be shared with other people, of turning my experience of a good meal or an anime convention or a vacation into a record that will stand for longer than my memories do. There's already been plenty of times when I read an old blog post I wrote and find something I had forgotten or that I was remembering wrong, and writing it down meant that what really happened, or my perception thereof, remains.

We are, all of us, looking for something eternal. We will fail, inevitably. But that doesn't mean we can't try.

We don't build sandcastles in the hope that they'll last forever.

Are you there in my dreams?
Waiting there just for me?
Are you there for me?
Are you there for me?

I won't surrender
While hope still lives in this world...
Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif
dorchadas: (Awake in the Night)
I'm sorry, ever since I heard what Resident Evil was called in Asia I've thought it was a much better name. The Western name makes sense for the first game, and from what we've seen up the upcoming game it works for that one too, but Biohazard is obviously more fitting for the others.

This is one of the many games I played through in [ profile] uriany's basement, along with twenty runs of Chrono Trigger, parts of Resident Evil III, parts of Final Fantasy VIII, and others more numerous to count. I handled most of the action and he handled most of the planning, because I was better at the quick-time events and he was better about remembering where to go and where all the treasures were hidden--and he enjoys watching other people play video games more than I do. After we beat the game and unlocked Mercenaries, for hours at a time we'd trade off and try to get a higher score, spotting each other for chainsaw-wielding murder machines, suggesting routes, and just having a blast. I don't often miss the days before I moved to Japan, but those days just playing games together are one of the things I miss the most.

Ridiculous fishing.

One of the debates that occasionally flares up on the internet is whether Resident Evil IV is a survival horror game or if it's something like "action horror" or some other game that lets the people who play Fatal Frame scorn fans of the new Resident Evil games. And I think this is ridiculous and anyone who's played Resident Evil IV can tell you that of course it's a survival horror game. Sure, it doesn't have fixed camera angles or limited saves like the earlier Resident Evil games, and it doesn't have zombies, but it definitely has scarce resources, a constant threat, horror ambiance, jump scares, and plenty of other survival horror characteristics.

That picture there is me knifing fish in the well so I could eat them to get health, since I didn't have enough bullets to waste on shooting the fish. For the majority of the game until I bought the final upgrade for the Striker, I was still shooting enemies in the legs to stagger then and running in to kick them in the face or knife them to save ammunition. I was constantly switching weapons as one weapon ran low and my ammo count on the others rose high enough that I felt comfortable using them instead, then switching back when the reserve happened. Charging into groups of enemies where one was staggered because getting off a kick would damage all of them, giving me more time to knife them as they rose back to their feet.  photo stab.gif

I wrote in my review of Silent Hill II that I found the game very easy because I spent the majority of it beating monsters to death with a board with a nail in it and then had hundreds of shotgun bullets by the end. Well, I learned those combat habits from playing Resident Evil IV.

Have to go where the customers are.  photo capitalism.001.gif

The game has an amazing sense of pacing. Assuming you do engage in the conspicuous knifing that I did, the total level of resources will slowly increase until you're throwing away TMP ammo instead of grabbing it to sell. When I didn't have any space left in my inventory at all from the bits of ammo and green herbs with no other herbs to pair them to, I knew that I was coming up on a boss fight or a huge setpiece battle which would drain the majority of my resources. Then there would be a lull afterward that would allow me to slowly build up resources again, though never to a level where I actually felt secure.

One example that's fresh in my memory is the battle against It. I had bought a rocket launcher to deal with the actual boss battle--I bought multiple rocket launchers over the course of the game, and it meant that I had to wait a long time to upgrade some of my weapons because I didn't have the money--but I expended a lot of ammo and health restoring items getting across the boxcars suspended by endless chains over a bottomless bit (#vidjagames), so even though I didn't need to use most of my grenades or ammo on it, my inventory was still damaged. Then when it died, I picked up a few items, climbed a couple ladders, and ended up overlooking a camp of ganados all standing around a barrel of explosive fuel. Normally I would have fought them all, but after that boss battle I just shot the barrel, it exploded, they all died, and I picked up a bunch of loot. If it had been a part of a larger battle or just set among the flow of wandering through the game I wouldn't even have noticed, but coming immediately after one of the most annoying boss battles in the game, it was incredibly satisfying.


And speaking of boss battles and setpieces, I'm not sure I can think of a game that does it better overall than this game does. The game's setting is ridiculous, with a Spanish village that's apparently still stuck in the 19th century, a castle that has more square footage than the land area of the village, and an island with hyper-advanced biomedical research equipment that I can only assume the villains made themselves because there's no way they managed to set up the supply chains for all that equipment without someone noticing, but most of the time I didn't care because Resident Evil has always been ridiculous. The point is to provide a wide variety of locations for great battles, and Resident Evil IV does that in spades.

Is there any opening level of a game that's as good as the village sequence? Leon shows up at the outskirts of El Pueblo de Antigüedad with two cops, get separated, gets attacked by the villagers--and the first three Resident Evil games all featured zombies, so it actually was a surprise to see seemingly ordinary people--follows the paths to the village square and sees that they've murdered one of the cops, and then gets into an enormous battle. Running from house to house, kicking ladders down, diving through windows, and leaping over fences, grabbing a shotgun off the wall, facing a man with a chainsaw...and then it ends. The bell rings, everyone walks away, Leon lets off a one-liner at the now-empty village, and the camera pulls back to BiohazardResident Evil.  photo emot-kamina.gif

And then only a couple hours after that is the house defense section, which is nearly as good. Endless ganados coming through the windows, fighting with Luis, having to run upstairs... A lesser game would have made you worry about Luis's health or ammo, and maybe it's against the survival horror ethos that he's basically invincible and actually more like scenery that occasionally distracts a ganado rather than a real companion. But you know what? I don't care. I've had enough of infuriating escort missions where I have to babysit incompetents in other games and Resident Evil IV is a better game for not going down that route.

This isn't even the most ridiculous thing in that castle.

Which brings me to Ashley. I know the first time I played, when Ashley showed up I was incredibly skeptical. I mean, anyone who plays video games knows all about escort quests and how terrible they are. I expected it to ruin Resident Evil IV completely, but to my surprise, Ashley turns out to be probably the most congenial video game escort I've ever encountered.  photo emot-glomp.gif

She avoids almost all of the usual problem with escort targets. She moves the same speed Leon does and usually follows close, so she almost never gets lost on geometry or killed because she's trailing behind. She has her own health bar, but the enemy is trying to capture her, not kill her, and she's very good about getting out of the way of Leon's line of fire, so she rarely dies and when she does, it's either because an enemy carried her to an exit or because of explosive weapons. She doesn't say much except in cutscenes or unless she's grabbed, in which case she makes it obvious she's being carried away. And healing items work on her, including health-bar-increasing items. If every escort mission was this good, no one would care about having to do them.

I love his expression. He's just like, "Why me?"

Let's talk about quicktime events.

I get it. After the late 90s and early 00s, after the Final Fantasies and Xenogears and Metal Gears Solid, people thought that adding interactivity to cutscenes would be a great idea. No longer would players be able to just put their controller down and walk away, or pick up a book, when a cutscenes started. They'd stay engaged the whole time! But of course, we all know where that went. No one watches the cutscenes because they're waiting for the button prompts so that they don't die and have to rewatch everything all over again. As much as I disliked Mass Effect II, its interrupts are the only good way to do that kind of interactivity.

Resident Evil has quicktime in cutscenes and it's just as annoying as it is in every other game--the Krauser knife fights especially infamous--but one part I do like is the way that cutscenes prompts are extended to enhance regular play. Leon is not super maneuverable as a design choice, because Mikami wanted shooting to make him vulnerable and running vs. attacking to be a trade-off. This makes dodging in regular play basically impossible, but it's implemented as quicktime events in boss fights, and I really like this. It's a good way to make Leon feel agile and provides a way to mitigate boss damage without requiring a lot of blind running away, turning to shoot, and repeating. It was Resident Evil IV that showed me quicktime events have a place in gaming.

Incidentally, I learned that you can just mash all four quicktime buttons and it doesn't matter which combo comes up because the input is inclusive. If I cared, I could have macroed all four buttons to, say, F and just spammed F to win every cutscenes.

"Got some rare things on sale, stranger!"

I remember how confused I was when I first saw the merchant and how I tried to fit him into the story. He has red eyes, so he's a carrier of a Plaga, right? Why is he helping Leon? Is this all part of Saddler's game?

No, you're just not supposed to think about it too hard. The merchant is in the game to provide a resource for enemies to drop that's not weapons or healing items and a reason for players to spend that money. Weapon upgrades offer a choice of playstyle. This time, I gave up some inventory space to use the Red 9, since its fully-upgraded maximum damage is higher than the starting damage on the base shotgun. I usually use the Striker even though it has terrible range because it has so much ammo storage. And I spent a lot of time checking nooks and crannies for treasures to get extra money to buy all those upgrades.

I mean, the merchant's distinctive style of speaking is a permanent part of the gaming lexicon now. Even people who have never played Resident Evil IV know them. All I have to say is WHADDAYA BUYIN' and it provides its own context. Kawaii heart emoji photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif

Taking my rightful place

I was a bit worried about playing the PC version, and I originally figured I would play it with a controller. But none of the control schemes available--there's no keybindings for controllers, just three hard-coded mappings--matched what I remembered from playing it originally, so I played with keyboard and mouse. And actually, I think that was the superior choice. The mouse provided much more accurate aiming, to the point where I got higher than 80% accuracy, and the HD graphics meant that the game looked like it did in my memory rather than how a Gamecube game released in 2005 actually looked. It does mean there's a Professional mode game on my PS2 memory card stuck at It that will probably never be finished, but maybe I can try again now that I know I can do it..

Last year I picked Silent Hill II as the spooky game for October and I ended up playing it like Resident Evil IV, draining it of pretty much all the tension to the point where other people talk about how scary they found the game and I can't relate at all. So I figured this year, I'd just go back to the source, and it was definitely the superior choice. Resident Evil IV is one of my favorite games of all time and I think probably the best example of action-oriented survival horror there is. I had it on my wishlist for over two years before finally pulling the trigger, and I waited too long. But now the waiting is over.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif

Though I admit, this really isn't that spooky either.  photo emot-sweatdrop.gif
dorchadas: (Not the Tale)
As of an hour after sundown today, Yom Kippur ended for another year. Due to our local synagogue refusing to take our money for reasons we still haven't really been able to figure out, we didn't get tickets to services, so instead [ profile] softlykarou and I watched a simulcasted Kol Nidre service put on by Nashuva last night. I took a few of my vacation days and took the rest of this week off, so I stayed home, and one of the things I did during Yom Kippur was read the book of Jonah, as is traditional.

As with most "why do you..." questions in Judaism, there are multiple answers as to why Jonah on Yom Kippur. The two I know are first that it shows that G-d is like the Terminator and will follow you to the ends of the earth such that there is no escaping his sight or knowledge, and second that it shows G-d's mercy because Ninevah was wicked but when Jonah delivered G-d's message, they sincerely repented and were spared, just as we hoped that sincerely repentance will ensure we are written into the Book of Life. I'm sure there are multi-page dissertations on the exact meaning of the withering tree at the end even though G-d spells out what he was trying to demonstrate exactly, but those I don't know.

One other thing I did, once the sun set, was play a game:

Spoiler: Not that great.

I'm sure we all remember Canabalt, the first popular endless runner. It's minimalism really worked in its favor--who was the protagonist? What was he running from? What exactly was going on the background, with the giant robots and ships that would fly by? This was before everyone decided to make their own endless runner to capitalize on its popularity, as happens with every genre that demonstrates even a spark of something interesting. On phones, though, I don't mind endless runners. I tried to play Mega Man II on my phone and the onscreen keyboard was terrible, so something that just requires a button tap to work fits pretty well with the responsiveness of a touch screen in action games.

I found Jonah Run a couple days ago while searching the app store for any apps about Yom Kippur. Now that my phone has enough space I figured I would download it, and today I played it. As endless runners go, it's not bad. Most of my endless runner time that's not in Canabalt is in Robot Unicorn Attack, which has a bunch of powerups and other bits to collect but also kills you instantly if you touch anything other than the ground with your hooves. Jonah Run is much more forgiving--at least in the first stage--and hitting and object just stops your forward motion until you jump out of the way. Jonah's speed was never so fast that I lost control of him, though I did have some difficulty with jumping at the edges of pits. I'm used to the controls of the Mario games and jumping at the last second, and that doesn't serve very well here.

Ah yes, the famous skyship docks of the Levant.

There are three levels on the game representing the three stages of Jonah's flight from his obligations. The first is pictured above, at the docks of Joppa where Jonah is trying to find a ship that will take him to Tarshish. This is the easiest level, where hitting boxes doesn't kill you and the only difficulty is figuring out how high to jump so that you don't overshoot or go too high over an obstacle. And pixel art Jonah is really cute, though I'm not a fan of the blur effect on the ocean in the background. The second level is when Jonah is onboard the ship and G-d sends storms and waterspouts to halt his journey, so pixel Jonah is replaced by a smaller pixel ship, the docks become an ocean with giant water walls that are presumably supposed to be the waves, and the game gets a lot harder. Hitting any water wall causes instant death, the ship moves faster, and the waves are placed close enough together that I found it very difficult to jump properly without falling into the trough and dying. I think around 100 cubits is my highest score.

The third stage is inside the whale, and the stage introduction includes the words "Not sure he'll be able to run his way out of this one," which is a major clue. Left to his own devices, Jonah will run back and forth endlessly in the belly of the whale, which is a good way to run up the high score but not actually that fun. The secret is to press on the screen, which causes Jonah to stop running and call out to G-d for mercy. Then the level ends happily. It's cheesy, yes, but it's kind of cute and the app is at least partially supposed to be educational. Plus I love the ending screen.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif

If only you knew what would happen to that tree, Jonah.

All the while, you get chiptune versions of songs from the Yom Kippur services and text screens before each level that explain the storyline. For someone my age that's not a problem since the Book of Jonah is like five pages long, but for a kid who'd rather play a cute game than read that, it would be helpful. And that's pretty much the only reason I even played it--without that modicum of educational content, I never would have bothered to download it at all. But it is cute and educational, and fun to play at least for a few minutes. And it's free.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyarhé.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Elaphe went back to sleep and Bonnie was out in the square by the pipe, but Shining Star, the Green Knight, and Amos were in the common room when one of the amanita from the group last night came downstairs, picked up a bowl of mushroom gruel from the bartender, and started to eat it. After a brief debate about how to deal with the other group, Shining Star took the initiative, stood up, and walked over to the amanita and sat at his table.

The amanita was closemouthed, but he was willing to engage Shining Star in conversation. She tried to subtly hint to them that she was in town for the same reason, but the amanita either didn't pick up on it or wasn't interested in revealing their own motivations.
Shining Star: "You come from the Kingdom of Flowers?"
Amanita: "There are many wanderers from the Kingdom on the road in these days."
She was thinking about what to do next when the mandragora companion of the anamita came downstairs and sat next to him. Shining Star tried talking to her using the Royal Speech, the mandragora ability to speak into others' minds, and had much more success.

The mandragora introduced herself as Dim Ember of the House of Hollyhock, Knight-Lieutenant of the Knights of the Rose, a Floral knightly order responsible for dealing with dangerous spirits. She told Shining Star that she had been tracking Kurome for weeks since they had heard rumors in tower town that he was in Greenwall, and introduced her companions--Ringo, a raptok sorcerer; Meohan, a hedge wizard; and Cheerless Sword, her yojimbo, the amanita sitting next to her.

As if summoned, Meohan and Ringo came down the stairs and joined them at the table, and Amos and the Green Knight--who had been engaging in a staring contest with both Cheerless Sword and then Dim Ember--also came and sat down when Shining Star used the Royal Speech to tell them what had transpired. Bonnie, who had been sidling from chair to chair to get a bit closer, sat as well, and even Elaphe woke up and came downstairs, though he affected to be unrelated and sat at the bar instead, keeping an ear out.

Most of the session was taken up with the discussion that ensued as the two groups tried to feel each other out. Now that she knew she was dealing with a fellow exile of the Kingdom of Flowers, Dim Ember was much more forthcoming, and while she didn't explain her past or how she met her companions, she did mention what she knew about Kurome--that he had fled from the wrath of the Dragon Emperor (she uses the term "usurper") to a village in the north of the Kingdom of Flowers, but a group of wandering heroes had defeated his attempt to conquer that and use it as a base to expand his power. He fled through the Forest of Shadows, somehow surviving the journey, and had come to Greenwall, and she meant to kill him.

Bonnie asked if Dim Ember is a sorcerer, and she replied that she is not but that Ringo is, and then Bonnie tried to find out if Dim Ember and her group really is responsible for killing Summer Rain. She rolls and...botches the roll, so instead of asking in a round-about fashion if the Knights of the Rose have a way of dealing with ghosts, Bonnie blurted out something about whether Dim Ember created any ghosts on the way south. That put something of a damper on the conversation, and moreso when Shining Star casts Scent of Corruption and learned that the bartender in the inn they're staying in has the touch of demonic magic on her. The spell wasn't specific enough to tell if the bartender was possessed, cursed, or under a compulsion, and Shining Star weighed the chance of exorcising the taint with the fact that she'd be revealing herself to Kurome if she did. She decided against it, and Dim Ember and her group left to do more scouting of the town.

Shining Star and the party, minus Elaphe, did the same, and they found a half-dozen individuals who were tainted in the same way. No one is sure where Kurome is, but the smell of rot was strongest in the town square and faded as they walked near the outlying houses and fields, so even if Kurome isn't physically present in the town, that was obviously where his influence was the strongest. While wandering around, they were confronted by a group of local mycon and amanita youths who were spoiling for a fight. One of them, who had the smoky haze of demonic influence around him, even went so far as to throw a clod of dirt at Shining Star, but when the Green Knight used hedge magic to disappear and reappear right in front of them, the youths all broke and ran. Back at the inn, the party conferred. Elaphe agreed to continue watching the bartender and the others went to bed.

That night, after the inn was closed and the bartender had gone to sleep, Elaphe slipped out the front and around the back and found a door leading out to an alleyway, so he chanted a quick bit of hedge magic to aid stealth and settled in to wait. After about an hour in the alley, the bartender left through the back door and began to purposefully walk north. Elaphe followed, noticing a few other people walking at night as well, and eventually climbed up to a roof to get a better viewpoint. The people all walked north into the grain fields and disappeared into the tall stalks, though he could see ruffling among the sheaves that told him they were converging on one point. He made his way back to the inn, encountering nothing other than a few drunks, and when he returned he saw steady light coming from the room that Dim Ember and her group were staying in. He decided to wake Shining Star, however, and explained what he saw and then lay down to sleep.

Shining Star knocked on Dim Ember's door and it opened onto a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth as long as her hand. But when Ringo noticed who it was, she stepped aside, revealing Meohan sitting over a bowl of water and moving his hands in languid motions. Shining Star explained to Dim Ember what Elaphe had found, and Meohan changed the focus of his scrying pool. From above, it showed ten people standing in a circle in a small clearing in the fields. The only sound was the wind, but Shining Star could see the glow of their eyes--not the verdant green of the Green Knight's eyes, but the sickly green-yellow of something poisonous. After a few moments, the group dispersed, and Shining Star returned to her room and went to sleep.

Like I mentioned, this session was almost entirely dialogue other than the spying at the end. The whole thing really turned on Bonnie's Charisma + Presence botch--without that, the party might have been able to figure out what really happened with Summer Rain and maybe resolve that. As it is, the shield was left in their room all day, so barring some kind of ghost power, Summer Rain doesn't know what happened. At least, they hope not!

Now the party has tentative allies, but the real question comes in for whether they'll be able to fight Kurome and what happens after they win. Elaphe's player does a lot of asking about the location of things so he can figure blast radii...
dorchadas: (Default)
Nearly every year since we moved back from Japan, [ profile] softlykarou and I have made time to go out to visit my parents in October because in addition to seeing them and getting to eat my mother's delicious food, St. Charles's Scarecrow Festival is held that month. We last went two years ago, noting that the scarecrows were better than when we went three years ago, and last year we didn't go because I kickstarted tickets for the H. P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast live show and it turned out that was the same weekend. But this time we didn't have to worry about that and so after work on Friday, we took the train out to the suburbs.

We originally thought about going out to Kuiper Farms to go pick apples, where we went with [ profile] uriany two years ago, but my mother mentioned that my father couldn't come because he was playing in the community band at Batavia Octoberfest. I asked her what else was going on there and she said that she had no idea, because it was the festival's first year, so we decided to go there instead. After walking from my parents' house to downtown and being disappointed that the leaves were mostly still green, lunch at East China Inn, the Chinese food that I grew up eating which I'm pretty sure hasn't updated the prices since I was a child either, we walked over to River Street just in time to see the band performance.

When we got there, I was in for a surprise:

That's Mr. Heath on the right, directing the community band. He was the band director at Batavia High School when I was a student there and played euphonium in the band, like my father before me. And speaking of that, my father is in the band, though out of the shot to the left, sitting next to my middle school band director Mr. Stiers who is playing the tuba.

They played several songs, most of which I didn't know because they were by a local composer, and then struck the set to clear it for the next performance. While they were cleaning, my father pointed me out to Mr. Heath, so I got to talk with him for a bit, introduce [ profile] softlykarou, tell me about how we lived in Chicago and had taught English in Japan. And then on the way out, we had almost the same conversation with Mr. Stiers, who looks like he hasn't aged in the last twenty years, though my father later mentioned that he's had some health troubles. I only got to stay about twenty minutes at the Oktoberfest, but it was a great twenty minutes.  photo wheeeeee_emote_by_seiorai.gif

After a stop into a tea shop that had just opened called The Tea Tree where we bought some banana tea (which was delicious), we all piled into the car and drove to St. Charles to see the Scarecrow Festival. Unlike previous years, and unlike the weather forecast had suggested, it was cloudless and sunny, with little wind, so the relative temperature was probably around 25°C and it was much more crowded than I've ever seen it in the past.

There were some good scarecrows, though:

That was one of three Pokemon-themed scarecrows. My parents are of the opinion that the scarecrows' quality has been progressively going down over time, and while I sort of agree, I thought this year was pretty good. In addition to that one, there was a giant headless horseman, and a Calvin and Hobbes on a sled, and, in a major surprise to me, a R.O.B. scarecrow, which is a real deep nerd dive. I think I liked this year's scarecrows just because of that one, though the various Pokemon scarecrows showed me that pokemon translate very well to painted spherical objects.

Then we bought some fudge at the craft fair and before returning, we took a detour out to Gould Cider and Apple Pressing to get some apple cider.  photo heart_emoji_by_kawaiiprincess2-d51re77.gif I've been drinking it for years, ever since my parents found out about it sometime when when I was in university, but this is the first time I've ever been to the actual location. I'm still a bit amazed how abruptly rural the countryside gets just by crossing Randall Road. Only a couple mintues of driving and it was farmhouses with barns and fields of corn, and then the cider farm with a goat wandering around outside. Inside was the operating cider press, a wooden frame with wooden boxes covered with cheesecloth and filled with apples being pressed. It probably violates any number of FDA regulations, but damn if it doesn't churn out some delicious cider.  photo latest.gif

Then we went back to my parents' house, ate their barbecue, and then took the train home to avoid the Chicago Marathon crowds.
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
Yesterday I came across this article by Andrew Sullivan about the downsides of constant digital connection. A lot of it is the same stuff that keeps popping up in articles everywhere, about how no one pays attention to each other anymore, and maybe we should put our phones down and actually talk to those next to us, and oh no why are people texting instead of calling, and the standard jeremiads about how smartphones are ruining the youths.  photo c9a2ed93dbfb11e324f5b3e281e5e1b2.gif All of that ignores how I can keep in contact with friends from around the world, study Japanese while standing on a packed train, find my way around a foreign country without having to carry paper maps or wander the streets, make restaurant reservations in seconds, tell [ profile] softlykarou how long it will be until I can meet her in real time, and...well, if you're reading this, I don't have to keep elaborating because you know.

Multitasking degrades performance and people who read the news are more depressed, and it sounds like that was a lot of Andrew Sullivan's problems right there. But the part of the article that really drew my attention was this:
That Judeo-Christian tradition recognized a critical distinction — and tension — between noise and silence, between getting through the day and getting a grip on one’s whole life. The Sabbath — the Jewish institution co-opted by Christianity — was a collective imposition of relative silence, a moment of calm to reflect on our lives under the light of eternity. It helped define much of Western public life once a week for centuries — only to dissipate, with scarcely a passing regret, into the commercial cacophony of the past couple of decades. It reflected a now-battered belief that a sustained spiritual life is simply unfeasible for most mortals without these refuges from noise and work to buffer us and remind us who we really are. But just as modern street lighting has slowly blotted the stars from the visible skies, so too have cars and planes and factories and flickering digital screens combined to rob us of a silence that was previously regarded as integral to the health of the human imagination.
I don't currently have much silence in my life. Nearly every second of every day, I'm listening to a podcast. Even when I'm reading in bed at night, there's usually a podcast and some music going, since I'm trying to listen to and rate most of my music. And there are definitely times when I realized that I've been listening to a podcast for an hour and can't remember what any of it was.

Is that a problem, that I just want podcast noise in the background sometimes? Would I be better served by just setting Rain Rain on rain-on-roof and thunder sounds while I read? Obviously this doesn't apply in all situations--I remember work before I started listening to music and then podcasts, and it seemed to last a lot longer and was far more boring--but am I doing myself a disservice by eschewing silence elsewhere?

I remember the nights in Chiyoda. Living in the suburbs or the city as I had until that point, I hadn't really understood how quiet and dark the night was. I can just imagine my ancestors in England in winter during the new moon, when everything was deathly silent and pitch black, huddled indoors by the fire. That's why we lit the night (and why we, unlike the Japanese, have central heating). But I do remember going for walks in the hills around Chiyoda, and while it wasn't silent, the only sounds were the wind and the cicadas, the frogs, or the crunch of leaves or snow. Japanese has a word for that: 森林浴 (shinrinyoku, "forest bathing").

Sometimes I look forward to the day when I will have listened to all my podcasts. I wonder if my brain is trying to tell me something?  photo ashamed2.gif
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Andres of Troyes, Frankish Knight
  • Brother David, Cistercian monk
  • Eloise of Flanders, Handmaiden to the Countess and spy
  • Gilles de la Grave, Frankish Knight
  • Renault of Flanders, Frankish Knight
The group approached the Church of Saint Mokius, carefully surveying the square in front of it. They had left their horses by the bottom of the hill, and so Eloise carefully crept through the square to get a look at the church. She spotted several warriors hiding in the rubble in the square and one man dressed as a priest, and just as she entered the church door, the warriors spotted the party. As the priest yelled for the party to give themselves up and the warriors leveled their crossbows, the party charged for the door. Brother David took a crossbow bolt in the shoulder and, as the priest began shrieking exhortations to the Skinless One, felt a strange pain in his forehead and blood dripping down his face, but they managed to make it inside the church and bar the door.

Inside, they quickly looked around. The church dome was broken, with a rent gaping open to the sky, but the rest of the church seemed intact. The more martial members of the group quickly dealt with three Italians who tried to climb into the church one-by-one and then spread out to find the relic that the Venetian priest had hidden. Eloise kept Ramaldi, who was outside the church, busy in conversation until they found the relic in a nave in the southern wall, hidden beneath a statue of the Virgin so small that they had originally overlooked it in favor of the giant statues standing in the corners of the church. Then, as bricks began to come out of the damaged wall and Ramaldi's men were almost broken through, the party entered the crypt, blocked the door behind them.

Lighting torches, the group looked around the crypt. There were several sarcophagi, some of which had been smashed and the remains within strewn around the room, but most prominent was the tunnel in the corner that seemed freshly dug. With no other options but to go forward, they entered the tunnel, following it for perhaps a hundred feet, and then almost at the end, they came face to face with the horror that had been stalking the city that the Byzantine priest claimed to have called up. A serpentine horror, with long neck and horse-like head, thrust itself into the tunnel and roared at them.

As the monster took a deep breath and flames kindled in its throat, Eloise hurled a vial of poison at it, but her throw went wide. Fortunately, the monster failed to use its breath and tried to bite, snapping ineffectually at the party. At first, they attacks were similarly ineffective, with Renault's torch failing to affect the monster and Brother David's mace clanging off its scales, but Andres managed to strike a mighty blow and the dragon--for surely it could be nothing else--withdrew. Looking down, they realized they were perhaps forty feet up, overlooking a cistern, and with Italian cultists behind, they decided to jump.

They fell into the water and splashed toward the walkway, Eloise moving separately from the others and trying to sneak around the cistern out of sight of the dragon. The dragon attacked the knights repeatedly, with many blows simply failing to hurt it, until it took a deep breath and breathed flames over the party. Andres and Renault managed to deflect the flames with their shields, but Brother David and Gilles fell, seared and bleeding badly. Renault tried to save their lives as Andres fought the dragon, managing to stabilize both them through some miracle, and as the dragon stooped over its victims, Renault dealt it a mighty blow. It hissed and dove under the cistern's waters, and did not emerge again.

Some of them staggering under their wounds, the party emerged from the cistern and found their horses, where Eloise and Brother David took some time to study the package. It had a few creepy poems and a ritual that seemed designed to detect the presence of the Skinless One, and below that, a large capsule marked all over in Latin and Greek that to open it is death. Eloise and Brother David do not open it.

On to way to Merovac, the party ran into a group of Frankish knights who babbled about how the French were being taken by strange things and there were monsters loose in the city. The party pointed them at the Church of Saint Mokius and told them about the Italian cultists and Ramaldi, after which the knights charged off now that they finally had a target.

Merovac examined the ritual and determined that it needed to be performed to find Sedefkar's tower, and that he had most of the ingredients, but would need a bit of skin. Andres volunteered some of the skin of his back, and Merovac took it and dropped it into a cauldron, after which the water turned red and revealed the tower. Renault recognized the place in the city, and after Merovac gave the group some healing supplies, they left the leper ship.

On the way to the tower, the party ran into a French nobleman and his retinue, who questioned them about their intent. Eloise noticed something odd about him, a hint of marble-liked flesh, and as he noticed her looks, he denounced the knights as traitors and demanded that his men seize them before he fled. The party tried to force their way through, but the men were unyielding and the party was forced to kill them in pursuit of the nobleman.

The tower was a dull ochre color and the inside was a parade of horrors. Bodies strewn about or suspended from the ceiling, some still twitching, or sewn into new creations that writhed feebly. Ropes of intestines stretched into a diagram, blood liberally strewn everywhere, and monsters in the shapes of devils with terrible lamprey mouths. The party fought their way up the tower until the reached the top floor, where the sorcerer Sedefkar, the guise of a French nobleman, was attempting to perform a terrible ritual in front of a vast altar made of skin with still-living babbling faces strewn about its surface. The battle was terrible, and Renault and Brother David came away with serious wounds, but through coordination and their martial prowess, the knights managed to remove the sorcerer's armor and kill him. As they did, the tower's vile decorations crumbled into stinking slime, the armor pieces solidified into more of a statue, and the sorcerer hissed, "A curse on your crusade..." and then died.

The party gathered up the statue pieces and knife and rode back to the count. On the way, they saw many crusaders in shock, distraught over what they had done, and when they reached the count he was very pleased and gave them all fifty gold marks and the services of his healers, and they went to sleep. The artifacts would be turned over to Merovac for study.

In the morning, they were summoned again. The count was furious--he informed them that the leper ship had disappeared, as had Merovac, and all the guards on the ship were found dead, drained of blood. He swore that he would give the party a ship to seek out Merovac wherever he had fled, and bade them beware. If they sought to go further east, Merovac was well known and hated there, and went under a different name.


Shock! Gasp! And now, some of why I was using [REDACTED] earlier is revealed.

[ profile] mutantur did the best he could, but I thought this was a very badly designed scenario. It was basically a playable cutscene with a pre-determined ending, so whenever we ran into a situation where there was one way to proceed but we had to roll dice to accomplish that task, he was forced into increasingly-ridiculous explanations of how we succeeded or just having us win by fiat. Which is fine with me, because if the way to finish the scenario is a lot of single-roll fail points, it's a bad scenario. If there's no option but to do X, then X should just happen.

That bit above, Renault failed to heal Brother David and [ profile] mutantur had it succeed anyway because there wasn't any other choice. That was where I lost interest in how the scenario turned out, really. I made a joke that as the professor was reading it, he said, "I think there's something missing here, the account just skips ahead and the knight and monk are healed somehow."

I also didn't really like Sedefkar. This is the feared sorcerer, infamous in history, and his tower was basically Spatterpunk Blood Feast, which sounds like an amazing metal album but isn't a great way to show Sedefkar as some kind of cosmic threat. He's just a magic serial killer, which is one of my least favorite fiction archetypes. Well, at least he's dead now after our quicktime-based cutscene. We mashed X + Y like a pro.
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
Time to work through our backlog!

That's not the only reason we picked this chocolate, though. Tonight at sundown marks the beginning of Rosh Hashanah, the Head of the Year. We had a party last night with a ton of food prepared by [ profile] softlykarou, and among the choices she made for ingredients were pomegranate seeds. There's a lot of reasons for this, any or all of which might be true. One story is that pomegranates have 613 seeds, matching the 613 mitzvot, though that makes me wonder who counted all of those seeds to figure that out. Another story is that we're hoping that our fortunes in the new year will be as bountiful as the seeds of the pomegranate. Yet another is just that Israel was praised for its pomegranates in the Bible so it's just an association. You may choose one that fits your desire to eat pomegranate seeds.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Cherry Blossoms)
Thanks to [ profile] ping816, I found a gif that perfectly encapsulates my feelings about the deer on Miyajima:

It's from Nichijō (日常, "ordinary, everyday"), which I've never seen, but I recognize that building in the background. It's Miyarikyu, where [ profile] softlykarou and I went for our fourth wedding anniversary. You can see the building here on Google street view.

You know, this makes me want to watch Nichijō.  photo emot-nyoron.gif
dorchadas: (Broken Dream)
Back when video game magazines were a real thing that came every month, when they were the only real source of gaming news other than your friend's uncle who worked at Nintendo, one of my favorite magazines was PC Gamer. Not for the news contained within, necessarily, but for the demo disks that came with it. I got probably thousands of gaming hours of those demos--I remember waking up early every morning for a week while I was in middle school to play the demo of Master of Magic, Merlin against Kali--and one of the ones my sister and I both loved to play was Theme Hospital. There were only a couple levels and a small complement of the full list of diseases, but we extracted all the fun it had and then some. My sister can still quote lines from the game's announcer now, almost twenty years after she first played the game.

So when I saw that GOG had it available and that it was on sale, I snapped it up. I had never played the full game for any length of time and now was my chance, now that all the gaming wealth of the world is available to us. I was deciding between Frozen Synapse and Theme Hospital and did a bit of research on the internet. After finding a few comments about Frozen Synapse's more annoying levels, I decided to go with Theme Hospital. HLTB says it's about 24 hours, which is longish for a non-RPG but not a bad length of time, and about the same as Frozen Synapse. And playing it was so much fun when I was a child, right?

Well, dear reader, let me tell you--sometimes you should let a happy memory remain a memory.

The Gut Rot drug is certainly not 75% alcohol by volume.

This marks the first game I'm writing a review of that I haven't beaten. You could make an argument for Morrowind because I didn't beat the Tribunal expansion pack, but I did beat Dagoth Ur and I played it for 500 hours. Here, I played 2/3rds of the levels, long enough to know what to expect from the rest of the game and why I should quit while I was ahead.

The problems I had with Theme Hospital can all be summed up in one sentence--it's basically a tower defense game. You have a stream of creeps (patients) constantly entering and you need to build towers (clinics) to defend against them. Different creeps have different special characteristics (diseases) that need their own towers to deal with. The main strategy comes in optimizing the placement of towers in order to funny creeps down the proper paths so that your towers can efficiently deal with them. Occasionally, there's a special event that requires new tactics to deal with, like a sudden rush with a time limit. And all the time you have to manage your money, watch for problems to solve them before they happen, and keep the creeps from overrunning you.  photo chryssalid.gif

The problem is that Theme Hospital copies all the basic problems of the genre as well. The main thing that keeps from enjoying most tower defense games is that the gameplay is unevenly distributed. In the beginning of a level is a frantic rush to build as many towers as possible, and every bit of money coming in immediately goes out again for more towers or upgrades. However, at some point, a threshold is crossed. The towers are more than adequate to deal with the incoming creeps, so the gameplay becomes mostly just watching your level play itself out and occasionally upgrading things for the fun of it. In the worst-paced games, it's a frantic rush at the beginning and then the game basically plays itself. As much as I dislike the community in MOBAs, controlling a single character means that this is a solved problem there.

Creep rush.

It is not a solved problem in Theme Hospital. Each level features a different hospital layout and requires starting over from scratch, so when the level begins there's a rush to build seating, GP's offices, diagnostic rooms, a research facility, staff rooms, and so on. Then a period of watching the bank balance and trying to balance keeping staff happy while building new clinics as they become available and making sure there's enough seating and facilities for everyone. But after that, it's mostly a period of just watching, where I'd crank the speed up to max and watch everyone run around my hospital building, only slowing it down if there was some problem I had to solve or a new room to build. Otherwise it was just passive.

At least in a good tower defense, there are creeps that throw off the usual strategies and require new tactics to deal with. Fliers that can't be stopped by tower placement and require rocket towers to fight, or wizards who can stun towers, or giant turtles who prevent other creeps near them from being attacked, or something. Theme Hospital doesn't have anything like that at all. Sure, the advertising for the game boasts of over forty unique diseases to treat, and some of them are worth a chuckle, but the way of dealing with them is the same--build enough diagnostic rooms to figure out what they are, and then build the right clinic to treat them. Some diseases like Slack Tongue require a special room dedicated to that disease, and some diseases get funneled to the pharmacy or operating room or psychiatrist's office, but in the end, it's just build room, wait. The end. Once you get enough money to put in the operating room and ward and a couple of the more expensive diagnostic machines, then you're mostly just watching.

Click click click click click...

Well, except for all the clicking.

Theme Hospital manages to infuriatingly combine passive management of the hospital's primary purpose of curing disease with an enormous amount of tedious micromanagement of everything else. If staff get fed up due to being overworked, being cold--for some reason you have to put radiators all over every single hospital, even the one the game tells you is in southern California--being too tired all the time, or something similar, they'll demand a raise, and the best way to avoid that is to throw them a tiny bonus every once in a while. That means I was constantly opening the staff screen and checking everyone's status, throwing small amounts of money at those who are unhappy, and then doing it again a few minutes later.  photo _thisorthat__or__compare__by_brokenboulevard-d4tole3.gif

Some machines require maintenance, which is one of the jobs of the handymen. But sometimes they get too caught up in other tasks and won't get to a machine before it suffers too much damage, and if a machine is in danger of breaking when an earthquake occurs, the entire room breaks. And if that happens, it can't be repaired and it can't be deleted, it just takes up space forever. So in addition to all the messing around I was doing in the personnel screen, I was clicking all around the hospital and looking at my machines, ordering repairs on them, and then going back to watching.

I think if there was no ability to adjust the speed I'd be annoyed but understand, because then the challenge would be time management and setting things up efficiently. But the ability to adjust the speed means that it's not a challenge to respond to any of these problems, it's just an annoyance. If I really wanted to squeeze extra efficiency out of my staff, I could have been manually moving them around the hospital so I wouldn't have to account for staff travel time, but I was already clicking enough.

It's not easy being green.

The other major problem is the inconsistent and often confusing feedback. The level announcer can be amusing when she's asking patients to kindly not die in the corridors, and she'll announce that doctors are required in certain areas, but not what requires that announcement. Are the other doctors all busy? Did the doctors get tired and the staff room is too far away? Are there simply not enough doctors? Obviously figuring this out is part of the game and I don't want to the announcer to run my hospital for me, but I would like at least a bit more granularity in the information I receive so I don't have to do even more clicking around to find out what's wrong.

It's the same with all announcements, really. My machines are starting to fall apart, so I have to click around to find out which one they're talking about. An epidemic starts, so I have to click around and find out who's infected. The personnel screen allows for a single place where I can see what doctors have what specialties and go to where they are in the building, so why isn't there one for the clinics I've played and the machines I have?

Then again, the last level I played before I quit in disgust, I was repeatedly told that people hated my poorly-run and managed hospital, all while I was making money hand over fist and my reputation was 800 out of a 1000. So. Shrug photo shrug001.gif

Alright, here they had a point at least.

I wanted to play a sim game because the last time I had done that with any depth was a couple years ago when I wrote about Civilization Iv's Fall from Heaven mod, and I had fond memories of Theme Hospital. And like tower defenses, in small doses it was fine. Sitting and playing it for hours at a time, though...  photo pissedoff2.gif

I think this is the first time I've really felt like the passage of time and changes in game design have meant I can't enjoy a game I used to like. I still play Master of Magic because no modern game has done exactly what it does, and I have fun with the old console games I go back to. I even kind of liked Zelda II. Older PC games are notorious for having obtuse interfaces, though, especially sim games, and that's something that Theme Hospital suffers hugely from. There are people working on an open source clone of the game, and maybe they'll be able to change the interface to the point where I would feel like I didn't spend half my playtime clicking around trying to see what was wrong. Or what the game thinks is wrong even if nothing is wrong, as with the last level I played.

I think in the end I just picked the wrong game for me. As a high schooler with infinite time during the summer, I probably would have loved playing Theme Hospital if I hadn't been playing Diablo or Fallout. Nowadays, though, I have better ways to use my time.
dorchadas: (Office Space)
Got a new computer at work as part of the upgrade process for our upcoming database overhaul. The computer itself is pretty neat. It's about as wide as my hands together and square, and then maybe 3 cm thick, and it works great. But.

(Of course there's a but)

There's a suite of applications I need to do my job that auto-loads with the computer, and then I log in. And for some reason, the new computers--all of them--can't log in to those applications. We get security errors and then get locked out.

IT has a solution, though. They're having us do remote login to the database, from our own work computers, because that's a different validation process and that lets us actually access the system. And it works. It's slow, the interface looks like it hasn't been updated since Windows XP, and it sometimes randomly logs me out and I have to restart the process, but it works.

dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
I go to the Temple of Lolth, where Matron Ardulace is ecstatic that I managed to find the proper blood and that everything will be ready. She promises riches and power to Veldrin, and then says that she needs to make sure that nothing will interfere with the ritual. The city will be sealed and I should rest until the time that I'm needed for the ritual. The Matron then leave to make the proper preparations, as does Phaere, though before she leaves, Phaere tells Chiyo to meet her in her apartments, and that this is not a request.

In the Female Fighter's Society, Phaere gets straight to the point:
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Darker than Black)
Last week softlykarou brought home a sesame-based dessert from Golden Pacific, so I called off Darker than Black in favor of delicious bean paste. This week we return to the world of dark chocolate with something I should have gotten to a long time ago.
Read more... )
dorchadas: (Equal time for Slime)
This is my favorite Legend of Zelda game.

I think.

I know everyone thinks that Ocarina of Time is the best Zelda game and that it keeps winning polls as the best game of all time--with the notably infamous exception of last year at GameFAQs--but A Link to the Past has always been the game I went back to. My doubt is because of Wind Waker, but I won't be getting to that game for a while, so Link to the Past stands for the moment.

I never played it except briefly at friends' houses before emulation revealed the wonders of everything I missed by being a PC gamer, but I still got Nintendo Power through most of the Super Nintendo and part of the N64 era, and what I remember are the comics. Nintendo power serialized a comic based on A Link to the Past. Very loosely based--the constant vision, wings to fly into the desert, and balloon to get into Hyrule Castle had nothing to do with the game--but the game I imagined based on them was amazing. I still remember the story the tree tells Link about Ganondorf and the corruption of the Golden Land.
"Until then, I remain a fool in the shape of a tree."
Fortunately, though the game I eventually played was different, it was still excellent.

The graveyard is much more pastoral this time around.

Now I know that NPCs didn't come around with this game, instead being introduced in Zelda II, but this was my first real experience with them in the Legend of Zelda context. I remember loading up the game, Link's uncle going out into the rain, following him past all the guards as Zelda calls to Link, taking up the sword and shield, and then the same gameplay from the first Legend of Zelda, but now with 16-bit graphics and the ability to move diagonally. An expanded inventory! Bottles! Catching faeries in nets! All the extra tools!

I keep thinking that the basic template of the Legend of Zelda was set with A Link to the Past, but that's not strictly true. Later games hue closer to Ocarina of Time than they do to A Link to the Past, but A Link to the Past was the first form of that template. The themed temples, each of which has an item necessary to complete it hidden inside. Block puzzles. Items like the hookshot and the hammer. The template that future games either stuck to in order to really be a Zelda game or departed from to become an experimental offshoot, like Majora's Mask or Spirit Tracks.

There's always a princess. There's always a man. There's always a Triforce.

15-Bit Water Temple

One of the reasons I like A Link to the Past so much is that it introduces extra items. Unlike some of the more formulaic Zelda games, where each dungeon has one item, you get the items in the dungeons, and you know that if you find an item in a dungeon you need it to beat a dungeon, in this game there are items that just end up broadly useful. Like the Cane of Byrna, which makes you invincible but drains magic extremely quickly; or the Magic Cape, for slipping unseen through traps; or the
"Flute" (it's clearly an ocarina), for teleporting from place to place in the Light World. I'm a big fan of multiple possible solutions to problems, and the various extra items made some of those solutions possible. Charge past enemies, or sneak past them with the cape? Use the cane to beat a boss through a direct assault, or run and shoot arrows?

It does lead to a bit of bloat, though. Items like the Cane of Somaria obviously struggle to find much of a use and do fall victim to the "This dungeon is deisnged for Item X, after which you'll never use it again" problem. Though even then, the wiki just suggested using the cane's block as a test for invisible floors--create a block and push it. If the block falls, there's no floor there. So it's obviously not as useless as I thought, I'm just not as creative as I could have been. I kept using the Ether magic to reveal the path instead.

Hey, multiple solutions.  photo 58-2nsylaw.gif

Massive explosions solve everything.

A Link to the Past has one of the better "It isn't over yet!" reveals, though reading Nintendo Power means that it was spoiled for me and didn't have nearly the effect on me that Final Fantasy VI would have later. You start the game and learn that Zelda has been kidnapped and you have to find the three pendants to get into the Hyrule Castle to get her back. The enemy is an evil wizard (in the Japanese, evil priest, but Nintendo and religion didn't mix in the 90s) named Aghanim, but that's not suspicious because in Zelda II Ganon doesn't show up and the final boss is Dark Link. And then you fight Aghanim and get sent to the Dark World.

The game isn't over.  photo emot-parrot.gif An entirely separate map, with seven more dungeons, its own puzzles, and its own inhabitants. And I think it's when you get to the Dark World that A Link to the Past really begins, because once you find the Magic Mirror that lets you warp between the Light and Dark Worlds, you can use that to travel all over, get to previously inaccessibly areas, and open up entirely new possibilities by finding those optional items I mentioned earlier.

I know the genre is popularly called Metroidvania, but A Link to the Past really makes it easy to see how Castlevania: Symphony of the Night could have been inspired by Zelda the way Igarashi Kōji says it was.

Under a dying sun.

Another reason I like A Link to the Past so much is that it's not so spread out. Both Ocarina of Time and Wind Waker try to awe the player with the sheer quantity of space to cross. It's true that when I first played Ocarina of Time in 1998, riding Epona across Hyrule Field felt like an amazing leap forward in video game technology, and but my memories of it now are mostly that the field was huge, it was filled with gigantic peahats, and you had to ride through the whole thing every time you wanted to get anywhere. Same with Wind Waker, where the expansive ocean was very relaxing to sail through, but most of the islands were tiny without much to do and the warp points only helped so much.

A Link to the Past doesn't have any of that. It's extremely dense, so that even if there's nothing to do any any particular spot on the map, the only reason for that is because you've already done everything there is or you lack the tools to find out what you need to do there. Every time I loaded the game up with a destination in mind, I don't think it took me more than a couple minutes to get there once I had the Flute and the Magic Mirror. And speaking of the Flute, one of the extremely player-friendly choices the designers made is that every Flute drop-off point is near a warp to the Dark World. If you die in a dungeon and need to get more medicine, it will only take maybe five to ten minutes to leave, stock up, refill hearts, and return to the dungeon. Considering all the walking in the first two Zelda games and all the transportation in later games, A Link to the Past stands out as notably friendly.

Insert lifting joke here.

The actual dungeon design is very good. There's a clear ramp up in difficulty, with none of the three Light World pendant dungeons requiring any particularly difficult skills or puzzles and then the Dark World dungeons getting more and more difficult as you progress through the game. The major complaint I have is with all the pits. Like in Zelda II, a lot of the dungeons are pretty maze-like, with dead ends or ways to accidentally backtrack. Unlike Zelda II, in Link to the Past the backtracking includes one-way locking doors and pits that dump you to floors you've already been to, most of which either require an excellent memory or extensive mapping to avoid--checking the in-game map to see what room you're standing over before deciding which of three pits to jump into, for example--or a walkthrough to skip all the trial and error and save some time, which is what I did. I'm willing to figure out what block to push and what weapons to use to defeat enemies, but I draw the line at jumping randomly into pits and hoping that I picked the right one so I don't have to go through three rooms I've already cleared to get back to where I was.

On the other hand, the 2D nature of the dungeons means that this is really the only way that they're annoying. There's none of those "Walk into a room, doors close, loko around for the eye to shoot with an arrow to open the doors" situations that show up in later games, no fiddling with camera angles to figure out the right way to jump or how to get to a high ledge. Those seemed like innovations at the time, but now I just remember them as frustration.

 photo lhappy.gif

I didn't have any doubt that A Link to the Past would hold up. I last played it about six years ago and I loved it then just as much as I loved it when I first played it. My main question is how well I'll think it holds up against the games I haven't played yet. Next up in my Legend of Zelda journey is Link's Awakening, and my only experience with that is reading about it in Nintendo Power, or Majora's Mask, which I've heard a lot of great things about but never even seen played, much less played it myself. Even if they're great, though, I don't know that they can unseat A Link to the Past as the best Zelda game for me. It's really a distillation of all the best Zelda tropes, with nothing extraneous and nothing missing.
dorchadas: (Dreams are older)
I signed up with the iPhone upgrade program last year when I got a 6S, so my time had come, and yesterday I made an appointment and went down to the Apple Store to pick up a 7.

If I had gotten a 128gb model last year, I wouldn't have bothered to get get a new phone. It's not a huge upgrade in performance or battery life and the removal of the headphone jack is an active inconvenience for me, since I listen to podcasts for my entire time at work and thus go through about a battery and a half in a workday. But the other active inconvenience for me is that every smartphone I've ever bought, I've never had enough space on it. I've always thought that I'd have plenty of space when I updated phones and I've always been wrong, so this time I sprung for the 256gb model...and now I have 150gb unused after stuffing it full of podcasts and putting almost all my music on it. It does mean I'm future-proofed, at least.

The actual process went fine, other than the AT&T activation, which required none of the info I had brought and did require info I didn't have. Though the account password turned out handy, when I had to log into AT&T after my phone had already been reset to get my father's cell phone number since I was calling from the saleman's phone and so my parents didn't pick up because it was an unregistered number. Once it was all sorted out and I had tested it by calling [ profile] softlykarou, I got home, updated the backup, and everything was good to go.

I'm amazed that I'm still using the same information from my first iPhone from 2008, but I've never had a phone get corrupted or anything get reset. For me, it really does Just Work.

Also already ordered a case that's in tune with my aesthetic.
dorchadas: (Warlords of the Mushroom Kingdom)
Dramatis Personae:
  • Shining Star, mandragora sorcerer-priestess of Nyarhé.
  • The Green Knight, mandragora briarwitch.
  • Bonnie, kong Auspicious Orator.
  • Amos Burnham, a human from Earth.
  • Elaphe, a chuzan junior member of the Black Rose.
Through a driving rain, though shielded by a faerie enchantment, the group continued down the road away from the faerie pond, seeing no one and nothing for hours on the road. It wasn't until nearly dinnertime when the Green Knight, tired from hours of riding, failed to see the dionaea that had taken root on a mushroom tree until it descended from above and snatched him off his horse.

Amos drew his bow and Shining Star dismounted as the dionaea lifted the Green Knight into the air. Elaphe leapt and struck it with his dagger, wounding it, as Amos also shot a flaming arrow that failed to kindle in the rain but wounded the carnivorous plant. As Shining Star drew her bow and Bonnie sent her iron jaws familiar to attack, Elaphe leapt again, severing the dionaea's stalk and sending its body crashing to the ground. The Green Knight stood up uninjured, his armor having protected him from the dionaea's grinding jaws, and after Bonnie took some samples of dionaea sap for her alchemy, they continued on the road.

They rode for two days. At sundown on the first day the serpent of shadow and flame finally winked out for the last time, but they were positive now that their quarry was in the village of Greenwall. They passed some bedraggled-looking amanita heading west on the road who gave them a wide berth, and after sundown on the second day, tired, saddle-sore, and sick of riding, they entered the gates of Greenwall.

The village was surrounded by a thornwall to keep out the walking trees and other animated plants, with a patch of bare earth a dozen yards wide on the inside so that any dangerous plants that took root would be easily spotted. Inside that were fields, again with patches of bare earth between them so that a contaminated field could be purged and with bakeccha tending the ripened grain visible only to Amos's eyes, and inside all that was the actual village of Greenwall. The streets were a little empty, and most villagers scurried on without looking more than once at the party as they rode. There was a subdued note in the air, but nothing obviously strange or wrong. They thought about asking the villagers for some news, but decided against it:
Me: "What are your Socialize skills?"
"One." "One." "I don't have it." "Me either." "One."
Amos's player: "Wow, we're just a bunch of wandering psychopaths!"
As they entered the square at the center of town and spotted a tea house with the sign of the green wall, Amos saw a giant spider, almost half-again as wide as he was tall, with twisted limbs and mottled yellow and black coloring, perched on the roof of a building. As soon as it realized that Amos could see it, it scurried back out of sight...and Amos, who was used to seeing things no one else could see, didn't think it was worth mentioning.

The tea house was filled with mycon, amanita, and mandragora drinking and talking. A female mandragora with hair the bright orange of autumn leaves worked behind the bar, and in the corner were four people that immediately stood out. A raptok, a mandragora, and two amanita, quietly talking amongst themselves.

The party arranged for a room and once they did, the Green Knight and Shining Star, tired from the road, went up and went to sleep after prayers to their perspective deities. The others went down the common room and drank mushroom beer. Bonnie chatted to the bartender, who answered halfheartedly and without actually saying much, and then goes back to Elaphe, who's listening in to the murderers' conversation.

After only a few moments, he learns that they're here in the city to kill Kurome.

They also mention that they want to head out that evening and look for "evidence of corruption," and so once they leave to do that, Amos and Elaphe follow them, Elaphe using a bit of hedge magic to make him harder to spot. The others do not spot them, and they follow for about an hour as the others search through the town square, stopping every few moment as one of the amanita looks around, and eventually make their way back to the tea house. They also notice a pipe in the town square, with a scaffolding built around it leading up to the top.

As they're watching, Amos describes the spider he saw to Elaphe, and Elaphe recognizes it as an anuhles, a demonic assassin that delights in poison.

Back in the tea house Elaphe heads upstairs when the others do, marking which room they enter, and weighs sending his bob-omb after them in their sleep. He eventually decides against it because he's not sure how protected they would be in their own room and because he'd have to retrieve the bob-omb's parts from the wreckage, and goes to sleep. In the common room, a mycon comes up to Amos as he's drinking mushroom beer and asks him where he's from in accented Muskalan. Bonnie translates and answers, telling the mycon that he's a "hyoo-man" from "The Kingdom of Tennaysee." The mycon asks where that is, and when Bonnie tells him it's from beyond the pipes, they make a sign with their left hand and quickly exit the conversation. Bonnie follows to their table and makes some conversation with the people there, but doesn't get much further than asking names--Cloud, Early Rain, White Axe, and Winter Frost--before she realizes that maybe it's not a good idea to be more conspicuous than she already has been and then she goes to bed. In the room, she asks Summer Rain if she knows exactly who murdered her, but the ghost doesn't reply. Bonnie only receives a sense of rage and helplessness from the shield the ghost is possessing, and she eventually gives up and goes to sleep.

In the morning at breakfast, Elaphe and Amos fill the Green Knight and Shining Star in on what they've heard. The murderers are not there, and so the party discusses what to do. Them killing Kurome and Summer Rain's lack of answers throw a bit of a wrench into their plans, but after some discussion, they decide to stay in the town for a few days and see if the murderers are actually murderers and how their attempt to kill Kurome goes.

Also, Bonnie asks around about the pipe in the town square and learns that it leads to just outside the Scarlet City.

And that's where we ended! Combat took up a bit of time and there was a lot of discussion over what exactly to do now that the party finally found the people they've been tracking for half the game. Especially since these people have a mission that over half the party (Shining Star, Amos, and the Green Knight) would be happy to see succeed and Summer Rain isn't being entirely clear about how she was killed. Are these the murderers? The ghost certainly thinks so.
"I haven't come this far to not kill somebody."
-Amos's player
Now I have to come up with a map of Greenwall and some key personalities in the town, since they might be here for a while. It'll be like the old test game I ran all in that one village!
dorchadas: (Great Old Ones)
Dramatis Personae
  • Andres of Troyes, Frankish Knight
  • Brother David, Cistercian monk
  • Eloise of Flanders, Handmaiden to the Countess and spy
  • Gilles de la Grave, Frankish Knight
  • Renault of Flanders, Frankish Knight
12 April, 1204

In service to Count Baldwin of France, the separate knights and monk assaulted the walls of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade. After the city was breached and their share of looting had been done, they were all summoned to the count's presence. He met them in a small room with only his brother present and laid out a secret task for them.

The count believed that the rioting in the city was evidence of a malign force present, and says that his orders to turn over the loot to the lords for distribution and not unduly harass the Byzantines have both been almost completely ignored. He blames this on a cabal of Venetians--the other major group along with the French who were on the Fourth Crusade--who seek some bizarre statue and who worship an unknown pagan deity. He bade the group seek out this cabal and destroy it, and added that there were also rumors of a monster somewhere in the city preying on the crusaders and that if the group saw it, they were to kill it. Sending the group away, he told them to head to the northern basilica, where his men are holding a Venetian priest who was rescued from the cabal, and to speak to Brother Merovac the Leper, currently on board a leper ship in the harbor, and then swore them to secrecy.

Requisitioning horses for those who did not have them (i.e. Eloise), and began their ride through the city to the north, past scenes of wanton looting. At one checkpoint set up by the French, a Greek man and his teenage son were arguing with the knights, who started to arrest them as the group rides up. Eloise and Andres intervened, with Andres questioning the knights while Eloise, who speaks Greek, asking the Greeks what they were doing. They said they were trying to leave the city, and the knights said that their orders are for everyone to remain within. Eloise asked the Greeks to be patient for a couple more days, and they agreed and left. The knights did not arrest them, and they passed on.

Near a cistern entrance, Eloise spotted a French knight being dragged down the stairs and attacked by unknown assailants, and the knights and Brother David sprang into action to save him only to learn that it was a Varangian in disguise and his four compatriots jumped to attack.

They were not very competent warriors. The only wound suffered by the investigators was a light wound across Brother David's arm, whereas two of the Varangians were killed and the others fled into the depths of the cistern. After making sure that the bodies would not fall into the water and pollute it, they continued on their way.

Just before arriving in the northern basilica, they found a group of drunken knights who claimed to have been attacked by the monster. The group questioned them, but they couldn't agree on whether the monster flew or walked or was large or small, so eventually the investigators moved on.

The knights in the northern basilica were suspicious of the investigators, but Gilles and Andres have enough presence that they eventually convinced them and allowed them in to see the Venetian priest. He was raving about keeping "them" away and favoring an empty eye socket, and it took some effort by Eloise to calm him down and learn what he had to say. He had been captured by the cabal who were seeking a ritual to use the Devil's Simulare, a statue with powers from Hell itself. The priest described the whip-with-five-tails tattoo he saw on the Venetian who captured him and the location of the ritual, where he had hidden it for safekeeping behind a statue of the Virgin, and that the cabal called itself the Unburdened Flesh. Then he screamed that he could not keep them away any longer, a red eye appeared in his formerly-empty socket, and he said I SEE YOU in a voice that was clearly not his own. Then his head exploded, showering Eloise with sticky goo.

After quickly checking herself to make sure she was not infected or injured, the investigators told the knights to report back to the count, found a place to wash the pus and blood off Eloise--though not before she took a sample of it--and then discussed what to do next. Brother David favored an immediate assault on the church of St. Mocius where the ritual was hidden whereas Eloise thought they should speak to Brother Merovac and tell him what they had learned. The others agreed with Eloise, and so Brother David acquiesced under protest.

They rode to the harbor and, with some difficulty, found a boat willing to take them out to the leper ship. On board were silent lepers shrouded in robes, who directly the investigators below decks when they asked about Brother Merovac. The Brother was almost completely shrouded in robes and greeted them as they entered, then explained what he knew--the Venetian worship a being they call the Skinless One, but they lack true understanding of it. They seek a suit of armor, ceramic in appearance, that can grant its wearer true power, and the ritual the Venetian priest spoke of is what would let them find the armor. He also spoke of a Ramaldi who led the Venetians and that the doge may be part of the cabal as well, or at least sponsoring it, and of a Turkish sorcerer named Sedefkar who must be killed. He offered to perform the ritual, though as he did so he noted that Brother David had the air of a man who was learned in mysticism, and then bid them go with G-d on their quest.

Before sleeping, the investigators went to the Count and reported what they knew. The Count thanked them for their efforts and urged them to destroy the cult with all speed, then they retired for the evening.

In the morning, the investigators assembled and rode toward the church of St. Mocius. On the way, they find a strange sight--a ranting Greek priest, hung by his heels from a balcony, and two French priests with a Venetian prostitute, all extremely drunk, sitting underneath, and three dead knights and four Greeks lying around them. The drunken priests ask the knights for protection, saying that the Greek priest is a wizard and they are waiting for reinforcements, so the investigators wait. After almost half an hour of the drunken priests mentioning the black-cloaked figures skulking around the church of St. Mocius, the prostitute attempting to flirt with Renault of Flanders but falling over instead, and the Greek priest ranting about how he is a wizard who summoned the dragon from the waters to destroy the French and Venetians, the group got tired of waiting. After some debate about what to do, they cut down the Greek priest, executed him for the crime of witchcraft, and sent the others on their way.

As the game ended, the investigators rode over the hill toward the church and tightened their grip on their weapons.


[ profile] mutantur deliberately allocated the characters such that Demir's player was playing Eloise, while everyone else who is basically useless in combat in the main timeline was playing knights and the monk. It was an interesting reversal to have combat begin and just charge straight in, weapon held high, as well not always have to worry about the authorities and how we were going to explain ourselves. We did extremely well in combat too, which certainly helped. However skilled the Varangians were, their performance didn't show it.

There should be one more session of this, though you never know with our group. We have to stop the cabal and kill Sedefkar, and while that seems pretty quick, who knows what with combat being required. And our last interlude took about twice as long as expected...
dorchadas: (Baldur's Gate II)
So Phaere wants me to meet her immediately after arguing with Solaufein, and in the Female Fighter's Society where he won't be able to enter. I think I know where this is going, but since she only gave me an hour, I don't have any choice but to go to meet her immediately. When I do, she confirms my suspicions--after offhandedly saying she was thinking of having Chiyo tortured, she says flat-out that she and Solaufein are not on the best of terms and that she's tired of his insolence and allowing it to continue would be risking her position in the priesthood, but she can't kill him herself without risking war between their Houses. So she has come to a solution!

Have Chiyo do it.
Read more... )


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