Musical Interlude: Metric

I don’t know if I pimped them before so if I have, then it’s still worth mentioning again. I’m usually not a big fan of female vocalists because I don’t usually associate with what they tend to sing about but I find Metric’s music isn’t the typical stuff. It’s got a good beat and pace which is uplifting and somewhat relaxing – at least for me.

At the moment I’m stressing and this music is lessening that to some degree.

Look them up: Metric.

Personal favorites?

Stadium Love
Sick Muse
Help I’m Alive
Gimme Sympathy
Gold Guns Girls
Dead Disco
Combat Baby
Poster of a Girl
Monster Hospital

Father Son Weekend

TheWife took LittleLittleOgre camping with some friends leaving LittleBigOgre with me over the weekend. The plan?

Play lots of video games and order-in.

That was LBO’s plan. I compromised with him and agreed to the ordering-in part. We still got a fair bit of gaming in, but not all weekend long.

TheWife and LLO left on Friday around lunch time. I was working from home while LBO was playing downstairs on “Daddy’s computer”. I quoted that because they say that with reverence.

“I get to play on *dramatic pause* Daddy’s computer!”

He ended up playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare which was a game he’s completed before and so he completed again while I was working. Once I was done working (I think the wireless component of my router died because I wasn’t getting any connection from my laptop most of the way through the afternoon), I popped on, played a bit of WoW and played a little City of Heroes with him.

Friday’s supper menu was ordering in from St. Hubert. I had chicken and ribs combo while he had chicken and fries. The LBO was powered by V8 and yogurt drinks. We’re not keen on letting them drink pop since I try not to drink any pop either (I gave it up several years back because work provides us with free pop and I found myself drinking too much in one day).

Yes, but sitting in front of the computer all day and night was fine! It’s not something he gets to do often.

Saturday morning we woke up around 7am and got back to playing. I was working on some achievements/factions in TBC for Smaken while he was playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 – continuing from where he left off several months ago when his mom decided she didn’t want him playing that. He beat it a couple of hours later (I helped him with two parts of different levels) and spent a little time running around in the museum.

I’m going to have to give that game a look.

Around noon we got cleaned up and went off to the mall. I was going to walk there (it’s about a 20 minute walk) since TheWife had the van, but LBO wanted to take the bus. I made a deal with him that if the bus didn’t come in five minutes, we’d walk because the buses were on a half-hour schedule. Just as I finished saying that, the bus appeared. We wandered around the mall a little, popped into the comic store where I bought him a box set of Pokemon cards (it was a tin that comes with four packs of cards and a bonus card). We then went up to the food court where we had New York Fries and he looked through the new cards he got.

We grabbed another bus on the way home but had to wait about 15 minutes. We got off at the stop near our local video store and wandered in to look for some movies to watch that evening. LBO picked up three Pokemon movies while I picked up two movies with a little more meat and depth to them: Furry Vengeance and The Spy Next Door.

We watched some of the Pokemon movies, I ordered pizza for us from Pizza Pizza which was delivered quickly and was pretty hot. Pizza Pizza isn’t the best pizza, but it’s decent enough and inexpensive but – more importantly – LBO loves it. After supper we watched Furry Vengeance which was about what you’d expect from a kids movie. They were trying to teach a lesson and – as seems to be a theme in kids movies lately – the Dad was at fault. We went to bed after that. LBO was pretty hyper – one second he was talking and making noises then nothing. He was out cold.

I was still awake so I wandered downstairs to give Dragon Age: Origins another shot. It had been awhile since I played it. I played for a little bit then stopped. I’m not sure why but I can’t seem to get back into that game.

We had another early morning. Wandered downstairs, had breakfast, played on the computer a bit more. I managed to get a few more achievements with WoW; exalted with Honor Hold, Ten Tabards, and some exploration achievements. Then had left over pizza for lunch. By then TheWife and LLO were home.

Good time. Next time they go camping, LBO says he wants to say home with me if I’m not going – he had a lot of fun.

They ended up playing outside, we looked at the camping pictures and then watched the other movie (The Spy Next Door) which was more enjoyable. Another movie where the dad looked bad, even if it was only mentioned in passing. The kids’ dad had abandoned the kids and run off even leaving his daughter from a previous marriage behind.

I’m starting to wonder about all these movies where the dad always seems to be in the wrong.

Favorite Characters…

Awhile back I asked people to help me pick between characters, only Ysharros offered some help. Oddly enough, I went with the Goblin Cleric character and had a load of fun. I have to admit, it now sits up top of my list of favorite characters.

A Goblin Cleric of Hermes who picked the Travel and Trickery domains, was Chaotic Good and a whole lot of fun despite being reduced to a mobile band-aid. There was just something about the pest personality I adopted for him that was enjoyable. I played him as a bit of a slacker as well, ducking out of sitting a watch over nights, pretending he didn’t know the the Giantish language other than what he believed was, “Hey, how’s it going?” but was actually, “Tongue my hairy dumper!” and misleading his brutish Minotaur companion – though only slightly. One of the things that never had a chance to come out was that he was a bit of a swindler – unfortunately, the ‘merchants’ in the group didn’t leverage his ability to be diplomatic and also outright bullshit people.

My next favorite is my current character, Smaken the Ogre. We’re playing with some modified rules that allows you to level up through monster race as a class then adopt a class later. I’ve got another two levels to go before I can actually pick a character class – I’ll be going with Fighter. Next level he’ll grow from Medium size to Large size which adds some benefits (+2 STR, 10 foot reach, size bonus to size related things, weapons of suitable size scale up in damage dice) but also has some costs (-2 DEX, -1 AC and -1 to hit from Size, I believe there are penalties to things like Hide as well). With some surprisingly good rolls and not going overboard with stat assignments, he’s actually smarter, wiser and more convincing than most Ogres would be. I was a little surprised but I managed to get away with 8 INT, 9 WIS and 10 CHA.

From the play side of things, I’m trying to ensure he stays well within his Lawful Evil alignment. I take opportunities to be brutal and cruel to things lesser than he is and generally harsh. I’ve even proposed we take on some slaves we rescued from their Mind Flayer oppressors but the Goodly types didn’t like that. Being a malnourished and growing Ogre, a lot of his concerns revolve around eating – some of the food sources make the other party members cringe, though the Dread Necromancer in the group is helping out by skinning things and collecting some choice cuts. So far Smaken has tried gnoll, wolf, bear and dragon. Some people got squeamish about a party member eating a sentient creature (the gnolls) but I put that to rest by letting them know halflings were tastier.

I’m playing him dumb, but not horribly dumb. Definitely uneducated since he grew up in Mind Flayer slave camps and was used for heavy lifting type jobs. Every now and then I throw out the odd revelation, but mostly he’s dazzled by the more complicated situations.

He’s at odds with some of the party members, but so far only the Druid is on his list of people that are weird and might need to be put in their place. He’s already had two run-ins with the Druid’s animal companion – a wolf. Once the damn wolf tried to eat the gnoll Smaken just knocked unconscious. Irritated by that, Smaken took a swipe at the wolf but missed. The Druid called his pet off. In Smaken’s defense, I did have him call out to leave this gnoll alone because he was going to question it and the Druid didn’t call the wolf off. Annoyed with the wolf, he later too a shot at it when it got in his way in combat, stepping right in front of Smaken, blocking easy (and tactical) access to an opponent. It was a hard hit and almost killed the wolf, as did the attack from the enemy. The wolf doesn’t seem to come around as much anymore. :)

The Githerzai Psychic Warrior is starting to annoy Smaken a bit. A rust monster ate the Gith’s metal shield so Smaken loaned the Gith his heavy wooden shield – since the Gith was a decent fighter, though clearly not an Ogre so he was more frail. The damn Gith engraved a symbol of Moridan and painted the shield. If Smaken didn’t like Dwarves so much (he thinks they’re sort of like little Ogres) and like that the symbol was a warhammer, there might have been more of an issue. At this point, Smaken isn’t going to loan the Githerzai anything in the near future. Who knows what the skinny, cone-head will do to whatever he’s loaned.

The goodly Duergar Cleric of Moridan is also a bit of a stick in the mud. Won’t let him take slaves or eat the Halfling prisoner and didn’t like him killing (and then eating) the Gnoll prisoner who didn’t have any information of value for Smaken. He’s a bit stuffy but he’s a Dwarf and he fixes up Smaken’s owies so that’s okay. For now.

The Warlock and Bard seem okay. They don’t get in his way, besides the Bard tells some pretty amazing stories about a group of adventurers that slay Mind Flayers. One of the characters in the story is pretty cool because he’s a big nasty Ogre, really strong and crushes his enemies. (The Bard is actually telling the story about how this group defeated a Mind Flayer overlord but has changed the names of the party members – Smaken hasn’t clued in that he’s the Ogre in that story.)

A sample of Smaken performing a “Gather Information” check:

In a tent-filled, refugee camp Smaken found himself in a ‘tavern’ filled with Dwarves and other refugees. Knowing the group is looking for a missing Dwarf that disappeared into nearby ruins he asks the Dwarves, “Hey! Yous dorfs – do yous guys know any udder dorfs?” He’s met with shrugs and several Dwarves pointing at each other.

I wasn’t actually expecting to be of any use, but I was hoping other members of the group might remember why we were there and get asking questions. It seems we were being stalled until we proved our worth later on in the evening when we defended the encampment from a ‘Death Squad’ from the local ruling Mind Flayer tyrant. We ended the session there.

Good fun.

On Fun…

Frostheim posted a bit about Volley getting removed in Cataclysm and had a section about ‘game design’ and ‘fun’ that I thought was worth quoting and emphasizing because it applies to more things than just WoW – given that it was a point about game design. I could see this sort of thing applying as a DM setting up an encounter or adventure or even running a gaming session.

As I’ve mentioned before, I used to work for a major table top game publisher, and I got to work and talk with some very talented game designers. The way that they viewed game design was endlessly fascinating to me. To them, “fun” was just another mechanic to be balanced, along with strategy, complexity, and intuitiveness. They could sit down and tell you what kind of mechanics made a game fun, and the different kinds of fun and how they appealed to different kinds of players.

There are a couple key things about fun. First of all — not doing anything is not fun. It’s boring, and it makes the game feel slow or long. This was especially a big deal for board games — you didn’t want any one person’s turn to last too long. But it was okay if the other player had ways of interrupting his turn — even if he didn’t use them, he still felt engaged. But just sitting and watching and waiting your turn to play is not fun.

Furthermore, success has to be based on your decisions (or at least have the illusion that it is): you have to be the one winning and you have to win because of what you do and how well you do it. If all you do is roll the dice and the highest number wins, that isn’t terribly fun, even for the winner. If all you do is watch stuff happen, that isn’t terribly fun either.

There was a lot more to the post but it was more specific to WoW so I didn’t include it.

I think he hits on a lot of good points, some are pretty obvious, while others could really shed a lot of light on what goes on in my D&D sessions on Wednesday nights.

Emphasis on, “not doing anything is not fun“, “This was especially a big deal for board games — you didn’t want any one person’s turn to last too long. But it was okay if the other player had ways of interrupting his turn – even if he didn’t use them” and “But just sitting and watching and waiting your turn to play is not fun“.

We’ve got a pretty big group – seven players and one DM – so the combat rounds take awhile. In some cases your character might be disabled or ineffective against what is happening (whether it’s combat, negotiations or interrogations) so it’s hard to always have everyone able to do something.

This gets worsened at higher levels, especially in combat, when you start seeing that casters can dominate the majority of time in the round resolving their actions, the effects of their actions or performing actions for the plethora of creatures they’ve summoned up on top of their own actions.

For mundanes (to steal from Piers Anthony’s Xanth series)? Not too time intensive – you have a number of attacks that are straight forward hit rolls, damage rolls, maybe some movement with exceptions being things like ‘grapple’. This means the combats can be pretty damn boring for mundane types.

All that said, I think this leads some players towards second bit I quoted – interruptions.

The rules lawyering (correcting others on how to play out an action, noting specific mechanics, playing the DM’s pet to the detriment of the party or downright disagreeing with how the DM is doing something) seems to be a product of everyone not being as involved as they’d like or perhaps everyone trying too hard to be involved in some when because their character hasn’t been able to be involved.

Some of the players might suggest that some players tend to be worse about lawyering than others, I’m starting to wonder if there is a pattern to this. Do the ‘mundane’ character owners tend to be more lawyer-like simply because their action is resolved quickly leaving them feeling like they’re not really playing?

On the flip side, this is something for DMs to take note of when building encounters – make sure you have something in there for everyone to feel useful with, even if it is just throwing in some weaker creatures for the mundanes to pummel away at or something; the trick there is to make sure you don’t make them look too appetizing for the caster-types. Also avoid designing encounters where the players do nothing.

Again, our group size makes this really difficult because the list of people to engage is about twice the size of the expected group size and you end up with a fair bit of overlap.

The last paragraph in the quote is something that is important for our group as well. For the most part, we’re good with that sort of thing but I thought it was an important item to note as well.

f basketweaving, imma gonna play starcraft!

I got this from UFTimmy who discovered a new course his alma mater is making available. Go here and search on the page (don’t use the seach field/button for the site, use your browser’s search) for “21st Century Skills”.

21st Century Skills in Starcraft is an 8 week entirely online course that uses the popular real time strategy (RTS) game Starcraft to teach valuable 21st Century Skills through a hands-on approach. With society becoming increasingly technology-based and fast-paced, it is important for professionals to be highly proficient in skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, resource management, and adaptive decision making. These skills are fundamental in Starcraft and therefore make the game a highly effective environment for students to analyze and take action in complex situations. Computer and video games of all types have become a major part of today’s entertainment and technology worlds. Also, online education is an area of intense growth with many employers and professions using online courses and workshops for career development. This course synthesizes the three threads of 21st Century skill development, gaming, and online education into an innovative and experiential approach that encourages students to identify, learn, and practice crucial skills and apply and relate them to real-world situations. It does not teach about Starcraft, but rather aims to utilize the game and the complex situations that arise within it to present and develop the important skills professionals will undoubtedly need in the 21st Century workplace.

Love it. Now if only I could set up a course on teaching skills to people through raiding in WoW… or something like that. I suppose Starcraft has an easier barrier of access. No need to level up to 60, 70 or 80 to raid.

I hear the final exam involves defeating the teacher in a 1v1 in game battle.

Beastmastery ZZZzzzzz…..

I’ve been running around in Beastmastery spec on Smaken the last couple of days to level up my turtle pet since I want to hit some TBC instances (and heroic instances) solo. It’s taking quite a toll on me.

You see, I’ve been running Marksman since about ToC so several months now, and the rotation and key mappings have become second nature (except I have to find a better home for Deterrence). I’ve got 1-5 along the top of the keyboard, q, r, t, f, g, z, x, c and v all mapped to abilities of use. That doesn’t include melee (other than my Wing Clip+Raptor Strike+Disengage macro; thanks Garwulf for that one!) or any of my traps.

1 = Viper’s Sting
2 = Silencing Shot
3 = Chimera Shot
4 = Aimed Shot
5 = Arcane Shot
7 = Multi-shot
8 = Volley
q = Mark+pet attack macro (this also turns Growl or Cower on based in whether I’m in a group/raid or solo; also doesn’t send the pet in if I’m in a group/raid)
e = Kill Shot
r = Steady Shot
t = Feign Death
f = Disengage macro (this is usually my task button – things like Tranq Shot, Distracting Shot or other ones sometimes goes here)
g = (I push Disengage to this one when I have task shot in f)
z = Aspect of the Dragonhawk/Viper toggle
x = Misdirection macro (@focus, @target’s target, @target or @pet depending on which one is set)
c = Concussive Shot
v = Mend Pet

Lots of abilities, right?

Well, there could be some more on there too, like Deterrence, my FullPower! macro (fires all my cooldowns at once), Readiness, just Wing Clip, just Raptor Strike, Mongoose Bite, my Parachute Cloak and my Nitro Boots.

So switching to Beastmastery I find myself getting screwed up, hitting a bunch of keys out of habit/reflex/instinct/ritual that do nothing. You see, for Beastmastery (ooops, almost had a typo there “Breastmastery” – I’m always running that spec IRL) I have fewer active shots. Much fewer. And most of them can’t be done on the run.

Most of the mappings are the same except I don’t have Silencing Shot, Chimera Shot or Aimed Shot. It’s three fewer shots, but all three of those can be fired on the go and are instant shots. For BM I have Viper’s Sting, Arcane Shot, Multi-shot (if it’s not going to cause any trouble) and Steady Shot. I do get to add in Bestial Wrath and Intimidation, but they don’t seem as active since one is a buff with a fairly lengthy cooldown and the other is also a buff to your pet that will tell it to stun.

Right now BM spec is the easy-mode leveling and, well, Hunter spec where you don’t really see a lot of change in the abilities. I get that they want a simple spec, but they really could add some more to it for people that don’t want easy-mode but would still like more pet emphasis. Now if they had added in more pet control stuff, I might find it more interesting. Abilities that make your pet do stuff – Intimidation is a start. More please.

Some things off the top of my head? Give BM’s a “Sick ‘Em!” command that causes them to Charge like a Warrior does. “Pounce” type command that can be used to root someone in place or as a Sap of sorts? Just some ideas. Heck, I’d be fine with some of the tenacity abilities getting pushed over to BM Hunter abilities where the pet won’t automatically do it, the Hunter has to command them to.

Yes, I realize I can turn off the auto-cast for those abilities and macro them in, maybe I’ll do that, but it seems sort of artificial.

Needless to say, I found BM to be a bit boring. Still, I have to level the turtle up. I decided I’d work on some achievements I didn’t have on Smaken so I ran around Scholozar Basin doing the Henmet quests to get that achievement, but I was doing them without a weapon in hand to also get the “Did Someone Order a Knuckle Sandwich?” achievement – which I did get. Eventually I’ll work my way into getting the faction achievements with the two factions there – which also includes getting an extra one for having done both. I figure I’ll go Wolvar for the first bit, get that to Exalted, then flip to the Oracles and get that to Exalted so I get those two and the Basin Mercenary achievement. I’ll stay Oracles in hopes of getting a proto-drake from the egg.

I’ll also continue to run the lady frost giant daily in hopes of getting a white bear mount. I might as well continue the cooking, fishing and jewelcrafting ones too. Well, maybe not the fishing ones since I also got the achievement for that one yesterday. Maybe I’ll pop over and do the fishing and cooking ones in TBC too… or maybe I’ll just wait until I’m grinding rep there, since I’ll be in the area.

So much to do…

2.3 Billion Served!

I was poking around the WoW Armory and noticed there was some statistics available for my characters. I took a quick look at some of them and will highlight a few of them – some of them might be skewed because I did a server transfer and faction switch.

SMAKEN KILLS

Creatures killed: 82,620
Creature type killed the most: Undead (30,483)
Critters killed: 5084

SMAKEN DEATHS

Total deaths: 0

*cough*

SMAKEN COMBAT

Total damage done: 2,345,343,784
Total damage received: 161,341,992
Total healing received: 159,599,464

Healers missed healing me for about 1,742,528 damage – you know, roughly that exact amount.

Some of the same information from Lannister:

LANNISTER KILLS

Creatures killed: 126,773
Creature type killed the most: Humanoid (48514)
Critters Killed: 4636

LANNISTER DEATHS

Total deaths: 488

LANNISTER COMBAT

Total damage done: 1,485,181,715
Total damage received: 324,939,324
Total healing received: 332,909,248

I find the differences between the two quite significant. I’m actually surprised Lannister has killed more creatures than Smaken, yet Smaken has done much more damage. I’m not entirely convinced that data got lost with the transfer and switch, but I’m almost positive my PVP kill count was reset when I switched servers. It was awhile ago.

Now I did raid up into Ulduar with Lannister (not including TBC) then took over with Smaken from there. They have mostly the same raid kills, except Smaken hasn’t done a full Naxx 25 (or 10 for that matter).

Neat.

I also added a RSS Feed widget to the left that will update with my latest achievements or kills.

Because they’re special.

Like all my readers.

Especially Tim and his mom.

Okay, just his mom.