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A Fistful of Mithril: The Journey Begins

I was delighted recently to be invited by my friend Aron Wolf to participate in a D&D one-shot he was putting together.   I’m a long-time RPG fan, but I haven’t really had a group of my own recently.  Our old regular weekly D&D group in Atlanta scattered across the country, and while we managed to get things going again for a while over Skype, life intervened and we never got it back up again.  So I was really excited to not only play, but play around a table in a room with a bunch of other people I already knew i liked and enjoyed spending time with!

Because this was intended as a shakedown cruise for the world Aron is building, he gave us all pre-rolled 3rd level characters with specific backstories, which let us drop into the “meeting the party” phase without a lot of time for chargen.  This was useful, because our group was pretty evenly divided between D&D veterans and folks who had never played before, and even among the vets, some of us hadn’t really played 5th edition yet, so our knowledge of the system was rather out of date.

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Threat Report

TTTO: “Dust In The Wind” by Kansas

I hold my fire
Only for a moment, then the moment’s gone
Tank builds threat
Misdirect three shots, turn growl off on my pet
Manage your threat
DPS must manage its threat

Healers scream
Suddenly the boss is running after me
Quick, feign death!
Tanks desperately taunt while it is running free
Manage your threat
DPS must manage its threat

Don’t pull aggro
One eye on the meter — not the damage one
When you’re high
Find a way to dump threat or you’re going to die
Manage your threat
DPS must manage its threat

This is a bit of fluff I wrote in 2009, after a night of raiding in World of Warcraft.  I only ever shared it with Steve Shortino and Erica Neely, who were on my team at the time, and then forgot about it.  I’ve written another filk about WoW to this same tune that I think is better, but I’ll include this one for the sake of completion.

Disappointing Dragon’s Dogma Doesn’t Delight

(Originally posted on FB)

I recently found myself at a bit of a loose end, games wise. I’d been playing a lot of Star Wars: The Old Republic, levelling through six of the eight available class storylines, and wanting to take a short break from it. I was kind of itching for a sprawling Bioware/Bethesda style RPG, and debating doing another playthrough of Dragon Age or Fallout, when I came across “Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen” unplayed in my steam library. I don’t remember when I bought it, but it was probably deeply discounted during one of their sales.

The game was originally released for consoles in 2013, and later ported to the PC. It seems to have a fairly enthusiastic following, as I found from looking about online. And I had too look online, becuase otherwise I’d have no idea what was going on with it.

After a few hours of play, I have to say I can’t recall the last time I played a game so aggressively uninterested in giving me information about itself. The basic mechanics of the game are reasonably straightforward, which is good since it just drops you right in without much fanfare. The prologue has you playing a character who isn’t your avatar, but doesn’t explain much. You eventually pick up NPC party members, but the game is pretty mum on how you should evaluate these characters to join your party, and none of them are real characters in any sense, they’re just automatons. (Literally, in game. They’re called “pawns”, and they’re presented as soulless minions who only exist to serve your need.)

The user interface makes it hard to find anything, and there’s no way to tell if an area or a foe are appropriate to your level, short of charging in and seeing if you get your butt handed back to you. Conversations with NPCs are stilted, between the frankly awful voice-acting and the fact that you never actually respond to anything said to you. They react to you as *if* you said something, but it’s not like there was dialogue to choose that shapes the responses. They just say something, and you hit enter, and they say something else.

A friend I trust tells me the story is ultimately worth it, but I’m afraid that it’s just not engaging me. I might give it another try later, but I think for now I’m going to set it aside.

Look Upon My Gear, Ye Mighty, And Repair

Look Upon My Gear, Ye Mighty, And Repair
by Rob Wynne
TTTO: “Dust In The Wind” by Kansas

My warlock casts
Conjure up a demon from the fiery depths
The spell falls flat
My spec is gone, and everything I learned is wrong
Bits in the code
All we are is bits in the code

Once we strode
Like giants through the endgame, doing mighty deeds
But glory fades
Your grand achievements now just curiosities
Bits in the code
All we are is bits in the code

Game moves on
Level cap increases, once again we grind
New quests call
And all your epics won’t another level buy
Bits in the code
All we are is bits in the code

This morning (28 December 2012) in the Tadpool, discussing the current WoW expansion and whether it was worth coming back to, Cory Latham made a comment about having too much time invested in his characters to roll new ones, and Christopher Dunn quipped that all that was meaningless, only the current expansion matters. And that got my filker brain working and this came out.

There have been two more World of Warcraft expansions that have come out since I wrote this, and it’s still true, which hasn’t always been true of my WoW filks 🙂

He’s Going The Distance

There’s a joke popular among people around my age.  “When I was a kid, you couldn’t ‘beat’ a video game.  They just got faster and harder until you died.”1

That’s a statement that could be applied to Imagi Studio’s “endless runner” game, Temple Run 2.2  As the genre suggests, there’s no finish line in the game.  You run until you make a mistake and die; the goal is simply to run as long as possible and rack up the highest score.

Of all the various games in this particular category, TR2 is my favourite, and its the one I’ve played the most.  And although there is no ending, at this point I’ve pretty well beaten it in any meaningful sense.  I’ve unlocked all the upgrades, I’m the top score by far amongst any of my friends who played the game.  I’ve picked up all but two of the achievements.3

I guess I need to start looking for a new favourite iOS game. 🙂


  1. My darling Angie reminds me that this joke was originated by Ernie Cline

  2. Also available for Android. 

  3. The two remaining, “Mega Runner” for 1000 total games and “Infinirunner” for 10,000,000 metres, are endurance challenges.  The only thing I’d need to pick those two up is keep playing it over and over until I did. 

OryCon: Day Two

Whew! Another long fun day at OryCon.

Last night at 11pm was the Polyamory panel, which was in a smallish room absolutely packed with people.  There was a lot of discussion about different ways to approach non-monogamy, and a couple of people there were dealing with particular issues in their own relationships that they asked the room for advice on.  There was a great deal of advice handed out both generally and specifically.  I got a good laugh when I noted that 95% of relationship advice for how to have a good poly relationship also applies as to how to have a good monogamous relationship, “and the 5% that doesn’t mostly involves calendars”.

I had hoped to make it to open filk last night, but after this panel was over, I was exhausted so I went back to the room and went to sleep instead.

We got up and out in time to get breakfast at the hotel buffet before I had to be at an 11am panel titled “Social Media:  Revolution or Time Sink”.  It was a spirited discussion about the various ways not only that we all use social media, but the way that marketers use the information they collect from our engagement on social media for various purposes.1  We got a lot of good questions from the audience, and it was thought provoking.

I had a couple of hours off after that before moderating three panels in a row.  The first was titled “Putting the Play Back Into Role-Playing”, and had a neat group of RPG vets.  We talked a great deal about storytelling, collaboration, and how role-paying is ultimately what you bring to the table as a player more than the mechanics of the given game you are playing.  I was left at the end of it with a desire to get into a really crunchy character-driven RPG again.2

Immediately afterwards3, we convened a packed, standing-room-only hour titled “Fifty Years With the Doctor”, celebrating everyone’s favourite Time Lord.  The audience (and the panel) was a pretty even split between old-time fans of the show like myself and folks who had only gotten into Doctor Who with the new series.  Two of the panelists even said that they got into the show because of their kids, which was a neat sort of reverse-generational story that you don’t run across too often.  After a few opening remarks, we pretty much threw this one open to the audience, and had a rollicking good time rockin’ the TARDIS.4

The third panel of the afternoon was titled “The Positive Influence of Video Games”, and was just me and one other panelist.  He had a lot of notes on scientific studies on the topic, and some background as a developer, so there was a lot of interesting data.  But aside from those studies, we also talked about the aesthetics of gaming and whether or not video games could be art, the sorts of skills and social connections that gaming can help develop, and stories about games that had changed our thoughts about things or made a positive impact on our lives.  We got a lot of good audience participation on this one, too, and I felt pretty good about it.

I met up with kitanzi in time to hear the very tail end of Callie Hills’s concert, which was unfortunately scheduled against my panel, and then we went back up to the room and ordered some food for dinner, after which I took a short nap before my final event of the day, which was being part of a “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” game.  If you’ve never seen the TV show, it’s improv theatre games, with the twist here being that a lot of the topics and scenarios were tailored towards a science-fiction con crowd.  My favourite game was one where we each took on the persona of a fameous author, and then discussed our approach to a book.  The topic was “Romance Self-Help book”, and the authors were HP Lovecraft, Terry Pratchett, Dr. Suess, and George RR Martin.  The lady who had Dr. Suess went on a sad monologue about trying to gain the affections of Sam-I-Am, turning to me at the end and saying “He won’t try my green eggs and ham.  What should I do?” and I, as GRR Martin, stepped forward and said “It was at this point in the story that Sam-I-Am suddenly and tragically died.”, which good a good laugh.  When it died down, I said “But love must go on, so I am introducing 743 new characters in the next chapter.” which got an even bigger laugh. We also had a lot of fun with traditional bits like Party Guests and Dating Game.

Once again, I find myself too tired for open filk.  But I have my concert tomorrow at 1pm, so i’ll get to do at least a little bit of filking at this con.   But for now….sleep.


  1. Which is ultimately, in my view, not really as sinister as we tend to treat it.  95% of the people collecting data are doing it to more efficiently sell us things we might actually want, which means less time wadding through advertisements that you don’t care about.  Since they’re going to put ads in front of us anyway, they may as well be for things we want to see. 

  2. Aside to the old Defensive Perimeter folks:  I miss you all so much. 

  3. luckily, all three of these were in the same room 

  4. If the TARDIS is a’rockin’, don’t bother clockin. 

Party Of Four

Party of Four
by Rob Wynne and Jeffrey Williams
TTTO: “All Along The Watchtower” by Bob Dylan

I just don’t see a way into here
Said the cleric to the thief
This keep is too well defended
With its iron and stone motif
All these walls are much too high
The courtyard far too wide
Unless you’ve somehow learned how to fly
There is no way inside

No reason to get discouraged
The thief he softly spoke
There are many doors to pass through
And all these locks are but a joke
But you and I, we’ve fought the hordes
their treasure is our due
So let us not speak loudly now
It’s time to sneak on through

Down below the watchtower
There was a secret door
While the guardsmen paced and prowled
Inside slipped the four

Deep inside the cold dungeon
A wandering monster passed
The warrior pulled out his sword
And the mage began to cast

Another Dungeons and Dragons filk, this one started by Jeff with the opening lines, which he sent me in an instant message a few weeks ago.  While the song is by Dylan, the filk is most certainly of Jimi Hendrix’s iconic cover.  Now if only I could actually play it like that. 🙂

We Do What We Must Because We Can

Tonight, I finished a replay of Valve Entertainment’s video game Portal 2, which was deeply satisfying.  Portal 2 is one of those rare games that greatly improves on its original, and I enjoyed going through the story again and interacting with GLaDOS, Wheatly, and Cave Johnson.

After I finished, I did some poking around on the net for bits of information, and came across this video of two of the game’s lead designers, discussing its development at a game developer’s conferance around the time it was originally released.  Some fascinating shop talk about how the project evolved.

Portal 2 – Post Mortem (GDC)

The game almost didn’t have Chell, GlaDOS or portals. Seriously. See the revealing interview during GDC as the peeps that created Portal 2 explain what their decision was in changing the concept of the game!

But it was obsolete before I opened the box….

Once upon a time, [profile] bedlamhouse got a copy of a new video game called City of Heroes. It was an online multi-player RPG set in a comic-book superhero universe, and he suggested to the others in our AD&D group that if we all got copies, we could team up and play together. So I went and bought a copy. After watching me play it for a few days, [personal profile] kitanzi decided it looked like fun, so we went and got her a copy too. For the next three years, we played the game a lot, often just the two of us, often with other members of Penguin Force, our superhero group. But eventually, we did what could be done, and newer shinier games (*cough*World of Warcraft*cough) lured me away from Paragon City. When I made the jump to WoW, [personal profile] kitanzi decided to hang up the MMO habit, not wanting to get addicted to yet another time sink.

Earlier this year, though, CoH, now a venerable old warhorse in the MMO field, announced they were going free-to-play, and old subscribers could reactivate their old characters and play without paying a monthly fee. We both jumped back in, and while I couldn’t recapture my enthusiasm for the game, she had a lot of fun beating up bad guys and flying around.

Last night, [personal profile] kitanzi says to me, “Yeah, I think I’m getting bored with City of Heroes again.”

“Well,” I said, perhaps a bit too eagerly, “If you want to try Star Wars: The Old Republic”, I could get you a copy. We could play together again!” She’d been watching with interest as I’d been playing the game since shortly before its release, and she’d also enjoyed watching me play other BioWare games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect, so she didn’t require much convincing.

I decided that it was probably about time put a proper video card in her machine, though. Integrated graphics were fine for the games she was playing before (I mean, CoH came out in 2004…it’s not really going to stress out a modern system, even without a gamer-spec card in it), but TOR was likely to give it a bit more of a workout.

So, in preparation for this upgrade, I popped open the case to examine her power supply. I honestly expected to need to replace it, because gamer-spec video cards are power-hungry, and this was just a Dell Inspiron intended for general home use. But hey, I figured, check anyway, to make sure. And what I found astonished me.

I had figured I’d find a 280W or 300W power supply. If they’d been really spiffy, maybe a 350W, but I didn’t expect more than that.

It has a 160W power supply.

I checked my calendar to make sure I hadn’t accidentally opened the case of a computer I built in 1995 instead of the one I bought last year. Seriously, Dell, way to go. I’m amazed it even boots.

It’s now fitted out with a 500W PSU and an ATI 6670, which is a solid entry level card that wasn’t too expensive. Now we’re ready to conquer the galaxy!

The Ones Who Walk Away From Azeroth

In 1994, Blizzard Entertainment came out with a real-time strategy computer game called “Warcraft: Orcs & Humans”. It was well received in the gaming community, but I paid it very little notice personally.

One year later, a sequel was released, coming out just as I entered a six month period of unemployment. I ended up spending a lot of time playing Warcraft II, which was an awesome game.

By the time World of Warcraft in 2005, an MMO based on the same world as the RTS game, I was already deeply engaged with a game called City of Heroes. Some of my friends left CoH to play WoW, but I was still having a great time where I was, so I didn’t pay it much mind. In fact, I kinda resented it for stealing away my friends from the game I was playing. My dismissing it didn’t seem to cause it any lasting harm, though, and it grew like gangbusters.

Around the time that the first expansion for World of Warcraft came out, I was growing bored with City of Heroes/Villains. You can only go beat up the same bad guys in the same warehouse so many times before it starts to acquire a sense of sameness. So I asked eloren what server she and her hubby were playing on, bought the trial CD, and rolled a character.

I had no idea that this would change my life.

I played the game mostly solo, sometimes asking eloren to help me with difficult things or quests that required groups. I didn’t really know anyone who was playing; well, that’s not strictly true – I knew lots of people who were playing, and not one of them played on the same server as me or each other. I joined Jon and Aileen’s guild, and got to know a few of the people there vaguely, but I was mostly just enjoying the game as a solo player. Then drama happened, as it so often does in guilds, and they broke up. A small group of friends went looking for a new guild to join, and ended up with a group called The Grim Covenant. They seemed nice enough, and I was invited to join them as well, even though I was still far below max-level.

This was a transformative experience. As I reached level 70 (the cap at the time) and started participating in group activities, I starting getting to know people. I began to feel like I belonged in the group. I began to form real and solid friendships with people.

And then I fell in love with one of them.

It wasn’t on purpose; I certainly wasn’t looking for a new relationship. We had just gotten to talking, which led to more talking which led to exchanging emails…at some point she found out I was polyamorous, and started to ask me questions about it. As time went on, we were spending more and more time talking to each other, and it was obvious to me that there was something between us growing deeper.

Honestly, the details at this point are irrelevant. We met in person when kitanzi and I went up to visit a group of guildies for a trip to King Richard’s Fair, a trip that had been organised well in advance of these developments. During that trip, we began officially dating, although only the people who needed to know this were aware of it.

A couple of years go by. Following the failure of her marriage, she decided that, in the end, poly wasn’t something she felt she could handle, and we broke up. This is probably the hardest breakup I’ve ever been through; neither of us really wanted to and we both still loved one another deeply, but she was in a place where she needed to figure out who she was and what she was doing with her life, and this just wasn’t part of it. Her finding out that polyamory wasn’t for her after all was certainly a risk I’d been aware of when I started the relationship.

(I wrote and removed a lot of detail in the last three paragraphs, deciding it was largely beside the point. If you want to know more about what this was all about, email me, and we can talk.)

That was nearly a year ago, just before Valentine’s Day. I spent the next few months being pretty broken as a result, withdrawing from a lot of people in the process. Part of my withdrawing was to quietly withdraw from the WoW guild we were both part of. I was an officer and raid leader, but those were roles I’d been increasingly frustrated with, and this gave me the excuse and the permission to just let go of them. I went to another server, where I’d established a character and made some casual friends, and set back to playing the game semi-casually. Eventually, I joined up with a small group of friends to begin raiding again, though never as hardcore as before, and that’s been my focus for the last 12 months.

Now there’s a new expansion out, and as the new year begins I’m reflecting again on my life and how i spend my time. The truth is, I still enjoy the game quite a lot. The new expansion is full of really interesting new things to explore. catalana and I still play together every week or so, working our way now through our second pair of characters since we began to play every Friday a couple of years ago. And I still have many people that are dear to me in the game, both in my old guild and in my new one, and others besides. Azeroth has become a comforting place to wile away my time.

But the thing is….time is the one thing in my life I never have enough of. And there’s a lot of things that I want to do that want to compete with that time. I want to spend more time writing, both creative writing and blogging. I want to spend more time working on my musical interests. I want to catch up on some of the TV/movie watching that’s been piling up. I want to just sit and read. Sometimes, I want to just sit.

Given that I’m not currently able to give up either work or sleep, I have to make some decisions about how to spend my time, and the decision I’m making right now is to take a vacation from World of Warcraft. I’m not saying I won’t play it at all; I’m not giving up my nights with Erica, and it is a good way to kill an hour when you’re in the mood for it. But aside from that regular session and the odd jaunt here and there, I’m going to spend a few weeks in pursuit of other hobbies, until I figure out the best way to create a balance that lets me do everything as I’d like to.

It feels very strange to step away from something that’s dominated my leisure time for over four years. But ultimately, I think that right now it’s best for me.

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