Posts Categorized: Prose

On Being John the Baptist

Years ago, I spoke of a boy in prophecy, a youngling with the skating stride of a three-legged dog on ice. Almost in silent secrecy, we knew and understood what we had in our midst. We assumed the roles of protectors, nurturers, shapers, fearing that unleashing the boy onto an unsuspecting world would be at the very least irresponsible, and at the very worst, destructive. It was foolish to think we had this sort of power.

Two days ago, I came to hear this boy’s message but the boy was nowhere to be found. Instead there was this man who spoke passionately to the crowd. He spoke of the new gods. He spoke of dragons. He told them the story of the necromancer. His was a voice in this revolution, and he made them believe.

To say that we are proud of him is to state the obvious. We know what he is capable of, and if the prophecy is to be believed, there will be many epic adventures ahead. Fortunately for mankind, I may have knowledge of the only way to stop him. Force him to shoot from the point – his slap shot still sucks.

Dungeons and Dragons Online Vignette — Avast Conspiracy

This was my last stop before Eveningstar. This also marked the last time I travel via the Phiarlan Carnival Cruise Line. While I did pick up some nice armor and lovely cutlery here, I ended up finding better gear when I got to the Forgotten Realms. As the ship was slowly being towed to a port in Alabama, I leisurely started reanimating the food (a nod to the “Delirium” quest) and amidst the ensuing chaos, teleported the heck out of there. Some stranded people have no sense of humor.

Dungeons and Dragons Online Vignette — Eveningstar

I had just about gotten used to the strange looks I got every time I walked into a new town.  The glowing red eyes, the maniacal grin, and the occasional aura of death I drag around while in lich form tend to draw the eyes of those who had never seen a wizard Pale Master before.  I was ok with that.  The town of Eveningstar, however, gave me the stink-eye for a very different reason: because I am of the Drow Elf race.

While it may sound like a hilarious scene from “Blazing Saddles,” the anti-Drow sentiment around town made me very uncomfortable.  Everywhere I went there was at least one knight following me around as if I were about to pillage the whole place.  All the NPCs seemed to have something disparaging to say about my race.  Even Elminster, the town cuckoo had a few bad things to say about the Drow.

Begrudgingly, I took a few quests in order to win the townsfolk’s trust.  A few yards from town, at the King’s Forest, I began to understand where the negative attitude came from: two Drow archers mugged me.  It was your classic Drow-on-Drow crime, except in Lich form, I happened to have a tremendous advantage.  Two dead Drow archers later, I immediately thought about pleading self-defense or some Eveningstar equivalent of the Stand-Your-Ground law.  I went back to town to turn myself in and the gatekeeper asked me how many I had killed.  After confessing to killing two, the guard smiled and said “you get a prize at ten.”  What the hell was that about?

After turning in a few piles of Drow bodies for experience points, that strange conscience thing kicked in again.  It came at around the same time I discovered that the Drow had enslaved a few of the villagers using mind-control collars to bend their will.  See, I have a very strict policy about these things.  Hirelings, yes.  Slaves, no.  Thus I went all Abraham Lincoln on those Drow Slavers…that is if Lincoln was Death incarnate and was a pretty good shot with necrotic rays.

The collars were relatively simple and I noticed quickly that I had enough skill to disarm them once the slavers were dispatched.  I recognized a couple of the slaves as townsfolk that had thrown rotten produce at me earlier in the week.  Their collars unfortunately malfunctioned as I was disarming them.

The latest quest I’ve been given involves infiltrating an underground Drow town.  The War Wizard that gave the quest said he cast a spell that activates at the appropriate time in order make adventurers “look Drow.”  Going Drow-face in this day and age, really?

Perhaps someday when the worlds have gotten past their ignorance and bigotry, we could have a Drow president.  Of course they’ll start unfounded rumors that he or she was actually born in Eberron.

Thoughts on Diablo III

“And so, you call me your friend but you only want my gifts
And I’ll never see you if I had no loot, I’ll never see them
I’m just glad I know the truth and I’m payin’ my own bills
and I’ll never ever depend on you”

– Tony Toni Tone “If I Had No Loot”

Diablo III starts with something falling from the sky which the hero naturally had to go check out.  Wait, let’s cut the pretense right off the bat and just be honest about all this – I’m in it for the stuff.  All the character development and storytelling in both the real world and the realm of sanctuary have taken a back seat to the one primary motivation that called shotgun years ago when I last left it somewhere near Mt. Arreat: looting corpses.  This is the story of all things Diablo: I hit monster piñatas, they go splat and boom, things drop loot for me to pick up.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

THPOILERF!

Very briefly about the plot, though – there is a lot of betrayal in the story.  Some of them are actually pretty obvious, like the sorcerer with the gruff voice and the maniacal laugh whom I had to revive sometime in Act II only to predictably turn against me at an opportune moment.  All he ever did was talk about world domination while we were in the quest series.  In fact, all of Diablo 3 could have probably been mitigated if the hero just burned New Tristram to the ground within the first two minutes of the game.  The hero could have then gone about looting corpses uninterrupted.

In a game about breaking piñatas, Blizzard provided numerous different methods to do so as the character levels up to unlock skills and runes.  I found it a bit sad, however, that I favored the lower-level skills since they appeared to deal damage to more people than the higher-level skills did.  Then again, I’m actually not sure if the damage is the same, since regardless of slotted skill (with one notable exception), the DPS indicator had the same number.  Does one shot of force lightning do the same amount of damage as one shot of magic missile?  No idea.  In the end, I prefer AoE with the implied splash damage over breaking one piñata at a time.

Overall, the game is great and highly addictive.  The character classes and skills allow for a variety of play styles and the auction house addresses any equipment deficiencies that come up from time to time.  There is a story narrated through wonderfully rendered cut-scenes with quality voice work.  Most of all, there are piñatas – lots and lots of piñatas that drop all kinds of loot.

I’m not too sure how I’d feel about Diablo III if it had no loot.  Leah, on the other hand, “you can new jack swing…”

Weekend at Deckard’s

I spent a significant portion of this past weekend along with other gaming enthusiasts trying to set fire to Blizzard’s Diablo 3 servers. At times, it seemed we were successful in this endeavor. Those times were spent frantically punching in battle.net login credentials over and over in an attempt to reach through the net and into the alternate world where, years ago, we were once guests, brave heroes, obsessive compulsive corpse looters.

When I finally returned into this alternate world, I called for Eberlin, the necromancer who once commanded an army of skeleton warriors and mages. Eberlin, who augmented his troops with the reanimated corpses of fallen enemies. I missed the sights and sounds of exploding corpses, the high pitched whir of a spirit projectile tracking down its target, and the distinct gurgling noise that only a golem made of coagulated blood could make as it loyally walked alongside its creator. I called for Eberlin but he was not there. This alternate world has done without necromancers.

In their place were the witch doctors. Alkor from old Kurast must have found his friends. Though not as mighty a summoner as the old necromancer, the witch doctor was a fun class in its own right. Pierre was able to summon zombie dogs along with a seemingly limitless supply of bats, spiders, and frogs. One can assume that he has a well-worn discount card at the New Tristram pet store.

A wizard came forth, and presented himself as Eberlin. He had long dark hair and a confident swagger that almost seemed like what a necromancer in his youth would have looked like before the call to study necromancy deprived him of sunlight and empathy. He, too, was a formidable hero, thanks to a new system that provided ample, though definitely not over-abundant arcane energy to cast magic missiles and lightning bolts.

Though there were other classes, the wizard and the witch doctor drew most of my attention as I attempted to fill the void left by not having a necromancer available in the game. Within the limits of the beta, the spell choices fell into two offensive weapon categories: the sniper rifle (deal heavy damage to one enemy) or the shotgun (deal smaller damage, but to more enemies at once). Having to deal mostly with mobs of cannon fodder, the shotgun method was the best approach. Spells that hit multiple enemies, or explode for area-of-effect damage were more efficient at clearing out multiple attackers. The one exception was when dealing with special enemies where a strong, focused attack was needed on a single target. Even then, explosive splash damage had proven to be very effective.

The leveling system seemed nice, no longer having to worry about wrongly allocating stat points and suffering the consequences for the rest of the character’s life. Spells can be reconfigured and the runes that augment their effects can be swapped out. The artisan crafting system seems like a more controlled version of the old merchant “gamble” options but from my limited experience, constantly gave better items than most anything I had picked up from adventuring.

The storytelling, as expected from all things Blizzard, was intriguing and well done. The ability to quickly join a friend’s game is great, and the banner system which transports friends from town to a friend’s location in the adventure area is a hazardous, but welcome work-around to the new teleporting dynamic. My biggest issue to multiplayer is that there is no built-in voice chat. I had to yell across the room to the wife who was wearing headphones to ask for help from her barbarian. How analog is that? Yes, I know there are canned num-pad voice cues, but I don’t have them memorized just yet. Yelling “this is for you” when I meant “help me!” is a very “uh, oops” moment.

Overall, if the beta gameplay is any indication of things to come when the full game is released, Diablo 3 will be another amazing, lengthy trip into the Diablo universe. Hopefully the high amount of traffic we generated and the fires we set during the open beta were helpful in uncovering and ironing out any issues Blizzard may have had with their servers.

How Deckard Cain managed to survive through catastrophe while necromancers did not is a story I’d like to hear. Maybe it is a story Mr. Cain will share, in time, to the new Eberlin as they face new threats in the new chapter of the old Diablo storyline. It will be fun to fight evil once again. It will be fun to don magic-find items and do loot runs again. It will be fun to stay awhile and listen again.