Travelogue: Papers, Please

Dear brother,

This week, we largely spent our time recovering from the twin losses of Reynaul and Vesci. Being that cowering within the crumbling walls of the Hamlet for a full week would only be a further blow to morale, a concession that the dark things beyond the walls were too terrible to confront, I persuaded a small team to explore the tunnels beneath the estate so as to determine if there were any truth to the rumors of some clan of warped pig-men had taken up residence down there. The answer to that mystery is yes. Very, very yes.

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Shadiversity Summarized 2: The Re-Re-Arming

We’re doing some more of this today.


As with a lot of these less straightforwardly humanoid videos, Shad’s conclusions are more solid, which I suspect is because there’s more room for creatures with significantly different physical qualities to actually use significantly different weapons for good reasons and less need to try and invent reasons why elves would fight at all differently from humans. So mostly my work here is just summarizing his meandering videos, and when my rambling is a more compressed version of your work, you know you have information density problems.

In melee, giants are going to most benefit from spiked boots and scythes. They’re both great at attacking enemies who are waist level or below. Even relatively light armors like leather are going to be really hard to penetrate for ordinary sized opponents, although (and Shad doesn’t make this point, but it’s true) giants are still going to want proper plate and chain armor for fighting other giants, which will be even harder to pierce. Giants who suffer from the square-cube law will probably be less keen on proportionately heavy armor because a greater proportion of their strength is taken up just standing up (although their absolute strength is still higher), but some fantasy giants are well over the height where they would be unable to stand without shattering their bones if they weren’t somehow magical (when you’re above ten or eleven-ish feet, you just can’t be bipedal anymore, even if you have much thicker feet and broader proportions), and these giants presumably have perfectly proportionate strength to humans. A giant in plate armor is basically invincible to mundane attacks, although the chinks at the joints (normally too small to be effectively exploited) may be big enough for human size attackers to cut apart.

This raises the question: What do humanoids do when confronted with a leather armored, scythe-wielding giant? Assuming you don’t have any player characters with magic weapons who can hew through steel like it’s butter, you’re going to want to rely on either ballistae or the sturdiest goddamn pikes you can find. Pikes are big enough to hit weakspots like the neck and eyes and a full formation may be able to get a pike through the slits in even a plate armored giant’s visor. This is still a battle that will favor the giants by a huge margin if there are remotely even numbers, but pikes and ballistae will given human defenders the best chance.

A giant with a bow is basically a walking ballista, and a giant with a sling is basically a walking trebuchet, and in both cases at far lower material cost and not too much worse supply cost. A ballista or trebuchet requires quite a few people to operate, and a giant eats quite a bit more than one ordinary person, and that mostly balances out, which means the lower material cost and improved mobility are just gravy. Giants are simply better at sieging human fortifications than humans are. On top of that, just like with plate armor, any giants who are giving the square-cube law the finger (including, by necessity, D&D giants who are too tall to walk without doing so) can make proportionately sized siege weapons to siege each other’s proportionately sized castles, and just like with giant plate against puny mortal weapons, these proportionately sized siege weapons will absolutely wreck human fortifications.

Basically, don’t fuck with giants.

Continue reading “Shadiversity Summarized 2: The Re-Re-Arming”

Travelogue: Magician, Heal Thyself

Dear brother,

This past week, my companions and I explored many paths to dealing with our grief at the loss of Reynauld. Dismas lost himself in drink, Busquent in prayer, Beringar retreated to the local clinic to treat the disease he’d been afflicted by in that fetid swamp. I threw myself wholeheartedly into revenge.


I chose my team more carefully this time. Duquesne and Bourassa in the rear, to provide the ranged firepower necessary to slay the wretched hag as fast as possible. Vesci I was forced to place uncomfortably close to the front, having run out of room in the back. Busquent was busy, and I would need healing. Gournai brought up the front, her role to retrieve those trapped in the pot before they were boiled alive. I feared I might not be able to kill the witch before she would kill more of my companions, having sacrificed so much to the ranged firepower necessary to get past her thrice-damned crockery. My worry would ultimately prove misplaced.

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Beast: The Primordial Is Terrible

Fatal and Friends has a review of why Beast: the Primordial is bad. It is not a very good review. Someone posted a review of the review, and because that someone is a self-described information communist who doesn’t care when people repost his writings in their entirety, with or without attribution, I’m going to copy/paste his entire review2 here. It’s big enough to go below the break, so I’ll mention here above the break that I’ll be following it up with a more better review of why Beast: the Primordial is bad. But first, the review’s review:

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Travelogue: Deadly Sincerity

Dear brother,

Today’s expedition sought to capture or, if I am being honest, more likely slay a cannibal of some sort who hides in the woods to kidnap travelers and boil them alive. I am given to understand that this is not typical in Europe.

I assembled a team that I had thought was my all-stars. Reynauld and Dismas, my oldest friends, Busquent, my healer, and Beringar, my strongest sword arm in a nation curiously lacking in guns. I think it has something to do with Europe’s gun control laws. Laws which the local bandit population seems mostly to abide by, if we assume that black powder weapons are classified as historical curiosities and allowed, rather than being properly banned firearms.

Regardless, the opposition we faced was incessant on the way, and devilishly varied.

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Awaken Online: The Only Three Important People In The World

As Awaken Online enters its closing chapters, the line-by-line reviewing I’ve been doing starts to break down for three reasons. First, it starts to rely more heavily on its fight scenes, which all work. You can follow the action, it isn’t over-described to the point of killing pacing, and each one involves the use of some new tactic or minion so none of them feel repetitive. The story also relies much less on “what if I used my stealth to assassinate people?” level tactics in the endgame.

Second, the Controller appears to love Alex just as much as it loves Jason, and while the primary source of his power is not his class abilities but rather the quest line that gave him control over a humongous army of NPC soldiers, it’s still bullshit-flavored bullshit where the game just bestows tons of powers onto the antagonist in order to get him to pose a serious threat to Jason. That’s terrible game design, but in terms of narrative it means that Jason is much less of a Mary Sue in the second half of the book as compared to the first. He’s still arbitrarily granted undeserved superpowers that allow him to kill boatloads of players not because he is smart or cunning, but because his numbers are fucking gigantic compared to theirs, but he is also required to be smart and cunning on top of that in order to win against Alex’s equally stupid broken nonsense.

And third, the issues that have otherwise plagued the book – the stilted dialogue, the absurd level scale, the aforementioned absurdly broken powers distributed by the Controller for passing vaguely defined personality tests, you can sing along by now – are all things I’ve beaten well and truly to death, and going line by line those are the only things that really leap out at me.

So instead let’s talk about how Jason, Alex, and Riley are the only three players in the entirety of the battle for Twilight Throne that the Controller gives a single flying fuck about. The others are treated as cannon fodder to be shorn through by Jason’s zombie bombs and eleventh hour custom-sculpted bone super minion. The only one who ever demonstrates any unique powers or poses any kind of a threat as an individual is Alex. The exact number of players as opposed to NPCs in the army isn’t clear, but it seems like it should be at least a few dozen, considering the total army is 1500 strong. And out of all of those dozens, Alex is the only one with remotely interesting powers? Why does anyone else bother playing AO, when the only thing you get to do is play second fiddle to one of the three people the author cares about? And the book does it again by granting Riley new magical superpowers as soon as the plot demands them in order to finish off Alex after he defeats Jason’s eleventh hour super minion by a hair. Suddenly she can coat her arrows in dark mana and shoot down Alex’s mooks with them. It’s not clear what level she is, but the book has made a point of how she hasn’t done basically anything her entire time in the game up until this point, so it seems unlikely that she’s particularly high-level, yet she can cut through soldiers established as being roughly level 100 (higher level than Jason, who is now supposed to have been power-leveled far past the average, and not far behind Alex, who at last report is still the highest level player in the game even amongst the beta testers) like they’re butter, in danger solely because of how badly she’s outnumbered.

Unless you’re one of these three assholes, the Controller doesn’t give a shit about you.

Continue reading “Awaken Online: The Only Three Important People In The World”

Awaken Online: Penultimate

Chapter Twenty-Two

He had wallowed in his own self-pity and anger, taking his emotions out on the game world.  He had continuously channeled his dark mana to drive away the pain and then gone on to destroy a city.  Even as he ground the NPCs and players under his digital foot, he had been weak.  Jason had lashed out at the game world instead of dealing with his own issues.  He was overcome with a heavy sense of shame that nearly took his breath away.

Earlier on in the novel Jason had occasionally reflected that it’s not really a big deal to kill a bunch of NPCs or even really players (whatever psychological harm is caused by being torn apart by zombies in full dive is no worse than being torn apart by wolves – something that hopefully would’ve been caught in beta testing). That seems to be completely gone now, and we’re just supposed to accept that being amoral in video games is something you should feel guilty about. But, like, I dropped a bunch of fuel air explosives on a densely populated city yesterday (February 17th – I’m pretty far ahead of schedule right now), and I don’t even really care (I also gained karma because I happened to leave more civilian targets standing than I flattened, even though I wasn’t really aiming at all, just zooming over the city at top speed and dropping FAEs as soon as I got close to a target). So I’m not buying it.

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Ending the Endless

Unfortunately there is no way to schedule a change in site appearance in advance. If everything has gone according to plan, by the time this post goes live the site should be properly redecorated to indicate the official departure from the (long since de facto abandoned) original plan and purpose of this blog. Honestly, it will probably look worse for a while as I figure out what kind of color scheme and layout I actually want for this stuff.