Mercy Me

Aug. 9th, 2017 01:25 pm
the_gneech: (Default)

Me, in the summertime.

It’s weird how I go through these phases. Like, I haven’t played a game of Overwatch in months. I have signed on once or twice to update the app, but I haven’t actually played any.

It’s a side-effect of energy level. Since the heat wave around AnthroCon, I have spent most of my time pretty much as pictured above. What productivity and energy I’ve had has focused on my writing, because that mostly uses my brain and my fingertips. When I log into a game, it’s Lords of the Rings Online, for the same reason. (And also because LotRO finally got to Mordor, and there are lots of rumblings about the state of the game and the company that runs it. There’s a non-zero chance LotRO may not be around forever, and I want to get the most out of it while I still can.)

I still like Overwatch and at some point I’m sure I’ll get excited about it again. I’m a little surprised the Summer Games event hasn’t lit that spark, considering how much I loved Lucioball the first time around. But right now I’m just not feelin’ it.

But one thing this has definitely taught me: I am not cut out to be YouTuber/streamer. Not in the way the industry exists right now, anyway. I can’t (and don’t really want to) knock myself out trying to grind out 10+ minutes of content to post as-close-to-daily-as-possible. As a general rule I dive deep into projects and come up for air weeks or months later, producing something big when I’m finished (e.g., that D&D map, or a novel).

This has always been the biggest challenge of doing a comic, fighting with having to keep feeding the beast when there are other things I want to do instead. The only reason the comic actually keeps going is because a) I love it, and b) there are too few good furry comics as it is.

I’m sure that when the Overwatch bug bites again, I’ll be streaming and posting and all that jazz just as I’ve been, but purely for the fun of it. I’m not going to chase viewers or subscriptions. There’s a fair chance I won’t hit master level with Mercy because I’m not competing enough, and eh, that’s okay. It’s an artificial goal designed to give me a destination anyway, not something I had a driving passion for in and of itself. I’m still going to do my best. 🙂

But only when it’s fun. ;P

-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Default)
Maedhroc deals with the local spider problem.

So LotRO has a new paid expansion coming out, titled simply Mordor. And I have to decide what, if anything, I'm going to do about it.

Once upon a time, I love love loooooooved LotRO. I wrote stories about Maedhroc Thornhollow, my little hobbitey warden, tromping all over the world.

Then they scrambled wardens and I didn't know how to play him, so I had to re-learn from scratch...

And then they did it again and I gave up on wardens, but champions had become OP so I went back to one of those.

And then MadeOfLions, the Tolkien ubernerd head writer left somewhere in the development of Rohan IIRC.

I choked down Rohan, a vast country made up of the same story over and over and over and over again, mostly on the momentum of happier days. I got stuck on the "battles" system, which threw away everything good about skirmishes and so never got through the battle of Helm's Deep.

You can skip Helm's Deep to a certain extent, so I moved on figuring I'd come back to it... but then I got to northern Gondor, in which there was no story, just infinite endless daily quest grinding...

...and stopped.

Other than logging in every few months to pay the rent on Maedhroc's house, in the forlorn hope that I may one day get back into it, and the occasional lowbie re-running of Ered Luin to remember happier days, I have not played LotRO in something like two, three years.

I miss it. But like so many other things, I miss the LotRO of 2010, not the LotRO of today. And with no income other than what I can scrape up with my writing and art, do I really have any excuse to buy an expansion to a game I don't play?

Now I have to admit, I am impressed LotRO has made it to Mordor. Lots of people didn't think it would happen, especially when subscribers started dwindling somewhere around late Moria/Mirkwood. But it also means that the game is nearing "The End." Even if they do the Scouring of the Shire, there simply comes a time when there is no more Lord of the Rings for them to do online. What then?

But I also find it interesting that where I lost interest in LotRO is also where I tend to lose interest in the books. "The world of men" is the LEAST. INTERESTING. THING. about Middle-earth! I'm all about elves first, hobbits second, dwarves a distant third, and fuck humans. The more the fantastic elements fade away and it just becomes a series of battles, the less I care. Fellowship of the Ring has barrow-wights and ringwraiths and balrogs and and and... Gondor does have an army of the dead, so that's neat. But mostly it has much fighting and killing of the orcs by the knights in general.

Anyway, I dunno. Like I say, I used to love LotRO and I wish I still did. But the idea of forcing myself to learn the game again and having to grind my way through Gondor just to get to Moria...? Oh, honey, I dunno...

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Lachwen blasts a troll, while Legolas ducks for cover
I hear a lot that people sometimes miss the character variety/options of 3.x/Pathfinder compared to 5E, but I've never really understood that. With very few exceptions, I haven't had any character ideas that I thought worked really well in 3.x/PF that couldn't be translated to 5E pretty easily, especially given a DM who was flexible about allowing homebrew or third party content. It's not always a 1-to-1 correlation, but it's usually "close enough" that the character feels pretty much the same.

So far, the biggest exception I've found to that, is Lachwen, my Badass Lightning Girl. Now keep in mind, she was originally a runekeeper in LotRO, so already a translation to tabletop is going to be a little wonky. (With the exception of bards, there pretty much aren't any D&D classes that can swap back forth between damage and healing the way RKs do. But in practice, I rarely played her as a healer, almost always going DPS. So when the time came to convert her, I simply dropped the healing all together.)

Now, I never got to play her on the tabletop, but I did stat her up for Pathfinder, and with the various splats (honestly I don't even remember which ones, but they are from Paizo books, I didn't use outside material), she worked really well. Affinity for the elemental plane of air gave her all the zappy-blasty she needed, especially with the ability to convert other elemental spells to lighting as desired. Fireball for instance, became lightning burst... waahahaaaa!

Alas, 5E doesn't really have a good "elemental sorcerer" setup– which I thought from day one was a strange omission. It has the draconic bloodline, which kinda-sorta does it, while also adding scales, wings, and a lot of other baggage. But my vision for Lachwen was always that she just bristled with elemental energy, kaboom!

The closest thing I've found, even from third party materials, is the storm sorcerer from The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, which in terms of fluff is exactly the same as her PF incarnation, right down to the tie to the plane of air. But the powers it gives are weird ones... randomly flying at 3rd level, for instance, and mostly-fluff minor weather control powers at 6th [1].

So that's how she's been built. I made her 6th level to be able to do an apples-to-apples comparison with her PF incarnation. I tweaked her a bit, making her half-elf instead the high elf she was in PF, partially for the CHA bump but also because Lachwen is not stately or refined in any way. If Obsidian is Rarity as a bard? Lachwen is Rainbow Dash as a sorcerer.

Lachwen Shimmerlight (CR 2; 450 XP)

Female humanoid (half-elf) sorcerer 6, chaotic good
AC 13*; hp 38 (6d6+12)
Speed 30 ft.

STR 10 (+0), DEX 15 (+2), CON 14 (+2), INT 12 (+1), WIS 8 (-1), CHA 17 (+3)

Feats Elemental Adept (Lightning)
Saving Throws Con +6, Cha +7*
Damage Resistances Lightning, Thunder
Skills Arcana +4, Athletics +3, Insight +2, Intimidation +6, Perception +2, Performance +6
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 12
Languages Common, Draconic, Elvish, Primordial

Elemental Adept. Spells Lachwen casts ignore resistance to lightning damage. In addition, when she rolls lightning damage for one of her spells, she can treat a roll of 1 on a damage die as a 2.
Font of Magic. Lachwen can draw upon a wellspring of power, giving her 6 sorcery points which may be used to create spell slots or fuel her metamagic abilities.
Heart of the Storm. Lachwen is resistant to lightning and thunder damage.
Metamagic. Lachwen knows the Careful Spell and Distant Spell metamagic abilities.

Spellcasting. Lachwen is a 6th-level spellcaster. Her spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 14, +6 to hit with spell attacks). Lachwen knows the following spells:
Cantrips (at-will): dancing lights, fire bolt, lightning lure, prestidigitation, shocking grasp
1st level (4 slots): thunderwave, witch bolt
2nd level (3 slots): gust of wind, hold person, shatter
3rd level (3 slots): fireball, lightning bolt

Storm Guide. Lachwen may subtly control the weather around her.

Dagger +1. Melee or Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20 ft./60 ft., one target. Hit: 1d4+3 piercing damage.

Bonus Actions
Tempestuous Magic. Immediately before or after Lachwen casts a spell on her turn, she may use a bonus action to fly 10' without provoking attacks of opportunity.
*Ring of Protection

Soooo, yeah. Not exactly the same, but she's a workable facsimile– although I really miss that ability to change other energy damage to lightning. This version is more physical (running, jumping, climbing) than the Pathfinder one and less social, although she still has Intimidate and Performance, to create scary (or awesome) Tesla-style lightning displays and firebreathing routines. I also gave her fewer magic items, just 'cause that "feels" more 5E. She could use some bracers of defense or the like, tho.

If I were going to make her closer to the LotRO version (and had a willing DM) I'd probably change her tempestuous magic's flying to some sort of shocking bolt that stunned [number up to Cha bonus] creatures within 5' until the beginning of their next turn if they failed a Con save, to give it that same "I can escape being swarmed!" thing without randomly turning her into Supergirl for short hops. (But really, do you even need that, with thunderwave on the spell list?) Of course, that would have the side-effect of setting up the party rogue for free sneak attacks on dazed opponents, but it would have the saving throw as a counter to that (and keep Lachwen's feet on the ground). (I picture her hold person being very similar to that, a magic taser, basically.) But she's already got one splatbook thing going on as it is, and her skill proficiencies came from a third-party background (Mercenary) because none of the official ones really fit, so I wouldn't be surprised if a DM said no.

(In a "core only" game, she'd be draconic with a blue dragon ancestor and the Entertainer background. But she'd also have scales and eventually sprout wings, which is even less like Lachwen should be than this version is.)

-The Gneech, bzzaaap, bzzaaap

[1] Not totally useless, but how often is "make it quite raining in a 20' radius" going to be useful in most D&D games? I can at least see the ability to cause and/or cancel wind having use for dousing/spreading fires and the like.
the_gneech: (Legolas Aaah)
Thin Mints.



Thin Mints.

-The Gneech

PS: Thin Mints.

PPS: Got LotRO up and running on the Mac! Not sure what to do with it, considering how meh it becomes halfway through Rohan, but we'll see. If I could get [ profile] sirfox, [ profile] lythandra, [ profile] hantamouse and [ profile] jamesbarrett interested, we could do a "Fellowship From Zero" game for off weekends or something.
the_gneech: (Rastan Kill Monsters)

It’s hardly a secret that I’m bearish on MMOs generally. I like the concept of them, but I don’t like the execution of the MMO genre as it’s come down through the years. The one MMO that I really got deeply into for a long time was Lord of the Rings Online, and that was mainly because I am such a Tolkien nerd, and for many years they really did a good job of embodying the lore. Also, for a brief shining moment, there was a really strong social aspect between the Turbine forums, the player blogs, and a group of folks within the in-game kinship that I really clicked with, which led to the whole “Life of a Bounder” series. And LotRO has a really, really awesome “cosmetic” system, which I have never seen matched in any other game. Assuming you can find an outfit you like (and there are babillions to choose from), you simply put that into your character’s cosmetic tab and you’re done forever.

But that was literally years ago now, which somehow seems strange to say. The group fell apart, the gameplay got scrambled and scrambled again by rules changes, the quality of the storyline faltered, and eventually I just had enough. My highest level character is mired in Rohan, needing to get through “epic battle” story quests in order to progress, and I just can’t bring myself to continue. As for the alts… I don’t think they’ll ever see the light of day again. Not if it means having to go through Rohan… again.

So it was that I started casting around for something else to play in my off-hours. I remembered that I’d flirted with Neverwinter a bit, basically getting as far as “making a character and getting out of the tutorial,” and inspired by the fun I’d been having with D&D 5E decided what the heck, give it a shot. In the intervening weeks I’ve managed to get Akikki, my tiny little half-elf Great Weapon Fighter, up to 52nd? 53rd? level, out of 60. (Yes, Akikki is basically Elsa from my 5E game; what can I say, it’s a character I’ve been wanting to play for a while.)

My thoughts? Well to put it bluntly, Neverwinter is just exactly as good as it needs to be… but unfortunately, no better than that. Gameplay-wise, it’s barely distinguishable from Everquest 2, Age of Conan, or a gajillion others. The quests are always incredibly linear and straightforward: “Follow an S-shaped path through the cave/swamp/forest/castle, fight three monsters, fight four monsters, fight three monsters, fight three monsters with a ringer, fight three monsters, fight the boss who keeps generating adds unless you can lure the boss out of his room.” Every once in a while you might find a little jumping puzzle, or an extra non-plot encounter tucked into a corner… once in a rare blue moon you’ll even find a way to approach the boss from an unexpected direction, but that usually seems to be an oversight on the map-designers’ part.

I will say about Neverwinter that it is a very good representation of the 4E Forgotten Realms setting… for better or worse. If you think the spellplague was cool, think floating islands everywhere is what D&D always needed, and you like tieflings and dragonborn all over the place, you’ll feel right at home. For myself I have no real attachment to FR, being more of a Greyhawk fan, but I wasn’t keen on 4E generally and so that aspect of the game took some getting over. It’s not really accurate to say that it’s not D&D, so much as it feels like there’s a lot of junk between me and the D&D that I have to get through. Everyone who said that 4E felt like a MMO was absolutely right: specifically, it felt like this MMO, for better or worse.

There are nuggets of joy to be found in the game, for all that. At the player auction house, one of the random bits of NPC dialogue is the auctioneer expressing doubt that an item being put up for auction really is “the Head of Vecna,” for example. There are bits of deep D&D geekery and that occasional touch of trippy dorkiness scattered across the landscape, and those are worth their weight in gold.

Speaking of gold, currency is a strange beast in this game. Although you’re constantly collecting gold pieces, there’s almost nothing to spend them on, particularly once you’ve bought a horse and hired a companion. Anything and everything worth buying (including stuff at the auction house) is bought with “astral diamonds,” an in-game currency that you collect by doing daily quests. And the prices are nuts. I have, now that I’m 52nd level, something like 16,000 astral diamonds. A single piece of cosmetic clothing often sells for something like 300,000. To alter the appearance of your current armor to look like that favorite piece sitting in your vault (the closest thing the game has to a proper cosmetic system) usually costs 20,000+.

What the heck.

I’d think this was a FTP-grab for cash, except that you can’t buy astral diamonds for real world cash. Really more than anything it feels like devs saying “We don’t want you to have nice things.” It may be that I’m missing something somewhere– this game has tons and tons of subsystems and no meaningful help dialog anywhere– but if so I have no idea what it might be.

Still, after all that, Neverwinter does have one really neat thing, and that’s the Foundry.

Intended to be a spiritual successor to Neverwinter Nights, with its DM’s Toolkit and tons of readily-downloadable user-generated content, Neverwinter‘s Foundry enables you to create your own dungeons, including quest goals, dialogue trees, and all sorts of game assets for locations and foes. Foundry-created quests are shared within the game at “Adventurers’ Job Boards” and the like, and since these are the quests that provide astral diamonds, there is plenty of incentive to go on them. They scale automatically with level, so if you wanted, you could go all the way from the game start to the level cap playing just Foundry quests and skip the solo campaign all together.

Given the linear nature of the solo campaign, that might not be such a bad choice, either. Being user-generated content, the Foundry quests are very hit-and-miss, often amateurish or filled with a junior-high aesthetic of what would be a cool dungeon (I can’t tell you the number of times Akikki has been hit on by other women because the quest designer just assumed that all player characters were male). On the other hand, many of them are very creative and entertaining, such as the quest in which my character sat down for a game of Call of Cthulhu with a gnome, an elf, and an ogre as the other players. If you play a lot of Forge quests (as I have), you’ll find yourself out-leveling the solo campaign pretty quickly. That’s not really a problem, as the Forge quests scale to your level on-the-fly, so you can always find a challenge. It just means that when you go back to the solo campaign, you might find yourself yawning as you wade through the requisite four-monsters-then-three-monsters-then-four dungeons.

I have not really done much group stuff in Neverwinter yet, so I can’t really say how well that works. There is an easy-to-use dungeon queue, and there are “open tap” landscape events (such as the current massive dragon encounters all over the map) where you can just jump in and go to town if you happen to be there at the right time, and those have been fun. Each zone of the game also has a capstone dungeon, of which I’ve done exactly none, but might like to go back and do once I’ve finished the current solo campaign. I don’t know if those scale or not, but they recommend 4-6 players for all of them, regardless of level. I’ll have to see what they have to offer.

-The Gneech

the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
As soon as my champion hit 89, she was finally durable enough to punch through the bottleneck at the battles of Snowbourne and Thornhope respectively, which opened up the quests in Fangorn forest, at last, and forward progress was made again.

It turns out that one Thornhope instance was what was also causing the "epic books go one way, landscape quests go the other" problem as well-- the landscape quests that would have followed the epic into Fangorn were locked behind an impassable checkpoint. Looking at the forums, I gotta wonder just how many people will never meet the ents and the "OMG all the FEELS" story of Oldbeard and his little bird, because they can't get past Thornhope and give up trying after five levels have passed. (Dammit, a MMO shouldn't make me go all wibbly!)

Anyway, in Fangorn, I was finally able to switch back out of the blue spec for yellow against normal foes (orcs, bats, huorns), although I still needed blue to go up against spiders. Finishing up Fangorn and the last of the Snowbourne quests was enough to get me up to level 90, at which point I trundled back to Wildermore and hit the auction house, where I picked up the level 90 crafted gear-- the stats of which were literally double or better than my mid- to high-80s gear.

Welp, I'm OP again. O.o But if I have to choose between the two, I'll take OP over incapable any day. I can create my own challenges if I really want to-- but I can't ratchet down the difficulty if it's off the chart.

So I'm back traited to yellow, AoE-ing my little champy heart out. My war-steed has hit his maximum level [1] and I've cleaned out all the backed up quests that I just couldn't get through before. Even Hytbold is starting to cheer up as I make incremental improvements to it, although I think I may have run out of places to find quests for it and will have to circle back if I want to finish it off.

Of course, there's an update this morning, and who knows what that will do? Supposedly champions are getting buffed, especially in the red line, but as I'm all twinked out for yellow (and find red to be kinda dull), the effects might be minimal on me. We'll see.

-The Gneech

[1] Making me worry that I'm going to have to "deconstruct him" and get a new one in the not-too-distant future. O.o
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
I'm starting to see why so many people are dismayed about the current state of LotRO-- not even counting the "hardcores," who are never happy with anything but keep playing anyway. Rohan is a mess.

Having gotten a fairly good handle on war-steeds, I still think those are pretty well handled overall, except that the landscape is more full of bugs than an insect zoo, and the mob difficulty is set all over the map-- a critter who is trivial when you're on a war-steed is devastating on foot. When you add to this the fact that creatures are constantly spawning and instantly re-spawing all over the place, landscape quests quickly become an exercise in learning to avoid any monsters because Eru-forbid, if you start fighting with one, you'll be fighting all day just so you can click on a stupid macguffin and move on. I like that situational awareness is important when you're riding all over the landscape and that mobs are smart enough to run for reinforcements-- that part is cool. What I don't like is seeing the glowy thing across the room I have to click on and just watching the mobs stack up in front of it, knowing that the moment I kill them all, they'll be right back there.

The mobs also appear to have a "soft aggro" mechanic going on. I first spotted this in Moria, but in Rohan it seems to have been cranked up to obnoxious levels. "Soft aggro" is mobs in your general vicinity which have theoretically not become aware of you, still moving in a more-or-less beeline fashion towards you, or towards your goal. Warbands are particularly bad about this-- they have a preprogrammed path they follow across the landscape, until there is a player character within a certain distance (200m maybe?), at which point their path immediately alters specifically to take them towards that character. When you're already questing in a mob-heavy area, having the same warband molest you two or three times when all you want to do is collect two more hides and GTFO gets really, really old.

As I've already alluded to, Rohan is also full of crazy difficulty spikes. I am currently level 87, with the best bartered gear I can find, working on quests in the level 83-85 range. Most content for me should be a cakewalk. But Rohan is liberally sprinkled with elite mobs, many of which spawn right on top of you while you're walking by, and like I say, these mobs are designed with the assumption that you're riding a war-steed. If you are on foot, and especially if you get more than one at a time, you're screwed. Even if you're not screwed, you're still stuck grinding your way through a fight with an elite, which is generally not hard, just takes forever.

Well, except for the elites with broken abilities. Such as the half-orc in Thornhope who sets you on fire for 300-500 points of damage per second, so you have to use a potion immediately, then sets you on fire again before your potion cooldown expires. Or the ghost-dwarf-thing in Wildermore who reflects more damage back at you than you inflicted on him-- on top the normal pounding on you a boss does. (Dear LotRO devs: STOP GIVING MONSTERS REFLECT. IT IS ANTI-FUN. Especially when that reflect lasts longer than the fight. At least the daywalker berserkers, you can stop attacking for the 45 seconds they reflect the damage back at you.)

And then there's Hytbold. I can see Hytbold looking really good on paper-- it's a burned-out town in Rohan that your character is tasked with fixing up, leading to you eventually being named Thane (and finishing off a murder-mystery storyline in another town). It's intended to be endgame content for solo/casual players who don't like raiding or whatever, consisting of a variety of daily quests around different parts of Rohan that give you the resources to rebuild.

That's cool, I can get behind that idea. But like so many other things in LotRO, the implementation of the idea has issues. First off, some of the quests are just damned annoying. LotRO is pretty weak at jump puzzles, because the movement controls are wibbly-wobbly positioney-witioney. So naturally, they put jump puzzles into the Hytbold quests. Another one has, through an extremely circuitous set of reasoning, you walking across a tightrope carrying a bundle of arrows, which you have to time right or a circling crow will fly into you and knock you off.

A crow. Really. I HAVE A BOW. What possible reason could I have for not shooting the crow and THEN walking across the tightrope, other than that the quest won't let me? I've faced down Nazgul! I've slain a dragon-wight and defeated the Steward of Angmar! But man, have a crow circling my intended path, and I'm out of luck.

The other thing with Hytbold is that, being endgame content, it has daily locks. Once you do five Hytbold quests, you're prevented from doing any more until 3 a.m. the next morning-- this is on top of the individual 24-hr timer each quest also has. It doesn't matter if you did all five on one day, or did one per day for five days, or whatever. I've been doing two or three in a day as I come upon them instead of chasing them down, 'cos I've still got a lot of Rohan to get through, but that leads to finishing one right off the bat one day and being locked out on doing any more that day.

Oh, did I mention that the story quest goes off on one direction while the landscape quests go off in another? 'cos there's that problem, too.

So, yeah. Rohan has issues. :-`

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Rufaniel, my elf-maid champion, has hit level 83 and just picked up her war-steed. This is right about where Galadhalion is sitting (and will likely to continue to sit); I think Maedhroc got a little further along, but not much.

The way war-steeds behave in LotRO is kinda nifty. They've done a good job of making it "feel" like the way a horse actually behaves when you're riding. (Granted, my equestrian experience is limited to one summer's worth of classes, but we got all the way up to galloping by the end.) It's going to take me some time to get used to fighting on horseback-- particularly in terms of not zooming too far afield and just aggroing everything on the map-- but that will give me something new to look forward to.

I've still got a ways to go to get to the latest update (the Breaking of Isengard), but I am now finally starting to experience what is for me new content. I really enjoyed the Great River section and it was fun to play through the breaking of the fellowship and the aiding the other adventure party story arc in the East Wall mini-zone, even if most of the rest of the quests in that particular area are the worst sort of fetchy time-wasters.

Alas, I burned through a babillion Turbine points on extra storage space, quest slots, and the like, so I will have to wait a bit before I can get the coat and equipment colors I want for my warsteed; Rufaniel sports crimson and cobalt as her colors these days, so I'm thinking a red roan horse with blue steed-of-the-champion gear would suit nicely. In the meantime, she's using the festive azure gear on the default coat color (i.e., "medium gray"), which does the job.

As I get to the endgame, I will have to decide what to do about a kinship. I'd like to find some fun people to hang with; Valar Guild kinda splintered a while back and I feel very awkward around most of the people involved with that. I'm not and will never be a hardcore raider, although I do enjoy doing group instances and whatnot; maybe I can hook up with the Lonely Mountain Band or someone of that ilk. We'll see.

In any case, that's for the future. Now, I must hit the hay so I can function in the morning. Gnite world, and have an awesome tomorrow. :)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
"Yeah, yeah, fine, go kill the warg pack-leader, I'll do it in a minute. But can we PLEASE talk about getting me a boat to go up the Anduin?"

Lachwen decided today that she'd backfilled enough of her Volume I story quests, after one too many "ride halfway across Middle-earth to talk to X, who just sends you right back to the other end of Middle-earth to talk to the person who just sent you there" quests. Unfortunately, most of the latter half of Volume I is like this, and when she got a request to go down, down to Goblin Town to grab a bag of gems in the middle of what's supposed to be a time-sensitive chase after a magic ring, she just said, "You know what? To heck with this."

I then tried going back to Enedwaith, a zone which she only stayed in long enough to outlevel, but only a few of the quests awarded enough XP to justify the time investment and none of them particularly interested her (or me-- Enedwaith was a fun zone the first time around, but only that), and there were no deeds there worth the doing. Looking at both her quest and deed log, it turns out she'd be better served by going back to Southern Mirkwood and finishing it off. There are multiple explorer deeds there, the warg-slayer deed gives her a useful virtue point, and there are a fair number of green quests and mobs, so she can actually earn some XP and do some combat with things that actually fight back.

So I figure, what the hay, I'll pick up the "Tales of the Fire Maiden" thread pretty much where I left it, with Lachwen stuck in southern Mirkwood and trying to get back to the northern part of the forest, just in time for her sister Rufaniel to come tromping up out of Moria and drag her off to Rohan.

...which of course means I need to get busy on levelling up Rufaniel as well. Oops.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
I must be enjoying LotRO again, I only take screenies when I'm really getting into it.


Here we see Lachwen Shimmerlight, dressed for the cold and wondering what the heck she's doing way up in Forochel. Surely those long-lost second age texts aren't that interesting!


Here's Lachwen looking a bit more typically like herself. I suspect if there were unicorns in Middle-earth, she'd probably be riding one. She's that type of gal.


And here's Lachwen's sister Rufaniel, looking stern and badass. I suspect Lachwen's just said something daft, and Ruf is interested in exactly none of her shenanigans.

I'm having a lot of fun with these two, and I have been getting the stirrings of ideas for a "Life Of a Bounder"-esque series of story posts with them, sometimes interacting, sometimes off doing their own thing. To do that, of course, I have to collect screenies, but I've got a fair number of Lachwen already and will pick up more with Rufaniel as she gets played. She hasn't made it to Mirkwood yet in-game, but when she does I suspect I'll pick up where Lachwen's tale once left off and start trying to blend them in.

I'm also jonesing to find a regular crowd to run with again. Back when it was Poppy, Pippin, Galdor, Nim, and me, running all over Angmar and Moria, those were fun times, and I want to find another group like that. Of course, they're all way up at the level cap, while I'm nursing a L50-ish and a L75-ish, but I'll catch up with time. :)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Last time I played Lachwen I decided that as I was re-learning the class it would be a good time to backfill some of the stuff she skipped, especially in Mirkwood, given that she did once have a character story that specifically involved being in Mirkwood for a reason-- and the Mirkwood quests, while still well below level, are still green to her and therefore worth some XP.

Today, sneaking in a few minutes of LotRO on my lunch break, I foolishly tried to level up some of her crafting skills-- only to discover that she had never gained mastery two tiers back, and therefore will not be able to gain mastery for her current tier either and will be throwing away craft XP if she makes guild rep items. Of course, the tier she's missing? Angmar.

Siiiiigh. WHY does this game keep trying to force me to go to Angmar? -.- Does it WANT to give me headaches?

Well, I have to finish off the Book I epic line with her anyway, and she does have a lot of junk cluttering up her quest log. When I was first playing her I was trying to get her to the level cap for the Enedwaith release over the course of a month, so whenever she out-leveled a zone, she simply abandoned it. So to start cleaning things up, I pulled out the lowest level solo quest I still had, and pointed her at it.

Turns out it's in Forochel, so there's a possibility that she might find the right level mats there, too, so that's where she is now. Gonna grind up some deeds too while I'm at it (Hooray for deed accelerator tomes!) and just get the whole zone banged out. Shouldn't take very long, but it also means she'll be sitting on level 71 for that much longer as everything there is gray to her. Then it's off to Angmar to finish off Book I and collect whatever other mats she still needs.

Rufaniel, on the other hand, continues to slosh around in the Waterworks of Moria. My favorite zone down there, so I'm not really in a hurry to leave, but I think Ruf herself is probably getting pretty tired of the smell.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
Thanks to some tanking from Jamie, I was able to get Lachwen out of that dang swamp, and off to the more interesting parts of Dunland. I'm starting to get (some of) the hang of the class, having found that healing-traited, the runekeeper does a pretty good job of self-heal tanking solo, as long as they don't go up against anything with a really solid one-punch hit. Sadly, where I left Lachwen, puts her in the unhappy position of needing to go up against just such a foe, but I have to learn how to face it sometime, right?

Meanwhile Rufaniel, my mid-50s champion, is still just as crazy OP as the champions have been for a while. I tried her running in tank mode, and in AoE, and both work beautifully. AoE seems to be just a touch more efficient for landscape quests, at least, but switching trait lines on-the-fly is easy enough that I can jump into tank mode if I know a boss fight is coming or some such.

So I expect I'll be bouncing back and forth between these two for a while. Amusingly (at least to me), the two of them use almost the exact same character model and they're both from Mirkwood, so now my headcanon is that the two of them are sisters. I'm thinking of maybe tweaking their skirmish soldier cosmetics so they can run "together" that way; naturally I've come up with personality traits and how they interact in my head. I might even start doing story posts like the old "Life of a Bounder" series with them, although I'm not sure there's enough of interest to me in southeastern Middle-earth to support that. Maybe stuff in Gondor, if the game ever gets there; but Lachwen at least is a very urban sort of character and finds both Dunland and Rohan to be hick country.

I don't know why I'm suddenly interested in LotRO again out of the blue; it may be seasonal. Or maybe I just had a long enough break to be able to come back to it "fresh," I dunno. I do find it telling that I'm just not interested in playing Maedhroc or Galadhalion these days-- particularly considering that mechanically Rufaniel and Galadhalion are practically the same character, just at different leveling stages. But really, Maedhroc's story feels "done" to me-- his spirit was sorta crushed by what happened to him at Dol Guldur and then just ground into the dirt by his capture and imprisonment in Isengard. He has retired to his nice little home in the Shire to recover. As for Galadhalion, I'm sure he's still out there, probably raising heck somewhere with Shamat and Poppy in tales left untold.

It's time for new stories, with Lachwen and Rufaniel, to occupy my time off for a bit.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
So for whatever reason, last night I got the sudden urge to pull out my LotRO runekeeper Lachwen, and see what I could make of her. She never got her skills fixed after the Rohan scramble, but I was never very skilled with the class to begin with, so I figured I didn't have much to lose.

Tonight, I decided I'd done enough work that I could splurge on a little recreation and fired her up. Having messed with her for a few hours, mostly running a Mirkwood skirmish and doing a little bit of questing in Dunland ("Oh GOD, Lachwen is still in Dunland! *cry*"), I have come to the conclusion that... I'm still not very skilled with the class. ¬.¬

Basically, Lachwen needs a tank to hide behind. When running solo, she can -sorta- mitigate that with stuns, but the RK doesn't have their tanky healing rock any more (RIP, "Obvious Distraction," I loved you and you served me well), so I'm not sure where that leaves her in solo play. Presumably the RK is still supposed to kite like crazy, which is actually my least-favorite aspect of the class. I can't even imagine what mounted combat for RKs is like.

I don't really want to re-roll a baby RK and start over. Lachwen is level 71, which means she's past all that grindy, grindy, boring stuff in Lone Lands/North Downs that I really never want to do again. But I kinda feel like I might have to if I really want to understand how the class works.

Enh. Maybe I can get [ profile] jamesbarret to stand there and draw aggro for me and power-level Lachwen some while I get back in the swing of it. ;)

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
So I signed on to LotRO for a bit this morning before settling down to work; new update, scrambled everything, all new skill system, etc. etc. And... meh.

But it's not LotRO, it's me.

I have, over the past I-don't-know-how-long, turned into a hipster, it seems. All these things I used to enjoy, from LotRO to Borderlands to MLP:FIM, they're too noisy now. There's too many people involved in them, too much STUFF going on around them. Somewhere along the line, the thing I was interested reached a critical mass where it turned sour, or became more work than fun, or where I just plain got all the fun I was going to get out of it. You ever go back and watch some show you loved as a little kid, but now that you're older, it just falls flat? Same kind of feeling.

I hit that point with Star Wars when the 3D-animated Clone Wars series came out. I hit that point with Star Trek somewhere around the time of Deep Space Nine or possibly the last few seasons of Next Generation when it was devolving into a soap opera in space. Usually this phenomenon is triggered by some change in the item in question, where the kernel of whatever I fell in love with gets obscured by things added on later.

Some of this is the larger cultural shift brought about by the internet, I suspect. When I was growing up, fandom stuff was obscure. Like, really obscure. As in, photocopied or hand-typed newsletters being sent around the country by snailmail obscure. When I was twelve, all the hardcore Doctor Who fans in Fairfax County could fit easily into a small meeting room at the public library (and did). Star Trek had three seasons plus an animated series, and none of us could believe that they'd actually made a movie about it.

Note that I'm not saying that was better, because it wasn't. What I'm saying is that it's what I am used to. Growing up in that environment set my comfort level.

The truth is, I'm not happy about how this has gone down. I like being a fun guy who likes things, not being a downer dude who is so over everything. But I'm not sure what to do about it. It's great to talk about "cultivating a child-like sense or wonder" or some such, but when that isn't there, faking it is not a feasible option. For now, I guess I'll just look for the next Cool Thing, while periodically going back to the core of those things that just don't do it for me any more, and see if I can find that kernel I fell in love with buried deep in all the junk that's been piled on top of it.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Maedhroc Salute)
Oh, LotRO honey, I don't know... I'm honestly not sure you've got enough fun in you for me to have to go back to the start and learn how it all works again.

Meanwhile, I'm going to bed.

the_gneech: (Boromir battle)
My Warcraft hunter finally hit level 60 the other night, and is now the proud owner of a griffon, which makes getting from place to place sooooooooooo much easier. No more circling around and around the labyrinthine rock walls that always seem to be right between me and where I want to go, now I just give a whistle and poof! I can go right over them.

Pursuant to my earlier post on WoW, I think I've been able to discern why it's the king of the MMO's, which is something I wondered about for a long time. Basically, it boils down to that there's so much to it, that there's something for everyone.

Want to solo all the time? You can do that in WoW. Want to run dungeons from beginning to end? You can do that in WoW. Want to PvP? You can do that in WoW. Go through life never once pwning a n00b? You can do that in WoW. Geek out on the world lore? Yup. Ignore the world lore and just kill monsters/take their stuff? Go for it.

LotRO, by comparison, bounces back and forth from focus to focus, and from philosophy to philosophy, often forcing you into a playstyle you don't care for into order to slog your way through to the next bit that you like. It was originally designed with the idea that you'd be grouped most of the time (because FELLOWSHIP!), but then players kept wanting to solo everything so they had to retool at least the main story, but then raider types kept complaining that the game was "too easy" so they added tiered instances, blah-blah-blah-- and different areas/levels of the game, retooled or no, still reflect all this back-and-forthing. WoW seems to easily support lots of different playstyles all at once.

I don't know if WoW was always this way, or if it's a reflection of how long it's been in operation that it's reached this level of gameplay sophistication. But I'm impressed with how well they've managed to keep "all solo all the time" (which is mostly how I play) interesting over 60 levels. There are recurring patterns of course... "Go kill 10 _____'s. Now go back and collect 15 ______'s. Now go back and kill sub-boss. Now go back and do quest line capstone." And in the case of my hunter, she pretty much only ever uses four skills. But the locations have been varied and imaginative enough, and the stories behind these quests interesting enough, that it rarely feels like a "rinse-and-repeat" slog. The ability to tame landscape creatures and have them as companions makes it fun to find and try to catch uniques, and the battle pets make a nice mini-game to break up the monotony as well. WoW has showed me some things I never saw in fantasy before, and given how much fantasy I've read (and fantasy gaming I've consumed), that's a pretty impressive feat.

The dudebro problem I mentioned before is still there, but happily it's fairly easy to tune it out. Stay out of "General" chat, find a Guild full of cool people, and you'll probably be all right. Just don't ever use the dance emote with your night elf. ¬.¬

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Kero asleep)
A lot of stuff has happened this week and is continuing to happen; not that you'd know it from reading this journal, of course, because I have been too busy doing stuff to post about it. But I'm attempting to rectify that now.

Let's do the good stuff first! As you may or may not know, [ profile] lythandra's birthday is in just a few days, and to that end, we splurged a bit and got her a new camera. Photography is one of those things that she just really loves, and while her previous camera was very nice as a "digital point-and-shoot," it really wasn't beefy enough for someone serious about getting good pictures, so we got her a very snazzy Nikon DSLR. As for her previous camera, I was thinking I might claim it for taking pics of my art at cons or such, when the phone camera just doesn't quite cut the mustard.

Other than that, life has mostly consisted of being at work, or continuing to pack/prep the house for selling at home. When I've reached the end of my productivity on both of those, I've mostly been puttering around in World of Warcraft, about which I'm still conflicted. My reasons for being conflicted can probably best be summed up like so:

Which is more unbelievable? You make the call.

LotRO is just about the best MMO you could possibly make set in Middle-earth; it (mostly) respects and draws from the lore, and with the various character customization and social options it's quite possible to feel like you've "stepped into" M-E and made your virtual home there. The downside of that is when you're in the mood for something a little more "fantastical" in your fantasy, there's no place in LotRO for it. That's exactly as it should be. Putting flying mounts and Discworld-esque puns into LotRO would destroy everything good about it. But that's just one flavor of fantasy, and sometimes one craves variety.

On the other hand, I really like my night elf huntress in WoW with her saber-toothed tiger pet-- except for her stripper dance and her tendency to do "boob-jumping jacks" when she's bored. -.-

WoW has a dudebro problem. Or perhaps I should say, I have a problem with WoW's dudebro sympathies. WoW is like the "Big Bang Theory" of MMOs [1]. "Humans" are all of white European extraction (the darkest they come is a sort of almond color), males are generally huge and muscular, women are generally Barbie-shaped and wearing skimpier versions of any given armor set. (I should note that it's not all like that-- the recently-added Pandaren all tend towards the tubby and cute, and there are non-slinky outfits to be found. But "men are from muscle, women are from Hustler" is where WoW goes by default.) And of course, don't get me started on the worst-crap-from-the-locker-room bile spilling out of the general chat channels.

So there's a lot of wheat-from-chaff separating that has to be done before I can enjoy WoW. Finding a good guild (c/o [ profile] sirfox) and turning off the general chat have helped quite a bit. But it's still disheartening: what I want is a game with LotRO's graphics quality, cosmetic options, and mature user base, set in a high-fantasy world with wizard schools, airships, and blunderbusses (blunderbusi?).

And yes, I'm aware of the contradiction involved in my decrying skimpy-outfits-by-default when I tend to like playing characters who are very decorative glass cannons. The only defense I have there is that my desire to be decorative is not because I want to ogle my avatar's backside, but because I am an aesthetic at heart and will never actually be decorative in real life.

-The Gneech

[1] i.e., co-opting geeks and geek culture to sell the same old entitled and sexist crap to the same old entitled and sexist people.
the_gneech: (Boromir battle)
I was working on levelling a champion until a couple of weeks ago, wasn't I?

Forced myself to take some downtime and went back to that tonight. Rufaniel's now level 58 and sloshing around the waterworks of Moria.

I do periodically wish I was into WoW so I could run around w/ [ profile] sirfox in a more-vibrant-colors sort of fantasy world, but I'm loathe to pay the subscription fee for a game I'd play in fits and spurts at best. I have a lifetime sub to LotRO, so as long as I've got internet, I'll have access to that. (At least until it shuts down, but I'm pretty sure that's a few years away still.)

I periodically consider DDO just for the Eberron-ness of it, except that from what I gather it's not very solo-friendly, and also not very Eberron-ish, which is disappointing.

-The Gneech
the_gneech: (Lachwen Lightning Girl)
*pulls out his Runekeeper just for fun*

*realizes he has no idea what he's doing*

I've forgotten what every one of these skills is for. O.o In as much as I ever really understood.


*signs off and goes to bed*

the_gneech: (Legolas snow)
It was a productive weekend on LotRO (in as much as any time spent in a video game can be called "productive"): Rufaniel reached level 50, got to Vol 1 Book 8, finished the Vol 2 prologue, finished several class deeds and ground up seven virtue deeds. She's done just about all I can stomach to do in Angmar for now (although I have to go back for the second phase of her "Implements of Daring" items, boo), finished about half of Forochel (I'll be back for the book quests eventually, so no rush), and I decided to reward her by sending her back to Eregion to continue with that for a while.

As part of finishing the Vol II prologue, she stepped briefly into Moria, and I was surprised at how happy I actually was to see the place. It says a lot about my feelings towards Angmar that Moria feels like being welcomed home by an old friend, and admittedly there are parts of Moria I actually quite like. This is a good thing, because looking ahead at my virtues, there are a ton of deeds in Moria I'm going to need to do, which means Rufaniel is going to end up spending a lot of time there.

So her plan for the immediate future: Eregion, phase II, plus going back to Angmar sometime later this week probably (certainly before she finishes level 52) to get those stupid barghest tails and corrosive droplets. When the time comes to finish off that quest line, she'll probably just buy the implements with skirmish marks so I don't have to spam LFF for help polishing off the quest in the depths of Carn Dum or wherever.

I suppose I should start putting some serious effort into finding a kinship to run with on Rufaniel, 'cos it is getting a tad lonely. There are a couple of kins that I've run with in the past and would probably welcome her in, but there is drama and baggage there that I'm not sure I wouldn't rather just leave behind. Unfortunately, that means making a whole slew of new friends, but that wouldn't be such a bad thing if I could find the right ones.

Problem is, kinships in LotRO seem to run to such extremes: some are uber-casual, to the point of being sloppy and shapeless; others are hardcore-endgame-instances-are-all and quit trying to RP at us, please; others still are "full immersion, slow-leveling, RP on at all times, WHY ARE YOU RUNNING IN TOWN, TOGGLE YOUR WALK MODE OR GET OUT!" ... and a few are even "Wheee! I'm naming my dwarf Dildo Faggins, bwahahahaha!" Granted, this last category tends to get shouted down quickly.

So what would I want in a kinship? I think something like, "RP by default, but OOC okay as needed; caring about the lore or at the very least playing the game straight required; serious enough players to do instances and do them well without being gear-auditing trolls about it; willing to help with whatever's needed or just run with each other for the fun of it." I don't know if any such kinships actually exist, and I don't know if the vagaries of human interaction would allow such a kinship to continue for more than a few months at a time. But it's a nice dream, anyhow.

-The Gneech

April 2019

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