Notes from Pathfinder session 30 MAR 14

Let’s be honest: it’s been a while since I chucked dice, so half of what I know about Pathfinder is barely remembered rules from my last D&D 3.5 game. I played a couple sessions with a group last year, and some 4th a year or so before that, some sporadic games while I was enlisted, and the longest running campaign I played in about 10 years ago. So I’m a little rusty, even if I’ve got the basics down. To make matters more confused, Pathfinder is only a little different from D&D 3.5, so I’m constantly checking myself to make sure nothing changed. About 75% of the time, I’m right.

I had a plan to run my players through a one-time adventure where everyone would play a 10th level bard. It was to be kind of an introduction to the game, and an exploration of the bard class, because bards get a bad rap. After making the short adventure and the characters, however, I realized that with all the spells and skills a 10th level bard has, it’d probably be way too much for an introduction. Everyone seemed to want to play their own character anyway, so I shopped around for an adventure path I could run with.

There are a ton of Pathfinder adventure paths, and they all sound awesome. I went with Rise of the Runelords. It is a nice collection of all six modules compiled into a hardcover book with bonus encounters and post-release enhancements for only $40, which is as much as two modules alone. Scrapping my bard adventure meant I didn’t have as much time to prepare, and the game suffered a little for it. However, the first part is mostly combat, so I managed to get by.

Speaking of combat, jumping into it with four brand new characters is a great refresher on all of the little details that need to be remembered! I overestimated how much of the stats would be in the campaign book, so I was quickly looking up goblins in my 3.5 Monster Manual. Then I got a reminder of how many little details and numbers need to be crunched when a sorceror or cleric casts a spell. Range, effects, saves, resistance DCs, all of that.

I also got a reminder of how brutal this game can be at low levels. A goblin managed to score a critical attack on the cleric, and dropped him with one hit. I felt a little bad for that. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to bail anyone out when their number comes up. I feel like the game is less interesting when the DM is constantly bailing out dying PCs. There’s no threat of death. But the cleric was a guy I just met. Thankfully, he stabilized right away and I managed to interject a brief respite for him to get him up to 1HP so he could at least heal himself a little.

The rest of the session went fairly smoothly. The PCs survived some strong hits but no more crits. For the first time, I had to consult some riding and mounted combat rules. I simply never touched them before, but one of their encounters involved a goblin ranger on a goblin dog. I wish I had remembered that I had the reference guide in my phone, because I didn’t have a stat block for the goblin dog. I had to fudge a combination of a standard dog and a riding dog, and I missed out on all the little details of a goblin dog. Whoops.

Of the mistakes I made that I think can be easily fixed, I’m going to start withholding loot and XP until the threat is over and those things matter. I started doling out both after the second battle, even though there was no opportunity to spend either. That was kind of a waste of time, as I could’ve combined all the previous encounters at the end of the session.

But all in all, I think the session went well and I’m very excited to get back into it next month.

PCs:

Nordak – Male half elf sorceror 1

Ironhouse – Male dwarf cleric 1

Tragehon – Male dwarf fighter 1

Groob – Male half orc rogue 1

#40 – Deadpool (PC)

I got this more or less on Steam sale impulse, and I was pleasantly surprised! Deadpool is kind of a dumb character, and Deadpool is kind of a dumb game. But it’s dumb in a good way! There are a ton of stupid jokes that miss more than hit, but the action is pretty fast-paced and varied, and the platforming is mercifully brief. Deadpool talks constantly, as is expected from the character. I heard “what’s your blood type?” more times than I want to count.

The environments are not the most exciting. Sewers, a prison, the ruined island of Genosha, and a rather tame interpretation of Hell. What kept me going was the cameos from X-Men and how Deadpool interacted with them. The main story isn’t exciting, or particularly cohesive, but Deadpool’s interactions with Cable and Death were good. What particularly hurts the action is the camera, which doesn’t always seem to be in a good position to follow what’s going on. But it’s not a deal breaker.

It’s also a game that makes fun of a lot of video game tropes, some more competantly than others. Remember the strip club scene in Duke Nukem Forever that was really weird and creepy? In Duke’s fantasy, he’s the coolest guy and all the ladies want him. It’s just the weirdest thing because sexy polygon ladies is always weird and they’re coming onto you. Deadpool takes this in the other direction. There’s a pool party and Deadpool tries to hit on the women there and they just shoot him down every single time. He’s gross and weird and they want nothing to do with him, and it’s hilarious. Deadpool frequently breaks the fourth wall and points to the dumber stuff in video games.

It’s no masterpiece, and it’s short (6 – 7 hours), but if you’re into Deadpool and competant action, it’ll keep you entertained for a weekend or a long afternoon.

#39 – Antichamber (PC)

I don’t know what I really think about this. It’s a really visually striking as it’s a lot of white rooms with splashes of color. The puzzles range from simple to what in the hell, mostly because not a lot of it makes logical sense. There are plenty of parts that are really awesome with how it plays with perspectives, but a lot of it also feels like “look at this cool stuff I did in Unreal engine”. I also managed to hit some hard limits of the engine as I crashed it three times using one of the later abilities in the game.

But I don’t know. It’s no Braid or Portal, but it’s got a lot of puzzles that got stuck in my brain until I solved them, or shamelessly youtube-d the solution.

#38 – Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons

Brothers has been on quite a few top 10 lists this year for good reason. It’s fantastic. It’s kind of like a single-player coop game, in that you control two characters with the control sticks of the gamepad and they’ve got independent movement and actions. Most of the game is traversing terrain and simple puzzle solving, but it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s relatively short (about 3 hours) but it’s perfectly paced and no part of it overstays its welcome. It’s three hours well spent.

#37 – Dishonored (PC)

I probably should have finished this game long ago, but I wanted to get the “good” ending, and that requires not killing everyone, and this game makes it a lot more fun to kill everyone. It requires patience to sneak around and choke out so many of the things in your way, and I’ve played this in fits and starts because I’m much more direct than that.

There’s also a lot in this game. The levels are enormous and there are books and lore and non-hostile characters all over the place. Much more of the game world is revealed in the texts than ever presented on the surface. Maybe I didn’t connect enough of the dots, but I want more of that world-building because it’s really interesting. It’s a great blend of sci-fi and industrial age.

#36 – Papers, Please (PC)

It’s hard to describe what’s so fun about Papers, Please. To put it simply, the game is about checking the documents of people trying to cross a fictional Eastern Bloc nation’s border with ever-changing rules and procedures. It’s an oppressive environment as you’re constantly choosing between strictly enforcing the rules of your superiors, or bending them at your own expense to do what seems right. You can have people detained for cash. You can take bribes. Everyone seemingly has a story or excuse for their discrepancies. And all the while, the rest of your family is starving and cold because you can’t afford food and heat.

But it is fun! It’s so fun. It’s almost entirely mouse-driven, but everything feels perfect. You move the documents onto your desk for closer inspection. Stamping papers makes a satisfying “kachunk” sound. Upgrades to your interface bring shortcuts. There’s a time limit to each day, and you get paid by the person processed, with fines for screwing up (either intentionally or unintentionally) more than twice. It moves pretty briskly but once I got a rhythm down, I never really felt oppressed by the clock. Everything just works great.

Glory to Arstotzka.

#35 – Resistance 2 (PS3)

This might be the last game that I finish this year, unless I really buckle down during my vacation to wrap some up, namely The Last of Us.

What to say about Resistance 2? It’s way better than the first game. It’s got a lot more color even if it’s all green and yellow, and there’s a more distinct style to it. It’s just really lacking in story. Each level feels really different and none of them feel interconnected by much at all. It’s also at least twice as difficult as it should be by making the player very fragile. Sure, you regenerate health, but it’s really not a lot of fun to replay parts over and over until you memorize the locations of enemies, or spend half of the game staring up close at the waist-high scenery in cover.

And what the fuck is up with PS3 exclusive shooters with horrible endings? Holy crap, there’s not much story to this game, and it ends very poorly.

Now that I’ve wrapped this up, I might be able to get around to the entire reason why I played Resistance and Resistance 2. I might get to start Resistance 3, which I’ve read is fantastic and takes a lot of cues from Half-Life 2. Or maybe I’ll throw myself down a JRPG hole and start Ni No Kuni.

#34 – Medal of Honor (PC)

This game also came from the Humble Origin Bundle! Or else I wouldn’t own this either. Despite being a video game, and the part about mowing down hundreds of bad guys, Medal of Honor is slightly more grounded in reality than Battlefield. There’s a threat and it’s Al-Qaeda, not an nuclear bomb. And instead of playing just plain old marines, you get to swap between a Navy SEAL, a special forces operator, and a ranger. There’s also a much greater emphasis on infantry combat over vehicular.

But it’s very short. Less than four hours short. And it’s kind of buggy. There was one part where I was supposed to wait for a patrol to pass by before continuing, except one of the bad guys just kind of stood around forever. If I shot him, it wouldn’t raise the alarm. But if I crossed an arbitrary threshold, whether this guy was alive or dead, it would trigger the alarm. I had to drop out of the game and reload it. There was also some clipping issues with dudes running through each other. It’s not particularly broken, it was just some weird stuff to see in a big budget game.

#33 – Battlefield 3 (PC)

I play Battlefield games wrong. I’m not really interested in the multiplayer, which is pretty much the whole purpose of the series. And I’m not really into modern military shooters. The only reason I even own Battlefield 3 is because it was part of the Humble Origin Bundle.

But I might as well play it, right? It does have a single player campaign. The first turn off is something I read about but forgot a while ago: Battlelog. When I launch Battlefield 3, it opens a tab in my browser for Battlelog, which is kind of like Battlefield’s social networking site and server browser. Even though the single player doesn’t really touch Battlelog, I have to launch it from Battlelog, which means having to keep a browser plugin up to date. It’s a hassle. I don’t know why none of this is actually in-game.

The campaign itself is nothing special. It looks really good, but it’s still just shooting pop-up bad guys with automatic weapons and occasionally getting into a vehicle to shoot other vehicles. I guess it serves as a competent introduction to Battlefield’s multi-platform warfare but not much else. The story is senseless and there’s nothing exciting here.

So uhhh I don’t know. I’ve got Medal of Honor to play from the same Humble Bundle, and I realize that Battlefield isn’t really a single player game, but this isn’t changing my life.

Don’t apply for that IT position at Penny Arcade

Have you seen that fucking ridiculous Penny Arcade IT job opening? If not, here it is!

http://www.linkedin.com/jobs2/view/9887522

This is not one position. They outright say this is four jobs in one. In most other companies, this would actually be four job postings with four different salaries. Except in this case you should expect modest pay because Penny Arcade is not a money-motivated environment.  Not only that, you’re the only one doing IT for Penny Arcade. You are always on call. There is no downtime. It’s all on you to keep that organization running. So what about the guy who’s leaving this wonderful position?

http://forums.penny-arcade.com/discussion/185114/about-the-penny-arcade-job-posting

Read that carefully. That is what Stockholm Syndrome looks like. He can’t get away for anything. He’s on an email/phone leash at all hours of the day. The only break he got was when he popped a fucking lung and he’s thankful that they pushed a project back because of it. I think the worst bulletpoint is this:

General IT: yes, everyone at Penny Arcade is fairly technically savvy. I’m pretty sure every one of them are the respective go-to IT professional for their families. Sometimes weirder stuff comes up – you need an FTP dump set up for clients, a local fileshare, “the thing isn’t working and I don’t know why”. Whatever. This is honestly the smallest drain on my time by far, but it is part of the job and there’s no one else to foist it onto. If you don’t know how to fix it, you’re the one who gets to figure out how.

When I see that, I read “fuck you, fix it”. Because that’s what it is. I’ve got this thing, I don’t know how it works, you figure it out. They’re taking their problem and making it your problem. This is not a collaborative effort. This isn’t asking for help. This is “your time isn’t as valuable as mine” and it fucking sucks every single time it happens, I don’t care how infrequent.

When I was enlisted, I was on duty 24/7. That’s everyone in the Army. Everyone is subject to recall. But even I could get two weeks away in the middle of a deployment. There are plenty of highly motivated, highly skilled people out there working at all hours of the day but this kind of commitment is usually reserved for making your dreams come true. Building your startup. Paving your own road.

This isn’t that position. This is a service position. What you’re doing is supporting someone else’s dream coming true. And you’re going to do it at all hours of the day. Your life is not your own, it’s in support of everyone else at Penny Arcade. Kenneth notes that they’ve been nothing but upfront and honest about the level of commitment needed for this position and I can’t fault him for that. But it doesn’t make it any less of a shitty position that sounds more exploitive than beneficial to the poor schmuck who actually “wins” the job.