Stable of Heroes

So Rowan has a nice post on character names, and it galvanized me to finally write a post I’ve been meaning to do for a long time (having the day off helps too). Like Rowan, I have a character name or two that I tend to reuse. Actually more than that. I have a host of them, each for a specific purpose, and most of them modeled off of Jungian archetypes.

So for example, I have a character named Erhlinger in many of my games. Ehrlinger is dark. Often a rebel, he (or at times, she) does not fit in with the culture he grew up in. He craves power, but for protection and security of self against the perception of a world that has declared war on him personally. There is opportunity for growth and learning and perhaps even a chance to play the hero, but it will take the impact of others around him and the shared experiences of that adventure. So how does that change from game to game?

Well, in Everquest, that’s my Erudite Shadowknight, in World of Warcraft, my Forsaken Rogue. So the specifics of race and background change from game to game and setting to setting, but some core part of the character remains. And that creative tension is sometimes nice. In Everquest, the character has access to some pretty strong magic. In Warcraft, not so much. How does that change the character and their outlook? And that’s just one example.

Ehrlinger the Erudite Warlock from EQ2, running to the rescue!
And then there is Ehrlinger the Erudite Warlock from EQ2, running to the rescue!

Its a lot of fun then, for me, to approach new games and newly created characters (one of the reasons I have altitis, obviously).

Its also one of the reasons I really enjoy a sandbox game. The truth is that even a really good writer could not give me a story as interesting or compelling as the ones that I am making up as I go with all that rattling around in my head. I need a good set of lore and a stage on which to play it all out.

Do I ever have “new” heroes? Yep, you betchya! Sometimes the game just calls for it, or I want to take a break from playing with my usual toys. And then, if those are fun and good enough, I add them into the stable of heroes to pull from again later. And then sometimes I break out an old favorite. Ehrlinger hasn’t made an appearance in a long time (and he is not the oldest in my stable). When ArcheAge releases, maybe I take him off the shelf, dust him off and play with him again. After all I wanted to do an Occultism/Shadowplay/Vitalism character there…so, consulting the table, that would make him a Doombringer. Well now…how about that? Looks like this time, Ehrlinger is not fighting a losing battle against the world, he is fighting a winning one.

So the rest of the stable? Well there are too many to really go through in a single blog post. But if there is interest, I could from time to time highlight a new hero and some of their various incarnations over the years.

The Bridge is Getting Crowded

Okay, not so much like that.    More like this:


As you can see, I have something of a plethora of bridge officer candidates.  What can I say, I have have a hard time saying “no” to virtual applicants.


I could sell off the extra ones – but they are worth so little, and there are so many of them on the exchange, I’m not sure its worth the time it would take to list them.  But then again, inventory space is always at a premium for a pack rat like myself!


The other option is, of course, upgrades.  Because the officers are so cheap, laying ahold of one to train the “rare” mark II or III version of a skill is relatively simple.  Not to mention that if you have a buddy who can train that skill as a player character, they can train the bridge officer and then trade them right back to you!  No, the real reason to upgrade is the passive attributes, which are greater at each level.


Even then – I’m not sold.   After all, for the best efficiency, you need an entirely Saurian/Borg/Human bridge crew (only these three races grant passive bonuses to space combat), and a ground crew that is all but those three races – usually with nothing but Betazoid Science officers.  And I’m just not into that.  Not only am I a big fan of Jacques Ellul (who famously noted that Efficiency is currently humanity’s true god), but I’m a roleplayer.  I’m not here for the stats, people.


Long story short though, it is pretty sad.   Here is what I currently have in my slots vs. what is available…



1 x Purple, 1 x Green, 1 x White     vs.     5 x Blue


1 x Blue, 1 x White     vs.     2 x Purple, 5 x Blue


1 x Purple, 1 x Green, 1 x White     vs.     2 x Purple, 7 x Blue

Given that without spending Zen, you get a standard of 10 officers, with the ability to purchase new slots at $1.25 a pop, up to maximum of 54, according to the wiki.    Which I’m not keen on doing.


So, the TL:DR of all this is simple.   I have to be willing to say goodbye to some old friends if I want to upgrade.  As a roleplayer, and a pack rat, that’s a double whammy.   How do I give up the science officer I started with 45 levels ago, who has been with me through thick and thin and still functions just fine!


I probably need to just put my big boy pants on and fire some peeps.   Because I’m betting other players don’t have this issues like this…


Nor, I’m betting, did Captain Picard.

Sandbox Vistas I: Visiting Istaria

So, at the urging of Ben and Flosch, I am undertaking an odyssey to explore some obscure sandbox games.  First up on the list is one that I’ve been curious about for some time, a game called Istaria.  Istaria has just recently (last December) celebrated its 9th year in existence.  That in and of itself is nothing to sneeze about.  Originally entitled “Horizons” the game had an ambitious development goal of a fully PvE game with an automated AI enemy that would actively oppose players and player settlements in a never ending conflict.  As you can imagine, this was difficult to implement, so it was scaled back to something more static in nature.

Currently the game is rolling along nicely with a standard and RP server, though I gather from the forums that the population of the RP server is fractured and at times contentious, in addition to being lower than the one on the regular server.  So naturally, I signed up there.

The two week trial account allows three character slots among any of the diverse races, though after some time delving in the outdated wiki and in the community, I decided to start with a human character and try a dragon character later down the line.  And boy am I glad I did.   Why?


I kid you not.  You can not swing a dead rat in this game without hitting five dragons.  The moment I exited the mystic portal from the tutorial island onto the live server itself, I was awash in dragons.  I’ve seen perhaps twenty or thirty players in the game thus far, and all but two of them have been dragons.

In fact, it occurred to me that, had I been really role-playing, my poor little character would have seen the dragons all lying around the starter village, screamed, turned around, ran right back into the mystic portal, and lived out his immortal life in the relative peace and quiet of that great utopia.

No idea who this guy is. Google image search ftw.

So, I’ve been spending a lot of time outside the village itself.  Where I’m alone with the baby pigs, and hatchling spiders, tiny grass beetles, skeletal warriors, aand OH MY GOD GIANT WOLVES AND MUMMIFIED REANIMATORS.

Yeah, basically there are two types of mobs thus far.  Those that you can kill, albeit with a large investment of time but little worry.  And there are creatures that will kick your ass into the ground without a second thought.  And telling them apart is almost impossible.   I was a level 8, and I was grinding level 5 and 6 skeletons (and boy was it a grind…) when a level 9 mummy thing wandered into the fight.   This guy is on a wide loop for his AI path, and I hadn’t seen him before.  But he was only a bit ahead of me, so I didn’t worry about it.  Until his first shot took 15% of my health.   And his second, another 15%.  And meanwhile, I was doing 3% a shot off of his.  It got ugly fast.  Fortunately, death is about as inconsequential in Istaria as any MMO, albeit they have cooler and more interactive ways to remove the death penalty, which I like.

You may think so far that I have not liked Istaria, but that’s not quite true.  I have enjoyed it a lot, and intend to keep at it for the remaining week or so of my two week trial at least.  The class/school system is great, keeping a familiar vibe going on in character creation and building, while allowing you to tweak your character in a way normally reserved to skill based systems.  The crafting is deep and gets deeper the more you get into it.    Harvesting is a bit of a chore, but there’s enough RP channels out there to keep you entertained, and on top of that, as an older game, Istaria runs fine in windowed mode, allowing you to browse and harvest at the same time.

Anyway, we’ll see where this takes us.  I may do another post on Istaria, or I may move on to some of the other options out there, like Wurm Online (which looks…complicated) or Xyson (where technology is rare or nonexistent…yet there is a screenshot with a car sitting in it…).   And hopefully Dawntide will come back up in the interim as well.   So my posting will be kinda…sandbox.  Heh.

I Spy Something….Epic

ETA:  Some helpful links at the bottom of the page.

I’ve been reading through Steven Erikson’s excellent Malazan Book of the Fallen series.  I know every fantasy reader prefers their fiction a little differently, so I won’t try to convince you of anything other than this:  I think he is an excellent writer, and the series has really hit home with me.  It makes me want to create something as…meaningful I guess.  Something as epic.

Hopefully, one day, I’ll get my act together and write – not to be an author professionally, but to satisfy that desire within me.  Until then though, I take some pride in having helped with something similar.  And I hope that, with the help of some of you, I might do the same again.  Ready for the pitch?  Here it comes…

Eight and a half years ago, while looking into some lesser known RPG’s, I visited the website of one of my then favorites, The Legend of Yore.  It was, in creator Brennan Taylor’s words, his own personal fantasy heartbreak (maybe I yearn for my own?).  You can find the story behind its inception here.  After its publishing, perhaps as a way to drum up sales, or just to share and enjoy his creation, or maybe to get help to flesh it out, or maybe all of the above, Brennan created The Interactive History of the Known World.  A narrative game, using simplified FUDGE rules, where each player took control of one nation in the LoY setting (“The Known World”).  Turns were once every two weeks, written in narrative style, with bonus actions given for extra in character narratives, with each turn equalling a season.  Brennan collected our turns, rolled the dice, and gave us a basic narration of the results, along with some random NPC events elswhere in the world.  We wrote stories around these and our new actions, and two weeks later, it happened again.

All told the game ran for 30 months.  I did two seperate stunts in the game that lasted perhaps two thirds of that.  And it was truly epic.  Since the dice controlled all in what was an essentially unweighted fashion, we could make our  characters as powerful or as weak as we wanted – it all balanced out in the end.  Child savant Archmages, reincarnated Witch-Kings, legendary Generals.  The narrative stood seperate from the mechanics – and the interplay between the two – the tension – helped shape the stories.  After awhile though, the stories bogged down because we discovered some flaws in the mechanics..and the players.  Brennan maintained that he was too busy to continue, but I always suspected it was for a different reason entirely.  Our shared narrative had become a never ending war.  Because we had no mechanics to actually “resolve” anything other than the actions we took, nobody ever died, nobody was ever truly defeated.  You could suffer legendary losses on the fields of battle…and devote all your actions to war the next season, with close too, if not the same, chance of victory as you had three months before without a scratch on your grand army.  Nobody took any cultural, or trade related actions.  Everything was war.  Players wanted to keep their actions secret.  In the belly of the shared story, we had birthed a monster of a deformed game.

As this  became more obvious, I hammered out a set of rules to deal with the problems that had cropped up.  The players looked over them, some things were adopted, some not.  But in the end, it was too little too late, and I knew it.  The doors on the game closed for good.   When I finished my most recent Erikson read (Memories of Ice, for the fans out there), all of this was playing through my head.  I dusted off the copy of the rules I had written, and began making changes from a half-decade’s worth of additional gaming experience, and reflection.

So if you’ve followed me this far down the dusty trail…you’ve probably guessed where this is headed.

I want…need…to do this again.  With some people who are willing to, together, write a story with me.  An epic story, with epic characters.  Where empires can rise and fall, players can come and go, but the story keeps churning.   Do you have the itch too?  The system is read, and kinks can always be worked out as we go.  We just need a place to put our stories, and some people to write them.  Is that you?  Let me know…

Link to the archives of the Interactive History game:

Link to Brennan Taylor’s design company, Galileo Games:

Link  to Brennan’s Galileo Forum on IPR:

Email where you can let me know if you have interest in playing:  silver elf 4 at aol . com  (no spaces, and replace the “at”, obviously).