Tag Archives: Blaugust

On Fires, Part 3

Blaugust Post #31

Burning Wheel has probably the best skill system I’ve read as it relates to skill use and advancement. The basic premise is that you don’t get any better by doing things that are easy. Therefore, you’re encouraged to try things that might be somewhat difficult for your character, because that’s the only way you get better. This is a bit of an oversimplification, but Burning Wheel rules are long and wordy.

To go along with this, the list of skills goes on for pages. There are the expected skills for weapons and fighting (sword, bow, armor training), an assortment of professional skills (blacksmith, haggling, dye manufacture), sorcery and sorcery-related skills (enchanting, summoning), social skills (intimidate, persuasion, falsehood), and some oddball ones like Strategy Games. There are also open-ended -wise skills that act as knowledge skills. Examples include things like Great Masters-wise, Dirty Secrets-wise, and Poacher-wise, in addition to things you might expect like Forest-wise, Noble-wise, and Tools-wise. (You can make appropriate ones up for your character and take them as non-lifepath skills.)

At low skill levels, you can advance with a few challenging skill tests and a few routine ones, but eventually the routine ones stop counting. If you never push yourself to do difficult tasks with a skill that you’re already somewhat good at, it will never get better. Burning Wheel lacks XP entirely, so this skill progression is how you get better. There are a few alternatives to trying things that you’re going to fail at, however. You can have someone else who is good at a skill teach you, which counts toward the number of skill tests you need to advance.

I’ll probably never actually play in this system, but I have talked to Tamrielo (who is my usual GM) about it. He likes the skill system and the fact that violence is rarely the right answer, but not so much all of the incredibly crunchy bits (that I haven’t actually talked about here). It’s a fun system to build characters in though, so I suspect I might just use it as inspiration for some future characters.

Blaugust Complete

Doing this for the second year was interesting. As mentioned, posting every day is a bit much for me, but this did help me get back into the swing of things. I think I’m in better shape to maintain the 3/week schedule I was in for most of last year. I think I fell into the trap Bel outlined last week, but he’s right, the “epic welcome back post” just doesn’t happen. It’s far more productive to just start writing.

On Heavy Rainfall

Blaugust Post #22

This was supposed to be a post months ago, but it got written on paper and never typed up. I’ve since lost it.

Risk of rain is a mostly platformer with rogue-like elements. It’s (so far) my favorite example of such, although it’s quickly becoming a crowded genre (Spleunky, Rogue Legacy, and the recent Warlocks Vs. Shadows all qualify). I find Risk of Rain interesting largely because of the risk/reward mechanism of its time mechanic.



The primary goal of Risk of Rain is to get to the final level (which is always the UES Contact Light), beat the final boss, and leave the planet that you crashed on. This is accomplished by playing through a minimum of 5 other levels, finding and activating the teleporter in each level, and surviving through the wave of enemies that assault you when you do this. Enemies also spawn naturally over time, at a rate determined by what level you’re on, and how long you’ve been playing the current game. The largest difference in difficulty settings is how quickly this process occurs.

There are 12 characters, 11 of which must be unlocked, and 10 different stages, where which ones you visit are determined semi-randomly. Each of the first 4 levels will be one of 2 options, level 5 is always the Ancient Temple. After that, you can either start revisiting levels or move on to the end of the game. Along the way you will pick up a wide variety of items, mostly randomly determined. There are a few places to influence what items you get, as well as a really big way that you can eventually unlock.

RoR Golems


One of the more interesting things about Risk of rain to me is the character variety. You start off with just the commando, who is fairly decent, but I find somewhat boring. The thing is, starting out, you’re going to die on the first level. You’re going to die on the first level probably more than once. Despite this, you can be making progress toward unlocking the other characters. Beating the three boss options on level 1 will unlock the enforcer. Collecting enough drones will eventually get you the engineer. Enough monster logs will get you the huntress, but there aren’t actually enough monster types until you get to the second level(s) consistently.

Then there are the ones that you won’t unlock by chance. The Sniper requires that you beat the game once, and the Mercenary that you do it 5 times. There are also a few that you need to find, which requires that you a) get the right level, and b) get the version that has that character. HAN-D is a bit easier (in a manner of speaking) because he’s in the final stage, and will therefore always be there if you can get that far.

RoR Trouble


The other interesting thing is the item selection. The longer you spend on a stage, the more money you have to open chests and get items, but the harder the enemies will be, making for a generally enjoyable risk/reward mechanism. Some items are better for some characters than others: Acrid tends to kill things while they’re clumped up, so the item that causes enemies to explode on death is amazing. The command attacks extremely quickly, and so gets more out of items like the ukulele or missiles.

Recently artifacts were added, and these let you modify the game in some ways, which can make things easier or harder, depending. One in particular, Command, allows you to choose what items you get (within the bounds of rarity). Glass cuts your health to only 10%, but makes you do significantly more damage.

RoR Artifact

Co-op doesn’t use Steamworks, so it’s a little iffy. Even so, this is one of the best small indie games I’ve experienced. It goes on sale for very few dollars pretty often, so take a look.

On Illusion of Choice

Blaugust Post #15

After writing about the Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, I had a strong urge to go back and play Mass Effect 3 all the way through again. Really, what this meant is that I had a strong urge to play the entire Mass Effect trilogy again, because the second and third games make really awkward assumptions if you don’t import a save file. Because I said I hadn’t, I’m playing as a Soldier, but I think I’ll probably play 2 and 3 as an Engineer (which is the other class I’ve never played through any of the games). My only regret so far is that playing as a Soldier makes Wrex largely redundant, and he’s probably my favorite party member.

Meeting Wrex

A Dirty Trick

I’ve heard it said that Mass Effect 1 is the best RPG in the series (even from people who don’t consider it the best game in the series), and while I don’t really agree, it’s certainly the most traditional. Your conversation options depend on the skill points you spend in Charm/Intimidate (and it’s also traditional enough that investing in both is a trap). Locked items and even how well you can shoot your weapon are also controlled by skill investments. You can equip a weapon that you have no skills for, but don’t expect to hit anything with it. None of this applies to the following games: Mass Effect 2 entirely limited weapons by class, and Mass Effect 3 went with a system where your class just determines how much weight you can carry (but all classes use all weapons equally well).

One of the other things is that Mass Effect 1 gives you the conversation wheel a lot more often than either of the following two games, creating the impression that is has more choices. Realistically, ME1 is playing a grand trick on its players, although you’re really only likely to notice it if you play the game more than once (or specifically replay a scene while giving different answers). In a lot of cases, multiple options on the wheel will lead to the exact same voiced line. It will almost always be a line generic enough to “fit” whatever summary the wheel presented, and the only difference is player interpretation.

It was the Mining Laser

Maybe Not so Dirty

Mass Effect 2 and 3 abandon this idea, in favor of just giving you the line, which generally makes conversations flow better. ME3 goes farther than ME2 in this sense, and also occasionally gives you a line based on your Paragon/Renegade scores. In the end of things, I’m not sure which is better. I personally prefer Mass Effect 2’s approach, where you only get a conversation branch for actual line differences. Appearances are important in games, and maybe some well-placed illusions are called for.

On Tam’s 11 Questions

Blaugust Post #14

I realize this isn’t how this is supposed to work, but I found his pretty thought-provoking.

1. What is the best spell to cast?
If I were to be practical, a healing spell, but that’s boring. My actual answer is Shapechange. I feel like there are a lot of problems that have easy solutions if you can turn into a dragon, you just need to watch out for hero-types that get the wrong ideas.

2. What food item(s) from a game do you want to eat above any others?
Dirge’s Kickin’ Chimaerok Chops seem like something that has to be tried. It took me a lot of work to get the recipe for those, and chimaeroks went nearly extinct with the Cataclysm, making this an incredibly rare delicacy. The only part that bothers me is that it requires Goblin Rocket Fuel.

3. You’ve got an infinite supply of one consumable, and can never carry any others. Which consumable do you choose?
Teleport Scrolls seem like they would be handy, especially if it’s one of the types that lets you go to any familiar place, not just somewhere you mark as “home”.


4. You have to choose a race and class that you’re never played seriously before. What do you pick?
I pretty much only play humans in games where there are no other options at all, and I tend not to play straightforward mage-types, but I really don’t see either of these changing anytime soon. I haven’t really ever played Orcs, so I might give something like an Orc Bard a shot.

5. What game did you think you would hate but actually loved?
It took a lot of convincing to get me to play the first Borderlands, as it released when I was in a state of thinking I hated First-Person Shooters. (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 came out the same year, and I wasn’t a fan of that series.) Borderlands was amusing, and fun to play, and the wide variety of weapons made it awesome for me (even if Vladov is the best manufacturer). Co-op also helped in a big way.

6. What game did you think you would love but actually hated?
Darkest Dungeon. This seemed like it should be the kind of game that I liked, being a party-based roguelike with a unique art style, but I couldn’t stand actually playing it. In addition to my other problems with it, it bothers me on a few levels that characters develop mental afflictions from stress.

7. Pick a zone from any game to live in. Why?
I’d probably get annoyed by the elves eventually, but Gridania seems like it would be a pretty nice place to be. It’s nice and foresty without being quite as potentially lethal as the non-city shroud zones.


8. You can excise one class from every future game. Which? Why?
I believe Thalen and Tam are correct in identifying that Warriors are an issue, but I think the class that needs to go is Barbarian/Berserker because classes like that limit what warriors can do. Making a class that is “like warrior, but gets mad” doesn’t do anyone any favors, just give warriors actual options, one of which might include “gets mad”.

9. What’s your favorite story?
The Odyssey. This is one of the few pieces of classic literature that High School English didn’t make me hate.

10. What hobby does no one (yet) know you have?
A few people do know this, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it to a wider audience. I’m a bit of a musician and played trombone throughout most of high school and all of college. I’m currently in a location where practicing that is something that just isn’t going to happen, and I’m (slowly) learning to play bass.

11. What’s your favorite secret shame?
I have a general fondness for musicals. I have the soundtracks to several (including Rent, Wicked, and Starlight Express) in my music library. This has resulted in some really odd reactions from roommates and family members.

12. Why can’t Ashgar count to 11?
I’m a programmer, and off-by-one errors are one of the 2 hard things in computer science.


On Levels

Blaugust Post #11

Not too long ago, Tam wrote a post (and a follow-up) about why we should get rid of levels. SAO contains hints of this, mentioning how a level-based system isn’t really fair in PVP contexts, with a subtler hint at the same idea explaining why the second arc doesn’t have levels. In general, I don’t disagree with the arguments presented, but I still think levels are worth keeping.


It’s possible to have progression without using levels, but I feel that having a level as a symbol of how far you’ve come is more important than any actual increases you get from it. Diablo 3 is a good example of this, as each paragon level doesn’t get you much, but it still feels good to get the level up animation and sound. Skyrim likewise gives you a small power boost as you level, but a large part of your power is based on your skill levels, which might be somewhat far removed from your actual level. (A system was introduced after Dragonborn came out that even lets you reset your skill levels and level indefinitely.) I haven’t played a lot of SAO: Hollow Fragment yet, but it seems to work similarly. (It also has the somewhat ridiculous level cap of 250, and Kirito starts at level 100. These numbers are kind of just there.) Tam kind of dismisses this point, but I feel like it’s relatively important. Even at max level in games with vertical gear progression, you tend to make a different number go up (since both WoW and FF14 tell you your average item level). Admittedly, there’s no “ding” noise for hitting ilevel 170.

Ding 70
Yes, I hit 70 on my first character from desecrating a fire.

Baby + Bathwater

I think more than that, my problem is that most level-less systems that I’ve seen so far either aren’t (TSW) or are 100 times worse (Destiny), with a few exceptions. EVE seems to have figured this out, but it has the problem of being EVE. TSW claims not to have levels, but that’s a big fat lie, as your power is 90% based on your talisman levels. If the big skill wheel was all there was, that game could still be compelling, but they felt the need to add a power gating mechanism on top of it. Contrast this with Guild Wars (the first one), which had actual levels, but intended you to hit the level cap (20) about a third of the way through the campaign. The bulk of your time is spent acquiring additional options, especially Elite Skills, which had to be acquired from bosses out in the world. It’s not a level-less system, but it acts like one, and I find it one of the better examples of such.

There are... other problems with this wheel.
There are… other problems with this wheel.

Destiny tried to be like Guild Wars, but is structured more like WoW or FF14. The story is enough to take you to about level 20, and you have “light levels” after that. Most options for getting additional light relied on random drops, and your light level still restricted what you could do, so this ended up being worse in almost all cases than having normal levels. Bungie seems to agree, and is going to normal levels with their first real expansion. Most systems I’ve seen so far that attempt to gate power in a way that isn’t related to level don’t actually fix any of the problems Tam outlined. As a consumer of games and not a designer, levels are easy to understand and mostly work, so I think I’ll stick with them. Changes have to do better than “mostly work”, and so far I can’t think of any that have.

On Dancing

Blaugust Post #10

Last night, our Monday raid beat up Bismarck (Extreme). It helped a lot to have Belghast, who cleared it with the Wednesday group last week, but it was still the first kill for 5 of us. Bismarck is one long DPS check, but more than that it’s the kind of “controlled chaos” fight that the Monday group excels at with AOEs flying everywhere and weather changes that have to be reacted to appropriately. Clearing this fight opens up our way to Thok ast Thok (Extreme) and the hardest current encounter in the game outside of Alexander (Savage).



As suits his music, Ravana asks you to dance. It’s the kind of intensely structured encounter where you need to know what’s coming, as reacting to it is generally not going to be fast enough; it’s kind of like Titan in this sense. In addition to his normal abilities, Ravana has a series of attacks called “Liberations” (Prelude to Liberation, Liberation, Swift Liberation, and Final Liberation). Each of these is a 15 second cast (he takes bonus damage while using these) that ends with a very choreographed attack pattern. These vary in difficulty from “You remember Ifrit EX, right?” to “What madman came up with this nonsense?”.

Fortunately, all is not lost, and Someone came up with these simple animations to show one way of dealing with what’s going on. I love it when players do awesome things like this, because trying to explain Final Liberation in just text requires a lot longer than the 54 seconds of this video. Understanding how and why it works that way isn’t really something you can get from the video, so there are some drawbacks there too.

On the Liebster Award

Blaugust Post #8

Grace called it a blogging disease, I think of it as more of a chain letter. Either way, thanks for the Liebster award!

Here are my 11 random facts:

  1. I am the youngest person on the regular cast of Aggrochat.
  2. I’m a decent ice skater, and used to play hockey.
  3. However, if you put me on roller skates, I just fall down a lot.
  4. I will admit to liking a single song by N’SYNC. Said song is produced by one of my favorite EDM artists.
  5. I was given my first computer (a laptop the size of a briefcase) when I was 4. I could barely carry it.
  6. I have beaten Mega Man 8 more times than I can count. While in school, I beat it every time I came home, which meant about twice a year.
  7. WoW was technically my first MMO (and like Grace I didn’t play before Burning Crusade), but before WoW I was in the beta for Wish.
  8. I have an irrational love for shapeshifter characters. This has manifested in me playing a Druid whenever it comes up, but it isn’t limited to just that.
  9. I buy rulebooks for Pen and Paper RPGs I’ll likely never play, just to see what’s interesting in them.
  10. As far as food goes, I believe that cinnamon makes almost everything better.
  11. Despite claims to the contrary, I’m not a robot.

And here are Grace’s Questions:

1.Why do you blog?
I blog to get my thoughts out to whoever might be interested in reading them. In some ways the podcast serves as this, but the blog helps for more long-form thoughts.

2. What was your favorite childhood cartoon show?
The answer to this question depends on how you’d like to define “childhood”. I remember really liking the Powerpuff Girls when I was younger (It premiered when I was 7). Later, I was part of the Toonami generation, and really liked Dragonball Z.

3. Fantasy or Sci-Fi?
Fantasy, full stop. Exceptions are made for Sci-fi that’s really just pretending to not be Fantasy, like Star Wars or Mass Effect.

4. What’s the most amazing place you’ve ever been? I was too young to gamble (or anything else, really) when I was there, but I really loved Las Vegas. It’s just an amazing spectacle, and I haven’t seen the like anywhere else.

5. Pizza: Chicago or New York?
In general, Chicago Pizza is better than New York Pizza. However, it’s nearly impossible to actually get good Chicago-style pizza outside of Chicago while a bunch of places do a decent imitation of New York-style pizza around the country, so in most locations the opposite is true.

6. If you could only pick one game genre to play for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’m a big fan of Action-RPGs. If I can stretch that definition far enough to fit Diablo, Kingdom Hearts, and Elder Scrolls under the same umbrella, so much the better.

7. What inspired your character name?
This one’s easy. There’s some more story there, but that’s the name I took for my Druid in WoW when we started playing Horde-side, and it ended up sticking.

8. What is your greatest gaming moment or achievement?
I like soloing ridiculous content, and every so often I drag other people into it. I managed to solo the first boss of AQ40 at level 80 (it required a silly amount of Nature Resist gear), but I’m more proud of getting enough people in to clear the instance. I’d previously had groups that even at level 80, could not get past Twin Emperors, so doing it with a few guildies was a pretty awesome experience.

9. Do you share your love of games with your real-world friends and family, or keep it to the internet?
I keep a Pikachu Amiibo on my desk at work, so my love of games isn’t exactly a secret. I’ve gotten into discussions about games with family and co-workers, but a lot of my current co-workers play World of Tanks, which I don’t have a lot of interest in.

10. Have you ever had a really weird pet?
Nope. I had a dog once, and when I move somewhere that allows them, probably will again.

11. What is your favorite type of environment/biome in-game and IRL?
I’ve always been a big fan of forests. I grew up in a location where nature trails were readily available, so I spent a decent amount of time walking and riding through shaded areas in the summer. In games, forests (but not jungles) tend to be relatively quiet and mysterious, but they sometimes have the “twisty little maze of passages” thing going on. My tolerance for that trope depends on how much you’re expected to rely on trial-and-error.

And 11 more questions:

  1. Why do you blog? Yes, I know it’s a repeat. Deal with it.
  2. What’s the first game you remember playing?
  3. Dogs or Cats?
  4. Do you have a favorite villain?
  5. What are your thoughts on escort missions?
  6. Borrowing from the “stereotypical interview questions” list, What would you say is your biggest weakness? (I did actually get this question a lot last year.)
  7. What character archetype do you find yourself playing most often?
  8. Other than games and the means to play them, do you own any gaming-related items?
  9. Because I know who these questions are going to, I can ask this one: What’s your favorite system for Tabletop RPGs?
  10. What upcoming games (if any) are you looking forward to?

Because Thalen hasn’t beaten me to it, Tamrielo and Kodra, have fun with this one.

On Revenge

Blaugust Post #7

I still don’t take enough screenshots.

FF14 recently added an option where you can go into dungeons as an “undersized party” which is the only way to enter with fewer than the required number of people, and also skips the level sync portion. In all honesty I’m not sure what the intent is, but we’ve used it for two things: Entering level 50 raids at 60 and soloing old content.

Tam-Tara (Hard)

Into Darkness

Before I even properly leveled anything, one of the first things I did was go into Dzemael Darkhold on my warrior (at 50) and see if I could solo the thing. DD is a level 44 dungeon, and at the time I needed a relic drop from there and was quite tired of running it at the proper level.Turns out that except for the final boss, not only is it possible, it’s easy. The final boss is also possible, but considerably less easy. I always liked doing similar things in WoW, so I think this got me hooked on trying to solo things here.

goring blade

Further Endeavors

Fast Forward about a month, and I have a level 60 Paladin, ready to try my hand at some tougher content. Still needing Relic drops, I decided to start with Amdapor Keep, one of the “starting” level 50 dungeons. This took a bit more doing than Dzemael Darkhold, especially because the final boss has a healing debuff. I’ve been working my way down the list since then. I haven’t had any success with Copperbell (Can’t keep up DPS on the boss and do mechanics), or Lost City (The first boss just eats you, which is fatal with no party members). I did manage to solo Wanderer’s Palace and Halatali. I still have quite a few to go, so we’ll see where the brick wall is. I suspect that if I run into issues as a tank, I could always come back as one of the Arcanist classes once I get to 60.

On the Most Awkward Scene in Videogames

Blaugust Post #5

Blaugust is pretty good at getting me to finish my drafts. This is a post about That Scene in Final Fantasy 10. It’s fairly early (a few hours in), and the game’s 13 years old, so this is all the spoiler warning you’re going to get. There is a scene fairly early on where Yuna is attempting to show Tidus how to laugh. It’s incredibly, unbelievably awkward, and it’s frequently pointed out as an example of bad writing, or localization. If you don’t believe me about this, see for yourself:

The thing is, I think this scene does exactly what it sets out to do, which is to demonstrate how Tidus is strange, and doesn’t fit in, and isn’t really adjusting well. Spira is not a terribly happy setting in FFX, and attempts to make it brighter are doomed to failure. In case you’re wondering, it’s also not any less awkward in Japanese. What might be worth arguing is the value of this. Tidus is the player avatar (for better or worse), I think and making him look stupid turns some players off the game. This is really part of a deeper JRPG vs. WRPG thing, but I won’t go into that here.

On Lessons not Learned

Blaugust Post #1

It’s August 1, which means it’s the 2nd Annual Blaugust. I participated in this last year in order to get more practice writing in general. I did a pretty good job of it, and then I moved halfway across the country and didn’t keep up nearly as well. This Blaugust post is the first one in over a month, after all.

What Changed

I feel I have gotten a bit better at actually hitting publish on random thoughts I type up. I have fewer half-completed posts just sitting around since August of last year, compared to before I did Blaugust.In addition, writing a post isn’t really an ordeal. Some of my posts get a bit rambly, but I try not to evaluate the quality of a post purely based on its length. As long as a post contains something that might be considered interesting or informative to someone, I’m pretty happy.


What Needs Work

I’m still lacking in “make post time” since the move. I might have to borrow a note from Bel here and write a post in the morning. I get up early enough for this, but it would mean a bit of a change in schedule. I do get a bit self-conscious about what I’ve been playing, as it’s just been “Final Fantasy” for a while now, and I feel like it’s a bit boring saying the same thing over and over (although I haven’t been doing the same thing constantly, so it’s kind of a silly concern). We’ve got another month to work these things out. Maybe I’ll even play something that Isn’t Final Fantasy 5 or 14.

The Job Fiesta is still going on, though…