Monthly Archives: November 2009

The stuff of almost legends

I got this’ I said fiddling with the look, inside the echoing chamber of a crypt reeking of dead zombies, arcane magic and cold sweat.

‘I can knock it’ suggested the Halfling that had lost whatever nerve he had when he was flailing his arms around as the bats descended and tore his straw-hat off. The ever ‘oh wow’ ranger had flipped the flaky switch for 10 seconds and nailed the bats to the walls with dead accuracy and then jumped into the battle as we opened the gate and was assailed by zombies out of their frozen slumber.

‘Get me out, now’ said the lady behind the bars.

‘Why would you let me waste a couple of lock picks here when you could knock the door down?’ I was obviously getting a little frustrated because the lock was of such a design that it appeared to stay locked remotely and not by any means where I could find something to unlock. The inner door however leading to a chest seemed to have a lock on it.

I put my tools away and grabbed the ranger from walking off in a random direction and the Halfling cleared his throat before saying something arcane and directed his focus to the door. It shook and then nothing.

‘Didn’t you listen to me?’ said the lady angrily. ‘It locks remotely’ she pointed in either direction.

I stared at her. ‘No you didn’t’

‘I sure did’ she said sourly.

‘What I can remember’ and I reminded her ‘as we got done clobbering those zombies you said over here, open this Shistern door and get me the Shistern out of here’

‘No’ she said and crossed her arms while giving me the lightning curse bolt of immolate death stare. ‘I CLEARLY said that it won’t open.’

I stared at the Halfling for support and when he shrunk another couple of inches I stared at the ranger who gave me a goofy grin which meant nothing.

It was at this moment I realized that winning the argument wouldn’t get her out, get us out of this place and on the next boat off the island. It would only cement the fact that she’d be stuck behind bars and we here freezing.

‘Right, that way’ I stomped off to the left and grabbed the ranger to follow.

You’ve seen fireworks right? Have you ever seen it happen to a spell caster in panic?

So we took the path to the left and the Halfling lit up like it was the day he got his first wand – he saw this crude symbol smeared on the wall ‘it looks just like Gothar the holy’s face…’ and he started studying what smelled and looked like bat droppings when two bats swooped down on the curious wizard. Now try to follow the set of events that remains one of my favorite moments on this retched island. With uncanny speed of a mind that goes from completely retired in a world unlike this one to absolute clarity the ranger turned one bat into a pin couching and I knocked the other one senseless with my shield before killing it. The Halfling took off with a shriek ‘get it off me, get it off me’ ahead of us when heavy rusted iron bars came down from the ceiling and looked the caster in. At the same time hidden doors slid open in the walls and three very rotten corpses shambled out with low growls and moans having the Halfling jump towards me only to grip the bars and shake them as hard as he could.

‘GET ME OUT OF HERE NOW’ he screamed in panic while I looked around for something to open them by.

‘I fry you here till next day if you don’t do it right now’ he continued in heart pounding fear but all I could do was to point behind him ‘run, they’re right behind you!’

The Halfling took off, clearly a lot faster then three zombies, but left to run in circles against opponents with the same wit as the ranger he soon ended up stumbling into the creatures by nature of his speed no matter where he turned.

What happens next was the most impressive display of frantic magic I have ever witness, unlike the deliberate calculated destruction I’ve seen since.

I imagine this is how a spell caster thought about something like Quicken spell, empower or even enlarge. It’s fully possible that these skill sets were developed not in a lab somewhere in some kind of Eureka moment, but in absolute terror and panic.

It started with the blue flash of a lighting bolt illuminating my retina with a terrible hair rising and ozone smelling hiss. Then the ice melting and flesh charring burning hands while running backwards and lastly what looked like acid followed by magic arrows, spanning the spectrum of the rainbow within 10 seconds time – blue, yellow, green and purple and leaving my vision popping with sudden flashing colors.

And as the half remain of the zombie keeled over with a somewhat surprised ‘uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh’ the bars came up with a distinct metal clatter startling the frail wizard so he shot off something with his wand that deflected off the wall and almost hit the ranger.

‘WOW – THAT was AWESOME’ the ranger yelled out eliciting a small grin from the exhausted panting Halfling.

It did man up the Halfling a little. While emptying most of his power over three zombies he had enough to aid us turning the one lever and removing whatever protected it and then across the chamber to the right for the second. He even baked a skeleton climbing out a drain behind me when I and the ranger were busy fighting others coming up in front of us.

The final confrontation with a Wight looking guy, jumping around like a horrible cross between a monkey experiment gone wrong and the ghouls meaner cousin and while it chased the Halfling around the ranger put an end to the undead with an accurate arrow to the chest and a very elegant slice across the face with his swords. I put an end to the skeleton dancing around me as it knocked my sword out my hand so I grabbed my shield with both hands and knocked its head off with it.

The gratitude we got from the lady behind bar was a quick kick to my leg ‘I’m out of here and I’m telling someone’

The Halfling smiled at me and the ranger giggled. I wasn’t sure because of the kick of because he flipped goofy back on again.

I shrugged and opened the inner door and the chest and I dug a pair of gloves out that as I put them on seemed to expand my perception slightly.  With frosty pluming breaths we padded our exhausted backs, with the heat from our labored bodies misting around us in the cold. We’d plowed along the stream, hiked up the waterfall and the icy stream and followed it to the crypt to save the ungrateful and we did it without the larger then life Dwarf. While it wasn’t the stuff of songs, it certainly felt nice to be more then a useless crew escorting legends through battle. We were now writing our own ‘heroic’ journey.

So what happened next? On one side of the island we found an old man hiding from fish people in a ruined factory. It was a hard slog – fighting spiders, fish people and Iron ‘dogs’. He promised he’d help us rid the Island from its true menace. And he did – sort of – while opening doors and even a dimensional one at the end, he was as much use to the over all final slog through Misery Peak as a mug without ale or whine. On the other hand we liberated another woman who was a lot more appreciative.

As we got back to town we were rewarded with some gifts and then the final special quest to rid the island from the dragon but luckily it wasn’t anything ridiculous as actually fighting the dragon. It looked like it was under the control by this mind flayer. In the end we destroyed the crystal that held the dragon under check and as thanks the dragon Popsicle froze and destroyed the flayer.

You might want to hear about those quests in more detail, but they’re honestly not that important. To me the bigger part of the whole story was the fact that if anything this strengthened what I felt was my path in life rather then took away from it. When the ranger was ambushed and wounded on our way to the factory I healed him. When we rushed into battle to free the prisoners I strengthened our armor with divine magic and saved the Halfling from deaths door. For every fight for every inch we coordinated our effort, where as I had to be in the front, the ranger switching from support to fighting the Halfling learned how to temper his panic and save his magic for the appropriate moment.

This was our growing ground. In a perfect work all heroes start in obscurity, say big important things, save important people from disaster and do big things as their legends grows where ever that person goes. For us we couldn’t care less.

The last slog through the cavern, dragging our exhausted bodies through the meat grinder for the illusionary notion of being able to leave ended up being reward enough. In the end I hundreds of gold to my name, a couple of decent weapons, set of armor and shield and a growing confidence in my abilities. While I left the ranger to wander the interior of the Island and the Halfling saying that he was going to return ‘this adventure was more then enough’ I left knowing that we’d managed to solve this one big thing as we parted to continue our own stories another day.

That and me managing to win 50 gold from a Dwarf onboard the ship heading to Stormreach

Windows 7 FTW – What???

I really should know better. I should. Having used every single OS since DOS I got spoiled around the time moving from bad Windows ME to XP as I could simply upgrade and while it left the basic mess of whatever I had installed it worked in the sense that most games I cared about did and most apps I used would continue working and I didn’t bemoan (much) stuff that worked on Win 98 and wouldn’t on XP.

Most of my trouble came from upgrading the same machine and making a single core CPU support ever more powerful GPUs until it all became bottlenecks and I couldn’t add more juice to my computer and I built one from scratch. Then I re-installed most games I cared about but already had finished and I had a perfect well running machine playing games like Borderlands and DDO. Until I desperately and for no good reason other then running 64-bit and taking advantage of 8GB or Ram wanted to buy Win 7 upgrade for 50 bucks and the potential Pandora dreams that opening the box promised my lucid mind, but I knew it was a bad idea since I had to do a complete re-install.

However I told myself I really didn’t have that much on my main hard drive worth losing. Except for all my steam powered games (like Borderlands) and my DDO resided on my storage hard drive. So what could go wrong?

Well first off – if you go from XP to Windows 7 you have to start fresh. Me being curious about things I had partitioned my main hard drive into 2 partitions. I don’t know why. It was so easy, looked so reasonable so I did it. Never mind the fact that you can’t merge them back using Windows. So instead of keeping them I blew them away. After all I had backed up everything on my external hard drive. Only thing is that it also blew away the register and therefore everything telling the computer how to run the stuff on the storage hard drive. And while the backup got some stuff back from the old main partitioned drive nothing else worked on my storage drive.

To sum it up – I continue to get these error messages while trying to run anything. One was a .NET error for not having 1.1 or something trying to run DDO and others were missing .dlls trying to run other programs.

I managed to get DDO up and running and some others plus a complete overnight download from steam took care of most of the stuff I like anyway but I have tons of other things that doesn’t (unfinished Far Cry 2 being one).

Having said all those things it’s nice to know that everything isn’t served on a platter for you and while I didn’t lose any pics and docs and only the game settings a MMO like DDO have everything saved remotely so I’m safe there. And I didn’t lose anything vital – a game might not run until I re-install it I can always redo the whole thing if it’s really that important. (getting my old printer work 64-bit won’t happen until HP decide to support it and they won’t I just know it).

What chucks the most isn’t games I really don’t play anymore not working right now or having to figure out what’s doing what until it works – it’s that now I can run directx 10 with max settings on my GTX 275 and it’ll smack my frame rate outdoors even in DDO down to a somewhat stuttering 20’ish and indoors between 30-60ish dependent on action I guess.

While DDO isn’t the most demanding game graphically it is dismaying that so much hardware which such a price tag still kicks my leg hard when I finally get all the pieces together and might have to demand another upgrade for me to be completely satisfied J

Yeah – what I’m saying is that I’m a big dork, I spent big money on a rig, upgraded perfectly happy with what I had running the way it did to the latest OS so I could use premium stuff and more memory only to have to realize that the grass isn’t perfectly green on the other side.

What it really tells me is that we human will never learn; even if I play a Drow character and sometimes I wish I had the reality of 700 or so years to learn the lesson but with the handicap of a mere 70 top, 60 at best I don’t think the next 10 will teach me this either.

Shorter – I’m an idiot and perfectly human with the flaw of wanting that tiny little extra that doesn’t really make me all that happier anyway.

Another short one – I like Windows 7 already – ask me in a week while I still struggle with the new ‘improved’ way things work. Like having two monitors and every folder I open up expands to the second window and I can’t move it to the first monitor in the case I don’t want to have both on all the time but I digress. Did I mention I’m stupid?

Taking Ugla out for a spin

Yesterday I decided to break from the addictive Borderlands gameplay and take Ugla out for a spin. That’s my wife’s character. I feel somewhat detached from DDO since I bought Borderlands – haven’t played for a over a week. I did Water Works and Irestone Island, both ended up costing me and the rest pf us a lot of healing since our healer bailed in the Waterworks when we had a bad run in with a Ogre that pancaked the whole group so instead of get out, regroup and get back in, he figured we were toast and that was way to much for him.

I had to ditch her +3 great axe in favor of a hand axe with tower shield – and while it kept me safe from pesky kobold warriors it didn’t do much against Shamen.

We ran into the same situation over at the Island as our healer dropped out BEFORE we even left for the mission and the leader smacked out the hireling healer. Only problem is that a hireling will heal whomever hired it but none of the other people. So once more I was back using the shield and hand axe and slurped through my healing potions like a drunkard.

I don’t complain about the players – only the ones who decide to leave without as much as a reason why. I understand – no one likes to get beat up and down but that’s how it is sometimes. None of the casters or the healers buffed any of the players so we were more or left to headlong charge into whatever danger ended up bleeding our hit points. I don’t like that myself – a little tactics goes a long way but it usually turns out into a charge and a lot of fireworks and either you go down or they do.

I’d like to try to convince my wife to pick up the axe again so I can run with my own guy and I’ll keep her healed while she do all the swinging.

And I REALLY want to find a helmet of fear removal – I have it on Kuulu but not on Ugla. 10 minutes of increased chance not to get feared goes a long way. Especially if you’re a tank and some people depend on you acting like one.

This weekend I’m going to drop Borderlands for some deserved rest and add a couple of more levels and see if I can’t find a good bunch of players to run with.

A Heroes end; now lets get going

The difference between aspiring heroes, heroes and villains, is not the amount of enemies they kill, the pile of bodies beneath their stand, the rain of fire from heaven or the resurrection of fallen friends – it’s the moment when they change the situation they’re in and the responsibility they axel to move forward. Some do so by dying; standing in front of a stampeding Minotaur in order to save a friend – or run through a trap to set it off so others can safely follow.

 

It’s safe to say, he or she who dies a horrid but pointless death isn’t ever going to be remembered as a hero (go back to setting off a trap) if the rogue in the group was one step behind locating and disabling the trap to begin with.

 

At the top of the hill, the ranger was currently tripping on a mushroom making weird wow sounds looking at his hands as he waved them in front of his face. The Halfling on the hand wasn’t waving his hands in front of his face because he saw funny colors; it was more because of hysteria. On a different day and in a different mood I would have taken off in a sprint leaving the sorry lot behind, knowing full well that the tripping ranger might be alright but the Halfling would be toast. But there was this thing gnawing on my mind, where my former self collided with something else and the things my trainer had said about whom I was and where I was heading. I wasn’t nearly as competent at fighting or healing as our demised cleric, but I felt confident enough that I didn’t want to hobble back into town like so many others hiding my face in shame and in a dark corner nursing a mug of ale.

 

‘Help me with this firewood’ I told the Halfling and gave him a nudge when he didn’t move. He gave me a startled look. ‘Come on, lets get a move on’ I said and led him to a pile of dry firewood by the large block of a green mossy ruin. It took us a good 10-15 minutes but when we were done the ranger was off ‘wow’ing and dancing and we had surrounded the base of the dead dwarf with large and crudely cut firewood.

 

‘What now?’ the action had at least for the moment taken the Halflings mind of the death.

‘Do you have a fireball spell or something?’

‘Burning hands?’ the Halfling offered in return.

‘That’ll do’ I said and backed off.

 

Let me break away from the grizzly scene of burning the remains of the dwarf because it seems almost callous of us to do so, but considering the options none of us could drag his body into town and certainly not dig a pit deep enough to burry him. This goes back to being a hero – sometimes heroes go unsung. Years from that day people would probably walk up to the top and wonder what the molten slag of the armor with the ash and skeleton within was really about. Maybe they’d think it was some kind of evil sacrifice or a immolation spell gone bad, but none of them outside me and the Halfling would ever remember him as the hero that died and why. Or maybe they would know who died but not how – walking the ‘path of heroes’ or something like that to look at the now dead dwarf remains as a source of inspiration for their own heroic deeds, not knowing that he died quite an unremarkable death.

 

So maybe the way he died and ultimately burned without fanfare – on a layer of firewood and sparked by a burning hands spell was a fitting awkward farwell that would be left to the imagination. Perhaps a better end then left to rotten in the cavernous dungeons around the world and then your dry bones stepped on and crumbled by other adventures in pursuit of glory.

 

‘Now what?’ said the Halfling, still shaken by the events, staring at the funeral pyre with dread in his voice. ‘Now we finish what we set off to do. One step at a time, one deed at a time until we can leave this island.’ The underlying meaning was this; we could either leave it up to others to solve the predicament and hide in the village bragging about our past deeds or go on and do what we needed to get done. While the ranger would probably never understand what was going on outside the few lucid moments he had, the Halfling and I decided to overcome our fears not for some heroic reasons but simply because we were more afraid of failing and leaving empty handed than whatever waited ahead of us.

 

So why do I write this? As you’ll soon see with me and Ugla’s adventures – none of it was ever made out of heroism yet we were often referred as heroes of this and heroes of that. At this date I wonder if it ever was. Lords solicited our favor – but not because they cared much about the deeds as much as the results. And while it’s nice that some people notice you in the street and swoon over legendary adventures, it was done more for the promise of items and riches than fame.

 

I read about 200 years ago a brief story about our clerics deeds that ended with the demise by a red dragons fiery breath.  I’ve never felt compelled to make a point out of changing that story as it’s a far better end than reality. I don’t know if our dwarf really deserved it as if the end was built on a lie, much of the rest of the story comes into question too, but I promise anyone that reads this I will make a point out of telling you the truth as much as I can since I think the real life of Ugla is far better then false eulogies.