Dragon Age:Origins a tabletop gamer’s perspective

I have started Dragon Age:Origins and… A couple of things.
I read through the character creation walkthrough to make sure I didn’t create a Gish. The walkthrough pretty much made every class seem like it was built balanced. Yeah, ok.
I picked a mage. More on this later…
So I play through the first arc and your supposed to help your friend escape mage college. A Skeezy, Whiny friend who is so obviously into something anathema from the first conversation. ugh.
There is NO option to not help him, by the by… The whole time he is like “I’m no blood mage!! whiny whine whine” Yep, you’re a skeezy blood-mage.
AND then he tells you he is sleeping with a initiate of the anti- mage, monotheistic order of mage hunters. You get to talk to her extensively about their crazy plan to escape and live happily ever after.
Can I tell her “Honey, NO. This dude will beat you and your future children and will sell his soul to the archdemon so he can touch magic again, kill you as part of his ritual, and I will find your bones in the swamp somewhere with a Quest item tangled in your bones before I go kill your husband as a midlevel boss fight. NO. JUST. NO” 
This is why they have scripts. A bunch of male game designers wouldn’t know how to program a response to that.
So you spend about an hour of real time in NPC convos where you learn that Bloodmagic is indeed anathema. But they take a vial of blood from me to create a phylactery. Dude. that’s blood magic. Sniff, Sniff, nice cologne you got there… what’s the brand? Hypocrisy? Yep.
So, you can’t NOT help this deluded skeezeball ‘friend’ and his stockholm syndrome girlfriend.  It doesn’t seem to change the story line anyway.  I get ‘conscripted’ to the Grey Wardens as part of my punishment for helping the bloodmage escape.
Goodbye, Skeezy ex- friend/Future midlevel boss fight! I’ll be killing you soon! Whatever, man.
As a Grey Warden initiate, what is the first quest you do? Go get blood for a blood ritual.
SERIOUSLY?  For a game that made it so clear blood magic is anathema, there sure is a lot of it here. ugh.
I make the game seem like it isn’t fun. It is. It is also frustrating.
There are no options in character creation to play a rogue that I found. yet.  AND YET. There are all these locked boxes laying around that have stuff in them the walkthroughs talk about. How do I get that stuff in the locked boxes if I have no rogue skills and no rogue NPCs?! How did they get them in the walkthrough? There is no mention of how to break the boxes.
I wasted a level up on gaining the ‘steal’ skill, and I STILL can’t open the boxes; I have “insufficient skill”.  WHY IS THERE NO ROGUE IN THE PARTY?
My First Boss Fight
I have had a devil of a time killing the first boss. First off, the walkthroughs all talk about having a mage NPC.  I don’t get a mage, I get two fighters. Um, ok.
The walkthroughs all talk about using fire magic to defeat the boss. No NPC mage, no fire magic.
Yeah, this sucks. Freaking GISHed character. Again.
Its enough to make me delete the game.

The One Sentence Character Motivator

Numenera also does this. I’m going to try this technique, it worked very well in defining my Numenera character, and helping me to not stray from the concept when leveling.

Deeper in the Game

I want to know/find/prove to myself (abstract/emotional thing) by (doing something concrete).

I want to prove to myself that I am truly brave by facing the dragon which is endangering the land.
I want to know if I am worth loving by pushing others away.
I want to find redemption by saving the life of my worst enemy.
I want to find a way to hide my shame by becoming the greatest conqueror in the land.

What’s kind of neat is that this is a sort of like a boating accident between Primetime Adventure’s Issues and Burning Wheel’s Beliefs (or Riddle of Steel’s Spiritual Attributes). You have a general thing tied to a concrete thing which gives us both an angle on your character as well as a solid story hook to work with.

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Change in the Gaming sub-culture.

I wrote this for my Antropology class. I thought I would share it (at the risk of the grading bot flagging it for plagiarism) to see what my fellow gaming friends might have to say about it.

The culture that I have grown up in has changed much over time. I began tabletop gaming when I was 12. I moved to Texas two years later, and brought all of my gaming books with me, in the hopes of finding a new group of people to game with. The tabletop gaming community was nonexistent in many of the smaller communities around Houston at that time. Within five years, tabletop gaming had become popular around Houston, and weekly meetings had become a regular occurrence. As the gamers became college students, bought cars, got jobs, and developed buying power, the gaming community began to grow exponentially. Twenty years of social change, both in the sub-culture and in society as whole have completely changed the nature of gaming from what it was in the 1980s to what it is now.
The changes that have occurred in the last twenty years have been driven by society, technology, and trends within our sub-culture. Society has dictated that we take jobs, go to college, get married, and become contributing members of our communities and the greater society as a whole. These changes have seen gamers give up the hobby, or significantly curtail the frequency of their gaming. Others have increased their buying power, and are able to follow evolving and changing trends. The stigma of tabletop gaming has diminished as well over this period of time, and new gamers have begun to casually game or admit to an interest, allowing others the freedom to game now.
Technology has transformed gaming from being wholly analog to a new digital version. In the 1980s, the process of tabletop gaming was done using paper, pencils, large hand drawn maps and place markers. Now, gaming involves digital maps that can be downloaded from a cloud storage source, notes and statistics that were once handwritten are now typed into word programs. Place holders have evolved from wood, to metal, to plastic, to electronic icons present only on digital maps that are updated by players on the Internet. Tabletop games were once played with everyone present at a single place; everyone would meet at a particular time at one home. Now a game can be played with players at remote locations. Skype, Google+, and other social sites allow for gamers to video conference their sessions. As the technology of the Internet evolves further, games have been moved entirely online, allowing for players to access their games from anywhere, at any time.
The sub-culture has changed drastically as well. During the 1980s, there was one big name in tabletop gaming. TSR inc produced the first and foremost game, Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, a fantasy setting with a math heavy system that uses a set of dice. A few other publishers began publishing their own systems at this time, some fantasy, others modern, and others futuristic. Every publisher used a different set of systems with varying degrees of success. By the 90s, there were dozens of tabletop games, and many publishers and systems, allowing a gamer to choose whether they wanted to play in a fantasy setting, a futuristic setting, many dice, no dice, or anything in between. The mid 1990s saw card games burst onto the scene of the tabletop gaming industry. Card games were advertised as a streamlined way to play with friends. These card games were wildly popular, and some of them eclipsed the tabletop versions that they were based on. The probability and ease of play attracted many new players and catapulting a few publishers to the forefront of the gaming industry.
The wild popularity of these card games marked the decline in the “heyday” of tabletop gaming. The beginning of the new century also saw some publishers move to the Internet or video games, a move that was seen as risky at that time. In just a few years time, many developers moved to online only formats. The card game publishers became the quiet juggernauts of the gaming industry, and began to consolidate their financial standings by eliminating their competitions. Many smaller gaming systems began to disappear as their publishers were bought out and closed down by bigger companies. Where once there were dozens of tabletop gaming choices and systems, only a few exist now. The loss of choice has created further decline, since new players do not have the options that drew many players in the 90s.

Opinions, comments, commentary, and snide remarks are welcome. Hateful trolling will be sneered at and then deleted.

“Frankenstein’s Army” a Horror Movie that is Truly Horrific


James and I decided to watch a movie and on a whim, we chose “Frankenstein’s Army.”  It really wasn’t too much of a whim, I wanted a Vampire movie, and we couldn’t find one, and this one came up.  

Over all, I suppose it is a rather well made movie.  The whole thing is shot from the perspective of a hand-held camera, but the “Blair Witch shakycam” is reserved for a few short sections of the movie, and the rest is filmed relatively smoothly.  The premise is that the film follows a reconnaissance team for the Russian Army as it moves on the offensive against the Third Reich at the end of World War II.  These soldiers are rife with Tropes, and the first few situations that are encountered are also.  The film gets off to a rather slow start, and my impression of the first third of the movie is that the Russian soldiers are walking to the front lines through territory the Russian Army has already been through.

A strange event marks the ending of the first third of the movie in my mind, and this is the farmstead scene.  I won’t ruin it for you, but it was the one set of scenes that didn’t fit with the rest of the movie in any way.  While this disconnect wasn’t harmful for the movie, it also wasn’t necessary, other than to establish that these characters are all assholes.  

After a short interlude of more walking, the horror part of tonight’s film began.  Our troop of “walking dudes” walk past the corpse of a lone soldier.  One of the soldiers idly acquires his gun, and another decides to roll him over and rifle his pockets.  The corpse is surprisingly well done!  For some reason my brain still hasn’t processed yet, the soldier rifling through its pockets seems to make the corpse explode.  I am sure that the the explanation is that the purification process made the weird noise and the expulsion of gore, but the eye explodes and makes a gunshot sound.  I thought it was gory and strange.

From that point, the movie proceeded to expand my horizons of “weird.”   While this a really great thing, it also expanded my horizon of “horror” as well.  I love Horror movies in general, and I grew up in the Eighties, the era of the Gorror Movie, and “Frankenstein’s Army”  fits well in this genre.  However, this was actually a little much for me.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, and that can make writing this a little hard, but I think I will give one away…

The first time you meet one of the creatures, it is an odd mixture of androgyny and paratrooper combat boots.  Much like a puppet (and very reminiscent of the old PuppetMaster movies) it comes to life and struggles to move around among the soldiers who have formed a loose ring around it.  It suddenly attacks one of the soldiers, and he is disemboweled.  The creature is killed, though not swiftly, and they see to their fallen comrade.  This disemboweling scene stands out from all the others I have ever seen.  The intestines are clearly distinguishable, they are a realistic approximation in color, size and differentiation.  This attention to anatomy and physiology becomes a hallmark of this movie from that point on.  

The monsters would make any Wayne Barlowe fan proud, and they are lavish; They are also a little disturbing, so the movie gets five stars for the creatures, though I found myself wondering where the Good Doctor got some of the truly weird parts he uses.  Lobster claws were a reoccurring thing.  No, really.  I don’t know of any WWII era military vehicle or weapons that would use those, but there must have been a surplus of them.

By the end of the movie, I found myself experiencing something no horror movie has done in a very, very, long time.  I was properly horrified.

Though I give the movie high marks for the special effects, and high marks for achieving horror in a horror movie veteran, I just didn’t Like the movie.  When I figure out why, I’ll let you know.