Monday, October 28, 2013

Better Than Wolves

A long time ago, Minecraft had this update that introduced wolves to the game. They're a passive mob, meaning they don't attack you like zombies and skeletons and whatnot. They also have the neat ability to befriend you if you feed them a bone. Then they kind of follow you around and whatnot. Or they can be set to guard a spot from hostile mobs and other players on a multiplayer server. While neat, it isn't exactly a lot of content. So in response, this guy created a mod called Better Than Wolves. 

Normally, mods add things, usually blocks and tools, ores, etc. Usually they're based around some kind of core concept like magic or technology or storage. A lot of the time they mostly add automation or simplification to Minecraft. For instance, Buildcraft adds the quarry, which mines a potentially very large area while powered. Thaumcraft adds little golem dudes that you can set simple tasks for, like harvesting your crops or defending your base. Industrial Craft adds lots of electric tools. Forestry adds multifarms that grow almost any crop and when powered and supplied with the appropriate resources, plants and harvests the crops or trees or whatever automatically and ejects them into a pipe system for storage. 

Better Than Wolves doesn't do any of that really. In fact, it goes to great lengths to make simple tasks harder. Better Than Wolves is almost a complete reworking of most of the game. When you get hungry, you lose the ability to jump or sprint. You can't transport water source blocks in a bucket, you have to dig channels and reroute water manually to hydrate your crops. Trees take forever to grow. You can't mine stone with wood picks or craft wooden axes and swords. Moving through grass slows you down. Etc.

The mod adds a shit ton of content to the game and reworks a lot of recipes and mechanics of the game. The little bit of automation it adds is usually derived from mechanical power and creative applications of cranks and gears and redstone. Like you have to use a hand crank to power the millstone to grind up flour for bread. Or put a water wheel in a spot of flowing water. 

I've been trying out the mod recently and I find it to be almost infuriatingly difficult to progress in. But, everything you do succeed at is that much more rewarding. Even if it is as simple as chopping down some fucking wood. I mean, punching a block of wood for half a minute waiting for it to break is a huge pain in the ass. It drains your hunger bar and doesn't get you much wood. When you finally get enough wood to make enough wooden picks to mine stone and make a stone axe, its awesome. You're not only working faster, you're getting more planks per log and using less hunger. When you finally mine enough iron to make two ingots and make an iron hoe and get farming, well, that's just nuts. 

The mod is on some level fascinating. It forces you to think things through and plan things out in a way that fairly simplistic vanilla never really made me do. But, it doesn't go the route of simply adding a new block or machine to do it for you. Soul Shards, MineFactory Reloaded, and DartCraft all add the ability to craft mob spawners to farm mobs for certain resources, but Better Than Wolves grants you the tools to create pretty neat traps (there's a sawblade machine you can power with a windmill to kill mobs for you), but doesn't do it for you. So you still have to come up with creative methods of getting the game to spawn monsters, and come up with an equally creative way to kill them and collect the loot. Instead of giving you a high cost enchanting table upgrade that lets you pick your enchant instead of getting a random one, Better Than Wolves gives you a high cost enchanting table upgrade, but forces you to provide it with a specific enchantment on a book before it will let you pick it to put on a tool or weapon. 

I don't necessarily know if I am committed to playing the mod religiously and exploring all of its content, but I really like the concept and the challenge of it. I dunno. Sometimes heavily modded Minecraft is super fucking easy, which makes it boring at times. I mean, once you set up a 64 x 64 quarry, you're pretty much set for metals forever. Which means there's no real reason to wander underground and stumble upon abandoned mineshafts, strongholds, or mob spawners and their included loot. 

I dunno. Fucking Minecraft. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Good Guy Kusseth

I think Kusseth is a nation that my players typically think of as being "evil." I can understand that. I designed Kusseth the way it is because of my own complaints about my own homeland. Is Kusseth good or evil? Fuck if I know.Which is the point of my grey morality. I will however say that I think it is a more honest nation. Which doesn't mean it's a good nation.

All citizens have a Kussethian identification tattoo. A series of ten numbers tattooed usually on an arm that wardens use to keep tabs on people. The tattoo holds information about their race and citizenship status and such. I have a document on my computer listing what the various combinations of numbers mean. Any time you wander into a building related even slightly to the government, your number is logged. Any time a warden speaks to you, your number gets logged. Any time you pass through a checkpoint between wards, your number gets logged. Etc. This information is retained and stored in warehouse sized analytical engines to be reviewed or called up as needed. This tracking system is crude and horribly unwieldy, but it seems very much in the vein of 1984 evil. But you know, cameras record license plates and take headshots when you drive through intersection and cops ask for your driver's license whenever you meet them. They can also monitor your phone calls and track your credit card activity without your permission. I might call it an invasion of privacy, but not evil.

Kusseth runs on bribes and fines and special taxes. Anything can be bought or done or avoided, provided you have the cash on hand to grease the government's palm and pay for the privilege of doing whatever you want. Everyone knows this. It's not a shameful secret or dirty backroom deal. People with lots of expendable income in Kusseth have a significant advantage over everyone else, and Kusseth doesn't have a bunch of posters and propaganda about how this is the land of freedom and equality and everyone has a fair and equal chance at becoming whatever they want to be and doing whatever they want with their life. The United States is the same way, officials take bribes and increase their own wages and do whatever they want regardless of the law, but this country is still supposedly the land of the free, where all are totally equal and we can all be rich and awesome if we're smart enough and work hard enough. Does this make Kusseth and its officials "good" or something? No. But at least they're not relying on inbred, bucktoothed, hickbillies and their misplaced patriotism to keep them in power while the country burns to the ground around them.

Kusseth views its citizens as a resource, just like lumber or iron or coal. Something to be mined and utilized to keep the country strong. You won't find patriotic propaganda about serving your country (i.e. get shot at by natives you have invaded) overseas though. No, you'll see stuff like "Serve your country, get a tax break." or "Become a miner, get a tax break." or "Clean the streets, get a tax break." or "Deliver mail, get a tax break, and a breaching axe to deal with karthak." This isn't a land of patriotism, it's the land of equal exchange. If the government of Kusseth needs soldiers or sewer workers or whatever, they don't play on patriotism and loyalty to get it, they help you out for helping them out. Don't interpret that as the government being nice. You aren't being rewarded for your service. You're being compensated for filling a hole in the job market with your body. If you can't or won't make yourself of use to the government as either a producer or consumer, Kusseth won't be lifting a finger to help you out. There's no unemployment or socialized medicine. You're useless meat if you're not earning or buying, and if you can't pay your taxes, Kusseth will find a way to make you earn. 

Which brings us to Kussethian incarceration. All crimes in Kusseth carry a fine that depends on the nature of the crime and who the crime was committed against and how much money they have to burn in pursuit of making your life difficult. If you can't pay your fine, you enter the penal labor force until you work off the fine. When you enter the penal labor force, you are generally allowed to choose where you put your labor in, but it's not guaranteed. Some jobs pay more, which isn't saying much because you're also required to pay for equipment, training, and lodging from your wages. You broke the law, why the fuck should Kusseth pay to feed and clothe and train your ass so you can repay your debt to society? To me, it is unethical to make a bunch of laws, then catch people breaking them, then make me pay (via taxes) to feed, clothe, guard, provide medical attention to them, and house them. I don't care how small the living space is or about issues like dropping soap. You shouldn't get a free ride, regardless of its quality, for opting to step out of the rules of society. So Kusseth has laws, punishes those that break them, and forces lawbreakers to foot the bill instead of increasing the taxes of law abiding folks.

Kusseth is pretty warmongering by nature. They have a massively inflated military budget and they have no qualms about using it. Right now, they're invading a foreign land and planning to strip mine every inch of it while subjugating natives to bring them back to The Known World as a labor force with the promise of granting them Kusseth citizenship after a decade of service. Nevermind that they don't want to go do stuff for Kusseth and probably only a small percentage will survive their servitude. Kusseth is really just an explorer, think of the Orcunraytrel expedition just like you would Christopher Columbus' "discovery" of the new world. It's all totally benign and you should teach small children about it and celebrate it just like you would Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Pulling away from my sarcastic commentary on bullshit genocidal explorer holidays being celebrated by the nation, look at it from Kusseth's perspective. What entitles the people of Orcunraytrel to safety and long lives? Specifically, the Giants. The tribal, warmongering race that can't live peacefully with others of the same race, let alone anyone else. A race that has made a lifelong commitment to subjugating the Goebleen. Meh. Fuck the Giants. They're dumb and they pick on the Goebleen, and I like the Goebleen. 

Look, if I had to pin a over simplified alignment on an entity as big as Kusseth, I'd go with Lawful. There are lots of laws, and there are laws for getting around those laws and lawbreakers are punished, but can get around the punishment via laws. Special fines and bribes and such aren't a corrupt bug of the system. They're a feature. Corruption is expected, but Kusseth's corruption is organized and bound in the same red tape as every other aspect of their government. Interestingly enough, no one gets their dick slapped as hard as a government official that Kusseth finds to be circumventing the laws governing all their special fines and bribes.

Is Kusseth evil? Nah. Is it good? Highly unlikely. What it is is honest and highly organized with a government committed to doing its job. The job of the government is to keep the country running by allowing no other nation to have the upper hand on it and having an unkillable economy, and the Great Lords see that that is done. No nation gets to take a shot at Kusseth without getting slapped down hard. The military is respected and paid well and does their job. If you pay your taxes and keep your nose clean, you get all the benefits of indoor plumbing, functioning electricity, and the most well supplied military in the world. If you make money, and can keep it, you too can be powerful and pay for the privilege of doing whatever the fuck you want.

Kusseth, fuck yeah.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Alright, so a few weeks ago, just under two at this point, I played 4th Edition Dark Sun with Lance, his brother, and my tyrannobrosaurus rex Shawn. So this post is going to be about 4th Edition.

By now we all know I have mixed feelings about 4e. I think it is a strong tactical combat focused high fantasy RPG, which doesn't mean you can't roleplay in it. I think it is a shitty RPG for anything else, which doesn't mean it's a shitty RPG period. It is a rigidly designed game where its moving parts work pretty nicely together in the system they were designed for. If you bring preconceived notions about the way things used to be, they definitely detract from the enjoyment you get out of 4e, because 4e isn't those games. If you try to add non high fantasy elements to the game, like guns, you have to create completely new powers and find a way to make guns distinct from other ranged weapons. This seems simple enough, but guns in a setting imply other stuff like explosives and whatnot, and that can be more difficult to factor into 4e.

Additionally, the game's rigid structure makes it difficult for the DM to make changes to it. It's all set up to be part of the same system, so you have to mangle adjacent subsystems if you want to change the way anything works. If you want to change anything about healing surges, you have to dip into powers and magic items as well, and vice versa.

As an example, to fit Forgotten Realms into 4e, they had to kill the goddess of magic and destroy the Weave (the source of all magic in the setting since it was created) to find a way to make the power system for 4e fit into the background material. They did other insane stuff too. I don't want to talk about it.

Additionally, 4e is heavily gear based, because of the power system. Most powers are used with a certain type or set of weapons and if you don't have that shit, you end up limited to basic attacks instead of being able to use all your powers. Which wouldn't be a big deal, Fighters did it for three editions with no problem. But feats aren't what they were, so your basic attacks aren't augmented by long feat trees that give you more and more bloodletting options.

For instance, my thri-kreen Ranger is a dual weapon mobile warrior with a secondary focus on thrown weapons. Specifically, he uses weapons of his people (the chatka and gythka), and has feats that reflect that. Lance gave me a longbow as my only weapon. So my mobile warrior with all his two weapon and movement focused powers stood in one spot and spammed double shot, the one Ranger power I had that could be used in conjunction with a longbow. Additionally, all my class features and feats were dead weight. It was not fun and it didn't feel challenging, it felt like I was deliberately being punished for choosing to play a certain way. Meanwhile, Shawn and Lucas were completely fine, because Shawn's Shaman was given an implement and Lucas' Rogue was given a dagger. I'm not butthurt, I did pretty well for a completely crippled character, but this example exposes how gear reliant characters are in 4e, and also that Lance is a douchesaurus. Hehe

Alright. So 4e is a game I like, but not an RPG for playing the styles of campaigns I like to play (i.e. my own). Dark Sun is also my second favorite published DnD campaign setting, and 4e does a decent job with it. I have a complaint or two, but nothing filling me with nerd rage. Or my joy at being a player is just crushing the life out of my complaints.

Shawn, Lucas, and I were playing and Lance was DMing and things were perfectly swell. We had some fun and made some jokes and some rolls and then got into combat. Before the first round even finished, Shawn was all like "I have family stuff and stuff, derp." so he had me control his Shaman. Shamans are a leader class, so they heal and buff and whatnot and they also have a spirit companion, which is how they do the majority of the things they do.

Combat in 4e breaks down into standard, move, and minor actions and at will, encounter, and daily use powers. Seeing as how Shawn left and Lucas was a noob to DnD, I had their character sheets on my computer screen alongside my own. About halfway through the fight I started to see synergies. Ways I could use this power on Lucas so he could use a power on my turn to attack and still allow me to heal my Ranger while Lance's mobs beat the piss out of him and his whopping 13 AC. Like I said, I had a longbow and all my feats and abilities were geared for having a weapon in each hand.

It was an interesting experience to see the way powers and the action economy fit together in a very dynamic way, and I'm not sure it is possible to duplicate it in Pathfinder. Yes, you can buff your allies, and flank and all that, but I don't know that it is possible to be as active as a process as it was for me in 4e combat. I don't know how you'd set up something like popping a heal and then buffing another party member and allowing him to not only attack, but use one of his own special attacks while he's at it.

This aspect of 4e brought something else to mind. Tactics and communication. I was only able to set up combinations of abilities because I knew at a glance what each character in the party could do. Something that might not have been possible if all three players had been there. We certainly didn't sit down and discuss everything we were capable of and talk strategy before the battle.

This brings to mind my own players. They do well in combat, but they approach it like personal combat and not as a small unit of allies working together to achieve a goal. They typically roll initiative, pick a target and each of them goes and does their own thing. If something is unleashing a lot of damage, they concentrate fire. If someone is running out of hit points, they try to heal him. That's it though. It works, but could it work better? Could Eric and Cary compare their strengths and weaknesses and spells/powers and find a way for one to leave their enemies particularly vulnerable to the other? Could the casters work in concert with the lead slingers and make their lead more accurate or deadly than it already is?

I dunno. It's not my problem, but it is interesting to think about and it was cool to find a spot where 4e, in my opinion, does a better job at something than my beloved Pathfinder.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Morality and Star Wars

Star Wars is kind of an iconic film from my youth. I've definitely enjoyed the films, but I'm definitely not an uber fan that acts as a living Wikipedia of background material. I like the original three films, try to ignore the second three, and only have a rough idea of the fiction that has cropped up since the first three films. I am a huge fan of the Knights of the Old Republic games though. 

In the first film, Ben Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that Darth Vader, one of his former pupils, betrayed and murdered Luke's father. We all know by now that this isn't true. Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are the same person. We also know that Ben Kenobi is probably trying to keep Luke's mind from exploding by telling him that his father is actually a half machine, tyrannical despot with magic powers and breathing problems. Never mind the fact that you've just told a young man who misses his father who "killed" the father. Never mind that very shortly Luke is going to be all hopped up on "Oh shit bro, I'm a fucking Jedi Knight with a laser sword!" Never mind that when you give a youth magic and he suddenly feels invincible he's more than likely going to run off and try and do something stupid, like try and kill a half machine, tyrannical despot with magic powers and breathing problems. 

Recently, Eric and I had an interesting conversation about whether or not Ben Kenobi told a lie. Eric's take was that it depends on perspective and at most it is a white lie, which is still a lie to me, because it is a lie. We talked extensively about this topic and I don't feel we reached a point where we were in an agreement. I see it as a lie, and a stupid one at that, because it immediately sets Luke up to go after Vader while he's all hopped up on that feeling of invincibility all youths have combined with the fact that he will shortly have magic powers, which will amplify his feelings of invincibility and blind him to the fact that Vader has had his magic powers and a laser sword way longer than Luke has. I also broached this topic with Jason and Jeremy, and they kind of agreed with me. 

The reason I felt like calling it a white lie or talking about perspectives and Vader being a different person from Anakin (Thank Dog for that! If we're calling the prequels canon, Anakin was a whiny bitch and Vader was badass.) is bullshit is because a lie is a lie is a lie. A falsehood, deceit, misleading through vague language, etc, etc, etc, is a lie. Is it the truth? No? Then it is by definition a lie. Without even analyzing anything beyond the words, we already know Kenobi's phrase was a lie. Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker are one man, since they are still alive and have not committed suicide, Vader could not have murdered or been responsible for Anakin Skywalker's death. Because he's not dead. Boom. Lie. Huge lie. You just told Luke his father is dead you lying hermit fuck. 

The problem is that most people think lying and deceit are innately wrong. I don't, which is not to say I'm a pathological liar or enjoy deceiving family and friends or am not deserving of trust. Lies and deceits are like lots of things, you can do them for good reasons and bad. I don't mean "good" reasons like "Oh, I didn't tell her I cheated because I didn't want to hurt her." Bullshit. That's a completely self-serving lie to save your own ass and hurting her never entered into it. I'm not here to be any sort of moral compass, but to me, morality and good and evil has always been fairly grey and confusing. You can lie, kill, steal, and so on, for good reasons or bad reasons. Killing to defend/save your family and friends is something I call good. Most people on some level agree, otherwise the citizens of the United States would have voted to disband the military and police forces by now. You can come up with all the synonyms and euphemisms you like, but soldiers kill people. That's a fact. But we call it war so it's not as rough on our tongues as a word like murder. Guess what. Soldiers murder people. That's what all the guns and knives and brutal training are for. So they can unmake living people. So they can murder them. When your beloved pet is sick and in pain and life is agony for it and you euthanize it, you and the vet are murdering it. When you eat hamburgers and whatnot, cows have been murdered to do it. When you read a paperback book, trees were murdered to do it. Living things were murdered. 

But murder is a word with certain connotations, there's a certain quality to it, perhaps a "bad" quality. So we use words like euthanize, the death penalty, or engaging hostiles, or just don't think about the criminals being paralyzed, sedated, and murdered by chemicals, or the cows waiting in line for a bolt to cave in their skull and mush a part of their brain so they can be hacked up and fed to us while the leavings of their corpses are ground up into a delicious paste and fed to their brethren (in some instances). 


Welcome to Earth, taking lives is bad, but only against certain living creatures and sometimes it's ok (like if you're bat shit crazy or if it's war or it was an accident or if the legal system fucked up and didn't dot all the eyes and cross all the tees).

Anyway. Morality is grey, this is why alignment is stupid. "Good" and "Evil" aren't easy things to define. Some things are stark black and white, rape is Evil, acts of pedophilia are Evil, cheating on someone is Evil (to me at least). Like I said, I'm not here to be the moral compass (per Nine Inch Nails, my moral standing is lying down), and I don't even have all the answers for my own system of morality. I said there are good reasons to lie and bad, but what about the consequences of a lie? Does that determine whether it is an evil act? If Kenobi's lie was a good lie to save Luke's brain from imploding because the truth would have shattered the idealized image he had of his father in his head, what if Luke had torn off with a blaster and clumsy lightsaber skills to kill his father's murderer and lost his life? Does that make it a bad lie? What if Luke's mind, coping with the knowledge that the man that his mentor told him killed his father is actually his father, and now knowing his father is a half machine tyrannical despot after thinking his father was a noble warrior, couldn't resist the pull of the dark side of the Force and he became Darth Skywalker? Then he and his father depose the Emperor and begin a never ending reign of father and son tyranny that cannot be defeated? Would it still be a little white lie and not Evil?

This shit gets complex if you so much as poke the surface, let alone scratch the surface.

I told Eric that I think his problem stems from the fact that old Ben Kenobi is a good guy. He's the last remnant of a noble order of knights dedicated to justice and truth and protection. He's a kind mentor that guides Luke on a path into that same role. Thus, he can't be a liar, because good guy heroes don't lie. I'm not sure he agreed with me, and that's ok, morality is complex. Almost as complex as people.

I posed this question to my friend Fred, which spawned a few hours of conversation about the complexity of morality and good and evil. One of the things we discussed was the cultural aspect of morality. Specifically, he mentioned India. In India's caste system, the role of priests is spreading love and joy and peace to others. For warrior castes, it is their role to murder others. That is the highest good in that culture, to perform the role of your caste. For a priest to pick up a weapon and murder an enemy soldier, even to preserve the life of children or innocents under his care, that is a grievous sin on the part of the priest. His role is not to take life. For a warrior to do it, that is a noble and righteous deed. 

So the priest that kills an enemy warrior to protect people under his care, is he Chaotic Evil or Chaotic Good? He's obviously Chaotic, he's broken with every law and stricture of his caste and culture. The Good or Evil component depends on perspective, heh. He has committed a wrong and immoral act in his culture (being a priest and taking a life), but his intent was to preserve life. I don't know enough about the culture of India to say whether or not intent matters in a situation like this. Is he something of a martyr? I mean, his role is to spread joy and peace, and he saved lives so that they may survive and experience life and joy in the future, and to do so he knowingly sacrificed his chance for ascension in the whole reincarnation thing that is an aspect of his culture (again, I know jack shit about the culture and mythology of India, aside from lots of gods with lots of arms and reincarnation). 

I dunno. Morality is complex, alignment is stupid, and detect alignment spells are a joke. 

Is a wolf evil? Wolves are hunters, predators, carnivores. Settlers lost cattle to them and so wolves became evil to settlers and were hunted by men. The actions of the wolves potentially led to families starving and other bad stuff, because cattle were necessary to a frontier settler's survival. The wolf was following his instincts though, the wolf can't conceive of good or evil or how he'll make the family suffer. He is hungry and sees prey collected one spot. He is acting like a predator. If wolves had morality and whatnot, he'd be a righteous wolf to lead the pack against the buffet of caged cattle. If they could understand that the alpha's actions led to wolves being hunted super hard by settlers, would he then be a pathetic and evil figure in wolf history? 

Sort of in that vein, is a demon from the Abyss really evil? In Planescape, alignment is much more than just two words on a character shape. The Abyss is a Chaotic Evil plane, the hyper idealized philosophical Chaotic Evil. It is the most Chaotic and Evil place in the planes. It is the essence of the Chaotic Evil alignment and the tanar'ri (demons) are the physical manifestation of this. Their instincts, culture, nature, everything about them is built around this essential nature. They don't choose to be a gibbering horde of torturers and bloodthirsty monsters. It is what they are. They cannot truly conceive of something like genuine love and honesty or self sacrifice. Similar to the way a wolf can't. Is a shark evil? Fuck no. Terrifying as fuck, yes. But evil? No. I don't believe demons and devils in Pathfinder are either. These are alien creatures with different sets of instincts and racial attributes than humans. Do they kill and rape and spread misery and pain to humanoids? Yes. Do they enjoy it? Yes. Do they understand that others consider them evil? Yes. But their behavior is their essential nature. They are following their instincts. They have no concept of not doing this. A world without the possibility of these things does not exist for them. At their core, they're no more evil than wolves, it's just that their instincts are to commit acts perceived is evil. 

I'm not trying to say that demons and devils should be neutral or good aligned. That's just crazy. Everyone knows that demons are evil. No, I'm just trying to give stupidly in depth insight into why I think alignment is stupid. 

To bring things to my own campaign. Look at the Children of Volung. They are a warrior race, their noblest pursuits are bloodshed for pay, dueling for honor, and so on. They are a race of killers, and strong and accomplished slayers are their heroes. They're also cannibals. There is a certain amount of pragmatism to their cannibalism, especially on the field of battle or during a siege of some kind. At its core though, the consumption of the flesh of their dead is something of a holy ritual. Because they are immortal with caveats, their culture holds that there is a purity and power to their flesh, and letting it rot on the ground or be buried in the earth is sinful. They believe that by consuming their fallen, they not only allow the dead to live on in them and serve their race in one final way by sustaining the still living, but they also protect the purity and power of their flesh by taking it into themselves. They don't eat the dead because they're callous monsters, they do it to protect the spark of immortality that they believe lives within the flesh. Maybe cannibalism is icky and taboo, but to them, it is a holy ritual of sorts. 

For the Elduman, secrets and manipulations are the norm. They are liars. They deceive the other races about their nature (perhaps unknowingly) and their intentions in The Known World. They actively seek to delay the technological advancements of non-Elduman, and they 100% oppose the use of sorcery with violence. In short, they are liars, bigots, and whatever the word is for sticking your fingers into the industrialization of The Known World and trying to ruin it. But what motivates them? I'm not talking about weird pseudo-outcasts or young Elduman like the Seven, Vanden, or Donovan. If they were "normal" Elduman, they'd still be in The Old Empire and be more subtle in their manipulations of the world. 

The Elduman are masters of psionic powers, a power only they truly know how to wield properly. Coupled with their immortality, this makes them demigods compared to the other races. Sorcery approaches the power of their arts, but any dipshit with a mouth and fingers can start slinging fireballs and not worry about the consequences of his misfires. This is unacceptable to them. You cannot in good conscience give a rocket launcher to a ten year old to dick around with and expect everything to come out just peachy. This is how they view non-Elduman sorcerers. It's not a matter of maintaining their superiority (at least not wholly), it's a matter of these ten year old rocket launcher wielding fucks obliterating the world because they're dumb and incompetent and ten years old with the power of a demigod. They're liars, but what adult doesn't lie to a ten year old as a matter of course? Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Buster the dog is just "sick" and he's going to stay on a farm because the fresh air will help him run around and chase his tail, etc etc etc. Grown ups are lying sacks of shit, that's their nature. The technological advancement issue is mostly self serving and partly along the lines of the ten year old with a rocket launcher thing. Finally, if you know something to be true, but it's not and you (and everyone else in the world) have no way of knowing it's not true, are you lying? Everyone thought the Earth was flat, and maps indicate it was a widespread belief, are they all liars lying to one another because of this?

Morality is complex. Alignment is stupid. It's science. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

I Got Nothing

Ok, so normally on my weekends off I sit down and type my Monday blog post Sunday afternoon/evening. However, Eric needed my help moving some stuff, which took far longer than I expected it would. Then, after he helped me grab a dryer from my parent's house, I had to disconnect my broken one from the gas line, which is surprisingly complicated when the connector hose starts kinking so much that it starts pulling the gas line pipe down from the ceiling. Then, I had to tear apart a different broken dryer to get the power cord from it so I could fit it into the functioning one friends of my family gave me. This took me about two hours. I am tired, sweaty, and covered in spiderwebs and I have an hour and a half to come up with a post and I have no inspiration or energy. I apologize. Regular blogging will continue Friday.

Edit After the Fact: While we were carting my new dryer through the neighbor's side of the basement (I live in a duplex with a basement divided in half by a "wall" of particleboard that also has like a cellar door style exterior entrance on the neighbor's side) I noticed a condom lying on the floor. It was not in its packaging. It didn't look used, but I didn't investigate too closely, and still, condom out of its wrapping sitting in the middle of the floor in a basement. That's just weird.

Edit After the Fact #2: Shortly after posting this, a police officer knocked on my door asking if there had been a break in downstairs. When Eric and I got the dryer all situated, he carried the dolly up through the cellar door style entrance while I remained inside to lock and bolt the interior door on the neighbor's side (there's the ground level cellar door thing, a metal stairway, then the door to the basement). The neighbors were just getting home while Eric was ascending, so he said hi to them and they kind of snubbed him for some reason. Apparently, Eric did not shut the cellar door when he went up the exterior stairs, as when one of the neighbor's came home later in the evening she saw the exterior door leading to the basement wide open and called the police, our landlady, and her father. Because of the hypothetical break in that possibly occurred. Didn't go in the house to investigate. Did not add two plus two together and get four (she saw Eric exiting through the cellar door when she got home earlier and logical "math" would equate to him having forgotten to shut it, as we quickly drove away to move his stuff after he exited through the door). Nope, just called the police. Then came over and checked everything out instead of getting to work on time. Which she complained about while I was talking to her dad. But, you know, this is the basement she found an empty syringe, spoon, butane lighter, and rubber hose in one night that she thought was mine or my roommate's, because obviously none of her friends shoot up heroin while they come over to hang out. 

Friday, October 11, 2013


This is kind of meandering, and not really much more than an excuse to put pictures on my blog. Whatever. 

Words are dumb. They are very nearly the crudest thing I can imagine in terms of ways to convey information. This is because people are unique and complex and not clones of one another. Our lives would be so much simpler if we were not unique or complex and were in fact clones of one another that had only a single language and a single precise definition for each word. Each of us has this thing called a past that shapes and defines every aspect of who we are today. It also shapes and defines how we interpret the majority of what we encounter on a daily basis. Past is why some people can joke about things like rape being struggle cuddling, and other people start slugging those people when they start joking. Forgive me for using a buzzword issue like rape in a pseudo-serious context on a blog primarily about chucking dice, I'm lazy and it's an easy to use example in this context. 

We all attach meanings to words that other people who haven't had our experiences would never think to connect to them. You can use as many words as you want in as many paragraphs as you want, and people still aren't going to understand precisely what you mean, because each of us thinks and imagines things in a certain way. Given that most GMs are not phenomenal artists with the ability to scrawl epic art, all we're left with to display our worlds most of the time is our words, whether spoken or written. I can write and speak till my fingers cramp and my lips turn blue about my dragons being green and spitting acid that burns flesh and having a venomous bite, but Eric still thought they breathed fire and were thus red dragons. Eric's not stupid. He just associates fire with burning and in his head fire + dragons + DnD = red dragons. It's pretty simple math when you get right down to it.

So Monday was my birthday. My current regular partner at work is Fred. Fred is a friend and a former player in my previous Hekinoe campaigns. If you read or hear me say anything about a murderous and completely bat shit crazy sorcerer named Derf that literally fucked up everything in The Rebellion Arc, that's Fred's character. For my birthday, Fred drew something for me:

It didn't take him terribly long, and it was done with black and red Sharpie markers. Looking at it, most people (I imagine) see the outline of a man with a staff or stick in one hand and probably a sword in the other, and blood on his face. What I see is...everything. I see everything in my head laid out before me in stark black and white, with a single key element of color. Something within me responds to this drawing, because it has significance to me. I want to frame it and put it behind glass and hang it above my computer so I can sit at my desk with something heavy playing on Pandora and just stare at it and smoke cigarettes until the stars burn out.

Things mean different things to different people because they have different things in their heads. That said, images are easier to communicate with. I can say Sereth are grey and hairless and have cat eyes and extra elbows and knees, but Lance and I are still probably holding different (at least slightly) images in our heads. With a drawing of a Sereth in hand, I don't have to tell him anything beyond "This is what they look like." and there it is. He sees it just as I see it. He'll still attach different things to the Sereth than I do, but at least he'll see them physically just as I do.

We play a game frequently called "the theater of the mind" or some variation of that. This all occurs in our heads. I've never seen the Donovan that Cary imagines, or the pocket watch Eric role-plays as having great significance to Karl. I've never seen the runes in Karrak's eyes or the engravings of briars on the butt of Eran's rifle. As I said, most GMs are not phenomenal artists. They muddle through maps and such much like I do. With chicken scratch on a sheet of college ruled or a faint blue grid of squares. I try to write hefty descriptions of things, dense walls of text, so my players can come as close as possible to seeing the world that I see. In response, they still thought/think Sereth were basically elves. Because pointed ears. ::shrug::

Like I said, there's not a real point to this, I'm just meandering and musing.

So Fred drew this image for me and I sat and stared at it with my Kindle forgotten on my lap for maybe ten or fifteen minutes, my mind just idling and recalling things. A thought occurred to me eventually. We play games in my head, and I am not given to artwork. With the help of friends like Fred and Jeremy (mostly Jeremy), I have been able to pepper my campaign book with a few images. Just an image on the cover page and some flags for the countries and some stuff Fred drew a few years ago. The flags are only important because the countries are important and the text beneath each image explains a bit about what the flags mean, and thus show a bit of insight into the nation and its people and offers insight into their minds.

There's an image on the cover page though. A crescent with a black sword descending into it and a red teardrop (of blood) beneath the crescent and in line with the sword.

Books are about words, not images, but most books have cover artwork. It's part of what draws your attention as you peer at spines and covers trying to pick your next read. No, don't judge a book by its cover, but your eye is definitely going to be drawn to the book with the fucking cyborg shark dragon with two uzis and laser eyes on it more quickly (assuming you like those sorts of things) than the book with a blank cover the color of mud (assuming you're not really really weirdly into mud). That's what the artwork is there to do, it's designed to draw your eye and say, "Hey, this is the one. This one is better." or at the very least it shows some scene or aspect of the story contained in the book to give you an idea of how it would appeal to you.

So I have this image on the first page of my campaign book. When I give the campaign book to a new player, it is the first thing they see about The Known World and Hekinoe. I've told Jeremy what it means, because he created it for me. I've probably shared it with Eric, or he figured it out for himself after I told him and then he forgot that I told him. But no current or previous player that has adventured in Hekinoe has asked me about it. This image is the first thing they learn about The Known World. There's no text to go along with it. It isn't on any of the flags in the document. It hasn't featured in any of the campaigns in Hekinoe. I don't think it is ever mentioned in the campaign book beyond the picture.

This thought occurred to me while staring at the image above, and I told Fred that I wouldn't call it willful or blatant disinterest, but it seemed odd to me that no one has asked me about it. Fred, as one of the players that never asked about the image (but now knowing what it means and why it is important because of a certain document I constructed many moons ago), cocked his head to the side and muttered a faint, "Huh."

I dunno ultimately what I'm trying to say. It just seems to me that in a game primarily made of invisible pieces, when you do find an image that the GM has put forth effort to provide you, that image should be paid close attention to. You should ask yourself, ok, he's got this picture, but not pictures of every race. Why? Part of that is obviously the varying difficulty in constructing various artwork. Drawing an alien creature from my world is much more difficult than constructing something that is essentially a sword and a crescent. 

In other news, Jeremy is working on an extra special map for me. He's taking my clumsily drawn map of The Known World from a few years ago and using it as a sort of stencil for a program to sort of make it look realistic. Or just plain good. He showed me his work a few weeks ago and I was in awe, similar to the way I was in awe of Fred's drawing. I was literally fanboying out about it. I kept thanking him and telling him how amazing it was (it really really was, Jeremy). I even texted Jason about it because I was so bubbly. I don't even quite know how to describe it. All I can say was that looking at the map Jeremy was making was like seeing everything within my head made real. Frankly, it made my "spirit" soar. It tripped all the happy centers of my brain and I wanted to grin until my face hurt. So again, thank you Jeremy. You are my star. 

As a finisher, here's some other stuff that Fred drew a few years ago. 

That image there is Fred's concept art sketching of a Dwenoren. It's pretty close to my internal image. The head drawn on the left has the "beard" of sensory spines more as tentacles, which is inaccurate. Their more like like, straight, fibrous spines. Everything else is pretty much dead on though. 

This is Fred's concept sketch of the Children of Volung. Through a misinterpretation of what I said (or lack of clarity on my part), he thought the bone plates over their ribcage were actually scales on their skin, rather than beneath it. He got the eyes down exactly as I'd imagined them, and the head at the lower section matches my internal image as well. He's got a couple sketches on the bottom of what their sharp teeth might look like, and my head image matches the lower left of the picture. 

This were pretty cool drawings to receive. They filled me with that same sense of awe as the image he gave me for my birthday and Jeremy's map do. It's the stuff in my head, which I love and adore, visualized and made real outside of my head in a way. 

Words word words. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Alternate Rules: Sorcelators

Sorcerers are an arcane full caster class, and they're something I call an intuitive caster. I'm not sure if this is an actual term or if it is something I came up with. Intuitive casters are casters that don't train or learn or memorize spells, they just do them, and they typically use Charisma as their casting statistic. Bards and Sorcerers are intuitive casters. The other kind of arcane caster is the learned caster. They are casters that train and learn and memorize and usually have a spellbook or something like that and use Intelligence as their casting statistic. Magi, Witches, and Wizards are learned casters. Alchemists are kind of a learned caster in that they use a formula book and sort of have to prepare their extracts, though it only takes a minute to prepare an extract before using it and they don't have to determine what extracts they'll use at the beginning of the day.

Sorcerers are a class where you have an inborn ability to use magic, usually stemming from a bloodline involving some sort of supernatural creature in your heritage. You have this spark of magic that you either never learned to control so you could be a Wizard, or was just too powerful to control. This spark of magic manifests as spells, the Eschew Materials feat (which lets you ignore material components up to 1 gp in value), and various supernatural abilities and resistances related to what kind of magical ancestor you had. One interesting thing I've seen recently is bloodlines that let you use Wisdom or Intelligence as your casting statistic. Which is odd to me, as those ability scores do not represent inborn power (or undead lifeforce) like Charisma does. Sorcerers have a limited number of spells they can know over twenty levels, unlike a learned caster, which typically has unlimited ability to add stuff into their spellbook. However, they can cast spells more times per day and don't have to memorize spells. They just know them and cast what they want up to their limit per day.

One of the themes of Sorcerers is lack of control and lack of training. They just do stuff. How this translates to them still using incantations and knowing which components a certain spell needs is something I do not know. Because game, most likely. You can make the case that they don't use the normal incantation and just mutter some mumbo jumbo that sounds right to them (which would make them immune to Spellcraft checks to identify their spells) or they intuitively know the words to call up the spell because the incantation is a part of the spell. You can make a case that they instinctively know they need a super expensive component for wish as well. Because game, that sounds right to me though.

Just to be clear, I'm not saying Sorcerers should be changed. This is a game and there needs to be an element of fairness and balance to it (unless we're talking about psionics). So yeah, I get why Sorcerers still need components and incantations that follow all the normal rules of arcane spellcasting. Also, to me, saying they intuitively know the incantations and components does make sense. They are intuitive casters, they don't learn magic, it's in their blood, the spells are a part of them and fireball knows it needs some bat guano. In the real world, there are people who instinctively know how to perform complex math equations without having to scribble all the in between work on a sheet of college ruled to get there. So yeah, I'm not too concerned about why or how a Sorcerer knows the right words to a spell or what components it needs.

Alright, so everything about Sorcerer spells kind of just happens and they have no training. They can do magic and stuff, but they don't know what the standard spells are and generally haven't had the training to know that magic missile is a little dart of force magic that always strikes true and lightning bolt shoots lightning in a straight line. They just will stuff to happen with their magic and it happens. From the rules perspective, every few levels you add new spells into your list of spells known, representing you developing new ways to achieve effects with your inborn spark of magic.

The thing I thought of that inspired this post is what if Sorcerers don't get to choose their spells known? What if you start play as a 1st level Sorcerer and you select your 0 and 1st level spells, but that's the only spell selection you truly have full control over during the next nineteen levels of adventuring. Aside from the option of removing spells and replacing them with other spells at set levels. I think it's at every fourth level or some such that Sorcerers and Bards can do that.

The way it would play out is that the GM, and likely the player, keeps d20pfsrd (or some equally comprehensive rulebook) handy and opened to the spell lists. You get into a situation, like say a locked door, and you have some open spells known spots and you need to use magic to open the door. You don't currently know anything applicable to this situation though, or just want to try and get new magic to do it. The player controlling the Sorcerer outlines what they want to do. Do they want to open it quietly? Do they want to make an entrance and blow it off its hinges? Do they care either way? Etc. Basically, they describe what kind of effect they are trying to achieve, and the GM selects an appropriate spell to add to their spells known list and they do it. Depending on the intent described for the situation above, the applicable spell could be knock, dimension door, any offensive spell with sufficient force to blow a door of its hinges, or even disintegrate.

This isn't an alteration of mechanics that I'm saying should be added to every game, or even to my game. I'm just talking about it because it kind of struck me as a very in character way of doing spell selection. It adds a lot of flavor to Sorcerers/intuitive casters to further differentiate them from other arcane classes, and it could be kind of fun and exciting. There's the whole element of "How will my magic/the GM respond to my intent?" Now, it is pretty easy to metagame this system. Most people know what iconic spells like mage armor, disintegrate, fireball, lightning bolt, and finger of death do. Especially people who have experience playing casters, obviously. Also, there is the issue of what if the most appropriate spell has a component that isn't available and doesn't fold into Eschew Materials? There's also the fairly sizable issue of removing control of the character from the player, which is generally frowned upon. 

Like I said, I'm not suggesting this interpretation of spell selection belongs in my game, it just struck me as a very flavorful and interactive way of having a player choose his character's spells, despite having some issues that would make it clunky. Weeding through spells alone could eat up valuable moments of gameplay. I dunno, I just thought it was kind of interesting and neat. Your mileage may vary.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Mythic Adventures

One of the things Paizo has "lacked" during its run has been epic level content. Now, as a chronic murderer of campaigns prior to their completion, I've never felt a strong need for epic level content (for levels of 21+) to keep PCs feeling powerful or to provide challenges. Nor have I ever wanted epic level content personally, as I've never made it very far beyond third level as a player. 

In 3.0/3.5 epic level mostly consisted of awesome gear, a continuing progression of class abilities, and some class abilities that were truly powerful (The perfect wight gaining greater invisibility at 21st level, though it maxes out at only 3/day, but lasts for 20 rounds each use. The legendary dreadnought gaining DR 9/- that stacks with all other permanent damage reduction.). But that's cool, at epic level you are supposed to ascend from fantasy superheroes to cosmic beings. Mundane classes like Rogue and Fighter gaining insane abilities like invisibility and the ability to turn incorporeal or stack damage reduction (which is not possible, normally) are the expected turn of events. Additionally, the gear man. Normal magic items have a maximum +10 of magic, split between actual pluses and abilities worth pluses. The enhancement to attacks and damage cap at +5. In epic gear, a look at d20srd reveals this increases to a +20 of total abilities on magic armor and weapons, increasing the cap on enhancement to attacks and damage to +10. So yeah, that's pretty neat. 

Anyway. Paizo's advice for high level play has always been to just add more levels. Either add levels from new classes, or just extend the progression of single classes. Most class abilities increase by a clearly predictable pattern, so it's not hard to build them after 20th level. Saves and base attack bonuses all have a standard growth rate that is easy to extrapolate, as do bonus feats and sneak attack and so on. Even spells are predictable.

So a while ago, Pathfinder came out with something called the Mythic Adventures playtest. A short pdf kind of describing their interpretation of epic level play. It was pretty neat. It didn't go the route of adding levels and obscene amounts of experience points to achieve those levels. It came up with a few mythic archetypes with clear ties to the core classes and various abilities. Instead of experience points, it came up with a system of mythic trials to overcome to increase your mythic tier. It also displayed a system that did not require 20th level. Anyone could become a mythic character, if they overcome a mythic danger or had a particular heritage. Recently, and to my happy surprise, Pathfinder released the final version of Mythic Adventures, so I'd like to talk about that today.

So first off, I really like calling this type of advancement mythic, rather than epic. Mythic feels...mythic. It feels more like folklore and mythology than game related. To me, epic says you're reaching the end game content of a campaign. Mythic, to me, says you are creating myths and legends for the next age of the world. You are the next Bigby or Elminster. The next Robilard or Jarlaxle. The next Iuz, Kas, or Vecna. It says to me that if there were a fiction line for your campaign, you would be one of the main characters of a series, rather than a second string ally of the main character. 

In the first chapter, we get into how you become a mythic character and what mythic means. It basically differentiates mythic and mundane characters by saying normal characters might save a city or something, but a mythic character will change the fate of a region of the world. There is a strong focus on working with the GM to create and define a mythic character. These rules are not necessarily something a character is entitled to or automatically gains at a certain point. Being a mythic character is something that will shape the nature of the campaign, and it not only requires the GMs approval, it requires working with them to find a place for your mythic character in the story of the GMs world. 

The first step in this is your ascension. Most of the suggested methods of attaining mythic power are RP focused. It doesn't seem to be meant to be something like "Go kill a god, now you're mythic." The suggested methods are contact with an artifact, fate, being the child of a god (finding out this knowledge is when you actually ascend to mythic status, rather than being a mythic character when you begin play), being granted the power (perhaps by a immeasurably powerful supernatural immortal creature...), or having the power passed on to you at the death of a powerful supernatural creature (perhaps involuntarily...). 

Once you're all mythicised, you figure out what path you ascend along. Each path is clearly geared towards a style of play. We've got the Archmage (self explanatory, I hope), the Champion (the weapon using fighty guy), the Guardian (the tank), the Hierophant (the divine guy), the Marshal (the leader and protector guy), and the Trickster (the sneaky cunning guy). 

As you increase your mythic tier, you increase ability scores, adding a +2 to any score at every even tier. You gain mythic feats every odd tier, and every level you gain some basic mythic abilities. These basic mythic abilities are geared towards survivability. Over time you recuperate super fast from injury, always stabilize at 0 hit points, saving throws that succeed negate all damage from non-mythic sources, culminating in true immortality (unless you died via a coup de grace or critical hit from a mythic or more powerful creature). There's also a bit of manipulation of fate, you gain the ability to add a die roll to d20 rolls, the type of die you add increases as you gain tiers. You also amass mythic power. Mythic power is usable a number of times per day dependent upon your tier, and uses are expended to power the various abilities you gain as you gain tiers. 

You gain tiers by completing a set number of trials, this number of trials increases as you gain tiers. Also, there are ten tiers. To go from 1st to 2nd tier requires one completed trial, to from 9th to 10th tier, you need to complete five. The trials don't have any set guidelines. Just some suggestions that mythic tiers do not exceed 1/2 a character's normal levels. There are also some fairly obvious suggestions on tweaking how fast trials are faced and so on. The only real mandatory thing for the trials is that they be mythic in nature. The suggestions listed seem to be better classed as campaign themes, rather than specific trials. But the gist is, trials are up to the GM and they should be a big deal. Not a big deal like saving a town from bandits. This stuff needs to be something along the lines of Prometheus stealing fire from Zeus to aid humanity, Hercules slaying the Nemean Lion (a beast impervious to all weapons) by grappling it and snapping its neck, Beowulf killing Grendel, Eowyn slaying the Witch King of Angmar. The trials can't be in the vein of something you tell one gaming group about how this one time your old gaming group did this cool thing. The trials need to be something that could be told as a story, not as an anecdote that leaves everyone chuckling for a moment. At least that's my interpretation of it. 

After tiers are talked about for a bit, we head on into the mythic paths and their abilities. Each path gains a path ability at each tier and also culminates in a 10th tier boost to the character, which is kind of a theme with Pathfinder. When you hit the level cap for a regular class or prestige class, you get a pretty hefty ability or boost. There are also universal path abilities which are available to all paths to pick from. The tier specific abilities are more or less what you'd expect. For instance, the Archmage can select the arcane surge ability, which lets him expend a use of mythic power to cast a spell he prepared or knows (depending on whether he's a learned or an intuitive caster) that day without expending a slot or use, even if he's already cast the spell that day). The universal path abilities are a bit more broadly focused, some let you increase ability scores, grant longevity, make you resistant to certain effects, or gain a +20 bonus on ability checks. The 10th tier cap abilities are pretty neat. For instance, the Guardian halves all non-mythic damage he takes after factoring in things like resistances and damage reduction. 

The next section after characters is mythic feats. Most of those seem to be amped up normal feats, or grant you the ability to expend mythic power for a boost in the power of the basic feat, like using a certain skill as if you had rolled a natural 20. Others let you gain an extra path ability or grant you the ability to select your 10 path abilities from more than one path. Another lets you gain one of the benefits of polypurpose panacea (a 1st level spell that has several positive cantrip level effects) whenever you consume alcohol. Another lets you drink two potions at the same time. 

After feats, we move on to mythic spells, which are kind of cool. They are more powerful versions of regular spells. To learn them it looks like you need either a feat or a path ability that unlocks them. To use them, you have to know and be able to cast the basic version and expend a use of mythic power. The basic change seems to be that they are more powerful, but they also have a few options. For instance, you can make them more potent and increase the DC by two and give your caster level a boost to overcome spell resistance with them. You can also make them harder to dispel. These two options require an additional use of mythic power. In addition, some of them have an augmentation option. For instance, mythic fireball. You expend one mythic power use and cast fireball. Its mythic version does 1d10 fire damage per caster level, instead of 1d6. Creatures that fail their saving throw also catch fire. The range, radius, and maximum number of damage die don't change though. However, if you are at least a 6th tier mythic character, you can use two uses of mythic power to augment it (for a total of three, unless you made it more potent or resilient as well). This changes the damage cap from ten dice to twenty, increases it to a 40 foot spread of fire, and causes the fire damage to bypass fire resistance and immunity. That's pretty neat. 

After spells, we move to loot. Mostly this is just a new selection of magical enhancements and new specific items. There are also some new artifacts. One that I thought was neat is Aegis, which in Greek mythology is the shield of Zeus. The shield has a preserved Medusa head on it, which does what you'd expect. I didn't spend much time on the gear section in my skimming of the book, but one chunk really caught my eye. It's called legendary items. It's a fairly small section, and I don't quite get the mechanics at the moment, but I haven't read it in depth yet. It is guidelines for a character's gear becoming mythic alongside them. So hypothetically speaking, say a character becomes a mythic character after being granted power by a supernatural entity and then kills and steals the power of another one. Say this karacter has a battered old masterwork revolver on his hip and never really thinks too much about spending some of his thousands and thousands of gold on a better one or an sorcerous enhancement to this his trusty shooting iron. Over time, this revolver would sort of become mythic as well achieving minor and major artifact status in theory. 

There is a universal path ability that automatically makes a character's possession into a legendary item, but the section on how they come about also states that sometimes it just happens, so the path ability isn't mandatory. It seems like characters can use their mythic power to fuel some of the item's abilities, and the items themselves also have an internal pool that can be used by anyone possessing them. Some of the legendary item abilities are geared towards only being used by a certain person. One makes the item more easily enchanted by mundane magic. Another makes the item intelligent. It's some neat stuff. I've always liked the concept of your gear gaining power as you do, but I've never conceived of a way to work it mechanically that ultimately wasn't just a different system of enchanting. I definitely like the concept of legendary items. It kind of ties in with what I spoke of earlier about mythic characters becoming the myths and legends of the next age. Indiana Jones is diminished without his whip, Aragorn by the absence of Narsil, just as Sauron is diminished by the absence of his ring, and Gandalf is apparently powerless without his staff. 

After gear, we come to mythic monsters. Hehe. This is a pretty neat section. There are some iconic monsters like the hydra, phoenix, and vampire in here as examples. There's also some neat stuff like Owlbear, The First. It's just a CR 10 owlbear that happens to be the first of his kind and hangs around with a harem of his lady friends (bears, giant owls, and owlbears). Mythic monsters seem to more or less be basic monsters with a pseudo-template of mythic abilities designed to make them challenging to mythic characters. That's why you find a bunch of lines in the sections on character abilities stating that an effect only applies against non-mythic characters. I'm not going to break it down too much here., other than to say that the included mythic monsters are tough. For instance, the mythic troll increases his regeneration by 5 every turn he takes damage, up to a maximum of 25. Yup. A CR 6 troll regenerating 25 hit points a round. That sounds fun. Additionally, fire and acid only impede its regeneration, halving the current amount, rather than stopping it. 

I've completely left out the game running section of the book, mostly because it's primarily just a lot of guidelines and suggestions about suitable campaign types and styles and calculating CRs based on mythic ranks and tiers. 

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with this book. I like the concepts a lot. Much more than I liked the epic level book from 3.5. I think primarily it stems from the fact that in this book, characters are not assumed to be entitled to demigod status simply because they've crushed the skulls of a billion kobolds and then killed a billion more to move to 21st level. The mythic stuff sits outside of the level based advancement. Mythic tiers are made to be an achievement, something worth doing, something intrinsic to the character and their story and the story of the campaign. This isn't just epic level abilities that you gain. This systems is kind of making a game mechanic for the story of how a character becomes part of the campaign world's structure. It isn't anything like leveling to me, it's not something you achieve by busting heads for a mobster for fifteen levels. This stuff is achieved by seeking out the greatest challenges and succeeding in them where no other creature of your era has. 

What I'm saying is that to me, mythic adventures seem heavily influenced by the RP aspect of the game. You don't achieve mythic power by running through a scenario and killing a bandit lord, you achieve it by RPing an encounter with a deity or trying to discover your mysterious heritage as a child of a god or an instrument of fate. Now, yeah, you can go out and kill a supernatural entity and steal its power (assuming the GM allows it), but what is the window dressing of that? How did you find out about this creature, or that its power can be taken? Where did you have to go to find it? What deals did you have to make to gain knowledge of it and its weaknesses? What rituals and secret knowledge was needed to pry power from it? Even this combat themed method of achieving mythic status has more to it than just wandering into a cave and killing a supernatural critter. 

I like the book, that's what I'm saying. I think it is a real neat interpretation of epic level status that I'd definitely love to include in my game. Too bad killing the Hound doesn't count as ascending.