Category Archives: rethgood

One murder makes a villain, millions a hero.

Rethgood the Redolent blinked sweat and blood from his eyes as he tugged his sword from the limp form at his feet. He staggered as he looked about himself, a haze of nausea welled up inside him as his head hummed from the blows it had received – a swarm of wasps buzzing around inside his head and stinging at his mind. The corners of the world closed in on him, and seeing no more wolves he finally dropped to his knees, placed broken hands into the white carpet that lay upon the grass as he heaved clouds of breath out into the cold morning air.

“Hey maaaaaaaaaaaaan. Like, what’s with all the rage?”

Rethgood looked up and saw an orc approaching from the trees to his right, he scrambled to gain his feet, slipped on the frosty ground and fell prone. Clutching at the grass with hands that stained the pristine canvas with crimson, he pulled himself away from the orc, whimpering to himself all the while.

“Duuuude! Like, wow, you killed all these wolves? Awwwww heck, man, why’d you do that? What have you got against the wolves man, they’re God’s creatures maaaaan, just like you and me…”

“You’re… mot… cweadure ob God” panted Rethgood, the words formed through a swollen mouth full of blood sounded slow and stupid to his ears.

“Oh hey maaaaan, don’t be like that. Don’t be all, like, Mr Angry. Relax, dude.”

“WELAX? I’b dyig here you gween fweak…” Rethgood choked on his anger and vomited blood down his front.

“Oh wow. Well man, maybe you shouldn’t have hurt those wolves man.”

“Wh… harghk… whad?”

“They weren’t doing no wrong. Just livin’ their lives here, like, in peace. With the nature an’ all, man, you know? We’re all happy here man, why’d you have to come along and bring your bad vibes? You’re, like, totally bringing the place down.”

“Thad wab the idea you gobbam monsder”

“Monster? Hey man, I’m not, like, the one who came charging in here killing all Big Mother N’s children. You’re like, totally bad karma man, you know? Like, bad mojo. You need to mellow man. Me-llowww.”

“Yo…. gaghk… you’re mad.”

“Mad? I suppose so man, we’re all a little mad you know? But you crazy folks keep coming in here and killing the innocent children of Gaia, man. We’ve all got a right to live. You people just need to chill, try to understand it from our point of view.”

Rethgood sobbed as the orc bent over him, he could feel the creature’s breath on the back of his neck. He tried to turn himself over, fend the creature off in some way, but his limbs had long stopped obeying his commands. He squeezed his eyes closed and waited for the inevitable.

The orc’s lips rolled back in a grin, huge tusks and pointed teeth framed in red velvet, drew its arm from behind its back and slowly, gently, placed a crown of daisies on Rethgood’s head.

“Peace, man.” it said.

Rethgood watched from one half-opened eye as the orc walked away, a wolf padded along beside it now and a hawk sat on its shoulder; the forest seemed to wrap its long branched arms tenderly about the orc as it melted away into the shadows.

Ever noticed how all the animals that attack you on sight never seem to have any problem with the humanoid NPCs in the area? I picture them all living in perfect hippy harmony, at one with nature and creation. Their lives are happy until adventurers come along and slaughter them wholesale because some stranger told them to.

Think of all the wildlife that we PCs kill during our adventuring lives because someone with a pocketful of gold compelled us. No wonder so many of the wild animals in MMOs attack us but leave everyone else alone.

Sometimes you have to wonder whether we’re not the heroes but the villains after all.

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world.

MMOs employ many different ways to mitigate damage: parrying, shield blocks, genuine evasion and armour-based resistances are but some of the examples. However, nearly all MMOs still also make use of the ancient and mystical Chinese technique of Open Palm Lotus, Forehead Dragon Slap.

Or in mundane terms: attacking any space that is immediately adjacent to your opponent. The dreaded miss.

<Our noble barbarian hero. Rethgood the Redolent, is sneaking up to stab an unsuspecting, sleeping ogre lord in the back>

Rethgood: “Ha haaaaah! Your head will be mine, ogre lord!”

<Rethgood swings his sword and misses>

Rethgood: “I missed?! But I’m the greatest swordsmith in the land! I, who hath duelled Rodderick the Really Rather Good Swordwangler of Popthekettleon, and won! I, who bested Fiona the Fierce of Frangipane, the greatest sword fighter the world had ever witnessed until I found the miniscule gap in her chain-mail bikini that enabled me to strike the bronzed body beneath! I, who…”

Ogre Lord: “Og, yuk, ders a ooman in me snoozechamber! Ow it get in dis place? Wurz me slipper so I cuhn squidge it.”

Rethgood: “How can I possibly miss from melee range against a prone target? Never mind, I shall not miss you a second time you filthy beast!”

<Rethgood swings and misses again>

Rethgood: “By the seven gods of the Vitamin Sea! Another miss?! What fel magic is this?”

Ogre Lord: “Stop yer flailin about ooman, yer creatin a draft.”

Rethgood: “Stay still, damn you.”

Ogre Lord: “I not move from me bed yet, wat you talkin about clooliss?”

<Rethgood swings. And misses.>

Rethgood: “I don’t understand… how can I miss? I’m standing close enough to smell whatever it is that’s living in your belly button…”

Ogre Lord: “Ey! You leave Charles out of dis.”

Rethgood: “You have a creature living in your belly button, and it’s called Charles?”

Charles: “Will you keep the noise down out there; some people are trying to meditate.”

Ogre Lord: “Don you mind der ooman, Charlie, I’m gonna sort im out.”

Rethgood: “I can’t take much more of this; I pray to the iron god of Monopylae to guide my sword to strike swift and true!”

<Rethgood swings. The ogre lord leaps from the bed>

Rethgood: “There! You definitely moved!”

Ogre Lord: “Weeeellllll, you waz gonna hit me dat time.”

<Ogre lord smacks Rethgood upside the head, yo, for 200 points of damage>

The miss becomes more absurd the bigger the enemy. How can you miss a fifty foot tall mountain giant? Admittedly you’re not going to be doing a lot of damage. Shouldn’t be doing a lot of damage, but that’s never stopped role-playing games from pitting adventurers against monsters eight times their size or more, and letting them win. Does an adventuring party of five bees ever reasonably stand a chance of defeating a human being? I mean, they’ve got envenomed weapons, the power of flight, various fear spells that they can cast (such as Bernard’s Aural Harasser of Humming Just Behind Your Ear), yet we still know that unless they get some, quite frankly, munchkin-maddeningly awesome combination of crit rolls, or they just happen to find a mob with a serious weakness to bee stings (I knew I should have worked on bee sting resistance instead of fire and nature), they’re not going to win. But adventurers defeating fifty foot tall giants? No problem! Hell, in some games dwarves – dwarves! – make a profession out of slaying giants! What in the Inferno sort of tactics do they use to accomplish this? If you’ve ever seen Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay’s dwarven Giant Slayers you’ll know that they not only pit themselves against creatures ten times their own height, but they do this whilst wearing minimal armour and wielding a small twig. Or something. So how do they defeat giants who are, by their very nature, really quite big. Gigantic, if you will. Do they train in assassination through toenail clipping? “Ha, I’ve given him a nasty subungual hematoma there, if he doesn’t get any medication for a month, and infection just happens to set in, he could die within the year! Or perhaps just lose the toe. Still: For Karak Kadrin! And all that, old bean”. Yeah, I like to mix frothing dwarven battle-cries alongside eccentric upper-class English phrases, it really puts your fellow adventurers off guard.

The point being, as alien and unexpected as a ‘point’ is to any of my blog posts, ignoring the improbability of being able to do enough damage to cause the giant to stop picking his nose and peer down at you, missing any monster that has toes the size of a farm outbuilding is not really terribly reassuring. You literally, although virtually, missed the side of a barn. And you want to be a great adventuring hero? Hmmm.

So, what if an adventuring party is fighting together and one of the melee players misses a mob, does he not then have to roll to see if he hits one of his fellows who are in melee with him? The friendly-fire roll, if you will. And if he misses them as well, then surely it follows that he then has to roll to see if he chops off his own head due to missing everything else in the immediate vicinity. And in the vastly improbable event that he misses that roll too, well, then perhaps a horde of small animals should burst out from all corners of the battlefield and laugh for two seconds in the manner of Chip ‘n Dale the Walt Disney chipmunks, disappearing quickly thereafter.

The problem is that in MMO combat you generally stand still, the mob stands still, and you both stand toe-to-toe and slog it out until one of you is dead; you don’t aim in combat, you select which character to attack and then your aiming is represented by a dice roll. A dice roll is all you have to express the dynamism of combat, and the on-screen representation is two figures standing next to each other, swinging their weapons in one or two animations over and over again in a stunningly mundane battle of attrition. Seeing that combat is such a staple of MMOs, that the main focus of questing and levelling invariably involves running some form of virtual life through with your virtual sword, one would think that an obvious way to break away from the pack and make a name for yourself would be to try to crack the mould on the tried, tested and tedious method of combat as it exists today. We can all accept mobs dodging out of the way, but considering currently how close the melee player is generally standing to them, and the fact that neither of you is moving much, I can’t help but imagine that it’s perhaps the sort of dodging that you see in cartoons, where the character bends improbably at the midriff and forms a question mark shape to one side of the blade thrust, and then flips and bends in the opposite direction at the next blade thrust, which cuts the air where the dodger’s body was moments ago.

City of Heroes is especially hilarious because it animates your misses whilst making no attempt to animate the enemy having evaded, so you can stand right next to a mob, shoot a bolt of fire from your hands at point blank range, and it shoots off at an improbable angle into the ceiling. I can only imagine that those superhero outfits are really quite itchy, and just as my hero is about to launch their bolt of flaming death (that’s not a euphemism by the way) they get an irresistible urge to scratch somewhere sensitive and tender, and therefore flail about shooting flame everywhere other than at the enemy as they try to contend with their own spectacular spandex spasms. With the collateral damage that heroes must cause with all their powers missing and striking the floors, walls and ceilings, you can imagine that insurance premiums in Paragon City are astronomical in value. What’s more, you can simply miss the most blatantly easy targets; only last night a fellow spandex wearer was heard to utter “I can’t believe I just missed a stationary parked car”.

The dilemma is such: if, like World of Warcraft, you make it easy for new players to hit mobs so that the game is fast and fun and painless, they will have an expectation that they will always be able to do so, and the strange phenomenon that as their hero increases in power they are more likely to meet mobs that they are unable to hit seems to be incongruous with their experiences up to that point. If, however, you take the route that City of Heroes takes, that your low level character will miss, and miss quite a lot, but will gain in power until they are practically unable to miss even if they try, the early game experience can be very frustrating to the new player who may not understand that things will improve eventually, and it is therefore quite likely to put players off of the game entirely.

Perhaps all that needs to be done is to remove the ‘miss’ from areas where it is inappropriate due to its vast improbability, when in melee combat or using ranged powers at close quarters, for example. Considering that most MMO combat is now, and will likely be for the foreseeable future, based upon the fickle fling of fate’s fancy, rather than any skill on the part of the player, it would be nice to present that combat in such a way as to not make the player regularly experience the most base helplessness that comes from a fumbled attack roll.

And it should be fixed soon, lest the armies of barn walls become confident in their power to evade attacks, and march upon the homelands of these floundering fighters and destroy them every one!

Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.

Rethgood the Redolent was in trouble. Somewhere, out beyond the jade curtain of the forest lurked an ancient evil. And it was looking for him. With his back against a tall gnarled oak he let out a slow painful exhalation, realising that he had been holding his breath yet again. He listened to the sounds coming from the surrounding forest for some time, trying to see whether he could determine from wither his impending doom approached. Then the cry came, screeching through the dank foliage like the sound of a thousand elephants crying out in unison upon discovering that they’d all simultaneously and most improbably forgotten the way home after a heavy night out. Sweat beaded about his brow as he ducked out from behind the tree, battle axe at the ready, and made a crouching run across the glade. He had reached no more than half way before stopping abruptly; there, calmly watching him with the steely look of quietus in its eyes was his nemesis, the one who had hounded him across a quarter of the country of Grindland.

There stood the Death Shrew of Khuridim.

One inch of unbridled antediluvian fury, it’s tiny whiskers all a-twitch with unreasoning malevolence, the amber eyes of the shrew did not leave him. Without warning it leapt for him and the battle was joined!

Rethgood slumped to the floor and let out a bestial cry. As he nursed his injured left leg, hideously ravaged around the ankle, he looked towards the shattered corpse of the Death Shrew and noticed a subtle glinting amongst the ruin of bones. Hauling himself over, his savaged leg dragging limply behind him, he picked up the remnants of the tiny shrew body in his hands and carefully parted the fur on its back from where he had seen the glinting. And there it was. Parting the final few hairs back had revealed the mighty Immortal Songblade of Nefronggrevat! Its six foot blade, impaled in the back of the miniscule shrew, had remained hidden all this time, and now it was Rethgoods for the taking. With some effort he pulled the mighty blade from its shrivelled shrew sheath and tested its weight. It was heavy even for the seven foot tall barbarian, and it would have to be worn across his back due to its almost unwieldy size, but he now possessed one of the mightiest weapons in the land! And his friends had said he was a fool to hunt the shrew, that the greatest weapons of the land would be found on the evil warrior overlords who looked down upon the land from their lofty castles. Ha!

Rethgood turned the shrew over in his hands as he searched the body; in a small cleft beneath its chin he found ten gold coins, four silver pieces and seventy two copper pieces. In the fold of its neck he found several large sheets of silk cloth, enough to make a fine strap for the Songblade to sit in until he could have a real sheath made. Just behind that was a potion of healing. Surprised that the shrew had not used it during combat, Rethgood could only surmise that the shrew had quaffed one earlier in the fight and was unable to use another due to that curious immutable property of potions: once taken the imbiber is suddenly rendered completely unable to remember how to take another potion for precisely two minutes thirty seconds, after which the memory of how to drink potion-like beverages is suddenly returned to them. Finally, just behind what remained of the shrew’s left ear Rethgood found a large tome, its bindings covered in an ornate script that appeared to change shape in the light, he would have to take it Tina the Archmage of Mestonville, to find out what it contained.

Rethgood looked at the large pile of items that he had found, and then looked towards his meagre backpack, tucked behind the oak tree where he had left it earlier. He wondered if he was going to be able to fit everything into his bag, or whether he was going to have to throw some items away, he hoped not and he now regretted looting the shrew so hastily, rather than popping it easily into his pocket and looting it later when he got home…

Seriously, if I loot another piece of giant, spiked armour from a pigmy mouse and then can’t find room for it in my backpack, I’m going to make a really teensy weensy area of the Inferno, and then cram all the loot-mechanics developers into it.

“Why Melmoth, that’s impossible: they’ll never fit!” I hear you cry. Well, it will be fun to try, and then perhaps they’ll understand that in the Inferno WE OBEY THE LAWS OF EUCLIDEAN GEOMETRY. Unless we have a letter from the doctor saying that we are exempt.