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Dragon Quest 9 Utilities

My apologies to all of you out there who might have been using my D&D Item list, I've just fallen way behind and haven't had time to get it back up to date. 

In the meantime, though, I've gotten sucked into the world of Dragon Quest IX on my DS Lite, and one thing that bugged the crap out of me was having all this stuff in my inventory, but no really quick and easy way to know what I could make with it, or what else I might need to make something really cool.

So, I built the utilities that I'm hosting on my HolyElvis site that allow you to do just that - either see what you can make with your inventory, or search for the recipe for a specific item.

It let me exercise some newfound jquery muscles, and uses a lot of in-page callbacks rather than postbacks, and I'm pretty happy with the final product.  The usage is really simple - just start typing something that exists in the game in one of the fields, and the AutoComplete will search the database for that item.  From the drop-down list, click the item you want and it will either be added to your virtual inventory, or it will be search for a known recipe.

I would give great credit to the database of items, but I honestly can't recall where I pulled the data from exactly, so my apologies to whomever created it.  My google-fu fails me, since I can't find the exact page from which the data was originally pulled.  There was a good amount of SQL magic used in transforming it into lookup data, though.

Feel free to take a look at it, and let me know if you like it...or hate it.

Update: D&D 4E Magic Item List (v1.03)

Sorry for the delay - I noticed people were searching for this again, and that I hadn't updated it in awhile, so I spent some time adding content from the remainder of the Dungeon and Dragon magazines that have been published in the meantime.  The next update will focus on sourcebooks, but I'm not certain when that will be posted, as there's a lot of content to go through for that.

The Item List is here...right-click and "Save Target".

What I'm Playing: Warhammer Online (First Impressions)

At one point in the recent past, I made the decision that I simply wasn't going to start in on any more MMORPGs - I just don't really have the spare time to invest in such an endeavor, and am usually only able to play for a few hours each night, plus a little more time on the weekends.

But, of course, I'm a sucker for beta testing these games - given the usually more-rapid advancement process, not to mention the fun of getting to see something before the general public.  And I bought into Warhammer Online after sitting through their half-hour presentation at PAX this year.  Also, I happened to find the pre-order package (with a free entry into the Open Beta, plus a head-start on the actual launch) at Target for 99 cents one day.  Since the pre-order also comes with a $5 coupon, it seemed like a pretty good deal - get into Open Beta, play the game for a week, and if I liked it, I could save $5 by spending $1.  Net savings = $4!

So...yes, I bought into the Open Beta, and had some fun wandering around, mostly with a High Elf Shadow Warrior.  Unfortunately, some other things came up during the week of Open Beta, so I was really only able to log in about 10 hours or so of actual play time.  And while I wasn't horribly impressed by the game overall, I figured it was worth $50 to play for a month or so, then decide whether I wanted to continue.

Plus, I had the head-start, which meant that I got to create ongoing characters three days before the actual launch date.  Since the Open Beta characters were all wiped, I restarted with an Empire Witch Hunter on the Wasteland server, and have been playing him pretty much since then.  I did also create a Chaos Chosen character on Bretonnia, but I haven't had much time to wander around with him.

But enough about me - you probably want to know what I think about the game as a whole.  It's always difficult to get a bead on an MMORPG immediately at launch, but the one thing I'm impressed with overall is the manner in which the folks at Mythic are handling the game in general.  They haven't been afraid to make major changes in the design and scope of the game (dropping four classes and several capital cities from the game because they "weren't exceptional").  In fact, in the past few days, they've actually pulled off a first in the support for an MMORPG - they "cloned" several servers so that people could re-balance the load at their own leisure.  I haven't heard anything about the results here yet (Mythic doesn't have an official forum for the game, another thing I applaud them for), but in concept it's an exceptionally brilliant plan.

As for the game itself, it really is a lot of fun, and is relatively quick and easy to get into.  The quests are fun, they draw you all around the map, and you get to see some pretty amazing sights.  The "Realm versus Realm" (RvR) concept is at full swing here, and if you don't like PvP playing, then I'm afraid you really won't get to enjoy all that Warhammer Online has to offer - even many solo quests send you into RvR areas of the game, essentially forcing you into interacting with other players.  Of course, there are drawbacks to that concept, as I ran into several "griefers" who were hanging out around the entrance to some of these RvR areas, waiting to pick off individuals who were trying to pull off the solo quests.  I found, though, that this just made these quests a bit more of a challenge, and sneaking around them was actually kind of fun.

The "Public Quest" concept is a fun one as well - in each area there are roughly 10 of these scripted events to uncover, and they're in some ways similar to short "instanced" dungeons that you find in other MMOs.  However, you don't really need to have a formal group in the area, and the requirements are straightforward and laid out at the top of your screen.  The PQs that I've done have had multiple stages (typically 3 stages), where the first is usually collect X items or kill X creatures, followed by a second stage where you have to fight off X Champions (harder than your typical level X creature), and finally taking down a Hero of some form (I've fought a Giant, a Hydra, and a Warlock in a couple of the early PQs).  It gives the almost-casual player a feeling that they're contributing to an overall story, and you are given a bonus to the overall loot "roll" based on your contribution - the more damage you do, the more items you find, etc. all affect the likelihood of you getting "loot".

The only real drawback for me is the fact that I'm trying to play it on a computer that's almost three years old.  Needless to say, this isn't really an option for a modern game, and the game that I play has almost ZERO resemblance to that shown at PAX.  But, it's still a lot of fun, and if you're looking for a good combination of the same-old "what works" from the MMO world, with some additional zip and nifty features (such as your bag expanding every 10 levels!), I would definitely recommend that you pick up Warhammer Online and give it a chance.

D&D 4th E - Level Up Impressions

Have plowed through almost half of Keep on the Shadowfell in our group, and we went through the level-up process before this past week's session.  A few new thoughts about the new rules, which honestly none of us are really all that fond of at this point:

  • The deterministic nature of a lot of the system just bugs the hell out of us.  Gone are Reflex, Will, and Fortitude saving throws...gone are rolled Perception and Insight checks (at least in "passive" situations) more rolling for hit points on's all based on specific scores.  I'll be honest, I liked the random factors that were in previous editions.  A lot of those are gone now.
  • In another move toward "roll-play" and away from "role-play", skills are no longer an effective method of customizing your character...each class gets 4 skills that they're "trained" in (giving them a +5 to their checks), and all other skills grow at +1 every two levels.  So, while some PCs can be better at skills than others, the benefit doesn't seem that great, and PCs focus less on skills.
  • Attacks of Opportunity are horribly overpowered in this edition.  I think they pretty much were in prior editions as well.  We're house-ruling the entire thing, so that you only draw an AoO when a creature leaves your threatened space, rather than entering it.  We'll try that out next session and see how it goes.
  • Wizards actually appears to have "bent" the rules with their pre-made characters for the Keep adventure - when translating them over to actual character sheets, using the rules in the PHB, there were several things that were completely dropped, ignored, or augmented for no apparent reason (such as the ability of Half-Elves to take any at-will power for any other class and use it as a Daily power).

It's still fun, and we're still trying to see what we like and what we don't...definitely do NOT like using a map and counters/miniatures.  Seems too much like a board game and not like a "true" role-playing game.  I'm also wondering how much of it is due to using the pre-made adventure, which is more of a dungeon crawl than my gaming group is usually used to.  Whether we can effectively build a "real" campaign within these rules is still up for debate right now.  There seem to be a lot of limitations imposed by the rules there  may be some chnages needed as we move along.

D&D 4E - First Playthrough Impressions

I was lucky enough to pick up a free copy (actually, THREE copies) of the Keep on the Shadowfell adventure while attending a conference last week, so our first play session used the pre-created characters provided in the adventure, and we went through the first encounter session last night.  We had three players, so we were slightly undermanned (the encounter is really designed for five players), but managed to make it through relatively unscathed.  We had the Dragonborn Paladin, the Halfling Rogue, and the Dwarf Fighter in the party, and the first battle was an interesting one to say the least.

A few impressions before we started playing, between first cracking open the books and starting the adventure:

  • The entire ruleset has been revised to support miniatures natively, almost exclusively.  There are no more references to feet or other distances - everything is termed in "squares".  While conceptually there's little different, it really does seem like more of a tabletop game (a la Warhammer 40k) in concept than a true fantasy RPG.
  • It's obvious that they've leveraged a lot of experience from CCGs into the D&D 4E rules.  Even weapons are considered "at-will" powers, and it's just another thing that detracts conceptually from the "true" RPG experience that many people might be expecting.
As we started playing through, a few additional things became somewhat clear:

  • The game is VERY combat-oriented now.  The focus is very strongly on offensive capabilities for most classes, and the ability to heal yourself during combat without using items or potions makes it very much a "munchkin" game.  Granted, these are the first adventures published, and as such it's not surprising that they're action-oriented.  Perhaps as additional rulebooks are published and more adventures become available (and at higher levels), we'll be able to see more variety.
  • I'm wondering about some of the at-will abilities.  Specifically, some of the Fighter and Paladin at-will abilities pose the question of why anyone would ever use a standard attack.  For example: Reaping Strike, a Fighter at-will ability, gives the standard attack bonus and the standard damage if hit, but on a miss still does damage equal to the character's STR bonus.  There's no reason to ever not use this power...and you'll always do at least 3 points of damage.  Seriously?  Guaranteed damage every round??  That just doesn't seem right at all.  At least the Paladin abilities mostly require the targets be "marked"...but still, seems a little overpowered for 1st level.
  • The adventure itself, or at least the initial encounter, was pretty well-balanced for our smaller-than designed group.  I think if we'd had a fourth or fifth player, that might not have been the case.  There was danger, there was damage on both sides, and overall it was an exciting experience.  There was a little getting used to some of the new rules, new abilities, and such, but that's to be expected.  Overall, it was pretty fun, a few minor nit-picks, but nothing that ruined the experience for us.

D&D 4th Edition - Initial Impressions

I finally got my hands on my set of Core Rulebooks for the new 4th Edition of Dungeons and Dragons...and while I hope to put together a more in-depth review, unfortunately I don't have any actively gaming friends right now.  The old group wandered off, and don't seem too interested in joining another game, though perhaps the new rules might entice them to at least try it out.  Maybe once I get some table-time under me, I'll be able to post a more in-depth review.

The first thing that strikes me is, quite simply, the vast number of changes in game mechanics and rules.  This is nothing like the switch from 2nd Edition to 3rd Edition.  This is like picking up an entirely new game entirely.  While there were definitely some major changes between 2E and 3E (most notably the noble death of THAC0), the core feel of the game was pretty consistent...wizards memorized spells, clerics were healers, etc.  Many of these core concepts are completely wiped away and re-imagined in the new 4E world.  I can't yet say whether these changes are "good" or "bad" - but they're definitely interesting.

A few of the more notable changes:

  • No more multi-classing.  One class, multiple development paths - there are now "phases" to a character's development, similar to Prestige Classes in 3E, but every character chooses a "Paragon Path" upon reaching L10, and then an Elite path upon reaching L20.  I have no doubt that there are going to be some minor revolts and house rules built around this - I kind of liked the idea of mult-classed characters...but the Paragon paths give a little bit of flexibility in the definitions of the classes, so perhaps they will fit that role as characters advance.
  • Feats and Spells have been somewhat replaced by "Powers" - each character class has a set of "Daily Powers" or "Encounter Powers" that they can use once per day, or once per encounter (respectively).  This includes what were previously automatic effects (such as Cleave or Great Cleave) as well as spells (Burning Hands, Bigby's Grasping Hand, etc).  Characters gain new powers as they move forward, and are given the ability to "replace" powers at each level, which makes character development a little bit less stringent, and allows players more ability to build the character they want, rather than be tied to previous choices.
  • "Checks" have replaced almost every dice roll that had previously been defined by any number of rules.  The rules for "Checks" apply across the board - to attack, save, and skill rolls equally.  The rules behind Checks are pretty simple: roll 1d20, add 1/2 your character's level (rounded down), then add any bonuses or subtract any penalties.  Compare that roll to the opposing roll, DC, or AC, and you've got your result.  I have to say, I'm intrigued by this particular dynamic - it's nice that as characters advance, all of their abilities increase accordingly.
  • Overall Feel - They've replaced the Forgotten Realms as the core "world" for the books, and instead describe things much more generically, allowing for a lot more flexibility in a DM's implementation of the rules.  And, having not ever really been a real in-depth fan of FR, I have to say for the most part I like it.  However, it also leaves a lot of room for questions from DMs new to the system.  I'm not yet sure which way this one cuts.

Overall, I think it's a really interesting revision to the system - and I think it's about time that D&D cut ties with some of the less-fun and more time-intensive rules.  They've made some huge strides toward streamlining the experience...but as the system becomes more basic, it also seems to lean more toward a video-game type approach, rather than a table-top RPG approach.  It definitely reintroduces the game to a new audience - and if nothing else, that's definitely a good thing!

Hopefully I'll get some table-time sometime soon, and we'll see how things turn out.

Next-Gen Gaming, Here I Am!

So...finally got my X-Box 360, as a "paid off my credit debt" present to myself.  And, of course, I couldn't just get the machine for the four games I already had.  Noooooo!  I had to get Guitar Hero 3 (with the wireless guitar) and Rock Band as well.  Plus three more games.  So that puts me up to the following list of options:

Soon enough, I'll be posting some initial reactions and more detailed reviews of some (if not all) of these games.  But for now I'm just psyched to finally have my next-gen console!

What I'm Playing - World in Conflict

The basic premise of World in Conflict is more than enough to make you sit up and take notice.  And, once you start playing, the gameplay and storyline will keep you engaged and interested for the length of the campaign.  The year is 1989, and instead of the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Union decides to make a bold, final move to maintain its status as a superpower.  The attack on the mainland begins in Seattle, and I have to say it was a lot of fun watching the virtual demolition of the Kingdome, as well as seeing how much of a mess the I-90 interchange used to be.  Well, for those of you not living in Seattle, I mean to say that it's very impressive how realistic and detail-oriented the maps are.

Another in the latest move away from true RTS gaming and into RTT (Real-Time Tactics), World in Conflict is quick and easy to learn, but tactically incredibly complex.  Weather, terrain, and types of units all mesh to create a very complex, deep war-gaming experience.  If you've ever wanted to control ground units, Humvees, tanks, artillery, and helicopters all at once, this is the game for you.  Plus, you get to see what is perhaps the best rendering of nuclear weapons yet to be seen in all of gaming.  When you see the flash that takes up your screen, followed by the shockwave rendering outward from the center, you'll know what I'm talking about.  Also, there is a great point in the campaign where you're playing in an irradiated area, and your screen is gray, choppy, and radio communications are spotty at best...the realism factor here is extremely high.

However, this game isn't solely great because of the unit control, or even the units that you you rack up your kills, you score points with which you can "buy" tactical strikes, ranging from napalm to tank busters to the aforementioned nuclear strike.  These tactical options really do make or break you in the middle of a tough battle.  The importance of being able to wipe out a battalion of tanks before they can rain metal death on your infantry can't be understated.

And, of course, there's the story.  For many war games, the story seems really to be tacked together, giving you excuses to start up disconnected skirmish after disconnected skirmish.  The story starts off slow, but as it jumps between "present-day" and the few months leading up to the Soviet invasion, the characters become very, very well-defined.  In fact, there are many "wow" points in the storyline that pull you in deeper and deeper.

In a previous review, I said that Warhammer 40k was my second-favorite RTS game ever - World in Conflict is far and above that, and definitively sits in the #1 spot on my shelf.
I know I'm a bit late on this one, but I've been playing other games, and never quite got around to picking up Warhammer - I never was a fan of the tabletop game, aside from their very, very cool character designs.  So I know just barely enough about the factions to understand the basic setup.  I have to say, from the time I installed this puppy, I've been kicking myself for not getting it sooner.  This is, by far, the best RTS game that I've played in recent years (okay, SECOND best only to World in Conflict).  Relic really knew what they were doing when they put this game together.

The first thing that they did right was to do away with resource gathering...yes, I know, that technically makes this more of a RTT (Real-Time Tactics) than RTS game, but the resulting efficiencies in gameplay are huge.  I've only just started playing, but even early in the campaign, it's by far the second best RTS game I've ever played.  The units are very nicely animated, varied in their capabilities, powers, and effectiveness, and overall creative from the word go.  Use of each unit and their upgradeable abilities is essential to success in each campaign mission.

I will say, however, that this isn't really a "pick it up and play" type of game - in fact, the tutorial alone is a good 20-30 minute run-through, and most of the campaign missions can easily take an hour or more to complete.  But, if you're willing to invest the time to dive into the details of the game, it's definitely worth the effort!

What I'm Playing - The Witcher

Prior to playing The Witcher, I really knew little to nothing about the source material from which the folks at CD Projekt made this great game from, and now I'm curious enough to track down the English translations of Andrzej Sapkowski's written works.  Combine a great story, great characters, and a beautiful game engine (CD Projekt makes incredible use of the Aurora engine from Bioware), and you have by far one of the best role-playing games released in recent years. 

The basic story is one of self-discovery, as you take on the lead role of Geralt of Rivia, a "Witcher" - hunter of monsters and demons of all shapes, sizes, and races.  You begin the game having somehow returned from being presumed dead, and as you explore the plot, you find old friends who inform you as to who you were, as well as guide you toward who you will be.  There are real choices to be made during the course of the game, and you get to delve into the true definitions of the word "monster" in a world that responds to your moral and ethical choices along the way.  Sides will be chosen, battles will be fought, and in the end you will be a deciding factor in the future of the realm.

The game mechanics take a tad of getting used to, particularly the combat model.  It's somewhere between a "click and hold" and your typical "click until dead" game - you initiate an attack on an opponent by clicking, then you have the ability to perform combo moves as the fight progresses, based on the timing of your clicks in response to changes in the cursor.  The engine is also flexible, allowing you to play from an isometric or 3rd-person view as you wander the countryside and save the world.  There's also a very basic magic system (Geralt has five spells that grow in strength according to your choices as he levels), as well as a very broad "alchemy" system.  In fact, mastering the alchemy system is both fun and necessary, as your stock of potions can often be the deciding factor between success or failure, particularly during the more difficult battles.  And, to make matters slightly more interesting, each potion "poisons" Geralt to some extent, so you can't simply haphazardly down every potion in your sack.

Finally, the game DEFINITELY earns its "M" rating - from the language to the overt sex scenes (both of which can be "enhanced" by patching the censored U.S. version), and of course, the blood.  This is most definitely not a game for kids, but it is quite simply a work of gaming art for adult fans of the role-playing game genre.