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Tycho / on Fri, Jun 21 2002 at 7:23 am

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Summon Monster I

I am of the opinion that Neverwinter Nights is something of a big deal, so if you don’t want to read about Neverwinter Nights, you’re going to have to go somewhere else.  We do have a new strip as well, but it’s also about Neverwinter Nights, if only tangentially.

It’s real, real good.  The game, I mean.

Frequent readers of the main page might have seen Batjew’s comments after my own on Wednesday, implying that he would make us suffer somehow.  The reality is that he and I played it until far too late last night, and we were having such a good time that I feel I can forgive him for naming his elven warrior Mama Cass, which is not only out of canon but also an anachronism.  I only stopped playing because I hadn’t blinked for probably three hours, and - as it turns out - your eyes become covered with a delicious film, reminiscent of pudding.

Playing Dungeons and Dragons games on the computer sort of compounds the dorkiness, compressing it, and shaping it into a monument that gets beaten up at lunch.  I’m not going to give shit away, because I don’t want to wreck it for anybody, but I almost started clapping when I saw some of my favorite monsters make an appearance.  I mean, that’s pretty fucking sad, and I knew it was sad then.  The rational Tycho was watching me play over my shoulder, his arms were folded and his lips were pursed.   

It’s kind of funny, I’ve been playing D&D 3rd Edition since it came out, and I clearly did not understand the way combat works.  There are a couple slight alterations - not the least of which being you play it in real time - but to actually see feats like Cleave and concepts like Attack of Opportunity play out illustrates them infinitely better than my actual play.  Just to make some sense of this, Cleave allows you to strike another opponent immediately after you put one down.  Attacks of Opportunity are taken any time a laundry list of designated events occur - someone runs into your attack range, out of your attack range, tries to cast a spell, tries to bake a pie - but in actual play, that isn’t always modeled properly.  There’s a lot of fudging that just inexorably takes place when you’re playing a game to have fun, and the guy who is running the game doesn’t always have clock cycles to invest in rule-mongering.  Just between the two things I described, crafty minds are already making some interesting connections.  Let’s say my monk is beset by three gibbering goblins.  Two engage me in melee combat, which is inadvisable, and it’s behaviour like this that makes goblins so difficult to insure.  The last one runs up late, after combat has already started - he enters the area I can attack, and due to poor nutrition and a series of bad life choices he is slain in one blow.  Now my Cleave comes in to effect, which is almost assured to take out another one, all because one of them got there late.  Spread out rule interactions like this across an entire party of characters, and it’s easy to see how a man might get a wild look in his eye.           

Something else I never really understood was the idea of Summon spells, inspiring today’s badgerian antics.  The first character I made - now discarded, like all my first characters - ended up a Priest, and priests can ask God to send them a monster every once in a while, if he’s not too busy.  Now, in the pen and paper game, yeah - sure.  You summon something like that, often something hideous, and then he helps you kick ass, but it’s typically for a very specific purpose.  I never realized what a bizarre non-sequitur it is to wave your hands and have an grim-looking, surly badger appear.  And he’s not just there when you’re in a fight, oh hell no.  He snorts and capers around after you, in that strange way extra-planar badgers do, whether you’re in a pitched melee or just shopping at the store.  And he’s there for a really long time.  In a tabletop game, again, you might forget to model that duration, or imagine that no matter what you’re doing, a badger with ADD is going to snuffle everything in the room.  You can send him away, but I wouldn’t if I were you.  For who can know what offends a badger from betwixt worlds?     

The game is true to its 3E roots where it matters, does things the way they need to be done in other cases, and is about as good as we could hope it to be.  It even illuminates the original game in ways I didn’t expect.  It’s also hard as hell to find, and on behalf of Me I’d like to congratulate BioWare on that Feat, which is not described in the source material.   

I suppose the other thing this comic reveals is that we are in on a certain beta.  Please don’t ask me questions about it, because I can’t answer them - my NDA has clear admonishments against the use of words like “excellent,” “tense,” or “gripping.”       

With any luck whatsoever, we should be seeing Minority Report tonight.  I’m one of these people who feels like they need a little science fiction in their action movies, to, you know, make them all thinky.  I’m also a Philip K. Dick man just in general.  I thought Minority Report was a hell of a story, but it weren’t very long as I recall - if you’ve seen the short story behind the movie A.I., though, you know that never stopped anybody.   

(CW)TB out.

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