Sunday, November 15, 2009

Happy Blogaversary To Me!

Two years ago, today, I started this blog. Year two of the blog didn't go as well as the first. My productivity dropped off precipitously. And, I'd argue, my quality, too. But, I don't feel too bad about it because Year Two of my life since I began this journey has been anything but a waste. And, really, that's the point of it all.

To evolve is to grow. To expand. To get better. Step by step. Day by day. Incremental changes away from what was and towards what one may be.

This is how we do. This is the point. No goal, no destination, only the journey. Only a point of reference, a midpoint between two states. A signpost separating future from the past.

That is the process to which I dedicated myself. A credo I never bothered to set out for myself, all those many days and months ago. Because I'm not where I'd like to be. But I've come a long way since then.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

NaNo: Once More Unto the Breach

It's midnight. I have to be up in eight hours. I'm three or four thousand words behind. And I have no idea where to go next with my plot.

But I can't sleep because I've got this scene in my head that I've just got to write.

I'll figure out where to put it later but, for now, it's just burning to be told.

Hot damn, I love the NaNo.

Joe Must Go

Allowing Senator Lieberman to remain in the caucus if he were to step down from his committee chairs was a generous offer that he should have been glad to receive. That he would turn around to see if the Republicans could provide a better deal is unacceptable. He has played both sides against the middle for far too long, it's time for him to go.

Technical Difficulties

Whoops. Something went wrong with the posting to the future machine.

Fixed now?

Friday, November 7, 2008

NFL Blogging: I Am Not Ready For Some Football

With Dan “Two Points” Orlovsky hurt, the Lions are going to pin their hopes on the latest savior to take the snaps, Daunte Caulpepper.

You know, I'm glad this game is blacked out.

Wolverines Blogging: The Apostasy

Last weekend, for the first time in a long time, I didn't catch the Michigan game.

I've missed watching games before, here and there, because of work or school or chores or some other unfortunate drag on my time. But when I've had the chance, I've always managed to watch. And when I haven't, I've at least tried to steal a bit of time to hear a snippet or three on the radio or to check the scores online. I'd even just leave in on, in the background, as I went about something else.

Not last week, though, and I'm glad I didn't. Because last week's game against Purdue was the kind that rips out a fan's heart and stomps all over once it's on the ground. The Wolverines scored the most points of any game this season, going well over their near-to-last-in-the-nation's average of 24. But they also managed to give up the most points of any given game as well. And since they've been thrashed by Illinois and Penn State for five or six scores each, that's saying something.

Last week's game was a shoot-out and when the team's lone returning strength was supposed to be its defense, that's disappointing. When the team they struggled and failed to outscore was Purdue, that's crushing. Nothing against the Boilermakers, of course, but they're embroiled in their own season of woe and swallowing their own biter tears.

Michigan lost that game, lost a chance for a winning season, lost any hope of a bowl bid, and, more than that, they've lost any of the mystique they used to have. Michigan is no longer Michigan, they're now just another team with funny looking helmets.

This week's game is against Minnesota and if the Wolverines can't beat Purdue, I don't even know what's going to happen since the Gophers are, you know, kinda good. And what does Michigan have left to play for? Pride? If they had that then they would have played harder all season long. No, I predict this game is going to turn ugly, especially if UofM gets behind fast.

I couldn't watch last week. I won't this one, either. Not because I don't care. But because I'm afraid of what I might see.

RDK: Ghilbert – He Really Hates Debuffs (Zealot #4)

Name: Brother Ghilbert
Title: The Witch-finder
Set: RDK
Group: Zealots
Role: Anti-debuff Scrapper
Health: 70
Resistance: 2/2/4
Innate: When Gilbert attacks he has a 30% chance to knock off each buff that his foe has.
Bar (v6):

  1. Cleansing Blow. 20En, 2spd, 25dmg, Phys. 90Hit, 100Proc. You rid yourself of impurities with this swift strike, losing one debuff as you hit. Close.
  2. Righteous Strikes. 40En, 7spd, 7x5(35)dmg, Light. 95Hit, 100proc. If you are debuffed, you strike with furious anger and a greatly increased chance to lay your vengeance upon your foe with a critical hit (50crit). Close.
  3. Vortex Canon. 70En, 5spd, 10x5(50)dmg, Dark. 90Hit, 100proc. Your strange and possibly heretical device creates an immense vortex, sucking your foe towards you as the range is set to Close. Far.
  4. Prayer of Purification. 40En, 3spd, Light. You refresh your mind, body, and soul as you lose all buffs and debuffs. You are healed for 10 for each debuff lost. Both.
Summary: Foul users of dark magic fear dread Ghilbert. He stalks them, hounding them to their graves, having learned how to turn their powers to his advantage. Armed with a swift sword and the awful devices harvested from his prey, those he brands as witches will find they'll never get away.
  • Debuffs.
  • Range Changing Attack.
  • Low Accuracy
Backstory: Ghilbert was an ordinary man who lived in an ordinary world. A clerk, he managed the accounts for a small company in a pleasant town in the south of France where he lived with his young wife. In their happy home they kept a wonderfully average life. Each day, Ghilbert would rise and kiss his wife and stroll down to the office. Each night he would return to a warm cup of coffee and a comfortable evening with his wife. The stable, boring routine of a content man. Then, one dark day, Ghilbert walked home in a driving rainstorm, cursing himself for having forgotten his umbrella and the weather reports for failing to mention that he'd need one. He saw the smoke as he rounded the corner and his cheerful home burning to the ground. He raced into the fire, desperate to find his wife. He screamed his voice raw, his eyes burning from the smokes, as he searched from room to room. He found her, what was left of her, in a pile by the back door. Gagged as he turned her over and discovered the jagged claws marks streaking up and down her once beautiful form. Blind panic or perhaps some hidden instinct saved him then as he lurched back. A horrible claw flashed by his face and splintered the wall behind him. Half-blinded by the smoke, blistered from the flames, mad with grief, he fought back as the house burned around him. Wrestling with the indistinct blur and its lethal claws, unable to see and even less able to comprehend. He tackled it to the ground and lashed at it with his fist. Finally, the house, desicated by the fire, began to crumble. The shadowy form fled as a burning timber crashed down between them. Ghilbert struggled to chase it as it ran out of the house. He paused, outside, as it faded into the gloomy night. And turned, in horror, as the house collapsed behind him, sizzling in the rain. When the authorities came, they found him struggling to lift the debris, piece by piece, as he tried to unearth his wife. He told them his tale of a dark creature, with some horrific and barely glimpsed shape. When they doubted him, he told them to look at his wife and the marks it had scored up and down her sides. But the fire had charred her flesh, eliminating whatever evidence could be found and they patted him on the back and showed him where the coffee pot had tipped over and started the blaze. Ghilbert refused to believe them, refused to recant what he saw. He become obsessed with finding the monster that claimed his wife's life, scouring libraries and archives for a hint of what it might be. Training himself to fight, in case it ever returned. In time, he lost his job and his place in that pleasant town as he sank deeper into his relentless pursuit. He bought weapons and strange tomes of forgotten lore. Became an expert on monsters and all things supernatural. And, then, he began to hunt. He tracked down beast after beast and ended their miserable life but, somehow, he could never return with proof or locate the monster that had taken his wife. His travels took him far and wide, including to the mountain peaks that the Order called home. Ghilbert had come seeking entrance into their archives, for a glimpse at the volumes they had collected over the years but found, instead, kindred spirits. The Order took him in and made him a witch-finder, responsible for finding and hunting down the menaces they'd been sworn to destroy. Ghilbert, no longer an ordinary man, had found an extraordinary job and threw himself into his work with zeal. But he would never ceased searching, never stopped looking for the vile creature that had slaughtered his wife.
Appearance: Ghilbert looks like nothing so much as a gothic pilgrim because the inspiration here would be the witch-hunters from Warhammer or Vampire Hunter D. He wears old fashioned padded armor made out of leather, made to resemble gentlemanly wear. He's a tall man with an angular face. His face pale, haunted and gaunt, as if he'd missed out on the past few days sleep or been through a famine. A large, conical hate with a low, wide brim covers his head. Long streams of brown hair streams out of it and into the wind. The cape he wears loosely around his shoulders billows, too. Large silvery buckles hold straps that criss-cross his chest and his arm and his legs, strapping his armor down and holding up his tall, rubbery boots. In one hand he brandishes a rapier. A tall, thin, tapering blade. In the other is a strange gun, looking like a hand canon or a blunderbuss with its barrel etched with eldritch runes studded with incomprehensible bits of tubing and brass mechanics. It glows, faintly, with power, dark and foreboding. He points it out straight towards his opponent while he sweeps his rapier low and to the side.
  1. Cleansing Blow. A straight-line slash.
  2. Righteous Strikes. Multiple slashes.
  3. Vortex Canon. A swirling mass of darkness surrounds the opponent as both characters and the screen shake. Wind and debris roar past. Then the range is shifted as the vortex disappears.
  4. Prayer of Purification. Ghilbert glows with holy light, a slender circular band of light surrounds him, like a scan line, starting at his waist and then moves up and down, covering his whole body before disappearing.
Suggested Item: Magebane Powder

Ghilbert is a card who settled comfortably into a groove early on and has remained largely unchanged ever since, as you can probably tell from his low version number. Unlike many other cards, I haven't had to continually readjust him when I thought of something better. I've changed his name more than I've changed his bar and, even then, it's mostly been tweaking his values up and down in order to balance rather than completely revamping skills.

Basically a version of Bridgette that trades some defense for debuff hate and offensive power for a might range changing nuke, Ghilbert is, I think, a particularly nasty card tat's always worked rather well. His shtick is to be anti-debuff. The Zealots tend to counter-act debuffs but none of them do it better than Ghilbert.

He's my first conditional character, one whose abilities change depending on whether or not a certain condition has been met. It's an idea that I like, obviously, and I've gone on to use it to even greater effect than what's on display here but Ghilbert was really the first testbed for skills whose effects changed depending on what buffs or debuffs were in play. And those effects are to be incredibly tough on characters that try to slap debuffs on Ghilbert – you wouldn't want to be Voidstreaming or Poison Darting this card because it only makes him stronger. The general idea, then, is that Ghilbert is a character who hates debuffs. Not that he dislikes them but he includes counters to debuffs that make their use unwise. He closes off or at least makes it much more difficult to employ a strategy that revolves around debuffs.

His ability to hate debuffs into a nonviable strategy starts with Skill #2, Righteous Strikes. This is a powerful attack obviously modelled after Frenzied Strikes. It strikes initially for only 7x5 damage, a raw 35 that's 53 on a crit. With a 90% chance to hit that works out to an average damage of about 34, before anything else gets involved. But RS is a conditional skill and changes whenever Ghilbert has been debuffed. If he has a debuff, any debuff, then the critical hit rate of Righteous spikes up, going from the base 3% to an impressive 50%. That doesn't change the damage values at all but it does alter their average. So that, when debuffed, Ghilbert is incredibly more likely to crit and, thus, does about 43 damage on average with this skill. That's a somewhat impressive difference of 9 points but, more than that, it's an even more impressive change in the swingy-ness of the skill – it's ability to change a battle one way or the other.

With Skill #2, debuffing Ghilbert is dangerous. But with Skill #1, Cleansing Blow, he can take care of any dangerous debuffs before they can do him any lasting harm. Cleansing Blow removes a debuff if it hits, allowing Ghilbert to rid himself of something like Touch of Doom or Spirit Assistance before it can go into effect or just to get rid of miss debuffs or anything else he doesn't want. It hits nice and slow, too, so Ghilbert can always threaten to cancel out a debuff on the turn it's cast.

Skill #1, Cleansing Blow, though, is at cross purposes with Skill #2, Righteous Strikes. One needs debuffs to increase its damage while the other gets rid of those debuffs before they can hurt. So, Ghilbert players have to choose between letting those debuffs stick to get quicker kills or killing slower to lose those same debuffs.

Since Skill #1 removes only a single debuff at a time that might mean Ghilbert, the anti-debuff character, might get buried under a mound of debuffs. But Skill #3, Prayer of Purification, ensures that he won't. PoP, when cast, removes all debuffs from Ghilbert and then heals him for every debuff lost. That should make up for letting a Poison or some other DOT tick off for a few turns as well as helping to make debuffing Ghilbert a net plus for him – you might hurt him for a while but you're only helping him to increase his health. Because that's a potentially very powerful ability, I've included a bit of a drawback so PoP will remove any positive buffs along with those negative debuffs. Ghilbert can't use any buffs himself, so it's not that much of a hassle, but it does mean he can't be buffed up by an Ubuntu or an Elia and still free himself of any debuffs without pain.

The concept here, then, is that buffs and debuffs are a kind of magic and Ghilbert, as this fanatical hunter of witches and supernatural forces has learned how to deal with them. It's a theme that continues with his innate which gives him a moderate chance to remove buffs from his target when he attacks. He gets a chance to eliminate each one individually so he can take off a whole bunch at a time or he can take off none at all. Even so, it's a bit of a weak innate – something I don't mind since Ghilbert packs a powerful bar. But it's something that could come in very useful, if infrequently, depending on how widespread buffs are. And, with this set and others, I've been trying to make sure that buffs are both more useful and more common, so while it might not be a devastating innate or as powerful as some of the others I'll eventually display, it could come in handy and that's about all that I think Ghilbert needs.

The final skill on his bar has nothing to do with debuffs or even with buffs but, instead, is the skill that makes Ghilbert into such a deadly attacker. Skill #3, Vortex Canon is an expensive attack. At 70 energy, it can't be used twice in a row. But you couldn't, anyways, since it not only delivers a solid hit but it also sets the range to Close, where Ghilbert can continue to hack away with Skill #1&2. 70 energy is a deficit of 50 with the end of turn regeneration of 20 meaning, basically, Ghilbert still has to pay 50 to change the range, he just gets to do 50 damage for doing it. It's like what you'd have if Voss's Ray of Light was like Teleport, basically. A moderately damaging far ranged nuke that keeps a character in the range where efficient attacks can be used. It's a strong attack, then, that makes stepping away from Ghilbert more or less pointless. So, I've made it a multi-hit so that it winds up doing somewhat less damage than advertised. Still, against the average foe, it deals 40 damage and sets them up for a finishing #2, Righteous Strike or a #1, Cleansing Blow.

The combination should mean that opponents stay up Close because that's actually where Ghilbert is at his weakest. He'll need a few more turns to kill than he will if you let him get a Vortex off (Unless you've got a lot of Dark resistance, of course but that's just the way it goes.). Ghilbert might not have a lot of defense or even the healing potential of other Zealot cards but that shoudn't matter since he's such an effective killer.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

NaNo: Update the First

Just for the record, I've been plugging away at my novel. I should have more to post about it soon.

I haven't been able to log into the website in ages. Every time I try it's a horrendous slog as it struggles to connect to overloaded servers, I'm sure. So I gave up trying several days ago. I'd really only be there to keep in touch with my friends as we'd trade encouraging letters with one another, because it's not like I'd have anything to update.

Because, generally, out of the belief that it's somehow unlucky, I don't look at my word count. I even go so far as to disable the page count and to pick a random font size at the start of each day so I can't even guestimate based on the visual clues as to how far I've gotten. So I don't know exactly where I stand at the moment, but I have a feeling that I'm several thousand words behind. I've been taking my time, not worrying about trying to reach a daily word count and, instead, just trying to write well. Which is, for me, the goal this time around. I can pour out a lot of words but, now, I want to pour out some nice lines. It's a slow pace made even more slow by everything else that I have to get done.

But, I'm having fun with it. Not caring about a total or even quality, I can just sit down and type away for a few minutes or a few hours at a time. I don't think I'm writing particularly strong stuff, which is why no one will ever get to see what I have at the moment. But I think I'm getting better. More importantly, I think the process is making my other writing stronger. Faster and leaner as I fold in the lessons that I'm learning with my latest book.

I'm glad that I decided to make the effort this year since I almost didn't. As I suspected heading in, I don't have the time. As I feared, I really don't have any idea of what I'm doing. But, as I hoped, I'm having a blast going through the motions.

RDK: Bridgette, the Hidden Amazon (Zealot #2)

: Sister Bridgette
Title: The Shield Maiden
Set: RDK
Group: Zealots
Role: Close-only Scrapper
Health: 75
Resistance: 3/3/1
Innate: When she attacks Bridgette has a 50% chance to lose one debuff.
Bar (v15):
  1. Spear Thrust. 20en, 8spd, 24dmg, Phys. 90Hit. A quick thrust of your spear. Close.
  2. Ferocious Strike. 40en, 4spd, 42dmg, Dark. 90Hit, 75Proc. If this attack hits, you have a chance to enter a berserker's rage, gaining Pious Fervor for the next 4 turns (Pious Fervor: When you attack you deal an additional 12 light damage. If you are struck before you attack, however, you have an extra 75% chance to miss.). Close.
  3. Aegis Stance. 55en, 5spd, Light. 100Hit, 100Proc. For the next 2 turns, you have a 40% chance to reflect your foe's attacks. Cannot be recast while Aegis Stance is in effect. Both.
  4. Wispered Prayer. 0en, 3spd, Light. 100Hit, 100Proc. If you have remained on the field after the next 2 turns your faith is rewarded as you gain 25 health and 30 energy. Far.
Summary: Faith and fervor are what fuels Bridgette. A battle-nun in an Order full of warrior-priests, her reckless fury might be her undoing. When the dark rage is upon her, she attacks more powerfully but uncautiously, leaving herself open for counter-blows.
  • Physical Attacks
  • Debuffs
  • Close Range
  • Far Range
  • Dark Magic
  • Low Accuracy
Backstory: They found her as a child. A small, raven haired girl with gray eyes and pale skin, found by an expedition from the Order returning from an unsuccessful trek through the jungle in search of a rumored tribe of witches and mischief makers. She watched them from the trees, barely young enough to stand, but unafraid of the holy warriors bristling with weapons. When they came near, she stabbed one with a primitive spear and tried to run. When they caught her, the feral girl kicked and screamed and tried to bite them through their sanctified armor. Puzzled by their find, the holy men did the only thing they think of: they took her with them as they returned home. Taken to the Order's mountaintop monastery, the priests named her Bridgette for her power and strength. The Order took in many orphans so Bridgette was not alone even though the Order preferred to gather males for the fighters they could become. She grew up among the young men and boys training to become the next members of the Order's fighting forces. She trained alongside them, in secret when the priests wouldn't allow and alongside them when the priests finally relented. She learned to hold her own against the men who would give her no quarter. She learned to tame the dark rage that burned inside of her and channel it into becoming a warrior in her own rite. When she was grown, she was inducted into the Order's ranks of battle nuns. Hardened sisters and surrogate mothers to the Order's cadre, they were expected to tend to and nurture them even as they fought alongside them. Bridgette was never a warm woman or especially kind, so she struggled with her prayers and the womanly arts of bandaging and knitting. But when she was on the battlefield she was a ferocious fighter with boundless courage, whose swift spear and quick shield saved many of the Order's soldiers as she stood over them and protected them and gave them enough time to recover. Because it was in battle where she was truly at peace with herself. When the young girl known as Elia was found on the Order's doorsteps, Father Alcinder entrusted her safety to Bridgette. Charging her with guarding the young prophet and keeping her safe from all harms. Bridgette was reluctant, wanting to stay with the Order's army as they prepared to fight. But she came to see in Elia the innocent child that she had never allowed herself to be. The two formed a fast bound as Bridgette's heart began to thaw. When her young charge left the monestary and headed off to confront the undead hordes by herself, Bridgette had no choice but to follow. She'd sworn to defend the girl, after all, and she would even if that meant clearing the evil out of her way.
Appearance: Bridgette is a tall, commanding woman. A warrior, an equal of any other Zealot knight. She looks something like Helene's long-lost, evil sister. Her hair is long but a dark, raven black instead of a sunny blonde. Helene is crouching forward, about to strike, but Bridgette is rearing backwards as if shrugging off a blow from her opponent. Where Helene is screaming, there's a look of grim determination on Bridgette's face, like she's a professional about to go about doing her job. She's clad in armor but it's heavy, form concealing (Although, you know, not too much since this is Kongai, after all) plate mail that covers her from shoulder to toe. Wrapped around her shoulders is a blue cape, which swirls around her, flowing with her hair. In one hand she holds a large shield, perhaps a buckler with the Zealot's icon (a pointed cross) on it. In the other, she has a large spear with a heavy, pointed tip. She balances one end along the ground, bracing it as she lowers it towards her opponent.
  1. Spear Thrust. A straight-line thrust.
  2. Ferocious Strike. A dark colored slash arc.
  3. Aegis Stance. A transparent shield appears over Bridgette, flashes, and then fades away.
  4. Whispered Prayer. Bridgette glows with holy light.
Suggested Item: Crusader's Shield

Brigette has always been a troubled character. More than any other card in this set, she's gone through multiple drastic revisions and sweeping changes. She's just never worked. I'm not really sure why, though, since I think she's got a solid concept. She's a close-range scrapper with a way of getting around range difficulties. Throw in some defense and I think it's fairly well thought out. And I think the skills supporting that concept, the mechanics that she carries with her, are pretty solid, too. But, somehow, although all the elements are there she's just never come together. I blame the fourth skill problem.

Sometimes, when designing these cards, I get three great skills or an excellent pair with one that's just okay. But, then, I just stare and stare, metaphorically, at the blank slot that's left because I just can't figure out what should go there. I can't count the number of times that I've come up with something awful just to take up space and had to churn through a half dozen ideas before I found something that stuck. Or tally the amount of work I've made for myself by trying to turn the subpar skill on that fourth line into something that actually shines. The 4th skill, then, is often the hardest to come up with and the one that results in the most frustration by far. The reason, I think, is one of averages. It's hard to come up with four skills that are completely equal, even when they're useful at different ranges and in different ways. If you undershoot that mark then you've got a poor skill that's weak. But if you overshoot that mark you wind up with a skill that's better than average. And that powerful skill drags the level of the bar up and sets a new benchmark for the other skills, tending to pull them upwards. And there's always one skill that can't or won't come along and, therefore, winds up feeling vestigial.

The fourth skill here is actually the third one, Aegis Stance. The latest version is a recent change and I'm not sure if I like it or not. The idea is that Bridgette is the Shield Maiden so she should have some kind of defensive abilities. Skill #3 is her big way, then, of avoiding damage. It gives her a significant chance to avoid a hit, preserving her health, but it also plays into her offensive nature by harming her opponent at the same time. It's potentially very useful since it lasts a few turns and gives her a good chance to bounce back at least one attack. That might also influence Bridgette's foes, causing them to be more or less likely to risk their big attacks depending on how much they like to go for broke. But because I don't want to give her an insta-reflect (Which she had once but, then, I figured it was just too powerful) it might also be completely random. I figure there's roughly a two-thirds chance that something gets sent back at its attacker over those two turns which shouldn't be too bad. But if it's not something that Bridgette can rely on then it's just an expensive paperweight sitting on her bar.

That skill slot, I feel, holds this character back. I'm also not sure about her inate which plays into the Zealot idea of debuff hate but does so in a way that might be leagues ahead of Juju's similar debuff removing innate. But that's an automatic process while Bridgette has to attack. And because she's a single-ranged character that might not be as easy as it sounds. Still, you'd have to rate her 50% chance to remove a troublesome debuff as somewhat better than the 30% that Juju gets. I can live with that though since, one, Juju is not a particularly good card so I wouldn't hold him up as a role-model for aspiring characters, and, second, that Zealot theme of debuff removal is a strong one and it influences the design here.

Beyond that, though, Bridgette is a great card. If you could somehow mask out Aegis Stance and her innate then what she does is awe inspiring. That's because the dirty little secret about Bridgette is that she's not really a Zealot card but, instead, an Amazon (With, perhaps, some Zealot trappings), something I not-so-slyly alude to in her background tale. The Amazons, though, those green bordered cards are characters with powerful, straight-forward attacks and clear-cut effects that tend towards one range or the other. And with Bridgette, I was trying for a card that could easily stand alongside such representatives as Ashi and Helene. Sort of a lost Amazon, the 6th card from their group.

It starts with a simplified attack routine. Bridgette has it boiled down to the absolute essentials. She's got one attack that's slow and powerful, her nuke. And, then, she's got another that's cheap and quick, her staple. That's, really, all that a character needs to be a credible attacker. As long as they can alternate between chipping and blasting away, they should be able to finish anyone off.

The staple attack here is Skill #1, Spear Thrust. There's absolutely nothing to this attack other than it being fast. It's vanilla, no special flavorings added but still real tasty. Spear Thrust isn't just fast, it's cheap, too. A 20 energy skill that Bridgette can almost always use. And one that does a decent amount of damage so she can use it to pound away at a stubborns foe.

The speed of Spear Thrust is a nice quality to have, though, thanks to the buff procced by Skill #2, Ferocious Strike. Bridgette's nuke, it delivers a massive blast of 40-odd damage with a reasonable price tag and a nice proc. It will almost always give a player the buff Pious Fervor which lets Bridgette increase her damage by 12. This is typed damage, light, and rather than being added on to her attack it strikes in addition to her attack, so there's a double hit of resistance. But since there are few characters with multiple high resistance, it's nearly certain to add some extra pain. Because that's a pretty good jump, there's also a drawback to this buff – it makes Bridgette incredibly likely to miss if she's attacked first. She loses 75% off her chance to hit if her opponent can smack her first, giving her a base of 15%. Her attacks might connect but isn't going to most of the time. But that's alright because while the 4 speed Ferocious Strike might become too easily interrupted that's exactly what I want. And Bridgette won't even notice since she has the 8 speed Spear Thrust, which gets even more of a percentile boost to its damage and that only the quickest of attacks will be able to knock off stride.

The idea is that the increased damage from the Fervor buff adds enough damage to Spear Thrust to turn it from a three-turn finisher to a two-hit kill. The combination would deal 78 raw damage, which is deadly to the average character (More than enough, really, to get a kill but, keep in mind, you get tagged by resistance thrice during those two hits so the extra damage helps the attack to absorb those blows while still remainig lethal.). Even two hits from Spear Thrust alone, checking in a 36 a piece, are enough to be lethal alone and with a 4 turn duration, there's enough time to get those hits even if an opponent switches out. At the same time, the idea is that I don't want Bridgette chaining too many Ferocious Strikes together in a row. It's borderline fair, especially for a single-ranged character, but it's still very aggressively priced, so to speak. But with the buff up then Spear Thrust starts to look amazingly good while Ferocious Strike becomes a pretty bad risk. The Pious Fervor buff not only gives an incentive to use the weaker Spear Thrust but it also penalizes the continued use of Ferocious Strike.

Furthermore, the idea is that Ferocious Strike is a big, scary skill. An attack that opponents take one look at and then decide to get the heck out of that range. I want, in so many words, for opponents to push Bridgette back because that's when Skill #4, Whispered Prayer becomes relevant. And I really like Whispered Prayer. It's one of my early attempts at coming up with a way of defeating the range changing game that didn't involve simply piling on with skills that automatically changed range.

Giving a single-ranged character something to do while at their off-range is a tested idea. But it's one that, often, doesn't work. Helene, for example, has her Enchant Blades which she can use on the turn she's out of range to buff up for when she gets in reach. Its extra damage theoretically offsets the turn spent not attacking. But the problem is that, in practice, it doesn't really help since the range game is played between yellow bars. Getting in range is about getting to attack but getting there is about having energy. And even 0 energy skills can keep a character from having enough energy with which to attack. Enchant costs Helene nothing to cast but, because it counts as using a skill, it costs her 20 energy since she can't rest. If she's in the middle of a lengthy push-pull cycle that +20 energy is the difference between getting close enough for a blast or remaining stuck with nothing to do. An off-range skill that costs 0 energy should be a trade-off between doing something now and doing nothing in the hopes of doing something in the future, but too often is a choice between doing nothing in order to do nothing down the line again. Even if those low energy skills were powerful enough to be worthwhile, they wouldn't be worth the effort since they cost more in terms of being able to attack than they add in terms of impact when you do – the 0 and 10 energy skills don't tend to be all that strong, after all.

With Whispered Prayer, though, Bridgette sacrifices the energy she'd gain by resting to, instead, kick it down the line. It's, effectively, a delayed rest. Bridgette will eventually gain that energy she would have gotten by resting, it will just take her a few turns. And when it arrives, it'll come with a return on that investment in the form of even more energy and some healing on the side. With some luck and planning you can time it so that the energy arrives just as you're getting into range or when you've run out of energy to press your attack.

The result should be that Bridgette is a hard character to range against. You can try and step away and you can try to play keep away but she's going to come out ahead on energy before long. And the healing she'll gain means you have to do an awful lot of damage to her in order to offset the damage. Bridgette then, thanks to Skill #2, becomes a characer you want to push away but, because of Skill #4, becomes a character than you don't dare to shove back.

I'm not quite sure where the point at which Whispered Prayer is fair, though. How many turns it should last. How much healing it should provide. I think the energy amount on display here is about right – that 30 energy is enough with the rest from the end of the turn to give her 50 and that's enough to press the range issue. It might be enough, it might not be enough, but it's hard to say without seeing how it actually plays. I have worked to cut out some potential abuses, though, which is why the effect ends if Bridgette is switched away. That means she has to remain on the field to get the bonus energy and health. And that clever players can push her Far when she gets hurt, spend a turn buffing up, and then whisk her away so that her timer ticks off and she heals for a massive amount while she's safely in the hand. She has to stay in the fight, she has to continue to play tug of war with the range, if she wants to benefit from Whispered Prayer.

But Bridgette is, I think, a character well suited to stay in and even win the fight. I have my questions about how the ideas have been implemented and if the skills here would actually work but I know the concept is right. Because the concept is that Bridgette is a card who makes it hard to get away from what she does best – and what she does best is smack her opponents until they stop moving. I'm troubled not because she's a bad card but because I don't think I've done my best to make her live up to the amazing promise that she holds yet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

RDK: Burned to Alcinder (Zealot #1)

Name: Father Alcinder
Title: The Hierophant
Set: RDK
Group: Zealots
Role: Dual-Range Scrapper
Health: 80
Resistance: 0/5/4
Innate: When Alcinder attacks, he has a 60% chance to heal himself for 5.
Bar (v14):
  1. Smiting Blow. 25En, 5spd, 12x2(24)dmg, Light. 95Hit, 100Proc. You strike down upon your foe with righteous fury, adding their Dark resistance to your attack as bonus damage. Close.
  2. Flame Strike. 60En, 4spd, 50dmg, Phys. 90Hit, 60Proc. Gouts of flame strike your foe, having a good chance to Burn, dealing 3 damage for 4 turns (12 DOT). Far.
  3. Healing Prayer. 40En, 1spd, Light. 100Hit, 100Proc. Each of your teammates is healed for 10. Both.
  4. Word of Excoriation. 30En, 3spd, Light. 100Hit, 100Proc. Your foe Burns, taking 20 damage. This skill transfers one debuff and its remaining duration to your foe. Both.
Summary: With Alcinder around, evil trembles. Sworn to root out foul heresy and magics, the leader of the Zealous Order is as strong as any of his knights, with battle-hardened strength paired with the wisdom of years. Alcinder hunts evil and, when he finds it, evil burns.
  • Removes Debuffs
  • Heals
  • Flexibly Ranged
  • Physical Attacks
Backstory: The leader of the Zealous Order, Alcinder climbed through the ranks of the Warrior-Priests. A born fighter, a man of boundless strength and iron will, he strove tirelessly to advance the Order's grand design. And when it came time for the Hierophant to pass on his secrets and his title to the next, there was no better choice. Alcinder set aside his armor and his weapons and continued to work relentlessly, inducting new members to the faith, overseeing an ever-expanding army, and ushering them to worship and leading them in prayer. Like the many Hierophants before him, his most important task was the study of the ancient and sacred manuscripts handed down through the centuries and kept safe within the Order's vaults. Containing volumes of Medeval prophesy, they told of the return of terrible evils and how the knights of the Zealous Order would stand against them. When a young girl, an orphan stray, her clothes tattered and worn, her speech crazed and delirious, was found collapsed outside the monastery's doors, Alcinder knew. The time of prophesy was at hand. The fate of the world hung in the balance. The Lich-King had returned. And, now, his fate was to lead the Order to their destiny against the legions of the unliving. Alcinder knew well the power of prayer but these times called for strength of arms. So, once more Alcinder donned the holy armor and sacred weapons of the Zealous Knights Templar. No longer a young and strapping but with strength tempered by knowledge and experience, the man known as Alcinder strode out for what would surely be his final war.
Appearance: Ever play Ogre Battle? There was a Tarot card in that game named the Hierophant, it featured a bearded priest in an ornate white robe and miter, stretching out his hands with a large staff as a halo of spiritual energy forms behind him (Here's a pic. It's the one that put opponent's to sleep. I came THIS close to giving Alcinder a stun because of that...). That's, basically, what I want Alcinder to look like. I picture him as an elderly man with a big, bushy salt and pepper beard. He's a large, robust man, like a blacksmith. Large, burly, muscular arms but an expansive stomach that's spread out over the years. His face is weather-beaten and time-worn, ground down by the passage of years and its presence at one too many a battlefield. Alcinder is an old warrior, the kind who's grown old because he's so damned good at fighting. He wears armor not unlike what Bridgette and Louis are clad in but it's covered under some ornate, priestly robes – we're talking steel plated boots and mailed gauntlets peaking out here. His garb, his armor, is gilded and decorated with swoopy, swirling, golden leaf – the kind of outfit that lets you know right away both how important and powerful he is. In his hands he's holding a long, double-handed mace with a broad, lengthy head that's also golden. Maybe he's standing to the side, slapping that mace-staff into his hands like a batter stepping up to the plate, looking grizzled and bad-ass. Maybe he's turned towards the viewer, his arms spread wide like in the aforementioned Ogre Battle or kind of like Le Morte.
  1. Smiting Blow. An arc travelling downwards, ending in a solid hit.
  2. Flame Strike. A pillar of flame shoots up from the ground at the opponent's feet and engulfs them before fading away.
  3. Healing Prayer. A breeze of wind moves across the field, teammates in hand glow green.
  4. Word of Excoriation. Flames cover the opponent as Alcinder glows.
Suggested Item: Sacred Text

Alcinder is an early attempt to make a flex-range character. Something I played around a lot with in the Gangsters and a task where I've obviously learned a few lessons since. Actually, under my self-derived nomenclature system, he'd be more of a dual-range character since he flips from being a efficient pound-away Scrapper to a Far-range nuke 'em til they stop moving Burner. It's not as huge a shift as some other cards but it's there. Still, Alcinder typifies the Zealot shift to a line that has a lot of range flexibility. He's definitely come a long way from his initial conception as a kind of light magic Juju, though.

You can still see the vestiges of that origin point, though, in a resistance matrix that's just reversed the Light and Dark values and also in his innate. With it, Alcinder has a significant chance to heal whenever he attacks. It's currently in a slight but low variance state where there shouldn't be much in the way of wacky swings, it's 60proc for 5 which works out to an average of +3 a turn. That's a lot of healing, especially if you get multiple procs in a row but it's not quite as extreme as it would be if it was, say, 30p for 10, where you'd get runs of +20~30HP and then, runs of nothing at all. I've said it before but I like innates that actually turn up in relevant gameplay states rather than ones that have only an outside chance to proc and such reductions in the swing factor are a big reason why. +3HP/turn gives Alcinder a built-in Herbal Remedy (So long as he attacks, he doesn't heal when he's resting or intercepting or, really, doing anything but blasting away.) which is, when you get down to it, a lot of healing. Not as much as I'm prepared to hand out, as we'll see, but I've toyed with strengthening it. Perhaps by allowing Alcinder to heal both himself and a random teammate when it procs to play into the idea of a helpful healer. Since he can slot a Salve or another item and push that even further, though, I felt it's pretty strong already laid on top of what amounts to a solid bar.

Alcinder, after all, is a 3/3 card, with a variety of skills to use at either range. He's got two useful dual-ranged skills and a pair of strong attacks restricted to opposing ranges. That gives him a lot of flexibility and more than a few tools to work with. Alcinder is about having a lot of options at his fingertips, ready to deal with different situations.

I think it's a good fit, though, because Alcinder was not just conceived as the “good” Juju (In oh so many ways) but as a Cleric. A healer as well as a fighter and giving him some ways to make green numbers goes along with that. Skill #3, Healing Prayers is right along those lines, giving Alcinder a powerful healing spell – that's up to +30HP in 3-Card and +50 HP in 5 – since it's not a “hits all” it's a “heals all”. At the same time, it's not all that dangerous to hand to a character who can already heal, I feel, because it doesn't have much in the way of raw healing power for a single character. +10HP isn't going to blunt a lot of attacks and it's expensive enough that it can't be kept up for long. But I added several devastating hits all skills in this set as it went along, so Healing Prayers exists as a counter-measure of sorts. A pressure relief valve that can help to combat a lot of deck destruction plans.

That's been a part of his bar for a while now but, still, I struggled with Alcinder for a long while, feeling that he'd never really come together. That he was a top-down character that had a good concept but lacked defining features. It all gelled, however, when I added Skill #4, Word of Excoriation (Or, yes, WoE). Before this current variation it was, at one point, more than a skill that transferred debuffs, shifting their target from Alcinder to his foe. It was in keeping with the Zealot's anti-debuff theme, heck, it inspired the Zealot's anti-debuff theme and the idea was that if Juju had an innate that dealt with debuffs and a skill that healed, then, Alcinder would have a skill that dealt with debuffs and it would be his innate that healed. Like I said, these are some early ideas.

But it all changed when I decided that rather than just shifting debuffs, WoE should be dealing damage, too. I actually thought of this current variation that delivers a blast of armor ignoring damage through Burning before I ever heard of the Curse of Juju that does something similar with Bleeding. WoE is better than CuJu, though, since it deals that damage up front. And it can still shift those buffs. It gives Alcinder a reliable, cheap attack that he can use. A good follow-up to his brutal nuke or an alternative to his staple when he's run up against a foe with a lot of resistance (Well, a lot of the wrong resistance, as we'll see). It also fits into the theme of holy flames that inspired Alcinder's very name – it's Burn Baby Burn when he's around, after all.

Best of all, though, since WoE isn't technically an attack, it doesn't trigger Alcinder's innate, helping to limit the potential imbalance of a powerful healing effect.

With that skill in place, working with Alcinder has largely been about fiddling with his two attacks and making sure they're working as advertised. As I explained earlier, he's got two, one for each range.

Up Close, he's got Smiting Blow, a limited multi-hit with a nasty twist. It's got a version of Voss's innate, allowing it to add Dark resistance to that damage. As a multi-hit, that resistance is multi-plied and that can add up to a big hit against an “evil” foe. The Marquis, for example, takes 22x2 or 44 damage in a single blast from a skill that costs only 25 energy (And, sure, he either Vamp Touches or L-Drains but that's, at best -20 to that damage and the next round you can pound him right back into the ground again. You'd wind up taking a lot of damage, especially against Vamp Touch, but not enough to die and that's where that innate really come in handy.). It's a cheap, effective attack, then, that can be repeated ad nauseum as needed.

From Far, though, Alcinder has to rely on the weaker Skill #4, WoE, or Skill #2, Flame Strike, a massive nuke. It's a double shot friendly 60 energy – you can't step into it but if your opponent steps away you can fire once and then again, if it doesn't hit. Even if your opponent switches, someone's going to burn. And Burn they will, thanks to the healthy proc rate here. Flame Strike not only deals a scary 50 damage against a generally weak resistance type but it has, effectively, a 55% chance to Burn for a bit more as well. It's set just low enough that you can't one-hit even the weakest of foes (A 55HP character with 0Phys takes 50 raw damage and then burns for 12 more on a proc. But on that critical first turn, they take only 54, just enough to survive for one more turn.) but that DOT can polish several off, in subsequent turns.

As a result, Alcinder can pound away when Close and nuke away when pushed far. He can heal himself, he can heal his team. He can cut through resistance. And he can cleanse himself of debuffs. I worry that his damage has been set a little too high but I mostly find it's in acceptable limits – I also think that Alcinder's been a weak card for most of his existence so I'm happy to see him be a real strong presence. And, at the moment, I think he's shaping up to be pretty strong. A flexible character with a variety of strong moves, that should be a card that can't really go wrong.