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.
Saturday, November 8, 2008
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.
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.
Friday, November 7, 2008
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.
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.
ZEL 4. GHILBERT
Name: Brother Ghilbert
Title: The Witch-finder
Role: Anti-debuff Scrapper
Innate: When Gilbert attacks he has a 30% chance to knock off each buff that his foe has.
- Cleansing Blow. 20En, 2spd, 25dmg, Phys. 90Hit, 100Proc. You rid yourself of impurities with this swift strike, losing one debuff as you hit. Close.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Range Changing Attack.
- Low Accuracy
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.
- Cleansing Blow. A straight-line slash.
- Righteous Strikes. Multiple slashes.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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.
ZEL 2. BRIDGETTE
Name: Sister Bridgette
Title: The Shield Maiden
Role: Close-only Scrapper
Innate: When she attacks Bridgette has a 50% chance to lose one debuff.
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.
- Spear Thrust. 20en, 8spd, 24dmg, Phys. 90Hit. A quick thrust of your spear. Close.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Physical Attacks
- Close Range
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.
- Far Range
- Dark Magic
- Low Accuracy
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.
Suggested Item: Crusader's Shield
- Spear Thrust. A straight-line thrust.
- Ferocious Strike. A dark colored slash arc.
- Aegis Stance. A transparent shield appears over Bridgette, flashes, and then fades away.
- Whispered Prayer. Bridgette glows with holy light.
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
ZEL 1. ALCINDER
Name: Father Alcinder
Title: The Hierophant
Role: Dual-Range Scrapper
Innate: When Alcinder attacks, he has a 60% chance to heal himself for 5.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Healing Prayer. 40En, 1spd, Light. 100Hit, 100Proc. Each of your teammates is healed for 10. Both.
- 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.
- Removes Debuffs
- Flexibly Ranged
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.
- Physical Attacks
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.
Suggested Item: Sacred Text
- Smiting Blow. An arc travelling downwards, ending in a solid hit.
- Flame Strike. A pillar of flame shoots up from the ground at the opponent's feet and engulfs them before fading away.
- Healing Prayer. A breeze of wind moves across the field, teammates in hand glow green.
- Word of Excoriation. Flames cover the opponent as Alcinder glows.
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.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The set RDK is a backronym. It stands for, as in the title of this post, “Rex Does Kongai”. But, thanks to a bit of plotting on my part, it also stands for “The Return of Dominus – Kongai” which would be the actual expansion title, were I to have my way. RDK, then, is just a working title I use so that I don't have to type that all out all the time. The other sets, too, have their working but actual names, too – 4W I'd call “The Void War”, while SO3 would be something like “The Boss is Missing” (Or, really, Kongai: The Void War, etc.).
As you might tell from the set's title, it's about the return of a character named Dominus Rex. Who's also, by the way, not named after me since I'm not quite that vain. Rex means “king” while dominus means “master” - really, “The Master of Kings” was the name that best fit. Because that's what Dominus is, someone who wants to rule the world. In the middle ages, he was a scholar and a mystic who figured out how to raise the dead and fashioned them into an army of conquest. It took a colossal war that ravaged most of Europe before he and his army of the unliving were defeated. In the game's story, then, afterwards he goes to ground and eventually becomes a lich, an undead sorcerer. Through the centuries he's been biding his time and marshaling his forces until, now, he's finally ready to try again. As he unleashes his undead hordes, led by his hand-picked generals, he's opposed by an order of religious fanatics who've been guided by prophecies dating back to the original conflicts with him in the distant past to, once more, stand in his way. To distract them and to sow chaos in general, he manages to release several mythological beasts from their prisons, freeing them to rampage across the world. Those beasts had been kept caged by some elemental spirits who are none to pleased and set out for revenge or just to revel in the destruction.
That's the storyline behind the card set. The bit of flavor text that few people will ever pay attention to and fewer still will care about. It just serves as a hook, after all, on which to hang the cards that are the real point of the game.
As with the original set there are 20 characters divided into 4 groups of 5 cards each. There are also 5 item cards for each group along with a general pool of an additional 6, for a total of 26 items overall. Together that's 46 cards which I'll be teasing out over the next several weeks. I'm not going to give them all away just yet, but, here, take a look at the roster of characters for a sense of what's to come:
- Augustus Haussen
- Caissa Donovan
- Dominus Rex
- Elia Pucelle
- Gib Ergo
- Ra Chem
- Raymond Gaines
- Thons Stilethnol
If you can count, you can see that there are 22 characters here. That's because the last two, Caspar and Torque are rejects. I probably won't talk about them much, mostly because those cards were eventually folded into other groups, further down the line. Caspar was the Unfriendly Ghost, a card that created a lot of opportunities to miss and then punished an opponent for missing, a concept that I would latter reuse with the Warlocks. Brother Torque was the Zealot's Grand Inquisitor, a trapper card that tried to control getting on and off the field through several brutal skills. That, too, was a concept that one of the Warlocks eventually ran with. They were modified heavily but the starting point were those two rejected bars, so I might have a word or two more to say but, mostly, I'll deal with them when I get to their successors.
And if you're observant, you've probably already figured out at least a few of the groups. It's a diverse bunch including the Zealots, the Beasts, the Undead, and the Elementals, after all. Each group with their own cast and, I'd hope, a distinct flair all its own.
Here's a list of those groups, numbered 1 through 4:
As a set, RDK is a bit raw, a bit unfocused. Which is hardly surprising since it was my first attempt and more than anything, a learning process. There's no one grand unifying theme beyond “make good cards” or the interwoven plotlines that hold the set together. Each group pretty much does its own thing.
The Zealots I set up as a group of white-hats. Priests and Templar, Paladins and Knights, who use their holy powers to heal and defend and their martial prowess to pound their enemies into dust. They tend to, one, be more defensively oriented than the other card, with plenty of buffs and healing and more than a little debuff hate. Two, to use Light skills. And, three, to be rather flexibly ranged.
The Beasts, on the other hand, are all about raw power. They're a bunch of heavy hitting cards that are relatively straight forward. “Push button, do massive damage” is about as complex as they like to get. Although most tend to include at least one deliberate combination of skills that, when used in conjunction, result in even more powerful attacks. As a group they tend to have, first, a lot of health. Second, those aforementioned combos. And, third, a tendency to deliver stuns.
The next group is the thematically central Undead. I've gone with the Shadowloo route and declared that the cards in this group are the leader of that Undead army and his most trusted generals. Just like M.Bison and Sagat and Vega were supposedly the masterminds of an international terrorist organization when they weren't pummeling their opponents, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense if you take too close a look but it gives me a reason to stick together the ghouls and ghosts that make up this group. They were intended as cards that were, more or less, deceptively powerful. While other cards have strengths that just leap right out at you, the Undead were supposed to be strong cards that needed some care and feeding to be played right. I'm not sure if they're quite the “pro set” I wanted but they are, at least, a pretty interesting group. They tend to have intricate mechanics, to use Dark, and to have some glaring weak points.
Finally, the Elementals are a group of what I like to call Burners. There's at least one exception but that card is insane in it's own right, it's just not the fast-acting, quick damage dealer with a glass jaw that I like to think of when I describe a Burner. If a Tank is the party's Warrior or other meatshield then a Burner is the Mage or some other squishy DPS character – not a lot of sustainability, even less survivability, but a card that can pump out pain better than anyone else. They tend to be low health cards with expensive, inefficient skills and that's exactly what the Elementals are. Each is based on a different element (I went for the Chinese elements here, adding Metals to the traditional Air, Earth, Fire, and Water.) and each is powerful in their own right, tending to have extremely powerful skills.
The first group I'll be posting will be the Zealots and, over the next few weeks, I'll continue to detail the remaining three.
Over 98% of Michigan residents who are eligible this year were registered to vote in today's election. Over ?? of them are expected to vote today. I'm proud to say that I'm among them.
What I'm not so proud to say is that today marks the first time I've ever voted. It surprises a lot of people I know but it's true, I've never voted before. Not once, even though I've had ample opportunity. But even though I seem to be so tuned in to politics and the elections and everything else (I'm not, really, I think I just pay more attention to everything than most.) I've never bothered before. I've either been away at school or out of the country or even just to apathetic to care – it's not like my one vote, after all, could ever have made a difference. And in those few years when I have actually felt motivated to vote, I've always wound up putting off registering until the last moment only to miss one deadline or another.
Not this year. I sent out my application over the summer, well in advance, just to make sure. Had my voter's card returned just in time for the primary although I didn't bother to vote then since it was such a joke. Obama and Edwards weren't on the ballot in Michigan, remember, because of the fight over the contest being moved up, leaving it to Clinton in a race of one. And I just couldn't stomach crossing the aisle and trying to throw some chaos into the Republican race.
I'm registered as an Independent, by the way, because I don't believe in strong party identification. I'd prefer to vote the issues rather than a blind party line. But I might as well be a Democrat because it'll be a long time before I ever consider voting Republican.
I did vote for the Green Party candidate for the House of Representatives in my district, if only because I also couldn't stomach the idea of voting for Kilpatrick's mother. I was really hoping she would have lost to Waters in the primary but I was out of town that day and couldn't manage to figure out the absentee provisions so I, again, didn't bother to vote. Wouldn't have matter much anyways.
I also voted yes on both propositions on the ballot this year. The first was to legalize medical marijuana which is expected to pass handily. Opponents say it's a stepping stone on the road to decriminalizing marijuana entirely. Since I wouldn't have a problem with that, I'm all for the idea.
The second, though, is less of certainty. Polling about propositions is notoriously inaccurate but, heading into today, at least, it was running about dead even. Prop 2 is about embryonic stem cell research which is an extremely complicated issue. I got into a lengthy discussion about it with my mother over the weekend since she's planning to vote against. Neither of us were very committed to our position and spent most of the time just trying to justify our opinions even to ourselves because we're, as my mother put it, “conflicted”. I don't have the religious objections to the development of new stem cell lines that my mother seems to have but I can understand why it makes people uncomfortable. It's a complicated issue and the wording of the proposition is complicated as well.
And the campaign of distortion and distraction waged by both sides of the debate in the weeks leading up to the decision hasn't helped. The pro-2 position says derregulating stem cell research in Michigan (where the creation of new stem cell lines is currently prohibited) will lead to cures. Something that hasn't happened yet, even though stem cell research is promising and even though there are a few potential medicines undergoing clinical trials at the moment. And they also say it'll bring grant money to the state, bringing with it well-paid research jobs that are going elsewhere. A compelling argument in a state as beleaguered as Michigan but it's not like they're going to be offsetting the tens of thousands of jobs about to be lost in the automaker's collapse.
The anti-2 side, on the other hand, are, if anything, even worse. They say this measure opens the door for human cloning and repellent animal hybrids. That the funding for this research is going to be paid for with new and higher taxes. Again a compelling argument in a state as economically disadvantaged as Michigan but also one that's unsupported by the evidence. Proposition 2 is merely about removing the ability of the state to regulate this embryonic stem cell research, instead entrusting any such guidelines to the federal government's oversight. There's nothing in there about public or private funding and certainly nothing about raising taxes. That it might cost the taxpayers money is just a projection, a prediction, and a shakey one at that.
In the end, though, I wound up confirming my initial impulse to support the measure. Stem cells might not be the magic cure they're made out to be but I think it's at least worth the chance. Any research, as far as I'm concerned, can only be a net positive to humanity as a whole and we need as much as we can get. Any ethical research, of course, which is where a lot of people part company with me since embryonic is another word for fetal and these cells are coming from discarded fertile cells. But, as far as I can understand, it's not coming from human harvesting or paying for aborted children, but, instead, from waste material produced by fertility clinics as part of their treatments. From cells that would otherwise simply be thrown away. I don't necessarily like where those cells originate but as long as they're made they might as well be made to be useful before they're destroyed, as far as I'm concerned.
And, at the same time, I find the campaign against the measure to be dishonest and disgusting. I think, in so many words, that when one side is asking you take the positive case and to hope for the best while the other sides is lying to you in order to get you to fear the worst that it's probably better to go for the side that's asking for you to be optimistic. Hope is a powerful trap but, sometimes, it's worth believing in. And when it comes to cures and health, sometimes, I think it's the only thing we've got.
So, that's the way I voted. As for my polling place, I went in the afternoon where I've heard that the waits is the shortest. Despite reports of long lines and large waits, I didn't have any problem. There was a bit of a line although not much more than ten people. I got there a little late and I'm actually kind of glad that I did. One woman I spoke with said she'd been there earlier, when I actually planned to to show up, and the line had been stretching out of the door. I'd been smart, though, and brought a book. But I didn't even have a chance to read more than 5 pages before it was time to fill out my forms and cast my ballot. I walked to the polling place, instead of taking my customary afternoon stroll and, all in all, it took me less than an hour to walk there, vote, and get back home.
But I did it. I voted. It's taken me far too long but I've never felt so proud.
I'll let you in on a little secret. One that I've pretty much already told. But for the past few months now, I've been volunteering for the Obama campaign. It started off slow and tentatively since I'd never done anything like it before, so I unsteadily checked in at a locale office, attended some meetings, and made some posts on this or that message board. Before long, though, I was doing my best to live up to a promise I'd made a long while ago that if I ever encountered a candidate who made me believe, made me want to believe at the very least, that they should get elected then I'd do my best to do everything I could to make sure they did.
When Senator Obama began to call on people to help him get out the vote in his latest speeches, when he asked for people to make phone calls or knock on doors, I smiled. Because I already had.
I haven't talked about it, though, because my best really isn't very much. There are people who can and have and will do so much more. And I don't want to make it seem like my efforts are some how commendable. My volunteering wasn't about making myself feel good but, instead, about feeling like I was doing something. Contributing in some small but important way rather than just allowing events to pass me by again.
My efforts, though, were interesting, especially as the election is underway and they've now drawn to a close. Because I didn't just volunteer once or twice. I volunteered a few times and at several different locations. I travel a lot, you see. And there are over 80 in my home state of Michigan alone. And even more in neighboring states that aren't that difficult to reach.
So, when I had the time and even sometimes when I didn't, I'd stop in at the local branch office and see if they needed any help. If they asked, I'd explain that I lived in such and such a place but that I was in the neighborhood for a little while and wanted to help out. I've lived, after all, around the Metro Detroit area and its surrounding suburbs all of my life. From the west side to the east side, from the inner city to the exurbs, I've been there or known someone who lived there or spent time there and I wouldn't feel walking through Farmington, any more than I would in Warren or through Dearborn or anywhere else. I had a whole spiel laid out, when I started, for how I'd talk myself past the front desk but I never needed it because I didn't run into a single office that wasn't glad to have that one more person. Or, for that matter, a staffer who didn't thank me for coming down and spending some of my time to help out.
It was, I felt, an interesting experience because it meant I could see the many different campaign offices and compare and contrast. Some were fly by night operations, set up in dingy, abandoned store fronts with little more than card tables and a coffee machine. While others were slick, professional looking office buildings, comfortably appointed. Some were in the inner city and staffed by veteran community organizers. Some were in the suburbs and looked run by the local coffee clatch. But no matter what they looked like, no matter who the staff were, it was all the same once you got inside. The places were always full of activity with volunteers walking in and out of the door or phone calls being made. A hustle and bustle filled each place as the staff would chat or the volunteers would converse. I sat through training session after training session, getting the latest script or talking point, learning what stage of the effort we were involved in and just how I'd be doing my part. Listened to different staffers explain the same thing in different ways in different locales and I felt the same exact thing. That buzz. That sense of excitement blending with weariness and lack of sleep that pervaded each place. The excitement that I felt with being part of something. The expectation that everyone there felt, working at being part of the great engine of change. The exhaustion of too much coffee and not enough rest that goes along with being part way through and one day closer to the end.
I spent my time answering phones or entering data but what I liked best was when I got to head out and canvas. I'd take my trusty map and figure out where to head and then I'd wander around a neighborhood for an afternoon with a clipboard and a list, knocking on doors. It was nice to get out and get some exercise, better than any walk. And it was even better to get to talk to people, to ask them about their views. Hearing their opinions and having to try to explain to them my own was, I think, good for me. It forced me to confront my own idea, to have to refine them into words that ccould easily slip past my lips. To cram my high-minded ideas and complicated thoughts down into workable bites, something that I've always struggled with.
More than that, it was just nice to get to see so many different people and houses and towns. So many ways of living just within a few hundred miles. It makes me appreciate just how vast this great country is and how many perspectives and ways of life there must be, stretching from one coast to the other.
When I went home, for example, to visit my mother, I drove into the Pointes. A little oasis of red surrounded by a sea of blue. A place where the McCain signs were many and the Obama signs were few. Part of Wayne Country, true, but spiritually part of nearby Macomb, that great bastion of Reagan Democrats. A place of old families and older money – they say that when you grow up in the Pointes you tend to come back and I can see why, it's a beautiful place with a small town feel right in the middle of a larger metropolis. Good schools and friendly people, wide lawns of green grass with children playing on them and sidewalks filled with people taking their dog out for a walk. Grosse Pointe, where I grew up, is one of the original suburbs. Back when the auto industry first started, it was where the plant's managers and owners would live, driving a short way into work and, then, a short way back away from the industrial parks to their comfortable homes. The most valuable property was by the side of Lake St. Clair, along the Jefferson where the Ford estates once were. And when I took that trip home to help my mother clean her house and get ready for Thanksgiving, that's exactly where I wanted to go.
They said I was a brave man in the office, for wanting to walk in the Grosse Pointes. After a few hours of knocking on doors, I could understand why. With my Obama sticker and my liberal policies, I was definitely out of place. A stranger in a strange land that was all the more odd for being where I came from. That's the old selection bias for you, though, until I grew up I would have never thought that my neighborhood was anything but dyed in the wool liberal, just like me and my folks because that's who I'd been surrounded with. But, really, the GPs are a pretty conservative area. The Pointes, after all, are now a place for the graying and elderly and those are the people for whom McCain's politics of racial resentment have really hit home. Detroit is a city of de facto segregation if no longer of de jure, and the proud white folk of the Pointes have built up a lot of mistrust and enmity over the years.
The saddest, though, had to be the time I spent walking along the Eastside. Oddly enough, both of those assignments came from the same office since the heart of Detroit is only about a twenty minute drive from my mother's home. It's a world of difference, though, like driving into another country.
But I firmly believe that sometimes you need to be reminded of how lucky you are, so I took my nice car and my lily white face and headed into the fringes of the urban jungle, armed only with a clipboard, some pamphlets, and a smile. I needed have worried, though, even though I still rue that fleeting worry I felt as I locked my door and wondered if I shouldn't have tried to borrow my sister's less expensive, less likely to be stolen car. I worked downtown once, you see, and I still remember how that car was nearly stolen right off the parking lot in front of me. But although I got a few stares, I didn't get any meaningful looks.
I saw the kind of things that just break you heart, while I was down on the upper Eastside, that one chilly autumn afternoon. From the burned out shell of houses to mothers younger than I am, hanging on to a handful of kids while they nervously opened the door. Trash piled up on porches and paint peeling away. Wood work splitting and concrete steps that were starting to crack. Empty lots that were a sight better than the still-standing houses with broken windows and pried open boards just rotting away.
But the people? They were the same as I talked to anywhere else. A little poorer, maybe, but not as poor as some other spots to which I'd been. They were friendly and kind and full of hope. That audacity to believe that as bad as things are, they could one day get better. I could see it in their eyes and hear it in their voices. All over Michigan the feeling is the same, that the election was the day when the tide might break and the sorrows might well roll back. And more than most didn't have shabby, worn-down houses just waiting to fall apart. They had nice homes, well-maintained with fresh panelling or coats of paint stood proud and dignified amidst the squallor. A sign not of the increasing decay of a city that's too large with too few people but, instead, a promise that things can get better.
After I'd finished my list and returned to the office, I turned in my report almost in silence. Just drained by the experience and unsure of what to thing. What hits me the hardest whenever I go back to a place like that is that I was born in a house not very far off. I was born in Detroit, within the city limits, and raised for those first few years of my life that I hardly remember on a street, nearby. Over the years, my family's followed the flow of people out and away and into the burbs. But Detroit is where I started and where I'll probably always return. I've never gone back to look for my old house, though, because I'm not sure what I'd feel if it had been swallowed up by the blight and decay. But I imagine it would be something like what I felt standing in that campaign office that afternoon as the light was beginning to fade.
Still, all in all, I'm glad I did it. It was an experience worth having. It might not have been fun to pound the pavement until my legs ached or to wander around in the drizzling rain trying to keep my pages from getting wet. And I might not have made much of a difference. I knocked on, perhaps, a thousand doors, maybe a few hundred more, and talked to nearly as many people. And some of them I might have convinced and some might not otherwise take the time to vote and that makes me feel good. But then I hear about the millions of bells that have been rung and the calls that have been made and I can't feel too good because I was just one part of a vast effort and my contributions weren't so great, after all.
But it was worthwhile because of the experience. Like with voting, I've come to realize that it's not so much the result as the getting there that counts. My one vote probably isn't going to change any election in which it's cast but that doesn't matter. It's important because it's mine and I'm going to exercise it and be a part of that great, wider process. A process that would then include me. I'll remember the result, I'm sure, although I'll probably never be able to tell if I made any difference. But what I'll forget are what really matters. Those sunny days and cloudy afternoons where I was out in the world and being a part of it all. The experiences that I had along the way.
Some were funny. Some were rewarding. Some were scary. And others I just plain don't know what to make of them. Like the black men who said to me that they were voting for McCain with a straight face and holding on to the joke just a little too long. Or the elderly man with the raspy throat who looked around and told me that his area was all going for McCain even as his daughter stood behind him, pointed to herself, and mouthed “Obama”. And don't even get me started on the crazy Ron Paul supporters and their conspiracy theories while I nodded along patiently. For every dog snarling at me and straining at the fence or at its chain, there was someone who told me they weren't sure what to do but they were now leaning away from McCain. For every bigot and door slammed in my face there was that elderly person who needed a ride or that young voter who needed information about their polling place.
In the end, I think, it all balances out. And it doesn't mean much. But it meant something to me. And the secret is that I hadn't realized just how important that was.
Today, I think, most eyes are going to turn to Pennsylvania. It's the biggest battleground state on the list and, potentially, McCain's last stand. He's made a big push there over the last few weeks even though it still looks helpless. If Obama wins in PA then the election is effectively over and there's no way that McCain can win.
But, as far as I'm concerned, the part of the race to closely scrutinize is Virginia. It has a few advantages. Its polls close early, allowing for some actual results (I do not and will not trust exit polls. In fact, I'm not even going to turn on the news until later tonight. The exit polls are as unscientific and biased as samples come. It's not until the actual hard data starts rolling in that you can start making predictions). And it's a former Bush state and, more than that, a southern Bush state, so depending on how the vote goes there, it just might be a predictor for plenty of other races. If Obama wins in Virginia then the needle McCain has to thread becomes vanishingly small. Obama will just have to pick up a few more electoral votes. It could be Florida. It could be Pennsylvania. It could even be Ohio. But, more likely, if those don't turn blue then it's going to be out West.
That's why the second part of the race I'm going to be watching is Nevada. It's another battleground that 's leaning towards the Obama side of the ledger, just like, really, all of them. And the combination of the Virginia, Nevada, and Colorado vote which should already have gone Obama's way thanks to early voting will result in a Democratic win.
If things turns out badly in the East then Nevada just might become the firebreak. And, by bad, I mean Obama dropping some combination of PA, FL, or OH and maybe even all three. It might happen if the turnout models are wrong and have been overestimating rather than underestimating the strength of the Democratic vote. Nevada starts to check in around 10PM so if the evening is tense before then, that just might be the time to breathe a sigh of relief.
Personally, though, I don't think it's going to be in much doubt. I think the polling models have been undershooting the likely vote thanks to things like the cellphone effect, increased registration and likely turnout and, especially, the feeling that I get that most people are determined to vote this year. Not because they want to vote for their candidate, not because they want their candidate to win, but because they want to be a part of their candidate winning. Those are the people who are going to stand in line for hours, if that's what it takes, just so that years from now they can say they voted for their man. There are, I think, a lot of people this year and that's going to help overcome any sort of temporal poll tax effect.
I predict, in so many words, that the predictions are all going to be wrong. And that the only thing we can count on is a record turnout.
There's such a thing as too much GOTV
In the past days, from the Obama campaign, I've gotten a half dozen phone calls - some live, some recorded, several pieces of mail, a few pamphlets hung on the doorknob. And at least one in-person visit from a someone out canvasing. That's as I was heading out the door to drop in at the local campaign office and do some canvasing myself, by the way. And it's all on top of the daily deluge of e-mails from the campaign, including the one that directed me exactly to my polling place.
I'd have to say the get out the vote effort is working.
The Answer wasn't able to get on the court in time to face his old coach and the Piston's (And, of course, the head of roughly 386 other teams throughout) the years, Larry Brown.
I mean, it's Charlotte but that I would have liked to see.
ZEL 5. LEW
Name: Brother Louis
Title: The Templar Knight
Role: Buff Scrapper/Tank
Innate: Magic spells targeted against Louis have a 20% chance to fail.
Summary: This brave knight is the Zealot's Champion. Having mastered not only the fighting arts but the Order's holy magic as well he's the bravest and strongest warrior they've ever produced. His courage is as strong as any shield and, when pressed, his faith can become sharper than any sword.
- Heroic Perseverance. 40En, 3spd, Light. 100Hit, 100Proc. For the next 3 turns, you gain 50 bonus health for the next 3 turns. Cannot be used while under the effects of Heroic Perseverance. Close.
- Warrior's Prayer. 20En, 3spd, Light. 110Hit, 100Proc. For the next 2 turns, you gain 2 resistance and 2 damage. Unlocks Soul Blade. Far.
- Hammer Blow. 40En, 4spd, 28dmg, Phys. 90Hit, 30Proc. A solid blow from your war hammer with a chance to stun your foe for the next turn. Close.
- Soul Blade. 35En, 7spd, 3x7(21)dmg, Light. 90Hit. A glowing blade forged from will and honed by faith. Unlocked by Warrior's Prayer. Both.
- Flexibly Ranged
- Magic Attacks
Backstory: Like many in the Zealous Order, Louis was an orphan. A foundling taken in and raised within a monetary hidden high in the mountains. Groomed to one day join the ranks of their ever vigilant army, ever ready to combat the forces of supernatural evil. Trained since a young age in the arts of warfare Louis grew into the Order's finest warrior. He fought against the witches and monsters he'd sworn to destroy. Battling from one corner of the world to the next, Louis travelled the globe. One day, though, he was recalled to the Order's home for a meeting with their leader. Father Alcinder took him into his study and, then, into his confidence. Informing him that their most ancient foe, Dominus, had returned. But Alcinder needed time to prepare, to muster his forces and rally his troops. He needed Louis to buy him that time. Louis was to be the Order's vanguard. The champion who would take the fight to their enemies, even at the cost of his own life. Alcinder wanted to know if Louis could make such a sacrifice. He needn't have asked. Louis would give anything to serve the only family he'd ever known. Hailed as a hero, he set out from the monastery, to find and destroy as much evil as he could before he met his end.
- Locked Skills
- Buff Removal
Appearance: An athletic, handsome man in a bulky suit of armor. A lengthy cape flows behind him as he lunges towards his opponent, a large war hammer gripped in one hand. His other glows with the crackle of holy energy, as if he's preparing to cast. Louis's hair is dark and close-cropped, a single-curl hanging over his face (He looks a little like Clark Kent, if that's possible). He's wearing a suit of plate-mail. Heavy armor that's bright and polished even though it's seen some action, there are a few dents and chip marks and other signs of wear and tear. It's got huge shoulder pads. A tabbard covers his chest or a tunic which hangs down past his belt a little way. On it is a version of the Zealot's icon (The stylized image of a sword crossed with, well, a cross, its blade pointed down.).
Suggested Item: Battle Standard
- Heroic Perseverance. A spectral, spiritual shield appears over and in front of him before fading away. Louis then glows.
- Warrior's Prayer. A sword crossed with a shield appears over and in front of him before fading away. Louis then glows.
- Hammer Blow. A Pilebunker like punch line.
- Soul Blade. A curving crescent shape spins through the air and into the opponent.
With Louis, what I was going for was the idea of a Paladin. In this card, I wanted to create was a magic tank. Someone who could go toe to toe with the heaviest of heavies in the game. But someone who had to rely on buffing up with powerful enchantments in order to survive.
The first such buff is Skill #1, Heroic Perservereance, an expensive spell that gives Louis a vast amount of health. It pumps 50HP to his bar, giving him a base of 120 overall. That's a lot of health to get through but the thing to remember is that this is bonus health. It's only temporary and when HP fades, then so too does that extra health since it rests underneath his normal hit points and not on top.
So, say, Louis has only 30/70 health left when he cast this buff. It goes up and he gains +50/+50 to have 80/120 remaining – he's still down 40 health but he now has a lot more to give away before he dies. If, over the next 3 turns, he took 26 damage and entered the end of the turn with 54/120, his buff would fade and his health would drop back to its original state and he'd lose 50/50 to sit at 4/70. If, on the other hand, he takes 52 damage to fall to 28/120, then, at the end of the turn as the buff wanes, he'll lose 50 health from both his maximum AND current health. Once more dropping to 70 overall but winding up dead since that 52 damage was more than the 30 he had and he'll die even though he'd survived while his HP was up. Those bonus points aren't healing, but they should be good for staving off death for a short time.
The buff also can't be recast as long as it's active so Louis can't stack his health up as high as he wants. He can only get to, at most, 120. This also means that there's at least one part of a turn where he's vulnerable – the space between the buff fades and when he can put the next copy up. And that should give an opponent an opening that they might need.
Used right, though, along with an innate, which gives him a chance to dodge Light as well as Dark attacks, it should make Louis hard to easily kill off.
HP can only be used up Close, though, while his next buff, Skill #2, Warrior's Prayer, can only be used at Far. It, too, offers some additional protection by increasing Louis's resistance. But, really, it adds to his ability to deal damage, through the following complicated process.
Skill #3, Hammer Bash, is there to get the ball rolling. It's a low speed version of the old Open Palm. Sacrificing priority in order to keep a bunch of damage and a good chance to stun. Being so slow, it allows an opponent to still manage to get in a hit before being chain stunned and that, I think, is both fair and threatening enough that opponents would want to push him away.
While at Far, Louis has nothing to do but to buff up with WP. That increases his resistance a fair bit and bumps up his damage slightly if he wants to head back and Hammer away. But if WP is active then so is Skill #4, Soul Blade.
Soul Blade is a dual-ranged skill that gives Louis some much needed range. It's unlocked by Warrior's Prayer, the same way that Ambush is unlocked by Hide. Keep in mind, too, that because it requires WP's buff, it actually deals 5x7 damage rather than the listed 3x7. That +2 dmg is built right in making it a powerful attack that Louis can use for a few brief turns – it's not gong to scratch those who have a lot of Light resistance but against the dark and evil forces that tend to lack it, it'll be lethal.
Unlike HP, Warrior's Prayer can be stacked although you can only get +4 at best. That means Soul Blade can go from 35 raw damage to 49, a 14 point differential that doesn't quite make up for missing out on that attack – 35x2 being better than 49. Although it's still there when it can be useful.
The balancing point here is to keep Soul Blade strong enough to be a credible threat. It's supposed to be a punishment for players who default to shoving Louis away. But it also needs to be weak enough that Louis players don't just step back and buff away to use it because it's their best option. It's a fall back plan, not the centerpiece of Louis's play. I'm not sure that I've found that level but I think this latest version is getting there.
Looks like it's out in full force today.
This is what has really bothered me about all the screaming and warbling that's been done about ACORN and other registration drives. The real, great threat to our democracy lies not in efforts to get more people to vote but in the actual efforts out there to prevent people from actually voting. Whether it's misinforming people about the date with a wry chuckle. Or whether it's about the temporal poll tax of long waiting lines and crowded polling places. It's all about depressing turnout. Or, in other words, making sure people don't vote. Which should be reprehensible but because it's done by political campaigns and government officials, it's just the way the game is operated instead of a deplorable shame.
But it's out there and, more than anything, the people who perpetrate it fear revealing just how deep it goes.
I'm reminded, today, of the what happened in my own home state of Michigan where there was a report that the Republican party was going to try to use foreclosure lists to purge the voting records. After all, if there's a region of the country that's been harder hit with more people losing their jobs and their homes then I shudder to think of it – the national economy is bad but the Michigan economy is even worse with no signs of getting any better soon (Mostly because it's so tied to the auto industry and the American automakers tied their fortunes to the SUV boom rather than working to develop cheap, affordable, efficient cards, and made gas guzzling engines with a lot of horsepower rather than creating new fuel technologies that could be spurring thousand of new jobs and... you know what? I'm just going to stop because it makes me too damn mad.). Because, of course, if you didn't have a house then you weren't a resident and if you weren't a resident then you couldn't vote.
The Michigan Republican Party denied this report up and down for several news cycles, even going so far as to sue the Michigan Messenger in open court. Only to wind up quietly withdrawing that suit days later, weeks in advance of the election. The reason? Partly, I'd think, so that it didn't become an issue by the time of the election with story after story being written about the results or the courtroom fights. But also partly because going forward would have meant going to trial. And trial means discovery. The Republican Party would have had to turn over any documents and memos in its possession about such voter suppression to the plaintiff. Enter, no doubt, a wealth of information into the public record. That's something that the party elders just couldn't allow so they quietly put a halt to the proceedings and scuttled any lawsuit and, with it, a chance for the public to see just what they've been up to for years.
Part of their agreement, though, included the acknowledgement by the Michigan Republic Party that they were, in fact, planning to use such foreclosure lists even though they vehemently deny it to this day.
So, this stuff is out there. And it's hidden. But there really is a conscious effort to deny people their right to vote. Like so many things the conservatives have done in democracy's name, it just shouldn't happen in America. That's why, more than ever, it's important to make sure to get out there and that every vote is actually counted.
Whether it's by national ID or the increased trend towards early or absentee, voting will continue to become easier and more available. The tide is against those who want to keep a portion of the electorate away from the polls and it's going to wash over such futile efforts today. But it doesn't mean attention shouldn't be paid. Because if what these people fear more than anything is being revealed then it's time to bring them out into the open and make them face the cold, cool light of day.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Idea: A militant order of religious fanatics, warriors-priests with a defensive bent.
Name: Zealous and Sacred Monastic Order of the Temple Entrance (Zealous SMOTE)
Icon: A cross shaped sword, the blade pointed downwards, or a pointed cross with its arms forming the handles of the hilt.
Backstory: Established centuries ago when the lands were still ravaged by the the wars with the mad sorcerer known as Dominus Rex and his hordes of undead. To prevent such evils from ever occurring again, the Zealous Order stood on guard, hunting down supernatural menaces before they had a chance to plague the world. Operating in secret, staying behind the scenes, and working from the mountaintop monastery they called home, the Order trained vigilantly in the arts of war, raising an army of fanatics to fight for their causes. For their leaders had long known of the prophesies that foretold that, one day, Dominus himself would return. Warned by a special young girl they now know that these visions have become true. The Order has prepared for these very days since their earliest days but, now, even with all their strength, that may not be enough. The Lich-king has returned and, soon, the dead will once more walk the earth. Their legends say that the endtimes have begun. Now girded for what may be their final war, the Order has sent its champions forth. A group of holy warriors, gifted with as many of objects of power that they could spare, sent out on the odd hope that they may succeed where an army cannot.
Design: Fanatical warrior-priests, able to heal themselves and harm their foes. They reserve a special enmity for the dark arts and foul magics that result in debuffs – they'll hate them right off of the field. Defensive characters that tend to have a lot of padding and protective buffs of their own, with flexible cards that can function at either range, the Zealots can be a handful.
Shared Mechanics: Debuff Hate – Zealot characters tend to have ways of dealing harshly with debuffs. Flexibly Ranged – Zealot cards can either operate well from either range or have abilities that allow them to excel when the range is changed. Defense – Zealot cards are defensively oriented, tending to have some form of protective buffs or healing that better enable them to survive.
- Father Alcinder, The Hierophant
- Sister Bridgette, The Shield Maiden
- Elia Pucelle, A Special Child
- Brother Louis, The Templar Knight
- Brother Ghilbert, The Witch-Finder
- Ancient Relic
- Battle Standard
- Crusader's Shield
- Magebane Powder
- Sacred Text