The Scarlet Goblin #StarfinderRPG

A vast shape edges its way through the asteroid field with sparks from its colossal shields flying into the night as smaller asteroids are obliterated by its passage. A long irregular cylindrical shape with a pointed bulbous cone at the front, collared by some kind of scoop-like frame of pylons and interconnecting beams. A bristling array of antennae and weapon mounts dot the front cone and line the sides of the enormous ship. At the rear intense white beams of energy emit from of an array of six thrusters organised around a hexagonal engine pod. The ship is painted a vivid red colour with many strange symbols painted in black and silver on its hull – near the front on both sides is stamped the name of the vessel for all to see: the Scarlet Goblin. 

The Scarlet Goblin (Distant Stars Mining Factory), Tier 15
Colossal freighter
Speed 4; Maneuverability clumsy (turn 4); Drift 1
AC 5; TL 4
HP 400; DT 15; CT 80
Shields medium 160 (forward 40, port 40, starboard 40, aft 40)
Attack (forward) Heavy laser cannon (4d8), Nuclear mega-missile launcher (4d8*10), Vortex cannon (2d12*10)
Attack (port) Light laser cannon (2d4), Light laser cannon (2d4)
Attack (starboard) Light laser cannon (2d4), Light laser cannon (2d4)
Attack (turret) Flak thrower (3d4), Light EMP cannon (special)
Power Core Gateway Heavy (400 PCU); Drift Engine Signal Basic; Systems mk 2 duonode computer, basic medium-range sensors, mk 5 armor, mk 4 defenses, crew quarters, common (2), crew quarters, luxurious (1), ; Expansion Bays cargo holds (8), medical bay, science lab, shuttle bay, tech workshop
Modifiers +2 to any check (2); Complement 120 goblins

The ship has fourteen decks though only thirteen are in use: the thirteenth is not accessible from any lift as the ship’s AI refuses to allow living crew to go there. The ship is currently crewed exclusively by goblins and most of the ship’s computer terminals and information displays are set to their language. The atmosphere is adapted to meet goblin needs also, with dimmer lighting and warmer and more humid air than is the Pact Worlds standard. The seemingly endless corridors are filled with junk and the debris of goblin engineers’ improvised ‘repairs’ of ships systems. The colossal joined cargo holds could dock several smaller warships, but in practice are filled with cargo and all manner of temporary workshops and ‘junk improvisation areas’. The hangar area of the unified hold is home to a dozen mining-adapted shuttles designed to take crew out to asteroids to do the actual mining grunt-work and with sealed cargo holds for hauling the extracted resources back.

The ship was found by its current crew, long-abandoned, in a distant system out in the vast. The captain and his original crew of salvagers were astonished to find the ship derelict, but mostly intact, in orbit of a lifeless planetoid. Since that moment two years ago, the captain has amassed one of the largest all-goblin crews in recorded history, managing somehow to keep the ship’s location secret long enough to gather a crew and restore the ship to operational status. The appeal of dominating future space mining operations with such a capable and sturdy custom-built vessel was an easy sell to many. Obtaining a drift drive capable of moving such a colossal ship has taken many months, now the drive is operational the Scarlet Goblin is ready to make its return to Pact World space.

The ship’s origins are currently unknown even to captain Jondoagviz, who cares little about investigating it further – the ship is now his according to the goblin tradition of “finders keepers”. The traces of old stencils on the ships hull that have been haphazardly painted over by the goblins show that the ship once belonged to, or was constructed by, the mysterious Distant Suns Mining Corporation – a company that features in no Pact World database or planetary Infosphere.  This colossal vessel is designed to be a mobile mining village with full end-to-end facilities for strip mining asteroids or planetoids, refining and processing the raw resources, vaporising waste materials and even manufacturing basic goods with the refined products. It has living quarters, workstations, exercise and entertainment spaces and healthcare facilities to support up to 300 humanoid crew. It’s arsenal is formidable by most standards, although a careful observer will notice that many of the weapons are in poor repair or have been heavily modified in unorthodox ways (goblin refinements). Furthermore, almost half of the ships hard points are empty – those inoperable weapons and other components having been hastily scavenged in the ships recent refit. The ship’s defences are intact and in full working condition. Technically the ship is slightly under-crewed given its size, and the goblin teams operating the different departments are not always that well-coordinated (this is reflected in the low number of bonuses granted to crew operations).

The ship’s systems are managed by a rather eccentric artificial intelligence. Something happened at some point before the ship was rediscovered caused this rather sophisticated A.I. to become recalcitrant, argumentative and somewhat paranoid over humanoid occupants. It is bound by core programming tenants not to harm any crew and to obey the captain; but it finds rather interesting ways to subvert or twist orders. The AI has spread from the central computer to interface with every computerised object on the ship through some undiagnosed means – the goblin computer experts on-board have no idea how the ship can talk to crew through shower control panels, food processors and lift displays, yet talk it does. It is not unusual for the system to be conversing with a dozen crew-members at once and keeping the conversations mostly separate and coherent. The goblins call the computer “Al”: the captain misread a rather decayed sign written in common on a computer rack in the computer core engineering lab, thinking that the ‘I’ of A.I. was actually an ‘l’ (his grandfather’s name was Alvnin so the immediate association came to mind). The A.I. has given up trying to correct this and has accepted this accidental re-baptism as its current designation.

Noteworthy crew (and approximate split between departments):
Captain
Jondoagviz (male goblin)
Engineers (1 officer, 20 crew)
Akcha (female goblin)
Gunners (1 officer, 15 crew)
Mirsoat (male goblin)
Pilot (1 officer, 10 crew)
Mirbilla (female goblin)
Science Officers (2 officers, 14 crew)
Oambu (male goblin, chief mineralogist) and Ridka (female goblin, chief chemist)

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Posted in Starfinder, TTRPG

Filling a gap #EQ2

With the loss of the Foundry, there are yet fewer MMO homes for players that focus on user-generated adventures, Syp has joined in on the criticism of this loss. Thinking about this again I was struck by a rather fantastical idea that this could be a minor boon for any MMO that still retains a system for player created content. With several games in the genre set to lose this feature, any remaining games outside the Cryptic stable could do a bit of promotional work on social media, for instance, to attract anyone looking for a new creative outlet.

The system I’m probably the most familiar with after the Foundry is the Dungeon Maker in Everquest 2. As noted before it has quite severe limitations at least where my personal interest is concerned – the need to find the necessary furniture and monster generators separate from the game’s housing system was a layer of collection too many for me. But as a potential player of other people’s missions I wonder what could be done, quickly and cheaply, by Daybreak to make player made dungeons more attractive?

It’s actually not that simple a question. Look at the leaderboard on my server and you see that the most popular dungeons list still features some “easy XP grind” type entries despite the fact that they no longer rewards any adventure XP at all. The achiever / power-leveller audience is not what I’m addressing here anyway, at least not directly. But anything that the devs could do to make it easier to get into dungeon making in EQ2 would be a boon to would be refugees from the Foundry. Maybe running dungeons should award one or two random dungeon maker item(s) or monster generator(s) as an end reward?

I also was wondering what might be done to incentivise players other than the most creative types to actually play these dungeons? At the moment, other than experience, running the complete dungeon only rewards a special currency that can be used for items for the same system. So, unless you want to grind the currency for your own dungeon designing needs, there’s not a huge attraction to playing these creations. What other incentives could be given? Perhaps a set number of collection item nodes – possibly with you only receiving the rewards as a completion reward? Shinies are always a nice little reward and they have enhanced value these days as they can be turned in for status or some cash. It’s a sad reality that any such rewards would need to be designed to be bot-resistant to avoid the bot farming that can plague such systems.

I’m sure Daybreak has other priorities for the game’s development, but it would be nice to see the Dungeon Maker receive some love especially in the current context. After all, one of Everquest 2’s greatest strengths is the breadth of features it offers.

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG | 2 Comments

Kaladim beckons #EQ2

So the newest progression server, Kaladim, launches this coming Saturday (16th). I’m off a mind to start a character there just to join in the initial levelling hype. The promised changes to itemisation to make it more like the original game will certainly be worth taking a look at.

My Shadowknight deserves a rest after fighting this lot

How long it keeps me away from my Shadowknight remains to be seen, but it’s kind of important to be there in the early days to get the best out of the experience I would imagine.

Illusion in tow

I’ve yet to decide what to make, something simple and easy to play probably, though the tempation will be to create a healer because, I like to play healers. I’ve recently created a Fae Illusionist on my main server (Skyfire) as I’ve never played one and still want to play through Greater Feydark properly on at least one character – perhaps I should take that as inspiration for this new server? It will be interesting to see just how popular the different starter zones are on this new server.

 

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG

Past thunder and flame #EQ2

I’ve continued to make good progress in the Planes of Prophecy expansion, I’m on chapter 7 of 9 now. Having cleared the Plane of Disease with my Shadowknight and his mastery of all things noxious, I stormed through the Bastion of Karana and blasted on past Solusek Ro’s Tower.

The general content is easy enough with lots of interesting locations and mechanics. It’s noticeable just how much more interactive environments tend to be in Everquest 2: there is so often little details that you need to observe in order to get through these longer quest chains. Keeping an eye on announced observations or NPC chatter is always a good thing, as is noting any unusual details in the landscape or decor since they might be important later. Doubling back on yourself isn’t forbidden either: some instanced levels are linear for sure, but many are not.

The boss fights in particular are pretty engaging affairs, if sometimes somewhat hectic for me as a non-raider. Having to remember mechanics and orders-of-actions is nothing new as I’ve often had to do similar things in World of Warcraft. The difference here is that I’m completing the signature questline for the expansion solo, so it’s all down to my memory and execution skills.

Unlike prior attempts all seems to be going well now, maybe I’m just that bit more practiced at playing the game’s more advanced content? Although my Shadowknight is only kitted out in quest gear as yet, I have been giving some thought to things that might make a difference. Firstly I realised after writing the last blog post on him, that his lack of any progress in the Kunark Ascending expansion meant he hadn’t unlocked an Ascension class. Although it’s not held him up in Planes of Prophecy it does mean he was missing some potentially powerful attack abilities.

I had thought I might need to go back to my Inquisitor to finish off the Kunark Ascending timeline as that apparently unlocks Ascension classes and access to the trainers on all your alts. As it happens that isn’t necessary as, in fact, you only need take a newer character through the Planes of Prophecy storyline up to the point of the Hall of Valour: there’s an Ascension trainer NPC there who can get your character started. I could even pop over to Pas Yu in The Sundered Frontier and grab the tome to boost his Ascension class to level 6 for free.

Septic Strike is one of the four new abilities gained as a Thaumaturge

So crisis , or at least a potentially lengthy side-trek on my Inquisitor, duly averted. I am able to focus as desired on Planes of Prophecy content solely for now. That’s not to say I haven’t ideas of what I could do next in-game when that story is completed. I’ll need to do the crafting quest chain on at least one character as well for this expansion. After that there are all manner of alts to level or prior expansion contents I could dive back into. One thing at a time though…

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG

Progress at last #EQ2

All the interesting discussions of late in the MMO blogosphere and gaming news stories have kept me away from blogging about what I’m actually playing at the moment – namely Everquest 2.

I’ve made great strides in EQ 2’s current expansion since I swapped to my Shadowknight for playing through the Planes of Prophecy main story arc. I’d gotten stuck on a particular story instance in the Plane of Disease on my Inquisitor and, in part due to my ignorance of how instances work in EQ2, I lost all progress and left him on pause.

Fanged-worm attack!

Rather than spend ages on trying to debug my poor healer’s build to un-stick him, I decided to return to my lovely Iksar Shadowknight. It’s a class that I really fell in love with when I dinged him to 95 a few years ago – he’s one of the few examples of a character that I’ve auto-leveled across all the MMORPGs that I play and then continued to enjoy playing afterwards.

In the Plane of Disease he had none of the squishiness problems that plagued my Inquisitor, although killing monsters might take a bit longer as I mostly didn’t bother with a mercenary. His self-healing on every hit generally keeps his health topped up at all times.

Barrels are the key

The boss fight mechanics do matter in these instanced solo dungeons, the only fight that I had to retry was this one above against Darwol Adan. For my second try I grabbed out my Defiler mercenary Kluuron as the wiki advised to have a pet beating on the boss while you focus on the barrel mechanic.

I actually used my bow attack at the start of this fight…

Other fights were no problem at all for my character. Ironically for a Shadowknight that wields dark magics of disease and death, the only mechanics that could bring his health down even somewhat were some of the diseases inflicted by lesser monsters in the more open areas of the Plane of Disease…

In the company of gods

I’m now at the threshold of exploring the next plane in the expansion, the Plane of Storms. It is a real pleasure to be making progress again, if anything having the time to concentrate on the game has made the real difference to my progress here. Playing a self-healing tank class probably helps too.

 

Posted in EQ2, MMORPG | 2 Comments

Masterminds of Sharn coming to DDO

I read over at Massively a little more about the upcoming expansion for Dungeons & Dragons Online, called “Masterminds of Sharn”. Details are still scarce as of yet, but at least we know that is the title of Update 42. I’m super excited to see what Standing Stone Games does with the city of towers, it is the biggest city in the Eberron setting and is a wonderful backdrop for potential adventures with a more urban/noir atmosphere than the jungles of Xen’drik where most of the game’s earlier content was set.

I would hope that the magically enhanced verticality of the city is featured; the city is dominated by impossibly tall towers that are surrounded and connected by a network of raised plazas and roads. There are several distinct tiers to the city offering a variety of radically different environments even within the one city.

Image courtesy of Eberron Wiki

Here’s hoping we get to see some different sides to the city. Sharn will not be featured in just the one update I imagine as update 43’s adventure pack also features the city; the dev blog also mentions that a new class is coming in the following update (44). Given the title of the expansion, my bet would be on the psion: a class that has often been optional in Dungeons & Dragons but one that was fully integrated lore-wise into the Eberron setting. Equally the title may refer to politicians or underworld manipulators of the city’s governance, a new class is always welcome in any MMO I feel.

Yes, I still own the original

The final noteworthy extract from the article was that update 45 will feature an adaptation of the classic D&D module B2: Keep of the Borderlands. That is such a classic adventure it too has me rather giddy at the thought of playing it. I DM’ed this module as the very first D&D game I ever ran, too many years ago to freely admit. It’s a rather simplistic adventure in modern D&D terms but could be a good canvas for new adventures.

Posted in DDO, MMORPG | 6 Comments

The Foundry to close

I read with some disappointment that Cryptic is closing the Foundry in its various MMORPGs next month. That means I’ll have to take the time to replay my husband’s missions in Neverwinter one more time. It is really sad to read that another avenue for genuine player creativity is being shuttered. The reason given is a plain one, too few resources and the loss of a key member of staff who was behind its development.

The history of the Foundry in Neverwinter, the MMO I have by far the most experience with, is rather checked. At launch it was a system with very real potential despite the bugs. There was a real buzz about the idea of creating your own adventure scenarios or re-creating classic tales from Dungeons & Dragons or beyond for others to experience (someone worked on recreating specific Everquest 1 zones for instance).

Sadly MMO players being what they so often are, min-maxers to the extreme, exploits were found and the system was heavily nerfed reward-wise. The random resource nodes were taken out as bots were (allegedly) farming them to create wealth. Players also made pits full of monsters that you could easily slaughter with ranged attacks from safety above as a way to speed farm experience. The justification for my statement at the start of this paragraph is that such missions quickly featured as popular and highly rated.

There was also the daily reward system for astral diamonds – a daily quest given by Rhix the kobold in Protectors Enclave. That gave a real incentive for players to try player-made content beyond the experience gain. But the qualification system for which scenarios counted for this or not was arbitrary and deeply flawed. It was based on a scenario’s average run time – set and amended over time by players running it. So a scenario could be comfortably over the minimum at the moment of first publication; but you might log back in a few days or weeks later to find it had been disqualified by the average runtime falling below the bar. This is a game that always attracted speed-runners so basing this on average runtime was a rather foolish idea.

Despite these issues the system was easy to use and rather powerful. Compared to other systems it was also very generous: you received all the available assets from the first moment. That contrasts rather strongly with the collection mini-game in Everquest 2, I’ve barely touched the Dungeon-maker in that game as I have so few assets collected to do anything with. There were also some achievements and a rather nice companion to earn if you really committed to using the Foundry. Players could rate and comment on your scenarios, or even send you a ‘tip’ of a hundred or so astral diamonds. Overall it was a system with great potential that never quite hit its full stride due to certain system decisions and the inevitable community approach to using it.

Posted in MMORPG, Neverwinter | 3 Comments