Battle Bards Episode 35: Dungeons & Dragons Online

A good D&D session doesn’t only need character sheets and an abudance of 20-sided dice, but atmospheric tunes as well.  What kind of soundtrack does the long-running Dungeons & Dragons Online have?  The Battle Bards investigate DDO’s score this week, in particular contrasting the old tracks with the newer expansion ones.  As usual, Syp stands mostly alone.

Episode 35 show notes

  • Intro (featuring “Character Creation,” “Crafting Hall,” and “Wheloon Tavern 1″)
  • “Main Theme”
  • “House Dun’Robar”
  • “Yo Ho Ho, Surly Kobold”
  • “Untold Truth”
  • “King’s Forest 2″
  • “Eye of the Titan”
  • “Eveningstar 1″
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Outro (“Eye of the Titan”)

Listen to episode 35 now!

Six things I’ve loved about returning to RIFT

skyI’ve been back in RIFT for a good week or so now, rocketing up through the first 30 levels.  While the first day back was kind of “meh,” it’s quickly returned to my favorites list — as in, I can’t wait to log in the next time.  So what have I loved about this return so far?

1. It’s still a very pretty game.  Sometimes I hear some hate on RIFT’s visuals for being bland, which puzzles me.  I’ve always thought of it as a good-looking game world that’s fun to poke around in.  The enemy models are especially notable for their details and animations, and every once in a while I can’t help but stop and take screenshots of the local scenery.

2. Fiddling with soul builds is a terrific ongoing minigame.  What the soul system loses in terms of identity and class permanence, it more than makes up for with flexibility and a friendly, welcome attitude toward those who just want to endlessly tinker with new builds and ideas.  Finding little synergies that work and being able to create a build that caters to your playstyle (versus having to adjust your playstyle to a class) are the moments that make me the happiest.

3. The new Rogue Physician soul is terrific.  Now that all of the callings have souls for all roles, you can now do it all.  Rogues have a great healing soul with the Physician, but I like it more for how it complements solo PvE play.  At zero points, you get a fairly potent heal, which is great for pretty much any build.  Then the soul has access to all sorts of heal-over-times and absorb shields (the first of which you get at 4 points).  My Tactician/Riftstalker/Physician build feels incredibly durable as a result.

4. I missed tab-target combat.  With the exception of LOTRO, all of the other MMOs I’ve been playing lately have skewed to the action combat side of things.  I’ve gotten used to it (and Guild Wars 2 remains the gold standard for balancing the old and new types of combat), but going back to RIFT showed me how much value the old tab-targeting combat was.  It’s so much less stressful, especially for when I just want to quest without having to run around like a crazy person for each and every combat encounter.

5. Dimensions are pretty great.  I’ve been working on my dimension a little here and there, and while WildStar gets the edge for housing looks and functionality, RIFT definitely has more user friendly placement tools.  Plus, I’m getting a lot of housing items as normal loot, including a blue-quality Gloomwood house… to put next to my other house.  Didn’t know houses could drop.  That’s kind of cool.

6. There’s always a variety of activities to do.  Mostly I’m just questing, because I do like the zone stories and completing everything, but I have a lot of leeway to take breaks for other activities.  Instant adventures are low-stress group activities, dungeon running is still awesome (I do one or two a night), and I even do pretty much every rift that I encounter.  I forgot about the mentoring system too, which eliminates the worry that I might out-level zone content before I’m ready to leave.

Quest for Glory: The man in the cave

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

ca1Nearby Erana’s Peace is a cave, which is guarded by this fearsome-looking ogre.  While I have better armor on now than before, I’m still a thief fighting with a dinky dagger.  I should have chosen the fighter class, shouldn’t I?  Oh well… I actually muddle my way through this encounter, striking at the creature when he steps in to swing.  Once again, I am severely underwhelmed at the combat mechanics in this game.

The ogre’s corpse does cough up a treasure chest with a lot of money in it, which I add to my growing hoard.  Seriously, I’m up to 18 gold or something now, which is enough to buy pretty much anything I want.

ca2Inside the cave is a bear (which is normal) that is chained up (which is not as normal).  For kicks, I go right up to him and then get mauled to death.  This prompts the above death notice, which I applaud most vigorously.  Best pun ever.

ca3Getting past the bear isn’t hard at all — as the description tells me, he’s a HUNGRY bear.  Here dude, have an apple from an underage centaur filly who won’t date me.  Rawr, that’s good fruit.

ca4In the next room of the cave is a kobold wizard (I love his tattered robes!) who has a key around his neck.  Well!  We must be unlocking that murderous bear, mustn’t we!  I try sneaking up to him, all thief-like, but since this is literally the first time in the game that I’ve tried sneaking, my skill is horribly poor and I get fried by magic(tm).

ca5Since I need a higher sneaking skill, you know what that means.  The game is going to require that I do a repetitive task over and over again while it slowly levels that skill up.  So I head back out in front of the cave and practice my sneaking to the vast approval of the decaying ogre.  He gives me important tips like how to blend in with one’s environment, and I feel less like a complete fool for mincing back and forth for over ten minutes.

ca6At least all that sneaking practice pays off: I easily boost the key from the kobold and free the bear.  Said bear transforms into — shocker! — the Baronet, Barnard von Spielburg.  He’s a tool, too, sneering at me as if he wasn’t just wallowing in his own filth and happy for a bite of apple.

ca7The upshot of all these trials is that I am now welcome into the Baron’s halls.  He’s pretty glad to see me and far more appreciative that I rescued his snooty son from eternal bear-hood.  I haven’t quite saved everything — I still need to find his daughter, drive out the brigands, and reverse the Baba Yaga’s curse — but it’s a really good start.

I even get invited to dinner and am rewarded with 50 gold for the baronet’s rescue.  I need to go on a shopping spree!

The Feel (no, not the feels)

hoverI’ve given a disturbing amount of thought into why I primarily play female characters in MMOs (allowing my daughter to dictate my outfits, while applicable, is not a compelling reason as this trend predates her birth by several years).  I don’t secretly wish that I was a girl, nor do I create avatars with shapely posteriors only to ogle them.  I used to believe it was mostly because capable girls who kick butt are cool to watch, but the more I dwelt on it, I realized that was just a side benefit.

What I think it comes down to, really, is that my character has to *feel* right for me.  The feel isn’t just the looks or the animation (although those factor in), but the combination along with the outfit, the skills, and associated movement.  In movie terms, my character has to be the right action hero that suits me — and there is a wider spectrum of action heroes than you might assume from tropes.  There are nimble invincible can-do-everything heroes, although those bore me.  There are the gritty, beat-up heroes who soldier through on sheer grit.  Those interest me more.  And there are the heroes who draw strength from intelligence and wits first, then dexterity and moxie second.  That’s right around where I’d envision myself if I was to be in an action movie.

Most MMO males don’t have the right feel for me.  I don’t relate well to tall, incredibly buff jocks.  Nor do I have a lot in common with slender flawless metrosexuals.  I’m short, and while I’m not weak, I’m not a powerhouse.  I like to think through situations and then hopefully approach them fearlessly and confidently when a conclusion is reached.

Older male characters (especially craggy, scarred ones) draw upon this feel.  Adama, Picard, Gandalf, Zed, Mr. Miyagi… these guys might not be as fresh as they once were, but what they’ve given up physically they’ve gained even more with experience and wisdom.

Younger female characters appeal to a different feel for me, that of challenging the Arnold action hero cliché and demonstrating a sleeker inner strength that belies a smaller frame.  Plus, they get better clothes than the guys, and I’m a total virtual clothes horse.

My Engineer in WildStar has a great feel for me.  With a giant gun, bot companions, and agile movement, I love to watch her blast through the world without hestitations or fears.  In contrast, my captain in Star Trek Online has a bullish, brute feel that solves problems by head-butting them straight on.  And I’m still getting the feel for my new RIFT rogue, but I already like her propensity for throwing out a heap of firepower and explosions without regard to collateral damage.

So the feel is important.  It’s hard to connect and stick with a character for a long period when it’s not clicking with me.

Quest for Glory: Dryad scavenger hunt

(This is part of my journey playing through Quest for Glory 1. You can follow the entire series on the Nostalgia Lane page.)

aa1After my midnight adventures for Baba Yaga and a subsequent fight with five — count ‘em, five — goblins, I am tuckered.  I make a dash for Erana’s Peace to get my free food and safe sleep.  Ahh.

aa2One of the biggest drawbacks to Quest for Glory is how confusing it is to navigate.  A good chunk of the world is forest, and with no map to guide you and a ton of repeated scenes (save on artwork storage space, I guess), it’s hard to know where you are and where you’re going.  I eventually resorted to printing out a map from a website, but even still, I’m a little tired of these lengthy strolls through the glades.

Fortunately for my boredom, I stumble upon a white stag, which bounds away.  I follow, dreaming of white stag steaks for dinner.

aa3The stag stops two screens over, where I have an encounter with a tree dryad.  Don’t see a lot of dryads even in fantasy RPGs, so one point goes to Quest for Glory here.  The dryad asks me if I’m “a friend of the forest.”  Well, I’m more a friend of my own pocketbook, but I know what I’m supposed to say, so “yes.”  She then tasks me to get a seed because that’s all tree-huggers can think about.  Seeds and sprouts and sticks.

aa4Another (sigh) long walk through the forest.  Eventually I find these four plants spitting the seed that I need back and forth.  For a long while, I try to knock the seed down using stones that I picked up from the ground, but the seeds go too fast and it never happens.  So instead, I climb up to these rocks, stick out my hand, and pocket the seed as it flies by.  Go me!

I bring the seed all the way back to the dryad, who receives it with a Star Trek reference.

aa5Okay then.  Live long and prosper and all that.

The dryad tells me of some other prophecy (this game has about twelve hundred prophecies, I’ve noticed) that boils down to me gathering ingredients for a potion.  I have some of the items but not others.  Time to scavenger hunt, I guess.

aa6Nearby, goofy ground-living fluffballs named Meeps give me one of the ingredients, some of their green fur.  Can I play the rest of the game as a Meep?

aa7And some water from the Flying Falls…

Since I’m nearby Spielberg, I stop in and spend 400 silvers to upgrade my armor.  Ooh yeah, I’m rough and tough!

aa8The last ingredient that I need is some fairy dust, which only comes from fairies who pop out around dusk in the mushroom circle.  I’ll admit it, this whole encounter had me laughing pretty hard.  The fairies — which are only portrayed as little flickering lights — bicker and banter back and forth.  Their greatest desire is to see me dance, and so for a long minute, that’s what my character does.  Then one fairy (Dewdrop, I believe) admits to having a crush on me while another (Mary) gives me my fairy dust.


aa9Of course, then I make the mistake of entering the circle and being forced todance to death.  The boogie music here is worth it, however.

With all of the ingredients collected, I return to the healer’s hut where she (rather anticlimacticly) makes a dispel potion for me.  Hope this pays off later!

20 little things I’ve grown to love about WildStar

loppAs I adventure along, I find really cool little features or what have you about WildStar that make me go, that’s pretty awesome.  So why not list them?

1. How the game automatically puts any medishots in your inventory into the healing slot on the hotbar.  That’s saved my bacon more than once.

2. The emotes on the characters are really terrific — some of the best I’ve seen in any MMO, probably because they’re cartoony exaggerated.

3. Tending my little garden and then selling the crops for profit.

4. How loot explodes out of mobs and nodes — and how you suck them all up afterward.  It’s very visceral and feels exciting every time.

5. Speaking of goodies, every so often you see a glowing cracked patch on the ground.  Clicking on it results in either a buff station or a chest of loot.  Score!

6. I love how my bots have different animations for swimming — their legs spin together like a focused propeller.

7. The idle animations for many of the mobs are hilarious and well worth checking out if you can avoid aggro.  One of my current favorites are the walatusks (walruses) that go on an eating binge and then puke/burp all over the place.

8. Movement is great.  I get so spoiled by WildStar’s sprint and double-jump that I get a little angry with other MMOs for not having them (especially the latter).  Doing a little double-jump kick with a hoverboard makes me so dang happy.

9. Housing zone chat.  People are so inviting and talkative here, and it makes being in your house more social by default.

10. Quests that let you super-jump.  I missed doing this in City of Heroes, so it’s great to have a taste of this in WildStar every so often.  Whee!

11. Repeating fun challenges for even more loot.

12. Every last little thing that the Lopp say.  I love Lopp.  So much.  “Buy from Lopp, deals never flop!”

13. The whole Squirg zombie aspect — it’s a fun take on B-movie zombies and alien brainsuckers (reminds me of the ones from Futurama, actually).  And getting a “hat” that covers your entire head and talks to you still cracks me up.

14. Special quest weapons that are a blast to use, like cryo-grenades and stink bombs.  My only complaint is that you can’t keep them afterward (too powerful, I reckon).

15. The little lore logs you find all over the place.  Some are tragic, some are illuminating, and some are screamingly funny.  The TV guide ones are usually a hoot.

16. The music.  I’m not *quite* prepared to say that this is the greatest MMO soundtrack ever until I finish listening through it, but it’s certainly a strong contender for the title.

17. The sentient veggies… dunno what it is about them, but they’re so odd that they’re compelling.  I want to know what makes them tick and if they have a Christian-themed animated show (props to VeggieTales).

18. Shiphand missions are really engaging, even if the first three that I’ve encountered more or less rip off Aliens.  Their design is cool and the scripting and mission variety keep them interesting throughout.

19. Seeing a gathering node try to run away or turn into a giant boss monster to fight so that you can kill it and invade its tunnel for even more mats.

20. The NPC dialogue and characterization feels refreshingly different than the fantasy fare.  More down-to-earth (down-to-Nexus?), more contemporary, and more relatable.