Tag Archives: tunnels and trolls

The Dark Lord, And General Thoughts Of Doom

owl river preview image

In this post I ramble about LotRO’s Mordor xpack, gaming stocks, the end of the world, and my personal game project (screenshot above).


Gaming Stocks


Through summer I predicted the usual summer swoon, and in recent weeks it has happened. My 15% gains in my previous investments this summer, Netease and JD.com, dwindled to near zero, then bounced this week with a feeble pulse.

This shows the all-important point of buying as low as possible – so you don’t lose faith and get knocked out on the next pullback.

I bought half back into Google on this pullback (I sold all at a peak last spring.) I added a solid bid on the ROBO ETF, which is a worldwide ETF focusing on the robotics industry. That’s right – the same robots that will soon take all of our jobs and rule the world.

I might double up Google on a major market breakdown. I hate Facebook. Facebook is moving into original content now, pitting itself against everybody else doing that, including Disney. Disney (DIS) just announced plans to pull its content from Netflix and send it to two new proprietary streaming services coming in 2019.

The main growth driver of big U.S. tech stocks in the last two years has been the cloud. Google is coming late to ramp this up, and sentiment is turning against Amazon, offering the cheap seats of the sector.

My diversified GAMR ETF is up 9% in a couple months. I’m happy with that. I don’t think it’s beating Blizzard (ATVI), but Activision Blizz is overbought. They had a great run with Hearthstone and Overwatch together, and they simply can’t keep accelerating at the same rate. Interest will inevitably dwindle.

So currently I have 25-30% of my portfolio in China, mainly by virtue of 80-100% gains in Alibaba (BABA) and Tencent (TCEHY). I have the GAMR and ROBO ETFs, and a U.S. tech-heavy index fund. My only U.S. single stocks are Home Depot (scoring a hurricane cha-ching recently up 25%), NVidia up 50% (again), and now back into Google on the pullback/consolidation. And the final entry is Stryker (SYK) up 25%.

I’m watching the TAN and XLV ETFs (solar and healthcare). For two years I’ve been watching these industries. Trump promised death to solar and death to high health care prices (as did Hillary.) No reform has happened. Both solar and health care are moving. I’m also watching Albemarle (ALB), a major Lithium producer, because solar and robots need serious battery power.

Buying ALB (and any metals/commodities) have issues because of the extremely weak dollar. The dollar could easily keep dropping due to the inability of Draghi to do anything about the soaring Euro, and China purposefully strengthening its currency in the last few weeks. Still, at some point it will reverse.

I’m also watching the quintupling of Bitcoin this year, with morbid interest. I downloaded an app to buy some mid-summer during a pullback, but it shot so fast past my buy point that I didn’t pull the trigger. There is no 100% safe, fool-proof way for me to buy these currencies. That’s the problem.

My friend is currently mining Monero and Zcash in the mountains in New Mexico. I’m also watching this with interest, because I need a second job. Or something. My current ripoff low pay is ridiculous.


Mordor


I don’t play Hearthstone anymore. I’m on the verge of not playing LotRO anymore either. I finished Mordor and capped my characters on both accounts, and was happy with the expansion experience while dual boxing.

The solo Mordor is pitiless though. I play for a bit on my Warden and just log out. The endgame grind is confusing, over-complicated, and opaque.

The LotRO devs thought it was a good idea to offer good daily rewards randomly on some days, and bad ones on other days. I logged into LotRO tonight to play, and logged out fifteen minutes later. It’s a bad day for the dailies. No key. Just kill me.

Most of the work I did in the last two zones was quickly obsolete in Mordor. Everything I did over the summer was a waste of time. This leaves me angry. The LotRO devs over-pushed obsolescence, and now I feel stupid for running this hamster wheel for them. I know it will all be pointless in a few months, except for getting into the dungeons.

That’s all I want – to play dungeons, but I’m apparently not willing to invest hundreds of hours to get ready to have fun. I’m simply not logging in.

There are also no good, likable characters in this expansion. The evil leaders in Mordor are done well, but they are not your friends. And you can’t go fight them without spending hundreds of hours solo questing for purple junk to go in their dungeons, hopefully, eventually.

And then all that work will be obsolete again. Yes, everyone knows this, but I just finished a major Wastes grind at the end of July. I’m more in the mood to say fuck you than start all over again.


End of The World


Trump has to be the Anti-Christ. 90% of everything he says is a lie. The good news is the biggest hurricane ever is currently coming after his properties in Florida. So maybe nature is fighting back.

The bad news is that he is currently campaigning to do the age-old Republican tradition of tax reform AKA lining the pockets of the rich, at the expense of all the idiots and bigots who believe Trump’s lies and support him.

It’s unlikely we will survive the next four years without major disasters. That’s just the way the karma cookie crumbles.


Tunnels And Trolls, and My Personal Project


I just downloaded the T&T app that very recently released, to my tablet. I want to study the Tunnels and Trolls solitaire adventures to learn what made them fun way back in the day.

Currently it appears to be breaking my Android tablet Wi-Fi connection whenever it tries to update. But it updated on my iPhone, and I played Naked Doom. I ate hallucinogenic mushrooms and died falling into a chasm after being bitten by vampire bats.

I have a feeling the fun is the crazy situations in which your decisions make a big difference, and the results are wild. This design is difficult in a persistent campaign-type game.

You can’t just hand out a Heroic Sword +5 in your first adventure, for fun. The many ways to achieve instant death also have to be explained in my game world where your character is designed to emerge with some treasure and experience, and go on to the next story.

Today I sold an eBook, so my thanks to whomsoever purchased it. I published my first trilogy of novels two years ago on Halloween. My bilingual school of witches and wizards is already open for visitation, but my goal is to formalize that as of Halloween this year.

I’ve moved away from Greco-Roman mythology to the relatively British flavor of islands populated by elves and fairies. I’m on the fence about using Scottish and Gaelic names, however, since I’m trying to teach modern English. I deeply regret my stupid lack of imagination in this whole novel and game development process.

I’m a super smart person, but I am not a fun person. At all. So it’s an almost hopeless challenge to channel my playful side on a daily basis and try to entertain.

Sometimes I cringe at the literary success of young, relatively undeserving people with the right luck and connections, but I can understand how they are better writers than I am with popular fiction. I was probably a more inspired writer when I was twenty years of age, but I had no idea how to write good fiction.

Nowadays I know how to write, but no one cares. Even game blogging has become a popularity contest – among makers of video content.

Advertisements

Theme of the Week: Trolls

princess tableturn
I was actually trolled successfully in the LotRO forums this last week, which was depressing. I can’t even relate to the minds of low-class American society, and I’m glad.

In other troll news this week:

The Chinese government now insists on reviewing and approving every single mobile game sold in China, including simple updates. China has turned more protectionist recently, with a major court ruling against Apple in favor of some no-name Chinese phone manufacturer, for example.

A stock market commentary site opines that AMD’s new Polaris video cards are an “overhyped disaster”. I didn’t research this. I’m never buying another AMD card.

On Thursday Activision Blizzard (ATVI) stock was up 4.23%, and another .66% in the aftermarket, on the backs of praise and upgrades from Wall street analysts. Polygon reported this week that Overwatch is now the most popular game in Korean net cafes, taking the top spot from LOL.

Blizzard has also been in the news for striking deals with Facebook and Netflix. One has to be concerned about the future of its WoW movie franchise, but on the other hand, the expectations weren’t particularly high.

Blizzard continues to be the only game maker who both understands and is able to implement the power of great characters. The Overwatch characters especially are a hit with the Asian fans, or so I’ve heard.

According to some prominent game bloggers recently, Asian money is worthless to Blizzard, but for now those “underweight” investors will have to continue sucking lemons.

I visited Steam several times looking at games to buy the summer sale. I purchased Fallout 4 and Life Is Strange episodes 2-5.

Currently my characters are level 104, 103, and 99 in LotRO, so I’ll be due for a break soon. I finally have a “main” in my Warden. For the first time in a long time, I can just log in and do whatever with her, and feel satisfied with my play session, instead of feeling like I have to make ruthless progress.

I’m also doing a little multiboxing. I realized my LotRO multiboxing guide is not getting SEO on that search term (only dual-boxing), so I tried to tweak that. Here is a link, to possibly help with players who want to LotRO multibox.

This week a game developer announced a Tunnels and Trolls app, which will feature a support platform for people to make and share their own T&T modules. Unfortuntely I lost the link for this, can’t Google it either, and the main T&T website has no news on it, instead showing broken feeds.


Stock Commentary


All the Wall Street pros are extremely bearish and concerned right now about the market. I see grim faces. Big names like Alan Greenspan and George Soros are declaring certain doom. Literally no one thinks the market can go higher. Not possible. Even the bulls have thrown in the towel.

So this should be very interesting. The last time a big-name consensus declared almost certain doom was near the very bottom of the February correction. While many pros are feeling the doom, they nonetheless shoved money immediately into Nike when Nike dropped hard a few days ago.

One Nike (NKE) analyst says right now is the best entry point into Nike’s stock in the last 20 years. I’ll never buy Nike because video games. Duh.

Electronic Arts (EA) is also pushing for all-time highs in the last two days, after a consolidation phase of almost one year. It was about this place last July. If it breaks through, it’s a buy.

Of course, the same pattern is in place for a lot of stocks, and the entire U.S. market right now. So it’s hard to buy one stock on a breakout if the overall market fails.

An exception this week was Verizon (VZ), which dropped almost nowhere on Brexit, due to its big dividend, and broke out of long-term resistance to new highs instead. This is demand due to worldwide low interest rates.

I bought VZ on Monday at the bottom of the Brexit frenzy, with my stop at $54/share on the long term breakout, and so far it’s golden. It drops early every day, but just won’t go down. It just goes up.

The question in my mind is whether the smart money has sold (distributed) in recent weeks, and we have massive holdings now in “weak hands”. (Namely the buyers of the Brexit dip.) This could cause the market to drop massively and quickly. Or it could cause the market to go crazy, if it breaks north and the smart money is sitting there with their jaws hanging open, and their pockets dripping with all their cash on hand.

I could go on about record outflows in the last years and months, international dynamics of money flow relative to other countries, etc.


Current Ideas:


According to a report yesterday, the big hedge funds were buying mostly energy and materials in this last quarter.

Kinder Morgan (KMI). A few pros have mentioned liking this stock in the past week. Others have given up on it. It’s been stuck in a straight horizontal consolidation for four months. If it breaks to the northern latitude, it might be worth a shot with your stop on the top line of the consolidation band, of course.

Valero (VLO). One of my all-time favorites, this stock was pummeled today on news of a lawsuit in California, with accusations of gas price manipulation. This big selloff was met with solid buying through the day, however, forming another big bottom tail (candlestick.) This could be a bottom for Valero, because the news can’t be any worse. I’m looking for VLO to break out of its downtrend line before girding my loins, and who knows.

Pushed To The Back Burner:

Dow (DOW) is laying off a bunch of workers due to its Corning restructuring, and some say the time isn’t right to buy – better after the deal with Corning is complete. That’s going nowhere close to breaking out right now.

Visa (V) saw strong buying after Brexit, relative to the market, but lost a legal action late in the week, resulting in a 3.4% drop. Given that Visa also tends to trade with the currently treacherous financial sector, that’s also a no-touch for now. Very glad I was disciplined and sold several days ago.


Torment: Tides

torment: tides of numenera

Brian Fargo tweeted a short while ago that early access for Torment: Tides of Numenera beta backers will be available tomorrow. I suddenly wish I was one of those people!

Maybe I should start beta backing, especially when Brian Fargo and Shanna Germain are involved. Shanna is the bona fide award-winning erotica writer on the Torment project.

The image small print says “coming to Steam 1/26/2016“, but I don’t find anything on Steam right now. This kitty is confused as usual. I bought a small solitaire game called “Quill tonight instead, which involves letter-writing in a medieval setting.

It looks like a very interesting study in game design.

Quill requires six-sided dice though, and I possess no solemn equipage of antique, romantic hexahedrons. The digital download didn’t come with a game box of course, so.

I’m off tomorrow night to pay real money at the game shop for a bag of six-sided dice, I suppose. Back in the days, I could find six-sided dice hiding on the floor of grandma’s game closet, or in the Yahtzee box. Not so anymore.

The good news is that I’ve created a Drivethru account, and after I purchase six-sided dice, I can finally use my Tunnels and Trolls rulebook. Drivethru also offers T&T adventures. We’ll see.


Game-Related Stocks


This week is another tide of torment in the stock market. Clearly by the time I decided to pool my resources and invest in the stock market (last year), the markets of the entire world were on the brink of collapsing and dying in a fire.

Yesterday a tweet mentioned that the Vanguard (mutual fund) website was turning away customers due to no available representatives. Last night the evening news mentioned that you, yes you, lost $7000+ so far this year if you own an average 401k.

Tonight they featured the same report, but the pain number was more like 8k.

Today the market entered mom and pop half-panic mode, however, and big money stepped in to create a massive turn up. Time will tell whether it will be enough, but consensus on CNBC is clearly that the bottom can’t be in due to China, oil, and currency, and five other things.

So far I’m still holding my original Blizzard and Alibaba, and I’ve pushed 50% back into Microsoft and Electronic Arts. That’s all. I’m cheering every day for the markets to self-destruct as much as possible, honestly, so I can buy.

Today Alibaba announced a big deal with NVidia to build out its cloud, including a second data center on the U.S. west coast. That’s good news for NVidia.

On another scary down day today, Nvidia and Microsoft ended in the green and were the strongest-performing tech stocks I follow, except for Twitter.


Personal RPG Project


Last week I had my final kidney stone surgery, I hope. I survived. I’m no longer sustaining constant pain and blood loss. I’m starting to feel more energized.

I upgraded my animation code to more object-oriented code. I re-worked file structure to accommodate a longer-term vision of modular expansion. Mostly I’m working on more art and scenes.

I really need to firm up my campaign setting.

Like a novice writer/adventure designer, my cat brain has been scattered all over the place with elves, pirates, vampires, Mayans, Greek monsters, and an embarrassing mish-mash of poorly considered architectural styles.

So I need a strong, consistent, sensible, constrained setting. I need a consistent political structure, social expectations, and a thoughtful style of architecture, constructed with logical local materials, in my case forest, sea sand, and volcanic stone.

Those sorts of things.

Tonight I started reading the Oxford Book of Ballads at Project Gutenberg. Just the first short ballad, Thomas the Rhymer, is completely intense. The fairies seem really right to me, especially since my game is mostly an English-speaking educational game.

I was thinking and pacing all day on how I don’t want to be a stupid human tourist, a user of mythology for entertainment or self-serving spiritual narcissism. I needed to make a serious commitment, a reverence to one magical faction, and I hope that faction is the elves and fairies of Brittania.

Maybe I can have just one vampire, and just one pirate? I wanted my pirate to be a rabbit wearing a waistcoat, though! I think I need to do my due diligence and read more fairy and elf lore, and then maybe things will fall better into place.

As always, blessed be and happy gaming.


Kobold’s Corner: Luck As An RPG Stat – Good Or Bad

meadowToday I painted a cursed wizard school, where every time you miss a quiz question, your life force is drained a bit more until you pass out and awake in the infirmary.

Why does the headmaster allow this awful thing to happen? Well, there’s a vampire curse, you see, and maybe some Snape-ish professors actually like the curse.

It weeds out the weak.

I was also looking today at more Tunnels and Trolls stuff (for my browser-based game project). I downloaded and played Crusaders of Khazan, a T&T CRPG from 1990, on a PC emulator from Emuparadise.

They’re calling this “abandonware”, so it was free. The kitty likes free, but I couldn’t handle navigating that little low-resolution tile world for long. My eyes glazed over. Bleep. Bloop. Bloop. Bleep.

Saving rolls are an interesting part of T&T for me. I want to do lots of rolls, but I’m skeptical about Luck as a stat. Like someone commented in a game forum, Luck is already a real part of the game.

You as a player want to be lucky – with dice rolls.

Ken St. Andre pared D&D down to the barest essentials to make T&T back in the 1970s. When Ken explains why he took out Wisdom and added Luck, I agree with his reasoning. You need Luck to survive a dungeon. If you were wise, you wouldn’t set foot in that infested hole in the first place. Thinking it over though, I wonder if he added an almost-as-worthless stat.

I perused one of St. Andre’s dungeons today in the new deluxe T&T rulebook (“Chambers of the Mad Dwarf“). He is recommending IQ or Luck saving rolls to spot hidden doors and secrets in a few places. So you can be Sherlock Holmes to spot something, or just thrust your sword accidentally into the exact tree knot to open the door.

Which admittedly is fun – the best counter-argument for using Luck. On the other hand, novelist sages say fiction has to be even more real than reality to be believable. If a character wins the big lottery out of the blue in a book of fiction and then lives happily ever after, the reader will feel cheated. That’s no story.

Using the same logic as Luck, I also wonder about Intelligence. Intelligence is how you as the player win the game, whether solving the puzzle or orchestrating combat cleverly. Perception seems like a better stat to put on characters, since you as a player can’t perceive what the GM didn’t tell you?

Perception can also be used as a attribute for dialog option checks, while Luck can’t. (Perceiving whether someone is lying to you, or wants something a lot more than they are letting on.) So my thought is to get rid of INT and LK. I could use Perception instead of LK, and Talents/Subject Knowledge instead of INT.

So to quote a scientific formula, build and use a cannon, or tap philosophical principles, maybe you’d need Science, Military, and Philosophy subject knowledge (talents) instead of INT. While it’s much more work for less resource usage than using a catch-all INT stat, it’s more characterizing.

I’m not doing Charisma either. Here is my current list:

Willpower :: spell power, intimidate
Agility :: defense, avoid danger
Toughness :: health, resistances

Perception :: find hidden, diplomacy
Cunning :: diplomacy, persuasion
Allure :: persuasion, intimidate

It seems like I’m missing something, but I don’t have a Strength stat because the setting is the Dream World, the amorphous, illusory connective tissue between the emotional world (Hell), the mental world (Heaven), and Earth, where vampires, succubi, witches, shifters, and shamans roam.

I also looked at some review articles from Chester at CRPG Addict on T&T’s vintage Crusaders of Khazan. His idea of a perfect RPG happens to be the same as mine, and basically the low-budget game I’m trying to make:

I guess my idea of a perfect RPG has always been something along the lines of a CYOA book with all the other RPG mechanics surrounding it.

Chester suggests Crusaders approaches this ideal relatively well for an old game, offering a lot of dialogue-based encounters. There are also the usual sudden forced scenarios though. In another article, Chester consequently creates a hierarchy of encounter types.

Level 0: Completely random, a surprise forced encounter.
Level 1: Encounter with context. There is some sort of lead-in or build up, with a chance to make a plan and decide whether to engage or retreat. I.e. you know there is an ambush just ahead.
Level 2: Encounter with conversation and/or choice. There are some sort of options or choices allowing roleplay, but you’re still ending up with a pre-determined continuation of some kind(?).
Level 3: Consummate encounter. Roleplay dictates an entire gamut of violent or non-violent outcomes, blending context, conversation, and choice.

Chester notes that in his experience, many players in discussion forums would rather stick to puzzles, gear, gold, and gushing arteries however, and challenges his readers to think of their own best “encounter” experiences. So.

Some Of My Favorite/Most Memorable Encounters:

  • The Vampire Bodhi in Baldur’s Gate – deciding whether to join or kill the vampires. I played through both ways.
  • The werewolf lair in Dragon Age: Origins – deciding whether to join or kill the Lady of the Forest. Played through both ways. The decisions at the ending of the game were good too, but somehow I cared less about those people.
  • Philosophy with Dak’kon – A lot of players go gaga over Fall-From-Grace, but I really enjoyed talking with this Gith in Planescape Torment. It was just really exotic, religious, and left my head spinning.
  • Children of the Cathedral in Fallout. Again, this was sort of a situation where I had to wipe out a church.
  • Mages and demons, the mage tower tryst, and continuing story of Jowan in Dragon Age: Origins.
  • Skyrim: the dragon cult. I wanted to join the cult to worship the dragons, not fight against them. So I literally quit the game two or three times, and never got far, because I didn’t want to become the anointed dragonslayer, and the main story had no choice.
  • Tribunal vs. Imperial. The religious conflict in Morrowind was fascinating. I’m using a Tribunal-like situation of three founding demigods in my dark wizard school, which is similar.

There are so many characters and situations, and I still haven’t completed DA2 or Pillars, or played DA3 or Divinity:Original Sin. Strangely all of the favorites coming to mind are in single player RPGs and not MMOs. That suggests the importance of affecting meaningful change to the people and factions in the story.

I need to go to sleep, but the favorite recurring themes are starting to be clear: major moral choices involving good vs. evil and attitude towards entire factions, and exotic philosophical people and factions. If you read this far, what are your favorite/most memorable encounters in RPGs?


Tunnels And Trolls: RPG History Revisited

deluxe tunnels and trolls rulebook

This last Saturday I went to the release party for the new Tunnels and Trolls rulebook, which was funded via a Kickstarter. I purchased a copy and got autographs from the whole gang (except for Bear Peters, who was busy running a game.)

T&T was the first RPG I played. I got a box set for Christmas when I was twelve years old, and I loved it. A couple years later I was playing Dungeons and Dragons, mainly because I’d run out of solitaire adventures to buy and AD&D had a random dungeon generator.

So when I heard about the release party for the new book at Game Depot just a few blocks away, I had to go!

For five years I’ve shopped at the Sprouts farmers market in the same plaza, and never even knew I was living in the same town and getting my groceries a few doors down from the veritable birthplace of Tunnels and Trolls. Crazy.

Ken St.Andre asked if I played “that other game”. I playfully half-fibbed and said negatory. I was worried he was still bitter, or he would rip up my book or something. Now I wonder what might have happened if I’d said yes.

I’d chosen my answer, and I’d turned my adventure book to page 7b, and I still wish I could peek and see the result of choosing 9c instead – “Yes, I’m a filthy dragon whore.” Tonight I watched a Youtube interview with Ken as a consolation for not having more insistent social skills.

I really do hate dragons and prefer trolls, and I could have said so.

So Ken wrote “Abandon your scruples ye who enter here” in my book. What does that mean? Did I pay too much? Was he calling me on my polite B.S.? I don’t know. I fear I’ll never know the answer to his cryptic enigma.

I’m happy with the book. I’ve read a good part of it, trying to glean ideas for my own RPG. T&T was created as a simpler D&D, but the bell curves and limitations of only using six-sided dice are the real challenge of the system. The doubles, triples, and spite damage are all improvements over the original as I remember it.

Looking at the list of modules published to date, it looks like I’ve played most of those as a teenager over 30 years ago. The old spiral-bound books, which I purchased from Boardroom games in Indianapolis, were much cooler than the new slick printed material.

I love the antique pen-art style in T&T, as shown above! Rob Carver is my favorite T&T artist, but it was a pleasure to meet the talented Steve Crompton and Liz Danforth. I’m following some T&T blogs now, so if a Phoenix rises higher from the ashes, I’ll hope to hear about it.

At first I was put off by the shortage of newer art in the new deluxe rulebook, but I finally decided I like their decision to make the book a more classic, through-the-years presentation. I’m also wondering if I might like a pen and paper game more these days than an MMO.