Monster Minute: Liches

Being a tech-head at a gaming party filled with writers and game designers sparks some interesting conversation. One discussion lead me to ask, “What exactly is a phylactery?” The Writers, being the knowable and vocal creatures, quickly perked with various answers. One thing lead to another and here I am today writing about Liches.

Liches in Real-World Mythology

KoscheiThe word Liche comes from the German word Leiche for “corpse”. In Roman Chatholicism, the world lychgate describes the covered area near the entrance to the cemetery, where the casket awaits the priest before a proper burial.

The idea of eluding death by arcane means and other black arts can be as early as the ancient Egyptians. But the most interesting folk lore is in Eastern Slavic fairy tales: a being called a Koschei is similar to that of a liche. A Koschei is an evil ugly man who evades death because his soul is stored in “the eye of a needle, which is inside of an egg, which is in a duck, which is in a hare, which is in an iron chest, under a green oak tree on the island of Buyan in the middle of a vast ocean.”

phylacteryIn modern fantasy fiction, a Liche’s Phylactery contains its soul, but in the real world a phylactery is an amulet or talisman. Phylactery comes from ancient Greek word phylacterion meaning “to guard, protect.

In the Jewish tradition, men wear a phylactery or tefilla during their morning prayers. This type of phylactery is a small leather case containing biblical scrolls — in accordance with Deuteronomy 6:8.   In the early Christian Church, a phylactery was a receptacle containing a holy relic or a small mummified body part of a saint.

Liches in D&D

phylacteryThe lich is another classic D&D monster, first appearing in the Greyhawk campaign setting in 1975 where it was first described as a skeletal monster that was formally a magic user or cleric in life. Later editions saw the birth of lich subtypes such as the demilich, archlich, and even a good lich.

In all versions of D&D, their ecology remains consistent:  A lich was once a living mage who converted herself into a skeletal monster through necromantic rituals. The ritual results in the magician’s soul being stored in a phylactery. Destroying a lich’s body isn’t enough to stop this undead creature; her soul will return to the phylactery and its body reanimated by power of an unholy pact.

Liches in Eberron

phylacteryThe most famous lich in Eberron is Lady Vol, also known as Erandis d’Vol or more commonly as “The Lich Queen.”  She is the last heir of the House of Vol , the elfin house that bears the Mark of Death. Erandis was born to an elf mother and a dragon father, and was to be the embodiment of peace between the two warring races. Unfortunately, both elf and dragon forces formed a joint pact to destroy Erandis, seeing the unification as an abomination. The result destroyed the House of Vol, but in a desperate attempt to save her daughter, Erandis’ mother transformed Erandis into a lich and hid her from annihilation. Rumors say that Lady Vol is the secret ruler of both the religious cults The Blood of Vol and The Order of the Emerald Claw (so named after Erandis’ father The Emerald Claw).  It is said that The Lich Queen uses both cults as tools in her plans for revenge.

Eberron Days: 18th & 19th of Sypheros

The Fury

Wildnight

Earth Day: October 18th at sunset through the 19th at sunrise
Location: Eberron

The Fury, Daughter of Arawai and The Devourer, is portrayed as a half-elf, drow or a snakelike wyrm of Khyber. Her power reaches its  height  during the month of Sypheros. When the sun sets on Wildnight, emotions run high, and people find it difficult to restrain their natural impulses. The shy and the superstitious usually stay indoors on Wildnight and avoid public places. But many see the night as an excuse to cast aside their inhibitions. The streets fill with raucous revelry. From the depths of the Cogs to the highest towers of Central Plateau, wild celebrations last well into the night. But for all the joy and revelry, it is a dangerous time. Riots, brawls, and crimes of passion are all too common.

The Sovereign of Rage and Ruin, The Fury represents passion driven to extremes, seen in her conception at the rape of Arawai by her father The Devourer. A patron to any who let their passions drive their motivations, she watches over barbarians everywhere as well as artisans, craftsmen and bards. A number of intelligent monstrous races worship her as well.

Monster Minute: Abishai

Hi everyone! Back again with another monster minute! I hope you enjoy it.

Abishai in the Real-World Mythology
Abishai Saves King DavidIn my research the oldest reference I could find of Abishai isn’t a devil, as depicted in D&D monster manuals, but as Abishai, the eldest nephew of the Bibical King David. The name Abishai means “father of a gift”.

In the Bible passages 2 Sam 18:2, 5 and 12, Abishai was a military leader and commanded one of three divisions in King David’s army. In the battle against the Philistines, Abishai saves King David’s life by killing, Ishbibenob – a mighty giant-kin warrior who wielded a “spear weighing three hundred shekels of bronze” (That’s an 8 pound spear).

Abishai in D&D
Old School AbishaiAbishai were first presented to D&D in the 1st edition the Monster Manual II in 1983. Unlike the v3.0 Abishai, they were merely chromatic devils and depending upon their color, they wielded different weapons: Whites used flails, Reds used daggers, green used pole cleavers, blacks used tridents, and blue used halberds. They did not inflict elemental damage based on their color.

Today’s Abishai are a subgenus of Baatezu (mindless spawn of Baator) but were created by Tiamat (Queen mother of dragons and devils) & Pearza (Eighth Lord of the Nine Hells). They look like gargoyles or humanoid dragons and come in the chromatic colors of their 1st ed predecessors. They mostly serve as attendants of Tiamat, but also excel as scouts and tortures in the land of Nine Hells. Red Abishai are the most powerful, followed by blue, green, black, and white, in ranks.

Abishai in Eberron
DDO AbishaiThe Dragons of Eberron describe Tiamat as The Daughter of Khyber, and draconic god of greed and power. During the Age of Demons her power was formidable, but she was bound and imprisoned by the dragons and coautls in the Pit of Five Sorrows in Argonnessen. There she sleeps and continually births evil dragonspawn and often corrupting good dragons that guard her.

I can’t find any relationship between the Eberron incarnation of Tiamat and Abishai in the Eberron source material, so I can only speculate as to where Abishai lay in the scheme of things. Abishai in DDO are often summoned which implies that they are extra dimensional like other devils — Roderic Nettle summons one in the quest The Snitch. Another clue that Abishai that come from another plane is Anogoreth the Abishai (a Warrior of Shavarath?) is imprisoned beneath the Red Tree in the Red Fens -– a place tainted by Shavarath.

Regardless of where they come from, they display spell-like powers and are able to cast fireball, acid arrow, and magic missile.  I’ve even seen one try to sting with its tail and inflict its opponent with a deadly poison.  They are formidable foes, and who knows what their plans are for Xen’drik are.

Civilization V (or WTF? Ghandi is a Weirdo!)

  • Game:  Civilization V
  • Publisher: Firaxis Games
  • Developer: 2K Games
  • Release Date: September 21, 2010
  • Genre: Turn-based strategy game
  • Platform: Windows, PC

Civilization is a strategy game that’s been around for what feels like forever – I think Civ 1 came out in 1991 – that’s 19 years ago! So by now they must know a thing or two, right?  I could stop here if Civ 5 was perfect and just tell you to go play it, but that would make a dull video game review.

Rough Start

On my high end system, it runs great, but even then it had a rough start in DX10/DX11 mode. I had to tweak the config files (located in C:\Users\<USERNAME>\Documents\My Games\Sid Meier’s Civilization 5\GraphicsSettingsDX11.ini) to run in windows mode because the game would minimize after playing the intro movie. Just for good measure I made a short cut on my desktop to the DX11 version of the EXE and in the properties set “Run” to “Maximized”. Apparently, it doesn’t like to run full screen mode at 42” 1080i. It squeeks like a little school girl and says “It’s too big to play with!”

Just for good measure, I updated all my drivers, AND my DX files.

After tweaking video settings, drivers, etc and I quickly realized that I need to set “SkipIntroVideo = 1” in the UserSettings.ini – I really hate intro videos EVERY TIME I start a game. I really only need to see it once; maybe I want to see it on demand, but they don’t even give me that option in the menu

After doing all of this, the game still crashes in DX11 when you set the Map Size to Huge.  These are all performance issues, something all too common with games that are released today. I’m starting to think that games that work out of the box are a myth and that no developer house will ever put down “zero performance bugs” as a goal.

New Things I Like

Updated UI – I can easily find things and faster than I did in Civ4. Of course I said the same thing I did about Civ4 when compared to Civ3, so it could be experience vs UI design. Also a simple right-click of the mouse opens up the Civlopedia. Its transparent announcements free up my mind for more important processes, like combat or happiness management.

Different Combat – I wasn’t big on the Civ4 stacked combat system. No unit stacking combined with the hex map makes unit position feel important again.

Annoyances

Poor gamers get DX9 – game looks pretty sad in DX9. It’s good for laptops and such, but still…

No Alarm Clock – how am I supposed to know when I should stop playing Civ5 and go to bed now?

Unit cycling – it first focuses on the unit before selecting it. If you have another unit selected and, are in the middle of moving it (which sometimes happens when the game thinks you’re done with your turn), you will end up moving it to the wrong location. You can turn off auto end turn.

Saving in Multiplayer Games – Going to the main menu doesn’t let you manually save a multiplayer game. You can do ctrl-s and save that way, or you can increase the interval auto saved games.

Oddities

Ghandi is a Prick – I was just floored at the AI they had given him for diplomacy. The Civ 5 Ghandi is goading, belittling and just plain mean.

Summary

There are more notable differences, such as no religions or tech trading, but I’m okay with it because they are both represented in a different way in Civ 5. Religion is represented as a branch in Social Policies – which oddly feel like skill trees in an MMO. Tech trading has become Tech Research sharing, so long as you remain peaceful with your tech partner for X amount of turns. Honestly, I feel rather indifferent to these changes.

A lot of traditionalists really don’t like Civ 5, and many of their reviews say that it’s dummied-down or it’s too slow. But really what I’ve read so far is that those who love Civ 4 hate Civ 5, and those who hated Civ 4 love Civ 5. It just boils down to your personal preferences. To me the complexity between both versions feels the same, but each presents it differently. Depending upon who you are and how you think, one will be better for you play style.

Personally, I don’t like it when I have to hunt for information three layers deep into the UI or squint to read unit numbers, I’m getting too old for that kind of crap and have better things to do. Civ 5 fits my lifestyle, which is filled with work, other video games, and meat-space games. I get the meat of Civ 4 in Civ 5 without having to give up other things in order to finish a campaign.

I Love Gmail for iPhone & iPad

Why?

When your mobile device syncs with Gmail it uses IMAP or  Internet Message Access Protocol. Oh it can use POP too, but its primary advantage over POP is that you can be disconnected from the server and still work with your email, calendar, and contact list. You can also have connections from multiple devices – in my case an iPhone and iPad. You can even have 2 iPhones connected which is great for family account sharing. IMAP4, which is the version of IMAP that Gmail uses, is a protocol that supports both pre-defined system flags and client defined keywords – Gmail calls them “labels” great for sorting and prioritizing email messages, sorting calendar events, and creating groups for contacts. IMAP is also far more stable than POP – POP loves to lose messages or download messages more than once and insert them as duplicate messages in your Inbox.

The main reason why I love Gmail is because of my contact list. I use to lose my contacts on my mobile device a lot. With Gmail I can deep my friends, family, and work contacts all in one place. I can access the information on the iPad, iPhone and on the web. I can even create a contact on my iPhone and have it sync up to my Gmail contact list. Because I’m picky, I like to sync “manually” this means it only syncs when I have the Contacts app open – as oppose to 30 or 60 min push/pull updates.

As an added bonus, I can merge duplicate entries in my contact list in Gmail; a major time saving bonus when maintaining my contacts during the Christmas season.

How?

It’s just silly easy, first make sure that your Gmail account is set up for IMAP. While logged into your Gmail account go to Settings > Forwarding and POP/IMAP and Enable IMAP.

On your mobile device:

  1. Open the Settings app on your device
  2. Tap Mail, Contacts, Calendars
  3. Tap Add Account…
  4. Tap Gmail
  5. Enter your account information, being sure to use your full Gmail address, including ‘@gmail.com’
  6. Tap Next
  7. Tap Save

And yes, Gmail works with Blackberries too. : P

We’re Back – And We’ve Got Game! Pathfinder that is…

So after PAX 2010, Sig and I took a bit of a break — mostly for work reasons.  And here is the fruits of our labors:

Advanced Feats

Sig & I are Kobold Minions #2 and #3 at Kobold Quarterly — mostly for packet stuffing and booth guarding. So this was our chance get our game on when Paizo announced the Advanced Player’s Guide for Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Our excited kobold brains whirred with ideas for cool feats to customize your new Alchemist, Cavalier, Inquisitor, Oracle, Summoner, and Witch characters. We immediately got to work, and to date, we’ve launched the first two volumes in a monthly series of companion products for that book.

Secrets of the Alchemist The Witch's Brew

This is mostly Sig’s gig. I helped with promotion and in the second feats set and the forth-coming Summoner booklet, I’ve been working on graphics and layout.

The Secrets of the Alchemist gives you insight into the alchemist class and the tools to make an exciting character that is a “blast” to play.

Just in time for Halloween, we also have The Witch’s Brew, a cauldron full of feats and builds to create a witch character.

I would say if you like DDO, but not D&D 4e, Pathfinder is a pretty good table-top game for you.

Now that we’ve settled into swing of things, I hope to be playing more DDO! :) And of course I’m totally psyched about Update 7! So expect more Crunchy Bits, Monster Minutes, and a few new things from us soon ™. Promise!

Thanks all!

Quick Friday PAX News: Update 7

So the airwaves in the convention center is thick with net traffic, my poor cellphone was unable to get a decent connection.  But I am taking a lunch break in our hotel where the internetz is better!

  • Half Orcs! Complete with customized tusks and all. They are the beefcakes of DDO and have  broad shoulders, mutton chops, and mean looks
  • Half Elves! Baby-faced and anime-ish. CUTE!!  Also some new sorts of facial customizations, eye shadow (Yes, Rowanheal, I saw pink eyeshadow!)
  • New UI! Functional yet fashionable and RED!  Auction house now has a string search box to complement level and buy out filters!  Inventory has a tabbed categories and items are in a list format with names near the item icon.
  • New Adventure Pack level 12!  With a  new hub zone Lordsmarch off the Marketplace between the Twelve and Bank. Includes a Medusa Boss.
  • New Plane of Night in Game Event! That’s right Mabar the Endless Night is a blackened realm where the faintest spark of light is quickly devoured by the unending darkness is coming! Public combat out in Delera’s graveyard when the sky goes all purple.
  • New Level 6 raid (with epic version) from the marketplace, travel back in time to alternate stormreach history during devil invasion. Many old Stormreach locations under demon management. Multiple encounter areas and such, pretty cool looking.
  • New refinements for guild: size only based on “active” members rather than all in roster.

Come Play D&D with us @ PAX!

Hey DDO Players! Let’s get together this PAX and play some PnP D&D!!

“The Crypt of Gandor Grey”

  • DM: Sigfried Trent
  • Location: PAX 2010, Table Top Free Play Area, 2nd Floor (Look for signs!)
  • Date: Friday, Sept 3rd
  • Time: 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
  • System: D&D 4th Edition
  • What to Bring: A level 1 D&D 4e character (PHP, PHP2, or PHP3), if you don’t have one we have a stack you can pick from. Character sheet, dice, etc.

crunchybitscereal3

Everyone in the party knows one another from a past adventure, in which they teamed up to track down a dangerous fugitive who had been killing women in the countryside. Having decided they made a good team they registered themselves with the mercenary’s guild in Baron’s Bridge.

The party has gathered to hear the job offered by a young man named Phillip Grey. Phillip wants to hire the party to break into his Uncle’s tomb and recover whatever he has stashed there. His uncle, Gandor Grey, died 6 years ago from natural causes and despite his substantial wealth, left nothing to his family. Instead he had a lavish tomb built in a private cemetery and family legend has it the rest of his wealth was buried with him.

Phillip needs the money because he borrowed a good bit of money from the Red Hands to purchase spells to heal his ailing mother. While her health has greatly improved he can’t raise the money to pay back the loan and the Red Hands have a brutal reputation. He feels that since Gandor is technically family that this isn’t purely theft.

He needs help because he knows Gandor had his tomb built with death traps and possibly magical guardians of some kind. The construction of it was expensive and done by some shady out of town contractors. He’s offering to split any treasure found 50/50 with the group.

If you would like to join in email us at ddocrunchybits@gmail.com and we’ll reserve a spot for you!

Decent Geek Eats for PAX 2010

La Creperie Voila - 707 Pike St, between 7th Ave & 8th Ave - Zero blocks for the Center

Creperie Voila

For around $4 to $7 you can have one of the tastiest breakfasts you can find near the convention center. I’m very particular to the sweet crepes, but the savories are also quite de-lish! They’re open till around 9:30pm so you can also have a tasty desert too.

Cyber-Dogs Internet Café - 909 Pike St, between 9th Ave & Convention Pl - Zero blocks

Cyber Dogs

If you’re a vegetarian or an omnivore willing to go outside of your comfort zone, this is a tasty place for you. If you’re a strict meat-eater, steer clear of this hot dog café. Otherwise this place is pretty cheap for your eats, veggie dogs start from $3.25 and run up to $7 for the heavy plates. They are also open late - till midnight every day.

JuicyCafe - 725 Pike St, 2nd Fl, between 7th Ave & 8th Ave - Zero Blocks

JuicyCafe

If you want something healthy and balanced go here, its right inside the convention center. They aren’t open late, so it’s a good place for breakfast and lunch. Prices for their meals are fair and start from $5 to $8. Much better than the Subway, also inside the convention center.

Blue C Sushi - 1510 7th Ave, between Pike St & Pine St - Across the street

Blue C Sushi

This is a relatively new place, in the heart of Downtown where you can get kaiten (conveyor) sushi. The best time to go is 4-7pm seven days a week in the bar, where you can get sake for $2.50 and sushi plates from $1 to $3.25.

Tap House Grill - 1506 6th Ave, between Pike St & Pine St - 1 block

Tap House

Go during happy hour, any other time you’re over paying for what you get. Food is tasty, but the beer is better. With 160 beers on tap, you’ll definitely find something to quench your thirst. Happy Hour Times are M-FI, 3:30-6:30 | M-Th, 10PM-close | F-Sat, 11PM- close | Sun 3:30PM- close

MOD Super Fast Pizza - 1302 6th Ave, between University St & Union St - 3 blocks

MOD

If you like a low price, speedy, thin-crust, oven-baked pizza, you’ll most likely love MOD Pizza. Call 206-332-0200 or order online at www.modpizza.com and pick up your order (no delivery).  You can order one of the 10 pizzas from MOD’s menu, or choose your own toppings. Either way, the price for one of these pies is $5.88 - just an awesome deal IMHO.

Wild Ginger & The Triple Door - 1401 3rd Ave, between Union St and Pike St - 4 blocks

Wild Ginger Triple Door

Go to Wild Ginger for a sit down dinner before the geek concerts at Benaroya Hall, which is right across the street.  It’s a bit pricy, but its every bit worth it. If you want something a little lighter with drinks, go to The Triple Door’s Musicquarium Lounge, which is around the corner and a few steps down the hill. Best time to go is during Happy Hour: Sun-F 4-6PM and Sun-Th 9PM-12AM, sorry no Saturday happy hours, this place is packed during that that day. But if you do snag a seat or bar stool during happy hour, you be greeted with $3 well drinks and $3-$5 appetizer specials made by the same chefs at Wild Ginger.

Whole Foods - 2210 Westlake Avenue, between 9th Ave & Denny Way - about 5 blocks

Westlake Whole Foods

If you’re willing to take the 5 block walk or if you want to take a short joy ride on the Seattle Downtown-Lake Union Trolly Line, then go here. It’s the only grocery store in the Seattle Downtown area if you just want to stock up on foods. Here’s what’s on sale this week: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/storespecials/WSL_specials.pdf

Pike Place Market - 1501 Pike Pl, between Pike St and Pine St on 1st Ave - 7 blocks

Pike Place

If you’re willing to take a walk, you can get some great grazing deals for food at the market. Fresh fruits, veggies, cheese stands, bakeries, etc are all for your eating pleasure. Bring cash for better deals and stock up on tasty foods.