Thursday, 14 November 2019

Blizzard: Tiananmen II

It's amazing how a few hollow words and the promise of entertainment can quell a crowd about to riot. It worked for the Romans, and it seems to be working for Blizzard too. For those not up to speed, here's a recap:

Blizzard is openly kowtowing to China. Business wise one assumes it would be big money for them at the cost of a little thing like morals and human rights, the same cost China is currently extracting from Hong Kong protestors - a few of whom Blizzard silenced. Game wise, things are being slowly changed for their market (which they deny). Less boobs and bones + more mobile games.

People got angry so Blizzard issued a statement of remorse (not an apology), and did not retract any of the offending actions. They then dazzled people with promises of cool games coming soon, which earned them redemption for some while their other supporters just have a general sense of apathy over the whole thing. It's an interesting disconnect.

I wonder, if an event like Tiananmen Square happens, will Blizzard supporters feel anything or will it just be "Blizzard just makes games man - they didn't pull the trigger", "It's not my fault they support China, I just like their games!" and "What they do with the money I give them is their business, not mine!"

While we ponder that, here's what's happening in Hong Kong now since it's not well covered by mainstream news:

Police are arresting students.

Use of force has been escalating.

As of late, they're also openly shooting people too.

From point blank.

They were also trying to storm the universities.

Students barricaded defended said locations all night.

The general public is supporting them by delivering supplies.
(Perhaps not this dude in particular, he just looks cool getting his lunch!)

Meanwhile the police are getting a special unit in to assist them.

Is it a massacre waiting to happen?

Do you even care?

If so, spread awareness of what's happening in Hong Kong and/or boycott what you can of China. Realistically Blizzard is low hanging fruit, but doing even a little is better than doing nothing. If you really can't let go of Blizzard, you might find some other way to help.

Remember: If you're not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

The Cursed: Mirrors of Sendai

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Sendai's base is quite well concealed in the forest, and humorously guarded by Drow disguised as woodland critters. Inside, more Drow, a lair of myconids, pet umberhulks, a slave army, a lich, mindflayers and minor demons all serve as guardians but they are all planetar-ed out of the way.

Even Ogremoch himself, the elemental Prince of Evil Earth (yeah, "Earth" not Faerun), is present but doesn't get to do much as Catharina imprisons it as her opening move. Finally they reach Sendai who proves to be an exciting battle as she makes seven statue clones of herself and has constant Drow reinforcements arriving during the fight.

You can imprison the Prince of Earth, in the Earth? Okay then!

Catharina and Imoen make good use of breach (anti magic), pierce (anti magic), horrid wilting, planetars, mord-swords, true sight and the dragon breath ability (20d10 fireball with knock back) coupled with projected images to prolong spell use (as their spells aren't tied to the original casters memory somehow). After an epic fight, Sendai finally is slain when Catharina "wishes" all magic defenses down and lands a Melf's acid arrow on her.

Insight: For extra cheese, project image also makes copies of the quick slot items so that one powerful scroll you have can be used as much as you like, as long as it is only ever used by a projected image. Obviously, one scroll means each image can only use it once though.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

The Cursed: Slave Rebellion

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Meanwhile in Thay...

The time to escape is now. Joined by Dulf, Hort, Mercy, Gezzthemin and that douchebag Timmoth Goodtree, the squad begins their escape but quickly finds guards in their way. Guards alerted by Symm Haximus. Luckily, the other guards they bribed come through and turn off the anti-magic field making it an even fight. Even the two sous-chefs join the melee.

Alas both of them and all the guards save one, as well as Timmoth are killed when a group of Thayan knights and wizards arrive. The survivors fight through to the market area and loot some supplies, including the vault now open thanks to Brother Elraish. Unfortunately, his corpse is found within.

Thayans have some pretty funky armor.

The extras decide to hold position while the main team goes through the arenas to get to Dennaton, the first of which has a match in progress - umberhulks versus Voghiln, crazy Lea and Gerrod. The monsters are easily killed and Gerrod hands over the spirit transference scroll he just completed.

Insight: You can use the NPCs to do the fighting for you, and while not very RP-ish you can also rest at particular spots to recover spells.

Monday, 11 November 2019

The Cursed: Unexpected Aid

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Eager to rest outside the pocket plane for a change, the squad goes to the Amkethran tavern where they are surprised to find the vampire Hexxat! Since she wasn't staked last time she's survived and using a day-walking cloak has found herself here, to ask Catharina for help with a lich. Not to kill it, but to enslave it for her master.

Guess we didn't kill her good enough last time.

That sounds all sorts of wrong but since help is hard to come by, Catharina agrees as long as the vampire helps her kill a few Bhaalspawn first. Hexxat finds this acceptable. There is a local lich in the village (these things are everywhere!) but this soul trader is not Hexxat's target. They do manage to get a young girl's soul stone from it though, by trading the one of her stupid father.

Instead of using it to restore the child, Hexxat keeps it for herself as it gives nice bonuses. With that, it's finally time to hit one of those Bhaalspawn bases so the team votes to head for the closer one: Sendai's enclave.

Insight: While the day walking cloak lets Hexxat not burn out in the sun, remember to take it off in dungeons as it significantly reduces her stats when worn.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

The Cursed: Amkethran

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Whatever protection Amkethran village has going on is pretty powerful stuff, as the pocket plane refuses to teleport the team there. Instead they have to walk across the desert and at an oasis encounter a sizable force of Tethyr soldiers wrongly hunting Catharina for the crime of destroying Saradush.

Korgan was tempted!

After slaying and looting those idiots dry, the team finally reaches Amkethran - a quaint little place that is brimming with mercenaries. Seems Balthazarr is also assembling an army of his own. The team ends up killing a few: the ones being ass hats to the locals and the idiots tricked by a weasel smuggler that the team, not him, are the smugglers.

For this, the team subsequently assists the mercs take out the local smuggler base which earns them a brief meeting with Balthazarr who follows Melissan's instructions and points out the base locations of Yaga-Shura's allies. Before leaving, the team finds another survivor from Saradush, a magic scroll vendor, whom they spend all of their 305k gold on in preparation for the battles ahead.

Insight: It pays to loot everything. Portable containers will help with that: gem bags, ammo bags, potion bags, bags of holding. Also don't forget your handy and accessible pocket plane that has three boxes you can use if overloaded!

Saturday, 9 November 2019

The Cursed: Symm Haximus

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Meanwhile in Thay...

Arzang is again one of the last standing (hiding) in round sixteen facing six fallen devas (just one step down from planetar) while Symm wins it for them somehow using insta-kill moves. Not to be outdone Hort and Dragonbait get their chance to shine against twin demi liches whose penchant for mazing doesn't work on enraged berserkers.

One of the hardest fights!

Still, it is Symm who is taken for the last two fights: the first against a trio of dragons and the second against two Bhaalspawn, one of whom goes into slayer form both made really easy as he insta-kills the "boss" creatures easily. Upon returning to the pens, they learn that the Planar Hunters are out - making this the most opportune time to escape.

As the gladiators make their way to the meeting point, Party Girl asks Symm one more time if he wants to escape with them. He flatly refuses, saying they all should get used to being gladiators and returns to the training area. Why are the strongest always so stubborn?

Insight: Don't take Symm into battles where he can get charmed or confused. Obviously his axe has an equal chance to insta-kill your party members!

Thursday, 7 November 2019

The Cursed: Burning Yaga-Shura

[Part of the Cursed story line]

With the ritual done, the team pocket plane deploy right into Yaga-Shura's face for an anti-climatic battle where Korgan beheads the fire giant, causing his army to scatter and flee. It is too late for Saradush though, as while they were gone Yaga-Shura's army breached it and killed almost everyone inside.

Fire Giant vs Dwarf!

Only a few non-Bhaalspawn folk remain, including Melissan who warns that Yaga-Shura's allies and their armies will most likely come for Catharina next. Catharina, eager to destroy these threats before they can react, is instructed to use the desert village of Amkethran as a staging point as it is protected by Melissan's friend, Balthazarr - apparently a person of some power having somehow survived a cataclysm long ago.

The team agrees but first faces the second "pocket test" which involves fighting a Catharina not raised by Gorion. This is very tough as evil Catharina exclusively hunts her twin, and is only solved by Imoen casting improved invis on good Catharina and making her "sit out" of the combat. Fortunately Imoen can also summon planetars at this point!

Insight: Enemies will swarm endlessly until Yaga-Shura dies. Don't let him live for too long.

The Cursed: Marching Mountains

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Melissan is upset at Gromnir's death, saying that the only chance Saradush has now is for someone to kill the general of the attacking force: Yaga-Shura. A towering fire-giant, said to be invincible and also a Bhaalspawn. Learning the squad can teleport around via pocket plane, she suggests they investigate his home in the Marching Mountains to find a weakness.

Since it sounds like a solid plan, the team do as instructed and are soon marching up those appropriately named mountains where they encounter a witch who knows a ritual to undo Yaga-Shura's invulnerability. She just needs the reagents found in his fortress, which is a lava filled sweat bath.

Looks like some of them have played Dark Souls.

The planetars actually take some serious damage here, but when backed by mord-swords and two crazies (Sarevok and Korgan) the fire giants and fire themed guards all die. The witch does her ritual, then tries to overstep and kill the party. Unlucky for her, Catharina has been working on a new spell that was previously used on her party in the Watchers Keep: Imprisonment.

There is no save.

Insight: The pocket plane is fantastic as you can port back to it at any time and then gate exactly to where you left off. This makes it the ideal place for uninterrupted rest.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

The Cursed: Paranoia at Saradush

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Having passed the test, the pocket plane spits out the party at the besieged city of Saradush and meet Melissan, a nun of sorts who has been working to collect and protect all the Bhaalspawn here, and there are many - most of whom are just commoners and cowards.

While the militia do their best to hold the walls, the actual lord of the place - Gromnir Il-Khan is more interested in saving himself. Melissan asks the team to try talk sense into him and they accept though getting to him is tricky as he's barricaded in.

It takes blackmailing a priestess to gain access to the old, vampire filled prison - then clearing it out as well as a number of Gromnir's orcs before getting to him. Gromnir, a Bhaalspawn himself, is filled with paranoia and claims Melissan is out to get him and all others like him. With no chance to reason with him, the general attacks the party and soon finds himself very, very dead.

Orcs are stupid cowards. Have always been. Will always be.

Insight: Don't idle out on the streets as fireballs from the attacking army seem to heatseek the party every now and then.

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

The Cursed: Time of Prophecy

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Imoen and Catharina spend a good amount of time with the elves, but the peace is broken by the arrival of a Bhaalspawn hunter who happens to be a Bhaalspawn herself. Unfortunately for her, she and her mercs are not equipped to deal with a planetar and are promptly killed.

Pretty sure this fella classifies as a Planetar too!

Right after she falls, the step-sisters are brought to a pocket plane dimension created by Catharina's subconscious where they meet a Solar (one step up from planetar) who vaguely says they must train as the prophesied time is at hand before vanishing again. Also present is ghost Sarevok, for whom the small price of a sliver of Catharina's soul lives again and joins the party!

Catharina is also able to summon any living previous ally which turns out to be a one name list. Korgan, the evil dwarf beserker is called and rejoins the team. He and Sarevok pass the first "pocket test" for the party, killing angry civilians and knights out for Bhaalspawn blood.

Insight: Sure hope this game is solo-able (winnable with a one person party), as it seems to quickly be heading that way!

Monday, 4 November 2019

The Cursed: Merciful Victories

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Meanwhile in Thay...

Apart from freeing Najim, Party Girl also meets with a guard lieutenant whom Mercy had used her charms on and bribes him 20k gold for his squad to assist in their escape. Voghiln also has a drink session with Joker and poisons her with one provided by the team (Concocter's poison). It is then back to the fight pits as the show must go on.

The next battle has monks whom "Brother" Elraish helps with, an easy fight since their speed is matched by a haste spell and they have no immunity to imprisonment. The same with the lich battle, where Dulf helps with the accompanying bone fiends and Rakshasa round where crazy Lea remembered she also has spells (she must be fighter/mage/thief)!?

Dulf also helps in the mind flayer battle, summoning a planetar of his own to aid against hapless illithids. The most difficult fight in this tier is against a clay "shattering" golem who kept splitting into two, and the team only wins thanks to Mercy's archery and skill. She and Arzang were the last ones standing, though in Arzang's case it was "just barely, invisible, and hiding in the far corner".

Are these ever in the shape of a fat dude?

Insight: Remember you still need to spell strike (or otherwise remove protections of) the magically protected foes before imprisonment will work. Always worth trying off a save for a quick win but some enemies are just immune to it, no matter what. Obviously if it works you'll get no loot though.

Sunday, 3 November 2019

The Cursed: Irenicus

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The duo find Irenicus sucking the power of the great tree to become a god and promptly kill him with summons. Unfortunately, since he still has Catharina's soul, she and Imoen (maybe he took some of hers too?) follow him down into hell where a small gauntlet of tests await them to see which one deserves to be Bhaalspawn.

Both Catharina and Irenicus pass, leading to the actual final confrontation where Irenicus transforms into his demon form and summons greater demons to aid him. The girls summon their own assistance as usual, and because they have more experience with summon tactics - as well as copious amounts of Horrid Wilting spells - they win. Catharina takes her soul back, and Irenicus dies.

Sucker got horridly wilted.

She and Imoen then wake in Suldanessellar, where the Elf queen declares them heroes and lets them stay for as long as they need to recover from this whole ordeal.

Insight: The only trick to beat Irenicus both times is to remember to reposition as needed.

Saturday, 2 November 2019

The Cursed: Suldanessellar

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Upon returning to Athkatla, Catharina finds Imoen at the Copper Coronet who needs help with that lead for the missing elf city. Together they return to the Harper house at the Docks District and planetar the evil mercs now residing there. Upstairs they rescue Jaheira, who was reduced to being their play thing this whole time.

As Imoen suspected, she knows where Suldanessellar is and using the magic lantern reveals the city once more. Inside, the elves are still bravely fighting Irenicus' forces which are mainly comprised of golems and rakshasas. He has also magically sealed the palace of the great tree, and the team needs to summon a woodland avatar to open it.

A wood land avatar that looks like Swamp Thing.

Collecting the items for the summoning ritual is mostly easy, except for the one item held by Irenicus' black dragon. It is a long fight, and Jaheira is melted by dragon vomit before it is slain. Catharina and Imoen then proceed into the palace for the final confrontation.

Insight: I quite like big maps now. Just summon the planetar early, haste it and send it forth then supplement mord-swords as needed. It was also interesting to see it solo a balor and a pit fiend, this is because its sword has a chance to auto kill anything it hits.

Friday, 1 November 2019

The Cursed: Free the Genie

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Meanwhile in Thay...

Dulf's Drow "equal", Gezzthemin, has no senility issues but is a much lousier companion to the arena team in round nine against a halfling mage and his elementals as the Drow basically acts like a shielded tank for most of it. It ultimately takes time stop and comets to bring the halfling down. Fortunately Gezzthemin is still of some use, as he can make something from the planetar's wing the team stole previously in the Hunter's Lounge: a scroll to weaken her. Due to an odd bug, he starts mass producing these - making enough for everyone!

I keep mentioning Planetars - this is what they look like.

Round ten has demons versus devils and the team in between. Luckily they mostly kill each other after eating the murderer Feldrak who was left behind as bait. The remaining enemies are planetared down. After this fight the shops have a better stock of equipment which the team eagerly purchases. Using it, they free Najim the genie and defeat the Efreeti hunter. Najim then locks up this foe into the jar that once contained him and shapeshifts to take his place to ensure that no one will notice he is missing.

Insight: Mass invisibility is very handy in the arena matches and is often one of my opening moves.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

October 2019 Review

Happy Halloween! That backlog is getting cleared up a bit now but again at the expense of everything else, as usual! Trying something new this month - "small jobs". I'm hoping its a mental thing that I can't get advance in a few of these so I'm simplifying the list. I'm also adding new trackers for Soft Drinks and Sweets to help with the weight goal since that seems to be my current "dragon" that I want to beat.

    End 2019 with less weight (-4 kg from last month, running total: +2 kg)
    +Drink Less Soft drinks (current consumption: LOTS)
    +Eat Less Sweets (current consumption: LOTS)
    Complete web comic chapter 1 (simplified)
    +Make 1 web comic page
    Make board game (simplified)
    +Make new board game idea (previous idea didn't work)
    Clean the roof (cancelled due to budget + water restrictions)

Enderal [free on Steam]
Borderlands 2 [gift]
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice [gift] (done)
LEGO Batman [free from Epic Games] (keeps crashing)
LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes [free from Epic Games] (done)
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham [free from Epic Games] (done)
Try Shroud of the Avatar [free on Steam]
Try No More Room in Hell? [free on Steam] (no interest from my group)
Everything [free from Epic Games] (done)
+Minit [free from Epic Games] (done)
+Surviving Mars [free from Epic Games] (had enough)
+Destiny 2 [free on steam] (huge download size is an absolute turn off)
+Alan Wake: American Nightmare [free from Epic Games]
+Observer [free from Epic Games]
+QUBE2 [free from Epic Games]
+Layers of Fear [free from Epic Games]

Board games:
Zombicide: Black Plague Campaign (10/11)
London Dread Campaign (1/4)
Waterdeep: Dungeon of the Mad Mage (0/13)
+Firefly Adventures: Brigands and Browncoats (2/4)


One Year Ago
I played through Shadowrun Chronicles and drew some Neverwinter artwork!

Five Years Ago
I played through Tropico 3 and Dragon Age Origins.

Most Viewed Posts last Month
Do you support Dictatorship?
Blizzard Cancellations
Dark Souls II: Size Compensator

Skipping over the top two since they are the same as usual. Instead I've listed the next three and it's not surprising that the political ones are coming up... followed by "Size Compensator". LOL.

Top Search Terms last Month
part of anomen
scp secret laboratory
neverwinter fiery pit too difficult to solo   

While SCP matches up with Halloween/Scary games and Neverwinter Fiery Pit can be difficult solo, especially if you unconsiously run into elite mobs (or try solo the HEs), I am very surprised that the cowardly paladin Anomen gets the top search! In case that was you, here's a compendium of his time/mentions in my play throughs (start from the bottom). :)

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Questions for Blizzard

While I'm sure Blizzard presenters have been practicing some set answers by their PR team for BlizzCon (or they should be if they haven't already been), I have a few questions here that it would be nice if they answered plainly.

1 - Is Blizzard secretly (or not so secretly) run by China?
2 - Do you support Human Rights?
3 - Do you support the Hong Kong Revolution?

Here are the achievements they can unlock based on their response:

"The Company Line" - No, Yes, [deflect]. *
"Rock the Boat" - No, Yes, Yes.
"Resistance is Futile" - Yes, No, No.
"Honesty Hurts" - No, Yes, No.
"Pacification Puppet" - Yes, Yes, Yes.
"Haters gonna Hate" - No, No, No.
"Read between the lines" - [deflect], [deflect], [deflect].
"Epic Troll" - Yes, No, Yes.

*Most likely in outcome in my book.

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The Cursed: Imprisoned One

[Part of the Cursed story line]

As the lone survivor, Catharina descends into the final cage of the Watchers Keep where the disembodied voice of the invisible Imprisoned One warns her that the Knights of the Vigil are just trying to trap her too. She uses the seal repair scroll anyway and finds it was telling the truth.

Fortunately the Imprisoned One has enough power to open a small tear, just for her. In exchange, it wants vengeance and she readily agrees. Outside, she lies to the knights that she killed the Imprisoned One and they all go to look. Upon their departure, the Helmite ghost reappears and gives her a new scroll of sealing. This one to doubly secure the entire keep and lock the treacherous knights within.

The "oh shit" moment is awesome!

Feeling slightly guilty, she goes to check on them and finds they have all been slain by the Imprisoned One: Demogorgon! Since he's a Marilith summoner she high tails it out of there and uses the ghosts scroll - locking down the Watchers Keep once more and truly damning Valygar, Raven and Neera to enternal imprisonment.

Insight: Clearly the Watchers Keep is the Durlag's Tower of this game.

Monday, 28 October 2019

The Cursed: Deadly Marilith

[Part of the Cursed story line]

A Helmite ghost tells the party that only by passing a series of tests can they earn the keys to the vault. These test are mostly combat related, requiring to slay a dragon or survive waves of orcs but are quite easy to pass.

Much harder are the foes summoned when each key is turned. The first one brings an Aurumach that destroys Edwina in a magic duel. The second is the easiest, a lich with flaming skulls, only because the party has fought these before. The last is a powerful monstrous team of six including a beholder and a marilith!

So many swords, so many resistances!

Even with planar and summon support, the team is hard pressed and suffer casualties, with each member taking out one of the opposing team until only Catharina is left to face a drow huntress and the wounded Marilith. It takes a bit of luck and a lot of running but she is victorious. Alas, the rest of her team: Nalia, Lu Lingqi, Keldorn and Aerie all lie dead around the seal.

Insight: Flaming skulls explode in a fireball when killed, so be sure to have enough health before killing one.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

The Cursed: Summoners Rule

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The remaining trio of Keldorn, Lu Lingqi and Catharina then proceed to the Illithid area and heavily use summons to clear it out before leaving the Keep to regroup. To their surprise Nalia, Edwina and Aerie are there waiting for them.

Apparently there was still no luck on the missing city front so Imoen sent them here as backup while she chased another lead. With the extra casters, the main floor of Level 4 is easily cleared via summon abuse.

Adds are great, when they're on your side!

The team eventually finds a crystal hammer which Lu Lingqi uses to smash open the machine and spare the crazy mage (who was just an adventurer that got stuck there). Catharina fiddles with the device a bit until the portal down opens and the team descends to Level 5 - which is centered around a tri-locked vault. "The Imprisoned One" must be close now!

Insight: Gone are the days of invis, skull trap, and cloud kill. Now it's just easier to summon a horde of powerful minions, haste them and send them ahead of the party.

Saturday, 26 October 2019

The Cursed: The Sorcerer and the Wizard

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Meanwhile in Thay...

Having scouted the Hunter's Lounge the arena squad gets back to the fights, taking the powerful warrior Hort the orc to face vampires in round six, and is very impressed by Arzang as he can now time stop, cast imprisonment, and summon a fallen planetar of his own.

Round seven is against Githyanki, and they party up with old ally and booze hound Voghiln who says a crazy mage named Irenicus restored his flayer eaten brain somehow before selling him here. More importantly, he lets on that one of the Planar Hunters, a female bard called Joker, likes drinking with him on occasion.

I suppose the "bard" class makes sense?

The eighth match is surprisingly difficult against a Sahaugin prince and his water weirds due to all their paralyzation attacks but old senile man Dulf "Dulfy" Ebonbeard, who needs a regular potion dose for his condition, saves them with his amazing array of spells. He also reveals that the adamantine golem of the Planar Hunters is a soul-switched mage: a spell that can be undone.

With his knowledge and what the team looted from his room previously, Gerrod (the wild mage befriended before) is tasked to inscribe a scroll to handle this.

Insight: Much like the previous Black Pits, your party is restored fully after each match. That's good or this would be a very short side story! :P

Friday, 25 October 2019

Moral Questions - True or False

True or false survey today. Please put your answers in the comments, and you may embelish as much or as little as you please though I would like a "T" or "F" at the minimum for each.

1) It's better to work for a good guy than a bad guy.

2) When looking for work, you don't really care if an employer is bad or good.

3) If you work for a bad guy, but don't know he's a bad guy you are not necessarily a bad guy.

4) If you work for a bad guy, and know he's a bad guy then you are also a bad guy (excluding covert ops).

5) There is a dollar amount that you will drop your morals for, even if just one time.

6) You would abduct and harvest organs from school children if you were paid enough money.

7) You would support a company that supports a second company who abducts and harvests organs from school children.

8) You don't care about people getting harvested as long as it isn't someone you immediately know.

9) You believe you are too small to make a difference in regards to anything.

Thursday, 24 October 2019

The Cursed: Forever Alone

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Using gems from the defeated demon lords, Catharina assembles the portal key that lets the team descend to Level 4 which is centered around a huge machine and the crazy mage trapped within it. The machine is a reality warper, and for his own amusement he has summoned various warring monsters.

Some people just have too much time on their hands.

Obviously it's up to the team to clean up this mess, so they start with the Githyanki area and manage to eliminate them with no hassle. A red dragon they guard is quite amiable and tells them the machine is the key to the next portal. Since it's clear the dragon likes being trapped in here (his hoard is safe), they leave him alone.

Less amiable is the demi-lich that they randomly bump into. The floating skull is tough and clearly has a favorite spell called "Imprisonment". Those hit by this suffer a fate worse than death, being  trapped in a tiny sphere far underground where they will remain, magically alive, aware, and alone until the end of the planet.

It does this to a planetar and a few mord-swords. Then to Valygar who seems to be a curse magnet. And Raven. And Neera. The floating skull is destroyed but at the cost of half the team.

Insight: These Githyanki are nice enough to carry loads of health potions, handy for parties without healers.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

The Cursed: The Old Gang

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Needing to assemble a melee team to tackle the maze in the Watcher's Keep, Catharina gets the old gang back together: The Paladin Keldorn, now more grim faced after imprisoning his wife and executing her lover, Werewolf Cernd - who is more than happy to abandon his kid with the druids, and Mazzy the hero who somehow escaped Spellhold asylum and the island solo.

With Neera's help they also finally get Valygar un-squirreled, and also un-petrify Raven Skinnybastard to fill the thief role. With the squad ready, Catharina leads them back into the demon filled maze and hands out potions of haste (since spells are wonky) before entering the first demon base.

You'd need way more figurines if this had been a board game.

It is a tremendous battle, requiring the use of many healing potions and Catharina's demon form for victory. Even so, at the end of it Cernd and Mazzy are dead. The next demon base battle goes much better, as thanks to the hard fight, she can now summon a planetar! They win with no losses, and no demon form required.

Insight: Finally someone gets to use that +5 two hander I've been lugging around - Keldorn! His Protection from Evil thing is also annoying to use since it is one by one, but is very useful against evil things. They get -2 to hit!

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

The Cursed: Whining Woods

[Part of the Cursed story line]

With the city now lich free the team begins the search for Suldanessellar, scouring the new forest zones with the magic lantern but come up empty. They do run into ex-team mates Coran and Safana, now a couple as Coran saved Safana from her wyvern sting, who are now working as bounty hunters... for Irenicus. They and their wolfwere allies are slain.

Well, someone's been playing too much of this!

Edwin also manages to transform himself into a woman (and can't change back) which leads to some comical teasing from Nalia and Aerie. Catharina's mind is elsewhere though, namely the Watcher's Keep, for if a magic team was strong against the liches maybe a melee team would triumph in that messed up magic maze?

She decides to find out and leaves with Lu Lingqi, instructing Imoen, Aerie, Nalia and Edwina to continue the search in their absence.

Insight: Another reason I left them is the whining. My god, the whining. Aerie, Nalia and female Edwin constantly ask to rest in the most irksome decibels.

Monday, 21 October 2019

The Cursed: Lichless City

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Catharina decides the search for the Elf city can wait, having been impressed by this magic heavy party and decides to hunt all the liches resting beneath Athkatla. The first one nearly ends in disaster with everyone near death upon victory. Nalia seems very concerned for Aerie.

The second lich battle goes much better, having summons and buffs ready. Despite it managing to summon a pit fiend, the lich's own protection spell is disabled and the demon destroys its own summoner. The third lich goes down even quicker.

Because pieces of lich are more powerful than a full size one?

The final lich is Kangaxx, and he is uber powerful - munching through summons and continually resetting his defenses. Worse, upon being killed he transforms into a fast regenerating Demilich that is immune to almost all forms of damage. Catharina is forced to transform into her demon form to destroy it, and save the others from certain doom.

Insight: The Adventure Mart sells Vhailor's Helm which can cast Simulcarum once per day. This is very handy as it makes a double (albeit slightly weaker version) of whomever is using it, including all equiped items.

In my party, I gave it to Lu Lingqi carrying the +4 halberd. She also has the Ring of the Ram which does an non-negatable 5-30 damage. Both great when multiplied by two.

Sunday, 20 October 2019

The Cursed: Return to Dust

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Not willing to let Bodhi escape this time, Catharina plans to bring as many people into the lair as she can for the assault - recruiting the Shadow Thieves, Paladins and even Drizzt Do'Urden and his allies who conveniently happen to be nearby.

Also recruited are Aerie, the circus Elf who is actually a cleric/mage and old Thayan frenemy Edwin Odesseiron who has ulterior motives at the graveyard district, namely the recovery of a magic scroll from a lich!

Baddies have no chance when Drizzt is around.

This team has no problem wiping out both the lich and the vampires, with Imoen staking Bodhi at the climax and retrieving her lost soul. As expected, the magic lantern is found in her coffin. All that's left to do now is to use it to find the missing Elf city!

Insight: Let the NPCs take all the drain damage. You should probably throw in some summons too (hastened Mord-swords are nice) to support them.

Friday, 18 October 2019

Blizzard Cancellations

Seems the poop Blizzard fell in is so bad that they themselves are cancelling their own events. "Postponing" rather, which is basically a cancellation plus a promise to reschedule later. I wonder if BlizzCon will be next?

Also, if Blizzard did a public apology post and declare the same words that got their Hearthstone champion banned, would customers actually go back to them? It seems they have a habit of sending mixed signals... or is it simply lying outright?

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Cursed: Between the Lines

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Not wanting to fight through the lines of Elves and Drow, Catharina opts for the Bilbo Baggins method - invisibility and haste. With enough zig zagging they make it through the combat lines and out into the sunlight... where they are promptly arrested by the waiting Elves above.

After being questioned by their leader, they learn that somehow Irenicus has made their city of Suldanessellar vanish! Convinced that Catharina and Imoen want Irenicus dead, they task the party with looking for a magic lantern stolen from Elven lands that can find the city.

Irenicus must really love this game.

Ok wait, they have a magic lantern that can find the city? Does that happen often enough to warrant the creation of said lantern? I guess so! LOL. Catharina immediately suspects it will be with Bodhi, so the elves give them some stakes and holy water then send them on their way back to Athkatla.

Insight: If you are going for the run method, make sure you manually control your people. The AI pathing is lousy for that purpose.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

The Cursed: Sharing a Laugh

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The Matron Mother summons forth a lesser demon prince, hoping to gain his aid in the war against the top side elves. Unfortunately, her fake egg offering results in the demon roasting her alive.

Phaere then attempts to offer fake eggs much to the demon prince's amusement, roasting her as well. Satisfied with the good laugh, he leaves the party alone and returns to hell. Catharina and company are satisfied too, but it's time to go.

Time is running out as a few denizens in Ust Natha have realized their charade - namely an aboleth and the merc Jarlaxle, both trying to blackmail the party into doing some dirty deeds in order to keep their secret.

I hate that Jarlaxle guy.

Instead of doing said tasks the team simply walks out of Ust Natha and delivers the eggs back to Adalon. In thanks, she teleports them to the exit closest to Irenicus... and right into a war zone!

Insight: I suppose if you want all the XP you'd want to do all the quests. Just be aware that a lot of the ones in Ust Natha come with time limits so you must be quick and efficient (not so much resting) as to not blow your cover.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

The Cursed: Triple Cross

[Part of the Cursed story line]

With the Matron Mother's ceremony quickly approaching Phaere approaches the team with an opportunity - swap the sacrificial silver dragon eggs for fake ones which would lead to Phaere taking her spot.

Catharina agrees as this at least gets them closer to the eggs. Ironically, Solaufein also shows up later and says to double cross Phaere as well with another set of fake eggs! His offer is readily accepted.

It's then on to the temple of Lolth where the team sneakily offs the pair of egg guards then Imoen gets her chance to shine - swapping the eggs in hasted stealth to avoid the guardian golems.

Being fast is as important as being unseen.

They then hand out the fake eggs to the stupid Drow females and wait for the ceremony to begin...

Insight: The haste was more important than the stealth in the last bit. Imoen made it back to the door which Nalia then closed, trapping the golems within. Fortunately no one but your party knows how to open doors. :P

Monday, 14 October 2019

The Cursed: Backroom Bargains

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Meanwhile in Thay...

With the first four matches under their belt, the arena squad continues battling and recruiting allies for their escape - but also deciding who not to include. Feldrak is a murderous halfling scum who is happy to gloat upon all his past crimes and shows he has the skill to back it up by chopping up a Drow party in round five. That's not someone that should be let loose.

With some reputation and money now, Party Girl makes some deals in between matches - getting the key to the Planar Hunter's lounge by bribing fellow prisoner "Brother" Elraish, who is humorously trying hard to pretend he is a monk. She also gets disguises to access the inner areas, and acquires a variety of poisons - one to use on the megalomaniac cook who is promptly replaced by his two sous-chefs, both eager to support any escape.

Brother Elraish is kinda funny, but not as funny as Brother Silence.

There are no exits at the Hunter's lounge, but since they are all out Alias breaks some locks to try gauge what they are up against. Most importantly they find a bottle containing Najim in the room of the Efreeti hunter, but unwilling to tip their hand just yet leave him there for the time being.

Insight: No thief? You can force attack locked containers and doors to try break them open. This works  best with high strength characters.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

The Cursed: Being Drow

[Part of the Cursed story line]

It's not all fun and games in Ust Natha as the team is soon tasked to assist the Drow warrior, Solaufein, to rescue the matron mother's daughter, Phaere, from some mind flayers. A perimeter of skull traps greatly helps this endeavor.

Unfortunately Phaere is quite the ungrateful bitch, promptly sending the group off to kill a spell jamming beholder smuggler (lol what?) followed by killing both the Svirfneblin and Solaufein. Those last two tasks are easily faked with the "victims" agreeing just to hand over proof that "they're dead".

Arr, would ye like some smuggled Hambrew coffee!?
(Hambrew being Minitature Giant Space Hamster poop)

This earns them a meeting with the Matron Mother who is planning some big ceremony but needs "noble" blood from of one of the nearby races. The Elder Eye actually counts for this, which means Jan and Elizabeth didn't die for nothing!

Insight: Instead of the elder eye, you could also go after a Kuo-toa prince or an Illithid elder brain. I'm kinda happy we just had the eye in the pack at that point.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

The Cursed: What happens in Ust Natha

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The survivors eventually come across a friendly Svirfneblin village and after helping the deep gnomes with their balor problem (they dug too deep!) they introduce the party to the local silver dragon, Adalon, whose eggs were stolen by Irenicus and taken to the nearby Drow city of Ust Natha.

The team offers to help as the dragon can cast a powerful glamour to make them appear as Drow, which grants them access to Ust Natha. There's no sign of Irenicus, Bodhi or the eggs though - just a lot of slaves and fighting pits where Lu Lingqi shows her prowess.

As a reward they are able to freely use the lust chambers in the tavern which is an odd way to rest, but after a couple of orgies (need to keep up appearances after all) they begin to enjoy it.

Or maybe they just played Beholder volleyball which is way more PG?
(art by Pokketmowse)

Insight: While the group arena is standard party combat, the duel arena can be cheesed if you get some summons in there. Should you win your summons remain there, meaning you can send another team member to duel and be supported by the previous summons!

Friday, 11 October 2019

The Cursed: Underdark

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The Underdark is dark and full of terrors, mainly in the form of drow at the arrival area. Drow might not sound very terrifying, until you remember that their sun light averse gear is actually in the +5 range so fighting them on their home turf is quite challenging!

So... if we take her to the sunlight she becomes naked? :P

To make matters worse, the team learns from some duergar that a pair of other outsiders (Irenicus and Bodhi) were last seen entering the nearby Drow city. That same city keeps it gates closed to team (rightfully so, after they killed all those Drow patrols) so Jan suggest to look for a tunnel or something that leads under the walls.

The first tunnel they enter is home to a beholder and an elder eye, and the party uses almost everything they have to win the fight. Unfortunately Jan and Elizabeth are left lying dead there while the survivors retreat.

Insight: At this point your mage should be rocking Abi-Dalzim's Horrid Wilting which does big area damage while not hurting allies. Perfect against those drow parties who like to close the distance. Even with their increased resistance, they'll take half damage.

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Battlefield 4 Hong Kong

Looks like my list yesterday that included Blizzard was far too short. Here's a more complete record (just scroll down a bit) that also has the "other side" which includes the likes of South Park and Ubisoft (at the moment anyway).

What I really wanted to post was this cool Battlefield 4 Hong Kong compilation video though which is a nice summary of what's going on there. Such realistic graphics and huge player capacity! Downsides are it looks like there's a lot of running due to the huge maps, an overload of spectators and the respawn times take forever.

Switching back to regular content tomorrow, unless something else explodes overnight.

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Do you support Dictatorship?

Blizzard, the NBA, Vans (shoes) and Apple do! And if you play any Blizzard games, watch NBA, wear Vans shoes or buy any Apple products/services then by proxy the answer is YES, YOU ALSO ABSOLUTELY SUPPORT IT! In case you weren't aware, these companies have bent the knee and opened their asses for China for whom they suppress free speech, though it seems the NBA is trying to hurriedly pull up its trousers.

Obviously they value money more than morals. Ironic that South Park has more spine than they do. What about you? Do you value your hobbies and gadgets more than your morals? Does it really matter that some far away people are getting oppressed? I'll leave that up to your own conscience.

It's the firing of the interviewers that really lends to this image.

Don't know what's happening in Hong Kong because you don't hear about it in mainstream news? A quick visit to r/Hongkong will sort that out. Don't worry, it's mostly in English.

Actually this presents a wonderful opportunity. Someone should go around to all the game and sports companies and put pro Hong Kong messages just to see which ones follow suit and to see who stands with whom.

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Dark Phoenix

An accident during a space rescue sees X-Men member Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) gain a power surge which also leaves her quite unstable. It is up to the fractured X-Men to try save her, while others try to kill her. While this sequel to X-Men: Apocalypse certainly feels like a retreading of X-Men: the Last Stand, it is quite an enjoyable flick.

Effects, sets and action pieces are all good but the idea to make Xavier (James McAvoy) fill the role of semi-villain is an intriguing one, and we know the actor can certainly play villains. I was also quite impressed with Nicholas Hoult (Beast) as well.

Bend the knee?

As usual there are gaps in logic required in superhero shows to create drama and the "main" adversaries (because Xavier can't be fully bad) are rather wooden and not well defined but if you enjoy the X-Men franchise or just want an easy, turn off your brain superhero film (or just have the hots for Sansa Stark) you'll probably enjoy this. I give it 2.5 pieces of sharp wooden debris out of five, but wouldn't watch it again.

Monday, 7 October 2019

The Cursed: Battle for Spellhold

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The remaining asylum tests are easy and the squad finds themselves back at the main floor with the other inmates. For a cheap bribe, Catharina releases all of them (all powerful mages) and directs their anger at Irenicus.

He looks more menacing with his mask on.

Backed by the mage army, the team proceeds to the lab to fight Irenicus, and in an explosive and colorful battle find victory as Irenicus retreats, leaving some minions to cover his escape. Unfortunately, every single one of the inmates dead when the battle is over.

Not willing to let him escape the team does a quick search of Spellhold and find the portal he ran through. Without time to waste, they pursue and find themselves in... the Underdark!?

Insight: Letting bad guys escape by cutscene is also rail roading, aka bad design!

Sunday, 6 October 2019

The Cursed: Beneath the Madness

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The first challenge in the Asylum basement the team faces is who to leave behind, due to the stupid 6 person party rule. Mazzy volunteers herself so Imoen can join, and the little halfling hero promptly finds a small grating to crawl through to try solo her way out.

I think we all know who the real hero is.

Everyone else is left to deal with a surprising amount of yuan-ti, some of whom are baited into a crushing hallway for faster clearance. There are also riddle rooms which Elizabeth and Imoen solve easily.

Disturbingly, there's a lich down here too but he is beaten thanks to Catharina's summoned Hakeashar (magic eating spirit) and a few lucky blasts from Nalia's wand of wonder.

Eventually they run into Bodhi's hunting party and Catharina totally loses it, transforming into a monstrous demon that attacks everyone! Bodhi flees once more, and Catharina eventually reverts no normal. Apparently her missing soul isn't killing her like Imoen, it's turning her into that.

Insight: After this point you get the ability to transform into that at will, though you take a reputation hit and might go berserk each time.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

The Cursed: Soul Taker

[Part of the Cursed story line]

The vampires are easily killed, as are the pirate scum of the town whom Catharina couldn't help but mess with. They then advance on to Spellhold itself and run into the "new" manager, Irenicus!

He wears metal armor in exactly one spot only. Lol.

Knocked out in this unexpected encounter, Catharina awakens in another experimental chamber where Irenicus rips out her soul to take for his own. Somehow Catharina survives this, so Irenicus then leaves them to be taken care of by his sister, Bodhi!

Fortunately Bodhi is a moron and opts to throw the team, fully armed, into the lowest basement of the asylum so she can play a game of cat and mouse before killing them. Imoen is here, also lacking a soul, and feels like she is dying.

Insight: I hate getting KO'ed by cutscene. People really need a way to avoid that as it is bad design: rail roading.

Friday, 4 October 2019

Today I Smiled: Elevator Ladies

I joined two random ladies (I'll call them Blondie and Spunky) waiting in the elevator today. They were clearly good friends, sharing a story and laughs. I am positioned near the buttons while the two of them are behind me, checking themselves out in the elevator mirror. On the ride up there was a short lull in their conversation broken by this...

Blondie [loudly]: My bum is soooo sore.

I smile to myself in the awkward silence that follows, knowing only Spunky can see the side of my face. A side wards glance confirms she's smiling too.

Blondie [stammers]: ... from exercising!

The elevator doors open at my floor and I step out, still grinning. As soon as I get out of view, Spunky cracks up and laughs hysterically. Blondie ends up laughing too as the elevator doors close again. It's addictive.

Thanks for the laugh ladies!

Thursday, 3 October 2019

The Cursed: Onwards to Insanity!

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Assaulting the vamp nest proves to be easy with summons, and more than a few are staked in the process. Bodhi herself comes near death before flying away as a bat... an immortal bat who resisted magic spells and weapons.

Pity none of them are this cool.

To keep their end of the bargain the Shadow Thieves have tracked down Imoen to the island asylum of Spellhold and have already arranged a ship there. Apparently that's the extent of their "help" as the party have to do the heavy lifting themselves!

Neera is very uncomfortable about visiting an asylum specifically for mages so she is dismissed and Elisabeth rejoins the team in her place. Upon arrival at Spellhold's adjacent pirate town, the team is ambushed by vampires thanks to the cowardice of their ship's captain who quickly runs away.

He must be related to Anomen.

Insight: Remember to visit the temple for restoration if any of your team get drained. Suddenly not being able to cast high level spells and having reduced max hit points is not ideal.

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

The Cursed: Guild Wars

[Part of the Cursed story line]

After the *cough* slight *cough* distraction of other quests, Catharina and company finally return to the now obviously Shadow Thief thug to pay the fee, which has been lowered by 25%, to rescue Imoen.

This payment earns the team a meeting with the Shadow Thief leader who wants the team to help him first with the ongoing guild war before he enacts the daring rescue.

To save him some time, they inform him that he is up against a guild of vampires based in the graveyard district. He gives them some stakes and assistance in the form of the gnome artificer Jan Jensen, who the team previously thought was a turnip vendor and instructs them to wipe those vampires out.

Jan does keep going on about turnips...

There's not much choice, but vampires suck anyway so Catharina agrees.

Insight: I think you can break the game if you kill the Shadow Thieves at this point so better not do that.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

The Cursed: Keep to Yourself

[Part of the Cursed story line]

Looking for an exit the team run into a powerful wraith demon, and only thanks to Neera's chaos orb do the team manage to take it and it's allies down. Unfortunately Haer'Dalis is killed in this battle as his minute meteors are reflected back to him by the wraith's shield.

Mazzy can do that too!

One member down and wandering this place of demons really blows so Catharina switches tactics. The team are now just gonna run. Run like hell. Using invisibility and haste, this actually works - somehow getting past rooms and rooms of enemies until they find themselves back at the start.

Exhausted and again one person down they return to Athkatla to regroup. During their rest Catharina suddenly realized... "Shouldn't we be rescuing Imoen?"

Insight: Haer'Dalis is a strange cat. He's weak, but actually good at everything if you can micromanage him. Too bad, I hate micromanagement.