Friday, June 14, 2019

A mixed bag of updates

Yesterday, I did get everything done that I had on my immediate goals list for Red Dead Redemption 2.  I got my 3-star grizzly bear and made the bear saddle (which I'm now sporting on my horse.)  I forced moose to spawn at 2 of the 3 locations I'd targeted for doing so on the Dakota River so I could run the pelt to the Riggs Station trapper.  Here I was one short of my goal, but as you'll see, that didn't matter much.  I ran over (I probably took a stagecoach, actually) to Annesburg, and from there went into the mine to get the Bennett Brothers clue on the wall (which I missed and ran around for a few minutes before I found it right by the ladder I came in on), then went to their nearby red and green house and got the clue out of the chimney.  While I was nearby, I forced a moose to spawn at Willard's Rest, and then took it to the trapper, which was immediately next to the actual Bennett Brothers treasure anyway.

Then I took that to the Van Horn fence and sold it, then started my dry run from Van Horn to Blackwater (I actually had to start this three times because the first time I ran into someone right after leaving Van Horn when I came around a corner and got into a shoot-out with him; the second time I fell off my horse on the first bridge I had to cross.  The third time I slowed down and still had plenty of time—the secret is more about having the correct route than it is about galloping as fast as you can.  I didn't even have a particularly fast horse; I had the Gold Carmello Dutch Warmblood, Buell.)  Then I rode from Blackwater to my camp, fast traveled to Tumbleweed and hunted the legendary cougar.  This time it worked, but not because my strategy was better; I just had better luck.  After the third clue, he was farther away and I could see him from a high vantage point where the third clue had been, so I got on my horse and shot him before he could kill me.  Took a stage to somewhere and sold it.  Turns out I couldn't make all of the legendary cougar outfits because I was missing one 3-star boar hide.

Now, it used to be that finding 3-star boar hides was easy, but this time it took me quite a while.  I went to Black Bone Forest three times before I finally found one, and I also wandered around Bolger Glade and Bluewater Marsh.  Shot loads of boars, but they were 1 and 2-star boars.  Needless to say, I got quite a few bucks from the bad pelts, not to mention tons of pork meat to cook (one boar was ruined because by the time I got to it, a cougar was eating it, and it was degraded too much to get anything from at all.)  But I finally found my 3-star, only a hundred yards or so away from the Black Bone Forest trapper, so I got that all finished too.  To be fair, I could have simply not shot them, since they weren't the boars I was looking for, but I was hoping by clearing the way I might get a better one to spawn later.  Plus, I could make a few bucks off good and even poor pelts, and I can always stock up on more food.

I had experimented with trying to get a boar to spawn in Lemoyne; I put out herbivore bait at the site of the Clemens Point camp.  It didn't work, but a 3-star whitetail buck spawned.  I didn't know what to do with that, so I carried the entire carcass around on my horse for a little while before finally cooking him.  Didn't end up with a pelt.  Then, of course, when I was at the trapper, I discovered that there is a half-chap that I don't have that requires a buck pelt.  Sigh.

On the other hand, I only have three more animals that I need to get to get all of the trapper garment sets done: a gila monster, an armadillo, and a goat.  I've never seen a gila monster in the game at all, even though I've been wandering around where they're supposed to be, and all of the armadillos I've seen so far have been 1 or 2-star.  But I know how to get these, I just need to take the time to find good ones.  Goats are even easier; I can always get a goat right away when I want one.

I do have a few other trapper items to make, but not in the garment sets; most of them are actually hat accessories, so I'll need to figure out how to hunt all kinds of little birds like orioles and robins and whatnot.  But my hunting has a light at the end of the tunnel; I will someday rather soon get to the point where there's nothing that I need to hunt to craft anything.  I'll probably have enough meat left over after doing so that I don't need to hunt for food either, because I'll have loads of meat from all of the animals I've hunted to get this far, but I might do a bit of hunting just to stock up on meat anyway when I have opportunistic chances to kill an animal that's right in front of me while I'm holding my gun kinda thing.

I also got a new horse; the charcoal roan Dutch Warmblood.  Mostly because I saw it for sale at the stable in Valentine, and I like that color a lot.  Because it kinda is the same color (kinda) as my gray mustang, I sold that one.  That's a crappy horse anyway.  It was quite a bit more expensive than the sooty buckskin one for sale at Scarlett Meadows, which I had had before as Arthur.  I really like the Dutch Warmbloods; my daughter and I both kind of think that they're our favorite horses in the game because of their very high stamina and health as well as their generally unflappable demeanor when in battle or facing predators.  I don't know why I'd need two Dutch Warmbloods, because I also have Buell who is the unique Gold Cremello Dutch Warmblood, but I expect one of these days he'll get killed and I'd like to have another one already ready to go and bonded to replace him.  I also kept Rachel, at least so far, although I'll probably replace her with the white arabian once I catch that one again.  Who knows; maybe I'll finally buy one of the other Arabians or Turkoman horses?  I'd also really like a Missouri Foxtrotter, although I didn't see that for sale in Scarlett Meadows when I was last there.  Maybe I just wasn't paying attention though.

Finally, in between some of my playing, my son played a bit with his John savegame.  He was trying to do a bandit challenge (#5, where you get a $250 bounty in one state) so he had gone to rob some remote but near to where he was train station like Bacchus or Wallace, shooting passengers and the conductor, etc.  Somehow he ended up running up the stairs to a balcony, and then a pack of four wolves attacked him while he was attacking the station!  It was a weird coincidence, but he killed them basically either on the stairs or at the top of them, and while skinning them (because, why not?) he had a weird glitch where the wolf disappeared, but he was still skinning the air where it had been (and the blood animation was still there even though the wolf wasn't) and then... he accidentally discovered the wall breach glitch, because he ended up inside the upstairs room of the station.  There wasn't anything he could do in there, including get out, so he dropped some dynamite and killed himself so he'd respawn elsewhere.  Anyway, the whole thing was so weird, he grabbed a video capture of it.

Other than the hunting, and of course a handful of story missions still to do, I've got a bunch of points of interest to find, the dinosaur bones, the rock carvings, etc. and a bunch of challenges still so I can get the Legend of the East outfit.  By the time I get it, I'll probably be so done with the game, and won't really have anything to do, that I won't even be able to enjoy it, but... eh.  What're you gonna do?

On a totally different front, I've been going through my hard dance megamixes, including the new ones I'd made, 7 and 8—I made these right before I got really, really serious about all of the things necessary to make really good smooth transitions.  I think I've had to redo all but one of the first seven after I'd made them, and I think I'll end up having to redo number eight too, although maybe I can find a shortcut to have them fixed without having to remix the entire remix. (heh.)  Still; they turned out reasonably well, and fixing a handful of rough transitions isn't a huge deal.

Megamix 007 REMIXED
  1. Cosmic Gate - Somewhere Over the Rainbow [Beam & Yanou Remix]
  2. A*S*Y*S - Acid Train
  3. S.H.O.K.K. - Folie a Deux [Klub Mix]
  4. Derb - Musica
  5. Pacific Link - Time for New Energy [Dark Oscillators Remix]
  6. Thomas Trouble - Insane Asylum [Pedro Del Mar Remix]
  7. Mark Sherry & Dr Willis - Here Come the Drums [Jowan Remix]
  8. Riot Brothers - Ripped Out
  9. Hypetraxx - Paranoid [DJ Scot Project Remix]
  10. Spiritual Project - The Big Light [Hard Trance Mix]
  11. DDR & The Geezer - Mad Cows On Acid [Rozzer's Dog Mix]
  12. Mass in Orbit - Connect (The Next Step) [DJ Overdog Mix]
Megamix 008 REMIXED
  1. Arome Visions of Paradize [DJ Scot Project Remix]
  2. A*S*Y*S - Acid Nightmare [Future Tribes Remix]
  3. Kai Tracid - Too Many Times [Yoda Remix]
  4. Dr. Willis - Spice [DJ Wag Mix]
  5. Cosmic Gate - Human Beings [Dave 202 & Phil Green Mix]
  6. Pulsedriver - Recycle [Club Mix]
  7. Scooter - Back In Time
  8. Bytes Brothers - Trancemission
  9. Jay Walker - I Am Here [Fast Floor Remix]
  10. Pacific Link - Espace [Hardstyle Mix 2]
  11. Kidd Kaos & Joe E - Control Interference
  12. Demonic Emotions - Stuck on a Spacetrip [Jon the Dentist Remix]
I've also been listening to my old megamixes 9 and 10 to see if there are any tracks on them that I don't like enough and want to replace, although it looks like there aren't going to end up being any—I've got through all of the tracks that I wasn't sure about and they were good after all, I just didn't remember them well enough to know for sure.  Within the next week, before I run off for high adventure on the 22nd, I'd like to redo any of the existing ones that need fixing and do the next two.  Really, I'd like to get to 11 and 12, because I've been doing these in chunks of a half dozen, and that'll round out my numbers, but we'll see if I can get that far before I'm away.

Megamix 009
  • Ruff Stuff - Warning [Club Mix]
  • Yakooza - Xtasy [Paramount Park Mix]
  • DJ Neo - Acid Overdose [Aeden Harder Mix]
  • Pacific Link - Planetary Collapse [Luca Antolini Remix]
  • Mauro Picotto - Komodo [Tea Mix]
  • DJ Darkzone - Infinity In Your Hands [Club Mix]
  • Arome - Somebody [Hangover Help Mix]
  • Luca Antolini - Heat [Steve Hill vs Dark By Design 2007 Remix]
  • Flutlicht - The Fall [Deep Fall Mix]
  • Formic Acid - Dreams of Fantasy
  • Josh Lang - White Thing [Josh Lang Harder Mix]
  • A*S*Y*S - Acid Zombie [Old School Remasterd Mix]
Megamix 010
  • Cocooma - Nothing Is Over [Club Mix]
  • Dave Joy - Second Chase [Madwave Remix]
  • Luca Antolini - The Race 2012 [Steve Hill vs Technical Remix]
  • Pro-Active - Spring Love [303 Version]
  • DDR & The Geezer - Mad Cows on Acid
  • Avatar - Red Planet [Reverb's Mix]
  • Flutlicht - Icarus (The Flight) [Original Daedalus Mix]
  • Kamui - Ghosts [Original Mix]
  • Joop - 3008 [S.H.O.K.K. Remix]
  • A*S*Y*S - Acid Nightmare [Blademasterz Remix]
  • DJ Shog - Feel Me (Through the Radio) [S.H.O.K.K. Remix]
  • Logger & Gnetic - Hypertransfer [Uberdruck Remix]

Western Hack as setting

Well, I've decided that rather than try and go through the rather complicated task that will be updating the monster list from FANTASY HACK to have the speed stats that the monster list for DARK•HERITAGE 2.0 has, I'll just make a comment in the combat rules where it talks about chase scenes and add the WESTERN HACK stuff as a new Appendix IV, and update the rules to be another version.  Because it's a more significant change, but not so significant as to be a new edition, that means, I think, that it'll move from version 1.5.4 to 1.6.  Maybe later, it'll bump to 1.6.1 or even 1.7 when I do get around to updating the monster list.  (I can't just copy and paste the monster lists, because there were some deliberate differences between them; I'll have to figure it out and I don't want to take the time to do so now.)  After that, FANTASY HACK will be "done" again until such time as I get around to doing SWASHBUCKLER HACK with sailing ship rules, or something.

I don't want to add the WESTERN HACK rules into DARK•HERITAGE 2.0 (which is really 2.1.1) but I might add the mythical horses as a monster entry and make it 2.1.2.  I do have to admit that I'm a little surprised myself that such stand-bys of mythology as the unicorn and Pegasus haven't made it into the rules yet anyway.

But no; rather, what I want to talk about briefly is—now that I've got a small little rules module that allows FANTASY HACK to be used as WESTERN HACK, what else would you need to run WESTERN HACK the way I envision it? (I can't answer what you'd need to run it the way you envision it, naturally.)  The answer, obviously, is a setting.  And let's talk for a moment at a high level about what I think the setting should be like.

First and foremost, unlike most Western fantasies or even stuff like Red Dead Redemption, WESTERN HACK won't take place in the actual American West, even in Ruritanian "fake states" like RDR does.  It has to take place in it's own secondary fantasy world.  Just like Middle-earth or the Hyborian Age resembles Medieval Europe in most respects, but isn't, WESTERN HACK's setting would resemble the American Old West in most respects, but still be it's own thing.  There should be a probably three basic nations of humanity; one that resembles the US of the mid- to late 1800s in many respects, with English and Scottish names (this is before the "melting pot" mythology was brought to America.  Americans in the 1800s were almost exclusively of English and Scottish ancestry with some admixture of a few other northern European nations like the Germans and the Irish, which would have been the most common up to this point.)  Technically, the region in which WESTERN HACK takes place belongs to this nation, but in reality, the center of it's power and population is off-stage, and this is a large, newly opened frontier region.  But the place would be lightly populated, and this nationality would be the most commonly encountered, with settlements, towns, homesteads and pioneers seen frequently.  They'd also be the protagonists—I see WESTERN HACK as a more traditional rather than Revisionist Western, even though it isn't actually America.  I'm not interested in exploring the Marxist themes of painting Americans as rail barons or other corporate tyrants; I want to paint them as freedom-loving communities and individualists looking for a new life away from the hustle and bustle of the main territory, which will probably be to the East, because of course, why not?

I also need a fake Mexico of some kind or other (maybe Fake New Spain, to be more precise); people with Spanish-ish names, although I'll probably turn to my old Dark•Heritage Mk. IV stuff where I had Terassan names that were kinda Spanish but not exactly (I used a lot of Asturian, Catalan, etc. type names instead.)  This nation will obviously be located to the south of this area, but in many ways is in decline—they have a history of having explored this territory a couple of centuries or so ago during their ascendant Golden Age, so names from their nationality might be common, but communities of these people are less so.

And I need some Indian nations, although rather than make nuanced distinctions, I'll just have them probably be culturally homogeneous tribal groups.  These are also a people on the decline, but they have something like the Comancheria and maybe a rival Apacheria still which is a significant player in the area causing trouble for both Fake Mexico and Fake America both.  I see them as a more mobile group that overlaps the settlement of the first two nations rather than holding vast swathes of territory that is only theirs.  Notably, I'm also not at all interested in any stories where the "white devils" are oppressing the gentle and noble red man; rather, "red devils" may yet be a significant threat to everyone else, although protagonists from this nation can and should be possible, if not necessarily common or likely.  That story is way played out and tired, and it's a self-hating SJW lecture anyway.  Similarly, I'm not interested in any kind of "poor black people oppression" story in WESTERN HACK, so I doubt I'll even have any Africans at all in the setting.  In fact, to mix things up, maybe I can assume that until recently, the fake Irish were enslaved, and they're the ones with a legacy of slavery to deal with.  I kinda like that idea more than I probably should.  I think I'll go with it.

Finally, there need to be some non-humans, with territories of their own too.  I don't know that I'll go with elves and orcs and whatnot, because why would I use those (orcs have in large part become the Indians, Huns, Mongols and other savage people that self-hating Western people have now used in place of those actual people, because of political correctness anyway.)  However, I can see Gunaakt (my orc nation from DH5) as maybe a backwards swamp and woodlands dwelling people in the southern territory.  In fact, many of the DARK•HERITAGE nations started out as modular setting elements that can be used in any setting; although I might distinguish them later, for now, why not just use some DARK•HERITAGE nations as placeholders?  Lomar as the homeland of the Cursed would be to the north, Baal Hamazi as the homeland of the kemlings would be somewhere out here in the frontier region as well, and Gunaakt is in the south.  Maybe the Jann of al-Qazmir would be an island nation in the general direction of what would be the Caribbean or Gulf of Mexico if we're still using a vaguely North American geography.  Maybe (I'm not actually sure I want to use them at all.)  For a more traditional view, there could of course be forests full of elves and dwarves in the mountains, but I'm not overly interested in doing either.  Much of the point of having this is to have ruins and remnants of their own past empires still available to be discovered, explored, or to be used as plot devices throughout the region.  Unspoiled wilderness may be more the traditional Old West thing, but rather abandoned wilderness gives you more to work with as a gamer or writer.

For even more savagery than the Indians offer, you can have thurses or woses; the former might be called sasquatches by most in this setting.  And of course, the "here there be monsters" vibe to the frontier is important too—there really are weird and dangerous things lurking out here that make grizzly bears and Indians seem tame in comparison.

Compared to Medievalesque fantasy, which posits small nations that have existed for a long time, this is the story of settlement and expansion by one nation over the remnants of others in a territory that is still mostly wilderness.  This obviously creates some obvious significant differences in the way the setting has to operate, but WESTERN HACK would be considerably less like a Western without the frontier aspect to it.

This doesn't mean that the entire setting needs to be frontier-like.  I really enjoyed the south and Appalachia areas of RDR2, for example, which while not frontier, were still very rural for the most part.  I could see the entirety of the RDR2 map being used as is, just without the assumption that people were from New York somewhere out to the east of the map, rather, they'd be from "New York" and maybe the distinction is subtle, but it's important.  Some of the gang territories would actually be Injuns, or other demihuman races.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

What does Western Hack need compared to Fantasy Hack or Dark•Heritage 2.0?

Let's look at this from a rules perspective first.  A western fantasy, compared to a Medieval fantasy, probably needs an alternate rules module that offers the following:
  • firearms more typical of the 1850-1900 period, more or less.  This can top out with mounted stuff like a cannon or Gatling gun, although these aren't really portable weapons in the individual sense.
  • Some more variation and nuance to horse-riding, varieties of horse, etc. so that there's some flavor to the horseplay in the game.
I actually think that that's about it.  Other than that, the rules for FANTASY HACK would already work quite well for facilitating WESTERN HACK.  I probably should get to that so I can focus more on a WESTERN HACK setting without feeling like the rules adjustments are hanging over my head.  But I'm a little bit intimidated by the task; I'm afraid of going too far and breaking the rules-lite paradigm in order to get rules nuance, and being unhappy with the result. Sigh.

Borrowing from the three existing Microlite cowboys & injuns game only goes so far, so I'll probably have to make up the horse rules, at least, since none of them have anything like that.  Anyway, here goes:

Firearms (replaces the black powder firearms rules from Appendix II of FANTASY HACK)
  • Pistol: Short range, single shot, holds 2 rounds, damage 1d8m reload time 1 round
  • Revolver: Medium range, Single shot, holds 6 rounds, damage 2d6 reload time 2 rounds
  • Lever-action Rifle: Long range, single shot, holds 15 rounds, damage 2d8 reload time 3 rounds
  • Sharpshooter Rifle: Far range, Single shot, holds 1 rounds, damage 2d10 reload time 1 round
  • Shotgun: Medium range, single shot, holds 2 rounds, damage 2d12 reload time 2 rounds
  • Gatling Gun: Long range, 6 shots per round, holds 100 rounds, damage 2d6 each reload time 4 rounds
  • Cannon: Long range, Single shot, holds 1 round, damage 4d8 reload time 2 rounds
Range to be decided by the GM, not specifically "measured".  The Gatling Gun and cannons are portable, but takes a crew of two to operate properly.  It is mounted on wheels like a cannon, requires a horse, mule or ox or equally strong animal to move, and once set up cannot be moved during a particular combat unless you hitch it to an animal (although with both members of the crew operating it, it can be rotated to fire at a different angle, although doing so takes an entire round to do.)  A single person can use this weapon, but cannot do anything with it except load it and fire it and hitch it to a horse; he cannot rotate it.  It also takes twice as long for a single person to reload it.

Horses (replaces the entries found in the Monster section of FANTASY HACK)
  • HORSE, RIDING: AC: 12 HD 2d6 (8 hp) AT:bite or kick +2 (1d6) STR: +4, DEX: +2, MND: -3, S: Grants a rider a +10 bonus on chase rolls, standard cost: 40
  • HORSE, WAR: AC: 12 HD 3d6 (12 hp) AT: bite +3 (1d6) or kick +3 (2d6) STR: +6, DEX: +2, MND: -3, S: Grants a rider a +7 on chase rolls, standard cost: 200
  • HORSE, RACE: AC: 12 HD 2d6 (8 hp) AT: bite or kick +2 (1d6) STR: +5, DEX: +2, MND: -3, S: grants a rider a +14 bonus on chase rolls, standard cost:  125
  • HORSE, OLD NAG: AC: 10 HD 1d6 (4 hp) AT: bite or kick +1 (1d6) STR: +4, DEX: +0, MIND: -3, S: grants a rider a +7 on chase rolls, standard cost 10
The performance of horses can be improved with proper care and tack.  There are three main items of gear used by these rules: a bridle, a saddle, and horseshoes.  All are rather specialized equipment that require considerable expertise to craft (and in the case of shoes, to put on the horse as well.)  Standard versions of the three cost: 10 for a saddle, 5 for a bit, and 5 for shoes (installed.)  Riding a horse without the proper gear results in a -1 penalty (each) for lack of a saddle or bridle, and a horse without shoes will face a -3 result on fatigue rolls during chase scenes.

Horses can also be found in the wild, although race horses and war horses are extremely hard to find.  Catching and breaking a wild horse involves sneaking up on it, lassoing it, mounting it, and then doing MND + Athletics checks against the horse's STR + HD.  You will need to pass three such checks in a row, while if you fail three in a row, the horse bucks you off, you'll need to do a DEX + Athletics check to avoid taking 1d6 damage from falling, and the horse will then either attack you or (more likely) run away and you will have failed.  If you do not get these checks in a row, you can continue trying to break the horse until you either succeed or fail three in a row.

Non standard, specialized or even magical versions can improve the performance of horses above that of the standard listed.  The following are some improvements that can be made:
  • +1 or +2 (cost of +10 and +50) to fatigue checks during a chase scene; can be applied to a saddle or bridle
  • +2 to kick damage with improved horseshoes
  • +1 or +2 or even +3 (cost of +10, +50 and +150 respectively) to speed bonus on chase checks; can be applied to any of the three parts of equipment, and if applied to more than one, they can be cumulative.  A really tricked out race-horse, for instance, could have an additional +9 to it's chase bonus, for a total of +23
  • Barding can offer +2 or +4 to AC (cost of 15 and 30 respectively) but reduces the speed bonus by the same amount, and imposes a fatigue penalty during chase scenes by the same amount as well.  It isn't much used in the Old West, but it's not entirely unheard of.
This same equipment can be used if riding any other more fantastical creature, by the way, although horseshoes probably won't be relevant to most creatures unless they have similar hooves.

Extra Mythical Horses
Mythical horses can be created by using the following standard mythical template, and then adding a special ability to the horse to customize it.

HORSE, MYTHICAL: AC 15 HD 5d6 (25 hp) AT: bite or kick +5 (3d6) STR: +6, DEX: +3, MND: -1, S: Grants a raider a +12 on chase rolls

Mythical horses cannot be bought.  Often there will only be one of each type in the entire setting, although legends and folklore suggests that if one is somehow killed, it will be spat back out of the Spirit World as an archetype, fully grown, again within the next few weeks or months.

How to catch one is different for each; for unicorns, for example, the lure of a virgin by a crystal clear pool in the forest is supposed to be the best method, for the four horses of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, you may have to fight and defeat the Horseman.  The following are a sampling of mythical horses:
  • Unicorn: gains an additional gore attack at +5 that does 3d8 damage
  • Hippocampus: can travel through water as well as on land and allows its rider to breathe water while mounted
  • Pegasus: can fly through the air as well as travel by land
  • Sleipnir: this eight legged horse gains an additional +7 to chase checks due to its tremendous speed
  • Death: the horse of the Horseman of the Apocalypse, this emaciated/skeletal and ghostly pale horse has the immunities of a flesh golem
  • Famine: the horse of the Horseman of the Apocalypse, this black horse causes 1d4 STR damage with each bite attack (STR + level DC 18 to resist) and is surrounded by a swarm of insects that attacks anything adjacent to the horse (except its rider) until the swarm is defeated.  This swarm will restart with each new combat encounter.
  • War: the horse of the Horseman of the Apocalypse, this red horse has a fiery breath weapon, exactly like a hell hound
  • Conquest: the horse of the Horseman of the Apocalypse, this snowy white horse will cause anyone adjacent to it (except the rider) to be shocked by the lightning that courses about the horse for 1d6 damage each round (can be avoided or resisted on a DC 14 (DEX or STR + level check.)
Ta-da!  The Western Hack supplement (or Attachment IV, I suppose, to FANTASY HACK, which would be the best way to publish it) is done!  However, this may mean that I need to update the main body of FANTASY HACK to make sure that it's consistent with DARK•HERITAGE 2.0.  Sigh.  Still, that's quite an accomplishment; I didn't set out to do this when I started typing this post, and now it's done!  I may end up tweaking this a bit before it's published officially.  We'll see.

Anyway, here's a nice image of the Four Horsemen, although I'd have the red one a much brighter, unnaturally so red (about the color of the flag, actually) and my death would be even more... dead and ghostly looking, I suppose.

Still, you can do your own image search for the Four Horsemen.  There's obviously tons out there.  Maybe this one is a bit better on the horses themselves.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ruritanian Old West

I have a lot of hobbies that I often bounce back and forth between, but one that I'm spending as much time as I can get with is Red Dead Redemption 2 on the PS4.  It's a great game.  Not perfect, mind you, (and the writing is to blame here; and curiously political correctness, which RockStar famously isn't supposed to have.)  But it's pretty good.  Now, the game's been out for more than six months.  Most people finished the main game months ago and have been playing, if they're still playing at all, RDR Online rather than the story mode.  I'm way behind.  I'm still in Epilogue 2.  I've moved to Beecher's Hope with Charles and Uncle, but I haven't built the house yet, because I actually kinda enjoy the campsite iteration of it (although I can't find the shaving station, if there is one—so I have to spend money to shave, which is kinda stupid.)

I spent a lot of time as Arthur in chapters 2-4 in particular (I played 5-6 more straight through.  Kinda.) doing things like hunting and whatnot.  I made all of the camp upgrades, all of the satchels, most of the trapper clothing items, etc.  I completed a number of the challenges (although I still have plenty more to do.)  Now that I've got the entire map opened to me, I'm not really doing very many missions yet either; I'm just exploring, hunting, doing challenges, and generally enjoying the ambiance and high quality sandbox activities.  (Relative to most other video games, that is.)  It won't last forever.  I've getting pretty close to finishing up the hunting.  I'm getting close to finishing a few more challenge series (although I still have plenty more to do.)  And I've only got a few more missions to do before I'm all out of those too.  Maybe I'll end up checking out Online after that.

But be that as it may, I enjoy the American Old West as a setting nearly as much as I enjoy Medieval Europe, and I've often wondered about how it would be if a fantasy story (or even whole series) were to be based on the Old West in the same way that most fantasy is loosely based on Medieval Europe.  RDR kinda sorta does it.  There are a lot of fantastic elements in the series (especially given the Undead Nightmare DLC for the older game) including aliens, sasquatches, unicorns, the Four Horses of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, a nosferatu, a ghost train, and of course, a plague of zombies.

Another thing that I really like it about is its fictional setting, although sadly, it's not true fantasy Secondary World, but more Ruritanian-like; although locations are fictional, they still are supposed to exist in the real world, and numerous references to actual places occur as well.  This is maybe a little odd, because the map is big enough to encompass all of the types of territories that actually exist in the real American West, and even the not-so West (much of the American South, for instance, and the Midwest, too.)

Here's a reasonably hi-def version of the entire map of RDR2, which covers almost the entirety of the entire area of RDR (with the one exception) and then adds another 150% or so new territory while it's at it.  Then I'll talk briefly about each territory.

This stuff isn't new or exciting, but I'm noodling around what I would potentially do with a WESTERN HACK setting, and this is a much better starting point than most.

In alphabetical order, the Ruritanian states of the Union in RDR2 are:

A mountainous country without much in the way of major settlements, and lots of wildlife.  Clearly based on the mountainous states of the Northern Rockies, there are parts that look like dead ringers for the Tetons or the Wind Rivers, for instance.  There are two constituent regions within Ambarino, Grizzles West and Grizzlies East (the Grizzly Mountains clearly being the Ruritanian Rockies.)  In the game, most of Grizzles West is always snow-covered, but because time passes in such a way that seasons don't actually happen in the game, that's probably not meant to be taken too literally.

Ambarino has a number of small towns and homesteads, although many are abandoned, such as Colter, an old abandoned mining town where the gang takes shelter during Chapter 1 (the "Tutorial Chapter"), the Adler homestead, Dodd's Bluff, etc. and later in Grizzlies East, we find the Wapiti Indian Reservation, the "Mysterious Hill Home" (or hobbit hole) where Arthur's grave ends up, Hamish's place on O'Creagh's Run, the Witch's house and Cotorra Springs, the fake Yellowstone.  It's possible that the section of Ambarino that we see is not meant to be the entirety of Ambarino; given that there aren't any actual settlements, towns, or anything in the territory, that would actually make some sense.

Next we have Lemoyne, the Ruritanian American South (sadly, complete with an awful lot of hateful lies about Southerners that we've had to live with for over a century and a half that are perpetuated.)  Curiously, my daughter finds that part of this territory is her favorite. Even though we're Southerners, my daughter has not really ever lived in the South, so that's a little bit unexpected.  There are three constituent parts of Lemoyne, Scarlett Meadows (yes, with two t's), Bayou Nwa (or maybe Bayou N.W.A., actually.  Who knows?  That would be funny and kinda appropriate.) and Bluewater Marsh.  There are also islands off the coast on both ends, which are kinda sorta accessible.  Scarlett Meadows is the largest (and most rural) of the regions, with the town of Rhodes as well as number of plantations and other homestead settlements present.  It's very much post-bellum Dixie, and reminds me a lot of places I've known in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi or eastern Texas.  The Scarlett of Scarlett Meadows is probably a double entendre; it refers to the red dirt underneath the grass, as well as referring to the main character of Gone With the Wind.  Bayou Nwa is basically far eastern Texas and Louisiana, famous for its alligators, marshes, crawdads, and it's big Cajun settlement of Saint Denis, the fake New Orleans, and the largest settlement in the entire territory covered by the game.  The Bluewater Marsh seems to merely be a less settled and more rural extension of the Bayou Nwa, although the island of Sisika Penitentiary located in the massive Lannahachee River, which makes up much of the southern border of the playable area, is technically part of this territory too.

Other than Saint Denis and Rhodes, and numerous small homesteads, farms, and country estates here and there, the smaller communities of Lagras, Lakay and the abandoned community of Pleasance, which is really disturbing and probably was abandoned due to either plague, a series of murders, or both.

New Austin
The last territory you explore in this game; you can only access it using Online, or in the Epilogue.  However, it was a major element of the first game, and in fact, the entire territory was part of that game as well.  It is the American Southwest, and it is very frontier-like, with bandits and wild animals making up much of the territory.  Unlike in, say, New Hanover or even West Elizabeth, there are few homesteads of farmers, although a few ranchers make their way out here.  There are a few towns of note, however.  New Austin borders only a portion of West Elizabeth (at least in the area mapped; the large area to the immediate north of this territory which isn't mapped begs the question of what's there, of course.)  Ecologically it is quite diverse, and offers much of the American West sandwiched into a relatively small package.

There are four areas, and three of them are overtly desert-like, although different kinds of deserts if you're keen on the subtle differences.  Hennigan's Stead, however, which borders the West Elizabeth area of Great Plains is more of the actual southern American Great Plains of Oklahoma or West Texas.  Thieves' Landing is the settlement here, although in the slightly earlier phase of RDR2's epilogue, it's just a Mexican gang fortification and is only turned into an American town later in RDR.  Other than that, various ranches and homesteads and even an old Indian camp dot this area.

Cholla Springs is the next area you encounter in New Austin, and it resembles the Arizona deserts with scrub bushes and saguaro catcuses.  There are a few ranch houses, plenty of outlaws, and the struggling town of Armadillo located here.  Curiously, Armadillo struggles a lot more in the prequel than in the original game; in the former, it's been hit by a plague of plagues; scarlet fever, desert plague, typhus, and finally cholera and is more known for it's dead lying the street, it's suspiciously healthy and arrogant store-keep, and its cowardly sheriff who's let gang members do as they please than for anything else, although it does become a bit of a boomtown in the original game, which takes place later.  There are wild theories online that the store-keeper is some kind of warlock who's cursed the town, and who is responsible for the zombie outbreak of Undead Nightmare.

Rio Bravo is the most southerly portion of New Austin and borders with the fake Mexican territory of Nuevo Paraiso.  The small oil work camp of Plainview is located here, as well as Fort Mercer, which is more often than not in the control of gangs of Mexicans than of the US Army.  Ecologically it seems most heavily based on New Mexico and maybe some Trans-Pecos Texas, such as Big Bend National Park.

Gaptooth Ridge is the most westerly part of the territory, and resembles southern California's deserts, with many Joshua Trees and other typically Californian flora and fauna.  There's mining here, like settlements at Gaptooth Breach, and other small ranches, like Rathskeller Fork and Solomon's Folly, some of which are over-run by bandits.  And, of course, the town of Tumbleweed is located here.  Tumbleweed seems like a decent place in RDR2, but in RDR, which takes place a few years later, it's already more or less abandoned.  There are odd hints here and there of some kind of demonic activity going on in this town and a grave that is empty, which in a fantasy game would be pretty wild, of course.

New Hanover
One of the largest territories, and ecologically quite diverse as well, New Hanover stretches from the far eastern edge of the map north of Lemoyne to almost the western edge, and some of its communities and areas are certainly very iconically "western" as well.  In spite of it's location in the east, it is somewhat lightly settled, and remains frontier-feeling in all respects, and it is crawling with outlaws, including the savage and disturbing Murfree Brood gang.

There are three constituent areas.  Roanoke Ridge is the most easterly, and is heavily influenced in character by the Appalachian Mountains; it's heavily forested, rocky, lots of elevation changes, and sports settlements like the bustling coal mining town of Annesburg, the tough old struggling town of Van Horn, and the hillbilly (I prefer the term Appalachian-American) village of Butcher Creek, not to mention the site of old Fort Brennand, which has been abandoned since the War of Northern Aggression and now houses bandits from Lemoyne.  In addition to the creepy Deliverance people (which is insulting; when I was a kid, those same people were portrayed heroically as The Dukes of Hazzard.  But whatever.) there are strange ghost whispers in some areas, a house that was hit by a meteor killing everyone inside, a Serbian guy who's playing at making a metallic Frankenstein's monster, a house where everyone is mysteriously dead, old Viking ruins, and some other weird stuff.  It also has the tragic-heroic persona of Charlotte, the widow that Arthur teaches how to survive, and some absolutely stunningly beautiful scenery, like Brandywine Drop.  This part of New Hanover borders on Ambarino, and unlike in real life, the Appalachian-like mountains turn gradually into Wind River or Teton like mountains without a break, which would be cool if it were true.

Speaking of which, Cumberland Forest is the second area, and is quite small, and provides a transition of sorts from the mountains to the plains, and the entire place is quite forested.  Other than the wildlife, it's got an Army fort, not far from the Wapiti Indian Reservation just across the border, a major train bridge and a train station, and a few isolated homesteads.

The Heartlands is the major part of New Hanover, though, and one in which you'll spend quite a bit of time.  Reminiscent of the western Great Plains in the real United States, there are parts that are almost dead ringers for real places along the Nebraska Wyoming border, such as Scott's Bluff.  There are a few communities, like Emerald Ranch and especially Valentine, which is a full-blown town, Carmody Dell, and the burned out ruins of Limpany.  Other farmsteads, homesteads, small ranches, and even businesses like Cornwall Kerosene and Tar round out the area, which is still very frontier-like in quality, although more settled than areas even further west.

Nuevo Paraiso
I have to admit to knowing little about this area.  It appears prominently in the first game, but is absent from the second (although the general territory seems to have been more or less modeled, if not fully textured, and exploitation of some glitches has allowed people to wander all over it.  It was probably there to provide background, though—although I'd love to think that a future expansion would make it explorable.  Nuevo Paraiso is part of Mexico, not the US, but of course, during the waning years of the Old West and the time of Pancho Villa, the difference was sometimes more academic than pragmatic.  While this is definitely the desert part of Mexico, such as in Sonora and Chihuahua, some of it bears a surely not coincidental resemblance to places like Monument Valley far to the north.  Punto Orgullo is the most westerly region, and it features a few ghost towns, mostly abandoned mines, and loads of bandits.  The middle section, Perdido (Spanish for Damned) has two small settlements, but is mostly known for having been largely depopulated by the recent Mexican Civil War, and is also crawling with bandits.  The more easterly portion, Diez Coronas, has the Monument Valley-like formations.  There are a handful of small settlements, but rather than bandits, it seems to be crawling with the Mexican Army.

West Elizabeth
Although the smallest of the territories in the original game, a much expanded northern section that's bigger than the other two components combined makes up the only part of the territory that you're able to explore at all until the epilogues in the second game.  Although largely rural and mountainous, it does feature a number of settlements; the somewhat kitschy mountain town of Strawberry, and the fairly large town of Blackwater being the most notable, but a number of other ranches, farms, homesteads and other smaller settlements are all over the region.  It is perhaps notable that three of the five trappers available in the game are also located within the boundaries of West Elizabeth; it really is a hunter's paradise, crawling with wildlife.

Blackwater itself is located in Great Plains, one of the counties or regions of West Elizabeth which is indistinguishable in most respects from nearby and ecologically very similar Hennigan's Stead in New Austin.  This is also where John sets up his own ranch at Beecher's Hope.  It's a fairly settled and tame area, mostly.  Tall Trees nearby is not; crawling with the savage Skinner Brothers half-Indian gang.  The territory here resembles the mountainous parts of California with trees that might be sequoias or even redwoods and mountains that look like the Sierra Nevada.  There's a fair bit of independent settlement here, there's even sasquatches here, apparently, and loads of wildlife.  The only official town, if you can call it that, is the small village of Manzanita Post, although by the first game the wild section known as Cochinay has become a gang hideout.  While not snow-covered in RDR2, it is in the first game, I suppose indicating that they model a different season (RDR2 seems to be late spring or early summer.)

Big Valley, where Strawberry is located, is the largest area of West Elizabeth, and one that you'll likely explore a lot with Arthur, although John starts the first epilogue all over here too.  It's one of the best hunting (and fishing) grounds in the game, and other than Strawberry and few isolated shacks and homes, it features few settlements—Hanging Dog Ranch, which is the hideout first of the O'Driscoll gang and later the Laramie Brothers being a notable exception, although later Pronghorn Ranch where John finds work ends up smack dab in the middle of the big wildflower meadow just north of the forest.  You can see Teton-like mountains ringing Big Valley, and a very high mountain, Mt. Shann, is located just north of Strawberry (you can climb it actually, and if you're there at night, you can even see a UFO.)  The southern portion of Big Valley is transitional, and more closely resembles the territories that it is adjacent to, including the Heartlands and Great Plains, although with a few more trees, an older Indian Reservation (prior to the tribe being relocated to the Wapiti Reservation further north) and even a lumber camp.

Although I've made a point of highlighting many of the supernatural or weird tales like elements that RockStar included in my descriptions, you'll see that for the most part, they are actually quite realistic rather than fantastic.  And with the exception of the Undead Nightmare DLC, the supernatural elements are more like weird Easter eggs rather than integral components of the setting.  That, of course, can be changed, but it does bring up an interesting point; I actually think that jumping straight into having cowboy elves and orcs and whatnot is a mistake; starting from a more realistic baseline and more gradually and carefully layering in fantastic elements is probably a much better way to go.  There just isn't the established tradition of fantasy Westerns, so people will be confused or simply not like it or get it if you depart too rapidly from their expectations.  Most of the enemies you'll face in RDR are wild animals like alligators, cougars, and grizzly bears, or outlaws and bandits from one of various wild gangs—the most savage and notorious of which are almost more like serial killer cults than traditional outlaw gangs as seen in most Western movies or TV shows of the past.  I don't want to be quite that mundane, but even in Medievalist fantasy, I prefer to make sure that everyone knows that wild animals and wild people are plenty dangerous without having to have the territory constantly crawling with monsters.  Plus, as I've said many times before, monsters have much more of an impact if they are built up and presented rarely rather than routinely.

I even like the idea of the PCs being something akin to supernatural bounty hunters who wander the territory like Clint Eastwood dealing with the occasional supernatural threat that the locals aren't equipped to handle and maybe even aren't entirely sure that they believe in entirely.

Anyway, I teased this months ago, and then did nothing with it, but I think I'd like to not leave it entirely fallow, and see what I can do with it over the summer and early fall, maybe.

Hard dance

Well... the problem with getting so much music so fast is that occasionally I end up with duplicates.  This is especially true if the same version has two labels.  I recently found out, by starting to be suspicious and listening to the two of them back to back, that the Yoda songs "Definitely" Original Version that I have on megamix 3 is the exact same as the Kai Tracid vs Sunbeam version that I have on megamix 17.  So... I'll have to replace the second one.  They were released under different titles in different markets; the Original Version is what the Tidy Trax release in the UK called it, for instance, although the Continental releases tended to use the Kai Tracid vs Sunbeam title; and of course, in Italy, another version was released that replaced this version with a Trance Generators version too.  In the UK, they also called them Yoda, Inc. instead of merely Yoda.

And, of course, Tidy also released a Lee Haslam version on a combo record with a Steve Blake track that is more Hard House rather than Hard Trance or Hardstyle.

I should have known, of course.  Yoda is three guys, one of whom used the stage name of Kai Tracid, and the other two of whom worked together as Sunbeam.  Kai Tracid vs. Sunbeam is equivalent to saying the Yoda Mix, which is maybe a little silly given that it's a Yoda song.

Of course, the version of it that most people hear is the DJ Scot Project version.  It's good, but the others are just as good, in my opinion.  As much as Scot Project is often quite excellent, I do think his place at the "top" of Hard Trance is over-rating him.  He was definitely prolific at a time when Hard Trance was really on top of the EDM scene, and he put together some really iconic tracks, both of his own and remixes of someone else's, but he's not any better than some of the other "founding" members of Wave II of Hard Trance.

I was recommended by Facebook to join a group called Hard Trance Revolution that has an interesting banner, suggesting that the Foundation of Hard Trance is Scot Project, DuMonde, DJ Wag and A*S*Y*S.  I can't really argue with it, although I'd have not ranked DuMonde higher than any number of artists active at the same time, like Cosmic Gate, or DJ Dean or Tommy Pulse, or those guys who created a bazillion Italian Hard Trance and Hardstyle hybrid groups like Tronik and Mental Miracle and DJ Kubrik and Digimind, etc. or Max Savietto, S.H.O.K.K., or... I dunno, plenty of others.  But I get the point.  And sure, DuMonde has some really great classic tracks as well as some great remixes, but I'd suggest that Cosmic Gate has more of both, even before they changed their format to eurohouse or whatever it is exactly that they're doing now.  (Maybe that's why they don't make the cut; they sold out?)

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Pathfinder Society Scenarios Season #1 Part 3

Let's keep this moving; I haven't done anything with this in a couple of weeks.
  1. The Citadel of Flame: With only a bare minimum of context and set-up, the PCs find themselves out in the desert looking at an old temple of Moloch that is, as the title of the module suggests, fire-themed.  They fight fire elementals, cultists, devils, traps, extreme heat, and finally, the cult leader boss.    It's a very typical evil temple dungeon crawl type adventure, so if you like that kind of thing and want to keep it brief, this is a good scenario for you.  I strongly suspect that if you like that kind of thing, you prefer it to not be brief, so I think this kind of dungeon crawl meant to be done in just a couple of hours or so (maybe longer given Pathfinder's complexity and the length of time to resolve complex tactical combat) probably doesn't really scratch very many people's particular itch.  Either go all out and make it a full-blown module-length scenario, or don't do a dungeon crawl.  Obviously, based on my tastes, I'd prefer the latter to the former.
  2. Hall of Drunken Heroes: This is actually a rather interesting and diverse scenario, especially given it's short length.  Much of it takes place in (and below) a "fest hall"—a ridiculous bohemian RennFaire wish-fulfillment fantasy, but luckily that doesn't mean that the adventure itself is as ridiculous as that premise.  It starts with some spy-like skulduggery, a nice change of pace, includes the interrogation of a minor demon, dealing with good guys who are "charmed" magically by a succubus, so in theory should be dealt with delicately, and may turn out to be a rousing, great bar fist fight kinda thing (watch Tony Curtis' The Great Race for one of the best examples ever put to film, albeit comically) if you're lucky.  Afterwards, they talk with the rather earthy priest caste of Cayden Caillean, or whatever his name is, but find that one's been possessed by a demon.  There's a really kinda clever dream-state or pscyhic kind of "surgery" that they do, which was probably borrowed from either Dr. Strange or Professor X to get information from the possessed priest—where they find out that a "nest" of demons, led by a succubus trying to free her imprisoned demonic lover from a research lab below the fest hall needs to be dealt with.  This is a little half dozen areas dungeon, and I find that after such a great set-up, I don't even mind doing a small dungeon crawl like this.  I could do without traps, because I think that they're silly, but as you can imagine, the encounters will be demonic; a succubus, a shadow demon, and the "boss" demon who's been imprisoned varies depending on the CR needed for the group; either a nabassu or a hezrou, if you're into esoteric D&D demon titles.  This little scenario really has it all.  It even manages to somehow introduce compelling and charismatic interesting NPCs.
  3. The Devil We Know, Part III: Crypt of Fools: Part of the Taldan Devil We Know series introduced earlier in the season with derros and strange cults and stuff under the capital city of Cassomir.  While this one starts out strong and in an overt Lovecraftian vein, even, with the questioning of a creepy cultist who's quite insane and who's in Swift Prison, it's really a module that's focused on solving puzzles, one of my least favorite activities that are often considered "core" to the D&D experience.  Oh, sure, there's cultists to fight, and mites, skeletons and derros and giant centipedes and other monsters (depending on the EL needed) like an otyugh, etc. but the core of this module is interpreting some painted handouts to piece together the location of the little dungeon you need to explore.  You rescue some prisoners, but the local Pathfinder Venture-Captain is unable to make headway with the Taldan bureaucracy, so the derro threat isn't completely finished off (see The Devil We Know, Part IV: Rules of the Swift in another 7-8 or so episodes.)  Serviceable, but not great.
  4. Echoes of the Everwar, Part II: The Watcher of Ages: We're back to the concucines' rings again, from the Echoes of Everwar series; a four parter.  Parts 1-3 can be played in any order, but Part 4 can only be played after the other three are all done.  This scenario, given its typical brevity, sure spends a lot of time on backstory and context, much of which I'm not sure the PCs will actually ever uncover unless the GM just tells it to them somehow (although to be fair, I haven't read the next two parts yet.)  And yet after all of that, this is just a really arch-D&Dish (and not in a great way) dungeon crawl populated by a bunch of esoteric and weird monsters chosen more for their tactical diversity (as near as I can tell) as for any other reason.  You'll fight barghests, deal with a xorn, fight gargoyles, bat swarms and cave fishers (giant crabs), morlocks and a roper.  I think this kind of adventure is silly bordering on outright ridiculous, but it is kinda iconic to the game, I suppose.
  5. The Pallid Plague: If you are a regular Pathfinder Module player, this one has a suspiciously similar premise (and the exact same location!) as D0 Hollow's Last Hope, except it's nearby fey who are the main victims (so far) and resentful human cultists plotting "revenge" for the crime of not having suffered enough or whatever is the motivation.  You fight unique animal plague zombies and plaguey flower fields tended by gardeners (who are actually druids, who've sacrificed their animal companions to become plague zombies).  There's a Wiccan "wise latina" wise woman lady who can magically cure everything with her magical feminism (although skill challenges are needed to make this work), more cultists, sick fey, and then the "boss" with her zombies and cultists having, of all things, a big party and feast in the woods that you have to fight.  While I guess the module itself is serviceable enough, the premise is so silly that I have a really hard time taking any of it seriously.
  6. Echoes of the Everwar, Part 3: Terror at Whistledown: The final of the "three McGuffins" part of Echoes of the Everwar, before we head towards the conclusion in Part 4.  The set-up, as always, is brief, although the module itself spends the better part of a page and half giving the entire Echoes of the Everwar backstory word for word as before, before adding some module specific backstory.  The PCs find themselves in Whistledown, a charming lakeside gnome community that's turned to panic because undead mohrgs and vampire spawn (numbers depending on PCs EL needed) are taking townspeople away at night.  At night, of course, they attack again coming by rowboat, and the PCs are supposed to fight them off.  They can find a ranger smuggler after this who's boat they're using; he was chased off of his smuggler island when the undead arrived, and he can tell them where to go next.  As the PCs cross the lake, in spite of Varisia's generally Iberian or Mediterranean-like climate, they get attacked by anacondas (!?) although that encounter is optional.  When they get there, there's a little building that contains the smuggler's loot plus more undead, including a fairly difficult vampire boss.  Once all three of these "concubine McGuffin" missions are complete, you can play the final Echoes of the Everwar scenario, which is number 53 in this series.
  7. Delirium's Tangle: Grandmaster Torch has gotten over his head, dispatched a visiting minotaur dignitary (who's been magically dominated) into a labyrinth to retrieve some ancient elven artifact, but he didn't come back.  Knowing that if his involvement is uncovered, he'll be sentenced to death, he calls in a favor, but hides his involvement, calling the minotaur dignitary his "close friend", etc.  Heh.  Grandmaster Torch.  He may yet end up being a charismatic character, although so far, much of his deviousness will not be apparent to any players, only to people who've read the modules that he's in.  Of course, after this compelling introduction, you immediately are meant to go into maintenance tunnels and the scenario is basically just a routine dungeon crawl.  You fight some giant beetles (although not too giant; size Small), morlocks, and have to make skill challenges to "solve" the maze itself, which although described as possessing Lovecraftian geometry, just kinda seems to be readily handled with some routine skill challenges.  The scenario includes this odd note, which while true, should have led one to suggest that maybe a maze wasn't the best idea anyway: "Mazes Can Be Boring. Despite their prominence in literature, few things frustrate players quite like encountering a maze in a roleplaying game. Describing a labyrinth in terms of right and left turns from a character perspective can be confusing and repetitive. Drawing the maze itself on the battle grid is often too time-consuming for a 4-hour game. By abstracting the maze into a series of skill and ability checks, the act of solving the maze falls to the characters, rather than the players."  What prominence in what literature, I wonder?  Anyway, hopefully the PCs make their skill challenges, because otherwise they face a barrage of tedious and probably fatal traps everywhere else.  They fight a giant leech, who for reasons that aren't entirely clear to me this leech has been whispering madness to the inhabitants of the maze.  After solving one more puzzle, they find the "boss" an insane elf sorcerer cursed with some kind of unnatural longevity and hanging suspended from the ceiling where he's been tied up for centuries.  The minotaur is rescued, and the adventure ends... it's a bit weird, but nobody—I guess—can ever say that it isn't pretty iconically D&Dish.

Hard dance remixes

Well, I've been blogging for months about the hard trance (with a bit of acid techno, early hardstyle, and a few other things thrown in) megamixes I've been making, with randomized sortings out of my list of appropriate selections.  I've now done 108 megamixes of 12 songs each and... I'm back to the drawing board.

I do these mixes in Audacity, which is a great app for giving you fine control of the audio and where stuff happens, and all kinds of other things.  I really don't know of another app I could use that would give me even half as much control, so nothing else really has ever threatened Audacity's role there.  Sadly, however, one of the main things Audacity is missing (which plenty of other apps both for PC and for my Android do have) is beat detection and BPM synching.  This meant that I haven't been able to do very good transitions, because I've been guessing and using trial and error to get a reasonably close BPM and mostly just having one song start on the last beat of the last song.  This really kinda defeats the purpose, mostly, of doing these as megamixes which would approximate the set of a DJ at some kind of event.

I've come up with a workaround, which is somewhat tedious, but not too bad, and worth it.  I load the tracks in Cross DJ Free, an app on my Android that has digital turntables.  This will give me the BPM to the nearest tenth.  I then write this down on a printout of the megamix tracks in order.  Then, I calculate the percent change needed to get to my target BPM of 148.  In case you care but don't know the appropriate formula, this is (in Excel or Google Sheets type formula) =(148-X)/X where X is the actual BPM of the track.  The result comes out as a decimal percentage, so you need to mentally shift the decimal point.  .0571428, for example (the result for a track with 140 BPM; a relatively standard one that shows up repeatedly) would require a speed or tempo change in Audacity of 5.71428%.

Although there are occasionally minor rounding errors that lead to tempos that aren't quite right, this only happens occasionally, and mostly the challenge is making sure that whatever element I'm leading off with on the second song in a transition is put at precisely the right spot against the track that is finishing up so that the beats aren't out of synch and so they end up with a suitably dramatic hand-off, usually by having the intro and outro play concurrently and the ending song give its last little bang right as the intro in the new track is ending and we move directly into the main body of the track.  And then, of course, there's minor troubleshooting.  But because this sounds so much better than what I was doing with all of my megamixes, I've actually gone back and started redoing them and saving them over the original versions.  Because of the fact that the tempo is sped up on all tracks probably about an average of 5%, plus there's a lot of more intro and outro overlap rather than both playing out back to back, these megamixes are coming in quite a bit shorter too—10 to 20 minutes shorter so far seems to be typical for most.

And it's giving me an opportunity to not only improve the mixes, but also correct some errors or changes in judgement. The former is obvious; if I accidentally forgot to add a track, or duplicated one in more than one mix (both of which I've done and just lived with) then this is the opportunity to fix it.  That's obvious. The latter is where I added a song that now I wish that I hadn't either because it didn't fit or because I decided that I was too generous when I thought it was good enough for inclusion.  And I'm not sure that I've got a very consistent approach.  In my very first megamix, for example, I included Immersion's "My Name is Acid" which is a decent acid techno song, but I found it kind of overly long and repetitive, lacking enough of the natural drama and emotion that makes trance more interesting to listen to than some other styles of EDM.  I had waffled back and forth on keeping it; I ended up leaving it in.  However, on the fifth mix, I had included one of the Jam & Spoon mixes of "Age of Love" by Age of Love.  While this is a great trance song, it really just didn't fit the genre.  Even with boosted bass and sped-up tempo, I could get it to sound like it fit; it was too sparse and minimal to "match" the rest of the megamix.  I ended up replacing it with the Nik Import remix of Blutonium Boy's "Floorkilla" which maybe was almost an over-correction to the even harder side of hardest hardstyle, but it actually sounds quite a bit better in relation to the rest of the mix than the one that I had in there already does.  I've also replaced an Organ Donors "99.9" remix with a DJ Dean "Ballanation" mix for the same reason; it just didn't quite fit on megamix 3 and I didn't really love as much as I thought I would when I added it after all.

So... I'm redoing all of my megamixes.  I've got six completely done and another two in the final phases.  My process is somewhat slow, but I don't want to shortcut it.  Patience gives the best results.
  1. Listen to the old megamix twice in a row to make sure that everything in it is a track I still want.  I was probably too reluctant to manually massage the results too, thinking that the randomization was half the fun, but I'm thinking that in at least a few cases, changing up the track order can give me a slightly better result too, and I've got at least one or two spots where I'm thinking of making some minor adjustments. Mostly this is to target tracks that I included but I now find that I don't think really merited inclusion in the first place; I was too generous the first time around.  Sometimes once isn't enough, especially if I get mentally distracted for whatever reason, so I'll make sure to go through it twice entirely.  I've already got for sure one more targeted for replacement in megamix 10 or 11 or so, but I might yet get more ruthless yet.
  2. Once I have my list ready, print off about half a dozen of them at a time.  Load all of the tracks into Cross DJ Free on my Android and get the BPM.  Write it down for all tracks.
  3. Start making the mix in Audacity with the first track.  Using my Google Sheets document, overwrite the time stamp data with a calculation of the percent change needed.  Once I've done the entire set, I can delete this entire column; I don't care about having it at all anymore.  Modify each track as it goes into the mix to make sure I've got an exact start point and correct speed or tempo (usually speed, but I change tempo instead if I'm going downwards for the few tracks that are actually already higher BPM than 148, and I also do it if I'm changing by more than 9 or 10% because eventually it'll start sounding like the chipmunks version of dance music.)  Carefully integrate each new track into the megamix until I've got all 12 tracks done.  Save the megamix and delete the old megamix (if for some odd reason I ever want them again, I've got CD-R archives of all but the very last two I made already anyway.)
  4. Listen to the new mix at least twice before I consider it "done" to make sure no errors crept in while making them.
That means that an entire day in man-hours is dedicated to creating each new megamix, so it's no surprise that I've only done six of them, with stage four still needing to be done with 7 and 8 before I move on.  (Actually, I did find some errors in 5 and 6, so I redid them again after already having redone them.  I'm just finishing up my stage four with those before I can do stage four with 7 and 8.  I will, however, probably overlap steps 1 and 4; i.e., I'll have two or three mixes going through it concurrently.

Anyway, that's way more detail than anyone at all wanted about how I'm doing this, but it's my blog, and I keep it as a journal for myself more than for any audience anyway, so tough.  It's kind of taken over a bit of my free time, such as it is, so I'm doing very little of some of my ongoing project like my prettier AD ASTRA map or my Pathfinder Society Scenario summaries.  Instead, I've redone the first six of my initial megamixes, targeting the first full dozen to be complete by... oh, I dunno.  End of next week or so.  Eventually, I'll have replaced all 108 of the ones I made, and from that point on new megamixes will follow that format.

As of right now, I have enough tracks for a total of 212 megamixes.  Sigh.  That said, new tracks are only coming in in a tiny trickle these days, and I will probably be a bit ruthless in eliminating some that simply aren't as good as I thought they were when I first got them.  And I have no idea what I will do with over 200 hard dance megamixes (heavily focused on hard trance, but not entirely exclusively—part of the reason my numbers ballooned is that I started allowing some hardstyle in more fully too; especially early hardstyle.)  I guess put the thing on shuffle and play it in the background of whatever else I'm doing, but I want to specifically hear hard dance music or something.

It's funny that when I very first started version 1.0 of this project, I only had 300 or so eligible tracks, and I thought that I was slowing down then too.  Now, I have over 2,500 tracks.  A side effect of that is that much of the stuff that I had early got sorted early and then was eliminated from my sorter.  The first part of the megamixes have most of the "foundational" artists' work; guys like A*S*Y*S, Scot Project, Tommy Pulse, Cosmic Gate, DJ Wag, Kai Tracid, etc.  After a while, these taper off and now I'm mostly showing newer guys like NG Rezonance, Costa Pantazis, Carl Nicholson, etc.  This isn't entirely true, because I've bulked out a lot of lists of some of the classics where I had incompletions, and finding other permutations and early artists that I'd missed the first time around, and of course, there are still songs that have been on from the beginning that haven't ended up in output yet, but ideally, I'd re-sort everything.  But I don't want to, because some of these associations I've got are already iconic in my mind, so I think I'll go with what I have.  By shuffling the megamixes when I play them, I'll get much of the same effect.  And I'll probably replace any tracks that I pull out with hand-picked newer songs, much of the time.  When I take out Hardheadz "Wreck Thiz Place" in megamix 11, for instance, I'll probably replace it with Amber D's remix of Steve Hill and Technikal's "Theme from HTML"—although I admit that's mostly because I'm impatient for that particular version to get added in and it hasn't come up in any sorts yet.

Here's the half dozen I have already:

Megamix 001 REMIXED
  1. Arome—Here We Go [Midnight Mix]
  2. Underworld—Cowgirl [Tim Davison Remix]
  3. DuMondeNever Look Back [Tiesto Full On Vocal]
  4. Jimmy the SoundM.O.D.U.L.O. [One Vrs Edit]
  5. Kai TracidTrance & Acid [Derb Remix]
  6. The JuvenileHardcore Suckas [Trance Generators Remix]
  7. Blank & JonesDJs, Fans and Freaks (D.F.F.)
  8. AvatarRed Planet [DJ Wag Remix]
  9. ImmersionMy Name Is Acid
  10. A*S*Y*SMonster 303
  11. High VoltageBombs Away
  12. DJ WagLife on Mars [DJ Wag Mix]
Megamix 002 REMIXED
  1. Phuture PunkDer Klang [Junk Project Mix]
  2. Tommy PulseThe Answer [Danny V Remix]
  3. A*S*Y*SNo More F***ing Rock N Roll [Original Mix]
  4. Pro-TechFree Your Mind [Y.O.M.C. Club Mix]
  5. Hennes & ColdCan't Have Enough [Remix]
  6. Cosmic CommandoHeartbreak [DJ Vortex & Arpa's Dream Remix]
  7. AromeTalk II Me [Talking Mix]
  8. Warp BrothersBlade [Original Club Mix]
  9. Kai TracidTiefenrausch [NRG Mix]
  10. Mr. GasmaskPrimordial Soup [Original Mix]
  11. System FOut of the Blue [Original 12" Version]
  12. K-TraxxNoise Tool
Megamix 003 REMIXED
  1. Yoji BiomehanikaDing A Ling [DJ Scot Project Remix]
  2. GuyverSerious Sounds
  3. Mellow TraxPhuture Vibes [Kai Tracid Remix]
  4. Dave JoySecond Chase [Kaylab vs Reloop Remix]
  5. Pro-TechDominating Power [DJ Wag Mix]
  6. Nomad vs WraggRoar
  7. Rebel YelleAffirmation
  8. DJ DeanBallanation [Virus Inc. Remix]
  9. A*S*Y*SStorm & Thunder [Original Mix]
  10. YodaDefinitely [Original Mix]
  11. Public DomainOperation Blade (Bass in the Place) [A*S*Y*S Remix]
  12. R.B.A.No Alternative [Dark By Design Remix]
Megamix 004 REMIXED
  1. Miss ShivaDreams [Cosmic Gate Remix]
  2. YakoozaCocaine [DJ Wag Mix]
  3. FlutlichtDas Siegel [DJ Natron Mix]
  4. A*S*Y*SAcid Save Your Soul [Auf Die 12 Mix]
  5. DJ Session One vs DJ VirusFuture Shock [LeBrisc Club Mix]
  6. Solar QuestAcid Air Raid [Choci & The Geezer's Remix]
  7. DerbD.F.C.
  8. GuyverPossibly [Original Mix]
  9. AromeHands Up!
  10. Cosmic GateThe Truth [Ferry Corstein Remix]
  11. DJ WagGettin' High [DJ Wag Mix]
  12. Planet KHockenheim [Pitlane Mix]
Megamix 005 REMIXED
  1. Luca AntoliniA New Poison [Sa.Vee.Oh Remix]
  2. Hardforze vs Soul-TLet the Beat Drop [Nomad Mix]
  3. Blutonium BoyFloorkilla [Nik Import Remix]
  4. Pulsedriver & RoccoLife on Mars [Rave Mix]
  5. Max SaviettoAlone [Sa.Vee.Oh Mix]
  6. DJ DarkzoneOverdrive [Vocal Cut]
  7. Tommy PulseThe Answer (Part 2) [Temper Temper Remix]
  8. A*S*Y*SAcid Space [Mindflux Remix]
  9. Logger & GneticHypertransfer
  10. Captain Tinrib & Sol RayAttack of the 50 Foot DJ [Original Mix]
  11. Tankis & SaviettoOctopus [Lost in Case Remix]
  12. DJ VirusAll Your Bass [Michael Fußeder Remix]
Megamix 006 REMIXED
  1. DJ Scot ProjectO (Overdrive) [Arome Remix]
  2. Mass EffectAlphascan [Arome Remix]
  3. JK WalkerRe-initiate [JK Walker 2004 Mix]
  4. Tommy PulseWalhalla
  5. DJ WagSecond Step [DJ Wag Reworx]
  6. Dave JoyFirst Impression [S.H.O.K.K. Mix]
  7. S.H.O.K.K.Isn't It All a Little Strange? [Flutlicht Remix]
  8. John Paesano & Braden KimballDaredevil Theme [W!SS Trance Remix]
  9. Reverb ft Flash GordonProvidence [Reverb's Vocal Mix]
  10. GuyverFunky Ass Beatz
  11. Hennes & ColdThe Second Trip [Nick Sentience Remix]
  12. DJ Merly DeeParadise [Original Mix]

Friday, June 07, 2019

Friday Art Attack

Let's go through stuff that's in the Bs for file-names today.  Therefore, no theme; lots of images have just a random jumble of letters and numbers, for instance.

Some New Warhammer ghost army stuff.  I have, I think, found almost all of the art associated with this book.  It's great stuff.

Badon Hill; an interpretation of the actual, historical, battle between the Romano-Britons and the Anglo-Saxons in the early Dark Ages.

In art, the Red Men of Barsoom are often not very red.  Otherwise, though, they look fantastic.

A fiery, horned demon with a flaming sword and lots of smoke.

Barosaurus and allosaurs in the Morrison.  Man, I love the Morrison.

A Barsoom montage.

Although the game itself isn't really up my alley, I do love the look of the Destiny concept art.

Northern Europeans: blond gals and bears.  It's our heritage.

If T. rex were a good 50-60% larger, and much, much gnarlier, this is what he'd look like.  A Dire T. rex?

A study of the Bengal vs Siberian tigers.  Keep in mind that the Siberian tiger is just a remnant population of the same population that used to range all the way to the Caucasus Mountains.  The Caspian tiger, by genetics, is the same animal as the Siberian tiger.  The range has just been greatly curtailed.

A big allosaur and some sword & sorcery type characters.  Super-sexy!

Another synthwave-style cyperpunk image.

What if Blanka from Street Fighter was a sword & sorcery character?

I also really like this kind of Gothic horror vibe, and I often utilize a lot of Gothic horror influences in my fantasy.

Tron-style Boba Fett.

Barbarians with a Wolverine-clawed hand and a sabertooth.  I dunno.  Kinda all over the place, but a cool image.

A 4e location near the City of Brass; the Brazen Bazaar.  It's also probably in other versions, but I don't remember reading about it in 3e.  Maybe I should pull up my Manual of the Planes again and see if it's mentioned.

Brennus, a personal hero of mine.  Vae victis, baby!

Another Warhammer undead image.  Holy cow, this is a great picture!

This is what I want to see on our southern border!

Not quite sure what this guy is doing, but it is a cool pose, if you have to pose, I suppose.