Heaven and Hell

No, this isn’t related to kingdom living…thank God…

Instead, this applies to a small audience (and I mean, small).  Instead, this has to do with the Black Sabbath reunion.  The lineup that brought us Mob Rules and Dehumanizer is back.  This isn’t exactly “news”, the reunion was announced quite some time ago.  Tour dates were just announced (although there mostly Canadian), so this is somewhat current.

Anyway, as a Sabbath fan, I’m excited.  A Sabbath reunion that’s producing new material?  Awesome!  Tour dates for the States haven’t been announced yet, but I’m definitely going.  Hell, if I had known about New York, I’d have shelled out money for that event.  It’d beat going to school…*sigh*  Oh well…

Just one thing about the name.  The band’s going under the moniker “Heaven and Hell” but the fans know it’s Black Sabbath, and that’s what I’m going to call them.  Legally, they’re Heaven and Hell, but the fans will say Black Sabbath.  I’m going to do the same.

Rock on!

There’s another side of Heaven
This way – to technical paradise
Find it on the other side
When the walls fall down

Kingdom Living

It’s been four days into the quarter and I’m already pissed off about this class.  Actually, I was angry to begin with, it’s just multiplied in the recent days.

First off, it’s a required class.  Why the administration did something so boneheaded, so idiotic, still escapes me.  One of the perks of being a junior or senior (or was, in the case of seniors) is being able to pick your own Bible classes.  There’s four and they are all half a year.  Last year, I took CFL.  This year, I’m forced to take kingdom living.  I wanted to take Christian heritage, because I’m more interested in the history of the religion than the actual practice (according to Elwood’s view, anyway).  Anyway, it’s pointless to take Christian heritage now.  Kingdom living offers the same credit and I’m forced to take it.  I could take both at the same time, but then I’d be doing more work for credits I don’t need.

Then there’s today…argh…  The cunning snake in Genesis 3…is just a cunning snake.  I’m not going into that here but I am writing my views down and going to staple them into the book over page 9.

I hate going into religion too much (people argue over their own perceptions too often for my own liking, so I keep my mouth shut…maybe that’s why I’m so miffed about that class?), but for my views on Satan, watch Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Satan is to God like Slugworth/Wilkinson is to Willy Wonka.

There’s no earthly way of knowing which direction we are going.
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing, or which way the river’s flowing.
Is it raining?  Is it snowing?  Is a hurricane a-blowing?
Not a speck of light is showing, so the danger must be growing.
Are the fires of hell a-glowing?  Is the grisly reaper mowing?
Yes, the danger must be growing, for the rowers keep on rowing and they’re certainly not showing any signs that they are slowing!

What’d Ya Do!?

The past two days have been…eventful.

Let’s start with the government “exam”.  Awesome…for the most part.  I love government, my hands-down favorite class of the year.  Our “exam” was essentially a simulation of the election process, starting from the primaries.  Great exercise, just marred by a few things.

I liked how the Presidential candidates acted like true politicians:  people who say things in order to get votes.  Out of 6 people, 2/3 of them said “they were moderate, but had strong stances on certain issues.”  People don’t like politicians who take extreme stances, so it’s a good thing to be a moderate.  Helps a person get elected.  However all the people who said they were moderates forgot one thing….moderates don’t take sides.  If a person is a moderate, they don’t say something like,” I’m strongly against reducing the military.”  Moderates don’t pander to the extremes.  The candidates should of said they were libertarians or communitarians, but they wouldn’t have gotten as many votes.

Actually, they might have.  Majority of those candidates said the same thing.  “I’m moderate.”  Be unique, say something different.  “I’m a Democrat.”  “I’m a Republican.”  “I’m a libertarian.”  “I’m a fascist.”  “I’m a communist.”  When there are four people saying the exact same thing, then the whole process boils down to a popularity contest.

Other than that gripe…and Jordan winning (I lost $245 because of that…why would anyone be for reducing the size of the military by 25%, but then increase NATO funding and military aid to Middle East allies?  That’d be like giving someone 75% of zero…), it was a good exercise.  Hell, it was better than taking an exam.

After that wonderful event, I hung around Drew, Dustin, and the two Matts.  Gabe had a old school game party later on and we all went to that (Drew and Matt W. appearing for limited intervals).  The “old school” part should be paraphrased because I brought all my last-gen consoles.  Deaner told me to bring Halo.  I thought “why segregate?” and brought not only my Xbox, but my PS2, GameCube and a ton of games for all of them.  We only ended up playing Halo 2 and Guitar Hero 2 out of the lot but that’s good enough.

We also played some older games on the Nintendo 64 and watched Dustin blaze through Sonic 1, 2 and some of 3 on the Genesis.  Dustin’s a helluva gamer.  We also watched Tommy Boy sometime in there, which is a pretty good movie.

I’d write more, but wasting time calls.

Housekeeping?

PC Gaming

I got Neverwinter Nights 2.  My brother got all The Sims 2 expansion packs (barring University, since we already have it).

My computer needs updating.  A gig or so of RAM would be nice…  Hell, I can’t even play Neverwinter Nights 2 because the frame rate is choppy and the game is slow.  What I did play sounds interesting, the game’s just unbearably slow.  More RAM…that’s the top financial priority over the next few months.

The game’s also bugged to hell.  Took two hours to update the game and get all the patches installed.  That’s one of the things annoying about PC games…patches.  Developers can just ship bugged games and then patch them when serious issues come up.

On the other hand, The Sims 2 games run just fine.

I also rented Bully, which has multiplied my happiness by five.  Awesome game with some awesome moments.  For instance, take this huge fight between some nerds, jocks, and greasers (a small number of the social cliques in the game).  Some of the jocks were fighting a few nerds, and one of jocks threw a stink bomb at one of the nerds.  Somehow, a greaser got hit by the bomb too.  A group of greasers joined in, kicked the shit out of the jocks before kicking the shit out of the nerds.  Unexpected, yet funny (especially the greasers beating down the nerds).  Oh well, it’s a good game.

I’ve been here five minutes and people already want me dead.  Even my parents didn’t hate me this much.

Monk/Sorcerer Build

Since I have nothing better to write about.

Anyway, Gabe was talking about how cool this would be.  In theory, a monk/sorcerer is a cool idea.  Sorcerers don’t have to worry about selecting and preparing spells ahead of time and cast upon memorization.  If enemies get too close, they can use their hands to fight and not waste a move action drawing a weapon.

Gabe’s build also suggests a creature that’s strong against magical attacks.  Both monks and sorcerers get a bonus to their will saves.  The result is a very mentally strong character.  A high wisdom score also benefits a monk’s AC, which applies even when the monk is caught off-guard.  Add evasion, which monks get at 2nd level, and monks take (at most) half damage from anything they save against.

A monk/sorcerer would be really fast too.  Monks get a bonus to speed starting at 3rd level, a bonus that sticks as long as a monk doesn’t carry more than a light load or wears any kind of armor.  Sorcerers are “forbidden” to wear any armor, since it interferes with their spell-casting abilities.  Add the monk’s speed and you’d have a character that could move up to 60 feet per round, allowing a character to move about combat with efficiency.

Now for the weaknesses.  A monk/sorcerer build would be incredibly tricky to set up.

For one thing, monks and sorcerer don’t particularly mesh well together.  Sorcerers bend towards the chaotic end of the alignment scale, whereas monks are strictly lawful.  Sorcerers are also more fit for a “kick in the door” style of gameplay.  This doesn’t suggest sorcerers should be played like fighters, but if a player knows what spells they’re going to pick (say, if they’re only going to pick attack spells), than sorcerers fit that idea quite nicely.

This contrasts with how a monk should be played, with caution.  I remember Nick’s first (and to date, last) foray in D&D, when he played a monk.  The first thing he did was charge a group of pirates wielding crossbows, as a first level monk.

This leads into the next problem.  Monks and sorcerers take a long time to mature into usefulness.  Even though they cast more spells than wizards, sorcerers will still burn through spell-casting at early levels.  Monks also really suck at early levels (they don’t start to shine until level 3).

Also, the player trying this build better roll some awesome dice rolls.  Monks alone need a healthy amount of Strength (for hand-to-hand fights), Dexterity (improve their pitiful AC), Constitution (so they can take more damage when they do get hit), and Wisdom (improve their AC).  Sorcerers need Dexterity and Constitution (same reasons why a monk would need them), but also Charisma to enhance their spell-casting power.

Then there’s the sorcerer’s main weakness: their limited spell-casting ability.  Sure, they can cast one spell more times a day than a wizard, but wizards have more spells to choose from.  Example, at 1st level, sorcerers know 4 cantrips and 2 1st-level spells, though they can cast any of those cantrips 5 times per day and those 1st-level spells 3 times per day.  Wizards can only prepare 3 cantrips and 1 1st-level spell a day, but can know learn to cast any of them.

Sorcerers can offset this problem by using lots of scrolls/wands/staffs but buying them would cost lots of money (which would probably piss off the party.  “Hey, we need to go back to town and get more scrolls for the sorcerer who can only know three of that level!”).  Creating them yourself would require a feat, something sorcerers don’t get an abundance of.

Lastly, the player needs to find a way to balance these classes.  This all depends on the player’s tastes on whether they want a monk with sorcerer support, a sorcerer with monk support, or have both classes balanced equally.  Personally, I’d rather have more monk levels than sorcerer levels, but here’s my opinion on what’s best…

To start off, race…  Human, all the way.  Humans get many small benefits and don’t have to bother with the headache known as “Favored Class”.  A half-elf monk/sorcerer could also work, but they’re not as good as humans.  All other classes in the PHB have penalties to attributes that are valuable to a monk/sorcerer build.  Outside of the PHB, most (if not, all) races have level adjustment.  While a drow monk/sorcerer would work wonders, it’d make leveling up a pain.

I’d always start out as a sorcerer, then multi-class to monk.  Multi-class monks can never raise their monk level again if they were to raise a level in another class.  It’s probably easier to explain if I were to use an example.  Say I started out as a monk and leveled up in that class until 4th.  Then I want to play sorcerer and level up as a sorcerer.  My monk level would be permanently stuck at 4 and I could never raise it to monk 5 (though I keep all my monk 4 benefits).  Some DMs change this rule but I wouldn’t, so I’m playing by my rules.

One last thing before I go any further, I didn’t bother going into epic levels.  Instead, there’s an imposed cap of 20th level here.

Monk 16/Sorcerer 4:  Monk/Sorcerers should always have at least 4 levels in sorcerer.  This is also the earliest drop-off point for sorcerers who want to go straight into monk levels.

At level 4, sorcerers gain the ability to cast 2nd level spells.  Most useful of these spells are the ones that allow the player to buff his character.  At this level, a player only gets 1 2nd-level spell (but can cast that 1 spell up to three times a day), so choose that spell wisely.  Personally, I’d choose a buff spell (Owl’s Wisdom being my favorite) but I can see people choosing Blur (making a character even harder to hit) or Touch of Idiocy (useful in reducing the power of those pesky mages).

16 levels of monk also allow you to enjoy the most of the monk class.  By the time you reach 16th level, your hands really are lethal weapons, equal to magical adamantine weapons.

Monk 15/Sorcerer 5:  Same as above, only you get another 2nd level spell to pick, as well as casting another spell per day.  Again, I’d pick another buff spell (this transmutation list is great here), Blur, or Touch of Idiocy.

Monks are slightly less powerful here, though they still keep the useful (and quite awesome) quivering palm ability.

Monk 12/Sorcerer 8:  Another good stopping point for prospective monk/sorcerers.  At 8th level, you get the ultimate buff spell known as stoneskin.  Stoneskin is one of those spells every mage shouldn’t leave home without.  Not having stoneskin is like a wizard not having magic missile.  Laaaame…  You only get 1 spell at this sorceror level, but stoneskin is all that’s really needed.  Sorcerors also have up to three 2nd-level spells by now.  Again, same choices are above.

Monk 11/Sorcerer 9:  Same as above, only less-powerful monk but sorcerers get another 4th-level spell and 2nd-level spell.  Another 2nd-level means more buffs!  The 4th-level spell is the player’s choice, nothing really noteworthy for me (I’d suggest dimension door, since you’re not a 12th level monk who gets the spell as an ability for free).

That’s probably where I’d stop.  5th level spells allow for teleportation magic, so a balanced sorcerer 10/monk 10 build would be my limit.  Any higher for a sorcerer and the player will be getting the option to pick tons of damage-dealing spells.  Those spells will deal more damage than a monk’s hands and the result is a sorcerer with a monk’s combat ability to fall back on should he run out of spells (which would be unlikely).  If that’s appealing, however, a sorcerer 14/monk 6 (or even sorcerer 15/monk 5) build wouldn’t be too bad.

Still, any higher and people not focusing on the sorcerer’s spell-casting power are going to be considerably weaker.  Remember, monks don’t shine until they reach 3rd level, and sorcerer 17/monk 3 build is just one sorcerer level shy of 9th-level spells.  Also, you’ve probably got some useful magical weapon by this point.  Said magical weapon will probably do more damage than a monk’s fists.

So there.  My (lengthy) thoughts on a sorcerer/monk build.  Good idea, but one I have many problems with.  Still, it’d be a cool character idea if it could be played right.

Now, a wizard/monk build on the other hand…

Mind, of destructive taste
I choose…to stroll amongst the waste

Twilight Princess

After a week of playing, I’ve conquered Twilight Princess.  Hooray.  Yes, it’s nostalgic.  However, it’s still a great game and shows great promise of what’s to come in the Zelda series.  A series that’s been in sharp decline since The Wind Waker.  If I were to review it, I’d give it…a 9.2 out of 10.

The game borrows a bit much from it’s predecessors (A Link to the Past notably, followed by Ocarina of Time).  This is good, since they’re both mighty fine games.  I guess they didn’t stray too far for the Wii version.  Maybe the Wii’s controls were innovative enough?  Still, some more originality would have been nice (though the Spinner is quite cool).

D&D this Friday…if I can ever sit myself down to type up the adventure (opposed to just winging it).  There’s ideas and drafts but not much else.  Add school work I need to finish up tomorrow and…yeah.

Oh, and new year.  That means new problems.  New challenges.  New responsibilities.  …Graduation!

I’d say more about last year, but looking at the major news headline…last year was too depressing.  I remember something Elwood told us in world history (or was it world cultures?).  He said that he believed people throughout history have always believed they were living in a time where the world was about to end.  I couldn’t agree more.

An impressive looking blade…but nothing more.