I Didn’t Start the Fire, But She Stood In It, Asking For Healing

Our Monday night group started Ruins of Threnal this week. The group we had rocked the first half hard. In attendance were Marty (Officially Martinier dePasolai) Fighter 5/Rogue 5 – Plate tank and backup sneaker. Lobilya, Rogue 8 (or 9, I forget). Karayasama, sorceress 12(?) and dance queen, and Worstof, Ranger 9ish, he with heavy repeating crossbow.

Anyway, the dps laid down was amazing to me. I had run this before with Toldain, Jonnson (a cleric 9), and Vironet (Ranger 9). Our only real dps was Vironet, except when Tolly steps in with a lightning bolt or something. The difference was startling. Karayasama did not bother charming anything, stuff died too quickly. She did however, infect many an outsider with disco fever.

Flesh reavers, by the way, look ridiculous when they dance. Gargoyles, on the other hand, are pretty decent dancers, the wings really add that extra something. I really want to see a beholder dancing now, though that would mean someone would have to get within melee range of one, which could be a problem. The best way we’ve found to kill beholders is to hide behind a rock while Vironet does the “pop up and shoot” thing.

But there are no beholders in the first half of Threnal. Lots of stuff that died really fast and hard. I’m not really sure why that is, but everything was working that night. I think our focus and coordination was better, and we were more patient. Lobilya would sneak in the vanguard, about 10 yards ahead of me (as Marty). She’s spot something, call it out, and we’d stop and let them come to us.

The first one in would typically try to rush past me at the “weak underbelly”. I’m guessing it didn’t like all those bolts that Worstof was throwing at it. (I think he probably used up 2000 bolts on the evening). I would trip it, and as often as not, it would fall on its face, at which point I (and sometimes Lobilya) would hack it to little bits. Sometimes it would start dancing. Either way, it was clumsy. Once in a while, it would fall down, and then immediately spring up dancing. Karayasama is apparently the equivalent of Gene Kelly singing “Gotta dance!”

We had two cleric hirelings along. Mine was Marissa, I think her name is. After fighting our way through some rough caves, there is a section that looks more like a dwelling place, with smooth walls and grates on the floor at intersections. Grates that shoot fire out of them every so often.

Now, most people have enough sense to stop doing something that hurts. Not Marissa. She would stand on the grate in the fire, taking damage, and she would say, “I’m going to need healing soon.”

Never mind that “you are the healer!” Get out of the fire, for Marr’s sake!

The issues with hirelings haven’t gone away, and honestly, this particular problem wasn’t recently introduced, it’s always been there. AI is hard. Once I attended a talk where Ed Feigenbaum, then the chairman of the Stanford Computer Science Department claimed that in five years, there would be no more need for programmers because AI would take care of anything.

That was in roughly 1982. AI is hard, harder than you think. Even if you think it’s hard.

I wish Psychochild all the luck in the world. We need better AIs in gaming. I would like hirelings with enough sense to get out of the fire that is killing them, and to heal themselves rather than asking for healing. It might well be that user-created AI’s are the way to go, and that’s what Storybricks is meant to support.

I’ve played one Final Fantasy game, I think it was 11 or maybe 12. Anyway, you could program AI’s for your group of characters. There was a prioritized list of “if-then” rules. All of the form “If is true then perform on

As you progressed in the game, you got the ability to get more interesting and useful conditions and targets. Actions were typically actions that you could do by hand, switching to that character and doing it by hand.

I like this. I haven’t seen much followup, but I haven’t played subsequent FF games (It was a bit too grindy for me). It suits the programmer that I am quite well. But most people aren’t programmers, so I don’t know if there’s much popular acceptance.

However, imagine if I could make a similar AI for my DDO healer hireling and share it with others, even sell it for in-game currency? It relieves the gamedevs of trying to do it, and gives me a source of ingame income. I’m all over that.

Just be sure to give me a “dance” action I can put into the AI.