Sunday, November 13, 2011

Star Wars the Old Republic: Beta impressions

Star Wars the Old Republic is like a nerdgasm times 2!  I got into the most recent weekend beta and as you can guess, I enjoyed myself.  Each moment was something to treasure, marred only by a few quirks that I feel are indicative of it being a beta, so they should be fixed by release day.

Installation and getting started:
First off, the instillation for this game takes forever and a day.  It is 19.8GB installed on my hard drive and I had to download all of that, before I could play.  It probably took me a bit longer than most, since my router is a bit iffy and I had to keep resetting it and the launcher crashed a couple times.  However, built in safeguards checked my progress and picked back up where they left off.

Once I got the game installed, I tried to start it up and it crashed.  This was a recurring problem and I could not get in Friday night/Saturday early AM, so I just called it and got some sleep.  The next day (Saturday), I picked back up and gave it a second shot.  This time, I got in.  Immediately, I was treated to a gorgeous couple minute cinema.  You can really see the effort and polish that was put into this game.  And, it was most definitely immersed in those brief moments.  I believe the words "Oh damn!" were uttered a few times.

Opening cinematic and character creation:
Picking a server was a bit...rough, since most were full, but I finally got into one.  There, I got to pick my allegiance, which was to the sith.  What can I say?  Bad guys do it for me.  Anyhoo, I was treated to another gorgeous cinematic that focused on the sith and how absolutely baddass they are.  What is that?  I can take a billion jedi and there are more just like me?  So much awesome it can barely be contained in one cinematic.  But, one issue came to my attention.  I was watching cinematics for the first seven to ten minutes, without ever really playing the game.  That is negligible, since the cinematic is skip able.  Another thing I noticed was that it focused on the jedi primarily and the other two classes received cameos.  

Making my character was fun.  I chose the Zabrak male, just like Darth Maul.  There are 4 classes for the Sith: Sith warrior, Sith inquisitor, Bounty hunter, and Imperial agent.  I chose the Sith Warrior.  The character customization isn't all that much better than World of Warcraft's, but that is not terrible, just not exceptional.  

Finally, the game starts.  The opening is just a short cinematic that is very reminiscent of most bioware games, including a few iconic Dragon Age/Mass Effect wheel choose your own response options.  Finally I got to play!  

I'll break the next part up into a couple sections: combat and quest/story.


The sith warrior plays like a single target melee DPS/aoe minion killing machine.  Basically, he is the standard warrior for all intensive purposes, but with very star wars-esque abilities.  There is no "Auto attack", but the 1 key is bound to my right click on my mouse.  The queuing system for attacks works well.  I just tap the next attack I want to do, while I'm doing my current attack and when the current attack ends, it moves onto my next attack in queue.  The sith warrior builds "hate" which builds as combat goes on and is used for his other abilities.  I don't like that I have no ranged abilities, except for a charge that puts me into melee combat immediately.  But, that is a small gripe, since I am a warrior and not an inquisitor (which has force lightning).  

Spamming the one button/right clicking got a bit old after a while.  But, I had multiple abilities, outside of the "bread and butter 1 and 2".  All of these abilities had a situational use.  However, I found that some of them overlapped with one another.  For example, force shout has a slightly longer range than a melee attack, which was nice if I didn't charge into combat every time, but I do.  It is single target and does the same amount of damage as a strong strike.  There is a stun component for weaker enemies, but you can just as easily melee attack twice and kill weaker enemies.  Thus, I did not find much use for this ability.  However, the force smash was very useful.  It does a decently high amount of damage and can stun weaker enemies.  The high hate cost is worth it.  I could store up hate and charge a big group, then use force smash and just watch four enemies drop dead/get stunned.  After, I could easily clean up the remainder with basic attacks and move onto the next group.

Your helper, Vette is pretty fun too.  She is the exact opposite of the warrior.  She uses a blaster, has no force powers, stays at range, and does not excel in close combat.  As your default AI party member, she is a solid and useful individual to have around.  Many times, I found her killing off enemies that I either did not see, or were too far away for me to get to if my charge was on cool down.  She acts on her own, unless you decide to take control of her actions, but essentially acts like the "pet" equivalent of World of Warcraft.  Vette fills in the holes of your character's combat capabilities and gives you a party play experience, while playing solo.  Something important to note, Vette never triggered any "extra" combats.  I always initiated it in one form or another.  I never found myself yelling at her for impeding my adventure.

The good:
The sith warrior plays real fluid.  I transition between abilities seamlessly and I don't recall having any odd moments where my character did not perform as I wanted him to.  I can easily handle multiple opponents and come out on top.  My damage output is decent and I feel as if I can be an asset.  Vette was fun to play with as well.  She acted on her own and made simple combat decisions without difficulty.

The bad:
Not having ranged abilities hampered my character a bit early game, since those are used to soften up opponents.  But, the sith warrior has such high damage output and survivability that this was negligible.  Later, Vette eliminated this as an issue entirely.  Some abilities either need a bit of tweaking or can be eliminated entirely.

The quests in SWTOR seem to be roughly the same normal MMO affair, except that they are almost all voice acted and include cinematics.  The included lightside/darkside mechanic is also interesting.  Mostly, it was collect x thing, kill x amount of named guys, and go to target place and retrieve target item. 

The main story quest was really where Bioware put their trademark on this game.  There was political intrigue, a rival that wanted my head from the get go, lesser students trying to impress me, and overlords (teachers), moving me around like a chess piece.  The twists and turns in the story were fun.  Often, I was given the choice to be good or bad.  These choices gave me light side or dark side points, the alignment of SWTOR.  These choices did later impact the main story.  I cannot find any fault with the story, except that it really shines with Sith brutality, even the light side choices.  If you do not like the idea of a Sith, this story is not for you.  I would suggest playing the other faction, because it is very unforgiving.  

Something I noticed, occasionally I did not feel like I was playing an MMO.  Instead, it felt like a single player game with a social component.  There were people around me, but essentially I was living my life.  This really can either be good or bad, depending on your outlook.

I don't know what the function of my alignment is.  Sure I am gaining these alignment points, but what do they lead to?  This is likely a late game functionality, as per most Bioware games.  The dialogue choices I made did seem to impact many of the conversations, but only in the immediate moments afterward.  My "master" seemed to forget quickly that I disobeyed a metric crap ton of his orders by sparing people's lives, helping some acolytes with their final exam, broke rules, etc.  I'll be honest; I was the worst apprentice a master could hope for.  I pretty much maxed my light side points, just to see what would happen.  I did not end up in chains and I was sad.  Some of the light side choices were a bit odd.  For example, I got this quest to help a creature get food.  It turns out he was eating failed acolytes (unknown to it) and the only recourse was for me to poison it, then yell at it and tell it to get off my planet.  I gained light side points, but felt like I needed to take a shower.

The good:
There are tons of quests!  The story behind the quests is both solid and fun.  There is enough that breaks up the questing experience that I did not feel like I was just going from point A to be and back again.  The light side and dark side paths were interesting.  

The bad:
I still don't know what my alignment is used for.  The quests still follow the core MMO format.  The Sith story does not appeal to a broad audience and may alienate younger gamers.  My "master" has some serious memory problems when it comes to my transgressions.  Sometimes I questioned whether I was "really a Sith".  Some of the alignment choices did not make sense.

Final thoughts:

I had a lot of fun and despite a few speed bumps; this was a very pleasurable experience.  This is really impressive, considering it was a beta test weekend and not the final release.  Right now, this game is worth the 60$ price point.  I cannot wait to see how it continues to improve.  I just about crapped myself when I realized, this game will have a subscription and that was awesome.  I can pay 15 dollars and get content updates of the same quality?  OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!


If you liked reading this blog, check Herrick Erickson-Brigl out on Twitter, or friend him on facebook if you like. Also, to your right you will find the first three chapters of his book, "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest", listed under the "Pages" section. It is available on Amazon and there is a link to the right.


Currently listening to "Land of the Free" by Gamma Ray

If you have any private comments, concerns, or suggestions for Herrick. You can contact him

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Randomness in games: Response, addiction in video games

This is a response post to

In Jeff's post, he talks about the good and the bad of randomness mechanics in video games. This article will talk about how randomness fosters addiction, encouraging the player to play again. And, how this can be a positive component in a pleasurable gaming experience.


"Freedom is just chaos, with better lighting."
ALAN DEAN FOSTER, To the Vanishing Point


A behavioral addiction is associated with an activity that occurs on a regular basis that does not require unnatural chemical assistance.  Behavioral addictions range from severe to mild, affecting small parts of a person's life, sometimes seriously and diversely affecting relationships (such as excessive gambling or thrill seeking). However, 90% of the entire populace of the world has an addiction to something (Facebook, blogging, playing video games, biting nails, drinking soda, exercising, relationships, jobs, etc.) and these addictions are often key parts to rewarding cycles in a person's life. Many addictions are not unhealthy.  

There are a number of games that rely on randomness to bring their players back. Casinos make their money primarily on return customers. There is always a set goal and a perceived best positive outcome. The static goal, combined with the uncertainty of winning, and the rush of minor victories are a part of the time honored process. World of Warcraft relies on a much less random, but still random loot table for its boss battles.


Addiction (ad·dic·tion): an abnormally strong craving

  • Behavioral addiction must be voluntary.
  • The payout, positive feedback, or reward must be understood and clearly pictured in the user's mind.
  • Solid punishment must be induced to create a downturn in mood.
  • Small payouts must be interspersed between punishments to create upswings in mood, creating a "carrot on a stick".
  • Some people are more susceptible to a chemical called dopamine that goes to the dopamine D2 receptor than others. dopamine is a neural transmitter that is released during pleasurable experiences.

To cover the above, this article will describe the mindset behind an everyday slot machine in a casino and then loot from a game called World of Warcraft.

Gambling at the slots:

  • No one starts gambling because they don't want to and if they did, if the person comes back, it is voluntary. 
  • The reward is money. If a the reels line up properly, there are clear payouts, with a clearly indicated maximum payout. 
    • Current slot machines have twenty two possible combinations of symbols per a reel, with three total reels. This makes 223 possible combinations (10,648). 
    • It is logical thinking to believe that 1/10,648 is a maximum payout, but that is incorrect. losing slots are weighted in programming heavier than winning slots, so that there will only be one 1,000,000$ payout every 16.7 million plays. 
  • Punishment: Players paid money to play. Losing means the player lost real money. It is a clear punishment with clear negative results. 
    • One large payout in 16.7 million spins is not enough to keep players coming back. 
    • Smaller payouts Money was payed out in smaller sums to the player at 82% to 98% of the money put into the machine. 
    • Each individual slot machine is gauged differently with some paying out at a higher percentage and some a lower. 
    • There are seven types of payouts; 1:1, 2:1, 5:1, 80:1, 150:1, 2,400:1, and 1,000,000:1. Each payout has a different probability of happening.

The mindset a player normally should go goes through is detailed below:
  • The player voluntarily sits down and engages the machine.
  • He/she should see in neon lights that this machine has a 1,000,000 dollar jackpot. This clearly defines the highest achievement on this machine.
  • The player puts in money, roughly 1/33 pays nets 1/7 rewards(outlined above). Higher payouts happen less.
    • Losing money/games causes negative mood shifts.
    • Winning and gaining money causes positive mood shifts.
    • Negative mood shifts happen more than positive mood shifts, but the brain weights positive mood shifts radically higher, due to the release of Dopamine that affects the D2 neural receptor. The more negative reinforcement behind a positive mood shift, the more Dopamine is released when positive reinforcement happens. Even small victories should feel like grand ones, given enough failed attempts.
  • Repetition of this cycle will create a minor chemical dependence on the feeling of "winning" from Dopamine. The player should associate the release of Dopamine to the act of gaining money through gambling.
  • When his/her money roll is empty, the player should want to return in the future to "win" again.

"Disorder, chaos, anarchy: now that's fun!"


On to World of Warcraft:

World of Warcraft's boss battles have predefined items that it will drop when killed/defeated. Below is a part of a loot table from, taken from the Lich King encounter from "Wrath of the Lich King". But unlike gambling, all a player loses is time spent and a flat 15$ a month.  Also, the mechanics discussed below are a very small part of a very big game.  The biggest selling point of World of Warcraft is its social component and that is not being covered.

On the left side, outlined in yellow, that is a list of rewards a player can strive for. On the right side, that is the percentage chance that the item will drop for the player. What it does not list is that 100% of the time, Gold (money) and emblems (another type of currency), will drop for the players as a consistent reward.

Another dynamic to consider is the win loss component. Simply defeating a boss in World of Warcraft is an achievement unto itself and losing requires setting your party back up for another try, taking as much as 30 minutes in some cases. This creates another positive/negative reinforcement dynamic. Plus, being a boss rewards the player with a permanent achievement that in some cases comes with a title for their character, a special riding mount, or pets.

Below will use the same format to illustrate similarities:
    moonkin.jpg Moonkin dance
  • A player enters any dungeon because it is fun (voluntary).
  • Each player generally has a specific goal in mind, a piece of gear, completing an achievement, etc.
  • Every time the party of players is wiped out, this causes a negative mood shift.
    • If a boss encounter is completed, sometimes the desired piece of gear does not drop or particular parts of achievements are not completed.
    • alternatively, the gear does drop, but another player gets said gear.
  • Unlike gambling, major victories occur much more often and there are a number of positive mood shift opportunities.
    • killing a boss.
    • accumulating enough emblems to buy a piece of gear
    • completing achievement/s
    • acquiring a highly sought item.
    • Seeing friends acquire better items.

"Giving up playing video games is a lot easier than you 'd think.  I'd know, I've done it hundreds of times."
Ryan G. Van Cleave

Essentially, "addiction" is a great way to get a player to come back. Used properly, it can be a positive component in a pleasurable gaming experience. There is nothing inherently wrong with addiction itself as long as it does not impact other parts of a person's life negatively.

Another thing that is not stated above is that the release of dopamine to the D2 receptor can significantly lower a person's stress level. Playing a video game is an easy way to do that. Lowered stress can increase productivity many fold and can also improve a person's health significantly. Yeah, games can be good for you and there is such a thing as a healthy addiction!


If you liked reading this blog, check Herrick Erickson-Brigl out on Twitter, or friend him on facebook if you like. Also, to your right you will find the first three chapters of his book, "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest", listed under the "Pages" section. It is available on Amazon and there is a link to the right.


Currently listening to "Land of the Free" by Gamma Ray

If you have any private comments, concerns, or suggestions for Herrick. You can contact him at

Friday, September 30, 2011

Geek is Chic!

[geek] - noun Slang

1. a computer expert or enthusiast.
2. a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
3. a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, such as biting off the head of a live chicken.

The term "geek" was not meant to be a term of endearment.  It was used in conjunction with individuals that existed a few steps outside of society's norm.  They participated in activities that were generally misunderstood, such as Dungeons and Dragons, tinkering with the old IBM computers, and programming out MUDs (Multiple User Dungeons) in DOS.  But, most disturbingly, they were teased, bullied, and pushed around for being different.  This societal position is slowly changing with the creation of Apple, Xbox live, and Facebook.  What was once obscure has become mainstream.  And, the people who develop and support technology are being watched with growing interest.  It is chic to be geek!

In 1962, one of the first geeks/nerds got noticed by the public at large.  It was Peter Parker, AKA Spiderman.  Paul Kupperberg, the original writer for Spiderman, said that Spidey's powers were "not too original".  However, it was the character driven storyline that truly set the comic apart from its peers.  As a high school student, Peter Parker was pushed around.  But, he restrained himself.  Guided by his uncle's moral values, Spiderman defeated super powered foes, time and time again.  Now, Spiderman is often seen as Marvel's flagship comic.  This was the first time that a geek or nerd truly made the spotlight.

In 1984, a movie came out that changed everything.  It was called "Revenge of the Nerds".  This movie embraced a culture of geeks and nerds fully.  The characters were awkward, intelligent, unique, and were tortured by their peers for being different.  But, that was their charm and the community they were based off of truly identified with them.  The most extraordinary thing was that the movie managed to make these characters look cool, but on their own terms.  What they did, how they did it, and why they did it made sense in the social context.  Their portrayal showed them as human beings, not just the smart and quiet guys in the corner of the lunch room.  When this movie came out, it was one of the first steps that closed the cultural divides and showed geeks as people, just like everyone else.

Race forward to the present, Apple has taken the world by storm!  Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and
Ronald Wayne created Apple in 1976.  And, there was no way they could predict the explosive popularity of their products.  Apple has a reputation for making user friendly products, usable even by the layman.  Some of their most popular items include the iPhone, Mac book, and iPod.  Steve Jobs is regularly seen in today's media.  To say owning an iPhone is popular right now would be a sever understatement.  It currently holds 19.4% of the world market share for smart phones (according to  Everyone from the geeks at school, too soccer moms with their minivans, and even older generations are picking up iPhones, calling their friends.  There is no doubt, technology is in right now.

As the world looks towards the future, the advancement of technology is crucial.  Many new discoveries in the technology world have been developed to power the latest video games, most notably, the speed of the CPU (Central processing unit).  The reason behind this is that video games make money and players are always asking for games that demand more powerful hardware.  In 2007, a game called Crisis came out.  It was lauded as the most hardware intensive game to come out yet and spurred an increase of activity to match the hardware requirements to play the game on maximum settings (the most stimulating visuals possible).  At that time, a computer's prowess was judged by gamers solely by what settings it could run crisis at and what frame rate the player got when playing the game.

  • Frame rate: The rate at which individual pictures (frames) in a sequence are displayed in a video conference. Frame rate is measured in frames per second (fps).

As an example: the movie theaters show film at 27 frames per a second.  The human eye cannot visibly detect more than 60 frames per a second.  If a person is viewing a video screen, it is healthy to view it at the highest frame rate possible.

The race to build the best computer possible was driven by Crisis.  And, it fueled the development of new technology to match the demand.  This in turn was felt in other areas of advancement, even as high as space shuttle development, requiring complex computer equipment to operate properly.

What was once an obscure hobby, held by a few, is now interests held by many.  Technology is a positive force in society that is advancing the world.  And, it is the people that grow up dedicating their time to these pursuits that are behind the most amazing technological feats of the day.  There can be no doubt; it is chic to be geek!


If you liked reading this blog, check Herrick Erickson-Brigl out on Twitter, or friend him on facebook if you like.  Also, to your right you will find the first three chapters of his book, "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest", listed under the "Pages" section.   It is available on Amazon and there is a link to the right.


Currently listening to "What it's like" by Everlast

If you have any private comments, concerns, or suggestions for Herrick.  You can contact him at

article, awesome, book, Fantasy, geek, technology, video 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Character ideas

I'm almost to the end of book 2 and I've been working through some new character ideas in my head.  Normally my posts are pretty structured, but this is going to be more stream of consciousness writing.

To start, I can't go into specifics just yet, since it would be some major spoilers for book 2, but safe to say at the beginning of book 3, Penndarius and Soren are separated and a few new characters are introduced to act as interim/new protectors of our favorite scholar.

Fei Kong "The Wind Demon":  Fei Kong is the new leader of the Mortalitas Assassins, since the death of their previous leader, Dayvion Mortalitas.  This marks the first time that a person, outside of the Mortalitas family has led the group to appoint a new leader.  But, the group was split in two.

The first group wants to continue with their old ways.  But, Fei has other plans.

Fei remembers a time when the asasassins did good, helping the common folk and removing corruption, instead of helping it and he wants to bring the assassins back to those roots.  Fei is not like his brethren who skulk around in the shadows.  He is flashy, radical, dangerous, and honest.

Fei fights with wind!  More on this later.

Oog, just Oog, no last name, just Oog, MY NAME IS OOG!!!!!:  Oog hales from a small village of death cult barbarians.  They worship the art of death, but not killing others, but to seek the perfect death.

These barbarians are not suicidal.  Instead, they look for the prefect way to die, where their death can mean the most.  If that means staying alive and helping others, until they die of old age, so be it.  But, if that means dieing in glorious battle?  Then, that will be so.

Most characters that I write are young and new to life, at least for the main fighters.  Oog however, is in his sixtys.  he is a very healthy sixty year old, but he is in his later years.  None the less, Oog is physically one of the strongest characters in the series.  He does not speak much, but when he does, his words have impact.

Jericho the crazy guy: You know that guy that rants and raves about government conspiracies, UFO landings, the end is nigh, and stuff like that?  Jericho is that guy, only he is more right than wrong.

Of course, Jericho is still crazy.  Where would the fun be if his character was completely sane?  Actually, he comes off as a raving lunatic with insane theories that seem completely off the charts.  But, no matter how wild the consiracies or mysteries may be, some of them are true.

The other thing, Jericho is actually a rather powerful magus, though I don't know what his abilities entail just yet.

That is all for now.  More later.

If you liked reading this blog, check Herrick Erickson-Brigl out on Twitter, or friend him on facebook if you like.  Also, to your right you will find the first three chapters of his book, "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest", listed under the "Pages" section.  It is currently available in ebook format and the hard copy is coming soon.


Currently listening to "Touched" By Vast

If you have any private comments, concerns, or suggestions for Herrick.  You can contact him at

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Spotlight! The Vaedziur - The gods' forgotten children

The vaedziur are demons from the abyss.  But, before we can talk about the vaedziur in detail, we must discuss the abyss, their "home".

The realms: There are currently twelve known realms and sixteen sub realms.  The majority of the books take place in the mortal realm, home to the world of Therra.  Six realms are dedicated to the elements and are where the kirin (magical creatures) spring from; earth, wind, fire, water, darkness, and light.  Each pantheon; positive (good), negative (evil), order (law), and chaos (chaotic) has their own dedicated realm and a sub realm for each known associated god.  There are four known gods for each pantheon, totaling sixteen unique sub realms for the godly verse.  The final realm is the abyss, "home" of the vaedziur and other more mysterious denizens that are yet unidentified.

“The abyss is a place so horrible, not even the gods will speak of it.  What little knowledge we have is unverifiable and not entirely trustworthy.  Unfortunately, the sheer volume of references, across multiple cultures, cannot be ignored and they fill me with dread.  These writings detail a never ending darkness or an abyss if you will.  It is a prison and a place where evil lies shackled and dormant.  Can this gateway be opened? Fortunately, no way has been found yet and I believe doom sleeps within its hollow walls, scratching for a way out.”

Aran the Grey,
Current acting leader of the Pentacle

The vaedziur are imprisoned in the abyss and they are perverted forms of their original forms.  Imprisoned for millennia unending for a crime unknown, these demonic entities are forgotten by the majority of Therra, except for the absolute most long lived.  

Their powers are horrific beyond imagination.  Instead of destroying a body, they take absolute control.  How they do that differs by level of vaedziur.

Letum Pupilis, the lesser vaedziur: these creatures have base intellect and require only a dead body.  Their abilities do not exceed the physical, but their might is not to be underestimated.  Each lesser vaedziur can twist the mortal's form that they take to their own ends, creating natural weaponry from apendages.

Medius Decessus, the vaedziur lords): These vaedziur are able to possess human forms and infiltrate the societies.  Their abilities in combat are limited to their host's abilities, but they can draw beings into the astral plane and destroy their minds.  These vaedziur act as the field commanders for the armies of letum pupilis.  They precede the coming of the Corruptus Fatalis by preparing the world for the second coming of the vaedziur horde.  Example Vaedziur Lords: Rhea and Kestrel from A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest.

Corruptus Fatalis, high vaedziur: These are the leaders of the vaedziur.  Their power rivals that of a god.  These creatures have a physical form and can tap into the elemental planes and the abyss to use magic at will.  Their bodies are strong and are capable fighters as well.  One Corruptus Fatals accompanies the Medius Decessus into the mortal realm, but only observes, never revealing itself, until the proper moment.

Grande Lobos, great vaedziur: These are indescribable horrors that rampaged across the mortal realm and a match for a great kirin.  Their powers are unknown and their position in vaedziur society is also unknown.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the vaedziur that make their first appearance in the first book of A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest.

- Herrick


If you liked reading this blog, check Herrick Erickson-Brigl out on Twitter, or friend him on facebook if you like.  Also, to your right you will find the first three chapters of his book, "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest", listed under the "Pages" section.  It is currently available in ebook format and the hard copy is coming soon.


Currently listening to "Tempest" by Pendulum

If you have any private comments, concerns, or suggestions for Herrick.  You can contact him at

Monday, July 25, 2011

The God's of Therra Spotlight Part 2: Vae'Firon the Goddess of Betrayal

This is a continuation of the last post, this time I'll jump right into it.

Vae'Firon is the goddess of betrayal and is worshiped exclusively by the rahlien people.

Rahlien are giants, almost twice the height of a normal man, covered with fiery red skin and at all the joints of their bodies, there are vents that let steam out.  These fire giants live in the incindius volcanic mountain range.

“The rahlien are large, brutish, and powerful.  They hail from the highest peeks of the Incindius mountains.  Their skin is as hard as the stone they live in and their strength is unrivaled by even the strongest humans.  Their enemies fear their combat prowess as well.  Every rahlien is trained from birth to be an engine of martial destruction.  This is further complicated by their religious affiliations.  The rahlien people as a whole worship the goddess of Betrayal; Vae’Firon.  No pact can be fully trusted and no agreement can ever be honored.  The only thing that can be ultimately trusted in the dealings with these creatures is that they will betray you.”

- By Kasheen Maizen,
An excerpt from Races and their cultures

The rahlien are led by a "rahl".  A rahl replaces his/her given name and takes the name Rahl.  Also, the rahl is the only rahlien allowd to grow the bone spikes on his head.  Other rahlien are required to file theirs down as a show of respect.

Despite their size, the rahlien are cunning and calculating beings and that makes them even scarier.  But, even though they worship a goddess of betrayal, they are honorable and forthright.  A rahlien will openly tell you that he will betray you.  It is a promise.  However, by not "betraying" their ally, they betray the statement.  This logic is cyclical.  Should an ally become complacent, the rahlien will stab their compatriots in the back immediately.  This is their way.  The sweetest betrayals are the ones that are not seen coming.  It is the sweetest wine for one of these giants.

The rahlien arrive in Deiyil during the first book to enter into negotiations with the anthra over "The Fertile Land".  This is a place that seemed to spring up over night.

“This dirt, it is so rich, so saturated with minerals.  We could farm and mine here for centuries and the nutrients in the soil would never run dry.  The climate is so perfect, we can make food, housing, weapons, and fortifications without having to import.  But I am worried, if no one has claimed this, will there be war?  The Rahlians and the Anthra are both very close to the land.  The peace is already strained.  What will happen?  Who will claim it for their country and its god?”

-          Lead excavator Isiah Helkrif

This leads to one of the major conflicts of the book.  I hope you enjoyed this look into the world of Therra.

Best wishes,



If you liked reading this blog, check Herrick Erickson-Brigl out on Twitter, or friend him on facebook if you like.  Also, to your right you will find the first three chapters of his book, "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest", listed under the "Pages" section.  It is currently available in ebook format and the hard copy is coming soon.


Currently listening to "Tempest" by Pendulum

If you have any private comments, concerns, or suggestions for Herrick.  You can contact him at

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gods of Therra

First, I apologize for the wait.  There have been many things pressing in on me to be taken care of.  But, I promise that I will start making at least 1+ weekly posts from now on.

Recently I was in a restaurant with my dad and we were talking about my book.  The discussion got into religious theory and one of the other patrons stopped us and asked what we were talking about.  He found out I was a writer and asked for the name of the book, promising to go out and buy it.
This in itself was amazing!  But, it showed me what some people like to hear about.  So, I will be running a weekly column for many weeks to come about the gods of Therra!

Preface: What are the gods?

In Therra there are sixteen known gods.  There are four alignments: positive, negative, chaotic, and order.  These are mistakenly referred to by the people as good, evil, chaos, and lawful.  But, morality does not represent an alignment in all cases.
Take Nox’Firon, the goddess of death.  She is not evil, but exists in the negative realm.  Death is an eventuality, a part of nature, but is not inherently evil, nor are her followers.  A follower of Nox’Firon does not seek to spread death, but to embrace the beauty of dieing, observe it, and revere it.  A follower of Nox’Firon can be evil, good, or anything in between.  There are no restrictions on who can follow her tenets.  
This is a brief explanation, but over time I hope to elaborate on this with future posts.

Week 1: El’Aron the watcher, god of future sight, precognition, premonition, portents, and seers.

This is also a partial character spotlight on Urielle Senciro, a seer of El’Aron.  She is one of the protectors of Penndarius Greyson, one of the two protagonists of A Scholar’s Journey: The Divine Tempest.
El’Aron is the watcher; he rarely involves himself in the affairs of mortals.  Likewise, his seers are the same with very few exceptions, Urielle.
Back to El’Aron, this god sees possible futures, not THE future.  There is not one future for us, but many at any given time.  Each person\god\entity has branching decisions, though minor, do impact the future and change it accordingly.  Great events can be seen from very far away as portents and images. 
El’Aron’s seers are also granted this ability.  They see the branching decisions a person can make in the immediate future, two, three, five minutes ahead and can interpret accordingly.  But, as those decisions get farther out, the branches become harder to separate.  The seer eventually can only see the vaguest outlines.  These come as portents and emotions, mere possibilities.  But, the most important events come as overpowering visions.
Urielle is sent to observe the events in Deiyil by El’Aron, specifically Penndarius and Soren, the two protagonists.  She sees their pivotal choices, deciding the course of events for the rest of the realm.  Normal people’s actions appear as outlines before her, but they have so many branching actions at every moment of every day, that she is unable to foretell their futures.  This is why she was sent to observe, for some events can only be seen in the moment.

I hope you enjoyed the first spotlight on El’Aron, god of precognition!  There is more to come, I promise.


If you liked reading this blog, check Herrick Erickson-Brigl out on Twitter, or friend him on facebook if you like.  Also, to your right you will find the first three chapters of his book, "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest", listed under the "Pages" section.  It is currently available in ebook format and the hard copy is coming soon.


Currently listening to "Tempest" by Pendulum

If you have any private comments, concerns, or suggestions for Herrick.  You can contact him at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Hero's Journey? Why?

So, for those of you that do not know, the hero's journey, or the mono myth was first outlined more than two thousand years ago and is prevalent in the stories of every culture, across centuries of storytelling.  This simple three act structure has had a large impact on not only writing, but our societies as a whole.  But, what the heck is it?

First, I will give you a few examples of the heroes journey in modern society.  Do you remember the farm boy/normal dude who is thrust into a global conflict, but decides "No!" and runs away, only to discover that something tragic has happened that makes him go, "Aha!  Bad people must die!"?  Sound like Starwars (Luke), Lord of the Rings (Aragorn and Frodo), Harry Potter (Harry Potter), Avatar (Jake Sully), Gladiator (Maximus!), Toy Story (Woody)...Finding Nemo (Marlin)?  That is because each had elements of the hero's journey.

I'll be gentle and go with the story we all know and cherish, Star Wars: A New Hope.

Act 1: The Departure
This is where the hero leaves everything he knows and loves (The lovely desert planet of Tatooine) for the wide world of wonder (space).

1. A call to adventure:  "Help me Obiwan, you're my only hope." ring a bell?  It should, that was the call to adventure.  This is also paired with "Humble beginnings" Ex: My name is Luke and I live on a farm.
2. Refusal of the call: Luke meets Obiwan and runs back to the farm
3. Supernatural Aid: The force!
4. The crossing of the first threshold: Time to kill some empire scum and free the princess!
5. The belly of the whale: Trash compactor.

Act 2: Initiation

1. The road of trials: Time to figure out if I am a jedi.  Luke learns to use the force.
2.  Meeting with the goddess: Leia
3. Woman as the temptress: Oh, here is a fun fact.  You made out with your sister!
4. Atonement with the father: Obiwan starts speaking in Luke's head
5. Apotheosis: Luke becomes a rebel and joins the cause
6. the ultimate boon: You can lump this in with Obiwan talking to Luke and becoming a rebel.

Act 3: Return

1. Refusal of the Return: Han tries to jet and Luke won't go with him.
2. The Magic Flight: The trench run
3. Rescue from Without: Han comes back and saves his butt from Vader.
4. The crossing of the threshold: Luke succeeds and destroys the deathstar.
5. Master of two worlds: Luke is a jedi and a man, accepting both equally.
6. Freedom to live: Luke gets a medal from the princess.

That is an extremely abbreviated version of Luke's journey through the movie "Star wars: A New Hope".

Here are my thoughts.  The hero's journey is out a lot.  It absolutely packs a punch, even to this day.  But, I think that it is lazy writing, unless it serves a very specific purpose, to make the quintessential hero.

For my own book, I did use the hero's journey for both Penndarius and Soren.  But, I chose to omit certain parts purposefully.  For example, Penndarius never "Refuses the call".  Honestly, I never thought running away was very heroic.  Another thing, neither character is from humble beginnings.  Instead, you believe that Penndarius has humble beginnings, but later find out that he is a complete and total bad ass.  Why?  I believe in breaking stereotypes.  Think about it, why not create a warrior who is skilled prior to the story and then augmented to suit their skill set.

A good example of a character who is already awesome, but then augmented to suit his skill set is Ichigo from Bleach.  Born a bad ass, given powers that make him even more awesome, then you find out he did not even need them!  How awesome is that?

For Soren, my other main character, I pretty much threw out the hero's journey and just wrote the character how he should sound, a total rock star on the battlefield with a really messed up past.

These are my thoughts on one of the most influential story outlines of all time.  Take whatever you like from it, but know that you go with my blessing and good luck in all your endeavors.


If you liked reading this blog, check Herrick Erickson-Brigl out on Twitter, or friend him on facebook if you like.  Also, to your right you will find the first three chapters of his book, "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest", listed under the "Pages" section.  It is currently available in ebook format and the hard copy is coming soon.


Currently listening to "What it's like" by Everlast

If you have any private comments, concerns, or suggestions for Herrick.  You can contact him at

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sample fight scene - by Herrick Erickson-Brigl

One of the things that defines my writing style is my fight scenes.  I have been told that they are intense, cinematic, brutal, and have a mild humor to them.  Some of you probably aren’t all that into the long setup, so below is short summary labeled "Setup", then I’ve bolded the start of the fight, so you can skip to the good stuff. 

Setup:  This is between two guys, one is named Soren, one of the two main characters in my book "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest".  He is purely a hand to hand fighter.  The other is Soka, an assassin who uses a long sword.  I hope you enjoy it.

To get you in the mood:  Listen to “Trollhammaren” by Finntroll

Soka and Soren faced off on the wooden dance floor of the bar.  The area was wide enough for the two of them to fight and not hurt others. 
Soka threw off his dark cloak and revealed a man clothed in a black tunic and long tight fitting tan pants, bound together with a rope at his waste.  His face was scrunched up in anger.  He slowly drew a long sword from his belt, the blade made a hissing whisper as it was removed from the sheathe.  All the while, Soka was holding Soren firmly in his gaze.
Soren was wearing a red sleeveless shirt and loose fitting black pants.  On either hand he had sturdy metal gauntlets.  Soren bent down and stretched his back.  He turned his neck from left to right and popping it with a series of clicks in rapid succession.  Then, he proceeded to do the same with the rest of his body as he loosened up the rest of his body.
“Don’t hold back or I am going to break you.” Soka snarled at Soren.
Soren shrugged his shoulders, smiled, and slowly brought one foot behind his back.   He put his weight on it and brought an open palm up, “Wait.” he said and put his hand up to say “stop”.
Soka turned his head in curiosity.
There was a band of players to Soren’s right and they had an array of instruments.  The jaunty toons that brought the bar to life came out of their instruments.  They had everything from woodwinds, to percussion, to string instruments in their possession and were quick skilled with them. 
Soren looked over at a band of players.  He reached into his pants, pulled out a coin purse, and tossed it to them.  “Play something I can tap my foot to.” He said with a winning smile.
The band leader grabbed the purse out of the air, “One two...” he tapped off, then his band began playing a quick, pumping melody.
Soren turned his attention back to the fight, “Now, where were we?” and with a quick flick of his hand, as if to say. “Come on.” Towards Soka, the fight was on.
Soka rushed at the Soren.  He dipped and weaved right as he was about to reach him and slashed downwards with the sword.  Soren parried with one of his gauntlets and the blade clashed against the metal strapped to Soren’s arms with a shriek that sent sparks flying into the air.  The swordsman was quick and uppercut slashed at the hand to hand warrior, attempting to catch Soren from stem all the way to stern.
Soren sidestepped to the right just enough and the blade passed a hairs breath from his face. 
Quickly, before Soka could respond with a follow-up, Soren swiftly punched Soka in the solar plexus, knocking the wind out of the swordsman, and stunning him for a brief moment.
The fight had taken Soren and Soka dangerously close to the edge of the arena and Soren had his back almost to the wall, despite his counter offensive.
Soka was still open for more attacks though and Soren was not done.
The quick blow had opened Soka up for another attack and Soren obliged him, putting a simple sidekick into the swordsman’s stomach, doubling him over.  Soren followed that up with a quick rising uppercut.
The crowd watching their fight let out a collective wince for the man.
Taking the opening and using the environment to his advantage, back flipped onto the wall and pushed off towards Soka.  The maneuver sent him front flipping towards Soka and just before he reached the swordsman, Soren flattened his body out, feet first.  Instead of colliding with his adversary though, Soren opted to wrap his feet around Soka’s neck instead. 
The maneuver caught Soka off guard as he was recovering his wits, once again.
Soren gave him an apologetic shrug, mid air.  As if to say, “sorry” for what was going to come next.
Soren used his momentum in a creative, instead of piling into his opponent; instead, he jerked to the right and swung around Soka.  Then, when he was directly behind his opponent, Soren curled his legs into his body and angled his body towards the ground, changing the direction of his fall, putting the weight of his jump into a powerful throw.
Soka was pulled off his feet violently and was thrown across the floor.  He skidded and tumbled along the ground, uncontrolled.  He was stopped by the other end of the dance floor, about five feet from the wall at the back of the dance floor..  A groan escaped his lips as the pain from the attack started setting in.
Soka looked up and his eyes opened with surprise. 
As Soren was about to let go of Soka, during the throw, he had planted both hands on the ground.  When he completed the attack, Soren sprang off his hands, throwing himself into a quick back spring, followed by another, another, and another to build momentum.  When Soren was almost to Soka, Soren bounded off the ground and threw himself into a spin that would have made an expert gymnast jealous.  Flattening out in the air like a sideways whirling tornado, so that his body was perpendicular with Soka’s as he neared the fallen swordsman, Soren’s spin got increasingly fast as he whipped his arms in and out, efficiently putting Soren into an almost uncontrollable rotation, arced at Soka.
Just as Soren was about to reach Soka, the warrior threw one of his legs out, shin angled down.  The entire force from the spin was pushed into his leg.
The entire room was silent and it was as if time itself was holding its breath as Soren descended.  Every person watching the fight was so enthralled, watching for the next move in the epic fight.
Soka barely had time to breath, let alone dodge.  But, it was a testament to his experience in battle that Soka kept the presence of mind to roll to the right in a desperate dodge, towards the wall of the dance floor.  Just in time. 
Soren’s leg smashed into the ground, slamming into the ground with his knee and shin flat into the wood, crushing the floor into a torrent of splinters that rose up around him in the air.
Seeing Soka dodge, most warriors would have allowed their opponent to stand up.  That was the honorable thing to do.  But, there are no rules in a bar fight.
With the speed of a cat, while the splinters were still hanging mid air, Soren spun his body around and swept his foot towards his opponents head.  The attack was so quick that Soka wasn’t hurt; it actually pushed the assassin a foot and a half into the air. 
Soka was curious, why had that not hurt?
That was Soren’s intention. Swiftly, Soren rolled forward and halfway through, slid straight, so that he slid under Soka and stopped facing the rising assassin’s back. 
Soren cocked both arms back and double punched upwards into Soka’s back.  Air whooshed from the swordsman’s lungs as he was pushed even higher into the air.  The impact from the attack gave Soren a couple feet between him and Soka.
Soren looked to his right and saw the lip of the dance floor, just an arms length away now, “This is going to hurt you, just as much as it is going to hurt me.” Soren promised Soka with a forewarned wince.
Soren quickly performed a handspring to his feet, crouched just under Soka with his legs coiled underneath him.  Soren exploded from the ground towards Soka's rising form.  He grabbed the assassin around the waist, twisted mid air, and arched the two of them towards the wall, easily angling Soka head first, towards the raised lip of the dance floor.  
Soka collided with the raised floor and his head plowed through the woodwork with a painful cracking and crunching sound as the wood shattered under the enormous pressure from the attack. 
Soren let go and managed to aim himself towards the level below.  He landed with ease and rolled to his feet.  Then, Soren looked back at the assassin and a look of brief sadness flashed across his face. 
Soka's body hung vertical for the briefest moment, suspended in an ephemeral moment in time, then he collapsed, head still firmly stuck into the ground.  The rest of him hit the ground in an uncomfortable position, but Soka was still breathing.
"That had to hurt." Soren said to himself.  He looked down at one of his hands and noticed one of his nails bleeding. "Dammit!  I broke a nail!" He exclaimed in frustration.

If you liked reading this blog, check Herrick Erickson-Brigl out on Twitter, or friend him on facebook if you like.  Also, to your right you will find the first three chapters of his book, "A Scholar's Journey: The Divine Tempest", listed under the "Pages" section.  It will be available May 15th in hard copy and ebook formats.


Currently listening to "Use it" by 28 Days

If you have any private comments, concerns, or suggestions for Herrick.  You can contact him at