Monthly Archives: September 2010

New Earth

Gliese 581g is the 6th planet in the Gliese 581 system located in the Libra constellation. Astronomers have determined 581g is neither too hot nor too cold for water to exist in liquid form, it also appears to have an atmosphere and gravity. All of these thing point to the possibility of sustaining life. This leads to two exciting possibilities, first life may have already developed there and second, it could be a possible location for colonization at some point in the future. Unfortunately we will probably not know either of these things for a very very long time. Gliese 581g is 120,000 billion miles away, considering at our current technological level it would take us theoretically 85 years (realistically  more like 50,000 years) to reach our nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, a mere 4 light years away, traveling to Gliese 581g is WAY out of our league.

http://topnews.co.uk/213939-planet-libra-constellation-capable-sustaining-life

In my book this is pretty exciting stuff. Okay, I have excepted I will never get into space, the Challenger accident ended serious space exploration for a generation, we are only now recovering. However, this has never deterred me from dreaming the dream of every 8 year old boy of someday visiting another planet, I may never get there, but now I know there is a chance some distant decedent will someday walk on Gliese 581g and maybe even call it home.

Edit: I updated the travel times to Alpha Centauri

Finally, a laptop to satisfy PezWitch

The Origins System EON17 laptop is a monster system starting at $2500. It has an i7 processor, 2 NVIDIA 480M video cards in SLI, 24 GB of RAM, Blu-Ray optical drive and three hard drives. My guess is this machine gets about 3 minutes of battery life, but who cares, this thing will laugh at you for playing World of Warcraft and demand you put a worthy game in it.

http://www.originpc.com/eon17-gaming-laptop-features.asp

http://gizmodo.com/5648868/an-ungodly-24-gb-of-ram-in-one-desktop+whipping-laptop

Sick friends

I just learned Frank Stevens is in the hospital after an emergency amputation of his lower leg, I have no idea the cause of this. Back in the day, we use to goto Franks house and play D&D in his basement. I have not seen him in many many years, but as I remember him, he always had a dirty joke and the offer of a beer ready for anyone visiting his home. He is also the man who got me interested in joining the National Guard, I am not sure it was the wisest choice I ever made, but it certainly had a great effect on my life.

Frank, I wish you well.

The cake is not a lie

Here is what the cake looked like after I finished with it.

 

Picture no longer available

I loath being middle aged

We went to Fredericksburg yesterday, just for an afternoon excursion. This morning I am really beat, my right knee and lower back are killing me. I also seem to have some odd muscles aching me in peculiar ways. Normally I am pretty okay with getting older, but only because it is better than the alternative. However, today, with my body being in direct rebellion, I really wish I was 25 again, heck, I’d settle for 35.

Happy Birthday Pezwitch

Today is my Wifes birthday. Evey year I make her a cake, which is practically the only cooking I do beyond the bbq. As you can see from the picture below, some years are more successful than others.

Picture no longer available

The cake was made with three 9 inch round pans. the first two I baked cake made from a cake mix and spruced up with pudding mix, sour cream and 4 eggs. The third pan I pressed ice cream into. Once the baking was done, I stacked them with the ice cream in the middle and frosted it. Later today I will decorate it with some white frosting and strawberries. For some strange reason PezWitch has been walking around the house all morning mumbling “The cake is a lie.”. I think I should have gotten her a bottle Prozac for her birthday rather than a Kindle.

Oddly quiet week

Nothing of interest is bubbling to the surface of my mind today. Tomorrow is PezWitch’s birthday. I will probably have something to say then.

My Character, Take 2

In my last post I talked about rolling up my next characters, I made the following rolls; 8/21, 12/60, 13/52, 7/63, 11/71, 17/86, and 5/76. I then went on to build a Gnomeling Thief/Cleric. Since then I got to thinking about how I wanted my new character to actually play out. He is basically a thug who prays to an equally thuggish god, neither of whom are particularly enlightened.

In the comments for that post, I said I always hated being ineffective in combat and all a high Wisdom nets me is a few extra spells. I am thinking it might be better to set Wisdom just high enough to get the the two bonus 1st level spells but not high enough for the bonus 2nd and 3rd level spells, which I think is 14. Then up my Strength to 18 to get a +3 to hit and +6 to damage to help increase combat effectiveness. Of course, if you think about it, all I really need is a 9 Wisdom to be Cleric.

The second thing I wanted to look at was weapons. Historically Clerics have a bad choice of weapons, being limited to blunt type weapons. This locks them out of high dice and multi dice damage weapons. Last night I remembered Kenzer & Company listed Frying Pan in their Equipment Guide as a weapon and I remembered it did ridiculous amounts of damage. Sure enough when I looked it up, Frying Pan does battle axe type damage. Of course the book also says it is appropriate for bar room brawls, but no self respecting warrior would ever run around the country side using one as a weapon. My thought was, well, I am neither a warrior nor self respecting, so I should have no trouble using it at all.

I also went with Gnome this time, because Gnomes get slightly more BP. I also took common as my primary language and eliminated Gnome. The saved BP allowed me to take Opportunist, which gives me a bonus 5% to any percentile roll, a huge bonus for any thief. I added Culinary Arts as a skill to help justify the Frying Pan weapon choice. I think this version of the character is going to be far more fun to play than the original.

Here is the new stat block;

Str 18/11, Dex 16/10, Con 12/21, Int 9/21, Wis 14/02, Cha 5/01, Com 3/63
Race Gnome, Class Thief/Cleric, Level 1/1, Alignment Chaotic Neutral, Hit Points 26
Quirks/Flaws – Misguided, Chronic Nightmares, Enmity Towards Assassins
Skills – Common 100%, Religion 30%, Culinary Arts 19%
PP 15% OL 20% FT 15% RT 15% MS 35% HIS 35% DN 45% CW 45% RL 0%
Talents – Ambidextrous, Follow Through Healing, Opportunist
Leather Armor (AC6), Frying Pan x2 (3d4/2d4+1/1d8), Back Pack, Cloak, 27 GP.

My newest character

So this Friday, David is going to run a HackMaster game. We spent some time last game discussing what we wanted to do as a party. I always loved the idea of a theme party, where all the characters have something in common. This was first tried by us back in the early 80’s in a campaign dubbed the Children of the Scar, where we were all siblings. I don’t really remember much about the campaign, the plot was over reaching and the story muddled. Then a couple years ago we tried it again, by building a group of Zealots, which was mildly amusing. So this time around, we decided we should all be thieves, multi-classed with something else. The party is essentially, the boys from the hood. After some discussion, it was decided Scott and Thor would play a Thief/Fighter, Bruce would play a Thief/Magic-User and I would be a Thief/Cleric.

I pulled out my GameScience dice and rolled my stats. I rolled; 8/21, 12/60, 13/52, 7/63, 11/71, 17/86, and 5/76. Since I am playing the Thief/Cleric, I put the two highest rolls on my Wisdom and my Dexterity. Of course I embrace the dump stat and assigned my lowest rolls to Charisma and Comeliness. so my initial assignment was as follows; Strength: 11/71, Dexterity: 13/52, Constitution: 12/60, Intelligence: 8/21, Wisdom: 17/86, Charisma: 5/76 and Comeliness: 7/63. Because I chose to play the Thief/Cleric, I am limited to gnome or gnomeling (Part gnome,part halfling), I choose gnomeling, only because to my knowledge no one had ever played one. The following is the stat block for my newest character.

Str 12/21, Dex 17/02, Con 12/10, Int 9/21, Wis 18/11, Cha 5/01, Com 4/63
Race Gnomeling, Class Thief/Cleric, Level 1/1, Alignment Chaotic Neutral, Hit Points 26
Quirks/Flaws – Misguided, Chronic Nightmares, Enmity Towards Assassins
Skills – Gnomish 100%, Common 19%, Religion 31%
PP 50% OL 25% FT 10% RT 10% MS 30% HIS 30% DN 30% CW 50% RL 0%
Talents – Follow Through Healing, Ambidextrous
Leather Armor (AC5), Club x2 (1d6), BackPack, Cloak, 129 GP.

Review: Points of Light

gmg4380coverlargeProduct Summery:
Name: Points of Light
Publisher: Goodman Games
Author: Robert Conley
Line: None (Generic)
Cost: $12.99
Pages: 48
Webpage: http://www.goodman-games.com/4380preview.html

Points of Light is a setting, not tied to any particular game system, although it refers to NPC’s as Class/Level, Fighter/5 for instance and monsters are described by Hit Dice. This product is what is best described as a classic sandbox setting. The idea is instead of a linear plot adventure where the characters have a villain, and a goal to obtain, the sandbox game presents the characters with nothing more than a fist full of rumors and the GM develops the plot on the fly as the players decide which rumors to follow up and which adventure to take on. My friend Bruce is the master of this sort of game, while I tend towards the more linear style.

The layout and appearance of the product are good, but not spectacular. The art is nice, again nothing outstanding, but no really bad pieces either. There is an index, but unfortunately I didn’t find it overly helpful. It would be infinitely better had it listed each location by map and hex number.  The big area maps are good and the author made the extra effort of including little maps of significant towns and even a couple of buildings.

Points of Light gives us four areas to play our game in. Each area description starts with a 100×100 mile map, the maps are divided in 5 mile hexes, each hex is numbered for easy reference. Although not every hex has an entry, the way things are mapped out and described, each and every 5 mile hex has potential for the PC’s to get into all sorts of trouble, to the delight of Roll Players everywhere. This very much reminds me of the old Judges Guild Wilderlands campaigns, if you were a fan back in the day, you will appreciate this all the more. Each area has its own flavor and its own set of challenges, to quote the press release;

Wildland:

The fall of the Bright Empire left warring factions in its wake. As savage barbarians and wicked humanoids roam the land, the last bastions of civilization cower behind their crumbling city walls. A dark age has come, and none may live to tell the tale.

Southland:

On the frontiers of the Great Kingdom, the nations of men, elves and dwarves join together against the wicked elves of Nighportal Keep and the Orcs of the Bloody Fist. A realm is yours for the taking, if you can carve it from the wilderness.

Borderland:

Two factions clash over war-torn fields, battling for dominance in a civil war that that has torn a once-mighty empire in two. When brother strives against brother, and blood runs in the streets, who will emerge to unify the broken land — and at what cost, peace?

The Swamps of Acheron:

In the Outer Planes, amid fetid swamplands and ice-choked mountains, the fell god Sarrath holds court. In a realm where gods stalk the earth, will you dare to take a stand, or will you succumb to evil’s siren song and take up the Serpent Banner?

The only thing that irked me about this, was these areas do not necessarily fit together, which may or may not be a good thing depending on who you are. Someone on another blog, mentioned he thought each map was actually the same area, but at different points in history, with time separating them rather than geography, which I found mildly interesting. I suspect I will be more inclined to use them as different areas in the game world and time period.

The running theme through all the areas is the major political power in the region the Bright Empire has collapsed and two conflicting factions, the followers of Delaquain, the Goddess of Honor and Justice (Chaotic Good) and Sarrath, the God of War and Order (Lawful Evil) are fighting to fill the power vacuum. The other gods mentioned are; Veritas, the God of Truth and Law (Lawful Good), Thoth, the God of Knowledge and Wisdom (Neutral), Azeel, the blood god (Chaotic Evil) and Hathor, Delaquain’s mother (??). However none of the others are as significant as the first two. Plenty enough to keep Role Players interested in the religious and political intrigue of the setting.

Overall, this is an excellent product and in this day and age of $50 books, for $12.99 this is a bargain as well. There are a couple of minor issues, but no show stoppers. If you are looking for a nice setting built specifically for an open ended campaign, this product is for you. If you are the sort of GM who needs a hard bound book and multiple supplements for your campaign setting, you should avoid this product.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 3
Game Mechanic: N/A
Setting: 5
Overall: 4

The World of Caldoom

This is the unofficial announcement of the forthcoming demise of Caldoom, the amalgam game world we have been playing in for the last eight years. Caldoom actually started off as two separate game worlds, the one used by me for the games I ran in Bozeman Montana and the world where Bruce ran the Companions of Xarth campaign. When I started this group in 2002, I melded several ideas from Kenzer & Companies Garweeze Wurld and a couple locations from the campaign Jerry “Stomper” Stoddard (distantly related) ran in the very early years of the 80’s. Then a couple years ago after Bruce started GMing, we fused the two game worlds making one huge continent, my world being in the south, his world in the north.

For the past year or so, I have been putting a lot of thought to the long term of my campaign. I mean, when I started this, I really didn’t think we would be playing eight years later, but here we are. So I thought it is time to start planning for the next eight years. One of my considerations was, do we want to continue in Caldoom. Calddom has the advantage of familiarity, its disadvantage is familiarity. What I mean by that is on the one hand we have been playing here so long, the players are intimately familiar with the details of the world in much the same way a real person is familiar with the real world, we know who major political powers are, we know where its safe to travel, we know where to hide. The downside, is there really are no surprises anymore. Recently I replaced the ruler of BronzeHelm, Arbusto, with an old player character named Arcanis. I did this to show that player characters can have long term effects on a grand scale in the game world. When I started looking at the history of Caldoom, it was literally scarred with actions of player characters, the sacking of Odian, for instance. In short, there is a lot of baggage here, both good and bad.

So about a month ago I started talking to Bruce about leaving Caldoom for a new game world. After some discussion, we decided it would be fun leave behind the old world and explore something new. Since we both work full time at serious grownup jobs, neither of us has the time or inclination to build a brand new game world, so I suggested the Points of Light sandbox campaign world, which gives us four areas which are outlines with just enough detail to be interesting, but are a blank slate otherwise. We brought the notion to the other players and no one objected and so it was decided, our current campaign would be the Caldoom swan song, the last great campaign played there. I will say this however, never say never, we may eventually return here and play again, after all it was 30 years in the making, and was as much our childhood home as Billings Montana was.

More Mike Grell Art

This is a James Bond piece I picked up when Mike Grell was in Billings Montana. This is actually a photocopy, he had a pile of them sitting on the table and he was selling them for $5 a piece.

 

Stop the G33k Girl on G33k Girl Hate

I am hi-jacking Carnifex’s blog for a moment because I have something to say about a video that has been gathering hate comments because it was made by four very attractive women and, apparently, Geek Girls cannot be attractive. (This is the blog, Edgar of all trades, that inspired me to write this.)

http://embed.break.com/1914163
Geek and Gamer Girls Song – Watch more Funny Videos

I am a 46 year old woman and I am a computer technician, a hands on computer tech. I have been called a geek, a nerd, and unfeminine because I choose to work in a male dominated field. Every week someone comes into the store where I work and asks to talk to a man because they don’t trust a woman technician, so I know first hand about the prejudice that female geeks face in the real world.

This is my reality and I put up with it because I love my job.

I think about my life 30 years ago: I loved Star Wars, read science fiction, played Atari 2600 and was fascinated with computers. I wanted to grow up to be Han Solo, Logan (of Logan’s Run), Scotty, Starbuck, or Ford Prefect. Isaac Asimov was my hero.

The downside to all of this was I also had no female friends who were into the same stuff I was and I had no female role-models.

This did not mean I was awkward or unattractive or unpopular, I just felt like I was split in two – There was the Girly Me who had sleepovers and baked cookies and experimented with fashion and makeup and read romance novels. And there was the Nerdy Me who spent late nights playing Atari and reading Science Fiction and dreaming about the future and traveling to other planets.

I enjoyed this video (except, Han did NOT shoot first – Han shot ONLY! But I digress.) Anyway, I enjoyed this video because it made me happy to see women who appeared to be having fun doing the things I love.

I was not insulted in any way because the women in the video happen to be young and attractive. I did not think that they needed to have an overweight 46 year old woman in the video to represent my demographic and “a real geek girl”. The thought never crossed my mind. I enjoyed the video, shared it on FaceBook and downloaded the MP3 so I could put it on Carnifex’s iPhone as the ring-tone for my phone number. It never once occurred to me to feel marginalized or be insulted, it was just fun.

And when I started reading about the controversy I got upset. I specifically became upset because other women are putting Team Unicorn down.

Why are we hating on each other? Why can’t sexy women be geeks? (And anyway, who defines sexy? Carnifex thinks I am attractive, so does that mean I can’t be Geek Girl?)  Shouldn’t we be celebrating the fact that there are other geek girls? That we aren’t alone anymore?

Review: PathFinder RPG

pathfinder_rpg_core_rulebook_coverProduct Summery:
Name: Pathfinder
Publisher: Paizo Publishing
Author: Jason Bulmahn (Lead Designer)
Line: Pathfinder/D&D3.x
Cost: $49.99 ($9.99 for the PDF)
Pages: 576
Webpage: http://paizo.com/cgi-bin/WebObjects/Store.woa/22/wa/browse?path=pathfinderRPG&wosid=V4S78hOggQmoBx7Ytb2xyw

Pathfinder is the direct decedent of Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 (D&D3) and is widely considered to be D&D 3.75, I point this out upfront because I personally have never been a fan of the D&D 3.x edition. I feel is deviated from the original source material too far and is for all intense and purposes a different game all together from Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions (AD&D). Had it been released under a different name, I would probably have liked the game much better. Which brings us back to Pathfinder, which does not carry the D&D moniker, but does use the D&D3 game system made possible by the System Reference Document being released under the Open Game License.

The core rule book is essentially the Players Handbook and the Game Masters Guide combined, which makes the $50 price tag a bit more bearable. The book is well organized and things are reasonably easy to find. The art is good, very professionally done, however there is a heavy bent towards Dungeon Punk style art, which I find unappealing most of the time.

If you are currently playing D&D3 and are looking for continued support for your game, this is the product for you. The game mechanics are nearly identical to those of D&D3 and moving your game to Pathfinder will be seamless and painless, chances are good your players may not even notice the transition. The increasing Armor Class (as opposed to the AD&D decreasing Armor Class) and the unified dice mechanic of d20 + Modifier vs Difficulty Class are both present and unchanged from D&D3. Virtually all d20 and OGL material published in the last 10 years is compatible with Pathfinder.

The best thing about Pathfinder is the cost of of the PDF. Paizo, as an anti-piracy measure is making the PDF of the Pathfinder core rule book available from their website for $10. This was a brilliant move, because most people are honest and will pay a reasonable price for a good product and over all, Pathfinder is a good product and $10 is a fantastic price.

Summery (Scale of 1-5):
Appearance and Layout: 3
Game Mechanic: 2 (I am not a fan of the d20 game mechanic)
Setting: N/A
Overall: 2.5 (PDF version is a 3)

Linux Weekend Project

I am finally getting around to doing a Linux Portable Apps install. The basic idea is, I do a clean minimal install of Ubuntu, which is done by installing from the Ubuntu alternate install CD and at the initial boot up screen right after it asks for language, press F4 and choose command line only install. I then ran “apt-get update” and “apt-get dist-upgrade” to update all the packages. Once that was done and I had rebooted, I ran the following command to install Xorg and Gnome;

sudo apt-get install gnome-core gdm network-manager-gnome human-theme
x11-xserver-utils jockey-gtk gnome-screensaver tangerine-icon-theme
gnome-themes-ubuntu ubuntu-artwork gnome-utils openssh-server file-roller
gdebi system-config-samba ubuntu-restricted-extras mc update-manager clamtk

Again I rebooted and logged into my fresh new install and as planned there are virtually no applications installed, including a web browser. I really wanted to only install applications from LinuxPortableApps.org, so the first order of business was getting FireFox downloaded. So I crossed my fingers and typed in;

wget http://www.portablelinuxapps.org/Firefox%204.0b1/download

This command after some thinking, downloaded a filed called download. I renamed the file to Firefox, made it executable and moved it to my local bin folder. Not really knowing what to expect, I fired it up. It was a bit slow starting up the first time, writing configuration files I assume, but after that worked as expected. I then went back and downloaded OpenOffice and some other necessary software from LinuxPortableApps.org. Of course I ended up installing a couple of extra libraries, most notably Webkit, so not all of the applications are actually portable or stand alone, but I suspect most of the libraries would be available on your average Linux box unless you are running some ridiculous distribution like RedHat 5.1.

Site Stats

I have been looking at my site stats for the first time a couple of years. Usually, I really don’t care much, I do this website primarily for my own amusement and as a bonus, some of my friends and family read it too. To my utter surprise, this blog has went from about 600 page requests in January, to almost 6000 in August. I have noticed an increase of strangers posting in the comments, but really not all that many and even when I count my own comments and the comments of friends and family, I still average less than 1 comment per post. My question is, who the hell are you people  ?

Summer is over

I am kind of depressed. Summer is over and it was pretty much a total waste of time. I did not do anything worthwhile or even especially fun. This really is my own fault, every Memorial day weekend I look forward over the coming summer and I always have high hopes for lots of various misadventures. But then Labor day arrives and inevitably I look back over the lost summer and realized  didn’t do anything I wanted to do. Sigh!

The Warlord

Here is a snap shot of my Warlord poster. This was done for me by Mike Grell at a small comic convention in Billings Montana around 1989. The convention had a charity auction, at the end I asked him if I made a donation, if he would do a short for me, he said $25 and I wrote the check. To my surprise, instead of grabbing his sketch pad, he grabs a magic marker and does it on a large presentation pad. When he finished and I started towards the door, some guy offered me $50 for it.

 

Running a successful game group, Part 5

How many players can a good GM be expected to handle and still run a good game ? The traditional number of course is four players, but I think 3-5 is fairly common. I have played in groups of just 1 or 2 players and while workable, is just not as enjoyable as larger groups. RPG’s are social games and with just 1 or 2 players you might as well play Magic: The Gathering or something. With larger groups, 6 probably is the outer ring of players a good GM can be expected to handle. A bad GM can of course handle any number of players badly.

I would in fact argue that a group of 7 or more players is probably going to be effectively two groups anyway. In a social context, my observations have shown a party of 7+ players will divide into two cliques and keeping the party going in the same direction becomes a challenge. In game context, everything slows down in the 7+ player game, combat becomes long, drawn out and tedious, discussions about actions become geometrically longer and can be made worse by competing alpha personalities.The best thing to do if your game expands to 7+ players, my advise is to break the group into separate games. If you can run two games a week, then great, it will probably be an easy split, if not, then you will have talk one of the other players into running the new game.

Mike Grell will be at Comic Con Austin

Mike Grell is hands down, the greatest comic artist and writer of all time. Do not bother arguing with me, you will get no where. He has done all the books I have loved the most, the Warlord, Legion of Superheroes, Green Lantern, Green Arrow and Jon Sable, just to name a few. I have a huge picture of the Warlord he drew for me at a small comic book convention in Billings Montana in the mid 80’s, it is pretty close to my most prized possession, it is right there along side my Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook autographed by Gary Gygax at GenCon 88. I was excited about going to Comic Con Austin before, now, nothing could keep me away.

http://www.wizardworld.com/mikegrell.html

Gamescience Dice

These two videos should be required watching for all dice chuckers everywhere. You do not necessarily have to take everything he says at face value and I am not implying that ONLY Gamescience dice are fit for play. However this is an interesting piece because it explains in a very eye opening way, how dice are made and tells us where the mythical “Lucky Dice” and “Cursed Dice” come from. I personally swear by Gamescience dice and would never use anything else at the table. Case in point, at GeekFest when I played the PathFinder game, the GM supplied Chessex dice to those who did not have dice, I of course brought my own, but one of the other players was on a bad rolling streak until I lent him one of my Gamescience dice and his rolls improved immediately.

Part One
http://www.youtube.com/v/bR2fxoNHIuU?fs=1&hl=en_US

Part Two

http://www.youtube.com/v/PxmkWrDbn34?fs=1&hl=en_US