Monthly Archives: March 2011

Writing exercise

Recently PezWitch and I have been discussing professional writing. What has been working for me over the last year is I make a concerted effort to sit down and write a minimum of 250 words per day. Some days I write more, some days I go back and edit a previous days work and add another 250 words to it. The whole idea behind forcing myself to write 250 words per day was just to get into the habit of writing. Even on days I didn’t feel like it or had nothing to write about, I still sat down and wrote. The sole exception has been when I was really sick, but if I could get out of bed and sit at a computer for about 30 minutes, I wrote my 250 words. Most of the output is this blog. You will probably notice I don’t publish 250 words a day here, that is because often I trash what I have written or I spent a couple of days writing a bigger post.

My new writing exercise is to write a short story of about 10,000 words. I am chopping it into 5 chapters of 2000 words each, I figure that is a comfortable output for 1 week. I am further breaking each chapter into 4 scenes, approximately 500 words each, which I should be able to do easily in an hour or two. Chapter one is done, hopefully in another 4 weeks I will have a first draft. If this works and I try again, I may try cutting the story into 3 acts and each act has 3 scenes, similar to how plays are written.


If you don’t know, Virtualbox is a program distributed for free by Oracle that lets you install other operating systems into a virtual computer within your host system. Most people I know use it to run Windows under Linux for those irritating programs that will never get ported to Linux like iTunes. I do have one Windows program I run which I use once a month, but it runs fine under WINE, so beyond that I have not needed Windows in a long time.

What I use Virtualbox for is testing different distributions of Linux. It use to be I waited 3-4 weeks to install the new version of Ubuntu, because usually something is broken and needs to be fixed and it usually takes Canonical a couple of weeks to work out all the little issues. Since I started using Virtualbox, I have started installing the beta release a couple months before the official release just so I can see what is being done and if the major issues can be worked around. For instance, I know the next release is going to contain Firefox 4, I need to know if the extensions I use are going to work immediately or if I will need to give the extensions programmers a couple of weeks to catch up. I also need to know if Dropbox, HuluDesktop, Citrix Reciever and Truecrypt are going to work or not.

It also gives me the opportunity to screw around with alternate ways of doing things without totally screwing up my main operating system. My primary Window Manager is Gnome, but KDE just did a complete rewrite of their code base, so I am interested in how that is coming along. Ubuntu is also experimenting with the Unity Desktop which they say will be the default choice of Window Manager in future versions of Ubuntu, it is good to have a preview of that, so I can decide whether or not I want to switch to it or install Gnome and continue to use it. As a side note, at this time I am not impressed with Unity.

The Axiom’s of D&D

Back in the day, Jerry “Stomper” Stoddard (my mentor in all things D&D) had these axioms he lived by when playing D&D. I don’t remember ever having seen an actual list, but he certainly spouted them off quite a lot. As closely as I can remember them, here are Stompers Axiom’s of D&D.

  1. Don’t fuck with the DM.
  2. Don’t fuck with women, children, old men.
  3. There is no such thing as unguarded treasure.
  4. Never under any circumstance volunteer information to unknown NPC’s.
  5. Always check for traps.
  6. Once you have checked for traps, CHECK AGAIN !
  7. Don’t stick your hand into holes, press buttons, pull ropes or levers, just don’t.
  8. If it seems too good to be true, prepare to make a difficult saving throw.
  9. If it can drain levels or turn you to stone, RUN !
  10. If its wet and the Bartender didn’t hand it to you in a tankard, it will probably kill you.

Child Gamers and Child Like Gamers

Over at Wizards of the Coast, Uri Kurlianchik wrote an article about handling young children while teaching them to play D&D.

It is an interesting article and is probably applicable to a wide range of situations involving misbehaving children. More importantly, I have seen teenage and even adult players who fall into some of those archetypes he talks about. I once saw a grown man tear up his character sheet and walk out of game after his character got level drained. I have also had another player scream at me, start crying and leave the game because I objected to him giving out important information about who we were and what we were doing to an unknown and probably unfriendly NPC. I could write 10 posts easy about all the power mongers, attention whores and down right bastards I have gamed with over the years.

Happy 80th Birthday to William Shatner, who inspired a generation of nerds to boldly go where no man had gone before.

Orginal Star Wars LP

PezWitch picked up a copy of the original LP for Star Wars off of ebay for like $10, which included this poster, now hanging in her grrl cave.

2011-03-19 15.06.10

1st level characters suck

So we started our new campaign last night. I started them off in Stoneburg, hex 808 on the Borderlands map of Points of Light. In the grand tradition of sandbox games, I presented them with several choices. They could go join the Dukes Militia and help defend the Dukes territory in various capacities. They could go to the Temple of Veritas and become gods own trouble shooters. They could become wise guys in the local crime family. Finally, they could enter the employ of the local hedge wizard and get involved in whatever hidden agenda he has.

The party decided to go see Professor Stormwynd, the local Mage and see what kind trouble he has brewing. Stormwynd asks them to go get the whisker of a fairy dragon for him. He tells them there is one in a grove in the Grenar Forrest, about 30 miles to the North East of Stoneburg, he gives them a sleep elixir and tells them if they can deliver this to his face it should knock him out for a while. So our intrepid party sets out to the Grenar Forrest by way of the Andros Pass and gets ambushed by 8 kobolds. The fight starts out badly when Ahbrom the Ranger gets hit with a butt load of penetration damage from a crossbow bolt and in the subsequent turn takes critical hit which leaves him with just 3 hit points. This forced Narumi the Cleric to stop attacking kobolds and heal Ahbrom. Even with the heal, Ahbrom is unable to hit a kobold until the last round of combat. After a poor showing in the first 2 rounds, they recovered and were able to defeat the kobolds, but in the early stages it looked like they might suffer a humiliating TPK.

After playing mid to high level characters for the last couple of years, it was really surreal watching this group flail around having difficulty with a group of kobolds.

Here is the starting line up:


By the way, this is my 250th post.

Some of these look fun

The song, I have no real comment on, however the video is ….interesting. While some of them look painful and others are just down right weird, there are couple of them I say, what the hell, you only live once.

Stats do matter

I have been thinking about it and I have decided that a characters stats do matter. I have been hearing for years a good player can play anything, including a character with mediocre stats. I certainly agree and I have proved it on many occasions. I have played plenty of characters whose highest stat was 13, however, those were not the characters I remember. The characters I had the most fun with were the ones that were exceptional in some way. Even die hard role players will go for the character with the Strength of 18 first if presented with a set pregenerated characters, even if the other characters are more interesting to play by way of skill sets and background information.

Back in the day, the person in our group who claimed he gamed for the role playing challenge was also the guy who came up with the divide 90 points between the six attributes method of character generation, so you could play what you wanted. I bring this up because years later I realized while I had divided my points in what I considered to be a reasonable fashion, he always had the same stats, Str 18, Dex 18, Con 18, Int 18, Wis 9, Cha 9. If he played a Cleric, he would switch Int and Wis, but usually that was his character. In retrospect it was a ridiculous way to generate characters, but it proves my point, stats do matter, even to role players.

40 Years Ago Today

Today is the 40th anniversary of the computer virus. On March 15th 1971 a clever computer programmer released a proof of concept virus called “Creeper” which successfully replicated itself across his internal network. I wonder if at any point while he was doing this, his lab partner ever stopped and said “There is no way this ends well !”.


Happy Pi day or if you prefer, Happy Steak and BJ day.

Arduin Grimoire Redux

Friday night we spent the evening doing character generation for our replacement campaign. Seeing as we have been having difficulty with attendance, I allowed everyone to roll up two characters. Feeling in a particularly good mood, I decided to give each character a roll off of the Special Ability Charts in Arduin Grimoire Volume 1. Back in the day, we used the Arduin Grimoires a lot, we had Techo’s and Phraints running around and hardly a campaign went by where one of the weird Arduin magic items appeared.

These charts appeal to me because they add a bit of background to the character by adding a single phrase to their description like; Natural Woodsman, Good Horseman or Talent for throwing daggers. There is also the possibility of picking up something very cool like Midget Hill Giant or Sired by a Vampire. All of these things brought some sort of special ability, usually +1 with daggers, +2 save versus spells or 20% discount when buying horses and  sometimes there was a trade off like -1 to Charisma. Again occasionally you got something really cool like immunity to fire, immunity to level drain or even +2 to everything.

I enjoyed this exercise so much, I think I might sit down one these afternoons and convert the charts to HackMaster and make them a regular part of my game. I might convert Phaints too while I am at it.

Hot Elf Chick is proudly participating in James Smith of The Underdark Gazette plot to bring attention to the Old School Renaissance by posting pictures of hot elf chicks. In this case Mia Rose from WhoreLore (formally known as World of Whorecraft) episode Two.


Science Fiction Fans in 1939

Recently Time Magazine started publishing articles written decades ago online so readers could get a glimpse into the world of the 1930’s and 1940’s. One of those articles was about a small Science Fiction Convention taking place in Manhattan. The article is condescending and in some cases outright mean, proving that SciFi fandom has never gotten any respect, no real surprise there.,9171,761661-1,00.html

10 things I may or may not miss about old school Linux

Over at Tech Republic Jack Wallen wrote an article about the things he missed most about, what I can only guess is pre Ubuntu Linux.

It seems to me, many of the things he misses about Linux are still out there and all he has to do is choose one of the hobbist distro’s that make you build your system from the bottom up. Personally, I like that I don’t have to fight to get my USB ports to work. What I find most interesting is, you will never hear anyone ever say “Here are 10 things I miss about Windows 95”.

RE: Companions of Xarth

This year is not shaping up well. Even the Friday night game seems to have lost its momentum. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, after all the group is almost 9 years old, and it has been a good run. The problem is I don’t want to let it go. Unfortunately, Bruce has been having difficulty with his Internet and will probably not be attending the game for the foreseeable future and Thor has been ill off and on for more than a month. This leaves me with two active players, David and Scott. This also makes it difficult to run the current campaign which is not just high level, but really requires a broad mix of characters.

So what I am thinking is putting the current campaign on hiatus until Bruce and Thor are better able to play and start something new. This would allow me to focus more tightly on David and Scott and allow them the opportunity to build a balanced party better able to adventure. This would also be a good transition time to switch over to the Points of Light setting. Perhaps this is a good opportunity to change the name of the server and possibly the group name as well. I think I will change the server name to Carnifex for consistency, since it resides on the sub-domain. For the group name I am not so sure of, the Companions of Xarth name has a long and proud (?) history reaching back to Billings Montana in the 80’s, so I am less inclined to change it. I am not completely sure what I want to do yet, I suppose time will tell.

RE: RIP Gary Gygax, July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008

Gary Gygax left this world a darker place 3 years ago today. As I have said before, Dungeons & Dragons has been my life long hobby and provided me with thousands of hours of entertainment which would not have been possible without Gary Gygax. As per my usual tradition, on this day I will be doing a 21d20 Dice Salute and tonight at my game, I will set aside an empty chair at my table in memory of those gamers who passed before us.

A Poke at Texas

Picture no longer available

It is true, sometimes I do wonder why I live here, but then I go back to Montana and remember, Oh yeah, thats why. 😉