Friday, May 29, 2009


So I took my lunch to the break room ant threw in in the microwave for a minute. Then I remembered what it was when I pulled it out. PB&J—oops.

Edit: Update:

So I threw it in the Freezer for 15 minutes, the Tortilla was cold and hardened in some places (yes I make sandwiches on tortillas—it's convenient), the PB and the J were warm in some places and cold in others. It was edible, but different.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Confessions of a First Time GM

There are probably some spoilers ahead—those that visit from the Savage Worlds Forum may want to skip the read if they plan on playing in a Zombie Run Game. You've been warned.

No matter how many times you've read through the Core Rulebook. No matter how many times you've gone through the campaign book. You're not prepared.

Tonight marks the first time that I have ever run a game. I invited seven people over and got three—I think that was just about right for tonight. I over prepared in some ways and under prepared in others.

I'm very glad that I decided to go with a campaign module rather than something home brew. It was very good to have the story and encounters already planned, because it was hard enough dealing with the rules. Rules that I thought I had down just were not making sense. At first they were having no problem hitting the zombies, but because of a quirk of the rules they could not put a zombie down. We ended up throwing the head shot rule out the window. Then it became possible to actually put a zombie down without rolling perfectly.

I've read the rules over and over and I thought I had them down pretty good, but I was surprised how many times we ended up reading through the rules for clarification.

I have one regret—and that is not letting them go off the rails and make it to the airport. Since that was fairly early in the game, I wasn't sure how to handle it. I now know what I should have done. Oh well—hindsight and all.

I also should have fudged the dice roll when they went scavenging in the small town. There's a 50% change when scavenging that you'll run into 3d6 zombies. I rolled 10—which took a while to resolve. I should have fudged it and only put out 5, a shorter fight and we cold have gotten to the mall.

Overall I think it was a pretty good evening. But I've hit the forums with my questions to figure out what we did wrong. The following is for those that played—you can read it too, but it might not be very interesting.

Okay, first thing I found was that because the zombies do not have a natural weapon listed. They are considered Unarmed Defenders. That means on every Fighting Roll against them you get a +2, this effectively reduces the head shot penalty in melee combat to a more manageable -2.

Next, grappling. What I missed in the Core Rulebook, is that when someone successfully grapples with a raise the opponent is shaken. (and in Zombie Run, the zombie gets to bite at this point)

And the other thing we overlooked was that standard damage can put a zombie into shaken status even if it cannot kill it. And once it's shaken there's only a 12.5% chance that it can attack on it's turn and a 50% chance it can attack on the next turn.

Strategies that could have helped the players:

Ganging up—adjacent attackers add +1 to fighting rolls up to +4. (so if 5 guys gang up on one, they each get +4 to their fighting roll [that would be enough to negate the -4 for called shot to the head]

Aiming—taking an action to aim gives +2 to the shooting roll in the following round.

So, Ideally the characters should group up and take on a zombie at a time, using a standard attack to shake the zombie and then another character calls the head-shot. This would give a gang up bonus to help negate the called shot penalty; that, and the +2 for unarmed defender make actually hitting the zombies possible without the rule modifications we introduced (i.e. we threw out the -4 head shot penalty and assumed everyone would be aiming for the head all the time).

Anyone shooting should stay out of reach of the zombies and then aim; they would be shooting less, but have a better chance at a kill shot.

I think I now understand why the module encourages the heavy use of allies. Initially, I thought keeping track of 9 characters, when only three were playing would be tough, but that's the beauty of Savage Worlds. It's crunchy and yet simple and it wasn't hard at all. Though after playing last night, I must admit—it's got more crunch than I thought.

For those I invited that were unable to make it, there's still room for more in the party—I'll let you know when the next chapter of Zombie Run takes place.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It's a Small World After All

Back when I was in High School I used to listen every Sunday to the Dr. Demento Show. A Syndicated radio program that plays novelty music (i.e. Parodies, Comedy, and all around goofy music that most people have no idea exists). I only stopped listening because the local station stopped carying the show.

I recall once he played a parody of "It's a Small World" that went something like—"It's a world of Slaughter a world of Fear, It's a world of Death and there is no Cheer"—or something like that, it's only a vague recollection.

Anyway, that song keeps trying to get in my head; luckily, I can't remember the words, just the sentiment. The above lyrics are made up by me, but very well may be the real words—that's not the point though.

The point is, that Justin bought Small World and we had a play the other day. This is why that song keeps trying to infiltrate my consciousness.

Small world apparently is a remake of a game called Vinci. Looking at the images of Vinci, I can sort of see what kind of changes they made (I'm a little too lazy to read the instructions to see if I'm right). The biggest of which is the theme.

Small world takes place in a typical fantasy setting, while at the same time lovingly mocking the fantasy tropes we've all come to love: Dwarves, Elves, Wizards, Ghouls, Skeletons, etc.. In this world, there is not enough land for all the many races that wish to take up residence. As a result, we have Feudal Europe—there's always a war going on.

Now I don't really like game reviews where they sit and explain the rules for 10 minutes—so I'm not going to do that. I'll just give a quick overview. On each turn you take over parts of the map with your chosen race or you put your race into decline so that you can use a new race on your next turn. Each race has a racial trait and those traits are matched with a randomized skill, which creates a variety of strategies for taking over the map. At the end of each turn you score the number of spaces that you managed to occupy. After 10 turns you see who has the highest score.

We were playing this just before a scheduled D&D session, and when our DM got there we had one or two turns left. Just looking at the game in progress is intimidating and seems complicated, and he stated as much. But actually this game is far simpler than a lot of the strategy games out there.

Part of what makes this game fun is the theme—I like there to be a story to the game. I'm not so much into abstract games, but take an abstract game and tack on a well thought out theme and I'm all over it.

As is typical of most of our first time gaming sessions, we misinterpreted one of the rules until the 7th or 8th round (of 10) which would probably have made things go a little different. Also, unlike other take over the world games (RISK I'm looking at you and your ilk) you aren't judged on your ability to take over the world. You're scored at the end of each round, so the ability to hold a territory for the remainder of the game is not quite as important as taking over as many spaces as possible each round—I kept forgetting this at first, and by the time I got it, it was too late; and since it was time for D&D we didn't play the traditional now-that-we've-messed-it-up-and-played-it-wrong, let's-apply-all-that-we-learned-in-this-first-not-real-game-to-a-second-actual game.

As is typical of Days of Wonder games, the components are very high quality and worth the higher price tag. I definitely recommend this game. 

And since I cannot remember the parody words, I keep getting the actual song—It's a Small World, stuck in my head. I hope you do as well after reading this Muahahahah.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

This is Not Your Father's Star Trek?!

As with all Movie Reviews that I may write, there is a major possibility of spoilers. Don't read if you don't want it spoiled.

I saw Star Trek this weekend. I've been very excited for this movie. My Father introduced me to Star Trek in the early eighties (I think). I watched it every chance I got. I don't remember the first time I ever watched it, but I have been a fan since that time. I have seen every Star Trek Movie in theaters since IV (Except First Contact—I was on my mission). Back when they started Star Trek: The Next Generation I was excited for that to come out, then I watched the show and I hated it—then I started watching it again in the third season or so and only after I came to enjoy those later seasons, did the shows from the first two seasons become enjoyable to me. When I found out that they were relaunching the franchise I was excited. This is exactly what Star Trek Needed.

I'm a fan of Lost, I think it's one of the most intelligent shows on T.V. right now—I think that that, combined with scheduling issues is one of the reasons it's been struggling a little in the ratings department. But I'm not here to talk about Lost. I bring it up only because the creator of Lost, Mr. J.J. Abrams was a brilliant choice for director and served to get me excited.

And Simon Peg as Scotty was a brilliant move as well, that was another element that excited me.

Also, the marketing of this movie was brilliantly handled. There was the teaser that revealed the exterior of the Enterprise; I think I saw 3 different trailers and they were comprised of mostly the same footage, I didn't feel like I had seen the whole movie before it came out. They didn't try to sell this movie—they let it sell itself.

But it was the writing that made this movie so great—they showed utmost respect for the source material, while at the same time upgrading it for todays audiences.

There was a trailer of this movie that stated,"This is not your Father's Star Trek."

And though I think that was necessary for marketing to bring in the non-trekkie, it's a half truth.

On one hand, the way that they avoided canon was brilliantly executed—looking at it that way, this is an alternate time line and all the Trek that came before is not entirely nullified while at the same time allowing them to do whatever they want with the stories.

On the other hand all the Exploring Strange New Worlds, Seeking Out New Life and New Civilizations, and Boldly Going Where No Man Has Gone Before—is all there. All the Action, All the Wonder, All the Excitement that made this Series great originally. It's all there.

All the Star Trek Tropes are Securely in place. Kirk is Smart, Good in a Fight, and Likes the Ladies. Bones is Cantankerous and "a Doctor Not a ..." Spock clings to his Vulcan heritage, while not rejecting his human side (and has Green Blood). Scotty is Jovial and Scottish, funny and Brilliant and "Cannot Give 'er Any More."

There was a running joke throughout the beginning of the movie where Uhura would not reveal her first name to Kirk—as this was happening, I realized that I had watched Star Trek my entire life and did not know Uhura's first name, this made the joke even better. I looked it up later and was relieved that her first name was not canon until this new film.

Chekov pronounces "v" as "w" Sulu is a fencer—and a Red Shirt Ate it Early on.

So this is definitely your Father's Star Trek. It makes you feel like you did when your Father introduced you to the show when you were a kid. It's just that entertaining.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Question of Family and Business

This is getting annoying.

When it was just one or two instances I really didn't think much of it, but it's getting entirely too frequent.

I called to wish my Mom a happy Mothers Day and found out that another family member was purchasing a house just around the corner. I just can't understand why the family doesn’t think to use my wife as a Realtor. I'm relatively certain that she knows my wife is a Realtor. Being a Realtor is my wife's full time job (after being a Mom, she chose to be a Realtor so she could work from home), and yet they chose to go with someone else, who incidentally is not a full time Realtor. I know there other great Realtors out there, but Dang-it we need the business.

We barely get by on my income alone, and my wife's income is just enough to supplement our income and keep us afloat. It's also my understanding that my wife barely avoided a purging that took place at her Real Estate Franchise due to the economy, and frankly it would be nice if she actually got some business this year.

I'm sure nothing was meant by my cousin not using my wife's business in helping to get a home, but this is just the latest in a long string of family members not helping us out by letting my wife help them. I can think of far too many transactions off the top of my head where family could easily have helped out family and went with the business of a stranger, or family that's much more established financially—or oddly enough, no one at all. It's especially frustrating when the situation would put my wife in the role of the agent helping the person purchasing the home, because the commission is paid by the seller i.e. it costs them nothing for my wife to help them and she still gets a paycheck. Again, I'm sure there was nothing implied but it's just starting to feel like a personal insult.

She's very good at her job. I've watched her doing her thing, and if I had to do that, my head would spin—but it's right up her alley and she enjoys every second of it. She pours heart and soul into every client regardless of the risk. There's always the chance in her field of business that things won't work out and she won't get paid. I've seen it happen numerous times that banks couldn't work out the loan or something of that nature and clients were forced to pull out and all that work she did was for no pay.

And it would be a lot easier to let this roll off the back, if they weren't going to be living literally around the corner from us and going to the same Ward.

I know that in the eternal scheme of things, it's pointless to let these kind of things bother you. If you keep these emotions bottled up, you'll eventually explode—better to let off some steam. In fact—allowing something like this to eat away at you can be quite literally damning. But that doesn't mean I can't be upset about it for a couple weeks. I don't hold grudges, they destroy the soul, but I do allow myself to get angry or upset in short bouts.

As a large, green, ogre once said, "Better out than in."

And because, I don't want to hear how I'm completely off base on this, or that I'm absolutely right (I'm not seeking validation). I just want to rant in order to get this out of my mind and off my back and out into the air. I'm not trying to foster discussion, this is personal therapy, publicly viewable (Let the Voyeurism Commence). I'm disabling comments for this post.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Friday Game

So we played our first session of Savage Worlds on Friday.

First we converted our D&D 3.25E characters, and due to the complexity difference between systems (D&D is high and Savage Worlds is lowish) combined with the fact that we're all new to the system, that took a little longer than anticipated. Then we spent a good hour trying to remember where we left off. It's been months since we played in this campaign. Then we were off—sort of.

To give our DM credit, he was really trying to not railroad us. I think, however, that everyone was sort of in the mood for a more railroaded evening. I know I was—I really just want to get to the conclusion of this campaign; give my character some closure, and then start a Savage Worlds proper campaign, rather than a Savaged D&D campaign. I only wish that we'd been able to have a combat encounter so that the players that are only familiar with D&D could get a real taste of the awesomeness that is Savage Worlds. As it was I think everyone enjoyed the Wild Die mechanic.

In fact, I'd like to run a Necessary Evil campaign—I don't know if this group would be the group to run it with. I know P would want to join, I know one person that would play if he happened to be there that night but probably wouldn't commit, and I know one other person that would join. That would bring the total to 5 and a half players. Which is one and a half more than I thought I might get.

I'm also dying to use Savage Worlds in some sort of Zombie game, because I have a lot of plastic Zombies (care of Twilight Creations) that I want to use. I know I've seen a Zombies!!! homebrew using the Savage Worlds rules somewhere online. I had not read it yet and now that I want to it's nowhere to be found. Just thinking about it off the cuff, I think it would be quite easy to have everyone create Novice Savage Worlds Characters, and then play Zombies!!! using the Savage Worlds Combat and movement. I'd have to take a look at the cards for Zombies!!! and see if there was a good way to impliment their usage or not—I know I'd want to keep the weapons, but maybe change it so the location dependant cards were not dependant on location (I've been thinking of changing that for our house rules anyway). I think I'd want to change the Zombie Movement rules, and up the per square limit for zombies. Hmm, now that I have an Idea of how I would do it, I really want to find that document I came across before, and see how they did it.