Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Everyone Loves Dice

There must be something built into us that makes us like them. I've mentioned before how there's something primal about the thrill of that random number coming up; and it has nothing to do with the Gambling association that dice have. That same excitement is generated whether playing Dungeons and Dragons, Chutes and Ladders, Yahtzee, or Craps—money doesn't have to be on the line for the random number generation thrill to well up inside.

I observed this first hand several weeks ago. I was making a stop at our Friendly Local Gaming Store (FLGS). As I got out of my car I observed a Large car pulling close as possible to the front door, then little old ladies poured out like clowns.

Before I go on, I have to say—that of all the Local Gaming Stores this one is the best. As far as business practices go: they have the best selection of board games, they have a large selection of current title comic books and graphic novels (they've mostly gotten out of the comic-books-as-collectibles business), they carry large selections of miniature war gaming products in a very space efficient manner, they manage to cater to a large number of collectible card games (CCGs), they have a number of computers set up for online gaming, and they have the best selection of role playing games in town. They pretty much do everything right as a business (unlike most of the other game stores I've been to locally). However, the nerd and geek quotient of their customer base is still very high—i.e. the little old ladies seemed very out of place. There is another game store in town that has a narrower gaming focus (read: mostly euro, popular amero, and a sprinkling of old style war games (i.e. cardboard chit units on hexagonal maps)) that also does everything right as a business. Their Nerd and geek quotient seems significantly lower—and the little old ladies would not have seemed out of place to me at that location. [I have nothing to back this paragraph up except my own limited observations]

Needless to say, I was very curious what they were looking for. So I watched from a distance as they scanned the shelves. The employee on duty took great care of them, and found the product they wanted.

I thought that they would be in there to get either Bunco or a Gift for someone. I was wrong, they were looking to get Farkle.

Farkle is one of those games that drives me nuts that they even package and sell it commercially. It's a Dice game that uses standard six sided dice. I got the impression that they were looking for Pocket Farkle because they were shocked by the size of the box (it is ridiculously large for a game that uses six standard six sided dice). The Game Store Employee took the opportunity to introduce them to the dice selection they sell. I observed those women get all excited by the sheer amount of variety available. They perused the dice selection the rest of the time I was there.

I was curious what they would end up with, but I had to go. It was like watching kids in a candy shop. They were still exploring the magical world of dice when I left.

I observed similar behavior from my wife when she bought her first dice.

Everyone should go buy themselves at least one set of gaming dice from their FLGS—even if they don't plan to ever play games, make it a "window" shopping trip in that case, it's just fun.

Monday, September 21, 2009


It never ceases to amaze me how different it is from one game to the next. Our last session marked the first time in our Zombie Run Campaign when the party has been "off the rails." Because, this Zombie Run Campaign marks the first time that I have been the Game Master I have been grateful for the guidance provided by the Zombie Run campaign guide. I've mentioned before that originally I was going to run Necessary Evil—I will admit to being even more nervous about Running that campaign than I ever was for Zombie Run.

The Night I had slated to be my first session ended up being a weekend that my wife was out of town. That meant that I didn't want to run Necessary Evil per se. In my mind Necessary Evil is a long extended campaign. I can see people playing for a year or two or three, at the rate that I'm running Zombie Run. I already had it in my mind to try and run some sort of one shot game for my first foray in to the world of Game Mastering—so when Zombie Run was released in it's Explorers Edition Compatible version, the week I had planned to run a game I was quite pleased. I purchased it then and there.

In my mind Zombie run was a campaign that would run a few sessions and then we could get on to Necessary Evil. Zombie Run is still running. I have railroaded it up to this point. Because that's exactly the sort of thing that I needed as a first time Game Master. The Adventure is written in such a way that makes running it as a railroad easy to do but not necessary.

I read about another group that was running Zombie Run—and they spent a lot more time in New York. They essentially had different factions in the starting building vying for the support of the party, each with different ideas of how to proceed (i.e. some wanting to get off the island, some wanting to wait for the government to come and help them, some wanting to restart society, etc.) and apparently the first chapter alone went on for many sessions. Well, getting into this I wasn't quite up to that sort of challenge. So I have (for the most part) run a chapter per session.

However the chapter in question that was slated for the last session is written fairly open ended. There are several different things written out in the chapter that the party can do, they have more choices than ever before in this adventure. They seem to have made up their minds about what they want to do—but how to do it? Aye, there's the rub. So I guess we're officially off the rails—and my poor new Game Master Brain is reeling.

I think the session went relatively well. The party avoided the only Big Fight that I anticipated as well as a scavenging fight which I was going to throw at them. I even cheated by re-rolling the dice three times to see if they were to encounter any zombies—and at that point decided to just give the success to them. So it ended up being more of a story telling/role playing session. I fear that may have alienated some at the table—but I hope not. They still got to roll the dice a lot. I like rolling dice, so while I advocate the role play over roll play—I feel there should be a healthy amount of roll—it is a game after all.

The fact that there's a priest (a pistol packing priest—that bluffs quite handily mind you) in this particular group has led to an interesting turn of events. He's indicated that he would like to start a Parrish, which is seen as a good thing by the militaristic "government" in Flagstaff, and since the chaplain went missing on a recent supply raid his request has been granted. I'm quite interested to see how it all plays out. Depending on how things play out the Zombie Run Campaign could be over in just a few sessions.

My Wife has asked that we take a break from Savage Worlds—while still continuing with Game Night every Two Weeks—playing Board Games and What Not—then start a new campaign.

I've had some interest in the Weird West for the next campaign—any suggestions from anyone else that plays with us? (FYI—I already have material for running: Fantasy, Superhero(Antihero), Steam Punk(ish), and Sword & Planet) Also, agree or disagree to a couple Non Role Play Game Nights between sessions? If so, what games are people interested in playing?

Friday, September 18, 2009

I Love the Internet—I Hate Lazy Acronyms

More "Get-off-my-Lawn" Style Ranting—

I run across Acronyms on the internet that I have never seen before. I hate pausing to look them up. I hate the Laziness. I'm very meticulous about the things I post on the internet. If I catch a spelling or grammatical error, I fix it. I read most of my own posts at least three times before posting (did you notice how I wrote out three instead of using 3—yeah, I do that too).

Phrases I've run across that I had to look up in order to understand what someone was trying to say.



AFAIK and all its close relatives

IMO and all related ilk

LM*O and related derivatives—especially from people that wouldn't dream of cursing in the real world

R U...

There are more, but these are all ones that have annoyed me recently. This sort of behavior does not Facilitate Communication. It's bad enough that the one place I run into this the most, is the one Internet Forum that I frequent—a forum for a particular brand of Role Playing game, and everyone makes up acronyms for the different products that the company sells, as well as for rules contained in the game—frankly, the assumption that everyone knows what you mean when you refer to an obscure rule by an acronym not used in the rule book is just bad form. Definitions Below—See?! The ones you didn't know are driving you nuts.

OTOH—On the other Hand

TLDR—Too Long Didn't Read

AFAIK—As Far As I Know Etc.

IMO—In My Opinion Etc. (Especially IMHO—you are not expressing your opinion humbly!!)

LM*O—Laughing My "Head"Off, or worse (usually worse)

R U...—Are You Fill in the Blank


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Surreal Comment

I was reading a friend's Blog earlier today and he posed a question regarding the use of certain Photoshop features. I replied, and then later I saw him on Google Talk—we were chatting about that particular feature in Photoshop and I was telling him the solution I had used. I had a question as to whether the solution I used was the most efficient, because it seemed that there should be a better way.

So I Googled it. I read that the way I had done it was the only way to do it in the newer versions of Photoshop. In older versions of Photoshop there was a better way to do it which is why I thought the solution I had used was not the right way—though it was the only way I could figure out to do it.

So I read this tutorial, and as I read it, I thought of a workaround that would make the process a little easier the next time you wanted to do it. So I was reading the comments, and I was going to add my Idea as a comment—but the last poster had already suggested the same Idea that I was going to put in the comment.

Then I noticed the name of the person posting. It was my brother. It was a Surreal moment.

Beatlemania Update

I tried the vocals last night.

My wife is still not feeling well and did not participate.

I plugged in Two USB Microphones, and selected harmonies rather than solo. No, I have not mastered the art of Overtone Singing, but I wanted to see how it worked—because each instrument is generally controlled by a single Wii remote. The Microphones are controlled under a single Wii remote, and score as one player. So you can play with up to Six people at once: Guitar, Bass, Drums, & Microphone 1-3 (Some songs have a single vocal track some two, but most seemed to have three).

I did not fail out for not harmonizing. I tried on the first harmony track to sing the harmony, but couldn't quite find it, but at the end of the song it told me I got 1 of 7 harmonies.

I need to get a USB Hub and another Mic and have Some people over to play. I still don't think the gameplay is as optimized for group play as Guitar Hero; but being able to play with six players is cool. I'm Sure Guitar Hero 6 will steal and Improve upon the mechanic set forth by The Beatles: Rock Band.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The Beatles: Rock Band arrived in the mail yesterday. Very fun, very fun indeed—who DOESN'T like the Beatles? I can't think of anyone. This game is Beautifully crafted. The opening sequence starts with an homage to the opening sequence of A Hard Days Night done in a very stylized 2D cartoon reminiscent of 60's era T.V. animation and then highlights the bands albums in a beautiful blend of 3D renditions of that iconic artwork.

Game play is mostly the same as in previous Rock Band implementations with a few small changes: Overdrive has been thematically changed to "Beatlemania" and there is even an option that can be turned on that scales the Crowd Noise up to more realistic levels when Beatlemania is engaged. During Sustained notes the whammy bar can be used as in previous Rock Band games to collect extra Beatlemania, but unlike previous iterations of the game it does not warp the audio. Similarly when you are doing badly the aural cue of a mis-strummed guitar string has been toned down to almost nothing and booing crowds have been removed altogether.

Because the Beatles stopped being a touring band and moved onto being a studio band in the latter part of the Group's history the nature of the game visuals change at that point. Songs generally start depicting the band in studio and as you play the song the studio fades away into what has been dubbed "Dreamscapes." These dreamscapes are visually stunning "music video" style animations reminiscent of The Beatle's Movies (i.e. Help!, Yellow Submarine, and Magical Mystery Tour). These dreamscapes are crafted with a lot of love for the band and I almost failed out a couple times when playing Yellow Submarine because I was trying to watch the dreamscape and play at the same time.

Having played Rock Band, Rock Band 2, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Guitar Hero: World Tour, Guitar Hero 5, and now The Beatles: Rock Band—I still feel that Guitar Hero is a better Game. The Guitar Hero Philosophy of Musical Rhythm Game trend toward the elements of Game and each installment of the series has sought to improve the playability and fun factor by adding new elements of game that either add challenge for seasoned players, or make it easier to play the game in a party/group setting—which is the ideal way to pretend you're playing in a band. Rock Band's Philosophy of Musical Rhythm Games trend more toward simulation, attempting to simulate the act of playing a real guitar or drums as closely as possible on Plastic Toy Iterations of said instruments—this sometimes results in repetitious gameplay.

Rock band was created by the creators of Guitar Hero after they lost the developmental rights, and Rock Band out Guitar Heroed Guitar Hero. Then Activision who retained the rights to the Gutar Hero Name enlisted the help of subsidiary Neversoft and Out Rock Banded Rock Band with Guitar Hero III. Rock Band 2 came out and was Rock Band with more songs, and very little in the way of competitive game improvements. Guitar Hero World tour and Guitar Hero 5 have continued to add new elements of gameplay and innovation. While The Beatles Rock Band is Extremely Fun and visually stunning, and a lovingly crafted, masterful, and artistic tribute to the Fab Four—as far as gameplay goes it's Rock Band with a retread—functionally the same.

Actually, I forgot—Three Part Harmony has been added to Rock Band: Beatles, but we haven't tried that out yet.

As a Game—Guitar Hero is Better. The Reason to have Rock Band 2 is the Sheer Amount of Music available in the game and as Download-able Content. The reason to have The Beatles: Rock Band is a no brainer—The Beatles. The Beautiful Visuals and the Awesome Sound of the Fab Four Make up for the fact that they haven't really updated the Gameplay since Rock Band (Three Part Harmony Notwithstanding).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Your Japanese Lesson for the Day Brought to You By Nostalgia From my Youth

Kaiju: Literal Translation—Strange Beast. Often used to describe a Genre of Film depicting Giant Monsters Typified by Godzilla.

Even when I was a kid I loved Movies. I don't know why, but I found that I had the attention span for them that a lot of my peers did not. One that I was always excited to watch when it was on T.V. (and tried to share with friends on multiple occasions with less than stellar results) was King Kong vs. Godzilla. It is available on DVD today.

I never know if these movies will stand up to the test of time. I always looked forward to the 1976 version of King Kong when it was on as well. When Peter Jackson remade King Kong a few years ago I borrowed the 1976 film from the library and was severely let down—it wasn't as good as I remembered—now that I'm thinking about it, the reason I recall a better movie is possibly because in editing it for T.V. it was improved by getting rid of a lot of unnecessary fluff. I also got the original 1933 version and watched it as well. The 1933 version is spectacular, there's a reason that version is a classic and it's not just because it's the original; it is a genuinely great movie.

Anyway, King Kong vs. Godzilla makes Kong a lot bigger than he ever was in previous incarnations, so as to match the scale of the much larger Godzilla. This also marks the first time either monster was filmed in color. 

More Roleplaying with My Three Year Old

When I put her to bed last night, she was a little disappointed that we had not played Candyland for family night. I told her that we could play tomorrow, and she suggested that we play the story game with the dice again.

This time she told a story with Princess Mommy. I introduced a ghost that made an etherial wooooo sound. She wanted to smash the ghost and I told her that her hand went right through the ghost. She didn't want to accept that outcome. I suggested that we roll the dice to see if she was scared by the ghost (an opposed guts check for the Savage Worlds savvy). She send the plush d6 across the floor for a four. I rolled for the ghost and got a two. I told her that she scared the ghost with all her trying to smash it and he ran away. She said that she smashed the ghost and it's head came off and it went down the stairs and outside to the car and that she took the head to the ghost —she really gets a kick out of making up these outlandish stories. 

I'm not sure where she gets these ideas about smashing and decapitation of the incorporeal undead. She almost exclusively watches Disney Princess Movies—some of which are scary I'm aware; she prefers to stick to the non scary ones like Cinderella. I suppose the most violent thing we've exposed her to are stories from the Book of Mormon—and some of those are fairly brutal.

I know I watched a lot of violent cartoons and such as a kid, and I'm a very non-confrontational non-violent person. In fact, I was watching some Tom and Jerry a while ago and was a little shocked—it had been so long since I had seen anything like that—even the "violent" Saturday morning cartoons presently in syndication pale in comparison. It was almost a little unnerving, but then I read some of the Grimm Brothers collected fairy tales and realized that there is a rich history of exposing our children to the cruelties of the world through "entertainment." It's almost better to expose them to such things in a safe environment where you can explain that things aren't always nice, but we should always strive to be civil and Christlike. Seriously, the Scriptures contain some of the most Brutal and twisted "stories" I know—and these are the stories we use to teach our children to differentiate wright and wrong.

To bring things back around to the original topic. Role Playing is an excellent tool for teaching kids, especially when they are young and have no social stigma associated with games of imagination—which kids just take to naturally notwithstanding. They can learn cause and effect in an environment of parental control. They can learn math. They can learn social interaction. They can learn the highly abstract subject of statistics in a practical hands on way and so much more.

More Role Playing With My Three Year Old

Monday, September 14, 2009

Role Playing With My Three Year Old Daughter

For her first birthday I gave my first daughter her first set of dice.

Big Plush Dice. We were sitting in her room recently and I was helping her clean up her toys. I grabbed a plush d6 off the floor and she told me that she likes dice and that Daddy plays games with them. I asked her if she wanted to play those games and she said yes. I asked her if she knew what kind of games they were and she was not sure.

I told her that they were storytelling games. I started "Once upon a time there was a princess named...?" She silently mouthed her name.

"This princess was walking through the forest one day when alooong came a spider and sat down beside her...and what did she do?"

—She kind of shrugged. I encouraged her tell me what she would do if there was a spider. She still was being hesitant.

"This spider was a biiiig spider, as big as your house, and it was hairy all over, and has big giant fangs!!"

She still didn't want to give in and tell me what she would do. So I prodded her a little.

"Would you Be Scared?"

—No (with that, 'Dad-you-know-me-better-that-that' tone in her voice).

"Would you fight the spider?"


"Well what would you do if there was a big giant spider, with eight Giant Eyes and ..."

I was trying to just come up with a situation for rolling the die so she had a basic understanding of why Dad likes dice so much and why he likes to share that obsession with her; and as imaginative as she is she was being a little hesitant. When all of a sudden the light clicked on and she realized that she could say anything.

—I would have a sword! A green one! And the Spider would Eat it!!

"Would it hurt the spider?"

—No, it would throw it up. Then it would go to its mommy and ask for a cloth.

I didn't get that at first, but after a few probing questions found that it was for cleaning up the throw-up.

Then the dog started barking like he does when someone is at the door. There was no one there—he does that a lot too, sometimes I swear he's hearing phantom noises. Unfortunately, that disrupted our little imagination game and we never did end up rolling the die.

More Role Playing With My Three Year Old Daughter

Sunday, September 13, 2009

BattleLore—Not Made for Midnight

A fiend of mine came over Friday Night. We repaired a Guitar Hero Guitar and then proceeded to play Guitar Hero 5 untill we started getting worse every time we played. He turned to me and asked if I wanted to play BattleLore—I foolishly answered in the affirmative.

He started setting it up. To understand what that means, you must understand that BattleLore is a board game with the spirit of a table top miniature war game. Playing tabletop miniature war games generally involves purchasing your army one or a few models at a time, assembling and painting said models, in addition to having a table large enough to do so. BattleLore givees you a Large Board to deploy your units on, and a lot of miniatures with no need to paint.

So he had half the game set up when it donned on me that I really just wanted to go to bed, but you don't just half set up this game and then put it back in the box—it takes almost twice the effort to put it away as it does to set up. BattleLore uses the Command and Colors system, which is a game mechanic used for simplified miniature war gaming that is used in a number of games (Battle Cry, Command and Colors: Ancients, Memoir 44, and BattleLore). What's different is that BattleLore is essentially the Hundred Years Wars re-imagined with Fantasy races and magic. 

Which is kind of interesting if you know a little about the history of Role Playing Games. In the 70's Gary Gygax was an avid historical miniature war gamer. He wrote a book that added medieval fantasy elements to tabletop miniature war gaming called Chain Mail—which later evolved into Dungeons and Dragons.

As much as I like BattleLore, I just wanted the game to be over so I could go to bed. The thing about this game is the amount of luck involved in winning. Strategy and tactics help; but the mechanic for fighting involves dice. You could play your cards in such a manner that you have six dice to roll vs your opponent, and have not one of those dice score a hit. You could also be rolling as little as two dice in melee combat and take out three of your opponent's  troops.

So we played until two in the morning. The thing was, I was so tired that I kept trying to attack my own units, so I would venture to say BattleLore is not intended to be played by those that are only half conscious.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I've had Play the Game by Queen, Contrecoup and one line of With the Dark by They Might Be Giants all mashing themselves together in my head for the past two days and I'm starting to lose my mind. I think Guitar Hero 5 will be in the mail tonight—perhaps that will help.

Games I've Played Recently

I haven't made a post like this for a while.

Stone Age
Remember when I wrote about Agricola? We've taken to calling Stone Age, Agricola Lite. It has a very similar feeling to it, without the soul crushing difficulty. You have a tribe that has entered the age of agriculture. Each round you take your tribe members and set them to a number of tasks one task at a time (building tools, having children, gathering resources, using said resources to build huts or other advances in civilization) around the table until everyone is out of tribe members (Much like the family members in Agricola). Then each player takes a turn in which they resolve all of those actions in the order they choose, thus resetting the board back to the original state. Everyone then feeds each of their tribe members (Just like in Agricola) Empty Cards and Hut spaces are replaced and then the first player status moves to the next player and you all go at it again. The game ends when there are no more replacement huts available for the next round—at that point you count up victory points and the player with the most wins.

I like stone age, because it feels like Agricola (Which I find that I unwillingly enjoy as it beats me into submission)—but isn't hard like Agricola.

Dominion is a very unique card game. All the cards are divided into piles of identical cards, and the box is designed to keep all the cards in said piles. Then you have a pile of cards that has one of each type of card—you shuffle this deck and then deal ten cards off of it and pull those piles out and set them where every one can reach. There are three piles of treasure cards and three piles of victory point cards. Every one starts with three victory point cards and seven treasure cards.

Each round you deal yourself five cards from your deck and have one action and one buy. The first round you have no action cards so you buy one from one of the ten action card piles (or treasure from the three treasure card piles or victory points from the three victory card piles) based on how much treasure you have. Then you place all those cards in a personal discard pile. The second round you will also not have an action card so you will buy what you can afford with your treasure cards. At that point you've discarded all ten of the original cards you were dealt plus the two cards you purchased, then you shuffle your discard pile and deal again. Action cards allow things like more buys, more actions, bonus treasure etc. As you play your deck gets bigger and bigger. At the beginning of the game the trick is to amass money, and at some point in the game you want to switch to amassing victory points. The game ends when the six point victory point pile is gone, or three other piles are gone. Then you count victory points.

I like Dominion because once you understand the mechanics it is very fast. Each game is different because the available cards are different. There are a lot of different strategies you can try, and those will change from game to game based on the available action cards.

I only had one game of Dominion that I didn't enjoy. It was a two player game and at first I was doing okay. But my opponent found himself in a position where he was finding it difficult to amass treasure, but he had stumbled into an order of play that allowed him to use his entire deck every turn. This particular game had an action card that allowed the distribution of negative victory points (curses) to your opponent which he was doing so at an exponential rate. By the time I started to counter that it was too late. the round ended and though I had easily bested him at amassing victory points, he had decimated me with enough curses to negate almost all said points. The only reason I didn't like that game was that his turns were so long, and by the time I adjusted my tactics to counter his strategy it was too late.

That game just emphasized how different the game plays based on the random ten action card piles you end up using.

Acquire is a business building/stock buying game. You win by having the most money. You have a grid and tiles that have specific places that they belong on the grid that you draw randomly. Each turn you place one of the tiles in your hand onto the grid. If you place two tiles next to each other then you can start a business and purchase stock in that business (by creating a business you get a bonus stock in it). You have the opportunity to purchase up to three stocks in any active business each round. The business is represented by all the touching tiles. When two businesses come in contact with each other they merge and the smaller of the two is no more. If you have stock in the smaller business you can cash in or trade in your stock at a 2–1 rate.

This is a tricky game, the trick is to be one of the top two stockholders of the smaller businesses when it gets absorbed by a bigger businesses. That way you can get more money to buy more stock with. At the end of the game you cash everything in and the player with the most money wins. The trick is to spend wisely and make good decisions as to whether you want to cash in or not when your smaller businesses are absorbed. Sometimes you want to hold onto that stock when the business is no more, because if you can recreate that business you are ahead of the curve when you do so. Sometimes it's more profitable to cash in, sometimes it is more profitable to trade your stocks. There's math involved—which I'm no good at in my head on the fly, so I just play by instinct (which drives my calculator headed friend a little nuts) and sometimes my gambling pays off and I win—like that last game we played. Yes I also like Acquire.

Is there a game I do not like? Why yes, yes there is.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Wanted: An E-reader

Sure the big dog is the Kindle, but I don't like it.

I dreamed up just such a device back when I was in High School (It was Dual Screen, Color, and Used a Stylus and was approximately 11" x 8.5" when open, and the hinge could open all the way so it could be used a book folded back on itself. One screen could be used as a keyboard.) I have an Obsession for books, especially art reference books. The Kindle is missing certain things that I would like to have and I really hate that keyboard that's tacked onto the bottom.

I've hacked some e-reading capability onto my Zune, it works but isn't the greatest solution.

I was recently "forced" to upgrade my phone and am now using a Sony Ericsson. In the past I've liked my Ericsson phones, but I am an avid hater of the Sony Brand so I'm having a Schizophrenic relationship with this phone.

It took me a month to find a way to put the scriptures on the phone, and in the process of doing so I discovered many a way of putting books onto the phone—none of which were acceptable to me until I found this site presented by a Barnes and Noble affiliate. Each book is a Java application. I installed almost 200 books on my phone the night I found this site.

I was curious as to Kindle alternatives after doing so; I knew that Sony has a reader—I've already mentioned how much I hate Sony. I did however look at the Sony product, and it's not too bad, it has a lot of the features that the Kindle Lacks that I would absolutely "need," such as native PDF support and the lack of an unnecessary keyboard that takes up a considerable portion of the device in favor of touch control. But it's a smaller (6") device and I like the larger size devices because they display PDF files better.

I looked around and didn't find a lot of devices, but I did find one that fits the bill as far as features I like. The iRex Digital Reader 1000S. It's a larger screened device, has Wacom® Penabled® input (meaning you can write on it and use it as a digital sketch pad), supports PDF natively, bluetooth, usb, SDHC memory. Of course that means it has a slightly higher price tag.

Funny thing is, when I originally was researching this I couldn't find much. Then I was looking things up so I could write this I found the Mobile Read Wiki and their excellent E-Book Reader Matrix showing me that there were a lot more choices than I originally found—but cementing that I like the iRex brand. However, I also learned as I was writing this that Asus announced yesterday that they are planning to make a dual screen color e-reader, and that one side of it can be used as a keyboard priced at $165 which is cheaper than any other reader on the market—but still outside the sweet spot discovered by a marketing survey indicating $50–100 would make the market explode. That will be their high end model, they also plan to make a cheaper single screen edition that will be priced at $99 making it the cheapest e-reader on the market. Only issue with that is that they do not appear to be using the easy on the eyes e-ink screen technology (as far as the released photo—chances are that's just mocked up anyway and may not accurately depict the final product, but since we're referring to a comment made to a newspaper combined with prototype photos from a while ago, we'll have to wait for further announcement).

It's still out of my budget for the time being.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Savaged Birthday

Had a Savage Worlds session on my birthday this week. Due to the game night corresponding with my birthday we threw a Barbecue beforehand with all manner of friends and family. As a result I had ten people indicate that they were planning on playing. I was nervous about running the game again. I like running the game, but I start to feel overwhelmed when I know the situation is going to be different, and GMing for ten is certainly different than five.

Anyway, we had the "Barbecue" and a good time was had by all in attendance (I think)—then it was game time; at game time I had ten players in the house. Of those that indicated that they planned to be there: P was not feeling well so was unable to make it. My sister's husband wasn't feeling so great and didn't come. My sister came for the "Barbecue" but decided to not stay for the game. Two other players were there but decided they didn't want to play and spent the night serenading us from the adjoining room with the dulcet tones of Guitar Hero World Tour. Two other Players were there that I had not expected to be there, but they didn't stay to play. One more player was there, but had a "date"—I told him girls come before games.

I'm rambling, but I found it somewhat amusing that at game time I had ten players in the house, that did not match the list of ten players that RSVPed and when I did get the game going there were six players in the house and but four actually at the table. Of the four at the table only two had played with us before.

I've never thought of myself as someone that can think quickly on the spot. I adapt to situations quickly, but that skill is not as useful behind the GM screen. Mostly this is due to the fact that players always do something to throw you off the carefully laid railroad tracks that you planned for them. I deal with this different than most GMs. Most of the advice articles/podcasts that talk about GMing will tell you to play it in such a manner that the players don't know that they've thrown you off course. Again, I don't think fast enough for that—I can adjust eventually, but the players know it, and I am most certain that they can literally (and by literally I humorously mean figuratively) see the wheels spinning in my head as I try to come up with what I need to do next.

We did in fact complete all three encounters that I had planned for the evening. Encounter One Ended Backwards. Encounter Two Was not nearly as deadly as I had hoped, and had to be changed ever so slightly for encounter three to work, and could have had a problematic ending. I was saved by a poor dice roll by a player. Encounter Three turned out rather well, and not anywhere close to how I thought it would go.

One of the new players had a great character. He wrote one little detail into his character that happens to correspond with his own way of thinking. If people are taking too long to decide what to do, he's going to just go ahead and do something. It kept things moving along and was quite brilliant.

I know that I need to be more descriptive as GM. I think if I had the rules a little more internally ingrained that it would be easier; as it currently is—every game thus far has required me to know how to resolve a new type of situation. Because I know there are rules for said situations, it slows me down a bit as I try to find it in the book. However, if the rules were a little more ingrained in me—it would be easier to just use or throw mechanics out on the fly. It's the whole Rules/Ruling argument. I like Ruling as long as those making the ruling have an understanding of the rules. More than once during the evening things slowed down a little as I scrambled to find the details of a rule, and more than once during the evening, once I understood the mechanic I threw it out based on the situation.

It was a good session, the action moved along at a good pace, and the planned encounters all took place. I think the character knowledge of those they were fighting was just right.

To catch players up that didn't make it. Crossing the Rockies the group was overtaken by a convoy. They had a shootout and got away. Later they stopped to put chains on the tires of the bus, and encountered a pack of Zombie Wolves. While dealing with the zombie wolves the convoy passed them up and took a pot shot at them. They caught up to the convoy later at a mountain motel and had another shootout.

Comments that I heard after the game.

One person mentioned that they, "wish 'Seasoned GM' would stop trying to commandeer creative control, i.e. describe the action after poor or well rolled dice" —I didn't notice this myself, but the comment was made.

Another comment was, "The only thing that would have made the session better was if P had been able to come."

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Savage Worlds—Fantasy Companion & the Forgotton D&D Endgame

Recently I read a blog post about the forgotten endgame of Dungeons & Dragons. Something that I never really understood about D&D was the purpose of all the dungeon delving.

When I was a kid, I voraciously watched the cartoon every Saturday morning (much to my Mother's chagrin) the plot was that these kids had been at an amusement park, took a ride on a roller coaster that somehow became a vortex and sucked the kids into a fantastical realm of magic. Their adventures focused on them trying to discover a way back home being guided by the mysterious Dungeon Master and being thwarted time after time by the Evil Venger. The other exposure I had to the game was advertisements in comic books. Smurf comic books.

I remember once that I walked over to my neighbors house, and he and his brother (my sometimes friends) were being mighty secretive about what they were doing. Eventually they said that they were playing Dungeons & Dragons, and having been warned to stay away from that game by my Mother, and being that I was mostly an obedient kid, I left. Thinking back on that (another in a long line of weird memories that stuck with me for no apparent reason) they had no books, they had no dice, they had a single pencil and a single sheet of lined paper. Based on my vague memory I think they were creating a character.

I never really heard of D&D again until Junior High when a teacher I looked up to and had respect for used a d20 and a table to give us Random Objects that we were supposed to work into a story. She briefly mentioned D&D. That was my first exposure to a non six sided die and I thought it was one of the coolest things I had ever seen though I didn't think to ask where one can obtain such a thing—I assumed the only way to get one was via purchasing D&D (which I had seen in Toy Stores, the Famous Red Box version).

Shortly thereafter I purchased Cloak and Dagger at a thrift store, mostly because it had a d12 in it.

I played my first game of D&D on Halloween in 2004 at the home of a member of our Bishopric. I've played quite a bit since. The games that I've been a part of don't line up with the typical Dungeon Delving that is the hallmark of D&D. It seemed a silly occupation to be a motley group that went into Dungeons and came out with treasure. That's generally what we were doing, it was generally masked by an overarching story about some great evil that needed to be overcome. but the party always ends up in these "dungeons," fighting random monsters. Often the party will find themselves at a Tavern, regrouping after the dungeon delve, chatting with the Tavern Owner that was once an adventurer himself and has a secret stash of treasure from the glory days—an interesting retirement plan.

Back to the point, I recently learned about the forgotten endgame of D&D. After amassing riches you would take said riches and establish a Barony, build a castle, become a Lord of Land. I found this concept intriguing. It does make sense when you realize that the roots of D&D are firmly established in Historical War Gaming. Establishing a Castle and Building an Army just brings that full circle.

D&D was a radical departure in tabletop tactical gaming, in that you were controlling one character that was going on adventures rather than maintaining an army. Knowing now that contained within the Original D&D books were rules for settling down and establishing a kingdom, a kingdom that would need an army really brings the game full circle.

Likely if I was to get a character advanced to that point, I most likely wouldn't establish his retirement; I'm more interested in creating a new novice character to go on new adventures. It is a good idea for a story though, and if I was tired of adventuring, I think it would be interesting to run a game in the vein of a Land Owner.

So, I recently got the Fantasy Companion for Savage Worlds—a supplemental book that aids in the running of Fantasy Role Play Games using the Savage Worlds System. Savage Worlds is a Generic System and can be used to play High Fantasy, Science Fiction, Pulp Fiction, Post Apocalyptic, etc. etc. etc. Pinnacle has plans to publish several of these Companion Books to help in the running of particular Genre Games; Fantasy, Superhero, Horror, Etc.

So, I was flipping through the pages of the Fantasy Companion and pages thirteen through nineteen are all about owning land and role playing siege warfare, and Savage Worlds already has Mass Battle Rules, as well as a subset of Rules Dubbed Savage Showdown geared specifically for Tabletop War Gaming. Intriguing indeed. Particularly concerning my newly gained historical perspective on Original D&D.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Fixed the Blue Dice Image

Apparently those of you using Internet Explorer couldn't see the Blue Glow Dice from my previous Post: Guess What?! I've Got a Fever, and the Only Prescription... is More Dice!

I have since fixed the problem—and you should all take a look because they are incredible!