Browsing the archives for the Personal category


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Games, Personal, Technology

For those of you who don’t know, last weekend was a “free demo” of Team Fortress 2 for people who don’t already own it. I know a couple of people who wanted to try it out, so we coordinated a little get-together to play together so I could show them some of the ropes.

Now — I expected it to be extremely busy. And it was. What I didn’t expect was that Steam would not even let me start a program on my own computer. The message I got was along the lines of “Our servers are too busy to allow you to start this program.” Come again?

This is the stupidity of schemes like this. I can’t even start a program that’s on my own computer. And it’s not like this game is like World of Warcraft or any other game where you’re constantly connected to a game developer hosted server. Once you’re in the game you’ve got your local client and a server hosted somewhere else, there’s no step involved where communicating with Valve is required at all, so it’s just a matter of copy protection schemes getting in the way of me playing the game.

4th Edition Campaign

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Games, Personal

My gaming group is finally considering starting up a 4th Edition campaign. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to put into GMing a campaign myself, but I won’t complain about getting to play a system I don’t know first.

For the past couple of weeks the guys have all been reviewing the rules, and I think I’ve finally got a decent handle on things. I felt like I was stumbling through the dark because of the organization of the book — It throws all these options at you first, races and classes, skills and feats, and it wasn’t until later on in the book that I felt like I was understanding the choices that were presented to me.

However, I think I’ve finally hit the clicking point. I was sitting down the other day making up sample characters, and I realized how interesting levelling up was going to be in this new system. The whole character sheet is mutable since almost every derived stat has Character Level / 2 as part of the formula. And then add on top the large numbers of feats you’re getting, and the frequent stat boosts. Yeah – I think levelling up will be cool. Not to mention that simple level 1 characters are already cool, having 4-5 powers to use in combat, instead of 3 spells for a Wizard or Cleric in the old edition (and about 1 attack for everyone else).

All that said, I think the 4th Edition PHB could really use some changing up. Coupled with the fact that they released a somewhat substantial errata already, I really hope they print another edition. Of course, I say this because I haven’t actually bought the books yet – I think I might be a bit more miffed if I had.

Decision Time

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Culture, Personal, Visual

How long ago now was it that I swore off Battlestar Galactica? It’s certainly taken them long enough to get back on the air with new episodes.

So, now I’ve got to decide whether I’m actually going to bother with Battlestar Galactica again. Sure, it was a great show — During the first season. But past the halfway mark of season 2 it really lost its way. The end of seasons 2 and 3 were particularly absurd.

Ronald Moore has said that the writers’ strike gave them time to reconsider their story arcs for the new season. That’s heartening news, since the failings of the show were in the inexplicable actions of characters, absurd twists and retroactive storytelling that undermined its good qualities. Even so, I think I’m going to take a pass on the season premiere tonight until some more information has leaked out. If the word on the street, as it were, is overwhelmingly positive, I may just give it another chance.

The Trouble with Haibane Renmei

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Anime, Personal

Now that we’ve got Christmas mostly behind us, I figure I may as well mention one of the issues I kept running over in my mind until now. With how much I enjoyed Haibane Renmei when I watched it earlier this year, I decided that it’d make a great gift for several people I know.

I can’t think of too many movies or shows that might be more appropriate to give this time of year. Aside from the amazing, though subdued, visuals and audio of the anime, it’s also a fairly innocent series. The latter is a bit complicated though, because despite the initial innocence of the series, it does deal with complex issues of family and friendship, support, guilt, and so on. Even though I feel like the series is ultimately uplifting and positive, I wonder about the possible implications one could see in receiving Haibane Renmei as a gift.

Spoiler tag for safety…

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Nah, No WriMo

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It’s November already, which presents us all with the perennial question, to NaNoWriMo or not to NaNoWriMo?

I want to do this. Not particularly because I want to prove myself that I can write a short novel — I’ve already proven to myself that I can do that by doing it. I do have many stories that I want to tell, though, and any excuse is as good as another. One particular writing project has been nagging at me for the last month, and despite telling myself every day I need to get it out, I’ve not had either the time or the energy at the end of the day.

Martin at Treasure Tables has already taken the month off for NaNoWriMo, putting his blog into rerun mode while he churns out the words.

I think I’ll be holding off on making a commitment to NaNoWriMo this year. I’ve got an even busier November this year than last, so I know anything I commit to is just going to be another obligation that will either get cut when push comes to shove, or be unenjoyable. Hopefully I can clear enough time and peace of mind to make some progress on writing projects, but hope is about all I can expect.

Top Ten Horror Movies

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Culture, Personal, Visual

In the spirit of the season, a list of my top 10* horror movies.

10. The Mothman Prophecies – Slow build up, but a very creepy film. Has stuck with me more than a legion of gorier, cheesier films.
9. Hellraiser – The endless sequels haven’t done this series much good, but the original retains the paranoid escape mentality and the strange vision of what lies beyond good and evil.
8. Jeepers Creepers – The sequel ruined the original, but alone it’s done with restraint and effectiveness that hits close to home.
7. Phantasm 4: Oblivion – I saw this movie a long time ago and without seeing the prequels, yet it sticks with me to this day.
6. Cube – See here.
5. Final Destination – Beats out Cube for hitting closer to home on my fear scale. Flashbacks to this movie when getting on a plane are inevitable.
4. Ringu 2 – I debated whether I enjoyed the original more than the sequel here, but I’m going with the sequel for the way it expands beyond the first film.
3. Alien – Claustrophobic paranoia while being stalked by the universe’s most deadly being, and your life is being treated like an expendable asset by a faceless corporation? Yes.
2. Poltergeist – Beats out Alien on the close to home factor. A movie that turned trees outside of windows, static on TV, and innumerable other household sights into fearful things.
1. The Thing – These things are always fungible, but The Thing hits all the right spots for me. A tight focus and a driving paranoia. The ending is what really nails it for me.

*For the moment, may be subject to revision without notice.

I Know the Feeling…

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Miscellaneous, Personal


I just saw this comic over at Penny Arcade, and all I can say is that I know the feeling. A friend of mine bought Guitar Hero awhile back and I love the game, but I’m just utterly bad at it. I can play hyperspeed on Easy mode and that’s about it. Once you throw in that fourth button on medium difficulty it’s all over for me. But bring out the Photoshop Hero and I’ll go to town.

Selling My P&P Account

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Games, Personal, RPGs, Tabletop

Currently I’m involved in a pretty mediocre pen and paper D&D game run by one of our group hangers-on, the guy who shows up every few weeks unannounced and doesn’t even bother to try and contact anyone if he’s coming or if he’s not coming. It’s not great, but, still, someone stepping in as DM keeps pressure off of me as I’m still too busy to do serious DM prep. In our first session it was decided one of our other players, whose character is a Paladin, was going to be the prince of a country. Everyone else would just be hangers on.

This is a pretty typical newbie DM mistake, but it doesn’t stop there … The first NPC we encountered was a ghost of a woman (we don’t know who) who gave our Paladin Prince a rather serious magical item. At the time we were all equipped with 7,500gp worth of equipment, and the first thing that happens is the Prince gets an amulet worth 36,000gp, at sixth level no less.

Our next session has us going to a mausoleum in the city. The Prince is selected to under a series of trials while the rest of us sit on our thumbs. Then after he defeated a giant skeleton he was rewarding with a dancing holy avenger flaming burst sword of brokenness +5. And, yes, that is not rules legal. He was also given an artifact-level amulet that basically makes him immune to death.

The session after that one we were attacked by a Cleric in the forest who was wandering around with his retinue of skeletons and death knights (Encounter table entry #3 — I kept pressing him to throw Nazi Zombie Bugbears at us, but I guess he thought they were too difficult of an encounter for us.) So we defeat this group of undead, and then slay an bronze dragon (ECL 17. Party average level: 8.) At this point we all decided to just give all the equipment, including a suit of armor with DR 15/good to the Paladin. As a friend said, we’re just going to twink his Paladin out with epic gear and sell his account.

I thought this was a pretty funny idea, and I bet’d actually be something you could make [some] money off of. I mean, in a world where someone sells a pixel on a webpage, or sells stuff on eBay by claiming it’s “haunted” a precreated Pencil & Paper D&D character sheet is downright utilitarian. One of these days I’ll get around to trying this out.

The Hobbit

Culture, Literature, Personal


I mentioned awhile ago that I’d been meaning to go back to Tolkein and give him a re-read. Shamus‘ web-comic has been a constant dose of exposure, and it’s made me really want to revisit that world.

So the past week or so I’ve been spending my downtime going through The Hobbit. I’m about halfway through right now and enjoying it, though I’m struck by a couple of things.

1. How self-conscious the writing is. Well, perhaps self-conscious isn’t the right term for it, as it strikes me at once as self-conscious, but also naturalistic. The style seems to be that you’d encounter from an oral storyteller, interjecting himself, observations, and references to the world outside of the story into the tale.
2. How episodic a structure the story has. It kind of makes me want to start drafting up my own plot outlines, given the easiness which Tolkein seems to display in filling out a segment of the plot, then moving on to the next event. This is kind of expected, as reading something good always makes me want to write. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to pick up more writing these days.
3. Style. These days I can’t help but notice style, though I suppose this dovetails with #1. It’s odd to me to see sentence fragments, internal dialogue, and all sorts of things. In my own writing I’m constantly analyzing whether I want to use these techniques (and usually saying no, for the prototypical writer’s advice being “Show, don’t tell”). A lot of people have criticised Tolkein’s writing for being stodgy, but I really don’t see any of that here.
4. Prevalence of magic. Trolls turning to stone at sunlight, Gandalf’s voices, magical swords, … It’s a lot more prevalent than I remember. Of course, half of what we see is only apparent magic. Gandalf fries some goblins and wolves with, presumably, magic… But one could make a convincing argument that he was using chemical fires as well. The character of the Elves in Rivendell in particular, was very much “faerie” elf and not what I expect from Tolkein Elves. I’m not a Tolkein-ologist, so I can’t say how developed Middle Earth was at the time he wrote The Hobbit, but it seems like he altered much by the time he sat down to write the Lord of the Rings.
5. Characters. The only real characters in the book so far seem to be Bilbo, and maybe Gandalf. Since the thought of a Peter Jackson Hobbit movie is lingering in the back of my mind, I wonder how a film would handle a travelling party as big as Thorin & Company, most of whom are Dwarves and probably indistinguishable except for clothing. Tolkein hasn’t really given any of the Dwarves a big part yet, they’re pretty much along for the ride acting as foils to show Bilbo’s growth in courage and confidence.

More later, probably. I’m just barely getting into the meat of it.